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May 29, 2002

Common Sense

Dear Sensibles:

Yes, I have been rereading Thomas Paine, and thinking about some of the principles behind the American Revolution. Here, for your reading pleasure, are the opening two paragraphs of his revolutionary best-selling pamphlet, Common Sense: “Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expence [sic] and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.”

Never goes out of fashion, does it?

Gary Imhoff 


DCPS: Children First?
Leila Afzal, 

At DCPS, I wonder if they really do mean children first. At the John Eaton Elementary School, the playground was covered in asphalt to eliminate maintenance issues. (This was done quite a few years ago.) This year the staff have taken to parking on the playground. Not only is the usable space for children by a third, but this is a major safety concern. When the drivers need to move these cars, there are lots of little children running around that could be hit. Furthermore, the area where the cars are parked is near the school which surely must be a fire code violation.

After a myriad of complaints by parents, the principal said that people can park there until noon, but then cars have to be moved. I guess the children playing on the playground before noon have to just avoid the cars. Other parents and I have observed staff driving off the playground while children are present. We have written to and spoken with the principal and the Deputy Superintendent, and I have spoken with our school board representative. Nevertheless, the situation continues. Cars and children do not mix. I am so afraid a child will be hit and injured or worse. I am also at a loss as to where to turn to next for assistance. By the way, there is plenty of on-street, non-residentially zoned parking within a block from the school, admittedly down the hill.


Reservation 13 Power Grab
Dorothy Brizill, 

On Tuesday, the City Council's Committee of the Whole held a public hearing to “review the Mayor's submission of the Draft Master Plan, dated March 31, 2002, for the 67 acres of public land known as Reservation 13, the existing site of the DC Jail and the DC General Hospital.” The draft plan was developed by the DC Office of Planning pursuant to specific provisions in the DC budget for FY 2002 (DC Public Law 107-96 and H.R. 2944). The Congressional bill states that, “the Mayor shall present to the Council for its approval, a plan for the development of census tract 68.04” by March 31, 2002. (The draft Master Plan is at 

At the hearing, Office of Planning Director Andrew Altman presented the Council with a memorandum from the Corporation Counsel's office that claimed that, “the Master Plan has no legal effect or significance and that the Council does not have the legal authority to accept, reject or modify that plan.” (The Corporation Counsel's memorandum is at The Corporation Counsel's arguments for this position are both novel and farfetched. The memorandum claims that, since the Home Rule Act names the Mayor as the central planning agency for the District and the Zoning Commission as the authority that amends the zoning regulations, the City Council's only role in planning is to approve the Comprehensive Plan. Since the Comprehensive Plan is already approved, the Council has no further role in land planning at all. Secondly, the Corporation Counsel claims that, since the Council had not approved of the plan before March 31 (the date on which the Office of Planning submitted it), the provision in the DC budget is moot, and the Mayor is no longer obligated to submit any plan to the Council. The audacity of this power grab — and the Office of Planning's assertion that the Council was irrelevant to the planning process for Reservation 13 — so angered the Council that even mild-mannered Council Chairman Linda Cropp admonished Altman: “If we are getting ready for a fight, then I am willing to put on the gloves.”


My Day at the DC Library
Dawn Dickerson, 

Can't remember the name of the person posting about security at the DC Public Library, but I want to share my experience from Saturday, May 25. I entered the library around 1 p.m. through the parking garage entrance and there was no security. I walked through the metal detector with my keys in my hand, the device went off, and no one came to apprehend me. I even stood around waiting in case the guard went to the bathroom and after eight minutes no one came; so I left. So when I get upstairs I say to the guard, “Do I need to go through a scanner or anything again,” and she says, “No, just go on in. Well, I didn't feel safe leaving my car knowing that no one was even going to be present to look after it, but my car is crap so I lived with it.

But the real tragedy occurred in the Washingtonian Room. I was sitting at the table tending to my business when this jerk decided to join me at the table where he proceeded to masturbate in my presence. (What's probably even more incredible is that I didn't make a scene or anything. I simply got my items and left; I figured no one was going to do anything about it anyway.)

So I share this story in the hopes that the security staff at the Martin Luther King Library will do a little more to make the atmosphere at the library enjoyable for its patrons by being more visible and patrolling the reading rooms more frequently.


Tidbits From The Washington Post DC Poll
Mark Richards, Dupont East, 

The Washington Post conducted a representative telephone survey with 1,007 DC adults on May 15-19 -- see for full questions and data reported to date. Here are a few items I found interesting:

Biggest problems facing DC today: when asked in an open-ended question, “What is the biggest problem facing the District today, the one you want the mayor to work hardest to solve?” crime tops the list at 22 percent, followed by improving schools/education (18 percent). The largest change from 2000 to 2002 is in housing cost/low income housing-in 2000 that issue was not mentioned; today 14 percent said it is the biggest problem. Three percent mentioned DC self-government/ representation in Congress as the biggest problem facing DC.

Dramatic rebound in support for statehood: support for DC statehood has risen to its highest level since The Post first asked the question. Today, 66 percent support DC becoming a separate state, up a dramatic 20 percentage points since a low point in 1997, and up 8 percentage points from the previous high of 58 percent in 2000. [Question: Do you favor or oppose the District of Columbia becoming a separate state? Favor 66 percent, oppose 27 percent, no opinion 7 percent] I expect that the increase is associated with a turnaround in the perception that quality of life in DC is not getting worse (it is either getting better or staying about the same). In 2000, a majority said the quality of life in DC was getting better for the first time since 1988 — that trend continues even though there has been some erosion in those saying “better.” I expected there would be erosion as the euphoria of new leadership wore off. Today, 19 percent say the quality of life in DC is getting worse (compared to 47 percent in 1997). Forty percent say things are getting better in their neighborhood, 44 percent staying the same, 14 percent getting worse. Fifty-four percent said DC is generally going in the right direction today (22 percent said wrong track). Overwhelming support for equal Congressional voting rights: The Post asked about “giving the District the same Congressional representation as the fifty states, including two US Senators and a House member with full voting privileges.” A large majority of DC residents (86 percent) favor full Congressional voting privileges, one of the most popular components of statehood. [Question: Do you favor or oppose giving the District the same Congressional representation as the fifty states, including two US Senators and a House member with full voting privileges? Favor 86 percent, oppose 11 percent, no opinion 3 percent] For comparison, in March 1984, during the campaign to pass an Amendment, a poll by Community Connections Corporation (307 DC adults), found 77 percent supported “an amendment to the Constitution that would give the District of Columbia voting rights in the US Senate and House of Representatives.”

Closure of DC General has impacted a third of those who used DC General: The Post asked two questions about DC General: 34 percent of respondents reported that they or someone in their immediate family had been treated at DC General at one time or another. Of that group, 35 percent said now that DC General is closed it is more difficult to get medical care. Sixty-two percent said it hasn't made a difference.


Beach Road Closing for Bikes
Gary James, Shepard Park (or as we call it now, East Chevy Chase), 

Does anyone know the outcome a month or so ago, of the handful of bicyclers that were/are attempting to close Rock Creek parkway (note, it is a road, folks) to automobile traffic on weekdays? Except for rush hours, these people are attempting to close off a major thoroughfare in the city that isn't clogged with cabs, bad drivers, untimed lights, gnarly red light runners, stumbling pedestrians, overheated SUVs, and all other kinds of daily commuting nonsense. There was an ANC4 hearing in February, I think, then we heard nothing. What's up?


What Happened to the Odor?
Dawn Dickerson, 

Can anyone tell me how come Blue Plains doesn't stink anymore? Noticed it last weekend while traveling on 295 and was completely amazed. We've smelled that stench for years! What was done to make it stop? Not that I want it back; I'm just curious.


DC, A Foreign Country
Ed T. Barron, 

For those who feel that the District of Columbia is treated much like a foreign third country (or worse) you might try a subtle protest. I have placed an oval shaped sticker on the right rear corner of my back car window. The sticker is white with a black border and the initials DC in the center. This is very much like the stickers on cars that are brought into the US from European countries that designate the country of origin for that car.


Endgame, and a New Beginning
Dorothy Brizill, 

At today's press briefing, Mayor Williams announced the resignation of Fire Chief Ronnie Few — eight days after Few actually resigned. He gave no explanation for the delay, but not even members of the City Council were informed of Few's resignation until a closed-door breakfast meeting this morning -- and Williams said nothing then until Councilmember Kathy Patterson pressed him on the situation at the Fire Department. Few's brief resignation letter, dated May 21, mentions a “detailed meeting” with the Mayor on May 20. The Mayor's letter accepting Few's resignation is essentially a two-page letter of recommendation that expresses “great admiration” for Few's work over the past two years and fails to acknowledge any of the serious problems that continue to plague the department (problems with communications, an inadequate reserve fleet of fire trucks, deteriorating facilities, and delays in hazardous materials training, among others). In a statement released late this afternoon, Chief Few praises himself highly: “I have been a dedicated, passionate, and effective District official. DCFEMS has benefited enormously from my expertise in all areas.” (All documents are at 

After Few leaves, Mayor Williams will appoint an interim chief and establish a process for yet another national search for a replacement, probably led by another personnel search firm. Instead of acting decisively when he could no longer deny that Few's resume contained several falsehoods, Williams was indecisive for months, then kept Few's resignation secret for over a week, wrote a glowing recommendation for him, and now will allow Few to remain in his position for two more months, until July 31. City Administrator John Koskinen also revealed today that he is negotiating a severance package with Few that will include a bonus financial payment.

Also at today's press briefing, Mayor Williams announced the appointment of Herbert R. Tillery to the newly created position of Deputy Mayor for Operations. (I reported on this decision in themail on April 7, 2002.) Tillery is currently the Executive Director of the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Municipal Management. In discussing him, City Administrator John Koskinen said that a national search had been conducted to fill the position, but that, “We are grateful that George Washington University has lent Tillery to the city, and now we owe [GWU President] Steve Trachtenberg something.” Foggy Bottom residents should take note, since Trachtenberg has never hesitated to collect on debts. In response to my question, however, Tillery did agree to recuse himself from any and all issues that might arise regarding the University.


John Olinger, 

Not so very long ago, Dorothy Brizill raised serious questions about Ronnie Few's qualifications. She raised them before he was confirmed by a lazy City Council. One person, armed with what we must assume were limited resources, was able to unearth fundamental weaknesses in Ronnie Few's career, weaknesses that proved to be fatal, and weaknesses that were all but invisible to the vast personnel apparatus of District government. In the five years that I have been reading themail I have been struck by how often folks criticize people who question the Mayor. Ronnie Few and Dorothy Brizill, the odd couple who prove that one can never ask too many questions. Thank you, Dorothy. Had seven Council members listened to you, we would have been spared the embarrassment of too much Few for too long.


DC Historic Preservation Law Project
Luis Acosta, 

Forwarded from Jan Snyder Anderson, Georgetown University Law Library, “May is historic preservation month, and many states planned celebratory events. As the month is not quite over, I thought it appropriate to call to your attention Georgetown University Law Library's DC Historic Preservation Law Project, the web site for which is at

“Georgetown is publishing on the web the decisions of the Mayor's Agent for Historic Preservation of the District of Columbia. These decisions issued by the Mayor's Agent had not been published anywhere until now. Current decisions are being transmitted electronically to the law library, where they are converted to HTML and PDF formats and put on a web server. Older decisions have been scanned and made available in PDF format, and attempts are being made to fill in gaps in the collection. Very basic searching is available now, but indexes to the collection of decisions are being created and will be made available in phase two of the project. There are also pages of web links relating to historic preservation law. We invite you to take a look, and to pass the web address along to faculty members who may be teaching historic preservation, to state offices, and to other interested parties.”


I Want to Hear the Answers to This Question
Mark Richards, Dupont East, 

The mayor asked Congress, at the hearing regarding Voting Representation in Congress for Citizens of the District of Columbia, “How can you live, work, and enjoy the city without wondering why the District residents are not represented as the constituents you serve at home?” Read full text at:


Mendelson’s Viewpoint: A Supporting View
Robert Hilton, Woodley Park, 

Paul McKenzie (May 27) faults Councilmember Mendelson for his effort to strike language from the Budget Support Act that would have the effect of delaying the Mayor's decision on Klingle Valley. The Mayor has decided, for a number of very good reasons, not to pave Klingle Valley and open it to vehicular use. The Mayor is right, and Mr. Mendelson is right. Reopening Klingle Valley to traffic would have negligible traffic benefits at surrounding intersections. At the same time, it would cost in the vicinity of $4-5 million, for a short segment of road in Ward 3. That sum could fix many other, more important roads, throughout the city. Both the National Park Service and the National Capital Planning Commission oppose rebuilding the road because of environmental concerns. Indeed, it is doubtful that, under today's environmental standards, a road could ever have been built in the valley in the first place.

We've been debating Klingle for too long now. Let's move ahead with the Mayor's plan, preserve this green space, control traffic, and safeguard Rock Creek Park. Thank you, Mr. Mayor and Councilmember Mendelson, for your actions.


Mendelson Stood Up For the Environment and Taxpayers
Jason Broehm, Adams Morgan, 

Councilmember Mendelson moved to strike Councilmember Schwartz's Klingle language from the Budget Support Act on the grounds that attaching the language to the budget is a backdoor approach. He argued that Council supporters of the road (Graham, Fenty and Cropp) should instead offer free standing legislation, a clearer and more direct approach, to try to reopen the road. Schwartz pitched the budget language as procedural and uncontroversial in nature, and many Council members seemed to buy it, but Mendelson recognized the hidden agenda behind the provision and fought to remove it, though his motion was defeated. This Council action does not force the Mayor into action as an earlier posting asserts. It ties Mayor Williams' hands and will effectively delay the implementation of his plans for a trail in Klingle Valley. Road advocates, it would seem, are the ones that benefit from the status quo because it keeps their hopes alive that they can reclaim their sacred strip of asphalt through Klingle Valley for cars, not people.

Mendelson understands that rebuilding Klingle Road would pollute Rock Creek and result in the deaths of many mature trees alongside the old road. Because of his keen understanding and strong support for the environment, he is the only Council member up for reelection who has received an early endorsement from Sierra Club. As one of the chapter executive committee members who supported his endorsement, I have to say it was an easy call. Beyond the environmental reasons for not rebuilding the road, Mendelson recognizes that spending upwards of $4-5 million on a .7-mile road in Ward 3 would be unfair to other parts of the city where roads in desperate need of repair would go unfixed. And all this for a road that the feasibility study determined would have a “negligible” effect on traffic congestion at intersections near Klingle Valley. Councilmember Mendelson's should be commended for his leadership in protecting the District's environment and making wise decisions with our limited transportation funds.


What a Difference Four Years Makes
Richard Worthington-Rogers, 

Last week it took me fourteen minutes go through the DMV at 300 Indiana Avenue, NW, to get my tags renewed. I couldn't believe it. Thank you Mayor Williams and Director Hobbs-Newman.


Full Support for Boys Town Youth Residential Care Facility
Jack Fletcher, 

There are over 500 neglected and abused children (citizens of the District of Columbia) living in residential treatment facilities throughout the country. These facilities are very expensive and require wards of the City to live as far away as Texas and Arizona. I find it strange that citizens from Ward 6 would oppose returning a handful of children to the Boys and Girls Town (B&GT) facility in southeast. B&GT does not need to go to Congress to overturn the illegal Board of Zoning Adjustment decision. Assuming that these homes are on separate lots and will house no more than six children and not more than two staff each, they are perfectly legal and B&GT will eventually prevail in the courts. However, should B&GT elect to file for “Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act,” 45DCR 8057, the matter will be resolved in 45 days or less.


Litter in Adams Morgan
Joshua Rovner, 

Phil Carney, noting abundant trash on 18th Street, asked “What is with the people of Adams Morgan?” As a resident of the strip in question, my answer is that the businesses and guests, not the residents of Adams Morgan, are largely to blame for weekend-morning litter. I estimate late-night customers of a single-slice pizza place are responsible for about half of our litter. Pizza Mart sells preposterously large slices of pizza for $3, far larger than one can eat while walking to the Metro or in the back of a cab. Unlike McDonalds, which also serves food to late-night drunks, Pizza Mart does not have any seats inside. Thus, patrons eat on hoods of cars or while sitting on front steps. Trust me on this one.

While primary blame ought to be directed at the litterers themselves, Pizza Mart is entirely responsible the lack of adequate trash receptacles inside its store and on the surrounding sidewalks. Moreover, I am repeatedly frustrated by numerous other businesses on 18th Street who do little, if anything, to clean up the mess in front of their establishments before noon. There are exceptions, of course, but while the litter is not their fault, but it is their responsibility. As an opponent of the neighborhood's alcohol license moratorium, I find it deeply ironic that an alcohol-free establishment causes most of our problems.


Adams Morgan and Marie Reed School
Josh Gibson, ANC 1C07, 

This message is in response to Phil Carney's posting in the Memorial Day issue of themail regarding the cleanliness of Adams Morgan in general and the Marie Reed School in particular. As the ANC Commissioner for the school and much of the 18th Street commercial corridor, my response is twofold: many improvements have already been made to the neighborhood and the school, and many are in the works.

Just in the past three years, Adams Morgan has seen many improvements to its commercial main streets (mostly thanks to the Adams Morgan Business and Professional Association as well as my former employer, the Latino Economic Development Corporation — one of the “good CDCs”): decorative street trash cans installed bearing the bilingual message “Keep Adams Morgan Clean,” repainted streetlight poles (the only streetlight poles citywide to be repainted top to bottom), colorful streetlight banners, and upbeat ornamental lights that trumpet our stores, restaurants, and nightlife. Unfortunately, the wonderful charity group (Ready, Willing, and Able) that used to clean our sidewalks and streets shuttered its DC office a couple of years back, but the city and some merchants are doing a good job of filling the gap (although many merchants still need to be reminded of their legal responsibility to keep the sidewalk in front of their business clean). Also unfortunate is that the neighborhood's Main Street revitalization application was not accepted, but fortunately an on-the-drawing board plan for a Business Improvement District for the neighborhood can take on other planned improvement projects.

Marie Reed Community Learning Center has been a tougher row to hoe, so to speak. While the school features a wonderful interior that provides many unique spaces and much natural light to its students, the nook-and-cranny exterior of the school looks as if it were designed for the exclusive purpose of sheltering taggers, drug dealers, and other criminals. Fortunately, through partnerships between myself, the excellent Friends of Marie Reed organization, and other charitable groups, we have been able to frequently paint over much of the graffiti found on the school. More recently, however, the graffiti has come back with a speed, intensity, and profanity that has shocked even grizzled anti-graffiti activists like us. 

Fortunately, thanks in part to a walk through of the Marie Reed grounds that I organized involving School Board Chair Peggy Cooper Cafritz, staff from the Department of Parks and Recreation and Councilmember Jim Graham's office, the Friends of Marie Reed, and our ANC, a longer-term solution may be on the way. As we speak, DCPS security and facility staff are partnering on a plan to replace and/or augment the school's existing exterior lights with an improved system that will eliminate the shadowy corners that harbor the current evildoers.

One unfortunate reality: the school is largely constructed of unfinished brick, meaning that graffiti on these surfaces cannot be painted over, and therefore must be power washed. The city only owns two power washing trucks (one of which is usually out of order), so removal of graffiti can take a frustratingly long time. Not to excuse the delay — the city clearly needs a whole army of these trucks, and should get on top of the problem. Just thought that some firsthand information from the front lines was in order. But please don't stop coming to Adams Morgan (if for no other reason, summer is coming and Chez Antoine at 2427 18th Street has the best ice cream in the city, bar none!)



Patterson Campaign Kickoff
Kathy Patterson, D-Ward 3, 

Please join me for my reelection campaign kickoff Saturday morning at Oyster Bilingual School, 29th at Calvert, NW, two blocks west of the Woodley Park Metro stop. See the first new school built in the District in the last thirty years -- one built by a combination of vision, grit, and persistence on the part of the Oyster community. Coffee and donuts at 10:30; a short program at 11; balloons and yard signs for all!



ANC 6B Seeks Executive Director
Kenan Jarboe, 

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B seeks a part-time community-oriented office administrator/executive director. The administrator will aid the ANC and Commissioners in the execution of their duties including drafting letters, contacting government officials, maintaining financial records, preparing reports, representing the ANC before government agencies, meeting support, and various clerical and office duties. $10-$15 per hour, depending on qualifications. Day and evening hours required.

Qualifications: Typing, office computer skills, BA degree or equivalent experience, and experience in grassroots community organizations. Preference given to ANC 6B residents. Send information to Kenan Jarboe, Chair ANC 6B, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20003


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