Point of Personal Privilege
Please excuse me, but I'm going to abuse my editorial position and
write personally in response to a personal attack on Dorothy and me by
columnist Elissa Silverman in last Thursday's City Paper. As you
know, over the past weeks we've written about how the Department of
Consumer and Regulatory Affairs wrongly classified our house as vacant and
abandoned, and how it never attempted to check any city records or to
check with us, before doing so. We wrote that the classification of our
house appeared to be only part of a widespread pattern of abuse by DCRA,
in attempting to pressure people our of their homes in order to give them
to politically favored developers. We think that's an important story, and
that's why we wrote about our personal experience. Elissa had that story
and could have written it; after all, the City Paper frequently
scours themail for leads and rewrites stories that it finds here,
submitted by you. Instead, Elissa turned the story into an attack on
Let me admit more than you wanted to know about us. For many years, we
have voluntarily lived on a restricted income so that we could fund
DCWatch ourselves without fundraising and so that we could volunteer
full-time for causes that we believe help this city. We're not
complaining. We live comfortably and we have chosen this path. But it's
perfectly true, as Elissa wrote, that we don't have $85,000 in disposable
cash to replace our slate roof and wooden windows, so that our house looks
pretty dilapidated. We realize that our limited income may subject us to
the snide condescension of Elissa and Jim Graham and the other people whom
she quotes, and we accept that patronization. But the point is that it
doesn't subject us — or the other people whose property is being falsely
targeted by DCRA — to wrongful attempts at seizure by a predatory
Over two years ago, Bryce Suderow wrote in themail [http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/2000/00-05-07.htm#suderow]
about the decline of The City Paper under editor David Carr: “He
took what had been a pretty decent alternative newspaper and turned it
over to twenty-somethings who knew nothing about the city. Under his
tutelage, you didn't need to know anything about the neighborhoods or the
politicians. All you needed was a hip, cynical attitude. In the second
half of Carr's tenure, competent adult reporters like Jonetta Rose Barras
contributed less and less to the paper. . . . The paper became more and
more unwilling to criticize the status quo. Contrast its coverage of the
police and the school system with that of The Common Denominator. That
paper has been publishing important stories week after week, slamming
those agencies and making it clear that the blame lies with the heads of
those agencies, Arlene Ackerman and Chief Charles Ramsey. The City
Paper has rarely criticized the agencies and certainly not their
heads. Carr drove the real 'Loose Lips' into retirement. The 'Loose Lips'
column was the best thing about that paper. Ken Cummins had a vast
knowledge of both the players in this city and its citizens. Ken could use
his wicked sense of humor to lampoon Barry's agency heads, but just below
the surface he was idealistic. He could always be counted on to cover a
story that would help a neighborhood. He always wrote the controversial
stories that no one else would touch. Unfortunately, over the years, Carr
constantly pressured Ken Cummins to change his style and make his column
more like the rest of the paper. Ken eventually quit because Carr wore him
out.” Under the subsequent editorships of Howard Witt and Eric Wemple,
except for the brief period during which Jonetta Rose Barras returned to
the City Paper as Loose Lips, this decline has continued and
increased. Now, it stands for nothing aside from cynicism; its attitude is
characterized by the "NIMBY Tribunal" column and its sneering
scorn directed at the nuisances — any citizens who want to help or
protect their neighborhoods in any way. It doesn't get it; it misses the
story of Washington.
Don’t Take on Any New Expenses
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
After waiting for forty minutes on the DC Tax Phone line to find out
what was happening with my income tax refund. I was told that because I
submitted my tax forms on the 15th of April my return had not yet been
processed and I should not hold my breath waiting for the refund.
My mistake was overpaying my quarterly estimated taxes based on
receiving income in '01 that did not come until '02. Won't make that
mistake again. Will submit quarterly payments of $1 for the next four
quarters and pay what is due on 15 April of '02 to make up for the late
refund this year.
How about Focusing on a First-Order Issue Like
Len Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
In themail's June 2nd edition, Mark Richards raised the interesting
issue of our vulnerability to so-called “dirty bombs,” for which our
nation's capital makes an attractive target. Nobody responded. If DC's
government is only ten percent as bad as themail's anarchists assert, then
here is a local issue that community-minded adults, particularly heads of
young families, should be taking to heart. Like schools, this urban
problem is far too important to leave to government to solve alone, and
far too real to relegate to after-the-fact finger-pointing. In fact, its
major kill mechanism is unlikely to be radiation, but the panic resulting
from avoidable ignorance and fear. Who among themail's readers,
contributors and lurkers would like to help correct my superficial
understanding of how the impact of dirty bombs can be substantially
I believe the following: 1) the dangerous radiation emanates from solid
particles which do not stay airborne: they settle like dust particles,
snow flakes, or volcanic ash; 2) this ash is likely to be visible and will
accumulate on obvious places: car tops, roof gutters, window sills,
sidewalks, etc.; 3) this stuff will almost certainly not be evenly
dispersed from a homemade bomb, bringing big differences in threat within
small distances (a few hundred feet); 4) the radiation is not instantly
damaging: dosage is cumulative over time (minutes, hours, or days);
decreases rapidly with distance from the source, and is more dangerous to
the young than to older adults; 5) shielding can greatly reduce radiation,
and is directly related to the mass of any material between victim and
source; 6) water is effective, so wet newspapers can augment a makeshift
shelter, wet blankets can reduce body exposure; 7) various primitive
detectors can be made available to provide crude measures of nearby
Put these factoids together (if they're true) and families can develop
plans for greatly improving their resistance to damage within their homes,
apartments, cars, or even boats. Find places of relatively low exposure.
Sweep, blow, wash some of the stuff away. Stay away from suspected
concentrations. Make temporary shielding for beds, cribs, even cars can be
made into good shelters. Don't wait for government to do it for you! These
are things you can do to save your own skin. Anybody out there interested?
Letter Sent to Me Regarding Emergency
Mark Richards, Dupont East, email@example.com
“We commend you as a citizen of the District of Columbia for being
aware of the constant need for preparedness to handle the adverse impacts
of all types of hazards, whether natural disasters or man-made.
“A crucial component to successful emergency management is
information -- information on how to protect yourself, your loved ones,
and your property. Please visit www.dc.gov
for other emergency preparedness information, including terrorism
preparedness information and links to websites for the CDC, FBI and USPS.
We hope that you will find this information to be an invaluable tool for
staying prepared and safe. You will also find that the website for the
Emergency Management Agency ( dcema.dc.gov) has been updated.
“Please contact Mr. Steve Charvat on (202) 673-2101 ext. 1188 to
schedule a training workshop for your community regarding emergency
“Mayor Anthony Williams is committed to making sure that Washington,
DC has the best response to emergencies anywhere. In that regard, the
Emergency Management Agency has updated the District's emergency response
plan. This plan unifies the efforts of District organizations for a
comprehensive and effective approach for responding to and reducing the
impacts of emergencies and disasters. The "District Response
Plan" which is accessible at dcema.dc.gov, outlines how the District
agencies will work in a collaborative manner both internally within the
District and externally with regional and federal partners. The ultimate
goal is to efficiently and effectively respond to significant incidents
that threaten life, property, public safety, and the environment in the
District of Columbia."
Dear Educators, Parents and all Concerned With Public Education in DC,
re: Washington Post article, “Grade Changes Found at Top DC
School,” June 9 [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18814-2002Jun8.html].
[This] Washington Post article describes how I uncovered a variety
of deficiencies in students’ official records and transcripts that
allowed many students to be certified by our principal for graduation in
2001 and 2002 without having met graduation requirements. These violations
are more extensive than the article reported. My conclusions were based on
extensive reviews of multiple database and paper files, transcripts from
previous schools and teacher interviews. My summary reviews of this
documentation for 2001 and 2002 graduates who did not meet graduation
requirements came to 105 pages, not including copies of actual redacted
Rarely does the public see the extent and means whereby student records
are falsified and official graduation requirements violated. When a sample
representing roughly half of a graduating class (2001) in one of the
nation’s top urban public high schools yields a violation rate in the
neighborhood of 40 percent, one can imagine similar violations in many
other schools. If these rates are even remotely representative of urban
(and other) high schools, this may be one of the primary means by which
school systems cover up their failure to educate students, especially
those serving large numbers of African-American and Hispanic students. The
current DCPS “investigation” into my allegations is a
behind-closed-doors, in-house affair that excludes me and knowledgeable,
independent investigators or observers. When detailed and carefully
documented reports of unauthorized grade changes and other violations are
answered in the media with nonspecific and undocumented assurances that
the alleged violations were “resolved,” that secretive process is a
cover-up of a predetermined outcome, not an investigation.
Consider: by the time a cohort of students reaches 9th or 10th grade in
DCPS (and in similar school systems), one third have dropped out, while
many who remain are in classes with lowered standards. And, on top of
that, it now appears that many of them are still unable to graduate by
legitimately meeting mandated graduation requirements! I am asking all who
share my concern to communicate it to DC Mayor Anthony Williams and the
leadership of the DC Public Schools. If you know of public officials in
the District of Columbia, the US Congress, the US Department of Education
or elsewhere, who might share these concerns, or leaders of private
organizations concerned with improving education, please share this
information and invite them to write, E-mail or phone. Expressions of
concern should address the following: 1) The need for an open and
independent investigation of student records of recent graduating classes.
That investigation should include me as a participant. It must be based on
a clear and unambiguous descriptions of the standards for meeting each
requirement. 2) The need to institute records procedures and management to
prevent violations, such as those cited, in the future. That should
include a sunshine law, with safeguards for student confidentiality,
giving teachers read-only access to all student records. Restricting
access to records to a privileged few only invites violations. 3) No
retaliatory action against me or any other teacher.
Please send messages (cc: firstname.lastname@example.org)
to: Mr. Anthony Williams, Mayor, 727-2980, 441 4th Street, NW, 20001,
E-mail email@example.com, 727-2980; Dr. Paul
Vance, Superintendent, DC Public Schools, 825 N. Capitol Street, NE,
20002, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org,
442-5885; Dr. Steven Seleznow, Chief of Staff, DCPS, 825 N. Capitol
Street, NE, 20002, E-mail email@example.com,
442-5885 (he is the day-to-day manager of the school system; he is
supervising the “investigation”); Ms. Peggy Cooper-Cafritz, President,
DC Board of Education, 825 N. Capitol Street, NE, 20002, firstname.lastname@example.org,
442-5185; Dr. Stephen Tarason, Principal, Woodrow Wilson H.S., Nebraska
& Chesapeake Street, NW, 20016, E-mail Stephen.email@example.com,
Principal Picking, Can Anyone Tell Us What to
Susan Ousley, Slousley@aol.com
In the last eleven years, Garrison Elementary has had seven principals
(some acting, two leaving after strokes). So we got pretty good at
participating in the interview and selection process. But this time we
can't get any answers out of the Superintendent's office about candidates
and interviews. Garrison has long had excellent and innovative teachers --
hardworking, too. More parents and neighborhood folks are getting
involved. There are all the elements for a sterling institution in a
But the turnover in administration is destabilizing the staff: 24
percent change each of the last two years. And neighbors have grown weary
of making plans with administrators who disappear. Being ignored by the
Superintendent's staff sure doesn't help. What can we do?
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, firstname.lastname@example.org
For those interested in updates on education-related studies, check out
the Public Education Network. They send a Weekly NewsBlast. To view past
issues of the PEN Weekly NewsBlast, visit http://www.publiceducation.org/news/signup.htm.
To subscribe or unsubscribe, visit http://www.publiceducation.org/news/signup.htm.
Does anyone know about apartment rent increases? I just got a whopping
$80 increase on my apartment rent and many people in my building are
complaining about large increases on rent and parking. Although the rent
increase statement has information on the bottom on how to appeal, I was
wondering if anyone had any experience in this area or any advice they
could give us? Is it worth our time to complain?
Office of Rental Accommodations?
Michael Johnson, email@example.com
Has anyone had contact with the Office of Rental Accommodations in the
District? For example what is it, exactly, that they do? Do they have any
power? Are they generally a reliable source for information? Any help
would be appreciated.
I have been reading the recent news coverage about the DMV with great
trepidation because I needed to get my license renewed. I decided to use
the satellite office in the Georgetown Shops. They stay open until 6 p.m.,
and I got there at 4:45. I found a very pleasant office with nice people
who wanted to help me and the entire transaction took 15 minutes. The man
who helped me was so pleasant that as he handed me my license I had to
shake his hand and thank him for making it a very pleasant experience.
Also if you get one of the newfangled licenses next time you can renew it
on line and skip the 15 minute great ordeal of going to the Georgetown
Shops. (sorry for the sarcasm). Good work DMV.
The Disease Not the Symptom
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
If the DC Government is to improve services to the taxpayers, then they
must cure the disease instead of treating the symptoms. It appears that
one of the sickest organizations is the organization that is responsible
for procurement of major systems and services. When the District
Government buys a computer system for the DC DMV and it buys one that has
caused nothing but problems for another major city's DMV, then the
procurement organization is not doing its homework.
I'm not sure if the DC Government is required to buy products or
services from the lowest bidder, but that policy does not make sense. You
must evaluate all bidders' products and services and find out just how
successful the bidders' products are performing for other users. If the
procurement organization makes mistakes they are amplified by the ultimate
using organization. The problems with the DMV's computers are merely a
symptom of the real disease in the procurement organization.
A Possible Explanation Re Ms. Newman
Lyla Winter, email@example.com
After reading several quotes attributed to Sherryl Newman, I'm
compelled to wonder if her problem might actually be the English language.
She couldn't possibly be serious re her explanations and solutions re the
DMV. Perhaps she's linguistically challenged.
[Ms. Newman's and Ms. Peck's testimony at the June 11 Council hearing,
as well as Councilmember Schwartz's opening statement, are available at http://www.dcwatch.com/govern/dmv020611.htm.
— Gary Imhoff]
It seems to me that an individual filing taxes with a post office box
as their DC address is a reasonable threshold at which a homestead audit
is warranted. I suspect that the population of people who genuinely live
and own in DC, yet choose to file their taxes with a Post Office box for
an address, is pretty small. Considering the massive amount of abuse of
this benefit, e.g., http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A61082-2001Nov20¬Found=true,
I have no problem with DC targeting what would seem to be obvious red
flags. If indeed one has a legitimate reason for filing their taxes at a
post office box, yet actually residing in the DC property they own, then
surely there must be other documentation to support the case, such as
receipts for services or utility bills. The moral of the story is,
“don't tie your shoes in a watermelon patch.”
Reform Democrat Jackson Challenges the Mayor to
Alphonso Hatcher, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 8 Democratic State Committeeman, Arthur H. Jackson, Jr., a reform
candidate for Mayor of the District of Columbia, has challenged Mayor
Anthony Williams to a series of televised debates to discuss education,
housing, public safety, senior citizens and youth issues. Jackson is
running for Mayor on the People's Agenda, a four year plan to end
displacement, restore real affordable housing, establish the elected
office of Attorney General to prosecute white collar criminals, provide
real transitional services for District inmates returning home, safer
streets, revitalization of East of the River Business Districts.
Campaign Coordinator Alphonso Hatcher called upon Mayor Williams to
accept the challenge and provide the voters with information to decide
which candidate is the real reform candidate. For information, contact The
People for Jackson for Mayor, Alphonso Hatcher, 271-5522, email@example.com.
This is to advise that the June 2002 on-line edition has been uploaded
and may be accessed at http://www.intowner.com.
Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports,
editorials (including prior months' archived), restaurant reviews (prior
months' also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from
the Past” feature. Also included are all current classified ads.
The complete issue (along with prior issues back to March 2001) also is
available in PDF file format by direct access from our home page at no
charge simply by clicking the link provided. Here you will be able to view
the entire issue as it looks in print, including the new ABC Board actions
report, all photos and advertisements. The next issue will publish on July
12. The complete PDF version will be posted by early that Friday morning,
following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected
features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.
To read this month's lead stories, simply click the link on the home
page to the following headlines: (1) “Roosevelt Rehab Nearing
Completion; End of Neighborhood Blight Welcomed”; (2) “Shaw's Kennedy
Playground Getting Big Boost by City; Mayor Dedicates Rec Center to Open
by Year's End”; (3) “Columbia Heights Homes to be Open for June 23
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Eric Gaull Campaign Kick-Off
Erik S. Gaull, firstname.lastname@example.org
Erik Gaull, Democratic candidate for the Ward 3 City Council seat will
kick off his campaign on Sunday, June 16, at 12:30 p.m. in the 4000 block
of Yuma Street, NW (next to St. Ann's Church). Come learn more about
Erik's candidacy, sign his petition, pick up a lawn sign, learn about
volunteer opportunities, and join the campaign staff for a sandwich and
soda. For additional information, please check out our web site: http://www.ElectErikGaull.org
or call 669-4213.
The Local School Plan adopted by Houston Elementary School calls for
the elimination of grade 6, effective fall 2002. Students completing the
5th grade this year will automatically be assigned to Ron Brown Middle
School in the fall. On Wednesday, June 19th, parents and other interested
members of the community will come together to with DCPS administrators to
discuss the impact of this plan on current and future classes. Among the
items up for discussion are (1) the rationale for moving toward middle
schools (rather than junior highs), (2) the process by which this and
other local school decisions are made, and (3) the specific impact of this
decision on students and parents at both schools.
The discussion will take place on Wednesday, June 19th, 6:30 p.m., at
Houston Elementary School, 1100 - 50th Place NE. All District residents
are invited to attend. For further information, please contact Nataki
Goodall in the office of Councilmember Phil Mendelson, at 724-8064 or via
Jacque Patterson, DOH/EHA Brownfields Program, email@example.com
The DC Department of Health, Environmental Health Administration,
Brownfields Program will convene its quarterly Brownfields Redevelopment
Action Team (BRAT) meeting at 825 North Capital Street, NE., 4th Floor,
Room 4187, on June 18 at 10:00 a.m. The topic will be "Financial
Incentives for Brownfields Redevelopment". This meeting is open to
the public and those interested in brownfields issues. Please contact
Jacque Patterson at 442-8984 on your planned attendance.
Graduate/Professional School Workshop for
Interns, Hill Staffers and Others
Steve Goodman, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are thinking about applying to graduate school, then you should
attend Steve Goodman’s summer 2002 Capitol Hill workshop. You will learn
about how to make the most of your past accomplishments, how to create a
winning admissions portfolio, and how to separate yourself from others in
the applicant pool. We only offer this on the Hill once per summer, so don’t
miss it. Please call 986-9431 or E-mail email@example.com
to reserve a space.
Do you know people who find it difficult to discuss things that bother
them? Then invite them to attend this month's Open Space Forum, Difficult
Conversations -- How to Discuss What Matters Most, Saturday, June 15, 4:30
- 7:00 p.m., at DCJCC, 1529 16th Street NW (Enter through Q Street
entrance). Contribution: $5. Bring a snack for the group and peanut butter
and jelly for the Morris Cafritz Center Hunger Action Program. RSVP to
Ivor Heyman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The ability to listen and communicate effectively is essential if we
want to avoid frustrating and unproductive discussions with family
members, bosses, coworkers, and acquaintances. This month's Open Space
Forum will explore ways in which we can say things that are normally left
unsaid because we fear the possibility of jeopardizing the relationship.
The Open Space Forum meets on a monthly basis, bringing together a group
of people from diverse backgrounds to explore issues in an open and
inclusive way. It is facilitated by Ivor Heyman and hosted by the Morris
Cafritz Center for Community Service. Please visit http://www.mediate-facilitate.com
for more information on the Open Space Forum.
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
Vespa/Cosmo Scooters for Sale
Amy Phee, email@example.com
1974 Vintage Vespa 125 primavera. Pristine condition, less than 600
miles, full service records available. Price negotiable.
Cosmo Scooter with large rear storage space. Completely rebuilt.
Automatic start. Matching helmet included. $1500.
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Looking for a recommendation for a tuck pointer experienced in
repointing an older (100+ years) home. Dave DeSeve, 462-7632.
Excellent Wrought-Iron Fence Maker
Jim Feldman, firstname.lastname@example.org
After an extensive search, a friend found an excellent metal fabricator
who built her a beautiful wrought iron fence in Takoma Park. She highly
recommends this man, both for very high-quality work and very reasonable
prices. He does all types of ornamental and functional ironwork (fences,
gates, window guards, security doors, etc.). His name is Tae Hahm.
Telephone 301-809-6941. If you want to contact the satisfied customer,
E-mail me and I'll put you in touch.
I would highly recommend All Blinds, Inc. for Blinds. They made a
vertical blind for my apartment (95 1/2" X 94"). It only cost me
$117 total with installation. Call and ask for Jeanne. All Blinds, Inc.,
7838 Eastern Avenue, NW, 20012, 722-7671. If I had known it would be so
inexpensive and hassle-free, I would have done it two years ago.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to
switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the
subscription form at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/subscribe.htm.
To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to email@example.com
with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are
available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
All postings should also be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org,
and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of
Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be
printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief
paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be
put into each mailing.