themail.gif (3487 bytes)

June 16, 2002

Point of Personal Privilege

Dear Correspondents:

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 Dorothy.

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 administration.

Over two years ago, Bryce Suderow wrote in themail []  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.

Gary Imhoff 


Don’t Take on Any New Expenses
Ed T. Barron, 

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 Survival?
Len Sullivan, 

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 lessened?

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 radiation levels.

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 Preparedness
Mark Richards, Dupont East, 

“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 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 ( has been updated.

“Please contact Mr. Steve Charvat on (202) 673-2101 ext. 1188 to schedule a training workshop for your community regarding emergency preparedness.

“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, 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."


Grade Inflation
Erich Martel, 

Dear Educators, Parents and all Concerned With Public Education in DC, re: Washington Post article, “Grade Changes Found at Top DC School,” June 9 []. [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 documents.

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: to: Mr. Anthony Williams, Mayor, 727-2980, 441 4th Street, NW, 20001, E-mail, 727-2980; Dr. Paul Vance, Superintendent, DC Public Schools, 825 N. Capitol Street, NE, 20002, E-mail, 442-5885; Dr. Steven Seleznow, Chief of Staff, DCPS, 825 N. Capitol Street, NE, 20002, E-mail, 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,, 442-5185; Dr. Stephen Tarason, Principal, Woodrow Wilson H.S., Nebraska & Chesapeake Street, NW, 20016, E-mail, 282-0120.


Principal Picking, Can Anyone Tell Us What to Do?
Susan Ousley, 

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 diverse community.

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?


Education Resource
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, 

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 To subscribe or unsubscribe, visit


Rent Increase
Annie McCormick, 

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, 

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.


Bob Levine, 

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, 

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, 

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 — Gary Imhoff]


Homestead Audits
James Treworgy, 

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.,, 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 Debate
Alphonso Hatcher, 

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,


June 2002 InTowner
Peter Wolff, 

This is to advise that the June 2002 on-line edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at 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 Tour.”



Eric Gaull Campaign Kick-Off
Erik S. Gaull, 

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: or call 669-4213.


Community Meeting Re Houston Elementary School
Nataki Goodall, 

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 E-mail


Brownsfields Program
Jacque Patterson, DOH/EHA Brownfields Program, 

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, 

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 to reserve a space.


Open Space Forum No. 11
Ivor Heyman, 

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 ( 

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 for more information on the Open Space Forum.



Vespa/Cosmo Scooters for Sale
Amy Phee, 

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.



Tuck Pointer
Dave DeSeve, 

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, 

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.


Venetian Blinds
Annie McCormick, 

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 To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at

All postings should also be submitted to, 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.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)