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June 30, 2002

The Early Leader

Dear Leaders:

News reports continue to get it wrong. In the past week, television channels 5 and 9 have both reported that Mayor Williams is running for reelection without opposition, when in fact twelve other Democratic candidates, four Republican candidates, and two Statehood-Green Party candidates have picked up petitions to run for Mayor. There is no doubt that Mayor Williams is the leader in the horse race, since he is the incumbent and has raised $1.4 million in campaign funds, the great majority of which he will never use, but he isn't unopposed.

However, the leader in campaign literature, by far, is Steve Donkin, one of the Statehood-Green candidates. Williams hasn't distributed any campaign literature to date, and most of the candidates for any office have just distributed the blandest of flyers: “Vote for Joe. Joe's for good things. Joe's a swell fella. Vote for Joe.” Two of Donkin's flyers, however, have actually been substantive and persuasive on issues. Look at his flyer on baseball,, and on the Olympics, Donkin's arguments on both issues are, to paraphrase, that unbiased and disinterested economists agree that sports are a poor economic investment for cities, that public funds spent on a baseball stadium or the Olympics would benefit a few rich investors at the expense of DC taxpayers, that the money could be better spent on higher and better priorities, and that the decisions on these issues are being made in private and by the people who will profit without the participation or even knowledge of the public. You may agree or disagree with these arguments, but they are serious and substantive, and deserve to be addressed and not ignored in an election campaign. At the very least, a campaign race should be about something aside from how much money candidates have been able to raise from big-money donors.

Gary Imhoff 


Kids-1, Teacher’s Unions-0
Ed T. Barron, 

In a Super Bowl equivalent of a victory the kids of Cleveland, Ohio will be able to attend private schools using state supplied vouchers. This means that many more kids will be able to access a decent education. The people who fought this Supreme Court ruling the hardest were the Teacher's Unions who sought to protect their jobs, despite the fact that the public schools are doing a miserable job in providing a decent education the kids of Cleveland. It is timely for the Feds, who control the finances of DC to institute a similar voucher program for the District's kids to allow many more of them to get a good education offered by many of the area's private schools.

And let's not ignore the results shown in the elementary school in DC that has achieved some spectacular improvements in test scores. This school segregates classes by gender, thus eliminating a major distraction factor. It seems to be working based on the test scores and mirrors what many single gender schools have been accomplishing for years. Other DC schools should emulate this practice on a trial basis to see what the results would be over a two-year period.


DCPS Investigates Wilson HS Grade Changes
Erich Martel, 

The DC Public Schools has been conducting an investigation into reports of grade changes and violations of graduation requirements at Wilson H.S. Here is what their investigation consists of: 1) The investigators are current or retired DCPS employees. Such an in-house investigation is not independent of DCPS influence and can make no claim to disinterested objectivity. 2) The investigators have posted no clear-cut standards that will guide them in objectively determining whether questionable courses or grades meet specific Board of Education graduation requirements. The existence of multiple, often contradictory, files in the electronic database and hard-copy transcripts with whiteouts and type-overs and the somewhat disorganized state of records management at Wilson H.S. mean that decisions will often be arbitrary. 3) The investigators used Wilson H.S. counselors, some of whom are new to DCPS and Wilson and have admitted their limited knowledge of database files, to do much of the actual research in student files. An investigator reportedly told a Wilson teacher that the investigators were not permitted to look at students' files. 4) The investigators did not interview me or other teachers who had reported unauthorized grade changes. On Monday, June 17, I was invited to be interviewed the following day. When I arrived, I was told by the head of the team that they would not need to hear from me. To this day, seven weeks after I sent the first reports of violations to Supt. Vance and his Chief of Staff, Dr. Seleznow, not one DCPS official has spoken with me. A colleague reported that the principal told him, that he and presumably the investigators and all above him have been ordered not to speak with me about this matter! This is not encouraging. I have taught in the DC Public Schools since 1969, sixteen years at Cardozo H.S. and since 1985 at Wilson H.S. I have served on national history and social studies standards panels and reviewed state standards as a consultant for educational policy organizations, yet top DCPS officials are not allowed to speak to me!

The absence of an independent investigation and the refusal to seek information from the teacher who researched and analyzed the information does not describe a genuine fact-finding investigation. It is fair to ask how the school system can implement major publicized reforms, when this is how it responds to reports of serious problems from the schools. It is also suggests a response in the form of administrative action aimed at the messenger, instead of taking the message seriously. I must take this possibility seriously. Teachers and all public servants need to know that the public wants them to feel empowered to report mismanagement and corruption to superiors. I have been reliably told (but without confirmation) that only 43 of 100+ Spingarn H.S. 2002 graduates met all requirements legitimately; the others were graduated by means of "a last minute shuffle, extra credit assignments, and retests."

I must again ask all readers who are concerned about this matter to contact public officials, including: Superintendent Paul Vance, 442-5885,; Dr. Steven Seleznow, Chief of Staff, 442-5026,; Board of Ed President, Ms. Peggy Cooper-Cafritz (so far, the only person in a leadership position related to DCPS who has expressed concern and solicited information from me), 442-5194,; Mayor Anthony Williams,; Council Member Kevin Chavous (chairman of the Educ. and Libraries Comm.), 724-8068. Members of Congress and members of the business community with an interest in education. My requests are for a genuine and independent fact-finding investigation: 1) An independent investigation empowered to examine all relevant documents and interview staff members who have information relevant to the reported violations; 2) Institute measures to protect student academic records against alteration and misrepresentation; 3) No disciplinary actions against me or any other teacher.


DMV Experiences
Stewart Reuter, 

Had a mixed experience with the DC DMV during the last week of June. I noticed that my car registration had expired. Is it a given that renewal notices are not being mailed to residents? Is this part of the revenue enhancement program of our Mayor? I went to the Georgetown DMV office after work, where I was treated courteously and swiftly, and left in about ten minutes with my renewal and parking sticker. The only delay I saw was for the guy who wanted to pay cash and had been waiting quite a while -- seems paying in cash must be a problem and something the DMV wants to discourage. I then obliterated the "02" stickers on my plates, and installed the new sticker, after laboriously scraping off the old zone parking sticker. I still needed a safety inspection.

The next morning, having noted that the DMV web site said that “senior” lanes were operated between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. for those over 60 with private vehicles, I reached Half St. at 7:00. The attendant in the street told me it was only for those over 65, and sent me to the rear of the three block line. Ninety minutes later I was through the rat-maze, noting that not one of the DMV personnel there had smiled or been polite. I'd hate to think how they react to the citizenry later in the day.


DPW Public Space Tickets?
Josh Gibson, 

Has anyone else recently received a ticket from the Department of Public Works' Public Space Division, citing you for “Improper Use of Public Trash Receptacles”? My notice indicated that I had never paid my original ticket (dated from March 2002), and that for this reason, my fine had been doubled to $70. If I didn't pay or protest within fourteen calendar days, a lien would be placed on my property. My initial confusion comes from the fact that I never committed the stated infraction (which, if I understand correctly, consists of putting a big bag of household trash in a public street trash can).

But my primary frustration lies in the fact that not only did I receive such a notice of infraction in my name, but the new resident of an apartment I recently moved out of received one in his name also, as did the guy who owned my condo a year ago (and whose mail I still sometimes receive). The odds of the three of us receiving the same kind of letter (regarding infractions at different addresses on different dates) by simple coincidence within a few days of each other are unlikely. Are hundreds of these things just flooding the city? Any recommendations on how to get them canceled out?


DC EMS Will Bill You
David Sobelsohn, dsobelsoatcapaccessdotorg 

On the subject of Emergency Medical Services in DC, something not all of us may realize: if an accident on a DC city street causes you to lose consciousness, and EMS takes you to an emergency room, you will receive a bill for the service. The charges will exceed $300, the bill may be sent to the wrong address or with the wrong name, and if you don't pay promptly (even if you haven't actually ever received a bill) you will get harassed by a collection agency. Does anyone know if it's routine around the country for local EMS to bill those who use EMS services?


A Modest Proposal
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park, 

What's a mayor to do? Faced with the stiff-necked brethren of Kingman Park who refuse to be appeased by "such things as day trips out of the area during the Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington" (to quote The Washington Post) the Mayor must feel life is terribly unfair. Here he is laboring day and night to bring such high toned events such as the Cadillac Grand Prix to the Anacostia Riviera and all he gets is questions about contracts negotiated in secret, questions that he cannot answer because, well then, they wouldn't be secret contracts would they?

Though I can't help with the secret contracts, or the pollution or the noise either, I think I can help solve the problem with Kingman Park. Why stop at day trips? Why not just send the quarrelsome Kingman Park folk to a reservation? Or, since the Cadillac Grand Prix has the cachet of all things European, why not a concentration camp?


Luring Tourists to DC
Ed T. Barron, 

With the announcement that the DC police have spent $2M for gas masks to distribute to Federal employees we have taken another great step in luring tourists to DC. Perhaps an even better lure would be to offer free gas masks to a family of four who agree to spend at least $2K on their next vacation to DC.


Flag Slogan
Jerry Van Dyke,

There was a relatively long refutation/discussion of three slogans to attach to our simple, elegant flag. I agree since we have a slogan on the license plates repetition is not going to peak much more interest in the hinterlands and in the press. Why not get down to brass tacks? “NO vote, NO taxes,” suits me just fine, as it fits on one line and is easy to read as flag whips in the wind (in response to a previous concern). I'm happy to pay, I'm happy to serve USA, but only as a fully entitled, fully engaged citizen. You want my money, give me a vote!


Taxation Without Representation
Joan Eisenstodt, 

I moderate an international Listserv for people in the meetings/hospitality industry. Sometimes we have an off-topic discussion. The pledge of allegiance issue this week raised many hackles, and I thus brought up that Congress was so upset about that but we can't get them to rally for rights for we who live in DC. A list member from Germany wrote the following, which I thought you'd find interesting: “I am surprised to learn that citizens of the District of Columbia do not have a vote on the floor of Congress. . . . Is DC not represented at all? If it is, who appoints representatives? I am surprised to learn that representation should be bound to taxpaying. . . . One Dollar = one Vote? How much does a vote cost? I am sure there are citizens in DC who do not pay taxes for whatever reason (living from welfare etc.) Are those not suppose to vote too?”


Where Is George?
Bill Leonard, 

George Washington can be found, standing tall, in the circle intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Nebraska just outside American University.


Don’t Worry, Just Clarify
John Whiteside, john at logancircle dot net

I don't want themail to be sunnier and brighter. (Nor do I object to it being so, if people submit brighter and sunnier things.) I think it serves a useful purpose by bringing to screw ups of our city government to light. I just suggest that readers remember that there is more to life in DC than the bad things we read in themail — thank heavens!

I think it would be interesting to hear Gary and Dorothy tell us what they like about life in DC. I'm not being sarcastic — I don't believe they'd be here, and put the work they do into trying to improve the city, if they didn't genuinely care about this place. And few of us care about places where we like nothing.


Corruption and Negativity Limited to DC?
Star (formerly Jean) Lawrence, 

I have lived in the Phoenix area for six years now, after 35 years in DC. In a perverse orgy of Shadenfreude, I read themail regularly, and I got to thinking: if such a publication existed in this area, would it contain a constant stream of municipal crinks? Yes, probably; that's my conclusion. People here, though far from the seat of government (love that term), are obsessed by politics and civic matters. They hate environmentalists, they awarded themselves huge tax breaks so they and their friends could buy SUVs 90 percent off. Remember Keating, remember Fife Symington? All we lack here is a version of themail to air it all. Oh — and a basic grasp of noun/verb number agreement and single negatives.


Political Posters
Chuck Thies, 

[In the June 26 issue of themail, David Hunter wrote] “Does anyone have the rules for what is legal and illegal about posting signs on light poles? Also, what are my rights about tearing the ugly things down?”

I am the campaign manager for the campaign to reelect Phil Mendelson, At-Large Councilmember. The Board of Elections has a web page that explains the regulations for posting political signs/posters: Based on your inquiry, articles 108.9 and 108.10 may be of particular interest.

Our campaign understands the potential for eyesore and/or voter fatigue in as much as signs are concerned. You will see our signs appearing around town in the coming weeks, but rest assured they will be posted according to the law and with consideration for appearance and overkill.


Campaign Posters
Rae Kelley, 

My neighbors and I adopted our block and had our first cleanup just recently. A few days after we cleaned up our street, our wonderful council member posted his reelection posters on the street poles. You can imagine how insulted we felt. To go through all of this trouble, only to have the people who are suppose to be helping us improve our community, cause us more problems.

This was taken from the DC Clean City web site: “Many citizens throughout the District of Columbia have expressed displeasure at the proliferation of signs and posters placed in public space. The undesirable advertising messages, debris in the public space, and the visual blight they cause are ongoing problems that the city has not had a lot of success in abating. Posters left in the public space that end up being removed by city employees also consume financial resources that could be used for more positive programs.” Here is the web address,


DC Police Department and Chief Ramsey
Janice H. Hopp, 

Before condemning our police department and Chief Ramsey, why not ask the opinion of recognized criminologists? They might agree with those of us who, like me, think our Police Chief has done an outstanding job. Yes, there are problems; there always will be problems. But there also is a solid record of achievement and improvement, and a noteworthy attention to contemporary problems, and a choice of outstanding, qualified people to design and implement needed change.


NW Party Animals
Michael Bindner, mbindner at aol dot guess what

Tim Cline notices that most party animals are in Northwest. There is a good reason for this. Northwest is the largest quadrant in terms of both land area and commercial space. The party animals are located outside institutions and businesses, rather than homes. Most of these are in Northwest, as Southeast and Northeast has been successful in retaining their almost suburban flavors (dating back to when Anacostia was a majority white enclave and Georgetown and the West End were African-American).



Car for Sale
Ian Sheridan, 

1987 Volkswagen Golf GL. Good condition. 114,000 miles, blue, standard transmission, sunroof, 4-door, am/fm/cassette. New muffler, battery. $1700 or best offer. Perfect car for living in the city.


1987 Chevy Blazer
Josh Gibson, 

1987 Chevy Blazer for sale, $3500 or best offer. Brand new engine was installed in 1995, new transmission in 1998. Under 100,000 miles. Runs very well, in excellent condition. Selling car to live the Flexcar lifestyle full time.



Seeking House Sitter
Harold Goldstein, 

We are seeking a house sitter, specifically for August 14th through September 5th, but that person(s) could stay for a few weeks on either or both sides of that time frame; we are pretty flexible.

Our neighbors will help feed the cats but we have a dog that needs to be walked and some plants that need to be watered.. If anyone is interested or knows someone who might be interested (or has suggestions for finding a reliable house sitter) please contact me.


Executive Director Search for a New DC Advocacy Group
Rene Wallis, 

Executive Director sought for Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc. AJF provides educational advocacy services to families of children with disabilities residing in the District of Columbia. We are seeking to hire an Executive Director who serves as the organization's primary leader, spokesperson, chief fundraiser, and manager. Responsibilities include overall leadership and management of the organization, fundraising and ensuring financial viability of the organization, community building and relations, board relations, and program administration. Demonstrated expertise in nonprofit leadership in the area of advocating and negotiating in the education system. Experience working in African-American and Latino communities and DC agencies. To apply send three copies of your resume, cover letter including salary requirement, and three professional references (name, organ., address, phone and E-mail) to: Mary Ann Stein, AJE Board Chair, One Farragut Square South, 1634 I St. NW, Suite 1000, WDC 20006. AJE is an EOE.



Wanted Printing Company to Barter Services
Eli Haynes, 

We are seeking a Printing Company to barter printing services in exchange for our assistance in preparing your certification as a local, small, minority, women or veteran owned business, qualifying to bid on government contracts. Contact Eli Haynes at 271-5522



Analysis of DC’s Budget as It Relates to Children and Youth
Susie Cambria, 

In late July, DC ACT will release its ninth annual analysis of the District budget, “What's in It for Kids?” This is the only analysis of its kind, providing valuable information about budgets and programs that impact children and families in the areas of welfare, child welfare, child care, homelessness, mental health, and maternal and child health. New this year: we will make the book available on CD-ROM in addition to the printed version and it will also be posted on our web site, The book is free, however, there is a $5 per copy fee (print and CD-ROM) for postage and handling. There is a 10-book limit on printed copies; there is no such limit for the CD-ROM version. If you are interested in viewing the book on-line or in ordering a copy, contact DC ACT at 234-9404 or to get an order form. Note: copies (hard and CD) will be distributed to all schools, colleges and universities, and public libraries where they can be reviewed.


Human Needs 1st Elections 2002
Susie Cambria, 

Concerned individuals and organizations have come together to form Human Needs 1st in an effort to ensure that the basic human needs -- such as housing, food, health care, jobs, education, economic security, child care -- of all District residents are met. Toward that end, we call on our elected officials to put human needs first. Human Needs 1st wants to ensure that DC elected officials and voters are aware of the critical human needs issues facing our community. To this end, we will be sending a questionnaire to all candidates for DC office asking about a broad range of human needs issues. We will use the results of this questionnaire to create a nonpartisan voter guide. We will also participate in candidate forums, promote voter registration efforts, and connect those who wish to conduct voter registration with the tools they need to do so.

We are encouraging others to sign on to this effort. If you do, your name or your organization's name can be included on the candidate questionnaire and on the voter guide. Please send the following information to Jabrina Robinson (Center for Law and Social Policy, 1015 15th St., NW, Suite 400, 20005, fax 842-2885. Include name, organization (if applicable), address, phone, fax, E-mail. Direct questions to Jabrina by calling 906-8041.



Bancroft Knitting Program: A Great Success!
Peg Blechman, 

The Potomac Craftsmen Guild knitting program has just completed its third year at Bancroft Elementary in Mount Pleasant! Many thanks to members of the Washington Metropolitan area community for their contributions which paid the salary of the Waldorf-trained knitting teacher. She worked with one third/fourth grade class at Bancroft for the entire year. The beginners learned how to knit and made little stuffed animals- chicks, cats and frogs. The students who learned knitting last year knit beautiful multicolored woolen caps for themselves. The students loved learning how to knit and were so proud of what they made. If you're interested in contributing to this great program, please send donations to The Potomac Craftsmen Guild, c/o Gayle Roehm, 8028 Fenway Road, Bethesda, MD 20817-4559.


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