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July 14, 2002

The Fix We’re In

Dear Voters:

I'm sending themail early this evening because Dorothy and I are going to spend the rest of the night completing our challenge against Mayor Williams's nominating petitions. We shall file the challenge with the Board of Elections tomorrow, and shall write more about it in Wednesday's issue. For now, what I can write is that we do not believe there are two thousand good signatures — signatures untainted by forgery or other fraud -- out of the ten thousand signatures on the Mayor's petitions. The Board of Elections and Ethics normally favors candidates in the challenge and appeal process; its bias is to put candidates on the ballot if they're within a few signatures of making it, and if the rules only have to be bent a bit to accomplish it. But when faced with a blatant crime of this scope and size, and with a candidate who has fallen hundreds of signatures short of the required amount, the Board will be most likely to enforce the rules strictly.

Gary Imhoff 


Trouble with an Unusually Cool Summer Breeze in Paradise
Mark David Richards, 17th Street Strip, 

We live in troubled times in our little DC paradise (banana republic, some challenge). Crime is still out of control. A pipe bomb explodes and I watch in wonder as sirens fly by with hazardous materials trucks. I still want to know what I'm supposed to do if there is a terrorist attack when I'm walking down the street. We've entered this new security age — everybody watching everybody. (Time to learn a dance for all the cameras, I suppose.) No doubt, security is important. And so are civil liberties. Fire Department Chief Ronnie Few . . . what can I say. Our DC bureaucracy is as bureaucratic as ever. The federal government is busy reorganizing its bureaucracies, spending, spending, spending, and haphazardly jumping into local affairs. 401-Ks have dropped so much in value one wonders about the future. Housing costs and rents continue to rise. DC residents can't decide if they want to keep being a federal colony or try to win some measure of freedom. We seem to be at the center of some unspecified but precarious storm. And there seems to be a vacuum of leadership.

And then we have the upcoming election. For Mayor Williams, this has got to be a migraine time. I would be furious! I don't know what the people who were supposedly his advocates were doing related to getting in-person endorsements for his reelection, but it looks pretty bad. You'd suspect these subordinates weren't on his team at all. I'm not a vocal critic of Mayor Williams, and I don't see a better mayoral choice to maneuver DC through the District's power elite feuds. But hundreds (thousands?) of fraudulent petition signatures -- that requires a decent explanation. What exactly is happening? Is this ridiculous situation a symptom of a chain-of-command problem, incompetence, reckless abandon, sabotage, or what? I heard someone say the mayor is running against himself. That sounds like the truth.

Despite the sociopolitical storm clouds, DC's actual weather has been great. Trees are full and flowers in bloom. Gardening time. Someone can offer a simple smile while passing on the sidewalk and wash all my DC troubles away. The street life on the 17th Street strip is vibrant, and there are many smiling faces and silly and interesting people. Moods seem light, as light gets in DC. The dusk sky is beautiful, a deep cobalt gray blue. The days are long. This cool summer breeze seems to temporarily erase trouble in paradise. I'm listening for the mockingbirds; I don't think they've made it to my neighborhood yet.


Burned-Out Streetlights
Valerie Kenyon Gaffney, 

I submitted this three or more weeks ago to Dr. Gridlock, to no avail. Then I thought perhaps some reader of themail might have a suggestion: I travel Rt. 27 (Washington Boulevard) past the Pentagon daily. For months now, the streetlight at the pedestrian crosswalk just south of the Arlington Memorial Bridge has been burned out. Within the past couple of weeks, the light immediately adjacent to it has gone out as well. There are lights burned out on the bridge too, including one across the bridge on the approach to Rock Creek Parkway.

When approaching this crosswalk (as well as the one at the Lincoln Memorial where the sidewalk crosses the entrance ramp to RCP) after dark it is impossible for a motorist to see if a pedestrian or cyclist is waiting to cross or is already crossing the boulevard headed for Arlington National Cemetery, thus allowing you to slow down or stop for them. The way traffic speeds through there, it's only a matter of time before an unsuspecting tourist becomes a statistic, unaware that Washington traffic waits for neither time, nor tide, nor pedestrians, nor bicyclists. To whom does one complain to get the burned out streetlights replaced, before someone does get hit?


Williams Administration Recipe for Bad Labor Relations
Donald Rifenburgh, 

Here for your consideration is the recipe for an unsavory dish that Mayor Williams' administration has been cooking up for the past two years, at the expense of labor relations and DC taxpayers. 1: Take one veteran Department of Human Services employee who is receiving psychiatric treatment following the deaths of his partner and his partner's daughter. When the employee requests a temporary modification of his work assignment to accommodate his medical condition, have him fired the following day as “an immediate threat to the agency and the public.” Step 2: Appoint a hearing examiner of your choice to hear the employee's appeal of his dismissal. When the hearing examiner determines the dismissal was unjustified and that the employee should be restored to his position with full back pay and benefits, disregard her considered decision. Step 3: Ignore the labor contract requiring a decision in the matter within 45 days. Instead, keep the employee waiting for 490 days, and then issue a final decision upholding the dismissal. Do not offer any justification or explanation for firing the employee. Step 4: When the employee's union submits a formal grievance under the labor contract and calls for the employee's reinstatement, waste another opportunity to do the right thing and deny the grievance. Again, make sure no justification or explanation is offered. Step 5: Try to avoid an adverse ruling by an independent arbitrator that will expose your administration's unfair labor practices. Make repeated assertions to the employee's union that you want to settle the matter.

Step 6: Set aside the ingredients and wait an additional five months before presenting the employee's union with a settlement proposal. Make sure the proposal will be unacceptable to the employee and his union by way of the following: A) Refuse to restore the employee to his previous job, and instead insist he agree to accept an unspecified position with an unspecified agency at an unspecified time in the future. B) Insist that the employee help bear the financial burden incurred through the malice and ineptitude of your administrators by making him agree to forfeit an unspecified amount of the back pay he is owed. Step 7: Try to keep a straight face while you ask for the endorsement of labor unions and the votes of union members in your upcoming reelection bid. Step 8: Add generous portions of dissembling, cynicism and bad faith. Stir thoroughly and sweep under the rug until after the election.

Recipe serves a city of approximately 500,000. Total cost of recipe — don't worry, the DC taxpayers are footing the bill!


Ronnie Few’s Reference Letter
Ralph Blessing, 

According to the July 11 Washington Post, the mayor of Augusta, Georgia, wrote a glowing letter of reference for Ronnie Few. However, Mayor William's press secretary, Tony Bullock, indicated that he saw no need to contact the Georgia mayor before Few was offered the position of DC Fire Chief. And exactly what planet does Mr. Bullock reside on? During my many years with the feds and non-profits, I don't recall one hiring decision ever being made without first following up with references. But with such a high-profile position as fire chief, the mayor's office doesn't think it's necessary? Sure, maybe (as Bullock contends) the Augusta mayor should have been more forthcoming in his letter, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that you don't take reference letters at face value.


The Mayor’s Race
Michael Bindner, mbindnerdc at aol 

In the event the Mayor is thrown off the ballot, which candidates are left? I can't imagine that the Williams campaign is not examining every signature turned in by another candidate. (If they aren't, they are dumber than any of us thought). The District Democratic Party would then be faced with an open election, and several write in candidates. The question is, who will people write in. It is likely that the Mayor will mount such a campaign — although after the current signature fiasco, the honorable thing to do would be to withdraw from the race. Many people will likely write in Marion Barry's name — and if he gives any hint of support for such an effort he would likely win. Kevin Chavous should be seriously tempted to undertake a write in campaign — although he would be wise not to unless Barry endorses either his candidacy or Tony's. If the ego of Jack Evans throws his hat in it could split the Tony vote. If both he and Kevin had run outright, Jack would have had a serious chance of winning the primary. If the long time movers and shakers in DC politics have any sense, they will huddle up sometime soon and settle on a candidate and support him (or her) in a united front. Given the collection of current council members, I would think that the ultimate unity candidate would be John Ray. John, do you read this list?

I have a question for the Democratic readership. If the election were held today and no one were on the ballot, who would you write in? (If I were still a Democrat and still a DC voter, I would likely write in John Ray). For GOP members of the list, with Tony running as damaged goods, should Carol run, and will you write her name in? Finally, given the current institutional problems with the DC Dems (their slavish ties to a corrupt Williams machine) perhaps the best alternative is to go outside the traditional parties and look at the Green front-runner — Steve Donkin (whom I am supporting).


Election Fraud and Where Is Kelvin Robinson?
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park, 

It says a great deal about the mayor's insecurity that they had to cook the petitions. For the first time ever, I agree with one of Ed Barron's posts. I served on a jury during the last week before petitions were due and almost every morning, I was approached by people asking me to sign a nominating petition for a candidate. Having been involved in countless nominating petition drives over the years, I've adopted the attitude that 1) if I am qualified to sign, and 2) if I do not strongly disagree with the candidate or position, I will sign the petition. I generally talk to the petitioner to find out more about the candidate or the issue. DC Superior Court is a good place because among potential or actual jurors, there is bound to be a rich stream of registered voters who reside in the District (say as compared to a Metro stop). Anyway, amongst all those petitioners, I never once found a petitioner for the mayor. Raising the question, that if they weren't at the supermarket and they weren't at the court, where were they? Did anyone on the mail sign a petition for the mayor? Did anyone on the mail see a petition gatherer for the mayor? Has anyone seen the mayor?

Now that we know more than we would like to know (now) but should have known (then) about Chief Few, one wonders why they keep Kelvin Robinson, the other hire without benefit of due diligence, under wraps? Just askin'.


Sam Kaiser Case in the Washington Post
Richard P. Schmitt, 

The Sam Kaiser scandal is being swept under the rug either with the active assistance of the Washington Post or just through negligent journalism. The Post reported on Mr. Kaiser's guilty plea on July 10, Page B01. However, nowhere in the article was mention made of a plea bargain. The fact that there was a plea bargain, as reported in the Washington Times, July 10, Page B1, is important for two reasons. The public has a right to know both how the criminal system is being administered and their government managed. Avoiding a trial by a plea bargain does not promote either of these ends in the Kaiser case. The citizens of the District of Columbia have valid reasons to want a public airing of the facts of the crimes or a guilty plea, with no bargains, to all the charges. The current city administration has reasons to avoid a public airing of the facts of the crimes.

A trial would have disclosed which government officials authorized or allowed Kaiser to have sole check writing authority over a city bank account. A trial probably would have disclosed if other government employees have been allowed such illegal rights. A trial may also have provided an exploration of the hiring practices of the Chief Financial Officer. It is possible that the Chief Financial Officer's refusal to utilize the Corporation Counsel's Office and then to hire, without verifying professional licenses, a “lawyer” to provide the services may have seen the light of public scrutiny. Trials and criminal convictions sometimes lead to changes of laws or changes through the ballot box.

Defenders of the Washington Post may point to a editorial in the June 30, edition, Page B06, which explores the apparent breakdowns in the District's hiring and financial systems. However, we should not have to read the editorials for the complete news. Particularly, where just the use of two words, “plea bargain,” would have gone a far way in making the July 10 article accurate and informative. A second reason that the accuracy of the article is important is a reader would have the impression that stealing $248,000 and mail fraud only warrants a three-year sentence. The Washington Times points out that as a result of the plea agreement, Kaiser does not face ten years of jail as asked for in the indictment. A seemingly small point, but worth noting when citizens base their views on the fairness and efficiency of the judicial system on the sentences white collar or street criminals face.


Jackson Challenges Mayor Williams to Debate on Contract Corruption
Arthur H. Jackson, Jr., 

Since taking office in January 1999, Mayor Tony Williams has seen no fewer than fifty city employees indicted or convicted of corruption in government. This record is higher than Barry's, Kelly's, and Washington's administrations all combined together. Political corruption in our city government will be target of my administration, and I will announce a major proposal on Saturday, July 20, at the monthly meeting of the Ward 8 Democrats, to fight corruption in the District government.

As a Candidate for Mayor, I challenged Mayor Williams to three debates on corruption, housing and the displacement of African Americans, Latinos, and fixed income Caucasians and on education and public safety. The voters of DC need and deserve a debate our different views of DC, and which candidate is the best candidate to deliver quality services, real affordable housing, and open up the doors of opportunity to all District of Columbia contractors, vendors and suppliers, not just those contributors to the Mayor's reelection.


Put It in Context
Dennis Jaffe, 

I'd like to make two suggestions for submittals by citizens to themail, of which I have become an avid reader because of its inclusion of informative, engaging dialogue about issues our community faces. First, I believe that an open, informative dialogue requires contributing writers to be identified by their affiliations when those affiliations are substantially relevant to their posts. One example: the published postings of one repeat writer, who works for a city councilmember, have criticized another elected official from an opposing political party. Readers of themail wouldn't have automatically known of the writer's affiliation. By proposing inclusion of substantially-relevant affiliations, I do not suggest that a post by a member of one political party, or by a particular employer, merit being dismissed — or believed — merely because of the affiliation. Rather, I suggest that inclusion of affiliations helps to place one's public perspective in context.

Often, I agree with a post that arguably and, perhaps only coincidentally, articulates what most would expect to be consistent with a “company line” articulated by the writer's affiliated organization(s). But only by being well-informed of affiliations can readers of themail make informed judgments and put many postings in context. The hard and credible work of activist and themail co-publisher, Dorothy Brizill, has made that case powerfully. Also, I would sum up the criteria for what kind of affiliations merit being included as: does it pass the sniff test?

My second suggestion relates to the tone or approach taken by writers. It is my belief that people's communication style in general has taken on a nastier tone in the past fifteen years. While nasty political communication has been at play for many centuries, I believe it has turned nastier at lower levels — as in among and between neighbors. A posting in the July 10th edition of themail lambasted another writer: “...your high level of vitriol has affected not only your brain but your vision and hearing too!” It so happens that I agreed with the substance behind the July 10th posting. But it reminds me of an E-mail I received recently from a “peace” activist inviting me to a rally to “eat Bush 4 lunch.” If we are going to preach reasonableness and openness and compassion in the political process and in public policy, then we should consistently incorporate such principles in how we address people as well.

I submit that one is apt to be more effective in articulating one's viewpoint, especially if one is seeking to address those whose minds have not yet been made up on a particular issue -- and is also apt to promote a more healthy society and community — by praising and criticizing people's positions and actions, rather than bitterly attacking, or “partisanly” defending an individual person or even organization. The two most essential ingredients for effective communication are kindness and honesty. Criticizing an opponent by mocking his brain, hearing, and vision is not nice. It is not effective. It is not necessary. It is not informative. It is, ironically, itself vitriolic. I submit that it is really another example of the “politics of personal destruction” that the Clintons and liberal Democrats in particular decried for years. Vitriolic communications is also like a cancer that eats away at our dignity, and ultimately dampens participation. themail is too good of a civic tool to be subjected as a hotbed of praise and denouncement of people — instead of ideas.


Enough with the Infighting on DC Rights
Scott Vicary, 

Just over the last few weeks, themail and other sources have hosted criticisms of efforts to change the DC flag, of the Declaration of Reunification at the British Embassy on July 3, and of the Statehood Green Party's reception at the Palisades Parade on July 4. Enough with the infighting, already.

The various groups working for democracy in the District may not agree on everything, but we have a hell of a lot more in common than we have with the opponents arrayed against us. Anyone who is going to make the effort to stand up for DC rights should not be pilloried for being “ideologically impure” or slightly “off-message.” I applaud anyone who takes a step to advance democracy for the District, even if I don't agree with the exact message or solution. Let's have a meaningful debate on the DC flag changes, but let's make sure that we end up with a change that promotes the cause. Some things we do may offend a few people, but asking nicely for our rights hasn't exactly been working.


Prince Hall Masons Versus the Cardoza Shaw Neighborhood Association
Clyde E. Howard, Jr., 

The Cardozo Shaw Neighborhood Association (CSNA) has taken the position to oppose the addition to a parking lot that the Prince Hall Masons own. This addition will add nine additional spaces to the current spaces and will reduce the number of cars parking in the neighborhood by a like number. However, the rancor that took place in the CSNA meeting on July 11 had such racial overtones that it appeared that the real objection was due to the fact that the Prince Hall Masons own some of the most prime property in the community and that certain individuals are not able to induce their bourgeois and capitalistic ideas upon the Masonic organization. Therefore, it is their intent to deny the Masons the ability to provide a small parking lot for their members who do not live in the community and must use personal transportation to and from the Masonic Temple Building. The subway or taxicab places an unfair burden upon our fixed income members plus many of the cabs do not stop for fares of a certain color at night and the subway stop running at an early time that affects attendance at meetings. The cry of affecting property values by a parking lot is nothing more then a smokescreen that cannot be proven. The escalating prices of housing in the area do not support the assumption of declining housing values caused by a parking lot. This organization presupposes that they have the voice of the community. They do not since their membership reflects who they really represent. They are not as diverse as they have pronounced, they are more myopic in their views and are ignorant of the true character of this community. Most have only moved into this area on a 1/32nd of time and have not fought to stabilize this area as so many have in the past.

When an Organization such as the Masons, who have contributed so much to the community at large, is now being opposed because of a small matter of an additional nine parking spaces on a current parking lot, an insignificant matter, beware; the CSNA might develop a home owners association telling you how to cut your grass.


I Wonder Why
Mary Rowse, 

I was surprised to hear that Ed T. Baron and his roommate collected fewer than seven signatures per hour for Kathy Patterson. I had no trouble gathering twenty to twenty-five an hour for Erik Gaull.


Problems with Washington Diplomat Web Page
Charles Stevenson, 

Am I the only person having chronic problems accessing the Washington Diplomat magazine's web page, at This is a great page, supporting as it does a fine paper, and I'd come to rely on it as a source of good information. But about eight months ago it started crashing my browser, esp. when I tried to navigate sub-pages inside the top level page. Several inquiries to the webmaster produced “We can't find anything wrong” to, more recently, no response at all to my inquiry.

This is a problem I haven't experienced on any other page in several years, and it happens almost every time I bring up their page. Does anyone else have this problem? Feel free to straighten me out off line.


July 2002 InTowner
Peter Wolff, 

This is to advise that the July 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 April 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 August 9. 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) “DC Agency Officer Found to Hold Unrevealed Full-Time Position at University of Maryland”; (2) “Dupont to Georgetown Shuttle Bus Garnering Enthusiastic Ridership”; (3) “Neighborhood Park Set for Summer.”



DC Public Library
Rita Cloutier, 

The DC Public Library faces fewer open hours and reduced services. The Mayor has placed an embargo on the Library's spending until it comes up with a plan due July 16 to reduce expenditures by $905,000 in the remaining 2-1/2 months of the fiscal year. The Library paces its expenditures so it doesn't exceed its budget (unlike other units of the DC government). It operates with a very frugal budget, about 7/10 of 1 percent of the total District budget, and reducing its spending by $905,000 will require sharp cutbacks in hours the branches are open and a reduction in services to the communities served by the branches. If you're opposed to this unwarranted and last-minute cutback, E-mail the mayor - it doesn't have to be a long message and I understand he reads E-mails.

It's short notice, but the Library Board of Trustees is meeting with the public on the proposed reductions at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 15, Room 443 at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library at 9th and G Streets, NW. On Metro (red, yellow, green lines) use the 9th Street exit at Gallery Place.


Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)
Barbara Conn, 

While on the go, do you need an easier way to keep in touch with colleagues via instant messenger, E-mail, and the Web? Would you like an alternative to lugging around a heavy laptop when making presentations? Do you need to develop Web sites for easy viewing on the wide variety of PDAs now available? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you won't want to miss this event! Those PDA Guys, Shawn Googins and Ray Wiley, will be leading a seminar to help new and experienced PalmOS or Pocket PC PDA users become more productive while on the go. Gather your questions, friends, and colleagues and bring them to the Saturday, July 20, 1:00 p.m. (check-in: 12:50 p.m.), meeting of the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group (SIG).

Meetings are free and are held each month, usually on the third Saturday, at the Cleveland Park Library (Second Floor Large Meeting Room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW, just a block and a half south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail station and half a block south of the Cineplex Odeon Uptown movie theater. For more information about the seminar, the speakers, and CPCUG, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization, and to register for the meeting, visit


DC Master Business License Class
William Hopper, 

I know you all are aware that DC is going to require all businesses to have a Master Business License. There will seminars on it all over the city during the summer, but the one for us in Chevy Chase DC will be held this coming Tuesday morning, July 16, at 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at the Chevy Chase Community Center, corner of Connecticut and McKinley Streets in Chevy Chase DC. For more info contact the DCRA at 727-8964

Just thought all of you should know. And from what I understand, every business in DC will have to have this license — nonprofit, school, any business. But we will find more out about this on Tuesday.


Ward 2 Dems Endorsement Forum
B. Warren Lane, 

The Ward 2 Democrats invite you to an endorsement forum, Sunday, July 21, 3:00-5:00 p.m., St. Thomas Church, 18th and Church Streets, NW. Registration will begin at 3:00 p.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. Quorum call will commence at 3:15 p.m. and business will commence when a quorum is reached. Order of business: adoption of the rules of the day; nominations from floor for DC Democratic State Committee Reps: speeches by qualified candidates for Mayor, Congressional Delegate, At-Large City Councilmember, Shadow Senator, and Shadow Representative.

Voting may commence upon conclusion of nominations for State Committee Reps and will conclude by 4:30 p.m. All registered Democrats in Ward 2 are welcome to participate. For more information, call 682-0300.



Contractor Experiences Sought
Deborah C. Fort,

We recently dealt with a crooked contractor and received redress through the DC Regulatory and Court systems. To broaden the story, I'd like to hear other themail readers' experiences with contractors, bad and good, and (if bad) what the homeowners did about them. Please let me know if I may quote you or your contractor's name in print; if no, I'd still like to know about what happened, and I will protect your privacy.


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