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July 31, 2002

A Simpler Time

Dear Seekers of Simplicity:

So, when times are trying, do you like to reminisce, even back to times that were before your time? In the past couple weeks, I've been listening to a lot of women jazz-pop singers from the 40's and 50's. Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Rosemary Clooney, Dinah Shore (how good she was as a young singer; what timing she had).

The recent past, thirty or forty years ago, is always pictured, with a nostalgic glow, as a better and simpler and less complicated time than today. That's because, when people get to be forty and fifty years old, they think back to the era when they were children, and when they themselves were better and simpler and less complicated, and attribute those qualities to the era. Believe me, the good old days weren't much different from these days; only we have changed.

Gary Imhoff 


Property Tax Increase “Relief”
Mark Eckenwiler, eck at ingot dot org 

Back in March, there was much debate in themail about the import of the City Council's proposed 25 percent per annum cap on real property assessment increases. Having read over the law, I'm here to tell you that a) it's not a cap on assessment increases, and b) as a result it does relatively little to hold down property taxes.

The good news in Act 14-306 (3/25/02), codified at DC Code sec. 47-864, is that it applies to owner-occupants. The bad news is that it creates only a year-at-a-time tax credit, not a cap on assessment increases per se. Here's how it works on an imaginary house with a growing assessment of 200K (year 1), 300K (year 2), and 380K (year 3). In Year 2, your assessment rises more 25 percent, but you receive a credit that limits your tax to 200K (prior year assessment) x 1.25; thus, your tax goes up 25 percent, all else being equal. But in Year 3, your tax will be based on 300K (prior year assessment) x 1.25, and so on. (In effect, your taxes for the three years are on 200K, 250K, and 375K; note the 50 percent increase in Year 3.)

Put in simplest terms: instead of limiting assessment increases to 25 percent per year, the Council has merely created a one-time credit for the year your assessment jumps 25 percent or more. The year after the assessment increase, you'll be hit for it in full. Mind you, I'm not saying that DC property values haven't increased, or that OTR shouldn't assess properties at market value (if they do so fairly and uniformly -- don't get me started). I'm only pointing out that the new tax credit isn't likely to do much to cushion the blow, which means that challenging your assessment remains the best way to keep the DC tax man honest. FYI, the best online copy of the law I can find the bill as introduced (same as final version),


City of Trees
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, 

In two articles published in a book entitled Washington: The Nation's Capital, by President William Howard Taft and James Bryce (1913 and 1915), both commented on Washington's “green-walled summer arcades” in which one “finds himself in the midst of a far-drawn-out Gothic archway whose parts are giant trees and whose whole represents the archetype of the bright conceptions of the Gothic builders.” Since that time, Washington has lost many of its trees. In fact, between 1973 and 1997 alone, American Forests reports that DC lost over 64 percent of its forest canopy. As you recall, Betty Brown Casey of the Eugene B. Casey Foundation contributed $50 million to the Garden Club of America for the creation of a permanent endowment to restore the tree canopy of Washington.

Yesterday, I spoke with three women in Woodley Park who were examining trees and making notations in an electronic notepad. Deborah Stours,, said they are part of the DC Trees Inventory project. One aspect she mentioned is how much it helps when residents know a little bit about the trees — especially new ones that are being planted — so they can help the trees survive. My grandfather liked to garden, so I learned the names of many trees and plants, but I find most people have no idea when I ask about one I don't know. Perhaps the new trees could come with a little, "I'm your new neighbor, let me introduce myself" tag/sign that teaches people walking by what the name of the tree is and how it likes to be treated. In addition, perhaps the planters could remove the non-biodegradable wrappers from the trees before planting them and also consistently implement best practices to give the trees a head start. In any case, I'm grateful to Ms. Casey and to those who are working on this project. It will benefit current and future generations. Perhaps someone who is familiar could explain what citizens need to know about the Council's Urban Forest Preservation Act:,


New DCFPI Report on Transparency of DC’s Budget
Ann Pierre, 

Today, the DC Fiscal Policy released a new report entitled “Improving the Transparency of the DC Budget.” The report uses a report card format to assess the extent to which the DC budget process provides policymakers and residents with clear, timely, and meaningful budget information. The report makes several recommendations for improving the District's budget materials and budget process.

The report can be found at


Tim Cline, Columbia Heights, 

I love to know where Bill Mosley gets his information about a Target coming to Columbia Heights, so I could find out how soon it will open and be first in line. I have no idea what is planned for a store or parking, but it will be a lot better than anything around the Columbia Heights Metro stop right now, although the CVS is nice.

Mr. Mosley's concern about whether Target can make a go of it or not are silly; these are issues for the Target people to deal with. I live two blocks from 1400 Irving, and will be happy to deal with "shoppers ... parking on residential streets in Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant." It will be an improvement over the drug purchasers who circle the block looking for dealers and stop in the middle of the street to make a buy. As for the small businesses . . . that's a joke, right?


Elizabeth McIntire, 

In response to Sarah Barnett's question, at the recent NCRC-RLARC Board meeting, Chip Glasgow, the spokesperson for the developer, declined to name any potential tenants while negotiations are underway, although someone on the Grid-DC/USA team is likely to have planted the Target story in the press the week before the meeting. The developer plans to have 1360+ parking spaces, on three levels underground, for a complex of 500,000+ square foot retail which might include the phantom Target. The site, most of the block between Park Road and Irving Street along 14th Street, NW, is right across from the Columbia Heights Metro; the developer was granted a reduction from 1800 parking spaces by the BZA.

It will be more than three years since the developer was selected for the Exclusive Right Agreement to develop the site, in December 2003, when the NCRC-RLARC expects all aspects of this project to be ready to go, and the anchor tenant is the linchpin. The RLARC stated clearly that no further extensions will be granted. Columbia Heights has been waiting for twenty plus years for the restoration of its downtown. There is no question in my mind that a “big box” retailer would do well in this location. Whether they want to deal with the bush-league players selected by the old RLA is another question.


Petition Circulators Are Still Out There
Juan Manuel Thompson, 

To all themail readers, there are still folks out there circulating nominating petitions for independent candidates in the upcoming elections. The Mayor's scandal has made it that much harder for volunteer workers like myself to obtain a signatures from average Washingtonians. So when you see a circulator, don't rake them over the coals. Yes, you have the absolute right to say “no thanks,” but we are out there just trying to get the candidate to the voter's table.

We just want to follow the democratic process the right way. One registered District resident at a time.


Tony Williams and the Petitions
Jack McKay, 

In the sturm und drang over Mayor Williams' difficulties with the petitions, the larger issues of the election of a mayor are being overlooked. Point one: the petition requirement exists only to limit the ballot to serious, credible candidates. There is no question that the incumbent mayor is a serious, credible candidate, and the petition requirement is truly gratuitous. Point two: the losers, should Williams be kept off the primary ballot by a technicality, are the voters, who will be deprived of the right to a free and fair election. If Williams is to be denied another term, it should be by popular vote, not by a technical knockout.


Something Smells in Washington
Dennis Jaffe, 

I hope Mayor Williams decides to not challenge the Board of Elections and Ethics' ruling that disqualified him from appearing on the Democratic primary ballot. The incompetency and dishonesty exhibited in his submittal demonstrate contempt for the petition process. I am concerned, though, about the basis upon which the board's decision was reportedly made. The agency's registrar, Ms. Fairley, certified that the mayor submitted 2,235 “seemingly valid signatures,” according to the Washington Post — 235 signatures above the 2,000 required. The formal petition challenge was legally impressive. The board's argument was morally persuasive. But the law requires that in order to invalidate a candidate's ballot petition, it must be proven that the number of signatures submitted fell short of the statute's requirement.

Does the board's fundamental inability to trust the authenticity of the document's contents qualify as justification under the law to invalidate a candidate's petition? I would hope so, but “proving something to be invalid” is different than “not trusting something to be valid.” As pathetically irresponsible, arrogant, and deceitful as the Mayor's petition was, the 10,000 plus signatures he submitted were reduced to 2,235 “seemingly valid” signatures. The reported legal basis for the board's decision is worrisome. Either the mayor had enough valid signatures, or he didn't. Regardless, I don't see how the mayor could possibly decide to mount an independent candidacy and leave the Democratic Party. Doing so would automatically result in his facing opposition by a Democratic nominee in November, a seemingly prohibitive debacle for him, and possibly the Democratic Party, as well as invite possibly formidable candidates to run as Independents. With over a million bucks in his treasury, he can afford to mount a write-in campaign in the Democratic Party — even an effective one.

Although, that might depend on how much money he spends on lawyers' fees and on staff, like Scott Bishop, Sr., who was placed on leave from the campaign from his $6,000-per-month position. Williams' continued hefty payment to Bishop concerns me deeply. Why would a mayor continue paying $6,000 a month to a staff person who was responsible for this mess? According to the July 26th edition of The Washington Times, Mayor Williams said, “All I'm doing is just trying to provide for his financial stability.” Huh? This situation begs for deeper scrutiny. Something smells.

A quote attributed in the July 23rd edition of The Washington Post to Warren Graves, the manager of the mayor's 1998 campaign, also disturbs me. Graves was reportedly trying to forge some kind of compromise with Dorothy Brizill, who has long crusaded for government accountability, and who recently filed the petition challenge that ultimately led to the board's decision against the mayor. Prior to the decision, Graves said the mayor “would agree to pay a fine and set up something to ensure integrity of the process, like funding a nonprofit.” Which nonprofit was the mayor considering funding — and for what purpose? This also has a smell to it. Didn't we already go through one of those scandals?

[The legal basis for and reasoning behind the Board of Elections and Ethics' decision can be found in their order: The Mayor's argument in the Court of Appeals is that as long as all the lines in the circulator's affidavit on a petition sheet are filed in, a false affidavit is as good as a true one. “The Board has no statutory authority to strike valid voters' signatures because of an inaccurate, or even false, affidavit of a circulator.” See his brief at — Gary Imhoff]


Anne Heutte, 

I have the image that a bunch of third-rate lawyers are clustering around Tony Williams's bandwagon in hopes of one day occupying some suite on K St.


Follow the Money
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom 

It's only Tuesday, and the Mayor has not yet selected any one of his three options to get on the November ballot. It is timely to make a prediction based on what I know about Mayor Williams. he will follow the money. That is, he will opt for being a Democratic write-in candidate for the November election. That is a somewhat risky approach since writing in is fraught with potential errors which lead to the disqualification of many votes. Williams will take that risk knowing that it will discourage other Dems from going the write-in route. But, mainly, his reason for selecting this option is that he can't bring himself to give up that $1.4M that's in his treasury to run as a Democrat for reelection.

[Second message] Well, it is now Wednesday night, and my Tuesday prediction that Mayor Williams would follow the money and run as a write-in Dem has come true. His challenge to the Board of Elections ruling that his name not be on the primary ballot was surprising and is a bit ill advised. What strikes me as most strange is that the Mayor will have a large number of hand stamps made and distributed so that persons can just stamp his name on the ballot and then draw a line to the arrow pointing to that name. I question the use of a stamp as being a legitimate way of “writing” in a candidates name. That may actually be illegal. Also, no stamp can be left in, or near, the voting booth or within fifty feet of the polling place boundaries since that would be illegal for campaigning too close to the polling places.


Next Steps 
Michael Bindner, mbindnerdc at aol dot you know what

Further congratulations on your ballot challenge, preventing for a time the massive election fraud that was the Mayor's nominating petition. Today's news relates that the Mayor is now running as a write in and (to discourage competition) filing an appeal of the Board of Election and Ethic's decision — hoping to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by assuring that there is just the chance that a Chavous or Evans write-in campaign may be against a Williams who is on the Democratic Ballot. It is likely that Williams is hoping that the court will find that the Registrar's count should have been accepted, with no direct evidence on the record that the Bishops committed election fraud. It would seem that there is only one way to get the Bishops' story on the record to prevent this — find a forum for them to testify under a grant of immunity. While the local prosecutor and the chairs of both DC committees are in the “friendly column,” they should be reminded that protecting the Mayor in this instance leaves them in the same position as Merrill Lynch and Andersen regarding Enron. The taint of fraud will stick to Williams protectors if they resist bringing this matter to its natural conclusion: the Bishop's immunized testimony. While it would seem disloyal for Mrs. Morella to hold such hearings after the Mayor's fundraiser for her earlier this year, it is almost essential she do so to prevent any hint that she has been compromised by Mr. William's earlier generosity.


Democracy vs. Bribery
Phil Carney, 

Because four years ago I helped draft Tony and stood on the corner to collect signatures, his petition fiasco has had me too teed off to write sooner. First, one big, giant super duper thank you to Dorothy and Gary for doing the exceptional in Washington — holding a DC politician accountable for his actions. Second, the problem and the only problem is that Tony took a democratic process and perverted it into a bribery process. Criminal actions by the Bishop family pale in comparison to Tony's bribing the Bishops to collect signatures. I am not surprised by the Bishop's greed, although I am boggled by their incompetence. I'm even more boggled by Tony's arrogant indifferent failure to competently supervise the simple petition process. Third, I am in awe of the integrity, honor, honesty, and courage of the Board of Elections for properly rejecting Williams' petition, if for no other reason than the Bishops' refusal to testify and validate any signatures. Fourth, will the DC judicial system have the honor and integrity of the Board of Elections and indict the Bishops for criminal fraud and indict Tony as a criminal coconspirator? Fifth, in the name of humanity, Tony, get rid of your virulent lawyer Policy. Our city does not need Policy's divisive noxious malignancy. Sixth, Tony, you need to start apologizing, again, and again, and again, and again.


Intellectually Competent Citizens
Diane A. Pecor, 

The solution to the July 27 Quote Acrostic in the Washington Post was, “Today the world is the victim of propaganda because people are not intellectually competent. More than anything, the United States of America needs effective citizens competent to do their own thinking.” William Lewis, Teach Them to Think. It’s the perfect intro at the perfect time for saying, “thank you Dorothy, thank you Gary.”

And as a later thought, does Anthony Williams seriously want to be associated with the image of a rubber stamp? This seems like more fodder for Chris Rock and the late night comedians.

[Thank you, Michael, Phil, and Diane. And that's enough of the sweetness and light and self-congratulation. — Gary Imhoff]


Arthur H. Jackson is No Longer Listed
Bob Summersgill, 

Daniel Swann promoted Arthur H. Jackson, Jr., as a candidate for Mayor. I have nothing to say for or against Mr. Jackson, but I do notice that he is no longer listed as a candidate on the Board of Elections and Ethics web site. I have not had a chance to call the BOEE and find out why he is no longer a candidate. Another Democratic candidate for Mayor, Tricia Kinch, is also no longer listed as a candidate.


Term Limits
Lars Hydle, 

Actually, four Council Members voted against the repeal of term limits — Allen, Chavous, Fenty, and Graham. During the debate, Fenty proposed an amendment that would have treated the repeal as a charter amendment requiring ratification by the voters, but only Allen, Chavous, Fenty, and Mendelson voted for that. The Mayor, who had initially asked that his office continue to be term-limited, allowed the bill to become law without his signature. To my knowledge he has not explained this publicly; one can speculate that if just one more Council member had opposed the repeal of term limits, he might have vetoed it because the veto might have been sustained.

Another recent example of Councilmembers behaving badly was last year's Council Ward redistricting bill, redistricting of, by, and for the Council, in which they ignored legal redistricting principles and advanced their own reelection prospects by expelling dissidents from their own wards. Particularly offensive were Councilmember Mendelson, Chair of the redistricting subcommittee, and ward councilmembers Evans, Patterson, and Ambrose. More recently, Councilmember Orange, with co-sponsorship from Ambrose, introduced a bill that would relieve candidates of the disagreeable necessity of collecting signatures on nominating petitions if they had the early support of their party's state committee — in effect another incumbent protection bill.

It is extremely difficult to launch a referendum to prevent a bill from becoming law -- you have to gather the signatures during the 30-legislative-day Congressional review period — or to recall incumbent Council members, who cannot be recalled during the first and last years of their four-year terms. Reelection campaigns offer voters the best chance to hold Council members accountable for such self-serving actions. Incumbent Council members who have behaved badly on these issues, and who are seeking reelection in contested Democratic primaries on September 10, are Mendelson, Patterson, Orange, and Ambrose. Voters who are concerned about arrogance and selfishness among Councilmembers should support their challengers.

[The vote count information was also provided by Dennis Jaffe, — Gary Imhoff]


Term Limits Repeal
Paul Dionne, 

The following was the vote on Jack Evan's Term Limits Repeal bill. For: Jack Evans (sponsor), *Linda Cropp, Harold Brazil, *David Catania, *Phil Mendelson, Carol Schwartz, *Kathy Patterson, *Vincent Orange, *Sharon Ambrose. Against: *Jim Graham, Adrian Fenty, Kevin Chavous, Sandy Allen. *Up for reelection this year.

FYI: Anyone can view the status of any bill at Term Limits Repeal is at

As I am in Zambia for a while, I will leave it to someone else to look up the other two bills.


Terms Limits
Ted LeBlond, 

What's the point of them? If you have a good politician in the Senate, the House, on a Board, etc., why would you want him to be forced out? It does more harm than good anyway because in their second term, and even in their first term, they are already a lame duck. Don’t tell me that term limits are good because it gets the rascals out of office. There are mechanisms in place for that already. I strongly oppose term limits and will vote in favor of any politician who supports them. The only reason the DC electorate passed them is because they don’t know any better!



Mendelson Campaign Event
Susie Cambria, 

The campaign to ReElect Phil Mendelson is having a volunteer rally this Saturday, August 3rd, 10:30 a.m. through 12:00 noon, at the Fort Stevens Recreation Center, 1327 Van Buren Street, NW (at 13th Street. Food and beverage will be served. Guest speakers and Phil will address the crowd. Please come out and show your support! Bring friends! The campaign is rounding the turn and entering the homestretch of a very competitive race. The Rally is a great opportunity for you to get onboard and be actively involved in this exciting election. We have activities for all supporters. Please join us and get involved. Your help is essential to Phil's success on Election Day. For more details reply to this E-mail or call Chuck Thies at 270-6429.

[Note: Susie Cambria is merely sharing the information for voter education purposes. Neither she nor DC Action for Children is supporting/endorsing any candidates.]



Laptop and Photocopier for Sale
Josh Gibson, 

Laptop: IBM Thinkpad 765D, 2 gig hard drive, 80 megs of RAM. Modem card, external CD-ROM included. $600 or best offer. Copier: Xerox 5322 photocopier. It double-sides, it reduces, it enlarges, it sorts and staples. It needs a new photo receptor drum, which costs $475, though. You haul. Make me an offer. Contact me at 483-1764 or



Office Space for Rent
Lora Engdahl, 

Great front sunny office at DuPont/Adams Morgan border. DSL, bathroom and shower, back yard. Whole office for $600 or half ($350 negotiable). Available now. Contact Lora Engdahl at, 544-2485.


The Mayor’s Home
Lea Adams, 

I am a licensed real estate agent, and would be happy to assist the Mayor and Mrs. Williams, or anyone else who wants to call DC home and invest in the city by owning property here. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in selling or buying a home here, please give me a call, or send me their name(s) and number(s) so I can offer my services. Office, 895-7281; E-mail,



If You Live in Arlington or Alexandria
Charles Stevenson, editor, Geotrees.Com, 

This message is directed mostly to those living in Arlington or Alexandria. My apologies in advance for any inconvenience if you don't. At the end of last week I learned that The Uncommon Market food co-op is in imminent danger of eviction, and they need to raise both member share capital and sales figures by July 31. Here is their intro blurb from their web page: “We are The Uncommon Market, a community-owned, member-run food cooperative. We provide organic food and earth-friendly products, support local farmers and businesses, and nourish a healthy community for a sustainable future. Our store is in Arlington, Virginia, near Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, 1041 S. Edgewood St. Arlington, VA 22204 (a half block south of Columbia Pike). Phone: 703-521-2667, Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday. Questions? Please E-mail:” 

This is a worthy institution that brings value to the community in many ways, including making available a savory selection of choice ethnic and international foods, and purveying information of local intercultural events. I invite you to check them out while there is still time, and see if you can support them in some way.



A Pet Sitter
Lea Adams, 

Call "Paws at the Wood's" at 726-6510; ask for Donalee.


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