Trust But Verify
“State and Main” is David Mamet's very funny movie about truth,
lies, second chances, and movie-making. Near the end of the movie, the
wise, kindly town doctor, who always wears a bow tie, advises the film's
hero, “The truth is you should never trust anybody who wears a bow
tie. The cravat is supposed to point down to accentuate the genitals.
Why do you want to trust anybody whose tie points out to accentuate his
The man whom Cora Berry dubbed “Mr. Bow Tie” is now sending out
two messages at the same time. He says one thing to the public, and he
says exactly the opposite thing to the Court of Appeals, in his appeal
of the decision by the Board of Elections and Ethics (http://www.dcwatch.com/election2000/williams13.htm).
To the public, he says that he is outraged and repulsed by the forgeries
on his nominating petitions. To the Court of Appeals, he says that he
doesn't admit that there are any forgeries on the petitions. To the
public, he offers the paranoid excuse that he suspects his campaign was
“sabotaged” by the Bishops. To the Court of Appeals, he insists that
there is no evidence that the Bishops ever did anything at all wrong
with the petitions. To the public, he portrays himself as a man who
understands what was wrong about submitting forged and fraudulent
voters' petitions. To the Court of Appeals, he says that a false
affidavit on a petition form is just as good as a true one, and that the
Court should order the Board of Elections to accept false affidavits —
all that should count, the Mayor argues, is that the lines on the
affidavit are filled in with any information, true or false. Read the
Mayor's latest brief to the Court and, if you get a chance, ask him what
he really believes.
As a Democratic Candidate for Shadow Senator, I campaigned at the
inspection station from July 29-August 3. Listed below are some
surprising observations: 1) Cars with low number tags were permitted to
enter without having to wait in line. In particular, a car with tag
#1089 was inspected on Wednesday (31 July) without having to wait in
line like everyone else. When I asked why that car was permitted to cut
in line without having to wait in line like everyone else, nobody would
give me an explanation. There are no rules that I know of that permit
citizens with low numbered tags to cut into the front of the line at the
inspection station. I also observed cars being driven into the station
without having to wait in line where it appeared that DMV personnel (or
people who were friendly with DMV employees) were getting cars inspected
for other people for a fee. 2) I noticed that when the TV cameras and
reporters were at the inspection station, the lines moved much faster
than when the TV cameras were not there. The lines moved twice as fast
on Wednesday when the cameras were there than on Monday and Tuesday. I
also noticed that the speed of the lines slowed down immediately when
the TV cameras were gone. Employees came out of the inspection station
to assist residents when the TV cameras were present. As soon as the TV
cameras left, employees miraculously disappeared into the
3) Ms. Newman (the Director of the DMV) stated on WTOP that the wait
was long on July 31 because the inspection station had closed early on
the previous two days. What she neglected to say was that the lines (and
wait) were even longer on Monday when there were no TV cameras reporting
the delays and the inspection station had not been closed early on the
previous week. 4) Metro busses were in line to be inspected. I asked
several of the drivers what they felt about having to stay in line for
up to four hours. They said they loved it because they were on overtime.
Four hours of overtime plus travel time means that it must cost us tax
payers several hundred dollars to get each bus inspected. It would be
much more efficient if the inspection station had dedicated late night
inspections to have buses, police cars, and other government vehicles
5) I also observed police officers waiting in line to get police cars
inspected. This does not appear to be an efficient use of our policemen.
6) On July 30 (the day that had a humidex index of 105 degrees), I
observed a senior citizen in a car that was not air-conditioned. I
informed the senior citizen that there was a special line for senior
citizens. The senior citizen went to that line. An employee of the DMV
came to me and told me that I should not inform senior citizens of this
privilege. The employee who told me not to inform senior citizens of
this privilege would not give me his name, so I had to go to a
supervisor at the DMV who instructed the employee to give me his name
(which was Reese Butler). This senior citizen also reported this episode
to Councilmember Graham. Councilmember Graham sent an E-mail to Ms.
Hobbs Newman with a suggested solution. Councilmember Graham suggested
that the DMV post signs at the DMV to inform senior citizens that they
do not have to wait in line to have their vehicles inspected. To the
best of my knowledge, Ms. Newman has not responded to Councilmember
7) The men's room in the DMV station was absolutely filthy and
smelled of urine. Personnel may be cleaning it, but it is not being
properly cleaned and sanitized. 8) None of the soda vending machines in
the public area of the DMV inspection station were working from July
29-31. However, I did observe employees at the DMV drinking sodas and I
was told that they had soda machines in an area that was not open to the
public. Why were the machines in the employee area functioning when the
machines in the public area not functioning? By Thursday, I stopped
going into the DMV station to get sodas, and I do not know if the
machines in the public area were fixed.
It is a disgrace that this deplorable situation exists at the DMV
Inspection Station. Ms. Newman (the director of the DMV) has had several
years to correct this situation. I am sure that when she goes to get her
car inspected, she does not have to wait in line. An appropriate
punishment for Ms Newman for not competently doing her job would be that
she be required to take a car through the inspection station every time
the wait is more than one hour. Ms. Newman has been the director of the
DMV for several years and has had more than enough time to solve
problems at the DMV Inspection Station. All city employees (especially
high ranking employees) should be required to take their cars personally
to get inspected and stay in the same line that residents do when they
get their cars inspected. These high ranking bureaucrats (and elected
officials) should be required to sign sworn affidavits that they did not
get any special preference when they went to the DMV inspection station.
Maybe if the DC hierarchy joins the citizens in the charade at the
inspection station, the situation will be corrected.
The 411 on DC’s 529 Plan
Mark Eckenwiler, eck-at-ingot-dot-org
At long last, DC has unveiled the plans for its Section 529 college
savings account program. Like other 529 plans, it provides a tax savings
both on the front end (up to $3K/annum DC tax deduction per filer) and
on the back end (withdrawals to pay for college costs are not subject to
federal or DC tax).
Some (but not all) of the details are available in the press release
— and on the official plan web site, http://www.dc529.com.
Oddly, the latter is missing some key info — e.g., the fees charged to
set up and maintain an account — that does appear in the otherwise
minimalist press release.
I'm a DC homeowner. I want to pay my own property taxes. I have asked
my lender, Bank of America, that I not be required to pay property taxes
into an escrow account held by them, because I have substantial (and
undisputed) equity in the property. First, the Bank flat-out said no.
Now, the Bank has written me to say it would allow me to do so, but with
conditions that I have to sign off on. I think this is not right and
believe it is not allowed under DC law. Anyone out there share my
problem and concern? Anybody out there have similar communications with
the Bank of America or another bank concerning DC property tax escrow?
Foggy Bottom, Jury Trial Resolution and
Jim McLeod, Foggy Bottom, email@example.com
For those who don’t receive the Foggy Bottom News, it covers
more than our neighborhood's struggle with housing-hungry George
Washington University. The last issue had news of the passage of a bill
that was responsive to a resolution (#99-6B) passed by our Advisory
Neighborhood Commission (ANC-2A) in 1999. The resolution called for the
restoration of the statutory right to a jury trial for most misdemeanors
offenses. Councilmember Phil Mendelson introduced the Misdemeanor Jury
Trial Act and, after hearings conducted by Judiciary Chairperson Kathy
Patterson, the bill was passed by the City Council. The law does not
fully restore the rights the Council took away in 1994, but eleven
members of the council (from both parties) voted in support of twelve
members of the community deciding questions of fact when more than two
years of a person's liberty are at stake in a single criminal
proceeding. Before Act 14-135 became law on May 21, (49 DCR 5052), one
person in DC was charged with multiple misdemeanor offenses and faced
more than 3000 years in jail, but had no right to a jury.
As for GWU's efforts to occupy more housing outside its campus
boundary, their campus plan will be the subject of a September 24, Board
of Zoning Adjustment hearing and will be discussed on Oct. 24, in oral
arguments before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit (GWU v. DC,
et al, #02-7055).
Term Limits: A Good Idea in DC
Lars Hydle, Larshhydle@aol.com
When I first got involved with the battle against the repeal of term
limits, my main concern was that the Council not overturn in such a
self-serving way an initiative passed by the voters without going back
to them. But over time I concluded that term limits are a good thing for
DC because our incumbents have such large advantages — name
recognition, control of redistricting their own wards, cable channel
coverage, no serious partisan opposition, large campaign contributions
of “smart” money — that most races are over before they begin.
Incumbent Council members have won 86 percent of the races they have
entered, though few would argue they were that good, and no Council
member not named Marion Barry has ever won a race for Mayor. In this
political context term limits create more open, competitive races.
For democracy to work in DC, there must be some doubt about who will
win an election, so that the candidates are more worried about pleasing
the voters than each other or large contributors. The term limits law
that the Council repealed was very soft, only prohibiting more than two
four-year terms for one office. A ward council member could move on to
an at-large Council seat, the Council Chairmanship, and/or the
Mayoralty, and back again, all without a break in service, if the voters
agreed. That term limits law, which took effect in 1995, was repealed
before it ever affected the right of an incumbent to seek reelection;
that would not have happened until 2004. One can hardly say that term
limits in DC has been tried and found wanting.
A recent PBS show, “Rediscovering Washington,” said that George
Washington, whose family coat of arms is the inspiration for the DC
flag. was the first politician to leave office voluntarily since a Roman
general named Cincinnatus. DC politicians contemplating eternal life in
a Council seat should ask themselves, and should be asked by the voters,
whether they are more indispensable to DC than George Washington was to
I write to respond to two postings in the last issue, on term limits
and the “tree bill.” 1) During my first year on the Council I voted
against legislation that overturned the $50 campaign limit in Ward
Council races on the theory that the legislature shouldn't invalidate
the results of a ballot initiative. I appreciate the concerns expressed
in themail about my joining Council colleagues to overturn the term
limits policy approved by voters in November 1994. There are differences
between the two issues, though, and while the term limit vote was a
difficult one, I think it was the right vote. (Had term limits remained
in place they would NOT have had an impact on races this year; the first
cycle that would have been affected was 2004).
Term limits take away the right to vote; I believe they are contrary
to the Constitution. I spoke against the ballot measure in 1994 and
would vote against term limits again. Time has proven that term limits
are not necessary: voters have "term limited" incumbents in
1994, in 1998, and again in 2000. Had the matter been put to voters, I
believe term limits would have been overturned. Given that likelihood
and my belief that term limits are wrong, I did not think it was
responsible for me to "punt" the issue back to voters in a
costly special election. I acknowledge many disagree; this was a
considered vote made for the reasons cited and I will happily discuss it
further with anyone who contacts me.
2) The Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002 — the “tree bill”
— aims to promote cleaner air by protecting and enhancing the
District's tree canopy, but there's been more consensus on goals than
methods. The original bill's requirement that private property owners
pay a fee for removing a full-grown tree has been significantly changed.
An alternative moved July 2 by the committee chair, Councilmember
Schwartz, in concert with the Mayor's office, provides that a
“reforestation fee” is required only in those cases that involve an
erosion and sediment control or storm water management plan, with the
exact amount determined in regulations. The assumption is that
significant soil displacement means trees are being removed and regs
would be guided by earlier drafts that would have charged homeowners up
to $1,250 per full-grown tree. The current version approved on first
reading July 2 (a final vote is expected in September) contains two
amendments I proposed: one gives residents a $500 per year tax credit
for planting trees on their property as a positive incentive to add
trees on private space. The second exempts owner-occupied private
property from the new enforcement scheme but leaves it in place for
developers. This amendment addressed concerns of constituents opposed to
a new “tree tax,” and forestalled the entire bill being defeated.
Voting for the homeowner exemption: Chairman Cropp and Councilmembers
Mendelson, Brazil, Catania, Allen, Ambrose, Chavous, and Evans. The bill
also establishes a Tree Advisory Board; an Urban Forestry Standards
Manual; a tree registration program for exceptional trees; a
notification requirement prior to removal of trees on public space; and
revised penalties for injuring trees on public space and private
property. I continue to consult with constituents, environmental groups,
and others in an effort to produce an improved piece of legislation when
the Council takes the matter up in the fall.
I confess, I feel guilty! DC planted one of the little trees between
our house and our neighbors. OK, it's really in front of the neighbor's
house. (We are still working on getting a larger tree to replace the one
that was in front of ours. That had to be taken down, resulting in much
higher electric bills.) I have tried, when I am in town, to water it
regularly after being chastised by the “Tree Lady” for not doing so.
Now there is a little sign out there that says, in essence, “naughty
naughty” for not watering the tree. I'll water, I promise, but water
is not free, and I do appreciate the tree and think there has to be an
equitable way to handle this.
Those three young women were in front of my house as I was leaving
for work one day last week. I found them just a tad condescending,
frankly, in responding to my inquiry — “What are you doing?” They
were cutting the support connector holding a young tree to a stake, so
the tree would get stronger without the crutch. Maybe I'm turning into a
curmudgeonette, but I don't need blonde teenage girls from Oregon,
Montana, and I forget the third faraway place explaining to me how
important the trees on my block are, as if I'm not quite smart enough to
appreciate them, after fifty years in the same house. Okay, I admit, it
really annoyed me that someone puts enough money in a pot to do a
full-out study of the entire tree population in DC, but they can't find
a single DC teenager to send out into the community to conduct it. If we
don't give our young people the kind of opportunities the three
out-of-towners have, they will never grow and learn and become the kind
of local leadership we so desperately need. Darn it, our kids need to
know about the green canopy under which they live, and the folks at the
Betty Casey fund ought to understand that!
I'm not feeling very welcoming, for some reason. Maybe it has
something to do with the chief executive not being involved enough in
the life of our city to own a home here, or walk up to real-life people
and ask for their signatures on his petitions. I'm reminded of another
short-lived Mayor who once told me that a person could not "run the
city and run for office at the same time." Maybe it has to do with
an administration that doesn't know, without having to be told, that
libraries should be open on Saturdays, because that's when most people
can get to use them. Maybe it's just one two many years of having our
budget mandated by strangers, our laws overruled by strangers, and now
our trees studied by strangers. Am I the only one out here who's feeling
outnumbered and cheated today? It seems that the only real public
servants are the ones who aren't on the public payroll! Thanks G &
D, and all who have kept Tony's feet to the fire. Thanks, Mark, for
staying on top of the facts in spite of a distinct balance of power that
leans towards opinion. (I should know.) I'll no doubt be in a better
mood by the next time themail comes.
They Really Don’t Get It
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
For all those who thought that Mayor Williams and his reelection
campaign had learned some lessons from the ongoing controversy regarding
the Mayor's nominating petitions, guess again.
On Wednesday, evening, the Ward 6 Democrats held an endorsement forum
at One Judiciary Square. Michael Patterson, the head of the Ward 6
organization, insisted that Mayor Williams's name be placed on the
endorsement ballot even though the DC Board of Elections and Ethics had
decided that Williams's name would not be on the September 10 Democratic
primary ballot. Gwendolyn Hemphill, the co-chair of Mayor Williams's
reelection campaign and a subpoenaed witness at the Board of Elections
hearing, was one of the individuals responsible for overseeing the vote
count. And when the votes were counted, Mayor Williams won the
endorsement handily. The only problem was that there were 34 more votes
in the ballot box than there were people who had registered to vote. The
stuffed ballot box and the election results had to be discarded.
On Saturday, the Williams campaign convened focus group meetings in
each ward to discuss the write-in strategy for the September 10
Democratic primary. The campaign held the meetings for Ward 1 and 2 at
the Reeves Municipal Center, a DC government office building at 14th and
U Streets, NW.
Tony Williams and the Petitions
Thomas Smith, email@example.com
Excuse me, but who could be really surprised at Tony Williams's
actions with the election petitions? He knows that the oppressed will
hire their oppressor (Congressional Control Board Tony Williams mutated
into Mayor Tony Williams). So why be surprised at his arrogance and
disdain for the poor misguided souls that elected him? This might be
exactly what is needed to bring into focus the imperial manipulation
that the DC Statehood Green Party has been warning the city about for
Now is the time to break the shackles of Congress and the corporate
democratic party's neocolonialism. Vote DC Statehood Green/Steve Donkin
for Mayor, because, as Frederick Douglass said during the dark days of
chattel slavery, “He who would be free, must first strike the first
The Mayor’s Petitions
James E. Taylor, Jr., Anacostia, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mayor should have no more right to have illegal petitions
acknowledged than anyone else. There are many ways a petition can be
rendered invalid, no matter how many legitimate signatures are present.
Have we forgotten Florida? Live and play by the rules and you will be
respected. Skirt around the law by legal mumbo jumbo and you will be
suspected. The mayor's management style is reflected in the shoddy and
ineffective way this government operates. We hear feel-good speeches
about what he has done for us, but the mayor should not embrace the
posture that he is ordained. First of all, anybody following Mayor Barry
would have been as well received as mayor because any new mayor would
have been embraced by and supported by Congress. So, Mr. Mayor, please.
You have a unique opportunity to make things right for all residents and
you must realize that the same management style you embrace now and in
the past is the same benign neglect that allowed this petition fiasco to
happen. You had some of the city's brightest people behind you for
mayor. Where did they go? What next?
From Straight Arrow to Broken Arrow
Charlie Wellander, Charlietm@CJ.mailshell.com
Just saw “West Side Story” again and noticed another guy named
Tony — a “straight arrow” who wants to reform the system. He
enthusiastically plows ahead and gets in the middle of the action
without sufficient preparation, which leads to various disasters.
In February (!), Dorothy Brizill wrote, “The administration's
decision to vet its nominees comes after several embarrassing lapses in
its knowledge about its nominees over the past three years (for example,
Robert Newman, Christopher Lynn, Sam Kaiser, Ronnie Few, Charles
Maddox).” Now, Saturday's Washington Post reports that Scott Bishop,
Sr., in signing the sworn certification on 44 nominating petitions, gave
his address as one on Eastern Avenue, NE, where he has not lived since
1999. Anybody can make a mistake, but why does Mayor Williams make the
same one again and again?
Come September 10, the new optical-scan ballot system will give us
the opportunity to try to turn “broken arrows” back to straight.
Good luck to us all!
In reading back issues of themail, I can see that you all (Brizill
and her redneck boy toy) have been targeting the mayor for several
months on the petition issue. How pathetic that some election formality
few in the city even knew about a month ago is the best you could come
up with in trying to build up negative sentiments for perhaps one of the
most popular mayors in the country.
There are dozens of issues I find far more important (housing costs,
taxes, the school system, DC general, development, roads and
transportation) that should be the central issues of this campaign —
issues that I don't always agree with Tony Williams on and ones that
should be the substance of the public debate about whether or not he
deserves another term. Yet you've managed to put all those important
issues on the back burner because of some personal vendetta. I suppose
you feel proud about that, thinking it confirms your reputations as a
hard-nosed citizen watchdogs. But what have you really accomplished?
Embarrassing and attempting to humiliate a good, earnest, decent man —
one who is a a real role model for black youth? Nice job.
Black people like Brizill (Clarence Thomas, Ward Connelly, Kay Coles
James) are sick self-loathing sycophants to people who -- while
rewarding you with back slaps and attaboys -- are secretly thinking that
you can't manage, think, or organize. More power to Tony Williams for
defying those stereotypes and having the cojones to take on a job nobody
even wanted. Independent, write-in Democrat, or hell, even as a
Republican, he's got my vote.
[I know that the last time themail ran a message from Marquais Smith
a number of readers protested his intemperate tone, but I couldn't
resist running an E-mail that calls me a “redneck boy toy.” I take
that not only as a compliment, but as the belated fulfillment of a
youthful aspiration. This may be the place to note that a profile of
Dorothy in today's Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41107-2002Aug3.html)
asks the very Washingtonian questions, “Why on earth would somebody
want to do the right thing if she weren't being paid?” and “Why
would anyone who was offered a city job to buy her off ever turn it
down?” and reports her critics' bewilderment and incomprehension. Now,
enough about us. Write about yourselves and your friends and neighbors.
— Gary Imhoff]
Thanks for the reminder. 'T'is a gift to be simple. Julie London . .
. wow! I'd forgotten all about her, and dug around in my “record
room” and found an album of hers. Too bad my turntable is on the
fritz. They don't make a damned thing as well as they used to, do they?
Even Twinkies are different, now that they come in threes instead of
pairs. And when something that never spoils changes, you know we're in
Getting Back to the First Order Terms
Len Sullivan, email@example.com
Anybody want to get back to DC's fundamental problems? Why not
address the basic illness instead of clucking about the symptoms? Just
how different would DC's government be if it were as efficient as other
national and regional state/county/local governments, school districts,
police forces, and welfare dispensers? Want to hazard a guess how much
residents might save in taxes? Is DC really unique because of its
urbanization and large minority population? Are DC kids off the norm
too? On the simpler side, what would you do with the Franklin school?
Which is your favorite party animal? NARPAC's answers can be found in
the August update of its web site at http://www.narpac.org/INTHOM.HTM.
Try a new approach to making DC better. Get positively involved.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
WTOP-AM news radio will have an “Ask the Mayor” show on Thursday,
August 15th, at 10:00 am . . . that's 1500 AM on your dial! Good
opportunity to get out the issues of full democracy, education, health,
CLASSIFIEDS — PETS
My next-door neighbor has decided to part with his beautiful dog,
Lotus. I have taught her how to play ball and give her the occasional
walk, but she needs more attention than he or I can give. If you or
someone you know is looking for a pet, consider this offer.
Adopt a dog. Lotus, a sweet, but lonely female Belgian Shepherd, free
to good home. Current owner too busy to be able to give her the love and
attention she deserves. She’s 1-1/2 years old, weighs about 50 pounds,
and has a good temperament. Her shots are current and she's recently
been dipped. To express interest, call Louis at 543-5662 home,
240-882-1500 cell, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Local Consumer Information E-Mail Discussion
Charles Stevenson, email@example.com
Can anyone recommend one or more discussion lists that carry consumer
issues, information and advice — in the city, and around it?
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to
switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the
subscription form at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/subscribe.htm.
To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org
with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages
are available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
All postings should also be submitted to email@example.com,
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.