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August 12, 2002

The Ethicist

Dear Ethicists:

I am the mayor of a medium-sized city in the United States. To preserve my anonymity, I'm not going to name it. I tried to get my name on the ballot for reelection, but the great majority of the signatures on my petitions were forgeries, and in addition my campaign had engaged in lots of other fraud. Because of this, our city's Board of Elections refused to let my name be printed on the primary party ballot, which I don't think is fair. But now they say that they found over five thousand instances in which my campaign broke the election law, and they're going to levy a fine against my campaign for them. I could be fined up to $200 per count, and that could be over a million dollars. I say that the fine should be much lower. There are so many separate violations that I should get a volume discount for the number of separate counts, since giving the maximum fine for each count would add up to too much money. Furthermore, I say that I've already been punished by being taken off the ballot, so the fine should be lower because of that. What do you think?

Dear Mayor: You are wrong on both points. First, as the total amount of the fraud increases, the penalty for each element of the fraud should also increase, because the whole offense is greater. Rather than receiving a discount for committing so many violations and so great an election fraud, the total number of offenses should count against you in calculating how much to fine you for each offense. Second, not allowing your name to be printed on the ballot did not punish you. It simply deprived you of the fruits of your campaign's crimes. When the authorities take away from a robber the money and goods he stole, that is not part of his punishment. It just prevents him from benefiting from his robbery. Whatever punishment he will get is a separate matter, and his punishment is not lessened because whatever he stole was taken back from him. Your being kept off the ballot should not count as a point in your favor when calculating your punishment. In addition, other candidates are kept off the ballot if they do not collect enough legitimate signatures on their petitions. They are not being punished; they, like you, are simply being denied what they did not earn.

Next question?

Gary Imhoff (with apologies to the NYTimes Magazine “Ethicist” column) 


How It Looked Back Then
Telette Kellar, 

I wonder if anyone else saw Otto Preminger's film “Advise and Consent” with Charles Lawton, Don Murray, etc. The reason I mention it is that I am glad the picture was made when it was because it helped to put the scene of my arrival on Capitol Hill in a time capsule of sorts. It was 1959, and the ink wasn't dry on my business college diploma. Sen. and Mrs. Sparkman had met me at National Airport in their black limo; it was heady stuff. I think the euphoria lasted until I arrived at the office. My first job turned out not to be typing, filing, or shorthand; I was handed a rag and a bottle of Old English polish and was directed to half-a-dozen six-foot bookcases that were being moved into a new suite — so much for starting at the top. Other disappointments were to follow, but overall, my years in DC were some of my most formative ones.

I wasn't still with them when the Hollywood crew arrived, but I read that Preminger was complaining that “. . . those people won't get off my set,” meaning the Senators and Members of Congress. I knew I'd never get the flavor of the old Dupont Circle neighborhood life back that I enjoyed, but I did the next best thing — I moved to Baltimore!


At-Large Candidate Forum
Ralph Blessing, 

I attended the August 7 candidate forum for At-Large Councilmember candidates sponsored by the Current newspapers. Of the five candidates invited, only Phil Mendelson, Dwight Singleton and Beverly Wilbourn attended.

My take on the forum was that Wilbourn and Mendelson both gave coherent, well thought-out answers, though Wilbourn's resonated more with me as one who resides east of the park. Singleton, in my view, gave mostly vague, rambling answers, and in some cases didn't even address the topic of the question.


Campaign Tidbits
Dorothy Brizill, 

Last week, Doug Patton, the Holland and Knight attorney who is the legal counsel for the Tony Williams campaign, was missing in action. First, Patton failed to attend Tuesday's oral arguments before the DC Court of Appeals in the Williams's campaign's appeal of the Board of Elections and Ethics decision. Then he failed to attend the three days of hearings the Board held to review the formal complaints filed by DCWatch and the DC Republican Party, to determine criminal referrals to the US Attorney and the Corporation Counsel and to determine whether and how much the Williams campaign should be fined.

The web site for the Committee to Re-Elect Tony Williams,, starts with an unusual home page — an apology to the voters. The letter is the same “dear friend” letter that Williams is mailing to DC Democrats, in which he apologizes “for the poor judgment and inexcusable actions of my early campaign organization.”

Meanwhile, in an effort to recruit the thousands of volunteers that election experts say the Williams campaign will need to mount a successful write-in effort, the campaign is really reaching out. Last week, it tried to recruit two unlikely volunteers — Gary and me. I was first called on Wednesday afternoon, just thirty minutes after the Court of Appeals decision upholding the DC Board of Elections. The campaign caller invited me to attend a Saturday meeting for Ward One volunteers. Although I pressed the caller, she assured me that she was, in fact, calling Dorothy Brizill. On Thursday, both Gary and I received separate telephone calls asking for volunteers to come to the Saturday meeting. We considered attending — we really did — but we decided against going, thinking of both the potential reception we would get and the good weather over the weekend.


Ward 8 Democrats Favor Jackson for Mayor in 2002
Shelly Schwartz, 

A recent poll of Ward Eight voters shows Ward 8 Democratic State Committeeman Arthur H. Jackson, Jr., leading incumbent write-in candidate Tony Williams in the race for Mayor in fall 2002. Jackson, a lifelong democrat and former Maryland City Councilman was favored by 58 percent of ward eight voters in a fall match with Mayor Tony Williams. We polled two hundred voters, who stated they plan to vote November 5, 2002.

Jackson is considering challenging Mayor Williams in the fall election, and is considered one of the city's leaders of the progressive wing of the DC Democratic Party, which is considering resigning en mass from the Democratic Party if Tony Williams wins a write-in campaign on September 10. The poll was conducted by Democratic Polling organization, The Voters Choice , based in Boston, Massachusetts.

[Jackson has picked up petitions to run as an Independent. At Saturday's endorsement meeting, the Ward 8 Democrats endorsed Douglas Moore for Mayor in the primary election. — Gary Imhoff]


Payments for Signatures on Petitions
Romes Calhoun, 

I think the problems that have arisen with signatures on petitions has to do with the practice of paying one dollar ($1.00) for each collected. This I have only noticed within the past three or four years. This practice seems to encourage people to look at the rewards of how much money one can earn over a short period of time rather than their actual concern for a particular candidate. There needs to be some legislative or regulatory actions taken to prevent this practice in the future.

I have spent a great deal of time over the years collecting signatures for candidates in whom I believe and did it for the benefit of helping those candidates. I felt it was my responsibility as past Chairman of the Ward One Democrats and a ten year member of the DC Democratic State Committee, to work on their behalf.


The People in the Red/Yellow Jackets
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, 

Twice this week, people have told me happy stories related to being lost and getting assistance from “those people wearing the red/yellow jackets.” In one case, a family who is here for the month asked for directions and the person pleasantly gave them the information they needed. In the other case, a summer intern who is staying with one of my neighbors asked for directions and the person with the red jacket astonished her by making a phone call and getting the needed information. The “red jacket people” are called Downtown Sam,, and are part of the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID). The yellow jacket people are part of the Ambassador Program of the Golden Triangle BID, called the “Clean Team,” It seems that the “red and yellow jacket people” are making DC look good in more than one way! Bravo!


Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom 

If the elected DC officials would direct their collective lobbying energies to getting support from the federal government for a major urban education initiative, instead of lobbying for statehood, the District's students would be far better served. Washington should become a model for an urban educational system, a system that produces educated and capable students. That should be the District's only major priority for the upcoming years.

DC officials are spinning their wheels and will never make any real progress in their Quixotic quest to convince a Republican administration to give any consideration that will allow DC to have elected representatives in Congress. If you are going to expend energy and money, direct it to a much more achievable program — one that would get the support from the Republicans and Democrats in Congress.


Enforcing Littering Laws
Dominic Sale, 

At what point did it become politically incorrect to issue tickets for littering? This city has a fair enough share of resources dedicated to ticketing my car five minutes after my meter runs out. How about creating a litter enforcement division? Maybe we'll even get some revenues out of it. Instead of focusing on the impossible task of cleaning up after the violators, why not slap fines on them and make them think twice about doing it again? Does anyone have any information on the number of littering tickets written in a given year in DC? Also, have any other major cities cracked down successfully on littering through law enforcement?

While I wait for an answer I'll continue to watch the trash pile up on Mt. Pleasant Street and pick up what I can as I walk along. In the meantime, if you haven't already, check out the “Clean City” Initiative website and look at the cleanliness ratings at You may be surprised at how clean the city thinks your neighborhood is.


No Mail Boxes at Airport
E. James Lieberman, 

Last week at Dulles airport I asked where to mail a letter. No more mailboxes. They've been removed. It was not a serious problem to carry the item to California, but if I had been going abroad, it would have been a different story. Moral: mail your letters before you get to the airport.


Washington, the Song
Kirsten Sherk, Dupont Circle, 

To respond to Susan McPeck, I learned the song “Washington” when I was in school too — nearly twenty years after you did! I've always really liked it (as a ten-year old, it was really fun to sing LOUD), but I've never heard it elsewhere.

But I wonder if living here for thirty years and knowing the “official” city song overcomes my lack of property when it comes to being a real Washingtonian.


“Washington, the Fairest City in the Greatest Land of All”
Pat Yates, 

Here's what I remember about the failed official song of our fair city. Would be interested to hear other versions of the events, as memory is tricky thing.

When I was a student at Stuart Junior High School during or about 1951, the Board of Trade held a contest to find the official song for the District of Columbia. There were lots of entrants, but the contest was won by one Jimmy Dodd, who came to a school assembly and taught us the song, which I too remember to this day. Mr. Dodd was introduced by our principal, Mr. Barton, as a big celebrity from Hollywood, which thrilled all of us Movieland readers — even though none of us had ever heard of him. A few years later, the same Mr. Dodd resurfaced as the adult on the Mickey Mouse show.

And it's really not a very good song. A much better Stuart assembly was when very young actors from the fledgling Arena Stage (then at the old Hippodrome Throatier just across from the Carnegie Library downtown) gave a reading from “Julius Caesar,” which we were reading in school at the time. What a thrill!


The Mayor’s House, Cont’d
Ted Gest, 

John Whiteside says criticism of Anthony Williams for not owning a home in DC shows undue bias against renters who can't afford to buy property. I agree that renters shouldn't be criticized for that reason, but to my knowledge, Williams has not given that as a excuse, but rather says that he hasn't had time to shop for a home. I'd say that is a case of misplaced priorities. The mayor of this city should own property here and experience what the rest of us go through in terms of assessments, property taxes, water bills, etc. Unfortunately, his failure to buy property perpetuates the image that he is a short-term visitor here with no long-term investment in the city. Of course, he has much bigger problems now.


The 911 Call
Evelyn Goodwin, 

Any candidate running for political office who uses 911 (an emergency system whose efficient operation might just result in the saving of a life) to report an improper traffic infraction [Pete Ross, in themail, August 8] won't get my vote.


The 911 Call Reply
Pete Ross, 

Dear Ms. Goodwin, in hindsight, you are 100 percent correct. I should have called 311, which is the non-emergency number. I was concerned about the dangerous situation that this had created and the potential of a dangerous accident with so many cars on the street and high tempers.


August 2002 InTowner
Peter Wolff, 

This is to advise that the August 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 June 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 September 13. 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) “Restaurant Owners Fighting Neighborhood License Protestants”; 2) “City Sees Neighborhood Planning for Self-Help Key in Terrorist Hits”; (3) “Adams Morgan Festival on Tap for Sep. 7 & 8 — Art, Music, Sports, Food & Crafts All Featured.”



Telling Computers What Needs To Be Done Instead of How To Do It
Barbara Conn, 

Genetic algorithms and genetic programming are species of artificial intelligence developed by academics from MIT, Stanford, and around the world over the last thirty years. Is Darwinian programming, in which computer programs have sex, mutate, and evolve to replace human programmers, breaking out of academia? Does the field have profitable business applications? Genetic programmers have cited corporate data mining, computer graphics, electrical engineering, financial optimization, and networking as areas of commercial viability. Software engineer and complex systems analyst Toby Perkins will review the history of genetic programming, outline its state of the art, and discuss technology transfer issues.

Gather your questions, friends, and colleagues, and bring them to the Saturday, August 17, 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) at the Cleveland Park Library (Second Floor Large Meeting Room), 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.

Meetings of the CPCUG Entrepreneurs and Consultants SIG are free and are held each month. For more information about this presentation, the speaker, CPCUG (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization), and its E&C SIG, and to register for this and/or future SIG meetings, visit


Neighborhood Issues Forum
Kathy Sinzinger, 

Join us on Friday, August 16, for a lively discussion about the Metropolitan Police Department's performance and other neighborhood-related issues, including upcoming elections of advisory neighborhood commissioners, when The Common Denominator welcomes James Berry as our special guest for “Conversations With Newsmakers.” Berry has served for many years as both chairman of the Police Chief's Citizens Advisory Council and president of the citywide ANC Assembly.

This free, monthly networking event will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Kelly's Ellis Island Restaurant & Pub, 3908 12th Street, NE, located just off Michigan Avenue in Brookland. It's a short walk from the Brookland/CUA stop on Metro's Red Line. Parking is available on and off the street. No reservations necessary.

Coming up in September: Dan Knise, executive director of the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition bidding to host the Summer Olympics, has agreed to be our special guest on Friday, September 13th. Same time. Same place. Mark your calendar! Questions? Call The Common Denominator at 635-6397.



1994 Ford Taurus Wagon
Nicholas Cobbs, 

I have a 1994 Ford Taurus GL Station Wagon for sale. A/C, cruise control, power windows, auto door locks, folding 3d seat (8 passenger), am/fm/cd player, ABS, dual air bags. Good condition, 92,500 miles, maintenance current. Blue book value $3,750. Will sell for $3,000. Call 452-8222 days, 452-1659 evenings.


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