Williams and Barry
Dear Comparison Voters:
Sam Smith, who writes below about Washington's official song, wrote a
provocative article in the May 29th edition of his City Desk E-mail
newsletter. “It is one of the most popular myths in town that life has
gotten demonstratively better since Marion Barry left office. This myth,
a favorite of the Washington Post, will undoubtedly get a real
workout between now and election day, so it is worth examining a little
more closely. For example, here are a few things that have clearly
gotten worse: the ability of poor folk to stay in the city, public
health services, the treatment of demonstrators by the MPD, the
willingness of government to give away the city to a few developers (and
subsidize them for the privilege), and the administration of the Fire
Department. Here are a few things that have seem to have gotten worse:
service at the Department of Motor Vehicles, public recreation and
libraries (owing to lack of funding), public schools, and anything that
has a computer attached to it. Now here are a few things that seemed to
have gotten better: trash pickup and street surfaces. And one thing that
has clearly gotten better, albeit true of most big cities: the crime
Bryce Suderow wrote in the August 8 issue of themail, “When people
talk to me about Mayor Anthony Williams' administration, they keep
telling me: 'Well at least he's not Marion Barry.'” Is that true? In
what ways is he “not Marion Barry” and in what ways is he more of
the same? And is not being Marion Barry the most important thing you
look for in a politician?
Literacy in the District
William Haskett, firstname.lastname@example.org
Is it — can it — literally be true that 35 percent of the
District's present population is illiterate, i.e., unable to read or to
write at whatever would be considered an acceptable level for civic
responsibility, or whatever measure you choose to invoke? This is what
is claimed in the Washington Post on Saturday, August 10, in the course
of an ironic comment on Mayor Williams' campaign's proposal to mail to
77,000 households a request that they write in his name in the coming
election. [Courtland Milloy, “Williams Wants a Write-In When People
Can't Read,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3867-2002Aug10.html.]
The article notes the additional cynicism of the cuts in funds for
summer school, as it relates to these basic numbers, which are said to
be based on the most-recent Census figures.
What do the candidates for the several offices at stake in the coming
elections have to say? This cannot be entirely due to the schools, which
have lost half their numbers in the past two decades, to reach their
present size of around 80,000 students. It cannot be a function of
poverty, at least not entirely, since other indicators would suggest
that even the poor must have benefited to some degree from the
irrational exuberance of the stock-driven 1990s. Is it a fundamental
condition after two decades of Barry rule? A geological-like fault in
American optimism? A media-driven replacement system, which puts
television in the place of books, and boom-boxes in the place of
computers and E-mail? A false conclusion from an irresponsible claim?
None of the above?
Campaign Signs in Rock Creek Park
John Henry Wheeler, email@example.com
I know that campaign signs posted on all polls on commercial streets
are part of the election campaign process. But this year seems to be
much worse. Sunday before last, I was returning from vacation via
Military Road. Every light pole in the portion of Military that goes
through Rock Creek Park had three (yes, three) Singleton signs. No
chance he'll get my vote for such visual pollution in the park. Surely
that's not legal.
Voter guides focused on human needs issues (e.g., poverty, affordable
housing, health, child care) are now available for citywide races
(mayor, chair of the Council, at-large Council, shadow senator, shadow
representative) and the Ward races (1, 3, 5, 6). The guides are
currently available in Word by E-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org
and on-line at http://www.dcejc.org/election/.
DC in the News
John Whiteside, john at earthlink dot net
Well, we've made the national news! Or at least, our mayoral campaign
has. I got a call from a friend (and former DC resident) in
Massachusetts this weekend who told me that he'd just seen an item on
the Democratic primary on a national newscast, and wanted to know if I
was voting for “Faith or the guy who bit someone.” Can Jay Leno's
monologue be far behind?
A Terrible New Thread
Gregory Diaz, Zaidmot@aol.com
Dear friends, please do not think that the recent expansion of the no
trucking zones around the White House is mere coincidence. Neither is
the reappearance of the single engine communications surveillance plane,
sometimes expanded now to two planes, droning over certain areas of our
city. These are tangible portents of official concern.
Do we mere plebeians think that the possibility of catastrophic
terrorism has gone away? Or do we just not like to think about it,
preferring to be diverted by litter, voting fraud, and the general
squalor of our civic life? Here are three credible terrorist scenarios
(not even the worst) involving the Nation's Capitol, about which one
wonders whether our city government is prepared or has, more
importantly, prepared us: 1) detonation of a radiological dispersion
device (also known as a “dirty bomb”); 2) dispersion of a highly
infectious biological agent; 3) release of a toxic chemical. Whether you
personally believe any of these is likely, assume with me for the sake
of argument that one or another of these is likely to happen here in the
short to mid-term.
Now, ask yourself: 1) Do you believe our city government is prepared
to deal with any one (much less all three) of these events? (The federal
government will be way too preoccupied protecting national assets to
bother with mere D.C. residents. Remember the postal workers who were
basically cut loose to be “canaries” while Congress was evacuated?)
2) Do you know precisely if, when, where and how to evacuate (or not)
— routes, times, etc. — or how you will be informed? 3) Has anyone
informed you, or your office, or the building management where your
office is located, how they will be alerted and what they should do as
institutions, and what they should have you do as a living, breathing
person, in the event of an attack? I didn't think so.
Child Benefits Are for Children, Not Adults
Okonkwo Auten, email@example.com
Bad choices and poor administration of public programs are the
results of uninformed political assignment and agencies demonstrating
poor examples of public service employees; i.e., poorly skilled
administrators who happen to be private individuals under government
employment. Many of us recall the Millennium fund raiser Mayor Williams
held from Dec. 19, 1999, to Jan. 1, 2000, for children. There were no
children there, and no child benefited from the Mayor's fund raiser. It
was improper and illegal, yet the Mayor kept the money. No child
Many are contributing kickbacks disguised as campaign contributions.
The politician and his/her associates become sole beneficiaries of
public dollars. The Congress passed the Hatch Act to stem improper
behavior by making these acts illegal. Congresswoman Norton flouts the
law when it is in her interest, allowing a DC Public School employee to
campaign illegally, supporting her reelection campaign while receiving
employment under government service. Ms. Norton as a Democrat, oversees
DC's wrong-sided political agenda, and she is improperly supporting an
illegal act contrary to public interest mandated under law.
To escape discovery and responsibility for inept and unskilled
management politicians operate in private meetings, exclude the public,
and choose self interests. New political blood is needed. Those up for
reelection should honorably step aside and let a new electorate form. We
need new politicians, and reassign responsibilities for distribution and
delivery of public programs for better public services. Hopefully the
message will spread, and, in November we will have new representatives
for American Citizens, not for corporate interests solely.
Good News on Porter Street
Gabe Fineman, Porter Street, NW, firstname.lastname@example.org
There is actually some good news to report from the neighborhoods.
The DC Department of Transportation has installed a traffic calming
system on Porter Street, NW, and it seems to be working. Porter is one
of the few east-west streets through Rock Creek Park and it was recently
rebuilt to handle more of the traffic diverted from the long-closed
Klingle Road. The neighbors were justly concerned that this residential
street (that carries more traffic per lane than Connecticut) would
appear faster and encourage speeding. In fact, it does look much faster
with its ribbed concrete surface, and something had to be done to keep
the traffic flow from exceeding its previous 35-45 mph unsafe actual
speed. The neighbors proposed several stop signs, but Wil DerMinassian,
chief of the Traffic Services Bureau, was much more creative and has
installed an Intelligent Traffic System. Intelligent because it uses a
camera to see how fast cars are going and turns a traffic light red if
they are speeding. There are warning signs that tell you how fast you
This is a demonstration project and it may be duplicated elsewhere as
needed. It is already having its desired effect of slowing down speeders
toward the posted speed limit of 25 mph. It is teaching the city about
the placement of the signs and cameras, especially on curves and hills.
The local residents are pleased and hope that the DOT has finally
realized that when it makes a street appear faster, it has an obligation
to control the speed of the traffic. Along with speed and red light
cameras (enforcement tools), we are adding Intelligent Traffic Systems
(a structural tool) to the traffic-calming inventory.
Where Are the Cops?
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
Monday's Post had an extensive description of an open air drug market
that flourishes in the broad daylight right in the parking lot adjacent
to a Methadone Clinic in DC. It's hard enough for addict to get clean
without the temptation of illegal prescription drugs and narcotics being
openly offered for sale as they near the clinic. One has to ask “where
are the cops?” This open flaunting of serious law breaking should not
be tolerated. Ramsey should have roving squads that break up these
markets, confiscating they booty and getting the sellers off the
streets. Continued tolerance of these markets just makes the city and
its residents a much poorer lot.
As a volunteer driver for the American Cancer Society I have picked
up patients in SE D.C. for transport to D.C. and MD hospitals and have
driven through flourishing open air drug, flesh, and stolen goods
markets. Their continued existence will doom this city. New York City
found that tolerance of even minor crimes like the “Squeegee Men”
and turnstile jumpers made for far more serious crimes. After cracking
down on these relatively minor crimes, the crime rate in NY City
dramatically decreased as intolerance to criminal activities among the
residents grew. We need the police in DC to eliminate these open air
markets and to hound them wherever they appear. Forming a raiding squad
will be a good start and send a clear message that open air criminal
activities will no longer be tolerated.
We thought that some of your readers might find Marc Fisher's column
in the August 8th Washington Post of interest. To view the entire
article, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57462-2002Aug7.html.
The federal judge's dismissal of Boys Town's lawsuit against us is a
tremendous relief and a victory for the First Amendment. The struggle
isn't over yet because Boys Town has appealed the BZA ruling in the DC
Court of Appeals. There are also some unresolved zoning issues and Boys
Town could decide to go back to Congress in an effort to attach a rider
to the DC Appropriations bill in a move to have Congress override the
BZA decision as Boys Town did in May.
The Courthouse Isn’t the DMV
Leah Gurowitz, Director of Public Affairs, DC Courts, gurowitzl@DCSC.GOV
I just wanted to clarify for all themail readers that the DC Courts
do not issue, renew, or modify drivers' licenses. Ms. McCormick may have
been confused because the downtown DMV office (on C Street, NW) is next
door to the back entrance of the Courthouse, but they are separate
institutions and, in fact, separate branches of government. Thanks for
the opportunity to clarify.
[Annie McCormick, in the last issue of themail, had written that she
had gone to DMV at “the courthouse” to change the address on her
license. — Gary Imhoff]
911 and 311
Joan Eisenstodt, email@example.com
A siren was sounding for a long time one day last week. When one
lives in DC, and especially on the Hill, a siren could mean trouble. I
could not remember “311” and thus I called 911. I apologized for
taking up the person's time, said what the problem was, and then asked
what number I should have called for non-emergencies. I was told the
727-1000 main number! How well publicized is the 311 number?
Don Lief, Portland, OR, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's lyrics to a song that was part of our life in Anacostia's
schools in the 1940s:
Washington, Washington, we love thy name,
Washington, Washington, long live thy fame.
Down thy great avenues great patriots trod,
Heart thou art of all the nation,
Gateway to God.
No comment needed except to note that it was mercifully sung
[Okay, these lyrics aren't from “Washington, Fair Capital,”
“Washington” (the Jimmie Dodd song), or “Our Nation's Capital”
(the march). Who recognizes and can identify the song that they're from?
— Gary Imhoff]
The City Song
Sam Smith, Progressive Review, email@example.com
Here's something I wrote a few years ago (October 1999) that may be
of interest given the current discussion of a city song.
DC Watch recently raised the question of the existence of an official
city song. In fact there almost was one. I know, because I wrote it.
Marion Barry sponsored a contest for such a song, which I entered with
“Washington, My Home Town.” I was later told that the judges liked
mine the best but, in the ethnic patois of the time, they wanted to
reopen the contest in order to receive a "broader range of
submissions." Nothing more was ever heard of the contest. I may be
the only person in America who not only lost a gig because of
affirmative action but made the gig disappear as well.
The song came from a musical revue of DC history written by my wife
Kathy, Becky Denney, and myself. It was performed several times, once
with the mayor in attendance, and featured Jim Vance as Frederick
Douglass and a beat poet. The Washington Star listed it as one of
its “Sure Things” for the weekend. Besides “My Home Town,” I
wrote a soft shoe number performed by Boss Shepherd and a pair of his
henchmen: “I'm the boss, I'm the boss of Washington/I can force
anything that I want done./I can plant a tree or pave a road or put a
gas lamp up/So what does it matter if I'm a little bit corrupt?. . .”
My favorite, however, was the tune I wrote for feminist Alice Paul
which, aside from being a foot-stomper, included the immortal bridge:
“We don't find it too enrichin' to be switchin' in the kitchen, so if
you want us to stop bitchin', you had better start in switchin.'”
DC Watch, which researched the history of the city's songs (or lack
thereof), later told a part of the sequel: “Things remained relatively
stable until 1985. Then City Councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis
introduced a bill to name 'This Is My Town,' by Mark A. Williams, as the
city's official song. The song didn't pass muster, and the Council
failed to act, largely because of discomfort over the open resentment
expressed in lyrics like: 'Oh the tourists and the politicians Come and
go and that's fine by me As long as they know -- This is my town. My
home town!'” News of this attracted my attention because the song I
had earlier submitted to Mayor Barry's contest (as written and performed
in 1977) was a tune called “Washington, My Home Town.” Among its
lyrics: “Politicians they come and go; It doesn't get me down Because
I still have my Washington; It's my home town.” Jarvis' bill crumbled,
so I never pursued the matter.
Colbert King on the Washington Song
Sam Farmer, Dupont, firstname.lastname@example.org
Colbert King wrote an editorial in the past year or so on the
Washington Song. He was rather angry about it, as the song was
inaccurate about the actual situation of the District and instead
focused on the myth that DC is the center for freedom, etc.
A number of people wrote me about my comments in themail about the
Tree People. I'm continuing to hear from folk who take issue with my
concerns, which were based solely on what I observed on a particular day
at a particular time. Observation is not the same as accusation,
judgment, or misrepresentation, all of which I try to avoid, especially
in public forums. I expressed an observation, and what I still consider
a valid concern, but boy, am I sorry I hit that send button without
thinking about the repercussions. For crying out loud, some of my best
friends are trees, and I've had my share of blonde buddies, as well.
It's true, I don't know that many folk from Big Sky country, but I'm
certain they're a perfectly nice lot, on the whole. By the way, I won't
be able to join the Casey crew at their end-of-inventory event, but I
encourage other readers to do so (and for goodness sakes, be NICE to
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Elvis Has Returned to the Building
Jerry A. McCoy, email@example.com
He has returned to the Washingtoniana Division (Room #307) of the
Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library at 901 G Street, NW, in
Washington, DC that is! In memory of the 25th anniversary of the death
of Elvis Presley, the Washingtoniana Division is currently displaying
photographs that appeared in the pages of The Washington Star newspaper.
Images include a rare 1955 publicity still with Jimmy Dean, host of
“Town & Country Jamboree,” produced by local WMAL-TV, as well as
stills from Elvis' September 28, 1978, concert at the University of
Maryland's Cole Fieldhouse.
The hours of the MLK Library are 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.,
Monday-Thursday; 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday. The exhibit
will continue through Labor Day. Thank you . . . thank you very much.
The Chancel Choir of Sixth Presbyterian Church will offer a free
Concert, Sunday, August 18, at 5:00 p.m. at the church 5413 16th Street,
NW (corner of 16th and Kennedy Streets) Under the direction of William
Jones the choir will “Sing to God with Gladness.” Several of themail
readers attended last year and asked to be informed of future concerts.
Attend this year and you will enjoy another musical treat; this is an
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
I have a 1991 Honda DX 2-Door Hatchback with about 97,000 miles. It
runs well, it has a new clutch, new distributor, and good tires, but it
needs a small amount of work to pass DC Inspection. High blue is $2800
and low blue is $2300, will sell for $1800 as is. Call 667-6453.
Office Furniture and Computers Available
Virginia Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Small nonprofit to close its doors at the end of August. Among the
items for sale are: office furniture (including: computer desk, regular
desks, executive chairs); two computers with monitors; mini
refrigerator; fax machine; computer accessories such as power surge
protectors and zip drive; reams of office paper and blank envelopes. For
a complete list or to follow up with any of the above-mentioned items,
call 545-1001. We’re accepting most offers, but there is no delivery.
Location in Takoma Park, DC.
CLASSIFIEDS — HOUSING
One-Bedroom Apartment Rental
L. Mitler, Dion44@aol.com
Bright one-bedroom basement apartment in quiet private home. Cable
TV, central AC, shared washer and dryer, utilities included, use of
garden, efficiency style kitchen, two blocks from M4 bus. One person.
Nonsmoker, pet negotiable. $775 + deposit. 362-3929.
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
Volunteer Opportunity, Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care
Sarah Barnett, email@example.com
If you have a few hours free on Saturday, August 17th, Pediatric
AIDS/HIV Care, Inc., an after school facility serving children from the
District, Maryland, and Virginia, located at 450 M Street, NW, needs
your help. We are having a Volunteer Work Day from noon to 3 p.m. Some
of the opportunities on Saturday are: Putting the 1st coat of paint on
the kitchen walls and finish painting the sitting room; the Executive
Director, Gerri Graves, always welcomes help researching sources of
contributions, help with writing grants and other administrative tasks.
There are several groups (interns, junior/high school students and
others) who need to put in a certain number of hours of volunteer time.
Pediatric Care (a 501(c)(3) organization) is a wonderful place to
accomplish that on our work days. We always welcome new faces. Gerri
Graves delights in showing newcomers around, explaining what the staff
is accomplishing. The facility is located two blocks from the new
convention center. For more information, please telephone Pediatric Care
at 347-5366. Pediatric Care is located two blocks South of the New
Host an Exchange Student
Chana Hayes, firstname.lastname@example.org
We have an AFS student from Thailand living with us for a year. There
are four students who are already here in Washington for whom AFS does
not have permanent homes for this year. In August, the Washington, DC
Area Chapter of AFS-USA welcomed more than thirty exchange students to
the area and is currently seeking four host families to share their
homes with students who will attend Wilson High School, School Without
Walls, and Duke Ellington School.
AFS (formerly American Field Service) recruits over 2600 outstanding
students ages 15 to 18 from over 44 countries to live for a year or
semester in the US. These motivated teens are eager to learn about US
culture, language, lifestyle -- your America. Family life makes a big
difference in their lives. We are seeking two-parent and single-parent
households with or without kids that have a willingness to open their
homes to host an AFS student and treat them just as they would their own
children. Host families provide room, board, and guidance. The Students
for whom we seek families in DC are from South Africa, Hungary,
Paraguay, and Brazil. These four students are already here in
Washington, and we are desperate to find them homes immediately.
Please call Chana Hays (265-8744) if you are able to host an exchange
student or would like to in the future. Please consider opening your
home to one of these students. This is a wonderful experience that you
will never forget!
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