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August 21, 2002

Back to the Future

Dear Futurists:

Karl Marx attributed to Hegel the thought that “all great events and personalities in world history reappear in one fashion or another,” an idea encapsulated in the proverb, “History repeats itself.” But, Marx commented, “He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Back in the late 1970's, the voters of Washington, DC, thought that the government was inefficient, ineffective, and stagnating, and that a serious reform was needed. They elected Marion Barry as a reformer. Then they overlooked his repeated ethical failings, gave him unearned credit as an efficient and effective manager of the city's government, ignored his subservience to economic interests that were hostile to the District's residents, and lauded him for his ability to get anything the city needed from a compliant Congress. Finally, when the passing years demonstrated that there was nothing else left to recommend him, they reelected him simply because they liked his style and the racial pose he adopted. In the late 1990's, the voters of Washington, DC, elected Tony Williams as a reformer and started repeating the cycle, this time as farce.

The voters of Wards Two and Three used to heap scorn on the voters of Wards Seven and Eight for their blind allegiance to a deeply flawed mayor. Now the sides are reversed, and the voters of Wards Seven and Eight can rightfully return the scorn as the voters of Wards Two and Three willfully turn a blind eye to their favored mayor's faults, endow him with imaginary virtues, and reelect him because they like his style and racial stance. The second time around history is a farce because we know the mistakes we make as we are making them; we spot the banana peel and still step on it.

Charlie Wellander,, and supplied the correct link to the Eleanor Clift article on the Newsweek site that I quoted in the last issue of themail. It is

Gary Imhoff 


South Florida All Over Again
Phil Greene, 

Tony Williams is doomed, judging by the hoops through which voters must jump in order to write him in, and by his efforts to teach them. Last evening after work I flipped through the mail. Oh, look, here's a Home Depot flyer that says, “We're breaking new ground all over the District.” There before huge stacks of lumber were five men in the distinctive orange Home Depot aprons. It caught my eye because I do a lot of home improvement, and I was sorely disappointed to see the loss of Hechinger's and later Home Depot at the Tenley Circle site. I thought maybe there was good news about more Home Depot expansion in the District.

No, wait, this isn't a Home Depot flyer, it's a flyer distributed by the Williams reelection campaign! At the lower left of the cover was the logo, in relatively small type, “Re-Elect Anthony Williams Mayor 2002 Democrat.” Sure enough, one of the guys in orange aprons was Tony himself. Intrigued at this point, I looked inside. Within the brochure were specific instructions on how to write in Williams. To my shock and horror, I realized that Williams not only had to rely on DC voters to a) want to vote for him, b) remember to write him in, and c) remember his name and know how to spell it, but they also had to “connect the arrow next to his name!” In other words, they have to fill in this space with their pencil. My guess is that the vote counting machine will pick up the blackened-in arrow, thereby alerting it to the fact that a write-in vote had been cast. Will people remember all that? Does this apparent advertisement for Home Depot succeed in educating the populace? My prediction is that it will be South Florida 2000 all over again, all those folks who voted for Buchanan thinking they were voting for Gore. My guess is that Williams will lose the election, demand a recount, and we'll learn just how many people thought they voted for Williams but failed to “connect the arrow next to his name.” Unless he does a better job of promoting his own interests and not those of Home Depot, he's doomed.


Now I Have Faith
Bob Levine, 

First off let me say that I think in all probability that Tony Williams will be reelected as mayor of our fair town, but after reading this article,, I now have Faith.

I will vote for Faith as a protest against Mayor Williams's poor performance in his first term and urge a grassroots effort to turn out the vote for her. This is a protest that the Mayor can understand, a protest at the ballot box by the very people that he needs to reelect him. Several thousand votes for Faith and not Tony would send a loud message about how we feel this city is being run. I really don't expect her to win, but in the event she actually did win I don't think she could do a worse job than our last three mayors. She might actually do a better job and at least she'd be amusing.


The Governmental Campaign for the Mayor
Dorothy Brizill, 

Two weeks ago, Mayor Williams indicated that he planned to have the City Administrator, John Koskinen, oversee the daily operations of the District government so that he could devote his time and energies to his reelection campaign. But, if Koskinen is substituting for the Mayor, who is minding the other government offices that Williams has raided in a desperate effort to restaff and revamp his campaign? The mayor's Chief of Staff, Kelvin Robinson, has told senior government officials that he expects them to “volunteer” and work in the campaign after their work hours and on weekends. But in addition to that, Williams has appointed numerous senior government officials to campaign management positions.

Campaign staffers include Ted Carter, chief of staff to the City's Chief Financial Officer; Alfreda Davis, chief of staff to the City Administrator; Jackie Randolph, Deputy Director, Office of Boards and Commissions; Peggy Armstrong, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs; Traci Blunt, Director of Communications in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development; David Howard, Office of Planning; David King, Office of Planning; Carlene Cheatem, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration, DHS; Greg Teasley, Department of Human Services; Kamilah Martin, Office of the Mayor; Clark Ray, Neighborhood Services Coordinator; Mike Miller, Department of Transportation; Gaby Fraser, Department of Human Services; Charles Onwuche, Department of Human Services; Carlton Pressley, Mayor's Office of Religious Affairs; and Bill Jenkins, Office of Local Business Development. Many are working full time at the campaign, others part time. A few have resigned their District jobs (e.g., Carter, Blunt), some have taken vacation or leave (e.g., Davis, Randolph), but most simply seem to be spending their working hours at campaign headquarters.

One final note about the $250,000 fine levied against the Williams campaign by the Board of Elections and Ethics. Tony Williams has said that his campaign won't pay the fine until the last possible day, September 16, and cynics are already forecasting that the campaign will have depleted its treasury by then, and claim that it is, sadly, unable to pay. But this time either the cynics are wrong or Mayor Williams's lawyers haven't read the Board's order very carefully, because the fine has been levied against both the Williams campaign and Anthony Williams the candidate (see In other words, if the campaign defaults, Tony Williams will be personally liable for paying it.


The Divil You Know
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom 

There's an old Irish saying “Better the divil you know.” That saying is most appropriate in the current race for mayor of DC. Long prior to the petition scandal of Tony Williams and certainly prior to any hint that Willie Wilson would also be a major candidate in the mayoral race, I had concluded that I would be passing on voting for any of the other clowns on the ballot. I had decided that I would only be voting for Kathy Patterson in Ward 3 and for two of the three candidates for Council At-Large. I must change my position in light of the above events.

Tony Williams is not without many faults. He is not a true leader and not even a good manager. But, he is, by far the best of the candidates that are available. Everything is relative when referring to the “best” in this case. Perhaps it would be better to say he is the least undesirable candidate. Williams faces a tough racially divided fight and that is why he will need, and get, my vote. It will be essential, if Williams is to prevail in the September 10 primary election, for him to garner all of the available Democratic votes in Wards 2 and 3. I won't pass on this election.


Write in a Real Democrat on September 10
Ronald and Deborah Washington, 

As a lifelong Democrat, I've always voted for Democrats for Mayor, from Washington to Barry to Williams; now my wife and son are voting for the only real Democrat running for Mayor, with experience, integrity and compassion. He has more than thirty years experience in state, county, and municipal government, winning office at age 18, and serving six terms as a City Councilman. And our candidate has not polluted our city with posters, and he is knocking on doors.

We believe Tony Williams will be defeated this year, and we are writing in the name of Arthur H. Jackson, Jr., for Mayor, a political outsider on the DC Democratic State Committee with strong support on Capitol Hill, Jackson has worked for more than 5,000 Democratic elected officials, including US Rep. Steny Hoyer and US Senator Paul Sarbanes. He has strong support in our community because of his opposition to the race at RFK Stadium, because we the people were not afforded a hearing.

Experience, and a candidate for Mayor with a real plan to reform DC government, visit and read the candidates' profile. Jackson, the best choice for Mayor to unite our city.


Good Will on Capitol Hill is a Fragile Thing
Paul Michael Brown, Eastern Market, 

Mark David Richards recently reported that “the Senate version of DC's appropriations bill contains more federal dollars for DC and fewer home-rule intrusions than in previous years,” thanks to courageous votes by “principled Republicans and Democrats” on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Let's not forget that the good will of Congress is a very fragile thing, and once squandered it is not easily recovered. Criticize Mayor Williams if you must. But don't doubt for a minute that he inspires confidence on the Hill and that directly translates into less legislative meddling with home rule. Electing one of the intemperate and divisive demagogues opposing the mayor would almost certainly return us to the days when members of Congress couldn't resist micromanaging every last little aspect of municipal governance.


Lars Hydle, 

Mark David Richards' description of what was accomplished or avoided for DC in Congress this year was sourced to shadow US Senator Strauss himself. Yet it is hard to recall any contemporaneous news reports that singled out his contribution. In contrast, I regularly read about the achievements of shadow US Representative Ray Brown. In only two years he has secured resolutions of support for full DC voting representation from the city councils of Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco; the mayors of Atlanta, Detroit, and New Orleans; and the Illinois state legislature.

Strauss' failure to win the endorsement of Ward 3 and Ward 6 Democrats suggests that after six years, even among his fellow partisan activists, he has failed to cast a shadow.


Protesters Anonymous
Lois M. Kirkpatrick, 

Recently I was riding the Metro back from a protest at the Capitol, and I ran into some young women who were going to a different march that would also wind up at the Capitol. Since Washington, DC, is the . . . um . . . “protest capitol” of the nation, I wonder how many DCWatchers are rally veterans? I have now been to five demonstrations on the mall; I would like to see if any DCWatchers can top that, and if so, by how much.


Thank You to Whoever — A Trashy Tale with a Happy Ending
Clare Feinson, 

About two weeks ago, I was standing outside the Van Ness Metro station waiting for a bus, when I noticed a DC government van parked across the street. The driver (presumably a DC employee) had just finished his fast food lunch, and he proceeded to dump the wrappers and other leftovers out the window and into the middle of Connecticut Avenue. Several minutes later, he did a U-turn in the middle of the street, right through the pile of trash, and drove away. I was so outraged that I walked across Connecticut and took down his license plate, noting the date and time, but I didn't have any idea where to report it.

A few days later, my trusty copy of themail showed up in my E-mail box. One of the articles gave a link to the web site of the Department of Public Works, to a page that shows maps of how clean the city thinks our neighborhoods are. I looked at the maps, and then it occurred to me that DPW might just have a link for the public to contact them. Sure enough, there is an “Ask the Director” page, with a form for sending messages.

I'm under no illusions about the responsiveness of DC government, but I sent them the information about the littering city employee, and I received back a very warm and genuine (and prompt!) reply. They were relieved that the vehicle did not belong to their Department (how embarrassing would that be!), but the license number would allow them to track down the right Department. From there, personnel records could pinpoint who was driving, and the employee would be reprimanded. So whoever posted the link to the DPW maps — thank you! We never know what unintended side effects our actions might bring.


How to Make DC Democracy Activists Sing and Dance
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, 

Some events are cathartic and call for singing and dancing. When AP announced that Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia lost his seat in Congress, members of Stand Up for Democracy in DC Coalition started talking about throwing a party and drafting songs for a hometown sing-a-long. Recall Senator Faircloth from North Carolina. He worked hard to undermine home rule and establish a city manager type government in 1997 (God bless him, he united DC and I believe he did give money to help create our City Museum — irony can be beautiful). Stand Up sent several bus loads of people to his hometown to fill them in on his tangle up here. When Senator Faircloth lost, Stand Up presented him with a one-way mock bus ticket home. (I think he had some environmental justice issue back there he needed to deal with.) John Edwards was the beneficiary, but I don't have the impression that he has done much to hurt or to help DC. Activists have been doing the tangle with Rep. Barr for a couple years. Despite losing a tangle partner, members of Stand Up are getting set to bring out their chorus to sing a few new hometown DC going away originals. Stay tuned to their web site for when and where: For some light summer fun, you may just want to join the choir!

The AP reported that, “With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Rep. John Linder had 47,352 votes, or 67 percent. Barr [Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA)] had 23,307 votes, or 33 percent, becoming the seventh House incumbent ousted in a primary this year.” DC AIDS activist Wayne Turner sent out a press release saying, “We've long waited for the day to send Bob Barr his one-way ticket back on a midnight train to Georgia.” ACT UP DC, led by Turner, became the sponsor of Initiative 59 after the AIDS-related death of Steve Michael, Turner's partner and a tireless freedom fighter. “It's fitting that, Barr, who has demonstrated such contempt for voting and democracy, should be defeated by those very principles,” Turner quipped. Time will tell if the ultimate victor has as much interest in DC politics as Rep. Barr did. DC could use some champions rather than detractors on the Hill. I'm glad to see the recent emergence of the DC Democracy Fund, which can help address that question.


Bob Barr: Who Gets the Last Laugh?
Ralph Blessing, 

Is it too late for Rep. Bob Barr to introduce legislation prohibiting release of the Georgia primary results that show him getting soundly defeated? That seemed to be his favorite technique for thwarting the will of DC voters when he didn't like the outcome of our elections.


A Bureaucracy Incapable of Improvement at the DMV
Pete Ross, 

As a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Shadow Senator, I continue to campaign at the DMV inspection station on Half Street in Southwest Washington. All of us residents in DC should be shocked at what is occurring there. Up to 100 government vehicles a day (Metro busses, school busses, police cars, emergency vehicles) are inspected there with waits of three to four hours. It is my estimate that just the labor costs for inspecting each vehicle is approximately $300, because many of the drivers are on overtime. This is $30,000 per day ($150,000 per week) in extra labor costs to us taxpayers. The money that the DMV inspection station causes us to waste ($150,000+ per week) could have been used for the summer jobs program for DC youth. This is only the tip of the iceberg of waste that is created by Ms. Newman (the director of the DMV) and the DMV Bureaucracy.

We should also feel sorry for the residents who live on Delaware, I, K, and 3rd Street, SW, who have to suffer the noise and pollution caused by the cars lining up in front of their homes, sometimes as early at 4 a.m. Sometimes the line of vehicles is in front of these homes for eight to ten hours a day. Can you imagine a line of cars (all of them idling) in front of your home for eight to ten hours a day when the temperature is 90 degrees? As residents of the District we should ask each City Councilmember candidate, what will you do to specifically solve the problem of the long lines at the Inspection Station on Half Street, and what will you do to get the bureaucracy at the DMV to realize that they work for us taxpaying citizens?


Red Light Cameras
Ralph Blessing, 

Ed Barron claims that there has been an increase in rear end collisions in cities with red light cameras, thereby offsetting the decrease in crashes within intersections. But in a study of red light cameras in Oxnard, CA, the first such study in a US city, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ( found that there was no increase in rear end collisions after red light cameras were installed there in 1997. What that study found, though, was that there was a 29 percent reduction in traffic injuries at intersections with traffic signals, including a 68 percent reduction in injuries resulting from front-into-side crashes, the type of collision (no, Ed, they're not “accidents”) most closely associated with red light running. The cameras in Oxnard were found to have a significant overall deterrent value, in that drivers there not only began respecting traffic signals at the eleven intersections with cameras but at all 125 signaled intersections throughout the city.

No, red light cameras aren't the perfect solution, but they are a valuable high-tech enforcement tool in an era when the police can't be everywhere at the same time. They've worked successfully in numerous foreign countries for as long as twenty years. Unless opponents of cameras can wave a magic wand that makes everyone drive responsibly, they must recognize, as IIHS states, that each year in the US “more than 800 people die and an estimated 200,000-plus are injured in crashes that involve red light running. More than half of the deaths are pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners.” And between 1992 and 1998 the number of crash fatalities at signaled intersections increased three times faster than crash fatalities elsewhere.

In light of such information, I'd be curious to know how it could be concluded that the purported increase in rear end collisions offsets any benefits of red light cameras. A comparable number of traffic fatalities? A similar number of cars that are totaled? Even if the number of rear end collisions does increase in some cities with red light cameras, there's usually no comparison between being rear ended by someone, who in all likelihood is braking, and being broadsided by someone running (probably speeding through) a red light. And the simple fact that the Insurance Institute supports the cameras says volumes about their benefits. But, hey, why fault those who follow too closely or drive too fast to avoid a rear end collision when that old Big Brother bogeyman can be condemned instead?


AAA: Bad for DC
John Whiteside, johnwhiteside at earthlink dot net

In the Post's story on the proposal for dedicated bus lanes on K Street, there was the inevitable quote from a spokesman at AAA criticizing the idea. It's quite predictable; AAA opposes anything that isn't massive road building or that limits sprawl. As a longtime member -- for the roadside assistance -- I've been increasingly upset about their lobbying, which are not only bad urban planning and environmentally destructive, but especially bad for urban core areas such as the District.

If you want more details, check out these links: and I was surprised to find that they are even more heinous an organization that I realized from the material in their monthly magazine. My AAA membership is up this month, and it's not getting renewed. There are other roadside assistance plans available — ones that don't require you to fund lobbying for increasing suburbanization, gridlock, and pollution in exchange for help when your battery dies.


Response to Signs, Signs Everywhere by Pete Ross
Dominic Sale, 

I just wanted to voice my glee that Pete Ross wrote exactly what I was intending to write about the over proliferation of campaign posters in the city. If these politicians don't follow through on their first pledge to the people of DC, to keep to under three signs per block, we'll make sure they won't be able to break any other pledges. If I still see more than three signs per block in Mt. Pleasant after August 19 (I'm talking to you in particular Jim Graham), then I'll be out on a little walk with my digital camera. Stay tuned for the next edition to see what I found.


Tom Sherwood, 

I'm happy to report that Military Road has been stripped of nearly all campaign posters. Dwight Singleton, who had put six to eight posters on each light poll, no longer has any up. Don't know who removed them, but they are gone. This afternoon [Monday] I saw one Eleanor Holmes Norton sign on one pole.


Romes Calhoun, 

It seems that the Mayor has not learned much about following campaign rules and regulations. Much to my surprise, this morning as I walked past the corner of 10th and S Streets, NW , there were nine of his posters, facing all directions, just on this one corner.


Signs, Signs, Everywhere, Part 2
Pete Ross, 

The department that is responsible for making sure that all of us candidates obey the regulations for campaign posters is SWEEP (Solid Waste Education Enforcement Program), which is part of DPW. I have been told that SWEEP will be dispatching four teams (each team has two members) to start enforcing the poster regulations, beginning August 21. They will be photographing the violations and writing citations. Each violation is a $35.00 fine. The SWEEP Inspectors are supposed to remove the excess posters after they have photographed the offending posters and written the citations. They are going to start with the major streets that have the most serious violations. The person in charge of this clean up effort is David Dyer, We can assist this effort to insure that all candidates are in compliance by sending an E-mail to Mr. Dyer and a copy to Vincent Spaulding, (who is the Clean City Coordinator), listing streets and names of candidates where there are violations of the campaign poster law.

I erroneously stated in an earlier E-mail that two posters per utility or light post were illegal. This was not correct. Signs that are back-to-back are considered to be one sign when counting the number of signs in a block. However, if there are two posters (one on top of another), they will count as two signs when counting the number of signs per block. The limit is three signs per block. We must not permit candidates who violate the Campaign Poster Laws to benefit from lack of enforcement of our regulations.



Ward Three Candidates Forums
Mary Rowse, 

The Northwest Current will hold a second Candidates Forum on Friday, August 23, at 7:30 p.m., at Ernst Auditorium, Sibley Memorial Hospital, 5255 Loughboro Road, NW. Sibley is served by the D6 and M4 buses. This event will feature Democrats Erik Gaull and Kathy Patterson, who are competing for the Ward 3 City Council seat in the September 10th primary.

Anyone interested in submitting questions in advance may E-mail them to Those attending the event will have the chance to submit written questions for the candidates.

The Chevy Chase Citizens Association will be holding a candidates forum on Tuesday, August 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Candidates for the At-Large City Council and the Ward 3 races will be there to answer questions. Please plan to attend one or both of these very important events.



Full-Sized Violin
Cheryl Campbell, Cheryl@ITGlobalsecure 

Seeking full-sized violin (bow optional) for advanced student. Should be of high caliber, near professional grade, to be used for performance and ensemble work. Also, call if quality is unknown (estate sale items, etc.). E-mail or call Cheryl at 486-6943 or 483-8558. Voice mail exists at both numbers.



Lease a Copier at Reduced Rate
Virginia Johnson, 

Ricoh FT 5832 copier available for 18 months at extremely reduced rate. For more information, call 545-1001.



Volunteer Tutors/Mentors Needed
Kim Montroll, 

Dedicated adult volunteers needed for once-a-week commitment to tutor/mentor a k-12th grader in structured after school programs in Adams Morgan. Mentor a teenager: Tuesdays or Thursdays, 6-7:30 p.m. Tutor a 3rd-6th grader: Mondays or Wednesdays, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tutor a k-2nd grader: Mondays or Thursdays 4-5:45 p.m. Would you like to help motivated youth have a real chance? Volunteer! Contact: Kim Montroll, Good Shepherd Ministries, 1630 Fuller Street, NW, #105, 483-5816, Leave message with your full name and mailing address, and information will be sent to you.

Good Shepherd Ministries has since 1985 provided structured tutoring, mentoring, and educational advocacy for low-income, inner-city youth in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.


Mentors Needed for First Year UDC Law Students
Joe Libertelli, 

Last year more than forty alumni and other attorney friends of the School of Law generously volunteered to serve as mentors for our incoming students. You/they did such a great job that -- as you might expect -- we want to do it again! At UDC, we take great pride in what we believe to be the most diverse law student body in America. Our students come from all socioeconomic strata, all continents, and range in age from their early twenties to their mid sixties. Their interests are similarly wide-ranging, from the various areas of poverty law to intellectual property, from juvenile justice to Islamic law.

We ask mentors to meet with students face-to-face at least twice per year and to stay in occasional contact via E-mail or telephone. We're hoping you'll be able to provide moral support for their law school travails and insight into their areas of legal career interest. We're hoping you'll find opportunities to invite your mentee to professional networking events, bar activities and, well, saloon activities, if that's mutually desired. This year we are seeking mentors who have been members of the bar for a minimum of five years or who have the equivalent in law-related experience. However, this year's incoming class has grown to seventy. Given the increase in students, if you interested in mentoring but don't quite qualify, please go ahead and respond to this E-mail; we may well need your help! If you know of other non-alumni attorneys who might be interested in working with out students, they too are welcome. Feel free to pass this information along to them.

Our kick off reception will be held on Wednesday, September 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Window Room, 2nd Floor, Building 38, 4200 CT (on the Red Line) Parking is available under the campus off Van Ness St., NW. You do not have to be present at the reception to be a mentor, but it is encouraged (and will count toward your two face-to-face meetings that we request.) If you can't attend, but would like to serve as a mentor, we will work to match you after the fact. Please response to this E-mail with either a resume or a brief description of your career, your work, and your related interests so we can match you with someone keenly interested in what you've done!


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