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September 15, 2002

Predatory Government

Dear Prey:

Of all the famous quotations in American history, perhaps the one with the most pernicious effect was written by Ted Sorensen for John Kennedy's inaugural address: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” The problem with the sentiment is not that public service or selflessness are bad; it is that the word “country” in the quote is most commonly understood as referring not to our society, but to our government. It is interpreted as meaning that we shouldn't ask what our government can do for us, but what we can do for our government. This, of course, gets it backward. Governments are created to serve the public, and not the other way around.

Our local city government doesn't understand that. In the past few issues of themail, people have written about city workers whose attitude is, “We don't clean the tree boxes; we fine people for dirty tree boxes,” or “We don't pick up the trash dumped in alleys; we fine the people who dump the trash in alleys.” Correspondents have written about city bureaucracies whose idea of sport seems to be to see how much of citizens' time they can waste, demanding multiple trips to present newly demanded documents to accomplish the simplest tasks. People have been rightly suspicious of how the Master Business License will be used as a new tool to tax, harass, and punish them for doing innocuous work that there is no rational reason to license or regulate. The latest example of how our government believes citizens exist to serve its needs is that the Department of Motor Vehicles ended Saturday service hours at Brentwood because they were too popular with and convenient for drivers. The demand was too high, so DMV discontinued the service.

In the next few months, as the Mayor and City Council look for new ways to raise our taxes and reduce the services they provide in return, perhaps we should ask not what we can do for our city's government, but what they damn well better do for us.

Gary Imhoff 


Americans Not Calling DC Home
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, 

Although today's Washington, DC, attracts a diverse array of residents from around the globe, for most American adults DC does not come to mind as a place they would want to live. Harris Interactive recently updated a survey to find out which cities most American adults would like to live in or near, excluding where they currently live. Washington, DC, didn't make the list of top fifteen cities. Here are the most popular cities, in ranking order: New York, New York; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Orlando, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; San Diego, California; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; Boston, Massachusetts; Ashville, North Carolina; Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; and San Antonio, Texas. New York has been named number one every year except 1998 since the poll was first conducted in 1997. The survey did not explore reasons for the top picks.

The survey was conducted on July 18 and 22, 2002, among a nationwide cross section of 1,010 adults (18+). Figures for age, sex, race, education, number of adults, and number of voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Http://


Property Tax Bills
M.Y. Ullman, 

In connection with Bill Leonard's message about difficulties with the tax office, I, and at least one other person, received two copies of the last property tax bill. I had paid the first by the time the second arrived. I know the check has cleared, though I don't have it back yet. I am hoping the payment on the first bill has been registered and I don't have to fight to prove I paid it while the officials concentrate on the second mailing. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for my income tax refund. They sent it once, they say. It never arrived. My accountant and I are trying again.


Mail Delivery and Trash Collection
Dana M. Patton, 

I live in 20015 and constantly receive mail later than I should. Also, while our mail person is very nice, he doesn't come on days it rains more than a drizzle. Another recurring problem in my zip code is bulk trash collection. While I follow the directions as to how to package, etc., bulk trash/boxes, it always takes several calls and usually a couple months before they take any items bigger than the trash can. Does anyone know how to speed up this process?


Letter of Appreciation
A. Grace Lopez, 

To whom would I send an E-mail of appreciation to a Metropolitan DC Policeman? I am a cyclist and yesterday a cop in his police car in upper Georgetown really helped me get through some serious rush hour traffic on Wisconsin Avenue. It made my day! Thanks for the info.


To Republicans in Congress We’re No Different From Felons
Jason Broehm, 

Congressional Quarterly reported that Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton went before the House Rules Committee this past week to ask that limited floor voting rights be restored for delegates to the House of Representatives. (The incoming Republican majority revoked these voting rights in January 1995.) Del. Norton argued that DC residents should have a vote in Congress because we pay taxes. Unconvinced, Republican Rules Committee Vice-Chair Porter Goss (FL) responded: “There are all kinds of people who pay taxes and don't have the right to vote.’ When she asked him for an example, he provided two: felons and juveniles. Del. Norton shot back, “I wish you would find better analogies. We've taken a lot of insults, but that is a pretty low blow.”


Carol Schwartz’s Draft Candidacy
Alverda Muhammad, 

Carol Schwartz can certainly have my vote! This is not sour grapes because Anthony Williams won the primary. I am sickened by what appears to me to be scams run on the citizens of the District: Late driver's license notices, late car registration notices, late property tax notices (coupled with inaccurate ones that get you all upset, only to have a letter later inform you that the bill was incorrect and to watch for a corrected one which does come later but does not give you very much time to account) all of which produce revenue for the city. The tickets and fines are upheld because, of course, it is the citizen's responsibility to know when these things come due. Under Mr. Barry and Mrs. Kelly, at least we received 30-day notices as a public service. I would still like to know why the DC Regulatory Commission (or Administration) contracts its work out to a Maryland firm. This is only a fraction of the litany. Many say, “Get over it! He (Williams) won!” Well, it's not over until the “fat lady sings.” Come on, Ms. Schwartz! Give him a run for his millions.


Kudos to Tony Williams and the Board of Elections
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom 

The Mayor has survived what he has termed “a humbling experience.” The real Anthony Williams emerged during the campaigning for the write-in primary election and he won handily. Perhaps this experience will help in evolving the Mayor from his policy wonk method of operation into a leader for the District. Some say that leaders are born and not made. There are lots of examples to refute this myth. Many examples are from the battlefield, where obscure noncoms and grunts are forced by circumstances to become heroic leaders and get a Silver Star. You can look back at presidents Roosevelt and Truman, who both became real heroes and leaders when faced with overwhelming adversity.

There's no one in this forum who is more voluble in his criticism and disappointment with the Mayor. At the same time, I am one those who wish him the best (and particularly now). The Mayor does not lack some of the characteristics of a true leader. He has charisma and a devilish sense of humor. That sense of humor sometimes peeks out of his Alfred E. Newman countenance in a surreptitious grin. I am hopeful that the Mayor will emerge from his write-in experience, and after the mere formality of the General Election in November, with a take charge attitude. I want to see the mayor in a proactive mode to undertake the real reformation of the DC government, one that is considerably leaner, more viable, and accountable. I want him to win his Silver Star. There are certainly enough intimidating circumstances that will provide opportunities for true leadership. You could start with the budget deficit and the schools. I want to see the Mayor become a hero in the face these adversities. I will give him all my support (and Gary Imhoff should, too).

What a great job was done by the Board of Elections in the primary held this past week. Not only did the new optical reading equipment work as planned, but the Board counted over 80 thousand write-in votes in only three days with no controversy. There were no long lines or confusion at the polls because of the unfamiliar write-in process. The Board of Elections opted for proven equipment to read the ballots. This is not very high tech, but it sure worked as advertised. Great job.


Secret Ballots?
Gabriel Fineman, 

I was distressed with the election procedures in the primary and the use of the new equipment and wonder if others had the same experience. At my polling place I was happy with the new large (and easy to read) ballots when I was marking them in the private booth. However, when I came to actually vote, I was shocked.

The procedure in my polling place was to hand the ballot in a folder to the official who removed the ballot from the folder and tore off a strip at the bottom. In the process, he could easily see who had arrows connected to their name. Then, the ballot was handed back and I was told to insert it face up into the machine. I am sure that the people in line behind me could read my ballot as easily I as had read the ballots of the people ahead of me. I understand that if there is a problem with the ballot (for example two arrows connected) it spits it back out for the voter, the official and the line to examine.

The process of casting the ballots must be improved or the fundamental right to a secret ballot will vanish.


Rawn M. James, Jr., 

Fellow themailers, why do so few Washingtonians view the District's relatively high rate of homelessness as a sociopolitical non-issue? Have we resigned ourselves to the omnipresence of panhandlers in the absence of a concerted willingness to confront the underlying issues (substance abuse treatment, job training for ex-offenders, increased benefits for our veterans?) The answers are not easy, and certainly will cost money, but surely this human issue is more pressing than reopening Klingle Road.


Paying at the Polls
Tonya Jackson, 

Regarding Mr. Charles King's comments on the elections and Klingle Road. Mr. Gaull paid at the polls. He was soundly defeated. Mr. Mendelson cannot boast, either. The combined votes cast for Beverly Wilbourn and Singleton alone would have defeated him. The residents in Ward 3 spoke during the primary. Perhaps the people of DC will speak during the election in November.


King on Klingle
Laurie Collins, 

If that isn't the pot calling the kettle black. Mr. Charles King actually writes to themail to tell the Klingle roadies how petty their issue is. Yet, his post is, itself, only about Klingle Road. His suggestion that Klingle Road supporters are only a few is pitiful. Since 1994, residents and community organizations in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 including nine Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC), the ANC Assembly, twelve grass root citizens and neighborhood associations, eleven police and DC fire and emergency fire fighters, paramedic, ambulance, wheelchair transport unions and organizations, business organizations, etc., former mayor, council members, current council members, just to name a few, who support our efforts to keep Klingle open.

As long as we are suggesting what others should do with their time and resources, how about suggesting that the Sierra Club find a real environmental problem to make their number one issue.


Wilbourn’s Complaint
Richard Worthington-Roger, 

I read in the Post that Beverly Wilbourn blames Dwight Singleton for splitting the vote that resulted in her loss at the polls. Bev, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Every four years the candidacy of Beverly Wilbourn comes out of the woodwork. Where was Bev during the "elected vs. appointed" school board debate? Where was Bev when DC General was on the ropes ? Bev, it's presumptuous to think you would get those votes.


Open Klingle Road and Mendelson’s Campaign
Paul McKenzie, 

Charles King, a.k.a. Chuck Thies, campaign manager for Phil Mendelson, has been waging a campaign of fraudulent tricks. Taking a scheme out of the play book of such notables as the late Lee Atwater and political advisor Karl Rove, Thies-King has endeavored to muddy the political waters for other candidates even as taking aim against an issue on which his candidate is most vulnerable, Klingle Road. The Thies-King posting attempts to cast doubt on the Wilbourn campaign. This city does not need politics like this. The September 11th posting is a failed attempt at discrediting a very important issue, opening a public road, which Thies knows candidate Mendelson’s position is susceptible and weak. Repairing and opening Klingle Road is a question of fairness that transcends the entire city. Every citizen in every Ward of this city has a stake in the outcome.

Over half of the Democrats that voted in Tuesday’s election (58 percent) voted against Mendelson. He’s very vulnerable. Next election will include Republicans, independents, and others. His campaign’s tactics cannot be the same if he expects to win in November.


Charles “Thies” King
Marie Nelson, Cleveland Park, 

I, and others, can certainly understand Charles “Thies” King's posting, since he is Mendelson's campaign manager.


Ward Three Council Race
Thomas M. Smith, 

As somebody who has been active in Ward 3 politics for nearly 20 years, I was disappointed by the tactics used by Eric Gaull in his campaign for Ward 3 council member. Although I knew very little about him before he entered the race, I hoped that a fresh face and fresh outlook might help generate debate about the future direction of the city. After all, competition and debate are good and healthy for a city. Instead, we got a campaign of distortions in which he sought to exploit a series of narrow single-issue interests for his own gain. The promotional literature mailed from Gaull, especially in the last days of the campaign, was shameful and the lowest form of political dialogue. Many neighborhoods have been cluttered all summer with excessive numbers of Gaull signs posted on poles, but also staked into the ground on public space — and in some instances Gaull signs were placed in front yards without the owner's permission. (I, for one, got a little tired of having to replace my own Kathy Patterson yard sign after it repeatedly disappeared.)

Gaull spent in excess of $100,000 for roughly 3,000 votes. Maybe it is time for the council to focus on campaign finance legislation that would limit the expenditures of money for ward city council races. I hope that this campaign will generate some more debate about limits on spending as well as ways that we can elevate the political dialogue. Hopefully, the large vote for Kathy Patterson will send a strong message to candidates across the city that the voters expect candidates to adhere to certain standards, to tell the truth, and outline a positive agenda for the city.


Thank You
Pete Ross, 

The results of the primary election are now final, and Paul Strauss has been declared our Democratic candidate for US Senator. I am extending my congratulations to Mr. Strauss and wish him six years of positive, visible and productive activities to secure our voting rights in Congress. We are counting on him to succeed at this critical task and should all be involved in his efforts to contribute to and ensure its success. This primary has been a thoroughly enjoyable and educational experience for me. Thank you to all of the voters, supporters, and volunteers who came forward and supported me. I am touched by the cross-section of our city's population who I had the pleasure to meet and work with. It gives me hope that we can work as a united force toward our voting rights.

Mostly, I am thankful that we live in a nation that allows free and open elections. We had wonderful candidates in all of the city's races. This year's primary in DC for US Senate was said to be one of the most highly contested races. I am proud that my candidacy was able to elevate the importance of the election and the visibility of the position, making it more widely known throughout our city. We should all be proud of the voter turnout this year in all of the races. As I contemplate my next step, I am steadfast in my dedication to the betterment of this city and for our voting rights. Let's keep up the momentum and direct our energies toward to ultimate goal: voting rights for District residents in the US Congress! My commitment to this goal remains strong. Congratulations to all of the candidates! Thank you to all of the voters and candidates who made this year's primary elections such a success!


Fact Over Fiction
Jason Juffras, 

Comes now Christopher Koppel to tell us that “councilmembers' jobs are considered part-time . . . their pay (and perks, e.g. limos) are quite substantial.” DC Councilmembers don't have limos. The Council Chairman has a car. The Home Rule Act allows Councilmembers to have outside income. I can identify at least eight members of the thirteen-member Council who have no outside employment and work 50 to 60-hour weeks: Chairman Linda Cropp and Councilmembers Jim Graham, Kathy Patterson, Adrian Fenty, Sharon Ambrose, Sandy Allen, Phil Mendelson, and Carol Schwartz.

Let's use facts instead of tired innuendo.



The 14th Street NW Commercial Corridor: Past, Present and Future
Donna Hanousek, 

The DC Preservation League, the DC Historic Preservation Office, and ANC 1A invite community residents and merchants to a presentation on the Columbia Heights Cultural Resources Survey on Thursday, September 19, 7:00 p.m., at St. Stephen & The Incarnation Episcopal Church (lower level-in the dining room), 16th and Newton Streets, NW, four blocks from Columbia Heights Green Line Metro; S-2/S-4 Metrobus.

Phase II of the three-phase project, consisting of finishing the building-by-building survey of Columbia Heights that was done in 1989 by Historian Ruth Ann Overbeck and researching the commercial history of the 14th Street corridor, is now complete. The project was financed through the DC Historic Preservation Office with federal funds from the US Department of Interior, National Park Service.

If you are interested in how and when the 14th Street commercial areas developed, then join us for a lecture and slide show by Carol Hooper, the project’s architectural historian. She will provide a fresh look at the architecture and history of the 14th Street commercial corridor. Representatives from the DC Historic Preservation Office will be on hand to talk about the potential benefits of preservation-based revitalization. The presentation will be the first part of the ANC 1A's September meeting:



Paris Apartment for Winter Vacation
Peggy Robin, 

My stepsister, Virginia Isbell (a former Washingtonian), asked me to post this notice about the availability of her fabulous Paris apartment during the winter break, December 21 to January 5. It's a penthouse in the 15th arrondissement with four bedrooms (one double bed and four singles), two baths, fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, and terrace with great views of the Eiffel Tower. Weekly maid service. The apartment is within walking distance of three Metro stops, a supermarket, many bakeries and shops, playgrounds and parks -- an ideal location. To see photos, go to If interested, please contact the owner (not me!) at or at



Living Room Furniture
Ann Carper, 

Sunday's Burleith flea market rained out before we sold our coffee table and two end tables (all Queen Anne style, dark wood, probably cherry). Asking $65 each/package deal for $150. E-mail me if you'd like me to send you a jpeg.


Toyota Tacoma
Annie McCormick, 

Red 1996 Toyota Tacoma, standard cab. 5 Goodyear tires, one year old (9/2001). Tool box used for overnight bags when traveling. Asking $7,000. Must sell immediately. E-mail to


Mitsubishi Galant
E. James Lieberman, 

Mitsubishi Galant LS 1994, 103,000 miles, one owner, well-cared for, runs fine. Sun roof, AC, black. Blue book: about $3,000. Asking $2,400.



Wanted: Small, Minority, and Women-Owned Businesses
Arthur H. Jackson, Jr., 

In the next three months more than $50 millions in Government contracts will be awarded to small, minority, and women-owned DC based Business. We can assist your business in preparing your package. Contact Arthur H. Jackson, Jr., CEO, The AHJ Group, 563-9193.


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