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October 9, 2002

Inferiority Complexes

Dear Washingtonians:

It's not a pretty sight. The plight of those suffering from inferiority complexes and deep insecurities, struggling to inflate their pitifully fragile egos, is something for which we normally would have great sympathy. And certainly New York City has improved a great deal from the recent days when its filth and crime made New Jersey really seem to be the Garden State by comparison; it is well on its way, or at least somewhat on its way, to becoming a livable city. But Frank Rich's hysterical (in both the formal and slang senses of the term, being overwrought and laughable at the same time) article comparing New York and DC ( means to be offensive, and thus it doesn't elicit the pity and sympathy that Rich's syndrome might otherwise arouse. The general consensus used to be that Rich had been smart enough to be an adequate critic of Broadway plays but that he was far too shallow to write meaningfully about politics or, indeed, about anything more serious than the latest musical. Now he has shown that he is far too shallow to write meaningfully about much at all.

Hey, this kind of writing, writing like Frank Rich, is fun. The point is simply to think of as many snotty things to say as possible. The things you say don't have to be accurate, or true, or even funny, but they do have to demonstrate that the writer thinks he is immeasurably superior to his subject. So, here's your challenge, should you care to accept it, for the next issue of themail: read Rich's article and write one paragraph of a reply article demonstrating the superiority of Washington to New York.

Gary Imhoff


DC Versus NYC: Ouch!
Dru Sefton,

Anybody see the NY Times mag last weekend (October 6)? It had an entire “neener, nanner, nonner, New York is better than Washington!” story by Frank Rich. What did we do to deserve this? Here's a sample; the rest of the story can be found at the NY Times web site:

“The capital's restaurants can't compete with those of Vegas, let alone New York, Chicago and the Seattle-to-Los Angeles culinary axis of the West. Its taxicabs have a suspect fee structure as gerrymandered as the map of Congressional voting districts. While New York has contributed to the American language such joyous words as 'whoopee' and 'hot dog,' Washington has coined 'inside the Beltway' and 'Department of Homeland Security.' America's songwriters and poets have repeatedly celebrated Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too — not to mention San Francisco, Chicago and St. Louis — but where is that romantic lyric about the capital? 'Hail to the Redskins' will have to do.

“First appearances can be deceptive to new visitors to DC. Edmund Wilson once observed that Washington, 'after other American cities, seems at first such a relief, so agreeable,' but 'turns out, when one has stayed there any length of time, to have little personality of its own and to come to taste rather flat.' Or as Cindy Adams wrote this year: 'Even folks who live in Washington don't want to be there. The high point for a visitor? Catching a glimpse of Trent Lott in person? I mean, please.'”


World Capitals
Mark David Richards, Dupont East,

Frank Rich's article in the New York Times Magazine last Sunday was a disappointing welcome when I arrived to New York from a recent visit with friends in Paris. Nevertheless, Mr. Rich's ugly article did make one particularly intriguing assertion: “America's capital has less democratic autonomy than President Bush this year demanded of the Palestinians.” Despite Mr. Rich's apparent loathing of DC, I see little competition between DC and New York. We live in different places with different strengths and weaknesses, but have more in common than not. I love New York and DC. And Paris is, well, just divine.


The Costly Election
Dorothy Brizill,

On Tuesday, October 15, the City Council's Committee on Government Operations will hold a public oversight hearing to receive an update from the DC Board of Elections and Ethics on the primary election, including assessments of the optical scan voter machines and the effects of precinct boundary changes. What makes the hearing interesting is the subjects that are being consciously avoided. The Committee's chair, Vincent Orange, has made it clear that the hearing will not consider Mayor Williams's petition debacle as an integral part of the primary election season. Instead, Orange plans to put off any discussion of that issue until after the November election. Moreover, Orange is still refusing to schedule a confirmation hearing on the pending renomination of Stephen Callas to the Board of Elections.

The BOEE is a three-member board whose members have staggered terms. Callas' term expired in July 2001; Jonda McFarland's term expired in July 2002; and Board Chairman Ben Wilson's term will expire in July 2003. Although Mayor Williams finally forwarded Callas' renomination to the Council on June 18, 2002, Orange's committee clerk confirmed today that he has no plans to hold a confirmation hearing. There is a widespread belief in the Wilson Building that Mayor Williams, still furious about the Board's decision in July not to place his name on the Democratic ballot, plans to take revenge by replacing all three members of the Board.


Budget Cuts?
Dorothy Brizill,

Last Tuesday, the DC Council voted on a revised FY 2003 budget to close a $323 million deficit. The budget cuts had been agreed upon jointly by the Mayor and the Council, and they were forwarded to Capitol Hill to meet an October 2 deadline.

Within 48 hours of the budget's passage, however, stories began to circulate that the Williams administration was encouraging department heads to disregard their reductions. One agency head was told to go forward with plans to hire additional front-office staff assistants that had been cut; another department head met with Timothy Dimond, the director of the Office of Property Management, to discuss her office's relocation, renovation, and furniture purchases, all of which had been deleted in the new spending plan. At the meeting, Dimond told the department head to pay no attention to her FY 2003 budget cuts.

In other parts of the District government, such as the Metropolitan Police Department, the budget cuts have initially resulted in some foolish decisions. Word quickly circulated within the Wilson Building on Wednesday that Chief Ramsey, in an effort to cut budget expenditures, was requiring police officers to turn in their MPD-issued cell phones, which had been highly touted as a way to promote community policing and as an easy way for citizens to contact their beat officers directly. When I asked Margaret Kellems, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, about this at the Mayor's weekly press conference today, she confirmed the rumor and stated that Chief Ramsey was collecting the cell phones, reassessing them, and developing a plan for possible future redistribution. Late this afternoon, Kathy Patterson, chair of the Judiciary Committee, further confirmed that Chief Ramsey told her his plan would call for units to share a cell phone, rather than for an officer to have an individual phone with his own telephone number.


Mass Arrests
Bryce Suderow,

From the lack of responses to Gary's question about how people feel about those mass arrests the other day, I can only conclude that most readers of themail approve of the mass arrests. I spoke to two people who were arrested at the demonstrations. The demonstrators assembled at Freedom Plaza and were arrested before they could begin their protest.

If the police had prevented the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the 1960s and early 70s that you participated in, the US Government would likely have prevailed, and we would be occupying that country even today. You helped end that war. Yet when young demonstrators protest today you approve of their arrests. Does that sound familiar? It so, it's because that was the attitude of your parents thirty years ago.

If you readers really do approve of the arrests, then all of you baby boomers have come a long way since the 1960s. Remember your slogans: “Question Authority” and “Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty”? You seem to have traded them for your expensive cars and homes, along with your principles. You have become your parents.


Responding to Preventative Arrests
George S. LaRoche,

Anyone who feels he or she may have been injured by police action during the recent WB/IMF actions should ignore Mr. Bindner's opinions on “preventative arrests” (themail, October 6). Seek the advice of an attorney instead of relying on ill-informed, lay opinions, however well intended, lest you aggravate your position or lose your chance to seek what vindication may be available. One place to find some good, initial advice, based on the work of attorneys specializing in local civil rights laws and practice, is in the City Desk edition of Sam Smith's online journal, the Progressive Review. Go to and find the October 2 edition. Mr. Smith provides some general advice and the address of a committee of attorneys working on these cases.


Arrest Fine Forfeiture
Denise Wiktor,

There is a process for challenging a fine forfeiture. As I recall, the last time this happened the National Lawyer's Guild in conjunction with the representation collaborative helped people in making these challenges. Posting collateral serves as a guilty plea and can have a negative effect for people who are trying to get police clearances for bars, for the DC school system, or for a number of other things, depending on the charge (it can be anything from disorderly conduct to unlawful entry).


The Tenley Tower Tempest
Stan Wellborn,

I am confused about the response regarding the Tenley antenna. It appears that American Tower company went through all the proper procedures in getting a permit from the city to erect the tower, and began building it. Then, a group of residents used aesthetic/environmental arguments to file an injunction to stop the project, and won a court order to halt construction. Then, the DC Zoning Commission, after the fact, changed the regulations about how such projects are to be vetted before approval is given. In the meantime, the tower remains half finished, more unattractive now than if it were completed -- in a site that already is known as an antenna farm.

My question: what did American Tower do that was against DC laws and procedures that were in effect at the time of the construction? I suspect that in the end it's going to cost the cell-phone using taxpayers of the District a whole lot of money to pay American Tower back for its construction and court costs, and then to have the tower dismantled.


Office of Planning’s Supplemental Report on Antennas
Ann Loikow,

The Office of Planning's October 3 Supplemental Report on the proposed antenna regulations is available at The Zoning Commission's hearing on the proposed regulations will be next Thursday, October 17, at 6:30 p.m. The Supplemental Report recommends: "Antenna Towers and Monopoles be excluded as either a matter-of-right or special exception use in the Capitol Interest District [Note: the previous prohibition against antenna towers in this district was deleted in the 9/9/02 technical amendments to the antenna regs.]; Stealth Structures be regulated as follows: One stealth structure [per lot] be permitted subject to administrative review, certain placement and area requirements in all zones, More than one stealth structure be permitted only be special exception subject to certain placement and area requirements in all zones, Stealth Structures be permitted as a matter-of-right in the General Industry (M) zone district; and a removal provision be added to the regulations."

Stealth structures are a major concern for citizens, particularly since there are no limits on what kind of antenna can be put in or on one and no setback requirements or other protections for residences, schools, hospitals, etc. close to such stealth installations. This could be a major loophole. Please notify the Office of Zoning in writing (Suite 210, 441 4th St. NW, 20001) that you or your organization will testify at the hearing on Oct. 17. Please E-mail me if you have any questions.


Health Care Safety Net Report by Office of Inspector General
Renee Wallis,

Go to, and click on OIG reports, the first report listed is the Health Care Safety Net Administration, within the Department of Health. This report details the ability of the Safety Net Administration in DOH to provide contract oversight. As health care folks remember, when the PBC and DC General were shut down, the Alliance was started up. The Alliance is a private contract between Doctors Community Hospital and the DOH. DOH inherited this contract from the Control Board, who completed the original negotiations right before they went out of existence. This report is full of good information for people who want to have a better understanding of how DC government works.

For those who are following the budget issues, and know that Council is concerned about DC's high payments to contractors, this document also provides an excellent example of DC paying big bucks for contracts -- $1.7 million sole source contract was paid to Mercer, a consulting team, to provide oversight to the $79 million Alliance contract. It is an interesting concept to hire a contractor to oversee a contract, but, given that DOH didn't have the staff, there was no other option. At the peak of its staffing, Mercer had seventeen employees working on this project. Mercer received more than $164,000 in six months for transportation costs; where they were traveling is not specified. Subtracting these transportation costs leaves $1.5 million (roughly) for staffing costs. Mercer had an average of 7.86 staff people working on this contract for the year, or roughly $191,000 per staff member. (The math: 7.4 for 4 months, 12.9 for 8 months, 5.5/12 months = .46 7.4 + .46 = 7.86 FTEs, $1.5 million/7.86).

In the report, DOH says Mercer did a good job. However, the costs for the services are very high. DOH has tried to hire staff, but have had trouble getting them through the DC hiring process (a frequent complaint of many agencies.) The report is filled with other interesting information on what is happening with the new contract. As all who followed the DC General shutdown know, the lack of accountability at the PBC was a major problem. It is a good sign that the OIG completed and is making this report public.


Mimicry or Flattery
Richard Worthington-Rogers,

[Mark Eckenwiler wrote that the graphic design of Eugene Dewitt Kinlow's posters is remarkably similar to that on David Catania's.] Oh, gee, I didn't see any copyright symbol on Catania's signage. Maybe what you see as mimicry is really flattery.



Benefit Show at Historic Takoma Theater, October 12
Dodie Butler,

On October 12, at 8:00 p.m., the Lascivious Biddies, an all-girl quartet with unconventional arrangements of original compositions and standards that blur the lines among jazz, pop, and cabaret styles, will perform a benefit show at the Historic Takoma Theater, 4th and Butternut Streets, NW, one and a half blocks from the Takoma Metro Station. Listen to samples of the Biddies' songs at, Proceeds from the concert will go towards the renovation and operation of the Historic Takoma Theater.

The Takoma Theater was originally built in 1924 as a movie theater. It was owned and operated by Warner Brothers from 1935 until 1971, when it was purchased by William H. Wolowitz and leased to KB Theaters. In July 1983, Milton McGinty purchased the building and built out the stage to allow for live performances. The Takoma Theater is now being managed and run by the community through the Takoma Theater Arts Project (TTAP).


Traditional Appalachian Songs and Tales, October 12
Dorothy Marschak,

CHIME presents Traditional Songs and Tales from the old Appalachian Frontier with Ralph Lee Smith and Lea Coryell on Saturday, October 12, at Mount Pleasant Library, Lamont Street near 16th Street, NW, from 2-3 p.m. Ralph plays dulcimer and Lea plays banjo, including handmade and traditional instruments from the mountains. Their fascinating stories and old-time tunes, which the audience is invited to join in singing, bring to life the world of the early pioneers who settled in Appalachia and remained isolated for over a century, creating their own culture and world (until the world found them, out of which grew country and other forms of folk and pop music). Ralph has performed at the White House and other distinguished venues, and has published several books based on his own collection of music from the region. Lea’s latest CD was nominated for two Whammie awards.

This program is the third in CHIME’s 2002-2003 Music Around the World in Your Neighborhood series of twenty-two free programs for all ages at eleven libraries in all parts of the city, and marks the conclusion of its first unit comprising music having American roots. It will be followed with programs on music with Hispanic, Asian, African and European roots, respectively. The series is partially supported by grants from the Humanities Council of Washington and Friends of participating libraries. We still seek donations to make up the balance of the costs, including sponsors for taping for TV airing. For a complete schedule of the series and for more information about CHIME (Community Help In Music Education), including how to volunteer or donate, visit You can also contact us at or at 232-2731.


At Large Candidates Forum, October 22
Betty Ann Kane,

The March of Dimes National Capital Area Chapter invites you to attend a forum involving DC Council At-Large Member Candidates on Tuesday, October 22, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the C.M. Sharpe Health School, 4300 13th Street, NW. Moderator: Elliot Francis, Anchor, Good Morning Washington (WJLA-TV 7). Meet and talk with the candidates and participate in the question and answer session. For more information call or E-mail Dona Dei at 703-824-0111, ext. 14, or, or call Betty Ann Kane, consultant, 546-9062. The March of Dimes is a nonpartisan organization that does not support or oppose any candidate for pubic office or political party.



Donations Available
Maureen Flanagan,

Can anyone suggest organizations which might need a furnace or appliances? I have a working washing machine, dryer, two refrigerators, and electric stove and a gas boiler in excellent condition available for donation. Call 362-5544, fax 362-1108, or E-mail.


Written in Stone
Paul Williams,

Renovating neighbors! I'm researching and writing an article for Old House Journal magazine that deals with the removal of permastone or formstone. That's the fake stone-like material that one sees applied on many a brick or wooden townhouse here in DC; I would really like to talk to or E-mail people involved with the process of removing it, and especially photograph an upcoming removal-in-progress project for the magazine; likely for the cover! Anyone planning on doing this in the near future?


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