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October 27, 2002

Lightning Strikes Again

Dear Lightning Rods:

There are just two more issues of themail before the general election, so you need to hurry if you want to support your candidate or cause. If you don't raise the flag, how do you expect others to salute it? I also want to point you to one additional posting, a reply by the Apartment and Office Building Association to Debby Hanrahan's message in themail a week ago. The reply is so long it doesn't begin to fit in this issue, so I've put it on the web site as a supplement:

Gary Imhoff


Ed T. Barron’s Mixed Emotions
Mark L. Sibley,

Trouble deciding for whom to vote? If you are really undecided, something I would find surprising for most readers of themail, I would ask you a few questions: 1) Do you want a mayor who is obsessed with his own self-promotion and self-image rather than someone who sincerely cares about making the city the best place it can be? 2) Do you want a Mayor who would purposely deceive you in order to make himself look better than other candidates? Do you really want someone who quit his job as CFO in order to run for the office and then said at forums around the city that his wife had to be the breadwinner for the family since he had no income, which was a hardship he was willing to bear in order to serve you? Do you want a Mayor who while claiming this high moral ground was secretly receiving $30,000 from Arthur Anderson Company and other monies from NationsBank and illegally not reporting it?

3) Do you want a Mayor whose office, under the guise that money was needed for children's programs, pressured District businesses and others who held contracts with his government to give over a million dollars to non-profits the Mayor had set up and controlled and then took this money and used it to fund parties and events to enhance the Mayor’s image? 4) Do you want a Mayor who, when agencies aren’t performing as promised, lowers the standards to make it look as if things are improving? 5) Do you want a Mayor who, wanting to impress everyone, demanded that his campaign turn in 10,000 signatures to get his name on the ballot, only when he fell about 8,765 signatures short, turned in thousands upon thousands of forgeries and signatures gathered through illegal means? Do you want a Mayor who, while he may not have been personally involved with the initial forgeries, spent over $300,000 in legal fees trying to defend them and benefit from the fraud, and when it was decided that he would not be able to benefit from the illegal activity referred to the decision as “lawless”?

If so, Anthony Williams should be your choice for mayor.


Another Vote Against Williams
Clyde Howard,

If you tried to make a fast buck by using the various and sundry methods of the Mayor and those around him, you would find yourself knee deep in a court of law trying to stay out of jail. Who says that politics don't pay? What amazes me is that those who are obligated to hold up the law can call themselves attorneys for the people. If I didn't know any better it would appear that the Mafia is still in business buying friends and influencing those in the legal community to stay out of trouble — a deal they could not refuse. Will we ever see an honest administration that will work for the people and uphold the integrity of the office of Mayor? Must we continue to be the yum yum tree for all to pluck the berries of wealth for themselves and friends? Will we ever have the opportunity as a population to turn down the pork barrels that seem to reward the movers and shakers of back room deals for the city? This election is a prime example of how we as citizens allow the corruption of the city to continue, because we vote blindly for a Democratic slate without giving any thought to the consequences of our past vote that put a person in the Mayor's office who does not have the interest of the general population at heart. Take a look at what is happening with the projects around the city and ask yourselves the question, “What has happened to the people who use to live there?” You can bet your sweet bippy they are not living in the nice beautiful town houses that have replaced their former homes. This Mayor has no conscience about displacing us to make way for the elite and well to do. He is hell bent to make over this city to the liking of the powerful and mighty.

My advise to those who want to vote for the one person that has brought no meaningful change to his or her neighborhood and is seeking a second term, please vote instead for the person that is for the common folks and not for the elite and well-to-do.


Where’s the Beef?
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Carol Schwartz and Tony Williams went face-to-face in a debate arranged by American and Howard Universities and broadcast on PBS this past Wednesday. Carol cleaned Tony Williams' clock in the debate, especially when it came to the deal Williams tried to push through with Doug Jemal paying $12M for property worth about half that amount. The most interesting comment from Mayor Williams was his description of the vision that he has for DC. His vision is that all DC children should get a good education in the DC public schools. That is a great vision since a viable education of DC kids will ultimately, over the long term, solve most of the District's major problems — poverty, joblessness, and street crime. Unfortunately Williams' vision is just that, a dream. To make that dream a reality you have to add the beef.

The only way to make a dream come true is to back that dream up with solid near term and long term plans. Behind that vision there must be a realistic mission statement. Then to accomplish the mission there must be a series of time-oriented measurable goals. When the mission statement and goals for the top level of the DC government are in place, cross-functional teams comprised of persons from lower level organizations, who will really make things happen, must be formed. Each of these teams will tackle one or more of the top level goals and have their own mission statement and supporting goals. This is not rocket science. It is a proven process that works. When all the lower level goals are met and the cross functional teams accomplish their mission, then the top level goals will be met. When all the top level goals are met, the top level mission is accomplished and the vision/dream will be realized. Accomplishing the Williams' vision will take years of dedicated effort, but the results will justify the cost. Add the beef, Tony.


Democrats for Carol Schwartz
Robert Andrew Fason,

We would like to thank the more than two hundred District of Columbia Democrats registering to support Councilmember Carol Schwartz for Mayor. While many of us support the November Democratic Team except for Mayor Tony Williams, we believe Carol is bigger than politics, and her election would force the conservative DC Democratic State Committee, controlled by Northern Virginia corporations and developers, to become more progressive on issues of concern to DC Democrats such as education, affordable health care, reducing youth crime, and ending the push out of longtime District residents out of our city. These are issues that Carol has been aggressive and progressive on. If you are a DC Democrat and believe Carol Schwartz should be our next Mayor, volunteer by joining Democrats for Schwartz for Mayor. Isn't it time for integrity?


New Reports on DC’s Financial Situation as National Capital
Mark David Richards, Dupont East,

The Brookings Institution released a new report supporting the argument that the federal government imposes costs on DC for which it should compensate. Here is their abstract of “A Sound Fiscal Footing for the Nation's Capital: A Federal Responsibility:” “Great nations support great capital cities, but the United States has neglected Washington, DC. This paper, co-authored by Carol O'Cleireacain and Alice M. Rivlin, proposes that the federal government support the District of Columbia by making a predictable annual contribution to the city's budget. The paper examines the arguments for such a payment, including the fiscal handicaps imposed on the District by its capital-city status and the fact that it is a city without a state. It explores alternative forms the contribution might take and ways taxpayers can be assured the money is well spent without impairing the ability of District citizens to govern themselves.” Here is a link to the full report:

The report adds important information to the discussion. For example, it states that “The budget for elementary and secondary education further illustrates the problem of 'statelessness.' The District is a unified school district, responsible for a public education system, without the state help typically available to big-city school districts. By average national norms, the absence of state aid, conservatively estimated, costs the District's schools between $200 and $285 million annually. Meanwhile, both Maryland and Virginia provide their school districts with substantial state aid that varies with the wealth of the district. The Baltimore City School District, for example, relies much more heavily on the State of Maryland and the federal government for its resources than do the richer Maryland suburbs. In FY2001, Baltimore's schools received 59 percent of their operating fund revenue from the state and 15 percent from the federal government. In stark contrast, Washington, DC, without a state to support its school district, relies on local taxpayers for more than three-quarters of its public school resources, compared to Baltimore's local tax support of only 24 percent. The difference between Baltimore's local share and Washington's amounted to $340 million to the District in FY2001.”

The report also points out that the District provides 88 percent of the total local government support to Metro, and, since DC has two of six votes on the WMATA governing board, “it is unlikely that the District can win any change in the formula to redistribute this excessive burden without the help of the federal government.” The Washington Times published an editorial on Oct. 26, arguing that, “A new economic-policy relationship with the federal government is certainly in order. The federal government is a burden — a welcome burden, but a burden nonetheless -- on the city when it does not pay its fair share.” A Government Accounting Office (GAO) report released last month argued that DC benefits from the federal presence, it does have state-like types of revenues, and it believes there could be cost savings through management efficiencies, by reassessing current policies, and by restructuring key programs. It cited a 2002 McKinsey & Company, Inc. study would concluded that DC could achieve about $110 to $160 in cost savings in the areas of health, human services, education, and transportation. GAO concluded that “Presently, insufficient data or analysis exist to discern whether or to what extent the District is, in fact, facing a fiscal structural imbalance. . . . Congress would benefit from more systematic information . . . We currently have ongoing work in this area and plan to issue a future report with a more comprehensive analysis. . . .”


The Elected DA
Lars Hydle,

While I like the idea of a locally elected District Attorney, I wish that the election for that office were nonpartisan, like the Board of Education and Advisory Neighborhood Commission elections, rather than partisan like the Mayor, Council, Delegate, and shadow Senators and Representative elections.

Is justice partisan, with a Democratic District Attorney giving the unions a free pass, while a Republican DA would let corporate evildoers off with a slap on the wrist? Could a partisan DA be truly independent in the face of a partisan censure? I would hope that the office would be nonpartisan, perhaps with a first round of voting during the party primaries, and a final round in November between the two leading candidates, if no one had received a majority.


Advocacy for Referendum A
Peter Wolff,

[Gary Imhoff] wrote, “Advocates of Advisory Referendum A, which calls for a local elected District Attorney, are basing their argument entirely on local pride and home rule.” I (and, by extension, my InTowner newspaper) am one of a large number of advocates for Referendum A, yet I bypassed the “local pride and home rule” pitch instead to stress the following notion in the editorial that appears at page 3 of my October issue:

“We need a prosecutor's office that will cover the entire range of law enforcement. . . . We need an office that will give attention to municipal corruption, nonprofit institutions and their proper charitable responsibilities, consumer protection, and lots more. We have virtually none of those issues assigned for in-depth attention under the present system; the US Attorney's Office is just too focused on its traditional federal responsibilities. . . .”


Endorse Elected DA
Al Hatcher,

Arthur H. Jackson, Chairman of Empower the People and a potential candidate for Mayor in 2004 has announced his support of Referendum A, which would establish an elected District Attorney for the District of Columbia. Jackson. a former Maryland Councilman released the following statement, "We cannot depend on the corrupt and sold out Williams Administration to challenge corruption and influence buying, when this is the very root of its reelection funding source. Our city has been sold out to any wealthy contractor or real estate developer with a fat check book, willing to donate to the Mayor's campaign.

“An elected District Attorney, which will be independent and committed to prosecuting white collar criminals in our city government using their positions for personal gains or profits, contractors buying access to contracts, and Mayors violating city laws. A vote for Referendum A would help clean up a city government full of fraud, abuse, and influence panhandling. Which can only end when the 60 percent of the city voters who did not vote on September 10, get out and vote out the present Mayor and his political cronies.”

On November 5, 2002 let's restore integrity and accountability to DC Government. Vote yes on Referendum A and no to reelecting Mayor Tony Williams.


More Master Business License Questions
Lorraine Swerdloff,

I have a full-time job, but recently started doing some freelance web and graphic design work at my home in the District for which I could earn more than $2,000 this year. Do I need to obtain the new Master Business License and along with that go through the Home Occupancy Permit procedure? Anything else?

[The answer is that, as the law stands, you do have to get the Master Business License and Home Occupancy Permit. The Master Business License itself isn't about raising money, since the cost of the license will barely cover the cost of issuing it. But the MBL will give the city expansive new power to regulate and control many activities that the government has no rational reason, and otherwise has no excuse, to regulate. You will have to get a city license and permit to be a graphic designer, or a sculptor, or a writer, or to mow lawns or deliver newspapers or rent out your English basement. In June, the City Council very quietly passed emergency legislation to exempt churches from the bill (and last week held a hearing to make the exemption for churches permanent), but the rest of us don't have the political influence to get ourselves out from under this law's oppressive reach. — Gary Imhoff]


Commemorative Quarter Dollar for DC in 2009
Mark David Richards, Dupont East,

HR 4005 — To provide for a circulating quarter dollar coin program to commemorate the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and for other purposes — was received in the Senate on October 8. The bill requires that each of the six designs be selected by the Secretary of the Treasury after consultation with “the chief executive of the District of Columbia or the territory being commemorated, or such other officials or group as the chief executive officer of the District of Columbia or the territory may designate for such purpose; and the Commission of Fine Arts.” The bill stipulates that, “Because it is important that the Nation's coinage and currency bear dignified designs of which the citizens of the United States can be proud, the Secretary shall not select any frivolous or inappropriate design for any quarter dollar minted under this subsection" and "No head and shoulders portrait or bust of any person, living or dead, and no portrait of a living person may be included in the design of any quarter dollar under this subsection.”

John McCaslin, the Washington Times Inside the Beltway columnist, invited readers to submit ideas, published on Oct. 23 and 24. Following are some of the suggestions: “Politician sticking up a taxpayer,” “Georgetown manhole cover,” “A turkey,” “Two laughing politicians shoveling piles of money off a cliff,” “The US Capitol, and in the foreground — clearly discernible — pigs lounging by a trough,” “A giant vacuum sucking cash and coin across the land,” “A jail cell,” “The Washington Monument sinking into a pothole,” “A pig nursing its dependent young,” “A large hot-air balloon,” “Donkey on the tail side, elephant on the head side,” “A toilet with a stream of dollars flowing into it,” “A traffic camera,” “A parking meter,” “A parking ticket,” “Tow truck and Denver boot,” “A huge traffic jam,” “A regular quarter cut in half and worth only 12 cents, to represent the government taking our self-determined share of our money.”


Tax Exempt Municipal Bonds, Open Letter to Phil Mendelson
Sol Shalit,

Dear Phil: As Board member of the Foggy Bottom Association and as one who has been writing and testifying on District issues, I was quite surprised to learn that you — of all Councilmembers — were a strong supporter of lifting the Tax Exemption on non-District municipals. Your comparisons with other municipalities is misguided and irrelevant since the District finances are unique — and not for the better. This is not the place to get into details, but it is a terribly bad idea for a number of reasons, the most important of which are that this hurts middle class residents, all retirees, and encourages (not immediately, though) migration out of the District. The haste with which this was passed — unsurprising when (deceptively) flying under the banner of “sock the rich” — does not inspire much confidence. While it may seem a good way of raising money quickly with few political consequences, it is actually a very bad idea which the Council would live to regret. Most people are not even aware of it, and when they do learn of it you can expect a groundswell of outrage.

I urge you to do the utmost to reinstate the exemption in the interest of the District, and not lend your hand to render it even more unattractive to taxpayers by adding yet another impediment.


Bikes in themail
Kirsten Sherk, U Street NW,

As a bicycling commuter, I feel compelled to respond to Mr. Berry's post, but only sort of. Maybe I'm naive, but I think we'd be a lot less suicidal if we felt like there was actually a place for us on the road. When I ride those few streets with a bike lane, I stay in that lane. When I'm faced with roads without bike lanes, where traffic doesn't allow me to fit in, I'm more likely to dodge in and out of traffic. So my answer is more bike lines! And also, watch that passenger side when you turn right. Even if you were on a street with a bike lane, that bike would still be passing you on the right.

Now, my gripe: several weeks ago, I was riding home from Whole Foods up 15th Street, NW, between P and U. Big street which is pretty quiet on weekends. As I'm biking up with grocery bags on my handle bars, a patrol car pulls up next to me. I assumed that he was going to rightfully bust me for my dangerous portage style. Au contraire! He told me that I was “riding too far over in the lane,” and blocking traffic. I was riding smack in the center of the far lane so cars would see me and not hit me. There was no parking lane and no bike lane. Furthermore, it's not against the law. I told him so too, but he didn't believe me. After harassing me for several minutes he declined to give me a traffic ticket and drove off. I left a message with our local district headquarters, so maybe someone's set him straight by now, but it really burned my buttons that the cops don't even know what the laws are regarding bikes. (By the way, I have since acquired paniers to carry my groceries in!)


I Hope Someone Else is Asking These Questions
David Sobelsohn, dsobelsoatcapaccessdotorg

I'm a lifelong opponent of the death penalty. But these snipers got me to reconsider. They're about as evil and dangerous as humans can get. We're well rid of them. Execution's too good for them.

Then I starting thinking. Since the September murder in Montgomery, Alabama, law-enforcement officials have had a fingerprint, and the fingerprint has been in the INS electronic database. That's how the murderers were caught. But why did it take a tip from one of the murderers himself before law-enforcement officials ran a check on the Alabama fingerprint? There was already an unsolved murder in Montgomery. They already had a fingerprint. What were the folks in Alabama waiting for? If they'd checked the fingerprint soon after the Montgomery murder, could they have caught these men at the beginning of October and prevented the DC-area murders? Perhaps Alabama will claim limited law-enforcement resources delayed their investigation. But if that's so, why is Alabama now eager to spend two million dollars (the average cost according to several studies) to execute these murderers instead of locking them up for life without parole and using that money to help prevent future murders? Clearly, the prospect of the death penalty didn't stop them. Spending the money to track them down after their first killing might've stopped them.


Lightning Strikes! Again!
Nick Keenan, Shaw, nbk at

Paul Williams wrote last week about how his painful personal experience is that being hit by lightning is much more likely than most people believe. Paul should know — in July 2001 he was struck and nearly killed on his sailboat, and it was the second time he had been hit. But there is more to the story that even Paul doesn't know. I sold the boat to Paul, and I have also been hit twice by lightning (mildly — “shocked” is probably the most accurate way to describe it), and my second time was on the boat as well. In addition, I had never met Paul before I sold him the boat, but several days before he was hit he moved in next door to me. So is it less likely to have two people living next door to each other, each having been struck twice by lightning, or to have two people living next door to each other, each having been struck by lightning on the same boat but in separate incidents? The chain of coincidence reaches out to each one of you, because Paul bought the boat through a classified in themail. What are the odds of being a member of a discussion group that has two members who have each been struck twice by lightning? Probably better than you think!



Part-time Secretarial Help Wanted
Sid Booth,

Temple Micah, a synagogue located on Wisconsin Avenue between Fulton and Garfield Streets, NW, is seeking a part-time (15 hours per week) administrative assistant. Computer knowledge, Word Perfect or Word, a must. Please fax resume to 342-9179 or E-mail to



1996 Chrysler Sebring
Guido Bolanos,

Very urgent. In order to help a person in need, it is a must to sell his car. For anyone interested in buying a Chrysler Sebring 1996 convertible at only $7,500, this could be a chance to help him. This guy, a respectable journalist in our community, has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and is not able to work anymore. Contact


Antique Couch, 1960’s Dining Table and Chairs
Lynne Mersfelder,

Charming antique couch (long and low) light purple velvet; good condition, fabric on one side is faded, $500. 1965, "mod" 54" round white modern table with six chairs with dark gray cushions (four side and two armchairs), chairs swivel 360 degrees. Saarinen Tulip style knockoff with laminate (Formica?) top on white metal base. I always imagine the Jetsons eating here. Good to very good condition, $500 or best offer (valued at $800-900). E-mail for more scoop or if eager, call for details. Can provide digital photos on request. Call Lynne 257-1730 or E-mail Can deliver in DC area.



Casio Graphics Scientific Calculator
Melissa Booth,

I have an 8 year old Casio fx 7500G Graphics Scientific Calculator. I could not get it to turn on, but I checked the batteries and they were dead. Basically, I would like to give this away to someone who has a use for a super fancy graphing calculator and can give it a good home. I also have two manuals for it. Please E-mail Melissa at



Bancroft Knitting Program
Peg Blechman,

Help us continue the Knitting Program at Bancroft Elementary, a District of Columbia Public School in Mount Pleasant, as part of the after school program! This is the fourth year that the Knitting Program has been sponsored by the Potomac Craftsmens Guild, and the kids love it. This year teachers from Capital Crocheters and Knitters will be working with the students in grades 2-5 in the after school program on Monday afternoons. If you would like to support this program, please send your tax deductible donation to the Potomac Craftsmens Guild, Inc., Attn: Gayle Roehm, Treasurer, 8028 Fenway Road, Bethesda, MD 20817.


Educational Software Needed
Phil Shapiro,

I'm helping a family in Anacostia that has a donated G3 Power Mac computer. The 9-year-old son in this family, Moses, has been in hospital a lot the past few years and has fallen far behind in his academics. His donated computer is his one hope of catching up to his peers. I checked out the computer yesterday and it is in great working condition. So I'm on the lookout for donated Macintosh educational software for this child and his siblings. Moses' mom tells me his math is fairly good, but he needs a lot of help with reading. If you happen to know any Macintosh-using families whose children have outgrown their elementary-level software, I can stop by to pick up the software for Moses. (I'll drive anywhere in the DC area.) For those of you who might want to assist in other ways, via “micro-philanthropy,” I'm accepting small monetary donations via PayPal to buy software for Moses. PayPal is a free service that lets you send funds via E-mail to anyone who has an E-mail address. It's possible to transfer even a dollar or two via PayPal. If you do send a small donation, kindly indicate in the subject of your E-mail: “For Moses.” You can trust me to buy the software for him. (See



Letters about Literature 2003
Patricia Pasqual,

DC students have a chance to showcase their writing skills and win prizes by writing a letter to their favorite author. They must explain how the author's work changed their view of the world or themselves. The deadline for this year's Letters about Literature is December 7, 2002. Last year DC students wrote prize winning letters to a wide variety of authors such as Judy Blume for her still popular It’s Not the End of the World, and to Sean Covey for his The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Prize winning essays came from all across the city including the School Without Walls, Blessed Sacrament, the National Presbyterian School and Benjamin Banneker High School. The contest has three competition levels, each with its own books-change-lives theme: Level I for young readers in grades 4-6, Level II for young adult readers in grades 7 and 8, and Level III for readers in grades 9-12.

Letters about Literature is a national project of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress and the Weekly Reader Corporation. DC Center for the Book at the District of Columbia Public Library is the local sponsor for the contest and has recruited a number of partners to assist with this effort. Borders Books and Music has been the major sponsor for the project since 2000 and hosts the awards ceremony. The Junior League of Washington also provides support and assistance. Awards will be announced in April 2003. To receive this year’s contest guidelines and the teacher’s supplement contact Patricia Pasqual, 727-2313, or Or visit the Library of Congress web site at A list of last year’s local winners is posted on the DC Center for the Book site,



Looking for a Rummage Sale
Linda Bumbalo,

I am looking for a church or school rummage sale to which I can give clothing, household items, etc. Does anyone know of one occurring in the next few weeks and when and where one makes donations to it? Thanks.


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