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November 6, 2002

A Kinder, Gentler themail

Dear Washingtonians:

As Stephen Sondheim's lyrics said in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Elections are over; tragedy tomorrow; comedy tonight.” Or something like that. In this issue we concentrate on the post mortems, mainly of how the elections were conducted — for the next issue, let's get back to life as we're living it. Comedy or tragedy, preferably comedy.

Gary Imhoff


Three Items
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

The DC economy: Stephen Fuller published an article in the Washington Post entitled, “Virginia Is for Tax Haters (and Other Regional Truisms),” About DC, Fuller wrote: “Instead of focusing on revenues generated by local businesses or residents, the council turned to non-residents and federal resources, with measures such as photo radar fines — most drivers who pay the fines are from Maryland — and higher taxes on real estate sales, paid in large part by people who are moving out of the city or who haven't moved in yet. Shifting the burden to non-local sources is consistent with the District's political culture, which maintains that the city is victimized by its status as host to the federal government. Because the majority of the electorate sees itself as disadvantaged, and projects a sense of entitlement to publicly provided services and facilities, the city leadership cannot undertake any significant effort to save money by cutting services and has few viable options for finding more money to support or maintain those services. The politically expedient answer — to minimize spending cuts while shifting the revenue burden to external sources or to those least likely to complain — avoids responsibility for paying the city's own bills, does not provide a comprehensive solution to the District's fiscal problems and will make next year's budget problems even more intractable. But it will leave the voters fairly content.” Fuller failed to acknowledge any inequities in the financial relationship between DC and the feds or the regional powers that sustain unfair policies that make DC less competitive.

Saving face: Native New-Yorker-turned-Washingtonian Gene Weingarten wrote a memo “To: Frank Rich, World Famous Cultural Critic, the New York Times” in Below the Beltway. He concluded, “Finally, I want to note how it is impossible to escape one's past. Your essay betrays some of your native Washington's least appealing rhetorical traits: windiness, whininess and intellectual dishonesty serving knee-jerk, hidebound forensics. At the same time, I admit that my essay betrays some of my native New York's least appealing rhetorical traits -- in the spirit of which, I hereby invite you to employ all the biting wit for which you are justifiably famous, and bite me.” Rich has made himself a new favorite target of Washingtonians — a good distraction in trying times.

DC coin design: Bob Levey polled Washington Post readers for suggestions for the back of the commemorative quarter for the District of Columbia and published “best of the bunch” here: Washington Post readers weren't more creative than Washington Times readers. The most important factor associated with local DC and its relationship to the world and nation is that it is the national capital — that's hard to ignore. One idea for the DC coin would be a simplified P. Charles L'Enfant Manuscript Plan of 1791, a well recognized map design, with the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers forming the “champagne glass” around Washington City. Maybe the history of DC or something could be encapsulated in a microchip in the coin. Or, if we want to get the nation's attention, we could embed radio frequency ID chips and track where the coins go. The EU is going to do this, see:


The Washington Post, Monday, November 4th
Budd Lane,

Except for the banner, there is no mention of the city on the front page of the Metro Section. Except for a fluff piece by a fluff master, in a small, very small, space at the bottom of the page, in small type, we are informed that a detailed guide of tomorrow's elections appeared in the previous Thursday's editions. This information is available on a web site.

Metro, page 2. In a small box, lower left, we get the lottery number.
Metro, page 3. Small box, lower left, “The District,” five small paragraphs about a building to reopen.
Metro, page 4. No city news.
Metro, page 5. Ditto.
Metro, pages 6 and 7. No one of note died here. Perhaps, to make the Post, one must be shot or at least exit in some exotic fashion.

Now, I must ask, how dare the Washington Post endorse candidates for offices it seems to have such little interest in. Perhaps with the Post only the outcome is important. What a “home town” paper. What a great service to this community.


Comparing General Elections
Dorothy Brizill,

The most interesting thing about yesterday's general election in DC is the voter turnout. Over the past three mayoral elections, the turnout of registered voters has dropped dramatically. In 1994, with 361,890 registered voters, 186,316 ballots were cast, for a 51.5 percent turnout. In 1998, out of 353,503 voters, 141,977 ballots were cast, for a 40.2 percent turnout. But this year, voter turnout fell to approximately 34.96 percent; with 363,211 registered voters, only 126,964 ballots were cast. In fairness, the 2002 count does not yet include absentee ballots, which have not yet been counted. The Board of Elections will certify final election returns on November 20.

In 1998 and 2002, the same Democratic and Republican candidates ran for Mayor. Anthony Williams was a fresh face in electoral politics in 1998, but got 66 percent of the vote in the general election against Carol Schwartz's 30 percent (92,504 to 42,280). In 2002, Williams had all the power of incumbency and Schwartz entered the race reluctantly in its last six weeks, but Williams's percentage of support fell to 60.59 percent and Schwartz's rose to 34.51 percent (76,074 to 43,327). Linda Cropp's support fell only slightly; in 1998 she got 91 percent against Joseph Romanow's 8 percent (117,938 to 9,784); in 2002 she got 88.4 percent against 10.86 percent for Statehood-Green party candidate Debby Hanrahan (105,191 to 12,928). And support for both of the two winning at-large councilmembers rose: Phil Mendelson got 37 percent in 1998 and 47.08 percent in 2002 (71,799 and 86,023); David Catania got 21 percent in 1998 and 26.97 percent in 2002 (40,200 and 49,280). In 1998, the third largest vote for an at-large councilmember candidate was 15 percent, or 28,615 votes, for Hilda Mason; in 2002, it was 9.16 percent, or 16,755, for Eugene Kinlow. Further information on Tuesday's election returns is available at the Board of Elections web site at


Those Were the Days, My Friend
Mark David Richards, Dupont East,

Republicans last controlled the Presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives 48 years ago, from 1953-54, when DC was ruled by three commissioners appointed by the President and was home to the Washington Senators baseball team. A consumer survey conducted by the Washington Star in 1951 reported that 90 percent of residents regularly purchased white bread — 28.4 percent preferred Wonder Bread. Sixty percent had an electric washing machine — 56 percent of which were wringers, 17 percent spinners, and 27 percent fully automatic. Fifty-five percent said they were renters, of whom 73 percent paid under $75 in rent. Fifty percent said they owned a television, and 2 percent had air conditioning. Dwight Eisenhower was President and he supported Home Rule for DC. His appointed commissioner said the District, with its increasing urban problems, was a mess to try to govern. Times were changing. In 1953, Republican and Democratic clubs admitted African American members and the DC Recreation Board opened its first interracial outdoor swimming pool. In 1954, in Bolling v. Sharpe, the Supreme Court held that racial segregation in the DC public schools was a denial of due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. The political establishment was ready and desegregated immediately, setting an example for the nation.

That was a long time ago. But one thing hasn't changed: DC residents are still more directly affected by the decisions of other Americans than any other group in the nation, and it's all out of our control. We still watch from the sidelines as citizens of states elect federal officials to send to Washington to make national decisions and to decide how to spend federal tax dollars. We speculate about how these officials will impact our lives. And we try to guess who will be our next overseers/masters on the Congressional committees, and what they might do. We lost a moderate Republican friend in Rep. Connie Morella, but we didn't gain a Democratic majority in the House to compensate — will her replacement be as gentle? Will they hail from Virginia or Florida? For the next two years, one thing is fairly certain: it will be harder to remove nasty mandates and riders that members of Congress add to our local budget. And forget about having Congress do anything about DC voting rights, much less statehood (even President Clinton and the Democratic Senate and House passed on that topic). Maybe DC can negotiate another financial relationship with the federal government -- both The Washington Times and The Washington Post support this. Maybe renegotiate DC's share of WMATA and WASA. Maybe. But we need to set our sights on states and cities, to use this time to educate and inform and press for a solution to our disenfranchised status in preparation for when the Congressional makeup is move favorable.


Why I Voted for Williams
Rene Wallis, DC Primary Care Association,

I have often thought of sending an E-mail on why I will vote for Williams, but it seems like talking to the already saved. I deeply respect your right to vote for Carol, but sometimes, as a Williams supporter, it seems as though I would be considered stupid for supporting Williams. Here's why I support him:

1) I had totally given up on the DC government during the Barry years, and had completely checked out of the political process. I am deeply engaged again. Williams has restored participatory democracy to the city. 2) He had the political courage to close DC General, and get rid of the PBC, which was a decision that has cost him a lot. Many people still vehemently disagree with him on this decision. He believed it was the right thing to do, and he did it, against all opposition. I agreed with his decision, as sad, painful, and distressful as it was. The PBC was a management nightmare that was completely unaccountable for its action. Even criticizing the PBC was political suicide in DC. The new system has problems, many problems, but at least I am free to criticize it (and I do, frequently) which means there is hope. 3) My house has increased more than $100,000 since Williams has been in office. Right now, that is my single biggest retirement security, and while I am deeply concerned about affordable housing, I would be a liar not to acknowledge the personal security provided by my house's increasing value. 4) The swimming pool where I take my neighbor kids, the Harry Thomas Rec Center, was cleaned up. It is a pleasure and a delight to go there. 5) My alley is cleaner. 6) Williams expanded health care insurance to immigrant children, adults ages 50-64, and people infected with HIV/AIDS, three very vulnerable communities. 7) I can get information (yeah, with some serious work still) from the William's administration. 8) I believe that my time and effort as a political reformer are going to make a difference.

This is too late for the actual election, I know, but at least perhaps you will understand why some of us, while acknowledging Williams has had ethical lapses, made mistakes, has chosen some poor agency leaders, honor what he has achieved.


Election Day Thoughts
Matt Carter, Glover Park,

First off, I checked the DCBOEE web site Monday night to see when polls opened, and found it to be a complete joke. The site was very difficult to navigate, and much of the information was very out of date (instructions on voting used the old punch card ballot, for example) and the seemingly basic piece of information I needed (polling hours) was nowhere to be found.

So this morning I went to my brand new polling place, which has been moved from the community center to the International Union of Operating Engineers. Now, I realize this is an overwhelmingly Democratic town, and I vote either statehood or democratic, but I can't help but wonder how my neighborhood's Republicans feel about voting at a union. The line/process didn't seem any better or worse than it was at the Guy Mason rec center, so I'm not sure what the purpose of the move was.

Also, at least for Precinct 11, the secret ballot seems to have disappeared. Everyone was handed one of the new stage prop sized ballots and nothing to hold it in, so the walk from the voting cubicle to the ballot box was done with a marked up ballot for all to see. I'd blame it on the strange hugeness of the ballot, but we were given folders to hold them in for the primary election. At least the folks running the election taped off a perimeter around the ballot box so you couldn't stare over a voter's shoulder while they were putting their ballot in the box. I only hope that somebody screwed up and there were not ballot folders at my precinct this morning, and that this isn't the new procedure.


John Whiteside, johnwhiteside at earthlink dot net

This was my first time using the new voting system — since I'm registered as an independent, I didn't vote in the primary. Overall it seemed to work well. The ballots are easy to understand, the poll workers were helpful as always (how about a round of thanks for those who do this work on election day!). The only snag was that the machine at my polling place (Metropolitan Baptist Church in Logan Circle) wasn't working; I dropped my ballot into a slot in what looked like the base of the machine.

There were some concerns during the primary about poll workers seeing peoples' ballots; the poll worker this morning made a point of having me drop the ballot in while she was behind the machine, so she couldn't see it. Now to just wait for the results.


Absentee Ballots
Gloria Mobley,

I related to the story about absentee ballots in the most recent issue of themail. The DC Board of Elections has done much to discourage my now 21-year-old daughter from exercising her civic responsibility. When a child turns 15 1/2, most teens beg, plead, etc., with their parent to get their learner's permit. My experience was different. My daughter couldn't wait until she was 18 and could vote. It has taken three years for her to her registration card, despite numerous requests. (She recently received a second card in the mail, I suspect in response to a long ago request that is just being reviewed.) As of yesterday, she still had not received her absentee ballot at her mailing address in Rhode Island where she is attending college.

As a result of the BOEE's inefficiency, she missed voting in her first presidential election, one where she was prepared to fly home to cast her vote because she was so excited. She's missed the other elections in the city, including this year's. It's hard to encourage young adults to get involved when those who have the responsibility to don't live up to it. For the past eleven years, she's carefully planned how to run for public office and give back to others. Now she is disillusioned. Thank you very much BOEE. It's unfortunate that no one looked at how the BOEE operated in addition to the Williams campaign ballot petitions. It is getting harder and harder to explain adult behavior these days!


Being Absent
E. James Lieberman,

I expected to be away from DC on Nov. 5 so requested an absentee ballot on the Internet. It came after about ten days, on about November 1. I learned only then that being a “senior” justifies getting an absentee ballot; you don't have to be away or sick.

The ballot is printed on light cardboard, and must be mailed back in two envelopes. The outer one has a reminder that it requires first class postage. My scale suggested it was just over an ounce; at the post office that was confirmed: .37 + .23 = .60. I wonder how many folks are going to get their ballots returned for extra postage. And I wonder why it was necessary to print them on such heavy stock.


The Ballot Arrives
William Singer,

Like Jonathan Tannenwald, I became anxious when November began and I hadn't received the absentee ballot I had requested. Finally, on the Saturday before the election, I discovered in my box a piece of Official Election Mail postmarked October 25. My guess is that it was bogged down in the college mailroom for a couple of days, but now my ballot is on its way back to Washington, where I can only hope it will be counted and then discarded into an appropriate recycling bin.


Major Misinformation
Mark Jenkins,

Ed T. Barron rhetorically asks, “Is there a major city in the world where the subway system shuts down at midnight?” Well, let's see. Tokyo, London, Hong Kong, Paris, Moscow, Rome, Toronto, Osaka, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Taipei — should I go on? In fact, nearly all the world's urban rail transit systems close for the night sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. Metro's 2 a.m. closing on Friday and Saturday is a boon that many city-dwellers around the globe might envy.

As for Barron's notion that a city must have a 24-hour subway system to qualify for a major-league baseball team, that would contract the majors to three cities: New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Until recently, “major league” Baltimore didn't even have a seven-day-a-week service on its one rapid-rail line. Sunday service began on Sept. 2, 2001.



Help the Children of the World, November 9
Vivian Henderson,

Join the Women's International Religious Fellowship at their annual bazaar, Saturday, November 9 in the Fellowship Hall of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, 4606 16th Street, NW, to purchase around the world items, view entertainment, and purchase around the world foods. Donations of $2.00 per person accepted at the door. For more information, call 882-5914.


BRAT Meeting, November 12
Jacque Patterson,

The District is firmly committed to ensuring meaningful community involvement in its redevelopment efforts. To this end, the Brownfields Program has partnered with the Brownfields Redevelopment Action Team (BRAT) to provide a quarterly forum for the discussion and coordination of brownfields redevelopment in the District and in the region. The BRAT is a true public-private partnership that brings CDCs, civic associations, developers, policy makers, community activists, environmentalists, and scholars together to collaborate on efforts to revitalize the District's land resources. The next BRAT meeting is scheduled for November 12, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., 825 N. Capitol Street, NE, 4th Floor. Issues on the agenda are brownfield tax incentives, loans for clean up, site assessments application, and the brownfields job training and development program. If you plan to attend this meeting or have any questions, please contact Jacque Patterson at 442-8984/


Meyer Flea Market, November 16
Dana Patton,

Meyer Elementary School, located at 2501 11th Street, NW, will be holding their first-ever Meyer Flea Market on Saturday, November 16. Furniture, clothing, books, dishes, and other household items will be on sale from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The proceeds from this sale will be used to support programs for the children at Meyer School. Any unsold items will be donated to the Salvation Army for other families in need during the holidays. Donations for the sale are welcome between now and November 15. Please contact Betsy Scotto-Lavino at 673-7259 with any questions.


Jane Austen for Dinner, November 19
Pat Bitondo,

Mary McGrory and Linda Wertheimer, extraordinary and distinguished individuals in their respective fields, will be guests at The Woman's National Democratic Club on Tuesday, November 19, beginning at 7:00 p.m. The cost is $19.50. This is a tax-deductible event with proceeds going to assist with a project at Neval Thomas School. McGrory, a syndicated columnist, and Wertheimer, Senior National Correspondent for National Public Radio, will take us far from the world of news to share their interest and devotion to a woman of another time, Jane Austen.

In 1975, Mary McGrory received the Pulitzer prize for "trenchant commentary" spread over more than twenty years as a reporter and columnist in the Nation's capitol. She received the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award for freedom of speech in 1995 and the Fourth Estate Award in 1998 from the National Press Club. In 2001, the Washington Post gave her its highest honor, the Eugene Meyer Award. Linda Wertheimer joined National Public Radio at its inception and served as the first director of All Things Considered, beginning in 1971. If you would like to join other Jane Austen Society fans as well as just Jane Austen lovers, make your reservation; call Pat Fitzgerald at 232-7363. The Club House is located at 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, at Dupont Circle Metro.



Helen M. Hagerty,

I'm looking for a used alto saxophone in reasonable shape for an 11 year old. Please call or E-mail Helen at 625-6381 or



Delbe Home Services
John Whiteside, johnwhiteside at earthlink dot net

A few months ago, someone from themail recommended Delbe Home Services to me for handyman-type work. I can't find the E-mail and I can't remember who it was! Can you drop me a line? I'd like to let them know you referred me.


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