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November 27, 2002

The Turkey’s Death Rattle

Dear Pilgrims:

It's hard to sort through the obfuscations and denials to get the real news about the collapse of the Williams' healthcare plan, but it's available if you look. The trick is to ignore the news columns of the Washington Post, which are reliable only as a direct conduit for the administration's propaganda, and to read the real news in the Post's editorials. In the Washington Times, do the opposite. Skip the editorials on healthcare, which pull their punches, and read to the end of the news articles, where the serious analysis of the situation is given. Following that plan, here's what we've learned in the past two days. Greater Southeast has not been paying not just its suppliers and nurses, but also its doctors — and the only way for anyone to get paid there is to threaten to quit. The Chief Executive Officer of George Washington University Medical Center has written that, “The system for delivering critical and emergency care in the District is seriously strained,” and the CEO of MedStar Health, the parent corporation of Washington Hospital Center, has said, “This was an ill-conceived plan that has been mismanaged throughout the process. The burden on us has become overwhelming, and we can't continue to play this game. The whole thing is a tragedy.”

Tragedies don't have happy endings. This isn't a situation that is going to get better on its own if we look the other way, and it isn't something that the mayor can solve on his own, with another unilateral plan that he imposes on the city. Even if he had the power to steamroll the Council and citizens, he's not going to be able to bamboozle health care providers and the city's other hospitals a second time. This time around, the health care plan had better be a real one that has widespread consent.

In the meantime, have a happy Thanksgiving.

Gary Imhoff


Missing Lions
David Hunter,

Whatever happened to the beautiful copper lions on the Taft Bridge? I know they were used to make a mold for the cement ones now present. Does anybody know where and why the originals have disappeared? I remember them being stored in the 3rd Street tunnel or something to that effect about five years ago.


Reverting to Type
Dorothy Brizill,

During his tenure as Chief Financial Officer, Tony Williams would settle policy differences with the District's elected officials by turning to the Control Board and Capitol Hill for support. Williams would win his case in closed door meetings with the Board and federal lawmakers rather than resolve differences with Mayor Barry, the City Council, or DC residents. This practice continued after Williams was elected mayor, and was most prominently displayed in his decision to close DC General Hospital. The blind support he received from the Control Board allowed him to ignore the unanimous opposition of the City Council and the vocal objections of citizens. When the Control Board shut its doors in the fall of 2001, questions arose as to how Williams could continue to operate in this fashion. Would he now have to work with the Council and actually talk to citizens?

We now have the answer — nothing has changed. Williams, even with a Republican administration and Congress, can still rely on support from Capitol Hill and from the Bush White House. The bankruptcy of Doctors Community Healthcare Corporation and Greater Southeast Community Hospital has exposed the shaky underpinnings of Williams' health care plan, but the federal government is rushing to Williams' support. Williams is popular with Republicans and the Bush administration because he is a black Democrat who champions many Republican causes, including the privatization of governmental services. For the past year, Tom Scully, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the US Department of Health and Human Services, has been advising other cities to close their public hospitals and contract with private companies for hospital services, and he has been promoting Williams' plan as a great success. Now that Williams' plan has failed, Scully has ridden to the rescue with a temporary fix for Greater Southeast, giving the hospital a year's deferment from paying its federal debt and advancing it $3 million in outstanding Medicare claims that have not yet been actually approved (see But this is all the loose cash that Scully has at his disposal, and it won't suffice to float Greater Southeast for more than a month or two. Williams' current insistence that he can do anything he wants to restructure the HealthCare Alliance contract on his own, without the approval of the City Council, simply can't last once the money runs out.


Inaccurate Metro Map
Peggy Robin,

In the previous issue of themail, Gabe Fineman wrote about inaccuracies in the Department of Transportation's 1997 traffic volumes map of the Cleveland Park neighborhood. That reminded me of another inaccurate map of Cleveland Park that I recently noticed — in the Cleveland Park Metro station. I was down on the platform, waiting for a delayed train to arrive, and bored. I began studying the local area map in the lighted case. Although I think the map has been there with little change since the Metro station opened, for the first time I noticed two startling errors. The first is that a tiny, dead-end street, Ashley Terrace, that comes off of Highland Place, is shown as a through street connecting Highland Place and Newark Street to Ordway Street. (Perhaps that explains why so many drivers rush down Ashley Terrace as if they're on their way to someplace else, and then, finding themselves at a narrow dead-end, have to back out.) The second mistake is not actually a mapping mistake but a mislabeling: Sidwell Friends School on Wisconsin is identified as "Sidewalk Friends School."

I haven't written to the Metro Authority about either of these mistakes, mostly because I like the idea of having a school devoted to friendly sidewalks.


SUV Clarification
John Whiteside, johnwhiteside at earthlink dot net

To clarify my comments about the mayor's gas-guzzling ride: Ken Nellis is correct that it's unfair to accuse the mayor's driver of aggressive driving. My comment was more an observation about the typical SUV drivers I encounter daily on my DC to NoVA commute, who by and large do not seem to know how to drive their vehicles, and generally are generally among the most unskilled and clueless drivers on the road. I probably confused the point a bit by working that in to my comments.

E. James Lieberman hits the nail on the head: it's shameful for the mayor to use an enormous, inefficient vehicle for drive around town, while sticking DC residents with the bill. Not to mention setting a bad example. I lived in Massachusetts when our governor took the subway to the State House every morning (that was Mike Dukakis). I don't think it's asking too much for our mayor to suffer through being escorted around in a sensible midsize sedan. The message of contempt for citizens, other drivers, and the environment that his current vehicle sends is appalling. If anyone on the mayor's staff is reading this, I hope they'll consider switching to a normal car. And Mr. Lieberman is dead right about the wisdom of offering tax benefits to hybrid drivers.


Corrections Corrected
George S. LaRoche,

A couple corrections must be suggested for Mark Richards' own corrections (November 24 issue). The federal government “moved to Washington City” over a period of time, but the transition (or “translation,” as President Adams referred to it) can be broken down into three stages, according to the three branches of the government. All offices of the Administrative Branch were up and running in Washington City “and in not other place” (as several historians have said) as of June 15, 1800. The Congress actually took up official residence on the third Monday of November 1800 (which was a bit earlier than the date Congress set for itself in the Residence Act of 1790). And the Supreme Court first convened in Washington City on February 2, 1801.

But Mark's larger point is quite accurate. The entire area of the “federal territory” came under congressional sovereignty in December of 1791, meaning that it had been in one status for fifteen years and was in another from then on . . . although the ramifications of that status were not fully recognized or given fullest legal effect for another fourteen years.


The Road Not Taken
Peter McGee, Mt. Pleasant,

Two roads diverged in a valley wood. Sorry, I could not travel both, but being one traveler, long I stood, and looked down one and wished that I could. Keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. Trust yourself when all others doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too. Wait, and be not tired by waiting. When being lied about, don't deal in lies, or being hated, don't give way to hating.

With a tip of the hat to Robert Frost and Rudyard Kipling, and thanks to DCWatch for providing a strong public forum.


Newspeak in themail
John Whiteside, johnwhiteside at earthlink dot net

I chucked at Casey Lartique's announcement of a forum on “educational freedom” in themail. The Cato Institute folks are to be commended for their understanding of the power of language. The title of the forum made me wonder if there were some restrictions on sending one's kids to private school in the District of which I was unaware; I understood that we provide a public education system for all, and that everyone has the option of sending their children to private schools if they chose. Apparently the definition of "freedom" now includes having someone else pay the bill.

In all seriousness, the Cato Institute is notable for its intellectual rigor and thoughtful analysis of issues, which I respect though I find their assumptions are often flawed and thus their conclusions as well; I'm a little surprised to see them straying from their libertarian principles here.



Snipers and the Death Penalty, December 3
Susan Doran,

A panel discussion of “Exploiting the sniper tragedy — don't let politicians turn tragedy into a blank check to execute!” will be held at GWU's Marvin Center, 3rd Floor Amphitheater, 21st and H Streets, NW, near Foggy Bottom Metro, on Tuesday, December 3, at 7 p.m. Speakers include Shujaa Graham, former death row inmate; Johnny Barnes, Executive Director ACLU, National Capital Area; Robin Maher, Director American Bar Association, Death Penalty Representation Project; Jack Payden-Travers, Director Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; and Mike Stark, Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

As the region searches for answers to the horrible sniper shootings, politicians like Attorney General John Ashcroft and MD Governor-elect Bob Ehrlich are eager to use this tragedy to sell and expand the death penalty. Ashcroft quickly moved the sniper suspects, Gulf War veteran John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, to Virginia to ensure their quick execution; Ehrlich pledged to overturn Maryland's moratorium on executions and to lower the eligible age for the death penalty to 17. Join us for an indoor rally and show Ashcroft and Ehrlich that we won't let them turn back the clock! Sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. For more information E-mail us at


Community Corrections Facilities Siting Advisory Commission, December 5
Sheila White,

The Community Corrections Facilities Siting Advisory Commission is a seven-member committee, (four appointed by the Mayor and three by the Council) whose responsibility is to identify criteria that the city will use to locate pretrial, ex-offenders, and neighborhood halfway houses. The Commission will take testimony from the community concerning the community's interest in the process on Thursday, December 5, at One Judiciary Square, 1st Floor Conference Room (Old Council Chambers), 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.



Historical Society Needs Book Donations
Ryan Shepard,

The Historical Society of Washington, DC, is seeking donations for its fifth annual book sale. The sale will be held on 1/23/02 at the Heurich House (1307 New Hampshire Avenue, NW), with all proceeds benefiting the Society's research library. For more information, please leave a message at 785-2068 ex. 111, or E-mail me at the address above.



Robert Marvin,

Rich teak furniture from Burma. Exquisite antique British colonial cabinets. Must-be seen intricately carved wedding chest. Large and small lacquer boxes. Thai silk tapestries. 2004 11th Street, NW, Apt. 437, on December 7, 8, 14, and 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Be sure to check out our web site,, now with pictures. Come to the December 6 & 7 collection preview and sale of antique teak furniture, Thai silk, lacquer boxes and gift items. For more information, call 744-9351.


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