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April 16, 2003

Ethical Boundaries

Dear Ethicists:

I know that national issues are beyond themail's purview, but if I didn't write the following item I'd just be commenting on Craig Timberg's article on the mayor (“A Hundred Days and Few Successes,” and on the Post's editorial remarks on the article (“The Mayor's 100 Days,” They speak eloquently for themselves, and besides you can already guess what I'd say about them.

Last night, Dorothy and I attended a reception for Columbia University alumni. (Dorothy attended graduate school there.) The event was the introduction of the new president of Columbia, Lee C. Bollinger. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who got her LL.B. from Columbia University Law School, was a featured guest at the event, and sat in the front row for Bollinger's address.

Bollinger took the occasion to promote his position in favor of affirmative action. I found two things about this event interesting. First, Bollinger had at least two obvious applause lines in the affirmative action section of his speech, but, by my observation at least, only about a third of the audience applauded either time. (I couldn't see Justice Ginsburg to determine if she applauded or abstained.) Second, given that the University of Michigan affirmative action case, Gratz v. Bollinger, is currently under consideration by the Supreme Court, does anyone else find it unseemly either that Bollinger would take this occasion to address a Supreme Court Justice about it, or that a sitting Supreme Court Justice would attend an event to honor the defendant in a case that she is currently deciding? Since Bollinger is the former Dean of the University of Michigan Law School who is the named defendant in the Michigan case, and since the case hinges on actions that Bollinger personally took, ordered, or approved of, does anyone else think that either person's behavior went beyond unseemly to unethical?

Gary Imhoff


No Water
Bill Adler,

Last Saturday, the DC Water and Sewer Authority turned off water to several hundred, possibly thousands, of households without warning for over twelve hours, as part of a scheduled maintenance project. Here's what happened. On Friday night, around 11 p.m., many Cleveland Park residents were surprised to find that they had no water. Calls to DC WASA revealed that crews were working in the neighborhood to repair a valve. DC WASA promised that water would be turned back on in a few hours, definitely by morning. But by the next morning, water was not back on. And it stayed off until after 12 noon on Sunday. Trying to get through to DCWSA by phone on Saturday morning was possible only if you were willing to be on hold for over a half hour, because hundreds of irate residents were simultaneously calling to find out whey they had no water. DC WASA's customer service personal were polite, apologizing for the "inconvenience."

After multiple calls, I was able to piece together what happened, and here's the tale. DC WASA was repairing a valve on the 3200 block of Macomb Street. DCWSA dutifully notified some residents in advance that their water was going to be turned off from about 12 midnight Friday until 8 a.m. the following Saturday. (The water outage lasted not until 8 a.m., but until after 12 p.m.) But DC WASA didn't know that by shutting off this valve they were also going to turn off the water to hundreds or thousands of other homes and apartments. Was it sheer ignorance on the part of DC WASA that they didn't know which blocks were going to be affected by turning off a valve on Macomb Street? Or was it a bureaucratic snafu and somebody simply forgot to notify a few hundred or thousand DC residents that they weren't going to have water for over twelve hours? Either way, it is simply outrageous and inexcusable for this to have happened.

A postscript: a couple months ago, we were notified that our water would be turned off for about six hours, from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m., during dinner time, as crews worked in the neighborhood. On that occasion, neighbors had an opportunity to stock up on water and make other plans, but repair crews never appeared and the water was never turned off. DCWSA never told neighbors that the scheduled maintenance had been canceled.


DCMR and DC Register Online and Volunteers Needed
Dorothy Brizill,

Everyone interested in DC government needs access to three major documents: the DC Code, the DC Municipal Regulations, and the DC Register. The Code has been available online for years, with a gap of several months when it changed publishers. Its address is At a meeting last year with Suzanne Peck, the city's Chief Technology Officer, Ms. Peck asked Gary and me what our wish list would be for the government web site. At the top of our list were publishing the DCMR (the Municipal Regulations), and the DC Register (the city's equivalent to the Federal Register). They are expensive and bulky, and the copies at the Public Libraries are frequently outdated, missing, or in tatters. Over the past year, Ms. Peck worked with the Office of the Secretary to put the DCMR and the DC Register online.

Starting with the April 18 issue, the DC Register is available in Adobe PDF format. This week, the first few titles of the DCMR have been put online, and eighteen out of the thirty titles should be available in the next few weeks. The Register and DCMR are posted at The Office of the Secretary currently has one staffer working to update and correct the remaining titles so that they can be posted over the next few months. It is seeking volunteers to provide assistance with these titles to compile, edit, and update them with the outstanding amendments so that they can be posted. Volunteers will work directly under the supervision of the Director of the Office of Documents and Administrative Issuances and may use equipment and facilities provided by that office. Interested persons should contact Arnold Finlayson at 727-7882 or by fax at 727-6042.


Consultants in the DCPS Budget
Erich Martel, Wilson High School,

There is an item in the DCPS budget that should provoke concern, since it consumes a great deal of money: the excessive money spent on high priced consultants, as noted in the April 10th Washington Post [Justin Blum, “Consultant's Higher Pay Decried,”]. This should not be allowed to continue unless documented and detailed justification is provided.

I understand that there are quite a few consultants in the central office. Their functions must be seriously questioned.

What the Washington Post did not address, but must be asked very forcefully, is this: why are we paying a Chief Financial Officer approximately $125,000 a year, if he doesn't know how to do his job? Why was he hired to do a job he doesn't know how to do? The person described in the Washington Post article is called a consultant. Consultants assist, explain, and train the people they are consulting. The person described in the article was hired to do a job no one else seems to know how to do. He “consults,” i.e., does a job no one else is doing. Why hasn't he trained a team of people and delegated the responsibilities to those he has trained, so that he can gradually pull back and be called upon to . . . to “consult” when needed? If the people under the CFO are incapable of learning how to do that job, why are they still there?

The Board of Education and Superintendent need to provide the public with a detailed list of every consultant, including all details in their contracts pertaining to hiring by DCPS, such as job description; description of the objective standards for knowing if they are doing their jobs; how to know when they have completed their contacts; pay rate; length of time on the DCPS payroll; supervising DCPS officer he/she reports to. Then there needs to be an explanation by the School Board or Superintendent why they have appointed people to top level positions who need consultants because they don't know how to do their jobs. If existing staff members are incapable of doing the jobs assigned to them, are they being trained to do them? If they cannot do the jobs they are hired for, why are they there?


DC Emancipation Day
Mark David Richards, Dupont East,

Today is DC Emancipation Day, the day on which 3,100 slaves owned by citizens of the District of Columbia were emancipated by Congressional act signed by President Lincoln on April 16, 1862. According to historian Constance McLaughlin Green (Washington: A History of the Capital 1800-1950), “The act ensured owners compensation [Note: $300 at most for each slave] and included a provision for colonizing freedmen outside the United States; nobody put faith in the colonization plan.” Green wrote that most DC white residents agreed that “no one would regret the end of slavery in the District” but, “While the bill was under debate, District householders, fearful of the timing, fought the main proposal with petitions and memorials, published letters and newspaper editorials. Mayor Wallach and the majority of Washington's councilmen besought Congress to delay legislation which at this 'critical juncture in our national affairs' would convert the city, 'located as it is [sic] between two slaveholding states, into an asylum for free negroes. . . .” The Star and the Intelligencer supported gradual emancipation. Congress overrode DC officials, bringing great joy to enslaved people across the nation.

According to data from the US Census, in 1860 there were 10,983 black residents in Washington City (18 percent of the total population), of whom 9,209 were free and 1,774 were enslaved. By 1870, the black population of Washington City was 35,392 (32 percent). Green wrote, “The repeal of municipal black codes followed within a matter of weeks, thereby opening up new opportunities to enterprising Negroes. Colored men could now engage in any kind of business and several who had patrons on the Hill obtained government clerkships.” Emancipation Day was celebrated yearly with parades and events until the around 1900. In recent years, Loretta Carter Hanes has worked to bring back the commemorative tradition. Throughout this week, there have been programs reflecting on emancipation. Today, the Stand Up for Democracy in DC Coalition held a commemoration with a reenactment of the breaking of the chains, songs, and testimonials on Freedom Plaza — “First Freed, Last Free.” Last year, Howard University Press published First Freed: Washington, DC, in the Emancipation Era, a book edited by Professor Elizabeth Clark-Lewis. Also visit The Historical Society of Washington, DC:


Oppose School Vouchers for DC Children
Melody R. Webb,

Some members of Congress have too much free time on their hands, enough to run local DC. Between February 11 and April 11 of this year, Rep Jeff Flake has been busy gaining supporters for his voucher legislation, which purportedly would give poor children a better shot at a good education in DC. Delegate Norton today in the Washington Times states that the people of DC have spoken on the issue of choice by choosing charter schools, rather than vouchers. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison expends energy, time, and political capital on capping special ed fees for attorneys. Mr. Flake is steadily gaining support, now at 40 cosponsors. See more on this at But, don't the voters of Arizona and Texas have something to say about what their representatives are spending their valuable time on? As a DCPS parent, graduate, and reformer, I am working to get other parents (regardless of their position on vouchers) and supporters of legislative autonomy to tell Congressional constituents that their Congressmen are cheating on them — tending to a political mistress called local Washington, DC.

At we give DC residents the opportunity to write to Arizona newspapers (Sen. Hutchison's Texas is coming next week) to tell his Arizona constituents through Arizona newspapers that Mr. Flake is two-timing them. In the letter that you E-mail from Lobbyline, you can remind Arizonans that Arizona governor Janet Napolitano thinks that Mr. Flake is one of the AZ congressman failing to tend to his constituents. Gov. Napolitano is so convinced that Mr. Flake and company are neglecting Arizonans that she is planning to set up an office in Washington to lobby for AZ in light of Mr. Flake's failure to do the job. Mr. Flake, by the way, is thought by some in the more conservative wing of the Republican party to be a prospective challenge to Senator John McCain when his seat is up. Read more on this at At, Arizona residents can send an E-mail to Rep. Flake and call his cheating chops back home; Arizona residents can tell Mr. Flake to leave DC schools and DC alone, and to spend his time on them. They can urge him to support voting rights initiatives and to close the door to Congressional intermeddling in DC affairs by Mr. Flake and the rest of Congress. Arizonans can basically tell Rep. Flake to tend to his own flock in Arizona. Join us at Lobbyline in identifying other members whose constituents need to know what they are up to, join us to spread the word to Arizona that their Congressman is a cheat.


Taxpayers Are Fodder of Untoward Scoundrels
Okonkwo Auten,

Mayor Williams's major campaign contributor, Mr. Jeffrey Thompson, owner of DC Chartered Health Plan, received $22 million dollars for continued management of the broken and dysfunctional computer network at DC DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), and UDC (the University of the District of Columbia), and also $11 million dollars to regulate access to the DC government's and his "privately owned" DC Chartered Health Plan patient and account records. This is a substantial conflict of interest by Mayor Williams and Mr. Thompson! Clearly, DC taxpayers loose valuable services when DC computers don't work properly. Additionally, a $2 million dollar federal grant (for DC General Hospital) surreptitiously disappeared and turned up in Mr. Thompson's pocket. i.e.: The same major contributor of the Mayor.

It appears that the Mayor has an uncanny ability to find, employ, and protect other scoundrels like: the previous fire chief, Gwendolyn Hemphill, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, his previous advisor/Chief of Staff Mark Jones (who just happened to illegally operate up to seven fraudulent nonprofits directly from the Mayor's offices), and Norm Neverson. Mr. Neverson is the DC Democratic State Party Chairman. It is reported that at the Party meetings, Mr. Neverson oversees vulgarity, insult, and slanderous "N-word" descriptions of his members’ views of themselves. Mr. Neverson is at home in this dysfunctional environment of untoward scoundrels.

Mr. Neverson narrowly lost a close Council race in 1984, later to be brought down in his 1998 Ward 4 controversy while supporting Mayor Anthony Williams. Here again voter fraud included harassment. Oddly enough, Mr. Neverson publicly continues his support of (soon to be charged, certain to be convicted of accused money laundering and forgery) the DC Teacher's Union’s Gwendolyn Hemphill, who also oversaw substantial forgeries of documents and signatures for Mayor Anthony Williams. Mr. Neverson has publicly stated, “He would have voted for the 'three-fifths compromise,'” [the constitutional clause decreeing that slaves counted as three-fifths of a person]! It should be of no surprise that DC's Democratic Party supports dishonesty, deceit, and untoward scoundrels who personally profit financially while east-of-the-park schools are without, books, paper, and pens.


Tax Parity Act of 1999
Mark Eckenwiler,

In the last issue, Warren Gorlick inquired about the recent lowering of the DC property tax rate for apartment buildings. In brief, the source of this change is neither mysterious nor obscure: the Council enacted the Class 2 rate reduction as part of broad package with the rather disingenuous name Tax Parity Act of 1999. Jack Evans was the primary author of and cheerleader for this legislation. For a good summary, see the documents (taken directly from DC's website a few years ago) on my website at and

Note that these historical documents are no longer completely accurate, inasmuch as a) the reductions in income tax rates have been frozen in light of budget shortfalls and b) the old Class 5 (vacant and abandoned property) tax rate was reinstated last year under a new “Class 3” label. See


Answers to DC Government Questions
Joy Marie,

[Reply to Lyla Winter, themail, April 13]: Yes, Lyla, there was a time when the streets of the District of Columbia were clean and safe; when children went to public schools, had books, and were actually educated; when the government was efficient and services were delivered. Cronyism, incompetence, greed, and indifference were not the order of the day.

When, you ask? When the federal government had total jurisdiction over the city, and residents were not allowed to elect officials by voting.


Some People Won’t, Not Don’t, Get the Point
Brian Vogel, vogelbp at mail dot com

It appears that John Whiteside is not the only person who gets the point, and that Adam Eidinger and Nora Bawa don't just miss it, they lob it aside. Snarling rush hour (or any other hour, for that matter) traffic is not going to persuade anyone to a position they don't espouse; in fact, it's likely to do the opposite. That isn't just Mr. Whiteside's assessment, either. I will offer the following URLs from The Hook, a Charlottesville, VA, alternative paper, to illustrate how widely Mr. Whiteside's position is shared: and (Links likely to expire by April 18.)

Those who would attempt to change opinion using the tactics that have been discussed here do so at the peril of their own objectives.


Sweetness and Light
Ron Linton,

[Responding to Gary Imhoff's posting in themail, April 13]: Regarding sweetness and light and music, I agree, but all it means is that we are getting old.


Sweetness and Light II
Tolu Tolu,

As a Native Washingtonian, what I hoped for I now hate: the mayor's office and the for-life DC City Council. The quality of my life here has gone down to the point that I am looking to move out of DC for life. I should have left long ago. It has and continues to cost too much to live here. Costs includes over regulation, poor education (and even the educated (teachers) do not know how to protect themselves), only two major health insurance companies with individual plans, a worthless police department, “extortion's by fines and taxes” to cover current and future DC government waste, and an ignorant and dangerous judge ruling in the DC Probate Court. I'm tied of typing!


Naomi J. Monk,

It is good to have differences of opinions. Differences of opinion can serve to make better decisions about issues. The idea is to work together on positive endeavors in a respectful manner to improve the quality of life for DC residents and visitors. The issue before us presently is DC Metropolitan Police services to the public, which includes the 911 system. When I addressed police services I emphasized being a part of the solution by engaging in positive endeavors to improve police services. Like any other organization, the Metropolitan Police has individuals who work for them that are accountable and responsible as well as those who are not. This is a given.

Resolving service issues that have been allowed to fester for decades takes time and numerous individuals and creative methods to resolve. I believe that Chief Charles Ramsey has improved the police services greatly during his six years tenure in DC. I believe that DC needs to keep his dedication to high police service standards so, that there is continuity as the police service improves in future years. I for example find it rewarding to spend numerous hours working with the Metropolitan Police and other affiliates to improve police services. I will be happy for you to come to a monthly Police Service Area (PSA) or a Citizen's Advisory Council (CAC) meeting so that I can address the many positive things that I do to improve police services. I would be happy to hear what you are doing as well in being an active participant in the solutions towards better police services.



CHIME Presents “The Making of an Opera” with Betty Byrne, April 19
Dorothy Marschak,

On April 19, at 2 p.m., at Petworth Library, Georgia Avenue and Upshur Street, NW, learn how an opera is put together: the drama behind the footlights! What does it take to bring together an orchestra, a chorus, dancers and the star singers in a production, together with the sets, lighting, costumes and box office? Washington Opera Docent Betty Byrne will reveal all in this program, illustrated with video clips from actual productions. Ms. Byrne has developed and presented programs on opera to thousands of area students. She is a member of the Washington Opera Guild Board and is the Opera Representative to the Kennedy Center. For directions to the library call 541-6300. For more information about the program or CHIME (Community Help In Music Education):;; or call 232-2731.

Save the dates for the last three CHIME programs this season: April 26: Klezmer music at Juanita Thornton/Shepherd Park Library; May 3: Afro-Cuban folkloric rumba at Mt. Pleasant Library; and May 10, dance music of Scotland at Washington Highlands Library.


DC WASA Public Meetings, April 22 and following
Libby Lawson,

You're invited to a community meeting to discuss capital and service improvements, and proposed rate increases. Please attend one of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority meetings listed below. There will also be a public hearing on May 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 777 North Capitol Street, NE. For information or to testify, please call 787-2330.

Meetings on Tuesday, April 22, 6:30 p.m., Anacostia Library, 1800 Good Hope Road, SE; Wednesday, April 23, 6:30 p.m., Shepherd Park Library, 7420 Georgia Avenue, NW; Monday, May 5, 6:30 p.m., Washington Center for Aging Services, 2801 18th Street, NE; Wednesday, May 7, 6:30 p.m., Southwest Library, 920 Wesley Place, SW.


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