Hard-Boiled Eggs for Easter
Dear Hard-Boiled Readers:
It's a short Easter issue of themail, so I'll ramble on longer than
usual. For the past eight months, small gangs of children in Columbia
Heights have been breaking house and car windows, causing tens of
thousands of dollars of damage. Today, three of those children who have
been breaking windows in the southern part of Columbia Heights broke the
back windshield and driver's side window in our car, parked in the
driveway in our side yard. Dorothy saw them, watched them run, and
traced them back to the house where they live, where she saw them
sitting on their front porch. We called the 911 emergency number, and
told the dispatcher what had happened and that we knew where the
children were; the operator said she would dispatch the first available
car. An hour later, after no officer had arrived, Dorothy called 911
again and demanded to speak with a supervisor. She was told that no car
had ever been dispatched because our complaint was classified as a minor
property crime. When the police cars arrived fifteen or twenty minutes
after the second call, Dorothy took the responding officer to the
children's house, and the children admitted that they had broken our car
windows. The officer insisted that we try to work something out with the
children's parents so that no crime report would have to be filed. We
said that the children breaking windows in the neighborhood had been
getting away with it for months without being caught, that the kids knew
that they could get away with it, and if nothing happened even after
they had been caught and identified they would learn that they could
continue with no consequences. We asked to speak to the officer's
supervisor. The Sergeant, when he arrived at the scene, also tried to
talk us out of proceeding. (They were young children; Dorothy couldn't
testify that she had witnessed the actual blows against both windows;
the children's confessions couldn't be used in court; we'd just have to
get involved in a lengthy community diversion process; and so on.)
Finally, after much argument and although the Sergeant dismissed us
angrily, we received a promise that an incident report would be filed,
but goodness knows what that report will say and how much good it will
This is just one small example, multiplied hundreds of times every
week, of the way that the Metropolitan Police Department runs after
several years of Chief Charles Ramsey's management. This is the
performance that pleases Mayor Williams so much. This is the why
citizens are driven to despair and eventually driven to leave the city.
“I'm just tired of everything in this city being a hassle,” Dorothy
said to me this afternoon. “Maybe we should sell out and move.” Yep,
I know how she feels.
Thomas Ruffin, Jr., and Horace Bradshaw, Jr., have filed a class
action lawsuit over the way that DC runs its red-light camera program.
(There was a brief article about the lawsuit in the Washington Post
on Wednesday, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42302-2003Apr16.html
(scroll down to the bottom), and a longer article in the Washington
The lawsuit was also mentioned in Adrienne Washington's column, http://www.washtimes.com/metro/20030418-15590035.htm,
and in an editorial in Friday's Times, http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20030418-84984039.htm.
As soon as we get a copy of the lawsuit, we'll post it on DCWatch.com.)
George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr commented on this
lawsuit in the popular weblog The Volokh Conspiracy, http://volokh.blogspot.com/:
“I took a look at this issue back in August 2001 when the DC traffic
camera law was first enacted. At first blush, the law certainly struck
me as constitutionally suspect, and I was all set to make a big stink
about the issue. Then I read some of the relevant cases. It turns out
that the DC Court of Appeals has held that traffic violations in the
District of Columbia are civil violations, not criminal violations. The
difference gives the government much more flexibility, and makes
challenging the traffic law very much of an uphill climb. Not completely
impossible, but an uphill climb.” If Kerr is correct, then any relief
will have to come from the City Council, and that won't happen. If the
City Council has a choice between our constitutional rights and the
city's profits, then write off any possibility that the City Council
will do the right thing.
Everyone who wrote disagreed with my discomfort at Justice Ginsburg's
attendance at an event honoring Lee Bollinger, who is the named
defendant in the affirmative action case now being heard by the Supreme
Court. Let me propose a thought experiment. Let's say that Justice
Ginsburg had attended an event honoring Barry Black, the Ku Klux Klan
member who was the named defendant in Virginia v. Black, the recent
cross-burning case decided by the Supreme Court, and that Black had used
the occasion to argue his position before her. Would those who wrote
approve of that? If not, why not? Because they disapprove of Black and
his actions? If so, then doesn't attending the Bollinger event indicate
approval of Bollinger and his actions, and signal Justice Ginsburg's
bias in the case?
It’s a nice Easter gift. There are high school students threatening
locals in Georgetown after school. We have out-of-control kids getting
out of school on our streets and the city does nothing to control them.
In February I complained to the mayor's office and on Easter Sunday I
get a call back. In April. Not action but a call back. It takes two
months to get even a phone call out of MPD. A Sgt. Griffin promised to
stay in touch, or maybe to do something.
My city in action. The funniest thing about this is the solution to
the problem is simply to station a cop on the corner. That’s probably
the oldest police action known.
My tax dollars at work. Where is Officer Krupke when you need him?
Neighborhoods and Police
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Thursday, the Greater Washington Research Program at the
Brookings Institution held a roundtable forum on “Revitalizing
Washington's Neighborhoods.” At the forum, Alice Rivlin released a new
study she wrote for Brookings, “Revitalizing Washington's
Neighborhoods: A Vision Takes Shape” (http://www.brookings.edu/es/urban/gwrp/publinks/2003/rivlinrevitalizing.htm).
This report is essentially a reformulation of a study that Rivlin and
Carol O'Cleireacain did for Brookings in June 2001, “Envisioning a
Future Washington” (http://www.brookings.edu/es/urban/gwrp/dcfuture.htm).
In conducting the research for the report, Rivlin and her staff at
Brookings relied almost exclusively on information provided by District
government officials, particularly by the Office of Planning, and they
did not attempt to meet with neighborhood groups or residents or to do
any independent analysis. Compounding the problem of planning for
neighborhoods without neighborhood input, no civic or community leaders
or representatives of neighborhoods were invited to the Brookings forum.
Instead the invited audience consisted of representatives of government,
business, foundations, community development corporations, developers,
universities, hospitals, and other large institutions.
Also at the forum, Mayor Williams announced “Neighborhood 10: Ten
Strategies for a Stronger Washington,” which are supposed to be “ten
key strategies designed to form a comprehensive and collaborative
approach for strengthening District neighborhoods.” These ten
strategies turned out to be a repackaging and rehashing of already
existing governmental program initiatives, with no new elements except
for the title “Neighborhood 10.” Meanwhile, there was no mention of
public safety as an integral part of revitalizing neighborhoods and
attracting 100,000 new residents to the District over the next decade.
Over the past week, Mayor Williams has criticized Councilmember Kathy
Patterson and the Council Judiciary Committee for trimming the sizable
budget increase for the Metropolitan Police Department in his proposed
FY 2004 budget. For months, Williams has been maintaining that crime is
down in the District of Columbia. His newfound interest in increasing
the number of officers in the MPD to 3,800 comes as news is finally
filtering out that the District is well on its way to recapturing its
title as murder capital of the United States (see “District's Homicide
Rate on the Rise,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58533-2003Apr19.html).
Williams seems to be having some success in his cynical ploy to blame
the Council for “understaffing” the police force. For the past
several years, the Council has repeatedly adopted budgets for MPD that
called for 3,800 sworn officers. Chief Ramsey and Mayor Williams have
not attempted to recruit these additional officers, and have instead
diverted the funds intended for additional staffing to other uses. At
3,600 sworn officers, the District's ratio of officers to residents,
631/100,000, is already twice as high as any other state, and well above
the level of any other city (New York City's ratio is second at
513/100,000, and Philadelphia's is third at 481/100,000.) This year, the
Council cut the personnel budget to reflect the level that Ramsey and
Williams have maintained for several years and reprogramed the money to
pay for salary increases that the administration had already negotiated
and promised to officers, and that the administration did not intend to
honor. As a result, Mayor Williams has taken political advantage by
attacking the Councilmembers as soft on crime.
The City’s Web Site, or the Mayor’s Web Site?
John Whiteside, johnwhiteside at earthlink dot net
I assume that the city web site, http://www.washingtondc.gov,
is maintained by the city and paid for by our tax dollars. Thus, I was
quite surprised to find a press release there today that was basically a
political statement by the mayor (http://www.washingtondc.gov/mayor/news/release.asp?cp=1&id=483).
I expect the Mayor's statements to reflect his point of view, but a
press release calling for citizens to lobby their city councilors to
support the mayor's position on a budget matter? This seems to cross a
line to me. Especially with quotes like this: “'Don't forget,' added
the Mayor, 'that these are the same councilmembers who complain that
spending is out of control and services aren't improving fast enough.
Yet here they are ramping up salaries across the board, rather than
investing in public safety.'”
It reminds me of when I lived in Virginia and DMV mailings would
include a flyer on “Governor Jim Gilmore's Car Tax Rollback.” Slimy.
He Don’t Want to Run Nothin’ But His Mouth
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
With apologies to a former mayor of DC who used those words to
describe the effectiveness of Jesse Jackson, I bring that quote back
because it is timely. It is timely to think of that very quote with
regard to our current mayor, Tony Williams. The Mayor came out strong
with a laundry list of things he would have the DC government working on
in his second term. I seem to remember that the improvement of our
schools was high up on that list. That gave me some hope.
My comments, at that time, indicated that this was the right time for
tough reforming of a dilapidated and dysfunctional school system that
was ineffective in delivering education to most of the kids in DC. So,
where's the beef? Where is the action that follows up the big talk?
There's still three years left, Mr. Mayor. Anything good you do now will
put something positive on a very iffy resume' to date.
Dialing for Dullards
Mark Eckenwiler, email@example.com
Last fall, a telemarketer called my house at 5:24 a.m., an hour at
which I had the unthinkable audacity to be sleeping quietly. Because
space limits in themail preclude reciting here the complete tale, I have
put together a web page describing how I thereafter identified and
successfully sued the perpetrator for a substantial sum of money. The
page includes extensive information on DC Small Claims Court, the DC and
federal laws under which telemarketers may be sued by private citizens,
and methods for hunting down and identifying elusive telemarketing
Anyone in DC who has suffered at the hands of telemarketers —
approximately 97.6 percent of the population, I estimate conservatively
— may have a use for http://www.panix.com/~eck/telemarket.html.
Realism Strikes Home
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
Peggy Cooper Cafritz, president of the DC School Board, is under fire
for her change in position on school vouchers. She has “evolved” her
stance on vouchers as a result of the realism that the DC School System
cannot be reformed in her lifetime. Ms Cafritz crafted an incredibly
good blueprint a few months ago on how to rework the DC Public School
System to make it effective and efficient. Recognizing now that the
School Board does not have the power to implement that blueprint, Ms.
Cafritz is willing to accept that it is better to agree to any offers
that will result in improving the education of some of DC's kids.
Tax Parity Act of 1999
Warren Gorlick, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the prior issue, Mark Eckenwiler provided helpful links to web
sites that explain the details of the 1999 Tax Parity Act that led a
reduction of the property tax for apartment building owners from
$1.54/100 in assessed valuation, to only $.96/100 of assessed valuation.
The bottom line is that, while commercial landlords received a windfall
reduction in the property taxes that they paid through full
implementation of the 1999 Tax Parity Act, the parts of the Tax Parity
Act that apply to individuals, particularly the reduction in the DC
income tax, were "suspended" (see E-mail below) last year on
the grounds that there were insufficient funds, and Mayor Williams has
now proposed an increase in the income tax that would apply to all
singles or couples earning over $100,000. One has to wonder why the
Council and the Mayor still seem so willing to increase taxes on
residents (through higher property tax assessments and the Mayor's
proposed income tax increases), but seem quite happy to drastically
reduce taxes for landlords. I am also forwarding below an E-mail from
Councilman Patterson, that was forwarded to me by someone who had read
my earlier postings, that sheds further light on the Tax Parity Act.
Councilman Patterson's E-mail follows:
“In 1998, the DC Tax Revision Commission recommended establishing
a single tax rate for residential property, for purposes of equity and
administrative simplicity. At the time, the District taxed
owner-occupied (Class 1) real property at $0.96 per $100 of assessed
value, with a separate tax (Class 2) for renter-occupied residential
property of $1.54 per $100 of assessed value. As a result of the Tax
Parity Act of 1999, Class 2 was gradually phased out over a three-year
period ending on October 1, 2001, and all residential real property is
now taxed at $0.96 per $100 of assessed value. The homestead exemption
still ensures a lower property tax rate for owner-occupied properties
by exempting the first $30,000 from the tax and there is an additional
exemption of 50 percent available to senior citizens.
“The Tax Parity Act of 1999 also includes phased reductions
(suspended in midstream due to the District's fiscal crisis) in the
individual income tax, the commercial real property tax, and in
business franchise taxes. Taxes eliminated by the District include the
Arena Tax (charged to businesses) and the sales tax on snack foods
(which was difficult to administer given the fine line between what is
and is not a 'snack').”
Buddy Yingling, Western Avenue, email@example.com
I want to thank Dorothy Brizill for letting themail readers know
about the availability of the DCMR online (at least partially). Now,
what are we all going to do about the fact the DC government wants to
charge for access to it? I believe it should be available for free and I
am going to let the Mayor and Council know about my view.
[The DCMR comes in a free version without search capability and a
paid subscription version that can be searched. But Mr. Yingling's
position is a good one. The Amlegal web site is not adding any
proprietary information to the municipal regulations: it has no
additional research, citations, or explications. Why should citizens
have to pay for online access to their city's legal documents? — Gary
Edward Cowan, Friendship Heights, firstname.lastname@example.org
I think you are looking too hard for unseemly or unethical behavior.
I certainly don't fault Columbia President Lee Bollinger for talking to
a group of Columbia alumni gathered in Washington about a topic that is
germane to university life, and on which his position is well known. One
could argue that Justice Ginsberg should have stayed away from this
event because of the pendancy of the Michigan case, but I would not
argue that. She knows Bollinger's position, having read the briefs and
heard the oral argument. To argue that she could not go to this public
event — not an ex parte communication — would require one to
go on to say that she may not read or view news accounts of the
arguments before the court or of any speech that Bolinger (or any party)
makes on this subject. All of which would be absurd.
I have every confidence that Justice Ginsberg was not influenced
unduly by what she heard at the Washington meeting of Columbia alumni.
Peter Luger, lugerpj at georgetown dot educational
I think our moderator should stick to his own rule and not comment on
non-local related issues. I doubt Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could be
unduly influenced (or duly influenced) by attending the Bollinger event.
For one, she probably already knows how she is going to vote on the
affirmative action issue. Second, if she and Bollinger are already well
acquainted and quite possibly friends, whatever influence he might have
is already a done deal. Third, what does she have to gain by allowing
herself to be influenced? Isn't that the issue of ethics in politics . .
. being influenced for gain? I would make the same defense for all of
the Justices, a number of whom I can't stand. Even during the 2000
Presidential Election debacle, one could argue that they wimped out or
towed the party line instead of looking at the law, but I don't think
any of them were unduly influenced by anyone in particular nor did they
act unethically due to some influence. That's the beauty of our Supreme
Court . . . it's fairly well insulated from this nonsense so perfected
by Mayor Williams. To compare Justice Ginsburg to him is an insult.
Bill McColl, University of Michigan ’86, email@example.com
Why should Lee Bollinger shy away from the tough issues of the day,
particularly those in which he's deeply involved?? He's the President of
an ivy-league university; he should have something worth saying about
this. If there happens to be a Supreme Court Justice present, well,
that's just his good luck. I'm sure there's not a gag order on the
parties. I imagine that there are probably more than a few events at
which Justice Department officials speak before Supreme Court Justices.
Of course, Justice seems to be afraid to talk about their opinion.
Per Ginsburg, there is some tension in what is and is not appropriate
for Supreme Court Justices. A recent book about William Douglas (about
which I've only read reviews) seems to indicate that there is a standard
of behavior that Justices need to meet to retain the respect of the
nation. However, this isn't an ex parte conversation and Supreme Court
justices aren't the triers of fact (which is why we sequester juries).
Truly, they aren't supposed to be in some kind of insulated bubble. In
fact, one of the major criticisms of this court is that they are highly
intellectual and seem to have no sense whatsoever about the humanity
behind the rulings that they issue (a critique made best by Baltimore
Sun Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston, whom I got to talk to a
couple of times while in law school). From the opposite side, Justice
Rehnquist has spoken out quite a bit about a number of issues of the
day, as have Scalia and others. Most recently, Justice Kennedy spoke
about mandatory minimum sentencing issues and the shame of prison
systems reaching two million inmates. Undoubtedly he will hear mandatory
minimum cases in the future (incidentally this may be the only issue
which I agree with him on). If they can speak out, why can't they
Finally, it is interesting that some DC-based Columbia alumni,
judging by your applause line comment, are either disinterested in or
opposed to certain forms of affirmative action. A striking contrast from
the passionate affirmative action supporters who demonstrated at the
Supreme Court during oral arguments. Perhaps that's something worth
contemplating. Finally, of course it might just be delivery -- I've
heard Bollinger speak before and I can well imagine people not realizing
that he's reading an applause line. Anyway, he's a good guy and I hope
Columbia Alums'll give him a shot.
DC Voting Rights Day Rally and the Post Office
Annie McCormick, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Thursday, April 17, I received in the USPS mail a postcard which
stated that the DC Voting Rights Day Rally, sponsored by DC Vote, would
be held on Tuesday April 15, at 5 p.m. at Freedom Plaza. I don't know if
I would have gone or not, but it sure seemed to me to be a pity to send
such a nicely printed post card to be received two full days after the
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC’s First-in-the-Nation Primary Teach-In, April 22
Anise Jenkins, email@example.com
Learn about the movement to make Washington, DC the nation's first
primary in the 2004 presidential campaign! Can this help DC get
first-class citizenship? Will this put the spotlight on housing, health
care, and other urban issues? Will the candidates come? Get it straight
from the organizer's mouths! Join Sean Tenner of the DC Democracy Fund;
Commissioner Lawrence Guyot, member of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom
Party; and others. Find out what we can do to keep this movement moving!
Refreshments will be served.
Tuesday, April 22, 6:30 p.m., National Council of Negro Women, 633
Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, (across from the Archives Metro at 7th Street
and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW). Sponsored by Stand Up for Democracy in DC
Coalition. Call 232-2500 ext. 2 or see http://www.standupfordemocracy.org.
DC Youth Orchestra, Toho Koto Society, and Duke Ellington School
Concert Choir, April 27
Barbara Ormond, firstname.lastname@example.org
The DC Youth Orchestra will give a free concert at the historic
Lincoln Theater, 1215 U Street, NW, on Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m. to
promote its upcoming summer tour to Japan. Joining the orchestra on
stage will be musicians from the Washington Toho Koto Society and the
Duke Ellington School of the Arts Concert Choir. The concert will be
co-hosted by Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato, Secretary of Education Rod
Paige, DC Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Vance, and DC
Commission on the Arts and Humanities Chair Dorothy McSweeny. Juan
Williams, NPR senior correspondent and author, will preside over the
The concert program will include Brahms' Symphony No. 3 and Borodin's
“Polovetsian Dances” from Prince Igor, performed with the 80-voice
Ellington Concert Choir. There will also be a rare performance of
Japanese composer Kengiyo Yatsuhashi's Rokudan, with the Washington Toho
Koto Society joining the orchestra. The Toho group will also perform the
Japanese congratulatory music, Yachiyojishi. The koto, or
thirteen-string zither, is an ancient Japanese instrument. For more
information visit the DCYOP's web site at http://dcyop.cpb.org
or call 723-1612.
Bike to Work Day, May 2
Eric Gilliland, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, email@example.com
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) invites to you to
join thousands of bike commuters for a celebration of clean
transportation at Bike to Work Day 2003 on Friday, May 2. Celebrations
will be taking place at fifteen different locations around the region,
with the main celebration occurring at Freedom Plaza in downtown DC.
Each pit stop will offer breakfast, entertainment, dynamic speakers, and
chances to win bicycles and other prizes. Register now and receive a
free Bike to Work Day T-shirt! Supplies are limited, but each
registration will be entered into a drawing for a Jamis bike courtesy of
City Bikes of Adams Morgan. For more information and registration,
please visit http://www.waba.org.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to
switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the
subscription form at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/subscribe.htm.
To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org
with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages
are available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
All postings should also be submitted to email@example.com,
and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of
Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to
be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief
paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can
be put into each mailing.