Not Under Oath
Dear Truth Tellers:
I hope you had a chance tonight to see Bruce DePuyt's News Talk show
on Channel 8. If you didn't, I hope DePuyt repeats it, with plenty of
advance notice so that you can schedule a viewing. Here's the back story
to tonight's program. As you know, the City Council has been holding a
series of hearings investigating a group of interlocking scandals
involving the Office of Property Management; building leases and
property purchases by the government with favored developers,
particularly Douglas Jemal; the misuse of government issued credit
cards; and now quid pro quo favors given by Jemal to Mayor Williams's
last campaign. The scandals have implicated several offices in the
administration, and the eagerness with which these offices cooperated to
engage in sweetheart deals with a favored developer points to
coordination from, as is delicately stated, the highest levels of the
administration. Mayor Williams has resisted testifying under oath before
the Council about the scandals, and he agreed to appear on DePuyt's
program jointly with Councilmember Jim Graham as a compromise to avoid
being called to testify.
You'll have to judge for yourself, but I'll tell you what I saw. A
mayor who was evasive, avoiding the hard questions with double-talk,
downplaying the seriousness of the situation by trying to blame the
whole scandal on “one bad apple” (Michael Lorusso, conveniently out
of town and unavailable to testify), bad-tempered and trying to
discourage hard questions by surliness and irascibility. A mayor who
denied the obvious, that some developers are favored by this
administration and get special treatment, special deals, special favors.
A mayor who denied the obvious, that these developers return the favors.
A mayor who made a very wise decision when he refused to testify under
oath. I won't say that the mayor watered down the pure truth, but Henry
David Thoreau was right when he wrote that, “Some circumstantial
evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk,” and
the mayor's milk smells awfully fishy.
DC Property Tax Resolution
Ann Loikow, email@example.com
Problems with the property assessment process and appeals process,
escalating property tax burdens on residential property, and the need to
increase the homestead exemption and senior citizen property tax
provisions are a major concern of DC citizens across the city. The
Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia approved
the following resolution regarding the property tax legislation
currently before the DC Council. As first Vice President of the
Federation, I testified for the Federation on these issues at the
Committee on Finance and Revenue's hearing on July 10.
“Whereas the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of
Columbia (Federation) and its 42 member associations from all across the
city have been concerned about escalating property assessments and the
resulting property tax burden on District homeowners; and whereas the
Federation also has previously expressed concerns about the fairness of
assessment process and how inflation has devalued the homestead
exemption and the reduced tax rate for senior citizens over age 65; and
whereas the Council of the District is considering several bills on this
issue, in particular, Bill 15-188, the 'Homestead Exemption Amendment
Act of 2003,' Bill 15-210, the 'Equity in Real Property Tax Assessment
Act of 2003,' and Bill 15-303, the 'Owner-Occupant Residential Tax
Credit Act of 2003'; and whereas the Federation has reviewed the notice
of the hearing on these bills, but not the actual text of the bills, at
its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on June 24, 2003:
“Now, therefore, let it be resolved that the Federation supports
increasing the homestead exemption from $30,000 to $100,000, requiring
that any real property tax assessment that is revised by the Board of
Real Property Assessments and Appeals shall be the basis for subsequent
assessments of a property, and replacing the current 25 percent cap on
rising property tax bills with a cap of 10 percent; and be it further
resolved that the Federation urges the Council to amend section 863 of
title 47 of the DC Code (Reduced tax liability for property owners over
age 65) to increase the $100,000 limit on household adjusted gross
income to reflect inflation since 1991.”
[The Cleveland Park Citizens Association also passed a similar
resolution that Ms. Loikow submitted for the record. — Gary Imhoff]
Going, Going, Gone Update
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
In themail on July 9 and 13, I wrote about the likely imminent
departures of several senior members of the Williams administration.
Over the past few weeks, Joy Arnold, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor
for Community Affairs; S. Kathryn Allen, Superintendent, Department of
Banking and Financial Institutions; and Darryl Anderson, Executive
Director, Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, have left;
and City Administrator John Koskinen has announced that September 12
will be his last day on the job.
There are also numerous vacancies on several important boards and
commissions. In many instances, the vacancies have existed for months
and, on occasion, for years. The current situation is severely hampering
the work of many boards because of the difficulty of securing a quorum
or the absence of a chairman. The terms of all three members of the
Board of Elections and Ethics have expired, although their terms were
originally staggered. (Stephen Callas' term expired in July 2001, Jonda
McFarlane's in July 2002; and Benjamin Wilson's in July 2003.) Under
District law, BOEE members, unlike the members of most boards and
commissions, can serve until their replacements are appointed by the
mayor and confirmed by the Council. Mayor Williams, seeking revenge on
the BOEE for upholding the law in his petition scandal, will not
renominate any of the sitting members, but he is having trouble finding
any reputable nominees who will serve under these conditions. The
eleven-member Sports and Entertainment Commission has lost three key
members, as it faces a crucial decision of whether to renew the contract
of its executive director, Bobby Goldwater, and enters a critical period
in its attempt to bring a major league baseball team to DC. Commission
Chair John Richardson resigned this spring in the face of growing
criticism, and the terms of Bill Lucy and Joseph Gilderhorn have
expired. The future of the Sports Commission is being reviewed by a Blue
Ribbon panel appointed by Mayor Williams and chaired by John Hill,
former executive director of the Control Board.
Since March, the seven-member Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has
seemed to disintegrate. On March 10, Roderic Woodson, the Board's chair,
resigned as of May 1. On May 7, the terms of four board members --
Charles Berger, Vera Abbott, Laurie Collins, and Audrey Thompson --
expired, though they can continue to serve for 180 days after
expiration, or until November 7. Two weeks ago, Ellen Oppen-Weiner
submitted her resignation, effective August 8. In short, six of the
seven seats on the ABC are vacant. On June 30, Vincent Cohen, Sr.,
stepped down as chairman of the Washington Convention Center Authority
Board of Directors because he had moved to the Virgin Islands. Rumors
are circulating in the business community that Charlene Drew Jarvis,
former chair of the City Council's Economic Development Committee, may
be appointed to replace Cohen. The WCCA is also seeking a new general
manager to replace Lewis Dawley. On July 17, Laura Gardner, the last of
Mayor Williams's original appointees to the DC Board of Education,
resigned, effective as of August 2003.
J. Roderick Heller's term as chairman of the National Capital
Revitalization Corporation ended on July 14. Williams has indicated that
he wants to reappoint Heller, but he didn't bother to send the
reappointment to the City Council until July 11, when the Council's last
legislative session before fall was on July 14. Reasonably, the Council
refused to act on an emergency basis, since the expiration date of the
term had been known years in advance. Last fall, Libby Kavoulakis, the
chair of the Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals, which
reviews property tax assessment appeals, resigned. Mayor Williams has
not named a replacement, but the Board's vice chair, Paul Strauss, has
assumed most of the duties of the chair. There are currently three
vacancies on the Board, and in one week, on July 31, an additional five
terms will also expire. On July 31, therefore, eight out of eighteen
seats on the board will be vacant. The chairman of the Taxicab
Commission, Lee Williams, has been on extended leave since May, and
appears to have returned to his home in New Jersey. Lee Williams has
been the subject of harsh criticism, both from administration officials
and the taxicab industry, and his future status is in doubt. In
addition, there are three vacancies on the DC Historic Preservation
Review Board; all three positions on the Rental Housing Commission,
which the Williams administration unsuccessfully tried to kill off,
become vacant this month; and the fifteen-member Board of Trustees of
the University of the District of Columbia has five vacancies.
Alert for Local School Resource Teams
George Parker, Washington Teachers Union Mobilization
Principals have been provided the local school budgets. Local School
Resource Teams (LSRTs) should meet with their principals immediately to
review, discuss, and make appropriate budget allocations. It is my
understanding that all completed budgets are to be submitted to central
administration by Monday, July 28. Remember, WSF budget allocations are
to be done via consensus of the LSRT, not unilaterally and in isolation
by the Principal. Do not wait for your principal to call you. Call your
principal and LSRT members to ensure that the budget process is done
correctly at your school, in spite of the short time period allowed for
submission. Please contact other Building Reps and LSRT members and
share this information.
VA and MD Sales Tax on Kitchen Items
Ann Carper, email@example.com
I haven't checked the state web sites yet, but does anyone know the
rules on stores in VA and MD charging sales tax for items delivered to
DC? In the past, Mastercraft Interiors didn't charge us sales tax for
furniture they delivered because they don't have a store in DC. However,
recently our Virginia cabinet store and appliance dealer (neither of
which has a store in DC) have. We've just paid the deposits so far, but
I'd like to be prepared to challenge it when the balance is due.
DMV Gets It Right Two Weeks Running
Paul Michael Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org
While washing my car three weeks ago I noticed that I'd been driving
around with expired tags for the past year. I've got no excuse. I just
had a major brain fade last summer. On July 11 I journeyed to the DMV
office on C Street to make amends, certain that an ordeal of major
proportions lay in store. I wasn't in line thirty seconds before a
polite security guard asked me if I was there to renew my registration.
Yes, I replied, but it's been expired for nearly a year. Instead of
wrestling me to the ground and giving me the oak shampoo, the guard
inquired if I could pay with a credit card. I could, so he directed me
to a room down the hall. I took a number, but before I could even take a
seat it was my turn to visit with a cheerful clerk who brought
everything up to date. Total time inside the building: ten minutes!
On July 18 I headed for the DMV's inspection station on Half Street,
SW. Expecting a lengthy wait, I brought along several newspapers and
Robert Caro's magnum opus on Lyndon Johnson's service in the Senate.
When I arrived at 12:30 p.m. there were exactly zero cars in line.
Another polite DMV person said he didn't need to see any of my
paperwork. Instead he used a hand held computer device to scan the VIN
on the door jamb of my car. One minute later they started the inspection
and fifteen minutes after that I was back on the road. I've been horsing
around with the District's DMV since 1981, and these encounters were by
far the most efficacious and efficient. Well done!
First Primary Blog
Sam Farmer, Dupont Circle, email@example.com
Come and read the First Primary Blog -- that's right, it's about the
DC Primary -- for "news, views, rumors, humor, and analysis ahead
of the nation's first primary." Recently we have been the first to
report on two candidates' campaign visits in DC and the latest spat
between the DNC and DC DSC. Come read and leave comments. http://blog.letsfreedc.org.
People Don’t Like Paying Taxes
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir, firstname.lastname@example.org
Len Sullivan's “Finding Funding For DC Public Schools By Biting
Bullet” focuses on facilities issues at DCPS primarily because NARPAC
would like to see these properties pay taxes to the city coffers and in
turn help the city avoid “getting hooked on federal subsidies.” Two
problems. DC is already heavily hooked on federal subsidies, perhaps
more so than every other jurisdiction in the country. Politicians
nationwide are happy to have someone else pay the bill. Secondly, there
is no guarantee that these properties will bring in the revenue required
to further reduce the structural imbalance. Sullivan's assumption is
that the school property would not go to a tax-exempt entity (e.g.,
school, university, embassy, association, or other nonprofit
organization). Or that its property, sales, and income taxes won't get
locked up in a corporate TIF bond. Or the city makes some other revenue
reducing deal. Look at the current scandal at Property Management.
The bottom line is many people don't like paying taxes. The Founding
Fathers ignited a revolution over unwanted tax burdens and that battle
continues nationwide today against many rural and urban public school
districts. Some of the people who pay a lot of taxes see it as a burden
and will do what they can to undermine any social benefits of
redistributing what they perceive as their wealth. Of course, it's all
well and good to blame DCPS for whatever amount is being spent on
whatever project. But we only need to look at how many of our residents
take out second mortgages to send their kids to private schools. That's
expensive. Anyone out there, who received a post secondary degree
(rocket scientists included) in the past, can compare how much tuition
has gone up since graduating. That's expensive. Education is expensive.
Why shouldn't we make the investment?
With the WASA 2.5 percent increase looming, the children here in
southeast DC have taken it upon themselves to open the fire hydrants to
cool down. With no swimming pool within a mile in any direction, they
jump in and out of the spouting water hidden from view of on coming
traffic. The water runs free down the gutters for up to five and six
hours at a time. Calls to WASA and the Fire Department are answered
with, “it's the MPD's responsibility to keep the hydrants closed.”
MPD's response is, “it's the Fire Department's responsibility to keep
the hydrants closed.” The Mayor's Command Center and Councilwoman
Cropp's office doesn't know who is responsible for keeping the hydrants
closed. Does anyone in DC know how we can keep the cost of water down?
What’s Wrong with Renting?
Dennis A. Dinkel, email@example.com
Ted Gest in his message [themail, July 20] criticizes Mayor Williams
for renting an apartment in the District. While I agree there are many
things for which to criticize Mayor Williams, I have a question: what's
wrong with renting? I was a long-term homeowner in the District of
Columbia until, three years ago, I sold my house and rented an
apartment. What a joy to no longer be responsible for everything that
goes wrong with my property. Now, if something is amiss, I simply call
my landlord. Buying into the “American dream” fable of home
ownership foisted on us by the real estate industry and mortgage bankers
of America is a highly overrated state of affairs, to my way of
On another one of Mr. Gest's comments: Though I have been a longtime
resident of the District, I have to admit having seen the disastrous
behavior of the scandalous DC public schools, if I had children to
educate, I'd move out of the District also. I guess it's just a
commentary on the fact that every issue has many sides. I respect Mr.
Gest's viewpoints; but I have to admit, I have differing opinions.
The contributor, Ted Gest, who complained about the US Attorney who
lives in Fairfax because he doesn't want his children to attend DC
public schools, is off-base. Mr. Gest's child and our children went to
DC public schools, but neither he nor I is a prosecutor or judge. Some
judges don't list their home addresses or phone number in the telephone
directory, for good reason. That fact that Mr. Gest's child had no
classmates who, to his knowledge, had family or household connections to
an accused criminal, is irrelevant. It happens, even in so-called better
neighborhood schools like Alice Deal JHS and Wilson High School. Beyond
that, DC schools are weaker than many suburban schools. Finally, there
is no reason to believe that the US Attorney would do a better job if he
lived in the District.
Ditto the Mayor, if he owned property in the District. Both of these
complaints are symptomatic of the carping that permeates DC Watch.
How can Mayor Williams, the Mayor of the capitol of the world, not be
able to figure out purchasing a home? Yet people with little resources
are buying and maintaining a home. And this is the person you want to
head your city?
You Bet They Don’t Listen
John Whiteside, loganjohn at mac dot com
I had to chuckle at the into the last issue (the “they don't
listen” riff). It's so true. Over a month ago I wrote a detailed
letter to Chief Ramsey about my concerns about traffic enforcement
downtown. I had some very simple (I thought) and straightforward
questions about who in the department was responsible for it, what the
plans are when an event such as an accident or fire disrupts rush hour
traffic, and so on. I cc'ed the Mayor.
No response. This tells me two things: the Chief was apparently too
busy lobbying for his pay raise to even assign a staffer for it, and
there probably are no answers to my questions (no one is responsible,
there are no plans or policies, etc.). Who do these guys thing they work
for? Oh, right — Congress.
This is to advise that the July 2003 on-line edition has been
uploaded and may be accessed at http://www.intowner.com.
Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports,
editorials (including prior months' archived), restaurant reviews (prior
months' also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes
from the Past” feature. Also included are all current classified ads.
The complete issue (along with prior issues back to February 2002) also
is available in PDF file format by direct access from our home page at
no charge simply by clicking the link provided. Here you will be able to
view the entire issue as it looks in print, including the new ABC Board
actions report, all photos and advertisements. The next issue will
publish on August 8. The complete PDF version will be posted by early
that Friday morning, following which the text of the lead stories,
community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly
To read this month's lead stories, simply click the link on the home
page to the following headlines: 1) “New Police District Boundaries
Better — Or Will It Be 'Shell Game?,' Residents Wonder”; 2) “14th
and U to Logan Retail Taking Off; New Merchants Emphasizing the Home,
Seen Catering to Influx of New Residents”; 3) “Rehab Work in LeDroit
Park Alarms Neighbors.”
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Emergency Assistance in DC, July 25
Parisa B. Norouzi, firstname.lastname@example.org
All Souls Church, Unitarian, and the Fair Budget Coalition invite you
to a discussion about emergency assistance and community aid in DC,
where we’ve been and where we’re going as a community of providers
and advocates. Friday, July 25, 12-2 p.m. Lunch provided with
registration. At All Souls Church, 1500 Harvard Street, NW. Limited
street parking. All Souls is three blocks from the Columbia Heights
station. When you exit, walk south two blocks on 14th and make a right
on Harvard Street. The Church will be on your left at 15th and Harvard.
For more information and to register contact Darwin Fishman at All
Souls, 332-5266, ext. 18, email@example.com.
Who should attend? Providers of emergency assistance and community
aid, individuals who refer people to organizations that provide this
aid, and advocates and community members who are concerned about the
future of financial assistance programs in DC. Every day, many of us
encounter families and individuals who are trying desperately to avoid
crisis. Sometimes we are able to cobble together resources to help them
prevent an eviction, pay a security deposit so they can move out of
shelter, or avoid a utility cutoff. More often than not, we are left
with nothing to say but “sorry, we have no emergency assistance funds
left” or “we can put you on the waiting list for community aid.”
Since the District government eliminated its publicly-funded Emergency
Assistance program in 1996, a heavy burden was placed on community
organizations, churches and other service providers to meet the needs of
people living in crisis.
It is remarkable what groups have been able to do, but the demand for
assistance far outweighs the resources that are available, and we need
to come together to creatively think about how we can most effectively
respond to people in need. We invite you to join us in a conversation
about what emergency resources presently are available, what needs are
not being met (both by volume and type) and how we can use our
collective energy to best respond to those needs.
George Garland on United Nations at WNDC, July
Jessica Baden, firstname.lastname@example.org
George A. Garland, Executive Director of the United Nations
Association, will speak on “The Emerging Role of the United
Nations,” at the Woman's National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire
Avenue, NW, on Tuesday, July 29, at 12:30 p.m.
Dr. Garland will have the latest information on how the US is (or is
not) working with other countries to strengthen international
cooperation through the United Nations. To RSVP, call 232-7363, ext.
3003, or E-mail email@example.com.
5th Annual Georgia Ave. Community Cookout,
Phil Shapiro, Mt. Pleasant, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Georgia Avenue/Rock Creek East Family Support Collaborative will
be holding its fifth annual cookout on Tuesday, July 29, from 5 p.m. to
7:30 p.m. in the 1100 block of Allison Street, NW (just west of the
intersection of Allison Street and Georgia Avenue NW). Food, music,
games, moonbounce, clown, community fellowship, and “Mama and Baby
Bus.” The Mama and Baby Bus provides health counseling, insurance
information, referrals and various other health services. For more
information, call 722-1815, ext. 259. Allison Street will be closed for
a block for this celebration.
CLASSIFIEDS — HELP WANTED
Office assistant, 15-20 hours per week, Monday-Friday afternoons,
$13/hour, near Metro. If you are friendly, with strong communication
skills, can manage administrative details galore, are computer literate
and will work in a busy, but cheerful environment during the school
year, fax resume to 537-1642.
Teachers for after school enrichment, one hour, 1-5 days per week.
Murch Elementary, near Metro. We need fun, creative classes on a variety
of topics. Good pay. 537-9676.
Teachers/assistants for Murch Elementary after school. Responsible,
reliable, radiant people needed to run a variety of fun activities
Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m., competitive compensation, near Metro. 537-9676.
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
The Washington Literacy Council needs tutors to provide one-on-one
help in reading and spelling to adults in DC. New tutors are trained in
monthly sessions throughout the year. Tutors commit to a year of service
and meet for one hour each week with their students at the library or
the Washington Literacy Council office in Adams Morgan. No prior
teaching/tutoring experience is needed. Find the latest training dates
at our web site, http://www.washingtonliteracycouncil.org.
James Forman Papers Project
Karen Szulgit, email@example.com
Internship and volunteer opportunities available for people
interested in civil, domestic and international human rights! This is an
opportunity to help organize the historic papers of James Forman, a
former Executive Secretary and International Affairs Director of the
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was in the
forefront of the struggle that led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the
1965 Voting Rights Law, and helped to end apartheid in South Africa and
colonialism throughout Southern Africa. Community organizers,
fundraisers, researchers, and all those interested in African-American
studies, archives, history, international affairs, library science,
political science, and public relations are welcome!
This is an opportunity to view firsthand and organize historic
documents for posterity and to further efforts to educate voters
throughout the United States! Please apply to Mr. James Forman,
Unemployment and Poverty Action Committee (UPAC), 1311 L Street NW,
Suite 205, Washington, DC 20005, or leave a voice mail message at
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
Rob Pegoraro, robp at speakeasy.net
Four Crate & Barrel dining chairs, with pine ladderback frames
and wicker seats, in great condition. The set cost me $400 new, but it's
yours for $200. 703-217-0493 or robp at speakeasy.net.
CLASSIFIEDS — FREE
Upright, refrigerator-size Kenmore Frostless freezer (beige) and GE
gas stove (beige with black front) free to anyone who'll haul them away.
Both work fine. Freezer is thirteen years old; stove came with house, so
don't know vintage.
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.