Dear Well-Proportioned Readers:
In the movie short The Golf Specialist, W.C. Fields’ character, J.
Effingham Bellweather, is wanted for several crimes, among them eating
spaghetti in public. Several readers of themail seem to agree that
eating is one of those shameful bodily functions that should not be
performed in the public view. With the court’s indulgence, I reserve
the remainder of my remarks for the closing of themail.
Why is the current search for a chief of DC public schools being held
in secrecy? Is it because the list of candidates is so lame that the
city council and school board are afraid of letting us taxpayers in on
the search? Why must we go outside of the city to find a superintendent?
Are there not individuals in the system now capable of running the
system? They can’t be any worse than the last three. I’m sure that
an in-house, home-groomed person would cost the city a lot less money.
With the outrageous conditions of the contracts, you would think that
DCPS is the Washington Wizards trying to sign a franchise player. We don’t
need a savior, we need someone willing to apply sound management
principles and some common sense.
Probate Courts Documentary
Tolu Tolu, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am doing a documentary on "The Pimping by Probate Courts
Nationwide." Probate courts nationally are pimping both living and
dead citizens. Probate court officers are holding citizens as "ward
hostages" to loot their estates. How much longer is it going to
take before jurisdictions stop this irreversible crime and criminally
indict these greedy, ruthless dogs -- starting with the judges who lead
this abuse of and criminal activity against many thousands of families.
I would like to hear your stories of abuse, theft, and collusion
among nursing homes, social workers, and attorneys, probate judges,
guardians, and any other groups or institutions participating in this
collusion. Please let others know of this documentary to share their
probate court’s abuse stories. Also, post your probate court stories
After my recent post an insightful fellow resident sent me an E-mail
asking why I was reaching out to the media and not going to our elected
leaders. Well, I have been going to our elected leaders at every level
for several years. Some of the staffers just think that I am the crazy
condo/home owners association guy. I like to think I’m the concerned
Common Interest Community (CIC) guy. Not to leave any stone unturned, I
was on the Hill before the break actually talking to two congressional
legislative assistants that deal with housing for their representatives.
So I decided to stop by Congresswoman Norton’s office, and I am sad,
but not surprised, to say that the housing staffer refused to even come
out to meet, let alone talk. "Send him an E-mail, and he will get
back to you about an appointment," was the message I got.
I would think that our Congresswoman would find not having a complete
policy on warranting condominiums or even basic laws that would govern
the new townhouse or single family homes (i.e., homeowner associations)
would be not only unacceptable, but would also potentially undermine the
investment that these owners have made in their homes. Here is an
example of what can happen to a CIC if not run correctly: http://www.9wusa.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=21845.
While this did not happen in DC, it is what can happen to a HOA. But,
better yet, if the community has a problem, your government will kindly
tell you that you live in a CIC and it is a private development outside
the scope of their authority. Ask any CIC that has applied for FEMA aid
in the case of a manmade or natural disaster. Currently all are denied
such aid, and if you live in a condo or multifamily dwelling with
underground parking you are a prime target. Cities and counties love
developments of this type because they can reap the benefits of taxes
without actually having to provide services like trash collection,
recycling, and road maintenance for HOA’s. For too many, it is a
double taxation. I will not even bring up the current situation with
regards to DC residential property managers.
Mr. Ed Dixon asked [themail, August 1], “Is Brazil really competent
enough to continue serving in our government?” Quick response: no. I
never quite figure how he got elected in the first place.
[Re: themail, August 1:] You’re missing the forest for the trees.
The issue here is whether there should be a prohibition against eating
on Metro. Perhaps preventing trash, filth, and rats and bugs isn’t
worth hassling scofflaws. If the violator gets the sympathy of the
public, then the law should be discarded.
I rarely disagree with you, so thought I’d send a reply, as trivial
as this issue is. If rules aren’t meant to be enforced, then let’s
get rid of the rules. If a law enforcement officer issues a request that
one not break the rules, and the subject continues, then by all means,
bring it on. It doesn’t much matter how serious the misdeed is: cops
make the arrests, and judges and juries or whomever set the sentence.
Eating a candy bar in the subway is not a big deal; disobeying an
That’s why we must also vigilantly protect the integrity of the law
enforcement corps, something DC has been very sloppy about. No wonder
people are quick to side with the perpetrator. This arrest subject is
not a martyr for subway nibblers, though I fear it will embolden to
thugs and the stupid to continue eating and drinking on our system. For
trivial violations like "nibbling" and chewing, I think Metro
has it right: first warn, then fine, then — if resistance continues
— arrest and detain. What do you suggest?
WMATA Should Be Congratulated for Enforcing
“No Eating” Policy
Jason Broehm, email@example.com
I am a daily Metrorail rider, and I have been troubled for some time
by what seem to be increasingly flagrant violations of WMATA’s “no
eating/drinking” policy. I frequently see fellow riders eating candy
and drinking beverages, and not too long ago I saw woman eat a hamburger
and fries on the Red Line. Inevitably, eating on the trains leads to
spills, crumbs, and garbage being left behind. This mess the eaters and
drinkers leave behind affects the rest of us who honor the rules. I
applaud WMATA for enforcing this regulation.
In the recent “Payday” situation reported in the media, the
violator was warned, continued eating, and when confronted further
disrespected and ignored a Metro police officer who intended to write
her a citation. Let’s consider a similar situation: suppose the woman
was driving her car and was pulled over for speeding but got away with a
warning, only to peel back out into traffic and blatantly speed again.
Do you think the MPD officer would let her get away with it? Should he
or she just look the other way? “Pay Day” woman brought her trouble
on herself, and she got what she deserved. I only wish the fine for
violating the regulation was more than $10. People respond to monetary
incentives, so why not make the fine $100 or even $200?
Of course another issue Gary raises — WMATA’s funding woes — is
far more troubling. We need area governments to create a dedicated
funding source for WMATA rather than forcing WMATA to come hat-in-hand
to the riders annually. Almost every other large city transit system has
such dedicated funding. The fact that DC does not is a real outrage.
Eating, Smoking, and Sassing on Metrorail
David Sobelsohn, dsobelso -at- capaccess -dot- org
In last Sunday’s issue of themail [August 1], Gary Imhoff wrote
about a woman who was eating on a Metrorail escalator. A Metro security
guard "admonished her for eating in the subway," which Gary
termed “a questionable call in itself.” Gary, can you explain why
you think it’s “questionable” for a Metro security guard to
admonish someone for eating on a Metrorail escalator? The escalators are
part of the Metrorail system. The rules clearly prohibit eating in the
system. There’s no exception for any particular type of food or part
of a piece of food. The rules also prohibit smoking. Would you think it
“questionable” to admonish someone for taking the last few puffs of
a cigarette on a Metrorail escalator? As a nonsmoker, I’ve suffered
enough from the smoke of Metrorail passengers who don’t treat the
escalators as part of the system. The more common Metrorail problem is
lack of enforcement, not overenforcement, of the rules against eating,
drinking, and smoking in the system. I could make quite a good meal from
the food I see people eating on Metrorail during the course of just one
week. Let’s not match one Metro security guard’s overreaction to
sass from a passenger with our own overreaction at a rare instance of
Metrorail’s enforcement of its own rules. The problem with what the
guard did is not that she strictly or even harshly enforced the rule
against eating on Metrorail. It’s rather that the passenger’s
punishment really came for her sassing the guard — constitutionally
protected speech — rather than for her violating a clear and sensible
rule against eating on Metrorail. Security personnel should focus on
what people do instead of what they say.
The Metro system is, in my experience, generally a good one. It’s a
shame, then, that the WMATA organization and personnel are anti-customer
as Mr. Imhoff suggests. A couple of years ago, I had to make an
emergency trip to somewhere I’d never been, and needed some
directions. There were three Metro station personnel standing chatting,
and when I approached, two of them walked away. I asked the one who
stayed for directions and she started shouting at me and waving her
arms, saying “You got to get smart! That ain’t us, that’s the
bus!” I asked for directions to the bus, and she again said, “You
got to get smart!” before vaguely waving in some direction and
storming away. I found the bus myself.
I complained about this to Metro and they said they dealt with it,
but given that I later saw this same employee at the same station, they
didn’t do much.
Food and Drink Are Legal on the Metro
Michael “Tac” Tacelosky, Dupont Circle, firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s unfortunate that when Metro decided to enforce the no-eating
law, it did so such a heavy-handed way. I’m a big believer in a clean
Metro, though, and have complained several times to station managers
about ice cream cones, sodas and McDonald’s, being eaten while waiting
in various indoor Metro stops. The worst was when the station manager
said to the woman carrying the Starbuck’s coffee into the station
“You have a good weekend, now!”
When I challenged these Metro employees who obviously watched the
food and drink come in, their response was, “it’s not our job to
enforce the law, you’ll have to call the police, a confrontation like
that could get violent.” or “Why don’t you just tell them then?”
They always agreed to make an announcement, though. So I wrote a Metro
complaint card, asking why the station managers always seem to be on the
phone, and why they didn’t go out of their way more to stop Starbuck’s
and ice cream cones from getting into the station.
I got a response from Captain Lum, District 1 commander of the Metro
Police. He told me that it’s only against the law to eat and drink,
not to carry it in. He agreed that if someone is carrying a hot
Starbucks or an ice cream cone, yes, it’s likely that they’re going
to drink or eat it. But unless they’re actually consuming it, the law
doesn’t apply. So I guess Payday was a big break for crime-fighting
— actually having a officer authorized to intervene and witnessing
consumption. All of this would be simplified if the people working the
Metro booths were 1) not allowed to make personal calls when they’re
working and 2) authorized to refuse admittance to anyone carrying open
food and drink.
Of Petitions and Candy Bars
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at
It is ridiculously easy to criticize Metro personnel for arresting a
woman for eating in the system. Of course, those aren’t the facts. She
was actually arrested for refusing to follow the direction of a police
officer and the failure to produce identification when requested. Gary
is having fun at Metro’s expense when the issue is really the same one
he used in his fight against the slot initiative — flaunting the law.
One may think that protecting our initiative process is worthy and not
eating on the Metro is unworthy. But the fact is that none of us has the
right to decide what laws are important and not important. To do so
invites chaos since each of us has our own opinions about what laws are
silly and what laws make sense.
Did WMATA ever recover the more than $1 million that had been
“nibbled” away by their parking lot vendor? They had a lot of nerve
to allow themselves to be cheated out of that much money and then turn
around and raise Metro fares.
I completely disagree with you about the WMATA message. I don’t
know the circumstances of this particular case, but I myself have asked
riders not to eat or drink in the Metro. Usually they will put away the
food or drink, but sometimes they can be very rude. In that case, I ask
a WMATA employee to back me up.
Drinking or eating in the Metro system makes it dirty, attracts pests
(insects and worse) and smells! Who wants to ride along smelling someone
else’s fried chicken? I think this is a good rule and it should be
enforced. There are plenty of opportunities to eat outside the Metro, on
the street, before entering the Metro system.
Bad behavior is usually so tolerated in this town that it’s rare to
have the opportunity to complain about the lack of common sense involved
in applying a zero tolerance policy, but that’s what we have here. We’ve
all heard about the laughable excesses that occur when zero tolerance
policies are enforced in schools by administrations that have no sense
of appropriate or proportional penalties: the kindergarten boy who has
to take sexual harassment classes because he kissed his classmate on her
cheek; the junior high school boy who is suspended for two weeks because
the one-inch plastic toy pistol on his key ring violates the weapons
ban; the high school girl who is expelled because the aspirin she takes
for a headache breaks a strict anti-drug rule. To me, the Payday
scofflaw case presents the same issue of a lack of proportionality, of a
punishment that clearly has no reasonable connection with the offense.
Here the punishment was not so much the $10 fine as the three hours that
the Payday eating woman had to spend in custody and in handcuffs, and
her offense was not so much the bite of candy she took as her daring to
say to a bad-tempered Transit Police officer with more authority than
judgment that she should concentrate on “real crime.”
Here are my points. First, the escalators into a station are
transitional from the outside and not at all the same as the inside of
the station or the inside of a subway car. A woman who finishes the last
bite of her candy bar on the escalator clearly does not intend to eat
inside the station or on the train. Even admonishing her not to eat
anything more is probably excessive, but if the security guard felt
compelled to say something, an admonishment is the most that was called
for. Second, food, even aromatic food and food that could be eaten
inside the system, must be allowed on the Metro. People have to be able
to transport leftovers from restaurant meals, food from carryouts, and
groceries from markets. Third, eating food isn’t offensive. WMATA
doesn’t prohibit eating on the Metro because most people are disgusted
or upset by seeing other people eat; it prohibits eating because that
makes its job of cleaning the system easier. The rule is for WMATA’s
convenience, not for the safety or security or comfort of the riders.
Fourth, everyone should always be cautious in the presence of people
carrying weapons, of course, but impoliteness isn’t a crime. Talking
back to subway policewoman may not be wise, but it isn’t illegal. At
least once we’re out of high school, we’re allowed to talk back to
people who are being officious to us.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Public Library Events, August 5, 7
Debra Truhart, email@example.com
Thursday, August 5, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Brown Bag recital Series: pianist
Ralitza Patcheva performs A Midsummer Noon’s Dream. Public contact:
Thursday, August 5, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Donna Brazile, Harvard professor
and former Gore-Lieberman 2000 presidential campaign manager, will
discuss her new memoir Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in
American Politics. Public contact: 727-1186.
Saturday, August 7, 10:00 a.m., Capitol View Neighborhood Library,
5001 Central Avenue, SE. Instruction on using the personal computer.
Public contact: 645-0755.
Washington Regional Network and the Sierra Club present a forum:
Making Metro Work: Addressing Metro’s Funding Crisis. Featuring Robert
J. Smith, Chairman, Metro Board of Directors; and Christopher Zimmerman,
Arlington County Board of Directors and Metro Board of Directors.
Moderated by Bruce DePuyt, Host of Newschannel 8’s "Newstalk."
Wednesday, August 11, 6:00 p.m. refreshments, 6:30 p.m. program. At the
John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Room 412. (In the
evening, enter the Wilson Building at the rear, bring a photo I.D.) RSVP
(attendance only): WRN, 202/667-5445, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event is free of charge. Find out more about WRN at http://www.washingtonregion.net.
Why do Metro fares continue to increase? Why are buses and trains so
crowded? What is being done to repair the aging system and provide
reliable service? Join us for a discussion about what is happening to
address Metro’s immediate funding and service problems. Also, learn
from Metro’s leaders about their ideas to solve Metro’s perpetual
Youth Want to Know Where the Candidates Stand,
Susie Cambria, email@example.com
Participants in the Youth Congress program of Covenant House
Washington are gearing up to question candidates for the Ward 8 and
At-Large seats on the District of Columbia City Council about their
philosophy on education, housing, violence against youth, and
employment. The Candidates Forum will be held Wednesday, August 11, 3-5
p.m. at the Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Community Service Center, 2001
Mississippi Avenue, SE. All candidates for the Ward 8 and At-Large Seats
have been invited to take part in the youth-organized event. The forum
will not only give candidates a platform by which to discuss their
goals, but also serves to educate youth about the importance of voting
and working with community leaders to effect positive change. Youth will
manage a voter-registration table before and after the forum. This forum
is an excellent opportunity for youth to hone their advocacy skills and
learn about the political process.
Youth engaged in the Covenant House Washington Youth Congress program
will moderate and serve as interview panelists during the August 11
Candidates Forum. Time will be designated for audience members to
question candidates as well. Candidates will be allotted one minute per
question to address the issues and concerns posed by panelists. All
interested citizens and youth-focused organizations throughout the
metropolitan area are invited to attend the Candidates Forum. Copies of
the youth-designed Candidates Forum flier are available should you wish
to distribute them. For additional information, flyers, or to register
your organization, contact Nicole Lee, Youth Advocacy Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
CLASSIFIEDS — FREE
I have over a hundred books to give away to a nonprofit or individual
willing to pick them up. Almost all of the books are hardcover and
include mysteries, other fiction, biographies, and books about politics.
The books are in excellent condition. If interested E-mail email@example.com.
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
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with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages
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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.