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November 14, 2004

Baltimore Again

Dear Washingtonians:

In the last issue of themail, I wrote about Baltimore’s efforts to entice DC residents to move thirty miles north and buy houses there. Mindy Moretti, who identified herself as a “Baltimorian by birth, Washingtonian till death,” wrote to correct my mistake in that issue of calling Baltimore’s Mayor O’Malley “Michael” rather than “Martin,” which is his name. Steve Kramer responded that Baltimore has a lot of problems, and that it’s not necessarily better in Baltimore. He’s right about that, but that doesn’t put Baltimore at a disadvantage in competing with Washington, since we have the same problems here. Housing is the biggest living expense for most people. If housing is 70 percent less expensive in Baltimore, then Baltimore doesn’t have to be better than DC to compete successfully with us; it just has to be no worse. On the other hand, Josh Gibson writes that DC doesn’t have to promote itself, unlike Baltimore, because people just want to live here. Obviously, some people do, but our city’s population was once more than two hundred thousand higher than it is today; our attractions must not be as obvious to everyone else as they are to those of us who remain.

And that’s why I asked in the last issue what our offer is to counter Baltimore’s cost advantage. What is our pitch, not just to encourage new residents to move to DC but also to encourage current residents to stay? The city is our product. How do we market it to people who have the option of moving to Baltimore and saving a lot of money or of moving to the suburbs and avoiding hassles with the government? What is our motto: “DC: not as bad as you’ve heard,” “DC: are you rich enough not to mind the expense,” or “DC: if you don’t need any city services you’ll like it here”? The City Living, DC Style promotion ( is moribund because everybody in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development has been consumed full time making sacrifices to appease the gods of Major League Baseball; the City Living Expo that was scheduled for September was canceled and rescheduled for March because they couldn’t spare the time to market the city. Let’s help them out, and give them some good arguments to attract new residents to our city.

Gary Imhoff


Standing Water on Rock Creek Parkway
Phil Shapiro,

I was driving north on Rock Creek Parkway on Friday morning when my car hit some deep standing water about one half mile south of Woodley Park. This water was roughly the same size and depth as a Great Lake. Luckily I was able to teach my car how to swim and we made it to the other side. Looking in my rear view mirror, I saw the same cringe-inducing experience happen to the car right behind me. Does anyone happen to know which phone number to call to report hazardous standing water on DC streets? A couple of red cones placed a few hundred yards in front of the water would be a good temporary solution — and better drainage would be the better longer-term solution.


Baseball Is a Business and Business Depreciation Is Deductible
Michael D. Ward,

The baseball gang has resorted to lying and misinformation to continue to try to shove this bad deal down our throats. I heard an assertion on WTOP Thursday or Friday that the private financing of the baseball stadium would be a tax scheme because the depreciation the private financiers would be able to deduct on taxes would not otherwise be allowable.

The reality is that unlike the Wilson Building, which has a government purpose, the stadium would have a commercial purpose. The caller and their ilk missed the boat on this one — every commercial enterprise can and should deduct the cost of the resources used in producing their profit, and if Major League Baseball paid for and built a stadium they would absolutely deduct depreciation.

It is only because the Mayor and his hopelessly misguided friends on the Council offered up a government-funded resource to entice baseball that anyone ever became confused that a sports venue is anything but a commercial space. Let’s keep the facts straight, and let’s take advantage of that depreciation deduction which would not be available only if the government owns the stadium.


Sharon Ambrose
Lisa Alfred, Barney Circle,

I live in Ward 6 at Barney Circle and I have had many discussions with my neighbors about what to do about Sharon Ambrose. Our last big fight with her was surrounding her land giveaway to St. Coletta’s. At no time before the giveaway did she have a discussion with the neighborhood, or frankly any neighborhood, about her plans to give land away to her friends. She very rarely attends neighborhood meetings, or apparently, from what the Washington Post says, even Committee hearings (like the 24-hour marathon baseball hearing). This stadium will be in her Ward. Why wasn’t she there? More importantly, why hasn’t she called a neighborhood meeting or held a special hearing in the Ward on baseball?

Many of her constituents consider her AWOL when it comes to our needs. Several of us have considered recalling her, but by the time the measure could get on the ballot, she’d be up for reelection anyway. We’re therefore considering going to neighborhood organizations to ask that they support a resolution of "no confidence."


Correction of Dorothy
Jim Graham,

The reference to me from Dorothy Brizill [themail, November 10] is wrong although, I assume, she basis it on an inaccurate report by the Washington Post. The Post will be correcting their inaccurate report. I hope you will as well. The fact is: The Libraries Reborn Fund is the subject of a separate amendment which will be made, by myself, with seven votes supporting it to the Stadium Financing bill. It was thus not included in the bill itself as to be introduced. The Libraries Fund takes the excess of the gross receipts tax, certified by the CFO to be securitized as $45 million and to be available immediately. It is thus a concrete and definite commitment to the rehabilitation of our library system which, as I assure you, is crumbling.

This solid commitment reflects my consistent statements that there are greater priorities in this city than a baseball stadium. It achieves an important objective as part and parcel of this legislation. Without it, the libraries would not be the subject of such funding. And without its inclusion in the stadium bill, I would be voting “no.” There is an opportunity here for all the residents of DC to improve some 27 branch libraries, seven of which are located east of the Anacostia. In this last budget, I managed to appropriate $750,000 in capital funding for the Mt. Pleasant branch. But that amount aside, the libraries capital budget is woefully small, amounting to less than $1 million a year for each of the next six years. We can make a real difference here!

I know some will say we should be doing this anyway, but the Mayor has not to date introduced the size of the budget that the libraries need, and there has not been (despite some very strong efforts by others and myself) the Council will to appropriate these needed funds.

[I stand by what I wrote in the last issue. Nothing Mr. Graham writes here contradicts or “corrects” anything I wrote in the last issue. Instead, he confirms that he will not be voting on the baseball stadium financing bill on its merits, but has simply sold his vote for funding for an unrelated issue. — Dorothy Brizill]


Live Baltimore and O’Malley
Richard Layman,

Live Baltimore is the #1 best practice example in the US of a campaign to attract residents back to the traditional center city. Another best practice: Live Baltimore sends out a weekly E-mail, which is a model for promoting citizen involvement and participation in the affairs of the city, as well as promoting city living. (Baltimore’s CitiStat program is also a best practice example. CitiStat uses a data-based approach to lead agency activities and improvement. As importantly from the perspective of citizens as participants, rather than customers, the data is made public so that citizens can make their own judgments about progress and success.)

That being said, remember that Mayor O’Malley is considering running for Governor of Maryland, which may account for his conviviality and visit to Montgomery County, Maryland the other night. Even though O’Malley may not have ventured into DC, the Live Baltimore campaign does, such as at the Front Page restaurant last summer, another event in Cleveland Park maybe a week ago, ads in the Express, etc.

I do think Baltimore’s likely future success will come as an affordable (at least for now) urban bedroom community for DC. Also, Baltimore is likely to capture an increasing number of DC artists because it offers a variety of affordable large old warehouse and industrial buildings suitable for conversion to studios. The city-supported Station North and Highlandtown Arts Districts provide focused benefits and support. There’s a lot to learn from Baltimore. There are advantages sometimes, from the “desperate willingness to experiment” that comes from having a weak real estate market.


Not Necessarily Better in Baltimore
Steve Kramer,

With my significant other living in Baltimore, I find myself spending more time in “Charm City” lately. While it does have its charms, Baltimore too has many challenges. The city is finally just starting to reverse numbers of people leaving the city — a positive sign for certain. Home renovations in city neighborhoods are taking off, as are property values, albeit it at a considerably slower rate than in DC. It generally is more affordable in Baltimore, but one must consider many issues, including quality of life. City taxes are shockingly high and services within the city limits are limited. Running to the grocery and similar errands requires a car — often taking you into the suburbs — and parking in city neighborhoods increasingly is becoming a problem. The city streets are often strewn with trash, and crime remains a major issue in certain neighborhoods, including those that are promoted in the “live Baltimore” campaign. And MARC service can be spotty. Trains from Pennsylvania Station and Camden Yards are often delayed due to problems with aged switches and tracks. The BW Parkway and I-95 are not pleasant, traffic-free alternatives.

Baltimore’s mayor is a good public relations man — his “Believe” campaign is seemingly everywhere, including on trash cans provided by the city to its residents. Don’t let basic PR blind you to the challenges Baltimore faces. Consider it an option to DC, but view it with eyes wide open.


O’Malley in Bethesda
Ralph Blessing,

Mayor O’Malley’s visit to Bethesda (but not DC as Gary pointed out) couldn’t have anything to do with his rumored run for governor, could it? I suspect that his career plans have more to do with the visit than the fact that he’s an all-around good guy.


Washington Selling Itself
Nathan Carnes,

Great idea. Where would we pitch it? It would have to be to a demographically wealthy area because of the prices in DC! Maybe we should send a mailing to NYC or Boston!


DC Versus Baltimore
Josh Gibson,

Baltimore is working hard flacking itself because it has to. DC isn’t, because it doesn’t have to. Despite all DC’s foibles, inefficiencies, and eccentricities, people want to be here. Now more than ever. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Gary.


Baltimore Versus DC
Harold Foster, Petworth,

I am donning my thirty-year urban planner — and native (third generation, in fact) Washingtonian -- hat on your point about the efforts of DC and Baltimore to attract more residents [themail, November 10]. I would strongly urge all regular and occasional visitors to this web site to check out Alice Rivlin’s pieces on this business of marbling DC over sufficiently to attract 100,000 more of Tony Williams’ kind of people to this town. (Try either or

While Harold the Planner found some methodological and practical (that is, policy and structural) problems with all of Rivlin’s scenarios — she actually discusses three different mixes of 100,000 new Washingtonians coming here over the next decade, Harold the Third Generation Washingtonian wasn’t at all surprised by the policy implications, indeed directions, of this “Ten By Ten” program of Messrs Williams & Co. And I think you will agree, when you read her piece. I will stop there: anyone who has seen my “stuff” here can probably guess my position on Ten By Ten, so I won’t waste electronic ink reiterating well-known, if not worn-out, positions. Cutting to the chase here is reasonably straightforward: even I can be reasonably “hard and terse,” to quote Oliver Cromwell:

Either this city (re-)assumes some ongoing, abiding obligation to help provide at least a minimally dignified quality of life for everyone who (still) lives here, or it stops paying lip service to maintaining any such commitment and comes out with an open acknowledgment of the New Urban Darwinism that has been in back of every consequential planning decision that Williams has made since being elected: those who can afford to buy a quality lifestyle on the private (or privatized) markets here in DC are welcome. Those who cannot had either better stay out or plan to get out. One thing that is implicit in all three of Lady Rivlin’s scenarios: no matter what combination of 100,000 new residents are persuaded to move here, this “Post-Ten by Ten” District of Columbia will boast one of the best urban qualities of life a whole lot of money can buy. Who knows? It might even be transformed enough to get full electoral enfranchisement from what, by then, will almost certainly be a one-party US Congress.


The Amendment Puzzle, Continued
Tom Matthes

“Revolutions are half improvised and half compromised,” was Benjamin Franklin’s formula for the American Revolution. and the same could be said about the US Constitution. It compromised on the issue of equal or proportional representation for the states in Congress. The Senate, under the provisions of Article I and Article V, forever gives the states equal suffrage, unless a state voluntarily surrenders its own right. DC, as the national capital, is under the legislative control of Congress. This means, should DC residents be granted votes in Congress, a conflict of interest arises, because they have an inherent interest in the size and powers of the federal government. Many people wish to resolve this conflict between democratic and federal principles with another compromise: a constitutional amendment to grant DC one voting member of the US House but no votes in the Senate, because it is not a state.

William Haskett respectfully disagrees (themail, November 10) on equal protection grounds. He wants votes for DC in the US Senate too. I don’t agree (respectfully, of course), but either way, why not seek a constitutional amendment after two decades of failed unconstitutional proposals? I understand Mark Plotkin of WTOP and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton both have talked about seeking their goals for DC incrementally. Why not start with seeking one seat in the House via amendment? That’s my point. Unfortunately, it’s as far as I’m willing to go on DC voting rights, and I believe the September 11 attacks eliminated any chance of statehood for the foreseeable future. What I suggest may not seem like much to statehood advocates, but isn’t it better than the status quo?

I’m not sure, but I think Mr. Haskett considers the 23rd Amendment (granting DC three votes in the Electoral College) to be unconstitutional because DC is not a state. Rest assured: amendments properly ratified are the “supreme Law of the Land” (Article VI), just like the rest of the Constitution, unless they violate the restrictions on amendments in Article V (the US Senate cannot be changed to proportional representation). A constitutional amendment granting a vote or votes for DC in Congress would also be part of the “supreme Law of the Land.” Half improvised, half compromised.


November InTowner Online
Peter Wolff, 

This is to advise that the November 2004 on-line edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at 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 March 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly 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 appears in print, including all photos and advertisements. The next issue will publish on December 10. The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month's lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Kalorama’s Mitchell Park Rehabilitation Praised by Neighbors Attending Dedication”; 2) “Adams Morgan Weekends Enlivened by New Market for Art, Crafts”; 3) “High-Energy Art-O-Matic Showing 650 Area Artists — City Museum’s Suddenly Rejected Exhibit Included.”



Democratic State Committee Nominating Petitions, November 15
Kathie Boettrich,

The District of Columbia Democratic State Committee will elect Ex-Officio members to the committee at its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, January 6. The DCDSC is committed to equal representation on its committee. Ex-Officio positions have been created to establish balance and add diversity to the organization. Under the Democratic Party’s equal division rule, there are six male and six female positions. Any registered Democrat in the District of Columbia is entitled to run as a candidate. Ex-Officio members of the Committee have full rights of participation including the right to vote. Each candidate is required to submit a nominating petition containing ten signatures of registered Democrats from each of the eight Wards. Petitions may be secured beginning November 15 by calling the DCDSC office at 554-8790.

Completed original petitions must be filed in the DCDSC office by 7:00 p.m. on Friday, December 15. Petitions may be picked up starting on November 15 deadline at the DCDSC headquarters at 499 South Capital Street. Petitions can be filed before the deadline at the DCDSC office. Important dates: November 15, petitions can be picked up at DCDSC headquarters (499 S. Capital Street); December 15, deadline for submitting completed, original petitions (7 p.m.); December 17-23, petition challenge period; January 6, elections at the DCDSC meeting. Contacts: Philip Pannell, 554-8790; Kathie Boettrich, 309-0989; Wanda Lockridge, 320-6063.


Community Leadership Workshops, November 18-19
Dorinda White,

The East Capitol Center for Change (ECCC),, is hosting a two-day community leadership exposition on Thursday, November 18, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Friday, November 19, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at Beulah Baptist Church, 5820 Dix Street, NE. The event it free and registration is onsite. City officials including Congresswoman Norton and Mayor Anthony Williams have been invited. Guest speakers include Diann Dawson of the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative (AAHMI) and Dr. Rozario Slack of First Things First.

A special training course for certification as an AMACHI mentor will be conducted by Rev. Goode of AMACHI. AMACHI is a unique partnership of secular and faith-based organizations working together to provide mentoring to children of incarcerated parents. Faith institutions work with human service providers and public agencies (particularly justice institutions) to identify children of prisoners and match them with caring adults.

Workshops will include sessions on preventing teenage pregnancy; certification training for mentors of children of incarcerated parents (AMACHI); creating strong communities; strengthening relationships and marriages in low income populations; community mobilization and the role of the faith leader; African American healthy marriage initiative; and more! Join ECCC as we work to effectuate change and work to strengthen our communities for the better. For additional information, call the East Capitol Center for Change at 397-8000 or E-mail ECCC President Curtis Watkins at


Profile Singles Dinner at Cabanas, November 20
Michael Karlan,

On November 20, Professionals in the City hosts a profile singles dinner at Cabanas. After you purchase your ticket, we will E-mail you a profile to fill out. Based on your profile, we will seat you at a table of five men and five women with similar profiles. For dessert, we will have you move to a different table for people with opposite profiles of yours. We will also have mixing and mingling both before and after the event. Professionals in the City has over 50,000 members and hosts over three hundred events a year. Membership is free. For more information about us, or to purchase tickets, please visit, E-mail or call 686-5990.


6th Annual Takoma Park Alternative Gift Fair, December 4
Sara Yamaka,

Honor family and friends in the true spirit of the season with donations to worthy local, national, and international nonprofits. Food and festive music will be on hand!

December 4, 12 p.m.-4 p.m., Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, 310 Tulip Avenue (just three blocks from the Takoma Park Metro Station on the Red line). For more information E-mail Sara at



Coin Dealer
Mary Boland,

I have an elderly aunt who has entrusted me to sell a few old American and European coins for her. (I figured she’d get a better price for them in Washington than in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.) Can any reader recommend a reputable dealer in the area?


Solution for Metro Delays
Victoria McKernan,

I’d like to offer a dependable solution for dealing with Metro delays and catastrophes — always have a good paperback on hand! My latest novel, The Mosquito War, just came out in paperback, and I guarantee it will make those mysterious mid-tunnel stops and fifteen minute door-closing ordeals just fly by or your money back! You won’t feel so bad at simply being trapped underground while reading about a “CIA plot gone horribly awry and a terrorist weapon that comes in a very small package” all set in your very own city. (Including a chase scene on Metro! Nice how well the system can work in fiction!) Walter Wager, author of the book that became “Die Hard,” called it, “A scary and urgent tale of how biological war could really come to the USA tomorrow.” Be sure to carry a little flashlight — you won’t want to stop reading during blackouts! The Mosquito War by V.A. MacAlister, Tor books.


Rental Car Companies
David Sobelsohn, dsobelso -at- capaccess -dot- org

I need to get up to Baltimore for an upcoming Saturday evening engagement, but have no car. What’s the least expensive weekend car rental in the DC area? (I would also pay for a lift if someone’s going up there. I don’t need a lift back.)


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