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January 2, 2005

Looking Ahead

Dear Forward Thinkers:

So in the last issue I put out the call for roundups of 2004, year in review articles. And nobody sent any. Not one. So I guess you’re just like me, and don’t want to think about it, don’t want to remember it, don’t want to look back on it at all. Let’s pretend that’s a good thing, that instead of our avoiding the unpleasantness of the recent past we’re simply looking ahead, and our entire attention is on the future.

Are you with me on that? Good. Self-delusion is a useful trait for successful DC living.

Gary Imhoff


The 2006 Campaigns Have Begun
Dorothy Brizill,

It’s nearly midnight as I write this, and it has been an extremely long day. I attended the swearing-in ceremonies for the six elected councilmembers, three of them new, and the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and went to a series of receptions that followed the ceremonies. There can be no doubt that today marked the official kickoff of the 2006 political campaigns. In their remarks, Jack Evans, Adrian Fenty, Marion Barry, and Kwame Brown laid out political platforms and plans that went far beyond the usual brief thanks given at a swearing-in.

Evans promised that he would be an advocate on a host of issues that he has not been identified with in his past fourteen years on the council, including health care, public schools, and after-school recreation. Adrian Fenty repeated a phrase that seemed to resonate with the audience, that there was an opportunity for DC to become “a city which serves all the people,” with stress on the word “all.” Other potential candidates in 2006 staked their claims by sponsoring receptions for ANC commissioners and their guests. Michael Brown held a reception at the City Museum, while A. Scott Bolden helped underwrite the reception that Mayor Williams held at the Convention Center. Marion Barry held his own inaugural celebration, which he entitled the “Dawn of a New Day,” at Ballou Senior High School, and the gymnasium of the school was packed with his guests. An indication of Barry’s continuing political strength is that a number of potential mayoral candidates attended his reception and worked the room and the crowd — Adrian Fenty, Vincent Orange, Michael Brown, Kwame Brown (yes, he’s considering it already), and A. Scott Bolden.


Passing the Buck
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir,

Fannie Mae’s findings in their 2003 Housing in the Nation’s Capitol Report ( reveal how poverty has concentrated in the District. Using census tract data, Fannie Mae reported that 43 census tracts became more densely populated with people living in poverty than they were ten years previously. Their 2004 report paints an even gloomier picture for those of moderate means trying to pay for housing in metropolitan DC (

According to the 2000 Census, there are 43 census tracts in the District in which 25 percent or more of the families live in poverty. There are 188 census tracts in DC, so over 1 in 5 of the tracts are experiencing relatively high poverty rates. The highest percentage was 63.8 percent of the families living in poverty. These family rates do not include individuals living in poverty.

DCPS has at least one school in 27 of those 43 high-poverty census tracts. DCPS has 32 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 4 junior highs, and 5 high schools — or a total of 44 schools — in those census tracts. DCPS has approximately 147 schools, so one third of DCPS’s schools sit in highly impoverished communities. One third of the children in every classroom are struggling outside of the classroom to manage with the basic necessities of life: food, health care, and housing. These students are not responsible for their lot in life. But who is?


Shirley Chisholm
Dorinda White,

Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and an outspoken advocate for women and minorities during seven terms in the House, died Saturday at the ripe old age of 80. Chisholm, was elected to the U.S. House in 1968, and went to Congress the same year Richard Nixon was elected to the White House.

She ran for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1972. Shirley Chisholm had guts and that’s how she wanted to be remembered. From one Brooklyn girl to another, Ms. Chisholm, rest in peace.


American University Flouting the Rules
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

AU has purchased the house next door, and claims it will be a single-family residence for visiting professors and their familles. Extensive modifications are underway, with the external footprint of the building being expanded by some four hundred square feet via a first floor expansion at the front of the house. Curiously, no permits for these modifications have been displayed. Calls to AU regarding the lack of permits have been unanswered. My last message was that the permits should be displayed and that no work should continue until the permits are shown. Failure to show those permits, if work continues on the outside, will result in my seeking a stop work order from the DC zoning office.

It’s likely that AU will not be paying taxes on this $999 thousand dollar purchase, which will likely be worth some $1.2 million when they get finished. The loss of property tax revenue is bad enough, but if AU is not even paying for the construction permits, then I am really angry. Perhaps I’ll open up my own university, next door, and get some real tax exemptions. I’ll call it the University of What’s Happening Now. Very low tuition and very interesting courses.


Are They Gone Yet?
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Now that the throng of holiday tourists is gone, it’s time to take a look at some of the delightful holiday displays in some of the local venues before they are packed away. One of the very best displays is at the US Botanic Garden (right between the Capitol Building and the American Indian Museum) []. They have a display there of children’s toys from the mid to late 1940s. I saw some of mine there. And you don’t have to be a child to enjoy the incredible garden railway exhibit in the west wing of the building. It is, by far, the most extensive train and trolley layout that I have ever seen. Bring your camera.


The Meal Tax
Jeff Coudriet,

Happy New Year everyone. The additional 1 percent in restaurant meal tax (which is regularly 9 percent) goes to paying off the bonds on the new convention center. So DC was always getting the 9 percent going to the general fund. Also, I think the hotel tax had something like an additional 2-3 percent tacked on top of the regular rate for this purpose as well, making it 13-14 percent. I don’t have a code book in front of me, but it’s something like that.


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