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January 16, 2005

Unwelcome Hosts

Dear Hosts:

This week, Washington, DC, is hosting a presidential inauguration, as it does every four years. I suspect that inaugurations have nearly always been enormous burdens on the city, just as they have always been an enormous source of pride. For that one day, we who live here are the hosts for the rest of the nation, or at least those parts of the nation that either voted for the winner of the last election or that are willing for one day to put aside their bitter opposition to him. But expecting those of us who live here to pick up the bill for the presidential inauguration is just not right. The winning party should pick up the bill for the purely partisan aspects of the affair, and the federal government for the nonpartisan, ceremonial aspects of inaugurating the head of our national government. The residents of the city should suffer the attendant inconvenience, as we do every four years, but we shouldn’t have to foot the bill for a national celebration. I don’t understand why this time around there was so much misunderstanding over that simple principle, rooted in historical precedent.

I also don’t understand why our city’s leaders have been so reluctant to protect our interests with regard to the amount of inconvenience that we are expected to bear. In the last issue of themail, I quoted Tom Sherwood’s enumeration of the ways in which this inauguration is turning our city’s core into a good imitation of a military base in lock down mode. Mayor Anthony Williams, the ceremonial head of our government, and City Administrator Robert Bobb, its acting head, have been silent, at least in public, about the unprecedented, overbearing security provisions that are shutting down the central portion of our city and keeping us out. Instead of an attitude of invitation and inclusion, we have been treated to a position of exclusion and rejection. It would be better, we are being told, if we were all just to stay in our homes that day. We are not just unwelcome guests at the inauguration; we are its unwelcome hosts.

This is all of one piece with the usual attitude of our city’s government. It is a radical position in this town that the city government should be run in the interests of the people who live here, that city services should serve the citizens of the city. Why should we be surprised that the leaders of our local government are not defending us against the depredations of the federal government? They don’t support our interests against anybody who wants to exploit us — against developers, against suburban business interests, against Major League Baseball. In a democracy, the people are the government, but to our elected officials we are no more than one more special interest, and their least favorite special interest, at that.

Gary Imhoff


Waiting for Catastrophe
Victoria McKernan,

It is 5:17 on Friday evening and I am waiting for someone to get killed. This has been what might be called a blustery day in the world of Winnie the Pooh, but when a four-story scaffolding has come loose and is threatening to crash into the alley below, blustery seems just a little too charming a word. Unfortunately, every city agency seems lost in storybook land. At about 1:00 this afternoon, when gusting winds started swaying the four-story scaffolding up against our building, I leaned out the window to discover that half the bolts anchoring the structure had come loose. I called the contractor, leaving messages on two office numbers and one cell phone number. At 1:15, when the structure actually started slamming into the wall and swaying back over the alley, I left more urgent messages with him, then called 311, the DC non-emergency number to see who might be able to help, and to request that police at least close off the alley to prevent passersby from being crushed in case of imminent collapse.

By 1:30, when the swaying reached truly terrifying velocity, I called 911. The operator was actually very concerned, and the call wound up involving the Mayor’s command center, DPW, and the Office of Emergency Services and promises that someone would at least show up to assess the situation. Oh, surprise, surprise -- no one ever did. Meanwhile, duct tape to the rescue! Since a large blue tarp was catching the wind like a sail, causing most of the problem, I duct-taped a kitchen knife to a broom handle, leaned (way!) out the windows and started slashing vents in the tarp. My three downstairs neighbors, unnerved I’m sure to see me through the peephole with this makeshift harpoon, let me in and I managed to reduce wind resistance per square inch squared whatever by some significant amount.

By 3:00, despairing of reaching our contractor, I called every scaffolding company in the phone book to find someone who might come secure this thing. Surprise, no one would touch this with a ten-foot pole because of liability issues. Not their scaffolding, not their problem. People might be killed? Well, too bad, someone can always hold a fundraiser for the family. Meanwhile, no one from police, fire department, DPW, or anywhere has showed up or even called back. So now, we wait. The wind has dropped a lot, but gusts continue to slam the scaffolding up against the building and weaken whatever tenuous anchors remain. Mom, two kids and a baby in a stroller just walked down the alley and no steel bars crashed down upon their fragile skulls. This city works great, so long as luck is on our side.


James Forman
Michael Johnson,

Do you know when and where Mr. Forman’s funeral will be held?

[I haven’t seen a funeral or memorial service notice. Does anyone have this information? — Gary Imhoff]


Keith Jarrell,

Last week I inserted some information in my submission [themail, January 12] that was incorrect pertaining to the vote in Ward 2. I am terribly sorry for the misquote. Sam Brooks got more votes that did Kwame Brown, not Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, as I misstated. Sorry for any inconvenience I might have caused. Certainly my apologies to Councilmember Evans as well.


Jack Evans’ Vote Total
Sam Farmer,

In the last themail, Mr. Jarrell wrote, “It is clear that one good person could bring Jack Evans down and he could be replaced easily. Sam Brooks, running for At-Large Councilmember against Brown, received more votes in Ward Two than Mr. Evans did.” His facts are completely wrong. In Ward 2 Jack Evans got 4,116 votes while Sam Brooks got 1,622. (Brooks won the ward though: Brown 1606, Brazil 1288.) Results from DCBOEE,

I voted for Jack Evans because in the past couple years he has capped property tax increases, created DC’s early Presidential primary to attract attention to DC voting rights (all candidates issued positions for the first time ever, issue on front page of Post for first time this century), as head of Finance assured an A- Bond rating from Wall Street, been responsive to his constituents and by 2006 will have renovated every recreation center in Ward 2.


The Permits Have Been Posted
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Construction and demolition have been restarted, coinciding with the posting of permits, at 4745 Massachusetts Avenue, the new “Visiting Professor” residence. Modification to the inside are more than extensive. The shell of the building remains intact but the rest of the house, save the floors, has been gutted. A lumber truck arrived yesterday with enough lumber to build an entire house, which, I guess, is exactly what they are doing to the interior. Two dumpster loads of demolished interior materials so far. Foundation for the new first floor addition has been completed.


Smoke Free Workplaces
Eric Marshall, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network,

The majority of District voters want smoke-free workplaces. A recent poll commissioned by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and conducted by Lake Snell Perry and Associates found that 74 percent of likely DC voters favor passage of a citywide law that would make all indoor workplaces in the District, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. The DC Council has a tremendous opportunity to pass legislation in 2005 that would protect the District’s workers, families, and residents from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke. Every year secondhand smoke kills 35,000 to 40,000 nonsmokers from heart disease. It also causes cancer, lung disease, and other serious diseases. Not only does this law make sense but, as the poll proves, it is supported by an overwhelming majority of likely D.C. voters. ACS CAN and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have a great new website about the smoke-free effort in DC. Please visit for more information and to find out how you can get involved.


Near-Term Traffic Task Forces Obscure Basic Long-Term Transportation Tasks
Len Sullivan,

NARPAC’s January update takes a close look at the results of two mayoral tasks forces dealing with different aspects of DC’s many current traffic problems: parking all over the city, and traffic congestion downtown. The former contains some quite sensible proposals for improving the effectiveness and returns from current parking management; the latter mainly re-warms a set of recommendations from the recent federally-funded truck study and the K Street “Busway” planning. Neither considers current or future costs of their recommendations. NARPAC estimates that the current returns from traffic enforcement policies already exceed the costs to the city of accommodating several hundred thousand vehicles a day, and that emerging technologies might generate over $200M more.

Of greater concern, neither Task Force hints at the likely economy-threatening increase in both moving and stationary traffic and commuters over the next two decades as the metro area continues to grow. Major new investments in principal arteries, off-street parking and public transit have long lead times: the key decisions are already long overdue. NARPAC wonders when a task force will be convened to explore our capital city’s much bigger transportation problems. Check out our analyses at and/or our editorial at You too can help stimulate smarter politicians, smarter bureaucrats, smarter activists, and smarter growth in our national capital city.



DC Public Library Events, January 18-19
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, January 18, 6:30 p.m., Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street, SE. Capitol Hill Book Club. Lively book discussions with local authors and writers held by the Capitol Hill Book Club. Book club members select the book to be discussed. Adults. Public contact: 698-3377.

Wednesday, January 19, 6:30 p.m., Capitol View Neighborhood Library, 5001 Central Avenue, SE. Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. A special one-man show featuring Greg Bargeman portraying Dr. King. Public contact: 202/645-0755.

Wednesday, January 19, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Room A-5. Author Myron Uhlberg will discuss his life experiences as a firstborn-hearing son of a deaf father and mother through this trilogy of three books, Flying Over Brooklyn, The Printer, and Jackie, Dad and Me. Public contact: 727-2245 (Voice and TTY).


National Building Museum Events, January 25-26
Brie Hensold,

Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.

Tuesday, January 25, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Building for the 21st Century: The Pentagon Athletic Center’s Sustainable Design. Mark Erdly, AIA and Yee Tak (Edith) Lau, LEED, both of HNTB Architecture, will describe the 250,000-square-foot, underground, multipurpose facility and the innovative sustainable design strategies and credits they employed to earn LEED certification for it. Free. Registration not required.

Tuesday, January 25, and Wednesday, January 26, His Highness The Aga Khan will receive the Museum’s 2005 Vincent Scully Prize at a gala dinner on January 25. On the following day he will participate in a public program exploring his contributions to promoting design excellence, urban revitalization, and historic preservation in the Muslim world. For further details about the two events and registration information, visit



Baseball Coaches
Pat Bitondo,

Need volunteer baseball coaches for spring 2005 season. Youth ages 9-10, and 10-12. Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken Baseball. Contact or telephone Pat Bitondo at 337-2843.


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