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
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.
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.
Michael Johnson, email@example.com
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]
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.
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, http://www.dcboee.org/information/elec_2004/cong_citycouncil_2004_results.shtm.
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
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 http://www.BreatheEasyDC.org
for more information and to find out how you can get involved.
Near-Term Traffic Task Forces Obscure Basic Long-Term Transportation
Len Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 http://www.narpac.org/METRAFFIC.HTM
and/or our editorial at http://www.narpac.org/INTHOM.HTM#EDITORIAL.
You too can help stimulate smarter politicians, smarter bureaucrats,
smarter activists, and smarter growth in our national capital city.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Public Library Events, January 18-19
Debra Truhart, email@example.com
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:
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 http://www.nbm.org.
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
Need volunteer baseball coaches for spring 2005 season. Youth ages
9-10, and 10-12. Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken Baseball. Contact email@example.com
or telephone Pat Bitondo at 337-2843.
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