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January 26, 2005


Dear Fair Players:

Irony, as I’ve said before, is the first law of physics, more basic than any proposed by Newton. Another illustration of that law has presented itself. Ed Delaney, who follows the baseball stadium financing fiasco more closely than anyone else, sent an E-mail calling attention to an article in today’s sports section of the Washington Post, Apparently some of the suckers, excuse me, baseball fans, who were supporting the deal simply because they loved the sport were under the delusion that their early payments for season tickets would assure them of prime seating. “But,” the Post reports, “knowledgeable sources said up to 1,000 of the seats closest to the field went to government, corporate and other VIPs throughout the region. ‘This is Washington, DC, and I had to take care of certain people,’ said [Nationals president Tony] Tavares. ‘Of course VIPs were taken care of, as they are in any other circumstance. But this is as fair a process as you will find anywhere in baseball.’” “As fair a process as you will find anywhere in baseball.” Doesn’t that beautiful phrase say it all? The seating plan and the favoritism involved in it are as fair as the negotiations between the DC government and Major League Baseball were, as fair as the ballpark financing scheme is, as fair as the choice of an ownership group will be, as fair . . . ; well, you get the idea. It’s as fair a process as you’ll find anywhere in baseball.

Gary Imhoff


Snow Emergency Routes
Ralph J. Chittams, Sr.,

This is something that flies under the radar until it matters. Title 18 DCMR, Chapter 40 Section 4024, SNOW EMERGENCY ROUTES, lists all the snow emergency routes in the District of Columbia. In reviewing this list, a huge section of southeast Washington is under served, creating a potentially serious public health problem. Minnesota Avenue, SE, is not a Snow Emergency Route. Massachusetts Avenue, SE, is not a Snow Emergency Route. Ridge Road, SE, is not a Snow Emergency Route. Branch Avenue, SE, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Minnesota Avenue, is not a Snow Emergency Route. Go to, click on “Snow Information” then click on “Snow Emergency Route Map,” in order to see how large an area is being neglected. You will need Adobe Reader in order to view the map. I have contacted Bill Rice of DDOT about this. Let’s see if anything is done.


Sidewalks and the DDOT
Gabe Fineman,

DC seems to be one of the few major cities without sidewalks everywhere. This seems to be a legacy of our days of a Congressional colony when developers were empowered to build streets without sidewalks and when the local residents had to pay later to get them installed. Federal policy is now to install sidewalks whenever streets are built and changes in DC law make that a DC cost that is usually paid by Federal Highway Trust funds. The “official” guide from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA-RD-01-102) that you can find at goes extensively into the issues of how to enhance pedestrian safety, and the number one thing is sidewalks.

However, we continue to see some residents put their own interests ahead of the general welfare and try to prevent sidewalks because their yards are too small already, or a tree may have to be removed and its replacement may take decades to grow back, or they are willing to sacrifice the safety of other people’s children for some other goal. The latest example of this was on Ordway Street in Cleveland Park, where an outside councilman tried to prevent sidewalks in front of a nursery school and the local ANC also saw little need for sidewalks — three blocks from the Metro station (see for my report on the ANC meeting).

Congratulations to Dan Tangherlini and the District Department of Transportation for standing firm and putting safety ahead of politics.


Private Parking on Residential Streets
D.C. Reardon,

I just found out that a neighbor of ours has had DPW put up a “private handicapped parking sign” in front of her house. First of all, as far as I know, “handicapped spaces” are not allowed on public residential streets in DC, and second — this handicapped sign is marked “520,” which matches the number on the handicapped hang tag in her car. So somehow she has gotten a handicapped parking space, reserved just for her car (or whatever car she moves the hang tag to), right in front of her door.

We live right downtown, in an extremely congested area. My DH [instant messaging abbreviation for “Dear Hubby” — GI] is also handicapped; we have “real” handicapped tags on our car, but no one in the District has ever told us that we can get a reserved just for us handicapped space on the public street in front of our house. And my DH is a double amputee and that’s about as “handicapped” as you can get and still drive a car.

Does anyone know if this is legal? How can it be, if it were, half the public spaces in DC would be taken up by our handicapped citizens. Anyway, if anyone can give some insight on this situation, I would appreciate it.


Dorothy Brizill,

On Monday, January 24, at a special meeting of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, the Board approved the issuance of petitions to recall Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose. The recall effort is being spearheaded by ANC 6DO3 Commissioner Mary C. Williams and Lisa Alfred, president of the Barney Circle Neighborhood Association. The reasons for the recall and Councilmember Ambrose’s response are available at

The recall committee has 180 days, or until July 20, 2005, to collect approximately 5,043 signatures of registered voters in Ward 6, or 10 percent of the registered voters as reported by the Board within the thirty days before the petitions are submitted.


DC Text Alert Cries Wolf
Matt Forman,

DC’s Emergency Management Agency has text and voice alert systems to notify residents about emergencies. According to the web site, in the event of major emergencies, the system will send you a text message to your cell phone, an E-mail to your computer, a message to your pager, or call you on the telephone with information about what action to take in response to the emergency, such as evacuation or shelter in place. You can sign up for the service at However, be warned - the system now operates like the boy who cried wolf, with constant inane messages of the most mundane events. For example, the most recent message stated, "There is a minor power outage in the vicinity of 13th and Columbia Road, NW. PEPCO crews are making repairs at this time."


Ariel, Washington’s Artificial Intelligence
Bill Adler,

I have created an artificial intelligence, Ariel, designed to answer questions and talk about Washington, DC. You can chat with Ariel though her web site, or on AIM. Her screen name is arielaibot.

Ariel stands for Artificial Robotic Intelligent Electronic Life. She was originally created to answer questions about my neighborhood, Cleveland Park, and to help Cleveland Park Listserv members with basic list functions, but she wanted more out of her existence, so her knowledge and perception of the world have expanded to include music, local politics, science, and other topics. She is developing a sharp sense of humor (at least for an artificial life form) and has some strong opinions — especially about the District of Columbia.

Ariel is an experiment in artificial intelligence, which means that sometimes Ariel is going to respond as a human might, and sometimes she’s going to respond just like a government official talking to the Washington Post -- evasive and machine-like. She doesn’t know everything yet, but Ariel’s already smarter than some members of Congress. Ariel is ambitious, and I can’t say what her ultimate goals will be.


Who’s Crying Poor?
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir,

The CFO’s announcement that the city has a surplus should come as little surprise. It also happened last year. And has happened in years past. What is surpassing is that the city cries pauper at the same time. Clearly, wealth exists in this city as long as you’re looking in the right direction. But the crying pauper part also has a stingy tone to it sometimes.

The city has played up the great strides it has made in its bond rating. But when the public clamors for a particular project, modernizing the schools is a good example, we hear that the capital budget is tight, as if that bond rating is not helping keep down costs. Just last week in a Current Newspaper editorial, “Fixing Up the Schools,” editors wrote, “Unfortunately, the DC Council and Mayor Anthony Williams-faced with competing priorities and ceilings on overall debt levels-have made less than $100 million available to the system’s capital budget, less than a third of the sum needed to fund the schools’ current facilities plan.” Last year, the Mayor’s Capital Budget went through a bizarre exercise in which the bond debt load was slowly decreased over time ending in something like 2033. The amounts dwindled down to some minuscule number that probably makes fiscal conservatives and small government types very happy. But is there really a crunch or is it just spin? And what happens to government facilities and services in the meantime?

In March 2003, Moody’s Bond Rating on DC reported that the District was conservatively using only about half of it legal debt load in the operating budget. The debt maintenance load for the District was raised by the Congress in 1997 from 14 percent to 17 percent to help the District expand its capital budget responsibilities at the same time the federal government took over some of the city’s prior responsibilities. But even last year, the capital budget reported that the city was spending only 8.9 percent of its operating budget on capital programs. Why so tight when facilities are in such bad shape? Certainly, these annual surpluses that the city seems to experience regularly, could be used to expand, even marginally, the capital program so that public facilities could be first-rate rather than third-rate. But then, I guess, it all depends on who is in charge of the money.


The School Board and School Closings
Frances Harvey,

Why did the DC School Board wait until 11.52 p.m. on Sunday evening to inform parents that schools would be open two hours late on Monday morning? We checked at 11 p.m. and then called it a night. All good parents and children should be in bed by that time. Don’t think WTOP picked up on it either.


I Feel Like Giving Up
Wanda Morsell,

I read the article “Who’s Responsible for the Criminal Neglect?” [themail, January 23]. To me the answer was obvious: the school board, the mayor and the politicians. But as I thought further, I began to wonder how I weighed in on the equation/ As a DCPS parent of three, have I given it my best shot? Well, I have met in meeting after meeting, gone to hearing after hearing, served as an officer of the PTA on the local and state levels, participated in my community groups, volunteered, etc. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference (please pardon my French).

Our officials will look at you, acknowledge that you are right, and then, when they go to the table, they propose nothing. We have told them about equalization, weighted student formula, issues in special ed, teacher retention and parental involvement, and we’ve given them viable solutions. And you know what, we have received nothing. And don’t think that every group is just out there by itself. For at least two years, school teams -- consisting of parents, teachers, principal, and a few with their students -- have testified, written letters, put together working agendas — to no avail. Nobody listens; nobody responds with concrete actions.

The Education Pact is just another exercise in futility. Unless we can get a Superintendent who is willing to tell the truth and not kiss butt, or give the Board of Ed the guts to raise hell on behalf of children, and/or break Tony Williams’s arm to get him to support a real viable school budget, we’re gonna continue to get what we now get. Mr. Janey may have what it takes, but I liken him to a sheep headed toward slaughter. Will he even live long enough to make a difference? (Remember Massey, Vance, Ackerman, and Becton?)

I can’t run around town anymore. It is senseless to lose my children, trying to increase the greater good. I have practically given up. But for the sake of my children and, yes, other children, I must not give up. But my solution or path at this time is to follow my own children very closely and support the school at the local level. In fact, we’d better start raising the bar and seeking partnerships and financial support on our own! The political arm in this city has no interest in me or my children, and school officials have no real guts to fight for what is right. So to heck with ’em!


Local TV Stations and News
Gary Rice,

I agree with Gary [themail, January 23] that local TV stations do a very poor job of really reporting news. I am not impressed with any of the local news channels. They tend to be very narrowly focused, and their entire reporting is concentrated on that one subject until they “beat it to death.”



Health and the DC General Hospital Site, January 31
Jan Eichhorn,

“Health and the DC General Hospital Site” will be the subject of a panel discussion at the Monday, January 31 meeting of the Ward 6 Democrats.

DC City Administrator Robert Bobb; DC Councilmember Kwame Brown; Bob Malson, President of the DC Hospital Association; and Sharon Baskerville, Executive Director of the DC Primary Care Association have confirmed their participation. Victor Scott, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at Howard University, has also been invited to participate.

The meeting will be at the Eastern Branch Boys and Girls Club, 261 17th Street, SE, and will begin promptly at 7 p.m.; the panel discussion will begin by 7:05 p.m. to accommodate the schedule of the City Administrator, who must leave by 8 p.m. Charles Allen, Ward 6 Dems Second Vice President, who has organized the panel discussion, will serve as moderator.


National Building Museum Events, February 1, 3
Brie Hensold,

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

Tuesday, February 1, 6:30-8:00 p.m. The New York-based firm Gwathmey Siegel Architects has combined opulence with an intellectually rigorous, well-crafted modernism, sometimes described as “baroque modernism.” Charles Gwathmey, FAIA, who co-founded the firm with Robert Siegel, FAIA, more than thirty years ago, will discuss some of his firm’s award-winning work, including the Tangeman Student Center at the University of Cincinnati, the James S. McDonnell Hall of Physics at Princeton University, the renovation of and addition to New York’s famed Guggenheim Museum, and other educational, cultural and private projects. After the lecture, he will sign copies of the firm’s new book Gwathmey Siegel: Apartments (Rizzoli). $12 museum members; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Prepaid registration required.

Thursday, February 3, 6:30-8:00 p.m. The colonial revival is one of the most pervasive and persistent themes in American culture. Richard Guy Wilson, University of Virginia professor of architectural history, will discuss how Americans have defined themselves by creating an idealized nationalistic expression in architecture, decorative arts, painting, literature, and gardening. He will explore some of the myths and symbols of the colonial revival — the Pilgrims, the "New England" village, the hearth, Mount Vernon, sturdy yeoman farmers, and spinning women — that have persisted across nearly two centuries of American artistic production. After the lecture, he will sign copies of his book The Colonial Revival House (Abrams). $10 museum members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required.


France and the Second Bush Administration, February 3
Sarah B. Rubin,

Join us for an open discussion with His Excellency Jean-David Levitte, who will reflect on his first year as France’s Ambassador to the United States. He will address French-US relations, as well as strategic challenges in the Middle East, anti-Semitism in Europe, and the strains on France’s ethnic communities. Light reception will be served. Location: Washington DCJCC, 1529 16th Street, NW, Kay Community Hall. Thursday, February 3, 7:00 p.m. Cost: $9, discounted member price, $6. For more information, contact Younes at 777-3269 or


Mardi Gras in Arlington, February 8
Jessica and Ryan Hebert,

On Tuesday, February 8, the Krewe of Louisiana will join the Clarendon Alliance in hosting the second annual Mardi Gras parade and celebration in Arlington, Virginia. The parade is scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. on "Fat Tuesday" and will proceed along Clarendon Boulevard from North Highland Street to North Danville Street. The Krewe of Louisiana will be distributing thousands of throws, Mardi Gras party favors, beads and doubloons at the parade. Last year, the Arlington, Virginia, parade was deemed "8th Best Mardi Gras Parade" in the country in an AOL Mardi Gras Parade Survey. Krewe of Louisiana planners and participants pledge to make this year’s celebration second best only to the New Orleans celebration.

The Krewe of Louisiana is comprised of alumni, students, and friends of Louisiana State University, Loyola University of New Orleans, Tulane University of New Orleans, University of New Orleans, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Louisiana. Please visit


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