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February 6, 2005


Dear Serious People:

Are DC councilmembers and the mayor serious about legislating? Do they understand why legislatures pass bills and make laws? Two recent bills make it reasonable to ask these questions. On February 1, the council passed, by a vote of 12-1, and the mayor said he supported, the “Terrorism Prevention in Hazardous Materials Transportation Emergency Act of 2005,” which bans the transportation of poisonous inhalation gases by train through DC. It sounds reasonable to want dangerous materials to be routed around densely populated cities. But these materials are already being routed around the city, and have been for the past year. More importantly, as Councilmember Carol Schwartz, the only councilmember to vote against the bill, pointed out, under the Constitution states and cities can’t regulate interstate commerce. She wrote, "Such legislation would constitute a breach of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution and would be preempted under federal statutes and under judicial case law." So the council passed an unconstitutional law to require to be done what had already been achieved administratively, through negotiation with the federal government and CSX Transportation. In other words, it didn’t try to deal with this issue seriously and effectively; it just postured and pretended that it was doing something about it.

Then, on February 2, twelve of the thirteen councilmembers cosponsored, and the mayor said he would support, a bill making it illegal to sell video games that are rated M to minors. Apparently, they are convinced that teenagers are being induced to steal automobiles by playing “Grand Theft Auto,” rather than by their classmates, friends, and families. Of course, councilmembers and the mayor admit that the bill is blatantly unconstitutional, and that it will never withstand a court challenge. But with the sole honorable exception of Kathy Patterson, who opposes the bill, they don’t seem to care that much about First Amendment rights. They say that passing it will “send a message.” Of course it will. It will send a message that councilmembers and the mayor aren’t competent legislators, that it’s more important for them to pretend to their more gullible constituents that they are “doing something about youth violence” than to ensure that the laws they pass are constitutional, will actually go into effect, and will be effective.

Council period 16 is off to an inauspicious start. I can only hope that, after getting this role-playing out of their systems, councilmembers and the mayor will settle down to their real business, which is to identify real problems and to pass real legislation to deal with them. Can I make some suggestions? Close the loophole which allows “exploratory committees” not to report their contributions and expenditures. Revisit electric power deregulation, and support the People’s Counsel efforts with regard to rate increases. Figure out why the administration is failing to move forward with its announced plan to cooperate with Howard University — or some other entity, if Howard is incapable of following through — to build a new hospital. I’m sure themail contributors will have their own suggestions.

Gary Imhoff


Nanny Council Burdens Business with Video Game Bill
Dominic Sale, Mount Pleasant,

The Common Denominator reports that a new DC Council bill would ban sale of violent videos to minors in DC. This is just the latest in a string of measures unleashed by a newly installed Council that places new restrictions on DC’s already overburdened businesses and property owners. With proposals for newly tightened rent control measures, increased “affordable housing” set-asides, smoking bans, single serving liquor moratoria, and egregious voluntary agreements (to name a few,) there seems to be no end to Council’s willingness to tinker with the free market in return for populist support.

To what depth Council will feel free to plumb for new and expanded restrictions, only time will tell. One thing’s for sure though — it’s as good a time as any to invest right across the District line.


Parking Ticket Saga
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

I received a DC “Notice of Unsatisfied Parking Tickets” citing a ticket I never received and demanding $60, double the face value of the alleged ticket. But I did park on the block mentioned on the date mentioned, so I figured that I’d fed the meter but missed alternate-side-parking signs. (Dumb: I park on that block a lot and I know there are those rules. On the other hand, signage isn’t uniform and sometimes I have to walk pretty far to check a signpost.). Anyway, I consulted a buddy who works for DC, he suggested I call the central Mayor’s phone number.

I called 727-1000. A slightly accented great/sweet/friendly voice took the call, told me she’d transfer me to 727-5000. That number had a great, friendly, professionally recorded greeting. While on hold I realized there’s a phone number in small print on the letter. I called that number, was briefly on hold, talked to someone with a brain, she courteously took my info (including that I’d not received the ticket) and she confirmed that I missed the street sweeping sign. She said I should write to traffic adjudication, that I could pay $30 with the letter. Not that I like wasting $30, but assuming that they accept that as full payment, it was pretty painless. Much better than the District’s gloomy reputation! Of course, they could work on the signage, but that’s another crusade.


Amid All the Bleak News, Hope
Phil Shapiro,

A friend recently mentioned to me that her daughter has set up a company in Silver Spring that invents robots and other devices for children with special needs. I take a general interest in that kind of stuff. (see When I visited the web site of this company, my pulse quickened. The inventions this company is working on are quite something. If you have a moment, check out the QuickTime video found under the “About Us” section: Why should someone who doesn’t have special needs children of his own take an interest in such things? Well, if someone is bringing increased hope into this world, I’m interested in it. And if there’s something small I can do to promote that hope, I’m going to do it.

One interesting aspect to this story is that Cori Lathan, founder of this company, was home schooled before getting her doctorate in neuroscience from MIT.


DC Residents: Don’t Move to Virginia
Austin Kelly,

In January of 2003 I moved across the Potomac, did some work on my vastly appreciated Connecticut Avenue co-op, and sold it May 2003. Last year I got a letter from the Virginia Department of Taxation asking me why I hadn’t paid taxes to the Old Dominion for 2002. I wrote them back with the obvious answer: “I didn’t pay tax to you because I didn’t live here then.” I came home tonight and found a letter from the Virginia Department of Taxation telling me that I owe thousands of dollars, plus a couple of thousand more in penalties and interest, “for the period 1-1-02 to 12-31-02.” And this cheery note: “Collection proceedings will continue ...” If you think that you can escapee the Kafkaesque nature of DC government by crossing the river, you’re dead wrong.


Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

Parents and teachers may be interested in an article, “Understanding ADHD,” in the current issue of the American Educator, the quarterly education journal of the American Federation of Teachers. The author, Daniel T. Willingham, is a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia. For several years now, he has written an occasional column under the heading, “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” (

From the description in the contents: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder seems to be in the news (and our classrooms) constantly: What is it, how is it diagnosed, and how should it be treated? Our cognitive scientist provides the facts with an eye toward helping teachers deal with ADHD in the classroom.” Question and headings from the article: “Question: What can you tell me about ADHD? Is it even real-or is it just a faddish diagnosis? How can I recognize it in a student-and how can I help a student who has it? What Is ADHD? Diagnosis. ADHD Symptom List. Treatment. What if you suspect a student in your class has ADHD? What if a child in your class has diagnosed ADHD?”


The Hip Hop Culture Is Coming to a Place Near You
Bryce A. Suderow,

Yesterday I overheard a conversation on the bus. A young black man was talking about a hip hop artist who appeared on a radio program. The artist and his bodyguards beat up the host live and on the air. He ended the story by enthusiastically exclaiming, “That was hip hop culture coming to the radio!” Indeed. Today I was on the X-2 bus when a young girl bumped into a baby who was sitting on its mother’s lap. Suddenly the mother leaped up exclaiming, “You’ve done that three times.” She seized the girl by her hair and proceeded to strangle her. The two contestants briefly grappled and then separated and began aiming wild kicks and punches at each other. The young enthusiast would have said, “This was hip hop culture coming to the bus!” A few days ago at the entrance to the subway leading Eastern Market Metro, four or five black teenagers knocked a little boy down and began stomping him. Hip hop culture coming to the Metro!

When I tell white people about these events they feel uncomfortable. Stories of black outlandish behavior sound vaguely racist, they think. So they feebly counter with stories of how white children in the suburbs misbehave nowadays as well. I don’t know which phenomenon I dislike more, the behavior of young black teenagers from the ghetto or the whites who want to remain innocent, pure, and ignorant.


National Capitol Medical Center Clarification
Eric Rosenthal, Capitol Hill,

I would like to clarify my E-mail (themail, February 2, 2005) about the National Capitol Medical Center. In the correspondence, I said that Councilmember David Catania offered no response to the contention that emergency room overcrowding occurs because many ER patients could be treated in primary care settings. In fact, the Councilmember did offer a response, albeit one with which I disagree. The implication that the Councilmember was unresponsive to his constituents was unintended.


Response to Eric Rosenthal
Ben Young, Deputy Committee Director, Committee on Health,

Having attended last Monday’s community meeting on the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) sponsored by the Ward 6 Democrats, I find Eric Rosenthal’s recollection of it [themail, February 2] to be inaccurate. For instance, it is incorrect that Councilmember Catania offered no response to his claim (which incidentally, he attributed to “several people,” though in reality it was his own) that patients with primary care needs are overcrowding District emergency rooms. In fact, Catania offered a vigorous defense of his position that area emergency rooms (ERs) have been hit hard by the closure of DC General. Moreover, it is important to note that Dr. Rosenthal is an ER doctor at Children’s Hospital, which does not treat adult patients, and is therefore the only District hospital not significantly affected by DC General’s demise.

Dr. Rosenthal is correct that strengthening the District’s primary care infrastructure should be a priority. The DC Primary Care Association (DCPCA) has documented this need in detail, and Councilmember Catania strongly agrees with this point. However improving primary care in the District will not resolve the problems in acute and emergency care by itself. My colleagues have painstakingly tracked the number of ER closures since the elimination of DC General forced 50,000 yearly ER visits into other hospitals. You can find these data at A closure occurs when a hospital informs Emergency Medical Services (EMS) that it cannot accept patients due to inadequate capacity (i.e., overcrowding). When this happens, an ambulance must divert a patient to another hospital, generally bypassing one or more closed ERs in the process. The data show a sharp spike in ER closures among area hospitals subsequent to the closure of DC General. For instance, a comparison of ER closure hours in November 2000 and November 2004 shows the following data. Clearly, the shutting of DC General has adversely affected other area hospitals.


Percent change in the number of ER closure hours between November 2000 and November 2004

George Washington University

+394 %


+300 %

Georgetown University

+250 %

Greater Southeast

+167 %


+134 %

Washington Hospital Center

+55 %


+48 %

Howard University

+29 %

Children’s Hospital

0 %

Source: DC Fire and EMS, Office of Program Evaluation

While it is also true that DC Hospital Association (DCHA) data show that on average 25 percent of acute care beds may be unoccupied in the District, this does not mean the District has sufficient acute care capacity. That argument ignores two key issues: first, municipalities must tolerate surplus in bed capacity in order to adequately provide care for those periods of intense activity and high demand, such as the winter flu months or a catastrophic event. The second point is one of geography. It is irrefutable that large numbers of former DC General patients are underserved in terms of their emergency and acute care. They should not have to travel all the way across town to find one of the empty beds described by Dr. Rosenthal. Finally, Councilmember Catania has repeatedly stated, as he did on Monday, that he will base his decisions and recommendations for a new hospital on the data and the evidence and not sentimentality or politics. This issue is one of our committee’s highest priorities, as evidenced by our decision to make it the subject of our first individual hearing on February 17.


Emergency Room Overcrowding
Star Lawrence,

[Eric Rosenthal, themail, February 2, wrote] “Catania cited overcrowding in emergency rooms as evidence that we need a new hospital. He offered no response to several speakers who pointed out that overcrowding occurs because many patients go to emergency rooms for medical problems that would be better handled in primary care settings.”

I once wrote an article on non-emergency use of Emergency Departments. I was surprised to learn that hospitals count on this for revenue, do not resent it, and that a percentage of it is from people with insurance who are sent to the Emergency Department by their primary care physicians, who cannot give them a same-day appointment.


Medical Care
Nora Bawa,

To quote Dr. Eric Rosenthal, “If our elected officials would focus on people’s health care needs, instead of their own political health, no doubt they would come up with a better use of $100 million than building another hospital in DC.”

When will we stop applying Band-Aids and direct ourselves to the causes of social problems? I just returned from Cuba, where each neighborhood has a health clinic, where pregnant women and those over 65 receive a home visit from their doctor twice a month for free. I doubt they had many $100 million to work with!



DC Public Library Events, February 9-10
Debra Truhart,

Wednesday, February 9, 1:00 p.m. Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library, 7420 Georgia Avenue, NW. A Black History Month program that features a book discussion on Nelson Mandela’s international best selling autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Public contact: 541-6100.

Thursday, February 10, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Washington area musicians present classical music by William Grant Still, Margaret Bonds, and others. The Music Division of the DC Public Library presents this program in celebration of Black History Month. Public contact: 727-1285.

Thursday, February 10, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 307. Michael W. Kauffman, author of American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracy, will discuss his book that offers a fresh look at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.


Public Hearing on Proposed FY2006 Education Budget, February 15
Sharon Gang,

On Tuesday, February 15, at 4:00 p.m., Mayor Anthony A. Williams will conduct a public hearing on the proposed FY2006 education budget at 441 4th Street, NW, in the first floor auditorium (former Council Chambers). Participants’ comments will be considered as the Mayor develops his final education budget for DC Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools. Each individual or representative of an organization who wishes to present testimony at the public hearing is requested to furnish his or her name, address, telephone number and name of organization represented (if applicable) to Adrienne Gillette at 724-7696 no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 9. All oral presentations must be limited to no more than three minutes. Witnesses must provide at least three copies of their testimony in advance of the hearing, no later than Friday, February 11. Statements should be sent to the attention of Michelle Walker, Senior Education Advisor, Executive Office of the Mayor, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 527, Washington, DC, 20004 or via fax at 724-8977. For those who do not wish to testify in person, written statements will be accepted for the record no later than Friday, February 18.

The DCPS FY 2006 Proposed Operating Budget is currently available on the DCPS web site at You may also contact the DCPS Office of Communications and Public Information at 442-5635 for a copy of the budget. For information regarding the requested FY2006 budget for public charter schools, you may contact the DC Board of Education at 442-4289 and the DC Public Charter School Board at 328-2660.


Public Library Trustees Meeting, February 16
Debra Truhart,

The DC Public Library Board of Trustees will hold its February 2005 board meeting at the Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library. This is a change in venue for the meetings that were previously held at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library. Managers of the Washington Highlands, Parklands-Turner, Southeast, and Anacostia neighborhood libraries will give a brief synopsis of their communities and how library service is customized to meet the needs of their respective communities. Wednesday, February 16, 6 p.m., Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW, 645-5880.


Juliet Bruce at LOC, February 23
Robert Saladini,

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress presents Juliet Bruce, David W Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality, in a lecture titled “The God with Two Faces: Transforming Cultural and Interpersonal Violence through Art, Myth, and Ritual” on Wednesday, February 23, at 2:30 p.m. in Room LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress. This event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Dr. Bruce, the first David B. Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality at the Library of Congress, will discuss the “science” behind the use of art, myth, and ritual for personal and social healing. Professionals in corrections, mental health, community development, education, writers and other artists, and anyone else interested in an effective approach to transforming the energies of violence will find this talk both provocative and useful.

For more information about this event contact Robert Saladini at 707-2692 or Learn more about the David B. Larson Fellowship in Health and Spirituality by visiting the web at You may request ASL and ADA accommodations five days in advance at 707-6362 or


Is Blogging Journalism?, February 28
Karen Feld,

In 2004, the phenomenon of blogs (online web logs) exploded both in scope and content. From personal diaries to lifestyle writing to political reporting, bloggers are enjoying elevated credibility in the media. For the first time, bloggers gained official recognition as media outlets to cover both political conventions. A blogger broke the CBS/Bush military record scandal. And the catastrophes of December’s tsunamis are filling blogs from around the globe, bringing information into living rooms and, many times, doing so more quickly than traditional media. However, while the numbers of blogs and their faithful readership are trending upward, some of us wonder if blogging is true journalism. What credentials must bloggers attain and how do they compare to those of "traditional" journalists? Are there enough gatekeepers to maintain objectivity, who are they, and who puts them in place? What are the legal ramifications concerning blogs and the information they contain? How will blogging and established media coexist in the future?

SPJ-DC Pro Chapter will hold a panel discussion to address these and other questions relating to the role of web logs on Is Blogging Journalism?, on Monday, February 28, from 7:00-9:00 p.m., at The Charles Sumner School, 1201 17th Street, NW. The panelists will bring a diverse range of experience and opinions relating to blogs: media veteran Amy Eisman, an assistant professor of journalism in the School of Communication at American University; Kelly Ann Collins, founder of Washington Socialites (, which covers DC gossip, lifestyles and celebrity humor; Steve Klein, coordinator of the Electronic Journalism Program and an online, print and sports journalism instructor at George Mason University; and cofounder of; Bob Becker, is a lawyer whose practice includes advising writers, editors, photographers and others in the news media about access to government proceedings and records, libel, invasion of privacy and protecting confidentiality; and moderator Karen Feld, SPJ, DC-Pro Chapter Vice President and Program Chairman and the Buzz columnist for the Washington Examiner.

RSVP; please indicate which event in the subject line. SPJ student members, $5; student nonmembers, $10; SPJ professional members, $10; guests, $15.


NCRC Conference, March 16-19
Antonio Arocho,

On behalf of John Taylor and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, I would like to take this opportunity to invite the readers of themail to attend the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) Annual Conference this year from March 16-19, in Washington DC. The venue for the conference is the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill. We will provide workshops and plenary sessions to our member organizations, allies from abroad, academics, lawyers, bankers, activists and other practitioners from the field of economic justice. Our conference will help them work more effectively on and with financial institutions, regulators and community leaders to attract and sustain development in the areas that are most in need. The conference will be a valuable training and networking opportunity.

Our keynote speaker this year is Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Senator Hillary Clinton also plans to address our conference participants. In addition you will also enjoy meeting a number of other leaders in the field. We truly hope that you can join us at this event. You can call 628-8866 or visit our web site ( for conference registration forms. Do take advantage of our early bird registration prices. Please note that the specially reserved NCRC hotel rooms are only available at a special discounted rate until February 15; I encourage you to make your reservations at the Hyatt Regency, Capitol Hill, before then.


Lorraine Whitlock Memorial Dinner, April 8
Julius Ware, II,

Ward Seven Democrats invites you to join us at the second annual Lorraine H. Whitlock memorial dinner on Friday, April 8, 7:00 p.m., at St. Luke’s Center, 4923 East Capitol Street, SE. Tickets $25.00. Please mark your calendars and reserve this date; join us as we celebrate the life of a Ward 7 heroine and legend who worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all. Information: 584-8477, Ward 7 Democrats Infoline, Bernadyne E. Williams, dinner coordinator.



Car Wash Needed
Phil Shapiro,

For the past few years I’ve been thinking of getting my car washed, and it’s looking imminent that I’ll be getting it washed this year, or maybe next. Anyone have a recommended car wash?


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