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February 9, 2005


Dear Washingtonians:

I’m demoting my message to just before the Classifieds, since I’m replying to people who replied to my introduction to the last issue of themail. See you down below.

Gary Imhoff


Key to the Kingdom
Dorothy Brizill,

At today’s weekly press conference, Mayor Williams unveiled a new symbolic key to the city, designed by sculptor John Dreyfuss, which the mayor will present to visiting dignitaries ( The key was in the planning stages for more than eight years within the DC Commission on the Arts and the Office of the Secretary. Each key is stainless steel and ten inches in length, and costs $2,000 to produce. Each key is imprinted with the slogan “Opportunity for All,” which was the message personally selected by Mayor Williams.


On Exploratory Committees
Eli Rosenfield, j-eli at rcn dot com

Some 3000 years ago God, speaking through his prophet Moshe, said, "And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous." (Exodus 23:8, King James Version, other translations differ slightly.)

Can it be any clearer?


How to Bankrupt a City Hospital and Sell the Land to Developers
Michael L. Davis, Davis & Associates,

On February 17, in Health Committee hearings in the District of Columbia Council chambers, a former government hospital contractor, under oath, will describe how the Government of the District of Columbia, hid over two hundred million dollars ($ in Federal funds designed to keep DC General Hospital (the only public hospital serving poor residents) open. The hospital was closed due to lack of funds, and the Washington Post reported deaths as a result of the closure.

This testimony will take place during the backdrop of hearings into the building of a new public hospital being pushed by the Federal Government for Homeland Security reasons.


Overcrowding in Our Emergency Rooms
Keith Jarrell, Capitol Hill,

Overcrowding in our emergency rooms continues and only increases with severity. All of this due to two main factors. the mayor’s closing of Greater Southeast Community Hospital, and a real lack of solid, easily accessible health care in the District. I have a lot of forced experience with both of late. My partner suffers from a brain injury as a result of a hit-and-run car accident. Although his progress is good, at times things come up that require him to be rushed to the Emergency Room. This last time about three weeks ago was a nightmare. The ER at the Washington Hospital Center, where we know a lot of the doctors and nurses, was over crowded. There were 141 patients waiting to be seen. The ER there is designed with 24 beds, not 124. Thus people were everywhere! Because of the seriousness of Louie’s injury and potential complications, he usually doesn’t have to wait long. But this time we were there for five hours, before being advised of his condition and allowed to come home.

This overcrowding is in part due to the closing of Greater Southeast, but also due to the failure of this administration to realize the weakness in our health care system. Building a new hospital is years away. Let’s face it! But my suggestion is to increase the size and efficiency of the ER at WHC to help not only the people of the city but the nurses and doctors that serve us as well. These working conditions there are terrible. It is important that we find ways to keep good help in our hospitals, and this overcrowding issues plays its part in well-trained professionals leaving the city. There seems to be nothing in the works or planning stages to offer any assistance to the Washington Hospital Center or MedStar, its parent owner, to keep up the great work they are doing. There are being completely over looked in the quest to built another facility. Keep in mind that the Washington Hospital Center is one of the best facilities on the east coast, with numerous renowned doctors and services.

It’s true that a large portion of the people they treat have no insurance, and thus probably don’t pay their bill, but the hospital would certainly appreciate the city stepping up and offering its help to ease the problem. This could happen a lot quicker than building a new hospital! This too would help improve the medical care that both you and I receive when we are forced to go to the Emergency Room for medical help. This could help us all, but yet is being totally overlooked. I think we all need to become active in bringing our elected officials’ attention to this matter and in insisting on a long term resolution -- one that involves quick planning and long term assistance in improvement of the medical services available to all of us, especially in emergency room triage care. It’s vital to saving the lives of the residents of the District of Columbia.


A New Hospital
Richard Wolf,

I would agree with everything you have said except for your push for a new hospital. As Eric Rosenthal stated in the last issue of this newsletter, there is no evidence that a new hospital is needed; but there is evidence that more and better primary care is needed. Caveat, I am a former chair of the now closed Capitol Hill Hospital and a former nine-year member of the Audit Committee of Medlantic Healthcare Corp -- now Med Star -- which includes the Hospital Center and National Rehab. I have no relationship in any way to any of these entities now or for the last nine years, but my wife is a forty-year attending pediatrician at Childrens in both the outpatient department and cardiology and an active member of groups concerned with primary care for children and families.

In addition, with the Council’s concern over the problems of hazardous materials being transported through the city, it should be noted that the Mayor is seeking to build at the old DC General site a level four bio-terrorism research facility next to a new school for disabled children — St. Colletas — and within two blocks of an existing residential neighborhood. Such facilities would greatly impair any further development opportunities on the Reservation 13 site. Initiatives to build such facilities at NIH in Bethesda and in South Boston have created extensive unrest in adjacent communities.


New Hospital ER Push No Accident?
Michael Bindner, mikeybdc at yahoo dot com

Am I the only one who has noticed that the push for a new hospital follows the denial of DC’s Olympic bid, which planned to use Reservation 13 as a venue?


The Hip Hop Culture
Ralph J. Chittams, Sr.,

[Re: Bryce Suderow, “The Hip Hop Culture Is Coming to a Place Near You,” themail, February 6:] I am no devotee of the "Hip Hop Culture." In fact, there is very little that appeals to me about the hip hop culture. I don’t particularly like the music and the fashions are not my cup of tea. I prefer Brooks Brothers to baggy pants. However, I cannot remain silent when overreaching, racially inflammatory, and flat-out ignorant comments are made about an entire group of people. Mr. Suderow spoke of "black outlandish behavior" while relegating such behavior to solely the hip hop culture. Well, like anything, the hip hop culture has its good and it has its bad. The Hip Hop Culture is in my church. We have women with multiple piercings and tattoos. We also have men who wear baggy pants who have their hair braided. That is also the Hip Hop Culture. The Hip Hop Culture owns "Phat Farm." The Hip Hop Culture is part owner of the New York Knicks and the New York Jets. Claiming that because one member of a group does something the entire group is now guilty is the same backwoods, racist, Bull Connor, Nazi-like thinking that plagued the first half of the twentieth century. My other comments will be directed to Mr. Suderow privately.


A DC Council Dilemma: Oversight or Foresight
Len Sullivan,

NARPAC’s February update takes a rare look at the newly constituted legislative side of DC’s local government and wonders whether their balance of effort is oriented too much toward oversight and too little toward foresight. The city is making real progress for the short term. But we see six major long-range problems which the Washington Metro Area’s core city will have to resolve to become a first-rate national capital city. From the top-down, these include better relations with the Federal Government, forever DC’s 600-pound gorilla; closer relations with the metro area of which DC is an ever-shrinking part; more efficient land use (and more revenue-producing land); expanded local/regional transportation capacities and controls for all modes; a serious effort to eliminate poverty rather than just supporting it; and a real effort to eliminate the city’s education deficits that persist at all ages, not just among the pre-dropouts.

It isn’t clear to us that the Council is organized to focus on foresight. It recently endorsed a new "DC Vision" that reads more like a small time sociology project than a great city mandate. It also appears to lack the independent analytical capability to come to grips with the quantitative aspects of its real-world shortcomings and solutions. Browse through our perspectives at and/or our editorial at  Perhaps you can help stimulate smarter politicians, smarter bureaucrats, smarter activists, and smarter long-term growth in our national capital city.


Interstate Commerce Regulation
Don Lief, Portland, OR,

Some clarification seems in order regarding state and local regulation of interstate commerce. Long-distance truckers driving their 18-wheelers through town must observe regulations: speed limits, red lights, etc. Towns and cities in the West, where rail tracks bisect downtown, have set speed limits on trains within city limits for public safety. That doesn’t sound like they’ve been preempted.


Ridicule of the Council’s Anti-Terrorism Hazmat Transportation Act
Jim Dougherty,

City Council staff with whom I spoke last week reported that they had received approximately 2,000 E-mails from DC residents on the Terrorism/Hazmat Transportation Act passed by the Council last Tuesday. The tally: about 2,000 to zero in favor of the bill. Its refreshing to see that your views are unswayed by the vicissitudes of public sentiment.

But I take issue with your reasoning. Your opinion that the bill is unconstitutional comes without apparent support. This stands in stark contrast to the 18-page opinion letter prepared last week by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hall and Dorr, one of the largest and most respected firms in the city. Wilmer Cutler’s opinion letter concludes that the Act is clearly constitutional; it was circulated all over town, and referenced in the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps you missed it; perhaps you simply disagree. But even if it were a close call legally, should that stop a legislature from taking steps to protect the public safety?

The proposed ban on offensive videos strikes me as legally distinct. First, the existing legal opinions on bad videos are running against the Council, not in favor, as in the case of the “toxic trains.” Second, the operative constitutional provision there is the First Amendment — which most of us hold dear — not the Commerce Clause, which is just another way for the federal government to stifle self-protective legislation in DC and the states.

As to your observation that hazardous materials shipments are currently being routed around the City, the only two people in town who apparently feel confident of that are you and Carol Schwartz. Neither CSX nor the Department of Homeland Security has ever substantiated this rumor in any forum. In the past eight months, I have personally seen, and/or photographed, many 90-ton rail tank cars with signage indicating that they are full of liquefied chlorine gas. I attach one such photo — of a chlorine tanker sitting (not rolling) behind of the Defense Department’s Forrestal Building — from last August.

If a bad guy were to drive a car bomb into the side of one of these tank cars (vehicular access to the rails is unrestricted near Forrestal and on Capitol Hill), up to 100,000 people would die within thirty minutes, according to US Navy experts. Are you willing to risk another Hiroshima in order to defend the sanctity of the Commerce Clause?


Hazmat Is Deadly Serious
Ken Jarboe, ANC 6B05,

Is time flowing backwards? Are rivers running uphill? It any of these are occurring I would be less shocked than reading that DC Watch has bought in, hook-line, and sinker, to the CSX-Department of Homeland Security (DHS) response to hazardous materials around the Capitol. The CSX-DHS line has been "trust us, we are the experts and we know what we are doing." The problem with this line, which themail implicitly repeats, is that it leaves too may questions unanswered.

Supposedly, hazardous materials are already being rerouted. Yet, both CSX and DHS refuse to say so publicly. Are the supposed rerouting, if they are occurring, permanent — or only for special occasions? Who enforces this voluntary ban? If this rerouting is voluntary, who decides when and if they ship hazardous materials next to the US Capitol — the US government or the railroad? If they have been rerouting hazardous tanker cars for the past year, why have we seen these car on the tracks during the time that rerouting was supposedly occurring? Was it empty as has been claimed? If so, why was the hazmat placard still showing that it contained hazardous materials (if this was a mistake, how many other mistakes are there)? Why do DHS and CSX refuse to say publicly that they are rerouting and thereby remove the rail-line from the list of potential terrorist targets? To me, this makes as much sense as putting in place a no-fly zone over the Capitol and White House — and then not telling anybody about it.

As I stated in my testimony before the City Council, it appears that our Federal government officials are attempting to reduce the threat from ultrahazardous materials. However, they are not taking the one step to eliminating the threat — permanent rerouting. For once, we have an action that will completely eliminate a threat — not reduce, not mitigate — eliminate. Our local elected officials have filed that leadership void. I call that being deadly serious.


You’re Wrong on the Hazmat Bill
Charles Docter,

I fully endorse everything that Commissioner Jarboe and Jim Dougherty of the Sierra Club have written you on the serious misstep that themail has taken on the Hazardous Material Bill. How can you get taken in by Carol Schwartz’s mixed up legal reasoning on the Commerce Clause? Even CSX, after the Bill’s passage, told the Washington Post they were not sure whether they were going to Court to challenge the Bill’s constitutionality! After all those of us who used to ride passenger trains all over the US in the old days know that local governments exercise their police powers to limit the speed of trains going through their towns at whatever speed they decree.

The HazMat bill is a valid exercise of DC’s police power to protect its citizens from the dangers that these tank cars pose to the life and health of DC residents. Depending on wind and weather, the toxic cloud that the rupture of a chlorine tank car could throw off after a terrorist attack can be fourteen miles long and four miles wide. Now do you understand what kind of threat this is to the citizens of DC? What you really should be concentrating on is why during the fifteen months that Carol Schwartz bottled this bill up in her committee and allegedly negotiated with Homeland Security about the situation nothing concrete has been done about this problem by DHS that they or CSX are willing to even talk about. When they mumble that they are doing something but it’s a secret for security reasons, they are obviously lying. Rerouting can not possibly create a bigger security problem than we now have when a chlorine tank car rolls past the Capitol and through the area in the Southwest right next to ground zero. Besides Jim has pictures showing the tank cars are still rolling through.


Nothing More Serious Than
Kathy Patterson,

Responding to Gary’s intro in the last issue [themail, February 6]: thank you for the kind words for my non sponsorship of the bill to ban sale of violent video games. As to the criticism of the bill to ban ultrahazardous cargo from coming through town, our action is legally sustainable and also critically necessary. It doesn’t burden commerce since it only affects a very small class of the worst chemicals, and allows exemptions in case of emergency or when there is no practical alternative. We introduced the bill to require rerouting in October 2003, waited for months for the federal agencies to act administratively, and finally moved emergency legislation when it was apparent that the federal agency tasked with homeland security wasn’t doing its job.

Background: at a November 22, 2004, hearing before the Council Committee on Public Works and the Environment, the regional Department of Homeland Security spokesman made clear that, yes, they had the authority to require rerouting around high threat cities and, no, they were not about to take that action. They’d leave the matter to the private sector railroad company. (I encourage everyone to read the New York Times’ series on rail safety including a two-part article that ran last summer. The Times’ reporting convinces me that not only would there be no effective regulation of railroads now, but there hasn’t been any effective regulation, in a very long time). The one carrier who comes through DC, CSX, in their testimony last November, declined to acknowledge whether they are, or are not, rerouting today. They base their actions on their own assessment of the security threat, which is why they hold off bringing chlorine through town during major events like the fourth of July or the NFL kickoff on the mall but keep those trains coming when it’s just us DC residents who are at risk. I would like to see national action taken to protect communities at risk. Congressman Ed Markey had legislation in the last Congress to require federal action on rail transport of hazmats in high threat cities. Congress did not act; he will reintroduce in this session. The 9/11 Commission recommended basing out policies on real risk and threat assessments. The Council’s action is consistent with such an assessment. I continue to hope we will see permanent legislation move through the Council.


Still Serious
Gary Imhoff,

People responded to two items that I mentioned in the introduction to the last issue of themail: whether there is a need for either a new hospital, a new public hospital, or at least increased emergency room medical service; and whether the bill passed by the DC Council forbidding the interstate transportation of hazardous materials through the District were wise legislation. On the first issue, the only thing I want to add to the discussion is my disappointment at how this controvery has been framed by the city’s administration and its supporters. There is no competition between and no need to choose between emergency room care in full service hospitals and primary medical care in health clinics. Both are needed and will continue to be needed to provide a full range of health care to the public. The current administration has placed an emphasis on health clinics, which is fine; but in its efforts to promote clinics it has de-emphasized and discouraged emergency room services. That’s shortsighted and unwise. There is no need for advocates of health clinics to denigrate hospitals and the patients who use their emergency rooms in order to promote the health care that clinics provide.

We’re going to need those emergency rooms if terrorists blow up a train carrying hazardous materials. (How’s that for a transition?) Critics of what I wrote in the last issue misread me if they think that they have to convince me that the transportation of hazardous materials through densely populated areas poses a danger to the public, or that the threat of terrorism increases the danger above that which we normally face from accidents. It’s because of the seriousness of the problem that I believe the council’s and mayor’s response shouldn’t have been an empty and meaningless gesture, a law that will never take effect, but that will cost the city millions to defend before the Surface Transportation Board and in the courts.

I have space to respond to only some of the issues that my critics have raised. First, Jim Dougherty successfully spearheaded a large-scale lobbying effort by environmental groups to send letters and E-mails to the council supporting the bill. That’s a normal part of the political game, but his pointing to the letters and E-mails as though they represented a spontaneous response from the public is disingenuous. The constitutional argument, however, is the heart of the matter, and there is where the District is weakest. Of course the District will have lawyers arguing its side; it’s a lawyer’s job to find an argument for any side of any case. But the District can’t argue, as the bill’s supporters do here, that different parts of the constitution should be given different weight, that we’re all fond of the First Amendment, but we don’t care much for the Commerce Clause, so we shouldn’t take the federal government’s overriding authority over interstate commerce too seriously. Arguing that the constitution should be suspended because of the threat of terrorism, as the bill’s supporters also do here, isn’t going to work either, thank goodness. And arguing that states and cities can set speed limits, so that by extension they can ban the transportation of legal materials, isn’t going to get far with the Surface Transportation Board or the courts. Finally, the Hazmat bill’s supporters can argue either that terrorism poses an increased risk or that CSX should reveal the alternative routes it is using to transport hazardous materials; they can’t seriously support both arguments. If terrorism is a danger, the routes should be kept secret; if the bill’s supporters really believe that the alternative routes must be revealed, then they don’t take the terrorism risk that seriously themselves.



Chevy Chase Citizens Associations, February 15, March 15
Sarah Pokempner,

Please be sure to mark your calendars now for the February and March Chevy Chase Citizens Association meetings. We are pleased to announce that School Superintendent Clifford Janey has agreed to be the featured speaker at our February 15 meeting. The meeting will begin at 7:30 and there will be an opportunity for members of the audience to ask questions. We are also honored that on March 15, City Administrator Robert Bobb will meet with our Association and also answer questions from the audience. We are delighted to welcome both Dr. Janey and Mr. Bobb and we are sure that many residents of our neighborhood will appreciate the opportunity to meet these two important high city officials. These meetings are being cosponsored by ANC 3/4G and will be held at the Chevy Chase Community Center, Connecticut and McKinley Streets, NW.


AARP Legislative Forum, February 25
Tony Copeland,

Older District residents had a roller-coaster political year in 2004. And we face new challenges in 2005. Do you know what’s in your future? If you’d like to get a better understanding of the issues facing older District residents in 2005, and how the new Congress and Council will likely respond to the issues AARP members care about, please join the AARP for a legislative forum on Friday, February 25, 12-2:00 p.m., at the Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Avenue, NW (corner of Connecticut and McKinley Street; free parking).

Mike Naylor, AARP Advocacy Director; Tom Nelson, AARP Chief Operating Officer; Mimi Castaldi, AARP DC Director; Romaine B. Thomas, AARP DC President; Mark Plotkin, WTOP political commentator and analyst; and Bruce DePuyt, Host of "News Talk," NewsChannel 8, will speak. A free box lunch will be provided. To reserve a seat and box lunch, please call 1-877-926-8300 by February 21,


Public Forum on DC Taxes Set, February 22
Alma Gates,

Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Institute, will discuss local tax issues at a public meeting at 7:30 p.m., February 22, at the Sibley Memorial Hospital’s Ernst Auditorium. With property tax assessments coming in March and income tax returns due in April, this is an opportune moment for residents to learn more about DC tax policies and possible alternatives. ANC 3D, Foxhall Community Citizens Association and the Palisades Citizens Association are sponsoring the tax session. Residents will be able to raise questions about the impact of various tax policies.

Lazere, a DC resident, has headed the Fiscal Policy Institute since it was established in 2001 to study local tax and budget issues, especially as they affect low and moderate income families. The Institute is part of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Lazere has a masters degree in public policy from the University of Maryland. The session on taxes will be the first in an occasional series of public discussions of local policy issues that will honor John Finney, a former chairman of ANC 3D who died in October.


Fair Budget Town Hall Meeting, March 5
Martina Gillis,

Do you ever feel that you should have a say on policy and budget decisions made by DC’s officials? So do we! Come tell elected and government officials what the people’s budget priorities are for the District. Town hall meeting, Saturday, March 5, True Reformer Building, 1200 U Street, NW, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. This is an opportunity to share your concerns with city leaders. Come insert your voice into the budget process! Child care and food provided; you must RSVP for child care. Contact Martina Gillis, 328-5513 or



Tree Pruning
Vera Abbott,

Senior citizen needs help with cutting two tree branches, at a reasonable cost. Please contact Ms. V. Abbott at 561-8611 or if you know of someone with the capability.



Car Wash
Ed Kane,

I regularly use, and very much like, the one just south of Military Road and Georgia Avenue, on the west side of Georgia Avenue. I think it’s called “Easy Wash,” or something like that; get a book of four tickets for the best price.


Computer Repair and Upgrade
Jeffrey Hops,

I am looking for a recommendation for a company that does post-warranty home computer repairs and upgrades, preferably someone in DC that does pickup and drop-off. Has anyone out there had any particularly good or bad experiences with someone who does this?


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