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February 13, 2005


Dear Keyholders:

In the past two days, the Washington Post has done a service by publishing articles about two of the city’s more successful influence peddlers, who usually work in the shadows. Kelvin Robinson, the mayor’s former chief of staff, is now a consultant to Wal-Mart, helping the company in its dealings with the city’s government ( Max Brown, the former legal counsel and deputy chief of staff to the mayor, now makes his living both as a lobbyist for companies who want to do business with the city and as a city contractor himself (

It’s good to have any light shown on the activities of the lobbyists and influence peddlers who facilitate deals with the city’s politicians and bureaucrats, but Robinson and Brown aren’t talking much about the work they actually do. In fact, they minimize their efforts, and claim to do very little in order to earn their large fees. All they admit to doing is arranging appointments with public officials, and anybody should be able to do that for himself.

Of course, we know that it is difficult, if not impossible, for ordinary citizens of the District to get a meeting with the mayor. The officers of the Federation of Citizens Associations, who represent dozens of neighborhood and community groups, have been waiting over a year for a meeting that the mayor promised them. But the clients whom these lobbyists represent aren’t mere citizens of the city; they’re the kind of special interests for whom this administration already has an open door policy. The mayor doesn’t have to give them the key to the city; they already own the key to the city. They don’t have to pay any influence peddlers to get access. So what are they paying for?

Gary Imhoff


Hogwash from High Places
Len Sullivan,

Some of DC’s best recent news is the favorable FY04 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), as audited by KPMG, LLP. It shows a budget surplus for the eighth year in a row, despite continued overstaffing and overpaying of underperforming DC government agencies. Some of DC’s worst news is the continued whining by DC’s supposedly apolitical CFO that these heroics are achieved despite a towering “structural deficit” certified by the GAO. His online summary of this new CAFR contains inappropriate assertions, implying the CAFR endorses the vaunted 2003 GAO report despite serious analytical and arithmetic errors. In fact, as last year, GAO’s claims are not treated or audited in the CAFR: they are “boiler plate” in its internal letter of transmittal.

Here are some of these fatuous assertions: a) DC should be spending $400 million more for a higher-paid police/FEMS force twice its current size (due primarily to a murder rate that no longer applies); b) DC gets no revenues from the influx of commuters (in fact, their employers pay more in property taxes than 90 percent of DC’s taxpayers); c) DC should tax federal properties like the White House and Capitol Buildings (it doesn’t tax its own government buildings); d) DC spends more to service federal properties than it gains from the gross Federal-related presence (impossible!); e) DC should tax 7400 acres maintained by the National Park Service (and freely used by DC residents); f) DC’s tax burden is disproportionately high nationally (a sloppy $500M GAO arithmetic error); g) DC’s tax burden is markedly higher than its neighbors’ (not supported by the CFO’s own “DC Tax Facts”); h) DC has a huge backlog of unmet school modernization needs (highly inflated by using outdated rising enrollment forecasts which are actually declining by two to four "schools-worth" per year); i) the GAO-divined gap of $400 million to $1,200 million includes capital investment needs (it was based on unmet operating costs); and j) this imbalance is unique to DC. (The GAO methodology shows imbalances in twenty-odd other states, some much worse off).

The DC Council’s inability or unwillingness to challenge such superficially appealing hogwash fed to them by DC’s CFO is bad news too. Concerned legislators and citizens should look again at NARPAC’s analysis of these phony assertions at and urge the council to develop its own independent anti-spin analytical capabilities. Even the hallowed Washington Post editorial staff has turned “Ratheresque” by parroting unsubstantiated pap. Indeed DC does have serious unmet capital investment needs and does deserve federal help, but mainly in the public transportation area (where there are no surplus properties to sell).


Flashing Police Lights
Dorothy Brizill,

Since having been sworn in as councilmember-at-large, Kwame Brown has been parking his black Mercedes station wagon on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the Wilson Building in an area specifically reserved for councilmembers. In recent weeks, the dashboard of his car has been sporting a set of official-looking flashing police lights, which has caused some amusement among city hall regulars.

On Friday, when I asked Brown’s press secretary about the police lights, she indicated that they had been provided by the city council’s security office so that Brown could park without being ticketed until he received his special council license plates, which would exempt him from DC parking fines. I noted that the council doesn’t have a security office or officer, and that it relies upon the Office of Property Management’s Protective Services Division; that the other new councilmembers who are also awaiting their license plates, Marion Barry and Vincent Gray, didn’t have police lights on their cars; that the council’s Office of the Secretary provides laminated placards for councilmembers and staffers so that they could legally park in designated areas around the Wilson Building; and that there were some legitimate concerns about giving police car lights to people who didn’t have legitimate public safety functions, such as police, fire, or health emergency officials. I then asked Phyllis Jones, Secretary of the Council, about the lights. She said that her office didn’t possess or provide police lights to councilmembers, and she called the head of Protective Services to verify that his office didn’t have or provide the lights, either.

Late on Friday, Kwame Brown called me to correct the explanation of the lights. According to Brown, he was touring housing in Ward 7 with City Administrator Robert Bobb when a staffer in Bobb’s office whom he could not name noticed that Brown didn’t have special council license plates. That staffer provided Brown with police lights in an effort to ensure that he could park illegally in the District without being ticketed. But, Brown said, when the matter was brought to his attention he decided to remove the lights so that there would be no future misunderstanding.


Another City Rip-Off
Clyde Howard,

More gouging of the city’s residents. DDOT is now proposing that it charge for the use of Emergency No Parking Signs and Reserved Parking Signs. It says that there is a need to control the issuance of these signs, and that therefore they will charge all those who use these signs at the lowest metered rate for the number of spaces they need and by the hours the spaces are needed. There is a graduated rate base on the number of months the spaces will be needed. In other words, consumers can expect additional pass-through charges on their electric bills, telephone bills, gas bills, funeral bills, construction costs, etc. DPW and MPD, the most flagrant violators of the use of these signs, will continue to issue their own emergency signs, and DDOT has nothing in its proposal to monitor these two abusive agencies. What this means is that you will pay for reserving public space for legitimate purposes which heretofore has not been paid for, a rip off. And, guess what, there is also a DDOT proposal to give away public parking spaces to the Flex Car and Zip Car automobile rental companies, while you and I must now pay for the use of public space. Now ain’t that a kick in the you know what.

If you need a copy of the proposal, contact DDOT on 671-2333; the comment period ends on February 25, at the close of business.


Bloggers and Community Media Movements Converging
Phil Shapiro,

Big changes are afoot for community media and the use of the Internet as a publishing medium. On the one front are the bloggers, the “citizen journalists.” On the other front are community media producers — often represented by public access television stations. These exciting movements are merging — and that’s good for all of us.

Last week an inspiring pioneer of the community media movement, Dirk Koning, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, sadly passed away because of a heart ailment. When I went to visit the web site of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center (, I asked myself, "What can I do for Dirk today?" When I spotted the wonderful 75-megabyte QuickTime video interview with him on the site, I thought to myself, “I need to make a slimmed down Flash slideshow version of that, for dial-up users to see and hear.” So I used a free Windows program named PowerBullet Presenter ( and with a few tricks on my iBook, I converted that 75 megabyte video into a 3.6 megabyte Flash slideshow. You can view the Flash slideshow at (use the red arrows at the bottom of the screen to navigate to the four screens of this slideshow).

Why did I do this work? Inclusion. For inclusion. To bring more people to the table. To leave fewer people out. Did Dirk Koning get me to teach you something today? Yes, he did. Acting beyond the grave. That’s what the best of them do. They teach us from beyond the grave. Regarding what I described above, you’ll hear none of this from mainstream media. They take no interest in this kind of stuff. No interest at all. They disgrace the memory of Dirk Koning.


The Hip-Hop Bus Tour
Bryce A. Suderow,

Not surprisingly, my posting on the Hip-Hop Culture last week [themail, February 6] provoked a lot of angry E-mail, mostly from furious but intentionally ignorant whites. For the whites who wrote me and who had unkind thoughts towards me, I’ve put together the Hip-Hop Bus Tour. On a school day we’ll start at 7:30 at Duke Ellington Bridge, where the 90 bus begins its route. We’ll follow it to its terminus at Anacostia Station. We’ll sit in back with the kids so we all have a close up and personal encounter with the hip-hop generation. Once we reach Anacostia Station we’ll visit Barry Farms, the housing project that’s been feuding with its neighboring project for many years amid countless homicides. Then we’ll visit Ballou High School, which many of the murder victims attended. At 2 p.m. we’ll ride on the bus back to Duke Ellington with the kids as they get out of school. Don’t forget to pack a lunch.

In Friday’s issue of the Post’s Metro Section, there was an article on a protest that bus drivers held over the dangers they are faced with while doing their jobs ( I spoke to one of the drivers who participated in the protest. I said that the impression the article gave me was that the worst problem was kids throwing rocks. He replied that assaults by passengers on the drivers and on each other inside the busses were the real problem. He mentioned that the worst news has not been reported. He said last summer a passenger pretended to be asleep and when a female bus driver came to the back of the bus to awaken him, he raped her. The driver I spoke to also mentioned that a passenger tried to cut his throat while he was driving the bus.

Yesterday I talked to a black woman after the two of us had just gotten off the 90 bus. I asked her, “What do you think of those kids?” She replied, “They should have their own busses because of their language and everything. If you’re an old lady and need to sit down, forget it. They won’t move.” I point this out because everyone regards the kids from the ghetto as a menace. One time a bus driver put off a group of girls who were misbehaving and everyone on the bus cheered.


Let Tony Buy His Own Keys
P. Walters,

So Tony now wants to charge taxpayers $2,000 each for ceremonial keys to the city for him to hand out to his buddies? As he told the Washington Post, the keys are a “salute to someone of enormous impact and stature.” Like, say, former Kennedy-and-Hollywood flack Jack Valenti, or Aleksander Kwasniewski, the President of Poland. People who, it’s obvious, are really important to the District’s future. Never mind that New York spends less than $100 on its keys. Hey, we’re DC. We’re building the most expensive stadium in the country. We print money here, and we burn it too.

Our new key “represents the new technological world that the District is a leader in,” according to Tony. Oh, like, the cutting-edge technology DDOT uses to keep our crumbling roads crumbled? Or the technology DCPS employs to institutionalize failure in our schools? The Post story didn’t say how many keys the city bought and has on hand, but the artist who designed them claims “it’s an extraordinarily substantial object for the cost that was given.” Huh?

Hey, Tony. How about getting Jack or Alek or one of your other high-tech pals to foot the bill for the keys? We need to save our pennies to build your personal monument, er, stadium.


A Better Key to the City
Phil Shapiro,

I’d much prefer a small plastic or cardboard key to the city. Or, even better, a magnetized plastic card like they use in hotels. That way if any dignitary disses us, we could change the combo to the lock without even calling a locksmith. Think of the country music songs this could spawn: “Locked Out of the City Again and No Place to Go.”


The Key to the City
Kate Kelley,

Shortly after reading your report that the new stainless steel keys to the city costs $2,000 each, I noted that the stainless steel version of a Bosch dishwasher, viewed by many as the Rolls Royce of kitchen appliances, can be had for about $1,700 each. Guess which I would rather have?


The Commerce Clause
Michael Bindner, mikeybdc at yahoo dot com

As to whether it is necessary to violate the commerce clause to secure a hazmat ban through the Union Station corridor, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.


I Didn’t Say It
Ken Jarboe, ANC 6B05,

[To Gary Imhoff:] Unfortunately in your response on hazardous materials [themail, February 9] you make claims about the my support of the ban that are incorrect. I, for one, have never stated “that the alternative routes must be revealed” — please do not put your words into my mouth. I am arguing for a ban on the transportation of these potential weapons-of-mass-destruction within two miles of a known terrorist target, the US Capitol. Publicly stating that such materials are not allowed in one area is a very thing from revealing where they are. Second, I am not asking that the Constitution be suspended in any way, shape, or form. I am arguing that the ban is a constitutionally permissible use of local police powers. It does not prevent such materials from entering the District of Columbia — it simply bans them from an area around the Capitol similar to what we already do by banning hazardous materials from the I-395 (3rd Street) tunnel. Again, please do not put your words in my mouth.

[In case I wasn’t clear the first time: in the February 9 issue of themail I wrote a single response to points made in four messages about the Hazmat bill. Those four messages did not all make the same points or say the same thing, and not everything that I wrote in my response applies to all four messages. I do have a correction, however, on the city council vote on the Hazmat bill. Councilmember Schwartz cast the only vote against the bill, but Councilmember Barry was absent and Councilmember Catania abstained because his law firm does business with CSX, so the vote was 10-1 instead of 12-1. — Gary Imhoff]



DC Public Library Events, February 15-16
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, February 15, 6:30 p.m., Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street, SE. Lively book discussions with local authors and writers held by the Capitol Hill Book Club. Book club members select the book to be discussed. Public contact: 698-3377.

Tuesday, February 15, 7:00 p.m. Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, 3160 16th Street, NW. Girod Payton, aka Shekhem Tempriam SAA, African priest, health lecturer, and nutrition counselor, will discuss the causes of toxic communities and their health effects. The DC Public Library is not responsible, nor does it endorse health information given to participants during the program. Public contact: 671-0200.

Wednesday, February 16, 12:00 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Robert Beasley, data analyst for the Mayor’s Office of Planning will discuss business growth in DC. Public contact: 727-1171.

Wednesday, February 16, 6 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. The Audiovisual Division of the DC Public Library presents its sixteenth annual African American history film festival that features documentaries on famous African Americans. Franz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask.


Free and Affordable Sources of Finding the Law on the Web, February 16
Michael Karlan,

Professionals in the City is hosting a seminar on free and affordable sources of finding the law on the web on Wednesday, February 16, at 7:30 p.m. This program is for both lawyers and nonlawyers. This program will provide an overview of the many new sources of legal information on the web that are free or very affordable. In addition, all participants also will receive a free month subscription to Fastcase, a premium legal database provided by a local DC company. The speaker will be Philip Rosenthal, the president and cofounder of Fastcase. He was an attorney at Covington & Burling before starting Fastcase. Before entering the law, he was a string theorist at Caltech, where he received his Ph.D. in physics. Light refreshments will be provided. This event is Wednesday, February 16, from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 702 H Street, NW, Suite 200. The price is $25. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit, E-mail, or call 686-5990.


UDC Founders’ Day Convocation to Honor Excellence in Education, February 16
Mike Andrews,

The University of the District of Columbia’s Founder’s Day Convocation, scheduled for Wednesday, February 16, at 10 a.m. in the University’s Auditorium, will for the first time present four awards to honor excellence in educational leadership and service, as well as a lifetime achievement award for sustained and exceptional commitment to the University’s mission. Civil rights attorney Thomas N. Todd will deliver the keynote address.

John B. Childers, president and CEO of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, will receive the Ronald H. Brown Distinguished Leadership Award. Mr. Childers is a highly regarded education leader with senior executive experience in government relations, communications, and higher education with national education associations. As the chief executive officer at the Consortium, Childers directs all joint programs in support of the fourteen universities that are members of the Consortium and practices an inclusive and collaborative management style that successfully draws out the best from colleagues in a diverse workforce setting.

Darrell Watson, music teacher at Ballou Senior High School, will receive the Cleveland L. Dennard Distinguished Service Award. Mr. Watson received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education in 1995 from UDC. In 2004, the Ballou High School Band, the Marching Knights, gained national recognition when vying for a spot in the Home Depot “Battle of the Bands” in Carson, CA. One hundred ten bands entered the initial tryouts for this competition with the Marching Knights becoming one of eight bands selected to take part in the final contest. Most recently, the Marching Knights received the high honor of being invited to march in the 55th Presidential Inauguration Parade in January 2005. The band has also performed before former President Bill Clinton and the Ambassador of Taipei, China. Additionally, Mr. Watson has performed with several well-known gospel artists, including Yolanda Adams, Karen Clark-Sheared, Dorothy Norwood, Murna Summers, and Albertina Walker.

N. Joyce Payne, Ph.D., will receive the Marjorie Holloman Parker Distinguished Educational Leadership Award. Dr. Payne is the Director of the Office for the Advancement of Public Black Colleges (OAPBC) of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) in cooperation with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). Dr. Payne formerly served as President of Global Systems, Inc., and as a senior staff member under the Carter administration with the President’s Advisory Committee for Women; President’s National Advisory Council on Women’s Educational Programs; and the White House Conference on Families. She is an alumna of the District of Columbia Teachers College, a UDC predecessor school, and has also served as chairperson of the University of the District of Columbia’s Board of Trustees.

Elma Redfern-Moore, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Elementary Education at the University of the District of Columbia, will receive the Paul Phillips Cooke Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Redfern-Moore’s illustrious 55 years in education includes: elementary school teacher and principal; mathematics resource teacher; supervising instructor at a Laboratory School at DC Teachers College; and Coordinator of Teacher Education Programs at UDC. Dr. Redfern-Moore was the coordinator of each accrediting team for the accreditation of teacher education programs from 1980 to 1998. More recently, she served on the Department of Education’s team during the site visit by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Dr. Redfern-Moore is listed in the first edition of The World Who’s Who of Women in Education. Dr. Redfern-Moore is a graduate of Miner Teachers College, a University of the District of Columbia predecessor institution.


National Building Museum Events, February 16, 19, 20
Brie Hensold,

All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Wednesday, February 16, 6:30-8:00 p.m. When the Woodrow Wilson Bridge connecting Maryland and Virginia was completed in 1961, it was designed to handle 75,000 cars a day. Today, that volume has almost tripled, and the bridge has become one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country. Alex Lee, AICP, assistant project coordinator for Potomac Crossing Consultants which is managing the $2.4 billion infrastructure replacement project, and other senior construction managers will explain the process and plans for replacing the existing bridge and upgrading four interchanges, while maintaining traffic during construction. He will also discuss how the bridge, scheduled for completion in 2008, will improve traffic patterns. $10 Museum members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required.

Saturday, February 19, 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. ZOOM into Engineering Family Festival. The National Building Museum and The National Engineers Week Committee welcome families, groups, and young guests to this exciting engineering festival. Meet cast members of the hit PBS series ZOOM and, through many stimulating hands-on activities, discover how engineers make a world of difference. Free; $5 donation suggested. Ages 5 to 13. Drop-in program.

Sunday, February 20, 1:00-2:00 p.m. Millau Viaduct: this recent film documents the design and construction of the Millau Viaduct located in southern France and designed by Lord Norman Foster. Completed in December 2004, it stands as the world’s highest bridge and forms the last connection in a major highway linking Barcelona and Paris. The viaduct project is featured in the exhibition Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete. Free. Registration not required.


Recorder of Deeds Building Tour, February 17
Alexander M. Padro,

The fifth annual DC Recorder of Deeds Building open house and free guided tours will be held on Thursday, February 17, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tours will be held at 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. The tours are free and no reservations are required. The District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds Building, completed in 1942, features seven WPA-era Black history murals (depicting African American heroes including Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Crispus Attucks, Matthew Henson, and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment) and other artwork, in a building designed to house the only District agency led and staffed almost exclusively by African Americans for 120 years. Come visit the ROD Building and hear about the history of past recorders of deeds, including Frederick Douglass and Blanche K. Bruce, the work of such prominent African American artists as William E. Scott and Selma Burke, and see the building’s intact 1940s décor, which was almost lost to demolition in 2001. The DC Recorder of Deeds Building is located at 515 D Street, NW, just one block from the Archives/Navy Memorial Green and Yellow Line METRO station and Judiciary Square Red Line METRO station. Sponsored by the DC Preservation League and the DC Office of Tax and Revenue/Recorder of Deeds. For more information, call the DC Preservation League at 783-5144.



Good Used Inexpensive Kayak
Phil Greene,

If anyone out there has a good, basic kayak/rec boat they’d be willing to sell, I’m on the lookout for one.



AHJ Group
Al Hatcher, Sr.,

The AHJ Group is seeking District of Columbia businesses seeking to bid on federal, state and District government contracts, from construction trades to computer supplies and repairs. More than $250 millions in government contracts will be awarded in the next six months to District-based certified businesses. If your business needs to become certified, the AHJ Group will assist you in preparing your certification package, business and marketing plan, and will lobby the commission to approve your package. For information, call the AHJ Group, 271-5522. 99 percent of our clients are successfully approved.


Strayer University
Justin Swain,

I am impressed with Strayer University’s quality of service in DC. My initial request for information through their web site got a live person’s response within hours. Today at 11:48, while walking to my 12:00 appointment with Admission’s Wakisha Riddick, I received a call from her supervisor Irving Hodge: “Wakisha is out today and I’ll meet with you.” When we met, my records from past Strayer course activity were accessible and allowed us the facts to discuss my current educational plans. The school’s staff as well as door security created a professional image for today’s business world.

Courses are still $1,200 for four credit hours. Federal Student Loan are an option. Some courses are via on the Internet 24/7 — no need to be online at a particular date and time, nor at a particular location. Visit


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