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February 20, 2005


Dear Electors:

Please forgive me for riding my own hobbyhorse, but I want to alert those who may be interested that the Board of Elections and Ethics will be holding two hearings to close out matters relating to last year’s slots initiative. Last December, months after the BOEE rejected the petition submitted for this initiative, Clint Howard, a former employee of Stars and Stripes, the company that circulated the very petitions with which the Board found massive irregularities, moved to DC, assumed control of the "Citizens Committee for Video Lottery Terminals," and circulated what he claimed were supplemental petitions. This Wednesday, at 10:00 a.m., in its offices at 441 4th Street, NW, the BOEE will hold a hearing to determine whether any of the Citizens Committee’s actions after its petition was rejected violated the election laws, and whether to assess penalties for these violations. Next month, on March 10, the BOEE will hold a separate hearing to determine what penalties to assess for any violations of the law that took place last summer, during the Committee’s circulation of the original, rejected petition.

It’s hard to know now whether the Board will be able to reach beyond the local figureheads — Pedro Alfonso, Vicky Wilcher, and Margaret Gentry — who were recruited to give the semblance of local control, and to hold responsible the funders and real decision makers in the slots initiative, or whether it will be able to hold responsible the company that engaged in the deceptive and illegal petition gathering practices. But at some point, at some time, in some state, a Board of Elections will have to take the first step to hold responsible the funders and companies that travel from state to state exploiting election laws, introducing and often passing self-interested initiatives. The District of Columbia has a good case, and sufficient evidence for the culpability of the initiative’s funders and of at least one petition circulation company. It’s possible that accountability can begin here.

Gary Imhoff


Federal Properties in DC
Lars Hydle,

The President has announced his intention to review the approximately three thousand federal properties in the District with a view toward turning them over to the District for local use.

The feds and/or the District government should publish a list and a map of these properties so that the public can participate in the decision on which federal properties should be transferred and for what purpose.


Our Great City
Ralph Blessing,

Two articles in Thursday’s Post brought into clear focus the type of leadership we currently have in the District. The first article described how the Club U located in the Reeves Center was being permitted to reopen, in spite of the recent murder there, because the owners had agreed to pay the city two years’ advance rent. Pay up and we look the other way.

The second article was about the on again/off again renovation of the West Virginia Avenue automobile inspection station. It’s only half completed even though it was supposed to be finished in 2003. No one in any city agency could answer the reporter’s questions about who’s in charge or when things will get moving. Meantime, any number of small businessmen in the area are watching their savings disappear as they pay rent on shops with no customers. Maybe they should pool their money and open a nightclub in the Reeves Center instead.


Property Tax Hike Time Again
Matt Forman,

Last Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that the Council is considering reducing the annual real property tax hike ( Last year, the Council passed a law increasing taxes 12 percent per year.

Councilmember Jack Evans had originally proposed a 10 percent cap last year. But several Councilmembers (most of whom were later thrown out of office), led by Phil Mendelson, argued instead for a 20 percent annual tax hike. Let me repeat: Councilmember Mendelson wanted a 20 percent annual tax hike. Chairman Cropp proposed splitting the baby down the middle with a 15 percent cap. However, thanks to Carol Schwartz’s clever parliamentary maneuvering, the final compromise was 12 percent. Fortunately, with this year’s tremendous budget surplus, largely resulting from the increased property taxes, Councilmember Evans has now introduced a bill to reduce this annual take hike to a more reasonable 5 percent a year.

Why did Councilmember Mendelson oppose the 10 percent cap, and why was he quoted in Tuesday’s Washington Post as already opposing the 5 percent cap? Here it is in a nutshell: Resident A, who lives west of the river, has a property tax bill of $500. Resident B, who lives east of the river, has a tax bill of only $100. With a 10 percent tax reduction, Resident A will receive a $50 cut ($500 x 10%), while Resident B will receive a $10 cut ($100 x 10 percent). Phil says that’s not fair, because Resident A’s $50 cut is a larger dollar amount than Resident B’s $10 cut, even though both residents are obviously getting the same 10 percent cut! (Not to mention that Resident A is still paying five times as much tax.) Even a graduate of the DC public schools should be able to see how ridiculous Phil’s argument is. So which of the other councilmembers will he again be able to convince with this flawed logic? Stay tuned.


DC Funding
Michael Bindner, michael at christianleft dot net

The mayor and council have yet another reason to make sure the budget is balanced. If it is not, the Control Board returns to power, even if the deficit is due to an economic downturn. Until the act which created the Control Board is abolished (and the return of Marion Barry to the council makes this unlikely), the District government will take great pains to assure a surplus. Add to that the Jack Evans anti-tax coalition (why he isn’t a Republican, I don’t know), which constantly demands spending cuts, and it is no wonder that services are lacking.

In Mayor Barry’s last term, he launched a transformation plan to improve services. Many of these proposals were then considered and adopted by the Management Reform process, which was a joint effort by the mayor, council, Control Board and agency directors. Sadly, this process was not only shelved, it was trashed when the current Mayor took office. By trashed, I mean the actual reports were thrown out of the City Administrator’s library and the implementing career staff hired by the Chief Management Officer was fired. Ultimately, the District gets the government it elects.


Topics Worth Discussing
Bryce A. Suderow,

There are two important topics which no one has discussed in themail. 1) Young White Couples. In the past five years thousands of young white couples have moved into the District. Many of them now have very young children. When the children reach school age, what will they do -- stay or leave the District because of the wretched public schools? 2) Reservation 13. It’s supposed to host in the future a bio-terrorism unit protected by the DC government, a "world class" hospital run by Howard University, and town houses that will cost $600,000 apiece. It already has a methadone clinic, the DC jail, and a mental health facility. Is this combination of uses going to work, or is it another DC boondoggle?


Blogging as a Community Building Tool
Phil Shapiro,

If you’re not so sure how blogging can be used as a community building tool, check out this message I posted this morning to the E-mail list of the Digital Divide Network, a group of several thousand people in different professions sharing ideas for bridging the digital divide: The message can be viewed in this E-mail list’s public archive at

If anyone in themail community has questions about this, I’m happy to provide E-mail or phone support to get you blogging. (Gratis.) I can also provide some guidance on what is appropriate and not appropriate to blog about. themail is a wonderful community, but it is a pseudo-private community. People who are not subscribed to themail typically don’t read messages posted to themail. If you have an interest in civic affairs, I recommend participating in discussions here in themail, and also blogging on the web. It’s not an either/or thing.


Can’t Sing
Jeff Coudriet,

[Re: “Can’t Sing,” themail, February 16:] Throw in Bob Dylan and of course someone contemporary in the same vein — Rufus Wainwright — and you’ve got a deal!


Edward Cowan,

I haven’t heard Durante’s voice in decades — and I don’t associate him with those old ballads. I associate him with the repartee I recall from his radio show — fifty or fifty-five years ago, no? He had a certain style singing, but as a crooner he couldn’t keep up with Frank Sinatra or Bing. As a teenager I danced to a lot of those ballads (don’t tell my wife; she thinks I don’t dance), but I think never to vocals by Jimmy Durante.


Dissin’ Pops
Larry Miller, lawrencedotmilleratstarpowerdotnet

You can sing like Louis Armstrong? Somehow I doubt it. Your thought that he was best known for "comic and novelty songs" is mistaken. Armstrong sang blues and jazz standards and was immensely popular for decades based on his singing skills as well as consummate trumpet playing.


Emergency No Parking
Mindy Moretti,

Perhaps Mr. Howard [themail, February 13] does not live in a neighborhood with a lot of new development and construction, which could be why he doesn’t think developers and contractors should be forced to pay for Emergency No Parking signs.

I live in a neighborhood (Adams Morgan) that has been besieged in the past few years by developers building new “luxury” lofts and condos. In addition to demanding all sorts of variances and curb cuts, these developers also block off huge swaths of curbside parking with Emergency No Parking signs for months and, in some cases, years at a time. Maybe, just maybe, if these people were hit in their wallets, they might be a bit more expeditious in returning the curbside parking back to the community.


Shared Cars
Meredith Manning,

Like P.B. Wolf, I read Clyde Howard’s complaint about Zipcar and Flexcar in the February 13th issue and was confused. Indeed, in Adams Morgan, there has been a big flap about Zipcar’s request for permission to park its “shared” cars on the street. As a non-car-owning, Zipcar member, I find this very misguided. If I were to go out and buy a car, I’d have the right to park it on the street. And, if I were to rent a car from Avis, et al., I’d also have a right to park it on the street. So, why on earth shouldn’t I be able to join a shared car service like Zipcar, share a car with folks like P.B. Wolf, and park it on the street? I think this proposal is a reasonable, rational public service designed to make a dent in our city’s spiraling and destructive transportation problems.


Another Rip Off
Clyde Howard,

For all those who approve of paying for the curb space proposed by DDot, just let me say that I want to be around when they have to pay the upfront cost for public space for their wedding party or pay for space to move their belongings in a truck while Zip Car/Flex Car are getting reserved parking spaces for free. That is like paying tuition for grade school, because you are occupying a seat in a government building for which you have previously paid taxes. Zip Car/Flex Car may suit those who need short turnaround use, but it’s not the panacea for car usage for accommodating those who need a car for a long term or for a long trip, or who need interior space for luggage.



Shaw Main Street, Black History at Phyllis Wheatley Y, February 22
Alexander M. Padro,

On Tuesday, February 22, from 7:00-9:00 p.m., Shaw Main Street’s annual observance of Black History Month will take place at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, 901 Rhode Island Avenue, NW. Admission is free, and no reservations are required. The Phyllis Wheatley Club Young Women’s Christian Association celebrates its centennial year in 2005, and participants in this year’s celebration will learn about how the country’s first Black YWCA came to be formed; historic figures associated with the Phyllis Wheatley Y, including Carter Woodson; the Y’s namesake, America’s first published poet of color; and an update from the National Park Service on progress on the creation of the Carter G. Woodson National Historic Site. For more information, visit


DC Public Library Events, February 23
Debra Truhart,

Wednesday, February 23, 6:00 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. W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices. Public contact: 727-1265.

Wednesday, February 23, 7:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Dr. Joan R. Hillsman will narrate a program about African American protest songs with performances by the Bowie State Gospel Choir and Theodore Roosevelt High School Choir. The Black Studies Division of the DC Public Library sponsors this event as part of a series of programs in observance of Black History Month. Public contact: 727-1211.


At Harlem’s Height, February 24
Michael Andrews,

The University of the District of Columbia and the Vocal Arts Society will present “At Harlem’s Height: the New York Festival of Song,” a musical evening celebrating the Harlem Renaissance. This event will be held on Thursday, February 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the University’s Auditorium (Building 46 East) located as Van Ness and Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington. Featuring the music of legends Eubie Blake, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, William Grant Still, and W.C. Handy, the lyrics of this live performance are drawn from the writings of Langston Hughes, Andy Razaf and Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

The New York Festival of Song was founded in 1988 by its co-artistic directors, pianists Michael Barrett and Steven Blier. Barrett and Blier assemble groups of superior singers appropriate to each of their projects. The "At Harlem’s Height" concert will feature tenor Darius de Haas, soprano Dana Hanchard and baritone James Martin. Tickets are available in several classifications, including a "Arts Mentor" ticket through which the purchaser can claim a $10.00 tax deduction to support University of the District of Columbia students. Ticket prices are arts mentor, $35.00; general admission, $25.00; VAS members and subscribers, $20.00; students and senior citizens, $15.00. For information regarding tickets sales, call 274-5954.


Media Events, February 24, 26
Dorinda White,

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC Mid-Atlantic) will host a mentor breakfast with National Geographic President Laureen Ong on Thursday, February 24, at 8 a.m. at National Geographic’s Hubbard Hall. To RSVP, E-mail Dorinda White, VP NAMIC Mid-Atlantic, at

Women in Film and Video of DC (WIFV-DC) will present the Global Humanitarian Award at the Celebration Latina Night Gala to Cristina Saralegui of Univision on Thursday, February 24, at the City Museum, 801 K Street, NW from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Event sponsors General Motors and Blockbuster will provide Latin food, music (live music from Sin Miedo), and a VIP Reception will help to raise funds to increase AIDS awareness in the Hispanic community. To RSVP or for more info, contact Dorinda White, Board Member/VP Communications, Women in Film and Video, DC at

WIFV-DC will also hold its annual Media Job Fair on Saturday, February 26, from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. at Atlantic Video, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW (Gallery Place Metro Stop). Recruiters from Discovery Communications, WJLA Channel 7, NBC 4, Associated Press and others, will be there to recruit for job openings. Free sessions with a career coach and entertainment attorneys. Bring your resume, business cards and be ready to meet face to face with employers! For more info, contact Dorinda White at



English Language Teachers Needed
Phil Shapiro,

Language, ETC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing affordable, high-quality English language instruction and other basic educational programs to foreign-born adults in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, is seeking volunteer English as a second language teachers and tutors. No prior teaching experience or foreign language skills required. Further details at (I’m just the messenger on this one. Please contact the folks listed in the web site link to RSVP.)



Exercise Machine, Chair, and Wigs
Susan Idziak,

Body by Jake Bun and Thigh Rocker with all accessories, like new condition, $45 or best offer. Rolling desk chair in black/grey tweed cloth, very good condition, $15 or best offer. Two never-worn famous-maker ladies wigs: one ash blonde, conservative cut, short pageboy look; and the other sandy blonde, spunky cut on top, medium/short length on sides; $10 each or best offer. For pick up in Silver Spring/Burtonsville area. Call 240-460-3522.



Equal Justice Works Auction, March 24
Rita McKeveny,

The Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., Chapter of Equal Justice Works at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law is planning its annual auction to fund summer public interest law fellowships. This year’s event will take place on March 24 at the School of Law. We need your help! Your donation can help students, the school, worthy organizations, and the causes and clients they represent! Please consider donating auctionable items and attending on March 24! We are seeking a wide variety of salable items and services. Past donations have included DVD players, televisions, gift certificates, sports and theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates, "power lunches" and use of vacation homes. Your tax deductible donation will add to the success of the auction, and aid in creating additional fellowships. As always, any donation you can provide is greatly appreciated.

The UDC-DCSL Rauh Chapter of EJW is a student-run organization committed to working in and supporting public interest legal work. Each year EJW sponsors summer fellowships for its members to work full time in legal positions at public interest organizations that would otherwise be unpaid. Our funding comes primarily from private gifts, alumni donations, and monies raised through various events, such as the annual auction. For more information, please see the online edition of The Advocate, which features the EJW program at, and reports from individual students at If you require additional information, please contact me at or our auction chair, Christine Mason Spurgeon, at



Examiner Delivery
Steven E. Levy,

I am “fortunate” enough to live an area (Kalorama Triangle) which receives complimentary home delivery of the new Examiner newspaper. Has anyone contemplated the esthetic/environmental impacts of the widespread distribution of these pink plastic wrappers, which seem to accumulate in front of several homes in my area? In addition, for those of us who are careful to suspend delivery of our papers during vacations, has anyone attempted to induce the Examiner to suspend delivery to a specific home?


The Charter Versus Public School Debate
Selina Musuta,

I am working with six students from Cesar Chavez Charter School on a radio piece. They have decided to do a piece on the history of their school but they would also like to include the charter versus public school debate. I was wondering what people and groups would be good to talk to concerning that topic.


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