Dear Corruption Fighters:
Yesterday, the city council disgraced itself by killing Councilmember
Mendelson’s emergency bill to require the disclosure of contributions
to and expenditures by “exploratory” campaign committees, and to
limit contributions. It killed the bill by failing to gather the
supermajority of nine votes that it needed to declare an emergency. The
flimsy excuse of those who voted against openness and honesty in
political contributions was that Councilmember Orange had introduced at
the beginning of the session a competing bill that he described as more
comprehensive, and promised to hold a hearing on it in a couple months.
But the councilmembers didn’t have to make a choice between one bill
or the other. They could have passed the emergency bill now, and a more
comprehensive bill later. All that they accomplished by voting against
the emergency was to stall the requirement for politicians and potential
candidates to disclose the names of their contributors for several more
Marc Battle, who formerly worked on the Government Operations
Committee for Councilmember Orange, argues below that we should honor
the sacred trust of secrecy between a politician and his financial
backers. As long as the law allows secret, unlimited contributions,
Battle argues, those contributions actually add to accountability in
politics and encourage people to participate who wouldn’t if they had
to do so openly. To which I respond with my strongest expletives: bosh
and piffle. Secret contributions don’t just create a potential for
corruption or a presumption of corruption; they are corrupt in and of
themselves, whether or not they are illegal. I understand that our city
is a young democracy, accustomed to home rule for only three short
decades. But we’re neither a baby democracy nor an adolescent
democracy anymore. It’s time that we act like an adult, fully grown
and responsible democracy, and hold ourselves and our elected officials
responsible for meeting at least the basic, minimal standards of an open
and honest democracy.
The defeat of Mendelson’s bill is a failure of the entire council,
which surely, if it had really wanted to and really tried, could have
persuaded just one more member to vote to declare an emergency. But
particular blame and shame should be given to the five councilmembers
who opposed the emergency and, in doing so, declared themselves the
charter members of the council’s corruption caucus: Vincent Orange,
Jack Evans, and all three of the newly elected members: Marion Barry,
Vincent Gray, and Kwame Brown.
I was surprised to learn that the southeast branch of the DC Public
Libraries has been cited five times for four or five fire code
violations. I learned of it this way: I was waiting to talk to the
reference librarian while the fire marshal talked to the librarian while
writing up his latest citation.
I want to make it clear where the blame lies. I don’t blame the
branch. They can’t fix the violations without money. I blame the
bureaucrats at MLK for ignoring the violations and letting them pile up.
I also blame the city council’s committee on the libraries that Kevin
Chevous chaired for not giving the libraries enough money.
Here’s a message direct to the bureaucrats at MLK: Don’t you dare
try to close the southeast branch in retaliation for this E-mail. Don’t
you dare try to blame the staff for what I overheard. Just fix the
problem. It would be interesting to learn how many hundreds of fire code
violations exist in DC branch libraries around the city.
Infantile Humor on WTOP in the Morning
Ted Knutson, email@example.com
Is anyone else turned off by the phony ha-has that are becoming more
common on WTOP’s morning program?
DC-Area Community on the Digital Divide
Network Web Site
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you know anyone in our area doing work to bridge the digital
divide, thanks for telling them about the new DC-area community formed
on the international Digital Divide Network web site. The web site
address for this community is http://www.digitaldivide.net/community/dc.
The Digital Divide Network (DDN) is funded by three foundations and
will be around for a while. DDN is currently the largest community of
people sharing ideas for bridging the digital divide. Registration and
membership in the community is free. The community offers an E-mail
list, blogging, a venue for publishing articles and an opportunity to
stay in touch about the latest news and ideas in the field.
Smokefree Workplace Laws Good for Business and
Angela Bradbery, Cofounder, Smokefree DC, Angela@smokefreedc.org
Remember about a year and a half ago when the Restaurant Association
of Maryland predicted the demise of the restaurant industry in
Montgomery County if it were to go smoke free? Well, we now have more
than a year’s worth of data, and they show the predictions to be far
off the mark. Restaurant sales tax receipts increased by 7.6 percent in
the twelve months after the law took effect than in the twelve months
prior (the law took effect in October 2003). And more people applied for
licenses to open restaurants in the year after the law took effect than
before (87 licenses compared to 80). The data includes all eating and
drinking establishments in Montgomery County. (To read the full press
release, go to http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/2005NEWS/0222pa-smoking.pdf.)
You’ll probably hear the Restaurant Association complain that keg
sales in restaurants and nightspots went down. They did, but only
slightly (3.47 percent). What they won’t tell you is that wine sales
were up by 4.78 percent. Liquor sales remained flat. You’ll also
probably hear the association pointing to the Anchor Inn as a victim of
the new law. What the association won’t tell you is that the Inn’s
owners were making moves to sell it well before the law took effect, and
the former owners were quoted in the local media as saying the sold the
Inn because it was a good deal.
So don’t believe the dire predictions about the economic effects of
a smoker workplace law in the District. Those sky-are-falling
predictions are made everywhere these measures are discussed, and data
always prove them to be false. Please do remember that smoker laws are
health measures — public health measures and worker health measures.
It’s harder to put a price tag on how much society saves when fewer
bar and restaurant workers get respiratory infections, or when fewer
people contract lung and heart disease from secondhand smoke, but the
savings surely are substantial.
In response to Mr. Lazere’s recent posting about real property tax
relief [themail, February 27]: Again, I find it extremely misleading to
assert that a lot of the benefits of the cap went to high-value homes,
when this is dictated by basic math. If you multiply percentage savings
by a higher dollar home, you’ll get higher dollar relief, but not
necessarily higher percentage relief compared to a lower-value home.
What’s really going on is not that higher value homes received the
most “relief,” but rather that they have paid the largest increase!
Meanwhile, as reported in the Washington Post last week, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51567-2005Feb24.html),
neighborhoods across the city are seeing large increases, such as
Trinidad, with a 31.55 percent increase.
As Mr. Lazere indicates, several types of tax relief for low-income
and elderly residents are already in place. However, only a very small
percentage of the city’s lowest income quintile are homeowners.
Surely, the city can afford to provide the cap for the overwhelming
majority of homeowners seeing massive assessment increases, while at the
same time continuing to provide reasonable relief for the extremely
small group of low-income homeowners.
Finally, Mr. Lazere asserts that it’s unfair for two identical
houses to be taxed differently because of the cap. I disagree. It’s a
rational public policy for the government to encourage long-term
residency by protecting against assessment increases that outstrip
income. The newer home buyers pay more tax simply because they can
afford to. The US Supreme Court agrees, having upheld California’s
Proposition 13 tax cap against that very complaint (Nordingler v.
[An open letter to city councilmembers] Given the tremendous
increases in assessments on residential property all across the District
of Columbia which are imposing great hardships on taxpayers in every
neighborhood, I strongly urge the council to follow lead of one of our
larger neighbors, Fairfax County, and reduce the property tax rate. In a
press release, dated today, February 28, Fairfax County Executive
Anthony H. Griffin has proposed reducing the Fairfax County real estate
tax rate by ten cents. The press release can be found at http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/opa/budgetnews.
I would also urge the Council to look at increasing the homestead
exemption to $100,000. Property taxes are now rivaling income taxes in
the percentage of income they take from District taxpayers.
The property tax is a very regressive tax that has no relation to the
ability to pay. I urge the Council to review the District’s tax system
and increase its progressiveness by de-emphasizing the property tax and,
if we need tax increases, do it directly — not by the back door of
increasing property assessments (over which taxpayers have no control)
— by increasing the income tax. Otherwise, you will just end up
pricing many longtime residents out of the city. The current system is
very bad tax policy if we want stable neighborhoods in every part of the
city. Although I live in Cleveland Park, long seen as a cash cow for the
city, most of my immediate neighbors are moderate and middle income
taxpayers, and we are all wondering if we are going to be priced out of
the city. Many of us are retired and many those who are in the work
force work for the government or nonprofits, and we all are financially
challenged by the increasing property tax burden. Most of us, like in
many in neighborhoods across the city, bought our houses a number of
years ago and could never even begin to think of buying in our
neighborhoods today. It is ironic that places like Fairfax County have
more progressive leadership than the District of Columbia.
Ex Post Facto
Art Spitzer, email@example.com
S.E. Reuter asks [themail, February 27], “Regards the Blair item
for DC income tax -- wouldn’t a law passed in 2005 creating a penalty
for actions in 2004 be an example of unconstitutional ex poste facto
The answer to that question is no. The Supreme Court has held from
the very beginning that the ex post facto clause of the
Constitution prohibits only criminal and penal laws with retroactive
effect. See Calder v. Bull, 3 US 386 (1798). Whether a
retroactive law that is not criminal or penal is unconstitutional is a
question analyzed under the Due Process Clause, see Landgraf v. USI
Film Products, 511 US 244, 266 (1994) ("The Due Process Clause
also protects the interests in fair notice and repose that may be
compromised by retroactive legislation; a justification sufficient to
validate a statute’s prospective application under the Clause may not
suffice to warrant its retroactive application"). Courts generally
bend over backwards to find that the legislature did not intend
retroactive application when that would be very unfair, but when the
legislature’s intent to have a new statute apply retroactively is
clear, there are few (if any) cases holding that unconstitutional.
I have been warned away from VoIP services. A friend in the IT
business pointed out to me that Internet service is much less reliable
than normal phone lines. When was the last time you picked up the phone
and didn’t get a dial tone? When was the last time something went
wrong with your Internet connection and your computer had trouble
accessing your ISP? My T1 at work goes up and down all the time. These
are very serious concerns when you consider that a computer spends much
less continuous time actually sending and receiving data than humans do
during a regular phone conversation.
One of the reasons I hate cell phones are all the dropped calls and
fading signals you get, even when you are standing in one spot! I
understand that VoIP has similar problems.
Secret Exploratory Campaign Contributions
Marc K. Battle, former Counsel to the Committee on
Government Operations, Mbattle_husl2002@hotmail.com
Gary Imhoff commented [themail, February 27] that Councilmember
Vincent B. Orange, Sr., ‘misses the point spectacularly” in his Washington
Post letter to the editor explaining his compliance with the
exploratory committee law and his decision to not disclose the names of
his contributors. This is pure nonsense. The point, which I believe Gary
Imhoff missed “spectacularly,” is that if people contribute money
with an understanding that in accordance with the law, their names will
not be reported, adherence to that law should be respected and not
ridiculed. This is important because some people who support the
potential candidacy of a particular individual, may in fact support the
actual election of another -- and there is nothing wrong with that. I
have signed petitions and donated to many efforts that I ultimately did
not support, and I have supported the objective of someone getting on
the ballot while not necessarily supporting their ultimate election. In
doing so, races become more competitive and candidates become more
accountable because a more vibrant exchange of ideas results.
There is a reason that the law differs with respect to exploratory
committees and campaign committees: If people had to deal with all of
the scrutiny and pressure resulting from public disclosures while simply
contemplating a run for office -- fewer people would bother, and fewer
people would be supportive in the earliest stages. So why ridicule or
cast aspersions on an individual who simply follows the law as it was
intended to be followed? This is not an issue about being ashamed or
embarrassed of one’s supporters -- or about being ashamed or
embarrassed of whom one supports. It is simply about handling
contributions in the manner in which contributors were informed they
would be handled, and in accordance with the law.
DC Elections Law and Councilmember Orange
Keith Jarrell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Imhoff wrote about the DC Law on Exploratory Committees and
Councilmember Orange [themail, February 27], which brings to mind a
particular item from the not so distant past. Mr. Orange, councilmember
for Ward 5, where I lived previous to moving back to the Hill, has a lot
to learn about being involved with his constituents and the community.
As you may recall back in the summer gambling and slots were on the
agenda of a few here in the city. Vincent Orange was reportedly in
Florida on vacation when his signature showed up on the petitions
He or his office could never and would never explain why his
signature showed up on the petition supporting the slots measure while
he was in Florida. I merely asked for clarification on the time frame
surrounding his departure and arrival back to DC to clarify if his
signature were really in fact his. Especially since his son worked to
gather signatures. I believe that if he indeed signed his own signature,
what would be the harm in disclosing his vacation dates to clarify any
potential disbelief in what was being reported? Kind of clearing his own
name in a potentially damaging situation to keep voters from even
thinking that there could be any false signatures of his on such a
Now we have to take his word on DC campaign law? I guess we have to
wonder how this could be. If we can’t trust a sworn member of council
to even clarify his signature of a petition for slots, why would we want
to trust his opinion on exploratory committees and the law, especially
in a campaign cycle in which he is thinking of running for mayor? He won’t
offer us the truth as a councilmember, but wants us to support him for
mayor! As voters we really need to look much harder and consider our
options much more thoroughly than to limit our selection to even
consider Councilmember Vincent Orange for mayor. He has failed to serve
all the constituents of Ward 5 as councilmember, so why does he think he
could serve all the citizens of the city as mayor? He won’t stand a
chance against any potential mayoral candidate, especially Adrian Fenty
from Ward 4, whose constituent services and personal appeal has
outranked Orange ten to one. We need to watch the forthcoming campaign
and exploratory committee laws if Orange is to have anything to do with
Journalism as an Interactive Medium
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com
Phil Shapiro [themail, February 27] requested that local newspapers
post surveys with their editorials. I don’t see the point to that sort
of interactivity, since any such polls are so far from random/valid
samples. Wouldn’t conclusions from such polls be as invalid as seeking
or seeing meaning in opinions expressed on talk radio? The news
organizations themselves do conduct and report on surveys — aren’t
those more meaningful and interesting than random online responses? I
guess I don’t see the automatic superiority of anything online versus
anything traditional journalistic.
Washington SparkJustin Orndorff, email@example.com
I am the public health column editor and wearer-of-many-other-hats at
the Washington Spark. We ran 15,000 copies at the beginning of
the year, and will have a new issue with a larger print run towards
I’m writing in response to Phil Shapiro’s message,
"Journalism as an Interactive Medium" [themail, February 27],
regarding newspapers as intelligencers and as voices of the people. The Washington
Spark’s message is very similar. We are made up solely of
volunteers from around the DC metro area. Secondly, our workflow process
is done online, utilizing wiki and other new resources fostering
interactivity. Phil, we hear your call loud and clear. Newspapers, now
and in the future, must become increasingly outspoken as voices for
those who cannot otherwise be heard and as a beacon for free thought and
progress. Stale journalism will not only be non-effective but will not
be feasible economically as print becomes less and less palatable.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS AND CLASSES
Registration for Spring Classes at Guy Mason
Toni Ritzenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org
Registration for classes at the Guy Mason Recreation Center (3600
Calvert Street, NW), began Tuesday, March 1, and continues through the
week of March 21st, when classes begin. There are classes in art (both
studio critique and understanding painting), China painting, pottery,
and copper enameling workshops. There are exercise classes in Dancercize,
Pilates, QiGong and Yoga. Ballroom dancing is again being offered.
Beginning, intermediate, and advanced French and Spanish are
scheduled and, for responsible adults and young people from birth to
four months, there is Music Together. Bridge is available twice a week
year-round. And, for the first time, there will be a three-day basic to
advanced cooking class on Thai cuisine and one on Malaysian/Singaporean
Visit the Center for registration on Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-10
p.m. and/or Saturdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. For further information,
contact Robert Haldeman/Caryl King at 282-2180 or check the web site at http://www.guymasonstudioarts.com.
As always, this is one of the best bargains the city has to offer.
DC Public Library Events, March 3, 7
Debra Truhart, email@example.com
Thursday, March 3, noon. Martin Luther King, Jr. ,Memorial Library,
901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Cellist Vassily Popov and pianist Ralitza
Patcheva perform music by Haydn, Mozart, and Rinaldo Hahn. Public
Thursday, March 3, 2:30 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Discussion of the award-winning
novel, Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. Public contact 727-1281.
Monday, March 7, 6:30 p.m., Northeast Neighborhood Library, 330 7th
Street, NE. Capital Hill Mystery Book Club, monthly book chats about
mysteries. Call for book titles. Public contact 698-3320.
Woodley Park Community Association, March 6
Bernie Arons, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Woodley Park Community Association (WPCA) will hold a special
meeting on Sunday, March 6, at 7 p.m., at All Souls’ Memorial
Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Avenue, NW, in the Undercroft,
accessible through the kitchen door off the rear parking area.
In 1995 an agreement was established between Aidan Montessori School,
ANC 3-C, and WPCA which allowed Aidan to obtain a certificate of
occupancy as a school for toddlers through the sixth grade for the
property at 2700 27th Street, NW, with a limit on the number of students
attending the school on a daily basis to approximately 150 students for
the 1995-1996 academic year, and a total enrollment in the school
limited to 180 students from that point forward. In the summer of 2004,
Aidan requested that WPCA agree to a revision in the agreement to allow
an enrollment of up to 210 students. A special meeting of WPCA was held
and resolutions were passed that WPCA would agree to an enrollment of up
to 210 students for the 2004-2005 academic school year only, subject to
Aidan’s agreement to take various measures to alleviate concerns about
traffic during Aidan’s drop-off and pickup times, including
implementing the recommendations of a traffic study conducted for Aidan.
At that meeting an Aidan Subcommittee was formed to monitor the traffic
situation at Aidan during drop-off and pickup and report back to the
Executive Committee of the WPCA by February 2005. WPCA agreed also to
reconsider the resolutions on Aidan’s enrollment by February 2005.
In January 2005, at the regular meeting of the Executive Committee of
WPCA, the situation concerning Aidan Montessori School was reviewed. A
report of traffic observations and a report and recommendations of the
Aidan Subcommittee, including a recommendation to not extend the
enrollment increase beyond the 2004-2005 school year, were discussed.
During the meeting the Executive Committee heard the views of WPCA
members and representatives of Aidan. In addition, a resident of Woodley
Park presented a petition concerning the situation from neighboring
Woodley Park residents opposing an extension of the enrollment increase.
A resolution was passed at that meeting indicating that WPCA would not
agree to amend the 1995 agreement to permit the Aidan enrollment to
exceed 180 students after the 2004-2005 school year. Following the
January 2005 Executive Committee meeting, a request was received from
ten members of WPCA asking that a special meeting be held, with
sufficient notice to all interested members of WPCA, to address, and
submit to a vote of the general membership, a proposal to amend the 1995
agreement to permit a permanent enrollment increase at Aidan from 180 to
210 students. This would override the position taken by the WPCA
Executive Committee. E-mail email@example.com
for more information.
Women’s Human Rights and Violence Against
Women, March 8
Anne Ellsworth, firstname.lastname@example.org
Join Amnesty International and the US Committee for UNIFEM’s
National Capital Chapter as we observe International Women’s Day,
March 8, 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., at the City Museum of Washington DC, 801 K
Street NW at Mount Vernon Square.
Reception 5:30-6:15 (wine, music, hors d’oeuvres). Film premiere
6:15, of Battered, Bruised, Broken (12 minutes) and The Peacekeepers and
the Women (80 minutes), followed by a panel discussion on violence
against women (domestic violence and trafficking) with Debra Husson,
film director of Battered, Bruised, Broken; Ann Jordan, Global Rights;
Ashley Garrett, International Organization for Migration; and Mohamed Y.
Matter, The Protection Project, Johns Hopkins School of International
Studies. Tickets: reception only, $10.00; film and panel, $9.00;
combination ticket, $15.00.
US First Robotics Competition, March 18-19
Paula Shelton, PnJ4home@aol.com
Two teams from DC are competing this year in the US FIRST Robotics
competition. The NASA/NSBE Robo-Knights from Friendship Edison
Collegiate Academy, located on Minnesota Avenue, NE, will be competing
at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, March 18-19. Banneker will be
competing in the Richmond Regional. This international competition
provides access to over $5 million in scholarships.
For more information, visit http://www.mitc.org.
It’s free. Come out and support the children of Washington, DC.
CLASSIFIEDS — HELP WANTED
Legal Secretary, Criminal Defense
Jon Katz, jon at marks katz dot com
Highly-rated trial law firm in Silver Spring seeks additional
full-time experienced legal secretary. We pay aggressively for top
performance. We train to retain, and show our proper appreciation for
work well done. You will enjoy working at our firm if you want a job
with conscience, thrive on fast pace, and have strong litigation
experience. Apply now: Jon Katz, fax 301-495-8815, http://www.markskatz.com.
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
The AFS International Student Exchange has opportunities for about
fifteen District of Columbia families to host international high school
exchange students for the 2005-2006 school year. Won’t you consider
it? These are great, carefully screened kids. They come from over forty
different countries, and are eager to learn about America and take part
in the activities of their host family and local high school. When you
welcome a student from another country into your home, your children and
family learn about the world, your AFS student takes home a part of
America, and you make a personal contribution to world peace and
understanding. Two and single parent households, with or without kids,
are eligible. The family provides a place to sleep (not necessarily a
private room) and provides meals. Students bring their own spending
money and have excellent health insurance.
The DC Chapter of AFS hopes to place six students at School without
Walls, six students at Wilson, one to two students at Duke Ellington,
and one to two at Archbishop Carroll.
Now is the time to start making the arrangements. Working with an AFS
volunteer, you’ll select your student from several who are a good
match for the family’s interests and lifestyle. All AFS students are
above average scholastically and speak English. To learn more, contact
AFS DC Chapter volunteer Louise Cort at 547-4868 (email@example.com),
call 800-AFS-INFO, or visit the AFS web site at http://usa.afs.org.
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
Are you looking for abstract paintings, collage and mask designs,
greeting cards, or handmade paper creations? Then, contact Afrika
Midnight Asha Abney, local DC based visual artist and greeting card
designer, either via E-mail at Aashawarrior@aol.com
or by phone at 538-3403.
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