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March 2, 2005


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 months.

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.

Gary Imhoff


Fire Code Violations
Bryce A. Suderow,

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,

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,

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

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 Health
Angela Bradbery, Cofounder, Smokefree DC,

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

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.


Property Tax Increases
Matt Forman,

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, (, 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. Hahn).


Property Tax Relief
Ann Hume Loikow,

[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 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 Tax?
Art Spitzer,

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 action?”

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.


Voice Over Internet Protocol
Edward Elder,

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,

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,

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 supporting slots.

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 petition.

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 them.


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 Spark
Justin Orndorff,

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 mid-March.

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.



Registration for Spring Classes at Guy Mason Recreation Center
Toni Ritzenberg,

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 cuisine.

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 As always, this is one of the best bargains the city has to offer.


DC Public Library Events, March 3, 7
Debra Truhart,

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 contact 727-1285.

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,

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 for more information.


Women’s Human Rights and Violence Against Women, March 8
Anne Ellsworth,

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,

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 It’s free. Come out and support the children of Washington, DC.



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,



Host an AFS Exchange Student
Louise Cort,

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 (, call 800-AFS-INFO, or visit the AFS web site at



Africa Midnight Asha Abney,

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 or by phone at 538-3403.


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