Every once in a while, I repeat some of the guidelines for writing to
themail. Mostly, they deal with timing and length. Timing is everything.
Issues are published twice a week, on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. If
you’re sending a meeting or event notice, please keep those days in
mind. As it says at the bottom of each issue, brevity is the soul of
being publishable. Keep it short, and I won’t edit it with my rusty
hatchet, or run only the first two or three paragraphs in the E-mail
version. Classifieds are free, but I’ll run the same classified ad
only once in a month, not repeatedly. We’re dedicated to local issues
and to life in the District of Columbia. We don’t cover national and
international politics; don’t bother to write to themail about them
unless there’s a very strong local connection. And if you want to be
sure that I don’t title your submission with a bad pun or misspell
your name, format your message exactly as you would like to see it
printed, with the title, your name, and E-mail address at the top of the
body of the message.
If you ever miss an issue, please remember that the current issue and
all back issues are available online at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
Also, since back issues are maintained online, please remember, before
you hit the send button, that your message will live forever in the
memory of the web. Even after that long-distant day when DCWatch goes
away, it will still live in the Wayback machine (http://www.archive.org).
I don’t enforce any limits on language, although most readers
prefer politeness. The most riotous profanity is all right on web sites,
but the censorship filters that screen E-mail are stricter and stupider
than the bluest-nosed Mrs. Grundy of the Victorian era. Please, if you
can restrain yourself, don’t emulate those risque folks at the
National Cathedral who in this issue of themail openly advertise a
performance by a “titular organist.” Who knows how many filters will
reject this message because of that?
Good Government Coming Soon to DC
Mary C. Williams, Committee to Recall Sharon Ambrose, firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the last few days, I have awakened in the wee morning hours just
to catch reruns of the Council’s March 1 committee meeting on Channel
13. The rare and award-winning performances by a majority of our Council
members have left me giddy with hope that repeat performances may not be
too far off or infrequent. On that fateful Tuesday, a group of council
members stepped outside their carefully crafted political boxes and
demonstrated a number of characteristics and qualities that made me
proud to be a DC resident. I know that it might be hard to believe, but
they were actually articulate, concise, thorough and thoughtful,
decisive and dedicated to representing the best interest of the people.
More importantly, they were just plain smart.
Not all of them, however, took part in this unique good government
exercise. The noteworthy actors were council members Barry, Brown,
Catania, Cropp, Fenty, Graham, Gray, and Schwartz. My own
representative, Sharon Ambrose, was unable to participate due to a lack
of familiarity with this aspect of governing. She was left speechless by
mounting concerns about the financing of the Anacostia Waterfront
Initiative. I watched in awe as Council members Catania and Barry teamed
up to point out that the $3.8 million funding for the highly-touted AWI
was nothing more than a giveaway to another quasi-government agency
(devised to circumvent the constraints of government operations and
assist private developers) and reward the city’s former planning
director and his staff for executing the administration’s plan.
Catania noted that the multimillion funding was solely to pay staff
salaries and consultants and that the group, while good government
planners, were not developers and could not carry out the project
without hiring consultants to do the actual work. Barry also pointed out
that unlike the National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC),
there was no provision for AWI to repay the loan from the city.
Ambrose refused to take part in the public discussions or provide an
explanation. On another critical issue, Councilmember Fenty was
encouraged by colleagues to continue dogging the institutionalized
dysfunction of the Health and Human Services system amid growing
criticism from advocates and the administration that Fenty may be
blocking needed services. Undaunted by the repeated political rhetoric
or the fear of reprisal from single-minded advocates, a majority of
councilmembers, including Gray, pledged support for Fenty’s efforts to
expose and right a system that allowed contractors to collect $450,000 a
year for the care of one special needs person, revealing that there were
several similar cases that none of the agency directors or supervisors
could explain why or how this had occurred. Later in the week,
Councilmembers Graham and Brown continued their efforts to right DCRA’s
course, putting an end to the agency’s long-standing and illegal
practice of rendering legal opinions on the sale of apartments and
unlawful condominium conversions. It took Graham less than three months
to put an end to the letter-writing practice that deprived renters of
home ownership opportunities. Graham’s brief tenure as oversight also
brought out two whistle blowers who unveiled numerous questionable
practices within the agency, while Ambrose sat on these problematic
issues for more than three years and did nothing. Ward 6 residents
expect and deserve better. It’s time for Sharon to step aside. She is
out of her league with this good government team.
What’s the Story on Loose Lips?
Bryant Young, email@example.com
I remember reading in a previous issue of themail that Loose Lips, my
favorite feature of the City Paper, was going away. Does anyone
[Elissa Silverman, the latest Loose Lips, was fired by the City
Paper’s editor, Eric Wemple, although Eric doesn’t want to call
it a firing. The only local news report of the event was in The
Common Denominator, http://www.thecommondenominator.com/012405_taking.html.
If anyone wants to add anything to that account (Elissa, Eric, want to
comment?), please feel free to do so. The column will return in tomorrow’s
issue of the City Paper with a new Loose Lips, Jim Jones,
formerly a reporter with WAMU-FM. — Gary Imhoff]
Rising Property Taxes Are Unrelated to Ability
Edward Cowan, Friendship Heights, firstname.lastname@example.org
Many of us have on our desks DC Real Property Tax Bills payable by
March 31 — bills that are up 12 percent from a year ago. Equally large
increases are on tap for next year under present law. Few of us can
augment our incomes enough to keep up. Rising property taxes are not
related to ability to pay, unlike income and sales taxes. The real
estate boom — bubble? — in DC and elsewhere puts enormous pressure
on many of us to keep our homes. Rising property taxes drive up rents,
Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2), chairman of the Committee on
Finance and Revenue, wants to let your property tax bills rise by 5
percent a year. And that is his opening position -- one from which he
will compromise upwards as he seeks to broker a deal with other Council
members. Recall that Mr. Evans has his eye on the Mayor’s race in
2006. Increases of 5 percent a year are too much. It is twice the rate
of inflation. It implies that DC government will take an increasing
share of our incomes and the local economy. Council members should put
the brakes on property tax increases by raising the homestead exemption
and by reducing the rate at which property is taxed. Let the Council
stop squeezing renters and home owners.
DC revenues can grow — equitably — with taxes from rising incomes
and retail sales. There is even room for the income tax rate to come
down a little and still yield more revenue as incomes and corporate
profits grow. Property tax increases are unrelated to ability to pay.
Please write to Council members — all of them, not just your own ward’s
member — to express your views. You can find names and addresses at http://www.dc.gov/council.
[You can also send an E-mail to all councilmembers by using one
— Gary Imhoff]
Who Are They and Where Did They Come From?
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at
An outside panel put together by the American Public Transportation
Association analyzed Metro’s operations and “found flaws that
include fragmented management” and “poor training” [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50745-2005Feb24.html].
That is no surprise to anyone who saw the picture in the Post of
one rail car sitting on top of another, or read stories about how a
train operator simply walked away from a train load of passengers. In
fact, it is no surprise to anyone who rides Metro, even intermittently.
What is a surprise is the simplicity and commonsense nature of the panel’s
findings. The panel’s recommendations, reported in the Post,
did not focus on esoteric details of mass transit, but addressed
fundamentals of rail operations. Metro management got a failing score on
the most basic aspects of rail transit.
I have been told that the Metro board supports Metro General Manager
Richard White because of the respect they hold for his ability and
knowledge. Who are they kidding? As the lawyers say: res ipsa
loquitor, the facts speak for themselves. Metro is ill run, a
conclusion that was confirmed by the just-completed expert study. My
question is: who are these people on the Metro board and where did they
come from? The only way Metro is going to be repaired is to replace the
current board by people who care about the system and who, in fact,
deign to ride the system occasionally themselves. A revised board’s
first action should be to replace White.
Somebody’s Making a Bundle
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
The price of diesel fuel in DC is well over $2.20 per gallon. That’s
a bit baffling, since diesel fuel is a minimally refined product that is
exactly the same as number 2 home heating oil. Yet home heating oil is
only about $1.70 per gallon. Who’s making all that extra profit?
ANC2B Commissioner Rob Halligan E-mailed me his testimony to the
Council concerning DDOT. While I know that DDOT is trying to improve,
here is my response to Rob with my favorite DDOT fiasco.
Rob, thanks for your testimony. Cannot help but think, “How
bleeping sad.” My favorite DDOT stupidity was when they repaved Q
Street, NW, in our Dupont Circle neighborhood after a decade of
promising to do it. DDOT never made any public announcement, either
before or during the work. Emergency No Parking signs appeared with no
explanation and originally were for one week. When DDOT does not
understand the value of street parking, we are in trouble. Then problem
after problem and complaint after complaint followed. If we had only
known what was going on, people would have been dancing with joy!
Instead, everyone was complaining, and I heard a lot more complaints
than DDOT ever did. DDOT needs to figure out that, if they treat the
public with contempt and offer no public information, then even
something positive becomes a negative. The worst part of the above
fiasco was that all it would have taken to do it right was simple common
In response to a couple Washington Post articles, and more
generally to less-embracing-of-transit attitudes, I hope to demonstrate
that “Dr. Transit” is “In” and “Dr. Gridlock” is “Out”
via the following entries on my blog, Laymanblog, at http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/.
Check out http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/03/dr-transit-is-in-more-about-transit.html,
a response to a Sunday front-page article, and, in response to a piece
in the Thursday Dr. Gridlock column, see http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/03/doctor-is-out-dr-gridlock-and.html.
There’s also this unrelated, but related, post here: http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/03/dr-transit-is-in-and-says-ride-bike.html.
Questions to Dr. Transit are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blogging about the District of Columbia
Andy Catanzaro, email@example.com
Check out a new a blog (http://stampouttax.blogspot.com),
Blogging about the Colony of the District of Columbia! The blog’s
focus is to update you on interesting web sites, current articles, and
events crucial to establishing voting rights in Washington DC. The web
site is sponsored by the Stamp Act Congress (http://www.stampouttax.com).
Submissions, links, or opinions are strongly encouraged.
New Smoke-free Discussion Feature on the
BreatheEasyDC.org Web Site
Eric Marshall, firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s smoke-free
campaign is really driven by its volunteers and supporters, and the
campaign wants to hear from you! There is now a Smoke-free Discussion
feature on the BreatheEasyDC.org web site. The campaign’s field
representative will periodically be posting articles or updates about
smoke-free. There will also be guests from the Washington, DC, and
public health communities posting from time to time. At the bottom of
every post there will be a comments section where you can comment about
the post or anything else related to smoke-free workplaces.
Please go to http://www.breatheeasydc.org/
and join the discussion today.
Concerning the New MPD Procedures
Selina Musuta, email@example.com
I would like to comment on Bryce A. Suderow’s comments [themail,
March 6] on new police procedures that would force the police to
investigate every citizen complaint as well as changing the process in
which superiors confront police on complaints made against them. Mr.
Suderow said that these procedures were horrible. I disagree. What I do
think is horrible when police officers tell residents that these
procedures will create more crime in a neighborhoods. That is a scare
tactic in my opinion.
The fact is that when citizens do overcome their fear and complain
about police misconduct, the complaints are rarely investigated. I
remember the first time I tried to get enough information to report a
police officer after seeing a youth being harassed, the police officers
mocked me, and one refused to give me his badge number. They said that
my complaints would not be heard. That disheartened me. My friend and I
chose not to report because of that. The second time I tried to report
to the police, which was over a year ago, nothing happened. No one
contacted me. My story is one of many stories. Whether these procedures
will be enforced and police held accountable is my real question.
Follow-Up on Interactive Journalism
Justin Orndorff, firstname.lastname@example.org
Another valuable local resource for interactive journalism is J-Lab:
the Institute for Interactive Journalism, at the University of Maryland
Panic at Cardozo High
Victoria Lord, tory at aya dot yale dot edu
I have to agree with Gary’s assessment of the unnecessary panic
over the mercury spill at Cardozo. It is complete overkill. That said, I
also want to point out that this is a recurring theme in DCPS. Several
years ago, my local DCPS elementary school was undergoing some slight
renovation when it was discovered that pipes covered with asbestos had
been exposed. Not disturbed, but simply uncovered. As this occurred on
only one floor, only a few classrooms were affected, but you would have
thought that we had uncovered a secret uranium dump. There were meetings
with EPA officials, DCPS officials, school administrators, board
members, etc. The oddest part of this, for me, was the parents who
showed up to (literally) scream at the officials. I had never seen the
vast majority of them at a single PTA meeting, a school clean and repair
work day, chaperoning a field trip, or working in any other way to
improve their child’s educational experience. In fact, I have never
seen many of them since. I finally realized what was going on with these
folks. Doing the day-to-day scut work of raising and educating your kids
is exhausting -- making sure that homework is done nightly, that some
reading occurs every day, that the child eats a good breakfast and gets
to school on time, etc. It is a lot easier to show up once a year at the
school and yell at other people about how inadequately they care for
your child than it is to do this daily grind. And that’s what a lot of
people seem to do in the District of Columbia. As a result, DC tends to
respond with overkill to any situation like this because they know they
are going to be accused of "harming the kids" if they just do
a quick cleanup.
The second depressing factor in all this sturm und drang is the fact
that in the past, DCPS has lied to parents, worked overtime to keep them
in the dark, and downplayed real problems within the system. Put both
these pathologies together and you get the dysfunctional dance we are
seeing at Cardozo. I would like to see a serious response that involves
making the parents of those kids found responsible financially liable
for the cleanup. The cost is $150,000 and rising — more than enough to
pay for librarians or music teachers at some of those schools which
currently lack them. The waste of money is far more painful to those of
us with kids in the system than any other aspect of this nonsense.
It’s Not So Much the Mercury as the Irony
Len Sullivan, email@example.com
It is very rare when I find myself on the far side of Gary Imhoff.
But his description of the city’s overreaction to the minor mercury
spills in DC schools [themail, March 6] understates the histrionics over
a nuisance event. In my youth, two decades before Gary’s,
ink-bottle-sized containers of mercury were sold in toy stores. I fooled
around with mine for months: freezing it with dry ice, coating coins
with it to make them shiny; splattering puddles into droplets, and so
But here’s what’s truly bizarre: there are no first responders at
all when kids drop out of school and are left to pollute their
communities, shorten the lives of their neighbors, and condemn their
progeny to ill health. Where are the sirens, the evacuations, the yellow
plastic bunny suits, the acrimony, and the angry parents when the really
serious spills occur — at least a thousand times a year?
Without taking the time to reply in detail you might consider further
research on mercury. Mercury is extremely toxic and deadly if ingested
in certain forms. To downplay its danger is not wise.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Cleveland Park Library Book Sale, March 12-13
Jill Bogard, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Friends of the Cleveland Park Library will hold their annual
spring book sale this coming weekend, March 12 and 13, at the Cleveland
Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW, one block south of the
Cleveland Park Metro stop on the red line. Hours are 12:00 noon to 4:00
We have thousands of previously read books, many in pristine
condition, in nearly every subject area. Most hardbacks are $1:00,
paperbacks $.50. Paperback mysteries, romances, and science fiction are
only $.10. Most children’s books go for $.50 for most hardbacks, $.10
for paperbacks. We also have a music section with CD’s, tapes, LP’s,
and sheet music, as well as books on tape and some videos. Nearly
everything in the sale has been donated by our neighbors and friends and
thus reflects a wide range of interests and tastes. Questions? —
contact Nathalie Black (362-3599) or Julianna Ohlrich (237-2005).
Washington National Cathedral, Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues,
NW, presents Daniel Roth, titular organist of St. Sulpice, Paris, in a
winter celebrity organ concert on Sunday March 13, at 5:00 p.m. Mr. Roth
will improvise in addition to performing works by Widor. Free and open
to the public.
National Building Museum Events, March 14-15
Brie Hensold, email@example.com
Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW,
Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.
Monday, March 14, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Shanghai, the world’s most densely
populated city, is undergoing phenomenal changes to its physical
environment. Peter Rowe, professor of architecture and urban design at
Harvard University, will review the city’s urban plans since the
beginning of the People’s Republic in 1949 and discuss contemporary
major projects including infrastructure, commercial buildings, historic
conservation, and construction of new and satellite communities. By way
of comparison with contemporary Shanghai, he will briefly discuss
development in Beijing. After the lecture, he will sign copies of his
book Shanghai: Architecture and Urbanism for Modern China (Prestel).
$10 Museum members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required.
Tuesday, March 15, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Starting in 1997, the citizens of
Birmingham, Alabama, and the surrounding region began to develop a
shared vision for their future. Architect and urban planner Larry Watts,
executive director of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater
Birmingham, has helped to shape the process and bring transportation,
land use, and urban form together. In 2004 the planning effort bloomed
into a progressive regional vision, an influential
citizen-business-government regional partnership, and a downtown home
for collaborative planning and design. Mr. Watts will share the
Birmingham story as the region moves toward creating a growth framework
and transit plan, and confronts critical issues of water availability.
Free. Registration not required.
Walking Tours of Downtown Jewish Washington,
March 27, April 17
Diana Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Guided walking tours of downtown Jewish Washington provide an insider’s
view of downtown Jewish Washington beyond the Mall and monuments. Go
back in time to a neighborhood where Jews lived, worked, and worshipped,
beginning in the mid-1800s, when Adas Israel Congregation was founded.
Tour highlights include the sites of Adas Israel’s first and second
buildings, the old Washington Hebrew Congregation, and Ohev Shalom.
Sponsored by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington in
association with the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum;
the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, and Hadassah. The tour will be
offered on two dates: Sunday, March 27, 1:00-2:30 p.m. (RSVP by Monday,
March 21), and Sunday, April 17, 1:00-2:30 p.m. (RSVP by Monday, April
11). Tours begin at the 1876 historic synagogue at 701 Third Street, NW
(at 3rd and G), and end at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue (at 8th
and I). Cost for members of the cosponsoring organizations, $10/person,
for nonmembers, $15/person. Advance reservations required. For more
information or reservations, please call Stephanie Silverstein at
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
I want to rent a cabin for a weekend this spring in a state/national
park within a four-hour drive. Any recommendations?
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