themail.gif (3487 bytes)

March 20, 2005


Dear Excluded:

You’re not going to the mayor’s State of the District address Monday evening, of course. Your nonattendance is not because you’re not interested in DC politics, or because you are uninterested in what the mayor has to say. It’s not because there’s no room for you, either. The speech is being held at the spacious Lincoln Theater, and there have never been turn-away crowds at any of the mayor’s past State of the District speeches. You’re not attending because you haven’t been invited. This year, for the first time, the speech is a closed-door event, for invited guests only. So unless you’re a District government employee who has been ordered by your supervisor to attend and applaud at all the applause lines, or you are otherwise known to the administration to be a reliable supporter of Tony Williams, you are part of the great unwanted unwashed whose attendance is neither requested nor desired. You can watch it on television, if you are desperate.

For many months, Dorothy and I have been saying that Mayor Williams will not run for reelection. For the past couple months, as least, Mayor Williams has tried to create doubt by teasing the press, saying that he had not made a decision about whether to campaign again. But if he ever gave a clear signal that he knows he is a lame duck, unable to run again, it is his decision to exclude the public from his most important annual speech. He doesn’t trust average residents of DC to react positively to him or his speech, so he bars the door against us. How likely is he to face us and ask for our votes again?

Gary Imhoff


Stadium Alternative Financing
P. Walters,

The District forfeited any leverage to put the burden of the stadium onto the private sector when Mayor Williams agreed to hold the bag and the Council, despite Chairman Cropp’s theatrics, merely rubber-stamped the deal.

The two deals that CFO Gandhi calls viable (the Deutsche Bank and Gates Group proposals) are illusions of “private financing.” Each of them puts a markup on stadium-related revenue that will materialize (or not) whether or not the private partners do anything, and sells the revenue back to the city. (With the city on the hook for shortfalls, as usual.) They merely are fancified ways to do what the CFO has to do anyway -- go to market and get a loan to meet the stadium commitments and pay off Mayor Williams’s MLB cronies.

The only truly private financing would come from someone who, without requiring a backstop from city government, steps in and takes on the financing and operating risk of the stadium. But now no sane business person will ever do that, because Williams, Cropp, and friends long ago agreed to pay (and pay and pay) for the whole shebang. Not much different than showing a car dealer your bank book and pay stubs, then asking for the best deal on the car.


Weekly Residential Street Sweeping Resumes Monday
Mary Myers,

Weekly residential street cleaning operations resume Monday, March 21. Alternate-side parking restrictions during street sweeping hours will go into effect once again. Parking citations ($30 fine) will be issued to vehicles parked during street sweeping hours in areas posted with “No Parking/Street Cleaning” signs. Additionally, parked cars may be towed. The sweepers’ return kicks off the District’s spring-cleaning season, when activities largely suspended during the winter — such as sweeping, nuisance property abatement, graffiti cleaning and poster removal — are reactivated.

Street sweeping reduces debris that would otherwise be carried by rain and run-off into the city’s storm drains, polluting the District’s rivers. The sweepers remove trash and small debris from the street by sweeping it onto a conveyor system, which transports the material into a debris hopper. Each sweeper has a hopper capacity of approximately one ton of dust, dirt and trash.


Long-Term Parking
Rae Kelley,

What do people do with their cars when they go away? I live in an area affected by street cleaning. I’m going away for a week and am trying to determine what to do with the car. I could park it at the airport, but the ticket I will receive for violating the “no-parking during street cleaning” rule is a lot less than the cost of parking at the airport for a week. I’m looking for suggestions, and would like to know what others think of this. We all pay taxes and should be able to park in front of our homes without getting a ticket or towed.


Washington Examiner Revisited
Joseph Poisso,

I don’t understand the hostility to the Washington Examiner expressed by some writers here in themail. After glancing at some of the angry anti-Examiner posts, I went over to the site to check it out. Hey, it’s fun, fresh, good, solid, upbeat writing which doesn’t take itself too serious. The following gem from their “relationship” column makes my point: “Capital Coupling — A good relationship is like a good brassiere — Katrina Olivares. A good relationship is like a good brassiere, the best ones show off each other’s assets while reinforcing what you have inside. And either your cups runneth over or you’re missing half a hooter.”

Folks, this is fun. This girl is a good writer. She is interesting, but she is not the only decent Examiner scribe. Somehow they managed to bring together a number of folks who can put one word after another to string together coherent sentences that engage the reader instead of putting out the stifling (and boring) pontifications that pass as “journalism” today. There are a number of publications in DC with which I don’t bother, but I don’t think the Examiner will go on my “Do not read” list.


School Lunches
Lars Hydle,

The District weekly of the Post on Thursday always publishes menus for the District Public Schools and for the Head Start program. I’m no nutritionist, but I have to wonder whether the menu meets national nutritional standards, recently republished by the federal government, and contributes to the war against childhood obesity. Does the DC Public Schools administrative staff even have nutritionists? What do the public charter and private and independent schools do about this issue? And the vending machines, physical education, and recess? Don’t get me started!


Real Property Taxes and Miscalculations
Matt Forman,

The last issue of themail cited Steven Pearlstein’s recent Washington Post column asserting that a tax cap is something of a gimmick, and that if politicians were more honest, they would lower the rates. (In the District, this is known as the “calculated rate,” which Mr. Mendelson advocates.) The example given was that if assessed values go up 20 percent, then the tax rate should be reduced by 16.7 percent to maintain the same revenue. Any reduction less than 16.7 percent is a stealth increase. Good point, but that tells only half the story. Using the same example, the 20 percent increase in home values is only an average. Therefore, half the homes went up more than that, and half less. So let’s say that half the assessments increased 30 percent, and half only 10 percent, producing the 20 percent average. With the suggested rate reduction, the half that went up 30 percent would only get a 16.7 percent reduction, which is still a net increase. Meanwhile, the homeowners whose assessments only went up 10 percent would also get a 16.7 percent reduction, which would result in their paying less than they paid the year before, even though their assessment went up — a huge windfall! The moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for. I’d rather take the cap.

Meanwhile, as to the announcement of the third annual series of meetings about the tax assessment and appeals process that Councilmember Mendelson will be holding around the city, what a waste of time. Under the cap (which Mr. Mendelson opposed), it doesn’t matter so much what your 2006 assessment is, because you only pay tax on the capped assessment, which is a fraction of the full assessment. It’s only worth appealing your assessment if you can prove your house is worth less the capped amount, a highly unlikely event. This brief explanation should be the entirety of Mr. Mendelson’s presentation at these meetings, after which the people should wander back home, muttering, “never mind.” Mr. Mendelson should instead focus on the wasted dollars spent on the bloated bureaucracy still in place to handle these fruitless appeals.



National Building Museum Events, March 21-22
Brie Hensold,

All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.

Tuesday, March 21, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Architect and author Joseph Passonneau will describe the development of Washington, DC, from its raw beginnings in 1800 to its position today as a world capital. To illustrate the city’s evolution, he will use his original, three-dimensional (axonometric) maps of the city showing six different periods. After the lecture, he will sign copies of his book Washington Through Two Centuries (Monacelli). This lecture is held in conjunction with the exhibition Washington: Symbol and City, which will be open for viewing. $10 Museum members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required.

Tuesday, March 22, 12:30-1:30 p.m. What Are Toyota and IKEA Doing in the Home-Building Business? Building homes off-site in manufacturing facilities is a growing part of the American housing landscape, but some of the most innovative developments in factory home-building are found in Japan and Scandinavia. Emanuel Levy, executive director of the Manufactured Housing Research Alliance, will describe how Japanese and Swedish factory home-builders use the industrialized environment to create advanced technologies and design solutions not possible with traditional site-building methods. Free. Registration not required.

Tuesday, March 22, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Architectural photographer Richard Schulman has worked with most of today’s best known architects around the world, capturing their projects on film along with the architects themselves. He will discuss his experiences photographing these famous personalities and their works, ranging from Philip Johnson to Rem Koolhaas. After the lecture, he will sign copies of his book Portraits of the New Architecture (Assouline). $10 Museum members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required.


DC Public Library Events, March 23-24
Debra Truhart,

Wednesday, March 23, noon. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Douglas J. Johnson, financial advisor from Morgan Stanley, discusses financial and investment planning. Public contact 727-1171.

Thursday, March 24, noon. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Deaf author Stevie Platt will discuss his next book, Margaret’s Last Servant Was Mary, an historical novel about life before and after the Civil War. Platt has been deaf since birth. He graduated from Gallaudet University, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. He currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Go To The Hill was his first novel. Public contact 727-2245 (voice and TTY).


Equal Justice Works Auction, March 24
Joe Libertelli,

Please join us for the School of Law’s annual Joseph L. Rauh Equal Justice Works auction on Thursday, March 24, at 6 p.m., in the Firebird Inn, Building 38, B-Level, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW (Red Line Van Ness/UDC Metro) Garage parking off Van Ness Street. There is no admission charge. Auction items will include: 1) a lunch with DC Council Chair Linda Cropp, 2) a shadow day with DC "King of Torts" Jack Olender, 3) a two-hour consultation with top DC fundraising consultant Beth Grupp, 4) a lunch with DC Councilmember Phil Mendelson, 5) a lunch with DC Councilmember Carol Schwartz, 6) a beautiful Aztec rug, 7) a Shenandoah River retreat, 8) a Rehoboth beach retreat, 9) various restaurant and retail gift certificates, 10) two crab feasts at Mike and Maggie Rauh’s waterfront home, and much, much more!

Additional items are still welcome, as are direct financial contributions. To donate an item, please reply to To make a tax deductible contribution by credit card, go to and donate to the Equal Justice Works Program. Make checks payable to “DC School of Law Foundation” and mail c/o Dean Shelley Broderick, to UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008.


Whitehurst Freeway Deconstruction Feasibility Study Meeting, April 7
Ben Slade,

Apparently, someone wants to "deconstruct" the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown. The motivation seems to be similar to the Anacostia Waterfront renovation, that is, letting real estate developers enhance land values (and thus tax revenues) by developing high value projects. Being the cynical suspicious type, I can’t help but wonder if it also enhances campaign contributions. Whatever the motivation, they need to make sure they don’t make traffic worse for people driving through Georgetown or for drivers trying to cross the Potomac. One thought, if the goal is to raise tax revenues, maybe building a new toll bridge across the Potomac would do a better job?

In any case, a meeting discussing the study is scheduled for April 7 from 7-9 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, located at 3240 O Street, NW. More info is available at,a,1249,q,624809.asp.



Lost Dog
Loretta Begg,

A Chow mix, last seen in the Spring Valley neighborhood behind AU Law School. “Fraidy” is 40 pounds, black with long hair. She has a red ID tag and is very shy. Any sightings helpful. Please call or E-mail Loretta Begg, 301-320-1181,


Beautiful Long-Haired Cat
Pat Yates,

What better way to celebrate the Persian New Year than to adopt this beautiful black and white longhaired cat who might have just a bit of Persian in her background? (How else to explain the long, silky, soft hair?) She was dumped in the parking lot at the DC Animal Shelter a couple of weeks ago, so matted and dirty that the first order of business was a trip to the hairdresser for a shampoo and cut. See

Now clean and rested, she is in my foster home waiting for just the right person to adopt her. This time, she wants someone who will brush and groom her regularly, and will keep and love her forever. She will repay her new guardian with loads of affection, purrs, and love.



ASL Classes in NW
William Haskett,

Does anyone know of the availability of classes in American Sign Language in northwest Washington? My son has been in Ecuador with the Peace Corps, and married a woman who has a six-year-old child who is deaf. The child attends a school in Ecuador, where he is learning to sign. One condition of entry is that parents (and possibly grandparents) should learn to sign as well, and it seems sensible to me that I learn too.


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the subscription form at To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at

All postings should also be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)