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March 27, 2005

Unblemished Reputation

Dear Highly Reputed Readers:

The US Office of Special Counsel is the federal office that protects federal and DC government employees from corrupt personnel practices; it protects governmental whistle blowers and also enforces the Hatch Act, the federal legislation that protects members of the bureaucracy from being used as election workers or being shaken down for political contributions by the politicians who are their bosses. Last week, the OSC entered into a consent agreement with Kelvin Robinson, the former Chief of Staff who pressured DC government employees to work in and contribute to Mayor Williams’s 2002 campaign — most publicly at a large closed-door meeting of administration workers at the Convention Center. Several government workers complained to the OSC, so the Williams administration didn’t carry through on Robinson’s stated intention of strong-arming them to “volunteer” and “voluntarily” contribute. But Williams and Robinson have never recognized or admitted that anything was wrong with what Robinson did on Williams’s behalf.

The agreement between OSC and Robinson is secret, but its major terms were revealed in an OSC press release ( Robinson resigned from the government last July, just two days before OSC publicly announced its intention to seek his removal from office, so the only punishment levied on him was a prohibition against his working for the DC government again for two years. In response to the agreement, Robinson released his own media advisory — a clueless, uncomprehending statement — that you can read on the same DCWatch page as the OSC press release. Robinson claimed that “my record of leadership and service to District residents remains unblemished. While under the terms of the settlement agreement, I acknowledge OSC’s belief that violations occurred, I appreciate that the OSC has also recognized my view of no wrongdoing.”

It’s a view that’s widely shared in this administration. But here’s the rule: corrupt practices are corrupt whether they’re done for our side or the other side. Pressuring government workers to give money to the political boss is wrong no matter who the boss is. Kelvin Robinson doesn’t understand that yet, even after his consent agreement with the OSC. Does anyone in this administration understand it?

Gary Imhoff


They Ain’t Making ’Em Like They Used To
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotCcom

I recently rode on the New York subway system, as is my wont when visiting the Big Apple. Had an occasion to be at one station that had a long escalator (there are not many in the system). This one was so old it had wooden, grooved (not stone) treads. I asked a passing commuter how often the escalator broke down. She responded that in her memory it was never out of order and she had used it every work day for the last ten years. I warned her about the escalators in Washington, which I use a lot. Seems like almost every time I ride the Metro one or more escalators at either end of my trip are not working. The NYC escalators, by the way, have been in service for about eighty years. I guess they don’t make them like they used to.


Capital Budget Farce
Ed Dixon,

In spite of the Post’s fantasy headlines “Williams Steers Cash to Renewal” and “Speech Lifts the State of the Mayor,” the idea the mayor has solved the problem of dilapidated public school buildings should not be believed. His budget emphasizes that he is spending more this year on the schools than on any other agency. But the mayor plans to spend less on renovating the schools in the next six years than in the first six years of his tenure. Deceptively, the project description forms include all the money spent in previous years as well, as a way of adding weight to the total expenditure. One example is that Key Elementary, still in the capital budget, is included in the tabulation. The Corps signed off on Key almost two years ago, but the expenditure is still in the total expenditure. Check out the numbers game at|33210|.

This presentation is an attempt to provide political satisfaction for those who believe more should be spent on the schools as well as those who want certain neighborhoods to remain in flux by not spending too much on public school buildings. Spending on public schools is believed to stabilize neighborhood population and with real estate investors looking for upward socioeconomic change in certain neighborhoods that stabilization would prove unfruitful. The buzz among education advocates is that the capital budget is being cut by 44 percent over two years. Meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index puts the cost of education rising over 6 percent per year on average nationally. In one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country, Superintendent Janey has asked for less than a 3 percent increase in the operating budget for DCPS. Moreover, the Wall Street Journal reports a 10.5 percent increase in construction costs. (,,SB111153518468986995-IRjg4NplaZ4op2vaIGIbqmEm5,00.html). And just to reassure folks the need for a healthier capital budget exists, check out the photographed conditions of DC’s public schools at Fix Our Schools (


Baseball or DCPS?
Stacey Kornegay,

This whole baseball fiasco is really getting to me. Channel 5 news had an update last night (March 24) on the status of RFK and how it is just about “baseball-ready” for the Nationals. I say if the District Government put one third of their energies into renovating all DCPS, every school would be up to code and not literally falling down on our children’s heads. What’s the purpose of building/renovating new stadiums just to fill it up with people who read below average and have math skills that are below average as well? Schools and education should always come first, but I guess it goes to show that DC is not a family friendly city. I guess most of the powers that be in the District Government do not have children or their children attend private schools. So if a problem doesn’t affect you, why bother to fix it, right?


Running More than His Mouth?
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

The not late, and never great, Marion Barry once said (about Jesse Jackson), “He don’t want to run nothin’ but his mouth.” Well, our current mayor has moved his mouth during his State of the District event in front of his assembled supporters. Tony Williams revealed his vision for DC with some specific goals to improve the quality of life for the poor and to reduce property taxes.

These are very laudable goals. Now we must see if we see some real plans and schedules for making these goals attainable come forward shortly. Or will we just find that the only thing moving was the Mayor’s mouth?


Property Tax Relief
Edward Cowan, Friendship Heights,

With the District swimming in revenue from economic growth (desirable) and inflation of real estate values -- undesirable and dangerous — no Council member is talking about reducing the property tax rate. It is $0.96 per $100 of assessed value, after reducing assessed value by the homestead deduction, now $38,000. Even with such tax relief, there will be enough money to fund essential increases in spending (if not all of the extras that the mayor also asks Council to approve).

Rising property tax bills are unrelated to ability to pay. The incomes of pensioners and of most people who work for a living don’t — and won’t — keep up. Reducing the tax rate would protect property owners — and renters, whose landlords raise rents when taxes rise -- from these haphazard and unnecessary tax burdens. The 5 percent “cap” on annual increases proposed by Jack Evans, and seconded by several members, is a palliative that pushes some of the pain into the future, year after year. Council member Vincent Orange tells me that he is considering “5 or 10 percent.” The cap is now 12 percent. A reduction of the tax rate avoids that delayed effect. It would also require Council to make disciplined choices about spending.

Let readers of themail write to their Council members — their own ward reps, the citywide members, the Ward reps like Evans and Orange who want to be mayor — and make their views known. There is a tremendous inertial momentum in Council — a small, cozy body of thirteen that thrives on logrolling -- that must be broken if we are to be protected from unjust, burdensome rises in property taxes.


Property Tax Proposals
Mimi Castaldi, AARP District of Columbia,

I think that Constance Maravell is confusing two separate tax proposals [themail, March 23]. One proposal would cap increases in District property taxes at 5 percent each year. The other proposal, the Senior Citizen Real Property Tax Deferral Act, would allow low-income seniors to defer payment of their property taxes until their residence is sold. Should both pass, an eligible senior taking advantage of the tax deferral would not be required to pay the difference between the “capped” taxes and the full assessment upon sale of his or her home. Rather, the senior would defer property taxes until the sale of the property and would then pay only the total of the “capped” taxes he or she owed to that point with interest. He or she would never be required to pay “the full assessed value.”

AARP DC supports the deferral because it would provide much needed relief to limited income seniors. We believe it would make a critical difference in the lives of some of the Districts most vulnerable residents.


DCRA Metamorphosis
Clyde Howard,

How can DCRA metamorphose into a completely new DCRA if the old director is kept nearby to see that the old methods are not lost in the shuffle? Normally when a new head is inserted to run things, the old head is told politely to resign and seek other employment. Not so in DCRA. They must keep the old director to make sure that the new one doesn’t mess up the cozy attachment that DCRA has with developers in and around town. With no changes in its staffing, DCRA will continue to have the same lack of quality in inspections and other aspects of the agency, and the complaints will continue, only in larger numbers. What is needed is a complete overhaul of staff, job descriptions, qualifications, and mission statements. Glossing over the agency’s problems does nothing but continue it as the most corrupt DC government agency.


Using Skype as a Community Media Production Tool
Phil Shapiro,

Following in the citizen journalism theme of the day, here’s an article I’ve written about how people can use the free Skype Internet phone service to interview one another — and post the interviews in rich media format on the web. Http:// This article includes a link to a segment of an interview I conducted with a colleague in Trinidad and Tobago. The clarity of the audio is quite incredible. What I don’t understand is how that audio crossed the Caribbean Sea to reach DC without getting wet.

Currently the interviews we ingest mostly come from mainstream media. I look forward to the day when we’ll hear lot more from folks who are not hand picked by the media for their point of view. The conversations we have here in themail are a testament to the fact that some of the most interesting thinking comes from non-pundits. Pundits are so 20th century. I say their time is up.


Mark Eckenwiler, themale at ingot dot org

In the last issue (March 23), Jeffrey Menzer mentioned the problem of out-of-state-registered vehicles parked long-term in curbside spots, and the apparent lack of enforcement. The ROSA enforcement program ( is supposed to address the situation, and complaints about specific vehicles can be lodged with the citywide call center (727-1000). Tell the operator you want to make a ROSA complaint, and be ready to provide the vehicle’s description and specific location (or, if it moves around, the block where it’s usually found). In most cases, the ROSA inspectors will go out the same night.

On my Capitol Hill block, we had a recent situation with a new resident who did not register in DC, but who was happy to take up a scarce overnight spot on a regular basis. A polite note on the windshield went for naught, so after a number of months I started calling in complaints. A very long, tortuous story made short: after about a dozen complaints, the car received a $100 ticket for “failure to secure DC tags,” and has not been seen on the block since then.

Some may find my reaction an overly hostile reception to newcomers. My take is that a lot of these folks -- especially the ones who ignore a warning -- fall into the arrogant class of short-termers who think DC isn’t a real jurisdiction and who are unlikely to participate in the community. (The offender on my block sports Texas tags and lives in a group house. Draw your own conclusions.) If they can’t be bothered to comply with the law like the rest of us, I’m more than willing to let DPW communicate the error of their ways; if, as in my case, the result is that the offender’s car disappears (freeing up a scarce spot for the law abiders), that’s an extra bonus. I’d express all of this far more pungently if not for the risk of causing themail to trigger various E-mail filters.



DC Public Library Events, March 29-30
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, March 29, noon. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 307. The Washingtoniana Division of the DC Public Library will feature the film, Pioneer of Color: A Conversation with Lois Mailou Jones, in observance of its 100th anniversary. This documentary is based on an interview with Jones, a nationally famous local African American woman artist, about her life, her art and factors that influenced her art. Public contact 727-1213.

Wednesday, March 30, noon. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Second Floor East Hall. Dr. Barbara Reynolds shares her spiritual autobiography, Out of Hell and Living Well: Healing from the Inside Out. Public contact 727-1175.


Nowruz Celebration, April 1
Dorothy Marschak,

The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, in partnership with the Women & Politics Institute and Community Help in Music Education (CHIME), is proud to present Nowruz: A Celebration of New Beginnings, on Friday, April 1, 6:30-9 p.m., at American University (Butler Boardroom in the Butler Pavilion). “Nowruz” in Persian means New Year Day. It is the beginning of the year for the people of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Tajikistan. It is also celebrated as the New Year by the people of the Iranian stock, particularly the Kurds, in the neighboring countries of Georgia, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. It begins precisely with the beginning of spring on vernal equinox.

The event will feature remarks by Ambassador Philip Wilcox (ret.), President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace; Afshin Molavi, fellow at New America Foundation and author of Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran; and Caterine Warrick, Assistant Professor at the American University. The discussion panel will be followed by a performance by Taqasim, a local Middle Eastern music group, and delicious traditional Middle Eastern food. Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in thoughtful academic discussion, taste authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, and listen to Middle Eastern music.

For more information, please log onto or contact the UNA-NCA office at 518-0471 or Please RSVP by sending an E-mail to There will be an admission cost of $15 for UNA members and $20 for non-UNA members. Not a member of UNA-NCA? Join today at for a $10 student membership and receive a free subscription to Foreign Policy Magazine!


National Building Museum Events, April 4-5
Brie Hensold,

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

Monday, April 4, 12:30-1:30 p.m. As Arlington County has matured, it faces new and ongoing challenges to create vibrant places and house its workers. Chris Zimmerman, vice chairman of the Arlington County Board, will describe Arlington’s successes and challenges in this update on the county -- the winner of the 2002 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth. Free. Registration not required.

Monday, April 4, 6:30-8:00 p.m. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has designated April as National Landscape Architecture Month. The theme of the 2005 celebration explores how community design affects residents’ daily activity levels and, in turn, their overall health. Joanne Westphal, MD, ASLA, a physician and landscape architect, will discuss the health benefits that can result when "active living components," including parks, bike paths, and sidewalks, are designed into neighborhoods. This program is presented in collaboration with ASLA. $10 Museum and ASLA members, and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required.

Tuesday, April 5, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Since its establishment in 1991 in Holland, the MVRDV architectural firm has captured growing international attention with its experimental research projects and mind-bending architecture. Most of the firm’s work can be found in Europe, but it recently has been short listed for projects in the U.S., notably the proposed Olympic Village that is part of New York City’s plan for the 2012 summer Olympics. In a program focusing on a number of the firm’s recent and current projects, Nathalie de Vries, one of the three MVRDV founding partners, will examine a range of the firm’s recent and current projects, including: the Silodam housing project and the redesigned Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam; the Mirador high-rise apartment in Madrid; and the Dutch pavilion for 2000 World Expo in Hanover, Germany. In addition to her architectural practice, Ms. de Vries is an active educator. Currently, she is the Morgenstern Visiting Critic at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Travel for Ms. de Vries has been provided by the Royal Netherlands Embassy. $12 Museum members; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Prepaid registration required


What’s in It for Kids?, April 8
Susie Cambria,

A budget and policy briefing, What’s in the FY 2006 budget for Children and Youth?, on Friday, April 8, 9:00-11:00 a.m., 1616 P Street, NW, 7th floor conference room. DC Action for Children is bringing together well respected local budget/policy analysts and advocates who will highlight what is in the mayor’s proposed FY 2006 budget for children and youth. Issues that will be covered are early care and education, education, child welfare, juvenile justice, maternal and child health, and out-of-school time services. Panelists are Ed Lazere, DC Fiscal Policy Institute (overview of the budget, revenues); Susie Cambria, DC Action for Children (early care and education); Mary Levy, Washington Lawyers’ Committee (education); Joe Montgomery, Consortium for Youth Services (Dept. of Youth Rehabilitation Services) (invited); Mark Ouelette, DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. (out-of-school time); Evita Smedley, DC Action for Children (child welfare); Frankeena Wright, DC Action for Children (maternal and child health).

Agenda: 9:00 a.m., registration and continental breakfast; 9:30 a.m., briefing begins (promptly); 10:00 a.m., questions and answers; 11:00 a.m., briefing concludes. There is limited on-street parking and garage parking ($13 dollars). The location is three blocks from the Dupont Circle Metrorail stop on the Red Line (use the South exit). There is a $15 fee for this event; fee includes food, materials, and a CD-ROM of the proposed budget. Registration is required and space is limited; the registration deadline is April 4. Direct questions to Kim L.E. Bell, 234-9404,


Art Auction and Solo Art Exhibit, April 16
Afrika Abney,

On April 16, at 6:30 p.m., the sixteenth annual James A. Porter Colloquium gala benefit auction will be held at Howard University Armour J. Blackburn Center. Participating artists include Afrika Midnight Asha Abney, Claudia "Aziza" Gibson-Hunter, Michael Platt, Akili Ron Anderson, and many others. For more information contact Juliette Bethea at

From April 16 to May 7, a solo artist exhibition featuring the works of Afrika Midnight Asha Abney will be held at Norton Kirby Advertising, 2410 18th Street, NW. For more information, contact Collin Klamper at 299-7949 or see an online portfolio at


Walking Tours of DC, April 16-17
Laura Brower,

Many visitors to Washington have taken guided walking tours of Dupont Circle, U Street, or Georgetown. But far fewer have traveled to the communities east of the Anacostia River. With WalkingTown, DC: Stroll the City (April 16 and 17), Cultural Tourism DC is trying to change that. This weekend of 55 free walking tours spotlights Old Anacostia, Deanwood, and Marshall Heights, as well as old favorites such as Downtown, Adams Morgan, and Capitol Hill. The WalkingTown, DC, schedule is available, complete with meetings places, times, and tour lengths, at Participants should choose their walking tours from the online schedule and join the group at the specified time and place. Tours are of varying length and are held rain or shine. All tours are free.

Many of WalkingTown, DC’s guides are resident volunteers, but tour professionals are generously donating their time and expertise to the event as well. Washington Walks is presenting ten visits to neighborhoods such as Logan Circle (Saturday, 2 p.m.), Lafayette Park (Saturday, 1 p.m.), the Southwest Waterfront (Sunday, 2 p.m.), and Foggy Bottom (Saturday, 11 a.m.). For more information, visit or call 661-7581.

WalkingTown, DC, is sponsored by Barracks Row Main Street, Capitol Hill BID, CHAMPS, Chateau Animaux Pet Store, DC Chamber of Commerce, Downtown DC BID, Thurgood Marshall Academy. WAMU-FM is the official radio station. Additional media sponsors are the Downtowner, Georgetowner, and Voice of the Hill.


Artists/Crafters Sought for Glover Park Day, June 4
Judie Guy,

The 15th Annual Glover Park Day will happen on Saturday, June 4, from 11 to 5 on the grounds of Guy Mason Recreation Center at Wisconsin Avenue and Calvert Street, NW. We will have live music all day, food from neighborhood restaurants, prize drawings, childrens’ activities, a flea market, and nonprofit information booths. And we have space for thirty or so artists/crafters to sell their work. If you’re an artist/crafter and interested in participating or want more information, E-mail



Household Items
Ralph Blessing,

1) Fireplace glass doors with brass surround, 37 3/4" wide, 31" high — $50 or best offer. 2) Sky-blue stained glass hanging lamp cover (same style as those in TGI Friday, Ruby Tuesday, etc.) — cost $250 new, $100 or best offer. Online photos of each item available. E-mail or call 726-0587.


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