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April 3, 2005

Homicide Reduction

Dear Crime Fighters:

On Thursday, March 31, a “Homicide Reduction Strategy for the District of Columbia” ( was announced at a press conference by an impressive list of speakers: Mayor Williams and senior officials from the Metropolitan Police Department; US Attorney’s Office; DC Attorney General’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency; and US Marshals Service. They were all present at the crime-plagued Sursum Corda housing complex on North Capitol Street. But the press conference was more impressive than the strategy itself. It consists largely of rehashed, recycled, and repackaged crime initiatives of the past under a new name: Project Safe Neighborhoods.

PSN is described on MPD’s web site ( “Project Safe Neighborhoods includes five major elements: suppression, deterrence, intervention, investigation and prosecution. It relies on close partnerships among police, prosecutors, probation and parole officials, and other criminal justice partners — at the local and federal levels. Under the strategy, law enforcement partners commit to a regular schedule of identifying a troubled neighborhood, targeting its violent offenders, assigning a federal agency to undertake investigations with the MPDC, and then conducting a ‘take-down’ involving the arrest of those violent offenders. What’s unique about the strategy is that officials then ‘market’ the takedown conducted in one neighborhood to known offenders and their associates in other neighborhoods, as a way to deter those individuals from committing further violence.”

A key component of the plan is community “intervention” through a media campaign to “heighten awareness of gun crime and its consequences” and “empower residents to make a positive difference in their community.” Three antigun print ads have been developed ( to be displayed on Metro buses and in subway stations and to be distributed as posters and palm cards to community and civic associations, churches, and ANCs. In other words, the strategy is for governmental public safety agencies to work together and then to fight crime through advertising.

At his press conference on Wednesday this week, Mayor Williams will announce what he is describing as a major, comprehensive crime bill. But this bill has been developed within the Executive Office of the Mayor without consulting with key councilmembers or key agency heads and, as of Friday, the members of the Judiciary Committee still had no idea what will be in the bill.

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill


Speed Camera Grace Period
Victoria McKernan,

Does anyone know the real story on the grace period and warning tickets for the speed cameras? I heard on the news that there had been a grace period that expired on March 28, specifically mentioning the camera on the 100 block of Michigan Avenue, NE, yet several people I know received what appear to be real tickets for a real $100.00 before this date. The DMV web site doesn’t seem to tell, and three phone calls have resulted in twenty-minute waits, then the call being dropped.


Who Can Afford to Live in DC?
William Haskett,

Tax policy is always social policy. We require a better theory/apprehension of what a tax on real property involves, including its relationship to income. There is no question that the 40 percent of the District’s population that owns real property becomes wealthier when the market for their goods goes up, as it becomes relatively poorer when that market goes down. But the central issue surely is the relationship between current actual income and the tax burden which comes with that increase in apparent wealth. If wealth goes up, and income does not go up proportionately, then the payment of taxes on the increase in wealth becomes a literal burden. As the gap between the two increases (as it has in the recent past), there is a forced relationship between continuing to become wealthier and being able to afford to maintain ownership.

At a certain point, the market-value exceeds the ability to pay, and the ownership must change, so that someone with income commensurate with the tax increase takes over, and the previous owner must move out — and away. The market does not discriminate: if an owner cannot afford to pay taxes here, it is a reasonable bet that he/she cannot afford to buy in the same market, and so we add social and geographic dislocation to the equation. One population replaces another. This applies to renters too, since rents depend upon the compounded market value of the real estate and its assessment at its derived tax-rate. This must be true of all except the fortunate minority who occupy rent-controlled properties, regardless of income.

If we wish to maintain the present population of the District in its present form (rather than have it replaced inevitably only by those who can afford these compounded rates) we need to devise a workable relationship between government’s fiscal needs and opportunities, its constituents’ needs for income at present, and the rewards promised by long-term ownership. If we tax the goose now, its owner may not survive to realize the golden eggs it is incubating. If we don’t manage to curb benefits on both sides of the simultaneous equations involved, we contribute to a replacement of the present population (ironically, the constituents of the present government) by another, which is simply better able to afford the costs of waiting for the millennium, when largely-increased house prices can finally be realized by the then-owner.

If we wish to maintain the present population of the District pretty much in its present composition and distribution, we have to accept both the fiscal needs of government and the income necessities of those who own and occupy property. It is necessary to find some way to limit the rate of increase of the current property tax in some way more effective than the present “caps.” How far this can be done depends, of course, upon what we require of government. If we ask less of government, we can reduce its demands upon ourselves. This might mean that we need what is very hard to do — an overall audit of the tax-base, including the repeated exercise of showing how many ways there have been found to reduce that base by preventing the District government from taxing.


Mayor Williams Running Again?
Wenzell Taylor,

A lot of people have been wondering the past couple of weeks if the Tony Williams will run for mayor again. Can you or this city afford Tony Williams to be mayor again?


What the Nats Need
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

After watching about ten hours of the eighteen-hour marathon baseball history by Ken Burns on PBS yesterday, I have concluded that what the Nats need is Jackie Robinson. Burns’ segment on Ebbets Field and the Dodgers (the real ones, from Brooklyn) really brought back some fond memories of that season in 1947 when Jackie Robinson first came to the Major Leagues. I was in awe as Jackie taunted and drove the opposing pitchers nuts when he danced off base. From my vantage point in the deep center field bleachers (where I spent countless Saturday mornings for the princely sum of 25 cents) you could still sense the tension.

Somewhere out there in the glorious baseball rosters of US colleges and minor leagues there is a modern-day Jackie Robinson. Yes, another talented black ball player with great speed and daring and who will draw fans to RFK Stadium. Let’s hope the new management will realize the importance of such a find for the new Nats.


Floyd Agostinelli
Janice H Hopper,

The DC Compact Commission is of the forgotten past, but hopefully I am not the only former member to remember Floyd Agostinelli with respect and admiration for his contributions to the Commission’s efforts to secure voting rights in the Congress for the District’s citizen-residents.

[Floyd Agostinelli, a longtime member of the Statehood Party, died on March 21. An obituary is available at — Gary Imhoff]


Stephan DeGhelder, Local Playwright
G. James,

Stephan DeGhelder, Washington, DC, resident and author/director/choreographer, has written “A Kiss from Alexander,” a musical fantasy, to be presented in its world premiere in Chicago, July 2-July 31. Stephan has lived and worked in the DC area since 1999. For information about the show, check out To contact the author, send E-mail to


School Ratings
Bryce A. Suderow,

I don’t understand the Standard and Poors rating of schools []. Has anyone subscribing to themail compared DC’s schools to inner-city schools in, say, Chicago or New York City?



Balancing Work and Family, April 9
Dorinda White,

Saturday, April 9, from 8:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at Discovery Communications Headquarters, One Discovery Place, Silver Spring, MD. A seminar on Work and Family Balance: Elusive Myth or Hard-won Accomplishment? Who should attend? Working parents and their employers will discover new ideas about how to survive and thrive in the work-life balancing act. Join us as we explore the challenges, compromises, and guilt-ridden drama of finding work-family balance. Whether you’re a seasoned professional in any profession looking for some insight, a new parent ready to reenter the work world, or an employer wondering how to accommodate your employees, you won’t want to miss this event. Keynote speaker is Ann Crittenden, award-winning journalist and the author of the New York Times Notable Book, The Price of Motherhood and If You’ve Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything. Panelists will discuss how they help their employees manage work/family balance. Parents who have been there and done that will share their stories. Call Dorinda White, VP Communications, WIFV-DC at 429.9438 to attend.


School Without Walls Book Fair, April 9
Charles Stevenson,

[Forwarded from David Frankel:] Mark your calendars! It’s almost time to stock up on summer reading and support School Without Walls Senior High School! Saturday, April 9, 9:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., at Politics and Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse, 5015 Connecticut Avenue, NW parking available behind the store).

All -- friends and neighbors, especially — are invited to the School Without Walls Book Fair to purchase books for yourself, your families and friends and SWW. A portion of the proceeds goes to support SWW and its wonderful programs. Books you purchase for the school go directly to the classrooms and library. Plan to stop by the Walls table on the store’s lower level to review teacher wish lists and to pick up coupons to present to the cashier. Coupons ensure that SWW is credited with the sale.

School Without Walls is a humanities-based DC public high school with students from every area of our city. It is DC’s smallest and one of the best performing public high schools. Most of its graduates continue on to attend well-known colleges and universities. However, its facility is crumbling and public school budget cuts have forced its Home School Association to fund half a teacher position this year.


National Building Museum Events, April 3
Brie Hensold,

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

Saturday, April 9, 1:00-2:00 p.m. Public Places and Monuments: drawing on location footage, drawings, and photographs, this film traces the social and economic history of public places and monuments in the United States. This screening complements the exhibition OPEN: new designs for public space. Free. Registration not required.

Saturday, April 9, 1:00-4:00 p.m. Architects and designers must consider how people use public spaces. They should be accessible as well as attractive. Let your imagination soar as you use craft materials to build your own public space: a park, playground, or monument. Presented in conjunction with OPEN: new designs for public space. $3 per project for Museum members, $5 nonmembers. Age 7 and up. Drop-in program.



AARP Tax Aide Program
Christie Constantine,

Tax day is almost here, but it is not too late to take advantage of free tax help through AARP Tax-Aide, an AARP Foundation program and the nation’s largest volunteer-run tax counseling and preparation service. The program offers help to low- and middle-income taxpayers with special attention to those who are sixty and older. Here in the District, more than sixty AARP Tax Aide volunteers have been helping thousands of District residents file their taxes at more than twenty Tax-Aide locations throughout the city until April 15. AARP Tax-Aide volunteers, trained in cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service, can assist in filling tax forms and schedules, including the 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ. To find the Tax-Aide location nearest them, District residents can call 1-888-AARPNOW (1-888-227-7669) or visit

AARP Tax-Aide provides services to taxpayers each year from February 1 through April 15 at almost 8,400 sites around the country. Sites are located in places such as senior centers, libraries, and community centers. In addition, volunteers can visit hospitals and nursing homes for those who are homebound. Help is available on a walk-in basis or by appointment, depending on the site. The program began in 1968 with only four volunteers who worked on one hundred returns, but it has grown dramatically. In 2004, AARP Tax-Aide served more than 1.88 million people with more than 32,000 volunteers nationwide.



Buyers Sought for “Jesse Baltimore House” in Palisades
Mary Rowse,

Would you like an opportunity to own and restore a solid, well-constructed Sears “Fullerton”? Historic Washington Architecture, Inc., a local preservation organization, is putting together a list of those interested in buying “The Jesse Baltimore House,” at 5136 Sherier Place, NW, so-named for the man who built it eighty years ago using plans and 30,000 parts purchased by mail from Sears, Roebuck & Company. This American Foursquare “kit house” occupies 5600 square feet on Lot 68 in Square 1415 in the heart of the Palisades neighborhood of Washington — a highly sought-after community located along the banks of the Potomac River near Chain Bridge. The house is flanked by a vacant lot on one side and the driveway to the Palisades Recreation Center on the other. To see photos of the house and to read more about Jesse Baltimore, please go to

The Baltimore House is owned by the US Government (specifically the National Park Service), which acquired the property from Jesse Baltimore in 1958. The Park Service subsequently transferred jurisdiction of the property, but not ownership, to the city in 1971. Since then, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has been responsible for managing the property. A year ago, DPR proposed to demolish the house. Since the home is on federal property and has been determined by architectural experts to be a contributing structure to a potential Palisades Historic District, the US Government cannot tear down the house without conducting “Section 106” meetings to determine alternative solutions to that proposal. Nearly 1,000 people have signed letters of support to save the house from demolition. More than 700 of these people live in the Palisades community. If you, too, would like to sign a letter of support, we’d love to hear from you.

While the Jesse Baltimore House is not yet available for purchase, Historic Washington Architecture would like to have the names of anyone with a serious interest in buying it, should an opportunity arise. If DC returns jurisdiction of the house to the National Park Service (as has occurred with more than 500 properties since 1925), the Park Service has the authority to sell the house on the open market with exterior preservation easements. Such easements are designed to protect the exterior from demolition, unrecognizable alteration and additions out of scale with the original size of the house. The Jesse Baltimore House is one of only about thirty positively identified Sears houses left in the Palisades. To get on the list of interested buyers, please contact Mary Rowse (; 362-9279) or Rachel Thompson (; 364-1384).



Turn-of-the-Century Items
Phil Shapiro,

I’ve become fascinated with turn-of-the-century America and am collecting items from 1999, 2000, and 2001. I’m especially interested in turn-of-the-century clothing. Thanks for letting me know if you have any of these packed away deep in the attic or basement. Perhaps something passed on to you from a beloved granddaughter or grandson.


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