The Williams administration, in its first term, attempted to simulate
devotion to the city’s neighborhoods by multiplying the number of
offices within the Executive Office of the Mayor that dealt with
neighborhood issues. The Office of Neighborhood Services, the Office of
Community Affairs, and Neighborhood Action had vaguely defined and
overlapping duties and areas of responsibility, but the real task for
each office was to create a network of community supporters for the
But the three offices resulted in few actual programs or
achievements, and those plans are now in disarray. Now, none of the
three offices has a permanent director in place. Patrick Canavan,
formerly the director of Neighborhood Services, has been named to head
the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and his position has
not been filled. After Larry Hemphill resigned as director of the Office
of Community Affairs, he was succeeded by a series of short-term
replacements, including Alfreda Davis and Anita Bonds; an interim
appointee, Henry Stewart, now holds the position. After the
administration fired Beverly Wheeler as director of Neighborhood Action,
it replaced her with her deputy, Neil Richardson, who quickly submitted
his own resignation letter that expressed his disappointment with the
administration’s inattention to neighborhoods.
With these three vacancies, and no urgency in the administration
about filling them, it’s harder than ever to sustain the illusion of
the administration’s concern about revitalizing neighborhoods.
Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill
Ed Lazere claims [themail, April 17] that I said that a 5 percent
real property tax cap would be a progressive tax policy. That’s not
true. I clearly said that the cap doesn’t change the incidence of the
tax. In other words, it makes it neither more progressive nor
regressive. Therefore, I said Phil Mendelson is simply mistaken when he
continues to say that the cap is regressive, when in fact its effect is
Ed then says that the higher-value homes get the most benefit from a
5 percent cap. I disagree. As measured by percentage relief from their
existing tax bill, everyone gets the same “relief,” i.e., 7 percent,
which is the difference between the current 12 percent cap and the
proposed 5 percent cap. As measured by relief as a percentage of amount
of home value not taxed, the lower-value homes get more relief, since
their assessments have gone up at a faster rate than the higher-value
properties, and thus have benefited more under the cap.
Finally, Ed says that only homes valued at $750,000 or more would
benefit from the 5 percent cap versus the homestead increase to $60,000.
Wrong again. Under the homestead increase, everyone will still get a 12
percent increase minus $211 for 2006 (this is under the Mayor’s
anticipated new proposal; previously the homestead didn’t kick in
until the cap was exhausted). So the equilibrium point is a capped
assessment of $313,988, i.e., a $3,014 tax bill. A 5 percent increase on
$3,014 is $150. A 12 percent increase on $3,014 minus $211 is also $150.
Therefore, anyone with a current capped assessment over $313,988
benefits more under the 5 percent cap-by my estimate, about half of the
population. But there is one important note: the foregoing analysis is
for 2006 only, as the homestead increase provides relief only for 2006
and taxes would continue to increase at 12 percent per year thereafter.
So as a long-term matter, everyone benefits more under the 5 percent
instead of the 12 percent.
The only way that DC residents will get real property tax relief is
to lower property tax rates. All talk about reducing the rate of growth
of taxes, also called the rate of growth of the cap, whether 5 percent
or 25 percent, is a subterfuge: Even at a 5 percent rate of growth,
sooner or later the city will get close to one percent a year of the
increase in property values. Is it really impossible to cut tax rates by
50 percent to get closer to the increase in property values? Other
jurisdictions in the US commonly decide first, how much money to spend,
something close to last year, say inflation plus population growth
(negative in DC in large part because of our high tax rates), then set
among other parameters a property tax rate that gets that revenue. But
not DC’s greedy mayor and council. And the Fiscal Policy Institute,
who really seem believe that somewhere there is a nirvana of a
well-educated, well housed city, if only we had enough money. Other
people’s money, that is.
Warren Gorlick, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am disappointed that Ed Lazere and Councilman Mendelson, who oppose
Councilman Evans’ proposal to cap annual property tax increases at
five percent, have used themail to spread misinformation about the Evans
proposal. In the April 17 edition of themail, for example, Lazere
asserts that increasing the homestead deduction to $60,000 (from its
current $38,000) “would promote more relief than the 5 percent cap to
homes worth under $750,000.” This is simply not borne out by the
facts. Take a homeowner whose assessed valuation for 2004 was $600,000
(therefore paying property taxes of $5,395), with a 16 percent increase
in her 2005 assessment, about average for the District. With the current
12 percent cap, this property owner’s taxes increase $647, to $6,042
for 2005. The Lazere/Mendelson proposal to increase the homestead
deduction to $60,000 does not provide one penny in relief for such a
homeowner (because the increased homeowner exemption would still allow
the District to raise taxes each year by 12 percent), a point made ably
by Matt Forman earlier this week. Nonetheless, Lazere continues to
state, without any support whatsoever, that his bill would benefit such
homeowners. It would not.
Unfortunately, this campaign of misinformation is standard policy for
Lazere and his council ally, Mendelson (they have appeared together at
various neighborhood events to defend the District’s ability to raise
property taxes 12 percent each year). In the April 17 edition of themail,
for example, Lazere takes some figures that Fannie Mae cited about
classified rental advertisements to assert that “[a]ccording to a
Fannie Mae foundation report, the median asking rent for a two-bedrooom
apartment rose 84 percent in the past two years.” When I checked, I
discovered that Fannie Mae stated that a two bedroom apartment had
increased from $907 in 2001 to $1,218 in 2004. Thus, where Lazere
asserted that Fannie Mae found an 84 percent average rent increase over
two years, in fact, Fannie Mae found an increase of just 25.5 percent
over three years.
While Lazere and Mendelson state that they favor property tax relief
for the poor, they don’t suggest any relief for the middle-class. Take
a couple with the $600,000 house discussed above. This couple each makes
$50,000 per year (thus, $100,000 total), who, after 7 percent social
security withholding, 28 percent federal income tax withholding, 9.3
percent DC income tax withholding, and charges for unemployment
insurance, their company health plan, and their 401k, take home a
combined $50,000, even with various deductions. They have two children
in day care, at a cost of $20,000 (that is actually well below market,
but let’s give Lazere and Mendelson every possible benefit of the
doubt). That leaves this four-person family $30,000 on which to live, of
which, as discussed above, they already pay out $5,395 in property
taxes, leaving this family of four less than $25,000 to pay everything
from food to their mortgage. Lazere and Mendelson, by opposing Evans’
five percent property tax cap, assert that it is excellent social policy
that this family pay an extra $647 in property taxes in 2005 out of
their $25,000 disposable income. I disagree.
I know of a number of people who have already been forced to sell
their homes and leave the District because of the high property taxes.
Lazere’s and Mendelson’s efforts to oppose meaningful property tax
relief will continue this trend to force middle-class residents to leave
the District. For those of you who think it is problematic that the
District is loving its middle class due to property taxes, I would urge
you to come out on April 26 to support Councilman Evans’ bill to limit
annual tax increases to five percent.
Some Tips for Contacting Reporters at the Washington
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
If you’d like to contact a reporter at the Washington Post,
a list of E-mail addresses can be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/interact/longterm/stfbio/wpemail.htm.
Do take time to send favorable feedback, questions, info tidbits.
Dialogue is healthy. More dialogue is healthier. The reporters who work
at the Post are just like you and me, except they squeeze words
onto paper every day. Their mind is like a toothpaste tube. They go to
work each day, pound on the toothpaste tube, squeeze the words out, and
then go home. Considering that they are like you and me, please don’t
send them flame E-mails. If you disagree with something they said,
explain why in the exact way you’d explain why to someone you care
about. For the most part I’ve had favorable interactions with
reporters at newspapers. It’s the management who most often doesn’t
have a clue. They’re literally stuck in a different century with a
mindset that refused to cross the centennial mark. I betcha if you did
DNA studies, you’d see remarkable overlap between newspaper managers
and the DNA of mules.
Taking the Heart Out of Home
Harold Goldstein, firstname.lastname@example.org
While ridiculous real estate prices are particularly onerous in DC,
please do not place the blame on "this government’s
patronage" as there are plenty of other items, as enumerated, that
are the fault of the government’s inadequacies. Ridiculous real estate
prices occur in every jurisdiction in this region. Come out here to
Howard County and see all the quarter-acre subdivisions with huge houses
for a million and a half. Again, most of the people who have lived here
for generations couldn’t afford to come here now, although some of the
old time farmers have cleaned up. Who can blame them? They have worked
their entire lives, their kids have no interest in the land, and a
developer offers ten million.
But real estate is a market and without the demand side, without
someone buying homes much bigger than they’ll ever need, or paying
hundreds of thousands of dollars for closets, then that market wouldn’t
happen. Who is to blame? Most of us can be blamed . . . any one of us
who has participated in this crazy market. This has nothing to do with
patronage or a particular jurisdiction’s inadequacy. It is greed on
the one side and panic buying on the other.
How Long Does Pepco Really Take to Respond?
Gabe Goldberg, Gabe at gabegold dot com
Larry Seftor finished his complaint [themail, April 17] with, “In
other words, in ideal conditions, Pepco takes well over two hours to
respond to a call, despite the lack of other problems.” Did you ask
the crew what they’d been doing before they answered your call? Do you
imagine that they sat at the station finishing their Scrabble game
before rolling to your house? On what do you base your assertion that
there were no other problems? What makes that evening “ideal
conditions” other than nice weather? Have you heard news stories about
cars hitting utility poles? About fires? Might the crew be occupied with
scheduled maintenance work? When I had a similar problem (transformer
exploded without a squirrel’s help, darkening a row of six townhouses
on a nice evening) Vepco’s crew showed up maybe ninety minutes later,
apologized and explained that they’d been working on another emergency
at the other end of their territory. Queuing theory explains/predicts
statistical wait times based on the number of servers (in this case,
crews and trucks). No surprise, more servers reduces expected wait time.
No surprise, more crews and trucks cost more money. Unless you have info
you didn’t share, you have no idea how busy your crew and Pepco
overall were that night. I also suspect that they prioritize calls, so
some dark houses might be less urgent than a hot wire down on a road or
some other emergency. Pepco could staff so you’d have gotten faster
service — at a cost to them, and then to you. Maybe they were goofing
off. Maybe Pepco is understaffed. You said that you have “evidence
that proves Pepco’s tardy responsiveness.” I don’t think you do,
and if you do, you didn’t share it with us. There’s a common themail
thread of complaints not just with incomplete information but
unwillingness to recognize that the world is complicated, that anything
complex involves tradeoffs, etc. There’s still no free lunch.
Smokefree DC Urges Citizens to Contact their
Angela Bradbery, Angela@smokefreedc.org
Recently, Smokefree DC sent information about smokefree workplaces to
all the ANC Commissioners in DC and urged them to support 100 percent
smokefree workplace legislation. While this is fine for background
information, they need to hear from you, the residents they represent. A
single phone call from a resident, especially a voter, means the issue
is more likely to get the attention it deserves.
Most of us don’t know who our ANC Commissioner is, so SmokefreeDC
has created DCVoters.com, a Web site where you can easily find your ANC
Commissioner’s name and phone number, along with some helpful
discussion points. Since some are shy about asking people to get
involved with politics, we have a contest going: People who go to the
site are eligible for a $100 Gift Certificate to Trattoria Lilliana’s.
To enter, visit DCVoters.com and look up your ANC Commissioner (you can
also get the name of your council representatives). Of course, we’re
hoping you’ll also call these folks, but that’s not required to
enter the contest. We’ll be announcing a winner at the end of the
Please also consider attending your next ANC meeting and urging the
commissioners to support 100 percent smokefree workplaces in the
District. Everyone deserves the right to breathe clean air on the job.
For more information, visit http://www.SmokefreeDC.org.
Internet Audioconferencing as a Form of
Community Media Production
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
For those who might be interested, I’m blogging about Internet
audioconferencing as a form of community media production at http://www.digitaldivide.net/blog/pshapiro/view?PostID=3158.
You can follow related blog postings on the group blog at http://www.digitaldivide.net/blogs.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Bethesda Literary Festival, April 22-23
Victoria McKernan, firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of the Bethesda Literary Festival this weekend, thirty local
authors will be signing their books at Barnes & Noble in Bethesda
from 1:00-3:00 on Friday, April 22. A great chance to stock up on summer
[For information on the festival’s events, visit http://www.bethesda.org/specialevents/litfest/litfest.htm.
— Gary Imhoff]
Baseball Stadium Area Community Planning
Workshop, April 23
David Howard, email@example.com
The Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, the DC Office of Planning, and
the DC Department of Transportation, in collaboration with the DC Sports
and Entertainment Commission, will hold a planning workshop for
communities around the South Capitol Street Corridor and the area near
the planned baseball stadium. This workshop will build on previous
planning efforts and will be an opportunity for the community to help
refine the vision for South Capitol Street and shape how the planned new
baseball stadium will be integrated into the South Capitol Street
Corridor to achieve the best results for the surrounding neighborhoods
and the city as a whole. It will be held on Saturday, April 23, from
8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at the Van Ness Elementary School Auditorium,
1150 5th Street, SE.
Woodridge Library Book Sale, April 23
Suzanne Griffith, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Friends of the Woodridge Public Library are holding a book sale
on Saturday, April 23, from 9:30 until 4. We’ll have hardcovers,
paperbacks, fiction, nonfiction, books for adults, books for children,
books on tape, videos, records, and more. All proceeds will benefit the
library. The library is located at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and
18th Street, NE. Call 541-6226 or send an E-mail to email@example.com
for more information.
Have any books, tapes, or records you’d like to give to a good
home? Feel free to bring them along. We’re always looking for
National Building Museum Events, April 28
Brie Hensold, firstname.lastname@example.org
Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW,
Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.
Thursday, April 28, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Architects and engineers with
vision seek to create buildings that are both aesthetically pleasing and
environmentally responsive. Steven Strong, president of Solar Design
Associates, Inc., will present an overview of Solar Electric
Architecture, using outstanding examples of solar-powered residences and
commercial buildings from Europe, Japan, and the US. Afterwards, he will
sign copies of his books. Free. Registration not required.
Thursday, April 28, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Each year the American Institute
of Architects’ Committee on the Environment (COTE) invites architects
to submit sustainable designs for the annual Top Ten Green Projects
competition. Vivian Loftness, FAIA, 2005 COTE chair, and David Nelson,
AIA, a member of the 2005 COTE advisory group, will discuss this year’s
winners, many of whom will be present to briefly discuss their projects.
$12 Museum and AIA members; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Registration
JAM on U Celebration Concert, April 29
Scott Pomeroy, spomeroy@14thandU.org
What better day than U Street’s own, Edward “Duke” Ellington’s
birthday, to celebrate the close out of Jazz Appreciation Month on U
Street (JAM on U) with a concert, and where else would you hold it other
than at the Historic Lincoln Theater at 1215 U Street, NW. Enjoy a full
day of events culminating in a special concert with an array of
performances and features that celebrate jazz and the role of U Street
as a national and international spotlight where Jazz is recognized,
celebrated, and cultivated as befits U Street’s role in Jazz history.
JAM on U Celebration Concert, April 29. Doors open 7:30 p.m., concert
begins 8:00 p.m.. Lincoln Theater, 1215 U Street, NW. Performers include
JAMMIN on U All Stars, The Reginald Cyntje Group, The Michael Thomas
Quintet, Afro-Blue, and Tappers w/Attitude. Admittance is free.
Donations are appreciated.
JAM on U is Produced by 14th & U Main Street Alliance and
presented by the DC Lottery and Charitable Games Board. For more
information about JAM on U please visit http://www.14thandU.com or send
an E-mail to JamOnU@14thandU.org
for the latest event details and promotional activities.
Art Exhibits, May 1, 6
Africa Midnight Asha Abney, email@example.com
Afrika Midnight Asha Abney has several art happenings taking place
throughout the Metropolitan region and would encourage everyone to
attend the events listed below. To learn more about this DC based visual
artist, please check out her artist pages located at http://aashawarrior.artistportfolio.net/index.php?secret=140&artist_id=4513
May 1-May 15, solo artist exhibition at Norton Kirby Advertising,
2410 18th Street, NW.
May 6-May 7, Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care’s fifth
annual art exhibit, 2355 Ontario Road, NW, in Adams Morgan. Opening
reception for artists, friends, family, and the public from 6 p.m.-10
p.m. on Friday, May 6, and a continuation of the exhibit, as well as
activities for children, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, May 7.
Participating artists include Afrika Midnight Asha Abney and others.
Stay tuned for updates!
Public Rally to Support Bill 16-50., May 3
Betty Sellers firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1980, City Council endowed all tenants in the District of Columbia
with the right of first refusal when their building was sold. Tenants
enjoyed this important and valuable right for nearly two decades, many
becoming proud first-time homeowners. But for at least the past five
years, many landlords have conveniently sold their buildings without
offering them to tenants (in 95/5 sham sales) and the Mayor’s
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), helped them do it.
The Conversion and Sales office of DCRA released letters, without notice
to tenants, allowing buildings to be sold without providing notice to
tenants, declaring that these 95/5 transactions were not sales under the
Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), while ignoring all other
factors in the law. The person responsible for writing these letters had
no legal training or background to determine whether the transactions
were sales. The supervisors of this DCRA employee and the government
attorneys working within the agency supposedly never reviewed these
Now Councilmembers Mendelson, Fenty, and Graham have introduced Bill
16-50 to stop the 95/5 shams and restore TOPA to its original purpose.
This legislation was passed by a vote of 10 to 1, with 2 councilmembers
voting present, on the first reading during the Council’s April 5
legislative session. It now must pass the second reading on May 3.
Now is the time for all tenants in the Nation’s Capitol to stand up
for your rights and show the City Council and Mayor Williams that this
law must be passed. Let your voice be heard. Come to a public Rally in
support of Bill 16-50 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 3, on the
front steps of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW. Afterwards, come to Council Chambers wearing red T-shirts to show
your support of Bill 16-50. This rally is organized by a coalition of
over a dozen tenants associations, DC tenant advocates, and
organizations supporting tenants rights. For more information about this
event or to sign up to help, send an E-mail to email@example.com
or phone 328-9799.
Washington Storytellers Theater presents the SpeakEasy Open Mic, Rum,
Cigars, and Rumba: Stories about the Finer Things in Life, at the HR-57
Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues, 1610 14th Street, NW
(between Corcoran and Q Streets), Tuesday, May 10, 8:00 p.m. Ticket
price, $5 (corkage: $3 per person). Purchase at the door (doors open at
7:30 p.m.). Street parking, Metro Red Line (Dupont) or Green Line (U
Street/Cardoza). On the first of each month, we will begin taking
sign-ups for that month’s Open Mic. Call the WST Office to reserve a
We all have that vision of a perfect life, of the things that make us
believe we’ve got it made in the shade. A good cigar, a view of the
ocean, a backyard hammock and an endless supply of Budweiser, dancin’
till the sun comes up, Veuve Cliquot on tap, the vision is different for
us all. Join our featured storytellers Megan Hicks and Miriam Nadel this
month as we explore just what makes up "the finer things in
Women Speak, May 14
Shari Miles, firstname.lastname@example.org
The DC Commission for Women’s Town Hall Meeting, “Women
Speak!,” will be held Saturday, May 14, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at
the National Graduate University on Capitol Hill. Women Speak! will
bring together the District’s women and girls to provide their input
on a variety of issues impacting them. The participants’ discussions
will be recorded by note takers for development into a report to the
Mayor on the needs and interests of women in the city. The morning will
begin with a large group discussion to prime the participants for
thinking about specific issues related to women and girls in the city.
We will follow-up the group discussion with a series of breakout
sessions on women’s health, education, economic security, violence and
safety, and young women and girls. In addition, during our luncheon
program we will present the Women Speak! Awards, recognizing women who
have taken courageous and public positions on issues important to women
in the District.
CLASSIFIEDS — DONATIONS
Ross Elementary Third Annual Mother’s Day
Book Drive, April 23, 24, 30, May 1
Phil Carney, email@example.com
Contribute to buy a book in your name and the name of a loved one.
Ross Elementary, at 1730 R Street, NW, needs books for its reading
enrichment program for students from pre-kindergarten through sixth
grade. Our school’s volunteer librarian has compiled a list of books
that are fun, have literary value, and are ideal for regular
instructional periods as well as for the tutoring and mentoring
volunteer programs. For a suggested donation of $25.00, you may have a
book inscribed in your name only or dedicated in your name to a loved
one. Any contribution is welcome. From the volunteer librarian’s wish
list of needed books, you can select the book you would like to donate
and have it dedicated with an inscribed bookplate and a letter to
whomever you are dedicating the book. Make many kids happy and show your
support for our fine public elementary school. 100 percent tax
deductible, and all proceeds go to buy books. For more information, call
462-2054. We are also upgrading the school library. Ask volunteers about
making a dedicated donation to help us purchase additional shelving,
improved lighting, and new carpet. Saturdays, April 23 and 30, 10 a.m.-2
p.m. in front of Safeway, 17th and Corcoran Streets, NW. Sundays, April
24 and May 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at the farmer’s market, 20th and Q
CLASSIFIEDS — WANTED
I need to level out and compact some areas in preparation for rubber
mats. Does anyone have a compactor, either powered or not, that I can
borrow or rent for a few weeks?
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Twenty-Four-Hour Recycling in DC?
David Sobelsohn, dsobelso -at- capaccess -dot- org
Does anyone know of a 24-hour recycling center in DC, comparable to
the 24-hour drop-off center in Alexandria?
I am seeking the services of a good, reasonably priced
painter/carpenter to renew our home.
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