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May 1, 2005


Dear Party Goers:

As I’ve written before, my idea of a big day out is the hot dog and soda combo at Costco. But somebody made a mistake and put Dorothy on the invitation list for the annual McLaughlin brunch party following the White House Correspondents Dinner, and Dorothy dragged me along today. Three observations: it’s a strange party that has four former presidential candidates as guests, and the four turn out to be Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Pat Buchanan, and Ralph Nader. It’s also a wonderfully strange party when Jackson, Sharpton, Doug Wilder, and Michael Steele end up at the same breakfast table, and they are all smiles and camaraderie with each other, politics put aside in favor of crab cakes and omelets. And what’s strangest of all is that the politicians didn’t seem to be impressed with the Hollywood celebrities there. The only guests getting photographs taken of themselves with other guests were the Hollywood actors, including the star of a current hit television series who was using his cell phone camera to record the DC politicians he was hanging out with.

It’s nice to go to a party once in a while, and even I am not enough of a curmudgeon to begrudge city politicians from throwing an occasional party for the citizens. The thing is, as Karen Szulgit points out below, when you use the public’s money to fund a party, you have to invite the public. If you’re paying for it out of your own pocket, you can invite whom you want and thumb your nose at the rabble outside the door. But when the rabble is footing the bill, you have to let even the rabble-rousers in.

Gary Imhoff


Who Funds the DC Emancipation Commission?
Karen A. Szulgit,

[Open letter to DC councilmembers:] It is unfortunate that I must write to ask you for clarification on the origination of funds for the DC Emancipation Commission. If it is funded solely with DC public tax dollars, I must submit this written complaint about the fact that some of these funds are being spent only on “V.I.P.” Washingtonians — per the request of Mayor Anthony A. Williams. For over a decade, Ms. Loretta Carter Hanes — the reviver of the modern DC Emancipation Day observance — and a handful of community activists recognized the importance of April 16th and pushed for its inclusion on the District’s political agenda and calendar of events. Ms. Hanes suggested that Anise Jenkins, president of the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition, send an E-mail message encouraging her members to attend the Emancipation Day Reception — that was allegedly free and open to the public — at the City Museum of Washington, DC, on Friday, April 15.

On my way to the event, I ran into a woman who told me that the security was extraordinary and thought that maybe the President was slated to make an appearance. When she and I reached the City Museum, I noticed Mr. Charles Richardson, an elder African-American member of Stand Up!, standing outside the museum. Mr. Richardson was denied entrance and told that he couldn’t even stand on the museum’s steps. When I attempted to enter the museum, a large security guard from I.C.S. Protective Services informed me that it was a private event and I was not welcome. The guard intimidated me and herded me away from the doors and down the steps. The guards denied entrance to another African-American woman fifteen minutes later. In addition, a few of the chosen people inside the event told me that still others were actually asked to leave. One security guard confessed to Ms. Jenkins that the mayor’s security people instructed him to exclude certain people.

Eventually, Mayor Anthony Williams — still wearing his Washington Nationals baseball cap — and his security detail arrived. I informed him that the guards told me that it was a private event and wouldn’t let me in because he had not invited me. The mayor merely looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and proceeded into the event. Later, I asked the mayor’s staffer, Mr. Greg McCarthy, if it were a private event. He promised to check on it for me, but never returned. Regretfully, I wasn’t able to stay and further research the situation because I was on my way to the post office — to pay my federal taxes with a big check enclosed with a paid under protest letter and my DC taxes! Isn’t it ironic that I was unable to attend a public event probably paid for with DC taxes -- on my way to pay more taxes to the District? After Saturday’s DC Emancipation Day parade, national recording artist John Legend appeared to sing his hit-song "Ordinary People." It’s hypocritical that the District continues to prohibit "ordinary people" such as myself and other taxpaying DC residents from attending these annual DC Emancipation Day events.

Since 1999, members of the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition have acknowledged DC Emancipation Day by donning typical clothing of enslaved persons and/or colonial garb, wrapped ourselves in chains to represent DC’s history of oppression, and educated our family, friends, neighbors, and the media about that special day. For over six years, “First Freed, Last Free” has been Stand Up!’s DC Emancipation Day motto whether rallying or marching in the District’s parades. And yet, year after year, our civil rights are violated and we are continually oppressed by our own elected officials. Denying entry to certain DC residents amounts to discrimination and yet another violation of our civil rights to participate in a public ceremony probably paid for with our own tax dollars. Therefore, if the DC Emancipation Commission is going to continue barring select DC residents from its events, I must implore you to vote against budgeting any public funds to pay for its “private” events or designate funds to be used for a commemoration where any and all DC residents may attend.


Study Finds DC Taxes Second Highest in Nation
Matt Forman,

The Tax Foundation provides an annual study of the tax burdens among the fifty states and the District. Again this year, the study found that DC has the second highest overall tax burden, second only to Maine, and exceeding that of New York. For more information, visit For lower taxes, contact your ward and at-large councilmembers. So our motto is “taxation without representation,” yeah, right! Our representatives on the city council have given us plenty of taxes.


Emery Shelter Does Not Serve Children
Katrina Lee,

The proposed capital budget for 2006-2011 includes almost $1 million to renovate Emery Shelter at 1725 Lincoln Road, NE, which is supposedly now “a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed children.” On, click on “Project Description Forms” then “Dept. Of Human Services.’” Go to page 3; it’s SH-1 subproject 13.

This shelter, attached to an elementary school, serves men, and has for a long time. If anyone doubts this, come check out the neighborhood. After breakfast at SOME, many shelterees hang out in the area until it’s time to go back to SOME for lunch, then head to Emery for what I’m told is a sorry excuse for soup and what I’m told is a rarely clean bed.

Eckington residents would love to see this building used for something besides warehousing homeless men. It’s hard to believe that the current shelter population doesn’t contribute to our problems of 1) garbage can prospecting, 2) shopping cart “handymen” (and related illegal dumping), 3) petty theft from yards, 4) public urination/defecation, and 5) people using vacant buildings to get high and turn tricks. So why not give us the straight dope? Either taxpayers are being deceived, or there’s a competence problem here.


Diesel Buses
Marlene McGuirl,

On April 21, the METRO Board voted to buy diesel buses instead of natural gas buses. This vote happened despite the efforts of Jim Graham and Chris Zimmerman. There were also several members of the public, including representatives from NRDC and the American Lung Association, who spoke against diesel buses. Gladys Mack could have stopped the diesel bus purchase and substituted a compromise purchase of 218 natural gas buses, 22 hybrid buses, and 70 diesel buses for the same amount of money. Gladys, the Mayor’s appointee to the Board, refused to go along with the compromise. Does the Mayor really care about the health of the citizens and children of the District? It doesn’t look like it! The vote was in violation of the DC Law 15-205, which prohibits DC money from being used to buy diesel buses.


I Got the Power
Mark Eckenwiler, themale at ingot dot org

In the last issue [April 27], Ken Nellis comments that his April Pepco bill adds a late-payment fee even though he has automated monthly payment through his bank. I’m here to report the same thing, an inexplicable six cent “late fee” that I noticed and (in a rare moment of self-restraint) chose to ignore as too trivial to bother with. After reading Ken’s note, though, I called the Post’s consumer affairs columnist, Don Oldenburg, who seemed intrigued by the idea of Pepco’s overbilling thousands of households by a few cents. Conversely, the Pepco drone I spoke to — supervisors were unaccountably “unavailable” — seemed entirely uninterested in the suggestion that their billing system had a systemic problem.


Broken Parking Meters
Henry Thomas,

Is it true that, in DC, it is illegal to park in a space where the parking meter is broken? If so, what is the logic behind the law?


Remind Me, Why Do We Need Baseball?
Roger Scott,

Could someone please remind me why DC needed baseball so badly? Maybe it is just age, or my indifference for the sport, but I can not remember why it was so important, and what are the benefits (long term) to the residents? It appears to me that baseball is just another road sign on the city limits to say that DC is “Gentrification Friendly.”

I ride the Orange/Blue line weekly and I hear the people talking about commuting from Virginia. The mix of people disembarking at Stadium/Armory does not appear to represent the mix of people of this city. Then there are “Day Games.” With property taxes and lack of affordable housing, how can the average DC resident afford to leave work to catch these games?

Finally, how can they even speak of a new stadium when teachers are being laid off and kids are being shot while trying to enjoy their childhood. Some of that game security needs to be protecting/patrolling the neighborhoods. If someone could point out the benefits to me, I would appreciate it. Regardless of my rantings, I am open to the possibility of there may be some pot of gold at the end of this twisted rainbow which I can not see.


Call for Artists for Public Art in Shaw
Alexander M. Padro,

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, in collaboration with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, is conducting a call for qualifications for two exciting public art projects in Shaw. The goal of the program is to highlight the history of the neighborhood, while also creating gateways to the historic districts. The National Trust is interested in commissioning artwork that meets the needs of the community, the public use of each site, and reflects the preservation of the historic assets of the neighborhood. Artists will create site-specific works that incorporate the collaborative ideas of all of the interested parties involved in the effort to improve, beautify, and strengthen the neighborhood. The competition is open to local and national artists, with preference given to District residents.

The first site is Carter G. Woodson Park, at 9th and Q Streets and Rhode Island Avenue, NW. A freestanding commemorative statue of Dr. Woodson, the father of African American history who lived and worked half a block away, is proposed. The budget for this work is $190,000. Site design appropriate to the artwork will be designed and implemented under a separate budget.

The second site is the plaza at the 7th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, NW, entrance to the new Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library. Artwork will be commissioned that reflects the history of jazz and famous jazz musicians that entertained and/or lived in the Shaw neighborhood. The artwork should be in the form of a vertical sculpture that complements the modern architecture of the new building design. The artwork should identify the site as a gateway into the historic districts. The artwork should also mark and highlight the entrance to the library. Other elements that could be used to reflect the art include lighting, paving, and fencing. The budget for this work is $140,000. The prospectus and application are available at, or by calling 588-6054. The submission deadline is May 20.


Regarding Pepco, Underground Power Service and Such
Gabe Goldberg gabe at gabegold dot com

To follow up on the discussion of Pepco performance, underground vs. overhead power feeds and such, is interesting reading. Titled “Down with the Poles? Up with the Costs,” it offers interesting cost figures: "Dobkin estimates that putting just electric lines underground would cost $1 million per mile. By contrast, the Virginia corporation commission estimates that overhead utility lines cost $10,000 to $250,000 per mile, depending upon terrain and labor costs.

“Residents of Arlington’s Forest Glen community really wanted their utilities underground. ‘We’ve been told the cost is around $15,000 per linear foot,’ Ira Goodsaid, president of the homeowners association, wrote in an E-mail. The costs of burying lines are now borne in some fashion by the developer, municipality and individual consumer. Some localities use special assessment districts, where utility subscribers pay a surcharge to fund the project. This method spreads the cost of the project over a long time. Homeowners usually have other costs beyond the assessment. For example, power from overhead sources has meters and electric boxes geared to that method of transmission. When utilities go underground, the property owner has to relocate and revamp both, at what Griffin estimates could be $1,500 per unit. That interior work would have to be done by an electrician, with the homeowner picking up the tab.”

So while it’s easy to wish for underground power service, converting from overhead wires doesn’t come cheap, no matter who pays. And where do governments and the power companies get their money? From the same people who pay utility bills.


The Parking Mess Is Everywhere
Mindy Moretti,

I’ve read with interest the posts by those living around RFK stadium about the parking problems that arise during Nats games. In one post [themail, April 24], Bryce A. Suderow wrote: “Just as Ambrose was leaving the meeting, one resident detained her and pointed out to her that citizens in northwest DC would never stand for her solution.” Clearly Mr. Suderow did not make this comment so my quibble is not with him. But it’s comments like the one he heard at the meeting that vex me. I live in Adams Morgan and 1) we’re in Northwest and 2) we must “stand” for Councilmember Ambrose’s proposed solution any time we want to have a friend, lover, family member visit or stay the night.

Problem is, once our visitors get these permits, they’ve got no place to park because each Friday and Saturday night (and usually Thursday too) our neighborhood population increases by anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people (often suburbanites), many of whom drive into the neighborhood. Believe me, we feel the pain of those living around RFK as acutely as anyone, if not more so.

Instead of wrongly disparaging your neighbors a few wards over, perhaps the folks living around RFK should talk to those of us who deal with situations like theirs more than eighty times per year. We’re a lot more effective if we work together instead of making it a game of the perceived haves vs. the have nots. Believe me, in the game of parking, we’re all in the have not category.


RFK Parking and RPP
James Treworgy,

While reading Bryce Suderow’s note about the problem with legitimate residents parking near RFK, I was struck by how much the situation mirrors the problem with the city’s residential parking system as a whole. Byrce writes, “Imagine a 56-year-old woman visiting the police station to get a sticker for her boyfriend to visit her. It’s treating an adult like a child who needs mom’s and dad’s permission to have her friends attend a slumber party.”

The sad reality is, this is the situation that already exists in the vast majority of DC neighborhoods because of our residential parking permit (RPP) system. In any neighborhood with no nearby unzoned parking, you already must go to the police station and obtain, in person, a visitor’s permit which lasts a maximum of two weeks for any single visitor to park during daytime hours. If you happen to have a regular service person who comes during the day, for example, a day care provider or cleaning person, then you’re going to be making a trip to the police station every two weeks. Yet there is no lack of parking during daytime hours — after all, these are residential neighborhoods, not business districts. While I am sure the problem is far worse around RFK on game days than a typical DC neighborhood, the solution proposed is hardly surprising, given that it’s the only solution we’ve ever had to prevent our legitimate visitors, guests, and service people from being ticketed under the existing RPP restrictions present in many neighborhoods.

We need creative solutions to our parking problem citywide. The city has been dragging its feet on solving the problems in general with our parking system, and has shown that it’s incapable of dealing with special situations like RFK. This may not be as important as crime and education, but it’s something that a vast number of the citizens deal with every single day — and more importantly, it’s something that actually could be improved with a little bit of action and not much money. Issuing a single parking permit per household as suggested might be a good temporary solution. It might not be perfect, but it’s better than DC’s solution so far — which is the usual: hold a big meeting, let the constituents talk, and then go and do whatever they were going to do anyway — usually nothing.


Henry Townsend,

[In response to “Hopes, Wishes, and Dreams,” themail, April 27:] Perhaps the leadership of our fair city is simply being pragmatic. You say that they should concentrate on, first, “the usual basic criteria” for moving into a city rather than, second, “grandiose, monumental, expensive government projects.”

But it is obvious to me and probably to you that they are incapable of delivering the first, and, since they just love to spend money, why not spend it on the second? In this they are supported by the voters, who continue to hope for the first and are pleased when they get the second.


DC Population Is Bound to Drop
Bryce A. Suderow,

I think it has got to be obvious to anyone but Tony Williams and his die-hard supporters that Gary and the Census Bureau are right. This city will continue to drop in population. It’s simple arithmetic. Low-income blacks with large families are leaving the city. They are being replaced with smaller numbers of white newcomers who are either childless or have only one or two very young children. Unless charter schools for middle class white people become widespread, these newly arriving white people with kids will leave the city as soon as their kids reach fourth or fifth grade.

Someone told me that a reporter asked members Mothers on the Hill (MOTH) if they thought that they would still be living in DC five years or more years from now. Most of them replied that they had not thought about it. They were staying for now. That’s definitely not a commitment. I suspect that they are waiting to see if there are going to be schools that their kids can safely attend without getting murdered.


Martha Ross,

Projections are always tricky. The Census Bureau was wrong in the projections they made in the 1990’s about what the city’s population would be in 2000. They projected 519,000 residents, but in the head count of the 2000 decennial Census, the number was 572,000. Still a decline, but much a much smaller one from the 1990 population of 607,000.


Losing Population and Crime
Kevin Morison, MPD,

Tom Blagburn raises an interesting issue [themail, April 27]: are lower crime levels in DC simply a matter of there being fewer people in the city? A quick statistical analysis shows that the facts don’t support his argument. In 1990, the Census Bureau said DC had 606,900 residents. That year, there were 65,647 serious (or “Index”) crimes reported in DC, for a crime rate of 10,817 per 100,000 population. In 2004, the Census Bureau estimates that DC had 553,523 residents (a controversial estimate that started this whole discussion thread). Last year, there were 33,252 Index crimes reported in DC, for a crime rate of 6,007 per 100,000 population. The change in the city’s homicide rate during this period has been even more dramatic — from 78 murders per 100,000 population in 1990 to 36 per 100,000 in 2004. And even if you go back to 1980, when the city’s population was 638,333, the Index crime rate was still 9,875 per 100,000 — or more than 50 percent higher than the current rate. The bottom line: while DC population has declined in recent decades (by about 9 percent since 1990), our crime rate has fallen significantly more (by more than 44 percent since 1990). So the city’s success in reducing crime is clearly more than the displacement of some residents.


Fanning the Debate on DC Demographics
Len Sullivan,

NARPAC welcomes the debate on DC’s evolving demographics and its relationship with the evolving Comprehensive Plan. We have been trying to illuminate these planning problems for years and think the ongoing online discussion is overlooking some basic metrics. Population count, imperfect as it may be, is not the proper metric for determining DC’s growth or prosperity. The unit of measure dictating urban land use is the household, made up of adult(s), elderly dependents and/or kids. Those who wail about a departing “middle class” (undefined) ignore available statistics that DC households have declined far less. The most steadily declining cohort since the ‘70’s is the number of kids (mostly black), resulting in the vastly oversized DCPS infrastructure. DC’s recent population drop includes a six-year reduction of 12,000 in unwed teen births. Housing demands also differ when two working adults replace one welfare adult and three kids. More costly units are needed to house twice the taxpayers and half the population.

Household count, however, does not assure urban prosperity. It does not differentiate those generating more revenues than city costs, from those generating more costs than revenues. We estimate DC has only three net taxpaying households for every tax-consuming one, while the suburbs average twelve to fifteen. Urban prosperity requires some balance between the two. DC tax returns seem to have dropped even less than households. Car ownership and household income have risen. The acceptable shortfall in resident taxpayers depends on how much of DC’s net revenues comes from business. DC gets far more net revenues per acre from businesses (and the commuters that make them profitable) than from residents. We think DC’s “social engineering” is working too well: DC encourages net tax-consumers to stay through its welfare and housing policies; discourages net taxpayers from living in the city; and lets neighborhoods block higher density developments that raise revenues. The Comprehensive Plan ignores such issues.

Even more basic, DC’s boundaries are no longer relevant to a successful core city inside a world-class metro area. The metro area, not the city, is now the proper basic socioeconomic unit of measure (a fact the Comp and DDoT planners avoid). Americans don’t stay rooted in the same home from birth to death. We adjust home, work, and vehicle choices with our lifestyle needs. The overly parochial nature of many DC residents and elected officials contains the seeds of their own dilapidation. The mayor’s disinterest in regional unity is his biggest weakness. Finally, one major key to the successful socioeconomic integration of our national capital metro area is its overall transportation networks. As long as DC’s insular planners think transportation is just about “connecting urban neighborhoods” rather than “facilitating metro area mobility,” they will keep contributing to the decline and fall of our nation’s most important inner city.



Join DC for Democracy Focus on Public Schools, May 4
Charles Allen,

Join DC for Democracy MeetUp, May 4, 7:00 p.m. We’ll be focusing our next MeetUp on the state of DC’s public school system. Invited guests include Wards 1 and 2 School Board Member Jeff Smith, Wards 5 and 6 School Board Member Tommy Wells, President of "Fix Our Schools" Marc Borbely, representatives from Parents United for the DC Public Schools, and more. We have a great evening planned, so please RSVP today. We have two locations, and we’ll have speakers at each one, so pick the location most convenient for you.

Ben’s Chili Bowl, 1213 U Street, NW — RSVP:

Hawk & Dove, 329 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE — RSVP:

Sign Up Today! Volunteer to Get Your Hands On DC, May 7. DC for Democracy is teaming up with “Hands on DC” to adopt a school for a day of community service on Saturday, May 7. We’ll be cleaning up the grounds, painting classrooms, landscaping playgrounds, and more. But we need your help to make this effort a success. Go to to learn more, become an event sponsor, and volunteer. The first fifteen volunteers get a free T-shirt!


National Building Museum Events, May 4, 6
Brie Hensold,

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

Wednesday, May 4, 8:00-9:00 p.m. Grab a blanket, some snacks, and friends to enjoy a series of independent short films in the Museum’s Great Hall. Never seen before in Washington, this collection of art and experimental films, organized by Rooftop Films of New York City, depicts unusual views of open spaces in the US and elsewhere. From high above Brussels, a photographer gazes down at the city below and finds a strange and surreal landscape. And while K-Marts and billboards encroach on many public spaces, young people in Michigan and Oregon are seen staking claim to territory for art and passions. This film program complements the exhibition OPEN: new designs for public space. Free soft drinks and limited seating will be provided. $6 members and students; $8 nonmembers. Registration required.

Friday, May 6, 7:30-9:00 p.m. Founded in 1996, SHoP has become widely recognized for combining digital expertise, including three-dimensional form generation and rapid prototyping, with model building to arrive at original and buildable solutions. One of five principals, Gregg Pasquarelli, will discuss the firm’s logic-based design strategies, which masterfully reconciles cutting-edge design with value engineering. The firm’s projects include an academic building for New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, the master plan for the East River Waterfront Development, and several buildings in Mitchell Park on Long Island. $12 Museum members, $17 nonmembers; $10 students; Free to CUA students and faculty with valid ID. Prepaid registration required.


Greetings from Washington, DC, Slide Lecture, May 7
Jerry A. McCoy,

The Nation’s Capital is a top tourist destination, and a visit is not complete without mailing postcards home. To celebrate National Postcard Week (May 1 -7), DC Public Library/Washingtoniana Division librarian Jerry A. McCoy discusses the changing design of Washington, DC, postcards and tells the stories behind the postcards’ messages and their senders. Free. Saturday, May 7, 1:00-2:00 p.m., National Postal Museum (Old Post Office Building, next to Union Station). For more information see:


Ms. Senior Pageant, May 21
Carroll Green,

The American Classic Woman of the Year Pageant, for senior ladies 60 and older, will be held Saturday, May 21, 2-5:00 p.m., at the Shaw Junior High School Auditorium, 925 Rhode Island Avenue, NW. Tickets are $15 in advance, and $20 at the door. Participants will be judged on talent, philosophy of life, and evening gowns. First prize is $500, the runner up is awarded $200, and third place is $100. There is a $25 entry fee.

Ladies wishing to participate should contact the pageant director, Ms. Leslie Blount, at 483-8433 no later than Wednesday, May 4.



Any Cello Players Out There?
Phil Shapiro,

I’m looking for a cello player for some guitar duet experimenting. Some of these duets are connected with songs by the Rolling Stones. I can travel to your place.



Mazda Service/Repair Sought
Joan Eisenstodt,

My niece recently moved to the DC area and is looking for a reliable car repair shop in the area where she can take her ‘95 Mazda 626. She’s having some problems but is concerned about being taken since she doesn’t know much about cars and is short on funds. She doesn’t want to go to a Mazda dealer because they charge too much and aren’t always trustworthy. She’s got about 108,000 miles on the car, but that isn’t bad considering it’s age. It has been a great car and hopefully will last a while longer! Any help would be great.


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