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May 11, 2005


Dear Friends:

Councilmember David Catania released his critique of the Chief Financial Officer’s estimate of ballpark land acquisition costs today, and it’s devastating (  Unless CFO Natwar Gandhi has arguments more convincing than just saying that he relied on cost estimates made by consultant Deloitte Touche, on the basis of unstated and unsupported assumptions and badly outdated “comparable” sale prices, it seems that if it acted under its own law the city council would have to reject the current proposed ballpark stadium site.

That’s if the council doesn’t just ignore flaws in the CFO’s report, and ignore the law. Ignoring the law is popular these days. The acting Inspector General collects his salary in defiance of the law that forbids the government from paying him for over 180 days in an acting position. The City Auditor testifies on Monday to the city council ( that the mayor and the City Administrator flouted procurement laws to award sole-source contracts to consultants on the baseball boondoggle and the mayor’s China junket. And today the mayor’s only response at his press conference is not to try to deny any of the facts the auditor testified about, but to attack her for being “unprofessional” for testifying to the council at all. She shouldn’t have told them, he said. Well, to be fair, that’s not his only response. He also said that in the future he would see that his foreign trips were paid for, not by the city, but by private donations. This, it seems, is the lesson he learned, not only from his past fundraising scandals, but also from the current travel scandals surrounding members of Congress — to have his foreign jaunts paid for by the people who are seeking favors from the city government.

Wasn’t there a time when politicians putting over these kinds of scams made some effort to keep them secret? Since the lesson of Watergate and succeeding national scandals seemed to be that the cover-up was worse than the original problem, have our local politicians decided that they won’t even try to cover up, that they’ll do it all out in the open, and get away with it that way?

Gary Imhoff


Changed Municipal Regulation Applied Retroactively
Henry Thomas,

Last week I wrote about getting a parking ticket at a broken meter (even though I had not stayed longer than allowed). This week I write about having our 2001 car rejected at its normal two-year inspection because of an unknown change in a municipal regulation that was applied retroactively.

When we bought the car, we had the windows tinted in an effort to block some of the hot sun. At that time we were told that DC allowed less tinting than did Maryland or Virginia. We wondered why, but obviously went along with what DC allowed. The car passed its 2003 inspection without any trouble. This week, though, we were told that the tinting was now too dark, and we had to have it changed to pass the inspection and avoid a stiff fine. I suppose that it must be legal to apply this sort of change in the municipal regulation retroactively, but is it fair? I don’t recall any effort on the part of the authorities to warn the public that this change had been enacted, or to explain the reason behind the change.

Getting sandbagged like this, after waiting in line in the street for half an hour despite being a senior citizen, does not improve one’s feelings towards our District government. Why should we have to spend the time, money, and effort to now have our car window tinting changed when it was perfectly legal when originally done? Why shouldn’t we and others in the same position be grandfathered?


Dorothy Brizill,

Today at his weekly press conference, Mayor Anthony Williams announced the appointment of Kimberley Flowers as acting director of the Department of Parks and Recreation (and her nomination as the permanent director) and of Patricia Ellwood as the District’s Protocol Officer ( Flowers is currently Baltimore’s Director of Recreation and Parks. She was an operations analyst in Baltimore’s CityStat program until she was appointed Interim Director of Recreation and Parks in 2002, and subsequently named Director in 2003. The vacancy announcement issued by the DC Department of Personnel said that applicants for the position of DC Parks Director “should have 10 to 15 years of senior executive management experience,” and Flowers has only three, but Mayor Williams and Neil Albert, Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth, and Elders, said today that she was the best qualified of any of the applicants for the position, including those applicants from within DPR.

Patricia Ellwood, who was appointed the District’s Protocol Officer in the Office of the Secretary, is a longtime official of the local Democratic party and friend of the Williams family. She recently retired after thirty-one years of working in the special education program of the Prince Georges school system. The protocol officer is the city’s liaison to the diplomatic community and handles international affairs. Ellwood currently serves as one of the two public members appointed to the important federal National Capital Planning Commission, which oversees zoning and planning issues in the metropolitan region. She indicated that even though she will now be a government employee, she will not resign from the position reserved by law for a member of the public.

Ellwood thus joins Carol Mitten, the head of the District’s Office of Property Management, as two government employees who are in the highly irregular position of serving as public members of appointed boards. (Mitten is the chair of the Zoning Commission.) Both Ellwood and Mitten are in positions in which their governmental positions and their "public member" positions on boards lead to inherent conflicts of interest. Ellwood will be dealing with embassies and embassy issues both as a member of the National Capital Planning Commission and as the District’s Protocol Officer. Mitten will spearhead both the city’s acquisition of property for the new baseball stadium as the head of OPM, and the zoning issues surrounding that property as the chair of the Zoning Commission.


Homestead Deduction Increase
Ed Lazere,

Mayor Williams proposed raising DC’s Homestead Deduction from $38,000 to $60,000 to help homeowners facing rising property tax assessments. A new analysis from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute shows that this increase, which was adopted on Tuesday, will provide great help to most DC homeowners. We found that with the new Homestead Deduction, 55 percent of DC homeowners will pay less in property tax next year than this year. That’s right: For a majority of DC homeowners, their 2006 tax bill will be smaller than their 2005 tax bill just because of the Homestead Deduction increase. Another 17 percent of homeowners will pay a tax increase, but the increase will be less than five percent. This is before taking into account additional property tax relief passed on Tuesday. These findings can be found in DCFPI’s report at

The neighborhoods where residents generally would see tax increases of five percent to 10 percent after the Homestead Deduction Increase are all in Wards 2 and 3 and generally are high-income neighborhoods, such as Georgetown and Chevy Chase.

On Tuesday, the DC Council voted to provide additional property tax relief, by lowering the cap to 10 percent and by lower the property tax rate from 96 cents to 92 cents [correction: 94 cents] per $100 of assessed value. These cuts will go into effect if a new revenue before next year shows $26 million in higher revenues. Absent an unforeseen economic shock, this is almost bound to happen. DCFPI will analyze the effects of this new proposal over the next few weeks, but it is likely to show that the main beneficiaries are owners of DC’s most valuable homes.


Better Schools or Tax Cuts

I can understand Marc Borbely’s concern for the school system [themail, May 8], but my property taxes have doubled in the last four years and the schools are still a mess. I don’t think money is necessarily the problem with DC schools.


A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned
Chuck Thies,

While many voices call for increased funding of various DC government programs and agencies, I hear little demand for comprehensive oversight. A small surplus, and all the sudden we’re throwing money at challenges? Haste makes waste. Let’s be sure we’re not throwing our tax dollars away. I’d like to hear a serious discussion on the evaluation of the money we’re already spending. The same DC council committee chairs who are asking for more money should first demonstrate to taxpayers that they’re conducting dutiful oversight now.


City Museum
David Hunter,

I recently spent a week working at the new Washington Convention Center, and as I would walk into Chinatown for lunch I kept wondering what the city will do with the beautiful City Museum building. Since we are back on the subject of the Casey Foundation’s offer to build a mayoral residence and i believe that offer has lapsed.. Has anyone looked into the feasibility of using this beautiful building and park as the mayoral residence, now that it has been refurbished? I am sure it would need to be made more into a residence, but it is in a prime location. I never thought that the city hall building would ever be useful again, so miracles do happen.


Noise Abatement in the (Downtown) District
Richard Layman,

[Re: “Noise Abatement in the District,” themail, May 8]: Don’t move to a mixed-use district if you’re not committed to mixed uses. The Warehouse District in Cleveland is known for people moving out, once they hit about 35 years of age, because they are no longer into the bar and night scene and the noise.

Changing the mixed-use aspect of downtown to accommodate your personal preference is unreasonable, if you want an “18-hour” (maybe not “24-hour”) activity center at the core of the city.

Now maybe Coyote Ugly crosses the line. But your comment is like a church moving onto a commercial strip, and then fighting liquor licenses being awarded to restaurants — forcing the prevailing uses to be changed to accommodate the preferences of those new to the community.


Taste of DC Not on Memorial Day Weekend 2005
Annie McCormick,

I received an E-mail answer from stating that the festival was canceled this year. No other information was given. Still makes me wonder, though, who came up with the idea to change the date to Memorial Day in the first place?


Broken Parking Meters
Harold Foster, Petworth,

A couple of “do’s and don’t’s” about broken parking meters (from someone who worked in what was then the DC Department of Public Works for twenty years): 1) don’t park on a broken meter without first calling it in. And never assume someone before you called it in first (even if they tell you that as they are pulling away from that meter.) The number is on the meter and, in case it is not there, it is on the DC DMV and DC DPW web sites. 2) Don’t stay on the meter too long. The law says you are allowed two hours on a broken meter after you report it. But your idea of two hours and a PCA’s (“meter maid’s”) idea of two hours may be different. I generally “start the clock” from before the time when I call in. (And when you call in a broken meter, always make sure you and the receptionist agree on the time. 3) Don’t assume that calling the meter in guarantees you no tickets. My wife got a ticket after calling a broken meter in and had to pay it because DPW inspected the meter after it was called in and declared it operational. Just calling a meter in as broken does not guarantee that the subsequent DPW inspection will back you up. 4) Don’t trust “fail mode.” If the meter is displaying “Fail Mode” it could mean that someone just put a penny, or a British ten-penny piece, or a slug, or even a WMATA bus token in the meter, and the meter has shut down the intake chute until a service crew can empty the coin container and reboot it.

These things, while a lot more reliable less error-prone than the electromechanical ones they replaced about ten years ago, are nevertheless still pretty primitive “one-trick-pony” computers. And a meter dropping into “Fail Mode” is a lot like the “Illegal Operation. Must Shut Down” message you WinTel computer people get when your lap top or PC must be rebooted. (We Macsters usually get one that says “Unknown Error of Type-21.”) Remember, you’re dealing with a series of magnets that can only count up to one. I have heard adjudication officers at 65 K Street tell people who came there to contest tickets they got on “dead meters” that a meter being in “Fail Mode” in and of itself does not mean that the meter is broken and you are therefore absolved of the legal obligation to feed it. This is clearly a classic bureaucratic Catch-22 (speaking as one of those bureaucrats whose spent his entire 31 years in public service.) But, as the Brits say, there you are. If the meter is physically overloaded with coins, that also can mean a subsequent inspection by DPW will not support your phone-in claim that the meter was literally broken. Topped off with money does not translate into broken. At least not at Meter Repair. So, again: you could call the meter in as broken, still be ticketed, and have DPW subsequently "find" that the meter “was in operational condition” when the ticket was written. At least you can now pay these tickets online. And, unlike several cities I have been in Europe, they don’t apply points to your driving record.

5) Do call once. Do call twice. I generally call that 541 number on the meter and also the Mayor’s Customer Service Center (727-1000), and I insist that they also give me a Customer Service Complaint number, not just the phone number to the Meter Repair Division (which they will often try to do.) 6) Do use Metro, in which case, everything you just read is — happily — moot.



Women Speak, May 14
Shari Miles,

Please note change of location: 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 One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, Old Council Chambers. 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. To register, call 637-6958 or E-mail


NAMIC Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Reception and Keynote Address, May 17
Dorinda White, President NAMIC Mid-Atlantic,

The National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications is celebrating twenty-five years of advocating, educating, motivating, empowering, and encouraging multiethnic diversity in the telecommunications industry. As one of seventeen chapters nationwide, NAMIC Mid-Atlantic is hosting a special anniversary event complete with valet parking, cocktail reception, mixer, and keynote address by Johnathan Rodgers, President and CEO, TV One. The event will be held Tuesday evening May 17 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA). Sponsors include Discovery Communications, AZN Networks, National Geographic, Comcast, Comcast Sports, TV One, Rindi Media and NCTA. On this day only, the chapter will also offer a twenty-fifth anniversary $25 discount for those wishing to become a member of NAMIC. Free for NAMIC members and $20 for nonmembers. No cost to new members who join on May 17. RSVP for this event at or 301-625-3537. Visit for additional info on NAMIC. You can also contact Dorinda White of Rindi Media and President of NAMIC Mid-Atlantic at 491-3033.


Potter’s House, June 3
Ingrid Drake,

Come out to the Potter’s House for good music, good food, and good cause. Learn more about the activities of Community Harvest, meet our new staff, have a relaxing Friday night with your friends and family. Friday, June 3, at the Potter’s House (1658 Columbia Road, NW). Off street parking, and short walk from the Columbia Heights Metro stop. 7 p.m., homemade dinner and desserts for sale; 8 p.m., concert with Eric Keller (folk guitarist and songwriter). Donations start at $10. For more information, contact or 577-3437 (Ingrid’s cell), or check out


Kala Jojo, There Is a River, June 11
Brad Hills,

Washington Storytellers Theater presents Kala Jojo, There Is A River: Stories of Hope and Inspiration, at the City Museum of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, on Saturday, June 11, 8:00 p.m. Ticket price $15 (senior, student and group rates available); purchase at the door or in advance by calling 545-6840, or on-line at Parking on street or in lot beneath Renaissance Hotel off 14th Street.

Washington Storytellers Theater is proud to introduce the adult storytelling audiences of Greater Washington, DC to one of the most exciting and brightest young lights in storytelling, Kala Jojo. He is a nationally renowned Jeli ("storyteller"), vocalist and multi-instrumentalist whose repertoire evokes the oral traditions of Africa, African-American and the Caribbean. As a singer and masterful folksong-storyteller Kala Jojo will touch your heart with this program of enlightening narratives and thought provoking songs about love, triumph, healing, family and the challenges faced by New Afrikan peoples born in North America.



Lawn Care Needed
Sarah Eilers,

We’re looking for someone to mow and edge our small northwest DC lawn three to four times a month, as well as do occasional pruning, mulching, and the like.



Rae Kelley,

I’m looking for long distance moving company recommendations.


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