Dorothy prepared the main dish for dinner tonight from a Paula Deen
recipe. Fried scallops, rolled first in flour seasoned with salt and
pepper, then in a beaten egg, and finally in a half-and-half mixture of
bread crumbs and shredded coconut, served with a simple sauce of orange
marmalade and dark rum. The scallops came from the Harris Teeter grocery
store in Pentagon City. Harris Teeter has topnotch fresh seafood, and if
you follow their sales you can get it at bargain prices. Harris Teeter
actually wants to build a store in the city. It wants to move into the
old Citadel roller rink that has been vacant for more than a decade in
Adams Morgan, but the political process to get approval has taken well
over a year so far, and is likely to take several months or a year more.
For the bread crumbs we used panko, the trendy ultra-fine Japanese bread
crumbs. We couldn’t find panko in the chain grocery stores in DC, and
of course the Asian markets have been driven out of Chinatown by
development around the MCI Center. The promises that the city made to
Asian businessmen that their businesses would benefit and prosper from
the redevelopment around Gallery Place in exchange for their support of
MCI stadium have been honored by putting Chinese language signage over
Starbucks and Fuddruckers outlets. We finally had to get the panko at a
Giant supermarket in Bethesda.
Sometimes even I wonder at myself. I can get grouchy over a good
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir, email@example.com
I remember, several years back now, when the Roy Rogers restaurant in
Tenleytown was changing over to a McDonalds. Comments were floating
around about how little Roy Rogers had been paying in property tax;
something like $1000 per year for the prime real estate. Monday this
week, the Kansas City Star ran a story claiming that almost 25
percent of the Senate was receiving Homestead deductions for their
second homes in DC [http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/politics/11613653.htm].
The story was also picked up by the Boston Herald. Both papers
highlighted their local politicians who were taking advantage of the tax
break. One wonders how many of these deals are in existence.
The gist of the two stories was that thousands of dollars in
collectible revenue for DC has been let go for who knows why. The
Senators blamed the District. The District says the Senators requested
the break. One should wonder how many of these deals are going on in
this city where “who you know” is the common currency. Good
government alludes us. One of the Senators was Sam Brownback, who chairs
the Senate’s Committee on DC. Another was Massachusetts Senator Edward
Kennedy (D). His Kalorama home is worth $4.5 million. Missouri Senator
Kit Bond (R) got $1000 off his tax bill on a $1.65 million house he
recently sold in Spring Valley. The funny thing is that the Post
didn’t pick up the story this week. Editors must have been salivating
too much over their own property tax breaks that the city council was
doling out to think about corruption in regard to the property tax laws.
The Dupont Current’s editorial page reported on one of the
DC government’s better ploys. “Officials conduct a walk through.”
The officials can claim they did something while really doing nothing.
The media can claim they are responsible by reporting this unreality.
Most importantly, residents are left holding the bag of responsibility
for organizing and getting something done.
My favorite example of this was years ago when a DC multi-agency task
force conducted a walk through with residents and businesses on
Seventeenth Street. That walk through resulted in a laundry list of
problems. As far as I know, the only actual fix was the repair of one
pothole. Years later, many of those same problems remain — waiting for
another official walk through to accomplish nothing and again leave
residents with the responsibility for getting something done.
Last week, the Council passed a budget which provides an astronomical
18 percent increase over this year’s. A large chunk of the increase is
funded from property taxes, which go up 12 percent per year under the
current cap. The council also approved on first read an increase in the
real property tax homestead deduction from $38,000 to $60,000, providing
a one-time $211 savings. The DCFPI claims that this will benefit more
than half the people more than would a decrease in the cap from 12
percent to 5 percent. However, the DCFPI ignores the out years. As soon
as 2007 or 2008, almost everyone would benefit more under the lower cap
than the homestead increase. The homestead increase is a one-shot deal.
After that, it’s 12 percent a year. That is, unless the amendment
reducing the cap from 12 percent to 10 percent also goes through on
second reading. On first read, the cap reduction was approved as a
trigger — it only goes into effect if enough extra revenue is found
later on, and it takes its place in line behind over $20 million of
other trigger items. There’s still a second reading, so there’s
still time to contact your councilmembers to encourage them to enact
greater tax relief, and put it higher in line in the list of trigger
items. Meanwhile, as reported in the last issue of themail,
Councilmember Catania is disputing the Chief Financial Officer’s
estimate of how much it will cost the City to purchase the land to house
the future baseball stadium. The CFO estimates it will cost $77 million
to acquire the properties. But the CFO’s Office of Tax and Revenue has
currently assessed the properties for taxes at a little over $33
million. So which time was the CFO wrong? As typical, OTR has under
assessed commercial properties, meaning that we’re getting about half
the taxes we should be from these properties. Who pays? The homeowners,
with annual 12 percent increases.
I can sympathize with Zinnia’s comments that her property tax has
doubled in the last four years and the schools are still a mess. I think
that most of the quality of education problems are not problems that
money can fix. On the other hand, it is a fact that the school system
has put off capital repairs for long periods of time and, even if some
have been done in recent years, there is a lot of catching up to still
to be done. For that reason, I am supportive of increased funds for
schools specifically for capital improvement. Bathrooms that fall apart,
water leaking through ceilings, mold, and plywood covered windows are
problems that money can solve. On the flip side, I also highly support
investigating the consolidation of schools (for instance, in my
neighborhood from what information I’ve been able to gather Payne
elementary and Tyler elementary school both have half the students they
did in the not so distant past). I’ll leave whether surplus property
should be disposed of or used in a different manner, and salary issues,
for another day.
Obstructing the View
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
In Sunday’s Post, this week, there’s a picture in the
Source section’s “How To” column (page M3) that shows a DC
Metrobus with a bicycle rack on the front for two bicycles [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/12/AR2005051201594.html].
Carrying bikes on the bus might not be a bad idea, but placing them in
the front is a terrible idea. The picture shows one of the bikes with a
large child seat on it. That seat clearly obstructs the vision of the
driver of the bus. Bike racks should be placed on the rear of the bus,
not the front.
Metro Bus is in trouble. Its older bus drivers are retiring, and it
is being forced to replace its departing drivers with new drivers. This
is part of a national trend where people hired in the 70’s are old
enough to retire. But Metro cannot come up with adequate numbers of
replacements to keep all of its busses manned. This is because Metro is
hampered by the fact that it’s forced to draw on DC residents for its
hiring pool. Cold statistics tell the sad story. Out of one hundred
applicants, 70 percent fail to get hired. This is due to 1) background
checks that produce criminal records or lack of driving skills, 2) drug
and alcohol testing that eliminates a significant number of applicants,
3) a basic reading and writing test, which large numbers of applicants
fail, and 4) face-to-face interviews that reveal truculent attitudes
that forecast an inability to work with the public.
Once the thirty hirees go into training to learn to drive busses, two
thirds of them drop out or are kicked out. This is due to the
unwillingness of many of them to consistently show up on time. Also the
trainers are very demanding, and many hirees resent being told what to
do. Thus, out of one hundred applicants for Metro Bus positions, only
ten end up driving a bus.
These figures certainly are startling, but they seem reliable because
a number of metro personnel gave me the same figures and because I’ve
heard similar percentages from people in the post office system, which
likewise can’t find sufficient numbers of good and reliable workers in
the DC labor pool.
Some Encouraging Citizen Journalism News
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ford Foundation has provided the Center for Social Media
(associated with American University) with two years of a projected five
year grant to explore the future of public media in a digital era.
Details at http://centerforsocialmedia.org/
I’ve attended documentary screenings at the Center for Social
Media, and can say without qualification that the catering service used
for the receptions before these free screenings is top of the line. (The
documentaries were excellent and thought-provoking, too.)
Don’t Shoot (or Fire) the Sentinel, Mr.
Mary C. Williams, ANC 6D03, email@example.com
When I first glanced at the Washington Post’s weekend
editorial headline (May 14), “Don’t Do It, Mr. Mayor” [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/13/AR2005051301480.html?sub=AR],
I immediately assumed that the writer, like me, wanted to give our chief
executive some friendly but sound advice regarding City Auditor Debra
Nichols. Rather than criticize Ms. Nichols for the timing of her
unveiling of the administration’s circumvention of District laws in
awarding contracts for baseball and the China trip, our mayor and the
city administrator should laud her as an example of good government at
work and hold her up for all employees to emulate. Both should be
tripping over each other in public to apologize to the residents of this
city for the latest embarrassment, and then turn the evil eye on their
own staffs (privately, of course) to find blame. Upon reading the Post’s
headline, I thought that the writer was warning the mayor against
another self-inflicted shot in the figurative foot. Maybe the mayor, who
appeared quite perturbed last week at Ms. Nichols rather than over the
news that the administration had broken the law, was thinking that he
could sweep the problem away by reprimanding, or worse, firing Ms.
Nichols. Big mistake. But we know from experience that even the
continuous scrutiny of a downright righteous public citizenry, and Ms.
Nichols’ own competence and dedication over the years, may not stave
off this administration’s penchant for retaliation. Remember the
former chairman and members of the Board of Elections and Ethics
following the 2002 mayoral election? Don’t Do It, Mr. Mayor.
Meanwhile, the Post and Gary Imhoff have both offered the
mayor excellent advice on this travel problem. Whatever you do, Mr.
Mayor, don’t turn to the private sector to pay for your trips. It’s
not a good option and it is on par with taking money under the table.
Read a little beyond the newspaper’s headlines each day. Many a
congressmen and former elected official would join in the choir against
such a move.
In lieu of private funding, I offer small alternatives to your travel
dilemma: first, don’t plan any more out of world/country/city junkets.
Stay home for awhile and be the mayor. And when you’ve just got to go
to Paris or Milan or Singapore or Mars on city business, then have the
staff schedule it in advance to avoid procurement problems. Second, and
simultaneously, you might use this dormant travel time to oversee the
implementation of a workable contracting and procurement system. The
city will avoid further embarrassing and illegal actions, and we all
will benefit from a more efficient and effective process. Just Do It,
I am just catching up on past issues of themail. Years ago, in the
city neighborhoods surrounding Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, one side
of the streets had prohibited parking between something like 5 and 8:30
p.m., and the other half 8:30-11 p.m. That way you could go to half a
game and park legally in the area, and residents could still be
accommodated. They had some way of changing the times on the "no
parking" signs for day games, too. Another solution, of course,
would be a two hour limit at all hours of the day (except for
residential parking permit holders), which I read is something the
Crestwood neighborhood is considering due to the encroachment of
Maryland parkers from the apartment buildings in Silver Spring.
Correction on Property Tax Rate
Ed Lazere, firstname.lastname@example.org
My submission to themail on May 11 stated that the DC Council had
voted to lower the property tax rate to 92 cents per $100 of assessed
value (from the current 96 cent rate). While the Council discussed
lowering the tax rate to that level, what they actually passed was a
reduction to 94 cents.
Choking Ourselves to Death for Urban Vibrancy?
Len Sullivan, email@example.com
NARPAC loses its cool this month while trying to make sense out of
the city’s conflicting planning objectives. On the one hand, DC’s
long range planners reject any and all objections to its very rosy
twenty-year projections of 50,000 additional households and 100,000
additional jobs. This will surely generate at least 100,000 additional
vehicles on DC streets, including residential, commuter, commercial and
supporting service industries. On the other hand, independent
transportation planners are scaling back the city’s currently marginal
traffic capacity by floating schemes that: reduce DC’s miles of
freeways; provide no more Metrorail capacity or widened roads; add
dozens of new grade-level intersections; usurp existing road lanes for
bicycles and trolleys; offer no substantial new off-street parking or
“mobility management” systems; introduce additional traffic-slowing,
pedestrian-threatening rotaries on major arteries; and draw thousands
more pedestrians and tourists closer to more congested streets.
Why is a city more "vibrant" by mixing vehicles and
pedestrians on a common-grade nineteenth century ‘boulevard’ rather
than separating them with modern urban decks for malls, promenades, or
parks? Why are the choices on transportation capacity and modalities
left up to the city’s routine transportation management offices? Check
out NARPAC’s views on: a) a plan for a scenic and vibrant South
Capitol Street that reduces arterial mobility in the already depressed
Southeast quadrant of the city at http://www.narpac.org/REXLRPRO.HTM#ncpcapst,
and b) a study for a scenic, vibrant Georgetown waterfront without a
Whitehurst Freeway that constricts arterial mobility in the
revenue-producing Northwest quadrant at http://www.narpac.org/REXLRPRO.HTM#whitfree.
Does the city really want to encourage its transportation department to
strangle the city’s growth in its own peculiar quest for urban
vibrancy? This is all about DC’s future.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Author Talk and Signing: A Whole New Mind
by Dan Pink, May 21
Barbara Conn, firstname.lastname@example.org
The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very
different kind of mind. The era of "left brain" dominance, and
the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in
which “right brain” qualities — inventiveness, empathy, and
meaning — predominate. That’s the argument at the center of Free
Agent Nation author Dan Pink’s provocative and original new book, A
Whole New Mind: Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.
In this book Dan uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for
understanding the contours of our times. A Whole New Mind
includes a series of hands-on exercises culled from experts around the
world to help readers sharpen necessary “right brain” abilities.
A book sale and signing by author and Cleveland Park resident Dan
Pink, courtesy of the Trover Shop, follow the program. Attend the talk,
buy a book, and get the book personally autographed by the author. A
portion of the proceeds will go to the Friends of the Cleveland Park
Library. Book cost: $26.00.
Gather your friends, colleagues, and family members and bring them to
this Saturday, May 21, 1:00 p.m. (check-in: 12:45 p.m.), author talk of
the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special
Interest Group (E&C SIG) cosponsored by the Cleveland Park
Neighborhood Library. This free talk will be in the First Floor Large
Auditorium of the library at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW, just over a
block from the Cleveland Park Metrorail Station on the Red Line. For
more information about this event, speaker Dan Pink (including what Tom
Peters, Alan Webber, Seth Godin, and others have to say about Dan and
his new book), and CPCUG [a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational
organization], and to register, visit http://www.cpcug.org/user/entrepreneur/505meet.html.
Monumental Mosaics, May 22
Brie Hensold, email@example.com
Sunday, May 22, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Monumental Mosaics. Inspired by
the exhibition Washington: Symbol and City, families create mosaics of
the city’s famous buildings, including the US Capitol and the
Washington Monument. $3 per project. All ages. Drop-in program. At the
National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro
CLASSIFIEDS — FREE
Free firewood, some aged, some newer, all clean, available for the
taking. Call 301-424-0932, ask for Majbritt.
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