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May 29, 2005


Dear Pleasant People:

It’s been one of those good days in Washington, starting with the perfect weather. Dorothy and I went to the champagne, jazz, and seafood brunch at Market Inn. I’ve written before about the Market Inn’s she-crab soup, than which there is no better. After that, we walked to the National Botanical Garden ( and sat on a bench in the greenery to enjoy the sun and gentle breeze (all right, actually to take a brief nap after all the champagne). We watched Rolling Thunder pass by for awhile, then for contrast walked over to the Mall and watched a croquet game. We went to the exhibits of Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre at the East Wing ( and of Gilbert Stuart portraits at the West Wing ( both of which were well worth seeing. Not even Blake Gopnik’s silly article in today’s Post about how portrait painting can’t really be good art anymore because it isn’t edgy enough ( could spoil the pleasure of the Stuart exhibit. The only thing we didn’t do was go to the Taste of DC festival that had been scheduled for today, because it had been canceled.

And that brings to mind another difference between the mainstream media and the kind of reporting that we are doing on the net. When you write to themail about things that the Post or Times has reported about, you include links to the original stories, both to give credit and so that people can refer to them for themselves. When the Post printed a story on Thursday, May 25, saying that Taste of DC had been canceled this year (, it didn’t give any credit to Annie McCormick, who had reported that news two weeks earlier in themail.

The Post story, however, to give it full credit, did get city officials to admit that their decision to move Taste of DC from its usual Columbus Day weekend was a bad one, and it obtained a priceless quotation from Susan Linsky, special assistant to the deputy mayor for economic development, “We made the decision in isolation. That was the unfortunate part.” Perhaps Ms. Linsky, if she hasn’t been fired yet for her unprofessional honesty, could be detailed by the deputy mayor to spread the word to other city agencies that making decisions in isolation is not a good idea. If city officials had just spoken to Annie McCormick first, they could have avoided this mistake, but they’ll never benefit from the people’s wisdom as long as they continue to make decisions in isolation.

Gary Imhoff


Property Assessment and Tax Inequities
Ann Loikow,

Out of curiosity, I checked the assessments on the lots in square 1789 (WUSA-TV 9 and McDonalds) and found that in all cases, the land was assessed for less per square foot than my 4,625 sq. foot residential lot at 34th and Rodman Streets, NW. On average, these prime commercial lots were assessed at $20 less per square foot than my small residential lot. My lot (land only) is assessed at $110 per square foot. On square 1789 (all Wisconsin Avenue commercial frontage), lot 801 (a 24,080 sq. ft. parking lot) is assessed at $90 per square foot; lot 802 (a 61,779 sq. ft. lot with a large commercial office -- WUSA-TV) is assessed at $103 per square foot; and lot 803 (a 8,545 sq. ft. lot used for commercial restaurant-fast food, i.e., McDonalds) is assessed at $90 per sq. ft.. Lot 805 (a vacant lot facing Van Ness) is also assessed at $90 per square foot. There is something wrong with this picture. Prime commercial land is worth almost 20 percent less than a small residential lot?

The Common Denominator had a recent editorial on this issue ( The problems with the real property assessment process and the resulting property tax burden on District residents is not something that can be swept under the rug. The Council needs to address the District’s tax structure to ensure that it is equitably administered and, as I urged in my May 14 letter [themail, May 22], ensure that more of the tax burden is shifted back to those taxes that are directly related to ability to pay, so we would be taxing real income, not potential “gains” that may never be realized.


Officer Pozell’s Death — What Does This Mean for Pedestrians?
Susan L. Anderson,

I do not understand why the motorist who killed Officer Pozell was not charged in his death. Reports indicated that, since she had the green light, she wasn’t liable for the accident. I thought that the new law requiring drivers to stop — not yield, but stop — for pedestrians would supersede the driver’s having the "right of way" to mow down Officer Pozell. The signal sent to drivers is that they will not be held accountable under this law. We’ve made no progress, therefore, in protecting pedestrians in the District and we’ve effectively returned to zero in our rights to cross streets, etc., unfettered and with protection on our commutes or daily walks through our neighborhoods.


Paul Dionne, news at paul dionne dot com

I don’t really have an opinion on the baseball stadium, but I thought that others might find this policy analysis by Ilya Somin published by CATO Institute interesting: “Robin Hood in Reverse: The Case against Taking Private Property for Economic Development,”

From the summary: “Federal and state courts should ban economic development takings. Such takings are usually the product of collusion between large and powerful interests and government officials against comparatively powerless local residents. They generally produce far more costs than benefits, as the Poletown case dramatically demonstrates. Finally, the economic development rationale renders nearly all property rights insecure because it can justify virtually any taking that benefits a private business interest.”


Norton Introduces $800 Million Fair Federal Compensation Act
Ben Slade,

Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced a bill that specifies an $800 million “annual infrastructure support contribution” from the feds to compensate for federal rules and restrictions that cost the District at least that much every year. The main restrictions costing the District money are laws preventing taxation of people who work in DC but live outside of DC (misnamed “the commuter tax”), tax exempt real estate for government and related land (including embassies and think tanks), costs of national security borne by DC police (e.g., by law, local DC police must help protect the Prez and VP), and various other state like functions DC must pay for because its parent "state" is the federal government.

Interestingly, this bill is cosponsored by VA and MD representatives. Could it actually have a chance? See for details.


Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation
Bruce Yarnall,

I am posting this on behalf of Lisa Burcham, DC State Historic Preservation Officer. Nominations for the 3rd Annual Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation are now being solicited. Please connect via the link provided on the Office of Planning web site to locate the nomination form. If you

have any questions, please feel free to contact Bruce Yarnall, Outreach Manager, at 442-8801 or

On, under News Items select "Applications Now Being Accepted for Third Annual Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation."


Neighborhood E-Mail Lists
Rob Goodspeed,

Readers of themail may be interested in a recent post on the web site about neighborhood E-mail groups in DC. The roughly twenty lists mentioned include a brand new Glover Park group:

[See also the list of E-mail neighborhood and community lists on DCWatch’s links page, — Gary Imhoff]


Turnaround on the Potomac
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

In a turnaround from published rumors, the Coast Guard has announced that the Potomac River between Georgetown and the Lincoln Memorial will not be closed to boats wanting to park and watch the July Fourth fireworks show. Boats will be only restricted from being near the shoreline, for safety reasons.


Urban Legends
Robert Bobb,

Thanks for the article . . . much appreciated [Joel Kotkin, “Urban Legends: Cities Aren’t Doing As Well as You Think,”, referenced in themail, May 25]. This article for the most part is right on. What the Williams Administration is doing is attacking the very problems discussed as a result of our own CAT Scan. I would call your attention to our New Communities Initiatives and Great Streets.


The Plans Are for Developers’ Eyes Only, Not the Public’s
Dorothy Brizill,

In March, Mayor Williams indicated both in his State of the District address and his FY2006 budget submission to the Council that his administration would be undertaking several new initiatives, including “new communities” and “great streets.” The press release that accompanied the budget states that it “will lift all communities by making major new investments” in the initiatives. It further indicates that the purpose of the “new communities” program is to “transform the city’s most distressed neighborhoods” by making a “massive investment in the housing and physical infrastructure and residents of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods.”

However, since March it has been difficult to get any detailed information from the Williams administration on how it intends to implement these two initiatives or on their implications for existing neighborhoods and District residents. On May 18, City Administrator Robert Bobb and Deputy Mayor Stanley Jackson offered a detailed analysis of the two initiatives at a two and a half hour breakfast seminar for investors and developers sponsored by the DC Marketing Center. Since that date, staffers to Bobb and Jackson have given an endless series of excuses for why they could not make a copy of the PowerPoint presentation given at that breakfast available to DCWatch for publication.


Bread and Circuses
Richard Wolf,

[Re: “Bread and Circuses,” themail, May 25] As I have indicated before, the Comprehensive Plan revision activity does not have policies to retain and enhance middle class neighborhoods. Readers would do a great service by addressing this issue to all pending and potential candidates for Mayor and ask for their views. The revised Comprehensive Plan will be before the Council in the spring of 2006 — election year!


Metrobus Drivers
Bryce A. Suderow,

In the last issue of themail [May 25], a reader criticized my use of the phrase “a lot” when I stated that many new Metro employees transfer from bus driving to Metrorail. I cannot furnish specific numbers since I’m asking bus drivers for information, and their replies are based on what they as individuals have seen. Suffice it to say that enough drivers are transferring to leave Metro with a shortage of drivers.

Why don’t I ask Metro for the facts? Because for years Metro suppressed the fact that there were problems. To give just one example, it took a demonstration at Metro headquarters by bus drivers to reveal to the world that their drivers have been stabbed, beaten, and raped by their passengers. Why should I believe anything Metro might tell me?


Past and Present
Rick Rosendall,

I certainly have my differences with Jim Graham, but I sympathize with his being fed up with the tired old snipings about Stickley furniture and a Mapplethorpe print, criticisms that were answered many years ago. My esteemed fellow activist Wayne Turner and his late partner, Steve Michael, have always relished ripping “Diamond Jim” on this sort of thing. It’s nothing but a distraction, but it stems from the tendency of ACT UP folks to attack people for making a living dealing with AIDS. Such foolish overzealousness would leave us only with those who can afford to donate their time and skills. We are lucky that Graham and so many others decided to address HIV/AIDS for a living. It is petty to begrudge him a few parting gifts from a grateful Whitman-Walker board. And that was seven years ago.

If one is going to criticize Graham now, one ought to focus on his six-plus years as Ward One’s councilmember. Even there, though, this gay rights activist has to give credit where it is due: Graham is a strong ally on a range of issues from health to human rights. On the other side of the ledger, in the May 4 issue of themail I criticized what I characterized as his reckless grandstanding on the same-sex marriage issue. He and I both strongly support equal marriage rights -- our crucial disagreement is over strategy. It is noteworthy that he responded in themail to Wayne Turner, but not to me. When he does respond to my calls for a more cautious strategy (at least in DC) on the marriage issue, it tends to be with one-liners rather than any serious attempt at refutation.

In a May 9 Washington Post article on AIDS activist Larry Kramer, though, Graham was quoted shamelessly echoing my own rhetoric about the marriage fight being a marathon and not a sprint: “Look, I wish this struggle was a 50-yard dash . . . But I’ve been a gay activist in a very open way since 1981 and I know that this is a long-distance run.” Well, thank you, Jim, I’m glad you’ve come around to my way of thinking. Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery.



DC Vote Happy Hour, June 1
Shawn Rolland,

DC Vote will host its inaugural "American Democracy for America’s Capital" Monthly Happy Hour on Wednesday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m., at Cafe Saint Ex (1847 14th Street, NW) in Gate 54 (the basement floor). All DC voting rights supporters are invited and encouraged to come, bring friends, meet the DC Vote staff, network, and have a good time. Mark your calendars! DC Vote Happy Hours will take place the first Wednesday of every month. RSVP today to Zainab Akbar by E-mail at


National Building Museum Events, June 1-2
Brie Hensold,

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

Wednesday, June 1, cocktail reception 7:00 p.m., dinner and entertainment 7:45-10:00 p.m. 2005 Honor Award Gala. Since 1986, the Museum has presented its Honor Award to highlight those who have made a significant positive impact on the built environment. This year’s recipient is Forest City Enterprises, in recognition of the firm’s long history of investment in America’s cities, dedication to sensitive planning and sustainable development, and vital role in creating affordable housing and successful public/private partnerships. Always a highlight in the life of the Museum, this black-tie celebration attracts nearly 1,000 cultural, corporate, and political leaders. The event raises funds to support the Museum’s exhibitions and education programs. Advance registration required. For more information, or to purchase tables and individual tickets, visit and click “support.”

Thursday, June 2, 7:30-9:30 p.m. CityVision outreach program: young designers envision the future for historic Alexander Crummell School. DC public school students participating in the Museum’s CityVision program from MacFarland Middle School, Paul Public Charter School, and R.H. Terrell Junior High School will present their ideas for restoring and adaptively reusing the historically significant and currently abandoned Alexander Crummell School erected in 1912 in the northeast Washington neighborhood Ivy City. CityVision teaches participants how to initiate and promote change in local communities through the processes and products of design. Free. Registration required. Refreshments will be served. RSVP by Wednesday, June 1, to Julian Looney at 272-2448, ext. 3301, or E-mail


DC Public Library Events, June 1-2
Debra Truhart,

Wednesday, June 1, Monday, June 6, and Tuesday, June 7. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW. Wednesday, 12:00 p.m.; Monday and Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. Learn about the features of the Telephone Relay Service and how it helps people who are deaf, hard of hearing and speech disabled to communicate with hearing people. Public contact: 393-1100 x 16.

Thursday, June 2, 10:30 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Summer Quest 2005 — Wild About Reading! Kick Off. DC Public Library kicks off its annual summer reading program for children up to twelve years old. The Friends of the National Zoo, a special library partner, will provide a special exhibit gallery of animal photos and prints, skulls, pelts and other objects from the wild. Local storyteller Janice Curtis Greene will bring the Newberry award-winning book, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, to life for fourth graders from DC Public Schools. Children will receive their own personal copy of the book donated by the Junior League of Washington. Public contact: 727-4804.

Thursday, June 2, 12:00 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Brown Bag Concert Series. Cellist Vassily Popov and Pianist Ralitza Patcheva perform music by Khatchaturian, Prokofiev and Szymanowski. Public contact: 727-1285.

Thursday, June 2, 2:30 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Let’s Talk About Books. A group discussion of King Lear, a play by Shakespeare. Public contact: 727-1281.



Auto Body Shop
Dennis Jaffe,

In response to the request for an affordable, quality auto body shop (themail, May 25), I highly recommend Precision Automotive Services. Tell Max that Dennis sent you. My poor car’s been hit so many times, the guy who washes the car on your way out now says to me, “see ya soon.” My car is available to be seen for those interested. They’re located at 818 Michigan Avenue, NE, immediately next to the Brookland/Catholic University Metrorail station on the Red Line. Their phone number is 832-7600, ext. 5.


Body Shop
Lorie Leavy,

Phil Greene asked about a good and inexpensive body shop. I’ve have good experiences over the years (perhaps more often than I’d like to!) with Tony’s Auto Body, 1818 Chapman Avenue, Rockville, 301-881-8670. Washington Checkbook gives them check marks for both price and quality, and they’re only a block from the Twinbrook Metro station.


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