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 (http://www.nationalgarden.org)
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 (http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/toulouseinfo.shtm)
and of Gilbert Stuart portraits at the West Wing (http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/stuartinfo.shtm)
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 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/27/AR2005052700748.html)
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 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/25/AR2005052501987.html),
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.
Property Assessment and Tax Inequities
Ann Loikow, email@example.com
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
The Common Denominator had a recent editorial on this issue (http://www.thecommondenominator.com/051605_edit.html).
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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,” http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3678:
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
Ben Slade, email@example.com
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 http://democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/ONC/news.jsp?key=1362
Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Historic
Bruce Yarnall, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.
On http://planning.dc.gov, under
News Items select "Applications Now Being Accepted for Third Annual
Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation."
Readers of themail may be interested in a recent post on the web site
DCist.com about neighborhood E-mail groups in DC. The roughly twenty
lists mentioned include a brand new Glover Park group: http://www.dcist.com/archives/2005/05/25/whats_your_neighborhood_listserv.php.
[See also the list of E-mail neighborhood and community lists on
DCWatch’s links page, http://www.dcwatch.com/links.htm.
— 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.
Thanks for the article . . . much appreciated [Joel Kotkin, “Urban
Legends: Cities Aren’t Doing As Well as You Think,” http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w050523&s=kotkin052305,
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
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
[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!
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
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?
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.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Vote Happy Hour, June 1
Shawn Rolland, email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Building Museum Events, June 1-2
Brie Hensold, email@example.com
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 http://www.nbm.org
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
DC Public Library Events, June 1-2
Debra Truhart, email@example.com
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:
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
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.
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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