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June 5, 2005

How to Undermine Voting Rights

Dear Voters:

In the 2002 mayoral election, DC voting rights advocate Joe Grano cornered Mayor Anthony Williams in a radio interview and got him to make a campaign pledge to raise a million dollars of private funds to support the cause of DC voting rights. In the intervening years, though Grano and Nelson Rimensnyder have attended mayoral press conferences periodically to ask him about it, Williams has done nothing to redeem that pledge.

Now he has done something, though not exactly what he had promised. Instead of raising private funds, Williams has included as the last item (pages 169 and 170 of a 170-page bill) of the Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Act of 2006, Bill 16-200, a provision for a million dollars of local tax funds to be spent "to promote educational and informational activities to apprise the general public of the lack of voting rights in the United States Congress for District of Columbia residents." Now, of course, Congress has forbidden the District from spending public funds to lobby for voting rights, but the bill tries to evade that prohibition by specifying that the educational and informational activities about voting rights shall not be considered lobbying in favor of voting rights.

Even better, the budget bill doesn’t stop at thumbing DC’s collective nose to Congress with this forbidden expenditure of public funds. It further undermines confidence, in light of the Executive Office of the Mayor’s recent and continuing problems with following legal contracting procedures, by specifying that the EOM can either expend the million dollars itself or award it in one or more noncompetitive, sole-source grants. The city council votes on the budget bill Tuesday. The fun begins soon after.

Gary Imhoff


The Mayor’s Race
Dorothy Brizill,

Last Wednesday, Adrian Fenty formally announced his candidacy for mayor, thus launching a fifteen-month run-up to the September 2006 primary election. Fenty’s announcement focused renewed attention and speculation as to other potential candidates. Lisa Montgomery’s article in today’s Washington Post ( is an excellent snapshot of the current field. In recent months, four individuals (Fenty, Vincent Orange, A. Scott Bolden, and Michael Brown) have established exploratory committees and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their mayoral campaigns. Meanwhile, Jack Evans has said that he is a candidate, although he has not established either a campaign or exploratory committee, and Linda Cropp has announced that she will run either for mayor or for reelection as council chairman. City Administrator Robert Bobb, former US Attorney Eric Holder, and former Verizon executive Marie Johns have been mentioned as considering running; and David Catania remains a potential independent candidate in the general election. But the center of speculation remains whether Mayor Williams will run for a third term.

Several factors will determine the mayor’s decision. Does he still have a real interest in doing the job, or is he exhausted from or bored with it? He delegates running the city to others, especially to the City Administrator, while he concentrates on raising his national and international profile through his work with multicity organizations and his travel, such as his trips this week to China and next month to Honolulu. The only local issue that animated and engaged Williams in the past year was his “negotiations” with the barons of Major League Baseball. Williams also has to consider that his reputation and political legacy rest largely on his having held office during years of good economic growth for the city, and whether he wants to risk that prosperity and high tax returns will continue through a third term. He will also have to weigh whether his reputation would be bruised by engaging in what could be a really competitive reelection race, and whether it could be protected by not being a candidate — and thus not an issue — in the race. In that race, opponents would highlight his closing of DC’s only public hospital, his disengagement from school issues after promising that the school board realignment would make him accountable for schools, his neglect of neighborhoods, and his costly giveaway to Major League Baseball. Williams would attempt to present each of these issues as a positive for him; he would claim that health care is improved, schools are better funded (if not better), his attention is now turned to neighborhoods (with new programs like Great Streets and New Communities), and he did what was necessary to bring baseball back to Washington. But with strong candidates in the primary and general elections, 2006 could turn out to be a very difficult year in which to make that case.

There are also personal issues for Williams. He is in his fifties, and tired of earning a government salary when he believes he could be paid much more in private industry. He still speaks, when asked about why he hasn’t bought a house in DC, about having to get his “financial house in order.” And while he remains mayor, he can’t directly solicit a job or business opportunities from the many contacts that he has made. His wife continues to press him not to run for reelection — as she did both in 1998 and 2002 — but concerns about her health are even more prominent now.

Other political considerations could also intrude. Jury selection in the trial of Williams’ 2002 campaign cochairman, Gwen Hemphill, begins on Monday, and it is an open question of whether Hemphill’s defense on the charge of embezzlement from the Washington Teachers Union will fully expose a money trail from the WTU to the Williams campaign or other administration wrongdoing. Will Williams’s personal pique at possible successors, particularly Fenty, Brown, and Bolden, impel him into running? And will the continued erosion of Williams’s base among politically active citizens compel him to run another mayoral campaign virtually devoid of volunteers, and reliant upon government workers who understand that volunteering for the campaign is a condition of their continued employment? Whatever happens, 2006, and even the rest of 2005, is shaping up as a much more interesting political season than 2002 was.


Public School Financing 101
Ed Dixon,

Every year the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) releases a "per pupil expenditure" ranking for the fifty states and DC. The information is meant to guide policy makers in decision making and overtime has become a means to question public school expenditures. Every year, these rankings and their dollar equivalents, usually based on data a few years old, come up in budget debate across the country. The "per pupil expenditure" is the average across a state (i.e., multiple districts) in most cases.

A rare case in which that is not the case is DC. DC has traditionally been considered a single district up until the advent of charter schools. District by district variations in most states dissipate in the production of an average. For that reason alone, the DC school district is almost always the highest on the list. This high ranking should be expected for a couple of reasons: the fact that large cities in the eastern United States usually have higher costs than other areas of the country and the fact that large cities generally come with high concentrations of poverty. Though DC is the highest, it is not by much. The per pupil expenditures are averages across rural, suburban, and urban districts in many states.

Some districts are spending more than DC and some less. If one mines the data at NCES, they will find hundreds of districts that spend more per student than DC. For example, in New Jersey, where the state spends $1000 less per student than DC, the city of Newark spends more per pupil than DC. Don’t forget, individual students may get more or less than the average in any state or district. In DC, the amount spent on those sitting in a DCPS schoolroom and those in a DCPS-paid-for private school classroom are considerably different. Ranking aside, people complain about money spent on others’ children. For example, Arizona ranks at the bottom of the list. But that doesn’t stop folks in Arizona (e.g. Goldwater Institute) complain about how much is being spent on public schools.


Big Box or Boutique
Victoria McKernan,

In the May 29 Outlook section (, Kate Lehrer wrote about her love for both big-box stores and boutiques and lamented, “Can’t we have it all?” I’d like to throw the question out there in a different way, to people who might really know; architects, retail professionals, urban planners (is there any such thing anymore). Why can’t we have it all? Why is creativity and vision so apparently absent in revitalizing this city? The new Target store planned for Columbia Heights will be built from the ground up. Why does it have to be the usual monstrous suburban big-box style? A big-box store kills any hope for a lively urban streetscape by presenting an endless monolith blank wall. Does anyone ever think to spend a pleasant Sunday afternoon strolling around the blank outside walls of White Flint Mall? No. They stroll in Dupont Circle or Georgetown, U Street or Adams Morgan, where an interesting variety of shops and cafes offer and eclectic urban experience.

Why can’t the Target Store be pushed back on the lot and space built along the street front for small shops and cafes? If Target needs more square footage, why not build two stories? I know that would be more expensive, but shouldn’t the idea be to build for fifty years? Why does no one seem to get the concept of high density development around Metro Stations?


Conflict of Interest
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at

I guess I’m just naïve, but it appears to be a conflict of interests when Pepco Energy Services offers the sale of a generator system for my house to provide electricity because Pepco, the utility, fails to reliably supply power. As noted before in this space, my house, with above ground lines, suffers about ten times the number of outages as my next-door neighbor, who has below the ground lines. What incentive does Pepco have to improve the reliability of my service, when they can make more money by selling a backup generator system? (Interestingly, the backup system runs on natural gas, which the gas company conveniently supplies using below ground lines.)


An Alien Invasion?
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Sometime last week I awoke to find a series of little red flags on wire stems in a line across the grassy median between the sidewalk and the Massachusetts Avenue curb in front of my house. A little further up Mass. Ave. there was a string of parallel red stripes. Even further up Mass. Ave. there was one home that had twenty or more of these little flags in a variety of colors with more parallel lines painted on their front lawn.

I’m certain that this is a precursor to an alien landing, probably by some sort of flying saucer. My Nigerian Papillon, Trudy, and I are staying alert these nights awaiting just such an invasion. I will immediately try to contact the DC Command Center and hope that the phone is connected and that the folks manning that facility are not all out to lunch.


DC Wine Importation Laws
Ken Katz, kskatz at toad dot net

As soon as the Supreme Court decided Granholm v. Heald, I wrote to Councilmember Catania’s office, and I thought I would pass on this most recent update from one of the Councilmember’s hardworking legislative counsels: "I’ve spoken to the staff of the Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee (which would handle any legislation related to this subject). They also > believe that, in light of last month’s Supreme Court decision, our law may be in violation of the Constitution. I will continue to press this matter and will update you when I learn more."


Seat Belt Spying
Wenzell Taylor,

Is the seat belt issue so important that we now need the Gestapo spying on citizens with infrared devices? This spying was reported on the local newscasts last Wednesday. It is an invasion of privacy. I’m quite sure that now, knowing what’s going on, terrorists won’t be caught with their pants down. But the government will sure make a mint from this, just like with the cameras.

How is it that the law was passed to force adults to wear seat belts? Can’t we all make that choice on our own?


DC Author Daniel Pink’s New Book, A Whole New Mind
Phil Shapiro,

I recently attended a spellbinding book talk at Cleveland Park Branch Library by DC author Daniel Pink. In this talk he covered many of the themes in his new book A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. After the talk, I knew I had to keep track of what Daniel Pink is thinking and doing. So I stopped by his web site a minute ago and came across some engaging material, including some of his recent articles for Wired magazine. If you like to keep track of the pulse of the modern day, stop by to visit

You can also read a bunch of interesting reviews of this book on DC Public Libraries has one copy of A Whole New Mind. (You’re welcome to read it after I’m done with it.) Thanks are owed to Barbara Conn in the Capital PC User Group for bringing Daniel Pink to the Cleveland Park Branch Library. Sometime the topic of this book ought to be revisited with a panel discussion at one of these meetings at the library.


Property Taxes
Ann Loikow,

I would like to comment on Ed Lazare’s posting regarding an “Amazing Amount of Property Tax Relief” (themail, June 1). I am amazed at his great optimism that these things shall come to pass, given the very tentative nature of the relief and the significant triggers required to be met before they mean anything at all. I think Matt Forman, in the May 15 edition of themail, had a better grasp of the matter. As Gary mentioned in his intro to the May 22 edition of themail, “(i)n government talk, a ‘cut’ is an increase that isn’t as big as expected. A budget cut is a budget that’s bigger than it was the previous year, but not as big as had been originally proposed. Tax bills are higher after a tax cut than they were before.” Right now, property tax bills will go up with assessments to a capped amount, for homeowners eligible for the homestead exemption, of 12 percent per year. If and when the real estate bubble collapses, assessment increases will slow down and maybe even decrease somewhat. It is likely that only then will homeowners see much property tax relief. In the meanwhile the city is betting its fiscal health on rapidly escalating assessments as it continues to shift the tax burden from income-based taxes to taxes on the potential unrealized “gains” on real property, particularly residential real property. Moderate and middle income homeowners will continue to be economically stressed and encouraged to move out of the city. Makes one wonder who gains from this scenario (developers waiting in the wings to buy up these properties and tear them down for new monster mansions?). Is this the policy District residents want to see implemented, or do they want to see the Council have the courage to closely examine our current tax structure and put the city on sounder footing and tax real income not unrealized gains? I should note that commercial property owners, unlike homeowners, own income producing property and thus have real income with which to pay their property taxes.


One Additional Property Tax Relief Measure
Grier Mendel,

In the June 1 themail, Ed Lazere shared a DC Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of the relief provided by three Council-adopted property tax bills. AARP DC wanted to make sure people were aware of one additional significant property tax measure, which is of particular concern to older District homeowners. The budget support act also includes a provision that will allow residents aged 65 and older with household incomes of less than $50,000 to defer payment of their property taxes until they sell or transfer their homes. The language for this provision was taken from the Senior Citizen Real Property Tax Deferral Act of 2005,, which was introduced by Councilmembers Jack Evans (D) and Carol Schwartz (R) in February.

This legislation will assist the District’s low-income senior homeowners without causing a permanent revenue loss to the District. The deferred taxes will ultimately be paid, with interest, when the property is transferred.


Jenefer Ellingston,

Sam Smith has a creative imagination which finds its best expression in his intellectually exciting and captivating writing style. Sam’s writing finds its way into the nooks and crannies of our public intellectually weak discourse . . . and disclose its hollowness. At same time, he is the first to admire and applaud a fellow citizen who rises to the occasion and speaks out. Consequently, it is easy to understand that he looks out on the terrain and, taking note, espies little or no creativity (parallel to his own). He becomes a voice crying in the wilderness. Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but it makes the point. (Gary, you are not included in this hollow shell.)


Preview of June Issues
Andrew Lightman,

Previews of the June issues of the Hill Rag, DC North and East of the River community newspapers, available today. Summer in the City — No need to swelter, ladies and gentlemen. From summertime playgrounds and Segway jaunts to rooftop cocktails and sultry Tango, CCN brings you the guide that will help you capture your share of the season. (In the Hill Rag, DC North and East of the River.) Heating Up H Street — Washington bar mogul Joe Englert has bet heavily on the long-suffering commercial corridor. As in seven bar-cum-restaurants in a three-block span. Which leaves neighbors wondering, “Are we doomed to go the way of Adams Morgan?” (In the Hill Rag and DC North.) Inspector “Aristotle” Solberg — The Hill’s new top cop learned the ropes ... studying religion? A tale of riverboats, Russian basketball and tall-ism, guaranteed to make you feel safer. (In the Hill Rag.)

Inside the Hill Rag: reports on the Ward 6 May ANC meetings, what does it take to get a stop sign at 16th and Mass., the People’s Church soon to be a People’s Nightclub?, a riverwalk trail update, and residents speak out about the Old Naval Hospital, parking tickets, and pre-MOTH moms.

Inside DC North: neighborhood news from Wards 1, 2, 4 and 5; behind the scenes on the Northeast Gateway Strategic Plan; Chevron gas spill update; Trinidad property owners unite against slumlords; and ANC5B commissioners Dream about VIP treatment.

Inside East of the River: neighborhood news from Wards 7 and 8; a catch-up interview with Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray; Rev. Willie F. Wilson’s Millions More charge; At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown spotlights domestic violence; residents speak out about last month’s anonymous letter, CSOSA development.



Home Buying Lecture, June 7
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, June 7, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Professor Lou Issacs will lecture on helpful techniques in buying a new home. Public contact: 727-1171.


Tom Davis on DC Voting Rights, June 10
Bell Clement,

I thought list members might be interested in joining the DC Affairs Section of the DC Bar for an informal roundtable discussion with Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia on District voting rights on Friday, June 10 from 12:30 to 1:30. This special meeting of the DC Affairs Steering Committee will be held at Hogan & Hartson at 555 13th Street, NW, in the Litigation Center, lower level (use the large circular stairway leading down from the building’s atrium). You need not be a member of the DC Affairs Committee or the DC Bar to attend. This is a brown bag lunch; beverages and cookies will be provided.

On May 3, Congressman Davis reintroduced the DC Fairness in Representation Act in the House of Representatives. The purpose of the Act is to give the District of Columbia a permanent, full voting Member of the US House of Representatives. It achieves this purpose by temporarily expanding the size of the US House of Representatives by two seats — to 437. One seat would go to the District. The other would go to the state next in line to get another seat according to the 2000 census — Utah. By giving one seat to a heavily Democratic jurisdiction (DC) and the other to a heavily Republican one (Utah), the Act is designed to allow the Congress to do the right thing and be completely neutral from a partisan viewpoint. After the next census in 2010, the size of the House would revert to 435, but the District’s seat would be permanent. This is the same approach Congress adopted when it expanded the House by two to admit Alaska and Hawaii into the Union, expecting one State to vote Democratic and the other Republican.

The Davis bill has cosponsors from both parties, as well as strong support from the District’s Mayor and Council and prominent national leaders (including Bob Dole and Jack Kemp). A hearing on the bill is expected later in the year, as well as the introduction of a counterpart bill in the Senate. Spread the word — come with questions.


Woodrow Wilson Bridge Construction Watch, June 11
Brie Hensold,

Saturday, June 11, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Construction watch tour of Woodrow Wilson Bridge: By River, By Land. When the Woodrow Wilson Bridge connecting Maryland and Virginia was completed in 1961, it was designed to handle 75,000 cars a day. Today, that volume has almost tripled, and the bridge has become one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country. An astonishing replacement bridge, designed by the Parsons Transportation Group, is taking shape adjacent to the old bridge, and is scheduled for completion in 2008. During a boat and land tour, Norine Walker, PE, project coordination manger, and Alex Lee, AICP, assistant project coordinator for Potomac Crossing Consultants, which is managing the $2.4 billion project, will discuss the bridge’s design and challenging construction. Open only to Museum members. $50, which includes a $25 nonrefundable charge. Space is limited. Prepaid registration required. To register, call the Museum or visit beginning May 16.


City Administrator at Community Forum on Hill East Waterfront, June 15
Lisa Alfred,

A community forum on public/private development on Reservation 13, will be held on June 15, at 6:30 p.m., at Payne Elementary School, C Street, SE, between 14th and 15th Streets. The forum will be sponsored by the Hill East Waterfront Action Network.

City Administrator, Robert Bobb, will address community questions on issues concerning the Hill East Waterfront — the 67 acres that comprise the former DC General Hospital and DC Jail. The Administrator will discuss what steps the city is taking to foster public/private development on the site. Additional concerns include the installation of a bio-terrorism lab, environmental issues concerning the Anacostia river, recreational facilities, and health care needs. All are welcome to attend.



Moving Sale
Rae Kelley,

Click on links for pictures, descriptions, and prices.
Old soda fountain bar stools,
Whimsical oil painting,
Storage cabinet,
Queen Anne style mahogany coffee table,


Household Items
Rona Mendelsohn,

Two light blue, extra-long twin quilted designer bedspreads, like new ($30 each). Also, a wooden Spanish-style chest, good for linens, tablecloths, etc., 40" long x 18" high x 24" wide ($50).



Web Page Designer
Bryce Suderow,

I need a web page designer. If any of you designs web sites for a living, please E-mail me and tell me your rates.



Adams Morgan Day 2005
Corinna Moebius, Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan MainStreet is seeking volunteers for this year’s Adams Morgan Day festival on September 11. We will need volunteers the day of the event and also to help with planning activities related to vendors, permits, entertainment, the Kid’s Stage, entertainment, sponsors, etc. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the festival director, Corinna Moebius, at


DC Vote
Zainab Akbar,

DC Vote is looking for voting rights advocates to serve on three different volunteer-driven committees. Whether you’re a DC voting rights veteran or relatively new to the issue, there is plenty for you to do. Building on the success of the Student Outreach Committee, we are looking for people to serve on the more general Outreach Committee and the Communications Committee. The committees will meet once a month for about an hour.

Those who are interested should send an E-mail to DC Vote Program Assistant Zainab Akbar at Please indicate which committee or committees you’re interested in joining.



Auto Body Shop
Harold Foster, Petworth,

The auto body shop I recommended in the previous themail (May 1) is Rainbow Auto Body, 1240 Upshur Street, NW, 722-5000.

For some reason, both the phone books and the Internet list only the 1445 Church Street, NW, address. The Upshur Street place seems to do a lot of commission work for insurance companies. (That is how I wound up there, unfortunately.) Anyway, I went by the place, and they’re still there and in business.


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