How to Undermine Voting Rights
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
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.
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 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/04/AR2005060401327.html)
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
In the May 29 Outlook section (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/27/AR2005052701727.html),
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
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
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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 http://www.danpink.com.
You can also read a bunch of interesting reviews of this book on
Amazon.com. 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
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
One Additional Property Tax Relief Measure
Grier Mendel, email@example.com
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
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Home Buying Lecture, June 7
Debra Truhart, email@example.com
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, Bell@kspinc.com
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
Brie Hensold, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 http://www.nbm.org
beginning May 16.
City Administrator at Community Forum on Hill
East Waterfront, June 15
Lisa Alfred, email@example.com
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
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
Click on links for pictures, descriptions, and prices.
Old soda fountain bar stools, http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/fur/76136484.html.
Whimsical oil painting, http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/fur/77021401.html.
Storage cabinet, http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/fur/76310624.html.
Queen Anne style mahogany coffee table, http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/fur/76138168.html.
Rona Mendelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org
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).
CLASSIFIEDS — HELP WANTED
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.
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
Adams Morgan Day 2005
Corinna Moebius, Adams Morgan email@example.com
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 AMDay@ammainstreet.org.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please indicate which committee or committees you’re interested in
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
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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