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June 19, 2005

Goofing Off

Dear Escapists:

I would write something profound, but just as I finished the rest of themail, Silverado (written, directed, and produced by Lawrence Kasdan, starring Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, and Danny Glover) came on television. I haven’t seen it in years, and I’m not going to miss it tonight. Who says I don’t have my priorities in order?

Gary Imhoff


Why Can’t DC Get It Right?
Frank Zampatori,

In mid-May, the DC Department of Public Works took over the last of the private contracts for recyclable trash pickup. One of these contracts was in Ward 6, where recyclable trash pickup had not been a problem. Since this transfer occurred in mid-May, many neighborhoods in the Hilleast section of Ward 6 have gone without recyclable trash pickup in three of the last four weeks. Residents have called 727-1000, reported the problem, and collected confirmation numbers; complaints have been lodged with Sharon Ambrose’s office as well as with Jim Slattery in Schwartz’s office and William Easley in Public Works; and Public Works Director Bill Holland has been contacted four times by an Ambrose staff member. Still the recyclable trash remains overflowing in the alleys.

Mr. Holland did offer a variety of reasons for the continuing problem. Pick the reason you like: the drivers don’t know the route; not enough drivers; not enough trucks; supervisors don’t know the routes; supervisors don’t supervise; drivers are absent from work; etc. The excuses go on and the recyclables remain uncollected. It makes you wonder if anyone in DC Government is paying attention.


A Really Nice Job
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

If you haven’t seen the new construction atop the old Sears/Hechiniger’s Building in Tenleytown, you are in for a treat. The old Sears Building has never looked better and the condo apartments atop the building were very well designed and constructed. The complex is quite an attractive addition to the Tenleytown neighborhood. The condos are separated from the retail space by the rooftop parking lot above the Container Store and the Best Buy store. The entrance to the apartments is very tastefully done and is on Albemarle, just down from Wisconsin Avenue. Too bad the city has turned down the offer by developers to build a similar complex on top of a refurbished Public Library right across the street.


Breaking News
Dorothy Brizill,

WTU: The third week of the federal trial of Gwen Hemphill, James Baxter, and James Goosby in the Washington Teacher Union embezzlement gets underway tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 7 of the US District Courthouse (3rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW). Witnesses to date have included Ester Hankerson, the former general vice president of the union; and Edward J. McElroy, the current president of the American Federation of Teachers, the union that conducted the forensic audit in 2002 that uncovered the embezzlement of approximately $4 million in union funds from 1995-2002. Barbara Bullock, the former president of the WTU, who is already serving a nine-year sentence for her role in the theft of union funds, will be the principal witness for most of this week. The US governments’ 27-count indictment can be read at

Orange: As expected, Councilmember Vincent Orange formally announced his candidacy for mayor at a backyard father’s day garden party at his home in Northeast. Catering was provided by the Dream nightclub, and the guest list included slots proponents John Ray, Vickey Wilcher, Margaret Gentry, and Tina Ang; baseball stadium supporters such as Neil Alpert, chairman of the DC Baseball Association; and a large contingent of individuals who are already actively campaigning to succeed Orange in the Ward 5 Council seat that he is vacating: Harry Thomas, Jr., Frank Wilds, Rick Lee, Regina James, Ron Magnus, and Anthony Hood.


DC Voting Rights Amendment
Timothy Cooper,

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will consider an amendment to the draft resolution of the third Committee on Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Questions at its annual meeting in Washington, DC, July 1st-5th. Over three hundred parliamentarians from fifty-five countries will be in attendance. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will also be attending the opening plenary session on July 1st. The amendment is likely to be brought before the entire parliamentary assembly for a final vote on July 5th.

The existing draft resolution reads: “12. Urges participating States to organize their systems for the recording of civil status and census information so as to move towards an optimal degree of reliability, to guarantee the individual right of vote to all citizens; . . .” The proposed amendment is as follows: “. . . and calls on the Government of the United States to adopt such legislation as may be necessary to grant the residents of Washington, DC equal voting rights in their national legislature in accordance with its OSCE human dimension commitments.”


Higher Achievement Chosen for Award
Phil Shapiro,

Higher Achievement, a nonprofit organization giving intensive academic enrichment to middle school students at several sites in the city, has been chosen to receive the 2005 Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management. I have attended this organization’s annual graduation ceremony and visited some of its sites, and concur that these folks are doing many things right. Middle school years are formative. Higher Achievement is doing great things for students during those vital years. If you know someone wanting to get involved in tutoring or otherwise supporting an excellent nonprofit organization, do pass along info about Higher Achievement. Their web site, which includes a press release about this latest award, is at


Metro Maps and Notes
Paul K. Williams,

I had a need to ride the Red Line last night from Van Ness to Gallery Place, and was glad to see a train coming in when I reached the station at about 10:30 p.m. However, the train was so crowded I barely was able to squeeze in! It was worse than a rush hour train. At my transfer, it was a sixteen-minute wait for a Green Line train north. Why the Yellow Line ends at the Convention Center is beyond me; it always confuses tourists and residents alike. Metro either needs longer trains or more frequent trains after prime hours.

And while I’m ranting, has anyone noticed how horribly out of date the local Metro maps are? The U Street station maps have schools, but don’t include the current Garrison Elementary School at 12th and S, which was built in the 1970s; in fact, it still shows the 1700 block of 12th Street that once cut through the square. There are many more amusing gaffs once you start studying the map; churches gone or renamed, health clinics long gone, etc. I make a note not to trust Metro maps when I’m studying them in an unfamiliar station, hoping to walk somewhere close. Chances are the road or building on the map is no longer there.


Booz Allen Hamilton and Metro
Bryce A. Suderow,

One of the things that struck me about the first Post article on Metro was that Booz Allen Hamilton was directly responsible for some of Metrorail’s problems ( These are the same clowns that got billions of dollars from the city for their studies of the MPD, most of which were plagiarized from studies already written by other companies.

Here’s the excerpt from the Post article: “Booz Allen Hamilton, the consultant hired by Metro to ensure quality in manufacturing, was conducting only ‘loosely structured inspections’ of the cars without adequately documenting the cause of problems and the steps being taken to prevent them from recurring, auditors said. Metro’s oversight of the program had suffered a ‘breakdown’ that needed to be quickly addressed, they concluded. ‘Time is of the essence,’ auditors warned. Despite the warnings, problems persisted. One of the first rebuilt Breda cars caught fire during a 2003 test run because of an electrical wiring problem, records show. In May 2004, Metro’s auditors found that the cars that had been returned to service were hobbled by poor propulsion, badly installed door hardware and water leaks from evaporator assemblies. Two months later, auditors once again targeted Booz Allen, saying that the ways it monitored production and inspected completed cars ‘clearly require improvement.’ Metro has paid Booz Allen more than $13.1 million for its work on the Breda contract, according to agency officials.”


Nanny Laws and Smoking
Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

I just wanted to respond to your comments [themail, June 15] regarding “nanny laws” as they apply to the current efforts to limit smoking. As someone who seen the ravages of smoking first hand when my father, a longtime smoker who was hooked as a soldier in World War II, suffered from three smoking related illnesses — bladder cancer, a stoke (which robbed him of most of his eyesight and his higher intellectual functions), and pancreatic cancer (which finally and very painfully killed him) — and is watching several close friends dying from smoking related illnesses, it is not an academic subject. There has been much discussion of the effects of secondhand smoke and its effect on those around smokers, but what I have not seen discussed much is the financial consequences of smoking generated illnesses on all of us, especially all of us taxpayers. The public pays for the treatment of a huge percentage of the chronic and ultimately life-threatening illnesses caused by smoking, whether through Medicare and Medicaid costs or through increases in health care prices and insurance costs needed to cover uncompensated care costs for those unable to pay for health coverage. Everyone should be aware that rising health care expenses are one of the major expenses eating up government budgets, whether at the local, state, or federal level. A significant portion of these expenses are ultimately due to illnesses caused by or related to smoking, many of which could have been prevented. Smoking has major societal and governmental costs and diverts scarce resources from many other areas which we need to adequately fund. Tobacco is one of the most addictive substances known and has little redeeming value, other than as profit generator for a few large corporations; so, given its now demonstrated individual and societal costs, it is a ripe subject for government regulation.


The Law to End All Laws
Richard Wolf,

Good idea, Gary, but a little overblown. Last night I learned that in the 1870s there was a DC law to stop children from walking on walls in the “public parking” — most of our front yards in DC. Kind of foolish, and, oh, those Michigan laws against public swearing. Then, again, there are those laws regulating hours of work called the Lochner cases from NY which in the early 1900s tried to attack the evils of child labor — which our latest Judge on the DC Circuit, Judge Brown, called bad law because they violate freedom of contract. Of course, banning smoking in public spaces has nothing to do with imposing “values” but has everything to do with one of the worst public health problems in America — smoking and second hand smoke. Of course, if you are like my wife and have such significant asthma that a smoking allowed restaurant is a public health hazard, then more than half of DC’ restaurants are off-limits to her — and these are places of public accommodation. During my sojourn in DC I have seen restrictive actions by restaurants fall — racial discrimination, access to the handicapped, denial of accommodation to gays, etc. Gary, some laws restricting behavior are ridiculous and some are necessary. It’s a complicated world.


Nanny Laws and Seat Belts
Ernesto Gluecksmann,

There’s one law that doesn’t belong with your “follies” list, seat belt laws. The reason they’re vital to your own interests is if by chance you were to be involved in a car accident, you want the driver of the other car to be in control of his/her car as much as possible through the process of the accident. By wearing their seat belts, they will be far better likely to stay seated with their hands on the wheels and their feet positioned correctly on the brakes.

As a volunteer firefighter for over seven years, I have seen my share of accidents. The problem with unbelted drivers is that their accidents tend to be worse. It’s not just that the risk of ejection is greater for the drivers (it certainly is, especially SUVs that tend to have larger driver side windows), but they tend to also involve more cars, cause more damage, and increase the risk of pedestrian involvement. I have been called to accidents where unbelted drivers, after the first initial impact, where shifted off their seats enough that while they thought they were pressing the brakes, they actually were hitting accelerator. The forces of car accidents are incredible and simply put, unseat belted drivers increase the risk not just for themselves, but for all of us on the roads as well.


Seat Belt Laws
Erik Gaull, egaull at starpower dot net

Mike Livingston and Gabe Goldberg make some excellent points about seat belt laws [themail, June 15].

All of the discussions against seat belt laws (and by extension, motorcycle helmet laws, etc.) presuppose a "right" to drive. No such right exists. Driving is a privilege granted by the state. Therefore, laws affecting driving do not, by definition, affect people’s rights. The seat belt law and laws like them make sense for all of the reasons Mike and Gabe give.


Subsuming the Whitehurst Freeway’s Ugly Past Within Georgetown’s Bright Urban Future
Len Sullivan,

Loosely interpreting the (few) attaboy comments NARPAC received concerning fixing, not nixing, the Whitehurst Freeway, our staff of artists and architects has exercised their mandate and designed a double-decked urban intermodal transportation center topped by a multilevel, multipurpose park. With something for everyone, it tries to offer innovative, future-looking solutions that eliminate the worst of yesterday’s mistakes, but without denying progress towards tomorrow’s inescapable needs for higher density urban living. Take a look at this update to our Whitehurst Freeway commentary at and then ask yourselves: isn’t this what the national capital city’s various planning groups (and ever-present consultants) should be doing with federal funding instead of pondering how far back to regress the city’s marginal transportation infrastructure? Shouldn’t DC’s professionals be well ahead of these frivolous freebies from geriactivists? Perhaps when Senators Hutchison and Brownback finish fixing DC’s gun laws and wasted school properties, they should take on our capital city’s transportation planning!


Parking Ticket Put-On
Andrew Lightman,

Have you received notices for parking tickets that can’t be yours? On a day you and your car were out of town? Supposedly issued on a block that doesn’t exist? The Hill Rag uncovers more than just the usual DPW nonsense — a rogue parking attendant has been prowling the Hill. To get the whole story, visit



New Orleans Cocktail Seminar
Phil Greene,

Join me on Tuesday, June 21 at the Crystal City/Arlington Ruth’s Chris Steak House for a spirited seminar on the history of several classic New Orleans cocktails (Ramos Gin Fizz, French 75, Hurricane, Sazerac and Mint Julep). The cost is $35, which includes four drink samples, delicious appetizers, and a goody bag that includes a cocktail music CD, and a cocktail shaker and/or a bar spoon. I’ll also tell you about our new museum in New Orleans. For more information and to register, please go to The June 7 event at the Bethesda Ruth’s Chris was sold out, so register now! Laissez les bons temps rouler!


DC Public Library Events, June 21
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, June 21, 12:00 p.m., West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street, NW. West End Book Club, book discussion group. Call for title. Public contact: 724-8707.

June 21-30, Books Plus, Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Books Plus, The Library Store, is presenting its summer sale of 20 percent off all greeting cards, note cards, new books, postcards, posters and gift items. Proceeds from the sale support the DC Public Library. Public contact: 727-0321.


Wagner at the Library, June 22
Justin R. Swain,

The Washington National Wagner Society,, presents Paul Heise’s “How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried’s: The Influence of ‘Lohengrin’ on ‘The Ring of the Nibelung’” at the West End Neighborhood Library, 24th and L Streets, NW, on Wednesday, June 22, 6:30-8:45 p.m. For more information, visit WNWS’ interim web site at


Jewish Washington at the National Building Museum, June 23
Brie Hensold,

Thursday, June 23, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Member preview day: Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community. National Building Museum members and their guests are invited to attend a private viewing of the museum’s latest exhibition before its public opening. To inquire about Museum membership, call 202.272.2448 or E-mail At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.



Restore the Big Chair
Sharon Wise,

In late fall 2005 community activists, leaders, family members, friends, and all others will come out and assist in restoring the “Big Chair” on Martin Luther King Avenue, SE. The chair is owned by Curtis Properties, and they are teaming up with community leaders to make the chair look new and beautiful For more information, call Sharon Wise, organizer, 492-4229.



Studio for Rent
Linda Clausen,

Chevy Chase DC, Charming semi-furnished large studio plus, with private kitchen and private bath. Share washer/dryer, utilities included, near park and plenty of parking. No smoking. $875. Contact


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