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July 17, 2005


Dear Surveilled:

Mayor Williams and MPD Chief Ramsey were already entranced with the idea of installing surveillance cameras throughout the city, throughout the residential neighborhoods as well as in the federal sector, but they have never been enthusiastic supporters of, or even much concerned about, civil liberties. They don’t even recognize that there are any civil liberties involved in the government’s organized spying on the citizens in public spaces. Now they are using the London attack as an excuse to promote expanding the surveillance camera system — see these articles:,

There are good civil liberties and privacy arguments against public surveillance cameras, but the most powerful argument is the practical, pragmatic one — the cameras don’t work for the purposes for which Mayor Williams and Chief Ramsey are promoting them. As the London bombings showed, and as thousands of robberies of convenience stores over decades have proven, surveillance cameras are useless as tools of crime prevention or deterrence. They don’t do anything to assist the police to detect or stop crimes before they happen or while they are in progress. As I argued here on Sunday, it’s good intelligence that prevents crime — the Washington Post hasn’t installed any surveillance cameras on the streets, but its reporters knew the identities of the BORF graffitists long before the Metropolitan Police Department did (

Surveillance cameras may sometimes help provide clues to solve a crime or identify suspects after the crime is committed, but they should not be sold as increasing public safety and security. They don’t; they’re useless for that purpose, and it’s dishonest to sell them to the public on that basis. If providing post-crime clues is worth the cost in money, diversion of police personnel and resources, and loss of our liberties, then Williams and Ramsey should make that argument. But they should not falsely claim that their plans will increase our safety or security.

Gary Imhoff


Thank You, Matt Forman

I just read in the Northwest Current that the City is seriously considering equalizing the amount of property tax increase in the first triennial group so that we don’t overpay in perpetuity. The article credits Matt Forman with making this happen. As one of the few participants in the property tax hearings, I can attest to Matt’s diligence and dedication.

All you folks who sat back should really send Matt gifts of gratitude.


Ballpark Won’t Open Until 2009 or 2010
Ed Delaney,

The Washington Times reports that bidders for the Nationals team are assuming that the park won’t open until 2009, possibly 2010 ( “City officials insist the ballpark project is still on target for its March 2008 opening, with formal offers to landowners in the stadium site being sent out shortly. Quietly, many of the suitors feel differently and have prepared financial models assuming the 2008 season will be played at RFK Stadium, with some even thinking about part or all of 2009 without the new ballpark. The potential for problems with the stadium also form part of the reason why the bidders are forming and strengthening as many local political alliances as possible. ‘There’s just so much to do down there. There’s no way it’s done for Opening Day 2008,’ another Nationals bidder said. ‘You have land acquisition issues, environmental remediation issues, political issues, design issues. It’s going to be great when it’s done, but these projects are always so complex that it’s shortsighted to simply assume it will be done [in 2008].’”

What a shock; the biggest holdup is once again directly attributable to the horrendous site selection and the issues therein! So not only will the baseball brigade’s bullheaded insistence on the Anacostia waterfront site (for a stadium that won’t even be facing the waterfront, remember) result in the destruction of a number of existing businesses and residences against their will, and cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the RFK Stadium site would, it will also result in the delay of construction of the new ballpark. That would result in the delay by a year or possibly more of the critical revenue and economic development that a new ballpark is supposed to spur, which also means the extension of the team’s existence in what’s supposed to be the wholly inadequate RFK Stadium.

The universal anticipation of this delay as inevitable make it clear that the District has no alternative but to reject the Anacostia waterfront site on the grounds of cost and revenue as per the original agreement, since insisting on the site would apparently result in the loss of an entire year or more of promised revenue and economic activity spurred by the stadium, drastically altering the revenue outlook and payback schedule hoisted by the baseball boosters and putting a greater burden on existing DC businesses and citizens being taxed for an uncompleted ballpark. If the mayor’s office won’t take leadership on this issue to insure the existing site is rejected and a new one found (the RFK Stadium site being the only logical choice, especially in light of the anticipated gift of the entire RFK Stadium/DC General/Reservation 13 site to the city from the federal government), then the DC Council must as soon as possible in order to avoid letting the ballpark project become even more of a debacle than it already is.

Insisting on the increasingly unworkable Anacostia waterfront site would be for the potential of spurring a relatively small and unneeded entertainment district that we hear would resemble MCI Center’s rebirth as such, while ignoring the basic fact that MCI Center had the existing restaurant and office space making such a development inevitable — while this area has more true potential for low density mixed-use redevelopment complementing the existing redevelopment occurring nearby at the SE Federal Center site. However, the Anacostia waterfront site does not have the existing resources and downtown northwest location that the MCI Center had to capitalize upon. Instead, it has more similarities to the RFK Stadium site than to MCI Center or any of the sites for a stadium that were proposed closer to downtown (such as L‘Enfant Plaza and the Mount Vernon Square sites) and thus might have had a measure of justification for a higher development cost. The sooner this site is rejected, the better for all concerned.


BNA Gets a Walk
William M. Mazer,

After BNA, Inc., had gobbled up DC’s ten-year property tax deferral, they found to their horror that they would have to start paying an annual tax bill of $6.7 million in a few years. So after saving about $67 million in taxes during their stay here, and apparently finding that DC does not require a payback period to regain some of its largess, BNA scoots out of here. According to an article on this item in the Post a few days ago [], the District has provided an enormous loophole that the company’s moving vans can readily drive through, unless the reporters have not done their homework. Even the military requires a follow-up service period for the specialists it has trained at its own expense, for example, medical doctors. If newly-minted doctors opt out, they have to pay back the military’s expenses in training them.

The Post also reported that in their present DC location, DNA employees had to “scurry” from place to place for meetings, and “traipse” down a “well worn alley” between the company’s two main locations. This sounds like the Post’s reporters, as usual, only got one side of the story. Is the “scurrying” required because of some stench or extreme peril to which DNA employees are subjected on their way to meetings? As for the “well-worn” alleys, find me an alley in DC that is not “well-worn.” And so what? How is the condition of DC’s alleys related to BNA’s decision to move? This description sounds like a self-serving pejorative comment made by a BNA interviewee to a Washpost reporter, who decided it would make a good read.


Metro Bus Service
Anne McCormick,

Is it just me, or has there been a decline in the quality of Metro bus service? It seems lately that bus drivers are ruder than before, or, worse, they don’t seem to care at all. It’s getting dangerous to board a bus, and it’s getting more difficult to ride a bus. Someone will be seriously injured. Has anyone else noticed this? At least twice a month I am on a bus where a driver is talking into a headset, yacking it up on a cell phone call. (I take the 14th Street 52 and 54 buses). Yesterday morning, while trying to board a bus, the driver closed the door on my arm. I quickly jerked my arm back when I realized this, but, to make matters worse, he didn’t open it again; he was driving away. When I ran after the bus and knocked on the door he opened it, but his look of contempt, derision, and condescension was palpable. (Maybe it’s because I’m white, I don’t know.) I suppose it was possible he didn’t see me — there was a passenger in front of me putting in her fare — but, still, he could have taken two seconds to see if there was anyone else about to board. He could clearly see when he stopped that there were at least six people at the bus stop. This was an unnecessary, dangerous situation. He injured me and put me in additional peril because he didn’t care to do his job.

Additionally, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to stand on a bus while in motion. I hang on tight, though I still have to bend my knees and balance and anticipate the extreme motion. The hurry-up-and-stop-method has often pitched me around and has also careened other passengers and their belongings into me. The drivers seem to put the gas pedal to the medal and then apply the brakes with the same gusto. Yesterday’s driver did the same. A passenger even commented "He’s driving like a taxi cab driver."

I’ve been riding buses in the District for over twelve years and it seems to be getting worse. It’s getting increasingly unpleasant and dangerous to take the bus. As for Gary’s latest question about if we feel safe in the city, I’m not sure about safety overall (no, I do not feel “safe”), but I do know that attempting to board and ride a Metro bus is surely dangerous.


New Buses, Old Congestion
Ralph Blessing,

In the same vein as Mr. Haskett’s posting [themail, July 13], I’m puzzled why one of the new shuttle bus routes parallels the yellow/green line going up 7th Street. I work in southwest a couple blocks from 7th Street, but if I want to go to Chinatown, for instance, I’ll inevitably hop on Metro rather than wait for the shuttle.

Where a shuttle system would make the most sense to me is to connect target destinations with existing Metro stops. For instance, Dupont Circle to Georgetown, Foggy Bottom to Lincoln Memorial, L’Enfant Plaza or Smithsonian to the waterfront, Woodley Park to National Cathedral, etc. Other cities have been operating such systems for years. Why is it so difficult for DC to get it together?


Outsourcing and Savings
Harold Goldstein,

Outsourcing profitable and busy bus routes will always save money. Period. Recall, though, that the reason we have WMATA is that the private lines that preexisted it would drop lines that were not profitable. And so, if the various jurisdictions outsource likely routes, then WMATA will be more and more inefficient. Saving money on individual routes may actually result in increased losses in the future.


Traffic Camera Ticketing
Regina-Carmen Page,

On April 6, themail posted my account of submitting mail-in adjudication for a photo-radar citation, which I had believed was issued in error. The infraction was photographed on February 16, at the 100 block of Michigan Avenue, NE, one of several locations where new mounted cameras were being installed. Televised media reports and a Metropolitan Police Department web site press release advised the public that until March 21, citations from the newly installed cameras would generate only warnings. I had dismissed the citation as a warning, and later received a notice that the fine was doubled. On the day my message posted on this forum, I received a courteous E-mail from a Department of Motor Vehicles representative, who offered to ensure that my request was properly adjudicated. Several hours later, the same representative E-mailed me a second message to provide additional information, advising me that MPD was operating bi-directional photo-radar at the Michigan Avenue location, one of which was mobile radar that issued finable citations instead of warnings. Oops. This information was omitted from the public advisories, but later disclosed in an article published in the April 11 edition of the Washington Times and on televised news reports. The second E-mail also stated, “Tickets issued from the new fixed cameras between March 20th and April 20th are warning tickets.”

Last week, I received DMV’s response, (dated July 2), to my mail-in adjudication request, (dated March 23), which begins with their “Statement of Fact”: “Respondent denies asserting this ticket should have been issued as a warning according to media reports.” This “statement of fact” is not factual because I didn’t deny any such thing. My response included copies of the press releases posted at the MPD and WJLA web sites, and my statement, “According to widespread media reports, enforcement of violations photographed at this location did not go into effect until 21 March 2005, 32 days after the issue date. The publicized reports stated that only warning notices would be issued for violations prior to 21 March.” The fact is, complete and useful information was omitted from public disclosure, and acknowledged after citizens brought their questions to light on this forum, and in televised media reports.

I am not opposed to traffic calming measures, or my being accountable for violations. As a driver, it is my duty to operate a vehicle safely and responsibly. This includes hands-on steering of a vehicle while operating a cell phone — for which violators in DC are less likely to be cited. However, I am opposed to a public safety campaign which purports to serve the greater good, but irresponsibly disserves citizens with misinformation. In this instance, flawed publicized information created a false sense of relief for recipients of citations which were actual fines — fines that could conceivably double if dismissed as warnings.

[Regular readers of themail know better than to believe anything the DC government says, but MPD seems to have achieved a new height of mendacity and predatory treatment of DC drivers here. MPD advertised that only warning tickets would be issued at a particular street intersection during the introductory period for a new traffic camera, and then wheeled in a mobile traffic camera at that very intersection to issue finable tickets during that period. With deceptive tactics like this, can there be any doubt that the primary purpose of the cameras is to shake down motorists for money? — Gary Imhoff]


Yet Another Ticket Scam
Harold Foster, Petworth,

I was shocked recently to learn that the Metropolitan Police and DC Government do not have a deadline for sending you a ticket based on those radar- and camera-controlled surveillance devices. I just found this out the hard way recently, when I got a speeding ticket fifty-five days after the alleged violation was supposed to have occurred. I inquired about this delay in sending out this notice of Councilmembers Cropp, Catania, Fenty, and Mendelson, and of Anne Witt, the motor vehicles director. Only Fenty and Witt even bothered to respond to my inquiry. Witt finally got a Captain Burke of MPD to send me an E-mail that says, in relevant part, that MPD has an administrative cutoff of sixty days, after which they will not mail out surveillance-based tickets. Well. We don’t have sixty days to pay the ticket once we get it. Why would the DC Government — DMV, DDOT, DPW, or MPD — give itself twice as long to issue a ticket as we poor schlubs have to pay it?

I thought, erroneously, as it turns out, that Councilmember Catania had a commitment from then-public works director Leslie Hotaling that the DC Government would give itself thirty days to issue these surveillance-based speeding and red light tickets. If Hotaling, whom I worked with for several years in the original DC DOT and who was a fairly competent and able administrator, did, in fact, carry through on that commitment, it appears it was an administrative limitation and not something incorporated — as it should have been — in either District of Columbia law or, at a minimum, in the DC Municipal Regulations. So it apparently didn’t survive her tenure as public works director.

The Department of Public Works never responded to me, but my current information from Fenty’s office is that that was because the reconstituted DPW is now out of the traffic enforcement business. Actual surveillance is shared between MPD and DDOT; and ticket issuance, payment, and adjudication is the responsibility of the newly stand-alone DMV.) Speaking of Fenty, he was campaigning in our neighborhood a couple of weeks ago and I mentioned this gross inequity to him. He was, however, extremely distracted (said he had eight more stops to make that evening, three as councilmember and five as mayoral candidate) and agreed in “Oh, yeah, that’s a shame” fashion that “something will have to be done about that.” Something does have to be done about that. We need to start writing, phoning, faxing, and E-mailing all Councilmembers now — especially the candidates for reelection — and demand that either DC Government limit itself to thirty days to issue these radar- and camera-based traffic tickets, or motorists served with these infractions should have the same amount of time to either contest or pay these tickets as the DC Government takes to issue them. Sixty days, ninety days, a year. Whatever.

And the same thing ought to be pressed on Fenty, Orange, and all the other cast of thousands who want you and me to hire them as mayor and then let them shake us down every time we trip one of these speeding cameras by driving thirty miles an hour on a street that, although it was designed for forty-five mph traffic, is restricted to a dangerously inefficient twenty-five mph. After all, if it is sauce for the guy with the radar gun or camera, it ought to be sauce for you and me as we motor on by.


$300 Fines for No Proof of Insurance
Ben Slade,

[As Ed Barron warned in themail, July 13]: Just a heads up, make sure you have proof of insurance in your car. A friend got the following notice from his auto insurance company: “Effective July 16, 2005, District of Columbia police officers will begin issuing $300.00 fines for drivers who cannot provide proof of insurance when stopped. An individual pulled over by District police officers must be able to provide license, registration, and a current insurance card or a citation will be issued.”


Future of NY Avenue and Len Sullivan’s Post
Richard Layman,

At the recent presentation on the New York Avenue Corridor study, I was struck by Len Sullivan’s question about “where are the provisions for trucks” [themail, July 13] because it reflected a lack of understanding of the transportation modeling that goes on for every one of these projects. All such plans and studies use the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments software models. Granted, you might disagree with the output, but the software system used is the same for all the counties in the Washington region. Trucks are included in the model.

The other thing is that it makes little sense to generalize from the questions of the audience at the community presentation to what the study is about. By and large, the audience was concerned about “little picture” stuff, such as where should left turns (or not) be located on specific streets. The actual study goes far beyond that. By making plans to separate “through DC” traffic from intra-DC traffic, the plan actually adds capacity without “adding one more lane.” Whether or not the money can be garnered to put in a tunnel is another question, especially because “value engineering” to reduce the costs is likely to push for locating a tunnel entrance in a sub-optimal location rather than the ideal.

And frankly, I think the study does a good job of balancing local needs with the gateway aspects. Anyway, people can make up their own minds by looking it up themselves at,a,1247,q,560773.asp. PS: Another way to address congestion would be to work to get more trucks to deliver at night — Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, and Yes Organic Markets stock their stores after midnight.


Glad the Half-Hour Rule Rescinded
Star Lawrence,

I recently came back to DC and heard that lecture on the plane about how we could not stand up for the last half hour and, if we did, the plane would be rerouted. On that same flight, the doors had closed, then someone knocked; they opened them, and an older woman with two little kids came stumbling on dragging her luggage. The surprised-looking flight attendant asked for her boarding pass and she waved him off saying “they” had taken it. They seated her, but that same attendant turned to his associate and said, very softly, “What’s up with opening the door? And no pass? One of these days we are going to be soooo f--ked.” Things like this happen, but oh, no, we can’t stand up near Washington.


An Accurate Assessment
Tom Blagburn,

Gary: you are absolutely correct in your assessment of our inability to deter and effectively manage a terrorist attack or a natural disaster [themail, July 13]. Ask anyone today if they remember January 13, 1982. It was the date of the Air Florida catastrophe. An airliner plunged into the icy Potomac; we had a Metro subway train derailment and fires in two separate tunnels, and more than fifteen inches of snow coming down. The federal government called for a staggered personnel exodus, which everyone ignored! It took commuters, those who tried, more than eight hours to get from downtown to Greenbelt, Maryland. It was the worse situation I had ever witnessed.

But this city responded in the most efficient and coordinated way possible. In the aftermath, there were commendations given to police, fire, and medical personnel. Even the hotel industry assisted. Rooms were given out to anyone who wanted to stay in the city overnight at substantially reduced rates. Automobiles were left abandoned all over the city. Vehicles were not ticketed. The one major problem which I think has now been corrected was the inability of agencies to communicate because their radios were on different frequencies. I’m not saying that there haven’t been substantial improvements, but the key to protecting this city is broad-based inclusion of every citizen. Today that doesn’t exist.

I have attended many of the citywide meetings held with highly paid consultants, who didn’t know the difference or whereabouts of Martin L. King Avenue and Queens Chapel Road! And most never heard of January 13, 1982! Managers and policy makers continue to ignore the District’s most important and core resource: the residents of this city!



DC Public Library Events, July 19-20
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, July 19, 12:00 p.m., West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street, NW. West End Book Club. Book discussion group Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran by Roya Hakakian. Public contact: 724-8707.

Tuesday, July 19, 6:30 p.m., Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street, SE. Capitol Hill Book Club. Monthly book discussion will be about The Teammates by David Halberstam. Public contact: 698-3377.

Tuesday, July 19, 7:30 p.m., Palisades Neighborhood Library, 4901 V Street, NW. Palisades Book Club. The book to be discussed is Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach. Public contact: 282-3139.

Wednesday, July 20, 6:30 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Author Dr. Walter P. Kelley and Illustrator Dr. Tony L. McGregor will discuss their children’s books, Victory Week and Deaf Culture: A to Z. Both speakers are also the founders of BuTo Ltd. Company, a publishing company for children’s books on deaf culture. A sign language interpreter will be present. Public contact: 727-2145 (TTY or voice).


FairVote Celebrates Elbridge Gerry’s Birthday, July 20
Linnea Meyer,

On Wednesday, July 20, at 3:30 p.m., in Room HC-7 of the Capitol Building, FairVote will celebrate the birthday of Elbridge Gerry, the father of “gerrymandering.” Congressman John Tanner and John Anderson, 1980 Independent presidential candidate and FairVote board chairman, are holding a press conference, and supporters of Tanner’s Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act will speak about the need for fair, nonpartisan redistricting standards in America. And of course, birthday cake will be served! Free. Please contact for the required Capitol pass. For more info, visit


Architecture for Humanity, July 21
Brie Hensold,

Thursday, July 21, 8:00-9:30 p.m. Following last December’s tsunami in the Pacific Ocean, the nonprofit aid organization Architecture For Humanity (AFH) raised more than $500,000 in donations and pro bono services to help rebuild critical infrastructure and community buildings in the disaster region. AFH founder Cameron Sinclair will discuss his recent travels to the devastated areas and the organization’s response to global, social, and humanitarian crises through architecture and design. Over the past six years AFH and its members have helped develop transitional housing for returning refugees in Kosovo, worked with community groups and advocates in inner-city America, and assisted with mobile health facilities and youth sports facilities to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. $12 Museum members; $17 nonmembers; $5 students. Prepaid registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


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