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July 20, 2005


Dear Dreamers:

I have a complaint about my own subconscious mind, which does a terrible job at wish fulfillment. Anything can happen in a dream, and any wish can be fulfilled, but my subconscious won’t cooperate. When I drift off to the Land of Nod, I am seldom — all right, never — greeted by a pack of tail-wagging terrier puppies licking my face. Even worse, I’m never welcomed by a pack of tail-wagging Filipina models. Instead, in my dreams I am preoccupied by Sisyphian tasks, repetitive and frustrating, never completed, and by endless travels in which I cover the same ground over and over and never reach my destination.

My dreams are just like life in Washington, and that’s no way to dream.

Apropos of Washington dreams, Stephen Pearlstein explained them all in an important column in the Post on Friday, When, over the next several years, you read repetitive bad-dream news articles that do nothing but repeat self-serving governmental press releases praising the latest public-private development projects, refer back to Pearlstein — as the reporters should do before they write these articles: “. . . I’m getting the sense that Mayor Williams and his team have gotten so hooked on high-profile, politically popular dealmaking that public subsidy has become a financing tool of first resort. The problem with these trophy projects isn’t only that they may divert money and attention from other pressing needs. It’s also that there is too much wishful thinking built into their pro formas and too much price escalation between the moment of conception and final delivery. It hardly inspires confidence that all these deals have been negotiated in secret, with the financial details withheld from the public. And it doesn’t help that each project has become a fresh opportunity for the mayor to pay back union supporters and placate neighborhood ‘activists’ with cumbersome rules on hiring and contracting.”

Gary Imhoff


Fenty’s Financing Act
Zoe Yerkes, zsyerkes-at-gmail-dott-com

Adrian Fenty’s burning desire to sponsor a piece of significant legislation during his less-than-impressive tenure as a lawmaker has produced one gem of a bamboozle.

“The proposal, the School Modernization Financing Act, is an irresponsible piece of legislation that threatens the District’s standing on Wall Street,” posits the Washington Times in a recent editorial ( For someone said to be glued to his Blackberry, Fenty is surprisingly unfamiliar with the calculator function.

Inane initiatives spearheaded by a lone councilmember are limited in their ability to wreak havoc on the well-being of the District and its taxpaying residents. However, a mayor with ham-fisted ideas could quickly upend the financial stability of DC. Markets are valued as much on confidence as they are performance. If Fenty grabs the reins, DC’s bond rating will come under intense scrutiny. One gaffe like the School Modernization Financing Act and our ability to finance government operations and future projects will be in jeopardy and come at a greater cost. Over the course of four years’ time, buyer’s remorse can amount to more than just a bummer.


Ralph Nader Letter to Mayor Williams on the Baseball Stadium
Shawn McCarthy,

[Excerpts from a letter by Ralph Nader to Mayor Anthony Williams; the letter in whole is available at] “On Sunday, June 26, the Washington Post featured the Eastern Senior High School baseball team in a moving story that, once again, demonstrated your penchant for peculiar priorities. While assembling the Eastern players for a political photo op at RFK Stadium in March, you promised to attend their first game. A nice gesture, indeed, and one that would have meant so much to these youngsters. But as the Post’s David Nakamura reported, not only did you fail to show for Eastern’s first game, but you never even bothered to attend any of their games. How quickly they were forgotten. You do attend often, however, the Nationals games, in part, to show your commitment to the half-billion-dollar stadium giveaway to Major League Baseball. . . .

“Mr. Mayor, answering to Major League Baseball, you launched this stadium boondoggle on the District assuming residents could not distinguish between supporting Baseball, and paying for commercial Baseball’s extravagant demands. You were mistaken. You thought residents would believe the fiction that public money spent on a stadium is money that could not be used for public needs, and that a new stadium would provide major economic benefits for the city. Wrong again. Such behavior, mixed with the purposely low cost estimates for land acquisition, infrastructure and environmental cleanup for the stadium site, and the recent city auditor’s report detailing contract cronyism within your administration, is leading residents to wonder what exactly is happening behind those closed doors as the stadium scam deepens. . . .

“Forgive residents if they are skeptical that the homeowners, property owners and businesses at the proposed stadium site will be treated fairly as you seek to drive them out through eminent domain. Likewise, it is doubtful that an honest and thorough environmental examination will be conducted on the old industrial waterfront setting that may require extensive remediation, but stands in the way of staying within cost estimates and Major League Baseball’s timeline. From the beginning, you have been much less than forthright during your stadium push. And your broken promise to the Eastern Senior High School baseball team is what District residents have come to expect from their preoccupied, stadium-obsessed leader. A public apology to those players and other District residents is in order, and openness and candor are overdue, before corporate scandals and conflicts of interest spill forth publicly. . . . Baseball owners can invest their own money in a new stadium if they still feel RFK isn’t good enough. Let capitalists behave like capitalists.”


Ambrose Recall Campaign Falls Short of Required Signatures
Mary C. Williams,

The Committee to Recall Ward 6 Council member Sharon Ambrose ended its grassroots campaign today after failing to gather the 4,618 voter signatures needed to hold a special election. The committee collected only 3,430 valid signatures during a six-month campaign that ended today. I’m terribly disappointed that we failed to reach our goal of 5,000 valid signatures by this deadline, but I am confidant that the many supporters of this effort will remain vigilant in working to ensure that our Council member makes every attempt to represent the majority of residents and vote in our best interests. The recall petition drive may have ended but the fight to restore and preserve livable neighborhoods here in Ward 6 continues.

We launched the recall petition drive on January 24, after Ambrose voted to support public financing of a new baseball stadium in Southeast DC, and had refused repeated invitations to meet with the ANC and the Southwest community to discuss the proposal. The committee of neighborhood activists undertook this effort as a matter of principle. We were frustrated. Our councilmember continued to ignore us and then voted several times against the wishes of the majority on important issues. We felt totally disenfranchised. The recall campaign was hampered in its first four months by inclement weather, minimal funding, and a shortage of volunteer signature gatherers who could devote time to the door-to-door outreach. There is still a lot of enthusiasm for this effort. We just ran out of time. In the last few months, we needed money to buy advertisement and provide additional manpower to keep the momentum going as we did earlier. We certainly would have gotten more than 5,000 valid signatures if we had the finances to sustain the project.

The recall exercise has had a positive effect on Ward 6 voter morale, empowering many people to speak out. A majority of residents who eagerly signed the petition complained of Ambrose’s failure to respond to their requests for help on quality of life issues. They pointed to her lack of attendance at community meetings over the last two years, adding that Ambrose seemed to promote huge commercial and luxury condominium developments over livable and affordable neighborhoods. Even Ambrose supporters noted that she has become more visible in the community since the recall began, attending community meetings at least twice each month. Signature gatherers encountered fewer than fifty people throughout the Ward who declined to sign the recall petition because they supported Ambrose. Most explained that they did not believe that the recall was necessary because Ambrose was seriously ill and had only a year left in her term. Still others said that Ambrose was not likely to seek reelection next year. A few said they liked what she was doing in the community regarding charter schools and supported the construction of a new baseball stadium. We plan to continue our monitoring of Mrs. Ambrose’s actions, as well as those of our at-large city council members. We won’t go quietly into the night.


New AU Art Center
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

The new AU Katzen Art Center has opened, and it is a major addition to AU’s academic facilities. After a couple of years of bickering with the neighbors about what could be built on the site on Massachusetts Avenue adjacent to Ward Circle, a three-story modern building has been built to house creative and performing arts. There’s also an art gallery in the round portion of the long, low, three-story building of more than 300,000 square feet closest to Ward Circle.

With ample parking on three levels below the building, it is worth a visit just to see the landscaping along Mass Ave. Access is free and the building is open to visitors in the afternoons on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Traditionalists and those who decry any changes in DC will not like this modern building or the modern art collection in the gallery. But AU has made a very positive addition to the AU Park and Spring Valley neighborhood.


DC’s Slick Willie
Ralph Blessing,

The Post has published two articles to date about the Rev. Willie Wilson’s idiotic comments about lesbianism, yet in neither one is there any reference to his quasi-racist activities a few years ago to drive Korean corner stores from neighborhoods east of the Anacostia. Without that background to put his utterances in better context, they comes across as simply a lapse in judgment by an otherwise upstanding community stalwart. Sounds like some Post reporters were asleep during Journalism 101.


Stemming the Tide of Crime and Violence through Education Reform
A. Scott Bolden,

Dorothy Brizill is to be commended for her leadership and the balance she provided in the discussion on WRC’s TV Viewpoint (Sunday, July 10).She was most timely in calling for enactment of a regional agreement to enable police officers to cross the border in pursuit of a criminal fleeing from the District of Columbia and vice versa. I agree with Dorothy that it is time to stop with all the excuses and put a law into effect with the support of the Maryland legislature and federal authorities that will hamper crime and restore a sense of tranquility to communities that envelop the District of Columbia/Maryland border.

Earlier this year, I attended a meeting at LaSalle Elementary School in Upper Northeast Washington, near the Eastern Avenue District border. Residents from Wards 4 and 5 (Lamond-Riggs and North Michigan Park communities) discussed crime in their communities, and the police from Prince George’s County were there also to comment on the crime that occurs just beyond the District line and which goes back and forth. Communities like nearby Woodridge and Ft. Lincoln are also touched by crime that straddles and crisscrosses the District line. Criminals know that all they need to do is cross the District line to escape the law. Other communities like Takoma Park and Shepherd Park in Ward 4 are also near the DC boundaries. Communities in Wards 7 and 8 face similar circumstances on a larger scale. They see criminals fleeing to Capital Heights and District Heights in the Maryland suburbs.

We all recognize that there are jurisdictional and liability issues that are associated with this type of initiative, but a way must be found without jeopardizing our civil liberties and state rights. The citizens in Wards 4, 5, 7, and 8 on the District of Columbia border with Maryland know all too well how criminals slip across the DC border to escape and/or to continue their carnage of crime and violence. We have to do all that we can to reduce crime with effective, reasonable measures. While we have to worry about terrorists abroad and their influence on America and the fear they produce in our urban centers, we also have to be especially concerned about stopping the daily scourge of crime in the nation’s capital.

Whether crime is said to be going down or not, one crime is too many. There is no comfort in hearing city leaders describe how the crime statistics are now much lower in the District than before when they hear constantly about victims of crime in their neighborhoods or family. Dead is dead and citing lower statistics provides no relief to those in families or communities being affected. Also, there is no satisfaction in hearing the overall statistics about crime going down when juvenile homicides are up 50% compared to last year.

We all know that we need to, in all cases, investigate and arrest criminals after the fact, but surely we must focus as much as possible on ridding our society of those ills that appear to contribute to the roots of crime. Indeed, only a certain percentage DC residents commit the majority of serious crimes in our fair city. This is not a liberal or conservative issue and preventing crime is much more appealing to citizens than reacting to it after one has become a victim.

Crime is often thought of as a symptom of underlying problems and conditions in society that might be able to be abated. We must take a comprehensive approach to tackling the root causes to truly stem the tide of crime and violence. And we must take a similar approach to public education as the two seem all too of ten to be correlated in many cases. Simply put, those that receive a quality education are more likely to choose a degree over drugs, gangs and violence.

And those that receive a quality education are more likely to compete for better jobs and can better provide for their families, rather than committing a crime. Of course, good parenting, responsibility, and values feed into this equation as well, but as a city we can collectively transform our public education system and make it a worthy crime deterrent. A great public school system would produce broader qualified workforce to obtain more of the 30,000 jobs created in the last six years for citizens in the nation’s capital that too frequently go to Marylanders and Virginians who are "believed and perceived" by District employers to be more qualified and have better public schools and job training programs.

While I am candidate for the DC Council-At Large position, I am also a former prosecutor and parent of children in DC public schools and I believe crime and safety and people feeling safe inside their homes and away from their homes are key issues that demand critical examination. We must do more than express a sense of urgency and rather, treat every life as precious and worthy and abandon the many excuses we hear from the police, our elected officials and even our communities. Change will only occur when we as individuals and as a community will no longer be afraid nor tolerate the culture that perpetuates crime -- inadequate education, limited job training opportunities, insufficient youth programs at recreation centers, and unclean and unsafe neighborhoods. Through individual responsibility, community empowerment -- we can do better — we can succeed.


Must Have Thrown a Shoe
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

On Monday, my mail included my May 30 copy of Aviation Week. It was a little beat up. Might have fallen out of the saddle bag of the four-legged US Postal Service delivery conveyance. Maybe the Pony Express horse threw a shoe. Is that manure I smell?


Feeling Safe from Vikings
Victoria McKernan, 

I do feel safe in DC, though the London bombings did prompt me to put fresh batteries in the little flashlight I always carry, launder the bandana that had gone a bit grungy in the bottom of my bag, and clean the sand from a recent beach camping trip out of my Swiss Army knife. With a flashlight, bandana, and good pocketknife, one can escape, bandage, or jimmy one's way out of pretty much any situation. I'm not making light of the tragedy, just being realistic. Something will happen here soon or later, and authorities who have demonstrated an inability to handle the most basic logistics of daily urban services can not be counted on to deal with it.

Even were they capable and organized, with a plan beyond simply turning roads one way and evacuating everyone out to gridlock the beltway, it is unrealistic to expect any government's emergency services to be able to handle all the needs of a major catastrophe. What really saved people in London was other people in London; people who stayed calm and pitched in and acted sensibly. What will save people in DC are other people in DC. People who have put together emergency kits in their homes and carry flashlights and bandanas in their purses. (I recommend PrincetonTec — weighs about one ounce, waterproof and great light. Get them at REI.)

So thus prepared, there was nothing else to do but go on living so that any day death arrives will find me with no regrets. At the moment, that meant going down the street to Saint Ex for a bowl of mussels, best in the city, perhaps the world. The waiter suggested the featured beer, a Danish brew called “Viking.” A strange and somehow perfect irony I thought, as I slurped my marvelous mollusks, for a few centuries ago, Vikings were the terrorists; now they're just Ikea and beer.


I Could Have Blown Up the Senate Office Buildings
Bryce A. Suderow,

The N22 bus leaves Union Station, and then travels south. At the foot of Constitution Avenue there’s a checkpoint. Usually one of the cops leaves a van and stick his head in the bus and asks, “Is everything all right?” Today he didn’t even do that. I expressed my surprise to the bus driver. He replied, “You saw the van? Sometimes they get out and sometimes they don’t.” We passed within 100 feet of the Senate Office Buildings, close enough to blow them to smithereens with a bus-bomb this afternoon.

In the library of Congress’s Madison Building, there’s a metal detector that doesn’t work very well. Every day I waltz through it with two AA batteries for my digital camera. I never set off the alarm. If I can bring in batteries, I can set off plastic explosives, which don’t register on the metal detector either. Thus I could easily have blown up the Library this afternoon. (Oddly enough, my batteries do set off alarms in the metal detectors for the Martin Luther King Library and the building on North Capitol that houses DC Tax and Revenue.)

My conclusion is that this show of security precautions is all smoke and mirrors and doesn’t deter anything.


Paul Dionne, news at paul dionne dot com

I don’t know, Gary, maybe we should consider using cameras to prevent crime. Let’s install some in the mayor’s office and see how it goes. If he can film us in our daily life, why shouldn’t we film him? And from reading posts here, it would appear that his office is a busy corner for crime.


Jim Holm, james_holm at msn dot com

While I don’t know if the bus service is getting any worse (it has never been very good) I agree with Anne McCormick’s assessment that WMATA does not seem to care about bus driver training or safe and efficient operation of the bus system. It seems that as WMATA managers get more and more flack for Metro management, and they’re paying less and less attention to the busses.

Why are the bus drivers constantly blabbing on their cell phones? Why do the busses bunch up with each other, then race each other to the next stop? Why do the drivers accelerate as fast as possible, then slam on the brakes at the next stop, knocking riders around like bowling pins? Why do drivers speed away when they see people running to catch them at the stop? Why on the 42 line (the one I ride almost daily) do drivers “switch” at Dupont Circle, halfway through the route and typically with a bus full of people?

There was recently an article in the Washington Post about a report on the bus system WMATA commissioned from other transit system managers. Wonder how much they paid for the advice and when they will implement any changes?


Metrobus Outsourcing — A Good Thing
Paul Michael Brown,

Harold Goldstein argues [themail, July 17]: “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.” I think this misses the point. Whether a given bus route loses money is a simple matter of fares minus expenses. WMATA’s expenses are very much higher than those of private sector transit providers, primarily because WMATA employs an expensive unionized work force. Private transit providers employ nonunion workers and thus have lower overhead. So they can profitably service even thinly traveled bus routes. This suggests that more outsourcing would actually improve District bus service.


Auto Erraticism
Mark Eckenwiler, themale at ingot dor org

In themail (July 13), Ed Barron advised readers to black out their addresses on the registration and insurance document in their car glove boxes. Here’s a better piece of advice: don’t keep these docs there in the first place.

Why not? If your vehicle is stolen and the perp gets pulled over before you report the car stolen, he stands a better chance of avoiding arrest if he can produce legit documents. I keep my papers next to my driver’s license (i.e., on my person), and my esteemed spouse has a duplicate registration I obtained quickly and for free at the DMV. (Technically, I think the listed cost is $5, but some clerks seem willing to ignore that fee.)

If you simply must store these papers in your car, I suggest putting them somewhere only you and yours know about, where a thief won’t think to look when pulled over.



DC Young Democrats General Body Meeting, July 26
Eric J. Jones,

On Tuesday, July 26, at 7:00 p.m., the District of Columbia Young Democrats (DCYD) will have its next general body meeting. This meeting will take place at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 123. During the meeting there will be an update on the upcoming national convention as well as endorsement votes for national officers. There will also be updates on our recent fundraiser and other upcoming DCYD events. This meeting is open to the public. To be a member of the District of Columbia Young Democrats, a person must be between the ages of 18-35, be a resident of the District of Columbia, and be a registered Democrat.


City Out of Wilderness, July 26
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, July 26, 12:00 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 307. Washingtoniana Centennial Film Festival. The Washingtoniana Division will feature the documentary, City Out of Wilderness: Washington. The film was produced by the United States Capitol Historical Society and utilizes historic prints, documents and daguerreotypes to tell a visual history of Washington, DC. This program is part of the Washingtoniana Division’s yearlong centennial celebration. Public contact: 727-1213.


Richard Neutra’s Miller House, July 26
Brie Hensold,

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30-8:00 p.m. In 1936 St. Louis socialite Grace Lewis Miller commissioned internationally acclaimed architect Richard Neutra to design a winter house in the burgeoning desert resort of Palm Springs, California. Stephen Leet, associate professor at Washington University, will first briefly discuss Neutra’s career and then trace the Miller House from conception to realization. He will also examine the complex relationship between the architect and client as detailed in their extensive and impassioned correspondence. After the lecture, he will sign copies of his book Richard Neutra’s Miller House (Princeton Architectural Press). $10 Members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


Dog Days of August Sidewalk Sale and Festival, August 6-7
Scott Pomeroy,

The MidCity Business Association will hold the sixth a Dog Days of August sidewalk sale and festival on 14th Street, U Street, P Street, NW, and in the surrounding community on August 6 from 10 a.m. To 7 p.m. And on August 7 from 11 a.m. To 7 p.m. Special events will occur outside normal business hours. The Dog Days festival is to showcase the unique, vibrant, exciting businesses and experiences available in the MidCity Business District by featuring shopping specials, sidewalk cafes, and cultural attractions.

Come to U Street, 14th Street, and P Street, NW, and the surrounding community for hot shopping bargains at over fifty businesses, relax with ice cool drinks and other specials at sidewalk cafes, and enjoy festive activities such as barbecues, a dog show and contest, gallery showings, and live music. You need to mark your calendars now!

The roots of the Dog Days Sidewalk Sale go back to 2001 when Home Rule and its neighbors in the 1800 block of 14th Street pooled their resources and started the event as a way to promote the area and the city during this traditionally slow business period. The event and the MidCity community have grown every year, both adding more businesses and activities, with over 75 businesses and organizations participating in 2005. In 2006, the sixth annual Dog Days sidewalk sale promises to be the most exciting ever. Come out and experience this wonderfully unique historic community and all the old and new exciting businesses it has to offer. To find out more details about this exciting event, visit The web site is currently being updated; an event calendar, with listings of activities, specials, hours, and locations will be posted to the site by Monday, July 25.


Cancer Help Program Residential Retreat, September 19-25
Greg Finch,

Smith Farm Center for the Healing Arts will hold a week-long residential retreat for adults living with cancer and their caregivers on September 19-25. An application is required; and scholarships are available. In a beautiful lodge near Sugarloaf Mountain, just beyond Washington, DC, participants learn to reduce fear and stress associated with cancer, examine personal beliefs and behaviors that do not contribute to well-being, and explore healthier ways of living. Modeled after the internationally recognized Commonweal Cancer Help Program featured in Bill Moyer’s PBS series  “Healing and the Mind,” CHP retreats are designed for adults and caregivers who are seeking physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing as they live with cancer.

The integrated schedule provides daily support sessions led by a psychotherapist — along with massage, yoga, meditation, deep relaxation, imagery work, creativity sessions, and a gourmet vegetarian diet. The retreats also provide facilitated discussions on making choices in complementary and conventional cancer therapies along with issues surrounding pain and suffering, and death and dying. These retreats have consistently provided many with deeply satisfying, transformational experiences along their journey.

To apply, call 483-8600, write, or visit



Photos of the Knees Apartments
Mara Cherkasky,

I’m looking for old photos of weddings or any other events held at the Knees apartment building on Sixteenth and Irving (it’s now called the Renaissance). Actually, a photo of any of the public areas of the building would be fine. I’m working on the Mount Pleasant Heritage Trail, and if someone out there can come up with something, I’d be very grateful.



Big Chair Restoration
Sharon Wise,

The restoration of the Big Chair East of the River in Anacostia is seeking volunteer carpenters, paint strippers, and funds for this historical restoration. If you can help or provide funds and space for the administration efforts, organizing, and planning meetings the community will be appreciative. Call Sharon Wise, Community Organizer on 492-4229 or Armetria Knight on 531-1187.


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