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July 31, 2005


Dear Penalizers:

On Friday, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics issued its decision in the penalty case for the violations of election law by the Citizens Committee for the DC Video Lottery Terminal Initiative: “The illegal activities compromised, and made a mockery of, the integrity of the electoral process that the Board is charged with protecting. Accordingly, a fine in the amount of $622,880 is wholly justified” ( This fine, levied against the Committee, its officers, and the initiative’s proponents (Pedro Alfonso, Vickey Wilcher, and Margaret Gentry), sets a record. It is more than twice what Mayor Williams was fined in 2002 ($277,700) for submitting nominating petitions in which more than 80 percent of the signatures were forged. The fine was not levied because the officers of the Citizens Committee themselves engaged in illegal activities; it was because they hired professional signature-gathering companies that engaged in widespread fraud and illegal activities, and failed to supervise and control those companies, even though they had been made aware that the companies were committing those violations.

This decision could potentially have a national impact. The professional petition circulation companies are entirely unregulated, and they fly their circulators into and out of states so that they are gone before the petitions are turned in and any election law violations become evident. Moreover, most of the companies are actually single individuals who are incorporated, and they hire each other as “independent contractors,” so that holding any of them responsible for their activities is legally difficult. But holding the political committee responsible for supervising the actions of the petition circulation companies that they hire, and for the individual circulators whom those companies hire, means that someone will be held responsible for ensuring that election laws are upheld when either nominating or initiative petitions are circulated by professional circulators. It is a first step toward reforming what has become a very corrupt profession.

If the Citizens Committee for the DC Video Lottery Terminal Initiative accepts the fine and pays it before August 16, $47,880 of the fine will be suspended, making the final amount of the fine $575,000. However, the Committee, if it wishes, can appeal the Board’s decision to the DC Court of Appeals. Or, if the Committee simply fails to pay the fine, the Board can go to DC Superior Court, seeking enforcement of its order assessing the penalty.

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill


Faith Williams and the Southeast Branch Library
Phil Shapiro,

If you visit the Southeast Branch Library you’re bound to hear a squeal of delight coming from the children’s section of the library. More often then not, the squeal is coming from the children’s librarian rather than from the children. A beautifully written feature article about this librarian and the other unique people at the Southeast Branch Library appears in today’s Washington Post Magazine (see

This kind of article ought to have appeared below the fold (on the bottom half) of page 1 of the newspaper, rather than buried away in the magazine. If I hadn’t mentioned the article to you here, would you have heard about it? I applaud the Washington Post for such excellent journalism and challenge the editors to do better in placement of such articles. It would be interesting to find out if the author of this article is subscribed to themail, or not. And the editor of that article, is the editor here in themail? Are these folks in our community, or not?

If you would like to send an encouraging word to children’s librarian Faith Williams, she is reachable at and lurks right here in themail (among other places.) A more inspiring person I have yet to meet.


Wake Me from This Nightmare
Doug Neumann,

Mayor Cropp and Council Chair Evans. Why isn’t our media as aggressive as in San Diego?


100 Thousand People and Not a Scrap of Litter
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

I spent last week at the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) air show in Oshkosh. This is an annual show for builders and fliers of home built and kit aircraft that the Feds call “Experimental.” The show is a great display of those aircraft and many of the World War II “War Birds” as well as aerobatic aircraft that fly in a daily air show. The most amazing thing about this show is the one hundred thousand daily attendees and their willingness to keep the place so clean. If I had been offered a hundred bucks to find five pieces of litter on the ground in twenty minutes I’d never collect the cash. Not a cigarette butt, not a tissue, not a paper cup could be found on the ground. How different from the DC mall after the fireworks display each Fourth of July.


Ward 7 and Vincent Gray Take the Lead on NCMC
Frank Zampatori,

Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray, in his role as Chair of the Ward 7 Democrats, held a monthly meeting of the Ward 7 Democratic Party organization at the Hillcrest Recreation Center on Saturday, July 30. Attending were approximately 75 Ward 7 residents plus candidates and campaign workers for various mayoral and at-large city council candidates. The main topic was a continuing discussion on the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) to be located on Reservation 13 in Ward 6 in a joint District and Howard University venture. A three-member panel moderated by Vincent Gray and consisting of Ward 4 Councilmember and mayoral candidate Adrian Fenty, Ward 5 Councilmember and mayoral candidate Vincent Orange, and At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, presented their views on the proposed NCMC and answered a number of questions from the audience. At-Large Councilmember and Ward 7 resident Kwame Brown gave brief remarks and left for a family obligation.

No new ground was broached during the discussion, but it was apparent that Fenty, Orange, Brown, as well as Gray supported the NCMC without reservation, while Mendelson expressed support but cautioned that certain issues needed to be worked out such as funding and the status of the Howard University Hospital on Georgia Avenue, NW, once NCMC was in operation. None of the panel supported the concept of NCMC as a so called “poor peoples” hospital, but all saw the Medical Center as drawing from all sections of the city while providing access and service for low-income residents.

What is most evident from this meeting as well as the Ward 7 meeting with 300 participants held on July 7, is that Ward 7, led by its new Councilmember Vincent Gray, is the prime grass roots engine pushing the concept of NCMC to reality. Ward 7 has held at least two well publicized and well attended educational meetings on NCMC. They have designed petitions which are being circulated both in Ward 7 and city wide in support of constructing the new hospital and Medical Center. Ward 7 Democrats passed a Resolution in support of NCMC and circulated it to city officials; they also designed a generic Resolution for use by community organizations and ANCs city wide in support of the NCMC. At the July 13 council oversight hearing by the Health Committee chaired by David Catania, a large and vocal contingent of Ward 7 residents testified in support of NCMC, as they will again on October 13 when the Health Committee has its follow up hearing on NCMC. Whatever final action is taken on NCMC by the city council, it is clear that at this point in the debate an energized Ward 7, led by its new Councilmember Vincent Gray, has successfully framed the debate on health care in a manner which makes opposition almost impossible.


Nonsmoking Can Work
Joan Eisenstodt,

On two recent business trips to NYC and Boston, I was delightfully reminded of how wonderful it is to be able to go into hotels and restaurants (and other venues) w/o having to go through or be near an area of noxious fumes from smoking. Business in the restaurants (and bars) of both cities seemed to be booming. From my work in the travel/hospitality/tourism industry, I know that there has not been any suffering by business. So how come the DC council doesn’t act on this and make it so for the District? Is it only because Carol Schwartz is a smoker and is being selfish? Is it because the Council is being lobbied by the lobbyists? What’s the deal? We deserve better air in our restaurants and other public places.


Privately Owned Trees and the Public Domain
Corinna Moebius,

In response to Judy Walton’s post about overgrown trees [themail, July 27], the agency that handles trees is the Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) in the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) (see Keep in mind that in January this year DDOT passed regulations that implement the Urban Forest Preservation Act. This Act helps protect urban trees, which have many benefits including: 1) mitigating heat island effects and reducing energy use; 2) improving air quality and reducing water pollution; 3) quieter and more beautiful neighborhoods.

As far as I can tell, no one has the authority to notify the owner or to cite the property owner for the tree branches and limbs overgrowing the public domain. If you’re worried about dangerous branches, the best you can probably do is make a report to the City Call Center (727-1000), but keep in mind that DDOT does not maintain trees on private property, even if they lean over the public domain. And let’s be practical here -- in an urban area, most trees on private property lean over streets, sidewalks, alleys, and other public domain areas, as well as the private property of others. This is the reality of living in a dense urban area. If any serious damage does happen to your house because of your neighbors tree branches, only then might you have some legal rights, if the owner knew the branch was dangerous or rotted. Have you discussed this matter with the property owner?

If you want to live in a place where you’re free from the threat of tree branches, I would suggest moving to a location where you live far away from your neighbor and where trees are not close to your house. But DC, like most cities, is trying to protect trees, not create new regulations that could damage or remove these natural assets.


Emergency Preparedness and the Blood Supply
Katie Hodge,

The Post covered the DC area’s blood supply shortages last week. ( Though we often hear about shortages, this time the articles say the shortages have started sooner and seem to be deeper. The Inova Blood Donor Services web site has a graphic showing the only types of blood that they have at least a full day’s supply of is A+ and B+. The Red Cross reports a similar situation.

So, if an emergency that might affect thousands (the Director of Homeland Security uses that number in an editorial in the Post, were to occur, our region seems not to have the blood supplies to handle a crisis. It takes 48 hours to process blood, so on the spot donations won’t be an immediate help. Instead of randomly searching bags (which raises its own issues) and offering platitudes, I wish our leaders would do more to call attention to a gap to our emergency preparedness that could be easily addressed by encouraging more people to donate.

(I know there are many people who are concerned about policies that exclude homosexuals from donating blood. I’m sympathetic, but thought it was to much to bring up in one posting that is supposed to be brief.)


E Terro-Bus Unum
Lea Adams,

My living room window looks down on the Arena Stage roof across the street, and out at a magnificent waterfront vista and a dozen national monuments in DC and Virginia. Until recently, it’s been a great view, even on weekends when Water Street nightclub traffic can be a bit noisy. A few weeks ago, the Circulator bus decided to make my corner its new terminus. Two to five full-sized busses are always lined up across the street, with uniformed drivers getting on and off to exchange shifts. I’ve yet to see more than three passengers, so the full fleet in operation seems premature and wasteful, but that’s another story.

This isn’t about the Circulators, but the Maryland commuter bus that sat in front of my building two days ago, for at least 28 minutes — when I stopped checking — with its motor idling, seats empty, doors locked and driver absent. The Circulator crew hadn’t noticed. I called the number on the back of the bus to “report unsafe operation.” The phone-person agreed that a bus running in place without a driver might be dangerous, but when she asked about weather and traffic conditions, I realized that she was at some national hotline reading from a list of questions, and probably not listening at all. I didn’t think to call Emergency Preparedness, MPD, or Homeland Security, but I wonder which, if any of those agencies would have responded quickly and seriously to the call if I’d made it.

Am I alone in thinking an unmanned bus on the street is as much cause for concern as an unattended backpack in a bank or a food-eating commuter on a Metro escalator? If it weren’t for my unfailing faith in a power greater than government, and my ‘60s dinosaur mistrust of Uncle Sam and Little Anthony, I’d be scared witless. Luckily, going to hell in a hand basket doesn’t instill the same terror when you’ve been watching basket cases come and go as long as I have.


Anti-Terrorism in New York City
Richard Layman,

The New Yorker had an amazing piece about the anti-terrorism efforts of the New York Police Department, "The Terrorism Beat," in the July 25 issue. William Finnegan profiles the NYPD’s Counter-terrorist Unit. He explains that before September 11, “there were fewer than two dozen officers working the terrorism beat full time. Today, there are about a thousand.” In restructuring and reorganized this force, the NYPD has not only increased police presence in New York, but stationed officers throughout the world. Here is a link to a post-article interview with the author, But I think you’ll have to get the article at the library.

[The interview is well worth reading. WMATA has sent representatives to NYC to study that city’s program to search subway riders randomly, which is wasteful, intrusive, and unproductive, but as far as I know the MPD hasn’t made any move to emulate the really worthwhile investigative program of the NYPD. Am I wrong? Has the MPD substantially increased its anti-terrorism investigative unit? — Gary Imhoff]


Gloria White,

I agree that the surveillance cameras, random searches, and gun-toting security on Metro is not the answer and doesn’t really make us safer. At the same time, the government has to be seen to be doing something, and those actions, to many people, look like something is being done and it makes them feel safer and more secure. To anyone who really thinks about these things, we know that it doesn’t really enhance our security. It’s just window dressing. Most people will acknowledge that all the increased security and loss of our nail clippers and tweezers at airport screening doesn’t make us safer.

I don’t expect and don’t want Metro to tell me and every Tom, Dick, and Harry everything they are doing that might actually make us safer. Lots of these things need to be invisible to the public eye and the bad guys. I don’t want or need to know every aspect of security. In fact, to put out press releases about every single thing that is being done for security can actually negate the effectiveness of the action. So let’s hope that the DC government and Metro are doing things that actually make a difference at the same time they’re doing these superficial things that just make people feel better.


Surveillance Cameras
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Gary seems to worry about personal privacy rights. I say screw personal privacy rights when you are at war. And, indeed we are at war with terrorists. We should be at war with the criminals among us here in DC who deal drugs with kids on street corners unbothered by police. Put up the cameras on every corner and in every Metro station. Law abiding folks have nothing to hide and should welcome the ability to photograph those who make life unsafe for the others in DC. Look at how effective those cameras were in London to help identify and catch those four would be bombers. And, Gary, those same cameras would identify any of those law enforcement personnel who are abusing those who protest here in DC.


DC Surveillance
Stephen Philip Cohen,

[An open letter to Johnny Barnes, American Civil Liberties Union]: I’m an ACLU member, but will let it lapse; there’s no question that the tradeoff is worth it, the value of CCTV is demonstrated by the London arrests. I ride the Metro, and will feel more secure, not less, with better surveillance. It is a very, very high priority target for the baddies, I don’t mind losing a bit of my freedom in this case; your remarks verge on the inane.


Speed and Red Light Cameras
Gabe Fineman,

Clyde Howard wrote [themail, July 27] that soon the Feds will “begin to question the need for these cameras.” Probably true, but their increased use everywhere is inevitable. It used to be that a listing in the phone book did not really lower your anonymity because it was buried among zillions of others. Now computers make it cheap for a telemarketer in California to find and use your listing and many telephone companies change you extra not to list your number. Likewise, all E-mail (even this one) is scanned by US Government computers (yes, billions a day) for key words such as atomic and bomb (and, perhaps, Democrat). It is only a matter of time before costs fall far enough that there will be cameras at all street corners to catch people who speed, run red lights, and do not stop for stop signs. The routine breaking of traffic laws because police are expensive will be stopped by technology. Perhaps this will lead to many stop signs being replaced with yield signs or speed limits related to actual traffic conditions (higher at 3 a.m. when fewer children dart into the street) but it will surely lead to more people obeying the traffic laws. This is a good thing, and as both a driver that tries to obey the law and a pedestrian often at risk from those who do not, I welcome this change.


Shawn in DC Blog
Shawn Rolland,

I just wanted to let you know I have a DC-area blog going up: Shawn in DC, You may have to cut and paste the link into your browser.

I’ve tried to add as many of DC blogs to my blog roll as possible. If I missed yours, let me know. I hope you will do the same for mine. Share and share alike!

If you have any DC news or happenings, let me know via E-mail at



DC Vote Happy Hour, August 4
Chris Belisle,

DC Vote will host its “American Democracy for America’s Capital Monthly Happy Hour” on Thursday, August 4, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., at Madam’s Organ (2461 18th Street, NW). $1 of each drink sold and twenty percent of food sales will go directly to DC Vote’s educational and advocacy activities. All DC voting rights supporters are invited and encouraged to come, bring friends, meet the DC Vote staff, network and have a good time. A $50 Madam’s Organ gift certificate will be given to one lucky DC Vote supporter, so mark your calendar.

RSVP today to Chris Belisle by e-mail at Show up to the event in DC Vote gear. Check out our online store. See you on August 4th.


DC Public Library Events, August 4
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, August 4, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Brown Bag Recital Series. Cellist Vassily Popov and Pianist Ralitza Patcheva will perform music by J.S. Bach and F. Martin. Public contact: 727-1285.

Thursday, August 4, 2:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Let’s Talk About Books. Discussion of The Photograph, a novel by Penelope Lively. Public contact: 727-1281.


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