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August 7, 2005

Cooling It

Dear Coolers:

Things get hot in DC. I should be the last to complain about that, but sometimes the best course is just to cool it. Last week, Congressman Henry Bonilla, Republican of Texas, got exactly the overheated reaction he was looking for from our city’s residents when he proposed renaming 16th Street “Ronald Reagan Boulevard” (HR 3525). Rep. Bonilla was obviously having a little sport with us; he threw us the bait, and we bit. Lisa Alfred, below, plays along with the Congressman and jokes back, but far too many DC residents responded with irrational, heated anger, expressing their disgust that anything in this city would be named after that man; they reviled Reagan and reveled in how much they despised and detested him; they threatened to move off of 16th Street if it were named after him. In other words, we revealed ourselves as being, not just Democrats, but rabid, bitter Democrats.

Believe it or not, in most of the country Republicans and Democrats not only speak civilly to each other, but can actually be friends. Election campaigns get heated, but it’s a friendly rivalry. After all, both parties are parties of the center; their differences are more those of tone and emphasis than of basic principles. (Just ask the Greens if that isn’t true.) After the election is over, only a small fringe of either party remains bitter over a loss. Even the presidents about whom there is the most contention are honored by both parties after they’re out of office over a decade. The most hidebound, rock-ribbed (and when did those lovely clichés go out of fashion) Republicans who in the 1930’s were so angry at Franklin Delano Roosevelt that they wouldn’t call him by name, but referred to him as “that man in the White House,” remembered him fondly by the 1950’s. Most of the country, Democrats and Republicans alike, thinks just as fondly of Ronald Reagan today. Bonilla’s taunt got Washingtonians to express our knee-jerk outrage, our fury, our overheated partisanship, and reinforced our national image as being a bit, shall we say, extreme. The capital of America didn’t quite live up to what most of the country thinks of as the American spirit. If I can exaggerate its importance, it was another small blow against statehood.

Correction: In the last issue of themail, I gave the wrong link to Paul Sperry’s New York Times article on profiling (I inadvertently repeated the link to Charles Krauthammer’s article). The correct address for the Sperry article is

Gary Imhoff


Different Channels, Same Actors
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir,

On one channel, city leaders are onto the next big handout for billionaires Bill “I hate unions” Marriott and Bob “Virginia horse farm” Johnson: the city’s largest hotel. The land alone for Billy and Bobby’s new toy hotel is coming in at $120 million. If the city leaders can figure out how to do it, Billy and Bobby will only make money and not have to pay any.

Click to the other channel. This one’s about the city schools. The actors are frowning and the school buildings are falling apart. There are few if any after-school activities, few music and arts programs, labs are poorly furnished. Many of the kids look glum, as do the teachers. Billy and Bobby offer their names and some money to open charter schools. Down on the public sector, Scrooge Evans is complaining about how much was spent on modernizing one public school, McKinley. Fancy treatments, such as countertops in McKinley, are too fancy for urban public schools. Scrooge Evans wants to end spending on public school kids. Billy and Bobby’s charter schools are also “in need of improvement.” Next episode: can public opinion undermine Scrooge Evans?

Back to the other channel quick. Now, the actors are trying to attach a money pump right into Billy and Bobby’s already overflowing pockets. Billy and Bobby are smiling. They say it tickles. Private activity junkie and pusher, Smack Evans, says it’s supposed to. Other city leaders watch and enjoy vicariously. But land alone will not suffice for the addicts. They need the biggest hotel in the city. Next episode: how will pusherman Smack Evans get the money for Billy and Bobby’s craving addiction?


DCPS Board Adopts Everyday Mathematics
Barry Garelick,

On June 15, the DCPS Board of Education voted to adopt various textbooks for the DC schools. Among them were Everyday Mathematics and Connected Mathematics Program (CMP). These are known to be poor programs for a variety of reasons, which were pointed out in E-mail testimony sent from a variety of people including myself. The testimony was mentioned at the June 15, meeting, but dismissed as being ideological rather than research-based. You can view some of the testimony at the web site of NYCHOLD at My testimony, as well as testimony from a woman in Pittsburgh drawing upon personal experience with EM in her school district, can be found at and

This is from a recent note that I sent to the DCPS school board, expressing my frustration with their actions and pointing out that I have not yet received information on their evaluation of the other texts considered, which I requested in a FOIA letter to DCPS Office of General Counsel: “I submitted testimony via E-mail to various members of the Board (you were included), as did several other people. I have read the transcript of the meeting. As you may recall, the testimonies that were submitted by E-mail were dismissed because 1) they were from members of NYCHOLD or Mathematically Correct and therefore 2) represent ideologies rather than research-based facts. Having read the transcript, I find it interesting that the testimonies that the Board did consider were teachers from the schools that used Everyday Mathematics, claiming that the program worked. They did not provide much in the way of data to support such statements, other than to say test scores rose. No data were provided as to what percent of the students received outside tutoring or were enrolled in learning centers such as Sylvan, Huntington, or Kumon. Although statistics on race/ethnicity and other demographics are frequently asked to be provided by test-takers, they are not asked to provide information on what outside help they may have received. Such demographic questions should be essential; it would provide interesting information.

“Dr. Ortiz referred to the textbook review process as a transparent one, alluding to a report that was made available to the public. I have asked via FOIA request to the DCPS Office of General Counsel whether such a report exists and, if so, to obtain a copy of same. It has been more than the required fifteen days to respond to a FOIA request and I have heard nothing. I have called that office the past three days to inquire about the status of my FOIA request, only to be told that Erica Pierson has been in meetings and they will get back with me. I work for the federal government and have had to respond to many FOIA requests. If it is going to take longer than fifteen days, the procedure is to contact the requester and give an estimate for how long it will be to comply with the request. One does not simply blow off the request. Perhaps the DC FOIA is different than federal law in this regard, but somehow I doubt it.

“The testimony given in support of the text was often misleading and in error. The testimonies that many of us submitted were characterized as ‘short on research and long on opinion.’ I could say the same for the testimonies given in support of Everyday Math, though it would be giving more credit to such testimony than deserved. Dr. Bullock of Georgetown testified that the report accompanying the TIMMS results (the international test of math in which the US did not fare very well) states that nations that do well in math on these exams use a spiral approach. In fact, this is a gross mischaracterization.

“The nation of Singapore, which has come in No. 1 in math on these exams in 1995, 1999, and 2003, uses a text and curriculum that requires students to learn a particular concept/skill to mastery before moving on. The spiraling that occurs in Singapore’s program is not to review previously learned material, but rather to build upon previously mastered material. That is a big difference in how Everyday Mathematics works. The difference between Everyday Mathematics and Singapore’s program is described in much detail in a report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education. The report can be found at

“I think you will see that the findings and conclusions of this report are not at all ideological. In fact, some of the testimony submitted (and dismissed) was based on this report.

“Although I am not a resident of DC, I tutored students in the Macfarland School and continue to have an interest in them. I believe that Everyday Mathematics and Connected Mathematics are the wrong choices for math textbooks for DC schools and will do students harm. Also, I point out that low income families cannot easily afford tutors or learning centers such as Sylvan or Huntington. As I said in my testimony, I only hope that the teachers will draw from the previous texts that they used to supplement a very poor choice.”


Keeping Middle Class Residents in DC
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

To help stem the outflow of middle class residents who leave because there a few good high schools in the District, one answer is to make the new McKinley High School a competitive entrance exam school modeled after Brooklyn Tech and other technical high schools. Even VA has schools that have enrollment based on ability or test scores. You cannot have a magnet school with open enrollment. To keep some middle class folks who have smart kids in the District, you have to be able to offer them a school where they are offered challenging courses taught by highly qualified teachers. McKinley could be that school.


H.R. 3525
Lisa Alfred,

H.R. 3525 is “A Bill to Redesignate the Street in the District of Columbia Known as 16th Street Northwest as ‘Ronald Reagan Boulevard.’” In response to this Bill, I was thinking that the City should rename all the streets of DC after Ronald Reagan because this Bill doesn’t go far enough. Since most of our streets are alphabets or numbers, the current signage would not have to be eliminated, just adjusted. For instance, the signs on my street could read: Ronald Reagan-H Street, SE, and Ronald Reagan-16th Street, SE. Reservation 13 could be called Reagan Reservation 13. And so on, and so on.

When are our distinguished Congressmen and Congresswomen going to start making these changes at home? By that I mean their own homes. We don’t have a single congressman or Reagan-lover who has named each of his or her kids Ronald Reagan. George Forman loves himself so much that he named each of his boys after himself. Even better, when is US Representative Henry Bonilla (R-TX, District 23) going to show up in court and change his own name? Now that’s an interesting idea!


New Car Wash in Historic Shaw Neighborhood
Richard Rogers,

Yes folks, no joke. There is a proposal to build a 24-hour car wash on east side New Jersey Avenue, NW, on that wedge-shaped piece of land in the 1400 block. Contact your councilmember and let him or her know how you feel. They wouldn‘t let this happen in Foxhall Village, but next to Dunbar High School, who cares?


Superb Service
Joan Eisenstodt,

Maybe this should be a restaurant review. Then again, the lessons learned are about service and we all can use good service stories. I made a reservation through at La Tasca on 7th Street, NW, for Saturday, August 6, at 11 a.m. They called on Friday to confirm. We arrived around 10:50 -- the door was open and we entered. The men setting up asked us to wait. We did. The greeter/hostess greeted us with a big smile and was so pleasant. I told her we had a reservation at 11. She said, gosh that was interesting, since the restaurant didn’t open till noon. I think we all held our collective breaths and waited to be turned out to the street!

Never did she grumble at us, make a face, or make us feel anything but welcome -- the information was given in a straightforward way, and then she asked to seat us. Oh, how easy it would have been to say it was a mistake and ask us to return in an hour. She took our drink orders, said she’d go to the kitchen to make sure they were able to accommodate us, and said how nice it was, as a former server, to be able to work again with customers. She brought our beverages — and then pitchers (water and iced tea) to ensure we didn’t have to wait for refills, and then took our orders. Two of us compared our experience to dining at Zola, where we were told to wait outside (in the cold, pouring rain) when it was only five minutes till they were scheduled to open! Even a letter to them didn’t get any response. (Harrumph.) The food was superb; the entire experience was delightful. Kudos to good service.

PS: I’m not suggesting everyone do what we did. We know now when they open. It was an example! And if they’d become nonsmoking (you think I’d let that one slide?) it would be an even more wonderful dining experience.


Rebuttal to Dr. Eric Rosenthal
Greg Rhett, DC Federation of Civic Associations,

The DC Federation of Civic Associations consists of 45 distinct civic and citizen associations throughout the District of Columbia (east and west). We respectfully differ with the recently posted conclusions offered by Dr. Eric Rosenthal [themail, August 3] regarding the proposed National Capital Medical Center on Reservation 13. Having reviewed the same facts that he cites, we believe that the NCMC Complex is needed and necessary. Dr. Rosenthal’s argument that the District does not need more medical centers, more ERs, or more beds is correct only if one looks at the District as a whole. If the District decides to build a new hospital and does not close some existing beds, then we agree with the conclusion that the proposed NCMC would lose money. We acknowledged those points last month in our testimony before the Council’s Committee on Health. What Dr. Rosenthal misses is the point that there is a very significant disparity of beds, services, and resources, such that the vast majority of tertiary care centers are west of North Capitol Street, NE. His arguments did not deal with this important fact. As a Ward 7 resident, this is the primary concern consistently expressed by our Councilmember, Vincent Gray, and hundreds of fellow East Washington residents who attended a July public forum on the subject and those who also testified before the Council’s Committee on Health.

Looking at a map of the District reveals that the vast majority of current tertiary care and major trauma facilities — Howard University Hospital, George Washington University Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital, and the Washington Hospital Center -- are located west of North Capitol Street, NE. This leaves East Washington neighborhoods significantly deprived of immediate access to lifesaving tertiary care. This disparity is patently unfair. We believe that District residents can no longer afford nor tolerate the disparities in the quality of and accessibility to lifesaving health care within the District of Columbia. This existing situation and maintaining the “status quo” is unacceptable. Furthermore, Dr. Rosenthal did not note that the consultant (Stroudwater Associates) said that the NCMC would lose money only if we kept existing facilities open as well. To our knowledge, that decision has not been made. If Howard were to move its operations to Reservation 13, the projection is for a profit after the first two years, even taking into account the expected large number of Medicaid/Medicare patients.

The Federation’s position is for the provision of a tertiary care facility that includes the highest level of trauma care, in addition to an array of other services -- rehabilitation, substance abuse treatment, urgent care, etc., that East Washington neighborhoods require. We will continue working with councilmembers, the mayor and city administrator, hospitals and universities in hopes that the District will arrange for each existing facility to decrease its tertiary care beds, then allow the freed beds to be allocated to a new tertiary care facility on reservation 13. The NCMC has the potential for being a magnet site, a place where all District residents — particularly those who live east of North Capitol Street — will receive quality and necessary health care and long overdue access to medical services.


National Capital Medical Center
Eric Rosenthal,

Several people E-mailed me directly following my post on the National Capital Medical Center [themail, August 3]. Most supported the position I took that the center was unnecessary, that it would do little, if anything, to improve health in the city, and that it would become a financial quagmire that would plague the city for years. A few writers raised objections to my position and I wanted to clarify it further to address their concerns.

The point of medical services is to improve health, so it is important to start from a careful look at the conditions that actually cause most of the disease and death in DC. Almost all are chronic conditions that are most amenable to quality outpatient care rather than to emergency or inpatient services. For example, a trauma center would do nothing for low birth weight babies and prematurity, but good prenatal care could prevent it. Asthma and diabetes are rampant in DC, but generally neither should cause people to get sick enough to require a trip to the emergency room. If they do, there likely has been a failure of outpatient care that should be remedied so people with these and other chronic conditions can remain healthy and at home. Some people assume that trauma, emergency, and hospital care are the best care, so that is what we need to build, but that is not the way to think about medical services. Instead, consider that medical services are like tools in a toolbox. Just as a hammer is not the right tool for every job, neither does an emergency room always provide the right care for every patient. In many cases, quality primary care would do much more. And studies show that primary care is what we lack, not hospitals and emergency rooms.

Obviously, as someone who works in an emergency room, I think emergency rooms are an important part of our system of medical care, as are hospitals. We simply already have more than enough. Nine hospitals, nine emergency rooms, and five Level I trauma centers already provide most of the care for our citizens. No other state in the country has nearly that level of services. It is hard to make the case, as some advocates of the NCMC attempt, that there are too few services or that they are inaccessible to some in the city, given that our rates of emergency room use and hospitalization are higher than anywhere else in the country and twice the national average. I have not seen a ward-by-ward breakdown, but my experience in the ER suggests that residents in East Washington use emergency rooms and hospitals at least as frequently as other residents. How can advocates make the case that any residents lack access if we use emergency rooms and hospitals as much as we do? Do they have evidence that there is any significant number of Washingtonians who need hospital admission, but cannot get it?

Most important, this discussion should focus on figuring out which interventions would have the greatest impact on improving health in DC. Supporters of the NCMC never have made the case that it would improve health in DC at all. If they think it would, they should share the evidence they have with the rest of us. To what extent would the rates of chronic disease fall? How much would infant mortality improve? How would life expectancy be affected? If the proponents could offer evidence that these and other health outcome measures would improve significantly and that the NCMC would be the most effective way to improve them, I probably would support the center. But in the absence of evidence that the National Capital Medical Center would improve health, it should not be built. We must take aggressive steps to make Washington a healthy city. Excellent quality and accessible outpatient, preventive care would do that. More hospital, emergency, and trauma capacity would not. We must finally focus on the solutions that would make a difference and reject those that would not.


Paying Petition Circulators
Phil Mendelson,

Regarding Eli Rosenfield’s posting (themail, August 3): I introduced legislation last fall (Bill 15-1023) after the failed slots initiative to prohibit the paying for petitions by signature or page (instead, circulators could be paid by the hour or day). The bill did not move and, as Gary Imhoff notes, it turns out that such a prohibition is unconstitutional unless there is substantial evidence that paying by signature or page results in fraud. When we researched this so as to reintroduce the bill, we learned that over the years there has been a high incidence of fraud from unpaid circulators. Thus, we could not overcome the constitutional hurdle.


Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

I would just like to thank Gary and Aaron Lloyd for clearly understanding and expressing in the August 3 edition of themail what the Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee us all, unless we are foolish enough to give it away.


Subway Searches
Harold Goldstein,

Why do you [Gary Imhoff] always imply that it is the DC city government that is unique in its myopia about a particular issue. With the statement, “That’s the difference that our city government doesn’t understand,” in the August 3 issue, you negate (in that people on the other side will dismiss it) the rest of your carefully crafted message. It’s not our city government in and of itself that is involved in this and related issues, but city governments across the country and the world that are taking on these questions.

I happen to agree, and think that it would be better to take the manpower that would be involved in searches and just having them observe — much like the plainclothes guards on planes.


Combating Terrorism: Multiple Paths
Edward Cowan,

Gary Imhoff, a champion of privacy and constitutional rights, writes as if searching Metro riders, either randomly or for cause, and the use of “intelligence and investigation” are mutually exclusive ways to combat terrorism. They are not, and he knows that. He prefers investigation based on “intelligence” — tips from informants, electronic surveillance (an invasion of privacy), anything else. His essential point is that there must be a reason to investigate, search, and detain. That is the traditional way of law enforcement in the United States: stopping, searching, arresting only for probable cause, usually after the commission of a crime.

The problem posed by terrorism is that we seek to prevent the crime from happening lest it claim large numbers of victims. Terrorism means the random killing of civilians -- not troops or police or government agents — to make a political or ideological or religious statement that will cause public anxiety and influence a government’s actions. The attacks of September 11 and of July 7 in London are examples. How can we prevent terrorist acts from happening when there is insufficient intelligence pointing to them or to the would-be perpetrators? We in the United States, where we cherish constitutional protections and privacy, don’t have a perfect answer -- that is, an effective method of prevention that fully respects individual privacy.

Next best, then, are imperfect methods that do minimal damage to individual rights. If a man wearing a bulky, buttoned coat approached a Metro subway entrance on a hot August day, that would be reasonable grounds for a Metro officer to stop that rider and ask him to open his coat. (In Israel, security officers have been blown up in such circumstances.) Or suppose a young man is carrying an obviously heavy canvas bag or suitcase. I see no harm in asking him to open it. In both these scenarios, there is a reason for the officer to suspect criminal intent. Gary Imhoff objects to purely random searches as unwarranted invasions of privacy, and ineffective. They do, briefly, invade privacy — and sometimes they seem absurd, as when elderly, frail-looking passengers get special scrutiny in airports. These are transient ills. Are these searches ineffective? We don’t know because we cannot measure what their deterrent effect may be. These methods, and they are investigation of a sort, supplement the “intelligence and investigation” that Mr. Imhoff prefers. Although imperfect, these minimal searches contribute to public safety. What will Mr. Imhoff say about combating terrorism when the first suicide bomber blows himself up in a Washington subway station?


Article in the Afro
Ingrid Drake,

As a journalist and 4D resident, I have been working to write stories that will stimulate discussion, reflection, and continued action about our efforts to create safe and supportive neighborhoods.

My first piece in a series of print and radio stories can be found in the most recent edition of the AFRO. Support this independent community newspaper by picking up a copy at newsstands throughout the city, or see — “New residents apply technology to neighborhood watch in Brightwood”). I look forward to hearing your feedback, and will let you know as other pieces become available.



Stop the Sale of Publicly-Owned Real Estate for Private Profit, August 10
Parisa B. Norouzi,

Schools, shelters, and public spaces are neighborhood resources. Empower DC invites all those interested to join us in developing a campaign to demand that all publicly owned property in DC be used for public benefit uses, and to oppose the current trend of liquidating “surplus” public property for private profit. For instance, DC has sold vacant DC schools to developers to be converted into high-end condos. DC has sold the Randall Homeless Shelter to the Corcoran Art Museum. Over the last year, proposals have been aired to dispose of several additional schools, firehouses, shelters, libraries and parks and play spaces.

These valuable publicly-owned resources should be used to fulfill community needs such as the creation of affordable housing, shelter for the homeless, recreation, space for community services, and other functions determined by neighborhood residents. If we continue to dispose of our public spaces, where will we house these important community centers? We need to come together as a community to demand that our taxpayer financed resources be used for the benefit of our communities.

The City Council already has scheduled a hearing on disposal of public property for late September — we can’t wait any longer to speak out! Please join us on Wednesday, August 10, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Empower DC office, 1419 V Street, NW, Basement. Call Andrew at 277-5262 or Parisa at 234-9119 with questions or suggestions. RSVP by replying to this E-mail.


Adam Meyer and The Last Domino, August 10
Debra Truhart,

Wednesday, August 10, 7:00 p.m., Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library, 5625 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Author Adam Meyer will discuss The Last Domino, his debut novel for young adults. The novel was nominated for the 2005 Teen’s Top Ten Books sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. Meyer has also worked as a writer and producer for CBS, Lifetime, CourtTV, and other networks. Public contact: 282-0021.


Bernini and Borromini, August 15
Brie Hensold,

Monday, August 15, 6:30-8:00 p.m., at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Bernini and Borromini, A Rivalry That Transformed Rome. Author Jake Morrissey will explore the decades-long antagonism between two of the great architects of 17th-century Europe, Gianlorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, and how their competition and animosity transformed the city of Rome and helped create the Baroque style. Mr. Morrissey will sign copies of his book The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome (Harper Collins). $10 Members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required. Call 272-2448 or register online at


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