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August 14, 2005


Dear Budgeteers:

I often criticize her positions, so it’s only fair for me to point out that Alice Rivlin has written a sensible article on DC’s temporary budget surplus in today’s Washington Post (, and I can quibble with it on only a few details, such as her reluctance to grant tax relief to hard-pressed DC taxpayers. Her key sentences are entirely correct: “The city needs to remember what the federal government forgot: windfalls can vanish with a change of season. That’s why it’s best for DC to live by two simple rules: 1) limit ongoing commitments that will weigh down the city if excess revenues disappear. 2) Help those who are suffering, rather than benefiting, from the boom.”

The major problem with the article is what Rivlin doesn’t say. It’s her failure to hold the mayor and city council responsible for their profligate spending on — and making massive long-term commitments to — wasteful monumental development projects. The politicians’ delusion that they are qualified to plan and direct the economic and physical development of our city is their most costly folly, and the greatest economic problem that we will face in the next decade. The freshest example of this folly is the secret plan by the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, disclosed by David Nakamura in the Post on Friday, to expand the amount of land that the city will buy around the planned baseball stadium by another five acres (

In reaction to the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision, other states are rushing to protect property owners against having their land seized by the government to give to politically favored developers. Alabama’s legislature passed legislation by a unanimous vote on August 5, and more than two dozen states have already proposed either legislation or state constitution amendments to restrict eminent domain powers so that private land can be taken only for actual public uses. But do not expect such legislation in DC. Here, all our government leaders seem to be united both on seizing privately owned land and on declaring large tracts of publicly owned land (schools, libraries, and more) as "surplus" so that they can be given to well-connected developers. Our city leaders fear an open, capitalist market in which developers use their own money to bid against each other to buy land on which they can develop what they think will make a profit. What our local politicians favor instead is governmentally planned, organized, and directed development in which they, the politicians, choose the developers who will be allowed to own and profit from the land, and subsidize their projects with taxpayers’ money. As Nakamura reported: “[Anacostia Waterfront Corporation CEO Andrew] Altman is close to unveiling a waterfront redevelopment master plan, in which the ballpark is a key. Allowing private development to happen without the city’s influence and controls would not achieve these goals, he said. ‘We want to create a real destination,’ Altman said, ‘and that can’t happen if this coordinated strategy does not take place.’”

As a sidebar to Alice Rivlin’s article, today’s Outlook section has an article in which several people are given an opportunity to say what they would do with the $300 million city budget surplus ( Here’s what I’d do: I’d give it to the woefully underfunded city archives, and require the mayor, the councilmembers, the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, the Sports and Entertainment Commission, and all their staffs to deposit all their official papers in the archives. That way, if the city ever gets a real reform administration, or an independent Attorney General who sees himself as something other than the mayor’s personal attorney, all the evidence will be available to draw up the indictments.

Gary Imhoff


New Garbage Cans
Katherine Howard,

I found Paul Wilson’s "Sanitation Workers" [themail, August 10] to be hilarious. The problem comes from the fact that the new trash receptacles are totally inappropriate for the job; much too small, and difficult to handle. Whoever had this bright idea obviously does not have the viewpoint of the person handling them, or the common sense, to see how ridiculous the size and shape of these cans are. Hence, the dumping of the contents into the street. If this were not done, it would take much longer to do the job. Only small bags fit into the bottom of the receptacle, and anything big causes a jam if it is pushed down into the can. And, in any case, who has so little trash that this small can would do the job? Maybe this is sufficient for a senior citizen living alone, but what do the rest of us do with what does not fit into the new container? That’s right, other trash cans are needed, and the city is supposed to pick up the old ones, causing people to either have to buy new ones, or leave the bags out by themselves.

Did management consult labor here? I don’t think so. We know citizens are not consulted on anything. This is just another example of how this local administration cannot get anything right, only in this case we get an example of what it is to be a true “petty bureaucrat.”


Clothes Just May Unmake the (Wo)man
Willie Schatz,

The sign in the Red Line car warned us to be suspicious of and to report people who, inter alia, sweat, wear large, ill-fitting jackets or leave packages unattended. (That may not be the precise language, but you get the drift.) So make sure you shower before you get on the train, buy the jacket that’s too tight rather than too loose, (Oh, it’s uncomfortable? As the former mayor-for-life said, get over it.) and don’t fuhgett your umbrella.


Terrorists on the Metrorail
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

It is certainly possible that there could be a terrorist bombing on our Metrorail. No place on earth is completely safe these days. My pal who travels on Metrorail frequently did some analysis and found that the odds of his being in a Metrorail car when a terrorist device went off are somewhere near 400 million to one. That’s about the same odds one would find for an attack by a unicorn when you were eating dinner at Vidalia Restaurant in DC.. My pal also calculated the odds of being in a Metrorail car when there were two explosive devices in that same car. The odds against that are somewhere around 6 trillion to 1. So, my pal carries his own device in his attache case. (There seems to be a flaw in this logic.)


Identify Budget Priorities Today
Susie Cambria,

As you know, the District’s budget is the single most important legislation considered by the city council and mayor each year. Unfortunately, children and youth do not always receive the services and support they need and deserve. You can change this by casting your vote for kids! This initiative is designed to collect budget priorities from District residents and providers — DC Action for Children will compile the results and share them with elected officials as they develop the FY 2007 budget. We will also share the priorities with those running for elected office next year so they can make children a priority. We will also share the report with the community so that individuals and groups can use the results to bolster their arguments for funding programs important to them.

We are using an on-line tool Survey Monkey to collect the budget priorities. Your response would be appreciated. It is essential so that we can show elected officials that people in the District really do care about children and youth. Here is a link to the survey: Please encourage others to take the on-line survey. Votes by people of all ages is encouraged -- especially from the younger set! After all, this effort is about them! If you want paper copies of the survey, call us at 234-9404.


Medical Care?
Anne McCormick,

In March, I received a letter from my primary care physician (PCP) that she was leaving the practice in DC and staring her own practice in Virginia. The letter advised me to change my PCP and I could purchase a copy of my medical records for $25. I changed my PCP to another doctor at the practice effective March 21. My bank check of $25 cleared on May 10. I have called no less than fourteen times over the past three months to ask about my records. Finally, on July 26, I was told that my former PCP took my medical records with her and I was given a number to call someone I have never heard of. He appears to be some go-between and I have no idea why he has anything to do with my private medical records. After many frustrating conversations with this guy, he finally gave me a phone number for my former PCP in Virginia. When I talked to her, she told me her former practice lied, and that she did not take my records.

My current PCP at the practice told me that this mysterious guy owns the business and to get my medical records I have to talk to this guy and my former doctor. He says he doesn’t have access to my medical records. My own doctor does not have access to my medical records! And then there’s the mysterious fellow who has never seen my records yet swears the records were sent three times and now tells me today that they were sent again two days ago overnight. Do I have a lawsuit here? I have no idea why my medical records are being held hostage. At this moment, if I need medical care my PCP cannot see my medical history. This is very serious stuff. Are other people having such serious problems with medical records in DC? Is this just happening in DC? I have lived in other states and I have never had this problem.


Power Ball
Dorothy Brizill,

The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission adopted the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with labor unions to build the new baseball stadium at its monthly meeting on July 6. The PLA had been negotiated by City Administrator Robert Bobb on behalf of the Williams administration, and announced by Mayor Williams at a press conference at RFK Stadium on June 16. The Sports Commission, which is nominally an independent agency, dutifully ratified the PLA that the mayor handed to it.

However, there is a legal requirement that a due diligence study, weighing the pros and cons and the economic impact of the PLA, be done prior to entering into a PLA. That study was never done. After concerns were publicly raised about the failure to perform the required due diligence study, City Administrator Robert Bobb and the DC Department of Employment Services drafted the terms of a request for proposals (RFP) to do the study, and sent it to the Sports Commission for it to issue. On August 10, the Commission issued the RFP to hire a consultant do the due diligence study, and to determine whether it were a good idea to enter into the deal they have already agreed to. Do you have a clue as to what conclusion the Commission expects the consultant to come up with? If you think you can guess, it’s easy money — the RFP is available on the Commission’s web site at, and replies are due by August 26.


Play Architect
Brendan Conway,

Three items on “Play Architect for the Ballpark” [themail, August 10]: 1) Does themail have any disclosure policy regarding conflicts of interest? I don’t know whether Walker Marchant, Ms. Khorakiwala’s employer, retains the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission as a client. But it would be interesting to know. The reason I ask is, themail is such a terrific forum that I would hate to see it overrun with uninformative PR schlock. Like I said, I don’t know whether Walker Marchant counts DCSEC among its clients. But this post is unique among themail items for its uninformative cheerleading, and seems suspect because of that. If you don’t have a disclosure policy, having one could help ensure the integrity of the forum, whether this posting has conflicts or not. 2) Does themail ever ask would-be posters to clarify issues and explain in further detail before you post the items? The reason I ask this is, Ms. Khorakiwala never explains how and to what extent any input DCSEC gets from fans through this web site would be incorporated into the design. Whether the input will be used is critical to my evaluation of the web site, but that information is missing. We can drum up any number of scenarios where the input falls down the memory hole, what with conflicts with architectural planning, etc. Some sense of how this input will be used, please. 3) Have those questions masked my contempt for what appears to me to be a web site which, in the wake of DCSEC railroading Washingtonians into a sweetheart deal for MLB, appears to be just another ill-conceived PR stunt? If not, well, now it’s unmasked.

[The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission is giving citizens the ability to play out a fantasy, to pretend to be a ballpark architect, knowing that whatever we do or say will have no influence on the final decision. How does this differ from the ballpark siting hearings, when the Commission let citizens blow off steam to no effect, except that at the hearings the Commissioners pretended to listen to citizens and to take their views into account? — Gary Imhoff]


About the Math Tests
Margaret Feldman,

The last issue of themail [August 10] had some comments about the new math programs [approved for DC public schools]. One of my sons (Larry Feldman) is a professor of math and teaches students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania to become math teachers. I asked him how he evaluated the programs that were mentioned in themail. Here is his answer: “I like the programs this person is complaining about. These were on the 1990’s list of promising and exemplary programs from the US Department of Education. They have a good focus on problem solving and applications as opposed to just rote computation. This is part of the conservative reactions to modernizing math teaching.”


National Capital Medical Center
Greg Rhett, DC Federation of Civic Associations,

[Re: Eric Rosenthal and Martha Ross, themail, August 10] We share our opponent’s ultimate desire to improve the health status of all District residents. The primary question seems to be prioritizing our medical services options and alternatives and implementing a plan that is financially feasible. The DC Federation of Civic Associations has consistently stated that the District needs to address the glaring disparities in the location of, and access to all medical services. This is the foundation of our advocacy for the NCMC at Reservation 13. We have never underestimated the importance of primary and preventive medicine, but we continue to be concerned that Dr. Rosenthal and Ms. Ross are misinterpreting our position and missing the point. Frankly, we object to both writers’ efforts to frame this discussion as an either/or situation. They would have us believe that we must make a choice: a Reservation 13 entity that provides a full range of medical services or focus only on providing primary care. Our position is that the District can and must do both; and we ought to do both because both are necessary in their own ways. But, first, the glaring gaps and disparities in access to quality health care must be closed. By advancing the NCMC proposal and contracting with the DC Primary Care Association to implement the Medical Homes Initiative, which addresses exactly what both writers claim is necessary; we believe the District is on the right track for closing these disparities.

We respectfully disagree with Ms. Ross’ contention that good primary care will eradicate the need for critical and intensive medical services, and that therefore, the NCMC is unnecessary. That contention is idealistic, at best. We respectfully disagree with Dr. Rosenthal’s conclusion that the District has too many trauma centers concentrated in our region, that this is an inefficiency that decreases the quality of patient care, and that therefore the NCMC is unnecessary. If we follow both Dr. Rosenthal’s and Ms. Ross’ logic to its final conclusion; then perhaps they should be advocating the closure of all but two of the hospitals located west of North Capital Street, NE. Why start and stop with the proposed NCMC? Perhaps they have compelling but as yet unstated arguments for maintaining the current inequitable distribution of medical facilities and services.

The Federation’s position remains that the current distribution of hospital beds should be reconfigured so that an adequate number of hospital beds will be made available at the proposed NCMC on Reservation 13. We believe that a tertiary care facility and a high level trauma unit should be integral to the plans for the NCMC. The NCMC can potentially provide the necessary high quality outpatient health care and reduce avoidable hospitalizations. We agree with Ms. Ross in her assertion that something is terribly wrong with the current District health care system. That “wrong” is the clear disparity in the current distribution and access configuration of vital medical services. The data that she shared clearly makes the case for the necessity of building and locating the NCMC on Reservation 13.

Finally, may we suggest that perhaps the NCMC opponents should collaborate with us to organize a public citizens debate on this most important subject? This would allow us to “pull back the curtain,” as Councilmember Catania likes to say; and see exactly who are these District citizens that believe so strongly that it is fair and equitable to locate the vast majority of our tertiary care facilities west of North Capitol Street, NE. Perhaps they will agree to publicly and openly present their arguments before a body of fellow District residents. We are prepared to do the same.


Don’t Want to Disillusion Anyone
Katherine Howard,

But, in my opinion, the idea of working with Howard University on a medical center is as good as the planning and execution of the National Grand Prix of Washington, DC. Remember that, folks?


National Capital Medical Center and Other Big Questions
Richard Layman,

I have avidly followed this debate, and appreciate Mr. Rosenthal’s writings. In my weblog, I wrote that plans for the NCMC are “another example of planning without asking the most important questions before coming up with the solution.” (This reminds me of my joke about Congress — “Oh your foot hurts? We know what to do, we’ll cut off your leg.”) That question should be: how can we best assist residents of the District of Columbia in being safe and secure (and able to be assisted when needed) in terms of health, wellness, and health care? That is the question that needs to be answered, and a system developed in response to the goals and objectives that get developed out of that question.

Most DC hospitals lose money. So does the Prince George’s County Hospital, which should be thought of as a DC hospital in some respects. Many people use emergency rooms as their primary health care facility. Yet that is an inefficient, ineffective, and expensive way to obtain health care. Wellness care is different from the care needed when people are very sick. Health insurance programs were created not to ensure health, but to provide regularized income streams to hospitals during the Depression. Pandering won’t make people feel better if they are sick, although they might feel better politically. In any case, shouldn’t we really take this opportunity to address the real question, and come up with answers that truly solve the problems?

Having the solution before the problem is really defined seems to be happening almost categorically across the board in many other areas of civic concern — the K-12 educational system, the library system, "economic development" generally, selling off District government properties, etc. This is but one more example. I fear that the whole idea of Reinventing Government has fallen by the wayside. We have the opportunity to do so many great things in this city, despite the other 536 mayors we have to worry about like Mayors Bonilla and Hutchinson, and all too frequently we blow the opportunity. The NCMC proposal may well be but one more example of a lost opportunity to rethink and refashion health and wellness services to be world class best practice. For some out of the box mayoral thinking, check out these profiles of Jaime Lerner ( and Enrique Penalosa (


HIV v. Terrorism
Michael Bindner, mikeybdc at yahoo dot com

Terrorism may well kill more in DC than HIV. One Iranian nuke sold or given to Al Queda and sent up the Potomac on a tramp steamer could very well kill us all. This is not to minimize the incompetence of the DC government’s financial management system, but to add a bit of perspective.


August 2005 InTowner
Peter Wolff,

This is to advise that the August 2005 on-line edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature. Also included are all current classified ads. The complete issue (along with prior issues back to March 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link provided. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements. The next issue will publish on September 9 (the second Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Historic Preservation Board Wrestles With Controversial Project at Mt. Vernon Square”; 2) “Preservation Board’s July Cases Especially Complex — Necessitated Continuation to August 4 Hearing”; 3) “Next Month’s Adams Morgan Day Festival to Build on Last Year’s Success-Dance Performances Now Added”; 4) “Adams Morgan Essay: Part 1 — Four O’Clock in the A.M. Friday. June 10, 2005.”


Twenty Ways to Make DC’s New Baseball Stadium Stand Out
Len Sullivan,

DC’s protracted heat wave has taken its toll on NARPAC’s customary analytical perspectives. We were fascinated to learn from the Post that DC’s single chosen stadium architect has been asked to design a "signature" structure that looks nothing like any of his previous works, and that he has no particular familiarity with the nation’s only capital city. Surely this is an opportunity for free, unsolicited advice too good to miss! Our August update offers twenty different and distinctive motifs that could give the stadium a unique capital flavor. Take a look at our less than professional cartoons at and put your own overheated imaginations and pencils to work. We’ll publish anything (decent) you lurkers offer up.

And if you like summer puzzles, figure out why Congress is about to make an important contribution to the District of two hundred acres of underutilized/surplus federal property for the city’s economic development, but insists that fifteen prime acres of it be used for a nonprofit school. A new SEED school can also make an important contribution to DC’s future welfare, but why not extend the theme by insisting that it be put on underutilized/surplus DCPS property? In our editorial at, we wonder if DC leaders dropped the ball.



Support Good Groceries on H Street, August 31
Krissi Jimroglou, 

Members of the H Street Community Market invite you to a forum on our efforts to form a cooperative grocery store in the H Street neighborhood. Sherwood Recreation Center, 10th and G Streets, NE, Wednesday, August 31, 7:30 p.m. We’ll talk about our vision for bringing high quality, healthy food to the neighborhood at a reasonable cost and discuss our short and long term goals. Together, we can build a healthy H Street community! Check us out at



House to Share
Mary Vogel,

Bicyclists: a master bedroom with king bed and bath, overlooking the park. $500 per person for a couple (preferred) or $650 single to share a three bedroom, two bath SFH overlooking Rock Creek Park with one other woman over forty and a small dog. Term is September 14-June 15. Can extend couple weeks on either end, but need someone for entire time. Third bedroom will remain a study/guest bedroom shared by both or all.

The 16th Street Metro buses come more frequently than Metrorail and cost far less. Put your bike on the bus any time. Ride the Rock Creek bike path to Woodley Park, Georgetown, the Mall. Or ride to the Metrorail Red line (Takoma) or Green line (Petworth or Columbia Heights) in less than two minutes. Neighborhood is safe and pleasant.

We are looking for a couple or person who practices reduce, reuse, recycle, and other resource-conserving strategies. Must be willing to share housework and yard maintenance. Prefer vegetarian, as existing housemate is vegan. Prefer someone who likes dogs and willing to take a turn at walking lovable pooch with personality. House has central air conditioning, dishwasher, washer-dryer, front porch, backyard deck, low E light bulbs, hardwood floors, loads of houseplants, nice views of the park, great neighbors, and some basement storage space. Deer visit frequently. Call 547-7820 or E-mail.


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