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August 17, 2005

High Quality

Dear Contributors:

In yesterday’s paper, Michael Neibauer of The Washington Examiner noted the high quality public debate over the proposed National Capital Medical Center that is taking place in themail ( I’m impressed myself; contributors to themail have given more and better information and arguments for and against the NCMC than I’ve seen anywhere else, and additional messages in this issue add even more.

I’m also gratified by Neibauer’s acknowledgment of the important role that you have taken on this issue — as you have in the past on many other issues. The print media often approach online citizen fora like themail very gingerly — they will mine them as news sources, but are usually very reluctant to credit or cite them. By contrast, Neibauer was extremely generous, and I appreciate it.

Gary Imhoff


An Open Letter to Marie Johns
Ed Johnson,

I have to question how, in good faith, you can announce your candidacy for Mayor of the District of Columbia given the appalling job that National Capital Revitalization Corporation has done in the southwest community under your direction as a board member. For years, my neighbors and I at the Gangplank marina have brought problem after problem to the attention of NCRC, and it has fallen on deaf ears. In July you told the Washington Post that “affordable housing” was one of the big things you want to talk about, and yet under NCRC’s rule of the Gangplank you’ve lost over forty housing units in DC by implementing policies to reduce the number of people who are allowed to live there.

I testified before the Committee on Economic Development in February to bring attention to a number of critical situations at the Gangplank and other issues in Southwest. As part of that testimony, I presented fifteen anonymous letters brought to me by your tenants who were afraid to sign their names for fear of repercussions. And with good reason — some of your tenants were refused renewal of their contract for reasons including having testified before the city council. As mayor, do you plan on taking advantage of every loophole you can find to effectively “evict” any critics of your administration? NCRC has fought every attempt we’ve made to comply with the Freedom of Information Act; is that how your administration will work?

You also said in the Post that you intend to make “a lot of contact with a lot of citizens.” Might I suggest you start in your own backyard? To the best of my knowledge, not one board member or employee of NCRC bothered to get copies of those letters from the February testimony. NCRC Executive Director Tony Freeman has never responded to my request for a meeting; I was brushed off to someone else. You’re asking voters to evaluate you on the basis of “where I’ve been.” Well, while you’ve been at NCRC we’ve had H20 open as your tenant, and despite the promises that it would be a neighborhood friendly restaurant it’s now called one of DC hottest night clubs by promoters all over town. Their liquor license is under protest by the ANC, they’ve been cited for underage drinking by ABRA, and Zanzibar and Cantina Marina, also under NCRC control, have their liquor licenses under protest. Tyranny at the Gangplank and apathy along the rest of the Waterfront aren’t much of a legacy.


Convention Hotel or Bust?
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir,

On Sunday, the Baltimore Sun ran a story on the poor results that city financed convention hotels have produced since 1998,,1,5255629.story. From a list of twenty-three projects that have been considered around the country, the paper highlights four of six that have actually been operating for more than a year. Separately, those four hotels have undermined existing hotel business, have been unable to support their bond debt, have forced the city to refinance at higher rates, and have had the project bonds downgraded by Moody’s Investment Services. An analyst from Moody’s was quoted as saying, “Convention centers are ‘money losers,’ and now we’re seeing that many of the hotels built to accommodate [them] are struggling too.”

A Sun editorial this Wednesday,,1,324319.story, pointed out that, more than anything else, the cost of hotel rooms directs conventioneers’ city of choice. That same editorial pointed out that Baltimore, the “cheaper than Washington” destination, is losing convention customers due to the rising cost of hotel rooms in Baltimore as its tourism industry becomes more competitive. Ironically, a hotel industry that draws top dollar for hotel rooms does not provide the initiatives for conventioneers looking for a cheap room rate. The convention center hotel that DC leaders are beginning to commit to will have to be heavily subsidized to compete and, if it maintains business strength, it will likely take business from other downtown hotels.


DCPS Coordinator of Social Studies: Teaching Experience Not Necessary
Erich Martel, Department of Social Studies, Wilson High School, ehmartel at starpower dot net

The following request is being sent to DCPS Superintendent Clifford Janey, his academic leadership, and members of the Board of Education and Council: “The currently advertised position of ‘social studies coordinator’ (on the DCPS web site from August 2 -15, 2005) employs cleverly worded qualification standards that will allow a candidate with no teaching experience to qualify, while barring experienced classroom teachers who haven’t worked for at least a year in the DCPS central office. Instead of requiring ‘five years of teaching experience in the social studies field’ (as the vacancy announcement for world languages coordinator does), it calls for ‘five years of experience in the social studies field.’ To deter interested and qualified classroom teachers from applying, a petty, bureaucratic obstacle was created that only a central office staff member can meet: ‘a minimum of a year of specialized work experience equivalent to at least the EG-13 or ET-7 level.’

“This ‘designer job description’ is an insult to teachers and will hopefully be withdrawn and redrafted. I have requested that the Superintendent and his academic staff do the following: 1) Remove the currently posted vacancy notice for ‘Social Studies Coordinator’ and the similarly worded notice for ‘World Languages Coordinator’ from the list of current vacancies under Chief Academic Officer. 2) Reword it so that it emphasizes what all social studies teachers need: a) Classroom experience — at least five years as a teacher of core social studies subjects: US history, world history, geography, civics/government; b) an academic background with a major or minor in one of the major social studies subjects, especially US history; c) familiarity or direct work with curriculum development, standards, and assessments; and d) Provide for a reasonable response time, e.g.. August 29 through September 26. 3) Post the new vacancy on the web site and circulate the announcements to all school buildings.”


DC Rewriting Ballpark Financing, Carving up Land for Developers
Ed Delaney, 

I just love how no journalism outlet whatsoever will discuss the true nature of the “private financing” of the baseball stadium, or even make a cursory cost/benefit analysis. The specifics of how much more of the store is being given away have yet to be sufficiently analyzed and presented, as the media gives the Baseball Brigade a pass to make up the rules as they go along, despite hundreds of millions of dollars being in the balance. Private financing of stadiums and arenas used to mean an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars from the private entity that will benefit from the project, as occurred at Fed Ex Field and the MCI Center. In this case, however, private financing brings no such benefit, just a shell game of who gets paid and how. Having given away the store to Major League Baseball and the team owner in terms of revenue streams, DC appears to be handing over what’s left to a banking conglomerate, forcing one to wonder how this insanely expensive project will ever pay for itself.

Another interesting item is the following: “Another proposal calls for the creation of a flat tax — perhaps as low as 0.05 percent — on sales of all goods and services in DC. Under this plan, only businesses with more than $33 million in sales would pay more than they are currently”  (  Nice! So this plan was sold for years by the Brigade, from the mayor to Evans, on the premise that this stadium would not cost anyone who didn’t use the stadium a dime and that it would only get built if the business community paid for it. Now, the power-hungry Brigade is set to change that completely and come closer to making everything they promised even more of a fantasy. If no one makes a peep, there’s nothing to stop it. I love the "perhaps as low as 0.05 percent" part. Anyone who’s followed this thing even a little knows such hopeful pabulum always bites the dust when it comes down to finding the money for real.

And then there’s the land grab detailed in the next article, I particularly love this part: “AWC Executive Director Andy Altman said he’s preparing a request for information for developers interested in partnering on the ballpark district. That’s due out in the next 30 days. ‘With the public parcels, we get a certain amount of critical mass,’ he says.” Did anyone else get the image after reading this of Al Capone and his associates looking at a map of the city and dividing up territories? “OK, Legs Lerner, you get everything north of M Street, and Babyface Miller gets South Cap to the water. Capiche?” The image becomes more vivid when we see rulings that grease the skids for the easy removal of existing residences and businesses who stand in the way of the big picture plans and wishes of select politicians and big businessmen (MLB, developers, etc.) working hand in hand. But hey, isn’t it easier for a handful of these people to make these big decisions for us behind the scenes? The media seems to think so, because they certainly seem to have done their utmost to enable it in this case. It’s too bad, since this is shaping up to be the biggest project in terms of scope and cost to DC taxpayers in terms of taxes, lost revenue, and taken property in the city’s history. Pathetic.


Annoying Metro Announcement Delivery
Jerry McCoy,

I finally understand the nationwide craze of the iPod — it’s to cocoon one’s self from annoying announcement deliveries like the series of ones I was subjected to this morning on Metro car #3197 on the Red Line between Silver Spring and Gallery Place. Between the stomach-churning, sickly-sweet, over-the-top, sing-songy delivery of station announcements by the female conductor and her repeated admonitions to, “Remember, let’s be prepared, not scared,” I wanted to jump off the moving train.

But the guy across the aisle with the telltale white earplugs was oblivious to it all . . . beeping and bopping to his music. I’m ordering one today, one more clone closing him/her self off from society.


Terrorists on the Metrorail
Harold Goldstein,

[Re: Ed Barron, themail, August 14]: When talking of events of this nature in an ever-changing world then statistics are meaningless. Prior to 2001, what were the odds of being in a skyscraper hit by a terrorist driven airplane? That’s a zero. The odds are still plenty low, and perhaps Ed’s little pal (perhaps he has long white ears?) can calculate them. But does that mean we ignore the potential? The use of statistics belittles the importance of these events and is no value in the debate over Metro’s approach to terrorism. (Ten times as many people died on our roads than in collapsing high rises in 2001. So what!)

Better to stick to the issue: are searches a useful deterrent or not? Are cameras of use in either curtailing or catching terrorists or not? If so, do the positives outweigh the negatives?


Pay Off Our Debt
Lars Hydle,

[Re: Surplus, themail, August 14]: Unfortunately neither Rivlin, nor any of the commentators in the Washington Post, nor even Imhoff suggested using temporary windfall revenues like the current ones to pay off DC’s debt. I have read that we have a very high per capita debt; although interest rates have dropped for us as our ratings have risen. Paying off debt is an excellent one-time expense that, by definition, reduces our future obligations and our annual expenditure. Why not do it?


Ward 6 and NCMC: The Forgotten Ward
Frank Zampatori,

On Tuesday, August 16, the Office of the City Administrator finally held its first meeting for Ward 6 residents concerning the proposed new 250-bed Howard University Hospital and Medical Center known as the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC), to be located in Ward 6 on Reservation 13. The earlier meeting held in Ward 7 at the Kelly Miller School was attended primarily by over three hundred Ward 7 residents; it included the mayor, city council chairman, city administrator, six councilmembers, and the President and Vice President of Howard University, plus numerous city employees who explained the proposed NCMC. This meeting was more understated. The meeting was held in Room 301 in the Wilson Building and was attended by eight Ward 6 residents; it included Gina Lagomarsino of the Office of the City Administrator; Christopher Hopson, Senior Associate for Legislative Affairs for Howard University; Marge Francese from Ward 6 Councilmember Ambrose’s Office; and staff members from the Office of Planning, the DC Department of Transportation, and the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation.

Unlike the earlier meeting in Ward 7, this meeting was not to explain the purpose or goal of the proposed NCMC, nor was it an attempt to explain some of the finer points of the proposal, since the Howard representative had not worked on the NCMC proposal and had only a basic knowledge of NCMC. The purpose was to discuss the NCMC building design, the location of the building, proposed new traffic patterns as well as traffic congestion on adjacent streets to be caused by NCMC, and a new plan by the City Administrator that in effect will violate once again the Master Plan for Reservation 13 by consolidating all city-run clinics on Reservation 13 to a building to be constructed in front of the DC Jail on the proposed Massachusetts Avenue extension, in an area reserved for civic and municipal buildings.

The 8 community residents would have none of this nonsense. Knowing there was no decision maker in the room, the residents continued to press their points on whether or not the NCMC would actually serve the health care needs of the District’s population; whether or not other sites were studied in Ward 7 on land which was next to a Metro subway stop and major highway (the answer was no); why the Administration would not admit that the current Howard University Hospital on Georgia Avenue will close once the NCMC is constructed and its programs are transferred to NCMC; why NCMC could not consolidate the city run clinics located on Reservation 13 and place them in its new NCMC building and operate the programs under a contract with the District; why the Department of Health did not have a lead role in the NCMC proposal since this is a major health care issue for the District; why the NCMC issue is being driven from the Office of the City Administrator and not from an office whose main function is health care and health delivery (i.e.. DOH); and why, contrary to the public statements from both Howard University, the Office of the City Administrator, and various City Councilmembers, the NCMC Report dated July 12, clearly identifies NCMC as being directed towards recapturing 80 percent of the old DC General market and in effect will become another public hospital supported by public funds based on the projected client base and service areas. It was pointed out that a current member of the Howard University Board of Trustees admitted on July 30 that the NCMC would run a deficit that would be corrected by a hoped-for infusion of new Federal funds.) It is obvious from this meeting that the residents of Ward 6 have little standing in this debate.

On October 7, Councilmember David Catania will hold a hearing of the Committee on Health on the National Capital Medical Center at the Wilson Building. The subject will be the financing package and projected costs associated with NCMC. What is needed by the is a through and careful review by the city council of the financial package for this project. We are embarking on a program that will commit us financially for decades to come. We need to be sure that this program and the direction we are going is what is needed to serve the health care needs of the District residents.


National Capital Medical Center
Martha Ross,

[Re: Greg Rhett, themail, August 14]: I appreciate Mr. Rhett’s support for increased primary care capacity in the city. But here are some questions for him and other proponents of the National Capital Medical Center. 1) Mr. Rhett and other NCMC supporters have yet to answer the question: how will the new hospital improve the lousy health indicators in this city? That is the issue that must be addressed. Hospitals have an absolutely critical role to play in the health care system but they have a specific role -- they do not do all things. They treat people when they are already very sick or have been in some kind of accident or traumatic incident. Hospital proponents need to make the case that this city needs more of that particular function -- treating very sick or injured people — and that if we have more of that capability on Reservation 13, the health status of our residents will improve.

2) Hospital proponents need to address the fact that if a new hospital is built on Reservation 13, Greater Southeast Community Hospital in all likelihood will shut down. People talk about the NCMC like there isn’t already a hospital east of the Anacostia River. There is. But there probably won’t be if the NCMC is built, since it will draw most of Greater Southeast’s patient base away. Is that what NCMC proponents want?

3) Mr. Rhett notes that the addition of the NCMC will involve some reconfiguring of the location of hospital beds. Specifically: “[The Federation] 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 of Reservation 13.” Really, the city can do this? How will the city persuade the city’s private and nonprofit hospitals to give up existing beds — what leverage does it have? I don’t think it’s realistic to create new beds (and spend a lot of money doing so) “in hopes” that other hospitals will cooperate by reducing their own beds to prevent an oversupply.

4) I never said that it was an either/or proposition between improved primary care and a hospital on Reservation 13 and would rather not have words put in my mouth. Nor did I say that additional primary care would eliminate the need for critical and intensive services. I said that additional primary care is a more effective investment than additional hospital beds. I am not anti-hospital, believe it or not. I am for smart investments in the city’s medical delivery system for the benefit of all residents, particularly under-served residents. I think there is a strong case to be made for a medical facility on Reservation 13. A large Ambulatory Care Center that includes high-level diagnostic services, specialty services, urgent care, laboratory, and ambulatory surgery services would do a much better job than a hospital of filling real medical needs citywide, particularly the needs of east-of-the-river residents. Would NCMC proponents consider such an option? If not, why not? Specifically, what is the added value of a hospital over the ambulatory care center outlined above?

5) If you are in favor of a hospital on Reservation 13, the details of Howard University’s proposal would still give you pause. Why this particular hospital deal? Why should the city enter into a partnership that at the outset is estimated to cost $400+ million in scarce public dollars over the first five years -- and that’s a best case scenario, given the unrealistically optimistic assumptions about net revenue per bed, lengths of stay, occupancy rates, and number of outpatient surgeries? (The judgments that the assumptions are unrealistic are from the Stroudwater analysis.)



Vegetarian Society of DC Events
Phil Shapiro,

If you’re not too chicken, upcoming events for the Vegetarian Society of DC can be found at With avian flu about to circle the globe, it might be an idea for more folks to consider the benefits, both personal and global, of a vegetarian diet. Or not.


Saturday Night African Cultural Celebration at the Embassy of Uganda, August 20
Michael Karlan,

On this Saturday night, August 20, Professionals in the City invites you to a Saturday Night African Cultural Celebration at the Embassy of Uganda. As we celebrate in the shadows of Entebbe and Lake Victoria, experience a unique African cultural evening on foreign soil as we travel halfway across the world without ever leaving the District. Join your fellow professionals for a special Saturday night of Ugandan food, drink, music, cultural dancing, diplomats, film, and more! Dress business casual for this indoor and outdoor celebration, and enjoy this unique party with the Ambassador and her staff at this African treasure in the Washington, DC, area. No jeans, shorts or sneakers. All tickets must be purchased in advance. This event is this Saturday, August 20, from 8:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. at the Embassy of Uganda, 5911 16th Street, NW. The cost is $60 and includes food, open bar, and everything else! All tickets must be purchased in advance. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit, E-mail, or call 686-5990.


Free Walking Tours, October 1
Laura Brower,

WalkingTown, DC will present a day of free neighborhood walking tours on Saturday, October 1. Discover Washington — the cultural capital with vibrant street life and little-known historic treasures. Neighborhoods throughout Washington, DC: including Capitol Hill, Downtown, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Lafayette Park, Old Anacostia, Southwest Waterfront, and U Street/Shaw. Enjoy walking tours (and a few bike tours) with professional and volunteer neighborhood guides across the city. Pick a tour at and just come! Presented by Cultural Tourism DC, a nonprofit strengthening the image and economy of Washington, DC, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Sample tours: walk the Anacostia Waterfront and Poplar Point with DC native, Ward Eight activist, and Anacostia Waterfront Corporation board member Carl Cole, who will put his own spin on the riverfront – old and new. Capitol Hill Tails Tour: shake a leg and bring your patriotic pooch to sniff out the history of Capitol Hill. Before Harlem, there was U Street: take a walk back to the days when U Street was Washington’s “Black Broadway.” In Fala’s Footsteps: geared to kids ages four to nine; learn about the life and times of Franklin D. Roosevelt from the perspective of the famous presidential pooch, Fala. All WalkingTown, DC tours are free and take place rain or shine. Reservations are required only for bike tours. Call 661-7581 or E-mail for more information.


Credit Seminar, October 1
Tolu Tolu,

Improving or repairing your credit is a process that focuses on improving lenders’ perceptions of you as a credit risk. Attend a credit seminar on Saturday, October 1, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Atlas Theater, 1333 H Street, NE. Cost, $25.00 per person. Sponsored by, 331-4418.


Hazardous Waste and Electronics Recycling, October 15
Mary Myers,

The District Department of Public Works (DPW) will hold its biannual household hazardous waste and electronics recycling drop-off event on Saturday, October 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Carter Barron Amphitheater parking lot at 16th and Kennedy Streets, NW. These services are free and open to all District residents. Household hazards include old cleaning and gardening chemicals, pesticides and poisons, acids, varnish, oil-based paints, solvents, aerosols, wood preservatives, spent batteries of all kinds, roofing tar, chemistry sets, automotive fluids, even asbestos floor tiles.

DPW will also have an electronics recycling station to receive end-of-life televisions, office and audio equipment, computers, computer parts and accessories. All computer monitors and TV screens must be intact, not cracked, punctured or shattered. During processing, the electronics are broken down into component parts, precious as well as toxic metals are extracted, and then the various materials are recycled or disposed of safely. Residents who have old or unneeded recycling bins may also bring those to the event. The old bins will eventually be recycled themselves. For more information on household hazardous waste, visit the DPW web site at



Fall Intern Looking for Housing
Maude Bauschard,

My name is Devendra Thapa, and I’m a 30-year-old male student, originally from Nepal. I’m currently studying with the International Project Management in Stockholm, Sweden, and I’m seeking accommodations during a three month internship program in Washington, DC. I’m clean, responsible, and respect others. Duration: three months, September-November. Cost: up to $700/month. Type of housing: shared or single apartment. Furnished. Space for basic cooking. Broadband Internet access preferable. Location: close to public transport, preferably along the Red or Orange/Blue lines. Please contact me at, if you know of any housing opportunities that fit the criteria.



Looking for Lou Ursitti
Denise Wiktor,

Lou Ursitti is a talented refinisher of furniture. I have been trying to locate him for several years now. He was based in DC and did some wonderful work, but still has a piece of furniture made by my father. In trying to contact him, I kept getting a child answering the phone. Now I don’t have a number and am not sure of the spelling. Any help would be appreciated.


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