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August 24, 2005


Dear Washingtonians:

Chuck Baxter, below, points out a major problem with the Home Again Initiative that it shares with all of the major development programs of the city government — its lack of transparency, its secrecy, its shutting out of the public from the decisionmaking process. In this, our local government has copied business methods, and the government officials who act in this way think that they are acting “professionally” and in a “businesslike” manner by keeping their decisionmaking process tightly held within a small closed circle. They feel that leaking information to the public could spoil the deals they intend to make, so when they finally do what they call “public consultation” it is usually only after all the important decisions have already been made; and it is always a sham.

Of course, government isn’t a business, and it isn’t meant to operate like a business. A business acts in its own private interests, and to a large extent it keeps its business plans private. Government, at least a democratic government, is nothing more than the people acting together, in concert, to do those things together that they are unable to do singly or through voluntary corporations. A government that sees itself as separate from the people, that keeps secrets from the people, will no longer act in their interests, but instead will develop its own interests. And when the government acts in its own interest or for special interests, when it ignores or bypasses the people in making its decisions, it is no longer a legitimate government. At that point, the people have to call it to account, and remind it of its proper functions.

Gary Imhoff


Green Space and the Home Again Initiative
Chuck Baxter,

A recent article in the Washington Post (Tuesday, August 16, “Miracle Replaces Blighted City Block,”) lauded the Home Again Initiative for renovating twenty-one homes and transferring twenty-three others to developers. The article didn’t mention that Home Again is also taking community green space from the neighborhood that has the least green space and the greatest incoming density in DC. A community playground built in the 70s, 910-912 S Street, NW, turned up in a bundle of properties Home Again is turning over to a developer. Rather than renovating the playground, which has been fenced off for the past three or four years due to city neglect, the District is selling it to a developer. The community across the street from the playground got word of this indirectly — and only when one of the bidders came to their monthly neighborhood meeting.

This highlights a big weakness in the Home Again Initiative; it isn’t transparent. No sign was posted in the public playground telling residents of plans to sell it, no notices were sent to nearby households, and no effort was made to contact the neighborhood association representing a large percentage of nearby neighbors. I discovered when visiting the Home Again Initiative web site that you have to be a certified developer to be able even to see what properties are included in a bundle being offered for development. We still don’t know what other properties in our neighborhood are included! Home Again told us that neighbors south of the playground voted to give it up. But we presented the Home Again special assistant with letters from the neighborhood association north of the playground and a petition from over a hundred residents asking that the playground remain community green space. Even though we’ve demonstrated significant community support for keeping the green space, it’s unlikely Home Again will withdraw it from the development bundle.

The Home Again Initiative goal is to build 175 housing units through the project this year. Has this goal blinded them to the need for green space and for the need to consult with all community members affected by their projects? Building houses on the S Street Playground will end any chance for the communities most in need of the green space to have a meaningful, focused discussion about the use of the property and the impact of any development on their neighborhood.


Early to Rise
Ted Knutson,

Does anyone else think the election season is starting too early? With all of the mayoral signs up a year before the primary, I wonder if anyone else other than the candidates care this early. Remember, we’re talking a local election.


Free Books
Vivian Henderson, VHende

The Petworth Library at Kansas Avenue and Upshur Street, NW, has a free book rack. The books are not library books. Many of the avid readers donate current books to these shelves, and parents bring in children’s books. Petworth Library has had this free book rack for about five years; the library readership loves the opportunity to pick up and pass on free interesting books.


A Thank You Note
Dorothy Brizill,

After eleven weeks of trial, this afternoon the Washington Teachers Union case was finally turned over to the jury to being its deliberations and render a verdict. During the trial, the US Attorney’s office detailed the theft, embezzlement, and money laundering charges and conspiracy scheme against Gwendolyn Hemphill, James Baxter, and James Goosby that resulted in $5 million being stolen from WTU from 1994 to 2002 (

In Sunday’s issue of themail, I’ll write about the highlights of the trial. However, I must note that most trial observers were very impressed by the professionalism of the prosecutors and the strong case assembled by them. The prosecutorial team included Anthony Alexis, James Cooper, and Jeannie Rhee of the US Attorney’s Office; FBI Special Agent Kat Anderson; US Department of Labor Investigator Mark Wheeler; and two auditors from the US Attorney’s Office, Nicholas John Novak and Sandra Henderson. In order to prepare for the trial and unravel the intricate scheme, the team reviewed nearly 80,000 documents, including canceled checks, American Express statements, bank records, vendor receipts, reimbursement vouchers, and interviewed scores of individuals. As a result of their efforts, six individuals — including former WTU President Barbara Bullock, Leroy Holmes, Michael Martin, Cheryl Martin, Robin Klein, and Errol Anderson — pled guilty and signed plea agreements rather than face a jury trial.

Public corruption cases are not easy cases to investigate and prosecute. Regardless of the verdict, which should come within days, this prosecution team did a great job. Washington, DC, owes them a collective thank you.


We’re Number One! Why Aren’t We Healthy?
Lisa Alfred,

As if we needed more proof of the abysmal health outcomes in the District even with all of our hospitals. A Washington Post article (“Dubious Distinction. The District Is at the Front of a National Surge in Kidney Disease. Experts Are Trying to Discover Why — And Stem the Deadly Problem,” August 23,, highlights how the District is number one in kidney disease. And of course the worse zip codes are near hospitals. As the article states, “The District’s rates are practically off the chart.” The 20019 Zip code is 44 times the national average. So why do so many of our residents want the new National Capital Medical Center, a private hospital that will be built with public money, that will have no measure of accountability towards knocking the District out of its number one status? The article states that we beat out Louisiana to get our top status. (By the way, that also means we beat Mississippi). We should be embarrassed!

Louisiana is the state that I come from. I have traveled around the world, and never have I seen such fat, sick people as when I lived in Louisiana. The very first time I saw a primary care doctor in Washington, DC, he sent me in for extensive tests because he couldn’t believe my cholesterol results. At 28 years old, I was told that I had the cholesterol rates of a forty-year-old man. I asked the doctor if that was bad. The reason I had to ask was because where I come from, everybody had high cholesterol. Keep in mind, I didn’t grow up in the swamps of Louisiana. I’m a city girl. I never saw a swamp or an alligator until I went to the zoo as an adult. I regularly saw my primary care doctor. However, doctors in Louisiana, as in many parts of America, tend to believe the same things that everyone else believes, i.e., New Orleans natives are just fat and diabetes ridden and, more importantly, “you’ve got to die of something?”

I lived in Louisiana for twenty-eight years, and most of the people I came in contact with had diabetes and everything else that goes along with it. Many, even doctors, saw those diseases as inevitable. In my twenty-eight years, not one doctor said anything about my cholesterol. My mom had a good government job, so I had good health insurance for at least eighteen years. I believe that Louisiana doctors had very low expectations of their patients, and willfully disregarded the health statistics of our state. I can’t blame the doctors, because most of the citizens of Louisiana had the same low expectations. Unfortunately, DC residents suffer the same diseases, the same low expectations, and, consequently, the same low demands.

I’m sure you are asking what my DC doctor did after that scary diagnosis. I can tell you what he didn’t do. He didn’t send me to a hospital. I had health insurance that would cover anything and everything, but not once did my DC doctor suggest that I go to the hospital to be cured. He suggested a lifestyle change (i.e., stop eating all those fried foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) and medication. The most critical suggestion was to come back to the doctor regularly for more blood work which would monitor my levels to see if other approaches were needed. That’s it. I did what the doctor said and everything worked out just fine. That is not to say that many of our neighbors don’t need a hospital stay if confronting similar circumstances, but my treatment was the typical treatment, not an atypical treatment. If I would have had to go to receive emergency room or hospital care, that would have been atypical. For those who want the NCMC, good luck. But people are literally dying in this city right on top of hospitals.

NCMC’ers should ask themselves, “Why is it that the District is never number one in good categories? Why won’t the NCMC make us the healthiest black population in America? Why are our Mayor and Council spending our health dollars on sick medicine?” Like most of you, I want to be number one, but not like this. In this area, I’d rather be at the bottom of the class.


Clarification of Metrobus Vacancies and Overtime
Sara Wilson,

I’m not sure whether anyone from WMATA has already clarified information in response to a question about staffing levels at Metrobus (“Two Consequences of the Shortage of Bus Drivers,” themail, May 22, and “Bus Lore,” themail, May 25). For the record, please consider the following:

There are 2,385 budgeted operators for bus service. We are currently short approximately 83 operators. While some may consider 83 "a lot" of vacancies, in fact it only represents about 3 percent of the total number of budgeted positions. Moreover, we currently have 37 persons in training for those vacancies and bus operator recruitment is ongoing. (If you, or anyone you know of, is interested in becoming a Metrobus operator, we would encourage you to pick up an application at WMATA headquarters or at any Metrobus garage.)

When operators are out — and they are out for a variety of reasons: sick, vacation, family and medical leave, bereavement — other operators must cover those shifts. Formal discipline is imposed if there is a pattern of unexplained absences. In some cases, part-time operators or “extraboard” operators cover those shifts where the regular operator is absent. In other cases, operators earn overtime to cover shifts of their absent colleagues. Overtime is monitored very closely. For the most part, year after year, the Metrobus operation comes in or under budget on its overtime costs.


Zoe Yerkes’ Red Scare
Dennis Jaffe,

I found Zoe Yerkes’ remarks about Adrian Fenty in the August 21st edition of themail to be highly offensive. The edition was coincidentally headlined, “Disgusting in themail.” I definitely lean towards strongly supporting Adrian Fenty. If he satisfactorily meets the test of genuineness in being a reform, populist candidate "of the people," he’s my man. Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a smear campaign being conducted against Fenty. I take my hat off to Gary for pointing out that the message by Zoe Yerkes was the fourth submitted by the reader against the councilmember — and for calling upon Yerkes to say whether he or she (I apologize for not knowing) is supporting another candidate. Does anyone believe that someone writing negatively about Adrian Fenty at this stage of the game isn’t affiliated with another candidate?

But Yerkes’ comments about Fenty’s Red Brigade? Puh-lease. More ugly attacks on Fenty like that from Yerkes, and Fenty’s support will continue to strengthen. Though I have to say, it’s at an expensive cost to us a city — the uncivic dialogue being created by Yerkes should be cause for our collective concern. Concern enough that candidates Councilmember Orange and Marie Johns and non-candidate Mayor Anthony Williams should denounce such ugly tactics. Yerkes’ argument of likening Fenty’s relationships with Republicans to Mayor Anthony Williams’ endorsement of former Republican Congresswoman Connie Morella was simply sublime and ridiculous! Mayor Williams endorsed a Republican while Democrats were working to regain a majority of the US House of Representatives, led by Speaker Denny Hastert and Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay. Morella was a respected public servant, but Williams’ endorsement was a major affront to the Democratic Party. That’s why one Democratic Club passed a resolution denouncing Williams for his action. I’m a Democrat, but I will break with the party over deeply held principles that are the foundation of my commitment to social justice. Morella’s service did not rise to that level. I do credit Williams, though, for making his endorsement public, rather than helping her quietly. At least he had the courage to go out on a limb.

So, can someone tell me the names of the prominent Republican candidates for elective office whom Adrian Fenty has endorsed? Until those names are provided, as far as I’m concerned, the “guilt by association” reference by Yerkes to Adrian Fenty’s Red Brigade is nothing but a red herring scare, reminiscent of another Red Scare fifty years ago. “Disgusting in themail,” indeed. Let’s take a look at the contribution sheets of whichever candidate Yerkes is supporting, if there’s enough candor and credibility to share with readers the identity of that candidate. I care more about whether a candidate’s agenda is aligned with “big money interests” or with the interests of the individual citizen living in the District of Columbia. That’s the dialogue that should take place in the campaign for mayor.

Please, give a rest to the “stop Fenty at all costs, he’s disarming and dangerous” campaign. The people of this city deserve better than that. My opinion is that it ought to be made clear to anyone who perpetrates putrid distractions upon the people of the District of Columbia from the important issues facing us, that their own projectile is not welcome. What do other readers think?


Two Replies
Roger Scott,

[Re: Zoe Yerkes, “Fenty’s Red Brigade,” themail, August 21]: Dem are Blue, Repubs are Red, Money is Green. Get it where you can. Fenty talks the talk, but (unlike many) he walks the walk. He has proven that he is a people’s politician. I feel that Mr. Fenty is the best this city has to offer at this time, regardless of who is giving him money, I have little doubt that he will do nothing short of making this city a better place for the residents. His actions lead me to believe that the taxpayers will no longer be corporate sponsors of outside contractors.

[Re: Clyde Howard, “Redskins Pat Downs,” themail, August 21]: It is not about you being violated. It is about protecting everyone in the stadium. While I do agree (110 percent) that the security personnel should be trained to perform the searches, I think that the protection is necessary. I can see some drunk fool (and there are plenty of them at any game) trying to strap some kid for accidentally spilling the guy’s beer. We no longer live in the hey days of RFK. I wish we did. But in today’s world we have scuffles in the stands almost every other game. Can you imagine how many people would be hurt in a stampede because some idiot starts to cause trouble? The pat downs are a deterrent to protect you, me, and all the other attendees.


Redskins Pat Downs
Art Spitzer, ACLU of the National Capital Area,

Clyde Howard [themail, August 21] objects to being patted down at Redskins games, and asks: "How will the ACLU deal with Snyder’s unwarranted invasion upon people who are just going to see a game of losers and who are then insulted by such an indignity?"

I’m afraid there’s nothing the ACLU can do about this, legally speaking. The Redskins are a private company and therefore not subject to the limits on searches and seizures imposed upon the government by the Constitution. (If readers of themail don’t understand that, I’d be happy to provide a primer on the "state action" doctrine for the next issue.) Mr. Snyder can make pat-downs a condition of entry just as he can prohibit outside snacks and beer as a condition of entry -- because there’s no law against it. Fans who are offended can let Mr. Snyder know how they feel, or can stay home and watch on TV, or can ask the Maryland legislature or the Laurel (did I get the town right?) city council to enact a law prohibiting pat-downs at stadiums.


Cell Phone and BlackBerry Misuse
Harold Foster, Petworth,

This matter of cell phone and BlackBerry misuse is literally getting deadly serious. Since I started keeping count, I have had six serious near accidents from motorists yakking on cell phones when they either ran red lights or stop signs or, in two instances, turned the wrong way onto one-way streets. (I don’t want to hit this next point too hard, but five of the six motorists were women. The two who turned onto one-way streets gave us the finger when other near-victims and I blew our horns at them.) I have three colleagues who have actually been in major accidents caused by idiots who were using cell phones when they should have been paying full attention to their driving. Two of these had their vehicles totaled and one has had to undergo major surgery.

What do we do about this? I agree with the commander of the California Highway Patrol who commented a year or so ago that, as almost always happens with social issues like this in this country, it will take a major, headline-snapping tragedy to finally galvanize the great US public into doing something (or, rather, tolerating public officials who are willing to do something) about this.

And, once a celebrity or two has been killed or paralyzed for life in an otherwise-avoidable accident caused by one of these Cell Phone Crazies, there will be a great hue and cry for national or blanket state-by-state legislation to simply ban all use of cell phones, BlackBerries, PDAs and the like inside any vehicle at any time, period. And, when that happens there is some eight- or nine-year-old kid out in Iowa or Inner Suburbia somewhere who will become a multimillionaire when she invents software and equipment that will simply block cell phone transmissions to and from a moving vehicle after such a cell phone transmission-block becomes mandatory in all motor vehicles sold in the US. Say, around 2015.


Cell Phone Disgust
Gwen Southerland,

Hmmm, can’t believe we are having this discussion [themail, August 21], but, yes, I think I can top your story. A dear friend who suffers from chronic constipation called me for our daily chat. She indicated that she was having problems eliminating and had taken a laxative. Even though she was at home, my friend informed me that she was calling me on her cell phone to allow her to carry it into the bathroom so that we could continue talking while she eliminated. Needless to say I was sickened. I made a clicking sound and told her that I was receiving another call, so that I could relieve myself of her sounds of relief by hanging up on her. The nerve of some people.



Square Dancing Classes, August 24
Lisa Alfred,

I wanted to alert you all to a great opportunity for singles, couples, and children. I have taken classes with this group, and believe it or not, square dancing is a lot of fun and great exercise. Boomerangs Square Dancing Troop starts their new season of classes on Wednesday, August 24, at 7:30 p.m. There will be sixteen weeks of classes; $5 per night, or $40 for eight classes. Classes are at Lincolnia Center, 4710 North Chambliss Street, Alexandria, VA. Contact Nancy Stafford for more information at 703-573-8378 or


Art Reception, September 1
Afrika Midnight Asha Abney,

Next Thursday, September 1, from 6-8 p.m., please join Afrika Midnight Asha Abney at Phish Tea Cafe, 1335 H Street, NE, Washington, DC for the closing reception and gathering of Afrika Midnight Asha Abney’s second solo art show. For further information, call 396-2345 or 455-3373.


African History and Culture Lecture Series, September 8 and continuing
Carroll Gibbs,

C.R. Gibbs will give an African history and culture lecture series on Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. at Lamond-Riggs Public Library, 5401 South Dakota Avenue, NE (at Kennedy Street, NE), three blocks from the Ft. Totten Metro. Free admission. For more information, call 541-6255. September 8, “Africa, Black America, and World War II”; September 15, “The Chinese in Mississippi”; September 22, “Racial Stereotypes in American Film”; September 29, “Freedom Rising: The Abolition of Slavery in the Western Hemisphere”; October 6, “Smashing Jim Crow in the Nation’s Capital”; October 13, “Black Explorers: 2300 BC to the Present”; October 20, “Lost Kingdoms and Ancient Mysteries of Africa”; October 27, “African Americans and Native Americans in the American Revolution.”

Also, on Tuesday, October 4, at 10:30, a lecture on "Blacks in Georgetown" will be given at the Anacostia Museum (Smithsonian Institution), 1901 Fort Place, SE. For reservations, call: 633-4870.


Historic Preservation and Eminent Domain, September 13
Mary Alice Levine,

The Tenleytown Historical Society will host a talk by Dorn McGrath on "Historic Preservation and Eminent Domain: How the Recent Supreme Court Decision Might Affect Your Neighborhood," on Tuesday, September 13, 7:30 p.m., at the Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church on Tenley Circle. Dorn McGrath is Professor Emeritus, George Washington University, former chairman of Departments of Urban and Regional Planning and Geography, former Chairman of Committee of 100 on the Federal City, and Fellow of AICP, and a resident of Forest Hills. All are welcome.



Fred Davidson,

Wingback chair: solid hardwood frame in dark walnut frame, tight back, upholstered in pale pink fabric, $175. Provence style oak dining table: simple rural beauty, includes one leaf for expandable dining and four matching chairs, $275. Vintage Alston club chair: semi-attached back pillow, upholstered in classic chestnut fabric, reinforced stitching, $175.


Office Furniture
Joan Eisenstodt,

A colleague gave me permission to post this. IPC is consolidating its Washington, DC, office and needs to dispose of the following furniture by the end of August. Most furniture is HON and in good condition. Purchased in 2000-2001. One desk credenza and bridge set, cherry veneer; one desk, bridge and peninsula, dark veneer; one desk, bridge and hutch, cherry veneer; one conference table, veneer; one credenza, veneer; one ornamental table dark veneer; two 6’ black metal bookcases; one 5’ veneer bookcase; two 4’ black metal bookcases; two 4 drawer black metal lateral file cabinets; two 5 drawer beige metal lateral file cabinets; and one beige metal supply cabinet.

If you are interested, please contact Fern Abrams,, Director of Environmental Policy, IPC -- The Association Connecting Electronics Industries, 1333 H Street, NW, 11th Floor West, Washington, DC 20005, 962-0460, fax 962-0464,


Steel Shelving
Phil Shapiro,

I bought some heavy-duty steel shelving two years ago that I’m no longer using. I paid $80 at Costco. Am selling for $40. You can place more than one hundred pounds on each shelf. The shelf heights are adjustable. Photo at



Laptop Computer
Alicia Silvestre,

I teach Spanish for 9th to 11th graders at Roosevelt High School on Georgia Avenue. I need a laptop to help me with my work. Does anyone have a laptop to sell or give me? Or does anyone know where I can obtain a laptop?


Toner Cartridge
Bryce Suderow,

Does anyone know where I can get a toner cartridge for a Lexmark 4019 laser printer?



Office to Sublet
Rosemarie Onwukwe,

Spectacular office space available for sublease, in renovated railway building walking distance to Union Station. 1,800 sq. feet, plus share kitchen and conference room. $3,650 includes utilities (negotiable). Call for more questions at: 408-0003 ext. 803 or 801.


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