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August 31, 2005

Guilty on All Counts

Dear Judges:

Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago is involved up to his neck in an eighteen-month federal investigation of corruption in hiring and contracting practices by the city government. More than twenty people have already pled guilty, and the investigation continues. Today’s Associated Press story ( describes the debate among city residents on the Daley administration: “Some residents say Daley has not made enough progress on affordable housing and combating crime, and they accuse him of favoring downtown and affluent areas at the expense of poor neighborhoods. They think Daley could be vulnerable at the ballot box for the first time in years if he chooses to face reelection in 2007. Other residents view Daley as a can-do manager who has improved the school system, reformed public housing, boosted economic development and helped make Chicago one of the nation’s most livable cities. They either argue he cannot be expected to keep tabs on every city worker, or they shrug and say patronage and clout help keep the ‘city that works’ working.”

Of course Chicago, like another city that I could name, has long been tolerant of corruption in its city government. But I’m not mentioning this story because of the parallels that could be drawn, but because of a difference. Yesterday, at a budget hearing, Mayor Daley addressed the crowd and, as reported by the Chicago Sun Times, said, “I know I should have done more to end the corruption more quickly. . . . It’s become clear to me that I should have done more to maintain higher ethical standards and prevent corruption. . . . I let you down by not putting the same energy into fixing those problems that I have into moving our city forward. I take responsibility for these problems and tonight, I make a commitment to you to do everything within my power to fix them, root out those who engage in misconduct and hold them accountable for their misdeeds” ( I’m in no position to judge the sincerity of those words, but I’m still impressed by them. Have you ever heard anything like them here?

Gary Imhoff


The Verdict Is In: The Check Is in the Mail
Dorothy Brizill,

This afternoon, the jury returned its verdict in the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) case, bringing an end to the thirteen-week trial at US District Courthouse. Gwendolyn Hemphill, who had been the executive assistant to former WTU president Barbara Bullock, and James Baxter, the union’s former treasurer, were both found guilty of twenty-three separate counts, including conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, theft, and aiding and assisting in the filing of a false tax return for their role in a scheme that resulted in $5 million being stolen from the WTU between 1994 and 2002. The union’s accountant and tax preparer, James Goosby, was found not guilty of six counts, including conspiracy, wire and mail fraud, making false statements, and aiding and assisting in the filing of a false tax return. Judge Richard J. Leon has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Hemphill and Baxter on December 8. They could each be incarcerated for up to twenty years.

Throughout the three-month trial, many court observers have wondered how Hemphill and Baxter were paying for their defense counsels. The US government, in Count One of the indictment, charged that “during the life of the conspiracy, defendant Hemphill, along with James Baxter and Barbara Bullock, charged in excess of $1,500,000 for personal expenditures on the WTU American Express account and wrote themselves undeserved checks of at least $500,000.” The government’s indictment also “alleges that defendant Hemphill, along with Baxter and Bullock, wrote or caused to be written WTU checks totaling at least $570,000 to Michael Martin, Errol Alderman, and Expressions Unlimited and checks totaling approximately $1.4 million to Leroy Holmes. A substantial portion of the proceeds went back to either defendant Hemphill or Barbara Bullock in furtherance of their conspiracy not only to steal and defraud, but to hide and cover up their crimes.” Over $5 million was stolen from WTU, about $1.5 million of it to pay for goods and services and $3.5 million of it in cash; the location of much of that cash has still not been traced.

Baxter’s trial counsel was Michele Roberts, with the law firm of Akim Gump Strauss Hauer; Hemphill was represented by Nancy Luque and Deborah St. Jean, with the law firm of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. A review today of court records indicates that Hemphill’s attorneys were appointed by Judge Leon after her representation that she was “unable to afford counsel.” Their fees will be paid by the court under the US Criminal Justice Act.

My detailed report on the trial will be in Sunday’s issue of themail.


DC Government Incompetence
Clyde Howard,

[Re: Pete Ross, themail, August 28] Until the government of the District of Columbia is purged of the incompetence, the graft, and just plain ignorance, the people of the city will continue to be confronted with half work, lazy work, and no work personnel who are enjoying the fruits of the Union that protects them. Never have I seen or experienced a government that is so disconnected from the population of this city. It almost could be considered a government of a country just emerging from the back woods into civilization. A government of a Third World Country operates better then the government we have representing this city. Only in this town could residents have their houses collapse because construction on the adjoining houses isn’t inspected by the government charged to protect their interest -- and only here can the government continue its non-protection without fear of being dragged into court. Developers that are unlicensed to perform any construction are allowed to operate with impunity in this city. The same can be said for electricians and plumbers. What kind of inspectors, reviewers of construction drawings and other types of personnel do we have within the construction area of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs? As for the Department of Motor Vehicles, how many more DMV employees will be arrested for taking kick backs? The impropriety of their personnel ought to tell you something about the character of the agency. Rather then find the source of the problem, they want to accuse Pete of wrongdoing. Lazy work. When an agency treats the public like a bunch of liars, what can you say about the agency?


The Long Election
Neil Richardson,

Time for all us to do our homework. I would like to second Gary’s call [themail, August 28] for a better type of politics as we head into a protracted mayoral campaign. Asking questions and wondering about the essential truth and wisdom of what we hear in response is probably the first and most important step citizens can do in pondering our choices for mayor. The District is poised to make a leap forward, and whoever the next mayor is will help determine whether we aspire to greatness or for mediocrity.

In the late 90’s, I did a lot of research funded in part by the Pew Charitable Trusts about how Americans hoped politics could be better practiced. Then, like now, there was a lot of frustration. I convened focus groups, helped develop surveys, and spoke to leaders and theorists from around the country looking for what the "answer" was. As you can imagine, there wasn’t one single thing but a spectrum of things citizens yearned for. Essentially, I learned that citizens wanted politicians, the news media, and ordinary people to do things differently based on asking tough questions, replying and reporting honestly, and by all of us doing our homework. By "homework," people meant the responsibility citizens have in gathering information from a variety of sources, understanding our personal biases, and challenging our own assumptions.

In regard to what people are looking specifically for from politicians on the campaign trail, I heard: Tell us who you are, Know us, Explain where you stand. Be forthright, Set the right tone. As we head toward choosing the next mayor for our city, I recommend that we hold each candidate accountable for these kinds of aspirations. It’s been my experience that change occurs when there is tension between anxiety/fear and hope/aspiration for a different outcome. Perhaps, what Zoe Yerkes is trying to express in talking about Adrian Fenty comes from this place where we can authentically engage each other to create a brighter future. For transparency’s sake, I should add that I’m an enthusiastic supporter of Fenty and will remain so for as long as he seeks to represent citizens’ best aspirations for what we can become. Even so, all the candidates need to specifically describe their policy ideas; it behooves us all to begin doing our homework now.


Fenty the Candidate
Mary Vogel,

I moved to Ward 4 relatively recently (April) and have seen Adrian Fenty speak at least two events: the Ward 4 Comprehensive Plan feedback session and the Klingle Road hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. In neither case did I feel my views were well-represented by him. In the Comp Plan session he responded to a complaint about group homes by stating that such uses were a real problem. I share a house with two other unrelated people, so I felt a bit targeted. I have no problem with group homes in my neighborhood as long as they are well maintained. In the Klingle hearing, he testified for the road, painting it as an east-side versus west-side of the park, poor versus rich issue, despite the fact that a number of us who opposed the road were there from Ward 4 (and other east-of-park wards) to testify on what a poor job the EIS contractors had done in providing options for us to address. (For example, their “No Action” option stated that further erosion would continue to occur causing continued environmental harm, not mentioning that if the District took no action on the road, the National Park Service could then go in to stabilize the landscape.) In both cases I felt Fenty was giving his audience what he thought they wanted to hear.


Facts about Fenty
Bonnie Cain,

I’m having a hard time believing that there really is a Zoe S. Yerkes, and not just an opposition plant. Someone who thinks it is adequate to base her opinions on what she read in the "newspapers and elsewhere online" [themail, August 28]? Anyway, the slur about that “Exploring Committee stuff” is so off base, it needs correction. I refer your readers to Ms. Yerkes’ paper of record, The Washington Post, where they state: “Mr. Fenty had the ethical sense to refuse to take advantage of a bad law,” They state, “Only council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) voluntarily disclosed the names of contributors and the amount of donations to his mayoral exploratory committee.” Ms. Yerkes has mixed up Fenty, who is in this instance was “squeaky clean” by all measures, with Vincent Orange, Michael Brown, and A. Scott Bolden, who failed all good government measures for transparency, accountability, and unregulated money in their management of their exploratory committees.



Guy Mason Recreation Center Fall Classes
Toni Ritzenberg,

Registration for Fall 2005 classes at the Guy Mason Recreation Center, 3600 Calvert Street, NW, began on August 22, with most classes starting the week of September 27th. With summer almost over, beach visits almost finished, and school started, isn’t it time to prepare for a new season? To encourage your creativity, art classes are offered at three levels, all with Studio and Critique. China painting, copper enameling workshops, and potter are also available. To keep your body and mind in shape, there are classes in Dancercize, Pilates, Qi Gong, yoga, and senior momentum (for persons over fifty). This year you can take ski and snow board conditioning classes to get in shape for the slopes.

Ballroom dancing, French, and Spanish all run for ten sessions, and for the first time there is ESOL (English as a second language). As always, duplicate bridge is offered twice weekly. Children were not forgotten, but Music Together’s (adult/child class, from birth to four years of age) classes are already filled for this session. Remember this is one of the District’s best bargains.

For specific program start dates, visit the Center’s web site at; to register online, visit and click on Activities Program Registration and follow the instructions. For further information or to register in person, visit the Center Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., or call Robert Haldeman/Caryl King at 282-2180.


Nursery School Last-Minute Opening
Steve Goodman,

Parents: there is a last-minute opening for a four-year old at Adas Israel’s Gan Hayeled Nursery School. School begins on Monday, September 12. For more information, please call Shelley Remer, Director, at 362-4491 or Steve Goodman, Educational Consultant, at 986-9431.


American Sign Language Classes, September 7
Debra Truhart,

September 7-29, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW. Let’s Communicate in American Sign Language. Class locations will be posted on lobby bulletin board. American Sign Language classes are provided by the Librarian for the Deaf Community, Adaptive Services Division of the DC Public Library. Beginning Level: Monday and Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. (9/7-9/28); and Thursday, 5:30 p.m. (9/8-9/29). Intermediate Level: Monday and Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. (9/6-9/27). Conversational Level: Monday and Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. (9/7-9/28) and Saturday, 10 a.m. (9/10-9/24). Public contact 727-2145 (TTY and voice). Classes will also be held at the Northeast Neighborhood Library, 330 7th Street, NE (call 698-3320) and the Georgetown Neighborhood Library, 3260 R Street, NW (call 282-0220).


18th Street, Adams Morgan Transportation and Parking Study Public Meeting, September 8
Corinna Moebius,

Traffic on 18th Street, crosswalks on Columbia Road, dangerous intersections, narrow sidewalks, and parking! Come to the District Department of Transportation’s third of four public meetings to discuss proposed short- and long-term transportation and parking recommendations based on findings and community feedback. Come to share your comments, ask questions, and give your ideas and input. Your opinion matters, and will influence the final recommendations for transportation and parking in Adams Morgan.

Thursday, September 8, 6:00-8:00 p.m., Church of Christ Scientist (Basement), 1770 Euclid Street, NW (enter from Champlain near CityBikes). Bilingual (Spanish/English) representatives will be available for assistance, and Spanish-language handouts will be available. Visit for more information or to share your comments via an online form.


Adams Morgan Day, September 11
Lisa Duperier,

The 27th Annual Adams Morgan Festival will feature perennial favorites such as the two live music stages and Arts on Belmont, as well as a new international Dance Plaza and expanded Kid’s Fair at the Marie Reed School. Always the second Sunday in September, it runs from noon to 6:00 p.m. on September 11 on 18th Street, NW, between Florida Avenue and Columbia Road. The Arts on Belmont section of the festival opens at 10:00 a.m.

First held in 1978, this nationally known festival celebrates international cultures and creativity, arising from the melting pot quality of the unique Adams Morgan neighborhood. With its multicultural gumbo of music and dance performances, youth activities, international food and vendors galore, this regional festival is a favorite of metro residents and tourists alike.

Two large, live music stages bookend 18th Street. The Florida Avenue stage, produced by Clear Channel’s Jerry Phillips, has a Latin/Caribbean and jazz flavor, and at 2 p.m. will feature a special 9/11 tribute. The Columbia Road Stage, produced by Madam’s Organ, features: live R&B, funk, bluegrass and blues, Bob Perilla and Big Hillbilly Bluegrass, ABC’s Doug McKelway of Good Morning Washington, the legendary "Sauce Boss" and DC in Drag. Washington Metro Area Dodge is the major sponsor of the festival, which is organized by AdamsMorgan MainStreet Group, an umbrella nonprofit working to retain and promote the unique, vibrant character of the Adams Morgan’s business area. The new Dance Plaza, sponsored by PNC Bank, features an exciting lineup of dance groups that will perform and then teach basic dance moves so the audience can participate. Performers include the Dance Place Youth Step Team (nominated for the DC Dance Awards), as well as other groups performing Mexican, salsa/rueda, West African, Afro-Cuban rumba and Bolivian folkloric dance. For more info, see, call 232-1978 or E-mail


Cleveland Park Citizens Association, September 13
George Idelson,

Tuesday, September 13, 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Park Library, Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill, who host the online newsletter themail, will talk about local politics, the upcoming election, and issues that affect our neighborhood. We will also have updates on the Wisconsin Avenue Giant Store, the Cleveland Park Commercial Overlay, Tregaron, and St. Albans expansion plans.



Friend Needs Apartment
Joan Eisenstodt,

My friend Beverly needs an apartment! The one in which she currently lives is being sold when the owners of the house sell the entire house. Beverly is fabulous and a wonderful tenant. She needs a one bedroom apartment, would love a balcony or patio but can live without, safe neighborhood, near Metro, in the less than $1,000/month range and much less if possible. She is honest, kind, smart. E-mail me if you have one for rent or know of one.



Phil Shapiro,

Last week a generous community member donated a PowerMac G4 computer to DC LEARNs, the coalition of literacy organizations in the greater DC-area. I’m volunteering to help literacy organizations use this computer to produce literacy-related videos for uploading to the Internet Archive — which provides free web hosting. If anyone has an older camcorder or tripod to donate for use by literacy organizations, I can stop by to pick it up. Any vintage camcorder is usable. A tax-receipt thank-you letter can be given to you from DC LEARNs.

On a related matter, here is a ten-minute video I shot at an annual DC LEARNs meeting a few years ago ( Click on the word QuickTime on the left side of the web page to view the video. This video explains about the Mary Harshaw Adult Learner Award given to the most exceptional adult learner each year. People often define courage as that virtue demonstrated by soldiers on a battlefield. If you meet people like Mary Harshaw, you quickly realize uncommon courage can be found in many people right here in our community. Life is a battle -- a struggle. Are we doing enough of the right things to make it less so? What should we be doing — as individuals, as organizations, as companies, as governments — that we’re not doing yet? Can we afford to lose more time, more opportunities?



Local TV Investigative Reporting
Ed Cowan,

I would like to hear from readers who have an informed view about which of our local DC television stations does the most aggressive investigative reporting vis-a-vis the DC government. I have a story lead I want to pass on. You may reply to me directly at the above address.


Mini Cooper Service
John Hughes, jah :at: radix :dot: net

I see a lot of Mini Coopers around town with DC plates, and I have been thinking of buying one. But as far as I can tell there are only dealerships in Sterling, Annapolis, and (gulp) Towson. If you want to take advantage of the warranty, you have to get the car serviced at a dealer, according to their web site. I can’t imagine driving out to Sterling every time, or getting it towed there if something is wrong! So where do you guys get your cars serviced if you live in the District proper?


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