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September 21, 2005


Dear Budget Watchers:

Let’s keep the conversation on federal pork in the DC budget going. My impression is that DC has often been inept at applying for and getting federal grants, but that when it does receive them it also frequently has difficulty spending the money. In any government bureaucracy, the imperative as the end of the fiscal year comes in sight is to spend everything that’s left in your department’s or agency’s budget, so that it won’t look like you didn’t need the money and have next year’s budget cut. What federal funding has left DC departments and agencies puzzled about how to get rid of all the money?

I’m so sure that we can come up with some examples that for this one time only, and for this one subject only, I’ll suspend the ironclad rule of themail that all messages have to be signed with a name and real E-mail address. If you’re a government employee who knows of wasteful spending of federal funds by the DC government in your own or another agency, send a message about it to and let me know that you don’t want your name and address published.

Maybe we’ll come up with something; maybe we won’t, but this is the kind of fishing that I think is fun.

Gary Imhoff


DC to Brown. No Spam and Make It Local
Dennis Jaffe, D J W o r k H o m e @ A O L . c o m

Ok, so I received my first E-mail from Michael Brown for Mayor today. Yech. It was classic spam, and the campaign’s listed contacts are in Maryland. Huh? It was a spam fundraising solicitation. Whoa. I have never received a mass, unsolicited E-mail contribution request from any political candidate -- or even from a nonprofit organization. Nope, never. Lists for e-addresses, like snail mail addresses, are sold. But I can’t imagine any organization his campaign could have purchased a list from that would have my e-address on it. I suspect that Brown’s staff are culling E-mail addresses from other sources. And I have to wonder if they are combing through editions of themail for e-addresses of folks writing on political or perhaps even civic issues, as I have done on occasion. Have other posters to themail received unsolicited fundraising solicitations from Brown for Mayor? Wherever they got it from, I don’t think it was kosher.

The request was for $100. Whoa. Obviously, Brown for Mayor isn’t well-attuned to whom he’s writing to. A well-connected corporate lobbyist, likely to be my number one choice for elected office? Um, Hello? And $100? LOL. Just to be open, I do lean toward Fenty.

But isn’t this sweet: Brown for Mayor’s two listed contacts both have Maryland area codes. Okay, out with it. Which political consulting firm was hired, and for how much money, to come up with that bright idea? I would have given Brown for Mayor this consulting advice for free: provide local contacts in your race for mayor, it looks more “legit.” Last point: The proliferation of signs on public property of unthinking Cropp, Orange, and Brown for mayor, and Bolton for at-large council — all in contrast with Fenty’s signs on real people’s front lawns — is really obnoxious. It’s also an indication that they don’t have support — literally — from the grassroots.


Had Enough with the DMV?
Peter Genuardi,

I’ve had enough with the DC Department of Motor Vehicles. I’ve suffered years of horrendous service at inspection (did you know there’s no way for them to know how/why you failed the first two times?), trying to change my address (in order to take advantage of the great online services), and getting my car moved without my knowledge to a no parking zone and then being ticketed for $100. What saddens me is that these stories are not the least bit uncommon and not the most absurd, by a long shot.

I’m organizing concerned folks to encourage the DMV to be better. I’m looking for folks who know who’s responsible at the DMV, whom we can hold accountable, and who want to share their trying experiences getting service from the DMV. If you’re interested in helping out or sharing your story, please shoot me a line at


I’ll Show You Mine
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

One thing you can be sure of is that the feds have a very comprehensive plan on evacuating Congress and the VIPs in the White House in the event of any emergency. Pretty obvious, if you remember the peons from the Capitol Building running on Shank’s mare down Pennsylvania Avenue when an airplane strayed too close to downtown, that the plan is very limited to the big shots.

For us plain ol’ taxpayers here’s what I’d set up. I’d break the Wards into sections and subsections (like "3A14") with all homes in small groups of blocks in each ward of the city. Every home and apartment would have its subsection code right on top of its TV. I’d also have sirens mounted across the city to alert all folks to look at the TV for their code with detailed instructions on what to do. Most likely that any emergency will not require a complete evacuation of the city but, rather, a limited evacuation as a result of a biological attack or small bomb somewhere downtown. No sense having the entire population of the city charging up Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues trying to get out of town.

That’s just one element of my plan. Would like to see what Tony Williams has in mind on what should be done, how it should be done, and who will do it. Let’s see your plan, Mr. Mayor, I’ve shown you mine.


Two Conversations on the Displaced at the DC Stadium Armory
Bryce A. Suderow,

Today I was taking the 90 bus. Three Black people were discussing the displaced people at Stadium-Armory. One woman did most of the talking. She said that the Armory was packed with people; that each of them was receiving a $2,000 EBT card; that they were going to be provided with homes. She thought the poor of Washington, DC, ought to be receiving these services instead, and she resented the services being given these new people whom she claimed worshipped the Devil. I had the feeling that she meant they practiced Voodoo. The other two people agreed with her, and one of them said that Marion Barry would not have treated DC Blacks this way.

About a week ago, I was sitting with five low-income Black people at the bus stop at 14th and H. Three of the people didn’t like diverting government services to the displaced people. They thought they should be helped instead. One of the five was homeless and living at the homeless wing at DC General Hospital. She was touched by the plight of the refugees and had volunteered to help them. The fifth member of the group had seen a cute displaced 20-year-old girl on local TV, and wanted to visit the Armory to see if she’d go out with him.

I am not saying these conversations represent the attitudes of the entire Black community in DC or even the attitudes of all low-income Blacks, but obviously some low-income Blacks resent what has happened.


Fluffy Real Estate Section
Ben Slade, Cleveland Park,

My wife and I are shopping around to buy a house (yes, we already have a real estate agent, don’t bother contacting me). We think we’re seeing anecdotal evidence of a slowdown; prices are decreasing only slightly, but some houses are staying on the market longer. My gripe is, the real estate section of the Washington Post contains a lot of fluffy articles and very little hard information. Is there anywhere I can look up a color-coded map showing housing price increases by month by zip code? Or average number of days on market by zip code, and so on, mainly for Montgomery County?


Newspapers’ Death Spiral Continues
Phil Shapiro,

The New York Times announced this week they’ll be cutting five hundred jobs to reduce costs. The announcement came on the same day that The Philadelphia Inquirer and its sister newspaper said they would eliminate a combined one hundred newsroom jobs because of lower circulation and revenue. Check your watch to count how many minutes before DC-area newspapers make their staff reduction announcements.

Suppose you were the pilot of a plane that started spiraling slowly towards the ground. The public address system in this plane, as in every plane, is one way -- allowing the pilot or flight attendants to talk and the passengers to listen. Passengers start frantically writing notes and passing them to the flight attendants to take to the pilot. Your copilot tells you, "We shouldn’t read notes from passengers. We’re trained professionals. They couldn’t possibly tell us anything we need to know." The plane’s descent is steady, but not precipitous. What would you do? (See commentary by former newspaper columnist Dan Gillmor at


Cutting Pork at the DC Housing Authority
Mary C. Williams,

I have a long list of cuts to various agencies that I would like to see, but I will begin with the DC Housing Authority, specifically its travel and seminar budget. I don’t understand how this quasi-city agency, which has an ever-increasing list of 40,000 applicants waiting for housing assistance, can afford to spend thousands of tax dollars on a three-day, so-called leadership training seminar for a handful of Resident Council leaders in Ocean City, MD, during the peak vacation period. Why the out of state location? Couldn’t they have held something local and handed out box lunches? Never mind that a majority of the resident council leaders could not or would not leave their families in DC for an extended period to attend this delightful government excursion. Many of the public housing participants are single parents with young children. They simply can’t take off for the weekend, even if it is for an all-expense paid beach vacation. As it turned out, it appeared that it wasn’t meant for the resident council leaders anyway. Housing Authority employees and their own families outnumbered those taking part in this nice little perk.

And it didn’t end there. Less than three months later, about two weeks ago, the same division of the DC Housing Authority held another one of its training/leadership conferences here in DC and invited model housing neighbors along the East Coast to participate. This time, the host conference site was the Hyatt Regency, and again, local resident council leaders were invited and allowed to stay overnight in the hotel for the weekend conference. The hotel tab and the meals of each local participant were supposed to be picked up by the Housing Authority, but the agency reneged on the free meals deal. Still, the hotel tab alone for locals surely topped five digits. I’d like to start our cost-saving measures by cutting the salaries of the people in this agency who planned these events and their supervisors. Has anyone there heard of the many meeting rooms available for free inside a number of government buildings? Finally, even in the best of economic times, I know of no private or public entity that would legally approve paying weekend luxury hotel accommodations to folks who live inside the Metro area, and offer to pay their cab fares. These are only a few recent examples, but the agency has been plagued by questionable practices. Add up the thousands of dollars spent on just these two recent conferences and I think we would have enough to keep at least one or two families with a roof over their heads for another year. Let’s start by trimming the fat ...and excising the fat heads who don’t get it.


Comment on Porkbusters
Lucy Murray,

Since when has Target been considered an “upscale shop”? Also the limited political strength of the present land and shop owners of the present Skyland site is probably commensurate with their lack of residency in DC and/or failure to be civically active in local affairs -- until now.


Too Much Pork, Too Little Beef, Outdated Crew
Len Sullivan,

One person’s pork, of course, is another person’s bread and butter, but there are obvious areas where DC politicos are squandering their budget to the delight of their single-interest advocates. DC Public Schools and Charter Schools could save a bundle by halving the number of antiquated school properties. DDoT should get out of the landscaping and joyride businesses and focus on better connecting the city with its essential sources of revenues (and survival!). The Department of Human Services needs to spend less on perpetuating ill-health, poverty, and blight and more on primary health care, “de-concentrating” the poor, and adult education. DC’s municipal functions would all be more efficient if the city worked positively for regional (and federal) cooperation instead of pandering to local isolationists.

On the other side of the plate, there is plenty of untapped beef in the form of missed revenues. Tax breaks for DC’s highest income brackets should be reversed. Parking and/or dawdling fees should be raised substantially along with other street-use tariffs. Corporate taxes should be spread across a broader base. Vacant and abandoned properties should be eliminated faster. More scarce commercial, upscale residential, and nonprofit land should be converted to higher-density use. Outdated building height-limit restrictions should be relaxed outside L’Enfant’s topographic bowl so DC can share the prosperity of its fast-growing edge cities. City officials should be working positively for the transfer of more underutilized local and federal public lands (and stop resisting the Congress’s beneficial base realignment/closing process).

These complementary actions would be made far more rational if the city government adopted a professional practice of program analysis and evaluation instead old-fashioned bookkeeping. City agencies as well as single-interest and neighborhood activists should be obliged to demonstrate the ‘economic productivity of their sub-optimal do-gooding. The nation’s capital must be much more than the sum of its neighborhoods, and stop pretending that it cannot cover the operating costs of the only box seats in our national and global theater. This administration has done a good job for eight years bailing out a sinking ship and redirecting its course from failure to mediocrity. But a new crew is now needed that responds to a shifting electorate. That new crew needs to refurbish the ship, get on a new course to excellence, and heave over the side the leftover voodoo mantras and demagogic promises. DC needs an ambitious new trip plan.


It’s Not About the Pork
Michael Bindner, mikeybdc at

The myriad of calls to cut pork out of the budget miss a critical point. There is no line item in the Concurrent Budget Resolution for pork. Rather, earmarked spending is a portion of the discretionary spending of a specific line item that would have been spent at the discretion of the agency under criteria set by law or regulation. Cutting all of the pork out of the transportation spending bill would merely give the Department of Transportation more money to distribute to the states under its authority. Just cutting the pork is not enough. It must be accompanied by across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending and the redirection of these moneys to hurricane relief. Of course, if this were to occur, those individuals receiving grants and contracts from these agencies would surround the Capitol in protest, except in the case where these resources can be redirected toward hurricane relief. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget need not be cut. Instead, the projects outside of the disaster zone would be delayed while the same contractors are sent to the Gulf Coast to work on reconstruction. HUD funds can be redirected in the same way, although with evacuees distributed to the entire nation, no spending cuts are necessary to house them under current law.


Cutting Environmentally Harmful Pork in Rock Creek Park
Jason Broehm, Dupont Circle,

In response to Gary’s invitation [themail, September 18], I know of a local pork project that could save DC and Federal taxpayers a lot of money and at the same time save Klingle Valley from an environmentally destructive road. Right now the city is moving to rebuild a 0.7-mile segment of Klingle Road at an estimated cost of $7.18 million. The case for spending so heavily on such a minor road, which has been closed to automobile traffic for fourteen years, is flimsy at best. The city’s draft environmental study released over the summer fails to demonstrate a transportation need for rebuilding and reopening Klingle Road for automobile traffic.

In this study, the city concluded that the “long-term adverse impacts to traffic” of not rebuilding the road would be “minimal.” These findings mirror the findings of the 2001 Klingle Road Feasibility Study, which stated: “Reopening Klingle Road would produce negligible long-term beneficial impacts to traffic congestion or safety at surrounding intersections. Given the limited size of the ROW [right of way], reopening Klingle Road would only lead to minor improvements in relieving congestion at surrounding intersections.” When it was last open to traffic, the road only carried about 3,200 car trips per day.

A simple cost-benefit analysis, even without consideration of the harm it would inflict upon the natural environment of Klingle Valley and Rock Creek Park, demonstrates the sheer absurdity of this project. In fact, two years ago, the DC Environmental Network highlighted this proposed road project in its DC Green Scissors report ( and concluded that cutting it from the budget would save $4 million. Since then the cost has escalated, and many of us remain convinced that the cost will only continue to increase.


Avoiding the Pork
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

There should be no haste in trying to rebuild the flooded lowlands of New Orleans only to have it get flooded again in the next few years. A better approach is for the state of Louisiana and the feds to buy all the land from the landowners at a fair market value (before the flood) plus 10 percent. Those who lived there, but were renting, should get some other compensation to get started somewhere else.

Then there should be a ten-year plan to raise the level of the lowlands and to reclaim that land for mixed industrial, retail, and housing. During that ten years a decent overall plan could be developed and the land could then be resold to developers. This would reduce the amount of pork and wasted spending in a futile cause to hastily rebuild.


Why We Can’t Leave Folks Locked Out Online
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

Phil Shapiro [themail, September 18] equated FEMA’s Microsoft Internet Explorer-only web site to a purchasing decision made by Fairfax County.

There’s a difference between these situations. FEMA developed a web site that requires Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. That’s dumb. Fairfax County bought an off-the-shelf product that supports only Windows. After multiple requests from me, Phil hasn’t identified an equivalent commercial product that supports Windows, Linux, and Mac, nor has he said exactly what he thinks Fairfax should have done. The unavoidable conclusion is that he thinks Fairfax should have prevented the 95 percent of people who use Windows from having audiobooks until the last 5 percent who use Linux and Mac could simultaneously have them. He’s entitled to his opinion, but I don’t think that his strategy maximizes community benefits. My opinion is that it’s much easier to complain than to be practical.



Sustainable Design, September 26 November 7
Brie Hensold,

Monday, September 26 [Correction: this event has been rescheduled to November 7], 6:30-8:00 p.m. Lecture: Sim Van der Ryn on Sustainable Design. Using his own projects and teaching experiences as examples, renowned pioneer in sustainable architecture Sim Van der Ryn will discuss the evolution of his thinking and the emergence of a new process of collaborative design that honors a building’s users and connects them to the earth. Mr. Van der Ryn introduced the nation’s first energy-efficient government building project more than 30 years ago. He will explain how architecture has created physical and mental barriers that separate us from the environment and will propose how we can recover the soul of architecture and reconnect with our natural surroundings. After his lecture, he will sign copies of his book Design for Life: The Architecture of Sim Van der Ryn (Gibbs Smith). $10 Members and students, $15 nonmembers. Registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


Hugh Nissenson at Chevy Chase Library, September 26
Debra Truhart,

Monday, September 26, 6:30 p.m., Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library, 5625 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Author Hugh Nissenson, National Book Award and PEN-Faulkner award finalist, will discuss his novel, The Days of Awe. Public contact 282-0021.


Ward 5 Democrats Forum on Proposed New DC Hospital, September 26
Dorinda White,

On Monday, September 26, immediately following a brief business session from 7:00-7:30 p.m., the Ward 5 Democrats, in partnership with the DC Federation of Civic Associations, will present an issues forum on the city government’s proposed new DC hospital from 7:45-9:30 p.m. Representatives from the five hospitals located in Ward 5 have been invited — Children National Medical Center, Providence Hospital, Veteran’s Hospital, Washington Hospital Center and Washington Rehabilitation Hospital. Mr. Robert Malson, President of the DC Hospital Association, is a confirmed guest speaker, along with representatives from the Office of the City Administrator, DC Primary Care Association, and the Federation of Civic Associations. Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray is also a guest speaker, and Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange will make the welcoming statement.

Moderated by Dorinda White, former Communications Director of the DC Democratic State Committee and media consultant with Rindi Media International. During the forum information will be presented explaining the size, scope and services of the new hospital. How many ambulances have passed you in traffic coming from neighborhoods located "East of the River" headed to a hospital located in Northwest? Did you know that all but one of DC hospitals is located in Northwest? Did you know that some leaders on the hospital issue feel a new hospital will take resources from existing hospitals and affect the quality of health services citywide? Did you know that a ceiling on the number of hospital beds determines how many and the location of hospitals in DC? These and many other health care questions of public concern will be addressed during the forum. The meeting is open to the public and free of charge. Reservations are not required. Light refreshments will be served at 7:30 p.m. For more information, please contact Grace Lewis at 526-7696


“Surplus” Schools and “Surplus” Government, September 29
Andrew Willis, willisa [at] gmail [dot] com

This Thursday, September 29, at 10 a.m., the City Council Committee on Government Operations will hold a public hearing on the proposed disposition of five schools — Keene School, in Ward 5; Bruce School, in Ward 1; Crummell School, in Ward 5; Old Congress Heights School, in Ward 8; and Langston-Slater School, in Ward 5. The intent of the hearing is to seal the fate of four of the schools as “surplus — no public use.” A resolution authorizing the transfer of Old Congress Heights School to a cooperative for operation as a community center is also on the agenda.

The solicitation of offers for the other schools do not bode as well for the neighborhoods surrounding each; according to conversations several EmpowerDC supporters had with Jim Graham at Adams Morgan Day, the councilmember believes the eastern Columbia Heights community can be best served by the historic Bruce School’s conversion to luxury condos. Vincent Orange, who chairs the committee, and was recently pictured in the Post embracing Love owner and Ivy City developer-to-be Marc Barnes, has been adamant in his refusal to meet with EmpowerDC members who are also his Ward 5 constituents, saying for months that he would only schedule a meeting after the hearing. His reticence is no coincidence. Crummell School was utilized for many years as a community center and vocational school. For over a year Ivy City residents, fearing that their school -- featured on both city and federal historic registers, and closed in the early 1980s after suffering damage from a fire — was on the chopping block, have organized to prevent its disposition and have made clear their demands that it be restored to a community and job training center. The residents have been in talks with a potential charter school partner, much as current Langston-Slater tenants Associates for Renewal in Education have discussed renovating Slater School with the help of a developer intending to build affordable senior housing adjacent to the school (once again, Orange has ignored ARE’s entreaties). As to Keene School, the building’s current use as a temporary charter school home proves the "surplus" designation absurd.

This is but one stage, albeit a significant one, in the city government’s persistent efforts to liquidate valuable community assets instead of appropriating the funds, personnel and establishing a community-directed process necessary to maintain public properties and change use designations based on demonstrated need. To testify at this disposition hearing, please call 724-8035. EmpowerDC will meet to assist with testimony preparation at the MLK Library, Room A-5, on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. Please join the People’s Property Campaign in calling on the city to 1) institute an immediate moratorium on the sale of public property for private profit; 2) examine and revamp the manner in which the city manages, maintains and plans for the future use of public property; and 3) maintain valuable public assets and protect the long-term needs of our communities by leasing, not selling public property. For more information please contact EmpowerDC at 234-9119.


First Annual NAMIC Mid-Atlantic Diversity Luncheon, September 30
Dorinda White,

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications will present its first annual diversity luncheon on September 30, 12-2:00 p.m. (doors open at 11:30 a.m.), at the AmericanLife TV Network, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Seating is limited. Moderator: Mae Douglas, Senior Vice President & Chief People Officer, Cox Communications, and Vice President, NAMIC. Featured panelists: Kyle McSlarrow, President & CEO, National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA); Laureen Ong, President & CEO, National Geographic Channel; Rob Kennedy, Co-Chief Operating Officer, C-SPAN; and Pandit Wright, Senior Executive Vice President, Human Resources & Administration, Discovery Communications, Inc. Come hear about their diversity challenges and successes! Admission: $25, members; $35, nonmembers. Advance reservations and payment required.



2001 Volkswagen Jetta VR6
Jared Schwartz,

We’re selling our 2001 VW Jetta VR6. The car is in excellent condition, rides great, and the V6 engine is very quick. E-mail  or call us (361-1449) to stop by and see the car. The car is in great shape, but since we want to sell as quickly as possible we’ve listed it at the low price of $10,500 or best offer (Kelly Blue Book price is $12,000). Five-speed manual transmission; four doors; green; 38,400 miles; 2.8l V6 engine; sunroof; ABS; eight-speaker Monsoon Sound System (AM/FM/cassette); power windows, doors and locks; heated seats and nozzle/mirror defroster; front and side airbags. See pictures at,



Spaces Available at Bridges Public Charter School
Richard Gervase,

Opening in September 2005, Bridges Public Charter School is an inclusive preschool program for children three to five years old. Located at 1250 Taylor Street, NW, the school is free and open to all District of Columbia residents. Openings still available for three and four year olds. Admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis. For an application, visit our web site,, come to the school, or contact us at 494-0502.

Our program features small classroom size and well trained staff., individualized educational program for each student, and thematic and project-based curriculum. The school day is from 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. After school care is from 3:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Breakfast, lunch, and snack served daily.


Academy for Learning Through the Arts Charter School Has Openings
Alicia George,

I am writing to recommend a new, free, DC public charter school that still has a few openings in grades K-6. I toured the school, met with the faculty and staff, and transferred my ten-year-old son last week. I’m very excited by the experience, caliber, and enthusiasm of the teachers. The Academy for Learning Through the Arts (ALTA) opened after Labor Day with grades K-6, but will add pre-K, 7th, and 8th grades in the coming years. ALTA’s mission is to prepare students for productive, responsible adulthood through a demanding arts and academics curriculum, a nurturing school culture, exceptional teachers, highly-involved parents, and strong ties to the community. Students need not be artistically gifted to attend ALTA. The only criteria for admission are DC residence and interest in learning through the arts.

The school is currently located at 2100 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, in the education wing of the Augustana Lutheran Church. It’s a short walk from the U Street-Cardozo Metro stop on the Green Line and the Metro buses on 14th Street. The school plans to move to larger space next year while remaining accessible by public transportation. Although it’s just getting started, I think this school is going to be top notch. Please let your friends and neighbors know that there are openings available. For more information, check out their web site at or give ALTA a call at their new phone number 232-4014.


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