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October 2, 2005

Free Association

Dear Associationists:

Random thoughts from the past few days. Quotes that I read: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” attributed to John Lennon. I’ve seen that quotation before, but not that attribution. Can anyone confirm Lennon as the source, or give another one? And, from the Key West Cemetery, two grave inscriptions. That cemetery is apparently the site of the first tombstone that actually carries the epitaph, “I told you I was sick” (, and also of the classic, brief summary of an entire relationship, “At least I know where he’ll be sleeping tonight.”

Sam Smith writes a classic article on the “Ultimate Washingtonian,” posted on September 29,

Harry Jaffe adds additional information on a subject that we’ve been discussing in themail, how the Washington Post is reducing costs, and reporters’ expense accounts, to try to avoid staff reductions, (

Lori Montgomery and Eric Weiss, with the assistance of most of the Post’s city hall staff, provide a balanced overview of the mayor’s administration on the occasion of his announcement that he will not seek a third term,

San Francisco puts out a Request for Proposals for a company to build a citywide Wi-Fi network. Google’s bid: it will build the network at no cost to the city government, and then give free Wi-Fi service to everyone in the city, The speculation is that Google may be ready to take the project national. So who in DC’s government will take the initiative to build a similar Wi-Fi network here, or do Verizon and Comcast between them have enough political pull to block it?

Fair warning: themail will take a three-week break for the last three weeks of October. There are two more issues before then, on Wednesday and next Sunday, and we’ll resume publishing on Wednesday, November 2. Get your thoughts and notices in early.

Gary Imhoff


District Should Settle Property Tax Lawsuit
Lars Hydle,

While the homeowners who signed up for Peter Craig’s lawsuit on DC real property assessment procedures may be mostly from Cleveland Park, they represent a class of some 45,000 homeowners from Triennial Group I who contested their 2002 assessments. A similar lawsuit involving some 100,000 homeowners in Triennial Group II and the 2003 assessments has many of the same elements. Basically the administration has been litigating with expensive outsourced legal talent against all DC homeowners. Now they say they will appeal.

The administration should stop litigating, settle the lawsuit in a way that is fair to homeowners and pays the legal fees and costs of the plaintiffs, and fix the unconstitutional assessment procedures. If necessary, the Council should cut off funding for further litigation, and impose constitutionally valid real property assessment practices.


Matthew Gilmore,

At the end of October 2005 H-DC turns five years old. H-DC is Washington, DC, History and Life, a member of H-Net Humanities and Social Sciences OnLine. H-DC, a refereed, multi- and interdisciplinary discussion list, provides a means of communication and interaction for those who research, write, read, teach, collect, curate, and preserve Washington, DC, history and culture and for those who work in cultural institutions located within DC, regardless of discipline.

Which means that it includes an archived E-mail discussion list and a web site, now with over one hundred individual pages of DC historical resources. It is part of the H-Net organization, which includes over 150 discussion lists/networks. This October I’d like to reach a new membership goal of six hundred, with which we’ve flirted several times. Everyone interested in Washington, DC, history is welcome to join and participate. List web site,; calendar,; subscribe at Remember to check for past list messages.


The Benefits of Getting Out of Your Office Every Once in a While
Phil Shapiro,

A couple years ago I visited a Habitat for Humanity site in Anacostia on a cold winter day. It was remarkable seeing all these people working together assembling the structure. The person working hardest was the homeowner, pounding in nail and after nail. After an hour or two the site foreman assembled everyone in a circle and people introduced themselves. One person introduced herself by saying, “My name is Mary, I work for the US Senate.” Only later did I find out this was a senator. In that setting, first names were all that mattered. Job titles were irrelevant. When you picked up a hammer and went to work, you checked your ego at the door.

What benefits are there for getting out of the office every once in a while? For local and national policy makers, doesn’t it make sense to stop talking and start doing every once in a while? And if someone pulls out a camera, say, “I prefer not being in pictures here today. I’m not here for that.” That’s what Mary said.


TENAC Mobilization Effort
Jacqueline Batambuze,

Renters in Washington, DC, are facing a major affordable housing crisis and severe violations of tenants’ rights. TENAC, the DC Tenants’ Advocacy Coalition, is asking 1,000 people to actively support the “DC Mobilization for Tenants’ Rights and Affordable Housing” campaign by clicking The campaign is to save rental housing, increase affordable housing, reform rent control, urge the creation of tenant associations; and pass the Tenant Right to Organize Act. The time to mobilize is now, especially with the upcoming mayor’s race and several open seats for the DC Council member positions. Go to and sign up today.

Several local activists, organizations, and neighborhood listservs have already pledged their support, and the first E-mail action is planned for October. An assortment of uncontested abuses continues to go unnoticed, ignored, or unchallenged — outrageous rent hikes, threats by landlords, prevention of tenant meetings, and illegal interpretations of legislative loopholes — all of these are violations of basic tenants’ rights.


Vocational Charter School
Ellen Ward,

[Re: Ed Barron, “Why Not a Good Vocational High School in DC,” themail, September 28:] There already is a charter school in DC, Booker T. Washington Charter School, whose mission is to train youth and adults for construction and building trades, while preparing them for lifelong learning. The school has been in existence for about seven years and is preparing for Middle States accreditation. Its web site is


Conspicuous Confusion
Mark Eckenwiler, themale at ingot dot org

In the last edition (September 28), Lea Adams accused me of being a “Gentrifier” and “victorious settler” guilty of “whining hubris.” I’d feel wounded and ashamed if her comments had any basis in fact; as it stands, I’m just plain puzzled and amused.

Ms. Adams seems to think that my problem is with “people who park in your space on Sunday and then disappear until next week.” Actually, I don’t have a problem with churchgoers who park legally in my neighborhood on the Lord’s Day, regardless of where they’re from. (I do have a problem with the routine blocking of hydrants, crosswalks, alleys, etc., whether on Sunday or other days, but that’s a different Victorious Settler lament for another time.) Had Ms. Adams actually read what I wrote, she’d know I was talking about a week-long parking free-for-all granted by DPW in a secret process without any of the hundreds of affected residents even knowing about it, let alone having input. I can’t quite see why these visitors’ “ancient rhythms of the heart” trump DC law or the interests of the people who are so unspeakably arrogant as to live here year-round.

You see, my neighbors and I have “rhythms of the heart” as well. Many of us have lived here for decades. We clean endless piles of trash from the sidewalk. When it snows, we clear the stoop and shovel the sidewalk for the 90-something neighbor (African-American, not that it matters) who has lived on the block for more than sixty years. Many of us — yours truly included — aren’t merely here until the kids hit school age; on the contrary, we send them to DC Public Schools, support the PTA, attend fundraisers, etc. ad nauseam. (Heck, some of us even worship the Creator in other neighborhoods, where we take pains to be considerate of the locals in parking legally.) In short, Ms. Adams’ cartoonish dichotomy — Arriviste, Real-Estate-Empire-Building Whitey versus The Uprooted — doesn’t just lack sensitivity; it ignores the reality of my DC community.


Some Churches Get a Free Ride
Cody Rice,

Like Mark Eckenwiler (“Unwelcome Relaxation by DC Parking Enforcement,” themail, September 25), I am baffled that some churches expect special treatment from DC government. Relaxed parking enforcement for churches — including in traffic lanes and in front of fire hydrants — is the tip of the iceberg.

In NE, there are churches that own vacant, dilapidated row houses and other buildings. Over the years these churches snapped up nearby properties at fire sale prices, then let them rot like neighborhood tombstones or tore them down for parking lots. Of course, churches are tax-exempt, and it seems to be hit or miss if their other holdings are taxed, or taxed at the higher rates for vacant property. Churches also enjoy exemptions from noise regulation. The DC Noise Control Act of 1977 specifically excludes church bells or music connected with worship or official church ceremonies. Surprisingly, there are no maximum decibel levels and no requirements to reduce sound levels at night. Neighbors must depend on brotherly love and common courtesy, which are sometimes lacking.

Most churches are not noisy slumlords, and most churchgoers manage to find legal parking spots. However, it doesn’t help anybody if the city condones blatant antisocial behavior on the part of a few.


Nonresident Churchgoers Who Park Illegally
Paul Michael Brown,

Lea Adams argues [themail, September 28] that “sensitivity” dictates permitting nonresident churchgoers to illegally park because they have been “disposed” [sic; she probably meant “dispossessed”] by “the gentrifiers.” Ms. derides those calling for evenhanded parking enforcement as transient real estate speculators, and she claims the churchgoers “came to those same neighborhoods to stay.” I fail to understand how folks who decamped to PG County years ago and who only spend a couple of hours a week in the District can be described as people who “came to stay.” Aren’t the people who own property, who vote and who pay taxes the ones who have come to stay? Finally, this isn’t a debate about “ancient rhythms of heart and faith”; this is pure politics. Parking violations around churches are ignored because the ministers and their congregations have political clout. But demographics, as they say, is destiny. So query how much longer members of the Council will carry the water for nonvoting churchgoers from PG County while ignoring the sensible calls for evenhanded enforcement from voters such as Mr. Eckenwiler.


Mitigation and Fish in Rock Creek
Ralston Cox, Dupont Circle,

It’s my understanding that the work at Peirce Mill on Rock Creek is being undertaken as mitigation for the environmental degradation to the Potomac River created by the Wilson Bridge project. FHWA, as the lead Federal agency, had to study the impact of their project on the environment. One of the trade-offs they proposed was the addition of the “fish ladder” at Peirce Mill to permit migrating fishies back up stream to, well, do whatever it is they want to do.

Hope the fish appreciate the effort! Combined with the work being done to restore and interpret Peirce Mill, the final product should be a great place for a little education about the history of the area and the natural world — or just a nice place to spend a few hours enjoying the scenery.


Sierra Club “Pork”
David Culp, Capitol Hill,

Laurie Collins,, wrote (themail, September 28): “Moreover, repairing Klingle Road is not ‘environmentally destructive.’ To argue otherwise requires facts. The studies do not support the doomsday rhetoric.” O.K., Laurie, here are the facts. The Superintendent of Rock Creek Park, Adrienne Coleman, opposes any paved road in Klingle Valley because it would pollute Rock Creek. The District’s environmental protection branch described the problem regarding Klingle road: “Rock Creek has been studied by many agencies many times and each study has concluded that Rock Creek has been severely impacted by the increasingly impervious nature of the development of the drainage basin.” Mayor Anthony Williams, the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, the American Lands Alliance, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, the DC Audubon Society, the DC Road Runners, the Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, the Washington Area Bicycle Association, and many local citizens, including myself, support keeping Klingle Valley as a park. This is a great time of year to visit Klingle Valley firsthand and see why it is worth saving. A map and more information is at


Cities Are Places
Richard Layman,

Cities are places. And places have meanings. The built and “improved” environment (parks, etc.) last long beyond us “people” and are the most long-lasting and significant definitional elements of our neighborhoods and the city. People die but the buildings last, unless the buildings are value engineered for the “lowest first cost” and designed to last for about thirty to forty years. The built and physical environment and the institutions that we create and/or steward are the legacy that we leave. Too bad so many decisions in our city and our nation are disconnected from this consideration.


First Conviction, Then Trial?
Edward Cowan,

It is distressing that in his discussion of the indictment of Douglas Jemal on bribery charges (themail Sept. 28), Gary Imhoff assumes that the accused is guilty. He writes of “the indictment . . . for bribing an official.” Not “on charges of” or “for allegedly bribing,” but “for bribing.” This is no quibble on my part, or a careless locution by Gary. Three sentences later, he writes, "the Jemals thought that giving gifts to a city official was necessary to get favorable contracts and excessive profits from this administration and city council."

With such certainty, is a trial necessary?

This kind of sloppy writing is exactly what is wrong with the anybody-can-report-the-news notion of some contributors to themail. Whatever their limitations, established news organizations usually use "alleged" or other qualifiers that signify that the accused is entitled to a trial.

[Ed’s allegation is mistaken; I am innocent. The American system of justice, unlike that of many other countries, even many other Western democracies, presumes the innocence of the accused. I’m all for that. But that provides no support for Ed’s insistence that I copy the mainstream media’s sloppy habit of overusing variants of “alleged” unnecessarily when reporting an indictment, no matter how much zealous defense attorneys may wish it did. It’s a fact that Dougas and Normal Jemal and Blake Esherick were indicted; they weren’t allegedly indicted. An indictment is an allegation, and therefore it is redundant to write that someone was indicted on allegations. (This locution is used properly only when enumerating the counts of the indictment: “Mr. X was indicted on six charges of mopery.” It is not used when speaking of one charge, or of the charges collectively: “Mr. X was indicted for murder” is clear and correct; “Mr. X was indicted for alleged murder” is awkward and redundant.) I also wrote that Michael Lorusso accepted bribes from the Jemals and Esherick. That is not an allegation; it is a settled fact of law. Lorusso has pled guilty to it. Is it possible that the Jemals and Esherick could be found innocent, and therefore the legal conclusion would be that Lorusso accepted bribes from them, but they didn’t give bribes to him? Yes, that verdict would be logically impossible but completely possible in law. — Gary Imhoff]


Computer Trouble
Gabe Goldberg gabe at gabegold dot com

Bryce A. Suderow asked for help with his computer which keeps shutting itself down. A good resource is Capital PC User Group, CPCUG, The group’s motto is “users helping users”; we have classes and meetings on diverse topics throughout the DC area. One of the many membership benefits is the HelpLine, 300 or so volunteers available to help members with questions and problems. We’re always looking for new members and new volunteers!



DC Public Library Events, October 3-
Debra Truhart,

Monday, October 3, 6:30 p.m., Northeast Neighborhood Library, 330 7th Street, NE. Capitol Hill Mystery Book Club. Monthly chats featuring mystery books. Public contact: 698-3320.

Monday, October 3, 7:00 p.m., Georgetown Neighborhood Library, 3260 R Street, NW. Georgetown Library Book Group. The book group will discuss the book, No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe. Public contact: 282-0220.

Wednesday, October 5, 4:00 p.m., Northeast Neighborhood Library, 330 7th Street, NE. The Air Force Band at your library, a special concert that exposes young people to music and allows them to meet some of the nation’s most talented musicians. School ages. Public contact: 698-3320.

Thursday, October 6, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Brown Bag Recital Series. Cellist Vassily Popov and Ralitza Patcheva present their monthly program of chamber music featuring J. S. Bach, Poulenc and Prokofiev. Public contact: 727-1285.

Thursday, October 6, 2:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Let’s Talk About Books. A group discussion of Floating in My Mother’s Palm, a novel by Ursula Hegi. Public contact: 727-1281.


Free Energy Workshops for DC Residents, October 3-31
Candace McCrae,

The DC Energy Office will be operating free workshops on "How to Install Energy Saving Measures" for DC residents to help lower the impact of rising energy prices. Starting Monday, October 3, through Monday, October 31, free thirty-minute energy workshops will be performed at the DC Energy Office on weekdays at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. , and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 12 noon. All DC residents are welcome to attend! The DC Energy Office will also perform energy workshops for schools, churches and community groups by request through calling the DC Energy Hotline.

Residents will see demonstrations of how to install low-cost measures, such as caulking techniques, applying weather-stripping around doors and windows, checking and changing furnace filters, and more. Suggestions on easy ways to change energy related behavior and lower consumption will be given. Tips on how to conserve gasoline will also be presented. With the recent occurrence of devastating hurricanes, energy supply and higher prices are affecting everyone. The workshop will show easy methods for lowering energy use.

The workshops will be conducted at the DC Energy Office located at 2000 14th Street, NW, 2nd floor. Interested persons should call the DC Energy Hotline for more information or to secure your seat for the workshop at 673-6750.



Books and Media Wanted
Ron Leve,

My Congregation is having a Book and Media sale. If you have any books, CDs, DVDs, game software or gently used toys, they would be much appreciated. I will pick up if you have a reasonable amount to donate.


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