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” (http://www.keywest.com/attractions/cemetery.htm),
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, http://www.prorev.com/ultimate.
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
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, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/29/AR2005092901046.html.
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, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/10/01/MNGG9F16KG1.DTL.
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.
District Should Settle Property Tax Lawsuit
Lars Hydle, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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, http://www.h-net.org/~dclist;
subscribe at http://www.h-net.org/lists/subscribe.cgi?list=H-DC.
Remember to check http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=lm&list=h-dc
for past list messages.
The Benefits of Getting Out of Your Office Every Once in a While
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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 http://www.tenac.org/
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
[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 http://www.btwschool.org.
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, email@example.com
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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
Sierra Club “Pork”
David Culp, Capitol Hill, firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurie Collins, email@example.com,
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 http://www.klinglevalley.org.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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]
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, http://www.cpcug.org.
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!
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Public Library Events, October 3-
Debra Truhart, email@example.com
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:
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:
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
CLASSIFIEDS — DONATIONS
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.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to
switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the
subscription form at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/subscribe.htm.
To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to email@example.com
with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages
are available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
All postings should also be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org,
and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of
Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to
be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief
paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can
be put into each mailing.