A Glass of Madeira
Yes, thank you, it was a very nice vacation. Thanks for easing my way
back to reality by sending your informative and useful messages for this
issue of themail.
Dorothy and I actually took the time off, so all I really have to
report is a tidbit from the island of Madeira. Madeira is an isolated
part of Portugal seven hundred miles off the coast of Europe, best known
for the wine it produces, which bears its name. The largest city on
Madeira is Funchal, which has about 100,000 people; the whole island has
only about 250,000, and it is a relatively poor region of a relatively
poor European country. But fast and free public Wi-Fi service is widely
When we got to the island, we looked for an Internet shop that we had
been to a few years ago. We didn’t find it, so we stopped in an Apple
computer store and asked where we could find one. The clerk told us that
the whole island was being covered with a WiFi network, and was actually
apologetic that it hadn’t been completed yet. He pointed us to some of
the best hotspots downtown, including the cathedral and the municipal
theater. We sat in a garden park across from the theater, admiring the
waterfall and the swans, while we collected your E-mails from halfway
around the world. So who’s backward and isolated now?
Metro Station Development
Sam Jordan, email@example.com
You are invited to join the struggle communities in the vicinity of
the Benning Road Metrorail Station are conducting to avoid another
predatory development project. CSOSA, the Court Supervision Agency,
Marshall Heights CDO, WMATA and Jenco (the developer), have decided to
build a five-story building with an 18.6 foot mechanical rooftop
mechanical room. CSOSA, the buyer, will house ninety employees to serve
five to six hundred ex-offenders daily in the facility. The five-story
building will dominate the surrounding two-story residential
neighborhood and will be built if the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA)
grants exceptions to the usual parking space requirements. A minimums of
sixty parking spaces minimum are needed according to BZA’s own formula
based on building use and size. Only thirty-one are available at the
site. In addition, an exception must be granted for the mechanical room
which will cause the building to exceed currently permitted height
The communities have not been consulted by any of the applicant
parties. Councilmember Gray and all the area ANCs and civic associations
are in opposition, yet CSOSA, Marshall Heights CDO, and WMATA are hoping
that they can complete the construction without public awareness — our
greatest single ally in the struggle.
We are in need of experienced advisors from other communities who
have had some degree of success fighting developers who don’t consult
with communities, but announce what will be done instead. We are also in
need of advice on researching development projects at MetroRail Stations
to determine the proper application of standards and regulations that
apply, particularly WMATA’s own rules and NEPA matters where disparate
treatment may have occurred. Our committee of Party status holders,
Community First at Benning Metro, has few fiscal resources, but will do
what is necessary. A hearing is scheduled in this matter at BZA on
December 13. Strategically, we must win the public support battle before
that date and have accomplished a great deal of research. Mailers can
help through your network by publicizing the struggle, attending the
rally planned for November 12 at Benning Metro and giving us advice and
references to relevant materials, regulations and similar cases.
Commercial Properties Paying Less
Ed Dixon, firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the bogus realities of the increase in the commercial property
taxes in the school modernization bill is the fact that so many
commercial properties in the city are undervalued. This undervaluing of
the properties is most likely the result of the attorneys of the
commercial interests getting involved in the assessment process to the
point that the assessed values creep up very slowly. Whatever the
reason, Jill and Joe Property Owner are the ones who are getting stuck
with the tab on paying for city services.
Here a just a few examples. 1) In Woodley Park, the land under the
Marriott Wardman is assessed at $110 per square foot whereas homeowners
across the street on the corner of 28th Street are assessed at $145 per
square foot. 2) Apartment dwellers in the Wyoming and Schyuler Arms are
assessed at about $350 per square foot of land whereas the Washington
Hilton in the back is assessed at about $240 per square foot. 3) The
Safeway on MacArthur Boulevard sits on land that is assessed at about
$18 per square foot whereas houses behind are on land assessed at $75
per square foot. These differences fully undermine the fact that the
city has different property tax rates for commercial property and
residential property. One assumes that if a proper audit were done, the
losses to the city would easily be in the tens of millions of dollars.
There is considerable variation between what land is assessed at for
what should be like properties. Certainly, some of the property owners
mentioned above have good reason to question why businesses are being
assessed at much lower rates.
If readers would like to do their own searches, they should use the
Office and Zoning (dcoz.dc.gov) and the CFO (cfo.dc.gov) web sites to
cross reference. The Office of Zoning has city zoning maps clickable on
the left margin. Click then locate the area of the city and receive the
PDF version of the map with square numbers to reference blocks. Find the
square you want, then go to the Taxpayer Service Center on the CFO site
and on to the Real Property Service Center. From there, go to the Real
Property Tax Database Search. Click on Search Real Property Assessment
Database. On the form fill in the square you are interested in and
click. Search through the addresses until you find the one you are
interested in and see what folks are paying.
The Bright Line of the Law
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at
Because everyone is different, we all have somewhat different ideas
about what is right and wrong. To resolve this problem, we put laws into
writing. The result is a relatively absolute standard that both citizens
and law enforcement use to decide what can and cannot be done. The court
system resolves the ambiguities that arise when applying law to actual
Unfortunately, there appears to be a culture in DC that moves the
decisions about behavior out of the hands of the legislature (the
council) and the courts, and into the hands of the police. Two examples
come to mind. The first is the “zero tolerance” stance of the police
towards drinking. There are well established blood alcohol standards
that can and should be used to determine whether a driver is intoxicated
with alcohol. Blood alcohol measurement by its nature incorporates both
drink strength and body weight and has been well studied. If a driver
exhibits erratic driving behavior, that driver should be charged under a
different law, intoxicated or not. If a driver exhibits good driving
behavior and below-standard blood alcohol levels, the police should not
be allowed to become vigilantes.
The second example is the requests by churches to the police to waive
parking regulations. Parking regulations control contending interests in
the use of our streets. Churches and their parishioners have no special
status in law, and it is not the place of the police to grant them
Making School Facility Improvements on a
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
There’s no question that many, perhaps most, of DC’s schools are
really in need of upgrading. There’s a way to pay for this without
increasing anyone’s taxes. The first step is for the District to do an
honest assessment of which schools are upgradeable at a reasonable cost
and which are not. Then there has to be a real assessment of which
schools are underutilized and which others could absorb the students if
the underutilized schools that are not upgradeable at a reasonable cost
are closed. Closing underutilized schools and those that it’s not
practical to upgrade makes a lot of sense. You eliminate one
principalship (with supporting administrative staff). You eliminate one
expensive custodial staff, whom we all know really run the schools, for
every school you close. My best guess is that ten percent of DC schools
could be closed. And, just wait, there’s more. DC real estate is very
valuable these days. Selling off the closed schools and property would
provide megabucks that could be used to improve, and even add on, to the
consolidated schools. This would be a self-paying proposition.
Every school needs clean working bathrooms, a very good up-to-date
cafeteria, classrooms that are comfortable with no leaking roofs, and
good places, inside and outside, for recreation. We don’t need Taj
Mahals. Pouring billions into new and luxurious schools has not worked
in improving education or outcomes. Good education and great learning
can take place in a freight car if you have a good teacher in the
classroom. How do we get good teachers in the classroom? I’ll address
that in next week’s posting to themail.
Following the useful notice in themail, I put up a notice and tried
to gather recyclables from my whole building (fifty units or so).
Today was the day, so I loaded up and drove over to Carter Barron
where I found about a dozen unhappy drivers and no recycling truck.
Someone managed to get through to DPW on a cell phone and was told that
“word hadn’t got through” and there would be no truck. Next week,
They also said we could go to the dump station on McCormack Road
behind Catholic University. Four or five of us went in a file, following
the only person who seemed to know how to get there. Once there, we were
directed to drive into the huge shed and put our stuff on the floor. I
asked if it would actually be recycled, and they told me it would. I am
not convinced. The District fails again.
Reading the Washington Post Metro
Section via RSS Feeds
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
If you’d like to keep up with Washington Post metro section
articles without visiting the Washington Post web page, you can
do so via the RSS feed for this section. Copy and paste the following
RSS feed into your RSS reader: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/rss/metro/index.xml.
Smart people tell me that bloglines.com is a good way of reading RSS
feeds. My own current preference is reading RSS feeds from within the
Firefox web browser, using a Firefox extension named Sage. Using Sage I
can quickly check a bunch of RSS feeds and be back in my browser in
under a minute.
Perhaps if more of us subscribed to the RSS feed for the metro
section that would help the Washington Post understand some of
the reading preferences of people in this city. I seldom spend much time
in other sections of the newspaper.
Dr. C. DeLores Tucker, founder of the National Congress of Black
Women and first black Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania, died on Wednesday, October 12, in Philadelphia. The Annual
Brunch that I attended this year on September 25th was not the same
without her and never will be again. The National Congress of Black
Women (NCBW), formerly The National Political Congress of Black Women,
was founded August 2, 1984, in Washington, DC, when the Honorable C.
DeLores Tucker called a group of thirty-five African American women
leaders of diverse groups to organize for greater involvement in the
She was a great woman and a visionary. I had the pleasure of working
with her when I first returned to the US after a ten-year stay in
Europe. She showed me the ropes, taught me how to navigate within the
political environment and most of all, she mentored me. She cared. She
will be sorely missed. Che donna meravigliosa!
An Interesting Phenomenon
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
With the change in time, I am now taking my AM walk in the dawn’s
early light and have observed something new in the ‘hood. All along
Yuma Street, NW, from Massachusetts Avenue all the way to 42nd Street,
there is now a plastic lawn chair (some white, some green) at each N8
bus stop, in both directions. Nice.
Is NARPAC Joining Alice in Wonderland?
Len Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
In October, NARPAC looked at four different current issues and ended
up wondering if the District is turning into Alice’s Wonderland. Why
does DC’s Department of Transportation seem so determined to get
people out of Metrorail and up onto the city’s crowded streets in
additional Metrobuses? And why do they feel obliged to morph into a
Department of Destinations by spending scarce resources on creating more
bottlenecks on major avenues than we have now? Our puzzlement is
described at http://www.narpac.org/METROLIT.HTM.
Why are we pushing to provide affordable housing for one-breadwinner
households who don’t make enough to support their unaffordable kids
even if their housing were free? Our interpretation of the recent Wider
Opportunities for Women (WOW) study is at http://www.narpac.org/REXSCAPE.HTM#wowdccol.
Finally, we look at the results of the just-completed Base Realignment
and Closing (BRAC) Commission, and wonder if DC’s leaders will do any
better preparing for the (next) “post-Iraq BRAC round” when more
underused DC military properties should come up for conversion to
productive DC development. Important planning issues are raised at http://www.narpac.org/REXBRAC.HTM#finis.
Take a look at NARPAC’s October update and see if you can help resolve
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Friday, November 4, 10:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 110. Irish Author Darren Shan discusses
his latest book in the “Cirque Du Freak” series, The Lake of
Souls. Public contact: 727-5535.
Saturday, November 5, 12:00 p.m., Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park
Neighborhood Library, 7420 Georgia Avenue, NW. Vincent Carretta, senior
fellow at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African
and African-American Research, discusses his book, Equiano, the
African: Biography of a Self-Made Man. Public contact: 541-6100.
Saturday, November 5, 3:00 p.m., Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library,
3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Author and Illustrator Susan Stockdale
reads from her book, Carry Me! Animal Babies on the Move, which
won the 2005 Parent’s Choice Award. Author Mary Quattlebaum reads from
her newly released book, Winter Friends, a lively story in poems
that was illustrated by Hiroe Nakata. Public contact: 282-3080.
The Coffee Cafe, November 4-6
Michael Andrews, email@example.com
The University of the District of Columbia Theater Company presents a
stylish and sharply satirical original play "The Coffee
Café," in the University Auditorium Friday, November 4 through
Sunday, November 6. Through song, poetry and a series of short
vignettes, the play takes a no-holds-barred look at African-American
life, culture and history. Professor Lennie Smith, who recently directed
the UDC Theater Company’s production of “Zooman and the Sign,”
will direct this production.
An original production written by the company, “The Coffee Café”
uses a take-no-prisoners style of satire while lampooning of misplaced
values, materialism, and “classism,” according to Carmen White, a
professor who teaches Introduction to Theater Arts at UDC. “The play
takes a snap shot of the struggles and challenges of African
Americans,” says White. “It both assails and celebrates the
resiliency of African Americans in America.” The play is narrated
through poetry and song. A stylish poet and songstress welcomes everyone
to the Café. “You can experience all the different flavors we have
but remember if you ignore it too long it will eventually lose its
flavor,” she tells the guests, adding “please, if you are not sure
if you like your coffee bold, medium or smooth, you might want to try
our herbal tea.” “This play hits so close to home in a musical and
dramatic way,” says White.
The most praised “image” is “Home-girls on the Metro bus”
which ridicules how some young African Americans chat loudly on the bus.
The vignette opens with the hostess’ poem about materialism and the
scene starts with two young women bragging about how they are able to
get men to give them money. As they continue to dialogue, a
well-dressed, sophisticated woman gets into a heated debate about their
views. “The Coffee Café” is unique, innovative and timely. It
incorporates drama, poetry, rap, dance and music. The curtain will rise
on “The Coffee Café” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, November 4
and 5. Matinee performances begin at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, November 4,
and 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, November 5 and 6. The production
takes place in the University Auditorium, Building 46 East on the Van
Ness Campus. Parking will be available in the University’s parking
garage off Van Ness Street, and the campus is available via the Metro’s
Red Line. “The Coffee Café” contains strong language and adult
content and may not be suitable for all audiences.
Rally to Defend DC’s National Parkland,
Jason Broehm, Sierra Club, firstname.lastname@example.org
A few weeks ago it was reported that Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA),
chairman of the House Resources Committee, was proposing to sell off our
cherished Roosevelt Island National Park as a way to raise funds to help
make up the shortfall in the federal budget. The irony of such a
proposal — selling a beautiful, undeveloped Potomac island dedicated
to the memory of President Teddy Roosevelt, probably our greatest
conservationist president to date (and a Republican) -- was not lost on
many people. I heard outrage from a number of friends and associates,
some of whom I wouldn’t have expected to hear the news much less get
riled up about it.
Not surprisingly, Pombo dropped this proposal a short time later, but
last week he moved a bill out of his committee that would sell off other
national parkland in DC, including land along the Anacostia River (on
Poplar Point and near RFK stadium) and other locations. It would also do
many other bad things like permitting oil drilling in the Alaska
National Wildlife Refuge and off our coasts. The bill is heading to the
House floor for a vote very soon, probably the week of November 7.
The Sierra Club has planned a rally for this Saturday, November 5, at
11:00 a.m. to mobilize opposition to this bill and save our national
parkland from being auctioned off to the highest bidder. It will be held
at Roosevelt Island National Park and will include a special appearance
by Teddy Roosevelt. For more information, please contact: Chris Carney,
Sierra Club Metro DC Office, email@example.com,
National Building Museum Events, November 6-9
Brie Hensold, firstname.lastname@example.org
All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW,
Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.
Sunday, November 6, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Flying in the Great Hall,
for kids. Learn about model airplanes as members of the DC Maxecuters
fly their planes in the Museum’s Great Hall. Rubber band-powered, free
flight model airplanes soar in a series of launches throughout the day.
Free. All ages. Drop-in program.
Sunday, November 6, 12:30-3:30 p.m., Airplane Mobile, for kids. Be
inspired by the different airplane models flown in the Great Hall.
Families create simple mobiles with airplanes and decorate them with
various craft materials. $3 per project. All ages. Drop-in program.
Wednesday, November 9, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Spotlight on Design: Lorcan O’Herlihy.
Los Angeles-based architect Lorcan O’Herlihy creates imaginative forms
through site-responsive design. In 2004, the Architectural League of New
York named him an Emerging Voice in Architecture. He will discuss his
firm’s use of unexpected materials in creating light-filled,
innovative buildings, which include the Vertical House, West Hollywood’s
Habitat 825 (next to a Rudolph Schindler house) and a mixed-use
development in China. After his lecture, he will sign copies of his book
Lorcan O’Herlihy (Rockport Publishers). $12 Members and
students; $17 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required.
Old Convention Center Site Planning Workshop,
Valca Valentine, email@example.com
On Tuesday, November 8, The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning
and Economic Development, in partnership with Hines/Archstone-Smith,
will host The Old Convention Center Site: Masterplan Alternatives for a
New Downtown Neighborhood, the first community workshop to solicit input
into the master planning for the city’s Old Convention Center Site.
After an initial project overview, participants will visit stations
organized by issues. These stations will provide information on
affordable housing, jobs, traffic, parking, open space, retail, the new
central library project, green building and environmental issues, as
well as alternatives for the overall layout of the site.
Participants will be the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and
Economic Development, Hines/Archstone-Smith (developer), and Foster and
Partners, Shalom Baranes Associates (Architects). The workshop will be
held on Tuesday, November 8, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Martin Luther
King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW.
Tracing Your Jewish Roots, November 9
Diana Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Targeted for young adults (18-35 years old), this workshop on tracing
your Jewish roots consists of two parts: In the first part, attendees
will learn the basics of how to conduct oral histories, as a means of
documenting their family histories, through concepts that are being used
in the new B’nai B’rith Oral History Heritage Project. The second
part of the presentation will familiarize the participants with tools
for conducting genealogical research. The workshop will be held on
Wednesday, November 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the B’nai B’rith Klutznick
National Jewish Museum, 2020 K Street, NW. Attendance at the event is
$5. Advance registration recommended. Light refreshments will be
Ms. Irene Weiss will be with us to share her experience and insights
as an interviewee. Ms. Weiss was born in Transylvania, Romania, and came
to the United States in 1964. She is a Holocaust survivor, whose story
was recorded by the Spielberg Shoah Foundation and told in her book Life
at the End of the Tunnel. Diana C. Altman, director, B’nai B’rith
Klutznick National Jewish Museum, will present the B’nai B’rith Oral
History Heritage Project. Irene Saunders Goldstein, professional
writer/editor and oral historian and chair of the B’nai B’rith
Center for Jewish Identity, will share tips on interviewing family
members. Diane Goldman, past president of the Jewish Genealogy Society
of Greater Washington, will share tips about conducting genealogical
For more information or reservations, please call 857-6583 or send an
E-mail to email@example.com.
Master Education Plan Community Forums,
Roxanne Evans, Roxanne.Evans@k12.dc.us
DC Public Schools, in partnership with the DC
Education Compact, will host five community forums in November, where
residents will advise and help shape priorities for strengthening
education programs and for determining how to better utilize school
space. The forums are part of efforts by Superintendent Clifford B.
Janey and his senior staff to develop a Master Education Plan, which
will address questions such as how can we strengthen our education
programs so they fully prepare students for work, college, and other
opportunities after high school; should all schools offer the same
programs; what guidelines should we use to partner with other groups,
including charter schools, to use public school buildings; should DCPS
transition from a mix of middle schools and junior high schools to
create more K-8 schools; should more schools be organized by themes? For
instance, one group of elementary, middle and high schools could focus
on the arts, and another group could focus on science and technology;
and what’s the best way to strengthen our career/technical/vocational
The meetings are scheduled from 6:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
on the following dates: November 9, Patterson Elementary, 4399 South
Capitol Terrace, SW; November 14, McKinley Senior High, 151 T Street,
NE; November 15, Cleveland Elementary, 1825 8th Street, NW; November 17,
Janney Elementary, 4130 Albemarle Street, NW; and November 21, Kelly
Miller Middle, 301 49th Street, NE. An open house format will allow
participants to visit multiple “information stations,” where they
can learn more about specific topics of interest to them and discuss
these issues with senior DCPS staff and their neighbors. Attendees also
will be able to fill out a questionnaire on many of the key issues.
Community feedback from the forums, surveys and other outreach
activities will be incorporated into the final proposals, which Janey is
expected to present to the Board of Education in late January.
The Master Education Plan will build on
recommendations of the DCPS Strategic Plan (Declaration of
Education), which was released in May 2005. The Master Education
Plan also will set the stage for more detailed recommendations on
educational programming and facilities use in the coming months,
including the Facilities Master Plan due in April 2006. More information
about the master education planning process is available at 535-1524.
Film on the Tivoli, November 19
Jerry A. McCoy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Silver Spring filmmaker Walter Gottlieb (producer of "Silver
Spring: Story of an American Suburb") will be presenting his new
film about Washington’s historic Tivoli theater at the Takoma Park
Film Festival, Saturday, November 19, 9 p.m., at the Takoma Park
Community Center, City Council chambers, 7500 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park,
MD. Cost is free.
Entitled, “The Tivoli: A Neighborhood Landmark Reborn,” the
documentary short tells the story of the history and restoration of the
beloved Columbia Heights, DC, movie palace. The film features
recollections from WAMU’’s Diane Rehm, historic preservationists,
former movie theater patrons, and the Tivoli’s developer, Joseph
Horning. The film is narrated by motion picture actor Keith David.
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
If you are looking for original abstract art, look no further then
the works created by Afrika Midnight Asha Abney. For rates and services,
please contact her at Aashawarrior@aol.com
or by phone at 455-3773. Visit Afrika’s site at http://aashawarrior.artistportfolio.net/index.php?secret=140&artist_id=4513.
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Condo Management in the District
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, mark at
markdavidrichards dot com
The District has thousands of condos, and we all know they don’t
manage themselves. The wonders of efficient and painless community
living are largely invisible to most of us. So, who are the companies
with a proven track record for effective, or outstanding, condo
management in the District (with approximately 150 units or more), for a
reasonable per unit management fee? This includes effective
communications skills in working with condo Boards, managing the routine
accounting and billing, on-site projects (contracting and task
management), as well as any required crisis management (responding to
water leaks, etc.). Not necessarily included is on-site management and
on-site employees. Where does one turn when one is shopping around?
Interim Libraries to Have Wireless Internet
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
Four interim libraries in DC, being set up in storefronts, will have
wireless Internet capabilities. These libraries are in the Anacostia,
Benning, Tenley-Friendship, and Shaw neighborhoods. Further information
In counties surrounding DC there is free wireless Internet at
Bethesda, Silver Spring, and several other Montgomery County libraries.
The Arlington Central library has wireless Internet service, as do some
libraries in Alexandria. Several of the above-mentioned libraries are
fairly close to subway stops (i.e., within three or four blocks).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com,
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.