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November 9, 2005

Non-Instant Messaging

Dear Messengers:

I spent most of the day getting the Comcast problem ironed out, so I could work again. It’s late now, so I’ll whine later.

Gary Imhoff


ANC 6B on the National Capital Medical Center
Ken Jarboe, ANC 6B05,

Last Tuesday, ANC 6B voted unanimously, 10-0 with no abstentions, to oppose the National Capital Medical Center and urge the Council to develop alternative proposals that will better address the health care needs of the citizens of the District of Columbia, including more appropriate health care facilities on the HillEast Waterfront. The ANC also voted to strongly oppose the proposal to circumvent the Certificate of Need process.

ANC 6b believes that the NCMC proposal is: 1) bad health care policy -- it does not serve the needed of the currently under-served communities, either in the type of care it provides (hospital beds rather than clinics) or in the location (west of the river when the need is east of the river). And it actually runs the risk of decreasing service to under-served residents by forcing the closure of Greater SE, the only hospital east of the river. 2) Bad land use policy — its scope is too large for the Reservation 13 development plan and runs the risk of precluding other development on the site. 3) Bad policymaking — the city administration proposes to legislatively circumvent the existing Certificate of Need process. We have seem too many cases already where projects try to short-circuit the process; we don’t need another project that tries an end-run.

We need a plan to solve our health care problems and to develop an appropriate health care facility on Res 13. The NCMC does neither. A copy of the full resolution is available on the ANC 6B web site, Click on “the library” under “Information.”


DC Government to Demolish Kennedy Theater and Other Historic Buildings
Richard Layman,

Over the weekend, local preservation activist Peter Sefton ( alerted a group of us that you might consider the "triage" or "emergency room doctors" on DC historic preservation matters about an impending demolition of some great buildings on Kennedy Street, NW, centered around the Kennedy Theater. It turns out that the buildings are owned by the DC Government, specifically the DC Office of Aging, which wanted to tear them down, but agreed to a face saving measure of saving the facades. The DC Historic Preservation Office agreed to this compromise. And the pro-developer faction on the DC Preservation League Board doesn’t want to muddy the development waters.

So here a DC government agency is being an active and aggressive destroyer of the qualities that make DC special and unique, and the leading preservation organization isn’t too concerned about it. Because the city is defined by its architecture and history, both of which make the city unique and special and are the primary source of the city’s competitive advantage vis-a-vis our suburban competitors, when this heritage is lost, the city loses more of its definition and character. Should we file a nomination anyway, to throw a wrench in the process, and try to discuss and debate these issues? It’s a lot of work, takes a lot of time, and it’s hard to do in the face of likely failure. On the other hand, the Historic Preservation Office can’t argue that the buildings don’t merit protection, because many such equivalent theater/cinema buildings and have been designated heretofore.

What should we do? This is discussed in much greater length, with illustrations, in my blog entry about this topic,


Touching the Third Rail
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Fixing the teaching problem in the DC public schools will take someone who is willing to touch the third rail. It will take a monumental change in the way teachers are hired, paid, and tenured to fix what has been going on in the public schools for the last thirty or forty years. To begin with let me say that I am in favor of paying teachers what they deserve, and that’s a lot more than they are being paid right now. New teachers should be hired at a level at which they can support themselves and equivalent to what they could earn in private industry.

There are several stipulations that go along with this proposal, however, and here is where the third rail touching comes in. Teachers today are paid based on how many years they’ve been teaching and how many absurd and inapplicable courses they take to get some useless advanced degree. Tenure is awarded to those teachers who can kiss up to their school’s principal without raising the ire of fellow teachers. Once tenured, teachers can just roll along forever without worry about losing their jobs. Tenure should be withheld from all except those who are exceptional teachers. All this, and the control that the Teacher’s Unions have, has got to change. The first change is for teachers to change. Teachers, like test pilots, are basically loners. They think they are smarter than anyone else and don’t welcome any inputs from principals or other teachers. Instead, teachers must learn to work on teams. These teams, made up of the best teachers in any school, need to define the major problems in that school and then develop the solutions and processes that will correct those problems. By working together as a team, these teachers will learn from one another and will all be come better teachers. They must then mentor those teachers in the school who need to be better teachers.

By raising the starting salaries of teachers, more, and better qualified, teachers will come into the schools. Teachers’ pay increases should be based on the overall performance of the school. When the school as a whole shows outcomes of improved test scores, the teachers should be awarded a pay increase. Only a qualified teacher can extract the best from each and every student. The idea that all students can be academic wizards is folly. Many students will never, and should never, consider going to a university. Teachers, working as a team, can determine which students belong in classes where they will be challenged and inspired and which students need to develop skills that match their interests. Students who are interested in what is being taught and subjects that match their interest will do well. All students should ultimately work in fields they like. That insures the best performance and, very likely, a rewarding, satisfying career. As for teaching to the test and standardized tests, that’s for creating a block of students with minimal abilities and all at one level. Kids don’t come that way. They all have different abilities and interests. Good teachers need to teach in a way that brings out the best in these students. I remember my own schooling. As an inner city kid from a single parent family, I had elementary school teachers who learned what my interests were and challenged me in those interests. They encouraged me to go to a technical high school. At Brooklyn Tech, I received the best four years of education I had in my entire life. Good teachers are the only answer to improving education in the DC school system. The only way to achieve cadres of good teachers in all of the schools is to trash the existing system of hiring, paying, and tenuring teachers. It means grabbing ahold of that third rail.


Sign of the Times
Liz Karch,

Happened upon a notable traffic sign at the intersection of Canal Road and Foxhall where drivers turn left to continue on Canal Road. There’s a sign posted “No Turn on Red.” If you’re familiar with this intersection, drivers have only two options: left on Canal or straight on to Foxhall. Obviously drivers in the District need to be reminded that there’s no left turn on red.


Where Will the Newspaper Slide End Up?
Phil Shapiro,

Reported this week, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s circulation slipped by 9 percent, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The San Francisco Chronicle’s circulation was down 16.9 percent from last year. Where is this all heading? Perhaps in the future newspapers will pay a subscription fee to subscribers, rather than vice versa? It sounds incredible, but it might happen. For those newspapers who might be interested, I currently offer a special where if you pay me for twelve weeks of weekday and Saturday newspaper delivery, you get the Sunday newspapers delivered to me for free.

My attention has value.


Starting Young?
Laurie Collins,

For those of you who thought that once you voted in an election, your name would be automatically registered in the jury duty pool. Not necessarily true. Our fourteen-year-old daughter received a summons for petit jury duty. Think of the fun we could have with this.


The Secret Life of Commercial Assessments
Mark Eckenwiler, themale at ingot dot org

Apropos of the recent discussion about commercial vs. residential real property assessments: DC law requires hearings before the Board of Real Property Assessments & Appeals (BRPAA) to be open to the public, with one unspeakably enormous exception. Under 9 DCMR 2014.1 and DC Code 47-812(d)(2), a petitioner (property owner) may demand closure of a hearing to prevent public access to “valuation records,” defined as “(i) Information regarding private appraisals, actual building costs, rental data, or business volume; (ii) Income or expense forms; and (iii) Rent rolls.” Anyone puzzled by the alleged underassessment of commercial properties in DC need look no further than this anti-transparency rule.

Some years back I personally observed this provision in action. As preparation for my maiden appearance before BRPAA to contest my home’s assessment, I decided to sit in on a hearing a few days before mine to get a sense of the procedures. It turned out to involve a commercial property downtown, and I was allowed to remain in the room for the few seconds it took the panel to formally introduce themselves on the record and call the case docket number. At that point, I was politely kicked out of the room because "confidential business records" were to be discussed.



National Building Museum Events, November 13-15
Brie Hensold,

Sunday, November 13, 1:00-2:00 p.m. “Le Corbusier (Museum Without Walls).” This film conducts an interesting tour of Le Corbusier’s most important buildings, explores his revolutionary ideas on architecture and urban renewal, and studies both the man and the vision that changed the face of 20th century architecture. Free. Registration not required.

Monday, November 14, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Building in the Aftermath: Rebuilding the “Big Easy” — Not So Easy. Ideas about the future of New Orleans have ranged the gamut from proposals to level entire neighborhoods to calls to preserve as many historic structures as possible. What is indisputable is that New Orleans is one of the world’s great cities, with an unparalleled architectural and cultural legacy. It is also becoming clear that a significant percentage of the city’s buildings are either intact, only modestly damaged, or substantially salvageable, meaning that some of the early calls for "moving" New Orleans greatly overstated the extent of the destruction. Even so, the task of preserving, restoring, and, where necessary, rebuilding is enormous and will require difficult decisions. A distinguished panel of leaders in urban planning, landscape architecture, historic preservation, engineering, and architecture will each share advice about the best strategies for rebuilding the "Big Easy," before engaging in a freewheeling, moderated discussion. Robert Ivy, FAIA, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record, will moderate. Panelists will include Paul Farmer, AICP, executive director, American Planning Association; Suzanne Turner, FASLA, emerita professor of landscape architecture, Louisiana State University; Richard Moe, president, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Thomas Campanella, assistant professor of urban planning at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and coeditor of The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster; Angela O’Bryne, AIA, president, American Institute of Architects, New Orleans; Henry Hatch, civil engineer formerly with the US Army Corps of Engineers. $12 for members of the Museum, American Planning Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, American Society of Civil Engineers, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and American Institute of Architects; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Prepaid registration required. To register, please call 272-2448 or visit

Tuesday, November 15, 12:30-1:30 p.m. National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. At the fourth annual ceremony for the National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement, the US Environmental Protection Agency will honor up to five communities for their innovative strategies to build neighborhoods that provide safe and decent places to live and work, protect natural and historic places, and create a balanced transportation system. Free. Advance registration requested. Visit to register.

All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


Benning Road Metrorail Station Rally, November 12
Samuel Jordan,

Community First at Benning Metro invites everyone who cares about communities responding decisively to "Predatory Developers" to rally with us for respect and honest representation. Noon, Saturday, November 12, at Benning Road Metrorail Station. Stop CSOSA, Jenco, WMATA, Marshall Heights CDO, and their plans to destroy our communities!

Without consultation with us, these predatory developers have applied to the Board of Zoning Adjustment for suspension of parking and building height restrictions to construct a five-story building serving ninety employees and five to six hundred ex-offenders every day. The project is too big, lacks sufficient parking, will present a constant threat to public safety, and will halt any subsequent community-friendly development.

The Marshall Heights Community Development Oorganization accepted a percentage of the revenues to abandon their responsibility to the community — 10 percent profit for 100 percent betrayal! Who else got paid? What about us? Councilmember Vincent Gray has adopted a pretense at community representation in his “let’s wait it out” strategy. He says, “It’s ‘dead in the water.” We say, “If it’s dead in the water, don’t take it to BZA — withdraw it now, in writing!” You would think he’s the predatory developers’ lawyer, not our councilmember.


Feeding the Hungry Benefits, November 12, 18, 19
Ann Hargrove,

The eighteenth annual Help the Homeless Walkathon, scheduled for Saturday, November 19, at the Mall, is sponsored by Fannie Mae, a donor to a special feeding program centered at St. Stephen of the Incarnation Episcopal Church at 16th and Newton Streets known as "Loaves and Fishes." If you are interested in the Help the Homeless Walkathon, contact the for information.) Loaves and Fishes, one of the oldest feeding programs in the city, is operated largely with the help of all kinds of volunteers and local churches. It seeks funds each year to continue offering very high quality and wholesome hot meals to those in need. You are invited to two special music events and their receptions, to help raise funds for its operation, with tickets available at the door: 1) The Washington Saxophone Quartet and friends, the thirteenth annual benefit, "Music: The Food of Love," on Saturday, November 12, at 3 p.m., at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, 16th and Varnum Streets, just north of St. Stephen and the Incarnation ($15 admission and $5 students); and

2) "Jazz Fighting Hunger," on Friday, November 18, at 8 p.m., at St. Stephen’s, featuring some of Washington’s best jazz musicians ($10 for individuals and $15 for a twosome). Also, you can purchase golf shirts ($20) or a large sized cook apron ($15) with the loaves and fishes logo. Both are useful and quite suitable as gifts.

For further information, to make a donation, or to purchase these offerings or tickets, contact St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, 1525 Newton St., NW, 20010, telephone 232-0900, or visit the web site: For tickets, checks may be made out to SSI/L and F, sent to this address, or paid at the door by cash or check


Benefits Concert for Hurricane Victims
Leonie L. Campbell,

DC public schools students will perform at Kelly Miller Middle School, 301 49th Street, NE, on Thursday, November 17, at 10:00 a.m., to raise money for victims of the recent hurricanes. Students from Ellington High School, Fillmore Arts Center, Hardy Middle School, Kelly Miller Middle School and students from eleven other schools across the city will participate in the DCPS Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert — A Concert for Children by Children.


Library Fix-Up, November 17 and 18
Robin Diener,

The Library Renaissance Project seeks volunteers for a fix-up of DC Public Libraries’ gardens and grounds on Thursday and Friday, November 17 and 18, starting at 10 a.m. Volunteers are needed to rake, clear, trim, mulch, and plant bulbs at eleven libraries throughout the city. All equipment will be provided on site.

The fix-up will be held at the following branches: Capitol View, 5001 Central Avenue, SE; Chevy Chase, 5625 Connecticut Avenue, NW; Cleveland Park, 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW; Georgetown, 3260 R Street, NW; Mt. Pleasant, 3160 16th Street, NW; Northeast, 330 7th Street, NE; Petworth, 4200 Kansas Avenue, NW; Southwest, 900 Wesley Place, SW; Washington Highlands, 115 Atlantic Avenue, SW; West End, 1101 24th Street, NW; Woodbridge, 1801 Hamlin Street, NE.

For further information or to volunteer, contact Robin Diener, 387-7776,


Thanksgiving Dinner, November 24
Ted Knutson,

Thought I might not be the only DCWatch reader facing a lonely Thanksgiving who might like to get a small potluck together. If anyone is interested, E-mail me at or call me at 547-1387 (home and office). I am willing to have the gathering at my Capitol Hill apartment.



What to Do If You Get a Camera Ticket for Speeding?
Phil Greene,

My sister was recently in town to take her daughter, a high-school senior, to Catholic University for a visit. She was (allegedly) roaring down Michigan Avenue at 36 mph, and the speed limit is 25. She received a ticket in the mail a couple weeks ago, based on a camera photo of her license plate (must be a high-speed lens, after all, she was doing 36). Does anyone have any suggestions or insights about adjudicating this? She lives in Pennsylvania, by the way.


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