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November 16, 2005

Business as Usual

Dear Business-Minded Citizens:

Sean Madigan of The Washington Business Journal wrote an article this week calling attention to an important legal opinion that DC Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti issued back in September: The Attorney General’s opinion clarifies the legal status of the National Capital Revitalization Corporation and the other quasi-independent and pseudo-private agencies created by the city council, such as the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, and the Washington Convention Center Authority. For years, the council has been creating these organizations to do questionable business deals that would never pass public scrutiny if the councilmembers had to do them themselves. These organizations have in turn claimed that they can operate like private businesses, and that they aren’t bound by the guidelines and safeguards, such as the Sunshine Law and the District’s contractings and procurement laws, that give the citizens of the District some ability to inquire into their schemes and boondoggles.

Simplified, Spagnoletti’s decision says that these organizations are part of DC government, and subject to the laws and regulations that govern other government agencies. It says that the Home Rule Charter gives the council the authority only to create an "office, agency, department, or instrumentality" of the District government, and that the council can’t create any entity outside of the District government unless Congress grants it the power to do so. This is good news for citizens — if the law can be enforced, it gives us some increased power to rein in the excesses of these secretive, unresponsive agencies. However, the businessmen and politicians who want to continue to do business as usual, without the inconvenience of following the laws that bind government agencies, are squealing. They are pressuring Spagnoletti either to reverse or to withdraw his opinion. Read it yourself at

The Fannie Mae 2005 report on Housing in the Nation’s Capital, and the reports from the three previous years, can be downloaded from Its conclusion can also be stated simply: if you’re an average citizen with an average income, and you don’t already own a house in the city, you probably can’t afford to buy one now. Does anyone have any thoughts about a workable, affordable solution to this? If the middle class can’t afford to buy its own homes, it obviously can’t afford to pay enough taxes for the government to finance or subsidize the homes for them. Or do you have a plan?

Gary Imhoff


There’s a Message Here, Carol
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

The results of a study that ran a year and a half on the affects of a smoking ban in all public places in Pueblo, Colorado, show a decrease in heart attacks of twenty-seven percent. That’s a compelling reason to ban smoking in all public places, including restaurants and bars, here in DC. Carol Schwartz should learn from this study and make DC a healthier place for all of us and visitors to DC.

[I’d think it more likely that this study is another example of politicized science and manipulated results. The results are simply too dramatic to be believable. The press release from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the organization promoting the Colorado study, pairs it with this one: “the number of heart attacks declined by 40 percent in Helena, Montana, during the six months that city’s smoke-free law was in effect in 2002” ( The Helena study purports to show that heart attacks fell by 40 percent during the six months the ban was in effect, and rose to previous levels as soon as the prohibition was lifted. Do those who believe that secondhand smoke is a serious health danger really believe that it is the cause of 27 to 40 percent of heart attacks, or believe that its effects are immediate, rather than cumulative, through prolonged exposure? If secondhand smoke were the immediate cause of 27 to 40 percent of heart attacks, then banning cigarettes entirely would surely eliminate all heart attacks. — Gary Imhoff]


Problems with Comcast
Gary Rice,

The problems with Comcast start with their customer service. I have not been able to get my billing address changed in over two years. So I gave up on them. Sometimes I get the bill and sometimes I do not. The solution amounts to adding the +4 to my zip code, but each time I have spoken to a customer service person I am told, "Oh the post office takes care of adding that." But the programming on Comcast is terrible. If you listen to the commercials, they are oriented towards people who are brain dead or have credit problems.

I use to have DirecTV and it was wonderful, but the place where I live now does not permit satellite dishes on the roof.


Jury Service
Pat Yates,

Thanks very much to Leah Gurowitz for underscoring that jury service is an important civic responsibility [themail, November 13]. And as a side benefit, it’s an opportunity to learn more about the city, some of its workings, and the court system (both civil and criminal). Treatment of jurors is one area in which the DC government has improved almost immeasurably in the last few decades. The first time I got called to Superior Court jury duty was in the early 1970s, when that Court was in the building that is now the National Building Museum. One reported every day for a full month, and this long, long month was extended if one were selected for a jury toward the end. There was one big jury lounge, and there were almost no amenities. Staff tended to treat jurors as if they were the prisoners.

Through what seems to have been a gradual evolution over the years, things are much better now -- much more jury friendly. Superior Court now uses the one-day-or-one-trial system, amenities (with a quiet room and a business room and a reasonably comfortable large lounge) are much nicer than before, and generally the staff is pleasant, courteous, and helpful. Now if only they would do something about that dismal cafeteria.

It’s nice to be able to give credit where due every once in a while! (I am just an ordinary DC citizen, with no connection to the Court.)


Klingle Valley Road
Robert Wilbur,

Reopening Klingle Road in Klingle Valley, as Laurie Collins has been frantically preaching for years, would be a foolish waste of DC government resources. Collins conveniently ignores that Mayor Williams, a sensible manager of resources, opposed reopening/rebuilding Klingle, and signed the legislation to reopen Klingle only because it was embedded in an omnibus resolution. It should now be obvious that rebuilding Klingle Road in this ravine would be far, far more costly than previously estimated. The DC city council should use these funds elsewhere in the city


Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and the Upcoming Election
David Culp, Capitol Hill,

Laurie Collins (themail, November 13) criticizes local environmental organization for their support of Klingle Valley, near Rock Creek Park. She states: “Political candidates who have a genuine concern for the environment should not be fooled by factions touting bogus environmental concerns. . . .”

Adrienne Coleman, the Superintendent of Rock Creek Park, has objected to rebuilding a paved road in Klingle Valley as “environmentally destructive” to trees and soil on National Park Service land. Superintendent Coleman has stated that it is not possible to rebuild Klingle Road for cars without causing further environmental harm to Klingle Creek, a tributary of Rock Creek.

I plan to work hard this election for candidates who support Klingle Valley and urge others to do so. This is great weather for seeing for yourself why Klingle Valley is worth saving. For a map and more information, go to


Are GWU Kids Turning Foggy Bottom into Animal House?
Len Sullivan,

Quite by chance, NARPAC got drawn into the heated battle between the Good Citizens of Foggy Bottom and the Dread Invaders from George Washington University. A month later, we conclude that the hype has gotten pretty well out of hand, and some of it is pretty silly. We can’t find any overriding reason to encourage the further expansion of GWU into the downtown area, nor, on the other hand, to place an absolute ceiling on GWU’s student or employee population within its current boundaries. But it surely is not justifiable: a) to constrain on-campus growth by zoning limits substantially below those applied to its immediate surrounds; b) to discourage any nonprofit institution from creating developments on its property that could provide valuable income to both the city and itself; or c) to permit local neighborhoods to veto continued urban development around vital DC Metro stations, particularly based on specious argumentation. At the risk of further inflaming the debate, take a look at our analysis in the November update of our web site at We think it’s time for a return to reason: want to estimate the odds?



National Building Museum Events, November 19, 21
Brie Hensold,

Saturday, November 19, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Construction Watch Tour. The new Orientation Center and Education Center/Museum under construction at George Washington’s Mount Vernon are the largest new buildings undertaken within the estate. Their underground construction and careful integration of architectural and landscape design will still enable visitors to experience the estate much as Washington did. Alan Reed, principal design architect from GWWO, Inc. /Architects, and Jack Rogers, Turner Construction Company project executive, will lead a tour of both buildings. Open only to Museum members, $18. Space is limited. Prepaid registration required. To register, call the Museum or visit beginning October 24.

Monday, November 21, 6:30-8:00 p.m. James Carpenter expands the technical potential of glass and other materials to place light at the heart of architectural or sculptural design. The 2004 MacArthur Fellow and principal of New York-based James Carpenter Design Associates will discuss his projects, which include New York’s Seven World Trade Center with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Fulton Street Transit Center with Grimshaw and Partners, New York, and the Blue Glass Passage for Seattle’s City Hall. $12 Members; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Prepaid registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


Hugh Kennedy at Chevy Chase Library, November 21
Debra Truhart,

Monday, November 21, 6:30 p.m., Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library, 5625 Connecticut Avenue, NW. British Historian Hugh Kennedy will discuss his book, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam’s Greatest Dynasty. Kennedy’s talk includes the glory days of Baghdad in the 8th and 9th centuries, when it was a center of the arts and sciences. Public contact: 282-0021.


UDC’s Annual Holiday Concert, December 5
Michael Andrews,

The University of the District of Columbia will present its Annual Holiday Concert at 7:30 p.m., Monday, December 5, in the University Auditorium, located on the University’s campus at 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW. The concert is the University’s annual holiday gift to the Washington, DC, community and is free and open to the public. The UDC Chorale, directed by William Jones, starts the evening with a program of choral music followed by the gospel sounds of The Voices, directed by Gerry Gillespie. The UDC Jazz Ensemble, directed by Allyn Johnson, carries on the legacy of Calvin Jones and closes the program with big band jazz sure to spread the holiday spirit.

The University Auditorium (Building 46 East -- Van Ness Campus) is conveniently located on Metro’s Red Line at the Van Ness/UDC station. Complimentary parking will be available on the night of the concert. Contact Judith A. Korey at 274-5803 or for additional information.



Christmas Wreaths
David Hunter,

I think this is a worthy cause. Happy Holiday season to everyone. 0“Hi, my name is Allegra Penny, and I am a member of Wilson Crew. We are the only DC public school that has crew, and therefore, the DCPS gives our team no funding. We raise all the money ourselves, primarily through fundraising, done by the rowers. Each rower has a fundraising goal of $400.

“To help achieve these goals, Wilson Crew is selling wreaths for the holidays. The wreaths are 24" in diameter, balsam fir, from Nova Scotia. Each wreath comes with a red bow, and they sell for $20. Wreaths will be delivered to your home on Saturday, December 3, and Sunday, December 4. If you are interested in purchasing a wreath to support us, you can send your order and cash or a check payable to Wilson Crew Boosters, to 3205 38th Street NW, Washington, DC 20016. Orders should arrive by November 19th. If you have any questions, please contact me at 244-2142. Thank you in advance for your support!”



Building Materials
Brennan Ross,

Concrete cinder blocks, square pavers, bricks, used slate shingles free to a good home. Send an E-mail for information and to arrange pickup in American University AU Park to



Lead Water Service Pipe Replacement
Erich Martel, Chevy Chase, ErichMartel at Starpower dot net

I recently received a proposal from the DC Water and Sewer Authority. It has hired a company to replace the lead service up to the property line. The urgent proposal listed the price it will charge me to complete the job from my property line to the first plumbing connection inside the building.

Has anyone gotten a competitive price from a plumber?


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