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 November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Thanks Givers:

Before I forget, Happy Thanksgiving. Now that the happy talk is disposed of, on to the grumbling. You may have noticed that I haven’t jumped on the bandwagons pushing for large-scale library or school renovations and, if you have noticed, you may have wondered why. Certainly basic maintenance of our libraries and schools has been neglected, and many libraries and schools are seriously dilapidated. But I’m unable to get enthusiastic about anything that I expect the city to do about it.

Here’s a broad sketch of the process that many optimists among library and school system proponents hope for. First, objective, disinterested experts will survey the facilities and determine the neighborhood need for them, their current utilization, their physical states, and the cost of their rehabilitation and renovation. That information would then be brought to a series of community forums to develop a public consensus about which libraries and schools should receive top priority for renovation, where entirely new schools and libraries need to be built, and which facilities are so underutilized and dilapidated that they should be closed. The buildings in this last group would then be evaluated in a similar public process to determine whether they could be retrofitted for other public purposes. Those that couldn’t would then be sold to the highest bidders, to get the most money to renovate the rest.

None of that is going to happen, because the DC government views library and school buildings not primarily as educational and cultural institutions, but mostly as opportunities for economic development. Here’s the real process that has already begun and will continue. Favored developers will have private discussions with economic development officials about which school and library properties they would like to have, which would be most valuable to them. Decisions about which schools and libraries to renovate, to sell off, or to incorporate as part of developers’ office buildings, will be made on the basis of those discussions, and then announced to the public. There will be a series of public meetings at which citizens will be given one, two, or — if the officials are feeling generous — three minutes each to vent their disapproval of the decisions. This will satisfy the need to give the impression of having had public input, and the decisions will then be ratified. Developers will compete for the "surplus" buildings and the buildings designated for “joint public-private” development, and the developers with the most political influence will win the buildings they want. Some of their development proposals or purchase bids may even seem attractive at first. After a couple years, when nobody is looking and nothing has been built, the city and developers will renegotiate the deals to lower their purchase prices, or to give grants and subsidies to the developers for some newly discovered "public amenities" in their projects.

That’s what I expect; forgive me if I don’t celebrate the fact that we’re talking about renovating schools and libraries.

Gary Imhoff


Tax Free Shopping (Center)
Ed Dixon,

Councilmembers Evans and Orange are proposing that the property that K-mart was to sit upon before filing for bankruptcy should be tax exempt for the next six years, via Bill 16-385. The bill claims that the property is currently owned by Brentwood RI, LLC. Though the Washington Business Journal put forth that the deal was being made for Rick Walker of Brentwood RI, LLC, the Office of Tax and Revenue still has it registered with K-mart, care of attorney Jeff Stollenwerck at a Sears address in Illinois. Sears has merged with K-mart and is planning to sell off lots of property as part of their new image. The tax abatement sweetens the deal.

Currently, the property at 1060 Brentwood Rd, NE, is classified as a special purpose parking lot and is valued at a little more than $6 million. According to the Office of Tax and Revenue’s web site, the second half of this year’s property tax payment has not been made on the roughly seven-acre property. The impending bill claims Brentwood RI, LLC will begin construction before the end of this year to house two nationally recognized retailers and three other retailers. The Business Journal hinted at a Dress Barn or a Marshalls.

K-mart is currently paying about $17.40 per square foot of land; much more than Doug Jemal nearby who pays $13 per square foot for his property on Rhode Island Avenue. Of course the idea that one wouldn’t have to pay property tax at all is even better. Neighboring amenities already include a Home Depot, Giant Food, and the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. Now if we can just figure out how everything can be free.


Will Fannie and Freddie Get Spanked?
Paul Wilson,

Channel-surfing the other night, on C-SPAN2, I happened upon Sen. Sununu (R.-NH) introducing his amendment to the Budget Reconciliation bill whereby Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would lose their exemptions from state and local taxes. Sununu cited the accounting irregularities, long-simmering scandals, and fat salaries that the two home mortgage consolidators pay out to their top executives. Alas, the amendment was ruled not germane in short order. In any event, it seems like the District would be a prime beneficiary of the tax windfall, should Fannie lose the exemption. (Freddie’s main offices in the area are located in McLean, Virginia.) For more information, see

I wonder if the District’s leaders are going to pick up the ball on this one?


Tenley Library
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Since it will be several years until the Tenley Library is rebuilt and open, how about an interim library set up in the large and underutilized senior center on the corner of Albermarle and 42nd Streets, NW. This is only a block from the closed library and would afford those who used the old library (mostly walk-ins since parking was impossible at the library and environs) a chance to get books and tapes and other reading materials.


Nextplease Firefox Extension Is Very Useful
Phil Shapiro,

You never know what you missed until someone shows you what you were missing. That’s the way I felt when I installed the free Nextplease extension into my Firefox browser. Now I can progress through Google search results with my mind driving in fourth gear rather than in first gear -- using keyboard control to move from one page of Google results to the next. I can similarly move back and forth through screens of my web mail with great ease and speed. My mouse looks up at me with a lonely, forlorn, unneeded look. You can find similar freedom and joys at — if you’re a Firefox user.

Note that when you click on the “install it” link, Firefox will initially prevent you from installing this extensions. (This is a good thing — a security feature in Firefox.) Click on the Edit button near the top right of your Firefox browser and then click on Allow on the small dialogue box that pops up. Close that dialogue box and click the “install it” link again. After the download and installation takes place (about 10 to 20 seconds), you exit and relaunch Firefox for the new extension to be available. Click on the top of the page link “Using NextPlease” for an excellent explanation of how to use (and customize) this extension.

If your computer had foot pedals (like a piano), you could map the NextPlease Firefox extension to those foot pedals — for total web surfing joy. Am I the only one noticing that computers are not shipping with foot pedals?

[Phil: try using the foot pedals that connect to computers for voice transcription; see and -- Gary Imhoff]


Comcast Complaint
Linda Jordan, Director, Office of Consumer Services,

[Reply to Roy Kaufmann, themail, November 20:] Your posting regarding the entity to complain to about Comcast issues was bought to my attention today. The District of Columbia Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications ("OCTT") regulates cable service providers; they can be reached at 671-0066. I referred your complaint to Ms. Marcella Hicks, Consumer Services Manager, for investigation.

Our agency, the District of Columbia Public Service Commission, regulates the electric, gas, and telephone companies in the District. Our mission is to serve the public interest by ensuring that financially healthy electric, gas, and telecommunications companies provide safe, reliable, and quality services at reasonable rates for DC residential, business, and government customers. We are located at 1333 H Street, NW, 7th Floor, East Tower, and our telephone number is 626-5100.


Klingle Road
Denise Wiktor,

As a past user of Klingle Road, I understand its convenience factor. I also understand the desire not to have a road there. However, I think that in all this debate a number of things have not been looked at. The lead content of the soil in the “valley” was so high it warranted mitigation. Some of the mitigation is to allow plants to absorb the lead, which die and put the lead back in the soil. I wouldn’t let my child in there both because of that and because the valley is the location of a sewer overflow discharge. The discharge is part of a larger problem that will some day be corrected. The road itself failed for many reasons, one of which was illegal dumping blocking the drain. The homeowners nearby stand to gain greatly in the value of their homes by keeping the road closed. The first Post article about the valley was written by a reporter who lives adjacent to the area. Finally, the land was given to the city to be used as a road. I know of at least one developer who is attempting to find Klingle heirs to buy their residuary. If he buys enough, then he feels he can stake a claim in lieu of the heirs. He intends to sue to have the land returned under the conditions of the deed, presumably to develop or other wise use.

We have few east-west cross-town routes. After 9-11, I want to be able to get out of town. Going north is not really an option, and neither is going east. I was able to get out of town on 9-11, but that was because I was in a building from which I could see the Pentagon burning before it was announced, so we left a wee bit earlier than the announced evacuations, which made all the difference in the world. My child and my home are in Mt. Pleasant, and I want to make sure she can get out of town, regardless of whether I can get out of downtown DC.

I live east of the park. Since the road closed, it is easier for me to go to Debaggio Herbs in Virginia than to fight the traffic at Porter to get to the Cathedral (and quite frankly the herbs are cheaper). My husband, who is in construction, has stopped frequenting a couple of DC suppliers east of the park, and now that his one major supplier on Taylor Street closed, if it’s early in the day he goes out of the city rather than attempt a cross-town trip. I view this as a local issue with local impact. I greatly resented the environmental alert that went out nationally that implied a new road was going through the park. In my former job I had to field thousands of E-mails condemning the proposal, but what I found most amazing was the view of persons, many who have never set foot here, that since DC is the nation’s capital, whether or not it is a local road, they were entitled to a say in the matter. This will be an issue for me in the next election. I also wonder, though, the Park is being overrun with invasive species, trees are being covered up with vines and smothered. The toxic valley may be saved, but couldn’t some of this energy be put elsewhere? I would happily go out to volunteer on a crew to eradicate these vines, but I am waiting for that to be scheduled. I know small attempts have been made, but a large scale reclamation has not been attempted.



Mayoral Forum, November 28
Mary Alice Levine,

Neighborhood groups in upper northwest DC will sponsor a public forum on neighborhoods and development with all the mayoral candidates on Monday, November 28, at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church’s Great Hall, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW, between 7 and 9 p.m. The panelists will be Barbara Zartman, Chair of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City; Dorn McGrath, Professor Emeritus, George Washington University, former Chairman of the Departments of Urban and Regional Planning and Geography, former Chair, Committee of 100; and Nancy MacWood, Chair, ANC 3C and member of the Comprehensive Plan Revision Task Force. The moderator will be George Clark, president of Forest Hills Citizens Association and president of the Federation of Citizens Associations.

Candidates Linda Cropp, Vincent Orange, Adrian Fenty, Marie Johns and Michael Brown will participate. The forum is sponsored by the Committee to Stop Tenleytown Overdevelopment, the Friendship Neighbors Association, the Tenleytown Neighbors Association, the Friendship Tenleytown Citizens Association, and the Forest Hills Citizens Association.


DC Public Library Events, December 1
Debra Truhart,

Thursday, December 1, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Cellist Vassily Popov and Pianist Ralitza Patcheva present their monthly Brown Bag Recital program of chamber music featuring Bach and Faure. Public contact: 727-1285.

Thursday, December 1, 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 the poetry of Denise Levertov. January’s selection will be Eventide, a novel by Kent Haruf. Public contact: 727-1281.


World AIDS Day Forum, December 1
Wayne Turner,

On World AIDS Day, Thursday, December 1, at 12:00 p.m., there will be a forum on Medical Marijuana in the District of Columbia and the fate of Initiative 59 at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Building 39, Room 205 South (Red line Metro at UDC/Van Ness ; wheelchair accessible). The forum will feature Maxwell Lawton, Yes on 59 Campaign patient spokesperson, artist, and AIDS activist; Art Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU National Capitol Area; Anise Jenkins, President of the Stand Up for Democracy in DC Coalition; and an except from “The Last Colony,” a documentary film on the struggle for DC democracy and self determination by Rebecca Kingsley. Sponsored by The Drug Policy Reform Group of UDC and Outlaw of the David A. Clarke School of Law. For more information contact Wayne Turner at 547-9404


National Building Museum Events, December 1-2
Brie Hensold,

Thursday, December 1, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Nigel Howard, chief technology officer for the US Green Building Council, will discuss the proposed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for neighborhood development (LEED-ND). These standards will measure the environmental performance of entire neighborhoods, based on how their design reduces vehicle travel, energy use, urban water runoff, and other impacts. Free. Registration not required.

Friday, December 2, 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Building in the Aftermath: Housing in the Wake of Katrina and Other Disasters. The National Building Museum has joined the American Planning Association (APA) and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), to present a half-day symposium exploring the short- and long-term housing issues that governments, planners, and residents of the hurricane-devastated region face. What are the post-disaster planning issues, and what steps should be taken to better prepare for future disasters? This symposium features experts fresh from inspection of the ravaged areas and also with experience in disasters overseas. Panelists will include: Fernando Costa, AICP, Planning Director at Fort Worth, Texas; Franck Daphnis, president and CEO of Development Innovations Group, Silver Spring; and Laura Steinberg, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tulane University in New Orleans. Sue Schwartz, FAICP, president of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and Neighborhood Planning Division Manger, Housing & Community Development in Greensboro, NC, will serve as moderator. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


Vigil Demonstrates Concern for Children, December 7
Anne Stuecker,

On Wednesday, December 7, Covenant House sites around the world will host a Candlelight Vigil on behalf of Children and Youth. You can be a part of this international effort by attending the Covenant House Washington Candlelight Vigil, 6 p.m. at 2001 Mississippi Avenue, SE. Join hundreds of concerned citizens, elected officials, and youth-focused agencies in Renewing the Covenant to protect and safeguard all children. Unlike the many Vigils held in our nation’s capital within any given week, the Covenant House Vigil is designed to raise awareness about the issues facing youth, and to inspire citizens to get involved and make a meaningful difference. For more information, call 610-9600.



Tuck Pointer, Bricklayer, Welder
David De Seve,

Anyone looking for a good tuck-pointer/bricklayer/welder, please let me know. I had a bad experience with Bricklands. (They would go days and even weeks without showing up. Mortar fell out after less than a year. They replaced broken bricks with ones that did not match, etc. Just plain sloppy). I have since found someone who does a great job. He did such a good job I told him that I would spread the word. For more information, feel free to contact me at


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