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November 30, 2005


Dear Furious Readers:

The cost of the proposed baseball stadium in southeast keeps escalating, but the baseball boosters keep fiddling with the numbers to pretend that the $535 million cap on the stadium’s costs set by the city council is still intact. The mayor, the Sports Commission, and the Chief Financial Officer keep tossing out expenses that were supposed to be included in the $535 million and pretending that they no longer have to be counted. Metro station upgrades, street and sidewalk improvements, financing costs -- all of them are now outside and on top of the $535 million. To cap it off, the baseball boosters scammed the city council last month when it passed “technical amendments” to the stadium bill. Councilmembers who were skeptical of the stadium financing were assured that the bill made no substantive changes, while the administration and the Chief Financial Officer knew that their intent, and their interpretation of the bill, was to raise the cost cap from $535 million to $589 million.

At Monday’s city council hearing on the stadium, administration and Sports Commission officials talked about the $535 million ceiling for the first several hours, and revealed only in the last hour that they now believed the council had authorized an increase to $589 million (which still doesn’t include the cost of necessary infrastructure improvements that they intend to hide in other departments’ and agencies’ budgets). CFO Natwar Gandhi reacted angrily to councilmembers who were disturbed by how they had been misled. Gandhi ranted about the importance of his reputation, and he blamed the councilmembers for not understanding the full effect of the “technical amendments.” His reasoning seemed to be that he had no responsibility to represent the bill fully and accurately to the councilmembers, no duty to explain that he and the administration believed the bill would raise the legislative cap on stadium expenses. He seemed to believe that if the councilmembers hadn’t discovered the full effects of the bill on their own, it was their own fault for letting themselves be fooled. This is the rationalization of the con man, the contempt of the flim-flam man for people foolish enough to trust him and be scammed by him, and it is unworthy of a man who has previously been an honest and competent CFO.

In the future the city council will not be able to trust Mr. Gandhi’s word, and will always have to wonder what he is hiding from them and what he is not telling them. This will be another major cost of the stadium, one that will cost our city dearly.

Gary Imhoff


Spiraling Down
Eric Rosenthal,

The confluence of events over recent weeks has been especially sad. The Inspector General’s report on Jonathan Magbie, as reported by Colby King at the Washington Post, provides a lens on how inhumane and incompetent our government is. Those qualities were demonstrated again in the report on four deaths among mentally and physically disabled residents in the care of DC government and yet again in another report showing the city is moving too slowly in providing for foster children. Rather than addressing those issues, the Mayor is absent most of the time and his minions use their time to push ill-conceived projects like the ballpark and the National Capital Medical Center. Even the Mayor’s alleged strong suit — good fiscal management — is a myth, as the Post documented in a series of articles showing widespread mismanagement of public funds and arrogant disregard for the public’s welfare. The Mayor has yet to respond to the Post, apparently because his travel schedule keeps him too busy. He is likely to spend more time in Washington, however, though much of it may be with congressional committees investigating his stewardship.

I have lived in Washington for more than twenty years. Taken together, recent events paint a tragic portrait of a failed government, not much different from when I moved here. Does anyone know what we could do to fix it?


Fixing Contracting and Procurement
Dorothy Brizill,

The city’s long-standing, ongoing, severe procurement problems were detailed in two articles by Dan Keating and David Fallis in the Washington Post, as mentioned by Gary in the last issue of themail ( and At his press conference today, Mayor Williams was visibly angry — not at how his administration had failed the citizens, but at the Post for reporting the problems. The mayor briefly acknowledged that the city had contracting problems, and he made a pro forma statement that he accepted responsibility for them, but he spent the most time attacking the Post reporters and attempting to discredit their stories. He claimed that the information in the stories was either outdated or inaccurate. His press secretary, Vince Morris, explained that the mayor had refused to be interviewed for the stories because the Post had refused to give him all the information that would be in the articles in advance.

The first step in reforming procurement would be to hire a seasoned and experienced Chief Procurement Officer. Since the resignation of Jacques Abadie in the aftermath of the exposure of multiple scandals involving credit, purchase, and travel cards; the sale of District surplus property; and sole source contracts, the District’s Procurement Office has lacked a permanent head. Since September 13, 2004, Herbert Tillery, the Deputy Mayor for Operations, has also served as the Chief Procurement Officer. DC Law is very specific about the qualifications to fill this position, and Tillery does not have the requisite qualifications. Tillery has served long beyond the 180-day legal limit for temporary appointments, but the mayor has not forwarded his nomination to the council for confirmation, nor has he recruited anyone else to head the office and fill the vacancy. Today, Tillery and Mayor Williams explained the failure to recruit a Chief Procurement Officer by saying that there is just a year remaining in the mayor’s term, implying that it would be difficult to find someone to fill the job for just a year. Neither Tillery nor the mayor seemed to be aware that the CPO serves a set five-year term, and can be dismissed only for cause, so the length of the mayor’s term in office should have no effect whatsoever on recruitment. Moreover, as with many other offices for which the mayor has failed to make timely appointments, the mayor and Tillery claimed that the 180-day legal limit on temporary appointments didn’t apply if the appointee was called "interim" rather than "acting" -- a distinction without a difference, and a distinction that doesn’t exist in law.

The mayor needs to demonstrate that he is actually concerned about the District’s contracting scandals, and not just give lip service to accepting a theoretical responsibility for them. To forestall Congressional action, he must take real, visible steps toward solving the problems himself. The first step should be to recruit a seasoned contracting and procurement specialist as the District’s Chief Procurement Officer.


Taxpayer Victory
Peter S. Craig,

At a hearing on November 30, Judge Eugene N. Hamilton announced he will award final judgment in favor of the petitioners in the class action filed by forty-eight other petitioners and myself against the DC government in Tax Docket No. 8112-02. Under the judge’s proposed order, cash refunds will be granted to all owners of residential property in Triennial Group 1 who suffered an increase in their assessments in Tax Year 2002 over Tax Year 2001 and who paid all taxes, interest and penalties for Tax Year 2002. The refunds will cover any increases in taxes for Tax Year 2002 plus 6 percent annual interest. The District’s lawyers estimate that total refunds will be $15 million.

The final wording of the judgment is to be agreed upon by the parties and submitted for the judge’s signature by December 10. The District’s lawyers have announced that they will appeal to the DC Court of Appeals. I am the lead counsel for petitioners in this class action, and I anticipate that Judge Hamilton’s decision will be affirmed.

A second petition, contesting tax year 2003 assessments in triennial groups 1 and 2, has been stayed pending final resolution of the first case.


Fixing Up Schools, Serious Business
William Jordan,

The debate, plans, actions, and consequences centered on our city’s efforts finally to address the capital infrastructure needs of our schools are serious business. It is crucial that as civic leaders we bring the requisite thoughtfulness, creativity, and passion to this issue and not settle for the specious carelessness and casual defeatism exemplified by the Washington Post’s Marc Fisher in his November 22nd column, “Fix Up Schools, But Not With A Faulty System,” Serious leaders should avoid Mr. Fisher’s willingness to allow self-righteous indignation against the school system, or single-minded efforts to rationalize and engage in culture war theatrics, or both to hinder our ability to make the right decisions for our city and its young people. As leaders, we must deafen ourselves to the siren’s call of analysis by anecdotal tidbits. This analysis by tidbits may be fine for a columnist; however, civic leaders must take up the challenge to handle this as serious business.

So let’s get down to business: the primary business of schools is to provide a quality educational experience for its young people and others by providing the necessary programming and infrastructure. Providing sites for condo development is at best a down-the-road byproduct and should not be a priority if your goal is quality education. A two billion dollar school modernization program is going to require many creative partnerships, some new and some old, not just because the school system alone can’t handle it, but also because no sector — business, government, or community — has the knowledge to do it alone. Any approach must not sacrifice the educational experience of our current students, but must enhance it in both the long term and short terms. Not an easy task but doable.

Mr. Fisher falsely offers fifty-nine thousand as the number of students around which we must design this effort. This number is plain dishonest. At a minimum the design must accommodate eighty thousand in the short term if charter schools, dropouts, etc., are included. Given the number of adults and young people needing additional educational support, as well as the continuing educational needs of our modern society, the number is even greater. This is truly the time and this the issue on which committed civic leaders should step forward and develop something that is good for schools and neighborhoods. Leaders must reject the temptation to take the “it’s-somebody-else’s-fault-and-responsibility” path espoused by Mr. Fisher. Civic leaders must take up the mantle and demand others do the same.


School Scuttlebutt
Richard Layman,

One piece of the latest under the table political scuttlebutt is that Congress is considering creating another Control Board to take over the DC Public School System. This would allow for the Federal City Council supported new group [the DC Education Compact,] to take over managing the school property portfolio, and would allow them to release properties to either developers or charter schools without much interference.

This is very worrisome.


Ward 6 Democrats Resolution Opposing NCMC
Frank Zampatori,

The Ward 6 Democrats, at their regularly scheduled meeting on November 21, voted unanimously to go on record opposing construction of the proposed National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) in Ward 6 on Reservation 13. The approved Resolution calls on the City Administration and the DC City Council to develop an alternative health care facility proposal based on documented health care needs that can be supported by objective health care data that will meet the needs of the residents of the District of Columbia, especially those living east of the Anacostia River. The Resolution also opposes efforts by the city administration to circumvent the District’s “Certificate of Need” process. [A copy of the complete resolution is available at]


Daytime Residential Street Sweeping Will Be Suspended
Mary Myers,

As it does every winter, the Department of Public Works will temporarily suspend routine residential street cleaning from January 9 to March 17, 2006. During this time, "No Parking/Street Cleaning" restrictions will be lifted. Residents and visitors who park along posted, alternate-side, daytime street sweeping routes will not be required to move their cars on street-sweeping days during the sweeper hiatus. Residential street cleaning resumes Monday, March 20, 2006.

However, overnight sweeping scheduled for the District’s major arterials (such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Constitution, Independence Avenues, and others) will take place as usual all winter, with the attendant parking ban during sweeping hours. Motorists are urged not to park in these areas during the posted overnight hours. As colder weather approaches, motorists are also reminded that during declared snow emergencies, vehicles can be ticketed and towed if they remain parked on designated snow emergency routes. Look for the red and white signs before parking this winter.


Bilingual Requirements
Bryce A. Suderow,

This is in response to the comment about DCRA’s hiring only people who speak Spanish [themail, November 27]. Two people have told me of cases in which black men applied for construction jobs and were turned down because they didn’t speak Spanish.


Government Non-Contracting
Greg DuRoss,

You are so right [“Good Business,” themail, November 27]. I was appalled (but not necessarily surprised) by what I read. This is not to say that all contractors are bad or deliver inferior goods and services. Thank God for that, because otherwise we would really have a mess on our hands. Nonetheless there are rules we have to live by if democracy is going to work. On a separate but related topic, is there a way to use the initiative petition process to force a vote of the people on the stadium boondoggle? It is well on the way to becoming a billion dollar deal when all the hidden costs of infrastructure improvements are added up. And guess what soccer team owner is quietly biding his time and keeping silent until the furor over the baseball stadium is past? Then he will come asking for his subsidy from taxpayers for a new soccer stadium across the river, citing the precedent set by the baseball deal, and threaten to take his team elsewhere if we don’t ante up. And why should he not get his share in the great taxpayer rip-off by millionaire sports team owners? Bend over and grab your ankles, taxpayers, and then remember this experience when you vote in the next District elections.



Get Involved in Planning a New High School, December 1
Sue Bell,

Capital City Public Charter School will be opening an upper school for grades 7 through 12 in the fall of 2007. There will be an organizational meeting and information session for District of Columbia parents interested in middle and high school, for community leaders who want to be involved in the design of an innovative, small, public middle/high school, and for those who would like to lend their expertise in education, grant writing, facilities development, database management, and fundraising. Current members of the design team will share their vision for the school and representatives from their mentor school, School of the Future, a New York City public high school, will talk about their program. The meeting will be on Thursday, December 1, at 6:45 p.m., at 3047 15th Street, NW, at 15th and Irving Streets. For information call 829-3899, E-mail, or visit the web site at


DC Public Library Events, December 6-7
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, December 6, 7:30 p.m., Takoma Park Neighborhood Library, 416 Cedar Street, NW. Poetry readings by Patric Pepper, Colette Thomas and Mary Wescott. Public contact: 576-7252.

Wednesday, December 7, 12:00 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW., Room A-9. "Deaf Communities Around the World: In Celebration of Clerc-Gallaudet Week." Come learn about how Deaf cultures, communities and sign language from around the world, identify through language. Featuring deaf speakers who will discuss Japanese, Puerto Rican and Lumbee English dialect variant of sign language. Jan DeLap, an American Sign Language instructor and deaf relay interpreter, will speak about her travels as a deaf person to Japan and Japanese sign language. Ricardo Lopez, president of the National Literacy Society of the Deaf, will discuss Puerto Rican sign language. Native American Judy C. Stout, a political activist for deaf and hard of hearing persons, will discuss the Lumbee English sign language. Public contact: 727-2145 (voice and TTY).


Hanukkah in Santa Monica: An Evening of Jewish Songs and Tales, December 10
Brad Hills,

“I’m spending Hanukah in Santa Monica, lighting candles wearing sandals by the sea. . . .” So begins one of the stories to be performed by the award-winning team of Renee Brachfeld and Mark Novak on Saturday, December 10, at 8:00 p.m., at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, 4508 Walsh Street. Their show, "City of Fools," is a rollicking, touching, joyous romp through the heart of the Jewish experience. Renee is a storyteller and juggler; Mark is a cantor and musician. They make their home in DC but travel the country, delighting audiences at churches, synagogues, schools, and festivals from Maine to Alaska. Their highly acclaimed recording, “King Solomon‘s Daughter,” was honored with the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

Mark began his career as a child, singing with a professional Jewish choir and appearing in the Broadway musical “Oliver.” He has performed original theater pieces at Wolf Trap and the National Air and Space Museum, among other venues, and formerly served as the music director of the Living Stage Theater Company of Arena Stage. Renee’s intergenerational storytelling programs have brought joy to young and old, drawing her material from the warmth and richness of the Jewish tradition.

The Washington Storytellers Theater, now in its sixteenth season, is dedicated to promoting the art of storytelling for adults, both through nurturing local performers and by presenting the top artists from around the country. For tickets, $15, call 545-6840. Purchases can also be made form our web site:


Thinking Like a Storyteller: Performing Stories with Power and Presence, December 11
Juliet Bruce,

This is a great opportunity for all you storytellers and aspiring storytellers out there! Well-known New York-based storyteller Laura Simms will give an intensive story performance workshop on Sunday, December 11, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., in Frederick, MD. Cost: $120. This workshop will explore how to uncover the hidden meaning in a story for performance. We will work with the structure of story as a reciprocal event, uncovering levels of meaning as we develop personal styles of performance, and experiencing the full power of presence and compassion. Beginning and advanced performers are very welcome. Each participant is requested to choose a traditional story to work on during the day. (Please bring your own lunch. Drinks and dessert are provided.) For address, directions, more information about workshop content, or to sign up, please contact Sue Gordon at 301-631-3431 or write


New Year’s Eve European Gala at the Embassy of France, December 31
Michael Karlan,

On Saturday, December 31, at 9 p.m., Professionals in the City invites you to a New Year’s Eve European gala at the Embassy of France. Celebrate New Year’s Eve 2006 on French soil at La Maison Francaise! For your entertainment we have: the romance and intrigue of Paris, city of light and capital of love, with “l’amour marqee (love letters),” a three-minute dating event for singles; a live orchestra; dance lessons for couples; and the excitement, energy, and groove of the most hip Parisian nightclub. We will be tempting your palate with a sumptuous French buffet, French wine tasting with premium open bar, and international chocolate tasting. And to finish the night off there will be a midnight balloon drop, midnight champagne toast, and live video feed of the midnight countdown! Come join us at the Embassy of France, located at 4010 Reservoir Road, NW, on New Year’s Eve. Tickets are just $130.00 for a limited time. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit, E-mail, or call 686-5990.



Downtown Holiday Market, December 1-15
Joan Eisenstodt,

Celebrate the holidays in an open-air festival market in the heart of Washington, DC, featuring a diverse range of unique goods from local artisans to handmade gifts from around the world. This outdoor seasonal market will open Thursday, December 1, and will operate for a total of fifteen days, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., on the site of the old Convention Center. The market will feature artists, craftspeople, imported crafts, handmade jewelry, ornaments, hats, scarves, toys, and more, with hot food and drink, Xmas trees, entertainment, and plentiful parking.

The pedestrian entrance for the Market is at the corner of 11th and H Streets. Adjacent parking available at the 9th Street entrance. Just a block from Metro Center. A grand opening celebration event with special guests and live entertainment will take place at noon on Friday, December 2. The Downtown Holiday Market is produced by Diverse Markets Management in partnership with the DowntownDC BID, The Washington Convention Center Authority, and the District of Columbia Government.


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