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December 11, 2005


Dear Friends:

Eugene McCarthy died yesterday. Sam Smith has written a moving appreciation of McCarthy, “Lunch with Gene”, that recounts several amusing political and personal stories from a number of private lunches they had. I had only one private conversation with McCarthy, but at least then I had the opportunity to tell him that he had won my support in the 1968 presidential election with just one word. As soon as I said that, he nodded — I assume that he had heard it before from many other people, and knew the word that I meant. That one word was in a television interview with CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, who asked him, “What kind of president would you be?” Without hesitation, McCarthy replied, “Adequate.”

That expressed exactly McCarthy’s modesty, which seemed to me to be what the country needed in a president at that time. It was the perfect contrast to the ambition and pride that drove Lyndon Johnson, and it, more than any specific political plan or program advocated by McCarthy, promised change. His modesty, which sometimes verged on self-mockery (a disastrous trait in a politician), made it seem that McCarthy would be able to avoid Johnson’s habit of doubling down on his bad bets in order to avoid admitting his mistakes.

Some may see a connection in this to a certain mayor and his devotion to a particular plan whose costs keep spiraling out of sight. Well, I can’t control how people interpret things.

Gary Imhoff


Playing Ball?
Dorothy Brizill,

The baseball stadium lease agreement,, was transmitted to the city council on Friday. It will be the subject of a hearing before the council’s Economic Development Committee on Friday, December 13, at 10:00 a.m. The full council is scheduled to vote on the lease at a special legislative session on December 20.

In addition, on Monday, the city’s Chief Economic Officer, Natwar Gandhi, is expected to release new cost estimates for the stadium project at the South Capitol, SE, site, as well as at the RFK site. David Nakamura’s article in today’s Washington Post ( provides an historical perspective on the ongoing controversy regarding the true cost of the stadium project.

Over the past two years, the DC government, the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, and Major League Baseball have all engaged a variety of consultants and experts in preparations for their roles in the baseball debate. Did Council Chairman Linda Cropp have the foresight to engage independent counsels and consultants to advise the council in its review of the lease, or will the council be at the mercy of these consultants, representing the administration’s and MLB’s interests?


The Baseball Stadium: A Final Pitch
Greg DuRoss,

So why am I not surprised? One year ago, when I protested this deal, I said that before it was all over we would see a billion dollars spent to build new stadiums for baseball and soccer. Little did I realize that we might reach that number just for baseball! Before you say I am crazy, just remember that the courts still have not litigated a final price for the land and we still don’t have a clue as to what toxic waster lies under some of those buildings. If we are now looking at $700 million, as reported in The Washington Post on December 6 [], when those prices come in I am confident we will have a billion dollar baseball stadium on our hands.

How can councilmembers in good conscience continue to support a several hundred million dollar windfall profit to multimillionaire baseball owners to be funded by taxes and fees on DC businesses and individuals? Where is their sense of moral outrage over this irresponsible use of District resources, while children try to learn in some buildings that neither you nor I would want to work in and probably should be condemned? What are their moral values in helping the rich get richer while the poor get poorer? Councilmembers, now you have a final opportunity to tell Mayor Williams and Major League Baseball that this financial travesty will not move forward. It is fiscally irresponsible and bordering on a breach of fiduciary duty to taxpayers. Make no mistake about it — this is a decisive moment for the District of Columbia and the voters will remember how their elected officials voted at this pivotal moment in time.

Venting here and elsewhere is good, but please also direct your outrage to councilmembers supporting this stadium deal (and thanks to those who have been leading the fight like Catania, Graham, and Fenty). I have, and you are welcome to cut, paste and edit this letter. By the way, a mini-poll by NBC4 is showing 79 percent of respondents are opposed to baseball at any cost. Now admittedly the survey question is poor, as it does not measure how many support baseball at some cost and it is certainly not scientific polling, but with a margin of 79 percent I dare say the trend is overwhelming, and hopefully the Councilmembers and their aides that read this posting will be reminded that we not only express our opinions, but we vote based on how candidate’s records.


The Stadium Vote
Mary C. Williams,

Councilmember Mendelson, the fact that you cast the deciding vote against a proposed cap on stadium costs is quite disturbing. In my view, any elected official who would not support a comprehensive budgeted spending proposal is fiscally irresponsible. This is not how I do business, and I certainly don’t expect this city to operate taxpayers’ business this way.

You have lost my support and that of many of my Southwest neighbors and friends. I think there are thousands more across the city who view your action as a betrayal of residents demanding a more responsible government.


No Shame
Ed Dixon,

Having listened to particular councilmembers rant from their moral soapboxes about how much DC Public Schools spends per square foot on school buildings, it is pathetically ironic to see them justify this city’s unwarranted expenditure on a stadium that exceeds DCPS’s expenditure per square foot on facilities modernization. I would suggest that they have no shame, but they are operating on the old adage based on base self-interest: he or she who dies with the most toys wins. Hopefully St. Peter isn’t.


Post Finally Calls Out Baseball Brigade
Ed Delaney,

David Nakamura writes ( “Williams and his top aides have quietly shifted major expenses for a baseball stadium complex out of the city-approved budget of $535 million in the past several months in hopes of persuading the public that the city will spend no more than the amount agreed upon a year ago. But the District’s fiscal commitment to the project has risen above that budget by at least $54 million And it isn’t clear who will pay for up to $125 million in additional costs, which would raise the total to $714 million.” Had the press weighed in with an adequate and consistent level of analysis each time the Brigade pulled one of their tricks, then the shifts wouldn’t have been able to occur so quietly.

“Although Williams declared publicly last week that the project would not go over budget, the DC Council amended the stadium legislation last month to add $54 million in bond financing fees. The change was made at the request of DC CFO Natwar Gandhi, who called the amendment minor but acknowledged that it increased the city’s commitment to $589 million.” The CFO didn’t acknowledge that until after the fact and obscured the major consequence of the supposedly technical amendment when the amendments came up despite pointed questions from council members on the ramifications. Even the Post noted that the amendments could only be for minor changes, which the CFO knew he was acting contrary to at the behest of the Brigade, but don’t count on the Post to strain too hard to make that clear.

“From the time Williams announced the arrival of an MLB team in September 2004, his administration has understated the costs of the stadium project at several critical points, in part to help sell the deal to a skeptical council. As costs have risen in every major category for the project along the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington -- buying the land, building the stadium and paying for infrastructure — the administration has removed project expenses and placed them in a separate category of costs that remain unfunded. The approved budget plus the unfunded costs could reach $714 million, Gandhi told city officials last week in a private meeting.” It’s nice to see all of that reported in black and white for once. Of course, it’s crossed the point of understatement to blatant misrepresentation of the facts and perpetrating falsehoods, as will no doubt continue Monday when, according to Saturday’s Times, the CFO and DCSEC will forward misleading and largely fictional reports alleging that it’s harder to build on the RFK Stadium site than on top of Mount Everest.

“Green’s budget did not include money for upgrades to a nearby Metro station and roads or other infrastructure costs because a stadium site had not been selected, said a source who helped prepare the budget. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the project is at a sensitive stage, said officials also added relatively small contingency costs because they knew it would be hard to persuade the council to approve a larger budget.” There’s the real reason behind every bit of this: the Brigade understated costs to get this boondoggle past the DC Council practically sight-unseen with the mantra “Do what we say and nobody gets hurt,” i.e., rubber stamp this or you’ll kill the baseball deal. The Brigade figured — quite correctly unless the council ever stands up to them -- that they could promise the moon and have the CFO and DCSEC say anything they wanted to get things passed, with the council being too uninformed or divided to ever overturn any of the Brigade’s boondoggle. They’re set to unleash their final whopper by telling the council that a site with no infrastructure or adequate Metro or parking funding which has major land acquisition cost and legal issues and as-yet unknown environmental hazards will be no less affordable and workable than a site with certain environmental costs and nowhere near the land acquisition costs and hurdles of the current site (no matter what falsehoods the Brigade is prepared to unleash).

“With her 12 colleagues evenly split, Cropp negotiated several changes to the stadium agreement with MLB before blessing the deal. One amendment required Gandhi to conduct a second analysis of land and infrastructure. If the new costs were no more than $50 million above his first estimate for those two categories, the stadium could go forward. On March 29, Gandhi sent a letter to Williams and Cropp stating that his second analysis raised the price by $46.4 million -- just under the council’s $50 million cap. The stadium project was a go but was over the $535 million budget. Gandhi added the $46.4 million in land and infrastructure costs to the budget and removed $54 million in bond financing fees to be paid for another way. Gandhi now says that he believed the legislation gave him that authority.” How blatant is that? And Cropp really expects an honest analysis of the RFK Stadium site from this CFO who’s got the switching skill and ethical questionably of a three-card-Monte dealer? There needs to be an independent analysis done, because we can dismiss the CFO’s pending fiction before we’ve even seen it given the leaks from the Brigade.

“Wall Street bond raters asked Gandhi to get the council to approve three amendments, including one that would allow the city to spend more than the approved budget. Cropp agreed that the amendment was a ‘technical’ change that would establish the council’s original intent to allow Gandhi to take out the financing fees, if necessary. The council approved the amendment Nov. 15 without discussing that it permitted the city to spend more than $535 million. Instead, Cropp cast the issue in the opposite way: The amendments were needed to get investment-grade bond ratings from Wall Street, which would save the city significant money in interest. Several members who supported the amendments now say they never intended to authorize more spending. Williams, Cropp and Gandhi stressed that the financing fees will not be paid with money from the city’s general fund, but rather with revenue generated by the Nationals in the past season and interest earned on the bonds next year. But the city’s commitment to the project had risen to $589 million.” So what if the extra money isn’t coming out of the general fund? It’s extra money that’s coming out of city revenue above and beyond the original budget limit! The Brigade keeps screeching about keeping its promises and commitments, but that’s not just for MLB, but for the city’s commitment to its legally-binding "deal" with the citizens of a fixed budget!

“‘The initial estimates that were developed by the city were for an average ballpark,’ Lew said. ‘We wanted something iconic, and you have to pay for that.’ To help cover the cost of the ambitious ballpark, including buying land and the rising cost of materials, Lew shifted money within the budget. Roughly $55 million that had been set aside for infrastructure and $40 million in contingencies would be used for construction.” Translation of Lew‘s quote: the city had to pay for the luxury add-ons demanded by MLB outside of the original agreement, consisting of an entire concourse level of club seats and luxury suites and a 7500 SF conference center. The DCSEC’s own words, as reported in the October 7th Washington City Paper rejecting MLB for several months due to budgetary implications, only to eventually accede to the changes and then have the ballpark structure’s cost skyrocket accordingly, tells us all we need to know. The only thing "ambitious" thing in the ballpark’s design was what MLB wanted. The other changes have all been cost-savers on what is being deemed a "Buick or Ford" project now rather than a Cadillac, including the switching to the cut-rate glass, steel, and limestone -- oops, make that concrete, reportedly due to cost constraints — materials which has made the greenhouse-like ballpark design as ‘iconic’ as linoleum flooring was when it was introduced to the world. (And I’ve got nothing against linoleum; just don’t send me a $714 million bill for it and tell me I’m getting something more iconic than Camden Yard’s bricks, which, if you believe the Brigade, are old, tired looking, and yesterday‘s news by comparison!)

“Those decisions have had significant ramifications. As Gandhi has analyzed the costs during his study this month, he has put the contingency and infrastructure costs back on the table and determined that the price tag for all costs related to the project could reach $714 million, although government sources said he is likely to lower that figure slightly.” Yes, we all know the CFO’s history on lowering estimates, like his dropping of $50 million-plus worth of financing costs to come up under budget.

“But uncertainty remains. Sixteen land owners at the stadium site have not accepted the city’s offers and are asking a Superior Court judge for more money. The sports commission is hoping to break ground in March, but delays could result in even higher costs. ‘People have to be alarmed,’ Graham said. ‘Do you want to finance a stadium at $535 million? That’s a lot of money. How about $634 million or $710 million? At some point, you lose everybody because it’s just not worth it.’” Once again, there are no such uncertainties in terms of court delays, final land costs, and environmental remediation costs at the RFK Stadium site. No matter what fiction the CFO is reportedly set to perpetrate when he compares the two sites, the current site is still not in a state where remotely certain cost and timeline predictions can be made. It’s about time that independent and comprehensive analyses of both sites be done to allow the DC Council time to study the issue thoroughly and arrive at the true costs of the stadium, and the council should demand that no lease deal be approved until that work is done.

DC’s auditor was called in before to check the accuracy of the stadium cost figures that had been reported when the CFO had conveniently left out financing costs from his report. MLB has such a sweetheart deal that is unmatched from stadium revenue to sales price that they’re not going to do anything to jeopardize that while the council and the independent entities complete their work -- on their own timetable, since MLB had no problem holding the council to theirs. Let’s give someone else besides the baseball Brigade a chance to find out the facts of the situation before it’s too late.


Reaction and Inaction
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

For almost the whole seven years of Tony Williams’ tenure as mayor of DC, his term could be described in two words, "reaction" and "inaction." Every exposure of wrongdoing by city employees is greeted by the reaction of horrified surprise from the mayor. Then, as in the case of demonstrated illegal activities by members of the mayor’s staff, the reaction is followed by inaction. No prosecution; no accountability. Save for the incredibly cruel theft of union funds by union officials (not city employees) we have had no action taken against criminal activities, only surprise by the mayor and complaints about those who have uncovered the wrongdoing. And to think, I voted for this totally non-proactive mayor. Shame on me.


Guide for Giving
Wayne Turner,

The end of the year is fast approaching, so many of us are being inundated with fundraising solicitations from area charities. A little research can help you get the biggest bang for your charitable donation dollars. All tax exempt, 501(c)3 organizations must make their 990 tax forms available for public inspection. The 990s give a good overview of income, expenses, and the top salaries at your favorite charities. A web site,, has assembled the 990 tax forms for thousands of US charities, which can be viewed for free (no need to pay for their premium service).

Here’s a comparison of some local charities that have been sending me requests for cash. Food and Friends: program expenses $4,127,604, Executive Director Craig Shniderman’s compensation $300,395.00 (2004); Whitman Walker Clinic: program expenses $22,378,957, Executive Director Cornelius Baker’s compensation $135,147.00 (2003 amendment); So Others Might Eat (SOME), program expenses $10,200,850 (2004), Executive Director Richard Gerlach’s compensation $105, 577.00.

Of course, volunteering your time is the best way to guarantee that your contribution actually helps our area’s neediest residents who depend upon social services.


Learning Videos Uploaded to the Web
Phil Shapiro,

Three of the main purposes we’re here on planet Earth is to inform, inspire, and instruct one another. The people on this E-mail list do a pretty good job of informing one another, but we fall short on the latter two. (Admittedly, the scope of themail does not extend much in the direction of the latter two.) To give you an idea of what it’s like when we teach each other things, I’ve uploaded to the web two recently created video files. One of these videos is a guitar lesson showing how to play the basic melody of the song Solsbury Hill, by Peter Gabriel. This file is about four minutes in duration and about forty megabytes in file size. It is suitable for beginner and intermediate guitar players. The other video is a talking-head, 26-minutes bio about the Wright Brothers, about 225 megabytes. Both videos play on Windows or Macintosh computers with QuickTime 6.x or higher — and on the new iPod for portable learning. I’m pretty sure these files play on Linux computers, too. You can download these files from links on my Protopage at (Protopage is an excellent free service that lets you store text, links, and photos for public or private purposes.)

Both of these video files may be redistributed for any purpose. They’re my message in a bottle. Guess what? You’re the bottle. Thanks for sharing word about these with people you know who might benefit from them. Gracious thanks are owed to DC videographer Justin Swain who helped me create these videos.

When I was in third grade I brought something for Show and Tell and my teacher told me, “In third grade we don’t do Show and Tell anymore. We don’t have time.” Oh, yes we do, ma’am. Yes we do. If something is worthwhile, you make time for it. I vowed on that day that Show and Tell would not be eradicated from my life or from the life of my peers. Not on my watch, it won’t. (You can see a photo of me in third grade at I look at that photo from time to time to remind me of my vow.) Now, did anyone else bring something for Show and Tell today?


Folk and Traditional Arts Mini-Grants
Tania Tam,

Please help us get the word out about the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities FY 2006 folk and traditional arts mini-grant program. The deadline for applying for the next cycle of grants is January 18, 2006. If you know of any DC-based individuals or organizations who are working to promote and educate in the area of folk or traditional arts, please feel free to forward information about the grants to them. Further information is available on our web site at I would be glad to assist with any questions you might have at 724-1400.


Smokefree DC
Joan Eisenstodt,

Woohoo that the Council passed it. Boo that Tony Williams is making veto sounds and saying that all the restaurant business will go to Virginia. Boo that it may not be implemented until 2007. If NYC, Boston, all of California, and so many US cities, states, and international cities are making their restaurants smoke-free and thriving, why does he think ours won’t? Even lobbyists and members of Congress won’t schlep to Virginia for lunch just to smoke. Well, only those with tobacco-related organizations. Imagine we’ll see some private clubs for the cigar smokers. Who cares? Let them contaminate each other.

Can Congress veto this?


A Most Unstressful Christmas
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Christmas for our clan comes whenever in December we can get a critical mass of our kids, spouses, and grandkids. That opportunity came the first weekend , plus a couple of days, this year. No problem with the shopping. Most of our clan have embraced Internet shopping. In my own case I am ready for Christmas by the end of July each year, taking advantage of the out-of-season and post holiday sales. This year was a record breaking event with the whole gang in attendance. Sometimes we have to settle for 90 percent. Great event for all.

As for what to do when the real Christmas comes along? Will be cruising the Danube from Budapest to Prague along with 140 other folks. Very unstressful.


Further on NCMC Bailout of Howard University
Alan Kimber,

Samuel Jordan hit the nail on the head [themail, December 7] in asking whether the National Capital Medical Center is really just a preemptive bailout of Howard University. We have yet to see the complete proposal being negotiated in secret by the Mayor and Howard Board of Trustees. What conditions imposed by the Howard Board will we find out about only after the project has been approved by the Council? How much taxpayer money will end up being transferred to a private university instead of fixing our public schools?

The bailout doesn’t stop with the enormous subsidy that Howard will receive to construct the new hospital. (does anyone trust the Mayor’s cost estimates in light of the ballpark fiasco?) Once construction is completed at Reservation 13, or possibly before, Howard will be able to close down or move and significantly reduce their existing hospital facility. Presto! Howard has a very valuable piece of property in a prime location that it can either put to another purpose, or perhaps more likely, sell to a developer for a princely sum.

Together with everything else -- the subsidy from DC, Howard’s current inability to compete, failure to provide the right services at Reservation 13, unknown strings being demanded by Howard’s Board — the fact that Howard will also receive a windfall from the value of the existing hospital property sure makes this "deal" sound like one big bailout.



DC Public Library Events, December 14-15
Debra Truhart,

Wednesday, December 14, 1:00 p.m., Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library, 7420 Georgia Avenue, NW. The Shepherd Park Wednesday Afternoon book club will discuss The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. Public contact: 541-6100.

Thursday, December 15, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Soprano Malinda Dix-Hunt and Mezzo-Soprano Andrea Duplechanin, with Pianist Michael Crabill, perform a concert of favorite sacred songs, spirituals and popular standards for the holiday season. Public contact: 727-1285.



Bryce A. Suderow,

I need a used microwave oven. Do you have a used microwave oven that you don’t need anymore? If you do, contact me.



Pool Repair Company
Phil Greene,

My dad’s swimming pool needs some plaster repair, some tile repair, maybe just an acid wash, maybe re-plastering the whole thing. Does anyone have a recommendation among contractors in this field? He lives in North Chevy Chase, MD.


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