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January 15, 2006

Bits and Pieces

Dear Correspondents:

On Friday, Mike Rupert reported in The Washington Examiner, in an article that unfortunately is not online, “Enrollment in DC Public Schools fell by 3,000 students in 2005-06 school year — down to 59,600 students — yet a recent audit of school staff showed the District added 500 new positions during the same period, officials said. John Musso, DCPS Chief Financial officer, said the District has 11,075 full-time employee positions — nearly 1,000 more than last school year. Of those 1,000 positions, 500 were filled. Musso said the rest were either waiting to be filled or were ordered to remain vacant.” That’s one DCPS employee for every five or six students. What on earth are all these employees doing? The next time your local school principal says there aren’t enough teachers to provide foreign language instruction, or enough librarians to keep the school library open, or enough janitors to keep toilet paper stocked in the restrooms, go to your childrens’ school and try to locate the four, five, or six employees hired per classroom.

I’m keeping at least one of my New Year’s resolutions, to eat more. This past week has been Restaurant Week, and Dorothy and I have sampled more restaurants than ever: one a day for the past six days. The problem is that even a resolution that initially seems simple to keep, like eating more, ends up being hard work. After six huge meals in six days, I’m actually looking forward to small, light meals for a change. But I’m glad that we went to Acadiana, Cafe Mozu, Charlie Palmer Steak, Galileo, the Prime Rib, and Vidalia. What did you try, and how was your meal?

Some geniuses at WMATA decided that the way to relieve overcrowding on Metrorail was to order new subway cars with fewer seats, forcing more people to stand, and to make even more standing space by getting rid of the horizontal poles that standing riders hold on to. Dan Tangherlini is moving from the DC Department of Transportation to be the interim director of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Agency, while WMATA searches for a new head. Here’s my suggestion for one of the first things for him to do: take a long ride on one of those new cars, standing in one of those open areas, without anything to hold on to. After a few jerky starts and stops, he can pick himself up and dust himself off, cancel the order for the new cars, and ease overcrowding by running trains more frequently, with more cars.

Shelley Winters has died. This doesn’t have anything to do with Washington, but I want to tell two stories about her. First, in the late 1960’s, several Broadway plays involved nudity, and in a number of them whole casts were nude. The New York Times asked several people to comment on the social and artistic significance of this. Most of the comments were pretentious, and I have forgotten them all, but I recall what Winters wrote. I’ll paraphrase, since I haven’t found the article in the online Times archives, but the essence of it was: "I feel it’s degrading, demeaning, and diminishing to the actors and the audiences. And if I were still 25 and slender, I would feel it is ennobling, enriching, and uplifting." The second story is personal. When Dorothy worked as an aide to former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, who was then running for governor of New York State, she and her parents were invited to a private party in Goldberg’s hotel suite to watch the election returns. Dorothy was concerned about whether her parents would have any fun at the party, since she would be busy working with Goldberg, and all the other attendees would be heavyweight New York and Washington political and social players, none of whom her parents knew. She needed have worried -- Shelley Winters invited them to sit on the sofa with her, and they spent the whole evening talking, joking, and eating with her. They spoke about her fondly for years afterward.

I’ve received several E-mails complaining about Jonathan Rees, Ward Three Democratic candidate for councilmember, and protesting that DCWatch and themail shouldn’t carry his campaign materials, but all of the E-mails have either not been for publication or have been sent anonymously. Here’s the deal: DCWatch publishes all candidates’ campaign materials (except for fundraising appeals) at We don’t edit them except to format them for the web. If we’re missing your candidates’ flyer or position paper, send it to us and we’ll put it up. If you support or oppose a candidate, including Rees, tell people why by sending an E-mail to If you don’t send it, or if you won’t sign it, we can’t publish it, and people will never know what you think.

Gary Imhoff


Final Judgment Against the DC Government on Tax Year 2002 Assessments
Peter S. Craig,

Senior Judge Eugene Hamilton on Friday filed his Final Judgment and Order in the class action suit brought by Peter S. Craig and fifty other petitioners in Superior Court Finance Dockets 8112-02 and 8141-02, contesting the lawfulness and Constitutionality of across-the-board increases in residential assessments for tax year 2002 in one-third of city known as Triennial Group 1. The suit was initiated on September 30, 2002, but because of what the judge has described as "foot-dragging" by the District’s lawyers, was not decided on its merits until September 26, 2005.

In his order of September 26, 2005, Judge Hamilton concluded that, as a matter of law, the assessments by the Office of Tax and Revenue in tax year 2002 were arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in conformity with the Constitution of the United States or the laws of the District of Columbia, and were, therefore, void. His final judgment directs the city to refund any increases in property taxes in tax 2002 resulting from increased assessments over the prior year -- plus annual interest of 6 percent. All taxpayers in Triennial Group 1 who suffered increases in assessments and who paid all taxes, interest, and penalties for tax year 2002 will receive refunds under his order. Triennial Group 1 encompasses the neighborhoods which the Office of Tax and Revenue describes as Anacostia, Barry Farms, Brentwood, Central, Cleveland Park, Columbia Heights, Congress Heights, Crestwood, Eckington, Forest Hills, Fort DuPont Park, Garfield, Hillcrest, Kalorama, LeDroit Park, Marshall Heights, Massachusetts Avenue Heights, Mount Pleasant, Observatory Circle, Randle Heights, Trinidad, and Woodley.

The District government estimates that the total refunds will reach $15 million. Payment of these refunds will be stayed, however, while the District of Columbia appeals the rulings of Judge Hamilton to the DC Court of Appeals. By a separate order, also issued at the same time, Judge Hamilton has directed the Office of Tax and Revenue to notify all members of the class entitled to refunds by mailed notices and by a notice published in the Metro Section of the Washington Post.


NCMC, Solving the Wrong Problem
Ken Jarboe,

The proponents of the multimillion dollar new National Capitol Medical Center argue it is vital for improving emergency medical services. However, the real problem with emergency services is not the distribution of hospital beds (as the proponents keep talking about) but the distribution of ambulance and EMT resources — as was pointed out in the recent Washington Examiner story — “Robbery, killing prompts cries for more efficient ambulances” (

That story contains the following quote: “Two ambulances in this ward serve 70,000 people is outrageous,” said Council Member Vincent Gray, who represents Ward 7, east of the river. “If one of those ambulances or both have been dispatched, it takes a significant amount of time of time to get back. The situation for our citizens is analogous to that of Rosenbaum — potentially life and death situations.”

Council Member Gray is exactly right. But the NCMC will not solve that problem and may, in fact, take resources away from the real solution. Rather than waste money on a new, unneeded set of beds, let us put that money into primary care and more emergency response units. ANC 6B unanimously voted last year to “urge the City Administration and 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.” That alternative should include better emergency transport units.


A Certificate of Need Is Needed
Eric Rosenthal,

The Washington Post reported today on the latest example of faulty planning for the National Capital Medical Center ( The proposal anticipates financing assistance from the Federal Housing Administration. In the city’s haste to circumvent the certificate of need process, it failed to notice that FHA requires a certificate of need. As the Post said: “But the FHA’s ‘minimum eligibility requirements’ will not allow the hospital to move ahead . . . by bypassing the ‘certificate of need’ process that is intended to encourage accountability within health care and to discourage unnecessary duplication of services.

“The District and 26 states mandate such evaluation of major medical construction, expansion or modernization, and the FHA considers it ‘a fundamental element of the FHA review process,’ spokesman Lemar Wooley noted Friday. Asked whether officials ever have allowed a certificate-of-need state to excuse a large project from that scrutiny, he responded with one word: ‘No.’ His characterization contradicted the city’s latest argument that the stipulation is a perfunctory detail — or, as a senior policy adviser to City Administrator Robert C. Bobb put it, ‘basically just a check-box to ensure that all local requirements have been met before they hand out a credit enhancement.’”

Councilmembers and citizens should be concerned about the failure described above because it is just one mistake in a process rife with serious error. As advocates for a more effective alternative have been saying, the National Capital Medical Center resulted from a fundamentally flawed process and no amount of tweaking will fix it. It is time to start over and to focus on the question of what will make Washingtonians healthier, if we are serious about making a difference in the city.


Brigade Plans Expensive PR Blitz to Sell Same Old Bad Ballpark Deal
Ed Delaney,

“After a flurry of meetings with her colleagues, the mayor and MLB officials over the past few days, Cropp listed 10 provisions that she said would ensure that at least seven of the council’s 13 members would vote to approve a critical stadium lease deal. The key provision would be a guarantee that the city’s costs for the project would be capped at the $535 million the council approved last year, plus $54 million in bond financing fees. Any additional costs would have to be covered by the league, the owner of the Washington Nationals or private developers, Cropp wrote.” (

One of those provisions better have included a shift to the RFK Stadium site, or we’re wasting everyone’s time. There is still no cost certainty regarding the land at the current site with legal challenges to its taking and its value still to be determined, the environmental costs with the site also to be determined, and the actual costs of bringing to the site sufficient parking, road, and Metro improvements to handle the exceedingly large crowds — which at its peak would be twice as large as those that have taxed the much more extensive Metro station at the MCI Center — that would descend on the single-line station and traffic-choked location. There is almost complete cost certainty for those items at the RFK Stadium site — and if anyone disputes that, let the council commission independent studies to determine the facts. Such studies might also confirm that the cost certainties and savings at the RFK Stadium site could also dramatically lessen the bonding requirements for the city. It would therefore be a more worthwhile endeavor by the council than listening to yet another sales pitch from the mayor’s baseball Brigade to pass essentially the same deal, only with cost overruns being paid via the shuffling of city assets instead of straight payments — which is not exactly progress.

The lack of cost certainty at the current site is completely skated around by the Brigade and their water carriers in the media, but it remains the elephant in the living room, and any discussion of cost capping and limiting overruns must focus on this point. The Brigade’s goal is to find ways to keep spending at the current site and tie the city to paying for it in less obvious ways than straight allocations of public money. The council’s goal has been to keep costs at the agreed-upon amount rather than let the city spend away under different hats to cover the ever-increasing overruns. The Brigade’s efforts are attempting to obscure the site issue, and they cannot be allowed to obscure anything again.

“Administration officials have grouped the project costs into three categories: the ballpark, the land around it and upgrades to roads and a Metro station. The Williams administration is negotiating with Clark Construction, which has been hired to build the ballpark, to set a guaranteed maximum price for construction. The cost of land is uncertain because some landowners have gone to court to fight for more than the city has offered and because of the possibility of environmental contamination at the 21-acre site. Officials are trying to get private developers to agree to cover any overruns on land costs in exchange for development rights on adjacent property, And city officials are talking to the federal government about contributing to the $20 million cost of upgrading the Navy Yard Metro station.” The development rights tradeoff remains an unacceptable solution, because it’s using up city assets on the ballpark project that the city could’ve kept or sold for other public uses, and whatever amount the rights are sold for gets sucked into the above and beyond the $535 million total the council had agreed to finance the stadium for. And again, $20 million doesn’t get the Metro stop to an acceptable use level (which will cost at least $47 million), but to a level that “officials acknowledge, might create a logjam on sold-out game days that could keep hundreds or even thousands of fans milling about South Capitol Street and the surrounding area.” (Washington Business Journal, February 21, 2005)

The Brigade wants everyone to forget that fact as well as the cut-rate and unacceptable nature of the infrastructure associated with the cut-rate stadium, but we can’t let that happen and risk building a stadium which will offer such an unappealing experience that the city will experience more shortfalls and have to sell off who knows how many city assets down the road to cover this bad deal. A site move must be included in any lease acceptance, or the deal cannot be made acceptable to the city.

“As the negotiations continue, Williams also is considering launching a public relations offensive. Yesterday, he asked MLB and private developers to contribute up to $500,000 to purchase advertisements in newspapers and on radio stations to help convince the public that the stadium is a good economic investment for the city.” This is emblematic of the Brigade’s whole approach to the ballpark project: if you don’t like how the numbers add up, just throw money at the problem! That’s why the city is now staring at a $1.1 billion dollar project at a minimum, a project which the Brigade never cuts off spending as a solution to overruns but simply finds other public resources like development rights to dedicate to the project. The council needs to stop this continuation of fiscal irresponsibility in its tracks, no matter how loudly and expensively the mayor lobbies the council against confronting MLB and forcing real and meaningful changes in the ballpark deal, bringing it back to what the council agreed to in the first place.

“The council is scheduled to meet today with Louis S. Cohen, a stadium development consultant with the Chicago-based firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. David Catania has recommended that the council hire Cohen, who has represented other cities in stadium deals, to help renegotiate some of the lease terms with baseball.” Now that’s the kind of approach that’s going to get results, not some deceitful shuffling of public money from hat to hat at unlimited levels to pay for a cut-rate stadium at an unworkable site. The council has nothing to lose and everything to gain by supporting this effort and having someone on their side who knows the ins and outs of baseball deals in order to win a truly better deal for the city. It’s worth holding off on buying what the Brigade’s selling until the council has taken its own best shot at getting MLB to the bargaining table. Unlike in 2004, time is now on the council’s side, and there’s no reason to rush out and approve essentially the same deal from the Brigade based on their worthless word that major changes have been made.


The Future of DC’s Libraries
Dorothy Brizill,

In the last issue of themail, January 11, there was a notice about a series of ten “listening sessions” that will be held to get public comments on the report of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Future of the District of Columbia Public Library System. The only problem was that there was no link to an online copy of the report, and no way listed to get a printed copy. I called officials at the library and was told that the report hadn’t been completed, and was not going to be released. When I said that I knew that the report had been finished in November, I was then told that the city council had ordered the libraries not to release it. I was referred to a one-page summary of the task force’s findings on the library system’s web site, but it was well hidden; locating it took clicking through five other pages.

I called the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, which had paid some of the staffing and consulting expenses of the Task Force, and asked if they had a copy of the report. Not only did they not have a copy; they had not even been informed that the public listening sessions had been scheduled or the press release distributed. Then I called the mayor’s press secretary, Vince Morris, who denied that the mayor’s office had anything to do with the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, and insisted that the DC Public Library system itself had full responsibility for it and its report. In fact, the mayor had not only initiated the task force and appointed all its members; he had appointed himself the chairman of the task force (see the mayor’s press release, on December 8, 2004, at Finally, I wrote an E-mail to Alfreda Davis, the mayor’s Chief of Staff, who had participated in setting up and staffing the task force, asking for a copy of the report before the listening sessions began. By the time Ms. Davis wrote me back a few hours later, the library system had not only posted a copy of the report on its web site; it had also posted a copy of the much longer technical report and put links to everything on its main page, The one-page summary and draft report are available at, or in PDF format the summary is at and the draft report at The draft technical report is at If you’re planning to go to one or more of the listening sessions, please take the opportunity to read at least the draft report to see whether you agree with their plans.


Lifeless Political Campaigns
Jonathan R. Rees,

Although 2006 should be an exciting year in DC politics with many campaigns currently underway, a lot of voters are telling me that they are not very excited with the field of candidates now running for mayor, council chair, at large council seats, or on the local ward level. Hundreds of people are saying they are tired of the old faces, the old issues, the broken promises still being promised, and they want some fresh blood and they are not getting enough fresh blood.

The new problems facing Marion Barry and Jack Evans seems to be getting more attention than the current political races in the media and the minds of voters, and many are waiting to see what will take shape over the $420 million dollars in improperly granted contracts and will it reach the level of the city council as if people are waiting to see if heads will roll.

Indeed, when people are more interested in seeing our current leaders fall from grace than the actual political races and candidates, this may all turn into a lackluster 2006 primary and put all of us asleep from the boredom.


Posters on Street Lights
Jack McKay,

The summary of the law concerning notices posted in public space by Elizabeth Barry of the Mayor’s Office [themail, January 11] is a bit misleading. It is not correct to state that "it is illegal to post notices in public space." Posters advertising "the sale of goods or services" are prohibited, but informational notices are not:

“DCMR 24, 108.4 Any sign, advertisement, or poster that does not relate to the sale of goods or services may be affixed on public lampposts or appurtenances of a lamppost, subject to the restrictions set forth in this section.” These restrictions include a sixty-day time limit (thirty days for campaign posters), no more than three posters per block, and a prohibition of “adhesives that prevent their complete removal from the fixture, or that do damage to the fixture,” i.e., adhesive tape.

I’ve not seen any of these Sierra Club posters, but I gather that they did not advertise “the sale of goods or services,” and so they were not inherently “illegal.”


Apologist and Enabler
Leo Alexander,

On my last submission [themail, January 8], I tried to explain why I and many others, feel the way we do about Marion Barry. For that, we are called apologists and enablers. Then Gary Imhoff went as far as mocking me, by labeling Mr. Barry as a "Race Hero." The gloves are off now. I would like to examine what gives you, and people like you, free license to personally attack members of my community. Is it because you, for one, are married to an African American woman? I wonder. If you show this level of insensitivity and lack of understanding towards our race, what do you really think of your wife? Hmmm.

Or is it because you feel that since you have read a few African American authors and watched Eye On The Prize and Roots that this somehow qualifies you to know our experience and therefore feel free to attack our leaders and issues? I have worked with countless ignorant and arrogant news directors who honestly feel just as you do, and see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

I will say to you, Gary Imhoff, and the others like you, we know Marion Barry. He is our brother and we love him. Our love for each other is unconditional. And further more, we don’t have to apologize to anyone outside our community; because we don’t share their warped sense of humor. Do us all a favor, throw your barbs at George Bush, Jack Abramoff and their bunch . . . you’ll get no quarrel from me. I truly believe it is your kind who do more damage to this beautiful city and not defenseless addicts like Mr. Barry.


Marion Barry
Dawn Dickerson,

[Re: Nora Bawa, “Marion Barry,” themail, January 11] I was trying to stay out of this exhausting Barry debate but had to respond to your post. What you don’t know is that during that time many African-American families were unemployed and using a good bit of the cities resources on public assistance. What Marion Barry actually did was create employment for many of these families. And yes, there was no "screening" of applicants as it is now. (I mean did we really have the human resources systems that we have now back in the 70’s - early 80’s?) He wasn’t intending to set up a system of “nepotism, graft and cronyism” as you suggest. He was just trying to get money in people’s pockets, which is the goal of job creation.

I am trying so hard not to bring up race in this discussion but it’s so obvious that non-African American people that are newcomers to this city are so tainted by what they’ve read. I wish that it were possible to silence you all unless you are/were a native Washingtonian that lived in DC in the mid-70’s, early 80’s when Barry was a political force. You really have no idea of the ignorance that you are purporting and maybe us natives should do more to remind folks of the leader that we love, not the man that is flawed!


Judy and Marion
Nancee Lorn,

I understand the point [themail, January 11] about enabling and the harmful effects, but think about it. If Judy Garland’s fans had turned their backs on her and demanded that she clean up her act, would she have? Or, would she have only self destructed that much faster? I suspect the latter. In short, we are responsible for our own destinies. Judy had her journey and I’m sure those closest to her did the best they could to help her, but she traveled it the best way she apparently could. Despite that, her fans loved her for the human being she was. Marion Barry is responsible for his destiny and traveling his journey in his way and I’m sure those closet to him have reached out to him as well. Those who understand that and admire his talents do so not out of a need to enable him but because of the understanding of what it means to accept and love someone unconditionally. I’m sure everyone who loved Judy and those who love Marion prayed that they would find their way. I would like to think that this is far more effective, and human, than ostracism.


January 2006 InTowner
Peter Wolff,

This is to advise that the January 2006 online edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature. Also included are all current classified ads. The complete issue (along with prior issues back to June 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link provided. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements. The next issue will publish on February 10 (the 2nd Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Adams Morgan Launches Its Own Business Improvement District”; 2) “HPRB Designates New Historic District — Area Near Convention Center”; 3) “‘Heritage Trail’ Markers Come to Adams Morgan — Images Reveal History.”



National Building Museum Events, January 17, 19
Lauren Searl,

All events except Construction Watch Tours at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at

Tuesday, January 17, 6:30-8:00 p.m. A symposium on greening roofs. In the US, green roofs are a rapidly emerging technology of sustainable architecture and best management practices. Benefits of green, or vegetated, roofs include reducing storm water runoff and urban heat islands, while lowering a building’s energy requirements. Michael Perry with Building Logics and Dawn Gifford with DC Greenworks will discuss the applicability and benefits of this technology, the elements of green roof systems, and examine the growing trend in the United States towards green roofs. $12 Museum members and students; $17 nonmembers. Registration required.

Thursday, January 19, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Scully Prize Presentation: Phyllis Lambert: Ironies in the Public Life of Architecture: The Seagram Building, 1954-58. Over the past fifty years, Phyllis Lambert, architect, author, educator, activist, and philanthropist, has made outstanding contributions to the design of the built environment, advancement of public awareness of design, and architectural preservation. Early in her career, she served as the director of planning for the Seagram Building, the Mies van der Rohe masterpiece. On the occasion of receiving the Museum’s Vincent J. Scully Prize, Ms. Lambert will give a lecture about the public reception and long-term impact of the Seagram Building on architectural culture. $12 Members and students; $17 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required.


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