themail.gif (3487 bytes)

February 26, 2006


Dear Speakers:

The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher attended one of the library task force’s “listening sessions,” and he wasn’t fooled for a minute: “The DC library’s trustees have hit upon a device used by suburban officials to shield themselves from the voices of the people during development battles. They spent $20,000 to hire a consulting firm to replace old-fashioned public hearings with glitzy, streamlined exercises dubbed ‘listening sessions.’ Over the past couple of weeks, listening sessions, conducted in corporate-speak, have been staged at several District libraries. They are depressing, deflating experiences. . . . But in the new consultant-driven process, politicians use public dollars to avoid interaction with the public when it matters most. Small groups, billed as a way to make democracy more intimate, instead prevent dissenting voices from hearing one another. Result: the views that emerge from listening sessions magically agree with the government’s agenda.[]

Fisher and I disagree about the desirability of the task force’s plans. He supports them. He writes: “[Library task force chairman and Federal City Council executive director John] Hill makes a powerful argument for a new central library, and the system desperately needs to capitalize on its real estate holdings by teaming up with developers on projects that will serve the reading public and bolster the city’s finances.” I, on the other hand, see the task force’s plans as part of a wider plan for the city to give some of its most valuable assets to well-connected players. Both the library and school "revitalization plans" are developer-driven land grabs, in which the city will give its most valuable and best located library and school properties to favored developers in exchange for minimal public returns -- branch libraries reduced from freestanding community centers to single floors or a few rooms in office or apartment buildings, the central library robbed of the architectural landmark that houses it and moved into a corner of a massive downtown development financed by massive taxpayer subsidies. (I’d love to know which politically connected developer’s pet project is really behind the mayor’s single-minded fixation on destroying the MLK building, instead of redeveloping it into a model library along the lines of the American Institute of Architects’ visionary plan.)

In other cities, some wealthy people are celebrated as philanthropists because they give large amounts of money to help finance underfunded public needs, like libraries and schools. In DC, we do it the other way around: we celebrate some of our wealthiest people as public benefactors because they graciously condescend to accept public money, land, and assets from us. But Fisher and I agree on this transparently dishonest, manipulative “listening” process. They aren’t listening. They know their conclusions; that’s all they want to hear; and they aren’t interested in hearing anything else.

Gary Imhoff


Funding the NCMC
Kenan Jarboe,

The Mayor recently submitted a document [“National Capital Medical Center Report to the Council of the District of Columbia,”] responding to a list of questions from Councilmember Catania. While there is much to digest in that document, my attention was drawn to one comment that raises more questions than it answers:

“The District and Howard believe that the NCMC will be a national healthcare model that will attract contributions from third parties. Under the Grant Agreement, contributions from third parties may be used to offset NCMC capital costs and will be equally credited to each party’s share of the Project Costs. It is premature to identify any third parties at this time.”

If I read this correctly, this means that the city and Howard expect to pay for the NCMC through donations by as yet unidentified contributors. The obvious questions are who, for example (just types -- rich philanthropists, foundations, corporations?), how much, and what do they get in return (naming rights?). I understand that non-profits (including universities) often go ahead with major capital projects with the expectation that they can raise the funds as the project progresses. But for the District government to adopt this “fundraise as we go along” model is bad public finance and bad health policy. Just one more of the myriad of questions that seem to continue to pile up about this project.


NCMC: Still No Answers
Eric Rosenthal,

Members of Citizens for the National Capital Medical Center, made up of Williams administration officials, Councilmember Vincent Gray, the Walker Marchant Group public relations firm and others, continue to write to themail about the proposed hospital (see Councilmember Gray’s recent post at, for example). However, they cannot explain why the proposed medical center is needed. Here are some questions they have yet to answer: 1) is there evidence that any group of people in Washington is not getting the kind of medical care the National Capital Medical Center would offer, specifically trauma care, emergency care or acute hospital care? 2) Is there evidence that any group of Washingtonians would be healthier if the National Capital Medical Center were built? 3) How would the National Capital Medical Center affect Greater Southeast Community Hospital, Howard University Hospital and other hospitals? Would any of them be forced to close?

4) What are the projected operating deficits for the National Capital Medical Center and how would they be funded? Who would pay any cost overruns or operating deficits in excess of what the city projects? 5) How would the National Capital Medical Center affect DC’s rapidly growing Medicaid expenditures, especially as the federal government cuts its contributions? 6) Why does the city refuse to commit the National Capital Medical Center to a specific level of care for poor DC residents with no health insurance in exchange for the hundreds of millions of public dollars it would cost?

I hope Citizens for a National Capital Medical Center will start to offer evidence about why they think a new hospital is needed. If they have none, we should begin a serious process to figure out how to meet our tremendous health care needs, something the National Capital Medical Center would not do. The stakes are too high — health and lives — to continue politics as usual.


The Children of Entitlement
Jonathan R. Rees,

In my quest to be elected as the next Ward 3 council person, I have had to attend events city wide and, in this respect, I was a bit surprised to listen to people living on the other side of the city and having to hear their views about the people of Ward 3 as it concerns our government. What I have been hearing has been a bit of a shock. The most common things said have been: 1) the people of Ward 3 are snobs; 2) the people of Ward 3 are behind the un-admitted-to gentrification of the city; 3) the people of Ward 3 don’t care about those who are less fortunate and, when they say they do, it is very superficial; 4) the people of Ward 3 should not get any tax breaks as they don’t need it; 5) the people of Ward 3 caused the poverty in the other parts of the city; 6) the people of Ward 3 should move into Montgomery County, as they do not pull their weight; and other statements in which hostility for Ward 3 is loud and clear. Then I had to hear that Mayor Williams took away so much from the poor and gave to the rich of Ward 3, and the people of Ward 3 should pay for this when the political winds shift.

Of course many in Ward 3 may find this hard to believe, but how many Ward 3 residents go to the other side of town and sit down and talk to people there? Probably not that many, unless their jobs requires it. What goes through my mind is, how many people over in Wards 1, 4, 5, 6, 7m and 8 hold these feelings of hostility for the people of Ward 3, whom many think have lived the good life at the expense of everybody else. Is this why members of our city council have been running often in different directions on so many issues known and unknown to the public?

I wonder if in 2007 when we have at least four to five new faces on our city council, will we see the anger for the policies of Mayor Williams and for Ward 3 residents manifest itself in the type of legislation that will come down the pipes from members of the city council from those wards where people have taken the brunt of Mayor Williams and our current city council; or will we just hear the angry words still in the downwinds?


CFO Gandhi’s Non-Response to Nader on Stadium Cap
Shawn McCarthy,

On February 15, Ralph Nader wrote to District Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, requesting that he “. . . release a statement immediately either verifying to the people of the District that the $610.8 million cap on city spending for the new baseball stadium is a true, ironclad cap, with no loopholes, or an explanation as to why it is not.” In addition, Nader requested Dr. Gandhi’s “. . . opinion on what the impact of issuing bonds for this stadium would be on the city’s ability to raise funds on Wall Street for District needs” [].

Dr. Gandhi’s February 21 reply to Nader (salutation, greeting, and closing removed): “As I stated in my letter dated February 13, 2006 to Chairman Linda W. Cropp, I am prepared to move forward with the stadium bond financing if (1) the Mayor signs the legislation; and (2) by close of business on March 6, 2006, Major League Baseball and the Sports and Entertainment Commission acknowledge and accept in writing the terms stated in the Act such that I can provide the required certification to Council regarding the sources available for overruns of the $300 million hard cost cap and the $175 million soft cost cap. I appreciate your concern about the District’s debt position. I will continue to work with Mayor and Council to keep future borrowing at manageable levels given the resources available to pay for debt service.”


Nora Bawa,

[Re: “Standing,” Larry Seftor, themail, February 22] Regardless of the definition of the word, for my money Ralph Nader has standing in DC, or anywhere in the nation for that matter, on the basis of the service he has provided for many years for the good of the nation. I can’t think of anyone whose opinion and input would be more valuable in making local decisions.


Free Parking
Greg DuRoss, Ward 2,

In reading the posts on providing free parking spaces to rental car companies it seems to me that the District has some homework to do at the end of this test period. Specifically, what if an “old business model” company like Hertz or Enterprise decides to compete with Zip or Flex car? Will the District say no, you cannot have free parking spots? What will they do if one of those companies offers to pay for the spots, just as Zip and Flex are currently paying private property owners monthly fees for spots on private property?

At the end of the test period, the District should insist on seeing what kind of revenue has been generated by each parking spot/car. That has to be available because Zip and Flex car companies have to know where there cars are at any given point in time, when they are rented and for how much. It’s all in the computer. Also, the District should insist on an independent survey of all users of Flex and Zip cars to determine how many gave up personal cars during the test period. Again, contact information for all users will be in the computer and if Flex and Zip really believe the data behind their statements that customers give up their personal autos when convenient neighborhood rental options are available, then these companies should welcome such a study.

I realize that this is asking a lot because we would be asking the same department (DDOT) and people that executed the original agreement with little or no consultation with residents and elected officials, and the government that negotiated our great stadium deal. But hope springs eternal!


Gabe Klein, Regional Vice President, Zipcar,

I left a very important point out of my earlier submission. People are questioning DDOT’s contribution of 86 parking spaces currently to the carsharing program (I believe there are over two hundred thousand spaces citywide; needs to be fact checked). An important part of this program for DDOT is in providing all eight wards with carsharing access, even though the density of population would not necessarily justify it within our existing business models (ramp time is significant, and both companies are small in relative terms). Metro also shares these goals. Both carsharing companies are sacrificing to do this, but it is offset obviously by higher visibility and safer parking for our members everywhere. I am really proud of both of these programs for pushing us to create a regional carsharing system that serves people in various geographies and of varying financial means.

Also, someone made an important point about residential parking permit spaces and the $15 fee per year for a permit. I happen to know someone (who will remain unnamed) who lives in Adams Morgan and has a car that has not run in six months. The car is sitting in a space with an RPP sticker and has not moved in this time and has not been ticketed either. I think this is one of the real problems that people do not want to talk about, not the thirteen thousand plus Zipcar members sharing 230 cars in the region (50-60 per car).

Someone else asked about precedent, and there is precedent across the river in Arlington, Alexandria, Portland, but also all over the world. In parts of Canada, they give RPP spaces, and hundreds of them in some cities at the demand of the residents. In terms of rental car being a better deal for a daily rental . . . exactly. We are designed for short term-round trip use. Very simple, self service, automated, and designed for businesses and residents to gain access to a car easily, safely, within a short distance, as if it was their own car, or fleet vehicle. Just so everyone knows, rental car is not our competitor, we even give discounts at Enterprise for our members for longer trips. Our competitor is car ownership, plain and simple. I think everyone knows that we can’t keep adding one car per person on our city streets as we grow. Dan Tangherlini recently said “If 150,000 residents move into the city over the next ten years according to the mayors plan, and they all bring a car, I am out of a job.” Well, he is at Metro now, but the point stands, I think.


Vincent S. Morris, Director of Communications,

Because of miscommunication, I incorrectly wrote that the New Capitol Park Plaza Tenants Association participated in meetings on the mayor’s rent control legislation. The mayor’s office met with NCPPTA previously on rental housing conversion but has not yet met with this group on our new initiative. As usual, we welcome input from all groups and individuals and hope that reforming rent control laws to eliminate the stranglehold that some wealthy renters have on apartments in this city will help low and moderate income renters find more housing options.



NAMIC Mid-Atlantic, February 28
Dorinda White,

NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications) Mid-Atlantic is pleased to announce its first general body meeting of 2006 on Tuesday, February 28, at 6:30 p.m. at TV One Headquarters, 1010 Wayne Avenue, 10th Floor, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Refreshments will be served. As the recent recipient of NAMIC’s "Rising Star" award among chapters across the US, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter has sponsored many networking and career enhancement events geared toward promoting leadership, opportunities and advocating for diversity within the communications industry. NAMIC Mid-Atlantic is hosting this general body meeting to inform members and nonmembers of upcoming activities, events, and opportunities that may be of interest to those looking to advance within the cable and telecommunications industries. Please join us this Tuesday and find out more about us at  E-mail Dorinda White, President of NAMIC Mid-Atlantic, if you have any questions at


National Building Museum Events, March 1, 2, 4
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

Wednesday, March 1, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Emerging Voices lecture: nARCHITECTS and estudio teddy cruz. nARCHITECTS develops design strategies that smoothly emphasize the transitions between architect and fabricator. Mimi Hoang and Eric Bunge, principals of the New York-based studio, will discuss their firm’s work, which includes the Switch Building, a seven-story residence; a lobby renovation for the Kitchen; and “Canopy,” an environment installed at MoMA/P.S. 1 as part of the museum’s Young Architects Program. Hoang and Bunge are recipients of the Canadian Professional Rome Prize, an AIA Honor Award, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Award. Since 1993, estudio teddy cruz has dwelt at the border between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, where the particularities of this bicultural territory inspire the firm. Founding principal, Teddy Cruz, will discuss his San Diego-based practice and socially-conscious work, including Corridors on Imperial in San Diego, and Casa Familiar, an affordable housing project in San Ysidro. For his thoughts on theory, design, and the informal city he was named the 2004-2005 James Stirling Memorial Lecturer on the City, sponsored by the Canadian Center for Architecture, the Van Alen Institute, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Cruz is a recipient of the 1991 Rome Prize in Architecture, a 2001 P/A Award, and the Robert Taylor Teaching Award from the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

Thursday, March 2, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Is Smart Growth “Zoned Out”? Jonathan Levine, associate professor and chair of the urban and regional planning program at the University of Michigan, will discuss how current land use patterns primarily reflect regulatory requirements because land development is one of the most regulated sectors of the US economy. He will present examples of US communities that have changed regulations to allow more innovative development and explain the constituencies and policies that led to these changes. After the lecture, he will sign copies of his new book Zoned Out Regulation, Markets, and Choices in Transportation and Metropolitan Land-Use (Resources for the Future). Free. Registration not required.

Saturday, March 4, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Construction watch tour of ASLA Green Roof. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is currently installing a green roof atop its downtown Washington, DC, headquarters building. The 3,300-square-foot, state-of-the-art installation, designed by New York-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc., in collaboration with green roof consultants Conservation Design Forum, is being constructed by Bethesda-based Forrester Construction Company. The design incorporates a number of innovative uses of extensive and intensive green roof materials in an unprecedented way, creating a new landscape type that has obvious environmental benefits and creates an uplifting garden experience for people. Chris Counts, ASLA, of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and John Fritz of Forrester Construction will lead the tour. Open only to museum and ASLA members, $18. Space is limited. Prepaid registration required. To register, call the Museum or visit beginning Tuesday, February 24.


Oscars Party, March 5
Gloria White,

The Washington, DC, Film Society is having an Oscars Party! Film Critics Joe Barber and Bill Henry will be the hosts to watch the Oscars on the big screen! Tickets on sale and doors open at 6:30 p.m., on Sunday, March 5; pre-show starts 7 p.m., and Oscars start at 8 p.m. Join us at the Arlington Cinema ’N Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA (one quarter mile east of Glebe Road). Tickets are $15 for DC Film Society and WIFV members and $20 for nonmembers.

There will be door prizes, a silent auction of items including movie/theater tickets, dinners, hotel weekends, posters, and items signed by celebrities such as Robert Towne, Claire Danes, Fernando Mierelles, James Ivory, Danny Boyle, Tilda Swinton, the new Bond actor Daniel Craig; and more.

You can guarantee your ticket by sending a check payable to DC Film Society, Attn: Oscars Party Tickets, P. O. Box 65992, Washington, DC 20035. Tickets will be held at the door. Proceeds benefit the DC Film Society and FilmFest DC, the Washington, DC International Film Festival (


Ward One Dems and DC Latino PAC Mayoral Forum, March 9
Josh Gibson,

The Ward One Democrats will join the DC Latino PAC in hosting a mayoral forum. Please join us on March 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Carlos Rosario International Charter School and Career Center located at 1100 Harvard Street, NW.


Mendelson Public Safety Town Hall Meeting, March 9
Beverley Wheeler,

Councilmember Phil Mendelson will host a citywide town hall meeting on public safety on March 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Savoy Elementary School, 2400 Shannon Place, SE, across from the Anacostia Metro Station. The Town Hall meeting, “From Criminal Investigation to Incarceration and Beyond” will bring together the District’s most important public safety officials to listen and respond to resident concerns.

Councilmember Mendelson, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has invited Police Chief Charles Ramsey, US Attorney Ken Wainstein, Chief Judge Rufus King, Department of Corrections Director Devon Brown, DC Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) Director Paul Quander to participate.


Cocktails for a Cause
Kamilah Martin,

The Martin Multiple Sclerosis Alliance Foundation is hosting its second annual "Cocktails for a Cause" informational session Wednesday, March 15, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., at Clouds Dinning Lounge, 1 Dupont Circle. This is a twenty-one and over event. "Cocktails for a Cause" features an evening of complementary wine tasting, light fare, and information about multiple sclerosis. Entrance donation, $10.00. Proceeds benefit the Martin M.S. Alliance Foundation’s Educational Outreach programs. For more information please contact us at 1-877-890-6287 or

March is National M.S. Awareness Month. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease with no cause and no cure. However, education and early detection one can drastically improve ones quality of life.



Black Alley Life
Bryce A. Suderow,

I’m looking for books and articles on black alley life in Washington, DC. Any suggestions?


Volkswagen Locksmith
Phil Greene,

I recently lost a set of keys, containing among other things the key to my 2001 Volkswagen Passat. The Passat has a “switchblade” key, including a built-in remote control for locking/unlocking the doors and the trunk. Well, if I go to a dealership, the replacement cost is something like $250! I’m wondering if anyone out there has some advice for me. I can purchase a replacement key on eBay for around $50, but then I have to find a locksmith to cut the key and program it. Just wondering if anyone has been down this expensive road.


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the subscription form at To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at

All postings should also be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)