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March 1, 2006

Big Lies

Dear Lie Detectors:

That didn’t take long: Mayor Williams has already blasted wide open the big lie that the city council passed a spending cap on the baseball stadium boondoggle. As David Nakamura and Thomas Heath write today in “Williams Digs Up More Stadium Cash” (, the mayor has already exploited one of the more obvious loopholes in the so-called cap to add the first additional $20 million to what the city will spend on the stadium. That leaves only three positions for Linda Cropp to take: 1) she can admit that her stadium spending cap was a sham, designed only to fool the voters, and that the city will pay for the stadium cost overruns; 2) she can admit that she tried to fashion a firm spending cap, but didn’t have the legislative skill to do so, and that the city will pay for the cost overruns; or 3) she can fight the mayor, argue that he is misinterpreting and misrepresenting the council’s bill, and rally the city council to pass a permanent version of the emergency legislation that “clarifies” its intention and plugs all the loopholes. It also leaves the councilmembers who switched positions under the cover of the pretended spending cap only three options: 1) to admit that they knew the cap was a sham and was only intended to fool the voters; 2) to admit that Linda Cropp scammed them into believing that the cap was real, and that they aren’t as competent as Councilmembers Catania, Fenty, Graham, and Mendelson, all of whom saw through the pretense and voted against the bill; or 3) to rally together to pass a real spending cap.

The other major article on the front page of today’s Metro section is “Passage to Africa with Williams Comes at a Price,” by Lori Montgomery and Eric Weiss (, in which the mayor openly asks “leaders from business, industry, labor and the community” to buy influence and access by paying for spots on the mayor’s planned junket to Africa. The mayor will use his office to open doors and provide access in Africa for those who will pay the bill. Cheapskates can tag alone in steerage by anteing up only $25,000; but those who want to curry real favor with the administration will cough up the full $40,000 Williams is asking to ride in the front of the bus. The big lie here is that there will be some benefit in it for the city and its residents.

Gary Imhoff


About Those New Tax Assessments
Peter S. Craig,

The assessment notices that homeowners recently received from the Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) fail to abide by the requirements of the DC Code, 47-824(a), which requires, among other things, that the notice show 1) the present and proposed assessments for land and improvements separately, 2) the percentage change in assessments, 3) the citation of the regulation under which the assessment was made, 4) the basis or rationale for the new assessment, and 5) the location of the assessment role and sales ratio studies. These failures are not new. They were present for tax year 2002 assessments which were recently voided by Judge Hamilton of the DC Superior Court.

In his decision he ruled: “the notices of proposed assessments for residential properties issued for tax year 2002 knowingly, intentionally and deliberately failed to comply with the requirements of the DC Code §§47-801(2), 824(a) and 823(b) and elementary rights of due process under the Constitution of the United States by failing to inform the taxpayer of the basis, rationale and methodology used in reaching the proposed assessment, thus depriving the taxpayer of information necessary to exercise his rights of appeal.” In addition, Judge Hamilton found it contrary to DC law and the Constitution for OTR to adopt different rules for different neighborhoods, a practice which apparently is again being followed this year. Indeed, thirty years ago the DC Court of Appeals held that such discrimination to be unlawful.

Another error that seems to be perpetuated is OTR’s failure to distinguish between “sales price” and “estimated market value.” They are two different concepts. “Estimated market value” under the statute is an estimate of what you, as seller, would have received if you sold your property on January 1, 2006, less the personal property included in the sale. As held by Judge Hamilton: “estimated market value, as used in the DC Code, refers solely to the value of the real property being assessed and does not include personal property or services or taxes related to the sale of such real property that would be borne by the owner if the property were sold, such as agents’ commissions, fix-up costs (or seller subsidy at closing) and transfer taxes.” Ordinarily such adjustments to sales price results in an estimated market value about 10 percent less than the sales price. Homeowners considering the possibility of an appeal should contact their assessor and obtain the “property record card” and “cost.dat” sheet for their property. In Cleveland Park, my neighborhood, the assessor is Odin Tidemand, whose E-mail address is His phone number is on the notice of assessment. I sent an E-mail to him today, asking that he fax these records to me.

I have had good success appealing my own assessment and those of elderly neighbors. These victories have been due to flaws in the OTR’s methodology, such as its inadequate recognition of depreciation, overstating the grade of the house, other errors on the property record card, and OTR’s reliance upon across-the-board formulas for land that fail to account for steep slopes, adverse drainage, the impact of busy streets, and other adverse effects on the value of the land in question. I expect that OTR will soon post on its web site the assessor’s manual for TY 2007 and proposed assessments for all properties. These records are useful in filing an appeal, but they were not posted as of February 26. The information will appear at a later date on,a,1330,q,594366,otrNav_gid,1679,otrNav,|33280|.asp.


Cost to Renovate Martin Luther King Memorial Library
Stuart Gosswein,

The Committee of 100 on the Federal City has requested that the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Natwar Gandhi, compare the cost of constructing a new central library at the Old Convention Center site with that of renovating the existing Martin Luther King Memorial Library to be a state-of-the-art facility. The request was made in a February 20, letter from the Committee chair, Donald Alexander Hawkins, which was copied to the Mayor’s Task Force for the Future of the District of Columbia Public Library System and all DC councilmembers. The letter reads in part:

“Government officials and the citizens of the District of Columbia are currently debating whether to renovate MLK Memorial Library or to construct a new facility. The Mayor’s Task Force for the Future of the District of Columbia Public Library System has issued a draft report in favor of a new facility. However, the report does not consider the alternative: how much it would cost to renovate MLK Memorial Library in order to achieve the same goals? This is a prerequisite.

“The Committee of 100 has taken the position that the MLK Library could be renovated, enlarged, and made viable for less than the cost of constructing a new library. A comparative analysis will respond to that premise. Any analysis should include the several scenarios of: renovation of MLK Memorial Library for use entirely by the DCPL; renovation of MLK Memorial Library with one or two stories added for use entirely by the DCPL; renovation of MLK Memorial Library with one or two stories added, some space to be leased at market rate; construction of a new library at the Old Convention Center site for use entirely by the DCPL; construction of a new library at the Old Convention Center site with added space to be leased at market rate; revenue to the city if the land intended for the library at the Old Convention Center were, instead, leased or sold at market rate.; revenue to the city if the MLK Memorial Library is leased in total or sold at market rate.

“If an analysis has already been conducted, I respectfully request a copy. If an analysis has not been conducted, I respectfully request that such be undertaken as a precondition for making a decision on the issue of whether to construct a new facility or to renovate MLK Memorial Library. The results of such a study should be made available to the Mayor’s Task Force for the Future of the District of Columbia Library System, the City Council’s Task Force for the Library System, and the City Council.”


A Call for More Police Resources for Residential Neighborhoods
Bill Maguire,

On the evening of September 17, 2005, my wife and I found the body of Greg Shipe on the sidewalk near the front door of our house. Greg was, as many of you would know, shot in the head at what looked to us to be close range while walking his dog. Since that sad evening, we have had a sense of discomfort with the status quo and have sought something we could do and/or support by way of a response to Greg’s murder.

For this reason, we have decided that we will testify before the DC Council’s Judiciary Committee on March 30 and urge the Committee to authorize hiring new police officers specifically for Washington DC’s residential neighborhoods. In our testimony, we would like to make reference to neighbors in Mount Pleasant and other DC residential neighborhoods who feel as we do.

If you share our belief that the Judiciary Committee should authorize hiring more police officers for Washington DC’s residential neighborhoods, we would like to invite you to send your name and your home address to As we imagine it, after we deliver our brief testimony, we will provide the Committee with a list of people living in neighborhoods throughout Washington, DC, who support an increase in police resources available to our city’s residential neighborhoods.


Specialty Schools
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

School Superintendent Janey is proposing to establish specialty schools in DC that will teach, along with the normal core high school courses, special courses focused on specific studies. This sounds pretty good for students who want to embrace a program that focuses on studies that they are interested in. Since several schools will be involved, each with a different specialty, it looks to me like a decentralized Brooklyn Tech. Brooklyn Tech was a magnet, competitive-entrance school in NY that had many specialty programs, all in the same school. The school occupied a whole city block, was ten stories tall, and housed 6000 students. The school attracted many fine teachers anxious to teach in a school with great discipline and great students.

The big question is how Janey will make this happen. It seems to me I read a few years ago about a great new school that would be made out of McKinley. I don’t hear any good things about that conversion. If Janey can somehow pull together these specialty schools it might just be a magnet for some fine teachers to come into the DC school system.


Help Protect C&O Canal National Historical Park
Sally Strain,

Georgetown University wants to build an enormous private boathouse in our C&O Canal National Historical Park.

Please help protect the park from private development by sending an E-mail to the National Park Service Director, Fran Mainella, at, requesting that the Park Service conduct an Environmental Impact Statement on the Georgetown University boathouse that will consider alternative locations outside the C&O Canal National Historical Park, A boathouse on more accessible, degraded land already planned for redevelopment would have environmental, technical, and practical advantages for everyone, while protecting the C&O Park from private development.

Please see boathouse fact sheet produced by the Defenders of Potomac River Parkland, an alliance of twenty conservation, recreation, and civic organizations representing hundreds of thousands of citizens, at


Report on Endangered Battlefields
Benjamin F. Cooling,

Please note that the Civil War Preservation Trust,, has called attention across the country to the plight of Washington’s Civil War Forts parks -- endangered because of public ignorance; human overuse of fragile natural resources and cultural resources (man-made features); and, quite frankly, poor stewardship on the part of the National Park Service (budgets, managerial indifference, irresponsibility toward improved interpretation and visitatation/educational facility recommendations by the public and inane bureaucratic/administrative jurisdictions within the system). Ms. Neumann’s fine response to the NPS management plan awhile back hit the nail squarely on the head. She, like Theresa Saxton and Patricia Tyson of the Military Road School Trust, attended the Trust’s press conference on February 28 and publicly thanked it for raising the awareness level for the so-called Circle Forts (a moniker with an imprecise meaning, for the most part.)

Afterward, I led an abbreviated tour of Battleground and Fort Stevens with Jim Lighthizer and CWPT staff as well as reporters from the Washington Post and Washington Examiner. Everyone kept asking what is to be done, what do advocates want, and what is the bottom line of all this? Frankly, this is what must now be answered by all concerned I think we must coalesce around solid and realizable goals leading from answers. The NPS is part of the problem; civic irresponsibility and ignorance (including on the part of public officials) is another. As I found this afternoon, Battleground Cemetery Lodge sits neglected and would make the ideal Visitor Center for the Fort Stevens battlefield — the precise answer opposed by the National Park Service! Fort Stevens is a public disgrace; once again, it is a dump site for everything from broken liquor bottles and trash on the gun platforms behind the revetments to used condoms embellishing the parapets. There really is no excuse for this on public land. Moreover, it is an insult to the memory of those who fought and died there, their legatees who managed to save the side from the Wardman Company’s plan to raze the place and build apartments, and the generations past (like myself) who were weaned on the historical locale to spawn a professional and private interest as well present and future generations (multiethnic and cultural) who now reside in the area and are in need of public pride and neighborhood awareness.

I am happy to say that Eastern National, concessionaire for the NPS in this region, plans to republish Mr. Lincoln’s Forts; A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington, which I published with Mr. Wally Owen back in 1987. The proceeds from that publication went to helping Alexandria develop the fine Fort Ward Park, which is the current jewel in the crown of the historic fort system. We plan to update and also include commentary on the current and future plight of the fort system, the parks, the Walter Reed BRAC situation, as well as interest stemming from the Military Road School Trust, the Brightwood Historic Trails, etc. Wally and I would be more than willing to further enhance community awareness via bus tours, speaking engagements and public advocacy. But we must do more than merely republish books and call for action. We need an action plan and a coalition with more teeth than Internet communication as commiseration! Now that we have exposure of the problem, what do we do about it — locally, regionally, and nationally? The Civil War Preservation Trust has opened a door for us; are we prepared to do our part?


Report on Endangered Battlefields
Sally Berk,

The Rock Creek Park management plan failed to even mention, much less provide a plan for preserving, Fort DeRussey, which is disappearing before our very eyes. It would be nice if the Civil War Preservation Trust could point that out to NPS immediately, before the Rock Creek Plan is adopted.


Can Two Parties Meet If One’s Not There?
David Sobelsohn, anc6d02 -at- capaccess -dot- org

In the February 19 issue of themail, Vincent Morris, the mayor’s director of communications, claimed that someone from the mayor’s office had met about rent control with the New Capitol Park Plaza Tenants Association (NCPPTA). In the February 22 issue, I pointed out that no one from NCPPTA remembered such a meeting. In the February 26 issue, Mr. Morris conceded that his earlier claim was false. He blamed his error on “miscommunication” from a source he did not identify. Then he wrote: "The mayor’s office met with NCPPTA previously on rental housing conversion but has not yet [sic] met with this group on our new initiative" to means-test rent control -- as if to suggest that he contemplated such a meeting. I asked NCPPTA members whether anyone from the mayor’s office had in fact “met with NCPPTA previously on rental housing conversion” or contacted NCPPTA to propose a meeting on rent control. Dwayne Smith, NCPPTA’s secretary, gave a succinct reply: “To my knowledge, none of it is true.” Perhaps Mr. Morris is confusing NCPPTA with some other organization. Other observers might be less charitable.


Chris Kelly,

I for one have totally gotten rid of my personal car in favor of Zipcar. I have used Zipcar for over a year and have been very satisfied. My only problem is the closest car to my home is at Union Station almost a mile walk from my house. I live in Truxton Circle; we need some “on street” parked Zipcars up here in “lower NOMA.” I was paying over $70.00 a month for insurance for my 1995 Ford Escort, not including gas and maintenance, and I have never spent that much on a Zipcar. If I need a car for a longer period, i.e., to go to the beach for a week, I use Enterprise, with my ZIPcar discount. I talk to people all the time about Zipcar and explain the process. It is much easier to use than a regular rental car service. I hope more DC residents will get rid of their cars, too.


Zipcar Tows Residents’ Cars, Too
Darren Soulter,

Another thing that irritates me about Zipcar is that they have been known to tow non-Zipcar cars that accidentally park in Zipcar spots. A friend of mine parked by accident in a Zipcar spot, as he was unaware that the orange signs (Zipcar, not government, signs) prohibited parking. Two hours later, his car was towed by a tow truck that Zipcar contracts with. Since my friend didn’t have outstanding tickets in DC, he was shocked that his car would be towed and he would have to ante up more than $90 in tow truck costs.

Besides the land grab, don’t be surprised if Zipcar also tows your car if you park in their spot. I’m for Zipcar if only they 1) buy or lease land for their cars, and 2) don’t tow residents’ cars when they park by accident in a Zipcar spot.


Zipcar and Flexcar
Steve Seelig, Chevy Chase, DC,

Regarding Alan Kimber’s letter regarding Flexcar and Zipcar [themail, February 19], both companies are, in fact, for profit-enterprises and proud of it. As with most companies seeking positive buzz to generate additional investors, each company gaudily touts the fact they have convinced other like-minded investor groups to drop several million into the enterprise.

Don’t be fooled by the “greenness” of the business or the egalitarian mission statements. My concerns are not about how great it is to get more cars off the road so I can bicycle through less traffic and fumes; that is great! It’s about the money that Flexcar and Zipcar are in it to make, with a direct subsidy from DDOT. Witness the Flexcar press release:, and the Zipcar press release:


It’s the Air, Stupid
Mike Livingston,

A few dozen subsidized parking spaces for car-sharing networks is a small price to pay to mitigate the District’s chronic violation of the dangerously modest Clean Air Act standards — and those standards are law, not an optional goal -- and nothing, nothing at all, compared to the taxpayer handouts the District has gleefully lavished on (for a few examples) Major League Baseball, Abe Pollin, and the hotel industry in the past decade or so. If we’re going to crack down on corporate welfare, let’s crack down on corporate welfare, but why start with the nickel-and-dime stuff? Especially when, unlike most of the big handouts, it results in less pollution and less congestion? Fair questions have been asked and fairly answered. It’s a sound public investment.



DC Public Library Events, March 1-6
Debra Truhart,

Wednesdays, March 1, 11, 18, and 25, 1:00 p.m., Northeast Neighborhood Library, 330 7th Street, NE. Computer tutorials for beginners, or those who just want to refresh their skills. Public contact: 698-3320.

Thursday, March 2, 12:00 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Brown Bag Recital Series: cellist Vasily Popov and pianist Ralitza Patcheva will perform the works of Debussy and Faure. Public contact: 727-1285.

Thursday, March 2, 2:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Let’s Talk About Books: a discussion of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Next month’ selection: “Plain Pleasures,” a short story by Jane Bowles. Public contact: 727-1281.

Monday, March 6, 12:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, 2nd Floor East Lobby. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, author of Out of Hell and Living Well: Healing from the Inside Out, will present a lecture, “In the Bible: An Exploration of Black Presence in the Bible.” Public contact: 727-1251.

Monday, March 6, 7:00 p.m., Georgetown Neighborhood Library, 3260 R Street, NW. Georgetown Library Book Group will discuss East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Next month’ selection: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Public contact: 282-0220.

Mondays, March 6, 13, 20, and 27, 7:00 p.m., West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street, NW. Quigong: a form of Chinese medicine using movement, breathing and meditation techniques. The DC. Public Library is not responsible for, nor does it endorse health information given to participants during the program. Public contact: 724-8707.


National Building Museum Events, March 5
Lauren Searl,

Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at

Sunday, March 5, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Flying in the Great Hall. Watch members of the DC Maxecuters launch their model airplanes in the Museum’s Great Hall. Rubber band-powered free flight model airplanes will soar in a series of launches throughout the day. Free. All ages. Drop-in program.

Sunday, March 5, 12:30-3:30 p.m., Wonder of Wind Chimes. Wind influences everything from what we wear to how we fly. Wind chimes are designed to dangle in the wind and use its force to produce sound -- the stronger the wind, the louder the chimes. Families create wind chimes out of hardware and decorate them with craft materials. $5 per project. All ages. Drop-in program.


Fourteenth Annual Sing Out for Shelter (S.O.S.) Concert
Sid Booth, Sid Booth One at Aey Oh El Dot Com

Save the date: Saturday, March 11, 8:00 p.m., for the fourteenth annual “Sing Out for Shelter” Acappella concert, Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, 3401 Nebraska Avenue, NW.

Fabulous a cappella music by the Augmented 8 and other acclaimed groups. All proceeds benefit Christ House, Metropolitan House, and the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place. Support your homeless neighbors and enjoy great music at the same time! Tickets at the door, or call 244-5707. Basic Donation $25; Patron $50; Student $10; kids under twelve free. For more info:


Guy Mason Recreation Center Class Registration
Toni Ritzenberg,

Registration for spring 2006 classes at the Guy Mason Recreation Center (3600 Calvert Street, NW) begins Wednesday, March 1, with most classes starting the week of March 20. This year, for the first time, there will be an open house at the Center on Saturday, March 11, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., where you can participate, starting at 11:00 a.m., in sampling exercise, fitness, and ballroom dancing classes.

This year, as always, there will be fitness and exercise classes in MOVE IT (formerly Dancersize), Pilates, Senior Momentum (for those fifty and older) and Yoga. French and Spanish language classes are being offered, as is ballroom dancing. Art, china painting, copper enameling workshops, and pottery are again available. There is bridge twice a week, year round, and for children from birth to four years accompanied by a “responsible” adult there is Music Together.

Remember, this is one of the best bargains offered by the District of Columbia. To register personally, visit the Center Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To register online, visit, click on Activities Registration, and follow the instructions. For further information, call Robert Haldeman or Caryl King at 282-2180, and for program updates visit the Center’s web site,



I Want to Clean Your House
Angel Covington,

I clean houses for a living. I clean bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms. I wash windows, countertops, and floors. I even take out the trash!. My hourly rates are very reasonable. If you’re interested, E-mail me at


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