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” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/28/AR2006022801585.html),
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 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/28/AR2006022801540.html),
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
About Those New Tax Assessments
Peter S. Craig, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Odin.Tidemand@dc.gov.
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 http://www.cfo.washingtondc.gov/otr/cwp/view,a,1330,q,594366,otrNav_gid,1679,otrNav,|33280|.asp.
Cost to Renovate Martin Luther King Memorial
Stuart Gosswein, email@example.com
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
A Call for More Police Resources for
Bill Maguire, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.
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.
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
Sally Strain, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com,
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
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 http://www.savethecanal.org/pdf_files/DPRPL.pdf.
Report on Endangered Battlefields
Benjamin F. Cooling, CoolingB@ndu.edu
Please note that the Civil War Preservation Trust, http://www.civilwar.org,
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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,
Zipcar Tows Residents’ Cars, Too
Darren Soulter, email@example.com
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.
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
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: http://www.flexcar.com/company/pr/pr083105.asp,
and the Zipcar press release: http://www.zipcar.com/press/releases/press-27.
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.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS AND CLASSES
DC Public Library Events, March 1-6
Debra Truhart, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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, email@example.com
Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW,
Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at http://www.nbm.org.
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.
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.)
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: www.augmented8.org
Guy Mason Recreation Center Class Registration
Toni Ritzenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 http://www.dpr.dc.gov,
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, http://www.guymasonstudioarts.com.
CLASSIFIEDS — SERVICES
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 email@example.com.
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 http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/subscribe.htm.
To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org
with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages
are available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
All postings should also be submitted to email@example.com,
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.