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March 22, 2006

Blushing Geisha

Dear Blushers:

I know that I risk sounding like one of those gushing boosters I usually lampoon, but I’m really getting into the National Cherry Blossom Festival this year. I’m particularly enthusiastic since Dorothy and I went to the restaurant tasting event at which local restaurants showed off the cherry flavored dishes and drinks that they’re featuring for this year’s festival. You can see the complete list of participating restaurants and get some ideas of where to go for cherries at There isn’t a bad dish on the list, but Dorothy’s favorite was the preserved bing cherry and dark chocolate brioche bread pudding with vanilla bean sherbet from Charlie Palmer Steak. Mine was the blushing geisha drink from Zengo, and I’ll give the recipe for it: 1 ½ ounce vodka, 1 ounce sake, 2 tablespoons brandied cherry puree, and 1 ounce sour mix.

If that doesn’t put you in the mood for spring in Washington, I don’t know what will.

Gary Imhoff


Dorothy Brizill,

Last year, DC Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti made the decision to outfit the office of the Attorney General with all the trappings of a state AG’s office, including a solicitor general to oversee all appellate litigation and appellant attorneys for the District government. Spagnoletti’s decision comes at a time when he continues to run his office as a law firm whose sole client is the mayor, rather than the District government or the residents of the District of Columbia. At the mayor’s press conference today, Spagnoletti announced the selection of Todd Kim as the District’s first solicitor general (

I raised two questions with the mayor at the press conference and later with Mr. Spagnoletti: what selection process was used to identify candidates, and what were Kim’s qualifications for the position. In response to the first question, Spagnoletti indicated that a national search had been done, but he said that he did not believe that the DC Bar Association (which has more than 59,000 active members, many with extensive experience as appellate attorneys) had been contacted or made aware of the job vacancy.

Kim is a 1997 graduate of Harvard Law School, and since 1998 he has worked as a staff appellate attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice. During that time, he has worked as a second chair on approximately eight to ten environmental law cases. He has had no managerial experience, although as solicitor general he will supervise many more senior appellate attorneys and staff in the Attorney General’s office. He has no working knowledge of the District government, and he is not a member of the DC Bar. Spagnoletti said that Kim had done appellate work on environmental issues, and that, even though DC’s appellate litigation has not involved environmental issues in the past, Kim would “grow to learn,” over time.

Neither Mayor Williams nor AG Spagnoletti discussed Kim’s chief claim to fame, however. He has had a successful second career as a television game show contestant. In 2004, he appeared both on “Jeopardy,” where he won a few thousand dollars, and on “Supermillionaire,” the successor to “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” on which he won a half million dollars (,


DDOT’s Religious Parking Plans
Ralph Blessing,

Since DDOT intends to give churchgoers special permits that will allow them to double park and otherwise flout DC traffic laws on Sundays, I’m wondering if I would be entitled to such a permit to double park next to my favorite Sunday brunch spot, as that’s what pretty much constitutes religious services for my family and me. Yeah, right. Still, I’m curious to see how DDOT will rationalize allowing Maryland and Virginia commuters to violate DC parking regs to the detriment of taxpaying DC residents. For what it’s worth, I sent the following message to DDOT yesterday when I first saw their request for comments.

“The bottom line, in my opinion, is that people in this day and age, whether going to church, the grocery store or the post office, don’t want to walk more than a few feet after getting out of their cars. The irony, of course, is that the reason we have the current church parking problem is because most people no longer live within walking distance of their houses of worship, as was the case ‘back in the day.’ They have now moved to the ’burbs but still continue attending their intown churches and somehow feel entitled to carte blanche parking privileges on the grounds that the churches were there before the current residents!

“In my neighborhood, Shepherd Park, we have a church parking problem at the corner of 13th and Eastern. Even though there is abundant curbside parking for anyone willing to walk more than a block (including a public garage just across the Maryland line), worshipers consistently park in the No Parking Anytime zones across the street from the church, and never get ticketed. As a 4D officer asked at a PSA 401 meeting when this topic came up, ‘Wouldn’t you rather that we ticket protesters downtown than people going to church?’ When I commented that both groups were exercising their First Amendment rights, he gave the impression that he had no idea what I was talking about. Then his superior commented that he, in good conscience, couldn’t ticket worshipers anyway since he was a practicing minister. Talk about conflict of interest! (He was the same officer who, by the way, would open the PSA meeting with the Lords Prayer until I complained.) But that’s the nature of church-state issues in the District.”


Possible Compromise on National Capital Medical Center
Jeff Norman,

We should all tone down the unnecessarily angry debate concerning the NCMC, and explore whether or not there could be a win-win situation for both the proponents and opponents of this proposal. The genesis of NCMC was the insensitive way in which DC General Hospital was closed. For many DC residents, DC General was a very important neighborhood institution. When that institution was lost, many people started to look for a replacement that would serve the same purpose; and now we have the NCMC proposal. The proponents think that there should be a hospital to serve the eastern half of DC; and the opponents say that what the residents really need is primary care.

Wouldn’t it be possible to put hospital rooms and primary care doctors in the same building? I think that it would be reasonable to create a NCMC that would contain an emergency room, the number of regular hospital rooms that the Certificate of Need process determines are actually needed, and enough primary care doctors to meet the needs of local Medicaid recipients. A few years ago, I remember hearing about a Medicaid proposal in which all Medicaid recipients would choose a primary care doctor, and for those who did not choose one, the Medicaid program would assign them one. If that proposal hasn’t already been implemented, then it should be as soon as possible.

I think that it is important that residents have an emergency room nearby in case they suffer medical emergencies, in which case time is of the essence in getting treatment. I also think that they should have primary care doctors who are just as conveniently located so that they do not have to use the emergency room to get routine, non-emergency care. However, for non-emergency or elective surgery, it should not be a problem if it takes residents an extra half hour or even an hour to get to the hospital. It does not have to be either the current NCMC proposal or nothing. I think that my proposal would meet the reasonable needs of people in the eastern half of DC with nearby emergency and primary care without creating more hospital rooms than are needed; and that should make most people reasonably satisfied.


Eminent Domain, a Moral Question
Ed Johnson, mvcorderito at yahoo dot com

In an article from August 4, 2005, in The Washington Times, the reporter noted, “A Quinnipiac University poll… found that 89 percent of voters in Connecticut want the legislature to limit eminent domain. A University of New Hampshire poll found that 93 percent of state residents were opposed to taking property for private development.” I don’t doubt the numbers in DC would be similar, which raises the question of why we have had so little citizen protest, and even less action from our city council. Who wouldn’t want to sponsor a bill that’s likely to have 90 percent support? Virtually all the talk about the stadium centered on money, not on whether it was right or wrong for the city to condemn the land. I think it’s possible to make arguments in favor of eminent domain as a means to overcome urban blight, even if I don’t agree with them. And there’s no question that developers that benefit from that use of eminent domain have clout in our city. However, I think an unspoken reason for the lack of action, particularly in the case of the adult venues around the stadium, is that we’ve allowed our government to assume the role of moral overseer for us.

Nobody really wants to jump on a “Save our Gay Bathhouses” bandwagon. How many of us would lobby our council members to relocate the adult video store to our neighborhood? It’s easy to take the moral high ground when the subject is comfortable -- look how much press the owner of Washington Sculpture Center got reading Machiavelli while the moving trucks circled. Citizens, as well as out elected officials, have responsibilities, but when the moral issues aren’t warm and fuzzy, we’ve abdicated some of our responsibilities to the government we’re railing about. I think the way we treated the former residents of the Arthur Capper Dwellings was reprehensible, but there wasn’t much of a hue and cry when they were kicked out. Not enough to stop the bulldozers, or even make a meaningful attempt to keep track of what happened to the people who lost their homes and community. We’ve allowed our government to use its powers to effect social change, while reserving the right to criticize them for it. Government can play a powerful role in changing society, and we should scrutinize its activities as closely as we do our own. After all, it is up to us to be sure our government reflects our social values, and carries them out as we would ourselves. And maybe they are.

We can blame our council members, the developers, the mainstream press, and even Congress about abusing eminent domain, but if we’re willing to close our eyes to certain cases, it will be hard to take the moral high ground. Gosh, it would be a lot easier if the city would condemn a shelter for abandoned kittens; that would surely get the ball rolling on legislation.


Missed the Patterson Kickoff
Ed T Barron, edtb@macdotcom

Just got back from eight days in Paris. Great Metro system (and such lovely stations) serves the whole city. If you live in Paris you can’t be more than three hundred yards from a Metro station. The system is, however, not handicapped friendly.

Missed the kickoff event for Kathy Patterson, who is campaigning for election as the chairperson of the city council. Kathy is clearly the best candidate for that job and truly represents the best interests of all the wards of the District. Her record, when exposed to the voters, will show how she has been the strongest, best prepared, councilperson and proponent of high quality safety and education for District residents. She’ll get my vote.


Patterson: Her Vote and Her Record
Keith Jarrell, Ward 6,

Nearsightedness by some of your readers over Councilmember Patterson’s vote on the new baseball stadium is unfortunate at best. It is really a shame that any voter in the District of Columbia be so narrow minded to judge anyone person on one vote, one idea, or one action. I have to wonder when was the last time Douglas Neumann [themail, March 12] got involved and researched the voting records of any of our councilmembers. Anyone who did so would quickly surmise that Councilmember Kathy Patterson has indeed been a true patriot for the District and the citizens. She has stood tall on the issues over the years, especially on public safety, holding lengthy public meetings of oversight on the Police Department and their policies and procedures. She has taken a serious and detailed look into the unsolved murder cases in our city. Demanding better detectives, pushing for more thorough analysis of crime scene information, and pushing for the chief to set higher oversight standards to assure that everything is done to bring this horrific cases to closure. She has pushed for stronger laws to protect each and everyone of us. She has been tough on juvenile crime, and other important issues.

Truth is, from someone involved, informed, and aware. Councilmember Kathy Patterson has a solid record of hands on commitment to the citizens of the District of Columbia that is virtually unparalleled. She has been open minded, determined, knowledgeable, and has always worked to seek out the truth and best source of information in every situation and with every instance. It is nothing more than short sightedness to portray her in any other light.

It is clear that her vote for a baseball stadium was cast in favor only after her long and detailed fact finding mission was brought to a close. She voted to support the stadium deal because she feels it will in time benefit and subsidize the budget enough to help us improve other facets of everyday life in the District of Columbia. She knew what she was doing! I don’t ask that anyone agree with her every time. I haven’t. But I do agree on one thing. That Councilmember Kathy Patterson is a true leader! She deserves the office of the chair of the council of the District of Columbia, due to her ability and her dedication. Not due to any one vote. She will lead,. She will approach each and every issue with caution, and with knowledge. Her vote will always be cast for the side that best represents a quality decision. She will represent the city and everyone that lives here. You can rest assured that with her as chair everyone will be heard on the issues that matter most. Kathy Patterson is the type of leader that we need more of!


What Are the Odds
Jonathan R. Rees,

Maybe somebody can enlighten me on an issue. That issue is, would I be right or wrong that in DC, it is very rarely that any project our local government embarked on was ever completed within budget. I really cannot recall within the past twenty years ever seeing a major project that was completed within budget. If I am correct, why would anybody expect out new Nationals stadium to beat the odds and not cost the taxpayers more than we are told it will at this time? If I am wrong, will somebody please let me know? Otherwise, all bets are off and I cannot wait to see the final bill.


Why We Are Paying
Ruth Holder, rutheholder at yahoo dot com

[Re: “Why Are We Paying,” Phil Carney, themail, March 19] It is my understanding that the company that began construction on the tower had first obtained all necessary permits, including zoning, and it wasn’t until after the tower was halfway built that the powers-that-be changed their mind and decided that tower wasn’t a good idea. It is reprehensible that anyone trying to do business in DC can get halfway down such an expensive road and then have those who previously gave permission reverse themselves like that.

Given the circumstances, it seems equitable to me that the company ought to have all of its expenses reimbursed, both for the building that was done and for the dismantling that now must be done. While it’s too bad that the taxpayers ultimately bear the cost, the taxpayers should look to city officials for accountability and not blame the company. They did not sneak in and build in the dead of night; they followed a lawful course.


Why We Are Paying to Take the Tower Down
Henry Townsend,

The answer, very sadly, is very simple. We, or our proxy, the DC government, granted to the builder the clear unambiguous right to put the tower up. After all, there were already two similar if not identically tall or situated towers already there. When we changed our minds, the builder quite reasonably wanted his money back.


Nora Bawa,

I agree with Ed Barron [themail, April 19] that good teachers are the sine qua non for learning. The problem with his observation is that high scores on high-stakes standardized tests, especially those that are not based on the curriculum, don’t tell you anything about what’s been learned. They just demonstrates how substituting "drill and kill" and test prep for learning effects test results.

Secondly, setting the bar higher in itself is not going to prepare students to jump over it. And finally, money alone is not the best incentive for good teaching. If you figure out a better way to identify a good teacher (than test scores), respect for his/her professionalism and autonomy is the best motivator and reward.


MPD’s Counterterrorism Efforts
Kevin Morison, Metropolitan Police Department,

The New York City Police Department should certainly be applauded for its efforts to combat the threat of terrorism in the Big Apple. Having a police force of 37,000 officers provides a lot of flexibility and resources to, for example, devote more than a thousand police officers specifically to anti-terrorism duties and to dispatch personnel to other countries for intelligence gathering. But the fact that the NYPD is doing a lot of innovative things in this area should not lead people to assume that the DC Metropolitan Police Department isn’t doing anything or, as suggested by Gary Imhoff [“Learning from Others,” themail, March 19], is simply “diverting its attention to expanding . . . video camera surveillance.” Here is just a sampling of what the Metropolitan Police Department is doing to respond to the threat of terrorism here in DC.

The Department has its own Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Section that coordinates the MPD’s efforts at terrorism prevention, response and mitigation. In addition to collecting and analyzing its own intelligence, the MPD has personnel in major intelligence centers around the region and is setting up information-sharing networks with NYPD and other major city departments across the nation. The Department has formed Special Threat Action Teams - groups of highly trained officers who, at a moment’s notice, can deploy to serious terrorism threats or incidents, including “warm” and “hot” zones. Using Homeland Security funds, the MPD has purchased a variety of specialty vehicles and equipment to support the STAT teams and other units. Every sworn MPD officer has received basic anti-terrorism training, and (unlike personnel in many other departments) every single MPD officer has been fitted for and issued Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) that would allow the officer to operate in many types of contaminated environments. This is crucial: officers cannot possibly serve and protect the public if they, themselves, are not trained and equipped to protect themselves first. Last year, the MPD launched Operation TIPP (Terrorist Incident Prevention Program) as a way to enlist the support of the business community in providing information and intelligence that may help authorities detect and prevent future terrorist attacks; remember, Oklahoma City, 9/11 and other terror attacks involved the purchase of goods and services from legitimate businesses (see,a,1238,q,555173,mpdcNav_GID,1578,mpdcNav,|32355|.asp for more information on Operation TIPP). The MPD works closely with other DC and federal government agencies on anti-terrorism planning, prevention, response and information sharing. And the Department is developing a number of new initiatives - including rapid deployment platoons that could be deployed in both terror incidents or natural disasters, and an intelligence “fusion center.”

Yes, in certain circumstances, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) does play a role in terrorism prevention and response. But compared with everything else the MPD has implemented thus far and is working on for the future, CCTV is just one relatively minor element in the Department’s overall anti-terrorism strategy. DC and other cities can learn a lot from New York ... and New York and other cities can learn a lot from DC. This is the cooperative spirit that major city police departments across the country have adopted, as we all work toward our common goal of preventing terrorism and protecting the public.


Flock Privacy
Clyde Howard,

[Re: “Flock,” by Tolu Tolu, themail, March 19] The requirement for the disclosure of the membership of churches by their pastors as to where they live, the number and total demographics for the unnamed DC citizens really is none of the business of the non-sectarians or non-churchgoers of that particular church. I, as a DC citizen, certainly do not have a need for such information, and I can only perceive that this information would be required for nefarious purposes. Further, since this information would be considered meddling in the private affairs of the church members I will suggest to anyone that would want this information to go to the far reaches of the moon.



Cleveland Park Library Book Sale, March 25-26
Jill Bogard,

The Friends of the Cleveland Park Library will hold its annual Spring Book Sale this Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26, from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the Cleveland Park Library (Connecticut Avenue at Macomb Street, NW — one block south of the Cleveland Park Metro Red Line). We have thousands of donated books in every category at great prices. Most hardcovers are $1.00, most paperbacks are fifty cents. Paperback mysteries, romances, and science fiction are priced at only 10 cents each in our downstairs bargain room. Also downstairs: music tapes, recorded books, videos, CDs, and free vinyl records. Upstairs: visit the "special" books department for a wide selection of art books, coffee table books, first editions, and out-of-print treasures. Also upstairs: classics, general fiction, reference, history, biography, and many more subjects. Questions? Call Nathalie Black at 362-3599.


National Building Museum Events, March 25, 27
Lauren Searl,

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

Saturday, March 25, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., National Cherry Blossom Festival family day (Opening ceremony at 4:00 p.m.). The National Building Museum and the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrate the official opening of Washington, DC’s 2006 cherry blossom season with a family festival full of hands-on fun exploring Japanese arts and design. Activities include creating a simple origami pop-up card and making buildings for an origami city. Participants can also explore the design principles found in Japanese gardens and create miniature ones to take home. Free. $5 suggested donation. All ages. Drop-in program. Visit for more details.

Monday, March 27, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Spotlight on Design Lecture. Since founding his own studio in 1985, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has balanced a concern for humanity with an interest in aesthetics. In response to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, he designed housing utilizing cardboard tubes. Similar quick, safe shelter was developed for the survivors of subsequent earthquakes in India and Turkey. His residential projects are seemingly simple explorations of form and technology. In his first public lecture in Washington, DC, he will discuss his pioneering work in temporary housing, and other projects, including the Nomadic Museum (a temporary, traveling art gallery that originated in New York), the Curtain Wall House in Tokyo, and a new outpost for the Pompidou Center, to be built in Metz, France. Following his lecture, he will sign copies of his books. $12 Museum members; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Prepaid registration required. Register online at or call 272-2448.


Info Sessions Scheduled for Arts Public Charter School, March 25, 29
Alicia George,

The Academy for Learning Through the Arts (ALTA), a free DC public charter school that opened its doors last September, has space available this coming fall for students in grades pre-K-6 (and will add 7th and 8th grades in future years). To learn more, visit the web site at, call 232-4014, or come to one of the public information sessions scheduled this month: Saturday, March 25, 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Petworth Branch Library; and Wednesday, March 29, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Woodridge Branch Library.


Cathy Wiss to Announce Bid for Ward 3 Council Seat, March 26
Mary Alice Levine,

ANC3F Commissioner Cathy Wiss and her supporters will celebrate the official kickoff for her campaign for the Ward 3 Council seat on Sunday, March 26, 2-4 p.m., at 3901 Alton Place, NW. The public is invited to attend this event.

Cathy Wiss is an experienced leader with deep roots in the community and a record of achievement in bringing positive change. She is running to continue to fight for DC residents in Ward 3 and throughout the city. As an ANC commissioner, twice the chairman of ANC3F; former president of the Tenleytown Neighbors Association; and former president of the Friends of the Tenley Library; Cathy has made a difference in our community — from negotiating the townhouse project at Nebraska Avenue and Albemarle Street that brought reasonable growth in scale with the neighborhood, to working with the developers and the community on the successful Cityline and Best Buy projects, to working for an improved design for the playing fields at Fort Reno. Cathy is a lawyer and has been an active volunteer in the PTA, the Audubon Naturalist Society, and Meals on Wheels. Cathy and her husband have two children who graduated from Janney, Deal, Wilson, and Edmund Burke schools. Cathy received her BA from Smith College and a JD from Catholic University Law School.

“I want to serve Ward 3 in the Council because I care deeply about our community,” says Cathy. “I have worked hard to produce real solutions to pressing problems. I will work for sensible land use and transportation planning, improved schools and libraries, and competence, openness, and accountability in government. Citizens must have a voice in matters that touch their lives. I am ready to listen — and to act.”

“Cathy Wiss is by far the most qualified candidate in the race,” said Cheryl Browning, Tenleytown community leader. “As more and more people get to know Cathy, they will recognize how much Ward 3 and the city need Cathy’s sensible and effective leadership.” If you would like to attend or would like a copy of Cathy’s brochure, please call Matt Pavuk at 362-8241 and leave your mail or E-mail address. You can also contact Matt Pavuk at


Property Assessment Appeals Due April 3
Natalie Wilson,

The Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) encourages property owners who believe that their proposed 2007 assessment does not reflect the market value of their property to file an appeal on or before the April 3 deadline. The statutory deadline for filing an appeal, April 1, is a Saturday this year; therefore, the appeal deadline has been extended to the next business day, Monday, April 3. The appeal process allows property owners to dispute the real property assessment determined by OTR’s Real Property Assessment Administration. Each property owner must start at the first level of appeal before going to the next level.

The appeal process is as follows: First Level, Administrative Appeal: This is an informal process in which hearings may be conducted in writing, via telephone or in-person, and the relevant information pertaining to the affected property is presented. Upon receipt of your appeal, you will receive a letter of confirmation. Second Level, Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals (BRPAA): If you are not satisfied with the decision from the first level of appeal, you may then file an appeal with BRPAA within 30 days of the date of the Notice of Final Determination of Assessment from the Real Property Assessment Administration. Third Level, DC Superior Court: If you are dissatisfied with the BRPAA decision, you may then file an appeal with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Appeal applications or appeal letters should be sent to the Government of the District of Columbia, Real Property Tax Administration, Attention: Appeals Section, PO Box 176, Washington, DC 20044. Assessment information and the appeal application are available on our web site at in the “Real Property Service Center.” Applications are also available at Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library; at local fire stations; by calling 727-4TAX (4829); or by visiting OTR’s Customer Service Walk-in Center located on the first floor of 941 North Capitol Street, NE, between the hours of 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.


Freed Muslim Slave and Georgetowner Yarrow Mamout, April 8
Jerry A. McCoy,

Historian James H. Johnston will talk about his research into the life of freed Muslim slave and Georgetown resident Yarrow Mamout. Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m., Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library (basement meeting room), Wisconsin Avenue and R Street, NW, 282-0214. Free. Yarrow was featured in the February 5 Washington Post Magazine article by Johnston, “The Man in the Knit Cap,” available at

The original 1820 painting of Yarrow by James Alexander Simpson, housed in the Peabody Room, will be on display during the lecture.



IBM Laptop
Josh Gibson,

Used IBM laptop computer for sale, $400. E-mail me at if you are interested. IBM Thinkpad 600X (2645), Windows ME, Pentium II, 20 GB hard drive, 128 MB RAM, CD-ROM (read only), Microsoft Office installed. Note: Does not work on battery alone — must be plugged in. Extras included: external read/write CD drive, with all necessary software and cables, extra A/C adapter, extra battery.



Critical Thinking Course or Tutor
Susie Cambria,

I am in need of either a college-level summer school course or a tutor this summer to help improve the critical thinking/writing skills of a fabulous young college sophomore who happens to be my stepdaughter. Recommendations and suggestions please!


Condominium Management Firm
C.A. Samuels, casamuels at gmail dot com

My thirty-six-unit condominium association in Columbia Heights, right at the edge of Petworth, is looking for good, aggressive, conscientious, accessible management. I’d love to collect recommendations from any residents of similarly-sized properties who are happy with their property management firms.


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