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April 12, 2006

Get Your Kicks Out

Dear Kickers:

Mayor Williams has hidden in the FY2007 Budget Support Act of 2006 a provision (Bill 16-679, Subtitle D, Section 2032) authorizing him to lease the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library for ninety-nine years, effectively disposing of public ownership of this architectural gem. At least, you and I will be at a rather advanced age when the lease expires and the property’s title reverts to the city. MLK is one of the most noteworthy buildings ever commissioned and built by the city government, although the government has neglected it shamefully ever since it opened. Getting rid of MLK is a major event, just as important and as wrong-headed as the government’s decision to dispose of our historic City Hall (now known as the Wilson Building) by leasing it to the federal government, and to move government headquarters to the undistinguished office building at One Judiciary Square. The MLK deal is wired and probably inevitable, but it may not go as smoothly and quietly as the mayor hopes. While two days ago Councilmember Kathy Patterson was planning only to hold a hearing on this provision of the bill, she has now written a memorandum to Chairman Cropp and Councilmembers Evans and Ambrose asking that the authorization to lease MLK central library be broken out and considered as a separate bill. Patterson writes, “I support the mayor’s proposal, but I am concerned that the issue may not receive the attention that it deserves, particularly from the public, if we consider it in the context of the budget and Budget Support Act.” In other words, if Patterson’s proposal is accepted, members of the public will have additional opportunities to vent their frustration and anger futilely before the inevitable deal is consummated.

Tom Sherwood, on WRC-TV, reports that Mayor Williams is expressing his own frustration over rumors that Major League Baseball will choose an ownership group for the Washington Nationals that he doesn’t favor (  In my current mood, I’m inclined to think it serves him right. Was he so naive that he expected gratitude from MLB for handing them the key to DC’s treasury? One last kick in the pants is exactly what he deserves from the greedy baseball moguls that he served so faithfully.

And one last kick in the pants is exactly what he is getting from his disappointed allies and supporters on the National Capital Medical Center issue. See below.

Gary Imhoff


National Capital Medical Center: The Mayor Does the Right Thing
Eric Rosenthal,

The Mayor should be applauded for turning away from the National Capital Medical Center, but that’s only the first step if we want to make Washingtonians healthier. We must develop a comprehensive plan to address serious health problems throughout the city. In moving ahead, we should remember that the seeds of the National Capital Medical Center’s failure were present at its conception: the proposal started with a call for a new medical center and was followed by an attempt to demonstrate it was needed. This time, we must take the opposite approach: start with our needs and then figure out how to meet them. Otherwise we will find ourselves with another failed project.

In developing a health plan for the District, we must be governed by certain principles. The most important is that improving health should drive decisions; every Washingtonian must have an opportunity for a long and healthy life. We must make sure there is access to a full range of quality medical services throughout the city — trauma, emergency, hospital, specialist and primary care. We should build on the Mayor’s efforts to increase health insurance coverage and to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room use. We should ensure that medical providers treat their patients according to accepted standards of care and we should optimize our ambulance system. Finally, we should provide the public funds we need, but we should be certain that services are delivered cost effectively.

We now have an opportunity to build a health care system that could enhance and extend lives. Let’s be sure we make the right decisions and take advantage of it.


Just Follow The Money
Leo Alexander,

On Wednesday, April 12, I went to my first DC mayoral press conference in nine years. The star of the show was two-term DC mayor Anthony Williams. The reason I went to this press conference was to look the man in the eye to get a general sense of what the real deal is with his apparent change of heart on the issue of the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC). After covering my share of politicians and newsmakers as a journalist for over a decade, I developed the ability to know when I’m not getting the whole truth. I got that gut feeling again after his press conference when I walked up to him at the podium and told him I fully intended to take him up on his offer to meet with him to discuss his position on NCMC. Williams said, "I just want to make sure other options are explored before we go any further in this process."

Let us review his Honor’s past actions. Before coming to the District, he was the chief bean counter for the city of Boston. When it came time to tighten the belt up there, Williams ordered the closing of their public hospital. Fast-forward to the DC race for mayor. Williams the candidate promised the 2,000 employees of DC General Hospital that he would never close that institution. One of his first actions following his inauguration was to recommend the closure of that financially troubled hospital to the Financial Control Board. That’s the strange thing about history. It has a way of repeating itself. After the Barry years, in some circles, Williams was seen as a breath of fresh air — a no-nonsense, efficiency-driven, cerebral, fiscal practitioner. In other sectors, he was viewed as a cold, heartless, Uncle Tom who lacked the ability to show any compassion. I sincerely believe he shares qualities from both of the aforementioned sectors of the city.

Here’s my point. The NCMC proposal, championed by At-Large City Councilman David Catania and embraced by the mayor, took years in the making. Two months ago, Williams made a grand show of signing the exclusive rights agreement (ERA) with Howard University, entering the District into a partnership to provide a Level-1 trauma center to fill the void in the eastern sector of the city left after the closure of DC General Hospital. This was clearly the right thing to do, because the District had broken several healthcare-related promises to the citizens in this badly underserved sector of the city. However, somewhere between signing the ERA and the mayor’s recently receiving an award from MedStar — operators of the Washington Hospital Center and Georgetown University Hospital and a staunch opponent of NCMC — he has decided to “explore other options.” I smell a backdoor deal between a lame duck mayor and a party with conflicting financial interests.

This reminds me of a scene from the movie All The Presidents Men, when the character played by Robert Redford met Deep Throat in an underground garage, and the anonymous government operative said, “Follow the money.” If the NCMC fails to come to fruition, the answer to why can be found with who benefits the most from maintaining the status quo. The DC Health Care Alliance is currently pumping tens of millions of city dollars annually into an alliance network of local hospitals to reimburse them for providing uncompensated care to the District’s poor. These hospitals don’t want to lose their share of these funds, and that is why the DC Hospital Association is so vehemently opposed to the NCMC. The tragedy of this whole scenario is if this hospital initiative fails, it only proves it has never been about providing quality health care to this fragile community east of North Capital Street. Just follow the money.


Smaller But Better
Richard Layman,

When I went to college, the University of Michigan was suffering greatly from the beginnings of the decline of Michigan’s automobile industry, which negatively impacted state tax revenues, which led to reductions in state appropriations to the university. The president of the university, Harold Shapiro, launched a “smaller but better” program to “right-size” the university and to focus the school on best-in-class programs (I never thought about it this way, but this presaged Jack Welch’s efforts at General Electric to have the company present only in the industry sectors where the company could be #1 or #2).

This was very contentious. Certain academic programs, such as the Department of Geography, were eliminated, and there was talk about disbanding the School of Natural Resources (my point at the time about this was that universities devoted to specific disciplines had a hard time grappling with applied interdisciplinary programs, etc.). Still, a book I read at the time was quite provocative. I can’t find the title, but it was published by Jossey-Bass in the early 1980s, with a title something like Cost-Containment in the Human Services. But it presaged the books (and consultants) that were hot in the 1990s on business process redesign and re-engineering, as it made the point that there are opportunities to rethink and improve services even in the face of budget reduction, and that crises can provide great opportunities.

Given that the Williams Administration appears to be backpedaling on its support for the creation of another hospital in Ward 6, there is a tremendous opportunity here to get the city to rethink the provision of health and wellness services, and how to best focus on and deliver services to address and reduce chronic health care problems disproportionately present in the communities that are seeking the hospital perhaps more in some respects for acknowledgment (similar to how FEMA-provided trailers are eagerly sought out by extremely low-income Katrina survivors as a form of tangible recognition by the US government), rather than because it is the best way to provide health care. We now have an opportunity to do a lot more than create the health care equivalent of a trailer park. We have the opportunity to take the commitment to building a hospital and convert it into a commitment to rethink and re-create a great health care system — as opposed to a hospital care-based system, focused on building a truly healthy community. I’d be interested in the thoughts of Dr. Rosenthal and others.

As to the design of the ballpark, the disappointment over the initial design of the baseball stadium has been covered in many quarters, including the great photo-oriented web site; in my blog,; and in the Washington Post, including Tom Boswell’s column, “DC’s Diamond in the Rough” and the story “Form Follows Bottom Line: Stadium Design Maximizes Profit.” We’re not happy. Design on the cheap is a post-WWII American tradition that time after time proves to be shopworn. Perhaps things will be different this time.


Safeco Field, Seattle
Ed T. Baron, edtb1@macdotcom

This past weekend I was at the Safeco Stadium in Seattle to watch the Mariners play the Oakland Athletics. Safeco Stadium is hardly a beautiful stadium; it is made of pretty ugly steel all the way around. It is quite functional, however, and it works inside very well. The seating incorporates an upper deck three quarters of the way around the stadium, leaving the north-facing side with only lower deck boxes. We sat in the nosebleed section on the south side (first base line) and had a magnificent view of the Seattle skyline. The stadium sits just south of the city. What a vista.

Reserved upper deck tickets were $18 for our hosts and only $10 for us seniors. It did not rain that day, but if it had the stadium has a massive dome that slides over the whole place to keep the home team dry during the rainy season (which runs from January first through December thirty-first in this part of the country). Safeco Field was built with public funds. The cost was $365 million, which included the moveable roof cover. The stadium was started in 1997 and completed for the first game in 1999. They got a pretty good bang for their buck.


Slots Update
Dorothy Brizill,

The promoters of a slots gambling casino have reintroduced their proposed voters initiative, with a few changes from the previous version (the new version is available at The DC Board of Elections and Ethics will hold a hearing on whether the initiative is the proper subject matter for an initiative on Wednesday, May 3, at 10:30 a.m., at their offices, 441 4th Street, NW, Suite 280N.


Voters Are Bored with the Choice of Candidates
Jonathan R. Rees,

Recently, Ward 3 had its first DC city council chair debate, and the turnout was the worst in the history of DC, with just a meager eighty people attending, and half of them being candidates for other offices or friends of the two debating candidates. Also, the turnout for all other candidate debates has been only half of what it was in 2002.

With only half the number of people bothering to show up at the candidate debates, this is a clear sign that voters are not happy with the choices. As a matter of fact, voters are not very happy with the choices for mayor, council chair, and some of the ward races. If things do not liven up, this election primary may see a very low voter turnout, way below the norm of 40 percent.


DPW Schedule for Emancipation Day
Mary Myers,

In observance of DC Compensated Emancipation Day, a new District holiday, DPW offices will be closed and most public services will be suspended on Monday, April 17. On that day, there will be no trash or recyclables collection; no street sweeping; and no DPW parking enforcement, including meters, rush hour and residential parking restrictions. However, parking restrictions will be enforced along the posted Emancipation Day Parade route (Pennsylvania Avenue between 4th and 14th Streets, NW). Vehicles parked on the parade route will be towed.

All municipal services resume on Tuesday, April 18. Following the Monday holiday, trash and recyclables collection will slide one day for the remainder of the week in Supercan areas. In twice-weekly collection areas, service will slide on Tuesday and Wednesday, with normal collections on Thursday and Friday.

To see the holiday trash collection schedule for the remainder of 2006, visit the DPW web site at For more information about DC Emancipation Day festivities and commemorations, visit


DMV Schedule for Emancipation Day
Janis Hazel,

In observance of DC Compensated Emancipation Day, a new District holiday, DMV Service Centers, Southwest Inspection Station and Administrative offices will be closed on Saturday, April 15, and Monday, April 17. All DMV facilities will resume regularly scheduled hours of operation Tuesday, April 18.

For more information about DC Emancipation Day festivities and commemorations, visit For DMV Service Center locations, holiday schedules, and normal hours of service, please visit or call the DMV call center at 727-5000.


Cars Are the Problem
Malcolm L. Wiseman, Jr.,

The solution to Washington’s parking is to use those traffic lights that control entry at on-ramps to major congested highways around the country. On all inbound routes there will be this smart traffic light and a counter just like they have in parking lots to say when they are full.

You can’t drive into Washington until the citywide counter says there is a parking space available in your sector. (We will know there’s one because we count them as they leave.) You can pay an optional fee to enter immediately, run the light and get a camera ticket, or you can wait in line for a parking space.

Oh, I forgot. We can’t do this ‘cause first the master would have to say it’s okay.


MLK Parade Brings Out the Best of DC
Kathryn A. Pearson-West,

Riding in the vehicle of one of the candidates seeking public office this year, I enjoyed seeing all the people come out to participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr., parade that was moved from January to April. Even though it was raining steadily, there was no chance that this annual event was going to be canceled, and any thoughts of crime or other problems of the world were put aside. We were not wondering for the moment how to take care of or guide the many young people that have lost their way or the foster children in need of loving homes. The rainy day was a glorious day as people came out not only to celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but also to celebrate and appreciate Washington, DC, particularly Wards 8 and 7. The young people were out there stepping in the rain, making it all worthwhile to come out and see.

The political candidates assembled early to assure themselves of just the right spot in the parade. Mayoral candidate Linda Cropp was near the front with council chair candidate Vincent Gray walking gallantly not far behind. At-Large Council candidate A. Scott Bolden walked prominently behind them with his Bolden Brigade of supporters passing out candy to the spectators and followed by his team’s two vehicles in tow. Marie Johns, candidate for mayor, followed close behind Bolden with an amazing billboard on her truck. That was most impressive, outstanding in fact. Also in the parade were mayoral candidate Vincent Orange with his many troops and candidate for council chair, Kathy Patterson, with signs on her car.

There may have been other candidates there as well that I may not have seen from my vantage point, but these political folks had their teams and vehicles decorated to be seen and to send a message that they want to be recognized by the voters and that the community was important on this particular day. Councilmember Marion Barry, Ward 8, and those that worked with him are to be commended for keeping the parade alive another year and for galvanizing so much support and so many participates. Too bad it’s cold in January and raining in April, so no date seems like the perfect date for a parade.

The parade inched down Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue in Ward 8 to Good Hope Road to Minnesota Avenue in Ward 7. The parade started at Ballou Senior High School with young people in various bands stepping high and looking good. It was interesting to see a new building on the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and new housing elsewhere in Ward 8. On this day, it seemed like there was a special camaraderie with the citizens of DC. It was special for all that came out in the rain. The parade represented the possibilities for a city continuously improving. It represented what could be — people coming together to represent a vision of unity and opportunity. It represented what people do for the good of the city, coming out in the rain to make a statement that we believe in Martin Luther King’s dream and we believe in the District of Columbia. This was day that made one feel connected with others, ready to make a difference for the common good and the future of diverse groups. The parade brought people together, reducing the communication barriers that may separate them. This event was a time to fellowship in an international city in two up and coming wards and at the same time represent the MLK dream as best we could, rain or not.

Next year, the parade will be even better and there will be new public servants strutting down the Avenue with signs on their cars and the community’s best interest in their hearts. DC, continue to live the dream; and Wards 8 and 7, continue to make a difference in the city. Strut your stuff. Can’t wait until the next parade in another ward.



City Council Chair Forum in Ward Eight, April 15
Mary Wolfe,

The Ward Eight Democrats, Inc., a chartered organization of the District of Columbia Democratic State Committee, will sponsor a candidates’ forum for city council chair on Saturday, April 15, 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m., at Washington Highland Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. Candidates Kathy Patterson, Councilmember Ward Three, and Vincent Gray, Councilmember Ward Seven, will face off on issues and questions posed to them by a panel and moderator.

The format is as follows: opening statements, three minutes each; for one hour, a three-member panel will pose questions in the areas of education, business, economic development, safety, employment, housing, and health care; for one hour, the audience will pose questions to the candidates; and closing statements, three minutes each. The timekeeper will be Sandra “SS” Seegars, second vice president of the Ward Eight Democrats and Chairperson of ANC-8E. For additional information is required, please contact Mary Parham Wolfe at 574-9625 or


Rem Koolhaas and Newer Orleans, April 24, 29
Lauren Searl,

The architecture of Rem Koolhaas is recognized worldwide for combining technology, function, and design in groundbreaking ways. In his first lecture in Washington since 1996, the founding principal of the Rotterdam-based architecture firm Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) will discuss his recent and current projects, including store designs for Prada, the Seattle Public Library, the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the CCTV Television Station and Headquarters in Beijing, and share his views on the current state of architecture. After his lecture, signed copies of his books will be available in the Museum Shop. This program is presented with the kind assistance of the Royal Netherlands Embassy. Monday, April 24, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. $25 Museum members, $35 nonmembers, $15 students. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW (Judiciary Square station, Metro Red Line). Prepaid registration required. Register online at or call 272 -2448.

In addition to the Koolhaas lecture, the National Building Museum and the Royal Netherlands Embassy present Newer Orleans -- A Shared Space. The exhibition brings together six Dutch and American architectural firms to share their vision for symbolic and shared spaces for the Crescent City that present a blueprint design of a New Orleans with a clearly defined city center and new green spaces that connect to the river. April 29 through July 30. For more information, visit


Ward 6 Council Candidates Forum, April 25
Jan Eichhorn, Ward 6 Democrats,

There will be a forum for Democratic candidates for Ward 6 council candidates on Tuesday, April 25. Doors open at 7 p.m.; the forum begins at 7:30 p.m. At Hine Junior High School Auditorium, 335 8th Street, SE A non-binding straw poll of Ward 6 Democrats starts at 7:30 p.m. and ends fifteen minutes after the conclusion of the forum. Participating Democratic candidates Will Cobb, Curtis Etherly, Keith Jarrell, Leo Pinson, and Tommy Wells have confirmed their participation.

Cosponsored by the Ward 6 Democrats, the Voice of the Hill Newspaper, CHAMPS (the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals), the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, the Stanton Park Neighborhood Association, and the Ward 6 Mini Commission of the Office on Aging. A media panel of Ward 6 residents will question the candidates; participants are Lida Holland Churchville of The Southwester, Sam Ford of ABC-TV, Andrew Lightman of The Hill Rag, Mark Seagraves of WTOP News, and Patti Shea of The Voice of the Hill. Written audience questions will provide other Ward 6 residents with an opportunity to ask hard questions of the five Democratic candidates who seek to represent Ward 6 on the DC council.



Housing for AmeriCorps Volunteers
Artee Milligan,

Each year young adults from around the country come to Washington, DC, to serve as AmeriCorps volunteers. For an eleven-month term, volunteers receive a modest stipend of $7,000, which roughly calculates to $600 per month after taxes. With food, transportation, and other expenses to cover, volunteers do not have any additional funds to pay for housing. Metropolitan/Delta Adult Literacy Council (M/DALC) and the Notre Dame Missions Volunteers (NDMV) are actively working together to recruit new members for the September 2006 term and to secure affordable housing. We are asking local residents in the DC, VA and MD area, to provide a room in their homes without a cost in exchange for light housekeeping or babysitting services.

If you or someone you know is interested in providing affordable housing for the NDMV, please contact Chenniah Randolph, ABE Director, at 234-2665 or Sister Marie Romejko at 301-320-4977, or E-mail For more information about AmeriCorps volunteers, go to


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