themail.gif (3487 bytes)

May 3, 2006

The Death and Life of Jane Jacobs

Dear Planners:

Though it’s late, we really should give a tribute to Jane Jacobs, the great lover and protector of cities and urban life who died on April 25. I highly recommend Leonard Gilroy’s op-ed article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “What Jane Jacobs Really Saw: Today’s Urban Planners Falsely Claim Her Legacy,” The key sentence: “Given urban planners' almost universal reverence for Jacobs, it is ironic that many have largely ignored or misinterpreted the central lesson of Death and Life — that cities are vibrant living systems, not the product of grand, utopian schemes concocted by overzealous planners.” Indeed, as Gilroy writes, Jacobs had a “vision of cities as dynamic economic engines that thrive on private initiative, trial and error, incremental change, and human and economic diversity. Jacobs believed the most organic and healthy communities are diverse, messy and arise out of spontaneous order, not from a scheme that tries to dictate how people should live and how neighborhoods should look.”

Jacobs wanted urban planners to stay mostly out of the way of what people did to their cities, and to function mainly as preservationists — to preserve the neighborhoods that worked well as neighborhoods for people to live in, whether or not they looked messy and run-down to outsiders. But that conflicts with the faith of urban planners that they know better, that they can artificially create vibrant living cities by tearing down old neighborhoods and building them anew, following their carefully designed central plans. That, of course, is exactly what Jacobs fought against. Faith in central planning is exactly the mistake that Washington continues to make. One of Jacobs’ last major public acts was to file an amicus brief in the Kelo v. City of New London case. ( That brief described her position: “Throughout her career, Ms. Jacobs has emphasized that the use of eminent domain for the ostensible purposes of ‘urban renewal’ and ‘economic development’ usually serves to benefit powerful economic interests at the expense of the poor and and working class communities it is supposedly intended to help. . . . Indeed amica believes that the clear-cutting of neighborhoods like Fort Trumbull is antithetical to the development of healthy, vibrant mixed-use communities she espouses.” The urban planners who want to remake Washington in the image of their schemes, but who profess fidelity to Jacobs’ vision, should go back to her works and learn the biggest lesson she taught: modesty.

Gary Imhoff


What’s a Little White Lie Among Friends?
Jonetta Rose Barras,

When Marion Barry was mayor, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) was the dumping ground for his political operatives. Kimberley Flowers, the agency’s new director, is following that tradition — except her cronies are from Baltimore, MD.

Speaking last month before the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation, Deborrah Jackson, the representative for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2741 and a DPR employee, accused Flowers of mismanaging the $51 million agency. Jackson said Flowers, on the job for eleven months, has never held a system-wide meeting with the agency’s nearly three hundred employees; has understaffed recreation centers; and has manipulated District laws to hire her friends.

Ironically, even Barry agreed on the latter: “It’s clear . . . they are using techniques to get around the city’s personnel laws.”

“I followed the process as I was told,” Flowers said in a telephone interview with me. If that’s true, then something’s wrong. [Finished online at]


Increased Graduation Requirements Deserve Your Close Attention
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

The proposal of DCPS Superintendent Clifford Janey to increase graduation requirements from the current 23.5 to 26.0 Carnegie units or credits may be one of those policy proposals that, at least for the moment, should take front seat interest away from the mayoral and council races. In a school system where student performance levels are several years behind by high school, where principals can hide failure with altered records and social graduation and teachers know that accountability is a word, not a policy, increased graduation requirements will weaken standards.

A week ago, the Department of Education told the superintendent that “DCPS cannot expect to improve the performance of its schools unless DCPS puts effective accountability systems in place.” This is true in most areas of DCPS operations. Earlier this month, I posted high school senior graduation rates (number of June graduates divided by the number of seniors in the October enrollment count, Senior graduation rates at Wilson High School, where I teach world and US history, average over 80 percent for the five years, 2001-2005, not including students who graduated without having satisfied all mandatory graduation requirements. A quick glance at external review of sixteen high schools, conducted in early 2003 (, shows the almost complete lack of internal controls over students' academic records, yet in June 2003 and 2004 Eastern High School managed a graduation rate of over 100 percent with quite a few others above 90 percent. DCPS does not monitor the integrity of its graduation reports -- or its use of federal funds or appropriated funds (for staff, supplies, equipment, etc.). As one who has reported abuses and witnessed the defensive responses, it is obvious that top officials don't want to know.

Now, as part of promotion and graduation requirements, DCPS is introducing a “Character Requirement”: “A record of good citizenship and conduct in middle school/high school is required for promotion/graduation. This requirement is of equal importance with those governing attendance, course credit, and specific subjects. The regulations of the Board of Education and Discipline Code for the DC Public Schools define these qualities of behavior.” Since young people are quick to notice hypocrisy, it would be a real help if we all knew which rules count and which ones are for show, and how one gains exemption from them. Does this mean that students will no longer roam the halls with impunity or stroll past administrators while talking on cells or concentrating on what comes out of their headsets? Please read the “Emergency and Proposed Rulemaking to Amend Chapter 22 of the Board Rules on Grades, Promotions and Graduation Requirements.”

[The proposed new DCPS graduation requirements are courses of study are now posted on DCPSWatch: the proposed DC Board of Education resolution adopting amendments to Chapter 22 of the Board Rules on Grades, Promotion and Graduation Requirements (; the draft proposed course of study and diploma scenarios for grades 6-12 (; the middle school requirements (; and the graduation requirement ( — Gary Imhoff]


The Mayor Is Engaging in Stealth Legislation
Robin Diener, Library Renaissance Project,

The mayor is engaging in stealth legislation, contrary to his promises of an administration of openness, accountability, and inclusion. First he hit us with a baseball stadium and now he's taking away our main library without notice. As themail has already reported, permission to lease the historic Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library is buried in the 2007 Budget Support Act. After a hastily called (but well attended) public hearing on April 22, Library Committee Chair Kathy Patterson recommended that the subtitle pertaining to the financing and construction of a new central library be removed from the Act and considered seperately. Councilmembers Sharon Ambrose, Kwame Brown, Jack Evans, Phil Mendelson, and Carol Schwartz have joined in recommending this to Council Chairman Linda Cropp; and as we go to press we are continuing to reach out to the rest of the council.

Because, unfortunately, we don't yet have enough votes to save MLK — even for discussion! People can still make their views known through E-mails, phone calls, or letters. Whether or not you are a fan of the aesthetics of MLK, if you are a reader of this listserv, you care about good government. Please contact your councilmembers and let them know that citizens have the right to be included in discussions about the fate of MLK. Ask them to vote to take the lease legisalation out of the Budget Suport Act. And if you can attend the Budget Meeting, for even half an hour, your watchful presence may help keep MLK Library from being sacrificed on the altar of the Mayor's “legacy” at least long enough for full and rational consideration of the possibilities for a central library in DC.

The Committee of the Whole Budget Meeting is Tuesday, May 9 at 10 a.m. at the Wilson Building. For further information contact Robin Diener at the Library Renaissance Project -- 387-7776 or 387-4210,


All Candidates Should Be in Candidate Forums
Artee Milligan,

On Monday, April 24, I called the DC Chamber of Commerce to confirm my arrival time to participate in the 2006 DC Mayoral Forum. I was told I could not participate in the forum. I felt that the response was odd, as I received an invitation to participate on Wednesday, April 19. An organizer from the DC Chamber called my campaign office to invite me. I accepted the invitation via E-mail and placed it on my calendar. I have been a legally declared Democratic candidate for mayor since January 11. Other candidates, including myself, have not been invited to participate in the DC mayoral forums. The Chamber incident was just one of them.

On several occasions, I have asked organizers if I could participate in their forums, and I was told point blank that I could not participate. The mayoral campaign is an opportunity to discuss issues that will shape public policy for the next administration. It is important that all legally declared candidates are included in the forums. When we silence a voice, we mute the process and it becomes impossible to have a complete and open dialogue. The mayoral election happens only once every four years; we have to make this opportunity open and objective so that we can have the greatest level of participation possible. Not just from a few candidates but for all candidates.

It is imperative that the news media cover all candidates in the interest of fairness and information sharing. There has to be a reliable way of information sharing, to date in America, the news media is it. Forum organizers and news media may obtain the candidates list from the DC government web site. Some organizers have decided to use as a source to obtain complete and updated information. I have been invited and will participate in those forums. Certainly, if all candidates are invited to the forums and some opt not to participate, the process can be declared objective. Using some other process less than this, leads to speculation, counter productivity, and under served District residents. I am sure that people in DC want to hear from all candidates. A few organizations should not filter the candidates who participate in the mayoral campaign. The campaign season has not yet begun and the primary is not until Tuesday, September 12. Petitions will not be released until Friday, May 12. Let’s have a robust dialogue and let the voters make the right choice for Mayor.


Tony (And Others) Are Wrong Again
Ed T. Barron,

Along with Marion Barry and Courtland Milloy, Tony Williams and a host of others are already raising complaints about the new owners of the Nationals' baseball team. That's a great welcoming start from the District to the new owners. The group that has purchased the Washington baseball team has both financial and sports management credentials. They, very likely, will make the baseball team work in DC. And if the team works right the city and the area surrounding new baseball stadium will prosper.

As for minority participation, I'm sure that will come. As for putting minorities in the seats, who knows what keeps them out. It's a problem that faces all of the major league teams regardless of ownership. To get minorities in the seats you need to develop programs in the community that will encourage attendance at regular season games. The new management team is smart enough to do that. Mayor Williams should welcome this new management team with open arms. Once again the Mayor is off base.


Eleanor Holmes Norton
Thomas M. Smith,

A committee of the city council has cut funding for the city's Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration in large part, according to the Washington Post, because the city does not know how to qualify for federal funds for services. The Post says every other state is receiving federal funds for transportation and home care for those with developmental disabilities. Isn't this something that Eleanor Holmes Norton and her staff might be able to help the city government with? Could somebody please tell me what Eleanor Holmes Norton is doing for city residents these days?


Taking Our DC Schools Back to the Four Basics
Jonathan R. Rees,

Despite the fact that DC has some of the best educated people in the United States this is up for debate. I find that too many of us are well educated in one area but not in enough areas. Thus most of us are guilty of being a master of one subject matter but of no other. Case in point, a few years ago I met this man who said he had a PhD. in education and was running for a position on our school board. He asked me: “Where are you from?”, and I said: “Puerto Rico.” He responded by saying that once I become a citizen, he would appreciate my vote! Duh. Here we have a man with a PhD. who did not know that Puerto Ricans are US Citizens. This man is just one on a long list of people I have met in DC who are considered part of DC’s brain bank. The sad thing is, a good education rarely equates to common sense or a knowledge of some of the most basics needed in life.

We hear often that Johnny just graduated with his Master’s degree but he cannot effectively read and write, and this is because Johnny had a watered down curricula in grade school and never really mastered English or the other basic subjects because he was too busy going on field trips, playing sports, or hanging out with friends. When I was going to school, I did not have a calculator or computer to assist me with my math and thus I learned how to do algebra, geometry, calculus, and other matters without the help of modern technology and thus I have retained what I learn. Sit a young person down with a basic math test but do not allow her/him the use of a calculator and was how he/she will fail that test.

My point here is, if it were up to me, I would take away from the DC Public Schools all computers and/or limit their use in a student’s studies, no more calculators allowed in the classroom or when taking tests and focusing on the four basic subjects from grades 1-8 and reserve additional studies in other matters for grades 9-12, as it was when I was growing up and my generation did from grades 9-12 learn a foreign language and other matters well.


First Things First
Ed T Barron,

Just transferred ownership of my '93 Volvo to my daughter in upstate NY. She had the car registered and insured. I then called Geico to cancel my insurance on the car. I was told by Geico that if I canceled my insurance before I turned in the old plates that I'd be fined $150 by the DC Department of Motor Vehicles. First things first, since I don't want to pay any $150 to the DMV.


A Campaign Operative’s “Unbiased” Opinion
Andy Litsky,

Chuck Thies wrote late last month [themail, April 26] about The Omnibus Public Safety Act of 2005, smugly slamming Phil Mendelson for his measured and thoughtful approach toward enacting this important piece of legislation. Thies stated that he worked for Mendelson in 2002 when he managed his reelection campaign and then “outed” Phil about his — gasp — detail-oriented work ethic. What Mr. Thies does not disclose, however, is that, according to the latest reports from the Office of Campaign Finance, he himself is now a paid consultant to Scott Bolden -- and well compensated for that effort.

While Mr. Thies’ contention that Councilmember Mendelson’s "legislative style is no longer in the best interests of District residents," may be subject for debate — but not certainly not demagoguery — what I believe is considerably more objectionable is a political operative who does not come clean about his paid affiliation with a challenger’s campaign. We have enough problems in District government with non-disclosure issues, but when that practice is sanctioned pre-primary, it speaks volumes about the potential, ultimate result.



French Street Neighborhood Association Sidewalk Sale, May 6
Alexander M. Padro,

Members of the French Street Neighborhood Association will hold a multi-family neighborhood sidewalk sale on Saturday, May 6, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., along French Street, located between 9th and 10th, R and S Streets, NW (Metro Green Line, Shaw-Howard University Station).

The sale will feature furniture, household items, antiques, books, and music. A bake sale will benefit the FSNA Kids Korps, which engages neighborhood youth in activities that help keep the neighborhood clean and green.


School Without Walls Benefit Auction, March 6
Patricia Chittam,

Please come and assist the School Without Walls Home School Association by participating in our March of the SWW Penguins on May 6 from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m., at the GW Media and Public Affairs building, 805 21st Street, NW. Come and bid on items such as a cocktail or luncheon cruise in a private sailboat on the Chesapeake; dream vacations in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Tobago; cozy cabin hideaway in West Virginia; lunch with Washington Post journalists; Mardi Gras dinner, Italian lasagna dinner, or Caribbean dinner served in your home; catered party for fifty; gift certificates for Jaleo, Cactus Cantina, Rocklands Barbeque, Sam & Harry's, the Tabard Inn, 701 Restaurant, Lebanese Taverna, Al's Pizza, and many more; exercise outfits and running shoes for men and women from Fleet Feet.

Are you excited yet? Also sterling silver pendants, silver bead earrings, pearl choker with matching earrings, penguin necklace from Tiffany, penguin brooch (how appropriate!); Yoga classes, swimming pool passes, rock-climbing, private tour of the National Zoo; Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals baseball tickets; framed Jacob Lawrence print and more original artwork and ceramics; Discovery Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Signature Theatre, Ford's Theater, Warner Theatre, Arena Stage, Folger Consort, 9:30 Club; Odyssey dinner cruise, high tea at the Four Seasons; out-of-town getaways at the Ashby Inn, Virginia Beach Resort Hotel, Red Fox Inn, Canaan Valley Resort; in-town getaways at the Carlyle Suites Hotel and Four Points Sheraton; and much, much more! Tickets $35.00 at the door. All proceeds benefit School Without Walls.


National Building Museum Events, May 13, 24
Lauren Searl,

Saturday, May 13, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., construction watch tour at new St. Coletta Center designed by Michael Graves. St. Coletta of Greater Washington, a non-sectarian, non-profit organization that operates a school and adult day program for children and adults with cognitive disabilities, is building a new 99,000-square-foot center in southeast Washington. Designed by architect Michael Graves, the building will provide a 9,000-square-foot “village green,” a community room with a catering kitchen, and a full court gymnasium. St. Coletta’s executive director Sharon Raimo will join John Fitzgerald and Tim Kastens, with Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, to lead a tour of the project, scheduled for completion later this year. Open only to museum members, $20. Space is limited. Prepaid registration required. To register, call the Museum at 272-2448 or visit

Saturday, May 13, 1:00 p.m., James Marston Fitch: Pioneer in Preservation Education. This film (40 minutes, 1996) surveys the contributions of a pioneer in the preservation movement, James Marston Fitch (1909-2000). The Graduate Program in Preservation that he founded at Columbia University, the nation's first, has become a model of a humanistic understanding of the built environment. Free. Registration not required.

Wednesday, May 24, 7:00-7:30 p.m. reception, 7:30-10:00 p.m. dinner. Dine by Design at Agraria. Enjoy an exclusive evening of fine dining, high design, and stimulating conversations with the architects and executive chef at a private, pre-opening premiere of Agraria Restaurant, designed by Adamstein & Demetriou (A&D). Owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union, Agraria will feature foods and ingredients produced by family farmers and small producers across the country. At a cash bar reception with an appetizer buffet, participants can explore the restaurant located in Georgetown’s Washington Harbor. During a four-course dinner that includes a wild mushroom and watercress bisque and sautéed breast of chicken with a vegetable medley, architects Olvia Demetriou, FAIA, and Theodore Adamstein will discuss their latest creation. A&D is behind some of Washington’s hottest restaurants, including IndeBleu, Zaytinya, and Zola. Tom Prescott, President of the Magnate Group, LLC, the firm managing the restaurant’s development, will explain its concept. Over coffee and dessert, Executive Chef Paul Morello, most recently executive chef at Les Halles, will discuss the culinary design of the dinner and overall menu. $105 Museum members; $125 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required by May 21 after which date no refunds are allowed. Price includes reception, dinner, and gratuity. Liquor and wines are on a cash basis. The restaurant is located at 3000 K Street, NW; garage parking available.



Baker's Rack $85
Fred Davidson,

Combines the functionality of a wine rack (can hold nine bottles), serving table, and two storage shelves. Made from wrought iron and features a black color wash. 19' wide x 19' deep x 77' height.


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

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

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