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May 21, 2006

Getting Schooled

Dear People:

In a personal E-mail, Marc Borbely provided the correct link to his petition on school closings,, and said that “I’m worried that people who aren’t able to read the petition won’t understand that it doesn’t oppose the closings per se, but asked the board not to move forward at least until more answers can be provided.” Below, Borbely and a few others comment on Superintendent Janey’s proposal for the initial round of school closings. So far, people are mostly critical, and the criticism, if I can paraphrase it, is largely that DCPS hasn’t adequately consulted with the public, and when it has consulted hasn’t listened to what the public has told them. Does anyone want to step up to defend Janey’s plan? If it’s so bad, why have the Post, the Times, and the school board supported it enthusiastically? Do the people just not understand the wisdom of the powers that be, or are the planners and their consultants so sure of their wisdom that they don’t see the need to take into account what the people really want?

Gary Imhoff


Another City’s Expensive Cast-Off
Dorothy Brizill,

As I reported in themail on May 17, the DC Library Board of Trustees did in fact hold a special meeting on Thursday at which it voted to appoint Ginnie Cooper as the new head of the DC Library system. Cooper is currently the executive director of the Brooklyn Public Library. At a press conference following the board meeting, neither John Hill, chairman of the Trustee Board, nor Ms. Cooper would discuss the terms of her appointment. However, the next day, Friday, Hill issued a press release indicating that Cooper is expected to assume her position this summer, probably in August, and that her pay rate will be $205,000 ($179,946 plus a “retention incentive” of $25,054). In Brooklyn, Cooper was paid $200,000 per year to oversee the fifth largest independent library system in the US, with sixty libraries serving three million residents. In DC, Cooper will be paid $205,000 to oversee a much smaller library system of twenty-five library facilities serving 570,000 residents. Her salary continues the Williams administration’s policy of massive pay inflation for top-level government officials. As the May 19 edition of The Common Denominator reports, the library’s current interim director, Francis Buckley, is paid $138,159; and the library’s previous director, Molly Raphael, earned $121,000 after thirty-three years of service to DCPL.

In a press release announcing Cooper’s appointment, the library board says that “Cooper brings a clear vision of excellence in library services, as well as success in library management and fundraising to the executive director position.” However, New York City newspapers have been replete with stories of Cooper’s management snafus. Last year she had to repay $27,000 after auditors found that she had taken more than six weeks of vacation that were not allowed in her contract. The New York Sun reported that “the Brooklyn Public Library system has struggled with budget cuts, and its branches are currently open fewer hours that those of either of the city’s other two library systems, New York and Queens.” The New York Daily News quoted NYC Councilman Charles Barrow on Cooper’s appointment to head the DC Library system: “I’m sure there won’t be a whole lot of tears . . . over her departure.”


The Saga Continues
Jonetta Rose Barras,

Personnel problems at the DC Department of Parks and Recreation — where the agency’s director, Kimberley Flowers, last year created new positions for her friends from Baltimore — have taken an interesting turn. Shawniqua Ottley, acting human resources director at the DPR, was placed on administrative leave following allegations that she used, without authorization, the computerized personnel system to increase her salary. This was discovered, say government sources, after I reported Ottley’s salary and title in an article in themail about Flowers’ deliberate circumventing of the city’s personnel laws. Ironically, Flowers and others in Mayor Anthony A. Williams administration’s cite those same laws as the reason for not answering specific questions about the nature and length of Ottley’s leave. A review into the allegations is underway. If Ottley is found to have used the pass code without authorization, she could face criminal charges, say government sources. Ottley could not be reached for comment.

This is sweet for Flowers and her Baltimore cohorts, particularly Roslyn Johnson, who admitted to this reporter that she inflated the salary and employment history in a resume provided to the DC Office of Personnel to obtain her nearly $106,000 deputy director position at the DPR. Flowers can now blame everything on Ottley. Meanwhile, sources say that Johnson is arguing she submitted two resumes and that the wrong one landed in the personnel files, according to government sources. Were Ottley around, she might confirm this story, with a caveat: the first resume was sent back by OP with a note that Johnson didn’t qualify for the position, say government sources familiar with the situation. A second resume, the one obtained by me, was sent to the OP. It was, by Johnson’s own admission, inflated. The rest is history.

As the twin investigations take place, residents complain about the quality of service including maintenance at some centers. Moreover, they say Flowers and her team also have shown a disregard for citizen-advisory groups, which often foot the bill and put in thousands of volunteer hours to improve their neighborhood facilities. Interestingly, DC Councilmember Kathy Patterson, head of the committee that oversees the DPR and who is running for chairman, has yet to hold a hearing. It’s clear Flowers and her handpicked crew are mismanaging the agency. They should resign.


Non-DC Vehicles, Overnight Parking, and a Failure to Enforce
Mark Eckenwiler, themale at ingot dot org

If your block is parked up with the same non-DC vehicles taking space night after night, you can thank Councilmember Carol Schwartz and Acting Parking Services Branch Manager Kathy Matthews (, 541-6062). I say this because despite repeated complaints, DC’s out-of-state parking regulations (ROSA) are being enforced in what can only be described as a half-assed way.

Under 18 DCMR 429, vehicles “housed” in DC must be registered within thirty days. Moreover, the regulations provide for the ticketing (at $100 a pop) of offenders, according to a detailed schedule of observations. (In sum, the vehicle has to be seen by enforcement at least three times: 1) an initial observation, 2) a second time at least fifteen days later (at which point a detailed written warning must be issued), and 3) an observation at least fifteen days after the warning.) In practice, an out-of-District vehicle is unlikely to be ticketed before two or three months pass, owing to a variety of factors. Under the regulations, after the first ROSA ticket is issued, the offending vehicle is supposed to be ticketed each and every time it is seen thereafter by enforcement, with no further grace period.

To support ROSA enforcement, the Department of Public Works has set up a database to keep track of vehicles over time. However, the current practice is that once a ROSA ticket is issued, the enforcement clock on that vehicle is reset, restarting the cumbersome warning-and-waiting grace period. As a result, scofflaws can expect to be ticketed at most once every two or three months (again, owing to several factors, including a lack of adequate enforcement staff), rather than every night as DC law requires. Having carefully documented this process in my neighborhood and confirmed it in conversations with Parking Services workers, I brought the problem to the attention of Carol Schwartz, who chairs the Public Works Committee. I also spoke with and E-mailed Kathy Matthews, who is DC’s top parking enforcement official. Ms. Matthews obstinately insists that the regulations are being followed, ignoring irrefutable evidence to the contrary and refusing to reply to my E-mail. So far as I can tell, Carol Schwartz has done nothing.

I bear my neighbors no ill will, but I have this crazy idea that they need to register their cars in DC, as I have, if they actually live here and want a piece of the increasingly scarce overnight parking pie. (I also don’t quite understand why people refuse to register here. Are they avoiding jury duty? DC income tax? Informed speculation is welcome. Crazier still, I have the irrational notion that the District’s public officials should ensure the proper enforcement of the laws, especially when those rules protect the interests of District residents dumb enough to abide by the law.


Monday’s Busy Calendar
Dorothy Brizill,

Tomorrow, the Council’s Committee of the Whole will consider three bills that propose charter amendments that could appear on the November ballot. They all focus on public education in DC. Bill 16-669, the DC Education Rights Charter Amendment Act of 2006, would “amend the Charter of the District of Columbia to recognize a fundamental right to educational opportunities as a foundation of the District’s democratic system of government and to require that the District of Columbia provide a system of high quality public schools to every child.” Bill 16-708, the District of Columbia Education Policies Charter Amendment Act of 2006, would “amend the Charter of the District of Columbia to require the District of Columbia to facilitate the provision of a system of high-quality public schools by requiring that the Board of Education and the Superintendent establish policies to ensure that all 3rd grade students are able to read independently and understand the fundamentals of mathematics upon being promoted to the 4th grade; and all 8th grade students are able to read at or above grade level and are exposed to pre-algebra concepts in preparation for high school.” And Bill 16-751, the School Budget Purpose Charter Amendment Act of 2006, would “amend the Charter of the District of Columbia to expand the role of the Council in approving the annual budget for the Board of Education.”

Also tomorrow morning, federal Judge Richard J. Leon is scheduled to sentence Gwen Hemphill for her role in the embezzlement of funds from the Washington Teachers Union. Hemphill’s sentencing has been delayed since she was convicted in September on twenty-three counts, including embezzlement, money laundering, conspiracy, and wire fraud. Hemphill and her legal council have argued that she suffers from a “mental disease or defect” that “so diminished her mental capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct that she deserves leniency in sentencing.” The US government prosecutors are asking that she be given a minimum of a nineteen-year jail sentence under federal sentencing guidelines. Hemphill’s attorney is asking that she be sentenced to home confinement.


The Bad News Is
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

With all the complaints about the Washington Nationals and their obsolete stadium and services, there were over thirty thousand folks at the game Friday night between the Nats and the Baltimore AngelOs. We sat in the lower deck, a bit far back in the middle of a large contingent of Baltimore fans. People have complained about the bad food, but the good news is there’s plenty of it. Lots of folks were eating and drinking up a storm. There was a lot more interesting action in the stands than on the field. The Nationals lost again and played pathetically in both the field and at the plate. The Orioles were only a bit better. A few very good defensive infield plays for both teams and one rifle shot line drive hit the Nationals’ pitcher smack on the shoulder of his pitching arm. Amazingly, he pitched another scoreless inning and a half, trailing by only one run. That run was due to a fielding misjudgment that resulted in a triple. Will attend at least one more game in September wearing my bright red shirt in honor of my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals.


Janey Does the Pussyfoot on School Closings
Len Sullivan,

In my fifty-odd years in industry, federal government, and independent consulting, I never ran across a successful manager or leader who bellied up to a serious, unpopular but necessary, action by taking tiny steps on tippytoes hoping no one would notice, mind, or stay tuned. Marc Fisher’s comments are dead on as far as they go. What Mr. Fisher missed is that each time Janey comes back with another trivial and ineffective cut, the resistance will be higher, better organized, and more powerful in extracting promises not to keep pursuing the real goal. Each small ineffectual cut lowers the chances of ever achieving the essential objectives of personnel upgrading and property disposition. For those committed to the supposition that Janey is competent to hold his well-paid managerial job, the only rational conclusion is that he is determined to defeat any meaningful consolidation of our capital city’s crumbling, nationally embarrassing, school system. He is setting up the perfect blameless excuse for not being allowed to do his primary job. If the School Board supports this sham, they should share his shame.


School Consolidation and Rightsizing
Joyce Robinson-Paul, Chairperson of the Local School Restructuring Team,

Rightsizing is really wrongsizing. Why take space from children and cramp them into a school like sardines? Overcrowding has never been an atmosphere of learning. There are far reaching consequences to the decision of closing schools by June 28. Why would DCPS put pre-K (elementary children with adolescents)? Living four blocks from Terrell Junior High, the teens are out of control. Every third word out of their mouths is a curse word. I have witnessed them punching, kicking, and beating homeless people trying to get to something for a free meal. Several turf wars have resulted in shooting, beatings, and assaults on each other. Why are we putting our toddlers and pre-K children in this crossfire? We send their mothers out to work or to job training and they pray everyday that their children make it across the street safely and back in the house without being victims. Adolescents are going through several changes in middle school; it is disheartening to put our little people in this setting.

Additional concerns are as follows: 1) If rightsizing takes affect, many of the parents are going to put their children in Charter Schools. 2) Many of the charter schools will move into the closed buildings, which will attract many of the displaced students. 3) DCPS will lose many more students and continue to be underpopulated until the demise of the Public School System. 4) DCPS has no expertise in handling real property so any money saved will have to be used to create a Facilities Management and Realty Team that handles the vacant buildings. How will they address security, fires, vandalism, destruction of vacant property, and collecting rent? 5) DCPS should not be in the business of becoming a real estate magnate; its priority should be educating the District children and residents. 6) DCPS and the Board of Education is paying over 42 million to rent property for office space. Why not modernize and move into the vacant buildings that they are closing, and save the taxpayers money and have additional funds to educate the children?

It appears that DCPS is cutting off their nose to spite their face, since they are feeling in the dark and making up a plan as they go along. Sitting through several hearing lately, it appears that the Board of Education is approving everything that is proposed. Long ago, when parents fought to keep schools open, we had very few free alternative to educate our children. Now we can move our children to charter schools and leave DCPS with underpopulated schools. Are we trying to save public education or destroy it in the nation’s capitol?


Rightsizing Proposal
Rosalyn I. Jones,

As with any plan, what looks workable on paper sometimes turns out to be disastrous upon implementation. This plan is a nightmare waiting to happen. We all understand that changes need to be made for the health of the DC education system, but we can’t sacrifice our children’s need for a safe and stable learning environment. It would seem that DCPS has not taken sufficient steps to bring the stakeholders together for discussion of the plan’s specifics (time lines, project mangers, etc.), logistical problems during implementation, equipment and maintenance concerns, or the staffing issues that will result from the proposed closings and consolidations.

It seems very unlikely that DCPS can accomplish such a monumental change before the SY06/07 school year begins without considerable input from school administrators and the affected communities.

Marc Borbely,

The school system is right to address the excess space it now has as a result of declining enrollment. However, many public school supporters worry that schools will be closed this summer not because it will be best for kids or the school system, but because fiscal conservatives are demanding it, no matter the human cost. The public deserves a full explanation of how the expected financial and academic benefits will outweigh the expected disruption to families and neighborhoods. Some of the closures may put children in better schools; any that do not should not move forward. In February, the school board planned to approve closures this summer and implement them next summer. In March, the board decided to approve and implement the closures this summer — a timetable that top school officials have acknowledged publicly is "compressed."

Our latest open letter to the school board, signed by 200 parent, teacher and community leaders, and concerned citizens, and delivered before the initial vote this past Wednesday, asked the school board not to formally propose specific school closures until it had answers to such questions as: 1) how were these schools targeted for closure? 2) What will be done this summer to ensure that the receiving schools are ready for the new students? 3) How much money will be saved by closing each of these schools this summer? 4) Why not close headquarters, before closing a school? and 5) Is there buy-in from families, to ensure they won’t just leave DCPS, causing a further downward spiraling of enrollment? (See for this letter and one we sent in March, asking the school board to reassess its timeline.)

The school board moved forward this week without responding to our letter or providing answers to these questions, but it did direct the Superintendent to release transition plans for each school at least one business day before each of the upcoming school-specific school-closing hearings. Sign up at if you would like to help make sure that the school closure process causes minimal chaos and disruption to families and neighborhoods; that each closing, merger, or co-location that moves forward makes sense for the children and families involved; and that the necessary resources and support (from DCPS, parents, teachers, students, and neighborhoods) will be present.


Another Scam Uncovered
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

At this time of year the gardens in northwest DC are spectacular. Many of the local gardeners have beautiful roses. These are tough to raise because of diseases and bugs, particularly aphids. Companies have been marketing boxes of lady bugs in some of the publications read by local gardeners. For only $21 you can get about 4500 lady bugs. Each lady bug is capable of devouring up to 5000 aphids. This, unfortunately, is a scam. You’ll get the 4500 lady bugs but they won’t be around for long since they are raised in the west and will promptly migrate back to where they were raised. I think I’ll prowl around the neighborhood with my net and catch some local lady bugs.


IRV Voting
Jenefer Ellingston,

[Re: Harold Foster, “Instant Run-Off Voting,” themail, May 17] The Statehood Green party has a plank in its platform in support of IRV (and later, proportional representation). From its beginning, the national Green Party has opposed the “winner take all” election process that prevails on state and federal level. IRV is a small step toward democratizing our voting system by allowing a wider choice and, at same time, demanding that the winner must gain the majority of the vote, not the plurality. Another virtue of IRV is that many disaffected and discouraged voters have a reason to vote, because IRV widens the choice.

Several years ago, two Statehood Green members did the rounds of the city council to sound them out on passing a bill to install IRV. Some of the councilmembers had never heard of IRV. No one was willing to take the lead on such a bill, wondering what would it cost? We also inquired about its feasibility with the company that designed our voting machines. Yes, for $100,000 they could install IRV in our machines (maybe the cost was higher — I’m going on memory). Maybe you can persuade the council of the need for IRV and that the cost is not prohibitive.


DMV Counterpoint
Paul Wilson, dcmcrider at gmail dot com

In contrast to David Sobelsohn’s woes in dealing with DMV (themail, May 17), I can offer two recent experiences that prove the District government does provide good, hassle-free customer service on occasion. Back in February I lost my driver’s license while on vacation. Don’t even get me started on the hassles involved in procuring a rental car in the absence of a driver’s license. The Department of Motor Vehicles, on the other hand, was a joy to deal with in this particular fiasco. I requested a duplicate drivers license on-line, paid the $7 fee by debit card, and it was in my hands by return mail in about five business days.

Second experience: I needed a residential parking permit for my motorcycle. Again, the transaction was handled promptly and correctly, via the web site interface and return mail. I was even sent the correct sticker, which has not always been the case in the past. Motorcycles get the old-style combination registration and RPP sticker that adheres to the license plate. So, two thumbs up for DMV in my recent experience.


Johns on DCTV
Liz Rose, Johns for Mayor,

[Re: Ralph Byrd, themail, May 17] Thank you for your inquiry. DCTV is the Public Access Corporation of the District of Columbia, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established to provide a First Amendment forum via cable channels, on a nondiscriminatory basis to residents and organizations of the District. The Hatch Act addresses political activity by federal government employees, and by employees of certain state and local government agencies. DCTV is not to be confused with the government cable channels 13 and 16; it is not a government agency, and has no federal, state, or local government employees. Programming on DCTV is produced and provided by its members, and is open to any DC resident or organization, including political candidates. The nonprofit was specifically established to ensure District residents a means to share their own views on issues, to educate and inform, for cultural expression and to engage and energize public dialogue in a broad based forum. All members’ activities using the facilities and resources of this forum, including political candidates, are governed by rules ensuring nondiscriminatory access.

Marie Johns has chosen to use this community forum to provide in-depth and easily accessible information to voters about her views and approach to leadership. She believes that well-informed voters are the core of strong communities, democracy and government integrity. Other candidates who have themselves initiated or been guests in this forum to inform voters about their candidate platforms, in past and current elections, include Mayor Anthony Williams, Councilmembers Linda Cropp, Vincent Orange, Adrian Fenty, Kwami Brown, Vincent Gray, Marion Barry, and many others.

Mrs. Johns is actively seeking out the views and concerns of people across the city. If you have any comments or suggestions you might have for addressing the many issues and challenges facing our city, please E-mail Thank you for your interest. We hope you will consider voting for Mrs. Johns to lead our city.



Ward 5 Dems Council Chairman and At-Large Council Candidates Forum, May 22
Hazel Thomas,

The Ward 5 Democrats organization will host a Ward 5 Forum for Council Chairman and Councilmember-at- Large candidates on Monday, May 22, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., at McKinley Technical School located at 151 T Street, NE. The program will begin with a brief Ward 5 Democrats meeting and conclude with announcements about upcoming economic development and community projects.

Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Kathy Patterson, candidates for council chairman, have confirmed their attendance. Candidates for councilmember-at-large, attorney A. Scott Bolden and Councilmember Phil Mendelson, have also confirmed their intention to be present. Each of the candidates will be given five minutes to make an opening statement, followed by strategic questions from Tom Sherwood, NBC Channel 4 News reporter. Questions from the audience will follow. The forum will conclude with a two-minute statement from each candidate.

This is the third in a series of candidate forums hosted by the Ward 5 Democrats. For more information about the Ward 5 Democrats’ Forum, contact Anita Bonds, chair of the Ward 5 Democrats, at 492-1199, or Hazel Bland Thomas, press officer, at 491-4295.


Ward 2 Dems Forum 2020, May 23
Wayne Dickson,

James Carroll will be the guest author at Forum 2020 presenting his latest blockbuster, House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power, on May 23 at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, New Hampshire at Q Street, NW. The reception starts at 6:30 p.m. The program begins at 7:00 p.m.

House of War is a landmark, myth-shattering work that chronicles the most powerful institution in America, the Pentagon, the people who created it, and the pathologies it has spawned. Carroll proves a controversial thesis: The Pentagon has, since its founding, operated beyond the control of any force in government or society. It is the biggest, loosest cannon in American history, and no institution has changed this country more. To argue his case, he marshals a trove of often chilling evidence. He recounts how the Pentagon and its denizens achieved what Eisenhower called “a disastrous rise of misplaced power” from the unprecedented aerial bombing of Germany and Japan during WWII to the “shock and awe” of Iraq. He charts the colossal US nuclear buildup, which far outpaced that of the USSR and has outlived it. He reveals how consistently the Pentagon has found new enemies just as old threats — and funding — evaporate. He demonstrates how Pentagon policy brought about US indifference to an epidemic of genocide during the 1990s.

Following Carroll’s presentation of his new book there will be a question and answer period followed by a book signing.


DCRA Ward 8 Community Day, May 24
Karyn-Siobhan Robinson,

On Wednesday, May 24, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) brings its staff to Ward 8 for an evening of community outreach, education, and fun. DCRA and community partner Simon Elementary School will welcome on-air staff from WPGC 95.5 FM, DC councilmembers, and ANC commissioners. DCRA staff will be on-hand to meet the community and get feedback about agency services. There will be representatives from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the DCRA Homeowners Center, as well as inspectors from the agency’s illegal construction team, the Tenant Advocate, and more. Business owners will be able to get information about DCRA’s Basic Business License. Members of the DCRA human resource team will provide information about employment opportunities within the agency.

DCRA staff and officers from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Seventh District will participate in a baseball game with WPGC on-air personalities and staff. The event will be held at Simon Elementary School, 401 Mississippi Avenue, SE, 5:30-8 p.m. The baseball game begins at 6:05 p.m.


James Reston, Jr., at Cleveland Park Branch, June 1
Beth Meyer,

James Reston, Jr., author of Fragile Innocence: A Father’s Memoir of His Daughter’s Courageous Journey, will give a lecture "On Writing an Intimate Memoir" on Thursday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Cleveland Park Branch of the DC Public Library, Connecticut Avenue and Macomb Street, NW. A book sale and signing of Fragile Innocence courtesy of the Trover Shop will follow.

Mr. Reston tells the story of how his youngest daughter Hillary was struck at the age of eighteen months with a unknown force that robbed her of her language and sent her into a cycle of medical difficulties including brain storms, seizures, and kidney failure. Mr. Reston and his wife had to tackle some of the biggest scientific issues of our time -- human genome, animal organ transplants, and stem cell research -- in an attempt to save Hillary’s life. Hillary is now twenty-four-years old and her condition remains a mystery. Her story is about coming to terms with a severe disability and celebrating life.

Mr. Reston is the author of thirteen books, including Galileo: A Life, The Last Apocalypse, and Warriors of God, three plays, and numerous articles in national magazines. The Cleveland Park Branch of the DC Public Library is located near the Cleveland Park Metrorail Station. All District of Columbia Public Library activities are open to the public free of charge. For further information, please call the Cleveland Park Branch Library at 282-3080.


DC Disability Community Mayoral Forum, June 15
T.J. Sutcliffe,

Please save the date and help spread the word about the upcoming DC Disability Community mayoral forum, sponsored by the Disability Rights Host Committee. The forum will be held on Thursday, June 15, at the True Reformer Building, 1200 U Street, NW. The doors will open at 6:00 p.m.; the forum will start promptly at 6:30 p.m. And run to 8:00 p.m. Jerry Phillips, radio host for Metro Talk, will moderate. This will be the only mayoral forum to focus exclusively on issues that impact District residents with disabilities. All are welcome.

The True Reformer Building is a fully accessible location. Sign language interpretation will be provided. Please submit additional accommodation requests by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 8. For information, flyers, or accommodations, contact: T.J. Sutcliffe, 636-2963/, or Wanda Foster, 483-3383/



Yolanda the Cleaning Lady
Bryce Suderow,

Yolanda the Cleaning Lady vacuums, does laundry, and washes windows, floors, bathrooms, and kitchens — and even takes out the trash!

If you are interested, E-mail her at or phone her at 676-9088.


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