themail.gif (3487 bytes)

July 5, 2006

Election Joke

Dear Jokers:

Sit at our knees, children, and let us tell you a tale of the bad old days, many years ago, when elections in the District of Columbia were a joke; when nominating petitions were routinely filled out in candidates’ kitchens, with all the signatures provided by the campaign workers sitting around the table; when it would take several days after an election was held to count the votes; when ballot boxes would fall off the backs of trucks on their way to the Board of Elections and then mysteriously reappear filled with votes. Believe it or not, the person who fixed this mess was Mayor Marion Barry, who nominated new members to the Board of Elections and Ethics who, in turn, hired the legendary Emmett Fremeaux as the executive director of the Board. Fremeaux fired none of the staffers and hired only a couple new ones, but he insisted on intensive training and retraining and strict procedures to ensure honesty and integrity. And for more than two decades that reform held, our elections were held efficiently and effectively, and elections in DC became a national model.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that reform, or any reform so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. Our elections are being confronted with their greatest challenges in decades, as more and more money is being thrown into both candidate and initiative races and as unscrupulous professional petition companies are hired to gather petition signatures. It is a serious question whether the Board of Elections is capable of facing that challenge and of continuing to ensure the integrity of our elections. After the Board rejected Mayor Williams’s nominating petitions in 2002 because of the predominance of fraud and forgery in them, the mayor took his revenge by letting it be known that he would not renominate any of the Board members who had voted against him, and he replaced them with three new members. In 2004, these three members confronted a slots initiative petition that had been gathered with even more fraud than Williams’s petitions. They gave the gambling promoters behind that petition every break, but eventually the evidence of wrongdoing was so overwhelming that they had to reject the petition. Now the same promoters are back, with different front men, conducting the same kind of fraud, and the Board of Elections is again giving them every advantage.

This year, the gambling promoters have not been able to recruit many local petition circulators, so almost all petition circulators are from out of state. Almost all of them are working alone, without the required DC residents who are supposed to be the actual circulators. This is completely illegal, of course, but the DC Board of Elections and Ethics won’t do anything about it. Dorothy went to the BOEE monthly meeting today to ask them to send out their own observers, so that they could confirm that the circulators are almost exclusively from out-of-state and working alone, and the Board refused. They claim that there is no violation of election law until and unless the petitions are turned in, and they argue that they can’t do an investigation until there is a formal complaint, and there can’t be a formal complaint until the petitions have been turned in, so there is no way they can do any observations of their own while petitions are being distributed. They claim it would "compromise" the Board if its staff did any observations, since they will have to rule on the case if a challenge is brought. The example of the ABC Board, which is adjudicative and has staffers who are full-time investigators, didn’t impress them. If the Board were the Fire Department and you called them because they saw an arsonist in the process of burning down a building, they would tell you to wait until the fire had burned itself out on its own and the arsonist had left town, and then they would hear whatever evidence you had gathered on your own.

If you want to help, please make your own observations of the circulators you run into, determine whether they are from out of town (they won’t know where the slots casino is going to be located, or won’t know where Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue and Good Hope Road are, or won’t know where Anacostia is, or won’t know how to pronounce Anacostia, and most of them will readily admit that they’re not from DC if you press them). Listen for any misrepresentations they make about what the petition is about. If you find out-of-town circulators working alone, without DC residents accompanying them, please send an E-mail with as many details as you have about who, where, and when, and what you saw, to the BOEE’s general counsel, Ken McGhie, at, and then send a copy to us.

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill and


What Does “Written” Mean?
Jack McKay,

Okay, maybe this doesn’t bother a lot of DC residents, but it annoys me to be told by a District agency that “written” means a piece of paper, physically conveyed to the agency in question, with no electronic transmission allowed. It seems to me that a letter transmitted by fax is also “written,” and ought to suffice. After all, it’s not “oral,” which is the point; “written” means that a physical copy exists, a permanent and unalterable record that can be stored and retrieved for later reference, should there be any question of what was said in the report.

One DC agency agreed that a fax would do, being a “written record,” but argued that a document attached to an E-mail would not. What, I ask, is the difference? If a fax, being an image of the original transmitted electronically to their printer, created an appropriate “written record,” then surely an E-mail attachment, likewise sent electronically and printed on their printer, would also create a suitable “written record.” They admitted that that was so, and somewhat reluctantly agreed to accept an attached document.

But the Board of Zoning Adjustment rigidly insists that our ANC report on a zoning variance request be on a piece of paper, physically conveyed to their office, with no electronic means of communication allowed, not fax, not attachment to an E-mail. I think they argue that the law requires a signature. Okay, I’ll sign it, then I’ll fax it, what’s wrong with that? Or I’ll sign it, then scan it, and send that in as a PDF document? Nope, neither will do. I’m required to mail in a physical piece of paper. Sometimes you wonder what decade, what century, what millennium the District government is working in. I think they’re stuck at 1960, and have missed out on most of the productivity gains of the past half century.


Candidates Who Did Not File Petitions
Bob Summersgill,

Here is a list of candidates who did not file nominating petitions as of 5:00 p.m. today, and hence will not be on the ballot. Mayor: James M. Caviness, Bro. Chris Crowder, Faith, Gilbert Hahn, Jr., Theresa Small Smith, Osie Thorpe. Chairman: George Jackson. At-Large: Antonio D. Dominguez. Ward 1: Lenwood Johnson, Sertira A. Williams. Ward 5: Minnie L. Donaldson, Gordon Gant, Karl Rudder, Henry Wolterbeek. Ward 6: Will Cobb.

Will Cobb, a serious candidate for council in Ward 6, simply forgot to file his nominating petitions on July 5. Although he collected enough signatures, he will not be on the ballot. He had been running a rather vigorous campaign but, in the end, you need to keep track of the details. This story should appear in the Post Thursday morning. One of the most notable non-filers was Faith. I’ve forgotten what a mayoral campaign is like without her and her bugle.


Milloy Comes A-Knockin’
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Just after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wins the Warren Buffett lottery, which adds some $37 billion to the foundation’s coffers, Courtland Milloy comes a-knockin’ at the foundation’s front door looking for a handout ( He claims that DC is “A Charitable Project Worthy of Billions.” To Mr. Milloy, I pass on some very sage advice I got from my daddy when I graduated from high school and had aspirations of attending an engineering university. My daddy told me if I ever needed a helping hand, to look at the end of my arm. DC is not a charitable case compared to many third world countries. Folks in DC have far more opportunities and far better living conditions than many others in this world. Let those in DC who can help themselves look to the end of their arms.


Marie Johns
Pete Ross,

The Palisades 4th of July parade is a local DC community event. Many political candidates march in this parade. Marie Johns, who is running for mayor of Washington, DC, participates in this Washington, DC, parade riding in a 1961 Cadillac with Virginia tags!

This insensitivity by Marie Johns to us residents who don’t have full voting rights will be remembered by me when I vote in the primary on September 12.


Debts and the Millennium Arts Center
Mary C. Williams,

I might have been somewhat impressed by the city’s aggressive stance regarding collection of a $17,000 debt owed by a Fenty campaign staffer, if it weren’t so obviously and sadly political. I am a longtime Fenty supporter. But that’s not why I would defend the actions of any businessperson who might try to stiff the District. It’s just that in this city there are so many bigger fish to fry, but they always seem to get away while the little ones are held up as a trophy of sorts.

For example, I wonder how much money the Office of Property Management Director might have saved this city if she had made a phone call in 2003 to the former leaseholder of the old Randall School, turned Millennium Arts Center, who owed more than an estimated $250,000 in rent for several years, and had asked him to cough up the money he owed. When the city entered into lease/purchase contract with Bill Wooby for the historical school, he was to pay about $6,000 a month rent and had an option to buy the structure for about $6 million, with the usual real estate clauses about bankruptcy and limited development partnerships, according to the contract executed by OPM and the Department of Housing and Community Development. Wooby quickly rented out part of the dilapidated space to local artists and others, including my own Advisory Neighborhood Commission for about $350 per month, while putting little money into correcting numerous structural deficiencies and obtaining the necessary occupancy license. In OPM’s very detailed lease contract, the city agreed to pay Wooby a reasonable rental fee for use of the building’s gymnasium, which was the site of the now closed Randall shelter.

Over the three years Wooby occupied the building, the city and Wooby never agreed on what was a reasonable price, and the city never fulfilled its end but continued to pay all of the utilities for the entire building. For his part, Wooby didn’t cough up a dime of his rent for years until Ward 6 councilmember Sharon Ambrose found a new and more attractive buyer in the Corcoran School of Art for the sweetheart price of about $6 million. Springing into action, Wooby hired a lawyer and, along with the artists in residence there, took their fight public. It worked out well for him and the handful of artists currently occupying the structure rent free. In addition to not having to pay the city while collecting rent from the occupants for years, Wooby ended up with a nice little consolation prize of about $1.5 million from the city to walk away. How is that for collecting an outstanding debt? And two years after this savvy business deal was done, the OPM continues to operate and maintain the old Randall school, minus the Randall shelter, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, for a handful of artists and a few cultural programs that inhabit the building rent free. Several artists have even taken up residence there. Can we get the Director to make a phone call on this debt?


Open Government and Sunshine in DC
A. Scott Bolden, abolden[at]

The “free flow of information is fundamental for democracy,” wrote former President Jimmy Carter in The Washington Post on July 3 ( Carter’s concern: “Our government leaders have become increasingly obsessed with secrecy.” On July 1, a Washington Post editorial, “Sabotaging Open Government” (, began, “District residents eager for the right to witness the workings of their government were dealt a low blow this week. . . .” The editorial continued, “It was a disgusting and cowardly performance on the part of Mr. Mendelson. . . .”

The Post editorial referred to actions last week by Mendelson and two of his Council colleagues to derail legislation that would open up all government meetings to the public. As audacious as it may seem, Mendelson conspired with his colleagues behind closed doors to subvert legislation that would make it illegal to engage in closed door meetings. I support open government and sunshine laws that make backroom deals illegal. Perhaps the Bush administration thinks it’s OK to conduct public business in secret meetings, but our founding fathers and all good-government advocates believe otherwise.


Palisades Independence Day Parade
Kathryn A. Pearson-West,

The Palisades parade in Washington, DC, was clearly one of the places to be on Independence Day to celebrate America’s freedom and the home of the brave. With all the flag waving and spectators cheering, it was a time to be reminded that America is a great place to live and be free. It was a time to think of all that is right with America and its promises, opportunities, and diversity of people and cultures. It was a time to believe in one’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations in the land of the free. Patriotic events bring out these kinds of thoughts. Patriotism aplenty was there in Palisades the Fourth of July making one want to shout from the heart, "God bless America" and then smiling as you imagined the late entertainer Ray Charles singing "America, for spacious skies with amber waves of grain."

For the last few years, I have participated in the parade with A. Scott Bolden when he was either the head of the DC Democratic State Committee or a political candidate. Once again, I trekked down MacArthur Boulevard with Bolden and his team, but this year the nefarious heat and humidity got the best of me. However, I kept walking to deliver loads of candy to the many precious cheery-eyed children that lined the street awaiting goodies from the parade participates and marveling at the many groups that participated. What a family day the Palisades parade has turned out to be, as well as an annual rite of summer. There was such a multitude of people eagerly watching the parade that you felt assured that to live in America is clearly a blessing.

The parade took place in Ward 3, but it seems like a celebration enjoyed by the whole city. It seems like it is DC’s parade, and it captures the spirit of civic pride and joy. Each year the political establishment turns out en masse to pay its homage and to take part in the festive occasion. This year was no exception, and in an election year the turnout was even more spectacular. After first participating in the Capitol Hill parade early that morning, A. Scott Bolden, candidate for at large DC council and the only citywide candidate to partake of that Ward 6 celebration, joined the Palisades parade with the DC flag in front, a banner, two vehicles, a few kids walking with a dog on a leash, and Boldenites eager to share the message of Leadership for Change (or better yet, Leadership for a Change with all the mishaps lately with EMS, the jail escape, and the derailment of the chance for open government meetings). I had the chance to talk to candidates for mayor Marie Johns, Vincent Orange, and Michael Brown. I didn’t see them, but I know that mayoral candidates Linda Cropp and Adrian Fenty were also there. I also saw council chair candidates Vincent Gray and Kathy Patterson, and I also saw councilmember Kwame Brown riding with his family. There were many candidates for Ward 3 councilmember and I regret not taking the time to meet and/or greet each one of them. I also happened to see Ward 3’s very own WRC TV news reporter Tom Sherwood on the sidelines, probably getting a story.

At the end of the parade’s journey was a festival. First at the gate’s entrance to the Palisades Recreation Center was Bolden’s team with free ice cream. I managed to get new energy as I made myself walk just a little further to get my choice from an assortment of favorites, including frozen cones. Throughout the recreation grounds, one could see people lined up for a variety of things at the festival. There were slices of watermelon, punch, and hot dogs. There was entertainment. There was plenty of camaraderie. It was a nice place to spend part of your day. It was a very wholesome atmosphere. Traveling with Bolden and his team, I get to enjoy participating in a lot of parades throughout the city that honor a special person, day, event, street, or section of town. Too bad I had to miss going walking with his team in the Caribbean parade like I did last year. Now that is a walk from Georgia and Missouri Avenues to Howard Univerity/Banneker Recreation Center, but all for a good cause. These parades and festivals bring people together and capitalize on the goodwill of the communities that produce them and that work so hard to give them meaning. These community parades remind you of what community is all about and how things can happen positively when you come together for the common good.

Now that the day of celebration of America’s Independence is over, the District of Columbia and its leaders and candidates, such as Bolden, can go back to addressing the issues of voting representation in Congress for the nation’s capital, quality education, workforce development, affordable/workforce housing, public safety, healthcare, the University of the District of Columbia as a model of college academia, DC’s competitive advantage, the reduction of burdensome bureaucratic red tape for businesses and consumers, clean streets, integrity and excellence in government, affordable childcare, economic development, economic opportunity/job creation, alternatives to crime, traffic, recreation, taxes, programs for seniors, open public government meetings where there is a quorum of elected officials, race/class/diversity, programs for vulnerable citizens, gentrification, and the myriad of other issues about which DC residents are concerned. Back to the 2006 elections and the continuance of the paradigm shift in the nation’s capital. 2006 promises to be a good year as we reshape DC government leadership and give it a new thrust to continue to move the city forward and give unity new meaning when it comes to resolving the problems of the masses.


Bum Dope From the DMV
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

My wife received a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles telling her that she needed to renew her expiring drivers license. The letter also noted that if she were over age she’d need a letter from her doctor attesting to her health and any limitations that would affect her driving ability. I knew, after renewing my own driver’s license last February, that she’d need a note from her health care provider much before age 75. After a couple of calls we learned that anyone renewing a driver’s license over age 60 would be required to have a medical clearance. When asked why that information was not in the letter notifying people that they had to renew, we got the typical DC bureaucratic response, “I have no idea.” Indeed, not a clue.


DC Vote Supports First-in-the-National DC Primary
Kevin Kiger,

On Independence Day, DC Vote announced its support and advocacy for the District of Columbia’s 2008 presidential nominating primary or caucus to be among the first in the nation. The Democratic National Committee is entering the final stages of a two-year process to determine the presidential nominating process for 2008. On July 22 and 23, at a meeting in the District of Columbia, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee will decide which state will conduct a presidential nominating caucus after Iowa and before the New Hampshire primary. The 2008 Iowa caucus is tentatively scheduled for January 14. The full DNC will meet August 17-19 in Chicago, Illinois, to ratify the nominating calendar.

DC Vote will be organizing local officials, community leaders, and other political figures to rally behind its support for a prominent 2008 District of Columbia presidential nominating contest. In addition, DC Vote will be sending letters to DNC Chair Gov. Howard Dean and members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. DC Vote believes the District of Columbia is an ideal choice for a prominent presidential nominating contest for both the DNC and the disenfranchised residents of the District of Columbia. The coveted second spot will garner significant, national media attention and serve as a platform for educating Americans about disenfranchisement suffered on American soil. Democrats have long held that District residents deserve full and equal voting rights and statehood. In its consideration for which state(s) to include in the "pre-window" nominating calendar, the DNC has sought a small, diverse jurisdiction where retail politicking can be conducted to an electorate of varied racial and ethnic makeup. In many ways the District of Columbia, with its majority African-American populace, growing Latino base and active LGBT community, is a microcosm of the Democratic electorate.

DC Vote believes that the effort to achieve full voting rights for District residents is strengthened by raising awareness nationally. Research has shown that most Americans are unaware of District residents’ lack of voting rights and that once educated as to our plight an overwhelming majority find the situation unacceptable. DC Vote also urges the Republican National Committee to schedule the District of Columbia’s 2008 presidential nominating primary and/or caucus to be among the first in the nation.


Who Played the Latin Polka?
Josh Gibson,

What was the name of the group that played the Latin Polka at the Folklife Festival? [themail, July 2]

[Banda Ansiedad. You can get the schedule for stage performances at — Gary Imhoff]


Campaign Rhetoric
Alma Gates, ANC 3D05,

It’s obvious we are in the midst of a vigorous campaign in the District of Columbia! Not one member of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment responded to the message on the Palisades flood that was originally posted in themail and sent to them individually. This is the response I received from Kathy Patterson’s office when I requested a “roundtable discussion” to bring all parties together: “Thank you for your suggestions. This was not possible on the short timetable we were working on this week.”

All parties need to sit down and work out a permanent solution for Palisades. The instant flood may be over, but the time for action is not, and it should not be treated as the current cause celebre. There is no short timetable for the residents, as weeks will pass before the damage on Macomb Street is cleaned up. To set the record straight, Caroline Quandt and Commissioner Rachel Thompson have met with WASA and DDOT numerous times on this particular issue, but the flooding continues. If WASA is serious about replacing the trunk sewer, it can move some priorities and money around to make installation sooner than later. After all, WASA is supported by its rate payers who deserve to know their quality of life is not in jeopardy each time there is heavy rain.

Please show some leadership by turning campaign rhetoric into tangible results. Flooding in Palisades is not last week’s news — it is and has been an ongoing problem.


Petition Circulators
Bryce A. Suderow,

I was asked to sign the slots initiative Thursday by a homeless and mentally ill crack head who hangs out at 14th and H. Didn’t they screw up their petition last time by using homeless or mentally ill people?

[Not exactly. The major problem in 2004 was that the out-of-state professional petition circulators paid local people to sign the petitions as circulators, although they had not actually distributed them. But many of the local people who worked on the petition campaign in 2002 were shortchanged or not paid at all, so this year very few local people are willing to work with them. This year, almost all the petitioners who are on the street are from out-of-state, and almost all of them are working without any local “witnesses” willing to act as circulators. — Gary Imhoff]


Gambling Petitions
Gwen Blackman,

I encountered several people requesting my "autograph," signature, etc., for the gambling petitions on the 4th of July. They were very friendly, polite, and asked, "Are you a registered voter, ma’am?" But when I questioned if they were DC residents, the answer was invariably no. One young lady informed me that she had a registered observer. The young man was obviously from the neighborhood, underage, and probably paid to observe. How do they get around skirting the law?


Personal Attacks
Norman Metzger,

You write that: “I’ve received many messages from people attacking Jonathan Rees and demanding that he be banned from themail, mostly because he makes a practice of sending pseudonymous or anonymous E-mails attacking other people. However, except for Bob Summergill’s message above, all of these E-mails have been send to themail pseudonymously or anonymously, or with the request that they not be published, which tends to undercut the strength of their argument.” [themail, July 2]

The anonymity of the E-mailers is beside the point. DCWatch should be better, as it usually is, than allowing itself to be used for personal attacks, as the post re Eric [Marshall, themail, June 25] obviously was. You should have tossed it. For what it’s worth, my wife and I had a meet and greet for Kathy Patterson, and we and our neighbors were very impressed with Kathy and also came away respecting Eric’s professionalism in helping set up the event. He was a pleasure to work with, by the way. I went to a meet and greet for Vincent Gray that same week. Promising, but he needs a few more seasons of triple-A ball before the majors.

[Frankly, I don’t think Rees’ message about Eric Marshall was a personal attack. Rees wrote that he believed Eric Marshall was doing a poor job as Kathy Patterson’s campaign manager. That’s not a personal criticism or an attack on Marshall’s character or personal life. It’s a professional criticism, and it raises a factual question that can be debated and refuted factually. It’s also a legitimate question for the public, since one of the major ways we judge politicians is by the quality of their staffs, which indicates their ability to judge and manage people. Over the past weeks, I’ve received several messages from Rees and his critics that are not appropriate for themail, and that I’m not going to run, but the question of whether a politician is running a good campaign and has chosen the right people to run that campaign is completely appropriate. — Gary Imhoff]



Collaborative Arts Projects at CHIME, July 13
Dorothy Marschak,

CHIME invites musicians and other artists, educators, parents, and interested community members to a workshop on forming collaborative arts projects between different DC schools and/or after-school programs. CHIME volunteer Claire Davis will report on her Choral Connections project this year between Stoddert and Amidon Elementary schools. Participants can then share ideas about establishing other such projects. Collaborative arts programs not only bring students from different neighborhoods and backgrounds together, but also create relationships between families and parent organizations. The workshop will be held at the DCPS Sumner School Museum and Archives, 1201 17th Street, NW, at M Street, near the Farragut North Metro Stop, on July 13, 4-6 p.m. Please RSVP to


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)