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August 20, 2006

Crime Is Up and Down

Dear Criminalists:

The DCist has advice for Mayor Williams: “aim low” ( The DCist points to a short article by Scott McCabe in the Washington Examiner: “A month after Mayor Anthony Williams announced that his goal was to reduce violent crime by 50 percent within 30 days, violent crime in the District has decreased by 6 percent, according to the DC police crime statistics.” The DCist recommends that Williams not make grandiose claims about what the results of his proposals will be.

Whether or not there has been a decrease in crime also seems to depend on which crimes are counted and on how the statistics are calculated. The last paragraph of today’s Post article ( on the controversy over Chief Charles Ramsey’s vacation says, “When the crime emergency started, robberies were up by 14 percent compared with the same period last year. As of yesterday, robberies were up 8 percent. . . .”

In any case, both a 6 percent decrease and an 8 percent increase are within normal variations in crime statistics, which are often very slippery things. I’d have eaten my words and apologized if the combination of the emergency crime bill and the declaration of a crime emergency had really resulted in a 50 percent reduction in violent crimes. But it didn’t, so I won’t.

Gary Imhoff


The Comprehensive Plan for Educational Excellence in DC Schools
Dennis Moore, Republican Mayoral Candidate,

The inside experience of working in the Superintendent’s Office (under both the Ackerman and Vance administrations) of DC Public Schools was extremely enlightening and instructive. The added responsibility and effort of regularly engaging parents and educators provided great insight into their mutual need for a school system that worked best for children. Parents expected better. Educators wanted better. Our children still deserve better. But, the existing system and similar operating models fail all of them. Originally completed in January 2006, I am formally presenting the details of my Comprehensive Plan for Educational Excellence. This plan, more specifically titled as the Excellent Schools Plan (ESP), details what will be my priorities in effectively overhauling the District of Columbia Public (and Public Charter) School system to a student-focused operation.

The core factors of ESP include: guaranteed full funding for all operations, curriculums and courses that sustain an effective student-focused school system, major partnerships between parents and educators, small ten-student class sizes, resizable modular walking distance schools, as well as targeted (fully and strictly) accountable budgets that are based on student needs rather than redundant school bureaucracy operations. The money is available. It just needs to be spent effectively and accountably. ESP is designed to raise and exceed academic achievement for students from preschoolers to public college seniors. It is also rooted in creating exponential socioeconomic growth throughout the District in the short to mid-term, and sustaining it over the long-term. As an example, ESP’s basic academic standards and practices will have all DC children performing basic reading and mathematics by age three -- not grade three. I know as a parent and grandparent, and most preschool educators will affirm, early intervention education is effective.

Questions and expanded information will be fully and directly addressed by E-mail (, and all feedback will receive a timely response directly from me. The direct web page link for the complete details of my ESP initiative is The Comprehensive Plan for Educational Excellence,


DC News Outlets Shortchange DC Voters
Sylvia Brown, Ward 7, Deanwood,

“Other candidates in the primary — such as business executive Marie C. Johns, council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (Ward 5) and lobbyist Michael Brown — have not garnered enough support or money to pose major challenges.” (“Cropp and Fenty Have Pursued Their Legislative Agendas By Opposite Means,” Washington Post, August 21,

Omigosh! What type of reporting is this? When it comes to DC politics, the news is all splash and no substance. Reporters and voters alike claim that they are sick of money running politics, but instead of fighting against the status quo you continue the cycle. The Post continues to paint the mayoral race as a two-person race, but how about reporting on the issues instead of relying on the Post’s weak 2,000 person poll? Here is a novel idea, The Post should have a vote record for the DC council to give voters a clear picture of what they have done. Wait, there is something like that; it is for the Congress. Local news in DC is a joke and the residents of DC are shortchanged and are the worst for it. Wake up, DC voters. Vote your convictions and not what the lame DC news outlets report to you.

By the way, my mayoral candidate of choice, Marie Johns, is in it to win it. From what I hear while canvassing, this race is wide open and Marie is there to fill the gap and meet the needs of DC voters and residents. See


No Such Thing as a Born Manager
Claudia C. Pharis,

Everything about Mr. Fenty points to the fact that he is just not ready. Yes, he is an excellent campaigner, and he really knows how to impress constituents, but pushing doorbell, coming to meetings, and answering E-mails doth not a manager make. They work politically, but Fenty’s feeble attempt to brand himself as a “born manager” based on these antics reveals that even he sees himself as weak on this issue. It is true that you don’t have to be a good manager to be a good leader. But you do have to have judgment sufficient to the task of choosing competent cabinet members and staff who will be able to implement your vision and keep the city going in the right direction. The one example we have of Fenty’s judgment in this regard is a campaign manager who has demonstrated himself to be a homophobic racist bigot. The only justification I have heard as to why Fenty has refused to replace him is that he is a fraternity brother. Interesting. So Fenty will be loyal to his frat brothers even if it means perpetuating racial divisiveness within the city. Hmm, . . .

Managing this city is not a push-button proposition. Nor is it as simplistic as filling potholes and fixing street lights. Fenty’s assurance that he will do the same thing as mayor that he has done as a ember of the city council is particularly scary. This city has water and sewer systems, pension plans, intergovernmental relations, unions, fiscal systems and financial relationships, huge departments with divisions and budgets and employees responsible for delivering a whole panoply of human services. Tell me how pushing doorbells and attending neighborhood meetings are by themselves going to keep that particular network of intersecting, interdependent, potentially colliding and derailing trains on track and running on time! Hello?

The city is being captivated by Fenty’s charm. Me, too. He’s gorgeous! But, believe me, this guy is just a pretty face! Do we really want a ceremonial mayor? Because that’s all Fenty is capable of being. And while he is playing mayor, who will govern? The Control Board? Congress? The Federal City Council? Or will he put the city up for sale and make decisions based on who is best positioned to get him where he wants to go next? We have come too far to return to those days. We have come too far, Washington. Fenty is an interesting possibility for the future. Let’s test him a while longer and see what he’s really made of. Let’s not do him the disservice of ruining his possibility and ours by handing him the reins of government before he is wise enough to manage them.


Fenty Versus Cropp
Ben Aspero,

I read Ron Linton’s extended opinion and his public advice to me with interest [themail, August 20]. Thank you, Mr. Linton, for your service to our city. I respect your position, but the more I learn about Mr. Fenty, the more I distrust his judgment. Please note that in my August 14 submission, I both read the candidates public safety policies cover to cover and I called their campaigns for more information about who or what other recognized professionals and/or organizations publicly support them. As of last week’s writing: Cropp-3, Fenty-0, Johns-0.

“A number of public safety professionals aided in putting that [policy] paper together.” A simple question that the voters deserve to have answered: who are these people? Need I remind you, none has stepped forward to publicly endorse this policy. To me, if no one is willing to put his or her own name on the line for it, it raises a red flag. Second, most council members visit crime scenes. However, continuing this implied line of reasoning, if Mr. Fenty has in fact "examine[d] the issues" and developed insights, why did he not put his expertise to work over the past six years or even lately by offering or sponsoring public safety legislation of his own? Perhaps he just did not want a record. As your colleagues at FEMS will attest, you need to initially address and better control the symptoms before you can address the cause. In my neighborhood, which is not Georgetown and is in far more in need of attention, the much criticized curfew and cameras actually have made a difference. I am disappointed that young Mr. Fenty flip-flopped on the issue of cameras from the 2001-02 session to now, particularly as their benefits outweighing their detriments is well documented.

As Mark Plotkin agrees, the fact of the matter is that young Mr. Fenty has not yet developed the intellectual curiosity, leadership skills, or management competence to undertake the executive position responsible for public safety and hundreds of other complex municipal and state challenges our District faces. As I have said before, anyone can cast stones. After his years with MPD and I presume attending many community group meetings, Mr. Linton surely knows that. A serious government leader proactively seeks or offers a reasonable alternative solution. Mr. Fenty has made it a practice of not working for compromise; instead he runs to the cameras saying “fill in the blank” is terrible and something should be done. That is not leadership this city can afford.

One definition of political leadership is the ability to instill predictability into an unpredictable organization. I again defer to the candidates’ records as indicative of their future actions. Agree with her or not, Linda Cropp builds consensus. I am sure Mr. Linton will agree that the reality of leadership in government hinges upon one’s ability to work with many opposing forces to achieve an outcome everyone can live with. Ms Cropp has proven this many times with vastly diverging interests, to get the work of the people done. Conversely, young Mr. Fenty has developed his reputation of not working well with others simply because he does not know how to compromise. That is a professional maturity issue he has not yet but will hopefully overcome in a few years.

Again, I look to his past actions. Does defending his fraternity brother Sinclair Skinner’s documented indefensible words and actions of hate instill executive confidence? Does the prospect of that person appointed to a position of public trust instill confidence? Instead of working with his colleagues, will Mr. Fenty run to the TV cameras to complain about the intractable bureaucracy or will he just run out of town to ask another mayor how to solve problems in DC? Will he work with the council or just veto all the public safety legislation- emergency or otherwise, because to him it is imperfect? What will we be left with? At this critical juncture, it is our responsibility to install a leader who will reduce risk to our city, has the confidence of experts who she will have to work with in the public safety arena and whose public record illustrating that. Again, looking at the facts, it is Linda Cropp.

[This is the third message from Mr. Aspero that covers exactly the same grounds. I’m calling a moratorium unless and until there is something new to add. — Gary Imhoff]


Mendelson’s Newsletter
Matt Forman,

I was amused when I first started receiving At-Large Councilmember Mendelson’s E-mail newsletter from his staffer a few months ago. In the eight years that he has been in office, why was I only now receiving the newsletter? Ummm . . . perhaps it’s an election year? Indeed, as the Examiner and Post reported, challenger Scott Bolden is now accusing Phil Mendelson of flouting the law that prohibits the mailing of (paper) newsletters within ninety days of an election,, Phil is apparently arguing that the intent of the law was to prohibit abuse of the free postage given to councilmembers. (I don’t recall having received free postage paper newsletters either, from any councilmember.) But what Phil ignores is the advantage that he has as the incumbent in accumulating such E-mail addresses. Or does he? According to the Examiner article, Phil’s newsletter went out to only one thousand people or so. He has only one thousand E-mail addresses after eight years on the Council? The Cleveland Park Yahoo group alone has over four thousand members. That shows how out of touch he is with the public.


DC Councilmembers and Schools
Susan Banta,

Pat Bitondo makes a terrific point about the Ward 3 race and what constituents can expect from their councilmember regarding DCPS schools. As a public school parent, I can appreciate candidates’ commitment to improving our schools; however, several of the candidates in the Ward 3 race seem to be implying that they can single-handedly fix our schools from a seat on the council (Bill Rice and Paul Strauss come to mind in particular).

I am supporting Mary Cheh in part because she is an ardent supporter of the schools. Education is a moral issue for Mary Cheh. In her own words, “it is immoral to disable children by not giving them a proper education.” However, she also has a realistic understanding of the council’s role. Mary Cheh understands that beyond a councilmember’s budget and oversight responsibilities, his or her most important role in shaping our education system is through relationships with the superintendent and school board members. Mary listens, processes, and responds to information in a way that is both respectful and adds value to a debate, and she will use these skills on the council when working with the community and the DCPS leadership.

Regarding her direct contribution to education if elected, Mary Cheh is committed to fully funding the school modernization act; sharp oversight of the modernization project; promoting — through relationships with fellow council members, the community, and DCPS leadership -- practices that provide resources to hire, to keep, and to reward good teachers and empower successful principals; and to generating the support necessary to fully realize vocational education and community college programs that will provide opportunities for ongoing success to all of our students. Laudable goals, and well within the defined role of a councilmember.


Charter Schools
Susan Punnett,

This has already been answered more fully by another parent, but I think you would be interested in the work being done by Save Our Schools and others that is pointing out the pernicious practice of at least some charters of accepting students who need special education services, keeping them until after the official attendance count, and then kicking them out and keeping the money for the rest of the school year (including the extra that goes with those with an IEP). Ditto for students who are behaviorally challenging -- many are booted out to return to the neighborhood school, but the money does not follow (if done after the October count). Why aren’t charters required to keep and work with all students, as the public schools are? Like so much in DC, the required oversight and accountability are lacking.

I am the parent of two children educated in DCPS (Capitol Hill Cluster School and School Without Walls ‘03 and ‘06).


Point of Clarification on Ballpark Specs
Tom Monroe,

Ed Barron notes [themail, August 20] that an article about the ballpark design claims that, “The ball park is quite a bit lower than street level, allowing easy access to the upper and lower level seats.” Actually, the presence of a major sewer line at the M Street, SE, site and the cost of its removal versus building at grade prompted the ballpark planners to abandon the plan to build below-grade in the manner suggested. I remember that because it was subsequently noted in themail that a great deal of savings could’ve been achieved in construction costs with a below-grade design, which was possible at the RFK Stadium site but not at M Street, SE. Reading about that and the environmental disaster that seems to be present at the SE site shows what a grossly incompetent job the city has done on siting the ballpark, and I hope it’s not too late to get the site right for a project that figures to be with us for several decades.


Instant Runoff Voting
Jenefer Ellingston DC Statehood Green Party, Ward 6,

This note replies to the comments of Jonathan R. Rees [themail, August 20] with the obvious, but always avoided, solution. Every election has instances in which supporters of candidate A fear that candidate A will lose because candidates C, D, and E will drain votes from candidate A, even though he or she is preferred to candidate B.

Well, instant runoff voting is the answer. IRV has been around for years, but Democrats and Republicans constantly reject it because it opens the election arena to third parties. At the same time, it guarantees that the candidate with a majority of votes will win, while including third (and fourth) parties in the race and letting their supporters vote for them first while voting second for the candidate they want to win if their third party candidate doesn’t. Some years ago, the Statehood Green party visited city council members and asked them to enter a bill introducing IRV to our city council races. No headway was made. Maybe it’s time to try again.



Show DCPS Some Love: Beautification Day, August 26
Marc Borbely, 

This Saturday, two days before the start of school, DCPS is sponsoring its second annual School Beautification Day. I hope many of us will join Mayor Williams and Superintendent Janey for this citywide, neighborhood-based effort to clean and beautify our school grounds. Neighbors will be picking up trash, cutting weeds, trimming bushes and, at some schools, painting and planting. Please register at or to help us plan the day, and so we can communicate with everyone.

In Ward 6, where I'm serving as coordinator, the following schools still need the most help: Amidon ES, Bowen ES, Eliot JHS, Jefferson JHS, Peabody ES, and Walker-Jones ES. We're also still looking for more supplies — especially paint, plants and mulch. If you can help, please let me know.\


The Virginia State Capitol, September 7
Lauren Searl,

Thursday, September 7, 6:30-8:00 p.m. The Virginia State Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson and completed in 1788, is currently undergoing a large-scale restoration and expansion. James Wootton, executive director of Capitol Square Restoration Council, will discuss the $93 million project, which is adding 25,000 square feet to the Capitol (currently the second smallest in the nation), including a new entrance, a visitor’s center, and a café located under the South Lawn. This project is taking place among the renovation and rehabilitation of several State buildings on Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia. $12 Museum members; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Registration required. Register for events at


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