themail.gif (3487 bytes)

October 22, 2006

Dirty Deals

Dear Dealers:

Richard Layman wrote about the city council’s hearing on the New Town plan for the Florida Avenue Market in his blog on Friday, “I just spent five hours at a council hearing that makes me feel so dirty and despondent that I want to move out of the city tomorrow. I sure have a lot of sympathy for Suzanne Kelo [of the Supreme Court case that vastly expanded eminent domain powers] right now. Too bad there weren’t journalists in that room -- the cavalier attitude towards takings, and the mendaciousness, well, I do this stuff out of felt beliefs. To hear people say that John Ray has vision, or that Fred Greene was a great DC Planning director. Gosh, how can one not vomit on the spot? And to see how they line up support (the ANC people, who face it, aren’t that sophisticated, the bused-in seniors, the social service program directors, the civic associations that received some meager donations, etc.), again, it’s all laid out in Dream City [the biography of Marion Barry by Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood] but to have your nose rubbed in it is really tough. To see it is beyond belief.”

Here’s what Richard’s outrage is about. Sang Oi Choi, a businessman with interests in the Florida Avenue Market, has bought influence with the mayor and a number of councilmembers through a series of favors, including being a major financial sponsor of the mayor’s trip to Korea. Choi is the principle founder of New Town Development LLC, which wants to do a large development project that would supplant the entire Market and additional land around it. Choi and other principals in the New Town project also accompanied the mayor on his trip to Korea, so they had his undivided attention for the five days of that trip in June. He is supported by outgoing Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange, and his lawyer is former Councilmember John Ray. The problem is that a number of property owners, including his own brother, don’t want to sell out to Choi, so Choi wants the city to use its eminent domain power to force them out and give their land to him. Additionally, some of the adjoining property that Choi wants is owned by Gallaudet University, and Choi hopes that Gallaudet will sell that land to him if the city gives Hamilton Junior High School to the University.

This is one of the dirtiest deals around. The bill to make it happen, the “New Town at Capital City Market Revitalization Development and Public/Private Partnership Act of 2006,” Bill 16-868, was introduced on July 14, a little over a month after Choi and the mayor returned from their Korea trip. The bill is supported by the mayor and cosponsored by eleven councilmembers, all of them except Councilmembers Catania and Schwartz. The mayor and eleven councilmembers are saying that the city will be glad to muscle small businesses out of their properties and out of business, and to give away city property, in order to benefit an influential businessman and political contributor who can’t get his way through the normal course of business. Richard’s right; this is disgusting, and they don’t even bother to hide the corruption.

Now is a good time to recommend Councilmember Schwartz’s bill to restrict eminent domain to its original intentions, so that the DC government can take our private property only for government uses, not to benefit political donors’ private business pojects. It is the “Protection from Eminent Domain Act of 2006,” Bill 16-912 (, and unlike many eminent domain bills that have been passed in other states in reaction to the Kelo decision, it is a clean bill that has no gaping loopholes that eviscerate it. It is a bill that all citizens who do not seek private favors from the DC government should support; of course, no other councilmembers are cosponsoring it.

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill and


Charter School Scandal
Bryce Suderow,

What do people think of the current DC Charter School Scandal? Has anyone been reading the coverage in the Examiner?


Homeland Security Appropriations: No Funding for Coast Guard Move to St. E’s
Stuart Gosswein,

The appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007 (HR 5441, Public Law 109-295), forbids DHS from moving the Coast Guard headquarters to St. Elizabeths and expresses dissatisfaction with current plans to move DHS headquarters to the site. The specific language is found in the committee report that accompanies the law: H Rept 109-699. It reads as follows:

"Headquarters: While the conferees have fully funded the budget request of $8,206,000 for enhancements to the DHS headquarters on Nebraska Avenue, no funding has been provided to move the US Coast Guard headquarters to the St. Elizabeths complex. This move has been proposed as the first phase to consolidate most or all of DHS at the St. Elizabeths campus. However, the Department is unable to elaborate on the reasons why St. Elizabeths is the best location for a permanent DHS headquarters, what other sites have been considered, which specific components would move to that site, the total space requirements for DHS headquarters, and the total costs associated with using the St. Elizabeths site as a headquarters location. The Department must develop a comprehensive long-term plan for the future location of all DHS offices and components, rather than the piecemeal approach currently being used. As such, the conferees prohibit the Department from relocating the Coast Guard’s headquarters, or any other DHS component, until DHS completes a new, comprehensive headquarters master plan and submits a prospectus for Congressional review and approval. In addition, the conferees direct the Department to regularly update the Committees on Appropriations on the expenditure of funds provided to improve the current DHS headquarters on Nebraska Avenue, as specified in the Senate report."


Mayor Tries to Stack DCSEC with Cronies
Tim Monroe,

See Whoever made the point recently about this baseball stadium and the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission being all about handing out perks and political sops was right on. The new administration can’t allow the DCSEC or other entities to be run like this.


Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .them757 at

I feel somewhat like a serf, bound to the land (or at least living as a resident of DC) and obligated to do the will of the Lerners. The Lerners have made it clear that the citizens of DC must serve their will in support of the Lerner’s personal money making venture, the Washington Nationals. Like the nobility of old, the Lerners are using the work of others (DC taxpayers in this case) to provide wealth and security for their family (a self-described benefit of owning the team that was documented in the recent Washington Post article about the Lerners). I’m not sure why the city council put me in this position of servitude, but I don’t like it and I think it is time for a little push back.

We live in an age where eminent domain allows governments to place public good over personal interests. In fact, Wikipedia states that, “Governments may also condemn personal property, including a contract or a franchise . . . .” Accordingly, contracts with governments have always been unfairly biased towards the public good and a government can act at its “convenience” (see Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.249-1 as an example). Hopefully our new mayor will act as a representative of the people, instead of as a shill for baseball (wouldn’t that be novel), and will protect the interests of the citizens of DC. Explaining to the Lerners that governments serve the public good rather than private interests might be enough. If not, the DC government should be willing to find and use legal tools to correct this absurd situation.


Twenty Millions Dollars of Metro Allocation Goes to Ballpark Metro Stop
Ed Delaney,

See Of course, city officials originally promised that the costs would be covered by the city and/or the team as part of the DC ballpark project. However, Major League Baseball worked the lease deal so that the city became obligated for the costs of improving the Metro stop, and the baseball boosters in city government simply moved those costs out of the stadium budget, instead dispatching city officials as lobbyists to get the feds to foot the cost of the ballpark-prompted improvements. The main lobbyist, Gregory McCarthy of the mayor’s office, accepted a consulting position with the team last week, according to this week’s City Paper, in the latest example of inbreeding amongst the baseball brigade. With the “money for construction coming from federal funds allocated to the District,” it represents a clear case of funds used towards the ballpark project that could’ve been used for other needed city purposes, such as making much needed repairs to the system, something which city officials pledged up and down would never occur.

The main problem besides dedicating more city funding to the ballpark project is that the station needs more than double that amount to meet Metro’s original $47 million expansion plan designed to accommodate game-day traffic. This estimate was already considered a bare minimum improvement, given the lack of adequate platform at a single-line station for the crowds of thirty to forty thousand that are expected at the parking-starved new ballpark. According to the February 21, 2005, Washington Business Journal, a reduction in spending to $20 million would lead to a situation that “officials acknowledge might create a logjam on sold-out game days that could keep hundreds or even thousands of fans milling about South Capitol Street and the surrounding area.” In other words, the $20 million item does not provide a solution to the transportation problems created by the issues of the current site and does nothing for the cost certainty that the mayor and the baseball brigade were supposed to provide on the Metro improvements front after shifting these costs outside of the ballpark project‘s budget.

Not only that, but a Metro spokesman pointed out late last year that in order to bring the Navy Yard Metro stop up to standards required to support the numbers of people going to ball games, work would have to start “no later than June of 2006” (WTOP, December 1, 2005). It’s quite a bit later than that, which again puts pressure on all involved to cut corners and hurry up to meet the Opening Day 2008 deadline, all of which figure to yield a compromised product in what is already a cut-rate white elephant of an operation and a further logistical nightmare at this horribly-placed ballpark with its nightmare of a transportation issue.


Another One Bites the Dust (Redux)
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .them757 at

Long time readers will know that I track the loss of the city’s movie theaters. Each theater lost had its own character and each added a little life to its neighborhood. We can add the Wisconsin Avenue Loews, which is closing at the end of November, to the following list: the Biograph, the Cerberus, the Fine Arts, the Inner Circle, the Jennifer, the Key, the MacArthur, the Paris, the Studio, the Tenley, the West End, the Outer Circle, and the Cinema (formerly next to Rodmans on Wisconsin Avenue). (Longer time residents would also add the Circle, the Senator, the Penn, and others to my list.) Fourteen screen multiplexes may offset some of the loss in screen count, but they cannot replace the lost neighborhood presence.


Google SketchUp, A No-Cost 3D Digital Playground
Phil Shapiro,

With new operating systems coming from Microsoft and Apple in the next few months, there are going to be a lot of donated computers available to youths and families in the DC-area in the next year. Some youth will be getting their hands on their first computer -- and will lack funds to buy software for it. As a community, we want those youths to be developing general skills, competence and confidence at using computer programs. I can think of no better program than Google SketchUp for this purpose. SketchUp is a free 3D drawing program that Google released a few months ago. Designed originally for architects, this program is easy enough for first graders to use.

To help others learn what this program can do, I’ve created several screencasts, narrated explanations of screen activity, showing Google SketchUp in action. These screencasts are collected together at Google Sketchup is available at Thanks for spreading the word to youths and to youth organizations you know — and to any families you know who have received, or expect to receive, their first computer in the coming months. In our community, we share information that empowers each other. Creativity is wealth. We must boost creativity for all members of our community, sharing wealth while creating new wealth.


NARPAC Rehashes Some Earlier Inputs
Len Sullivan,

This month we have belatedly posted our comments to DDoT last April on their plans for “deconstructing” the Whitehurst Freeway at, and last May on their plans to downgrade South Capitol Street while adding an overly elaborate new bridge at And for those who couldn’t connect to last month’s more important final testimony to the council on DC’s Comprehensive Plan, we try again to get it right at All reflect our deep concern for the city’s present (and future?) tin ear as regards long-range transportation infrastructure needs. We have also updated our longer-term statistics on crime in DC compared to other cities through 2005 at There’s lots of work for the new city government.



Ward 7 School Board Candidates Forum, October 27
Patricia Chittams,

A school board candidate forum will be held on Friday, October 27, from 7:00-9:00 p.m., at the First Baptist Church, 3440 Minnesota Avenue, SE, Rev. Harold N. Brooks, Jr., Pastor. This forum is sponsored by the Educational Outreach Ministry of First Baptist Church. This is the only school board candidate forum that will be held in Ward 7.


Children’s Book Authors at Cleveland Park Library, October 28
India Young,

Saturday, October 28, 2:00 p.m., Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW. An afternoon with children’s book authors. Mary Quattlebaum will read from her book, Sparks Fly High: The Legend of Dancing Point, and Erica S. Perl will read from Ninety-Three in My Family. A book signing and sale will follow the author talk. For more information, call 282-3072. Ages 4 - 8 accompanied by a parent.


Rally for Workforce Development, October 31
Jessica Goshow, DC Employment Justice Center,

The Workforce Development committee of the DC Jobs Council is organizing a rally for Workforce Development sponsored by the DC Employment Justice Center. The rally is to make sure that the new council and mayor know that the public cares about workforce development. It will be at DOES headquarters (609 H Street, NE) at 10:00 a.m. on October 31. The rally will focus on three main themes. The first is that the system needs to be fixed (DOES in particular); the second, that more resources need to be given to attain both hard and soft skills; and the last being that DC employers need to be encouraged to hire DC residents.

Come out and support workforce development! For more information, E-mail: or call 828-9675 x 20.


DC Builds, October 31
Lauren Searl,

Tuesday, October 31, 6:30-8:00 p.m., DC Builds: Comprehensive Plans for Large American Cities: The Process and the Product. Join in an evening panel discussion with Otis Rollie, director of planning in Baltimore, Peter Park, director of planning in Denver, John Rahalm, director of planning in Seattle, and Ellen McCarthy, director of planning in Washington, as they discuss the different processes and approaches they each worked through to develop a comprehensive plan for their respective cities and what the final outcome was for each. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at $12 Museum members and students; $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.


Mario Lavista Concert by Post-Classical Ensemble, November 9
Barbara Ruesga Pelayo,

The Cultural Institute of Mexico, GALA, and the Post-Classical Ensemble invite you to a concert to pay homage to Mario Lavista on Thursday, November 9, 8:00 p.m., at the GALA Theater, 3333 14th Street, NW. This concert by the Post-Classical Ensemble (Angel-Gil Ordonez, musical director; Joseph Horowitz, artistic director) will include performances of Lavista’s Reflejos de la noche for string orchestra, Marsias for oboe and tuned glasses, and Three Secular Dances for cello and piano, as well as Debussy’s Syrinx for solo flute. A dialogue with composer Mario Lavista will also take place. For tickets, contact or 1-800-494-TIXS. There is a special discount for members of the GALA Theater, the Post-Classical Ensemble, and the Cultural Institute of Mexico.



Winter Scarves for the Homeless
Mary Boland,

Friends’ Action, a 501(c)(4) charitable organization that advocates for Congressional voting rights for the citizens of the District of Columbia, is once again collecting winter scarves to be given to those who live on the streets of Washington. We ask for your assistance. Pull out your warmest yarn, make something wonderful, and send your creation(s) to Friends’ Action, PO Box 3138, Hagerstown, MD 21741 by December 8. We will distribute all donations to DC homeless shelters in December.

If you are not the creative type, you can still help us. Please pass the word — to your craft guild, club, church/synagogue/mosque, coworkers, and friends. Please note, for IRS purposes donations are not tax deductible.


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)