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November 1, 2006


Dear Funders:

Mayor Williams has sent a bill to the city council (the “Mayor and Chairman of the Council Transition Emergency Act of 2006,” Bill 16-965) that seeks to give Adrian Fenty up to $250,000 in taxpayer money to fund any transition expenses he may incur for staffers, consultants, travel expenses, services, etc. (We assume that Mayor Williams doesn’t expect these funds to go to Republican candidate David W. Kranich or Statehood-Green candidate Chris Otten.) The transition staff is already being provided free office space, utilities, and telephone services on the top floor of the Reeves Building, in the space vacated by the Office of Emergency Management. There are, however, serious questions about whether the public should pick up the bill. The eight-day pre-election campaign finance report that the Fenty campaign filed on Monday, October 30, shows that the campaign has $812,000 cash on hand. In total, it has raised $3.5 million. The Fenty campaign has several fundraisers planned for the remaining days before the election, to give the businesses, developers, and law firms that didn’t support him in the primary one last chance to jump on the bandwagon. Since it will have few expenses in the remaining week, it is likely to have a million dollars left when the campaign is over.

According to Fenty’s filing with the Office of Campaign Finance, he intends to transfer any unexpended campaign funds to a constituent services fund, in keeping with DC Code 1-1107.02(b). This will give him a sizable kitty from which to reward political supporters and advance his political causes. In addition, after the general election he will immediately begin raising funds for his inauguration. There is no legal requirement for the mayor or incoming mayor to report the contributions or contributors to, or the expenses of, the inaugural events, and no law governs the use of excess inaugural funds. In 1999, Mayor Williams transferred his excess inaugural funds to a committee, Washington First, controlled by his wife, Diane Williams; his lawyer and first Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Doug Patton; and his inauguration chairman, Bob Jones.

Citizens should demand that the mayor’s bill to fund Fenty’s transition be amended. Fenty has already been funding what his committee calls “pre-transition” activities from his campaign funds. Campaign funds have paid for the trips that he and his staff have made to New York City, Chicago, and California. When the council considers the mayor’s bill, it should amend it to change DC Code 1-1107.02, which governs how surplus campaign funds be used, to explicitly allow and encourage a successful candidate to use any excess campaign funds to fund their own transitions. Transition activities are the culmination of a successful political campaign, and using excess campaign funds for them seems to be perfectly reasonable and valid. It certainly seems more reasonable than hitting up taxpayers for a quarter million dollars just so Fenty doesn’t have to touch his million-dollar campaign war chest.

The mayor’s transition bill would also provide the council chairman-elect, Vincent Gray, $150,000 in transition funds. As a current member of the council, whose staff expenses, office expenses, and costs to move down the hall to a bigger office will be automatically covered, why does Gray need any transition funds at all?

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill and


Many Voters, Few Votes
Philip Blair,

Since October 6, I have filed five letters with the DC Board of Elections and Ethics detailing progressively serious problems with the conduct of the primary elections of September 12 and the officially certified results of those elections. My initial complaint concerned a Ward 5 DC Statehood-Green party primary for the Ward 5 Council seat, a contest I lost by 7 votes according to certified results; however, I had discovered (by checking the poll books for 9 of the 18 precincts of the ward line by line) that in many precincts the number of voters who signed in to vote far exceeded the number of recorded votes. My second complaint then documented the problem of more voters than votes for all 18 precincts in the ward: at least 50 votes were “lost,” far more than either my rival or I received. My third complaint showed that the “lost votes” situation was worse for the Republicans in Ward 5 than for the Statehood-Green party: 40 percent of the Republican votes were lost, but “only” 36 percent of the Statehood-Green votes.

My fourth complaint cited the regulations governing the “Ballot Accounting” required for the legal certification of results; the discrepancies I had already documented meant that Ballot Accounting regulations could not have been followed, and that certification was therefore not legally possible. My fifth complaint, filed Monday of this week, reported the “lost votes” problem for the city as a whole, and for each Ward. These data are truly appalling; in summary, using the certified results posted on the BOEE web site and “voter history” data from the BOEE’s own Access database, the following percentages of votes were “lost.” (For example, if there were 100 voters but only 80 votes, the loss is 20 percent.) In each case, the first figure is for the Statehood-Green Party, and the second is for the Republican Party. Figures are rounded to the nearest whole percent. Entire City: 33 percent, 26 percent. Ward 1: 20 percent, 29 percent. Ward 2: 23 percent, 16 percent. Ward 3: 22 percent, 8 percent. Ward 4: 33 percent, 31 percent. Ward 5: 36 percent, 40 percent. Ward 6: 32 percent, 19 percent. Ward 7: 49 percent, 43 percent. Ward 8: 59 percent, 4 percent.

I have received no reply to my complaints and requests for investigation, other than an acknowledgment that my first complaint has been received and confirmation that an investigation was being initiated. On Tuesday, a monthly Board of Elections meeting scheduled for Wednesday, November 1, was abruptly canceled; I have been told by a BOEE official that it will not be rescheduled for a date before the November 7 elections.


Gabriel Fineman,

Before the new mayor takes over the school board and tries to clean up that mess, he should hone his reform skills on a much smaller agency that has proved as difficult to reform — the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. If he could do that, I would have much more confidence in his ability to tackle the schools.


The Forest for the Trees
Ralph Chittams,

Election Day is eight short days away. However, the votes cast on November 7 will have a direct impact on Election Day 2008. It is almost a lock that Adrian Fenty will be the next mayor of the District of Columbia. That occurrence will result in a special election to fill his Ward 4 seat for the remainder of his term, until 2008. Those elected to the School Board in 2006 will only be serving two years, until 2008. In 2008 the school board reverts back to an all-elected board. This brings us to the crux of the matter. How many of us really believe that Robert Bobb’s political ambitions reach their apex with the presidency of the school board? Let’s examine the record. Mr. Bobb was brought here to do a job, City Administrator. He was initially house-hunting in Ward 8 (in fact he paid a deposit on a house) then purchased a house in Ward 4, after it became clear that Fenty would win the Democratic primary for mayor — after! Why the move from Ward 8 to Ward 4? It will be easier for him to defeat a two-year fill-in Councilmember in Ward 4 than an entrenched Marion Barry in Ward 8. Why should we elect someone to represent our children who already has his eyes on another job? If I am wrong, Mr. Bobb, issue a written, unambiguous statement that you will not be running for any ward seat or for mayor in 2008. In my humble opinion, Mr. Bobb has no real interest in the children of Washington, DC. He is simply using them as tools to further his own selfish power-seeking agenda, which is being financed by big business and developers. We do not need someone who advocates the dismantling of neighborhoods and selling of neighborhood schools, under the guise of economic development, overseeing our Schools.


A Golden Opportunity
Ed T. Barron,

The new mayor and president of the school board have a real opportunity to reform the DC Public Schools. It will take a lot of courage to make the needed changes. First and foremost the Teachers’ Unions must go. Tenure must be eliminated. The current pay system is deadly since it is rigid and favors old age instead of performance. Replace that pay system with one that rewards performance and results. Change the way teachers are hired. Look for persons with experience, proven capabilities, and educational background in the subjects they are hired to teach. Give hiring bonuses to real stars and periodically give pay increases or bonuses as teachers meet their goals. Help good teachers to relocate to DC from outside the area with relocation benefits and even some assistance in housing. Get the majority of the enormous school budget out of the administration (currently 49 percent) to get 80 percent, or more, into the classrooms. Give power to the principals to hire and fire and the budget to make things work in their schools, including facility upgrades. If the mayor and school board make these changes there is hope, yet, that our students can get a good education in the DC public schools.


The Sum of All Fears
Jonathan R. Rees,

In my last published post [themail, October 29], I said that Vincent Gray, the Democratic nominee for chair of the DC city council, desires to become mayor of the District of Columbia, and said that I believe that he will not want to see Adrian Fenty succeed, if he becomes mayor succeed. There is no denying that Vincent Gray is a shrewd businessman-lawyer-politician. His desire to climb the ranks of our political hierarchy quickly is manifested in his becoming councilmember for Ward 7 and two years later our possible next chair of the council.

At 63, Vincent Gray would be 67 in 2010 and 71 in 2014. Considering that Adrian Fenty is only 36 and would be 40 and 44 respectively, Vincent Gray knows that a successful Adrian Fenty would kill off any chance of his becoming mayor, and thus it is not in Vincent Gray’s best political interest to do anything that would help Adrian Fenty be a success and move on to a second or third term. Add to Vincent Gray’s strong desire to be mayor, the covert dislike for Adrian Fenty by Kwame Brown, Carol Schwartz, David Catania, and Jack Evans, and you have a making of “Sharon Pratt-Kelly II” with all the needed players to make it happen who would be enriched by Adrian Fenty failing and going into political obscurity as Sharon Pratt-Kelly has!

If you know the real Vincent Gray, then none of this is far fetched. It is a serious reality I think we will all see unfold, and unfold in a very clever and not so obvious manner before Christmas 2008.


You Let St. Louis Eat Your Lunch
Star Lawrence,

I see that Washington did not even make the top ten most dangerous cities. St. Louis is number one, acing out Detroit!

Come on, people!


Urban Design and the Comprehensive Plan
Richard Layman,

One of the things that I have testified about is that urban design needs to be considered the Comprehensive Plan’s primary element, leading and guiding all subsequent decision-making within land use and government agency and facilities planning. Urban design means respecting the street, connecting to the city beyond the site, having appropriate massing and setback, etc. In a city, which it shouldn’t have to be pointed out that DC is, urban design is centered upon the pedestrian experience. Often, DC government agencies make facilities planning decisions in ways that are counter to urban design. Rather than strengthening the fundamentally urban nature of the center city, they diminish it.

As an example, here is a statement from the DC Library System planning document "A Blueprint for Change," (page 19): "Branch libraries must be designed in such a way that people passing by in a car, in a bus, or on foot become aware of the building and are attracted to enter and use the facility. The branch must present an open, inviting, and attractive front with a clearly visible entrance. It is recommended that, where possible, the branch library be a single story building with a minimum of 20,000 square feet." First, this statement is disingenuous. There are many branch or regional libraries in other communities that are multiple stories. The libraries are funded and managed in such a manner that there aren’t security and staffing problems. It is the size of the facility that for the most part dictates staffing, not the number of floors specifically. Second, neighborhoods in DC are not well-served by sprawling car-oriented government buildings. One only has to pay attention to how suburban Post Offices have been disconnected from commercial districts and put out in more driveable places to discern the negative impact from such a policy. (Sadly, we have examples of suburbanized post offices in DC as well.) One such example illustrating both these points is the just opened in January 2006 five-story Bronx Library Center in New York City. Is NYC terribly out of touch with library site planning, and DC at the forefront of new trends? Not likely. (Note also that the new library in Rockville is three stories.) For the most part (if only because of the cost of land, and the typical density and scale of NYC neighborhoods), the New York City government constructs buildings respecting the fundamentally urban character of the city. By comparison, DC too often aggressively suburbanizes with its government-funded and/or supported projects.

Third, DC’s branch libraries should be placed in commercial districts to help provide additional reasons to patronize the commercial district, to be located in areas with rich transit assets, to minimize car orientation, and to strengthen the built environment. Making urban design the predominant element of the Comprehensive Plan would require that facilities planning and management actions by all District Government agencies would have to be done in concert with urban design-compact development provisions, not some underformed suburban-oriented policy preferences.


East of the River Online Presents Board of Education Candidates
Vernard R. Gray,

A few weeks ago we decided to offer each candidate for the 2006 Washington DC Board of Education election an opportunity to participate in a virtual candidate’s forum. The candidates are competing for three positions — president of the Board, District III member (Wards 5 and 6) and District IV (Wards 7 and 8). Most candidates — there are five each vying for three positions -- have responded to these questions: 1) why are you seeking election to the Washington DC School Board? 2) What are your qualifications for the position you seek? 3) In your opinion what are the five major issues facing the Washington DC School System? 4) Who or what is to blame? 5) What is your opinion of mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty’s position that the elected Washington DC School Board be converted to an appointed advisory panel? 6) Do you have a web site for your candidacy?

The results are published at


Well Done
Leo Alexander, Ward 4,

On Saturday, October 28, I had the honor to be a host at the seventy-sixth annual DC Federation of Civic Associations awards celebration. This is a can’t-miss event if your passion is grassroots civic involvement. It was a literal who’s who on the local political scene, attended by just about every current office holder and potential candidate in the city. It was a splendid affair at the Washington Navy Yard with more than 450 people representing all corners of the District in attendance. Former US Attorney Eric Holder and Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO president Joslyn Williams were keynote speakers, and local Fox news anchor Shawn Yancy was the mistress of ceremonies. The purpose of the event was not only to recognize the civic involvement of the Association’s members, but also to award scholarships to some of our most deserving youth. Both keynote speakers touched upon this year’s theme, Our Youth, with some hard truths on the limited opportunities that exist for the children of DC’s working class families.

This year’s event was also the swan song for outgoing Federation president Gerri Adams-Simmons. During her tenure as president, it was her task force which led a successful petition drive that lobbied Councilmember Kwame Brown to introduce “The School Modernization Financing Act of 2005,” an amendment to legislation that earmarked funds to reopen Phelps Career High School. She was also responsible for co-founding the Citizens for the National Capital Medical Center; a grassroots political group of concerned citizens formed to gain access to emergency health care in the eastern sector of the District. Under her leadership, the Federation awarded $13,000 in scholarships in 2006 and sponsored a political forum with the DC Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO. The significance of this event was that this was the first time in the local political arena that representatives from labor, business, and the community joined together for civic engagement in its purest form.

I’ve found that most people who are involved in civic service do so to better their communities but receive little recognition for their hard work. The recipients of this year’s awards represent the true spirit of one village — one family. The Federation’s officers should be applauded for their dedication and commitment to public service. However, rarely do you find a person who does so much, but shies away from all the kudos that follow. For this Gerri is a true gem, unique in every way. She dares to envision a future of infinite possibilities and embraces the belief that we are only limited by our imagination. Gerri, well done. Our Ward 4 community, our Federation, and our entire city are better because of you.


My Unbridled Enthusiasm Is for Analysis
Richard Layman,

Pleasant Mann [themail, October 29] attributes to me unbridled enthusiasm for mixed use when it comes to library planning and development. I would aver that’s an overstatement. However, I do believe, especially for neighborhood library buildings that are not designated historic, that mixed use development can be a part of a strategy to achieve multiple public policy and community development objectives simultaneously. Good (or even better) government demands that we possess vision, especially given the fact that resources, including land, are not unlimited. One of the better examples of mixed use development done in an exemplary fashion is in the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. This article, from Metropolis Magazine, is a good discussion of that project:

The issue really is to maximize the manner in which public assets contribute to community and neighborhood stabilization and improvement. The issue is can we do something similar, in appropriate places, in DC. It comes down to trust, and frankly, I don’t think that the DC government has a very good track record when it comes to funding or constructing quality buildings. We must demand more from our government and from ourselves. I can think of fewer than five projects over the past seven years. Most are value engineered boxes that end up being a form of visual “blight”" and certain facilities, such as recreation centers, can end up contributing to neighborhood disorder rather than improvement. And the public participation processes, especially for library planning, tend to be circumscribed in ways that minimize substantive public involvement.

Mann gives an example of poorly managed facilities by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation at Shaw Junior High School as a reason to not co-locate public services and facilities. This is not a good example. This is a problem of management and execution, which is a typical problem of DC government agencies, and one that must continue to be addressed by the next Mayor. Why is it that Arlington County has no problem in managing mixed-agency facilities, such as the Thomas Jefferson Junior High School and Community Center, which has a field house, theater and resident theater company, wellness facilities used by the public, art studios, and other facilities in addition to those of the school? Why is it that Arlington is redeveloping one of its libraries, Shirlington, to include a theater for the Signature Theater Company? And in November Montgomery County is opening a new library in Rockville with administrative space for the library system, as well as additional space for other government facilities? (Maybe Arlington is the area jurisdiction that should be calling itself a world class city, and not DC!) One of the many problems in DC is that we as residents don’t demand excellence from our government. I have a saying: “When you ask for nothing, that’s what you get. When you ask for the world, you don’t get it, but you get a lot more than nothing.” We must stop reacting as if the crumbs we get are all we deserve and worthy of great thanks and appreciation besides. And we can jump start this process with tough, analytical, clear thinking about the issues that come before us.


Horror in themail
Dorcas Dessaso,

Thanks for themail on all the wonderful horror hosts from back in the day [October 29]! I miss Count Gore deVol most of all. He was the campiest of them all, but the one who I believe genuinely loved his job! But more important than that, the movies he featured were classics to me. Remember The Screaming Skull? How about The Mill of the Stone Women? And the one that scared the jeepers out of me so bad, Dracula Has Arisen from the Grave! After it went off, I turned on every light in my apt at the time and the radio and kept them on all night long! I still laugh at myself to this day for being so silly, but Christopher Lee was one scary dude! Anyway, I’ve decided to do my civic duty and volunteered to work the polls this coming November 7. Hopefully, Christopher Lee wont show up to vote! But we want everyone else to.



Mayoral Debate Broadcast, November 2
Mark Segraves,

Washington Post radio, 1500 AM, 1077 FM, will air the only mayoral debate before the general election between Fenty and Kranich. Live, Thursday, November 2, 10:00 a.m., for one hour.


DC Public Library Events, November 2, 7
India Young,

Thursday, November 2, 2:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Let’s Talk About Books. Discuss the book Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Next month: “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway. For more information, call 727-1281.

Tuesdays, November 7, 14, 21, 28, 7:00 p.m. Free English as a Second Language Classes, Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street, SE. This program is designed to teach conversational English and fluency. It includes a resume workshop. The instructor will work with all levels. Registration is not required. All are welcome! For more information, call 698-3375.


National Building Museum Events, November 6, 8
Lauren Searl,

Monday, November 6, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Dr. Eugen Brühwiler of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich will discuss the work of Professor Christian Menn, examining projects such as the Bunkerhill Bridge in Boston, the Washington Road Pedestrian Bridge in Princeton, and the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. This lecture is presented in collaboration with the Embassy of Switzerland and will be held at the Embassy located at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, NW. $12 Museum members, Friends of Switzerland, and students; $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

Wednesday, November 8, 10: a.m.-5:00 p.m. Start your holiday shopping early in the Museum Shop with an incredible array of Iittala products — from the contemporary Alvar Aalto vase and Oiva Toikka’s whimsical handcrafted glass birds, to the limited-edition petrol blue 70th anniversary Aalto vase. Iittala representatives will be on hand to answer questions throughout the day.

Wednesday, November 8, 7:00-9:00 p.m. “Something we use every day should fit the human being in every sense.” These are the words of Alvar Aalto, the leading voice of Scandinavian modernism. Markku Lahti, director of the Alvar Aalto Museum and Foundation, will discuss Aalto’s distinguished career, including his Finnish and American buildings and the signature vase that bears his name. A reception will follow the presentation and the Shop will be open — with a chance to win a unique Iittala item! Enter the special raffle at the membership table. $12 Museum members and students; $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


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