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November 15, 2006


Dear Suckers:

In Sunday’s issue of themail, Dorothy wrote about councilmembers’ plan to sneak through a substantial pay raise for themselves by passing an “emergency” bill, different versions of which would have given them raises of between $23,000 and $48,000 a year. Councilmembers, except for the council chairman, work at part-time positions, but they are now paid $92,530, several thousand dollars more than twice the average whole family income of families in the District of Columbia. They argue, however, that it’s difficult for them to scrape by on that paltry amount. They wanted to alleviate their poverty by introducing the pay raise bills at the last minute, either as an amendment to the mayor’s “transition” bill, which included a pay raise for the mayor, or as an emergency bill, and by passing it before citizens became aware of it.

That plan was sabotaged by a strong editorial in The Washington Post, published on the morning of their legislative session, that said, “These disgusting acts of greed are made worse by the deceitful way in which they are being sprung on the taxpayers. We hope there are council members who find this kind of sly behavior abhorrent and who today will vote no on the raises” ( Caught with their hands in the cookie jar, councilmembers were embarrassed enough to withdraw their emergency bills and to rethink their strategies. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to give themselves hefty raises — it just means that they’ll come up with a more innovative way to disguise their generosity in rewarding themselves. Councilmembers Mendelson and Gray have introduced very similar bills establishing independent commissions to study the rate of pay of councilmembers and periodically to recommend adjustments in their salaries. I’m too lazy to type all the sneer quotes that last sentence deserves, but imagine quotation marks around most of the words in it, including independent, study, and adjustments. In reality, both bills invite councilmembers and the mayor to appoint their friends to the commission to take the heat for more frequent and larger pay raises. The commission’s rationale will undoubtedly be comparisons with the pay of legislators in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, with populations ten to fifteen times that of DC. When our councilmembers’ pay is higher than that in any of the biggest US cities, the argument will be made that DC is both a city and a state, so councilmembers should make both what a city councilmember and a state legislator would make together. Councilmember Orange has introduced a simpler bill, that just raises councilmembers’ salaries by $30,000 this one time. (The Mendelson bill is at; the Gray bill is at; and the Orange bill is at

One or more of these bills, or some combination of them, is sure to be passed by the last legislative session of this year, after a limited public hearing with truncated notice to the public. Councilmembers’ charity begins in their own homes. But there is another problem. The law forbids councilmembers from receiving a pay raise in the same term in which the pay raise is voted on. The intent of the law is that an election should come between the time that a councilmember votes on a pay raise and the next term. But by passing the pay raise in the interval between the last general election and the start of the next term in January, three councilmembers (Graham, Mendelson, and Catania), mayor-elect Fenty, and chairman-elect Gray will all have an opportunity to vote on raises that they will receive without an intervening election. Since nine votes are needed to pass an emergency bill, if all five newly reelected beneficiaries of the raise do the honorable thing and recuse themselves from voting on a pay raise that they would receive in January, the raise could not be passed as an emergency, since only eight councilmembers would be eligible to vote on it. But the law is carelessly written, so there is no legal requirement that these five recuse themselves, and no way to prevent them from benefiting personally from their own votes. In fact, some councilmembers are discussing whether to repeal entirely the restriction on receiving a raise in the same term that it is passed.

Gary Imhoff


As Baseball Costs Soar, Officials Dream of Three More Stadiums
John and Debby Hanrahan,

Hey, sports fans, are you ready for possibly three more new District of Columbia stadiums, even as the South Capitol baseball stadium price tag climbs to $700-million and beyond? Since September, some of the same DC officials who presided over the latest parking fiasco ($36 million for 1,225 spaces) in the ongoing baseball stadium giveaway saga, have been making little pronouncements about their dreams for possible new stadiums in three sports -- soccer, lacrosse and, would you believe, football? Even as Seattle and Sacramento voters last week rejected subsidies for new professional basketball arenas, and as Oakland A’s owners this week announced they are building a new $500 million stadium on land they are purchasing and with mainly private financing, certain of our city officials have “kick me again” signs written all over them. Can we stop this nonsense before we become bigger saps than we already are?

So if you’re keeping score at home, here are your stadium lineups: 1) soccer stadium: This, of course, has been in the works for several years, but all the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission has told us is that the stadium will be built at Poplar Point, that it will hold about 27,000 fans, that it will open in 2009 (not 2008, as originally announced) and that it will be built on land that is supposed to be transferred by the federal government. Exactly how construction would be paid for hasn’t been disclosed, but our public officials’ crowd-pleasing utterances on the soccer stadium might give a disturbing clue. As DC United season-ticket holders, we get to hear our public officials’ stadium promises firsthand. At DC United’s season-opening game at RFK Stadium in the spring of 2005, Mayor Williams and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans both told the assembled fans, “We’re going to build you a soccer stadium.” Then, three Sundays ago at a DC United playoff game, Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty (who had so strongly opposed public financing of a baseball stadium) was presented with a United jersey by United president Kevin Payne, and Fenty then told the crowd: "We’re going to build you a soccer stadium.” Two Sundays ago, it was Sports Commission Chairman Mark Tuohey’s turn to tell the DC United crowd, “We’re going to build you a soccer stadium.” Now if you’re wondering whether you missed the news when this decision was made, don’t worry, you didn’t. This is just another DC government example of decision first, sham public discussion later. In that vein, the Anacostia Waterfront Commission has scheduled a November 28 public “presentation and discussion” of the Poplar Point development plan, including “exploring the feasibility of a proposed soccer stadium for DC United.” Feasibility? They have got to be kidding. Don’t they mean “explore the decision” — or didn’t the AWC get the memo?

2) Lacrosse stadium: The Washington Times (September 7) reported that members of the Sports and Entertainment Commission, the architects of our wonderful deal with Major League Baseball and the Nationals, “said they are in early talks with the National Lacrosse League (NLL) about forming a franchise in the District. The NLL has asked whether the city would finance a new or renovated stadium for the team and assist in building a Hall of Fame facility.” (Note to Mayor-elect Fenty: can’t we abolish this unaccountable commission before we pick up the newspaper one day and find that it is negotiating with NASCAR for a land giveaway and publicly financed superspeedway in our city, or discussing the feasibility of a state-of-the-art bullfighting ring?) 3) Football stadium: As discussed by Ed Delaney in the last issue [themail, November 12], Councilmember Jack Evans, in his regular column in the November 1 issue of The Georgetowner, complained of inconvenience going to and from FedEx Field and suggested bringing the Washington Redskins back to the District by tearing down the current RFK Stadium in two years and building a new stadium on the RFK site. Evans concluded the column by saying: “I have a suggestion. In two years, we will be finished with RFK Stadium. We could demolish this facility and lease the land for $1 per year to Dan Snyder. He could sell the land where FedEx Field is located, take the proceeds and build a new stadium with a retractable roof (Super Bowls!) on the RFK site. The Redskins would once again be in DC where they were winners and we could all attend games without committing an entire day of our lives. Think about it.”

Uh, Mr. Councilmember, do you (and Mr. Tuohey and Mayor Williams) recall stating during the baseball stadium debate, at numerous public forums and council meetings, that RFK was totally unsuitable as a site for a new stadium ? That it was too remote? That RFK didn’t lend itself as a magnet to the kind of coordinated stadium-retail-housing development that the South Capitol site did? That the tax-generating capabilities of an RFK site were minimal compared to South Capitol? That the South Capitol site would generate many more jobs? That the RFK site had serious environmental problems? (Although, as eventually reported in the press, the South Capitol site — which has never had an independent environmental study done on it — has its own serious environmental problems that the Sports Commission says has cost $15 million, and counting, to clean up.) In suggesting a new football stadium at the RFK site, Councilmember Evans could have also cited terrific Metro access and capacity, parking lots with 10,000 spaces, and the relatively easy getaway after games as other factors making RFK better than FedEx Field. But that might have raised an unpleasant subject. Namely, that the South Capitol site has only 1,225 planned parking spaces and a low-capacity Metro station, and presents the same potential seven-hour car trip that Evans complained of during his journey to and from FedEx field.


Hold Out for a Plan that Works
Sue Hemberger, Friendship Heights,

The first real test of Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray’s leadership, values, and integrity will come during two city council sessions on the Comprehensive Plan that outgoing Chair Linda Cropp has scheduled for December 5 and 19. Fenty and Gray, as well as Orange, Mendelson, and Patterson, pledged during their primary campaigns to slow the plan down and get it right. Brown seems inclined to hold the plan over, as does Catania. Graham might also be amenable. In this political landscape, Fenty and Gray should be able to assemble enough votes to prevent an obviously flawed piece of major legislation from being passed prematurely.

After all, Fenty ran on an accountability platform: that it’s time for DC government to start taking the interests of neighborhoods and residents as seriously as it takes the interests of the business community. Gray ran on a "one city" platform that encouraged us to think of the interconnections between the various neighborhoods in the District. Residents voted overwhelmingly to elect them. Assuming both were sincere, neither should be happy with a plan that promotes the short-term gains of special interests at the long-term expense of the city as a whole and that fails to steer investment to the communities that need it most. Comprehensive Taskforce members from neighborhoods across the city have testified in opposition to the current plan. They include: Ann Hughes Hargrove, Kalorama, Ward 1; Barbara Spillinger, Foggy Bottom, Ward 2; Nancy MacWood, Cleveland Park, Ward 3; Gale Black, Crestwood, Ward 4; Richard Wolf, Capitol Hill, Ward 6; Laura Richards, Penn Branch, Ward 7; and Johnnie Scott Rice, Southeast, Ward 7. In addition, both the Committee of 100 and the Federation of Citizens Associations have called for major revisions. Public input into the planning process should not be measured by how many clicks the Office of Planning has received on the web site or how many people attended their dog-and-pony shows around the city, but by whether the plan reflects and protects the interests of the city’s residents. Well-informed citizens all across the city are saying it does not. Our newly elected leaders would do well to pay attention to this message.

When those who enthusiastically worked and voted for Fenty during the primaries see the same corporate interests that fought so hard against his election now contributing to his campaign and when we simultaneously watch him appear to back away from promises he made about setting the city on a different course, we start to wonder what kind of mayor he will be. Decisive action to ensure that a coherent and effective Comprehensive Plan is adopted would go a long way toward addressing those concerns.

This is not a case where businesses and residents have inherently conflicting interests. Many of the improvements that citizens hope to see in the Plan would benefit small business owners, retailers, and other employers as well. The message from the neighborhoods is that successful development isn’t simply a matter of incentivizing the construction of more, bigger, or different buildings. We need a Plan whose focus is on making the District a better place to live, work, raise a family, and do business. The notion that we must rush to pass this Plan, however flawed and controversial, by the end of the year and that we can always clean up the mess later is one that has served us badly in other development contexts. Let’s not repeat the mistakes we made with the baseball stadium.

There is no real urgency here. The current Plan has not inhibited development; in fact, we’ve spent the last five years experiencing a real estate boom. And as that boom tapers off, good planning becomes more — not less — crucial. We need an intelligent and realistic strategy for redeveloping the city and managing growth over the next twenty years. The current mayor’s draft doesn’t provide it. Our mayor-elect should hold out for a Plan that does. This is a battle he can and must win.


The Emperor’s Library Has No Clothes
Robin Diener, DC Library Renaissance Project,

To support his proposal for a new library on the old convention center site, Mayor Williams has offered no actual plan, just a shifting sandcastle of fantasies and conjectures. No drawings of substance have been produced. His Blue Ribbon Task Force on Libraries, convened two years ago at taxpayer expense, has yet to publish its final report. The funding plan for the new building has been widely criticized by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and others.

Meanwhile, a feasibility study by the AIA/Urban Design Committee led by Kent Cooper in collaboration with MLK staff — supported by the Committee of 100 and Library Renaissance Project — showed ways to resolve long standing problems with the MLK building. Financing for renovation could be provided by revenues from the land on the old convention center site earmarked for the Mayor’s new central library.

Critics of the Cooper/AIA feasibility study have it both ways. DC Library spokesperson Monica Lewis can criticize it as being —ust conceptual.— (Presumably she understands that she goes to work every day on the fourth floor of that concept). Meanwhile, other experts on the Mayor’s team can target specifics, because unlike the Mayor’s plan, the Cooper/AIA plan relates to an actual building. Points in the Cooper plan that are intended only as examples (such as the exterior color or trees on the roof) could be refined easily if a real discussion were ever to take place. But as the Library Trustees declared at the listening sessions at branches across the city last winter, “MLK is off the table.”

In spite of Library Committee Chairman Kathy Patterson’s consistent efforts to allow all sides on the central-library issue to be heard, the Trustees (all mayoral appointees) were never going to consider the possibility of renovating MLK. A comparative cost analysis of the two alternatives, requested by Patterson and provided by the CFO, left out the specifics of the Cooper/AIA plan and added uncalled-for changes. Even so, renovation came out ahead, at $60 million less than building new. But then, what’s $60 million to the folks who brought us the stadium sinkhole?

If the Mayor’s plan for a new central library proceeds, as it is now poised to do (there’s still time to dash off an urgent plea to members of Patterson’s committee: Barry, Gray, Mendelson, Schwartz), citizens are going to get a library that is smaller, further from public transportation, on a dead section of New York Avenue, and likely resulting in another financial quagmire. Underlying the legislative transfer of property under consideration is a rush to close out old business and finalize deals for an outgoing administration -- an administration that has contributed nothing to the library in eight years. And a mayor-elect whose appeal was largely due to his challenge to business-as-usual governance has seemingly acquiesced to the Trustees without so much as glancing at the renovation plans or attending a single hearing.

In all this time, no one has ever suggested to what better use the space at the corner of 9th and G Streets could be put. No one has made the case that the best use of MLK isn’t as what was originally intended: a library.


Communicating in an Emergency: DCERN
Bill Adler,

If you’re on the DC Emergency Radio Network listserv, you receive a monthly reminder about DCERN, which provides an alternate means of communication for DC-area residents in an emergency. But because thinking about emergency communications isn’t often on the top of people’s daily to-do lists, every now and then I send out a note about DCERN to people in Washington’s neighborhoods.

DCERN uses FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios tuned to channel 1. DCERN provides a reliable way to communicate if the power fails, cell phone networks go down, or other, unforeseen emergencies happen. Although no emergency communications network can ever be perfect, because DCERN is decentralized, and because GMRS and FRS radios can run indefinitely using AA batteries, this gives people a way to communicate when all else fails. Being able to communicate in an emergency is an important first step toward safety during a crisis.

Our web site is, and there’s a related YahooGroup which you can join to talk about emergency communications: If you have any questions about DCERN, I would be happy to answer them.


Who’s in It for the Kids
Linda Roe,

I am a parent (native Washingtonian) of a sixth grader who’s in a DC Charter School. My child has been there for the last three years. The Charter school believes in homework in every subject and every night. The parent and student are held responsible for homework completion. Before that, she was in DC public schools. While at DCPS my child never recent homework and the teachers seem to be disinterested in the children. I just want to know, which of the politicians are in it for the children. I support Councilmember Fenty’s idea of taking over the school system. I see so many abandoned school buildings that could be renovated and used. My child’s school is a renovated abandoned warehouse. The founder believes in higher education for inter city kids. I feel the DCPS needs one superintendent and needs to move its headquarters to a more convenient area for the students and parents of the city. The headquarters is located on North Capitol Street, where the parking stinks. The school board meetings are held in a poor location and at a time when most parents (especially single parents such as myself) can’t attend. It’s time for the schools to be run by persons who truly believe in educating children and not by persons trying to get rich. Sorry to say, I don’t trust my neighbors (especially those who don’t have children) to vote for an elected official for schools. This is a position that should be held by someone who is appointed by the mayor. Who’s in it for the children?


Taking It to the Next Level
Jonathan Rees,

On November 12, Gary Imhoff wrote: “As I’ve written before, I haven’t been given any reason to trust either [Fenty’s] or Bobb’s motives in wanting to take control of the school budget, buildings, property, assets, and construction fund and, incidentally, the education of our children, so for now I’m just happy that they’re fighting rather than cooperating to divide up the spoils.” On October 29, I wrote in themail: “I believe that there will be an ugly tug of war between the Board of Education and our next mayor, most likely Adrian Fenty. I believe that the Board of Education will resist vehemently a takeover, will argue that a mayoral takeover is not needed, and that the plan presented for a takeover is flawed. They will rely on recent reports by the New York Times that say that mayoral takeover of schools nationwide have not proven to be a success anywhere, and that even NY state is talking about seizing control of the NYC schools back from Mayor Bloomberg. I believe that Adrian Fenty, when all is said and done, will be a bigger failure as mayor than Sharon Pratt Kelly was. His early-on fights with the council and others will water down his efforts to take over our schools by members on the council. Vincent Gray, who so much wants to be our next mayor; Kwame Brown, etc., will not want to see Fenty succeed. Special interest groups who do not like Fenty will jump in to help trip him, and he will not get the respect he wants from outside DC to make certain things happen. I believe Fenty will fail in his efforts to make our schools better, that two years from now we will all regret having voted for him, and that Vincent Gray and Jack Evans will come up with plans to better our schools without a mayoral and/or council takeover.”

For now, our schools are in the hands of president-elect Robert Bobb, until Fenty and/or Gray gets the US Congress to agree to amend the DC Home Rule Act to allow them control. Fenty seized upon an emotional issue for voters without a plan. I have no confidence in most anything Adrian Fenty says he is going to do, as he is all image without any real substance. The voters failed to see that before they elected him, but they will when November 2010 comes around. Until Fenty and/or Gray gets Congress to amend our Home Rule Act, we do not have to worry too much about any power plays, upstaging, back-stabbing or the like. I believe that Robert Bobb will do just fine and a lot better at fixing our schools than Fenty could ever do in his wildest dreams.


What Happened to My Ballot?
Dennis Jaffe, Den nisJa ffe @G mai

In the November 12 edition of themail, Lindsley Williams asked about voters’ experience with electronic voting in DC. In the September primary, 80 percent of voters chose paper and pencil over the electronic option. Unless DC’s electronic machines come with a verifiable paper trail, I’ll continue to stand with the four out of five voters who say, “Paper, please.”

Speaking of lost votes, I’d like to ask readers of themail to share their experiences of registering to vote in DC and discovering that the Board of Elections and Ethics didn’t “receive” one’s registration. I shared with a few folks this fall that this happened to me. I was really disturbed to learn of the same experience being shared by a number of people with whom I talked. And I thought I was unique. So I filled out the “change address” form on the day of the election and voted provisionally — or as the special ballot clerk told me, I would vote “provincially,” contrary to my own belief that my political philosophy is hewed more toward the greater community.

Maybe I’ll find out whether or not my vote was actually counted. If it was, I’ll be sure to share. But in the meantime, I’ll send an E-mail to the BOEE suggesting that if they don’t "receive" a hard copy of the voter registration form for a person within thirty days from the day the voter changes his or her registration online, the BOEE should notify the voter, perhaps by E-mail. My registration status is still marked pending online. Great.


Timing of Comprehensive Plan Approval
Alma Gates,

In response to Len Sullivan’s post in Sunday’s themail [November 12], I respectfully disagree with my colleague on his suggestion that the new Comprehensive Plan should be implemented now. He correctly acknowledged the problems, “What’s missing in the Comp Plan is a sense of policy direction on the big picture items, and these can’t be resolved by more meetings of neighborhood and single-issue activists.” And he acknowledged an appropriate course of action, “Top leadership attention must be directed to the overarching goals for this, the national capital of the United States of America. They need to mull over what’s really required to make this the best city in the world, and to listen to a different set of advisors. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any transition interest in fleshing out that big picture. The risk is that the new players may prematurely commit themselves to an inconsistent set of ad hoc objectives based on stovepipe transition guidelines.”

No one is suggesting that the Comp Plan should be the first agenda item the new Council considers, but rather that the city’s new leadership takes time to carefully study and implement a plan that does have policy direction and does work to make this the best city in the world. A real fear is that the new council will consider the plan a done deal if it is passed now and not make necessary revisions a priority for review and revision in the future. Time’s not a’wasting, Len, time is on the side of those who, like you, recognize there is a problem, and want it fixed before approval is given to a beautifully written but very flawed document that will in place for the next twenty years. We have a plan in place that has no expiration date. It would be prudent for the current council not to vote on a new plan at this time and to the credit of Williams/Cropp to have a plan that works for the city implemented in the future.


Deja Vu All Over Again from the Same Lidded Boxes
Len Sullivan,

NARPAC’s November web site update focuses on its voluntary contributions to the Fenty pre-transition team blogs. It gave us a good opportunity to go back over some of our conclusions reached over eight years of analyzing DC’s core problems from an outsider’s vantage point. You are welcome to rummage around in them at or read our mercifully short editorial at Despite encouragement to “think outside the box,” each team’s summary still stayed well within its usual box with its lid still on. So far, we are disappointed that the tough core issues like: defining a world-class city; reducing, rather than coddling, poverty; bellying up to transportation needs; and developing cooperative regional/federal relations, remain under the rug. Anyone out there share these same concerns?



African History and Culture Lecture Series, November 21
India Young,

Tuesday, November 21, 7:00 p.m., Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Library, 5401 South Dakota Avenue, NE. Fall African History/Culture Lecture Series. Presentations about the History of African, Afro-Americans, Hispanics and other ethnics. Adults. For more information, call 541-6256.



Used Furniture
Martin Tittle, mbt at martintittle dot com

I have two SpringAir Signature double beds that I’d like to sell, as well as several other pieces of furniture. Photos are available at Call or E-mail me if you see something that interests you. I’m on P just east of Dupont Circle.


Auction for Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Jane Avila,

From Wednesday, December 6, until Saturday, December 16, people will be able to bid on priceless experiences in a live eBay auction benefiting the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a nationally acclaimed public arts high school located in the nation’s capital. Approximately five entertainment-related packages will be auctioned live. Some of the auction prizes include: 1) meet star comedian Dave Chappelle! Attend any Chappelle performance in the continental United States. Receive two tickets to one of Dave’s shows, plus deluxe backstage passes to meet the most popular comedian in the country. As one of Duke Ellington’s most famous graduates (Class of 1991), Chappelle credits the school, where he majored in theater, for much of his success. 2) Meet world renowned opera star Denyce Graves! Enjoy the singer’s phenomenal talent with four tickets to one of her 2006-2007 season performances anywhere in the world! Following the concert, you and your guests are invited backstage to meet the diva herself!

To participate, bidders may visit


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