themail.gif (3487 bytes)

November 29, 2006

Baker’s Dozen

Dear Long-Suffering Readers:

I highly recommend the Josephine Baker exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery ( What have you seen or done in this town recently that makes DC the place you want to live?

Jeffrey Itell, who began in 1995 as DCStory and published it until August 1998, wrote me today: “The thought occurred to me last night that themail/dcstory has been published continuously since late 1995. . . . Do you realize this is one of the longest running (maybe the longest running) blogs?” Oh boy, do I ever.

Gary Imhoff


Two Years Ago
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

It was at that time that Montgomery County started construction on a huge new library in Rockville. At the same time, DC closed the Tenleytown library and several others in the city. Today Rockville has a brand new state-of-the-art library and we in Tenleytown, DC, have an abandoned building and no library service. This city is truly dysfunctional. Can you imagine how much more expensive it would be for the taxpayers and how dysfunctional DC would still be, if it were to become a state?


Good Police Work
Jack McKay,

Mount Pleasant suffered a severe burglary wave this summer, the rate increasing from the normal three burglaries per month to eleven in June, eleven in July, and twenty in August. The Metropolitan Police deployed a tactical unit of plainclothes officers to deal with this problem, officers who could patrol our streets without alerting would-be burglars to their presence. In a matter of weeks they arrested one burglar, caught other possible burglars in possession of stolen goods, and had firm words with several suspiciously behaved characters. The burglary rate quickly plummeted to six in October, and just three through virtually all of November. This is a model of effective police work.

The police want to do more plainclothes work, because only in plain clothes will they actually observe evildoers in action. Chief Ramsey has resisted requests for more plainclothes work, preferring to send officers out on patrol in uniform, in marked cars, with brightly flashing lights, warning all and sundry of their presence. This pleases the public and placates politicians, but does not get malefactors off the street, as those high-visibility patrols simply warn them to wait until the flashing lights are out of sight to do their evil deeds.

Ramsey’s chosen successor, Cathy Lanier, is said to be a proponent of "targeted patrols," as opposed to random feel-good patrolling. Let’s hope she allows more plainclothes policing, and perhaps also turns off those silly flashing squad-car lights, which serve only to confuse the public and intimidate tourists.


New Era of Leadership
Leo Alexander,

Since the big one — the Democratic Primary of 2006 — where the citizens of the District of Columbia overwhelmingly chose a new direction for the way local government operates in the nation’s capital, I have been hesitant to join the fray to criticize every move by soon-to-be Mayor Adrian Fenty. Here’s why: this city needs a good swift kick in the behind. What’s clear from Fenty’s appointments are that this is not going to be an administration that suffers from the usual paralysis of analysis. I was a staunch Linda Cropp supporter, but now it’s time for us to embrace the new Chief Executive as our agent for change. After watching some of Mayor-elect Fenty’s actions over the last couple of months, with the naming of a new police chief and mulling over a possible takeover of the public school system, I have to say I’m optimistic about this city’s new direction. Personally, I admire bold and decisive leadership . . . a person who understands the power of the office, the gravity of the issues and the strength of seizing the moment. The voters strong mandate should send a message to the returning members of the city council, some sure-to-be waiting in the wings to capitalize on the missteps of progressive ideas, that there’s a new era in city governance where placating to special interest groups is out — in favor of a new litmus test where the benefits of the entire city are paramount.

The media has chronicled the problems of this city, with education and crime heading the list. So what does Mayor-elect Fenty do, even before taking the oath of office? He charts a new course. He’s demonstrated that he is not afraid of taking risks as shown by his appointment of relative unknowns to key positions of power. So far, no time has been lost while crime and poor schools continue to trap some of our neighbors in a wasteland of premature death, poverty, and despair. At this pace, the citizens of the District will forgive an occasional mistake, as long as they feel his actions were performed with the best interests of the city in mind.

Case in point, the Post recently reported (November 28) a $300 million budget shortfall caused by a routine failure in two healthcare agencies — the Department of Mental Health and the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration — to submit the proper paperwork to receive federal reimbursement for Medicaid and Medicare services. If Mayor-elect Fenty really wants to send a strong message after he’s sworn in, he should demand a full accounting of where these errors took place and require an outside independent agency to certify the findings. Then the appropriate heads should roll. This new era of accountability shouldn’t just stop with the new Mayor. Chairman-elect Vince Gray should also follow this example and note where this breach in governmental oversight occurred  in the Committee on Public Health chaired by At-Large Councilmember David Catania. These oversight deficiencies should be kept in mind when the new Chair makes his committee chair assignments. Like most of us, I look forward to hearing the council this coming Tuesday, December 5, justify a pay hike on the heels of a nearly one-third of a billion dollar example of a serious systemic financial management control flaw. After all who’s responsibility is it to demand audits of agency financial processes? If this new era of leadership is embraced by both the executive and legislative branches of local government, just imagine the strides we can make in the spirit of collaboration.


Janey Better Qualified to Fix Our Schools Than Fenty
Jonathan R. Rees,

DC Public School Superintendent Clifford Janey is far more qualified to fix our schools than mayor elect Adrian Fenty in conjunction with school board president elect Robert Bobb.

Janey wants to take us back to the basics to rebuild our schools but Fenty has no plan but continues to talk out of his hat.

If Fenty’s current behavior in who he is choosing to head up DC government agencies (that will be under is control) is any indications of his capabilities, then he will do more damage than good for our schools.


Victor Reinoso
Warren Gorlick,

I was disappointed to read Jonathan Rees’s recent diatribe in themail [November 26] concerning the appointment of Victor Reinoso as deputy mayor for education. Mr. Rees asserts that it was “idiotic” to appoint Mr. Reinoso because Mr. Reinoso was a member of the “failed school board.” No one disputes that the District school board is by and large a lackluster bunch, but Mr. Reinoso distinguished himself during the short period since winning the election to represent Wards 3 and 4 last year. Recently, I worked with two other District school parents to oppose the school board’s proposed 2006-07 school calendar, which proposed reducing the academic year by giving teacher’s an additional nine new half days. Had the calendar been approved, the District would have had the dubious distinction of having the shortest amount of class education time of any jurisdiction in the area, and one of the shortest in the country (there would have only been 168 full days of school).

Victor Reinoso, along with Joanne Ginsburg, were the only school board members who opposed this blatant attempt to pander to the teacher’s union at the expense of our children’s education. He pointed out that the school calendar violated the District’s own regulations that called for 180 days of full time school. When Superintendent Janey then asserted that adding back the full days was too expensive and would cost 18 million per day, Mr. Reinoso challenged the Superintendent to provide figures to back these figures, which Janey was unable to do.

Ultimately, because of Mr. Reinoso’s efforts, the District’s Board of Education restored the nine days of school to the 2006-07 calendar. In this and other efforts, Mr. Reinoso has shown a distinguished record of public service, and deserves his promotion to the Deputy Mayor position.


Court Decision on Slots Initiative
Art Spitzer,

I am speaking only for myself; my employer (the ACLU) had no role in this case and took no position on it or on the merits of slot machines in DC. Regarding the DC Court of Appeals’ November 22 ruling on the Video Lottery Terminals initiative, Bill Coe asks [themail, November 26]: “Does anyone else see an irony in the outcome of that proposed gambling referendum? It was, as we know, nixed by the DC Court of Appeals on the basis of an old federal law aimed almost entirely at the District.” And Larry Seftor says “The resulting Appeals court ruling is a legal precedent that further erodes the self determination of District residents.”

With all due respect, Messrs. Coe and Seftor are misinformed. The “old federal law” actually applies in “the District of Columbia, in any possession of the United States, within Indian Country . . . or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States [with some exceptions].” 15 U.S.C. §1175. Thus it is not “aimed almost entirely at the District.” And the District has never had authority to repeal or amend any Acts of Congress except those that apply exclusively to the District of Columbia. Thus the decision “erodes” nothing. And that’s why the Court of Appeals found this such an easy case (decided by a unanimous panel only a few weeks after argument).

The principle of home rule means that Congress ought to amend this old federal law to allow the District to make its own decisions about gambling, as the fifty states can. But the principle of home rule doesn’t mean that incoherent legal arguments should win in the courts. The statute says what it says, and it’s the court’s job to read it honestly.


Of Course!
Bill Coe,

Re Mr. Imhoff’s posting on nullification [themail, November 23]: Gary has hit the nail on the head. Nationhood for DC! Why didn’t we think of this sooner? It would be so fine to require passports and fingerprints from all the immigrants who commute each day from Maryland and Virginia. We might even consider armed border patrols and a double fence. Meanwhile, through our local Department of Defense, we could aim tactical missiles at the district of the chairman on the congressional committee appointed to monitor our affairs. Maybe, with this kind of clout, we might be granted our own vote on such fundamental constitutional matters as whether or not to allow commercial gambling locally.


Slots Ruling Undermines Democracy
Bill Mosley,

In his reply to comments on the DC Court of Appeals’ ruling on gambling, Gary Imhoff dwells on legal issues while ignoring the substantive points raised by the readers — which is that the District should have the right to make such decisions for itself. One can be opposed to slots and still take no solace in the fact that the decision was made for us, not by us. Why this mistrust of the judgment of DC residents, who were denied the opportunity to decide for or against slots on the merits? Every time the federal government intervenes in our local affairs — especially at the behest of DC residents, as in this case — respect for our local institutions is undermined. Whether slot gambling is allowed in the District is an important question; whether we will be able to exercise the full rights of citizens is a critical one.


Larry Seftor, Ward 3, larry underscore seftor .them757 at

In his response to my posting about Dorothy Brizill’s actions in the slots case, Gary states “. . . [the] US Constitution, which made the national government preeminent over state governments.” This is untrue. The national government is not preeminent. The tenth amendment to the Constitution states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people,” meaning that our system is not hierarchical and the federal government and the states each have a role, with no blanket preeminence granted to the federal government. Gary’s statement, “If Larry and Bill want DC’s lawmakers to be more powerful than Congress, then statehood won’t satisfy their ambitions — DC will have to become an independent nation,” is untrue. Simple statehood, given the delineation of power provided by the Constitution, would be quite sufficient, albeit highly unlikely for us.

But that is not the point of my posting. My question is why Dorothy Brizill, Thelma Jones, and Anthony Muhammad are so distrustful of DC voters that they cannot tolerate a little self determination. Some of us rail against lack of rights provided to DC residents. Others acquiesce, given the difficulty of the struggle. Now we see that there is a third group that actively takes up the fight against us. Attack from without is hard. Attack from within, by Brizill, Jones, and Muhammad, is betrayal.


Gambling on Sovereignty
Tolu Tolu,

I could not agree more. As a native Washingtonian I am fed up with every body telling me what to have and do here. Why should all the gambling money go to Delaware seven days a week?


It’s Not a Statehood Issue
Gary Imhoff,

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t help the cause of statehood for statehood advocates to give the impression that they want DC to become a state so that they can defy federal laws. The south lost the Civil War, and the notion that states can ignore, overturn, or repeal federal laws died when the south lost. If we lived in Michigan or Indiana, and if Congress passed a law that applied to us, our state governments couldn’t overrule the federal government. DC isn’t any worse off than the states in that regard, and in fact an honest reading of the Court of Appeals decision leaves DC with far greater power with respect to the federal government than any of the states has.

Should the District, either through the council or through initiatives, be able to pass laws that contradict or overturn federal laws? During the Court of Appeals hearing, Judge Theodore Newman said that there is a federal law that makes it a crime to murder the president in the District of Columbia, and asked the attorney for the slots promoters whether the District could overturn that law and make it legal to murder the president in DC. Of course, the attorney’s answer was yes, but he failed to persuade the judges of that. Why doesn’t DC have the power to legalize presidential assassination, or kidnapping, or any of the thousands of other actions that are made illegal by federal laws? It isn’t because DC isn’t a state; it’s because federal law preempts local laws everywhere.


No Increase in DCPS Graduation Requirements
Erich Martel, Wilson High School, ehmartel at starpower dot net

On December 13, the Board of Education will consider the Superintendent’s proposal to make major amendments to DCMR Title 5; Chapter 22 “Grades, Promotion and Graduation.” The proposal calls for increasing high school graduation requirements from the present 23.5 Carnegie units or credits (1 Carnegie unit equals a full-year or two-semester course) to 26.0 credits by the following increases: mathematics, from 3.0 to 4.0; science, from 3.0 to 4.0; social studies, from 3.5 to 4.0; health and physical education, from 1.5 to 2.0; career and technical education, from 1.0 to 2.0. In mathematics, students will be required to pass Algebra I in order to be promoted to grade 10. This 4.0 CU increase would be offset by reducing the required electives from 4.5 to 3.0. Thus: 23.5 + 4.0 -1.5 = 26.0.

These increased requirements for the high school diploma are being promoted as the next logical step in the process of improving our schools’ academic rigor and the value of the high school diploma. As with earlier promises of distant, rosy, future success (remember the 2001 Business Plan that promised an average 200-300 average increase in student’s combined SAT scores by 2006), this proposal pretends that it can ignore the obstacles by legislating success (just command the waves to part!: continued lackluster student achievement, the failure to enforce standards of student behavior and responsibility, the many years of course content being watered down to substandard levels, and the pervasive and widespread policies of social promotion and social graduation. [Finished online at]



Ward 7 Business and Professional Association Networking Reception, November 30
Julius Ware,

Please join us at our Ward 7 Business & Professional Association Networking Reception, Thursday, November 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Fort Dupont Ice Arena, 3779 Ely Place, SE, phone number 584-5007. Tickets are $10 per person.

To RSVP, E-mail Cleve Mesidor at You can still purchase tickets in advance today by contacting Ivan Brown Realty, Inc., 399-9000, located at 3211 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, or by contacting Justina at Justina’s Hair Gallery, 812-0019, located at 4635 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE. Tickets will not be sold at the door so get them early! We hope to see you there!


World AIDS Day Forum, December 1
Wayne Turner,

A community forum will be hosted on World AIDS Day, Friday December 1, at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia. The forum will feature clients of the law school’s HIV/AIDS legal clinic, and will highlight the challenges faced by those coping with HIV and AIDS, and the efforts by their advocates to address those challenges. The forum is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served at 12:00 noon, with the program beginning at 12:30 p.m.

David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Building 38, Second Floor Windows Lounge (Red Line Metro to Van Ness/UDC. Wheelchair accessible.) Sponsored by Outlaw, the organization for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered law students and their allies. Cosponsored by Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA), the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Drug Policy Reform Group, Equal Justice Works, the Federalist Society, Latino/a Law Students Association, National Lawyers Guild, Phi Alpha Delta (PAD),

Contact Wayne Turner for more information at 403-9401,


UDC Theater Company, “The Colored Museum,” December 1, 2
Michael Andrews,

The University of the District of Columbia Theater Company presents George C. Wolfe’s highly provocative and sharply satirical play, “The Colored Museum,” playing December 1 and 2 in the UDC Little Theater. “The Colored Museum” premiered in 1986 and won Wolfe the Dramatists Guild Award. It was praised by critics but ridiculed by many in the African-American community that viewed it as anti-black. “‘The Colored Museum’ is an incredible representation of our authentic styles of being African American,” said Carmen White, a professor of theater at the University. “The play shows how different people within our race create or adopt different and unique flavors of being black. It gives a powerful illustration of our culture and our identity.”

The opening vignette, “Git on Board,” makes a mockery of the Middle Passage. The audience is welcomed aboard Celebrity Slaveship by a perky stewardess called Ms. Pat. She tells the passengers, “We will be crossing the Atlantic at an altitude that’s pretty high, so you must wear your shackles at all times.” She also instructs them to “refrain from call-and-response singing between cabins [because] that sort of thing leads to rebellion.” The most praised exhibit is “The Last Mama on the Couch Play,” which ridicules traditional black dramas, such as the acclaimed works of Lorraine Hansberry (“A Raison in the Sun”) and Ntozake Shange (“For Colored Girls Who Have Committed Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf”). This vignette opens with a narrator describing the scene. “Lights up on a dreary, depressing, but middle-class aspirations tenement slum. There is a couch, with a mama on it. Both are well worn. Enter Walter-Lee-Beau-Willie-Jones. He is Mama’s thirty-year-old- son. His brow is heavy from three hundred years of oppression.”

Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. on December 1 and 2. A matinee will also be presented December 2 at 3:00 p.m. General admission is $10.00. The price for students and seniors is $5.00. Group rates are available. Contact Professor Lennie Smith at 274-5749 for further ticket information. The production takes place in the UDC Little Theater, a charming and intimate 100-seat space located in the University Auditorium Building (Building 46 East). The Auditorium is at the corner of Windom Place and Connecticut Avenue, NW. The show contains strong language and adult content, and may not be suitable for all audiences.


National Building Museum Events, December 2, 11-22
Lauren Searl,

Saturday, December 2, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 2:00-4:00 p.m. Home Sweet Home: Gingerbread House Workshop. Get into the holiday spirit! Families assemble fresh gingerbread houses (11h x 10w x 8d") and decorate them using royal icing and a wide assortment of edible materials. $40 per house for Museum members; $50 nonmembers. Recommended for children age 5 and up. Prepaid registration required by November 29 at or 202.272.2448, ext. 3413. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.

December 11-22. This holiday season, the Museum Shop is offering twelve days of holiday savings and shopping delight, with an additional 10 percent discount for members and an expanded product selection. Visit the Museum Shop from December 11 through 22 and choose from a variety of books, unique designer accessories, and a fantastic range of educational toys and games. Pick up holiday gifts, like hand-blown building ornaments, cutting-edge kitchen tools by AR+Cook’s, and office accessories from Lexon. Not a member? Join today and start saving. Already enjoying member benefits? Share your love of the National Building Museum and its programs with your friends, family, or colleagues by giving a gift membership this season. Call the membership department at 202.272.2448, ext. 3200.


Ross Elementary Christmas Tree Sale, December 2, 3, 9 and 10
Phil Carney,

The tenth annual Christmas tree sale to benefit Ross Elementary School, our Dupont Circle neighborhood DC public school at 1730 R Street, NW, will be held on Saturdays and Sundays, December 2, 3, 9, and 10 from 10 a.m. to dark, at the corner of 17th & R Streets, NW (Italian Kitchen Restaurant patio). Free neighborhood deliveries to your door. All of the profits go to benefit Ross Elementary. A portion of your purchase price is tax deductible. The sale is sponsored by the Ross Elementary School Parent Teacher Association and Friends of Ross School. For more information or to help as a volunteer, please contact Rich Hancuff, 744-7147.

[Dawn Dickerson submitted a similar message about the Ross School Christmas tree sale, and added the following information:] On Sunday, December 10, from 12:00 p.m.-dark, shop our holiday bazaar for gift items from Dupont Circle and U street businesses. (Tables are still available if you have items to sell. Contact Dawn Dickerson, for more information)


Every Kid Counts in DC, December 4
Kendra Dunn, DC Children’s Trust Fund,

Please join the DC Kids Count Collaborative for the release of the Every Kid Counts in the District of Columbia 13th Annual Fact Book 2006 on Monday, December 4, from 9:30-11:00 am at The Urban Institute, 2100 M Street, NW, 5th Floor). Come hear about the important findings, get copies of the book, and enjoy breakfast. RSVP to Kendra Dunn at or 667-4940.


DC Public Library Events, December 4-6, 11, 18
India Young,

Mondays, December 4, 5:00 p.m., Capitol View Neighborhood Library, 5001 Central Avenue, SE. Christmas tree trimming gathering. Ages 14 and up. For more information, call 645-0218.

Mondays, December 4, 11, 18, 7:00 p.m., West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street, NW. Qigong, a form of Chinese medicine movement, breathing and meditation techniques. DC Public Library is not responsible, nor does it endorse health information given to participants during the program. For more information, call 724-8698.

Tuesday and Wednesday, December 5 and 6, 10:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Seventh annual Young People’s Poetry Marathon in Spanish. Join over one hundred children and young adult poets reading their poems in Spanish in a lively literary marathon! Teachers, register your students at 882-6227. Sponsored by Teatro de la Luna. Elementary, middle and high school students.


DISB Public Hearing on Bank Charter Application, December 14
Michelle Phipps-Evans,

The District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) invites the residents of the District of Columbia to a public hearing on December 14 at 10:00 a.m. at DISB’s offices, 810 First Street, NE, Suite 701. The hearing is for the public to weigh in on the bank charter application for NuAmerica Bank. On October 17, organizers for the proposed NuAmerica Bank (in organization) filed an application with DISB to establish a de novo commercial bank in the District of Columbia. Pursuant to DC Official Code § 26-704(b)(1)(A)(2001), the commissioner of DISB will hold a public hearing on the application.

Any person who wishes to testify at the public hearing should contact Associate Commissioner for Banking Howard Amer at the address listed above or by telephone at 727-8000 no later than noon on December 12. Testimony should be limited to five minutes. Any person in need of a hearing or language interpreter may apply to DISB no later than noon on December 12 for the appointment of a qualified interpreter. The record of the hearing will remain open until December 20 for written comments to be submitted. The public file for this application is available for inspection during DISB’s regular business hours, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at the address above.



Furnished Two Bedrooms for Rent
Josh Gibson,

Charming and comfortable furnished apartment available for a six to twelve month rental in 2007 (available January 10-Dececember 31, 2007). Large living room, master bedroom, second bedroom currently used as a home office (can serve either purpose), table-space kitchen with all new appliances, bathroom with vintage claw-foot tub. Apartment to be featured on The History Channel! Entire corner-unit apartment is filled with extensive sunlight through large and plentiful windows. Vintage hardwood floors, moldings, period details throughout.

Just steps to dozens of unique ethnic restaurants, shops, and services. But, in the best of both worlds, the apartment itself is located on a quiet and peaceful one-way street. Great community feeling to the building and the neighborhood. Steps from multiple bus lines, easy walking distance to three Metro subway stations.

Tastefully and comfortably furnished with unique pieces from around the country and the world. Owners would prefer to leave some belongings (books, wall hangings, etc.) in place in apartment above and beyond the basics (furniture, linens, kitchenware), but can be flexible on this point if it is a deal breaker. E-mail for information on cost, other questions:


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)