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December 6, 2006


Dear Van Helsings:

Bad ideas are like Dracula: no matter how many times he's staked through the heart or turns into ashes from being exposed to the sunlight, he'll rise from the dead to haunt the nights in the sequel. Today's example comes from the sponsors of the Video Lottery Terminal Gambling Initiative of 2006, who turned in petitions to the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to place their initiative on ballot in the next citywide election, whenever it may be held. They have also filed an appeal of the November 22, unanimous opinion of a three-judge panel of the DC Court of Appeals that found that the Video Lottery Terminal Gambling Initiative of 2006 was not a proper subject for an initiative ( The Court of Appeals ruled that: “The VLT Gambling Initiative is not a proper subject of initiative because its adoption would be an attempt to repeal or amend an Act of Congress which does not apply exclusively to the District. . . . We declare the VLT Gambling Initiative invalid and instruct the Superior Court to grant judgment for plaintiffs.”

The Board of Elections and Ethics took the petitions from the sponsors of the Initiative and marked them as “received but not accepted.” The Board has said that it will not review or process the petitions in any way until and unless the Court of Appeals reverses its opinion. We're confident that the DC Court of Appeals will not reverse its opinion, which was very tightly and carefully reasoned and written. Today's actions by the initiative's sponsors are a desperate, last-ditch tactic that will not succeed.

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill and


DPW and Public Information
Phil Carney,

The Department of Public Works recently announced that alternate side street parking for mechanized street sweeping was suspended from December 4, 2006, until March 21, 2007. Parking on the south side of the1700 block of Church Street, NW, is allowed only on Mondays for alternate side parking/street sweeping. On Monday, December 4, there were twenty-five DC licensed autos parked unnecessarily on the south side of the 1700 block of Church, NW. That's twenty-five DC residents in one block alone who did not get the message about DPW's parking/street sweeping winter changes. You may draw your own conclusions about whether DC residents aren't paying any attention or whether DPW is not adequately getting the word out.


Some Good Moves
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Mayor-to-be Fenty has made some good moves already, prior to his inauguration. He began with announcing some excellent choices for key personnel in his administration. Fenty has since followed up with benchmarking visits with key personnel, to see how some other municipalities are addressing issues that face the new mayor (e.g., who runs the schools). Recently it was announced that Fenty would be rearranging the deck chairs in his office. The new configuration would be similar to that used by NY City's Mayor Bloomberg. That configuration is a circle of desks surrounding the Mayor and his top aides. In this manner the Mayor is accessible, unlike the Ivory Tower approach of Tony Williams, who is isolated from his bureaucracy, and in a manner that fosters good communications. It seems the new mayor is actually building a team and exhibiting the traits of a good team leader. A good team leader does not have to be the smartest dude on the block. He needs only to be good at letting his key people do what they do best and working as part of his team.

My only caution to the relentless new (24/7) mayor is that he should not measure the effectiveness of his key teammates by the number of hours they put in. He should only measure their performance by results.


Right Turns Around Buses
Clyde Howard,

Once again the stupid bug has struck. The DC Government has decreed that, effective December 1, it is against the law to pass a Metro bus stopped at the bus stop near a corner to make a right turn. You must wait behind the bus until it moves, if you need to make a right turn. The Metropolitan Police Department will issue warning tickets for one month; after that the ticket will cost $100.

There is a law that forbids right turns from the left lane, which is the lane that someone would be in who made a right turn in front of a bus stopped at a bus stop. The charge would be "failing to yield the right of way," plus an illegal right turn. Now one would think that if MPD would get up off their lazy butts and enforce the existing laws on the books and if those representatives of the DC government that dreamed up this law had researched the traffic laws there would be only one recourse to resolve the problem, enforce the existing law. However, did they ever think that that what must a person do when the stop the bus is standing at is a terminus for that bus? How long would one have to wait until the the bus moved before making a right turn? Buses do not have information on their rears giving drivers a heads up as to whether the bus is shut down, waiting until the scheduled departure time from the stop if the bus is ahead of time, or broken down. Just remember, brain storming a problem is not a talent of the DC government; they are good only for developing more ways to snatch money out of your pocket.


Another Worst in the Nation
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The January issue of Car and Driver magazine has the rankings of the fifty states and the District of Columbia according to their attractiveness to drivers. The ranking was based on nine statistical criteria including quality of roads, traffic fatalities, etc. Washington, DC, came in dead last in the rankings. This means that, according to the statistics used in the rankings, DC is the worst place to drive in the entire country. That matches my experience in the nineteen years I've been here in the District. Most of my complaints about other drivers are those who come from Maryland. They are the worst I've ever encountered in more than fifty years of driving. Maryland was almost as bad for drivers as DC in the rankings. No surprise there.


Arguments Most Curious
Bill Coe,

Allow me to publicly thank Mr. Wilson for his interesting remarks [themail, December 3] on the history behind DC's constitutional standing, the Supremacy Clause, the Second Amendment, local gambling, gun control, and how all these issues have been treated in the courts by interested parties. Isn't it amazing how comfortably one boot fits so many feet! It appears statehood would be a poor remedy for DC's predicament, and that perhaps the better option is to preserve our current benighted status.

Is statehood not a goal of dubious utility? In the first place, I'm not sure becoming a full-fledged state wouldn't cause more problems for us than it solved. Secondly, I don't think it's going to happen — never, ever. Our grandchildrens' grandchildren won't be able to promise DC statehood to their grandchildren. The best we can expect, beyond a constitutionally suspect swap of House seats with Utah, is retrocession to Maryland. (That might not be so bad, actually; we would have our representation, and the political center of gravity in that state would suddenly be shifted to a point somewhere between RFK Stadium and the Laurel Racetrack.)

DC's beef has been expressed in the slogan “Taxation Without Representation.” It's a fair complaint. We're unhappy with a Congress whose members, unelected by us, meddle in our municipal affairs, often gratuitously. Consider this notion, though: DC, by virtue of being a territory or special district or outlier or uberstate or whatever, might escape the Supremacy Clause along with federal taxation. According to Mr. Wilson, this has been argued by proponents of the District and suggested in a ruling from Judge Walton. If it's true, statehood is a bad deal. Instead of seeking representation, we should do away with taxation. Imagine it, if the ridiculous became real! The resulting benefits, unfettered local governance and untaxed wealth, would convert our city overnight into a kind of American duchy — akin to Monaco, a place renowned for glittering prosperity. I, for one, could live with this indignity.


Library Scrap
William Mazer,

Brigid Quinn makes an excellent argument [themail, December 3] about there being too many libraries in DC. In an extra few more minutes on the subway (which we can “jump on” from whereever we live), we can be at the Library of Congress. We can accordingly scrap DC's entire library budget, including that for the MLK library.


Tenley Library
Martha Saccocio, Friends of the Tenley-Friendship Library,

The Tenley-Friendship Branch Library was one of the most heavily used libraries in the DCPL system before it was closed for reconstruction. To have it out of service for almost two years already is a real detriment to the neighborhood. In addition to having one of the highest circulations of any branch library, the programs, like the weekly story times and other children's programs, were heavily attended. After school, every table in the children's room was filled with children from neighborhood schools. The branch's position on the Metro meant that it served people from many neighborhoods, not just the immediate area. Many senior citizens who live within walking distance of the branch relied on it for anything from reading the newspaper to taking computer classes or getting free assistance with filing income taxes. The closure has been a problem for many neighborhood groups who convened in the meeting rooms.

To those of us who used the Tenley-Friendship Branch on a regular basis, there has been nothing “quick” about the process of reconstruction. While many of us appreciate the reasons for the cancellation of the plans, we are growing increasingly impatient with the lack of progress on a design for a new permanent branch. I think I speak for many in the neighborhood when I say that the reconstruction of the Tenley-Friendship Branch is an urgent priority that needs to begin moving forward.


Tenley Library
Edward Cowan,

I agree with Brigid Quinn's sensible comment (themail, December 3) that re-doing Tenley library is not the most important item in the list of proposed capital spending projects.

But the District's failure to achieve anything there — other than to pay for an architect's proposal that was rejected — twenty-three months after the branch library was closed does seem to be symptomatic of an indigenous capacity for malfeasance or nonfeasance. My sense is that statehood would mean a larger public payroll — more public employees not getting things done, or screwing them up.


The Shortfall That Wasn’t
Leo Alexander,

In last week’s submission to the mail, New Era of Leadership (November 29), I stated that the Departments of Mental Health (DMH) and Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration (MRDDA) were under the oversight of the Committee on Health. That was wrong. One of Councilmember David Catania’s staffers (B. Young) later set the record straight; both agencies are under the Committee on Human Services, chaired by current Ward 4 Council member and Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty. It was an honest mistake, since the erroneous information was initially obtained from a Catania staffer, H. Alston in the Committee on Health. End of story? I wish it were that simple.

How does a $300 million shortfall happen? As reported in the November 28 edition of The Washington Post, the District’s Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Natwar Gandhi, explained that these two agencies, DMH and MRDDA, routinely fail to submit the proper paperwork to receive federal reimbursement for Medicaid and Medicare services. Logical explanation, right? Again, I wish it were that simple. The question is whether there are sound processes in place to ensure systemic financial flaws like these are prevented from ever occurring. What happened to the checks and balances — the fail-safe triggers up the chain-of-command? “It’s all a big misunderstanding,” said CFO Public Affairs Officer Maryann Young. On Monday, December 4, I called the Office of the CFO to get a lesson in DC budget process 101. “Mr. Alexander, there is no shortfall . . . these were routine budget pressures,” said Ms. Young, along with the following written statement: “What the Post article referenced was some background on the budget process provided last week to the Fenty transition team last week. This is the budget process. This has not been identified as a 'shortfall.' Shortfall usually means there are few or no alternatives to closing the budget gap, and as Bert Molina, Deputy Chief Financial Officer for budget and planning explains in the story, there are options here. Let us further explain that similar pressures have been present through four of the last five budget cycles. This actually shows that the OCFO is being very diligent in identifying pressures and looking for ways to meet those pressures, which include the requested reduction in budgets to all agencies. Similar reductions have been requested in previous budget cycles and represent prudent fiscal management.”

So where did the Post get this story about a “shortfall”? Ms. Young said, “We gave our budgetary information to the Fenty transition team and in the spirit of transparency they simply misinterpreted the findings to the Post.” So why didn’t Dr. Gandhi protest the shortfall slant? Ms. Young replied, “This happens quite often. Dr. Gandhi’s personal policy is not to respond.” The bottom line is that Team Fenty didn’t properly understand the nuances of the 2006 budget and Team Post didn’t do its due diligence in order to get the proper understanding from Team Gandhi. Don’t you just love it when the Mayor-elect and the CFO aren’t on the same page; and the Post compounds the atmosphere of confusion? If this continues, the incoming Fenty administration could give new meaning to, “running the city like a business.” This whole story could have been avoided if the Mayor-elect had someone he trusted at his back with years of experience in interpreting the intricacies of the District’s budget process. Avoidable headlines are the last thing a new administration needs, but nothing teaches that like experience. I recall a joke from my days in the newsroom that goes — why let the facts get in the way of a good story. Now I see the scribes at the Post share the same sense of humor.


HR 5388: (Non)severability; Electoral College Votes
Scott McLarty,

Sam Jordan is correct in all his objections to HR 5388 (“DC Fairness in Representation Act”), which would grant DC a voting seat in the House of Representatives, except one. The Section 7 of HR 5388, titled Nonseverability of Provisions, states, “If any provision of this Act or any amendment made by this Act is held invalid, the remaining provisions of this Act or any amendment made by this Act shall be treated as invalid” ( If the US Supreme Court overturns HR 5388 because the US Constitution restricts voting representation in Congress to states, then Democratic DC will lose its new vote, but so will Republican Utah.

However, as Sam has noted elsewhere, HR 5388 will lead to a new Electoral College vote for Utah, since the number of state electors is tied to the number of US Representatives, while DC will maintain its three Electoral College votes. Democrats who plan to vote for HR 5388 will hand more Electoral College power to the Republican Party, giving the latter a seat that may become the deciding factor in a close presidential race. For more on various caveats concerning HR 5388, visit See also the web site of the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition, which held a very informative public forum on HR 5388 on November 18, For more on how the bid for DC voting representation in Congress has been used to hinder real democracy for DC (self-determination and self-government, i.e., statehood), visit “The D.C. Statehood Papers: Writings on D.C. Statehood & Self-government” by Sam Smith,, and “Twenty D.C. Citizens Lawsuit: The case for full democracy and equality,”


Sam Jordan,

Scott, you may have too much faith in the process. Take a look at contributions from Jonathan Turley and Tim Cooper as well on this matter of severability. It is true that the court will not substitute its own judgment for the actual language of the legislators, but a nonseverability clause is normally treated as the least binding clause if there is the possibility that the legislative intent can be achieved. The legislative intent expressed in the bill is not to grant Utah a seat only if DC gets a seat. The legislative is to give Utah a seat and to give DC a seat. Nothing in the legislation can be construed to mean that Utah is dependent upon the District for its seat even though the preamble may contain very noble language about the historical lack of voting representation in Congress for the District.


The D.C. Voting Rights Act Is Constitutional
Lorelie S. Masters,

Contrary to recent postings, the DC Voting Rights Act is constitutional and should be passed to correct one of historic inequities has afflicted the District. The Constitutional provision on which Sam Jordan (“Washington, DC, Wants What Utah Wants,” themail, December 3) relies to argue that the Act is unconstitutional does not preclude Congress from enacting legislation to give us DC residents a full vote in the US House of Representatives. That provision, found in Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution, does state that members of the House of Representatives shall be “chosen by the people of the various States.” However, many provisions in the Constitution refer only to “States.” Despite that fact, courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have consistently treated DC as a “State” for constitutional purposes. Thus, courts have ruled that DC residents are treated like citizens of “States” for many purposes, including: the power to levy and collect federal income taxes under the 16th Amendment, federal regulation of interstate commerce, federal court jurisdiction, and the right to trial by jury under the 6th Amendment.

Other federal legislation has allowed US citizens not present in their home jurisdictions to vote in Congressional elections. For example, soldiers stationed overseas are allowed to vote for Representatives and Senators from the last state in which they resided before shipping out to their foreign posts, without regard to their state of residency. The constitutionality of that legislation has never been challenged, and is unlikely to be so. In addition, eminent legal scholars have concluded that the Act is constitutional and should be passed now. Writing in the Washington Times in September 2006, for example, former federal Judges Kenneth Starr and Patricia Wald stated that the Voting Rights Act is "consistent with fundamental constitutional principles; it is consistent with the language of Congress’s constitutional power; and it is consistent with governing legal precedents."

Finally, if, after passage, the Act were found unconstitutional, both DC and Utah would lose the seats in House created by the legislation. The bill contains the following non-severability clause that provides that, if DC loses its voting Representative, so does Utah: “Sec. 7. Nonseverability of provisions. If any provision of this Act or any amendment made by this Act is held invalid, the remaining provisions of this Act or any amendment made by this Act shall be treated as invalid.” The full text of the Act can be found on the web site of DC Vote, for which I serve as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. The bipartisan compromise in the Act has the support of both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill, a fact that will help promote its passage and preclude efforts later to take away our vote (as was done with DC's vote in the Committee of the Whole in 1994 by the then-new Republican Congress) and disenfranchise the District once again. Mr. Jordan apparently opposes the VRA because he believes that we residents of DC deserve more. Surely, he is right that we do deserve the same rights, and votes in Congress, enjoyed by every other citizen of the United States. However, until that ideal becomes reality — and indeed to help achieve it — DC residents should have full voting representation in the House of Representatives.



Ward 5 Democrats Holiday Party, December 8
Hazel B. Thomas,

You are invited to the Ward 5 Democrats holiday party, Friday, December 8, 6:00-9:00 p.m., Ellis Island Restaurant at 12th and Quincy Streets, NE. Special guests, hors d’oeuvres and cheer, cash bar, dancing. General admission: $10 per person; donors: $25 per person (one admission and one bar drink); sponsors: $50 per person, two admissions and ad/listing in program. RSVP: 745-1818 by December 7. Admission can be paid at the door.


DC Public Library Events, December 10, 13
India Young,

Sunday, December 10, 2:00 p.m., Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library, 5625 Connecticut Avenue, NW. American University journalism professor Alicia Shepard will discuss her new book, Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate.

Wednesday, December 13, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Harrine Freeman, author of How to Get Out of Debt: Get an “A” Credit Rating for Free Using the System I’ve Used Successfully With Thousands of Clients, will discuss issues such as bankruptcies, judgments, student loans, delinquent debts, repossessions, how to correct errors and more. For more information, call 282-0193.


Antiques of the Future, December 13
Lauren Searl,

Wednesday, December 13, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Interested to know what the most sought after, valuable collectibles of tomorrow might be? Visit the Museum Shop for a look into Antiques of the Future. Noted author Lisa Roberts will be on hand to sign and answer questions about her latest book on deftly designed, fashion-forward products of today. National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Free. Registration not required.


H Street, NE, Community Carol Sing, December 17
Sharon Cochran, sharondotcochran@verizondotnet

Come join the Capital City Symphony on Sunday, December 17 at 5 p.m. for a free community carol sing. The event will take place at the orchestra's new home, the Atlas Performing Arts Center at 1333 H Street, NE. More information is available at the Capital City Symphony web site: or the Atlas site:



Paula Shelton,

I would like to announce that six schools in the District of Columbia have received the NASA Space Grant from American University. Each team will receive $10,000.00 to participate in the US FIRST Robotics Competion. The schools are: Banneker, Ballou, Friendship Collegiate Academy (Public Charter School), Roosevelt, Bell Multicultural, and McKinley Tech.

Each team, along with more than forty other area teams, will attend the kick off at Capitol College in Laurel, Maryland, to receive the official challenge. The students then have six weeks to design, build, and program the robot. In addition, the teams also design a web site, compose an animation, create an autocad design, and write three essays, as well as design their marketing strategies. For more information about US FIRST, go to their web site at If you would like to volunteer your time or resources it would be greatly appreciated.



Give a Bit of History for the Holidays!
Paul K. Williams,

Ever wondered who lived in your house, who wrote that note on the wall, or when your addition was built? You can find out, plus a whole lot more; we research the details of your house history to find out who owned it, who lived there, who built it and when, who designed it, and can sometimes even locate living family members of your home’s earliest inhabitants. Give an attractive gift certificate for your house history today as a personal and very unique gift! Did you know our house histories average twenty-five illustrated pages? For a free estimate and sample history, visit


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