Hits and Misses
Today at Anthony Williams’s last press conference as mayor, Dorothy
asked him what his proudest accomplishments and biggest regrets were in
his two terms as mayor. As his proudest accomplishments, Williams listed
increased funding for human services, customer service improvements such
as the city’s web site and call center, the better fiscal health of
the city, improved child support and adoptions, and peoples’ rising
expectations and belief in the city. As his biggest regrets, he listed
only two, the fraudulent petitions submitted for his candidacy in the
2002 Democratic primary, and the aborted proposal to move the University
of the District of Columbia from Connecticut Avenue, NW, to Anacostia.
Interestingly, the three initiatives that most people would identify as
the biggest of his two terms — the mayoral takeover of the school
board, the closing of the only public hospital in the city, and the deal
with Major League Baseball for the city to fund all expenses of building
a new baseball stadium — didn’t make Mayor Williams’s list of
either successes or failures.
What would you list as the biggest mayoral or governmental
accomplishments and failures of the past eight years? Would your list
look anything like the mayor’s, or would it differ substantially?
It Takes More than a Village to Fix the
P. Walters, firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporters of the competing fixers for what ails DC schools would do
well to read Colby King’s recent column in the Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/08/AR2006120801305.html
). Good, working buildings are important, as are an efficient, caring
administration; effective, caring teachers; and good curricula. However,
without the social leadership of healthy families and their guidance of
the children, DC schools will continue to fail. Will the city honestly
debate the family problem and do something about it, or will we merely
stand by and watch Fenty, Bobb, Janey, the council, and others fight
over the influence and clout that control of the DCPS’s billions of
dollars in budget and capital funds brings?
Metro, A Public Service
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom
Once again, the folks at Metro are threatening fare increases and/or
cut backs in service to make up for a shortfall of about $116 million.
Both of these options will result in reduced ridership. It is timely for
those who run Metro and the communities serviced by Metro to recognize
that Metro is a public service. Fares and service hours should be
established in a customer friendly manner that will result in increased
ridership. DC, Maryland, and Virginia must step up to the plate and fund
the Metro system so that good maintenance and new cars are provided, and
ample well-trained personnel are running the system. I’m not calling
for a move to a five-cent fare, though some communities do provide their
customers with free transportation. The tens of thousands of Maryland
and Virginia residents who use Metro every day do not pay taxes in DC.
Their governments should recognize the value of Metro and pay their fair
share of the operating expenses to avoid shortfalls.
In the face of the increasing number of row houses being converted
into condominiums in Columbia Heights and the potential adverse affects
that such conversions might bring to our neighborhood, ANC 1A passed a
resolution on July 12 to request that the Zoning Commission consider
rezoning some residential rowhouse blocks from R-5-B to R-4. The Zoning
Commission agreed that this issue is important enough to set down a date
for a hearing, and has scheduled the hearing for February 8, 2007. This
also means that the R-4 zoning is in place until the hearing and
decision process is concluded. Most of the residential blocks in the
Columbia Heights are already zoned R-4. The requested rezoning area lies
between 14th and 16th Streets and Monroe Street and Spring Road, NW, and
would not affect existing apartment buildings and condominium units.
This request is consistent with the goals of the current comprehensive
plan and the mayor’s draft of the comprehensive plan update. Of
concern is the fact that current R-5-B zoning allows fifty-foot-high
buildings or five stories and apartment buildings and condominiums with
more than two units. R-4 zoning only allows forty-foot-high buildings or
four stories. Basement apartments are permitted in both zoning
designations. The major difference between the two zoning categories is
that R-4 is more geared toward rowhouses and flats (two units), while
the other is geared toward apartment buildings. Because of the typical
rowhouse lot size in Columbia Heights, the R-4 zoning would limit most
rowhouse conversions to no more than two units.
The ANC passed this resolution because of the significant impacts
that condominium conversions can have on the stability of
family-oriented neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights. Condominium
conversions reduce the number of family-sized housing units in the
neighborhood. The rowhouse is the basic unit of family housing in
Washington, DC, and the comprehensive plan’s policies are designed to
retain these family-oriented housing units in order to accommodate
families trying to remain in or locate within the District. Condominium
conversions also have the potential to adversely impact the
architectural character of our neighborhoods and to exacerbate traffic
and parking congestion, because more cars are associated with the higher
number of units in condominium buildings that were previously rowhouses.
The ANC is very interested in hearing your opinions about this
important issue. We have set up a special E-mail address to collect
comments. The address is email@example.com.
Comments received will be printed out and shared with the zoning
commission and the ANC. The hearing will represent another opportunity
for you to make comments to the zoning commission, either verbally or in
writing. The hearing will be held on February 8, 2007, at 6:30 p.m. in
the Zoning Commission chambers at 441 4th Street, NW, accessible by
Metro via the Judiciary Square Metro station. You will see large green
posters advertising the hearing on the affected blocks over the next two
months. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have any
questions about this important matter.
Another DMV Screwup
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom
I sent a check to renew my auto registration on November 15. The
check was cashed on November 24. The registration expired on December
10. I never received my new registration and parking sticker. I spent
forty-five minutes on the phone, most of that time waiting for someone
to pick up. Hope that I’ll get the sticker by Friday in the mail. No
excuses, no apologies, no explanation. Another Department of Motor
“Back in the day,” my parents had a simple rule: if you have to
choose between a person and something you can turn on and off, hang up
or put down. One of them has to go. That meant if I had company and a
phone call came for me, I had to excuse myself from one or the other;
ditto if I were watching TV or reading when a friend stopped by. Off
went the tube. Down went the book. It was really easy to choose
face-to-face time with a human with feelings that could have been hurt
at being asked to leave so I could have phone or TV time.
It’s probably too late to reinstate expectations and standards of
conduct, since rudeness and politeness are quickly becoming obsolete and
irrelevant terms. It would take something like a twelve-step overhaul of
social norms for the average professional under fifty to admit
“powerlessness” and “unmanageability” over high-tech toys.
Between recovery and convenience driven by profit, the winner is a
no-brainer. But for the individual high-tech addict, the choice still
exists. BlackBerry-itis is learned behavior; it can be unlearned, if —
and only if — the user actually prefers people.
[Re: Jack McKay, themail, December 10] Maybe the Historic
Preservation Office is onto something else here besides capricious and
arbitrary restriction of homeowners’ rights to change their homes.
This woman is 86 years old and stuck, possibly for the rest of her life,
in the basement. She would be more comfortable, at this stage in her
life, if she moved to a facility with elder care services and an
elevator. And she would be much safer, with or without the ramp in front
of her house, than she is now living in the basement.
Life stages happen (new kid, sell the convertible; third kid, buy a
bigger house; retirement, downsize; old age, eldercare). I think you’re
criticizing the HPO just for the sake of criticizing the HPO. People
could cry all sorts of reasons to get exceptions to both historic
preservation and more general zoning restrictions and building code
requirements, many of which would probably elicit just as much sympathy
as this case does. But if the HPO took pity and made an exception here,
then there would be no rules any more, effectively, would there?
By my observation, there are reasons to criticize the Historic
Preservation Office and the Historic Preservation Review Board. They are
not always consistent from case to case, and their level of control can
seem like the worst kind of micromanagement. But I honestly think this
is a case of knee-jerkism in a pretty clear example of a bad idea for
both the elderly couple and the neighborhood.
DC Government Accountability: Management Tool
or Fuzzy Buzz Word
Len Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
NARPAC’s December web site update focuses on the Fenty
administration’s stated intent to emphasize “accountability” as a
means of improving government performance. Effectively applied, it could
accomplish that and more: it could change the DC’s bureaucracy’s
reputation for bloated mediocrity. If trivialized, “accountability”
will join the ranks of meaningless feel-good platitudes like
“diversity” and “inclusiveness.” We explore one small ongoing DC
Department of Transportation effort, the Whitehurst Freeway
“Deconstruction” Feasibility Study, in substantial detail. By
pointing out the fallacies in its conduct, we try to illuminate what can
happen when accountability is missing from top to bottom in both the
executive and legislative branches of the DC government. There is no
guiding transportation plan at the top, and no reality check on faulty
evaluation methodologies at the bottom. In between, nobody in the chain
has exercised good judgment.
You are welcome to review our analysis at http://www.narpac.org/REXFREEWAY.HTM
or read our unusually short editorial at http://www.narpac.org/INTHOM.HTM#EDITORIAL.
Without accountability that begins and ends at the top, DC bureaucrats
will continue to waste taxpayer money generating worthless, deceptive,
and embarrassingly unrealistic studies and program plans. Our capital
city will reap the ridicule and uncertain future it deserves, but our
nation can ill afford. Care to weigh in?
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Public Library Events, December 19-20
India Young, email@example.com
Tuesday, December 19, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 307. Celebrate the Christmas season as
the Washingtoniana Division presents the film, “The Christmas Carol
Rag,” a play performed at the Signature Theater. For more information,
Wednesday, December 20, 6:00 p.m., Georgetown Neighborhood Library,
3260 R Street, NW. Learn about the benefits of meditation from the
Brahma Kumaris Center of Washington, D.C. DC Public Library is not
responsible, nor does it endorse health information given to
participants during the program. For more information, call 282-0213.
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
Holiday Cookie Sale for Adams Morgan Nonprofit
Mindy Moretti, firstname.lastname@example.org
Need something to bring to a holiday party? Looking for a quick and
easy gift? Don’t feel like making holiday cookies this year? Well, we’ve
got your answer. As a fundraiser for an Adams-Morgan-based nonprofit, we
will be selling boxes of assorted homemade cookies and sweets (chocolate
chip, peanut butter, molasses, sugar cookies, and meringue, etc.) for
$25 per box.
All proceeds will benefit Hoops Sagrado (http://www.hoopssagrado.org),
which uses the game of basketball to bring a better world to the
children of Washington, DC, and Guatemala. Hoops is a registered
501(c)3. Cookie boxes will be delivered to your DC home or place of
business on Monday, December 18 or Friday, December 22. The boxes, which
are white, can be decorated for the holidays upon request. To place an
order, or if you have any questions, please send an E-mail to: email@example.com.
CLASSIFIEDS — HOUSING
Takoma House for Rent
Ashley Inselman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Beautiful four bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, detached house in Takoma DC for
rent beginning January 1. The house has a newly remodeled kitchen with
all stainless appliances and granite countertops, a newly remodeled
basement, beautifully landscaped yard with large deck for outdoor
entertaining, and more. Located ten-minute walk from the Takoma DC
Metro. Asking $2600 per month, but may be willing to negotiate. Call
Ashley at 291-2736 or contact via email@example.com.
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 http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/subscribe.htm.
To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org
with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages
are available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
All postings should also be submitted to email@example.com,
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.