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January 3, 2007

News Starts Tomorrow

Dear News Hounds:

The news from the new city administration begins tomorrow. Yesterday’s private inauguration was just a formality, and today’s public inauguration wasn’t that much more important. Mayor Fenty’s speech ( was a collection of platitudes. I just posted it, and I have already forgotten it. Council Chairman Gray’s speech ( didn’t say anything either, although it signals his desire for a return to 1960’s-style liberalism and 1970’s-style governmental social programs.

But tomorrow the news begins. Tomorrow Mayor Fenty announces his plan to take over the schools. That’s where the important money and property is. That’s where there is a multitude of desirable land holdings that are ripe for divestment and dispersal to the insiders. That’s where there is over two billion dollars in construction and renovation money ripe for the picking, money that the powers-that-be want to funnel to EdBuild, the Federal City Council creation that keeps a revolving door open for high-level city government officials ( By the way, don’t expect much reporting about EdBuild and its sweetheart insider deals from the Post or the Times (although V. Dion Haynes did have one story about it recently, This is an occasion on which we miss The Common Denominator, which would take on stories about who is profiting from sweetheart back-room deals. You may want to start subscribing to the Afro-American, since its reporter, Valencia Muhammed, is interested in covering the story.

Fenty has prepared well for this, naming new appointees to the Board of Education who are primed to undermine its authority and power, asserting that his secret plan for improving education will speedily improve DC’s schools, somehow. When I dealt with education affairs in some depth, a few decades ago, I formulated a personal rule: someone who referred to himself as a “teacher” probably had some idea of how to teach kids; someone who referred to himself as an “educator” would have theories about teaching, but no clue of what to do in a classroom; and someone who referred to himself as an “educationalist” was purely a quack. Fenty hasn’t given us any reason to trust that he has a teacher’s understanding of what DC’s students need, any reason to believe that he really has a plan that will change for the better what goes on in the classrooms. I have no doubt that he has a plan for the city’s assets, but I don’t see what’s in it for the kids. I suspect he’s an educationalist.

Gary Imhoff


Otto Pebworth,

Here’s hoping for a year of improvements over the last. I have appreciated your good work in publishing. One thing, though: we live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy — this is what gives us our rule of law as opposed to other supposed “democratic countries.”


Song Requested, Song Delivered
Phil Shapiro,

Regarding the annoying flashing lights on DC police cruisers:


Police Cruiser Lights
Bob Levine

I love it that the police keep their lights on at all times. It keeps them from being able to sneak up on you.


The DMV and SSNs
Ralston Cox, Dupont Circle,

A posting in themail [December 31, 2006] concerning a Department of Motor Vehicles employee who insisted that a registrant for a driver’s license provide his Social Security Number prompts this message. It is not necessary — and, in my opinion, it’s a really terrible idea -- to have your SSN serve as your driver’s license number. When someone needs your driver’s license for identification, remember that you’re handing them your SSN as well, if that’s the number on your license. When it’s written on the back of a check you’re writing at the local grocery or wherever, you’ve just given someone your name, address, social security number, birth date (since that’s on the license as well), and your banking information. Identity thieves love this!

When I applied for my last driver’s license I asked for and was given what appears to be a random number. And I left feeling better that I had withdrawn my SSN from yet another public venue.


Failures at Metro: Indifference Elsewhere
Len Sullivan,

I disagree with Ed Barron’s characterizations of Metro’s role, purpose, and shortcomings in the DC region (themail, December 13 and 31). Metro is not a public service, nor is it charged with giving every resident and commuter whatever service at whatever price they want. Metro is vital to the region’s infrastructure and a precursor to its future growth. DC’s future as a great capital city is put at risk by indifference to Metro by the federal government; the states and counties served; the DC council; DC’s economic planners; DC Department of Transportation; and, so far, Fenty’s transition team. A good case can be made for placing WMATA under federal receivership, at least until its long-term growth plans and funding sources (including fare-setting) are codified for both operations and expansion.

WMATA is DC’s most heavily (50 percent) subsidized public utility. It is an inadequately chartered, ineffectually managed corporation, unable to keep up with its aging physical assets, much less the region’s projected growth. Among water, sewer, gas, power, and communications, Metrorail will be DC’s first infrastructure element to become capacity-limited downtown, probably by 2015. Absent substantial in-town, off-street expansion, Metro cannot offset DC’s overcrowded arterials that DDoT plans to downgrade to traffic-limited, trolley-clogged, local entertainment venues.

Metro need not be a barrier to commuting minimum-wage workers, nor a duct for pumping freeloading suburbanites into an overtaxed, under-subsidized city. DC needs more tax sources that generate substantially more revenue than they consume. Successful businesses pay high property and sales taxes, and employ many skilled workers that leave their dependents elsewhere. DC’s financial future would be assured indefinitely with 100,000 more commuters, and 50,000 less resident tax-consumers at/below the poverty level, even if DC or their employers pay their fares. Why do DDoT’s “Transportation Vision” and DC’s twenty-year Comprehensive Plan show no growth in Metro? Where was Tangherlini when Metro’s budget deficit arose, and the Friendship Heights bus station ceiling was lowered below bus height? Is the long-term vision of Metro’s new $360,000 manager, John Catoe, any better than that of his predecessors or his Board? What did Emeka Moneme do to be DDoT’s next highly-paid director, besides tag after Tangherlini for six years? A first-rate city surely cannot be developed with third-rate transportation infrastructure planning.



DC Public Library Events, January 10-11
India Young,

Wednesday, January 10, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall. Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy will discuss Dr. Martin Luther King: The Person. For more information, call 727-1261.

Thursday, January 11, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall. Rudy Barker will give an inspiring, powerful rendition of Dr. King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. Grades 3-10. For more information, call 727-4804.

Thursday, January 11, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Gifted Soprano Malinda Dix-Hunt joins pianist Michael Craybill to present a recital in honor of the civil rights movement and achievements of African Americans, highlighting the poetry of Langston Hughes, set by composer Margaret Bonds. For more information, call 727-1285.

Thursday, January 11 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall. The twenty-five-member Salone Clary Chorale will perform a variety of selections, including Negro spirituals and some of Dr. King’s favorite anthems. For more information, call 727-1285.

Thursday, January 11 6:30 p.m., Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, 3110 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Author Alicia Shepard will discuss Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate. A book sale and signing will follow the program. For more information, call 282-3080.


The Hearst Tower at the NBM, January 10
Lauren Searl,

Wednesday, January 10, 12:30-1:30 p.m. The Hearst Tower is New York City’s first building to receive a Gold LEED certified rating for “core and shell and interiors.” The Hearst Tower uses high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning equipment, Energy Star appliances, and other energy-saving features such as rainwater and daylighting techniques to reduce resource consumption. Brian Schwagerl, vice president of Real Estate and Facilities Planning of the Hearst Corporation, will share his insights on the road map the Hearst Corporation used to design the environmentally friendly, 46-story office tower. Free. Registration not required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


Cleveland Park Meeting on DC Libraries, January 13
George Idelson, Cleveland Park Citizens Association,

“What’s Ahead for the DC Public Library System?” is the subject of a meeting scheduled for Saturday, January 13, 10:15 a.m., at the Cleveland Park Library. The speaker will be Ginnie Cooper, Chief Librarian of the DC Public Library System. The meeting is cosponsored by Friends of the Cleveland Park Library, Cleveland Park Citizens Association, and Cleveland Park Historical Society. All are welcome.


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