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January 31, 2007


Dear Promised:

The Washington Post today editorially encourages the city council to be skeptical of the Board of Education’s school reform plan, which it dismisses as “empty promises” ( The council doesn’t need the paper’s encouragement; at yesterday’s hearing, some councilmembers treated members of the school board and any citizens who opposed the mayor’s takeover proposal not with skepticism, but with mean-spirited, caustic hostility. Meanwhile, both the paper and the council feign naiveness and pretend to swallow the mayor’s empty promises.

Read the mayor’s proposed bill ( and the Board of Education’s proposed bill ( for yourself, and compare them with an open mind. The BOE’s proposal is far from perfect — the Board members couldn’t kept themselves from trying to settle a few old scores along the way. But one thing stands out as the outstanding difference between them. The mayor’s bill promises only a power grab, and delivers only a seizure of power from the Board of Education and the building of a cumbersome, multi-layered new school management bureaucracy in the mayor’s office. It doesn’t talk at all about educating children or about improving the schools. The Board of Education’s bill, in sharp contrast, is all about education — it promises giving students a better education, and delivers measurable goals for improving the schools.

It’s easy to see why people would be skeptical of the Board of Education, but it’s almost impossible to see why anyone would trust the mayor and the council to do a better job. Certainly, if the mayor’s bill is passed, the mayor and the city council will immediately move on to other issues, other parts of city government for which they are already responsible that are performing as poorly or worse than the schools. Their attention will be elsewhere and, since the Board of Education will have been stripped of its powers, there will be no elected officials who will pay more than fleeting attention to giving good schools and a good education to our children.

Gary Imhoff


DC Board of Ed Needs to Reconsider No-Bid Contract
Mai Abdul Rahman,

V. Dion Haynes of the Washington Post wrote []: “The DC Board of Education is considering a no-bid contract with a little-experienced but politically connected organization to upgrade academics and facilities in some low-performing schools.” The schools considered include Rudolph Elementary School and MacFarland Middle School, both in Ward 4. According to Haynes, EdBuild lacks construction management experience and less than a year experience in teacher training. EdBuild began operation in 2005 and was headed by Neil Albert, a current Fenty appointee.

On the surface, the endorsement of a no-bid contract should be an anathema in a democratic society. When it comes to the expenditure of public dollars, it is expected that those services which cannot be performed in-house are contracted with the best and most qualified company. In order to locate the most qualified company, the Board is required to conduct open and transparent hearings. Otherwise the Board gives the appearance of favoritism and back room deals.

The citizens of Washington, DC, are putting their trust and faith that the school board will judiciously, openly and carefully dispense one billion dollars of public funding to repair and upgrade our schools. The School Board’s failure to carryout a thorough and transparent debate about this contract adds fuel to those who have charged that the school system cannot be trusted to spend our dollars effectively. Ed Build illustrates a process that devalues input, degrades our children and deprives our communities of a transparent and democratic process. Clearly our students and the citizens of this city deserve better.

Just as the Pentagon was forced to reconsider its no-bid contract with Halliburton for work involving the rebuilding of Iraq’s oil infrastructure, the Board of Education needs to reconsider this no-bid contract with EdBuild.


Helping to Balance DC’s Budget
Phil Shapiro,

When I heard about DC’s $300 million surplus, a certain amount pride swelled in my chest at the contributions I’ve made via the parking tickets I’ve paid. People commonly view parking tickets as an annoyance, but if you truly love this city, you’ll begin to view parking tickets as a beautiful way of giving back.

Think of the kind of city we could have if each of us chose to park illegally just two or three more times each month. It’s time that each of chose this selfless way of supporting our communities. You might not think you’re doing much for the city by paying your parking tickets, but every bit counts. And it’s not only the monetary payment that benefits the city. It’s the gesture that counts. It shows that you care.


DC’s Field of Dreams
Leo Alexander,

I read an article a couple of weeks ago in the Post’s sports section [“The Dominican Pipeline to D.C.: Nats Use Baseball Academy to Boost Flagging Presence,”] about a new partnership between the Washington Nationals and a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. The story basically explained why the brain trust of the Nationals felt this was an absolute must move on their part to find a possible big-leaguer on this talent-rich Caribbean island. So I began thinking, “What if. . . .” Now that our city leaders have agreed to cough up the $611 million for the stadium and another eight-figure sum for parking, what is the community getting back for its investment, besides a beautiful state-of-the-art park where billionaire owners can watch their millionaire jocks play a game? Here’s a thought . . . how about a baseball academy to attract and nurture young talent from our own community?

Over the next several years, the Nationals plan to funnel millions of dollars into a foreign country through a first class baseball academy in the hopes of finding the next Pedro or Sammy Sosa. At this facility, the prospects live around the clock and receive professional coaching, tutoring, mentoring and a balanced diet. What if the Nationals and the Office of the Mayor formed a public/private partnership along with Major League Baseball (MLB), the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, DC Public Schools, and the DC Department of Health to create an academy in the heart of the District, and provided the same level of enrichment for our local youth that they plan for the kids down in the Dominican Republic? Imagine what would happen if our local Satchel Paige and Babe Ruth little leagues were organized as farm teams to identify young talent in its early stages, and then channel that talent to this special baseball academy. It would be ground breaking. The Lerners would be credited with promoting a new approach to education, athletics, and healthy living in this one initiative. This blueprint will be copied in every major league city across the nation because everyone wins — the owners, the communities and more importantly our young men. After all, our children have the basic motor skills needed to play on an advanced level, but lack a couple of key ingredients — the will and vision on MLB’s part to find the next Cal Ripken or Frank Robinson right here at home.

I’d like to see the Nationals think outside the box and resist the urge to follow the other MLB teams out of the country, and instead cultivate our city for major league talent. Our young men are begging for an opportunity to be positively engaged away from the beckoning call of the mean streets. Think of all the community relations’ goodwill and pride this will inspire, not to mention the hope it will instill in a young life from the feeling that someone really cares. I believe our community is full of potential Hall of Famers just waiting for this opportunity. Like in the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”


Historic Preservation and Adaptive Use
David Maloney, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, DC Office of Planning,

Jack McKay’s posting [themail, January 28] repeats the inaccurate and needlessly divisive assertion that preservation regulations have absolute priority over the needs of residents. That statement is simply not borne out by the law or the facts of the Walbridge Place case that he cites. Residents all over the city successfully update their historic buildings to suit their needs. During the past five years our office has worked with dozens of property owners to solve access issues for their historic homes, churches, schools, and offices. That is because the purpose of the preservation law is to retain and enhance historic buildings and to encourage their adaptation for current use. The needs and desires of residents are among all kinds of practical considerations, including personal hardships that the Historic Preservation Review Board and its staff routinely consider when reviewing renovation proposals.

In the case of the house on Walbridge Place, the HPRB is considering a proposal to gut the house down to the studs and to convert it into two rental units. Half the front porch would be demolished for a basement entry court. The HPRB and its staff suggested several reasonable ways that the owner could design the project to allow his elderly parents to live safely and comfortably on either the main floors of the house or in the basement, whichever they prefer to return to, when the overhaul is complete. We gave very careful consideration to the realities of their situation. Regardless of historic preservation concerns, the owner’s plan for the basement entry court would be hazardous under any circumstance, much less during an emergency. He proposed building a narrow staircase without handrails in the middle of a steep ramp (a slope four times steeper than recommended by the ADA). The design simply doesn’t meet the building code.

Perhaps encouraged by the nature of the media coverage, the owner has so far declined to consider our suggested alternatives. DCRA now has the application under review, and when we have a DCRA-approved plan we will continue to work cooperatively with the owner to convert the house to the rental units he proposes.


District’s Historic Preservation Law
Richard Layman,

As a student and practitioner of urban revitalization, I am always struck by a contradiction -- the reality of historic preservation’s being the primary stabilizer of the city’s neighborhoods during the many decades in which demographic trends did not favor city living versus the attitude in some quarters about “hysteric preservation” and an unwillingness to pay heed to the architectural integrity of houses and neighborhoods; all the while choosing to live in the city and benefit from what preservationists have in fact preserved.

The recent case in Mt. Pleasant that Mr. McKay has publicized, including in the last issue of themail, twists our concerns for seniors and for social justice to denigrate historic preservation more generally. The fact of the matter is that from a good government perspective it’s always a bad idea to use really bad examples to change or criticize laws, although this is the way the legislative process tends to work in DC. An unwilling-to-be-reasonable property owner and a lousy architect is the problem in Mt. Pleasant -- not social justice, not inflexible historic preservation laws.

I am not a big fan of believing in “unique” and “exceptional” situations. Generally, while every place and building (except for retail chains) is unique, few places and situations are exceptional. I believe that this is in fact so in this case. If not, please make the case why the property owner should have gotten what they requested — a bastardization of the front elevation for a handicapped ramp that would not provide unassisted use, when the house already has a rear entrance at grade for the basement apartment. The fact is that the architectural integrity of houses contributes to the integrity of neighborhoods. It’s not just a matter of “the houses being pretty,” it also affects the property values of immediate neighbors and the overall value and perception of neighborhoods. Architectural integrity of neighborhoods is one of the significant contributors to the city’s identity and authenticity — it’s what makes our neighborhoods different from a Toll Brothers subdivision in Fairfax County. And it makes our city different from Bethesda or Rockville or Tysons Corner or anywhere else. Anything that we do that would diminish the identity and quality of life in our city must be considered very carefully. I have yet to see a good argument provided by “the other side.” Appeals to emotion yes. That’s not enough. We need appeals to reason.


African Americans, Immigrants, and Janitorial Work
Roger Scott,

[Re: Carolyn Long, “African Americans or Illegal Immigrants,” themail, January 28] As an African American, a native Washingtonian, and with a ten-year background in facilities management with janitorial oversight, I can provide some insight to this question. There are several contributing factors.

For the most part, African American workers are being priced out of the cleaning industry. Increase in profit margins and extensive competition among companies drive down wages. Should I even bother to mention the cost of living in the DC metro area? Think about it: it is reasonable to think a family of four (average) could live comfortably in this area on $10/hour per person? This is about $21,000 a year per person. A large majority of the immigrant population exists under a “community-concept” of living. They share money, skills, transportation, housing, childcare, etc. This is not as common in the African-American community, or most American communities, for that matter. The media and educational system demonize the janitorial industry. In crude terms, “It isn’t cool to mop floors.” So yes, it is demeaning to some, but this is only because it has been unofficially designated as an undesirable job. It does not help that some individuals treat office cleaners, of all races, as less than people. I have had to address too many staffers for disrespecting our workers.

As it relates to the immigration issue — if the employers stopped hiring illegal workers, the immigrants would stop coming. Thus you can not blame the workers, in lieu of the employer! “Build it and they will come.” In conclusion, my opinion is that the low wages and the high cost of living have a higher impact on the lack of African-American in janitorial services than the stigma. If a living wage were paid to cleaners, the industry would be more diverse. Nevertheless, I will not completely dismiss the effects of the negative media portrayal of this industry on the mindset of the American public. I hope this helps.


Awash in DDoT City-Strangling Fetishes
Len Sullivan,

Congratulations to Clyde Howard [themail, January 28] for pointing out the folly of putting a traffic circle at South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue. That plan was in place well before the baseball stadium site was picked, and remains unchanged. Why make extensive plans to increase the safety of pedestrians, joggers, and bikers crossing the new bridge, only to kill them at the traffic circle? All pedestrian circulation around and into the stadium is also at grade level. But Mr. Howard has only identified the fetish on the nose of the DDoT camel. There are many more all over this peculiar Tangherlini-raised animal. All are intended to discourage modern forms of vehicular travel on DC’s marginal surface streets and arteries, and to freeze, if not reduce, transportation modes above or below the ground plane. From its inception, DDoT’s vision of smart growth has appeared to be no growth.

There is the go-it-alone fetish that leaves transportation infrastructure planning outside DC’s comprehensive/economic planning process. There is the anti-commuter fetish to try to force the region’s suburban families to live down in a city with third-world services. There is the great street fetish to turn major arteries (rather than secondary streets) into entertainment venues; the boulevard fetish to turn regional truck/commuter arteries into parks (rather than create separated promenades); the no-more Metro fetish, even though expansion would be primarily federally-funded; the trolley fetish to clog existing streets with outdated, track-limited, remotely-powered, emergency-averse local amusement rides; the protruding bus-stop fetish to assure no traffic moves faster than buses; the no city-owned off-street parking fetish which denies needed revenues; and the anti-technology fetish which ignores the revenue potential in automated user/abuser-fee collection. There is even a drawbridge fetish willing to pay $200 million to preserve the last five hundred yards of deep-draft channel up the Anacostia River to nowhere. While DC’s almost intractable public school problems occupy center stage, its easily reversible mobility problems languish.


Dorothy Miller,

[Re: Clyde Howard, themail, January 28] I suggest you research traffic circles in this city. Some, I think, are required by Congressional law. I understand your distress about driving in, through, and around circles, but this just might be something with which planners are stuck.



All the World’s a Stage, February 6
Lauren Searl,

Tuesday, February 6, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Lecture: All the World’s a Stage: The Performance of Space. Architectural space plays a major, yet sometimes overlooked role in movies and stage productions, setting moods, influencing actions, and providing backdrop. Barbara Romer, Ph.D., founder of The New Globe Theater, and John Coyne, theater consultant and set designer, have diverse professional perspectives on the interrelationships between theatrical productions and the physical spaces that accommodate them. Moderated by Martin Moeller, senior vice president at the National Building Museum and curator of the exhibition Reinventing the Globe: A Shakespearean Theater for the 21st Century, the panel will discuss the dynamic intersections between architecture and performance. This program is held in conjunction with the exhibition Reinventing the Globe, which will be open for viewing. $12 Museum members and students; $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.


DC Public Library Events, February 7 and following
India Young,

Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 12:00 p.m.., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall. 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 727-1181.

February 7, February 15, February 21, and February 28, 2007, 6:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Eighteenth Annual Audiovisual Division Black Film Festival. Wednesday, February 7, Uptown Saturday Night; Thursday, February 15, Inside Man; Wednesday, February 21, Cooley High; Wednesday, February 28, Crash. For more information, call the Audiovisual Division at 727-1265.


Shepherd Elementary School IB/Dual Language Open House, February 8
Ralph Blessing,

Dan Robinson, Principal of Shepherd Elementary School, writes: Shepherd Elementary School, 14th and Kalmia Streets. NW, is one of four DC public schools approved for International Baccalaureate programs. The school will hold the first of its 2007 Dual Language/IB Open Houses on Thursday, February 8, 9-11 a.m. Non-Shepherd Park residents with four-year olds who speak French, Spanish, or another language are encouraged to consider the Shepherd program. There are ten spots for French speakers and ten for Spanish speakers pre-K. The lottery drawing for non-SP residents will take place in March. For more information, E-mail June Confer at or call her at 576-6140. We hope to see you on the 8th!


HIV Prevention Education Emergency, February 8
Samuel Jordan,

Although the District refers to the HIV crisis in the city as an epidemic, there is an anomalous deficit in investments in HIV Prevention Education. Very few organizations offer a systematic program of educational activities and training. Therefore, I am hoping to recruit as many as possible to attend the training offered by the American Red Cross. The HIV Starter Facts class is scheduled for Thursday, February 8, at 5:30-9:30 p.m. at 2025 E Street, NW, National Red Cross Headquarters. Tuition is $38. I will teach this class and many of the upcoming monthly sessions, as I have for the past two years. It has been recommended for agency certification, promotions, Peace Corps candidates, faith community representatives, community based organization leaders, students, and those who wish to take the next steps: Instructor and Instructor of Instructors. At whatever level you aspire to attain, we need your help.

To enroll, please call Jeanne Cunningham at 303-4518 or go to the web site at If you cannot take the course, but are associated with an organization or agency that would want to host a training at an off-site location for at least ten participants, please call me at 388-6661. Another alternative is to organize at least ten students who will take the course without the cost of certification. You may call me to make arrangements. I am a Red Cross Authorized Provider. We must respond now.


Guy Mason Recreation Center Courses
Toni Ritzenberg,

Registration is now open for additional courses being offered this winter at the Guy Mason Recreation Center (3600 Calvert Street, NW). Intermediate knitting starts February 17 and runs for four weeks, ending March 3. Classes are held on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., and are for ages 16 and over. The cost is $60 for DC residents and $65 for nonresidents. There is a $35 materials fee.

There are new four-week sessions of Pilates starting February 6 and running through February 27. Level II, for students who have attended previous Pilates classes, is offered on Tuesdays from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; and Basic is on Tuesdays from 8:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m . The cost is $55 for DC residents and $60 for nonresidents. Art class, teaching introductory painting will be for four weeks beginning on February 8 and running through March 1. Classes will be held on Thursdays from 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., with the cost being $45 for DC residents and $50 for nonresidents. Every Wednesday beginning on February 7, from 8:00 p.m.-9:45 p.m., poetry for adults will be held at the Center. Poets are encouraged to express, share, and offer positive feedback with each other.

Registration is now, so visit the Center at 3600 Calvert Street or call Bob Haldeman/Caryl King at 282-2180 if you need additional information.



AARP DC Volunteer Leader Position
Grier Mendel,

Are you a DC resident who knows the city, is committed to improving the experience of aging in the District, and has advocacy or outreach experience? Have you held a leadership position in a community group, government advisory body, fraternal or religious organization, social welfare organization, or trade association? If so, we may have the perfect volunteer opportunity for you. AARP DC seeks two leadership volunteers to join its Executive Council, help set annual priorities and guide efforts to benefit our community. If this seems like a great match for you or someone you know, please visit, E-mail, or call C.A. Page at 434-7703 for more information.



Traveling Around DC?
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

There’s a real neat web site that will help anyone traveling from point A to point B anywhere in the city. You input where you are and where you want to get to, the time you want to leave where you are, and the program will tell you which Metrobus or Metrorail (or a combination of the two) to take. The program will also tell you what time the Metrobus leaves your stop or what time the Metrorail train leaves your station. The site is


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