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May 20, 2007


Dear Healthy People:

I apologize for missing last Wednesday’s issue of themail. It wasn’t a technical glitch or a vacation that accounted for its absence. I just got sick. After dinner, and just as I was returning home, I had a brief bad spell, and then I settled into the most pleasant and comfortable illness I’ve ever had. I’m not kidding; if you ever have to catch a bug, hope for this one. I didn’t have any pain or even discomfort. I was simply exhausted and tired, and I slept twenty hours a day for the next two days, and most of the third day, too. That’s why I didn’t answer any of your kind inquiries (for which I thank you) about the missing issue. I was too tired even to get on the computer, and you know that means I was very tired. I’m up and about now, so we’re back. Please resume contributing.

Jonetta Rose Barras and Bill Myers wrote two important articles last week: “Deputy Mayor Pushed Controversial Contractor” begins, “A top city official has recommended a politically connected construction firm — already being audited amid allegations of cost overrun and shoddy work — for a share in the $2.3 billion school modernization project, sources told The Examiner. Neil Albert, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, has privately said that The Jair Lynch Companies would be a good fit for the school construction project, sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they fear retribution” ( The follow-up article, “Deputy Mayor Lobbied for Company” (, gives the rest of the story. These articles are about what is just the first of a long series of the sweetheart insider deals that the school takeover was designed to facilitate, some of which we shall hear about, most of which we won’t. On the other part of the deal, the dramatic and rapid improvement in our children’s education that was the public rationale for the takeover, Theola Labbe writes in today’s Post ( that Superintendent Clifford Janey remains in charge of implementing his reform plan, and that in fact any mayoral reform plans would simply build on Janey’s reform plan.

Maybe I should have kept sleeping.

Gary Imhoff


To Ward 1’s Undemocratic Boss: Public Sessions Must Not Be Secret
David J. Mallof, Ward 2,

The problem with reelecting anyone by a wide margin is that it may invite an abuse of power later. I hope this is not the case with Councilmember Jim Graham, but I am worried it may be. One telling situation, as revealed in my several calls with DC government ethics and DC council administrative procedure professionals recently, suggests that Mr. Graham would rather game the system than get voters’ inputs. One government employee called the handling of the situation “Politburo-style.” The facts seem to agree fully with that assessment. The ABC Board in an independent DC agency. Board members serve four-year terms and function independently of, and do not report directly to, the mayor, unlike the Chief of Police or even the Attorney General. ABC Board members are responsible for ruling on some of the biggest daily impacts residents face, such as DC’s increasing club violence, underage drinking, requested licensee hours of operation, noise, and use of public space late at night.

On March 26, Mr. Graham’s Committee on Public Works ramrodded a critical mayoral nomination through in the dark of night with virtually no public comment, unlike any of the many critical nominations handled by our new mayor and the DC council this year. The Committee scheduled the required public hearing with only 24-hour notice, skirting the rules by calling it a public “roundtable” rather than a hearing, which requires fourteen days notice. It turns out only five public comments were received: four from invited friends of the nominee (including one fellow ANC commissioner) and one from a dissenter (also a fellow ANC commissioner). The one person who spoke in opposition discovered the roundtable only by happenstance: he noticed one day that Councilmember Mary Cheh’s parked car had its headlights on. He told me that had he not wandered back into the Wilson Building to inform her staff and subsequently chatted with other council staffers, he is quite sure he would never have learned of the pseudo-hearing! After the closeted roundtable session, the full Committee three days later voted in a similar last-minute, effectively secret manner, and as a result no official video transcript exists for either the “public” hearing or the Committee vote. Thus this confirmation for the record for a new ABC Board Member is virtually invisible. There is no official video transcript available on the Council’s web site for either the March 26 public roundtable or the critical March 29 Committee vote. This also likely means no cable TV broadcast of the events occurred, nor were replays of these sessions rebroadcast for several days over cable to inform the public of the maneuvers being taken. To my knowledge, all other public hearings and committee votes for other mayoral nominees have been properly archived in video format since Mayor Fenty and Mr. Gray took the reigns of leadership.

There are four more ABC Board nominations up for public discourse this May. Mr. Graham, do not take license with the citizens’ rights to be heard. Mr. Graham may attempt to justify his actions as technically within the law and within his right to provide a mere 24-hours notice (but not less than, a point which is still in question), since nominations are “Public Resolutions” rather than “Bills.” However, by no stretch is this good governance by an elected official, and it is inconsistent with the council’s settled policy of using public hearings for mayoral nominations. In decidedly flouting due process, he “dissed” the right of concerned citizens to comment. (Imagine if the Public Resolutions on the nominations of Police Chief Lanier or Attorney General Singer were advanced using "roundtables" with twenty-four hours notice.) By the way, you may wonder who the new ABC Board member is for whom there is no public record. When I spoke with Council Chairman Mr. Vincent Gray by telephone two weeks ago, he had never even heard of the fellow he had voted to approve! Well, I guess that apparently is not for you, or for Mr. Gray, or for me to know. (FYI, his name is Mr. Mital Gandhi, but good luck finding anything easily in the public record!)


Opposition to Nude Dancing Bars in Ward 5
Hazel Thomas,

Citing quality of life issues and after a careful review of DC Council Bill 17-109, “The One-Time Relocation of Licensees Displaced by the Ballpark and Skyland Development Project Amendment Act of 2007,” Premier Community Development Corporation (PCDC) supports Ward 5 citizens in their opposition to the relocation of nude bars in their community. The owners of businesses displaced by the baseball stadium have signed leases to put nude dancing clubs in these Ward 5 locations: 1) 2046 West Virginia Avenue, NE; 2) 2155 24th Place, NE; 3) V Street Warehouse (off of Service Street for Washington Times), and 4) 2132 West Virginia Avenue, NE.

PCDC, in conjunction with the community, is diligently working to revitalize and improve the quality of life in Ward 5. Ward 5 has already cited its interest in sit-down restaurants, exercise clubs, grocery stores, upscale retail, bakeries, cafes, bowling alleys, coffee shops, movie theaters, affordable housing, and host of other amenities. Most importantly, it has expressed an interest in a community that reflects its needs and provides a safe and suitable place to raise families and to live comfortably. Economic development must, first and foremost address the needs of the community. PCDC, therefore, opposes the relocation of these businesses to Ward Five based on the following: 1) zoning issues should remain under the purview of the Zoning Commission and not be ad hoc council legislation. 2) Sexually-oriented clubs need a certificate of occupancy and are supposed to be limited to a C4 zone (Downtown Business District), i.e., their previous location was illegal. 3) The businesses appear to have already been handsomely compensated for their displacement. The District should not be bound to guarantee illegal businesses additional space in the city. 4) The Trinidad/Ivy-City and New York Avenue gateway area of concern is undergoing Small Area Planning. Adult-themed entertainment is contrary to the vision for those areas, the ward, and is in conflict with the DC Comprehensive plan. While the area is zoned for light industrial use, nude bars are not be considered as its highest and best use. 5) Citizens do not want Ward 5 to become a dumping ground for businesses that other wards do not want, simply because Ward 5 has available industrial sites. 6) There does not seem to be a fair distribution of the displaced businesses among the various wards. Other displaced businesses without nude dancing were not given the same attention as the nude bars, although they are not a high priority of the close-in community.

PCDC, along with its Ward 5 residents, takes pride in our neighborhoods and resents the imposition of adult-entertainment/sex-industry clubs in our community, particularly without being consulted. It is fundamentally disrespectful to assume that we will allow others to put these clubs in our backyard. Perhaps, Councilmember Graham and his council colleagues need to be reminded that Ward 5 is neither politically impotent, naïve or fragmented. Joining with Ward 5 residents and our elected leadership, we are determined that Ward 5 will no longer be a dumping ground and there will not be a red light district built in our community.


DC Council Seems Eager to Create a Red Light District in Ward 5
Kathryn Pearson,

The District of Columbia seems intent on making the District of Columbia a great American city, with its takeover of schools and now its determination to create a red light district in the nation’s capital. Some citizens that support the effort believe that DC can be like New York City used to be with its “red light district” that the city was quick to usher out, or maybe DC could compete with some sides of Las Vegas to become Sin City on the Potomac. Those that oppose the establishment of an adult-themed entertainment park in their neighborhood are cautioned not to make this an issue of values or morality, as those are not concern or purview of legislators and that these are businesses that are entitled to relocate because they were displaced. Never mind the displacement of other businesses or residents or closing of businesses when it comes to fairness or entitlement when the sex industry may be viewed as big business enjoyed by a dedicated, obviously influential, powerful, money consumer base.

The Chair of the Committee on Public Works and Environment and his colleagues see the relocation of the displaced businesses from the stadium area to another area of the city as a matter of fairness, as long as the relocation sites are not in their wards. As a result of the quest to maintain the adult-oriented businesses within the borders of the nation’s capital, the Committee on Public Works and the Environment has developed Bill 17-109, “The One-Time Relocation of Licensees Displaced by the Ballpark and Skyland Development Project Amendment Act of 2007” that almost guarantees that Ward 5 will be the target for these businesses unwanted by any other ward.

On top of the handsome sums paid the business owners for taking their property in exchange for building the baseball stadium, the council seems to feel that the businesses are entitled to relocate from the baseball stadium area to light commercial manufacturing areas, which tend to be buffers between residential areas and heavier industrial zones. Therefore, with the number of commercial/light industry zones in Ward 5, this ward has become the focus. These types of zones were created along the railroad tracks and over the years because of the low cost of land around the tracks, low income communities (generally minorities) tended to develop nearby. Waste transfer stations/dumps have also located in these areas, to the frustration of residents. Some research has dubbed the phenomena of dumping certain types of businesses in such localities with low income residents as environmental racism. However, today’s council sees these locations as isolated places prime for the displaced sex clubs or nudie bars. Downtown and other wards are considered too expensive for them to relocate/


New Job Category Pulled from Thin Air
Phil Shapiro,

I asked my supervisor at the public library where I work whether I can call myself the “Public Geek.” “Sure,” she said. “It’s fine to call yourself the Public Geek.” “What does that make you?” I asked mischievously. “I’m the Geek in Chief,” she replied, without batting an eyelid.

Now during staff meetings I’ll be able to say, “Speaking as the Public Geek, I’d just like to say. . . .” You think I’m making this up? Here’s photographic proof ( I introduce myself very matter-of-factly to people who come into my workspace, “I work here as the Public Geek.” I fully expect someone to walk up to me and say, “I’m so glad to meet you. I’m the neighborhood nerd.”


Rudest Drivers in the Nation
Ed T. Barron,

Well, DC has, once again, made the top five in infamy. Right behind Miami and ahead of LA, Boston, and New York, the Connecticut Driving Association has labeled DC as having the worst drivers in the whole country. That sure matches my driving experiences within DC. I have done a lot of driving in LA and in New York and find drivers in the city here more impolite and always in a great hurry. In contrast, in another city where I do a lot of driving, Seattle, WA, drivers are very polite, and it is much less stressful driving there even in high traffic hours. I manage to do most of my traveling within DC via Metro and Metrobus. More folks should try that.

I would have to say that those who appear to be the worst drivers in the city, in my opinion, have Maryland plates. I’m for congestion pricing for those who drive into the borders of DC.


DC House Voting Rights Act Hearing Leads to Pending Mark-Up
Kevin Kiger,

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) kicked off the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the DC House Voting Rights Act (S. 1257) on May 15 by laying out a forceful case for the constitutionality of the bill. A senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Hatch is well-respected by Republicans and serves as a leader on constitutional issues. Following further impassioned testimony from elected officials, constitutional scholars and civil rights leaders, two Senators announced their support of the bill that would give DC its first-ever voting member of Congress. Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor and Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill announced their intentions to cosponsor the legislation after witnesses gave testimony that stressed the importance and immediacy of this civil rights issue.

Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT), a sponsor of the Senate bill, opened the hearing with the call to "mend a tear in the fabric of our democracy" and concluded the hearing by announcing his intentions to mark up the bill during the first two weeks of June.


Plagiarism Is a Symptom of Sloppy Work
Amy Hubbard, DCPS parent, omohub2020 at yahoo dot com

Some of themail’s correspondents have been arguing that Victor Reinoso’s plagiarism of other cities’ education plans is no big deal. They argue that plagiarizing a school report may be unforgivable but that cities borrow from each other all the time and failing to credit a source is not all that bad.

This obscures the fact that students who plagiarize usually do it when they are throwing together a sloppy piece of work at the last minute. When I taught college, I never received a paper that was well written, well thought out, and plagiarized. This is my chief objection to the mayor’s plan. From what I’ve heard so far, this act of plagiarism reflects an approach based on throwing together a lot of information from different places without much careful thought. Those analysts who downplay concerns about plagiarism don’t want to see that the report itself is suspect, regardless of whether the sources were acknowledged.

I’m less worried about Reinoso sticking to a moral code than I am as to whether he has actually carefully thought this plan through. I see no evidence that he has.


Plagiarism and the School Takeover Scheme
Gina Arlotto,

Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at this article, “District Copied Schools Plan” by David Nakamura in Wednesday’s Post ( I don’t have a problem with looking for “best practices” or reviewing other successful school district’s plans for ideas and inspiration, but if Mayor Fenty or Victor Reinoso were students in any DC school and turned in a paper that plagiarized 32 percent of another student’s work, they would get an automatic F. In almost any college or university in the country, plagiarism is such a major honor code violation that you can be expelled. And this is who we have running the schools in Washington, DC. I am embarrassed, outraged and appalled that Reinoso and staff did such a shoddy job.

Now here are a few other things to note from this shameful episode: 1) Reinoso’s staff budget (twelve or so employees earn almost $1.5 million) is more than the entire music budget for DCPS, with 55,000 students. So, we just paid Reinoso over $100,000 to take word for word, another jurisdiction’s transformation plan, timelines, catchy quotes, and all. 2) Cherita Whiting and I testified in February and March that Charlotte should be looked at as a better model for DC than New York or Chicago, due to the fact that they were ranked first in the mayor’s own study by the Parthenon Group with a fully elected school board, smaller size, and closer demographic makeup. Little did we know how seriously Reinoso and Company would take our admonition! 3) Reinoso and Company took the exact timeline that Charlotte is now working under . . . except that Charlotte started working on their reforms in November. So now we’re already behind the ball. Couldn’t they even muster the original thought to adjust the timelines? Guess not. 4) Reinoso and Company must think we are all pretty stupid. He planned on passing this off as his own work, vision, and testimony to his "expertise" in education reform, when really he (and his staff) knows nothing.

Thanks to one eagle-eyed former DC Auditor, we all know the pathetic truth. For all you DCPS parents out there, who work with your children nightly to make sure that reports they turn in are their own original thoughts and wording, this is yet another slap in the face. Reinoso said, "I am hopeful that this oversight doesn’t diminish the public’s perception of the administration’s intent and ability to successfully manage and reform the District’s Public School System." Ha. Too late. This is just another embarrassment that we have to suffer through at the hands of a callous, immature, inexperienced and quite possibly, incompetent, administration which is doing an extremely poor job of instilling confidence that they have the knowledge, the attention span and the ability to turn around our school system.


The Stolen Plan
Tom Whitley,

What example does it set for our children and adults who may be tempted to steal? Further, [Deputy Mayor Reinoso] did not attribute and he did not get permission and he did not acknowledge his theft. I cannot trust such a person.


Charlotte Ruse
P. Walters,

The Post reports that maybe the Charlotte, NC, schools plan is not so great in practice ( The reporter also claims that Victor Reinoso neither visited Charlotte, nor spoke with Charlotte district administrators, while preparing his “plan.” By all accounts, Mr. Reinoso is a nice man with good intentions. He also appears to adhere to the Alberto Gonzalez management approach — don’t addle me with the facts. Seemingly, the deputy mayor for education cannot bother to go to great lengths to analyze and understand the schools plan he chose to palm, then foist upon, the District. He and his staff, perhaps, cannot do the hard, mental work needed to understand the root problems of DCPS and define solutions specific to those problems. Solving DCPS’s decades-long malaise is tough, unglamorous, controversial, slogging, and often unseen work. Reinoso’s apologists, including the Post (see their editorial on May 14, say, “What’s the big deal? It’s only a plan.” This follows the happy faced, Fenty mode: activity is accomplishment. Except that business does nothing to ensure the kids a better future. Cut and paste doesn’t cut it.


The Questions Not Asked
Tom Heinemann,

“Reinoso said he has not visited the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system and did not talk to officials there while preparing the document.” (Washington Post, “Fenty Regrets Copied Proposal,” May 10,

Questions for Mr. Reinoso and Mayor Fenty: 1) How do you know that what works for Charlotte- Mecklenburg will work for Washington, DC, when you did not talk to them? 2) Based on your "discussions" with Charlotte-Mecklenburg, what are the similar challenges that you will face in implementing the plan? What challenges will be unique to DC? 3) How can you base the reform of a 60,000 + school system on a report from Charlotte-Mecklenburg when you haven’t had the conversation with them on where their plan succeeded or failed? 4) How can you be so sure that what’s good enough for Charlotte Mecklenburg school children is good enough for DC school children?

I don’t care much about the copying — much of that language was boiler plate good government stuff anyway. What I am concerned with however is the fact that there was no conversation with Mecklenburg on why their plan was successful and why or why not it would work here. DC children deserve better.


Reinoso Morality

Today the Post soft peddles the issue (  Not surprised. They failed to even mention Vincent Gray’s dismal three year record as Department of Human Services Director during the child welfare system’s free fall into receivership. Nor, in endorsing Tommy Wells as council member, did it note that the new Human Services Committee Chair appointed by Gray headed the Child Welfare Consortium in which five of the nine named LaShawn plaintiffs were placed when the receivership was imposed.

Under the circumstances, how can we citizens expect rigorous oversight of the child welfare system? Can Mr. Gray and Mr. Wells demand better performances of their successors than they provided?


Plagiarism and WASA
Bryce A. Suderow,

I’m as appalled as you are that people whose listings I generally respect defended the recent school plan plagiarism. I assumed people would call for the writer’s resignation and that support would vanish for Fenty’s decision to take over the schools. I can only conclude that they’re so desperate for Fenty that they’ll condone anything he does. I recall seeing the same behavior during the Williams administration.

I’m surprised at the lack of outrage over WASA’s allowing broken fire hydrants to remain unfixed. The Authority put all of our lies in danger. Here I conclude that people are so accustomed to incompetence that they no longer react to it.


The Globally Embarrassing State of Adult Literacy in Our Nation’s Capital
Len Sullivan,

The May update of NARPAC’s web site is devoted to digging into the technical reports behind the new assertions that 170,620 DC residents are functionally illiterate, i.e., “have trouble comprehending bus schedules, reading maps, and filling out job applications.” Ever skeptical, we wanted to make sure that UDC’s "State Education Agency" wasn’t using phony analyses like the CFO did to justify DC’s mythical financial “structural imbalance” (still referred to in the latest DC budget documents!). This time we again end up less than satisfied with the convoluted analytical approach, but convinced that even more DC adults have “below basic” reading skills than claimed, and that a larger share of them are in DC’s labor force and voting booths. You can check out our work at

But more troubling, the State Education Agency hopes to solve this national disgrace with a few million bucks more for community-based organizations, service centers, and local library upgrades. The consultants providing the analytical back-up seem to have overlooked two very basic points. First, the fifteen-input regression equations used to “synthesize” DC’s literacy from a national sample of 25,000 test results in 160 counties across the US (excluding DC) do not include parental education as a key factor. Second, the national rate of functional illiteracy (21 percent) corresponds very closely to the proportion of adults that dropped out of high school. But DC’s rate, twice as high, corresponds very closely to the share of DC adults that also completed high school, but went no further. Do any readers out there think that DCSEA can solve this problem on their own, without massive inputs from DCPS (whoever runs it)? And do any readers out there think the nation’s capital needs lower taxes more than higher functional literacy?



DC Public Library Events, May 21-23
Randi Blank,

Monday, May 21, 6:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Enhanced Business Information Center (e-BIC), A-level, e-BIC Conference Center. How to Get an SBA 7(a) Loan. Learn how to finance your business through the Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) loan guaranty program. Find out how it works, where to apply and what lenders look for on your application. For more information, call 727-2241.

Monday, May 21, 7:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. All the World’s a Stage Book Club. We will discuss Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician, by Anthony Everitt. For more information, call 727-1161.

Tuesday, May 22, 12:00 p.m., West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street, NW. West End Library Film Club. Bring your lunch and enjoy watching a film. For more information, call 724-8707.

Tuesday, May 22, 2:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Enhanced Business Information Center (e-BIC), A-level, e-BIC Conference Center. Starting a Home-Based Business. This session walks you through the tax and licensing requirements for a sole proprietor consultant who is doing business out of their home. Please call 727-2241 to reserve a seat.

Tuesday, May 22, 6:30 p.m., Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street, SE. Capitol Hill Book Club. Please call 698-3377 for the May book title.

Tuesday, May 22, 6:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Enhanced Business Information Center (e-BIC), A-level, e-BIC Conference Center. How to Find and Finance Commercial Property. This class will teach a step-by-step process to finding commercial real estate in Washington, D.C. You will become familiar with the D.C. real estate market and learn about the demographics of the various business districts in the city. For more information, call 727-2241.

Tuesday, May 22, 7:00 p.m., Takoma Park Neighborhood Library, 416 Cedar Street, NW. Takoma Park Book Club. To find out what book will be discussed, please call 576-7252.

Wednesday, May 23, 6:00 p.m., West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street, NW. Dramatic readings and Literary Friends group book discussion, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Actress Lynn-Jane Foreman will perform selected readings from the novel. A discussion by educators on African-American studies will follow. For more information, call 724-8707.


Smart Growth, May 23
Lauren Searl,

Wednesday, May 23, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Smart Growth: Bright Lights, Small Cities: Successful Large-Scale Revitalization in Small Communities. Bill Niquette, project developer for the City of Winooski, Vermont’s $250 million downtown revitalization effort, will discuss how a mill town of 6,800 forged a public-private partnership to create 1.5 million square feet of pedestrian-scaled, mixed-use development in the heart of its downtown, and how the key elements of their success can be widely applied in other smart growth revitalization efforts in communities of all sizes. Free. Registration not required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


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