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June 10, 2007


Dear Dessert Eaters:

Okay, I’ve been a one-note singer for the past several months, harping on the lack of wisdom behind Adrian Fenty’s plan to take over the operation of the school system and on the unlikelihood that it will work. So I won’t write about that today. I’ll just refer you to the first two installments of the Washington Post’s three-part series on “Fixing DC’s Schools,” by Dan Keating and V. Dion Haynes,  and

These two articles say just about exactly what I’ve been writing for the past several months, so I think they’re full of wisdom. They say that DC has been down this road several times before, that starting over with yet another "reform" of DC’s schools won’t work, and that the only thing that would work would be if all factions (the mayor, the council, the Board of Education, and citizen school advocates) worked together. Since the Fenty administration is determined to have all the power itself and to go it alone — ignoring the council, emasculating the Board of Education, and alienating and insulting citizens interested in school reform — the most likely thing is that it will fail as spectacularly as the Control Board did in fixing education. I only hope that the Post editorial board reads these articles (as well as Colbert King’s expose of the EdBuild contract (, and takes a clear-eyed view of Fenty’s administration of the schools.

But as I said, I’m sure you’re tired of reading about the schools here. Dorothy and I have been celebrating the summer and warm weather by making some great sorbets and ice creams — mango, lemon, and papaya sorbets, Guinness and strawberry ice creams in the past two weeks, and a pineapple and a grapefruit cooling in the refrigerator for the next two batches. What’s your favorite flavor and recipe?

Gary Imhoff


Council Justifies Breaking Stadium Cap Again
Ed Delaney,

[From] “The price tag for legal work, performed by law firm Venable LLP, is now millions more than anticipated and is threatening the $611 million ballpark cost cap, D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols found. The DC Council nevertheless approved an emergency resolution Tuesday to pay Venable up to $3.8 million over the next two years. Council Chairman Vincent Gray moved the resolution with ‘great reluctance,’ he said. ‘The city is in too deep to back out of the Venable deal now,’ Gray said.” The stadium boondoggle was always envisioned by the Baseball Brigade as something they could sell to the public as full of benefits and promise (like the ephemeral Community Benefits Fund) until the city was officially on the hook for its construction. At that point, they reasoned that it would be too much work for all involved, especially those poor politicians who don’t like to be bothered with too many hassles if they can just throw more public money at a problem instead, to stop or significantly change the stadium project, because the city was in too deep. Ever since the council refused to shift stadium sites when it was clear the cost cap for the S. Capitol Street site had been irrevocably breached and justified its refusal by saying the city had spent $10 million prepping the South Cap site, this “in too deep” mantra has been used to justify escalating costs and breaking supposedly rock-hard cost cap figures. Just wait until revenue forecasts fall short and it’s up to the city to make up the difference on the stadium financing side.

“‘I have frankly not seen ever in my service a contract more poorly administered than this one,’ Gray said. ‘I’d vote for the city’s sweetheart deal with MLB that was so one-sided that it had ‘the city’s negotiating team agree to pay for the stadium and all cost overruns, but it even threw in the kitchen appliances,’ a concession that drew chuckles in baseball circles, according to MLB sources.” (Post, 1/17/06) It’s a shame that there are so many bad contracts and agreements to choose from now including this latest disgrace.

“Other audit findings: Venable overbilled the city for ‘inappropriate or improper charges’ tied to incorrect hourly rates or ineligible expenses.” Since the city’s “in too deep,” it’s just going to keep paying Venable despite being improperly gouged by the firm? I guess it’s no less farcical than hiring another law office to represent it to recoup the losses! Say, didn’t any of these people see “The Firm”? The city should be indicting these clowns, not re-upping with them because the city‘s "in too deep." (Hey, Hollywood‘s a lot more believable than the way this stadium boondoggle has unfolded!) One has to wonder precisely what that means and what Venable might be covering up for some of these schemers. My question to Jack Evans and the rest of the baseball boosters is: Are these millions of dollars in cost overruns "but-for" dollars? In other words, "But for the stadium, the city wouldn‘t be wasting these millions paying for this legal mess and being overbilled for it in the process?"

From  “All contracts worth more than $1 million must be approved by the DC Council. However, it appears the Venable contracts were renewed several times without the matter ever appearing before the council, Nichols’s report found.” The payment structure to Venable was designed by the Williams administration to skirt such scrutiny by initially costing no more than $950,000 annually. Unfortunately, as with so many other aspects of the boondoggle, the cost escalation that should’ve triggered the council’s oversight responsibilities on the Venable contract slipped through the cracks until it was too late.

“A bigger problem is this: Nichols said the city must find alternative funding sources to continue paying Venable and to recoup any excess money paid to the law firm. And the eminent domain cases are far from over. The report goes on to explain all the machinations in greater detail, but the upshot is that city leaders will have some scrambling to do to figure out how to keep fighting the eminent-domain cases — with or without their friends from Venable.” It also would’ve been nice for the media to have done some investigating along these lines back when it could’ve done some good, but this continues a pattern of the Post and other outlets — reporting on actions that could’ve slowed down the sweetheart stadium boondoggle only after it’s too late to do anything about them. It’s too bad too, because the city could’ve made improvements on the deal with MLB and on the ultimate ballpark site so that most of the stadium costs could’ve gone into the ballpark itself and the surrounding ballpark district (which in the case of the current site is buried under unsightly garages) rather than into land costs as well as consulting and “overbilled” legal fees. At least then, the crowd who say “at least we have a ballpark” would have had one that wasn’t a cut-rate mess of a greenhouse whose access issues are so severe that even baseball booster Tom Boswell recently indicated on XM Radio, of all places, that “the parking and commuting problems will be like nothing anywhere in the league” and a “disaster for years.” With the Brigade scrambling so desperately on the parking situation that they’re talking about bus shuttles to the stadium from Union Station at the height of rush hour as well as shuttles from the RFK Stadium site that Herb Miller, et al., convinced the knee-buckling council wouldn’t work as well as the current train wreck of a site, it’s a shame the Brigade got us “in so deep” on such a bad stadium location and cut-rate product that we‘re stuck with (along with the ever-escalating and cap-busting price tag) for the next several decades.


When You Did It to the Least of My Brethren. . . .
Jonathan R. Rees @

It is reported that out of the 560,000 residents of the District of Columbia, 86,872 require the need of food stamps to subsist. That means that one of every six District of Columbia resident needs food stamps to survive. The Washington Post has pointed out that US Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and DC City Council Chairman Vincent Gray are currently living on a $21.00-a-week food stamp allowance to see how it feels to be on food stamps. While what they are doing sounds noble, do not expect to see any changes in the amount of food stamps anybody gets.

The number one culprit that takes food out of the mouths of our children, elderly, and so on is the greedy landlords and developers who charge twice as much in rent than they need, to turn a hefty profit. It is time for a rent freeze or a windfall profit tax on developers and landlords, but with Mayor Fenty and all of the city council members having been financed in their last campaigns by developers and landlords, you cannot expect them to bite the hands that feeds them even if you cannot afford to feed your own family.

It is sort of ironic how the DC Democrats claim to care about our children, elderly, and poor but they are first in line when the money is being passed around by those who are responsible in great part for the hunger and poverty that afflicts one of every six people in DC.


Naysayers of themail, Unite
Peter Turner,

Being a regular reader of this list, I have to say how disappointing it is to see an apparent pervasive shortsightedness and lack of imagination expressed by many contributors, as illustrated, for example, by the various obsessive and melodramatic criticisms of the mayor’s proposed educational restructuring as the end of democracy, and DC for sale, or the apparently horrific impact relocating displaced clubs to Ward 5 will have. DC schools and literacy have been in the toilet for years, and the mayor ran openly on a platform of school reform along the lines of New York and other cities where the executive has taken control of the school system. This was known when Adrian Fenty ran for and was elected to the office of mayor. The school board has repeatedly proven itself to be incapable of running and improving the DC school system. The mayor has new ideas and a vision, so let’s obsess about shooting his plan down and maintaining the status quo as that worked so well. Let the mayor roll out his reform plan, give him a term or two, and see how he does -- that’s why we have elections.

Now, why is there not more discussion here about such imaginative topics such as what to do about DC health care, or what can be done with UDC (talk about a train wreck), or Phil Shapiro’s ideas on the DC libraries, etc.?


Tonya Bell’s Employer
Mike Licht, Ward 6,

In themail, June 6, Ralph J. Chittams, Sr., asks, regarding Tonya Bell’s employer, NAI Personnel, “what about the other employees of the [temp] agency [that hired Bell]?” But what about the temp agency itself? NAI Personnel (National Associates, Inc.) is certified by the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development (LSDBE No. LSR00277112008) as providing “Employment Agency and Search Firm Services (Including Background Investigations and Drug Testing for Employment [NIGP Code 961-30-00]).” The LSDBE certification entitles NAI to 8 "preference points" for DC government contracts and does not expire until November 7, 2008.

In FY2005, NAI Personnel received 136 Federal Government Contracts totaling $4,448,905 (OMB Watch). An article by Jeff Horwitz (“Working for Peanuts,” Washington CityPaper, May 6–12, 2005) noted that NAI-hired day-labor janitors at RFK were paid wages well below those specified by the federal McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA).


June 2007 InTowner
Peter Wolff,

This is to advise that the June 2007 online edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews (prior months also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature (the accompanying images can be seen in the archived PDF version). Also included are all current classified ads. The complete issue (along with prior issues back to October 2003) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link in the Current and Back Issues Archive. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements. The next issue will publish on July 13 (the 2nd Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Recent Retail "Exiles" Signal Shift for Dupont East’s 17th Street Strip; Business Leaders Exploring Options”; 2) “Portions of Historic O Street Market’s Walls to be Incorporated Within Major Shaw Area Superblock Retail/Residential Development”; 3) “Studio Theater Nearing Completion of Intern Residence in Time for Mid-August Occupancy — Dupont ANC to Hear Permit Issuance Complaint.”

Readers are encouraged to print out, fill out and send back our reader survey, which is conveniently available by clicking the link on our home page and printing that page, filling it out and then either scanning and attaching to an E-mail addressed to (please do not embed into E-mail) or by faxing to 265-0949 or returning by postal mail.



Greek/Jewish Events, June 10, 24
Diana Altman,

Apo Pou Eisai? (Where Are You From?) A panel of local Greek Jews will share stories of their journeys from Greece to the USA and other experiences, and son of a Righteous Greek Gentile will share recollections of his father actively helping Greek Jews during WWII. The audience will be invited to participate in Greek Jewish Geography.Desserts and coffee. Cosponsor: Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. Free. June 10, 7:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m., JCC Northern VA, 8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax, VA.

Kosher Holiday Cooking à la Grecque, a cooking demonstration of Greek holiday treats by professional chef Nina Kaplanides.Nina will have participants rolling (and eating!) dolmas by the end of the lesson.Cosponsored by the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue. $20 per person. June 24, 2-4 p.m., Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, 600 I Street, NW.


DC Public Library Events, June 13-14
Randi Blank,

Wednesday, June 13, 1:00 p.m., Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library, 7420 Georgia Avenue, NW. Shepherd Park Wednesday Afternoon Book Club. Enjoy a lively book discussion of The Full Cupboard of Life (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), by Alexander McCall Smith. For more information, call 541-6100.

Thursday, June 14, 11:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 215. Talking Book Club. Members of the DC Regional Library adult book club will discuss a talking book. For more information, call Adaptive Services at 727-2142.

Thursday, June 14, 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. All About Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). This free workshop will explore the myriad of implications of doing business as an LLC. It will cover legal liability considerations, LLC formation, tax implications of the LLC, and treatment of single member LLCs. For more information, call 727-2241.


Groundbreaking Ceremony Ward One Senior Wellness Center, June 15
Darlene Nowlin,

District officials and community members will be breaking ground on a state of the art wellness center for senior residents in Ward One. The senior wellness center will provide services that promote healthy habits, enhance social, mental, spiritual and physical well-being and help to prevent unnecessary and costly medical problems associated with the aging process. The wellness center is scheduled to be complete by late 2008. Friday, June 15, 2:30 p.m., 3531 Georgia Avenue, NW (near Georgia Avenue and Otis Place).


Not Your Average Music Festival, June 16-22
Ron Leve,

You might wonder where in DC you might find these events in the same music festival: a bluegrass concert with Dead Men’s Hollow, a chamber music concert with the Fessenden Ensemble, jazz with the Dave Yarborough Big Band and Esther Williams, and two amazingly diverse choral events: Orpheus, The Marriage of England and Spain, Music for King Philip II of Spain and the English Court of Queen Mary, and a choral and orchestra extravaganza in the Mass for Children created and led by John Rutter, who founded the Cambridge Singers. Finally, there is an free organ concert on a magnificent Dobson organ in a building that dates to the early eighteenth Century. This is in addition to a number of free daytime events.

This all takes place at the fifth annual Rock Creek Festival put on by St. Paul’s Rock Creek Episcopal Church on the grounds containing St. Paul Church, Rock Creek Church Road and Webster Street, NW, which still retains portions of its original 1721 building and the Rock Creek Cemetery with its famous Adams Memorial by Augustus St. Gaudens. The Festival runs from 16 to 22 June. More information at


Girls Summer Tennis Camp, June 18
Vanessa Brooks,

SET POINT, Inc., in collaboration with the US National Park Service among other partners, will sponsor a free eight-week summer tennis, fitness, and educational camp for ages eight and up at the Anacostia Tennis Courts. Girls in Wards 7 and 8 are especially encouraged to participate, but all are welcome. Camp begins Monday, June 18, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and ends August 10. Contact Vanessa Brooks at 581-0406 or E-mail for an application.



Legal Writing

You are wanted if you are a paralegal, law student, writer, or person with similar skills and need experience working on both legal stuff and a documentary on the Probate Courts. Call Tolu, 331-4418.


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