Yesterday, Mary Lord won the special election for District 1 member
of the Board of Education, representing Wards 1 and 2, by a comfortable
margin. She was alone on the ballot, and got 78.75 percent of the vote
against one other announced candidate, who ran as a write-in. This
sounds impressive, until you look at the actual number of people who
voted: a total of 687 people in both wards, 290 in Ward 1 and 397 in
Normally, this would lead me to write a Jeremiad about the decline of
democratic responsibility by the voters, but my heart wouldn’t be in
it. I didn’t bother to vote myself. It wasn’t just that Lord was the
only candidate on the ballot in the only race on the ballot, and it wasn’t
a judgment on Lord or her write-in opponent -- it was that the Board of
Education has been so neutered that the office of Board member has
become less powerful and less important than being a member of the
Acupuncture Advisory Committee, the Massage Therapy Board, or the
Selective Service Commission (it does still exist). Councilmember Jim
Graham sent a pre-election message to E-mail groups in Ward One
encouraging voters to turn out, arguing that, “The board has important
new state-level responsibilities, including approving standards for such
essentials as art and foreign languages.” Graham’s argument was
completely unconvincing. As the councilmember knows, the city council
and the mayor eliminated all the real power and authority that an
independent, democratically elected Board of Education had had. The new
State Board of Education doesn’t even have the power to formulate or
to enforce the standards he mentions; it can only rubber-stamp the
wording of the standards, and that’s the weightiest of the
responsibilities it has left. There was no reason for voters to come to
the polls, and the people who stayed away should be congratulated for
their perspicacity in realizing it.
Not Improvements, But Decline
Dorothy Brizill, email@example.com
On August 20, the Legal Times blog had an interesting article,
“Still Dying in DC Group Homes” (http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2007/08/still-dying-in-.html).
The posting notes that, “US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle isn’t
happy with DC Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration for the slow pace of
reforms needed to protect the health and safety of almost 2,000
developmentally disabled residents under the District’s care. At a
recent [August 9] hearing in the 31-year-old class action now called Evans
v. Fenty, Huvelle threatened to jail Peter Nickles, Fenty’s
general counsel, and an official from the DC Department of Disability
Services for contempt of court if there aren’t improvements on the
ground soon.” The longer article in the Legal Times print
edition contains a more detailed article, “31 Years, Few Results in
Class Action” (http://www.law.com/jsp/dc/PubArticleFriendlyDC.jsp?id=1187254924654&hub=TopStoriesMore),
that concludes that “after more than 30 years and five DC
administrations, conditions haven’t improved for disabled residents
under the District’s care.”
The Washington Post and its staff writer, Katherine Boo, won a
1999 Pulitzer Prize for two series of stories Boo wrote in the Post on
the District government’s treatment of the mentally disabled:
“Invisible Lives: DC’s Troubled System for the Retarded” and
“Invisible Deaths: The Fatal Neglect of DC’s Retarded” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/metro/specials/invisible).
These series, the Pulitzer panel noted, “disclosed wretched neglect
and abuse in the city’s group homes.” Boo went on to be awarded a
MacArthur genius grant in 2002.
Since then, however, the Post has given little attention to
the issue. An indication of how markedly the Post’s local and
metro coverage has declined is that on an issue that the newspaper made
its own eight years ago, it has not done any updates on the failure of
city administrations to make any significant improvements in the care of
the mentally disabled, to reform the DC Department of Disability
Services, or on the scathing findings of the judge in the August 9 court
The Tale of the Water Bills
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park, firstname.lastname@example.org
The water bills of one residence and eight water bills (a story told
by WASA in eight installments): January 2007, $19.54; February 2007,
$14.01; March 2007, $19.54; April 2007; $19.54; May 2007, $19.54; June
2007, $19.54; July 2007, $14.01; August 2007, $19.54.
It took eight months but I began to sense a pattern of sorts.
According to the water bill, these charges were based on actual readings
taken on specific dates for periods ranging from twenty-eight days to
thirty-four days. What could account for this consistency, I wonder?
Could it be that, as so many of my friends say, I am stuck in a rut and
I need not to be so caught up in daily routines? Or could it be that
once again (as with the lead numbers) Jerry Johnson and the merry band
at WASA are cooking the numbers?
Should we start a pool on whether September comes in at $19.54 or
“With all the embarrassing third-world-like services the city
government has provided us, this non-service by the USPS easily wins the
prize.” I wrote this in these pages nine years ago, and I am afraid it
is still true. Despite the fact there is a relatively new, conscientious
manager at our Friendship Station, named Mr. Clayton, who even came to
my house with his assistant to apologize and promise better service, we
four houses on Davenport Street are always missing checks, wedding
invitations, magazines, etc. The mail often doesn’t come at all,
although if we call at 4 p.m. it usually comes within three hours.
Apparently the post office is either short of staff or the crew there
just doesn’t get much done. When we do have a good carrier, he quickly
gets transferred somewhere else. I am sure there are some good people
over there at Friendship Station, but it seems as though the system is
About banks: I am in love with City First Bank, which has a single
branch on U Street. We now have most of our money there. I will give you
an update in a month or two to let you know if the honeymoon is over.
Thanks to a DCWatch reader for the recommendation.
I would like to send an open challenge to Mayor Adrian Fenty to prove
thousands of us wrong and to show that he is not in the pockets of local
developers. My challenge is this: if Mayor Fenty does go forward and
closes down thirty, forty, or even fifty of our run-down schools, these
schools and the lands they sit on should not be handed over to any DC
developers who contributed to his political campaign so that condos or
anything else is built on these lands.
Mayor Fenty, Councilmember Mary Cheh, and Councilmember Muriel Bowser
were the biggest recipients of campaign contributions from developers
and from their employees as individual contributors. Hey, Mayor Fenty,
care to meet the challenge?
Recently, US Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor openly admitted that his
office is understaffed to handle the criminal case load before it, and
he is contemplating doling out the prosecution of lower level offenses
to private attorneys by making them special assistants. This is a very
bad idea for a long list of reasons. It is also a sign that our new
police chief, Cathy Lanier is facing a higher crime rate than before she
came to office, and is unable to deal with it effectively.
Within the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of
Columbia is the Fraud and Public Corruption section, which oversees the
elected officials of the government of the District of Columbia, which
is also grossly understaffed. There is no dispute that the government of
the District of Columbia has become one of the most corrupt local
governments in the United States. The United States Department of
Justice should bring in additional experienced assistant US attorneys
from other parts of the country to deal with the case load, and
dramatically increase the size of the staff of the Fraud and Public
Corruption section. It may be time for the Metropolitan DC Police
Department to be federalized and taken away from local control so that
they and others will not be under the thumb of our corrupt leaders or
forced to sign a confidentiality agreement by Mayor Fenty.
Until we address the rampant corruption that emanates from the office
of Mayor Fenty, through the hallways of our city council and up and down
the floors of the District’s agencies, none of us can feel safe or
feel that our various branches of government and its fingers can truly
act independently without repercussions.,
Another Summer Sorbet
Elizabeth Elliott, email@example.com
Grilled honeydew sorbet sparkler, from http://www.ratherseedy.com/archives/2007/06/grilled_honeydew_sorbet.html.
Ingredients: 1 honeydew melon, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons fresh
lime juice (approximately 2 limes), 2 tablespoons vodka; club soda,
prosecco, or cava; lime rind.
Split a honeydew melon in half, remove pulp and seeds, and grill
face-down on the top rack until insides are softened and the surface is
caramelized. Scoop out insides and chill in a bowl in the refrigerator.
Once chilled, use a food processor or immersion blender to combine the
sugar, lime juice and vodka into the melon, and liquefy. Pour the
mixture into an ice cream maker and prepare according to the
manufacturer’s instructions. Then transfer the sorbet into an airtight
container and chill into the freezer until uniformly hardened. Fill a
goblet with several scoops of sorbet, and top with club soda, prosecco,
or cava. Garnish with lime rind twist and serve immediately.
While I sympathize with Jim Champagne’s characterization of the
sonic environment of the District (“Unnecessary Loudness and
Unnecessary Noise,” themail, August 19), it is a loud world today, and
emergency vehicle warning sounds have had to escalate accordingly.
Vehicle engines sounds are louder, and there are more cars, trucks and
buses. With air-conditioning and automated turn signals, drivers are
sealed behind closed windows all year long, many listening to 300-watt
stereos through 15-inch speakers. Today’s sirens and claxons must be
louder in order to compensate. The jarring sounds of a siren almost
always mean that someone in dire need of help is about to get it.
Having said this, I must note that last Sunday morning I saw a DOT
tow truck race through the deserted streets of the Hill, siren blaring
and lights flashing, to remove a parked vehicle from a no-parking area.
The offending car was not endangering life, blocking traffic,
prohibiting aid-givers from reaching the injured, or even in a
handicapped spot, but merely parked illegally. I was so amazed I failed
to get the truck’s number, but will do so if I ever see this again.
The Northwest Current Is Available
Frank Winstead, firstname.lastname@example.org
The story, Ian Thoms, “Rhee Blasts School System for Tolerating
Inefficiency,” The Northwest Current, August 15, 2007, p. 5, is
available online at http://www.currentnewspapers.com/admin/uploadfiles/NW8.15.07p1-15web.pdf.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Love and Louis XIV,
Randi Blank, email@example.com
Monday, August 27, 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 Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of
the Sun King, by Antonia Fraser. For more information, call
CLASSIFIEDS — HELP WANTED
I am looking for a replacement for my three-hour-a-week garden helper
who went back to the University of Wisconsin last week. I paid her
$15/hour. This will be a short-term commitment; fall is around the
corner, but the job might reappear next spring.
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