Laura Elkins, below, asks what the District’s position is in Heller
versus DC, the Second Amendment gun rights case. When we last heard
about this case, it was called Parker versus DC, and the US Court
of Appeals had decided against the DC law’s prohibition on handguns,
holding, against the arguments of the DC government, that the Second
Amendment recognized the people’s individual right to bear arms and
that the Bill of Rights covered residents of the District of Columbia
the same as other citizens of the United States.
On September 4, under a new mayor and Attorney General, the District
government petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case (http://www.dcwatch.com/issues/gun070904.htm).
It’s an unusual petition for a writ of certiorari, because it spends
little time explicating the legal reasons that the Supreme Court should
take the case. Instead, it reargues the points the District argued in
the Court of Appeals, so we have a good idea of what the District will
say in its brief if the Supreme Court does take the case. The mostly new
legal team has tweaked the city’s arguments a bit, but they’re
basically still the same. First, the District argues an extreme version
of the anti-individual rights theory that originated in the twentieth
century. It says that the Second Amendment doesn’t recognize the
citizens’ right to bear arms, but instead simply reassures states that
they will be able to maintain armed militias. Second, the city argues,
even if the Second Amendment does recognize individuals’ rights to
bear arms, that only restricts the federal government, not the states.
It argues that the Second Amendment was not extended to the states by
the Fourteenth Amendment, unlike the other provisions of the Bill of
Rights. Therefore, the Second Amendment doesn’t restrict any state
from prohibiting individual gun ownership, as long as the state can
still field an armed militia. Third, because the District of Columbia is
the seat of the federal government and not a state, it does not have or
need a state militia to protect itself from the federal government. Thus
its citizens have no need for a right to bear arms, and the Second
Amendment has no application in DC. Fourth, even if the Second Amendment
recognized an individual right to possess firearms, and even if the
Second Amendment applied within the District of Columbia, the city could
still ban handguns because it does not absolutely prohibit rifles and
shotguns, so some firearms are allowed.
What the petition really concentrates on, however, is the political
argument, in the hope that its political position will be strong enough
to influence the Supreme Court to buy what may seem to be rather weak
legal arguments. The city argues that guns are bad, guns cause violence,
and gun bans reduce violence, and it implies that therefore the Supreme
Court should allow gun bans, regardless of what it may think the Second
Amendment really means.
As before, my major concern in this case is that this city’s
government is arguing against the interests of its citizens. It is
arguing that we have and should have only a second-class citizenship,
with fewer and lesser rights than other citizens of the United States.
They may think they’re doing it for our own good, but anyone who wants
to reduce our status and make us less than equal citizens of the United
States is not our friend.
Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of really large
billboard-type signs downtown? When the new regulation regarding signs
downtown were unveiled we were told it was a "test."
Basically, there would be only a few of them, and the signs needed to be
more image than text -- something more artistic than just plain old
text-based advertising. Yesterday I noticed a huge sign for Verizon
Wireless on the west side of the top of Doug Jemal’s building at
Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenue (the old Union Labor Life building).
Nothing artistic there, just the old usual text heavy advertisement with
a small image off to one side.
I didn’t like the idea of billboards downtown when the idea got
floated, and the city council did the bidding of the outdoor advertising
lobbyists who argued that they would be "harmed" if they weren’t
allowed to recoup the cost of their investment in the sign frames, etc.
I was willing to let them give it a try, hoping that the ads could at
least be interesting visually. But the Verizon ad plastered across the
mechanical penthouse on Jemal’s building is the worst.
It’s time for this visual blight to go. Mr. Mayor and city
councilmembers, can you hear me now?
I just read Fenty’s and Singer’s op-ed in the Post [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/03/AR2007090300797.html].
Could someone clarify for me the city’s argument in the case? When the
case first came out, I remember reading that the city argued that the
Second Amendment does not apply to the District, because the District is
not a state and therefore, we citizens in the District do not have the
same constitutional guarantees as citizens in the states. In the
editorial they refer to cases that give states the right to regulate
arms. Which is it?
DC Voice Surveying School Readiness
Larry Lesser, email@example.com
I just participated on a team doing a structured interview of a DCPS
school principal. This is the fourth year that DC Voice has conducted
these survey interviews to assess how well prepared the schools are for
the beginning of classes. Until this year the survey covered just a
sample of the schools, but this time around DC Voice plans to get to
every one of them. It’s an excellent initiative designed to be
constructive rather than adversarial. The result will shine a light on
how well the system is meeting student needs and areas of weakness.
Previous years’ reports appear to have had a positive effect on
responsiveness of the administration to requests by individual schools.
Michelle Rhee’s Chaos and Patronage
Louis A. DeFreitas, Sr., firstname.lastname@example.org
Last month I predicted that Michelle Rhee, the new unqualified school
boss in Washington, DC, was more interested in placing her friends in
high paying positions than in educating the Black and Latino children in
the nation’s capital. Now I read in the Washington Post that
Rhee wants to fire hundreds of workers without cause, so that she can
bring in "new upper-level mangers." It is about patronage,
patronage, and more patronage, something that politicians call
"pork." In black America, "upper-level mangers" is a
code phrase for putting blacks out, even when under the authority of a
black mayor. Way back in the day there were a few black slave owners.
Today, we have blacks who take pride in the fact that they have
ancestors who were slave owners. Self-hate is not new.
The school year is into its first week and Rhee has yet to show her
plans for educating children. If the DC School System were a school
district where the leaders were serious about educating children, Rhee
would be fired quickly. During this week of the second anniversary of
Katrina, do the citizens of DC really have to wait until children are
completely drowned in failure before the leaders in the city understand
that there are people who make fortunes pimping black and Latino school
systems? Rhee came to the DC System with a background as a head hunter,
not as an educator. Should the leaders in DC really be surprised that
she is about jobs for friends? Her background is that of a consultant
who goes after million dollar contracts. Her background is meager as a
classroom educator and nil as a school or district administrator. What
does she know about managing a school or a school system? Little!
Michelle Rhee is trying to go back to those days when government
employees had no rights and could be fired without cause. Rhee is trying
to becoming a governmental dictator. She seems to be reading from the
Bush/Cheney book on running government. Rhee does not seem to appreciate
the value of workers who have spent years building careers. She seems to
believe that managers can do the work of workers. She does not seem to
understand that managers are suppose to manage workers, not replace
them. Her understanding of basic business principles is out of the box,
out of the world of reality.
Michelle Rhee needs to be challenged. Teachers in the district, via
their union, must be a part of that challenge. Remember the saying that
starts with "if they come for me in the morning"? Rhee is
going after hundreds of workers at the Central Board. If she has her way
teachers and school administrators will be next. Those workers who live
in the District had better get in touch with their local politicians.
Those who live in Maryland and Virginia had better get in touch with
their congressional representatives who have much to say about funds
that go into the District. If they wait until they are fired, it will be
too late to use their political muscle. Workers must not wait until the
barn door is open and the horses are running wild. They have to be on
the phone -- getting political -- now! The workers must understand that
their jobs are on the line. They must now put the pressure on their
When the Delegate for the District of Columbia in the United States
Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, was younger, she was one of the star
attorneys for the ACLU, one of the greatest organizations for protecting
the rights of us little people, against the evil doers in government.
Under her guidance, many of us who were fighting for community control
of schools in New York City, in the 1960s, were able to keep within the
law, while achieving our goals. We fought against the mainly white
unions and the solidly white political structure for black and Latino
parents to have a say in the education of their children and for the
hiring of more black and Latino teachers and school administrators. At
that time, there were fewer than one thousand black and Latino teachers
out of a teacher population of sixty thousand. Of the thousand, only
about two hundred of us had earned regular teacher licenses issued by
the New York City Board of Examiners. Because of the racist practices of
the Board of Examiners, teachers with New York State teacher
certification were not allowed to teach in New York City Public Schools.
The Board of Examiners were about keeping black and Latino parents from
deciding who would teach their children. Also at that time, there were
fewer than five school principals in New York City’s one thousand plus
At one point in my career, because of the racist Board of Examiners,
I was qualified by the state to be the superintendent of schools in New
York City, and qualified by the state to be a principal in the wealthy
school districts outside of the city limits, but I was not qualified to
be a principal in the financially poor schools in Harlem, where I born
and raised. Through struggle, we won the battle, and now there are tens
of thousands of black and Latino teachers in New York City and hundreds
of black and Latino school administrators. While fighting the unions and
the politicians, many of us were especially respectful of the rights
that teachers and school administrators had earned through struggle. We
were not about union busting. Those of us who were in the system as
workers, and who had been in the system as students, knew what it was
like before teachers had a strong union. Teachers were treated as
slaves. Today in New York City the United Federation of Teachers (UFT),
of which I am still a proud member, is one of the strongest political
organizations in the state. We New York City teachers, retired or not,
reap many benefits because of our strong union.
It was told to me that at the big gathering for teachers that one of
the teachers said that the union leadership in DC is weak. If this is
true, the teachers had better start giving their leaders some backbone.
We know that some former DC union leaders ended up in jail because they
stole money from their members. This is not a time for weak union
leadership. Rhee cares nothing about workers, and care even less about
children. It is all about patronage, all about “high level
managers.” Pork, Pork, and more Pork.
It is reported that there are between 700 and 900 people working at
the central office. It seems that Michelle Rhee does not know how many
people she pays each pay period. She does not know the exact number of
the workers. If it is just 700 workers, and each worker puts up ten
dollars a week to pay labor lawyers to protect their interest they would
be able to pay $7,000 a week for legal counsel. With this kind of money
they can afford lawyers who can best protect their rights. Now for
workers it is about organizing, especially if they want to keep their
Harry Thomas and the Department of Job Provision
Larry Seftor, Ward 3, larry underscore seftor .them757 at
When asked about Michelle Rhee’s plan to remove nonproductive
employees, councilmember Harry Thomas asked "Where would they go?
What would they do?" By his comments, Mr. Thomas is demonstrating
the widely held belief that the purpose of the DC government is to
provide jobs directly, rather than to provide services to citizens. At
best, Mr. Thomas is willing to sacrifice the education and future of DC
children so that he can continue to provide jobs for taxpaying DC
citizens. At worst, Mr. Thomas is willing to sacrifice the education and
future of DC children so that he can continue to provide jobs to people
who don’t live in DC and who don’t pay DC taxes.
Fenty’s Control, Fenty’s Children
Tolu Tolu, Tolu2Books@aol.com
I was born, raised, educated always lived in DC. The DC school
problems have been going on for quite some years now without any real
progress for our children. Why then would any one object to Fenty making
the buck stop in his lap?
Further I would not send my child to DC public schools either, if I
could have them educated elsewhere. There are just too many issues that
could be reversible to take a chance like that if I did not have to.
Where Fenty’s Children Attend School
Crystal Sylvia, email@example.com
In response to the person who wrote in the last issue asking why isn’t
anyone making a big deal about Fenty’s sending his kids to private
school. Some of us are. In June over eighty parents, teachers, and
family members of students at West Elementary school signed a letter
inviting Fenty to enroll his children at the school because it is his
children’s in-boundary public school. Fenty never responded to the
letter. A press release with a copy of the letter was sent to the media
the week before school started this year, and the only media outlets
that did a story on it was the Examiner, which wrote a brief
article. Here is the letter, which was sent on June 14:
Dear Mayor Fenty, we are the parents, family members and teachers of
students at West Elementary School. For the 2007/2008 school year, we
would like to invite you to enroll your two sons in West which is your
family’s in-boundary public school. Since being elected mayor, you
have proclaimed that reforming DC Public Schools is your number one
priority. We want you to demonstrate your commitment by enrolling your
children in a public school rather than having them continue to attend a
private school. Since you have promised us that DC Public Schools will
be significantly better next school year, we are entrusting our children’s
future in your hands. We believe that you will be better able to
transform DCPS if you have the experience of being a DCPS parent.
As DCPS parents, you and your wife will share with us the burden of
spending countless hours after a busy day of work to attend meetings,
organize fundraisers, and strategize how to stop budget cuts while
juggling to care for your children, prepare dinner, etc. You will know
what it is like to have to make a choice of having a full-time PE
teacher or a full-time counselor because the school budget does not have
enough money for both positions. You will experience the uncertainty of
the future of your sons’ school — will it close, will it be
consolidated with another school, or will a charter school want to share
the school building? You will witness firsthand the devastating effects
charter schools are having on our public school system by draining money
and resources from our classrooms with the expectation that our school
is supposed to “compete” with these well-funded programs. And you
will talk with your sons’ dedicated teachers who have to make the
tough choice of whether to remain at a school with an uncertain future
or look for jobs in surrounding jurisdictions with more stable school
Enrolling your children at West is also important because, although
your Deputy Mayor of Education will be sending his child to a public
school next year, it will not be his in-boundary school, but one in an
affluent area with a strong PTA which has been able to raise much needed
money. In addition, most of the city councilmembers who will have line
item veto on the DCPS budget also do not have any children attending
DCPS. So many people who have the authority to cut funding and programs
or allocate more money to schools do not have firsthand experience of
sending their children to a crumbling school building or one that is
understaffed or underfunded. West is a school with very committed
parents, teachers and principal, yet we are struggling every year. You
have publicly stated that you are staking your political career on the
success of your mayoral takeover. We are asking that you enroll your
children at West so that, like us, you will have your children’s
education at stake which is much more precious than politics. The task
of improving the public schools is a great one, but by sending your
children to a public (not charter) school you will be leading by
example. Please contact us at your earliest convenience to set up a time
to meet with members of the West community. This will give us an
opportunity to discuss how together we can make the 2007/2008 school
year at West a success.
Only Half the Job
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom
School Chancellor Rhee has taken steps to clean out the Central
Office, which has been a major roadblock to school reform through the
last five reform-oriented Superintendents. If successful, she will have
completed half her job. The other half will be even harder. That is to
get education back into the classrooms. Oh yes, there’s a lot of
teaching going on. But teachers are forced to teach to the test. We are
testing these poor kids to death. Let’s scrap the testing and get
about putting real knowledge and learning methods into the minds of our
If I had young children today, there’s no way I’d put them into a
public school (not even Janey or Key Elementary) I’d have them in a
private school that opens up the minds of kids and gets them to explore
the world of knowledge. My grandgals are in an outstanding private
school that treats every student as an individual, not as just one in a
herd of test takers. My gals get assignments for homework that always
include exploration — reading and writing.
We need outstanding teachers in every classroom if we are ever to
bring our students out from under the morass we have created here in the
DC public schools. New, fresh out of the box, teachers cannot cope with
the entrenched lack of interest by students and their parents in decent
education. Only seasoned and self-motivated teachers can do that.
Charters and the Public Schools
Gina Arlotto, firstname.lastname@example.org
Every few months DCPS parents sit down with a cup of coffee to read
their Sunday paper and are greeted by yet another rant against public
education. Who can forget T. Robinson Ahlstrom’s (the headmaster of
Washington Latin) screed against public education that ended with the
memorable line, “DCPS is dead. Let’s bury it?” [ http://tinyurl.com/2vj4ca]
Now comes Mark Lerner’s opinion piece [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/31/AR2007083100531.html]
stating that we should toss our entire public school system in the trash
for a fully privatized system of charters and vouchers.
Let’s just try to imagine what that world would be like: 1) No
neighborhood schools. Every single DCPS has a boundary. If you live
within that boundary, you are guaranteed admission into the school.
Unlike our DC charter schools, there’s no application to fill out, no
interview or contract for your parents to sign, no home visit, no
dreaded lottery to win so that you are assured a spot, you just get to
go. 2) No assurance of admission from year to year. If your grades lag
or you turn out to be too much of a discipline problem, or your parents
don’t live up to the parent involvement contract they signed, or you
have special education needs that supposedly can’t be met by the
charter, you might not get asked back each year. Many charter schools
have contracts of admission, on which they state that attendance in
their school is a privilege, not a right, and can be revoked at any
time. Many, many students and parents every year are "counseled
out" of their charter school and parents end up scrambling to find
another school. But, of course, they will always have a spot at their
in-boundary DCPS school.
3) Charters opening up in totally inappropriate locations for
schools. Right now we have charters using space in churches, office
buildings, industrial sections, and some former DCPS buildings. Few
charter schools have playgrounds or field space or cafeterias or gyms.
Other charter school founders are attempting to shoehorn charter schools
in the middle of tight residential blocks with no transportation impact
studies being completed — there’s no parking for staff, and
certainly no drop off and pick up lanes for parents. 4) No coordination
or planning for school offerings or locations. Charter school operators
actively resist the notion that they should be required to coordinate
their school themes, teaching philosophy, offerings, or locations. That
means you can have a French-immersion charter school opening up right
across the street from another. Or you can have ten schools run by the
same for-profit company, all just as under-enrolled as the DCPS school
down the street. Charter schools are supposed to secure a location
before the final charter is granted, but that doesn’t stop the charter
school from getting started and receiving the final charter much later.
5) Children and parents being encouraged to wade through the vast
numbers of charter schools trying to find that perfect fit. It’s like
a shopping mall of boutique schools. We all just want a want a decent,
solid, rigorous, enriched education for every DC student, not just those
students who have parents with the wherewithal to wade through all the
different options — and we’re also now learning that most charter
schools aren’t even performing as well as DCPS. There are now over
seventy charter school campuses in DC, more charter schools per capita
than anywhere else in the country; well, except for a post-Katrina New
6) An extremely costly system of education. If DC went to an all
charter system, we would be creating mini-“central offices” at every
single school in the city. Instead of being able to coordinate, plan
for, and organize procurement systems, foreign language programs,
athletics, school modernization, whatever, we would have every single
individual school doing those things on a one by one basis. Yes, DCPS
has done a terrible job with many of these tasks in the past — but if
it could be fixed and done well, as Ms. Rhee is attempting to do, it
will save the city vast sums of money.
So, to Mr. Lerner and Mr. Ahlstrom, and all the other charter school
boosters that we have in this city, could you please refrain from using
such inflammatory rhetoric when it comes to discussing education in this
city? Before you fire off that column for my Sunday paper, please take a
moment and really reflect on what it is that you are asking for — the
complete destruction of a true, free, open-to-all system of schools that
may need some work, but can and will succeed with support from us all.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Debunking Urban Legends, September 8
Casey Lartigue, email@example.com
On Saturday, September 8 from 2-4 p.m. in Bethesda, Maryland, I will
be speaking to National Capital Area Skeptics about that Memorandum 46
and urban legends. If you happen to be in the area, please stop by. Here’s
the link for more info: http://ncas.org/2007/08/sep-8-prm-46-other-conspiracy-theories.html.
The flyer for the event: http://ncas.org/pdf/2007-Sep-Shadow.pdf.
Eliot Morgan and I were recently featured guests on the Paul Harris Show
in Missouri. Here’s what Mr. Harris wrote about it: http://paulharrisonline.blogspot.com/2007/08/memo-46-debunked.html.
Here’s the mp3 archive. Http://www.harrisonline.com/audio/memo46.mp3.
You can always check my blog for updates and details: http://www.caseyradio.com.
[You may also want to read Casey Lartigue’s article on Memorandum
46 from the Outlook section, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080201751.html.
— Gary Imhoff]
DC Public Library Events, September 8, 11
Randi Blank, firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, September 8, 10:00 a.m., Palisades Neighborhood Library,
4901 V Street, NW. Chesapeake Lace Group. For more information, call
Tuesdays, September 11, 25, West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th
Street, NW. West End Film Club; bring your lunch and enjoy a film. Call
727-8707 to find out which film will be shown.
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Has anyone had trouble with a Suntrust Signature investment account?
Mine has dropped my password three times now, twice in two weeks. It can
take a week to get a new password, while the market is dancing madly. If
this happens to others maybe we can all get their attention. Can anyone
suggest an alternative?
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