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September 12, 2007

Staying Put

Dear Stayers:

In this issue, Ed Barron blasts the DC Taxicab Commission for not getting a majority vote in favor of any of the three major options for a cab fare system: maintaining the current zone fare, requiring cabs to install fare meters, or going to a newer option of global positioning system monitors to verify fares based on zones. I’m not so sure that I’d blame the Commission members for their split on the issue. For the past several years, large taxicab companies have lobbied city administrations to require meters as a way of driving independent cab operators out of business or forcing them to work as employees of the large fleets that would then dominate the cab industry. Marc Fisher briefly outlined some of this story in his blog, Successive administrations have tried to appoint people to the Taxicab Commission who would vote to require metered cabs, but to date they have not been successful in completely stacking the board. I don’t blame the Commission members, but instead the political pressures on them, for their split.

Just as the long-running taxicab dispute is more about control and profits for powerful interests than it is about fair and accurate fares, the rush to declare publicly owned properties surplus and dispose of them is more about doing favors for wealthy friends of the administration, giving them prime land at bargain rates, than it is about community development to benefit the long-standing residents of our communities. Chris Otten and Robin Diener write about one of the most recent examples of that, the West End deal, below. Many documents related to that deal are now online at

For the past twenty-five or so years, Dorothy and I have dealt with all successive city administrations in the same way, held them to the same standards, and asked them the same sorts of questions. We’ve angered a series of mayors and councilmembers, but they’ve all responded without any personal animus, until now. (Mayor Williams told the Washington Post that he often wanted to jump over the podium at press conferences and strangle Dorothy, but he never actually did it.) But early in the Fenty administration, the mayor’s general counsel and special advisor, Peter Nickles, sent Dorothy a threatening letter warning her to stay in line (see, and Dorothy’s reply to Nickles at Three months ago, Dorothy was arrested in the Wilson Building on bogus charges, charges that were immediately dismissed by the US Attorney’s office, for doing the same kind of questioning that she has done for years ( Within a week of that, we received a letter from the tax department billing us for unpaid income taxes, penalties, and interest. That was easily resolved, though it seemed like an odd mistake to make. The tax office was reading the amount of taxes due from the wrong line on the tax form, and after I pointed out the right line a few times the bill was dismissed. Then, a week or so after that, an inspector from DCRA, acting on what he said was a complaint, initiated condemnation procedures on our house.

I’ve written before that our house is shabby. When Dorothy and I got involved in local public and government affairs, we made a decision after the first few years that we would both work on city issues full time and that we would remain independent. We decided to live modestly on a limited income, to devote a good part of that income to funding DCWatch, and not to seek contributions for DCWatch. We’re not complaining. That’s our choice, and we’re happy with it. In fact, we live very well, as long as we don’t buy anything, but we have had to defer and neglect expensive house repairs. There are grounds to complain that the condition of our house doesn’t meet other peoples’ standards, much less our own, so we wrote off as paranoid our suspicion that the complaint was part of a vendetta by the Fenty administration. It turns out that even paranoids have real enemies. Yesterday, Mike DeBonis, the new Loose Lips columnist for the Washington City Paper, called Dorothy about the condemnation complaint. DeBonis confirmed that the complaint had been politically motivated, made by a “political source” to try to get our house condemned, and said that he had been tipped off to the proceedings by a person “at the Wilson Building” who wanted him to publicize them to try to embarrass us, hoping that it will discredit Dorothy and damage her reputation and credibility. DeBonis was willing to cooperate in that effort, and will publish an item in his column tomorrow. So if the threatening lawyer’s letter failed, if the phony arrest failed, if the phony income tax bill failed, maybe the necessary house repairs would be too expensive for us and we would just be put out of our home. Unfortunately for the administration, the problems with our house are not that bad, DCRA has been professional and helpful throughout the process, and our house is not going to be condemned.

DeBonis had some strong suggestions for Dorothy, suggestions that obviously came straight from his source in the Wilson Building. “Your house is very large and very grand,” he said. “You can’t afford your house,” he told Dorothy, “you can’t afford your repairs.” Then, three or four times, he urged her to sell to developers, “who I know are knocking on your door,” and move to a house and neighborhood other than Columbia Heights, more suitable for us.

No. The answer, DeBonis, is no. And no particularly to the Fenty administration, no. You’re not going to get rid of the independent taxi drivers easily. You’re not going to reshape communities and rob DC citizens of our public land and buildings without a real fight from long-standing residents who have a stake in preserving our neighborhoods and our city’s inheritance. And you’re certainly not getting rid of us, not going to drive us out, that easily. We’re staying put.

Gary Imhoff


Too Bad Adrian Fenty Doesn’t Have Time for the Metro Board
Larry Seftor, Ward 3, larry underscore seftor .them757 at

From a private sector perspective, the situation faced by Metro managers is a dream. The system has an enormous, per-paid, capital investment (the tunnels and stations) that are the ultimate barrier to competition. The system has a very large capital investment (the trains and supporting infrastructure) that has very predictable maintenance costs, life expectancy, and replacement costs. The system has a steadily increasing ridership (to record levels, in fact) with a relatively inelastic cost basis. By that I mean that a train with six hundred passengers costs Metro essentially the same to run as a train with twenty passengers. And finally, there is no lack of information for how to run an underground railroad. For example, the London Underground (for a hundred forty years) and the Paris Metro System (for a hundred years) provide a wealth of information and history about what does and does not work. Despite this favorable situation, Metro wants to cut back service hours (the weekend night-owl service), somehow forgetting that it is a public utility whose mission is public service. Late Metro hours contribute to the vibrancy (and tax revenue) of the city and keep people with alcohol in their systems off the streets. Additionally, Metro management is now requesting increased fares.

Metro finances are complex enough that simple analyses will not separate truth from fiction. (Although I have heard stories about unwarranted largesse, such as Metro managers who can leave Metro with lifetime health insurance coverage after a fairly brief tenure.) I believe that the Metro board should hire an outside, independent consulting firm to examine the details of Metro’s budget, financial planning, and cost projections for the future. This study should consider the financial models used by other transit systems around the world as part of the analysis. Considering the inbred nature of life in Washington, the board should find a consultant far, far from the beltway, its pervasive networking, and people with mixed agendas; Omaha, for example. Metro certainly has rising costs, but anyone riding crowded Metro trains must have a hard time believing that the massive influx of new revenue from all those passengers is not enough to outweigh rising costs.


Oh for Two, Trees and Cabs
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

We’re batting zero on my block with the two new trees planted by DC Public Works. The city has embarked on a Herculean mission to plant thousands of new trees around the city in places where the older trees will die in a few years. It is a wonderful mission that unfortunately relies on homeowners abutting the land where these trees are planted to water the trees. It is especially important for home owners to water this year because we are so far behind in normal rainfall. Of the two trees planted on my block both have died for lack of water. One of the houses where a tree was planted is occupied by a large number of AU students who worry only about where they will park their nine or ten cars. The other house is occupied by a reputable, hard working, family just too busy to take care of any additional landscaping. It’s very sad to see such lack of care in this well-to-do neighborhood. I wonder how many of the trees that have been planted across the city will survive.

After how many years of discussion about how to calculate and charge fares to taxi passengers has this not been resolved? It’s clear that the current gang in the Taxi Commission can’t find their butts with both hands. They’ve had years to conduct pilot programs with meters, perform cost/benefit analyses, and now they can’t make any recommendation and leave the whole mess for Mayor Fenty to resolve. Who needs this bunch of cowards?


Rescission Possible in West End Emergency Resolution
Robin Diener,

Robert Miller, Legislative Counsel in Chairman Vincent Gray’s office, left open the possibility Tuesday of rescinding the West End Emergency Resolution in the new Council legislative session that begins on Tuesday September 18. In an hour-long meeting with community advocates from Empower DC, the Foggy Bottom Association, and the DC Library Renaissance Project, Miller said that rescission could be introduced if the emergency resolution had not yet been “implemented.” Miller also cautioned that the council was bound not to take action that could be harmful to the city’s contractual obligations. Miller was also informed that last week the tenants of the Tiverton Apartments, located adjacent to West End Library, ended negotiations with Eastbanc, the developer named in the emergency resolution. While the Tiverton situation was not included in the resolution, it was leveraged by the council to create the appearance of an emergency.

For the resolution to take effect, Mayor Fenty must submit a Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) to the Council within ninety days, which he has not yet done. The council has forty-five days to “disapprove” an LDA — a requirement that Kwame Brown’s office has cited as adequate public protection — but the LDA passes automatically if not acted upon by council. Opponents are not willing to wait for an LDA to come to council for “possible disapproval.” We want the deal rescinded first. Our mantra, “Fix the Broken Process,” was echoed by Phil Mendelson, the lone dissenting vote against the emergency, who said at the time, "This might be a great deal, but I don’t like the process."

Advocates also let Miller know that Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, cosponsor of the emergency resolution with Brown, had acknowledged a mistake in not getting community approval. At a July 18 meeting of Foggy Bottom ANC2A, attended by more than one hundred citizens, Evans promised to abide by the community’s wishes. (See video of the meeting at

Since then, calls for rescinding the West End emergency resolution have come from numerous civic groups including the Federation of Citizens’ Associations, the Foggy Bottom Association, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, the Kalorama Citizens Association, ANC2B, ANC1C, and TENAC. Read all the documents in the case at the Library Dynamo Project web site:, and sign the public petition to rescind the West End emergency resolution:


Dude, Where’s My City?
Chris Otten,

On July 11, I woke up kind of hazy after a night of reading a wild essay by George Orwell to find out a public library was missing. It was the day after the DC city council heard an unprecedented forty-four pieces of “emergency resolutions” — resolutions that go into effect immediately with only a single reading. One of the more insidious resolutions happened to cede land in the West End neighborhood of Ward 2 to a private developer named Eastbanc. On this land sits the West End Library, MPD Special Operations Division, and the neighborhood fire station, all of which are currently operating.

While the library is not currently missing, the point is that it seems the DC city council, both old and new councilmembers, along with a complicit mayor, are continuing to sell public property for the benefit of private profit and doing so with very little concern for public input on these serious matters. One can trace this everything-must-go attitude back to the Williams’ administration, when our only public hospital was essentially closed and all of our public hospital equipment were sold to private companies throughout the country at pennies on the dollar. The fire sale continues today as public schools are under threat of consolidation, and afterwards our public school buildings are merely handed over to private charter-school administrators or sold to developers to build more condos. Look at the homeless shelters, Randall School, and others downtown, just blatantly closed for lack of maintenance and then given to the Corcoran or sat upon until a developer is willing to offer a price.

But most appalling in recent times is the negligence of the city and Library Board of Trustees to just sit on their hands while four neighborhood libraries sat closed since 2004 and offered no interim services to these people — especially our friends across the river where two libraries were shuttered, Benning Road Library and Anacostia Library. The Board of Trustees just got finished patting itself on the back for finally opening interim services in these neighborhoods, only to sit idle and watch the West End library property be sold to Anthony Lanier and Eastbanc without even a peep. The only thing standing in between the complete sale of the city to the mayor’s and council’s wealthy friends are our Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, as there are legal statues in our Home Rule Charter to support this. The only catch is that city has to actually follow its own rules, which for the most part is not happening. Contact your ANC Commissioner today — find out if they’ve been notified of potential public property land giveaways to private developers — empower them to take a stand against such egregious action by so-called city leaders — otherwise, we may all wake up one day and ask Dude, Where’s Our City? For more information about the West End library, visit


Giant Bonusbucks Registration
Steve Leraris,

I came across this today [] and thought I’d pass it along. So far there are not many DC Schools registered for this year.

“This year’s program will run from October 5, 2007, and continue through April 3, 2008. Each time a supporter shops using their Giant Bonus Card, your school will earn A+ Bonusbucks, which converts into cash each month. Last year our top school earned over $12,000, and many schools earned $1,000 or more. With a little effort on your school’s part, great award opportunities are easy!

“Giant Bonus Card holders may support your local school(s) (up to three) to benefit from the A+ Bonusbucks Program by choosing the ‘Designate Schools’ link from the menu on this page or by completing a Designation Card at your participating Giant Customer Service Desk. Then every time you shop with your card between October 5, 2007, and April 3, 2008, your designated school(s) will earn A+ Bonusbucks, which are converted to cash and credited to your school’s account. To ensure that your school earns proper A+ Bonusbucks credit, schools must (re)register and supporters must (re)designate. Remember, even if you designated a school last year, you must redesignate this year. This simple effort is the only step necessary for your school to begin earning your points!”


Changing the Way Business Is Done Around Community Development
Villareal Johnson, ANC 7A,

As a young, progressive, and extremely involved member of the Ward 7 community, I tend to observe and listen. What I see is that we have four city council members living east of the Anacostia River. What I hear is that this is political history in the making. But let’s shed the euphoria for a moment and ask the million dollar question. What does this really mean for east Washington? For years, east Washington has been underrepresented and underdeveloped. Now, with a quarter of the city council living east of the Anacostia River, it’s time to leverage that influence for community benefit. The 140,000 people living east of the Anacostia River, making up a quarter of the city’s population, should expect a change in the way business is done surrounding community development.

Community development, in most cases, refers to the creation of suitable and stable neighborhoods through the promotion and execution of integrated approaches that provide decent housing for all, safe and clean living environments and expanded economic opportunities for low and moderate income people. However, many could argue that the stated definition of community development, in practice, has not really materialized itself east of the Anacostia. One could successfully argue that what we have come to accept as community development is really not that at all. Would it be naive to say that what we assumed was community development was nothing more than a creative and seductive way for profiteers to obtain our valuable community assets while leaving us with nothing more than shabby development projects, shattered dreams and broken promises? Personally, being a man of people, I would argue that now is a great time to pursue and obtain the things we need and desire. It’s time to use our political leverage to exercise community development and really make history.

The four council members representing residents east of the Anacostia River, should standardize a process legislatively that will state to developers that if they want to do business east of the Anacostia River, there are parameters. Our representatives need to: publicly support and lend their political influence to the ward-wide community benefits package discussion being lead by various ANCs, civic groups, community based organizations, and residents; begin a ward-wide priority exercise to assess and define community needs; introduce specific legislation that will tax developers for increasing density; create a task force to determine the value of community assets lost to private development so that money can be reinvested back into our communities; and find resources to educate residents on community benefits and train residents on the art of negotiating for those benefits. If they really wanted to make history, they could pass legislation that establishes a standard payment on the part of developers for the increased square footage (Floor Area Ratio) through a public process of up-zoning (Planned Unit Development).

This high level of action and leverage of political clout would be most inspiring and monumental. However, without the forceful push from our communities, it probably won’t happen. With an election coming in fifteen months, we can mandate this kind of action through public discourse. The councilmembers represent our interest and we have the power to make them act. Contrary to popular belief, we carry more weight than the financiers of their campaigns. As voters, taxpayers, and residents, we have the power to leverage our council representatives to develop our community as we see fit.


Unequal Hiring Practices
Peter Turner,

I would like to mirror Samuel Jordan’s comments [themail, September 9] about apparent unequal opportunity hiring practices in some businesses and restaurants in the District. Aside from the restaurant Mr. Jordan mentions, there are numerous other examples where an apparent ethnic group is hired to the apparent exclusion of any other groups. I’m not sure what the investigative process for such situations is, but it would be good to know.



DC Public Library Events, September 13-15
Randi Blank,

Thursday, September 13, 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, September 13, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall. Help adults get their GED or learn to read! The Adult Literacy Resource Center of the DC Public Library presents a volunteer fair to learn about tutoring and teaching opportunities with adult literacy providers. This event is cosponsored by DC Learns. Be sure to register by September 10. To register, call the Adult Literacy Resource Center at (202) 727-2431 or the Read Out Loud Hotline at 1-866-READ-OUT.

Friday and Saturday, September 14. 15, 10:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, G Street Overhang, rain or shine. Books Plus, The Library Store, holds its fifth annual fall book sale. Thousands of books will be on sale at $4.00 or less. Proceeds will be used for the purchase of new books and audiovisual materials for the DC Public Library.

Saturday and Sunday, September 15 and 16, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Saturday, 1:00-4:00 p.m. Sunday, Palisades Neighborhood Library, 4901 V Street, NW. Friends of the Palisades Library used book sale. Come search for bargains at the annual used book sale. 282-3139.

Saturday, September 15, 11:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall. Picturing Words: The Power of Book Illustration. For centuries, the use of illustrations in our culture has conditioned the human eye to learning through visual media. Pictures add beauty, color and life to the printed page and appeal to readers and nonreaders alike. This exhibit is cosponsored with the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. For more information, call 727-1183.

Saturday, September 15, 11:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Gallery A-2. Through the Lens: Jeremy Goldberg’s Washington. This exhibit traces Washington’s Jewish community from a tight cluster of late 19th century synagogues downtown to new neighborhoods uptown and into the suburbs through photographs of original and current sites of synagogues, other Jewish buildings, and cemeteries. This exhibit is cosponsored with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. For more information, call 727-1183.

Saturday, September 15, 1:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall and 2nd Floor East and West Lobbies. The Art of the Quilt. This all-day quilting demonstration is provided by the Daughters of Dorcas and Sons. For more information, call 727-1291.

Saturday, September 15, 1:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 215. Technology Training Session. Demonstrations of new assistive technologies and group training for people of all ages who use assistive technology for the blind and visually impaired. For more information, call 727-2142.

Saturday, September 15, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, G Street Windows. Join artist Gerardo Brown as he unveils “Mandalas,” a series of oil paintings created as a metaphor of traditional Buddhist mandalas, geometrical representations used to meditate. For more information, call 727-1183.


Shaw Monthly Cleanup, September 15
Jason Beard,

Please join us for the Shaw Monthly Clean Up this Saturday to clean up the community, meet people, and do good. The August turn-out was great, with around fifteen people, and we hope to have even more this time around. We will be focusing on the upper 9th Street corridor. Activities will include working with Shaw Main Streets to plant flowers into newly installed tree boxes, picking up litter, and general street clean ups.

The specifics of the event: 9 a.m., Saturday, September 15. Meet at 9th and Q Streets NW (Park Area). Bring gloves and water. What will be provided: clean up tongs, trash bags, volunteer vests; a few extra gloves will be on hand. Current weather forecast: Partly cloudy, high of 76 degrees. This event is sponsored by in partnership with


The Tangible Benefits of Blogging, September 15
Barbara Conn,

Nancy McCord, business owner and expert on the use of blogs for developing web traffic and improving visibility of web sites, will give attendees the information and confidence they need to use blogging to build their businesses. By the time she finishes her talk, attendees will be ready to create a useful blog. Topics to be covered include 1) a blog’s impact on web site traffic and “stickiness,” 2) the impact of blog setup method on search engines such as Google, 3) setting up a blog (including a demo using Blogger’s free online tools), 4) XML feeds — what they are and how to use them, 5) feed syndication tools, and 6) ghost blogging.

Be sure to bring your questions. Nancy’s answers will help you take advantage of this exciting technology to interact with customers and build your web site’s presence. With her fresh, candid approach, Nancy McCord will give you the real scoop on blogging and on why you should be using a blog with your Web site.

Gather your colleagues, relatives, friends, and neighbors, and bring them to this Saturday, September 15, 1:00 p.m., gathering of the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group (E&C SIG). These monthly events are free and open to all. This month’s event is at the Cleveland Park Branch Library (first floor large meeting room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Newark Streets), just over a block south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail Station on the Red Line. For more information about the presentation, the speaker, and CPCUG (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization), visit To register, send E-mail to


West End Rally and Oversight Hearing, September 18, 24
Robin Diener,

Rally Tuesday, September 18, at 9 a.m., at the Wilson Building (13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue) to call for the council to 1) rescind the West End Emergency Resolution — send it back to square one and follow normal legislative processes including public hearings, etc. It’s not about the specifics of the deal, which should be up to the community. It’s about the process. This unfortunate resolution should not be allowed to stand. It sets a precedent that will only result in more political discord and upheaval. And that’s no way to rebuild a library system. Jack Evans has said he will abide by the community’s request. 2) Follow the law by completing a Public Property Inventory (and putting it online), completing the Master Facilities Plan for all of DC, not just the schools, and implementing ways for the mayor to consider “continuous community input.” All the above are required under current law. 3) Fix the law to prohibit the disposal of public property through emergency legislation, and amend the Library LEAD Act to mandate public input into the development of any public/private partnership (ppp) as the first step. Chairman Gray, Carol Schwartz, and Harry Thomas have expressed interest in these reforms. The rally will last less than an hour, and it’s Car-Free Day in DC, so you can use the crowded Metro as an excuse for being a little late to work.

On Monday September 24, at 10 a.m., in room 500 of the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, there will be an oversight hearing by Kwame Brown concerning projects managed by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. Many are expected to testify about the West End Emergency and the lack of public inclusion in plans for other libraries including the Tenley and Benning branches which are under pressure for sale and development. Any project under the management by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development may be the subject of testimony by citizens. Those who wish to testify should contact John Adams at the Committee on Economic Development by E-mail at or by telephone, 727-6683. E-mail contacts should include the full name, title, and affiliation, if applicable, of the person(s) wishing to testify. Witnesses should bring ten copies of their written testimony to the roundtable. Representatives of organizations will be allowed a maximum of five minutes for oral presentation, and individuals will be allowed a maximum of three minutes for oral presentation. If you are unable to attend the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements should be submitted to the Secretary to the Council, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 5, Washington, DC 20004 no later than 5:00 p.m., Friday, September 28.


DC’s Architectural Environment, September 24
Sara Kabakoff,

Join Todd DeGarmo as he discusses STUDIOS architecture’s perspective on Washington, DC’s, unique architectural environment. Under DeGarmo’s leadership, STUDIOS has become a respected industry leader designing programmatically complex buildings and interiors that inspire innovation. STUDIOS architecture’s DC practice has influenced many of its national and international projects, including the recently completed IAC/InterActiveCorp and Bloomberg LP locations globally. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW (Judiciary Square Metro, Red Line), Monday, September 24, 7:00-8:30 p.m. $12, Museum members and students; $20, nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. To register, visit or call 272-2448. For more information, contact Sara Kabakoff,, 272-2448, ext. 3201.


Tour of Solar Homes and Buildings, October 6-7
Steven Seelig,

Please attend the seventeenth annual metropolitan Washington, DC, tour of solar homes and buildings. This is part of the American Solar Energy Society ( national tour of solar homes. We are sure you will enjoy learning more about sustainable solar homes, buildings, and energy efficient technologies that are available today. Over forty homes will be on the tour this year from October 6 to 7, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Solar energy systems and sustainable green design are now becoming mainstream. In fact, studies by the US Green Building Council indicate that sustainable design, including solar energy technology, is the fastest growing segment of the building industry today. For more information please view this link: Thanks for joining us! Tickets for the tour will be available September 14 at area locations for a small cost and downloadable for free from our web. See the tickets page ( for details.


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