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September 16, 2007

In the Dark

Dear Darklings:

Robin Diener writes below about the city council’s deliberately poor communications with citizens with respect to the West End emergency legislation. Even with the firestorm of public protest over that double-dealing, the council is not making any better effort to inform citizens of its upcoming actions. On Tuesday, following its long summer recess, the council will hold an additional legislative meeting, but it is keeping the public in the dark about what measures it will consider. Their legislative agenda isn’t on the printed calendar, wasn’t available at Legislative Services on Friday, and still isn’t online on the council’s web site. Whatever legislative measures the council will take up, you and I aren’t supposed to know about them until it’s too late to weigh in on them.

Nevertheless, there are several interesting council committee hearings on the schedule ( On Wednesday, there will be a confirmation hearing on Clarence Brown to replace E. Veronica Pace as Director of the Office on Aging. On Thursday, there will be hearings on permanent legislation to require exploratory committees to file financial reports with the Office of Campaign Finance; on capital projects for libraries and parks (will the hearing focus attention on the four closed branch libraries as well as on the West End library); on the appointment of David Gragen as Chief Procurement Officer; on capital projects and space needs for public safety agencies (which will focus on the controversy over the city’s lease of 225 Virginia Avenue, SE); and on the closure of DC Village, the only emergency shelter that houses homeless families, in order to move WMATA’s bus garage to its site from M Street, SE, from which the garage will be displaced because of the baseball stadium. That’s just this week, and it’s only part of the council’s schedule.

In the last issue, I wrote about the latest move to put Dorothy and me in our place. I’m not going to write about it again because, as I often write, themail is not about themail or about us. I’m not running the several very nice and encouraging messages and offers of help you sent us, although we thank you for them. I’m not running the one piece of hate mail we received, because it was sent pseudonymously, and I’d only run it if the sender were willing to embarrass himself or herself by using his or her own name. Finally, I’m not running the piece Mike DeBonis, City Paper’s new Loose Lips, submitted, because he has published it on the City Paper’s own web site, which is copyrighted. You can read it there. Basically, in it Mike tries to turn a one-time hit piece into a feud by accusing Dorothy of lying about his interview with her, and denying that he said what he said. He makes the rather surprising denial, considering the snide and condescending tone of his article, that he was snide and condescending in his interview with Dorothy. He also denies that he let Dorothy know that the impetus for his story was a source in the Wilson Building. But it’s too late for him to backtrack on that now, since we’ve since confirmed independently that a Wilson Building source was shopping the story around. In any case, enough about that; there are plenty of other, more important things to talk about in our city. See below.

Gary Imhoff


West End Development
Robin Diener, DC Library Renaissance Project,

Since July 10, when the DC council passed an unprecedented forty-four pieces of emergency legislation, public outrage has mounted over a resolution to “dispose” of the West End library, firehouse, and police station to developer Eastbanc. Civic groups have called for rescinding Emergency Resolution 17-393 all summer. The latest resolution against the sale was passed Saturday by Cleveland Park Citizens Association. In response to this public concern, Chairman Gray and other council members cited the mayor for sending down too much legislation. But it’s the council’s role to serve as a check to the executive branch. The Chairman might have shown Mayor Adrian Fenty the ACLU’s letter of December 18, 2006, recommending Council “limit the use of emergency” [], or referred him to the 1999 report by the Appleseed Center for Justice and Law calling for the same.

Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, cosponsor of the resolution, appears to have misled his colleagues. Councilmembers said Evans showed them him a list of twenty-four "public meetings" about the Eastbanc proposal. Evans surely knew, and all councilmembers should have known, that these were marketing sessions conducted by the developer, not hearings by the any agency responsible to the public. In the few instances when an official public body saw the presentation — just drawings with no written materials — commissioners were assured that discussion was in the preliminary stage. Indeed, the Friends of the West End Library had scheduled its quarterly membership meeting purposely to look at Eastbanc’s presentation. It turned out to be five days after the council’s vote to dispose of the property. Emergency legislation has no requirement for public input, but Carol Schwartz, whose Government Operations Committee must find the property to be surplus in order to be “disposed,” and resolution cosponsor Kwame Brown convened a joint roundtable on Tuesday July 3, twenty four hours before a national holiday. The attendees consisted of Eastbanc officials and associates. According to an audiotape transcript (there were no cameras in the hearing room) Schwartz and Brown asked many of the right questions, and ultimately appeared unsatisfied. Yet they soon issued what one colleague called a “glowing report.”

The ACLU had warned: “Enacting law on an emergency basis without public input denies the council views and information important to its deliberations.” We now know that many representations at the roundtable were misleading or false. The central misrepresentation was the status of the Tiverton Apartments adjacent to the library, whose tenants were alleged to be important beneficiaries of the deal. They knew nothing about it, and later terminated an agreement to negotiate with Eastbanc. Before casting the sole dissenting vote on July 10, Phil Mendelson said, “This may be a great deal, but I don’t like the process.” He alone anticipated the position of civic groups and individuals across the civic spectrum — from the grassroots Empower DC to the venerable Federation of Citizens Associations — who have weighed in over the summer calling for the DC Council to rescind the West End emergency declaration. Citizens have also asked the council to follow the law by completing and publishing the citywide inventory of property, developing a citywide Master Facilities Plan — the existing one you’ve heard of is for schools only; and constituting a Planning Commission, all of which are required under Title 10 of the DC Code. We have also asked the council to fix the law by prohibiting emergency legislation for disposition of public lands; developing guidelines for the disposition of public property and for public inclusion in that process, including early consultation with ANC’s instead of after the fact, as it now stands; and amending the Library Enhancement Act of 2006 to mandate public inclusion in developing a strategic plan for libraries.

“With 20/20 hindsight, I wouldn’t have done this,” Jack Evans said to a seething crowd of 120 at a July 18 ANC meeting. And then he pledged to do what the community told him. Members of the community who would like to hold Jack to his promise are meeting outside the Wilson Building at 9 a.m., this Tuesday September 18, the first day of the new council session, for a rally in support of rescinding the West End emergency resolution and calling for new protections for public property.


Mayor Fenty’s Car-Free Day Hypocrisy
Kate Dell, Ellicott Street, NW,

Mayor Fenty has declared September 18 as DC Car-Free Day. His actions speak louder than his words. Part of his press release reads: “Mayor Fenty also announced that September 18 will be Car-Free Day in the District. Under the leadership of Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward Six), the DC council unanimously declared Car Free Day to encourage residents and visitors to use alternate means of transportation. Each gallon of gasoline contributes twenty pounds of carbon dioxide, leading the global climate change. More than a third of the city’s residents already take public transit to work — a higher percentage than any other city except New York. Another thirteen percent of residents bike or walk. Anyone interested in pledging to go car-free on Car-Free Day can register at”

If our mayor wants to discourage car use and encourage other transportation modes, why is he promoting the Commerce Bank’s new drive-through design at 4849 Wisconsin Avenue, NW? The Commerce Bank will have two drive-through bays and require the use of an alley for access. DDOT’s studies indicate an expected increase of seven hundred to a thousand cars a day at the site. How much extra carbon dioxide will enter the atmosphere because of the new drive-through bank? What happened to the much touted transit-oriented-development philosophy of our mayor? How can our mayor and council approve the car-oriented development proposed and almost permitted at the corner of Ellicott Street and Wisconsin Avenue, NW? Why is DDOT being told to expedite the permitting process and to cut corners as well? Could it be that the wooing of deep-pockets Commerce Bank is more important than the safety and health of our citizens?

An investigation is required to determine who let this ill-conceived design get as far as it did without informing the neighbors. Is the Fenty administration just a replay of Williams’ pro-development focus to the detriment of the local neighborhoods?


Reform’s Faulty Premises, Continued
William Jordan,

Previously [themail, September 9] I took a look at three faulty and untested premises that unfortunately seem to describe the current school reform priorities of the Rhee/Fenty team: the purpose and priority for reorganized schools governance structure is school system reform, the DC Public School System has failed all its students academically, and an improved and reformed central administration will lead to significantly better outcomes. An initial evaluation of these premises and resulting actions has the Rhee/Fenty team seeming out of sync with what the data shows are the primary needs of our student population. The primary need being to significantly improve the academic performances of black and brown students; a priority unfortunately Rhee/Fenty has chosen to address tangentially via unproven methods.

Another faulty and/or untested premise that seems to be driving this administration and its reform priorities is Premise 4: after central administration, the focus of reform should be on attracting and securing new highly qualified teachers into classrooms. Attracting and securing qualified teachers is important; however, it is questions whether this premise be a priority or focus of reform, based on the urgent needs of our student population. Based on this premise, the Chancellor is paying out $5.4 million to preserve teachers with less seniority, yet she has provided no data showing that doing this will have any efficacy in improving the academic performance of black and brown students. It seems to me that justifying this premise based on data would be pretty straightforward. Compare the growth in the performance of black and brown students under teachers recruited by Rhee’s former company with a set of more senior teachers. Do the same comparison between new teachers who are designated as high performing, as defined by Rhee, with more senior teachers who may bump the new and so-called high performing group during downsizing. And ultimately factor into that comparison the efficacy of using the $5.4 million that Rhee’s plan would cost with using those dollars in classrooms to improve the performance of black and brown students.

So far, at best, the reform priorities being pushed by Rhee/Fenty team are tangential to improving the academic performance of DC’s black and brown students. Worse, these reforms are not based on data and clear priorities evident in the District, but on theories about reform and on the personalities of those making the reforms. Compounding all of this, most of the press, the city council, and residents are more intrigued by the idea and promise of reform than they are in examining whether the proposed measures will get results for our students most in need of support. So far, the reform priorities of Rhee/Fenty are working against the needs of black and brown students, and trading on the glamor of reform. As a parent and citizen, I am very disappointed and ashamed.


Mayor Fenty’s Poplar Point
Dennis Moore,

The mayoralty of Adrian Fenty is a work in progress. Sad though that may be for governance of a major world capital, there is some movement. Mayor Fenty and his newly staffed administration still struggle to get their hands on the wheel. However, there is a genuine sign of real leadership. Poplar Point, one of the District’s largest properties ripe for development, is an area where Mr. Fenty’s leadership will be bench tested. Located in DC’s southeast, screaming for real socioeconomic success, Poplar Point deserves better than the lame initiative of a privately owned soccer stadium. Ward 8 council member Marion Barry has been whipping up the false sentiment that spending precious more taxpayer revenue on another private sports venue for another crop of cronies is for southeast DC’s greater good. Bamboozle us once, shame on him. Bamboozle us twice, shame on us.

Perhaps Mr. Fenty is looking at the long-term big picture when it comes to economic development in the District of Columbia. If DC genuinely wants to reverse the drain of families and revenue from our city, he’s properly calculated that a soccer stadium won’t score. It doesn’t require genius to know that there’s no major soccer mom or fan demographic among District voters. The increasing numbers of independently thinking, and voting, District citizens are quietly watching the disposition of Poplar Point. Beyond the political consciousness of Fenty, Barry and our DC council members, Poplar Point is another litmus test on good governance. Election Day will reveal the grades.

Mr. Barry must refocus on the benefits of exponential economics. Focusing on economic development that retains and expands families has the benefit of generating exponential revenue. Year-round family oriented retail and entertainment venues will strengthen our city’s debt-ridden coffers. It will also have the benefit of raising our shaky Wall Street investment rating. Expanding truly affordable housing must complement the package. Ironically, council member Barry chairs the Committee on Housing and Urban Affairs. Families won’t stay where families can’t live, grow, shop and be entertained within close distances. More and more DC families are discovering the economic common sense being legislated in nearby Maryland, and Virginia. District leaders must wake up to the fiscal realities of real best practices.


A Metro Story: A Man and His Pal
Larry Seftor, Ward 3, larry underscore seftor .them757 at

Recently I took Metrorail downtown to meet my wife and see a movie. I actually made three trips on Metrorail that night because we stopped at a restaurant on the way back for dinner. Each of the three stations I traversed had the following: 1) one or more escalators out of service, 2) no evidence of any repair work to resolve the escalator problems, and 3) two Metro employees chatting. I understand that one of the Metro employees, at each station, was present and on call to resolve any issues or problems that might arise. But the role of the second employee, at each of the three stations, was apparently to supply companionship for the first employee. The second employees were doing no actual work. I suggest that a better use of resources would be for Metro to eliminate the second “companion” employee and use the saved funds to pay a few escalator repairmen overtime to solve real problems.


Metro System
Wallace Dickson,

I agree in the main with the comments of Larry Seftor [themail, September 12], and particularly his suggestion that the system needs to be analyzed by an outside consultant who would recommend policy going forward. But I strongly disagree with his suggestion (at the end of his remarks) that new revenue from increasing ridership revenues should outweigh rising operational costs.

I was a member of the Virginia Legislature when the Washington Area Metropolitan Transportation Agency was created, and cosponsor with State Senator Charlie Fenwick of Arlington of the legislation creating the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. In that capacity I learned a lot about the financing of a large transportation system such as Metro. My conclusions, along with those of everyone else involved in creating our Metro system, were that passenger revenues would never be sufficient to cover operational costs. That’s why the adequate funding by Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia is fundamental and crucial to the survival of the system, just as adequate funding by the federal government is crucial to the survival and efficient operation of Amtrak up and down the East Coast.

The largest, by far, component of operational expense for any transportation system is labor. They are all labor intensive operations. To encourage maximum ridership and remove the maximum number of private vehicles from our highways and streets, the passenger fares must be kept as low as economically feasible. I would advocate keeping fares under one dollar, so as to encourage everyone to opt for public transportation (and rid our buses of those awful, time-consuming paper money fare boxes!). Then, in order to adequately supply Metro with sufficient financing, the three taxing jurisdictions should enact a transportation tax allocated to supporting Metro to the fullest. In my opinion, based on my early experience with the creation of the system (and nothing has fundamentally changed from those days), this is crucial, and the only way Metro’s crumbling infrastructure and efficiency of operation can be sustained in the long run.


WMATA and Costs
Richard Layman,

Larry Seftor [themail, September 12] suggests a thorough evaluation of WMATA, not using inside consultants. He suggests someone from Omaha. I think that’s a bad idea. Better to get consultants who are familiar with heavy rail transit. The McKinsey Quarterly has a good piece on transit system evaluation ( although you’ll have to register for access.

There are several issues. First, it does cost a lot more money to provide service during rush periods. You have to buy more train cars, pay them off, maintain them, and have more personnel to run the trains. And the system is designed then for peak loads. So you can’t look at this strictly in terms of marginal costs, because at a certain point, additional riders trigger the need for additional cars and additional trains. Second, the system is aging and underfunding maintenance and investment has costs. The WMATA planning division wrote about this maybe ten or more years ago, predicting “issues” if maintenance were not addressed. We’re seeing these issues now. Third, while it is likely that there are areas where costs can be reduced, it’s likely not to be equal to hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. All extraneous costs should be rooted out of the system. However, I would argue that planning is not one area to excessively cut. WMATA should be responsible for transit system expansion, not let it be led by the jurisdictions. The debacle with the Dulles extension is a result, in part, of that process being led by the state of Virginia, not WMATA. Fourth, we all would like more service and fare containment. Given the rising cost of diesel fuel for buses, constant wage increases, costs for capital improvement and maintenance, and rising utility bills (the system uses a lot of electricity), we probably can’t have both.

For shorter distance trips, fares are reasonable compared to other places. And the bus-to-bus transfer policy is one of the best in North America, if not the best. No rush hour charges for the bus in DC, whereas other jurisdictions do charge more for such trips. Longer trips do cost more, which is reasonable, because of the distance traveled. However, if parking continues to be subsidized, at some point, it is cheaper for people to drive than to use transit, given the differential cost structures. This puts a limit on the impact of transit for trips from farther points out, and is why “free parking” shouldn’t be provided at offices within the region, but especially within DC. As long as most parking, except in the core of the center city, is free, transit faces a cost disadvantage that is difficult to counter.


The Fire Can Be Extinguished
Samuel Jordan,

I’ve received several responses to my posting in themail [September 9], “How Many Times Must We Say….Wake Up! Wake Up! The House Is On Fire?” I’d like to reply directly to Mr. Peter Turner (themail, September 12). His inquiry reflects an aspect of the issue that needs to be treated with a great deal of sensitivity and concern. First, however, the basis of my complaint should be clear. The marginalization of the African American community, particularly its work force members, is completely destructive without qualification, and has been under way for some time. Globalization of the economy hasn’t moderated the acceleration in this trend. Some economic historians cite the recession of 1973-1974 and the subsequent, persistent deindustrialization as proof of the fragility of the African American worker’s standing in the labor force in the "new" economy. From chattel servitude to reserve labor force to modern dispensability.

R.C. Hill and C. Negry, authors of the article, “Deindustrialization and Racial Minorities in the Great Lakes Region, USA” in Reshaping America: Social Consequences of the Changing Economy (ed. Eitzen and Baca, Prentice Hall, 1989), 168-178, noted that African American workers paid disproportionately for the economic restructuring of the 1970s and 1980s. One study found that between 1979 and 1984, 50 percent of African American males in durable goods manufacturing in five Great Lakes cities lost their jobs. Another survey found that in areas where African Americans accounted for 10 to 12 percent of the work force, we also accounted for 60 to 70 percent of the workers laid off. Unprotected by seniority and “grandfather” clauses that sheltered white workers, African Americans were targeted by collective bargaining provisions enacted specifically to oppose equality of opportunity in the labor force. (See The Possessive Investment In Whiteness, G. Lipsitz (Temple University Press, 1998, 38-46.)

Where seniority served to phase out African American workers from manufacturing jobs thirty years ago, low wages paid to workers in and from Latin America and Asia have the same effect today in the service and construction sectors. Nevertheless, I want to be careful to declare that pitting workers against each other based on ethnicity is not in the best interest of African Americans or any other communities. It is an employer-manipulated conflict strategy serving to maximize profits. Our communities would do well to openly discuss the desire of all working people to do the best they can for themselves and their families. Only solidarity, rather than competition, based on such a desire can energize a joint, multi-racial/ethnic effort to secure living wages with benefits for all.

My challenge is aimed at the local, business, political and community leadership who are yet reluctant to address this issue although signs of rapid deterioration in inter-community relations abound. So, Mr. Turner, I believe that responsible community dialogue based on common interests rather than divisive, punitive investigations should be our first resort, but who among us will step forward and defuse this pending crisis?


The Way Business Is Done
Richard Layman,

[Re: “Changing the Way Business Is Done Around City Development,” themail, September 12] Until you read “City as a Growth Machine” by the urban sociologist Harvey Molotch (, which discusses how local political and economic elites, though seemingly competitive, are united around a pro-growth agenda focused on the intensification of land use and increase in rents, you aren’t going to understand how development is done in any quadrant of the city, any ward, or east or west of the river. While they didn’t read Molotch, the book Dream City by Jaffe and Sherwood is a practical explication of the theory, especially its fourth chapter, on development.

Clarence Stone, a political science professor at UMD, is dean of the “urban regime” theory. I see the two theories as reciprocal, not competitive. Molotch explains the why, and Stone’s work explicates the process. One of his papers discusses this, from which I quote: “By looking closely at the policy role of business leaders and how their position in the civic structure of a community enabled that role, he identified connections between Atlanta’s governing coalition and the resources it brought to bear, and on to the scheme of cooperation that made this informal system work. In his own way, Hunter had identified the key elements in an urban regime — governing coalition, agenda, resources, and mode of cooperation. These elements could be brought into the next debate about analyzing local politics, a debate about structural determinism.”

It’s all about governing coalition, agenda, resources, and mode of cooperation. Dream City and a piece from the old Common Denominator ( explain this without using the theory. But knowing the theory is helpful in making sense of seemingly nonsensical events. It’s not nonsensical at all.


Who’s Really Leaving the Children Behind
Len Sullivan,

While DC’s new mayor tries yet again to “fix” the problems of the DC public school system, the Congress is debating whether to extend their latest sloganized legislative initiative to “fix” our national public education disgrace. Both seem to accept as gospel that the solution lies inside the school classrooms they control, regardless of where the problems originate and are perpetuated. The Washington Post weighed in with the markedly differing views of nine American educational luminaries and its own editorial position. None of the above even mention the role of parents and missing parents (most of whom have themselves been left behind) in establishing and nourishing their kids’ desire to learn. NARPAC’s September editorial at deplores the experts’ failure to consider the primary source of the problem, or the possibilities to “fix” the chickens and hence their eggs.

In a related issue, we also rail once more against the foolishness of DC transportation experts for trying to improve the city’s walking experience by combining, at grade level, pedestrians, bikers, and baseball fans with dense streams of commuters and 24/7 heavy trucking. (See How can we make sure our bureaucrats leave no common sense behind?


September 2007 InTowner
P.L. Wolfe,

This is to advise that the September 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 January 2004) 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 October 12 (the second 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) “West End Library Site Transfer to EastBanc Controversy Now Part of Larger Issue About District’s Embrace of Public-Private Deals”; 2) “U Street Corridor Slated for Major Rehab — Widened Sidewalks Among Planned Changes”; 3) “Heurich Mansion Counting on Enactment of Property Tax Relief Bill to Survive — Prospects Encouraging”; 4) “Adams Morgan Main Street Improves Gateway Pocket Park.”

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), faxing to 265-0949, or returning by postal mail.



DC Public Library Events, September 17-18
Randi Blank,

Monday, September 17, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. All the World’s a Stage Film Club. We will watch Walk on Water (2004), directed by Eytan Fox. Rated R. 727-1161.

Tuesday, September 18, 12:00 p.m., West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street, NW. West End Book Club. Please call 724-8707 to find out which book will be discussed in September.

Tuesday, September 18, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 307. “Through the Lens: Jeremy Goldberg’s Washington,” a special curator’s lecture. Bring your brown bag lunch and join us to learn how the synagogue architecture of local congregations reflects local and national trends in American Jewish architecture. Following the lecture, join a short neighborhood walking tour and visit three sites featured in the exhibition. RSVP suggested, to 789-0900.

Tuesday, September 18, 7:00 p.m., Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, 3160 16th Street, NW. Poet Vladimir Monge will read from his book Pasajeros en el Tiempo, Passengers in Time. The nostalgic homeland-evoking poems in his book deal with universal themes of war, exile, love, and are addressed to fellow Latin American immigrants living in the US. 671-0200.

Tuesdays, September 18, 25, 7:00 p.m., Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Library, 5401 South Dakota Avenue, NE. The Fall African History and Culture Lecture Series featuring local historians C.R. Gibbs, Carter Ward, Asa Gordon, Tyrone Woods, and others will continue through November 20. Call 541-6255 for more information. September 18, “Supreme Redemption: Larceny, the Elections, and the US Supreme Court,” Asa Gordon; September 25, “The History of Black Dance in America,” Tyrone Woods.

Tuesday, September 18, 7:30 p.m., Palisades Neighborhood Library, 4901 V Street, NW. Palisades Book Club. Join us as we discuss American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work, by Susan Cheever. 282-3139.

Tuesday, September 18, 7:30 p.m., Palisades Neighborhood Library, 4901 V Street, NW. Palisades Stamp Club. For more information, call 282-3139.


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