themail.gif (3487 bytes)

January 9, 2008

Back Again

Dear Washingtonians:

In the past few months, my introductions to issues of themail seem to have devoted almost exclusively to recounting problems with sending themail to you. This will be no exception. Our latest involuntary break was the result of a hacker attack on the DCWatch web server that brought down our ability to send or receive mail through the web site. We lost a few days’ mail, so if you sent a message to themail that hasn’t been published, please send it again.

This breakdown compelled me to find yet another way to send themail, a commercial service that I’m trying out for the first time with this issue. Several people had complained that they weren’t receiving their issues of themail, and others were receiving it in plain text format even though it was being sent in HTML. If the new service works well, these problems should be resolved. Please let me know if you have any trouble receiving your subscription to themail.

Gary Imhoff


Must Reading
Dorothy Brizill,

Last Friday, the district filed its Supreme Court Brief in the Second Amendment rights handgun case DC v. Heller, The District is appealing the 2007 decision of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which struck down provisions of the District’s Firearm Control Regulation Act of 1975, and read the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court granted the District’s petition for a writ of certiorari, and phrased the question of the case as to whether DC Code 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-related militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes. Oral arguments will be heard in March, and a written decision is expected this summer.

As has been widely reported in the press, two attorneys who are listed on the District’s brief, Attorney General Linda Singer and Alan B. Morrison, special counsel to Singer, are no longer associated with the case. Singer resigned as Attorney General in December after enduring a year in which her authority as the District’s lead attorney was usurped by the mayor’s General Counsel, Peter Nickles, who was subsequently named as her interim replacement. In one of his first official acts, Nickles dismissed Morrison, an experienced Supreme Court litigator who was scheduled to argue the District case. Now, despite the fact that there are more than three hundred attorneys in the Attorney General’s office, DC’s legal team is dominated by private attorneys: Walter E. Dellinger of O’Melveny and Myers, Thomas Goldstein of Akin Gump, Robert Long of Covington and Burling, and DC Solicitor General Todd Kim,

On Monday, the city council’s newly established Office of Policy Analysis ( issued its first report, “Education Reform in the District of Columbia: The Modified Role of the Council of the District of Columbia,” The report describes itself as “a primer to the new role of the Council of the District of Columbia in public education.” The report’s conclusion notes that “mayoral control [of DCPS] has yet to be proven as effective reform” and also argues that “the Council’s expanded role is fraught with political minefields.”


Georgetown Report on DC Voucher Program
Rachel Pugh,, through Paul Basken,

Researchers at the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) have released the results of the third qualitative examination of the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), the parental school choice program targeted at low-income families living in the District of Columbia. The report, titled “Satisfied, Optimistic, Yet Concerned: Parent Voices on the Third Year of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program,” examines the experiences of families who have been in the program since its inception three years ago in 2004 and those who entered two years ago in 2005. Unlike prior evaluations, this report sought not only a deeper understanding of families’ evolving attitudes about and behaviors associated with school choice, but also how they measure student success and how they are most likely to express their satisfaction (or the lack thereof) to policy-makers and other interested stake holders as the pilot program approaches reauthorization.

A full press release is available online at


Home Rule Over Our Parks
Cary Silverman,

This year, DC got its own quarter and its postmark back, the DC council considered installing electronic billboards outside the baseball stadium and the Wilson building, and DC Vote held a tea party. While these efforts bring our lack of voting representation to the attention of the nation and give DC its due respect, they don’t have a measurable impact on the daily lives of DC residents.

In 2008, I propose that the mayor, DC council, and our advocacy and neighborhood organizations focus its efforts on an issue that would bring us closer to true Home Rule: local ownership and control of the District’s parks. Many people may not realize that most of the District’s circle and square parks, as well as numerous scattered “pocket” parks (grassy triangular areas formed at intersections) at federally owned. What that means is that MPD does not patrol them (responding only in cases of emergency), our DC government does not maintain them, and DC residents and officials have little influence over them. Instead, the parks (it is generous to call some of these areas parks) fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and US Park Police, whose foremost concern is the National Mall and monuments. US Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers was fired for admitting as much, conceding that her agency lacked adequate resources to protect neighborhood parks. No other city or state has such a crazy quilt of federal land.

I’ve proposed that the DC council, with the support of the mayor, pass a sense of the council resolution supporting transfer of all local parks to the District, and that Rep. Norton introduce legislation to effectuate the transfer in 2008. Home Rule Over Our Parks. You can read more about the issue, view a map, and download the proposal here:


Nader, Weissman Urge Firing of Nickles
Barry Williams,

[An open letter to Mayor Fenty from Ralph Nader and Robert Weissman] We are writing to urge you to dismiss immediately Peter Nickles from his position as Acting Attorney General and as general counsel. Mr. Nickles contends in a recent Washington Post story that he provides you and the District with vital, experience-based good judgment. But his actions while serving in your administration belie this claim, and show instead that he is unfit for the responsibility you have entrusted to him — as well as that which he has aggregated for himself.

As general counsel, Mr. Nickles on several occasions engaged in extracurricular activities beyond his job description -- and exceeding his authority. Even more seriously, he blocked numerous ideas from your Attorney General Linda Singer and her associates to initiate aggressive litigation strategies to hold corporations accountable for harming District residents and depriving the District government of tax revenues. Perhaps Mr. Nickles’ experience as a career corporate litigator with Covington & Burling actually interfered with his “good judgment” in these cases; whatever the reason, he obstructed Attorney General Singer from undertaking the innovative initiatives that she was uniquely well equipped to bring forward. It is well understood that Ms. Singer resigned as Attorney General because of Mr. Nickles’ regular interference with her ability to carry out her statutory duties.

Now, as acting attorney general, Mr. Nickles has dismissed Alan Morrison, one of the most accomplished Supreme Court advocates of the last quarter century. Mr. Nickles inappropriately disparaged Attorney General Singer for her relative youth and lack of trial experience. What rationale does he proffer for firing Mr. Morrison — other than that Mr. Morrison served as counselor to Ms. Singer? In what conceivable way is he aiding the District by firing Mr. Morrison in advance of a crucially important gun control case that Mr. Morrison was to argue soon before the Supreme Court?

“What you pay for in a good lawyer is judgment,” Mr. Nickles told the Washington Post. You are not receiving good judgment. Your tenure as mayor will continue to be undermined so long as Mr. Nickles possesses such at-large power within the District government. Unless, that is, Mr. Nickles only does what you tell him to do.


More Democracy: An Independent Attorney General
Richard Layman,

While I was away, the city’s Attorney General resigned, indicating that the Mayor’s General Counsel was meddling and second guessing. See “Singer Quits Post; Aides Cite Clashes With Fenty Counsel: Top Lawyer Felt Sidelined, Some Say,” Most, if not all, states have elected an attorney general. DC has pretensions of being a state, yet too often the executive and legislative branches of government do not function at an equivalent level (see “Residents Keep D.C. Vote Fight Brewing: Tea Party Protest Evokes Famed Boston Revolt,” (

In response to the resignation, Councilmember Mendelson has offered legislation putting more strictures on how the executive (the mayor) can deal with the Attorney General; see “Mendelson Moves to Redefine Attorney General’s Role,” From the article: “Under the bill, applicants would need at least seven years’ experience in the District; a vetting process for the position would be required; the term would be six years; and there would be protections against removal. These qualifications are similar to the ones the council approved for the inspector general’s job in 2003.” And the Washington Post editorialized some mumbo-jumbo on the same topic, in "DC’s Attorney General: As Linda Singer departs, the position’s independence must be preserved,"

In the US form of government, the people are sovereign. The law belongs to the people. Therefore, make the Attorney General an elected position, and the Attorney General would ultimately be responsible to the citizens of the District of Columbia. (Elsewhere I have suggested that this also be done at the federal level.) Such a proposal could go on the ballot in the 2008 general election and, if passed, could become operative with the 2010 primary and general elections.


First Person Singular
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools speaks: “When I joined Teach for America, my parents were like: ‘What are you doing? Get a real job.’ Traditional Korean American families don’t want their children to go into education. They want you to be a doctor or a lawyer or a hedge fund manager. It’s funny, when I came here for the announcement of my nomination, I brought my kids and my parents. And we got off the plane, and right on the newsstand there, The Washington Post had done this huge article on the front page [essentially asking], Can D.C. schools be fixed? My mother looked at it, and she was like: ‘Holy crap! Are you going to be able to do this?’” <like snip>

“. . . [M]y parents were like, . . .” “. . . [S]he was like, . . .” And this continues throughout. This person runs DC education? And speaks/writes this way? And allows herself to be quoted this way? Maybe it’s a generational thing but I’d hope for a higher standard for students, let alone the schools chancellor. A letter in the December 30 Post made this same point: “Like, Where’s the Grammar?”


A Returnable Bottle and Can Bill for DC
Richard Layman,

I was reading a blog on Bloomingdale ( that, among other things, focuses on the public spaces, particularly litter. In an entry, one of the commenters made a point about the need for a returnables law, and I responded (slightly edited): A bottle bill, requiring recycling of beverage bottles, was attempted in 1988 through a citizen initiative. The forces opposed to it made it into a racial issue and recruited the black churches, among other stakeholders, in a successful campaign to defeat the bill. The DC Environmental Network is still interested in this, but it would still be a tough fight, given that racial politics are still very extant and visible in the city.

But I realized after writing this to the Bloomingdale blog that, legally, the DC city council could enact such a law without there having to be a referendum. But, because the business agenda dominates the council, it would be a struggle to get such a law passed.

While it is true that Congress has the ultimate authority to approve DC laws, for the most part Congress doesn’t concern itself with our local laws. Because DC doesn’t have to worry about state or county enabling legislation, DC as a city has much more control over its laws than almost any other municipal jurisdiction in the country. But often, we do not utilize this capability.



Intellectual Property, January 11
Laura Elkins,

I have a proposal in the Intellectual Property exhibition at Meat Market Gallery in Washington, DC. My submission, Global Warming, proposes a visit to Meat Market under the effects of extreme weather. The rear gallery has been destroyed and the front gallery is flooded. Visitors view the exhibit on a little boat. The opening reception is Friday, January 11, 6-8:30 p.m. The show runs through February 3. Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 12 p.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 12-3 p.m. Meat Market Gallery, 1636 17th Street, NW. For more information, call 328-6328, E-mail, or go to


Memorial Service for Hilda Mason, January 12
Joe Libertelli,

A memorial service will be held for Hilda Mason at the 19th Street Baptist Church on Saturday, January 12, at 10:00 a.m. Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, 4606 16th Street, NW, 829-2773,


National Building Museum Events, January 13, 16
Jazmine Zick,

Sunday, January 13, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Flying in the Great Hall: watch as the DC Maxecuters fly their model airplanes in and across the Great Hall! Free drop-in demonstration program for all ages.

Wednesday, January 16, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Building for the 21st Century: Sustainable Buildings Industry Council 2007 Awards. Richard King, director of the US Department of Energy’s Photovoltaic R&D Team within the Solar Energy Technologies Program presents the top three winners of the 2007 Sustainable Buildings Industry Council Awards and how they incorporate a holistic approach to their design and construction projects. Free, no registration required.

Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


Voter Registration Deadline, January 14
Bill O’Field,

The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics announces that the voter registration deadline in the District for the February 12 Presidential Preference Primary Election is Monday, January 14. Citizens who are not yet registered to vote can register at the Board’s office, by a mail-in voter registration application, online at the Board’s web site, or when applying for or renewing their driver’s licenses at the District of Columbia Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The Board’s office is open during regular business hours Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. for citizens to complete a voter registration application in person. The Board is located in Room 250-North of the One Judiciary Square building at 441 Fourth Street, NW. The building is accessible and conveniently situated along Metro’s Red Line at the Judiciary Square stop. Mail-in applications are available at any District of Columbia public library, firehouse, and police station. The applications must be postmarked no later than Monday, January 14, to be valid for the February 12 Presidential Preference Primary Election.

The application form is also available online at the Board’s web site at Any form completed online is considered pending until the Board of Elections and Ethics has received the printed application signed by the voter. The signed form must also be postmarked no later than January 14. Through the Motor Voter Program, citizens may register to vote when they are applying for or renewing a driver’s license at the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles. Registrants can easily complete a voter registration form when applying for a driver’s license.

January 14 is also the deadline for citizens who are already registered to update their address or party affiliation. Voters registered as independents or with a minor party are not eligible to vote in the February 12 Primary. Only voters registered with the Democratic, Republican, and DC Statehood Green parties may vote in their party’s primary. To register to vote in the District of Columbia, a person must be a United States citizen, a District of Columbia resident and at least eighteen years old by the next election. For more information, the public may call 727-2525 (TDD: 639-8916) or visit the Board’s web site at


Upcoming Talk for Change Toastmasters Meeting, January 16
Corey Jenkins Schaut,

Please join us this Wednesday, January 16, at 6:45 p.m., for our next meeting of Talk for Change Toastmasters. We meet at the Teach for America offices, located at 1413 K Street, NW, on the 7th floor. At Talk for Change, we believe in the power of education. By following the Toastmasters curriculum, we have an opportunity to continue to develop and improve our leadership and speaking skills in a safe environment. Many of us are former teachers and alumni of Teach for America. Many of us are making a difference in our community through work in the nonprofit sector. And many of us just value the opportunity to keep learning. We welcome anyone to join our friendly, fun-loving group.

Are you curious what Talk for Change can do for you? We welcome you to join us at an upcoming meeting to see what we are all about. We meet on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. As your improved communication skills become obvious within the workplace, increased visibility, recognition and promotion will follow. Your improved presentation skills will win you the respect and admiration of your colleagues and employees — and make them wonder what you did to change! Leadership skills acquired through participation in Toastmasters will increase your management potential. You will acquire an increased ability to motivate and persuade, making you more effective as a supervisor or manager. You’ll have access to a wide range of educational materials, including books, CDs, DVDs and seminar programs, available at reduced cost through the Toastmasters International Supply Catalog. We look forward to welcoming you as our newest member! If you have questions, feel free to send us an e-mail at


The People’s Meeting, January 17
Kathryn A. Pearson-West,

There’s a ball of confusion with the twenty-three simultaneous meetings on the DCPS school closure plan scheduled for January 17. Stop the madness! Stop all of the closings of neighborhood schools. See the boycott information below and please attend the People’s Meeting on school closings, which may prove to be more productive. Show your concern about public education and the process to ensure that it improves with the advice and concern of the electorate. If you are concerned about the closings of your neighborhood school and feel there should be other options, you might want to attend:

Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee have absurdly planned twenty-three simultaneous meetings on one night. "This format is disingenuous and it disenfranchises residents," said Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr. Fenty and Rhee’s chaotic meeting format may also be illegal. Be empowered and attend the People’s Meeting, Thursday, January 17, 6:00 p.m., John A. Wilson District Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. This meeting is sponsored by the Coalition To Save Our Neighborhood Schools and Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. We demand respect and will settle for nothing less!


Synthetic Biology Luncheon Roundtable, January 17
Chris Weiss,

Friends of the Earth and the DC Environmental Network will be hosting a luncheon roundtable discussion about governance options for the rapidly developing field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is the combination of biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies in order to create life anew. Washington, DC, is at the heart of this developing field, with large companies and universities pursuing this research in our own backyard. While synthetic biology may be exciting, it is also potentially very dangerous since it aims to re-engineer life from scratch. It is important that the local Washington, DC, community participate in developing policy for this emerging technology since the local environment, economy, and academic institutions are at stake.

The event takes place at noon on Thursday, January 17, at Friends of the Earth, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 600. Please RSVP to Gillian Madill at or 222-0733.


Academic Debate Tournament for Teenagers, January 19
Anthony Burley,

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Psi Chapter and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Mu Beta Chapter, are proud to host the Washington, DC, metropolitan area public debate tournament for teenagers on Saturday, January 19. If you know any teenagers who would like to participate as debaters, please have them complete the entry form.

The topic of the debate is: Resolved: In a democracy, civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice. There will be one open division of unlimited teams. Teams may consist of one to three students. Also, teams are not required to represent a school but all teams must have an adult sponsor. Time limits will be: affirmative constructive speeches, six minutes; negative constructive speeches, six minutes; and rebuttal speeches, five minutes. Teams are not required to have a plan of action, therefore enabling any team without a plan of action to focus primarily on the advantages and disadvantages of the stated resolution.

Entry forms can be obtain from, and should be E-mailed back to, Anthony Burley at Deadline for registration is January 18. The winning team will receive $200.00, the second place team will receive $150.00, the third place team will receive $70.00, and the fourth place team will receive $50.00. Top speaker awards: first place, $100.00; second place, $75.00; third place, $50.00; fourth place, $25.00. Top coach award: $100.00. Schedule (subject to change): 8:30 a.m.-8:50 a.m., registration; 9:00 a.m.-9:55 a.m., first round; 10:00 a.m.-10:55 p.m., second round; 11 :00 a.m.-11:55 p.m., third round; 12:00 p.m.-12:30 p.m., lunch; 12:45 p.m.-1:40 p.m., fourth round; 1:45 p.m.-2:40 p.m., fifth round; 3:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m., awards and closing. Location, The George Washington University, The Marvin Center, 800 21st Street, NW.


Democratic Party Delegate Selection Caucus, January 19
David Meadows,

Inviting all registered DC Democrats to participate in the DC Democratic Party 2008 pre primary delegate selection caucus, Saturday, January 19, 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., McKinley Technical High School, 151 T Street, NE. Come and elect a delegate to represent your presidential candidate at the National Democratic Convention in Denver this summer. Shuttle bus service available at the New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, Gallaudet University Metro Station from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

For more information contact the DC Democratic Party, 1341 G Street, NW, 347-7260,


Community Meeting for the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library, January 30
Archie Williams,

The DC Public Library is hosting a third Community Meeting to work with the community in designing and constructing the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library. The firm of Brody, Davis, Bond, Aedas has been retained as the architects for the momentous task of designing this library and is presenting their preliminary concepts to the community.

The Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library community meeting will be held Wednesday, January 30, at 6:30 p.m., at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Interim Library, 945 Rhode Island Avenue, NW. Please join DCPL staff and the firm of Brody, Davis, Bond, Aedas to discuss the design of these neighborhood libraries. Please feel free to contact Archie D. Williams from DCPL ( if you have any questions regarding these events.


Ellington Theater Delight, February 7-15
Susan Ousley, ess ell ousley at ay oh ell dot com

Enjoy Duke Ellington School of the Arts’ aspiring artists and accomplished professionals performing the The Wiz. A delightful experience for all ages, at Ellington Theater, 3500 R Street, NW. February 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, February 9, at 2:30 p.m.

For tickets, call the Ellington Box Office at 337-4825 or go to Tickets are $20; $15 for twelve years and under.


DC Democratic Party Primary, February 12
Jeff Norman,

The DC Democratic Party urges all registered Democrats in DC to vote in the DC Democratic Presidential Preference Primary on February 12. DC will be voting on the same day as Maryland and Virginia in what has been called "the Chesapeake primary." The primary vote will take place at your regular precinct polling locations.

The Democratic Party has a system of proportional representation. The percentage of the vote that each presidential candidate gets in the DC primary determines how many of those thirteen delegates he or she will be sending to the Democratic National Convention representing DC. All registered Democrats are urged to vote in both the primary.



Free Home Radon Testing Kits
Robin Graham,

January is National Radon Action Month (NRAM), and the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is taking action. DDOE is offering free home radon test kits and conducting radon community workshops by request. Radon can not be seen, smelled, nor tasted. Radon is a pollutant that comes from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and can enter the indoor air we breathe. Radon has been found in homes all over the United States, including the District of Columbia. Radon has been reported as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US; it causes about 15,000 deaths a year. If a home is contaminated with radon, levels usually register high during cold months when windows and doors are closed.

DDOE is encouraging DC residents to test their homes now because dangerous levels could unsuspectingly exist. DDOE’s goal is to inform one hundred percent of DC residents about radon and its associated health risks. To get a free Home Radon Test Kit or request a workshop, DC residents should call the DDOE Radon Hotline at 535-2302 or visit the DDOE web site at


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at

All postings should be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)