Dear Temperate Readers:
In the last issue of themail, I asked for your opinions about Mayor Fenty's firing of six employees of the Child and Family Services Agency in the wake of the Banita Jacks case. I asked,
“Were these firings a long overdue bringing of accountability to the District's child welfare system, or were they a rash and unwarranted
overreaction?” I'd still like to hear from you, but I think some new hints about the answer are given in today's article by David Nakamura,
“Fenty Seeks to Inspire, But Instead Infuriates,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/19/AR2008011902286.html.
It must be painful for the Post to publish an article so revealing of one of the mayor's flaws, but Fenty has behaved this way many times in the past year, and eventually it had to become public.
Fenty doesn't tolerate criticism, or even questioning, from those he considers his inferiors — which includes all the employees and citizens of the District of Columbia. Several times in the past, he has taken umbrage against District employees who questioned him, has demanded their names, and has threatened them with retaliation. The incident with which Nakamura begins his article, he writes,
“. . . revealed a temper that the media-savvy mayor, ever mindful of his self-styled image as a disciplined, fast-moving change agent, has tried to keep hidden from public
view.” But that temper and that rashness have been obvious to people who have been close enough to see him in action, and stories about similar incidents have been circulated quietly among city government employees, officials, and citizens who have been the targets of his wrath.
An Empty Chair at BOEE
Dorothy Brizill, email@example.com
On September 28, 2007, Mayor Fenty nominated Hiram K. Brewton to fill a vacant seat on the three-member DC Board of Elections and Ethics. DC Code Sec. 1-523.01(e) provides that if nominations to the BOEE are not approved by a city council
“resolution within the 90-day period” of review, the nomination shall be deemed disapproved. Although Carol Schwartz' Committee on Workforce Development and Government Operations held a confirmation hearing on Brewton's nomination on November 26, neither the committee nor the council voted to approve Brewton by the ninety-day deadline.
As I wrote in themail on October 14, 2007, Fenty's selection of Brewton should have raised concerns
Moreover, at Schwartz' roundtable, Brewton acknowledged he had a spotty voting record and that he was not familiar with the work of the BOEE. Indeed, prior to hearing Brewton had not even met with BOEE staff or officials to familiarize himself with the work and procedures of the Board.
The council's action in this instance is particularly noteworthy. Usually the council rubber-stamps the appointment of mayoral nominees, and the current council has not wanted to be perceived as opposing any of Fenty's legislative initiatives.
Sunday Parking on Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Andrew Pollard, firstname.lastname@example.org
I sent an E-mail to online service request for the District of Columbia about parking on Sunday, but have not received a reply. When there were so many complaints about church parking, the government put signs on the islands on Rhode Island Avenue, NW, between 6th Street and Logan Circle that said you could park next to them on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. They were supposed to mark the spaces, but they never did. I talked to the police about the signs and they said if I parked there and got a ticket I should take a picture an go to adjudication. No one wants to go there. How can I get a response?
DPR: The Partnership Game
Jonetta Rose Barras, Rosebook1@aol.com
When the District was in the throes of a crime emergency in 2006, the DC council, at the urging of then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams and then-Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles Ramsey, passed a multimillion-dollar bill aimed at reducing violence, particularly juvenile violence. A sizable portion of the funds went to the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). That summer, scrambling to spend the money and prove that the department could be a major player in the anti-crime effort, DPR officials entered into agreements with several organizations including Black Aesthetics Institute, Inc. It was given free space at Emery Recreation Center on upper Georgia Avenue, NW. In exchange, BAI was to
“operate a cultural enrichment seminar program for at least twenty youth on Saturdays from noon to 3:00 p.m. for twelve weeks — August 2006 through August
2007,” according to documents obtained from the DPR under the Freedom of Information Act.
The agreement required among other things quarterly reports from BAI detailing attendance, in-kind and financial contributions. The DPR was to conduct an evaluation of the program. Charles Young, a special assistant to the agency's director, indicated those documents would be provided to me. But three weeks later, Regina Williams, DPR's communications director, said there weren't any. The agency's various partnership programs were designed to provide additional funding, programs, or volunteers for the DPR. But the agency repeatedly gets the short end of the stick. Too often, its partners provide programs of questionable quality and relevancy that are either poorly managed or operated by inexperienced organizations. These groups also use their associations with the DPR to elevate their stature, often securing for their own benefits government, corporate and foundation grants.
DPR's failure to evaluate its partnerships is a glimpse into the agency's dysfunction. Nearly every division — permitting, program development and implementation, financial management, and personnel — cries out for reform. The Barras Report is publishing a four part series on the DPR. Read the full story at
The District's Child Welfare System
Patricia Violante, email@example.com
We assign so much attention to careful selection of those at the top, and yet the seemingly cherry-picked individuals are not always as productive or as responsible as had been hoped. Imagine when the selection process is not so particular and could even be described as lackadaisical. It has been my experience that first responders, no matter whether in government or private employ, are often not of much assistance. Sometimes this might be due to lack of adequate training on the employer's part, other times to lack of interest on the employee's part. The exception, of course, is when one wants to purchase something, in which case the assistance goes beyond expectations.
I always hate to see the front lines bear the brunt of a public outcry for redress. What about the supervisors, the policy makers, those at the top who have lost touch with day-to-day operations? At this point, let's worry less about the firings and concentrate on proper training and information for the ones who are still employed and on simplifying procedures so there can be no stonewalling when problems are brought to attention. Friends in the social services sector give me to understand that resources are scarce and that the staffing numbers are inadequate. As a taxpayer, I would like to see more money assigned to social services. As we
“beautify” and develop the city's physical appearance, we should also tend to the emotional and physical needs of its children, who have only us to rely on and who will pass on whatever
“beauty” we bequeath.
The phony outrage and fake sense of urgency is almost as sickening as the death of four little girls. Have we forgotten Mayor Adrian Fenty's oversight and handling of MRDDA and DMH? As head of the Committee on Human Services, chaired by then Ward 4 Councilmember Fenty, there were ongoing horrors in the Departments of Mental Health (DMH) and the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration (MRDDA). Mayor Fenty needs to stop the predictable ambulance chasing for photo-ops to present the image of a mayor in charge and on the case. Remember, it has been over one year since Fenty's election, with his promise of better governance. Brittany, Tatianna, N'Kiah, and Aja suffered and died under the Fenty Administration. Unfortunately, for DC's innocent and vulnerable, the trail of neglect, injuries, and deaths seem to follow wherever Adrian Fenty operates.
Firing those directly responsible is one thing. However, if you don't pay attention to the details of correcting the systemic problems that caused the death of these four girls, there will be more horrors to come. Since he has had ADD (administrative deficit disorder) since his chairmanship of the Committee on Human Services, we may have to settle for even more tragedies. The bottom line point is that when District government takes our hard earned tax dollars and says that it will take full responsibility and accountability for our common public safety with various publicly funded services and legislation, then it's definitively the government's fault when they fail. If you were walking home from work or a night out on the town, and then you were robbed at gunpoint, is being a robbery victim your fault for walking home?
These four girls, and their mother, are the victims of negligence and incompetence by several taxpayer-funded agencies that are mandated and funded to oversee and remedy children and parents — known to be in potential trouble. Surely, the District is overloaded with domestic cases and socioeconomic problems. Nevertheless, DC government's responsibility is to be proactive with best practices for operating public agencies effectively. So far, the Fenty Administration years are trending toward becoming some of our worst on numerous accounts. Read the signs, they are big. Moreover, elected, appointed, and publicly paid DC government officials have not yet seen fit to even begin systemic repairs on numerous related problems beyond Fenty's
“bull pen” showcase. The warning signs were all there for these children. Only the negligent and incompetent did not connect the dots in a timely and effective manner to prevent this latest horror. Those who believe that Adrian Fenty's administration is relatively blameless have to ask why are we paying them for fatal governance. Should the District's actual statehood motto be Taxation Without Expectation?
S. Harriston, firstname.lastname@example.org
Like ceohoward (themail, January 16) I, too, was wondering about the unannounced removal of channels from the non-digital lineup. This tactic is insulting to the consumer and clearly demonstrates that Comcast has a free hand to do to consumers whatever it chooses without any repercussions from the DC council or the Office of Cable Television.
It's time to select another cable provider, one that respects consumers at least enough to inform them of changes.
Have You Noticed There Is Nothing to Watch?
Star Lawrence, email@example.com
Someone wrote about Comcast and some sneaky stuff they were trying to pry more dough out of people in DC [themail, January 16]. I live in Arizona now, and am on a tear about how little worth watching is on cable and how much it costs. How many times can you watch Star Wars or Hunt for Red October? They just put any old nonsense on and call it a day. Why should DVR cost more? Why should sports cost more (my daughter loves basketball)? The two of us don't watch the Spanish channels. I know it's somehow forbidden by the FCC, but why can't we pay a dollar a channel for those we like, including the big ticket ones, which also don't have much on anymore (except maybe Dexter, Entourage, The Wire, Burn Notice, Rescue Me). To get these, I pay $30 a month alone. In our case, picking channels we want for a buck would add up to $50 a month, not the $90 I pay. I am raving. Never mind. I am going to watch some 1970s retread that costs me more than a grand a year to get.
Ticket Adjudication Delays
Paul Wilson, dcmcrider-at-gmail-dot-com
There's nothing too unusual about the delays Jack McKay is experiencing with mail-in ticket adjudication [themail, January 16]. I appealed two tickets dating from May 2007 and finally got them dismissed in December. I've been told by the Department of Motor Vehicles that if you want quicker satisfaction, a walk-in hearing is the way to go. It shouldn't block your registration renewal, however. A formal denial, provided it's sent within thirty days, puts a hold on all further enforcement actions, including booting and doubling of fines.
Parking Ticket Black Hole
Jamie Treworgy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Regarding the parking ticket black hole [themail, January 16], I've had a similar experience from just about every agency to which I've written a letter. I initially called the Office of Tax and Revenue about the tax status of my house, purchased in May 2007, since I was not receiving the homestead deduction despite having filed the form when I closed. They said to write a letter. No problem. I sent a copy of the form I initially filed and asked them to change my tax status. Two months later, there was no change reflected on the online database and I was still not receiving the deduction. I wrote again. Still no response, though my tax status did change online. Unfortunately, the "taxable assessment" value did not change. I was still being taxed at the non-owner-occupant rate. Beyond that, the proposed taxable assessment for 2008 was about 20 percent higher than the 2007 number, which exceeds the legal cap in property tax increase (and given the real estate market, is absolutely absurd anyway). So I wrote a third time. Still no response. Still no change.
I also wrote to deny a citation I received for talking on a cell phone while driving, on the basis that I was not moving when the cop stopped me. I was at a red light and checking voice mail for a call that I intentionally did not answer while the car was moving. (Yes, I think I actually have a case — the letter of the law says you can't operate a cell phone while in a
“moving motor vehicle.”) That was several months ago. I have gotten absolutely no response. No court date, no dismissal letter, not even a letter telling me I've lost my driver's license because I didn't pay the ticket, which is what I actually expected to happen. Or maybe I already have lost it and they didn't bother to tell me.
So your situation is far from uncommon. In my case, I'm sending another letter to OTR via certified mail for the first issue, since they owe me money. And for the second one, well, I'm going with no news is good news.
The Good Game of Catching Typos?
Le Eckles, email@example.com
I was very saddened and annoyed to see your detailed praise of typo catching [themail, January 16], which seems to me to be exactly contrary to the spirit of themail and DC Watch in general. Who has the time and energy to be sure each and every word they submit is letter perfect
— especially when issues of real substance and controversy are in play?
I'll tell one group who almost surely don't — that's the folks affected by some of the critical issues that you've been so good at highlighting through the years. Importance of typos — bunk. Why praise the
“good game,” and by doing so intimidate and/or discourage those among us who maybe less than perfect grammar-wise. I don't think many of us read themail to participate in
“a game.” Often we are hard working, caring people, tired and frustrated by the many issues we are surrounded with, and the time we have to read and respond to themail is short.
When the meaning is clear its a waste of reader's time to rehash a minor typo and sets a pedantic tone to what needs to be a freewheeling exchange of facts/info/opinion.
Since You’re Open to Typo-Catchers
Karen Szulgit, firstname.lastname@example.org
Then what about changing “Suprise” to “Surprise” in the title this week? [themail, January 16]
As long as we're talking typos, Wednesday's [themail, January 16] headline is one letter short. (I could be wrong now. But I don't think so. Because it's a jungle out there.) Although I'm sure you purposely omitted the
“r” and I'm equally confident that I won't be the only one who noticed, my conscience would not be clear if I didn't call you on it.
[Here's the thing about typographical errors, as well as grammatical and punctuation errors: I try to avoid them. I also edit submissions to themail to try to eliminate errors. As I've written before, submissions to themail are lightly edited for spelling, grammar, and consistent English style precisely because I want them to be judged on their ideas and content, not on some incidental or accidental mistakes. That said, if I set myself up as the editor of others' messages, what I write is fair game. After all, as Willie point out, quoting Randy Newman,
“It's a Jungle Out There.” — Gary Imhoff]
Victory on Benning Library
Rick Tingling-Clemmons, through Qawi Robinson, email@example.com
On December 20, 2007, the Superior Court ordered the defendants in the Benning Library lawsuit, Tingling-Clemmons et al. v. Fenty et al.,to comply with the Advisory Commission
Act, DC Code §§1-207.38 and 1-309.10, and the Real Property Disposition Economic Analysis Amendment Act, DC Code §10-801, with respect to the process of planning a new library for the Benning community. Defendants include, among others, Mayor Adrian Fenty, DCPL Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper, and President of the DC Public Library Board of Trustees, John Hill.
The Advisory Commission Act requires the mayor and relevant government entities to give great weight to the issues and concerns raised by the initiating Commission, with
“explicit reference to each of the Commission's issues and concerns” in writing.The affected ANC expressed its concerns about the treatment of the Benning Library, consistent with the requirement of the ANC Act, but the mayor never responded, although required by law to do so. According to the ANC Act,
“The issues and concerns raised in the recommendations of the Commission shall be given great weight during the deliberations by the government entity. . . . Each Commission may initiate its own proposal for District government action.The District government entity to which the proposal is made shall acknowledge the proposal in writing to the initiating Commission within 10 days of receipt of the proposal and shall issue a status report to the initiating Commission within 60 days of
Plaintiffs, who include several ANC Commissioners from Ward 7, have sued because their library was boarded up for over three years, then torn down, despite their thwarted efforts to engage the mayor and DCPL entities in substantive discussions about the needs of the community. Pleased about the Court order requiring compliance, Ward 7 ANC Commissioner and co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, Dorothy Douglas stated,
“We were wondering up until now why these laws were on the books, if the mayor and responsible parties simply ignore them or refuse to comply with
The Real Property Disposition Economic Analysis Amendment Act requires the mayor to describe the manner in which economic factors are weighted and evaluated, including estimates of the monetary benefits and costs to the District that will result from the change in the disposition of real property.“The mayor shall take any steps necessary to ensure continuous community input in the disposition of any real property . . . which shall include, for property located within the corporate boundaries of the District, providing notice to any affected Advisory Neighborhood Commission of the final terms and conditions . . . prior to the disposition of the
Plaintiffs and concerned citizens throughout the city wonder why these libraries were torn down when the city faces one of the worst adult illiteracy and school dropout problems in the
country. Plaintiffs are fighting to expand library and literacy services in their community, amidst growing mistrust in the community that the libraries will ever be restored. There is a culture of fiscal irresponsibility propagated by those responsible for instituting literacy services in our city, as evidenced by the behavior of Ginnie Cooper, John Hill, and the Library
Trustees. How can anyone ignore the effects of neglect now so apparent here in
DC? We are trying to find out why over $3 million dollars was spent on unnecessary trips by city officials and failed architectural plans — with no benefit and no accountability to the
community. Our needs are not being addressed, and those responsible appear to have very little accountability for their actions thus far. Where unemployment and homelessness
are extremely high among families with children, many see the steps taken by the library trustees as disingenuous. And residents view the events as class war.
Interim services were provided to the Benning community after the filing of this
lawsuit. The Superior Court issued an Order requiring the city to keep the interim services open for the duration of the lawsuit, a pyrrhic victory for plaintiffs, since the interim services fail to meet the growing needs of the community. Our victories are hard won, and we are showing other residents that we can fight for what is rightfully ours, and demand compliance with the
laws. That seems to be the only way to get the city to wake up to the real needs of the community The next hearing for the Benning Library lawsuit is scheduled for February 15, at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 316, DC Superior Court, 500 Indiana Avenue, NW.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Ward 5 Democrats, January 21
Hazel B. Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ward 5 Democrats January 2008 meeting will be held on Monday, January 21, 7:00-9:00 p.m., at Michigan Park Christian Church, Taylor Street at South Dakota Avenue, NE. After the business meeting, we shall have the Ward 5 Democrats presidential candidate representatives debate and straw poll. Volunteers are needed for the 2008 preprimary delegate selection caucus, to be held at McKinley Technical High School, 151 T Street, NE, on Saturday, January 19, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Child Abuse and Neglect Advisory Council, January 22
Tinu Akinshola, email@example.com
The Mayor's Advisory Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect (MACCAN) will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, January 22, in the Conference Room at CFSA in L'Enfant Plaza (Room P101) from 4:00-6:00 p.m. In light of the emerging report of the four murdered children last week in the community, there is going to be a change in the presentation. Instead of the earlier scheduled DV Fatality Review Committee Program Update, we will be having a roundtable discussion to follow-up, and to react to the testimonies given this week at the hearing. The ultimate objective is to develop a composite statement, or recommendation to the Administration on the four murdered children's case.
Please, make it a date with us as this subject matter requires urgent attention. Everybody's opinion and contribution counts. Also, indicate or RSVP your attendance to me at
firstname.lastname@example.org for head count and catering purposes if you plan to attend. We are looking forward to you joining us for this meeting, and encourage you to bring others from your community along with your concerns and questions.
The Role of BIDs, January 22
Jazmine Zick, email@example.com
Tuesday, January 22, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Smart Growth: The Role of Business Improvement Districts in Creating Successful Downtown and Neighborhood Centers. Rick Reinhard, deputy executive director of the Downtown DC BID, discusses how BIDs can link private and public sectors to create vibrant urban communities. This program is the first in a four part series focusing on smart growth issues in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Free. No registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.
Reception with Kidsave, Adoption Options for Gay Families, January 26
Susan Punnett, firstname.lastname@example.org
Join Kidsave for a special evening of cocktails and conversation about opportunities to adopt as a couple or single. Learn about love, older children waiting for families, and how to build your own family from gay parents and family friendly adoption professionals. Saturday, January 26, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the home of Ella Schiralli and Mary Buonanno, Takoma Park, MD. For directions, please RSVP to Kidsave by January 23 at 280-6325.
2008 Oscar Night DC, February 24
Dorinda White, email@example.com
The 2008 Oscar Night DC Host Committee, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area present Oscar Night DC, Washington, DC's, only official, Academy-sanctioned viewing party for the eightieth annual Academy Awards. There are only fifty-two Oscar Night America events nationwide, and Oscar Night DC is the exclusive event for the DC market, benefiting the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area. All the glitz and glam of Hollywood. Walk the Red Carpet. Interview with
“Joan Rivers” (celebrity impersonator). Meet one very famous “Mrs.
Smith” (celebrity impersonator, due to contractual limitations, we're unable to use her real name.) Watch the eightieth annual Academy Awards live from Los Angeles.
Sunday, February 24, 7 p.m. to midnight, at Posh Restaurant and Supper Club, 730 11th Street, NW. Open bar and hors d'oeuvres; black tie. General admission, $95; VIP admission, $150, includes VIP room with private bar, valet, official eightieth Academy Awards program, passed champagne, photo, swag bag. For reservations, call 703-584-8459 or E-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please call Denise Daffron at 703-584-8420 or E-mail
CLASSIFIEDS — GRANTS
Grants Available from Rotary Club
Elena Tscherny, email@example.com
If you need small funds to provide needed services through your nonprofit organization, visit the web site of the Rotary Club of Washington, DC, dcrotary.org, and download the community service grant information sheet and the application form. The grants are provided by the Rotary Foundation of Washington, DC. The Rotary Foundation of Washington was established in 1922 as an incorporated, not-for-profit organization to engage in works of charity. The Foundation collects, holds and administers funds to carry out this function.
The Rotary Club of Washington DC Community Service Grants Committee reviews applications for funding requests and makes recommendations for approval to the Foundation's board, which has final authority for approval. Money is awarded to projects that demonstrate need for small capital items or seed money for special services that provide direct and tangible benefits principally within the District of Columbia.
Applications and required attachments must be received no later than 4:00 p.m., January 31. If you require further information, please contact Elena Tscherny at 727-1183 or by E-mail at
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