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January 30, 2008

Opting Out

Dear Opters:

Here’s the best tip you’ll see today, if you’re a Comcast customer. The site notes that the January service bills from Comcast contain a new residential service contract. This means that you have another chance to opt out of the mandatory binding arbitration “agreement” that Comcast imposes on its customers unless they opt out within thirty days of contracting with them. Although arbitration may sound like an attractive alternative to litigation should you ever have any dispute with Comcast, in practice it is heavily weighed against customers, who almost never win an arbitration dispute. The Office of the People’s Counsel strongly recommends that every Comcast customer opt out of the mandatory binding arbitration agreement. Now you can do it easily, if you act within the thirty-day limit. Go to The form there asks only for your name, address, account number, and the date you received notice. If you pay online or automatically, or if you don’t remember exactly when you received your bill, you can use today’s date — after all, it’s the date you received notice from themail.

Gary Imhoff


Michael R. Simpson
Dorothy Brizill,

Michael Simpson, the public information officer and the head of the records management division of the District’s Office of Campaign Finance, died last Friday, January 25. Funeral services will be held on Thursday morning, January 31, at 11:00 a.m., at First Baptist Church, 712 Randolph Street, NW. The street is located two blocks north of the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro station at the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Randolph Street.

Mike was a dedicated public servant who was committed to the enforcement of the District’s campaign finance laws and to ensuring fair and honest elections in the District. Throughout his thirty years of government service, he went out of his way to be helpful to all — candidates, citizens, and the press. At a time when many government employees hide in their offices and shun any interaction with citizens, Mike seemed to relish the opportunity to speak with anyone who stopped by his office, whether to inquire about the District’s ethics and campaign finance laws or to file a required report. A true gentleman, Michael Simpson will be missed.


Start Walking the Walk on the People’s Property
Parisa Nourizi,

[An open letter to Councilmember Carol Schwartz] It is with great disappointment that I write you on behalf of the membership of Empower DC and the People’s Property Campaign. Despite more than three years of diligent work on our part to investigate, discuss, and help remedy DC’s badly broken process of managing public property, you have ignored our requests to meet with you. Over the last two years, our members have testified in front of your committee several times about the desperate need to fix DC’s broken system in order to ensure real community planning (including a Master Facilities Plan), real transparency, and real community input when it comes to deciding the fate of our valuable public properties.

We have spent countless of our own valuable hours as dedicated and civically engaged residents working to identify ways that current law can be fixed to ensure that we use public property first and foremost for our city’s needs. We even authored amendments to Title 10 of DC Code and were forced to seek other council support to have them introduced as a Bill 17-0527, because you as chair of the Committee on Government Operations refuse to meet face-to-face with us. Over the last several years, you have consistently stated that you too are concerned about public property, and that DC should use its property for its own needs before even considering disposing of public land. Yet you continue to vote in favor of disposing of property to developers every time an opportunity comes before you. In 2001, you introduced and the council unanimously passed a bill declaring an emergency in respect to the need for a Masters Facilities Plan – yet the city still operates without this plan. In 2005, you introduced a resolution calling for a moratorium on the disposition of public property until the District completed its Master Facilities Plan, yet now as chair of the committee you refuse to call for this badly-needed moratorium. Today you are in a position of power as chair of the Committee on Government Operations, which oversees Office of Property Management. And today you are all talk and no action.

We call on you to accept our request to meet with you in person, and immediately schedule a public hearing on Bill 17-0527, with intent for it to be heard, marked up, and passed out of your committee within two months time. You are sitting idly by as the District continues to give away public lands, still with no Master Facilities Plan as required by Law 10-1031), no audit of the space currently being rented by DC government from private owners at a cost of over $9 million per month to District taxpayers as required by Law 10-1012; no Master Facilities Planning and Program Coordination Committee as required by Law 10-1031; and an incomplete and way behind schedule inventory of public properties required by Law 10-1011. Under your watch the District continues to break the laws judged inconvenient to comply with, while failing to fix the laws that are so broken only developers submitting unsolicited bids to Deputy Mayor Neil Albert’s office are satisfied. Thoughtful, committed residents are disrespected and ignored, and forced to picket your house as we did recently and send open letters like this one. You chose the relationship, Ms Schwartz. But you still have time to reposition yourself. You can prove yourself to be a responsible policy maker concerned with the interests of DC residents – your constituents – not the interests of profiteering developers. You can prove yourself by walking the walk. Please contact us to schedule that in-person meeting our members so deserve, and do your due diligence by scheduling a hearing on Bill 17-0527.


Money for the Schools
Kathryn A. Pearson-West,

One day we hear that the problem with the schools is management, fraud, and waste, and not a lack of money. Now, one year later, the administration requests more and more money for the schools, beginning with the millions and millions of dollars spent on the takeover. With fewer students and schools and separate independent school authorities, is the budget supposed to be going up so rapidly? Aren’t you starting to be concerned about the budget figures and projections? Is the proposal to close twenty-three schools in one year more of a cover for spending feverishly? Something is wrong with this picture and the promises made. The money squeeze is on. Somehow I’m not feeling very good about what is being told to the public about the school finances. After all, the financial arm of the city didn’t know that someone had stolen forty million dollars, so shouldn’t we wonder who is actually minding the books, how much is fiction, and how much is fact.

The PR citizens received assured us that there was a savior of the schools and that the takeover was the magic wand, the panacea. Let’s start looking at the root problems of the social ills in this city affecting education and take a comprehensive approach to making a world-class school system — and stop spending so much. We now have a heavy expensive bureaucracy over the schools and two additional independent authorities in the form of the State Education Agency and the Facilities Repair, Modernization, Renovation authority. Let’s look at the money and don’t let the professed money woes give the city an excuse to sell good public property to developers or to close traditional schools only to open charter schools in the same spot.


DC Democratic Delegates Election
Qawi Robinson,

The lack of representation from Ward 7 on Fenty’s Obama delegation was noted in both the Post and City Paper, it remains to be seen who really cares about the delegation in the first place. Most of those whom I talked to complained about the difficulty of finding the polling place, parking, and a short four hours for the election. Even with that, I am appalled to know that only about eight hundred people showed up to vote! This was a deplorable turnout in a city that is mostly democratic; there are more than eight hundred registered Democrats in the precinct that represents McKinley Tech alone. Why should anyone take this city seriously? We want Congress to give us the vote, but when it comes time for us to vote most of us are nowhere to be found. The reason that Fenty can “steam roll” over the public’s intentions is because of political apathy. As a resident of Ward 7, I watched as last May’s election brought out less than 20 percent of registered voters, thus thrusting Yvette Alexander into the position of Ward 7 councilmember through Fenty’s support. I’ve read many columns, articles, and blogs by folks who complain about what DC government is or is not doing, but at the end of the day all that complaining doesn’t register into voting. All this politicking, grandstanding, and face time going up to New Hampshire should be insulting to the populace. However, the apathy has grown, and people pretty much expect to be mistreated by the Democratic party in DC. After years of being contentedly registered independent, I expected much more when I switched to become a Democrat. I have been sadly mislead.

One final thing. As a Gen X’er (I hate the term), what type of example does this set for the generations beyond who only read about the struggles for voting rights in history books. Some political activism is generational. If Grandma voted and Momma voted, then one can expect the child to vote. The inverse is true as well.


DC Democratic Party Delegate-Nominees to the 2008 Convention
Anita Bonds,

On the evening of January 25, DC Democratic State Party leaders assembled to count the special or “challenge” ballots cast at the Saturday, January 19, preprimary presidential preference caucus convened at McKinley Technical High School in northeast Washington which was attended by one thousand DC Democrats and others. Following the rules of the Caucus, on Saturday, January 19, a voter could cast a special ballot if his/her name did not appear on the voting rolls but the individual felt that he/she was in fact registered as a Democratic voter in DC. In turn, the DC State Party was required to check the voter’s information against physical files maintained by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to determine the voter’s eligibility. The results of the voter registration check enabled the counting of twelve special ballots; and the use of the “flip of a coin” as tiebreaker, determined the top placement of the Congressional District 1 Female Delegate-nominee pledged to represent Sen. Barack Obama.

The results of the preprimary caucus are as follows, by presidential preference, gender, and votes received per Congressional District. Congressional District 1 consists of Wards 1, 2, 3, and 4, and Congressional District 2 consists of Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8. Congressional District 1 delegate-nominees for Sen. Hillary Clinton, (female): Chantale Yok-Min Wong, Cheryl A. Benton, Richelle A. Harrison, Deborah M. Royster, Marcia Louise Dyson; (male): Peter D. Rosentein, Mario Acosta-Velez, William P. Lightfoot, Charles H. White, II, Charles C. Blake, Jr. For Sen. John Edwards (female): Deborah Cotter, Jennifer McNabb; (male): Hans Johnson, David Mariner, Alexander Hogan, Bayard Brewin, Lenwood Johnson. For Sen. Barack Obama (female) Maria P. Corrales, Kierra Johnson, Keshini Ladduwhetty; Eleanor Anderson, Shai Littlejohn; (male): Darryl Wiggins, Jerry Clark, James L. Hudson, Frank Smith, Jr., Curtis Thomas. Congressional District 2 delegate-nominees for Sen. Hillary Clinton, (female): Sandra (Sandi) Allen, Kathy Henderson, Aimee Occhetti, Yeni Wong, Joanne Hamer; (male): Keith Washington, Kemry Hughes, Timothy Thomas, Sebastian Heath, Robert Vinson Brannum. For Sen. John Edwards (female): Sheila White. For Sen. Barack Obama (female): Cynthia Kain, Pauline E. Chapman, Betty L. Smalls, Denise L. Reed, Tene Dolphin; (male): Eugene D. Kinlow, Anthony Muhammad, Juan Manuel Thompson, Jordan H. Usdan, Howard Park.

The Delegate-nominees anxiously await the percentage results of the 2008 DC presidential primary, which will be held on February 12, to determine which of the nominees will constitute the ten pledged District-level Delegates and three Alternates to be seated at the 2008 Denver national democratic convention in August. A Presidential candidate must receive at least 15 percent of votes cast in the Congressional District to qualify for a Delegate. For further information on the DC Delegate Plan you can go to or contact the DC State Democratic Party office at 347-7260.


Ready to Teach
Marcus Tillman,

If you’re interested in teaching in the District of Columbia or Prince Georges County, check out Howard University’s Ready to teach program:


Report Details Smithsonian Business Unit’s Problems
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

In its latest effort to right itself, the Smithsonian Institution has accepted a finding that its business unit is plagued by poor internal communication, diffuse organization and inadequate oversight: or



Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools Citywide Stay-Out, January 31
Kathryn A. Pearson-West,

The Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools proclaims a citywide Stay-Out of students, parents, teachers, pastors, and the community on January 31. Thousands of people all over the country will “Walk-Out” of their schools to protest injustice. Let us stay out or walk out together. Public schools belong to the people and the people have the power! At 8:30 a.m., gather at 825 North Capitol Street, NW; 8:35 a.m., an interfaith, nondenominational unity prayer; 8:45 a.m., depart for a march to the Wilson Building.

The people will not allow the Fenty, Rhee, Reinoso machine to destroy our public school system with a poorly conceived proposal to randomly, hastily, and abruptly close twenty-three schools and restructure twenty-seven more schools by August 2008. This issue effects every resident of the District of Columbia. My child’s school today, your child’s school tomorrow. “Our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about things that matter,” Martin Luther King, Jr.

For more details, go to or call Saymendy at the Coalition of Concerned Neighbors, 903-6197.


AFRH Development Plan at HPRB, January 31
Reyn Anderson,

The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) has extended its hearing time on the Armed Forces Retirement Home’s development plan in order to ensure that all community members interested in testifying are given an opportunity to do so. Please come this Thursday, January 31, at 1:50 p.m. to 441 4th Street, NW (#1 Judiciary Square), Room 220 South, to voice your concerns about the adverse impact this plan will have on this historic site and the surrounding neighborhoods. If you cannot attend the January 31 hearing, but wish to submit comments on the AFRH development plans, you can E-mail them to or The HPRB members will take a site visit to the AFRH this week, prior to the January 31 hearing.

Brief overview of the January 24th hearing: 1) The Board voted unanimously to designate the AFRH as a District of Columbia Historic District. 2) The State Historic Preservation Officer presented his report and, among other things, suggested that the HPRB should accept a continuing responsibility to review any proposed private development on the AFRH property. 3) The National Trust for Historic Preservation expressed concerns about a proposed building to be constructed near the National Monument/Lincoln Cottage and stated that they would prefer to see no development on Zone C, as this would adversely impact the Lincoln Cottage’s setting and interpretation. 4) The National Park Service stated that it would like to see the AFRH put Zone C out for tender or lease to the NPS or the city of the District of Columbia to be used as a publicly-accessible park space, especially as this part of the city is sorely underserved by parks. 5) The Commission on Fine Arts reported that at their January 17 hearing on the AFRH’s development plan, they had decided to take no action as they thought that the proposed development on Zone A was not in line with the principles of the McMillan Plan and they wished to see other design alternatives. The CFA representative requested that the HPRB also delay its vote on the AFRH plan.


Tuskegee Airmen Program, February 6
Brenda Sayles,

The DC Black History Celebration Committee in association with the Black Studies Division of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library invite you to attend a special program and reception honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. You are also invited to take advantage of a rare opportunity to be photographed with these great American servicemen. (Note: photos will be mailed to you free of charge once developed). February 6, 6:00 p.m. Reception to follow. In the Great Hall of Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW (Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro exit).


Talk for Change Toastmasters Meeting, February 6
Corey Jenkins Schaut,

Please join us Wednesday, February 6, 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 our 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


National Building Museum Events, February 6-7
Jazmine Zick,

Wednesday, February 6, 6:30-8:30 p.m. The first film in the series Bachelors, Secretaries, and Spies: Mid-century Style in American Film. The Moon Is Blue, directed by Otto Preminger (1953, NR, 99 minutes); starring William Holden, David Niven, and Maggie McNamara. See the silver screen’s treatment of mid-century style. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post film critic, and Deborah Sorensen, curatorial associate at the Museum, will introduce the film. $5 members; $5 students; $10 public. Member special: $10 for all three films! Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

Thursday, February 7, 12:00-1:00 p.m. Smart Growth: The Revitalization of Washington DC’s Gallery Place/Penn Quarter Neighborhood. Stewart Schwartz, executive director, Coalition for Smarter Growth, and Eric Price, vice president, Abdo Development and former Deputy Mayor of Washington, DC, discuss the revitalization of the Gallery Place/Penn Quarter neighborhood, specifically its anchor, the Verizon Center. Free. No registration required.

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


Champions for Children Benefit Awards Luncheon, February 15
Susie Cambria,

On February 15, DC Action for Children and the community will recognize four champions for children at our annual benefit awards luncheon. The 2008 honorees are Nathaniel Beers, MD, Dr. Shirley A. Grant Health Advocacy Award; Young Women’s Project, Public Service Award; Inspector Lillian Overton, Government Service Award; Consumer Health Foundation, Philanthropic Service Award.

You can recognize these amazing individuals and organizations by taking out an advertisement in the event program. Ad costs are reasonable — $250 and $500. (See attachments for more information.) The deadline is close — so buy your ad today! Contact Susie Cambria, 234-9404 x212,, with questions. You can also recognize the honorees and hear Michelle Rhee deliver the keynote by attending the event; go to for ticket information.


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