February 3, 2008

Anger and Indignation

Dear Indignant Correspondents:

I’ll give credit when credit is due. The Washington Post can still publish interesting and provocative articles, especially when it gets those articles from writers outside the paper. Former Councilmember Kathy Patterson proves that point on the Close to Home page today when she calls for “Real Oversight by the DC Council,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/01/AR2008020102343.html. Patterson has some good suggestions for areas in which city council oversight needs to be strengthened, and I particularly like her call for “a hard-hitting oversight hearing on government ethics laws and rules.”

What Patterson fails to call for is city council review and oversight over its own actions. How soon is the council going to hold a hearing on what the real, total public cost of building the baseball stadium has been? My guess is never; councilmembers knew that their guarantee of a cap on expenses was phony, and they’re not going to revisit it, especially now that the same people who promoted the baseball giveaway are preparing an even larger giveaway for a new football stadium at RFK (which, by the way, they claimed was a completely unsuitable location for a new sports stadium). How many years will it take for the council to review its irresponsibility in surrendering total control over the public school system to the mayor? My guess is never. In fact, my guess is that the only oversight will come from the public, and that the strongest candidate against Adrian Fenty in the next mayoral race will be the person who runs a campaign against the failure of Fenty, Deputy Mayor Reinoso, and Chancellor Rhee to produce any measurable improvement in student performance. Also on the Close to Home page today, Mark Simon recounts “What’s Missing in Rhee’s Restructuring,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/01/AR2008020102340.html. Simon notes what you won’t find on the Post’s editorial page, and what city editors keep out of the stories filed by its education reporters, “she hasn’t put forward a plan that addresses what happens in the classrooms,” and that instead of promoting teacher training and development programs, she is spending funds "to hire consultants from Insight and other such organizations to help reach judgments that can be used to justify turning over management of the schools to outside organizations or charters."

The city council will also drag its feet on holding the kind of oversight hearings over the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services that Colbert King called for yesterday in “A Teen Released, Nine People Shot. Why?” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/01/AR2008020102623.html. When Banita Jacks was accused of the murder of her four children, the mayor and the city council rushed to grab headlines by holding Child and Family Services Agency employees responsible for her actions. When Deidrick Johnson was arrested for the drive-by shooting of five teenagers in one incident, and was named as a “person of interest” in another drive-by shooting of four teenagers, the mayor and the council were silent, and showed no interest in holding anyone at Youth Rehabilitation Services responsible for Johnson. They allowed the agency to scapegoat a couple of its lower-level employees who dealt with Johnson in order to protect its policies and policy makers.

The city council won’t exercise oversight over its own members when they act as representatives of special interests instead of protecting the public, as in the proposed lease of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library, the proposed single-source sale of the West End Library and fire station, the sabotage of former Attorney General Linda Singer’s proposed lawsuit against manufacturers of lead-based paint, and so on and so on. The city council won’t exercise oversight over itself and its own actions unless we exercise oversight over them.

Gary Imhoff


Commission of Fine Arts’ Letter on Armed Forces Retirement Home
Reyn Anderson, andereyn@hotmail.com

The Commission of Fine Arts has issued a letter expressing significant concerns about the Armed Forces Retirement Home’s development plans, rejecting its current proposals and requesting that the AFRH come up with some better alternatives. You can read the full letter at http://www.cfa.gov/meetings/2008/jan/20080117_04.html.

Some highlights (note in point three the stated preference for park land in Zones B and C): 1) The Commission emphasized the singular importance of the property and . . . objected to what they characterized as a lack of a clear design concept in the master plan, commenting that it does not satisfactorily enhance the extraordinary resources of the site nor relate well to the surrounding urban context. 2) The Commission members stated numerous concerns with the proposal for Zone A [noting that it] does little to acknowledge the urban context, including a lack of expression of the North Capitol Street axis in the proposed development . . . and leaves the design intention for the new buildings ambiguous with no clear concept . . . [likewise] that the outer edge should be carefully designed to appropriately address the site’s prominent frontage along North Capitol and Irving Streets, proposed to be lined with exposed parking structures. 3) The Commission members were dissatisfied with the proposed design for new development in Zones B and C, questioning whether the relatively small amount of proposed development would be worthwhile. . . . ..If possible, the Commission encouraged the consideration of retaining these areas as park land with public access. 4) The Commission requested a revised submission of the master plan, including alternative designs for development in Zone A that explore a more coherent approach to the site. . . .


Veterans in Squalor and Facing Homelessness
Faye Pinkney, faye515706@yahoo.com

We are homeless, disabled veterans (fifty-one of us), who reside on Armed Forces Retirement Property, (Soldier’s Home, Washington, DC). The building in which we live, Ignatia House, is being leased by a nonprofit called USVETS. It is in deplorable condition. We are living with bed bugs, roaches, mice, and other vermin. As we have very little heat, we are walking around in coats. The elevator has been out of commission for weeks. There are those of us who have heart conditions and are not able to do stairs. We are dealing with darkened hallways, as staff have not replaced burned out bulbs. Females are using the same shower facility as males. We have been trying to get staff and management to bring the building up to code for several months to no avail. Management has informed us that the building will be closing on February 28. What will we do? Where will we go? We are veterans, and should not be treated with such disrespect. We need help.


McCain Wins DC Republican Straw Poll
Paul D. Craney, press@dcgop.com

At the DC Republican Committee’s annual Lincoln Douglass Day Dinner, Senator John McCain won the DC Republican straw poll with 43.5 percent of the vote, in the largest gathering of registered Republicans from the District of Columbia prior to the February 12 DC primary. Mitt Romney came in second with 35.3 percent, Ron Paul in third with 8.1 percent, Rudy Giuliani in fourth with 6.4 percent, and Mike Huckabee in sixth with 5.1 percent.

Each of the Republican presidential candidates collected over four hundred signatures, totaling over three thousand signatures, from District of Columbia registered Republicans. The DC Democrat Party opted to have candidates pay a fee to be placed on the ballot.


Chancellor Rhee’s Questionable Agenda
Carolyn C. Steptoe, Ward 5, carolynsteptoe@aol.com

Why is Michelle Rhee about to address the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)? Isn’t this the same neoconservative think tank that produces the ideological justification for the Iraqi war and school privatization? Worse, and disturbingly compelling, is that AEI is home to AEI scholar Charles Murray. Charles Murray is the author of The Bell Curve, the absurd book that concluded that blacks have inferior intelligence and therefore need special treatment. AEI has also presented studies on the necessity to privatize public education and attacked public school teachers as underqualified and overpaid.

The question bears asking. Why is Michelle Rhee going to address this neoconservative group, which is often perceived as a racist, anti-worker, antiunion enterprise that lists the Vice President’s wife, Lynne Cheney, as their education expert and Newt Gingrich as their healthcare expert? Is Rhee’s mindset as relates to black and Latino children in DCPS in sync with AEI’s neoconservative elitist/supremacist doctrine, which spawned the likes of Charles Murray? Is Rhee’s goal (and that of her financial backers) to summarily exploit minority children? The New Teacher Project was created and driven off the backs of urban black and Latino children. Is Rhee’s gut rooted in contemptuous profiteering based on such neoconservative ideology as spewed by AEI?


DC’s Home Schooling Policy Is Careless
Mai Abdul Rahman, maiabdulrahman@comcast.net

DC’s home schooling trend has been fueled by parents’ frustration with the public school system, safety concerns for the well-being of children, and religious reasons, often promoted by local churches that object to what is being taught in public schools. Jane Gross of the New York Times reported on January 12 that the District of Columbia has “no regulations regarding home schooling, not even the requirement that families notify the authorities that they are educating their children at home,” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/12/us/12bodies.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=jane+gross&st=nyt&oref=slogin. Defying logic, many home schooled children have full time working parents, or working single parents with low education and an annual income of $25,000 or less. As demonstrated by the Jacks family tragedy, many urban home schooled minors live in households of abject poverty. Poor DCPS oversight and the lack of educational standards have had profound affects on DC’s home schooled children. Correcting DC’s home school regulations will require serious adjustments to current DCPS’s negligent home school requirements.

Other school jurisdictions have institutionalized specific requirements to ascertain the proper education of home schooled children by setting clear educational criteria aligned with the school district’s educational standards, mandating annual tests, and evaluating home schooled minors by certified teachers or psychologists. Many are also requiring home school providers to have at least a high school education. DC does not require the minimum of such obligations. Another concern shared by educators and child advocates is the lack of monitoring available to schools and other agencies of the home schooled children. According to Prevent Child Abuse America, one in every five children in the US is subjected to child abuse. Sadly, the actual number of child abuse is much higher, given that most abuse occurs in closed systems where families remain distant and isolated from other families and social institutions out of view of the public. To protect children from such possible abuses, states have legislated visitation of the home schooled children in their residence and required supervisors or legal custodians of the home schooled minors to be good citizens with no past criminal offense.

Jane Gross blames our home school policy for the death of the Jacks children. According to Gross, DC legislators and public officials have yet to respond to the Jacks tragedy and develop legislation to address the negligent DCPS home school policy, “Washington still has no formal regulations, according to spokesmen for both the mayor and the public school system.” The recent Jacks family tragedy and DCPS’s careless home school policy have increased parents’ safety and anxiety concerns. But the planned school closure of twenty-three neighborhood schools may prompt more parents to choose home schooling as an alternative. It should behoove our city officials to consider revising DC’s home school provisions or, sadly they may choose to do nothing and maintain their well-placed status touted by the Home School Legal Defense Association as the city with “no specific statute dealing with home schooling.”


Black Hole for Parking Tickets Continued
Jack McKay, jack.mckay@verizon.net

In the January 16 issue of themail I complained that my denial of a bogus parking ticket had, after four months, yet to receive a response. That posting caught the attention of David Vacca of Councilmember Graham’s office, who asked if other residents had had similar experiences. Yes, they had, and the councilmember asked Lucinda Babers, director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, what was going on. She replied that, “Currently, the wait time for mail adjudication is approximately six months.” And so it is: one week shy of six months since I sent in my denial, the DMV response finally appeared. The ticket was dismissed.

The DMV is “hiring additional hearing examiners to decrease that wait.” What I wonder is, what led to this very long time to deal with parking ticket denials? A loss of hearing examiners, or an avalanche of denials?


Comcast: Opting Out
Gwen Southerland, gwensouth@aol.com

Thank you for the information on Opting Out [themail, January 31]. The timing for this information could not have been more perfect for me, as I anticipate that I will have to seek outside help in a billing error from Comcast. I agreed to a “special promotion” called Triple Play, which included telephone, Internet, and high definition cable. The monthly payment as quoted by the Comcast associate was $101.00 per month. I thought I was getting a good deal, until I received my bill for $343.41. Of course I contacted Comcast and paid them $100.00; they assured me that my bill would be corrected to reflect the correct rate. A few days ago, I received my bill and the error was not corrected. I feel that Comcast may be doing a bait-and-switch with my services. Needless to say, I am extremely perplexed and upset about this. I even sent an E-mail to their corporate office and received a call back, but still I’m stuck with a bill for $415.52. I would appreciate it if you know to whom I should address this error.

[You can try to escalate your complaint within Comcast, but you can often get faster service by getting help from the Office of Cable Television, the DC government agency that regulates cable television providers in DC. They have an online form for cable service complaints at http://oct.dc.gov/services/complaints, or you can call 671-0066. — Gary Imhoff]



Far Northeast Southeast Council Intergenerational Forum, February 5
Sylvia Brown, sylvbrown1@verizon.net

On Tuesday, February 5, at 6:30 p.m., in the MPD Sixth District Headquarters, 100 42nd Street, NE, we will hold a meeting, “Discuss Our Future: Intergeneration Forum.”

The Far NE SE Council is the umbrella organization for Ward 7’s community groups, including ANC’s and neighborhood associations, to discuss and collaborate on common issues. An often-discussed issue is building the communication and relationship divide between new transplants and longtime residents and between younger civic activists and seasoned civic activists.

“Discuss Our Future: Intergeneration Forum” offers an opportunity for people to speak about their experiences with relations between long-term residents and newer transplants to the ward and bridge the communication and relationship divides. For more information, contact Edward Fisher, president, efisher@udc.edu or 397-3323 or Alice Chandler, vice president, penpuhr@aol.com or 399-8446.


Ward 5 Democrats Election Watch Party, February 5
Hazel B. Thomas, thomashazelb@aol.com

Join the Ward 5 Democrats for a super Tuesday Mardi Gras and election watch party on Tuesday, February 5, at Bobby’s Q Restaurant, 3301 12th Street, NE (12th and Kearney Streets, NE), 8:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m Finger foods and cocktails; $15.00 donation at the door. For additional information, please contact Chairman Timothy Thomas at 390-2229 or timthomas2202@aol.com or first vice-chair Angel Alston at 315-6057 or angel.alston@yahoo.com.


Natwar Gandhi at Ward Three Democrats, February 11
Thomas Smith, tmfsmith@starpower.net

The Ward Three Democratic Committee will sponsor a community meeting featuring DC Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi. In addition to updating the committee on the current status of DC’s finances, Dr. Gandhi will respond to questions from the community. Monday, February 11, 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., at Washington Hebrew Congregation, 3935 Macomb Street, NW. For more information, contact Thomas M. Smith, Chair, Ward Three Democratic Committee, 364-7130, tmfsmith@starpower.net. The Ward Three Democratic Committee will also vote to endorse a Democratic presidential candidate at the meeting.


Creation, February 13
John Umana, jumanabeth@aol.com

Wednesday, February 13, 7:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, second floor East lobby. Local author John Umana, Ph.D., J.D., trial attorney and philosopher, will discuss his book, Creation: Towards A Theory of All Things, concerning the evolution debate between Darwinism and intelligent design. Are these theories reconcilable to any degree? Is there or has there ever been life on Mars or other worlds? If so, does life on earth share a common ancestor with life elsewhere? Public contact 202-727-1251.


Black History Month Wreath Laying Ceremony, February 16
Keith A. Godwin, keith.godwin@dc.gov

The Greater Washington, DC, 9th and 10th (Horse) Calvary Association will hold a Black History Month wreath laying ceremony, “A Tribute to Forgotten African American Heroes,” on Saturday, February 16, at 9:15 a.m. (arrive thirty minutes early), at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.



Looking For A Property Manager
Norma Zane Chaplain, normazane@yahoo.com

If you know an experienced property manager for a three-unit building at Dupont Circle, please contact Norma Zane Chaplain at normazane@yahoo.com.


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 http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.

All postings should be submitted to themail@dcwatch.com, 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.