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February 13, 2008

Short Notice

Dear Notifiers:

At noon today, Councilmember Tommy Wells E-mailed a press release announcing that he would hold an oversight hearing on the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services twenty-two hours later, on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. From the press release, “The purpose of the hearing is to provide public oversight of the performance of DYRS over the past year and a half. The hearing is an opportunity to hear from concerned members of the public, as well as the agency, to evaluate the performance of DYRS in meeting the needs of the youth committed to its custody and care.” Excuse my skepticism, but how likely is it that Councilmember Wells will get a big response from the public, when he gives us just twenty-two hours notice? Has he taken any steps to get public witnesses who may have had problems with DYRS, other than sending a release to the press less than a day before his hearing? Or is the short notice in fact designed to let the city council say that it held a public hearing on DYRS, and that nobody showed up with any complaints? Just asking.

Short notice didn’t deter the Fenty administration from responding quickly to Wells’ initiative, however. Just an hour and a half after Wells sent his press release, Fenty and DYRS Director Vincent Schiraldi E-mailed a press release of their own, announcing “Agency Progress, Case Management Reforms,” and including a one-page “action plan to improve case management and supervision of youth.” Read them and judge them for yourselves at, but to me they are rather thin gruel, particularly with respect to what I have argued was the major purpose of all correctional agencies, protecting the public (themail, February 10). The most important measure of protecting the public listed in the press release is a “Substantial decline in youth on abscondance status,” but that’s all that is said about that — there is no measure of how much of a decline there was, and I’d like to know whether there have been any redefinition of “abscondance status” that may account for any decline. The most important measure in the action plan is reducing the caseload of 90 percent of DYRS workers to twenty-five cases. Again, this isn’t very reassuring. A generous estimate would be that a caseworker handling twenty-five youths would be able to spend an hour a week with each of his wards, although I believe that Schiraldi has previously bragged about increasing the guidelines so that DYRS caseworkers would see the youths they are supervising twice a month rather than once a month.

I assume, of course, that everyone reading themail was a model child, and that everyone who has had children has raised nothing but model children. Does anyone believe that good children can be supervised adequately by their parents in an hour-long meeting once a month, twice a month, or weekly? If you don’t believe that, why would you believe that a youth who has been in serious criminal trouble can be supervised adequately by a social worker in an hour-long meeting once a month, twice a month, or even weekly? Again, just asking.

Gary Imhoff


Election Results
Dorothy Brizill,

When I first came to Washington, more than thirty years ago, elections in the District were a disaster. Ballot boxes would “fall off of trucks” and, on occasion, final election returns would not be known for several days. Now, the mishandling of Tuesday’s presidential primary by the District’s Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) recalls the District’s trouble past, and its former inability to conduct our elections properly and deliver a final vote count in a timely manner.

It had been hoped that Tuesday’s Potomac presidential primary would focus national attention on the region and the combined electoral strength of Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. However, problems at the District’s polls, including a shortage of ballots, problems with optical scan ballot reading machines, and how long it took the BOEE to tabulate and report election returns, highlighted problems and shortcomings at the BOEE. While the polls in DC closed at 8:00 p.m., the first election returns, which weren’t available until 9:28 p.m., were based on returns from only 69 of the 142 precincts. Subsequent results were released at 9:53 p.m., from 126 of the 142 precincts, and at 10:20 p.m., for 139 of the 142 precincts. The final election night report, at 10:49 p.m., was the first to include a breakdown of election results by ward; it was still for 139 of the 142 precincts. By late Wednesday afternoon, BOEE still did not election returns for all 142 precincts. Its explanation was that late and incomplete returns were caused when the tabulation cartridges that are contained in each of the two voting machines (the optical scan and the touch screen machines) at each voting precinct were not properly delivered to BOEE headquarters on election nights. As of Wednesday morning, the voting machines for three precincts, with their tabulation cartridges, were still locked inside polling sites to which the Board could not get access. In comparison, in Virginia polls closed at 7:00 p.m., and returns were released within thirty minutes.

Councilmember Carol Schwartz has called for a roundtable oversight hearing on the BOEE and Tuesday’s presidential primary on Friday, February 15, at 8:30 a.m., in Room 412 of the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.


Some Design Considerations for Future Public Libraries
Phil Shapiro,

Here in Washington, DC, and in many other cities around the country, old library buildings are being torn down and replaced with new buildings. The architects designing those new buildings are faced with an interesting design challenge: what will public libraries look like over the next thirty years?

Historically, public libraries have been houses of self-learning, with books their central attraction and reason for being. While books will always be a huge part of the library experience, more and more those books will no longer be physical. And so what will a public library look like in 2020, 2030, and 2040? The structures we build today will remain in use for at least thirty years. (Continued at


The Arc of DC Releases Annual Guide
T.J. Sutcliffe,

The Arc of DC is pleased to announce the release of our third annual “Guide to the FY 2008 Oversight and FY 2009 Budget Hearings, for DC Residents with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families.” The guide provides information on upcoming DC council oversight and budget hearings. In particular, the guide offers questions related to services for residents with developmental disabilities and their families that the public may wish to track during the hearings. The Arc of DC hopes that the guide is a useful resource for the community. The guide can be viewed on our web site at Printed copies of the guide and copies in alternative formats (e.g., Word, large print) can be requested from T.J. Sutcliffe, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at or 636-2963.


Charles Murray and AEI
Bill Ball,

It is obvious that your commentator, (Carolyn C. Steptoe, themail, February 3), has not read Charles Murray’s book, The Bell Curve. He and his co-author never claimed “that blacks have inferior intelligence.” By allowing commentators to post clear falsehoods as the thesis upon which they state their opinions, you simply encourage your readers to action for which they will be ridiculed and embarrassed. Isn’t truth ever important to liberals?

I am appalled that you allowed her to libel the entire American Enterprise Institute group as “racist.” I have found that the exact opposite is usually true. The true racist is the one calling others by that name. They just can’t seem to get it in their head that hating someone for his or her reasoned opinion because it doesn’t agree with their own is exactly the “racist” attitude that they purport to deplore. I suspect this is the case with her appalling commentary.

Finally, suppose it is true that AEI Scholars support opinions that are opposed to Chancellor Rhee’s. Is it your commentator’s view that speaking to AEI members about the lack of education opportunities in the District and the challenges student’s face is wrong? If so, that is her view because a) AEI is not receptive to these problems (and, if so, why?) b) AEI cannot help with these problems (and, if so, why)? c) AEI fellows cannot be convinced of the problems (and, if so, why)? Otherwise, it seems to me that sharing the word with influential persons about the District’s problems educating children is a good thing! If your true purpose is to solve the problems, then the more ideas, influence, and intellectuals supporting and helping you the better! Right?



National Building Museum Events, February 19-20
Jazmine Zick,

Tuesday, February 19, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Building for the 21st Century: The 2007 Solar Decathlon: Highlights, Results, and Lessons Learned. Richard King, a driving force behind the 2007 Solar Decathlon, discusses the lessons, results, and role of the competition in research development for the future. Free; no registration required.

Wednesday, February 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Last in the series Bachelors, Secretaries, and Spies: Mid-century Style in American Film. In Like Flint, directed by Gordon Douglas (1967, NR, 114 minutes), starring James Coburn and Lee J. Cobb. 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. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


Adopting Older Children: Dispelling the Myths, February 27
Susan Punnett,

Join Kidsave Weekend Miracles for a panel discussion about adopting older children. Hear from adoptive parents of older children/teens and former foster youth. Kidsave Weekend Miracles is a program dedicated to helping older children in foster care find permanent families. Open to the public; please RSVP to or 280-6332. Wednesday, February 27, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., Charles Sumner School and Museum, 1201 17th Street, NW.


Avalon Legacy Campaign Kickoff, March 1
Mary Ann Floto,

It’s time to vote, and the candidates are ten Washington movies. You can cast your vote at and click on “Cast My Vote” between February 8-18 for your favorite film. The reel candidates include: “An American President,” “All the President’s Men,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Primary Colors,” and “The Candidate.” Ballots will also be available in the lobby of the Avalon Theater and in stores along Connecticut Avenue near the theater. This is part of the celebration to kickoff the Avalon’s Legacy Campaign to raise two million dollars for the beautifully renovated historic theater. Join in for a dynamite day of free activities for kids and adults at the Avalon Theater, 5612 Connecticut Avenue, NW, on March 1. The festivities begin with a 45-minute puppet show for kids at 10:30 a.m., featuring local favorites Kaydee Puppets, along with free face-painting. At 1:00 p.m., there will be a free showing of area moviegoers’ favorite Washington, DC, movie which will be selected through a special voting process. There will be free popcorn for all and attendees will receive swag bags filled with discount coupons from area merchants. For more information, contact Sarah Pokempner at 966-2149 or Mary Ann Floto at 904-0027.


Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Community Meeting, March 3
Marcus Tillman,

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) will be having a meeting with the community at the First Baptist Church of Mount Rainier to discuss the aging infrastructure concerns that affect our entire service area. They are interested in sharing information and answering customer questions. The meeting will consist of a brief presentation (about fifteen to twenty minutes) and a brief question and answer session to follow.

The meeting will be held at the First Baptist Church of Mount Rainier, 3103 Shepherd Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland, on Monday, March 03, 7:00 p.m.


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