themail.gif (3487 bytes)

February 17, 2008

Not Skeptical Enough

Dear Skeptics:

I have to apologize. It seems that, when it comes to DC government and Mayor Fenty’s press releases, I’m just not cynical and skeptical enough. In the last issue of themail (February 13), I commented on a press release and action plan for the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services that was issued by Mayor Fenty and the Department’s Director, Vincent Schiraldi ( I said that only two items addressed in the press release and action plan related to the Department’s primary responsibility of protecting the public. The first was the claim that there had been a “substantial decline in youth on absondance status,” and the second was the claim that the caseload for 90 percent of DYRS caseworkers had been reduced to twenty-five cases each.

In my own defense, I did say that I’d like to see the actual numbers for abscondance rates, and I also said that I didn’t believe that a caseworker could provide adequate supervision for twenty-five youths who had already committed crimes. But those responses were insufficiently skeptical and cynical, because they naively credited the administration with telling some version of the truth. The editorial and op-ed pages of Saturday’s Washington Post proved how wrong I was. In his column (, Colbert King gives the DC Superior Court’s reply to his inquiry about how many bench warrants are outstanding against DYRS juveniles: “Custody orders issued for failure to appear in court or as a result of abscondence are, as of: February 12, 2008: Cases 382, Respondents 333. December 31, 2007: Cases 343, Respondents 310. December 31, 2006: Cases 207, Respondents 184. The number of cases with custody orders exceeds the number of respondents because there are a number of respondents who have multiple cases.” So in a little over thirteen months between the end of 2006 and today, DYRS has succeeded in reducing the number of its wards who are missing and under order to appear for a court hearing from 184 all the way down to 333. Fenty and Schiraldi called an increase of 81 percent in just over a year a “substantial decline.” They must have studied that new math coming to DC public schools. Across the page in the Post, in the Letters to the Editor column, John Gage, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, replies to the administration’s claim about reduced caseloads, “Lost in the misrepresented statistics and tactical public relations is that neither Mr. Fenty nor Mr. Schiraldi has offered real policies to help the agency become successful. Inside DYRS, frustrated employees say most still have 35 to 40 cases, too many to manage a troubled population” (

Councilmember Tommy Wells’ staff took exception to my writing in the last issue’s introduction that Wells gave the public only twenty-two hours’ notice of his oversight hearing last Thursday on DYRS. Charles Allen not only wrote the E-mail below, but also called to complain, and other members of Wells’ staff confronted Dorothy on Friday. Allen had four points. First, he claimed that notice of the hearing was published in the city council’s calendar in advance. He’s wrong about that. It wasn’t in any printed version of the council’s calendar, and the Office of the Secretary of the Council has confirmed that it was added to the online calendar of hearings only on the morning of the day that it was held. Second, he said that it was on the council’s web site and on Councilmember Well’s web site. He’s right about that, but on the council’s site it was listed on a page separate and distinct from the calendar of legislative hearings, and nobody goes to councilmembers’ individual web sites to find out about scheduled hearings. Third, he said that advance notice was printed in the DC Register, and that that should be sufficient to inform and involve the public. He’s right that notice was printed in the Register, and that I missed it. Of course, nearly everybody misses things that are published in the Register. It has only a few hundred subscribers. Printing advance notice in the Register is sufficient to give legal notice, but it’s not a good faith effort to inform and involve the public.

Fourth, Allen insisted to me that Wells’ staff had taken steps to inform and involve the “advocacy community” about the hearing. I believe him there, and that’s the problem. The council regularly informs and involves the advocates who are pushing the side of any controversial issue that they favor, and leaves out average citizens, the general public, and anyone who may have a contrary viewpoint. If the administration and councilmembers want to dispose of some public property, they will give the developers ample advance notice of any scheduled hearing; the public can fend for themselves. If the administration and councilmembers want to support a controversial city agency, they will inform and involve the advocacy community who support that agency (and who, incidentally, usually receive contracts from it), and they will not call Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, neighborhood organizations, and civic groups that may be critical of that agency to get them to testify at the hearing. In fact, that’s what happened at Wells’ hearing last Thursday — the only groups that testified were advocacy organizations that praised the way that DYRS was carrying out its mission. Not a single public witness testified. Not a single parent whose child was shot by a ward of DYRS appeared, and I’ll bet that not one had heard about the hearing before hand, or they would have come.

Gary Imhoff


Loonies Win, Library Users Will Lose
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Mayor Fenty has announced the decoupling of the Tenley Library from the proposed developer Request for Propoals that would include building a new library along with condos above the library and additions to the Janney School. If anyone thinks that the city will build us a new Tenley Library and open it in 2010, they are loony. We’d have that library far sooner if a developer were involved than waiting for the city to move. I’m pledging to donate $300 to the new Library if it opens by January 1, 2011, in exchange for a pledge by anyone, or any group, that will give fifty cents to me for every day that the Tenley library opens after January 1, 2011. Any takers?


Like, Education
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

Having griped about DC schools chancellor Rhee’s using “like” when she meant felt, said, etc., I groaned when I read this New York Times article with these quotes. Maybe hanging with kids does this, maybe it’s generational (as was suggested), maybe it’s English evolving. Or maybe it’s just awful and lazy speech. “In Bronx School, Culture Shock, Then Revival” ( “[Principal] Waronker recalled, ‘I was like, this can’t be real.’” And, “Lynne Bourke-Johnson, now an assistant principal, said: ‘His first question was, “Well, how can I help you, Lynne?” I’m like, “Excuse me?” No principal had ever asked me that.’”


DC Taxi Fares and Strikes
Joan Eisenstodt,

I must have missed something — that we will have taxi strikes every Tuesday, but that this week it was Thursday. I, out in the cold, finally figured it out when I was not near a Metro and stood forever to try to flag a cab. Is it confirmed that it will be an occurrence every Tuesday? Do we address comments to the mayor? council? Taxicab commission? As someone still in favor of meters (especially after being held in a cab for twenty minutes while waiting for Mr. Bush and the entourage to pass), I understand the strikes. Will it change anything? Was this coherent? My fingers are still cold.


Just What We Need
Ed T Barron,edtb1@macdotcom

Now the city council and the mayor are talking about taxpayer funding for a new soccer stadium in southeast Washington that would cost another two hundred million dollars when finished. That’s totally crazy. I don’t care how many games are played each year, the stadium and associated environs will never pay back the costs. And, for good measure let’s name the stadium “The Marion Barry Soccer Stadium.”


Submit Your Ideas for the DC Quarter Design
Stephanie Scott,

The District of Columbia is finally going to be commemorated on the back of the quarter dollar coin. According to the process laid out by the US Mint, by February 25 the District government must submit three narratives to designers at the US Mint describing what we would like to see represented on the coin. We need your help to create these narratives.

Who are the people, places, ideas, and images you think best represent the District of Columbia? Let us know! Send us an E-mail at: or mail your comments to DC Quarter, Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 419, Washington, DC 20004. Leave a voice mail message at 727-5448. We welcome your input, but we must act quickly. The comment period on the DC Quarter ends at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 22.


Trash, Recycling Holiday Collection Schedule for President’s Day
Nancee Lorn,

The DC Department of Public Works (DPW) announced that in observance of Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 18, no trash, recycling, or bulk materials will be collected from District residences. DPW offices will be closed and most DPW services will be suspended, including trash and recycling collections, street and alley cleaning, and parking enforcement (meters, residential and rush hour lane restrictions, and booting, towing, or abandoned vehicle removal). All services will resume Tuesday, February 19. Trash and recycling collections in once-a-week collection neighborhoods will slide to the next day. For example, Monday’s collections will be made on Tuesday, Tuesday’s collections will be made on Wednesday, and so on. In neighborhoods with twice-weekly trash collections, Monday and Thursday collections will be made Tuesday and Friday, and Tuesday and Friday collections will be made Wednesday and Saturday.

Please visit and click on “Holiday Schedule” (under the “Information” header) to see the 2008 DPW Slide Guide to Holiday Trash and Recycling Collections in English and Spanish.


Academy for Learning Through the Arts
Audrey A. Phillips,

The Academy for Learning Through the Arts (ALTA) Public Charter School has openings in Pre-Kindergarten through the sixth grade for the upcoming 2008-2009 school year. ALTA offers a new approach to learning by providing students in grades PreK-6 with an outstanding academic and social education through a rigorous arts-integrated program. Visit the ALTA web site at or visit an ALTA open house in February. ALTA is located at 2100 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. For directions or for additional details, please call Andrea James at 232-4014.


Gross Mischaracterization of Short Notice
Charles Allen,

With all due respect, your characterization of Councilmember Wells’ giving twenty-two hours notice of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services oversight hearing is grossly inaccurate and misleading to the public. What you describe as the notice of the hearing was nothing more than a media advisory sent by our office; a routine media notification of an upcoming event.

This public oversight hearing has been scheduled, announced, and publicized for more than three weeks. The official notice of this hearing was published in the DC Register. This public oversight hearing was listed on the official calendar of the DC council and placed on the council’s web site three weeks ago. This public oversight hearing was published on the councilmember’s web site nearly two weeks ago. And the youth advocacy community has been publicizing this public oversight hearing for almost two weeks.

I would appreciate if you please correct this mischaracterization, and ensure your readers know the facts about this public hearing and the several weeks of public notice it has received. We greatly value the public input — support and criticism — of the government’s performance and how it should best respond to at-risk youth. We look forward to the many public witnesses that have signed up to testify over the last several weeks.


Not So Short Notice
Richard Walker, DHS,

The oversight hearing for the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services was announced in the DC Register on Friday, February 8. Abbreviated notice, yes, but twenty-two hours notice, no.$fn=default.htm$vid=dcr:free.


Short Notice
Susie Cambria, DC Action for Children,

A point of clarification on the February 13 “Short Notice” piece in themail: the Wells’ Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services hearing was announced in late January on the council web site and in the DC Register — it is part of the FYs 2007 and 2008 oversight/audit hearings. So yes, it is correct that a press release was issued. But the release was not the only, or earliest, notice. I am not an apologist for CM Wells — just a child advocate who pays very close attention to public hearings, the budget, etc. We shortened the original list to include child- and youth-related hearings and I still have the original hearing schedule on my desk.



The Panama Canal, February 21
Jazmine Zick,

Thursdays, February 21, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Engineering Series: The Past, Present, and Future of the Panama Canal. The riveting history and proposed expansion of the Panama Canal is explored by Dr. Michael J. Brodhead, a historian with the US Army Corps of Engineers, and others. $12 members; $12 students; $20 public. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


FY 2009 Budget Briefing, February 26
T.J. Sutcliffe, The Arc of the District of Columbia,

DC Action for Children, The Arc of DC, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and Parents United for the DC Schools are pleased to once again co-host the popular “What’s in Store?” DC budget briefing on Tuesday, February 26 from 10:00 a.m. to noon at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. This annual briefing is a chance for the public to hear directly from DC government officials about the outlook for the District’s FY 2009 budget, and includes an opportunity for a question and answer session. Confirmed speakers are: Bob Zahradnik, Office of Revenue Analysis, Office of the Chief Financial Officer; Eric Goulet, Budget Director, Council of the District of Columbia; Ed Lazere, Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute; and William Singer, Chief of Budget Execution, Office of the City Administrator. Registration is required. E-mail your name, organization (if any), and contact information to, or visit to download a registration form.



Volunteers Needed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival
Danielle Piacente,

Participate in one of the nation’s premier events, March 29-April 13. Friendly, helpful, and reliable volunteers are needed to join the 2008 National Cherry Blossom Festival Volunteer Corps! Local businesses with community service programs and community service groups are welcome and encouraged to participate. The volunteer program is supported by Guest Services, Inc. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual two-week citywide event; it is celebrating the 96th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossom trees from Tokyo to Washington, DC. Volunteers will assist in all aspects of festival events and programs and help serve the community and visitors during the two-week celebration.

Volunteers are needed to begin immediately as well as throughout the duration of the festival calendar, March 29-April 13. To view specific volunteer opportunities and download an application, visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival web site at For more information, call 626-1130 or E-mail


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)