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March 9, 2008


Dear Regular Citizens:

The ruthlessness and unnecessary cruelty with which Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty carried out the first mass firing at DC Public School’s central office on Friday should end any misconception that they are about “reform” (,,, Reform isn’t carried out with the crude and brutal methods that Rhee and Fenty employ.

What, after all, is the purpose of carrying out indiscriminate firings, without justification or notice, except to assert the brute force possessed by the bosses? What is the purpose of calling armed police officers to march employees out of their workplaces, denying those employees the right even to pack up their personal possessions or to say goodbye to their coworkers, except to humiliate them and to threaten and intimidate the workers who remain? The message from Fenty and Rhee to District government employees still in service is: we hold you in contempt; the thanks you get for your years and decades of work for this government is to know that we look forward to the opportunity to do the same to you.

No doubt, there are diehard Fenty and Rhee supporters who cheered at the sight of these people being tossed on the sidewalk, who are calling for more of the same, who are rooting for Fenty and Rhee to slash the public school workforce more drastically and replace DCPS officials, teachers, and other employees with contractors and consultants, to privatize more schools and farm out more school functions. But, since there is no evidence that any of these slash-and-burn firings will improve students’ education, let those supporters at least stop pretending that they are doing it “for the children.” They are doing it for the pleasure of making the employees of a failed school system suffer, and that is all.

Let us also stop hearing the feigned dismay of the councilmembers who voted for these firings. They — with the honorable exceptions only of Councilmembers Mendelson, Thomas, and Barry, who voted against the bill to give Fenty and Rhee the power to carry out these firings — enthusiastically supported stripping DCPS central office employees of their due process rights and giving Rhee the power to carry out the arbitrary and capricious mass firing that took place Friday. Councilmembers knew that, if they gave bad and incompetent administrators the power to fire employees capriciously and arbitrarily, the administrators would use that power. They gave them that power, and they did. Councilmembers who voted for the bill don’t have the right to deny responsibility for its results. If they want to fix their mistake, they should. If they don’t want to fix it, they should take their places in line behind Fenty and Rhee, booting employees down the stairs and out the door, laughing instead of crying crocodile tears.

Gary Imhoff


Political Activism Gets a Thumbs Down from Chancellor Rhee
Candi Peterson,

On Thursday, March 6, as a DCPS employee, I was required to attend a mandatory meeting with Chancellor Rhee. Of course, as a Washington Teachers’ Union Building Representative, I requested representation from our Washington Teachers’ Union for obvious reasons.

I am clear that this meeting was called by Chancellor Michelle Rhee due to my political activism and aggressive representation of WTU citywide teachers and related service providers. The purpose of this mandatory meeting was to discuss my attendance at the January 2008 DC city council hearings in which I was the only DCPS employee to testify. The meeting also focused on my participation at the various protest rallies at which I have been actively involved. In addition, issues have been raised about my communication with my WTU constituents as a union representative — which is allowable under labor law and our WTU contract. Ms. Rhee did not question anything about my work performance, which I think is significant. I am sure that you will not be surprised that she failed to put anything addressing her concerns in writing, which is uncharacteristic of an executive leader. Of course it is important to note that most superintendents/chancellors fail to meet directly with someone at my level. I am very worried about the dismantling of our educational landscape by the Fenty/Rhee machine. In my opinion, Friday, March 7, represented Black Friday. One in which workers in total were from DCPS. Whether you believe the staff at the central office were incompetent or not, most of us should support due process rights, which these workers were denied. I do believe that there will be more of this to come and I am concerned that next on the agenda will be for Fenty and Rhee to attempt to seek permission to fire unionized workers, including teachers and related school personnel, from the DC city council.

As a member of the Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools (CSONS), I would like to invite you to our Town Hall Meeting event on Wednesday, March 26, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Please save the date. We will be discussing the dismantling of our education landscape. Topics will include the closing of our twenty-three DCPS schools, the restructuring of our twenty-seven schools that did not meet AYP, and the Chancellor’s plan to privatize our schools as well as her efforts to develop private partners for some of our public schools with low student enrollment. The location of our town hall meeting will be announced. We encourage the participation of parents, DCPS teachers/related school personnel, community members, and members of the media.


New Friends Needed — Zone One Parkers Only Need Apply
Victoria McKernan,

Twenty-year resident of Columbia Heights seeks new friends — all ages, shapes, and sizes welcome — for casual lunches, frequent dinner parties, impromptu pot luck, dog walks in Rock Creek, music parties, play dates, or just hanging out. Must have a zone-one parking permit or be willing to spend up to two hours on assorted buses and metros (with your toddlers, guitars, bottles of wine, and casserole) to visit me. I actually kind of liked my old friends but the DC government has decided that they may no longer visit me, and I just can’t buy new ones at Target.

As the opening of the new DC-USA monster-mall dawned, I had been following the discussions about the parking situation in Columbia Heights pretty closely. So I was astonished to simply see new signs appear on Friday, completely eliminating two-hour daytime visitor parking for three blocks of Irving Street. I immediately went to, Columbia Heights News, and Jim Graham’s web site to find out what had happened. There was no information at all. Finally at 6:43 that evening, Councilmember Graham posted a notice informing us of these new efforts to “protect residential parking.” “Visitors,” he declares with blithe disregard, “should use public transportation.”

Now, I’m a fan of public transportation, but I have longtime friends scattered all over DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Some have babies and toddlers and some have hip replacements. While I believe that any one of them would go to the ends of the earth for me, I doubt they are quite as willing to walk nine blocks to the bus stop on a cold rainy night, wait for a bus to the Metro, then take two trains to get here just for a casual dinner, when they could drive in ten minutes. My computer gal is not going to haul forty pounds of gear around on the Metro to fix my old machine. And some of my favorite visitors are dogs! Until Metro gets as progressive as most of Europe, Old Benji just can’t ride the Green Line. Just so it is clear. The new regulations mean that from 7 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, residents of 1100-1300 blocks of Irving Street can never have any visitors park on the street at all, for any time. Our government has decided that we can never have a friend over for lunch, never have a plumber or electrician come do repairs, never have a babysitter.

But aren’t there visitor parking permits? In the special council hearing on February 19, Jim Graham admitted that even he wasn’t sure how the current visitor parking permit system worked, so I’ll tell you. Residents can go in person to the police station and get two two-week permits per year for each visitor car. It has always been a stupid system (Your family can’t visit four times a year for three days at a time, only twice a year for two weeks) but under these new restrictions it is worthless. Was I naive to assume that the city council would consider the needs of the longtime residents and instigate a realistic visitor permit system before so drastically changing the existing parking regulations? This negligence is not only burdensome, but insulting. And it isn’t that hard to fix! I suggest each household on the affected blocks be issued permanent visitor parking permit cards — maybe twelve. (My table seats at least that many). When we have a visitor, we go online or call and list the license plate number, then pop the card in their window. This massive cathedral of consumerism did not just drop unexpectedly out of the sky. The city council must fix this immediately.


Loose Lips Exposes Fenty-Washington Post Alliance
Carolyn C. Steptoe,

A must read is an interesting expose piece published in Thursday’s City Paper, “Access and Allies: The Washington Post’s Cozy Year with the Fenty Administration,” City Paper apparently initiated a FOIA request of certain Post reporter’s E-mails. The Washington Post E-mails published in this piece appear to prove what many suspected: that the Post was and is functioning as the mouthpiece and public propaganda outlet for the Fenty Administration. The article and the E-mails show the Washington Post functioning as the primary media facilitator to help this Administration dupe District residents about key public matters. The article includes E-mail discussions between a Washington Post reporter and his allies within this administration. The reporter’s E-mails include discussion with the mayor’s press secretary of how they will handle publicity for such city matters as the selection of Chancellor Rhee, school closings, the role of Joel Klein and New York City, the selection of the fire chief, and even the police shooting of District youth DeOnte Rawlings.

I find the piece especially poignant and telling, in that it raises further suspicions and questions about the how honest, factual, and accurate is the information touted, published, and disseminated by the Post on behalf of this Administration, specifically about DCPS and the overall handling and agenda of the school closings. For me, if all were and is copasetic, why was it necessary for this Administration to have such a behind-the-scenes, cloaked media mouthpiece? Is there some undisclosed need for the Washington Post to articulate what might now be described as a seemingly questionable, damage control, administration agenda, rather than relying on legitimate full disclosure of data and decisions? Where is this administration’s much touted public transparency?

The City Paper piece certainly raises the credibility bar for the Post as to their “fair, honest, and objective journalistic reporting” about this administration’s actions and decisions involving DCPS, and other city issues for that matter. Why is the Washington Post committed to helping this administration co-opt the rights of District residents? What is the motivation and potential gain? The gain doesn’t appear for District residents, that’s for sure. Anyway, my thanks to the City Paper for initiating this FOIA request and for publishing these E-mails.


Open Letter to Mayor Fenty
Sally MacDonald, RC (Regular Citizen)

My Dear Mr. Mayor: The following quote, about City Hall press conferences, was published in the Washington City Paper as an exchange between Washington Post journalist David Nakamura and Carrie Brooks, representing the mayor’s (your) office: “‘Good grief’ Nakamura quipped, ‘these regular citizens asking questions has got to stop!’ Replied Brooks, ‘I agree. But he’s a man of the people.’”

Is it possible that a representative of my/our/your city government agrees with the statement that regular citizens must be stopped from asking questions? If so, how is it to be done? By whom? You may not know it, but my mother was Sarah McClendon, who asked questions of presidents on behalf of those “regular citizens.” I also had ancestors (a father with his six sons) who fought in the American Revolution to be “regular citizens,” and to ask questions as such. I was proud that you worked so hard to go to every city precinct to meet with “regular citizens” — I believed that you wanted to hear their questions! I think that an apology to the “regular citizens” of the city should be made.

After this published response from your representative, the phrase, “regular citizens” should and will forever be connected to your administration. Are we not all “regular citizens”? Should we not ask questions? Or not be allowed to ask questions? May I suggest that “Representing regular citizens!” become the Fenty administration’s motto. It has a good, democratic ring to it! The favor of a reply to this “regular citizen” is requested.

[The E-mails that Carolyn Steptoe and Sally MacDonald refer to above were unearthed by the City Paper as a result of a Freedom of Information request that the Fenty administration responded to only after months of stalling. They show the mayor’s press secretary, Carrie Brooks, and Washington Post reporter David Nakamura repeatedly striking secret deals. Nakamura guarantees favorable reporting on Fenty administration actions, including agreeing for a least one story to interview only the single source that the administration suggested. In return, Brooks guarantees the Post exclusive access and advance notice of its decisions. The E-mails also show the news and editorial departments of the Post coordinating their coverage of the Fenty administration, belying the often repeated mantra that there is a firewall between the two. As Sally MacDonald comments above, the E-mails also betray the Post and Fenty’s press office sharing their contempt for “regular citizens,” in this case Dorothy Brizill, who are not privy to their insider deals, who don’t share their aim of protecting the mayor, who ask inconvenient questions. What is most astounding about this story is how little reaction there has been in other media to the exposure of these blatant ethical lapses, even by the Post’s direct competitors, which might be expected to publicize them. There has been no comment in other newspapers, in radio politics programs, in local politically oriented web sites like DCist or Wonkette, or in national newspaper criticism sites like Romenesko. The only Internet site to cover it in depth has been Sam Smith’s City Desk, Why has this big stone dropped into Washington’s small news pond caused so few ripples? — Gary Imhoff]


DC Homeowners Pay the Lowest Property Taxes in the Region
Ed Lazere,

Matt Forman and Ann Loikow [themail, March 5] question the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s conclusion that DC homeowners pay the lowest property taxes in the region, and they wonder what methods we used. Yet our analysis — — is clear on the methods: “Property sales records from DC and each county [Montgomery, Prince George’s, Fairfax and Arlington] were used to select samples of 50 homes with average sales prices of $300,000, $500,000, and $700,000 (among homes sold between January 1 and June 30, 2007 ). The property taxes paid by the homeowners in each sample were averaged to estimate the typical property tax payment for each jurisdiction.”

In short, we looked at real tax bills for real homes that have the same market value, as measured by their sales price. It is the most straightforward way we can think of to compare property taxes across regions that may have different assessment systems and definitely have different tax structures. (If you have a better method, let me know.) And for three years in a row, our analysis has shown that DC homeowners have a pretty good deal when it comes to property taxes. We’d probably pay a lot more if we lived in the suburbs. And our other analyses have shown that even when you throw in income taxes, DC households tend to pay lower taxes than our suburban neighbors.


Harold Goldstein,

I wrote this E-mail to Stephen Pearlstein in response to his article about UDC []: Background: I taught civil engineering at UDC for over twenty years. I was fired in the 1997 layoff of one third of the faculty. Your article, Wednesday, about UDC was perceptive and generally right on. I would add that the mid-90’s quality crisis came more from losing this huge number of the youngest and most progressive faculty, rather than the physical plant issues. Not only did that reduction in force take away the best faculty, but there was no consideration at all of the nature of the department, where it stood in terms of the university’s goals, and the needs of individual departments for survival. It was done as if each department were an entity to itself and had no bearing on anything else.

I’d also suggest that 60 percent is way too high a graduation number. When I was at UDC I recall that it was closer to 10 percent. I did teach some remedial math and found that fewer than one third of the remedial students were ever able to get through remedial math, let alone college math.

But the real reason I am writing is that, while I agree with the premise that the mission of UDC needs to be revisited, I don’t think it can ever be truly successful in meeting the goal of training a significant percent of DC kids with usable skills if the public school system is not turned around. The present school system is a fraud and a large majority of its graduates, as you indicate, cannot function on any post-high school level, and there is where efforts need to be redoubled. Nowhere in the debate over the mayor’s restructuring was there any discussion of why one system or another would improve the product of the system; all the arguments were political and, as a result, the new structure will not do anything to improve the product. Until we focus on the product and what is needed to improve it, then whatever you do with UDC will not improve the lot of the young adults in the city.


Lum and Abner
Bill Coe,

Mr. Imhoff’s opening remarks in themail of March 5 didn’t mean much to me. Lum and Abner? Even this old-timer can’t remember them. More to the point, whenever I hear anyone extol the charms of our nation’s old days — in the movies, in sports, in the marketplace, or wherever — I always remind myself that way, way too much of the good we remember depended on the color of one’s skin. The price paid for testing this principle was often life itself.

My real problem, though, is with Imhoff’s casual reference to “our cynical, unpatriotic times.” Cynical? Perhaps. Who could blame a misused electorate for some cynicism? Unpatriotic? No sir. I take very strong exception to this. These are truly patriotic times we live in. I believe it is praiseworthy of “we the people” that our patriotism has borne so well the terrible treatment our loyalty has suffered at the hands of this government since September 11, 2001.

It is a dangerous mistake, one often made by our enemies, to assume that current day Americans are any less patriotic than yesterday’s. Americans today are extremely fond of their country, proud of its ideals (if not its practices), and most violently passionate in defense of all. These are indeed patriotic times for citizens lucky enough to be alive today in the United States of America.

[Bill doesn’t care to hear or learn about things that happened before he was born; they’re irrelevant to him. Perhaps that is why he can’t think of anything admirable that Americans may have done in the 1940’s, since to him the only thing that was important about that decade was that all Americans were racists, probably the most racist people on earth. Bill defines patriotism as loyalty to the imaginary country of his dreams, the one that follows his political, economic, and international beliefs. The real country, the one that has such a despicable history and abominable present, is hardly worthy of him. I believe that we disagree. — Gary Imhoff]



State Board of Education Public Meeting, March 12
Beverley R. Wheeler,

On Wednesday, March 12, the State Board of Education will be holding a public hearing on educator quality and the definition of highly qualified teacher. The hearing will be held at 441 4th Street, NW, in the First Floor Chambers, at 5:30 p.m. The purpose is to gather public input on the draft definitions of highly qualified teacher.

A presentation on teacher quality with the proposed definitions can be found on the Office of the State Superintendent of Education web site: Anyone wishing to testify before the SBOE should contact Beverley R. Wheeler at 741-0888 or by 4:00 p.m. on Monday, March 10.


CPCA Meeting, March 13
George Idelson,

Cleveland Park Citizens Association meeting, “Are Our Schools Ready for Our Students?” Speakers: Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, DC Public Schools; Jeff Smith, Executive Director, DC Voice; and Erika Landberg, Program Director, DC Voice. Thursday, March 13, 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Park Library.


National Building Museum Events, March 13, 15
Jazmine Zick,

Thursday, March 13, 6:30-8:00 p.m. DC Environmental Film Festival: The Last Wright. A provocative look at the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel, The Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa, The Last Wright is a stunning journey through the structure’s 100-year history. This film is presented as part of the DC Environmental Film Festival. For details visit (Running time: 60 minutes) $5 members; $5 students; $10 public. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

Saturday, March 15, 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Educator Workshop: Bridge Basics: Engineering FUNdamentals Through Bridge Design and Construction. Learn how to bring engineering concepts into your classroom at this educator workshop that demonstrates the teaching tools and materials available in Bridge Basics, the National Building Museum’s classroom-ready curriculum kit. Each participating teacher will receive a Bridge Basics Program kit ($110 value) at no cost. Free workshop for District of Columbia Public School System educators only. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


Mobile Device Software, and NPDP, March 15
Barbara Conn,

In a departure from our usual format, at this event we’ll be having two presentations. First up will be Cynthia Gilmer, president of Opus-Plus, Inc., a full-service product development consultancy. Cynthia will discuss NPDP certification (New Product Development Professional), sharing her knowledge and experiences of this certification, including 1) What is involved in becoming certified, 2) the topics covered, and 3) the value of certification. Join us to learn how NPDP certification can grow insights into the business of developing new products and services.

Next up will be mobile technology consultant and trainer Derek Meyer, who will discuss software for mobile devices including Palm, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and iPhone. If you have a smartphone or other handheld computing device, this presentation will provide information you can use. Just as you load software on a desktop or laptop computer, you can easily add software to a handheld device or smartphone, whether to replace built-in programs (e.g., calendar/contact management, E-mail, Web browsers), tweak existing functionality through utilities, or add new capabilities beyond what your device could do out of the box. Derek will discuss programs programs currently available, and those with additional capabilities on the horizon.

Gather your colleagues, spouse, neighbors, and friends, and your questions, and bring them to this Saturday, March 15, 1:00 p.m., gathering of the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group (E&C SIG). These monthly events are free and open to all. This month’s event is at the Cleveland Park Branch Library (first floor large meeting room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Newark Streets), just over a block south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail Station on the Red Line. For more information about the seminars, the speakers, and CPCUG (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization), visit To RSVP, send E-mail to


2008 National Cherry Blossom Festival, March 29
Sara Kabakoff,

The National Cherry Blossom Festival (NCBF) comes alive to much fanfare on Saturday, March 29, at the National Building Museum (NBM) with the NCBF Family Day. Presented in collaboration with the Museum, the free interactive Family Day runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Opening Ceremony will be held from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Opening day marks the beginning of the two-week long celebration of the cherry blossoms and the commencement of spring in Washington, DC. For the third year in a row, Family Day festivities will be presented jointly by the NBM and NCBF in anticipation of thousands of families from around the region and nation that will attend.

This year, families can expect a wide range of hands-on activities like sumo-mask decorating, dance and musical performances, and demonstrations. Joining Family Day activities for the first time is the renowned origami designer Robert Lang, whose repertoire includes some of the world’s most complex designs ever created. His acclaimed work is known for the intricate designs and practical modern day applications in nature and science, and he will thrill the crowd with an all-day demonstration showcasing his precision in origami making, while constructing a large-scale giraffe. Other hands-on activities at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day will include Mon Kiri, the Japanese art of cutting and folding paper; Japanese scrolls; and building Haiku. Demonstrations will include Mukimono, Japanese garnishing and food cutting; Ukiyo-e, woodblock cutting; and Kimono dressing.

The opening ceremony will follow Family Day, at the National Building Museum from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., with first-come, first-served seating. Festivities will include welcoming remarks by Washington dignitaries, the introduction of NCBF Goodwill Ambassadors, and an appearance by Riyo Mori, Miss Universe, originally of Shizuoka, Japan. The special opening performance will be a collaboration between Tateshina High School, an all-female jazz band from Japan whose formation was inspired by the Japanese film Swing Girls, and the Howard University Jazz Ensemble. Feature performances will be given by taiko artist Kenny Endo, shinobue player Kaoru Watanabe and koto player Masayo Ishigure. For more information on Family Day and the Opening Ceremony, visit http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org, or call the Festival hotline at 877-44BLOOM.


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