themail.gif (3487 bytes)

March 16, 2008

Running Wild

Dear Speed Demons:

I haven’t written anything about red-light cameras recently, but on March 7 the Florida Public Health Review (link to the PDF report at published a short comprehensive review of studies of red light cameras that concluded that the cameras increase revenues for government and private interests and increase the risk to public safety. They cause more accidents and injuries and decrease the safety of drivers and passengers, but they create profits for the governments that authorize them and the private companies that run them. To which I assume the reaction of DC’s government officials will be, “Did they say how to increase profits the most?” For those who doubt that, consider this: Dallas is considering scaling back its red-light camera program because it’s no longer running at a profit (

Here’s the abstract of the paper: “Running a red light can cause severe traffic crashes especially when one vehicle runs into the side of another. Red light cameras photograph violators who are sent traffic tickets by mail. Intuitively, cameras appear to be a good idea. However, comprehensive studies conclude cameras actually increase crashes and injuries, providing a safety argument not to install them. Presently, Florida statutes do not permit red light camera evidence to be used as the sole basis for ticketing drivers for violating the law. Legislation to permit camera citations has been proposed since the 1990s, but none has passed to date. This paper explains red light running trends in Florida; effective solutions to reduce red light running; findings from major camera evaluations; examples of flawed evaluations; the automobile insurance financial interest in cameras; and the increased likelihood of even higher crash and injury rates if cameras are used in Florida due to the high percent of elderly drivers and passengers. The theory behind red light cameras as potentially effective is that they rely on deterring red light running primarily through punishment of a specific driving behavior and secondarily by changing drivers’ experience. Because the rigorous and robust studies conclude that cameras are associated with increased crashes and costs, any economic analysis of cameras should include these newly generated costs to the public. Indirect costs to the public are usually not considered in the calculation of total revenues and profits generated from red light cameras. Florida should be cautious in using traffic safety information from the automobile insurance industry. Insurance financial goals are to increase their revenues and profits, which do not necessarily include reducing traffic crashes, injuries or fatalities. Also, public policy should avoid conflicts of interest that enhance revenues for government and private interests at the risk of public safety.”

Gary Imhoff


Safe Schools Is the First Priority
Mai Abdul Rahman,

The safety and security of our children while in school is DCPS’s responsibility by law. DCPS’s ineffectual school policies and their failure to address the factors that have contributed to the increased level of violence in our schools are jeopardizing our children’s safety. Although school crime and violence have been major concerns for our school administrators for many years, our public schools’ climate was relatively still under control. This year’s unusual spike in the acts of violence at Wilson, Ballou, Cardozza, Anacostia, and other city high schools is quiet alarming and merits serious concern. The reasons are many and directly stem from DCPS’s recent policies and its central administration’s inability to advance effective and comprehensive policies and a strategic plan that address our schools’ diverse student needs. Poor planning lack of institutional knowledge of our schools by central administration, poorly staffed and weak school administrators, and the failed ninth grade transition plan are responsible for the continued violence in our public high schools. Also, the inclusion of ninth grade students who have come directly from group homes, Oak Hill, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Service Center, and Choice — many of whom are students who have been socially promoted and many years older than their thirteen to fourteen-year-old peers, with little in school support for their specific needs — are also factors that have contributed to the increased violent crimes in our city schools.

DC’s overall juvenile crime rate in the last two months of this year will soon surpass all violent crimes of 2007, a flag that has yet to capture our Chancellor’s attention. This violent and criminal trend is clearly manifested in all DCPS schools. At Wilson, two hundred criminal incidents were reported this school year. Last month alone, detectives and police have made six in-school student arrests, with several assaults committed by Wilson students after school at nearby Metro stations in the Wilson neighborhood, in addition to two school lock-downs. MPD’s online record report a total of juvenile crimes committed from January through February 23 at 564, compared to 1,940 juvenile crimes reported for the entire year in 2007. Despite this alarming overall increase in juvenile violent and delinquent behavior, DCPS has yet to respond to this trend, allowing this school’s violent culture to fester and take hold in all our schools. According to Bortman of NYU “anti social behavior is not hardwired.” He contends that aggressive delinquent teens have abnormal stress social responses; they are less aware of appropriate “social cues.” Since DCPS insists on including children from group homes, Oak Hill, Choice, and DYSR with the general school population they are obligated to acculturate, socialize, and teach these children according to their needs. This cannot be achieved by warehousing them in large schools and large classrooms where their special needs are not met or addressed by skilled teachers or staff. Otherwise our only option will continue to be suspensions, expulsions, and incarceration. This policy guarantees the eventual return of these violent students back into our schools and our neighborhood streets as repeat offenders, jeopardizing the safety of our children and the community at large.

The lack of school specific programs, long-term strategies and comprehensive social services that deal with these delinquent students and the root problems of their violent behavior is subjecting our children to fierce attacks in their schools with little regard from school administrators and DCPS to the emotional and physical scars all our children must endure (whether victims, perpetrators, or witnesses to crime). The Chancellor and other DCPS administrators’ disregard of the root cause of school violence, as they advance policies that are primarily borrowed from other cities, concocted by consultants without regard to our student’s diverse specific needs, has been detrimental to our schools and our children. In addition, our city officials’ refusal to address the core reasons for the failures of our system or the adequate flushing and scrutiny of the Chancellor’s school plans that are neither reflective of our children’s’ organic needs or our city have compounded the problem. DCPS’s indifference to address this increasing violent culture taking hold in our schools and the profound impact it has on our children’s safety, school climate and the teaching and learning school environment will carry a huge cost for our city, considering that by law schools are responsible for the safety, security, and education of all our children.


State of the District and Its Schools
Dorothy Brizill,

On Friday, Mayor Fenty delivered his 2008 State of the District address at the Washington Seniors Wellness Center in Ward 7 ( In his speech, titled “Getting the Job Done,” the mayor details the accomplishments of his administration and takes credit for the delivery of basic city services: 1.5 million meals were provided to thirty thousand students, MPD responded to 700,000 calls, Fire and Emergency Medical Services answered 165,000 calls, 1.5 million condoms were distributed, 225,000 potholes were filled, six miles of roadway were paved, and 116,000 drivers licenses were processed. Fenty also takes credit for initiatives that actually originated in the Williams administration: increasing MPD uniformed officers to four thousand, putting computers in patrol cars, rehabilitating Frederick Douglass Bridge, redeveloping the old Convention Center site, completing the DC USA project in Columbia Heights, moving forward with the Park Morton New Community project, and opening the Giant grocery store at Camp Simms. The speech doesn’t detail any new policy or program initiatives that the Fenty administration will undertake in the coming year or fund in his 2009 budget, which will be forwarded to the city council on March 20.

Also on Friday, School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Cornelia M. Ashby, the Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the US Government Accountability Office, testified on DC public schools before the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia. In Ashby’s testimony (, the GAO notes that “the mayor’s team has not yet developed a long-term districtwide strategic education plan. Given the significant transformation underway, a strategic plan could provide a framework for coordinating the work of the education offices and assessing short-term and long-term progress. Without a plan that sets priorities, implementation goals, and timelines, it may be difficult to measure progress over time and determine if the District is truly achieving success. Additionally, a districtwide strategic education plan would increase the likelihood that the District’s education offices work in unison toward common goals and that resources are focused on key priorities, not non-critical activities. A strategic plan could also help determine when mid-course corrections are needed.” GAO notes that the District’s response to this recommendation is that “the Deputy Mayor’s [Victor Reinoso, Deputy Mayor for Education] preferred approach is to develop a formal process, rather than a written document, to ensure efforts are coordinated and executed as efficiently as possible.” In her testimony (, Rhee details the accomplishments of her “transition year.” The closest she comes to acknowledging GAO’s recommendation is that she states that “we are solving the problems that need to be solved. . . . However, this system needs more than solving problems one by one.”


The Reason Why DC Isn’t a State
Cherita Whiting,

Friday the mayor held a State of the District of Columbia address []. The problem was that the people who live in the District were not invited! Previous mayors have invited all that could fit into the Lincoln Theater. Fenty didn’t feel like the taxpayers had a right to hear just where he has or has not taken this city.

But he did invite twenty-four people from Dallas, Texas, to hear how DC is doing. So shouldn’t the taxpayers have been afforded the same respect?

Past State of DC speeches were attended by all councilmembers; Friday’s only had three or four. So if only seventy people were there and twenty-four were not DC residents, then only forty-six DC residents should pay their taxes. Right?


State of the District Address
Jonathan Rees and Albert Bartee,

In the State of the District Address, Mayor Adrian Fenty attempted to take full credit for all the outward changes in the physical appearance of our public schools, which he has no right to do. The truth is, all that voters now see is the result of the acts and plans that were committed to by former DC Mayor Anthony Williams, and which Fenty inherited. This fact may be why none of the local media was impressed with Fenty’s State of the District Address, with the Washington City Paper calling it “not noteworthy”! See

Fenty has taken advantage of the fact that most voters are ignorant of who did what, when, and where, and has been grossly untruthful. He acts as if he should be credited for what voters now see taking place, when in fact, Fenty had little if anything to do with it other than maybe a few slaps of paint, a door knob or two, and a few windows. Voters need to educate themselves better on what our leaders really have done, otherwise they will again allow themselves to be deceived by Fenty and people like him.

The DC Police paid us a recent visit concerning our public criticism of Mayor Fenty, and asked our publisher why we cannot say anything nice about Mayor Fenty. Simple, he hasn’t done anything worth praising, but he spews out a lot of hype, frauds, and more.


Cars in Bike Lanes
Jack McKay,

Recently (themail, January 20) I observed that DC drivers seem to think, erroneously, that they are forbidden from intruding on a bike lane, even if they’re about to turn right. Last week, a Mount Pleasant resident posted this on a neighborhood site: “I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven up Tilden to Connecticut Avenue and seen cars squeezing between the line of traffic and the parked cars to drive on the bike lane to make their right turn. . . . I always hug the line so they can’t get through.”

Well, what’s wrong with drivers using the bike lane to do a right-on-red? The fact is, drivers turning right are allowed into the bike lane for a right turn. DCMR 18, 2220.2: “During restricted hours, any vehicle may enter a restricted right curb lane solely for the purposes of taking on or discharging passengers or to make a right turn where a right turn is not otherwise prohibited by any official traffic control device.” Furthermore, drivers are legally required to enter the bike lane for a right turn. DCMR 18, 2203.3: “Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” What we bicyclists don’t want is to come up alongside a car that’s off to the left, “respecting” the bike lane, then be taken by surprise when that car turns right.

Westbound Tilden at Connecticut is a good right-on-red, because northbound Connecticut traffic is stopped by a left-turn cycle of the light. Unfortunately, the “no parking to intersection” sign is put right up at the intersection, when it’s supposed to be forty feet back. Parked cars make the right-on-red very difficult, unless you’re good at “squeezing by,” and no self-righteous driver is intentionally blocking the bike lane.


Ridding the City of the Unwanted
Clyde Howard,

Loosed upon the sleeping residents of LeDroit Park is an organization that has collected the Lot and Square numbers of every property in LeDroit Park. This organization, with the collaboration of the Board of Condemnation, coerces certain residents of the community to either fix up their property, sell it, or face condemnation proceedings against them. This organization does not wear blackjack boots, brown shirts and pants, or wear arm bands and caps and Sam Brown belts, but they are carrying out the same practices to rid the community of people they consider undesirables or the unwanted. And they are doing it with the cooperation of the very government that is supposed to protect the citizens. These tactics can expand to every community in the city as a method of pushing more of the unwanted out of the city. So wake up you sleeping residents of LeDroit Park, the enemy is at the gates. Be prepared to do battle, for the alarm has sounded. Do you want the fence around LeDroit Park, that was removed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to return? This organization is laying the ground work for such a fence to be erected. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” So be warned, there is work to be done.


Excellent Service from the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services
Pete Ross,

I want to write something good that occurred with the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services, even though it was a minor problem. My wife and I have had a vanity license tag (MR, which are her initials) on one of our cars for over thirty years. We purchased a new car, and the new car was titled in both or our names. We were told by the Department of Motor Vehicles that we could not transfer the vanity tags to our new car because the old car was titled only in my name. The only way that vanity tags could be transferred is if the new car were titled exactly as the old car.

After exhausting all avenues of appeal (including calls to the director of the DMV that were ignored), I contacted the Mayors Office of Constituent Services. Gilberto Solano followed up and had to write numerous E-mails to the DMV, many of which the DMV ignored. However, his persistence on this relatively minor problem finally paid off, and the DMV finally consented to permit the transfer of the vanity tag.

Through the whole process, which took almost a month, it is shocking that the bureaucracy at the DMV took so long to take care of such a minor problem. The fact that the DMV did not even respond to the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services shows how entrenched and out of touch the DMV is with the residents of DC.


Georgia Tech President to Lead Smithsonian
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

A year after a financial scandal forced the head of the Smithsonian Institution to resign, the organization announced Saturday that it had named a highly regarded university president, G. Wayne Clough of the Georgia Institute of Technology, as its chief:


Daytime Residential Street Sweeping Resumes March 24
Nancee Lorn,

The Department of Public Works (DPW) has announced that daytime mechanical street sweeping will resume in heavily trafficked residential neighborhoods on Monday, March 24. Alternate-side parking restrictions in these areas will go into effect as well. Parking tickets, which carry a $30 fine, will be issued, beginning March 31, to vehicles parked during street sweeping hours in areas posted with “No Parking/Street Cleaning” signs. Additionally, parked cars may be towed to allow the sweepers access to the curbside. Generally, parking is prohibited for two hours while sweeping is underway.

When street sweepers are able to successfully complete their route, the pay off is tremendous. Based on a recent study, each mile swept mechanically removes ten pounds of grease and oil, three pounds of nitrates and phosphates, and, one to two pounds of heavy metals. DPW street sweepers cover about four thousand lane miles monthly, removing litter by brushing it onto a conveyor system, which transports the material into a debris hopper. The sweeper also emits a fine spray of water to help control dust. Street sweeping is suspended during winter as the sprayed water can freeze on the street and cause dangerous driving conditions. For more about DPW’s street cleaning program, visit


Life in the Big City
Bill Coe,

Allow me to elaborate on Peter Orvetti’s posting to themail of March 12. I, too, am a devoted inner city urban dweller. I grew up in a small town out west and eventually concluded that twenty-five years in such a place was enough to last me the rest of my life. I moved into the big city thirty-five years ago and have not abandoned my love for either its glory or its occasional squalid spectacle. Like Mr. Orvetti, I am sometimes greeted with skepticism for this urban bias of mine.

I like to reply with a story from my youth. Then a new college student not twenty years old, I held a job busing the lunch tables at a stately “home for elderly ladies” near the campus. My cash salary was negligible; busboys were compensated “in kind,” with huge servings of food back in the kitchen, after our day’s work was done. (In those days, a young scholar of limited means rightly prized one great big meal every day.) The cook was an old farm woman, a preacher’s widow who could load a table with prodigious amounts of plain but very good country food. While we “boys” (as she called us) vacuumed up those lunches, she would entertain us with gossip from earlier days with her late husband on the quiet and supposedly safe back roads.

Ministers are privy, quite naturally, to the most intimate and lurid details of their flock’s domestic lives. It’s possible that this old widow liked to exaggerate her stories for the amusement of young males trying to eat, but the horrors she described — the grotesque violence folks inflicted on one another in those isolated farmsteads and villages — curdled my blood and made the worst crimes of our fair city seem like old news. She convinced me that living in a place like Washington could not be much more dangerous than it is out there, beyond the fringes. In DC and other cities, victims of crime and abuse are at least theoretically within reach of help — not stranded in the hills or valleys, miles from any hope of rescue. As Mr. Orvetti points out, there is much to recommend the bustle of city living — the wealth of activity, the noise of it all, the hordes of people, and all the good things they have to offer.


DCPS Firings
Ted Gest, tgest (at)

I’m just picking up on your “firing” comments of March 9. What is the evidence that fired DC school employees were not allowed to take their personal belongings? Both of the stories you link to say they were allowed to do so. Also, what exactly are the “due process” rights you keep referring to? As you note, the city council gave the administration the power to fire people it deemed unnecessary or below standard. Are you saying these people should have the right to say they are necessary? I can’t defend every detail of the way these firings were carried out, but we have had many years of promises to clean up the administration of the school system here and little seems to have happened until now. Whether it will be effective, we don’t yet know.

[Tom Sherwood reported on WRC-TV that employees were not given the ability to retrieve their personal possessions from their desks: “The letter the employees received said they were being sent home immediately and that they would be fired in 15 days. Those days will count as administrative leave. The employees were told they could come back later to clean out their desks” ( Employees were stripped of their due process rights, so they don’t have any complaint about not being given due process? Do you really want to make that argument? — Gary Imhoff]


March 2008 InTowner
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the March 2008 on-line edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature (the accompanying images can be seen in the archived PDF version). The complete issue (along with prior issues back to January 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link in the Current & Back Issues Archive. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements.

The next issue will publish on April 11 (the second Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter. To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Major Retail Center Finally Opens in Columbia Heights — Great Excitement Generated in Neighborhood and Citywide”; 2) “Harris Teeter Approved for Beer & Wine Sales — Opening Set for April 23”; 3) “Controversial Project at 14th and U Near Final OK Despite Objections.”



Mendelson to Hold Town Halls on Taxes, March 18-25
Jason Shedlock,

Councilmember Phil Mendelson (At-Large) would like to announce a series of five Town Hall meetings focusing on the District’s recently announced tax assessments. The workshops are designed both to educate residents on the tax assessment process as well as to help taxpayers utilize the appeal process. Representatives from the District’s Office of Tax and Revenue will join Mendelson at each of the workshops to answer questions. This year’s series of workshops marks the sixth consecutive year that Mendelson has held such meetings throughout the District.

According to the District’s Office of Tax and Revenue, residential property assessments have slowed in growth compared to recent years, rising about 2.3 percent. Residents have until April 1, to begin the appeals process if they feel the proposed 2009 assessment does not reflect the market value of their property. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Celeste Duffie at or 724-8137.

Upcoming Tax Workshops: March 18, Near Southwest, MPD 1st District Headquarters, 415 4th Street, SW, 6:30-7:45 p.m. March 20, Anacostia/Barry Farms, Washington Highlands Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW, 6:30-7:45 p.m. March 22, Woodridge/Brentwood, Woodridge Library, 1801 Hamlin Street, NE, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. March 24, Marshall Heights/Lilly Ponds, Marshall Heights Community Development Corporation, 3939 Benning Road, NE, 6:30-7:45 p.m. March 25, Chevy Chase, Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 6:30-7:45 p.m.


Spotlight on Design: Emerging Voices, March 20
Jazmine Zick,

Thursday, March 20, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Spotlight on Design: Emerging Voices. Presented in partnership with the Architectural League of New York, Emerging Voices turns the spotlight on architecture firms just beginning to achieve prominence in the profession. This program will be held at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria campus. Register for events at Free. Registration required.



Video Production Company
Sharon Rubins,

Megaphone Project, an award-winning video producer located in Baltimore, MD, is seeking a talented and versatile Executive Director who can excel at both the business and creative aspects of this newly created post. The roles will be varied: chief administrator and manager, strategic thinker, spokesperson, producer, advisor and mentor to other staff and crews, marketing expert, message master, policy translator, primary contact with foundations and donors, board liaison, and all-around key to the continued success of this vital organization. A flexible nature, entrepreneurial, can-do spirit, and high energy would be assets for this demanding and exciting job.

In Baltimore’s advocacy community, Megaphone has developed a sterling reputation for creating powerful messages via short video documentaries that stimulate change. The founding director will be moving on, creating the need for a new organizational head. For more information, go to To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and any work sample links to


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)