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March 30, 2008

The Ongoing Story

Dear Story Tellers:

Here are a few items that build on issues we’ve been discussing in themail recently. Tom Sherwood not only wrote something very similar to what I wrote about the so-called “Home Safe” program in the introduction to the last issue of themail, but he and I happened on very similar titles. While I called my item “A Knock on the Door,” he called it “A Knock at the Door” ( Great minds, etc. Colbert King follows up on the “Battlefield Called Wilson High” story that Mai Abdul Rahman broke in two messages to themail: The Associated Press did a good story that surveys how state and city governments nationally are resisting sunshine laws that require them to open their E-mails to public inspection: And be sure not to miss the rest of Sue Hemberger’s long but informative post on the Tenleytown development controversy that is published only in the online version of this issue:

Gary Imhoff


Our New Rhee-ality Under Chancellor Rhee
Candi Peterson,

Our new Rhee-Ality under Chancellor Michelle Rhee reinforces for me one basic fact: not a lot has really changed. On the surface it may look better to some, but let’s take a deeper look. We still face violence in our schools, as evidenced in the recent Post article regarding the battlefield at Wilson, amongst a host of other ills. Discipline problems are rampant; truancy rates are soaring; many school buildings are still less than adequate; schools still lack educational leaders who are competent, experienced, resourceful, and inspire their staff; teachers still await supplies that never arrive; technology doesn’t meet the demands of today’s techno-savvy world; and many parents are uninvolved and unavailable to help their children.

I do believe that some of the problems we face in our urban school setting are linked to the lack of parental involvement, poverty, frequent changes in DCPS superintendents, jumping on one educational bandwagon after another, and community attitudes that have fostered the belief that parents have to go elsewhere to find good education versus staying put and demanding excellence within their own neighborhood schools. I do not believe that parents opting out for education in the suburbs and charter schools is the panacea that many would like us to believe. The struggles under our new Rhee-Ality reinforces for me one basic fact: school systems that enroll many poor children can’t just be merely effective, they have to be “super effective” to bring student’s reading levels to proficiency, as poor children face a host of social ills, unlike their more advantaged peers.

If we want our high school students to go to school regularly, then we also have to create viable programs where students can see a future for themselves. Cutting many of our vocational/trade programs dating back to the ’90s said to me that we did not value vocational education. Most recently, proposing the closing of the MM Washington vocational program makes no sense. Students who decide not to go to college after high school have to wonder what is in it for them. I do not think that our new Rhee-Ality is up for the challenge to fix our schools. DCPS requires more than a one-size-fits-all model. We need extraordinary help, we must put the public back in public education, and be creative in finding solutions to meet the challenges that our young people face. More than just looking at the surface issues, all of us have to look deeper and become a part of the solution by demanding that our city officials do whatever it takes to come up with viable options, rather than just the standardized models of education that we currently have. We know that there is no one-size-fits-all student, nor should there be only one option for educational reform. We just might need more alternative schools, more vocational high schools, more schools for the arts, more peaceable schools that teach our students how to resolve conflicts, and other creative ways to reach our youth, like more programs that teach our young people how to be entrepreneurs.

I encourage you as concerned members of our community to stop taking this sitting down and to let the powers that be — like Chancellor Rhee, Mayor Fenty, DC city councilmembers, and media outlets — hear our voice through the power of the pen. I am starting by writing a letter to Senator Akaka and Senator Voinovich in the US Senate to let them know that DC city officials do not have a long-term educational strategic plan for the District, lack transparency in the school closure process and other educational issues, and have failed to include the community at every stage of their proposed plans. Won’t you join me in this effort? The children are depending on us!


Robert Wines, Mayor Fenty’s Board of Education Nominee
Cherita Whiting,

Robert Wines is the mayor’s nominee to the DC Board of Education to replace Tonya Kinlow. Why? He has absolutely no experience in education; he has only lived in DC since 2005 and moved to Ward 8 in 2006. He stated at the council hearing that he has attended all of his ANC meetings. He couldn’t give the name of his ANC Commissioner when asked by the council during the hearing, But he has been attending all of the commission’s meetings?

He has not attended the Ward 8 Dems meetings or the Ward 8 Education Council meetings. Replacing the outgoing person from Ward 8 with another from Ward 8 is great, but Ward 8 has thousands of residents who would bring more to the table on education and who have lived here longer. It has others who have seen the problems and will be able to offer solutions, because Robert Wines couldn’t when asked during the hearing. Why appoint someone who has no clue?

His resume [] shows nothing to do with education or even being involved in education for DCPS children. So again I ask, why?


Mr. Photo Opportunity
Jonathan R. Rees,

Recently, Mayor Adrian Fenty and DC Councilwoman Mary Cheh attempted to take credit for Ben Murch Elementary School’s winning a US Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award. Ben Murch Elementary School has an attendance rate of 96 percent and a promotion rate of 100 percent. The fact is, Ben Murch Elementary School has been a school in good standing for long before Mayor Adrian Fenty and DC Councilwoman Mary Cheh came on the scene, and for them to attempt to take some credit as if the mayor’s education plan had something to do with it is pure bunk and just another example of Fenty’s deceptive behavior.

As a matter of fact, all that has taken place to date is the results of things started by former mayor Anthony Williams and Clifford Janey, but Mayor Fenty is unwilling to give credit where credit is due and wants to continue to deceive the voters again and again so he can be a part of as many photo opportunities as possible. Hopefully the voters are smart enough to realize the Fenty Plan has had no impact on our schools to date.


It Ain’t Ebbets Field
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The new Nationals ball park is nothing like the old Dodgers bandbox, Ebbets Field. What this new ball park lacks in charm and electricity it more than makes up for with high tech bells and whistles, and it is a great place to watch a ball game. I was one of more than twenty thousand folks at the park on Saturday night’s exhibition game with the Baltimore Angelos, the first major league game played at the park. Arriving an hour and a half before the early game time, 6:00 p.m., via Metrorail, I had a lot of time to scope out the new facility. The front entrance of the National’s Park looks much like a gaudy shopping center from the 1960s. On the inside, however, the park really shines. There’s not a bad seat in the house. From my relatively distant perch in the mezzanine in right center I had a magnificent view of the game and a great view of the visiting team’s bullpen.

Getting there was more than half the fun, taking only forty minutes from my front door to my seat in the center field mezzanine. Green Line trains were crowded, but the flow of folks from the Navy Yard station was safe and steady. Getting home was another story. I left at the end of the seventh inning, along with most of the remaining folks, and faced a real mob trying to Metro their way home. Transit folks metered the crowds and let enough only folks through that would completely fill one train at a time. It took more than twenty minutes to get onto the Green line for my transfer to the Red line and then home to Tenleytown. In all, the trip home, from seat to front door, took an hour, versus a trip there in forty minutes. The supporting facilities, food services and bathrooms, are splendid, and located just steps from the field seats at all levels. Vendors offering some nice food were a bit slow but will speed up as they learn their jobs. In all, the Lerners and the stadium designers seem to have hit the mark. Not easily impressed at my advanced age, I was dazzled by this new stadium. At $22 for my seat it is probably equivalent to the thirty-five cents I paid for my bleacher seat at Ebbets Field some sixty-five years ago. I look forward to seeing a whole lot of games this season. Now let’s get a good team on the field.


Bill Coe,

As we slide into Opening Day, let me make some predictions: 1) the Nationals will win more than 81 games in ‘08. They will score a lot of runs, and their staff of good young arms will elicit comparisons (farfetched, to be sure) with the Orioles of the middle to late 1960’s. 2) Austin Kearns will have a big year at the plate and, as usual, rob the opposition of runs with his fine defense. 3) By the end of the season, Jesus Flores will establish himself as the team’s starting catcher. 4) If he isn’t traded, Felipe Lopez will earn his way back into the starting infield and be an important contributor offensively. 5) Nationals Park will play in such a way as to favor some member of the team we have overlooked and turn him into a local hero. 6) Folks who live or do business around the new stadium will get their first taste of changes coming to a neighborhood which, were they to jump forward five or ten years, would be hardly recognizable. Some of these changes they will enjoy. Some they won’t. In any event, they will be the proud possessors of extremely, extremely valuable real estate. Play ball!


Bamboozled by DDOT
Bob Evans, Southwest DC,

Is it just me, or do other people living near the new ballpark and the southwest waterfront feel bamboozled by the DC Department of Transportation, and perhaps ANC6D as well? When parking restriction plans have been discussed and questioned up to now, they have been presented as a way to make life easier for area residents only on game days. Well eighty or so days a year we may need protection. However, now that the one-to-a-household guest parking stickers have been mailed and the street signs have gone up, we now discover that the parking restrictions are for every day of the year, two hours only, Monday-Sunday, from 7 a.m. to midnight! Well, there go dinner parties, Super Bowl parties, birthday and anniversary celebrations, family reunions, etc., for anyone living anywhere near the ballpark. I was prepared to change my lifestyle eighty days out of the year. I am not ready to completely change how I live in order to accommodate Major League Baseball. I wonder what the impact will be on home values once potential buyers realize that they’ll never be able to have their friends visit them again if they move here.


Don’t Let the Police Come In, Period
Star Lawrence,

I have been away from DC for twelve years, but I can tell you this “Hello, could we come in?” thing is huge with police out here in the Phoenix area. When my kid was a teen, I made the mistake of letting them in to get a friend of my daughter’s who had been declared a runaway. It was two female officers. I thought they would step inside while I called the girl. Instead, they fanned out and started opening cabinets and went into my daughter’s room. This irked me so much, I pulled the girl aside and said don’t talk to them, don’t say anything. They saw that popular marijuana leaf poster on my kid’s wall and came to me and said, “You should throw your daughter out of the house.” Yeah — thanks for the input.

Another time, they came (don’t remember what they said) and asked if they could come in. I said, “I’d rather you didn’t, I can step out.” One looked at the other and they laughed. I said what’s so funny? One said, “One time we asked a guy if we could come in and he said, ‘Let me just bring the dope out, my wife’s asleep.’”

Yet another time, three cars’ full came because a toad in my pond out back was making a screaming noise and someone said a child was being tortured inside my house. They asked to come in, and I said, couldn’t you lean over the fence? They left but they had that “there has to be some way to get her” look. These people are not coming on my property. And no, I don’t have anything to hide. It just aggravates the hell out of me, that’s why.


Concerning that Knock at the Door
Sue Ostroff,

In the March 26 issue of themail, Gary Imhoff spoke about the current controversy surrounding police checks of homes for weapons in certain neighborhoods overrun by violence. His concern is understandable: there was an attempted assurance in the Washington Post this week that Cathy Lanier, in the capacity of surrogate “sister” to many grandmothers in such neighborhoods, is being encouraged to check for hidden weapons held by youth in their care. For better or worse, as other stories have cited, this is a campaign being attempted in other cities around the country.

I would like to describe another type of “Knock at the Door” that Imhoff and Lanier have neglected to address, but which may be related: that of intervention on behalf of the suspected mentally ill. The loved ones and police may fear that the individual may become violent and harbor weapons. Certainly, the newspapers have been rife, this past year, with debate concerning how to intervene to protect against individuals who, unguarded, may go on a later rampage. As we approach the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings and twenty years of reported record breaking number of shootings in DC neighborhoods, the question is still what could have been done differently to prevent the bloodshed. Yes, the mentally ill have privileges and the right to privacy, but so do unknowing victims in their paths. College students are now reported to be partnering with campus police to monitor the mental health of fellow students and to plan intervention if needed. Nonprofit organizations on behalf of disturbed individuals in the District are struggling to stay afloat while keeping services free to those who need them most.

What happens when an intervention is necessary on behalf of a loved one? How are police brought to approach the door of an unsuspecting individual immersed in internal psychosis or bottom-out depression? The knock is heard. The announcement is made, “This is the police. Are you all right? You haven’t been seen in days. Loved ones are worried about you.” There is no answer. The individual is terrified and may retreat as far away from the door as possible or grab something for protection. More voices are heard outside the door. More police and the sound of radio transmissions from the dispatcher. The episode may end quickly if a key can be found to enter and handcuff the individual. Or more police may be called in to surround the home in a standoff. Eventually, a door may be bashed in by a battering ram and furnishings damaged. The police may pile onto the individual with riot shields and guns in tow. The individual is quickly surrounded and handcuffed, not allowed to take change of clothing or identification, and is placed in a police car bound for an unknown destination for completion of F-12, questioning, and forced medication. The patient may end up in hospital for an extended stay of two months, having to trust that home belongings are not being pilfered or stolen and papers not being rifled through.

On return, heavily sedated, from involuntary hospitalization in inpatient care facility, the individual faces the monetary cost of that knock at the door with no compensation or apology from police or loved ones, who are just relieved the patient is on medication, problem solved, though not necessarily for the individual. Attempts at FOIA inquiries to obtain financial compensation for damages to home and belongings go unanswered. The cost of co-pay and medication and doctor’s visits mounts. If the individual had no health insurance, the costs could be insurmountable. Some individuals remain stabilized and find the right balance of medication and cognitive therapy to better integrate with others. Some individuals end up lashing out and in prison or voluntarily homeless living in parks shouting incessantly at invisible voices as the conversation continues. What are the solutions that balance freedom and protection? DC police and Health and Human Services face these issues every day. There is no simple solution to preventing that knock at the door and protecting the right to privacy. We’re all in this together and need to do better next time.


The Right to Bear Arms and Home Rule
Jack McKay,

I think I can tell you right now how the Supreme Court is going to decide DC’s gun law case, and it’s going to be a thumb in the District’s eye. Historically, the Bill of Rights has restricted only the federal government, not the states. Only in the middle of the twentieth century did the Court judge that, courtesy of the Fourteenth Amendment, some elements of the Bill were binding on state and local governments as well. But the Second Amendment, with its right “to keep and bear arms,” has never been so “incorporated.” So one can argue that only the federal government is barred from imposing restrictions on guns.

Does that mean that the District can regulate guns, despite the Second Amendment? No, not if the District is merely a piece of the federal government. The Constitution says that Congress has the power “to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” in the District. So if our home rule is merely a fig leaf over the reality of government by the feds, then the District, alone among all of the cities and states of the Union, is subject to the Second Amendment, and may not infringe upon “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

The Supreme Court could decide to “incorporate” the Second Amendment, interpreting it to restrain the states as well as the feeds, as gun rights people invariably, but incorrectly, assert. While that might suit the conservative bent of this Court, they’re not likely to take such a drastic step, not when they can just knock off the District’s gun control law by declaring home rule a sham. That’s what’s coming, just wait and see.


The Second Amendment Question
William Haskett,

On the Second Amendment question: a fair reading of the punctuation and the order of words is surely that the “right to bear arms” is linked grammatically to the premise of the whole sentence, which is that a militia is a necessity, and the right and duty to have arms is a simple derivative of that premise. But, of course, the sentence, as it stands is ambiguous between “duty” and “right.” I have always thought that the “committee on style” that compiled the actual wording from the debate and proceedings of the constitutional convention of 1787 must have had a resonantly dubious tin ear for clarity — if you doubt this, look at the monstrous pig’s breakfast of the tortuous Tenth Amendment, which is so fouled up that it has never been tested in a court, I understand.

There is also the missing elephant in the room, constituted by the absent third party to the discussion, i.e., the question of the “standing army,” which is the only conceivable alternative to a militia that the eighteenth-century English/Americans could imagine, since it stood for many of them for an all-powerful and tyrannical executive king. If you are not to have an army “always on call and therefore ‘standing,’” you need a citizens’ militia, and if you need a citizens militia, you need a citizenry prepared and armed to serve the threatened state. You do not need a single individual, therefore you need a group, and that is called a “militia.”

Its weapons did not include a machine gun of any variety (they had not yet been invented) and the handgun which is so often used now to deprive others of “life, liberty and/or property” was hardly thought of to refer only to two of the undesirable consequences of individual weapons we can have by mail, or by an hour or so’s journey into neighboring states. Clarity above all.


Tenleytown Library
John Wheeler,

Ed T. Barron, in responding to the concern some have about homeless people using the public libraries as a place to lounge [themail, March 26], said, jokingly I assume, that there is no Tenleytown library.

Actually there is. There’s an interim library that’s been in operation for over a year just two blocks from the site where the old library was torn down. It’s a small but very modern library, which I visit often. It’s always well populated with people using the library services, not just lounging. In this sense, it’s a much better library than the one that was torn down.

Let’s hope DC can get it right on the new library. Right now there’s just a push to get a library quickly, because the community, even the usually well-informed Mr. Barron, have been led to believe there’s no library in Tenleytown. Let’s hope our government will build a truly outstanding library, not just rush to build a new library in Tenleytown because of the complaints about the lack of a library.


Meltdown in the Council
Don Oakley

In themail of March 26, Mr. Bill Coe provides a critique of the March 18 DC council hearing exchange between Councilmember Mary Cheh and ANC 3E Commissioner Anne Sullivan. Mr. Coe takes issue with Ms. Sullivan’s version of the exchange in themail of March 23. The subject was Councilmember Cheh’s support of private development at the Janney School/Tenley-Friendship Library site. I watched the same exchange at the link provided by Ms. Sullivan and drew an entirely different conclusion. What I saw was Ms. Cheh experiencing a very evident meltdown. Mr. Coe states that “. . . [Councilmember Cheh’s] stated intention was to allow the person representing ANC 3E to explain clearly (for a change) what is meant by words they wrote for the council and the public to read.” An unbiased observer will see that Councilmember Cheh interrupted and talked over all of Ms. Sullivan’s responses. Torquemada’s revenge, I would say, with no opportunities for discussion. Indeed, the display of petulant, prosecutor’s arrogance on Councilmember Cheh’s part eliminated any possibility for discourse. To her credit, Ms. Sullivan remained composed throughout the rudeness.

Undeterred by the West End debacle in mid-2007, Councilmember Cheh already had her sights on a similar heist at the Tenleytown site. At the same time, Deputy Mayor Albert’s office began an inept and poorly explained process to solicit bids for the Tenleytown site, and damn the schedule for a new library. In time the community, with much digging, has been able to weigh the pros and cons of the development proposal. The result is discussed in Ms. Sue Hemberger’s posting in themail of March 26, “Community United in Rejecting the Tenleytown PPP Proposals.” If Ms. Cheh really wants to have a civil conversation on Tenleytown development, this would be a good starting point.


DC Has Overseers?
Theresa Conroy,

Like Bill Coe, I too watched the videotape he wrote about [in themail] on March 26, of Anne Sullivan’s testimony at the council hearing. I disagree with Mr. Coe that Anne Sullivan’s testimony was “oddly impolitic . . . coming as it did from someone speaking for a subordinate advisory group to its elected overseer.” First and foremost, Ms. Sullivan, as all who testify before the council, was entitled to be treated with respect. Secondly, she is an elected official in her own right, entitled to her own views. She does not have an “overseer” for whom she must moderate her opinions.

Politics ain’t beanbag, as the expression goes, but a politician, once elected, has a duty to govern. Part of governing is listening to the views of citizens. If Councilmember Cheh did not like what she heard or read from the ANC, she certainly should express her objections. But basic rules of decorum apply at council hearings, and they apply to councilmembers as well as to those testifying. Councilmember Cheh should have treated the witness with dignity and courtesy, rather than as an “overseer” dressing down a subordinate.


Why Cheh’s Conduct Merits Censure
Sue Hemberger, Friendship Heights,

Though I see Councilmember Cheh’s interrogation of Commissioner Sullivan as an attempt to shut down, rather than open up, a discussion of the councilmember’s role in the Tenleytown Request for Proposals, I agree with Bill Coe (themail, March 26) that the YouTube clip of this exchange leaves viewers unable to judge whether or not Cheh has been falsely accused of dereliction of duty. As one of the co-authors of the “Cases for Concern” alluded to in that clip, I’ll do my best to satisfy Bill’s curiosity (and that of other readers) as to some of the specifics that have prompted criticism of Councilmember Cheh’s role in making land at the Janney Elementary/Tenley-Friendship Public Library available for private residential development.

The Causes for Concern was part of a packet of documents submitted to the DC Auditor requesting an investigation into how the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development makes decisions involving the disposition of public land. It argued, among other things, that the Fenty administration’s policy of allowing a single Ward councilmember to determine whether public land gets put on the auction block is deeply problematic and likely to throw the legitimacy of such transactions into doubt. In part, that’s because individual councilmembers may act in ways that do not provide the sort of transparency and notice required for official council action. The document then laid out a series of actions taken by Councilmember Cheh that did not inspire confidence in the integrity of the process. Anyone who wants to read the original texts (letter to the Auditor, Causes for Concern, FOIA’d documents with supporting evidence, and the Auditor’s response) will find them online at

I think Bill’s formulation of the ANC’s grievance, “that Ms. Cheh has somehow colluded backhandedly with private developers to commandeer valuable public property, then ram and unwanted and unneeded project down the throats of a community who solidly oppose it” is basically on target. To me, the crucial issues are cronyism and a betrayal of the public trust. Councilmember Cheh became a supporter of this project without paying much, if any, attention to the underlying facilities issues. And with each new problem that emerged as the proposal circulated more widely, Cheh’s approach was to step on the accelerator rather than the brakes.

A few examples: 1) two days after learning from DCPS’s facilities people that Roadside’s proposal was premised on a gross underestimation of Janney’s facilities needs, Cheh wrote a letter to the mayor urging him to pursue such a project. 2) After ANC 3E’s special committee published notes of a meeting in which a senior economist at OCFO questioned the wisdom of this approach, indicating that it would increase costs, delay the library, and be unlikely to expedite the school’s modernization, Cheh’s chief-of-staff tried to get the official to disavow or qualify his remarks. 3) When many of the written submissions submitted to her by members of her taskforce (on behalf of the community organizations they represented) came back less than enthusiastic about the idea, Cheh failed to pass them on to decisionmakers, as promised. Instead, two days after receiving this input she urged DMPED to issue an RFP as soon as possible. Two weeks later, when asked to provide DMPED with names of community members who should be invited to provide public input on the contents of the RFP, she offered the names of six people representing only three community groups — Janney, Ward 3 Vision, and the condo board from the Roadside project across the street — all of whom were boosters of the project. Major stakeholders such as the Friends of the Library, St. Ann’s Church and other abutting property owners, not to mention established community groups like Tenleytown Neighbors Association and Tenleytown Historical Society, didn’t make Cheh’s list.

By cronyism, I mean friends doing friends favors. The crucial connection here is between Councilmember Cheh and Roadside Vice President Susan Linsky. Linsky, then a DMPED official, was part of the group of development-oriented professionals who endeavored to play kingmaker in the Ward 3 race. They chose Cheh as their candidate. Linsky then volunteered her services both during the primary and the general election on the campaign and appeared to be one of Cheh’s most senior and trusted advisors. Linsky left DC government at the end of October 2006. By Linsky’s account, her close relationship with Cheh continued even after the election and her move to Roadside. In January of 2007 Linsky wrote David Jannarone (DMPED’s new Director of Development and an ex-Roadside employee) that “I continue to mentor Mary and her staff” as they transition into office.

Jannarone, patching ex-bosses Armond Spikell and Richard Lake into their conversation, responded to Linsky’s E-mail by telling Roadside that the best way to get DMPED involved in the Janney/Tenley library project would be for the community and the councilmember to invite them in. His advice was immediately followed. A week after the exchange, Jannarone received an E-mail from a community member inviting him to a meeting about the Roadside project and indicating that Spikell had provided her with Jannarone’s name and contact info. For those interested in a quid pro quo analysis, the timing of Roadside’s contributions to Cheh’s campaign fund and her constituent services fund is suggestive. Roadside’s first contributions to Cheh’s campaign (one from the corporation, one from Roadside principal and MD resident Richard Lake) were made during the second week of November 2006, after Cheh’s victory in the general election. Obviously, contributions made at this stage aren’t motivated by a desire to influence the outcome of an election; their most likely function is to curry favor with the new officeholder. Then in December 2006, even before she took office, Cheh expressed to Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper her desire to see a mixed-use project at the Tenley-Friendship library site.

The third contribution was made on May 31, 2007, when Roadside donated to Cheh’s constituent services fund. A week later, Cheh wrote to the Mayor in support of a public-private partnership at the Janney/Tenley library site, praising Roadside’s proposal and providing Roadside (but not the rest of the community) with a copy of that letter. In fact, that letter’s existence remained a secret from the community until an ANC 3E committee member happened to attend a Library Trustees facilities meeting where Linsky invoked it as evidence that there was widespread support in the community for Roadside’s proposal. In fact, Cheh had not even divulged its existence when she solicited feedback from her taskforce, some six weeks after urging the Mayor to pursue the project.

In sum, I think that Cheh did a much better job of representing Roadside’s interests than the community’s interests in this process. She was more concerned with enabling private development than with ensuring that our community’s public facilities needs were met. She was more concerned with getting her way than with ensuring that decisionmaking involving public lands emerges from a transparent, well-defined, and standards-driven process. This land should never have been offered for sale without a surplusing decision. But it was put on the auction block because CM Cheh was eager to “cut ribbons” and to please her friends and allies — not because anyone made a rational decision that a public-private venture was the best way to modernize and expand our school and our library.

Cheh’s supporters make two arguments in defense of her actions, neither of which strikes me as very persuasive. The first is that Cheh’s support for this project is entirely consistent with her oft-expressed commitment to smart growth. On one level, I’m certainly willing to believe that Cheh’s position on this project has been driven by ideology. Cheh has consistently espoused a very simplistic version of “smart growth” which basically boils down to “if there is a Metrorail station, then maximize residential density.” This position makes her popular with developers, of course, but I don’t think her support for this project (or other similar ones) was bought per se. But support for a concept doesn’t justify Cheh’s refusal to deal with and her attempts to suppress the very real concerns raised by the community about the project’s shortcomings.

Secondly, the fact that Cheh’s June 6 letter expressed a preference for competitive bidding is, for me, not particularly relevant. As Commissioner Sullivan’s testimony points out, the issue is whether the land should have been put on the auction block at all. That was the major hurdle that Roadside needed to clear, and Cheh’s letter was essential to their success in doing so. The fact that Cheh didn’t ask Fenty to award a no-bid contract for Roadside just means that sometimes friends ask for things that are unreasonable, so you do what you can for them and let them do the rest themselves. And, frankly, it has been clear throughout these discussions that any competitive bidding process would involve a very uneven playing field tilted in Roadside’s favor. They had a major head start, information no one else had, and a former employee running the show. And remember, a month later, when another crony’s interests were served by a no-bid contract for a similar deal in the West End, Cheh voted for it. See for details on Eastbanc VP Joe Sternlieb’s role in Cheh’s campaign. Her Roadside letter didn’t rule out a similar approach for Tenleytown, though the outrage that resulted from the West End deal made such an outcome politically impossible.

As for Coe’s suggestion that Commissioner Sullivan was out of line for criticizing Councilmember Cheh, I have to say that I’m very pleased to be represented by ANC Commissioners who see their role as that of advisors rather than sycophants. And I hope to be represented by a councilmember who sees her role as serving the public interest rather than handing out favors to courtiers. Yes, it’s regrettable and counter-productive when the relationships between ANC Commissioners and the Ward councilmember become this antagonistic. But it doesn’t follow that the way to prevent that outcome is for ANCs to cower before the lash of the “overseer,” to use Bill’s term. Maybe it’s time for our novice councilmember to recognize that the ANCs can function as a valuable resource for providing insight into the concerns of various neighborhoods within the Ward. That’s what they’re there for.



Ward 5 Democrats, March 31
Hazel Thomas,

Remember to attend the Ward 5 Democrats meeting on Monday, March 31, at 7:00 p.m. at the Michigan Park Christian Church, located on Taylor Street and South Dakota Avenue, NE. Among the topics to be discussed will be the upcoming May 5 DC delegate elections. This is an important election year. Learn how you can play a part. Be sure to call friends and bring them with you. For more information, contact Ward 5 Democrats Chairman, Timothy Thomas at


Greetings from Hometown Washington, DC, April 2, 4
Jerry A. McCoy,

This week Jerry A. McCoy, special collections librarian at the DC Public Library’s Washingtoniana Division, will be presenting an illustrated slide lecture, “Greetings from Hometown Washington, DC,” at the National Postal Museum (April 2, 12-1 p.m.) and the Library of Congress (April 4, 3:30-5 p.m.). The free talks feature vintage DC postcards depicting hometown views of our city. For more information go to and


Alternative Housing Pilot Program, April 3
Jazmine Zick,

Thursday, April 3, 6:30-8:00 p.m. The Alternative Housing Pilot Program: Building a Framework for Future Disaster Recovery. The Alternative Housing Pilot Program (AHPP), funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is a grant competition to develop more useful, readily available, and culturally appropriate post-disaster housing for Hurricane Katrina-ravaged areas. The inaugural program of this new, three-year lecture series explores the AHPP project’s critical issues and objectives. Free. Registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


Door-to-Door Police Searches: Help People Understand that They Can Say No, April 5
Ann Loikow,

ACLU, DC ACORN, and coalition partners launch a day to educate the community with a training session and community canvassing providing key information in English and Spanish. On Saturday, April 5, there will be training from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at The St. James Episcopal Church, 222 8th Street, NE, between the Red Line’s Union Station and Blue/Orange’s Eastern Market Metro stops. Neighborhood canvassing will take place from 1:30-5:30 p.m.

MPD says officers will go to Eckington, Columbia Heights, Washington Highlands, and possibly other neighborhoods to ask residents’ permission to search their homes. They will ask residents to sign a consent form, which answers some questions but not others. But even though the form says that someone could be charged with a crime as the result of the search, too many people may not understand what is written or take the time to read the form carefully. Our job is to ensure that residents really understand the consequences of agreeing to a search and that they have an absolute right to refuse, without retaliation of any kind. At our training session, we’ll give you what you need to talk to residents about their rights. After that we’ll go into the neighborhoods and help people decide for themselves whether to have their homes searched.

For more information contact Johnny Barnes, Executive Director of the ACLU- NCA (National Capital Area) at 457-0800 ext. 120, or Before coming to the meeting, please contact your five councilmembers (ward, at-large and chairman). Since they all ask for your vote, give them your views by phone or personal visit. Ask each of them to either join us on April 5 or otherwise speak out against MPD’s home searches. Following the meeting, we shall divide into three groups and begin the canvassing. Please plan to canvass as long as you can. Just some of the sponsoring organizations: ACLU National Capital Area, Metro Washington AFL-CIO, National Black Police Association, AYUDA, TENAC, Stand Up for Democracy, DC ACORN, Coalition for Housing Justice, and Dorchester House Tenants Association, with other organizations and individuals joining daily.

Remind the police and the people themselves that the US Constitution protects our homes here in DC, too: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”


29th Annual MLK Parade, April 5
Dorinda White,

The 29th annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Celebration Parade will take place on Saturday, April 5, at 12:00 p.m. The parade will kick off at Ballou Senior High School located at 3401 4th Street, SE, and end at the corner of Good Hope Road and MLK, Jr., Avenue, SE. Local residents, city and community leaders, along with participants and marchers from around the Metro area will join each other for a day of celebration. Bring your family and friends to celebrate the life of Dr. King.

Groups and organizations who wish to march in the parade can still call 698-1666 or go to We hope to see you there! To see and hear excerpts from last year’s parade go to



“Send A Suit” Clothing Drive, April 2
Whitney Sousa,

FedEx Special Delivery and Dress for Success have joined forces for the third straight year to help economically disadvantaged women in the DC area enter the workforce by hosting “Send A Suit,” a professional women’s clothing drive on Capitol Hill. This drive will take place on April 2, from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at the corner of 1st and D Streets, SE, across from the Capitol South Metro Station. This is during Dress for Success’s annual “S.O.S. — Send One Suit — Week” from March 30-April 5. FedEx Special Delivery will collect donations of gently used women’s suits, and professional attire and accessories from DC residents, Capitol Hill staff, and members of Congress for the Dress for Success store in DC. Since 2006, these “Send A Suit” drives have collected more than one thousand items of clothing for Dress for Success.

FedEx Special Delivery is a nationwide program that provides transportation and logistical assistance for community and nonprofit organizations. It connects FedEx team members with local groups and residents to make a positive change in communities across the United States. Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.


Help a Twenty Year Old Get Her GED
Bryce A. Suderow,

Eden Right, the twenty-year-old daughter of a friend of mine, is a high school dropout living in the Trinidad section of town. Eden is working to get her GED and needs a computer. Does anyone know how she can obtain a free, preferably new, computer?

If you want to help, call Eden at 396-1518.


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