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April 2, 2008

Power Trip

Dear Trippers:

Today, Mayor Fenty and Destination DC, the jazzed-up name for the Washington, DC, Convention and Tourism Corporation, announced the new “branding” for our city, this year’s new slogan for the permanent campaign to encourage tourism: “Create Your Own Power Trip,” I’ve been thinking about this all day, since the slogan was leaked early on last night’s evening news. I’ve been working diligently on what to say about this slogan. I’ve tried hard. But I give up. “Create Your Own Power Trip” is beyond my poor powers to parody or satirize.

I can imagine that power trip slogans were very appealing to the upper levels of the Fenty administration. It’s their style, and I can hear now the cheers that went up in the mayor’s bullpen when power trip branding was announced. But who else is this supposed to appeal to? And are Washingtonians going to have to put up with the kind of tourists that would be attracted by a “power trip” campaign? Look, I’m not being paid anywhere near what Destination DC undoubtedly gave the consultants who came up with this turkey — I’m not being paid at all — and I can come up with two better campaigns right off the top of my head: 1) “You gotta see the monuments once in your life. Get it over with.” 2) “The museums are free, and the kids won’t be nearly as bored as you expect.” Use either of them and tourism will get a big boost; use them both together and we’ll double our numbers. And we’ll get friendly, cheerful, down-home, middle-American families who’ll be easy to live with, instead of the annoying yuppies who’ll be attracted by fantasies of rubbing shoulders with power brokers and going on power trips in DC.

Andrew Lightman, managing editor of The Hill Rag, wrote to call my attention to Mark Segraves’ column in the April issue, which begins with another item on the so-called “Home Safe” program, Actually, Mark had sent it to me after I wrote about the program in my introduction to the March 26 themail, but he hadn’t included a link to The Hill Rag, probably because it hadn’t been posted online yet, so I assumed that Mark had written it as commentary for WTOP, and that it wasn’t available. In any case, now that it’s there, it’s worth reading.

Gary Imhoff


Unanswered Questions About Healthy DC
Dorothy Brizill,

At Tuesday’s legislative session of the city council, Councilmember David Catania introduced the Healthy DC Act of 2008 ( The legislation is “designed to reach those uninsured District residents who do not qualify for Medicaid or the DC HealthCare Alliance,” and would “provide a low-cost insurance product to eligible District residents,” approximately 45,000 residents (program outline, With the legislation, the District, according to Catania, could “achieve the goal of universal health coverage by 2010.”

While the legislation enjoys widespread support on the council, the proposal should still be critically reviewed. Catania’s initiative is not currently contained in or provided for within Mayor Fenty’s FY 2009 budget, which is now before the council. Catania intends to merely incorporate the legislation into the council’s markup of the FY2009 budget support act later this year. This week, Catania grew extremely testy when asked specific questions about the legislation. However, DC residents should insist that the council hold a series of public hearings on the proposal, looking into questions that need to be asked and answered, including: 1) did the District engage in a competitive process prior to selecting CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield as the sole health insurance provider for the program? 2) How will the District government administer the program, and at what cost? 3) How will the program be funded? 4) What will the insurance premium costs be to District residents? 5) Can the District government require all DC residents to maintain and “certify” to the government that they have health insurance coverage? 6) Should the District government be allowed to fine and prosecute a District resident who fails to purchase health insurance? 7) How will the District assure that only city residents are eligible for the program? 8) What is the timetable for implementation? 9) Have any other jurisdictions adopted such a compulsory, mandatory health insurance requirement?


Pros and Cons of Nationals Park
Christopher Jerry,

Before I begin, just to be upfront, I have had three tickets in a twenty-game Nationals season ticket package since they moved here in 2005. I was also strongly against the deal signed off on by former Mayor Anthony Williams and negotiated by former DC Sports and Entertainment Commission chairman Mark Touhey who, as I understand it, worked for a law firm that was MLB’s legal arm in the city. Perhaps that would explain how baseball got such a sweetheart deal and ironclad lease that people that came onboard to DC government in 2004 and succeeded Williams and his appointees in 2006, found it hard to break or change.

However, what’s done is done and like most things, you have to figure how to make the best out of a bad situation, and I have to say that maybe I have overestimated, just a little, how bad this stadium will be for the city and the community. Its also convinced me that the city does not need to fund another outdoor stadium, mostly for soccer, that also would only be used April until November, for fewer dates than baseball’s eighty-one, as a economic catalyst that would sit on the east side of the river at Poplar Point, directly across the Anacostia from Nationals Park.

It does appear that there are some businesses on the way that might make this area a destination for evenings in the summer. But, from October to April when it’s cold, there will be no baseball being played, and so it might not be hot spot for half the year. The stadium as development magnet was overstated, as a lot of the offices, hotels, and condos were occupied or under construction whether there was a stadium coming there or not. However, there are going to be some nightlife businesses online soon that might not be there absent a stadium. What hasn’t been built, or even under construction, is the promised mixed income housing to replace the demolished low income and public housing units that were in the area that now sit as paved places for parking for the new stadium.

I went to games both Saturday and Sunday, and Nationals Park is a very nice stadium and a big improvement in terms of being a “baseball” stadium over what RFK was. I’m not going to be in the tank like some people writing about it about how great it is. I’ve been to a lot of baseball stadiums around the country and, while nice, Nats Park is still behind San Francisco’s AT&T Park and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. Of the stadiums I have been to, it might be just on par with Baltimore’s Camden Yards.

When originally planned, the visionaries insisted that the stadium needed to face north towards the city and the Capitol and monuments because of the scenic views. Interestingly, as soon as MLB gifted the team to Theodore Lerner all those thoughts of a stadium with a view went out the window, first with Lerner constructing a high rise building at Half and M Streets, SE, that blocked out the sight line of Capitol from home plate, soon to be followed by aboveground parking garages with a whole lot of high rise buildings where you now have a scenic view only if you sit in the highest sections of the stadium on the first base line. In retrospect, it might have been better for views and east of the Anacostia River development had the stadium faced south and across the river towards Anacostia.

Getting to the stadium was not as bad as I thought. Metro seemed to handle the extra fans by using both tracks to send trains towards Greenbelt and stations that would transfer fans to Northern Virginia and Montgomery County which is where the majority of baseball fans coming to games live. Trains continuing to Anacostia and Branch Avenue were held for a couple of extra minutes in order to allow the opposite platform trains on their tracks to crossover to go the other way. Of course this worked well on a weekend, but we’ll see come April 7, which will be the first night that there is a game during a weeknight, when fewer trains are available because of rush hour service. That will be when the real challenge comes. One other transportation issue though. The free parking at RFK and the free bus shuttles from there to Nats Park worked great. But the larger question, which has resulted in suspicious answers, is who is paying for it? Supposedly the Nationals had a steady stream of buses, as many as forty, leased from Peter Pan and Greyhound, not Metro, that shuttled fans too and from Nationals Park. That’s not a cheap thing to undertake for eighty-one games in total. Given the Lerner’s proclivity to make the city pay for things at every turn, why shouldn’t this parking arrangement be any different? Also it’s interesting that Nationals fans for events at the Nats park get to park for free at RFK, yet fans of DC United’s soccer team are asked to pay $12 to park for their games.


Mayor Fenty Forgets His Promise Not to Raise Taxes
Paul D. Craney,

For the second year in a row, Mayor Adrian Fenty proposed a budget that increases taxes for business and individuals and, for the first time ever, increases the medical cost of living for some of our most vulnerable residents east of the Anacostia.

Below is a list of proposed fees and taxes identified in the mayor’s FY2009 budget. 1) Long-term debt services will rise to $507.1 million in FY2009, and $582.2 million in FY2010. DC pays more in debt services than for police (503.6 million). 2) $100 million in tax and fee increases, including increasing ambulance fees by about 100 percent, to raise $7.2 million. The cost to ride an ambulance in a basic life support emergency goes from $268 to $530; for advance life support it goes from $471 to either $832 or $953 depending upon how critical the emergency. In addition, there will be a mileage fee of $6.06 per mile traveled. For residents who live east of the Anacostia, this fee will ensure higher medical costs due to the longer travel to an emergency facility. In addition, under existing law, a DC resident who purchases a “new clean fuel or electric vehicle” pays no excise tax and half the $72 vehicle registration fee. The mayor’s proposed language provides the tax break only to a “new motor vehicle . . . with an estimated average miles per gallon for city driving at or above 40 mpg.” 3) The emergency 911 fee we pay on our phone bills will increase by at least 40 percent, to raise to $3.8 million. 4) The council’s recently passed “Small Business Real Property Tax Relief” is replaced in Fenty’s budget with a slower tax relief package, allegedly to save $80.7 million. 5) Various other fees total $15.8 million. 6) The mayor did not budget anything for FY2009 for the settlements and judgments fund, used to pay off lawsuits. However, last year this fund spent $25 million.


School Re-Use Community Meetings
Carolyn C. Steptoe, Ward 5,

My local Single Member District Commissioner posted a meeting announcement on our neighborhood listserv (Brookland) on the second round of upcoming “school reuse community meetings” by the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education. Similar to the twenty-three school closing meetings (and in lieu of the recently issued Request for Qualification (RFQ) by the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education that extends a first right of offer to charter schools), it is clear these “community meetings” are a sham and a farce.

On March 17, a few days before the first round of simultaneous “school reuse community meetings” were held on March 20 and March 24, the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education’s office (Victor Reinoso, Deputy Mayor) issued an Request for Qualification (RFQ) to local charter schools,,A,1409,Q,607414.asp. This RFQ extends the “first right of offer” specifically to charter schools that seek to lease school space in the buildings slated for closure by DCPS and the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education. The deadline to receive charter school bids is April 4, and the selection announcement will be made April 14 by ODME. To my knowledge, the issuance of this RFQ was never mentioned by any ODME representatives at any of the simultaneous meetings. Three meetings were held on March 20 and two meetings were held on March 24. All meetings were titled: “School Reuse Community Meetings: An opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas about how local school buildings should be reused.” Citizens were under the impression that their voices would be heard prior to the administration’s decisions about public school building use.

I was not present at these meetings, but I did receive written synopses from various attendees. It is my understanding that some audience participants at the Ward 1 and Ward 4 meetings broached concerns to ODME representatives about transparency and questioned the advanced RFQ issuance to charters versus bona fide community input at the ODME “school reuse community meetings. Attendance at the Ward 4 and Ward 1 meetings was largely by developers, charter school lobbyists, and non-community residents (apparently attendees asked participants to identify themselves and their affiliations). The fact too that the reuse meetings were scheduled during spring break and Easter holiday causes concern. At different public meetings I attended last week, I asked people (among other things) if they were aware of these “school reuse community meetings.” They said no. People also said they were unaware of the issuance of an RFQ giving charters first right.

Also interesting for my Brookland community was the meeting was held last week at the National Press Club (March 27), hosted by the DC Building Industry Association, “representing the real estate industry of DC.” The topic of this March 27 meeting was “Three R’s of DC Public Schools: Renovation, Repair, Reuse,” and on April 17 the topic will be the Brookland neighborhood, I do not have additional specifics. However, any meeting with real estate business persons interested in DC public schools certainly falls squarely in line with a December Washington Business Journal article reporting developers interest in DCPS school property (“School closings in DC put prime spots in play,”

For me, this school reuse process is the same as the school closing decision. It is 1) devoid of transparency; 2) devoid of substantive input and participation from the community, residents, and elected officials; and 3) only raises strong questions and legitimate speculation about who/what is prompting these locomotive decisions and actions by this administration. These are life changing, life altering, severely life impacting public decisions. Or should be public decisions. This administration must cease making public decisions privately, and stop handling taxpayers, community, family, and worker involvement is as an afterthought and disregarded annoyance. I suspect the vast majority of District residents would prefer that these empty school buildings be used to defray taxpayer expenses incurred for our youth, our senior citizens, and for DCPS and other city agencies’ lease costs. Providing potentially insurmountable profits to real estate investors, developers, and a host of private profiteers should not be the unofficially mandated course of “first right of offer.”

In good conscience, and as vested elected officials, “first right of offer” must be extended to District residents to service a full array of benefits that will defray taxpayer expenses and increase the quality of life for us, the city’s residents. I urge the chairman and full city council to speak out and legislate against the actions of this mayor, DCPS, and the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education as relates to all facets of the school closings, public property, charter schools, transparency, developers, and substantive community input and participation.


Fenty’s Welfare Bailout for Local Developers
Jonathan R. Rees,

Today, Mayor Adrian Fenty announced that $2.8 billion dollars will be spent on our children, their education and more:

A careful analysis of this proposed budget shows it to be in fact a bailout program to benefit developers and others who are supposed to build new schools, rebuild old schools, provide materials to our schools, and provide other services. Little, if any, of it is designated to improve student performance or to improve the social standing of our children.

Voters need to read between the lines, and they will see massive pork and a bailout for the sagging local economy affecting developers.


Headache in the Making
Clyde Howard

A headache is in the making for this coming summer. It seems that Chancellor Michael Rhee not only has disrespect for the parents of students; she also disrespects the immediate community that surrounds Cardozo High School. By allowing non-DC residents to use the Cardozo field facilities for their soccer league games, she is causing additional cars to flood the immediate community on Sundays, after the community has suffered the indignity of having large numbers of beer and wine drinkers parking their cars in the neighborhood on Friday and Saturday nights while attending U Street bistros.

What is happening is that the community has become one large-sized parking lot for the pleasure of others that do not live in the area. Residents have become trapped in their homes, unable to attend any form of entertainment elsewhere in the city or in the suburbs on Friday and Saturday nights because they will be unable to find curb space to park upon their return. Aside from that, on Thursdays the immediate area is also a parking lot for staff employees at two charter schools. Persons in authority who could assist the community in impressing upon the imbibers and charter school staffs to use Metro and who could stop the use of Cardozo’s soccer field by suburbanites are not concerned with our dilemma. This includes parking enforcement, which has some sort of an agreement not to ticket cars on Friday nights between 6 and 8:30 p.m. Yet when election time rolls around, the authorities will be calling on the phone or knocking on our doors asking for our votes. When that happens, just ask yourself what they have done for your community lately. Need I say more?


A Great Loss for DC
Adam Clampitt,

Local activist Mike Shor died on Saturday of a massive stroke while vacationing in New Mexico. Not only was he a fighter for progressive causes through DC for Democracy, the Ward 3 Democrats, and DC for Obama, but for most of my life he was my very dear friend and mentor. It was just a few weeks ago that Mike stood with me in the freezing cold at the Tenleytown Metro Station doing morning visibility for my DC council campaign. He held a meet-and-greet for me a few months ago and was also going to be my Ward 3 campaign coordinator.

Mike’s impact, however, reached beyond any political cause. He was one of the most giving, honest, and caring people I have ever known. I come from a small family, and so did he. When I was young our families were so close that they essentially merged. For as far back as I can remember, we have spent nearly every Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving together. During those holidays, Mike and I always separated from our small group of friends and family for one-on-one conversation in which we attempted to solve the world’s problems. In those conversations, Mike’s passion for service became part of who I am, as it also became a part of the countless numbers of people with whom Mike worked side by side in his activism. That will be his great, ongoing contribution to our community. Each of us will continue to do his work because of the passion he gave us. Mike dedicated his life to making life better for those who were less fortunate. It was his commitment that gave many of us hope that we will some day cure DC of poverty, illiteracy, class divisions, and other pressing social problems.

Mike leaves behind his partner, Irmgard Hunt, as well as his daughter Sarah, grandson Gus, and sister Rachel. If you would like to show your appreciation to celebrate Mike’s life, please send contributions to DC for Democracy with a note in remembrance of Mike Shor to the following address: DC for Democracy PAC, PO Box 65691, Washington, DC 20035-5691. If you would like to send a card or gift to Mike’s family, please mail to the following address: Mike Shor c/o Susan Clampitt, 13 9th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003.


Credit Due
Tania B. Jackson,

Ordinarily I wouldn’t take the time to say something, but I just had to respond to Jonathan Rees’ outrage at Fenty and Cheh for taking credit for Murch Elementary’s success, and attributing it, in actuality, to the work of Anthony Williams. I say this as a proud graduate of the much-maligned DC public schools: “Gimme a break!” Murch, like many other schools in the DCPS, has been excellent since long before Williams was even mayor. But here’s the thing. The really good schools, like Murch and the Six School Complex, and the magnets (which includes my alma mater, Banneker), get absolutely no publicity. They don’t get kudos, attention, or thumbs up. When I was in high school, Banneker was always on the chopping block and decried for promoting elitism. While it’s true that there is an awful lot wrong with our public education system, it’s also true that there are some schools where there are things that are absolutely great.

I’m glad that Fenty and Cheh showed up to applaud the good work at Murch. I am glad they feel participatory and responsible. It sends the children of the District who are succeeding an excellent message — that we care about them and support their success. I can’t imagine that Mr. Rees thinks that’s a bad policy when it comes to education.


Rebutting the Rebuttals
Bill Coe,

In themail of March 30, three postings rebutted my earlier assessment of a heated exchange between Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh and Ms. Anne Sullivan, who spoke for ANC 3E at an oversight hearing on March 18. Of the three, only one was really substantive — Ms. Hemberger’s. She at least states bluntly what was implied, timidly and indirectly, in Sullivan’s written testimony before the council — i.e., that Councilmember Cheh’s actions in this matter have been improper (if not corrupt) and call into question her integrity.

I disagree with Sullivan and Hemberger on this, but I’m just a guy with an opinion. The point of my commentary was that we should not go before a superior governing body to challenge their honesty and competence — directly or otherwise — without expecting to get some vigorous, aggressive pushback. When we do, and if we receive the deserved response, we shouldn’t then go whining about it to our neighbors, which only reduces poor judgment to something more undignified. This is just common sense, and the rule seems especially worth following with Councilmember Cheh. Her reactions in similar situations (for example, to doubts raised recently about her official newsletter — a relatively minor thing), lead me to believe she is someone who takes fastidious exception to anything which might impugn her reputation.

This is what Anne Sullivan and her ANC did. They were not prepared for what (predictably) followed. I assume the plain speaking Ms. Hemberger is prepared and, too, that she will carry on with her intricate defense of privilege in Tenley. I live up here and, being a beneficiary of her efforts, perhaps ought to be more appreciative.


Don’t Encourage Congress to Meddle in DC Affairs
Ed Davis

Candi Peterson’s message in themail, March 30, may or may not have been correct in her assessment of progress on DC school reform. I will leave that judgment to others. But her remedy, writing to Senators, is an unfortunate and damaging strategy. Those who know the history of the relationship between DC and the US Congress are rightly wary of inviting any more Congressional interference than already occurs unsolicited. Mayor Fenty and the city council are the elected representatives of DC residents. That’s where pressure should be applied. Those who invite Senate interference in DC will soon wish they had heeded the old adage: “be careful what you wish for.”



Post Adoption Support Meeting, April 6
Linda Clausen,

There will be a post-adoption support meeting on Sunday, April 6, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. We meet at the home of a Chevy Chase, DC, resident. Concerned United Birthparents welcomes all individuals over eighteen who have been touched by adoption, i.e., adopted persons, birthmothers, birthfathers, and adoptive parents. We meet on the first Sunday of the month. Please write for address and further information to If you cannot make the meeting on April 6, you are welcome to send an E-mail, and we will remind you of the next meeting.


National Building Museum Events, April 6, 12
Jazmine Zick,

Sunday, April 6, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. The second annual Girl Scout Day at the National Building Museum focuses on drawing’s many forms and uses. Enjoy tours of the exhibition David Macaulay: The Art of Drawing Architecture, participate in hands-on drawing activities, talk with professionals who draw for a living, and more! $10 per Scout. To register visit At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Stop, Metro Red Line.

Saturday, April 12, 2:00-3:30 p.m. The Illuminated Building, at Hirshhorn Museum’s Ring Auditorium. Professor Dietrich Neumann explores the blurring of illusion and reality in architecture and film. This program is presented in collaboration with the Hirshhorn Museum. Free. For more information visit


Historical Society of Washington, DC, Events, April 8-9
Karen Sallis,

Tuesday, April 8, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Lecture series: Blackadelic 1968: Pivot towards Potential. Professor Thomas Stanley will present a critical examination on how the cultural and political revolutions that converged explosively in 1968 impacted nearly a generation of music. with the subject line Blackadelic, or call 383-1828.

Wednesday, April 9, 6:30-8:00 p.m. HSW Wednesday series: Love’s Troubadours — Karma Book 1. Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke debut novel tells the spellbinding story of Karma Francois, who is a young, single, lives alone, and who has the strength of character to overcome the challenges of poor life choices by embracing a transformative journey anchored in self-healing and love. A book signing follows her presentation. with the subject line Karma or call 383-1828.


The Library of Congress Experience, April 12
Amanda Sobanet,

On Saturday, April 12, the Library of Congress will be holding a day of public celebration in honor of the grand opening of the Library of Congress Experience at the Thomas Jefferson Building (10 First Street, SE. Festivities kick off at 11 a.m., with the formal opening of the bronze doors and exhibits to the public at noon until 5 p.m. There will be free music and entertainment, activities for young people, and presentations featuring Library programs. Exhibits include “The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building,” “Creating the United States,” “Thomas Jefferson’s Library,” and “Exploring the Early Americas.” For more information, go to

One of the most exciting aspects of the Library of Congress Experience is that people aged thirteen and older can submit their personal, creative expression and “make an impression” by participating in the Library’s Inspiration Across the Nation campaign. Every artist’s submission will be part of the online mosaic and select entries will be chosen to be part of the Library’s permanent collection.


Roundtable Discussion on Buried Munitions in Spring Valley, April 17
David Starrels,

In case you didn’t know, what is now the Spring Valley neighborhood in upper Northwest was at one time the location of heavy munitions testing during the First World War. Physical and potentially dangerous remnants of this period are still being unearthed today. After spending nearly $150 million to clean up and dispose of these munitions the US Army is considering suspending clean up operations. District residents, decision makers and others continue to be concerned that a larger clean up is necessary and that the health and safety of District residents continues to be at risk.

Come explore this critical issue at an upcoming roundtable discussion hosted by Global Green USA and the DC Environmental Network at Friends of the Earth. The April 17 event begins at noon. It will be held at Friends of the Earth, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 600. Please do not forget to bring a photo ID to get into the building. For more information call 222-0746.


Senior Day Free Tickets, May 14
Darlene Nowlin,

Join more than three thousand senior residents as they celebrate Senior Day in the District of Columbia at the forty-fourth annual Senior Citizens Day, Wednesday, May 14, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the DC Armory, 2001 East Capitol Street, SE. The event will feature information on aging related programs and government services, free health screenings, dancing, live music and entertainment, lunch and more. To reserve your free tickets, call 724-5626.

The Office on Aging is soliciting qualified applicants to provide extensive services and activities designed to enhance the overall health and well-being of District residents aged sixty and older by ward. Applicants are also being sought to operate four District-owned senior wellness centers. Federal and District funding in the amount of $4,629,200 and $1,150,000 ward based lead agencies and four wellness centers respectively. Nonprofits and for-profit organizations operating in the District are encouraged to apply. The Notice of Funding Availability for each may be accessed from the Office on Aging web site, For more information, interested persons may contact Aurora Delespin-Jones or Roxanne Ando at 724-8821.


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