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April 6, 2008

Bar the Door

Dear Doorkeepers:

We’re seeing some furious backpedaling on the “Home Safe” invasion program proposed by Mayor Fenty and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Lanier (themail, March 26). Fenty has not had any additional comments on the program, but Chief Lanier has had to throw herself on her sword and take the full blame for it — the Washington Times even titled its article on the backpedaling, “Lanier Blames Self in Initiative” ( Chief Lanier now claims that she never intended the “Home Safe” program to be what the mayor and she announced that it would be, and she portrays the problem with the program as simply a public relations mistake: “We should have announced this with a lot more information. . . . I take full responsibility for not announcing this with more information.” People misunderstood what would happen, she now claims. The police won’t knock on doors and ask for permission to search homes, as she and the mayor said they would. Instead, they will, the Times wrote, “distribute search-consent forms but not ask to search homes.” Home searches will be “offered by appointment only at residents’ request,” wrote the Associated Press (, in an article published locally in the Examiner.

Lanier is making distinctions without a difference. The police will distribute search-consent forms, but they won’t ask to search homes? Then what will they do? Hand the forms to people while saying, “please don’t fill this out”? It’s certainly a little bit better than the initial proposal, in that the police may not be appearing at homes asking to be let in immediately to do searches. But giving people a little time to think it over, instead of seeking immediate entry, does not solve the basic problem with the program. If the mayor and the chief believe that it does, that shows they still don’t understand what’s fundamentally wrong with the “Home Safe” searches.

We live in a country in which the people secured for themselves, in the revolution that founded the country, the right to be safe and secure in their homes, free from the invasive gaze of government officials and legal authorities. People won for themselves, and guaranteed to their descendants, the right to privacy within their own dwellings, the right to bar the door even to those who would misuse their governmental power to demand entry. Some members of the city council and press who originally raised doubts about this program seem to have been reassured by Chief Lanier’s slight modifications to it. They shouldn’t be. A little coating of public relations sugar isn’t enough to make this poisonous medicine go down.

Councilmember Phil Mendelson’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary will hold a public oversight roundtable on the MPD’s “Safe Homes” initiative tomorrow, Monday, April 7, at 5:00 p.m., in the Council Chambers, Room 500 of the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. If you have anything to say about the initiative, this will be your chance.

Gary Imhoff


Great Open House
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The Nationals Ballpark was opened yesterday (Saturday, April 5) beginning at noon, as an Open House Day. I’m not sure how this was publicized, but those who are on the E-mail listing and/or had season tickets (Including partial season tickets) got an invitation via E-mail. It was certainly worth the visit. The whole stadium was up for visiting, including the executive suites and first class clubs. Food concessions were open on the main level and we enjoyed a Ben’s Chili Bowl half smoke for lunch. We managed to tour the entire park (except the clubhouse, which was not open to visitors) from the nosebleed section to the box seats behind home plate. It seemed, at 12:30, that there were fewer than a couple thousand folks there. Many may have come later, as the sun came out with warm weather.


What’s the Republican Budget?
Mitch Wander,

As a voter who is very interested in and willing to consider solutions from either political party, I’m not sure what to make of the posting “Mayor Fenty Forgets His Promise Not to Raise Taxes” by Paul Craney of the DC Republican Committee (themail, April 2).

Lobbing criticism at our elected leadership is easy.

I’d like to hear Paul Craney’s specific, constructive suggestions for balancing the budget that we, as residents, can compare to Mayor Fenty’s proposal.


Defender of Privilege?
Sue Hemberger, Friendship Heights,

Janney Elementary School currently ranks in the bottom third (68th out of 100) of DCPS elementary schools when you look at land per pupil. This is before DCPS implements its plan to increase the capacity of the school by seventy-five students more than are currently enrolled. Under these circumstances, arguing that none of the school’s land should be sacrificed to build an apartment or condo building on campus hardly strikes me as “an intricate defense of privilege in Tenley,” as Bill Coe suggests (themail, April 2). It’s a straightforward claim that public facilities needs, as defined by DCPS itself, should be met before public land is devoted to private use. And that’s a claim I’m happy to make (have made, in fact, in lobbying for reform of Title 10) citywide.

What’s at stake in Tenleytown is whether the Fenty administration will put kids or developers first when it makes decisions about the use of public land. None of the three submissions received in response to the RFP for this site provided the playground or multipurpose PE playing field space mandated under DCPS’s own educational specifications for an elementary school of this size. Such exterior facilities are every bit as important to elementary school education as interior facilities, and they are especially important/precious/scarce in urban environments.

So what will it be? Will developers get first crack at this site, with school facilities provided on whatever land is left over after a residential building is constructed? Or will Janney’s students get the facilities that DCPS says they need and are entitled to? And why on earth should the city’s most overcrowded elementary school be asked to sacrifice a chunk of its campus to housing in order to get its facilities needs met in the first place? This is a problem inherited from the previous administration, when the facilities modernization queue didn’t pay much attention to issues of overcrowding, but it’s one that the Fenty administration has not only a chance but also an obligation to remedy as school closures and takeovers increase enrollment pressures on remaining high-performing DCPS school like Janney.


Murch Blue Ribbon School Ceremony
Martha Saccocio,

I feel I must respond to Jonathan Rees’ posting [themail, April 2] about the recent ceremony at Murch celebrating the school’s Blue Ribbon Award. As a parent of three children who attend Murch, I have a different interpretation of Mayor Fenty’s and Chancellor Rhee’s attendance at this fun, school-wide event. This was a pep rally for the five hundred children who attend Murch. Having their mayor and other public officials come to their school to congratulate them on their achievement was a huge morale boost for these hardworking kids. All three of my children came home beaming about the event and about their school. They were proud and honored to host the mayor and others. It sent a strong message to these kids that they matter. The halls of Murch might not be the shiniest, fanciest digs in town, but it is a community that takes pride in what it has achieved. Go Mustangs!


Bill Coe,

Since I seem always to be on Gary Imhoff’s case about this or that opinion of his, let me speak now in praise of his views on two matters, the so-called Home Safe Program, and that silly motto invented to promote tourism in DC. Home Safe is an example of government perniciously at work for the benefit of us citizens. The program’s good intentions are a nice addition to the pavement on that legendary road to hell. It’s an excellent example of the bad bargain struck when free people trade away their privacy and personal independence for the promise of more safety or security. I’m not as worried about its effects as perhaps I should be, only because Home Safe probably will — when tested in court — be found unconstitutional. In my view, an unwarranted police search is not made more reasonable by leading it with a smile, nor does the absence of a battering ram constitute due process. On the other hand, since Washington is not one of the “several States,” maybe the courts will allow Home Safe to stand here (and here only), much as they might permit the continued enforcement of our highly dubious gun-control laws. If this occurs, our status as high-end colonists will, yet again, be affirmed.

I don’t know who came up with “Create Your Own Power Trip.” The slogan strikes me as dumb at best , and at worst, a shameless appeal to the very qualities of this capital city which folks in the heartland love to hate. Then again, what do I know about the sensibilities of those who twice saw fit to elect our current administration? Maybe they’ll be charmed by the suggestion that a trip to Washington reflects their individual power. Good luck to them, when they try to reconcile this notion with the need for an answer to that polite policeman standing, without a warrant, at their door.


Create Your Own Power Trip
Qawi Robinson,

Awww c’mon. I know you can think of some one liners and satire for that slogan [themail, April 2). Even WMATA wouldn’t use something like that. Come to think of it, are you sure that “create your own power trip” wasn’t Fenty’s 2006 election slogan or campaign promise? If that new slogan isn’t a sign of the times for 2008 in the Fenty Administration, I don’t know what is. For example: Nickels and the ousting of the Attorney General; DCPS’ new Rhee-ality with the closing of schools and firing of workers; Lanier’s Big Sister search and seizure; Nakamura’s scheduled and calculated leaks of information; abolishing the Taxicab Zones for the sake of making Congressional staffers happy; and now the implied installation of taxicab meters for ambulances.

Making matters worse, when I went to Destination DC’s web site,, I read such language as “‘Create your own power trip is our new call to action. It literally and figuratively takes the power of the city and puts it into the hands of the traveler,’ said Fenty. ‘DC may be seen as a government town, but tourism is our industry. The city has invested billions of dollars in new museums, restaurants, neighborhood development and a baseball stadium in the past few years. By working strategically to promote our city, we can introduce travelers to the energy that’s created here and generate more economic development for DC.’ Fifteen million visitors spend more than $5.2 billion in the District each year, generating more than $560 billion in tax dollars.” Invested billions, yet DCPS is overrun in its budget, and other agencies like CFSA and DCPL are working at a deficit. Even the neighborhood development is a joke, as it is not intended to keep the tried-and-true residents, a.k.a. the real taxpayers, here. As a lifelong District resident, I like the diversity of the tourism industry, but slowly but surely DC is becoming simply a destination. Not a place to live, but a tourist attraction for transient folks. And we can thank the tourism industry for that. No Gary, you were right for not finding satire in this. To find humor would be devastating.


Does the Mayor Need $2 Million to Create His Own Power Trip?
Paul D. Craney,

Mayor Adrian Fenty announced the city will unleash its latest marketing campaign, a two million dollar branding effort with the theme, “Create Your Own Power Trip,” run by Destination DC, 75 percent of whose funding comes from the Hotel Occupancy Tax. The ads include one with Mayor Adrian Fenty jogging in Rock Creek Park.

“Before the ink could dry in Mayor Fenty’s FY2009 budget which includes $100 million in new taxes and fees, the Mayor wants to use tax dollars to show the world just how fit he is. What really needs to be trimmed back is the financial burden he is placing on DC residents with new taxes and fees,” stated DC Republican Committee Chair Robert J. Kabel.


I Kinda Liked the Slogan (Duck!)
Star Lawrence,

I name products and write tag lines for a living, and someone called me with this one and said, “You will gag.” I didn’t.

Aren’t we sick yet of Capital Choice and tired puns like that? I used to like Visit Your Money (kidding). Oh, well, I hope the consulting company keeps the money. But that’s just me.


Tripping Powerfully
Peter Luger, lugerpj at yahoo dot com

“Create your own power trip” is funny and clever. It makes fun of DC’s political and power obsession, but isn’t a turn off. You’ve got plenty to criticize DC for, but don’t criticize for the sake of criticizing.



Special Education Report Release, April 8
Jeff Smith,

DC Voice and The Children’s Law Center will release a report on special education on Tuesday, April 8, at 9:30 a.m., on the steps of DC’s City Hall, the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. DC VOICE will reveal its findings from the 2007 Ready Schools Project Community Audit about the state of Special Education in DC Public Schools. Representatives will outline specific recommendations for Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee to better serve 11,000 District students with special needs, immediately preceding the city council’s budget hearing for DC Public Schools.

An overarching tenet of DC VOICE is that everyone in the community is needed to raise academic achievement. Consequently, the DC VOICE mission is to inform and mobilize the public to hold both the schools and the community accountable for providing high quality teaching and learning for all.


Smithsonian Craft Show, April 9-13
Jazmine Zick,

Come to the National Building Museum to discover delightful, one-of-a-kind and limited edition craft objects in twelve different media: basketry, ceramics, decorative fiber, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper, wearable art and wood. Preview night is Wednesday, April 9, 6:30-9:30 p.m., and the show will be open Thursday, 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. For ticket prices and more information, call the Smithsonian Craft Show Office at 888-832-9554 or visit


Cleveland Park Citizens Association, April 10
George Idelson,

The role of the National Mall in DC’s new “Center City Plan” is the subject of the next meeting of the Cleveland Park Citizens Association. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 10, 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Park Library. Speakers will include Richard H. Bradley, Executive Director of the Downtown Business Improvement District; Judy Scott Feldman, Ph.D., Chair, National Coalition to Save Our Mall; Peter May, Associate Director for Lands, Resources and Planning, National Capital Regional National Park; and Particia Zingsheim, Associate Director for Revitalization and Design, DC Office of Planning, and Program Manager of the Center City Action Agenda 2008.

Despite the economic slowdown, downtown Washington is humming, and city planners and groups such as the Downtown BID are seeking ways to keep up the momentum. DC’s “Center City Action Agenda 2008” targets the area north and south of the National Mall for major residential and commercial development. This could become the next great economic engine for the city. With the National Mall at the heart of this area, the Mall’s urgent need for coordinated planning, better access, parking, and visitor improvements can no longer be ignored by city officials or the Congress. The National Coalition to Save Our Mall has called for a new “McMillan Commission” and a vision for an expanded, twenty-first century mall, serving tourists, residents and city growth. As the “new center city” emerges, two initiatives are underway: A National Mall Conservancy has been founded by the Coalition, and the National Park Service is developing a National Mall Plan for the next fifty years. Find out more on April 10, and voice your ideas on the future of Washington’s downtown and the Mall.


Historical Society of Washington Film Series, April 12
Karen Sallis,

Saturday, April 12, 2:00 p.m. Film series: Congressman Robert Smalls: a Patriot’s Journey from Slavery to Capitol Hill 2006, USA, 55 minutes. As part of the of DC Emancipation Day activities, we proudly present the documentary, Congressman Robert Smalls. This film captures the spirit of American pathos — strong work ethic, rags-to-riches, and strong patriotism. with the subject line Robert Smalls or call 383-1828.


Women’s Leadership Symposium, April 12
Ann Carper,

A sneak preview of “Frontrunner,” a ninety-minute documentary about Dr. Massouda Jalal, the first woman to run for president of Afghanistan, by award-winning filmmaker Virginia Williams, kicks off the day-long event. Sponsored by the Washington Wellesley Club, the symposium addresses the groundbreaking and sometimes daring work of women from around the world who are front and center as political leaders, social advocates, and public servants. Speakers/panelists include filmmaker Virginia Williams, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Zoe Bush (Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia), Mkawasi Mcharo Hall (Kenyan Community Abroad), Alyse Nelson Bloom (Vital Voices), Katherine Marshall (Georgetown Berkley Center), Henrietta Holsman Fore (USAID), and Alan Schechter (Wellesley professor and a keen observer of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s political development).

The symposium will be held on Saturday, April 12, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., in Letelier Theater, 3251 Prospect Street, NW, Courtyard/upper level. The fee is $50 if not affiliated with the Washington Wellesley Club. RSVP and advance payment are required to


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