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April 20, 2008


Dear Mantlers:

It’s becoming clear that when Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee talk about “reforming” the public education system, they really mean dismantling it. On April 17, V. Dion Haynes wrote on the Washington Post’s DC Wire blog the most accurate assessment of Fenty’s and Rhee’s initiatives that has appeared in that newspaper to date: “Hey, it’s all about the marketing” ( Well, to be more accurate, Haynes’ article only appeared in the blog online; it’s too honest to have been printed in the dead trees edition. Haynes wrote his blog entry the day before Rhee unveiled her “Partnership Schools Initiative,” a pilot program to spin off ten of DC’s most troubled schools to be run by contractors (, and Haynes accurately noted that in Rhee-speak, “partner” is the euphemism for “contractor.”

The plan is becoming clearer. DC’s public schools are to be the new profit center for contractors. School maintenance and renovation, school food service, and school transportation are all going to be contracted out. Charter schools are going to be run by their charter school boards, many schools are going to be closed, and most of the remaining schools are going to be run by educational contracting companies. Okay, but that leaves a big question. If educational policy is supposed to be set by the State Board of Education and the State Education Officer, if the Deputy Mayor for Education has a large office to manage the schools, and if most of the schools are going to be closed, spun off as charters, or managed by contractors, why do we need Michelle Rhee and the crew of her friends whom she has hired in the Chancellor’s office at inflated salaries? Why don’t we just replace them with a few contracting officers, at a more reasonable price?

Gary Imhoff


Is It Time for the Paper Bags?
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Attendance at the Nationals’ ball games is dropping off despite the good weather lately. The Pope was a real draw. I wonder if he could play second base.

If the Nationals don’t start hitting and scoring runs, fans will be coming to the ball park with paper bags over their heads lest they be identifiable. It’s clear that the Nationals can draw fans. They have had some good crowds, but when the bloom is off the rose and the novelty of the new stadium has been witnessed by a lot of folks who will be coming to only one or two games, the attendance figures could be terrible. They might even have fewer folks than are currently going to the Baltimore Angelos’ games at Camden Yards. My observation, after only three games at the new ball park, is that there are very few minorities attending the games. This, despite the fact that there are some very good minority ball players on the team. The new owners have to work on this.


You Are So Lucky to Have Cabs
Star Lawrence,

Settle down, I hate it too when people tell me how lucky I am to have this or that. But since leaving DC, I am in cab hell in Arizona. Smoke-soaked messes with holes in the floorboards and the street whizzing underneath. I miss sticking out my arm and going someplace. I think it would help in the comic and economic relief department, at least, if DC had a “Cash Cab” like that guy on TV. That way, you guys could pick up a few bucks and maybe get a free ride. The host/cabdriver could say, “Do you feel lucky?” when you get in.


Slots: An Update
Dorothy Brizill,

On Saturday, May 3, Law Day, a three-judge panel in the Supreme Court of Guam will hear oral arguments in the case of John Baldwin and Guam Greyhound, Inc., v. Dorothy Brizill (CVA07-021). The lawsuit was brought in Guam, by slots promoter John Baldwin, against twenty unnamed John Does and me in August 2006. Baldwin, as you may recall, was one of the individuals from the Virgin Islands who tried, unsuccessfully, to get a slots initiative on the ballot in the District in 2004 and 2006. The detailed history of those initiatives can be found at and

For several years, Baldwin, who has since moved his business headquarters to the Northern Marianas islands in the South Pacific, has tried unsuccessfully to get a slots initiative approved in Guam. In 2006, he filed a voter initiative in Guam that was virtually identical to the DC initiative. In the course of researching Baldwin and his business activities, residents of Guam contacted me after locating information about his DC efforts through an Internet search. In an effort to correct misinformation that Baldwin’s attorney was disseminating in Guam,, I sent an E-mail to Guam press outlets ( and participated in a radio interview that detailed what happened in DC and referred Guam residents to the findings of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics and the DC Court of Appeals, as well as to newspaper stories published in the Washington Post and the Washington Times. Within three days after my radio interview, Baldwin filed a lawsuit against me; Jackie Marati, one of the leaders of the Guam anti-slots citizen movement, and twenty unnamed John Does ( The complaint sought compensatory and punitive damages for defamation, tortuous interference with business advantage, and invasion of privacy.

It was clear that the purpose of the lawsuit was to silence Baldwin’s critics in Guam, and to punish and bankrupt me for aborting his DC initiatives. It is also clear that the complaint is a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit, an abusive technique often used by wealthy business interests to intimidate ordinary people from opposing them in the public arena. Fortunately, Guam has a strong anti-SLAPP statute immunizing “acts in furtherance of the Constitutional right to petition, including seeking relief, influencing action, informing, communicating, and otherwise participating in the processes of government.” Guam’s Superior Court held that Baldwin’s lawsuit was a SLAPP suit. Judge Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, in July 2007, issued a ruling that “defendant [Dorothy Brizill] is immune from suit under the Guam Participation in Government Act. Plaintiff herein has failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that the alleged statements of defendant, Dorothy Brizill, were not aimed at procuring any electoral or government action, result, or outcome” ( Baldwin’s appeal of his suit’s dismissal is the subject of the May 3 Supreme Court hearing.

Since 2006, I’ve had the good fortune to be represented in this case by Art Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area. Because the ACLU does not have an office in Guam, Spitzer was able to secure the local assistance of Guam attorney Jeffrey A. Cook.


Nerd Alert: Myself on 20/20
Paul K. Williams,

I had my fifteen minutes of fame on 20/20 last night:


My One Piece of Good News
Carolyn Long,

Gary says (themail, April 16) he’s “begging for good news,” for any sort of positive story about Washington. So here’s one that I thought was going to result in a disastrous and insoluble muddle, and turned out showing great courtesy on the part of some government officials.

I was in New Orleans for the entire month of March. I’d been there for a week or so when my house sitter called and said I had a letter from the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. I asked her to open it and read it to me over the phone. The letter was titled “Notice of Unlawful Activity at xxxx North Capitol Street, NW,” and went on to say that as a result of a search warrant, police had found and seized crack cocaine, marijuana, and narcotics paraphernalia, and arrested two people. The letter alleged that I own the property. I immediately wrote a reply to Mr. Barry Wiegard, the Assistant US Attorney who signed the letter, assuring him that they had the wrong Carolyn Long, and that the only property I own is in Tenleytown. I requested that he call my cell phone to tell me that the matter had been resolved. I never got the call.

When I returned home in early April, there was a registered letter from the US Attorney’s Office, and I soon received another letter from Mr. Twane Duckworth of the Attorney General’s Office for the District of Columbia. At this point I decided I’d better go downtown and see about this. My husband and I called on Barry Wiegard at 555 4th Street, and, after going through security and having our photographs taken, we were directed to a waiting area. In a few minutes, Mr. Wiegard appeared and escorted us to his office. As soon as I introduced myself, he apologized for the mistake, said that he had not received my letter because all mail to the US Attorney’s Office is sent away somewhere to be irradiated. He promised to clear everything up and to notify Mr. Duckworth. As promised, Mr. Wiegard sent me a letter clearing me of all association with the crack house on North Capitol Street. I also got a phone call from Mr. Duckworth, saying that! the problem had been resolved and apologizing for inconveniencing me.



Something Positive to Celebrate: Earth Day, April 21
Sue Ostroff,

Gary Imhoff, in themail (April 16), asked for “something positive” from readers. As we approach Earth Day, I have a suggestion. By all means, visit the DC Earth Day fest at Freedom Plaza on Monday, April 21, and urge the powers-that-be to replant the cat-o’-nine-tails and water lilies that formerly populated neighboring Pershing Park when it first opened in the ’80’s. (Here’s good news — they have turned the water and fountain back on.)

Here’s another positive thought: if you want mental healing, hang out in a community garden, anywhere in the city, at 7 a.m. As the February Urban Gardeners’ Forum can attest, there are a growing number of them. Even if you don’t have a plot, strolling through one and listening to the large variety of birds at that hour can make you feel right with the world. (Don’t bring in your pets. Not only do DC Parks and Recreation rules disallow them, their wastes are not wanted by vegetable eaters due to e coli, will kill trees, and the barking will disturb the peace.) I had ten mallard duck eggs appear under comfrey greens in my garden last spring. (It had a sad ending; the raccoons ate all of them. Oh well, life can’t be all happy. A new season, new ideas to try next time.)


Green DC Day, April 21
Candace McCrae,

Our nation’s capital is going green, and the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is leading the way. In celebration of Earth Day, DDOE is hosting Green DC Day on Monday, April 21, on Freedom Plaza in northwest Washington, DC. Green DC Day is designed to promote green living and a healthy environment. Green DC Day kicks off a full week of Earth Day events taking place across the city. Please join us between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to celebrate the District’s going green efforts.

Nearly one hundred District agencies, organizations and businesses will participate to educate residents about the importance of preserving our environment and using energy wisely. Exhibitors include Home Depot, DC Greenworks, DC Department of Public Works, the Environmental Protection Agency, US Green Building Council, Rainforest Bus, Segway, and Zipcar, to name a few.

Exciting green events will take place throughout the day, such as a green fashion show and an 11:00 a.m. going green press conference at which Mayor Adrian Fenty has been invited to give remarks on the environmental progress in the District. For more information or a list of Earth Day events, please visit


State Board of Education Hearings, April 23, 30
Beverley Wheeler,

The DC State Board of Education (SBOE) will be hosting a series of public hearings on issues critical to education in the District of Columbia. Wednesday, April 23, the State Board of Education will hold a public hearing to gather the public’s views on the proposed academic standards for the arts: dance, music, theater, and the visual arts. The text of the proposed arts standards can be found on the Office of the State Superintendent web site,

Wednesday, April 30, the State Board will hold a public hearing to gather the public’s views on the proposed policies for Supplemental Education Service providers. Supplemental Education Services are after school instructional programs designed to increase the achievement of eligible students in schools in need of improvement. The text of the proposed policies will be located on the Office of the State Superintendent web site,, and the State Board of Education web site,, on Monday, April 21.

All SBOE public hearings are held in the First Floor Chambers at One Judiciary Square, 441 Fourth Street, NW, and begin at 5:30 p.m. If you are interested in testifying, contact Beverley Wheeler, Executive Director, at 741-0888, by fax at 741-0879, or via E-mail at, and provide your name, address, telephone number, organizational affiliation, and title (if any) by 4:00 p.m. the Monday before the hearing. Those who wish to testify are encouraged, but not required, to submit fifteen copies of written testimony.


Conversation on Immigration Issues, April 24
Julie Drizin,

The Immigrants Next Door: What’s Fair? Join NPR host Michel Martin for a lively conversation with George Taplin, leader of the Virginia Minutemen, and Annabel Park and Eric Byler, local documentary filmmakers who have been covering the conflict over immigration in our region. Clips of their film 9500 Liberty will be shown. Thursday, April 24, at 7:15 p.m. at the Washington Ethical Society, 7750 16th Street, NW at Kalmia. Ample street parking. $15; $10 for students and seniors. For more information, go to or call 882-6650.

This is event is part of Spark!, the ThinkingOutLoud Speaker series, which offers compelling conversations that go beyond the headlines to illuminate new ideas and explore all sides of an issue. DC resident Michel Martin is the host of Tell Me More, a news interview program heard on WAMU 88.5 FM weekdays at 2:00 p.m.


Great Gatsby Book Talk, May 8
Beth Meyer,

Jackson R. Bryer and Cathy W. Barks, co-editors of Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, will give a talk on “F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby” on Thursday, May 8, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Cleveland Park Branch of the DC Public Library, Connecticut and Macomb Streets, NW. A book sale and signing of Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda, courtesy of the Trover Shop, will follow the program. They will talk about the Fitzgerald’s marriage and how the complexities of that relationship are reflected in The Great Gatsby. This event is part of DC’s “Big Read.”

Mr. Bryer is the Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Maryland, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in American literature and dramatic literature for forty-one years. He is the co-founder and current president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society and has authored several books about F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ms. Barks is the Associate Director of the University Honors Program at the University of Maryland, where she teachers American Literature. She is a member of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society’s board of directors and compiles the annual Fitzgerald bibliography for the Fitzgerald Review.

The Cleveland Park Branch of the DC Public Library is located near the Cleveland Park Metrorail Station. All District of Columbia Public Library activities are open to the public free of charge. For further information, please call the Cleveland Park Library at 282-3080.


Jazz Concert: The Afro-Semitic Experience, May 17
Glen Howard,

A special concert of jazz featuring Cantor Laura Croen, David Cevan on bass, and Warren Byrd on piano: The Afro-Semitic Experience, will be given on Saturday, May 17, 7:30 p.m., at Temple Sinai, 3100 Military Road, NW. There will be a dessert reception after the show. Tickets are $25 each. For more information, call 363-6394.


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