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May 11, 2008


Dear Improvers:

Karen Loeschner asks a fair question in her message in this issue of themail. Regarding the schools and public education, she asks, “What does ‘improvement’ look like to DC residents?” She’s wondering what measure of educational improvement, in what length of time, would satisfy critics of Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee. I’m not the right person to answer that question. To clarify the situation for Karen, who writes that she hasn’t been in the city that long, Mayor Fenty never even hinted that he wanted a mayoral takeover of the schools during the election campaign. He didn’t reveal that until after he was elected. Fenty’s campaign to abolish the power of the elected Board of Education and to centralize all power regarding schools in the office of the mayor took place after he assumed office. His main argument, as I have written many times, was that the three or so years that Superintendent Janey said he needed for his plans to show educational results was too long, and that if the mayor were given the power Fenty would improve the schools in a much shorter time.

I’ve been skeptical all along. I never thought that Fenty could improve the education provided to DC school children in less than three years. But he did convince a lot of people, including a supermajority of the members of the city council, that he could. So I’d like for anyone who supported Fenty’s takeover to try to answer Karen’s question. What kind of improvement did you expect to take place in less than three years? Or did you not believe the promise, but support the takeover anyway for other reasons?

A commenter who wants to remain anonymous suggested that I was wrong in the last issue of themail when I wrote that, “The $100,000 grant to the Reeves Recovery Group, Inc., drew the comment that in making this earmark Councilmember Jim Graham was giving funds to his own personal recovery group (a connection that the commenter said was no AA secret, since the councilmember himself had publicized his membership in the group in the past).” The commenter wrote that Reeves Recovery Group is commercial rehabilitation group, with no connection to Alcoholics Anonymous, and that AA groups are self-sufficient and take no contributions from outside sources. I’ll admit that the sentence was inartfully written, if anyone inferred from it that Reeves Recovery Group was an AA group. I was merely referring to the secrecy that may accompany membership in a rehabilitation program by relating it to the anonymity that is embodied in the very name of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Gary Imhoff


Chaos at BOEE?
Dorothy Brizill,

This is an election year. On September 9 the District will hold a congressional and council primary election and on November 4 a presidential, congressional, council, and ANC general election. That’s a good reason to be concerned that two senior managers at the District’s Board of elections and Ethics (BOEE) — Alice Miller and William O’Field — will be leaving their positions in early June. Their departures could have an adverse impact on BOEE’s ability to conduct the fall elections efficiently and effectively.

On Friday, BOEE issues a press release announcing that Alice Miller, the BOEE’s Executive Director for the past twelve years, was leaving to become the Chief Operating Officer of the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) ( Miller’s departure is scheduled for June 2, and the BOEE has indicated that it will appoint an acting director to oversee the preparations for the fall elections. While the formal announcement came on Friday, it had been widely known for months that Miller was planning to leave. Last fall, she moved out of the District, and rumors surfaced that she was applying for a variety of positions, including seeking an election post in Illinois. The final push for Miller apparently came when the BOEE and she were severely criticized for the administrative problems evident during the February presidential primary. When the Fenty administration offered a generous “early/easy out” incentive, Miller decided earlier this year to vacate her position.

William “Bill” O’Field is the press and public information officer for BOEE. This position has become increasingly important given the unwillingness of the three members of the Board to speak with or interact with the press and general public. He is also currently responsible for recruiting and training pollworkers, who are critical for the successful management of any election. After the Fenty administration announced the “early/easy out” initiative in December, O’Field informed the BOEE by the February 28 deadline that he would be retiring on June 1 to explore other opportunities. In the intervening months, however, neither Miller nor the Board has conducted a search for a replacement, posted his position, or trained a current BOEE employee in either the public information officer or poll worker training parts of his job. In a statement released today, O’Field states that, “It has been an honor to have been employed by the District government for the past twenty-six years. I am grateful for the opportunities given to me.”


ANC Collaborative Network
Ryan Velasco, ANC 6C07 Commissioner,

Whether you’re a new ANC commissioner learning to navigate the maze of DC government, a seasoned commissioner with knowledge to share, or a citizen hoping to improve your ANC and community, we hope you will use our new Google group as a primary community resource to contribute to the political process. No ANC should function as an island. We need to think beyond the boundaries of our Single Member Districts to build cross-commission relationships to tackle the collective issues facing our neighborhoods.

Some goals of this group for the immediate future include initiating an inter-commission dialogue to identify issues surrounding the delivery of government programs and services; establishing a forum to promote civic organizations, community organizing, and community events citywide, through monthly ANC meetings and processes; and developing standard operating procedures for the effective management of our commissions and for improved communication with DC offices and agencies.

If you are interested in joining, please e-mail me directly at


Council Votes on Earmarks and Pork
Dorothy Brizill,

On Tuesday, the city council’s Committee of the Whole will consider and vote on the FY2009 Budget Request Act, Bill 17-679, and the FY2009 Budget Support Act, Bill 17-678. During the past week, councilmembers have held closed-door meetings on how to cut $35.4 million from the proposed budget in order to respond to the revised revenue projections for fiscal year 2009 from Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi. On Tuesday, the issue for citizens is a simple one: will the council close the budget deficit by cutting government programs and personnel, or will it instead scrap the millions in pork and earmarks currently buried in the budget?

For your information, last week the Washington Post wrote an editorial about the “questionable budgetary practice” of earmarks,, and Washington City Paper’s Loose Lips detailed how “the pork barrel rolls” at the Wilson Building, with a focus on how Ward One Councilman Jim Graham has mastered “the porkly arts,”


Vocational Schools
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The news that DC Public Schools will actively support and create some vocational schools is very good new for a lot of students in the system, who will reap benefits from learning practical skills that will enable them to earn a decent living. Courses that interest these students will encourage them to come to, and stay in, school until they graduate. These schools, while teaching technical courses, both theory and practical hands-on training, must also teach some courses in reading, writing, and enough math to make students proficient in keeping books. No need for calculus in most professions.

Courses in automotive maintenance (with electronics specialties), electronics and computers, and carpentry/home building with electrical wiring and plumbing options should be considered for the new schools and classes. My own high school aeronautical education was at Brooklyn Tech, where I learned theory (aerodynamics and structures) and then practiced in foundry, machine shop, engine shop, and welding. Students in the architectural course at Tech actually built a complete two-story, three-bedroom home (right inside the school’s big shop). The next class then took it apart.

It would be most helpful for the DCPS to partner with local businesses (building contractors, automotive maintenance shops, electrical shops, etc.) both for help in developing the courses and also in providing internships to students.


DCPS Excessed Teachers Get Little Help on the Road to School Reform
Candi Peterson,

Excessed DCPS teachers from our closing and restructured schools showed up to the first in a series of teacher transfer fairs on Saturday, May 10, at Eastern Senior High School, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. As a Washington Teachers Union Board of Trustees member, I took the opportunity to attend the afternoon session of the transfer fair. It was a challenge for me to gain entry, given that my name was not among the list of those teachers and related school personnel from closing and restructured schools. I like many others were asked to show my ID. When I indicated that I was a WTU Board of Trustee member and flashed my business card, inquiry was made at the security checkpoint whether I was coming to the transfer fair as an observer. I nodded in agreement that I was. Checkpoint staff advised me that I would need an escort to walk down a flight of stairs to the transfer event, which I readily accepted.

At first glance, I noticed that there were approximately one hundred forty schools listed on the Excel spreadsheet that was provided to potential applicants, outlining school vacancies for positions ranging from teachers of varying specialties to special education coordinators. Although one hundred forty schools were on the list to interview potential applicants, approximately forty-four schools were conspicuously absent for reasons unclear to all of those in attendance. Many teachers who inquired about the “absent schools” were advised to leave their resumes and told that someone would be in contact with them later.

I took the opportunity to speak with as many teachers as I could. I saw looks on my teacher colleagues’ faces that ranged from worry, fear, disappointment, depression, and confusion to frustration, even pain. Even without knowing me, teachers welcomed the opportunity to speak candidly with me. Many wondered what would happen to them if they did not get selected for a position. Some spoke of wanting to follow their students, while others grappled with their own uncertain futures — with college tuition yet to pay, ailing and aging parents, and the fiscal responsibilities of day-to-day life. The hard-core reality is that mid-level to senior teachers just might get overlooked by a reformed school system that favors younger, teachers under age forty. Principals can buy two inexperienced and uncertified teachers for the price of one experienced, certified one. It seemed to me that all they were asking for is a little help from our school system , now on the road to reform. After all, these are the same people who held our system together when for many years DCPS jumped from one educational bandwagon to another, changed superintendents every two-and-a-half years, lacked a long term educational strategic plan, was consistently under funded, failed to provide appropriate professional staff development, lacked high quality leadership, and disregarded the input from our most critical stakeholders — our teachers and related school personnel? On Channel 4 Reporters Notebook today, Jerry Phillips commented that Chairman Vincent Gray told him that despite all the closings of schools and staff terminations, DCPS still isn’t saving any money.

Without your help, students in DC Public Schools will lose many excellent teachers, school counselors, and principals. Staff morale is at an all time low. We face a challenge without an educational strategic plan from Mayor Fenty and School Chancellor Rhee. Once again DCPS students need the help of all parents and community members. Please join me in an E-mail letter writing campaign to DC City Council Chairman Vincent Gray at, as well as to all of the members of the DC city council and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton at to demand that DCPS save our teachers and counselors now. We owe it to the children.


What Does Improvement Look Like?
Karen Loeschner,

[In the last issue of themail, I replied to a message by Karen Loeschner, “The reason that people complain about the amount of time is that Mayor Fenty said he wanted to take over the school system because improvement was taking too long under the Board of Education. He promised that if he were given control he would ensure that the schools improved rapidly. Now the mayor and Chancellor Rhee are saying that it will take just as long, or even longer, to see any measurable improvement as it would have under the previous, democratically elected Board of Education. That means that Fenty’s stated rationale for the power grab was false.” She continues the discussion below. — Gary Imhoff]

Fair enough. I was not here to witness the campaign promises. However — and again, I am no fan of Fenty — it’s pretty common to find that the problems one promised to fix, be they in a house or a failing business or a deficient school system, are far more extensive once the repair work begins. So I respectfully submit my question to you again, albeit no longer rhetorically: what kind of successes [did] people realistically expect to see in less than one year?

I’m not trying to be argumentative; I’m genuinely curious. Because “measurable improvement” in education is almost always synonymous with “test scores,” surely the public can’t expect DCCAS point increases within months of the school takeover? So if not that, what? What does “improvement” look like to DC residents?


Klingle Road: The 17-Year Battle Continues
Jack McKay,

The passions aroused by Klingle Road are truly astounding. On May 8, Councilmembers Graham, Cheh, and Bowser endured a grueling five hours of Klingle Road testimony, ending just a few minutes before midnight. Little has changed; the advocates are furious that their beloved road remains unbuilt, while the opponents defend their woodland valley against the assault of automobiles. Councilmember Cheh is firmly opposed to the road, which would lie entirely within her ward. Councilmembers Graham and Bowser just as adamantly support the road, which many of their constituents view as a traffic-bypassing route to Woodley Park and Georgetown.

There was, perhaps, one new development in this ancient dispute. In 2006, the “Tregaron Limited Partnership” won Historic Preservation approval of a subdivision of the Tregaron Estate, adjoining Klingle Road, for the construction of single-family homes. Five of these houses would be along the portion of Klingle Road that is currently closed, and the lawyer representing the Partnership was quite displeased at the prospect of the road remaining closed. Nobody, he said, would want houses that they couldn’t drive their cars to.

It seems to me that this development substantially increases the harm that would be done to this extraordinary section of Rock Creek National Park by the rebuilding of Klingle Road. Not only would the peace and quiet of this spot be ruined by automobile traffic, and pedestrian and bicycle use rendered impractical in the face of that traffic, but at least part of this woodland valley would be transformed into just another residential street.


Richard Layman,

About eighteen months ago, I wrote a document about cultural policy in DC. It’s online in this entry of my blog: It specifically covers the issue of earmarks to the arts. The issue isn’t that DC doesn’t spend enough money — the city certainly spends more money that other cities, and even more than the State of Maryland — it is that like Gary and Mike Licht have pointed out [themail, May 7], there isn’t an open and transparent system that starts out with a base set of criteria and priorities.

Of course, to have priorities, it would help if the city had a real Cultural Resources Development and Management Plan, and a Tourism Development and Management Plan. Then it would be possible to make decisions and judgments that, if not logical, are at least comparable. For example, some people wrote to themail complaining about DC’s providing funding to the Ford’s Theater, which is federally owned. I’m not necessarily against that, because the theater is a significant cultural resource, and a student and visitor attraction. With the current system, we can’t compare and rate proposals and options.

Without a master plan, a set of criteria for making grants, a formal process for seeking grants, and an open and transparent process for awarding grants, likely a lot less gets accomplished in a substantive and focused way than would be accomplished if the process were open and competitive.


Earmarks in Mt. Pleasant
Laurie Ballenger,

This past Tuesday, ANC1D (Mt. Pleasant) passed a resolution, by a three to two vote, to support a Jim Graham-sponsored grant of $100,000 in DC taxpayer dollars to The Responsible Hospitality Partnership of Mt. Pleasant (RHAMP) a new nonprofit created and controlled by one of the ANC Commissioners. RHAMP has been controversial in the community since its inception. No prior notice of this proposed resolution was posted on ANC1D’s web site, which did not even include an agenda for the May 6 meeting. The ANC Commissioner whose nonprofit would receive this grant did not recuse himself from the vote and, since the vote was three to two, he in fact cast the deciding vote in favor of it. This same commissioner then trumpeted alleged widespread community support for this resolution to Councilmember Graham. (see the exchange at

As the Council vote on this proposed grant would occur next week, the community was afforded little opportunity for real input. At no point was detailed information provided to the public regarding how said ANC Commissioner and the RHAMP group he controls propose to spend such a vast sum of taxpayer dollars.

One hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. That amount could fund neighborhood playground refurbishments; streetscape improvements to Mt. Pleasant Street and its community center, Lamont Park; initiatives at Bancroft elementary; and many other tangible noncontroversial community benefits to Mt. Pleasant, which would help the community to move past the live music controversies of the past year. But due to the perniciousness of the earmark process, it appears that a single Mt. Pleasant civic group is attempting to corral DC taxpayer monies without sufficient notice, explanation, or oversight.


Schwartz Doesn’t Do Earmarks
Denise Wiktor,

Gary, you mentioned in your introduction to themail [May 7] about earmarks being sent to other Committees, and named two that were sent to the Committee Carol Schwartz chairs. The several earmarks sent to the Committee, including the two you mentioned, were rejected. Councilmember Schwartz does not do earmarks and she doesn’t accept earmarks “passed through” her committee.


Cab Drivers
Carolyn Long,

I would like to add another major complaint to the list submitted by Katrina Lee in themail of Wednesday, May 7. Most DC cab drivers don’t know their way around the city outside of the core downtown tourist areas. On the occasions when I take a cab to my home in Tenleytown, in northwest Washington, I have to tell the driver exactly how to get there. Calling a cab to pick me up at home is even worse — the driver arrives as much as an hour late, presumably because he couldn’t find my address (the exception is Red Top of Virginia, but they only do airport trips, not other DC destinations).

I spend a lot of time in New Orleans, where I stay in a residential neighborhood, not at a hotel that would be well known to cab drivers. I have the phone number for United Cab programmed into my cell phone. United arrives within five minutes, and the drivers know the city and never need directions.


Will the DC Council Represent Us?
Dennis Moore,

By most legislative and accountability standards, the District of Columbia city council has a shaky record representing DC citizens. Whether it is public school mismanagement, rookie schools chancellor planning, or the spillover of expanded youth crime, bad times expose the facade of good times in the District. MPD police officers have now become scapegoats with the responsibility of cleaning up the school violence and truancy mess fertilized by DC officials.

Having elected these publicly paid employees of District taxpayers, we have settled for lackluster checks and balances on mayoral overreach and incompetence from Adrian Fenty. Nearly two years since his election, the smiling door-knocking mayoral candidate became an autocrat with no comprehension or respect for genuine transparency. True democracy for public school parents became the doormat Mayor Fenty wipes his jogging shoes on.

If Mr. Fenty isn’t put in check and balanced by our councilmembers, then Home Rule is nothing more than a cruel joke, where citizens are the punch line. Our dwindling tax dollars are funneled through a shell game budget process resulting in broken DCPS deadlines, thinning resources, projected budget shortfalls and demoralized teachers. Parents and children are trapped in the chaos of corruption and mismanagement. We wait for our elected representatives to do the right thing. This week is the moment of truth for every single councilmember. Perhaps they will break their usual pattern of mayoral appeasement and remember they were elected to fully represent our interests. If they have forgotten, then we have to help them remember in November. Election Day 2008 happens locally too.


The US Economy Will Rain on the Fenty Administration’s Party
Jonathan R. Rees,

The District of Columbia used to be a place that was recession proof, but it is no longer. The US Department of Labor has released a report about current trends in the unemployment rate nationwide, and those figures are higher in the District of Columbia. Three things in this new report are a bit shocking: 1) unemployment continues to climb and probably will do so through 2010; 2) 80 percent of the people being laid off are white males (under 40); and 3) women are not finding it hard to obtain a new or better job, but men are struggling upwards of fifteen to thirty-six months.

These figures are higher in the District of Columbia, and will have a big impact upon income generated by the government of the District of Columbia and its 2010 budget. What will be troubling for the Fenty Administration and Fenty’s campaign to be reelected in 2010 is: 1) Fenty has placed all of his eggs in one basket — education; 2) Fenty has no real plan for anything else as far as running the government of the District of Columbia is concerned; 3) Fenty is clueless in dealing with matters of economics and the upcoming tax shortfalls; 4) the people who are being hurt by the weakened economy are those who supported him in the last election (young, white males); and 5) as more and more people in DC feel the pinch, they will want change. Voters will blame Fenty in part for their suffering, come to realize that all he has done implement things that were started by previous administrations, and find that his school takeover plan was a farce when our children are doing no better.


May 2008 InTowner
P.L. Wolfe,

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

The next issue will publish on June 13 (the second Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “City’s Alcohol Board Allows Live Music and Dancing for Two Mt. Pleasant Restaurants Previously Prohibited — Very Few Objections”; 2) “U Street Neighbors Plant Trees, Tend to Vermont Ave. Median”; 3) “Kalorama Village Inaugural Event Set for May 20th.”



Redeveloping the Philadelphia Waterfront, May 14
Jazmine Zick,

Wednesday, May 14, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Smart Growth: Philadelphia’s Central Delaware Riverfront Vision Plan. Harris M. Steinberg, FAIA, executive director of Penn Praxis, presents his involvement in redeveloping a seven-mile stretch of the blighted and inaccessible Philadelphia waterfront. Free. Registration not required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


How We Are Smarter Than Me, May 17
Barbara Conn,

Whether you have contributed to a definition on Wikipedia or placed a phone call to help select the next American Idol contest winner, you are a member of a distributed team of people — a team that most likely numbers in the thousands or even millions. Mass collaboration is changing how we work and process information. It will play a major role in how we compete in the global marketplace and how we will determine the world’s next rising stars, in the arts, in politics, and in other fields. During this interactive discussion, Julia Loughran, President of ThoughtLink, Inc., will highlight some of the key points of Don Tapscott’s book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything and provide additional examples of how this phenomenon is cropping up in all types of domains.

Gather your colleagues and friends, and your questions, and bring them to this Saturday, May 17, 1:00 p.m., gathering of the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group (E&C SIG). These monthly events are free and open to all. This month’s event is at the Cleveland Park Branch Library (first floor large meeting room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Newark Streets), just over a block south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail Station on the Red Line. For more information about the event, the speaker, and CPCUG (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization), visit To RSVP, send an E-mail to


Internet Safety Seminar at Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, May 22
Beth Meyer,

Gregory S. Smith, author of How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers, will give an Internet safety seminar for parents on Thursday, May 22, at 6:30 p.m., in the first floor auditorium of the Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, Connecticut and Macomb Streets, NW. A book sale and signing of How to Protect Your Children on the Internet, courtesy of the Trover Shop, will follow the program.

Mr. Smith will give a talk about the risks of going online for today’s children and how to mitigate those risks so their children will have a great experience on the Internet. He’ll offer a frank discussion of today’s risks including sexual predators, inappropriate content, and personal data protection to parents of children between the ages of 8 and 18. Mr. Smith is Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Information and Technology at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, DC, and Adjunct Professor in the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education Graduate Programs at Johns Hopkins University.

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.


Roundtable Discussion on Buried Munitions in Spring Valley, May 29
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. The US Army has spent nearly $150 million in the cleanup of contaminated properties and the disposal of chemical munitions. District residents, decision makers and others continue to be concerned that a larger cleanup is necessary and that the health and safety of District residents continue 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 featuring Dan Noble, Spring Valley Project Manager representing the US Army Corps of Engineers; Steve Hirsch, Spring Valley Project Manager representing the EPA; and other local stakeholders. The event begins at noon and will end at 2:00 p.m. It will be held at Friends of the Earth, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 600. For more information, call 222-0754.



Deborah C. Fort,

I am looking for a three-hour-a-week garden helper for the summer. I live in Tenleytown. Last year’s helper is still at college; her replacement now has a full-time job and is about to be married. I pay $15 per hour; the time is flexible. Strong hands and a willingness to weed are the requirements.



Carpenter and Handyman
Deborah C. Fort,

I would again like to recommend carpenter and handyman Marcotulio Orellana and his company “The Home Doctor,” cell phone 240-793-0568. Marcos, who is licensed, bonded, and insured, finished our restoration years ago that had been begun by a crooked contractor and half finished by his nice subcontractors until they too walked off the job. Marcos, whose English is excellent, has done many jobs for us since then. He has also worked frequently in northwest Washington. He comes with thirty years of local recommendations; he gives fair, firm estimates free; his work is done quickly and well; and he cleans up daily.


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