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May 21, 2008


Dear Accountables:

In reply to my introduction to the last issue of themail, someone who wants to remain anonymous for good reason has written: “I was also at the [DC Appleseed] awards dinner honoring Mary Levy, Charlene Drew Jarvis, and Colby King on Thursday evening. Your message was completely on point. I only wish you’d mentioned that Rhee managed neither to acknowledge DC Appleseed nor the awardees during her remarks. Arrogance on top of arrogance. What world are we in? Oh, by the way, we know how it works. [In Rhee’s anecdote about the good teacher and the poor teacher,] the more senior teacher, who was counting down to elicit order, probably got assigned all the known behavioral challenges so the new teacher with all the great ideas could have a classroom that she was able to control. So that poor woman has spent her year flicking lights on and off, sending kids to the counselor and office, trying to have a few minutes when she could teach something, while her colleague digs into Greek mythology with a rapt audience. All because the more mature teacher ‘could handle it.’ What are we going to do next year when those folks have been replaced by Teach for America wunderkind?”

This raises again the question of how our elected officials can be held responsible for improving education. Mayor Fenty sold his school takeover by arguing that voters could hold him responsible for the schools. But, as he knew when he said that, voters are very unlikely to hold him accountable. Voting officials in and out of office is a blunt instrument by which to enforce accountability. Elected officials in the top governmental offices are responsible for a myriad of issues, so elections do not hold them accountable on any single issue. Elections just measure the voters’ general impression of whether officials are doing a good job overall, or whether voters like them or not. Some few voters may vote on the single issue of education, and hold the mayor responsible for the performance of the schools, but many more of us will vote on whether our streets are paved, our trash is picked up regularly, and the street light at our corner works. Public safety, taxes, and balanced budgets affect more votes in the District than schools. In addition, voters can hold officials accountable only when we have the information we need on which to make good decisions. If we aren’t told honestly and understandably how well the schools are educating our students — first by the government officials responsible for the schools, and then by the press outlets responsible for reporting it — we can’t make the right decisions.

The genius of American democracy is that accountability is enforced not just by elections, but also by the system of checks and balances among government branches. The competing interests of the branches of government, as well as the competing interests of political parties, ensures that there will be some accountability on individual issues and between elections, and this works on a local level just as it does on the national level. But in DC, there is no healthy competition among political parties; the dominance of the Democratic party has led to all the ills of one-party rule. And the city council does not act as an effective check on the administration; Fenty is running as much of a one-man, runaway government as Marion Barry ever did. Mayor Fenty, both in the schools and throughout the government, refuses to involve the city council in his administration’s decisionmaking process, and he refuses to give the council necessary, and even legally required, information about his administration’s programs and initiatives. The administration insists that it holds all power and that it doesn’t have to keep councilmembers informed; directors of all departments and agencies, not just the Chancellor and the Deputy Mayor for Education, defy the council and withhold information from it.

What is worse, the school takeover plan that the mayor proposed and the city council voted for gives the administration a reason to argue that the council itself has virtually eliminated its own checks on the executive branch. The Washington Post editorially opposes checks and balances in school governance, calling it “meddlesome” and “misguided,” and supports strongman rule in which the city council and the people can pose no check on Mayor Fenty’s unlimited power ( School system decisions, the Post holds, should be made unilaterally by the Chancellor with the input of “experts,” not of the public or elected officials. The Post denigrates as mere “community whim” what those who are democratically inclined think of as “the will of the people.” Even worse, as I’ve written before, councilmembers have a good reason to acquiesce in their powerlessness over the schools, since they can tell voters now, just as they did under the elected school board system, that they shouldn’t be held responsible for the poor performance of the school system. Until the cowardly council is given the gift of courage, and the stupid Post is given a brain, there’s little chance of improving this mess and escaping from Oz.

Gary Imhoff


Submetering Subterfuge
Deborah Akel,

It seems like every time the District’s tenants get a loophole closed, another one opens. First it was the 95/5 transfer, which robbed tenants of their TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act) rights and an estimated $340 million in properties. Then it was the 120-day 501(f) notice to vacate, which was used to clear buildings of tenants ( Then it was the vacancy exemption, which helped landlords empty over two hundred buildings and robbed the District of $16 million in fees (

Now it’s a potential backdoor rent increase with submetering. The DC city council is currently considering amendments to energy legislation that would permit submetering of apartment buildings in the District. The end result is that tenants would have to pay for not only their own utilities, but for utilities in common areas as well. The main argument used by advocates of submetering (namely, landlords) is that it encourages energy conservation. But submetering could actually reduce energy conservation in the long run. Tenants will be forced to pay for all the inefficiencies of the different components of a building, while owners will have no incentive to improve the systems since they won’t be paying the utilities. Why would a landlord want to spend money to replace inefficient windows, appliances, lighting fixtures, or HVAC systems if the tenants are paying the bills?

If this amendment passes, it will likely open the floodgates for new leases and costs that will adversely affect DC’s rental community. In a city with an abundance of clever lawyers, a landlord lobby determined to exploit every loophole in the law, and a history of weak regulatory enforcement of housing protections, submetering appears to be the next assault on District tenants under the guise of “energy conservation.”


Turmoil Continues at BOEE
Dorothy Brizill,

On Tuesday evening, Mayor Fenty issued a press release with the surprise announcement that he had sworn in Errol Arthur as the chair of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE), replacing the current chair, Charles Lowery. Arthur, an attorney in private practice, just became a member of the Board last month, in April, and had attended only one meeting of the Board, on May 7, before Fenty chose him to chair it. Arthur’s appointment comes at a critical time, when the District must prepare for the primary election in September and the general election in November, despite having to deal with the departure of two key staffers — its executive director, Alice Miller, and Bill O’Field, who was responsible both for press and public relations and for recruiting and training poll workers.

The surprise and melodrama surrounding Fenty’s appointment of Arthur to replace Lowery is reminiscent of Fenty’s appointment of Charles Lowery just last year to replace the Board’s prior chair, Wilma Lewis. I wrote about that in themail on May 9, 2007 ( Having treated Lewis with a complete lack of respect and courtesy when he replaced her with Lowery just over a year ago, Fenty has now treated Lowery with the same lack of respect and courtesy in the way that he replaced him with Arthur.


When Are Voters Going to Wake Up
Jonathan R. Rees,

To date: central school administration employees fired; school principals fired; school teachers fired; schools closed; Fenty’s developer friends getting contracts; people who were not qualified to run our school system (Rhee and Reinoso) are getting fat paychecks and Johnny still can’t read. As a matter of fact, the Fenty Administration can’t show to date that all that he has done or proposes to do is benefiting our children.

Did it ever occur to the voters that Fenty used the emotional issues of our schools as a springboard into office, when his real goal was to enrich his friends but never our children? We need to start seeing results insofar as Johnny’s performance because pretty school buildings won’t get Johnny into college.

Fenty has had more than enough time, with all the turning upside down of our school system, to come forward and gives is a few solid examples of how our children have benefited to date — grade wise at a minimum. But he can’t do and probably never will be able to do that, because Johnny is the last thing on Fenty’s mind.


Republican Party Platform
Paul D. Craney,

The DC Republican Committee successfully held public hearings last night and Monday night in which numerous civic organizations, community leaders, small businesses, and DC citizens testified what they believe the DC Republican Committee should include in their 2008 DC Republican Party Platform. The 2008 DC Republican Party Platform will be submitted to the Republican National Committee and Senator John McCain in late August at the Republican National Convention.

Organizations that provided testimony included the outreach director from DCVote, the advocacy manager from the National Education Association, a spokesperson from the United States Mexico Chamber of Commerce, the newly elected president of the Queens Chapel Civic Association, a spokesman from a DC LSDBE Business (Local, Small and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise with the full twelve points), a policy analyst from the Cato Institute, an ANC Commissioner, spokesmen from the DC Black Republican Organization, the minority outreach director of the National Young Republicans, and the chairman of the DC Federation of College Republicans.

In addition, the committee received written testimony from the Executive Director of DC Parents for School Choice and met with Ed Lazere, the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and Walter Smith, the executive director of DC Appleseed.



Afghanistan’s Architectural Legacy, May 28
Jazmine Zick,

Wednesday, May 28, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Afghanistan’s Architectural Legacy. Dr. Habiba Sarabi, governor of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Province, explores the role of cultural preservation and the Afghani architectural landscape. The Bamiyan Valley, a World Heritage Site, is perhaps best known for its two monumental statues of Buddha destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Presented in partnership with US/ICOMOS and with the cooperation of the National Geographic Society. $12 Members; $12 Students; $20 Nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


We Are the Ship, June 7
Ed Bruske,

On Saturday, June 7, at 2:00 p.m., there will be a lecture and book signing by Kadir Nelson, author of the children’s book, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, at the historical Society of DC in the Carnegie Library, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square.

Illustrator and first-time author Kadir Nelson reveals how he created his masterfully rendered children’s baseball book, We Are the Ship. This book will make fans out the least sports-enthused children out there. Lush pictures, great text, and startling facts bring the story of Negro League baseball to life like never before. This program is a collaboration of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum and The Historical Society of Washington, DC. Suitable for ages nine to adults. or 383-1828



Program Associate
Susie Cambria,

The Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaborative Council has an immediate opening for a program associate position. The program associate will be responsible for directing and monitoring project activities as it relates to community partnerships, practice, training and evaluation. Education: Masters of Social Work. Qualifications include a LICSW with at least one year of supervisory experience and two years of work experience in the human services field required. Experience in program coordination and knowledge of community based services, a plus. Excellent oral, written, and interpersonal skills. Ability to handle multiple tasks. Working knowledge of Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and web-based systems.

Contact: Nicole Gilbert, or 299-0901 (fax); HFTC Collaborative Council, 1112 11 Street, NW Suite B, WDC 20001.



Daughters and Fathers
Jonetta Rose Barras,

Author seeking women between the ages of 18 and 35 who grew up without the presence of their biological fathers in their homes but would like to reconcile with them. I am also interested in speaking with fathers who were not present in their daughters’ lives but would like to build a relationship with them. Interested individuals should send an E-mail to Leave your name, E-mail address, and telephone number. Also provide a brief statement about yourself and your relationship with your father or daughter.


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