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June 29, 2008

Massive Resistance

Dear Resisters:

The Supreme Court issued its decision in DC v. Heller on Thursday, and the elected officials of the District greeted it with the same warmth that Governor Orval Faubus displayed toward the Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It remains to be seen whether the DC government will react constructively, or whether it will attempt its own twenty-first century version of massive resistance. The government could, for example, issue regulations that make it prohibitively difficult and expensive to get a handgun license. It could take the advice of Attorney General nominee Peter Nickles to defy the Court and pass another trigger-lock requirement, challenging the Court’s finding that, “The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment.” It could require firearms training by DC licensed instructors, and then delay writing requirements for instructor licensing. DC has no federally licensed gun stores, so the government could make it illegal for DC residents to buy guns out of state, thus making it impossible to purchase a handgun legally. It could be obstructive in any number of ways, and certainly a number of elected and appointed officials have signaled their desire not to comply with the Court’s decision, or to do so in only the most grudging and minimal way. We’re either in for a smooth transition to having full Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, or in for decades of obstruction and further expensive litigation to get the DC government to obey the Supreme Court decision fully. We’ll know soon which course our elected officials will choose.

I have only two observations on the decision that haven’t been widely reported in the press. First, the vote was five to four, but the Court was unanimous on one point: the linchpin of the District’s case was wrong. All nine justices held that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, not a right of states to raise militias. The Scalia majority opinion took that position, of course, but the four dissenters agreed, in the very first paragraph of the Stevens dissent, that, “The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a ‘collective right’ or an ‘individual right.’ Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals.” The Stevens dissent then goes on to argue that individual right into incoherence and irrelevance, so that it’s impossible to see what individual right the dissenting justices think the Bill of Rights protects, but the concession still stands.

Second, the majority and both of the minority decisions are particularly significant for us as citizens of the District of Columbia because of something they didn’t say and an argument that they did not address. The Williams administration argued to the Court of Appeals for the District Circuit, and the Fenty Administration argued in its Supreme Court appeal of that Court’s decision, that residents of the District are lesser citizens of the United States, and that even if residents of the fifty states did enjoy the full guarantees of the Second Amendment and of the Bill of Rights, residents of the District did not, because we are not citizens of a state. In the interest of denying the applicability of the Second Amendment to residents of the District of Columbia, our government was willing to sacrifice our equality and our full rights as citizens of the United States. It declared that we possessed, and we should possess, only second-class citizenship. All nine of the justices of the Supreme Court thought so little of this argument that neither the Scalia opinion nor the Stevens and Breyer dissents deigned even to mention it. Regardless of your position on the Second Amendment, you can at least be glad that the Supreme Court did not consign us to the inferior status of second-class citizens, as our local elected officials wanted them to.

The Supreme Court decision is posted at, and links to the reactions of local officials and others to the decision are at

Gary Imhoff


A Report Card for DCPS
Dorothy Brizill,

A report released in the past week by the District’s Inspector General is must reading for anyone following the ongoing efforts by Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee with regard to DCPS. On June 20, Charles Willoughby released “District of Columbia Public Schools FY2007 Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting and Advisory Comments,” The report was prepared by BDO Seedman, LLP, the firm responsible for the District’s annual audit, or CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report). It details serious “material weaknesses and significant deficiencies” in DCPS’ fiscal management with regard to disbursement practices, processing of journal entries, human resources and payroll system, indirect costs, recording of expenditures, management of the student activity fund, grants management, budget reprogrammings, Medicaid costs reports, and inadequate support for car allowances expenditures. BDO’s report raises concerns about the District’s fiscal management and controls over DCPS’s billion dollar budget.

Also of interest is Keith Rishburg’s article on a “Setback for Philadelphia Schools Plan” in Sunday’s Washington Post, Richburg details the apparent failure of the initiative launched six years ago by the Philadelphia School District to put “schools under private management to see if the free product could educate children more efficiently than the government.” The article notes that, “This month, the experiment suffered a severe setback, as the state commission overseeing Philadelphia’s students voted to take back control of six of the privatized schools, while warning twenty others that they had a year to show progress or they, too, would revert to district control” Given Chancellor Rhee’s penchant for privatization within DCPS, the Philadelphia example should sound an alarm bell in district government.


Business Encroachment on Public Sidewalks
Annie McCormick,

Are there regulations about private businesses taking over public areas in front of their buildings? The Park at Fourteenth (a club on 14th between I and K Streets) regularly puts out its carpet and velvet ropes around 4:30-5:00 p.m., cutting off access to over one half of the sidewalk. This forces pedestrians heading to and from the McPherson Square Metro into a bottleneck where some are even forced to walk into the street. Later at night, trying to get through their patrons is like running a gauntlet, as they won’t let you walk through. This is obnoxious, to be sure, but is it also illegal for a business to encroach on the sidewalk that much and that often? Are they also responsible for controlling their patrons so that others who aren’t entering their club can at least walk down the sidewalk itself and not have to walk into the street because they refuse to let you pass?


Klingle Road Report
Taylor Simmons, ttsimmons at aol dot com

Large chain link gates were installed this past week. On Saturday, both gates were closed. By Sunday evening, both gates were open. Walkers and bikers must pass through the upper gate to get through. Pedestrians could step up on the curb and go around the gate at bottom, but by Sunday evening, that gate had also been opened. The roadway seemed to have less debris on it.

Vehicular access is likely intended for those doing work on the Connecticut Avenue bridge, where signs indicate a lead removal area: “No smoking, no drinking, no eating.” Nothing is actually blocking traffic but the fallen tree, which most cars would fit under, even mini-vans, but perhaps not tall SUVs.


Barry Farms ID
Peter Tucker,

On Thursday evening, June 26, residents of Barry Farms gathered at 2616 Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue. One of the first topics discussed was where to go for food assistance in these difficult times. A number of churches offer such help with regular attendance at a church.

Also discussed was a new Barry Farms initiative which requires that each and every Barry Farms resident eighteen years and up have his/her picture taken for an ID. Mr. Richard Thomas, Area Manager of the Potomac Region, said the ID “is helpful for the police when they come on site and want to know if you live on the site” and “want to know who you are.”

Residents expressed mixed support for the ID program. One woman questioned why a driver’s license is not sufficient ID for Barry Farms residents when it is good enough for other residents of the District. Sugar Coleman Hall raised concerns over what happens when family is visiting and they don’t have ID and no one is home or reachable by phone: Will they be turned away? Another woman mentioned that her sixteen-year-old grandson was required to get an ID even though the program is supposed to be only for those eighteen and up. When asked to comment further on the new ID initiative Mr. Thomas declined and referred questions to the Housing Authority 535-1500). The next Barry Farms meeting will take place July 10.


Metro Again
Ralph Blessing,

Why does it seem that whenever I see Metro employees on the train, they’re always standing by (i.e., blocking) the doorways? Happened again on Friday as I exited an Orange line train at Federal Center, SW. So much for those constant reminders to move to the center of the car.

And regarding that recent directive that train conductors are to give an explanation for all delays, apparently my Red Line conductor this morning never got the memo. We were stuck for four to five minutes in the tunnel between Union Station and Judiciary, but not a peep over the PA system. I guess the more things change, the more they remain the same.


Metro Story
Bryce Suderow,

I want to recount a Metro experience that happened yesterday. I arrived at the bus stop at 5:00 p.m. During the next hour five, N-22 busses bound for Union Station came and went, but there were no 90 or 92 busses. While I waited, I saw a pedestrian who was so overcome by heat that he had to sit down or fall down. An ambulance crew was summoned, and the last I saw of him they were checking his pulse. I could feel his pain — I was feeling a bit faint myself and had to hold onto a light pole for a few minutes.

After an hour’s wait, a 90 or 92 bus came. I told the bus driver, “We’ve been waiting for you for an hour.” He replied belligerently: “And?” as though he wanted a fight. I learned from passengers sitting near me that they were forced to wait a considerable time for the bus at Anacostia Station. When I got off the bus, the angry driver said to me “Next time it will be two hours.” By this he meant that he’d make me wait two hours next time instead of an hour, all because I pointed out that he was late.

There are two issues here. On a day when the CitiBank clock showed a temperature of 95 degrees at 5:00 p.m., Metro was unable to provide bus service and passengers were forced to wait in the sweltering heat. The second issue is the way the bus driver treated me. How can Metro tolerate such rude behavior? It would be nice to believe that telling this story would improve Metro service.


Internet Street Musician
Phil Shapiro,

Back in the last century, I used to be a street musician, playing guitar in the Dupont Circle area. Even with a good quality amplifier, my classical guitar could not compete against traffic noise. And so I became an Internet street musician, and now I don’t need to compete against traffic noise. And in that cozy little community called YouTube I can share my guitar playing with just a few more people than would amble by when I was on the street.

For those who might be interested, here’s a ragtime-influenced rendition of a well-known melody. If you like this music, don’t throw a virtual coin in my guitar case, though. Just smile upon your neighbor. See

Just curious if there are any house-concert organizers in themail? If so, thanks for sending me an E-mail.


Qawi Robinson,

While the timing of the U S Supreme Court’s decision didn’t work for themail, some other citizens are calling the Supreme Court’s ruling a hollow victory. Now we may all have to suffer just because Heller, a Security Guard, wanted to keep his gun at home, DC didn’t let him, so he sued. It is not surprising that the Supreme Court rendered a 5-4 decision against the DC gun ban. Also not surprising is the fact that judges along with other law enforcement personnel are already allowed to legally possess handgun, firearms, in DC. What did surprise me was the majority opinion by Justice Scalia. “The Constitution does not permit the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home,” Scalia said. Okay, I understand that. Most people do. However, most folks also realize that guns don’t stay in the home. In fact, in order for a gun to “get to” a home, it must be transported. While there are safeguards for transporting hazardous material, I am not so certain that there are laws on the books for potential DC gun owners to transport weapons as such. Should I be issued a special license to transport a handgun I purchased in Virginia to DC? If so, who does the checking if my license is expired?

Also from an AP article I read, “the court also struck down Washington’s requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns.” Wow, not to be sarcastic, but thanks, Supreme Court, for keeping licensing on the books. Trigger locks are so essential nowadays that even collectors don’t frown upon them. However, the frowns come from those who don’t want easy access to their weapons. If the momentary delay to remove a trigger lock causes the gun owner to think about using it, then I’m all for it. Let’s be honest here, the sole purpose for a gun is to kill, maim, or destroy. Anything that causes gun owners to consciously think about their potential to kill, maim, or destroy is in better interest to Americans than keeping an archaic right to possess such firearm. From the same article, Scalia also noted that the handgun is Americans’ preferred weapon of self-defense in part because, “it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.” Apparently, Scalia hasn’t dialed 911 in a while or been through the recent changes at the Office of Unified Communications. I’m not saying that it is a two-hand job, but holding a handgun while talking to an operator sounds like a recipe for injury to you, the criminal, or both.

There are long-standing ramifications to this that the justices may not have thought of. How will this affect the Brady Bill? Even with the NCIS database background checking, there are still folks who slip through. Considering the state of the Department of Mental Health in DC, we already know that the records of those who have been admitted might be inaccurate. As this is still unfolding, it remains to be seen what the true fallout is.


The Many Faces of Adrian Fenty
Jonathan R. Rees,

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty cannot be trusted to keep his word.

Back when there was a debate over building a new Nationals baseball stadium, Fenty said he would oppose it tooth and nail and never support it, but in time he did. Back when there was a debate over the smoking ban, Fenty said he would not support it because of the injury it could cause businesses, but then he turned around and supported it with gusto.

Now that Fenty has lost out on keeping the DC handgun ban intact, and knowing his two faces, don’t be surprised if Fenty opens a gun shop in DC directly or through a quiet partnership.



Fun Family Films Under the Stars, July 3, 5
John A. Stokes,

The District’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will hold “Fun Family Films Under The Stars,” its 2008 Family Movie Night Season, this summer. “Fun Family Films Under The Stars,” which continues until late-September, will afford residents of all ages and families of all sizes the opportunity to enjoy viewing the free, family-oriented films in DPR’s outdoor settings. As in previous years, viewers are invited to bring their own snacks, chairs, and blankets. This year, District residents will have a greater selection of viewing locations. Movies will be shown from 8:45 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Community members who arrive early enough for each screening will have the opportunity to place a vote between two movies that may be shown that evening. The movie that receives the most votes will be shown.

Thursday, July 3, Rosedale Recreation Center, 700 Gales Street, NE.

Saturday, July 5, Florida Park, 1st Street and Florida Avenue, NE.

Saturday, July 5, Carver/ Langston Terrace, 21st Street and Maryland Avenue, NE


Forum on Buried Chemical Weapons, Public Health, and Spring Valley, July 17
Lucy Axton,

During and immediately after World War I, the American University campus and the surrounding areas, now known as Spring Valley, were used for chemical warfare research and testing. The US Army has spent nearly $150 million in the cleanup of contaminated properties and the disposal of chemical munitions from the area, but many are concerned that the health and safety of District residents continues to be at risk. A scoping study of potential community health risks was recently conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) at the request of the DC Department of Health in response to a recommendation by the Mayor’s Spring Valley Scientific Advisory Panel.

Come discuss the results of this study and its recommendations at an upcoming forum hosted by DC Environmental Network, Friends of the Earth, and Global Green. The forum will feature Professor Thomas A. Burke, Department of Health Policy and Management, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The event is from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Friends of the Earth, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, #600 (DuPont Circle Metro, south exit). Please RSVP by calling Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network, 222-0746, or Paul F. Walker, Ph.D, Legacy Program Director, Global Green USA, 222-0700.



African-American Small Business Owners in Silver Spring
Jerry McCoy,

The Silver Spring Historical Society is seeking information, artifacts, and photographs pertaining to African-American small independent business owners that were located in Silver Spring’s Central Business District before 1975.

Contact Jerry A. McCoy, President, SSHS, 301-537-1253,, or write PO Box 1160, Silver Spring, MD, 20910.


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