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July 6, 2008

Play Ball

Dear Fans:

Back in 2001 and 2002, Ed Barron wrote several messages to themail suggesting that DC drop its ill-advised determination to build a major league ballpark, and instead build a minor league baseball stadium. Belatedly, we want to affirm the wisdom of his suggestion. It’s not just that the ballpark giveaway was a waste of public funds, and the economic development promises surrounding it were phony. It’s that going to a minor league game is a lot more fun than going to the big leagues.

As part of our Fourth of July celebration, we went to an Ironbirds game at Cal Ripken stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland. Ripken stadium, because it is relatively small, doesn’t have a bad seat in the house. The emphasis is on family entertainment and involving kids in the game — from having a children’s group sing the national anthem, to having kids be guest announcers during some innings, to having a hoagie toss contest during an inning break. By definition, the players aren’t quite up to major league standards, which is why they’re in the minors, but they’re up to Washington Nationals standards. There are still thrilling plays and a high level of competence. The ticket prices top out at fourteen dollars for the best seats and the parking is free. (According to today’s Post, metered street parking near Nationals Stadium can run to forty dollars for a four-hour game, The food is affordable, and it isn’t just hot dogs and hamburgers; a dozen steamed crabs supplied by Bo Brooks Restaurant ( cost twenty-four dollars, which is cheaper than they are anywhere else. And Ripken stadium is almost full rather than mostly empty, because the team’s emphasis isn’t on selling expensive skyboxes to corporations and law firms whose members can’t be bothered to go to games when the home team isn’t performing well, but on involving locals to come out and root, root, root for the home team as faithful fans. By the way, a road trip to Aberdeen has the added advantage of allowing stopovers in Baltimore for a corned beef sandwich at Attman’s ( or an all-day breakfast or Greek specialty at the Broadway Diner (

Here are links to the Aberdeen Ironbirds,, and to two closer minor league teams, the Bowie Baysox,, and the Frederick Keys,

Gary Imhoff,
Dorothy Brizill,


DC Taxicab Commission
Meredith Manning,

I received this the other day. After thinking about it, I’ve decided that the only response that might have any effect is publication. Clearly, the Cab Commission doesn’t believe that it has a duty to protect the public from impaired cabbies, so what else can you do?

“Good Morning Ms. Manning: This will acknowledge receipt of your letter alleging that, on 5/5/08 at approximately 6:30 p.m. the driver of H61156 committed the following act: hit you from behind with his passenger mirror. While the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission (‘Commission’) is deeply concerned about drivers who fail to conduct themselves in an orderly manner or who pose a risk to public safety because of erratic or unsafe acts while operating their vehicle, we can only take disciplinary action against a driver for conduct that is in violation of the rules set forth in Title 31 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (‘Taxicabs and Public Vehicles for Hire’). Unfortunately, the conduct that you describe does not constitute a violation of those rules. It falls under the jurisdiction of moving and parking violations governed by Title 18. As a result, we have no choice but to dismiss your complaint pursuant to Title 31 DCMR 701.12.

“We will, however, keep a record of this complaint and a copy of the driver’s response, if any, in his file and it will be reviewed, along with any other complaints involving this driver, and will be taken into consideration in advance of any request by the driver to renew or extend his privilege to operate a taxicab in the District of Columbia. On behalf of the Commission, thank you for taking the time to contact us about this incident. Your continued vigilance provides us with invaluable assistance as we strive to improve the standards associated with driver training and customer service. Sincerely, S. Laster, Office Manager, DC Taxicab Commission”


Might Just Be a Good Idea
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The idea of reducing commuter traffic on DC’s roads might just be a good idea. Commuters use a ton of DC services, clog the roads, and pay no taxes for the services they are using. By making commuting into DC much more difficult two problems can be solved. Residents will benefit from cleaner air and less traffic, and the Metrorail and Metrobus system will make some money. It will be essential that both Metrobus and Metrorail upgrade their service to accommodate heavier commuter traffic. One thing that could be done is to make the incoming roads into DC single lane for cars with one lane dedicated to express buses. This could be done on Massachusetts Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, and Pennsylvania Avenue. The result should be a dramatic reduction in commuter cars coming into DC.


Gun-Free Zones
Paul Wilson, dcmcrider at gmail dot com

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the limited possession of firearms for self-defense in one’s home is a constitutionally protected right (at least in DC), this is a great opportunity for a teaching moment. All those who believe that the lawful, private possession of firearms inevitably leads to more gun violence may henceforth post large, prominent signs on their property announcing to all passersby that said property is a “gun-free zone.” It would be a great opportunity to put one’s money where one’s mouth is. I would even approve of having the signs made at taxpayer expense, and of course there would be no waiting period or background check required for a sign.


Wouldn’t It Be Lovely?
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The reaction to the Supreme Court decision knocking down the DC gun law was surely expected. And even if it were not expected, why don’t we have a city government that is proactive instead of being totally, deer in the headlights, reactive. Why did the city officials not meet to develop a “what if” plan in the eventuality that the ban on guns in DC would be overturned? This lack of planning is the most notorious shortcoming in the city administration’s way of not running the city. Everything that happens brings cries of, “we’ll find out how it happened so it won’t happen again.” And then it happens again. We should be looking for council persons, a mayor, and officials in every decision-making post who can think ahead and plan. If the city has any real plans, they are a deep dark secret.


The Fifty
Harold Foster, Petworth, Ward 4,

During the thirty-two years that I and a(n apparently large) number of other city residents suffered through the silly regulatory overkill of the DC handgun ban, I personally came to know of fifty otherwise law-biding, taxpaying District residents who knowingly kept handguns in their homes or businesses in violation of the ban. And, for the record, I am not — nor was not — one of this group.

As part of the group of (mostly African-American) District residents who tried to overturn this silly law -— well, the absolute handgun restriction in it anyway —back In The Day when it was first passed, I thought of those fifty “criminals” when I read the essence of the Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. These were solid citizens who, as Eugene Robinson observed in his op-ed piece supporting this decision ( were exactly who the Founders had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment to make clear that, yes, Virginia: individuals in this country had a right (not an obligation, mind you) to keep and bear arms. Within some reasonable regulatory limits that could be, and still can be, set for the greater good of civic society as a whole.

The most persistent thought that came to me in reading through the Heller decision was the last line of the movie The Great Escape: “This [decision] is dedicated to The Fifty.”


Handgun Ownership
Charles T. Cureton,

Are these people who desire to take away our rights to own a gun as affirmed by the US Supreme Court losing their minds or are they just plain ignorant? Do they not realize that criminals do not apply for a gun permit or go to a legal, licensed firearms dealer to acquire the guns they commit their crimes of robbery, murder, rape, and other crimes? How many people who have purchased a gun legally have used that gun for illegal reason?

Are those in power so naive that they do not understand criminals acquire their guns through burglaries, robberies, guns which have been brought into the United States illegally at our ports of entry, guns that have been brought across the borders illegally, and even, yes, even weapons stolen from the military by gang members who have been permitted to enlist into the armed forces.

Unfortunately, it sounds like those in power in DC want to be totally separate from the rest of the country. I have a better idea. Tell those who fall into that category to find another place to practice their tactics to control the citizens. After all, this is the United States of America and we do have a Constitution that guarantees us certain rights, regardless of what the Fenty administration may think.


Don’t Cheat DCPS Students
Candi Peterson,

So far 259 people have signed our petition to save DCPS school counselor positions since mid-June 2008. We are concerned that Chancellor Rhee’s budget allocation model will cut sixty-one school counselor positions this school year on the elementary and secondary level in DC public schools, without regard to student enrollment. The mayor and the Chancellor have failed to advise us that they are cheating DCPS students by reducing critical school counselor and teacher positions in exchange for their promise to provide schools with the comprehensive staffing model.

The Committee to Save Our Counselors has requested that the DC city council hold public hearings in order to seek answers and to ensure that all DCPS students receive high quality academic services, ensure that a strategic educational plan is developed, ensure greater accountability and transparency, and ensure that the DCPS school budget allocates all of the needed resources as outlined in Fenty’s and Rhee’s Renew, Revitalize and Reorganize plan.

We have received the support of Mr. William Lockridge, DC State Board of Education; Mr. Josh Williams, President Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, Mr. George Bordenave, AFT/WTU National Representative; Mr. Nathan Saunders, WTU General Vice President; and WTU Executive Board members, as well as ANC Commissioners, DCPS teachers/related service providers, and DC residents. Won’t you consider signing our petition at to help ensure that DCPS students receive the quality education they have been promised?


Readers Rally at Demolished Library in NE
Robin Diener,

Local residents gathered at noon on Saturday in front of the demolished building for a rally organized by the local Benning Library Dynamo. Library advocates decried the closed processes that allowed the Board of Library Trustees to reject a land swap that would have yielded a larger library, an endowment for expanded services, and more amenities — without consulting the community. Citizens who participated in the design noted that current plans by DC Public Library do not incorporate oft-stated community preferences for the library to help address issues of special concern to Ward 7, such as low adult literacy, high drop put rates, and the deep digital divide. See a video of the rally at

Other speakers expressed frustration with the now nearly four year process that left them without an interim library for two years, and still has not resulted in a replacement facility. One is now scheduled to open in 2010 but, unlike the vibrant community gathering places of the 21st Century promised in the 2006 “Blue Ribbon Task Force on Libraries” report, the new library as planned appears to be a lot like the old one: there will be vending machines instead of a café, meeting rooms will be buried in the lower level as they were in the old library, and 80,000 volumes (two times the old library’s collection) will be housed in a forest of bookcases on the main level with no dedicated computer training space. One thing the old library had that the new building won’t is the possibility of expansion at a later date. Ironically, the building that was torn down was structurally engineered to have floors added.

Let Benning Decide was the message for the day, and drivers-by honked in agreement. Ralliers could only hope public officials would hear of the clamor, since none chose to attend. Book lovers did get something out of it: more than two hundred volumes, donated by the Brian Mackenzie Infoshop, Cleveland Park Library Friends, and Ralph Nader’s Center for Responsive Law, were carried away. The rally was sponsored by the District Library Dynamos, DC Library Renaissance Project, and the Ward 7 Development Advisory Committee.


Martin Andres Austermuhle,

In his missive against District voting rights (“Just Say No To a Vote for DC in Congress,” July 2), Jonathan Rees claims that “the District of Columbia has recently announced that it will spend up to $500 million taxpayer dollars in lobbying efforts to get a vote in Congress.” This is wrong, and hilariously so. The District of Columbia has allocated $500,000 in its 2009 budget for DC Vote’s educational and lobbying activities. Mr. Rees is right in spirit, but when it comes to the details, he’s off by a factor of a hundred.

As to his other point that the District should forfeit its fight for voting rights in exchange for tax-exempt status, Mr. Rees seems to miss the simple point that democratic rights are not something we trade away for financial gain. Activists, revolutionaries, and regular citizens have fought for centuries around the world for their democratic rights, and it’s appalling to think that we could merely do away with them just so we could avoid having to pay taxes.


Bizarre Arsenic Map Lingers On
Don Oakley,

On July 2, The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton invited representatives of the US Geological Survey, National Park Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency to explain the circumstances around the closure of Fort Reno from May 14 to May 28, due to a false arsenic alarm. The other key player, the DC Department of Environment, was notably absent. For nearly three hours, Ms. Norton held forth with patience, civility, and decorum.

A DDOE employee, Richard Albright, provided information to the DC Examiner in November 2007 that set the arsenic ball rolling, There has been no explanation of why the DDOE and USGS, who were aware of the map’s public health implications in November 2007, took over five months to inform NPS of the potential for high arsenic levels at Fort Reno. DDOE’s failure to act promptly underscores the poor state of DC agency communications when potential public health threats are identified, as noted by a Post editorial:

Councilmember Mary Cheh, who soldiered through the entire meeting, asked for an explanation of the “bizarre [aerial imaging] map” of arsenic contamination. Partially responsive and misleading answers from the USGS information officer, Michael Gauldin, led to additional questions on the USGS methodology. He said that red areas on the map were “stressed” areas, and not necessarily arsenic-affected. Then, as if reversing course to validate the map, Gauldin said the arsenic map was 83 percent accurate in Spring Valley.

After much discussion, we learned that the map merely covers 83 percent of known arsenic contamination in Spring Valley and does not measure arsenic. This is a meaningless and misleading observation. It could just as easily have been observed that the map covers areas in Spring Valley that contain homes, for example, of 83 percent masonry. Elsewhere in Northwest, the map displays red areas where elevated arsenic levels are claimed. In direct contradiction to the Spring Valley claim of “83 percent accuracy,” all ground samples taken by the USEPA in May 2008 at Fort Reno and other locations “in red” were negative for elevated arsenic levels. The USGS was unable to explain the conflicting results except for other stresses.

Things got worse for the USGS when the investigator himself, E.T. Slonecker, got up to defend his work. Facing an increasingly skeptical audience, he struggled to explain the relevance of the “83 percent” data from Spring Valley. Then he mentioned that the technique, which was based partly on arsenic reflectance measurements in a greenhouse environment (2005-2006), has a 55 percent “user accuracy.” No one appeared to understand what that means, and I still don’t.

Running short of answers, Slonecker went on to explain that aerial imagery interpretation was very complicated, depending on analysis of hyperspectral aerial images (HSI) and the use of “many operators.” This was unhelpful to the discussion, as it did not clarify why all the ground data were negative where the bizarre map displayed elevated arsenic levels. HSI technology has produced some marvelous pictures, for example the rings of Saturn, oil from leaking tankers, and smokestack plumes that travel hundreds of miles. Elemental chemical analyses through HSI, like arsenic detection, are challenging.

My view on the usefulness of the USGS’ findings remains unchanged by the presentations. To put it politely, aerial arsenic imaging needs substantially more validation. To be blunt, the much-circulated USGS image is valueless. There is a tangle of reasons why this is so: no “ground truth data” at the imaging time (October 2000); no relevance of greenhouse arsenic measurements in 2005-6 to the image interpretation; and a force-fit of known arsenic concentrations in Spring Valley to the image interpretation. There was no allowance for extreme vegetation stress (when leaves died and began falling in October 2000) in Spring Valley, Fort Reno and other identified “arsenic” locations. From what little has been disclosed, poor scientific methodology was used by the USGS and DDOE to obtain completely inaccurate ground data at Fort Reno in April 2008. USGS results remain unreported; hopefully USGS will provide this data as promised to Ms. Norton.

My suggestion to the USGS: evaluate the HSI technique in the western states, where anthropogenic and naturally occurring high arsenic levels exist in many locations. See if it works. If it does, prepare a sampling protocol that can be peer reviewed and shared in advance with the public, and try again in Washington or another metropolitan area.

The best news from this meeting is that we are safe from arsenic threats in our neighborhoods until more ill-planned USGS and DDOE experiments occur.



Fun Family Films Under the Stars, July 8-10
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.

Tuesday, July 8, Edgewood Apartments, 601 Edgewood Street, NE
Wednesday, July 9, DC Village, Lane S.W. Bldg. 1A
Wednesday, July 9, Columbia Heights Recreation Center, 1480 Girard Street, NW
Thursday, July 10, Petworth Recreation Center, 801 Taylor Street, NW


Official Opening and Ribbon Cutting for The Wanda Alston House, July 8
Brian Watson,

The Wanda Alston House is Washington, DC’s first transitional living program for GLBTQ Youth. It’s official opening ceremony will be on Tuesday, July 8, at 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., at 804 46th Street, NE (off Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, three blocks from the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station). Light refreshments will be provided. Come out to support the opening of this groundbreaking housing program for youth in DC. For more information call 636-1646.


Georgetown Library Community Design meeting, July 17
Martha Saccocio,

The DC Public Library will host the third in a series of Community Design Meetings to discuss the renovation of the Georgetown Neighborhood Library. The meeting will be held Thursday, July 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Georgetown Parish, 3240 O Street, NW (Potomac Street and O Street, NW). For more information, please visit the DC Public Library’s web site at


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