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July 16, 2008

Less than the Minimum

Dear Defenseless Citizens:

I promise this is the last time Iíll write about this subject until there are further substantive developments, but the city council passed emergency gun registration legislation yesterday, and on Monday the Metropolitan Police Department released its emergency and proposed registration regulations (http://www.dcwatch.com/issues/gun.htm). You can start to register guns that you already have starting Thursday (there is an amnesty for illegal firearms you already own), but you wonít be able to buy a gun for a long time, until the zoning roadblocks that prevent gun shops from opening are resolved, undoubtedly with ďall deliberate speed.Ē

The procedures to register a gun that are outlined in the legislation and the regulations are about as burdensome and as time-consuming as they could possibly be. Registering a gun will require three trips to the MPD and two waiting periods of an undetermined and unlimited length. Yet, at yesterdayís legislative session, councilmembers proposed adding future requirements to make it even more difficult to purchase and own a gun, including the possibility of making gun owners go through the registration process annually.

A requirement in the current legislation that is probably constitutional, but that is impractical and useless, is that all guns be tested ballistically before registration. Most states donít have that requirement. In Maryland, which does, the Maryland State Police asked the state legislature nearly four years ago to stop funding the program because it hasnít been useful in a single criminal case (http://doubletap.cs.umd.edu/~purtilo/ibis.pdf). Maryland, by the way, requires manufacturers to provide a ballistics test with a new gun; if DC did that it would save the cost and the delay of having the MPD do the testing of new guns.

Among the requirements that defy the Supreme Courtís decision and invite lawsuits are the limitation that an individual can register only one gun; the prohibition of almost all semiautomatic handguns, which DC defines as machine guns; and the prohibition of shotguns with barrels shorter than twenty inches, when many common shotguns have eighteen-inch barrels. In addition, two provisions not only flout the Supreme Courtís decision but also protect violent, aggressive criminals from victims who would attempt to defend themselves: the requirement that guns in a home for self-defense must be kept in an inoperable condition and the limitation that guns can be used for self-defense only after an intruder has already entered the house. (If a home invader is breaking down your door or smashing your window, you have to wait until he is fully inside your house before you start to assemble and load your gun. This is the governmentís way of providing fair play for felons.)

In the city council discussion of the gun legislation, Ward Six Councilmember Tommy Wells denigrated the Second Amendment as an antiquated part of the Constitution that should be repealed, and not a single member of the city council spoke in favor of and in defense of the Bill of Rights. But in the end all the councilmembers agreed with the Fenty administration that they would do only the minimum ó or much less than the minimum, until they were forced by future lawsuits to do the minimum ó to respect the Second Amendment rights of residents of the District of Columbia.

Gary Imhoff
themail@dcwatch.com

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WMATA and Council Accountability
Dino Drudi, dino.drudi@bls.gov

[An open letter to Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Jim Graham] On Monday, I had to go home from the office for a medical appointment. I arrived at the northbound 80 bus stop at North Capital Street and Massachusetts Avenue just before noontime and learned some passengers at the bus stop had been waiting since 11:20 a.m. Two 80 busses that were past due had not yet come. At noontime, when the third bus was due, two busses came back to back.

This messageís purpose, though, is not to rail about poor service or report a specific example of it (I often send WMATA comment cards), but to suggest that WMATAís service is so bad because of poor administration and lack of accountability associated with the WMATA Board. (In my testimony against the fare increase and my most recent comment card, I urged that the general manager be dismissed and/or the WMATA Board resign).

The WMATA Board is structured so as to shield itself from accountability. The DC council is represented on the WMATA Board by a ward councilmember. Because I am from a different ward, if I am unsatisfied with WMATAís performance, I cannot vote him out. He only has a compelling political need to respond to constituent complaints about WMATA from residents of his ward. In former times, the norm was to choose an at-large councilmember, who answers to the entire city, to serve on the WMATA Board, such as the late, esteemed Hilda Mason, or David Catania, instead of a ward councilmember.

If I wish to hold someone accountable in the primary or general for WMATAís poor performance, I am forced to hold the council chairman accountable because, as chairman, he is ultimately accountable for the councilís policy, and he presumably chose a ward, rather than an at-large, councilmember for the WMATA Board. This kind of indirect accountability reduces representative government to a sham.

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Washington, DC, for Singles
Michael Karlan, mkarlan@prosinthecity.com

Professionals in the City just released Washington, DC, for Singles: A Guide to Singlesí Events and Dating in the Nationís Capital. To download a free copy, please visit http://www.washingtondcforsingles.com. This guide includes such information as Twenty Best Places to Take a First Date in DC, Ten Hottest Clubs or Lounges to Meet Singles in DC, Ten Best Happy Hours for Singles in DC, Ten Best Places to Find People After Midnight, Ten Romantic Spots in DC, and more.

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Summer Pleasures, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill, dorothy@dcwatch.com

In Sundayís issue of themail, I wrote about a few of the summer pleasures Gary and I enjoy in DC. Here are some additional things that make warm weather a pleasure:

The Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife
Georgia Avenueís Caribbean parade and festival
Picnicking on the lawn at a Wolftrap concert
Barbecue at home or at Urban Bar-B-Que in Rockville or Silver Spring
The DC Council goes on summer recess
Mule-drawn boat rides on the C & O Canal in Georgetown
The outdoor seafood buffet at Phillips Restaurant on the southwest waterfront
Thursday evening concerts in Farragut Square Park in May and June
Taste of Bethesda, even though it occurs after Labor Day (October 4 this year)
Blockbuster movies at Bengies Drive-In in Baltimore (http://www.bengies.com)
Brown bag lunches, and sometimes even lunchtime concerts, in our cityís downtown urban parks and green spaces ó Franklin Square, McPherson Square, Dupont Circle, the Georgetown waterfront, the plaza at the Ronald Reagan Building, Freedom Plaza

Your additions to this list are welcome.

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Lotuses at Kenilworth Gardens
Sharon Cochran, sharon.cochran@verizon.net

[Reply to ďSummer Pleasures,Ē themail, July 13] Please, please check out the hundreds, maybe thousands, of lotuses and water lilies at Kenilworth Gardens in northeast. Itís a national park, with many more visitors from out of state than from DC. The flowers usually hit their peak around the second or third week in July. Itís a nice area for a picnic, too.

[Another correspondent who wants to remain anonymous suggests both Screen on the Green and jazz in the Sculpture Garden at the Hirshhorn Museum on Friday nights. ó Gary Imhoff]

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Parking for Multiunit Buildings
Leila Afzal, leila.afzal@verizon.net

I suggest that if the mayor wants to eliminate the requirement for multiunit dwelling developers to provide sufficient parking, he should also eliminate the right of residents of those buildings to be eligible for Residential Parking Permits. Owners of buildings must affirmatively inform new purchasers or tenants that they cannot get RPPís. Those new homeowners or tenants could then make an informed decision about living in that building. Maybe they donít need parking. Problem solved.

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Against Cars or for a Balanced System?
Harold Goldstein, mdbiker@goldray.com

On the matter of balance between the auto and public transportation, Gary argues that the people have spoken and that the people prefer their cars. Well, that is not quite true, because in this country we have never had a level playing field. We have overly subsidized the automobile and made its use so much more convenient than public transportation so that no other outcome was possible.

Most European cities have a level playing field, and youíll find the modal splits there reflect that. If we had a true balanced public transportation system that was convenient and easy to use, then the people would use it in more significant numbers. Our Metro system is not a convenient system in that it only serves well for a small fraction of potential trips.

Finally do not blame planners for everything. The planner is not a decision maker and often has his hands tied.

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Car Talk
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

Mark Eckenwiler said [themail, July 13], ďWe need to drive ourselves, our kids, and our elderly relatives plenty of places and at plenty of times when and where Metro isnít an option. But I fail to see why we should continue to bear the burdens imposed by inconsiderate and at times dangerous drivers from the suburbs.Ē

I live and work between Falls Church and Annandale (thatís in Virginia, for you DC residents who consider the suburbs too dangerous and inconsiderate to visit). Iím about a twelve-minute drive from the Dunn Loring Metro stop, whose parking lot is full by 8:00 a.m. on weekdays. So Metro works when I need to be downtown early, but it is iffy (and, as always, pricey) for midday trips. Iím also about eighteen minutes from DC driving on Route 50, so thatís appealing.

If Metro doesnít work because its parking lot is full or likely to be full, and DC makes it unpleasant to drive downtown, Iíll come downtown less. And Iíll stop being inconsiderate and at times dangerous, by spending money in DC and supporting DC companies, businesses, and organizations. Itís not DCís fault that thereís inadequate parking at suburban Metro stops. And Iím told that six hundred fifty spaces will be added to Dunn Loring ó which will likely delay its filling until maybe 8:30 a.m. But DC is at the center of the region and should support the regional infrastructure by allowing people to visit for business and pleasure. Calling this obligation, ď[bearing] the burdens imposed by inconsiderate and at times dangerous drivers from the suburbsĒ seems a bit . . . provincial.

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Moving People
Clyde Howard, ceohoward@hotmail.com

I agree with Gary (themail, July 13). If you make it difficult to use cars, how do you expect to have rescue vehicles reach people on congested streets? If it is difficult for the cars to move, how can they get out of the way when an emergency vehicle sounds an alarm? Those who would like for the city to become one giant pedestrian way better hope that bicycles can be made big enough to carry people on a gurney to a hospital, or perhaps a personal jet pack will do. Any attempts to curtail cars will certainly curtail any and all sorts of means of providing transportation or services by vehicles. Perhaps the same planners who are dreaming up these scenarios against cars are the same ones who were in the forefront of eliminating streetcars in the city.

Causing obstructions to slow the influx of cars into or around the city would make terrorists salivate at such a big juicy target. People would be caught like rats in a barrel, unable to escape and unable to seek shelter. Placing curbs on cars would be harmful to the livelihood of people. Restaurants, hotels and motels, stores, food stores, sporting arenas, etc., would all be highly affected. In fact, they would be out of business because they could not get what they needed to conduct business in a timely fashion.

What is really needed is solid planning and thinking on ways to control the amount of cars into and about the city, not curtailing cars by creating congested roadways. Parking enforcement, garages, stopping government from providing free parking, and improving both inter- and intramodal transportation all have to be thought through with planned improvements. Then and only then will this city enjoy traffic controlled as it should be.

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Cars and Traffic
Eric Woods, ewbushdoctor@gmail.com

I agree with Garyís assessment of the Fenty Administrationís efforts regarding cars, city planners, and DC residents. Its stick seems to be more prevalent than its carrot. Over the last decade, the District government has emphasized attracting couples with dual incomes and no kids, and single, young professionals by enabling the construction of new high-end condo buildings and condo conversions of single family homes, along with a proliferation of coffee shops. The city appears to have lost sight of families that were already here.

Imagine a parent having to shop for groceries for a family of five without a car and having to rely on buses or the subway for round trip travel from a home that is blocks from the nearest transit stop. That parent would need to do that routine two or three times per week because a person can only carry so many grocery bags on crowded public transportation.

Or picture the economic choice for a family of five considering riding Metro to its DC destination. The cost would be fifteen to twenty-two dollars, versus zero to fifteen dollars for driving and parking on the street or in a garage. Without kids, itís a simple economic choice ó catch Metro. With kids, you have a dilemma because you end up driving in circles trying to park on the street. If the Fenty administration were truly family (and DC resident) friendly, it would model itself after the revitalized downtown Silver Spring. It would build centrally located parking towers with parking meters inside at sites like the old DC convention center. A parking tower there would ease the congestion of cars driving around looking for affordable parking downtown and in Chinatown. Moreover, parking meters add direct revenue to the city, and revenue seems to be a great driver of transportation decision-making for the District government. However, I believe thereís a greater chance of a commuter tax getting passed ó after which the Administration would probably begin tearing apart neighborhoods to expand roads and increase tax revenue.

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CLASSIFIEDS ó EVENTS

Fun Family Films Under the Stars, July 18-20
John A. Stokes, john.astokes@dc.gov

The Districtís Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will hold ďFun Family Films Under The Stars,Ē its 2008 Family Movie Night Season, this summer. ďFun Family Films Under The Stars,Ē 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 DPRís 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.

Friday, July 18, Brentwood Recreation Center, 2311 14th Street, NE
Friday, July 18, Kelly Miller Recreation Center, 601 49th Street, NE
Saturday, July 19, Langdon Park Recreation Center, 2901 20th Street, NE
Saturday, July 19, Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 1801 MLK Jr., Avenue, SW
Sunday, July 20, Florida Park, 1st Street and Florida Avenue, NW

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National Building Museum Events, July 25
Jazmine Zick, jzick@nbm.org

Friday, July 25, 6:30 p.m., Special Dance Performance Day 1: Mortar and Muscle: Animating Architecture. Participate in a dance-based ďscavenger huntĒ and watch Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and guest performers in site-specific, choreographed dance pieces that are inspired by the Museumís shape, meaning, and history. Free. Registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at http://www.nbm.org.

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Limb Labs: Getting Amputee Soldiers Back to Work After World War I, July 24
Tim Clarke, Jr., timothy.clarke@afip.osd.mil

Join a discussion about early efforts to standardize and construct affordable prosthetic arms and legs for amputee soldiers by orthopedic surgeons in America and England during World War I. Speakers: Beth Linker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania; and Jeffrey Reznick, Ph.D., Honorary Research Fellow in the Center for First World War Studies at the University of Birmingham and Director of the Institute for the Study of Occupation and Health, AOTF.

Thursday, July 24, 2:00-3:30 p.m., in Russell Auditorium, in the National Museum of Health and Medicine/AFIP, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW, Building 54, on the campus at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Parking available; photo ID required. Free; coffee served. For more information, call 782-2200 or visit http://www.nmhm.washingtondc.museum.

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Author Talk on the Evolution Debate, August 6
John Umana, jumanabeth@aol.com

Author and trial attorney John Umana will discuss his book, Creation: Towards a Theory of All Things, concerning the debate between Darwinism and Intelligent Design, and whether aspects of these theories are reconcilable. He will also discuss whether there is life on Mars or other worlds. Wednesday, August 6, 7:00 p.m., at Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Interim Library, 945 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, telephone 671-0267.

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CLASSIFIEDS ó DONATIONS

Support the American Heart Association
Bruce Johnson, bjohnson@wusa9.com

You know that years ago I had a massive heart attack and survived only after the incredible efforts of my cameraman in the field, the staffs at Greater Southeast and the Washington Hospital Center. Everyone knows someone affected by heart disease or stroke. For those I love, I will be walking in this yearís Start Heart Walk. I have set a personal goal to raise funds for the American Heart Association and need your help to reach my donation goal. We are raising critical dollars for heart disease and stroke research and education.

You can help me reach my goal by making a donation online. Click on http://heartwalk.kintera.org/dc/bjohnson?faf=1&e=1799854808 and you will be taken to my personal donation page at the American Heart Association, where you can make a secure online credit card donation. The American Heart Associationís online fundraising web site has a minimum donation amount of $25.00. If you prefer to donate less, you can do so by sending a check directly to me.

Your donation will help fight our nationís No. 1 and No. 3 killers ó heart disease and stroke. You are making a difference. Thank you for your support.

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CLASSIFIEDS ó HELP WANTED

Litigation Assistant
Jonathan L. Katz, jon at markskatz dot com

Highly rated criminal defense lawyer in the news seeks litigation assistant with minimum one year successful private law firm litigation experience. Rewarding and excellently compensated work and career growth for first-rate work. Silver Spring, near Metro station. Please see http://markskatz.com/jobs.htm or full details. Please apply immediately with one-page resume, targeted cover letter and salary and benefits history to Jon Katz, jon at markskatz dot com.

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