themail.gif (3487 bytes)

August 10, 2008

Never Can Say Goodbye

Dear People Who Will Miss Isaac Hayes’ Voice:

I never can say goodbye.
Every time I think I’ve had enough
and start heading for the door,
There’s a very strange vibration
piercing me right through the core,
It says, “Turn around, you fool, you know you love him more and more.”

Tell me why is it so.
Don’t wanna let go.
Never can say goodbye.
Boy oo oo baby.
Never can say goodbye. No no no no no oo.
Oh, I never can say goodbye.
Boy oo oo.

In answer to Wenzell Taylor’s question in themail (July 30), Verizon may be bringing Fios service to DC sometime sooner or, more likely, later:,

The story about the meltdown of the Youth Summer Jobs Program continues: The problem is turning out to be the same as with other Fenty initiatives: the imperative is to go full speed ahead, with no patience for good planning and no ability to foresee the undesirable consequences of the program.

Today, the Washington Post gives a rare opportunity to respond to the people it normally denigrates, the people who are trying to hold the Fenty administration accountable for keeping its promises on improving DC’s schools and to keep the Chancellor from gulling teachers with a contract that offers the elusive promise of potential performance bonuses in exchange for giving up their job security and rights. Council Chairman Gray’s op-ed, “No Blank Check on School Reform,”, and Washington Teacher Union Trustee Candi Peterson’s letter, “DC’s Teachers Can Make Their Own Decisions,” are both in the Outlook section.

Gary Imhoff


Tales from Tenley
Sue Hemberger, Friendship Heights,

One month after the mayor pulled the plug on DC Public Libraries’ imminent reconstruction of the Tenley-Friendship library and handed that project and the adjacent Janney Elementary School modernization over to Deputy Mayor Neil Albert, the story has become even more fantastic. It turns out that the deal the Mayor was touting — a project involving 120-130 units of housing and “no loss of green space,” according to his July 10 press release — was a complete fiction. The development “partner” whom Fenty named had not agreed to these terms or anything like them. LCOR’s same-day press release referred to an 174-unit project, and Tim Smith, an LCOR Vice President, subsequently confirmed that the company had made no “best and final offer.” In fact, their only offer was the one that the community had seen last February. And that proposal consumed all of Janney’s playing field as well as a portion of the teachers’ parking lot.

But apparently it wasn’t just the community that Fenty and Albert were misleading when they suggested that subsequent negotiations had produced a new and much better plan. Ward 3 Council Member Mary Cheh, standing by the mayor’s side but looking uncharacteristically ill-at-ease, had written to Albert back in April, indicating that she found LCOR’s plan to be unacceptable. Like LCOR, she had been called the night before and asked to attend the press conference the next morning. There was no opportunity for her to see the new (nonexistent) plan before she arrived. Once she learned that the new plan was essentially the same as the old plan, Cheh and Kwame Brown (who, as chairman of the council’s Committee on Economic Development, serves an important gate-keeping function on projects like this — if, that is, such projects actually are taken to the council before they are faits accompli) sent another letter to Neil Albert on July 24. According to three different media accounts this past week, that letter laid out a number of “essential conditions” that would have to be met before these councilmembers could offer their support for the LCOR deal. None of these conditions have been met (and, frankly, some probably cannot be met), so Cheh and Brown apparently are, for now at least, opposed to the deal. This is an important turn of events, since it was another letter from Cheh and Brown, sent to the mayor in June of last year, whose support for a public-private venture helped put the school and library land on the auction block in the first place.

So now we know that Fenty and Albert subverted the council, misrepresented the project to the community and to the ward councilmember, and announced a deal their putative partner had never agreed to. On top of that, the deal that LCOR has offered is a really bad one for the community. It will provide us with fewer/worse public facilities, delivered later, and at greater public expense. I’m delighted to see Cheh “join the opposition,” as the Post put it. Of course, talk’s cheap, and it’s a little unnerving to hear Cheh, once again, talking about “crossing her fingers” and hoping for the best. It’s time for the council to develop and enforce standards (both procedural and substantive) for ensuring that public land deals serve the public interest rather than just enhance the power of the executive by providing a vast source of patronage.


Move the Teacher’s Contract to a Vote
Jackie Mann,

There are several reasons why DC students have failed academically for years. Lack of teacher accountability is one. As a DCPS employee, most of the teachers I have seen are average to excellent. Nonetheless, I have seen several very bad, even destructive, teachers. I have seen teachers sleeping in class, and others fumbling through books, trying to figure out what they want to teach that day, while the children sit and wait for a thrown-together lesson. At one school, a teacher missed several weeks of school each year, just before spring standardized testing, so that when her children scored low, she could say, “It’s not my fault. I wasn’t here to work with them.” Another teacher refused to wear her hearing aid because “it was uncomfortable,” even though she could not hear and respond to students’ needs without it. The principal slumped down in her chair in exasperation stating that there was little if anything she could do about a teacher who refused to wear her hearing aid! (When one of my middle school students refused to wear her hearing aid, her parents and teachers told her it was unacceptable because it negatively impacted her work. I guess that standard does not apply to adults).

Rhee’s plan is worth a try. Give those teachers who choose to be accountable rewards for their risk. In Rhee’s plan, teachers who want to maintain tenure and not be held accountable for students’ test scores have that option. Teachers who believe they can produce student improvement despite the odds against them have that option as well. By the way, enough with blaming poverty and poor parenting for our students’ failures. Those problems are real. However, there are schools across the nation that have shown that with high teacher quality most students can learn more regardless of the social ills they face. I have seen old-school teachers in DCPS teaching (successfully) against the odds as well. If you do not believe your students can learn because they have a hard life, why are you even here? Move over and let in someone who believes in the kids!

Rhee cannot get rid of poverty, crime or a hundred other social ills, but our students need to learn anyway. So, she’s focusing on what she can do something about — teacher quality, rewards, and accountability. Let the rest of us educators also have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. If the union believes in its members’ intelligence, it should trust members to review a tentative contract. Some colleagues were advised not to even go to the informational sessions to understand what options were on the table. Strange! As teachers, we usually tell our students to “learn all you can.” The frustrating part is that people who are against Rhee’s plan are not offering alternative suggestions. Where are the Union’s proactive ideas for improving teacher quality and developing a fair system of accountability? They have none. They need to give Rhee’s plan a shot to show that they are at least willing to try new ideas in the absence of their own.


To Club or Not to Club
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

As I take my early a.m. stroll around northwest DC with my faithful Mountain Ukrainian Teutonic Toy, Trudy, I still find cars parked along the streets with The Club, the antitheft bar, installed on the steering wheel. This device is totally useless, since any thief wanting to steal that car merely uses a hacksaw blade to disable The Club in about twenty-seven seconds. Yes, it would take twenty-seven months to saw through the impervium of The Club, but mere seconds to saw through the steering wheel and then to remove The Club.

I recently came across a newer device made by The Club called the Tire Claw XL. This device clamps onto one of the wheels of your car much like the “boot” used by the police here in DC to disable cars that are parked illegally or have outstanding tickets. This new Club device locks with an electronic key in just a few seconds and the lock cannot be disabled to free the wheel without the special key. This device is a true antitheft device for those not wanting their Lexus to fall victim to a car thief. Actually the most stolen auto in the US is a poor cousin of the Lexus, a Toyota Camry (probably because there are so many more Camrys than Lexus cars).


InTowner August Issue
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the August 2008 online 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 September 12 (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) “Preservation Board’s Order Landmarking Church Being Challenged in Federal Court”; 2) “DC Libraries Showing Improved Facilities and Service; Construction of Branch in Shaw Soon to Start, Mayor Accused of Disrupting Tenley Plan”; 3) “Ross School Joins With Fillmore Arts Center to Offer Summer Program.”



Fun Family Films Under the Stars, August 13-14
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.

Wednesday, August 13, Woodland Terrace, 2700 Block of Bruce Place, SE
Thursday, August 14, Fort Stevens Recreation Center, 1327 Van Buren Street, NW


DC Government “Truck Touch” Event, August 16
Nancee Lorn,

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced today that DC government will hold its first “Truck Touch” event on Saturday, August 16, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at RFK Stadium, Lot 7. Mayor Fenty invites the public to come out and climb aboard the nearly thirty vehicles — including fire and dump trucks, one-stop mobile health and employment vans, and a police helicopter and a harbor patrol boat — used to provide vital city services. This is a free event.

The event will feature vehicles from the Departments of Employment Services; Health; Parks and Recreation; Public Works; Transportation; Fire and Emergency Management Services, the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency; the Metropolitan Police Department; and the Water and Sewer Authority.


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at


Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)