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August 20, 2008

A City of Enemies

Dear Friends:

It’s not too early to declare that Mayor Fenty’s takeover of the school system is a failure, and here’s why. Fenty started his school takeover with soothing rhetoric about how he wouldn’t be able to improve DC’s schools unless we all worked together, but that rhetoric has long since been abandoned. Now the administration’s rhetoric matches its actions, and they both show that it has abandoned any attempt at forging a citywide partnership. Instead, Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee see themselves as working alone against every other part of the city, imposing their will on their enemies inside and outside of the school system, rather than working together with citizens and parents as well as teachers, school administrators, and other employees of the school system. The school takeover began by eliminating any real power and responsibilities held by the elected school board. Once that was done with the assistance of the city council, the administration cast the council aside as a working partner. It now treats councilmembers as presumptuous hindrances, and is openly scornful of council oversight. Rhee has long since stopped pretending to work cooperatively with any of the longtime school reform and parents groups in the city, and now she is proposing a teachers contract that basically eliminates any job protection for them. Any “reform” that is imposed by force and will, without the democratic agreement of, much less the enthusiastic support of, the people who are most affected by it, is by definition not a reform, but an abject failure.

Teacher tenure in public schools is often misunderstood. In colleges and universities, tenure’s main purpose is to protect ideas, to protect professors who hold unpopular viewpoints from being fired because of their opinions. In public schools, teacher tenure arose from quite different motives. Public school teachers’ jobs are protected from political interference for the same reason other civil servants’ jobs are protected — the knowledge that without job security for the civil service, politicians will use the bureaucracy as a jobs program, regularly sweeping out their opponents and hiring their supporters, demanding political obedience from government employees. Government employees have to be protected from the demand that they belong to the right political party or, in a one-party state like the District of Columbia, belong to the right faction of the right political party. Government employees, including teachers, shouldn’t have to declare their allegiance to and support for the Fenty-Rhee regime in order to keep their jobs. But that is what Rhee is basically demanding: that she be given the power to fire those who “aren’t with the program,” “don’t fit in with the plan.” Make no mistake; the aim is not to separate the competent from the incompetent, but the loyal from the disloyal. During and after the 1880’s, the spoils system of hiring government employees was replaced with the merit system, largely freeing bureaucrats from the iron whims of politicians. Fenty and Rhee want to make government hiring and firing more like that in private industry, with all employees being at-will; in other words, they want to return to the days before civil service reform created a professional civil service, back to the spoils system, so they can build a team of sycophants. They want to do this first in the schools, and then throughout the rest of city government. The implications for other DC government employees and their unions are clear.

Bill Turque, in the DC Wire blog (, pointed to a highly laudatory, almost worshipful, article about Chancellor Michelle Rhee by Jeff Chu in the upcoming September issue of Fast Company magazine. Chu even praises Rhee because she “eats heroically.” The quotes from Rhee that Turque lifted from the article have spread widely, but the whole article is already online at, and the inflammatory things Rhee said about her disdain for city councilmembers are only the start of the trouble it should make for her. It’s worth reading the whole article in order to understand the heroic image the Fenty-Rhee regime has of itself, “crusaders” against a “creaking bureaucracy,” working alone against a city of enemies, instead of together with a city of people who are concerned about their children and the education they are receiving.

Gary Imhoff


Unlimited City Resources for Ballpark Disappear for School Renovations
Ed Delaney,

From When Allen Lew was the CEO of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission and essentially the head of the ballpark project in charge of getting it to be finished on time, no expense or expenditure of manpower round-the-clock was spared to get the task at hand done. The driving force behind that haste was none other than a self-created obligation by the city and its bureaucrats to a private business entity for whose use the publicly funded ballpark was created.

Flash forward to today, and the same “never say die” commitment to getting the ballpark done on time from Lew and the city is not present, as the towel is thrown in on completing essential repairs in a timely fashion on schools. Lew is now in charge of the school renovations, but doesn’t seem to have the drive to finish them all in the time frame and to the completion standards that the ballpark required, saying, per the Post that “there might be ‘some things that roll into the school year.’ Any remaining work will be done after school hours, he said.”

All that is a far cry from the army of workers hired at ever-escalating costs to finish the ballpark to Major League Baseball’s and Ted Lerner’s specifications. Unfortunately, it’s not Ted Lerner or MLB cracking the whip on the school project, but only the DC taxpayer through its redoubtable mayor and city council. And since they don’t stand to get free luxury box access, garage parking, and other ballpark perks as an incentive to get the schools done in the same uncompromising fashion that the ballpark project received, there’s not a thing (especially public stewardship and duty) that will have them weigh the importance of getting the schools done nearly as quickly as the ballpark. You get what you pay for in DC, especially if you’re a major private business entity.


The Teachers Union and the Democrats
Thomas Smith,

Like Stevie Wonder said, “When you believe in things you don’t understand, you suffer.” The DC Statehood Green Party has approached the teachers union on numerous occasions and our school board candidates have talked to the teachers union. The response from the union over the years? Stick with the Democrats, no matter how abusive they are.

We have tried to explain to the Washington Teachers Union the political nature of our school system ever since Williams was first elected. Do you think they might want to talk with us now?


Michelle Rhee Pushes Agendas Instead of Helping Youth
Richard Urban,

The attempt to influence teachers to give up tenure by hiring some teachers to lobby is another example of how the Fenty/Rhee administration puts agendas before the well-being of students, parents, teachers, and citizens. In my role as the director of a nonprofit that was operating at Eastern Senior High School and several other DC Public Schools, I can attest to the pressure and manipulation that was put on teachers who have served the school system for many years. I personally know of four teachers who retired just this past year. One did not bother to finish the school year. After twenty-five years of teaching, he was fed up with unruly classrooms and lack of support from the school administration. Another teacher worked heroically to help tenth grade students who were reading at fifth grade level. She was subjected to repeated “evaluations,” and has also retired. Another teacher had a stoke and recovered. She too had served students for over twenty-five years, and has also retired.

Why does Ms Rhee want to fire, retire, or otherwise push out so many teachers? Could she be pushing other agendas than the welfare of the youth? Yes, definitely. One agenda is getting rid of older, tenured teachers to make way for younger teachers (see the New Teacher Project, Ms. Rhee’s former organization), who are more comfortable promoting “diversity” (such as promoting the normalization of same sex relationships for youths, starting in the sixth grade). Could there also be a bias against teachers who may display an inclination to partner with faith-based organizations in the community? That is a possibility, too.

Ms. Rhee lied repeatedly when she kicked the ULTRA Teen Choice program out of DC Public Schools, while her staff stated back in December that the real reason was that they do not agree with programs that promote abstinence and waiting to have sex until marriage, but do not specifically include discussion of same sex relationships.


Shaw Group Asks Evans to Intervene on Libraries
Robin Diener,

Disheartened by downgraded designs for the new Watha T. Daniel neighborhood library in Shaw, advocates from the Shaw Library Study Group have asked Councilmember Jack Evans to intervene with the DC Public Library. The group notes that DCPL has not adequately addressed other concerns as well in its community input processes, and was already taken to task by the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C. Last month, in a unanimous vote, commissioners of the Shaw ANC 2C cited DCPL for not having “lived up to its legal obligation to invite ANC’s into the library transformation process in any meaningful way.” DCPL did not immediately respond to the ANC resolution, but shortly thereafter announced a “final” community design meeting for Wednesday September 4, causing the Study Group to turn to its councilmember to bring all parties to the table before it’s too late.

“There is still time to hammer out refinements,” said Barbara Carter, one of the study group members who visited with Evans staff last week to request his intervention. “Everyone wants the same thing – the best possible library under the circumstances.” Watha T. Daniel Library in Shaw was closed for rebuilding in December 2004, but the four-million-dollar design plans were deemed inadequate by the Board of Library Trustees. New plans for a sixteen-million-dollar library were presented on January 30. The community responded favorably to the overall design — a glass jewel box set in a triangle along Rhode Island Avenue — but recent updates show glass on only one side. DCPL cited cost constraints as the reason for the change.

In addition to restoring the glass, the Study Group is asking for: a more distinctive entrance, prominent security, a cafe, green elements, a dedicated computer training lab, space for adult literacy programming and senior activities. The group has also asked to see a line item budget in order to help the community understand spending limitations and priorities. Text of ANC-2C Resolution: Compare basic designs from January and June: Detailed Current DCPL Design Plans for Watha T. Daniel Neighborhood Library:



DC Vote Pre-Convention Meeting, August 21
Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, DC Vote,

Join DC Vote at the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention. Are you headed to Denver for the Democratic Convention, August 25-28? Please join Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC Vote, and DC for Democracy, this Thursday evening for a DNC briefing. We’ll be discussing our strategies for raising the issue of DC voting rights through canvassing, events, volunteer activities, and more. The event is open to all, including volunteers, convention delegates, elected officials, and media.

Please note the new time and location for this meeting on Thursday, August 21, 6:00 p.m., at Bohemian Caverns/Mahogany Restaurant and Lounge, 2001 11th Street, NW. Also, stay tuned for DC Vote’s plans to highlight DC voting rights at the Republican National Convention, September 1-4.


Brookland Demands Undergrounding of Power Lines, August 23
Anne Anderson,

The Brookland community will hold a march and rally to demand that the District ‘underground’ the overhead power lines on Brookland’s commercial corridor as part of the Brookland Streetscape project. The “Leave the Trees” Coalition has invited Mayor Adrian Fenty, Council Chairman Vincent Gray, Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr., and other District officials to join the Brookland community. The march will be on Saturday, August 23, beginning at 9:00 a.m.; the rally and press conference will begin immediately following the march, at 10:00 a.m. The march starts at 12th Street, NE, and Rhode Island Avenue, NE. The rally and press conference will take place at 12th Street, NE, and Monroe Street, NE, St. Anthony’s.

For years, DDOT has been holding meetings in the Brookland neighborhood, ostensibly seeking community input into the Brookland streetscape project. At these meetings, the neighborhood has emphasized its priority of undergrounding the power lines. A streetscape project that fails to underground the power lines is not a true streetscape project. “Undergrounding” the overhead power lines on Brookland’s commercial corridor will allow: 1) healthy trees to grow, trees that are not hacked by utility crews. 2) The installation of proper pedestrian lighting that will result in a safe, well-lit commercial corridor. Proper pedestrian lighting cannot be installed with overhead power lines. 3) The full economic benefits of a streetscape project. Streetscape projects are drivers of real economic reinvigoration. Failure to underground the power lines will rob Brookland of many of the economic benefits of a streetscape project. Other District streetscapes include below-ground power lines for safety and economic vibrancy. Why should Brookland be different?


Fun Family Films Under the Stars, August 22-24
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.

Friday, August 22, Florida Park, 1st Street and Florida Avenue, NW
Friday, August 22, Guy Mason Recreation Center, 3600 Calvert Street, NW
Saturday, August 23, Trinidad Recreation Center, 1310 Childress Street, NE
Saturday, August 23, Benning Park Community Center, 51st and Fitch Street, SE
Sunday, August 24, Langdon Park Recreation Center, 2901 20th Street, NE


Leprosy and Stigma, August 27
Jessica Stark,

Elizabeth Schexnyder, Curator, The National Hansen’s Disease Museum, will speak on “Carville: The Landscape of Stigma,” at an afternoon coffee talk at the National Museum of Health and Medicine (on the campus at Walter Reed Army Medical Center). Join a discussion on how the fear of leprosy led to displays of stigma associated with the disease. Learn how “othering” human beings diagnosed with leprosy shaped the unique social and physical landscape of the National Leprosarium at Carville, Louisiana.

Wednesday, August 27, 2:00-3:00 p.m., at Russell Auditorium (AFIP, Bldg. 54), 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW, at WRAMC. For directions, go to Free; coffee also included. Parking is available. Photo ID required. For more information, go to


Community Design Meeting for Shaw Library, September 4
Martha Saccocio,

Please join DC Public Library staff, your neighbors, and the firm of Davis, Brody, Bond Aedas for the final community meeting to discuss the design of the new Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Neighborhood Library. Thursday, September 4, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Interim Library, 945 Rhode Island Avenue, NW. For more information, please visit the DCPL web site at or contact Archie Williams at or 727-1437.


DC Library’s Adult Literacy Volunteer Fair, September 11
Ben Merrion,

The DC Public Library and the literacy advocacy group DC LEARNs will host our fifth annual Adult Literacy Volunteer Fair on Thursday, September 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, in the Great Hall (Main Lobby). The event will feature representatives from numerous literary organizations in the city, who will counsel prospective volunteers on the programs, training, and opportunities available, whether it’s helping adults learn to read, earn a GED, or grasp the basics of English as a second language. For more information and to RSVP, call Ben Merrion at 727-2431 or E-mail by September 8.



John Henderson,

I am looking for an interpreter and translator who can translate from English to any foreign language or vice-versa. I have a project at hand that demands some vital language learning. This book has been written to help parents know their duties and obligations to kids from ages two to twelve years. I will like to know your area of specialization and also what languages you know, as this book will be published and distributed around the world. The book contains twenty-five pages; the word count in English is nine thousand to eleven thousand. I will need to know the cost and your contact information. Once we agree on a payment, I will send you a copy of the book through fax or mail. You can also contact me at 909-539-9640 or by E-mail. I am not requesting editing, only translation, but I hope you will be able to finish this job within one month. The book is titled What Teenagers Need from their Parent.



Handyman Service
Taylor Simmons, ttsimmons at aol dot com.

Folks, I’d like to recommend Colonel Josh Handyman Service. I’ve known Josh Arnson for twenty-five years and can personally vouch for his fix-it skills and integrity. He’s recently installed for me a dishwasher, kitchen faucet, and shutoff valves, and also bondo’d some rusty areas of my car to help get it passed through DC inspection.

All your handyman needs. Electrical, plumbing, painting, assembly. Sash window cord repair specialist. Reasonable rates and references available. Call Josh Arnson 631-3376 or E-mail


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