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August 31, 2008

Labor Day

Dear Laborers:

It’s a tough Labor Day in DC, with not much for union people, especially those who work for the DC government, to celebrate. Last week at the Democratic National Convention, the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO distributed a flyer listing some of the anti-worker and antiunion actions taken by Mayor Fenty, On August 28, Councilmember Phil Mendelson pointed out another, quite serious antiunion action by the mayor ( The mayor has unilaterally defunded the Office of Labor Management Partnership, even though it is fully funded for next year in the FY2009 budget passed by the city council and signed by the mayor. Mendelson explained to Mayor Fenty why this is important: “It is hard to believe that you would allow — or encourage — the demise of the labor-management partnership process. Established in 1997-98 with the encouragement of the Control Board and the US Department of Labor, the LMPC concept has always been considered cutting edge best practice. under Mayor William’s the District had one of the best, if not the best, LMPC programs in the country. The LMPC program improves labor-management relations outside the collective bargaining process, and it improves service delivery within the agencies. The annual awards ceremony was proof of this success. This government cannot succeed if its leaders are at war with its workers. I am sure that you agree that the working men and women in District government are vital partners as we strive to be a world-class city. Disbanding the OLMPC, and the labor management partnership councils, is incongruent with this goal. Quite simply, alienating those workers on whom we rely is a serious mistake.”

The mayor’s war against unions and government workers, especially his actions to strip teachers of their job protections, have their defenders. This week Steven Pearlstein, normally an insightful columnist, wrote “A Watershed Labor Negotiation,”, in which he cheered on Fenty’s efforts to cripple DC government worker unions: “It would trigger a national debate on why public employees continue to enjoy what amounts to ironclad job security without accountability while the taxpayers who fund their salaries have long since been forced to accept the realities of a performance-based global economy.” Pearlstein ignores the history of the good government reform movement, which ended the political spoils system that subjected governmental workers to the ills of political favoritism. In fact, he longs for the return of that system: “Sure, there will be times when teachers will be treated in an arbitrary and capricious way if they give up their tenure rights. Guess what: it happens all the time in the private sector, where hiring, promotion and pay decisions are sometimes made with incomplete information, favoritism, or undue emphasis on one factor or another. But despite this imperfection, despite the numerous instances of unfairness and poor judgment, somehow the vast majority of Americans manage to find a job, move up the ladder and enjoy their work, and companies manage to operate successfully and turn a profit.” This attitude is unworthy of Pearlstein, who understands the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism much better that this. The fact is that the most successful companies treat their workers fairly and evenhandedly, and consider them partners. Workers who feel they have reasonable job security and the support of the companies they work for simply work better. Government workers who are subjected to the arbitrary and capricious decisions of a parade of political appointees are unlikely to be devoted to their jobs. Instead of hoping that government employees share the fate of those private sector workers who are employed by companies with the worst labor practices, Pearlstein would do better to hope that more workers in the private sector gain more protections from the kind of stupid management decisions illustrated daily in Dilbert.

George Santayana said, “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.” Does anyone remember Santayana anymore for anything other than that quotation? Does anyone read him? I suspect not and, if so, it’s a shame; he was a graceful writer at a time when philosophers still wrote readable books, intended as literature for the general public. In any case, those who forget why the spoils system of government employment was replaced by the merit system, those who forget why unions gained power to balance the excesses of corporate mismanagement, are not just condemned to repeat history, they will be condemned by history.

Gary Imhoff


DPW Labor Day Schedule
Nancee Lyons,

DC Department of Public Works (DPW) services will be affected in observance of Labor Day on Monday, September 1. There will be no trash and recycling collections. All Monday trash and recycling collections will “slide” to the next day. Trash and recycling containers should be put out for collection no earlier than 6:30 p.m. the night before collection and removed from public space by 8:00 p.m. on the day(s) of collection. DPW will suspend enforcement of parking meters, residential parking, and rush hour lane restrictions. It also will suspend towing of abandoned vehicles. The Ft. Totten Trash Transfer Station will be closed Monday. It will reopen Tuesday for residents to bring bulk trash.

Other services that will be suspended for Labor Day include scheduled street and alley cleaning, graffiti removal, and nuisance abatement. The Benning Road Trash Transfer Station, at 3200 Benning Road, NE, and the Ft. Totten Trash Transfer Station at 4900 Bates Road, NE, are open every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. to receive residents’ unwanted toxic items, such as pesticides, batteries and motor oil. Electronics, including televisions, computers and cell phones, will be accepted. Residents also may bring up to five boxes of personal paper documents and credit cards to be shredded for free.

To view DPW’s trash and recycling holiday schedule for the remainder of the year, visit and click on Holiday Schedule under the “Information” header or call the Mayor’s Citywide Call Center at 311 or 727-1000 if calling from outside the District.


Maybe I Should Stay Longer
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

I’ve been out here in the other Washington a week, and missed three Nationals games this past week. They won all three and two others as well. If they keep this up they’ll miss out on the opportunity to lose one hundred games this season. Hey, if I’d come out sooner they might have had a shot at the playoffs.


Using Screencasts to Communicate with Local Government
Phil Shapiro,

When the DC Office of Planning requested ideas for possible uses of eight closed schools in DC, it occurred to me that I could best explain my ideas using a screencast, a narrated explanation of activity on my computer screen. So with the help of other educators whom I admire, I assembled a 16.5 minute web video that explains what I consider to be one of the best possible uses of Clark Elementary School, near Georgia Avenue (continued at


Paying Off the Summer Jobs Youth
Bryce A. Suderow,

Friday night I visited Sherwood Recreation Center, where they were dispensing checks to the youths from the Summer Job’s Program. I was surprised to see several police cars parked in front, and a number of police officers, including Commander Diane Groomes, standing on the sidewalk.

I asked one officer why they were there. Were they afraid of a robbery? The officer said, “The kids get bored standing in line and then they want to fight. It shows you how bad things are when the police need to be here to make sure there is no violence.”

Afterwards I wondered how these thugs could work effectively on any kind of job, even bullshit jobs like the summer jobs program.


My New Education Blog
Candi Peterson,

I hope all of you will stop by my new education blog from time to time at Feel free to post comments so that we can have an equal balance of opinions.


School Is Money
Jean Mammen,

I’m wondering exactly how the criteria of behavior, attendance and grades will be applied. They are all subject to interpretation by a teacher or an assistant principal. What happens if someone feels sorry for a “poor baby”? What happens if a disruptive student says, “If you mark down my behavior, you better watch out! I better get my money!”


Tin Soldiers
Bill Coe,

How easy it is to move one’s hand across a keyboard, then press “enter” and post complaints for all to see. How infinitely more difficult (and authentic) it is to attack a community’s problems with big ideas, to take a stand for something different, and to do actual work. I’m sure most readers will keep a clear head and carefully separate those who just talk from those who lay it on the line every day and give themselves entirely to making a better life for this city.

I am perusing a profile of Ward 8, published recently by the Post in connection with political opposition there to Councilmember Barry. I note that not even half the working-age adults in his ward have a high-school diploma, which brings to mind stats printed earlier in that paper on the chances of our ninth-graders ever reaching college (less than 5 percent) or the prevalence of functional illiteracy among former students. Such data represent tens of thousands of ill-served young people pushed into adulthood every year by our schools — generation after generation — unable to advance themselves in an economy where most decent jobs require articulate service and technical skill. In terms of earning power (and learning power) their lives are stillborn. For Mr. Imhoff, though, the burning issue is “consensus”; it’s all about respect for unions and accommodating teachers who have “served” our schools so many years. These are relatively small things, are they not? It seems to me that anything or anyone long associated with our old school system merits nothing but presumptive skepticism.

As I say, it’s the political season; elections will soon be held from one end of the District to the other; the people will speak, yet again. These contests will test the arguments made right here every week, so I ask: how many viable candidates now running for elected office in Washington are advocating a reversal of Mayor Fenty’s takeover of our schools? How many are campaigning to get rid of Chancellor Rhee or undo her work? How many want voters to accept a return to anything remotely like the school system we had just two years ago? Do any such candidates exist? If so, how many stand a snowball’s chance of winning?


Pay Students to Attend School?
Charles T. Cureton,

This is another indication, in my opinion, that Fenty, and anyone else who agrees with him to pay students to attend school, needs some serious professional help. First, to pay students to go to school is nothing less that bribery. As children, they are required to go to school until a certain age. It is the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children go to school. Why should taxpayers who do not have children, have their tax money used for this purpose?

If the students are paid to go to school, I believe that is income as defined by IRS, and taxes have to be paid on income. Also, if students are paid to go to school, shouldn’t they be responsible for purchasing their school supplies, books, and the cost of transportation to and from school if school buses are utilized? However, the whole idea of this is totally stupid!

As for Fenty and Rhee and their hostility to the teachers and teachers unions, I find it hard to believe these two individuals are being allowed to continue without legal action being taken, unless there is someone hiding in the background who will. If Fenty wants to conduct himself as a self proclaimed dictator, he should find a country that will accept his actions in my opinion. It is my sincere hope that residents will find a way to oust Fenty and Rhee and get leaders in those positions who will improve our nation’s capitol city.



Public Employees Under Attack, September 1
Joni Eisenberg,

Public employees under attack in the nation’s capital is the topic for Heal DC’s Labor Day special, which can be heard Monday, September 1, at 10:00 a.m., on WPFW 89.3FM. Listen to two union leaders who represent the majority of DC government employees — George T. Johnson, Executive Director of AFSMCE DC Council 20, and Eric Bunn, President of AFGE Local 2725 — as they talk about how the rights and dignity of DC government employees are being eroded under the Fenty Administration.


DC Public Library Events, September 3-4
George Williams,

Wednesday, September 3, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Auditorium A-5. Co-authors Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner will discuss their book, Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson. Junius Wilson, who was African-American and deaf in the Jim Crow South, served over seven decades in a state hospital for the colored insane after being convicted of rape and found insane in 1925. His story examines the dynamics between race and disability in the segregated south

Thursday, September 4, 12:00 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Auditorium A-5. Brown Bag Recital Series. Music of Dutilleux and Rachmaninoff performed by cellist Vasily Popov and pianist Ralitza Patheva. Popov, who was born in Russia, and Patcheva, originally from Bulgaria, are a husband and wife team. Both musicians have won international and local music competitions and have performed in concert halls all over the world. The program will begin with remarks by the witty and knowledgeable music scholar Sorab Modi. The September 4 performance will begin with Benjamin Britten’s Suite No. 3 for cello solo, an emotional work that includes themes of Russian folk tunes. Second will be a short work for unaccompanied cello by 20th century French composer Henri Dutilleux, and the concert will end with a varied group of Rachmaninoff pieces for piano. For more information, contact 727-1285.

Thursday, September 4, 2:30 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Arts and Literature Division, Room 221. Let’s Talk About Books. Discuss The Poetry of Charles Bukowski. Next month’s selection: Long Day’s Journey into Night, a play by Eugene O’Neill.


Elderfest, September 4
Darlene Nowlin,

The DC Office on Aging, Family and Child Services and the Office on Aging Senior Service Network will present Elderfest 2008 on Thursday, September 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Freedom Plaza, Pennsylvania Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets, NW. Elderfest is a free outdoor festival for seniors that includes live music featuring the Legendary Orioles, entertainment, dancing, health and fitness demonstrations, free health screenings, information exhibits, demonstration bingo, and much more. Purchase handmade arts and crafts from seniors or food from food vendors. Something for everyone!

Take Metrorail to Metro Center (Blue, Orange or Red lines) or Federal Triangle (Orange and Blue lines) or Metrobus routes 32, 36, 52 or 53.


Shelters and Shadows, September 5
Greg Finch,

The Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts will have an opening reception and artist’s dialogue for its exhibition, “Shelters and Shadows” on Friday, September 5, 5:30-8:00 p.m. Curator Lillian Fitzgerald unites four artists — Sheep Jones, Lynden Cline, Angela Hennessy, and Allegra Marquart — who each “revel in their materials” and speak to the fragility of our lives in their own way. “Shelters and Shadows” will be shown at the newly dedicated Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street, NW, in the vibrant U Street corridor. The exhibition will remain open until October 30. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Saturday 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., and by appointment. For more information, go to or call 483-8600.


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