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September 7, 2008

Strange Endorsements

Dear Endorsers:

As you know, DCWatch doesn’t make political endorsements or support candidates, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t send your endorsements — and non-endorsements — to themail. There have been surprisingly few election-related messages in themail during this relatively quiet local primary season, but if you have anything to say about candidates or election issues before the November general election, don’t be shy.

DCWatch doesn’t make endorsements; however, I’ll still criticize the grounds on which others endorse candidates, and there have been at least two particularly strained and strange endorsements in the past week. Before I get to that, however, I want to compliment Colbert King on another great column yesterday ( In last Wednesday’s issue of themail, Dorothy wrote about the court hearing that was held that day on DC Public Schools’ failure to comply with the consent decree that requires improved special education services and programs. King attended the same hearing, and wrote about it yesterday: “The city’s top lawyer [Peter Nickles] and education leaders had to listen as the judge scolded them for not keeping their word to implement hundreds of settlements and hearing-officer decisions involving children who require special education services. ‘A consent decree,’ [Judge] Friedman lectured, ‘is not something you agree to for the fun of it.’ Over and over, Friedman threw Fenty’s campaign watchword, ‘accountability,’ in their faces. At one point, Friedman charged that Fenty’s special education program lacked ‘someone to be held accountable.’ Rhee, who is used to being the one who does the upbraiding, clearly wasn’t having a good time. Her stoic posture at the defendant’s table was betrayed by impatient foot-tapping.” King doesn’t mince words: “Friedman, in a gesture I consider too soft-hearted, gave notice that he would issue a court order containing questions that [Chancellor] Rhee and [State Schools Superintendent] Gist must answer at a future hearing. Then he let them go. Somebody should have left in handcuffs.”

King’s wisdom and experience, and his willingness to hold the city government responsible and accountable for its failures, has been sorely missed on the Post’s editorial board. That was most recently demonstrated in that paper’s endorsements in the city council primary race, The Post editorially endorsed Patrick Mara as Carol Schwartz’s opponent in the Republican primary for at-large councilmember. Mara’s pitch to Republicans is that Schwartz is too liberal, and that he represents a more conservative brand of Republicanism. But the Post, although it routinely denies its obvious political bias, is a liberal, Democratic paper. Why would it prefer a more conservative Republican candidate? The fact is that it doesn’t. What it likes about Mara is this: “Unrelentingly negative, Ms. Schwartz opposed no-smoking laws, open-meeting reform, and, most notably, the mayoral takeover of the schools. No more urgent issue faces the District than the improvement of its public schools, and as much as we salute Ms. Schwartz’s past contributions to the city, we fear the consequences of her continued presence on the council.” In other words, Carol Schwartz doesn’t march in lock step with Adrian Fenty. She asks too many questions of him, and demands accountability and transparency in his school takeover. The Post’s editorial board wants a councilmember more in its own mold, someone who will be an uncritical cheerleader for Fenty’s school takeover and who won’t ask inconvenient questions about it; that’s what it thinks Mara will be, and that’s why it supports him. I can’t image that Republicans would find that a convincing recommendation. It’s telling that Metro columnist Marc Fisher, who himself has been a staunch supporter of Fenty’s takeover, was so taken aback by the editorial board’s position that he used his column to refute it on that very point: “I don’t know whether Schwartz was right to stand up as one of only two council members opposing Mayor Adrian Fenty’s takeover of the school system — the jury will be out on Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s efforts for a good deal longer — but I do know that without Schwartz, hardly anyone would be keeping tabs on where the torrent of new school money is really going” (

The other strange endorsement is Loose Lips’ recommendation, in the Washington City Paper, of Jack Evans in the Democratic primary for Ward Two councilmember, “Over the years, from challenger after challenger, Evans has faced pretty much the same line of attack — that he’s a toady for the developers who’ve built the Verizon Center, the convention center, and the baseball stadium, not to mention various hotels and other projects. Again, it’s a fine set of talking points. But whoever lands in the Ward 2 slot is going to have a built-in relationship with real estate moguls, and geography explains why. Ward 2 spans downtown plus the lion’s share of the city’s hip and close-in neighborhoods. It’s a place where upscale development is going to happen even if Karl Marx is sitting on the dais.” In other words, Loose Lips argues, any councilmember from Ward 2 will be a toady for developers, get reelected by taking their donations, and represent their interests, so why not stick with Jack? All I can say is: huh?

Gary Imhoff


September 9 Primary Endorsement
Jeffrey Norman,

Vote for the Obama4UnityBeatsMcCain slate of candidates for the DC Democratic State Committee on Tuesday, September 9. These folks have all been on the front lines for Senator Obama here in the District of Columbia, and they represent the future of our party. Its candidates were assembled with the help of DC for Obama and other local activist groups. They were called to action by the glaring deficiencies that were witnessed in our party throughout this election.

We need change from the top to the bottom, from the White House to our local Democratic Party. This election cycle has certainly illustrated the fact that the current leadership of the DC Democratic Party is in need of some new blood. New party activists need to be welcomed into our party if we are going to lead the way in the twenty-first century. Being an active member of our party should not be based on who you know, and for how long you have known them. All should be welcomed in, or we risk becoming just as out of touch as the Republican party. Unfortunately, the culture of the DC Democratic Party has become an insular one, riddled with members of the old guard who see new community activists as an affront to their status. Luckily for us, we know that membership on the DC Democratic State Committee is not about status at all, but serving the will of the people. The outcome of our primary has shown that America is ready to shake off this old style of politics and embrace change. This insiders game must come to an end. Read for yourself in the Washington Post,

So, I ask you to vote for change on Tuesday, September 9. Vote for the Obama4UnityBeatsMcCain slate of candidates for the DC Democratic State Committee. Vote for transparency in governance, and together we will chart a new course for our local Democratic Party. You vote as you normally would in any election, at the same polling place. The hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To find your polling location and verify your registration status, you can visit


No Special Education Teacher For You!
Candi Peterson,

Under Deputy Chancellor for Special Education Phyllis Harris’ new special education model many DC public school students diagnosed with emotional disabilities reported to newly created self-contained programs. Little did DC parents know that many of these special education programs lack special educational teachers, educational aides, and the much needed textbooks which somehow just haven’t been ordered by the Office of Special Education. In many of these programs, DC teachers and school social workers work outside of their area of certification. To date, multiple complaints have surfaced from the Shadd Center, which some contend has become an institutional warehouse of disabled students. In lieu of having adequate special education teachers and support personnel for these programs, some central office staff are regularly performing as fill-in substitutes. Could it be that the DC Special Education Office is awaiting the callback of the 269 terminated teachers, 78 terminated probationary teachers and the 500 terminated educational aides who were recently separated from DCPS?

Other complaints have surfaced from Davis, Ferebee Hope, Garfield, Kimble, and Smothers Elementary schools and Anacostia Senior High amongst a host of other programs where self contained classrooms lack special education teachers, educational aides, related service providers and textbooks still. A DCPS service provider writes: “Hi Candi. It is truly a travesty, the disservice that our young children, especially black males, are being subjected to across this city. The E.D. (emotionally disturbed) programs are grossly understaffed and in total chaos and disarray. The conditions at Shadd are widely known, which is why central office personnel have been detailed; but the local school citywide programs are just as bad. Examples include Ferebee-Hope, which has a primary and intermediate class on paper. Only one teacher and no aides have shown. The school is supposed to have a full-time social worker but does not have one at all. The classes for students with an emotional disturbance are combined and the atmosphere is extremely confrontational. Students are aggressive with one another and the teacher. Davis, Garfield, Kimble, Smothers, and Thomas are also under staffed. My concern is that we are on the brink of a major catastrophe. This is a class-action lawsuit waiting to happen. Do we really wait until someone, child or staff, gets seriously injured before we address the issue? Unfortunately there are multiple issues of equal importance within the school system that need to be addressed. Please give this one some thought before it erupts and encapsulates us all.”

If you know of a situation in which DC programs lack special education teachers/educational aides, lack textbooks and appropriate resources, utilize school social workers as substitutes or aides, and/or DC teachers/providers who are working outside of their certification area, drop me a line at:


Upon Further Reflection
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

My counterproposal to the DC Public School proposal to pay middle school students for coming to school and behaving was to, instead, pay the parents, which would result in more parental involvement in the education process. Upon further reflection I see that this might, in instances where there is parent/student conflict, result in being a disincentive to the student. Perhaps splitting the payment (for those who have earned it) equally between the student and the parent, might achieve the best result.

My youngest son is in his third year of teaching in a blue collar school in upstate NY. Not much enthusiasm for education by parents in that community, either. What my son has done is to create a weekly lottery. Students who try to learn, come to school prepared, and behave in class can get lottery tickets for each and every performance measurement. They don’t need to get good grades to earn chances in the lottery; they need only to participate, do their homework, and behave in the classroom. At the end of each week there is a drawing with all the chances eligible for a prize. Several small prizes (of very nominal value, since they are paid for by my son) are given out. The process seems to be working well.


Single Sales Bans
Jack McKay,

The District Council is about to pass a “single sales” bill (B17-0903), prohibiting the sale of single containers of alcohol in Mount Pleasant and parts of Wards 2 and 6. On September 2, the Mount Pleasant ANC, by a 5 to 0 vote, called for the deletion of Mount Pleasant from the bill. The reasons that were given for wanting Mount Pleasant to be excluded from this ban were: 1) such single-sales bans do not mitigate the problem of public drinking, but merely persuade alcohol abusers to take their behavior to nearby, ban-free neighborhoods; 2) the legal ban would prevent any trial suspension of the existing, voluntary-agreement based ban in Mount Pleasant, to find out if it is today really beneficial, eight years on; 3) a recent George Washington University statistical analysis of alcohol-related calls for police service before and after the imposition of the singles ban in Ward Four showed no decrease due to the ban; 4) while the District council spends time on politically popular but ineffectual single sales bans, more serious efforts to deal with the problem are neglected. Our councilmembers seem not to realize that the core of the indigent-public-inebriate problem is the policy of homeless shelters to put their clients out on the street every morning, and allow them back in only in the evening. These unfortunate men have no place to go during the day but to our parks and streets, and no place to deal with their bodily functions but in our alleys. Banning singles does nothing to mitigate that public nuisance problem.

Ward One has an ample share of the homeless, many of whom are alcohol addicts and abusers, but not one of the four Ward One ANCs supports single sales bans as a legitimate approach to this problem.


How Tommy Wells’s Engrossed Original “Single-Sales” Bill Makes ANC Participation Irrelevant
David Sobelsohn,

Tommy Wells’s original single-sale bill (Bill 17-797) had a central role for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. As introduced, the bill prohibited Ward 6 single-sales of beer, ale, or malt liquor unless the local ANC specifically exempted a liquor licensee through a voluntary agreement. As amended on first reading, however, the (“Engrossed Original”) bill makes ANC participation inconsequential. First, the bill no longer gives ANCs power over exemptions. That power now would reside exclusively in the Alcohol Beverage Control Board. The bill does provide that, in granting an exemption, the ABC Board must give “great weight” to the “input, if any” of the local ANC (new § 25-344(c)(2)(A), p.2 lines 11-l2). But the bill goes on to list three specific factors the ABC Board must consider in deciding whether to grant an exemption (new § 25-344(c)(2)(B)-(D), p.2 lines 13-22).

Courts have interpreted the “great weight” requirement to mean only that city agencies must respond to an ANC’s concerns. But as amended, Bill 17-797 doesn’t specify — aside from the three factors the bill enumerates — an ANC may consider in providing its “input.” If an ANC included some nonenumerated factor in its advice, the ABC Board could “respond” by saying that’s not a relevant factor because it’s not specified in the bill. In other words, the ABC Board might limit the relevant factors to those specified in new § 25-344(c)(2)(B)-(D). But if passed in its current form, the bill will already require the ABC Board to evaluate the enumerated factors. Since the “great weight” requirement only means the ABC Board must evaluate relevant concerns raised by the local ANC, if the ABC Board limits the relevant factors to those specified in the bill — factors the bill already requires the ABC Board to consider — the position of an ANC would have no effect. The ABC Board would have to consider those factors in any event.

Historically, the ABC Board has given inconsistent respect to the views of an affected ANC. If the ABC Board can disregard the views of an ANC, it will. The bill’s current language permits them plausibly to do so. Since ANCs can’t file lawsuits, and since the DC attorney-general in any event would refuse to represent an ANC in litigation against the ABC Board, there would be nothing an ANC could do about it. As one of the specified factors, the bill lists “licensee participation in the community, such as attendance at Advisory Neighborhood Commission and Police Service Area community meetings” (new §25-344(c)(2)(C), p.2 lines 17-19). It would give ANCs some role in the process if the council amended this factor to add the phrase “and other community participation deemed relevant by the ANC in which the licensee is located.” Otherwise, in its current form, Bill 17-797 makes inconsequential any ANC involvement in determining exemptions to a Ward Six single-sale ban.


Protecting the Community
Kathy Henderson,

On Wednesday, members of the ANC 5B10 community valiantly defended our right to a safe, orderly and peaceful community by protesting the liquor license renewal of Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club, located at 1103 Bladensburg Road, NE. Google Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club and you will find references to “. . . a dive located in a hood called Trinidad. . .“ along with an ode to a dead drug dealer, “Goon,” and other indications that the establishment is not a family oriented business. The business (and I use the term loosely because I presume they pay taxes) has no identifiable signage, a cracked window facade, and has been observed to have trash strewn in the front and rear of the location on numerous occasions. On August 31, a Great Dane eating food trash in front of the establishment deterred some patrons from entering the establishment. The unleashed dog went inside the establishment after eating the food trash. The police have responded to the establishment for apparent violations of the law. Further, a sworn member of the Metropolitan Police Department testified at yesterday’s hearing that the owner of the establishment, Mark Thorp, confronted him in an angry and aggressive manner when said officer (who has since been promoted to the rank of sergeant) examined a parked vehicle with Maryland tags and a missing window. The vehicle in question belongs to Mr. Thorp, who identifies himself as an ardent supporter of the police.

The business has negatively affected the peace, order, and quiet of our community by operating outside of their stated business hours of 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 4:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., Friday and Saturday. Neighbors have heard loud music emanating from the establishment at approximately 6:00 a.m., and several patrons were observed noisily congregating in front of the establishment early on a Sunday morning. Further, the owner provided limousine service to the club until said limousine was ticketed, booted, and towed for violating residential parking restrictions and street cleaning posted signs. According to Chapter 4, section 400.1(b) of the General Licensing Requirements “The establishment will not have an adverse impact on residential parking needs, considering available public and private parking and any arrangements made to secure such parking for the clientele of the establishment; ”

Finally, one board member presiding over the protest hearing asked witnesses whether the business looked as bad as or worse than existing businesses in the area? Another asked would you rather have an empty building or one with a cracked facade and no signage? The location, 1103 Bladensburg, was vacant before opening as a tavern/dive. It appears that law-abiding citizens acting in good faith to protect their communities from negative elements that adversely affect peace, order, and quiet have an uphill struggle to protect the community. Increasingly, this community, which is partially located in Trinidad, has endured horrific levels of violence, forcing our police to respond strongly and often. We believe the police cannot fight crime alone and we must address all elements that contribute to crime and disorder, including protesting alcohol establishments that operate contrary to the law. I would be interested in hearing if other communities have experienced similar difficulties in protesting similarly situated establishments. Please respond here or feel free to contact Commissioner Henderson and me if you support our efforts to protect our community. The phone number is 397-2777. Mr. Thorp stated on the record that he actively sought and received support for his establishment from Councilmember Thomas. The majority of the ANC 5B10 community does not support this establishment.


Response to Sylvia Brown
Robert A. Levy,

In her September 3 E-mail (“Bilking the City to Bear Arms”), Sylvia C. Brown is long on rhetoric and short on facts. First, the Cato Institute had nothing to do with paying for Dick Heller’s successful Second Amendment challenge to the DC gun ban. Two attorneys worked for free. One attorney worked for less than $10 per hour, which I paid him out of my pocket. I also covered the other legal costs — personally, not from Cato Institute funds. Ms. Brown characterizes the three of us as “well-to-do.” Regrettably, I am the only one who might qualify, and any legal fees that I recover from DC will be donated to a 501(c)(3) charity. So much for Ms. Brown’s ill-informed accusation about “fat cats getting fatter and double dipping.” To put it bluntly, she just doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

As for what Ms. Brown calls “strong-arm tactics” that we are allegedly employing to “squeeze” legal fees out of DC taxpayers, those “tactics” are approved under federal law to encourage attorneys to pursue worthwhile civil rights litigation on behalf of persons whose rights have been violated. If DC wanted to conserve funds for repairing alleys and sidewalks in Deanwood, as Ms. Brown urges, perhaps the city should not have fought for five and a half years through three federal courts against six residents who wanted no more than to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to possess suitable firearms within their homes for self defense.


DC Gun Litigation Costs
Jeff Knox, The Firearms Coalition,

I understand Sylvia Brown’s frustration, but it was the same “don’t give an inch” attitude that got the city into the mess in the first place. Leaders of the Brady Campaign and the Violence Policy Center — the two leading national gun control organizations — begged the city to back out of the litigation long before it went to the Supreme Court, but Mayor Fenty, et al, refused and kept fighting to save their ridiculous gun ban. Now they have instituted new rules, including the impossible zoning regs, that flout the SCOTUS order and they’re going back to court — spending your money — to fight for these new, untenable rules.

Don’t blame the “greedy lawyers” for the city leaders’ mistrust of their citizens and their stubborn refusal to make reasonable changes to their draconian gun laws. The lawyers put in a lot of time and effort and they won a landmark case. The law says that when you win a case like this, the loser pays. It also says that when it is a case with major, far-reaching significance, the lawyer can ask for double his normal fee. The city knew all of this from the beginning and still refused to take steps to avoid the litigation. Residents should also ask how much the city spent for their own lawyers in the case. Even though some big law firm “donated” some services, I’m sure that the bill to taxpayers was still significant. If you want to blame someone, blame the city council, the mayor, the city’s lawyers, the police chief, and the other advisers who insist that residents of DC are less trustworthy and require more government supervision than the residents of any other city in the country.

The best thing for the city to do now — now that they’ve dug the hole — is to adjust its laws to comply with the letter and spirit of the SCOTUS order and to cut the best deal it can manage with the lawyers who beat them. Any other course of action is just likely to lead to more expenses and costs to DC taxpayers, not less. And, for the record, the Cato institute did not pay any legal fees. One of the attorneys, Robert Levy, is closely associated with Cato and Cato provided moral support, but Levy initiated and funded the whole case privately.



Rally to Save Franklin Shelter, September 8
Peter Tucker,

Please rally at the Franklin Shelter, 13th and K Streets, NW, one block from McPherson Square, on Monday, September 8, at 11:00 a.m. The Franklin Shelter is scheduled to be closed by Mayor Fenty by October 1, in less than one month, at the beginning of the hypothermia season. This comes despite Mayor Fenty’s previous public commitments this year to keep the shelter open, “until an alternative, 150-bed, men’s shelter is open downtown and 400 units of permanent supportive housing are open and online.” Neither of these commitments has been fulfilled. The Franklin Shelter had a capacity of three hundred until earlier this summer. However, the capacity of the shelter is being reduced on a nightly basis by dismantling beds each day. This is taking place despite the fact that there is not adequate, available space at other men’s shelters in the city, leading to increasing numbers of men being forced to sleep on the street. Roughly one month ago Franklin housed three hundred men, yet it now sleeps fewer than two hundred forty-two.

Mayor Fenty claims that there is an alternative plan to make available four hundred units of permanent supportive housing as the Franklin Shelter closes, but this housing does not come on-line until 2010-2011 at the earliest, 2010-2011, if it does materialize. Further, the four hundred units of permanent supportive housing will not be set aside for men who use the Franklin Shelter, but rather from homeless individuals across the city. The Franklin Shelter was opened after a particularly brutal winter that saw several homeless men die from exposure. How many men will freeze to death this winter if Franklin closes?


DC Public Library Events, September 10-11
George Williams,

Wednesday, September 10, 1:00 p.m., Capitol View Neighborhood Library, 5001 Central Avenue, SE. Wednesday Afternoon Book Club.

Thursday, September 11, Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Great Hall. Adult Literacy Volunteer Fair. An estimated 37 percent of the District’s adult population read at or below a third-grade level. This means that more than a third of the city’s residents may have difficulty managing the daily tasks that require reading. The public is invited to find out how to help an adult learn to read, prepare for the GED exam or learn English. Representatives from several adult education providers will be on hand to provide information about their programs, needs and training requirements. The event is sponsored by the DC Public Library in partnership with DC Learns. For more information contact 727-2431.

Thursday, September 11, 11:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Adaptive Services Division, Room 215. Talking Book Club. Members of the DC Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped adult book club will discuss the book, My Lord, What a Morning: An Autobiography by Marion Anderson. For more information, call 727-2142.


Smart Growth, September 11
Jazmine Zick,

September 11, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Smart Growth: The Problem with Codes, and the House on the Corner. Jeff Speck, AICP, LEED-AP, former director of town planning for Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. and co-author of Suburban Nation and the forthcoming Smart Growth Manual, discusses the often anti-urban nature of today’s land-use codes and proposes alternatives that promote the creation of more livable communities. Free. Registration not required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


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