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September 28, 2008


Dear Recommenders:

I’d like your recommendations in three areas. First, what are your recommendations for slimming the DC government in light of our projected fiscal shortfall? We know the likely choices that the mayor and city council will make: cut special education, disability services, homeless programs, and so on, so that the government can continue to afford funding sports stadiums and selling off city buildings at bargain basement prices. But if it were your job to take a blue pencil to the budget, what would you cut that would cause the least pain or would even improve city government?

Second, a while ago I wrote about new hamburger restaurants in the DC area; now I’d like to get your thoughts about another unfashionable cuisine: Asian buffets. I’m not talking about dim sum restaurants, but about the Asian equivalent of American buffet restaurants like Old Country Buffet, Great American Buffet, and Golden Corral. Asian or American, buffets specialize in cheap and abundant food. They charge one price for all you can eat, and they are experts at making the cheapest and most filling foods look the most appetizing. In an American buffet, the trick is to get customers to pick up a roll to go with the baked potato, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread stuffing. In Asian buffets, the trick is to offer sushi rather than sashimi, and to make sure there is a big ball of rice in each piece. At a good buffet, the diner’s reward is not subtle and delicate flavors, but the pain of a distended stomach and the groaning complaint, “I ate too much again.”

Asian buffets are mostly Chinese, but they can also be Japanese and Korean, and they’re frequently a combination. I understand the Asian buffet trend has been going on along the East coast for almost ten years now, but Dorothy and I are late to catch up to it. Today, Dorothy and I ate at Todai in Fair Oaks Mall. It is part of an international Korean chain that serves primarily Japanese food. Todai is the first Washington-area Asian buffet we’ve gone to. From what I gather from customer reviews online, it’s a few dollars more expensive than most, but it’s also probably the best of its type in this area. However, buffet restaurants of any type are too declasse to be reviewed by professional food critics, so I’m asking for your expertise. What are the best and worst Asian buffets you’ve been to, and what dishes do you recommend, or recommend avoiding?

Third, we’re thinking of planting some azaleas. DC is an azalea-rich town, but there aren’t many in Columbia Heights, at least in our immediate area. So I’m asking for your advice: what are your favorite varieties; which are the easiest to care for; which thrive best in our climate and soil; which nurseries have the best and most affordable selection?

Gary Imhoff


Mayor’s Hearing for the Brookland/CUA Metro Small Area Plan
John Feeley, Jr.,

It is more important than ever that we voice our opposition to the Brookland Metro Small Area Plan. We need to voice our opposition to its density, to its lack of park and open space, and to its refusal to acknowledge the intense development proposed for Greater Brookland/ Soldiers’ Home/MacMillan Reservoir area and the infrastructure issues that must accompany such massive development.

But above and beyond that, the means by which the Brookland Metro Small Area Plan is being pushed forward by the Mayor’s Office is an affront to democracy. Copies of the final draft of the Small Area Plan were made available on September 1. A letter accompanying copies of the plan described the thirty-day comment period that was to follow. A previous letter from Ms. Tregoning, director of the Office of Planning, sent to the Michigan Park Citizens’ Association in June, assured the community that this comment period would not end before October 3, 2008. In spite of these assurances, members of the Small Area Plan Advisory Committee received postcards two days ago informing them that the Mayors’ Hearing on the plan will be held on Tuesday, September 30, in Gowan Hall on the campus of the Catholic University of America. This is three days before the end of the comment period. No time was listed.

How are community comments being used by the Mayor’s Office, if the Mayor’s Hearing occurs before the end of the comment period? Evidently community comment is not being given any weight. Could it be possible that the city council is already reviewing the Office of Planning’s Brookland proposal before this comment period has ended? Nothing seems to be out of the realm of possibility at this point. Call the Office of Planning, the Mayor’s office, and Councilman Harry Thomas’ office. Call our At-Large representatives. Let everyone know that you think this is an outrage. Contact Harry Thomas,, 724-8028; Office of Planning,, 442-7615;, Director Office of Planning, 442-7634;; and Mayor Adrian Fenty,


Education Mismanagement
Tonya M. Butler-Truesdale,

I wish to thank you for your attention to the matter of education in DC. After four hard but rewarding years as a DCPS special education hearing officer, I am being replaced by attorneys from other states who are not licensed to practice in the District of Columbia, a few of whom have no prior experience with education law or special education.

While I consider reform to be imperative, I have witnessed first hand the mismanagement of human resources in the school system. I literally fear for the future of our students. I have also witnessed the fact that the charter school movement can not deliver on many of the promises professed.

What I am at a lost to understand is how long the parents will be silent.


DC Teachers Could Learn a Lot from a Box of Crayons
Candi Peterson,

Tuesday, September 23, was a long night for DC teachers and service providers who attended the Washington Teachers’ Union informational session meeting at McKinley Senior High. Some had difficulty sustaining focus as President George Parker delivered his two-hour-plus long oration, as estimated by some teacher colleagues. Others had to leave prior to the long awaited interrupted presentation of Attorney Lee Jackson and the mini question and answer session that followed. The majority of WTU Executive Board members present demanded that Attorney Lee Jackson deliver the long-awaited legal opinion to DC teachers. When union president George Parker failed to adhere to the WTU informational meeting agenda, board members stood in solidarity in an act of civil disobedience. What many who have critiqued WTU Executive Board members to death seem to forget is that in a democratic society and as dues paying union members, all of us are entitled to weigh in on matters that impact our occupational futures even when our positions are in opposition to others.

The object of true democracy is to produce citizens who are independent thinkers, questioning and analytical in their outlook while being open to research complex issues. The spirit of democracy challenges conventional thinking and encourages vigorous debate and should not ignore discussions or arguments that may be unpleasant or controversial to some. DC teachers could learn a lot from a box of crayons: “Some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they have all learned to live in the same box” (anonymous quote).


DC Public School Solutions
Tom Blagburn,

This was my response to Ms Labson [themail, September 24]: Thanks for your relevant comments on DC Public Schools (DCPS). I’m not new to themail, nor to the District of Columbia. I’m a frequent reader and contributor. But your comments caught my attention. I have been a lifelong resident of the city. I also served twenty-three years in the Metropolitan Police Department. In my last assignment I was in charge of community policing and was the District’s point person for youth violence and gang/crew prevention. I have served on many mayoral transitions involving public safety and school safety. I have spent considerable time in DC Public Schools dealing with many of the administration, teacher, student, and family problems very few people want to even remotely address. You are correct in your assumption that some of what has happened in the school system was “criminal.” A lot, perhaps, still is criminal.

But there are other issues that many officials of our great city simply refuse to address aggressively. First, our public schools system is not a complete failure! There are lots of students in every Ward of the District attending DCPS who graduate and go forward to some of the best and most prestigious colleges and universities in this nation. It is a myth and a misperception to continue to say that DCPS is a complete failure. I think this a propaganda ploy that is used to show that no matter how very little is really accomplish even the smallest gains will be received with a degree of success. It’s part of the public deception.

The DC Public School system is a bifurcated student population system: one population of students resides in homes and neighborhoods where there are many responsible, well-educated adults who nurture, assist, and help interpret or negotiate the complexities of life each and every day. Crime and gunshots do not occur daily. The other population, unfortunately, often doesn’t have anyone to guide them or help with the enormously complex problems of living. These students often live in the most blighted and impoverished neighborhood circumstances imaginable. For many of these students the situation is generational. Many of the awful human conditions they face have not improved over the years.

Compounding the problem is that too many of these students are often misguided by wrong-thinking peers and are forced to concentrate simply on their personal survival. Substance abuse, psychological health issues, and incarceration of family members heap enormous stress upon these students as well. How can studying always be a priority? Far too many DCPS students witness violence and crime almost daily. It affects their psyche and their attitudes toward learning as well as the value of human life. Yet our school system acts as if these problems have zero bearing on learning. We aren’t witnessing the kind of innovation or investment in aggressive intervention of tutors, mentors, mental health, and coordinated socioeconomic support these struggling families so desperately needed. The response, we do hear, is more police and expanded security.

Students forced to concentrate on subsistence day to day can often lose their drive to become proficient in reading and math. These complicated problems diminish the thirst for education, thus creating low self esteem, interpersonal conflicts, and internalized anger. And, yes, despite these awful conditions many students do somehow find their way to succeed despite these terrible obstacles. However, it is not the norm. The 50 percent school failure rate looms very large in creating effective reform.

I have yet to see any educational plan from Dr. Janney or Ms. Rhee addressing any of these issues. And most leaders in this city have refused to have a candid discussion about the realities that many of DCPS students face daily. This is a core issue that continues to impede any real educational reform progress; it is also why our government hasn’t solved the problems of high student dropout rates and low test scores and why so many students are still very ill prepared to enter the District’s workforce, even after high school graduation!

As I have told our mayor frequently: we can reform our schools through modernization; improve technology; and hire better principals, teachers, and staff. But the dominate problem impeding education for all students isn’t going to change until we face the despicable student divide that exists in far too many schools within the large number of blighted neighborhoods across the District. It isn’t my intent to discount or criticize the efforts of anyone but just to lend a very necessary perspective on school reform that I fail to witness.



DC Public Library Events, September 30
George Williams,

Tuesday, September 30, 7:00 p.m., Anacostia Interim Library, 1800 Good Hope Road, SE. Anacostia Book Club: Trading Dreams at Midnight by Diane McKinney-Whetstone.


Labyrinth Walk, September 30 and November 25
Ed Bruske,

Tuesdays, September 30 and November 25, 6 p.m.-8:45 p.m., Labyrinth Walk, Washington National Cathedral. Free admission. HSW joins the Washington National Cathedral for two evenings of contemplative practices, music, and reflection that is free and open to the public. At 6 p.m. the Cathedral’s Program Manager Terry Lynn Simpson will meet HSW participant at St. Joseph’s Chapel on the crypt level of the Cathedral for a brief introduction and history of labyrinths. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., participants are welcome to walk the labyrinth while listening to the melodic sound of harp music.

There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth, since it is an activity that becomes a metaphor for your own spiritual journey in life. Some people walk with the intention to address an issue in their lives, others to pray and meditate. It is helpful to pause before you enter to center your thoughts on your intention. Walk between the lines of the circuit, being aware that you are sharing the labyrinth. Allow yourself time to contemplate what it means for you to be there; honor this space in your life. The center is a place to pause, reflect and receive insight. Walking the path back out of the labyrinth is a time for deep reflection and a chance to consider what it might mean for your daily living. For many, it is the most fruitful part of the walk. It can lead to action and renewal. This program will be held at the Washington National Cathedral, which is located at the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues in northwest, 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Ages fourteen to adults. RSVP at or 383-1828.


Historical Society of Washington, DC, October 1, 4
Ed Bruske,

Wednesday, October 1, 12:00 p.m., High Noon Film at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. “Frida” chronicles the life of Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) shared unflinchingly and openly with Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), as the young couple took the art world by storm. From her complex and enduring relationship with her mentor and husband to her illicit and controversial affair with Leon Trotsky, to her provocative and romantic entanglements with women, Frida Kahlo lived a bold and uncompromising life as a political, artistic, and sexual revolutionary. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won in two categories: Best Original Score and Best Makeup. The film covers 32 years of Kahlo’s life from age 15 to her death at age 47, which correspond to the years 1922 through 1954. (A program collaboration of the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (OLA) and The Historical Society of Washington, DC.) Adults. or 383-1828.

Saturday, October 4, 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Remembering legendary sportswriter Sam Lacy (1903-2003), at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Don’t miss this illuminating discussion! Dwayne Renal Sims, founder of the Negro Legends Hall of Fame, uncovers the extraordinary legacy of Sam Lacy in a talk with his son, Tim. Known for his pioneering work as a sports writer, Sam Lacy is credited with playing a vital role in facilitating the integration of the Major League baseball. For fifty years, he wrote about the achievements and challenges of African Americans and the Negro National League through Baltimore’s Afro American newspaper. The sportswriter inherited his pioneering spirit from his grandfather, Henry Erskine Lacy, who was the first black detective on the Washington, DC, police force. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Lacy’s story is not that he covered all the giants of the twentieth-century sporting world — Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali, to name a few — but that he continued to cover sports well into his nineties. Lacy endured many of the same indignities as Robinson, eating with him in separate facilities and staying at the same segregated rooming houses. Once they woke up in the middle of the night to find a cross burning in front of the rooming house where Robinson and other black journalists were staying. Lacy faced discrimination in the press box also. Lacy had to report on some Dodger games from the dugout because he was not allowed to sit with the other reporters. In New Orleans he was forced to go up on the roof of the press box, but there he was joined by some white writers from New York. (A program collaboration of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum and The Historical Society of Washington, DC.)

Saturday, October 4, 3:00 p.m. Film at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. In a career that spanned half a century, Cuban bandleader Frank “Machito” Grillo embodied Latin Jazz and influenced several generations of musicians, contributing to a cultural explosion on the international music scene. Machito weaves together vintage film clips and recordings, Hollywood production numbers, and one-of-a-kind street performances from 1920s Cuba to contemporary New York. Sensational shows at such hot spots as the Cotton Club highlight the golden era of Latin Jazz in the 40s and 50s. Musicians Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, and Ray Barreto share fond memories of the scene while paying tribute to Machito. Warm and “simpatico,” Machito laughs, reminisces, and plays some of the hottest Latin Jazz on film anywhere. “Hugely informative, with astonishing archival footage.” — John Pareles, New York Times (A program collaboration of the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (OLA) and The Historical Society of Washington, DC.) (Fourteen to adults) or 383-1828.


Spotlight on Design: David Adjaye, October 2
Jazmine Zick,

Thursday, October 2, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Spotlight on Design: David Adjaye. David Adjaye, principal of London-based Adjaye/Associates, combines material inventiveness with a conceptual approach to the fundamental elements of architecture. Hear Adjaye talk about his work on internationally-recognized projects including the Dirty House in London, the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado. A book-signing will follow the lecture. Presented with the National Organization of Minority Architects. $12 Museum and NOMA Member; $12 Student; $20 Nonmember. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


Jazz at the Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, October 3-4
Greg Finch,

The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery will host the second gallery reception celebrating Shelters and Shadows on Friday, October 3, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. In addition to the usual festive atmosphere, the reception will include live music by guitarist Richard Padron as a part of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival’s Jazz in the ‘Hoods programming.

The DEJF jazz in the Gallery continues the next night, Saturday, October 4, with a live performance by guitarist Steve Herberman, also from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. For more information, go to or phone 483-8600. The gallery is at the Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts, 1632 U Street ,NW.


Oktoberfest at Hard Bargain Farm, October 11
Ginny Harris,

Oktoberfest celebration at Hard Bargain Farm, October 11, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m., admission $8.00, children seven or younger free. Proceeds benefit our education programs. No pets, please. Each fall, we open our gates to the public for a celebration of the season. Enjoy mouthwatering German food, authentic Bavarian dancing, and other good times. Savor delicious German food a la carte: bratwurst, potato salad, sauerkraut, and home made apple strudel. Enjoy high-spirited, authentic performances of dances from Bavaria and Austria and join Schuhplattler Alt-Washingtonia on stage for audience-participation waltzes. Shop for bargains and homemade delicacies at our country store in the gazebo. Hop on the hay wagon for a ride to the Potomac River. Visit the animals in the barnyard. Squeeze apple cider with an old fashioned cider press. Bid on local art, crafts and food items at silent and live auctions. Stop at our membership table and learn about other Hard Bargain adventures.

Most of all share the good times with friends at Hard Bargain Farm, 2001 Bryan Point Road, Accokeek, MD 20607. For more information, go to


Handgun Safety Seminar Free for DC Residents, October 13
Ricardo A. Royal,

I am a Firearms Safety Educator, born and raised in a part of Ward 4 that is now in Ward 5. I am the national president of the Community Association for Firearms Education (CAFE). My friends and I are committed to encouraging firearms safety training for all law abiding citizens that own guns. I have given testimony before the DC city council’s public oversight hearings by the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, with Phil Mendelson as the chairperson, on July 2 and September 18 to encourage firearm safety training, starting with the members of the city council. Since 2003 we have invited elected city officials to attend free firearms education classes offered by CAFÉ, but none has chosen to educate himself or herself about firearms safety. We will continue to encourage folks to be safe with and around guns. We will provide an option to address the issue of a child’s natural curiosity about guns through our youth violence prevention and gun safety program.

First lesson: you are responsible to ensure that no unauthorized people should be able to access your firearms, regardless of their age. Recent and future changes in the DC gun law have created questions and we have the answer to most of them as things are today. CAFÉ is hosting a handgun safety seminar free for DC residents on Columbus Day, Monday, October 13, 11:00 a.m., at Meyer Station Nature Center in Odenton, MD. Prior registration is required to attend. Come on out and get your questions answered and participate in the activities. You should be hearing our public service announcement on the radio soon.

For more information or to register you can contact me by E-mail at or by calling 410-956-2236. One other thing; we are not affiliated with the NRA.


An Evening Dedicated to the Cheetah, October 13
Liz Karch, wizzyliz at comcast dot net

Over thirty years ago, a young lady trained in wine making and grape growing started up a vineyard with some friends in Oregon. To supplement her income she got a job at Wildlife Safari working with cheetahs. Thus began Dr. Laurie Marker’s lifelong journey to save the wild cheetah. There were thought to be roughly one hundred thousand cheetahs worldwide in the early 1900’s. Today their numbers today have dwindled to about 12,500, the majority of them living on farmland in Namibia, Africa.

It’s here where Dr. Marker co-founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund (, an internationally recognized center of excellence in research and education on cheetahs and their ecosystems. She and her dedicated team are working with all stakeholders to achieve best practice in the conservation and management of the world’s cheetahs. Your support is vital in helping these beautiful, graceful and endangered animals to avoid total extinction.

Please join us for a special evening with Dr. Laurie Marker on October 13, from 6-9:00 p.m. For more information about this event, check out


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