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October 15, 2008

Improving Attitudes

Dear Improvers:

Jeff Norman writes about Comcast’s completely inadequate web site below. He’s right. Comcast doesn’t even sell its own product very well, because it doesn’t think it has to. Try to find the differences among its cable television packages, as he did; then try to find out the differences between its home and business Internet packages, what the specifications and limitations and costs of different packages are. Good luck. That’s why I’m looking forward to Verizon’s Fios’s moving into the District. Obviously, RCN isn’t giving Comcast enough competition to make it clean up its act; perhaps Fios will.

Verizon has worked out a franchise agreement with the DC Office of Cable Television to bring Fios into the District, and the proposal has been submitted to the city council. The Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs will hold a hearing on the proposal on October 31; for the relevant documents go to I’m not happy with the proposal because of where I live. Under its terms, Verizon will wire the District for Fios service with all the speed of those easily distracted turtles in the Comcast commercials, the ones who prefer Verizon’s DSL service because of its comparative slowness. By 2014, there still won’t be any Fios service in my neighborhood, and there’s no indication of when, if ever, there will be. Probably there’ll be a better cable television and Internet option, maybe even AT & T’s U-Verse, available long before Fios gets to Columbia Heights.

Early reports on Verizon nationally are that it isn’t much better than Comcast on service and billing issues; when Fios works well it’s a dream, but when there’s a problem with the service or with getting billing straightened out, it’s a nightmare to deal with the company. That sounds just like Comcast. But I’m still hopeful that Fios will start stealing customers from Comcast in the neighborhoods where it will be introduced, and that that will encourage Comcast to try to improve its service. Right now, all I get from Comcast are notices that say, “Good news and congratulations, we’re increasing our price and reducing what you get for it.” Maybe if Comcast has to start fighting for customers, if it can’t act like a monopoly any longer, it will improve its attitude throughout the city.

Gary Imhoff


Wisconsin Avenue Development
Paula Miller,

The Giant Food Store development has gone from a simple headache to a full-blown migraine. How much longer must the neighborhood suffer? While I wholeheartedly support the development and expansion of the Giant Food Store location at Wisconsin Avenue and Newark Street, I support responsible and informed planning for development first and foremost. However, based on what I have heard over the last five and more years from neighbors, ANC members, and DC city council staffers regarding our Wisconsin Avenue development efforts, including the Giant development/expansion, there is not much about planning for the Giant Store expansion that sounds responsible or informed. By this I mean that the current uses and community infrastructure should be taken fully into account during the planning phases of this project. Too little too late? Has that horse already left the starting gate? I think not. It is never too late to put the brakes on the developers’ irrational exuberance and demand a prudent, judicious planning effort that recognizes the community’s needs.

The fact that a zoning waiver is being sought by the developer on the number of commercial parking spaces is suspicious. On what grounds is this waiver being sought? Is it the lack of available space to meet the zoning guidelines’ ratio of spaces per degree of development? Not enough space for adequate parking? Then adjust the level of expansion downward or make provisions for adequate additional parking. Transportation, traffic flow, and parking are critical issues to almost any development project in the District. It is one of the primary factors that must be taken into full account for any development planning in DC. Remember — traffic flow and parking were the main issues that killed the Home Depot’s plans for occupying what is now the Best Buy store at Wisconsin and Albemarle Street. Yet the Giant area developers want a waiver? Why? So we can be more miserable than we already are with traffic congestion? How is that good for the community? Yes, a new and improved Giant food store would be great for the community, but not at the expense of poor planning and resulting traffic and parking nightmares.

I would like to know if there is (or has been) a proposal to construct an underground parking garage beneath the current aboveground parking lot for the Giant, similar to the one at Whole Foods south of Calvert Street. Was that idea ever part of any development plans? If not, why not? Have geotech and traffic studies been done to see if an underground garage is feasible? If not, why not? If so, then what were the findings? I see underground parking with ingress and egress directly from and to Wisconsin Avenue as the only viable solution to the ongoing objections and complaints that the project will present too many insurmountable traffic and parking problems. Those objections and complaints are well-founded, but can be overcome with sound and responsible community development planning that appears to be so lacking under the current development proposal.


Protect Your Vote
Carol Waser,

The September 9 District of Columbia primary election was notable for the recording of more than fifteen hundred “phantom” write-in votes and for the failure of the Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) to communicate to the public adequately on election night and thereafter. The Investigation Special Committee, headed by Council Member Mary Cheh (Ward 3), released a Preliminary Report on October 8, that maintained that the “election process in the District is in need of comprehensive reform.”

One of the most important of the Committee’s recommendations was for the BOEE to encourage voters to use paper ballots and the optical-scan voting machines in the November election. For the first time ever, manual audits of optical-scan machines were conducted for five precincts by the BOEE after the primary election. These audits compared paper ballot counts with optical-scan results and were able to assure voters in the questionable Precinct 141 that their votes had been counted accurately. Those paper ballots produced the same number of votes as the optical-scan machines. If the problem in Precinct 141 had occurred on a touch-screen machine, which in DC has no voter-verified paper trail, no authentic recount could have been conducted. Probably the single most important act that voters can take in November toward ensuring that their votes are counted accurately is to use the paper ballot and the optical-scan machine. I urge you to cast a paper ballot and to spread this message to every voter that you know in the District of Columbia. The full report can be found at

If you are a poll worker and would be willing to participate in a nationwide effort to report problems observed on election day, please contact me. The commitment will be to note any problems and then respond later to an E-mail questionnaire.


Comcast Channel Information Missing
Jeff Norman,

Nowhere on Comcast’s web site does it tell you which channels you get with each TV service package (such as Limited Basic, Expanded Basic, etc.). All you get is a list of all channels in the entire Comcast system, not the specific channels for each package. Comcast gives you the prices for each package, but not the channels that you get for that price. There is one place where the channels are broken down into categories, but the names of the categories do not match the names of the various packages. I think that this is deceptive advertising. It should be easy and simple to get a list of all Comcast TV packages with the current prices and a list of the specific channels that come with each specific package, all together in the same place on the Comcast web site. And you should not have to call Comcast (which can take a half hour or more to get through to an operator) to get these lists sent to you by mail (which Comcast may or may not send you).


Maude Hills, Statehood-Green Candidate for US House of Representatives
Maude Hills,

My name is Maude Hills, most people are familiar with my name as Louise Thundercloud, so Louise it is. My platform will address the two serious ills in the District of Columbia; each will only be addressed by being granted unequivocal statehood. One is the fact that for years the autistic population in DC has had to put up with one size fits all services, no behavioral interventions, no autism waiver (that would enable parents to access needed services of the very expensive support that autistic children and adults will require for their entire lives. This city has a bad record for squeezing the vulnerable autistic spectrum clients into inappropriate services. Now we are being faced with returning out of state placements to the District to save money, when the clients are returning to the same nonexistent services. This treadmill has to stop.

As your DC Statehood Green Party Candidate for Delegate to the House of Representatives, I will fight to remedy this sad situation that exists in this city 1) by forcing cross training with success proven agencies in other states, 2) by fighting the practice of changing diagnosis to fit the District’s inability to create services for clients with accurate diagnosis, and 3) by forcing an autism waver to be routinely offered by DC.

The second issue is truly affordable housing, not housing that targets moderate to high income earners, but housing hat serves the very low income and homeless. I will do this by first working to limit the mayor’s ability to grant contracts to developers who service only moderate to higher income populations. I will fight to limit the council’s ability to make back door deals with developers of condos, townhouses, or any dwellings that do not serve very low income or homeless people who need housing. How will I work for this? By fighting for full statehood, by granting DC statehood, the mayor and council will have to follow the law of the land. I will work for legislation that will force the mayor and council to have to meet in front of no fewer than five community town hall meetings, to accurately address the concerns and desires of the entire community when it comes to issues of disposing public property that could be used for affordable housing. In closing, I am willing to work with advocates for the autistic spectrum community, as well as homeless and housing advocates to make sure these needed changes happen. And remember DC will be a much better place for all of us if we have statehood now!


Curbside Parking for Commuters
Denise Wiktor,

When this idea [themail, October 12] was presented to the local residents it was presented as an opportunity to get visitor parking permits for nannies, workmen, etc., coming to one’s home. As a person who lives adjacent to the Mt. Pleasant Commercial corridor and whose block petitioned for 24/7 Residential Parking Permit parking (we only got until 9:30 p.m., despite what the regulations allow), I am appalled. Since when has the District decided to open its streets to commuters? How are they going to determine who is an actual employee? Across the street from me is a Hair Salon which, despite its zoning, often stays open until midnight. My portion of the 1700 block of Park has no parking on the south side, two large apartment buildings, and the ten or so zoned spaces are occupied by the three houses and the residents of two large apartment buildings. There is also a convenience store open until 11:00 p.m., so commuter parking for me means business owners and employees until midnight.

What is the city thinking? At this same time zoning regulations to do away with mandatory parking spaces with new condominiums are being contemplated. We either want commuters or we don’t. I foresee a whole lot of people using business addresses to commute in from Maryland and Virginia to use the Metro — which is what was happening before Park Road was zoned. I attribute a lot of this to our ANC’s refusal to post its agendas in advance of meetings so we know what is going on.


Reply to “ANC’s and Alcoholism” by Mary Beatty
Naomi J. Monk,

Ms. Mary Beatty, I cannot agree with you more in regards to your comments [themail, October 12]. I am most thankful to have individuals like you; your ANC6A; my councilmember, Tommy Wells; the minority of commissioners that voted for single sales ban in ANC6D (my ANC); and others who truly know that it is the right thing to do to ban single sales. Why? Banning single sales cuts down on loitering (hanging around, loafing, prowling) of individuals in public. It cuts down on the littering and urinating in public. It cuts down on negative behavior by adults who are role models for our children and families. It cuts down on the increase in crimes. It cuts down on having an undesirable neighborhood.


InTowner October Issue Released
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the October 2008 on-line 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 November 14 (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) “Hilton Washington Hotel’s Plan for Major Condo Tower Addition and Expanded Meeting Spaces Well Received by Preservation Board”; 2) “Dupont Circle House Tour to Show Vintage and Modern Living and Art Throughout”; 3) “Four New Liquor Licenses Approved for West Dupont Circle Moratorium Zone.”



Historical Society of Washington, DC, October 18
Ed Bruske,

Saturday, October 18, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Urban Gardening Series: Not Your Grandmother’s Canning. Canning or “putting food by” has gotten a whole lot more interesting than just stashing tomatoes in the pantry. Not that there’s anything wrong with canned tomatoes — or canned tomato sauce, or green beans, or all the other good things from your garden that you store for the winter. But there are many other ways to preserve food that will add zip to your larder, or your holiday dinner table. Think pickled figs, fermented kimchi, or green tomato and apple chutney. Flame grapes pickled with tarragon might be just the thing for your Thanksgiving relish tray. How about homemade gravlax for hors d’oeuvres? Or sage jelly for your favorite biscuits? Pears in Calvados, perhaps, for dessert? Homemade preserves add a personal touch to gift giving. Food writer, gardener, and personal chef Ed Bruske leads a culinary tour of traditional food preservation methods updated for a hip urban kitchen with a minimal amount of fuss or equipment. Ed writes for Martha Stewart Living and Edible Chesapeake magazine, as well as maintaining a daily food blog, The Slow Cook ( This presentation is given in collaboration with DC Urban Gardeners. Ed is president of DC Urban Gardeners. or 383-1828.

Saturday, October 18, 1:30 p.m. Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Film series: Muxe’s: Autenticas, Intrepidas, Buscadoras del Peligro, (Muxe’s: Authentic, Intrepid Seekers of Danger), Mexico, 2005, 105 minutes, Spanish, Color. In this provocative documentary, Mexican writer and director Alejandra Islas, sets out to uncover the stories of ten Mexican indigenous and mestizo homosexual men who call themselves “muxe.” Muxe, a zapotec word derived from a colonial Spanish term for woman, is the name of choice for the gays of Juchitan, Oaxaca, México. Muxe’s: Auténticas, Intrépidas, Buscadoras del Peligro has been viewed in more than twenty film festivals and cultural presentations in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Latin America and Europe. or 383-1828.


DC Public Library Events, October 19, 22
George Williams,

Sunday, October 19, 1:00 p.m., Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library. So You Want to Write a Novel? Join us for this informative session about novel writing and sign up to be a part of the National Novel Writing Month club at Watha T. Daniel.

Wednesday, October 22, 2:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library. Introduction to Feng Shui by Katherine Grace Morris. Introduction to the practice of organizing environments to promote health, happiness, and prosperity. The DC Public Library is not responsible, nor does it endorse information given to participants during the program.


Does Green Make a Livable Community, October 21
Jazmine Zick,

Tuesday, October 21, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Building for the 21st Century: Does “Green” Make a Livable Community? And How Do You Build One? Dave Feldman, CEO, Livability Project, defines a livable, green community and discusses how to build one. Free. Registration not required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


At-Large DC Councilmember Candidates Forum, October 23
Thomas M. Smith,

The Ward Three Democratic Committee and the Ward 4 Democrats of Washington, DC, will cosponsor a community meeting featuring a special forum of all seven candidates for the DC Council at-large seats to be elected on November 4. All seven candidates, including incumbent Council members Kwame Brown and Carol Schwartz, have agreed to participate.

Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. (forum begins at 7:30 p.m.), in The Great Hall of St. Columba Episcopal Church, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW (one block off Wisconsin Avenue at Tenleytown Metro).. Moderator: Kathy Patterson, former Ward 3 DC councilmember; citizens panel: Dorothy Brizill, Executive Director, DC Watch; George Clark, Former President, Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia. For more information, contact Thomas M. Smith, Chair, Ward Three Democratic Committee, 364-7130 or


The Howard Brown Foundation’s Peaceful Event, October 25
Doreatha J. Bush,

The Howard Brown Foundation, a nonprofit elderly advocacy group, building strong communities through prayer, persistence, and peace, doing community outreach to all and specifically to our senior citizens, will hold a peaceful event on October 25, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., on the 3000 block of Clinton Street, NE. (Rain date: November 1.) Fun, food, information, and awareness. Speakers to include Dr. Clarence Brown, DC Office on Aging; Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr.; Thomas Blagburn, Institute for Public Safety and Justice, UDC; and Reverend Tim Warner, Montgomery County Executive’s Office of Community Partnerships Liaison for Faith Communities and African Americans. We have partnered with Peaceoholics for this event.


Public Schools Hearing Amendment Act of 2008, October 28
Cherita Whiting,

The council has released the following hearing notice. “Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray announces a public hearing by the Committee of the Whole on Bill 17-942, the ‘Public Schools Hearing Amendment Act of 2008.’ The public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, October 28, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building , 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. An abbreviated notice is given to comply with Council Rule 501(a)(2). Bill 17-942, introduced by Chairman Gray, would require the Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools to make an estimate of the amount of money that will be required to operate the public schools in the upcoming year available on its web site and in each school no later than twenty-one days prior to the mayor’s submission of the District’s budget and financial plan to the council; require the Chancellor to solicit public input prior to the submission of the District of Columbia Public Schools budget to the mayor and require the mayor to conduct a public hearing on public school funding prior to the mayor’s submission of the District’s budget and financial plan to the council; and to delineate the allocations of monies required in the District of Columbia Public Schools budget submitted by the Chancellor.

“Individuals and representatives of organizations who wish to testify at the public hearing are asked to telephone Aretha Latta, Administrative Assistant to the Committee of the Whole, at 724-8196, or send an E-mail to, and furnish their names, addresses, telephone numbers and organizational affiliation, if any, by the close of business on Friday, October 24. They should also bring with them twenty copies of their written testimony or submit one copy of their written testimony by October 27. Persons presenting testimony may be limited to three minutes in order to permit each witness an opportunity to be heard. Written statements for the record are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. All statements should be submitted to the Committee of the Whole, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 410, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004 . The legislation may be reviewed at”


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