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October 22, 2008


Dear Negotiators:

As everyone in DC knows, the most ungrateful and ungracious welfare recipient in the District has been the Lerner family, which was gifted with an overpriced baseball stadium built at taxpayer expense. Among its many petty slights against its benefactors has been a major one: having been given the stadium, the Lerners refused to pay the rent they had agreed to, $3.5 million a year. On October 18, a very uninformative press release was issued by the mayor’s office: “National’s Stadium Rent Issues Resolved: The District and the Nationals Reach an Agreement.” Here’s the release, in full: “City and stadium officials released the following joint statement: ‘We thank the taxpayers of Washington, DC and Washington Nationals fans everywhere for their patience as we worked to ensure that they get all they were promised for their public investment in Nationals Park. We all worked closely on a daily basis for several months to get to this point. It was always our position that the very best possibility for the long-term success of the Nationals — and, for realizing the fullest economic development return on the taxpayer dollar — was to build a premier ballpark with all the amenities that could make it the kind of family entertainment destination that befits the Official Home of the National Pastime in the Nation’s Capital. We applaud all involved for their efforts to resolve the issue. We believe the process was well-served through diligent work and we thank everyone for their cooperation through the entire negotiations. The Nationals have agreed to release the rent payment and all parties will work together from this point forward and have resolved all outstanding issues.’” When a press release doesn’t tell you anything, doesn’t give any of the facts or details about the deal it’s praising, you know there’s something seriously wrong with the deal.

There was, as was evident when the agreement itself was released. The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission was unable to get the Lerners to live up to their agreement, so the Fenty administration’s take-charge man, Acting Attorney General Peter Nickles, took over the negotiations. Sure enough, Nickles was soon able to get the Lerners to agree to pay their first-year rent, including the $3,078,546 in delinquent rent they owed. As a great negotiator, he was able to do this by a simple expedient — he gave the Lerners an additional $4.25 million to get them to pay the $3.5 million they owed ( In other words, Nickles paid the Nationals to pay their delinquent ballpark rent, and they made a profit on it. Nickles caved, the Lerners got even more taxpayer money for doing nothing, we get to pay the bill. Nickles is using this success as another argument for why the city council should confirm him as the permanent Attorney General. Some members of the city council have actually had the effrontery to object to the agreement (, but Nickles is offended that they aren’t adequately acknowledging his brilliance and skill.

Gary Imhoff


Please Don’t Sit in the Front Seat of a Cab
Phil Shapiro,

Cab drivers are most often victims of crime, rather then perpetrators. But please be careful if a cab driver ever asks you to sit in the front seat of his or her cab. Rather wait for another cab — and see if you can notice distinguishing characteristics of the cab driver to pass on to the police. See


DPW Brochure
Paul Walters,

[An open letter to Mayor Fenty] When a government decides it is a good thing to send its citizens expensive brochures, with prominently displayed, full-color photos of its department heads, touting the great value that it brings to the citizenry, then that government has lost touch with its people.

Today DC citizens received in the mail Mr. Howland’s “reference guide” to DPW, “DPW — The Preferred Choice.” (Do we have a choice? Who else would plow the streets, enforce parking laws, collect the trash?) Why is this self-promotion necessary? What process in DC government decided that in these times of looming budget shortfalls, almost-certain tax increases, recession, and hard times for taxpayers, it was a good idea to pay large sums of money to tout DPW to the citizens?

Doesn’t the DC government web site satisfy our information needs? Would you please tell me how much was spent on this brochure, and why this is the best use of my taxes? I look forward to your answers.


DPW Brochure
William Howland, Director, DPW,

Mr. Walters: Almost every response that we have received about the guide has been overwhelmingly positive. We have been to a few civic association meetings and other events were we have handed out the guide. All of the comments have been that they are grateful that we are providing good information and think it is very well done. I have also received other E-mails about the guide and those have also been very complimentary.

We developed the guide because a lot of citizens are not familiar on how to access the services that DPW provides. I suspect most DC residents have never visited the DPW web site. There is still a significant digital divide in the District and we thought it was best to get the information to the citizens is with a guide. I also think the guide is easier to navigate than the Internet for our services.

The cost per guide is $1.07. The design was done by staff. The cost of printing and mailing totaled to $345,000 (which includes the translation into Spanish, Amharic, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese). If you have additional questions, please let me know.


Iraq Embassy at 18th and P
Paul Williams,

With more than ten billion dollars being spent in Iraq (and eleven billion dollars in unaccounted cash deliveries), wouldn’t it be nice if somebody at DoD could find .00005 percent of that amount to put towards desperately needed renovations on the Embassy of Iraq at 1801 P Street, NW? The historic former Mabel Boardman mansion is looking downright sad these days.


Giving Technocracy an Even Worse Name
Richard Layman,

In response to Gary’s discussion [themail, October 19] of the piece in Atlantic Monthly about urban educational “reform” in DC, I must say that I am big on technocracy. But when you do it, you can’t screw it up, you have to have a deep and wide fundamental understanding of the subsystems, processes, structures, culture, and issues that shape the system you are trying to change-innovate-transform. Almost by definition, if “technocracy” is focused on fixing people rather than on building robust and resilient systems that support and strengthen the people who do the work and receive the services, it isn’t technocratic, because it isn’t system based. Therefore it is more than likely to fail. My observation (and I don’t have children) is that the changes in the school system thus far are on trying to hire “superstar” teachers and principals who then must work without any fundamental support structure for either the school or the classroom (another term for this is “flying blind”). Even the most able people cannot succeed without structure and support (see the factors leading to job dissatisfaction as discussed in Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory,

Some of the most interesting successes in education today, in Montgomery County, Maryland’s Title I schools, and the Region 5 District in New York City covering parts of Brooklyn and district in Queens, under Superintendent Kathleen Cashin, show the necessity of building strong systems and processes that support principals, teachers, and students at many levels. From the New York Times article, “Bucking School Reform, a Leader Gets Results” ( about Dr. Cashin: “Where Mr. Klein insists that school administration must be reinvented to reverse generations of failure by generations of educators, Dr. Cashin, a product of the old system, insists she can get results with a clear instructional mission, careful organization and a simple strategy of every educator’s being supported by an educator with more experience.” According to the article “Staff Investment Pays Dividends in Md. District” from Education Week (, 3 percent of the annual budget for the Montgomery County School System is spent on staff development, including hiring, because “investing in choosing the right people and providing them with the right kind of training builds a shared culture of language, goals, and methods” focused on achieving outcomes. A follow-up article published earlier this year, “When “Unequal” Is Fair Treatment” (, demonstrates the effectiveness of this complete approach, highlighting MCPS success in achieving high outcomes from lower income schools, which is closing the achievement gap between high-income and low-income schools in Montgomery County.

What DC needs is a superstar “system” that supports and develops people — principals, teachers, support and resource teachers and staff, children, and parents — at all levels. Until we get that type of approach, Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty are likely to fail, giving us technocrats an even worse reputation.


Teach for America
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Excellent article about Teach for America and DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in the October 27 issue of US News and World Report. Very detailed description of the results achieved by TFA alumni and teachers in improving the education processes. Rhee is adding more and more TFA personnel in the schools and that might just have some real benefits for the students in a relatively short time. Likely that some of the Principals who are TFA alums will show up in the next few years. Sounds good to me.


Absentee Ballot
Mariuccia Marolo,

I mailed the request for my absentee ballot on October 8, but, even if I sent E-mails to the Board of Election to inquire why they did not sent it to me, I’m still waiting for their answer and off course for the absentee ballot. I’m starting to be suspicious about the matter.


Elect the Attorney General
Richard Layman,

The Attorney General should be an elected, not an appointed, position within DC Government

As Gary pointed out in the last issue of themail [October 19], the Attorney General position in DC government is a position that spans the boundaries between the Executive Branch of the government and the people-citizens of the city, who are sovereign. The people and our interests should be represented first, before those interests of the government, which serve us. Both the mayor and the city council have legal counsel offices separate from the Office of Attorney General.

It makes sense to convert the AG position to one that is elected, which is common across the country at both the state and county level. This should be thought of as an evolutionary step in post-Home Rule DC government. (Relatedly, there should be a Charter Revision Commission. Home Rule was granted in 1973. It’s been thirty-five years and it’s time for a review.)


Gang Attacks Near Potomac Avenue Metro
Brigid Quinn,

in response to Bryce Suderow’s question [themail, October 19], one step that citizens can take in response to these horrific crimes is to request that the city council amend the youth corrections act to give far less latitude to authorities in using the act when those under twenty-one commit violent offenses. I was thoroughly disappointed to see that the three teen aged thugs who beat a man to death in southwest recently are going to be tried as youth offenders. Their crime was premeditated, barbaric, and senseless violence that should be punished with more than the slap on the wrist available under the youth corrections law. Sentencing under the youth corrections act basically means that offenders won’t serve time beyond their twenty-first birthdays (and maybe less time), and their records will be expunged. the only way to ensure safe streets is to keep violent offenders, no matter what their ages, off the street.


Jason Lee-Bakke,

“The whites in the neighborhood near Potomac Avenue Metro are under siege from black teenagers and young black men.” Surely this is satire. Those roving gangs of angry black men are out to take your money and women, whites!

Satire, right?


Gang Attacks Near Potomac Avenue Metro
Ralph J. Chittams, Sr.,

In the October 19 edition of themail, Bryce Suderow leveled some racially-charged and divisive accusations. As a result of his message, I contacted the Metropolitan Police Department and inquired about crime around the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. Following is the response from Assistant Chief Diane Grooms: “There has been a major increase in robberies and assaults near the Potomac Metro and Pennsylvania Avenue in southeast. Most have been committed by the youth in the area that reside in Potomac Gardens and Hopkins Plaza. This occurs in spurts from year to year. We have identified the youth, done outreach in areas and made some arrests. The past two weeks have been quiet and no attacks in the area except for the female that was attacked in her home from a burglar (older b/m not the youth) . . . 500 block of 14th Street, SE. We did a walk today in [the] area with all agencies and the mayor which went well. Citizens see additional police patrols and asked for other agency support such as better lighting and some cameras. As throughout the city we have had an increase in groups of juveniles robbing citizens, not just white but Hispanic and black. It is not race based . . . crimes of opportunity.”

Crime around the Potomac Avenue Metro Station, as elsewhere in the city, occurs in spurts. Whites are not being victimized by blacks “nearly every day.” Washington, DC, requires neither racially inflammatory rhetoric nor race-baiting language to solve our problems. We are all in the same boat, and unless and until we all (black, white, Latino, or any other method used to divide people) come together, we will sink together.



At-Large Candidates Community Dialogue on HIV, October 25
Alex Lawson,

Community members will dialogue with At Large Council candidates about DC’s HIV epidemic, which is the worst in the country. It is estimated that one in twenty District residents is infected with HIV, and we know that one in fifty is living with AIDS. On Saturday, October 25, from 1-4 p.m., DC Fights Back and the National AIDS Housing Coalition are teaming up to sponsor a dialogue about HIV/AIDS. The event will be held at Greater DC Cares, 1725 I Street, NW, Suite 200.

Candidates Kwame Brown, Carol Schwartz, Michael Brown, Dee Hunter, and Patrick Mara will join people living with HIV and concerned residents in discussing ways to combat the DC HIV epidemic. The DC community is encouraged to come engage in the dialogues. For more information, contact George Kerr at


Historical Society of Washington, DC, October 25-26
Ed Bruske,

Saturday, October 25, 1:00-4:00 p.m., Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Family event: create a Halloween mask. Visual artist Camila Young will help you create an original mask in minutes. Sure, you could go to the store and buy the same Halloween masks as everyone else. Or in just minutes you can make an original mask that will wow the Halloween crowd. The possibilities are endless. Bring the entire family and create sensational masks to take home. or 383-1828.

Sunday, October 26, 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. HSW author and lecture series: Stand the Storm by Breena Clarke. Breena Clarke’s new novel, Stand the Storm, is about the struggles of slavery. The story is set in Georgetown. The book’s main character, “Sewing Annie Coats,” is a slave working for the Ridley plantation. Before her, “Knitting Annie” watched over her and taught her everything she knew about sewing. Her talent for sewing kept Annie from having to work in the fields. After falling in love, Annie had two children, Gabriel and Ellen. Annie taught them everything she knew about sewing and soon they were both adept at the task. At the age of ten, Gabriel was sold to a tailor, Abraham Pearl. Soon Annie begins to work with Gabriel and they continue to sew in order to buy their freedom. Along the way, they meet a runaway slave named Mary and help her. Mary and Gabriel fall in love and they get married. They also begin to help other slaves escape to freedom. But, when they think they have bought their freedom, they discover that Jonathon Ridley has been cheating them and others. They continue to struggle through this oppressive time until freedom becomes a reality. Breena Clarke’s writing is like poetry. The images she creates through her expressive and detailed phrasings and word uses make the reader feel the characters’ pain and joy. After buying his family’s freedom, Gabriel returns to them, and instead of speaking, he begins to sing, and soon they all join him in expressing how they feel at that moment. It is moments like this that make this story so powerful. Breena makes you feel the family’s faith and hope. What Mary went through when she was caught for running away will stay with me for some time. I think you will feel the same. Breena Clarke’s new novel, Stand the Storm, is a powerful and heartfelt novel that you should add to your reading list. or 383-1828.


DC Public Library Events, October 25, 28-30
George Williams,

Saturday, October 25, 12:00 p.m., Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library. Symbolism of the Tarot. Learn about the secret meanings hidden in the images of the tarot, the history of the tarot and how it can be used for self-transformation. The DC Public Library is not responsible, nor does it endorse information given to participants during the program.

Monday, October 28, 7:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Room 221. All the World’s a Stage Book Club. Different countries, times and lives. Each book is an adventure. Discuss When She Was White by Judith Stone.

Tuesday, October 28, 7:00 p.m., Anacostia Library, Anacostia Book Club

Wednesday, October 29, 6:30 p.m. Francis A. Gregory Library, Popular Book Club, monthly discussions of popular books.

Thursday, October 30, 12:30 p.m., Southeast Library, Lunch Time Brown Bag Book Discussion, bring your lunch for our midday book chat.

Thursday, October 30, 7:00 p.m., Southeast Library Fiction Book Club, discussion of new and classic novels.


DC’S At-Risk Kids: Who Cares?, October 28
Anne Renshaw,

The Citizens Federation explores DC’s troubled child welfare system on October 28, 6:45 p.m., at The Charles Sumner School, 1201 Seventeenth Street, NW (at M Street). The October Assembly of the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia will focus on DC’s troubled child welfare system, the scope and severity of the problem, the city’s plans to better protect the city’s vulnerable youth and the multi-agency collaboration set up to work with the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).

Delving into the uneasy topic of “DC’s At-Risk Kids: Who Cares? will be City Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray; CFSA Interim Director, Dr. Roque Gerald; Court Monitor Judith W. Meltzer; and Dr. Jacquelyn Henry, Executive Director of the Collaborative Council. Other invited panelists include Commander Lillian Overton (MPD Youth Services) and FEMS Chief Dennis Rubin.

The Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia is a coordinating body for 50 citywide citizens’ organizations. Formed in 1910 and incorporated in 1940, the Citizens Federation serves as a liaison between its member organizations and the city government on important issues affecting District residents. For further information, contact Anne Mohnkern Renshaw, President, 363-6880.


Third Annual Taste of Dupont Event, October 28
Paul Williams,

Have you ever been to fourteen restaurants in one night? Now you can! The third annual Taste of Dupont is next Tuesday, October 28, from 6:00-9:00 p.m., at the recently restored Carlyle Suites Hotel, located at 1731 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. The popular event features chefs from Dupont Circle eateries cooking a signature dish for your tasting, while local art galleries and collections display their art work. This pre-High Heel Race event allows participants to vote on who will become the 2008 Chef of the Year!

The event is organized by the nonprofit Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets as their yearly fund raiser. Tickets are only $65, and can be purchased online at For a list of participating restaurants and galleries, and more information, visit


National Building Museum Events, October 28, 30
Jazmine Zick,

Tuesday, October 28, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Smart Growth: Partnering to Create Green Communities: San Francisco’s Treasure Island. Jack Sylvan, director of Joint Development, San Francisco Mayor’s Office, presents the city’s sustainable master plan to redevelop Treasure Island, a former Naval Station in San Francisco Bay. Following the program, attendees are invited to take a docent-led tour of the Green Community exhibition. Free. Registration not required.

Thursday, October 30, 6:30-8:00 p.m. For the Greener Good: A Green Apple. Many are surprised to hear that Manhattan is considered to be one of the greenest cities in the US, based on density, reliance on mass transit, and small carbon footprint. Listen as the NYC Transportation Commissioner, the Chief Urban Designer for New York City, and the Vice President of Sustainability for The Related Companies describe their visions for a green city. $12 member; free student; $20 nonmember Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


DC Act Budget Forum, October 29
Abby Bonder,

The Budget Nitty Gritty: Understanding the Ins and Outs of the District Budget Process, Wednesday, October 29, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Registration to begin at 12:30 p.m. Goethe-Institut Washington, 812 7th Street, NW, near the Chinatown Metro Station on the Green, Yellow, and Red lines. Have you ever wondered what actually happens at each step of the budget process and why it is important? Have you ever wondered why the budget for the District of Columbia is presented in the way that it is? DC ACT believes a better understanding of the process and what the budget is and is not will lead to the improved accountability of government agencies and improved decision-making ability of elected and appointed officials.

This forum is designed to answer these questions and more! Topics to be included: the budget process including what happens and when it happens; the publications and documents that are associated with the District’s budget; the budget format the District uses: Performance Based Budgeting and why it is used rather than another format such as a line item format; how to use and read the budget documents; what the budget is and what it is not and where to find information not included in the budget such as CapStat and Annual Report. Who should attend? Advocates; service providers who work with children, youth, and their families; concerned residents; government employees; and media. Speakers: Eric Cannady, Deputy Director for Human Services and Grant Management, Office of Budget and Planning; and William Singer, Chief of Budget Execution, Office of the City Administrator.

Please register by Friday, October 24, at Space is limited. Please share with colleagues and others who may be interested. Registration will take place on a first come, first serve basis.


Fifteenth Annual Race for Mental Health, November 15
Joan Eisenstodt

A good cause and a chance to get some fresh air! See


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