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October 26, 2008


Dear Celebrants:

On Thursday, October 23, Tracy Sandler of the mayor’s press office sent out a press release about new legislation that the mayor has submitted to the city council. Bill 17-988, the “Halloween Safety Promotion Act,” makes it a crime to carve a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern, or to display a jack-o’-lantern. “Carving a pumpkin is inherently a dangerous act,” says the press release, “and Mayor Fenty’s administration is serious about protecting the people and preventing them from engaging in activities that could harm them.” The press release cites a paper from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, “Hand Surgeons Warn of Pumpkin Carving Dangers” (, as support for its contention that using sharp knives and other implements on hard vegetables like pumpkins could lead to serious injuries.

“We are intent on making holiday celebrations safe for our citizens,” the press release quotes Fenty as saying. “Just as we have attempted to ban such dangers as sparklers and burning snakes on the Fourth of July, we will prevent hand injuries by banning the carving and display of pumpkins on Halloween, and we will soon introduce legislation to make Christmas safer by banning the sale and display of live Christmas trees, which are a fire hazard.”

Bill 17-988, aside from its provisions directly regarding pumpkins, also bans the sale and possession of knives and other sharp implements that could be used to carve pumpkins. Acting Attorney General Peter Nickles expanded upon this ban: “We are working on amending legislation that will create limited exceptions to this ban for people whose professions require the use of sharp implements, such as butchers. They will be allowed to apply for knife licenses that will allow them to use knives at their workplaces, provided that they are kept locked and secured at all times when they are not in use. This amending legislation should be ready within a year.” When asked whether the knife ban may be prohibited by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, Nickles said, “The Second Amendment applies only to weapons, and we aren’t banning knives because they are weapons, but because they can be used to carve pumpkins, and are dangerous for that purpose. We are confident that the courts will uphold this limited and reasonable legislation in the interest of public safety.”

So what tipped you off that this story isn’t true? The lack of a link to the bill? The time or two that I really stepped over the line? But I did have you going for a while, didn’t I? Because it’s just so credible. Meanwhile, have a happy Halloween. At least this year, while you still can.

Gary Imhoff


My Wife’s Coworker Was Murdered by a Gang
David F. Power,

[An open letter to Mayor Adrian Fenty] Adrian, I never thought you would so ignore your basic duties that someone I knew would get murdered. I have lived in DC for over twenty-seven years, and I have never suffered the grief and rage from having someone I knew be murdered here, until this month. Adrian, you are so obsessed with taking control of the schools and all school-related public property that you could give away to your developer cronies that you have ignored the wave of deadly violence engulfing DC workers and commuters. Your working citizens and taxpayers are being murdered at a higher rate than last year, but you do nothing to protect us.

This has been bottled inside of me up for several weeks, ever since a veteran federal agency attorney at my wife’s federal agency workplace got stomped and beaten to death by a gang of black teenagers just a few blocks from his apartment near the Waterside Mall in southwest DC around 9:00 p.m. at night on October 6, as he was bringing groceries back to his kitchen. Three black teenagers have been arrested, so far; I don’t know whether they were arraigned or whether they tried to plea bargain. You must do something; you must protect us. Where are the cops on the beat? What is MPD doing in the neighborhoods in southwest, not to mention northwest? I have not seen a cop on foot or on a bicycle or in an MPD police vehicle in my northwest neighborhood for two months. What the MPD spending on “Homeland Security” while your voters and my wife’s coworkers get beaten to death on their way home at night?

My wife’s murdered coworker was given a Jewish funeral/memorial service on Wednesday, October 22, in the Philadelphia area, where he grew up. (No, Adrian, do not send flowers; it is too late for that, and besides flowers are not usually part of a Jewish funeral.) I understand the service was attended by a dozen or more of my wife’s coworkers, including her boss, the Chief Counsel of her agency. Two weeks ago, her agency made a public grievance on NBC4-TV in front of their office building about the assault on their coworker (they didn’t know at that time that it was a murder, he was still on life support). The Washington Post confirmed that there has been an average of one attack by teenager “pack robbers” in Adams Morgan every three days during August-September; there has been a rash of feral-pack teenager assaults, robberies, and rapes against white commuters and/or residents at the Potomac Avenue Metro Blue Line station recently; my wife’s coworker was just one of a half dozen victims of feral teenager assaults on the same night in southwest near the Waterside Mall exit of the Metro Green Line. You, Mayor Adrian Fenty, and your Chief of Police, Cathy Lanier, do not care about working taxpayers who commute by Metro. You have done nothing to protect us. You are obsessed with your plan to become a dictator over the public schools and all public property in any vicinity of our public schools, while our coworkers are being murdered out here. What are you doing to protect us?


More on Metro Violence
Bryce Suderow,

The police statistics have been delivered to us twice, once by Lt. Ewell at last Thursday’s PSA 107 monthly meeting and again by the First District Commander on Monday during the mayor’s walk in the neighborhood. Their statistics are minimal because they only count the robberies in the immediate vicinity of the Metro stop. Jack Colhoun pointed out these selective statistics on the New Hill East listserv. Here’s what he said:

“The crime map on the back of the PSA 107 newsletter bears this out. I only got a brief look at the crime map at the meeting. But the map and my memory of recent reports on the newhilleast listserve indicate there were numerous assaults by youth and robberies on 14th St. near the Safeway, 14th & C Sts., the 1300 block of C St., and the 300 block of Kentucky Ave. from September through mid-October. My sense is that the bad guys often observe vulnerable pedestrians from the shadows north of the Potomac Metro stop and follow them on their routes home.”

So the number of attacks is greater than the cops are admitting to. If pointing out that the assailants are black teenagers and the victims are whites is offensive, then I say the truth offends you; you need to toughen up.


Campaign 2010
Dorothy Brizill,

On Friday, Mayor Fenty filed a reelection committee, “Fenty 2010,” with the DC Office of Campaign Finance. As in 2006, the co-chairs of Fenty’s campaign are William Lightfoot and James Hudson. Again as in 2006, Ben Soto, a Fenty friend, developer, and member of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, will serve as the committee’s treasurer.

The Washington Examiner quotes Fenty as saying, “It’s always good to start as early as humanly possible.” Translation: start those donations rolling in.


Anybody Been “Rumbled” Yet?
Star Lawrence,

On my health humor blog, Health’s Ass (Lexis-Nexis), I blogged on a new doohicky called “The Rumbler,” which police departments are using to signal motorists to stop, pull over or just pay attention. It creates a low-frequency tone that shakes your whole body. It is being rolled out in DC, the story said. Here is my coverage: Has anybody experienced this or do you know anything about it?


When Newspapers Stop Printing
Phil Shapiro,

Imagine if at some point big city newspapers stopped being available in print. How would the newspaper business change if all content were delivered in digital form? What would a newspaper look like without the space constraints that defined the print age? What pricing model would be appropriate when ink, paper, and physical delivery costs are removed from the equation? In what ways should community members participate in the future of newspapers? I share the hope of almost everyone that newspapers do not simply shut down their business when the print age comes to an end. Are we planning enough for when that transition might happen? Is that transition more imminent than anyone previously expected? I don’t know, but I sure do want to find out. What’s your take on this?


No Big Loss
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Bagel City, on the corner of 49th and Massachusetts Avenue, NW, is gone. Their bagels were bad and the service was worse. In the six times I ventured in to satisfy the bagel cravings of NY visitors, I was always disappointed. Most times never got what I wanted. Had to trek down to Einstein’s on Wisconsin to get reasonably good bagels and excellent service. The old Bagel City site is under renovation and purported to be a breakfast/lunch spot when finished. Maybe they’ll have good bagels. Will wait for them to work out the early kinks and then try them out. Look for a report.

Another local restaurant, Tara Thai, opened in the Spring Valley Shopping Center a few months ago. Tried them out with roomie a couple of weeks ago. Entree’s were just so-so, service was OK. Was originally seated in one of the many booths along the walls. Big mistake. Was akin to a medieval torture. Changed to a regular table, of which many were unoccupied. Most of clientele seem to come from staff and students of the AU Law School, just down the street.


Department of Public Works Brochure
Anne-Marie Bairstow, annemariebairstow at hotmail dot com

I thought the brochure was excellent and very well done. Yes, most of the information is available on the web site, but a lot of people don’t use or know about the web site, not everyone is DC has Internet access at home, and sometimes it’s nice to get an answer without having to turn on the computer. I’m keeping mine in the kitchen, which is where trash-related questions arise and where there is no computer. I imagine Mr. Howland and others at DPW feel like they can’t win: they get criticized for not communicating with constituents, then when they produce a topnotch piece of information, people complain about that too. I wish that themail posters would remember that it is a lot easier to complain than to actually get things done.



At-Large Candidates Forum on Education, October 27
Andrew Simon,

In DC, 85 percent of white students test proficient in math compared to 48 percent of Hispanic students and 35 percent of African-American Students. We must do better to close the achievement gap! On Monday, October 27, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Francis Stevens Education Campus, 2425 N Street, NW, DC School Reform Now ( is hosting a community dialogue with at-large city council candidates Kwame Brown, Michael Brown, Dee Hunter, Patrick Mara, Carol Schwartz, and David Schwartzman to discuss education and school reform.

Leah Fabel from the Washington Examiner will moderate. Half of the event is reserved for questions from the audience. For more information, E-mail


Historical Society of Washington, DC, October 29, November 1
Ed Bruske,

Wednesday, October 29, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Book signing and discussion, The Historic Campaign: Barack Obama in Photos. This astounding book examines, through 150 color and black and white photographs, the road to Barack Obama’s historic nomination as the first African American to lead the presidential ticket of a major party. Announcing his campaign in Springfield, Illinois on Feb. 10, 2007, Obama stood on the grounds of the Old State Capitol, where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech against slavery in 1858. During an eighteen-month campaign, from the snows of Iowa to the hunt for Democratic super delegates, this junior senator from Chicago confounded the party establishment and rewrote the play book on modern presidential campaigning. This amazing collection of photograph captures the public and private moments of his journey, and offers a unique window into one of the great upsets in American politics. The range of images are transformative as they express beauty, pathos, poignancy, emotion, euphoria about the man, Barack Obama, and the Presidential campaign. The book, co-authored by Kevin Merida (Washington Post) and Deborah Willis (New York University), published by Amistad/HarperCollins, captures the transformation of a nation and the rise of a new leader for this generation. Many of the photographs show enthusiastic crowds and offer a link to the history of images produced over the last forty years of presidential campaigns. This exhibit also captures the activism of communities, younger and older, established and organized — locally and virtually though new venues such as Myspace and blogging. These insightful images reveal a concern for preserving the multiple stories and experiences of the subjects within the photographs. or 383-1828.

Saturday, November 1, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Family Series, Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Join the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs and the Mexican Cultural Institute in celebrating The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos in Spanish). The Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage (and others) living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. The celebration occurs on November 1 and 2, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which take place on those days. Traditions include pinata breakings, building private altars honoring the deceased, and using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. For more information, contact the Office on Latino Affairs at 617-2825. or 383-1828.


Fifteenth Annual Race for Mental Health, November 1
Joan Eisenstodt,

A good cause and a chance to get some fresh air! See [This message is being rerun to correct the date.]



Cable Services in DC
Bryce Suderow,

I want to hook up my computer to cable so that I can download faster. What cable companies are there in town and what are the recommendations of subscribers to themail?


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