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November 5, 2008

Election (Local)

Dear Electors:

I have a few observations on yesterday’s election. First and most importantly, with the defeat of Carol Schwartz the District of Columbia has probably elected the last Republican to a partisan elected office for many years. Just as Hilda Mason was the last officeholder from the Statehood Party, and her retirement ended that party’s chance of electing a councilmember, Carol’s defeat means that Republicans will face being shut out of the council for decades into the future. Our city is in for a long spell of not just one-party rule, but of unchallenged, completely uniform one-party rule.

Second, Dorothy spent most of yesterday traveling from polling place to polling place. From her observations, from press reports, and from your Citizen Precinct Survey forms, it seems that the voting process went well, with few major problems at the polls, despite some long lines in the early morning. (Please continue to send in your precinct surveys, however, especially if you did experience any unreported problems; it’s at However, that smooth voting process ended yesterday night at the offices of the Board of Elections and Ethics, where releasing vote tallies took an unreasonably long time. The first count, of only twenty precincts out of 143, wasn’t released until after 10:30 p.m., and the Board didn’t release the final count of the total vote until 1:30 a.m. today. Below, Dorothy writes about some other aspects of the Board’s operations last night.

Is that vote count accurate? Questions are already being raised about one result, Dorothy Douglas’ victory in the Board of Education race in Ward 7. The City Desk blog asked today whether it was the biggest surprise of the night, and the answer is probably yes. Douglas didn’t campaign actively, but she got more votes than her two opponents (Cameron Poles and Ralph Chittams) together, and she is listed as having won every precinct in the ward. Likely?

There have been additional reports of misprinted ballots with races missing, or with the wrong races listed. Below, the Republican party complains of the failure of the Board to mail absentee ballots in a timely fashion, so that they could be returned in time for the election, and of absentee ballots that were missing local elections races. The ballot printing and proofreading process seems to be another area that has to be examined closely. In addition, I’ve received a report of a voter’s having been given a ballot that was premarked, with the arrow for Obama having been filled in; that’s not systematic error, but it’s serious. Has anyone else been given a ballot that was partially filled in or was tampered with?

On another of my favorite subjects, Comcast has added a ringer in its latest notice of reduced services at a higher cost. Over a year ago, Comcast pushed hard to persuade its customers to set up automatic bill payments through their banks, something that is very convenient for the company. Now Comcast is going to charge its customers who have automatic payments set up two extra dollars a month as a “convenience fee.” If you want to save twenty-four dollars a year, log into your account at and withdraw from the automatic payment plan.

Gary Imhoff


Observations on Observing
Dorothy Brizill,

As I wrote earlier in themail, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics agreed to allow citizen observers of the vote counting process last night. Earlier today, I sent an E-mail apology to the volunteer observers: “I feel that I must personally apologize to you for the difficulties that we encountered at the BOEE. On October 22, at a public meeting of the Board, I secured the BOEE’s approval for the first time to allow representatives of nonpartisan civic and citizen associations to serve as citizen observers of the vote counting process. On October 29, in a meeting with the Board’s chairman, Errol Arthur, and public information officer, Dan Murphy, I confirmed this agreement and provided them with a preliminary list of organizations that I intended to invite to send observers. I reconfirmed this agreement in a series of E-mails to Dan Murphy and Kenneth McGhie, the Board’s general counsel, on October 30, 31, and November 3, and I provided them with the final list of organizations that had agreed and their representatives. I was told that the process would be as I described to you in my E-mail yesterday morning. As I wrote, we were expected to arrive in the lobby of One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, at 8:00 p.m. At that time, ‘Kenneth McGhie, the general counsel to the Board, or a member of his staff, will be issuing observer credentials for our project in the lobby of the building. Your name is on this list, which should have been provided to the security guards in the building. You will need these observer credentials to get access to the second floor. If you encounter any problems gaining admission to the building, please ask a Board official in the lobby to find Mr. McGhie. . . .’

“It is against that backdrop that I was completely shocked when the Board’s chairman and general counsel tried to renege on their promises and their commitment to allow independent citizen observers at the BOEE’s offices as votes were being tabulated. Moreover, I was completely taken aback by how badly we were treated and by the heavy handed police presence. Although we were supposed to be admitted to the counting room at 8:00 p.m., Mr. McGhie did not make himself available in the lobby until 9:30 p.m. Then he insisted that he had to “interview” each member of our group to determine whether he would admit us. And then he insisted that there was limited room for observers, that they would provide only sixteen chairs in total, that most of those chairs were being occupied by members of the League of Women Voters, and that we would have to be admitted in groups of four and rotated in and out of the counting room. As you saw when we entered the room, no representatives of the League of Women Voters were in fact present, and there was no reason why all eight of us could not have been admitted immediately, and at the 8:00 p.m. time that had been agreed upon. Unfortunately, once we were all admitted to the counting room, we continued to be treated with indifference at best and with open hostility at worst. I regret that this happened, and I would have warned you about it had I had any reason to believe it would happen. (We can, however, take some comfort in the fact that the Board treated all its visitors in the same manner last night. At 10:30 p.m., when the Board had still not released the voting results even from the first twenty precincts, Councilmember Cheh wanted to speak with the BOEE’s chairman, general counsel, or executive director to get an explanation of the long delay. She did not know where they were, so I led her to the Board’s conference room, next to the executive director’s office, where they usually meet on occasions like election days. She was challenged and blocked from going to the conference room or from speaking with any of the Board officials, until she insisted that she was not there as an individual councilmember but as a representative of the entire council. Then, and only then, did a BOEE staffer agree to see whether Mr. Arthur would consent to meet with her to offer an excuse for the delay. [He did, by the way.])

“As you may know, the BOEE has been severely criticized this year because of problems that arose during the February presidential primary and the September local primary. The DC city council has established a special committee, chaired by Councilmember Mary Cheh, to investigate the BOEE, and the Office of the DC Attorney General is also conducting an investigation into the operations of the BOEE. By encouraging citizens to fill out a survey regarding their experiences at the polls on election day, and by having citizen organizations observe the Board’s tabulation of election returns, I had hoped that citizens would get a useful insight into the workings of the Board and that the current Board could demonstrate an openness to citizens and a transparency that had marked its operations in previous decades. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Although by all reports most precincts operated smoothly, even though there were long lines at the beginning of the day, the counting procedure at the Board’s office was unnecessarily slow and inefficient, and we still have no explanation of why that was so.”


DC Board of Education
Robert Bobb, President, DC State Board of Education, sent by Sean Greene,

We became the DC State Board of Education in June 2007 under the same law that gave Mayor Fenty control of DC Public Schools. We are no longer the “school board.” We have policy authority and responsibilities similar to those of education boards in every other state. Ours is the “big picture” view that applies to all learners — from toddler to adult — in traditional, public charter and post-secondary schools. For example, the State Board determines: what should every third grader know and be able to do in math or social studies? How many years of foreign language must high school students take to graduate? How can we weed out weak teachers by making “effectiveness” part of licensing requirements?

Moreover, the State Board provides one of the few public forums where District residents can share their views at hearings and meetings with a responsive elected body that is focused solely on education. Parents, teachers, students, and other community members helped shape our first-ever learning standards for health and physical education standards, which are critical in our city’s battle against childhood obesity and teen AIDS. Public input also helped us craft more sensible rules on home schooling and teacher quality standards, as well as world-class standards for arts education so our students will receive a balanced education. Most recently, the State Board unanimously approved new learning standards for world languages, which will help our students compete in the global marketplace.

So let’s not be too quick to write off the significance of the DC State Board of Education. No, we can’t fix your school’s roof or reinstate a teacher. But our work does have direct, positive impact on classrooms and students. We all have a stake in the education of our children, and on election day, voters in each of the District’s eight wards will had the opportunity to choose the representatives who will best further our common goal of building a world-class public education system in the nation’s capital.


Different Responsibilities of DCPS and OSSE
Ashaki Goodall,

Thank you, Ms. Butler-Truesdale, for your curiosity when you wrote: “While I would be interested in knowing more about the possible contractual relationships which could equate to a conflict of interest, I am more curious about the reality and clarity between the operations and responsibility of the state education agency and the local education agency. To avoid future accountability lapses we need more public information about the operational relationship and comparative objective functions of the two agencies before the relationship crashes and they begin to play the blame game” [themail, November 2].

I am in total agreement that there needs to be more public information that clarifies the relationship between the SEA (now known as the Office of the State Superintendent of Education) and the DCPS LEA. While there was a definite need to separate the two entities, and the DC Education Reform Act did just this, I think that it is imperative that city council and the general public ask more questions about the ways in which these two agencies interact and the role of the Deputy Mayor for Education. And these questions should begin to be asked as soon as possible, for Ms. Butler-Truesdale’s E-mail is certainly foreshadowing unfortunate circumstances to come..

While I am personally aware of many, many instances where the relationship needs to be clarified, just last week I began to see public instances in which it appears that the “blame game” has already begun. Last Thursday, October 30, when the Chancellor was before the city council to address questions regarding the budget, she clearly avoided answering some questions, deferring responsibility for clear answer to the OSSE. Councilmembers were steered towards the OSSE when they asked about 1) tracking student academic achievement (the Chancellor’s answer implied that the OSSE’s data warehouse eliminated the DCPS LEA’s need to track); 2) teacher certification issues (the Chancellor’s answer was in response to questions about DCPS LEA teacher student classroom ratios); and 3) special education budget pressures (the Chancellor responded that because the OSSE is now in charge of transportation and nonpublic placement, this will no longer be an issue for DCPS LEA).

We all know that education reform is top priority for all of us. However, can true education reform really be achieved in the District if everyone, including the key players, is not sure who is accountable for what?


DC Vote Victory Looks Promising
Jaline Quinto,

DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka released the following statement: ““With a historic election just hours behind us, supporters of DC voting rights are optimistic about a victory in 2009. DC Vote is greatly encouraged by the results of the presidential election and the election of new senators in several states. We have gained two crucial allies in the White House: President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are on the record as strong supporters of DC voting rights. Additionally, a number of potential supporters of DC voting rights defeated senators who opposed the DC Voting Rights Act (S. 1257).”

“For the first time in a generation, we may have enough votes to secure passage and enactment of DC voting rights legislation. However, we have a lot of work to do to educate new members of the 111th Congress and to ensure that this critical issue gets priority consideration. To begin, we are organizing a Veterans Day rally on November 11. DC residents have fought and died for our country in every war while being denied voting representation in Congress. Together with DC’s veterans, we will send a clear message to the new administration and the new Congress that it is time to bring democracy home to America’s capital.”

“While the new Congress is most likely to pass the existing DC Voting Rights Act, we will also explore the possibility of additional steps that Congress could take to provide even greater democracy to DC residents. We are meeting with our board, coalition partners and members of Congress to discuss the implications of the election and our strategy for 2009. We look forward to a big turnout at our Veterans Day rally on November 11 and to working with our allies in the new Congress to pass a DC voting rights bill.”


Several District Republicans Did Not Receive Absentee Ballots
Paul Craney,

There were repeated reports that District Republicans did not receive their absentee ballots. The latest example of this comes as the son of Republican US Senate candidate Nelson Rimensnyder, who is a West Point graduate and on his second tour in Iraq, received his absentee ballot over the weekend and his ballot did not include the local candidates. This means that Captain James Rimensnyder will not have the opportunity to vote for his father, Nelson Rimensnyder, for US Senate.

We are finding a consistent pattern that DC Republicans are not getting their absentee ballots that they requested. Captain James Rimensnyder, who is serving his second tour in Iraq, was be able to vote for his father. This is not an isolated incident, but rather a larger problem that I fear will taint tomorrow’s [November 4th’s] results. The DC Republican Committee has a list of DC Republicans who did not receive their absentee ballots after numerous attempts to obtain a ballot.


Metro Searches Are a Big Deal
Will Grant,

I beg to differ with Carolyn Long’s assertion that the new random Metro searches aren’t a “big deal” (“Bag Search on Metro,” themail, November 2). She compares them to searches made in going into museums, libraries, state and federal buildings, and airports, but the comparisons are not valid ones. In all of those cases every entrant/passenger gets searched. There is no way to enter those places without getting your bag and/or your person checked for contraband. Metro, on the other hand, will only be searching selected, random passengers, who have to right to refuse the search and leave the station. If all passengers on Metro aren’t searched, and those who are selected can leave at will, this is nothing more than security theater. It will do nothing to increase actual security past catching those few fools who consent to the searches and are found with some bit of contraband. She was correct in asserting that it won’t “deter any smart would-be terrorists” — any terrorists worth their salt would simply leave the station and go to another one, especially in the downtown area where stations are frequently separated by only a few city blocks. So if everyone knows the program won’t meet its stated goal of deterring terrorism, why are we putting up with it? This is an ineffective waste of taxpayer dollars which will do nothing to increase the actual security of the Metro, and is another encroachment by a governmental agency on our fourth amendment rights (and while Metro has and will continue to cite the Second Circuit’s decision regarding New York City’s subway’s random search program, last I checked DC was not within the Second Circuit).


YouTube Video of Book Talk at Google’s DC Office
Phil Shapiro,

I happened to spot this interesting book talk video on YouTube and thought it might be of interest to some folks here in themail:, I’ve been down to Google’s new DC office, which is near where the old Greyhound station used to be. It’s a nice office, although the atrium (where they have such events) looks like it could accommodate no more than one hundred people — roughly 8,241,812 smaller than the population of the DC/Baltimore metropolitan area. (

Incidentally, I don’t see any info on YouTube on how to stay posted on future tech talks at Google’s DC office. If anyone happens to spot info about that, thanks for sharing that info here. And if you happen to work for Google and subscribe to this civic discussion forum, do please raise your virtual hand. We welcome you to this online community, born about the same time as Google was born, ten years ago.



DC State Board of Education Hearing on Early Learning Standards, November 12
Sean Greene,

The District of Columbia State Board of Education (DCSBOE) is postponing the public hearing scheduled on Wednesday, November 5, to Wednesday, November 12. The DCSBOE will receive input from the public on the proposed Early Learning Standards. The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12, at 441 4th Street, NW, in the District of Columbia State Board of Education Chambers, located on the lobby level of the building. The meeting will air live on DSTV Comcast Channel 99 and RCN Channel 18.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, November 12-13
John Stokes,

Saturday, November 12, 1:00-4:00 p.m., Lamond Recreation Center, 20 Tuckerman Street, NE. In collaboration with the Washington Performing Arts Society, Recording Artist Changamire returns to Lamond for her second free jazz concert. For more information call, Tiffany Johnson at 576-9541.

Wednesday, November 12, 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m., THEARC, 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE. Music Ali T Live Performance: DPR’s Sassy Seniors will observe a performance that will consist of a musical tea arty and dance. Light refreshments will be served. Ages 50 and over. For more information, call Henry Moton, Site Manager, 645-4550.

Thursday, November 13, 1:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m., Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet Street, SW. “Great” 8 Senior Luncheon: seniors will enjoy a fun afternoon of socializing while enjoying a specially prepared lunch. Ages 55 and up. For more information, call Margie Robinson at 645-3960.

Thursday, November 13, 12:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Trinidad Recreation Center, 1310 Childress Street, NE. Seniors Thanksgiving brunch: 12:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Seniors gathering together to give thanks with friends and have a fun time. Ages 50 and up. For more information, call Anthony Higginbotham, Site Manager, at 727-1293.


Historical Society of Washington, DC, November 13-14
Ed Bruske,

Thursday, November 13 through Saturday, November 15, Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Washington Studies Conference. The thirty-fifth Annual Conference on Washington, DC, Historical Studies is a gathering of everyone, from scholars and students to collectors and history buffs, who shares an abiding fascination with the local history of Washington, DC. This year’s conference kicks off on Thursday, November 13, when Dr. Peniel Joseph of Stony Brook University presents the Annual Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Lecture. Dr. Joseph will present a talk based on his research into Stokely Carmichael and the context for the 1968 civil disturbances following the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Joseph is author of Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America.

On Friday, November 14, and Saturday November 15, the conference continues with wide-ranging concurrent sessions examining, among other topics, the recent history of The Washington Post; the influence of Freemasonry; faith-based social services; Bowie and Rockville as suburban innovations; 19th-century prostitution; the controversy over the Albert Einstein statute; and the 1961 attack on anti gay federal policy and subsequent development of gay activism. Two films looking back at the disturbances of 1968 will be offered, as will original walking tours. Sponsored by the Historical Society of Washington, DC, and the DC Public Library, the conference is open to the public. Admission is $10, $5 for students and seniors. All sessions will take place at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, in the old Carnegie Library building. For more information call 383-1850 or see


Bridging the Gaps in DC, November 14
Katie Kerstetter,

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute will release “Bridging the Gaps in DC: Strategies to Support Low-Income Working Families,” on November 14 at 9:00 a.m. at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 120. Did you know that one in three working families in DC has trouble making ends meet, and that many of these families don’t get support from public benefit programs such as child care or housing, due to restricting eligibility rules or limited funding? With rising food and energy costs and a slowing economy, it’s important to help working families bridge the gap between low wages and resources they need to make ends meet.

You are invited to a discussion of a new report by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute with Councilmember Tommy Wells and speakers from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Capital Area Asset Builders, and DC Hunger Solutions. Please RSVP to Katie Kerstetter, or 408-1080.


GLBT Economic Development Summit, November 15
Andi Joseph, 

The Washington, DC, Economic Partnership is a proud sponsor of the Second Annual Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Economic Development Summit, being held in the District of Columbia on November 15, from 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle, NW). The goal of the summit will be to ensure that GLBT business leaders and entrepreneurs continue to play an important role in leading the economic and creative development of the city. The summit will kick off with a keynote address by Dr. Alice Rivlin of the Brookings Institute on the future of economic development in Washington, DC. Dr. Rivlin is a senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program at Brookings and a visiting professor at the Public Policy Institute of Georgetown University. She directs Brookings Greater Washington Research. Before returning to Brookings, Ms. Rivlin served as vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board (1996-99). She was director of the White House Office of Management and Budget in the first Clinton Administration. She also chaired the District of Columbia Financial Management Assistance Authority.

Additionally, workshop and panel sessions at the summit will include information on doing business with the city, registering your business as a Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) for inclusion on the supply schedule; mastering media relations; choosing a location for your business; online marketing; managing the business of life; networking for new businesses, and more. The conference is planned by the Washington, DC, Economic Partnership, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the Mayor’ Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) Affairs, the Department of Small and Local Business Development and PEN-DC, Metro DC’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. To register, please call 727-9493 or visit


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