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November 16, 2008

Union Busting

Dear Busters:

In the last issue of themail, I asked for your answers to three questions. Given the results of the election, and Democratic control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, what’s your prediction for whether there will be any substantive change in the local-federal relationship, what’s your preference for what that change should be, and what can citizens of the District do to encourage change in the direction you prefer?

In this issue of themail, only two correspondents, Len Sullivan and Michael Bindner, have answered these questions. I’d like to encourage more of you to play political prognosticator and political sage, and to send in your replies. After all, whatever your guess, whatever you think will happen, can’t be any farther from the truth than what Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee think will happen. Thanks to the good reporting of Bill Turque, commented on by Candi Peterson below, we now know that Fenty and Rhee think that the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress will be eager to help them break government worker unions, starting with the teachers union. Whatever you write, you’ll look like a genius compared with Fenty and Rhee.

Gary Imhoff


Union Busting 101
Candi Peterson,

Union busting is a practice considered by some to be unethical when it is undertaken by an employer. It is the process that some employers may use to prevent their employees from joining a labor union, or to fire their already organized workforce and hire nonunion labor. Sunday’s Washington Post story, “Fenty, Rhee Look for Ways Around the Union,” by reporter Bill Turque,, revealed that the mayor and Chancellor are considering restoring the District’s power to create nonunionized charter schools and are possibly seeking federal legislation declaring the school system in a “state of emergency,” a move that, the Post reports, would eliminate the need to bargain with the Washington Teachers Union. Could their strategy be union busting?

Before you answer, here are some of the tactics of typical union busters. Sound vaguely familiar to what’s happening in DC? Some of the tactics of union busters include proposing increases in pay and unexpected perks, utilizing employee scare tactics and a divide-and-conquer approach, stating that they want to be their employees’ pal, piling on pressure from agency supervisors, promoting a litany of negative press about unions, and demanding one-on-one meetings and captive audience meetings with their employees.

If you’ve not had enough of city government worker horror stories, DC City Desk tells another union busting story about former DC teacher Harold Cox, who was fired at the beginning of school year 2008 (, November 15). I think this story is a must read for all of us. It provides a glimpse into Fenty and Rhee’s tactics, which rob our students of many qualified DC teachers who happen to be union members. Like Harold Cox, Denise Hamilton and Fred Kamara, blind teachers in DCPS, also lost their teaching jobs earlier this school year. Have you lost count of how many certified DC teachers have lost their jobs in DCPS? I know I have. Here is Harold Cox’s story, as reported in City Desk by Sam Smith: “Former DC teacher Harold Cox is the definition of a dedicated teacher. A twenty-one year teaching veteran, Cox worked hard inside and outside the classroom, frequently staying late after class to work with students and lobbying DC City Council to address problems in the schools. So Cox was shocked when he was fired, without any explanation, at the beginning of the school year. Like hundreds of other summarily-dismissed teachers, aides and principals, Cox was forced to reapply for his position as part of DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty’s controversial plan to fix the ailing DC public schools. But Cox now says that he thinks ‘Rhee was brought in to break the union’ and that the ‘hiring process had little to do with guaranteeing teaching standards and everything to do with strong-arming teachers to make concessions union have fought off for years.’ For example, when Cox reapplied for his job, he discovered that the principal of the school was insisting that teachers ‘sign an agreement which included extending teaching hours,’ a clear violation of their union contract. When Cox refused to sign, he ‘was sent packing.’” Union busting or not ? You tell me.


More Than Bravado?
Ed Dixon,

It will be interesting to see what the Fenty campaign comes up with as Fenty’s successes under public education. Jack Evans and Anthony Williams lambasted past superintendent Paul Vance for doing little more than “moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic.” Have we seen anything more than that with this administration?


Coming Soon
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

That’s what the sign says on the place being renovated at the corner of 49th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Formerly Bagel City, the new place will be called Le Pain Bakery and Communal Table. After several -places have failed in this location (liquor store, florist, Balduccis, and Bagel City) one can only hope that this new place succeeds. Nice to have a real bakery nearby and a place to eat breakfast or lunch.


Shame on Sherwood
Frank Winstead, DC Citizen,

Tuesday I submitted a Veteran’s Day story with photos to NowPublic highlighting Tom Sherwood’s disrespectful attitude towards just about everyone on that day. NowPublic article: In particular, I pointed out how he sat in a double parked car on Constitution Avenue reading a newspaper while his cameraman/driver collected news video of the DC Veterans Day rally. On Wednesday, I opened the latest edition of a local shopper tabloid to amuse myself with the real estate ads when I noticed “Tom Sherwood’s Notebook.” Twice in his first paragraph, Sherwood criticized President-elect Obama for causing traffic problems in DC. I guess NBC fired the hypocrisy checkers along with the proofreaders and the copy editors, but they kept the self-important Sherwood. Sherwood’s “do as I say, not as I do” article is on, page 10:


The Hypocrite
Ed T. Barron,

Our newest resident-to-be, Obama, has avidly promoted public schools and public education while bashing vouchers and charter schools — those very schools that have enabled many of DC’s students to get a good education. So, where will our new President enroll his own children? Not in the public schools here in DC. He will enroll them in one of the high-priced private schools. That’s hypocritical.


Improving the Federal/Capital City Relationship
Len Sullivan,

Gary has posited three questions [themail, November 12] important enough to stir NARPAC ( from self-imposed hibernation. The incoming federal administration presents an extraordinary opportunity for our national capital city to earn its rightful place at the table with the federal government it hosts. But this will require a major change in the DC’s collective mentality. Apologists notwithstanding, neither the presence of, nor the actions of, the federal government have caused the core city of our national capital metro area to generate way less than half of the area’s wealth, or way more than half of the area’s endemic poverty with its accompanying crime, illiteracy, school dropouts, teen pregnancies, and fatherless households. If our national capitol was moved elsewhere, DC’s residual population would fall to barely Third World status.

NARPAC’s desired changes are that DC accept, in fact exploit, its dual roles: as host to our American federal government and as the central hub of one of the world’s most important, thoroughly homogenized, metropolitan areas. Although US metro areas are not per se represented in Congress, they have become the basic twenty-first century subdivisions of national political and economic strength, as well as the most appropriate recipients of much federal largesse.

The prerequisites for DC partnership in national government center on a fundamental shift in both governing and constituent mindset from that of a whining, sulking “nobody loves me,” “you owe me” adolescent, to that of an “I can help” adult anxious to join the world’s most important team. Stop pretending that residents are helpless without a full voice in Congress. Stop dreaming about mythical resources to be gained by becoming the smallest, poorest state. Stop goading our new world leader into risking his kids’ future in one the worst US urban school systems. Stop reviving dishonest CFO-endorsed assertions of a huge fiscal “structural imbalance” due to the federal presence. Stop trying to run the municipal government (and its school system) as some swaggering macho replay of a Grade B movie. Stop visualizing DC as an isolated insular entity surrounded by ugly rich aliens. Stop seeking cheap, local, amusement-class infrastructure additions that disavow regional interdependence. Grow up, DC, or miss out on your future!


Three Answers in themail
Michael Bindner, mikeybdc at yahoo dot com

I predict that at the very least voting rights in the House will be enacted. I have strong hopes that some type of representation in the Senate will come about as well, either with two additional seats or voting through Maryland for the Senate. This will only come about, however, if District voters demand it from Eleanor Holmes Norton. The prospect of Senate voting rights through Maryland would have her want nothing at all instead, even though such an arrangement would have no constitutional problems at all. Of course, the preferred situation is statehood. However, this would take some work, including negotiating a deal with Maryland and Virginia to take our felons from the Feds in exchange for foregoing commuter taxes, and in getting Norton to amend H.R. 51 to shrink the residual District of Columbia to just the Capitol grounds and Senate and House Office Buildings (where the workers pay their taxes back home rather than in the region).

Voting rights is only part of the story. What DC elected leaders should focus on is the appointment of an Administrator for the National Capital Service Area, since this would lead to reimbursement agreements to provide services to the area, as well as a large back payment for all of those years when the Feds dodged this payment by simply refusing to appoint someone to make that deal.


Jim Graham Responsive on WMATA?
Christopher Jerry,

All due respect to Mr. Sobelsohn, who wrote in the last edition of themail [November 12]: “I believe Graham rightly considers that, in sitting on the WMATA Board, he represents the entire city. . . .“ But, if that is the case, I wonder why Mr. Graham, Mayor Fenty’s appointee to the six-person principal Metro Board members, allowed for the paper bus transfer system to be removed, if he at all cares about the entire city? In Graham’s Ward 1, newly gentrified and upscale, most people probably are not effected by the removal of the transfer policy. In my part of the city, east of the Anacostia River where the most transit-dependent people live, the elimination of the paper transfer system, while reducing some fraud, will also double and in some cases triple the cost of a one-way ride on the bus. Metro has not been very effective in notifying people of this change. Many folks I talk to have no clue what is about to go into effect on January 1, 2009.

The fact is as far as DC’s representation on the Metro Board is concerned, east of the river has not had a primary member of the Metro Board for at least twenty years, if ever. Marion Barry has been an alternate, but alternates vote only when the primary is not available. That often leads to people like Graham, Evans, and others who have been the main person from the council on the Board being tone deaf when it comes to how those who depend on the bus are affected by fare increases and service cuts. Yes, I know, everyone should get onboard and get a Smartrip card so they don’t have to pay when they transfer. That in the minds of the Board and of my employer, Metro, is the be all and end all. Well, again, not everyone can afford to get a Smartrip card. Smartrip cards can and will get lost. Trying to load money on a Smartrip card on the bus, where there is only one fare box while ten people are in line behind you is not the same as multiple machines at U Street-Cardozo Station.

When Virginia needs special fares and rules for Virginia’s riders, the Virginia delegation to the Metro Board figures it out and crafts policies for them. Same for Maryland. Graham and new appointee Neil Albert should do the same as regards the transfer policy in DC before January or there will be some angry riders in the city, when they learn they will have to pay $2.60 for the one-way ride that currently costs $1.30


November InTowner Online
P.L. Wolfe,

This is to advise that the November 2008 online 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 12 (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) “Important Projects in the Heart of Shaw Will Enhance 7th Street Architecturally While Also Serving the Community’s Needs”; 2) “Plan for Lanier Heights Historic District Met With Heavy Opposition, Complaints;” 3) “Blagden Alley and Naylor Court to be Featured on Logan Circle House Tour.” We also call attention to a new online feature linked from our home page by clicking the button labeled “Special Online Content.” It is here that we will from time-to-time post articles or other matter of interest too lengthy for inclusion in the print edition. To inaugurate this feature we have posted an article by a longtime iron work expert who specializes in restoring historic staircases, titled “When Does My Cast Iron Staircase Need Attention? Always!”



Where’s the Money, November 18
Anne Renshaw,

The Federation of Citizens Associations probes DC’s vanishing resources, budget cuts, and other austerity plans affecting residents’ quality of life. It will hold a forum on the District government’s response to the global economic downturn, the mayor’s $131 million budget reduction plan and the city council’s proposed $50 million reserve fund on Tuesday, November 18, 6:45 p.m., at the Charles Sumner School, 120l Seventeenth Street, NW (at M Street).

Guest speaker Dr. Robert D. Ebel, DC’s Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Revenue Analysis and Chief Economist, will address community leaders and discuss their questions regarding recently publicized budget reductions (which have an impact, in part, on DC’s neediest populations) against agency overspending, theft of city revenues, and escalating fees for (and reductions in) city services.

Dr. Ebel, a longtime District resident and former ANC Commissioner (Logan Circle/Shaw), chaired the District of Columbia Tax Revision Commission (1997-98). He previously served as Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute/Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center and Lead Economist for the World Bank. Dr. Ebel, who holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Purdue University, is also a distinguished newspaper columnist and prolific author. For further information, contact Anne Mohnkern Renshaw, 363-6880.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, November 18, 20-21
John Stokes,

Tuesday, November 18, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Kenilworth-Parkside Recreation Center, 4300 Anacostia Avenue, NE. Potluck and Poetry. In conjunction with the Eastland Gardens Civic Association Kenilworth Recreation will host an evening of food and poetry. Poets from around the city will come and present spoken word. For more information call, Janice Wright at 727-2485.

Thursday, November 20, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Brentwood Recreation Center, 2311 14th Street, NE. Thanksgiving dinner, ages 5-12. The community will have a chance to eat a warm delicious meal to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. For more information call Lorenzo Carter, site manager at 576-6595.

Thursday, November 20, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Benning Stoddert Recreation Center, 100 Stoddert Place, NE. Giving Thanks Thanksgiving Dinner, all ages. The community of Benning Stoddert will come together to give thanks in a Pre-Thanksgiving Celebration. Participants will enjoy lots of food and fun. For more information, call Sharon Marshall at 698-1873.

Thursday, November 20, 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Congress Heights Recreation Center, 100 Randle Place, SE. “Let’s Give Thanks,” ages 6-12. Children and staff will enjoy an evening of games, creative arts, and music while reciting specially prepared presentations for their families and community. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call Tara Bell at 645-3981.

Thursday, November 20, 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m., King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N Street, SE. Thanksgiving luncheon. Sassy seniors will participate in a Thanksgiving luncheon, dinner setting. They will enjoy the sounds of light music. For more information, call Henry Moton, site manager, 645-4550.

Friday, November 21, Rosedale Recreation Center, 17th and Gales Streets, NE, 6:00-8:00 p.m. Thanksgiving dinner, all ages. Dinner will be prepared and served for the community and those interested in attending the holiday festivities. For more information, call Brian Williams 724-5405.

Friday, November 21, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., North Michigan Park Recreation Center, 1333 Emerson Street, NE. Teen Supreme Thanksgiving Dinner. ages 12-19. Teens will engage in a fun-filled fellowship, as well as participate in several low impact activities. For more information, call Joseph Clark, site manager at 541-3531.

Friday, November 21, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. Turkey Thicket Community Center, 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE. Community Thanksgiving Pot Luck Dinner, all ages. The Turkey Thicket Community is invited to come out and celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday season. Members of the community are encouraged to bring a dish. For more information, call Mark Williams, Ward 5 manager, at 576-9238.

Friday, November 21, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Fort Stevens Recreation Center, 1327 Van Buren Street, NW. Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner, ages 6 and up. The young ladies of “Young Ladies on the Rise” and the teens in the Supreme Teens club will host our annual Thanksgiving dinner and canned food drive. For more information, call Nicole Carroll at 541-3754.

Friday, November 21, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Benning Park Recreation Center, 53rd and Fitch Streets, SE. Thanksgiving feast, all ages. Showing unity in our community coming together as one. The staff and community of Benning Park will come together to enjoy a Pre-Thanksgiving Day Feast. For more information, call Woody Ward at 645-3957.

Friday, November 21, 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Langdon Park Recreation Center, 2901 20th Street, NE. Thanksgiving Family Skate Party, all ages. Come out and enjoy a fun-filled evening with your family as we skate the night away. For more information, call T-Jai Farmer, site manager at 576-6595.

Friday, November 21, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Watkins Recreation Center, 420 12th Street, SE. Thanksgiving Dinner, all ages. Watkins staff will be feeding the youth and their parents dinner. For more information, call Brian Cobbs, site manager, 727-4468.


Committee of 100 Annual Membership Meeting, November 19
M. Berman,

The Committee of 100 will hold its annual membership meeting on Wednesday, November 19, 12:00-2:00 p.m., at the Charles Sumner School. The Sumner School is located at the corner of 17th and M Streets, NW. It is accessible via the red line Farragut North stop. Metered street parking and hourly garage parking also available. Public entrance on 17th Street.

Our guest speaker will be Ed Lazere, Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute. Discussion will include Mr. Lazere’s views on the implications of the current economic crisis for DC, including DCFPI’s updated revenue and deficit projections in 2009/10 for DC; the five-year forecast for new business and residential growth and development in DC in light of the recession/depression; implications for the widening gap between rich and poor and recommended measures to help low income residents through the tough times ahead; guiding principles for how DC should address its own revenue shortfall and expenditures; specific actions and legislation that the mayor and council need to take to ensure sound financial oversight and management; recommended changes needed in the federal payment to the city and requests the mayor and council should make to the new administration; and any “silver lining” opportunities (reform of outmoded habits and policies) that could occur during this period.

In addition, the membership will be electing officers and trustees and subcommittee chairs will be making annual reports. Please RSVP to regarding you attendance for lunch — $15/person payable by check, cash, or MC/VISA.


Historical Society of Washington, DC, November 22
Ed Bruske,

Saturday, November 22, 10 a.m. -11:30 a.m. Urban Gardening Series. Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Can Compost Save Planet Earth? Don’t blow those leaves out to the curb! Turn them into compost! Recycling food scraps and other organic matter has become symbolic of the modern green movement as one thing we can do to nourish the planet. For centuries, gardeners have known the many benefits compost brings to the soil: increased fertility, better drainage and water retention, a buffer for pH. Now we are learning that an ample supply of organic matter is critical to support soil microbes, so important for plant health.

City dwellers generate huge amounts of organic scraps, but turning them into compost — rather than sending them to the landfill — presents special challenges. Not everyone has a back yard with room for a big compost heap. Still, there’s more than one way to get those carrot peels, apple cores, and grass clippings back into the soil where they belong. Ed Bruske, Master Gardener and president of DC Urban Gardeners, shows how composting works and demonstrates a variety of strategies for composting in an urban setting. He’ll explain different types of tumblers, why pests and odors needn’t be a problem, and how even apartment dwellers can start composting with their own colony of worms. Ed Bruske frequently writes about composting on his blog, The Slow Cook ( This presentation is given in collaboration with DC Urban Gardeners. or 383-1828.

Saturday, November 22, 1-4 p.m. Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Learn Decorative Papercutting. As the winter holidays begin, bring the whole family to learn papercutting — the art of cutting paper designs. Paper cutting is an ancient form of folk art and has been practiced for almost eighteen hundred years by millions of men, women, and children throughout the world. The art has evolved uniquely all over the world to adapt to different cultural styles. In almost every country, silhouettes were cut. Before photography, the only way to have a picture for posterity was to have a painting or drawing, both relatively expensive. A shadow, traced on paper hung on a wall, and then cut out, was much less expensive. Itinerant cutters went from place to place, often making pictures of whole families. Papercutting came to the American colonies first, when middle Europeans, mostly Germans, fleeing religious persecution, came to Pennsylvania in the late seventeenth century. In the spirit of the holidays, master papercutter, Anne Leslie will show you how to make your own paper cutting design to share with your friends and family. or 383-1828.

Saturday, November 22, 1-4 p.m. Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street. NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Free admission. Make a Porcelain Holiday Ornament. Make your own personalized holiday ornament with visual artist, Pat Swinsky. She will show you and your family how to design and decorate a embossed porcelain ornament. Using special tools each participant will create a raised design, made with acrylic paint, on a polished porcelain ornament. Five different shaped ornaments and many different colors of porcelain will be available for you to choose from. You have a choice of three different designs: a poinsettia, holly, or lace design. Each design can be done in many different variations. Finished samples will be available so you can see what the design will look like. You will work with a manually operated ‘lathe’ to hold your ornament while you create the design work with a tool that looks like a syringe. This hand-on-activity is geared more to teens and adults. or 202-383-1828


School Budget Proposal Hearing, November 20
Jennifer Calloway,

The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) fiscal year 2010 proposal for school funding is now available online. The proposed formula for how DCPS would structure school budgets is being released in an effort to solicit comments and provide the community with an opportunity to review the model prior to the Chancellor’s public budget hearing on November 20. Please visit for more information and to download the proposal and ancillary data from FY 2009.

The November 20 hearing will be at DCPS headquarters at 825 North Capitol Street in the fifth floor boardroom from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Members of the public who would like to submit testimony should contact Jennifer Nguyen at

“This year we set out to create a more transparent and engaging budget process, we hope that all the school communities will examine the proposal and attend the public hearing to offer their input,” said Chancellor Michelle Rhee. “We look forward to starting this process early and working together to create a final budget that supports student achievement.”



Colleague Seeks Inauguration Housing
Joan Eisenstodt,

A colleague is seeking inauguration housing for some of her clients. Outside DC is OK also; some groups might come with their nannies.

I know everyone wants it, but it can’t hurt to ask, and it sounds like they may pay well given the particulars. This particular couple is an actress and her significant other is a baseball player; four children and a nanny. Four bedrooms and two to three baths wanted. Please reply to Jackie Chutter, or 757-229-1161.


Inauguration Housing Available
William Haskett,

House with three bedrooms and a basement apartment in Palisades. Bus route D-6 is one block away; twenty to thirty minutes from downtown. Call 301-493-6985 or write

Otherwise call me at 301-493-6985.


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