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November 19, 2008

Governing Should Be Hard

Dear Governors:

Many people routinely say that it’s a shame that it’s so hard to get government to do something, to get a law passed, to move a program. I rejoice in the difficulty. Government is too powerful for governing to be easy. I’m glad that only a small portion of the bills that are proposed actually get passed in law; we’re better off without the rest (and often without many of the ones that do get passed). I’m glad when the city council frustrates the mayor’s plans and when the mayor vetoes a council bill. Oh, I may wish in specific cases that the outcome had been different, but I’m still happy to see the separate branches of government make life difficult for each other; that makes life easier for citizens.

That’s why I was happy to see the city council’s Committee on the Judiciary vote out a disapproval resolution for the nomination of Peter Nickles as our city’s Attorney General and to write a committee report that was so detailed and convincing (, and why I was so disappointed to see the council, under the weak leadership of Vincent Gray, then turn about and approve the nomination. As Acting Attorney General, Nickles has not been independent of Mayor Fenty in any way; he has represented Fenty and Fenty’s personal interests. He has worked consistently against the council to prevent it from receiving information and testimony from administration officials. He has routinely twisted and misrepresented the law to benefit the mayor, whom he sees as his sole client, and whom he represents at the expense of citizens. Now, some will say that twisting and misrepresenting the law and the facts is the job of a lawyer; but it is not the job of the Attorney General, who is supposed to represent the people and the city. A defense lawyer can claim that clients whom he knows to be guilty are innocent; but a prosecutor is duty-bound to prosecute only those whom he actually believes to be guilty. Similarly, an Attorney General is duty-bound to be an honest broker, not just an advocate.

Councilmember David Catania, who under Mayor Tony Williams called for an elected Attorney General and argued passionately that the office needed to be independent of the mayor, now argues just as passionately for an Attorney General who sacrifices independence to advance the mayor’s interests alone. The Washington Post, which never misses an opportunity to argue that the city council should be completely subservient to Fenty and grant his every wish, editorialized in favor of Nickles (, although under any other mayor they would have urged the rejection of a nominee who demonstrated such major flaws over the past two years. The Committee on the Judiciary’s vote on Monday to pass the disapproval resolution was a signal that the council intended to reclaim its role as an equal partner in our city’s government; its vote yesterday to approve of Nickles’ appointment was a signal that it would continue to abdicate its responsibilities and surrender decision making and governing to the mayor.

Correction: my editing of Christopher Jerry’s message in the last issue of themail led to a misunderstanding about roles of Washington’s representatives on WMATA’s Board of Directors. Just to clarify, the District of Columbia appoints four members. The city council has appointed Councilmember Jim Graham as a principal director and Councilmember Marion Barry as an alternate director. The mayor has appointed Deputy Mayor Neil Albert as a principal director and Anthony R. Giancola as an alternate director.

Gary Imhoff


Chairman Gray: Your Vote on Peter Nickles
Carolyn Steptoe,

Dear Chairman Gray: You likely have received innumerable communiques about your vote yesterday supporting Peter Nickles. As the leader of the DC city council, to watch and hear you articulate a position of support for this nominee — and completely ignore the breadth and range of opposition and factual information from residents, organizations, District employees, and your own colleagues Councilmembers Mendelson, Cheh, Barry, Alexander, and Thomas — was the clearest earmark of a personal agenda-based vote.

Nothing short of full amnesia can explain your voting for Peter Nickles and not siding with your judicial colleagues against him. The diverse opposition and the range of factual information outlining Nickles’ decisions would easily and rightfully justify the Chairman’s “no” vote. Instead, you chose to side with an agenda that does not serve the residents of the District or the best interests of the District of Columbia. It appears, unfortunately, your choice was based on another agenda — your own.

What your vote did formally relegate residents, District employees, and the entire council to an afterthought, where the only transparency, accountability, and objective consideration about District matters will occur when the Nickles/Fenty/Rhee crap hits the proverbial fan. By then, as now, the District will again (as now) be back in court, and the council will be the subject of mockery and critical opinion in the press. Meanwhile, we taxpayers will struggle and wring our hands because of the weakness and glaring self-interest of our elected leaders. I hope others make clear to you their disapproval of your vote. I hope others makes clear how transparent (and agenda-based) your “yes” vote appeared. Unfortunately, I found it disappointingly clear.


The Measure of a (Council) Man
Dorothy Brizill,

On Tuesday, the city council considered one of the most important legislative issues this year, the confirmation of Peter J. Nickles as Attorney General of the District of Columbia. Throughout the lengthy debate, individual councilmembers explained their support or opposition to his nomination and detailed how they assessed Nickles’ tenure as Acting Attorney General over the past eleven months. Every councilmember spoke except one -- Kwame Brown. Not only didn’t he utter a single word or participate in the debate and discussion over Nickles’ appointment, he also failed to vote on either of the two separate resolutions regarding the nomination (the first being a vote on whether to accept Councilmember Jack Evans’ motion to substitute a resolution of approval for the Judiciary Committee’s resolution of disapproval, the second being an up-or-down vote on the approval resolution). Rather than voice an opinion or take a stand either way, Brown simply voted “present” both times.

Brown’s failure to take a stand is especially troubling, since he was just overwhelmingly reelected to his at-large council seat earlier this month, and he is the chairman of the powerful Committee on Economic Development. In short, he is insulated from any potential retribution from the mayor and the Washington Post. Most DC residents and I expect our politicians to take positions and to act, whether we agree or disagree with their positions and actions. Indeed, it is the job and measure of a (council)man to do so.


Parents Like Me Can’t Wait Anymore
Ashaki Goodall,

No parent should ever feel the way I did this afternoon. My heart dropped, I stopped what I was doing, and I started to panic. The news teaser informed me to tune in at 5:00 p.m. to learn about the chaos that erupted in a DC high school today. As I frantically changed channels looking for any bit of news, I finally found out what had happened and where: three students were stabbed at Anacostia Senior High School, at least one fire was set in the hallway, and the kids were chaotically herded onto the football field while the police and special operations contained the situation. Phew! My daughters were safe!

Let me make it clear that I have been an educator for the past seventeen years, and I have spent the majority of my professional life working in and/or with District of Columbia public schools and/or charter schools. I have been a classroom teacher, a literacy coach, and a school administrator; and I worked for three-and-a-half years at the State Education Agency (now known as the OSSE). My work has allowed me to work with early childhood programs, elementary and middle school programs, and high school programs in the District. My experiences have let me see the good, bad, and the ugly in the public school systems (please note the “s” at the end of this word: unlike what the Mayor and media want you to think, the District of Columbia has more than sixty school systems — every charter school included). And trust me when I say I believe in the power and the importance of public schools, traditional and charter, in our communities and in our nation. I am committed to both school and education reform; this is my life’s work.

But I am also a parent. And I am angry and frustrated at our public school system(s). I have two daughters who are, according to the state standardized assessments, the “cream of the crop”; both of my girls have consistently scored not just proficient, but advanced on all parts of the standardized assessments given by the District, whether they were in a DCPS LEA school or a charter school. I am one of those active parents who asks questions and who attends meetings and who wants our schools to get better not just for my daughter but for all students. And Mayor Fenty, Chancellor Rhee, Deputy Mayor Victor Reinoso, and Superintendent Deborah Gist want me and my daughters to be patient, and to understand that school and education reform in the District is going to take more time. According to the plans I have been reading from both the DCPS LEA and the OSSE, my daughters and I should be patient for the next five years!

I can’t wait that long. I have a daughter going to high school next year. Three years from now, I will have a second daughter going to high school. And my worst fear is coming true: I am one of the parents willing to send my daughters to live with grandma so they can go to a good school in Montgomery County, or send my daughters to boarding school in Connecticut, or sacrifice everything to pay $30,000 a year for one daughter to go to a private school like National Cathedral or Sidwell Friends or Maret. So leave parents like me and the Obamas alone. I have no doubt that his family, like mine, understands the importance and need for improved public education, and his family, like mine, will always work towards ensuring a quality education for all children. But until significant progress has been made to ensure our children can be safely and effectively educated, don’t ask us to sacrifice our children to the poor implementation and big rhetoric designed to garner national attention in order to advance personal ambition (Rhee for US Secretary of Education rumors have just driven me and my family over the edge) while providing no substantial dramatic school and education reform in the District. Parents like President-Elect Obama — and me — can’t wait anymore.


A Bicycle Safety Bill
Jack McKay,

Councilmember Jim Graham, motivated by the death last summer of a Mount Pleasant bicyclist, has introduced a bill called the “Bicycle Safety Enhancement Act of 2008.” One element of the bill would impose a $100 fine for “improper use of restricted lanes,” that is, cars in bicycle lanes. As I testified at a hearing on the bill on November 14, this provision could actually increase the risk of “right hook” accidents such as that last July that killed a young Mount Pleasant resident, caught under the rear wheels of a truck on R Street as it turned right, just as she was passing on the right, in a bike lane.

However, few drivers know what use of a bike lane, if any, is not “improper.” Threatened with a hefty fine, your average driver will take the when-in-doubt course of simply staying out of bike lanes, always. That means making right turns from outside the bike lane, well to the left. But this is just what we don’t want, because it inadvertently invites bicyclists to pass on the right. In fact, in the District drivers “may enter a restricted lane . . . to make a right turn,” and right turns “shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” That means that an automobile driver is not only allowed to use a bike lane for a right turn, but is required to do so. If you leave enough space between your car and the curb for a bicycle to pass through, you’re too far out. If you’re blocking the bike lane as you make your turn, so that raging, speeding bicyclist behind you is forced to come to a stop — hallelujah, you’ve done it correctly, and he’s not going to get right-hooked, though he’s not likely to thank you for your consideration.

Councilmember Graham will consider rephrasing this portion of the bill to emphasize educating drivers to use that bike lane for a right turn. His goal is bicyclist safety, not motorist fines.


Coalition for Responsible Government on Contracting Out
Linda Roe,

The DC city council at its next legislative session, either December 2 or 16, must support emergency legislation that would stop for six months the uncontrolled contracting-out of government services by Mayor Fenty’s administration, pending case-by-case review by the council and citizen input. Rampant contracting out of vital government services is done at the expense of DC residents. It benefits private companies that promise to save taxpayer dollars and perform the services more efficiently, but instead, these private companies promise much, deliver little, ask for more and more money, and provide services to fewer and fewer DC residents. All residents suffer from the erosion of needed services.

Privatization does not work: When city services are sold to private companies, the result is a destroyed DC government infrastructure (i.e., the loss of knowledgeable employees, equipment, etc.), that slashes the quality of services for DC residents. In other states and in the District, contracting out public services has resulted in higher costs and the collapse of services (e.g., Montgomery County, North Carolina, Georgia, etc.). For example, a decision has been made to contract out services at the Department of Mental Health/DC Consumer Services Agency (DC CSA). The decision is based on data that alleges taxpayer dollars will be saved. The problem is that the data, and the resulting decision to contract out, are wrong — garbage in, garbage out. The report that DC CSA services will be contracted out has resulted in community crises such as threats of violent injury to citizens, mental health regression, family strain, public distress, etc. The public is further injured when the government must make excessive expenditures to “patch” or rebuild the public system.

Although contracting out matters should be reviewed by the DC city council, the Fenty administration has decided to seize the authority and contract out without the necessary city council authorization. A proper analysis of the data reveals that it is less costly to provide higher quality services using public employees rather than private companies. Using the DC CSA example, public employees consistently provide higher quality services at a lower cost than private companies. Tell the city council to vote “yes” at the legislative session (on December 2 or 16) for emergency legislation to stop citywide contracting out by the mayor for six months, pending case-by-case review of the city council and citizen input. The Coalition for Responsible Government consists of concerned citizens, churches, community organizations, labor unions, and others. For more information, call 408-3373.


Resurrecting Financial Hogwash
Len Sullivan,

A week ago (themail, November 12), Gary referenced Michael Neibauer’s article in the November 10 Examiner about possible DC expectations from the Obama Administration. That article is tainted by the assertion that, “There is a call to address the so-called ‘structural imbalance,’ the $1 billion discrepancy between what the District says it must spend to maintain the federal presence and what the federal government allows it to collect through taxes.” In this still-unfolding once-in-a-century economic fiasco, financial institutions have proven unworthy of the public trust. It is ludicrous that this deeply flawed, six-year old, GAO report inappropriately (and repeatedly) endorsed by Chief Financial Officer Gandhi is mistakenly resurrected yet again as factual. DC residents are unlikely to get a seat at Obama’s table, or an undeserved handout, using this fictitious “structural imbalance.”

NARPAC used its analytical bent to illuminate the many fatal fallacies in that report on its web site in August 2003, subsequently submitting testimony to both the DC Council and the Senate DC Appropriations Subcommittee in 2004. Nevertheless, the FY08 DC Budget Summary still refers to this supposedly authoritative GAO effort. We suspect the output of that report was dictated by the officials requesting it. We know its experimental methodology from 1990 was not applicable, and wager it was used in desperation to achieve the desired result. We know that arithmetic errors inflated the maximum (i.e., $1.1 billion) imbalance, and that the input parameters were starkly distorted. We know some of the input data were already obsolete when applied in 2003, and are worthless now. We know that plausible changes in data inputs could have changed DC’s “imbalance” from a large negative to an equally large positive number. We know that this comparative-ranking methodology should not be applied to cities and states together, and produced vastly larger “structural imbalances” for many states. And we surely know that most of the first-order terms have nothing whatsoever to do with the federal presence (viz., DC’s peak murder rate, the number of wooden multiunit housing structures, and city worker pay scales). If any of you enjoy analytical forensics, feel free to visit


Model of Executive Leadership
William Haskett,

Gary asked [themail, November 16], “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?” I should preface what I have to say by endorsing the substantive proposals of Len Sullivan’s NARPAC [themail, November 16], which appear to me to cut through much of the symbolic “little-sense” of the notion that the answer to the maiden’s prayer lies in a “political” remedy for the District’s manifold problems. This kind of thing would remedy an imaginary grievance (cf. Taxation without Representation) for a series of changes of attitude and organization, most of which I find entirely justified.

The model of executive leadership adopted by Mayor Fenty seems to have been taken from the radically defective practice of the most recent American President, and to share its aims, but without its power. Its attitude towards organized professional work forces is just of a piece. The run around the reality — that Rhee and Fenty wish to establish a nonunion shop — is a central element of this. It is useful to reflect that the parallel to the Great Depression, which is commonly made by analysts of all persuasions, tends to omit the proposition that the organization of unskilled workers in steel and in automobiles, for example, emerged from the National Recovery Administration, and anchored much of the useful reforms (e.g., Glass-Steagel and other regulations for the national economy) that social America lived by for much of the rest of the century. It may be that we are all better off (or at least happier) looking after ourselves in our work places, but the impending collapse of employer-furnished health insurance reminds us, if we need reminding, that this part of the picture alone has been of immense importance to millions of American families. The cost of medical care has far outstripped the general cost of living, year by year, and elder care is certain to become yet another burden born by families, even beyond the fifty million or so who do not have even elementary medical insurance. When we weaken even further a labor movement that is already weak, we do ourselves damage. The power to run around a valid labor contract is quite literally the power to destroy much else.

On the issue of DC’s representation in the Senate, I have to believe that neither of the American parties would wish that, entirely apart from the Constitutional issue raised by the questions of state and District. I would recommend to everyone Voltaire’s advice in Candide: to tend to our own garden, before we claim or seek the overall improvement of the world. The single vote in the House of Representatives would bring no accretion of actual power or significance to the District. Indeed, it would dilute the ethical utility of a standing grievance without giving that vote any larger power in the lower house. I know that symbols can every now and again work alteration, but would prefer that we think harder and work better with the authority we now actually do possess.

If we did that, we would answer Gary’s third question in the best manner, and, perhaps, feel happier too.


New Federal-Local Relations
T. Lassoc,

As to future federal-local relations, Michelle Obama said in her 60 Minutes interview Sunday night, November 16, that she and the President-elect have always attempted to positively impact and effectuate change (my paraphrase) in every community they have lived in. In this case, the reference was to the District of Columbia as the community where they will soon live, as residents of the White House for the next four years. That attitude of commitment to their home community may portend much good for the District of Columbia straight from the top. The District of Columbia and its citizens should surely be encouraged.


The Arc of History: A Response to the Washington Post That It Declined to Print
Timothy Cooper,

On election night, President-elect Barack Obama stood before a sea of cheering people in Chicago and said: “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible . . . tonight is your answer.” Just two days later, the Washington Post threw cold water on such lofty sentiment, at least so far as it might pertain to DC residents, warning them against “overreaching” on DC voting rights (, November 6, 2008) It called on District voters to support the DC Voting Rights Act, which falls far short of granting residents of the nation’s capital equal rights under the US Constitution, providing only a single voting member in the House of Representatives as opposed to equal rights under statehood. One need only recall the Post’s own endorsement of DC statehood in 1992 to appreciate how low the paper’s expectations have fallen during the intervening years of Republican domination. The timidity of the Post’s position invites challenge.

At this extraordinary moment of Democratic awakening, it strikes exactly the wrong chord, selling the District’s long-held political ambitions short, while ignoring citywide polls and a 1980 referendum by District voters calling for DC statehood. Worse, it flies in the face of Obama’s stirring summons to all Americans, especially DC residents, to “put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.” That arc and better day have always pointed to and been about achieving genuine political equality for Washingtonians, not a voting rights’ minimalism that violates the integrity of the indivisibility of congressional representation. Equality is not a right to be sliced and diced. It is a fundamental human right that can be only fully achieved under the US Constitution with a grant of full statehood.

To pursue the DC Voting Rights Act now, with a majority Democratic Congress about to roll into town, together with the first-ever African-American president, who’ll be residing in an African-American majority population disenfranchised for hundreds of years too long, runs the risk of winning nothing while losing our one grand chance at achieving everything. It’s tantamount to a riverboat gamble — a throw of the dice we cannot afford to take.

As the Post notes, the passage of the DC Voting Rights Act will be vigorously challenged in court. Anyone reading Jonathan Turley’s George Washington Law Review article, “Too Clever by Half: The Unconstitutionality of Partial Representation of the District of Columbia in Congress” should consider his basic legal point: the plain language of the constitution, which grants congressional rights to residents of states only, proscribes Congress from granting DC residents any form of voting rights by legislative fiat. Only an act of Congress bestowing states’ rights on the nonfederal areas of the District, or passage of a constitutional amendment, will pass constitutional muster. Every legal challenge mounted by District leaders and allies in recent years over the absence of District voting rights and its right to tax under the constitution has failed to live up to expectations. Why should it be any different this time? If, after two or three years of protracted litigation, the courts reject the bill as unconstitutional, the District will be left empty-handed, while Utah walks off with its additional seat through reapportionment after completion of the 2010 Consensus. Worse, the District’s hour of opportunity may have passed.

The District requires a new bill for equality that will stand up to intense legal scrutiny. That would be a statehood bill. Such a bill would preserve the federal “seat of government” as required under the constitution by contracting it, and granting the nonfederal areas of the city states’ rights. There is ample legal precedent to accomplish this. Indisputably, Congress enjoys the constitutional authority to create states. Congressional action to limit the size of the District was upheld by the Supreme Court, following the return of Alexandria and Arlington counties to Virginia in 1846. Moreover, even if the DC Voting Rights Act were upheld by the courts, it could be undone by a single act of a future hostile Congress. Given the history of congressional malice towards DC, it’s not unthinkable. Statehood, on the other hand, guarantees equal rights in perpetuity.

The District has nothing to lose by standing on principle. If a major effort to pass statehood legislation fails under Obama — who not incidentally is on record supporting full statehood — in a Congress brimming with Democrats, then it may be reasonable to assume that DC statehood is a strategy destined to fail. The DC Voting Rights Act or DC Delegate Norton’s original bill for equal congressional representation could then be revived, based on the hope that a court challenge by Republicans might be overcome, despite the plain language of the constitution.

Of course, there are enormous challenges ahead in order to achieve statehood. First, it will be necessary to return all state functions to the District’s control, including the courts and DC prisoners, so that it may be admitted to the Union on the same basis as every other state. Politically, it is necessary to honor the so-called equal footing doctrine. Funding to pay for all state functions should come through the restoration of a federal payment, lost in 1997, or in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes. Added together with the inherent right of a state to negotiate reciprocal taxing authority, sufficient funds should be available to meet the District’s financial state responsibilities. A bill, either as stand alone legislation or as a part of statehood legislation, that would chart a path for the reclamation of all state functions, should be put before the DC council for public debate at the earliest possible date.

Finally, President Obama should be petitioned directly to consider issuing a prime time national appeal on behalf of DC statehood, appealing to the nation’s sense of fairness and to his efforts to create a more perfect union. Such a plea would be similar to President Johnson’s call to Congress in the 1960s to support uncompromising civil rights legislation. But whereas Johnson invoked the classic lyrics, “We shall overcome,” President Obama should summon the nation to right an historical wrong with his own script: “DC Statehood — Yes, we can.”

On November 10, the Washington Post posted an online poll on the question, “How many seats in Congress should DC seek?” ( Respondents voted: just one in the House, 24 percent; one in the House and two in the Senate, 64 percent; none, 10 percent.


Wasting The Black Cloud’s Only Golden Lining Due to FDD
Len Sullivan,

Many experts believe the current financial breakdown will create a very dark cloud locally, nationally, and globally for years to come. But it has a golden lining for US metro areas: the new administration is bound to undertake major stimulus packages. Those packages will certainly include substantial infrastructure projects. Those projects will surely include overdue transportation modernization. And those transportation upgrades will inevitably have major energy-saving components, particularly in our increasingly congested metro areas. Suddenly, the outlook for major US mass transit improvements has never been brighter. And traffic congestion in the DC metro area is second only to that in Los Angeles. The opportunity to get federal support for major, first-class Metrorail modernization and expansion here has never been better.

But Metrorail has been focusing only on overdue equipment maintenance and upgrades. Its decimated planning staff is virtually unprepared to proffer major regional expansion programs. And DC’s smalltime transportation planners have focused on providing traffic-blocking local trolley rides to the exclusion of enhancing long-term regional mobility via Metro. There is a serious absence of ambitious regional long-range planning, or of regional cooperation, for that matter. NARPAC can only hope that a forward-looking new Congress will create some sort of ad hoc Regional Transportation Planning Commission to keep this metro area from strangling of its own Foresight Deficit Disorder (FDD). For anyone so inclined, NARPAC’s four-year old core city transportation vision is still available at


Obama, Charter Schools, and Vouchers
Diana R. Winthrop,

I never know where Ed Barron gets his information [themail, November 16]. While I was a big supporter of Obama’s, I never agreed with his support for charter schools. Obama never campaigned against charters. He supports public education and charters that are publicly financed, despite the extra funding they receive from foundations and other corporate interests. He has not supported the kind of out-of-control creation of charters for-any-reason as supported by Mayor Fenty. Obama has publicly opposed vouchers. I have always believed Presidents should show their support for public education by sending their children to public schools. Obama’s children attend a diverse private school in Chicago. We don’t have diversity in our schools, either the good or bad ones. In some rare instances and among a few schools in Ward 3 and 4, we have a handful of African-American children and some from other countries.. We have one of the most racially and economically segregated public school systems in the country. Even Georgetown Day has more diversity than many of the public middle schools in DC ( my Vietnamese manicurist sends her daughter to Georgetown Day), which are going through a massive reorganization under Fenty. Get real, Ed. You can bash Obama for anything, but get your facts straight.

[You can bash Obama for anything, but not in themail. Here you can bash or praise presidents only for what they do that is relevant specifically to DC. — Gary Imhoff]


Re: The Hypocrite
Ralph J. Chittams, Sr.,

In the November 16 issue of themail, Ed Baron called President-elect Obama a hypocrite for, in all likelihood, sending his children to a private school when he takes residence at the White House. I will not argue that characterization. However, I will say this: let’s talk about our local officials. Where does Mayor Adrian Fenty send his children? A private school! Granted, Chancellor Rhee’s children do attend a public school, but she strong-armed the system. Her children attend school out-of-boundary and were accepted into that school by jumping the line over families who were already on the waiting list. So much for democracy. Let’s not demand something from a Federal official that we do not demand from our local officials.


Eliminating Paper Bus Transfers a Good Idea
Paul Michael Brown,

Arguing that paper bus transfers should be retained [themail, November 16], Mr. Christopher Jerry mentioned only in passing that their use leads to “some fraud.” Actually, according to a November 4 Washington Post story ( the fraudulent use of paper bus transfers costs Metro five million dollars per year. When papers transfer were eliminated in Chicago, fare collection increased $17 million. In Boston, $14 million extra came in. Moreover, fare disputes (many of them related to the use of paper transfers) often lead to assaults on bus drivers. Finally, it cannot be disputed that collecting fare electronically is more efficient and permits Metro to collect better data on ridership. The Metrobus system is already heavily subsidized by local governments. It’s not too much to ask that riders pay the fare instead of fraudulently using a paper transfer.


Re: Coming Soon
Mike Licht,

Ed Baron can rest easy about the new business going in at 49th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, NW (“Coming Soon,” themail, November 16, 2008). It will be a branch of Belgian bakery and cafe Le Pain Quotidien. Residents of Spring Valley will be spared the arduous trek to “PQ” locations in Georgetown and Alexandria. Another PQ is replacing the Bread and Chocolate near Eastern Market.



Fenty’s Strategy: Cut City Services, Attack District Workers, November 20
Linda Roe,

Please join us for a DC Workers’ Rights Board hearing to investigate the impact of the proposed budget cuts on public services. Thursday, November 20, 6:30-9:00 p.m., John Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, one block from the Federal Triangle Metro. Enter through back entrance on D Street, between 13th and 14th Streets, NW. The hearing will examine recent attacks on public workers in city agencies ranging from mental health to public schools. Community leaders, workers, parents, students and city administrators will testify. The mayor, city council, and Chancellor have been invited to participate. Help make this hearing a success: come out to the hearing, forward this E-mail to your networks, and sign up to volunteer at

Just days after news of the tragic death of Banita Jacks’ four children hit DC’s headlines, Mayor Adrian Fenty fired six social workers at the Child and Family Services Agency. The firings, undertaken without any investigation or due process, were a last-ditch attempt to secure voters’ confidence by scapegoating workers. Last month DC’s arbitrator concluded that the workers had been fired unjustly and ordered the city to reinstate them with back pay and benefits. But for many workers at the CFSA this decision comes too late. “The firings around the Jacks case created a climate of fear at the agency,” said a former CFSA investigator and member of AFSCME Council 20. “Social workers were terrified that at any moment Fenty would turn around and scapegoat them for deeper, structural problems. Workers began to leave in droves while reported cases reached unprecedented highs, straining an already under-resourced agency. The truth is that since I started working at CFSA in 2005, we never had enough resources. We had more cases than was allowed by law, chronic backlogs, a shortage of agency cars and food vouchers to give struggling families. After the Jacks incident my caseload tripled to fifty-two, and I simply couldn’t investigate every report. Instead I was forced to prioritize some cases over others, which resulted in the tragic death of a young child. By law, we cannot have more than twelve, but if a social worker refused to take a case, we were reprimanded. CFSA is on a downward spiral, and it’s up to DC residents to do something about it.”

Child and Family Service is not the only city service undermined by Fenty’s high-profile scapegoating. This summer, the city announced that sixty principals and assistant principals would not be reappointed in the new school year. With no job and no access to unemployment benefits, many administrators were forced to retire early. Simultaneously, the city fired 450 classroom aides without cause, further disrupting the academic process and creating a shortfall for this academic year.

Since coming into power, Fenty’s administration has scapegoated union workers for problems that are structural in nature in an attempt to undermine the public sector and set the stage for outsourcing work and city funds to private companies. Currently, 20 percent of the city’s budget goes to contractors and this number is expected to rise. Last month Fenty announced that he was going to privatize the entire DC CSA Mental Health Department, which will affect four thousand patients and hundreds of social workers, mental health specialists and other CSA employees who work with DC residents with mental health problems. For more information contact or 974-8281.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, November 18, 22, 24
John Stokes,

Saturday, November 22, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Arboretum Recreation Center, 2412 Rand Place, NE. Thanksgiving basket giveaway, all ages. The staff will dispense Thanksgiving baskets to the community. For more information, call Donald Perritt, site manager, at 727-5547.

Saturday, November 22, 11:00 a.m., Coolidge High School, 6315 5th Street, NW, Pom-pom Citywide Championship, ages 6-18. More than thirty pom-pom squads representing recreation centers from across the District are expected to take center stage at Coolidge Senior High School located at 6315 5th Street, NW, for the 2008 Citywide Pom-Pom Competition. The admission is $5.00 for 12 and over, and free for 12 and under.

Saturday, November 22, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Fort Davis Recreation Center, 1400 41st Street, SE. Holiday tea party, ages 7-14. Fort Davis Young Ladies on the Rise will host a tea party. The girls will get to dress up and enjoy a tea party to celebrate the upcoming holiday season. For more information, call Stephanie McMullan at 645-9212.

Monday, November 24, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Watts Branch Recreation Center, 6201 Banks Street, NE. Supreme Teen Club Thanksgiving Dinner, all ages. The Supreme Teen Club will prepare dinner for community members. For more information, call Libby Morris at 727-2485.


Labyrinth Walk, November 25
Ed Bruske,

Tuesday, November 25, 6:00 p.m.-8:45 p.m., Labyrinth Walk, Washington National Cathedral. Free admission. HSW joins the Washington National Cathedral for two evenings of contemplative practices, music, and reflection that is free and open to the public. At 6 p.m. the Cathedral’s Program Manager Terry Lynn Simpson will meet HSW participant at St. Joseph’s Chapel on the crypt level of the Cathedral for a brief introduction and history of labyrinths. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., participants are welcome to walk the labyrinth while listening to the melodic sound of harp music.

There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth, since it is an activity that becomes a metaphor for your own spiritual journey in life. Some people walk with the intention to address an issue in their lives, others to pray and meditate. It is helpful to pause before you enter to center your thoughts on your intention. Walk between the lines of the circuit, being aware that you are sharing the labyrinth. Allow yourself time to contemplate what it means for you to be there; honor this space in your life. The center is a place to pause, reflect and receive insight. Walking the path back out of the labyrinth is a time for deep reflection and a chance to consider what it might mean for your daily living. For many, it is the most fruitful part of the walk. It can lead to action and renewal. This program will be held at the Washington National Cathedral, which is located at the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues in northwest, 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Ages fourteen to adults. RSVP at or 383-1828.



Legal Assistant, Part Time
Jon Katz, jon[at]katzjustice[dot]com

Silver Spring Criminal Defense law firm Jon Katz, P.C., seeks a part-time legal assistant to supplement the work of the law firm’s full-time legal assistant. We prefer a part-time legal assistant who will work at least three to four days a week for at least four hours each day, to include the hours of 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. You will assist with cases from beginning to end, including substantial client contact and direct client assistance, scheduling, researching cases, legal research, drafting court filings, handling correspondence and banking matters, preparing for trial, drafting subpoenas, handling general administrative matters, and assisting in court from time to time.

This position requires prior successful secretarial or administrative assistant experience, smarts, common sense, a big heart, and a desire to serve the clients and causes we serve. We require at least some college studies, a college degree, or the intellectual equivalent thereof. In return, you will get a rare, stimulating, and rewarding opportunity to serve true justice, to learn the art of persuasion in trial law practice, and, if you are considering law school, to get a leg up on your future legal career or deciding whether law school is for you. Please send via E-mail to jon[at]katzjustice[dot]com, fax, or snail mail, a text version of your resume, your salary history, and a persuasive cover letter (designating “Part-time Legal Assistant”) showing how your specific career goals and interests fit with this position. Please state the number of hours you seek to work weekly, and the days and hours of the day that you are available. Please refrain from E-mail attachments, phone calls, and E-mail inquiries. For more information, visit


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