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December 7, 2008

Brain Freeze

Dear Frozen Ones:

There are plenty of outrages in the news and in this issue of themail. However, Dorothy and I spent all day at an auction of construction and contractor materials, and it was outdoors at the Howard County Fairgrounds. Let me repeat that. We were outdoors in the cold all day, with a freezing wind blowing most of the time.

Not just our fingers and toes are frozen. If you think eating a Slushee too fast leads to brain freeze — that’s nothing in comparison. I’ll be outraged tomorrow, when my brain reaches room temperature again.

Gary Imhoff


How to Get a Street Repaired
Frank Winstead,

The two blocks of road and sidewalks on Chesapeake Street/Gates Road east of Connecticut Avenue, which just happens to run in front of developer Chris Donatelli’s home, the Owls Nest, is receiving extensive renovations. Sidewalks, driveways, and curbs are being replaced. It looks like a repaving is coming, also.

This happened just as Donatelli held a campaign fundraiser and birthday party for Mayor Adrian Fenty on Saturday. Just a coincidence, I guess. My NowPublic article is at


Clear License Plate Covers Banned in DC
Jack McKay,

A Mount Pleasant resident was surprised this week to get a ticket for having clear plastic covers over his license plates. Seven years ago, his car came from the dealer with transparent plastic tag covers, and nobody ever told him that this was a problem. But since April 2005 there’s been a law in the District prohibiting any type of cover on license plates, even perfectly clear covers that leave the lettering fully visible. It’s assumed that the cover, even if clear, is put on for the purpose of foiling photo enforcement cameras. (According to television’s Myth Busters, license plate covers sold for the explicit purpose of preventing identification by these cameras don’t work,

Well, okay, maybe the District’s red-light and speeding cameras are so bad that even a clear plastic cover beats them, so these covers should be prohibited. A warning or a modest fine would have set this resident straight. But hold on: the fine for his plastic tag covers was a solid $500. Yes, far more than a driver will pay for a serious moving violation, such as speeding or running a red light.

Surely, if these covers were such a serious problem, the Department of Motor Vehicles would catch them at an annual safety inspection. No way. This resident’s car has passed inspection without a murmur from the DMV, which let the poor guy go home and park his car on the street, where the MPD nailed him for the half-grand fine. Now there’s a revenue enhancement measure for you. Clear license plate covers are also banned in Maryland, but the fine there is a mere $60. In Virginia, they’re not even illegal. Only in the District is the use of clear license plate covers treated like a criminal offense, subjecting the automobile owner, even if entirely innocent of any attempt to defeat photo enforcement cameras, to a ferocious fine.


Inaugural Celebration Extension of Hours Act
Kathy Henderson,

I am very concerned about the “Inaugural Celebration Extension of Hours Emergency Act,” passed by the council last week. The legislation allows any bar, tavern, nightclub, or restaurant that serves alcohol on its premises to serve alcohol until 5:00 a.m. from January 17-21, 2009. Restaurants are allowed to operate twenty-four hours a day during January 17-21, underscoring the second provision of this legislation. The city is anticipating an unprecedented crowd during the inauguration. The prospect that thousands of persons will have nearly unfettered access to alcohol represents a significant public safety breach and a certain nightmare for many District residents.

I fully appreciate the mayor’s and council’s wanting to maximize the revenue from the inaugural events for the benefit of the District. However, I believe this legislation was hastily conceived and enacted. I believe this matter will strain police resources and divert officers from my Patrol Service Area (PSA) 504 and other PSA’s to police the bars, clubs, and restaurants. I believe greater care should have been given to protect public safety. No amount of increased revenue justifies the breach to our public safety this legislation is sure to generate. We pay taxes and deserve maximum consideration.

Finally, the dialogue about the impact of this legislation is beginning in my community and undoubtedly throughout many communities in our city. So far, the neighbors I have spoken to do not support the legislation. I believe the council should have held a hearing to allow the public to comment on this legislation before it was speedily passed. If the murmurs of discontent build to a crescendo of downright opposition, then it is our duty to petition the council to rescind or modify this ill-conceived legislation. Thank you Councilmembers Bowser, Graham, Mendelson, and Schwartz for voting against this legislation.


Late Closing of Bars and Restaurants
Clyde Howard,

Once again, city councilmembers have shown what they think of the residents of the city. They have acquiesced to the wishes of those who do not live in the proximity of the commercial strips containing bars and restaurants. And for the weekend of the inaugural, we the residents must put up with the influx of persons parking their cars in the available curb space, depriving us of the ability to park near our homes, all in the interest of money and giving the visitors a happy face from the city. The decision to allow bars and restaurants to close late was never discussed with our ANCs or the general population; the decision was made in a vacuum. Only the councilmembers who realized the impacts upon their respective neighborhoods and the possibility of an increase in stickups and muggings voted against it. The members who voted for the bill do not live near a commercial strip nor do they have to struggle to find a parking space after a night attending meetings or socializing. It is a pity that we have voted in office people who have forgotten whom they represent. When will we ever learn?


Trash Day
Regina Owens,

I put the trash out today as I have every Thursday for ten years. It was still here when I returned, so I thought I had been overlooked again. A call to 311 apprised me that my collection day has been changed to Fridays. Of course my concern was when would I have been told of the change. The nice lady at the Mayor’s Call Center replied, “A lot of people have called to ask that, but they [the city] haven’t gotten around to that yet.”


With a Lot of Fanfare
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The DC Department of Public Works spent a lot of money putting up posters, mailings, etc., to alert folks in Spring Valley/American University Park that trash and recyclable pickups would shift from Tuesdays to Thursdays each week beginning Thursday, December 4. Arriving home at just before midnight on the third of December from a road trip to the other Washington, I dutifully put out my trash before the 7:00 a.m. deadline. Late on the fourth of December the trash was collected. As for the recyclables, they are still waiting for the contractor to collect them.

This lack of communications is symptomatic of many of DC’s agencies. They have no defined processes (checklists) to follow when changes are made in routine tasks. DPW communicated to the end customers but failed to communicate with the doers, those who collect the recyclables. This was either a lack of communication or a lack of feedback and coordination with the contractor. In any event, the recyclable bins are still lined up on Massachusetts Avenue on my block waiting for a pickup.


More on “Practice Makes Imperfect”
Pat Taylor,

Thank you for your December 3 editorial letter challenging Jay Mathews’ views in his Washington Post article, “New DC Principal, Hand-Picked Team Makes Early Gains,” Mathews praises new principal Brian Betts for wanting a staff of young teachers with limited or no teaching experience because they are “eager and optimistic,” in Mathews’ words or, in Betts’ words, “before they were jaded.” Ninety-three percent of the twenty-eight teachers hired by Betts had five or fewer years of teaching experience. This hiring strategy certainly sends a clear message to anyone planning a career in public school teaching — do not apply to DCPS. You will no longer be wanted after you’ve taught for more than five years. At which time there be no union to protect your job rights.

Apart from the hiring criteria of 1) applicants’ belief that teachers, not parents and home life, are the most important factor in the education of most of their students and 2) lack of teaching experience, it would be interesting to know the other criteria that Betts used in selecting his staff. Also, one would like to know why of all the Shaw teachers, whose jobs were guaranteed, only five decided to stay. And by what criteria did Betts judge the fifteen Garnet-Patterson teachers and find only one to be qualified:

Finally, can it be that a public relations firm is providing Michelle Rhee’s public relations blitz? Can it be that this PR campaign is funded by DC taxpayers? If not by the taxpayers, by a foundation? How can we find this out?


The Cult of Rhee Has Reached Even Arizona
Star Lawrence,

You mention [themail, December 3] Michelle Rhee’s national public relations blitz. It’s working. She gets ink even out here in cowboy country, where I brought my child to get her out of the DC schools — and leapt into another fire. My kid had some horrible teachers in DC, and some great ones. Same out here. Same for me, as a kid. Same for all of us, I bet. Can you even name three you had? A recent survey kicked around on the New York Times blogs showed teens lie like the proverbial floor coverings, steal, etc. It isn’t always the parents cheating on their taxes or spouses that causes it. Or the rap. Or the bad schools. We can’t put this all on teachers. But some, yes. At very least, don’t pound the joy and motivation out of kids, as happened with mine.


Post Records Violation of Teachers Contract
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir,

In a Friday page A1 story, the Washington Post noted that the District does not follow the often controversial contract it has with the Washington Teachers Union. The article, on the negative effects of growing class size, reported that the District’s contract with the teachers union calls for limiting the size of an elementary classroom to twenty-five students. According to US Department of Education statistics, the 2004 national average for elementary schools was twenty, with many local district averages hovering around that number. With little fanfare, the article pointed out that the District has been unable to maintain the contracted level in spite of concerns nationally on classroom size:


Local Vendors on Inauguration Day
T. Lassoc,

Here is an article from Saturday’s Washington Post. “Street Vendors Aren’t Sold on Lottery for Jan. 20 Slots: Local Salespeople Say DC Plan Could Shut Them Out,” http This lottery is really unfair to local vendors.


Home Alone
Richard Layman,

Re: “Bringing the Inauguration Close to Home” [themail, December 3] Rather than go to a secondary location, such as a park miles away from the action, why not just watch it on TV?



Turkey Claus Showdown Championship and Toys for Tots, December 12-14
John A. Stokes,

The Takoma Community and Aquatic Center, 300 Van Buren Street, NW, has been chosen as an official drop-off location for the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program (Toys for Tots). From Friday, December 12 through Sunday, December 14, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Takoma Community and Aquatic Center will be the host site for the annual Turkey Claus Showdown Championship, which is a proud sponsor for Toys for Tots. The annual swim meet, hosted by Machine Aquatics Swim Team as a member of Potomac Valley Swimming, is asking every participating swimmer to donate at least one new toy to be given to DC Metropolitan area children in need. Members of the public are also invited to donate toys.

Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November, and December each year and distributes them as Christmas gifts to children in need in communities in which campaigns are conducted. The program desires to help needy youngsters throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas and believes that through the seemingly simple action of delivering a shiny new toy to them at Christmas that it also sends a message of hope that can motivate them to grow into responsible, productive, and patriotic citizens and community leaders.

During the weekend of the meet, the Takoma Aquatic Center will be closed to the public for swimming; the meet is open to the public for viewing and admission is free. Takoma Aquatic Center will reopen and resume regular hours on Monday, December 15.


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

Saturday, December 13, 1:00 p.m., Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW. Free admission. Miracle on 34th Street, Dir. George Seaton, 1 hr. 47 minutes, 1947. At the Macy’s Department Store Thanksgiving Day parade, the actor playing Santa is discovered to be drunk by a whiskered old man. Doris Walker, the no nonsense special events director, persuades the old man to take his place. The old man proves to be a sensation and is quickly recruited to be the store Santa at the main Macy’s outlet. While he is successful, Ms. Walker learns that he calls himself Kris Kringle and he claims to be the actual Santa Claus. Despite reassurances by Kringle’s doctor that he is harmless, Doris still has misgivings, especially when she has cynically trained herself, and especially her daughter, Susan, to reject all notions of belief and fantasy. And yet, people, especially Susan, begin to notice there is something special about Kris and his determination to advance the true spirit of Christmas amidst the rampant commercialism around him and succeeding in improbable ways. When a raucous conflict with the store’s cruelly incompetent psychologist erupts, Kris finds himself held at Bellevue where, in despair, he deliberately fails a mental examination to ensure his commitment. All seems lost until Doris’ friend, Fred Gaily, reassure Kris of his worth and agrees to represent him in the fight to secure his release. To achieve that, Fred arranges a formal hearing in which he argues that Kris is sane because he is in fact Santa Claus. What ensues is a bizarre hearing in which people’s beliefs are reexamined and put to the test, but even so, it’s going to take a miracle for Kris to win. or 383-1828.

Saturday, December 13, 3:00-4:00 p.m., Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW. Free admission. Sacred Music Series featuring a cappella gospel group Reverb. Reverb is a male a cappella vocal group based in the Washington area. The all-male group has been named best harmony group and best gospel group by the Washington Area Music Association. It has performed nationally and toured East and Southern Africa, the Persian Gulf, and the Caribbean. The sacred music concert on December 13 will include songs from Reverb’s CD, “The Mission Statement,” described by Washington Post music critic Mike Joyce as “unrivaled for sheer beauty of tone and intensity of performance.” or 383-1828.

Sunday, December 14, 2:30-4:00 p.m., Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW. Free admission. Live Performance/Christmas Concert. The Lilliput Rose Garden Orchestra is a small group of string instrumentalists and vocalists who create a whimsical and eclectic style, combining folk, inspirational, and classical songs and interludes. This Christmas concert for 2008 at the Historical Society of Washington will include early American and International as well as more recent Christmas melodies to comment on the passage of Washington, DC, through many Christmases of years past to the present day. Performers: Linda Nash, a singer, song writer, guitarist, and harpist has sung her own inspirational songs in Cornwall, England, in Israel, India, Guatemala, and El Salvador. She has compiled a CD called Consider the Lilies. William Feasley is a world-class guitarist who has produced six CDs and has traveled to Europe, Greece, Bosnia, South America, and New Zealand. He is a professor of music at Sheperd University and Catholic University and won the 2000 Baltimore Chamber Music Award. Gerri Cathcart, an evangelist and rich alto singer, has performed at Christian conferences worldwide. Karen Ashbrook is a well-known dulcimer player and composer, has produced many CDs such as Celtic Lace, and Spring Will Come. She recently performed at the World Dulcimer Congress in Germany. Tom Morton is an accomplished mandolin and banjo player who performs with the Washington Mandolin Quintet, and he is a tax lawyer. or 383-1828.


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