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December 10, 2008


Dear Partiers:

For some reason, which is unrelated to local DC affairs and which we therefore won’t mention (Blagojevich), we’ve been thinking about government corruption a lot today. The problem with political corruption in the District of Columbia, as opposed to some other unnamed states (Illinois), is that political corruption is almost never prosecuted here, and there aren’t any negative consequences for engaging in it. (The DC workers who stole from the Office of Tax and Revenue weren’t engaged in government corruption; they were practicing just plain old-fashioned thievery.) One of the best examples of official overlooking of official corruption occurred in the last term of Mayor Marion Barry. The US Attorney for the District of Columbia for three-and-a-half years of that term never prosecuted a single instance of official corruption, and his inattentiveness didn’t seem to hurt his career (see Stephanie Mencimer, “Placeholder?”,

Yesterday, Scott McCabe revealed in the DC Examiner the latest example of local corruption, “District Fire Cadets Ordered to Staff Councilman’s Parties,” The key paragraph: “DC Fire Chief Dennis Rubin has assigned the 32-member recruiting class and its instructors to serve as waiters and hosts at a Holiday Bash on Monday hosted by DC Councilmembeer Jim Graham. This comes four months after Rubin ordered the recruits to help with Graham’s 63rd birthday at the Columbia Heights Community Center.” Rubin and Graham defend the practice of diverting fire cadets from their training to serve at Graham’s parties, and don’t see why anyone would object. They say the practice must be all right because it doesn’t violate the Hatch Act, since the councilmember didn’t consider his parties to be political.

Well, it doesn’t violate the laws against arson or littering, either. It does violate Sections 1804.1(b) and (c) of the District’s Personnel Manual, which forbid “(b) Using government time or resources for other than official business, or government approved or sponsored activities, except that a District employee may spend a reasonable amount of government time and resources on such projects, reports, and studies as may be considered in aid of other government jurisdictions (local, state, or federal), provided the work so performed is within the scope of the individual’s regular assignments as a District employee; (c) Ordering, directing, or requesting subordinate officers or employees to perform during regular working hours any personal services not related to official DC government functions and activities.” A councilmember’s birthday or Christmas party is not an official DC government function, and a fire cadet’s regular assignments do not including serving as a waiter or bartender.

The office responsible for investigating violations of the District’s personnel rules regarding employee conduct is the Office of Campaign Finance. We’ll file a complaint with OCF tomorrow, and several months from now it will issue a report largely clearing Rubin and Graham, saying that the violations were unintentional, waiving all penalties, and gently suggesting that they not do it again. After all, who could have imagined that there was anything wrong in ordering District government employees to serve as waiters at an elected official’s personal party? And the beat goes on.

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill and


Major Ambulance Lane Cut to One Lane
Victoria McKernan,

Warning: don’t have a heart attack on Wednesdays in the winter. Don’t let your children have an asthma attack. House on fire is also a bad idea. And forget about your bus schedule. On Wednesdays from December 1 through the end of February, Irving Street, NW, the primary east-west route for ambulances going to Washington Hospital Center and Children’s Hospital, changes from two lanes to one very snarled lane. Why? Because the Department of Public Works is full of idiots. (I could be polite but I’ve watched six stuck ambulances so far today, and I’m not feeling polite.)

The problem is that the usual Wednesday street cleaning, with its required parking switch from north side to south, is postponed for winter, only most people don’t know this (or choose to ignore it). How would they? The posted signs just say “No parking Wed. 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.” Savvy residents know that the swicheroo is suspended for winter, but most others do not. There are no signs, no notices, no announcements except for a few postings on online bulletin boards. The result is that every Wednesday in winter this major artery switches from two lanes to one. Wouldn’t it make sense to actually print the details on the permanent posted signs? Simply include one more line. There is room to change it without changing the font or enlarging the signs. “No parking Wed. 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., March 1-Nov. 30. ”

I actually lobbied hard for this last winter, talking to the folks at DPW. The conversation went basically like this. “How about just printing the applicable dates on the signs?” “We have thought of that, but haven’t decided how to implement it. We want to be fair and we can’t change all the signs.” “Well, how about you start by making all the new/replacement signs include the dates, then you concentrate on major arteries — like ambulance routes and major bus routes?” “That might be an idea.” “@#**#@**. . . . . ?”

I understand city bureaucracy. I know some changes are tough. This isn’t one of them. Ticketing is not a solution (besides being extremely unfair). You could ticket a hundred cars a day, but you only need a few parked cars to restrict the flow. The goal is not to raise revenue, only to keep Irving Street open to two lanes so emergency vehicles can get through. Anyone know what the penalty is if I go out there with a magic marker?


Write-In Votes
Peter Orvetti,

In this year’s presidential election, 1,138 registered voters in the District of Columbia wrote in candidates for president of the United States — a number that exceeded the votes cast for independent Ralph Nader (958) and nearly double the number cast for Statehood Green candidate Cynthia McKinney (590). In fact, there was one write-in presidential vote for every fifteen votes cast for the Republican ticket. However, while votes for McKinney, Nader, and John McCain were duly tallied, it is my understanding that the DC Board of Elections and Ethics has decided not to tally write-in votes, even those cast for write-in candidates who officially registered with DC BOEE and met all of DC BOEE’s standards.

Perhaps DC BOEE is trying to save effort and money, which is reasonable. After all, even if I and the other 1,137 write-in voters had all voted for the same registered ticket (in my case, the Libertarian ticket), the Democratic ticket would still have won DC’s three electoral votes. Still, I did take the time to vote, and I would like my vote to be counted. One could argue that it would have saved effort and money to not bother with a presidential election in DC at all — every Democratic ticket since 1992 has received at least 85 percent of the vote, and there was never any doubt that Barack Obama would win DC’s three electoral votes. But we voted anyway, and those votes were counted, because that’s how a democratic system works.

In such an overwhelmingly Democratic city, I would hope our officials would honor the cry of Democrats everywhere after the 2000 election, and count every vote.


2009 DC Teacher of the Year Surprised in Her Classroom
Kadidia Thiero,

DC education officials made a surprise visit to the Howard University Public Charter Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS2) Friday morning to notify the winner of the 2009 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year contest. Social Studies and Language Arts teacher Kimberly Worthy had just begun her morning classes when she was surprised by a visit from Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso, State Superintendent of Education Deborah A. Gist, State Board of Education President Robert C. Bobb, and State Board of Education Member Mary Lord.

Worthy was chosen as DC Teacher of the Year for her dedication to her students, commitment to the profession of teaching, and her capacity to serve as an ambassador and model for the teachers of the District of Columbia. She was selected by a panel of education leaders after an application process that included a written application and essays, an interview, and a classroom observation. As the 2009 DC Teacher of the Year, Worthy will represent the District of Columbia in the National Teacher of the Year competition and program, in which she will participate in professional development opportunities with other state teachers of the year, including a trip to a Teacher of the Year Conference in Dallas, Texas, in January. At its monthly public meeting to be held December 17, the DC State Board of Education will honor Worthy and the two DC finalists, Marjorie McClure of Lafayette Elementary School and Kelly Schrepfer of the Maya Angelou Public Charter School’s Shaw Campus, and the three teachers will participate in a panel discussion on best teaching practices for education in the twenty-first century.


More Baseball Follies
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Those same folks who own the Nationals and who won’t pay the $3.5 million rent they owe for using the new stadium, are purportedly ready to spend $200 million to acquire one (only one) moderately talented ball player to make the Nationals a competitive team. That’s one really big folly. Two hundred million dollars should buy a whole team of good ballplayers. The Nationals don’t need one new ball player; they need a half dozen at $33 million each.


Bringing the Inauguration Close to Home (Continued)
Jack McKay,

A number of people had very nice things to say about my proposal that we “make neighborhood parks into extensions of the Mall, with the same Jumbotron displays that will serve the crowds downtown” (themail, December 1). “The absolute best idea we’ve heard,” wrote one; “a marvelous idea,” wrote another; “genius,” wrote a third. Richard Layman panned the notion (themail, December 8), asserting that a celebration in a neighborhood park would be no better than watching the inauguration on TV at home. Richard doesn’t understand the desire of many people to share this once-in-a-lifetime event with their neighbors, making this a community experience, not just an event seen passively on TV. Consider the millions ready to come from across the country, to brave the cold weather and the crowds, to be a part of the event, when they too could watch the inauguration at home, saving themselves lots of money and hassle.

There’s plenty of worry about how the District, and the Park Police, will handle the largest crowd the Mall has ever seen. You would think that the authorities would be happy to set up satellite sites, where people could be a part of the inauguration, without actually being on the Mall. But no one in a position to do anything about this idea has expressed any interest.


Street Repair
Richard Layman,

[Re: Frank Winstead’s comment about street and sidewalk repairs on Chesapeake Street in upper NW, themail, December 7] I can’t claim to be an expert on this, but I will say that these kinds of “improvements” are far more likely when allocations are based by Ward rather than absolute need. (Did you see the op-ed on this subject by Councilmember Cheh a few months back in the Current?)

When repairs are prioritized in this fashion, decisions are made on a relative need basis (the level of need within the Ward) rather than an absolute need basis (the level of need within the city). To the lay person, streets and sidewalks may get repaired when they don’t look like they need it. This is more likely to happen in the parochial process that is developing and strengthening here.

In my ward, recently, I noticed more than adequate sidewalks being replaced on Madison Street, west of Blair Road. (Same thing a couple years ago on 6th Street, NE, south of Stanton Park.) Now, Madison Street doesn’t have rich developers living on it, but it’s likely an example of what happens when repair priorities are made relatively by Ward rather than absolutely in the context of the entire city.


DPW and Trash Collection Days
Richard Layman,

With regard to some of the comments in themail on this issue, 1) in early November, I read the press release about the coming changes on one of a number of community e-lists. 2) The press release said that posters would be put up in neighborhoods in advance of the change. 3) At least ten days before the change, we received a door knocker flyer (no posters, although I have seen them up in other neighborhoods) advising us of the new collection day in our Ward 4 neighborhood (from Tuesday to Wednesday). 4) On the day of the change, trash and recycling was picked up as usual (before 10:00 a.m. seems to be the schedule in our neighborhood).

Don’t generalize your experience to the entire city, other DC government agencies, etc. My experiences with the Department of Public Works in the H Street, Capitol Hill, Brookland, and now Manor Park/Greater Takoma neighborhoods have always been very good (including asking for a supercan for a neighbor so that they would stop using our trash can), so I am tempted to generalize, and question the complaints.



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 mins., 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 f0 eaturing 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.


Revolution Rewind, December 15
Leigh Ann Caldwell,

Come join us for an evening of amazing radio by and about DC youth. Revolution Rewind is brought to you by Radio Rootz DC and Youth Education Alliance. People’s Production House ( brings to you a youth made audio documentary on the past forty years of youth organizing in your hood. Come hear about the history of your neighborhood and some of the people who made it what it is today.

Monday, December 15, 7:00-8:30 p.m., All Souls Unitarian Church, Pierce Hall, 1500 Harvard Street, NW. Columbia Heights Metro, bus lines 52, 54, and S4. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, contact Radio Rootz’s Leigh Ann Caldwell, 621-9137 or



Support the MPD Holiday Toy Drive
Kevin P. Morison,

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is teaming up with the Metropolitan Police Department this holiday season to collect toys for District of Columbia children in need. Throughout December, the NLEOMF Visitors Center, 400 7th Street, NW, will serve as a drop-off location for people interested in donating new, unwrapped toys to MPD’s Holiday Toy Drive. Toys can also be delivered to any MPD police district station. MPD will be distributing the toys to children attending the annual holiday parties at MPD district stations during December. For more information, visit


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