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February 22, 2009


Dear Anecdoters:

By now, you may be tired of my referring you to a Colby King column, and recommending that you just read him instead of whatever I have to say. But his column yesterday on the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services is his strongest yet,, and I’m referring you again. King lists incident after incident of how the DYRS has failed to protect the safety of criminal youths who are under their care, and how it has failed to protect the public from those youths. He also recounts how the city council has failed to use its oversight duty to hold DYRS accountable for its ideologically driven refusal to provide adequate supervision of the violent and vicious criminals who pose a threat to the public. Government’s first duty, its primary reason for existence, it to protect citizens against violence. Everything else is secondary. But DYRS, the city council, and the mayor not only fail in that duty; they scorn it.

Colby King writes of how DYRS director Vincent Schiraldi and a DC councilmember dismissed the repeated incidents he has reported on as mere “anecdotes.” King doesn’t name the dismissive councilmember, but I’m certain I know who it was: Tommy Wells, who as chairman of the Committee of Human Services refuses to do any meaningful oversight of DYRS, but instead agrees with and abets the Department in its contempt for its public safety responsibility. The roundtable that Wells held earlier this month on two murders committed by one of DYRS’s charges didn’t try to get to the facts of what went wrong with the murderer’s early release and lack of subsequent supervision; it tried to protect and shield DYRS and Schiraldi from responsibility and blame, and to shift that responsibility and blame to the court system, the police, or anywhere else instead. Instead of protecting their constituents, Wells and his colleagues concentrate on legislating and regulating the minutest details of our private lives so that we will conform to their private lifestyle preferences. Wells isn’t concerned with the danger of violent young criminals in our communities; instead, he’s intent on eliminating the danger of paper and plastic grocery bags (another candidate for stupidest pending legislation, by the way).

You’ve been reading about the appalling letter that Attorney General Peter Nickles wrote to the city council, essentially saying that he would be the judge of whether laws were constitutional or not, and threatening not to enforce a perfectly constitutional law that he didn’t like. And you’ve heard about the great put-down reply that Councilmember Mendelson wrote to puncture Nickles’ presumptuous arrogance, saying that he was appalled by the appalling letter and reminding Nickles that the job of an Attorney General was to enforce the law and not to command the city council to obey his policy. Now read the exchange yourself at

Gary Imhoff


Anti-Loitering Bill, an Undue Infringement
Ralph Chittams,

Jim Graham’s Hot Spot No Loitering Zone Act of 2009, while well-intentioned, is a superfluous piece of legislation and an undue infringement upon the Constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to assemble. The preamble to Graham’s bill reads, “To authorize the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department to declare a Hot Spot No Loitering Zone, and to prohibit the congregation of 2 or more persons on any public space on public property, within an area currently designated as a Hot Spot No Loitering Zone, for the purpose of participating in criminal activity within the perimeter of the Hot Spot No Loitering Zone.”

However, Section 3, “Prohibitions,” states that “Whenever a police officer observes two or more persons loitering in any place designated as a Hot Spot No Loitering Zone, the police officer shall, subject to all applicable procedures promulgated by the Mayor: (1) Inform all such persons that they are engaged in loitering. . . ; (2) Order all such persons to disperse. . . ; and (3) Inform those persons that they will be subject to arrest if they fail to obey the order promptly. . . .” Section 4, “Right of lawful assembly,” goes on to state: “The Mayor shall promulgate rules to prevent the enforcement of this act against persons who are engaged in assembly protected by the Constitution of the United States or the District of Columbia.”

Section 4 is directly at odds with Section 3. Notwithstanding the language in the preamble, the clear language of Section 3 will prevent two or more law abiding citizens who happen to meet on the street from stopping and conversing with each other — an action protected by the Constitutions of the United States and the District of Columbia. What lawful right does Graham envision protecting under Section 4? Clearly not the right to assemble, because that right is eradicated in Section 3. There is no requirement in the bill itself that the individuals instructed to move, under threat of arrest, have the intent of participating in criminal activity.

This bill is also superfluous because all the Police Department has to do to break up a crowd of individuals gathered with the intent of engaging in illegal activity is to show up. Whether they are drug-dealers, craps-shooters, pot-smokers, liquor-drinkers, or what have you, the minute an MPD cruiser parks and the officer emerge, the crowd will disperse. I do understand and can sympathize with Graham’s frustration. However, more effective community policing, not an infringement upon the Constitutional liberties of law-abiding citizens, is all that is required to solve this particular problem.

[This very bad bill criminalizes even a couple’s taking a stroll in their neighborhood, as long as their neighborhood is designated as a hot-spot and a police officer accuses them of having a criminal purpose for being on the street. Of course, supporters of the bill would say that we can rely on the good intentions and good judgment of police officers to use the law only against bad people. But the point of having written guarantees of our rights is that we shouldn’t have to rely on hope that police officers will have good intentions and display good judgment. — Gary Imhoff]


Oppose the Nomination of Lori Lee
Chris Weiss,

Take action now and let the DC council know you oppose the nomination of Lori Lee to the Public Service Commission. The Washington, DC, Public Service Commission plays a crucial role in making energy conservation and renewable energy affordable to DC consumers and reducing the city’s carbon footprint. With so much work to do to save our planet, we need new commissioners to be able to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, Mayor Fenty has nominated Lori Lee, a close family friend of his. She has little to no understanding of or experience relevant to the issues so important to us and the Public Service Commission: global warming, air pollution, and energy conservation.

Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club’s Washington, DC, chapter, the DC Consumer Utility Board, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO (and others) believe Lee should not be appointed to the PSC. The District is full of potential candidates with the necessary experience. Why then, should we have to settle for someone who is not qualified? Several members of the city council have taken a stand in opposition to the Lee nomination. On Saturday, January 31, the Washington Post took the rare step of declaring Lee “Not Qualified.” The Examiner newspaper has also done so. Now we need the public to speak out. Take action now to oppose the nomination.


Looking at It the Wrong Way
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The proposal to charge a nickel for every plastic bag used by consumers in grocery and drug stores won’t work. Better to give a five-cent credit to those who bring their own shopping bags for their groceries or drug store goods. Reward those who think green.


Nour’s Voting Record: Another Disqualification
Dorothy Brizill,

In 1993, President Clinton announced his intention to appoint John Payton, then the District’s Corporation Council (the position now called Attorney General) as Assistant Attorney General and head of the Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice. After the announcement of the appointment, I was called by local reporters who asked me to comment on Payton’s nomination. They asked whether I thought Payton, who had been the District’s Corporation Council since 1991, would be a good appointee, and how well he would perform as head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. Rather than give an immediate opinion, I researched Payton, his legal career, and his tenure as Corporation Counsel.

What I found surprised even me. A review of Payton’s voting record revealed that he didn’t register to vote in the District of Columbia until 1988, and that he had voted in only one election. This was particularly significant because the Civil Rights Division was responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Within days after the Washington Times published this information, the Congressional Black Caucus and civil rights groups told the White House that they would not support Payton’s nomination because of his scanty voting record; within weeks, Payton withdrew his candidacy for the position.

Now, Mayor Fenty has nominated Omar Nour to fill a vacant seat on the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, which administers and enforces the District’s election laws. Nour, 30, first registered to vote in DC in 2005, and he has voted only once, in last November’s presidential election. He didn’t even bother to cast a ballot for his benefactor, Adrian Fenty, in the 2006 mayoral election. This casual attitude to voting may not be relevant to membership in many other boards and commissions, but it is disqualifying to membership on the Board of Elections and Ethics. Just as civil rights groups told President Clinton that no matter how much they respected John Payton’s legal career, his failure to vote meant that they could not support him for a position overseeing voting rights, councilmembers should tell Mayor Fenty that Nour’s failure to vote means that they cannot support him to oversee the District’s elections.


Your Technology Columnist: TextTwist Word Game on Yahoo Games
Phil Shapiro,

Do you know a school-age student or older community member who loves word games? One of the best free word games on the Internet is TextTwist, a lively and attractive word jumble game that gives you points for every word you find. Clicking your mouse or pressing the space bar twists — mixes — the letters to give you a better chance of finding words. The aim is to find the hidden seven-letter word and sub-words made using the same group of letters. I played TextTwist this afternoon for thirty minutes with an eighty-seven-year-old community member who is new to the Internet. We used a donated Windows 2000 computer on dial-up to play TextTwist. The game played well, even on such an old computer. She and I took turns yelling out the words we could see. A fun time was had by all.

Since this game is written in the Java computer language, I brought a downloaded version of Java for Windows 2000 with me on a Flash drive. (The file size is about 17 megabytes, which is no fun to download via dial-up.) Using the Flash drive it took just five minutes to copy Java onto her computer and install it before we played TextTwist. Games like TextTwist bring greater intellectual vibrancy to our community. To play TextTwist, search for it using Google. You can also purchase a copy to play off-line, which might be a fun laptop diversion on a long airplane flight.


Selling DC History, Part 2
Jonetta Rose Barras,

District officials confirmed this week that they are “taking a look” at a proposal presented to them by The Generations Network, which owns and operates, among other sites, “At this point, the office is neither moving forward nor disregarding [the proposal],” said mayoral spokesperson Mafara Hobson. Read the full story at


Saving Our History
Denise Wiktor,

[In response to Selling Our History, themail, February 18] This is of great concern to me, as I don’t think the city really knows what is in the Archives. A few years back the City Paper did an article on the Archives, and one of the wills it holds is George Washington’s. So Utah would have ownership of this valuable document of unknown value on the open market? Why don’t we just auction it off instead? Having spent some time at the Archives, it is an interesting collection of all sorts of things some of great historical value. When Ms. Scott [Secretary of the District] testified before Councilwoman Schwartz’s Government Operations committee she stated that they were re-looking at the renovations of the Recorder of Deeds Building to make it computer-centric and also a display of our history. Having had some experience with this company in doing genealogical research, I know this would now mean that District residents would be paying a Utah company for a copy of the census records with their ancestors or who lived in their house, etc.


Advisory Neighborhood Commissions
Tolu Tolu,

[In reply to Robert Meisnere, themail, February 18] I agree completely that ANCs actually act as a special club that should be shut down. They are wannebes and bullies.



Ward 5 Democrats Meeting, February 23
Hazel Thomas,

Monday, February 23, 7:00-9:00 p.m., Michigan Park Christian Church, Taylor Street at South Dakota Avenue, NE. Agenda: brief business meeting, plans for spring fundraiser (volunteers are needed), report from Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr., report from School Board Member Mark Jones, reminders and announcements. For questions, contact Tim Thomas, Ward 5 Democrats Chairman, 390-2229 or


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, February 24, 26
John Stokes,

Tuesday, February 24, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Fort Davis Community Center, 1400 41st Street, SE. Mardi Gras celebration. Have a fun time enjoying the taste of New Orleans cuisine while listening to the sounds of Creole music. Ages 55 and up. For more information, contact Tonya Cousins, 645-9212.

Thursday, February 26, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE. All ages. The 2009 Annual “Blacks in Wax” program will celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans by bringing alive a span of historic individuals from Harriet Tubman to Mayor Fenty and President Barack Obama. For more information, contact Donna M. Stewart, 645-6242.


Ellington Week Activities, February 24-25
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery,

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) will kickoff Duke Ellington Week activities with a celebration of DC’s new quarter that features Ellington at his piano on Tuesday, February 24, 10:00 a.m., at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 14th and Constitution Avenue, NW, where the African American Museum, temporarily housed there, has mounted the Scurlock Exhibition of photographs of Black Washingtonians, including Ellington. The celebration will feature a presentation of the quarter and the state coin map, where the DC coin will be inserted; remarks by US Mint Director Edmund Moy; a presentation of a Congressional tribute and a coin to Ellington’s family; remarks by Lonnie Bunch, director, the African American History Museum and by Dr. Brent Glass, director, the National Museum of American History; a performance by the Duke Ellington School of the Arts jazz band, and a viewing of the Scurlock Exhibit.

Ellington week activities will continue Wednesday, February 25, 11:00 a.m., at THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE, with a “Celebration of Black History Month, the Arts, and the Duke Ellington Commemorative Quarter,” featuring Edward and April Ellington, Duke Ellington’s children; the Ellington School of the Arts School jazz band, and the Washington Ballet. Later on Wednesday, at 8:00 p.m., there will be a concert, “Sophisticated Lady: An Evening with Denyce Graves,” at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall, 2700 F Street, NW, to raise funds for the Ellington School of the Arts, the soprano’s alma mater.


Historical Society of Washington, DC, February 27
Ed Bruske,

Friday, February 27, 6:30-9:30 p.m., 801 K Street, NW, at Mt. Vernon Square. Black History Celebration. Coco Cafe’: Black History Month Finale and Artist Exhibition. Coco Cafe is a production of National Public Radio’s Black History Month Committee, which is comprised of NPR employees and volunteers throughout the organization. The fifth annual Coco Cafe’ will feature various performances including musicians Gregory Gavin and Burke Hunn; spoken word artist Rodzilla; singer-songwriter, Angie Head; hip-hop dance troupe Lavish; and a special presentation by Howard University’s Thunder Machine drum section. (Coco Café is a collaboration between National Public Radio’s Black History Month Committee and The Historical Society of Washington, DC.) For the entire family. or 383-1828. Free admission.


DCPS Community Meetings on School Closings, March 4
Jennifer R. Calloway,

District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced the schedule for public meetings to allow the community to provide input and comment on the proposals to close three DCPS school buildings. The proposed changes will allow Birney Elementary School students to move to a state-of-the-art building and Draper Elementary School students to receive a comprehensive school program and additional resources that were previously unavailable to them due to their small size. The proposal will also move Webb-Wheatley students to a fully modernized building.

All meetings will take place on Wednesday, March 4. They will begin at the following times: Draper Elementary, 908 Wahler Place, SE, 6:00 p.m.; Birney Elementary, 2501 Martin Luther King Avenue, SE; 6:30 p.m.; Webb Elementary, 1375 Mt. Olivet Road, NE, 7:30 p.m. In addition to the meetings any written comments are welcome. Comments can be submitted online at (click on “send us your feedback or questions”), or by mail to The Office of the Chancellor; 825 N. Capitol Street, NE, 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20002. After considering all public feedback, the Chancellor will make final recommendations to the mayor.


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