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March 1, 2009

Snow Job

Dear Snow Lovers:

Weather forecasters on all the local television and radio stations seem to be annoyingly fond of snow and snow storms, wishing for the worst. Warm weather fans like me are ready to shuffle them off to Buffalo, where they can experience the kind of winter weather disasters that will keep them happy. Washington’s usually moderate — moderate, not quite mild — winters frustrate them by our infrequent storms, while I hope they keep their golden snow shovels in their garages all winter long.

Tonight will probably be the last chance for even a modest snowfall this winter. As I write this, there has been just a dusting of snow, and it isn’t yet sticking to sidewalks or the streets. The forecasters are casting their spells, hoping to draw the storms from the distant suburbs into the center city. We’ll know when we wake up whether the weathermen or I will have smiles on our faces.

Gary Imhoff


Barry’s and Cheh’s Health
Frank Winstead,

Best wishes to Councilmembers Marion Barry and Mary Cheh for speedy and complete recoveries from their recent bouts with ill health. Support Mary Cheh’s efforts in the 2009 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer at


Local News Reporting in Washington
Dorothy Brizill,

DC residents are concerned about the future of the newspapers in our city, especially about the survival of local reporting. Sunday’s Washington Post has three articles about the dire state of the newspaper industry and its impact on local news reporting: Howard Kurtz, “Under Weight of Its Mistakes, Newspaper Industry Staggers,”; Marc Fisher, “Bloggers Can’t Fill the Gap Left by Shrinking Press Corps,”; and David Simon, “In Baltimore, No One Left to Press the Police,” Kurtz notes, “Why a once-profitable industry suddenly seems as outmoded as America’s automakers is a tale that involves arrogance, mistakes, eroding trust and the rise of a digital world in which newspapers feel compelled to give away their content. . . . The Washington Post, whose earnings dropped 77 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, has undergone three rounds of buyouts, killed its Sunday Source section and folded Book World as a separate section. Executive Editor Marcus Brauchili, who is merging the downtown newsroom with the Arlington-based Web operation, has cited the need to cut costs and focus on the core areas of the paper’s coverage.”

The retrenchment of local reporting in our daily newspapers presents a challenge to citywide and neighborhood web sites, blogs, and listservs that Fisher’s column emphasizes. The dailies never reported local political affairs in any depth. City council elections, for example, were covered only perfunctorily at best even decades ago. But with cutbacks both in newspaper staffing and the size of the news holes in recent years, a lot of news reporting will fall to Internet sources that are staffed by unpaid citizen volunteers. I’m not as pessimistic as Fisher is about the ability of these blogs and neighborhood sites to cover local news. In fact, neighborhood listservs have the potential to publicize very local news, such as Advisory Neighborhood Commission races, that daily newspapers never touched. But the transition is not going to be easy.


Republicans and the DC Voting Rights Act
Paul D. Craney,

The DC Voting Rights Act of 2009 (DCVR) passed the cloture vote only because of Republican support. Let’s look at who voted. Two supporters were missing, Republican Senator Norm Coleman (MN) and Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy (MA). That left the margin for passage thin. Two Republican Senators switched their votes. Former Republican At-Large DC council candidate Patrick Mara spoke with Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) chief of staff and educated the Senator on the importance of DCVR. No one expected Senator Murkowski to support the cloture vote, but she did. Former Republican US Senate candidate Nelson Rimensyder was able to speak with Senator Thad Cochran (R-MISS) the day before the election. Rimensyder is a Vietnam Vet, and explained the importance of Voting Rights for our veterans here in the District. Rimensyder’s son is currently serving is Iraq.

The DC Republican Party (DCGOP) had hand delivered letters to all the Republican Senators the day before the election. The DCGOP met with Senator Collins and many other top staffers to explain the importance of DCVR. The DCGOP sent letters in support of DCVR to conservative think tanks and radio talk show hosts. In fact, the day of the cloture vote, Republican National Committee Chairman and native son Michael Steele praised the vote as a major victory.

I think the success for the cloture vote should be shared by many, but it’s important to notice those who pushed hard for this. Much of the credit should be given to District Republicans and the leadership of the DC Republican Party.


I Was Denied the Right to Testify
Pete Tucker,

This past Friday, there was an oversight hearing for the Department of Health. I was confirmed as a witness for the hearing until Councilmember David Catania’s office called to inform me that I was being removed from the witness list and I would not be allowed to testify. Numerous calls and E-mails asking for an explanation for this action have yielded nothing. Was I prohibited from testifying because I disagree with Mr. Catania’s push to have the experimental HPV vaccine required for sixth grade girls for this upcoming school year? On Friday, as he has done so often in the past, Mr. Catania referred to those who oppose his position as “conspiracy theorists.” It must be disturbing for Mr. Catania to note the large number of “conspiracy theorists” now on the council: Harry Thomas, Kwame Brown, Muriel Bowser, Yvette Alexander, Michael Brown, and possibly Jim Graham.

At Friday’s hearing, Councilmember Alexander, who sits on the Health Committee, said, “The test market for the [HPV] vaccine does not involve the ages of the young girls who are going to be [made] mandatory to have this vaccine. So I’m really concerned with the side effects down the road.” She went on to say, “[T]here has not been enough proof for me to say that there [aren’t] other mechanisms that we need to stress before we use our babies, our young girls, as guinea pigs, and primarily in underserved communities. I’m going to continue to advocate, I’m going to continue to spread the word.”

At the next Health Committee hearing, I’d like to join Ms. Alexander in advocating and spreading the word, but will I be allowed to testify? As Gary pointed out in the last edition of themail, the council’s own rules make it clear that anyone who signs up within the given time has the right to testify. It is a dangerous precedent to allow the chair of a committee to violate our rights as citizens, as well as the council’s own rules, if he happens to disagree with what will be said. As George Orwell put it, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”


Gardisil and Catania
Qawi Robinson,

By the time this is read I hope that Mr. Tucker is able to protest in person the travesty that is Gardasil and its unlikely shepherd David Catania. Not that this should completely disqualify him, but how can a politician who has no daughters vie for “experimental” legislation to give the vaccine to sixth grade girls across the city. He’d have more credence promoting this legislation if he had a daughter, granddaughter, niece, etc., who would fit in this demographic. While I’ve heard that this vaccine is voluntary, an unsuspecting or uninformed parent may think this is a good idea. For those who don’t know, let me be the first to tell you, it is not a good idea to give these girls the vaccine. This is not fear mongering, but from research, including some in the medical community. Simply put, there is not enough long-term data to support widespread vaccinations, and the side effects are more than minor. Catania, through his legislation, is inadvertently subjecting several thousand girls to an extended clinical trial. Without combing through the thousands of links about Gardasil, I’ll simply say any Internet search engine will give you more than enough information about the side effects.

Merck, the manufacturer. has been making substantial profits from this kind of sweeping legislation across the country. They lobbied Congress and got the US government to subsidize the vaccine in certain areas, so that unsuspecting state legislatures now think getting this vaccine to middle and high school girls will save the nation from an epidemic. I’m not saying that the treatment of cervical cancer is unimportant. What I’m saying is that a for-profit pharmaceutical company was given a carte blanc to prescribe or practice medicine. It is insulting to those in the medical profession that Merck was allowed to do this to a population through legislation without simple checks, balances, and risks that would undoubtedly be vetted by a doctor. Not only that, but taking it slightly a step further, Gardasil and other vaccines only treat a certain morphology (type) of HPV. It is not the panacea folks are making it out to be. By their own description, it will only treat the types of HPV that statistically occur in 70 percent of the cases. Even with that, the results and effectiveness are limited, once again because of a long term study data. If we really want to legislate to reduce the instances of HPV, how about subsidizing routine PAP smears. That would go a long way to early detection and treatment of HPV. Teaching abstinence (regardless of what Palin said) can go a long way too.


It’s Not Time to Ban Ski Mask Sales in the DC Area
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

Phil Shapiro suggests banning ski masks to reduce crime [themail, February 25]. Aside from sounding like an item in the satirical newspaper The Onion, this would surely be as effective as DC’s porous gun ban, given that dual-use ski masks (that means that they have the, you know, legitimate use of keeping people’s faces warm) could easily be bought in nearby areas and online. Considering, it’s safe to say, that the vast majority of ski mask wearers are not committing robberies, it’s hardly reasonable to ban their sale. The ski mask-wearing motorcycle rider I saw on the Beltway this morning likely would be unhappy having to bare his face to the cold winter air at 60 m.p.h. lest he be considered a potential perp. And what about skiers? What’s next? Ban scarves because they can be pulled up over the face? Ban pens/pencils/paper because they’re used to write holdup notes? And cars, because they’re getaway vehicles?


Ski Masks and ANCs
Qawi Robinson,

I much appreciate the genesis of the ANCs as described by William Haskett [themail, February 25]. Community persons are indeed the arteries that lead to the heart of the government. They are needed. However, as has already been presented on themail, there is some work to be done. While I know that the job is unpaid and resources are limited, citizens should still expect the best out of those whom they elect. Don’t take on a responsibility, paid or otherwise, if you don’t intend to fulfill it to the best of your ability. I’m not knocking the foot soldiers in the community, but reading Richard Layman’s almost sycophantic remarks about ANC 6A [themail, February 25] reminds me why I sometimes have disdain for them. I once heard a quote that said, “Self-praise is scandalous.” For all the collaboration with other ANCs that was done by ANC 6A, why cheer lead it here on a blog about DC? Just do the work and let your work speak for itself. Especially since ANC 6A “led the effort of ANCs in Wards 5, 6, and 7 to advocate the installation of streetcar tracks on H Street as part of the streetscape improvement program, to ‘hurry along’ the coming of streetcars to H Street and Benning Road.” My auto repair shop thanks you for this, as I’ve had to replace shocks, get an alignment, universal joint, etc., due to the “hurrying along.” Such grandstanding only serves the individual communities and not ANCs as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, ANCs probably do need training, but if DC is a collection of communities, it would behoove all ANCs to do the necessary collaboration to be that artery to the government. We’ve had community atherosclerosis and apathy for far too long.

Speaking of community, I was also surprised by Phil Shapiro’s “ban ski masks” posting and the “Tiny Group commits the most violent crimes” posting [themail, February 25]. Both are filled with irony when juxtaposed against Kathy Henderson’s “Good Neighbor” post [themail, February 25], a challenge everyone should accept. The post suggesting legislation to make it inconvenient to buy a ski mask is well intentioned, but banning handguns (prior to the Supreme Court decision) didn’t stop crime either. Mr. Shapiro, who makes frequent technology reminders, forgets that ski masks can be bought over the Internet in bulk or individually. Robberies and some violent crimes are often premeditated, so a criminal is at least going to do some homework and get proper items to commit it. I’ve never heard anyone say that not having a ski-mask deterred them from committing a crime, but if that is the case, more power to Mr. Shapiro’s Anti-Ski Mask bill. As far as the Tiny Group committing the most violent crimes, duh! This city is not a crime syndicate, and far fewer than 49 percent of us are committing crimes, so the title is a no-brainer there. But to the article Jackson cited would suggest that the MPDC and CSOSA should concentrate their scarce resources on the “power criminals,” or those statistically more likely to commit more crimes. I’m not sure that is the answer either. In the educational realm, when the teacher spends the most time on the disruptive student, all students in the class get neglected and often may vie for attention in a negative fashion. I’m not saying that the “uber criminals” don’t need attention, I’m just saying that we can’t focus on them and neglect other policing needs.


Recorder of Deeds
Denise Wiktor,

I agree with the poster [themail, February 25] that going through the National Archives and would be easier than the current method. However, Secretary Scott testified last year that one of the reasons for scrapping the expansion of the Recorder of Deeds building was that the expansion money was instead going to be used to digitize the records at both the Recorder of Deeds and the Archives and to make them available at computer terminals in the building. The original documents would be available upon request for researchers, and there would be museum quality displays of some interesting documents. It is a long leap from there to


Part-Time Salary for ANCs?
Mindy Mitchell,

How about instituting a part-time salary for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners? The District could benefit from a more formalized structure supporting the councilmembers. The leap from citizen to councilmember might be done in smaller increments, and a set of requirements for ANCs could be enforceable rather than voluntary.


Crime Solutions
Thomas L. Blagburn,

The problem with comprehending the anecdotal crime-related dissertations of writers to like Aeolian Jackson and Phillip Fornaci [themail, February 25] is that they tend to splice and bundle small bits of fact with fiction and leave so much detail out of the narrative. Additionally, attacking Gary Imhoff really isn’t the answer! I have read each of Colbert King’s commentaries on Oak Hill. The sad situation is that despite the improvements at the juvenile detention facility in Laurel, Maryland, it is still a tragic experience for the young men being sent there. And, yes, there are young people whose lives have been so mangled and their humanity altered to such a degree that they must be locked away for the safety of the public. But are these young residents receiving the kind of rehabilitative and treatment services they are in need? Will they return home to conditions in their neighborhoods that are any better then when they left? The answer to both questions is no!

When will crime and interpersonal violence in the District receive the level of treatment it so desperately deserves? We have been talking about the “risk factors” that lead to crime and the propensity of this small group of violent repeat offenders to victimize residents for decades. Yet we continue to perpetrate the myth that government, specifically law enforcement, can somehow arrest and incarcerate this problem away. It hasn’t happened and it never will! Our public policies seek heavier sanctions. But always more victimization follows. The belief is that government can do the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.

We keep advancing this silly crime management notion which is analogous to a home owner with a leaking roof who is so disillusioned that he believes that running to get bigger buckets to catch the drips is fixing the leak! We don’t seem to know how to address the pathology of neighborhood crime and youth gang/crew violence. We want more police, longer sentences, and bigger jails. A balanced approach of prevention/intervention in support of arrest and incarceration is the only answer. And one approach cannot work without the other.

Sweeps, crackdowns, “All Hands on Deck,” and “stepped up patrols” are the common inane responses to spikes in crime. Effective crime management must be strategic and comprehensive. We know the offenders across the District both juvenile and adult, neighborhood by neighborhood. We can identify hard-core, violent recidivists and those young people on the unfortunate social trajectory to become the next wave of criminals. The data is everywhere and the interagency disconnect is pervasive. Yet our efforts to connect this information or substantially impact this dire situation with practical applications are splintered, fragmented, and not a part of any cohesive strategy for targeted-problem solving.

Let’s start with the District’s low income families and underserved schools. Large numbers of single parents are unable to cope or manage the behavior of children because the entire family unit is frayed and in need of help and preservation. The schools can’t fix it simply because along the public-educational path of classroom evolution teachers/administrators somehow abdicated their responsibility and support resources to teach and discipline at the same time. And the faith based community transformed itself from the work of spiritual human development to business and wealth building. Within this paradigm, children and needy families without economic or spiritual resources will always be left out and fall further behind. So now we have large numbers of young people full of anger doing everything their way and trying to survive on their own. They have loss trust, bonded together to form crews/gangs; become very disillusioned and internalized somewhat of a disdain for the very people who were originally put in place to nurture, assist and guide them! Can we fix this unfortunate transformation? Of course we can but it won’t be accomplished by taking the traditional course of action.

We tend to forget that the social institutions of America that have always controlled human behavior are family, school, and church! When law enforcement becomes the institution of first response rather than of last resort we have given up and lost the struggle! Today, police are needed for everything from security at school sporting events and student dances to checking for weapons at the school door. Eliminating police from schools would be the bold, correct move. Station “short-beat” officers around the schools and let them focus on daytime crime in the neighborhoods. Hire parents and ex-offenders who know the young people and live in the school neighborhood as security personnel. Train them effectively. Interpersonal violence and conflict will diminish. Also, consider placing social workers, psychologists, and a member of the clergy in police district’s most affected by crime and violence (Wards 5, 7, and 8) to lend support to officers ill-equipped to handle the tough complex psychological health challenges caused by substance abuse and young people and families witnessing extraordinarily incidents on violence. Make them a proactive mobilized unit to frequent neighborhoods and alleyways during the hours of 8:00 p.m.-3:00 a.m., Monday-Sunday. Develop a dropout reentry program to help the thousands of young-adult students on the street corners get back into the classroom. Chancellor Rhee would have to open more schools, not close them.

These are simple, innovative solutions to a very complex problem. And each will be far more cost effective than trying to arrest the problem away. So much can be accomplished with the proper engagement of young people and the reconfiguration of government. If this online forum can be used to spawn interest and nudging our city in the right direction it will be well worth everyone’s investment in time and building citizenship.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, March 3-6
John Stokes,

Tuesday, March 3, 5:45 p.m.-7:45 p.m., Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, MD. DC Speed Combined Site Practice, ages seven to eighteen. For more information, call Edgar Sams at 671-0395.

Friday, March 6, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 a.m., Seabrook Skate Rink, 9901 Lanham Severn Road, Lanham, MD. A night of skating for all ages. The community of Joe Cole will enjoy a night out at the skating rink. For more information, call Kyanna Blackwell, Site Manager, at 724-4876.


DC Budget Forum: What’s In Store for 2010?, March 6
T.J. Sutcliffe,

Community briefing on the DC budget shortfall for 2009 and 2010 (recently reported to be $800 million for FY 2010). Friday, March 6, 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (registration starts at 9:15), at the Goethe Institute, 812 Seventh Street, NW (near Gallery Place Metro Station). No food or drinks are allowed. Panelists include Bob Zahradnik, Office of Revenue Analysis, Office of the Chief Financial Officer; Eric Goulet, Budget Director, Council of the District of Columbia; and William Singer, Chief of Budget Execution, Office of the City Administrator.

RSVPs requested. Pre-register with DC Action for Children (E-mail; fax 202-234-9108). This briefing is sponsored by DC Action for Children, The Arc of the District of Columbia, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and Parents United for the DC Public Schools.


Women of Architecture, March 9
Jazmine Zick,

Monday, March 9. 6:30-8:00 p.m., Women of Architecture. Jeanne Gang, founder and principal of Studio Gang Architects, along with one of the new breed of young architects changing the profession, discuss the transformative elements of urban buildings and neighborhoods in Gang’s native Chicago and beyond. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


School Discipline Regulations Hearing, March 10
Joy Roberson,

Tuesday, March 10, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Elsie Whitlow Stokes Public Charter School, 3700 Oakview Terrace, NE. The purpose of this hearing is to discuss proposed state-level discipline regulations currently under consideration by the State Superintendent of Education. These regulations are within the public comment period and as such, we invite the community to weigh in on the discussion. The proposed regulations provide state level standards for consistent school disciplinary policy in the District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools. They would require each local education agency to address discipline in a manner which allows students to continue their educational path within the school environment wherever possible.

We look forward to receiving public comment as well as further facilitating the discussion on the proposed regulations. The public will be invited to participate in a round table discussion on the proposed regulations. Please RSVP to Joy Roberson at or 727-3471 if you are interested in attending. In addition to the round table discussion, the public may submit comments in writing to For more information on the proposed discipline regulations please visit


UDC Public Interest Fellowship Auction, March 26
Joe Libertelli,

Please join us at our annual summer Public Interest Fellowship auction on Thursday, March 26, at 6:00 p.m., at the UDC Firebird Inn, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW. This year’s auction will feature live music, beer and wine, and great food from local establishments including Hades and the Italian Pizza Kitchen! There is no admission charge. Please plan to join us and consider donating an item. To donate an item for the auction, E-mail me at

Here’s our initial list of items: Bethany beach house vacation getaway; two Acela high-speed train tickets to NYC; Rehoboth beach house; Tom Mack’s Shenandoah river cabin; Lewes, Delaware, beach house; tour for two of DC via Old Town Trolley, DC Ducks, or Monuments by Moonlight; autographed Randy Thomas photo (Redskins Pro Bowl lineman); original painting, “Give to Receive”; “The Civil War” at Ford’s Theater, two tickets; Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, two tickets; a half-day with Kim Keenan (DC Bar President); a day with Wade Henderson; a day with “King of Torts” Jack Olender; lunch for two at the Cosmos Club with UDC President and Mrs. Sessoms; Leadership Conference on Civil Rights dinner, two tickets; Alliance for Justice annual luncheon, two tickets; ACLU President’s dinner, two tickets; Tabbard Inn meal for two; Cajun Fried Turkey cooked by Barbara Green; gift basket from Safeway Foods; Nationals game for two with Dean Broderick and UDC Board Chair Jim Dyke; set of Bose headphones; three salsa lessons for two.


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