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April 1, 2009

Not April Fools

Dear Foolers:

First, let me apologize for the lack of April Fools Day jokes in this issue. Although the things that are described in some messages may read as though they are put-ons, they are all real.

Carrie Johnson’s article in today’s Post,, reveals a real problem for the DC Voting Rights Act. The Office of the Legal Counsel in the Obama Justice Department wrote a legal opinion that the Act was unconstitutional. Attorney General Eric Holder squashed that opinion, so that it is unpublished, but it probably substantially agrees with the testimony given by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Elwood of the Bush OLC on May 23, 2007, that the bill “violates the Constitution’s provisions governing the composition and election of the United States Congress” The legal arguments in Elwood’s testimony are convincing, and not shaded by any desired political outcome. Holder went opinion shopping, and asked the office of the Solicitor General to give its opinion on a substantially different question — not whether the law is constitutional, but whether the Solicitor General could make an argument defending it against a court challenge.

Holder’s actions in this instance are a blatant politicization of the Justice Department, a clear example of letting his political preference overshadow his duty to render an impartial legal opinion. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton issued a press release today praising Holder for going “above and beyond” in rejecting the OLC’s opinion and seeking the Solicitor General’s instead. But aside from dedicated partisans such as Delegate Norton, Holder’s actions only add to the DC Voting Rights Act’s problems. Some advocates of the Act have argued that members of Congress who support the cause of voting rights but who believe that the proposed law is unconstitutional should vote for it anyway, and let the courts sort it out later. But members of Congress are sworn to support the Constitution, not to subvert it. Holder’s unsavory politicization of the Justice Department to support the Act will only strengthen the feeling among many members that the constitutional problem is decisive.

Two short takes on a busy news day: 1) Deborah Gist has resigned as DC State Superintendent for Education, 2) Harry Jaffe is seeing the light about Fenty in today’s Examiner, “Fenty may be winning the battle with the council, but he’s embittering and empowering the members in the process. Next, my political operative says Fenty has abused his power in nominating people to crucial boards and commissions. He’s stuffed many with friends and loyalists, which is fine if the panels are ceremonial. But his appointments to substantive boards that control zoning, utilities and employee disputes show a genuine disdain for how the government works. My friend says Fenty’s approach is: ‘I’m above it all. The rules don’t apply to me.’”

Gary Imhoff


DC’s Foreign Aid Program, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill,

On Sunday in themail, I wrote about recent news reports by Mike Neibauer and Dave Statter on the donation of a District firetruck and ambulance to Peaceoholics, so that the organization could then give the vehicles to the beach town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic. I detailed several unanswered questions about this deal. In the last three days, two people in a position to know what transpired have publicly commented on the controversy. On Tuesday, Ron Moten, cofounder and COO of Peaceoholics, and I appeared on Bruce DePuyt’s NewsTalk Show on NewsChannel 8, On Wednesday, Fire Chief Dennis Rubin responded to questions from Phil Mendelson, chairman of the city council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, at the FY2010 budget hearing for the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, You can judge for yourself whether Moten’s and Rubin’s statements shed any light on the issue or whether they simply heighten concerns about what occurred; the subject is raised at the 1:50:50 mark in the hearing, and continues to 2:24:20.

In response to requests for information on the donation of the vehicles to Sosua, Moten and officials in the Fenty administration repeated pointed to the fact that the Office of the Attorney General is conducting a “full investigation of the entire matter. However, at Wednesday’s hearing, Councilmember Mendelson noted that, “this is a scandal which is burgeoning,” and that, “there is every reason to believe that the Attorney General was in the thick of all of this.” Mendelson noted that the emergency rulemaking that facilitated the donation had to have been known, and probably written by, the Attorney General’s office.


The State of the Department of Mental Health
Bryce A. Suderow,

I’ve mentioned in past postings that the city plans to shut down its Department of Mental Health and that the Agency has until September 2009 to assist its clients in enrolling with private psychiatrists. The plan was that each client would work with his case manager and together they would decide where the client would go. It was expected that many clients would regress because of the change, but at least they’d continue to have mental health care. Last Tuesday, March 24, when I visited 35 K Street NE, I learned this plan had fallen apart because the mayor and city council want to cut the agency’s $14 million budget now. Many case managers had been terminated and many of the psychiatrists were due to be “riffed” the next day, Wednesday.

For an hour (while the secretary ate lunch), the desk was manned by a befuddled elderly man who apparently was a volunteer. When asked for the three-page list of private practictitioners that are supposed to provide mental health care for patients, he could find only one page. And when clients phoned and asked to speak to their case managers or doctors, he told them he didn’t know who these employees were. Really, he did more harm than good. On that Tuesday the doctors and psychiatrists informed clients of the changed situation and advised them to make the transition to private practice as soon as possible. They handed out the three-page list. They gave their clients the phone number of a Department of Mental Health employee named Mr. Plummer who would help them choose a new provider, but — and this is crucial — they did not always urge clients to meet with Plummer immediately.

For those who chose to meet with him then and there, Mr. Plummer could be found in a back room office. He was doing his job at several outpatient clinics and this was his day to visit 35 K Street. Naturally he was a stranger to all the clients and knew nothing of their histories. Still, he was a kind and patient man and he helped people pick an agency. Then he phoned a number and another individual spoke to the client while he typed their personal information onto a computer screen and forwarded it to the agency they had picked. In theory the agency would contact that client in a day or two. I cannot stress strongly enough that this man was available at K Street only part time and that he was responsible for hundreds if not thousands of clients. Most clients, instead of meeting with Plummer, wandered off after seeing their doctor or psychiatrist. Before he left, one of them plaintively asked me who I recommended from the three-page list. I worry that these people will not phone Mr. Plummer and will not find a private provider. In that case, in a few weeks they will run out of medication and may become homeless. I saw a tragic story unfolding and I wondered why no one from the Washington Times, Washington Post, or DC Examiner was on hand. Where was the host of TV reporters I see every night? This is a story without any coverage.


DC Schools Budget, What’s In, What’s Out
Jeff Smith,

Mayor Adrian Fenty has submitted his proposed budget for the 2010 Fiscal Year to the City Council. This budget contains over eighty-four million dollars in changes to how DC Public Schools and other education agencies are funded. Because the mayor’s hearings have passed and city council hearings for the agencies impacting public education began March 31 with little or no information for community members to understand what has changed in this year’s proposed budget, DC VOICE has produced “What’s In, What’s Out — A Line Item Look at the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Changes Affecting Public Education.” This document is intended to shed light on what major changes are occurring in school spending this year, with hope that the mayor and city council will work together to define an acceptable standard for public notice and presentations when it comes to important matters such as school funding. For a full copy of the report, call 986-8535 or click


Nationals’ Opening Day Alert
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

For those fans who will attend the Nationals’ opening home game on April 13, be warned that Half Street, SE, the pedestrian walk street to the ballpark from the Navy Yard Metro Station, is closed, as all those old buildings on the west side of Half street are being torn down. Metro riders must walk to the corner of Half Street and N Street, then go west to South Capitol or east to first Street, SE, then south to the ball park. My guess is that Half Street will likely be closed until the end of April.


The Incredible Shrinking Post
Ed T Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

It’s pretty bad when my favorite newspaper, the Washington Post, is becoming smaller than the Northwest Current. With so much less to read I find too much extra time on my hands and might actually have to do some of those chores that have been dormant for so long. It is now so hard to read the compressed funny pages that I have to use some extra strength reading glasses. Are magnifying glasses next. When the Post shrinks to microfilm I’ll give it up and read it on line.


Cost of Living
Tom Sherwood,

It’s warm and fuzzy that the council is giving up its 2010 cost-of-living pay raise. The exact amount of this sacrifice won’t be known until the end of 2009 when it officially will be calculated. But lost in the hand-clapping is that the council members are — are — receiving a pay raise right now of 4.5 percent. That’s the cost-of-living increase calculated based on 2008. The Secretary of the Council told me last week that the actual dollar amount for each council member was being calculated and that it would be retroactive to January 4. The raise will make the council members salaries rise to about $126,000 a year. People can argue about whether that’s too much, too little, or just right.


DC WASA’s Impervious Surface Fee
Clyde Howard,

[Re: “DC WASA’s Impervious Surface Fee, themail, March 30] When you put all your eggs in one basket, you have to watch that basket.


Fee Fee
K. Corbett,

I think DCWASA’S “Impervious Surface Fee” is another example of double dipping!



Empowerment Circle Series, April 3
Parisa Norouzi,

Land Rights and HIV/AIDs Prevention in Thailand with special visiting guests, Thai organizers Ms. Pintong Lekam, Thai HIV-AIDS community organizer; and Mr. Kovit Boonjear, Thai land rights community organizer. Friday, April 3, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at Charles Sumner School, 1201 17th Street, NW (17th and M Streets). Accessible location; light refreshments.

Join us to hear about the inspirational work of two visiting community organizers from Thailand. Pintong Lekam is a community organizer who has been working with communities affected by HIV/AIDS in Khon Kaen, Thailand, for seven years, and is currently studying nonprofit management in the United States. Kovit Boonjear has dedicated over twenty-five years to social justice work in Thailand on many community issues. Over the past ten years, he has worked with urban slum communities to win tenant rights to public lands that were at-risk of being privatized and developed for private profit. RSVP to Empower DC at 234-9119 or


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, April 3-4, 6
John Stokes,

Friday, April 3, 5:30 p.m., Brentwood Recreation Center, 2311 14th Street, NE. Table tennis tournament for ages 15 and up. Participants will showcase their table tennis skills in a single elimination tournament. The winner will receive a prize. Light refreshments will be served during the opening games. For more information, call Lorenzo Carter, Site Manager, at 576-6667.

Friday, April 3, 7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m., various locations. Teen Night for ages 13–19. Call 671-0451 or visit for a list of locations and times.

Saturday, April 4, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Coolidge Senior High School, 6315 5th St., NW. Joyner-Walton Speed and Plyometric Clinic for ages 8-18. The 2009 Al Joyner/Michael Walton Speed and Plyometric Clinic is sponsored by 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, DC, Inc., PowerAde, Fox 5 News, and Free of charge to all DC residents. This clinic will feature Plyometric exercises, high intensity training techniques used to develop athletic power (strength and speed), often used for training in track and field sports. Free health screenings will also be offered at the clinic courtesy of 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, DC, Inc. and the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. YMCA’s PHD (Physical, Healthy, Driven) health assessment program consists of basic health measures of blood pressure, body fat composition, muscular strength and endurance, cardio fitness and flexibility. For more information, contact the Michael Walton Foundation at 301-868-0171.

Saturday, April 4, 10:00 a.m., Emery Recreation Center, 5801 Georgia Avenue, NW. DPR Youth Basketball League Championship Games for ages 6-8; 9-10; 11-12; 13-15; 16-18. DPR will host the Citywide Youth Basketball Championship games at Emery Recreation Center. The top teams from each age division (boys and girls) will compete for the citywide championship title. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Athletic Programs at 671-1700.

Saturday, April 4, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Upshur Recreation Center, 4300 Arkansas Avenue, NW. Annual Eggs-travaganza! for ages 12 and under. Children will hunt for eggs and receive prizes; they will also make holiday crafts and enjoy light refreshments. For more information, call Deyanne Nicholas at 576-6842.

Saturday, April 4, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Columbia Heights Community Center, 1480 Girard Street, NW. Gardening workshop for all ages. Gardeners and homeowners will learn how to plant and/or care for their shade trees. Participants will gain an understanding of the proper environmental conditions that promote tree health and minimize the trees susceptibility to pests and stress. This workshop will inform participants how to reduce chemical use in the garden, how to reduce storm water run off from property and about the risks of improper fertilization on trees. Join DC Department of Parks and Recreation and the District Department of the Environment to learn helpful eco-friendly tips for gardening, pest control, and general garden and lawn care. For more information, call Kelly Melsted, Environmental Education Specialist at, 671-0396.

Saturday, April 4, 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Watts Branch Recreation Center, 6201 Banks Place, NE. Easter egg roll for ages 6-16. The Watts Staff will accompany youth to the National Zoo to take part in the Annual Easter Egg Roll. For more information, call Libby Morris at 727-5432.

Monday, April 6, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Takoma Community Center, 300 Van Buren Street, NW. Annual shoe drive for all ages. Staff will collect shoes donated by patrons that visit our DPR facility. The shoes will be given to “Street Sense,” an organization that helps homeless families in the Washington, DC, area. For more information, call Al Cook at 576-7068.

Monday, April 6, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th Street, NE. Sports Wii Game Blast for ages 9-18. EA Sports has partnered with several community organizations within the Washington DC Metropolitan area, to provide the ultimate gaming experience on the Nintendo Wii. The Game Blast will pit up to four people in competitive fun, in which they will experience and play the newest games from EA Sports. Along with playing, there will be prizes, games, and giveaways for those that participate. Registration required. For more information, call Raphael Marshall, Site Manager, at 698-3075.


Catania at CPCA, April 4
George Idelson,

At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania will speak on health, environment, libraries and other issues at the Cleveland Park Library on Saturday, April 4, at 10:15 a.m. The meeting is sponsored by the Cleveland Park Citizens Association. All are welcome.


National Building Museum Events, April 8, 16
Jazmine Zick,

Wednesday, April 8, 6:30-8:00 p.m., and Thursday, April 16, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Spotlight on Design. Spotlight on Design features architects and designers of distinction from around the world. This month on April 8, Alberto Campo Baeza, of Spain, discusses his buildings including Turegano House, the Caja General in Granada, and the Olnick Spanu House in Garrison, NY. The following week, on April 16, an Andropogon Associates principal discusses the firm’s beautiful, evocative, and sustainable landscapes. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


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