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April 8, 2009

Voting Rights

Dear Voters:

Okay, am I alone here, or does anyone else think that DC politicians, including Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, are doing a lousy job of promoting the DC Voting Rights Act? Do you think they really want it to pass, or do they prefer keeping the issue alive as so they can campaign on it? First, when gun rights amendments were added to the DC Voting Rights Act, our pols panicked. District politicians are still resisting complying with the Supreme Court’s findings in the Heller v. DC case, but Democratic politicians throughout the country learned years ago that gun bans are unpopular politics except in the most liberal districts. (A Gallup poll released today found that only 29 percent of Americans support a ban on the possession of handguns by individuals, the smallest percentage since Gallup started polling on the issue fifty years ago, So it is obvious that majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress will vote for a bill that that imposes the Second Amendment on a reluctant DC. The reaction of our local politicians to the gun amendments was neither politic nor practical. They didn’t try to see what compromise they could reach with the amendments’ supporters. Instead, they threatened and blustered, when they had no leverage.

They have continued to do so. Delegate Norton preaches that gun rights are dangerous, and says that DC citizens can’t be trusted with them. Today, Councilmember Michael Brown issued a press release about his hearing yesterday that said the message was, “District residents are unwilling to trade a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives for guns on our streets.” The press release ended: “The clear message from the hearing, as succinctly stated by Keshini Ladduwahetty, Chair of DC for Democracy, was ‘if the gun rider isn’t removed, let the legislation die!’” Of course, the citizens of DC will eventually receive the full coverage of the Second Amendment, regardless of the opposition of our local politicians, but those politicians would rather delay that day for a few more years than get a floor vote for Delegate Norton, and certainly rather than get statehood.

This week, to further sabotage the chances of the DC Voting Rights Act, the city council voted to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, with the clear indication that it would soon vote to legalize gay marriages performed in the District. Gay marriage, like gun bans, is unpopular politics except in the most liberal districts. The vote, taken at this time, is clearly intended to be a provocation to Congress, a thumb in the eye for most members of Congress of both parties. If a motion of disapproval is brought to a vote in Congress, a wide majority of both Democrats and Republicans will vote for it. Although Delegate Norton has promised that she will protect the DC Same-Sex Marriage Bill in Congress, it will take a lot of maneuvering to prevent every member of Congress from introducing a disapproval resolution, or to prevent such a resolution from coming to a vote, and such maneuvering can only poison the relationships that are needed to gather the votes for the DC Voting Rights Act.

So what are the next steps? A vote to legalize drugs in DC? A resolution of support for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program? After all, the DC Voting Rights Act could still squeak through, regardless of our politicians’ hard work against it. There has to be some other way to antagonize enough members of Congress to ensure that the DC Voting Rights Act won’t pass, and guarantee that DC will continue to have the grievance that its politicians seem to prefer to a Congressional delegate’s floor vote.

Gary Imhoff


Booting for Dollars
Frank Winstead,

The DC government apparently implemented a novel commuter tax on Monday. An SUV with over $1,400 in outstanding tickets was booted on Connecticut Avenue. Not only does this tax the owner of the Virginia-plated Land Rover, it sets a precedent for booting cars on commuter routes. Cars on Connecticut Avenue accumulate thousands of dollars of tickets without risk of booting because the city has feared the potential of limiting rush-hour traffic with disabled cars. Next the city needs to start ticketing/booting the always illegally parked delivery trucks. Details and photos:


Security at Martin Luther King Library
Bryce A. Suderow,

I visited Martin Luther King Library a few days ago and was surprised to see Ginnie Cooper had gotten rid of the metal detector and replaced it with cameras. A sign next to the guard post announced new rules beginning February 1: new video cameras replace the X-Ray machines; nonalcoholic beverages welcome; and one personal bag allowed per customer, with a size limitation.

The Library Police are not happy with the new rules because they make the MLK Library less safe. The guard on duty during my visit told me, “I feel like a sitting duck out here. The metal detector provided some warning that someone might have a weapon. Now there’s nothing.” She ridiculed the idea that security cameras manned by guards on the third floor could protect her: “I’ll be dead along with God knows how many other people by the time they get here.” According to one of my sources, Cooper dispensed with the x-ray machine because she thought it wasn’t necessary and because it didn’t make patrons feel welcome.

There are additional changes planned for MLK Library by Mayor Fenty that will undermine security further. According to Page D68 of the “Proposed FY 2010 Budget for the DC Public Library,” Fenty wants Cooper to fire the twenty-two library police and replace them with rent-a-cops from the Office of Property Management Protective Services Division. The document states: The total net savings from this transition is approximately $1,238,000.” Fenty’s and Cooper’s security changes should be resisted strongly by DC citizens. The mayor and the library director are weakening security at the worst possible time: There will be thousands of homeless and mentally ill people flooding the library in the near future. Perhaps Cooper is unaware that homeless shelters are closing all over the city and the DC Department of Mental Health is closing down. Fenty, having closed them down himself, has no such excuse.


Statehood, Not the Voting Rights Bill
Samuel Jordan,

When former Representative Tom Davis of northern Virginia introduced the DC House Voting Rights bill in the 109th and 110th Republican Congresses, he did not intend to empower the people of the District of Columbia. Accordingly, the bill does not assure full and equal representation in Congress. It does not give the District full, local control of its laws, budgets, and judiciary. As shown with the gun law amendment, Congress would still govern the District. The bill does not give the District a fair federal payment or a fair reciprocal tax, although the District is the only jurisdiction in the entire nation that may not tax income where it is earned. The bill provides no substantial, material or political improvement in the status of the District. We should never propose a measure in Congress that only changes the status of our Delegate and not the status of the District.

Tom Davis drafted a Republican trick bill that would Utah an extra vote in the Electoral College without an additional Electoral College vote for the people of the District. Had the presidential election of 2008 been as close as in 2000 and 2004, one Electoral College vote may have been decisive. That election is over. It wasn’t close. The bill has outlived its usefulness. It should be retired to the dust bin of a deceitful and manipulative history. The 111th Congress features a Democratic bicameral majority. We may be wasting a major historical opportunity with the Tom Davis bill. Furthermore, the bill’s antidemocratic nature has been exposed by the refusal of the bill’s promoters to consult with the people of the District in any meaningful manner, despite the fact that the people of the District in 1980 and 1982 seated Delegates to a Constitutional Convention and ratified the Constitution of the State of New Columbia.

The DC House Voting Rights bill is a bill of shameful submission. The gun law amendments were attached because the bill did not propose sovereignty for the District. The lack of sovereignty invites colonial intermeddling. We must instruct our delegate to withdraw the bill. I urge the council to implement a “Steps to Statehood” program immediately that would be in fact a people’s awakening and action program. The council and the people of the District would create a formidable partnership. The Constitution of 1982 should be brought out of moth balls for the people’s review and appropriate action. In this hearing a reminder of the power of a people’s movement is also timely, because the promoters of the Tom Davis bill now proudly call themselves incrementalists. In doing so they distort the lessons of history.

The District was governed by three commissioners for 99 years — 1874 to 1973 — that is incremental. However, the District got the right to vote for president, a nonvoting Delegate in the House, an elected mayor and city council all within ten years of the March on Washington — which, forgotten by many, also demanded a Free DC. Or, we could say that the District got a nonvoting delegate, an elected mayor and council all within six years of the rebellion following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. That history will not be repeated, but there should be no doubt about the power of a people’s decision to throw off the shackles of colonial government and blatant discriminatory treatment. That power still resides in the people of the District.

We must begin by instructing our delegate to withdraw the DC House Voting Rights bill and in its place submit a statehood bill. If sovereignty and autonomy is what we want, then sovereignty and autonomy is what we should demand.

I would also make two observations. First, statehood is not compatible with the DC Voting Rights Act because the Voting Rights Act is revocable — passed by one Congress and repealed by the next. Therefore, it is not a step to statehood. There is no such thing as a revocable step to statehood. Nor is the nonvoting Delegate a step to statehood. The District had a nonvoting Delegate to Congress from 1871 to 1875. A second observation: a statehood bill cannot carry a rider or amendment to local laws. A statehood bill is voted up or down. A state must enter the union on an equal footing with all other states, not conditioned by a guns amendment or a needle exchange amendment. A statehood bill is an appeal for sovereignty and repels Congressional intermeddling.


DC United Soccer in Prince Georges
Dave Mallof,

In the February 18 issue of themail, I wrote, “Hooey in PG: county officials are trying to portray the deal as ‘businesslike’ in the press, but in reality it sounds like the PG government will be classic “dumb money” sitting on the sidelines. If the management fails to deliver revenue, or if the stadium shuts down due to a soccer labor dispute, etc., then the public has been given notice that it will be on the hook to make the debt repayments. Excuse me, that’s businesslike? Rather, if the county does not get an active seat on the United board as any venture capital or private equity guy would demand, at the very least if management fails to deliver for whatever reason to cover debt servicing, the lender should end up owning the team. That’s the public in this case. Every team wants free money and a free lunch paid by the public. We will see if PG can sell this proposition to an intelligent public and legislature.”

Now that the Prince Georges County deal has fallen through, I wish to say in print, “I told you so.”


Qawi Robinson,

[in response to Harry Jaffe’s Examiner article,, mentioned in the introduction to the last issue of themail] Mr. Jaffe, I’m a bit disappointed in the parallels you are trying to make between Shaw Middle School (nee Junior High) and Wilson High School. Your commentary displays an inherent racist attitude and bias. In your attempt to highlight unfairness, you distinctly made yourself look just as bad as the “reverse racists.” By the way, there is no such thing as “reverse racism.” Just because racism is against a non-African-American, that doesn’t make it “reversed.” Racism is a racism, regardless of color.

In terms of the premise of your opinion, I’m usually not a defender of Michelle Rhee, but the Shaw situation is a good example of her actually listening to the students and parents. While you are languishing in the travesty of Wilson High (and basically anointing Wilson as the flagship of DCPS), please understand that there are other kids in the system and alumni who do/did quite well in spite of limitations from DCPS and media criticism. Shaw or any other school should not be marginalized because your precious Wilson lost a science teacher. In this day and age, the loss of any teacher is a reason to be disappointed, but not at the expense of another school whom you deem poorly performing. Wilson is a good school, but I’m reluctant to believe that if Mr. Siebens was transferred to Roosevelt, Coolidge, or Ballou SHS to jump-start their AP Science program that you wouldn’t be offended either. Neither of the latter three schools has a large “white” population, but seniors still field acceptance letters from Ivy Leagues and the like. Basing a school’s prosperity/success on how many “white” or “black” students it has is not policy or reform. It is “racism.”

If giving Shaw back its ninth graders is the only thing you can accuse Rhee of doing wrong, especially in the name of reform, you are sadly mistaken. On the contrary, giving ninth graders a chance to finish at a school in which they were nurtured, is not undermining reform. It is aiding transition and preserving continuity.


The Siemens [sic] Case
Robert Marshall,

Sounds like a racist got what he deserved to me. The damage that racist teachers can and have done to vulnerable minority students is well documented. Good riddance! DC schools and students are better off without a racist on the payroll.

[I believe that Qawi Robinson has misread Harry Jaffe’s article. Jaffe doesn’t compare Wilson to Shaw to the disadvantage of Shaw; he doesn’t marginalize Shaw; he doesn’t say that Siebens was transferred from Wilson to Shaw; and he doesn’t say that retaining the ninth grade at Shaw was a bad thing. The point Jaffe made was that it was a good thing that Rhee listened to the students at Shaw and therefore retained the ninth grade there; he asks why she didn’t listen to the teachers and students at Wilson who said the decision to fire Arthur Siebens was inexplicably bad and wrong. Robert Marshall, on the other hand, has made a vicious and defamatory charge without producing a scintilla of evidence to support it. I shall allow him to post again if he can produce any substantiation; if he can’t, I’d suggest he apologize. — Gary Imhoff]



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, April 10-11
John Stokes,

Friday, April 10, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver Street, SE. Visit Anacostia Museum of African American History for senior ages 55 and up. Take a trip to the Anacostia Museum of African American History, see the latest exhibit and enjoy lunch out. For more information, call Ben Butler at 645-9200.

Friday, April 10, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Fort Davis Recreation Center, 1400 41st Street, SE. Eat, Meet and Greet Luncheon: Golden Corral Restaurant for ages 55 and up. For more information, call Tonya Cousins at 645-9212.

Friday, April 10, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N Street, SW. Trip to National Air and Space Museum for seniors ages 55 and up. Seniors will enjoy the exhibits and workshops featured at the museum. For more information, call Kim Campbell, Recreation Specialist, at 645-7454.

Friday, April 10, 7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m., King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N Street, SW. Teen Night Citywide Kickoff for ages 13–19. Teens from across the city will enjoy a night out at King Greenleaf Recreation Center. This event will feature music, games, a fashion show, a Rock Your Status Concert in conjunction with the ANC Umbrella Foundation, giveaways and more! This event will kick off the remaining Teen Nights for the rest of the spring and summer months! Call 671-0451 or visit for more information.

DPR Teen Nights are held on Friday nights at recreation centers throughout the eight wards of the District and are open teens ages 13 – 19. The Teen Night program has been specifically planned for young adults to include a variety of fun, educational and engaging activities. DPR Teen Nights include everything from participating in traditional sports to movie nights, fashion shows, poetry slams, dance nights, concerts, go kart racing, laser tag, singing karaoke, and participating in life skills workshops.

Saturday, April 11, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Stead Recreation Center (Ball Field), 1625 P Street, NW. Easter egg hunt for all ages. In conjunction with the Friends of Stead Park, youth will engage in the timeless tradition of hunting for Easter eggs, including searching for the special golden egg throughout the field. For more information call, Vince Hill at 673-4465.

Saturday, April 11, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE. Third Annual Easter Bunny “Tiny Tots” Tennis Tournament for ages 3-6. Join us for our third annual Easter bunny “Tiny Tots” tennis tournament, intended for parents of current registrants to demonstrate the progression of what the children have learned throughout the spring and winter season. For more information, call Yvonne Ruffin, Tournament Coordinator, or Keely S. Alexander at 645- 6242.

Saturday, April 11, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Fort Stevens Recreation Center, 1327 Van Buren Street, NW. Easter egg hunt for ages 55 and up. Seniors of Fort Stevens in conjunction with the 15th Street Presbyterian Church will host their annual Easter Egg Hunt for children and kids of all ages. For more information, call Louis Jones at 541-3752.

Saturday, April 11, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Kennedy Recreation Center, 1401 7th Street, NW. Kiddie cabaret. Children 12 and under will celebrate the spring season with the Easter Bunny, an egg hunt, games, music, dancing, food and a lot of fun! Let’s celebrate the changing of the season with excitement and a good time! For more information, call Pamela Pugh at 671-4794.

Saturday, April 11, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Fort Stevens Recreation Center, 1327 Van Buren Street, NW. Easter egg hunt for ages 12 and under. Youth will enjoy hunting for Easter eggs and playing various games. Contact Larry Kinney for more information, 541-3754.


Beauty vs. Barricades, April 14
Sara Kabakoff,

How can Washington, DC, balance the need for security with accessibility, transparency, and aesthetics in its buildings? On Tuesday, April 14, 6:30-8:00 p.m., at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Robert Campbell, an architecture critic at The Boston Globe, will discuss what he refers to as “security mania” in DC, citing the FBI Headquarters and the new US Capitol Visitor Center among his examples.

In a recent Boston Globe article on the subject, Campbell wrote, “Dealing with security, with the threat of terrorism, is now an obsession in Washington, not only at the Capitol. Sometimes it’s done well. Philadelphia landscape architect Laurie Olin, for example, has created a low car-bomb barrier that entirely circles the Washington Monument, but you never notice it because it also serves as a comfortable dark granite seating bench. And at the National Museum of the American Indian, vehicles are blocked at one corner by a handsome sculptural pile of ‘grandfather rocks’ . . . that are an improvement on Jersey barriers and steel bollards.”

Our buildings say much about the national mood and can provide a larger metaphor for how we view ourselves and our government from the neoclassical look of DC to the remaking of the mall as part of the 1902 McMillan Commission. What will future generations think about the buildings and security measures we are designing and constructing today? $12 museum members; free students; $20 nonmembers. To register, visit or call 272-2448. Advance registration requested; walk-in registration based on availability.


Environmental Health Group (EHG) Events, April 14
Allen Hengst,

World War I munitions, bottles filled with chemical warfare agents, and contaminated soil have been found in and around the Spring Valley neighborhood of northwest DC. The Environmental Health Group (EHG) seeks to raise awareness of the issues and encourage a thorough investigation and cleanup. Every Sunday at 1:30 p.m., please join the Environmental Health Group for an informal discussion about Spring Valley issues. At Glover Park Whole Foods Market, 2323 Wisconsin Avenue, NW (one block south of Calvert Street). For more information, visit the EHG on Facebook at:

On Tuesday, April 14, at 7:00 p.m., the monthly meeting of the Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board meeting will include a review and discussion of the District of Columbia water supply. At Saint David’s Church basement, 5150 Macomb Street, NW (one block north of MacArthur Boulevard). See


Students for DC Vote Arts Showcase, April 14
Jaline Quinto,

Students for DC Vote will host an arts showcase next week on Tuesday, April 14. Local artists and performers will highlight the issue of DC voting rights through poetry, spoken word, mixed media art and music. The event will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with an artists reception hosted by Miss DC 2008. The program will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the True Reformer Building, 1200 U Street, NW.

Students for DC Vote’s Project STAND (Students Together Advocating for National Democracy) is an arts and humanities event showcasing the unique perspectives of DC youth on the topic of DC voting rights through various art forms including music, spoken word and visual art. The program will include performances by Def Jam poet Sciryl; “Demand the Vote” songwriter and performer Joe L. Da Vessel; “Free DC” songwriter and performer Rasi Caprice; and Jahi Foster-Bey, an artist recently highlighted in Spin magazine.

For more information, visit our event page,, or contact Erica Spell, Public Affairs Associate, at


Free Workshops on Funding for Community Organizations, April 14, 16
Lisa Alfred,

The Humanities Council of Washington, DC, is offering funding to tell your neighborhood or community story. Stop by the grant workshop to find out about funding requirements. Two workshops on Tuesday April 14: 12:00 p.m.-1:30 p.m. at Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Place SE; and 5 30 p.m.-7:00 p.m. at the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, 925 U Street, NW. Free. For further information, call 387-8391 or RSVP at


Funding for Human Services Programs, April 14, 23, 30
Patricia Pasqual,

The Foundation Center Washington, DC, Library and Learning Lab (1627 K Street, NW, 3rd Floor) will be featuring special programs for organizations seeking funding for health and human services projects during the month of April . For more information about the programs and to register, visit or call 331-1400.

Upcoming programs include: Dialogue with Donors, Funding for Health and Human Services Projects from DC Agencies, Tuesday, April 14, 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Philanthropy Forum. Celebrate National Volunteer Week 2009 and Learn About Working with Volunteers, Thursday, April 23, 12:00-1:30 p.m.

Workplace Giving, A Strategy for Diversification, Thursday, April 30, 3:00-4:30 p.m.


State Board of Education on Early Learning Standards, April 15
Beverley Wheeler,

The DC State Board of Education (DCSBOE) will hold its regularly scheduled public meeting Wednesday, April 15. At the meeting, the DCSBOE will receive a presentation from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) updating the State Board on early learning standards. The OSSE will also present an update on wellness and nutrition services, including HIV/AIDS education and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The public meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. at 441 4th Street, NW, in the District of Columbia State Board of Education Chambers, located on the lobby level of the building.

Constituents who wish to comment at the meeting are required to notify the State Board of Education in advance by contacting the Executive Director, Beverley Wheeler, by phone at 741-0884 or by E-mail at before the close of business Monday, April 13. Please provide one electronic copy and bring fifteen copies to the hearing for the State Board members to view. The meeting will air live on DSTV Comcast Channel 99 and RCN Channel 18.


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