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May 10, 2009

Mother’s Day

Dear Sons and Daughters:

Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not going to complain about anything today. It’s Mother’s Day; it finally stopped raining and the weather was nearly perfect; at yesterday’s Europe-in-DC event, Dorothy and I had a good time touring some embassies we had never been in before; for the past month we’ve been experimenting with a variety of homemade Thai smoothies (fruit, milk, condensed milk, ice, an optional touch of vanilla, sugar to taste, blended until smooth; we’ve tried making mango, banana, strawberry, and, best of all, avocado); the azaleas that we planted last fall bloomed spectacularly this spring, and the blooms are still hanging on.

As I’ve said frequently, but not recently, life in DC can be a real treat, a privilege, if you’re not dealing with the government.

Now, on to messages from people who have been dealing with the government.

Gary Imhoff


Dorothy Brizill,

On Tuesday, the city council’s Committee of the Whole will consider and vote on the District’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget — both Bill 18-202, the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request Act of 2009, and Bill 18-203, the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Support Act of 2009. A major focus of the deliberations will be the spending earmarks individual councilmembers have inserted into the budget in order to fund specific politically connected organizations.

As of Friday, an incomplete list detailed 140 “grants” totaling $22.5 million, Representative earmarks include: $50,000 to the High Tea Society; $25,000 to the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance; $25,000 to the Northwest Columbia Heights Community Association; $250,000 to the Ward 4 Georgia Avenue Collaborative; $50,000 to the Cleveland Park Business Association; $250,000 to Fort Dupont Kids on Ice; $250,000 to the Mid-City Business Association; $250,000 to the National Building Museum; $1,000,000 to the national Council of Negro Women; $125,000 to the North Tivoli Business Association; $250,000 to the Parents Association of Boys and Girls Club No. 10; $125,000 to the Park Road Business Association; $1,000,000 to the Phillips Collection; $325,000 to the Textile Museum; $500,000 to the DC LGBT Center; $100,000 to the Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce; $150,000 to the Crystal Meth Working Group; $75,000 to Ward 8 Clean and Sober, Inc.; $1,000,000 to the African American Civil War Museum; and $1,000,000 to the DC Historical Society.


Two Cities, Two Years
Trish Chittams,

On Tuesday, April 24, Crista Marie Spencer was killed while in the crosswalk of 6th and Orleans Streets, NE. On April 24, promises were made, the city paused, the family and friends mourned. The mayor, Chief of Police and other dignitaries stood in tribute to a life cut off too quickly. In the weeks that followed, the promises were kept. Stop signs were put in place. Tommy Wells, the Ward councilmember, appeared and assured the public that this would not happen again on this street, not on his watch. The city can relax, the politicians have spoken.

On Friday, April 13, 2007, Merita Covington was hit while in the crosswalk of Minnesota Avenue and M Street, SE. On Saturday, April 21, 2007, Merita Covington died as a result of her injuries. The family and neighborhood mourned. Her funeral was marked by a stirring sermon, comments from loving family, neighbors, and friends, but by no Mayor, no Chief of Police, no politicians, no political promises, no Ward 7 councilmember. But the people did not forget.

Within two months of Ms. Covington’s death the neighborhood coalesced. “Enough,” the people cried, “traffic on Minnesota Avenue must slow down!” Several community meetings were held, the mayor, representatives from MPD and DDOT spoke and made promises. Traffic calming would occur. A traffic light at G Street would be put in, the mayor said; we had his word on that. The fact that Ms. Covington was killed at M Street wasn’t really important. “You will get a traffic light where I, the Mayor, say it will go.” The funds for the traffic light would come from District coffers, the mayor promised; “the money is already there,” the mayor explained, therefore there would be no delay in having the traffic light installed. Speed cameras would also be in place; better signage at crosswalks would provide safety. So it was written, and so it would be done.

Two years later, there have been no significant traffic calming measures implemented between Randle Circle and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. Some crossing signs were put up. Some crosswalks were repainted. Pedestrian crossing street signs became targets for speeding cars, and only a few remain. No traffic signal, no speed camera on this stretch of Minnesota Avenue. MPD’s mobile speed camera has been consistently in place, but consistently facing against the speeding AM rush hour traffic. There is still no traffic light at G Street, but the base for the light has been there for the past eighteen months. In January 2009, the mayor’s office and DDOT blamed the installation delay on PEPCO. The intersection has to be energized. The blame game is in full effect. On Tuesday, May 5, there was another accident at Minnesota and M Street, SE. And so it goes.


Fun with DC Parking Tickets
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

A while ago, I received a bogus parking ticket. I was ticketed for an “expired meter” when neither the meter nor any street sign indicated that metered parking was in effect. There was no hours-of-operation sticker on the meter — I checked carefully. I obeyed the only adjacent street sign, which indicated that parking was legal after 6:30 p.m.

I marked the ticket Not Guilty and stated my case. After a long delay, last June I was told, “tough luck,” pay. So I paid the $25 — along with a $10 “Appeal fee,” restating the argument that my meter and the adjacent sign did not indicate metered parking was in effect. Having not heard anything by this past February, I nudged them. Still nothing.

Running an alleged appeals process for a $10 fee and then not responding in almost a year is a scam that adds insult to injury by keeping the initial bogus $25 fine plus the useless appeal fee. Has anyone appealed a parking ticket and actually received a response? With what outcome?


It’s Grant Time
Shyree Mezick,

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities is pleased to announce the release of its 2010 applications for funding. We invite you to explore artistic opportunities to showcase your creativity! Go to to see the “FY 2010 Guide to Grants” in PDF format. For more information, please go to


Charter Initiatives
Michael Bindner, mikeybdc@yahoo,.com

A final thought on the issue of initiatives. Many of the government reform initiatives that have passed and were then overturned by the council, like term limits and campaign finance, would have been more appropriate as charter amendments. The problem is, the Charter cannot be amended by initiative. There are only two ways to amend the Charter: by Act of Congress (which curiously does not require a ratification vote, even though the District Charter is the closest thing it has to a constitution, and no state or territory legislature can amend its constitution without either an intervening election or a ballot question, or both) or by referendum pursuant to an Act of Council. The only way to get real and lasting change is to add Amendment by Initiative (and mandatory ratification of congressional amendments), and the only way to do that is to make charter reform an electoral issue.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, May 13-15
John Stokes,

May 13, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Seniors aged 55 and up will take a trip to the National Museum of American History to see the Scurlock Studio photography collection. “Portraits of a City” are photographs from the original Scurlock Studio on U Street, the Custom Craft Studio and the Capitol School of Photography. This collection is a showing of Black Washington, DC, picturing the life and people of this great city. Please call for reservations, Louis Jones at 541-3752.

May 15, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Turkey Thicket Aquatic Facility, 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE. CPR Class, ages fifteen and up. To learn the role of a Professional Rescuer in providing emergency care to the patrons in the Aquatic Facilities, to perform specialized skills and techniques in the proper and safe use of the Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).

May 15, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Kenilworth Parkside Recreation, 4300 Anacostia Avenue, NE. Fashion Hats and Luncheon celebrates spring in May with United Planning Organization (UPO) senior groups. The luncheon includes speakers, entertainment and modeling hats. Lunch provided by UPO. Seniors ages 55 and up should make reservations as seating is limited. For more information, call Cassandra Brooks, Recreation Specialist, at 724-8934.

May 15, 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Kennedy Recreation Center, 1401 7th Street, NW. String them up and get ready to fly! Bring your own kite, big or small, and let’s brighten the sky while participating in this kite flying event. For more information, call Rochelle Bradshaw at 671-4794.

May 15, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N Street, SW. Mother’s day muffins and tea for ages six to twelve. The children will come in with their mothers and discuss the importance of having a mother. Other activities of this program include games, food, and fun. For more information, call Henry Moton, Site Manager, at 645-7454.


DC for Democracy, May 14
Kesh Ladduwahetty,

Join DC for Democracy, the District’s largest unaligned progressive grassroots organization, at our monthly meeting on Thursday, May 14, 8:30 p.m., at Busboy’s & Poets (14th and U Streets, NW) to welcome special guest, DC Council Chair Vince Gray. DC4D is the Washington, DC, affiliate of Democracy for America (DFA) and was the first DFA group in the nation to endorse Barack Obama. We worked all last year on his campaign, and now we’re getting active on a range of local issues, from marriage equality to environmental initiatives, from local election reform to housing/homelessness. We are also respected members of the DCVote coalition who have recently joined the growing campaign for DC statehood. Come enjoy an informal Q&A with DC’s chief lawmaker as we question him on these issues and anything else that interests you. Please RSVP at Facebook or E-mail us at


UDC 2.0: The Future of the District’s Public University, May 15
Roger Newell,

Can the District’s flagship state university compete with other state systems? What are its plans for the future? Are they achievable? Come hear the answers and ask your own questions on Friday, May 15, 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m., at Wiley Rein, 1776 K Street, NW (Farragut North/ Farragut West Metro). The panelists will discuss their vision of the District’s public university of the future and its potential impact on the District’s economic future and the future of its citizens. They will address specific implications of the plan for the District’s residents and businesses, if UDC forms a two-year community college under the DC umbrella alongside a restructured four-year university. They will also examine how the new structure may affect the university’s finances and those of the District government, how the proposed changes may impact the employability of the District’s youth, and changes that may have to take place on the university’s upper northwest campus.

Panelists will be Dr. Allen Sessoms, President, UDC; Jim Dyke, Esquire, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees, UDC; and Kim Michelle Keenan, Esquire, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees UDC, President-Elect, DC Bar. Free (bring your own brown bag lunch). RSVP by May 14 to Sally Kram at

This public outreach event is sponsored by the District of Columbia Affairs Section of the District of Columbia Bar, in co-sponsorship with the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington; the DC Chamber of Commerce; the Hotel Association of Washington, DC; the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington; and the Washington, DC, Association of Realtors. You need not be a member of the Section to participate. For more information, please visit


Scratch Day 2009 at Takoma Park Middle School, May 16
Phil Shapiro,

Families with elementary and middle school children who like computers might enjoy this free drop-by event on Saturday, May 16, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at Takoma Park Middle School. Further information is at

Scratch is a free programming tool from MIT that lets kids create their own interactive games, animations and digital stories. An overview article about Scratch appears at

A Scratch Day event will also be taking place at the Arlington Career Center in Arlington from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Details at We can use free software to build a more inclusive society. Today is the day to start doing that.


Residential Permit Parking Reform (Continued), May 21
Jack McKay,

Recently I wrote of a novel program in Mount Pleasant that would permit commuters to our neighborhood to park, for a modest fee, on streets zoned for Residential Permit Parking (RPP) (themail, April 20). RPP is intended to prevent commuters from using our neighborhood streets as all-day parking lots, so this might seem contradictory. But the parking problem in Mount Pleasant, and perhaps in other DC neighborhoods, isn’t as simple as commuters taking up residential parking space.

Many Mount Pleasant residents have cars registered in their home states, not in the District. Basement apartments, group homes, and row houses divided up into rooming units support a large transient population. These short-termers quickly discover that, if they stow their cars on blocks not zoned for RPP, they can get away without registering the cars for many months. One day recently, on just three unzoned blocks I counted sixty-six non-DC-tagged cars, only one of which had a failure-to-register ticket. Spread around the neighborhood, this wouldn’t matter. These are residents, they’ve brought cars, what does it matter to our parking situation if those cars are registered here or not? But more than 80 percent of Mount Pleasant blocks have been zoned for RPP, so these non-DC-tagged cars, as well as all those commuters, are concentrated on the few blocks remaining unzoned. I estimate that one-fourth of all the parking spaces on three unzoned blocks are taken up by these resident-owned, but non-DC-tagged, cars. Unlike the commuter cars, these cars don’t leave the neighborhood at night, so residents of these blocks find their parking space worse than scarce, day and night.

RPP-zoning these last blocks will take care of the non-DC-tag problem. The only thing that has stopped RPP zoning is concern for the people commuting to Mount Pleasant to work in the local elementary school, or the nursing home. Hence, residents are happy to provide commuter parking passes, specifically for the benefit of these folks, thus removing the last obstacle to their filing for RPP zoning.

Are these commuters grateful for not being forced off our streets altogether, as RPP without the commuter passes would do? Well, no, not a bit. The daytime passes are currently set to cost $160 a calendar quarter, equivalent to about $2.50 a day. Anyone who has to park in a commercial garage or a Metro park-and-ride lot would consider this a bargain. But these commuters to Mount Pleasant, accustomed to using our streets as free parking lots, object. Why can’t these passes be free, they ask. Well, perhaps we should talk about who pays taxes to the District and who does not. If there were a commuter tax, then one could argue that these folks had paid a fair share and could be permitted free use of our scarce curbside parking. But there’s no commuter tax, these suburbanites aren’t paying a dime in taxes to the District, so why should they be given free curbside parking on District streets?

There will be a “community meeting” on this topic — should commuter parking be free, or not; should there be commuter parking at all? — on May 21, at 6:30 p.m., at Bancroft Elementary School, on Newton Street, NW, at 18th Street.



Smithsonian Seeks Drivers for Folklife Festival
Ann Carper, rochester54 at

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage needs a few good drivers to operate the passenger vans taking Smithsonian Folklife Festival participants to and from their hotel, the National Mall, and area airports from June 20 through July 7. Benefits include the opportunity to interact with Festival participants from around the world, as well as a modest stipend for each six-hour driving shift. Potential drivers need not be available for the entire two-week period to help. If you are at least 25 years old, have a clean driving record, and interested in driving for the Festival, please contact Transportation Coordinator Rebecca Berlin at or 633-7486. She is hoping to have all the drivers recruited by Wednesday, May 13.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit



WPFW Membership Drive, May 12
Jonetta Rose Barras,

Dear DC politics connoisseurs, last week, WPFW-FM returned to the airwaves the show for you: DC Politics with Jonetta. You have been craving a one-hour talk-show that gets to the heart of what’s happening in local affairs in the nation’s capital. Now you have it. But to keep it, your supported is needed. I am asking you to call into the station — 588-9739 or 1-800-222-9739 — and become a member of WPFW or renew your membership. Your contribution during the time of my show, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, will help ensure the continuance of DC Politics with Jonetta.

I know you want it to continue. Your support of $75 or more is greatly appreciated. If the economy has a hold of your wallet, you can also make a basic membership contribution of $35. The most important thing is that you call 588-9739 or 1-800-222-9739 on Tuesday, May 12, from 11:00 to noon and make a contribution. Thank you for your support over the years. Your response to this E-mail will help determine the success of my new venture, DC Politics with Jonetta, and its longevity.



12th Street YMCA Summer Day Camp
Lew Berry,

I am trying to locate any of my fellow campers who were at the 12th Street YMCA Summer Day Camp from 1952-1964. I was a camper during then, and have only run into a few from those years. It seems to me that there must be more of you out there in DC still. Send contact info to Lew Berry,


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