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May 24, 2009

Shut It Down

Dear Openers:

Councilmember Jim Graham doesn’t like the late-night pizza shops in Adams Morgan, so he’s drafting legislation to close them down, — another dumbest bill candidate. Channel 7 news quotes him as saying, “Even though it’s a legal business and everything, they have become a nuisance. Behaving the way they do in terms of music, in terms of letting people hang out and also in terms of tolerating a certain level of violence.” Mayor Fenty, having used the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to close down phony used-car dealers that existed primarily to sell temporary paper license tags, now wants to close down the legitimate used-car dealers left in the city because he thinks used car lots are unsightly. He wants to close down an entire category of businesses because he doesn’t like how they look: “Used car lots are blighted; they bring too much blight to the city,”

Why would anyone want to open a small business in this city? Even if you have the money and patience and necessary legal assistance to maneuver through the permit process (see the plight of the Brookland Diner last week,, even if you can afford the confiscatory business taxes, even if your customers will brave the city’s hostile parking regulations that make it difficult to park anywhere near your business, some politician may decide that he doesn’t like the way your business looks, or the way your customers look, and make it his mission to drive you out of business. It doesn’t matter if you’ve obeyed every law and followed every regulation. If you’ve offended their aesthetic sense, you’re on your way out of town. Used car lots, sneers Fenty; late-night pizza joints, spits Graham — they’re too declasse for our city, so they should be shuttered.

If you’re a big enough business and you contribute enough to politicians, the city government will be your best friend. It will help you with millions of dollars of free land and free grants and low-cost loans, and give you every care and consideration for your projects. But if you’re a small business, you’re not just on your own, you’ll face hostile fire from city hall.

Gary Imhoff


Hiding in Plain Sight
Dorothy Brizill,

In the last issue of themail, on Wednesday, I wrote about the extraordinary lengths that Attorney General Peter J. Nickles was going to in order to keep his new address in DC a secret. That address is Apartment 216 in the Lansburgh, 420 7th Street, NW, in the Penn Quarter neighborhood (not in Chinatown, as has been previously reported).

As I wrote, at Nickles’ insistence the DC Office of Campaign Finance had altered the Financial Disclosure Statement form that DC government officials fill out, in order to delete the filers’ personal information (e.g., home address, and home and office telephone numbers). WTOP-FM confirmed with OCF that, “The attorney general went as far as requesting the DC Office of Campaign Finance redact the personal information of every District employee from public records,” and that Wesley Williams, the public affairs manager for OCF, said “the director of OCF ‘consulted with her General Counsel before making the decision,’” but “did not consult any councilmembers or ask for public input on the change of policy” ( On Thursday, Williams sent me an E-mail “clarifying” the issue. He wrote that “the FDS form itself has not changed. When the filer fills out the form (manually or electronically) he/she is still required to enter that information so that the Office of Campaign Finance has it for administrative purposes.” However, the information is not released to the public, and Nikita Stewart reported on DC Wire that the OCF refused to release the personal information on the front page of the disclosure form even to Councilmember Phil Mendelson ( (I also reported on Wednesday that the DC Board of Elections and Ethics had no record of Nickles’ registering to vote, as he had claimed; Nickles did complete the voter registration form on Friday, May 22.)

Nickles claimed in an interview with WTOP reporter Mark Segraves that he was motivated by concerns about the privacy of other District government officials and employees. But much more prominent and important District residents — Supreme Court justices, White House officials, cabinet secretaries, and so on — have no such exaggerated problems with being included in the District’s public records, and do not try to misuse the power of their offices to alter those records. Why the secrecy in Nickles’ case? One possible explanation is that Nickles doesn’t want his address known because he doesn’t want to be watched to determine if he has really moved into his new apartment or if that apartment is just an address of convenience to circumvent the law. An alternate explanation is that he doesn’t want any attention paid to the terms of his rental agreement. The Lansburgh, according to its web site (, offers “corporate short stays” (furnished apartments for thirty days or longer, on a month-by-month basis), as well as apartment residences. The building is owned by politically connected developers, the Horning Brothers. In the 1990’s, it was the residence of US Attorney General Janet Reno, as well as the in-town address for former MPD Chief Larry Soulsby. Soulsby was given a substantially reduced rate on his furnished apartment — but then, he had falsely claimed that the apartment was needed by the police department for an undercover operation.


Proposition 8 is Coming to DC
K. West,

A referendum is a must to quell the brewing civil war and take the issue out of the hands of politicians. Whether you are for same sex marriage or against it, a referendum in the nation’s capital is a must. The issue goes beyond the votes of a handful of politicians and beyond the carefully, brilliantly, and strategically organized ward political meetings to push the Marriage Equality or same-sex clause. But there are two sides of the issue, though one side may not be as well organized and attuned to the political landscape. Both sides of the issue should be taken to and discussed at civic association, Parent Teacher Association, business council, community development corporation, and Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings and forums, instead of relying on solely on ward and citywide Democratic organizations to gauge the sentiments of the general public in the nation’s capital. Only a referendum effort will allow an open discussion on the matter and seek out the views of the general public. The same sex marriage and the true definition of marriage issue go beyond any one group and are not limited to the Democratic, Republican, Statehood/Green, or Libertarian Parties. It is not an issue that is simply white, black, red, brown, or yellow. It is not an issue limited to the rich or to the poor or an issue to be proselytized by the media with what seems to be a pro-same-sex national agenda that curses those with a difference of opinion. Too many people and leaders make light of citizens’ concerns about the traditional worldwide (with some exceptions) definition of marriage as well as their convictions, belief systems, cultures, and religions. It is an issue that some try to link to liberals or conservatives, when it is an issue that affects most people’s belief systems or understanding of marriage and commitment to the institution as it exist.

As a result of how the issue was handled by the city leadership, citizens are distrustful and skeptical about motives. Many do not see the gay marriage agenda as a civil rights issue and are offended when hearing advocates equate it with interracial or interfaith marriage, which was between a man and a woman. Some are saying that the mayor and council are trying to change the image of DC from the once murder capital of the world to the gay capital of the world. Some seem to feel that the city leadership is caving into moneyed, powerful, political self-interest groups that know how to have an impact on elections. The public is becoming cynical about the elected government’s role in this issue, and that continues to breed mistrust and contempt. Some feel that the council passed the bill to recognize same sex marriages from other jurisdictions where it is legal as a backdoor approach to opening the gates to legalizing gay marriage in DC. Some feel that the strategy is to argue that if same sex marriage is recognized for citizens outside of the District, then same sex marriage should be allowed to be performed for DC residents in DC. Citizens note how the name Marriage Equality seems to be used to confuse residents that do not realize that is the same sex marriage issue. At ward political meetings, resolutions are not produced in advance and there are not enough copies to review. Many members of organizations were not aware that the issue was on the agenda or felt that they might be treated like Miss California, who was ostracized because she said she did not believe in same-sex marriage. Some people are afraid to stand up publicly for fear of retribution in the worst way. They may praise God and fight the enemy, but this special interest group makes some people tremble when it comes to taking a public stand. Yet the whispering and private conversations are fierce.

There is a civil war brewing and the city council, mayor, and political party politics by some has exacerbated the problem and created a broadening division in the nation’s capital. The council passed a bill, Bill 18-010, “Disclosure to the United States District Court Amendment Act of 2009,” which did not have a hearing for community input. The words “same-sex marriage” were not published in the bill’s title, which is confusing to the general public. By the time anybody knew anything, the bill was passed by a twelve to one vote without public input and it was obvious that there was plenty of special interest group maneuvering. This handful of politicians apparently wants to change an entire world system which some believe is defined by God; that should take more than a few taxpayer employed elected officials to change without public input. If one dares challenge the council or anybody else on the issue, then he or she is disingenuously and harshly declared a bigot or phobic by some zealous advocates on the issue. It seems that only one viewpoint is allowed and the opposing view is squelched or dismissed. It is time for an open discussion on the issue and there should be no rush by the council to change the legislation so quickly. Now that a Democratic Congress is in place, some think that anything goes in terms of certain agendas. Congress should delay the legislation that was sent to the Hill until there is a referendum where all the voters have had a chance to weigh in. Citizens should not have to fight to overturn legislation when input can be gathered in advance, especially if the issue is perceived to be so righteous. 

The referendum/initiative question will probably center around something like: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in the District of Columbia.” There may need to be some statement of equal-protection clause to ward off legal challenges. It would be a yes or no or for or against response. Residents would be educated on both sides of the issue long before they go to the polls. Some want to go further like Florida did, and put the question of adoptions by same sex couples on the ballot. A referendum should be on the September 2010 elections and bypass the politicians’ involvement to give the voters a say in the matter one way or another. It’s funny how this is one time that many DC residents wished that Congress had stepped in to override the legislation and stop it until the public could be heard and not just a few political groups with small samplings of the political population.

One wonders if the residents in Ward 4 and Ward 8 would have voted to support same sex marriage if they had 1) had an opportunity to vote in privacy, (2) were made aware of the vote in ample time, and (3) reviewed a resolution on same sex marriage instead of one worded as marriage equality. What was the case in other wards that did major outreach to their Democratic members? Listening to people that did not attend the meetings, who said they would have voted differently, one wonders who actually attended the meetings — what was the makeup of the attendees and how many belonged to one advocacy group or another. It is now understood that there is an effort to revive the Ward 1 Democratic Committee just so that advocates can push for a positive vote on same-sex marriage. The chair of the Ward 1 Dems works in the council office of one of the chief advocates of the bill. How many chairs work in council offices or belong to the major advocacy groups proposing the change in law? How many of the Ward 6 Dems that turned out to vote where not a part of the Gertrude Stein Club that is pushing the agenda and how many were from other parts of the wards besides Capitol Hill, Downtown, and Southwest DC communities? How many were minority? What was the outreach effort to all communities to get people to come out and vote? Was there a mail or E-mail notice sent to all members that typically attend or vote at ward political meetings? Voters/politicos know how these meetings are staged and organized and are getting angry and frustrated as a result since the discussion and vote do not appear to be as open it should be. Ward 7 does not plan to have the issue on their agenda at their next meeting and there will be no vote. Should they decide to do so, they must guarantee major outreach to all. Ward 5 did a massive outreach to its voters and made sure that both sides of the issues were heard. Then they held a vote with a secret ballot and each voter was verified as a registered Ward 5 Democrat.

It is imperative that there be a referendum on the agenda. To maintain some public trust of the political system, the DC Democratic State Committee, the DC Young Democrats, and the council and mayor must call for a referendum/citizens’ initiative to go on the September 2010 election ballot. Then they need to step back, watch, listen, and let the voters speak without being discouraged. Let the people decide without interference from the political leadership. Human rights are protected, as should be; now let’s protect the voters’ right to have their say on the issue at the ballot box. This is not a civil rights movement, as some profess. Some may feel they are standing for God on the issue, but most will primarily feel that they are standing up to preserve and protect the traditional definition of marriage. Citizens don’t judge peoples’ lifestyles or tell them to change. They continue to show love and respect to their gay family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, but they still insist that marriage is between a man and a woman and that there is not a civil rights issue. Therefore, citizens are demanding that there be a referendum — not on the Disclosure Amendment/Marriage Equality Act that the Council passed for the mayor to sign — but to vote to define marriage as: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in the District of Columbia.”


Thanks to the Phillies Fans
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

At a Nats’ game when they played the Phillies, there were about two hundred fifty people in my section in the lower deck in right center field (the section holds about seven hundred folks). There were only five National fans in that whole bunch. All the rest were Phillies fans who were rewarded with an extra inning win. Most seemed to be named Utley, based on their shirts. Visiting fans rooting for the Nats opponents are helping to keep the attendance numbers at the new ballpark from completely tanking. Probably about a third of all the attendees that night were Phillies fans. It’s beginning to look like another major league disaster in terms of the team’s record for 2009 and the total attendance figures. Maybe I’ll bring a bag to put over my head for the rest of the season, should the long distance TV shots are aimed at my section.


Relentlessly Vigorous Parking Enforcement in DC
Phil Shapiro,

If it appears that parking ticket enforcement in DC is relentlessly vigorous, it might be because parking ticket enforcement has become open season on drivers. Bag as many as you can get. You don’t even need a hunting license. Just hang ’em up to dry and hope the green grows back in their wallet before their next visit. The backlash from this will resemble a Paul Simon song for cash registers in DC: The Sounds of Silence. “Hello parking ticket, my old friend. You’ve come to visit me again. Because of revenue overgrazing. Left my bucks where I was parking. And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains. Won’t be shopping in DC — much longer.” (See also


Let’s Go to the Videotape
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

In a misguided effort to raise more money from those who have, or bring, cars in the city, the mayor will hire forty-five new parking enforcement folks to write tickets on parked cars. This will, purportedly, raise an additional twelve million dollars annually. Hah! Let’s go to the videotape. Assuming that the forty-five new parking enforcement folks will be earning forty-thousand dollars per year (including all the bennies — pension, health care, holidays, etc.), that amounts to about $1.8 million per year. Just to get that $1.8 million back each year will require that sixty thousand tickets at thirty dollars each will have to be written each year. That works out to about six tickets per ticket writer each day, every day, for about two hundred thirty days per year. But wait. Fenty says the new ticket writers will be bringing in twelve million dollars each year. That translates into forty-two tickets (at thirty dollars each) per day per ticket writer. That means each ticket writer will be writing an average of six tickets per hour for seven hours every day for two hundred thirty days per year (that’s one every ten minutes). Anyone who thinks this scenario is possible is smoking funny cigarettes.


Parking Tickets at Broken Meters
T.L. Associates,

Yes, we had a similar experience — only our ticket has doubled, since we have not had the time to go and challenge it — which is a royal waste of time. A parking enforcement officer once told us that if the meter appears broken, sometimes it’s only that it doesn’t accept quarters (although there is a quarter slot). She said to try nickles and dimes and the meter would probably work. For that particular meter on Wisconsin Avenue she was right. How about that for a solution to a “broken” meter. And that may be the case with other DC parking meters. That sounds like the usual DC government sleight of hand. We have some more parking ticket horror stories, but we’ll share those later.


Think About Kenneth Ellerbe as the Next Mayor
Kevin Ellerbe,

He is my oldest brother and will be retiring from the Fire Department next April. He has a Master’s degree in Public Administration and is studying for a Ph.D. in political science at Howard University.


Congress Needs A Better Excuse
Samuel Jordan,

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson did, as reported by Jan Eichorn in themail on May 20, use his political muscle to support House Democrats who used a discharge petition to take a home rule measure from the House District Committee chaired by the legendarily obstructionist, John McMillan of South Carolina. Although, the discharge petition prevailed in this instance by a vote of 213 to 183, the home rule bill at issue was not passed but fell to a substitute proposal from Rep. Sisk of California, which would create a home rule charter commission.

Two referenda would be required by DC residents. The first was to approve the charter commission concept, which would authorize a panel of legal and governmental experts to draft a municipal charter for the District. The second vote would ratify or reject the charter. If the voters ratified the charter, Congress would have to approve of it by inaction. Should either House of the Congress have rejected the measure within ninety days, the charter would have failed. Congress could not change the charter, merely accept or reject it. This hopelessly Byzantine routine was the substitute for a direct vote on a home rule bill that had been successfully “discharged.”

The Sisk charter commission was similar to charter proposals introduced by Sen. McCarran of Nevada in 1946 and Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon in 1959. A ‘disturbed and dismayed” Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., called into WTOP News to express his concern and his intention to “confer with local civil rights leaders.” Dr. King even threatened to organize marches in Washington, DC, for home rule. His chief collaborator, Dr. Ralph Abernathy, said, “. . . if they keep messing with us, we won’t just come and march, we might camp in the streets.” Locals rued the incendiary rhetoric by the good Reverend. The House District Committee did not give up after losing the discharge petition in September of 1965. They used the Sisk bill to defeat the administration bill which had been discharged, then tried to defeat the Sisk bill in committee and did not succeed. Therefore, the Sisk bill was reported out, but local leaders prevailed upon the Senate not to accept the Sisk bill in conference, and the matter died. As a result, there was an eight-year wait until the passage of the Home Rule Charter in 1973, one year following McMillan’s defeat. 

More importantly, when the majority of Congress had taken possession of the home rule bill through the discharge petition process, they did nothing. The fate of the home rule bill, no longer blocked by McMillan and his committee, was the same as that of several scores of home rule bills that had been passed by the Senate or proposed by House members between 1877 and 1965 — no action. The gravamen of my comment on John McMillan, is that, although he was vilified as the bane of District self-government, he was a scapegoat for the will of the majority of Congress. When Congress had an opportunity to vote on home rule, they punted even after circumventing McMillan.

Today, we have the same scenario playing in Congress. The Washington Post, in its editorial of May 21, “A Civil Right on Hold,“ notes that Rep. Hoyer is hoping to obtain the magic 218 votes needed to take the DC House Voting Rights bill directly to the House floor — the discharge petition strategy — without the NRA gun law amendment. He can’t find the votes. There is not a majority of members in the House who would support the principle of enfranchisement for the District, even the pseudo-enfranchisement offered by the DC House Voting Rights bill. The Post hopes that President Obama will intervene like Johnson. Without the convenience of a John McMillan villain, what is Congress’ excuse, fear of the NRA? Any excuse will do.

District residents might well reflect on this history. If we don’t make the case for enfranchisement and complete autonomy with a solid local and national campaign, we must not depend upon Congress to do it for us.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, May 26-28
John Stokes,

May 26, 7:00 p.m., Upshur Recreation Center, 4300 Arkansas Avenue, NW. Community meeting at which DPR will provide updates on the Hamilton and Upshur Park Master Plans. For information, contact 671-0421.

May 27, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Langdon Park Recreation Center, 2901 20th Street, NE. Fashion show for ages thirteen and up. A fashion show hosted by the Living Legend Models for Entertainment. It will be a straight run way fashion showcasing all types of fashion. There will be live music and light refreshments. Please come out and support Langdon Park Recreation Center. For more information call T-Jai Farmer, Site Manager, at 576-6595.

May 28, 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Takoma Community Center, 300 Van Buren Street NW. End of the School Year Basketball Tournament. Youth from all Ward 4 sites will participate in an end of the year basketball tournament. For more information, call Al Cook at 576-7068.


Chess and Books, May 28
Beth Meyer,

Allan Savage, chess master, will present a talk on Chess and Books: An Introduction to the Game and its Literature, on Thursday, May 28, at 7:30 p.m., at Kensington Row Bookshop, 3786 Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD.

This talk will be tailored to the chess novice, casual player, or book lover. Familiarity with the rules of chess and how the pieces move is not necessary but would be useful. The talk will primarily focus on general features and strategies of the game, and include a discussion of the vast literature of chess as well as chess computers.

Allan Savage is a native Washingtonian who lives in Kensington and works at the National Library of Medicine. He is a US Life Master, International Master in Correspondence Chess, and a former Maryland State Champion. He has competed in national and international tournaments, authored several chess books, written for numerous chess magazines, and taught chess for over thirty years. Currently he is working on the fourth volume of The Chess Biography of Marcel Duchamp for Moravian Chess. Free event. For further information, call 301-949-9416.


Investor Education Seminar Series, May 28, Jun 4, 11, 16
Michelle Phipps-Evans,

Today’s financial crisis poses challenges for everyone, especially for older Americans facing retirement. With rising costs, reduced values in the real estate market, and the current economic distress, many wonder if they will ever be able to retire. To address consumer concerns, the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB), in conjunction with the DC Public Library, the Investor Protection Trust and the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area, presents the “Can I Afford Retirement?” investor education seminar series in your community. The programs are for individuals at all levels of investment experience who are either approaching retirement or have recently retired.

The May 28, June 4, and June 11 events in this series of free investor education programs will be at Howard University School of Law, Moot Court Room at Houston Hall, 2900 Van Ness Street, NW, at 6:00-8:30 p.m. May 28, Closing the Gap: Investment and Expense Strategies — Even for Late Starters; June 4, Investing Wisely to Avoid the Financial Risk of Longer Life Expectancy; and June 11, Protecting Your Investment —The Best Defense Is a Wise and Safe Investor. The last event will be at Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Third Floor), from 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. You will need to register at 290-2184 or visit


National Building Museum Events, May 29
Jazmine Zick,

May 29, 6:30-8:30 p.m., CityVision Final Presentation. Come hear the students of Charles Hart Middle School and Howard Road Academy present their innovative development plans, developed in collaboration with the DC Office of Planning, for the I-395 area between Penn Quarter and Union Station. Free, registration not required. Refreshments served following presentations. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


Art Salon, June 1
Marquis Perkins,

Join the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for Art Salon, a monthly convergence of artists, techies, green-collars, art enthusiasts, and educators that are creating the momentum for the new era of art. Art Salon is modeled after the Paris salons of the late nineteenth century to inspire and provoke the minds of the creative community.

Monday, June 1, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Each month, we gather at a different location. This month, we invite you to converge at Artomatic, 55 M Street, SE, 7th Floor. Above the Navy Yard Metro station (Green Line). RSVP: Event designed by Beth Baldwin; soundscapes by DJ Harry Dixon.



DC Child Care Collection, June 7
Parisa B. Norouzi,

The DC Child Care Collective is a small all-volunteer group that has been working to provide free childcare to progressive groups working for social justice. We formed in the summer of 2005 at the suggestion of a group of community organizers who expressed the need for childcare during their meetings and events. We provide childcare as an act of solidarity and prioritize providing this service to groups that are primarily led by low-income women of color. It is our mission to make childcare that is safe, fun, and empowering available to families to support their work to further social and political change. Currently, we provide childcare for Empower DC, Women Empowered Against Violence, UNITE HERE union, The Women’s Collective, The Latino Economic Development Corporation, as well as events coordinated by The DC Rape Crisis Center, and we have worked with the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Research Project, and ONE DC.

If you want to support parents in DC working toward social change and if you like spending time with kids (even if you don’t have much experience) we would love to have you volunteer with us. We are planning a Volunteer Orientation for Sunday, June 7, from 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. We ask volunteers to make a commitment to provide childcare at least six times over the course of six months and attend additional trainings that we provide. If you are interested, please fill out the volunteer application (available at our web site,, and send it to The deadline for applications is June 1.

If you have any questions or would like more information about the DCCC or any of the organizations that we work with, please feel free to E-mail us and visit our web site, and help us get the word out to anyone who may be interested!


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