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June 14, 2009

Better Reception

Dear Digital Receivers:

Friday’s transition to digital television broadcasting seems to have gone smoothly for DC-area television stations. Several stations either increased their digital broadcasting power or moved to new positions on the broadcast spectrum, or both, and that improved reception for many HDTV and DTV broadcast stations, at least for me. Now I get PBS stations 22, 26, and 32, and all their subchannels, as well as nine new channels on 30 and 66. In all, I get twenty-nine HDTV stations and digital subchannels. How are you doing? Is anybody getting many more stations by using a rooftop antenna? Has anybody lost stations in the transition, or had some unusual trouble? Let us know about it. To get program listings for the broadcast digital subchannels, the best site I’ve found is Does anyone have a better suggestion?

Book World returns to the Post today, thin and without fanfare, and possibly just as a one-time thing as the summer reading section. Welcome back old friend; any chance you’ll be staying on? Bill Turque’s article on Michelle Rhee’s two years as school chancellor heads today’s issue of the paper (“Two Years of Hard Lessons for DC Schools’ Agent of Change,” It’s a balanced corrective to the uncritical cheerleading Rhee received from the Post’s editorial board on Friday ( Turque lists everything that can be credited as Rhee’s accomplishments as well as some of the major things that can be considered her failures, and finds Rhee to be something less than the unblemished heroine of the editorial board’s dreams.

Tomorrow or in the next few days, the Board of Elections and Ethics will almost certainly rule that same-sex marriage is not a proper subject for a referendum. That will affirm the positions of DC elected officials and the written submissions of the Attorney General, Peter Nickles, and the city council’s general counsel, Brian Flowers. The courts aren’t likely to overturn the Board’s decision, at least before the deadline to submit petitions has passed, and probably not at all. So what are the next steps for the two sides? My guess — and it’s only a guess, since nobody is consulting me on this — is that there will be a race between the city council and the opponents of same-sex marriage. If I were a councilmember promoting same-sex marriage, I would be emboldened by the referendum’s failure to get on the ballot, and I would move quickly to legalize performing same-sex marriages in the District. If I were an opponent, frustrated by the denial of a citizens’ vote, I would rush to submit a marriage initiative. I’d broaden the public representatives of the movement and reach out beyond black Protestants ministers to include Catholics, orthodox Jews, and Muslims (same-sex marriage advocates may denounce traditional Christian beliefs as being nothing but bigotry, but they won’t talk about Islam that way). The best initiative would be clean and simple. For example, it could substitute “city council” for “Congress” and “District of Columbia” for “United States” in the text of the federal Defense of Marriage Act ( “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” The Board and court hearings over this initiative could take several months. Undoubtedly, the BOEE will rule again that same-sex marriage is a basic human right not subject to an initiative or referendum, but there will be plenty of time for the issue to go through court hearings.

In the meantime, the local DC proponents of the initiative could ask the sponsors of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to propose a simple amendment to it to make it apply to DC. After the phrase “administrative agencies and bureaus,” add the words, “or of the District of Columbia and any territory or possession of the United States.” That amendment could be added to any bill in Congress, and it would pass with as lopsided a majority as the Defense of Marriage Act itself got. After all, the Obama administration itself heartily endorsed the DOMA last week in a Department of Justice brief (, site registration required) that argued, among other things, that the DOMA is consistent with equal protection and due process principles, is constitutional, does not impinge on rights that have been recognized as fundamental, does not violate the right to privacy, and cannot be said to impinge on any right under the Ninth Amendment. Elected officials of the District would protest that Congress would be overruling the will of the people of DC, but that argument wouldn’t gain much sympathy, since the elected officials themselves would have denied the people the chance to vote to express their will. The next couple years will be interesting.

Gary Imhoff


Southwest Development Corporation
Diane Lee Schultz,

The more I hear about PN Hoffman’s plans for the waterfront, the more I become concerned. All of the publicity they are putting out to the public sounds wonderful: connecting L’Enfant Plaza to the water with a grand staircase, connecting the channel with the tidal basin and Anacostia (with preexisting walkways), making it a vibrant community (although it already is).

They never ever talk about the ten fifteen-story buildings they are planning on crowding into the space where there are now fewer than half that amount of low-rise restaurants. Talk about cutting the water off from the neighborhood — I think those buildings will do a pretty good job of it. Not only will they block access, they will block views and light for the existing neighbors behind them. They will also bring excess traffic to an area that has problems handling too many cars as it is. Why hasn’t anyone who has seen the plans asked PN Hoffman about those buildings?

Want to know how tall a fifteen-story building is? There are none in the district. You have to go to Maryland. There is a fifteen-story building on Wisconsin just north of the Friendship Heights metro stop on Wisconsin Boulevard. Go check it out and see how you feel about ten of these between Washington and the water.


Flight Path?
Bell Clement, Columbia Heights,

Does anyone have information on what might account for the presence of a swarm (okay — several ù too many) helicopters over northern Columbia Heights in recent days? These don’t appear to be news or military helicopters, nor are they using search lights as what I’ve assumed are police helicopters sometime do. On the evening the June 12, one circled for about half an hour around midnight and this evening (the 13th) we have had one circling and periodically buzzing the street for the last forty minutes or so. This is in addition to what feels like an up-tick in daily southwest–to-northeast traffic.

If there’s a purpose, what might it be? If it’s mindless, can it be stopped? Are there any rights or recourse for the earthbound here? It sure wreaks havoc with an attempted pleasant sit-out on the porch!


DC Office of Tax and Revenue: Appallingly Incompetent
Amy McVey,

While difficulties with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue are nothing new, the number of problems, the complexity of the issues, and the length of time to resolve them has multiplied exponentially over the last few years. A neighbor finally contacted Natwar Gandhi before he could get an answer. I have been on hold for twenty-five minutes again this morning on behalf of a client who lived less than one month in DC last year and whose return clearly states that important detail. He got the DC “love letter” at his Massachusetts home, stating that he owes more than $4200 for that short time. If he had lived the entire year in the city, that would have been too much to pay.

I had two new clients this year who came to me when the IRS sent them letters stating that money was being withheld from their federal refunds to satisfy last year’s unpaid tax liability to DC. Both had paid their taxes on time and had canceled checks to prove it, but even after they provided the copies to DC they continued to get threatening letters. Another client was being challenged on his charitable deductions and job expenses. I sent a well organized and complete package of every receipt, but they still denied it, so we had to schedule a hearing. The hearing officer and I simply went over the package they had already received; nothing changed except they got me and the taxpayer to come in to see them. They approved every single deduction plus one more that I found in the meantime. Many people don’t take the time to fight it because of the associated costs.

I just came back after an incredible conversation with a Revenue Officer who started by telling me that since my (young) client has had four addresses on file (only one current), they tend to “watch” that kind of taxpayer for fraud! She then pointed out what I had done wrong on her filing, but when she was asked to point out that particular requirement in the D-40 instruction booklet, she could not. We went over it together; she said she knows the rules, and that even if it is not printed, it’s a rule! I should be surprised by that type of claim, but for all I know she is right. At a Tri-state tax update several years ago, an announcement was made by the DC Chief Problem Resolution Officer that the survivor’s pension of a DC or federal employee was 100 percent tax free in DC. I sat there stunned and embarrassed that I did not know such a basic rule, but then a man at the front of the room of about 250-300 tax preparers stood up rather indignantly, turned to the crowd, and asked how many people knew that rule. Maybe ten hands went up. When pressed as to why there was no direction in the instruction booklet or even a line item for that income reduction, the answer was that there was “not enough room in the instruction booklet.” Huh? Further, they did not know how long that rule had been in effect. I was able to go back three years and amend all those returns for the widows and widowers of DC and federal employees, but I am still wondering why. It is frustrating, but all I can do to deal with it is plan ahead for lots of time and consider it to be all in a day’s work. And the beat goes on.


Eleanor Holmes Norton; Political Patronage
Kyle Jay Sampson,

Since 1991, For nearly twenty years Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has “ represented” us in Congress. While the seventy-one-year-old Norton is a nice lady, her time is up. She has not been effective. I have a simple question. Why has no serious candidate ever emerged to run against her?

Has anyone compiled data that he or she is willing to share on how many Ward Democratic Chairs or other DC Democratic State Committee members work in city council or the office of the mayor? If such data does not exist, we need to compile a list.


Whatever Developers Want, Developers Get
Libby Hunter,

I received your “No Rooms at the Inns” letter [themail, June 7] on an E-mail list here in Ann Arbor. It’s a great letter. I think you might enjoy a song I sang at our city council two weeks ago. It’s a couple minutes long:


New York Times Appoints Full-Time Social Media Editor
Phil Shapiro,

This is a step forward ( and ought to be what newspapers in our town are doing. I don’t mind if our city is seen as dimwitted, slow, or lethargic, but I sure don’t want us to be perceived as a backwater (


Don’t Let the Door
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

My prediction that Nationals’ manager Manny Acta would not last until the Fourth of July before being fired seems to be accurate. Fox News had an announcement that Acta has been fired and will be replaced with the Nationals’ bench coach. Perhaps this will preclude the Nats from losing a record 120 games this season.


DC Vote to Travel to Key States to Defeat Gun Amendment
Jaline Quinto,

In the wake of a months-long battle to remove an amendment to the DC Voting Rights Act (H.R.157/S.160) that would gut the District’s gun control laws, DC Vote is bringing their fight to the states. “We’re going to send a clear message to members of Congress,” said Ilir Zherka, DC Vote Executive Director, “you mess with the District and we’re coming after you. We will not allow you to stand in the way of our basic civil right to voting representation in Congress and full local democracy.” DC Vote will partner with members of its coalition and local supporters to travel to key states, place ads in local media and rally supporters around the cause. First stop on the group’s agenda: Mississippi.

“Representative Childers has gone too far in his attempts to write DC gun laws,” said Zherka. “We think his constituents need to know how he is spending his time. His constituents elected him to act as their voice in Congress. But what he, and other pro-gun politicians are doing, is expending their energy to write DC’s laws. We’re going to states like Mississippi to tell constituents that their member of Congress is standing in the way of DC’s right to democracy.” Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS) introduced a bill last fall that virtually eliminated DC’s gun control laws. The bill passed the House but was never introduced in the Senate. In the current Congress, Childers has been a key proponent of a similar gun amendment to the DC Voting Rights Act. Zherka noted that DC Vote has traveled to Mississippi before and looks forward to working with allies in the state. “The people I met in Mississippi understood that DC voting rights is a crucial civil rights issue,” he added. “They are willing to stand up and say that ‘DC deserves the same right to make their own laws that we currently enjoy.’”

Zherka expects that DC Vote and supporters will be on the ground in Mississippi sometime soon. He adds that the organization will also host some events and activities in the District in the coming weeks. “There will definitely be opportunities for DC residents to get involved even if they can’t make the trip to Mississippi,” he emphasized. “We’re putting members of Congress on notice and will need all the help we can get here and in the states.”


Are DC Democratic Leaders Out of Touch with Voters?
K. West,

Long live the Democratic Party. But lately the DC Democratic Party and city leaders seem to be out of step, out of touch, out of sync with many of the voters. With the worst financial crisis ever in the country and around the world, the local Democrats’ primary mission seems to be to wage war against traditional marriage. Following the council’s somewhat clandestine vote to recognize same-sex marriage from other jurisdictions, the Democratic Party, in conjunction with the Gertrude Stein Club, which has two dedicated seats for its organization as well as having many other members on the DCDSC, spearheaded an effort to get the city to move past traditional marriage with one man and one woman to open it up for other couples that want to bond in holy matrimony. Even the DC Young Democrats have gotten into the act, calling for same-sex marriage by supporting the “Marriage Equality” resolution., a document calling for support for same sex marriage in the nation’s capital.

Are DC Democratic leaders and the DC Democratic State Committee out of touch with DC voters? Only three members of the council suggested that they might be open to a referendum and only one member of the council voted against same-sex marriage. The mayor voiced his support for same-sex marriage. A heavy handed Attorney General sent a five-page letter to the Board of Elections to block the referendum. It sounds a little intimidating, especially since the AG acts like an appendage of the mayor and does his bidding. What is wrong with allowing the citizens to vote on the definition of marriage?

The hearing before the DC Board of Elections and ethics brought forth a vigorous discussion of the issues. This was the kind of debate that the DC Democratic Party apparatus should have arranged at the meetings where Ward organizations voted on the same sex marriage resolution. The DC Human Rights Act of 1977 should not prevent the people of DC from being heard on this important public policy matter. The Human Rights Act has existed for three decades without being thought to redefine marriage. According to some legal experts, if a legally wed gay couple from other states moved to California, their marriage probably wouldn’t be recognized. According to Chief Justice Ronald M. George in the majority opinion, “The identification of a right as ‘inalienable’ has never been understood to mean that such right is exempt from any limitation or to preclude the adoption of a constitutional amendment that restricts the scope of such a right.” To avoid all the confusion and investment in time and money battling the issue, there probably should be a national law that declares that marriage is between one man and one woman so that states do not have to individually spend time addressing the definition of marriage and fighting legal battles.

The DC Democratic Party and political leaders have to make sure that they look beyond special interests and special interest groups. Don’t force public policy down the throats of the voters without giving them a chance to protest or challenge it. Put as much fervor into educating citizens on the issues as is done in fighting gun laws and promoting statehood/voting rights. The DC Democratic Party can’t be held hostage to any group, and in a democracy the voters should have a right to be heard and challenge laws. Show the citizens that they still have control over how they are governed. DC Democrats seem to have forgotten this when they challenged the right of citizens to put a referendum on the ballot to repeal a same-sex marriage law. Citizens prefer to address the issue via a ballot measure, but if they have to they can take redress at the election box and vote out whomever they can to give government back to the people. In the words of the ChiLites in a song many years ago, “For God’s sake, you got to give more power to the people.” ( Otherwise, in the words of the Temptations, it’s a, “Ball of confusion, that’s what the world is today.” The DC Democratic Party and elected politicians must be accountable to all people. But right now, they seem to be out of touch with the electorate. And it is all right for Democrats to believe in values and traditional marriage. It is okay to protect and preserve it for the future of America. Vote Democratic but rethink what the leadership and the party must and should stand for. DC Democrats need to establish a framework that fosters more practical thought. Otherwise, they remain out of sync with the electorate and beyond the advice and consent of the governed.


InTowner June Issue Online
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the June 2009 online edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature (the accompanying images can be seen in the archived PDF version). The complete issue (along with prior issues back to January 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link in the Current and Back Issues Archive. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements.

Special Note: We have now introduced a new way for visitors to our web site to share their comments about our lead stories, the Scenes from the Past feature, and the Publisher’s Desk commentary simply by clicking the link at the bottom of each of those pages. The next issue will publish on July 10 (the second Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Aggressive Enforcement of Restaurant Food Sales Vs. Liquor Sales Controversial in Adams Morgan”; 2) “Long a Kalorama Heights Eyesore, Empty Building Soon to be New Apartments”; 3) “Adams Morgan Played Host to Bravo’s “Top Chef” Stars.”



Incidental Architect, June 15
George Williams,

Gordon A. Brown, author and retired diplomat, discusses his newly-released book, Incidental Architect: Williams Thornton and the Cultural Life of Early Washington, DC, 1794-1828, on Monday, June 15, 6:30 p.m., at Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library, 5625 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Incidental Architect describes the intellectual and social scene of Washington in the late 1700s. Through the lives of a prominent couple whose aspirations served as a model and a mirror for the city, Gordon recounts how the city’s cultural and social institutions were shaped.

A retired diplomat, Brown lives in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. His previous books include the Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily and Toussaint’s Clause: The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, June 15-17
John Stokes,

June 15, daily operation of all outdoor swim pools begins, Monday-Friday, 1:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. (except closed days) and Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Enjoy a swim at one of outdoor pools in one of the eight wards we serve. Minors under eleven years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

June 15, 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m., Macomb Recreation Center, 3409 Macomb Street, NW. End of school fun day for all ages. Participants will enjoy a day of field sports, refreshments, arts and crafts, and face painting. For more information, call 282-2199.

Monday June 15, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Lafayette Recreation Center, 5900 33rd Street, NW. After school access party for ages eighteen and under. Youth will enjoy music and light refreshments. For more information, call Rachael PremDas at 282-2206.

Monday June 15, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Raymond Recreation Center, 915 Spring Road, NW. Cook out for ages eighteen and under. Youth will enjoy cooking out, music, refreshments, and field games, 3 on 3 basketball, and softball games. For more information, call Ellsworth Hart at 576-6856.

June 15, 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Takoma Recreation Center, 300 Van Buren Street, NW. Summer camp cookout kickoff for all ages. Summer Campers will eat and fellowship. For more information, call Al Cook, Site Manager, at 576-7068.

June 17, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Emery Recreation Center, 5801 Georgia Avenue, NW. Over-the-hump celebration for ages 10-19. To celebrate the end of the school year, recognize the academic achievements of our youth and kick off the summer. For more information, call Sherman Nelson, Site Manager, at 576-3211.

June 17, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Marie Reed Recreation Center, 2200 Champlain Street, NW. Father’s day, for ages 8-15. Participants will make Father’s Day cards for their fathers. For more information, call Ms. Ludie Baker, Acting Site Manager, at 673-7768.


Vouchers at the Ward 6 DC Republican Club, June 16
Paul Craney,

The Ward 6 DC Republican Club will meet on Tuesday, June 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the Old Navy Hospital, located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. The special guest speaker will be Virginia Walden Ford, one of the leaders in DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, commonly referred to as the DC Federal School Voucher Program. Ms. Ford will discuss the progress of the voucher movement and the next steps.

Light food and refreshments will be served at the meeting. This meeting is open to anyone who is open minded. To RSVP, or if you have further questions, please contact Ward 6 DC Republican Chair Gary Teal at or at 365-9437.


The Emancipation Proclamation’s Impact, June 17
George Williams,

Dr. Joseph Reidy will discuss the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation on Union and Confederate War Efforts on Wednesday, June 17, at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library at 6:30 p.m. Author of From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South, Dr. Reidy is the Associate Provost at Howard University. Prior to that, Dr. Reidy served as editor and co-director of the Freedman and Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland, College Park from l984 through 1997. The project produced a series of prize-winning books that highlighted the actions of enslaved people who fought to end slavery. His latest work, African-American Sailors in the Civil War Navy, seeks to identify the names of 18,000 men that served in the war and to explain their service. The Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library is located at 901 G Street, NW, near the Gallery Place and the Metro Center subway stations.


DC State Board of Education Meeting, June 17
Beverley Wheeler,

The DC State Board of Education (DCSBOE) will hold its regularly scheduled public meeting Wednesday, June 17. At the meeting, the DCSBOE will announce the 2009 Benneta Bullock Washington Scholarship award winners. The State Board will also receive three presentations from private organizations. The first will be from the Montessori Coalition, the second will be from Pre-K for All, and the third will be a panel presentation on the Common Core Standards. 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, June 15. 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.


Ward 3 Dems with Councilmember Mary Cheh, June 18
Thomas M. Smith,

The Ward Three Democratic Committee will hold a special Community Dialogue With Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh to discuss critical issues of importance to the community on Thursday, June 18, at 7:15 p.m. The Committee also will debate and vote on a series of resolutions on election reform, marriage equality, and statehood for the District of Columbia. The meeting will be at The Great Hall, St. Columba Episcopal Church, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW (one block off Wisconsin Avenue at Tenleytown Metro). For more information, call or E-mail Thomas M. Smith, Chair, Ward Three Democratic Committee, 364-7130,


Cologne No. 10 for Men, June 18
Beth Meyer,

Richard Morris author of Cologne No. 10 for Men, will speak on Thursday, June 18, 7:30 p.m., at the Kensington Row Bookshop, 3786 Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD. Kirkus states that in this novel, “A soldier in Vietnam invents a uniquely absurd solution to the horrors of war . . . black humor . . . like Catch-22 or M.A.S.H. . . . A funny and serviceable satire about the gross rationalizations that propel war and peace.”

Cologne No. 10 for Men weaves together serious stories about a young rifle platoon leader who falls in love with a Vietnamese girl, whose gung ho spirit wanes in battle, and who is overcome by disillusionment; a heroic black point man torn between his desire to marry the Vietnamese mother of his child and the prospect of racial discrimination against them at home; a chaplain afflicted with PTSD; and a Viet Cong spy who plots against the American troops. Readers call it powerful — how war changes men — and hilarious, zany and wacky: “tactics that foil the army brass,” reliance on body counts to keep score and determine victory, army socialism vs. communism, the necessity for war — to test equipment, and more.

Richard Morris is a Maryland writer. Born in Pittsburgh, he received degrees from Haverford College and Harvard University and was a rifle platoon leader in Vietnam in 1967-68.


Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers, June 19
Doc Powell,

Friday, June 19, catch a live performance of the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers at the Juneteenth celebration at Martin L. King, Jr., Library, 9th and G Streets, NW. Time to be announced.

To receive updates, please contact our founder, Doc Powell, at 459-8157. Visit us at


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