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July 5, 2009

More to the Story

Dear Story Tellers:

There’s more to this story than I know, and more than has been published. Iris Toyer and Mary Levy have been invaluable independent analysts of public education in DC for decades. After two-and-a-half years of running DC Public Schools, it is time Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee to start showing some concrete evidence that their methods are actually producing positive results. Toyer’s and Levy’s knowledge, judgment, and experience are especially needed now in order to help us evaluate the truthfulness and accuracy of the claims that Fenty and Rhee will make. But at the end of June the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights discontinued its Public Education Project, and Toyer and Levy no longer have their jobs there:, page 2.

The Washington Post planned to make money by soliciting sponsorship for a series of off-the-record dinners at the house of its publisher, Katharine Weymouth. The Post would invite power brokers and its own editors and reporters to these dinners, and for a price dinner attendees would have private access to them. When a flier describing these precious little get-togethers was released, the resulting furor resulted in their cancellation ( For all those who were looking forward to themail’s own exclusive series of salons, and the private access to influential people and power brokers that we would be selling, I regret to inform you that our salons have also been canceled. This cancellation is not because we were concerned that they might compromise the highest standards of journalistic integrity, which we support and embody just as fully as the Post. And the cancellation was not merely because we don’t have any access to influential people and power brokers. They were canceled because we weren’t able to find a sponsor who was willing to underwrite the extravagant costs we wanted to charge. Don’t worry, though. When we’ve figured out how to rake in the money without anybody finding out, we’ll reschedule. (See also Anne Althouse’s comment on the mess,

Gary Imhoff


The Council, the Mayor, and the Post Editorial Board
Dorothy Brizill,

At last Tuesday’s legislative meeting of the city council, the council unanimously adopted an emergency bill, the Council Cable Autonomy and Control Emergency Amendment Act of 2008 (Bill 18-359). The legislation grew out of a dispute that had occurred the previous week between the council and the Fenty administration over the broadcasting on the District’s public access Channel 13 of a tape of Ronald Moten’s July 25. (See my article on Moten’s deposition in themail, June 28, and Mike DeBonis’ article on the bill,

From the council’s perspective, the issue is fairly simple. Depositions are usually held in private so that other witnesses are not aware of what was said in previous testimony before they testify themselves. However, in order to accommodate Moten’s demand that he be able to invite an audience of Peacoholics members to witness his deposition, Councilmember Mary Cheh, the Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, moved the deposition from the small first-floor conference room in the Wilson Building, where previous depositions in the case had been held, to a council hearing room, Room 412. Although the live deposition was open to the public, Councilmember Cheh did not intend for it to be broadcast, so that future witnesses would not see Moten’s deposition and be influenced by it. She believed that broadcasting it would jeopardize the investigation into how a surplus DC ambulance and fire truck were sent to the Dominican Republic. Moreover, the District government has two public access channels — Channel 13 (on Comcast) broadcasts council proceedings and has generally been controlled by the council, and Channel 16 (again, on Comcast) is devoted to the mayor and his administration. On the afternoon of Moten’s deposition, however, Mayor Fenty personally called the Director of the Office of Cable Television and directed that Channel 13 broadcast the deposition hearing at 7:00 p.m. that evening. The council, angered at the mayor’s intervention into what had been considered their station, passed the emergency legislation, which clarified what had been the long-standing practice that Channel 13 is “under the exclusive control of the council.”

On Thursday, July 2, the Washington Post published an editorial (“Changing the Channel,” July 2, that vilifies the council for adopting the legislation in what it characterized as “the council’s ill-advised effort to stop the recording of a public meeting from being aired.” But Moten’s testimony was not made at a public hearing; it was a deposition. The Post’s error is due, in large measure, to the fact that the newspaper has essentially ignored the story of the irregular and suspect donation of the fire truck and ambulance to Sosua, Dominican Republic, since March, when the Washington Examiner first wrote about the unusual rulemaking published in the DC Register, transferring them. The July 2 editorial can be thought of as just another in the long series of the paper’s editorials in which the editorial board has blindly supported Mayor Fenty and his administration and criticized anyone who dares to question them, in which the paper has accepted Fenty’s or Attorney General Peter Nickles’ position without qualification. But it goes further than ever before when it criticizes the city council for daring to investigate who was responsible and what went on in the Fenty administration that led to this irregular donation. The Post foolishly parrots Moten’s baseless charge that the council’s investigation is “politically motivated,” a charge that reveals both the editorial board’s bias and its ignorance of the issue. No one who watches Moten’s testimony ( with an open mind can be persuaded by his bombastic bullying. If the Post’s editorial board would like to shut down the council’s investigation before it is complete, that in itself proves that there’s something to be discovered that’s more serious than has yet been disclosed.


Madam Weymouth’s Press for Pay
Frank Winstead,

President Nixon could have had a “Happy Ending” instead of a scandal. Maybe he didn’t understand the WaPo street lingo: “Hey baby, you got friend at Post? Me so horny. Me interview you long time.” But, in today’s economy the Washington Post, striving to be the craigslist of print, has to put out very explicit fliers so the Johns know exactly what they are getting for their money. The ability of the Post to produce a coherent flier should not be dismissed lightly. Through buyouts, the Post has purged their building of all competent writers. Those who were employable journalists took the money and ran. Maybe their old printing press on display should be sold for scrap and replaced with Posties in Amsterdam-style street level windows to better reflect what the Post is currently selling. Considering the ethics of the money losing part of the corporate Washington Post, how does the highly profitable Kaplan side really make its money? What kind of “educational opportunities” is Kaplan procuring for its young charges who come in off the street? If there are any reporters at the Post who do not understand their job function, please visit


Commencement Speech by Washington Post Publisher
Phil Shapiro,

This commencement speech from last week gives a window into the mindset of people running the Washington Post, Decide for yourself if you think they’re making the changes that need to get done to survive as a newspaper.


Padding the Tab
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

I don’t take cabs very often, only to get to and from National Airport when on one of my frequent travels. I have noticed on the last two occasions to use a cab to and from National that there have been some discrepancies in the tab for the rides. The discrepancies occur in the additional charge for the baggage. Same baggage each way on every trip, yet the additional charge differs by as much as two bucks. When that happens I don’t pick a street fight with the cabbie, I simply adjust the size of the tip to compensate. Apparently, though, some cabbies are adjusting their baggage charges to compensate for perceived lower income due to the meters.


The Right Number of Cabs
Dennis Reilly,

I have a nonprofit, The National Alliance For Taxicab Justice, which mostly houses my ideas on a free market owner/operator taxi system based on the London model. Our web page is I think that the zone system should just be put to rest, but the prospect of closed entry into the DC taxi industry is a real threat and would end any hope for a real developing taxicab system in DC in the twenty-first century. Closed entry or certificates (medallions) is a monopoly and as such it depresses service to the people, confiscates the workers earnings, and evades taxes. The objective should be an all owner/operator system: one driver-one cab-one small business. London has this as well as open entry, high knowledge standards, and infrastructure financing (the taxis). London has more than twenty-four thousand black cabs that operate in a radius of six miles from Charing Cross. Dublin, with a smaller population than DC, has more than fourteen thousand cabs. New York City has fewer than fourteen thousand cabs, and it should have forty to fifty thousand cabs serving the entire five boroughs.

Washington, DC, could support upwards of sixteen thousand cabs, based on the London model. This could be accomplished based on what I write about and also applying our technological breakthrough that we call the “Digital Hail.” This would spread service through out all wards of the city, not the miniature coverage we have today. You can’t make it in the taxi business sipping coffee all day with your friends.


Cool Temps in Summer Are a Delight
Phil Shapiro,

The cool temps we’ve had these past few weeks in DC got me thinking about how much energy is being saved by not using all that air conditioning. A lot of energy is not being used. Hmmmm, this has me wondering about the temperature of the water at the bottom of the Potomac River around Great Falls. Methinks that water must be a little chilly, year round. If we can throw that coolness up into the air somehow, we might be able to waft some cool air across the city — allowing a percentage of homes and businesses to keep their air conditioning off. In the mid-Atlantic winds are mostly westerly, so the coolness from the Potomac could waft over at least half of the metro area. Just wondering. I don’t know if this would work, but as a thought experiment it’s rather — cool.


A Collyer in Our Midst
Nelson Jacobsen,

[Re: Ed T. Barron, A Collyer in Our Midst, themail, July 1] This is not a Collyer; this is an example of a breakdown in our society. I used to live next door to this house, and know of the individual and hounds as well. (There could be few new ones.) This reply is not really aimed at the poster, but more at the situation; and the situation has many angles. As for what is in her yard, it is just the stuff discarded and left behind these well kept home, with nice mowed lawns. Have you seen the level of toys, strollers, and bedding oozing out of American University Park? Visit Turtle Park; it is a broken plastic toy dump. As for how this came about: in their day her parents were institutions in this neighborhood, as members of the doctor community that seemed to settle within a few blocks of each other in the area. Now they have both passed. I was there when the father was carried out; he was a very proud and dignified man. He and their mother left two grown children, one of whom still lives in the paid-off home. Within a stone’s throw is another warehoused family member. Their parents have passed and their other relatives are out of town.

So what is to be done with the paid-off house in northwest and the relative that no one, including federal, state, local governments seems to want to deal with? It seems that the current plan is just to pay the taxes and keep the family member out of the system. Well, that is not all good, because when your life becomes fodder for an E-mail on a forum and you are not a public figure, then what does that say about us?

I will make sure I take the time to stop by and ask her if she knows that someone was concerned enough to ask about her health. As someone who wants to believe in a better society by making a difference, maybe the poster of this wants to join me when I stop by. By the way, if you have a pet bring it; they love her. I would also ask our officials what is the plan for all the family members that are warehoused in the District. This is not an isolated event. At some point in time we will have to deal with these family members in our midst; it is our responsibility. Have a great weekend and Independence Day. Please realize that we are dependent upon one another after all, and that is a great thing.


Counting Metro Stations
Jean Mammen,

The platform and the managers’ kiosks of the Friendship Height Metro station are within DC. Some of the Western Avenue entrances are in DC (Mazza Gallerie, Chevy Chase Pavilion, elevator), others tunnel under Western Avenue and are either in DC, if they are within a few feet of the roadway, or in Maryland. Check the boundary markers.



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

July 7–12, 4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center, 3100 Fort Lincoln Drive, NE. DC District 3 Little League U12 and U10 Baseball Tournament. This is the Annual District 3 end of season tournament for all DC Little Leagues, with one representative from each league eligible. For more information, call 671-1700.

July 7, Council of the District of Columbia Chamber, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. DPR Competitive Swim Team Recognition Ceremony. The DPR competitive swim team will be recognized by the Council of the District of Columbia for their victory at the National Black Heritage Swim Meet this past Memorial Day weekend. For more information, call 671-1289.

July 7, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m., Raymond Recreation Center, 915 Spring Road, NW. Watermelon Eating Contest for ages 5-12. Youth will compete in eating watermelon. There will be three age groups. Prizes will be given to the winner of each age group. For more information, call Ellsworth Hart at 576-6856.

July 9-12, 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, Landover, MD. USA Track and Field Regional Championships for ages 7-18. Athletes will compete at the USA Track and Field Region 3 Championships against athletes from Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The top three athletes in each event will advance to the National Championships held in Greensboro, NC. For more information call 671-1700.


Michael Jackson Tribute, July 8
Al Hatcher,

Relatives and fans of Michael Jackson are planning a major tribute to the late King of Pop on Wednesday, July 8, 5:00 p.m., at Freedom Plaza, 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. National and local celebrities who knew Michael Jackson are expected to attend. The event will feature a multi-generational and multiracial group of Michael Jackson fans dancing to his music. Among the invited guest are actors Tommy Davidson and Martin Lawrence, in addition to President Obama, Mayor Adrian Fenty, and Michael Jackson’s cousin, Arthur Jackson. For event information, call Al Hatcher, 301-272-0730 or E-mail


Humanities Council Events, July 9
Lisa Alfred,

Grants Workshop, Thursday, July 9, 6:00-7:30 p.m., 5401 South Dakota Avenue, NE, near Fort Totten Metro. The Humanities Council of Washington, DC, presents a workshop to assist nonprofit organizations in planning projects and seeking up to $5,000 for programs that celebrate and document the cultural life of Washington, DC. Free. Please RSVP at or call 387-8391.


National Building Museum Events, July 11-25
Jazmine Zick,

Greek Revival / Modernism / Art Deco architectural history programs. In this new series, the National Building Museum explores three significant periods in architectural history. Noted experts discuss the physical characteristics of each movement and how culture, politics, and technical innovations are reflected in the architecture of those times. Then receive information on how to give friends and family a self-guided tour of local examples. $12 Museum, Art Deco Society of Washington (ADSW), and Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Members; $12 Students; $20 nonmembers. Special Series Pricing for all three: $30 Museum, ADSW, and SAH Members; $30 Students; $50 Nonmembers. To purchase series tickets, please call 272-2448, Monday through Friday, by July 10. Individual tickets available on our web site.

Greek Revival, Saturday, July 11, 1:00-2:30 p.m. Architect Warren Cox, FAIA, Hartman Cox, discusses the Greek Revival movement and its impact in America. Modernism, Saturday, July 18, 1:00-2:30 p.m. Martin Moeller, the Museum’s senior vice president and curator, defines and explains modernism and its varied branches. Art Deco, Saturday, July 25, 1:00-2:30 p.m. Dr. Karin Alexis, art and architectural historian, discusses the significance of Art Deco and the cultural context that made the movement possible.

All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


First LEGO League Workshop, July 16
Denise Lewis,

The Virginia/DC FIRST LEGO League (VA/DC FLL) invites you to attend a free Mindstorms NXT robotics workshop on Thursday, July 16, 9:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Bill and Susan Duggins will introduce LEGO Mindstorms NXT robotics to potential FLL coaches and team members. Participating students and coach/mentors will be inspired to start FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams this fall and learn how to register for the 2009 Smart Move Challenge: Transforming Transportation. The door prize for a new District of Columbia team will be a Flip camera.

The workshop will be open to students and adults from Virginia and the District of Columbia. Teams will consist of of two eleven- to fourteen-year-old students with an adult coach/mentor (the coach/mentor will identify two students and register all three as a workshop team). It will be held at Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School, 704 26th Street, NE, 729-4360. The workshop capacity is 36 (twelve three-person teams). This workshop is free. Bring your own lunch; morning and afternoon snacks will be provided. To RSVP, please E-mail For questions, please contact or For more information, go to


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