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July 12, 2009

Bad Behavior

Dear Behaviorists:

Several stories in the past week, even the good news stories, converge to one conclusion: we’re surrounded by people who just misbehave. The park at the corner of Girard and 14th Streets, NW, reopened this weekend, to great fanfare. The mayor came to the official opening, and dozens of Summer Youth Job Program students were paid for the day to attend the ceremony and provide an enthusiastic audience for the Office of Cable Television cameras. It’s a small pocket park, large enough to accommodate only a basketball court and a seating area. After several months of renovation and a budget of about $1.6 million dollars, the basketball court has been resurfaced, a few plants and new trees have been planted in the seating area, and two small restrooms have been built. My bet is that the restrooms will be permanently closed and locked before the summer is over, and we’ll never find out how the city managed to spend so much money to so little effect.

The Washington City Paper cover story on the latest Marion Barry scandal managed to make Barry look good by comparison by putting an unnecessary vulgarism on its cover. The City Paper acted like the two-year-old who has just learned that certain words drive adults crazy, so he therefore screams them repeatedly at the top of his lungs. A certain maturity was lacking. But the City Paper made up for that lapse by a Mike DeBonis story, scheduled for next week’s paper, that carries the Barry story into new and uncharted territory: “Barry Involved in Suspect Nonprofit Dealings: DC Council Sent $450,000 to Nonexistent Organizations,” In fact, DeBonis writes, if you count the earmarks in the city budget for FY2009 and FY2010, the total amount spent on these Barry groups nears a million dollars. The city council’s investigation called for by Chairman Gray has been carefully proscribed and limited to Barry’s contracts with Ms. Watts-Brightwood. That doesn’t begin to address the real problem, but then it wasn’t intended to, was it?

Give credit where credit is due; the Washington Post’s salon scandal, which I made fun of in the last issue of themail, may have initially engendered only a halfhearted apology from the publisher, but today it resulted in an ombudsman article that lets it all hang out: “A Sponsorship Scandal at the Post, Let the city council learn a few lessons from that. When you’re embarrassed, shine a light on the problem. Acknowledge it; don’t draw out an investigation until you hope that people will have forgotten about it; get to the bottom of what went wrong quickly and don’t try to limit what you can find; and then broadcast what you found to the world, so it’s less likely that you’ll repeat your mistake.

Or you can do like Attorney General Peter Nickles and Police Chief Cathy Lanier, and try to deny your mistakes, even when they were apparent to everyone else months ago. On Friday, the Court of Appeals issued a decision overturning the lower court, and finding that the Metropolitan Police Department’s blockades of the Trinidad neighborhood were transparently and unquestionably unconstitutional, The decision is a thorough spanking of the Attorney General’s attempt to defend the checkpoints: “The harm to the rights of appellants is apparent. It cannot be gainsaid that citizens have a right to drive upon the public streets of the District of Columbia or any other city absent a constitutionally sound reason for limiting their access. As our discussion of the likelihood of success has demonstrated, there is no such constitutionally sound bar in the NSZ checkpoint program. It is apparent that appellants’ constitutional rights are violated.” But the citizens of the District can wait forever and still not get an apology from Peter Nickles for violating their constitutional rights; instead, he’s making empty threats about appealing to the Supreme Court. This means he’s learned nothing and is likely to make the same mistake again. He just won’t do right.

Gary Imhoff


From President Clinton to Councilmember Barry
Frank Winstead,

In case any juveniles are reading, I will use the Wilson Building euphemism “getting a 108” (some kind of DC Law reference, I guess) in lieu of recent City Paper cover crudeness. In the late 1990’s, President Clinton was investigated and impeached for getting a 108. Robert S. Bennett was one of the President’s attorneys. In 2009, Councilmember Marion Barry is being investigated by Bennett. Presumably, Mr. Bennett has established himself as the nation’s leading legal authority on 108’s. This investigation was prompted by the bankrupt City Paper publishing a front page revelation that Councilmember Barry did not receive a 108. Is not getting a 108 even Twitter-worthy? Where will this media trend lead? And, where will government investigations follow? Related breaking news, at this time it is widely believed that Mary Cheh and some other members of the DC council had no significant involvement in Councilmember Barry being refused a 108.


The Barry Circus
Dorothy Brizill,

Since the news first broke on July 4 that Marion Barry had been arrested by the US Park Police for stalking Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, a former girlfriend and DC government contractor, there has been endless media coverage in both the local and national press. A Google search on Sunday evening returned more than twelve hundred news articles about the stalking incident alone. Moreover, press coverage has turned into a media circus, with Barry’s press secretary and attorney holding multiple press conferences in a single day, including one press conference that Watts-Brighthaupt herself attended in order to respond to Barry’s characterization of the incident and their relationship. Indeed, it has been evident that, while he may have been embarrassed by the incident, and by the sordid details regarding his relationship with Watts-Brighthaupt, Barry relished being once again in the spotlight and being the center of a media frenzy.

However, at a time when the local media has severely limited its coverage of the Wilson Building, both with respect to the mayor and the city council, why did the initial stalking story warrant such media attention? Why did the Washington Post assign three senior reporters to share a byline on the story? Most Wilson Building stories are relegated to page four or five of the Metro section, facing the obituaries, so why did this story merit such prominent placement in the newspaper. Now that the initial stalking story has raised questions regarding the council’s personnel, contracting, and ethics policies, I hope that these issues could be thoroughly investigated. Moreover, I hope that renewed interest in the work of our elected officials at the Wilson Building will focus attention on a host of issues, such as all earmarks contained within the 2010 budget, the effort to send a surplus District ambulance and fire truck to the Dominican republic; personnel policies of the councilmembers and of the Executive Office of the Mayor; the council’s effort to purchase certain properties from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington that have very unclear titles and in fact may already belong to the District government; the failure of elected officials to report all gifts that they receive, although they are required to by law; and the use of government employees in election campaigns. If the latest Barry scandal reawakens press interest in these subjects, it may yet do some good.


Slush in July
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The latest Barry episode is a real travesty for a city councilman. If the council chairman does not throw Barry off the council, then he should be thrown off. Turns out that Barry has $600,000 that he can spend any way he wants. That is a pretty good-sized slush fund. It’s not hard to believe he could get any number of girlfriends with that booty (no pun intended). Hey, if Barry’s willing to throw a big piece of that slush fund my way, I’d even be one of his girlfriends.


Cheh’s Election Bill Is a Fraud
Paul D. Craney,

The District of Columbia Republican Committee is scheduled to testify on Monday, July 13, against Bill 18-345, the Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009 [, in front of the Chairman Mary Cheh’s Committee on Government Operations and the Environment.

“Last November the Board of Elections and Ethics mailed absentee ballots to Republicans that were missing the Republican Council candidate. The country knew Obama won the presidency, and yet DC residents couldn’t get a confirmation that Obama took DC. Chair Cheh’s election bill is riddled with problems instead of solutions. This proposed bill is the equivalent of giving FEMA more power and responsibilities after its performance in Hurricane Katrina,” stated Robert J. Kabel, Chairman of the DC Republican Committee.


A Great Move
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

The Historical Society has submitted paperwork to make Janney School a historical landmark. That’s marvelous. A landmark designation for Janney would make modernization or even making energy saving improvements (e.g., new windows) very difficult, if not impossible. That landmark decision would, however, make those who oppose development of a new library with housing above the library (and using a portion of the Janney School property) very happy. I can see it now with very clear vision — a new Tenley Library in 2020.


Michael Bindner,

K. Pearson calls for expanding benefits to unmarried partners. There oughta be a law — oh, yes, there is one already. Of course, health care reform will likely make it unnecessary to keep it up, since one reason for domestic partnership is the insurance benefits. The existence of one of the nation’s oldest domestic partnership laws is another example of why a court will one day determine that the only reason the arrangement is not called marriage is malice toward gays and lesbians. This is the logic behind the suit filed by Ted Olsen in California, where their Civil Union Law has all the benefits of marriage except the name. The Supreme Court has already held that targeting gays for unequal treatment just for their orientation is considered malice and not a rational basis for disparate treatment (this occurred when Colorado had a constitutional amendment to prohibit anti-discrimination measures that the SCOTUS overturned). If the California amendment is overturned, look for gay marriage in DC fairly quickly — especially if the SCOTUS does not grant certiorari.

[I’m not sure of all the implications of this. If DC adopts a law legalizing gay marriage, and if there is therefore no reason to have domestic partnerships, will the council then repeal the domestic partnership law? If it doesn’t, and if people have the choice of either a domestic partnership or marriage, what are the implications of that? Is there an argument for having both domestic partnerships and marriages, with the same definition and benefits? If domestic partnerships are rescinded, will couples who choose not to get married lose the benefits of domestic partnership that they currently have, unless they get married? Why shouldn’t they? — Gary Imhoff]


RE: Consider Expanding Benefits of Marriage to More Groups
Bob Levine,

K. West is back [themail, July 8] with a post proposing the expansion of marriage tax benefits to some unexplained unlimited “other groups.” I’m not real sure if this person if for or against this expansion or why it should matter. At one point people in the society thought that the society would fall apart if the protection of marriage was expanded to a black person married to a white person. Oh, the horror of such a thing happening. Now some people are outraged at people of the same sex getting the protection of being married. Such a nightmare; I’m sure that western civilization will collapse overnight if it happens. I really cannot quite understand why people have such an interest in what other people are doing and why they worry so about how they are allowed to define their relationships. Most married people I know are busy enough as is without worrying about how strangers are defining them. I guess you can declare yourself married to your pet goat for all I care; just don’t expect me to invite you over as a couple. Baa Humbug.


Re: McNamara
Richard Stone Rothblum,

Ron Drake writes [themail, July 8] that “Years ago, while Robert McNamara was on his way by ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, of course relaxing in the stateroom with the other self-important beautiful people, a young man, . . . picked McNamara up and threw him overboard.” This account is at odds with the headline in The Washington Post of October 11, 1972, “McNamara Bests Angry Youth Trying to Push Him Off Ferry/ McNamara Foils Assailant.” The McNamara obit in the Vinyard Gazette of July 7 2009 stated “. . . there was the September night in 1972 when he fended off an irate Vinyarder who tried to throw him overboard from the ferry Islander, losing his trademark wire-rimmed glasses in the scuffle.” The obit opined that “the scuffle may have had more to do with Mr. McNamara’s attempt to close off the [local artist’s] access to [McNamara’s private] Chilmark beach.” The “stateroom” was described as the ferry lunchroom.

A little less hyperbole, please.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, July 14-16
John Stokes,

July 14, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Guy Mason Recreation Center, 3600 Calvert Street, NW. Congressional Softball Game for ages eighteen and up. This softball game consists of all female Members of Congress against lobbyists to compete for bragging rights. For more information, call Robert Haldeman at 671-1700.

July 15, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Verizon Center, 601 F Street, NW. Camp Day for ages six to thirteen. Camp Day is when the Washington Mystics offers a discount package to summer camps throughout the metro area to see a Mystics game. The discount price includes a game ticket, a hot-dog and a beverage, or a lesser fee for just a game ticket. This season’s game is the Washington Mystics vs. San Antonio Silver Stars. For more information, call CM Anderson, 282-0380.

July 16, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Benning Park Community Center, Southern Avenue and Fable Street, SE. Ward 7 and 8 Ping Pong Tournament for ages seventeen and under. Ping Pong tournament for youths seventeen and under and twelve and under. Come show off your skills! For more information, call Sean Tuohey at 361-9432.


Humanities Council Grants Workshops, July 16
Lisa Alfred,

Grants Workshop, Thursday, July 16, 12:00 p.m.-1:30 p.m.., Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Place, SE, near the W2 and W3 bus lines. 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.

Grants Workshop, Thursday, July 16, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at Cleveland Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW, near Cleveland Park 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.


Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, at the Avalon, July 17, 19-20
Sarah Pokempner,

The Avalon Theater will be hosting the DC-area release of local filmmaker Aviva Kempner’s new film, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, beginning July 17 for a theatrical engagement. Check our web site for show times. In addition, we have various opportunities coming up to meet and chat with Ms. Kempner herself.

On Sunday, July 19, a 9:30 a.m. breakfast reception at the Avalon Theater Cafe will be followed by an 11:00 a.m. screening of the film in Avalon 1. Join us for a question and answer discussion with director Aviva Kempner and Gertrude Berg’s grandson, Adam Berg, moderated by author Dan Raviv (CBS News correspondent, CBS Weekend Roundup). Tickets, which may be purchased at the door or through our web site, are $50.00 to the reception and screening, or $15.00 to the screening only. All proceeds will benefit the Avalon Legacy Campaign and Ms. Kempner’s Ciesla Foundation.

On Monday, July 20, the Avalon’s 8:00 p.m. screening of the film will be followed by a question and answer panel featuring director Aviva Kempner; Judith E. Herbet, editor; Skip SoRelle, MPSE, sound editor/mixer; and Margaret Sclafani, post-production coordinator. Regular admission tickets are $10.50 and may be purchased at the door or through our web site. For more information, please visit


Ward 6 Republicans, July 21
Paul D. Craney,

There will be a Ward 6 Republican Club meeting on Tuesday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m., at the Old Naval Hospital at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. The meeting will be on Charter Schools, and the speaker is Mike Peabody, founder of FOCUS (Friends of Choice in Urban Schools).

The Ward 6 Republican Chair is Gary Teal; he may be reached at 365-9437 or; please RSVP to Gary. Light food and refreshments will be served. Anyone interested in attending is welcome to come.


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