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August 16, 2009


Dear Revokers:

I’ve demoted my main comment to the bottom of themail. But I have a brief observation for up top. On Thursday, the District government sent a notice of eviction to the Recreation Wish List Committee, run by Cora Masters Barry, the estranged wife of Marion Barry, from the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, where it had been running tennis programs for youths since it was founded in 2001. Attorney General Peter Nickles claimed that the eviction came about because the organization’s corporate registration had been revoked three years ago, and that the revocation had just been discovered in a random check of nonprofits that had been doing business with the city. Masters-Barry insists that her organization’s status was in order, and that the city had never contacted her to inform her that there was any problem with it.

When he was told about the eviction notice by the press on Thursday, Mayor Fenty seemed to be genuinely surprised, and claimed he didn’t know anything about it. He said that he was sure the problem was purely technical, and that it could be worked out. But Fenty was contradicted by a higher authority: “Legally, you can’t give them a break. This is not the fault of the city. They should have known better. They were trying to do business with the city when they knew their status as a registered DC corporation had been revoked by the government,” said Attorney General Nickles.

Here are my questions. Does anyone, anyone at all, believe that the problem with the corporate registration was really discovered in a random check of nonprofits? Does anyone believe that the problem, if it is one of a lapsed corporate registration, could not have been worked out by contacting the organization and having it update its papers? What is the purpose of the eviction? Does Nickles want another contractor to run the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center that badly? If not, why is Nickles deliberately picking a fight with Barry or Masters-Barry? How does he think Fenty benefits? Does he think, if Masters-Barry is evicted, that Fenty will carry a single precinct in Ward 8 in the next election? If Nickles started this without first clearing it with Mayor Fenty, why did he think he could cause a problem that could become this big without Fenty’s clearance?

Gary Imhoff


Produce the Note
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

For any readers of themail facing foreclosure, there is a way to buy a lot of time to get straightened out or to get a better negotiating position with the foreclosing lending institution. The way is to send, via certified mail and notarized, a letter to the lending institution requesting them to “Produce the Note.” The note, of course establishes that the homeowner is indebted to the bank for the mortgage. It is interesting to note that almost half of the banks who have been contacted by potential foreclosees cannot produce the note. This can result in delays of foreclosure of up to nine months while the lending institution scrambles to find that silly one-page document. With banks selling mortgages to other banks, it is very likely that your note cannot be produced. It also gives the homeowners some negotiating leverage with the foreclosing lending institution.


Mischaracterization of “How Many Parks Do You Need?”
Richard Layman,

Since I don’t read Matthew Yglesias, I was prepared to believe your characterization (themail, August 9) of his recent blog entry “How Many Parks Do You Need?” []. Good thing I went and read what he wrote, since I was prepared to screed in response in my own blog ( You said he argued that the city doesn’t need pocket parks, that such spaces should be redeveloped. Actually, he made the point that every space being re-made or “de-accessioned” from a public use such as a school doesn’t need to become a park.

Frankly, I have some sympathy with Yglesias’ position, given how many poorly managed and decrepit parks currently exist in the city — most under the purview of the DC Department of Recreation. Yglesias’ post addressed public participation in planning efforts around reuse of the buildings/sites, and his observation that most participants advocate for more green space and parks and open space, without recognizing how much such space currently exists, the lack of management and support of many of these facilities, and the failure to coordinate planning and management of these spaces. I tend to agree with his observations.

For example, within 1.5 blocks of the former Hine School, there are six public spaces (Eastern Market Metro Plaza, related park space north of Pennsylvania and east of 8th Street SE, Seward Square between 5th and 6th Streets, the North Plaza adjacent to Eastern Market, Turtle Park north of North Carolina Avenue and across the street, and the large sidewalk space adjacent to Port City Java on the east side of 7th Street at North Carolina Avenue). For the most part, these spaces are poorly designed and/or managed. And the Hine School redevelopment Request for Proposals, in response to community priorities, requires delivery and maintenance of a 15,000 to 20,000 square foot public/open space on the site. This makes no sense. Instead, put efforts into making the extant sites better and successful.

The response by Thomas Hardman in themail on August 12 extends the mischaracterization to “blogs” and the state of best practice in “urban planning” when he writes, “they are all making and repeating standardized arguments that are all aimed at removing all urban spaces that are not owned by private interests.” While it is true that planners often justify “public-private partnerships,” mostly out of a recognition of inadequate municipal funding as well as the inability of most municipal agencies, including parks and recreation agencies, to be able to deliver extranormal levels of service and programming (18/7/365), I can’t think of any respected urban planning tome (e.g., Whyte’s Social Life of Small Urban Spaces to Paumier’s Creating a Vibrant City Center) or parks best practices web resources (citations available on request) advocating systematic privatization of public spaces.

We have plenty of problems with the management and maintenance of civic assets, plenty of problems concerning deaccessioning of public property (starting with the failure to have multifaceted neighborhood plans that include proactive planning for the use of neighborhood and civic assets) and plenty of problems with achieving a more deliberative and participatory public life and democracy within the city. But we can’t deal with any of those vital problems if we can’t even accurately characterize the problems. Maybe that’s the real problem.


No Mischaracterization at All
Gary Imhoff,

Richard Layman, above, takes issue with my reading of Matthew Yglesias’ blog post on city parks (, but I think that I’m reading Yglesias fairly — and the way that the great majority of Yglesias’ commentators read him — while Richard is reading into him what he hopes Yglesias would have said. Yglesias just doesn’t value city parks much. The center of Yglesias’ argument against pocket parks is, “here in the Northeast how much use do we really get out of parks? People don’t go to the park at night, or during the winter, or when it’s raining. Compare that to, say, an apartment building with some retail on the ground floor. People go to stores all the time. Obviously, that’s not to say that an ideal city would have zero parkland — parks are nice. But it’s not clear to me that we’re suffering from a park shortage. And in environmental terms, it’s much better for the planet to construct additional housing units in already urbanized areas than to pack a bit more green space in the city and have more people living in sprawling exurbs.” His argument is a standard “smart growth” one — a preference for highly concentrated populations in cities (what critics of cities would call “congestion”), absorbing the people who would otherwise live in suburbs (and eliminating tracts of single-family houses with yards, which critics of suburbs would call “sprawl”).

Richard writes that Yglesias is really concerned about “the lack of management and support of many of these facilities, and the failure to coordinate planning and management of these spaces.” That’s wrong. Richard and I share these concerns about DC’s pocket parks, but Yglesias doesn’t mention them at all. The closest Yglesias writes is, “It does seem to me that DC and other cities suffer from more a problem of quality in our public spaces — too much basically empty, unprogrammable land — rather than a lack of quantity.” But Yglesias isn’t saying here that our pocket parks lack quality of design, maintenance, or management; Yglesias doesn’t know enough about the city’s government to make those arguments. Instead, he is saying that simply by being “empty, unprogrammable land” parks are of lower quality — less desirable — than land developed into apartment or office buildings.

I also think that Richard is shortchanging Thomas Hardman’s point. Obviously people who plan urban parks professionally are unlikely to undervalue urban parks. But there are plenty of urban planners in the smart growth school who fervently believe in increasing urban concentration at the expense of urban green space. The case of the “planning process,” if one wants to be generous in describing it, for renovating Tenley Library and Janey School is a good example of how this kind of “smart growth” thinking is used to justify government officials’ partnerships with developers hungry for cut-rate public land, and how it works to undervalue park land and green spaces. Officials believe they simply know better than the uninformed citizens whom they rule; after all, officials have been taught the smart growth theory that is the latest planning fad.

Let’s say you have a chance to build your dream house, so you engage an architect. You tell the architect that your family doesn’t use the family room much, and that you spend most of your time in the bedrooms, so you want more of the new house’s space and luxury touches to be spent on the bedrooms. But your architect replies that the latest theory taught in the colleges holds that families ought to spend most of their time together in the same common room, and that bedrooms should be used only for sleeping, with no distractions. So the house he’s going to build for you will have a big family room and small, Spartan bedrooms. You can fire that architect if he insists on substituting his judgment for yours. You can’t fire the government’s urban planners who want to design a city to fit their theories rather than to fit the way that people actually live and want to live. That’s the problem. Urban planners are convinced that they know better than citizens what city dwellers should want, and how they should live. We city people should all want to live in small apartments in large high rises, to get around by public transportation and bicycles, to live in walkable neighborhoods where all of our basic needs are met within a few blocks. And we can’t fire them if we really want something else.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, August 19-20
John Stokes,

August 19, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Marie Reed Recreation Center, 2200 Champlain Street, NW, Fun Camp for ages six through thirteen. Come out and enjoy a fun day in the sun with eating popcorn, snow cones and goodie bags. For more information, call Ms. Ludie Baker, Acting Site Manager, at 673-7768.

August 20, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Petworth Recreation Center, 801 Taylor Street, NW. Fun Day for ages six through thirteen. Youth will enjoy a day of fun outdoor activities. For more information, call Howard Marshall at 576-6850.

August 20, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Kalorama Recreation Center, 1875 Columbia Road, NW, End of Summer Pizza Party for ages six through thirteen. Participants will enjoy pizza, music, and water games. For more information, call John Borges, Site Manager, at 673-7606.

August 20, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Rosedale Recreation Center, 1701 Gales Street, NE. Third Annual Back to School Event for all ages. Participants will engage in outdoor games, activities and a cookout, as well as receive book bags and school supplies. For more information, call Brian Williams, Site Manager, at 724-5405.

August 20, 1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Petworth Recreation Center, 801 Taylor Street, NW. Petworth Fun Day for ages six through thirteen. Participants will enjoy a day of games, relay races, food, and of course lots and lots of fun. For more information, call Howard Marshall at 576-6850.


Presentations That Make You and Your Message Memorable, August 22
Barbara Conn,

In today’s world, leaders have to be powerful speakers. They know how to grab attention, keep attention, and influence those around them. They have a vision and passion, and know how to inspire others to action. In this fun, engaging, interactive session, you will learn how to apply creativity and passion to your presentations to become a more effective communicator. You will overcome fear of presenting and public speaking, have renewed confidence in your communication skills, learn tools and techniques for creating a memorable message, deliver your message with passion, and feel energized about who you are and what you do.

Gather your colleagues and neighbors, and your questions, and bring them to this Saturday, August 22, 1:00 p.m., gathering of the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group (E&C SIG). These monthly events are free and open to all. This month’s event is at the Cleveland Park Branch Library (first floor large meeting room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Newark Streets), just over a block south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail Station on the Red Line. For more information about the seminar, the speaker, and CPCUG (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization), visit To RSVP, send an E-mail to


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