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September 6, 2009

The Next Election

Dear Electors:

Jonetta Rose Barras wrote a good column this Monday on the political prospects for the 2010 election, She identifies the definition of marriage as a major issue in next years’ campaigns, and writes, “If opponents lose in their effort to have a public vote on an issue sure to change the culture of the nation’s capital, and Catania’s bill passes the council, don’t expect them to go into that proverbial dark night. They will look for someplace to direct their anger and dissatisfaction: Mendelson and Catania. The battle could be messy and complicated. Gay rights organizations and advocates will dump a bunch of money into campaigns of so-called marriage equality proponents. Opponents — national and local — won’t be slouches. Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl pulled in his posse of priests and traditional Catholics, which means an even larger contingent of Hispanics and African-Americans pushing for the initiative against same-sex marriage. Baptists and Evangelical clergy already were in the yard ready to battle. Some in the media have tried to cast these individuals as Neanderthals. The opposition is broader and deeper than media reports convey.” (The Marriage Initiative of 2009 is at, and the Archdiocese’s letter to the Board of Elections and Ethics is at

Here’s the strategy for both sides over the next few months. Today at its monthly meeting, the Board of Elections and Ethics said that it won’t have a public hearing to consider the Marriage Initiative of 2009 until a special meeting late in October. That delay gives the city council time to pass a same-sex marriage bill before the BOEE meets, which could make the initiative moot. The supporters of the traditional definition of marriage will essentially be checkmated. They will be unable to press forward with the initiative; the Board of Elections and Ethics has already decided that a referendum on the subject violates DC’s Human Rights Act; and the city council is nearly united, with at least twelve votes against traditional marriage. In fact, the city council could let the initiative run its course if it wished; even if it passed, the council could overturn it the next day. (The council has previously overturned initiatives that set term limits on office holders and that limited campaign contributions.)

The opponents of same-sex marriage, then, have a difficult course before them. They can pursue their initiative, but the BOEE may not allow it or the city council may preempt it. If they get their initiative passed, the city council can easily overturn it. The cards have been dealt and the game is fixed. The only alternative for opponents of same-sex marriage is to play the electoral game and to try to defeat all the sitting councilmembers. Defeating just Catania and Mendelson would change nothing, since it would leave ten solid votes for same-sex marriage on the council (eleven votes, if Mendelson were just replaced by Clark Ray). There are no announced candidates now, and it will be hard to find attractive candidates who will be able to brave the name-calling in what will assuredly be mean-spirited and personal campaigns. In their favor, opponents of same-sex marriage are not limited to running candidates in any one party — they can have candidates run in the Democratic and Republican primaries and as independents. They can also run candidates who do not make traditional marriage their main issue, but who support law enforcement, good education, fiscal responsibility, and council independence from the mayor. If they persist, they may have a majority of councilmembers who support their cause by 2012, but it will take luck, talented candidates, and better organization than they have shown to date.

Now I’m calling a temporary halt to postings on the definition of marriage. The arguments have become repetitive, and themail is turning into nothing but a debate over that one issue. We’ll resume when there’s something new to say.

Gary Imhoff


I Miss Tony Williams
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Not that Tony was the best mayor DC has ever had, but there was one thing that Tony did that our current mayor has no clue about. That is planning. Tony Williams believed in creating plans to make things happen. Fenty is like a deer in the headlights. He is reactionary, not proactive. Fenty is also an egomaniac who wants to take credit for anything that is remotely good in the District. If he were a true leader, he’d be awarding plaudits for every good thing that happens to one or more folks who really were responsible for anything (however rare) good that happens in DC.


Call to Action on Right to Vote in 2010 on DC Marriage Initiative
K. West,

Make a great city greater. Respect the citizens’ right to vote. Just like charity, democracy begins at home. There is no “selective democracy.” Councilmembers can call on President Obama, Congress, and citizens of the nation to give the District of Columbia voting rights while simultaneously denying their own citizens the opportunity to vote on a ballot initiative. That seems like the height of hypocrisy. Looking back, it was the mayor who set a precedent early in his term for ignoring the will of the people. He bypassed the vote of the citizens and ignored pleas for a referendum on the school takeover. He went straight to Congress for their approval instead. The school takeover changed the Home Rule Charter and apparently there was a loophole that allowed the head of government to do so. The mayor must be included in this voter-right sidestepping as well. How many of these initiative road/vote blockers will seek reelection or higher office next year while simultaneously blocking the people’s chance to voice their opinion on the definition of marriage via a ballot measure next year? Who will be the people’s champion of voting rights here at home? Maybe people are not looking for a pure “values” candidate, but they certainly can appreciate a strong, viable candidate who can stand tall positively on a vote on marriage. That doesn’t mean that they have to articulate whether they are for or against it and no one need know but the ballot box, but it does mean that they have to get out front calling for the initiative on behalf of a now voiceless citizenry.

All many citizens want is a chance to vote on the that measure in the 2010 election. To block that vote, government officials lean on civil rights, human rights, and whatever arguments give citizens pause to lend credence to their efforts to redefine marriage without going to the people first. It’s almost as if the city leadership was practicing its own version of reverse discrimination. Will the elected leadership next try to push for a genderless society and make all restrooms unisex in order not to discriminate? In a totalitarian society that could be possible if they wanted — their will be done. “So shall it be written, so shall it be done.” Under the Chairman’s leadership, the council should not have any public hearings or introduce any legislation to redefine marriage before the people have spoken at the ballot box! Don’t declare a sense of urgency to push for a council vote to try to preempt the initiative vote. The council should not vote on any marriage legislation until all legal options have been exhausted on the initiative process. After all, Judge Retchin, in her previous order on the same-sex marriage referendum, did say that an initiative was a possibility. So hold off until the initiative process is done. Education the public on the different sides of the issue can begin when the measure is approved and the petition stage begins.

Why is the District of Columbia trying to stop the voice of the people instead of trying to find ways for the citizens to vote on a ballot measure? The proposed citizens’ initiative would serve as a barometer to measure the will of the people, similar to the way one decides on candidates after doing some research. Why should statehood-seeking DC be any different from Maine, which recently grant the opportunity to put the issue on the ballot? California, Florida, and many other states allowed their citizens to vote on the measure. The citizens’ initiative, “Marriage Initiative 2009,” was filed with the DC Board of Elections on September 1. With this proposed initiative, voters are to decide what they should believe should be the definition of marriage. The proposed language is simply this: “Only marriage between a man and a woman valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.” That’s as simple as it gets. Easy enough to understand and vote on. Then the citizens would voice their opinion. It is the right of citizens to make that decision via a ballot measure if they want. Voting rights trumps all other arguments. The voice, the will of the people matters, whether it’s the minority, majority, or undecided, and should be respected.


Civil Rights No Barrier to Voter Initiative
Robert “Bob” King,

Instead of all the emotional hyperbole and name-calling, let’s deal with the facts. As someone quite active in the civil rights movement and as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, I am disappointed to hear people speaking out against a citizens’ initiative in order for them to define marriage. Let’s examine what we’re dealing with today by looking at some of the facts..

Supporters of same-sex marriage claim that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue. Civil rights champions fought civil rights violations using crafted legal language and legal validity presented in court. They did not marginalize themselves or their cause with hysterical, inflammatory statements. Civil rights champions did not scapegoat other groups and trample America’s fundamental precept of democracy, the right to vote, to advance their fight. Civil rights champions did not attempt to oppress and deny the democratic rights of others for their own personal gain. The civil rights mantra was and remains inclusion, not exclusion. Civil rights champions (men and women) were murdered, maimed, and brutalized as they fought for inclusion in the democratic voting process. Now we are expected to ignore the blood success of voting rights as a pretext for DC voter oppression.

These are the facts. And the people say, initiative please. Where’s the initiative on the definition of marriage? If marriage is to be redefined, allow the citizens to vote on an initiative in next year’s election. An initiative would only honor the civil rights movement by allowing the participation of all people of all persuasions, ethnicities, cultures, race, creed, and so forth. Dr. Martin Luther King would no doubt praise efforts to hear the will of the people. Bring on the initiative and let’s vote. The voice of the people will be heard in 2010.


Michael Bindner,

The question is not whether gay marriage is a civil right, it is whether denying marriage rights to gays is an act of malice against them. If there is not rational justification for doing so, then the answer is assumed to be yes — especially if the defenders of the status quo’s rhetoric rises to the level of demonization, like it did when the voters in the State of Colorado enacted an amendment revoking protections based on sexual preference, which the federal courts struck down. Proposition 8 is under challenge in California on the same grounds, and success there for gays and lesbians will have ramifications nationwide, and will likely make a DC action unnecessary should the case be decided quickly. I have been an ardent supporter of DC democracy, including allowing the amendment of the Charter by initiative. However, I draw the line at allowing voters an opinion on the civil rights of others.


Marriage and Church Versus State
Greg DuRoss,

Malcolm Wiseman said “Marriage” is the domain of the church; no government should be about the business of defining or redefining it” (themail, September 6). Actually, if you did your research, I believe you would find that marriage is the domain of the state and it is the churches that have usurped it. In ancient times your union was recognized by the State; churches were not involved. We need to follow the European model. If you want to get married you get your license and have a civil ceremony. If you want to have your marriage blessed you go to a church. I just did that here in DC over the weekend with a couple who got married last year in California and had their marriage blessed in front of family, friends, and their faith community at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church.

As for voting on civil rights and equality of rights issues, I dare say we have a long and sad history of the majority oppressing the minority. Even today I have no doubt that if we put civil rights for blacks and some other minority groups before voters in some communities in this country, their rights would disappear as soon as the votes were counted. So, if DC wants to lead the country in allowing the majority to decide on the rights of the minority, then let’s get started — there is a lot of hate and oppression just waiting to be released and I just know we are all anxious to live with that.


Voting on Marriage
Stephen Miller,

You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. Your statement [themail, September 6] that “Massachusetts . . . will have such a [marriage] vote in November” is false. Perhaps you were thinking of Maine.

As for your opinions: does your desire for a vote on same-sex marriage stem from an opinion that marriage is not a civil right, or that sexual orientation is not a protected class given access to civil rights? If the former, then when will you begin advocating for a plebiscite on the ability of different races to marry to ensure that our current law is legitimate? After all, the repeal of miscegenation laws altered the definition of civil marriage and was not put to a vote before the people. If the latter, then when will you begin to advocate for a vote to repeal DC’s sexual orientation employment nondiscrimination laws, which were similarly not voted upon by the people?

If, however, you view marriage as a civil right (as established by Loving v. Virginia) and believe that sexual orientation should not be a reason to deny civil rights (as established by the DC Human Rights Law), how could you argue that the right of a same-sex couple to marry should be put to referendum? Shouldn’t all civil rights, then, be placed on the ballot? I wonder what would happen to the First Amendment. There are many important issues facing District leaders and residents. Why does this one require a referendum that circumvents existing legislative and judicial processes, while the others do not?

[Stephen Miler is right about the states. I reported in themail on September 2 that Maine would have a vote on a same-sex marriage referendum in November; when I wrote themail on September 6 I had a brain hiccup and wrote Massachusetts instead. However, Michael Bindner, Greg DuRoss, and Stephen Miller are stating their underlying argument too broadly, and proving too much. Marriage, they claim, is a civil right, and a society that defines marriage so that anyone is denied the right to marry anyone he or she wants to marry is denying a basic human right. If so, then what is the principle by which they or anyone who believes this can oppose polygamy or incestuous marriages? This question is usually just dismissed with a response of, “That’s ridiculous,” or “That’s a slippery slope argument,” but it follows logically from their premise. If marriage is a basic human right, a civil right that must be available to everyone, then how can the state limit its definition to forbid anyone from entering into whatever form of marriage he or she prefers? Or are advocates simply saying that they want marriage rights for themselves, or for a group whom they prefer, and not for others whose preferred form of marriage would remain illegal? — Gary Imhoff]



Doggie Swim Day, September 12
John A. Stokes,

The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will host its first DPR Doggie Day Swim on Saturday, September 12, from 12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., at the Upshur Pool, 4300 Arkansas Avenue, NW, and at Francis Pool, 25th and N Streets, NW. With the end of the outdoor swimming season, this annual event provides dogs with a one-day opportunity to enjoy a swim and play games.

Admission is $7 per dog and tickets must be purchased in advance, tickets will not be available for sale the day of the event. Tickets for Doggie Day Swim at Francis Pool and Doggie Day Swim at Upshur Pool can be purchased at DPR Headquarters at 3149 16th Street, NW, Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or online at through DPR’s online registration system.

Dog handlers must be sixteen years of age or older, and cannot swim or enter the pool with their dogs. Dogs must be sociable and remain leashed while on the pool deck. All dogs must wear current DC dog license; vaccination tags or have a current rabies certificate or letter from their veterinarian stating that they have received necessary shots in order to gain entry to the event. During the Doggie Day Swim, there will be limits to the number of dogs in the pool area at one time: 75 dogs at Upshur Pool, and 150 dogs at Francis Pool.


Groundwork Anacostia, September 12
Sylvia Brown,

Groundwork Anacostia River DC, would be delighted to have you participate in the seventeenth Annual DC Building Industry Association’s Community Project on Saturday, September 12, 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. The project will be at Ward 7’s Ft. Mahan Park at 42nd and Grant Streets, NE, only two blocks from the Minnesota Avenue Metro. The project will include hiker/biker trail restoration, refurbishing basketball courts, and planting noninvasive vegetation. To let us know that you can join us, please contact Dennis Chestnut, Executive Director, Groundwork Anacostia River DC, at 286-4970 or Danielle Melus, DCBIA Project contact, at 966-8665.

Groundwork Anacostia River DC is an exciting organization connecting the environment with community empowerment! Visit us at to learn more.


Faith Ringgold Lecture, Story Quilt, September 13
Marquis Perkins,

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with The Textile Museum invite you to attend Story Quilt: An American History, a lecture given by master quilter and world renowned artist Faith Ringgold as part of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ American Masterpieces Program, The American Quilt 2009: Weaving the District’s Future.

The program will be held at The Philips Collection, 1600 21st Street, NW, on Sunday, September 13, 3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. For more information or to RSVP call 724-5613. Seating is first come, first served, and is subject to availability.

Check out to enter our virtual quilting competition. Submit your idea for a quilt block; write, draw, or illustrate your unique story and win fantastic awards from the Textile Museum. This is very easy; you click on the entries browser and upload your idea, and then ask your friends and family to vote for you. The five entries with the highest votes will win great prizes.


Marita Golden on the Middle East, September 15
George Williams,

The DC Public Library presents a lecture by award-winning author Marita Golden, “A Black Woman Writer in Israel: My Own Piece of the Middle East,” on Tuesday, September 15, 6:30 p.m., at Martin Luther King, Jr., Public Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall.

Are the images we see of the Middle East true, embellished, or false? Hear from acclaimed author Marita Golden, who spent her spring at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Creative Writing. Listen as she gives an intimate account of the discussions she held about her own work and the work of iconic Black writers. Hear how this complex society defies what we think we know from media images and reports, and how many in this region turn to literature and writing to make their voices heard.


Capitol Hill Energy Cooperative Meeting, September 15
Cecily Kohler,

The Capitol Hill Energy Coop will have its monthly meeting in September on several sustainability issues including: the installation of residential solar panels, joining a local food cooperative, and how to implement your energy audit. All are welcome. Capitol Hill United Methodist Church, 421 Seward Square, SE, Eastern Market, Tuesday, September 15, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. For more information, go to


National Building Museum Events, September 15-16
Jazmine Zick,

September 15, 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Inter-school Student Design Competition. See the results of the design charrette held at the Museum on September 13, when local architecture students present their designs at a public awards ceremony. Free; no registration required.

September 15, 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Spotlight on Design: Bing Thom. Architect Bing Thom, FRAIC, whose design for the renovation of Arena Stage in Washington, DC, is currently under construction, and Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith discuss the unique challenges in building performing arts centers. Martin Moeller, the Museum’s senior vice president and curator, moderates. Museum, Arena Stage, and AIA Members, $12; students; nonmembers $20. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

September 16, 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., DC Builds: DC Architecture: Three Views. Leading DC architects Colden Florance, FAIA; Amy Weinstein, FAIA; and David Jameson, FAIA; three architects with distinct approaches to their practice, share their views on the architecture of Washington, DC. Moderated by Mary Fitch, AICP, Hon. AIA and presented as part of AIA|DC’s tenth anniversary celebration of Architecture Week. Free, registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.



First Lego League Qualifying Events, November 7, 14
Denise Lewis,

On Saturday, November 7, and Saturday, November 14, Virginia/DC First Lego League will host our inaugural qualifying events in the District of Columbia. Visit for more information about FLL. A short video is available at “Watch the ‘Get in the Game’ video” link.

A variety of volunteer positions, both technical and non technical, are available. Positions are available for those with no prior experience with a robotics competition and training for judges and referees is available on the morning of the events. Many volunteers are needed to enable the District of Columbia FLL teams (ages nine to fourteen) to compete at tournaments! High school youth are accepted for many positions. Head Referee: the head referee will receive training from FLL on the game, missions and rules. He or she helps to recruit and train the referees and prepares them for the competition day. Referees: referees are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to the robot performance competition rounds. They also keep the competition going by moving teams through the rounds with ease, smiles and an understanding that this is a tough competition for the children. Consistency is critical. Judges: judges will be assigned to evaluate and score teams one of the other team events: research, teamwork, or robot design/programming. Judges will receive the following from FLL: training and criteria of how to judge the various awards, schedules for the day, and a training packet prior to training. Judge positions are often staffed by local corporate, educational, civic, or scientific organizations. Scorekeeper: the referee or score runners bring the scores to the scorekeeper who records them in a computerized score spreadsheet and then posts them for the audience. Timekeeper: this volunteer is indispensable in making sure teams know when to start and end. Teams also need to know how much time is left, which is usually part of the Emcee’s play-by-play announcing. To help keep everyone on schedule, consider using loud horns to start and end each round. Teams have to know how much time is left in a round so they can determine which of their programs to use. Queue Manager: the queue managers help teams line up, or queue, prior to entering the robot competition area. Team queuing is key to keeping the event on schedule. Pit manager/runners: manage the pit and announcements made in the pit area. Ensure that teams move from the pit area to the queue area prior to their competition rounds. Practice field supervisor: ensures teams rotate through the practice table in a graciously professional way. Emcee: the Emcee is the voice the teams and spectators hear throughout the competition and the person who builds excitement during the day. Photographer: captures the tournament’s excitement and team moments. It is recommended that he/she include spectators in the shots because they often lend a special touch while rooting for or reacting to the events of the day. The photographer also has the honor of taking pictures of dignitaries, winning teams, volunteers, judges, and referees. Competition Field Resetters: these volunteers reset the tables after each round has been scored. They may also double as runners to take the completed score sheets to the scorekeeper. General support: if additional volunteers are available, guides, traffic controllers, judging assistance are optional positions that add a lot to the tournament.

Please contact me to volunteer and for additional information.


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