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October 11, 2009


Dear Ralliers:

The protest rally on Freedom Plaza last Thursday marks a turning point in DC politics. Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s war against DC school teachers and their union led her to overreach with a maneuver that was too cute by half — to hire many more teachers than she needed for this school year in order to provide an excuse for largely arbitrary firings, calling them a Reduction in Force. That offended not just veteran teachers, but also younger teachers who realized that they, too, would be the targets of Rhee’s iron whims. It showed students and DCPS parents how Rhee’s methods, when put in practice, would harm them. And it energized government workers and unions — not just local unions, but national union leaders — in recognition that the Fenty administration is engaged not in an effort to improve education, but in an effort to bust public employee unions.

That changes the momentum in the 2010 mayoral race. Here’s how things stand. The anybody-but-Fenty voting blocs include the unions; most city workers, whether they are unionized or not; young people and students, who see what Fenty and Rhee are doing to their schools, including the University of the District of Columbia; most black voters, who see Fenty as being uninterested in their issues; the poor and those concerned about the welfare of the poor, who see Fenty’s cuts in homeless programs, neglect of job creation programs, and closing of child care facilities as being hostile to their interests; the good government voters who follow city affairs closely and who oppose his giveaways of government property and land to favored developers; and the traditional values voters who are offended by his promotion of gay marriage and his other snubs of organized religion.

The pro-Fenty voters include white voters, largely in sections of Wards One, Two and Three, who have little involvement with or knowledge of DC government; those gays for whom the gay marriage issue trumps all other issues; monied contributors who have given three million dollars to his reelection campaign; developers and contractors who have benefited at the trough of District government; and twenty-somethings who are newcomers to the District of Columbia and who believe Fenty’s claims that recent economic development projects are due to him, rather than being the culmination of his predecessors’ work.

What last Thursday’s large, well-organized, and enthusiastic protest rally shows is that the passion in this race is mostly on the anybody-but-Fenty side. Even among Fenty’s contributors, support is tempered by resentment at how the Fenty campaign has coerced them to contribute with barely veiled threats that if they want to do business with the city, or want to continue to do business with the city, they had better give generously. Many of Fenty’s strongest supporters in the 2006 race do not support him now, or support him only in the absence of any credible opposing candidate. Fenty’s strengths, on the other hand, are his three million dollar campaign fund, the unwavering support of The Washington Post, the absence of a credible challenger, and the possibility that the various groups that oppose him will not be able or willing to work together and to agree on a single candidate. There are tens of thousands of traditional values voters and tens of thousands of government workers and union voters. Together just these two groups could sway the election, but do they have any willingness or ability to work together?

The Post’s editorial board’s penchant for covering up for and excusing Fenty’s and Rhee’s mistakes, which will be a great benefit to Fenty in his campaign, is particularly evident in today’s editorial on the rally,, which is replete with mistakes and misrepresentations. The editorial board’s ignorance and bias is especially obvious when compared with more accurate information elsewhere in the same paper. Read Thomas Toch’s “Five Myths about Paying Good Teachers More,” which confronts and takes down Rhee’s claims about the magic of performance pay,; Robert McCartney’s admission, as a Rhee supporter, that he’s not convinced by her explanation of her firings, “Did Rhee Overplay Her Hand or Seek a Showdown?”; and Jodie Gittleson’s account of her own firing and its aftermath, “Pink Slip for a First-Year Teacher,” The next time the Post’s editorial board tells you that Rhee’s plans are wonderful, reread Gittleson’s story of how a grade-school principal fired the school’s only third-grade teacher, and dealt with the problem that created by kicking some third-graders up to the fourth grade and demoting the others to the second grade.

Gary Imhoff


Open Government
Dorothy Brizill,

In the District, there is a body of law that is intended to create and open and transparent government. Under the District’s Freedom of Information Act (DC Code §2-531, et seq.) “the public policy of the District of Columbia is that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees.” Moreover, there is a “sunshine” or open meetings provision in the DC Code (§1-207.42) that states that “all meetings (including hearings) of any department, agency, board, or commission of the District government, including meetings of the Council of the District of Columbia, at which official actions of any kind is taken shall be open to the public.” Despite the legal framework, District officials continue to meet and make decisions behind closed doors, and access to government documents is severely restricted. In recent years, examples have included closed-door budget deliberations in the council, WASA’s failure to release information regarding elevated lead levels in the District’s drinking water, the disappearance and/or destruction of government records concerning the 2002 arrests at Pershing Park, the denial of a FOIA request seeking information on how the fifty million dollar government grant to Abe Pollin for the Verizon Center was spent, the denial of information regarding how the District government selects developers and disposes of government-owned real property, secrecy surrounding the purpose and funding of trips by the mayor outside of the District, denying individuals access to their personnel files, and denying information regarding how the District government awards contracts.

The DC Open Government Coalition ( has been created to enhance the public’s access to government information and ensure the transparency of government operations. On Wednesday, October 21, from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., the DC Open Government Coalition will hold a town hall meeting at the Charles Sumner School, 17th and M Streets, NW, to discuss the accessibility of government information in the District. The meeting will be moderated by Colbert King of the Washington Post. The program will include a panel discussion with Kathy Patterson; Lucy Dalgish, Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press; Mark Segraves, WTOP; Bill Myers, Washington Examiner; Ed Lazere, Fiscal Policy Institute; and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Partnership for Civil Justice.


Rhee’s Legacy of No Accountability
Candi Peterson,

There is a double standard within Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s administration. What we are seeing is a chancellor who is not being accountable when it matters most to be accountable. Most of us can agree with the Post writer who said that Rhee overplayed her hand this time in laying off hundreds of teachers. News releases show teachers recounting horror stories of their dismissals despite years of positive performance evaluations. Most have yet to be informed about the real reasons for their imminent layoffs. Students following the lead of their teachers and school counselors report that these untimely dismissals have led to changes in class schedules, dropped classes, and worries about their education. Despite unending news coverage of recent layoffs, Rhee digs in her heels and refuses to provide data to substantiate her claims of an education budget shortfall, now down to twelve million dollars from earlier reports of forty million.

Read the article in today’s Washington Post by Jodie Gittleson, a newly hired DC teacher, about her dismissal from DC public schools. Her words illustrate better than I can how DC students are the real victims in this tragedy.


Low Power FM Radio Stations
Phil Shapiro,

What would happen if there were a radio station in your neighborhood -- within walking distance -- that you could walk over to host a radio show or participate as a guest on someone else’s radio show? What would it be like to connect with local community activists, writers, poets, artists, musicians, dramatists, health advocates, educators via that radio station? These are questions worth thinking about because they may no longer be hypothetical. See

Click your voice of support by joining the Prometheus Radio Project Facebook page. There’s a link on the left side of the above-mentioned web page. Twelve hundred people are already there.


Department of Parks and Recreation Columbus Day Schedule
John A. Stokes,

On Columbus Day, Monday, October 12, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will open three recreation centers and the Wilson Aquatic Center. All other DPR facilities will be closed in observance of the holiday. The following recreation and community centers will be open 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. on Monday, October 12: Ward 3, Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 282-2204; Ward 4, Riggs LaSalle Community Center, 501 Riggs Road, NE, 576-5224; and Ward 8, Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet Street, SW, 645-3960. The following aquatic center will be open 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 12: Wilson Aquatic Center, 4551 Fort Drive, NW, 730-0583. Note: the center will be open 6:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. only for registration for DPR’s fall programs.



Environmental Health Group (EHG) Events, October 13
Allen Hengst,

World War I munitions, bottles filled with chemical warfare agents and contaminated soil have been found in and around the Spring Valley neighborhood of northwest DC. The Environmental Health Group (EHG) seeks to raise awareness of the issues and encourage a thorough investigation and cleanup. Every Saturday at 1:00 p.m., please join the Environmental Health Group for an informal discussion about Spring Valley issues. In the cafe at the Tenleytown Whole Foods Market, 4530 40th Street, NW (one block north of Tenley Circle). For more information, visit the EHG on Facebook at:

Tuesday, October 13, 7 p.m.: Monthly meeting of the Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Digging at the “Pit 3” munitions recovery site on Glenbrook Road has been suspended since the unexpected discovery of mustard agent in an open flask on August 4. Geophysical surveys began this month on sixty-two acres of Dalecarlia Woods on the property of the Washington Aqueduct between Dalecarlia Parkway and the reservoir. At Saint David’s Church basement, 5150 Macomb Street, NW (one block north of MacArthur Boulevard). For more information, go to


Senior Harvestfest 2009, October 14
Darlene Nowlin,

Senior Harvestfest 2009, sponsored by the Office on Aging Senior Service Network, will be held on Wednesday, October 14, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at Takoma Community Center, 300 Van Buren Street, NW. This free outdoor event will include live entertainment, music, and an Old School DJ under the main tent for hand dancing and line dancing, with pavilions featuring demonstration bingo and carnival games; a health and wellness pavilion with nutrition, wellness information and massages; an information pavilion with government and community-based resources; a health screening pavilion with free health screenings and immunizations; and a food pavilion with fresh fruits and vegetables and barbecue for sale. For more information , call 724-5626.


Making DC Elections Accessible and Accountable, October 16
James Bubar,

The DC Council is considering Bill 18-345, the “Omnibus Elections Reform Act of 2009,” that will allow for same-day voter registration, early voting, no-fault absentee ballots, expansion of the pool of qualified poll workers, and much more. The DC Affairs Section of the DC Bar is hosting a program with Mary Cheh and Eric Marshall. You are welcome to attend. The event is free, just RSVP.

Friday, October 16, 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m., at Wiley Rein law firm, 1776 K Street, NW (Farragut North Metro Station). Speakers will be Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Chair, Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, and Eric Marshall, Campaign Manager, National Campaign for Fair Elections, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project. Who should attend? Anyone who votes in the District of Columbia or is involved in the elections process. Free (bring a brown bag lunch), but register in advance by sending an E-mail to Sally Kram at



Community Organizer: Education Issues
Pariza Nourisi,

Empower DC (, 1419 V Street, NW) seeks a full-time organizer to lead the development of a new grassroots campaign around education issues. Salary, $30,000 per year. Starting date, November 2, 2009. Duration, Through December 31, 2010, with possibility of extension based on funding. Forty hours per week, with some weekend and evening hours. The organizer will work to organize, empower and mobilize parents and guardians who have middle and high school age students in DC Public Schools and charter schools to be involved in the development of and advocacy for education policies that will improve educational conditions, leading to an increase in high school graduation rates. Empower DC’s strategy for resolving these issues is to develop the sense of empowerment and entitlement of DC parents and guardians, and enhance the self-advocacy skills of effected low and moderate income DC residents, while bringing them together to develop their collective power to make institutional change in the DC educational system that will benefit children in the District.

Responsibilities include conducting extensive outreach to identify and recruit impacted parents and encourage their involvement; developing leadership and sense of empowerment amongst impacted residents through the provision of training, mentorship and direct experience aimed to develop effective self-advocacy skills; facilitating the development of strategic campaign activities identified at campaign meetings during which participants are encouraged to identify policy recommendations, develop campaign objectives and take on leadership roles in carrying out campaign activities; mobilizing this constituency to be actively involved in the high level arenas where education policy making is taking place; meeting regularly with partners, allies and leaders; identifying the individuals, agencies, commissions and other bodies responsible for and/or impacting education in DC; organizing trainings and forums to educate the broader community about education issues in DC; working with members and allies, develop an education advocacy agenda; organizing city council and city agency meetings with Empower DC members to advocate on issues of importance to the campaign; assisting with administrative duties including maintaining contact database; assisting with growing the membership of Empower DC; participating in Empower DC’s quarterly membership meetings, board meetings, and other activities as necessary; and other duties as assigned

Qualifications: minimum of two years organizing or advocacy experience (volunteer experience acceptable) including experience building the leadership of community members; knowledge of and familiarity with the District of Columbia; strong interest in and commitment to community organizing and social, economic and racial justice; ability to effectively communicate, both in writing and verbally, relaying complicated information in a user-friendly manner; strong organizational skills, including the ability to work independently and manage own projects; basic computer competency for word processing and data management; must have a flexible schedule to accommodate some weekend and evening hours.

Please send a cover letter, résumé, and the names and contact information for three references to Parisa Norouzi, director, at  or by fax, 234-6655, by October 19, 2009. Incomplete applications will not be considered.


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