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October 14, 2009

Council Races

Dear Racers:

In the last introduction to themail, I wrote about the prospects for next year’s mayoral election, and broke down the interest groups and issues that could have an effect on the election. My conclusion was that the anti-Fenty forces have the numbers and the passion to win the election; but that they don’t have a candidate that they can agree on and work together to support. The three groups that are most dissatisfied and that could tip the election are labor, DCPS parents, and traditional marriage supporters. If they formed an alliance, they could win, but it’s unlikely that they will join in a common cause.

What are the implications that this situation has for the council races? Chairman Gray, At-Large Councilmembers Mendelson and Catania; and Ward Councilmembers Graham (1), Cheh (3), Thomas (5), and Wells (6) are up for reelection. The mayor’s rubber-stamp supporters on any issue are Catania, Graham, Evans, Bowser, and Wells. None of them has opposed Fenty on any important issue, and three of them are up for reelection this year. That makes them vulnerable, but none of them is facing any serious announced challenger. In fact, the only serious challenger that any councilmember faces is Clark Ray, who is running against Mendelson. Ray is running to be another rubber-stamp supporter of Fenty, and he is opposing Mendelson because Mendelson has dared to oppose several of Fenty’s worst mistakes.

But even those councilmembers who have put some distance between themselves and Fenty have very mixed records. Labor has a reason to run candidates against almost all councilmembers, since most councilmembers have bad records on labor’s issues: supporting the mayor’s anti-labor nominees to the Public Employee Relations Board, voting for the mayoral takeover of the schools and for Rhee’s nomination to be schools chancellor, voting for Attorney General Peter Nickles’ confirmation, being unwilling to challenge the mayor and Attorney General when they try to deny witnesses or information to the council, and being unable to enforce their own laws to challenge closing DPR’s child care facilities. DCPS parents don’t have any reason to support any current councilmembers, since none has raised a finger to rein in Fenty’s and Rhee’s drive for complete control of schools. The council is starting to talk about exercising a little oversight over the schools now, but so far it’s just talk. Traditional marriage supporters, of course, have a reason to oppose nearly every councilmember — and they must oppose them to get the council either to overturn the gay marriage bill that it is going to pass this year or to amend the human rights law that is being interpreted to block a public vote on gay marriage.

The ineffectiveness of the council, its inability to protect DC public property against despoliation and to protect DC laws against the mayor’s and attorney general’s defiance, makes all of the incumbents vulnerable. Ward One’s Graham is the most vulnerable, of course, but three or four others are not much better off than Graham. Yet no serious candidate has announced, much less begun to campaign, against any of the most vulnerable councilmembers. Next year’s election can’t rely on the emergence of volunteer candidates; the movements and interest groups that want to make a change in city government have to draft candidates, and if each of the movements works alone and drafts its own candidates, the incumbents will win again.

There is more accurate reporting about DC Public Schools today, two articles in today’s Post and one on its web site, that the editorial board of the Post will have to ignore to continue its unstinting praise of Chancellor Rhee. They are a not-to-be-missed anonymous posting on the CityWire web site, “Fifteen Questions for Chancellor Rhee”;; Bill Turque’s article on the real effects on high schoolers of teacher layoffs, “For McKinley Students, a Lesson in Disappointment,”; and Courtland Milloy’s column on the layoffs, “No Use Studying for This Test,” If you were wondering how and why the editorial board can get it so wrong about the Fenty administration, Mike DeBose has the answer: they just take dictation from the Fenty administration. “How to Get a Sweet WaPo Editorial,”, is complete with a screen shot of this October 5 E-mail from Rhee to Ximena Hartsock, “Spoke to Wapo ed board folks about you today. Told them you are the most qualified person possible, that you have amazing capacity and that everything you do has your hallmark of excellence. They’ll write a good piece for tomorrow.”

Gary Imhoff


I Just Figured It Out
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be Mayor Fenty’s new Hydrant Czar. Sounds like a terrific job. I can remember when I was much younger when, on very hot summer days, the kids in Brooklyn were treated to an open fire hydrant in many neighborhoods. It was a riot to see all the kids splashing around. (Many were in just their skivvies — who owned a bathing suit that fit?). With many hours of experience under those open hydrants with splash shields diverting the water into wonderful sprays I think I’m eminently qualified. How do I apply?


Metrobus Delays
Bryce Suderow,

I ride the 90 or 92 Metrobus every day from 8th and F Streets, NW, to Pennsylvania Avenue. Today en route to Pennsylvania Avenue, I waited forty minutes in the rain for the bus before a bus came. The first bus was jammed to the door with passengers. So was the second. The third came ten minutes later and had room. On the way home during rush hour, I waited thirty minutes for a bus.

The drivers told me they had been ordered not to pass other Metrobuses. Thus the slowest bus dictated the speed of all the other busses behind it.

I don’t know why this is happening, but I do know that if any of you take busses, you can expect considerable delays from now on.


The Root of the Rhee Dilemma
Ralph J. Chittams, Sr.,

Rhee is either the best thing ever to hit DCPS, or the biggest disaster since the Edsel. What is the foundation from which these two distinct conclusions are formed? I submit that the difference lies in the historical values-based decision-making processes which divergent groups bring to the table. Both sides are willing to admit the following: 1) there are bad teachers within DCPS who need to be removed; and 2) there are good teachers who have been caught in Rhee’s sweep-out-the-bums methodology. It is how these facts are viewed that make Rhee either a reformer or a despot. The pro-Rhee camp is willing to sacrifice good teachers for the sake of reform. The anti-Rhee camp is not willing to make that sacrifice. The question we must all ask ourselves is this. Is it better for an innocent man to die in order to kill guilty men, or is it better for guilty men to go free in order to save innocent men?

African-Americans, by far Rhee’s most vocal critics, carry within them the historic injustices perpetrated upon their innocent. How many innocent Black men became “strange fruit” in the South? That legacy causes African-Americans to generally side with the innocent over the guilty. Other groups do not carry that legacy within their American history. Therefore, they appear more willing to sacrifice and ignore the legal rights of an innocent in order to exact justice on those perceived to be guilty. Which line of thinking is correct? That is a moral decision which each of us must make for ourselves.

But what to do next is the most important question. Understanding the dynamics of this city, for Chancellor Rhee to succeed in her efforts to reform DCPS, she must bring the greater community into the process and allow them to take ownership of the reform efforts. Unfortunately, that ship may have sailed. Every citizen of the District of Columbia wants better schools. But we have to work together to achieve our common goal — a school system that is the envy of the world. Our children deserve nothing less.


A Rude Awakening
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

A rude awakening is what awaits the DC Department of Tax and Revenue. The Feds have suspended the Required Minimum Distribution from IRA and 401K accounts for the tax year 2009. That will result in a major loss of tax revenue for the District in April 2010, and earlier for those who pay their DC income taxes on a quarterly basis.


InTowner October Issue Now Online
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the October 2009 online edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature (the accompanying images can be seen in the archived PDF version). The complete issue (along with prior issues back to January 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link in the Current and Back Issues Archive. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements.

The next issue will publish on November 13 (the second Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Ambitious Expansion Plans for Library in Mt. Pleasant Roils Community; Many Object to Design and Question Programs”; 2) “Dupont Circle House Tour to Show Victorian, Beaux Arts, Contemporary and More.”



Church Yard Sale, October 17
Vivian Henderson,

The Sixth Presbyterian Church, at 16th and Kennedy Streets, NW, will have an interesting yard sale on Saturday, October 17, from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., rain or shine. Items on sale include furniture, adult bicycles, grills, luggage on wheels, electronic games, jewelry, and international foods. Items from the Church’s gift shop will also be on sale.


National Building Museum Events, October 17, 20, 22-23
Sara Kabakoff,

October 17, all day, exhibition opens: House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage.

October 20, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Next Generation Green Technologies. Metropolis magazine challenged designers to “fix our energy addiction” in this year’s Next Generation competition. Susan Szenasy, Metropolis’s editor-in-chief, presents the prize-winning submissions and discusses the power of problem-solving through design thinking. $12 members; $12 students; $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk in registration based on availability.

October 22, 10:00-11:30 a.m., Estate Planning Workshop. Marc W. Boland, Esq., of Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz and Gilday, LLC, discusses current estate planning techniques and management issues, including wills, trusts, probate, power of attorney, advance directives, charitable giving, and more during this free workshop. Free. Registration required. Register online.

October 23, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 2:00-4:00 p.m., Family Program: Haunted Halloween. Celebrate the spirit of Halloween as you build and design your very own haunted house. Fun for the whole family, the festivities include crafts, treats, and ghosts stories (more silly than spooky!) about the Museum. $10 per house of members; $15 per house of nonmembers. Registration required. Recommended for ages six and up. All children must be accompanied by an adult. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Take Steps with a Purpose, October 21
Beth Meyer,

In the greatest journey of his life, Eric M. Latham literally walked across the United States to raise money for cancer research. Along the way, he met thousands of people who shared their amazing stories with him. Now, he’s sharing those stories with the world.

Take Steps with a Purpose: A Walk About America for Cancer Research is an inspirational story about tragedy and triumph, about life and death, about hope, courage, and strength. But most of all, it’s a story about people and how they’re affected by cancer. Full-color photos and nearly two hundred pages detail the faces of America. Take Steps with a Purpose records each challenging step Eric took to fight for a cause that he believes in. Born in DC and native to Rockville, Eric recently moved back to the area. He is also the author of Entitled to a Nation. For more information about the book, go to Free event. The author talk will be at Kensington Row Bookshop, 3786 Howard Avenue, on Wednesday, October 21, 7:30 p.m. For further information, call 301-949-9416.


DC State Board of Education, October 21
Beverley Wheeler,

The DC State Board of Education (DCSBOE) will hold its regularly scheduled public meeting during which the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) will present on two issues. OSSE’s Health and Wellness team will present an overview of a grant proposal through the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). The Board will also receive an overview of OSSE’s progress on implementation of the Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion Act, please see the recent press release on the DC Government’s web site.

The State Board will also hear comments from two advocacy groups regarding the implementation of the District’s Arts Standards and Health Standards which were approved by the State Board on May 21, 2008, and December 13, 2007, respectively. The public meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 21, at 5:30 p.m. at 441 4th Street, NW, in the District of Columbia State Board of Education Chambers, located on the lobby level of the building.

Constituents who wish to comment at the meeting are required to notify the State Board of Education in advance by contacting the Executive Director, Beverley Wheeler, by phone at 741-0884 or by E-mail at before the close of business Monday, October 19, 2009. Please provide one electronic copy and bring fifteen copies of testimony to the hearing for the State Board members to view. The meeting will air live on District Knowledge Network (DKN) Comcast Channel 99 and RCN Channel 18.


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