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November 18, 2009

Get Government Out of Our Whole Houses

Dear Householders:

Fifty to sixty years ago, the big liberal movement was to “get government out of our bedrooms,” to stop government from criminalizing sexual acts that took place in private. I used to think that was a good idea, but I’m not so sure anymore. That’s because politicians are incurable regulators, and if they can’t pass nanny-state regulations forbidding what people do in their bedrooms, they’ll pass laws regulating and forbidding what people do in every other room of their houses. Prohibitionist politicians will forbid you from smoking cigarettes inside your office or any other public space, from smoking outside too near a doorway, from smoking inside your apartment. They’ll forbid you from looking after your neighbor’s kids, unless you have a government license to do so. They’ll use taxes to discourage you from eating and drinking the foods you like, because liking what you eat is a sure sign that you shouldn’t be eating it, and from transporting those foods and drinks in bags unless they approve of the materials those bags are made of. They’ll forbid you from using toilets that flush with more water than they think you should use. They’ll forbid you from using light bulbs that cause one kind of pollution, and require you to use light bulbs that cause mercury pollution instead.

Politicians, in short, will pass all sorts of unnecessary laws, if by doing so they can show how superior their lifestyle preferences are to yours, and can impose their preferences on you. On October 21, I wrote in themail about the Wildlife Protection Act of 2009, Bill 18-498 (, which requires household exterminators, or “wildlife control operators,” to be licensed in the District; to follow the regulations in the bill; to prove that each animal they trap and relocate or, as a last resort, kill, is causing actual damage or danger; and to have a written plan for relocation of trapped animals approved by the District government for each job they do. On Monday, November 23, a short month after introducing the bill, Councilmember Cheh is going to hold a committee hearing on it. The ostensible purpose of the bill is to prevent animal cruelty but, in fact, there is no evidence that exterminators are currently engaged in any unnecessary animal cruelty. The bill was written at the behest of, and with the cooperation of, the Washington Humane Society, but all that the WHS can provide in support of it is speculation about possible harms, and no evidence of real harms. Dorothy spoke with two representatives of the WHS today. They both said that a exterminator could set a foothold trap, or a bear trap, carelessly and harm a child or a household pet. All right, Dorothy asked, how many children in the District have been wounded by a bear trap in the last five years? They didn’t know of any. How many pets have been wounded by a foothold trap? They didn’t know of any; they didn’t keep records of any instances. But a careless exterminator could leave an animal in a trap for days, to die painfully. How many instances of that happening could the WHS document? Well, none, but it could happen. What about the provision that forbids moving, trapping, or killing bats nesting in a house for six months of every year? The WHS didn’t know anything about that, but I wonder exactly what the Health Department or the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs or the Department of Housing thinks about the advisability and desirability of humans sharing their houses with bats.

It doesn’t really matter whether there’s any good rationale for passing the bill. Politicians, having been kicked out of our bedrooms, are now working their way through every other room in our houses, looking for ways in which they can regulate whatever we do. And passing a bill for which there's no proven need gives them more satisfaction than anything.

Gary Imhoff


The Public Doesn’t Need to Know
Dorothy Brizill,

As I wrote in themail on Sunday, Mayor Fenty has nominated Vicky Beasley, an attorney at the law firm of Patton Boggs, to replace Betty Noel as the People’s Counsel. Herb Harris notes in his message below, that Murial Bowser, chair of the council Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Beasley on Friday, November 20. Bowser, however, has gone to great lengths to limit citizen participation in the hearing. As I wrote last Sunday, I first learned about the hearing when I ran into Ms. Beasley at the Energy Expo at the Convention Center last Saturday. There was, however, no notice of the hearing published or posted on the council’s online calendar, nor was a written notice of the hearing available at the council’s Office of Legislative Services. As a result, on Wednesday morning I sent an E-mail to Ms. Bowser, members of her committee, and council chair Vincent Gray complaining about the lack of notice and arguing, “How can you call it a public hearing when you fail to inform the public in a timely manner that the hearing will be held?” In response, Ms. Bowser’s office sent me an E-mail stating, “Immediate consideration is required in order to avoid a vacancy in the Office of the People’s Counsel. On December 10, the 180-day holdover term (DC Official Code §1-523.01(c)) of the incumbent People’s Counsel, Elizabeth Noel, ends. Therefore, the Committee should expeditiously consider Ms. Beasley’s nomination.”

According to informed sources, Bowser had been told in early October that Fenty would be nominating Beasley. Moreover, the mayor’s letter to the council formally transmitting her nomination is dated November 3, which is about when Bowser had a private meeting with Beasley. It clearly appears that Bowser, working in collaboration with the Executive Office of the Mayor, fabricated a tight time frame for council review and public scrutiny of Beasley so that the council will be forced to vote on her nomination at its next legislative meeting, on December 1, which will be nine days prior to the expiration of Noel’s term in office.

Beasley’s nomination by Fenty is at the behest of her mentor at Patton Boggs, Matthew Cutts, a Fenty pal who was selected by the mayor in 2007 to head the Sports and Entertainment Commission. Apparently, Cutts discussed with Beasley several possible positions in the Fenty administration, and she selected the People’s Counsel office, even though she is not a litigator and the People’s Counsel is a litigating position. The most important duty of the People’s Counsel is to protect the citizens from unjustified and unnecessary rate increases by utilities, and Noel’s success at that has led to Fenty’s displeasure with her. When Beasley met with some citizens who asked her what her priorities would be for the office, she didn’t mention rate regulation at all; instead, she said her top three priorities would be “smart metering, smart grid, and submetering.” These priorities should please landlords and utility companies, but they are peripheral to the real job of the office — representing citizens in the regulating process and protecting them from the rapacious utilities that are Fenty’s primary concern in making this nomination.


Public Roundtable on People’s Counsel Nominee
Herbert Harris, Jr., DC Consumer Utility Board,

Mayor Fenty is not re-nominating Elizabeth Noel as the People’s Counsel of the District of Columbia. This decision by Mayor Fenty will have immediate consequences for consumers in the District of Columbia. Mayor Fenty, without any public input, has nominated Vicky A. Beasley to replace Ms. Noel as Peoples Counsel. Ms. Noel was never given the courtesy of a meeting with Mayor Fenty to discuss her renomination. On Friday, November 20, at 1:30 p.m., in Room 120 of the John Wilson Building, the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs will hold a public roundtable on Beasley’s nomination for Peoples’ Counsel. This nomination is being fast tracked to minimize public comments. We requested a full hearing and formal public notification and the request was denied.

The city council needs to hear from residents about the importance of the Office of the People’s Counsel and the selection of the People’s Counsel. This hearing is a forum to discuss the lack of a public process for selecting a nominee for People’s Counsel, protecting the independence of the Office of the People’s Counsel, and the important service OPC provides to consumers on utility issues. The Office of the People’s Counsel is the independent legal representative of DC consumers before the Public Service Commission, FCC, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and DC Court of Appeals. The strong independent voice of the OPC under has protected consumers against record rate increases, poor customer service, and other abuses at the hand of Pepco, Verizon, and Washington Gas.

Many of you know firsthand the legal and consumer education work done by the OPC. Their record of accomplishment and presence in the community is unparalleled in the District government. It is no secret that the utility companies have made it a priority to block and prevent Ms. Noel from being reappointed. A Pepco official openly stated, “I’m going to get her if it is the last thing I do.” The utility companies should not pick the People’s Counsel. Consumers deserve the most qualified representative as the People’s Counsel, not just another mayoral appointee. Register for the hearing to testify, and encourage others to attend the Public Roundtable.


Donation Scam
Si Kailian,

Keep an eye out and be safe, because this guy wants to come to you. I just got a call at work from a guy named “Roy Jameson” who identified himself as “DC Police Post #2979.” He asked for my boss my name. After I asked him exactly what he was calling about he said they were contacting local businesses looking for donations to support the DC police. He left a number: 704-8832. I asked him if this was for the Fraternal Order of Police, he said, “No this is directly for DC police and that’s who the check gets made out to.”

Some years ago a guy who sounded pretty much like this one (flat affect, very matter-of-fact) tried a similar scam, claiming to be from the FOP, wanting to come to our location physically to pick up money. We notified the police, who assured us it was not legit. The caller ID said “Derek Williams.” A quick net search yielded this article about him from the Examiner:


DC Fiscal Policy Survey
Ed Lazere,

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute is seeking your feedback to help us understand how our work is used and how it can be improved. We have developed a brief survey to collect your thoughts about our Budget Toolkit, what other topics we should research, and much more. The results of this survey will be used internally at DCFPI and will not be publicly distributed or published.

If you have a few minutes this week or early next week, please visit our survey at and let us know your thoughts. The survey will be up through close of business next Wednesday, November 25. Thanks in advance for your feedback!


One Way of Avoiding Colon Cancer
Phil Shapiro,

Because I have a very high risk of getting colon cancer, my gastroenterologist recommended that I have my colon removed — which I recently attended to. Guess what? Life goes on quite well without a colon. My uncle had his colon removed at my age (forty-nine) and is now enjoying life at the ripe old age of ninety-two. Without a colon, my chances of getting colon cancer are almost nil. That’s welcome news considering both my father and grandfather died of colon cancer.

In case there is anyone in this online community who has questions about colectomy surgery (removal of the colon), feel free to lob them over my way. I can also answer any questions folks have about colonoscopies. If you’re over fifty and you haven’t had a colonoscopy yet, you’re skirting danger. See also

In this Internet age, doctors look out for the well being of patients — and patients look out for the well being of other patients, too. Eat right. Exercise. Asks lots of questions. Live long.


Watching Howdy Doody DVDs?
Star Lawrence,

I thought I got “geezy” sometimes! You will love the USPS’s old TV show stamp array, though — it was everyone on it . . . Sgt. Bilko, Gleason, Red Skelton, Perry Mason, Kukla, etc., Ed Sullivan, Groucho, and of course, the puppet du jour. Call 800-782-6724 and just say old TV show stamps or something. They also have a banging catalog of fancy stamps. I also favor The Simpsons. It costs a buck extra to get them delivered.


Howdy Doody
T. Lassoc,

Fabulous lead article! It was like having a special sweet treat with my coffee. And especially meaningful for those of us (the neighborhood latchkey kids) who also watched Howdy Doody in the afternoons (in our house on a floor model, blonde-toned TV console-type piece of furniture with a funny shaped screen which curved outwards on the vertical sides). Would have been great if you could have embedded the audio of the Howdy Doody theme song.

Regarding the connection between Mr. Bluster and the “Prohibition on Government Employee Engagement in Political Activity Act of 2009,” Bill 18-460, maybe that legislation should be nicknamed the “DC Hatchet Act.” Haven’t read the act myself, but per your analysis it sounds like Section 3(b) is going to do a hatchet job on any possibility of ethical conduct by the exempted persons including the employees of the DC courts, and the mayor and city council (and by extension their respective employees). Mayor Bluster undoubtedly would have been very pleased. By the way, surely among the local supporters of a DC version of the federal Hatch Act, including Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (sponsor of the Congressional bill), the DC city council members, the powers that be in the DC court system and the mayor’s office there are some Howdy Doody fans in general, but more likely fans of Mayor Bluster in particular. (Speaking of Howdy Doody, did you notice that Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has been dubbed Howdy Doody by some of the cable news talking heads?

Sometimes art follows life and sometimes vice versa. So the legacy of Howdy Doody lives on, though many (mostly the generations following the original Howdy Doody show) will miss the keen insights your article brings to the politics of the present, locally — and nationally where those insights may also apply.

[Good idea about the theme song. See,,  and  — Gary Imhoff]



Walk for Charlie’s Place, November 21
Robin Diener,

City funding for the homeless is down, yet the need for homeless services is growing. This Saturday, November 21, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association is going to join the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon in support of Charlie’s Place. We want you to sign up and come along. It will be fun, and we will raise money to help deal with the problems of our neediest neighbors. Why Charlie’s Place? You probably know about Charlie’s Place’s long history of providing a substantial breakfast, a stable address, and links to social, legal, and health services, for the homeless and working poor in the Dupont Circle area. Do you also know that recently Charlie’s Place has been able to expand its work to include some case management? Last year they found housing for seventeen and jobs for forty-seven clients The neighborhood needs more of this sort of help. That’s why we’re walking. That’s why you should join us.

Don’t wait another minute. (On November 21, the registration fee is $5 more.) Sign up now at (click on “Walkathon”) or sign up at Be sure to indicate Charlie’s Place as your beneficiary organization. The registration fee is $25, but only $15 for those twenty-five years old and younger. Sponsorships are available to cover the fee. If you want to walk, Charlie’s Place wants to hear from you.

For further information, contact Tom Goss at 355-1017 or or Susan Dunn at 387-2467 or See you on the mall in the C Section, under the Charlie’s Place banners. Don’t be late, and don’t forget to sign in on the mall. Registered walkers must sign in at the official desk (and collect a tee shirt) in order to be credited toward the bonus for Charlie’s Place. Sponsored walkers sign in under the Charlie’s Place banners.


National Building Museum Events, November 21
Johanna Weber,

November 21, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Outreach Program: Design Apprenticeship Program Final Presentation. Through a series of hands-on exercises, participants in the fall 2009 Design Apprenticeship Program explored the configurations of various modular building blocks such as bricks, tiles, and concrete masonry units. During the final presentation, students present the projects they created using one of the building blocks and discuss their design process. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, November 21-24
John Stokes,

November 21, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Riggs LaSalle Recreation Center, 501 Riggs Road, NE. Citywide Fall Soccer Championship for ages five through eighteen. This tournament will mark the end of the DPR’s Fall Soccer Season. Fifteen teams with an average of twelve players on each team with compete in the Championship game. For more information, call Abdullah Tunis, Soccer Manager, at 671-1700.

November 21, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Trinidad Recreation Center, 1310 Childress Street, NE. Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway for ages 21 and up. The staff of Trinidad Recreation Center will pass out turkeys to needy families for the Thanksgiving Holiday. For more information, call Anthony Higginbotham, Site Manager, at 727-1293.

November 24, 12:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Brentwood Recreation Center, 2311 14th Street, NE. Thanksgiving Basket Distribution and Decorating for ages three and up. Participants will have an opportunity to donate canned goods and decorate baskets for disadvantaged seniors and families. For more information, call Lorenzo Carter, Site Manager, at 576-6667.

November 24, 7:00 p.m.-8:45 p.m., Kalorama Recreation Center, 1875 Columbia Road, NW. Thanksgiving Basket Give Away for all ages. The site will collect food and donate baskets to needy families in the community. For more information, call John Borges, Site Manager, at 673-7606.

November 24, 6:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Petworth Recreation Center, 801 Taylor Street, NW. Community Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner for all ages. Participants will enjoy a pot luck dinner. For more information, call Howard Marshall at 576-6850.

November 24, 3:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Greenleaf Senior Building, 1200 Delaware Avenue, SW. Thanksgiving Luncheon for ages 55 and up. Seniors will enjoy lunch and fellowship for the Thanksgiving season. For registered participants only. For more information, call 727-1774.

November 24, 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m., DC Center for Therapeutic Recreation Center, 3030 G Street, SE. Thanksgiving Luncheon for adults with special needs. Individuals will dine at local restaurant. For more information, call Rita Robinson, Recreation Therapist, at 698-1794.

November 24-25, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Hardy Recreation Center, 4500 Q Street, NW. Thanksgiving Basket Drive for all ages. The Ward 3 community may donate nonperishable food for needy families. For more information, call Rodney Brown at 282-2190.



Duke Ellington School of the Arts Accepting Applications for 2010 School Year
Barbara Power,

Duke Ellington School of the Arts at 3500 R Street, NW, is accepting applications online now through December 18 for the 2010-2011 school year. Serving all wards of the city, Ellington is the only DC public high school that provides a dual program of intensive pre-professional arts training alongside a complete college preparatory curriculum. The school benefits greatly from partnerships with the Kennedy Center, George Washington University, DCPS, and the Ellington Fund, and attendance is tuition-free for accepted DC residents grades nine through twelve. Ninety-eight percent of Ellington seniors graduate on time, and 95 percent of those go on to colleges or conservatories.

Please visit the school web site at and go to the Admissions area to learn more about the school and the admissions process, and to fill out an application. For any questions, please contact Barbara Power in the admissions office at 298-1777 ext. 1774, or at


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