For several Thanksgivings when I was young, my mother and one of her
sisters cooked a joint Thanksgiving day dinner for their extended
family. What this meant in practice was too much food, because each
sister insisted on making her preferred recipe for traditional dishes.
My mother thought dressing had to include raisins, pecans, and pork
sausage; my aunt thought it should have oysters. My aunt thought any
dinner had to include a green salad; my mother thought Thanksgiving
called for a Waldorf salad instead. My mother believed there was no
substitute for real butter; my aunt preferred margarine. There were
similar disagreements about nearly every course: potatoes or sweet
potatoes, green bean casserole or roasted Brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie
or pecan pie. What this taught me was that family harmony was an
overrated virtue. Family disagreements could result in a much richer
feast. That’s what makes themail tasty, too. You don’t have to agree
with me or each other about everything; you can be wrong and still be a
member in good standing of themail’s family.
Michelle Rhee did damage control for her fiancee, Kevin Johnson, when
she was a board member of the charter school he founded in Sacramento
and he was accused of improper sexual behavior with a student, according
to a congressional staff report issued Friday (http://republicans.oversight.house.gov/images/stories/Reports/20091120JointStaffReport.pdf).
The story was broken in the Washington market by Byron York in the Washington
with detailed follow-up stories by David Lipscomb in the Washington
Mike DeBonis in CityDesk (http://tinyurl.com/yj2eshr),
and Bill Turque in DC Wire (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dc/2009/11/report_says_rhee_interceded_wi.html).
Rhee’s only response so far has been through a DCPS spokeswoman, who
essentially dismissed the story as old news. It’s not old news to me,
and I assume it’s not an old story to most people in Washington. It’s
a serious allegation, against both Rhee and Johnson, that deserves a
real response. Parenthetically, it’s also a big enough story that it
should have appeared by now in the print edition of the Washington
Post, and not just on its web site — unless the Post is
deliberately intending to position its web site as the primary news
source, and downgrade the importance of the newspaper itself.
I’ve received more complaints about messages that were sent to
themail but not published. I’ve never received these messages, and it’s
a mystery what’s happening to them. No, they’re not in my E-mail
trash folder. I never check the trash folder because I get over ten
thousand trash E-mails a day (that’s neither a typographical error nor
an exaggeration), but I’ve searched it for the names of the senders of
the errant E-mails, and I haven’t found them. Let me repeat what I
wrote before: E-mail isn’t perfect, so if your message to themail isn’t
printed, and I haven’t written you to explain why, send it again.
The Peoples’ Counsel Belongs to the
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
As I noted in the last issue of themail, on Friday the Council
Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs held a confirmation
hearing on Vicky Beasley’s nomination to be the Peoples’ Counsel.
Despite the short public notice (less than 48 hours), more than thirty
witnesses testified. Testifying in support of Beasley were her
colleagues at the law form of Patton Boggs, fellow Columbia University
Law School alumni, a member of her church, and representatives of
nonprofit organizations with whom she has worked. Surprisingly, few of
those who testified on Beasley’s behalf were DC residents, and few of
them had any knowledge of the work of the Peoples’ Counsel. Opposing
Beasley, on the other hand, were the DC Consumer Utility Board, the
Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, the Tenant Action
Network, Brian Lederer (a former Peoples’ Counsel himself), and
several ANC commissioners and civic leaders.
In his written testimony, Joslyn Williams, president of the
Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, noted: “In addition to
Ms. Beasley’s being unqualified for the position, we want to go on
record opposing the process by which Mayor Fenty has opted to select the
nominee. Every mayor since the Honorable Walter E. Washington has
consulted with community stakeholders and with the Consumer Utility
Board (CUB) prior to making any recommendations concerning the
nomination and the filling of this office. Unfortunately, Mayor Fenty
has not seen fit to follow this tradition. This flawed and insular
process followed by Mayor Fenty has resulted in the forwarding of a name
of an individual who is unqualified for this position. The Peoples’
Counsel belongs to the consumers and not to the Mayor.”
Committee Mark-Up of Peoples’ Counsel
Nomination, November 24
Herbert Harris, Jr., Chairman, Consumer Utility Board, email@example.com
On Tuesday, November 24, at 2:00 p.m., the Committee on Public
Services and Consumer Affairs will hold a mark-up session on the
nomination of Vicky Beasley for the Office of People’s Counsel. This
nomination is on the fast track because Mayor Fenty withheld the
nomination intentionally to create an emergency, forcing the city
council to approve the nomination. Mayor Fenty wants to replace the best
consumer advocate in the United States with a nominee with no litigation
or regulatory experience during a time when Pepco is requesting a $51
million dollar rate increase. The Consumer Utility Board is drawing the
line on this nomination. Join us!
We need friends, neighbors, civic leaders, and ANC commissioners to
call and E-mail the members of the committee and encourage them to vote
no against this nomination. A no vote is a vote for the work of the
Office of the Peoples’ Counsel. The goal is to flood the Committee
members with five thousand E-mails or calls from DC consumers before the
mark-up session. Please forward this to community listservs, friends,
and neighbors. I also encourage you to reach out to contacts in the
media. I will make myself available for any media inquiries. The members
of the Committee on Public Service and Consumer Affairs are Chairperson
Muriel Bowser, Ward 4, firstname.lastname@example.org,
724-8052; Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 3, email@example.com,
724-8062; Councilmember Michael Brown, At Large, firstname.lastname@example.org,
724-8105; Councilmember Jim Graham, Ward 1, email@example.com,
724-8181; Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr., Ward 5, firstname.lastname@example.org,
We must let the city council and Mayor Fenty know that the Office of
the People’s Counsel belongs to the people. We must protect the work
of the Office of the People’s Counsel to ensure consumers have a
strong independent advocate. Please blind copy me on any E-mails. Thank
you for all your support.
Squalor and Squander in DC This Thanksgiving?
David J. Mallof, Dupont Circle, email@example.com
[An open letter to Chief Financial Officer Dr. Natwar Gandhi] At this
Thanksgiving time, it was striking to see the big photograph in today’s
Washington Post business section of dozens of poor and homeless
huddled in line at a meal wagon at what appears to be vacant lot at 5th
and K Streets, NW (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2009/11/21/GA2009112100904.html?sid=ST2009112101685,
The stark poverty in the immediate shadow of gleaming new condos and a
new Safeway sign hovering overhead was poignant enough. But this was
just a few blocks away from the Verizon Center which just recently
received a $50 million near-secret gift of public funding turned my
In late December 2007, the Verizon Center management received a cool
fifty million dollars in public grant funding to improve its private
property. That’s about one hundred dollars from every man, woman, and
child walking the streets in DC, and even more when you calculate the
gift based on a per household or per taxpaying household basis. As
required by the granting DC law, in order for your combined public bond
financing and precious special luxury excise taxation scheme to happen
for purely private profit, an official Project Plan had to have been
approved first by the mayor before closing. I helped make certain that
that clause was included by the Council in approving the deal. Over the
last twenty-two months, your Office of the Chief Financial Officer has
repeatedly refused to disclose the approved plan on how public money
would be spent. At this point, I don’t think the required plan ever
was seen or approved by the mayor. Please advise on this point, sir. The
latest, second Freedom of Information appeal denial offered by the DC
government includes the unbelievable excuse that the government
signed a nondisclosure agreement with Verizon management, and also that
for competitive reasons the use of the money cannot be disclosed. Did
you authorize that deal point? How on Earth can municipal public money
ever be given for secret, undisclosed purposes, and what real competition
does Verizon Center face? I believe this is the possible face of
governance evil in our home town, actively at work.
In light of the fact that the required Approved Project Plan was
likely never submitted and approved, you must notify the mayor and the
council that the deal was never legally consummated. It is thereby
annulled, and is thus void in toto. The $50 million must be
returned so that it can be appropriated for myriad other public, social
uses. If I am wrong, then the approved plan (with authorizing signature
or signatures, please) must be disclosed as soon as possible by your
office, and the use of public funds to date revealed. Or do we live in
an evil Land of Oz, where poor and homeless at Thanksgiving seek a crumb
and a pittance, yet other elites reap tens of millions of public funds
for undisclosed purposes, as a gift. While we’re at it, please notify
the councilmembers they must return the free skybox tickets they
received as a cynical quid pro quo just before your office closed
the deal. DC already had an elite skybox. Accepting the second one just
before the cool $50 million was dumped by your OCFO onto center court is
effectively blood money at this historic Thanksgiving.
NIMBY in ANC6A
Mary Beatty, ANC6A Commissioner, firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a case of NIMBY going on in Advisory Neighborhood
Commission 6A that is pretty astounding. At last month’s Advisory
Neighborhood Commission meeting, impassioned arguments were made by
commissioners to “vigorously” stand up to the foe. A community
member declared that she had been working for four years to prevent this
adversary from coming into her neighborhood. A legal defense was even
mounted to prevent disturbance to this Lincoln Park neighborhood. What
was the source of all this concern? A halfway house? A new liquor store?
A homeless shelter?
No. The adversaries are three and four-year-olds! ANC 6A took a 4-2-1
vote last week to reinstate its longstanding opposition to the siting of
a charter preschool to be located among residences in a gentrified
neighborhood in the Capitol Hill area. While almost all commissioners
stated that they are in favor of charter schools, four of these voted to
oppose the school. Why? Because of its location amidst expensive homes.
One cited the hardship to residents of setting aside a couple of
restricted parking spaces for about two hours a day to drop off and pick
up children. There were findings presented that declared that traffic
congestion and blockage would occur if the school is successful in
locating in the neighborhood. (Aren’t findings normally based on
facts, not conjecture?) Back to the point, these commissioners say that
their opposition is based on parking and traffic problems for this
single block of residents. But is it really? This gentrified
neighborhood seems very determined to keep these children out of their
neighborhood. And since they seem to believe that the majority of the
children will be delivered by car, they must believe that are coming
from outside the neighborhood, maybe from an ungentrified area.
I am one of two commissioners who voted against the resolution. For
many years, I went along with the notion that the neighborhood concerns
of traffic, noise, etc., were valid. But seeing how schools in similar
neighborhoods manage these issues and exist in harmony, I spoke and
voted against it this time. I voted against it because I believe in
providing options for parents, because I believe that a little
inconvenience for a few residents does not outweigh the potential
benefits to students, and because I don’t believe that the
neighborhood has anything to fear from preschoolers, even if they don’t
live in the neighborhood.
“A Collyer in Our Midst” was a post this summer [Ed Barron,
themail, July 1]. I have always had issues with this house as I had
relative die in a house fire because of too much “stuff.”. I have
vacillated about whether or not to call the city because I knew that
this house was a disaster waiting to happen. My neighbors cautioned me
not to get involved. I regret not calling that in. The house is going to
be leveled due to the fire and from what I have been told, there was so
much stuff, it was only a matter of time.
Lets all be aware of the Collyers and the hoarders in our midst. It
could be the next house fire.
You Are the World’s Greatest Cynic
Wallace Gordon Dickson, Ward One, email@example.com
I read themail all the time and find myself in disagreement with you
on some issues, but this one takes the cake! I have never read a more
cynical piece of commentary than your first paragraph on government
You demonize all regulations, when it seems obvious that one of the
reasons we have a government of the people, by the people, and for the
people, is so that regulations can be formulated and enacted to make
this a more livable community for all of us. Why can’t you just
quibble with the specific regulation that is being proposed, which is
now being debated, I hope civilly, by those who care to appear before
the legislative body considering it. Why is it necessary to indict all
government regulations, some of which are necessary and well reasoned?
You seem to find it aggrandizing to lump all government actions into one
big evil indictment — which I contend weakens your central argument
against this one bill of Mary Cheh’s (which may well be
ill-considered, but is not final yet until all voices are heard).
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Department of Parks and Recreation Events,
John Stokes, firstname.lastname@example.org
November 25, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., DC Center for Therapeutic
Recreation Center, 3030 G Street, SE.
“No Turkey for Thanksgiving” Play for all ages. TR Players will
perform a short skit, “No Turkey for Thanksgiving.” For more
information, call Rita Robinson, Recreation Therapist, at 698-1794.
November 25, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Ferebee Hope Recreation Center,
3999 8th Street, SE. Thanksgiving Basket Giveaway for all ages. Supreme
Teens will put together Thanksgiving Baskets for needy families. For
more information, call Greg Poag at 645-3917.
November 25, 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Rosedale Recreation Center at the
old Gibbs Elementary School, 500 19th Street, NE. Thanksgiving Dinner
for all ages. Children of all ages will enjoy a Thanksgiving Dinner
hosted by the Rosedale staff. Brian Williams, Site Manager, 213-5649.
November 25, 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Palisades Community Center, 5200
Sherrier Place, NW. Young Ladies on the Rise: Thanksgiving Poem Day and
Potluck for ages six through eighteen. Young Ladies on the Rise
participants will create Thanksgiving Poems to share at potluck. For
more information, call Paula Nolan at 282-2186.
November 26, 7:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Ft. Davis Recreation Center, 1400
41st Street, SE. Ft. Davis Teen Club, 11th Annual Feed the Homeless for
ages thirteen through eighteen. Teens and parents will feed the homeless
in the city. For more information, call 645-9212.
National Building Museum Events, December 1
Johanna Weber, email@example.com
December 1, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Book of the Month: Snowflake
Bentley. Join us in the Building Zone for a reading of Jacqueline
Briggs Martin’s Snowflake Bentley and learn how to make your
very own symmetrical snowflake. Readings at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free;
drop-in program. Recommended for ages 3 to 5.
December 1, 3:00-5:00 p.m., Smart Growth: 2009 National Award for
Smart Growth Achievement. The EPA presents the 2009 National Award for
Smart Growth Achievement, which recognizes communities using principles
of smart growth to create better places. The ceremony includes a panel
discussion with experts from each community. Free; registration
required. Walk-in registration based on availability.
December 1, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Spotlight on Design: David Jameson. Hear
David Jameson, FAIA, an Alexandria, Virginia, based architect, discuss
his exploration of proportion, volume, light, and material in projects
including the BlackWhite House, Jigsaw Residence, and Hooper’s Island
House. $12 for members, $12 for students, $20 for nonmembers. Prepaid
registration required; walk-in registration based on availability. All
events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary
Square Metro station. Register for events at http://www.nbm.org.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription
to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the
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and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of
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be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief
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