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January 3, 2010

Driving Business Away

Dear Voters:

A reader who doesn’t want to be identified writes: “Can you do an article on the bag ‘fee’? What agency is in charge of collecting the funds? Does agency funding or their salaries come out of this tax? Who actually gets paid to ‘clean up’ the river? Is there a projected timetable for when the public can see some results of these ‘fees’? DC has shown in the past what it is capable of when managing funds. What are people supposed to do when going through the drive through or a fast food place? Throw their fries and sandwich into one of these reusable bags? What about the liquor store? Someone goes in to get something and doesn’t purchase a bag, then just walks out with a liquor bottle. With certain people, I can see that encouraging public drinking. I just don’t think this stuff was thought out. This ‘fee’ and the new parking rules just reinforce my shopping in other jurisdictions.”

Fair questions, all. If you can address them, please do so, and we’ll work it out together. I have one more question to add. If you believe, as I do, that the city council and the mayor have spent the past few years promoting one after “another really stupid idea that makes life in DC harder,” to quote Bob Levine below, what can we do about it? The councilmembers are determined to promote their faddish enthusiasms. The additional expense and inconvenience that they create for DC residents and businesses, if they’re not the actual purpose of their laws, just make their stupid ideas more attractive to them. What can we do about it? Is there any chance that we’ll hold them accountable?

Gary Imhoff


Nickel Shopping Bags
Bob Levine,

The new year brings us another stupid DC idea, the nickel surcharge on a shopping bag. Another reason to take my business across the river or to Maryland, where the goods and services are cheaper and I can get a shopping bag without being nickeled and dimed to death. This is just another way the DC government has found to make doing business in the district more difficult. Of course, this will most affect the poor who can least afford it and can’t take their trade to a more sensible jurisdiction.

Congratulations, DC city council, on another really stupid idea that makes life in DC harder.


Snow Removal
Greg DuRoss,

Regarding the record snowfall and the cost of snow removal, thanks to Congress, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a snow emergency program that provides financial assistance that covers the cost of snow removal for record or near record snowfalls. When I talked with the Department of Public Works’ director’s office on December 30, they had no clue what I was talking about, nor could they refer me to anyone who did. Of course, to qualify for the money one has to know about the program, submit the proper paperwork, and keep good records to document the costs. That is several strikes against DC right there, but guess I will submit an inquiry to the Mayor’s Office. For those who are curious, here is the link:


What Works: the DC Youth Orchestra
Susan Ousley,

At, you can watch a great two-minute documentary about the fine DC Youth Orchestra Program.


Homicides and Other Violent Crime in DC
Jack McKay,

Much is being made lately of the decrease in homicides in the District and adjoining counties. The homicide count is down by 70 percent since the dreadful peak of 472 in 1990. The Metropolitan Police are rather quick to assume that this must be, somehow, their doing. MPD Chief Lanier is reported as saying, “It’s huge, we’re making an impact” (Washington Post, January 2,

But there are a few problems in the assumption that the decline in homicides is due to more effective police work. One is that this decline began around 1997, a dozen years ago, so the cause of the decline can’t be anything done only recently. Another problem is that this decline seems to be observed everywhere nationwide, not just here, and surely police departments have not everywhere implemented, simultaneously, identical new police methods. A third problem is that, in the District, violent crime rates have not been decreasing. Homicides are down dramatically, to be sure, but robberies are up, and currently outnumber homicides by a factor of thirty. If improved police methods are causing a decline in homicides, it would seem reasonable to expect a decline in other crimes of violence as well. But robberies in the District are in fact up by 30 percent over the past decade. How is it possible for any improved police methods, supposedly reducing homicides dramatically, to fail to produce any decrease in robberies?

I’ve cautioned the police that, if they want to take credit for any decreases in crime, then they had better be prepared to accept responsibility for increases, as well. Better for the MPD to admit that they really have very little control over crime rates, and it’s a vanity for them to promise, as they do, decreases in future crime rates as Agency Performance Measures.


My Source for DC Crime News
Bill Layton, northeast,

Alan Henney doesn’t post all of the major crimes, but much of what he does is breaking news and fresh, and often neglected by the mainstream media. Sign up for his reports:

Click “Subscribe” to join!


InTowner Street Crimes Report Updated Through December 1
P.L. Wolff,

As we previously advised, the Selected Street Crimes feature is no longer included in the print edition of The InTowner, but instead is available exclusively on our web site by clicking the Street Crimes button directly below that for Community News. These are now updated through December 1st and are added to the archived reports back to July 3, 2009.


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