The FOIA Isn’t Much Help
Dear Freedom of Information Requesters:
The Washington Post’s local news web site, DC Wire, has
reproduced by mitosis, and given birth to a new local news web site with
the same DNA, but devoted solely to schools, the DC Schools Insider, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcschools.
So far, Bill Turque is the only poster on the site, but he’s doing a
bang-up job. Stories already include the system’s losing track of
special education students that it had removed from private school
placements and supposedly enrolled in the public system, and DCPS’s
refusing to release its preliminary enrollment estimates for another two
months. “The Freedom of Information Act isn’t much help,” Turque
writes. “It requires a response within 15 working days, with the
government getting an extra ten days if needed. The District’s
fidelity to this requirement is pretty much nonexistent. I’m still
waiting on two requests I filed September 25.”
The start of this blog is great news for people searching for news
about DCPS, at least when the Post has a good reporter like
Turque on the schools beat. But, as one commentator to a story on DC
Schools Insider wonders, will it be good news for the general public, or
will it just mean that even less critical coverage of DCPS will appear
in the print edition of the newspaper, with the excuse that it’s still
available online? In the not too distant future, will most important
news stories be available just on the web, and will the Post be
reduced to a printed index, tabloid-sized like the Express, with
one-paragraph stories that link to fuller coverage online?
Josh Gibson has a funny retort to my recent comments on some local
issues that are presented by their advocates as “environmental.”
Just to irritate him further, here’s an article in the current issue
of The Chronicle of Higher Education on what I characterized as
hairshirt environmentalism: http://chronicle.com/article/Green-Guilt/63447/Stephen_T._Asma.
Asma postulates that environmentalism is a secularist religion, complete
with the same religious guilt, self-loathing, self-denial, and
self-righteous resentment of others who don’t share orthodox beliefs.
In the last issue of themail, I gave a link to the tape of the city
council’s hearing on contracts that was held on January 8. Apparently,
that link wasn’t working reliably, and a few people got messages that
the file wasn’t available. If you wanted to see it, but couldn’t, it
seems to be working fine now: http://octt.dc.gov/services/on_demand_video/channel13/January2010/01_08_10_LIBRARIES.asx
A District Attorney for the District of
Jack McKay, email@example.com
Whether the DC Attorney General is nominated by the mayor or chosen
by popular election, he’s at least answerable to the District. What’s
more important is that this officer is limited to the prosecution of
only minor crimes — e.g., disorderly conduct — whereas the
prosecution of all serious crimes is in the hands of a presidential
appointee, the US Attorney for the District of Columbia. Does this
matter? I guess I never paid much attention until a matter of a guy
firing seven bullets one night into the window of a neighbor’s
occupied bedroom, an act of extraordinary violence in the Mount Pleasant
neighborhood. Identified by the occupant, the man was arrested a day
later and was to be charged, according to the Metropolitan Police, with
“robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.” Well, guess again;
the US Attorney’s Office (USAO) saw fit to charge the man with a mere
Stunned by these trivial charges for a crime of exceptional violence,
I pursued the matter, only to find that the USAO plainly works for the
Justice Department, and the White House, and is in no way answerable to
the people of the District of Columbia or their elected representatives.
Our complaints about their decisions in this violent incident were
dismissed with unconcealed contempt. They weren’t willing to take this
crime seriously, apparently because they disdained the character of the
victim, and that was that.
Coincidentally, there appeared in the January 9 Washington Post
a report on Donald Gates, imprisoned for 28 years for a crime he did not
commit, put there by bogus “expert” testimony. Who prosecuted this
innocent man, while the actual murderer of a young woman in Rock Creek
Park went free? The US Attorney’s Office, of course. Halfway through
Mr. Gates’ prison time, a Justice Department review raised questions
about the validity of that conviction. The USAO ignored this, leaving
poor Mr. Gates in prison for another decade. Now that he’s finally
freed, after half a lifetime in prison, is the USAO apologetic? Not
detectably: “unfortunately, the criminal justice system is not
infallible,” says the current acting US Attorney, Channing Phillips.
Don’t blame us, blame “the system.”
Evidently the creators of Home Rule considered the District incapable
of managing its own criminal prosecutions, and so substituted this
Federal office for a homegrown District Attorney, such as every other
jurisdiction in the country has. No doubt our own DA would be imperfect
as well, but at least he would be answerable to us, the people of the
District of Columbia. Delegate Norton has introduced, for the fourth
time, a bill in Congress that would allow us to have our own DA. Given
the state of Congress, it’s now or never for this effort to succeed.
Charter Schools vs. Public Schools
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s an interesting comparison of annual-yearly-progress (AYP) of
DC charter schools vs. DC public schools: http://tinyurl.com/ycvttez.
Food for thought.
Gary Really Is an Environmentalist
Josh Gibson, Adams Morgan, email@example.com
Skeptical readers of themail, having suffered through Gary’s
diatribes on the bag tax, Healthy Schools bill, and sidewalk smoking
legislation, might leap to the conclusion that he is not an
Quite to the contrary: he recycles the same tired bullsh*t week after
DC Nanny State Nuisance Bag Tax
F. Lancaster, firstname.lastname@example.org
Add to the list of aggravations to customers and stores: just try now
to make use of what used to be the efficient self-checkout lines at your
favorite grocery store. Hmmm. . . . How do you get a bag for your three
items. Walk around the store to scavenge one? Interrupt and hand a
nickel to the clerk in that old-fashioned checkout lane? Beg, borrow, or
steal a bag? Must be driving merchants nuts even more than customers!
Bob Levine nailed it [themail, January 10]: “Congratulations, DC
city council, on another really stupid idea that makes life in DC
harder.” And drives more business to VA and MD.
Heartfelt thanks to all the folks who sent me E-mails with older
laptops they want to donate. Someone also asked if I’m able to place
laptops that need repair. As it happens, some of my friends are fairly
adept at repairing laptops (both Windows and Mac), and they often donate
their time to help me with the volunteer work I do. So yes, laptops that
need some repair are of use, too.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Department of Parks and Recreation Events,
John Stokes, email@example.com
January 15, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Lamond Recreation Center, 20
Tuckerman Street, NE. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., field trip for ages
five through twelve. Participants will visit the Anacostia Black History
Museum and participate in a workshop tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. For more information, call Mike Thompkins at 576-9541.
January 15, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., King Greenleaf Recreation Center,
201 N Street, SW. Dr. Martin Luther King Appreciation Day for ages six
through twelve. Participants will read a poem, look at memorabilia of
Mr. King, and watch a film. For more information, call Mr. Henry T.
Moton IV, Site Manager, at 645-7454.
January 15, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Kalorama Recreation Center, 1875
Columbia Road, NW. MLK Day Celebration for all ages. From January 11 to
15, participants can add their dreams to the “Share Your Dream Board.”
Popcorn will be served. For more information, call John Borges, Site
Manager, at 673-7606.
January 15, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., North Michigan Park Recreation
Center, 1333 Emerson Street, NE. Teen vs. Staff Bake Off for ages
fifteen to nineteen. Teens will assist staff in a cookie/pastries
bake-off to see who has the best recipe. For more information, call Joe
Clark, Site Manager, at 541-3522.
Taxes: What Every Entrepreneur and Consultant
Needs to Know, January 16
Barbara Conn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Is your business paying more in taxes than required by law? Whether
your business grosses millions of dollars each year or you are just
getting started as an independent consultant, you probably hire an
outside accountant to handle tax return submission. The ultimate
responsibility for paying appropriate taxes, however, is yours. Do you
have the basic accounting knowledge needed to supervise the work of your
accountant? Do you stay current on tax law changes? Because tax return
deadlines for corporations and individuals are approaching, the focus of
this presentation will be on income tax compliance and preparation
rather than on tax planning and consulting issues. This presentation
will alert you to mistakes and oversights that can cost you money, and
to tax law changes you need to know about.
Gather your colleagues (whether consultants, small business owners,
entrepreneurs, soon-to-be small business owners, freelancers, or free
agents), and your questions, and bring them to this Saturday, January
16, 1:00 p.m., gathering of the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG)
Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group (E&C SIG).
There will be a handout. These monthly events are free and open to all.
This month’s event is at the Cleveland Park Branch Library (first
floor large meeting room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb
and Newark Streets), just over a block south of the Cleveland Park
Metrorail Station on the Red Line. For more information about the
seminar, the speaker, and CPCUG (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational
organization), visit http://entrepreneur.cpcug.org/110meet.html.
To RSVP, send E-mail to email@example.com.
State Board of Education, January 20
Beverley Wheeler, firstname.lastname@example.org
At the first regularly scheduled public meeting of the new decade,
the DC State Board of Education (DCSBOE) will vote on the new president
and vice president who will provide leadership for the State Board for
2010. The State Board will also receive two presentations from the
Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The first will
discuss the District’s Race to the Top application. Additionally, OSSE
will provide an update on Special Education. Finally, the District’s
Teacher of the Year finalists will provide a short presentation to the
The public meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 20, 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 hearings 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
twenty- four hours before the scheduled meeting time. Please provide one
electronic copy and bring fifteen copies 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.
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
Volunteers for National Cherry Blossom
Danielle Piacente, email@example.com
Participate in the nation’s greatest springtime celebration, March
27-April 11. We need friendly, helpful, and reliable volunteers to join
the 2010 National Cherry Blossom Festival Volunteer Corps! Individuals,
local businesses with community service programs, and community service
groups are welcome and encouraged to participate. The volunteer program
is supported by Guest Services, Inc. Volunteers will assist in all
aspects of Festival events and programs and help serve the community and
visitors during the two-week celebration. The Festival runs from
Saturday, March 27 through Sunday, April 11. Volunteer positions are
available immediately and throughout the duration of the Festival
To view specific volunteer opportunities and download an application,
visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival web site at http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.
For more information, call 661-7595 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is Washington DC’s and the
nation’s greatest springtime celebration. The 2010 Festival is March
27-April 11, and features signature events, daily cultural performances,
art exhibits, sport competitions, and more. The National Cherry Blossom
Festival celebrates the 98th anniversary of the gift of the cherry
blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the citizens of the
United States and Japan. For schedules and information visit www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org
or call the Festival hotline at 877-44-BLOOM.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
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