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January 27, 2010


Dear Defamed:

I wrote in the last issue of themail about Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s recent slander of those teachers whom she fired in a reduction of force last October. Rhee’s apologists continue to defend her, even as her remarks turn out to be less and less defensible. Examiner columnist Harry Jaffe makes the inaccurate claim ( that Rhee made the same accusations against teachers months ago in her council testimony about the RIF. She didn’t; she never alleged that fired teachers had sex with students. And he claims that Rhee has substantiated her charges against teachers, when any fair reading of her letter to Council Chairman Vincent Gray ( shows that it doesn’t come close to supporting her broad-brush, expansive charges.

Here’s what Rhee’s letter to Gray really says. When Rhee said that she fired “teachers who had hit children, who had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school,” she was implying that many, or at least several, of the fired teachers had hit children or had sex with children. She’s an educator; she knows the English language well enough to know what she was saying. But her letter, if what she alleges in it is factual and to be trusted, says that only “[o]ne teacher had been accused of sexual misconduct.” Sexual misconduct is not the same as sex, and an accusation is far from proof; the allegation was being investigated when that teacher was fired. “Six of the employees terminated through the RIF had served suspensions for corporal punishment,” Rhee wrote. Again, this is slippery. First, corporal punishment is not the same as hitting a student. As Washington Teachers Union Vice-President Nathan Saunders has pointed out, breaking up a fight between students is considered corporal punishment Yelling at an out-of-control student can be considered corporal punishment. And, again, just as a teacher who is accused of sexual misconduct is suspended while the accusation is investigated, a teacher who is accused of corporal punishment is suspended until the truth of that accusation is proven. Rhee says that six teachers were suspended, not what exactly what the accusations against them were or whether the accusations were proven.

But again in her letter to Council Chairman Gray, as in her Fast Company quote, Rhee phases everything in the way that will most discredit her opponents — teachers. From the ease with which she defames them, my guess is that she has practiced this kind of slur, and probably used exactly this slur before; that she has used it in her speeches around the nation. My suspicion is that Rhee has been badmouthing DC’s teaching corps as a whole, all around the nation, to puff up her self-created image as a white knight fighting against the forces of evil — the sex-abusing, child-beating, absent-without-leave teachers whom she battles every day. You bet that she owes DC teachers an apology, and you can also bet that Mayor Fenty and she will not give that apology as long as they find it politically advantageous to demonize schoolteachers.

Gary Imhoff


Intersection of FOSS Movement and Civil Rights Movement
Phil Shapiro,

For those who might be interested, here are some thoughts on the intersection of the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement and the civil rights movement ( When you choose to use free software, you are making the world more free. That’s why I use OpenOffice word processor, Firefox web browser. and Ubuntu Linux operating system. Please be mindful in making such choices. Mindfulness begets more mindfulness.

To be truthful, I also use the Windows and Macintosh operating systems, but those operating systems don’t belong to me. They belong to companies whose interests sometimes diverge strongly from mine. I take actions to make myself less beholden to them — and I hope you do, too.


Bogged Down by Patton Boggs: Betty Noel vs. Vicki Beasley
Peter Tucker,

If the DC city council approves the mayor’s nomination of Vicki Beasley to head of the Office of the People’s Counsel, another Patton Boggs employee will fill a top DC government position. Since 1975, the Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) has been “the advocate for consumers of natural gas, electric and telephone services in the District” ( Utility companies like Pepco, Verizon, and Washington Gas are given near-monopoly status by the District government. When a consumer has a problem with a utility, there is likely to be no government agency to turn to for help, aside from OPC. At the head of OPC is the consumer oriented Betty Noel, who is completing her unprecedented sixth three-year term as People’s Counsel. At a Saturday hearing on the District’s utilities, witness after witness, from all over the city, criticized the performance of the utility companies (especially Pepco). They praised Ms. Noel’s experience, professionalism, and willingness to stand up to — and, if need be, sue — the utility companies on behalf of consumers. There was an overwhelming consensus that Betty Noel should be renominated for a seventh term, and that Vicki Beasley wasn’t qualified for the position.

While Vicki Beasley possesses minimal experience with utility regulation or consumer issues, she has experience of another kind: according to Patton Boggs’ web site, “Ms. Beasley’s clients include telecommunications entities [and] quasi-governmental agencies” ( Unlike Betty Noel, who has made a career of fighting against greedy utility companies, Vicki Beasley apparently fights for them. I called Ms. Beasley and asked her to specify which clients she serves, but she declined to say and asked that I direct any questions for her to the Office of Boards and Commissions (which then referred me to the Mayor’s spokeswoman, Mafara Hobson, who has yet to respond to my questions).

District residents have experience with Patton Boggs employees in top government posts. Aside from the mayor and the chair of the city council, DC’s third most powerful elected official may be the chair of the committee on finance and revenue. This position is currently held by Councilman Jack Evans, an employee of Patton Boggs ( As chair of the finance committee, Mr. Evans has been instrumental in placing huge amounts of precious taxpayer dollars and public land into private hands, with little public benefit to show for it: Examples include the baseball stadium (more than $725 million), the Convention Center ($850 million), and now the Convention Center Hotel ($272 million), to name a few publicly funded, Evans-inspired projects. There is a great deal at stake in who fills the position of People’s Counsel. The OPC is the only thing standing in the way of the utility companies getting the ever-higher rates they covet. If the council votes to confirm Vicki Beasley, a Patton Boggs employee whose clients include “telecommunications entities” and “quasi-governmental agencies,” OPC may head in a radically different direction; a move that utility companies will surely cheer.


Getting Over It
James Treworgy,

The only responses that I’ve seen to criticisms of the bag tax are that everyone should stop whining and get over it. I can think of no surer sign that the people who love it really aren’t interested in discussing or understanding its effects. It’s really a shame that so many people are willing to write laws without really thinking about their consequences, and simply respond to critics by saying “get over it.” It seems that “The Fenty Effect” has spread beyond the government of DC. Even the citizens are now on board with the “legislate first, ask questions later” method of rule.

I honestly couldn’t care less about the effects on my life of this tax in isolation. If I paid for every one of the estimated 350 bags I got every year it would be under twenty bucks a year. I already used reusable bags sometimes anyway. The point is that many people seem interested in legislating the details of everyone’s life, regardless of the minimal value of each little law, while the big picture remains unchanged. I really want the trash situation in DC to be better, which is why I am so disappointed that we wasted an opportunity to do something substantial on a nuisance tax that won’t likely have much impact on trash or generate much money. Every little thing like this contributes to a death by a thousand cuts. But whatever, I’ll just get over it, like the speed bumps that appear everywhere without any design or placement standards, and the extended meter enforcement, and the desire to make it impossible for nonresidents to park in our neighborhoods, and the annual property tax battle, and every other little thing that DC does to make life annoying for its visitors and residents. It’s what makes DC feel like a podunk town where the sheriff tickets you for a broken taillight when you cross the border.

People do get over it, believe me. At the margin, some people will “get over it” by choosing to live outside of DC. This is not the straw that broke the camel’s back, of course, and I’m not going anywhere, but every little annoying thing like this registers in the minds of people when they decide whether or not to live and shop in DC. Each little thing doesn’t matter much, but taken together these things make DC a less desirable place than it could be, and that affects everyone who lives and pays taxes here in a very real way. I know: get over it. Boss Hogg in Hazzard County couldn’t have said it better.


Dotti Love-Wade Appointed to NASBE Governmental Affairs Committee
Beverley Wheeler,

The following announcement was released by the National Association of State Boards of Education: “The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is pleased to announce that Dotti Love-Wade of Washington, DC, who is a member of the District of Columbia State Board of Education, has been chosen to serve on the NASBE Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC), the entity responsible for developing federal policy recommendations and communicating with Congress and federal officials about the education reform priorities of state boards of education.

“The Governmental Affairs Committee helps state board members understand, influence, and plan for federal education policies. In its efforts to affect national education policymaking, NASBE works to ensure that it represents the views of its members to the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, as well as to associations representing governors, state legislators, school administrators, principals, local school boards, teachers, and parents.

“As a member of the twenty-member panel, Ms. Love-Wade will meet with other state education leaders, national policymakers, federal lawmakers, and education reform experts during a series of meetings, events, and communications during the course of this year to share their state’s experiences and perspective, analyze federal education initiatives, promote state board of education priorities, and serve as a state education resource to congressional offices and staff.”



The 2011 Budget Is Coming, January 28-29
Tina Marshall,

Yes, it’s that time of year again. You might already be slipping in your pledge to go to the gym or eat healthier. But there are still two great opportunities to make good on one of your top New Year’s resolutions: understanding the District’s budget and how to fund it in these tough times. Next Thursday and Friday mornings, January 28 and 29, national and local budget experts will cover what you need to know when it comes to DC’s budget in two important forums. What is the process to fund this $10 billion government? Are other states tapping into sources of revenue we aren’t?

Budget 101: Everything You Want To Know (And We Want You To Ask!), Thursday, January 28, 9:30-11:00 a.m., John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 123. Learn the nuts and bolts of the DC budget process from budget experts and Wilson Building veterans. Find out how you can get involved to protect and improve the programs you care about.

Budgeting With Balance: An In-Depth Discussion of How DC Can Raise Revenue, sponsored by the Fair Budget Coalition, Friday, January 29, 9:30-11:30 a.m., John A. Wilson Building, First Floor What are other states doing to raise revenue in these tough times? Is there an alternative to a cuts-only approach? (Yes. Definitely.)

Even though economists say the Great Recession ended last year, the economic impact of the downturn continues to shrink government resources at precisely the time when they’re most needed. DC’s Chief Financial Officer projects a $400 million shortfall for next year. Jon Shure of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and several national experts will explain how leaders across the country are taking a balanced approach to this budget crisis by finding ways to add revenue. Specific topics will include use of the rainy day fund, reforming income taxes, and bringing equity to sales taxes. Please RSVP to Tina Marshall at or 408-1080. These events are sponsored by the Fair Budget Coalition and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.


National Building Museum Events, January 30, February 2
Johanna Weber,

January 30, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m., Cub Scout Day. Join the National Building Museum for this activity day designed especially for Cub Scouts. Explore the world we build for ourselves and work on Badge requirements! Enjoy tours of the Museum’s historic building led by Junior Docents. For full descriptions of activities visit our web site. $12 per scout; $5 for non-scout children. Prepaid registration required. Ages 6 and up.

February 2, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Book of the Month: Building a House. Join us in The Building Zone for an interactive reading of Byron Barton’s Building a House and learn how a house is built from start to finish. Readings at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free. Drop-in program. Recommended for ages 3 to 5.

February 2, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Spotlight on Design: Lake | Flato Architects. The modern vernacular buildings of Lake / Flato Architects combine ingenuity and craftsmanship with new technologies. In 2004, the San Antonio-based firm was chosen as the “Firm of the Year” by the American Institute of Architects. Hear Ted Flato, FAIA, one of the founding principals, share the studio’s work and design philosophy. $12 Museum and AIA members, $12 students, $20 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


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, January 31
John Stokes,

January 31, 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Show Place Arena, Upper Marlboro Maryland. Maryland Cup Cheer Competition. DC Scorpions from Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center will compete in a cheer competition. For more information, call K’Yanna Blackwell at 258-6328.



One-Bed Apartment on Capitol Hill
Ted Knutson,

I’m a longtime Hill resident, but literally want to move up in the world. From a basement apartment to first floor or higher.

Other musts: bedroom large enough for a queen sized bed and one (preferably two) dressers; must allow two small, very quiet, clean, etc., dogs; laundry in building or at least no more than four blocks away; maximum of eight blocks from Eastern Market (hopefully closer); $1500 max with a little wiggle room higher for an exceptional place. I’m a late 50s, quiet professional. If you have or know of a place, please E-mail me at


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