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February 3, 2010

Spinning the Polls

Dear Spinners:

Spinners of the recent Washington Post poll revealing Mayor Fenty’s precipitous fall in popularity act as though they are baffled by the “disconnect” between the general satisfaction with city services and the dissatisfaction with Fenty. They make several false and weak assumptions: first, they assume that citizens should judge local politicians solely by whether city services are satisfactory, and that people who judge them by other measures are being irrational. (Mussolini made the trains run on time; that didn’t make him a desirable leader.) Second, they assume that Mayor Fenty is responsible for delivering good city services, when in fact he is disengaged from and uninformed about the day-to-day operation of the city government, and his whereabouts for a major part of many workdays are a mystery even to his staff. Third, they assume that his conflicts with the city council can be reduced to just trivial disputes, like the distribution of baseball tickets, when in fact Fenty withholds and refuses basic government information to the city council, and even refuses to provide them with city contracts, with government witnesses for their hearings, and with records that they need to perform oversight over the administration.

The quality of Fenty’s appointments to important city positions in the administration and to boards and commissions has steadily deteriorated. Now, his appointees are largely limited to fellow students from his law school days, his fraternity brothers, and members of his various sports teams. City contracts are steered to the same tight group of cronies, and the mayor and his Attorney General defy anyone to try to get the information needed to investigate how those contracts were awarded. Spinners say Fenty is unbeatable because of the millions he has raised for his reelection campaign, but they don’t address how his campaign apparatus has used threats and intimidation to extort campaign contributions, how people have been told they have to donate and to raise other funds if they ever want to do business with or even in the city.

Spinners think the voters are stupid for judging Fenty on his personality and his temperament, but in fact that is the best basis on which to judge politicians. Issues shift and change; any issue that seems to be important today can be irrelevant tomorrow. But personality and temperament persist; a politician with a bad personality and temperament will make bad decisions and behave badly both today and tomorrow. The spinners are selling Fenty as the unbeatable candidate, sure to be reelected; they say that he has no credible opponent. But Council Chairman Gray will announce whether he is running, perhaps as soon as next week. If he decides to run, we’ll soon find out whether he can oppose the mayor more strongly and forcefully as a candidate than he has as a councilmember. If he can’t, soon after that we’ll find out whether labor, advocates of open and responsive government, or other groups have been able to recruit an appealing candidate who can. Fenty is a balloon that looks formidable now, but that can be punctured by anybody whose campaign has a point.

Gary Imhoff


DC Needs to Be a Real Two Party Town
Kathryn Pearson-West,

DC needs to be a real two political party town. Currently the election law requires that at least two of the two at-large city council seats are reserved for the non-majority party, one designated seat each election season. In these seats could be Republicans, Independents, or Statehood-Green. Although two seats are reserved for non-Democrats, that does not mean that there could not or should not be more council members that are not Democrat. Former Councilmember Carol Schwartz is a Republican that ran for mayor, but she may have been ahead of her time. I cringe at the thought of a non-Democrat in DC’s top seats — mayor and delegate. Now I hear people saying that they listened to me and others before and went with a Democrat or they didn’t listen and crossed over. This time around, the Anybody but Fenty (ABF) sentiments and some of the council actions might make some voters cross over this time around out of necessity or to make a statement if there isn’t a strong Democrat to make their case. They may look for candidates that are not already in elected office — Democrat or otherwise — to champion their causes and bring hope and change they can believe in to DC.

While I will probably always be a Democrat, though on occasion I may reluctantly vote for a Democratic candidate, I have come to see the value of the Republican Party as a means to counter some of the Democratic politics when they appear to be off track or veering too far to the left. However, the DC Republicans sometimes sound like a rubber stamp of the Democratic Party and so don’t always offer real value or alternatives. It seems like only the national Republicans are allowed to talk or preach about marriage family values or are willing to speak out against the legislature redefining marriage without a vote by the people. It is unfortunate that some DC concerned citizens were forced to bypass their own Congress member to go to the Hill to meet with Republicans and more moderate Democrats to plead the case for a vote on the definition of marriage in the nation’s capital. There are other priority issues, too, that demand attention, differing viewpoints, and thinking outside as well as bringing the various stakeholders together.

A strong two party system would help keep both parties accountable to the people. This is not to say that there is no place for Independents or other parties, but to encourage vigorous debate and move parties from the extremes whereby they tend to lose the interest of many mainstream, centrist voters. In fact, I’m looking at Rev. Anthony Motley as my candidate for the reserved council seats. Two parties may make candidates not only talk the talk, but also walk the talk. The current mayor with his horrendous poll results has been able to amass a campaign war chest of nearly $4 million. So far, Leo Alexander is his major contender with far fewer dollars. But then, Mayor Bloomberg of New York faced a serious challenge by a far less well financed candidate that gave the mayor a run for his money. Apparently the Democrats in NY cross party lines quite regularly and easily. I still want a Democratic mayor, Democratic council chair, and Democratic Delegate to Congress, but this year, I will pay more attention to what they stand for and won’t ignore what Republicans and blue dog Democrats have to say. And yes, our Delegate needs a strong challenge, too, or she might think that she works primarily for elected officials to carry their water only without responding to the views of the broader electorate. “Republican” is no longer a dirty word to me, however; I won’t give up on the Democratic Party but I’ll welcome debate by the other party. I no longer will refuse to listen just because they aren’t Democrats. No party should take its members for granted and expect them to stay put no matter what. Look at Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey that surrendered major seats by switching to the other party. DC may not be ready for the other party in its top seats, but it sure might be interested in having a few Democratic or Independent candidates that move more to the center instead of to the far left. Are there any blue-dog-type, moderate, centrist Democrats running for office? Also, are there any candidates that can transcend race, age, geographic boundaries, socioeconomic level, etc., and stand up on the issues that people want them to address and accomplish real results while staying within budget? There is still time to run and win in 2010.


A DC Stay Home and Keep Your Money in Your Pockets “Tea Party”
Ann Loikow,

District of Columbia voters are taken for granted by the national Democratic Party. If, after 210 years as a colony, we are ever going to get our full democratic rights, the rights that our forefathers (and mothers) fought for and won 229 years ago, we must stop giving our money and time away and not asking for anything in return. I urge all District voters to work for and contribute only to political candidates and parties who pledge to support and work hard for DC statehood. Similarly, we should not work for or make political contributions to any candidate or party that does not actively support DC statehood. Only with statehood will we regain the right to self-determination that we lost over two centuries ago. Please start sending all the political fundraising appeals you receive back with a note that you will contribute once the candidate, party or organization pledges to support DC statehood. DC has some of the highest politically contributing zip codes in the entire country. We need to use the power of our purses and time to demand our rights and stop giving our money and effort away for nothing!

A note to all Republicans, Statehood Green Party members, and members of other political parties: statehood would open up the District’s political process in ways most people haven’t begun to comprehend. Don’t assume that the overwhelming dominance of the Democratic Party is here forever. There are lots of District residents who have lived here for years, many for decades, and yet vote in other states because, like Ralph Nader, they “don’t want to be disenfranchised.” As an urban area, we will always be multicultural and probably more liberal than many states, but our political makeup is up to those parties and candidates who decide to woo the voters. As a state, our politics will mean more because the voters and our elected officials will actually have the power to govern. Please help us make it happen.


Reply to “Alarm Bells in themail,” January 31
Paul Diego Craney, Executive Director, DC Republican Committee,

Regarding a “tea party” movement in DC and the DC Republican Committee, while the tea party movement has been felt in other parts of the country, the effects are not as strong in DC. With that said, what we do have in DC is a strong mix of libertarian-leaning Republicans who are involved with the local DCGOP. If you look at the DC Republican Committee, Craig Max, our Vice Chair and former Treasurer to Christina Culver’s campaign for Ward 2 DC Council, was a former delegate for Ron Paul. There are many Ron Paul activists and libertarians who are members of the DC Republican Committee.

Regarding the question of whether the DC Republican Committee would be better if it was more “conservative,” because currently it is socially moderate/liberal. The DC Republican Committee is not “moderate,” “liberal,” or “conservative.” It is very difficult to label the DCRC one of those terms because we take positions on various issues. For instance, the DCRC is 100 percent in support of the school choice movement in DC (charters and the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program), which is “conservative.” We also support the former Norton-Davis bill that would give a House seat to DC and Utah. Depending on who you talk to, this is either “liberal” or “conservative.”

Regarding other issues like taxes, spending, and transparency, we are against the wasteful spending the DC council and mayor have made into an everyday hobby. We are against Councilmember Tommy Wells’ ridiculous bag tax, but 100 percent in favor of cleaning the Anacostia River. We are against our elected officials increasing taxes while they refuse to take a pay cut. (If our mayor and council chairman were governors, they would be the second and third highest paid governors in the USA.) We are also against the fact that all thirteen councilmembers are chairs of his/her own council committee, but the council refuses to create an Ethics Committee. These stances are not “conservative, liberal, or moderate,” rather they are common sense positions. Unfortunately, these issues are not shared by our elected officials because they are out of touch with District voters.


News from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty
Ashaki Goodall,

Is anyone else wondering when it became okay for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty to use our tax dollars to campaign for reelection by using electronic mail sent from Today I received my latest edition of “News From Mayor Adrian M. Fenty,” and I, again, couldn’t bring myself to read the articles, which cast our illustrious mayor as the only miracle worker in the city. Why does every article lead with a title “Fenty blah blah blah”? This latest edition features articles such as “Mayor Fenty Breaks Ground on New Kenilworth Recreation Center” and “Fenty Breaks Ground on Woodrow Wilson High School Modernization.” While each accomplishment featured in the eleven articles is conceivably a good thing for District communities, am I really supposed to believe that Fenty should get the biggest and/or sole credit for the efforts? Keep reading the articles and you would think Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is actually Superman in Clark Kent’s body! Sure, I’d vote for him if I didn’t know better! To the Fenty communications team, shame on you!


Carjackings in PSA 107 — Women with Kids
Bryce A. Suderow,

My friend Jack Colhoun posted on New Hill East’s listserv a new trend in carjackings in his neighborhood. The victims are moms with their kids. I am troubled by the fact that the media has not covered this new and dangerous trend. It seems to me this information deserves a city-wide audience. Jack writes:

“I would like to start a discussion about the carjackings. When the bad guys start car jacking pregnant women and women with young children, it is time to speak up. I propose that Councilmember Tommy Wells begin to monitor the status of the most egregious crimes of the day in Hill East. Did the charges stick? Was the alleged perpetrator(s) held in custody until trial or released back into the community? What was the outcome of the trial? For the current period cases selected for monitoring would include carjackers, armed robbers, and the burglars who have run amok in the neighborhood south of Pennsylvania Avenue.

:According to Chief Cathy Lanier, the vast majority of the carjackers are juveniles. For years at PSA meetings I have heard police reports of how juvenile offenders are often released back into the community hours after they are arrested. How will DC courts deal with juvenile carjackers, etc.? Will we ever know? Will we have to wait for Colbert King to write about them in a future column in the Washington Post? As King argues, the Post, the local media, and DC politicians are largely indifferent to crime in DC and its causes and consequences. Monitoring the outcome of criminal cases has been left up to the citizens, and it usually falls between the cracks. Monitoring will help neighbors follow the progress of cases and write victim impact statements at the appropriate time. Monitoring will keep us informed how the criminal justice system is working. Monitoring, one would hope, will also encourage DC politicians and the local news media to take more seriously the crimes we have been experiencing recently.

“I think the MPD has been doing a good job overall in responding to the recent upsurge in violent crimes. The MPD has made a considerable number of arrests. But the crime waves continue apace. When carjackers put guns in the faces of moms with young children, it is time for all of us — neighbors, politicians, and the media to pay attention and address this problem.”


It’s Time to Sign the “Articles of Freedom”
Wenzell Taylor,

Please take the time to read the “Articles of Freedom.” Take the pledge to stand with millions of Americans as the Articles of Freedom are served on our elected officials, and then, if necessary, to participate in coordinated, nonviolent, legal and Constitutional civic actions to stop the violations.


Parking Meter Rate
Clyde Howard,

Now that the meter rates have been raised, what will happen to the neighborhoods abutting the commercial strips in Ward One? Suddenly the immediate residents will find themselves totally without anyplace to park at all because the visitors to the Ward will tie up all the available curb space, ducking the increases in meter rates and to avoid tickets. What will the Ward councilmember do to justify his continued existence as a councilmember? Will he provide assistance to the voters of the Ward by putting curbs on the non-Ward registered vehicles? The law extending the meter rates to 10:00 p.m. has already been manipulated in favor of the businesses by truncating the hours on Saturday to 6:00 p.m. What’s to say that parking enforcement won’t write any tickets at all for meter violations on the aforementioned days? Once again the voters of Ward One have been taken advantage of for the almighty dollar. Don’t you think its time for a major change toward someone who is for the voters of this Ward?


InTowner Street Crimes Report
P.L. Wolfe,

As we previously advised, the Selected Street Crimes feature is no longer included in the print edition 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 30 and are added to the archived reports back to July 3, 2009.


Snail Mail or the Wrong Mail?
Thomas Grahame,

Virginia Johnson [themail, January 31] asks whether snail mail has gotten snailier (everyone else can make up words, now its my turn!). No, I hadn’t noticed, perhaps because I haven’t been paying attention.

But we get many pieces of mail destined for others (usually another street with our street numbers). One year we got a package from a different address with our street number, which contained six important pieces of mail, including my W-2. Often we hear mail come through the slot after the day’s mail has been delivered — that’s when neighbors give us our mail, delivered to them mistakenly. We do the same if the neighbor is nearby, otherwise we put it back in the mail for more accurate delivery, with a brief note pointing out the correct address.

I used to send E-mails to Ms. Norton, but got form letters back. I used to complain to the local post office, which occasionally resulted (it seems, anyway) in our postal deliverer being transferred, only shifting the problem, not solving it. I wish I knew what to do about this — I really don’t know if we are not getting important mail. And I wonder if Virginia Johnson’s problem, once in a while, might be because the first recipient just dropped her mail back into the system for redelivery a couple of days later?



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, February 4-10
John Stokes,

January 16-March 20, Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Friendship Community Center, 4500 Van Ness Street, NW, Story Time for all ages. Children will enjoy listening to books being read to them in a group setting. For more information, call Enrique Leiva at 282-2186.

January 19-March 18, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:45 p.m.-4:45 p.m., Friendship Community Center, 4500 Van Ness Street, NW. Story Time for ages six months through five years old. Toddlers will enjoy listening to books in a group setting. For more information, call 282-2198.

February 5, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Benning Park Recreation Center, 5100 Southern Avenue, SE. Valentines Day Dance for ages six through eighteen. Youth will dance, play games, and be treated to light refreshments. For more information, call Demetrius Denson at 645-3957.

February 7, 8:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, Maryland. All Comer Track and Field Meet for all ages. Participants in the All Comers Track Meet will compete in a Track and Field Events. For more information, call Edgar Sams, Track and Field Coordinator, at 425-2859.

February 8, 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Upshur Recreation Center, 4300 Arkansas Avenue NW. Hearts, Hearts and More Hearts for ages twelve and under. Children will learn more about a healthy heart, decorate the center, and make a healthy snack. For more information, call Deyanne Nicholas at 576-6842.

February 8-11, 4:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Guy Mason Recreation Center, 3600 Calvert Street, NW. Valentine Cards Making for ages six through twelve. Children will enjoy making Valentine cards for family and friends. For more information, call Cleveland Dent, Site Manager, at 282-2180.


Free Screening of Inside Buffalo, February 5
Jerry McCoy,

Montgomery County Council Vice President Valerie Ervin will host a free screening of the film Inside Buffalo, at 11 a.m. on Friday, February 5, at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Performing Arts Center. Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session with the film’s producer and director, Fred Kuwomu, and several former members of the legendary Buffalo Soldiers of World War II.

Inside Buffalo is a documentary about the 92nd Buffalo Soldiers Division, the all African American segregated combat unit that fought primarily in Italy during World War II. The film recently won the “Best Documentary” award at Black International Cinema Berlin 2009. The screening will take place in the Performing Arts Center’s Theater 1 at 7995 Georgia Avenue on the ground level. It is free and open to the public.

The film will be on a premiere screening tour around the nation during February, with stops at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs; the Martin Luther King, Jr., Public Library in Washington, DC; the Museum of African American Cinema; the United States Military Academy at West Point; the Pan African Film Festival; and the Texas Black Film Festival.


Healthy Schools Act of 2009 Hearing, February 9
Keshini Ladduwahetty,

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh and Chairman Vince Gray have introduced the Healthy Schools Act of 2009. This is a terrific bill that tackles obesity in DC school kids by raising nutritional standards, introducing locally grown food to school meals, and expanding physical education. It also expands gardening, recycling, composting, and other environmental programs in DC schools. Come share your views about this bill and how to make it better next Tuesday, February 9, at 11:00 a.m. at the DC council hearing (Room 500 of the John Wilson building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW). Learn more about it here.


Rhodes Tavern Exhibit, Closing February 14
Joseph N. Grano, The Rhodes Tavern/DC Heritage Society,

As you know, last September 10 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the demolition of Rhodes Tavern, Washington, DC’s first unofficial city hall. In recognition of the anniversary of this untimely event there is a small exhibit at the Washingtoniana Division (Room 307) of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library. The exhibition run has been extended, and the last day to see it will be Sunday, February 14. Many thanks to the staff of the Washingtoniana Division.


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