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February 7, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Dear Gardeners:

Caitlin Flanagan’s article in the latest issue of The Atlantic, “Cultivating Failure: How School Gardens Are Cheating Our Most Vulnerable Students,”, is a good explanation of what’s wrong with Councilmember Cheh’s and Council Chairman Gray’s “Healthy Schools Act of 2009,” which will have committee hearings on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. and Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. As I wrote on January 6, Jay Mathews has already criticized this bill in the Washington Post,, for requiring more physical education in schools at the expense of time spent on “reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.” The same criticism can be made about the part of the bill dealing with school gardens. Flanagan’s article is a takedown of the Edible Schoolyards program, a faddish movement in California on which the school gardening part of the bill is based.

Here’s what Flanagan says: “But although garden-based curricula are advanced as a means of redressing a wide spectrum of poverty’s ills, the animating spirit behind them is impossible to separate from the haute-bourgeois predilections of the Alice Waters fan club, as best expressed in one of her most oft-repeated philosophies: ‘Gardens help students to learn the pleasure of physical work.’ Does the immigrant farm worker dream that his child will learn to enjoy manual labor, or that his child will be freed from it? What is the goal of an education, of what we once called ‘book learning’? These are questions best left unasked when it comes to the gardens.” Flanagan drives the point home: “If this patronizing agenda were promulgated in the Jim Crow South by a white man who was espousing a sharecropping curriculum for African American students, we would see it for what it is: a way of bestowing field work and low expectations on a giant population of students who might become troublesome if they actually got an education. Here is the essential question we must ask about the school gardens: what evidence do we have that participation in one of these programs — so enthusiastically supported, so uncritically championed — improves a child’s chances of doing well on the state tests that will determine his or her future (especially the all-important high-school exit exam) and passing Algebra I, which is becoming the make-or-break class for California high-school students? I have spent many hours poring over the endless research on the positive effects of garden curricula, and in all that time, I have yet to find a single study that suggests classroom gardens help students meet the state standards for English and math. Our kids are working in these gardens with the promise of a better chance at getting an education and a high-school diploma but without one bit of proof that their hard work will result in either.”

I’m very proud of this issue of themail; I don’t think you’ll find better political commentary and analysis in any other news outlet. But, as I write every so often, themail isn’t just about politics, but about all aspects of living in DC. Why haven’t more people written about our latest snow storm; television and radio news has covered nothing else for the past few days. What has your experience been? An E-mail from Michael Cover to the CrestwoodWDC mailing list (, available to subscribers only) has been making the rounds of other mailing lists. It has a photograph attached of Mayor Fenty’s street, with this description: “the street in front of the mayor’s house is clear down to the pavement while mine (and most of Crestwood) has not seen a plow or salt since yesterday morning.” Oh, darn, I’ve turned everything back to politics again. But that doesn’t mean you have to.

Gary Imhoff


Call to Testify at the Council of the District of Columbia
Robert Brannum, President, Federation of Civic Associations;
George R. Clark, Chairman, Committee of 100 on the Federal City;
Carroll Green, President, Federation of Citizens Associations of DC;

We jointly write to urge individual civic, citizens, and neighborhood associations DC-wide to testify as appropriate at the upcoming annual oversight public hearings conducted by the council of the District of Columbia. Individual DC residents also are welcome to testify. Over a period of about thirty days beginning February 17 through March 19 there will be about forty fully public hearings devoted to just about every DC Government department. These open sessions held in the Wilson Building are a unique opportunity for everyone to comment on the performance of our government. For the full schedule, go to

Specifically, anyone can comment and/or offer recommendations on the individual Executive Branch department being reviewed generally; specific projects under the department of interest to you, especially where problems exist and you can recommend fixes in the law or in management; and finally the quality of the council’s own oversight and the council committee charged with conducting the oversight. That is, is the council itself doing the oversight job you expect?

As but one timely example for the three of us, Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi testified last Friday, February 5, that DC’s budget for the current fiscal year ending in September 2010 must be significantly cut by another $200 million over the next seven months. The next fiscal year beginning in October may need added budget tightening as well, to the tune of nearly $500 million or more. What certainly falls out for us is that the council itself must redouble its financial oversight and hold more regular oversight sessions — probably monthly until the financials are better under control. We must expect both the Committee of the Whole and the Committee on Finance and Revenue to be more diligent and probing with greater regularity in their oversight. At a departmental level, spending and programs need your critical commentary.

We urge everyone to peruse the planned public hearing schedule. Please sign up to testify as you see fit and as your interests and concerns call upon you to speak civically. Individual residents usually are allowed three minutes to speak; representatives of groups get five minutes. If you have any questions on how testimony works, or seek tips on how to assemble your thoughts, do not hesitate to contact any of us by E-mail, including Federation of Citizens Vice President Dave Mallof, or 265-3431, or DC Federation of Civic Associations President Robert Vinson Brannum, Our government needs your insights and your involvement. Your oversight matters. In the end, we the people of DC must oversee the overseers of the council’s oversight process.


Post Poll Validates “Let the People Vote on Marriage” Campaign Efforts
Kathryn Pearson-West,

Since the DC leadership ushered in its unequivocal goal in 2009 to redefine marriage in the nation’s capital by first recognizing same-sex marriage from other jurisdictions, many members of the faith community, concerned citizens, civic leaders, national traditional marriage groups, and several members of Congress have been trying to give DC citizens the opportunity to vote on whether or not to redefine marriage, as the DC elected leadership is determined to do. After the Washington Post polled citizens on how they felt about Mayor Fenty and giving credence to the Anybody but Fenty (ABF) clarion call, they now reveal the results of a poll on same sex marriage (

While the Post poll is a snapshot in time, it does indicate that many citizens favor the redefinition of marriage, but more importantly the Post reports that nearly six in ten residents say they would prefer to vote on the issue. However, District leaders have said a public vote would be discriminatory. Congresswoman Norton, interjecting her own personal support for same sex marriage, refuses to let Congress move forward with legislation that would allow the public a vote on the issue or a definition on marriage based on the Defense of Marriage Act. Her eagerness to deny a vote on the matter by DC residents while she seeks a vote in Congress comes across as hypocritical and appears to be causing somewhat of a backlash with some saying “Kick Norton Out” (KNO) and “Norton Gotta Go” (NGG). The longtime statehood warrior, once considered a champion of the people, now seems like an instrument or tool of the mayor and DC council. Her other activities are now overshadowed by her determination to join in keeping citizens from voting on the definition of marriage, like thirty-one states have done. To DC leaders, those that want to vote on the subject like the other states are considered bigots. Those accusations and insults fall on deaf ears, as the people in thirty-one states can’t all be bigots. Too many of us have been called worse and know the strategy of demeaning people to achieve one’s agenda. The systematic, strategic attack on people’s sympathies and empathies is not working when there is so much at stake when the right to vote is at play. The people of Maine most recently got a chance to vote and the legislatures in New York and New Jersey said “no” to redefining marriage. Those states that redefined marriage did not participate in a vote by the people.

It is interesting that the Post reports that regular white churchgoers nationwide generally oppose same-sex marriage; however two-thirds of whites in the District who attend services monthly or more often support same-sex marriage. African Americans are primarily against the redefinition of marriage. Put those poll results to the test. Allow a ballot measure on the issue this year to allow citizens to vote on the definition of marriage. Until then, let the matter make its way through the court system and perhaps to the Supreme Court if necessary. In the meantime, it is imperative to get people in office that are great defenders of other issues that matter as well, but who also would be willing to let citizens vote on the definition of marriage, regardless of their personal opinions. Also, work towards getting people on the local political parties (Republican and Democratic parties) that favor a vote on the definition of marriage. The issue is too important for a few people to declare what marriage will or should be. Next it might be polygamy, incest, or adult-child marriages that they might declare reasonable and fair under the guise of civil rights or human rights.

See if the poll results are correct and let the education and information on both sides flow. Let the people vote on the definition of marriage in the nation’s capital. Thirty-one states have voted so far. What is the definition of marriage in other great, powerful countries in the world? Marriage has been defined as the union between a man and a woman for some reason and that should be the focus on the discussion. DC does not need to be the most left-leaning jurisdiction in the country. It is all right to be more moderate and make the nation’s capital a great place to live, work, do business, play, enjoy, worship and raise children and future generations of leaders. Let the people vote on marriage. And also improve upon some of the other problems of the city that prevent it from reaching its promise as a world class city. It’s time for a call to action and apparently the courts, Congress, and new officeholders may have to be answer for now. And by the way, find a way to put people back to work and stop saying that DC residents are not qualified. Many of them are.


Planning for Public Use of Franklin School
Bell Clement,

The Coalition for Franklin School this week called upon Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Valerie Santos to provide an “open and transparent” process in the District’s planning for use of historic Franklin School. In a letter to Santos, the Coalition asked that proposals received by the District for use of Franklin be made public and that the DMPED provide for public participation in planning for use of the nationally landmarked building. The DMPED issued a Request for Proposals offering Franklin School for private use and development in September 2009. The RFP suggested conversion of Franklin for condominium, hotel, or other commercial use. Responses were due January 19, 2010. The District had earlier received, and rejected, two proposals from DC public charter schools to renovate Franklin for educational use. DMPED has stated that it is unable to find “viable re-use” for the School.

The Coalition for Franklin School filed a formal proposal for Franklin in response to DMPED’s RFP, calling for retention of the building in the public inventory and its redevelopment for educational use. “The District issued the Franklin RFP without proper process,” said Joseph Browne, Coalition Chair. “While we do not concede the validity of the RFP, we will continue to offer proposals showing that public education use for Franklin is both preferable and viable. And we will continue to demand that DMPED engage the DC public in its planning for this public treasure — including releasing for public review any proposals received.”

The Coalition’s proposal to the District lays out several public and public/private partnership alternatives for redevelopment of Franklin, among them a magnet high school for global education; a school of education for teacher training and research; and an academic center that would share space through rentals to education organizations such as universities based outside the District. Franklin School is the work of Adolf Cluss, the District’s signature nineteenth-century architect, whose Eastern Market and Sumner School are among the District’s most cherished public buildings. Opened in 1869, Franklin pioneered new programs for District schools, including a teacher education school (housed at Franklin for forty years), Washington’s first public high school classes, and successful adult education programs. The Coalition for Franklin School, an ad hoc group organized in November 2009 to oppose the city’s plan for private, commercial development of the Franklin building, represents a cross-section of District of Columbia citizens and area residents. Information about Franklin School and the work of the Coalition for Franklin School as well as the Coalition’s proposal for public education use for Franklin can be found at


Jobs and the Global Security and Aerospace Industry Tax Abatement Act of 2010
Lisa Alfred,

I am writing to express my concern about the negotiations surrounding the Global Security and Aerospace Industry Tax Abatement Act of 2010. As a resident who is well aware of our severe local budget deficit and high unemployment rate, I appreciate the work that the council is doing to find solutions to alleviate these problems. However, I am very concerned about the council’s attempt to alleviate these problems by handing out tax breaks and grants to corporations that will not directly impact the citizens of the District of Columbia. Although Northrop Grumman can bring considerable resources to the District, I believe the residents of DC will not benefit from this tax giveaway in the short or long term. What are we asking of Northrop to offset the giveaways? A significant number of DC residents will not qualify for the jobs that Northrop will bring because they don’t have the necessary education or skills. Many of the jobs will go to residents of Maryland and Virginia.

So far, the District government has not put in place a plan that will retrain our workforce to qualify for jobs that require higher education and substantial experience for the high paying jobs that are available at corporations in our region, let alone our city. It is disheartening to me to see parking lots and commuter buses filled with MD/VA residents. I bear no animosity towards MD/VA residents; however, we all know that DC residents are not able to compete with them. Our goal in luring corporations to DC ought to be in making sure that our residents have a fighting chance in getting the jobs that these corporations bring.

It seems that the negotiations with Northrop ought to include a measurable guarantee that a certain number/percentage of employees at the new Northrop DC be residents of the District of Columbia. The tax abatements should increase only as the number of hired DC residents increases. I would personally like to see a non-governmental entity such as the DC Fiscal Policy Institute monitor and report on this. The new Northrop DC should also adopt one DC public school where they fully fund and operate a training program for DC youth in the aerospace technology industry. These are the kinds of direct paybacks that could make legislation like this palatable to citizens like me. Otherwise, this new legislation just seems like another baseball stadium in the making.

Again, without a direct payback that the citizens themselves can see, we should walk away from this deal. I realize the difficulty in doing so. However, for once, I would like to see our leaders take a stand in favor of the residents, and just say no.


Schools Open Monday?
Rhonda Roads,

An E-mail to Chancellor Michelle Rhee: Are you fucking crazy? Totally out of touch with the world? No Metrobus service. Feds closed. Universities and charters closed. Most sidewalks are not clear and most residential side streets are not plowed. Children will have to walk in the streets.

Are you even in town, or out in Sacramento?

Another example of your poor leadership. Please resign.

[At 8:25 p.m. on Sunday, DCPS announced that schools will be closed on Monday. — Gary Imhoff]


Councilman Evans Alters His Patton Boggs Web Page; Threatens the Judiciary
Peter Tucker,

Dear Jack, you’ve stated that if Vincent Gray runs for mayor, you’ll run to fill his position as chair of the DC city council, the city’s second most powerful elected position. As I’ve mentioned in my two previous letters to you, I’m very much in favor of your running. You’ve been a great councilmember and I think you’ll make an excellent chairman! What I haven’t mentioned — although I may have hinted at — is that I’m interested in getting a job with you. Possibly even as campaign manager? I’m perfect for the position. Who better to help you navigate the many political (and possibly legal) land mines that await you in your run for chairman? And my level of commitment can be seen by the thoughtful advice I’ve been offering you, free of charge, for quite some time now.

As you’ll recall from my earlier letters, I recommended that you stop working for the law firm Patton Boggs, at least until after the election. Realizing the great difficulty in parting ways with your Patton Boggs salary ($240,000 a year), I also proposed a less austere measure: simply take down your page from Patton Boggs’ web site, just for appearances’ sake. While you haven’t followed either of these suggestions, I’m pleased to see that you’ve removed the most problematic sentence from your Patton Boggs page. Thankfully, your page no longer concludes with, “Mr. Evans advises clients on real estate matters.” As chair of the committee on finance and revenue, you are constantly involved in major projects — or “real estate matters” — involving huge amounts of precious taxpayer land and money: examples include the baseball stadium (more than $725 million), the convention center ($850 million), and now the convention center hotel ($272 million). The removal of this last sentence is critical to reducing your exposure to conflict of interest charges. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that nobody gets wind of this important change.

In my previous letters, you’ll recall that my strongest recommendation was that you cease and desist from any and all involvement with the proposed convention center hotel. The reason for this is simple: after spending years putting the deal together, all of the sudden you (somewhat suspiciously) began recusing yourself from voting on the matter, just two days after you were questioned about a possible conflict of interest. Specifically, you were asked if your firm, Patton Boggs, represents Marriott, the proposed recipient of $272 million in public funds. You declined to answer. When two major civic organizations (the Committee of 100 and the Federation of Citizens Associations) followed up with a joint letter asking for a detailed explanation of why you recused yourself, you simply ignored them.

Unfortunately, the deal that you’ve worked so hard to put together may fall through. JBG, a competitor of Marriott’s, sued the city claiming that the manner in which the contracts for the convention center hotel were awarded was illegal. The city asked Judge Natalia Combs Greene to throw out JBG’s suit, but she refused. Apparently this upset you. On Friday, the Washington Business Journal reported, “Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, on Feb. 2 introduced a bill that would amend the District’s charter to seize local control of the judiciary, giving the mayor the power to appoint judges, and the council the power to confirm them. As one rationale for the bill, Evans offered Combs Greene’s recent refusal to throw out JBG’s suit to block the city’s convention center hotel deal.”

Attempting to “seize . . . control of the judiciary” because you — a member of the legislative branch — are unhappy with a judicial decision is problematic under any circumstances (I think it violates the concept of three separate branches of government). But to do so over an issue that you (somewhat suspiciously) recused yourself from voting on is opening yourself up to all sorts of possible trouble. As one who is interested in seeing you become chairman, I must conclude this letter as I have the previous two: “I’m fearful that by continuing to be involved with the Marriott deal you are not only jeopardizing your chances of becoming chair, but you may be at risk of becoming the subject of an ethics investigation. If you run for chair, I wish you the best of luck. And if you are the subject of an ethics investigation, I wish you the best of luck with that, as well.”



Dupont Circle Citizens Association, February 8
Robin Diener,

The next meeting of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association will take place on Monday, February 8, at 7:30 p.m. Colleen Hawkinson of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) will provide an overview of the agency’s direction as well as information on major current and upcoming initiatives, including streetcars, K Street CenterWay, expansion of the bike sharing program, and the Circulator. Meeting location: St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 1772 Church Street, NW (at the corner of Church and 18th Streets).


Environmental Health Group (EHG) Events, February 9
Allen Hengst,

World War I munitions, bottles filled with chemical warfare agents and contaminated soil have been found in and around the Spring Valley neighborhood of northwest DC. The Environmental Health Group (EHG) seeks to raise awareness of the issues and encourage a thorough investigation and cleanup. Every Saturday at 1:00 p.m., please join the Environmental Health Group for an informal discussion about Spring Valley issues. In the cafe at the Tenleytown Whole Foods Market, 4530 40th Street, NW (one block north of Tenley Circle). For more information, visit the EHG on Facebook at:

Tuesday, February 9, 7:00 p.m.: monthly meeting of the Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board with the US Army Corps of Engineers. USACE is in the process of investigating and cleaning up contamination in Spring Valley resulting from operations during the World War I era. Corps project manager Todd Beckwith will review the fall 2009 ground and surface water sampling results (the first readings taken in Spring Valley since 2007). At Saint David’s Church basement, 5150 Macomb Street, NW (one block north of MacArthur Boulevard). For more information, go to


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, February 10-11
John Stokes,

February 10, 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver Street, SE. Black Card Creating for ages six through thirteen. Youth will participate in holiday cards and picture celebrating Black History Month and Valentine’s Day. For more information, call Orvin Wright, Site Manager, at 645-9201.

February 10-12, 4:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Petworth Recreation Center, 801 Taylor Street, NW. Valentine’s Day Card Making for ages fifteen and under. Youth will create cards for family and friends. For more information, call Howard Marshall, Site Manager, at 576-6850.

February 10 and 12, 6:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet Street, SW. Pre Valentine Girls Basketball Classic for ages ten through twelve. This is a single elimination girl’s basketball tournament for youth teams ages twelve and under. For more information, call Marc Williams at 645-3966.

February 11, 3:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Lafayette Recreation Center, 5900 33rd Street, NW. Valentine’s Day Celebration for ages twelve and under. Enrolled participants of the Afterschool Recreation Access program will decorate cookies and exchange cards in celebration of the upcoming Valentine’s Day weekend. For more information, call Mike Thompkins, Site Manager, at 282-2206.

February 11, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Banneker Recreation Center, 2500 Georgia Avenue, NW. Taste of Strawberry for all ages. The patrons will be able to taste a variety of foods with strawberries and strawberries liking. For more information, call Joyce Carey at 673-6861.

February 11, 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Raymond Recreation Center, 915 Spring Road, NW. Valentine’s Day Card Making for ages six through twenty-one. Participants will make cards for loved ones. Hot chocolate will be served. For more information, call Ellsworth Hart at 576-6856.

February 11, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Watkins Recreation Center, 420 12th Street, SE. Valentine Day Dance for ages six through thirteen. Youth will play games and dance. Hot dogs, chips and juice will be served. For more information, call Brian Cobbs, Site Manager, at 724-4468.

February 11, 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Malcolm X Recreation Center, 1351 Alabama Avenue, SE. Kiddie Card Making for ages six through twelve. Kids in the community will be spreading the love to their families and friends. For more information, call Zakiya Brown at 645-3960.

February 11, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Ridge Road Recreation Center, 810 Ridge Road, SE. Valentines Day Ball for ages five through thirteen. Youth will dress in red, black, and white; they will dance; there will be a best dress and dance competition; and they will be served refreshments. For more information, call Sonny Hicks, Site Manager, at 645-3959.


Scorpio at the National Building Museum, February 10
Johanna Weber,

February 10, 6:30-9:00 p.m., Guys, Guns, and Garages Film Series: Scorpio. Directed by Michael Winner (1973, PG, 114 minutes). This cat-and-mouse thriller pits CIA agent Burt Lancaster against Scorpio, a young assassin played by Alain Delon. Something to Love, Jesper Just (2005, 8 minutes). Witness a mysterious encounter between a chauffeur and his charge. $10 members, $10 students, $12 nonmembers. Member special: $15 for all three films! Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


A Little Night Music Road Trip, March 20
John Campbell,

A new revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s A Little Night Music (“A Weekend in the Country” and “Send in the Clowns”) is on Broadway. It is directed by Tony-winner Trevor Nunn, and stars Catherine Zeta-Jones (Oscar winner for the musical Chicago) as Desiree Armfeldt and five-time Tony winner Angela Lansbury as Madame Armfeldt.

Tickets are hot, especially as Lansbury (the impetus for the revival) is only in the cast until the beginning of April, and Zeta-Jones through mid-June. Based on Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night, A Little Night Music is set in a weekend country house in turn of the century Sweden, bringing together surprising liaisons, long simmering passions, and a taste of love’s endless possibilities. Hailed as witty and wildly romantic, the story centers on the elegant actress Desiree Armfeldt and the spider’s web of sensuality, intrigue, and desire that surrounds her. This is a much lighter and more optimistic show than most of Sondheim’s.

We have a bus trip to see the show on the afternoon of Saturday, March 20. It’s $230 for orchestra (sixteen seats left) and $200 for rear mezzanine (only two seats left). Price includes ticket, bus, and snacks on the bus. Dinner is at a restaurant right by the theater and is $34 for a three-course meal, including coffee, tea, or soft drinks, tax, and tip. For more information, contact Eileen Rubinstein, 301-590-0212,



Snow Shovelers
Deborah Fort,

In anticipation of the upcoming snows, I am looking for someone to shovel my walk. I was able to handle the last snow, but I fear that the upcoming one will be too much for me. The job is small, but I would gladly pay $20 to have it taken care of. When you E-mail me, please include a phone number.


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