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February 10, 2010

Record Snow

Dear Record Keepers:

Okay, so we now have had the most inches of snow in any winter since weather records have been kept. And the bulk of the snow has come in just three snowstorms, the last one coming on the tail of the second. I’m impressed; but what caused it? Was it my article saying that, while I don’t like cold weather, I actually like huge snows ( Or was it Robert Kennedy’s column in the Los Angeles Times on September 24, 2008 (, lamenting that because of global warming the Virginian suburbs of Washington would never again see cold winters with snowfalls deep enough for sledding? I blame Kennedy, the dope; never taunt the forces of nature.

What kind of job did DC government do with this record snow? The usual mayoral apologists are praising Fenty, and the usual critics are saying he as badly as Barry did in his worst storms. The most balanced evaluations are coming from the commentators on a Washington Post thread, People whose residential blocks have been plowed and salted tend to rate the snow removal efforts higher than those, like me, whose blocks haven’t been touched since Friday (check out the pattern for your neighborhood and other neighborhoods on the interactive map, But most people come to the same conclusion: DC workers did an okay job, considering the fact that it would make no sense for the city to have enough equipment to handle a snow storm that comes perhaps once a century. But Fenty and Rhee did a terrible job by over promising what the city could actually deliver and by making excessive demands on DC government employees and public school students.

What was Fenty thinking when he said over the weekend that DC government would be open on Monday, and when he demanded that all, not just essential, employees show up for work? What was Rhee thinking when she demanded that school kids show up for school under impossible conditions? On Monday, Fenty responded to an interviewer on Channel 5 who asked him whether any DC employees had told him it was a bad idea to open DC government on Monday with a scornful and dismissive, “No.” And I’ll bet no one did; that Fenty made it clear that he didn’t want to hear any opposition. When Rhee was asked what made her change her mind, and finally call off school on Monday, she made it clear that what parents and teachers said had no influence over her decision. But why would it be a source of pride to Fenty and Rhee that they didn’t listen to anyone but themselves, that they ignored advice from everyone else? This is just the latest example of how personality flaws — in this case arrogance — that are often dismissed as minor can lead to major mistakes in governance.

One anonymous reader asked several people at high levels in District government two questions, and shared this summary of what they said: “Q1: Why do you think the DC government was open on Monday when the federal government was closed? A1: Mayor Fenty wanted to show how tough he is and that he is in charge. He wants to prove to the nation that DC can function through anything. He pretends to be able to do it all, given the people who work for him are going to do as he expects them to. He sees himself as a trailblazer, going where no mayor has gone before. His arrogance and need to be perceived as independent, insightful, and confident actually showed his failure to use common sense. Opening the government with limited bus service and people having to walk in the middle of the streets shows how detached he is from the general public. And because his administration fires people for the most trivial offenses (real of perceived), some defied the odds and tried to get to work. There was no regard for public safety. Does he think everyone who works for the District lives in the District? He seriously underestimated the amount of snow, and we were casualties of war. He went on TV (where he speaks to his subjects) with a premature announcement, and is too self absorbed to admit he made a mistake. Who pays the price for that?

“Q2: Why was DCPS originally on a two hour delay? A2: He never recovered from the levity from President Obama last year regarding the closing of schools with the minimal snowfall, so this year he decided he would show them. The barrage of parental phone calls, E-mails, blogs, etc., let him know it was a huge mistake to open schools at all; hence the change of plans. Not that he considered the danger to children walking to school over unplowed sidewalks on in traffic, that some of the snow was taller than some of the kids, or that when they got to school how cold and wet they would be, or that there would not be sufficient staff to supervise them or aftercare services to take them in after school. It has been suggested that Rhee knew staff would not be able to get to school and that she could then point out that they really didn’t come to work as she has stated. And the schools were put on a two-hour delay while the government was put on a one-hour delay. What should we have done with the children for that hour? Send them to school and hope someone is there to receive them? Or tell them to stay in the house for an hour and hope for the best?”

You may have received issues of themail since January 31 in which special characters like typographical (curly) quotes are replaced with a box-like character. The company that sends themail is aware of the problem. It has affected some of their other customers, too, and they’re trying to identify what has caused the problem and to rectify it. Please be patient.

Gary Imhoff


Timely Decisions
Karl Jeremy,

Wednesday Morning: the District of Columbia is back to square one with snow removal, and residents are going to have to be patient a while longer. Some streets haven’t been plowed from the last storm and now there are additional inches with which to contend. Then, there are the sidewalks that residents are expected to clear — again. Multiple complaints have been posted on listservs; some have been justified, but it is the lack of communication between the executive and city employees that has me concerned. The same is true for poor communications among the Schools Chancellor, DCPS administrators, teachers, and parents. There has been a flood of E-mail alerts from the National Weather Service and the Emergency Management Administration, but the decision to close the DC government came at 10:55 p.m. Tuesday evening; an alert announcing the shutdown of Metro came at 11:00 p.m.; and the decision to cancel all but essential DCPS personnel came at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday morning. When these alerts were issued, most of these employees had already made child care arrangements and retired for the evening.

Your lack of prior proper planning and inability to execute a timely decision was evident Sunday evening when the announcement to close DC Public Schools came at 8:30 PM — when the Super Bowl was underway; and, an earlier alert had stated schools would open Monday morning two hours late.

Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee: residents, parents, and city and school employees deserve better. The federal government made a timely decision to close on Wednesday, the District should follow their lead rather than create a atmosphere of anxiety!


Snow Removal?
Bryce Suderow,

It’s Tuesday and I wanted to say that snow removal here in NE has been pretty lousy. The snowplows seem to be roaming around looking for something to do but the side streets remain covered with snow.


Mariuccia Marolo,

Probably it’s time to have the real estate tax applied according to the service we get, and with credits for houses on streets where the snow has not been removed and residents are losing money because they cannot attend their businesses, while others, in nearby streets, can go around, drive, and do their jobs.

Last December I got my street cleaned after a week and after calling city hall four times.

Now, after three days and one call, I’m still a prisoner in my own house, losing money by the hour.


Roman Snow
Linda Keyes,

On Sunday, I received an E-mail from the mayor’s office on the Ward 7 listserv, announcing that on Monday morning the mayor would have a press conference to provide an update on renovation efforts at Bald Eagle Recreation Center. It reminded me of the old saying, “While Rome was burning. . . .”


Washington Post, Inside the Messy Collapse of a Great Paper
Phil Shapiro,

The cover story of the New Republic magazine for February 4 is “The Washington Post in Winter: Inside the Messy Collapse of a Great Paper” ( Most interesting quote? “But none of these developments, however promising, changes the fact that the Post remains a newspaper in distress — in late October, (executive editor) Brauchli had to physically intervene when an editor punched a writer in the newsroom. . . .“ The current publisher, Katharine Weymouth, says her job is “to make sure the Post is here for generations to come.” She gave it her best shot. Honest, she did.


DC Must Take Its Sovereignty
Wenzell Taylor,

The dust is settling a bit now after all the excitement of the St. Charles, Illinois, meeting from November 11 through 22. During that meeting, dubbed “Continental Congress of 2009,” the work of Mr. Robert Schulz and the “We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education, Inc.” produced as a capstone of over fourteen years of activism and research, the document called “Articles of Freedom,” the purpose of which is essentially education. The page you will find at summarizes the fourteen articles that were produced detailing various violations of the Constitution, and they are a prelude to holding the government, at all levels, accountable if a sufficient number of Americans agree with each other that it should be done.

Toward that end, plans are now underway to present these articles on April 19 to begin a process of holding the Government accountable. If you want to help, then your help is needed. It would be helpful at this point if you would simply schedule a time in your busy day to look over this summary on the net, and understand what the articles found. This material was largely produced over the last fourteen years by WTP Foundation and Bob Schulz, but everything thus produced has now been “filtered” and “consolidated” by a very intense effort over eleven days in Illinois by over one hundred Americans who were elected by fellow WTP members and others in the public, who came, many at their own expense or with the support of others who believed in them, and volunteered their time to meet, debate, and work together toward producing this magnificent work:

I would urge every American to get a copy at, and if you have not yet done it, sign on the dotted line to join with the rest of us in holding our government accountable. You can do that at the “Pledge” tab at the same web site. The effort you may direct toward this end is entirely voluntary, as is whatever contribution you may or may not choose to make. This is bedrock activism by Americans who do not wish to see the United States of America submerged into an amorphous international amalgamation of “whatever,” but rather to see America stay alive as a beacon of hope and inspiration to all of the people of the world. The choice, as has always been the case, is ours.


“A Citizens’ All Hands on Deck”
Peter Tucker,

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and Police Chief Cathy Lanier get quite excited when deploying their “All Hands On Deck” tactic, which brings to bear all available police on an area of concern at a particular time (for example, the Trinidad neighborhood on a Friday night). This made-for-TV policing strategy has little, if any, effect on crime. Questions: what if, instead of interrupting people’s lives in Trinidad, the “All Hands” tactic was deployed to City Hall? And what if the “Hands” belonged not to the police, but to the civic-minded residents of DC? While citizen involvement in the political process is always critical, the next few weeks offer unique opportunities. Over these next weeks, each city agency will testify at a public hearing held by the city council committee responsible for its oversight, and the public may testify (whether or not you live in the District).

Why bother testifying? It is hard to go anywhere in DC without hearing about the problems of the District government, yet these important critiques are often missing or downplayed at council hearings. That needs to change. Testifying on an issue not only brings it to the attention of the councilmember who bears oversight responsibility, but the hearings are televised on channel 13 and reach into the homes of thousands of fellow District residents, and this helps to put the government on notice.

My mom likes to tell the story of a seesaw with a big bucket on each end, one empty, the other filled with heavy rocks. Armed only with spoons and a desire to tip the balance of power, we get to work. Each spoonful of sand placed in the empty bucket high above is, in and of itself, more of an act of faith than a practical solution. Yet, taken together, our spoonfuls can lift the rocks. With regards to the upcoming oversight hearings, it may be that none of us alone can tip the balance of power, but each of us has a unique voice — a spoonful — and if we put them together, who knows what may happen? On the other hand, if we do nothing, the outcome is certain. Howard Zinn, the historian who recently passed away, wrote, “I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.”

Whatever local issue(s) you are most passionate about, the coming hearings present an opportunity to take a civic gamble by raising your voice. All the hearings are held at the Wilson building at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, and their dates and times, as well as how to sign up, can be found at The obstacles to realizing a more just city are great, but many hands make for light lifting. It is time for “A Citizens’ All Hands On Deck.” See you at the council, and on channel 13.


Costs of School Gardens
Pat Taylor,

I love gardening and think it is very fine when children learn to garden and come to enjoy it. But I wonder about the costs of the school gardens program in the DC Council’s Healthy Schools Act of 2009. School gardens must first be constructed. This may be the easy part at schools that have an active parents association that will raise the needed funds and provide the construction labor. And some schools may get one of the new DCPS grants “to support the development of school gardens,” from the grant program to be created by this legislation. But what about the ongoing staffing costs for working with students to plant and grow the vegetables and, most important and time-consuming, to integrate their garden experiences into classroom curricula and learning? Will DCPS be adding Garden Instructors to the payroll of schools with gardens? Or will the classroom teachers be expected to add this task to their already very full workloads?

Just today, a teacher at the Bancroft Elementary School of White House vegetable garden fame wrote of this serious problem in the DC blog The Slow Cook. Her title says it all: “Behind the White House Photo ops, School Gardens Desperate for Help.” ( The successful school gardens I have seen depend on the labor of a few willing teachers and a number of parent volunteers, at least some of whom are knowledgeable gardeners. Other school gardens I’ve seen were nothing but bare dirt and a few weeds. This what happens to school gardens that never were or no longer are supported by willing teachers and volunteers and have no paid gardening/teaching staff.

How much would it cost for professional staffing of the school garden program? On this question, it is instructive to read about the first New York City affiliate of the Edible Schoolyard program started by restaurateur Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame, in the January 19 New York Times ( This garden will be much more elaborate than any likely to be created in DC, but not necessarily larger. Staffing costs for this garden are estimated at $400,000 a year! Certainly this is far more than the likely staffing cost of a DCPS school garden. However, this article makes the point that staffing is not free. If the DC councilmembers supporting this legislation believe school gardens are an important addition to our public schools, they should provide funding in the Healthy Schools Act of 2009 to staff them.


Objection to a Vulgarity
Kathi Sullivan,

I feel that I must object to this E-mail (“Schools Open Monday?,” themail, February 7). While I understand the frustration a parent must have felt when it appeared that DCPS was going to open, I see no reason why one feels they can use this language. What kind of a role model is this parent? Not a great one in my book. I for one, do not use language like this and, surprisingly enough, my kids and their friends don’t either. As the editor, I think you can take a stance here and refuse to print expletives.

[Let me restate my policy for themail. I rely on the good taste and judgment of contributors to keep expletives to a minimum. There are three good reasons to refrain from using them in published materials: many people feel it is bad manners and in bad taste to use them; many people feel that vulgarities weaken the force of an argument; and people whose E-mails are monitored by censorship programs may not receive an entire issue of themail because of a single expletive in one message. On the other hand, Chancellor Rhee was saying that DC schoolchildren would have to make their own way to schools through deep snows covering streets and making sidewalks impassable, without any public transportation available. Considering the provocation, any parent who did not at least think a long and colorful string of expletives would have shown superhuman restraint. — Gary Imhoff]


Voting on Same-Sex Marriage
Martin Andres Austermuhle,

Even though the recent poll found that the majority of District residents would vote to support same-sex marriage, it still doesn’t change my opinion that people’s rights are not to be left to the whim of the majority. Thankfully, DC law is quite clear on this, and the Board of Elections and Ethics and DC Superior Court have on multiple occasions made clear that same-sex marriage is not proper material for a referendum or initiative.

As for Kathyrn Pearson-West’s criticism [themail, February 7] of Eleanor Holmes Norton’s defense of the same-sex marriage bill on the Hill, I can only remind her that Delegate Norton is only being consistent. One of Del. Norton’s tasks on the Hill is to protect the right of the District’s elected officials to make local decisions. In speaking on behalf of the same-sex marriage bill, Del. Norton is being consistent in her defense of Home Rule.

On a related matter, I was fascinated to see the news that the campaign to stop same-sex marriage in the District is anything but local. According to campaign finance forms, no District resident but Bishop Harry Jackson has given money to the cause, and he only gave $100. Every other cent of the close to $200,000 collected to fight marriage equality has come from national groups. I’m not saying that national funds shouldn’t make their way into local fights, only that it says something that no District resident has given money to help the fight to defend “traditional” marriage.


Acceptable Black Bigotry
Philip E. Pannell,

Last November I was elected the president of the Congress Heights Community Association, the oldest and largest civic association in Ward 8. The next month, on December 12, I presided at my first official duty: the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the park at Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X Avenues, SE. I had arranged for the community to have cake at Georgena’s Restaurant and Bar, a few blocks from the park. I went with some friends to the restaurant, and after an hour of being there went outside to smoke a cigarette. A man that I did not know followed me outside, came up behind me, called me a “fucking faggot,” and punched me in my face, causing me to lose my balance and nearly fall. He reached in his pocket to get something but ran into the parking lot when he saw some people approaching the restaurant. The police were called, came quickly, and showed much understanding and sensitivity in taking my report. The officers informed me that my incident would be reported as a hate crime and they have contacted me several times since the assault. Last year the MPD reported that hate crimes based on sexual orientation had risen dramatically in Wards 7 and 8. The Washington City Paper reported this at

Unfortunately here in DC too many African Americans feel that homophobia is an acceptable form of bigotry. Hate speech is tolerated in the school yards and in many pulpits. The current controversy surrounding marriage equality in DC is causing homophobia to percolate even more in the Black community in our city. It should be understandable that when you have an orchestrated campaign led by people referring to Gays as abominable sodomites and comparing the quest for equal human and civil rights for same-sex couples as the first step to the promotion of incest and pedophilia that some fringe elements will display their intolerance virulently and sometimes violently. I can only imagine and shudder at what a sustained campaign of homophobic bigotry would be like in this city if marriage equality is put to a vote.

I am proud to live in a city that has a human rights law that understands the consequences of permitting plebiscites involving the basic civil and human rights of unpopular minorities. The more that I listen to the proponents of a vote on marriage equality, the more I feel that their objectives involve more than affecting public policy. In my opinion, they yearn for the opportunity to give full cry to their intolerance and hatred under the guise of promoting participatory democracy. The tragedy is that people like me may become collateral damage in the midst of their collective catharsis. This is not paranoia on my part because on December 12, 2009, I became a hate-crime statistic. If there is an upside to this continuing Sturm und Drang around marriage equality, it is that the haters are finally coming out their closets and letting the LGBT community know who our enemies are. Gary, I commend you and themail for giving them a forum to express and expose themselves.



A Joint Hearing, Indeed, February 11
Peter Tucker,

On Thursday, February 11, at 10:00 a.m., in the Council Chamber of the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW) there will be a public hearing on the “Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative Amendment Act of 2010.” The hearing is being co-chaired by Councilmembers David Catania (chair of the Health Committee) and Phil Mendelson (chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary). The notice for the hearing correctly — in more ways than one — describes it as “a Joint Public Hearing.”


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, February 12-14
John Stokes,

February 12, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., various locations. DPR play day for ages six through thirteen. DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), in coordination with the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), offers DPR Play Day, a full day of programs for DCPS students in grades K – 8 throughout the District. DPR Play Day programs begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue until 5:00 p.m. Breakfast, lunch, and snack will be available for all registered youth. For more information, call Gerren Price, Play Day Coordinator at 445-3562.

February 12, 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Volta Park Recreation Center, 1555 34th Street, NW. Valentine Day for ages five through twelve. Participants will exchange Valentine cards, make valentine hearts, dance to music and will be served refreshments. For more information, call Shirley Debrow at 282-0379.

February 12, 6:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Benning Stoddert Recreation Center, 100 Stoddert Place, SE. Black History Month Youth Ball for ages eight through fifteen. The Youth Ball will be a place where the youth can display their grace and style and enjoy an evening of dance with fellow friends. For more information, call Richard Evans or James Battle. 698-1873.

February 12, 2:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Turkey Thicket Community Center, 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE. Black History Valentine’s Day Masquerade Ball for ages six through twelve. Youth will enjoy Black History Play follow by ball. For more information call Lesley Long, Site Manager, at 365-6983.

February 12, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Langdon Park Recreation Center, 2901 20th Street, NE. Valentine Dance for ages thirteen and under. Kids will have a valentine dance in the gym. The staff will provide food, music, and beverages. For more information, call T-Jai Farmer, Site Manager, at 576-6595.

February 12, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., North Michigan Park Community Center, 1333 Emerson Street, NE. Youth Valentine Sock Hop for ages seven through twelve. Youth will come together in a fun filled atmosphere to show off their latest dances in an old school sock hop dance way. For more information, call Joe Clark, Site Manager, at 541-3522.

February 12, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Lamond Recreation Center, 20 Tuckerman Street, NE. Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Dance for ages six through thirteen. Youth will enjoy food, games, and music. For more information, call Kim Campbell at 576-9541.

February 12, 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver Street, SE. Black Art Night for ages six through eighteen. Youth will participate in creating art for Black History Month and Valentine’s Day. For more information, call Orvin Wright, Site Manager, at 645-9201.

February 12, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Benning Park Recreation Center, 5100 Southern Avenue, SE. A Dinner from the Heart for all ages. Staff will serve meal to participants at center including soft music and fellowship. For more information, call 645-3957.

February 12, 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m., DC Center for Therapeutic Recreation, 3030 G Street, SE. Red and White Dance for adults with special needs. A Valentine’s Day celebration including dancing, games, and light refreshment. For more information, call Rita Robinson, Recreation Therapist, at 698-1794.

February 12-14, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Southeast Tennis and Learning Center 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE. “Sweetheart” Open Tennis Tournament for ages sixteen and under. This is the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center’s Annual “Sweetheart” Open Tennis Tournament. This tournament opens competition up to other youth in the DC metro area. This is another tool to prepare young tennis players to competitive play. For more information, call Keely S. Alexander at 645-6242.

February 12-14, Takoma Aquatic Center, 300 Van Buren Street, NW. 24th Annual Black History Invitation Swim Meet for ages six through sixteen. The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the United Black Fund, Inc., will host the 24th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet. Over three exciting days, from February 12-14, over eight hundred youth from across the country will compete at “Dive Into History,” the 24th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet. This national event draws hundreds of swimmers each year to be part of the “premier minority swim competition in the United States and in the World,” as described by USA Swimming. More information about the meet and the complete schedule is available on our web site.

February 13, 3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Trinidad Recreation Center, 1310 Childress Street, NE. Cougars Competitive Cheerleading Pep Rally for ages five through sixteen. Each team (Tiny Mites, Jr., Pee Wee, and Seniors) will display their cheer routine for the season with parents and special guests while enjoying games, food, contests, and more. For more information, call Tameka Borges, Recreation Specialist, at 412-0305.

February 13, 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet Street, SW. Black Entertainers under the Stars Talent Show for ages eight and under. Youth and staff will put on performances of famous Black entertainers or historians. For more information, call Margie Robinson at 645-3960.

February 14, 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., University of Delaware Indoor Sports Complex, 609 South College Avenue, Newark, DE. First State Indoor Track Classic for ages eighteen and under. A premier track and field meet held in Newark, Delaware, for athletes eighteen and under to compete in a number of track and field events. For more information, call Edgar Sams, Track and Field Coordinator at 425-2859.


DC Federation of Democratic Women State Convention, February 27
Hazel B. Thomas, 

Mark your calendar today to attend the DC Federation of Democratic Women State Convention and Forum. The theme of the convention is “Evolving Legislative Priorities for Women and Families.” We will have expert speakers who will present hot topics under four broad issue areas: Health Care, Housing, Employment and Education. Please plan to attend and bring a friend. Your input and presence are needed to help evolve our legislative priorities.

The DC Federation of Democratic Women Annual State Convention, Saturday, February 27, 8:30 a.m.-l:00 p.m., Fourth Floor Council Chamber, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Topics: Health Care Reform and How It Relates to Women in the Metropolitan Area; presenter, Dr. Cam James, Senior Policy Analyst, Race, Ethnicity and Health Care and Director of Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars. Housing: A Global View of the Current Market, Programs, Resources, Incentives and Outreach; presenter: Ms. Leila Edwards, Director, Department of Housing and Community Development. Women in the Workforce, Current, Short, and Long Term Potentials; presenter, Ms. Connie Spirmer, Associate Dean of Workforce Development, University of the District of Columbia Department of Workforce Development. Comprehensive Education in the District of Columbia for Children and Adults; presenter, Ms. Sumeira Kashim, Research and Partnership Coordinator, DC Voice, Representative from the University of the District of Columbia, The Community College. Please come out and let your voice be heard. Be a part of setting a progressive agenda for women and families in the District of Columbia.


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