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February 14, 2010


Dear Plowers:

Ronni Glaser, below, has written what has to be the most provocative and interesting thing I’ve read yet about the snowpocalypse. Nearly everyone had been blaming local governments for an inadequate and incompetent response to a massive snow, at least until Chris Matthews, on his MSNBC show “Hardball,” blamed Mayor Fenty for poor management. Then some local reporters responded with knee-jerk defenses of Fenty and of local governments. We can criticize ourselves, but we can’t tolerate it when others criticize us; it’s a phenomenon that works for Fenty as well as it worked for Barry.

The most frequently used defense for slow snow removal is one that even I have accepted, that to respond adequately to once-in-a-lifetime snows DC would have to maintain an equipment fleet that would be uneconomically large and costly, and would be unjustifiable in normal years. Glaser demolishes that argument with a factual comparison between Washington’s and Chicago’s snow management fleets. If that comparison holds up with other cities that clear large winter snowstorms routinely, then the economic argument doesn’t hold up, and the failure to clear snow from the streets promptly is primarily a failure of planning and training — it’s management, not money.


A few days ago, Google announced a plan to provide experimental broadband Internet service to a few selected neighborhoods in US cities. That’s service with a download speed of 1 Gbps — one Gigabyte per second. Gee whiz. The story is here,, and the application form for cities is here, Councilmember Mary Cheh ( has already begun to campaign to get DC into the competition to receive the service. It’s a good idea, and the Office of Cable Television (Eric Richardson, Director, and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer, should cooperate to write the best possible application to get Google broadband centered in Columbia Heights. Oh, well, let’s just get it in DC, and fight about which neighborhood later.


Phil Pannell broke news in the last issue of themail when he wrote that he had been punched in the face on December 12, 2009, and that he had reported it as a hate crime. As far as I am able to determine, no other media outlet has reported that news. Certainly, it’s reprehensible whenever anyone hits anyone else. But Phil went on to attribute that punch to the campaign to support the traditional heterosexual definition of marriage, and then to characterize support for a traditional definition of marriage as homophobic bigotry and to classify it as hate speech. That scares me, because it does seem to be the next logical step in the campaign to interpret DC’s Human Rights Act as it illegal to oppose gay marriage. Phil’s argument justifies banning traditional Christian, Muslim, orthodox Jewish, Hindu, and whatever other religious or secular moral tradition you can think of as hate speech. It’s one thing to have a vigorous political debate over differing viewpoints; it’s quite the opposite to forbid political debate, and to criminalize disagreement.

Gary Imhoff


Washington, DC, Versus Chicago, IL
Ronni Glaser,

Referring to the Washington Post blog on the snowpocalypse, I noticed that the most popular excuse used by defenders of the mayor’s and the city’s efforts was the cost. Some noted that even in Chicago this type of snow accumulation would be a major event. I lived in Chicago for several years, and it’s true. Anything over twelve inches is considered a big deal, even in Chicago, but here’s the difference. In Chicago, the roads and public sidewalks get cleared. In Chicago, the city and its businesses stay open. In Chicago, the public transportation keeps running. Think about that. The nineteenth-century elevated train in Chicago stays running. In the seven years I lived there it never shut down due to a snow storm. How do they do it, you might ask? Do they pay more? Do they have mass amounts of equipment? Here are some numbers you might find interesting:

The city of Chicago currently has 275 snow plows. The city of Washington, DC, currently has 330 snow plows. The city of Chicago is 228 square miles. Washington, DC, is 68.3 square miles.

Now I know I’m not providing you with the miles of actual plowable road but I think we can all do the math and come to the conclusion that Chicago is a much larger city then DC and they need to plow a lot more road after a snow storm then we do. So how can Chicago, with 55 fewer snow plows then DC, plow a much, much larger area of roads and streets for the relative same amount of snow while still keeping their city, business’s and public transportation up and running? Well we know it’s not money or equipment, so what could it be? I suggest to you that it is skill and planning. The Chicago department of Streets and Sanitation provides training to its plow operators. When a snow storm hits, Chicago deploys its 275 snow plows with a specific procedure and then monitors them to insure the procedure is followed. This is the difference between Chicago and DC. In the aftermath of the first snow storm, I stood on Rittenhouse Street, NW, and watched as one plow coming up 32nd Street, NW, plowed through the intersection, leaving a large pile of snow in the center of Rittenhouse. Several minutes later I moved out of the way as a plow came up Rittenhouse Street, NW. The second plow moved the snow that had been pushed into the center of the street by the first plow right back onto 32nd Street, NW. Very effective.


A Winter Poem
Deborah Jane Anderson,

As someone who’s from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I’ve endured plenty of my share of this kind of wintry weather over the years. We’d be snowed in pretty much from before Thanksgiving to Easter, so we had to do a lot of indoor activities, though we also played long and hard outdoors. Thinking of what it was like growing up, and also thinking of how the recent storms aren’t quite the norm for folks in and around DC, I composed the following poem last evening. Hopefully, it’ll help folks get their minds past all this nasty weather.

“Better Times Are Coming” (a Winter poem)

The blizzards of early Two Thousand and Ten
Bring mem’ries of home to my mind once again.
The snow is a “falling and blowin” — it’s fierce!
And the bitter cold chill through all clothing does pierce.

So do make the best of being sheltered tight in.
Just think of the things you can do with your kin.
Play board games, do puzzles, drink hot chocolate and tea,
Build snow forts, go sliding, like a kid who’s carefree.

A snowman can add a nice touch to your yard,
Use the snow from your driveway you’ve shoveled so hard.
When all of the blizzardy, blowing is done.
Make graceful snow angels — doing them is fun!

A warm, crackling fire in the fireplace feels nice
Especially after being outside tackling ice.
Avert “cabin fever” by reading a book
Or, curl up with “blankie” in your favorite napping nook.

Dream of the ways you can make things the best
Calm down, and keep thinking, “This is only a test”
Of your patience and wit and your muscles and such
While government officials seem quite out of touch.

This crisis will pass — it won’t be much longer.
Your ability to cope will have grown a lot stronger.
So, keep your warm clothes on and roll with the punches
And pray that we have no more blizzards in bunches.

Yes, winter, for all that it’s worth, can be rotten,
But, hopefully, soon it’ll all be forgotten.
Though the weather of late has been quite a dread,
Better weather, greener pastures, aren’t that far ahead.

A few weeks from now, good ol’ Spring will be here,
And the bright, blooming colors will give reason to cheer.
Like Charlotte told Wilbur — “Chin up,” my friend.
This cold, nasty weather really does have an end.


Time for a Change in Leadership: Rhee and Parker Gotta Go in 2010
Candi Peterson,

It is disgusting to me when unions do not look out for the interests of their members yet willingly take dues from workers who join and then act in the best interests of the employer. Unions can help level the playing field to prevent abusive practices by employers, but this is not our reality in Washington, DC, under the helm of George Parker, Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) President. Once again, Parker has given Chancellor Michelle Rhee another out after she sullied the reputation of 266 laid off teachers in her comments to Fast Company magazine in which she said: “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had sex with children, who missed 78 days of school.” Parker as a union leader barely seems indistinguishable from DCPS management and appears more interested in maintaining his good relationship with Rhee rather than upholding his legal obligation to protect longtime dues paying members from these ongoing acts of defamation and serial bullying. Failing to take Rhee’s comments to task by asking for only an apology has gotten us nowhere with unsubstantiated allegations against 266 laid off teachers and now a shift in focus to more than two hundred new allegations of abuse (reported to occur in 2008-2009) against the entire workforce of DC teachers as reported by The Washington Post.

Not addressing the issue of Rhee’s demonizing DC teachers has lead to negative and distorted media images throughout this country. Our union president has been unable to develop a strategic plan to address Rhee’s frequent negative anecdotes about DC teachers and often is unresponsive to Rhee’s ongoing claims in the press. Whether on local education blogs or in newspaper articles, teachers are willing to speak out and express their views but are reluctant now more than ever about identifying themselves, their schools, or the workplace atrocities that occur due to fear of retaliation and lack of support from our union. Teachers who stand up in the face of these types of adversities, like Hardy middle school English teacher Jann’l Henry, who had students write more than 150 letters to Mayor Fenty as part of a class assignment, defy the odds. Subsequently, Hardy students went to the DC city council when their letters went unanswered by the mayor, in an act of civil disobedience and support of their desire to have their principal (Patrick Pope) remain at Hardy. I agree with Nathan Saunders, WTU’s General Vice President’s, who commented, “We can’t teach students to enforce their rights if we are afraid of enforcing ours.”

Through our union, teachers should have a voice to lift up their concerns about working and learning conditions, best practices, professional development, wages, benefits, workplace bullying, and contractual violations so that we can have democracy in the workplace. It is a reasonable expectation that our union should take the lead in standing up and demanding accountability and the resignation if need be of a chancellor, Michelle Rhee, who, in the words of retired DC math teacher turned blogger, Guy Brandenburg, “denigrates DC Public Schools every chance she gets.”


Vulgarity in themail
Malcolm Wiseman,

I agree with Ms. Sullivan’s comment on vulgarity in themail. Being an ex-sailor, my mouth is often a fount for colorful expletive, but I wince when I read it in public writing. Mr. Imhoff’s recent ugly reference to Mayor Fenty as an “arrogant son of a b*tch” (he didn’t use an asterisk) is vulgar, useless writing.

[As I replied to Ms. Sullivan in the last issue of themail, in mitigation for the expletive to which she objected, consider the extreme provocation. In addition, in this case I’d plead for mercy considering the accuracy of the phrase. — Gary Imhoff]


The InTowner February Issue Content Now Available
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the February 2010 online edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items, editorials (including prior months archived), restaurant reviews (prior months also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature (the accompanying images can be seen in the archived PDF version). The Selected Street Crimes feature will be updated later on, at which time we will send an advisory to our new content upload notification list recipients. The complete issue (along with prior issues back to January 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link in the Current and Back Issues Archive. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements.

The next issue will publish on March 12 (the second Friday of the month, as usual). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Major 18th Street Reconstruction Underway; Tree Canopy to Get New Plantings and Special Attention”; 2) “City Soon to Seek Proposals for Use of Former Trolley Station Under Dupont Circle”; 3) “Board Grants Landmark Status to Historic Foggy Bottom Site and Buildings.” In addition, we also call your attention to an especially nice photo montage on page 7 of snow storm images provided to us by Dupont Circle resident Phil Carney.



Environmental Health Group (EHG) Events, February 16
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 16, 7:00 p.m.: Because of snow, last Tuesday’s meeting of the Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was postponed for one week. 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). Location TBA at


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, February 16-20
John Stokes,

February 16, 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Ft. Davis Recreation Center, 1400 41st Street, SE. Mardi Gras for ages 55 and up. Seniors will celebrate with fun and games. For more information, call Tonya Cousins at 645-9212.

February 19, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Trinidad Recreation Center, 1310 Childress Street, NE. Tribute to Blacks in History for ages five through eighteen. Youth of Young Men of Distinction will display acts of famous blacks portraying their most famous moments. For more information, call Ernest Kinard, Recreation Specialist, at 412-0305.

February 19, 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Atlantic City Convention Center, One Convention Boulevard, Atlantic City, NJ. Battle at the Board Walk Cheer and Dance Championship for ages five through sixteen. Cougar competitive cheer of Harry Thomas will compete. For more information, call Tameka Borges, Recreation Specialist, at 412-0305.

February 19-20, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet Street, SW. Ward 8 Sports Classic- Youth Cheerleading Invitational for all ages. This is a cheerleading competition to promote cheer programs citywide. For more information, call Marc Williams at 645-3966.


National Building Museum Events, February 10
Johanna Weber,

February 17 and February 18, 10:00 a.m., 10:40 a.m., 11:20 a.m. Meet the Museum: The Smithsonian Discovery Theater, National Children’s Museum, and National Building Museum. Builder Bill at the National Building Museum. Celebrate Engineering Week with Builder Bill and learn about pulleys, levers, and machines during a performance hosted by The Smithsonian Discovery Theater National Children’s Museum, and the National Building Museum. Put on your imaginary tool belt and come on down! $6 adults, $5 children. Ages four to nine. To purchase tickets, contact 633-8700 or visit

February 17, 6:30-9:00 p.m., Guys, Guns, and Garages Film Series: All the President’s Men. Directed by Alan J. Pakula (1976, PG, 138 minutes). Robert Redford meets with “Deep Throat” in one of the most well-known garage scenes of all time. Odysseus in Ithaca, Peter Rose (2006, 5 minutes). Video art originally commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. $10 members, $10 students, $12 nonmembers. Member special: $15 for all three films! Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

February 20, 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Discover Engineering Family Day. Explore flight and aerodynamics by making a four-ring boomerang, create a dome out of toothpicks and gumdrops, and learn about sustainable engineering at the Discover Engineering Family Day. Families, scout groups, and all curious visitors are invited to attend and discover how professional engineers turn ideas into reality. Free. Drop-in program. Recommended for ages 5 to 13 with adult supervision. All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Aprille Ericsson on Black History Month, February 19
Barbara Roberts,

The Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library is excited to have Dr. Aprille J. Ericsson from NASA as a guest speaker for Black History Month. She will talk on Friday, February 19, at 10:00 a.m. She is a dynamic African-American woman who has made great contributions to science and will continue to do so in the future. One of her greatest interests is in interesting minority students and women in math, science, and technology, and she has served as a mentor. She enjoys talking to students of all ages. This talk will be aimed at students in Middle School and High School.

She received her BS in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from MIT; her Masters of Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in Aerospace from Howard University. Her graduate research focused on the development of optimal digital controllers for future large orbiting space structures. She obtained many fellowships and grants from NASA, GSFC, COOP, HU Terminal Dissertation Year, NASA Center for Studies of Terrestrial and Extra Terrestrial Atmosphere, among many others. She has been a guest researcher at Harvard/Radcliffe University. Most of Dr. Ericsson’s engineering career has been spent at the Goddard Space Flight Center. She has also worked at NASA HQ as a Program Executive for the Earth Science Enterprise and a Resource Manager for the Space Science Enterprise. In 2001 she was detailed to NASA HQ under Mary Cleave, Deputy Administrator for Code Y, Earth Science Enterprise. Later at Goddard, she led a team of scientists and engineers writing a proposal for a small-Space Science-explorer (SMEX). She later became telescope manager on another SMEX proposal-Jupiter Magnetospheric Explorer (JMEX).


DC Community Broadband Summit, February 26
Phil Shapiro,

Please join Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer of the District of Columbia, and other area leaders at Washington, DC’s, first-ever Community Broadband Summit (DC-CBS) — a citywide gathering to address the District’s digital divide. DC-CBS will provide an opportunity for nonprofits, businesses, and local and federal government leaders to meet, exchange ideas, and develop partnerships to further a shared mission of spreading the benefits of digital literacy and broadband adoption. Further info is at

(Hmmm, wouldn’t a weekend time for this event be more convenient to assemble a greater number of stakeholders? I don’t know. Just wondering.)


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