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February 21, 2010

No Bad News

Dear Residents of Oz:

What one sentence explains Mayor Fenty’s failure to plan for, manage, and oversee efforts to control the snow? Here’s a hint: Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wiz, sings it as her anthem. “Don’t nobody bring me no bad news.”

Several commentators have already criticized Fenty’s strangely off-kilter performance on last Thursday’s “Connecting with the Mayor” segment on WRC-TV, He was sharp and sarcastic with the show’s hosts, and he came out with a line that will define his handling of the situation forever: “The snow has fallen, and it’s not going to be gone until the temperature gets warm enough so that it can melt.” That was Marion Barry’s snow removal plan when he was mayor; Fenty has now claimed it as his own. The mayor’s disconnect was obvious. Just as he repeatedly insisted that the major roads were clear, when it was obvious to everyone who tried to drive them that they weren’t; and insisted that plows had gotten to the residential streets, when everyone could see that most residential streets hadn’t been touched; he was caught unaware defending his claim that trash was being picked up from houses. Host Eun Yang told him that her trash had repeatedly not been picked up, and after scornfully dismissing her and insisting that she must not have known that trash collections were only been done from the front of houses, he was surprised when he finally understood what she was saying. Yang had been putting her trash out in front; it was just that no trash trucks had gone down her street. Fenty’s fallback response was that trash collections may have been skipped rarely or occasionally, but that Yang’s experience had been unusual.

A similar situation happened with Department of Transportation Director Gabe Klein, who had been identified as the one person with whom Fenty worked closely on snow removal. Reporter Tom Sherwood took Klein for a drive on Wisconsin Avenue, which Klein had insisted was clear of snow. Sherwood drove Klein past several snow banks blocking the avenue’s right lane. Klein could only say that his records showed the street was clear, and that he would look into it when he got back to the office.

Bryce Suderow makes the same argument, below, after noting that bus drivers were too afraid to report to their headquarters that they couldn’t drive the routes they had been assigned. You can’t manage, you can’t lead an effective and efficient operation, if your subordinates are afraid to bring you any bad news, if they can’t tell you that you’re overpromising, that the situation is worse than you think. You end up isolated and alone, insisting that the streets are clear, the schools are improving, the departments’ budgets are balanced, and the people love you.


Two more articles to read on snow management: Tim Craig’s coverage of Peter LaPorte’s testimony to the city council,, and Vanessa Williams’ clever comparison of the shoddy performance of Mayor Fenty with the high standards that Councilmember Fenty demanded for constituent service from Mayor Williams,


Chancellor Michelle Rhee has given a partial answer to Council Chairman Vincent Gray’s question about her claim that in her RIF of teachers she fired teachers who had sex with students. She now claims that she fired one teacher who had been accused of impregnating an eighteen-year-old special education student. She says that the case was still under investigation when she fired the teacher. Washington Teachers Union President George Parker says that the accusation had been fully investigated, the case resolved, and the teacher cleared. This is a stark factual disagreement, and it can be determined who is telling the truth, either Rhee or Parker. Documents showing the outcome of the investigation should exist, and the school system should have copies. If DCPS won’t produce those documents to the city council, Rhee’s story won’t hold water.

Gary Imhoff


Snow: “This One was the Real Deal”
Jack McKay,

“Streets were not plowed, garbage was not collected and mass transit was staggered.” Sound familiar? No, not DC, 2010; the year was 1979, and “Chicago was the city that could not get to work.” Displeasure over the paralysis of the city led to the ousting of the city’s mayor. Well, Chicago is supposed to be able to handle heavy snowfalls, and Midwesterners are quick to ridicule us District residents for our tendency to panic when threatened by a couple of inches of the stuff. Chicago was brought to a stop by 35 inches of snow over a two-week period. Compare what we got, 32 inches, in just nine days. If that was enough to paralyze Chicago, despite its being equipped to handle twice as much winter snow as the District gets, I guess it’s not surprising that it paralyzed DC, too. As Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said, this was “a heck of a snowstorm . . . this one was the real deal”.

The trouble with such a heavy snowfall is that the usual DC practice of just shoving it to the side, stacking it in tree boxes, and waiting for nature to melt it away, won’t do. Eighteen inches of snow on a narrow residential street amounts to ten feet of snow piled in the tree box. On a multilane road the stuff simply has to be loaded into trucks and hauled away, a dreadfully slow, costly, and inefficient process. Maybe we should be impressed that it took Mayor Fenty, and District personnel and contractors, only one week to end the paralysis.


Management Problems During the Snow Storm
Bryce A. Suderow,

I would not be surprised if it was true that DC has more snow plows than Chicago. It seems to me that our problem is a management problem, not a lack of resources. As evidence of this let me say this: I witnessed and many other people told me they saw idle snow plows and snow plows driving around doing nothing at a time when most side streets had not been plowed. Either management was not telling the drivers where to go or the drivers were goofing off and the managers weren’t aware of this.

Speaking of management problems, during the snow storm Metro managers were not on top of things. Last Thursday at 1:00 p.m., Metro’s web site announced that they had just activated over thirty bus lines that had been closed down cause of the snow storm The site directed Metro rail riders that if they traveled to Potomac Avenue they would find busses that would take them home. Also at that time the 90 busses finally started their routes. I got on a 90 bus on 8th Street south of Pennsylvania Avenue. The driver told me he was not going north. Instead he was going to turn east at Pennsylvania Avenue and drop all of us at Potomac Avenue Metro where we could catch another bus. When I got to Potomac Avenue I saw about twenty people waiting for the promised busses. One woman told me she had been there two hours and no busses had shown up. Apparently the promised busses could not reach Potomac Avenue Metro because of all the snow. When I suggested that the bus drivers call their bosses at Metro they refused, replying “I just drive where they tell me.” My driver told me he had just come on duty and had driven south from the garage, which is located way to the north. The 90 route was clear and he could not understand why the busses simply didn’t travel their usual route.

This week there were still problems with the 90/92 busses. On Tuesday my driver was driving north on 8th Street but he did not know what he should do when he reached H Street. He stopped three different busses traveling south. Each one told him a different story on what to do: turn onto 14th, turn onto 6th, and so forth. Again I urged him to call management, but he wouldn’t do it even though he and the other drivers were completely befuddled. Thus there were two problems. Management was out of touch and the drivers were reluctant to stick their necks out by telling management the truth.


It’s the Region in themail
Michael Bindner,

DC snow removal is on the par with the rest of the Washington region this year. Like in DC, there are still neighborhood streets in the suburbs that have not yet been plowed. There is no reason for outsiders to point a finger at the District that they won’t point at Arlington, and frankly DC residents don’t have any reason to complain — or at least not any more reason than those who live in PG, Montgomery, Fairfax, et al.


DC Resumes Recycling Collections
Kevin B. Twine,

The DC Department of Public Works announced on Friday that recycling collections will be resumed starting Monday, February 22. Residents are asked to use their recycling containers — blue carts and/or bins — and put the containers next to their trash containers (or dark plastic bags) at the curb. DPW resumed its Household Hazardous Waste/E-Cycling/Document Shredding services, on Saturday, February 20, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at Ft. Totten Transfer Station, 4900 John F. McCormack Road, NE.

DPW suspended recycling collections for two weeks due to the snow; therefore, many households have more recyclables than will fit in the containers. These overflow recyclables may be put in brown paper bags or cardboard boxes and placed next to the carts or bins. Both trash and recycling collections will follow their normal schedule this week. Residents are asked to put their containers out between 6:30 p.m. the day before their collection and 6:00 a.m. of their collection day.

Snow in District alleys is beginning to melt. However, not enough melting has occurred nor are temperatures forecasted to be sufficiently high to promote substantial melting to create certainty that DPW collections crews safely can collect trash and recyclables from alleys this week.


Vetting Candidates for 2010 Elections to Help DC Reach Its Promise
Kathryn Pearson-West,

Hearing about the recent Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC) in Washington, DC, I was wondering whether there might be a local Moderate Political Action group formed in what is the supposedly most left-leaning District of Columbia. At CPAC, one could tell that there were future candidates in the making. There was the making of a platform for potential candidates to grasp and move. The convention was more about the principles for governing and leading more so than the party. I know that there are religious groups reaching out to candidates to see where they stand to make sure the city doesn’t go too far in the right or left direction and that is a good thing that is really needed, but I wonder if there are other groups doing the same. Will there be a discussion about the future of the local political parties in Washington? Are they moving in the right direction for the people and will they work to field candidates with more middle of the road messages and with pragmatic ideas and solutions? What are the plans to help stem unemployment and increase job upward mobility? What are the plans for neighborhood and family stabilization?

Is the Democratic Party, of which I am a member and a moderate, allowing and encouraging potential candidates to speak at their groups? Are they are on the lookout for and appreciative of new blood? Are they grooming new leaders for the future? (The Attorney General is expected to be an elected position in 2014.) Are they strengthening the party to make thoughts of moving to another party untenable? Is there an anti-incumbency movement this year for some over the issues of snow, education, the economy? Will the six out of ten citizens that the Washington Post reports want to see the definition of the marriage on the ballot revolt against those candidates that denied that possibility and imposed their own redefinition of marriage? Will voters show concern over what leaders are doing to retain current residents and businesses as the expense of newcomers that may be equally needed in the District? Will special interest groups govern the elections, making sure that their long range plans to put like-minded candidates in place materializes in 2010 or continues to take shape? Can DC shed its left-leaning moniker and go toward the center? Will churches turn out multitudes of voters echoing their voice on certain issues that address the least among us and/or the moral fabric of society?

Citizens can’t wait for the media to publicize actual and potential candidates because they may have their own biases or may not be willing to give perceived underdogs a shot at the chosen office. We saw in 2006 how some in the media were determined to make the mayoral race a two-candidate race instead of reporting more on what other candidates were about. So far we know that Leo Alexander and Adrian Fenty are candidates for mayor, with R. Don Peebles on the horizon possibly ready to enter the race now that he has addressed the needs of his family and he knows what that course may entail. Alexander and Peebles, two Democrats, will bring much to the mayoral race and will highlight problems and pragmatic solutions. Both may be willing to stand to the side to let the people vote on marriage and hear their will instead of imposing their own views, which are not as important as the right for the people to vote on this centuries-old definition. Both Peebles and Alexander seem to be ready to take on the tough issues and call them like they seem them. Both are ready to talk about the economy and education and other issues that matter to everyday citizens. There may be a solid three person mayoral race in 2010.

However, citizens are hearing little of the other races in 2010: Delegate to Congress, Council Chair, two At-Large races, and the races for Wards 1, 3, 5, and 6 council members. It has been said that Doug Sloan is eying the seat for delegate. Who else is out there for needed competition? In Wards 1, there has been mention of possible candidates Jeffrey Smith, Byron Weaver, and Stanley Mayes. Each of these candidates is good in his own right. Is there a strong Hispanic/Latino candidate on the horizon to take on the incumbent? In Ward 5, there is talk of Delano Hunter. Who is running in Wards 3 and 6? Anthony Motley is running at large. The media may not mention who is out there, so the citizens must report their names. This year, interest may return regarding whether candidates attend or belong to a place of worship and whether that faith institution wants to redefine marriage. Faith and religion are making a comeback in people’s psyche and criteria for candidates. The onslaught of snow made people start to think about religion for some reason since that first major snowstorm in December followed by the historic blizzard in 2010. Campaign finance reports are due March 10, and some may not register the big bucks just yet. But the interest in who is running for office is starting to gain interest. After March 10, may be a good time for potential candidates to announce their interest in running and state their platforms without having to show their strength in fundraising. People are willing to listen and being an incumbent is no guarantee for a win this year. No one is safe, despite appearances to the contrary. The people can make a strong candidate vulnerable overnight when they coalesce on the issues and the candidate. Wouldn’t it be something if the religious, labor, and business communities decided to coalesce and stand with everyday citizens behind the same candidates? Let’s talk and provide forums for potential candidates to address the people and their needs and see whether citizens want to stay with what they have (in some cases, the devil they know) or move on to other possibilities to make DC the world-class city that it can and ought to be. Citizens want full disclosure from candidates to determine any potential conflicts of interest and are eager and ready to vet candidates to see who can best serve all of DC. The days of mere popularity contests and name recognition may be over. What are candidates going to do for DC from this day forward and how will candidates’ positions, lifestyles, ideas, vision, and energy impact citizens and their families in this globally competitive society? Let’s hear the candidates and move DC forward. And let’s put a little focus on continuing to examine local political party apparatus to make sure they are doing right by the people they represent as well.


Will Chairman Vincent Gray Investigate Councilmember Jack Evans’ Possible Ethics Violations?
Peter Tucker,

(Below is testimony I gave before the DC city council’s Committee of the Whole on Thursday, February 18th. Video of the testimony can be found at hour mark 03:07:00-03:11:23 at

I testify to alert you to a grave violation of DC law by a councilmember and his committee involving over one quarter of a billion dollars. On Wednesday, June 24, there was a joint hearing held by the Committee on Economic Development and the Committee on Finance and Revenue. The subject of the hearing was the proposed convention center hotel, and the role that the city should play in assisting Marriott in building a $550 million, 1,100 room hotel. At the hearing, Councilmembers Jack Evans and Kwame Brown proposed using more than $100 million in public funding to assist Marriott in building the hotel; that number has since increased to $272 million, according to Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Business Journal.

At the June 24 hearing, another witness and I asked Councilmember Evans if he had a conflict of interest. Specifically, Mr. Evans was asked if his firm, Patton Boggs, represents Marriott, the proposed recipient of $272 million in public money. (I mentioned that Jack Evans’ firm is Patton Boggs: for those who don’t know, Councilmember Evans, the chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, is on the payroll of the law firm/lobbying firm Patton Boggs, where he earns $240,000 a year, on top of his council salary of more than $125,000.) Councilmember Evans had an interesting response to our questions regarding his possible conflict of interest: Silence. While Mr. Evans refused to answer our questions at the hearing, just two days later he (somewhat suspiciously) began recusing himself from voting on the matter. Two of DC’s most respected civic organizations — the Committee of 100 on the Federal City and the DC Federation of Citizens Associations — then sent a joint letter to Mr. Evans asking him for information regarding any work he has done with regards to the proposed convention center hotel on behalf of his firm, but Mr. Evans refused to respond. Under “Conflict of Interest,” the District of Columbia Official Code states (section 1-1106.01(b)): “No public official shall use his or her position to obtain financial gain for . . . any business with which he or she is a member.” If Marriott or any other company involved with the proposed convention center hotel is a client of Patton Boggs, then it appears that Mr. Evans has violated DC Official Code by using his position as chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue “to obtain financial gain for” a “business with which he . . . is a member.”

DC Official Code also states (Section 1-204.04(c), 202(c)): “If the participation by a chairperson of a committee . . . would be prohibited by DC Official Code, the chairperson shall return the measure to the Chairman for reassignment.” While Mr. Evans recused himself from voting on the convention center hotel deal, he did not “return the measure to the Chairman for reassignment,” but instead kept the legislation in the Committee on Finance and Revenue, which he chairs. Therefore, the legislation approving the public funding of the convention center hotel may be illegitimate and may need to be brought back to (a non-Jack Evans’ chaired) committee. Chairman Gray, in light of Councilmember Evans’ possible conflict of interest, as well as the amount of precious tax dollars at stake, I urge you to immediately launch an investigation into this matter.


Chris Matthews Wrong? Catch Up
Star Lawrence,

Chris Matthews has become increasingly manic in the last year and is wrong and extreme so often, it’s laughable. This is just one of the reasons MSNBC is down to a dozen viewers and also why stays in business critiquing so-called liberal bias. Raving about DC snow is just one of his goofy rants.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, February 24-26
John Stokes,

February 24, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Kennedy Recreation Center, 1401 7th Street, NW. Kennedy’s Blacks in Wax Living Museum for all ages. Come and push the red buttons and watch history (students) come alive! Students choose, research, and present a notable Black History figure (past, present, or future) at the Blacks in Wax Living Museum. Also, a Shaw Community Exhibit, videos, surprises, and more! For more information, call Pamela Pugh, Assistant Site Manager, at 671-4792.

February 25, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Trinidad Recreation Center, 1310 Childress Street, NE. Just Us Girls Winter Tea for ages six through sixteen. Young ladies will chat and chew while learning table etiquette, hygiene, proper table conversation, etc. while enjoying different flavors of tea and finger food. For more information, call Tameka Borges, Recreation Specialist, at 412-0305.

February 25, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Stead Recreation Center, 1625 P Street, NW. Black History Quiz Bowl for ages eight through fourteen. Participants will be divided into teams to see who knows there Black History facts. For more information, call Vincent E. Hill at 673-4465.

February 25, 3:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Lafayette Recreation Center, 5900 33rd Street, NW. Recipe Swap for ages twelve and under. Lafayette Recreation Center’s Young Ladies on the Rise and the Boys to Men program participants will participate in a recipe swap in celebration of Black History Month. For more information, call Mike Thompkins, Site Manager, at 282-2206.

February 25-26, 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 8:00 p.m., Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE. Fourth Annual Blacks in Wax Program, “Lift Every Voice and Stand” for all ages. During Black History month, the SETLC will present the Fourth Annual Blacks in Wax Program. Our vignette, entitled “Lift Every Voice and Stand,” is a tribute to African Americans in the arts that have used their gifts/celebrity to further justice and humanitarian causes. Students from SETLC will portray characters from Harriet Tubman to President Obama, from Arthur Ashe to Venus and Serena Williams, and artists ranging from Cicely Tyson to Alicia Keys. For more information, call Donna M. Stewart at 645-6242 or 386-4723.


Law Review Symposium, February 26
Joe Libertelli,

A Law Review Symposium on Developmental Disability Law in DC, Child Welfare and Justice Issues, and the Impact of the Freedom of Information Act in Keeping the Executive Branch of the DC Government Accountable to Citizens will be held on Friday, February 26, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the University of the District of Columbia, Building 44, A03, right across the quad, next to the Undergraduate Library.

This year’s Symposium features three panels of nationally recognized practitioners and advocates in the fields of Developmental Disability, Child Welfare, and FOIA Law as it pertains to the District of Columbia. Please see below for more information or contact KC Tackett, the Symposium Editor, at

Panels: Developmental Disability Law and Rights: Why DC Needs New Legislation Now, 9:30 a.m.-10:45 a.m. Moderated by Joseph B. Tulman, UDC-DCSL Professor of Law. Panelists include Sandy Bernstein, University Legal Services for the District of Columbia, Legal Director; Robert L. Burgdorf, Jr., UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, Professor of Law.

Child Welfare: Exploding the Myths, 11:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m. Moderated by Matthew I. Fraidin, UDC-DCSL Associate Professor of Law. Panelists include Richard Wexler, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, Director; Vivek Sankaran, University of Michigan Law School, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law; Daniel Hatcher, University of Baltimore School of Law, Associate Professor Law; Kristen Weber, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Associate.

Does the Executive Branch of the DC Government Currently Comply with the Various Provisions of the DC FOIA?, 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Moderated by William G. McLain, UDC-DCSL Associate Professor of Law. Panelists include Thorn Pozen, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Special Counsel; Thomas Susman, Governmental Affairs Office American Bar Association, Director; Margaret Kwoka, Public Citizen Litigation Group, Attorney.


Final Council Hearing on Recycling, March 10
Virginia Johnson,

Environmentalism is usually a plank in Democratic conventions. Please consider talking to your friends and family in this overwhelmingly Democratic city to get them fired up enough to trudge down to the Wilson Building, wait through up to one hour’s worth of other people’s testimony before reading their own in favor of massively increased attentiveness to our recycling program. If that does not happen, committee Chairman Jim Graham might well conclude that DC’s residents, those supposed progressives, liberals, and Democrats, don’t give a damn about recycling, and introduce some half measure, weakly try to get it through, and perhaps shrug his shoulders when nothing gets done.

Do you know that now is the time to do something about beefing up and indeed overhauling our recycling program? Are you going to rely on someone else to do it? If so, it won’t get done. It just won’t. There are thirteen business days left before the final hearing on March 10 on both commercial and residential recycling in the District of Columbia. This is your chance to make your voice heard on recycling whether you live in a house or an apartment building. This is it. After this, no more chances, no more excuses.

Go into practically any food-oriented business in DC and you will generally see no recycling and tons of commingling. This was my experience recently at Starbucks in Adams Morgan. They said they never recycle — they couldn’t get the customers to put them in the right bins. Let’s tie thoughts about climate change to real action. Let’s make the connection and do something besides E-mail each other. Let’s go down the Wilson building and read the testimony that we wrote. Let’s bring a real, grownup recycling program to Washington, DC.



Awning Contractor
H. and T. Foster, Petworth, Ward 4,

We are looking for an insured, bonded contractor who installs fabric (canvas) awnings on an attached residence (a row house) here in the District. Please let us know of any awning contractors you have had a good experience with.


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