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February 24, 2010


Dear Washingtonians:

I have a miserable cold, so I’m doing the lazy thing and reusing a relevant introduction to themail from almost exactly ten years ago, “Street Cuts and Cherry Blossoms,” March 19, 2000: “We have plenty of time to think about the condition of the city’s streets these days, since we have little else to do as we wait in garages for our automobiles’ tires to be patched and suspensions to be repaired. Even bicyclists and drivers, normally at war with each other, are on the same side of this issue; all of us appreciate a smooth ride, and frequently travel to the suburbs just to find one. Street cuts and potholes have been as abundant as cherry blossoms but, while the cherry blossoms are fleeting, symbolizing to the Japanese that nature and life are transitory; street cuts and potholes are eternal, symbolizing to Washingtonians that incompetent city management is permanent.

“Perhaps, instead of having an annual Cherry Blossom festival, Washington could sponsor a pothole and street cut festival. A major advantage would be that tourists could be assured of always having an abundant crop to view, no matter what time of year they came. We could decorate the utility cuts, elect a Pothole Queen, and sponsor sightseeing tours in Hummers and other off-road vehicles. We should take a tip from the hucksters of self-esteem, and celebrate our shortcomings. Just as our moles are merely beauty marks, our potholes and utility cuts are simply safety speed bumps in reverse.”


Valerie Strauss writes today in her blog, “Why not fire all the teachers?” She writes (, “Finally, a school system has decided to fire all of the educators at an ailing school. Why didn’t we think about this sooner? Firing some of them hasn’t really proven effective in turning around schools, has it? So why not get rid of all of them and start over?” She’s being sarcastic, of course, but a number of her commentators take the suggestion seriously. Sheesh.

Gary Imhoff


Fenty Nominee Rejected?
Dorothy Brizill,

Today, the city council’s Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, chaired by Muriel Bowser, voted unanimously to adopt a resolution of disapproval of the nomination of Vicky Beasley to be the People’s Counsel, PR 18-579. The Committee’s action marks a dramatic reversal of fortune for Patton and Boggs attorney Beasley, whose mentor is Fenty pal and Patton and Boggs partner Matthew Cutts. As a loyal Fenty supporter, Bowser initially tried to fast track the nomination by convening a confirmation hearing on November 20, 2009, just three days after it was referred to her committee. When community concerns arose regarding Beasley’s personality and her lack of qualifications for the position, however, Bowser was unable to secure the votes in her committee to approve Beasley’s nomination.

The disapproval resolution will be on the council’s agenda at Tuesday’s legislative session. Citizens and members of the Consumer Utility Board will be monitoring the meeting closely to make certain that the Fenty administration doesn’t try to repeat the legislative maneuver it employed in November 2008 to secure council approval of Peter Nickles’ nomination as attorney general. (The council’s Judiciary Committee had voted out a disapproval resolution on the nomination, but at the council’s legislative session Councilmember Jack Evans moved a substitute resolution of approval that secured the necessary seven votes. Reaching seven votes for Beasley may be more difficult however, as Evans should be ethically required to recuse himself from voting on the nomination of a partner in his law firm, a clear conflict of interest.)


Bag Tax Regulations Open for Comment
Jean Gray,

Since many readers of themail have voiced opposition to this tax, I found out the proposed regulations are open for comment. They were published in the DC Register on February 5, and I believe they are open for comment for thirty days.


Is the Post Covering Up for Jack Evans?
Peter Tucker,

While the city faces the prospect of unprecedented budget cuts for the foreseeable future, Jack Evans, the powerful chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, is attempting to ensure that $272 million in public funding is used to assist Marriott in building a new 1,167 room, $550 million hotel alongside the convention center. In a February 12 article, “Out of Control: the sorry saga of the convention center hotel,” Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein had little favorable to say about the Marriott deal.

Pearlstein wrote, “Over the years, I’ve learned to cast a wary eye when government officials want an economic development project more than the private interests chosen to develop it do. Projects grow bigger and more ambitious than they need to be, thereby requiring more subsidies than they deserve, until virtually all of the economic benefits wind up in the hands of private interests.” He continues, “Here in Washington, there is no better example of that than the convention center hotel, the star-crossed project that the city has been pursuing since before the ‘new’ $800 million convention center opened off Mount Vernon Square in 2003.” Pearlstein noted that most of the project’s $330 million in private financing is “from a still-unnamed Middle Eastern investor.” Additionally, he points out that Marriott’s fingerprints are hard to miss: Quadrangle, the project’s lead developer (which is currently under investigation by the SEC and NY state attorney general), partnered “with a new minority-owned firm headed by Norm Jenkins, who just happened to have led Marriott’s work on the project.”

In conclusion, Pearlstein wrote, “[I]f the hotel really requires this much of a subsidy, then it raises a serious question about the economics of a project that, at best, is expected to increase convention spending in the city by $100 million a year. Right now, it looks as though the benefit of all those subsidies will be fully captured by convention attendees, the convention hotel’s developers and perhaps the owners of the city’s other hotels. If all goes well, the taxpayers will get their money back, but not much more.”

While containing much detail, Mr. Pearlstein’s article is missing pivotal facts. Amazingly, Jack Evans’ name is not mentioned, despite the fact that Mr. Evans spent several years openly advocating for the Marriott deal and used his position as chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue to line up $272 million in public funding for the project. What’s more, Mr. Evans may have a conflict of interest due to his employment at the law firm Patton Boggs (where he earns $240,000 a year, in addition to his council salary of more than $125,000): When asked at a hearing if Patton Boggs represents Marriott or any of the other interests involved with the deal, Mr. Evans refused to respond, then suddenly began recusing himself from voting on the issue two days later. Mr. Pearlstein’s omissions are all too consistent with the Post’s lack of coverage of Jack Evans’ possible conflict of interest. It is time for the Post to break its silence on this issue and give Washingtonians the whole story.



National Building Museum Events, February 25
Johanna Weber,

February 25, 6:30-8:00 p.m., For the Greener Good: A Green Building is a Healthier One. Can working in a green building make you healthier? And if you can prove this, would it reduce a company’s health care insurance? Find out if this is a game changer when considering how and when to build sustainably. $12 members, free students, $20 nonmembers. 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 Financial Town Hall Meeting, February 25
Michelle Phipps-Evans,

The DC Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) invites you to a community town hall meeting on financial policies, programs and services. You will meet DISB’s new Commissioner Gennet Purcell where you can her some of your urgent financial questions. Also on hand will be representatives from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve Bank. Feel free to find out how each agency is dealing with the financial crisis.

Be prepared to have a conversation on issues related to insurance, banking, investments, and other financial services in the District of Columbia. Come ready to discuss issues such as identity theft, personal banking and savings, automobile, home and life insurance options, and general financial literacy. Federal and DC government officials will be prepared to provide up-to-date information on these topics and the ongoing financial reform.

This first in a series of city-wide events will be at THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE, on Thursday, February 25, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, call 442-7832 or visit DISB’s web site at Also, check Facebook and Twitter for updates.


Recorder of Deeds Tours, February 25, 27
Alexander M. Padro,

The tenth annual DC Recorder of Deeds building tours celebrating Black History Month may be the last, as the agency moves to a new location. The District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds Building, completed in 1942, features seven recently restored WPA-era Black history murals (depicting African American heroes including Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Crispus Attucks, Matthew Henson, and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment) and other artwork, in a building designed to house the only District agency led and staffed almost exclusively by African Americans for over 125 years. Come visit the ROD Building and hear about the history of past recorders of deeds, including Frederick Douglass (the first Black recorder of deeds, appointed by President James A. Garfield in 1881) and Blanche K. Bruce, the work of such prominent African American artists as William E. Scott and Selma Burke, and see the building’s intact 1940s decor, which was almost lost to demolition in 2001.

The 2010 tours will be held on Thursday, February 25, at 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday, February 27, at 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.. The tours are free and no reservations are required. The DC Recorder of Deeds Building is located at 515 D Street, NW, just one block from the Archives/Navy Memorial Green and Yellow Line Metro station and Judiciary Square Red Line Metro station.

These may be the last tours offered for the foreseeable future, as the Recorder of Deeds will be moving to new office space in May 2010. Plans for renovating the historic building were removed from the District government’s FY 2010 capital budget. It is unclear what plans the Fenty administration may have for the building’s future. The ROD building was threatened with sale to a private developer in 2001, but the proposal was withdrawn after widespread publicity highlighting the building’s important role as an African American historic site. The ROD building is one of the two hundred most important African American historic places in DC, listed on the Washington, DC African American Heritage Trail. For more information, call the DC Recorder of Deeds at 727-0419. Sponsored by the DC Office of Tax and Revenue/Recorder of Deeds.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, February 26-27
John Stokes,

February 26, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., DC Center for Therapeutic Recreation, 3030 G Street, SE. Salute to Black History for adults with special needs. Prolific African Americans with accomplishments in the fields of science, arts and literature will be explored and discussed through games and trivia. For more information, call Rita Robinson, Recreation Therapist, at 698-1794.

February 26, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th Street, NE. It’s Blackademics for ages eight through twelve. Youth will participate in a black-facts game show. For more information, call Jean Mason, Recreation Specialist, 727-5547.

February 26 – 27, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, Maryland. Mid-Atlantic Indoor Track & Field Classic for ages nine through eighteen. A premier track and field invitational meet held for high school athletes from around the region, while allowing ages 9-14 to compete in the relays. For more information visit the web site or call Edgar Sams, Track and Field Coordinator, at 425-2859.


Rhodes Tavern Exhibit Extended until February 28
Joe Grano,

Due to snow closures, the Rhodes Tavern exhibit has been extended until February 28. This is an exhibit of photographs and memorabilia marking the 25th anniversary of the demolition of Rhodes Tavern, Washington, DC’s, first unofficial city hall, at the Washingtoniana Division (Room 307) of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library. Many thanks to the staff of the Washingtoniana Division, particularly Jerry McCoy.

Also, I am happy to report that the Rhodes Tavern-DC Heritage Society Call Box project has finally been completed. All art has been installed, as well as back plates describing artwork and listing credits. We thank the numerous individuals, businesses, and organizations that made this project possible. (Names available upon request). Here are the locations of the boxes with the names of the prime sponsors of each box: Abraham Lincoln, 10th and F Streets, NW (SE corner), Madame Tussauds of WDC; Downtown Washington, 1801, 15th Street and New York Avenue, NW (NW Corner), PNC Bank; Inaugural Parades, 15th and G Streets, NW (SW Corner), The Old Ebbitt Grill; British Spare Rhodes Tavern, 15th and F Streets, NW (NE Corner), John Cosgrove, for the National Press Club.


Casey Trees Tree Planting Class, March 3-4, 6
Bianca Gutierrez

Do you want to learn how to plant a tree? Learn to select and prepare a tree planting site, chose appropriate species for the site, and properly plant the tree to ensure survival. We cover the technique critical to maintaining urban tree health, including mulching, watering, and pruning. The service component consists of community tree planting and maintenance projects. Students from this tree planting class are encouraged to volunteer their time to help Casey Trees plant trees around the District. These students are asked to be leaders at community tree planting events and to plant with untrained volunteers.

Free and open to the public. Preregistration is required. Instructor: Jim Woodworth, Director of Tree Planting. Wednesday, March 3, and Thursday, March 4; field training Saturday, March 6. Classroom work on March 3 and 4 will be at 1123 11th Street, NW; field training to be determined. Classroom sessions from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; field training from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. A light supper will be provided that includes vegetarian options. For questions, call Carol Herwig at 349-1907, E-mail, or visit


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