Dear Well-Balanced Readers:
Do you think that you have problems getting in touch with Mayor
Adrian Fenty and his administration? It’s not just you. Last Friday,
Mark Plotkin interviewed Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton on his Politics
Program on WTOP. Plotkin asked her about how closely Fenty worked with
her. Norton replied that when Fenty was elected, she was excited to work
with a young, energetic mayor, and she called him to invite him to
dinner. Three years later, that dinner has yet to happen. “The mayor
appears not to have conversations with other elected officials,”
Norton said. “We do have some conversations with members of his
administration; there seems to be a reluctance even there.” Listen at http://icestream.bonnint.net/dc/wtop/politics_program/032610_plotkin.mp3;
the segment begins at 50:20 minutes.
Elected officials treating other elected officials with the same
disdain they show their constituents is an unusual story, but elected
officials disdaining constituents is a daily occurrence. Over the past
few years, the DC government argued that US citizens didn’t have a
constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and that, even if they did,
that DC citizens should not have such rights, because they could not be
trusted with them. DC citizens, the city argued, are too violent and
dangerous to protect themselves with weapons. That argument prevailed in
Superior Court, but failed in the Court of Appeals and the Supreme
Court. The DC government responded to its loss by crafting highly
restrictive regulations that are designed to make gun ownership as
difficult and expensive as possible. The city has successfully defended
those regulations against a lawsuit in the Superior Court, using
essentially the same arguments: the people of DC are two criminally
inclined, too violent, too dangerous to be trusted with guns, the way
other American citizens are. The case will be appealed, but in the
meantime elected officials have applauded the Superior Court decision.
City Council Chairman Vincent Gray issued a press release in which he
wrote: “Gray said it was further acknowledged [by the court] that the
District’s laws are more restrictive than those of some other
jurisdictions — which, as explained in detail in the [City Council’s]
Committee Report, is a product of the fact that the District is an urban
locale that faces a unique set of threats.” That’s us; we’re the
unique set of threats he’s scared of.
As you follow the city council’s deliberations on medical
marijuana, prepare yourself for the next step, coming soon, by reading
Tim Craig on California’s vote on whether to legalize marijuana for
recreational use: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dc/2010/03/if_california_legalizes_pot_wi.html.
Gridlock (and Worse) R Us
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com
Driving in DC is a worse chore than usual because of idiots getting
stuck by traffic in intersections when signal lights change. And when
you attract their attention they shrug as though to say, “What, me
worry,” as though they mysteriously found themselves there through no
fault of their own. Has DC given up enforcing the “don’t block the
And driving is more dangerous than usual because of idiots running
red lights. It’s common to see three cars through the intersection
after cross traffic has the green. And then there’s the people using
handheld phones in DC, driving so slowly as to obstruct traffic, or
weaving, or otherwise being clueless and inattentive.
Wouldn’t this all be easy money for DC enforcement to raise?
What’s With Boarded Up Buildings Near the
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com
Around 9th and H Streets, NW, near the Convention Center, there are
plenty of buildings with all their windows boarded up. What’s with
that? I know the city wants to build a hotel on the convenient City
Center parking lot, the former Convention Center site, but is someone
stockpiling buildings adjacent to the Convention Center for development?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I guess, but for now it
sure blights the neighborhood.
Can Captioned Videos Increase Literacy?
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year YouTube rolled out a feature that lets people add captions
to the videos they upload. Can captioned videos increase literacy in our
city? It might. To explore one way that it might, I captioned a talking
head video I made about the Wright Brothers (see http://tinyurl.com/yev28r8).
This video was inspired by the wonderful book, To Conquer the Air,
by James Tobin.
To view the captioning in a larger font, hover your mouse over the
red CC icon at the bottom right corner of the video. A pop-up menu will
appear immediately to the left of your mouse. Choose ?Other Settings?
and then click on the plus sign (+) a few times to increase the font
size. Click on the minus sign (-) to reduce the font size.
Copies of Tobin’s book can be found in several library systems in
our area. Tobin is a storyteller of the same caliber as David
McCullough, who many of you know from public television. Do you know a
youth or adult who would be interested in viewing the above-mentioned
YouTube video? Would that YouTube video get them more interested in
reading the book? Is a love of history something that can be ignited?
What other forms of captioned videos can be produced that might resonate
with fertile minds in our city? Is it possible for a mind to take
A Passionate Plea to Defend Public Education
Candi Peterson, email@example.com
This is an open letter (March 28) to the American Federation of
Teachers national union president; Randi Weingarten. “Thanks to
Thursday’s (March 25) vote of the Washington Teachers Union, President
George Parker and certain WTU Executive Board members will not support
the April 10 march to the US Department of Education that has been
organized by Steve Conn, a Detroit public schools teacher. The purpose
of the march is to defend public education by taking a stand against the
attacks on teachers; black, Latino, poor, working class and middle class
students of all races; end privatization of public education; end
separate and unequal schools; and restore Dr. King’s vision for
Thanks to Thursday’s vote, Washington Teachers Union President
George Parker and certain WTU Executive Board members were unwilling to
allow information about the April 10 march to be placed on the WTU
Executive Board agenda so that I could explain why public school
teachers and their students will travel here to DC on buses to stand up
for public education. I was disappointed to learn that AFT, our parent
local, also will not support the April 10 march on the US Department of
Education (as reported by WTU President George Parker)
This got me to thinking that, unlike teachers, neither you nor George
Parker will be wiped out in July by an IMPACT evaluation that is grossly
unfair to teachers, neither you nor George Parker have been wrongfully
terminated at the whim of a chancellor and neither you nor George Parker
will be forced to consider a contract proposal (tentative agreement)
after three long years that gives more leverage to administrators to
terminate effective teachers or be faced with reassignment options under
mutual consent provisions. I am troubled that our current WTU president,
George Parker, is unwilling to have an open discussion with our WTU
Executive Board members informing them about the march simply because
the AFT has not endorsed the event. I know that Steve Conn advanced this
issue directly to George Parker and Monique Lenoir, WTU Communications
Director, for consideration.
For this reason, I appeal to you to let members of the Washington
Teachers Union, Local 6, decide whether they want to attend this event.
At a time when public education is in peril, we all need to stand
together as one in solidarity and struggle. If teachers can travel from
across these United States, at the very least DC teachers should be
afforded the option of standing alongside our colleagues. So far the
Detroit Federation of Teachers, The California Federation of Teachers,
The New Haven (Connecticut) Federation of Teachers, and the Detroit
School Board have signed on to lend support.
I ask you to do the following: post an announcement on the AFT web
site providing details about the April 10 Washington, DC, march to the
US Department of Education and send a letter to WTU/AFT members
informing them about the upcoming event. As the American Federation of
Teachers national union president, you have an obligation to represent
all union members, not only those who share your point of view. Signed,
Candi Peterson, full dues paying member of WTU and AFT.
DC Teachers’ Contract: Let Teachers Decide!
Nathan Saunders, General VP, Washington Teachers’
Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker and DCPS
Chancellor Michelle Rhee have been working in tandem for the past three
years to vacate tenure, seniority, and the art of teaching. Minuscule
test gains have been enlarged and enormous setbacks keep secret while
enhanced test-taking skills (and cheating) are marketed to parents as
student progress. Accepting foundation contributions for salary
increases is Rhee’s business model; it necessitates at-will employment
for teachers, yielding a demoralized and temporary workforce.
It is time for a vote, but teachers need a complete tentative
agreement between Parker and Rhee, with a financial analysis and legal
opinion. Parker has held four thousand teachers in the ninth month of
pregnancy for three years with broken promises. Rhee’s benefactors
have vilified anyone possessing an opposing point of view. For Parker
and Rhee to succeed in securing a permanent agreement, the District’s
Chief Financial Officer, Natwar Gandhi, must forget how to count and the
DC city council must turn a blind eye to a $500 million deficit. Most
importantly, teachers must dismiss the interests of hundreds of wrongly
terminated peers and accept the high probability their family
obligations, mortgages, and car payments will be unmet, because of their
own impending terminations.
It’s time for teachers to speak with their vote. This protracted
pregnancy has distracted attention from educating children. DCPS’
future lies in rich curriculum and instruction; not in settling for
foundation crumbs, cheap election tricks, and public relations gimmicks.
Lead in Gasoline and Decline in Homicide Rates
in DC Alone?
Paula Miller, Cleveland Park, firstname.lastname@example.org
[Re: “Do the Police Deserve the Credit for Decreasing Homicide
Rates,” Jack MacKay, themail, March 24] Can you please make the
connection between violent behavior and lead in gasoline, in particular?
I would not discount the decline in lead-based paint as one possible
reason why violent behaviors and thus, a decline in homicides, are
apparent. I have done some toxicological review of lead based paint
constituents and lead permeating the blood-brain barrier of children, in
particular, as a cause of developmental disorders and resulting
behavioral aberrations. I believe lead in paints may have been the more
likely cause of behavioral problems in children that, left unchecked and
untreated, resulted in a propensity for violent behavior in adulthood.
Other studies indicate this as well. I have not seen as many studies
that reviewed the absence of lead in gasoline as a direct result of a
decline in behavioral disorders. It could be that, with the removal of
lead in gasoline, there was less atmospheric deposition of lead in soil
and leaching into water supplies. However, we are now seeing more
investigations of lead in old pipe soldering of municipal water supply
lines that leaches into the water supply as a possible, and likely,
cause of delayed brain development and resultant developmental disorders
in children. I would not attribute the decline in lead in gasoline as
the sole cause of the reduction in homicides in the District. It would
be interesting to review and compare other jurisdictions’ handling of
environmental lead deposition and crime rates to see if there are any
jurisdictional or regional correlations.
It probably isn’t reasonable for the Metropolitan Police Department
to take sole or maybe even primary credit for the decline in homicide
rates in the District since 1990, but it also wouldn’t be reasonable
to dismiss the department as having no serious impact in bringing about
the reduction. The MPD of 2010 is not the MPD of 1970. Significant
advances have been made in training and the use of technology. Case
closure has improved and forensic techniques have advanced. Certainly
testing the hypothesis of lead in the atmosphere as a cause of homicide
reduction is worth pursuing given what we know about household lead
poisoning effects on children. But that test also should include an
evaluation of the department’s technical competency. As a matter of
fact, what the non-policing societal impacts that may have played a role
in bringing about the reduction also need to be studied.. The
seriousness of homicide incidence eschews a put-down of the department.
Was the department of 1970 really bad? If being slow to respond to
changing mores is bad, then it was bad. It took time for some very good
chiefs to change a bureaucracy, not only of the department but of the
city government, as well as survive the politics of the federal
As for robberies increasing, there is a difference in solving
homicides and preventing robberies and it is too dismissive to say that
if you can do one you should be able to do the other. Economic
conditions play a role, manning levels have an impact, and response
times are critical. There is no snap-of-the-finger solution.
Tim Cooper informs me that his proposal for an expanded legislature
is for 120 members, not 120 districts. I had assumed his at-large number
was added to 120 districts. It is included. I regret the error and
invite him to write to themail and remind us of the specifics.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Environmental Health Group (EHG) Events, March
Allen Hengst, email@example.com
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 EHG 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 EHG on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-DC/Environmental-Health-Group/67807900019.
Monday, March 29, 11:00 a.m. Councilmember Phil Mendelson,
Chairperson of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, and
Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chairperson Committee on Government Operations
and the Environment, will hold a joint public oversight roundtable on
the “Public Safety Plan for the Destruction of Spring Valley
Munitions.” The purpose of the roundtable is to hear and receive
testimony on a public safety plan associated with the destruction of
World War I chemical weapons found in Spring Valley. The hearing will be
held in Hearing Room #120 of the John A. Wilson Building; see http://tinyurl.com/ybg2qmd.
National Building Museum Events, April 5
Johanna Weber, firstname.lastname@example.org
April 5, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Smart Growth: Analyzing the Data: Smart
Growth Performance in a Challenging Market. Are smart growth projects
economically competitive against more traditional forms of development?
Laura Cole, vice president, Robert Charles Lesser and Co., unveils
national research that highlights the performance of smart growth
projects and ranks consumers’ green building product preferences.
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 http://www.nbm.org.
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