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April 4, 2010

A Losing Strategy

Dear Strategists:

Continuing our discussion from the last issue, Loose Lips, in his column this week, dismisses Council Chairman Gray as a mayoral candidate for belonging to a political generation he doesn’t favor, one that he believes should just be gone from Washington political life, Valencia Mohammed, as a spokesman for mayoral candidate Leo Alexander, does the same in an even nastier fashion in this issue of themail. It’s a strategy for diminishing and politically wounding Gray that is shared by the local “experts” on the Post’s editorial board, Jo-Ann Armeo and Jonathan Capehart, who will write repeated attacks on him (the latest at It’s also a losing strategy.

First, running a mayoral race aimed at the narrow slice of Washingtonians who are twenty-somethings, single, and sports oriented is self defeating. If Fenty campaigns for the bicyclists’ vote and Gray campaigns for the drivers’ vote, if Fenty campaigns for the runners’ vote and Gray campaigns for the people-who-are-annoyed-at-all-those-races-blocking-the-streets vote, the race is already over. Second, the strategy is transparently in-your-face insulting to seniors and near-seniors. If any candidate even hints to an entire generation of people, whether twenty-somethings or sixty-somethings, that he doesn’t think they have anything valuable to contribute to the city and he doesn’t value them, he writes off that segment of the population and their votes. Third, old people are reliable voters and they vote in disproportionately large numbers. It wasn’t that long ago that politicians in this city spent half of their campaigns in senior citizens’ centers, because that’s where the votes were; they’re still there. Fourth, it’s a losing strategy because it’s so shallow and easily countered. In the 1984 presidential race, Democrats were certain that Ronald Reagan’s age was a winning issue for them. They stressed how the old man couldn’t do the job, how out-of-touch such an aged man was, how lacking in strength and energy he had to be. And all the hot air was let out of that balloon with one joke when Reagan, in his first televised debate with Walter Mondale, said that, “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Don’t mistake this, as Valencia does, for an endorsement of Gray. Neither themail nor DCWatch endorses candidates. Gray’s nicer than Fenty, and he’s more open to consultation and listening to the citizens than Fenty. But Gray has to give some policy reasons for people who are unhappy with Fenty to vote for him, and so far he has failed to put any distance between his policy positions and Fenty’s. Instead, he has made a point of sharing blame for the mayoral takeover of the schools, and of refusing to admit any error in that decision. He has shared Fenty’s contempt for traditional morality, and has echoed Fenty’s opposition to allowing citizens to vote on the definition of marriage. Gray hasn’t criticized the repeated mistakes made by the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services; quite the opposite, he shares the philosophy that led to those mistakes, supported its former director, Vincent Schiraldi, who made those mistakes, and is likely to repeat them. When it comes to favors for large corporations and developers dealing with the city, Gray hasn’t demonstrated any more fiscal responsibility than Fenty. But if it’s a losing campaign for Fenty to run against Gray just on the basis of generational disdain, neither is it a winning campaign for Fenty to point out, “He’s not any better than I am.”

Gary Imhoff


Barbara Zartman
Dorothy Brizill,

Barbara Zartman, a Georgetown resident and a longtime civic activist, has passed away. Barbara was best known for her years of service (as chair, trustee, and zoning commission chair) with the Committee of 100 of the Federal City. The Committee is a “nonprofit organizations dedicated to safeguarding and advancing Washington’s historic distinction, natural beauty, and overall livability.” Barbara’s civic activism was “in the service of responsible planning in Washington.” In addition to the Committee of 100, Barbara was at various times president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, an at-large member of the DC Republican Committee, and president of the Federation of Citizens Associations. In her professional life, Barbara was appointment by President George Bush as deputy director of the Peace Corps in 1989.

Services will be held at St. Albans Episcopal Church, 3001 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, on Wednesday, April 7, at 11:00 a.m. Interment will be at Oak Hill Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made in her name to St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.


Prevent Unimaginable Metro Service Cuts
Dennis Jaffe,

If you speak up now, you can help prevent previously unimaginable cuts to Metro bus and rail service. Almost all of Metro’s budget comes from riders’ fares and funding by local governments. The mayor’s budget leaves many train riders on the station platform and bus riders at the curb. I wish that were only rhetorical. We can preserve Metro service by conveying to the DC council and the mayor our support for transit.

The cuts slated to take effect on July 1 include: no more eight-car trains even as we face already dangerous overcrowding on train platforms; elimination of sixteen bus routes and reduction of service on fifty more; starting train service thirty minutes later on weekdays and sixty on weekends; stopping train service as early as midnight on weekends; half-hour waits for trains after 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and after 6:00 p.m. on weekends; no more Yellow Line north of Mt. Vernon Square at all; and no Yellow Line north of King Street (including the Airport and Verizon Center!) after 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.

Metro is proposing an $89 million fare increase and bus and rail service cuts producing $34 million in net savings to eliminate a $189 million deficit. The proposed budget didn’t ask local governments to provide a single penny more than last year. Many government-funded programs facing cuts. But, as the private sector recognizes, Metro is the region’s economic engine. The campaign, launched by local transit advocates, has called upon local governments to stop underfunding Metro and provide the funds necessary to prevent service cuts. Unless all agree, the cuts will happen. Northern Virginia’s local governments have informally indicated a readiness to put up their fair share for Metro.

Mayor Fenty’s budget proposal provides Metro with the same amount of funding as last year. On April Fool’s Day, he E-mailed constituents a confounding message that said, WMATA ‘s “Board of Directors has sole authority over WAMATA’s [misspelled] budget formulation. . . .“ That’s an alternative reality. Metro’s budget is not formulated independently of the jurisdictions that fund Metro. Besides, Mayor Fenty’s city administrator, Neil Albert, sits on the Metro Board. Contact the mayor and council and urge them to preserve Metro service. DC can’t afford not to.


My Graduation Speech
Phil Shapiro,

I’ve never been asked to give a graduation speech, but in case I’m asked, I’m fully prepared. My speech lasts all of two minutes. See


Property Taxes More than Double for Many City Residents
Richard Urban,

Many DC home owners have seen property taxes increase as much as 220 percent (more than doubled) between the September 2009 bill and the March 2010 bill. This is due to the Fiscal Year 2010 budget Support Emergency Act of 2009 (Bill B18-0409; change to section 47-864), which all councilmembers voted for on July 31, 2009. This legislation removed the 10 percent cap on property tax increases by putting in place a 40 percent of assessed value minimum. Yet, at the same time as taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet due to the tight economy, etc., tens of millions of tax breaks are given to corporations, we are paying middle school students to go to school, and tens of millions of dollars have been stolen and also lost due to cost overruns. In the summer youth program just two summers ago there was a thirty million dollar overrun, and many youths were paid who did not even work, or who worked many fewer hours. Contact your councilmember to demand an immediate legislative fix to this egregious hit on the small taxpayer while giving huge breaks to corporations, as well demand that they control irresponsible spending.

I will be writing more about which councilmembers were responsible for inserting the 40 percent minimum language. Did anyone do research to see what the effect would be on longtime homeowners? Presumably these are the folks that the city council would like to stay in DC, not move out to the suburbs.


Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action: Be Part of the Solution
Andrew Aurbach,

There has been a lot of discussion in recent months and years regarding the general safety on Connecticut Avenue in Ward 3. Out of this discussion, a volunteer effort has been launched. Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action (CAPA) is comprised of residents from Woodley Park and Cleveland Park to Forest Hills and Chevy Chase. After years of pedestrian accidents and fatalities, residents have come together to seek a comprehensive solution for a safer Connecticut Avenue. With the generous support of Iona Senior Services, affected ANCs (3C, 3F, and 3G), and Community Associations, and in conjunction with DDOT, Murch and Oyster Safe Routes to School Programs, and Councilmember Mary Cheh, CAPA has retained Toole Design to support a study and audit of Connecticut Avenue from the perspective of the pedestrian.

We would like broad participation from residents, visitors, and employees of the study area. First, we would like stakeholders to fill out a simple survey and interactive map on our web site: Second, we are recruiting volunteers from up and down the corridor to help with the audit process. This will require training at a short session in late April and then a few hours of time during the study period in May. If you have interest in pedestrian safety, community activism, and solidarity with the other communities along Connecticut Avenue, this is a great opportunity for you. Please feel free to ask questions via the web site or through me. We look forward to your feedback and participation.


Chancellor Rhee’s Failure to Engage Her Teachers
Mai Abdul Rahman,

As required by the Department of Education “Race to the Top” application guidelines Delaware and Tennessee’s skillful strategy to engage their teachers secured them statewide teachers’ and unions’ buy-in to implement school reforms and $600 million in federal grants to improve their states’ failing schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised both states for their ability to gain their schoolteachers’ support, and suggested that this was a clear demonstration of their “capacity and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.”

DC’s “Race to Top Assurances” application, which was signed by Mayor Fenty, showed commitment and resolve to improve DCPS schools, but DC’s failure to secure teachers’ and union’s support to implement school-wide reform plans plummeted DC’s application rating and ranking to the bottom of the list at 16 of 16. The Department of Education “Technical Review” offers this insight, “Applicant boasts of reform efforts and improvements but without teacher support, movement towards increased achievement particularly in high poverty, high minority schools will not be as successful as it could be.”

Interestingly, DC’s” Race to Top Assurances” application recognizes “Human Capital” is a critical factor in implementing the “Race to the Top Theory of Change,” and confirms the toxic relationship that exists between Chancellor Rhee and DCPS teachers. However, there is no mention of a plan to improve or improve the existing situation. DC’s application describes DC school reforms as contentious and the mayor and DCPS leaders as vigilant, “standing steadfast in the face of substantial political resistance . . . doggedly committed to a bold vision for a reform in which all adults will be held accountable.” As for lessons learned, the following is offered: “A highly contentious issue requires both courage and thoughtful involvement of the Stakeholder.” Yet the DC application fails to offer a solution or articulate a desire to rectify the situation our schools face. Instead, it reiterates the same old approach “To implement human capital [DC] will use multiple pipeline strategies with non-profits, Provide TEAM awards as incentive for schools with 20% increases in reading and math, provide performance pay through IMPACT for highly effective teachers.” DC’s “Race to the Top Assurances” application offers a clear articulation of the obvious: Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee fail to recognize the need to engage teachers constructively and the school community meaningfully.

Implementing successful school reform requires the collaboration and cooperation of schoolteachers, who are the main drivers of school reform plans. Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee continue to overlook the fact that regardless of how laudable their school reforms may be, DCPS teachers are the critical change agents who will implement their school reform vision in class. To succeed, Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee must work to gain DCPS teacher’s collaboration and commitment. Otherwise they will continue to be “doggedly committed to a bold vision” with little meaningful results. The technical review form is available online:


Prevention Doesn’t Pay
Samuel Jordan, Health Care Now!,

The illness treatment establishment, propped up by the third-party payer (insurance carrier) system, is locked in a battle to save its life. Although the recent yearlong, revealing Congressional and national debate on health care centered on who pays for health care, a significant number of alert residents noticed that the discussion did not address health outcomes, health care delivery systems, or the role of community residents in the improvement of their own individual and collective health conditions. Just as importantly, very little attention was given to the upstart, illness prevention establishment. Health Care Now! has been a card-carrying participant in the promotion of community-based chronic illness prevention strategies since its inception in 1997. Yet our experience in Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Lancaster, PA, indicates that we have a long way to go before public or private funders of health care programs take cognizance of the promise of prevention.

In a blog on health insurance in 2007 (, the following paragraphs captured the dilemma well: “Diabetes care is an example of this phenomenon [little fiscal support for prevention - SJ]. Evidence shows that preventive care through diabetes management programs can lead to fewer hospital stays and reduced incidence of life-threatening and costly complications. However, a recent study shows that some diabetes management programs only realize cost savings after as many as ten years. Insurers point out that it is rare for anyone to be covered under the same health care plan for that long. Furthermore, diabetes complications may not appear for decades - often after a person is old enough to qualify for Medicare and is no longer covered under a private health insurance plan.

“Therefore, from a strictly business perspective, it doesn’t pay for insurers to invest in the health of their patients. However, from a common sense perspective, it doesn’t seem right to deny coverage for blood glucose test strips, but then pay for an amputation. Many proposed healthcare reforms center around changing this ‘short term’ mindset so that patients will be healthier throughout their lives, and not just for that brief window of time when a particular payer happens to be covering their healthcare expenses.”

Over the balance of the year, Health Care Now! (HCN) will keep you posted on the effort of the illness prevention establishment to break the bonds of the insurance company dominated health care services and illness treatment establishment. A showdown of titans? Maybe not as immediately dramatic as Beowulf versus Grendel or even the Earps versus the Clantons, but clearly a defining struggle for the future of the nation’s understanding of the meaning of personal and community health versus health care “coverage.” Are you aware of the dimensions of this struggle in the local health policy debates right here in the District of Columbia? We’ll try to help you follow the issues and “players.”


Food Revolution in DC Schools
Ed Bruske,

Did you hear what Jamie Oliver said last night? Parents should be really angry about what their kids are being fed in school. Well, there is a food revolution underway in DC schools and it’s called Parents for Better DC School Food. We are a Google group,; a Facebook page, ; a blog, , and you can follow us on Twitter, @dcschoolfood. Please join us, join the conversation, and spread the word.


InTowner Street Crimes Report Updated
P.L. Wolff,

The Selected Street Crimes feature, while no longer included in the print edition but instead available exclusively on our web site by clicking the Street Crimes button directly below that for Community News, is now updated through March 14th and has been added to the archived reports back to July 3, 2009.


Illegal Immigration
William Buchanan,

[Re: Jack McKay, “The Metropolitan Police and Immigration,” themail, March 17] It is a crime, punishable by a fine and up to six months in jail, to sneak across the border “without inspection.” It is estimated that 60 percent of illegal aliens get here this way. I have included the law below. The reason for the civil penalties is that civil cases can be disposed of quickly. If we were to try everyone for the crime of illegal entry, with all the additional prescribed safeguards, the courts would be overwhelmed. Indeed, most illegal entrants are not even subjected to civil penalties, but simply sent back across the border.

What about the other 40 percent? For reasons best known to the US Chamber of Commerce, various ethnic organizations, travel agencies, and airlines, coming here with a visa and overstaying that visa is not a crime. I am reasonably sure that no other First World country would lack laws against overstayers. It’s weird that around two hundred thousand or more people are added to our population each year this way, and the only remedy is deportation. Once deported, however, should one try this again, one could be in a lot more trouble. Also, if visa overstayers work (which is what they do), that is a crime, and if they use a false identity that could be yet another crime. In other words, to the extent that illegal entry is not treated as a crime, it is merely a concession to the fact of the tremendous numbers versus the limited resources. Do we have jails for a half million more illegals every year? Have we holding areas? Have we medical facilities, have we court rooms, judges, court appointed lawyers?

And even if illegal immigration were not a crime, what is Jack McKay defending? We have laws limiting who may come here. We are said to believe in the rule of law and that that is the source of our success. These laws are crucial to our sovereignty, our environment, our way of life, our potential to have a job and earn a decent living. If we had no law against murder, would murder then be okay? Jack McKay is a crock.


The Race and Revolution Already Began
Valencia Mohammed, Leo Alexander for Mayor Campaign,

The revolution and race for mayor of DC started long ago while Vincent Gray was waiting for his Geritol and other energy pills to act. If your electronic newspaper were governed by the FCC then you would owe the same amount of publicity, words, etc., to Leo Alexander, a declared candidate for mayor since September 14, 2009. In “Now It’s a Race” [themail, March 31], it appears that Gray has been endorsed by DCWatch. While it seems that the authors of this venue may be excited, for many others not duped by the media, Gray puts them to sleep. Gray is 68; maybe the authors of DCWatch feel more comfortable with someone running in their age bracket.

This race will be quite different from the past, when Gray slid into office with the help of the Barry machine. Sure, there are Barry organizers in his camp, but the machine has been split between those who were well paid by Fenty and others drawn to the mega-millions of Peebles. It’s a recession and tens of thousands of black people have been unemployed and desperate for money. While campaigning, there’s not a day passed when some well-respected organizer calls the office to tell Leo Alexander that they love his campaign and will vote for him, but they are about to go into foreclosure, lost their job with the government, or unemployment ran out, and they will be working for his opponent. Money is the motivating factor, not hope and vision for a new day in DC. The political antics of the Fenty administration and Gray’s “rubber stamping leadership” have left most black people in the lurch. It’s not Fenty, Gray, or Peebles they support. Some people are looking for a candidate who pays that won’t insult them later. On the other hand, Alexander is looking for people who understand that the majority of people involved in freeing blacks from slavery and the civil rights movement were not paid, they volunteered for the cause.

Neither Fenty nor Alexander has rested one day in the last six months. Rain and shine, both candidates and their supporters have been knocking door-to-door and hitting the pavement while Gray and Peebles relied solely on the media to push their names and drum up campaign interests. The “Anybody bur Fenty” movement will not translate that easily to votes for Gray like some people think. So keep pumping your man while Alexander continues to knock on doors on Gray’s turf to find out that many residents in Ward 7 and across the city don’t like Chairman Gray or his politics. This is not the season for incumbents to continue or advance. Gray and Fenty are going into retirement.



Dupont Circle Citizens Association, April 5
Robin Diener,

At the meeting of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association on Monday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m., at the Hotel Dupont, 1500 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, a representative of the National Park Service will discuss plans for Dupont Circle Park. However, there will not be the previously scheduled presentation on streetcars by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). Rather, there will be a panel discussion on this topic at a future meeting.

The 2010 DCCA Nominating Committee will present its slate of nominees for officers and board members: Robin Diener, president; Debbie Schreiber, first vice president; Charles H. Ellis, III, second vice president; Ingrid Peterson, Secretary; James Dudney, treasurer; Rosemary Carr, board member (three-year term); Yara Freeman, board member (two-year term); Ruth Horn, board member (three-year term); Mary Lord, board member (two-year term); and Doug Rogers, board member (ones-year term). Short biographies of nominees are available on DCCA’s web site, Members may also put forward nominations from the floor at the April 5 meeting. For board eligibility requirements, please consult the DCCA bylaws on the web site. The election will be held at the annual meeting, scheduled for Monday, May 3, 2010. Members must be present at that time to vote.


Get on the Metro to Rally for Public Education, April 10
Candi Peterson,

Join together with teachers, students, parents, and community members to demand that Arne Duncan, Mayor Fenty, and Chancellor Rhee stop toying with our students’ lives. Make your voices heard along with teachers and students from Michigan, Connecticut, California, Virginia, and others. Take a stand against attacks on teachers, unfair IMPACT evaluation schemes, removal of competent principals, wrongful employee terminations, inequity in public school funding, and privatization of public education. No matter your reason, join us at a defend public education rally on Saturday, April 10 at noon at the US Department of Education located at 400 Maryland Avenue SW (closest to L’Enfant Metro, 6th Street exit). E-mail inquiries to


Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, April 10
James Merrill,

The twenty-second annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup will take place on Saturday, April 10, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. In an effort to reduce litter in our waterways, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) is looking for volunteers and site leaders to remove trash and debris from the Potomac River at hundreds of cleanup sites throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The annual cleanup is part of the larger Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, which seeks to have the watershed trash free by 2013.

“We started the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative because the problem with litter in our waterways is more severe than many in the community believe,” said Tracy Bowen, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. “The Potomac River makes up 80 percent of the metro area’s drinking water and is a tremendous source of recreation. The pollution of the water from trash is harmful not only from a visual standpoint, but also with respect to public health and our regional economy. Through these efforts, we want to create a greater awareness of this challenge.”

Trash and debris has a negative effect on many aspects of life throughout the area. The problems that it creates include: harm to wildlife and degrades marine habitats; decreased fish catch revenue; decreased property value; hurts business, recreation and tourism; a financial burden for local governments which require increased funds for cleanup and removal; and a threat to public health due to the increased breeding grounds for virus carrying insects and rodents. The cleanup, a vital component of this initiative, depends on volunteers to help achieve its goals. To volunteer, please visit the cleanup web site at or contact Becky Horner at 518-7415. All volunteers will receive gloves and trash bags on-site, and those interested in participating as a site leader will receive training through AFF.


National Building Museum Events, April 10
Johanna Weber,

April 10, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Construction Watch Tour: Arena Stage Redux. Anna Streufert, Clark Construction Group, leads a tour of the renovation and expansion of Arena Stage, nearing completion in southwest DC. Designed by Vancouver-based Bing Thom Architects, the project includes a new 200-seat theater, prominent cantilever roof, and undulating glass curtain wall. $25, members only. Prepaid registration required.

April 10, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Pop-Up Architecture. Experience the street you live on in a whole new way by creating a pop-up version! Learn how to make basic folded pop-up structures, develop your dimensional design skills, and bring architecture to life in this fun, creative 3-D workshop. $10 per child, member; $15 per child, nonmembers; adults free. Prepaid registration required; ages eight and up. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for both events at


Safe Shores Child Prevention Training, April 13-28
Jessica Gallimore,

In recognition of Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month this April, Safe Shores is offering free educational opportunities for child-serving professionals and caring adults. Stewards of Children is a revolutionary interactive prevention training program developed by Darkness to Light, a national child sexual abuse prevention organization. This program educates adults to take simple, proactive to protect children from sexual abuse, including how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly.

Training Dates: Tuesday, April 13, 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; registration deadline, April 9. Thursday, April 22, 8:30 p.m.-12:00 p.m.; registration deadline, April 20. Saturday, April 24, 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; registration deadline, April 22. Wednesday, April 28, 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; registration deadline, April 23. All trainings are being held at Safe Shores’ NEW Home and Learning Center, 429 O Street, NW. For registration information, please visit For more information, contact Jessica Galimore at


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