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April 14, 2010


Dear Deceived:

In the last issue of themail, I wrote that Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty had lost the trust of DCPS and government employees. And that was before the events of Monday and Tuesday that Dorothy recounts below. Fenty told the council on Monday that he had no idea how the Washington Teachers Union contract was funded in the budget he had submitted. Rhee told councilmembers on Tuesday that, although she had claimed in October 2009 that DCPS would have a $43 million deficit in fiscal year 2010 that required her to fire 388 DCPS employees, including 266 teachers, she now claimed that DCPS would actually have a fiscal year 2010 surplus of $34 million that would fund teachers’ raises and retroactive pay raises in fiscal year 2011.

Rhee and Fenty have been busy inventing consecutive cover stories ever since. The problem, they claimed, was an arithmetic error, a miscalculation, that made them really think there would be a deficit. The problem was all the Chief Financial Officer’s fault; the CFO makes a good fall guy. There wasn’t really a problem, since the false budget numbers the city presented to a judge fooled him, and convinced him that the phony deficit was real, and that it justified firing the teachers. The judge’s accepting DCPS’s fake numbers proves the fake numbers were real. There wasn’t really a problem for the teachers union, since unions aren’t built on a brotherhood of workers protecting each other and looking out for their common interest, and the surviving teachers should be happy to take raises funded by blood money, by firing their fellow union members. Union members should look to the future, and forget the wrong done to their fellow union members in the long-ago past, just a few months ago. The problem wasn’t Fenty’s and Rhee’s failure to inform the council or the public when they “discovered” a $34 million surplus in the DCPS budget, since the DCPS and the mayor have no duty to inform the public or the council of anything.

Why hasn’t any cover story lasted for more than a few hours? Because all the cover stories lead to one conclusion. Fenty and Rhee will say anything they need to say to justify doing what they want to do, and they don’t care about the real-life damage they do to government workers or city residents. Rhee was asked whether she would consider using the surprising surplus to rehire wrongfully fired teachers, and her response was screw them.

Now the city council begins its process of overseeing the city’s budget, and it has to do its oversight with an entirely new attitude, informed by its experience with Rhee and the DCPS budget. It has to expect that any budget submitted to it for any agency, department, or program is susceptible to manipulation with the intent to deceive, to deceive them or the public.

Gary Imhoff


Rhee’s Disclosure
Dorothy Brizill,

On Tuesday morning, I attended the administrative meeting that councilmembers held with School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Washington Teachers Union President George Parker in order to be briefed on the newly negotiated WTU contract. The meeting, held in Chairman Vincent Gray’s fifth floor conference room at the Wilson Building, followed by one day the council’s contentious budget hearing with the mayor, City Administrator Neil Albert, and Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi. At that Monday hearing, Mayor Fenty and City Administrator Neil Albert were unable to point to any line item in the budget where the contract raises promised to the teachers were funded. They were stumped when they were pressed on whether the $140 million cost of the contract was adequately funded in the FY 2011 budget that the Mayor had submitted to the council on April 1, and Mayor Fenty told the council that Chancellor Rhee would be able to explain the funding to them on Tuesday.

At the Tuesday meeting, attendees included Rhee; Parker; Councilmembers Gray, Alexander, Barry Bowser, K. Brown, M. Brown, Catania, Evans, Graham, Mendelson, and Wells; DC Auditor Deborah Nickles; senior staffers from the office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, and representative from the American Federation of Teachers. Rhee astounded everyone there when she announced that DC Public Schools would fund the contract by using a “newly found” surplus of $34 million for this fiscal year. Some of the atmosphere of the meeting was given in reports in the Washington Post ( and the Washington Examiner ( Here are some other emotional reactions by Councilmembers to Rhee’s revelation. Barry: “It is clear to me that we didn’t need to have a RIF.” Catania: “I don’t have any confidence in your [Rhee’s] numbers.” Catania: “A cynic . . . [would not that it is] too convenient that an appropriate number of teachers were RIFed [in order] to fund the pay increases [in the WTU contract]. Catania: “I am suspicious of the process.” Graham: “Why did you [Rhee] wait until this moment to say this?” Gray: “We [the councilmembers] are all stunned.” K. Brown: “Looks like shenanigans.” Gray: “If I was one of the 266 individuals [teachers] who had lost their jobs, I would be ready to put my hands around someone’s throat and squeeze.” Gray: “People lost their jobs over a budget deficit which did not exist.” Wells: “This was an error, or was it manufactured.” Gray: “Some people’s pay raise [under the new WTU contract] was funded by someone else’s job.”


DC Teachers’ Tentative Agreement: “Buyer Beware”
Nathan A. Saunders, General Vice President, WTU,

DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee and WTU President George Parker announced a tentative agreement (TA) after three years amid protests of a group of wrongfully terminated teachers and now former union members, who lost their medical benefits, life insurance, and voting rights. Since that time, the news media has been regurgitating the well prepared press package without investigation or analysis. Despite their unfounded reports of soon-to-be-rich public school teachers, the TA delivers less. Teachers have not received mailed copies of the TA and the Internet version at does not include the side agreement letters, yet it advertises “the entire” TA.

Teachers’ rights in the contract are ambiguous and vague, and use unresolved terms. The words “tenure” and “seniority,” while preserved, are irrelevant, as their meaning is gutted and without substance. A troubling section is Performance Based Pay; it is incomplete and states it will be developed later — yet Performance Based Excessing is oppressive — establishing quick terminations within sixty days. For Rhee, the contract is specific, binding, and punitive; for teachers, it is incomplete, indefinite, and unenforceable. Rhee has made the jobs of the DC city council, mayor, foundations, and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) child’s play with Article 40, et. seq. (P.103):


40.1 The Parties agree that all provisions of this Agreement are subject to the availability of funds.

40.2 Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as a promise that Congress, the DC Council, or any other organization shall appropriate sufficient funds to meet the obligations set forth in this Agreement.

40.3 DCPS agrees to provide financial certification that DCPS can meet the obligations of this contract before moving toward final approval. The parties agree that the failure to provide the funds to meet the obligations of the Agreement pertaining to base salary, benefits (defined as the provisions governing optical, dental and legal benefits), and mutual consent, is a material breach of contract by DCPS. The consequences of that breach will be settled by a court or an arbitrator, unless otherwise negotiated by the Parties.

The TA creates no financial liability on any entity. It does not have the full faith and credit security of the DC government. As a result, teachers are not guaranteed a 21 percent raise or a 0 percent raise but teachers will jeopardize 100 percent of their current salary. Because of Article 40, CFO Gandhi could approve the TA’s financial soundness without using his calculator, that is, if he and others (DC city council and the US Congress) are as eager to shortchange teachers as Rhee and Parker. Article 40 language is an entirely new low standard to WTU contracts. Nothing is certain including the bonus, the base salary, the promise or the requirement for the DC Government to even appropriate the funds! Teachers risk everything without any assurances. Article 40.1 and 40.2 are failure to pay escape clause provisions which would cause any breach of contract lawsuit to wilt. Article 40.3 is unnecessary gibberish as all breach of contract issues are court adjudicated based on common law principles. The “Article 40 style trickery” permeates the entire TA. Those believing the courts would not allow a bad deal to exist must think again. Courts do not inquire into the value of promises negotiators make to one another. The number or quality of promises made by DCPS or WTU is not the business of the court. Therefore, teachers could ratify a bad deal and have no legal recourse.

Rhee’s education philosophy translates into “terminating teachers helps children,” and teachers voting for ratification will be endorsing her. Churning teachers in and out of classrooms will affect students negatively. Some voters for ratification may be seduced by Wal-Mart and Enron foundation money, but they could join ranks of the DC unemployed. Teaching jobs are hard to find even for experienced, certified teachers — ask the protesters. With the DC government running a $530 million deficit and calls to reduce DCPS spending, ratifying an unsecured, non-pensionable, and unenforceable TA could create hundreds of unemployed teachers. Most teachers, who are committed to students’ well being, the teaching profession, and their family’s economic security, will say no to ratification.


Shameless Co-optation of Emancipation Day
Samuel Jordan,

The moral and political corruption and empty symbolism represented by the DC Voting Rights bill has inspired an opportunistic attempt by DC Vote, Eleanor Holmes Norton and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to co-opt DC Emancipation Day on April 16. Theirs is to be called DC Emancipation Advocacy Day and it will be a mass lobbying effort to associate the yet unanswered cry for freedom of the African slave and his/her progeny with the humiliating “one vote for DC” Voting Rights bill. There is no freedom, no dignity, no autonomy, and no equality in the DC Voting Rights bill. Freed slaves did not seek second class representation in Congress. Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and Paul Robeson would never have shouted “One vote or die!”

Emancipation Day has been a local holiday since 2005 due to the responsiveness of then-Member of Council Vincent Orange, and Mayor Anthony Williams, to the advocacy of students of DC history and social justice activists. The Compensated Emancipation Act was signed April 16, 1862, nine months before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, which applied to slaves bound in the states and territories in rebellion. In the District, the act offered compensation for the loss of services to the “owners” of over three thousand bondsmen, women, and children. It is still the only offer of federal restitution for the manumission of slaves to the powerful, slave-holding class dominating Washington locally and the US Congress.

Recently, Emancipation Day has been a successful, inspiring holiday replete with parades, street bazaars, forums, and historical pageantry. Originally an observation of a milestone in DC history in which a sitting president actually engaged forcefully in the key conflicts roiling the capital district, EHN, DC Vote and LCCR now want to capture and direct the celebratory energies that built the holiday into a lobbying effort to support the so-called DC Voting Rights initiative. An analysis of the DC Voting Rights bills easily reveals four critical shortcomings: 1) a single vote in the House of Representatives will give the District not one scintilla of additional control over our local affairs. Isn’t greater control the point of the democratic system?; 2) Congress will still have and exercise its discretionary authority over the District’s budget, legislation, and judicial matters. No other Representative in Congress is exposed to such arbitrary Congressional meddling; 3) the seat created by the DC Voting Rights measure would be a shamelessly unequal position when compared to all other voting seats in Congress. There will be no DC delegation of Senators and Representatives. There will be no additional Electoral College vote; and most importantly, there will be 4) no respect for the action taken by the people of the District in 1982 when voters ratified a Constitution for the State of New Columbia. Is there no shame in this attempt to ignore the ballots of the people of the District?


Dear City Council, Please Raise My Taxes
Kristin Mikolaitis, Save Our Safety Net,

In Mayor Fenty’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011, he deploys an assortment of fee hikes, mass layoffs, and drastic funding reductions in order to close a budget deficit of more than $500 million. When releasing the budget, the mayor claimed with pride that it includes no tax increases. And indeed, Mayor Fenty campaigned on a pledge not to raise taxes. However, he took office before an unprecedented economic meltdown. With tax day upon us, and as the mayor’s budget heads to the city council for its consideration, we should reconsider the contributions that each DC resident is asked to make.

DC’s income tax structure is progressive, but just barely. DC residents currently pay a 4 percent tax on income up to $10,000, a 6 percent tax on income between $10,001 and $40,000, and an 8.5 percent tax on income above $40,000. As a DC resident with an income in the highest 5 percent of taxpayers, I am concerned to see the tax rate structure stay the same in the face of massive budget cuts to programs that help low-income DC residents.

In the course of the recession, more than $100 million has been cut from programs that help DC’s low-income residents. The mayor’s FY2011 budget would continue this trend: he has proposed to cut nearly $7 million from adult education and vocational training and at least $4 million from child care support for working families. Meanwhile, the proposed budget maintains reductions in funding for affordable housing and emergency shelter, despite the fact that the number of homeless families has doubled in the past year. By cutting the budgets of programs that can help our most vulnerable neighbors make it through the turmoil of a severe recession, we are withdrawing our investment in the economic recovery of our community.

The city has other options. By making the income tax structure more progressive and increasing the amount of tax paid by the highest-earning 5 percent of DC residents, the city could raise the revenues necessary to save vital programs. The addition of two new tax rates — 9 percent on income between $200,001 and $1 million and 9.4 percent on income above $1 million — would generate approximately $40 million during FY2011. This revenue would be enough to restore most, if not all, of the mayor’s proposed cuts to safety net services. (For more information, visit

This measure would marginally increase my tax burden. But it would also help ensure that people in my community can find safe, affordable homes. It would ensure that my neighbors are receiving the education, training, and child care that they need in order to find and keep good jobs and spend their wages in local businesses. I moved to DC to put down roots in a thriving, diverse, and socially responsible metropolis. At a time when unemployment is more than twice as high as it was before the recession, I’d consider a higher share to be a fair price to pay. A good investment in a great city.


Sexual Violence Has to Stop
Richard Urban,

The person alleged to have murdered Tanganika Stanton in September 2008 was acquitted on Tuesday ( This murder is referred to as the “Hamburger Murder” because Tanganika refused to make a hamburger for a male who approached her, and refused to give him her phone number. This is not about a hamburger, it is about a sexual advance turned down. In 2004, just a few blocks from where I live in northeast, Myesha Lowe was killed ( Allegedly, the killer had returned, as in Tanganika’s case, after a sexual advance was refused.

Sexual violence of all kinds must be repudiated, whether rape, other domestic violence, incest, or sexual harassment. How can we foster respectful relations between the sexes? Abstinence-centered sex education inherently teaches about character and respect for the opposite sex. Handing condoms to youths does not teach about respect and self-control, but teaching youth about waiting to have sex does. Self discipline, respect for others, and unselfishness are qualities of character that are taught in abstinence-centered sex education programs.

Abstinence-centered sex education is not just about stopping HIV/AIDs or reducing teen pregnancies, although it is effective in doing that ( It is about creating respectful relationships between the sexes and building a community where there will be more stable families in the future as more youth wait until marriage to have sex.


Let’s Set My Record Straight
Leo Alexander,

Two issues have come to define my campaign for mayor of the District of Columbia — same-sex marriage and illegal immigration.

On the first issue, same-sex marriage, because of my religious beliefs I define traditional marriage as a union between a man and a woman. However, I support civil unions without discrimination. After engaging countless members of the GLBT community, as a member of Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the term “marriage” is the real issue. Even in the GLBT community it’s split. I have found that some don’t care what it’s called, just as long as they receive the same benefits as heterosexuals; and others believe anything separate cannot be equal. I agree with the first group and believe it is possible to have ‘marriage’ for heterosexuals and ‘civil unions’ for homosexuals with both groups enjoying the same benefits under the law. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in the District of Columbia, it’s really a moot point. As mayor, I will focus my attention on establishing zero tolerance on gay bashing, the investigation/prosecution of these hate crimes and bullying in our public school system, because today’s bullies become tomorrow’s bashers.

The second issue is illegal immigration. I have written about this issue since 2007 and in each article I have clearly stated that we have an addiction to cheap labor. This addiction has a crippling affect on our economy; it keeps wages low and unemployment high. Illegal immigration has an adverse effect on the unemployment rates of all Americans but particularly blue-collar Washingtonians. One of the primary reasons the District is experiencing record unemployment is because employers have been allowed to exploit undocumented workers at the expense of paying a fair living-wage to DC constituents. For an example, a journeyman carpenter is paid $35 per hour on a union construction site in DC, but contractors are getting away with paying undocumented workers $8-10 per hour for the same work. This hiring and continued exploitation of undocumented workers is not only illegal; it’s immoral, and must be stopped. Our local politicians and union leadership have allowed this practice for as many years as they have been in office.

I look forward to debating the issues over the next five months of the campaign. I urge you to visit our campaign web site at and invite you to attend the next meet and greet in your community. This Saturday, April 17, we will be at Ward 3’s Bambule, 5225 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, from 3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Change is coming to DC!


Streetcar Wires
Richard Layman,

Look to today for examples of streetcars and overhead wires, not sixty years ago. The model for limited overhead wiring infrastructure to power streetcars comes from Portland, Oregon, which has a modern form of streetcar, and even Philadelphia, which, where it uses streetcars, uses the PCC streetcar from the 1930s. In either case, there is not a web of overhead wires.

Perhaps technology will allow for the implementation of streetcars that can meet today’s health and safety requirements with underground wires. I don’t understand ultracapacitor technology; maybe it will work. Otherwise, underground wires and battery-based systems won’t work at least for some time, given the distances that must be covered and the demand for service. People who suggest diesel technology (such as a recent letter in the Washington Post) fail to understand that reducing the use of oil, not to mention noisy engines, ought to be a mobility priority. But there ought to be a recognition that every car on the city’s streets is a reduction in the quality of life overall. Every car trip we can interdict through better transit improves the quality of life for DC citizens, whether or not they use transit — reduction in traffic and traffic congestion on the city’s streets pays off in a multitude of ways.

In any case, my sympathies are with historic preservationists (I consider myself one) and others who oppose overhead wires for streetcars. But my practical bent, and the recognition that the city’s current and future competitive advantages rest upon the continued strengthening and expansion of transit, means that I accept the need for compromise, given the essential fact that the city needs even better transit in order to remain competitive within the region as a place to live, to locate business, to conduct commerce, and to visit. Looking to the past, while failing to plan for the city’s future, and at the same time failing to recognize and acknowledge that the city is not an island but one municipality within a very competitive metropolitan area ought not to be celebrated.

Today’s Post has an article about how bad commuting is in the region, that streets are seriously congested. But the article fails to acknowledge that except for a limited number of the streets in DC, DC proper is a great place to get around; there is limited traffic on the city’s streets for the most part. “Why” is the question people ought to be asking. The answer is simple — in the center city, especially at the core — transit works! And we need more of it, not less.


Rhee’s Tenure
Michael Bindner,

In Sunday’s edition, Gary left out one reason Ms. Rhee will be leaving at the end of the year. “Reform” has tied her fortunes to that of the mayor — who has a about as much chance of remaining in office as Mayor Kelly did in 1994.



Innovators of Social Consciousness in African American Art, April 17
Shyree Mezick,

Black Artist of DC presents the 2010 James A. Porter honorees, “Setting the Pace: Innovators of Social Consciousness in African American Art,” on Saturday, April 17, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., at the Howard University Gallery of Art. Come celebrate and experience a historic tribute to master artists, Elizabeth Catlett, Dr. Floyd Coleman, and Dr. Jeff Donaldson, in addition to acknowledging art collector, educator, and cultural philanthropist, Ms. Peggy Cooper-Cafritz.

Named in honor of the pioneering art historian and professor, the James A. Porter Colloquium is the leading forum for scholars, artists, curators, and individuals in the field of African American Art and Visual Culture. To support the continuation of his legacy, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities joins the Black Artists of DC and Howard University in collaborative partnership to host our April Art Salon. This unique event will celebrate an exhibition of works by the esteemed honorees and will cross pollinate scholars, collectors, administrators, and supporters of the Washingtonian creative communities.

A special address will be given by Dr. Anne Ashmore-Hudson, Chair of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) in addition to remarks by Commissioner Marvin Bowser, DCCAH, Tritobia Hayes Benjamin, Ph.D, Associate Dean for the Division of Fine Arts, Howard University, Dr. Gwendolyn Everett, Ph.D Chair of the Department of Art, Howard University and Exhibit Coordinators for Black Artist of DC, Amber Robles-Gordon, President and Akili Ron Anderson, Board Member. Special guests include the honorees, Dr. Floyd Coleman and Ms. Peggy Cooper-Cafritz. We would like to also extend a special thank you to the collectors generously loaning artworks to this exhibition: Dr. Floyd W. Coleman, Howard University Department of Art, Jameela Donaldson, Esq., and the estate of Dr. Jeff Donaldson, Rev. Douglas E. Moore, and Dr. Doris Hughes-Moore (providing artworks by Elizabeth Catlett).

Prior to the reception, Art Salon attendees are invited to a Graduate Student Open Studio, to be held in the Howard University Fine Art Atelier between the hours of 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. The atelier is located at 2467 Sherman Avenue, NW, on the campus of Howard University. For more information, contact Zoma Wallace at


Health Care Reform: The Role of Women and the Impact on Women, April 20
Patricia Bitondo,

Marcia Greenberger founded the National Women’s Law Center over thirty-five years ago, and is its co-president. Ms. Greenberger is a recognized expert on sex discrimination and the law, and has participated in the development of key legislative initiatives and litigation protecting women’s rights, particularly in the areas of education and employment, health and reproductive rights, and family economic security. Examples of her work include the recent Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; the Civil Rights Act of 1991, providing critical protections against sexual harassment on the job; and Supreme Court victories strengthening protections for students and teachers against sex discrimination in schools. The New York Times described Ms. Greenberger as “guiding the battles of the women’s rights movement.” She has received professional honors and awards too numerous to mention, including the Washingtonian Magazine citing her as one of Washington, DC’s, most powerful women and as a “Top Lawyer.”

She will speak at a luncheon at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, on Tuesday, April 20. Come prepared to learn and to ask questions of this expert. The bar opens at 11:30 a.m.; lunch will be at 12:15 p.m. Members, $25; nonmembers, $30; lecture only (no lunch), $10. Reserve no later than April 19. Register at


Perceptions of Justice, April 20
Joyce Little,

The American Bar Association, Judicial Division Lawyer’s Conference, invites you to Perceptions of Justice: A Town Hall Dialogue on Color, Ethnicity, and the Courts, a Conversation with the Community. Tuesday, April 20, 3:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m., in the Old Council Chambers, One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW.

This will be a program bringing together diverse members of the community, legal profession, and local leaders to talk, reflect and seek solutions regarding the divide between reality and perception of our justice system. Join us for an honest and vital discussion focusing on solutions. The program is open to the public and free of charge to all attendees.

Moderators: Professor F. Michael Higginbotham, University of Baltimore School of Law, Baltimore, MD and The Honorable Allen J. Webster, Jr., Los Angeles County Superior Court, Compton, CA. For more information, contact


DC Board of Education Public Meeting, April 21
Beverley Wheeler,

The DC State Board of Education (DCSBOE) will have a public meeting to vote on the proposed Accountability Workbook. Additionally, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) will give presentations to the State Board on testing policies, enrollment audit findings, and the NCLB Report Card. The public meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 21, at 5:30 p.m., at 441 4th Street, NW, in the District of Columbia State Board of Education Chambers, located on the lobby level of the building.

Constituents who wish to comment at the meeting are required to notify the State Board of Education in advance by contacting the Executive Director, Beverley Wheeler, by phone at 741-0884 or by E-mail at twenty-four hours before the scheduled meeting time. Please provide one electronic copy and bring fifteen copies to the hearing for the State Board members to view. The meeting will air live on District Knowledge Network (DKN) Comcast Channel 99, RCN Channel 18, and Fios Channel 12.


National Building Museum Events, April 22-25
Johanna Weber,

April 22-25, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., 2010 Smithsonian Craft Show Begins. The National Building Museum welcomes the annual Smithsonian Craft Show, which features the work of artisans from across the nation. For more information, visit

April 23, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Meet the Artist: Andrea Panico. During this special trunk show, meet jewelry designer Andrea Panico of Pico Design and see items from her collection, Little Architecture, modern jewelry for design conscious women. Free. No registration required. Trunk show will be held in the Museum Shop. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station.



Summer Yard Assistant
Deborah Fort,

I am looking for someone to mow my small back yard and do some occasional weeding this summer. I will pay twenty dollars for mowing the back yard and fifteen dollars an hour for weeding. Summer before last, these tasks took between four and six hours weekly — not a big commitment.


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