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April 25, 2010

Energy Versus Intimidation

Dear Voters:

This week’s issue of Tom Sherwood’s Notebook, in the Current Newspapers and on the WRC-TV site (, gives perhaps the best summary of where things stand now in the controversy over the DC Public Schools budget. Basically, there’s a dispute between Chancellor Michelle Rhee and her faithful supporters, who have believed every version of her ever shifting story about DCPS shortfalls and surpluses, and Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, whom Rhee and Mayor Fenty are setting up as the fall guy to take the blame for the confusion over the actual state of the school budget.

Since she’s taken office, Rhee has fought with and had replaced several financial officers whom Gandhi had placed at DCPS, and she was happy only with Noah Wepman, whom Gandhi named reluctantly to that position at Rhee’s insistence. Wepman affirmed that DCPS had a $43 million deficit that Rhee used as an excuse for last October’s Reduction in Force, but he never brought that deficit to Gandhi’s attention, neither when the city council was considering the FY2010 DCPS budget nor before Rhee used it to justify her teacher and staff firings. Now Rhee is feuding again with her current financial officer, George Dines, over what he told her, and when. On Friday, at 10:00 a.m., Chancellor Rhee, CFO Gandhi, and perhaps Washington Teacher’s Union president George Parker (who missed his scheduled hearing last Thursday) are scheduled to appear together at a city council hearing on the DCPS FY2011 budget and on whether funding is in that budget for the raises in the proposed DCPS contract with WTU. It’s going to be fun for all.


Councilmember Jack Evans now says that he is unlikely to run for the council chairman’s position, and the Washington Post speculates that he’s worried about running a citywide race against Councilmember Kwame Brown ( What’s more likely is that Evans doesn’t like the prospect of taking a quarter-million-dollar a year pay cut to move down from being a ward councilmember with a lucrative second job at a law firm to being the council chairman, forbidden from having any outside income.


Current Council Chairman Vincent Gray kicked off his mayoral campaign Friday afternoon with a speech at the Historical Society of the District of Columbia's headquarters at the Carnegie Library (, video linked at What’s missing from the news stories is the great enthusiasm of the crowd. Gray’s speech, which had dozens and dozens of applause lines, didn’t tire out the group, which had as high a level of energy and enthusiasm at the end as at the beginning. The next mayor will be determined in the Democratic primary, and a primary in a non-presidential election year has a very low turnout. What will be important in getting that turnout is the energy and enthusiasm of the candidates’ supporters. That’s why Gray has a much better chance than most local political observers think. Fenty doesn’t engender anything like the enthusiasm he did in 2006; instead, his best chance to hold on to office is through intimidation. Walking through the crowd during Gray’s speech at the kickoff event was Fenty friend and supporter Ron Moten, taking numerous photographs of the attendees, and at the end Moten stood at the door of the Carnegie Library, taking names.

Gary Imhoff


Two Topics
Bryce A. Suderow,

I’d like to open discussions on two topics.

First, what exactly is the language of the unamended gun law that Norton claims allows people to carry assault rifles slung over their shoulders?

Second, what do people think of Fenty’s rerouting the money that was collected on buying plastic bags at a nickel a bag?


Local Autonomy and the DC Voting Rights Act
Eric Woods,

The DC voting rights act fiasco is laughable. Elected officials and DC Vote persist in their failure to see the hypocrisy of their position on this issue. In the name of DC residents, they demand the right to vote on the House floor while, simultaneously, refusing to give the citizens a chance to express their voice on the gun control matter. District officials should conduct a referendum on gun control by asking the people one or two questions such as these: 1) do you believe that a law that grants law-abiding citizens the right to purchase guns to be kept in their homes would deter criminals from invading their homes? Or 2) do you believe that the current DC gun control law and regulations adequately support the rights, under the US Constitution, of law-abiding citizens to freely and readily purchase guns to keep in their homes for self-defense?

If District officials complied with the results of the referendum (regardless of the outcome), they could, in good conscience, provide evidence that they represented the desires of the people. This could effectively end the need for Congress to attach such amendments to a voting rights bill. More importantly, what a demonstration of local autonomy it would be for local officials to check the pulse of citizens on potentially controversial issues before establishing or improving and implementing laws.


The DC Voting Rights Hoax
Wenzell Taylor,

To those of you foolish enough to believe the cost of DC Voting Rights, bill HR 157 was too high because it would prevent the DC government from denying Second Amendment rights to its citizens, and place your safety in jeopardy, “Surprise.” It was never going to be voted on in the first place. That was said to justify killing the bill off for another year. Denying second amendment rights? First I’d like to remind you of the drive-by shooting a couple of weeks ago in which seven were shot and four died. And although he was found shot to death in Montgomery County, DC principal Brian Betts; it’s beginning to appear his perpetrators are from the District. Just in the past month alone, as of April 20, there have been twelve homicides, 109 robberies with a gun and 57 assaults with a dangerous weapon involving a gun in DC. The point is, those whom you are afraid of already have guns and are using them on you. I myself can walk out my front door and not leave my block and purchase my weapon of choice if I really want one, and there is nothing any of you can do about it. It’s a nice dream that no one should have or need a gun, but without second amendment rights you only deny yourselves (law abiding citizens) the ability to protect yourselves. The cops can’t protect you either.

The members of our tyrannical federal government cannot afford for the citizens of DC to have sovereignty or full autonomy over their own affairs. Their arrogant superiority attitudes, thievery, lying, and mutual manipulating must be stopped. The members of our local government are now emulating them. Technically the 600,000 or so resident slaves, or serfs if you prefer, of DC are trapped in feudalism. “Taxation Without Representation” is a Constitutional crime, not just a cute cliche. It does not appear that we can breed a candidate, whether he or she be White, Asian, Black, or Hispanic who is not for sale. While the District of Columbia does need a newer, more honest, more aggressive leadership at all levels, it cannot be found among the current “Demrepublicratans” party or associations. Why is it that everyone in this country except the elected officials want Constitutional order? I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the “Republic” for which it stands. Not to the Democracy for which it stands. That’s why. Know what the difference is. If there were any sincerity of interest by present day legislators to extend sovereignty to DC residents, it would have been done more than twenty years ago without the allowance of any ridiculous disagreed upon mock-attached amendment. The members of the “Demrepublicratans” are all self-serving opportunists by way of corporate and special interests. The crimes perpetrated by them are far more abusive and damaging than anyone with a gun.

Even under the threat of violence, they consistently and arbitrarily ignore the will of the people. This was demonstrated as several of them whined and cried like little girls just after forcing upon us the health care bill last month. They still routinely turn a deaf ear to any lobbying by citizens, rallies, marches, demonstrations, and even petitions of redress. If we want to become fully emancipated and secure the same rights for ourselves that all other Americans enjoy, we need to not only remove our own criminals from office but at the same time, this coming November 2010, join with the other states to help remove their criminal legislators from office also. After all, most of those who are holding us back are not from here. Practically every other party out there is poised and ready to bestow equality on DC if they can get their candidates elected. Also individually Washingtonians must be way more effective in our campaigning then we are and demand equality. The efforts of our present leadership by comparison are as if they really don’t want it. Are we too lazy, too afraid, and too complacent or too illiterate to get what is Constitutionally ours?



DC Public Library Events, April 26
George Williams,

Michelle Singletary, an award-winning and nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, hosts a online book chat on Monday, April 26, at noon with DC Public Library to discuss Ernest J. Gaines’ novel A Lesson Before Dying as part of the 2010 Big Read. The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment. The discussion can be accessed at

The DC Public Library hosts a film screening of Part I of the HBO series The Corner with Clayton LeBouef Scoogie, a local actor, filmmaker, and cast member of the series. This event is part of the 2010 Big Read celebration of the Ernest Gaines’ novel, A Lesson Before Dying. Tuesday, April 27, 6:00 p.m., at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Auditorium A-5. Ages thirteen-adult.


Woman’s National Democratic Club Events, April 27, 29
Pat Bitondo,

Tuesday, April 27, 6:00-8:00 p.m., free. The opening of WNDC’s latest exhibition, Art in Congress, will be held in the Stevenson Ball Room. The show, featuring artwork by members of the US Congress and their families, is the first public exhibition of Congressional art, and is an exciting acknowledgment of the Club’s status as a museum. Register for the event at

Thursday, April 29, bar at 11:30 a.m., lunch at 12:15 p.m. Luncheon: Chancellor Rhee and DC Public Schools. Michelle Rhee has been the Chancellor of DC Schools since 2007. Since then, she has tackled a broken system with vigor and purpose, and without apology. Her willingness to make difficult decisions for the improvement of the education of the children of the District has won her many admirers, and some vocal critics. Please join the Smith College Club of Washington, who celebrate twenty years of partnership with DC Public Schools by welcoming Ms. Rhee to speak to us at the WNDC. Much has happened since we last heard from the Chancellor, and the afternoon promises a personal view on the events of the past year in DC education and in the public eye. Price: members $25, nonmembers $30, lecture only (no lunch) $10. Both events at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. Register at


Live Online Recycling Chat, April 28
Kevin B. Twine, DPW,

Have you ever asked yourself, “Is the city really recycling the items placed in my recycling cart; where does all the recycling go; what happens to my recycled stuff; does my school, business or apartment have to recycle; how can I recycle if my apartment building doesn’t require me to do it; or what kind of plastic is recyclable?”

You can get answers to all these questions and more by joining DPW’s live, online chat on Wednesday, April 28, from noon to 1:00 p.m. DPW’s Office of Recycling staff will answer questions regarding DPW residential recycling services; work with DC Public Schools; recycling mandates for businesses, hospitals, etc.; and enforcement measures for commercial entities who don’t comply. Residents can join or follow the discussion at once the chat session begins. Residents also may submit questions in advance on DPW’s Twitter account (, Facebook page, or by E-mail to


Ward Three Democratic Meeting, April 29
Tom Smith,

The Ward Three Democratic Committee will hold a community dialogue with Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, chairman of the DC Council Committee on Finance and Revenue, on Thursday, April 29, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., in The Great Hall of St. Columba Episcopal Church, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW (one block off Wisconsin Avenue at Tenleytown Metro). We shall also have a panel discussion on the FY 2011 DC budget with Eric Goulet, Budget Director, DC Council Office of the Budget, and Ed Lazere, Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, moderated by Ann Loikow, Precinct 27 Delegate.

For more information, contact Thomas M. Smith, Chair, Ward Three Democratic Committee, 364-7130 and, or see the web site at


Should Political Speech by Corporations and Unions Be Banned, April 29
Beverly Miller,

The American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital and the 6th and I Historic Synagogue present a public forum on The Supreme Court, Free Speech, and Democracy: Should Political Speech by Corporations and Unions Be Banned? The Supreme Court recently ruled, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that the First Amendment protects the rights of corporations and labor unions to spend money supporting or opposing candidates in federal elections. That decision re-energized the debate between those who think that a healthy democracy is best achieved through freedom of speech for all and those who think it is best achieved by curbing election-related speech by corporations and unions. New laws and even constitutional amendments have been proposed to overcome the court’s ruling. Please join us for a fascinating debate and discussion among four exceptionally qualified and exceptionally able advocates on both sides of this vital question, followed by questions and answers with the audience.

The panel includes Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1978 to 2001; Jamin Raskin, Professor of Law and Director of the Law and Government Program at the Washington College of Law, American University; Laurence E. Gold, Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO and Of Counsel at Lichtman, Trister & Ross, PLLC; and John C. Brittain, Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law. Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, will moderate the program.

Thursday, April 29, 7:00-9:00 p.m., at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I Street, NW, Washington, DC. Free admission. Please RSVP to Beverly Miller,, or call 457-0800.


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