themail.gif (3487 bytes)

May 5, 2010


Dear Desserters:

With summer weather having arrived early, it’s ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, and shlushies time again. One of the simplest and best sorbets is strawberry, and one of the easiest strawbery sorbet recipes calls for a simple syrup made of one cup each of water and sugar, brought to a boil, stirred until the sugar dissolves, and then allowed to cool. Blend a pint of pitted strawberries with a quarter cup of lemon or lime juice, and add an eighth cup of cane syrup (the light Karo syrup or a store brand syrup will work equally xwell) and the cooled simple syrup to them. Total preparation time shouldn’t be over a half hour. Pour the mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze it. It will still be soft, so spoon it into a mold and put it into a freezer for several hours to harden.

Now we’re looking for recipes that use various combinations of kiwis, limes, avocados, and cilantro. Mangos and peaches after that Any suggestions?

I’ve demoted my usual complaints, quarrels, and quibbles to a reply to Martin Austermuhle, below.

Gary Imhoff


The Council Should Study Wireless Technology Before DDOT Buys More Streetcars
Meg Maguire, Committee of 100 on the Federal City,
Monte Edwards, Capitol Hill Restoration Society

Three wire-dependent Czech-made streetcars, acquired in 2005 with service in 2013, are driving DC’s streetcar system today. DDOT is ready to lock our city into an old streetcar technology requiring wires, poles and protruding arms on 37 miles of boulevards and streets without studying wireless alternatives now being adopted in Europe and Asia. Decisions are imminent. The city council is considering DDOT’s request to reprogram $63 million from other line items to buy six new cars without benefit of an independent engineering study of the applicability of various streetcar technologies to our city.

Another overlooked truth is that in order to string wires on our streets, including H Street/Benning Road, the council must overturn an 1889 federal law that prohibited streetcar wires in the old Federal City and Georgetown. Along with the city’s admirable and steady progress on under grounding utility wires, this law has contributed to the wide views and vistas we take for granted throughout the city. But we can have it all: a streetcar system to spur economic development, connect neighborhoods, reduce pollution and energy consumption, and add public transit capacity — without overturning that law or cluttering our open streetscapes. Why hasn’t the city done a better job of planning our streetcar system? Where is the streetcar business plan? The operations and maintenance plan? The facilities acquisition plan? The comparative technology assessment that looks at first costs and life cycle costs? The council needs to see what’s behind the curtain. The newest member of DC’s transit family deserves a smart start on the right track.

The good news is that wireless technology is in use, and we can build on the evaluations undertaken by other cities. Kawasaki has been operating the SWIMO system in Japan since 2007. CAF of Spain initiated wireless service in Seville, Spain, two weeks ago and is now installing a wireless system in Saragossa. Bombardier is installing a wireless system in Germany this summer. These cities have studied both the technology and the costs and have found wireless systems to be viable. And there is nothing to lose, since track construction already done along H Street/Benning Road will accommodate wireless streetcars. The council should take two to three months to commission the missing technology study before giving DDOT the green light to order more of the older cars. Let’s ensure that the technology we buy is right for the nation’s capital and right for our residential neighborhoods. We ask the council to settle for nothing but the very best for this great city.


DDOT’S Solution for Metro’s Problems
Karl Jeremy,

Ted Gest [“Clueless Metro Solution: Yell at Customers,” themail, May 3] raised some good points about the fact our city’s transportation systems aren’t meeting user’s needs or operating efficiently or on time. As if to verify Mr. Gest’s observations, HSEMA sent the following “Alert” to cell phones and pagers: “Metro customers traveling on the Red Line can expect major delays this afternoon (May 3) while personnel work to extinguish an arcing insulator near Dupont Circle Metrorail station and resolve a track circuit issue at Farragut North Metrorail Station.”

Although it readily admits it has never run a transportation system, DDOT believes it has found the solution to Metro’s problems. It will operate its own 37-mile streetcar system and proposes to use two technologies: overhead wires for the initial phase in Wards 7 and 8, and a more advanced technology for areas of the city where overhead wires are prohibited.

The District’s Transportation Department is betting that few recall the dirty wires that were draped across city streets or the slippery tracks that endangered bicycle wheels. Streetcars were the way the public moved around in the first half of the last century, but transportation modes and human habits have changed dramatically since the good old days. DDOT has been told to “get it done,” so track that may limit routes in the future is being laid hastily to accommodate three Czech Republic streetcars purchased by Dan Tangherlini in 2005; yet since 2005 DDOT has failed to develop a business plan, conduct a technology assessment, or undertake a system-wide EIS. It remains clueless regarding long-term costs, new propulsion technologies, or whether the same infrastructure problems that plague Metro will plague its aboveground streetcar system. To finance the initial phase of its streetcar system, DDOT has asked the council to reprogram dollars that make up the District’s federal match for Metro, for the modernization of schools, and for modernizing firehouses. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is the way business is done in the District of Columbia, but it’s a poor way to run a twenty-first-century transportation system.


Is AFT Undermining DC Teachers?
Nathan Saunders,

Intense public school budget hearings on April 30 evidenced the significant impact WTU teachers have on the city’s budget. Charter school advocates presented the government a demand letter for comparable wages to the WTU Tentative Agreement (TA), or they would seek court action. A magnanimous Chief Financial Officer Gandhi refused to certify the TA’s financial soundness while simultaneously scaling back other programs and possibly raising taxes to reduce a $530 million deficit.

The 1960’s legislation allowing exclusive representation of DC’s Public teachers was theorized to encourage mutual cooperation yielding increased workplace productivity. Unfortunately, some of the industrial labor union’s ills and social injustices, such as paternalism, permeated the teachers’ union movement. Oftentimes national union interests will attack local dissident opinion by influencing union elections, producing propaganda, and controlling issues. All the while repeating, ad nauseam, “We never get involved in local issues.” Amazingly, this is like the letter the American Federation of Teachers sent home to all DC teachers implying that the May 2010 elections will probably be delayed. Federal legislation, the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, was created to combat union member abuses involving violations of free speech, violence, and elections tampering. It forces elections every three years and gives union members a special bill of rights akin to the US Constitution. Empowering WTU teachers in democratic management and advocacy for themselves and their students is an often neglected education reform that is affordable. Paternalism is most dangerous in teachers’ unions, as it makes teachers feel trapped with two bosses — the DC Government and the AFT/WTU — their own union. Union democracy is suppressed.

The AFT should not be involved in the May 2010 union election or the upcoming contract ratification vote, as their ability to exercise self-control will deter additional controversies and challenges. The federal Department of Labor should be involved. Unfortunately, the president of the AFT parent union, Randi Weingarten, is deeply entangled in election shenanigans, potentially stalling WTU’s election schedule past its constitutionally required May 2010 date. Her beneficiary is WTU President George Parker the embattled negotiator of the Rhee/Parker tentative agreement. The agreement was supposed to harvest elections benefits of 20 percent pay raises, without members knowing most would probably be terminated or that a portion of the raises was financed with blood money of wrongfully terminated teachers, and the only job security in the deal belonged to Chancellor Michelle Rhee. The problem with Weingarten’s election meddling is that it makes DC teachers more vulnerable. Teachers are about to deal with hundreds of year-end layoffs, a hard summer fight to support a mayoral candidate and leaving approximately eighty other elected positions unfilled (Elections Committee, Delegates to the Maryland State AFL-CIO, and others). It smells to high heaven. Any desire to place an election ballot with a contract ratification ballot in the same envelope is selfish and belittles the WTU’s members’ intelligence. Common sense, time, and economic realities may have broken up the Fenty/Rhee/Parker/Weingarten playbook, but law and the WTU’s Constitution require a paternalistic AFT to step aside and to allow dues paying members to vote on their future — now.


Bag Fee Down: Time to START Up
Samuel Jordan, START Coalition,

After over a million and a half years and a few tectonic shifts, the Anacostia River has become an artery draining its watershed to the Potomac and the bay. After just over a hundred years, humans have brought the river to its knees. The river is the underdog in this scenario. As the underdog, a great deal of good will, maybe even sympathy for the river, has driven the success of the plastic bag fee enacted by the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection (ARCUP) Act. However, those most sympathetic or environmentally conscious have curbed their use of plastic bags and are therefore not contributors to the ARCUP Fund through the bag fee. The plastic bag fee is a “self-extinguishing” source of funds. The more profound the modification in consumer behavior, the more rapid the decline in funds generated by the bag fee.

In January 2010, the ARCUP Fund collected just under $150,000 in fees. This may well be a “peaking” total and continued success with the fee program means that the January total will not be surpassed as monthly collections drop. It is improbable that the DC council’s four-year projection of $10 million in fees will be realized. The ARCUP legislation authorized three additional sources of funds that have not been well-developed by the DC Department of the Environment (DDOE). These voluntary revenue generators are called the Save The Anacostia River Trust or START amendments. Originally proposed in 1996, they include a license tag; a DC income tax form check-off box; and anytime donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, and testamentary gifts. Without adequate planning and promotion, these funding methods cannot reach their potential. We are justifiably alarmed that monies from the ARCUP fund have been targeted for diversion from uses intended by the legislation to defray the costs of mechanical street sweepers to be used all over the city. Intended in the legislation was financial support for projects that aided the restoration of the Anacostia with an emphasis on community engagement.

The START Coalition urges you to demand that the mayor and DC council: 1) halt the diversion of river funds for other purposes; 2) fully develop the START voluntary resources; and 3) establish an Anacostia River Trust based on the Chesapeake Bay Trust model that will collect, manage, and allocate ARCUP funds and remain independent from the constant threat of funds diversion and changes in the political landscape. Let’s get STARTed! Support the flow of voluntary donations to the ARCUP fund! Please forward this commentary to DC Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chair of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment,

############### Hacked?
Frank Winstead,

Who is “Vrs-hCk - c0li.m0de.0n - #nob0dy @ DALnet” and why did that individual or group hack I was going to do a “lie-check” between the councilmember’s office site and her new campaign site,, when I noticed that the usual propaganda had been replaced by a php-admin screen with words that appear to be in Indonesian. The site’s log screen shows a message from the above-named hacker. I assume Cheh’s crew will de-hack the site real soon now. [It is currently working. — Gary Imhoff[ Here are screenshots, so there is a record after the cover-up begins: Download the images for highest resolution and easier readability. Has Cheh filled her open Communications Director position? How much private data has been exposed due to Cheh’s ineptitude?


Told You So Redux
Richard Layman,

Alas, the digital denizens of municipal improvement get little respect, I suspect. You weren’t the only person calling for a more careful consideration of how to go about improving DC Public Schools in 2007. I wrote the blog entry “Positive Deviance and the DC Public Schools” on June 13, 2007,, and I think it’s still relevant.


Guns and the Courts
Martin Andres Austermuhle,

Gary, it’s somewhat misleading for you to claim [themail, May 2] that “the courts do not have the sole or even the leading role in guaranteeing, respecting, and protecting the rights of Americans” in reference to your support of congressional actions to do away with the District’s gun laws. In this system of government, it is left to the courts to consider and weigh in on constitutional conflicts. Yes, other branches and institutions of government are charged with not violating the constitution, but final decisions on the constitutionality of government actions are left to the courts, not Congress, the executive, or local or state governments.

In late March, a federal judge did indeed rule that the District’s post-Heller gun laws are constitutional. No, it’s not the final say — I imagine the decision will be appealed — but until a higher court says otherwise, that decision stands. You may disagree with it, as do many members of Congress and the NRA, but those disagreements should be expressed through additional lawsuits or friend of the court briefs. Congress simply should not try to substitute its political judgments — we know that the NRA holds huge sway on the Hill, and advocating for the gutting of the District’s gun laws is an easy way to get a high mark from the organization — for those of the courts.

What makes congressional interference so maddening is that none of the members who push for the repeal of the city’s gun laws seem to have bothered talking to local officials or residents. (Has Sen. Tester? Sen. McCain? Did Rep. Childers meet with the families of victims of gun violence? Any local officials? Police Chief Lanier?) Moreover, it’s not just that they want to get rid of the city’s gun restrictions, but that they want to actively prohibit the city from ever imposing new ones. That should be absolutely unacceptable to anyone who supports the right of local communities to craft laws and regulations that respond to their local needs. To my knowledge, Dick Heller, the man responsible for the historic 2008 Supreme Court ruling, has not appealed to Congress to under the post-Heller regulations. Rather, he has continued to exercise his rights before the courts. That’s the way it should be.

[Martin repeats his misrepresentation of the American political system in order to discourage supporters of Second Amendment rights from defending those rights in any forum except the courts. No, Martin, in America we’re not limited to using the courts to protect our rights; we’re free to defend our rights in all branches of government. For example, the civil rights movement won its single most prominent victory in the Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, but it continued to work politically in the legislative and executive branches to consolidate and expand its victories. Under Martin’s rules, the movement should have confined its efforts to the court system, and Congress should not have passed any civil rights legislation. Martin supports “the right of local communities to craft laws and regulations that respond to their local needs,” and Congress imposed those civil rights laws on states and local communities and substituted its political judgment for theirs. Of course, I don’t really believe that Martin feels that way. My bet is that, if he had been old enough to be politically active during the civil rights movement, he would have supported both the movement and federal civil rights laws, and that he wouldn’t have raised a states rights argument against them. My bet is that he raises it now simply because he opposes the Second Amendment. — Gary Imhoff]


Gun Rights and Voting Rights
Earl Shamwell, Ward 4,

All I can say, Gary, is thank the lord you are out there. I found the statements from our political worthies concerning the elimination of the District’s gun laws and regulations to be too high a price for the vote to be stunning beyond words. I, as a person who witnessed the civil rights movement in full flower as a teen, recall vividly the reports of the folks who gave their lives for the vote. Medger Evers, the Mississippi three tossed in the swamp, the Liuzzo woman, and all of the Freedom Riders who bravely faced bigoted mobs in the South, to name but a few. I remember all of these folks from my youth, and to this day, even as I ponder these idiots now running things here and become discouraged, I vote. No matter.

But to “them,” these liberal zealots and ideologues, the ineffective and frankly risible gun control laws that control no one but the law abiding, reign supreme over our securing the franchise, in my view the key to the kingdom of a democratic society. As you have been saying in so many words over the years , we are in deep trouble. And frankly the folks most affected do not have a clue, are just apathetic, or are waiting for a handout or a city contract to do nothing for big money.

I am at a loss as to how we can get out from under this mess, as personified by our present leaders. But I am hopeful . . . maybe not always . . . but usually. Just don’t close up shop. I see no one who will fill the void should you get disgusted and fold up your tent. Just a few words to let you know I appreciate your wisdom and commitment.



Anacostia Library Grand Opening Party, May 8
George Williams,

Come to the Anacostia Library grand opening party on Saturday, May 8, from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Fun activities for all ages. Performances by rapper Jali-D, spoken word artists Beat Ya Feet Kings, Melvin Deal African Drummers and Dancers, and the Double Nickel Theater Troup. Face painting and craft activities, and more. The new Anacostia Library is located at 1800 Good Hope Road, SE. For more information, call 715-7707.


What Is Socialism?, May 10
Bill Mosley,

Join DC/MD/NOVA Democratic Socialists of America for a talk by Professor Joe Schwartz, “Why Obama Is Not a Socialist, And, By the Way, What Is Socialism?” on Monday, May 10, at 7:00 p.m., at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Room A-9, 901 G Street, NW, Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro. The event is free and open to all. Schwartz is Associate Professor and former chair of the Department of Political Science at Temple University. He is Vice-Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America and the author of The Future of Democratic Equality: Reconstructing Social Solidarity in a Fragmented United States. For information, contact Ben Kreider, 610-952-8684,


National Building Museum’s 2010 Honor Award, May 11
Johanna Weber,

May 11, National Building Museum’s 2010 Honor Award: A Salute to Civic Innovators. Join the Museum for the 2010 Honor Award gala saluting Civic Innovators Perkins+Will; The New Orelans Habitat Musician’s Village founders Harry Connick, Jr., Branford Marsalis, Ann Marie Wilkins, and Jim Pate; and The US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, whose continuous commitment to improving people’s lives through design, education, community and cultural development, and sustainable practice are aiding in the reinvention of a better built environment. 6:00 p.m. VIP reception; 7:00 p.m., reception; 7:45 p.m., dinner and program. For ticketing and event sponsorship information, please contact Jessie Cochran, Development Events Manager, at, or visit



Housekeeper Needs Work
Paul Penniman,

My terrific housekeeper needs more work. Her name is Ruth and she can be reached at 301-942-4934


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at

All postings should be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.


Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)