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May 30, 2010

Memorial Day

Dear Memorialists:

John A. Logan, the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (the fraternal order of Union soldiers in the Civil War) first declared the observance of Memorial Day in 1868. This was his declaration:

i. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

ii. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

iii. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

Gary Imhoff


Commentary on Current District Leadership
Karl Jeremy,

In his Saturday column, “A Dangerous Spiral for Fenty and the District,”, Colbert King correctly captured the tenor of the mayoral race, the 2011 mayoral budget and the ability of councilmembers to act with integrity. The financial future of the city and whether or not the District is headed for another congressional intervention has me most concerned. Congress hasn’t done a sterling job of managing federal dollars lately, so it is unlikely that any new intervention will put the District back on sound financial footing.

District residents will survive Mary Cheh’s creative social engineering and new taxes, but in the budgeting process, throwing good money after bad to ensure reelection is not acceptable leadership. Actually, it wasn’t clear last Wednesday whether David Alpert or the council was in control of the budget, but in the end David and the Greater Greater Washington tweeters prevailed, and DDOT will have its streetcars! The fact that E-mails in May could so influence the resolve and leadership of those councilmembers running for reelection in the September primary casts serious doubt on whether or not they are suitable for elected office.

Adrian Fenty has shown contempt for his constituents and a preference for selected developers and his fraternity brothers. In less than four years, he has allowed the city’s reserve fund to become seriously depleted and put the city at risk for another intervention. If the mayor and council are currently fixated on the elections, now may be the time to ask, whether or not the District can afford four more years of Fenty and councilmembers who, knowing the state of the District’s finances, moved forward with passage of the mayor’s budget? Perhaps as Colby suggests, it is time to elect a new mayor and councilmembers with integrity, backbone, and fiscal responsibility.


Bigger Is Better for DC HIV/AIDS Prevention?
Richard Urban,

The District of Columbia Department of Health is now distributing Trojan condoms, including the super-size Magnum variety, as well as Durex condoms. So one can conclude, according to the DC HIV/AIDS Administration, that the problem is not that youths are having sex, but that they are not using condoms enough. However, there is no data to support this approach. No program anywhere in the world has ever succeeded in increasing the rate of condom use throughout the general population. Researcher Ed Green has done important work in this area . Condom distribution in the District increased from 600,0000 in 2007 to 3.2 million in 2009. Yet at the same time the rate of HIV infection increased by 9.2 per cent. So it appears that there is a correlation between more condoms being distributed and higher HIV infection rates. Ed Green found the same effect in his research in Africa; using condoms seems to give a false sense of security. Countries with the highest rate of condom use also have the highest rates of HIV infection. Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa have the highest rate of condom distribution, and also the highest rate of HIV infection (20 percent to 35 percent among males ages 15 to 49).

Although 42 percent of DC high school students report never having had sex, and 69 percent have not had sex within the previous three months, the District does not spend any money to increase the number of youth who are abstaining from sex. It is noteworthy that, without any help from the Health Department, 21 per cent more youth are now abstaining than fourteen years ago. It makes sense to encourage this positive trend. A column in the Washington Post on condom distribution ( cites Councilmember David Catania’s Youth Sexual Health Project,, which I have written about before, The beginning of Catania’s report cites Canadian Health Education Guidelines: “Sexuality encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy, and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behavior, practices, roles, and relationships.”

A proposed sexual health education curriculum for seventh to twelfth grade instructs youth to view art that includes homo-erotic art by Jessica Walker, It is interesting to note that parents were not included as one of the three groups that were interviewed to determine attitudes toward sexuality. Instead, youth, school nurses and health providers were interviewed. It is time for David Catania to step aside, especially in light of the failure of leadership on HIV prevention. The Youth Sexual Health Project report, which appears to be the impetus for the addition of the new condom brands, makes it clear that Mr. Catania’s focus is on encouraging acceptance of various sexual expressions and lifestyles, not on promoting what is in the best interest of the youth of the District of Columbia, which is risk avoidance by sexual abstinence outside of marriage.

In my experience, parents overwhelmingly support the promotion of sexual abstinence as the best choice for their children. The Youth Sexual Health Project report and the resulting recommendation to give out even more types of condoms show how out of touch Mr. Catania is with the majority of DC parents and voters.


Metro Board Fare Increases
Mai Abdul Rahman,

Last Thursday, the Metro Board of Directors approved bus and rail fare increases that will impact our city’s poor and unemployed. While these hikes may not affect our wealthy neighborhoods, where the incomes are high and unemployment is still relatively low, our city is made of extraordinary contrasts in wealth and poverty. The increase in fares, which ranges from 20 percent to 26 percent, are substantial for low income families, and especially for those who live in Anacostia, where the unemployment rate is the highest in the city at 40 percent. Unlike DC’s unemployed and poor residents, Maryland and Virginia job seekers and low-income residents will not be severely affected by the Metro Board fare increases. Maryland’s and Virginia’s local governments and agencies have implemented the United We Ride (UWR) (, and Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) federally funded programs. These programs offer states and municipalities subsidized and often free transportation services to employment and employment-related activities for those most in need: the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, welfare recipients, and other poor individuals.

Unfortunately DC legislators have yet to utilize URW and JARC federal funds effectively to support our own low-income workers and unemployed job seekers. The Georgetown Metro Connector Bus did independently and creatively seek and acquire JARC funds — and openly admit their low fare ($1.00) is largely serving Georgetown University students and tourists throughout northwest DC, By August, Metro rail fares will increase 18 percent, from $1.65 to $1.95; bus boarding charges will go up 20 percent from $1.25 to $1.50 for SmartTrip users, and even higher for cash customers who will bear the most expansive fare hike at 26 percent from $1.35 to $1.70 while peak cash Metro rail rider fares will rise from $4.50 to $5.45. These increases are substantial for DC’s hourly wage earners, and are particularly high for Ballou STAY alternative school and Anacostia residents. Last fall a comprehensive student survey revealed that for Ballou STAY students their number one concern is the daily transportation cost, which they identified as the critical factor that impacts their school attendance and access to viable employment. Recent research findings from Brookings Institute concur: poor and low income individuals face structural and transportation cost barriers that keep them from seeking jobs, and are more likely to remain impoverished.

Unlike DC, Maryland and Virginia offer low income and unemployed residents multiple programs that provide free transportation services to and from employment centers — programs that capitalize on available federal funds. So far our DC legislators have yet to implement similar federally funded programs available since 2004 to our low income, unemployed, and needy residents. Although DC has claimed membership of the regional Transportation’s Plan for the National Capital Region since 2007, our city has yet to develop effective programs to help defray transportation costs to low income and job seeking residents. If you are not yet convinced, read


Why I Am Running as WTU General VP on Saunders’ Slate
Candi Peterson,

Washington, DC, native Nathan A. Saunders is running president of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) in our upcoming election. I believe that Saunders is committed to reclaiming our voice in the “reform” debate as the experts in public education, willing to engage community stakeholders, advance the issues that directly impact teaching and learning on a daily basis and is absolute in his belief that teachers deserve adequate compensation and improved working conditions while preserving due process and tenure protections. Having worked with Nathan Saunders on the WTU Executive board for the past three years, I have learned that he is a critical thinker, an organizer, and open to others ideas even when they differ from his own. I know first hand that Nathan is willing to stand up and fight for teachers, school personnel, students, and schools. For these reasons, I am running with Nathan on his slate as the WTU General Vice President. I am asking you to support our entire slate of candidates. We support the following core values: fairness, freedom, equality, integrity, responsibility, and security.

As an elected member of the WTU Board of Trustees, WTU Building Representative, and The Washington Teacher blogger, I believe that the WTU under the helm of George Parker just doesn’t understand that it will take activist work to make our union effective against ongoing attacks against teachers and school personnel. Parker has been easily intimidated by strong leaders in our union and he seeks to squash their voice and their involvement. Our union has been operating with President Parker regularly canceling union meetings, with no contract for the last three years, and with weekly robo calls going out to members and little else. Parker has been unable to motivate or activate union members in a call to action.

Several years ago when Nathan and I sought to get the WTU involved at the Executive Board level to fight school closings, our current union president denied us. That didn’t stop Nathan and me, and so we joined a grassroots organization named the Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools (CSONS), in which we both worked with DC parents and community residents to aggressively challenge Rhee’s closing of twenty-three DC public schools. We also sought financial contributions from COPE (WTU’s Committee on Political Education) to support the work of CSONS, despite inside union opposition. This experience helped to reinforce our belief that we must build partnerships with DC parents and community residents, not just when we need something from them.

As The Washington Teacher blog has become increasingly more popular among DC teachers, school personnel, and the community, I marvel at the fact that it was originally Nathan Saunders’ idea. When Nathan suggested it to me as a way to express my outrage against the 2008 red and green tier teachers contract proposal that stripped teachers of seniority rights, I jumped on board. The rest is history. Whether we like it or not, social networks like blogs are the wave of the future and they represent a powerful medium and one of the ways by which the Saunders/Peterson slate believes that our union can serve and protect our members, defend public education in the media, and raise the bar on democracy and transparency. DC Teachers and school personnel are in the fight for our professional lives. We need a slate who is willing to fight for our future. I believe that the Saunders/Peterson slate has what it takes to fight this war that is all about privatization and not about students. Join us, support us, vote for us, spread the word, meet our candidates, and schedule a school visit soon by contacting us at or at 563-2144. We can do better.


Segways in themail
Michael Bindner,

[Re: themail, May 26] Segways for every man, woman, and teen would be stopped by the Congress, since it would mess too much with the driving rights of commuters. This is why statehood is the only progressive cause that the council should be working on.



National Building Museum Events, June 1, 3-5
Johanna Weber,

June 1, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Book of the Month: Sven’s Bridge. Join us in the Building Zone for an interactive reading of Anita Lobel’s Sven’s Bridge and explore the wonderful world of bridges. Readings at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free drop-in program, recommended for ages three to five.

June 3, 12:30-2:00 p.m., Community in the Aftermath: Mississippi’s Green Post-Disaster Housing. Hear a panel of experts discuss Mississippi’s efforts to produce durable, affordable post disaster housing units that utilize the latest green building technologies. Free, registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

June 4, 1:00-4:00 p.m., The Architecture of Diplomacy. Building an embassy challenges a nation to reflect on how it wants to be perceived abroad, and how it perceives itself. For example, in 1960, Denmark established itself as a progressive and design-conscious country when it built Washington, DC’s first modern embassy. Hear architects, historians, and diplomats discuss the opportunities and challenges of representing national values on foreign soil. $12 for members and Danish Club of Washington, DC, members; free for students; $20 for nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

June 5, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Construction Watch Tour: Fort McHenry Visitor Center. Design inspiration for Fort McHenry’s new visitor center in Baltimore came from the nation’s most enduring symbol — the Star-Spangled Banner. Alan Reed, design principal with GWWO Architects, leads a tour of the 17,200-square-foot center, scheduled to open in early 2011 and designed to achieve LEED Silver certification. $25, members only. Prepaid registration required. All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Fenty, Gray in Neighborhoods-Focused Mayoral Forum, May 10
Tom Smith,

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and DC Council Chairman Vince Gray, the leading candidates in the September 14 Democratic primary for mayor, have confirmed they will participate in the Neighborhoods Mayoral Forum to be held June 10 in Tenleytown. In addition to focusing on citywide issues, the forum is intended to explore candidates’ views on a wide range of issues specifically affecting the city’s diverse neighborhoods. The forum will be moderated by former Ward 3 DC Council member Kathy Patterson, a current resident of Ward 6. Other mayoral candidates participating in the mayoral forum are Leo Alexander, Sulaimon Brown, and Ernest Johnson.

The forum will take place at St. Columba Episcopal Church Great Hall, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW, just one block from the Red Line Tenleytown Metro Stop. The forum will be held from 7:30-9:30 p.m. The neighborhoods forum is being sponsored by the Ward Three Democratic Committee and the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia.

In addition to the forum, the Ward Three Democratic Committee also will sponsor a mayoral straw poll on June 10 open to all registered Democrats residing in Ward 3. Any registered Democrat residing in Ward 3 is eligible to cast a vote in the straw poll. Voting will be by secret ballot. The straw poll will be held from 7-10 p.m. at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church.


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