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June 27, 2010

The Inner Circle

Dear Inner Circle:

Today, Tim Craig helped Washington Post readers catch up to the fact that there isn’t much difference between Fenty and Gray on policies and issues, Both candidates are scrambling to try to find some differences between them, but both are in the left wing of the Democratic party on both social and economic issues. There’s nothing substantive for them to debate.

I’ve been thinking of how undecided voters can pick between Fenty and Gray, and I think I have a question for the candidates, and for all the candidates in all the political races this year, that will reveal helpful information. Who are the four or five people who are in your political inner circle? Whom do you speak with regularly who influences your decision making? Whose advice do you seek out and take? Mayor Fenty isn’t close to most of his top cabinet appointees, and doesn’t work with them; certainly he doesn’t take advice from them. I can name four people who are closely associated with Mayor Fenty publicly, and only one of them helps him politically, even marginally: Consigliore Peter Nickles; Chancellor Michelle Rhee; Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother Sinclair Skinner; and Ron Moten, self-described “brawler” and Fenty-described “great Washingtonian,” On the other hand, I can’t name anybody whom I think is a close political advisor or mentor for Chairman Gray, although I’m sure there must be someone. If I think the people who influence Fenty are all bad influences, is it better or worse that I don’t have any idea who influences Gray?

So here’s my proposal: if you’re a candidate for any political office in the September primaries, or can speak for the candidate, or even if you’ve just observed a candidate as a friend or critic, or even if you’re just guessing (though please be honest if you’re just guessing) please write to themail and reveal who is in the candidate’s inner circle of advisors.

Gary Imhoff


DC’s Work Ethic
Dorothy Brizill,

Monday will mark an important event that has come to represent the beginning of summer in the District. On Monday, 21,000 youths participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) are scheduled to report for work at their assigned work sites. In the past two years, the SYEP has been plagued by a series of problems — organizational and administrative problems at the DC Department of Employment Services (DOES, which oversees SYEP), overspending of the program’s budget (thirty million dollars overspent in 2008, twenty million dollars overspent in 2009), and paying youths who either weren’t eligible (more than two hundred non-DC residents participated in the program in 2008) or who hadn’t reported for work. In a June 15 press release,, the Fenty administration touted its preparation for this summer’s SYEP program, and announced “job assignments for over 21,000 District youth who are participating in Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) for 2010.”

However, there are early indications that the SYEP will have a very rocky kickoff on Monday. As of Friday, June 25, 104 “hosts,” or employers, had pulled out of participating in SYEP. Moreover, DOES site visits had not been completed to 53 community-based organizations that are serving as “hosts.” Especially troubling is the fact that DOES seems to be violating District law, which requires a security and criminal background check for any individual who will be in direct contact with youths under the age of eighteen. As of Friday, 53 individuals at charter schools, 121 government employees, 257 individuals at community-based organizations, and 5 private sector employers had not undergone the required security screening. In addition, DOES requires all “hosts” to attend an orientation meeting as a prerequisite to participating in the program. As of Friday, 97 community-based organizations, 126 private sector businesses, and 6 government offices had not attended the required orientation meeting.

Over the weekend, DOES employees have made frantic telephone calls to hosts and to youths participating in SYEP. In anticipation of problems at many of the work sites, youths will be instructed to report to the Field House at Gallaudet University if a problem arises at their job assignment. According to sources, the Gallaudet site was chosen in an effort to keep “screaming kids” and their parents away from DOES’ offices on New York Avenue and H Street, NE, where the Fenty administration fears the news media will be waiting.


DC Board of Elections and Ethics Purges List of Voters
Joan Eisenstodt,

Check to ensure you’re not on it. If you aren’t and still aren’t registered, do so:

To register online, go to


Broken Fareboxes, Lost Revenue
Bryce Suderow,

In riding the 90 and 92 buses and the various 30 buses I have noticed a lot of broken fare boxes. Last Wednesday I asked one of the drivers how often his fare box breaks down. He said once a week. This translates into a loss of hundreds of dollars for just one bus.

Also, the drivers on the circulator buses complain to me about their broken fare boxes — which are the same fare boxes that Metro uses.


Dupont Circle E-Mail List
Renee Schwager,

Do you know what ever happened to the guy who did a Dupont Circle update that included stuff like restaurants closing/opening?


Volunteers and Homes Needed for the Annual Dupont Circle House Tour
Robin Diener,

In only four short months, on Sunday, October 17, Dupont Circle residents will once again open their unique and wonderful homes for the annual Dupont Circle House Tour. You’ll find spectacular or unusual condos, huge historic mansions, beautiful small homes like freestanding “O House” (photo below) and everything in between. The Tour includes an afternoon tea party with exceptional tea fare.

We need all sorts of volunteers, from help with organizational and administrative activities, to docents at the various homes, to ticket takers at the tea. And we still have place for more homes on the Tour which this year will be based on the south side of the Circle. Please contact this year’s House Tour Chair Debbie Schreiber,


Letter From A Second Year DCPS Teacher
Candi Peterson,

Having grown up in a family with much older grandparents, I always valued the opinions and words of wisdom from my elders. I learned early on that wisdom and life experience bring much needed insight and it pays to listen to your elders. I think some people often refer to it as going to the school of “hard knocks.” Several years ago I met several younger teachers who overwhelmingly supported the Washington Teachers’ Union’s infamous red and green contract proposal mainly due to the hefty salary increases. I couldn’t help but realize they didn’t even know the half of what they were embarking upon. Little did I think that I would ever be able to convince them about what was happening on our educational landscape. The Washington Teacher blog was born out of a desire to offer another view point to union members like them about how the red and green proposal would strip DC teachers and school personnel of long earned tenure and seniority protections and almost always lead to termination, amongst other things. Needless to say, due to elevating this issue, the red and green proposal soon became history.

Much to my surprise, I received an E-mail from one of these teachers, who is now a second-year teacher. Several years ago, she along with her cohorts chastised me on blogs and in person for not supporting Rhee’s reform model and the WTU red and green tiered proposal. This teacher’s recent correspondence gives new meaning to the colloquialism “listen to your elders.” I am thankful that she was able to write me, share her story, and admit that she made a mistake. I don’t believe that I always know what’s better, but like my elders before me I have been there, done that, and have a T-shirt with my name on it. I am sharing this E-mail from a teacher. I believe her E-mail offers a glimpse into what many DC teachers are currently experiencing under Chancellor Rhee’s reform model.

“Hi, Candi, It’s been a long time since I’ve written on your blog, but I read it faithfully. It took a long time but I have to say, you and DCPS teachers have been right about so many things. At my school the teachers are very supportive of me, a still-new second-year teacher. I have struggled with writing and teaching effective lessons, managing student behavior, and organizing my classroom. However, I am new, motivated, and teachable. I left a better-paying career to teach. So you would think the administration would value my attitude and willing spirit. This administration heaps criticism on me and has not offered mentoring to me, nor has it ordered coaches to come into my room to model lessons. The administration takes incentives from my students (recess, field trips, computer use, daily prizes) but blames me for having an ineffective behavior plan. Having a master educator observation has been encouraging to me because the difference between my fall and spring observations showed significant progress. However, I am so disillusioned with my administration that I don’t think I even want a post-conference for my last principal observation. The only reason I haven’t broken down psychologically is because of my friendship with God, who sustains me, and because I have seen the administration belittle and humiliate other teachers at the school so I know it’s not all about me. Teachers have walked out (and others have threatened to walk out) of staff meetings. Turnover is high. Teachers are pitted against other teachers during meetings. Teachers on your blog have been saying all along — it’s not so much the teachers as it is the parents and the administration. I once was blind. I don’t know what my plans are for next school year, but based on my principal’s IMPACT scores, I may not be in DCPS. My heart was really set on helping the most disadvantaged students in DC. Moving to another school system won’t be so hard for me because of my age and lack of children who depend on my income and health insurance. However, I feel for teachers at my school who are older, sometimes parents, and either leaving DCPS or considering leaving. They have told me that it is really a leap of faith. I regret, though, having gotten my feet wet in DCPS then moving to the suburbs. The first two years are when teachers make the bulk of their mistakes. There’s a huge learning curve those two years. Now I may have to take all that knowledge gained at the expense of DCPS’ students to the ’burbs. I need to find this one teacher I thought was so terrible three years ago and apologize, because now I see.”


An Army, the Chairman, and a Messenger
Valencia Mohammed, Leo Alexander for Mayor Campaign,

Girl, was it hot at the Annual Caribbean Parade and Festival on June 26. Not only was it temperature hot but politically hot as well. Mayor Adrian Fenty, 38, outdid himself at the parade. What else would a young hip-hop gangsta-style mayor do with four million dollars to spend to campaign for his reelection? Fenty had the best Caribbean disc jockey on the east coast with the all the fixin’s — big band, hundreds of followers dressed in campaign attire, and thousands of giveaway items. The crowd went wild! Even Fenty’s enemies said he was a “beast.” Fenty stalled the parade by making sure that every spectator received a dose of his campaign before he paraded passed them.

Immediately following the mayor was Council Chairman Vincent Gray, 67, with yard signs, flags, and stickers everywhere. His volunteers seemed like an extension of Fenty’s massive display. As his followers danced to the sounds of the Fenty beat, Gray managed to give a somber wave to the crowd. “Is he okay,” people asked? Some began to laugh at the chairman. In a daring move, Carlos Gray on a Segway whizzed to the front of Fenty volunteers who were shouting, “Four more years.” In an attempt to redeem his father’s frail image, Carlos shouted, “It’s three more months for you, Fenty.” Undaunted by the threat, Fenty’s army kept the calypso beat and the party going.

Finally, Leo Alexander came with his small team of volunteers, using the traditional method of a huge truck dressed with banners and signs, loud speakers, the candidate, and volunteers on the ground speaking to District residents. “Vote for me and I promise to sign into law a system that will put Washingtonians back to work and get our jobs back from the illegal and undocumented workers that these elected officials have allowed to come here,” a recorded message played over and over. Many potential voters hidden in the majority crowd of tourists gave Leo a warm welcome. “Keep the faith, Leo. We know you are still in the race and have our support.” It was a great day for all three candidates. Too bad most of the crowd can’t vote for them.


The Politically Incorrect Candidate
Leo Alexander,

I am the politically incorrect candidate. Who else would be willing to go against the well-laid rules of politics and speak openly, directly and honestly about the issues facing our city and the bold, but achievable, plan for addressing them? I believe the people of the District of Columbia are ready for the truth and a sense of fairness from new leadership.

The current Fenty-Gray tax schedule requires those who make over $40,000 a year to be taxed at the same rate (8.5 percent) as someone making $40,000,000 a year . . . so their sense of fairness is that the working poor and the middle-class pay the most. Under my tax schedule, I will give a tax break to those making under $100,000 a year, while making a slight increase to those making over $150,000 a year. Career politicians wouldn’t dare openly discuss raising taxes during an election, but I believe in the adage that, to whom much is given, much is required.

The minimum business tax in the District is one hundred dollars a year and it’s been this way for thirty years. Roughly 25,000 of the 40,000 registered businesses pay only one hundred dollars a year to conduct their trade in the District of Columbia. In many instances, these businesses have mastered the art of showing losses to avoid local taxes. Under my administration, I plan to raise the minimum business tax to at least five hundred dollars a year. This would add an additional eleven to thirteen million dollars to our treasury. Again, career politicians wouldn’t dare touch this because of the potential political backlash. They would much rather campaign on promises to “not raise taxes,” and then increase every fine and fee on the books. This again hurts the people who are least able to afford it.

Last year, the District paid $140 million for leased office space. We are one of the few major cities in the country that doesn’t own its very own government complex. A study in the early 1990’s concluded that the District should build a government complex and get out of the business of leasing because it contributes to our annual deficit. None of our career politicians listened because of their relationships with the developers who contribute to their campaigns and benefit from agency placement in their properties. Under my administration, through a public-private partnership, I will build a mixed use government-commercial complex on District-owned land. Our annual savings will then be used to attack the root causes of generational poverty.

In fiscal year 2009, the cost of our safety net systems was one and a half billion dollars. Some of these monies went to unemployment compensation, but most of it went to providing services such as welfare, food stamps, health care, and housing assistance. My goal is to reduce the need for assistance by at least 10 percent every year. That equates to $150 million a year to fund a sincere investment in our human capital. We will then provide child care for those who qualify. We will set a goal of a 100 percent literate citizenry. We will provide adult continuing and vocational education. And, we will establish partnerships with trade unions for apprenticeship opportunities for DC Public School students, adults, and returned citizens (ex-cons).

Here’s the first of two more controversial political wedge issues that I have a plan to address — the impact undocumented workers (illegal aliens) have on our local labor force and affordable housing stock. Under my administration, jobs and housing will be protected for legal residents of our community only. The private sector’s current immoral and illegal practice of exploiting undocumented workers instead of paying a fair-living wage to Washingtonians will be abolished. Employers and landlords in the nation’s capital will be held to a new standard of good corporate citizenship through the mandatory use of E-verify and random audits by the Department of Employment Services and DC Regulatory Affairs. Employers and landlords who refuse to adopt this new standard will face stiff fines and possible jail time for repeat offenders. As much as it may pain some, our charity must begin with Washingtonians first.

Now here’s the second; In the District of Columbia we will take a closer look at the failed federal policy of the War on Drugs. We will conduct a cost/benefits analysis on other more progressive strategies in dealing with our chronic drug problems; like the Swiss model of intensive treatment for addicts and jail time for suppliers and traffickers of illegal drugs and guns. This is what we should know by now; we cannot continue to feed our nonviolent citizens into the prison industrial complex when drug treatment is the obvious solution. The drug war has proven to be too costly in lives lost, treasure wasted, and families devastated. The new focus of our police department will be to redirect first-time offenders through a new secured youth academy, to aggressively target hate crimes, and pursue violent criminals who nightly terrorize our communities.

Imagine our city where the residents are literate, trained, and employed. We build our tax base by moving people from dependency to self-sufficiency. We nurture and grow stable families by providing them with the tools necessary to restore their dignity, pride and self-respect. All of our children will then be on a pathway to achievement instead of some who are in a pipeline to prison. Strong families are the foundation of all safe, successful and culturally vibrant communities. This will once again be the reality for the District of Columbia.

On September 14, DC voters have a choice. We can either continue down the current track of special interest driven public service which maintains its power through the establishment’s two career politicians: the past (Gray) or the present (Fenty). Or, we can take a bold step to the future with the politically incorrect candidate, Leo Alexander. Together, we can build a foundation where everyone benefits, not just the special interest groups, the cronies, and the career politicians they own.



Mongolia’s First Lady at WNDC, June 29
Pat Bitondo,

Join Mongolian First Lady and children’s advocate Bolormaa Khajidsuren for a candid luncheon talk about the unique challenges facing women and children in Mongolia, twenty years after this landlocked, mineral-rich country held its first free elections, following decades as a Soviet satellite. Since her husband’s election as President in May 2009, the Soviet and US-educated first lady has notably launched a number of major national initiatives. In 2007 she was able to achieve her long cherished dream to help Mongolian children, deprived of parental care and love by establishing the “Bolor” charity fund, which offers the children, mentally, physically, and financially challenged, the very care, the love, the help, and of course, the heart they were deprived by misfortune. A mother of five, Ms. Bolormaa and her husband are also foster parents to some two dozen Mongolian orphans.

Mrs. Bolormaa Khajidsuren graduated from the Ukraine State University in Lvov in 1988 majoring in geochemistry. She worked as a mineralogical engineer at the Central Geological Laboratory of Mongolia for almost a decade until she established “Ankh-Erdene” private mineralogical research laboratory. Nevertheless, the First Lady sees Mongolia’s future not in minerals, but in humans, especially in prosperous and competitive children who can grow into warmhearted, educated adults.

This event is cosponsored by Asia Society. At the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, on Tuesday, June 29. Bar opens at 11:30 a.m., lunch at 12:15 p.m. Members $25, nonmembers $30. Register at or 232-7363.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, June 30
John Stokes,

June 30, 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m., Kenilworth Parkside Recreation Center, 1300 44th Street, NE. Rocket Blast for ages six through twelve. Youth will build, display, and launch model rockets. For more information, call James Battle at 355-5321.


DPW Online Chat, June 30
Kevin Twine,

Does nothing irk you more than seeing someone throw trash on the ground, sometimes just a few steps away from a litter can? Is your block a dumping ground for wrappers and cups due to your proximity to fast food restaurants? Are you concerned about a rise in graffiti in your neighborhood? Help discuss ways to combat litter and graffiti in your neighborhood by joining the Department of Public Work’s hour-long online chat Wednesday, June 30, at 12:00 p.m.

DPW staff who collect litter and remove graffiti will discuss daily efforts to keep the city clean and also address concerns about litter and graffiti “hot spot” areas. We also need your feedback on future online discussion topics!

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


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