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July 7, 2010

Air Conditioning

Dear Conditioners:

We’re into our third 100-degree day in a row, so I have a favor to ask of you. Please do not, do not under any circumstances, pass on to Councilmembers Mary Cheh or Tommy Wells, or indeed to any councilmember, a copy of an article currently on the home page of, “‘Losing Our Cool’: The High Price of Staying Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed the American Landscape, Transformed Our Politics, and Is Endangering Our Health.” This article is an interview by Ryan Brown with Stan Cox, the author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer). Cox and Brown agree that air conditioning is bad for people’s health (people die from the heat only because they were made vulnerable by air conditioning), that it’s bad for the environment (air conditioning uses energy), and, worst of all, that it’s responsible for turning people into Republicans (you have to read the article to appreciate their reasoning), Brown and Cox agree that eventually, since there are very few people who would willingly do without air conditioning on their own, “government needs to intervene in the way we use air conditioning.” This is exactly the kind of cause that excites Cheh and Wells, and other councilmembers would take up the issue because it is promoted with “progressive” rhetoric. They probably have their staffs drafting legislation outlawing ”air conditioning pollution” already; they don’t need any encouragement from you.


On the other hand, all praise to Councilmembers Mendelson, Cheh, and Thomas for writing to Attorney General Peter Nickles on Tuesday, calling him to account for his unilateral and unjustifiable decision to pay $550,000 to the mayor’s cronies at Banneker Ventures to settle their frivolous claim against the DC government. The letter is brief, and deserves to be read in full: There are still people who claim not to see any evidence that the Parks and Recreation construction contracts were corruptly steered to the mayor’s buddies. A bit of friendly advice: if someone tells you he doesn’t see anything wrong with how the administration arranged that deal or how the AG paid off Banneker, you would be wise not to get into a business deal with him.

The four city council committees that are jointly investigating these contracts will hold a hearing on the Banneker settlement on Friday at 1:00 p.m. In the council chambers, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 500.


Thousands of veteran teachers have stayed in DC Public Schools for the past three years, even though they have had a hostile boss who despises them and denigrates them at every opportunity. Most of them have stayed for one reason: because they teach to help children and, to quote the motto of DCPS, “children first.” Chancellor Michelle Rhee, on the other hand, has said that if she can’t have the boss of her choice, if Washingtonians vote for Vincent Gray instead of Adrian Fenty, she’ll abandon the children of Washington. Her motto is “Rhee first.” The Fenty campaign’s latest press release, dictated on Tuesday to its stenographers on the Washington Post editorial board, applauds her for and justifies her selfishness — The Post should listen to its education reporters, who are much closer to the facts and less swayed by political prejudices. On Monday, Jay Matthews wrote that “Rhee should take herself out of DC mayor’s race,” Matthews is a Rhee fanboy, and thinks it would be a disaster to lose her as chancellor, but he recognizes that she is “the most unconventional and stress-inducing administrator ever put in charge of an important American school district.” On Today, Bill Turque considered seriously, as the editorial board did not, “Did Michelle Rhee Violate the Hatch Act?,”, and got the expected, purely neutral, legally based answer from Nickles, “No violation.” And on Tuesday, Valerie Strauss reprinted,, a wise assessment by the premier historian of American education, Diane Ravitch, outlining her alternate vision for how to improve education: “If I could succeed in getting the powerful in DC and in the foundation world to rethink their commitment to high-stakes testing, closing schools, and firing teachers; if I could persuade them that poverty does impair school achievement and that schools alone can’t close the many gaps that are rooted in income inequality; if I could get them to seek positive ways to help schools and strengthen the teaching profession, I would be happy indeed. Just to stop the beatings would be a great outcome.”

Gary Imhoff


Bowser’s Folly
Dorothy Brizill,

Today, on Wednesday, Councilmember Muriel Bowser’s Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs held a roundtable hearing on PR 18-971, “Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia Betty Anne Kane Chairperson Confirmation Resolution of 2010,” and PR 18-972, “Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia Betty Anne Kane Confirmation Resolution of 2010.” On Thursday, Bowser’s Committee will mark up the nomination so that Kane’s appointment can be fast-tracked and agendized for Tuesday’s final legislative meeting of the council prior to the summer recess.

Kane, a former at-large councilmember (1979-1990), is currently the chair of the utility-regulating Public Service Commission. Her term on the PSC expired June 30. Under DC law, she can continue to serve as a holdover for an additional 180 days. On June 15, Mayor Fenty renominated Kane for a new four-year term as chair of the PSC, but her nomination was not made public until June 25. Bowser held the confirmation hearing today, and made every effort not only not to inform the general public of the hearing, but also to mislead the public about it. The notice of the committee hearing was not posted on the council’s web site until yesterday, Tuesday, July 6. Moreover the incorrect resolution numbers were referenced on the council’s daily calendar page for July 7 (PR 18-791 rather than PR 18-971, and PR 18-792 rather than PR 18-972). As a result, the DC Consumer Utility Board, ANC Commissioners, civic associations, and civic leaders were unaware of the confirmation hearing’s having been scheduled.

Privately, Bowser and her staff have indicated that they intended to take every measure to avoid the situation that occurred in her Committee last fall, when Vicky Beasley’s nomination to serve as the People’s Counsel, replacing Betty Noel, was rejected by the council (themail, November 22, 2009). At that time, even though Bowser gave less than 48 hours notice of Beasley’s confirmation hearing, more than thirty witnesses showed up to testify, with the vast majority opposing the nomination. This time, Bowser’s and her staff’s decision to give less than 24 hours notice of Kane’s confirmation hearing resulted in only one public witness, a Kane supporter, showing up at today’s hearing.

In recent weeks, Mayor Fenty has nominated individuals to fill important positions on boards and commissions (e.g., the University of the District of Columbia Board of Trustees, the Contract Appeals Board, the Zoning Commission, the Board of Elections and Ethics, the Taxicab Commission, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the Rental Housing Commission, the Washington Convention and Sports Authority Board). Under District law, if the council does not vote to approve a nominee within ninety days of being appointed, the nomination is deemed disapproved without council action. However, the ninety-day clock stops when the council is on recess. Thus, since the council goes on recess on July 15 and returns in mid-September, following the primary election, there is no reason why the council needs to act in haste at this Tuesday’s legislative session to approve any of Mayor Fenty’s nominees.


An Interesting Item in the Post
Ronni Glaser,

I came across this interesting article in the Post Blog today. It will be even more interesting to wait and see if the Post actually assigns an investigative reporter to this matter to write an actual story. And if they do, it will be more interesting still to see how the story is handled: “Fenty Friend Fails Exams, Get License,”

This article from the Capitol Community News might be a good jumping off point for the Post if they were to do a story, The article is from April.


The District(s) of Calamity
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

This item was printed in News of the Weird on July 4 (

“Attorney General Peter Nickles ordered an investigation in June after learning that the city’s payroll office had, over a seven-year period, failed to remit the life-insurance premiums deducted from the paychecks of at least 1,400 employees. Already, one employee had been told that her policy had been canceled because of the unremitted premiums. (Until the investigation is finished, it is impossible to say which of the two usual explanations of chronic DC bureaucratic dysfunction — theft or “large-scale human error” — is applicable.) [Washington Post, 6-16-10]”


Wire in themail
Michael Bindner,

Whether Clyde Howard is correct or not about the currency of the federal wire ban [themail, July 4] depends on whether the provision banning overhead wire can still be found in the DC Code, which consolidated law between Georgetown, Uniontown, Washington County, and Federal City. That law might have been repealed — and if not, it easily can be (and likely will be) if it stands in the way. The big obstacle to the new trolleys will be DC’s coming financial crisis, not any obscure federal law.


We Hold These Truths
William Haskett,

But if it [the Declaration of Independence] is read as an argument that could be read in its context — that is, the rest of the actual document — it is clear that not one of the preamble’s terms could stand without the support of arguments not actually made in it. Reading the whole would puzzle rather than enlighten the present-day reader. American school children are said to have learned the document by heart in the rural nineteenth century in order to be able to recite it on July 4, and this is certainly heartening, but I thought the practice had gone out of fashion in our schools. Read it, certainly, but also consider how many self-contradictions it has invited in American history — and continues to do so, from the Supreme Court Justices on down.

It is curious, too, that Tom Paine’s contribution to the whole movement is not celebrated and studied in the same way.



Woman’s National Democratic Club Luncheon Discussion, July 13
Patricia Bitondo,

Broadcast journalists Sid Davis and Bill Sheehan have been leading a popular monthly discussion session at the Cosmos Club for some ten years. On July 13, they are bringing their special discussion format to the WNDC. We are calling the WNDC version “Washington Summer in Review.” The format they have developed depends heavily on audience participation. So come prepared to join in the debate on such issues as the upcoming fall elections, the gulf oil spill, the immigration debate, a new energy policy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or any other topic in the news you would like to discuss. Messrs. Davis and Sheehan have been closely associated with major events of the last several decades.

Mr. Davis was White House correspondent, then Washington Bureau chief for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company (1960-78) and a vice-president and Washington Bureau chief for NBC News (1978-82). He was one of three reporters to witness the swearing-in of President Johnson aboard Air Force One following the assassination of President Kennedy. In all, Mr. Davis covered or directed news coverage of nine presidents. He also spent seven years as program director of Voice of America. Mr. Sheehan worked for ABC News for twenty years, starting in 1960 — as national correspondent, foreign correspondent, vice president for television news, and president of the news division. He also served as senior counselor of the International Media Fund and was with NASA for five years after the Challenger accident as associate administrator for public affairs. Mr. Sheehan was also a board member of the Public Broadcasting System. The moderators will help guide the conversation. But if the session is to be lively and interesting, audience participation is essential. So come prepared to join in the discussion.

Tuesday, July 13. Bar opens at 11:30 a.m., lunch at 12:15 p.m., presentation and Q&A 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Price: members $25, nonmembers $30, lecture only (no lunch) $10. At the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. For more information, call 232-7363 or E-mail For reservations, go to


National Building Museum Events, July 16-17
Johanna Weber,

July 16 and 17, 8:00-9:00 p.m., garage/dances. Parking garages combine form with function. In this specially commissioned performance, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange brings out the motion and emotion inherent in an actual parking garage. Free; registration required. This program takes place at 1711 Florida Avenue, NW. Register for Friday, July 16 at; register for Saturday, July 17 at


Far Northeast Livability Study, July 17
Sylvia C. Brown,

If you’ve experienced speeding on East Capital Street, suffered through bottleneck back-ups at Nannie Helen Burroughs, Minnesota, and the Kenilworth Avenue Exchange, complained about cut-through traffic on Central Avenue, 49th, 46th, and 45th Streets, wondered about lack of sidewalk, curb, gutter, and alley installations on your block, the DC Department of Transportation wants your ideas and solutions to shape the Far Northeast Livability Plan.

On Saturday, July 17, at 10:00 a.m., neighbors and stakeholders will be at Friendship Collegiate Academy, Carter G. Woodson Campus, 4095 Minnesota Avenue, NE (across from Minnesota Avenue Metro (Orange)) to take a “big picture” look at our street network and identify concrete actions.

The focus of the Far Northeast Livability Study is the area in or near Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 7A, 7C, 7D and 7E bounded by Eastern Avenue to the north, Anacostia River to the west, East Capitol Street to the south, and Southern Avenue to the east. Add your concerns to the interactive map,, in advance of the meeting.


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