themail.gif (3487 bytes)

August 11, 2010

Disappearing Republicans

Dear Partisans:

I’ve written frequently that this city suffers from being a one-party town. We’re so Democratic that the national Democratic party knows that it doesn’t have to do a thing for us to keep our loyalty, and the national Republican party knows that it we won’t reward it for anything it may do to curry our favor. The local Democratic party doesn’t have any serious competition for offices, so it lives up to Will Rogers joke from the 1930’s, “I’m not a member of an organized political party; I’m a Democrat.” The local Republican party doesn’t even try to compete with Democrats on any of the issues that distinguish the parties nationally — on social and economic issues, it’s indistinguishable from Democrats, and the motto of its candidates seems to be, “I’m not really a Republican, you know; I’m ashamed of what the Republican party stands for.” Thus, in an election year in which Republicans nationwide are unusually well motivated, excited, and eager to vote, the Republican Party in DC is enervated and listless.

But developments in this year’s mayor’s race are even stranger than that. It’s not unusual that no Republican is even running as a candidate for mayor; the party has frequently been too weak to recruit a full slate of candidates. But it is unusual that the DC Republican Committee has done everything it can, short of making a formal endorsement, to campaign for a Democratic candidate, Adrian Fenty. The Republican Committee has issued a series of press releases criticizing Fenty’s rival, Vincent Gray; when the Office of Campaign Finance essentially cleared Gray of one fundraising violation, in April the DC Republican Committee took it upon itself to appeal that decision to the Board of Elections and Ethics (; and this week the DC Republican Committee has filed another complaint with the OCF against the Gray campaign alleging campaign finance violations for advertisements that were purchased independently by a Gray supporter ( and


Speaking of campaign finance, the Fenty and Gray campaigns have filed their latest OCF reports. Write in and tell us what you see in them. What is included in the reports that you find interesting, and, more importantly, what, if anything, do you think hasn’t been reported that should have been? (To find the reports, go to the Office of Campaign Finance web site,, enter Filing Year, 2010; Filer Type, Principal Campaign Committee; Report Type, July 31st Report; and Registrant Name, either Fenty 2010 or Gray for Mayor.)

Gary Imhoff


August 12 BOEE Meeting
Dorothy Brizill,

On Thursday morning, August 12, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) will hold its required monthly meeting at 10:30 a.m. at 441 4th Street, NW (One Judiciary Square), Room 280N. This meeting is important: 1) it is currently the last scheduled meeting of the BOEE before the September primary; 2) there are many unresolved issues and concerns regarding the board’s preparation for the September primary; and 3) the meeting will be the first attended by Togo West, Mayor Fenty’s recent appointee to the BOEE, who doesn’t have any prior election experience.

It is critically important that citizens, organizations, and candidates attend the Thursday meeting to raise any concerns they may have (e.g., concerns resulting from the changes in election procedures mandated by the Omnibus election Reform Act of 2009) and ask the board how it intends to conduct an honest, fair, and well-managed election. The agenda for Thursday’s meeting specifically allows for “public matters” to be raised by citizens with the board. The agenda for the meeting is posted on the BOEE’s web site at

Here are some of the issues I believe should be raised with the BOEE: the operation of early voting centers; process and procedures for “same day” voter registration; recruitment and training of poll workers; mailing of new voter ID cards, the BOEE’s voters guide, and absentee ballots; the status of the 94,000 voters recently removed from the voter rolls; the operation of new voting machines and electronic poll books recently acquired by the BOEE; poll watchers and/or observers at early voting centers and at voting precincts; security in and around voting sites; voting at the DC jail and other correction facilities; information on the BOEE web site; and the use of PSA’s, the Board’s web site, and the media to inform voters.

Footnote: to date, Mayor Fenty has not signed an executive order designating the chairman of the BOEE. When Togo West was nominated by Mayor Fenty to replace BOEE chair Errol Arthur, it was widely believed that Fenty would name West to serve as the Board’s chair. Without a chairman, however, it is not clear whether Charles Lowery, who is now the senior member of the Board, or West will preside at tomorrow’s meeting.


Guardian Angels to the Rescue
Karl Jeremy,

This summer Metro trains have been crowded, filled with newspapers and other trash, and food and drink are openly consumed. Young District youth on their way home from summer employment are rowdy, loud, and their language is vulgar. It’s a challenge to get up and down the stationary escalators, and the stations are hot.

Jim Graham and Michael Brown, the two District Metro Board representatives, and Neil Albert, an officer of the board, are nowhere to be found because they drive everywhere and park their cars in dedicated spaces at the Wilson Building. As Metro Board members, it would show some leadership if these “leaders” were on the trains everyday so they experienced first hand the real state of public transportation in the District.

But never fear Jim, Michael, and Neil — the Guardian Angels are here! []


Obsessing Over DC’s Inner City Needs, Ignoring Its Capital City Role
Len Sullivan,

DC’s political campaigning is focusing only on its relatively intractable inner city crime, housing, and public education problems. DC’s unique but inescapable parallel role as the heart of our national capital metro area is being ignored. All US core cities must maintain efficient linkages with their rapidly growing suburbs, which provide most of each metro region’s prosperity and vitality. But with its smalltime DDoT, myopic urban planning, and ineffectual Metro Board presence, DC has clearly ignored its essential role in connecting our capital area and hosting our US capitol. It touts local gimmicks like empty bike lanes and street-clogging trolleys, but offers no robust programs to mitigate the traffic congestion that leads to inner city stagnation and blight.

Mature 20th (last) century technology has yet to be applied to regulating either the flow or parking of commercial and private vehicles on DC’s limited urban arteries and side streets. There are no incentives to encourage “green commuting,” or “smart curb use.” There are no firm plans (or even TARP funding) to expand/modernize Metro stations, trackage, or routing within the city to reflect urban growth and the obsolescence of its 1950’s hub-and-spoke design. DC has taken a lackluster back seat on the Metro Board: Graham’s impact was abysmal, Brown’s just as vapid. Metro’s ever-mounting backlog of overdue maintenance makes equally overdue modernization all the more improbable. Beyond ignoring major transportation planning, local pols also deter regional/federal cooperation with suicidal mantras like “keep those rich commuters out,” and “get those Feds off our backs.” Third World ranking, here we come.

One major reason why Congress should not grant statehood to DC is that DC can’t pass muster on responsible First World cityhood. DC’s next mayor should urge the next Congress to convert its insulting “oversight” from the several idiosyncratic House and Senate “dregs subcommittees” to a single Joint Committee of the Congress for the National Capital City. And that committee should include senior members of major Congressional committees, with a key task of working with DC to assure its future infrastructure development as the world’s premiere capital city.


Stop Playing Political Football with School System and Our Children’s Future
Kathryn Pearson-West,

It is easy to fire teachers and point fingers in a never-ending blame game. It is convenient and disingenuous (and cowardly, too) to hide behind an appraisal/performance evaluation system to do one’s dirty work and provide political cover in an election season. In typical DC political fashion, teachers are paraded out as the enemy of the schools, and a relentless attack and bashing occurs to gain the support of the public. The leadership is then able to rid the schools of lots of veteran teachers whose salaries take a significant bite out of the budget. The head of the schools is made out to be the savior of the schools and the teachers the foolish participants in musical chairs where there are no winners. One day you’re here, the next day you’re out as the chair is pulled from under you. It seems like the teachers were ushered out on a plank and pushed into a deep unforgiving sea with no possibility of return. This public action was designed to thwart any thoughts of mutiny by onlookers as well as to make the one at the helm appear to be tough, decisive, in command, and willing to do whatever is necessary to save the sinking ship and its cargo. But the ship is not sinking; it is the leadership that is in deep over its head.

With a new appraisal or performance evaluation system in place, one would think that it would first be tested as a pilot project to decipher any problems and to gain user acceptance first. Additionally, one would think that the system would be used as an initial guide to inform teachers what they need to do to improve if they got less than satisfactory or to reward with a form of praise those that have clearly met the established criteria. Then there should be time allowed to improve and perhaps additional resources provided to help support them move forward. Instead, they are shown the door in an elaborate undignified scheme to gain favor with voters. Anybody can fire people and pretend that everyone else is at fault and that the leadership is superior and on top of things. Constant positive praise and PR helps those leaders look good no matter what. You don’t need a manager to just fire people. You could fire everyone just to say you’ve done something and stand before the cameras in awe of your accomplishments. Any ambitious scheming Machiavellian-type person can do that. It takes real skill to manage less than perfect people.

There won’t be a problem getting new teachers in this recession, because so many people are looking for a job. Potential applicants for the schools have been scared straight by the demonstration of power by the city leadership and by the economy so they will be loyal and won’t buck the system. They know the talk to talk by reading the paper and will try to emulate the leader based on what they read and hear. They know that there are great protectors of young Rhee-ites and so they may shy away from using their own critical or creative thinking skills and walk the walk of the Rhee-ite clan. They know that whatever they do will be championed by the media and supported by the mayor and some councilmembers. Any teacher that does not conform will become the scapegoat in this election season. Any teacher that conforms and just happens to be in the wrong school will still be a scapegoat. However, that practice is becoming a little more difficult to finesse when most of the DC public schools are not meeting the average yearly progress (AYP) standards in one subject or another. Too bad leaders and the management at the top won’t fall on the proverbial sword for this lack of high achievement. All they have to do is turn a school over to private management and forget managing themselves. They become procurement officers instead of leaders of the schools. [Finished online at]

Teachers in the classroom need quality resources. They need small classrooms and they need support. They don’t need a hatchet person at the ready to chop their heads off. They don’t need all the negativity in the media. They don’t need anyone to talk down to them like they are nothing and incompetent. Teaching is one of the greatest professions in the world, and teachers lay the foundation for our doctors, engineers, and even politicians. And unfortunately there are some that can be pointed to for nonmotivational instruction that could not steer some of our young people in the right direction.

DC needs less controversial, provocative, and polarizing leadership. Imagine what could be accomplished if all the stakeholders were working together in the best interest of our young people and the future of our city. Our young people need to be made to feel safe, cared for, and welcomed in their schools, homes, and neighborhoods. There are some that need to know where their next meal is coming from and they need to know that their parents won’t succumb to drugs or the streets. There are some in families that are very dysfunctional and this phenomenon transcends income levels and neighborhoods. Some young people are facing problems that no adult should even endure. Beating up on teachers won’t make the schools shine and our kids learn. Some teachers will just try to teach to the test or beat the system some way. Our kids will lose out and won’t learn the critical and creative thinking skills. Our children and their future will be cheated — all in the name of politics. The leaders of the schools and city will move on or up and will take their bows for ridding the schools of teachers. New teachers will come in and face the same problems. But the teachers will have that fancy new contract to make them feel on top of the world and on target to riches and the political leaders will be able to tell tales of how they whipped the unions. And on will go the tale of two cities. Whatever the chancellor and the mayor have done (which is debatable) is lost because of all the acrimony and disregard for the stakeholders. No matter who becomes the new mayor, give DC a fresh start, a new beginning with a qualified chancellor/manager/superintendent that knows how to work with people, achieve excellence, and care enough to give our young people a chance in this global, competitive market. No one is expendable. There is someone out there that can make a difference and be cheered and supported by parents and the public at the same time. Sorry, but Michelle Rhee is a factor in this year’s election. Her name is right up there with the economy, the deficit, job creation, and yes, the marriage vote factor.


Those So-Called Housewives
Star Lawrence,

Good grief, people, what are you up to over there? The “Real Housewives of DC” is hideous. First, they don’t live in DC, except maybe the African-American Realtor. They wear satin for everyday (when is the last time you saw that?). That British one unwisely lets it be known her White House Photog hubs sends her photos on her phone. The Gate Crasher one seems, shall we say, unnaturally energetic. And the modeling agency that caters to ambassadors . . . would that be an escort service? OMG, I am never telling anyone I love DC again. Don’t make me come over there.


Taking Issue with Orange Shirts
Anthony Frederick, LiUNA! Local 657,

I have to say that I was disappointed that you did not bother to verify any of your facts before you decided to write about the Fenty supporters in the orange shirts. Laborers Local 657 (not 667), located at 5201 1st Place, NE, represents nearly two thousand construction workers and retirees who live in the District of Columbia. Our union was proud to be represented at the Ward 4 forum by forty-five members and their families, fifteen of whom were Ward 4 residents that were able to cast their ballot in the straw poll. The other twenty-nine members who attended live in Wards 5, 7, and 8 and were there to learn more about the issues so that they can be informed and active citizens. Only one orange shirt returned to Baltimore after the forum, a staff member whose daughter was scheduled to have surgery in the morning.

I don’t know how much you know, or care, about the life of construction workers, but they often get up at 5:00 a.m. to start work at 6:30. Laborers work hard to build your roads, your bridges, and your luxury high-rises. They perform some of the most dangerous work in construction, for the lowest wages. For these workers, 8:00 p.m. is not leaving early, it’s a late night. Knowing that many of Local 657 members had not only already worked eighty long hours in higher than 90 degree heat and humidity, but would need to get home and be up again in a few short hours, and that the forum and ballot count would continue for much longer, my staffer asked the members to leave the forum. With unemployment in construction nearing 20 percent, I applaud her decision to see that these members are not added to the ranks of the unemployed.

Laborers Local 657 is one of the most politically active unions in the District. We actively encourage our members to get educated and get engaged in the process. Our union, along with the Baltimore Washington Laborers District Council is proud to have endorsed Mayor Adrian Fenty’s reelection because we believe that, while not perfect, our city is better than ever before. With new partnerships to employ DC residents such as the one between DOES, Washington Interfaith Network, and the Laborers to train hundreds of DC residents for green jobs, we know that our city can be better still. Instead of just assuming to have the facts, I invite you to visit our Local and our Apprenticeship Program, where we are training the future of our city.

[Many of the orange-shirted LiUNA members and family members who attended the Ward 4 forum also attended the Ward 7 forum, and I also recognized several of the same faces on the film that I saw of the Ward 8 forum. At the Ward 7 forum, straw-poll workers approached several LiUNA members (or their family members) to ask them to vote, and they demurred, saying that they lived in Baltimore. This is a relatively transparent effort to pack the forums to give the appearance of greater public support. — Gary Imhoff]


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)