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September 8, 2010

Sparing You

Dear Spared Readers:

I got nothing. There’s plenty of news all around — new election polls; Fenty’s desperation move of asking Obama to endorse him, and then letting it be known he had asked without having the endorsement in hand; Ron Moten’s and Marion Barry’s “debate” on WTTG; Gray’s latest position paper (see all four of Gray’s position papers at; as far as I know, no other candidate has released any position papers during this election cycle, but let me know if there are any others) — but I don’t have anything particularly new or interesting to say about any of them. So I’ll spare you. Go read people who do have something to say; see them below.


The video of Attorney General Peter Nickles’ car at home in Great Falls continues to be hard to find. In the last issue, I noted that I’ve posted the video at, but some people have reported having trouble playing the FLV (Flash Video) version of the file, so I’ve also posted an AVI version at

Gary Imhoff


What’s the Matter with DC?
Rawn James, Jr.,

In his 2004 bestseller What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Thomas Frank used the Sunflower State to examine the nationwide phenomenon of working-class white Americans voting against their apparent economic interests. As their job security and earning power decreased, many of these voters became more reliably conservative. They voted against politicians who promised to strengthen worker protections and the socioeconomic safety net. Increasingly they staged protests against abortion and gay marriage. Since at least 1984, when Ronald Reagan came within a few thousand votes of winning every state in the Union, millions of blue collar voters have ignored Bill Clinton’s career-long exhortation that, “If you want to live like a Republican, vote for Democrats.”

If the prevailing political winds do not change direction between now and the September 14 Democratic primary, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty will be left wondering “What’s the matter with DC?” During his term as mayor, Fenty has distributed money for projects equally across the District’s eight wards. The Fenty campaign touts the mayor’s record of reducing homicides to the lowest rate in forty years, increasing student test scores and renovating parks across the city. Even many Fenty detractors agree that the District has continued to improve services during the mayor’s term. But in the polls Fenty lags behind his main challenger, DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray, and has lost nearly every ward straw poll to the 67- year-old challenger.

Washingtonians appear to be afflicted with the same malaise as Frank’s Kansas voters. What’s the matter in DC, however, is not a malaise at all but instead is the same condition affecting most voters in most elections anywhere: We vote emotionally. Campaigns are not staid affairs built on comparing metrics. Campaign events are called rallies for a reason. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, voters — ones on whom candidates can rely to vote — despise boredom. We become excited for or against something or someone. Emotions do not determine voters’ preferences, but how a voter feels about a candidate has much more to do with that voter’s vote than the mayor appears to realize.

In my Ward 4 Petworth neighborhood, Gray yard signs outnumber Fenty signs. Gray’s campaign appears to be gaining momentum rapidly. In interviews with reporters, many residents have expressed their eagerness to vote against a mayor whom they feel has distanced himself from them during his years in office. They want to, as one anonymously-funded anti-Fenty advertisement reads, “Slap That Brat.” Four years ago the opposite sentiment prevailed. Fenty won all 142 precincts in 2006 because voters liked him and trusted him to respond to their needs. Today enough of those same voters say otherwise that his reelection has been cast into doubt. Confronted with these facts, one Fenty supporter quipped to a reporter that the election “is not a popularity contest.” She is right: this is a race to determine the direction of the nation’s capital, and the mayor has turned it into an unpopularity contest.


Where Is Child Support in DC?
Natiia S. Moten,

For almost four years now, I have been trying to receive child support for my daughter. The first time I submitted an application, there was no response for an entire year. After completing another application and mailing it certified, I received a letter stating that my case would be closed because of noncompliance. That was almost three years ago, and despite countless phone calls and E-mails to Child Support Enforcement, Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, Mayor Fenty’s office, and Councilman Gray’s office, nothing has happened! Nothing is more frustrating than no one being able to assist me. Where do I go? Who do I turn to?


Legal Residence
Lars H. Hydle,

I think it is OK for DC to have laws, regulations, or even executive branch policy requiring appointees to live in the District, provided that it can be enforced effectively.

But if an appointee has a formal residence in DC, but actually lives in the suburbs, I do not really object as long as the appointee pays income tax to the District of Columbia, not the suburban jurisdiction, as if he/she were in fact a bona fide DC resident.


Residency Requirements
Ronni Glaser,

For me, the residency requirement is simple. If you live in the community you serve you will be more likely to be personally invested in its success, viability, and welfare. Do I think that being a DC resident will make Peter Nickles a better attorney? No. Do I think that being a DC resident will make Peter Nickels more invested in the welfare of DC residents? I would certainly hope so. At any rate, as a DC resident I want the person who is tasked with representing me and my city to be a resident just like me.


Does Each DCPS School Have Its Own Educational Philosophy?
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

Although there is no K in any of my names, these days I feel like K, Franz Kafka’s baffled everyman standing “before the law,” trying to make sense of its impenetrable logic designed to create confusion before the raw exercise of power. The letter from DCPS Instructional Superintendent John Davis that ordered my involuntary transfer from Wilson H.S. to Phelps ACE H.S. gave as a reason, “significant educational philosophy differences between you and the Wilson administration,”

The three examples he gave were “admission and participation of students in Advanced Placement courses, providing multiple learning styles in a lesson and student expectations, especially as it relates to test taking.” Each one is a problem for teachers seeking to maximize student learning. More importantly, however, he is saying that each principal has an educational philosophy that he or she can mandate that is different from the philosophy of DCPS or the chancellor. It also implies that the principal can unilaterally mandate a philosophy without discussion or input from the LSRT. During my June 21 meeting with Mr. Davis (witnessed and memorialized:, his view of teachers, collaborative LSRT process, and the fundamental concept in a democracy of signing a document — or refusing to sign a document — came through: “There was a great deal of difference between the two of you when the School Improvement Plan was discussed.” And: “You differ vastly with Mr. Cahall on a lot of topics, so much so that you refused to sign the Local School Plan. You objected to the metrics that were suggested.” When business is conducted by the Local School Restructuring Team (LSRT), all members meet as equals. The LSRT Guidebook, which derives its authority from the DCPS-WTU Agreement (contract) is responsible for drafting the School Improvement Plan — as equals. Under the rules of consensus, as described in the LSRT Guidebook, completion of the school plan requires, at a minimum, the signatures of the LSRT chairperson, the Building Representative and a parent (if the LSRT chairperson is other than a parent).

If a principal submits the plan without the required signatures, especially those of the building representative and the parent, the Plan is more easily subject to challenge. Under the consensus definition, agreeing to sign the plan does not imply enthusiastic agreement. Thus, failure to achieve consensus requires strong disagreement. Based on the objections of the teachers in the professional development meeting in January, I refused to sign the plan and sent a list of objections to the chancellor. I objected to the goal of participation only in AP courses and the absence of any goal to improve AP test performance. In my last LSRT meeting as Wilson HS building representative on August 8 (I was previously reelected without opposition for 2010-11), I restated the same objection: with all the emphasis on “achievement” on DC CAS, how can Wilson High School not make improved achievement or performance a key goal?

Well, I now know the answer, an answer that comes from high schools around the city, long associated with achievement, including School Without Walls, McKinley, and Wilson, is that all are under pressure to increase enrollment with no regard for students’ readiness, interest, or achievement. Even SAT results are being de-emphasized. The only “achievement” that now counts in the high schools is DC CAS, whose results are of no interest to college admissions committees.

[Martel’s reassignment from Wilson High School has now been covered by Channel 9, — Gary Imhoff]


Regulation and Law and Their Financial Consequences
William Haskett,

I think it is fair to say that the lives of the citizens of the District of Columbia are more nearly affected by the everyday procedures of “administrative regulation” (aided of course by unwise law) than by the generalities of “politics” at any level. This is particularly obvious in the interstices of the universal object, the private car, and the regulations governing its permitted movements. I had reason to think about this lately myself. On one of my most usual use of diversions to reach Mount Rainier via Gallatin and Eastern Avenues, NE, to avoid the traffic on South Dakota Avenue, I am charged with going through one of its numerous stop-signs (there are five in less than one mile).

But the simple violation notice is accompanied by three others, each with its own financial consequence. Two of these have none but a passing relationship to the original charge, but refer to a piece of legislation of which I have never heard, and pose disastrous gaps between formal evidence and actual and real documentation. The law in question relates to the requirement that I carry in the glove compartment of my car a current insurance card from my insurer. Whether I actually have current insurance has slipped into the background. Its real existence does not matter. What counts is simply whether I can, at need, produce a small piece of paper from my insurer, which I am told is the current state of law in the District.

When I returned from England recently, I discovered that the registration of the car had expired on August 16, 2010, and I was required by new regulation (as of July) to renew it on the Internet, which I had done. I therefore have a temporary registration, issued by DMV and in their files, along with the fact that my insurance on the car was both valid and current until March 2011. This fact is presumably inscribed in DMV’s files, along with a large number of other things that are easily accessible from the computers that are now almost universal in police cars, and easily pulled up by the officer. Instead, I was charged with failing to produce the card for the present period, and also with driving without valid insurance. This, despite the fact of the recent registration which has as one of its explicit requirements that I give DMV the details of my perfectly valid insurance policy, confirmed by GEICO with copies of the cards for 2010 (up to September 23) and for 2011 (expiring on March 23, 2011). I had given most of this information to the officer at the scene.

The total of possible costs for the four citations was (and is) $700.00. The moral of the story is the following: do not assume, in any particular circumstances, that common sense and the rules of reality will prevail against established administrative procedure. Do not assume that the apparently easy communication or transfer of information (even within a single agency, such as DMV.) will occur. Do not expect that the distinction of “law” and “regulation” will apply to any particular action or transaction. “Ignorance of the law is no defense.” Expect to find the assumptions of everyday common sense are sidestepped or avoided in the name of administrative self-sufficiency whenever it is inconvenient for agencies to do so.


My Two Cents’ Worth
Harold Foster, Petworth,

In “Marathon Man.” William DeVane tells Laurence Olivier: “What you give us is valuable, but it is not worth the chaos that you cause.” That about sums up my support for Vincent Gray. Are “the numbers” the mayor relies on to make his case worth the community chaos they cause? By my “Five Publics” report card progress under Fenty has been geographically uneven and problematic in the long-term.

Public Education: Incomplete. The Michelle Rhee soap opera aside, the question is: how many children benefit that do not benefit from any other reforms tried in DCPS?

Public Finance: D. Gray is right to question the fund balance drawdown.

Public Health: D. Even Fenty admits this city is about as ‘sick’ as it was when he took over. And, anyway, Fenty’s sniping about the Dixon-Pratt administration aside, no one quarrels with Gray’s credentials as a public health authority, particularly on at-risk youth.

Public Safety: B-. Gray should to keep Chief Lanier, who I confess I thought would be a major Fenty disaster.

Public Transportation and Public Works: incomplete. As a professional transportation planner, this is one public policy area where I can work my own side of the street. Most (most, mind you) of the Fenty infrastructure initiatives are a good start. But they are neither comprehensive nor geographically targeted enough to benefit the neighborhoods that need them the most.

Public transportation, as a vehicle for community development and revitalization, has to be very carefully and very precisely targeted to truly renovate a neighborhood without triggering the very “gentri-placement” (gentrification + displacement: get it?) that has prompted so many longer-serving DC residents to oppose the direction Fenty is taking large parts of the city. Of those Fenty initiatives in this area, Gray needs to expand or press ahead with one or two (especially the streetcar program), redirect most of the others (especially those that might help revitalize DC east of the park), and put one or two on hold until he has completed his promised Comprehensive Strategic Economic Development Plan.

At the end of the day, we should all be clear about one thing. The city is taking a chance whether it elects Vincent Gray or reelects Adrian Fenty. On the rather safe assumption that he really won’t change his municipal administrative style, Adrian Fenty runs a serious risk of polarizing the debate over the future of this city sufficiently to require an entire succeeding mayoral administration to do almost nothing but try to clean the racial\class mess up. Vincent Gray, on the other hand, really might prove a tad too collegiate and too deliberate — or too deliberative, which is not quite the same thing — to continue the Fenty initiatives that merit continuation and to redirect the city in those areas where Fenty is off-base. Maynard Jackson got it right when he said that a mayor (or a governor or even the president, for that matter) has about nine months to a year to make “his really major moves,” and a further year-odd after that to follow up those major moves. “After that,” Jackson said, “everything else will be mostly damage control.” As an urban planner with 36 years in the profession, and, above all, as a third-generation Washingtonian, I judge all those major municipal initiatives by a simple rule: would they make it more or less possible for my mother to live comfortably in this town on her federal government retirement?

In Fenty’s case, the answer to that question in too many areas (and yes: I include public education here) is—well, has become—no. In Gray’s case the answer must necessarily be: let’s see. I am will to see. I am opting for “major moves” that engender a little less chaos and a little more geographical and socio-economic equity, even if the price is somewhat less impressive “numbers.”


Guilt Or Innocence?
Alvin C. Frost,

Political campaigns almost always involve each candidate accusing other candidates of having friends of questionable virtue or character, of being defensive about, or avoiding, discussing their past experience, or just plain acting as though they are guilty of something, or the other. Of course, each candidate would have you believe that any mistakes that they might have made were minor, unintentional, and, certainly, eligible for forgiveness. The truth always lies somewhere in between. So, will the real candidate actually expose themselves completely to the electorate, either before the election, or after, whether they win the election or not? How is a voter to discover who the real candidate is, in order to mitigate the damage of making a mistake? There are three approaches to evaluating the candidates promises: 1) guilt by association, 2) consciousness of guilt, and 3) guilt or innocence.

“Guilt by association” is a claim intended to tar the reputation and character of your opponent by tying them to unsavory characters, such as: 1) current or former elected officials; 2) ex-felons; 3) local businessmen, 4) media outlets who endorsed their opponent, and/or 5) certain populations or sectors of the city. This is sometimes effective, but almost always worthless, given that our elected officials are required to deal with the entire city and all of its residents. If he, or she, actually believes in their allegations against other candidates, then they could only represent their favored population or certain city sectors, exactly the same thing that they are accusing their opponent of. An example would be a church that discourages apparent sinners, ladies of the night, pimps, hustlers, the homeless, the poor, and disabled from attending the church, especially if they are dirty and smelly. You would think that sinners would be welcome, as they need the greatest forgiveness, support, and guidance. Isn’t that what you would expect, and hope, that a church would try to do?

“Consciousness of guilt” is a term that is often used in the criminal justice system to describe actions or words that attempt to disassociate one from a crime or misdeed, even before they have been accused. A probative example would be when one candidate is asked why DC voters should vote for them, and then their almost instant response is to attack their main opponent. I have said before that District voters should compare a mayoral candidate’s ideas, skills, character and experience in deciding which candidate to support, volunteer, and to vote for. The more that a candidate appears to distance himself from his own staff, his own decisions, and even himself, the more that you should ask yourself whether that candidate is giving a vote of confidence in himself, or attempting to develop an alibi before the fact. The more that a candidate asserts that he wasn’t there, he didn’t do it, and that someone else is responsible, then you have to allow the possibility that maybe he was there, maybe he did do it, and maybe that he was responsible.

The legal concept of criminal guilt or innocence is based upon the requirement that to find a defendant guilty of the crimes as charged, is that a jury unanimously finds that the defendant is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” It does not mean that no doubt exists as to the accused’s guilt, but only that no reasonable is possible from the evidence presented. In civil litigation, the standard of proof is either proof by a “preponderance of the evidence” or proof by “clear and convincing evidence.” “Probable cause” is the standard used by a grand jury to determine whether to indict a person, and requires that a reasonable belief exists that a person has committed a crime. The electorate does not have sufficient evidence of any candidate, nor is it in the position to do so, to address sufficient evidentiary material to either indict, or convict, any of the mayoral candidates on the allegation made by their opponents.

Because of the lack of perfect information, we are, therefore, forced to substitute our own individual judgment and opinions, based upon campaign promises, allegations, innuendo, supposed guilt by association, and apparent consciousness of guilt indicators to decide who to vote for to be the next DC mayor. Neither of the main mayoral candidates appears to be an unindicted criminal or a choir boy. Given that fact, which candidate appears to be more trustworthy.

Another approach would be to look at their early years, when they formed their major personality, character traits, and skills. The evidence would be found in how well they did on their report cards, whether they attended Sunday School, whether they play well with the other kids, the number and quality of lifelong friendships, community involvement, professional success, etc. Adults normally follow in the footsteps of their early years, and that is also indicated by the support, guidance, and direction that they received from their families and communities. If you want to really understand the mayoral candidates, then carefully search their early years. You’ll find the true candidate by what you discover there. Once you do, you’ll then know exactly whom to trust and believe in, and who to vote for. I guarantee it, and you can take that to the election booth.


Where’s the Money?
David Schwartzman, At-Large Statehood-Green Council Candidate,

In this election season, we commonly hear candidates promise to fund programs such as affordable housing and child care, which are seriously underfunded in the FY2011 budget. But rarely do we hear specifics on where the money will come from, aside from the usual references to cutting government waste. Despite these continual promises every election, once in office our politicians continue to fail to curb the hemorrhaging of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to corporate welfare.

So where’s the money for tax relief for working people and the elderly and for a more just budget serving you? Here is where we can get it: make millionaires pay their fair share! With my progressive tax plan a family making forty-five thousand dollars would pay a thousand dollars less in DC taxes a year; a modest tax hike for the top 5 percent income bracket would generate more than a hundred million dollars additional revenue a year to better fund essential programs in our budget. All such additional revenue should be targeted to essential programs that fund truly affordable housing, child care, adult education, and not go into the general fund with the chance of becoming new corporate welfare candy for big developers. Although Graham’s budget amendment for a very modest tax hike for those making over five hundred thousand dollars was defeated in an eight to five vote, momentum is building for a progressive tax approach. Lets make it happen.

(For my DC Tax & Revenue plan and DC tax burdens, please go to

Of course, we will hear the oft-repeated objection by David Catania, and other protectors of our regressive tax structure and growing income inequality, that even modest tax hikes on our wealthy residents would drive them out of the District, thereby reducing our tax base. However this argument ignores the fact that the wealthy have been steadily moving into the District in the last two decades, despite the lower tax rates of suburban Virginia (Maryland had until recently a lower tax rate for the top 5 percent income bracket, but now it is about 1 percent higher than DC). In the last twenty years, DC taxpayers in the greater than one hundred thousand dollar bracket increased in number from twelve thousand to over forty-eight thousand (in 2007). In 2007, the year with the most recent data, DC taxpayers with incomes over two hundred thousand dollars had a taxable income of $8.8 billion (IRS statistics). Ten states have now hiked the top income tax rate for the wealthy. Lets apply locally President Obama’s promised tax hike for the top bracket for federal income tax (and don’t hold your breathe waiting for our sleuth Republican David Catania to deliver tax justice).

It is highly misleading to argue that wealthy DC residents will leave the District if they are required to pay slightly higher rates, given the advantages of living here, namely lower commuting costs and especially time, cultural opportunities, etc. A recent study by the Center for Neighborhood Technology found that transportation costs for an average Washington household average twelve thousand dollars per year (Washington Post, March 24, 2010, B4). Further, the thirty-one hours of congested traffic per week on the Capital Beltway alone would discourage most wealthy District residents from considering moving to the suburbs (Washington Post, January 21, 2010, B1). Who will buy their high-priced homes if they move? And as a further step to help prevent a small fraction from moving as well as to fully capture the income tax owed by cheaters who pretend not to be DC residents, the council should seriously consider hiking the property tax for homes of so-called non-residents. Reducing the income gap and “misery index” in the District would benefit the wealthy as well as everyone else by reducing crime, stimulating our local economy, and reducing class/racial polarization.

Once the tax structure is made progressive, tax rates for all residents can be lowered once the District government is forced to stop the hemorrhaging of our revenue to big developers and other corporate interests. These giveaways now include about one hundred fifty million dollars per year in rent going to private facilities for municipal business instead of using renovated public space (over one billion dollars for the last eight years!) and fifty million dollars for renovating seating for the VIPs at the Verizon Center.)

Public Property for Public use first. Tax exemptions and abatements for the corporate sector must be fully transparent and yield real community benefit with take-back if they don’t deliver. Stop taxpayer- funded subsidies for economic development serving no one but the profiteers. No more cronyism in public contracts. Our municipal government should aggressively press for more federal funding and spend it before it is taken back (for example, $4.6 million in job training). And make sure full reimbursements are collected (e.g., Medicaid). There are even federal dollars available such as funding for low income residents who need transportation subsidies, but our District government has not applied for them! Our mayor and city council should lead a campaign to get PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) from the World Bank/IMF, Fannie Mae and other tax-exempt institutions who should contribute hundreds of millions just like in other cities.

And finally, if elected, I will work to establish a DC Municipal Bank to leverage our tax revenue and fines into green economic development and affordable housing instead of giving our taxpayers’ money to Wall Street to invest. The Bank of North Dakota, the only state-owned bank in the US, is the envy of Wall Street, while creating low cost credit for its citizens.


Trash Talk
John Hanrahan,

On August 3, the District of Columbia government cashed my $225 check — eighty-one days after the Office of Administrative Hearings received it. I was not surprised by the delay, even coming as it did at a time when the fiscally challenged District government should be concerned about depositing every check it receives as quickly as possibly. (I’m wondering if other readers have had similar experiences?)

The reason I was not surprised by the delay in cashing my check was that this was just the final chapter in a case of a minor trash infraction ticket (three pieces of my junk mail found and photographed by a diligent Department of Public Works inspector in the debris of my neighbor’s overturned trash can) that took more than two years for an administrative judge in the Office of Administrative Hearings to resolve. Yep, two years.

My big mistake was in appealing the original $75 ticket that eventually transformed itself into a $225 wallet-busting verdict against me. What was I thinking? I don’t want to bore readers with the details of the case, but essentially one of my key arguments boiled down to this: the offending overturned trash receptacle was not mine. Why would I throw three pieces of my junk mail into my neighbor’s trash can when I had my own perfectly good trash can ten feet away, across the alley? In fact, the address cited for the violation on the ticket I received was a neighbor’s address, not mine. I was determined to appeal and expected the matter to be resolved within weeks, one way or another. Whether you believe I was guilty or innocent is irrelevant; the two-year delay in reaching a decision in my case, my being denied my “day in court,” and the eighty-one-day delay in cashing my check should be of concern to citizens expecting a certain level of performance and responsiveness from their local government.

A brief chronology: the date of the alleged offense of “improperly storing solid waste” — March 20, 2008; the date of the notice of violation sent to me by certified mail by the DPW inspector — March 27, 2008; the date I filed — in-person — with the Office of Administrative Hearings my request for a hearing, along with a three-page defense to the trash charge and my own pictures I had taken of the “crime scene” to counteract the inspector’s pictures — April 9, 2008; the date on which I received a notice of an administrative hearing on my case — never; the date on which I called the Office of Administrative Hearings, after receiving no notice of a hearing date, to ask when the hearing was to be scheduled — May 30, 2008.

And here is where it all gets very amusing. Me: When is my hearing? Clerk: Your hearing was on May 3. You didn’t show up. Me: I didn’t know about the hearing. How could I be there? Clerk: We sent you a letter. Me: I didn’t receive it. Clerk: I sent it. Me: I didn’t get it. Was it sent certified (like the original notice of the alleged infraction). Clerk: No, regular mail. Me. I didn’t get it. Etc. (I would note here that every piece of important mail I have ever been expecting at my current address for the last thirty-seven years, courtesy of the US Postal Service, has always arrived at my house. Tax assessment notices. Utility bills . Mortgage payment notices. Life, car, and health insurance premium notices. Credit card bills. Jury duty notices. Late parking ticket notices.)

I explained to the clerk that I would not have spent hours taking pictures, examining my alley’s trash situation, and compiling a statement of defense and delivering my appeal in person to the clerk’s office — and then not show up for a hearing if I had actually known there was to be a hearing. What can I do, I asked? She suggested writing a letter to the administrative judge requesting a hearing and explaining the circumstances. The circumstances being, of course, that I didn’t receive notice of the hearing, I said. We sent it, she responded. Oh, well.

As soon as I was off the phone, I drafted a letter to the administrative judge and hand-delivered it that same day to the clerk’s office. In that letter, I explained the circumstances of why I had missed the hearing — I had received no notice of it — and asked for a new hearing date. Weeks went by. I called to the clerk’s office to inquire whether there was any new word on my case. Nope. More weeks went by. I checked in again. And again and again. And again. Nothing. (Each time I checked in, the same or a different clerk dutifully noted that the record showed that I had failed to show for the hearing; I dutifully noted in return that I had never received notice of the hearing.)

Finally, sometime around November 2009 — twenty months after the date of the original offense — I called and asked the question again. No word. Is there some sort of statute of limitations on these minor trash cases, I asked the clerk? No, she said. Could I write the judge again and ask whether I was going to get a new hearing date or whether there could be some resolution to this case soon because it nagged at me that it was dragging on over such a trivial matter? After all, this case did not involve some arcane point of law that required extensive research — we’re talking about three measly pieces of junk mail found in my neighbor’s spilled trash that linked me to the crime scene. No, she said, that would be a prohibited ex parte communication. (Why my May 30, 2008, letter to the judge was not ex parte and just as prohibited, I don’t know.) Well, would you make an inquiry with the judge for me as to whether I will get a hearing or why this simple case is taking so long, I asked? You guessed it: No.

I got tired of calling the clerk’s office and getting the same brush-off, so I think that may have been the last or next to last call I made to that office. March 20 of this year came and went, and I wished my case a very happy second birthday. Then, finally, in early May of this year I received the administrative judge’s decision in a ruling stamped April 30, 2010 — some 25-plus months after the date of the original alleged offense.

After all this time, the judge’s five-page decision held that I was guilty, that I hadn’t shown up for the hearing (for which she determined from the clerk’s office representation that I had received notice), and that I had not explained why I didn’t show up (hadn’t she read any of my documents?). As for my request for a new hearing date, the judge concluded that: “The evidence of record does not show the Respondent [me] did not receive the hearing notice. . . .” How one goes about proving that one didn’t receive a letter is shrouded in mystery: perhaps an affidavit from my mail carrier at the time that she didn’t recall delivering such a letter to me? Yeah, sure. Perhaps a Wikileaks-style mole within the clerk’s office saying he or she checked the office’s computer system and files and found no such letter had gone out to me? And couldn’t this judge just as logically have concluded that the clerk’s office, too, had offered no proof that I had received the letter since it was not certified — leaving it my word versus the clerk’s word?

The kicker: On top of my original $75 fine, the judge determined I was to pay an additional $150 penalty “for failure to appear at the hearing.” Furious and amused at the same time, I wrote out my $225 check and mailed it on May 11 via certified mail. According to the return card I received, my letter was signed for in the Office of Administrative Hearings on May 14. When my bank statement for May arrived, I noted that my check was still uncashed. Now, having already experienced the administrative hearings office’s interminable and unexplained delays, I began checking every few days with my bank’s automated system to see if the check had cleared yet. June passed into July and July into August. By now, having been burned once by that office over whether or not mail had been delivered, I anticipated that I would soon get a notice doubling my $225 fine (plus penalties) because I hadn’t paid that on time. (This time, I had them, though, with my proof of delivery and a copy of the check I sent them.) What was taking them so long to deposit my check? Finally, on August 3, the check was reported cashed by my bank.

My advice to anyone receiving a similar ticket for a minor infraction: Swear a lot, cut your losses and pay it even if you believe yourself to be innocent. Or, if you do challenge it, make sure you check with the clerk’s office on a daily basis to get a hearing date. And send everything by certified mail, or better yet hand deliver it and get a receipt.



DPR Doggie Day Swim, September 11
John A. Stokes,

The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will host its second annual DPR Doggie Day Swim on Saturday, September 11, from 12 noon to 4:00 p.m. at the Upshur Pool, 4300 Arkansas Avenue, NW, and Banneker Pool, 2500 Georgia Avenue, NW. With the end of the outdoor swimming season, this annual event provides dogs with a one-day opportunity to enjoy a swim and play games.

Admission is free to DC residents and their dogs. Attendance the day of the event will be based on capacity at the time of arrival. During the Doggie Day Swim, there will be limits to the number of dogs in the pool area at one time; 75 dogs at Upshur Pool, and 150 dogs at Banneker Pool.

Dog handlers must be sixteen years of age or older, and cannot swim or enter the pool with their dogs. Dogs must be sociable and remain leashed while on the pool deck. All dogs must wear current DC dog license, vaccination tags, or have a current rabies certificate or letter from their veterinarian stating that they have received necessary shots in order to gain entry to the event.

The DC Department of Health (DOH) will be on hand to monitor the health and safety of the pets and their owners. They will also provide outreach and education regarding pet vaccinations, dog licenses, and dog park licenses.


9/11 Commemorated with Poetry at Library, September 11
George Williams,

The DC Public Library remembers 9/11 with “Poems to Heal and Honor a Nation,” on Saturday, September 11 featuring the poetry ensemble, “Collective Voices.” Known for socially conscious messages of empowerment and inspiration, “Collective Voices” is composed of J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford, Andre “Brenardo” Taylor, and Sylvia Dianne “Ladi Di” Beverly. Musical accompaniment will be provided by Doc Powell, Sydney March, James “Curly” Robinson, and baritone Jason Okera Keene. This program will feature the “9-1-1 Trilogy: Sacred Messages of Healing,” a performance piece honoring those who lost their lives and supporting those who lost loved ones to the terror attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. Ms. Terri Allen, cofounder of the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts, will serve as mistress of ceremonies. Saturday, September 11, 1:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library Black Studies Center, 901 G Street, NW. For more information, call 727-1211.


Egg Drop Workshop, September 12
Johanna Weber,

September 12, 10:00-11:30 a.m., Egg drop workshop. Design your own structure that will protect an egg from a fall from the Museum’s second floor balcony! Families can experiment with engineering and architecture to make the perfect structural design. This program is offered as part of AIA|DC’s Architecture Week. $7 per child of members; $10 per child of non-members. Ages seven and up. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


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