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September 15, 2010

No Crowing

Dear Voters:

I don’t have to eat crow as a result of my assumption in the last issue of themail that Mayor Fenty would lose his bid for reelection. But I’m not crowing, either. It was obvious that Fenty was losing. It should have been obvious to everyone, but it wasn’t obvious to Fenty himself. Fenty’s inability to adjust his campaign to confront his problems has puzzled Dorothy and me for months, and we have discussed it often without coming to a conclusion, other than that Fenty must have been relying on his massive campaign war chest and the support of the Washington Post to win the election.

Nikita Stewart’s and Paul Schwartzman’s article, “How Adrian Fenty Lost His Reelection Bid for DC Mayor,”, provides a useful behind-the-scenes look at Fenty’s campaign. It pictures a man who managed his own reelection campaign and refused to listen to his advisors’ advice, who didn’t believe it when they told him that significant numbers of voters had turned against him because of his own actions. Manuel Roig-Franzia’s profile of Michelle Fenty a few days ago,, contained a passage that was unbelievable at the time: “Fenty says she and her husband were ‘shocked’ by polling that showed voters doubted his willingness to listen and his ability to understand their problems. Before seeing poll results, she says, they had an inkling of his perception problems, but ‘we didn't know the scale of it.’

“‘We're in this box. We're surrounded by people in the box,’ she says, pausing with chopsticks in hand over a salmon roll. ‘The perceptions are hard to understand because we don't know the people who have the perceptions.’” This passage seemed unbelievable because it was so hard to believe that the Fentys could have constructed such an airtight, secure box around them, a box in which they don’t even know people who don’t share their perceptions about themselves. But Stewart’s and Schwartzman’s article confirm Michelle Fenty’s testimony. The problem with Fenty’s campaign wasn’t just that Fenty wasn’t listening to voters; the problem was that he couldn’t even hear them.


At a lunch meeting today, someone asked, “What can Vincent Gray do to reassure voters who strongly support Michelle Rhee that the schools will progress under his administration?” I had four thoughts, not all of which occurred to me during the meeting.

First, Gray needs to remind Rhee supporters that the physical improvements in school buildings have resulted from the work of Alan Lew, who led the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization. Before 2007, the superintendent of schools was responsible for building, renovating, and maintaining school facilities; now that is a completely separate operation, and Rhee doesn’t deserve the credit. Unlike Rhee, Lew hasn’t politicized his operations; he didn’t signal a preference for either mayoral candidate and didn’t threaten to leave if his favorite candidate weren’t elected.

Second, Gray needs to remind voters that academic progress, as measured by test scores, didn’t start with the mayoral takeover of the school system or with Michelle Rhee; it started under the Board of Education and their appointment of Superintendent Clifford Janey. Third, Gray needs to give up on convincing voters who have bought into Rhee’s rhetoric that teachers, especially experienced teachers, are the enemies of their children’s education. These are the people who assumed the incompetence of teachers and were thrilled by Rhee’s mass firings of teachers; they will not be reconciled to any successor to Rhee who treats teachers with respect.

Fourth, Gray needs to remind voters that Fenty and he have been on essentially the same page with regard to schools. As I have written repeatedly, Fenty and Gray differ substantively on few issues, and they agree on the mayoral takeover of schools. I think it’s a bad idea to put big-city mayors in charge of school systems, and I think it’s a fad that will last only twenty or thirty years, with a gradual return to putting democratically elected school boards back in charge of running children’s education. But Fenty and Gray agreed. Unfortunately, I believe Gray when he says we won’t see a new direction in public education under him. I can only hope that I can believe him when he also says he’s determined that either Rhee, if against all odds she stays, or a new chancellor of schools, will have to show a new willingness to listen to and work with teachers, students, and parents.

Gary Imhoff


Down for the Count
Dorothy Brizill,

I spent Tuesday, primary day, visiting voting precincts across the District. As has already been reported, the problems at the polls were numerous, including polls opening late, broken voting machines, a shortage of pollworkers and special ballots, poor workers training, and concerns about the security and seals on voting equipment. These problems were further compounded by how the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) handled the ballots and the vote count by Tuesday evening. Even though the polls closed at 8:00 p.m., by midnight the BOEE had released election returns for only a handful of precincts (31 out of 143 precincts). By the time Gary and I left BOEE’s office at One Judiciary Square at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, BOEE was only reporting vote totals for 128 out of 143 precincts. By 6:00 a.m. Wednesday evening, the BOEE finally posted “election night unofficial returns” for all precincts (as well as vote totals from the early voting centers) on the Board's web site (; go to “election results” for election year 2010).

In the mayor’s race, the BOEE is reporting the following:

Citywide: Gray 65,515, 54.21%; Fenty 53,854, 44.56%
Ward 1: Gray 5,510, 34.26%; Fenty 8,379, 59.71%
Ward 2: Gray 2,917, 27.95%; Fenty 7,458, 71.45%
Ward 3: Gray 3,231, 20.17%; Fenty 12,749, 79.60%
Ward 4; Gray 11,978, 58.93%; Fenty 8,082, 39.76%
Ward 5: Gray, 12,621, 74.99%; Fenty 3,908, 23.22%
Ward 6: Gray, 7,075, 43.60%; Fenty 8,996, 55.44%
Ward 7: Gray, 13,303, 82.33%; Fenty 2,544, 15.74%
Ward 8: Gray, 8.880, 82.12%; Fenty 1,738, 16.07%


Frat Brothers SOL
Star Lawrence,

I thought of this newsletter when news of Fenty's defeat filtered out to Arizona. I weep for all his fraternity brothers who will now have to get real jobs and apply for real grants, etc. I also see a film is coming out on education featuring Michelle Rhee — sounds kinda favorable. Any thoughts on that?

[For those who are not teenagers or teenagers at heart, like Ms. Lawrence, SOL is an Internet-born abbreviation that can mean either “smiling out loud,” or “sorry (euphemism) out of luck.” — Gary Imhoff


Gray, Brown Can Unite DC by Leading the Fight for Full Democracy
Ilir Zherka, DC Vote,

After a difficult primary season, uniting the District is top priority. Rallying residents behind a DC government-led fight for full democracy is an ideal mechanism for bringing us back together. All DC residents want to be equal citizens with equal voting representation in Congress and full control over local issues. Right now we have the votes to pass the DC Voting Rights Act ("DC VRA"), which would enable us to take a significant step toward full democracy this year. It has already passed in the Senate, but a gun amendment has stalled its progress in the House. DC residents are angry and eager to engage in a fight to demand their rights. We are running out of time, however, to enact legislation.

There is a strong likelihood that DC will face more opponents in the next Congress. We must, therefore, demand more forcefully that congressional leaders find a way to pass the DC VRA without any harmful amendments before Congress adjourns. For the fight to be successful, the DC government must take a leadership role. Both Vince Gray and Kwame Brown have spoken about the need to protest DC's second-class status more vigorously. They can do this, while uniting residents, by leading an aggressive campaign directly challenging Congress' denial of local democracy in DC.

Not only do we have votes in Congress, polls demonstrate that the American people support representation for DC, when they know about it. The principle barriers to DC democracy remain ignorance nationally and lethargy on the Hill. An initial, dramatic step that would quickly bring our issue national attention would be adding a ceremonial name to Pennsylvania Avenue, something along the lines of "DC Democracy Denied Blvd." I am confident others have some creative ideas as well. The campaign must also increase the urgency in Congress to deal with this injustice. The DC government should engage in acts of protest directly related to the federal laws and procedures that infringe on our local democracy by refusing, for example, to submit local laws for Congressional approval. As long as Washingtonians are taxed without representation, our elected officials should refuse to abide by and participate in these federal laws and procedures.

By leading a campaign as described above, the council, mayor, and delegate will unite "one DC" in an effort that has wide support and cannot wait until next year. They would also build a movement strong enough to realize the dream of making DC the state of New Columbia. A DC protest campaign fits ideally into the "One Nation" campaign being waged right now by the civil rights movement. The United States will not live up to its pledge of "one nation, under god, indivisible with liberty and justice for all" until DC residents have full and equal rights. A united country cannot leave out 600,000 citizens. Vince Gray and Kwame Brown, bring us together as one DC in a fight to ensure that "one nation" includes the District of Columbia.


Time for Her to Go
Jack McKay,

On January 2, 2007, the inauguration day of DC Mayor-Elect Adrian Fenty, Chief of Police Charles Ramsey resigned, allowing the incoming mayor to choose his own chief of police. Here's hoping that Chief Cathy Lanier does the same, and that Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray accepts her resignation.

Why? For starts, Chief Lanier continues to press for DC participation in the Federal "Secure Communities" program, an effort that makes our police into agents of the Federal immigration service. Immigrant groups in the District have protested, ANCs of immigrant-heavy neighborhoods have protested, and the District Council, in a stunning, unanimous action, rejected any District participation in that program: "the District of Columbia shall not transmit arrest data for an individual to ICE." Period, no exceptions. Whatever one thinks of immigration problems, putting our entire immigrant community into a state of fear of any contact with the police won't encourage them to come forward with information about crimes and criminals in their communities.

Furthermore, Chief Lanier compels the police to undertake "All Hands on Deck" actions, pulling trained and experienced officers off their specialized tasks to work as simple patrol officers, randomly cruising the streets. These actions do nothing to prevent crime, but are mere publicity stunts, designed to impress the public, but only amusing actual criminals. Metropolitan Police Officers know that these actions are pointless, and take them away from their regular duties — solving crimes, for example — and they hate being forced to participate in them. Chief Lanier boasts about, and takes credit for, the recent decline in District homicides. But homicides have been decreasing everywhere, not just in DC, and this decline began years ago, long before Lanier became Chief. There's no reason to believe that anything she's done is responsible for the District's homicide decline, matching the decreases seen nationwide.

If Chief Lanier's policing techniques were effective, one should see a decline in robberies. But robberies are increasing. During Chief Ramsey's last three years, the average number of robberies during the summer months, June through August, was 1007. During Lanier's four years, the average is 1103, a 9.5 percent increase. This year, the total during these three summer months is 1173, the highest count observed in the past seven years. The trend is unmistakable: robberies are increasing here, even as violent crime is decreasing nationwide. What's clear is that Lanier's policing techniques aren't working. It's time for her to go.


Congratulations to All the Vincent Gray Supporters
Joyce Little,

I would like to extend a big congratulations to all of the Vince Gray supporters for a job well done. As some of you know I wrote in Sunday’s edition of the mail that I thought Fenty would manage to pull out a win and that Gray would go home. I was wrong. I guess the Fenty show has been officially canceled. Fenty, you are the biggest loser!


Passion and Reason, Faith and Trust, and, Finally, Respect
T. Lassoc,

Mr. Frost is right [messages in the last several issues of themail] and definitely onto something — alas, too late for this election cycle. But do not fret. Whoever wins, just raise the question throughout the years of the next administration. This will certainly add an interesting dynamic and dimension (and perhaps even accountability to a "higher power" as some like to say) to everything the next mayor may do or support, from policy to practice and everything in between.



National Building Museum Events, September 19-21
Johanna Weber,

September 19, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Inter-school Student Design Competition: Design Charrette. Come find out what architecture students do all day as teams of students from the Washington, DC, area’s four accredited schools of architecture (The Catholic University of America, Howard University, Virginia Tech’s Washington Alexandria Architecture Center, and the University of Maryland) participate in a day-long design competition held in the Museum’s Great Hall. This program is offered as part of AIA|DC’s Architecture Week. (Award ceremony on September 20.) Free drop-in program.

September 20, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Spotlight on Design: Warren Byrd. For more than twenty-five years, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architecture has created places that honor the history and context of a site. Founding principal Warren T. Byrd, Jr., FASLA, discusses the firm’s work, including Citygarden in St. Louis and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This program is offered as part of AIA|DC’s Architecture Week. $12 Museum, ASLA, and AIA Members; free for students; $20 for non–members.

September 21, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Building in the 21st Century: Removing the Barriers to Going Green — Best Practices for Market Transformation. Karen Penafiel, vice president of advocacy, Building Owners and Managers Association International, highlights how building owners and managers are leading the charge to implement sustainable operations and management practices in their buildings, and also to retrofit the nation’s existing buildings. Free, registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

September 21, 6:30-8:00 p.m., The Henry C. Turner Prize: Engineers Without Borders — USA. The Museum presents Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) with the 2010 Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction Technology for its notable work connecting engineering students with international development projects. Presenters share EWB-USA’s efforts to provide clean water, sustainable energy, and needed infrastructure to communities across the world while also instilling a sense of global responsibility in the next generation of engineers. $12 for members and students; $20 for non-members. All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


State Board of Education Meeting, September 22
Beverly Wheeler,

The DC State Board of Education (DCSBOE) will hold its regularly scheduled public meeting on Wednesday, September 22, at 5:00 p.m. at 441 4th Street, NW, in the District of Columbia State Board of Education Chambers, located on the lobby level of the building. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) will provide the State Board an update on the DC CAS scores.

Constituents who wish to comment at the meeting are required to notify the State Board of Education in advance by contacting the Staff Assistant, Jamikka Kendrick, by phone at 741-0888 or by E-mail at twenty-four hours before the scheduled meeting time. Please provide one electronic copy and bring fifteen copies to the hearing for the State Board members to view. The meeting will air live on District Knowledge Network (DKN) Comcast Channel 99, RCN Channel 18, and Fios Channel 12.


Water Quality Issues and Threats, September 23
Thomas M. Smith,

The Ward Three Democratic Committee will hold a community dialogue on water quality issues and threats in the District of Columbia. Thursday, September 23, 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m., in the Great Hall of St. Columba Episcopal Church, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW (one block off Wisconsin Avenue at Tenleytown Metro). The guest speaker will be Paul Schwartz, Clean Water Fund Water Policy Coordinator of the Clean Water Fund And Clean Water Action. Paul's current work focuses on integrated water policy, water infrastructure finance, green infrastructure, and Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act programs. Paul works with the Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Action staff and leaders to integrate local, state and federal water policy approaches and solve community problems in over twenty states. Paul is on the Board of the Clean Water Network where he is the Co-Chair of the Wet Weather and Water Infrastructure Work Group. Schwartz also sits on the steering committee of the Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water. At the local level he was appointed by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty to the DC Green Building Advisory Council. He has testified in front of Congress multiple times on both aspects of clean water and drinking water policy and is a frequent panelist and facilitator at government, water utility association and civil society meetings.

For more information, contact Thomas M. Smith, Chair, Ward Three Democratic Committee, 202-364-7130, or see the web site at


Democratic Socialists of America Forum on the Jobs Crisis, September 26
Bill Mosley,

After two years, millions of Americans are still looking for work. What should be done? The Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) presents a "Forum on the Jobs Crisis," Sunday, September 26, 6:00-8:00 p.m., Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, 5301 North Capitol Street, NE (Metro: Fort Totten, Red/Green Lines). Speakers are Rev. Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational UCC; Bill Lucy, Former Secretary-General, AFSCME and founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (invited); Harold Meyerson, Washington Post columnist, editor-at-large, American Prospect, DSA member; and Larry Mishel, President, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), DSA member. Requested donation: $3-5. For more information, please E-mail Ben at, call 610-952-8684 (cell) or visit


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