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September 22, 2010

The Narrative Continues

Dear Narrators:

David Schwartzman, below, objects to my writing in the last introduction to themail that the “educational reform” movement symbolized by Chancellor Michelle Rhee has support from the political left as well as the political right. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that either the political left or the political right is united and unanimous in support of Rhee’s style of education reform. They aren’t, but the movement has many vocal spokesmen from both sides of the political spectrum. In the last issue, I cited recent articles in The New Republic, The Washington Post, Politico, The Root, New York Times, Time Magazine, and NPR that all, in various ways, attributed Fenty’s electoral loss to black people’s shortsighted and irrational opposition to Rhee’s brand of “educational reform.” David may view these news outlets as being to the right of his political viewpoint, but I think it’s fair to characterize them as left of the nation’s political center.

There have been two more notable articles on DC’s primary since last Sunday’s issue of themail. The first is the most uninformed and misleading article on DC’s primary that I’ve read in the national press, and even in the local press. Michael Tanner’s analysis in The National Review, “Extremist Thrives in Primary Fight: The Party Is Courting Its Fringes, a Bad Omen for Future Policy,”, makes some extraordinary claims for Adrian Fenty that not even his most ardent supporters made, and some extraordinary charges against Vincent Gray that not even the Fenty campaign made. According to Tanner, “The incumbent was a moderate, a pragmatist, someone who could reach across the aisle to work with those who were not traditional allies.” The idea of Fenty’s reaching across the aisle, or even of reaching out to those on the same side of the aisle, is laughable. “His opponent, on the other hand,” wrote Tanner, “appealed to the fringes of the party. He allied himself with powerful special-interest groups who poured money and manpower into his campaign.” The mounds of money that powerful special interest groups poured into Gray’s campaign must explain why Fenty raised five times the campaign funds that Gray did. Gray and the teachers’ and public employees’ unions, “ran a nasty and racially charged campaign.” Tanner presents no evidence of Gray’s being an extremist or fringe candidate, or of running a nasty and racially charged campaign, because there isn’t any. Gray, like Fenty, is on the left side of the Democratic party, but Washingtonians in general certainly didn’t view him as an extremist, and Fenty supporters never charged him with being one. In addition, except for Ron Moten’s singular delusion that Fenty would be elected because of the power of the hip-hop vote, neither campaign made a racially based appeal — it has been the post-primary attempt to analyze the vote in terms of race that injected the issue into a campaign in which race wasn’t an issue.

The other notable article was by Michael Lomax in The Root, “Education Reform, What Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee Got Wrong,” Lomax wrote an earlier article for The Root that I cited in Sunday’s issue of themail, “Is DC Mayor Adrian Fenty’s Loss a National Defeat for Education Reform?” In this earlier article, Lomax explained Fenty’s defeat as a result of people’s dissatisfaction with Rhee’s and his personalities. “Although many parents recognized that DCPS needed reform and that part of that reform needed to be an upgrade in the quality of its classroom teachers, the suddenness of the changes she [Rhee] made, and the sang-froid of her reaction to people’s discomfort, didn’t sit well with many Washingtonians.” By the time he wrote his second article on the subject, a week later, Lomax had either learned a lot or become much freer to express his opinions, because in it he gives a much more adequate explanation: “For three years, DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee promoted the notion that education reform could happen only if she was totally in charge and everything was done her way. It was her way — or her way. She justified every policy, every action, by saying that it was all about the kids, not about adults. Nothing in her tenure so typified her approach as the ending of it. The day after the defeat of her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty, when DCPS students could have benefited from an example of civility and graciousness in defeat, she called Fenty’s loss — and, by implication, her own departure — ‘devastating’ for DC children. In the end, it was not about the kids; it was about the adults, and one adult in particular: her. And that, in many ways, was the problem. Rhee came to Washington with experience only as a classroom teacher — for three years, through Teach for America — and as head of her own nonprofit organization. She had never really worked for anybody or been institutionally accountable to anyone. She declared ‘cooperation, collaboration and consensus building [to be] way overrated.’ With Fenty’s support — or at least without his ever publicly reining her in — she stiffed the City Council and its chair, Vincent Gray, the man who defeated Fenty. She stiffed teachers and the union that represented them. And she stiffed the parents and the predominantly African-American communities they lived in. She did education reform to blacks, not with them.” Amen.

Gary Imhoff


Fraud Alleged in David Catania’s Candidate Petitions
Richard Urban, candidate for At-Large councilmember,

In a challenge currently before the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, I allege fraud in the ballot petitions of David Catania. The case, filed September 7 and heard on September 17, will be decided by September 22. The Board of Elections and Ethics will decide whether or not to grant ballot access to Mr. Catania. Ballot petition circulator Nicholas McCoy had a number of irregularities in the petitions that he handed in. These include having widely varying signatures for at least ten different petition sheets. Petition sheets must be signed by the registered qualified elector who took the signatures. A forensic handwriting analyst submitted expert testimony saying that ten signatures submitted by McCoy did not appear to be his.

Other evidence of petitions circulated by those other than the signer are nine sheets with scratched out circulator signature dates, one sheet with a pre-signed signature date (like 7/ / 10), and many partial signature sheets on certain dates.

There is also the question of whether or not Mr. Catania handed in three thousand valid signatures in his first petition submission on August 5. I believe that it is very important for the Board of Elections and Ethics to maintain the integrity of the signature collection process.


Study on Underground Electric Lines Available for Comment
Brenda Pennington,

The District of Columbia Public Service Commission has issued a notice of public comment for a study it commissioned from Shaw Consultants entitled “Study of the Feasibility and Reliability of Undergrounding Electric Distribution Lines in the District of Columbia.” The objectives were to review and analyze previous underground studies, provide costs, feasibility and reliability implications of select undergrounding alternatives and to examine the potential impact on the environment, residents, infrastructure, health and safety.

The Commission has now issued an order calling for a public comment period that will end on October 31. OPC encourages all interested parties to review the report, which is available online at OPC’s web site (, or you may view the report at the DC Public Service Commission offices, 1333 H St. NW, 2nd Floor, West Tower, between the hours of 9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Individuals, groups, and businesses wishing to comment on the report should submit their written statements to the Commission Secretary, Ms. Dorothy Wideman at 1333 H Street NW, 2nd Floor, West Tower, Washington, DC 20005, no later than the close of business on Friday October 30.

As the report is quite lengthy, OPC encourages you to download the file from our web site. OPC will also print copies upon request. Please call OPC at 727-3071 to make your request.


DPW’s New Hazardous Waste Schedule
Kevin B. Twine,

The DC Department of Public Works has a new monthly schedule for providing household hazardous waste/e-cycling/document shredding services. Starting Saturday, October 2, residents may bring these items to the Ft. Totten Transfer Station, 4900 John F. McCormack Road, NE, once a month on the first Saturday of the month, except holidays, between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The new schedule reflects a reduction in the Department’s budget for FY 2011, which begins October 1. For a list of acceptable and unacceptable items, please click on

This new schedule does not affect residents’ ability to bring bulk items to Ft. Totten or pick up compost between March and October. For these services, Ft. Totten will be open weekdays between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., and each Saturday, except holidays, between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Directions to Ft. Totten: travel east on Irving Street, NW, turn left on Michigan Avenue, turn left on John F. McCormack Road, NE, and continue to the end of the street.


Preserving Public Housing
Aquarius Vann-Ghasri,

I am requesting that the District of Columbia Housing Authority Communities move forward. The primary is over, and the voters spoke, “Mayor Vincent Gray.” It is time for us to think SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time phased). I am requesting that the “New Communities”: Barry Farm, Lincoln Heights, Park Morton, and Richardson Dwelling, attend the DCHA Family Commissioner “New Communities” round table discussion, for the purpose of giving our input on the Fenty administration’s “New Community” report, at which time our input will be forward to the Mayor-Elect.

We need to discuss what role the city will have in the process of the Obama administration’s PETRA (Preservation, Enhancement and Transformation of Rental Assistance Act) in light of the Preserving Public Housing: Issues and Options discussions ( PETRA calls for converting public and some other subsidized housing to a new type of Housing Choice Voucher assistance, leveraging public funding to access private capital to meet public housing preservation needs, and expanding housing choices for assisted housing residents. The proposal has far-reaching implications for the future of public housing — and it has been met with praise and criticism from stakeholders. I am challenging Resident Council leaderships to call Linda Leakes, of Empowerment DC (234-9119), to schedule a presentation on this subject with Linda Couch (NLHP). I am further requesting DCHA Communities to draw your community plans and submit them to me by January 2011. I have requested this information for approximately three years. It has been brought to my attention that several communities are requesting day centers on the sites. I am requesting the communities’ surveys by January 2011.

I serve at the pleasure of my constituents. I will submit documentation to Mayor Gray, as I did to Mayor Fenty. I do not work for DC government of for the federal government. I am public servant; I owe no one, with the exception of the unsung voices, in the communities I live and I serve. The power of community is “The Community.”


The Narrative
Ronni Glaser,

The story being told by the press and in the neighborhoods regarding Fenty’s downfall ignores the most basic truths about Fenty, his administration, and the last four years. The people behind this story are employing the same basic strategy that they have for the last four years, which breaks down to: “Say something enough and people will believe it is true.” By far the worst of these myths is that Adrian Fenty is the most progressive and successful mayor in Washington, DC, history. This is simply not true. The most progressive and successful mayor in DC history is Anthony Williams, who served two successful terms during which DC saw more economic growth and renewal then it has since 1968. Penn Quarter, Columbia Heights, Barracks Row, and the H Street corridor are a testament to what Williams was able to accomplish. This success was due largely to the inclusive nature of Williams administration. Williams went out of his way to not only engage community activists but to actively harness their efforts and incorporate them into his own to revitalize neighborhoods. I know this from my own personal experience working to renovate the Ludlow Taylor Baseball field in northeast ten years ago. Much of the growth and development we’ve seen under Adrian Fenty can actually be attributed to Anthony Williams, and people should know that.

Of course for me the fact that Fenty is credited for Williams’ work is nothing in comparison with Fenty’s blatant and, in my opinion, criminal cronyism. I have read articles that stated there is absolutely no proof Fenty had any part in awarding contracts to his frat brothers. Not true. If you follow the trail it’s actually pretty easy to see where and how Fenty was involved. Here are links to Mike DeBonis’s summary of the situation as well as the open letter Bill Slover (former chair of the Housing Authority) wrote to WAPO. Both illustrate very clearly the role that Adrian Fenty played:,

Even more unbelievable than Fenty’s conduct is the conduct of the companies he was rewarding with our tax dollars. Below are just a few stories I found regarding Liberty Engineering, the company owned by Sinclair Skinner. Some of the key points: 1) Liberty was awarded contracts to provide surveying for DC despite the fact that they are not licensed to do surveys. 2) Liberty was paid $358,000 for the 11 surveying contracts they were awarded. 3) Liberty hired a sub to perform the work and then marked up his fees over 500% (from about $8,000 to $48,000) to DC. 4) Liberty then refused to pay its sub and, as far as I can tell, has never actually paid him.,

Liberty Co-founder Abdullahi Barrow was granted his engineering license by the Fenty-appointed Board of Professional Engineers despite the fact that he failed the PE exam seven times. This is not only completely wrong, it’s dangerous. There’s a reason we license the professionals responsible for insuring our buildings and bridges are safe. Possibly more than any other issue this one, at least for me, illustrates the complete disdain that Adrian Fenty felt for not only his constituents but also for the thousands of DC workers who served him. I know people who worked for DDOT under Fenty, and the presumption that these people were lazy slugs who couldn’t get a job anywhere else but DC permeated every single decision that came down from Fenty’s office.

Below is a quote from Scott Bolden, the lawyer at large for all of Fenty’s friends and associates. Reading his quote, I couldn’t help but wonder what he would have thought if Barrow had been allowed to practice law after failing the Bar exam seven times. He said any suggestion that Barrow wasn’t qualified as an engineer was “nonsense.” “He’s got a master’s degree, he’s got several years of experience in DC government, he’s got substantial experience in the public and the private sector over several years, including being a former chief building inspector for the District government,” Bolden said. “Sounds like he’s qualified to me regardless of how many engineering exams he’s taken.”


Race Does Not Matter
Melissa Williamson,

I am so sick and tired of people making my vote for Gray a racial issue. I voted for him because I thought he was the best candidate for the position, not because he is African American. You all are forgetting that Fenty is African American as well. I took issue with Fenty because of his lack of respect for me as voter. His campaign promise to be transparent, etc., etc. The list goes on. This has nothing to do with race. I love Cathy Lanier, and she is white. I like Michelle Rhee, and she is Korean. I do not necessarily agree with everything that she has done. I recently adopted an eleven-year-old child, so now I am following education more closely. I realize that the school system in Northwest Ward 5 is very different from the school system on Capital Hill and Upper Northwest. I had to put my child in a charter school because I could not get him into a better school. Voting against Fenty is no vote against Michelle Rhee. If Rhee cared about the children and wanted to make it work she would stay and not publicly make comments about Gray before at least talking with him. She is playing politics as well. At the end of the day, it is about the children.

So, please, people stop making this a racial issue. What about the white people that voted for Vincent Gray? What kind of excuse do you give them for deciding to vote for the candidate of their choice? Voter turnout was low. A little over one hundred thousand people voted for the Mayor. If people were so galvanized by what Fenty had done why didn’t more voters, particularly white voters come out to support him? I supported Fenty during the first go around, but I changed my mind this election. Am I wrong for that? Fenty had a chance to win. He had four million dollars and all the resources that money could buy. He did not listen to his advisors. Sound familiar! The media has made this about race when it is about respect for the citizens that you represent. You know my choice for mayor, if he would ever run, is David Catania. Guess what he is — white! Would that mean that I am a racist?


A Religious Test for Politicians
Alvin C. Frost,

On this past Sunday, the Washington Post ran an article, “A Religious Test All Our Political Candidates Should Take,” by Damon Linker, at I would rather find out how the candidates did while they were in school in areas and subjects such as: 1) Citizenship, 2) whether they played well with the other children, 3) disciplinary issues, 4) attendance and, of course, 5) their reading comprehension, computational, and reasoning skills. In sports, we are constantly told that you only play as well as you practice. To find out whether you will be a good, or great, mayor, CEO, chairman, etc., we need to know how you started out your life, because people tend to follow their early footsteps, which are often excellent indicators of future success or failure. How about a report card or two?

Nevertheless, following is my response to the question of a religious test for candidates. The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects an individual’s right: 1) to establish a religion, or not; and 2) to practice a religion, or not. The, so called, “establishment clause” is taken to mean that the state cannot, and should not attempt to, establish a “state religion” nor compel citizens to practice such religion. Having said that, a candidate, or elected official, can use their religion, if they have or practice one, to inform their beliefs, decisions, and actions based upon a moral code that may be determined by their religious or spiritual beliefs. If we are to begin to ask candidates, or elected officials, about their religions beliefs, I believe that the “chase is joined,” as Sherlock Holmes might say, as to when, and how that person’s decisions and actions are a true reflection of their real beliefs.

One’s official decisions and actions are always open and subject to discussion, and dissection, and understanding, if possible. Since we can never get inside another person’s beliefs, understanding, and reasoning, we will always be forced to attempt to tease out the truth from the officially stated reasoning and justification for their decisions and actions. We will be forced to heed, or rely, upon another Sherlock Holmes witticism, paraphrased here as “The dog that did not bark.” If we are going to depend upon a politician to tell us why he, or she, really said, or did, a certain thing, then we will be waiting for a considerable time. Even those accused of crimes do not normally confess to the truth, and their actions and culpability, unless compelled to do so base upon documentation beyond a reasonable doubt and even then, some politicians will hold to their original story, and continue to mislead, obfuscate, and, even lie. Unless we begin to require, and expect, that all candidates, and elected officials, “swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” upon the pain and threat of congressional inquiries into perjury and hearings on “high crimes and misdemeanors,” I don’t know how we could possibly expect anything that will be demonstrably more effective than the current situation of uncertainty as to what an elected official actually believes, or, more importantly, why they make decisions and do the things that they do, in the name of “the people.”


Theories Are Like Navels, Everybody Has One
Qawi Robinson,

After reading countless Washington Post articles and even Bryce Suderow’s “A Theory of Why So Many Blacks Voted for Vincent Gray,” I’m almost nauseated over how folks want to paint this primary as racist. Their handicapping and theories are insulting to African-Americans and European-Americans. Somehow, they believe that the citizens can only see color lines and simply vote for levels of melanin and complexion in a candidate. In case folks have forgotten, both Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray have African ancestry. Complexion-wise, Mr. Fenty is a few shades darker than Mr. Gray, so surely that would make him more palatable to African-Americans, right? As silly as this sounds, it is just as silly as what has been written lately regarding how race won or lost the election for DC mayor. As quiet as the Washington Post wants to keep it, there are disenfranchised non-African-Americans living in DC too. Some of them live in Ward 3 and are still smarting from the Janney School deal. Some live West of 16th Street and do not have children in DCPS but still didn’t like Fenty’s approach. Some live in Wards 1 and 2 and, despite all the bike lanes they could have, they still didn’t appreciate the draconian parking enforcement and lies about how the “Save the Anacostia Fund” was going to be spent. In other words, DC is very much a political city that engenders politically active folks, regardless of what Ward they live in. It took more than the African-American vote for Barack Obama to win, and the same was true for Vincent Gray. And folks who blame this on race should be ashamed. The real way to handicap this election is on the issues, precinct by precinct. I encourage all who want to whitewash or blackwash (pun intended) the primary results to go to and see that Wards 1, 2, 3, and 6 were not exactly slam dunks for Fenty. Some precincts in those Wards were enthusiastically for Gray. That shows that more than ethnicity and socioeconomic levels determined the winner. Finally, as much as I have issues with Adrian Fenty and his administration, please let the man go out in dignity. Stop talking about the election, his legacy, accomplishments, etc., and rally behind the new mayor to be determined in November. That mayor will need DC to be One City, not one divided amongst racial lines.


Rhee Considered
Larry Lesser,

I’d like to see an op-ed article in the Washington Post making the argument that Michelle Rhee’s approach to education is seriously flawed. It would be a good corrective to the articles that portray her as the person with all the right answers, if only people would let her just take care of everything.

I’d like to know if correspondent Bryce Suderow is correct in saying that Michelle Rhee is Korean. I think she’s American. I want to be very careful about calling Mr. Suderow a bad name but his item in today’s themail [September 19] strikes me as possibly displaying a bigoted mindset.


Alleged Left Support for So-Called Educational Reform
David Schwartzman, At-Large DC city council candidate,

Please do not put all the political left in one bag, when you claim “. . . both the political left and the political right have accepted the top-down, autocratic model of ‘educational reform’ as valid” (themail, September 19). I know many who identify themselves on the left, as I do, who strongly reject the Fenty/Rhee top down so-called educational reform. This is what my campaign brochure says on Education: “Reopen DC Neighborhood Public Schools. Mayoral control is a failure. Bottom up, not top down control. Shift funding from bureaucrats to students and teachers. Rehire unjustly fired teachers and staff! Limit access of military recruiters, no JROTC in DC Schools.”


The Narrative
Richard Rothblum,

Gary, you say [themail, September 19] that the narrative of the Fenty-Gray race is being written now, and either of two views is being propounded. As a product of east of the park DC public schools, I have a take that extends to before the reign of Marion Barry, back to the forties and fifties. My narrative is further informed by Mr. Gray’s campaign promises. Under Gray, it will be impossible to fire any incompetent teacher or administrator of any race and at any level. This is exactly what caused the DC system to fall from being one of the best (students from the suburbs paid tuition to attend DC public schools) to its present state.

When integration commenced in DC in 1954, my dad and mom wanted to give the new system the benefit of the doubt. They were the furthest thing from racists. My dad served in a nearly all-black unit in the Army. The “N-word” was not permitted in our house. My brothers and I were the only white kids in DC to attend school on opening day of the integrated system in the fall of 1954, so far as I know. For sure, we were the only ones at Elliot Junior High and Eastern High. By 1956, it became apparent to Mom and Dad that education of children was being sacrificed on behalf of political objectives and job preservation. Good and competent teachers who had made a determination to stay to support their students were leaving the system in droves. We sold our house in an integrated neighborhood in northeast, long after most other white families with children had bailed to the ’burbs. Dad explained to me that he and Mom figured that Sam and I would have been able to weather the problems, but that they couldn’t risk my youngest brother, Eddie, who had another six years or so in the system. The demise of public education in DC followed.

This is what I see happening again, after the brief interlude of the Fenty-Rhee era. Soon, not only politicians like Mr. Gray, whose petulant second-guessing of Ms. Rhee’s actions is well known, but the unions as well will have their oar in the water. The school “chancellor” will have to be black, regardless of any other factors. Everyone’s opinion will be taken into account, no one will be discomfited or offended, nor will poor children be educated. Mr. Gray will implement his campaign promises to waste the money that could be spent on educating children on demonstrably ineffective adult training programs, and on trying to find jobs for illiterate products of a failed system. He will pour scarce education dollars down the UDC rathole, instead of subsidizing tuition to the many fine universities in the area. Unions will be encouraged to continue sabotaging charter schools. Failure will continue to be built upon failure. These are my observations from direct experience, and Mr. Gray’s announced intentions. If this is not “devastating” as described by Ms. Rhee, it is at least a plan for devastation.



17th Street Festival, September 25
Robin Diener,

The Festival is a collaborative effort by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, Dupont Circle Community Association, Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets, and Ross Elementary School PTA. An art show featuring fifty local artists will run from Q to R Streets. There will be musical performances at Church Street, lots of kid friendly activities along R Street and at Ross School playground, and a pet zone at Riggs Place. Area nonprofits will have booths. You can even purchase House Tour tickets.

The impetus for the Festival was promoting our enhanced community after completion of the streetscape. Even before road work began, local leaders planned ways to offset the impact on residents and businesses. In particular, no one wanted a repeat of the fiasco on P Street when we lost several businesses including local favorite Mark and Orlando’s restaurant. There was great consternation, as well, about the fate of 17th Street trees, many of which were initially slated for removal, but most of which have been saved. Volunteers are needed for the art show and the festival in general. To volunteer, contact Debby Hanrahan,


National Building Museum Events, October 1
Johanna Weber,

October 1, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s. Members are invited to view the Museum’s newest exhibition, Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s before the public, and enjoy a tour with exhibition co-curators Laura Burd Schiavo and Deborah Sorensen at 12:30 p.m. Free, members only. Tour space limited; RSVP for tour by Friday, September 24, to Katherine Potosky at 272-2448, ext. 3456 or



Create Dupont Circle’s Empanada — The Duponada!
Robin Diener,

A recipe contest from PANAS and Fresh Farm Markets: Using ingredients from Dupont’s Fresh Farm Market, create your own empanada. Develop a whole recipe or simply list your four main ingredients. Drop the recipe at PANAS, 2029 P Street, NW, or E-mail to, subject: Duponada. The deadline is September 24. On Sunday, October 3, a panel of distinguished food writer/bloggers will select the top three entries, to be served during the week of October 4 through 8, at Panas where customers will vote for their favorite. The winner will be announced at Panas Gourmet Empanadas on October 10. The Duponada will be added to the menu at Panas, and proceeds from its sale will go to benefit the projects of DCCA.


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