Waiting for a Superhuman Facade
There will be a lot more discussion this week about today’s Meet
the Press, which had a segment featuring Chancellor Michelle Rhee;
Robert Bobb, DC’s City Administrator under Mayor Williams; US
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; and American Federation of Teachers
president Randi Weingarten (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032608/#39368957).
Courtland Milloy was quick to write a column about it, “Rhee Needs to
Take a Look in the Mirror,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/26/AR2010092602992.html,
which has a smart take: “She readily accepts credit for success while
always attributing failure to the shortcomings of others. . . . DC
residents who pushed back were just uncomfortable with change and would
rather have ineffective teachers in the classroom. Such distortion is
nothing new for Rhee. In fact, lots of young, hard-charging reformers in
all fields find it easier to blame their clients rather than take
responsibility for failures. The stakeholders really didn't want to
change, they claim. The problem with owning up to a mistake is that it
might cause the reformer's superhuman facade to crumble, revealing some
emotionally vulnerable, in-over-their-head inner child.”
Rhee has nothing to complain about. She specialized in firing
teachers on grounds that were arbitrary and capricious, and proceeded to
fire and move teachers because they weren’t on the Rhee team, because
they questioned her questionable educational theories and methods. Rhee’s
one completely true rule is that teachers should be held accountable for
their work; she ruined even that by pretending that she was the only
person who ever felt that way. All employees are held accountable for
their work. Teachers should hold students accountable, principals should
hold teachers accountable, superintendents should hold principals
accountable, and boards of education should hold superintendents and
chancellors responsible. If there is no Board of Education that can hold
a chancellor accountable, if the chancellor is accountable only to a
mayor who indulges her and does not hold her responsible for her work,
then both the chancellor and the mayor need to be held responsible by
the electorate. If Rhee feels that the electorate’s evaluation of her
and her job performance was arbitrary, capricious, and ill-informed,
then perhaps she can finally sympathize with the teachers of DC Public
Schools, and appreciate how they have felt for the past few years.
We had Robuchon’s mashed potatoes for dinner, http://greenmarketrecipes.com/vegetables/robuchons_mashed_pototoes.htm.
Robuchon’s recipe embodies the one rule that makes a great restaurant
chef better than a home cook: go to excess. Use more of the ingredients
that taste good — butter, cream, salt, etc. — the good things that
the superstitious nutrition naggers would forbid you to use at all. “Moderation
in all things,” said Terrence, although the quote is usually
attributed to Aristotle; but Petronius (who advised Nero on matters of
luxury) improved on it: “Moderation in all things, including
Why I Voted for Vince
Vic Miller, Adams Morgan, Millervic@hotmail.com
I voted for Vince Gray despite my deep and long-lasting respect for
the Fenty family and what they have contributed to their community. I do
not agree that Mayor Fenty is arrogant. However, he has delegated
substantial authority to many people who have used that authority to
hurt the communities I know and participate in. These persons have acted
and continue to act in a high-handed fashion. I do not know Mr. Gray,
but people I respect tell me his is honest and intelligent, a good
listener and a good leader. Good enough for me.
My primary problem with Mayor Fenty himself is that he has accepted
the over-optimistic revenue estimates presented to him and then has
spent even more than those estimates would suggest to be reasonable. We
will have to have a tax increase soon because of those missteps, a tax
increase despite being one of the few jurisdictions in the country that
have weathered the economic downturn without significant pain to our
fiscal or economic base. My property tax, which doubled early in the
Williams administration, has now grown ten percent this year. It will
grow again, dollars directly out of my family's pocket. And for what?
The following are some of the specific actions in my small part of the
world that I observed, that cost us money, and that I cannot understand.
Adams School. Adams School was emptied, declared underutilized, and
transferred for the use of places north and west of the park. My
neighborhood gets zero. The children in the school were told to go,
well, somewhere else. Since then, they have put a ton of my taxes into
the school, including an all-weather soccer facility that kids in this
neighborhood have no access to. And yes, the combined Oyster-Adams
complex is where Chancellor Rhee sends her own children. One of my
daughter's excellent teachers. a community resident whom my daughter had
stopped in to help for the twenty years since she was in her first-grade
class, was transferred to a school in Anacostia. This teacher quickly
retired, and is moving back to her family home in Iowa.
Oyster School. The Latina principal of the school was summarily fired
over the protests of the Hispanic leadership of the school. As usual,
Chancellor Rhee told us she could not discuss it, since it was a
personnel matter. Hispanic children achievement has decline in the
school despite the overall resources it receives.
Bancroft School. A few years ago the community, with the assistance
of some money from the city and about a hundred volunteers, upgraded the
playground. Last month, with no warning, bulldozers totally destroyed
this community playground without any warning, to provide a new
playground, again, with my tax money.
Mount Pleasant Library. The very substantial and costly changes to
this library are being made over the protests of both the Mount Pleasant
and Adams Morgan communities, including their ANCs. No one in the
community knows why it is being done, and why so much is being spent.
Jelleff Boys and Girls Club. The Fenty administration spent twenty
million dollars to buy the Boys and Girls Club facilities, again my tax
money. Fenty then assigned almost exclusive rights to the field to Maret
School — the field being most of the cost. And the wonderful Board
that used to run the place, and wanted to keep running it at a nominal
cost, is being shut out; the Boys and Girls Clubs were offered a six
hundred thousand dollars plus annual contract to run it (that offer has
now been put on hold). Jelleff is one of the best community facilities I
have ever seen, and the Fenty Administration has actively worked to
eliminate it. The above are just from my immediate living space. These
stories can be repeated all over the city.
This city's personal income tax base grew more than that of any
non-oil/gas state in the decade of the 2000’s, and kept growing
through the recession. My real estate taxes will soon be triple what
they were in 2000. Both income and property taxes are pouring money into
the city's coffers. And yet, we will have a tax increase after the
election — it won't be avoidable — because Mayor Fenty didn't know
how to say no to ribbon-cutting events. In supporting him for his first
election, I had assumed that Mayor Fenty would treat the city like he
did Ward 4, as a source of information as to what was wanted and what
was wasted. I was wrong.
Fed Up With the "Change is Hard"
Eric Woods, firstname.lastname@example.org
When will the Fenty apologists and so-called reformers, including
Rhee, cease with the "Change is Hard" slogan as an explanation
for why so many DC residents wanted to end the Fenty/ Rhee leadership?
This excuse just does not compute with reality. It is patently ignorant
for these folks to believe that parents in poor performing schools would
rather maintain schools in the pre-2006 state rather than reform them.
Therefore, I submit that the "Change is Hard" explanation is
being directed at the wrong audience.
Change is hard for Fenty and Rhee — autocrats who acted as if the
people did not deserve to have a reform plan communicated to them.
Change is hard for Fenty and Rhee, who seemed to execute their reform
strategies haphazardly without explaining to the people the reasons for
and the benefits of such actions. Change is hard to explain when it was
applied to high performing schools such as Hardy Middle School, with
negative impact on the children, while many poorly performing schools
remained unimproved. Change is so hard for these two unapologetic,
overwhelmed individuals that they failed to change even when they
recognized that failure was staring them in the face. They forgot that
politics is always local.
The Media’s Racial Narrative, Shallow and
Mai Abdul Rahman, email@example.com
In DC the media has led a flawed debate. Instead of seriously
considerating and analyzing the reasons why voters chose to decline
giving Fenty a second term, even though many recognized some of the good
initiatives his administration has implemented, the media chose the easy
way out — they played the race card. That successfully diverted
attention from serious evaluation of Fenty's policies, and sidesteped
the important task of engaging the city in discussing the policies and
initiatives that should be considered by the next Gray administration.
According to the media analysis, Fenty lost because black voters in
the city were angry that he turned their backs on them, while whites
voted for Fenty because of the soundness of his reforms. This charge is
heavily laced with racism and drips with contempt for voters (black and
white). It depicts DC voters as incapable of casting their vote
according to their educated judgment and is an over-reaching
generalization. Consequently, countless articles, editorials, listservs
and blog postings hold only one group of people responsible for the
mayor’s loss. This simple explanation misses the opportunity to
sincerely address the reasons behind Fenty’s demise. It also fails to
provide contextual reasons why others who are neither black nor white
chose to vote for Gray. Especially when considering our city’s
diversity with many ethnic groups that do not fit so neatly in the black
and white race categorization including Hispanic, Ethiopians,
Indonesians, Indians, Thai, and Vietnamese voters — to name a few —
who collectively make up about 17 percent of our population. Many of
them have worked tirelessly as volunteers or community organizers this
last election — are they of less value and less relevant than the
white and black voters? The media’s attempt to explain Fenty’s loss
in pitting whites against blacks is disconcerting for its lack of depth
and potential malice.
Furthermore, who is white? White is a definition I personally reject
— since it is only descriptive of the color of my skin and offers
little beyond that. My white skin did not persuade me to vote for Fenty
and did little to help me advocate for his administrative style. On the
contrary, for more than three years I advocated for community engagement
and wrote extensively on how poorly planned and implemented Rhee’s
school reform initiatives were and how burdensome to tax payers and
ineffective Fenty’s educational bureaucratic structures and agencies
The media failed to explain their own shortcomings in accurately
covering, analyzing, and evaluating the Fenty reforms. They
underestimated the power of democracy, the public demand for full
disclosure, transparent rule, responsive leadership, and voters’
resentment of Fenty’s lack of trust in a city that overwhelmingly
supported and entrusted him to lead the city just like he did as a
councilmember — open, approachable, caring, and responsive to his
community. In addition the media wittingly or unwittingly is responsible
for deluding Fenty, who was convinced that the obviousness of the
reforms he sought and pushed for and his determination to implement them
quickly with little public involvement would be favorably received
granting him a second term. Both the media and Fenty failed to
understand that without a concerted district-wide effort to involve and
engage constituents of the value added, cost and risk involved when each
initiative is introduced, Fenty’s success will be limited and
constrained by the average citizen — left-out voters exercising their
democratic right to vote — they voted for Gray. And no they were not
$40 Cab Fare vs. $39 Plane Flight
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm curious to hear if anyone in this online community can recall a
$40 cab fare they paid for (in the past few years) here in the DC area?
If so, thanks for telling me where you were picked up and left off. I'll
share that info back to themail. (Or you can just tell me the
approximate number of miles you traveled by cab for a $40 fare.)
The purpose of this is to compare to this $39 plane flight from BWI
to Boston: http://tinyurl.com/22rfqz4
Voter Registration Deadline Is October 4
Bill O’Field, email@example.com
October 4 is the District of Columbia’s voter registration deadline
for the upcoming November 2 general election. A DC resident can register
in person at the Board’s office in Room 250-North of the One Judiciary
Square building at 441 4th Street, NW, Monday through Friday, from 8:30
a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
The voter registration form can be downloaded and printed from the DC
Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) web site at http://www.dcboee.org/pdf_files/Mail_VRForm_HAVA2003.pdf.
By law, the DCBOEE must have an
applicant’s original signature on the form for it to be valid. And
forms are available, also by law, at the District’s public libraries,
fire houses, and police stations. All applications must be postmarked no
later than October 4.
Anyone who has a question about registering or about his or her
registration status should call 727-2525, or go to https://www.dcboee.org/voter_info/reg_status
to check registration status.
BOEE Ignores Fraud in Catania Election
Richard Urban, DC Council At-Large Independent Candidate,
On September 23, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics issued a ruling
rejecting my assertions that fraud was involved in the signature
collection process of the Catania Campaign and that ballot access should
be denied. I argued that the Board should investigate the signature
collection practices of the Catania campaign and that Catania did not
submit three thousand valid signatures on August 5. Therefore the second
submission of 1052 signatures should have been rejected.
The Board summarily rejected the assertion in an affidavit by
forensic expert Michael Robertson that ten petition sheets bearing the
signature of Nicholas T. McCoy were not actually signed by McCoy. The
Board gave no rationale for rejecting this affidavit, other than saying
that McCoy signed an affidavit refuting it. The Board did not address at
all the issue of scratched out/illegible Circulator Dates on nine
petition sheets. This may have indicated pre-signing of petition sheets
circulated by non-qualified individuals (not DC registered voters).
Neither did it address the issue of a blank date on sheet 101 of 267,
which may have also indicated a pre-signed petition sheet circulated by
a non-qualified person. It also ignored other evidence, such as a the
petition signer who said that a friend of hers, and not the person who
signed the Circulator affidavit, signed the sheet. The Board could have
deposed this person, but instead made no mention of this evidence in its
ruling. Other evidence included one circulator’s submitting as many as
five partial sheets on one day. In general, a petition circulator will
finish one sheet before starting the next one. However, if multiple
non-qualified persons were circulating the petitions, and they were
signed later by a qualified person, there would be many partial sheets.
In its initial ruling on September 23, the Board incorrectly stated
that 5302 signatures were submitted on August 5 (the number was 4229).
The Board also stated incorrectly that Catania never had fewer than 4095
valid signatures. Richard Urban asserted that less than three thousand
valid signatures were submitted on August 5. On Friday, the Board issued
its final ruling, which did not substantially change its initial ruling.
Voters should expect integrity in every aspect of a campaign. The above
problems with the Catania campaign petitions indicate a lack of
integrity in the petition process. This reflects poorly on Catania as a
candidate. I believe that the voters will make their decision on
election day based on Catania's integrity, his voting record and work
while in office, and his character in general. I am offering a clear
choice that exemplifies character, leadership, and integrity. See http://tinyurl.com/29m42py
for details and documentation.
Here's a bit more on what the mayoral primary probably means for
white people. First, I urge all of you to read Jonetta Rose Barras's
piece in the City Paper,"They Love the Eighties: For 12
Years, Successive Mayors Have Tried to Yank DC into the Future. But the
Political Establishment Is Still Partying Like It's 1985," http://tinyurl.com/2aemf3v.
Here's a quote: "Suffferers of the 1985 syndrome . . . in their
world there are no Hispanics and Asians, and whites should be at the end
of the line. . . . They are locked in a time warp. Ask them to describe
their ideal mayor . . . and most . . . [say] ‘Marion Barry with
Second, Marion Barry's priceless quote after the election: "To
the victor go the spoils. We demand more than our fair share because
we've been neglected so long, it's as simple as that."
Third, here is my experience of what "our fair share" and
"the end of the line" means on the 92 bus after the election.
I should point out that the bus is almost entirely patronized by blacks.
And all of them dread 3:00 p.m. when the kids get out of school. No one
likes the kids because they are violent and foul mouthed. I got on the
bus at 3:30 p.m. I stayed near the front so I could get out at my stop.
In front of me were four teenagers. And they were making fun of me. I
glared at them. One of them ordered me to go to the back of the bus. I
replied, "Blow me." Next thing he was on his feet thretening
to punch me. I stood my ground and he sat down muttering about how he
was going to get off with me and beat me up. When I got to my stop I
said to him, "I'm getting off here." He said, “If you say
one more word I'll hit you." I smiled and walked away. The thing
that struck me was every black on the bus — however they hated the
kids — took his side and blamed me. At that moment I wanted to kill
White people: back of the bus y'all.
Fight for Statehood Unifies, Right When We
Samuel Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Essays claiming to analyze the Gray/Fenty contest for Democratic
Party mayoral nominee are beginning to fall into several groups. There
are the "Hogwarts commentaries" ordering a “pox on both your
houses” for failing to give proper attention to (name your own most
important issue). There are the “this black-white division stuff has
got to stop” demands usually expressed without a recommendation more
credible than Rodney King’s who asked “why can’t we all just get
along?” I tend to favor the articles that cite concrete statistics
when arguing that, “Many African American voters did not simply vote
their feelings, but had serious issues of under service.”
Nevertheless, the complaints that “Fenty is just a reflection of his
primary voter base in Wards 2, 3, and 6” rank a close second in their
ability to pique my interest. Sadly, we have all seen or heard too many
of the “Blacks don’t know their rear ends from moles in the ground”
explanations for Fenty’s loss, which may be more representative of
authoritative political analysis than we care to believe.
To these, I want to add another genre of analysis for the Fenty loss.
Here goes. “All politics is a struggle over the distribution of
resources” is a mantra from my first campaign for city council
at-large in 1992 on the DC Statehood Party ticket. I resurrect it here
to toss my explanation into the ring of analyses. There is nothing
intrinsically evil about white voters supporting someone whom they think
understands their requirements of local government. The entire
electorate should vote its self-interests, preferably real versus merely
perceived. Black voters who cast ballots for Vincent Gray because they
lived next to a new recreation field, but still had monthly sewage
surges in their public housing apartment (I kid you not), were voting
their self-interest. They may even have been choosing substance over
symbol — which probably took some thought. More Gray voters of all
stripes came out to advance their self-interests than did Fenty voters.
It helps to keep the analysis simple.
Fighting for one’s self-interest is admirable. When others
similarly situated join the fight, the prospect of a favorable outcome
gains in probability. Movements provide that communal satisfaction
elevating the individual to collective status. Social gains following
that model are collective victories. The forty-hour work week, Social
Security, medical marijuana, and the right to vote for Africans in
America and women are but a few examples. In each case, the proponents
reached beyond their immediate friends, families and neighborhoods to
form alliances with others similarly situated and attracted by the
promise of gains in self-interest. What could be simpler? The formula
works almost every time.
Post Gray vs. Fenty-Rhee-Nickles, Washington, DC needs a struggle for
self-interest that requires us to rise above the concerns of our
immediate friends, families and neighborhoods. We could use some
elevating communal satisfaction. The struggle for statehood provides
One of the issues in the mayoral primary was the city’s deficit —
six hundred million dollars and still drifting south. Another was the
650,000 non-resident wage earners who have the jobs that elude DC
residents. Yet a third issue was the need to maintain restrictive gun
ownership and registration laws. Each of these sore points impacts the
entire District, not just a few friends, families, or neighborhoods. Mr.
Gray had the surer hand at discussions of statehood, Mr. Fenty tended to
pooh-pooh the idea. After all, “Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly supported
statehood, got arrested and nothing came of it,” he said more than
once on the stump. He clearly didn’t compare the benefits of statehood
against his budget struggles, his defeat at the hands of the
Congressional gun lobby in his “voting rights” campaign or the need
for workforce training programs that graduate participants into real
When Mr. Fenty expressed his preference for one-seat voting rights
(one vote for DC in the House of Representatives, one vote for Utah and
continued Congressional intermeddling) without complete autonomy in all
things judicial, budgetary and legislative or statehood — he was
choosing symbol over substance — not our best interests.
Chief Financial Officer Gandhi has testified that the District would
lose $1.2 billion in federal funds if the District were a state. He didn’t
add that statehood also gives the District the right to tax the incomes
of the over 650,000 daily commuters and those who work in the District
but claim domicile elsewhere – $1.8 billion in revenues. In addition,
not enough attention was given to the free services the District
performs for the federal establishment including roads, water, sewer,
security, fire, etc. — a $700 million tab. Could a net $1.3 billion
help us in the District meet our collective self-interests? You bet.
What of guns? Congress can’t interfere with a state’s laws as it can
with the District’s. Repeat after me: “Statehood equalizes,
statehood empowers, and statehood is worth it.” Let’s build the
movement and bask in communal satisfaction while enjoying more of the
resources we deserve. All of us.
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