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October 6, 2010

Bad Advice

Dear Advisors:

Yesterday, Mike DeBonis wrote: “The first of Vincent Gray’s pre-general-election town hall meetings is tonight, in Ward 5. But the audience Gray needs to work harder to win over is the 80 percent of white voters who preferred incumbent Adrian Fenty in the primary,” DeBonis referred to an article on Monday by Tim Craig that said, “Minutes after DC Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray won the September 14 Democratic primary, residents in large swaths of Northwest Washington sent dire messages on community E-mail groups and Facebook. The missives predicted plummeting property values, rising crime and a swift return to a government that couldn’t collect trash, fix streets, or provide students with textbooks. ‘Are you . . . kidding me DC?’ one local businessman posted on Facebook the day after the election. ‘Back to the Marion Barry days we go.’

“Gray won as much as 80 percent of the vote in predominantly black areas east of the Anacostia River. But in the city’s wealthier neighborhoods, which are mostly white, Gray couldn’t muster 20 percent. His worst showing, 13 percent, was in a precinct near Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Georgetown. ‘They really hate him,’ one local political strategist, who asked not to be identified in order to speak freely, said about voters in upper Northwest. ‘They think he represents a turning back of the clock,’”

Terrance Lynch, one of Fenty’s strongest supporters, tried hard to undermine Gray’s chance of reapproachment with these voters in his October 1 op-ed article: “Please wake up and smell the coffee. Urgent public education reform is done for in the District. The American Federation of Teachers didn’t pour money into a local race for nothing, not to mention the numerous foot soldiers who traveled here from far outside the city to do groundwork for the Gray campaign. Their target was clearly Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, via her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty. Despite his voiced commitment to school reform, DC Council Chairman and presumptive mayor Vincent Gray has over the past three years quite vigorously and loudly second-guessed Rhee’s almost every move, be it on budget, school closings, teacher evaluations or other matters, to the point of badgering her on issues as basic as personnel decisions at the level of middle school principal and high school teacher positions. Throughout the campaign, Gray wouldn’t say whether he would keep Rhee on should he win. DC voters well understood that this meant he has no intention of doing so,”

So what advice are the pundits giving to Vincent Gray? The worst possible advice: that now he has won the Democratic primary, he must abandon the voters who supported him and appeal instead to the small hard core of Fenty supporters who not only voted against him in the primary but who still oppose him, hate him irrationally, are behind a bitter and futile write-in campaign for Fenty in the general election, and promote the racist argument that simply by being a black man in his sixties he is complicit in a corrupt political history and should be thrust into the trash-heap of history. Gray should give these voters their political demands? Nonsense. By and large, the primary was a normal political race between two candidates with basically similar political philosophies. Only a small portion of white Fenty supporters were motivated by the ignorance, prejudice, and bigotry that now dominate the comments sections of newspaper web sites and that pundits are now attributing to the majority of whites. Most just supported their guy instead of the other guy.

The pundits tell Gray, “This small group of white voters rejects you absolutely. Therefore, you must cater to their demands.” No; in politics, you keep your base happy, expand your support to those who are open to supporting you, and isolate your implacable opponents. Gray should stick with the political truths that are so useful they have become cliches: “dance with the one what brung you,” “to the victors belong the spoils,” “elections have consequences.” There’s plenty of time later to woo the bitter, disaffected Fenty voters who will shun any approach by Gray now. For now, Gray needs to show his voters that their support for him, their campaigning and voting for him, do indeed have consequences — that they will not get more of the same contempt and disdain from him that they have received from the city government in the past.

Gary Imhoff


Pest Control in the District
Dorothy Brizill,

At Tuesday’s legislative meeting, the city council held a first reading of and unanimously voted for Bill 18-498, the Wildlife Protection Act. The bill was introduced by Mary Cheh a year ago, and would “require the District Department of the Environment to license individuals performing wildlife control activities” in the District. The bill also sets “restrictions on the capture, handling, and transport of wildlife.” The bill defines “wildlife” as “any free-roaming wild animal” including, for example, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, pigeons, and snakes. Rats, mice, and domestic animals are excluded. The version of the bill that Ms. Cheh introduced last year contained many controversial provisions that have been removed — no doubt in order to be reinstated later in the enforcing regulations. The revised version that the council voted for unanimously was given to the other councilmembers while they were on the dias at their legislative meeting just prior to their voting on it; none of the councilmembers had read it before they approved of it.

While the stated purpose of the legislation is to promote a reasonable principle — the humane treatment of animals, including wildlife — it fails to acknowledge that many of the animals it seeks to protect are, in fact, household pests that most people simply want removed from their homes and/or property. The bill states that wildlife that people want removed from their property shall be captured and “released immediately at the site of capture,” which does no good, or “relocated to a suitable location.” However, no ward of the city wants to be a dumping ground for wild animals from other wards, and federal law forbids relocating wild animals on federal land or in neighboring jurisdictions. The bill also provides that wildlife shall be “transferred to a wildlife rehabilitator, if the animal is sick, injured, or abandoned.” (How can a wild animal be abandoned? Abandoned by whom?) There is, however, no licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility in the District. In the past, DC Animal Control has transported animals to the Second Chance Wildlife Center in Gaithersburg, MD. However, the Center has on occasion been so overwhelmed with wildlife from Montgomery County that it has closed its doors to wildlife from DC. Within the District, a newly formed group based in Georgetown, City Wildlife, Inc., is currently “seeking a facility and operating funds” to open a wildlife rehabilitation center. According to the testimony of the organization’s president, Anne M. Lewis, the Wildlife Protection Act will provide an “incentive” for the District government to contribute financially to their efforts. One controversial section of the bill that remains in the current version mandates that “a wildlife control operator shall make every reasonable effort to preserve family units” when capturing varmints. At a city council press conference on Monday, councilmembers burst into laughter when they heard this provision, which they were unaware of. Councilmembers couldn’t imagine how anyone could identify the nuclear family of any particular squirrel, snake, or raccoon that had invaded someone’s home. But even though they knew the provision didn’t have any reasonable interpretation, they voted for it, anyway, to let DC residents and professional pest exterminators deal with its ramifications later.


Baby Doll Scams
Bryce Suderow,

Fall is the time for scams done by children who ask for money for some fictitious cause or other. Here are two recent E-mails from the Hilleast listserv, which has recently posted a dozen E-mails on the subject. I post them to alert subscribers to themail.

Anne Holbrook wrote, “Last fall I posted two incidents: two little girls came to my door asking for money for a cause. When I asked what it was for and what the organization did they called to their ‘father’ to come and tell me. When I asked for his name, he said a name. The five-year-old turned around and said that it was not his name and told me his real name. On the Metro, teen boys and girls had a paper with info about a fund to buy basketball equipment and uniforms for the Boys and Girls Club in SE on 17th Street. When I stated that the building had been closed for years now, they and the adult went through the emergency connecting doors and left at the next station. If it is not a known organization that I can call and talk with someone about — I do not give anything. Fall seems to be the time for this phony scams with kids.”

Jim Myers wrote, “This — and other variants on the idea of sending kids our with a paper purporting to show the money you give will go to sports uniforms or equipment, etc. — used to be called ‘baby-dolling,’ even by the perpetrators, on the theory that the kids were cute and their needs touched the hearts of the naive victims. And so it was. Some kids I was aware of had to go out baby dolling almost every day or they were in trouble. A few were very good at it and traveled all over the city. A lot of the money went for drug use by adults, although some kids learned to keep some of the proceeds for themselves. A variant on the baby-dolling theme has showed up in recent years involving the former Eastern Branch of the Boys and Girls Club, particularly in other parts of the city — like Connecticut Avenue — where people don’t know the club is long closed. But, as you can see, other scams can be very much like baby dolling with Xeroxed papers purporting to show the money goes to a good cause. Often, in the candy deals, there are adults nearby supervising the operation. It’s gotten so you can’t trust much of anything involving heart wrenching tales of woe or kids raising funds for allegedly good causes, and it’s both sad and disgusting, except it’s unlikely your money would have saved the world, anyway. So instead do something that takes more personal involvement and you can see and enjoy the results of your efforts and largess.”


DC’s Selections for Next Year’s Metro Board
Christopher Jerry,

In the last edition of themail [October 4], you had some suggestions for a future Vincent Gray administration and Kwame Brown-led council that I thought were very sound in terms of not spending money the city doesn’t have, repealing laws that don’t make sense, and getting rid of programs and contractors that are inefficient and unnecessary. I’d like to propose a suggestion of my own.

To Messers. Gray and Brown, as members of what they have been heard to call themselves representatives of Ward 15 (Ward 7 + 8 is 15), how about for the very first time appointing as DC’s primary (voting) member of the Metro Board someone from east of the river? Between Metro service and the Circulator, the previous primary board members from the council, Jim Graham, David Catania, and Jack Evans, have all worked very hard to cut deals on the board and on the council to make sure their part of the city has had its transportation issues addressed. It’s no coincidence that in their part of town, Metrobus and Circulator service has expanded while all that east of the river has gotten are promises, even to the point that service that crosses a river crosses the Potomac to Rosslyn, VA, instead of the Anacostia to east of the river commercial locations. I’d suggest the council’s primary Metro Board seat be held by an at-large member who represented the entire city, as Catania allegedly did at one time, but if it’s going to be held by a Ward representative, you’d think it should be someone from the most public transit dependent part of the city, which is Wards 7 and 8. And no, the alternate seats that councilmember Barry and Michael Brown have held are not good enough. Not only are the positions they held not part of the six primary votes on the Metro Board, both Barry and Brown have not taken the position seriously, as evidenced by their being absent at a large number of meetings.

If Council-Chair-to-be Mr. Brown is going to leave Mr. Graham in charge of the Public Works committee, it stands to reason Graham will expect to keep his Metro Board seat. But there is no reason that prospective Mayor Gray shouldn’t find an east of the river resident to be his primary pick for the Metro Board. While in recent years the Mayor’s primary pick has been the DDOT Director, it hasn’t always been that way. It would be great if a regular citizen, who preferably would also be a regular rider of the system, were chosen to fill that seat.


Tony Danza on Education
Star Lawrence,

I have not seen the Waiting for Superman film, so cannot comment on it. But I did catch the first episode of A&E’s “TEACH: Tony Danza.” The sitcom star, now looking tiny and wizened, decides to try teaching, a lifelong ambition. The mayor of Philadelphia, apparently, agrees to let him teach English and be an assistant coach. The principal is no-nonsense: you screw up, you’re out. The school looks big, sprawling, not a snakepit, but no tony academy, either. Before Danza starts, he takes some certification courses, and one line stuck with me. The instructor says something like — there are three places people end up where they don’t want to be — prison, mental hospital, and school. So, thus armed, Tony goes into the classroom, immediately babbles and gets coated in flop sweat. I will leave it to you — but if I ever thought I could be a teacher, no way now!


The Problem with Ms. Rhee
Richard Urban, independent candidate for DC Council At-Large,

I believed Ms.. Rhee should have resigned in December 2007 when I organized a rally in front of Stuart-Hobson Middle School ( protesting the deceitful way that she terminated the operation of the ULTRA Teen Choice abstinence education program in DC Public Schools. Based on a litmus test of my personal view on same-sex marriage (see, the program was cut. It did not matter that six parents and five students in the program met with Richard Nyankori, then Ms. Rhee’s special assistant and now head of special education, and expressed how the program was beneficial and how they wanted it to continue. What did matter is that Ms. Rhee did not want a program in DC Public schools run by a person who had testified against health standards that teach that same sex relationships are normal, beginning in sixth grade (, Page 9 Standard 6.1.6 and Page 10 Standard 8.1.5). Since then she has wrongfully terminated a lot of people and things, including mass layoffs of 100, 266, and 241 employees and dozens of principals, closed many schools, kicked out dozens of nonprofit programs or made it difficult or nearly impossible for them to work in schools, antagonized parents, antagonized Special Ed parents (for example,, been under court order for Special Ed (, and the list goes on.

If the character is rotten at the core, the fruit will not be good. Rhee does not have the qualifications of integrity or even practical experience to lead DC public schools Yes, make tough decisions, but lack of integrity and deceit must not be part of the process. Yet from the very beginning it has been. Rhee was brought on without any vetting by anyone, and that pattern has been followed ever since. It is not surprising that things have not gone well since then. I agree with Gary, everyone needs accountability, and having a Chancellor that answers to no one except the mayor has not worked well. Now is the time to rectify this by the Council’s reinstating an elected school board. In the next administration, we must not allow another (or the same) School Chancellor to run amok. Ms. Rhee has not championed children, as she repeatedly claims, but rather her own hidden agendas.


Ron Drake,

Several years ago the Indiana Legislature created a study committee to identify Indiana’s statutes that were obsolete or that served no purpose Those statutes were then repealed. DC should do the same.

But more than that, the test as to each DC statute should be: 1) what purpose does it serve, 2) is it reasonable, and 3) does it impose an undue burden on the citizenry. Any statute that fails that test should be repealed.



What is Your Vision for Ward 5, October 7
Kathy Henderson,

I want to thank the Ward 5 residents that attended the October 1 session. We had a very thoughtful discussion about the future of Ward 5. If you did not get a chance to attend, consider attending the next session on October 7, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The location is the Harry Thomas Recreation Center at 1743 Lincoln Road, NE (Near North Capitol Street and Lincoln Road, NE). Your agenda will be my agenda.

Please share your vision for Ward 5 with me. Where would you like to see Ward 5 headed in the next year to five years? What is your priority for development? What are your thoughts on schools in Ward 5? Do you feel safe in Ward 5? These are just some of the topics we can discuss. My goal is to listen to what you have to say.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, October 9-15
John Stokes,

October 9, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Langdon Recreation Center, 2901 20th Street, NE. Backyard Habitat Garden Workshop, Gardening for Birds and Butterflies. Free. DDOE and DPR are helping property owners create habitat for wildlife on their own land by hosting free educational, hands-on workshops. These workshops will teach District residents about landscaping for wildlife while also creating aesthetically pleasing gardens. The workshops will include presentations on conservation landscaping and gardening for wildlife, plant selection, general landscape design principles and how to do a site assessment. If you are interested participating you can register online at, click on “Backyard Habitat Education,” then on register for a workshop in 2010.

October 10, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Cole Field House, Maryland University College. Halloween Championship for ages six through eighteen. The cheerleaders from Fort Lincoln will compete in a cheer competition at Maryland University College. For more info, please visit For more information, call K’Yanna Blackwell at 258-7501.

October 10, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., North County High School, 10 First Avenue E, Glenn Burnie, Maryland. Radical Rec. for ages six through eighteen. This event is a competitive cheer competition that the DC Scorpions from Fort Lincoln will participate in. For more details, please visit For more information, call K’Yanna Blackwell at 258-7501.

October 13, 15, 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Hearst Recreation Center, 3600 Tilden Street, NW. Maryland Backyard Habitat Garden Workshop: Creating Wildlife Communities in Small Spaces. Free. DDOE and DPR are helping property owners create habitat for wildlife on their own land by hosting free educational, hands-on workshops. These workshops will teach District residents about landscaping for wildlife while also creating aesthetically pleasing gardens. The workshops will include presentations on conservation landscaping and gardening for wildlife, plant selection, general landscape design principles and how to do a site assessment. If you are interested participating you can register online at, click on “Backyard Habitat Education,” then register for a workshop in 2010.


National Building Museum Events, October 13
Johanna Weber,

October 13, 3:00-5:00 p.m., Construction Watch Tour: United States Institute of Peace Redux. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) — an independent, nonpartisan, national institution — provides tools that prevent and end violent international conflicts and promote stability. USIP’s new headquarters, designed by Moshe Safdie and Associates (MSA), incorporates a dramatic series of wing-like elements. Representatives from USIP, MSA, and Clark Construction Group lead a tour of the 150,000-square-foot, LEED-NC building. $25, for members only. Prepaid registration required.



New Classes with Continuing Education at CCDC
Neil Richardson, Continuing Education, Community College of the District of Columbia,

Continuing Education at the Community College of the District of Columbia is offering “instructor led” courses for the first time beginning in November. Classes are in our new buildings at 801 N. Capitol Street, NW, and at our Backus facility at 5171 South Dakota Avenue, NE. Continuing Education launched 1200 high quality and affordable online classes in February. Continuing Education provides professionals the training and education people need to get the best jobs. We have online classes ranging from accounting courses to Six Sigma Certification to media and graphic design classes.

We are excited about providing diverse programming this fall including Weather Forecasting (for armchair forecasters), Feng Shui, and Train the Trainers classes. We are also launching new classes and workshops in January that will include civic engagement training, team building, and organizational development. In January, a special Energizer series will help you begin the New Year with short two-hour workshops in Group Dynamics, Self Awareness: From Insanity to Integrity, Achieving and Maintaining Life Balance, Building Health Relationships, and Letting Go: Facing the Pain.

CCDC has a community conference room that can seat approximately one hundred thirty people (and can be subdivided into three smaller rooms). The space can be used for community events, corporate retreats and education forums. Continuing Education will be hosting a speaker series at our conference room in which District residents can learn about important events and engage in dialog about important public issues. We have also launched, which aims to become a virtual community commons where people can come together to find out about opportunities for growth. Continuing Education at CCDC is here to serve people from across the city. Let us know what you think. For more information, go to


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