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October 17, 2010

True History

Dear Historians:

On Saturday, the Washington Post published an editorial, “The Case Against an Elected DC Attorney General,” It makes two arguments against the referendum on the general election ballot that would make the attorney general an elected official, rather than a mayoral appointee. First, it alleges that the referendum was “rushed,” “shortsighted,” initially introduced in the city council only in June, and that it was introduced solely in the context of “[t]he feud between the council and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty” and as the result of the actions of current Attorney General Peter Nickles. Normally, Washington Post readers don’t expect its editorial board to be well informed about DC politics, but this argument shows either an extraordinary amount of ignorance or a deliberate effort to distort the facts and mislead voters.

The effort to have an elected attorney general has not been rushed and it definitely was not a result of a council feud with Mayor Fenty or of the failure of Peter Nickles to represent the people properly. It began over twelve years ago, in March 1998, when Councilmember David Catania introduced a bill to make the Attorney General position an elected position. Catania reintroduced similar resolutions in 1999 and 2002, and in 2002 he also introduced an advisory referendum on the ballot to ask voters whether they wanted an elected District Attorney’s office that would have the power of the Attorney General and the power of the US Attorney to prosecute local crimes. That referendum won 82 percent of the vote. The bill that authorized the current referendum, Bill 18-65, was introduced by Councilmembers Mendelson, Kwame Brown, Michael Brown, and Catania on January 6, 2009, and it was basically the same as Bill 17-548, introduced on December 18, 2007 — before Fenty appointed Nickles as his permanent Attorney General — by Mendelson, Kwame Brown, and Catania. The Post editorialists had to bury this long history of the bill to create an independent Attorney General office in order to construct their false history of it.

The editorial’s second argument against the bill is that, “An elected attorney general would create a separate power base that, we fear, would be able to impede or even usurp the mayor’s ability to set policy.” Actually, this sounds like a good argument for the bill. Checks and balances are the very basis of a democratic government. A democratic government, like the US federal government, has competitive power centers that conflict and compete with each other and make it difficult to pass laws and promote policies. Everyone complains about that difficulty all the time, but the difficulty is deliberate, introduced in the process to keep government in check. This is where Adrian Fenty and Peter Nickles do come into the argument, as a bad example of what happens when the mayor has the power to appoint the attorney general and uses that power to appoint a yes man, who will bend and twist the law and argue that the mayor is above the law, instead of counseling the mayor to follow and obey the law.

We Washingtonians don’t want strongman mayors, with legal immunity provided by lawyers subservient to their whims. We showed that in the primary election. The Washington Post may still be fighting against the results of the primary, but this bill is not the grounds on which to fight that fight.

Gary Imhoff,
Dorothy Brizill,


Mildred “Milli” Edwards
Dorothy Brizill,

The feature article in the October issue of Washingtonian Magazine is about “45 Who Shaped Washington,” According to the magazine, “these people helped make our region what it is today.” The eclectic Washingtonian list includes Katherine Graham, Washington Post publisher; Jack Graham, Metro’s first general manager; Richard Nixon; Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., lawyer/lobbyist; S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian, 1964-84; Walter Washington, mayor of Washington; Oliver T. Carr, Jr., developer; Chuck Brown, go-go musician; Ken Sparks, Federal City Council; Ronald Reagan; Rayful Edmond, III, cocaine drug kingpin in the 1980’s; and Abe Pollin, Verizon Center, among others. For the residents of Shaw, Milli Edwards, through her warmth, community organizing and home cooking, worked to make the Shaw/Logan Circle community what it is today. She worked to rebuild the shattered inner city of Washington after the 1968 riots following the death of Martin Luther King, during and after the destructive construction of the Metro Green Line, and during the threat to public safety resulting from the drug epidemic.

Mildred “Milli” Edwards, the longtime director of the Shaw Project Action Committee, died last Monday. Her funeral service will be held tomorrow, Monday, October 18, at Shiloh Baptist Church, 1500 9th Street, NW, at 12:00 p.m.; there will be a viewing an hour prior to the funeral service. Internment will be at Ft. Lincoln Cemetery. Milli moved to Washington in 1969 and became a community organizer with Shaw PAC; she retired from the organization in 1995 as its executive director. She was also the executive director and secretary of the Greater Shaw Community Development Corporation and a member of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and then of Shiloh Church, where she was a member of its choir since 1975. On September 5, 1986, Mayor Marion Barry declared the day Mildred L. Edwards Day, as a tribute for her outstanding dedication and service to her friends and neighbors in the Shaw.


Robberies and Chief Lanier
Jack McKay,

I have to make a correction. In the October 4 issue, I wrote that “the clearance rate [in DC] for robberies is just 17.2 percent,” whereas nationwide, “cities of comparable size clear 21.5 percent of robberies.” Well, that 17.2 percent clearance rate was a 2008 number, and lately I located the 2009 value, which is just 16.1 percent. Not only is DC doing worse than most cities in identifying and arresting robbers, but the rate at which it does so is getting worse. Perhaps it’s not surprising that robberies are up by 13 percent in the District, comparing MPD Chief Cathy Lanier’s tenure to the last years under her predecessor, Charles Ramsey.

Chief Lanier speaks often of, and takes credit for, the current decrease in District homicides. But this decrease is observed nationwide, not just in DC, and that decline began twenty years ago, long before she became Chief of Police. Furthermore, it’s the violent crime of robbery, not homicide, that threatens us peaceful residents most seriously. In my east-of-the-Park, Ward One neighborhood, there are 75 robberies for every homicide. In low-crime MPD District Two, west of Rock Creek Park, there are 290 robberies for every homicide. In that upscale neighborhood, through September, there were 88 robberies in 2008, 124 in 2009, and 134 this year (excluding the Dupont Circle PSA, added to 2D in September 2007). Is anybody worried by this trend? Is anybody concerned that the District’s robbery clearance rate is low, and getting lower? Given Chief Lanier’s 80 percent popular approval rating, apparently not.


We’ve Been Working for Teachers All Along
Candi Peterson,

As a candidate for the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) General Vice President and as The Washington Teacher blogger in residence, I have joined Nathan Saunders’ slate of candidates for WTU officers. Nathan Saunders, the current WTU General Vice President, and I have been working on behalf of teachers, students, and schools all along. We fought when current “Hold Over” president George Parker wouldn’t. Members of our union will within the next ten days elect officers, board members and trustees to serve our local. After a long wait, election ballots were finally mailed on October 12. Anyone who was a WTU member as of June 30 is eligible to participate in this election and should have received a ballot by now. Ballots must be mailed back so that they will be received by 4:00 p.m. on October 27 to ensure that they are counted. If WTU members need a duplicate ballot because the ballot received was incomplete, they didn’t receive a ballot, or their ballot has been lost, damaged, or spoiled, please call Maria Landi, American Arbitration Association, at 800-273-0726 to request a new ballot. I encourage union members to exercise their right to vote, as our vote is our voice. Vote the Saunders Slate for a member-driven participative union democracy. One X mark is all it takes. For more details on the Saunders/Peterson slate, visit or


Bike Sharing: Another Green Fantasy?
Bryce A. Suderow,

Bike sharing is all the rage on Capitol Hill. Jim Myers, who spends much of his time in Montreal, has an interesting perspective on it, which he published on the Hilleast listserv:

“McGill University researchers say the environmental benefits of Montreal’s controversial BIXI bike-sharing program have been ‘grossly exaggerated.’ A vast majority of trips taken actually only replace other ‘green’ modes of transportation. Eighty-six per cent of Bixi trips replaced walking, or rides on personal bikes or public transit, according to a survey of 1,432 Montrealers conducted this summer by McGill’s School of Urban Planning. Another 4 percent of trips wouldn’t have been taken without Bixi.

“Meanwhile, auditors are studying claims by Stationnement de Montreal, the city’s parking agency, that their $31 million deficit in payments to the city is, in large part, due to costs related to the BIXI system which debuted in May 2009. Many Montrealers are proud that their 5,000-plus bike sharing program with 400 stations is at the forefront of the green movement and is inspiring like efforts in other cities including Washington’s smaller effort. A few cynics, however, claim that BIXI is part of a grand plot to bankrupt DC in revenge for stealing the Montreal Expos. Another component of the plan involves the annual elimination of the Washington Capitals from Stanley Cup contention.”


Android App Development Class for Black and Latino High School Students in DC
Phil Shapiro,

This free class will be taught at Howard University after school for several months. Students will learn to use Google App Inventor, Further details about this class are at I’m not teaching the class, just relaying info about it. Thanks for forwarding this info to other DC online communities.


General Comments on the Community College of DC
William Haskett,

I will assume that the problem first of all is generic and social and not individual. That it appears to the potential student, however, as largely individual. That it is a problem of young adults with an insufficient legacy from their schools. That the generic age of students is usually between the ages of twenty and thirty, with some work experience, and that students need to generate an income while studying.

That one or other of the problems of study is a lack or avoidance of general reading. which gives the basic resources of knowledge and background, more usually acquired in younger childhood. That the same comment can safely be made about writing, with the possible exception of letters and postcards, and of mathematics beyond simple computation. That abstraction of all forms and types is an unfamiliar animal in most social contexts. That these are habits, and not specific skills that can be taught by any sequence of courses or instruction. That the design of the community college must take into account, and extend over the normal course of six years to graduation for many students, which represents a fair fraction of a real life, even when not complicated by work or the life of a family.

This is most important: the adaptations to this situation are easier on the side of the community college and more difficult for the individual student, although commonly adaptation is expected by the latter, and less frequently by the college. This requires that the external society and economy both be included in the context that we consider. Some suggestions: sites in as many geographic parts of the city as possible; complication of what is put on these sites, to enable students to complete their study on those sites by spending extended periods there. This requires provision of eating, sitting, and reading facilities, so that, if required, someone could spend a whole day within these college facilities without strain or distraction. These sites should be placed to be in all parts of the city where such facilities do not exist, and therefore duplicate facilities for doing this should be constructed, convenient to all parts of the city, to minimize travel time and costs for students. On the side of the students, this whole enterprise would involve putting the process of study at the center of their activities for at least up to six years, as noted.

I suspect that most available texts are not well-adapted to this kind of rethinking of essentially adult education, and that new forms and techniques of learning would be required. What follows is a listing of the kinds of things that I would recommend. Many of these are out of print, and special editions might be required, but the need is general and there should be a market in the new emphasis on the community colleges nationwide.

Lancelot Hogben, Mathematics for the Millions and Science for the Citizen, both classic texts from the 1930’s when the fact of mass unemployment pointed to the need for a fundamental shift in education for many who were no longer children in school. The whole thing was brought up to date by Hogben in his Mathematics in the Making (1960). A similar thought underlies Ian Stewart’s The Story of Mathematics: From Babylonian Numerals to Chaos Theory (Quercus Popular Science, 2007). Thomas S. Kane, The New Oxford Guide to Writing (1988) and William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style (1957 and several later editions). Susan Hockey, A Guide to Computer Applications in the Humanities (1980). Douglas R. Hofstadter, Goedel, Escher, Bach: A Metaphorical “Fugue” on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll (1979 ff). Page Smith and Charles Daniel, The Chicken Book (1975), a compendium of history, fact, lore and praise for the chicken, or Gallus Domesticus.

History might best be approached through the reading of diaries and letters that would embody both direct interest (say Pepys or Frederic Douglas or Booker T. Washington) rather than a list of dates to be memorized, and a conviction that there was something there other than the everyday familiarity of our own world. Mathematics might be got to through the use of the abacus or later of the slide rule, rather than through the opaque mystery of the pocket calculator, and science through handling the compass or the protractor, or demonstrations of the learning experiments of the 17th century as practical puzzles for the mind. Anthropology and inter-cultural strangeness might be better reached through the use of films such as “Dead Birds,” dealing with parts of Papua New Guinea, rather than lectures or even simple readings. Practice in the arts or mechanics might be found in the mixed skills of analysis from times before the computer, each involving a combination of precise measurement and the interconnection of systems, rather than the notion of simple replacement of elements from a reading on a computer screen. And so on, as similar thinking is worked out in many elements of modern curriculum.


The Top Question About Rhee
Tom Grahame,

Gary, you wrote [themail, October 13] that, “This, of course, leaves us with the top question on our minds: how much are the taxpayers on the hook for; how much do we have to pay her to go away?” The top question on my mind is different. It is, “How will the education of children in the District change?” I have an open mind; under the next mayor, test scores are not preordained to decline or to stop improving. I certainly hope they continue to improve. And they will have to improve.

We already see mismatches across the US in terms of jobs unfilled because employers can’t find potential employees with the skills needed for the jobs, versus so many unemployed people who don’t have the skills you get only with a good education. We know that without good math and language skills, kids in DC cannot set their sights very high for what their future may hold. We all had one thousand and one reasons to vote against the arrogant and uncommunicative and soon to be ex-mayor, and (for me, anyway) only one reason to vote for him: that reason was we hoped that a larger percentage of urban DC kids would be acquiring the knowledge skills to participate in the knowledge economy.

I devoutly hope that the next mayor can somehow find a way to continue the improvement in learning we have only recently seen in DC schools. I wish him, and more importantly, DC school children, the luck and determination they will all need.


Severance Pay, WOWRhee
T. Lassoc,

Guess her detractors won’t have to “wowrhee” about Ms. Rhee anymore. Except for what it may cost DC after she’s gone, in dollars as well as the residual impact of her time in DC on the school system, and in the lives of students, teachers, other school personnel and administrators, and on the DC citizenry. WowRhee! What a way ($$$) to have stayed, and to go ($$$)!


Severance and Cost of Living
Bill Canaris,

You say [themail, October 13] on the matter of Rhee’s salary, “her salary is now considerably higher” because of the annual cost-of-living raises. Go to a CPI calculator and assume she got an increase in January 2008 for inflation in the year 2007 over 2006, then an increase in January 2009 for 2008 over 2007, then an increase in January 2010 for 2009 over 2008.

That’s a total of a six percent increase, hardly “considerable” over three years.

But here as in other matters, what are facts to get in the way of a good story?


Severance Pay
Patrick Thibodeau,

Of course Rhee is leaving for “good cause.” Gray has said nothing to encourage her to stay. Rhee is being gracious and exiting with enough ambiguity about her motive to leave Gray in a stronger position. And regarding her severance, it seems a little late to get worked up about it.

[Bill Canaris is assuming that the amount of whatever cost of living increases Michelle Rhee has been granted over the past three years have been calculated using the standard Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator. I don’t know why we should assume that; I want to see the actual figures. Patrick Thibodeau believes that the election of Vincent Gray constitutes a “good cause” for Rhee’s resignation, in the sense that it should trigger the severance pay section of her contract. Does Patrick believe that a political appointee should automatically get severance pay if there is a change in administrations or if a politician other than the one who hired them is elected? Camille Cates Barnett was appointed to the position of “Chief Management Officer” by the Control Board on December 22, 1997. She resigned on January 7, 1999, just a little more than a year later, and just after the Anthony Williams assumed office as mayor. As far as I know, she was the first DC senior government official to receive severance pay, and it was a major scandal then that she did. Government officials who are politically appointed and who serve at the will of whoever appointed them do not, as a rule, receive any kind of severance pay or extra compensation when they resign or are fired. It would be a scandal if a member of the president’s staff or cabinet received an extra half year’s pay upon quitting or being fired, or upon the election of a new president. I’m still scandalized when a DC government official in an appointed, at-will position gets additional compensation upon leaving after a year or two of service. To me, it’s inappropriate and wrong, and I’m astounded that just a decade after the precedent was set by paying severance to Camille Barnett, it’s considered normal and usual today. — Gary Imhoff]



National Building Museum Events, October 19-23
Johanna Weber,

October 19, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Spotlight on Design Lecture with 2010 AIA Gold Medalist Peter Bohlin. For the architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackskon, the poignancy of nature serves as inspiration for visually rich and emotionally powerful architecture. Founding principal Peter Bohlin, FAIA, recipient of the American Institute of Architects 2010 Gold Medal, discusses his firm’s work, including residential, civic, and cultural buildings. $12 Museum and AIA members; $20 Nonmembers. Free for students with valid student ID. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

October 20, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Clean, Green, and Mobile: Designing the GreenMobile Home Unit. Michael Berk, director of the Mississippi State University School of Architecture and developer of the GreenMobile home unit, discusses how this federally-funded housing prototype can replace the traditional mobile home. The GreenMobile, which includes a variety of energy-efficient technologies, ranked number one in FEMA’s Alternative Housing Pilot Program in 2007. Free; registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

October 21, 10:00-11:30 a.m., Estate Planning Workshop. Organize your estate plan today and enjoy peace of mind tomorrow. Marc W. Boland, Esq., of Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz and Gilday, LLC, discusses current estate planning techniques and management issues, including wills, trusts, probate, power of attorney, advance directives, charitable giving, and more during this free workshop organized by the Museum’s Development Office. Beverly Willis Library, 4th floor of the Museum. Free, reservations required. RSVP to Katherine Potosky at 202.272.2448, ext. 3456 or by October 19.

October 23, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Construction Watch Tour: Robinson Nature Center. Located in Howard County, Maryland, the Robinson Nature Center will offer children’s activities and hands-on exhibits to educate the public about the natural environment. Alan Reed, GWWO Architects, and Shawn Poore, Forrester Construction, will lead a tour of this 23,000-square-foot, three-level facility, which is seeking LEED Platinum status. $25, members only. Prepaid registration required.

October 23, 10:00 am-5:00 p.m., Smithsonian Craft2Wear Show Begins. On October 23 and 24 the National Building Museum welcomes the Smithsonian Craft2Wear Show, a show and sale featuring thirty-six exhibitors of jewelry and wearable art, all of whom were previously juried into the Smithsonian Craft Show. The show is produced by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. $5 admission. Ticket sales available on-site only.

Most events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Vincent Gray’s Vision for the City WNDC Luncheon, October 21
Pat Bitondo,

City Council Chairman Vincent Gray won the Democratic primary election on September 14 and is most likely to the next mayor of Washington. Chairman Gray was born in Washington and graduated at age sixteen from Dunbar High School. In spite of being scouted by Major League baseball teams, Vince chose to study psychology at George Washington University at both the undergraduate and graduate school levels. In December 1994, he was named the first Executive Director of Covenant House Washington, an international faith-based organization dedicated to serving homeless and at-risk youth. During his decade at Covenant House, Vince helped make the organization one of the most effective of its kind. He also led a successful campaign to build a new community service center in far southeast DC.

In 2006, Vince ran for the citywide office of Chairman of the city council. During his campaign for mayor, Vince has been consistent and pledged to continue his effort to unite the city. He has two children, Jonice Gray Tucker and Vincent Carlos Gray, and two grandchildren. His daughter, Ms. Tucker, will introduce him.

At the Women’s National Democratic Club on Thursday, October 21. The bar opens at 11:30 a.m.; lunch at 12:15 p.m.; presentation and question and answer time, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Members, $25; nonmembers, $30; lecture only (no lunch), $10. Register at


DC Financial Planning Day, October 23
Michelle Phipps-Evans,

The DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking; the City of Washington, and the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area invite you to attend DC Financial Planning Day on Saturday, October 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus (Bell Multicultural High School), 3101 16th Street, NW, where you’ll be able to meet one-on-one with dozens of professional financial planners to discuss your personal finance questions, concerns and interests.

The advice will be provided on a pro bono basis by experts from the Financial Planning Association and highly qualified Certified Financial Planner professionals. There are no strings attached — volunteering planners will not pass out business cards, marketing materials, or sell products or services. You may seek information and advice on a wide range of topics in one-on-one meetings, including general financial planning, special financial circumstances, investment planning, retirement planning, income tax planning, estate planning, insurance planning, and employee benefits.

At the Financial Planning Day, you’ll also have an opportunity to select from a series of fifty-minute educational workshop presentations and benefit from expert information on financial topics of interest to you. For general information, contact 877-861-7826 or visit the web site at


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, October 22-25
John Stokes,

October 22, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE. Chili Cook Off for all ages. Preregistration for participants was Friday October 15. The menu includes beef chili, turkey chili, chicken chili, pork chili, vegetarian chili, and super spicy chili cooked by various patrons of the recreation center. For more information, contact Jason Lewis, Recreation Specialist, at 576-9238.

October 22, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Ridge Road Recreation Center, 800 Ridge Road, SE. Pot Luck Dinner for all ages. The staff at Ridge Road Recreation Center will host its annual Pre Homecoming Pot Luck Dinner. Everyone will bring a dish to share. For more information, call Sonny Hicks at 645-3959.

October 22, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N Street, SW. Halloween Party for ages six through twelve. Participants will partake in some dancing, eating, game playing, and movie watching. For more information, call Henry T. Moton IV at 645-7454.

October 22, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver Street, SE. Hillcrest Cancer Walk and Program. This event will include a walk, guest speakers, success stories, and the circle of hope. Light refreshments will be served. To register, please call Sue Wynn at 645-9200.

October 22, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Trinidad Recreation Center, 1310 Childress Street, NE. Big Tigger and Street Corner Foundation Youth Sports Clinic and Health/HIV/Testing for ages seven through thirteen. Tigger and the Street Corner Foundation will hold a sports clinic and also do tests screening for HIV is open to all. Information on staying healthy and other health concerns will be available. For more information, call Anthony Higginbotham, Site Manager, at 727-1293.

October 23, 9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m., Ridge Road Recreation Center, 800 Ridge Road SE. Football Homecoming for all ages. The Ridge Road Titans will host the annual Homecoming celebration. The event will include a parade, football games, music, food, and carnival activities. Come out and join us.

October 23, 8:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver Street, SE. Third Annual Reflections of Pink, Breast Cancer Awareness Day. This event will bring awareness to the community and a candle light visual for non-survivors and celebrate survivors. Also, there will be workshops, carnival activities, health screenings and community fun walk. For more information, call Barbara Jones at 645-3980.

October 23, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE. Futsal Workshop for ages seven through fourteen. Come and find out what all of the hype is about with this face paced game similar to soccer. Bring a friend, learn the rules, and play a game! Tiffany Johnson, Site Manager, at 576-9238.

October 25, 10:15 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Publick Playhouse, 5445 Landover Road, Cheverly, MD. Ailey II: A Celebration of American Dance for adults with special needs. Participants of the Leisure Life Skills Program for Adults with Special Needs will travel to the Publick Playhouse to see the world renowned Alvin Ailey dance troop. Audience members will learn about the history of the dance company and have a question and answer session with the dancers. For more information, call Priscilla Jones at 698-1794.


Kwame Brown at Ward 3 Democratic Meeting, October 28
Tom Smith,

The Ward Three Democratic Committee will hold a community dialogue with prospective DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown on Thursday, October 28, 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. At the Great Hall of St. Columba Episcopal Church, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW (one block off Wisconsin Avenue at Tenleytown Metro).

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


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