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October 20, 2010

Reuben Charles

Dear Charlestonians:

Shortly after the September 14 primary, Reuben O. Charles II was named the Director of Operations of the Gray for Mayor campaign, replacing Adam Rubinson, who had served as the campaign’s manager for the primary race. Charles, a Guyanese native, has lived in Washington since 2007. He met Chairman Gray in the spring of this year, and he impressed Gray and his campaign officials with his fundraising skills. In recent weeks, Charles has told reporters that he will be the Chief of Staff to the mayor in a Gray administration. Charles’ meteoric ascendance and sudden prominence has shocked many Gray supporters and raised concerns among campaign workers, who have had questions about Charles’ professional background, campaign experience, and knowledge of the District. These concerns were heightened when Alan Suderman wrote two articles about Charles on the City Paper web site, in the first of which Adam Rubinson indicated that “he never vetted Charles beyond a cursory Google search.” When Dorothy asked questions about Charles to two members of Gray’s finance committee, they issued a formal challenge to her to look into Charles’ background for herself.

One of the first things that she learned was that Charles is not a registered voter in the District of Columbia, although he claims that he has resided in DC since 2007. He is also not a member of the DC Bar or the Missouri Bar, although he graduated from Washington University Law School in St. Louis. An explanation for Charles’ not registering to vote is that he is not a United States citizen. Although he moved to the United States when he was fifteen years old and is now forty-one, although he became a permanent US resident in 2000, he has not become a naturalized citizen. Traci Hughes, Gray’s campaign press secretary, relayed to Dorothy Charles’ statement that he was a naturalized citizen, but then Hughes read Charles’ resume, which said that he is “awaiting appointment for citizenship interview.”

Prior to joining the Gray campaign, Charles worked as a contractor who performed work for several District agencies, including the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the DC Public Library, and also for WMATA. At the same time, however, he was the president of ISA White Collar Prison Consultants, a firm in Washington that describes itself as a “boutique practice group of premier prison, sentencing and business consultants.” It specializes in advising white collar criminals about imprisonment and in managing their business and personal affairs while they are imprisoned, and it claims to have special expertise because some of its principals “have served time in prison for white-collar offenses.” It is unclear whether ISA Consultants is still operating; its main web site is no longer live and two other web sites run by it are only two pages each, with no staff or officer names, no E-mail address or street address for its office, and an 800 telephone number that only rings to a fax machine. Some of Charles’ initial partners in ISA were also his business associates in St. Louis, where he was the managing partner of Civic Ventures Investment Fund, which was funded by the Small Business Administration and large companies based in St. Louis (including Anheuser-Busch, Ameren, Edward Jones, and Monsanto) before several of its loans collapsed, Civic Ventures was itself placed in receivership, and investors in Civic Ventures lost millions of dollars. Between the closing of Civic Ventures and Charles’ moving to DC, Charles was subject to several lawsuits regarding other business ventures, leaving him owing tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This week, Chairman Gray announced that he was not going to accept District government funds to support the transition to his becoming mayor. Instead, he will form a 501(c)(4) organization and raise private funds to support the transition. There is no reporting requirement for this funding, and no limit to how large a contribution can be, although Gray has said that he will voluntarily report contributions and place a limit on them. The person who has been named to do the fundraising for the transition is Reuben Charles.

What does this issue say about Gray and his campaign? It raises concerns that go beyond Charles. Neither Gray nor his campaign vetted Charles’ background adequately. It seems evident that Charles was not forthcoming about his problems, and that even after many troubling matters were raised about him, the Gray campaign continued to support him and to dismiss the legitimate questions that people were asking. We can only hope that Gray and his advisers and staff will do a better job of vetting potential appointees to government positions.

A list of links appears below in themail.

Gary Imhoff,
Dorothy Brizill,


Unresolved Problems at the BOEE
Dorothy Brizill,

On Monday, October 18, the early voting center at 441 4th Street (One Judiciary Square) opened its doors at 8:30 a.m. So that District residents could cast their early votes in the November 2 general election. However, because the four touch screen voting machines would not turn on properly, all votes had to cast paper ballots. Line soon developed because there are 286 ANC commission seats on the November ballot and, as a result, there are 286 different paper ballots. Ballot clerks had to dispatch other pollworkers to a room behind the old Council chamber to find the correct ANC ballot that corresponded to the voters’ addresses.

At 9:00 a.m., when I asked Rokey Suleman, the Executive Director of the Board of Elections (BOEE), how the problem was going to be resolved, I was told that he and his IT staff were waiting for the machines’ manufacturer, iVotronic, based in Omaha, to open for business and work on a solution. Especially troubling was the fact that the BOEE claimed it has tested the machines prior to the opening of the polling site on Monday. Moreover, the same problem with the machines had occurred at numerous polling sites across the District on September 14.

The first vote on the touchscreens was cast at 1:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon.


Hate Crime Laws
Ron Drake,

I recommend reading Richard Cohen’s October 19 Washington Post column “When Thoughts Become A Crime,” []. Cohen contends that “[a]lmost as bad as hate crimes themselves is the designation. It is a little piece of totalitarian nonsense, a way for prosecutors to punish miscreants for their thoughts or speech, both of which used to be protected by the Constitution.” He goes on to say: “[I]t is not the criminal act alone that matters anymore but the belief that might have triggered this act.” He then states that “hate-crime laws arm the overly ambitious among [prosecutors] with permission to seek punishment for unpopular and often dreadful political views — or thought.” He notes that “[t]he upshot combines Orwell with Kafka.”

I concur.


Tim Day Requests DC OAG and OIG to Investigate “HarryGate”
Paul D. Craney,

Tim Day, Republican candidate for Ward 5 DC Council, sent a letter to DC Attorney General Peter Nickles and DC Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby today requesting an investigation of the various nonprofits that Councilmember Harry Thomas has recently been criticized for running without an IRS tax deduction and a business license that was twice revoked from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

“Mr. Thomas is busy campaigning in Georgetown and Tenlytown for a special election; meanwhile his Ward 5 constituents are learning of his various slush funds that are completely unethical and possibly unlawful,” stated Tim Day. “I hope that the Attorney General and the Inspector General can shed some light into what is appearing to be a large conflict of interest,” concluded Day.


Trash, Recycling Services Suspended October 21
Nancee Lyons,

The DC Department of Public Works will suspend trash, recycling, and bulk collection on Thursday, October 21, to allow sanitation staff to attend funeral services for Larry Hutchins, a 24-year DPW employee who was shot and killed while preparing for duty on Wednesday, October 13.

All Thursday trash and recycling collections, including once-a-week collections, will slide to Friday, and Friday’s collection will be picked up on Saturday. Any bulk collections scheduled for Thursday will be rescheduled and those residents will be notified accordingly.

“DPW is mourning the loss of a cherished employee,” said DPW Director William O. Howland, Jr. “Our solid waste employees will join the rest of the DPW family to pay their respects to Mr. Hutchins and his family on Thursday. I want to thank everyone — Mayor Adrian Fenty, the Council of the District of Columbia, the residents we serve, the media and our fellow colleagues — for their support during this time and patience during the brief interruption of these services.”


True History
Malcolm L Wiseman, Jr.,

Mr. Imhoff is entirely correct regarding efforts to create the elected office of DC Attorney General. The movement has nothing whatever to do with Fenty, Nickles, et al., but everything to do with building statehood-like structures into our self-government.

We should continue without letup to construct and reform ourselves until we have all the properties of a state. This would include among others the expansion of the DC council into a larger legislative body and the evolution of a more evenly divided two or more party system.

By the way, I don’t think the folks at the Post are dumb. They are businessmen. They want us to stay right where we are while they profit by it. They are, as many business interests here in the colony, a major impediment on our road to equality. Press on, DC statehood activists. There’s a lot of work to do!


Yes to Elected Attorney General
Lars Hydle,

I’m with Gary on this [themail, October 17]. The current DC law on the attorney general is not clear on whether he/she should be an independent person or a tool of the mayor, but an elected attorney general would be inherently more independent of the mayor and council than an appointed one, and that would be a good thing.

My only problem with the bill is that it requires that the attorney general be elected on a partisan basis, like the mayor and council but unlike the school board and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. That means that the election for the attorney general would effectively be elected by Democrats only, in their primary, rather than by all voters, in the November general election. Moreover, the Hatch Act, to which DC is currently subject, would severely limit the pool from which candidates could be drawn, by excluding DC lawyers who work for the federal government.


Elected Attorney General
Dave Mallof,

I testified on the Ides of March 2007 at Linda Singer’s confirmation hearing as Attorney General that an elected Attorney General was needed. Reason: even before she was installed in January as Mr. Fenty’s choice on a temporary basis, she initiated firings in November and December 2006 without any authority. If you review the video at, go to hourmark 1:02:00.

You can see that Mr. Mendelson was both a bit confused initially and then intrigued. I like to think I planted the most recent seed in his mind. Ms. Singer could not believe I was there arguing to elect her position before she was even confirmed. She was afterwards, well, ice when we shook hands. As my Dad used to say, the truth hurts.


Severance Pay in themail
Michael Bindner,

Appointed officials always receive severance. Giving it to Rhee or Barnett is not unusual. All of Barry’s appointees received severance in 1999 when we left office — with clawback provisions if we were appointed by Tony Williams or found a job in DC government (most weren’t and did not). It is not an unusual practice — what is unusual is the growth in executive salaries, which is endemic and reflects the growth in the private sector under the mistaken belief that executives that command high salaries are somehow better managers. What would be better is more promotion within for less money. That is as true in DC government as it is for Fiat/Chrysler - especially since high executive salaries lead to lower worker salaries and more indebtedness by lower level workers to maintain any kind of standard of living.


Comment on the 10/17 Outlook article by Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

The recent article by Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee [] and last week’s “Manifesto: How to Fix Our Schools” [] and almost all that has been written or publicly spoken by them and their supporters talk of “education reform,” but beyond the incessant, bipolar idealization-demonization of teachers, there is hardly any description of the policies and practices of their reforms. True reform must eliminate obstacles and replace them with policies and practices that allow teachers to maximize effectiveness.

Where can one find a rational description and discussion about the core elements of successful teaching and learning that go beyond abstract descriptions of “quality teachers,” providing “an excellent education,” “transformative changes needed to truly prepare our kids for the 21st-century global economy,” “financial incentives to attract and retain the best teachers,” etc.?

When the Manifesto finally, albeit rhetorically, describes a real problem, reading deficiencies, the solution it offers is more technology rather than offering the public solid answers from educational research: “Even the best teachers — those who possess such skills — face stiff challenges in meeting the diverse needs of their students. A single elementary- or middle-school classroom can contain, for instance, students who read on two or three different grade levels, and that range grows even wider as students move into high school. Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to address all the needs of 25 or 30 students when some are reading on a fourth-grade level and others are ready for Tolstoy?”

The non-answer that sixteen highly paid educational leaders of major school districts is stunning in its detachment from reality and educational research: “We must equip educators with the best technology available to make instruction more effective and efficient. By better using technology to collect data on student learning and shape individualized instruction, we can help transform our classrooms and lessen the burden on teachers’ time.”

How is this an answer to the problem described as well as those not mentioned? In fact, where is there any discussion of the strategies that “a quality” teacher should come to our schools already trained and equipped to teach reading and arithmetic or the quality of textbooks and “learning programs” that teachers are required to use that, in many cases, are more of an obstacle than a tool? Can any of these leaders explain their views on key educational issues, such as: 1) reading instruction: the importance of explicitly teaching sound to letter correspondence; 2) the pros and cons of math textbooks that are filled with distracting pictures; 3) how to develop quick recall and automaticity and how early use of calculators undermines this process in arithmetic/math (and why students in countries like Singapore, Korea, China cannot use them until the middle or upper grades; 4) the importance of teaching core knowledge in actual content areas in the earliest grades; why middle and high schools are on 4x4 and block schedules with ninety-minute periods — a class length well beyond adolescent attention spans; the educational research that validates policies as “teaching to multiple learning styles,” “multiple intelligences,” “brain-based learning,” “differentiated instruction,” heterogeneous versus homogeneous grouping,” requiring teachers to teach students in groups, etc.; 5) how they hold their principals accountable for adhering to legal and contractual mandates; 6) why principals who are unable to maintain safe and orderly buildings and may have never taught in a classroom have the authority to evaluate teachers — or why they are called “instructional leaders” when they are not required to give model demonstration lessons.

The Manifesto also argues: “To make this transformation work, we must also eliminate arcane rules such as “seat time,” which requires a student to spend a specific amount of time in a classroom with a teacher rather than taking advantage of online lessons and other programs.” This is in line with the claim by Fenty and Rhee that “More students are graduating and ready to attend college. . . .” More students are graduating, because Rhee has dramatically expanded summer school programs and instituted credit recovery programs at almost all high schools to enable students to get credit for courses without meeting the mandated courses standards. [See Erich Martel, “A for effort shouldn’t count: Just say no to credit recovery,” in the Fordham Institute, “Education Gadfly” weekly e-journal,]

The American Institutes of Research recently reported that approximately 30 percent of the students who go start college do not return for the second year. The percentage for DCPS is easily twice as great, since well over half of DCPS graduates needed easy summer school or credit recovery classes to graduate.


Bike Sharing
Richard Layman,

One of the problems I have with reading the Post or reading comments in themail is that the perspectives expressed are often so narrow, as people seem to only be able to grasp the moment, and their moment in time, and have an inability to see into the future and future possibilities, even if the future is defined as the day after today (“tomorrow”). Bicycle sharing is about changing mobility paradigms generally, and there are many issues raised in terms of its viability in DC or elsewhere. One problem is that the industry is so new, and information is proprietary for the most part, so there is a paucity of data and experience from which to learn and make generalizations. I won’t go into many details about it, because I am now involved in that business myself, and I’d hate to disclose my scintillating analyses to competitors.

Still, the problem with Bryce Suderow’s recounting of Jim Myers’ E-mail [themail, October 17] is that Myers (and the McGill research) only tells an itty bit piece of the story of bike sharing in Montreal and the nature of sustainable mobility in that city, doesn’t discuss the fact that the City of Montreal has triple the population of DC, and at the core of the city, arguably Montreal has a greater density of transit stations and the service is more frequent (although the cars are smaller). Montreal definitely has a much denser population in the close-in boroughs (Ville Marie, Plateau-Mont Royal) than does DC. Plus, Montreal has a phenomenal system of cycletracks (dedicated lanes for bicyclists, in the right of way but separated from traffic, that makes riding much more comfortable for children, women, and seniors, which isn’t the case in most other North American cities, where most bicyclists are expected to ride in traffic. On the contrary, “vehicular cyclists” in the US tend to be men, white (with the exception of low income cyclists such as Hispanics), and younger. Cycletracks make biking comfortable for all demographic segments.

Furthermore, you have to look at the nature of trip behavior generally. Biking’s effectiveness as a means to effect mode shift is best for trips of three miles or less (51 percent of US household trips are three miles or shorter). So, by definition, in the short and intermediate term, bikesharing is not likely to have impact on trips beyond that distance, at least not for what we might call everyday bicyclists. But so what? Even small changes in the number of people driving or taking transit — especially when, during rush periods, riding the subway system is often inconvenient — can make getting around more convenient and comfortable because of congestion reduction by diverting trips to other modes.

Once bikesharing is paired with the right kind of bicycle infrastructure, especially cycletracks and bicycle boulevards (streets prioritized for neighborhood traffic prioritizing bicycling), the right kind of short term and long term parking support, and the right kind of support for commuters (parking, lockers, and changing facilities, showers), biking can become a significant piece of the overall mobility paradigm and infrastructure. Right now though, few people take biking seriously, as they can’t fathom getting around without being tethered to a car. That’s fine, because people who understand social change and social movements recognize that it is a multi-decade process that takes an appreciation of a time frame much longer than a week, a month, or even a year or two. (E.g., with regard to the bike sharing research in Montreal, 2010 is only the second year the system has been in operation.)

And when Bryce Suderow or Jim Myers want to start writing about how the residential parking permit system underprices the value of street parking spaces to the tune of $2,000 or more each year, which is a massive subsidy of automobility, then maybe I’ll start paying attention to what they write about biking and other sustainable transportation modalities.


Links to Reuben Charles Article
Gary Imhoff,; Dorothy Brizill,

St. Louis Post Dispatch: “Ex-St. Louis Promoter Reuben Charles a Big Player in DC Politics,”

“Disbarred Attorney Charles E. Polk Jr. Resurfaces After Spending Time in Prison,”

Washington City Paper: “Who Is Reuben Charles?”,

“The Two Degrees of Separation Between Vince Gray and John Ashcroft,”

“Giving Money Has Never Been Easier,”

Articles about ISA: Press release, “Washington, DC Feb 6, 2010 — ISA White Collar Prison Consultants, New Services Announced,”

Press release, “Former Ashcroft Advisor Charles Polk Joins Washington DC Prison Consulting Firm,” (no longer active)



Third Health Reform Implementation Committee Public Meeting, October 25
Michelle Phipps-Evans,

Please join the members of the Health Reform Implementation Committee at the third monthly public meeting to offer comment or to ask questions about the implementation of the federal health care reform law in the District of Columbia. Everyone is welcome. At the meeting, the committee will provide updates on implementation and accomplishments to date since the last HRIC meeting.

Join the committee on Monday, October 25, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, Room A-5, 901 G Street, NW, Lower Level). Please RSVP by calling Public Affairs Specialist Lucy Drafton-Lowery at 442-7775 or E-mailing Attendees are invited to submit questions in advance by E-mailing by October 21. If you require accommodations to fully participate in this event, please inform Lucy Drafton-Lowery 442-7775 or


National Building Museum Events, October 25-26
Johanna Weber,

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

October 25, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Creating Great Places: A Vision for Washington, DC’s Center City Public Realm. Urban planner Cy Paumier presents specific proposals for improving the twelve most important public spaces in Washington, DC’s center city. Free; registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

October 25, 6:30-8:00 p.m., 21st Century World’s Fairs. Robert Rydell, professor of history at Montana State University, and Paul Greenhalgh, director of the Sainsbury Center of the Visual Arts, consider the legacy and relevancy of world’s fairs, and the significant impact of Expo 2010 in Shanghai. $12 for members and students; $20 for nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

October 26, 12:30-2:00 p.m., Community in the Aftermath. The Alternative Housing Pilot Program: Post-Disaster Housing Solutions. Joel Pirrone, FEMA, outlines the Joint Housing Solutions Group, which evaluates housing vendors for use in future disasters. Cynthia Barton, New York City Office of Emergency Management, presents disaster housing options for urban environments. Free; registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.


Justice Brennan’s Career and Contradictions Explored in New Book, October 27
George Williams;

Author Seth Stern will discuss Supreme Court Justice William Brennan’s personal and professional contradictions in the book he co-wrote, Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion, on Wednesday, October 27, at 7:00 p.m. at the Northeast Neighborhood Library. Justice Brennan makes public for the first time Brennan’s case histories, which include the strategizing behind Roe v. Wade, affirmative action, the death penalty, obscenity law, and the constitutional right to privacy. Stern will compare Brennan’s personal life to his judicial positions, like being Catholic and supporting abortion. The Northeast Neighborhood Library is located at 330 7th Street, NE. To register early, visit For more information, please call 698-3320. The lecture is sponsored by the Friends of the Northeast Neighborhood Library.


With God on Our Side, October 27
Ann Loikow,

On Wednesday, October 27, at 7:00 p.m. at The Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 East Capitol Street, NE (Capitol Hill), there will be a free showing of the film With God on Our Side, which is about Christian Zionism. The film’s director, Porter Speakman, and Rev. Stephen Sizer, author of Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, will lead a discussion after the film.

The showing is sponsored by The Lutheran Church of the Reformation; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill; Episcopal Peace Fellowship — DC; Middle East Concerns Committee of the National Capital Presbytery; Middle East Working Group of the Metro DC Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Middle East Working Group of Grace Presbyterian Church, Springfield, Virginia; St. Columba’s Episcopal Church’s Peace Fellowship; Friends of Sabeel — DC Metro; and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace (WIAMEP).



Nominate Your Favorite History Maker for an Award
Ingrid Drake,

During its annual opening gala for the Children’s Black History Gallery in February, the DC-based nonprofit M.O.M.I.E.’s TLC recognizes the heroes and sheroes in our community by making awards in the honor of great Black history luminaries. For example, this past February, Vivian Buckingham was given the Majora Carter Green Justice Award, Jonathan Stith the Angela Davis Scholar Activist Award, and Antoine Williams the Roberto Clemente Playing for the People Award.

This year, to celebrate MOMIE’s tenth anniversary year, we are going to select a phenomenal group of 2011 award winners, and we are seeking your nominations for people who have helped honor the legacy of organizer and political strategist Dolores Huerta, visionary filmmaker and teacher Haile Gerima, or civil rights and labor organizer A. Philip Randolph.

By November 15, please E-mail the name of the individual you would like to nominate, as well as a one to four sentence explanation of how they have embodied the work or spirit of either Dolores Huerta, Haile Gerima, or A. Philip Randolph.


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