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October 31, 2010

Tightrope Walking

Dear Tightrope Walkers:

There are at least three tightropes that Vincent Gray will have to walk as mayor. First, he will have to negotiate the chasm between those who applauded Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s anti-teacher rhetoric and actions, and who view “school reform” as a war against teachers, and those who view Rhee’s initiatives and methods as counterproductive. One of the most questionable of Rhee’s programs is the IMPACT evaluations of teachers, widely viewed as unreliable and unfair. Will Gray allow those evaluations to continue, or leave the decision to acting chancellor Kaya Henderson, who will undoubtedly continue them? Valerie Strauss makes a convincing case against IMPACT,, and a convincing case that ending IMPACT evaluations should be among the first changes a new administration should make. By the way, a comment on Strauss’ article by “Linda/RetiredTeacher” is the funniest and most accurate comment on Rhee’s resignation I’ve seen: “I’ll say one positive thing for Ms. Rhee: She believed that all the incompetents should leave and that’s what she did.”

A second tightrope that Gray will have to walk is strung between the active interest organizations that oppose any budget cuts, at least for the programs that they run, and the general public that opposes any additional taxes or fees to support a government that they have good reason to believe is wasteful and inefficient. On September 25, 2002, I wrote in themail about budgeting, “Bureaucracies know how to confront and confound budget cutters. My favorite true story was that whenever the federal budget proposed a funding cut for the National Park Service, the Park Service would respond with its Old Faithful list of spending reductions. Reliably, right at the top of the list, year after year, would be two things: cutting the hours of service at the Washington Monument and closing Yellowstone Park for a few weeks during the summer. Whenever the bureaucracy gets to devise the plan, services to the public will be slashed savagely before anybody in the bureaucracy loses a job, and the most popular services will be the first to be cut,” Gray has said there will be a series of city council hearings on the budgets before he makes proposals about whether to make cuts or raise taxes and fees. We know how these hearings will be weighted. There will be two options: cut the most popular and necessary government programs — cut Yellowstone and the Washington Monument — or raise taxes. There’s a third options that should be tried first: cut the least popular and least necessary programs first, and reassess our budget options only after that has been done. This was the subject of another must-read column by Colbert King on Saturday, “Hard Choices on DC Budget,”

A third tightrope is shaky and difficult to keep a secure footing on. On one side is the mass of citizens who are tired of anti-automobile city policies that encourage congestion and traffic jams, raise parking fees so high that they discourage Washingtonians and suburbanites from patronizing downtown businesses, and so on. On the other side is a much smaller but more vocal group who believe that automobile driving must be discouraged by being made ever more expensive and inconvenient, in order to make cities more “livable.” On this subject don’t miss Fred Barnes’ column in The Weekly Standard, “Coercing People Out of Their Cars: The Road to Hell Is Paved with Bike Paths,”

It’s time to exercise your civic duties again. Even though there aren’t likely to be any surprises at the polls on Tuesday, at least in DC, I’ll see you there.

Gary Imhoff


DC Tax Dollars at Work, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill,

In the last issue of themail, October 27, I wrote an article about how Councilmember Jack Evans had used four large DC government vehicles to transport guests to his birthday party that evening at the Homer Building downtown. By midday Thursday, I received an E-mail from Andrew Huff, Evans’ press secretary, disputing my facts and demanding a correction. Huff alleged that I did not attend the party (I did) and that “no tax dollars were spent to pay for these buses.” Later in the day, Evans issues a press release staring that he had asked me to “correct the record” regarding the “misinformation” published by me and referred to in Alan Suderman’s Loose Lips blog.

In response to Huff’s E-mail, and prior to Evans’ press release, I E-mailed Evans’ office that I would gladly write a correction if and when they would provide me with a copy of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation’s (DPR’s) invoice and “proof that the buses were paid for before the event.” Although Huff promised on Thursday afternoon to provide a copy of the invoice, by midnight on Sunday I have received neither than invoice nor proof of payment prior to the event (and, therefore, prior to my item’s being published in themail). Until I receive both documents, I don’t see a reason to retract.

Footnote: the issue of Evans’ plan to use DPR buses had been the talk of the Wilson Building for the past two weeks. At least one member of Evans’ staff raised the matter with me, asking for my personal opinion as to whether it would be legal and proper to use District vehicles for a personal event. I was, therefore, surprised when I arrived at the event to see the four DC government vehicles, given the fact that Evans’ office knew there was an unresolved ethical question about using them. This incident raises another issue — has DPR gotten into the business of bus rentals for private, non governmental events?


Harry Thomas, Jr., and Mark Jones for Ward 5 on Election Day
Albrette “Gigi” Ransom,

Four years ago, I posted to this site my endorsement of Harry “Tommy” Thomas, Jr., for Ward 5 councilmember (themail, September 10, 2006). I initially expressed some reservations about his abilities to serve as our legislator and about his leadership within the Ward. However, I have been quite pleased with his maturity, understanding of the legislative process, and his tireless efforts to protect the interests of the residents of his Ward and throughout the city. I feel one of his most significant accomplishments was the introduction and passage of the Public Property Disposition law, which finally ensured citizen participation in the use and sale of surplus public facilities, which until this point had been literally given away without accountability. Tommy has been actively involved in addressing crime issues, introducing legislation for tougher penalties for certain crimes; he works with the 4D and 5D Commanders. When there is tragedy, he has been there to comfort the families and community members, and offered his assistance. Tommy hosts quarterly or semiannual meetings with the Ward 5 ANCs, and other community leaders, and his office has responded to over one thousand constituent service requests.

Some residents have expressed their concerns about some of Tommy’s priorities, which they feel are misplaced. An example is Tommy’s not attending the DC Democratic State Committee Convention this summer. His opponents wondered why he wasn’t there for the Ward 5 candidates’ forum. I left the event mid-afternoon and, while riding home, I passed by Turkey Thicket. There I saw Tommy, along with a few other adults, on the stage. A group of youth was performing. I recalled that this event was organized by our youth for crime prevention efforts after the rash of youth homicides, and was meant to bring to the public’s attention that there are positive youth in our Ward. When you weigh the choice of events, I feel that Tommy made the right decision to be with our youth, in spite of the fact that he could lose some votes for not being at the Convention, for he has always loved and supported our children in many ways,

Mr. Thomas is currently under investigation for possible mishandling of funds for an organization he created in 2000 to support his personal efforts to work with and provide opportunities for our at-risk children. The media and some engaged in social networking have attempted mislead the public as to the status of this issue, and have convicted Tommy before any legal determination is made. As with anyone else, Tommy has a right to due process. Prejudgment the majority of times can turn out to be misjudgment. His primary accuser is none other than Tim Day, the Republican candidate for the Ward 5 Council seat. Tim Day and I are both elected commissioners on ANC 5C, and I know Tim’s character, skills, and demeanor up close and personal. I can say without hesitation that Tim Day is not the one for this position. Why? For one, he was involved with a group of commissioners who attempted to destroy my reputation by engaging in a censure process against me because I asked the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for a legal opinion on a $14,000 grant application which had the potential for misuse of some potential purchased equipment, which would be against the law. The OAG agreed with me. Tim Day also accused me of being a racist for allegedly going after Catholic University of America students for some parking issues, which was an untruth. The issue was visitors to CUA athletic field events taking the parking spaces of my residents who live across the street during events, when CUA has a parking lot. DC law and regulations state that a private event should not affect public space. 

Tim is also our ANC’s Treasurer and states he is also an accountant. Since assuming the position in January 2010, Tim has not created a quarterly report for review, vote, and submission to the DC Auditor. We are two quarters behind in submissions. There have been issues dating back to 2008 with grantees not submitting their sixty-day reports for accountability of taxpayer funds, yet prior to the creation of a Grant Committee chairs, Tim did absolutely nothing to document, send letters to, or contact these organizations to protect the interest of the Commission. There have also been awarded grants, yet for some reason, the grantees have received their checks two months after it was awarded, when they should be filing their financial reports at that time. There was the $8,000.00 grant request presented by Tim for a vote without any documentation about the grant. I objected, but Tim wanted to go ahead with the vote. My objections caused a delay in the vote, which Tim never forgot. There is also the problem with various limited information and nonsupport documentation of monthly Treasurer’s reports, when we do receive them. At our October meeting, the totals of our bank statements were read into the record. There was no report because Tim was not there. Our July 2010 Treasurer’s report was on a plain piece of paper with no letterhead, no support documentation such as canceled checks, no dates for when the checks were issued, no grant financial reports (see attached). Mind you, we only have over $100,000 in the bank, and write maybe five to six checks a month. How long does that take to reconcile? As an accountant you would think Tim, with his alleged skills, would have created a template by now. Is that the type of leadership and accountability Ward 5 residents want? Do Ward 5 residents want someone who is vindictive when they don’t agree with you? Along with no record of testifying on any proposed legislation, stating on his web site that he would work with parents and students, instead of showing the voters that he is already involved with educational support, already has an active hands on approach working with residents, Beware, for Tim is only using his accusation of Mr. Thomas as a smokescreen, so you don’t find out who he really is, which is not qualified for the job!

Vote to reelect Councilmember Thomas. He’ll weather the storm, and will continue to serve Ward 5 residents to the best of his abilities.

For the Ward 5 State Board of Education representative, I support Mark Jones. In spite of the State Board’s being relegated behind the screen and having its budget cut, the Board and Mark Jones have persevered, keep the residents informed of their efforts and requested input, reviewed and voted on proposed legislation, and rulemaking for the betterment of our schools. Mark has attended ANC, civic association, and other community organization meetings, sometimes many on the same night to keep residents informed on educational issues. He has worked with me on an issue with my elementary school students having to walk to their old school to catch a bus to their merged school which is only four blocks away, instead of picking up the students a central location near their homes. We have also worked to have the newly built boarding school for the former Jos-Arz charter school, which lost its charter five years ago, once again used for a special Ed program. Mark is determined to see that our schools produce graduates prepared for success and to be productive citizens. Voting to change to someone else who is an unknown and has no track record working on behalf of our students, would be a disservice to our students. Vote to reelect Mark Jones!


The 266 Deserve Quality Legal Representation
Candi Peterson,

On Friday, October 29, in the courtroom of Judge Judith Bartnoff, WTU lawyers appeared to challenge the reduction in force of 266 laid off teachers and school personnel. DC Schools Insider blogger Bill Turque reported “The Washington Teachers’ Union court challenge to the October 2009 layoffs effectively ended this morning when a WTU attorney told a DC Superior Court judge that after scrutinizing 1,200 pages of District documents, the union could find no evidence that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee contrived the budget crunch she said justified the job reductions,”

Some of the laid-off teachers I talked to find it amazing that attorney Brenda C. Zwack said: “We didn’t find anything that would warrant further briefing.” While the court hearing lasted no more than ten minutes, it left teachers with unanswered questions about their legal representation and the impact that this case will have on their personal lawsuits. Unfortunately, WTU’s “Hold over” President Parker was not present at Friday’s hearing and could not be questioned by the handful of teachers who were present. Attorney Zwack reportedly made a “mad dash” for the nearest exit as teachers attempted to question her more in depth.

While I have not seen the 1200 pages of documents that DCPS submitted, I know for a fact that the Rhee administration continued to hire teachers and other school personnel after the 266 were laid off last October. I followed many of the DCPS job advertisements that the Rhee administration placed on Craig’s list for teachers and school personnel. I often wondered why a freeze was never ordered in school year 2009-10 by Mayor Fenty, since DCPS was in a budget deficit. One thing is for sure — the Rhee administration continued to spend willy-nilly without any checks and balances in place. Perhaps that’s why we are in an even bigger deficit now.

If you recall, more than a year ago Nathan Saunders and I arranged for a free three-hour legal consultation to laid off DC teachers with another law firm that later offered to represent the 266 teachers case at a significantly reduced rate. It seems that our hunch about the quality of legal representation that these teachers received was correct. I know we can and we must do better. At the very least, the 266 wrongfully terminated teachers’ legal case deserves another look by another law firm. This is why the Saunders slate needs your support to get elected in the run-off election so that we can aggressively represent the 266 who were wrongfully terminated. We owe it to them, that is, if it’s not too late.


Sarah Livingston,

Do something good for the neighborhood. Write in Sarah Livingston for ANC2C-01 Commissioner. Let’s restore Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C to its true Public Service. What is ANC2C’s true public service? ANCs are the parts of the DC government that are closest to the neighborhoods. They are official bodies of the neighborhood, elected by the neighborhood, for the neighborhood. The public service they provide is to be the official voice of advice to the government on things that affect their neighborhood. To be official, the ANCs have to follow certain laws and rules, one of which is the basic premise of our democracy, majority rule. That means it is the majority vote of the ANC body in a public meeting that is the official advice of the ANC, not the view of a single member.

When the ANC’s advice is official, the government agency has to take it into consideration and give it “great weight” in its final decision. If it’s accepted, the ANC has helped the city government better serve us. If it’s not accepted, the agency has to explain why not in writing to the ANC. Why aren’t we getting it? ANC2C has little regard for the laws and rules it has to follow and our official voice of advice far too often never gets to an agency because of so many tie votes or is never official because the rules aren’t followed. When elected members of the city government like the mayor or councilmembers fail to honor the public trust of their office, we don’t tolerate it. And neither should we tolerate our neighborhood commissioners failing to honor the public trust of their office.

ANC2C’s four members have had years to learn what the purpose of the office is and how to do it. If they don’t know by now, they have no business trying to fool us that they do know but they can’t follow the rules because the other commissioners don’t. Regrettably and very, very surprisingly given his well known and highly regarded accomplishments in other endeavors, that is the excuse that 2C-01’s current Commissioner, Alex Padro, so often gives. After more than eight years of electing him and getting the same lack of service, and the same excuse that it’s somebody else’s fault, a change is needed.

What we can do? Write in my name, Sarah Livingston, when you vote for 2C-01 commissioner this time. Help me get elected so I can make sure our ANC does serve us as it was designed to — for the good of the neighborhood. Write in Sarah Livingston for 2C-01 and let’s get started!


InTowner Street Crimes Feature Updated
P.L. Wolff,

The Selected Street Crimes feature, available on our web site by clicking the Street Crimes button in the left-side panel on our home page, is now updated through September 27, and has been added to the archived reports back to July 3, 2009.



Dupont Underground, November 1
Robin Diener,

At the Dupont Circle Citizens Association general membership meeting on Monday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m., Julian Hunt, the President of the Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground, will give a presentation about his organization’s proposed use of the abandoned Trolley Station as an arts exhibition space. His coalition was the sole respondent to the city’s request this past spring for proposals for “innovative use” of the underground space. Your feedback is invited for consideration by the Mayor’s Office of Planning and Economic Development. The meeting will be at the International Student House, 1812 R Street, NW. Those who are unable to attend can view a presentation at and submit comments to


WPFW U Street Jam, November 13
Ingrid Drake,

Looking for a great night out? On Saturday, November 13, the WPFW Local Station Board is hosting a dance party at Prince Hall — 1000 U Street. From 8:00 p.m.-midnight, WPFW DJ’s Captain Fly and Funk, Zydeco Cowboy Fred, Andrea Bray, and others will be spinning 60’s, 70’s, 80’s old school, funk, zydeco, and salsa. All proceeds from the event will go towards DC’s jazz and justice radio station, WPFW 89.3 FM, and help the station get out of a financial funk. Tickets are $25, and 100 percent of that will go directly to the station. Grab a date, grab a friend. E-mail to order tickets.


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