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November 3, 2010

The Day After

Dear Washingtonians:

It’s the day after the election, national and local. We don’t talk about national politics in themail, and aren’t we all ready for a break from talking about local politics? So, although there are important issues about the election that we have yet to explore — the performance of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, the likelihood or unlikelihood of the Gray administration’s making any substantive policy change from the Fenty administration, the reorganization of the city council and possible new committee chairmen, the future (if any) of the Republican Party in DC, and add three or four of your favorite topics here — we don’t have to talk about them today, do we?

Gary Imhoff


The Gray Transition
Dorothy Brizill,

Today, November 3, at noon, mayor-elect Vince Gray held a press conference at the Reeves Building to announce the opening of his transition office and the sixteen individuals who will comprise his leadership team. The transition office will be located on the fourth floor of the Reeves Building, 2000 14th Street, NW. The telephone number of the transition office will be 442-4729, and when the web site goes live on Monday its address will be

The transition team will be led by Lorraine Green, a vice president of Amtrak, who was chair of Gray’s transition committee. Reuben Charles, Gray’s controversial fundraising and campaign director of operations, will oversee the day-to-day operation of the campaign office as well as fundraising for Gray’s transition and inauguration expenses. The complete list of transition them members is posted at Some noteworthy members are Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, former president of George Washington University, who will cochair the Economic Development Committee with Barbara Lang, president and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce; Thomas M. Downs, former City Administrator for Marion Barry in the 1980’s; former Control Board alumnae Alice Rivlin and Constance Berry Newman; Robert Spagnoletti, former Attorney General for the District during the Williams administration and Gray’s personal attorney; and former mayor Anthony Williams.

Notably absent from the leadership of the transition team were representatives of civic, neighborhood, and community associations and labor unions. In fact, labor unions, which were an important element of Gray’s campaign and vital to its success, were so shut out of the transition that they weren’t even invited to or informed of today’s press conference.


DDOT Releases Streetcar Plan
John Lisle,

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has presented an updated comprehensive DC Streetcar System Plan to the DC Council for review and approval. The plan details DDOT’s plans for the design, construction and operation of the system and covers topics such as operations, safety, fare collection, and funding.

The document specifies how DDOT plans to complete the two streetcar lines already under construction, the H Street/Benning Road Line and the Anacostia Initial Line Segment, and lays out the plans for additional extensions in Wards 7 and 8. It also includes the completed DC Transit Future System Plan — the District’s first comprehensive streetcar system plan. DDOT is planning a 37-mile, 8-line streetcar system with service across the city.

The highlights of the plan include: 1) DDOT will initiate streetcar operations in spring 2012; 2) the DC Streetcar will create two hundred permanent jobs at the onset of service and up to seven hundred upon completion of the entire system; 3) DDOT is currently pursuing $110M in federal funds to pay for two streetcar extensions East of the River, 4) details on how DDOT will resolve issues with the power supply; DC Streetcar will utilize overhead wires on the first two lines and move to wireless operation as the system expands; 5) a framework to develop a financial plan and governance structure for the entire system. The plan was transmitted by the mayor last week and formally introduced today by the chairman of the DC council on behalf of the mayor in accordance with the requirements laid out in the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Support Act. Approval of the DC Streetcar Plan by the DC Council will release $34.5 million in capital funding for the current H/Benning streetcar project.

The complete plan is now posted on DDOT’s web site at


DC Fall Leaf Collection Begins Monday
Linda Grant,

Leaves are just starting to fall and the Department of Public Works is ready to deploy two hundred employees Monday, November 8, to start collecting them. Leaf collection season runs through January 15, 2011, and every neighborhood in the District will have its leaves collected. Check the leaf collection brochure, which was mailed to households receiving DPW trash/recycling collection services, or go online to to learn your collection weeks. Please rake leaves into the treebox space or bag them the weekend before the collection cycle begins.

Here are some tips for a smooth-running leaf collection season: 1) look up your street’s collection schedule at, 2) rake leaves into the treebox space the weekend before your street’s collection cycles, 3) please, leaves only! Tree limbs, bricks, dirt, rocks, etc., will damage the equipment and delay collections.

Prevent fires, parking problems and possible flooding by placing leaves in the treebox space, not in the street. When it rains, leaves will block the storm drain and cause flooding. Please remove any leaves you see blocking the storm drain. If you choose to bag your leaves, please use paper bags. Plastic bags will damage the equipment. You may place bagged leaves in the treebox space or next to the trash/recycling container(s). Protect the safety of our crews by driving slowly around their work area or change your route and avoid them altogether.


Election Day 2084: A Science Fiction Anthology on the Politics of the Future
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

Timely reading — sci-fi anthology about elections:

I remembered reading the first story — “Franchise” — long ago. It’s about how elections and computers evolve so only one person needs to vote to determine national election — so I tracked down the book, used and cheap. It has many other great stories.


Give a High 5 for DC’s Kids
HyeSook Chung, Executive Director, DC Action for Children,

The election is finally over. Now the real work begins. DC Action for Children congratulates Mayor-elect Vincent Gray and incoming DC Council Chair Kwame Brown, along with all of the other winners. We look forward to working with them during this critical transition and budget season to ensure that they are making decisions in the best interests of our children. It’s going to be tough. Our city’s leaders face a $175-million budget deficit. Difficult decisions will be made and critical services are at risk. But we simply cannot afford to balance the budget against our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. To do so would incur a moral and financial debt that would compound for generations. Our work could not be more urgent. Here in the nation’s capital, nearly a third of our children are living in poverty, and many more are on the brink. For black children in our city, the poverty rate is a staggering 43 percent.

High-quality early care and early education is truly an investment in the future of our city, not simply a budget line item. The success of education reform, the strength of our workforce and the economic vitality of the District depend on how well we prepare all of our children for success. Not improving is not an option. That’s why DC Action for Children has joined with partners across the city to launch High 5 for DC’s Kids — a five-point platform to ensure that all children in the District have what they need to succeed, from birth to age five. This is our chance to break the cycle of dashed dreams for the District’s children. Will you please take a moment to click to view the platform and to give a High 5 for DC’s Kids?


Fred Barnes Isn’t an Urban Planner for Good Reasons
Martin Andres Austermuhle,

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that you linked to an article written by Fred Barnes in which he argues against having a diversity of transit options. It either exemplifies the shortage of intellectual heft that the car lobby has or serves as evidence that no one local is willing to make as outlandish a set of claims as he did.

First off, we need to move away from the belief that there is somehow a “war on drivers” in the District. I own a car but ride my bike to work; I have yet to feel that the latter is somehow infringing upon the former. In fact, I simply feel that the last few years have brought more balance to the District’s transit network. Drivers are free to drive, but other transit options are welcomed and encouraged. Given the amount of traffic in the region, the studies that have found that diversity in transit is a good thing, and the undeniable truth that cars have larger negative environmental impacts than bikes or mass transit options, I see this move towards balance as both good and necessary.

Second, we can agree that the recent round of parking meter hikes may have been too much, but no one should try and use those as a cudgel against bike lanes, streetcars, or a rich diversity of transit options in and around the District. Raising rates at parking meters in certain parts of town has been studied and makes good economic sense. The busier the area, the more the cost of parking should reflect the amount of people that want to be there and the amount of public money that is going to subsidize that public parking space. The first round of increases in areas like Eastern Market and Adams Morgan was good policy, while the recent round of across-the-board jumps were the more the product of the city needing to find money from just about anywhere to help close the budget deficit. While a blanket approach to increasing parking meter rates does not work, no one should take this as an argument that on-street public parking across the city should be cheap just because some drivers want it that. It’s simply bad policy.

Third, what exactly do you propose the city do to help ease congestion, Gary? Do you agree with what Barnes says? “As a solution to congestion in the foreseeable future, this leaves us with building more highways, repairing existing ones, and maintaining them,” he writes. So, where exactly should new highways in the District go? (I need only mention in passing the debate over the network of highways proposed in the 50s and 60s for the city that were wisely scrapped after residents argued that they would divide up the city and destroy entire neighborhoods.) Do new highways actually promise to ease congestion over the long term, or will they simply encourage more people to drive until those news highways are congested, leading to a call for even more highways? And once all those highways are built, where will all the cars coming into the city go? Should every other block have a parking lot or parking deck to accommodate them? If that many new highways will be feeding into our city, will we have to widen all of our streets to better manage the increased flow of vehicular traffic?

Ultimately, this is the point that many committed urbanists make — alternatives like bike lanes and mass transit aren’t just good for the District, but rather they’re vital for its future. We’re essentially at capacity when it comes to cars and driving, and unless we’re willing to side with Barnes and see a whole new network of highways plopped down on our neighborhoods, we’d be better off encouraging alternatives. Barnes might not like this, but then again, he doesn’t live in the District, nor does he seem to have the slightest idea that people can get around in the District by foot, on bike, on bus, or by train. As for parking meters, well, like I mentioned, the cost of on-street parking needs to better reflect the cost of setting aside that space and the demand for it. (Of course, rate increases should not be a one-size-fits-all approach.) I would think a committed free-marketer like Barnes would understand this.

Finally, I’d like to pose a scenario for Gary to answer to. You live in Columbia Heights, where there are a number of ways for people to get around. Imagine that the bikes lanes were gone. That roads were widened to increase vehicular capacity. The 14th Street fed into an East-West cross-town freeway that promised to get people from the western side of the city to the eastern side quickly and with little traffic. Now tell me what you think the neighborhood would look like. Would we honestly be better off? And now think twenty years from now. Will we look back at the arguments we’re all having today and laugh at how goofy it was that some people defended driving as the only sane way to get around?

[This seems to me to be a highly selective misreading of Barnes’ article and argument. It’s foolish to say that Barnes believes that cities should be paved over with highways. (By the way, I have no idea whether Barnes currently lives in DC, but he has lived here for many years, and I’m sure that he’s more familiar than most with how to get around town.) Highways are good for travel between and around cities, not through them. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, DC’s neighborhood activists fought against urban planners who wanted to build highways through the city. Today’s neighborhood activists are fighting against urban planners who want to make it difficult for them to drive and park in their own neighborhoods and drive across town and park in other neighborhoods. It’s been the same fight across decades. People know what they want and how they want to live, and they always have to fight against experts who think they know better and want to impose their enthusiasms. A real expert in urban planning would design systems and cities to make it easier for people to live their lives according to their own preferences. Instead, we have to fight against phony experts who want to impose their preferences and their visions on other people. — Gary Imhoff]



Parallel Justice Book Talk, November 4
Joe Libertelli, jfl@udc@edu

Please join us on Thursday, November 4, for a reception and book talk by Susan Herman, ‘81, on her new book, Parallel Justice for Victims of Crime, on Thursday, November 4, 6:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m., with introductory remarks by Dr. Edgar Cahn and Dean Shelley Broderick. The talk will be at UDC David Clarke School of Law, Building 39, Room 205, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Register at

Parallel Justice for Victims of Crime is a new book by Susan Herman, former executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. It envisions a parallel, dual-path to justice — requiring society to help repair the harm done to victims while holding offenders accountable for their crimes. This approach would revolutionize our justice system by establishing and funding an official set of responses to victims of crime.

I want to highly recommend this book talk because I think that the core topic, while perhaps not evident at first blush, is inherently progressive. Because victims of violent crime are disproportionately Black and Latino as well as low-income, by calling for society to devote resources toward attempting to make victims of violent crime “whole,” the parallel justice movement is, in effect, asking that resources be expended disproportionately toward minority groups and the poor. At a time when, for some, “redistribution” and “welfare” have become political dirty words, the focus on providing assistance to innocent victims of crime is not only “just” but a terrific political strategy.


Release and Book Signing of Downtown Silver Spring, November 6
Jerry A. McCoy, Silver Spring Historical Society,

On Saturday, November 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, 8100 Georgia Avenue (at Sligo Avenue), Silver Spring, MD, Jerry A. McCoy and the Silver Spring Historical Society are proud to announce the newly published book Downtown Silver Spring. Featuring a foreword by nationally renowned mystery writer and local resident George Pelecanos, this 96-page soft cover book contains over one hundred never-before-published “Then and Now” images of downtown Silver Spring.

The cost of the book is $21.99, cash or check only. With the holidays right around the corner, Downtown Silver Spring is an excellent gift for current and former residents or those who would just like to learn more about the fascinating history of downtown Silver Spring. Also available will be the 2005 book, Historic Silver Spring, for $19.99. Buy both for $35.00 (a 16.5 percent savings).

For recent articles about the book and author, see and For more information, call 301-537-1253.


Local Nonprofit’s Tenth Anniversary Show, December 4
Samantha Sabol,

One Common Unity, a local nonprofit organization, will be hosting a ten-year anniversary show on December 4 at U Street Music Hall. Tickets at the door are $30. Buy yours this week (before November 7) and get your ticket for just $15! After this week, online ticket prices will go to $20 per ticket. Visit for more information and to purchase your tickets today! Contact our associate director, Bethany, at (517) 881-8270 with any questions.


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