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November 17, 2010

Curbside Refilling

Dear Fillers:

Yesterday, with great fanfare and to great applause by the media, the DC Department of Transportation demonstrated its first Curbside ChargePoint Charging Station in the District (,, The charging station, which is located at the Reeves Building at 14th and U Streets, NW, is associated with a street parking space, so that an electric car can park on the street and recharge its battery at the same time. The District says it will install about five hundred ChargePoint stations throughout the city. That will mean about a few hundred street parking spaces will be dedicated to recharging electic cars.

The Chevrolet Volt, which is currently the most practical consumer car with an electric (gas assisted) motor, takes four hours to recharge its batteries fully with a 240 v. recharger, which is the most powerful recharger it is designed to accept. Its urban driving range on electricity alone is twenty-five to fifty miles, so someone who used the Volt for commuting would most likely have to recharge it daily. The District is going to charge three dollars an hour for charging, which will result in a twelve dollar cost to park and recharge a battery fully. The Volt’s gas tank holds 9.6 gallons, and its driving range with a fully charged battery and full gas tank is up to 350 miles ( You can find alternate specification estimates for the Volt on the web, though most car critics say the numbers released by General Motors are overly optimistic, or you can find specifications for other electric cars. In any case, it’s hard to make an economic case that makes sense for buying a Volt or other electric car, even with the large federal subsidies and tax incentives that are being given to finance building them, buying them, and installing recharging stations for them. Since few electric cars are likely to be sold in the next several years, and since electric cars can be charged on home electrical current overnight without paying three dollars an hour, it’s highly unlikely that five hundred charging stations will be needed — yet at the same time the cars can’t be sold at all if public charging stations aren’t readily available.

Recharging electric cars is inefficient in terms of time and space, as well as cost, compared with refilling conventional cars with gasoline. Gasoline cars refuel in about five minutes, and centralized gas stations take little space in a city. Electric cars take about four hours apiece to recharge (or eight to twelve hours on household 120 v. current), and the District’s plan is to reduce the number of street parking spaces in order to install recharging stations, instead of building recharging stations on centralized parking lots. Of course, in the viewpoint of the District’s transportation planners, reducing the street parking available to conventional cars is an attractive feature of the program, not a disadvantage. The District’s planners are eager to spend the most money and effort on the transportation alternatives that are used by the smallest number of people (bicycles, electric cars, Zipcars), but they are even more eager to make life difficult for people with plain old gas-powered cars.

Gary Imhoff


Correction to DC Government Open Enrollment Information
Everton Johnson, ej at

A recent DC Department of Human Resources E-mail attachment entitled "Open Enrollment 2011" describes some of the option for DC employees’ health benefits for next year. Unfortunately it gives some wrong information that could have detrimental consequences for the employees who have a Flexible Spending Account. Specifically, it says that "Over-the-counter medications will be ineligible for coverage under the Flexible Spending Accounts." This is just plain wrong. Beginning next year certain over-the-counter meds and drugs will be considered ineligible expenses unless you have a written prescription from your doctor. So, if you get your doctor to write a prescription for an over-the-counter med or drug and submit it with your claim, that med or drug will still be eligible for reimbursement.

I tried to contact DHR for over an hour, but was just shuffled from one person to another and no one would either take responsibility for this error or give me to someone who could correct it. I then sent them an E-mail and got a response back that said "We will revise this information in our upcoming e-blasts."


Trash, Recycling, Leaf Collection over Thanksgiving Weekend
Kevin B. Twine,

The Department of Public Works announced that there will be no trash and recycling collections on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25. These collections will “slide” to the next day. Thursday’s collections will be made Friday, and Friday’s collections will be made Saturday. This applies to both once-a-week and twice-a-week collection neighborhoods. Trash and recycling containers should be put out for collection no earlier than 6:30 p.m. the night before collection and removed from public space by 8:00 p.m. on the collection day. Parking meters will not be in effect. Residential parking and rush hour lane restrictions will not be enforced. Also, DPW will not tow abandoned vehicles.

The Ft. Totten Transfer Station, located at 4900 John F. McCormack Road, NE, will be closed Thursday, November 25. It will be open Friday, November 26, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., for residents to bring bulk trash. Residents also may bring bulk trash only on Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The next Saturday Household Hazardous Waste/E-cycling/Document Shredding drop-off day is December 4, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Directions to Ft. Totten: travel east on Irving Street, NW, turn left on Michigan Avenue, turn left on John F. McCormack Road, NE, and continue to the end of the street.

Leaf collections will be made from most “Area B” neighborhoods between Monday, November 22, and Saturday, December 4 (including Thanksgiving Day). In Ward 5, Area B neighborhoods’ collections will be made between November 15 and 27. DPW is following the collection schedule published in the leaf collection brochure mailed to households that receive DPW trash/recycling collections. Area B residents should rake their leaves into their treebox spaces by the Sunday before their collection weeks. Those without a treebox space are asked to pile their leaves adjacent to the curb but not in the street. All services will resume on Friday, November 26


Developers and Contractors
Dennis Dinkel,

[Re: themail, November 14] I don't always agree with everything you say. In fact, frequently I disagree with most of what you say. I do respect the manner in which you say it: level-headed, not using profanity, civilized. However, I could not agree with you more on the opening of themail today regarding the scandal just coming to light in Prince George's County; and I agree it applies to the District of Columbia and the State of Virginia. Why do we tolerate it? What is it in our politicians that turns them into money grubbing, greedy, arrogant public servants when they're elected to hold positions of high trust in public office?

I worked fourteen years at the House of Representatives, and I saw it time after time: Abscam, the post office postage stamp scandal, the House bank scandal; and though nearly twenty years removed from my employment there, I continue to see it. And it happens at the state and the city level.

I hope that those responsible for this mess in Prince George's County are prosecuted to the full extent of the law; and I hope that if similar actions have occurred in the District, under any administration, in any department, those offenders are also prosecuted and that they do hard time in prison. This abuse of the public trust is inexcusable and the attitude of cynicism it engenders in people is truly unfortunate.


High Five for DC’s Kids Campaign
HyeSook Chung,

I have some good news to share: support is building across the city for DC's youngest citizens. To date, eight organizations on the front lines of serving children and families in need have signed on as partners of our High 5 for DC's Kids campaign. The latest to join are DC Hunger Solutions and the Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaborative Council — see the full list at

We are grateful for the support of all of our partners and those of you who have signed on as individuals. But to bring positive change for all of our children, we need to increase our numbers and go beyond those of us who work on early childhood issues every day. If you haven't already, please click to view our platform and sign on, or take a moment to forward this E-mail to three friends.

And if you are looking for more ways to get informed or take action for young children, check our our online calendar of events around town at On behalf of our partners and DC's youngest citizens, thank you again for your support.


The School Is Not an Island
Richard Urban,

I agree with Alvin Frost's analysis in themail [November 14]. Education starts at home with the parents. It then continues at school with those in a parental position, the teachers. When the majority of students do not have both parents in the home, or even one parent, in many cases, then the children are much less likely to come to school ready to learn. Technological fixes, like using Impact Evaluations and bringing in more Teach for America Teachers, are not going to be effective. Academic knowledge must be learned on the foundation of character education that begins in the home and continues at school. When that home foundation is lacking, teachers have a much harder job. Furthermore, the current school administration has made the situation worse by discouraging character education, such as abstinence centered HIV/AIDS and pregnancy prevention education. The current administration has also made it harder for community groups to work in schools by applying unnecessary insurance requirements that the DC Code specifically says are not needed to any nonprofits wanting to use school space after school. Another negative factor is that the current school administration promotes values that are antithetical to most parents and guardians, such as the acceptance of all sexual lifestyles, as evidenced by the recent uproar at Hardy Middle School over the "Making Proud Choices" program ( This kind of program helps propel children on a path that is not likely to move them to success. Instead of discipline, serf restraint, and abstinence, students get a message that any kind of sexual exploration is okay. This can lead to outside-of-wedlock pregnancy, loss of focus on school work, and a greater likelihood of school suspension, drug use and emotional consequences, especially for girls. We need to include character education in schools, and good character begins with self discipline and sexual abstinence before marriage.


Effective Teachers and Successful Schools
Liane Scott,

I'd like to send a hearty "Amen" to Alvin Frost for his article, "You Can Take that to the Bank" [themail, November 14]. I've taught for a number of after-school programs within DCPS, at a variety of schools. I don't know how the teachers at Ballou and Anacostia, etc., do it. There resources are so limited and the kids can be so rowdy. Wealthy parents have a different expectation of their kids when it comes to education, at least that is my experience. I have been waiting for school reform to finally start placing some of these so-called highly effective teachers into the schools where they are most needed. Now that would be a show!


Googling Around
Malcolm Wiseman,

I think you'll find some error in your report of the Google results for the cash in Jefferson's freezer. If you meant to say that your search string was, as you wrote, "freezer cash," that is the quotes being used as a way of telling us the actual words in your search string, but not a part of the string itself, then yes, the result includes 2.4 million pages. With such a search you are finding not only the pages that have the phrase "freezer cash" but also those pages that have "freezer" and "cash" but located distant and unrelated from each other on the page. So the page has nothing whatever to do with cash in a freezer.

You probably know that to confine a search to find only pages with freezer and cash together, one must include the quotes (as in "freezer cash") in the Google search string. This will find about 29,700 pages. When one adds "Jefferson" to the two different search strings — (freezer cash jefferson) and ("freezer cash" jefferson) — the yield is about 240,000 and 18,000 respectively. You are correct: most pages about cash in a freezer have it in Jefferson's icebox, but 18,000 is far from "almost all" of 2.4 million.

[Mal is close to right, and the figures he got are probably closer to the real number of pages, but Google describes its search method slightly differently: “By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. Google already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ "Alexander Bell" ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.” In other words, a Google search is more sophisticated than what we normally think of as a mechanical computer search; a search for “freezer cash” without the quotes will not necessarily catch pages in which the words are distant and unrelated, but it will catch pages about “cash in the freezer.” — Gary Imhoff]



Annual Adoption Day, November 20
Leah H. Gurowitz,

This Saturday, November 20, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, the DC Superior Court and Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) will host the twenty-fourth Annual Adoption Day. Twenty-two foster children will be adopted into eighteen new “forever families.” Debra Lee of BET will be the keynote speaker and, as always, local news anchor Barbara Harrison will emcee the event, introducing each of the children to the audience before their adoption is finalized by their judge.

The ceremony is designed to celebrate the joy of adoption and encourage area residents to consider adopting or fostering a child in the District’s public child welfare system. CFSA is currently seeking adoptive homes for approximately one hundred sixty children in DC foster care. The public is welcome to attend this event; social workers will be present to answer questions about foster parenting and adoption. Anyone who cannot attend, please call the CFSA recruitment hotline 202-671-LOVE.


Design Apprenticeship Program Final Presentation, November 20
Johanna Weber,

Young designers in the fall 2010 Design Apprenticeship Program focused on building blocks and how they are used to create spaces. These teen participants designed and built chairs using one of the many building blocks they explored during the program. Through a series of hands-on exercises participants explored the configurations of various modular building blocks such as wood, bricks, or tiles. Students visited Daniel Donnelly Modern Design Studio to learn more about furniture design before dividing into teams to complete their chair design challenge. Volunteer design professionals worked closely with participants to help develop the students’ design skills. During the final presentation, students will discuss their design process and their final projects will be on display.

The Design Apprenticeship Program (DAP) was created in 2000 by the National Building Museum in order to build on the work of CityVision and Investigating Where We Live. DAP offers previous outreach program participants or students with a demonstrated interest in art or design the opportunity to get hands-on advanced experience. In this short-term program, middle and high school students design and construct full scale projects that they control from concept to completion

At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW (Judiciary Square Metro, Red Line). Free, no registration required. November 20, 1:00-3:00 p.m. For more information, contact Tara Miller,, 272-2448, ext. 3201


Massachusetts Avenue in the Gilded Age, November 21
Rosemary Reed Miller,

Join us at the DC Historical Society, 801 K Street, NW, on Sunday, November 21, at 2:30 p.m., for a free program by author Mark Ozer: Massachusetts Avenue in the Gilded Age. Welcome to Millionaires Row, where the Gilded Age mansions of what is now Embassy Row still exude a faded elegance. It was here that Martha Blow Wadsworth, an avid sportswoman, competed with Theodore Roosevelt and wealthy hostess Nellie Patterson competed with her sister Kitty McCormick over who had the larger mansion and whose children would run The Chicago Tribune, the family newspaper. From Union Station Plaza to Dupont Circle and Washington National Cathedral, author Mark Ozer examines the extant Beaux-Arts architecture and tells the stories of the buildings, their architects and the socialites and the politicians who lived and played behind those grand facades. Mark Ozer has translated his interest in Washington into a series of books. The first, Washington, DC: Politics and Place has now been succeeded by a book that focuses on one of the great streets of the world, our own Massachusetts Avenue.

Mark Ozer, an honors graduate in History and Science of Harvard College ’53, has in his travels explored the interaction of history and geography of many of the great cities of the world. Since retirement after a fruitful career as Professor of Neurology at Georgetown School of Medicine, for the past ten years he has given courses on history of many of the world’s cities, including Washington, at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the American University. A resident of Washington since 1964, he has found the place of especial interest as he has interpreted it to those from all over the world seeking a deeper understanding of the meaning of America.


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