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December 5, 2010

The Date

Dear Daters:

If the date didn’t succeed, it wasn’t her fault. She and he were having dinner in a fine Italian restaurant. She was pretty, but that was only a small part of it. She was there, completely there for him. She leaned forward in her seat, leaning even further when he spoke. She tilted her head toward him, and kept her eyes on his face. She smiled, and kept smiling, looking up at him through lowered eyelashes. Once in a while, she ran her left hand through her long hair and casually let it fall back into place. His back was to me, so I couldn’t see his reaction, but he was human and male, so I have no doubt that he was captivated. Heck, I was at a table across the aisle, eating dinner with Dorothy, and I was captivated, so captivated that I kept watching and telling Dorothy about each development. Her performance was intended for him and aimed at him; he had to be knocked back on his heels.

She had the skill of a — yes, you knew it was coming — of a true politician. She was absolutely convincing. He was the most interesting, fascinating, person she had ever met, and she gave him every bit of her attention. Isn’t that what every constituent wants, to be paid attention to? To be taken seriously, to have his opinions be taken seriously? Adrian Fenty convinced us four years ago that we were important to him, but every time we met him over the past four years he kept looking over our shoulders for someone more important with whom he should be spending his time instead. Vincent Gray convinced more of us this year that he wouldn’t ignore us and abandon us, that he would take us seriously and respect us in the morning. Yet already the people who were most involved, energetic, and enthusiastic in the Gray campaign are saying that they’ve been kicked to the curb, abandoned without even a kind word. If he’ll do that to them today, what will he do to us tomorrow? A successful date isn’t just the promise; it’s the follow-through.

I wish that couple in the restaurant well; they were so good together.

Gary Imhoff


Seeing Like A Bureaucrat
Pleasant Mann,

The city’s current search for budget reductions comes under the worst possible set of circumstances for meaningful cuts. District managers know only that an old mayor is leaving and that a new mayor is coming in January. They have no idea who or what will determine the direction of the District government under the new administration. Faced with the irrelevance of past guidance and no direction for the future, agency leaders could not see where they would get any points for making real budget cuts. Thus, District bureaucrats avoided any type of visionary reprogramming and instinctively decided to circle the wagons. Any agency money that went to outside groups in the form of grants was cut first, since agency heads believe this to be beyond their control. They also would not, for the most part, give up even vacant positions for this fiscal year, since they might need them to satisfy the new management when it arrives.

This is illustrated in a couple of proposed cuts that hurt my neighborhood of Shaw. One is a proposed $1.6 million dollar cut of the funding for the District’s Main Streets program, which will kill our Shaw Main Streets. (Interestingly, the Department of Local and Small Business Development wants to keep $400,000 to pay for program staff although they will no longer have a program to manage.) The second cut is for $600,000 (which might cover lunch for the Summer Youth program) to eliminate Green Team funding for the city, ending in the process the Shaw Main Streets Green Team, which tries to rehabilitate ex-offenders while providing essential maintenance to a struggling commercial corridor.

There have been over seventy new businesses started on the 7th and 9th Street commercial corridors since Shaw Main Streets started. The organization has had to guide a number of them through the arcane licensing and regulatory processes needed to start and operate a small business in the District. The Green Team, which started in Shaw, is a proven model to move troubled people to stable employment that has been replicated in other parts of the city.

I want to use just one success story to point out what we could be losing. In 2007, Haregwine Messert started her pastry shop, Chez Hareg, on 9th Street in the Shaw Main Streets area. Shaw Main Streets added her shop to its local advertising while the Shaw Green Team kept the sidewalks clean enough to encourage walk-in traffic. When Chez Hareg vegan loafs started to appear in Whole Foods stores, they had the slogan, “Made in Shaw.” By 2009, Chez Hareg had to expand, but decided to stay in the District. The products coming out of its factory in Northeast Washington now say “Locally Made.” However, even that is not exactly accurate, since the area that Chez Hareg now serves goes as far as Ohio, via Whole Foods stores. James C. Scott noted in Seeing Like a State that most bureaucrats want to solve problems with something flashy and expensive rather than subtle and effective. Chez Hareg is now exporting a product and bringing money back into the District, without the DC government having to send a bunch of bureaucrats to Las Vegas to the International Shopping Center convention to make deals or providing a multi-million dollar tax abatement to a major corporate retailer. Still, the city wants to kill the Shaw Main Streets program that supported Chez Hareg and scores of other taxpaying small businesses. While the Department of Employment Services is struggling with just about everything it is tasked with, the District wants to kill the Green Team program that has a proven record of successfully leading ex-offenders back to permanent, gainful employment. We will have to start think a little harder in dealing with our fiscal crisis.


Fenty to Kill DC Main Streets, Commercial Corridor Clean Teams
Alexander M. Padro,

Mayor Fenty has proposed ending funding to two programs that have had a significant impact on neighborhood revitalization in recent years. Only the DC council can stop the termination of these programs now. Fenty’s revised FY 2011s budget calls for the elimination of 1.6 million dollars in Commercial Revitalization funding managed by the Department of Small and Local Business Development. These funds represent grant dollars provided to the city’s eight DC Main Street programs. The local program in Shaw, Shaw Main Streets, serves 7th and 9th Streets, NW between K Street at the south and Florida Avenue at the north.

Over the past seven years, Shaw Main Streets has attracted and supported over seventy new businesses; provided training and technical assistance to existing and new business owners, including legal assistance, help with negotiating leases, assistance navigating the District’s bureaucracy, including permitting and licensing matters and historic preservation approvals; helped document and promote the neighborhood’s history through projects like the Shaw Heritage Trail, the Shaw Heritage Coloring Book, and neighborhood tours; helped promote neighborhood businesses through newsletters, ads, and special events, like First Saturdays and Shaw Open House; completed the first phase of storefront facade improvements and is working on ten additional locations; helped businesses like Chez Hareg grow from one location on 9th Street to supplying Whole Foods stores as far west as Ohio; encouraged new development, like CityMarket at O, the Howard Theater renovation and the Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel; managed streetscape improvement projects, including installation of tree guards; helped attract new businesses to the area, like the upcoming Mandalay Cafe; and much more. There are many business owners who gratefully say, “I wouldn’t still be in business without Shaw Main Streets’ help.”

The Fenty budget cuts include termination of the DPW Small Business Litter Assistance Program, $600,000 per year dedicated to the Green Teams in our neighborhood and other parts of the city. Shaw Main Streets helped create the Green Team, a program that began in 2006 along 7th, 9th, 14th and U Streets, NW, training and employing ex-offenders and former gang members and paying them a living wage to keep our streets clean, remove graffiti, maintain tree boxes, give directions to visitors, and report suspicious activity to MPD. Working seven days per week, the Shaw Green Team collected, bagged and transported 1,545 bags of trash from 7th and 9th Streets and removed 348 graffiti tags during the past year. The 14th and U Street Green Team achieved similar results.

The Main Streets and Green Team programs supplement the public investment they receive with private dollars. For example, Shaw Main Streets has raised nearly $250,000 in private funds over the years and has received commitments of over $75,0000 in private funding for the Shaw Main Streets Green Team. But those private dollars only leverage the public funding, without which the programs would not be able to survive.


Push Back
Steve McCoy,

Recently, or currently (based on your perspective), a petition for rezoning was announced for a land parcel here in the Brookland community. The parcel is home to Colonel Brooks Tavern, a pretty popular restaurant and tavern at 9th and Monroe Streets, NE; one block east of the Catholic University of America’s campus, and a few hundred yards from the Brookland/Catholic University Metro Station. There is no great ambiguity in the rezoning application. The property owner has teamed up with local developers and builders to build an apartment building on the restaurant site. This proposed apartment building would immediately transform one of the core city blocks in Brookland. Whereas now the character of the residential enclave is single family-detached homes and duplex town homes; the proposed development will usher in a quantum leap in residential population density complete with increased vehicular traffic and noise.

At least two questions press their way to the front to be answered in layman’s terms. One, who let the elephant in the room; why is such a draconian zoning change being proposed for this historic and eclectic neighborhood? Secondly, what exactly is the District government’s role in this plan? Are they part of the real estate development team; a neutral party or a facilitator for the demise of a Brookland we once knew? In March 2010, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5A facilitated a “Community Discussion” on the Brookland Small Area Plan at St. Anthony’s Church on 12th Street and Monroe. This meeting was convened to talk with the District’s Director of Planning about the particulars of the Brookland SAP; particularly, how it came across as a “smack in the face” to many long-term and lifelong residents.

Although the meeting was well attended, many of the attendees harbored doubts as to whether or not we accomplished anything of substance. Several months prior to this meeting, the DC city council voted, unanimously, to approve the Brookland SAP. ANC 5A had formerly rejected the approval of the SAP and our concerns were made known to the council and the planning department. The Wilson Building Crew made a bold and blatant decision to ignore residents. In all fairness to then Council Chair Vince Gray, he instructed the planning department to work with the Brookland community to iron out the differences that had been cited by dissenters. No doubt, the March meeting served as a step in that direction; at least in appearance. So there have been expectations that Brookland SAP would be changed since its adoption. Our local government’s deliverable in this regard has been unabashed mollification. There have been meetings. There is still a wealth of committees, but there has not been an iota of change to the original developer-driven Brookland SAP. This brings us back to the Colonel Brook’s planned unit development application. If and when this application is approved and allowed to move forward it will be, once again, an example of the city government’s ignoring the primary stakeholders — residents affected by the project. When we consider the fact that the Colonel Brooks project is one of the first of several to permanently alter the character of historic Brookland, the egregious and blatant refusal of the city to honor residents’ concerns becomes that much uglier.

Well, District voters have just ousted our sitting mayor. It is reasonable to expect changes in key city administrative positions; right? This love affair with so-called transit oriented development needs to be vetted more critically by the District government. The Brooking Institute, AIA, suburban-based development planners, and investment trusts were not on my ballot back on November 2. Whether or not these are the players in the push for transit oriented development in the District, I really don’t know. The brunt of my concern; however, is that under the guise of transit oriented development; we have decimated and continue to destroy neighborhood after neighborhood in the District of Columbia. One may as well call the strategy apartheid — government-sponsored removal of people from their homes. One of the ironies of TOD is the theory that new residents will be transit riders; if so, what’s the deal with the garage townhouses and monolithic parking structures accompanying the new developments?

Can we put the ruses aside and treat our neighbors as we wish to be treated? There are, or certainly can be, alternatives to transit oriented development. Developers can make profits without hurting people and pimping politicians. Change, ya’ll get that? We pray that we’re ushering in a new city administration that is sensitive, accountable, and transparent. Too many of us are “sick and tired of being sick and tired”!


Vetting Appointees
George Idelson,

Last spring’s attempt by mayor Fenty to stack the Zoning Commission with yet another development oriented commissioner made me wonder if some way to vet nominees before they reach the council might be worth considering. In many jurisdictions, judges are vetted by the Bar Association. Could there be something comparable for certain quasi-judicial appointments, such as to the Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Adjustment? Or, more broadly, to the leadership of OP, DDOT, and DCRA? Fortunately, Fenty’s nominee was ultimately stopped by Chairman Gray, who announced that he wouldn’t allow such an unbalanced commission to stand. But mayors are subject to powerful pressures and councils tend to give mayors the benefit of the doubt. What’s more, problematic credentials are sometimes not discovered until the process is well along and councilmembers are committed. So having an interim, credible body to review qualifications, in a transparent way, might take off some of the heat. Another advantage is the positions and the appointments might get more public attention. Cities tackle their zoning and appointment issues in different ways. Are their any models out there worth examining?


Sharing the Road, a Two-Way Street
Lars H. Hydle,

Bicyclist organizations want motor vehicles to “share the road.” But when they have a shot at keeping the road for themselves, they take it. For example, they want Klingle Road to be repaired and reopened for biking and hiking, but not for driving.


Natural Ceiling for Biking?
Eric Gilliland,

I’m a transportation cyclist who has lived car-free in DC since 1993 and would agree, in a way, that there is a natural ceiling for bicycle mode share. Just as bike commuting might be restricted by trip distance or personal health, so too may single occupancy vehicle commuting be limited by economics (can’t afford a car) or permission (not allowed by law to drive one). I imagine that even the most Lycra-clad of bike advocates would admit that biking is not for everyone. But what is the natural rate of bike commuting in DC? Less than the 1 percent as it was in 2000? The 3.3 percent that it is now? Or the 8 percent of trips in a place like Portland, Oregon? Or the over 30 percent of trips in some northern European cities? The natural ceiling for any mode of transportation is also influenced by the priorities of those who make decisions regarding transportation, land use, education, and law enforcement.

Note that the 2.2 percent bike commuting rate from the American Community Survey, or COG’s 3.3 percent bike commuting rate from their Household Travel Survey, only count work trips where the bicycle is the primary mode. Now bear in mind further that work trips make up less than one quarter of total trips, that many people use bicycling to get to Metro, and that some neighborhoods in DC have up to a 10 percent bicycle mode share, and you realize that it’s not the best data to use to judge the impact of bicycling in the District.


The Natural Ceiling on Bicycling Is 51 Percent of Household Trips
Richard Layman,

Sure there is a natural ceiling: trips over three miles. (Although many people, such as myself, gladly ride longer distances for transportational purposes, multitasking on our trips in terms of health benefits and cost savings.) Trips under three miles comprise 51 percent of total household trips, according to the National Household Travel Survey, and for the most part, biking policy focuses on this distance. Trips of this distance take fifteen to eighteen minutes by bike, which, depending on traffic, isn’t much longer than it would take by an automobile, and when you count parking, and parking a distance away from your final destination, not to mention the cost, the bicycle usually makes more sense. In places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, close to 40 percent of all trips are made by bicycle, including the transport of children and goods, demonstrating that a much higher percentage of trips can be made by bicycle in the US, providing that a robust network of lanes and paths, complemented by other policies, programs, and regulations, is in place.

Patrick Thibodeau specifically mentioned commuting, which is a subset of total trips. But his number of 2 percent to 3 percent seems to be pulled out of the air. Actual ridership numbers are dependent on trip distance, adequate infrastructure (bike lanes, shared use paths, cycle tracks) that links activity centers in direct ways, and the provision of support facilities (long term parking, changing facilities, showers, etc.). Mr. Thibodeau specifically mentions telecommuting as an opportunity, but from a knowledge economy perspective, the economy benefits from people interacting directly, although it depends specifically on the nature of the job. From an economic development standpoint — cities were created to bring people together and to facilitate exchange — telecommuting is not a friend to DC’s central business district, which should be our primary concern.

Portland, Oregon, gets about 6 percent of commuting trips by bicycle. In Minneapolis it’s 4 percent. Now those numbers may not seem large to you, but small percentage changes in the amount of automobile traffic can yield significant improvements in congestion reduction. As bicycling take up increases, and a more robust network of bikeways are created, it’s reasonable to project a doubling of these numbers at a minimum. But to get this kind of take up is a multi-decade process, a fact which seems to elude virtually all of the discussion about sustainable transportation in themail. Writers, and Gary, yourself, take for granted that it took more than years and massive government funding to build the road network and system of support facilities that you take for granted (and see as an entitlement) today. (The transcontinental Lincoln Highway was dedicated in 1913; most of the Interstate Highway network was finished by the late 1970s.)

Speaking of entitlements, you see nothing wrong in being provided free parking, or minimally priced parking (residential parking permits cost $15 for spaces worth as much as $3,000 annually), while at the same time you whine vociferously about adopting center city transportation policies that are pro-urban, pro-center city, pro-Washington, DC. Walking, biking, and transit are the transportation modes optimized by the L’Enfant spatial design of the city — small blocks, with a street grid network overlaid by diagonal avenues allowing for more direct routes across the city than is normally afforded by a grid. And it is the city’s transportation policy and programs that we, as residents of the city, are supposed to be concerned about. Not being able to be critical and reflective on these issues does you, and the rest of us, no favor.

[Eric brings up another factor that we haven’t discussed in themail: wealth. When a society gets richer, its use of automobiles increases and its use of bicycles goes down. It’s true of even the poorest societies. The streets of China and India, which used to be overflowing with bicycles, are now overflowing with cars. It’s not hard to understand, for those who are willing to understand. Cars have roofs and windows to protect their occupants from rain and snow, heaters and air conditioners to protect them from cold and heat, and motors to provide power. Only a bicyclist could deny that those are advantages that appeal to most people. Richard writes of bicycles with the religious fervor of an evangelist who is involved, not in a controversy over different modes of transportation, but in a battle between good on two wheels versus evil on four wheels. That attitude is acceptable for an advocate, but not for a planner who is supposed to make decisions based on the interests of all groups. — Gary Imhoff]


Richard Stone Rothblum,

Right on, Gary. Use of the subjunctive for hypotheticals is indeed on the wane, but modern uses include “Let X be a number from one to ten,” for example. MS Word is trying to substitute “is” for “be” as I am typing this. Another word for the subjunctive tense is “conditional.”

Larry [themail, December 1], there is no right or wrong in English grammar. No authority exists to promulgate or referee “rules.” The “rules” are after all only an attempt to generalize usage and to make it easier to speak and write English in a way that is generally accepted in literate circles. If you want to quote rules, it is best to define them before the game begins. For example, if you want to criticize the grammar in The Washington Post, then you had best quote the Post style manual. “Look it up” is not very helpful.

[One friend, who commanded me not to publish her message because she didn’t want to be called the “Queen of the Nerds,” pointed out to me the obvious error that I made when explaining the use of the subjective — I called it the subjunctive case. “Case” is the word that is used for the forms of nouns and especially pronouns depending on whether they are singular or plural; subjective, objective, or nominative. The word that is used to describe the forms that verbs take when they change because of number and time relationship (past, present, and future) is “tense.” My nerd queen was even more precise than that; since the subjunctive marks conditionality rather than time or number, the subjective is often called a “mood” rather than a “tense.” I regret that using “case” instead of “tense” or “mood” wasn’t even a mistake that I made deliberately. I also wrote that only “stick-in-the-muds” like me still used the subjunctive, even though that seemed to me to be the wrong form for the plural. What muds? I have found an online source for “stick-in-the-muds” as an “informal” plural, but shouldn’t it really be “sticks-in-the-mud”? I was hoping for your guidance, even if in the form of a gleeful “gotcha.” What’s your pleasure? Isn’t this fun? — Gary Imhoff]


InTowner Selected Crimes Reports
P.L. Wolff,

The Selected Street Crimes feature available on our web site,, is now updated through October 26, and has been added to the archived reports back to July 3, 2009.



Ward One Dems Holiday Party, December 6
Bill O’Field, Chairman, Ward One Dems,

The Ward One Democrats will celebrate the season with a holiday party tomorrow, December 6, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Level X Lounge above Axum Restaurant at 1934 9th Street, NW (at 9th and U). Hors d’oeuvres will be provided and there will be a cash bar with happy hour specials. Admission is ten dollars to raise funds for the Ward One Democrats.


National Building Museum Book of the Month, December 7
Johanna Weber,

December 7, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Book of the Month: Gingerbread Baby. Celebrate wintertime in the Building Zone for a special interactive reading of Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Baby. Listen, learn, and create your very own storybook character to take home. Readings at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free drop-in program. Recommended for ages three to five. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station.


CPCUG Talk: The Post’s Rob Pegoraro on Computer Tablets, December 11
Barbara Conn,

Surprised by the research needed to select a computing device other than a classic desktop or laptop? Washington Post technology columnist Rob Pegoraro will bring and demo an Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and Barnes & Noble NOOKColor to jump-start your decisionmaking. He’ll also discuss what he’d like to see each do better. Gather your questions and join the discussion. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from an unbiased technology expert. Rob also will answer questions and share tips about gadgets, software, and services he’s used and appreciated.

Gather your friends, colleagues, and neighbors, and your questions, and bring them to this Saturday, December 11, 1:00 p.m., gathering of the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group (E&C SIG). These monthly events are free and open to all. This month’s event is at the Cleveland Park Branch Library (first floor large meeting room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Newark Streets), just over a block south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail Station on the Red Line. For more information about the seminar, the speaker, and CPCUG (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization), visit To RSVP, send an E-mail to


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