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February 27, 2011

Slick and Secretive

Dear Correspondents:

“[Overheard] at a liquor store on Georgia Avenue: middle-aged man to attendant: ‘Can you get me one of those big bottles of Chivas?’ Attendant: ‘Sure man, you got a party or something?’ Man: ‘No man, I’m like Kwame, I’m gonna get fully loaded.’” Wait, wait, there’s more. If you didn’t read Colbert King’s column yesterday, in which he portrayed the city council as squabbling grade schoolers, read it now and get ready to fall off your chairs laughing, For the past two days, Dorothy and I have been starting every conversation with, “Teacher, teacher.” Politicians can recover from nearly every error in judgment, but how do they come back from becoming a joke?

Three ways. First, modesty. They recognize that they’re not the big shots they thought they were and that people are on to them. They scale back their inflated egos and their inflated dreams of power and position. They recognize that they’re not such hot stuff that they need hot rides, salaries at the top of the national pay scale for city and state legislatures, staffs bigger than congressional staffs, and administrators paid better than their equivalents in the federal government. When they call for sacrifice in tough times, they don’t just issue that call to taxpayers, but they share in that sacrifice themselves — in fact, they lead in sacrifice. They realize that they’re no greater experts in life or living than the rest of us, and so they refrain from writing laws imposing their personal preferences on us. They act as careful guardians of our city’s land and property and our citizens’ resources, rather than as dispensers and disposers of them. In other words, they behave differently from the way they have behaved in the past.

Second, maturity. Vincent Gray was elected mayor because he embodied the hopes of the majority of this city for adult leadership after years of immaturity, callowness, and greenness. It’s time for him to rise above the idea that we can build a great city by building up its politicians and bureaucracy. We can only build a great city by building up its people.

Third, openness. What have councilmembers and the mayor learned from the past week? I’m afraid they’re learned exactly the wrong lesson: don’t trust the press, and keep reporters at a distance so they can’t learn anything we don’t want them to know. What they should learn, instead, is to bring the press and the people even closer, and to let them — us — in. If politicians didn’t try to be slick and secretive, to get away with the stuff they knew we would question if we became aware of it, they wouldn’t make themselves into the brunt of our jokes.

Gary Imhoff


Eric Woods,

What does it tell you when people in power repeat the same patterns of their predecessors, even after having criticized them for the same things during the election year? What do you see when you take a look at Mayors Gray and Fenty especially regarding choices made surrounding the Hardy Middle School debacle?

After hearing public testimony from Hardy students (and other Hardy stakeholders), then-Chairman Gray wrote in a February 5, 2010, letter to then-Mayor Fenty: “I encourage you to meet with these young people as soon as possible to listen to their views because clearly they will be most affected by your administrations’ decision to remove Mr. Pope from Hardy. They deserve to have their opinions heard and to get an explanation of this decision directly from you. After hearing from them, I have no doubt you will come to the same conclusion I have — the school’s current leadership represents the best of the District of Columbia Public Schools and should continue in its current state.”

Now that he’s in office with ultimate oversight over DCPS, Mayor Gray has been just as silent as Mr. Fenty was on the subject of Hardy’s leadership and listening to the concerns of Hardy students and teachers most affected by the Chancellor’s choices. In addition, he says he should not “micromanage” DC schools — a refrain duplicated by Sekou Biddle last week at an At-Large candidates forum. This excuse for the mayor not to get involved is a cop-out, and I have communicated this to both of them. In the District’s educational structure, without a true school board, citizens have no other recourse than to go to the mayor’s office to voice outrage about policy blunders. A bad decision by the Chancellor then is still a bad one today. Yet this decision, lacking intellectual honesty and integrity, is permitted to cast a dark shadow over the Hardy community as if the intent all along was to make a bad situation worse.

Just like he stated in his letter, Mayor Gray needs to stand up and explain the choices his team has made pertaining to Hardy. Is this a case of Mayor Gray believing he operates above the same standard of accountability to which he held Mayor Fenty? Perhaps Mayor Gray is really a clone of Mayor Fenty — determined to repeat the same mistakes that landed the former mayor out of office. If so, he seems to be off to a good start by demonstrating the same tone deafness to the students, teachers, and parents of District schools. What a waste of political goodwill and support from thousands of voters!


Controlling the Metropolitan Police Department
Bryce A. Suderow,

Kristopher Baumann, head of DC’s Fraternal Order of Police, is calling for the Feds to control his department, Do I believe him? No, I do not. Why?

In 1997, when Sandy McCall ran against Sharon Ambrose for the Ward 6 council seat, he argued that the District was too corrupt and inefficient to fight crime effectively. The head of the police union, Ron Robertson, supported the platform, but only till the District gave the union what they wanted. Then the FOP jumped ship and a major plank of McCall’s campaign was thus removed. Ambrose defeated McCall handily. Baumann is playing the same game and ought to be confronted with the truth.


Fully Loaded
Jim Graham,

[Re: Fully Loaded Government, themail, February 23] What you write is not true. When others the raised of Verizon tickets, I asked for tickets for this event. There was no emotional reaction. It was a simple request. I don’t know why you feel the need to embellish this. Please correct this.



National Building Museum Events, March 3
Tara Miller,

The Building Toy: Playing with Structure, Form, and Content. Karen Hewitt, president and toy designer of Learning Materials Workshop, discusses the history of architectural toys and the significance of play in developing creativity and lifelong learning skills. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. March 3, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Register for events at


Summer Public Interest Fellowship Auction, March 31
Joe Libertelli,

Live and silent auctions, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine. All monies raised directly support summer public interest fellowships! See On Thursday, March 31, 6:00 p.m., at UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Building 38, second floor. For more information, or to donate an auction item, please contact Jaye Lopez at

Unable to attend? Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to the School of Law’s Summer Public Interest Fellowships Program. To make your gift online at and click on the Rauh Summer Public Interest Fellowships “Donate Now” link. Or send a check made out to DC School of Law Foundation to Dean Shelley Broderick, UDC-DCSL,` 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008. Be sure to write Summer Public Interest Fellowships in the memo line of your check. Thank you for your support!


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