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April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Dear Voters:

A special election will be held on Tuesday, April 26, and the polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The candidates for at-large councilmember (in ballot order) will be Alan Page, Statehood-Green; Dorothy Douglas, Democratic; Bryan Weaver, Democratic; Arkan Haile, No Party; Joshua Lopez, Democratic; Patrick Mara, Republican; Sekou Biddle, Democratic; Tom Brown, Democratic; and Vincent Orange, Democratic. The candidates for Ward 4 Board of Education member are Andrew Moss, D. Kamali Anderson, Bill Quirk, and An Almquist. The candidates for Ward 8 Board of Education member are Anthony Muhammad, W. Cardell Shelton, Eugene Dewitt Kinlow; Larry T. Pretlowe II; Philip Pannell; Tijwanna U. Phillips; R. Joyce Scott; Trayon White Sr., and Sandra S.V. Williams.

Gary Imhoff


Regarding the Price of Statehood
John Chelen,

Maybe I should apologize for my previous post [themail, March 20], which might have been a bit too ad hominem, but it’s hard to tamp down an angry response when a misguided servile attitude is being foisted upon us, albeit with good intentions. Although it might be interesting to discuss the history of statehood and liberation movements, we do know that Bush didn’t take us into Iraq to save exploited young girls from Saddam Hussein’s sons nor did the US annex Hawaii or accede to its statehood to protect native Hawaiians from their lack of Christianity. However, money and power do seem to have had a role. The trouble is, if we base our approach on that viewpoint it looks pretty hard to find a successful path for achieving DC voting rights. What financial rewards do we have to offer in return for such rights? I don’t see too much for investors to get excited about, although I hope someone is clever enough to make the case financially.

So, if the “traditional” path for statehood doesn’t appear to hold much promise for District residents, what’s the alternative? Well, civil disobedience has accomplished such things in the past, not only in the US for the civil rights movement, but something about India comes to mind as well. Does civil disobedience have to be hostile? Perhaps, but we also can think about it in terms of educating the people of the US and embarrassing those who refuse to support fundamental human rights. Such demonstrations might also elevate the national stature of our civic leaders and our city if they can use the soapbox to demonstrate their clear thinking and commitment to disciplined self-determination. Whether the mayor and our elected leaders acted with such a strategy in mind or merely concocted a stunt will be answered by whether they continue to demonstrate, whether they can get others to join them, and whether they accompany their demonstrations with other means to obtain publicity. If they don’t, yes, it might have been just a stunt, but it also might be that we didn’t support them at a crucial moment. I hope we give them a chance and support them if they continue.

In the meantime, what I do know from history is that a false reading of how rights are obtained will prevent us from understanding that increased rights almost never have resulted from kindly or charitable feelings. Basing our tactics on such an illusion won’t take us very far towards self-determination. I’d prefer to look at the efforts of Poland’s Solidarity or our public servants in Wisconsin for guidance on how to behave when human rights are at stake.


Statehood in themail
Michael Bindner,

Whether DC is demanding or not, the Republican House will not vote for statehood unless retrocession is also part of the bill. The current bill already has a small residual District of Columbia included, probably not small enough since it includes much of the federal core, which would deprive New Columbia of needed nonresident income tax revenue (which may be the point). As to a constitution without buzzwords, it was passed in 1987 and ratification of it is part of the statehood bill.

The confrontational approach goes hand-in-hand with a lawsuit approach, which has still not been exhausted on the Senate side. The Court ruled that the question of senatorial representation is not ripe because Senators have not yet presented credentials and been denied — and really cannot because the DC Code does not designate our shadow Senators as Senators in waiting, but only as lobbyists. A quick change to the law is needed to amend this, so that they can present credentials and reopen the Adams v. Obama case (which is in hiatus because of the death of counsel without replacement). Electing a Republican to that office, with the understanding that this Republican would serve in the event of statehood, would satisfy the nonpartisan imperative. I suggest Carol Schwartz.


The Price of Statehood
Elinor Hart,

I appreciate [Gary’s] taking the time to write such a thoughtful piece on the “The Price of Statehood” [themail, April 20] Many of the points were well taken, but I must take exception to two points. The first is the role of racism in our second class citizenship. It is huge historically. While I can’t read the hearts and minds of the members of Congress, I do know that they are following a strong racist tradition. Racism was certainly one of the major reasons we lost the measure of self government we had in the nineteenth century. The Civil War dramatically increased the size of our Washington’s African American population. But it was not numbers alone that so offended members of Congress. It was the new assertiveness of Washington’s African Americans, many of whom were at least as well-educated and articulate as members of Congress. I lent my copy of City of Magnificent Intentions to a neighbor, so I can’t quote the speech by a former Senator from Alabama who brags about his role in ending the franchise for those black people in Washington.

Kate Masur, a historian from Northwestern University, wrote a recently published book about the reconstruction period in Washington DC entitled An Example for All the Land. I found her scholarly account of the rise and fall of progressive government in Washington heartbreaking. Her documentation of the role of racism in our loss of self government in the 1870’s was painstaking and painful. Racism was certainly one of the reasons it took us so long to get home rule. The first president to support home rule for DC was either Truman or Eisenhower. Home Rule measures were passed in the Senate in Congressional session after Congressional session. It was blocked in the House by powerful southern Congressmen who were elected by largely white electorates. After the 1965 voting Rights Act and a campaign led by Walter Fauntroy, John MacMillan, from South Carolina, who had chaired the House District Committee for years, was finally defeated in 1972. Racism is the reason we do not have budget and legislative autonomy. The Home Rule bill passed by the Senate and reported out of the House District Committee did have budget autonomy and legislative, but one of the last of the old school southerners was William Natcher, who controlled thirty votes. His price for supporting Home Rule was continued Congressional control over DC’s budget and laws.

“Power hoarding” might be an overstatement. But I do think members of Congress like the convenience of being able to use DC as a pawn at no political cost. It was very convenient for Harry Reid to use the gun amendment to court the NRA in 2009 and the abortion rider during the latest budget negotiations. I think we might be able to convince Congress to give up its convenient pawn, but we will have to advocate forcefully for DC residents to have the same rights as the residents of the fifty states. I hope you will continue to take the issue of Statehood seriously and that you find some time to brush up on your DC history.


Two Arguments on Statehood
Gary Imhoff,

Elinor Hart argues that racism was the primary cause of Congress’ reluctance to grant statehood or even an increased measure of self-determination to the District of Columbia. Her evidence was that there has been widespread racism in the United States, and that some powerful members of Congress were especially racist. What is missing is any reason why their racism should be directed toward DC.

Many members of Congress who controlled the committees that oversaw DC were southern Democrats. There is no doubt that many of these members of Congress were racist and said racist things. But DC did not have a particularly high percentage of black residents compared with the states that these Congressmen represented, and the black population of DC did not rise noticeably during or after the Civil War, or during the first half of the twentieth century. The black population of the District of Columbia hovered between a quarter and a third of the city’s population in every census between 1800 and 1950 ( It grew rapidly between 1950 and 1970. By the 1960 census, for the first time, blacks were barely a majority (53.1 percent) of DC. The black population peaked in the 1970 census at 71.1 percent, and since then it has fallen, slowly in the 1980 and 1990 censuses and faster since then. By contrast, compare the significantly higher black populations of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi until after World War II. If racist members of Congress wanted to oppress the quarter to a third of DC residents who were black, why would they aim their efforts at the great majority of DC residents who were white? Isn’t it more likely that they didn’t see the Constitutional status of the District of Columbia, as the capitol of the nation, but not part of any state, as being oppressive or a punishment?

Elinor is right that the first president to champion self government, and even statehood, for DC was Dwight David Eisenhower ( As a result of Eisenhower’s advocacy, the Twenty-Third Amendment, which granted DC three votes in the electoral college, passed in 1961, and DC residents were first able to vote for presidential candidates in the election of 1964. Congress passed the DC Home Rule Act on December 24, 1973 (Merry Christmas). In other words, the two legal advances increasing the political power of the District were passed at the same time as the black population of DC was rapidly growing and reached its apex. To me, this contradicts the story that racism against blacks in DC was an impediment to or discouraged DC self government and political representation.

John Chelen  argues that the United States government, as despicable as it is, treats the District of Columbia like the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics treated Poland. Therefore, I suppose, the citizens of DC should treat the US government like the Solidarity Movement treated the USSR. To me, this is a far-fetched parallel, or rather so far-fetched that there is no parallel at all. If Michael really believes the United States is so bad, why on earth would he want the District of Columbia to join it as a state?



ANC 3D Meeting to Vote on AU Expansion Plan, April 25
Johanna Farley,

A special meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D has been called by Chairman Tom Smith for Monday, April 25, at 7:00 p.m., in the community room of the new Sibley Hospital Medical Building. Community groups throughout the area, which encompasses Tenleytown, Wesley Heights, and Spring Valley, are urging neighbors to turn out in force. The only item on the agenda is a resolution concerning American University’s proposed expansion plan. Neighbors have consistently called for rejection of the plan based on the fact that unbridled university expansion will severely impact the surrounding neighborhoods.

Taxpaying residents of the areas surrounding AU, many of whom will be carrying picket signs, are expected to pack the meeting room Monday night, vociferously citing their objections to the AU plan, which include increased traffic gridlock along the Nebraska Avenue corridor, pedestrian safety issues at Ward Circle (the intersection of Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenue), access of emergency vehicles, parking issues, increased crime and safety issues, and inadequate buffer zones between student housing and residential neighborhoods.

Additionally the AU plan seeks to expand its on-campus student population by about 30 percent, and does not include a cap against further expansion in the future. Other issues include the gobbling up of commercial properties by the university without regard to neighborhood needs; the unfair tax burden that the university has shifted to the community; and the destruction of the quality of life in the forms of increased noise, pollution, trash, and vandalism, just to name a few.

“We strongly urge the ANC to pass this resolution and repudiate the AU Plan until it is acceptable to the neighborhoods.” said Susan Farrell, President of the Westover Place Homeowners Association, and one of a coalition of neighborhood groups opposing the plan. “We have voiced our concerns and objections at every meeting for the past 19 months, and AU has simply stonewalled us. They refuse to even talk about it. Now they’re trying to steam roll right over the ANC and go on to the Zoning Commission. I hope the ANC won’t let them get away with it.” For further information contact Susan Farrell, 422-2261, or Mary Ellen Fehrmann, 237-8774


El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros, April 25-30
George Williams,

The DC Public Library invites you to participate in El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros, a national celebration of children, books, reading and culture, at select DC Public Library locations, April 25-30. Enjoy bilingual (Spanish/English) story time, crafts, music, and guest readers from Telemundo Washington’s news team and the Office on Latino Affairs, an award-winning author/illustrator appearance, theatrical performances, Latin folk dancing and more. For more information on programs, visit’s_day


Federation of Citizens Associations of DC Meetings, April 26, May 11
Denise Wiktor,

Councilmember Mary Cheh speaks on election night at our Tuesday, April 26th open Assembly meeting, 6:45 p.m., at the historic Sumner School, corner of 17th and M Streets, NW. She will have much to say on many issues related to DC’s governance and management. All are welcome; snacks will be served. Nominations are also being accepted for the Federation’s June election of officers. Contact me for more information.

Our 101st annual gala awards dinner will be held on May 11 at 6:30 p.m. at historic Ft. McNair, SW. All are welcome. Introductory remarks by the Chairman of the City Council’s Judiciary Committee, the Hon. Phil Mendelson, and the keynote speech will be by interim Mayoral Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, Mr. Paul Quander. Five DC-wide awards for exemplary community activism and excellence also will be extended. Tickets are sixty dollars per seat, or four hundred dollars for tables of eight. Please RSVP no later than Friday, April 29, to Armen Tashdinian,, to confirm your seat(s) now.


Author Ariel Sabar Talks of Love at Northeast Neighborhood Library, April 27
George Williams,

Local, critically acclaimed, author Ariel Sabar reads and discusses his new book, Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love: Serendipity on the Streets of New York, on Wednesday, April 27, at 7:00 p.m., at the Northeast Neighborhood Library, 330 7th Street, NE. Intrigued by his parent’s story of meeting in New York’s Washington Square Park, Sabar interviewed couples who first met at New York City’s iconic public spaces. Sabar tells their love stories in novel-like detail, drawing the reader into the hearts of strangers just as their lives are about to change. For more information, call 698-3320.


Woman’s National Democratic Club Luncheon, May 3
Tonya Butler-Truesdale,

Tuesday, May 3, evening reception and poetry recitation with Akbar S. Ahmed, Suspended Somewhere Between. Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, reads from his new book of poetry, Suspended Somewhere Between. The author will answer questions and speak about his experiences. The poet, a man the BBC calls “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” is an accomplished author of over a dozen award winning books who appears regularly on CNN, the BBC, Fox News, and others, as well as the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Daily Show. In this book, however, he publishes his poetry, which has been celebrated in Pakistan, for the first time in America. This new book of verse is a mosaic of Ahmed’s life, which has traversed cultural and religious barriers; it is personal with a vocal range from introspective and reflective to historical and political. The poems take the reader from the forbidding valleys and mountains of Waziristan in the tribal areas of Pakistan to the think tanks and halls of power in Washington, DC, providing a completely different perspective on a religion and a part of the world that is so constantly in the news and on our minds. The foreword to the book is written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter and actor who played Daniel Pearl in “A Mighty Heart,” Daniel Futterman.

The poetry reflects this suspension, and is influenced by poets from both European and Muslim traditions from Coleridge and Keats to Hafiz and Rumi. There is also a strong influence from the great poets of Muslim South Asia, Ghalib and Iqbal. Event cosponsored by Asia Society, Washington, DC. Reception 6:30-7:30 p.m.; poetry recitation and question and answer period, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Members $20, nonmembers $30. Register at


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