themail.gif (3487 bytes)

May 11, 2011


Dear Pollsters:

The poll done by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, announced in its press release below, appeared to be fairly straightforward, and press reports about it didn’t express any skepticism or ask questions about its findings. DC citizens, the poll seemed to prove, want higher taxes and don’t want any cuts in the city’s social service programs. But the DC Fiscal Policy Institute is an advocacy organization that has always supported higher taxes, and especially supported higher tax rates for richer taxpayers. If an organization’s poll shows that the public supports its policy positions so strongly, a little skepticism is called for.

But how could the DCFPI poll be biased? The easiest way to bias a poll is to skew the sample toward a group that already has a particular opinion. This week, for example, several national polls tried to measure the size of the approval “bump” that everyone assumed President Obama would get from the killing of Osama bin Laden. Most polls showed a jump in Obama’s job approval rate of several percentage points, to the low 50’s. The Associated Press poll was an outlier, however; it showed a jump to an approval rating of 60 percent, Jim Geraghty of The National Review, when he analyzed the AP poll, found a possible explanation for its much better results for Obama. He emphasized the composition of the group that the AP polled: “46 percent identify as Democrat or leaning Democrat, 29 percent identify as Republican or leaning Republican, 4 percent identify as purely independent leaning towards neither party, and 20 percent answered, ‘I don’t know,’”

The DCFPI poll, since it was taken of DC residents, will have an even higher percentage of Democratic respondents, and that should explain much of the preference for higher taxes and progressive tax rates. But the questions are also written from the viewpoint of DCFPI’s policy preferences. Social service programs are assumed to be uniformly both effective and cost-effective, whether they are managed by the government or by government contractors. There is no waste, mismanagement, or fraud in them; their positive results are directly proportional to the funding put into them. You get what you pay for. If that’s what you believe, then you'll think it's a good poll. 

Read the poll yourself, and see what you think.

Gary Imhoff


Redrawing Boundaries in the District
Dorothy Brizill,

In the coming months, District residents who are concerned about their individual neighborhoods will need to focus their attention on four distinct boundary redrawing exercises that will be underway in the District. First, the Council’s Redistricting Committee, cochaired by Councilmembers Jack Evans and Michael Brown, will hold a markup meeting on May 26 with regard to the committee’s proposed plan to redraw the ward boundaries in the District to reflect the results of the 2010 US Census. Ward boundaries are drawn so that their populations are roughly equal; after the 2010 Census wards should have about 75,000 residents each. Because of the greater growth of population in Ward 2 and the lesser growth in Wards 7 and 8, the boundaries of Wards 7 and 8 will have to expand and the boundaries of Ward 2 constrict. But Ward 2 is not contiguous with Wards 7 and 8, so either or both Wards 5 and 6 will be affected. The Council markup will then be followed by a public hearing on June 2; under District law, the Council must complete its work by July 14. After the Ward boundaries are redrawn, committees will be established in each ward to work until the end of the year to redraw the boundaries of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and their Single Member Districts (see

In addition to these two boundary redistricting exercises, Cathy Lanier, DC’s Chief of Police, and Paul Quander, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, have secretly developed a plan to redraw the boundaries of all police districts and PSA’s (Patrol Service Areas). It is not yet exactly clear how Lanier and Quander will roll out their proposal, but it appears as though most citizens will first see the plan when it is forwarded to the Council. According to Quander, there will not be any citizen input or consultation prior to the referral of the plan to the Council and the Council’s review.

Some may recall that several years ago the Metropolitan Police Department developed a plan in secret to redraw police boundaries without community input. The plan was a disaster, and resulted in tremendous opposition from the community. For example, because it hadn’t been vetted by the community, the initial plans developed by the great minds at 300 Indiana Avenue, NW (MPD’s headquarters) redrew the boundaries of the Third District so that 3D’s headquarters were outside the boundaries of 3D. There’s always a good reason to involve the people in a democratic decision.


DC Youth Orchestra Program Scholarships
Tonya Butler-Truesdale,

A generous donation has been made by an anonymous benefactor who has been a strong supporter of the DC Youth Orchestra Program (DCYOP) and music education for the youth of the District. This donation will allow the program to provide at least sixty scholarships for students wishing to attend summer camp at DCYOP. The benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, is wholly dedicated to supporting quality education and music education opportunities for students of the District, especially those who might not otherwise be able to participate if not for the scholarship support. The program is thrilled that these funds support the program’s mission and goal of providing music education to youth in the District, regardless of their ability to pay.

The impact of the DC Youth Orchestra Program is significant, whether measured in size, social contributions, or financial aid: Every year, over six hundred children play in the DC Youth Orchestra Program, making it the largest youth orchestra in the Washington area. Offering seventeen times more classes than any other DC-area youth orchestra organizations, the DC Youth Orchestra Program is a leading music education resource. Children in DCYOP finish high school. While the high school graduation rate in DC Public schools is under 60 percent, virtually every student who graduates from our Program graduates from high school. DC Youth Orchestra Program tuition is over 25 percent lower than other area youth orchestras for DC students. Students pay, on average, about 45 percent of the costs of programs offered by DC Youth Orchestra Program. The program accepts all students, regardless of experience or income level. Over the last four years, more than 25 percent of students received subsidized or free tuition, and that percentage is growing. In 2010, the program provided over $89,000 in scholarships to students in need.

Scholarships will be available to students who are residents of the District of Columbia. Scholarships through this contribution are available for the 2011 summer camp only. Scholarships will be awarded until the funds are exhausted and on a first-come-first-served basis. Additional information about the scholarships is available at 698-0123 or For more information, contact Ava Spece, Executive Director, DC Youth Orchestra Program, 698-0123,,


DC Fiscal Policy Institute Poll
Tina Marshall,

A new poll finds that the clear majority of DC voters support tax increases — including an increase in the income tax on high-income households — as a reasonable approach to take so that the city does not have to reduce spending on education, public safety and human services. When asked about the best way to approach DC’s $322 million budget shortfall for FY 2012, the largest group of DC voters said they support a balanced approach that includes a mix of tax increases and spending cuts instead of an approach that relies only on cuts. The poll, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, was taken on April 20-22 of 504 likely voters and has a four-point margin of error. It was commissioned by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

Some of the findings in the poll include: 1) DC voters strongly prefer maintaining DC’s critical public services over holding down taxes. 70 percent of DC voters say that maintaining public services should be a higher priority than holding down taxes, compared with 23 percent who prioritize holding down taxes. 2) Clear majorities say that when dealing with a budget shortfall, cuts to education, social service programs like homeless assistance and income assistance for people with disabilities are, and public safety are unacceptable. 72 percent of registered voters find cuts to services for residents with disabilities unacceptable, 70 percent of DC voters oppose cuts to income assistance for needy families with children and 68 percent of DC voters oppose cuts to homeless services unacceptable. 3) Support for tax and fee increases proposed by the Mayor is widespread across the District. Fully 87 percent support requiring corporations to fully report their DC income, 85 percent approve of raising income tax rates on residents with incomes above $200,000, and 70 percent favor increasing the parking garage tax from 12 percent to 18 percent. 4) The clear majority of DC voters — 85 percent across the city — support increasing the income tax rate on higher income residents. An overwhelming majority of those who are most likely to be impacted by the tax increases also voice support. Among voters with incomes of more than $100,000, 90 percent say that they find the tax increase on voters earning more than $200,000 to be acceptable.

To read a copy of the poll, click


DC Democratic Party Seeks Your Input
Bill O’Field,

The DC Democratic Party is seeking public comments regarding the DC Delegate Selection Plan for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The plan is available for viewing at Let us know if you like it, don’t like it, or if you have recommendations for changes, etc. Submit your comments to the link at the web site to no later than Sunday, May 15.



DC VOICE Ready High School Project, May 13, 21
Arielle Etienne-Edmonson,

DC VOICE will host the second and third of a trio of May town hall meetings to discuss findings from this year’s Ready High School Project. Community members will 1) learn how community schools and and family engagement data can lead to immediate action and (2) build on existing college- and career-access data to launch an inquiry on the state of DCPS middle schools in the fall. Policy makers will also be on hand to share their plans for continued improvement of DCPS for all students. To RSVP, please click on Friday, May 13, 9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m.; Cardozo High School, 1200 Clifton Street, NW, Saturday, May 21, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; Woodson High School, 4650 Benning Road, SE (this meeting’s agenda will build on discussions from the first two meetings and present new information and data).


Smart Growth, May 24
Stacy Adamson,

May 24, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Smart Growth: Regenerative Urbanism. No charge. Registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. Daniel Kaplan, AIA, LEED AP, senior partner at FXFOWLE, presents a framework for architecture and urbanism that breathes new life into the forgotten spaces of cities. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Irene Levin Berman Reception, May 26
Tonya Butler-Truesdale,

Thursday, May 26, evening reception with Irene Levin Berman, “We Are Going to Pick Potatoes”: Norway and the Holocaust, the Untold Story. In 1942, four-year-old Irene Levin was one of 1,200 Jews who escaped to Sweden to avoid deportation to a Nazi death camp. Her family was among the 2,000 Jews who were living in Norway during the German invasion of 1940. 771 Jews were sent to Auschwitz and only 28 men survived. Irene Levin Berman has lived in the United States most of her adult life. She is a professional translator of Scandinavian languages and has co-translated seven plays by Henrik Ibsen. Her book was first written in Norwegian and she translated it into English. She decided to share her story to answer the many questions she has received from her American contemporaries and to bear witness to a largely untold chapter in the tragic history of the Holocaust. Ms. Berman is especially interested in younger people learning about it. She is a dynamic speaker and you will be completely drawn into her story. Books will be available for sale.

At the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. The time will be 6:00 to 8:00 and the price will be: $22.00 for members and $28.00 for nonmembers. Register at


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at

All postings should be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.


Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)