The Earth Moved
Dear Earth Movers:
Well, it was a once-in-a-century earthquake. The earth moved. Was it
good for you, too?
Here’s the good news about yesterday’s earthquake. When the earth
moved and the house shook we thought what caused it was everything that
everyone else has mentioned thinking — an unusually heavy truck drove
down the street, or a tree fell, or something fell onto the roof or fell
from the roof. We didn’t think — it didn’t even occur to us —
that the tremors could have been caused by a terrorist bomb. It’s a
signal that normal life has returned, more than a decade after 9/11.
On August 21, 2011, the Washington Post’s Tim Craig and
Nikita Stewart reported that, “DC Council’s Jack Evans Paid for
Sports Tickets from Constituent Fund, Records Show,” http://tinyurl.com/3v6tewg.
This was new, fresh reporting, but it wasn’t a new story. On September
23, 2004, the Washington Post reported on councilmembers’ use
of constituent services funds as slush funds. Councilmembers defended
the use of the funds to provide loans to their staffers (including Ward
One Councilmember Jim Graham’s loans to his aides Ted Loza and Calvin
Woodland, Jr.), and Jack Evans was mentioned for his purchases of sports
tickets and his gifts to staffers, http://tinyurl.com/3lt9jd5.
On October 18, 2005, and November 13, 2005, the Post reported on
Evans’ misuse of his political action committee, the DC Fund, formerly
known as Jack PAC, to pay his personal entertainment and travel
expenses, to pay for a friend’s expenses to accompany him on a
government delegation to China, and to pay for tickets to sports events,
http://tinyurl.com/3c7c56m and http://tinyurl.com/3ssl649.
Councilmembers defend having constituent services funds because they
claim that they are used to help their constituents who have fallen on
temporary hard times and need small amounts to pay their rent money,
their utilities bills, funeral costs, or grocery bills. Constituent
services funds, they claim, let them intervene when DC government and
private social service agencies are too cumbersome and slow to respond
to citizens’ emergencies. If this were true, it would still be wrong.
We don’t elect legislators to be publicly funded social service
workers; we elect them to pass laws and to oversee the work of executive
agencies and departments. But it isn’t true. Councilmembers use only a
small part of constituent services funds to help impoverished citizens.
Constituent services funds are used, instead, for councilmembers’
political and personal purposes, and they are so useful for those
purposes that a few years ago the city council voted, instead of
reforming these funds by tightening restrictions on their use or
abolishing them, to double the amount of money councilmembers could
solicit donors to give them, from forty thousand dollars to eighty
thousand dollars a year.
The good news about this story is that it may quiet the defenders of
Councilmembers Harry Thomas, Jr., and Kwame Brown, who claim that white
politicians aren’t held to the same ethical standards as black
councilmembers. On the other hand, Thomas’ and Brown’s defenders may
have a point. Evans’ problems mismanaging his constituent services
fund and political action committee have gone on for at least a decade,
and the conflicts of interest between his law practice and political
office have been reported on in themail by John Hanrahan (June 13, 2010;
June 16, 2010; and October 27, 2010). But Evans’ Ward 2 constituents
have not expressed any opposition or organized a campaign to support an
alternate candidate, and there have not been any Washington Post editorials
expressing outrage over his conduct, while there have been several about
Brown, Thomas, Alexander, and Barry.
Councilmember Mary Cheh released the report of the Special Committee
on Investigation of Executive Personnel Practices yesterday, http://www.marycheh.com/reports/drateppreport.pdf.
The report itself is forty-five pages, but it has been augmented with
four hundred sixty pages of exhibits. There wasn’t much news; nearly
everything in the report was already well known. The one major new
revelation was reported only by Tom Howell, Jr., in The Washington
and by Alan Suderman in Loose Lips Daily, http://tinyurl.com/3vel69f.
That revelation concerned City Administrator Allen Lew, and it was
buried on page twenty under the heading “excessive hours.” Here’s
the entire section of the Special Committee Report concerning him:
In addition to awarding excessive salaries, the Gray
administration also approved at least one excessive bonus payment.
In order to maintain a balanced budget for Fiscal Years 2010, 2011,
and 2012, the Council made deep cuts to programs and services, laid
off hundreds of employees, and raised taxes and fees. For these
fiscal years, the Council enacted the Bonus and Special Pay
Limitations Act, which prohibits the payments of performance bonuses
and other special pay, except under certain, limited circumstances.
The Council believed that it was inappropriate to pay bonuses to
some employees when other employees were being terminated, salaries
were being frozen, and agency budgets were being sharply reduced.
Yet, on December 29, 2010, in one of his final acts as mayor,
Mayor Adrian Fenty approved a bonus of $68,750 for Allen Lew,
then-Director of the Office of Public Education Facilities
Modernization and current City Administrator. This payment included
a 10 percent performance bonus ($27,500) and a 15 percent
hard-to-fill-position bonus ($41,250) for Mr. Lew, who was already
one of the top earners in the District Government at that time and
received a salary of $275,000. In an apparent attempt to circumvent
the Bonus and Special Pay Limitation Act, Mayor Fenty classified Mr.
Lew’s performance bonus as being for Fiscal Year 2009 — which
had ended 15 months earlier. On February 1, 2011, Ms. Banks
authorized the Office of the Chief Financial Officer to pay this
bonus, which was scheduled for payment on February 4, 2011.
Classifying this bonus, which was paid in Fiscal Year 2011, as a
payment for Mr. Lew’s performance in Fiscal Year 2009 is dubious,
at best, because the bonus was approved and paid more than a year
after the end of Fiscal Year 2009. Moreover, although the
performance bonus was purportedly for Mr. Lew’s work in the Office
of Public Education Facilities Modernization during Fiscal Year 2011
operating budget of the Office of the City Administrator. The fact
that Mayor Fenty approved this bonus during his final hours in
office further suggests that this payment was not made in the normal
course. Altogether, this bonus payment, at minimum, violates the
spirit of the Bonus and Special Pay Limitation Act, if not the law
itself. That Ms. Banks, acting on behalf of the Gray administration,
authorized payment of this bonus makes her and the Gray
administration equally responsible for this bonus payment.
So Allen Lew’s management practices and ethical standards have now
been censured by the Inspector General and the DC Auditor, and as a
reward for them he was promoted to be City Administrator and was paid
tens of thousands of dollars in excessive and probably illegal bonuses.
The city council hasn’t moved to hold hearings on the reports by the
Inspector General and DC Auditor, and now Lew has shown again that he is
above the law and will not be held accountable.
Gary Imhoff, email@example.com
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Evans in Violation of DC Law?
Carlos Bright, Ward 4, email@example.com
2011 has been the year of allegations of corruption and nepotism in
the DC mayor’s office and by several DC councilmembers. There are
thousands of other DC voters and residents sharing our feelings of
disgust. We had term limits in place, but Ward 2 Councilmember Jack
Evans introduced legislation to overturn the will of the people. I
remember this clearly, because I testified before the DC council with
other DC voters, asking the DC council not to overturn term limits.
Guess what, the dictators at the time on the council of the District of
Columbia overruled the will of the people. I remember that the former
Ward 4 Councilmember, Adrian M. Fenty, sided with the DC voters on this
issue. I wonder, how long will it take for Congress to reinstitute a
federal Control Board overseeing the District’s affairs?
DC to Honor King Legacy by Continuing His
Crusade for Democracy
Leah Ramsay, Lramsay@dcvote.org
DC Vote will join Mayor Vincent C. Gray as he leads the District of
Columbia in honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this
week by continuing his unfinished fight for full democracy and equality
in our nation’s capital. On Thursday, August 25, the mayor will attend
a poster-making party on Freedom Plaza, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Attendees
will be making signs to prepare for the Full Democracy and Freedom Rally
and March on Saturday, August 27, starting at Freedom Plaza, 14th Street
and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
March schedule: 9:30-10:00 a.m., pre-rally entertainment; 10:00-11:00
a.m., rally for full democracy and freedom, with District, youth, and
civil rights leaders; 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., march to join the Reverend
Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Rally at 17th Street and
Constitution Avenue, NW; 1:00 p.m, march to the site of the King
Memorial at Ohio Drive, SW, and West Basin Drive, SW; 1:30 p.m.,
consecration of the Memorial grounds with interfaith leaders from across
In 1965, Dr. King led rallies and marches in DC calling for Home
Rule. Standing in Lafayette Square across from the White House, he said,
“Congress had been derelict in their duties and sacred responsibility
to make justice and freedom a reality for all citizens in the District
of Columbia.” Click http://tinyurl.com/4yb7evv
to download an image of Dr. King marching for DC Home Rule, courtesy of
the DC Public Library.
Still Struggling to Die Well in the District
Shirley Tabb, firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, it is almost official. The Elderly and Persons with
Disabilities (EPD) Medicaid Waiver Program, that provides personal care
assistance and home health services, including respite hours for
caregivers, to people ineligible for Community Medicaid due to
income/assets, will go to a “first come, first served” system, and
prospective program recipients will go on a waiting list. The problem
with this system is that people can wait years for care. Hospice
patients do not have that luxury, nor do some other sick and elderly
people, and we need your help to raise awareness around the need for
priority groups, including hospice patients and others more at risk.
Today we are trying to help other people in this final stage of life,
but this day will come for each of us. Maybe we won’t need hospice,
but someone we love could need passionate care at home, sooner or later,
if not already. Let’s save expedited hospice care with a reserved
number of slots to ensure that care is available for end of life care at
home. Please call Councilman David Catania and ask him and Committee on
Health members to make hospice patients a priority and create priority
groups for other fragile groups.
Our petition to Councilman Catania and his committee is receiving
national support. Mr. Catania has proven to be a friend of those
affected by health care disparities in the past. and needs to hear from
the community on this issue. Please show your support to make hospice
home health care a priority category with expedited hospice reviews by
adding your name to the online petition at http://signon.org/sign/mr-catania-make-dying?source=c.em.mt&r_by=475218
What will be the impact of Standard and Poor’s downgrade of the
United States’ credit rating on the District of Columbia’s credit
rating? Is there any impact on the bonds issued to finance the new
baseball stadium? In view of the District’s budget constraints, isn’t
it now time to sell the baseball stadium, thereby reducing the District’s
bonded indebtedness? If the stadium financing documents were drafted to
preclude sale, isn’t it time that Chief Financial Officer Natwar M.
Gandhi be called to account for locking the District into such an
untenable position? After all, has Mr. Gandhi ever been called to
account for the fifty mission dollars embezzled on his watch? Why not?
Advisory Neighborhood Commission Redistricting
Jack McKay, email@example.com
It’s August, Congress and the District Council both shut down, and
countless DC residents have gone to cooler climes until September.
Unfortunately, this is also the period of time mandated by the DC Code
to do the decennial revision of the boundaries of our Advisory
Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and their single-member districts (SMDs),
adjusting for the 2010 census results. Task forces in each ward,
appointed by councilmembers, are to provide recommended ANC and SMD
boundary revisions by mid-October. You would think that this process
would begin by defining Advisory Neighborhood Commission boundaries
around logical neighborhoods (duh!), then dividing each ANC up into a
suitable number of SMDs. But you would be wrong. The District Council,
and the Office of Planning, have instructed these task forces to begin
with the SMDs, required to consist of 2000 residents, plus or minus 100.
What happens if an existing ANC can’t be neatly divided up into
2000-resident SMDs? Take ANC 2A, for example, with a population of
17,213. That would call for 8.6 SMDs, and commissioners don’t come in
fractional sizes. Any way you combine SMDs of 1900 to 2100 population,
there will be some people left over, or you’ll need more to come out
even. The instructions to the task forces are silent, but a veteran of
past redistricting says this: “the ANC’s boundaries . . . will need
to change so that the given rules will work.” Clearly “the given
rules” take priority over what makes good sense. Never mind where the
logical neighborhood boundaries are, push residents into or out of an
ANC in order to come out even with neat, 2000-resident packages.
Residents might not be happy to discover that they’ve been shoved into
another neighborhood, but the process gives them little say in the
matter. (Six weeks into the process, do you know who is on your ANC
Redistricting Task Force, or what it is doing?)
The process is actually much clumsier than that, because SMDs are
supposed to be made up of census blocks, and those don’t come in
whatever size you want. I’m told that some of these task forces are
feverishly dividing up census blocks, in pursuit of this bogus 1900-2100
goal. (In the 2000 redistricting, sixty of the 286 SMDs failed the
1900-2100 population test.) I say “bogus” because this is not a
correct reading of the law. “Each single member district shall have a
population of approximately 2,000 people, and shall be as nearly equal
as possible,” says the DC Code, rather awkwardly. (Where’s the
subject of the verb “shall be”?) It could say “as nearly equal to
2000 residents as possible,” as the council and the Office of Planning
have interpreted it, but it doesn’t. It says “approximately 2000
people,” and then, separately, “as nearly equal as possible.” Um,
equal to what? To 2000? Or — doesn’t this make better sense? — to
each other. It’s about fairness, not about forcing everyone into that
chimerical 1900-2100 box.
Taking the ANC 2A example, this could be made up of eight SMDs, with
average population of 2152, or nine, with average population of 1912. If
the SMD populations are within 5 percent of those averages, then the “nearly
equal” criterion is met. (Let’s not look too closely at the “as
possible” requirement.) No residents get pushed into or pulled out of
adjacent ANCs to achieve the artificial criterion of “2000, plus or
minus 100,” and the ANC boundaries are put wherever they make good
neighborhood sense. That’s consistent with the meaning of the law: “approximately
2000 people,” and “as nearly equal as possible.” But that’s not
the way the eight ANC Redistricting Task Forces are doing it, by order
of the District Council, and the Office of Planning.
A Healthy Return to School
Jo Ann Smoak, firstname.lastname@example.org
Each time I hear DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson speak of DC students,
I become more cautiously optimistic about the long-term health and
educational outcomes for DC children. Not that any single person has the
capacity to significantly impact the complex and interrelated factors
contributing to the poverty, education, and health care of our children.
Yet, I am encouraged by the sincere, realistic tone of her rhetoric. She’s
positive, she seems to recognize the indispensability of parents and
other stakeholders to children’s long-term success, and she exhibits
high Emotional Intelligence — situational control through self
control. Among her challenges will be managing expectations of skeptical
residents while simultaneously producing results — moving from
inspiration to accomplishment.
Our challenge, as DC residents who have been disappointed again and
again, will be to embrace this new marriage without regard for how many
times we’ve been left at the alter before, assuming a shared
responsibility for educating our students in whatever capacity we can.
For me and the over eight thousand minority medical students and
stakeholders represented by the Student National Medical Association, we
know that one of the most important ways to positively impact a child’s
capacity to learn is by being attentive to their physical health and
health status. As DC students return to school, various web sites have
posted useful health-related advice for parents and other caregivers. As
usual, much of this back-to-school preparation focuses on immunization
issues. DCPS’ immunization requirements are available on their web
site, and should not be ignored. However, in addition to a doctor’s
evaluation to update required immunizations, parents should consider the
need for vision and hearing tests for your child. Many students with
vision or hearing challenges, especially young children, don’t realize
that what they see or hear is not normal. The results can be chronic
academic failure that may not be detected for years. Special attention
should also be given to school athletes. Physical activity and
participation that goes with school athletics is a great option for
addressing the decline in children’s health, including the rise in
childhood obesity. By some estimates, childhood obesity is as high as 33
percent in some minority populations under nineteen years old.
Stratified by ethnicity, some Center for Disease Control estimates on
childhood obesity are even higher: for non-Hispanic whites, 31.9 percent
of males and 29.5 percent of females; for non-Hispanic blacks, 30.8
percent of males and 39.2 percent of females; in Mexican American
communities, 40.8 percent of males and 35.0 percent of females.
Hopefully, over the summer, our children have stayed in shape by
remaining active and consuming a healthy diet and can safely participate
in an appropriate school athletic program. However, we should not
automatically assume them to be fit for physical activity. That
determination is best made after a routine sports physical that may
include a cardiac examination and blood pressure check, especially if
your child is overweight or sedentary. If you are a parent, an aunt, or
a mentor who plans to purchase school supplies, verify that the weight
of the backpack does not exceed 10-15 percent of the child’s weight,
has padded shoulder and back straps, and a waist strap to avoid back
problems. A rolling backpack can provide a good alternative. Finally,
remember that children who stay up late, oversleep, or skip breakfast,
rarely report to school ready to learn, no matter the quality of the
teacher, or what the Teachers Union is or isn’t doing.
DC Statehood — Yes We Can! is one of many citizen groups that is
part of the DC Host Committee for the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Dedication. The DC Host Committee is working to educate those coming for
the memorial dedication about the plight of District residents and our
need for statehood. The Committee has also organized a number of free
events for the public for this week. You can find a list of almost all
the free public events being held this week on our web site at http://www.dcstatehoodyeswecan.org.
We have also posted information on Dr. Martin Luther King’s work in DC
in support of rights for the residents of DC, as well as a number of the
sermons and speeches he gave here. We urge all District residents (and
their friends and family from outside DC) to join the mayor and other
statehood activists on Saturday, August 17, at 10:00 a.m. at Freedom
Plaza for a statehood rally and march, after which we will join the
national march for jobs and justice being led by Rev. Al Sharpton. The
residents of the District of Columbia have still have a dream — DC
statehood! The lack of freedom and the right to self-government in DC is
one of the great unfinished civil right issues.
Expanding Geographical Boundaries of themail
Brigid Quinn, email@example.com
While some may refer to Prince George’s County as Ward 9, or an
extension of Southeast DC, in fact it isn’t. The people in Prince
George’s County, Arlington, Alexandria, etc., do not pay two of
the city’s largest revenue producers — income taxes or property
taxes. in fact, many of the people who live in Prince George’s and
other DC-area suburbs once lived in DC. For myriad reasons they chose to
move out of, or sometimes flee, the city for what they thought were
greener pastures. In some instances, they were probably correct; in
others, not so much. They are probably wise to follow the city’s ups
and downs on this and other lists, since DC is the heart and soul of the
region. However, I, for one, do not want to read about their
jurisdictional issues. If they don’t already have lists such as this
one, they might want to consider starting them. They have their own
issues, governments, and politicians. Plus, unlike District residents,
those in surrounding jurisdictions have something those in the District
don’t have — representatives in the US House and Senate whom they
can petition to help them. I appreciate that themail is polling its
readers on this topic.
I agree 100 percent with you on the issue of the US Constitution and
the subject of DC voting rights. The Constitution clearly says that the
District of Columbia is not a state. If people want to make the District
of Columbia a state — a goal I support wholeheartedly — the
Constitution has to be amended.
There are methods to amend the US Constitution, spelled out in the
Constitution. Follow those rules. Gain statehood. Perhaps not an easy
task. But it is the law.
CLASSIFIEDS — DONATIONS
This is the last chance to donate books for the Friends of the
Library fall book sale to benefit reading programs. Donate new or
like-new books in all categories. Please, no textbooks, magazines, or
How to drop off books now through September 5: if donating just a box
or two, or if delivering on the weekend, drop off any time the MLK
Library is open at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G
Street, Great Hall Donation Center (next to the bookstore across from
the circulation desk). If donation consists of more than two boxes,
please deliver to the loading dock behind the MLK Library between 8:00
a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. Please leave a message for
Bookstore Manager Rob Schneider, 727-6834, after the boxes are unloaded.
Stack boxes neatly against the back of the loading dock at G Place, NW
(enter from 10th Street, NW, between H and G Streets, NW). Assistance
with unloading is available Wednesday through Friday from 11:00
a.m.-3:00 p.m. Only. Call Bookstore Manager Rob Schneider, 727-6834, in
advance to arrange. Please mark all bags and boxes “FRIENDS.” For
further information, contact Robin Diener, firstname.lastname@example.org.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
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