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October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween

Dear Halloweeners:

Here’s a scary thought: themail is going to go on a break for a whole week, returning overnight on Sunday, November 6. Eat your candy in the meantime, and see you then.

Gary Imhoff


Auditing the Auditor
Dorothy Brizill,

On Wednesday, October 26, the council’s Government Operations Committee held an eight-hour hearing on ten ethics bills currently before the council. Despite the lengthy, well-attended hearing, with more than thirty witnesses, questions still remain as to whether the mayor and council are truly serious and committed to ethics reform, or whether they are merely pontificating. A practical case in point occurred just twenty-four hours before the ethics hearing, when on Tuesday, Council Chairman Kwame Brown held a confirmation hearing on Yolanda Branche’s appointment as DC Auditor (PR 19-250,

As I noted in the May 29 issue of themail, it is not clear why Chairman Brown chose not to reappoint Deborah Nichols, who had more than 26 years of experience working at the DC Auditor’s office: “Brown’s press release claims that Branche ‘is an attorney admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.’ However, the records of the DC Bar Association show that Ms. Branche’s legal license in DC has been suspended. In an E-mail to me last Friday, Ms. Branche stated, ‘I passed the DC Bar but I am not authorized to practice law in the District.’ In her resume, that accompanied Brown’s press release, Branche gives her address as being in the District, on Banneker Drive in the Fort Lincoln section of Northeast. However, she isn’t registered with the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to vote in the District, so I queried Brown’s office about her actual residence. In response, Ms. Branche E-mailed that ‘I am not a DC resident,’ although she pledged to move into the District within the 180-day limit. Ms. Branche is not an auditor, though she began working in the DC Auditor’s Office in the past year as a senior analyst. Prior to that, she owned and operated a greeting card company, Bayview Cards ( in St. Leonard, Maryland, where she actually lives.”

At Ms. Branche’s confirmation hearing, I noted that if the council were truly serious about ethics reform it could not confirm someone to the critical position of DC Auditor who had lied twice on her resume and misled the selection review panel about her residency in the District and her qualifications. In addition, the written job qualifications, developed for the position by Kwame Brown’s transition committee for use by the selection committee (, call for someone who is a CIA (certified internal auditor) or a CGAP (certified government auditing professional) and who has “a minimum of five years of experience in governmental accounting and/or auditing.” However, Ms. Branche has worked for only three years at the DC Auditor’s office as a senior analyst, not as an accountant or auditor, and she is neither CIA nor CGAP certified.

If the council is truly serious about addressing the culture of corruption that is so pervasive in the District government, then the office of the DC Auditor will and must play a critical role. Appointing Yolanda Branche, who has neither the required skills nor background for the position, and who lied on her resume to secure the position, is a step backward, not forward.


Ethics and Term Limits
Larry B. Lesser,

Gary, like you and many others, I’m disappointed (mild word in the interest of civility) in the ethical standards of members of the DC council and the mayor’s office. But I don’t support term limits. Many of the greatest achievements of executive and legislative — and judicial — branches at the federal, state, and local level have always been spearheaded by officials with long experience in elected office. And by contrast many of the most irresponsible initiatives have been proposed and supported by the most inexperienced. The trick is to make constructive use of the experience of officeholders while keeping in check the tendency of power to corrupt. If we have faith in our form of government we ought to have faith that it’s possible to perform that trick.


Snow Season Is Here
Kevin B. Twine,

Snow season is getting an early start this year and the DC Snow Team (Department of Public Works and Department of Transportation) is preparing to meet whatever winter weather comes our way. While the Snow Team is clearing the streets of snow and ice, we also need residential and commercial property owners to ensure their sidewalks are clear of snow and ice 24 hours after a storm ends. This year, we are launching a new web site — — with tips about preparing your family, home and vehicle for winter. We also are using it to encourage neighbors to form sidewalk shoveling teams or join those that already exist.

We want to let people know how to sign up for their neighborhood team. We can post your team’s contact information, organizer’s name and method to contact, e.g., phone number, E-mail, Twitter, or Facebook, on to reach residents who aren’t on the listservs or missed the listserv messages asking for volunteers. So, if you would like to have this information posted, please send it to

If your neighborhood does not have a shoveling team, please organize one. Let’s make sure our sidewalks are clear so children can walk to school and adults can reach public transportation safely. We also want to help our elderly and disabled residents who cannot clear their sidewalks.


InTowner Special Report on Online Gambling Public Meetings
P.L. Wolff,

We have posted at the top of our home page ( the schedule of community meetings announced by Lottery officials to present their plans for implementing online gambling in the District. Included in our short report are some observations about some of the major objections that have caused considerable oppositions around the city and a call for the city council to repeal its “Lottery Modernization Amendment Act of 2010.”


Jack Evans and Conflict of Interest Laws
Wenzell Taylor,

Mr. Hanrahan, I am astonished at your asking [themail, October 26] one criminal to reprimand another. Look here,, to read and listen to the audacity of councilmember Evans.



Ward One Meeting on the Online Gambling Law, November 1
Andy Litsky,

Should the DC government run a gambling operation? Now may be your only chance to speak up. Is the gamble on the DC Gambling Law really worth it? The Ward One meeting on the new Internet gambling law will be held on Tuesday, November 1, at the Marie Reed Learning Center, 2200 Champlain Street, NW, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Here are some facts you need to know: no public hearings have ever been held, but it became law anyway; gambling sites will be selected with little ANC and even less civic association input; ANC-1C and the Kalorama Citizen’s Association voted to support council repeal of the gambling law; the DC Internet Gambling Law is only one page long, leaving lots of room for interpretation; the Lottery Director and the Chief Financial Officer will make all the decisions; there are no consumer safeguards in the law; all claims are subject to significant change, since no government official has ever testified before the council under oath about how DC gambling will work; citywide gambling will include poker, blackjack, and slots, the same as in any casino; DC residents will be able to gamble $13,000 a year in their own homes on their own computers and at major hotels, clubs, and restaurants; lottery officials claim that gambling will all be conducted over our DC government’s main computer system, but who will protect us from hacking; cell phones and i-Pads will not be allowed for gambling — currently; and only three million dollars in revenue is projected annually. Is the gamble really worth it?

The DC government is flying by the seat of their pants on this. You can help. Call Councilmembers Jim Graham and Vincent Orange. This law must be repealed. We need to start over and do it right — if at all. Insist the council go on the record before the April 3 primary. Don’t let them run out the clock! For more information, visit


National Building Museum Events, November 1, 5, 8
Stacy Adamson,

Tuesday, November 1, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Making Healthy Places: Complete street in Copenhagen, Denmark. This complete street in Copenhagen, Denmark encourages walking and bicycling. Dr. Howard Frumkin discusses his book Making Healthy Places, co-authored with Richard Jackson and Andrew Dannenberg, which details the latest scientific evidence on built environment solutions for health, well-being, and sustainability. A book signing follows the lecture. Free. Registration is required. Walk in registration based on availability.

Saturday, November 5, 1:00-2:30 p.m. Temporary Urbanism Explored. How can a city activate empty storefronts, abandoned lots, or even cultural institutions? Harriet Tregoning, Director, DC Office of Planning; Kashuo Bennett, RTKL architect and 24 Hour City participant; and Christine Ewing, Regional Fine Arts Officer at the US General Services Administration, share ideas on how to encourage commerce, memorialization, and design in fleeting but powerful ways. Free. Registration required. Walk in registration based on availability.

Tuesday, November 8, 6:30-8:00 p.m., the Thirteenth Vincent Scully Prize awarded to William K. Reilly. Former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William K. Reilly receives the thirteenth Vincent Scully Prize for his commitment to smart environmental planning, comprehensive land use, and preservation of open space. The award ceremony is followed by Mr. Reilly’s original talk, entitled “From Military Base to an Urban Jewel: The Transformation of San Francisco’s Presidio.” $12 members; $12 students; $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


First Ever Washingtoniana Book Sale, November 4-5
Jerry McCoy,

The DC Public Library’s Washingtoniana Division will be having its first ever book sale in its 107 year history, scheduled to take place during the thirty-eighth annual conference on DC Historical Studies. Highlight of the sale is hundreds of volumes/issues of the Records of the Columbia Historical Society and Washington History that date back to Vol. 2, published in 1899. The sale will be held in Washingtoniana, Room #307, Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW. Cash or check only.

Hours of the sale, open only to conference attendees, are Friday, November 4, 2:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m., and Saturday, November 5, 9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. A preview sale for current and new Friends of Washingtoniana will be held Friday, November 4, 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. For more information on the thirty-eighth annual conference on DC Historical Studies, November 3-6, go to


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