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March 7, 2012

Pay to Play

Dear Subsidizers:

Dorothy, below, writes about how the DC government’s disastrous decision in 2000 to close the District of Columbia’s public hospital, DC General, and to give its management to private firms, enriched DC politicians’ largest donor and benefactor, Jeffrey Thompson, over the past decade. The argument was made then that the hospital was too large, too expensive for the government to run, and that the hospital’s management was too inefficient; it was argued that private corporations could run the hospital better and less expensively. A decade later, after several reorganizations, we are again trying to decide what to do with the hospital. The only difference is that for the past decade, instead of the DC government’s paying large subsidies to provide hospital care to its poor citizens in a public hospital, the DC government has been paying large subsidies to private corporations to run the hospital, and those corporations have been subsidizing politicians to maintain their contracts.

There are many parallels with the current controversy over the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library that is also discussed in this issue of themail. The central public library, it is argued, is too large and expensive for the DC government to run. The best solution is for the DC government to expand the building, at taxpayers’ expense, so that it can lease the extra space to tenants who are unidentified at present.

It’s too expensive for the DC government to operate a public facility as a public service, but it’s not too expensive for the DC government to pay for this building scheme to benefit some company that would want this very desirable downtown location. Yeah, right.

Gary Imhoff


Jeffrey Thompson, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill,

Jeffrey Thompson is far from a new player in DC politics. The archives of themail have two items that are a decade old that tell the story of how Thompson’s political donations made him a fortune. In the April 25, 2001, issue of themail, I wrote about “DC General: Politics As Usual.” At that time, the DC government decided to stop operating the District’s sole public hospital, DC General. Here’s what I wrote happened: “We have to go beyond politics as usual, Mayor Williams claims. DC General and the Public Benefit Corporation were fiscally irresponsible and badly managed, and he has proposed an entirely new health care delivery system. So it’s only fair to examine the proposed contract and the fiscal strength and management of his chosen subcontractors. The Health Maintenance Organization, or HMO, that he has chosen to get the multimillion-dollar, nine-year contract to provide ‘administrative services’ and access to its physician network. is DC Chartered Health Care, Inc. Last September, the leading agency rating HMO’s, Weiss, gave DC Chartered a grade of D+, and put it in the ‘weak’ category. DC Chartered, although open for business from the public, gets 98 percent of its business from its DC government contract to provide health services to Medicaid residents. It has never been able to attract any other major clients, and it has never made a profit. Last May DC Chartered was bought in a bankruptcy sale by DC accountant Jeffrey Thompson, who kept the same management team in place. This year it again showed its management skill by filing its required annual report with the Insurance Department yesterday, 54 days late, after missing the filing deadline of March 1 and three extensions. As a reward, the contract was finalized by the Control Board while the company was out of compliance with DC law, and the mayor’s health contract will triple the company’s business.

“Since there are many fiscally and managerially responsible HMO’s, why did the mayor choose a weak and shaky one instead? The mayor has offered no explanation. Here it is. In the past few months, since Jeffrey Thompson bought DC Chartered, he, his business partners and associates, and the companies he owns, have contributed at least $65,000 to the mayor’s political causes. They have become one of the mayor’s largest political contributors. They gave $20,000 to the committee that advocated the mayor’s position in the school charter amendment election, and then they gave $45,000 to a political action committee to campaign for the mayor’s favored school board candidates. We have no idea how much they contributed to the mayor’s ‘non-profits,’ since contributions to these organizations are still secret. DC Chartered Health Care, Inc., will manage and administer the health care of DC residents for one reason: Mayor Anthony A. Williams put the health care of DC residents up for auction, and he sold it to the highest bidder. This isn’t health reform; it is politics as usual.”

On December 8, 2002, after the first corporation chosen to manage the hospital failed, I wrote “You Gotta Pay to Play,” about the government’s next steps: “If you want a health care contract in DC, you know what you have to do. Doctors Community Healthcare Corporation got the contract to manage the day-to-day operations of the DC Healthcare Alliance and to provide inpatient, specialty, and correctional care. Doctors Community Healthcare and its corporate officers were the largest contributors to Mayor Williams’ campaign fund. The DC Chartered Health Plan got the contract for administrative services (management enrollment, care coordination, and utilization management) for the Healthcare Alliance. DC Chartered Health Plan, its owner, Jeffrey Thompson, and Thompson’s partners at the accounting firm of Thompson, Cobb, and Bazilio were the second largest contributors to Mayor Williams’ campaign fund. Now that the bankruptcy of Doctors Community and Greater Southeast make it inevitable that they will be replaced as the day-to-day operations manager of the Healthcare Alliance, there are two leading contenders to take its place and pick up its administrative responsibilities — either the DC Chartered Health Plan or the District government’s Department of Health.” Thompson’s political payments ensured then, as now, that he would get and keep the lucrative contract.


Law? What Law? Who Cares, What Law? Continued
Jack McKay,

Last May 19, I noted here that parking enforcement officers, a fiendishly productive group, are inordinately fond of checking off “P055” as the three-digit code for the parking offense. “No parking anytime,” it says. (The MPD likes “anytime” as a single word.) But why is “no parking” allowed at that location? Who knows? You sure can’t tell from the ticket, which says only “no parking anytime,” with no hint as to what DC regulation is responsible for the ban. The three-digit code is supposed to identify the actual parking offense. According to the MPD “Civil Infractions for Moving, Parking, and Hack Violations” circular, P055 corresponds to DC Municipal Regulation 18, 4019.1. But that regulation names just three specific locations in the District, and if you’re not parked on any one of those three locations, then you cannot possibly be in violation of that regulation. Okay, after I told the DMV this, they proffered DCMR 18, 2400.6 as the pertinent regulation. But that just says that “the provisions of this chapter prohibiting the standing or parking of a vehicle shall apply at all times, or at those times herein specified, or as indicated on official signs.” That’s not a regulation, that’s merely a description.

A resident here brought two MPD-issued tickets to me this week, both specifying P055. In fact, the resident’s supposed violation corresponds to code P024 or P025, parking distance to an intersection, but that’s not what the MPD officers chose, an omission that could be taken as evidence that the resident is not in violation of the distance-to-intersection regulations. In fact, in speaking with one of the MPD officers later, it was apparent that he didn’t know why the no-parking sign was there. It just was, and he thought no further, but checked off the “P055” box.

So, with tickets stating only “P055,” and “no parking anytime,” how does the recipient of the ticket know precisely what law he is being charged with having violated? How does a DMV ticket examiner know what regulation is applicable? And how does anybody know what the pertinent fine is? According to that MPD circular, P055 is a $30 fine, and that’s what’s written on the tickets, but P024 and P025 are just $20 fines. Essentially, it’s impossible not only for the recipient of the ticket, but for a DMV ticket examiner, to know what regulation has been violated, or what the corresponding fine is. The ticketing officer has both the parking offense and the fine wrong. I suggest to residents with P055 tickets that they should deny them, and demand to know exactly what parking regulation they are charged with having violated. Given only the information on the ticket, the DC government will be unable to say what the charge is. That, it seems to me, should close the case.


Meter Violations at Tompson’s Boat Center, Rock Creek Park
S. Kelley,

I would like to bring to your attention a situation at the Rock Creek Park Tompson’s Boat Center parking lot. This property is administered by the National Park Service. There are approximately eighty metered parking spaces. These have three hour limits. On any given week day, most of these spaces are occupied from nine to five by office workers from nearby offices. No money is paid into the meters. All meters read as expired the entire day. I first talked to DC parking enforcement, and was told it was not their jurisdiction. I then spoke to the Rock Creek Park staff. The person I spoke to said she is aware of the problem, has tried to get action, but has been told by USPS police that they do not have the manpower to issue so many tickets.

If the goal in having a parking lot at this location is to encourage recreational use of the boat house or Rock Creek Park, that goal is completely unsuccessful. Further, any money from legitimate use of parking spaces (i.e., putting money in the meter) that might be used for upkeep and maintenance of Rock Creek Park is lost, not to mention that the US Park Service makes a laughing stock of itself by failing to enforce its rules.

On the other hand, if the goal of the Park Service is to provide free parking for office workers, they are succeeding. If this situation were generally known, it is possible that the Park Service would be forced to act. I am hoping that you might report on this in your weekly mailings a way to bring attention to the problem.


Library Releases Final Report on MLK Building Study
George Williams,

On March 5, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) released its final report after conducting a week-long review of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library building last November. Based on the results of the ULI report, the DC Public Library will begin an in-depth analysis next month to determine the feasibility and cost of implementing the scenarios. The ULI report outlined three scenarios for consideration without necessarily recommending one over the other. All scenarios will require significant investment by District government for major improvements to the building, according to the report: keep the existing building as a library and lease excess space in the building to another commercial, nonprofit, or municipal entity; maintain the existing building for complete use by the library; or sell the building and identify another downtown location for the central library.

The Library will work with nationally recognized architectural firm and architect-of-record for the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, The Freelon Group, to examine how the MLK Library can be reconfigured for cotenancy, complete an analysis of how two more floors can be added to the building, and identify, prioritize, and provide cost estimates for needed major improvements. The work will follow the historic design guidelines developed by EHT Traceries.

Additionally, the Library will work with the DC Office of Planning to explore whether there are viable alternate locations downtown that can accommodate a 225,000 square foot central library. And finally, nationally recognized library experts will be consulted to test the assumption that 225,000 square feet is sufficient space to house a state-of-the-art, cutting edge central library. The analysis is expected to be complete by the fall. The results of the analysis will be used to continue the conversation on the future of the Martin Luther King, Jr. ,Memorial Library with residents, city leaders, and other stakeholders.

The ULI final report is available on the Library’s web site at, and reference copies will be available at all DC public libraries in the coming weeks.


Qawi Robinson,

It’s a foregone conclusion that the MLK Library sits on some valuable real estate. In a city facing a serious deficit in a depressed economy, finding ways to exploit (or rather expand) the possibilities for revenue should be reviewed. However, in reading the Urban Land Institute Report on MLK Library, I was mostly disenchanted by some of the assumptions, and quite disturbed that this document is considered final and/or passable by DC government. What I was expecting from this report was more along the lines of a feasibility study, objective reviews of how many patrons use MLK, statistical models, demographics, geographic constraints, etc. These items were “low hanging fruit” that this report did not yield. I was basically expecting something that an informed citizen could read and get an understanding what is at stake, what the impact would be, what actions could be taken, etc. This report gave a very loose recommendation and gave no clear indication what direction it was going and sometimes seemed like rushed busy work. At a cost of $125,000, it lacks the depth and professionalism that one should expect from ULI. In a quick cursory view of, I see documents and studies that are far more professional looking and less ambiguous than the MLK Report. ULI.ORG has documents that are not hand drawn/colored and contain further detail, unlike those in the MLK Report.

It may be the panel that was selected, but rather than investigate panel members and offer more editorial findings here, I will simply write on the two biggest assumptions from the MLK Report: 1) the Library space is underutilized (“Library does not need all of the space it currently possesses”) and 2) Retail/Mixed Use is the solution. As for point one, I work in an industry where “over engineering” something isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it shows that you have capacity planning in mind. When the MLK Library was opened in 1972, the last thing you heard from the constituency was that the library was too big, space isn’t going to be used, etc. One of the reasons you didn’t hear that is because DCPL had outgrown the Carnegie Library space (Mt. Vernon Square). The massive six-story (four above and two below grade), 440,000 sq. ft. building, with a now-defunct parking garage was and still is a place full of potential and possibility. I did many research projects there long before the Internet, and have passed down the habit of using MLK to yet a fourth generation of my family. I’m not being nostalgic here, but it remains true that the Carnegie Library was overcrowded with books and lacking program space, and MLK was built to be a much larger and more accommodating space. Complaining about that more than forty years after the fact is asinine in my opinion. Even more insulting is that in a city where literacy is at roughly 37 percent, one would think that quite a lot more can be done with the “underutilized space” to further reading, literacy, and other things.

As far as point two, from a cursory look it seems like there is a short term gain to be made in terms of leasing space. However, with DC’s current tax incentive structure and the cost it would take to rehabilitate the parking garage, create separate entrances, etc., it probably would take quite some time to realize any profit. DC has sold the farm far too many times on schemes of this type. Instead of trying to make money off of it, invest into it. Or at the very least move into this space a small contingent of folks from offices on which DC is currently paying rent, to save costs. Another thing to consider in a mixed use scenario is the saturation of businesses. The economic boom in Downtown DC is in some ways superficial. If you look at the occupancy rate for the properties within a ten-block radius, building anything residential is only slightly skewed in favor of it. Retail is probably less favorable than that, considering all the trendy restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, etc., already in the area. The last thing the city would want is to go through all the renovation and have transient tenants, after shelling out all the tax incentives.

I’m no city/urban planner, but before anything is done to the library, a true assessment on the property, physical plant, usage, etc. needs to be done, along with true forecasting. Paying $125,000 for this last report, while the local libraries are closed on Sundays, means that we aren’t assessing the right things . . . at least where it benefits the citizens.


Lies, Politicking, and Ward 7
Qawi Robinson

At several major thoroughfares in Ward 7, residents and others are greeted with large campaign signs that read “Re-Elect Yvette Alexander. Hard Work Real Results.” I won’t dispute what Yvette Alexander has done in the city council during her first official term, but I do dispute the other claims or implied claims on the signs, however. These same signs also have the words “New Employment Center, New Woodson High School, Three Libraries, New Deanwood Rec.,” thus attributing all of these construction milestones to her. As a District of Columbia Taxpayer, I am offended that any politician would claim any construction project that was built from the tax dollars of the residents. My tax dollars, as well as those outside of her constituency in other wards, funded these projects, so any claim or inference that she was solely responsible for these projects constitutes fraud.

Fraud may be a strong word, but even traversing through DC council’s limited LIMS system, there are few if any bills or legislation passed, voted on, sponsored, or cosponsored by Councilwoman Alexander directly attributed to these projects. Yes, she was at the ribbon cuttings for several, but many of these projects were already planned or in the works prior to her service as councilwoman. There was no simple stroke of her pen that instituted the renovation of H. D. Woodson. Woodson was in disrepair for decades and was part of DCPS’ construction plan for quite some time. The Deanwood Recreation Center claim I find equally troubling. This project, as well as the other library projects (Anacostia, Deanwood, and Benning/Dorothy Height) was spearheaded by the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s during Fenty’s Administration. With the closure and reopening delays for the Benning Library renovation in particular, claiming it is probably more of an insult to Ward 7 residents than an accolade for Councilmember Alexander. Since the Deanwood Library was constructed in conjunction with the Deanwood Recreation Center, claiming both separately is almost humorous. The DC Works Employment Center can be attributed to DRES (Department of Real Estate Services). While these projects did occur during her term, I have a very difficult time associating them with her, or with her predecessor, Vincent Gray, for that matter.


Hackers Elect Futurama’s Bender to the DC School Board
Barry Piper,

I’m not sure if you’ve already heard about this article from PC World, I worked for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer as the District’s Change Manager until just a few months ago, and I never got wind of this. OCTO tried in vain to merge the information technology environments of many agencies onto the District’s WAN and data center, but failed in most cases. After a while, it became clear that there were no real teeth in Fenty’s IT Centralization Mandate. I was OCTO’s program manager for Citywide IT Service Management as well as the District’s Change Manager for three years and never heard about this voting software implementation.

It was like pulling teeth trying to get agencies to bring their service management systems into OCTO’s enterprise platform. Many agencies continued to retain large IT budgets and employ sizable IT staff. MPD, DDOT and DCPS are three good examples. Even after the merger of DCPS OIT into OCTO, schools continued to operate their own IT environment (with the exception of the network and data center, which was OCTO-managed by late 2009.

By the way, I’m not sure how PCW arrived at its article’s headline. I read the University of Maryland’s PDF and didn’t see anything in it about DCPS. Perhaps PC World mistook BOEE as the board of education, or something.


About Time
Chris Wells,

As voters, we should not need a shovel to dig through a mess to find the information that we need. Many residents are frustrated at the lack of response by elected officials let alone from departments. District employees are not immune to the “Ethics Manual” that was published on January 27 of this year. I am a native Philadelphian. Even under the “Rizzo regime” there was a governmental response to a citizen’s inquiry, even though that response was sometimes negative, Civil servants here in the District think they are immune to citizens’ inquiries.

We will never achieve statehood while corruption continues. I would rather give up my right to vote than to see corruption so rampant in the District. Congress has the power to take home rule back. There would be less in taxes to pay, plus the results in better government would be enormous. We deserve better.


Lost E-mail About Florida Avenue ATM
Bryce A. Suderow,

One of my fellow subscribers to themail was kind enough to E-mail me and give me a phone number of an organization that I could call about the ATM on Florida Avenue (themail, February 29). I’ve lost the E-mail. Would this person be kind enough to E-mail me again?



2012 Smart College Choice Expo, March 10
Kenneth Howard,

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and Trinity Washington University will partner to host the 2012 Smart College Choice EXPO on Saturday, March 10, to provide over three thousand District students and parents the opportunity to meet one-on-one with representatives and financial aid advisors from universities and colleges throughout the country — including forty top higher education institutions both enrolling and graduating DC Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) recipients. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, State Superintendent of Education Hosanna Mahaley, and DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson will be on hand to greet and address attendees upon arrival at the expo, held at the campus of Trinity Washington University and open to students of all high school grades as part of a long term strategy by the Gray Administration to engage younger students about college and financial aid earlier in their academic careers.

In an effort to match DC students with quality post secondary schools, the 2012 Smart College Choice EXPO will also feature several college preparation resources and on-site workshops for students and parents, including sessions covering financial literacy, college survival, college selection, and DCTAG application completion. EXPO attendees will be able to participate in campus tours of the host school and event partner, Trinity Washington University. OSSE is proud to showcase this local university, which has made substantial contributions to the District of Columbia and enrolls 1,139 DC residents on its main campus, 35 percent of whom live “east of the river” in Wards 7 and 8.

The EXPO will be held from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on the campus of Trinity Washington University (125 Michigan Avenue, NE), and free shuttle service will be available (from Red Line Metro: Brookland Station). Students and parents are encouraged to call OSSE (727-2824) or visit for additional information.


Woman’s National Democratic Club Meetings, March 13
Patricia Bitondo,

Tuesday, March 13, dinner event. The Honorable Carl Levin, United States Senator for Michigan, The Need for Balanced Deficit Reduction. From the first piece of legislation he introduced as a US senator — a bill to end discrimination by credit card companies — Carl Levin has spoken up for working families, and worked tirelessly to build an America that lives up to the ideals of its founders. He is one of the nation’s most respected leaders on national security, a powerful voice for equality and justice, and a fighter for economic fairness. As a senator, his top priority has been the economic well-being of Michigan families and a fervent supporter of American manufacturing, the backbone of the nation’s economy. Senator Levin was elected to the Senate in 1978 and is now serving his sixth consecutive term. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, and Harvard Law School. He currently serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He was named one of Time’s ten best senators in 2006, received the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Foundation’s Four Freedoms Medal, in 2007, and has received a host of other honors and for his outstanding service. Award, World Affairs Council, 2007; Secretary of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, 2003; National Guard Association of the US Harry S. Truman Award, 2004; National Marine Sanctuary Stewardship Award, 2005. At the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. Bar opens at 6:30 p.m.; lecture, presentation and Q & A, 7:00 p.m. Members $25, nonmembers $30; lecture only $10. Register at

Thursday, March 15, luncheon event. Andy Shallal, The Role Of Business In Community Building. Anas “Andy” Shallal, the founder of Busboys and Poets, is one of America’s most successful social entrepreneurs and successful businessmen. The DC area is home to four B&P establishments, named after Langston Hughes. All are combination restaurants, bookstores, and community centers that serve to foster racial and cultural connections. Andy is a native of Iraq and moved to DC with his family in 1966. Andy has also founded or co-founded several peace and justice organizations, including the Peace Cafe, serves as treasurer for the Institute for Policy Studies, and is a board member of several arts and peace organizations. He has received numerous awards, including the DC Mayor’s Arts Award and the DC Mayor’s Environmental Award. It is hard to think of anyone who has done more that Andy to promote community and support progressive causes in Washington. Many believe the term “Renaissance Man” to be an appropriate accolade for Andy. At the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. Bar opens at 11:30 a.m.; lunch 12:15 p.m.; lecture, presentation, Q&A: 1:00-2:00 p.m. Members $25, nonmembers $30; lecture only $10. Register at

Friday, March 16, cinema night. “Good Night, and Good Luck,” an American drama film directed by George Clooney. The film was written by Clooney and Grant Heslov and portrays the conflict between veteran radio and television journalist Edward R. Murrow and US Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, especially relating to the anti-Communist Senator’s actions with the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The movie, although released in black and white, was filmed on color film stock but on a gray scale set, and was color corrected to black and white during post-production. It focuses on the theme of media responsibility, and also addresses what occurs when the media offer a voice of dissent against the government. The movie takes its title (which ends with a full stop) from the line with which Marrow routinely signed off his broadcasts. It was nominated for six Academy Awards. This is a must see! Guests and nonmembers welcome. Bar opens and light supper at 6:00 p.m.; film screening at 7:00 p.m. Cost: $5 film; $15, light supper. At the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. Register at


National Building Museum Events, March 8, 12
Stacy Adamson,

Bicky Corman, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deputy associate administrator for the Office of Policy, discusses proposed recommendations for incorporating sustainability into the EPA’s principles and decision- making, including the agency’s approach to smart growth. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station, March 8, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Register for events at


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