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March 14, 2012

The Public Interest

Dear Public:

Back in November, a report from two nonprofit groups, Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, tracked the federal taxes paid by 280 corporation between 2008 and 2010. It “found that 30 paid zero taxes or used loopholes to wind up with negative tax rates. Local utility Pepco Holdings paid the lowest rate of all the firms investigated, clocking in at nearly minus 58 percent.” Of Pepco, the study found, “Last year, Pepco Holdings made $229 million in pretax profits, the study said, and claimed $270 million in federal tax credits, making the company’s tax rate about minus 118 percent,”

Pepco has earned the title of the most hated company in America because of its sub par service, its power outages, and its unreliability. So how has it been able to build on that record to make a profit from federal taxes? “The electric utility paid $3.8 million to lobbyists in that period, while it paid no taxes. In fact, it made $508 million in profits from federal tax rebates. . . ,”

Pepco has fared just as well at the local level because of the investments it has made in cultivating cozy relationships with DC politicians, particularly in supporting the constituent services funds, campaigns, and political causes of incumbent councilmembers. Public attention has been recently been directed to the contributions of Jeffrey Thompson and the profits his companies and associates have reaped as a result. Pepco has operated in the same way as Thompson, and with just as little public oversight over the past decade. Both Thompson and Pepco have built reputations as public benefactors through the contributions that they use to advance their own interests and to increase their profits at the public’s expense.

Betty Noel, who served the public’s interest well in the Office of the People’s Counsel for three decades, has been nominated by Mayor Vincent Gray to be a commissioner on the Public Service Commission. Pepco has zealously campaigned against her, claiming laughably that it would be “corrupt” to have a commissioner who had represented the peoples’ interest, and who had challenged Pepco’s privileged position in the past. Its argument is essentially that a prosecutor should never be appointed as a judge, because a prosecutor who had worked against criminals could not be objective in judging criminal cases. Pepco is pressuring the councilmembers who are deeply in its debt to repay its favors by voting against Noel’s nomination and against the public’s interests.

Even worse, the Washington Post is furthering Pepco’s cause, working against the interests of Washington’s citizens and giving councilmembers cover to sell out the citizens and serve Pepco’s financial interests, by arguing, as it did today in an editorial, that it is in the interest of good government to ensure that no one who had taken a position against Pepco in any of its past cases should be able to serve as a Public Service Commissioner regulating it, Councilmember Yvette Alexander will hold a markup of the nomination in the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs on Thursday afternoon, at which she is expected to introduce a resolution disapproving of Betty Noel’s nomination. Councilmembers who are members of the committee — Alexander, Mendelson, Graham, Cheh, and Bowser — will either vote for Noel or for Pepco. Their votes will reveal whether they are dedicated to their citizens and constituents or to their financial paymasters.

Gary Imhoff


Nearly Free Street Parking in Southwest
Mary Williams,

Though the District has recently struck gold from parking fines, it is not an equal-opportunity enforcer or collector. As a District resident, I have to pay four dollars for two hours of parking whenever I drive downtown to my office, and I have paid way too many $25 tickets near the courthouse when I have gone over my time by a few minutes. But each day hundreds of out-of-town drivers can park for free or for less than one dollar an hour on Buzzard Point in Southwest, not far from the Navy Yard and Waterfront Metro. There is ample street parking available between the 1700 block of S Street, SW, and First Street, SW, to the 1900 blocks and the James Creek Marina. And the dozens of employees who make the daily trek from Maryland and Virginia to the Coast Guard headquarters are allowed to park up to twelve hours a day without fear of getting a ticket for staying in one spot for more than two hours. The price for such convenience? About $8 for the entire twelve-hour day. A quick check of the many vehicles parked there on any given day revealed only two cars out of hundreds were ticketed shortly before 10:00 a.m. So, while DC parking enforcement seems to show up regularly to ticket residents in my neighborhood — except when the Nats employees park there — I would like to know why this particular area of the city gets twelve-hour meters and pays less than the two dollars per hour rate to park? We can assume that the cars belong to federal employees who can afford to pay. Politicians should quit talking about a commuter tax and consider how much we give away on a regular basis.

The southwest area is not the only one with on-street parking that benefits commuters. In the newly renovated area of southeast near the Marine Barracks and the former Arthur Capper housing development are streets filled with commuter vehicles. Rarely do you see a parking ticket on these cars, which are also parked for the entire day. Consider lowering our residential parking fees and collect from those who don’t pay taxes here.


Birth Certificates for Adoptees from Maryland
Linda Clausen,

Bill HB 719 in the Maryland legislature will give original birth certificates to all individuals who were born in Maryland and were adopted. If you live in DC and were adopted here, but were born in Maryland, please write to Access Maryland at This bill could help you to get your original birth certificate if you do not already have it.



Upcoming Candidate Debates, March 15, 20, 22
Ann Wilcox,

Hope you can join us at some of these upcoming candidate debates for at-large candidates and others. Most start at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 15, Cleveland Park Citizens Association, at the Cleveland Park Public Library. Tuesday, March 20, Ward 7 candidates debate at Ward Memorial AME Church, 241 42nd Street, NE. Thursday, March 22, Kalorama Reed Cooke Citizens Association, at Goodwill Baptist Church, 1862 Kalorama Road, NW.


Sondheim on Music, March 19
Sue Hemberger,

On Monday, March 19, at 7:00 p.m., The Friends of the Tenley Library and Middle C Music are cosponsoring a talk by Mark Eden Horowitz, Senior Music Specialist at the Library of Congress, on his work Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions. Mark curates a number of twentieth century music collections at the Library and he coproduced its concerts in honor of Sondheim’s seventieth birthday. His presentation will include video clips of his interviews with Sondheim, as well as a live performance by singer Liz Ennis. The talk will be held in the large conference room upstairs at the Tenley-Friendship Library. When it concludes, join us at Middle C Music (one block north of the library at 4530 Wisconsin Avenue, NW) for a reception in honor of the author. Copies of Sondheim on Music will be available for purchase and signing. This should be a fun evening. This program is part of the Friends of the Library’s ongoing Local Authors Series as well as part of a larger celebration of Middle C Music’s tenth year in business. The Tenley-Friendship Library is located on the corner of Wisconsin and Albemarle, just across the street from the Tenleytown Metrorail station.


Sail the Chesapeake Bay on a Budget, March 20
Richard Rothblum,

We still have a few spaces left for new members to attend our Learn to Sail class, which starts on March 20 at the Cleveland Park Club. Our sailing club, the Wanderlusters, has two sailing yachts –- a Cal 27 and a Beneteau 29 — that are available to members who qualify as Captains. The cost of membership for the first year, including an initiation fee, is just $275. This includes a sailing course that comprises three half-day sessions on the boats, and four evenings of classroom instruction. After that, there is a modest rental fee for taking the boats out on your own. Costs are about a quarter of the fees that you would expect to pay for a normal charter, and a tiny fraction of the cost of owning your own boat. The club is nonprofit, and has no paid employees. The members cooperate in taking care of the boats in return for free sailing. If you’ve always wanted to sail your own boat, but were discouraged by the time and expense, this is a great opportunity. Even if you aren’t interested in captaining, there is plenty of opportunity for social interaction as crew. The club organizes group day and overnight sails for members and guests. Check out for much more information, or call me at 255-5211, or E-mail


Woman’s National Democratic Club Meetings, March 20, 22
Patricia Bitondo,

Tuesday, March 20, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, at the US Department of State, C Street Entrance, 2201 C Street NW. Must show photo ID at entry. Fourth annual WNDC/AAFSW celebration, celebrating Women’s History Month, cosponsored by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide. Panel on the evolving roles of women today. Speakers include Molly Williamson, retired Foreign Service career minister and currently a scholar with the Middle East Institute; Denise Rolark Barnes, Owner/Publisher of the Washington Informer; and Musimbi Kanyuro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. Join with friends and colleagues to celebrate Women’s History Month with some fascinating women. The cost of $20 per person includes refreshments. Reservations required at Contact Patricia Fitzgerald, 232-7363, ext. 3003. Make check payable to the Woman’s National Democratic Club.

Thursday, March 22, luncheon with Dr. Sandra Cheldelin, Women Waging War and Peace: International Perspectives of Women’s Roles in Conflict and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. Sandra Cheldelin is the Vernon M. and Minnie I. Lynch Professor of Conflict Resolution and director of the doctoral program at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She has worked with more than 150 organizations on conflict resolution and lectures on workplace violence, race, gender, and conflict. She has conducted conflict resolution sessions and conducted research in Bosnia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Israel, Italy, Turkey, Liberia, and China. During the course of her academic career, Dr. Cheldelin has held numerous administrative posts, including those of provost at Antioch University academic dean at the California School of Professional Psychology. She is an active scholar-practitioner, psychologist, and expert in organizational conflict. Dr. Cheldelin has written extensively on conflict and crisis intervention and written or co-authored several books, including Deconstructing Women, Peace and Security, scheduled for release this September. Dr. Cheldelin will share her firsthand accounts of women’s movements across the globe and describe the richness of women’s experiences during wartime and reconstruction. 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


National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Days, March 24-25
Stacy Adamson,

National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Days encourages participation from all, with blossom-inspired crafts focused on architecture and Japanese arts and design. In honor of the Centennial Celebration commemorating the hundred-year anniversary of the gift of cherry blossom trees, Family Days, sponsored by Safeway, expands to a full weekend, Saturday, March 24, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 25, 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thousands are anticipated to attend the seventh annual free Family Days which contains over ten hours of family entertainment featuring hands-on activities and performances from area youth and groups from around the globe.

Create a shoji screens and pop-up architecture at the National Building Museum station, construct cherry blossom popcorn trees with Safeway , make wood-clothespin kokeshi doll ornaments with Howard University, dress up in traditional Japanese clothing and write postcards with the National Children’s Museum, make a cherry blossom pin out of kimono cloth with The Textile Museum, decode blossoms “spy-style” with the International Spy Museum, enter the Peter Max Kids Coloring Contest by creating a version of the Official 2012 Commemorative Poster by the world-renowned artist, and learn about climate change, renewable energy, energy conservation and the science of solar through Sharp Electronics Corporation’s Solar Academy program

For the milestone anniversary, the United States Postal Service will release two Cherry Blossom Centennial Forever stamps, and the Day-of-Issuance Ceremony is on Saturday, March 24. A sure collector’s item, the beautiful and unique images form the left and right halves of a single, panoramic view of cherry blossom trees in bloom around the Tidal Basin. Purchase the stamps for the first time at Family Days and collect first-day cancellations.

Global and local performers will take the stage throughout the weekend and keep the energy building: Tohoko University Jazz Band from Japan; Motoki Hirai, grandson of the composer who wrote the seminal work Sakura, Sakura, does a story-telling piano piece with violin accompaniment; Bach 2 Rock; Blues Alley Youth Orchestra; Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington Teen Arts Performers; Buckhead Girls Choir from Georgia; Culture Shock; Nen Daiko; Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe; and The Washington Ballet.

Family Days is supported by The Washington Examiner and media partner 98.7 WMZQ at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW (Judiciary Square Metro, Red Line). Free; five dollars suggested donation. Individual registration is not required. Scouts and other large groups should visit to register. For more information, contact Stacy Adamson,, 272-2448, ext. 3458.


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