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September 16, 2012

Recommended Reading

Dear Readers:

J. Wyndal Gordon is the lawyer for Hakim Sutton, Michael Brown’s campaign treasurer, whom Brown has accused of stealing from his campaign. Gordon has written a strongly worded defense of Sutton, and attack on Brown, on Facebook, “Brown knows for a fact that no money has been stolen and has been less than forthright with the public when it comes to concerns about his campaign finance reports. Even though Brown must concede with the MPD that ‘no suspect’ has been named nor ‘charges’ filed, the harm has already been done. QUESTION: How could someone steal over one hundred ten thousand dollars from an experienced incumbent politician over a twelve month period and the incumbent not know anything about where the money went or that it was even ‘allegedly’ missing? ANSWER: No one could and No one has. Brown's theft allegations become even more absurd in light of the fact that the campaign only raised $150k during that same period of time. You mean to tell me that over two thirds of your campaign treasury was depleted and you knew nothing about it? Incredible.”

Washington Post editorial, “A Little Loose with Money,” builds on Gordon’s article to comment on Brown’s finances and campaign, It recommends, “It is hard to divorce these latest issues from Mr. Brown’s past failure to pay his rent, mortgage and taxes on time or his previous campaign finance difficulties. An audit of his 2008 campaign found unreported expenditures and checks returned because of insufficient funds. In 1997 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign violation for making straw contributions. And now, as The Post’s Tim Craig reports on Sunday’s front page [], it turns out that Mr. Brown’s driving record is a mess: his driver’s license has been suspended five times in the past eight years. Incumbency and his family name (his father was the late commerce secretary Ronald Brown) are seen as giving the edge to Mr. Brown. But the field of challengers on November 6 includes several promising candidates: Ms. Beatty, David Grosso and Leon J. Swain, Jr. Voters would do well to consider the record before they vote for more of the same.”

Patrick Mara, “What Is DC Willing to Give to Get Local Budget Autonomy?”, argues that DC should give u the idea of getting statehood, and focusing on budget autonomy: “It’s time to face reality. The federal government holds all the cards. D.C. Democrats need to start working with Capitol Hill Republicans for the achievable end of budget autonomy. Both sides must be willing to compromise a little. But the District probably needs to give a little more. Also, the debate surely cannot be about statehood. That is a pie in the sky. If overwhelming Democratic political control of Congress and the White House didn’t produce statehood for the District, surely it is not going to happen when power is shared or when Republicans are in control. Republicans know full well that any state of New Columbia would reliably elect two Democratic senators long into the future.”

Gary Imhoff


Howard U Opposes City’s McMillan Development Plan
Kirby Vining,

Howard University has joined the fight against the city-sponsored development plan for the McMillan Reservoir site at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue, NW. The HU position is contained in a two-page letter from Dr. Hassan Minor, senior vice president, to the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board, which is currently considering McMillan’s future. Dr. Minor states that “the current plan . . . falls short” because it should be “more creative in its interpretation of [the site’s] unique history [with] a much greater opportunity for the public to enjoy its special above and below grade features.” He also points out that McMillan is the “largest slow sand filtration plant in the country built with the dual intentions of reducing the spread of infectious typhoid fever and supplementing the park system of the Nation’s Capital.”

Howard thus joins Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B, and community groups representing Bloomingdale, Pleasant Plains, and Stronghold in opposing the current plan. Like Howard, Chairman Mendelson asks the HPRB to “reject the master plan and design guidelines [because they would] demolish too much of the site, including structural resources, landscape resources and historic vistas.”

Councilmember Michael A. Brown will hold a community discussion on the future of McMillan on Wednesday, September 19th, 10:00 a.m. in the Wilson Building and the HPRB resumes its McMillan hearing on September 27, 441 4th Street NW, 2nd Floor. The McMillan Sand Filtration Site, designated a DC Historic Landmark in 1991, runs north-south between North Capitol Street and 1st Street and east-west between Michigan Avenue and Channing Street, NW, in the District.


Courtney Milloy’s Column About Speed Cameras
Tom Grahame,

I agree with Mr. Milloy that if you are going to have speed cameras, you need to correctly calibrate the right speed for the road. Missouri Avenue, between N. Capitol and Georgia Avenue, is four lanes, several blocks between stop lights, houses widely spaced. Everyone used to go forty mph there, although the speed limit is twenty-five, the same speed limit for much more crowded, narrow, two-lane streets on places like on Capitol Hill. So several of us have gotten tickets for speeding on Missouri Ave. If the speed limit were corrected to thirty-five mph, and we went forty, there would be no problem, and everyone would be as safe as before. The District would get less money, but it should get less money; forty mph is safe there.

Another example is Western Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and River Road. Twenty-five is a bit slow; I can see thirty mph, but not twenty-five -- again, it is four lanes, lots of space between stop signs and stop lights. There are hills there, and even if you are trying to keep to twenty-five, on the downhill you can get up to thirty-five and take a speed camera shot very easily, as my wife has done, even when trying to keep to twenty-five. Make the limit thirty; then we are OK with the cameras.

I mostly drive these days; I don't bike any more, but I support speed cameras where they genuinely are related to safety. Red light cameras in dangerous intersections, or on streets where people really are driving too fast for the conditions, for example. For the District to maintain credibility, it needs to upgrade outdated speed limits."


Speed Cameras and Safety, Part 1
James Treworgy,

Regarding accident statistics for DC: Michael Overturf's response [themail, September 12] presents interesting data, with deeply flawed conclusions. First, the reason that DC has the lowest accident rates per VMT is because DC residents drive, on average, much less than people who don't live in cities. The average resident of any state that's not, in its entirety, a city, will be much more likely to die in a car accident than a resident of DC, because they drive more.If you compared DC against another actual city, I doubt you'd find such excellence. The bottom line is these statistics cannot be used to compare DC to another state; it's apples and oranges.

Second, the numbers of traffic fatalities in DC are inadequate to draw any conclusions. It's interesting that Mr. Overturf chose 2005 as his starting point, because if you go back a bit farther, you can see how meaningless these numbers are:,a,1240,q,548138,mpdcNav_GID,1552,mpdcNav,%7C.asp. The first speed cameras were installed in DC in 2001. In 2000, there were fifty-two fatalities. In 2001, there were seventy-two. Well, what does that mean? Using Mr. Overturf’s logic, we should conclude that speed cameras resulted in a dramatic increase in traffic deaths. Then they went to fifty in 2002, then back up to sixty-nine in 2003. The point is, these numbers are too small and too variable to correlated to traffic enforcement in any way. But if you think you can do that, then you certainly have an obligation to present the bad with the good and not pick and choose the numbers you look at.

The reality is that traffic deaths have been trending down nationally for years, and this probably has much more to do with safety improvements in cars in the last two decades (as older models without airbags or antilock brakes are retired) than it does with any local enforcement effort. But whatever your theory, in DC it's clear these numbers are way too small to be of any statistical significance. Now what would be valuable information is actual accident data at locations where cameras have been installed, before and after. That's an apples-to-apples comparison of the effect of a camera at the location it's actually been installed. It measures the change in safety, not the number of people speeding (which may or may not be related to safety at any particular location). Where's this data? Why isn't DC touting such obvious measures of success? [Continued in the next issue of themail]


Can DC Claim Credit for the Decrease in Traffic Deaths?
Jack McKay,

Reader Overturf argues (dcwatch, September 12) that DC "must be doing something right," because the annual traffic fatality count has decreased substantially in recent years. The MPD also wants credit for the reduction: "DC's fatalities declined 69 percent in 10 years, compared to only 28 percent nationwide, and [the MPD] believes its speed and red light cameras are the reason" (cited in Greater Greater Washington, August 29). Could these photo enforcement machines be responsible for the much larger decrease in fatalities in DC, compared to the country as a whole? Why have traffic fatalities been decreasing, here and everywhere else? The nationwide fatality rate has been decreasing steadily for ninety years, and that rate, in fatalities per vehicle-mile of travel, is only one-twentieth of what it was in 1922. Safer cars and safer roads are the most likely reasons for this steady decline.

A salient characteristic of the decline in fatalities in DC is that it corresponds almost entirely to increased survival in collisions, not in fewer collisions. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of non-pedestrian traffic deaths decreased by 63 percent, while the number of collisions decreased by only 9 percent. Evidently the survivability of automobile collisions has increased substantially, most likely due to the gradual replacement of older model cars with newer, safer ones.

Why is the traffic death decline greater in DC than nationwide, or in any state? Perhaps because the District is totally urbanized, with no high-speed highways within its boundaries, and the safety measures in recent-model cars, such as safety-cage structures, air bags, and seat belts, are more effective at preventing fatal injury in crashes at the moderate speeds of the city than at highway speeds. It seems most likely, then, that the decrease in traffic deaths in DC is mainly the doing of the federal government’s imposing ever more rigorous safety standards on modern automobiles.


Norton and Our Rights
Allie Black,

I'm responding to Earl Shamwell’s article in themail [September 12]. I have all respect for Congresswoman Norton, and I'm thankful for all she has done for DC. However, my associates and I do believe it is time to turn the torch to someone else be the representative for DC on the Hill. Whoever is interested in running needs to get out there early, let the residents of DC know who they are, be sharp, highly intelligent, and articulate, have a strong backbone/spine and a proven track record of success. The ideal delegate will not blindside the residents nor sell us out, and will be successful in getting the residents of DC our rights to vote.

The residents of DC, not some elected Congress/Senator from another state, know best what we need because we live here. We pay the highest taxes in the USA, yet we are not a state and we do not have rights. We need an assertive, well-equipped, victorious warrior for the residents of DC who is not afraid to make a stand for the residents of DC and who will fight an awesome battle to the end that will be victorious for us in DC. In the Bible, King David defeated Goliath with his faith in God and a sling shot. Have we in Washington, DC, forgotten what our ancestors have done for us? If it was not for them -- and it cost some of them their lives -- we would not be where we are today. Stop being wimps. Warriors of DC we need to fight for our beautiful city. What examples are we setting for our children and the youth in the city?

In addition: I strongly believe that, like the President of USA can only serve two terms, this should be the same for the elected officials on Capitol Hill and in the Senate. It's the right thing to do.


InTowner September Issue
P.L. Wolff,

The September issue content is now posted at, including the issue PDF in which will be found a letter from a Corcoran board member taking issue with our report of last month about the possibility of the museum’s abandoning its historic building near the White House, as well as the primary news stories, community news, and museum exhibition reviews -- plus all photos and other images.

Not included in the PDF but linked directly from the home page are the new What Once Was (this first month titled “Princess Alice’s Palace”), which has succeeded the long-running Scenes from the Past as well as Recent Real Estate Sales, Reservations Recommended, and Food in the ’Hood. This month's lead stories include the following: 1) “Contentious Adams Morgan Hotel Project Logjam May Be Broken; Revised Application Before Zoning Commission Reduces Height”; 2) “Renovated and Expanded Mt. Pleasant Library Reopens to Great Acclaim”; 3) “Dupont East’s 17th Street Neighbors Gearing Up for September 22nd Event.”

Our editorial this month addresses the question “What’s the Real Deal With These New Taxi Meters?” (From the Publisher’s Desk). Your thoughts are welcome and can be sent by clicking the comment link at the bottom of the web page or by E-mail to  The next issue PDF will publish early in the morning of October 12 (the second Friday of the month, as usual). For more information, either send an email to or call 234-1717.



Tommy Wells at Ward 3 Ward 3 Democratic Committee, September 20
Shelley Tomkin,

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells will speak before the Ward 3 Democratic Committee on Thursday, September 20, at 7:30 p.m., at St. Columba's Church, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW. Councilmember Wells will address a variety of topics including his views on ethics and ampaign finance reform and issues related to his chairmanship of the DC council Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation, and Planning. He will also discuss his views on critical issues for the future of the District of Columbia. There will be a question and answer period following the presentation. For further information, contact Shelley Tomkin at or 363-8387.


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