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February 24, 2013

Party Time

Dear Uncommitted:

Thomas M. Smith, the immediate past chairman of the Ward 3 Democratic State Committee, pens a damning indictment of his own party in todayís Washington Post, http://tinyurl.com/cft7tkb. His recommendation for repairing the Democratic partyís failures is that, "Itís Time to Open up the Districtís Primaries." "Under the current system, Democratic insiders have a stranglehold on this one-party town. The Districtís closed primary process has created a breeding ground for politicians who, in rising through the party ranks, look at public service as a personal entitlement and are careful to reward their fellow activists to ensure future support." Thatís inarguable, but the solution he proposes ó opening party primaries to members of other parties and to nonparty voters ó wonít solve anything. It will only strengthen the stranglehold of the Democratic party on politics in the District of Columbia.

Democrats dominate DC politics because 75 percent of DC voters are Democrats, and fiddling with the voting system wonít change that. But opening the Republican partyís primaries to Democratic voters will ensure that Republicans will never again be able to nominate a strong candidate to contest a general election. Whenever a strong Republican runs, just a few thousand Democratic voters can ensure that a weaker candidate wins instead by voting in the Republic primary. That will decrease, not increase, real competition.

I donít have a solution for how to provide better, more competitive, political races in DC. If nonparty voters want to have a say in who is nominated in primaries, they need to join a party, Democratic, Republican, or Statehood Green, or to create another party more to their liking. Membership is political parties is completely open, with no prerequisites, no dues, and no duties. Donít whine about not being able to elect the leaders of a party that you wonít join. If party members arenít satisfied with the nominees of their own parties, thereís a solution to that: encourage better candidates to run and get out to vote for them. If the members of your own party arenít committed enough to provide good nominees, donít expect nonparty voters, who donít care enough about your party even to register a members of it, to save you by choosing better candidates than your party members will.

Gary Imhoff
themail@dcwatch.com

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A Bicycle Built for Two
Karl Jeremy, mayandkarl@gmail.com

Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh have introduced a Bill that will make living in the District much safer [http://www.scribd.com/doc/126231144/Bicycle-Safety-Omnibus-Draft-2-1-13]. The legislation would extend privileges to riders and make bicycles the preferred mode of transportation in the city. As proof of their efforts to ensure bicycle safety, the councilmembers are proposing no more car parking around the John A. Wilson Building where a series of bike racks will be installed. Any councilmember driving a car will be labeled a pariah.

The city is in the midst of a metamorphosis. It has climbed out from under the devastation caused by the riots of the last century and is changing to meet the needs of a younger, more entitled group of residents. These youngsters are judgmental and lack finesse. They honestly believe what Mr. Rogers told them every afternoon, "Youíre Special." They are proof the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Itís good that Tommy and Mary are working hand in glove with this group of youngsters on passage of the bicycle legislation as it will help fulfill their political ambitions. Imagine how much better the city will operate with Tommy as mayor and Mary as council chair. Doesnít Mayor Wells have a nice ring to it?

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Cyclists Getting the Best Part of the Stick
Clyde Howard, ceohoward@hotmail.com

Cyclists are getting the best deal riding on the streets of Washington, DC. Penalties against vehicle owners that collide with them or fail to yield the right of way are convicted simply because they are in a vehicle that failed to move out of the cyclistís path of travel. However, nothing is charged against cyclists who fail to obey the rules of the road. They will continue to run stop signs and red lights and make U-turns in the middle of the street with no penalties against them. The councilmembers who dreamed up these penalties do not drive on the streets of DC on a regular basis; neither do they understand that it is impossible to stop a three or five ton vehicle on a dime just to avoid an idiot on two wheels who thinks that he owns the streets. True, cyclists do have a right of way, but they also must give vehicle owners the right of way when they encounter them on the busy streets of DC. MPD ought to snatch them up when they are seen violating the rules of the road setting the scene for a terrible accident. We do not live in a far Eastern City like what you would find in Thailand or India where vehicles are not as plentiful as they are here in the United States. We live in a city where modes of transportation cross paths on a regular basis. There are rules that govern them all. Therefore, singling out vehicle owners as culprits and major contributors to accidents with cyclists is unfair. A strong look must also be given to cyclists who set the scene for accidents by their ignorant behavior on the streets of DC.

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Moratorium on Charter Authorization
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

Testimony before the DC Charter School Board, January 28: I am requesting that the DC Public Charter School Board 1) place an immediate moratorium on all new charter authorizations. The DC Public Charter School Board overlooks the practice by charter high schools of enrolling large numbers of ninth graders, then transferring over 40 percent before their tenth grade CAS test, and another large number prior to graduation. In so doing, they are employing a de facto private school privilege of transferring students with challenging behavior and academic deficiencies from their cohorts to the responsibility of DCPS. But the appropriated funds do not follow the student; instead, they fund smaller class sizes, artificially inflating their percentage of proficient students and their graduation rate. By dividing the number of 2012 graduates by the original ninth grade enrollment four years earlier, the schoolís de facto "privilege gap" disappears: DCPS high schools have a graduation rate of 49.6 percent (not 56 percent) and DC charter high schools have 48.8 percent (not 77 percent).

2) Rescind the deficient fifteen-year reauthorization of Cesar Chavez Public Charter School and authorize an independent investigation of its student enrollment and transfer policies and the retention of funds appropriated for these students. In 2012, Cesar Chavez Capitol Hill graduated only 50, or 27 percent of the 187 ninth graders enrolled four years earlier, while Cesar Chavez Parkside graduated only 41, or 28 percent of the 148 students in the starting ninth grade cohort.

3) Reject the applications of the following online charter school operators for charters to open schools and receive public funds in the District of Columbia: Rocketship Education DC, DC Flex Academy, and Nexus Academy of DC. The implication that students who are disinterested, lacking in basic classroom social skills, deficient in fundamentals in many subject areas, especially reading and math/arithmetic, et cetera, are going to be motivated by online courses and marginally trained paraprofessionals is fraudulent and reveals them to be costly high school diploma mills.

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