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April 3, 2013

Dumb Growth

Dear Planners:

Martin Austermuhle, at DCIst, called the addition of three extra stories to a narrow row house in a row of narrow two-story row-houses at 11th and V Streets, NW, "a big middle finger to scale and taste," He included a photograph that more than proves his point, and it is worth checking out. On the other hand, transportation planner Dan Malouff’s column for the Greater Greater Washington site, "Pop-Ups May Look Weird, But they’re OK," defends it: "From an urbanist perspective, it’s good for the city," He writes: "Yes, this property looks silly now. But think about the future. Assuming we can’t (and don’t want to) freeze the city in time, densifying infill on small properties is exactly the kind of development we want. If it’s eventually going to be five stories anyway, it’s better that this block redevelop property-by-property than all at once."

That is the perfect exemplar of what’s wrong with what smart growth advocates call the "urbanist perspective." Someone who looks at this ugly affront to our city’s streetscape and doesn’t see anything wrong with it is someone who should be kept far away from city planning. Let me be fair, though. A good portion of the comments on the Greater Greater Washington site didn’t agree with Malouff’s assessment. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.


The city council has put an unofficial, downloadable copy of the DC Code online at This doesn’t supplant the official, searchable Westlaw code, which is still online at What’s notable about it is its introductory page, which says, " In the interest of allowing developers to more readily access and adapt the DC Official Code, we are providing a freely available copy of the Code." I’m sure I’m misinterpreting that sentence — councilmembers are never that open about their fealty to developers.

Gary Imhoff


Unraveling the Michael Brown Debacle
Dorothy Brizill,

This week Michael A. Brown withdrew as a candidate in the April 23 special election for an at-large seat on the DC city council. In a statement posted on his campaign web site (, Brown indicates that, "It is with extreme disappointment that I am announcing my withdrawal from the At-Large Council race. I have some very important personal and family matters that require my immediate attention." While this is not the first time that Brown has suddenly and dramatically withdrawn as a candidate in a political race — he withdrew from the 2006 mayoral race — residents and voters are still left to wonder what circumstances actually prompted Brown’s late departure from the at-large council race, especially since the ballots for the April 23 election have already been printed and mailed to absentee voters, and the DC Board of Elections will begin early voting on Monday, April 8. In general, it seems that most people are taking a wait-and-see attitude, and aren’t accepting Brown’s public statement as a complete and accurate explanation of why he is withdrawing.

In recent years, many problems and issues have enveloped Michael Brown. Any one of them could have prompted his withdrawal from the at-large council race. Like other elected officials in the District, Brown’s relationship with campaign financier Jeffrey Thompson, his role in Mayor Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign, and council involvement in the awarding of the DC Lottery contract in 2008 are all under federal investigation. In a related matter, Brown’s secret efforts to promote Internet gambling and to make DC a hub for "i-gaming" are also being reviewed. In addition, since the spring of 2012, there has been an ongoing investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department and the DC Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) regarding Brown’s 2012 campaign accounts and $110,000 that he claimed was stolen by Hakim Sutton, his campaign’s treasurer. A recent audit of Brown’s 2012 campaign account by the OCF found that there was $126,000 in unreported expenditures and $8,446 in unreported contributions. With regard to Brown’s current 2013 at-large council race, a review of his filings with OCF on January 31 and March 10 indicates that he continues an illegal practice of not accurately reporting and/or accounting for all contributions received and expenditures made by his Michael Brown 2013 campaign committee. Brown’s campaign has not reported any expenditures for rent at his campaign headquarters at 1724 Kalorama Road, telephones, office supplies, payments to petition circulators and campaign workers, and the cost of campaign materials such as posters, campaign literature, and T-shirts, which Brown distributed widely in the final weeks of his campaign. Moreover, while the campaign has reported contributions of approximately forty thousand dollars as of March 10, it is apparent that it has not reported all of the contributions (including in-kind contributions) that it has received to date.

Finally, perhaps the biggest issue that must also be considered with regard to Michael Brown’s sudden departure from the at-large council race is the extent to which problems in his personal life and finances may have been a contributing factor in his withdrawal. In recent years, it has been widely reported that he owes federal income taxes, his house in Chevy Chase has had at least five foreclosure notices since 1996, and he has been unable on occasion to pay his apartment rent at the Rittenhouse on 16th Street. Moreover, despite the salary he received as a councilmember and payment for his work as a lobbyist at the firm of Edwards, Angell, Palmer, and Dodge, Brown has been borrowing very large sums of money from acquaintances, lobbyists, and businesses in the District for the last few years. While Brown blames Hakim Sutton for the funds missing from his 2012 campaign funds, Sutton’s lawyer has publicly put the blame on Brown. The full story of Brown’s withdrawal has not come out yet; District residents can only hope that all will be revealed in the fullness of time.


Issues for April 23: One-Party Rule, Ethics, and Transparency
David Schwartzman, Perry Redd for City Council Campaign,

Seven candidates are running in the Special Election on April 23, five Democrats, one Republican, and one Statehood Green — Perry Redd. Here is the critical question that I hope our electorate considers before voting: is one-party rule conducive to democracy and justice? Consider that all of the ten Democrats (and of course the Republican who poses as an Independent, David Catania) on our City Council have over and over voted for Republican-like policies with respect to our budget, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from our low income programs, thereby increasing the misery index during our recession which translates into a depression for our low-income residents.

We do not yet have much of a record for the recently elected Democrat (a.k.a. Independent) David Grosso or for the recently appointed and now candidate Democrat Anita Bonds, except for the fact that Bonds voted for the Re-Entry Facilitation Amendment Act of 2012 (B19-889), Council Chair Mendelson’s very weak substitute for a much stronger bill for returning citizens rights introduced by Councilmember Barry. Philip Fornaci called B19-889 "toothless" and "illogical." Fornaci said at a council hearing "Any returning citizen should be considered to be ‘in good standing’ after completion of his or her term of incarceration." Of course Perry Redd agrees with Fornaci’s position.

There are two alternatives to challenge our ethically-challenged one-party elected government in this election. Patrick Mara, a self-labeled moderate Republican, who donated to Mitt Romney’s campaign, takes corporate contributions, and supports policies that have contributed to the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of us. He stands for a failed so-called school reform program that privatizes public education, fires experienced teachers, and closes neighborhood schools. But his positions on these issues are generally shared by everyone else already on the council as well as the mayor. For example, Mara’s views on taxes are very similar to the Democrat, Jack Evans.

In this election, Perry Redd, the DC Statehood Green candidate, is the only progressive alternative to one-party rule. He is committed to reducing our very high income inequality, eliminating poverty, starting with our children, and real school reform that serves all our neighborhoods, which means keeping the fifteen neighborhood public schools open. If you think one-party rule is not healthy for democracy this is the choice you should consider making in this election.

And for those progressive voters who now support Elissa Silverman, in large part because of her impressive research and advocacy record on behalf of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and the Campaign Finance Reform Initiative 70, please consider the following: 1) her campaign was behind the effort to remove two other Democrats from the ballot, namely Paul Zukerberg and John Settles. According to Paul Zukerberg, "Point man on Silverman’s legal team was Thorn Pozen, a full partner at Stinson Morrison and Hecker, and an election law maven. Pozen was formerly Special Counsel for the District of Columbia and its chief ethics lawyer. He’s the go-to guy in DC for all things electable. Mike Tacelosky was crunching Silverman’s voter data. Tacelosky, a computer wiz, created proprietary software to instantly flag any defect on a candidate’s petitions — including the candidate killer — address mismatch — software the beleaguered and underfunded BOE can only dream about." ( After a hard fought battle with the DC BOEE, Zukerberg maintained ballot status. But Elissa’s OCF filings make no mention of Thorn Pozen or Mike Tacelosky. Were they donating their time and money on behalf of her campaign? If so then in-kind contributions should be listed. Where is Elissa’s commitment to "integrity and accountability," so prominent in her campaign rhetoric?

Zukerberg is making an outstanding contribution to this race in his highlighting with great credibility the issue of the harm of the drug war, in supporting the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana possession, a position that Perry Redd endorses. The drug war has been mainly focused on the black community, filling our jails with its victims, resulting in what Michelle Alexander has called "The New Jim Crow." Yet, since Elissa wanted to reduce the competition among the Democrats she tried to get Zukerberg kicked off the ballot. In that effort even homeless voters were targeted by her campaign (see In contrast, Perry is the champion of the dispossessed, the returning citizens, and low-income community. The voters deserve more choice, not less.

2) Elissa has refused to condemn the threatened closing of fifteen more neighborhood public schools, triangulating on this issue, asserting that some have to be closed. Daniel del Pielago, Empower DC, is leading a fight to keep these schools in the black community open, with Johnny Barnes heading a legal team challenging this in court. This is a crucial issue in the fightback against further school privatization. Of all seven candidates, only Perry Redd has opposed the closure of these schools without any equivocation.

3) If you contribute money to Elissa’s campaign you will join this crowd making significant donations (go to OCF and see for yourself), notables such as Robert Ebel, Neil Albert, and Victor Reinoso, key players in DC’s structural adjustment program, starting with Ebel’s role chairing the first Tax Revision Commission giving birth to the Tax Parity Act, favoring tax cuts for the wealthy, and so-called school reform. And lets not forget the contributor of $1000, Daniel Solomon, DC Vote, the lobby with Pepco on their Board, the long term promoter of tokenism-always-coming-first before putting DC Statehood front and center (Yes, I do support a yes vote for Proposition 8, which if finally implemented by Congress would give us temporary budgetary autonomy; only DC Statehood will give us permanent legislative and budgetary autonomy. DC Vote should focus its resources on building support around our nation for the DC Statehood bills introduced in both the Senate and House).



Citizens Federation Announces 2013 Service Award Winners, May 21
Anne Renshaw,

Six DC individuals and organizations will be honored by the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia for outstanding community service. The presentation will take place at the Annual Awards Dinner of the DC Citizens Federation on May 21, to be held at the All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church, Cathedral and Connecticut Avenues, NW.

Awardees reflect a wide range of service in four categories: 1) Outstanding Citizens Group: Washington Area Villages Exchange (WAVE); 2) Outstanding Citizen Activists: Karen "Cookie" Cruse, Citizens Association of Georgetown; Allen Beach, Chevy Chase Citizens Association; Alma Gates, Palisades Citizens Association; 3) Outstanding Public Service: Casey Trees; 4) Outstanding Media Contribution: Bob Ryan, Senior Meteorologist, ABC7/WJLA-TV.

Individual dinner and table reservations are open to association members and friends by contacting Juliet G. Six, Treasurer, DC Citizens Federation, at


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