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April 17, 2013

The Next Election

Dear Voters:

Larry Lesser, below, asks for recommendations about whom to vote for in the April 23 special election. Thereís time for one more issue of themail before the election, so your advice would be welcome. I donít have any. DCWatch doesnít do electoral endorsements, but in this election Iím particularly enthusiastic about not endorsing any candidate.

But if you find this a difficult choice to make, wait until you see your choices in next yearís election for councilmembers, council chair, and mayor. The primary election will be just a year from now, in April 2014. The earliest names being circulated are very familiar. Mayor Gray, who is still being investigated for irregularities in his 2010 election campaign, shadow campaign, and the handling of the lottery contract while he was council chairman, is the leading candidate for mayor. Incumbent councilmembers Jim Graham in Ward 1, Mary Cheh in Ward 3, Kenyan McDuffie in Ward 5, and Tommy Wells in Ward 6 are all probable candidates, although Wells is still exploring running for mayor. David Catania and whomever wins this yearís special election will be the leading candidates for the two at-large council seats. And Phil Mendelson will assuredly run to be reelected council chairman.

Also being mentioned as candidates are Kwame Brown, who resigned as chairman of the council, accepted a plea of bank fraud, and received a token sentence of one day in the custody of the federal marshals, six months of home detention, and two years of community service. Harry Thomas, who pled guilty in May 2012 to theft of funds regarding federal programs and filing a false tax return, was sentenced to thirty-eight months in prison. But both Brown and Thomas resigned from their offices before they were sentenced, and the weak ethics reform bill that the city council enacted in January 2012 provided that the only thing that could preclude someone from running for elected office is being convicted of a felony while he is in office. That doesnít mean that he committed the felony while he held office, but that he was convicted while he still held the office. Brown and Thomas will both be available to be candidates as soon as they are released from prison ó Kwame today, and Harry after thirty-eight months, if he has to serve his full term. People are already calling around on Kwameís behalf, just as people from Michael Brownís aborted campaign in this election are calling around to secure support for his future run.

Gary Imhoff


Why Do We Settle for Being Less Than Full Citizens?
Ann Loikow,

A proposed charter amendment on "budget autonomy" will be on the ballot on April 23. The ballotís summary statement of the amendment states that, "Currently, the Home Rule Act requires affirmative Congressional action with respect to the entire District budget (both federal and local funds). This Charter Amendment, if ratified, enacted and upheld, would permit the Council to adopt the annual local budget for the District of Columbia government; would permit the District to spend local funds in accordance with each Council approved budget act; and would permit the Council to establish the Districtís fiscal year." (emphasis added)

As DC Attorney General Irvin Nathan wrote the DC Board of Elections on January 2, and Wayne Witkowski, a former DC Deputy Attorney General, and Keinard Becker, former General Counsel to Mayor Anthony Williams, wrote in a Post Op-ed on October 28, 2012, a charter referendum on budget autonomy, like so many of the "interim" measures pursued in recent decades, is of doubtful legality. Attorney General Nathan urged the Board of Elections to tell voters that "serious legal concerns have been raised about the validity of the amendment, its passage could result in Congressional action disapproving the amendment or in extended litigation and uncertainty about the validity of the Districtís budget, and could jeopardize the legal status of individual employees of the District government who expend locally raised government funds in accordance with the amendment but without Congressional authorization." He also pointed out that even if the charter amendment passed, "the federal Anti-Deficiency Act would still apply" to the District of Columbia government. This act carries administrative and criminal penalties for individual DC government employees who violate it.

Why then are we wasting our time, money, and political capital on a legally doubtful action, instead of working hard to get Congress to pass the New Columbia Admission Act? For the first time since the mid 1990ís, there is a statehood bill in both houses of Congress (H.R. 292 and S. 132). Statehood would permanently give District residents all the same rights enjoyed by other Americans, including full Congressional representation and state budget and legislative autonomy. It is clearly constitutional and the simplest, requiring the passage of a single law, and most complete way to give us the full right to govern ourselves.

Without statehood, Congress can do anything it wants to, any time it wants and enact, amend, or repeal any law affecting the District of Columbia, including completely revoking the home rule charter. Section 601 of the charter ("Retention of Constitutional Authority") reiterates this. Donít be deluded and think that if the referendum passes that Congress wouldnít continue to meddle with the Districtís budget. During the District of Columbiaís first seventy-four years, there was considerable and varying degrees of local autonomy, but in 1874 we lost our territorial government and all local suffrage for almost a century. In the 1990ís, Congress again took away many of the District governmentís post home rule powers and gave them to a Federal control board, the statutory power for which still exists. It could easily happen again. Mere budget autonomy would not make District residents full American citizens with the same right to govern themselves as other Americans. Only statehood can do that.

The bottom line is that freedom is an all or nothing proposition. We are either free people with the right to self-government in all its aspects or we are not. It is just that simple. On this 151st anniversary of DC Emancipation Day, we should be seeking the emancipation of all the people of DC through statehood.


Protecting Our Neighborhoods
John Chelen,

Most of you probably have heard about the struggle to prevent the construction of a glass-walled multistory building on Connecticut Avenue just south of Chevy Chase without at least some fine-tuning of its more egregious flaws. Leaving aside the merits of that case, Councilmember Mary Cheh appears to have risen to the occasion by proposing new legislation to grant "review-by-right" for large residential construction projects. Perhaps Iím too cynical, but to me, as with her position on DC ethics standards, this appears as little more than an effort to assuage Ward 3 voters while offering limited substantive value. If the new zoning changes proposed by the Office of Planning (OP) are implemented, her bill most likely will have little effect, since it will be blocked by Home Rule limitations imposed by Congress.

If Councilmember Cheh were serious about protecting our neighborhoods, why isnít she condemning OP, whose zoning recommendations undermine neighborhood self-determination? OPís proposals either eliminate, or water down, citizen, ANC, neighborhood association, and city council abilities to guide development. Why isnít Councilmember Cheh calling for a moratorium on this vacuous and dangerous zoning rewrite now underway?

The DC council has the authority to stop the zoning rewrite dead in its tracks and call for a second look, much in the same way many of us called for a second look at our recent weak ethics law that Councilmember Cheh supported. Please join me in urging Councilmember Cheh to take a serious look at what OP is proposing and take steps to counter a grave threat to our wonderful neighborhoods.


Why I Will Vote for Elissa Silverman for Council
Tom Grahame,

Gary, you saw, far before I did, the strength of the conviction of DCís Planning Office, and the DC government as a whole, to be antithetical to residents who own cars. The idea is to make DC a very green city, which means less greenhouse gases, which means less cars and driving, as I now understand it. I try to be a live-and-let-live kind of person, so I didnít see it when you did. I was OK with the inconvenience of bike lanes to drivers (I still am, bikers should have a safe lane), and I didnít understand the full import of the massive fines for being over the speed limit. Now I think of these two things as part of a larger package.

It wasnít until new young residents, commenting on a local blog in favor of the cityís new zoning proposal to eliminate the need for developers to provide parking spaces in new residential buildings within half a mile of a Metro stop, that I got it. These people told me that if have trouble parking my car, perhaps I should consider leaving DC and moving to a more car friendly environment. They told me I was mistaken if I said I needed my car. Only then did I understand the depth of the cityís apparent attitude that cars really are a problem, as opposed to a necessity if you want to continue your own life style, rather than switch to one which emphasizes biking and walking (which I in fact love to do) in place of driving. No more seeing friends in the suburbs. No longer playing bridge in the suburbs (where the only good games are). No more walking on the C&O Canal towpath. You canít get to any of these with public transit, and if you could it would take far longer in any case. Switching your lifestyle on someone elseís behest is especially difficult as we get older, of course.

This is why I will vote for Elissa. She understands the issue from the viewpoint of long time residents. Here is a snippet of a longer E-mail she wrote in response to my questions: "My concern about eliminating parking minimums. . . : [They doní] address concerns of neighbors, in that where are condo/apartment residents going to park? Even near Metro, as in my case, households still may choose to own a car. Street parking is finite, and if thereís no underground parking for condo residents they will compete for spots on the street. . . ." Iíve taken a few words out to make it shorter, but havenít altered the meaning. Hopefully, if elected, Elissa can start to put some common sense into what the city is doing. Vote for Elissa Silverman for council.


At-Large Council Candidates
Larry Lesser,

I agree with Mary Rowse [themail, April 14] that Elissa Silverman comes across badly and unappealingly in her ads and in Kojo Nnamdiís candidates forum last week on WAMU. I got a negative impression also of Anita Bonds (playing the race card pretty blatantly) and Mark Zukerberg (trying too hard albeit with some effectiveness to discredit Silverman and with legalization of marijuana as his main campaign plank). So who is the best candidate ó Frumin? Mara? Redd? I could use a little help here.


Council Candidate Perry Redd, DC Public Schools, and News Coverage of the Special Election
Scott McLarty,

Perry Redd, the DC Statehood Green candidate on the April 23 special election ballot for At-Large Councilmember, received an enthusiastic endorsement in The Examiner because of his support for public education in DC, Alone among the candidates, he strongly opposes plans to shut down fifteen public schools and supports Empower DCís lawsuit against this action. Mr. Redd has drawn a connection between the dismantling of public education and powerful business interests, especially advocates for school privatization and public-property grabs associated with the Federal City Council, DCís elite and secretive business lobby,

In other media, Perry canít get a break: NBC4ís Tom Sherwood labeled him a "minor candidate" on April 8, What qualifies Mr. Redd as "minor"? If itís his party membership, then Republican Pat Mara is minor, too. During the past decade, the Statehood Green Party has emerged as DCís second party in terms of election results, collectively receiving more votes than the GOP even when both parties have run the same number of candidates (as in 2006). In the November 2012 general election, Statehood Green candidates got nineteen thousand more votes than the Republicans. The Statehood Green Party enjoys the same major party status in the District as the Democratic and Republican parties. Statehood Greens have faced affronts before in some of DCís major media: In the Washington Postís annual Voters Guide published on November 1, 2012, the party affiliation of Statehood Green candidates was omitted; the Post did not return calls and no correction was published, see .

Readers of themail and other voters should judge candidates based on their merits and positions, not on the editorial tendencies of some newspapers and broadcast media. More about Perry Redd:


InTowner April Issue Content Uploaded
P.L. Wolff,

The April issue content is now posted at, including the issue PDF in which will be found the primary news stories, community news, letters to the editor, and museum exhibition reviews ó plus all photos and other images. Not included in the PDF but linked directly from the home page is the What Once Was feature (this month about the Washington Clubís historic Patterson mansion on Dupont Circle), as well as Recent Real Estate Sales, Reservations Recommended and Food in the ĎHood.

This monthís lead stories include the following: 1) "Proposed U Street Liquor License Overwhelmingly Opposed at Meeting Called by Four ANCs Covering More Than 70,00 Ward 1 and Ward 2 Residents"; 2) "Marie Reed School Students, Adams Morgan Youth, DC Soccer Enthusiasts to Benefit from Major Gift"; 3) "Earthquake Damage Restoration Completed at Historic National City Christian Church." Our editorial this month offers our thought on the mayorís proposed budget and what we believe to be a positive for life in the city. 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 May 10 (the second Friday of the month as usual). For more information, either send an E-mail to or call 234-1717.



Adams Morgan Yard Sale, April 20
Virginia Johnson,

Large Adams Morgan yard sale, multi-person, held two or three times a year for the last three years. Saturday, April 20, 2013 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., driveway of 1851 Columbia Road, NW, across the street from The Grill From Ipanema. Rain date: April 27. See more at


Spring Recitals Are Beginning
Myrna Sislen,

The schedule for our spring recital series at Middle C Music, 4530 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, includes:

Sunday, April 14, 5"00 p.m., guitar and ukulele recital given by students of Nelson Dougherty
Saturday, April 20, 6:00 p.m., guitar students of Tom Kitchen
Sunday, April 28, 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., piano recital given by students of Gjinovefa Sako
Sunday, May 5, 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., guitar recital given by students of Magdalena Duhagon
Tuesday, May 7, 8:00 p.m., guitar recital given by students of Dave Baise
Saturday, May 11, 6:00 p.m., percussion recital given by students of Lindy Campbell
Friday May 17, 6:00 p.m., piano, voice, clarinet, and flute recital given by students of Jean Cioffi
Saturday May 18, 6:00 p.m., saxophone, piano, and guitar recital given by students of Alicia Kopfstein and Gary Joynes
Sunday May 19, 5:00 p.m., guitar, piano, and bass recital given by students of Brock Holmes
Friday May 31, at 6:00 p.m., guitar and voice recital given by students of Esther Haynes


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