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April 28, 2013

Three Reading Recommendations

Dear Readers:

Colbert King wrote an unusually conflicted column in Saturday’s Washington Post, "Let’s Try to Keep Prosecutions from Influencing DC Elections," On the one hand, he says that US Attorney Ronald Machen should try not to let his prosecutions of DC politicians influence who wins and who loses elections, but on the other hand he says that Machen’s office should still should pursue its investigations vigorously. King’s conclusion is, "The full scope of Machen’s investigation is not publicly known. But this much is clear: the political process would be served if Machen’s probes could be completed and, if any criminal charges are to be brought, they are filed well before next year’s elections — preferably in 2013. Justice might also be served."


Valerie Strauss, "The Answer Sheet" education columnist in The Washington Post, presents an interesting exchange in her column this week, First, she prints a well-informed and penetrating critique by education writer Sam Chaltain of Councilmember David Catania’s decision to hire an outside law firm to write school reform legislation for the District. Next, she allows Benjamin Young, Catania’s chief of staff, to answer Chaltain as best he can. Then, a number of unusually well informed commentators give their opinions on the controversy. Can the city council be trusted to reform school affairs any more than it could be trusted to reform its own ethics?


May Wildman answers "How Are Segways Regulated in DC?" in the new Answers Column in the Washington City Paper, She quotes Shane Farthing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, as complaining, "It can be frustrating to have Segways blocking the bike lanes en masse, and when it forces bicyclists into the street to avoid such groups it is unsafe." To which a commentator, Mikey, writes, "You mean cyclists are stuck behind slow moving vehicles that are slowing down their lanes? Welcome aboard."

Gary Imhoff


Thoughts on Parking Issues
Ann Loikow,

I have several thoughts about issues that should be taken into account when drafting parking requirements. There is an assumption by those who want to eliminate parking requirements that mass transit will pick up the slack. The problem with that logic is that Metro is at capacity, In addition to needing billions of dollars of rehabilitation, necessitating regular slowdowns and closures for the foreseeable future. The public investment required for all this, much less any thoughts about expansion, is uncertain to say the least. In the District, significant expansion would require major investment and digging more tunnels so that we had more than a single track in each direction.

Many people who are doing the planning seem oblivious to the human life cycle and how one’s ability to do extensive walking, biking, or using mass transit changes with age, family status, and one’s physical state. As a city, we need to plan for the needs of people of all ages and conditions, which means we still will need some parking. This includes the elderly, the disabled, and those with children, as well as others who may have major purchases to get home or deliver somewhere.

Apartments and other buildings without parking ignore the needs of service people to access those buildings for repairs and services of various sorts. There always need to be some parking spaces for plumbers, electricians, delivery persons, etc., or we will end up with double and triple parking — blocking our roads even more — or we will increasingly be unable to get those sorts of services because it is too much of a hassle.


Testing Scandals, DMV, and the War on Cars
Denise Wiktor,

We are yet in another round of mandatory testing. In the last two years, between the mandatory testing and the "voluntary testing," my daughter spend all or part of twenty-one school days in tests; add another day for tenth grade. As a parent, I didn’t even know about the so-called voluntary tests until they were nearly over and we got a robocall. Now I find the testing is tiered and the timing is only "recommended." My daughter has gotten tier level two tests this year (for math), which are longer and harder than the level one test her classmates are taking. This raises a question for me. In the days of the Ohio (or wherever) standardized tests, I was told to keep working on the exam, but that we would hit a point where we would not know the answers, as the tests went a grade level above where we were. So why the tiers? Is this some fancy way of dumbing down the test to make test scores appear better? Or will those students with Honor and AP classes somehow be counted as more. What does proficient mean if there are two tiers? I doubt the test scores will note the tier. The tiering makes no sense and I not have read about it anywhere; if my daughter had not made a casual comment I would not have known. She also has reported that the test time is "recommended" for fifty minutes, but since she was in middle school the standard was that all students sit in the classroom until everyone is done, which can take up to an hour and half. Puzzling.

As for the gentleman and the plates for his new car [themail, April 24], I have bought two new cars in the last ten years and the plates were at the dealer within two weeks. Same for my neighbors. Perhaps it is a problem with his dealer, not the DMV? I for, one am happy with the many improvements DMV has taken. Now there is a new director at DMV, so perhaps there has been some backsliding.

I do agree about the war on cars. Not only have things got worse for your average car owner, but for a disabled person they are much worse. I do not have a curb cut, and HPRD has denied one. I may be able to get one now by invoking the ADA if I guarantee to restore the curb when I move out of the house (by DDOT standards). So you have to be a rich disabled person to get a curb cut. Yet, I may not be quite disabled enough for reserved parking. I would like to stay in my house, and since the house itself has a curved back stairwell would be good to age in place, if I could get to the sidewalk. Ironically, though I am in a historic district, there was no retaining wall when the house was built and likely there was parking alongside the house, but I cannot go back to those historical standards.


Special Election Results
Larry Lesser,

We probably ought to do a little further analysis of the at-large council seat election. First point is that the turnout was awfully low. Anita Bonds actually won with something like four percent of the eligible vote. (And for what it’s worth I’m not enthusiastic about the idea of an "instant runoff," where voters would say who their second choice would be. I think that’s just asking for people to game the system. It wouldn’t give the winner greater legitimacy.

The second point is that Elissa Silverman calculated correctly by urging Matt Frumin to drop out. If she had inherited his eleven percent of the vote she would have won handily (although still with a plurality, not a majority).

The third point is that it’s a liability to run as a Republican. You can’t escape being associated with the troglodyte national party. The old moderate Republican wing has been totally shut out of the party — and if a moderate insists on staying in and calling himself or herself a Republican he or she can’t attract votes from independents.

Others may have more to say.


Special Election Results
Earl Shamwell,

Well so much for my theory — hope — that the recent special election might serve as a good opportunity to prove the worth and benefit of an open primary system here to combat the one party domination of our electoral politics. First and foremost, no one showed up. Nine and a half per cent of the registered electorate!! What does that say about us? And what does that say about the at-large candidate who won with such paltry numbers? This was pitiful. Furthermore, what does this say about the Republican Party? There are supposedly 33000 registered Repubs. If they had shown up in good numbers, Mara should have won or had a much better showing. I agree with Gary, this should spell the end of the Republicans here.

Also significant in this election was the referendum item regarding budget autonomy. So less than 10 percent of the voters spoke up and passed- a yes vote for it. And that result will represent the will of the six hundred thousand people residing here? First, I am not at all sure that a referendum vote can alter/amend the Constitution, but does anyone seriously think that a less than 10 percent voter turnout is going to be persuasive, let alone binding, on the not-so-friendly forces on Capitol Hill? Be that as it may, I am very disappointed. It seems that most — 90 percent — of people here simply do not care about the way we are or can be governed. So I guess we get what we deserve — the indifference to our lack of voting representation from the rest of the nation. This does nor augur well for any serious home rule for us. Folks watch our collective voting behavior and discount us to the point of irrelevance. And, by the way, should anyone want to know, my wife and I voted in this election.



Tenleytown’s John Burgess at Tenley Library, May 1
Mary Alice Levine,

The Friends of Tenley-Friendship Library invite you to a talk by John Burgess, author of A Woman of Angkor, on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:00 p.m. at the Tenley library. ‘In a village behind a towering stone temple of Twelfth Century Cambodia lives a young woman named Sray. Her beauty and spiritual glow lead neighbors to compare her to the heroine of a Hindu epic. But in fact her serenity is marred by a dangerous secret. One rainy season afternoon she is called to a life of prominence in the royal court. There her faith and loyalties are tested by attentions from the great king Suryavarman II.

"A Woman of Angkor is an historical novel that recreates the golden age of Southeast Asia’s lost Angkor civilization. John le Carré has said the book sets ‘a credible and seemingly authentic tale in the courts and temples of ancient Angkor to stir the imagination and excite our historical interest.’"

Book sale and signing to follow event. Cash or checks only. Light Refreshments. The Tenley-Friendship Library is on the corner of Albemarle Street and Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Take the red line to Tenleytown.


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