themail.gif (3487 bytes)

May 19, 2013

Grist for themail

Dear Millers:

What do you like and dislike about living in the District of Columbia? Your neighborhood? It’s all grist for the mill in themail. Write and tell us.

Gary Imhoff


We Apparently Have Enough Parks in DC to Give Them Away
Kirby Vining,

On June 6, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) will hold a hearing concerning the proposed surplusing of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, which is both a DC Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places ( Apparently we have so much historic parkland in DC that we can sell it. Would a responsible government sell a historic park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who designed the National Mall and several other parks in Washington? Is it common for our government to sell historic properties as surplus? While DMPED is trying to sell McMillan, the mayor has noted that parkland was left out of the design of NoMa and he’s so concerned about it that he put a request for about $50 million into his 2014 budget to buy land for parks for NoMa. Yet he asked for about the same amount in last year’s budget to destroy McMillan in preparation for development. Either the mayor is right and we have so much surplus parkland in Washington that we can afford to sell it, or we’re lucky that our government doesn’t have the ability to sell the Mall and the various monuments and museums downtown, because those would fetch a pretty penny. This all makes dollars but not sense.


Lawsuit Sponsors Define Who and What They Are
Virginia Spatz,

Empower DC’s monthly membership meeting, on Saturday, May 18, was heralded as an opportunity to "Take a swing at the people hurting our communities — the Gray/Hendeson Pinata" — complete with a visual readying the faces of public officials for smashing. Is this how Empower DC wants to define who and what they are for a national movement? Apparently so. Instead of rethinking, when called on the violent image, the poor model this offers children, and the failure to pursue respectful engagement, Empower DC shrugged: "The real violence is taking away what few resources low income communities have. . . ." Clearly Empower DC seeks to present its work as linked to the civil rights movement and presumes to teach "civil disobedience" (although "non-violent" is not stressed). But the pinata stunt — being neither civil nor disobedient to any immoral law — merely demonstrates how little this organization is grounded in the movement it claims to honor. And if Empower DC cannot do better, its bizarrely juvenile statements will not only discredit the movement for equitable education but sully the history it seeks to continue.

I have already severed my own relationship with Empower DC over its failure to respect diversity of religious beliefs (including lack thereof). Its leadership, including members of its legal team, insisted there was no problem with asking everyone at a lawsuit rally, not advertised as religious in content, to dedicate its donations, efforts, and prayers in the name of Jesus. Ironically, the pinata event was held in a church, and, while I am not a Christian myself, I am pretty sure that "turn the other cheek" didn’t mean "take a swing." (I asked Rev. Sutton of the host church for comment, but have not heard back.)

Mohandas Gandhi, Mahatma/teacher to generations of activists around the world, believed that "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." Having worked with members and staff of Empower DC, I do not believe that the entire organization supports a world in which leaders are dehumanized and people, rather than policies, are attacked. I also doubt that the whole organization is uninterested in being more welcoming to people of non-Christian or no faith. I hope there are group members, staffers, and perhaps additional elders in the community who will step up to help Empower DC endeavor to better embody the change we all want to see in the world.


Underground Power Lines
Wallace Gordon Dickson,

Dorothy, it is so considerate of you to share with us readers [themail, May 15] the negatives of undergrounding our power lines. Now could you please share the benefits and cost benefits of burying the lines? For example, what was the cost to the city, to PEPCO, and to the consumers who rely on power for generating income, as well as other things? Perhaps that way your post would not so easily be interpreted as biased against burying the lines. Thanks for whatever light you can shine on the benefits to all of us.

[There are certainly costs and benefits to burying the District’s power lines. The purpose of my May 15 posting was to make District residents aware of the proposed plan and to suggest that they demand a full, unabridged version of the Task Force’s report, including the recommendations of its finance and technical committees. As is often the case in the District, the devil may be in the details. The mayor’s May 15 press conference was mostly a feel-good lovefest among the members of the Task Force. Very few details were provided about the project’s seven-year timetable regarding which feeder lines would be buried or how the project would be finance and managed (whether by the city or by Pepco). Because the project will require approval by both the council and, with regard to Pepco’s proposed rate increases, by the Public Service Commission, citizens will hopefully have an opportunity to review the proposed plan and testify on it at pubic hearings in the fall. — Dorothy Brizill]



Rally for Child Care, May 21
Andria Swanson,

Did you see the article "Life with and without DC’s Child Care Subsidy" in Thursday’s Washington Post, The article describes the challenges that parents and providers face when trying to access and provide quality, affordable child care through DC’s Child Care Subsidy Program. The subsidy program has been cut by thirty million dollars over the last several years, and the fiscal year 2014 budget proposes it be cut again by one and a half million dollars.

Once again Mayor Gray relegated Child Care to his "wish list" — a list of items that could possibly be funded later in the year if the city comes into additional revenues. The problem is, child care was on the wish list last year too and, despite new revenue, was not funded. This year the mayor listed child care as priority #1 on the wish list, to the tune of $11 million. It’s up to the DC council to put child care in the actual fiscal year 2014 budget.

On Tuesday, May 21, our members will be visiting the Wilson Building to make one last appeal for council leadership and support to move child care from the wish list into the fiscal year 2014 budget. Please join us to visit our councilmembers to urge their support. Whether or not you can make it, please take a moment to call or E-mail the council. Join us on Tuesday, May 21, at 9:30 a.m., at the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to rally for child care.


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at

All postings should be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.


Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)