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May 5, 2013


Dear Preferers:

The Washington Times and the Washington Examiner have reported over the past week about Ondray Harris, who resigned recently as executive director of the DC Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). The PERB "is an impartial, quasi-judicial, independent agency that resolves labor-management disputes between agencies of the District government and labor," Mr. Harris acknowledges that he is not a resident of the District of Columbia, but he says that the PERB was aware of his nonresidency for over a year, and that its raising the issue now is merely a pretext. In his resignation letter, Harris alleged that real problem was discriminatory behavior by two members of the board. In an Examiner op-ed column by Hans Spakovsky, "’Whites Need Not Apply’ at DC Labor Board,", the case is described this way:

"His resignation letter provides a disturbing look at alleged discriminatory and partisan conduct by the members of the board tasked with overseeing labor issues and the DC government’s relations with public employees. Harris claimed in his letter that two members of the board, Don Wasserman and Ann Hoffman, complained over his hiring of a white female, Erin Wilcox, because they perceived her ‘as being conservative or politically right-of-center.’ According to Harris, at a meeting on Nov. 8, 2012, Hoffman declared that ‘somebody with a resume like hers doesn’t belong here’ and ‘should never work here.’ Harris said he was ‘rebuked’ by Wasserman for hiring white male employees despite the fact that no challenge was ever made by the board members to their professional ‘qualifications, competency, or efficiency.’ In fact, Wasserman told Harris to ‘refrain from hiring white men’ in the future to fill open attorney slots, according to Harris."

Given the two conflicting stories about Harris’ resignation, it seems obvious that a fuller investigation needs to be done, by someone other that PERB itself.


If the Ondray Harris story reminds you vaguely of the IRS revelations in the past few weeks, try examining the DC government’s condom promotion program (, and comparing it to the IRS’ Star Trek and line dancing videos. Is the same sensibility behind both of them?

Gary Imhoff


Bowser Plays Politics
Dorothy Brizill,

As Muriel Bowser, the Ward 4 councilmember, prepares to run for mayor in 2014, it has become increasingly clear that, not surprisingly, she intends to use her council office and position as chair of the council’s economic development committee to advance her candidacy and to help her political campaign, especially with regard to fundraising. Last month, during the council’s consideration of Mayor Gray’s FY2014 budget, Bowser used her position as chair of the Committee on Economic Development to transfer $3.5 million from the Poplar Point project in Ward 8, site of a new proposed FBI headquarters, to the Walter Reed redevelopment project in Ward 4. She also raided the budgets of agencies under her purview to fund $8 million in projects in Ward 4, including more funds for Walter Reed redevelopment, Coolidge High School modernization and renovation, and streetscape upgrades on Kennedy Street. When, however, the full council deliberated and voted on the FY2014 budget, it reversed Bowser and restored most of the eight million dollars needed to fund the Capital Riverfront project in Ward 6.

On Friday, Bowser’s Committee on Economic Development will hold a confirmation hearing on Mayor Gray’s nominees to the Housing Production Trust Board. DC Code 42-2801.01 details the purposes of the board and the specific qualifications for board appointees. However, rather than evaluating the nominees against the guidelines in the Code and reviewing their resumes, Bowser is playing political hardball. She prepared a lengthy five-page questionnaire that asks nominees inappropriate, intrusive questions about their personal lives and past political activities. The questionnaire asks each nominee for detailed information, including the names, ages, and addresses of all their children; the name of the nominee’s spouse or domestic partner and the name and address of their employer; all offices held with a political party and positions held on any partisan or nonpartisan campaign; all "services rendered to any political parties, political party conventions or election committees (performed either for a fee o as a volunteer) in the past ten years"; an itemization of "all political contributions to any individual campaign organization, political party, political action committee, or similar entity of $50 or more for the past ten years"; a list of "all political fundraising functions or events . . . hosted or co-hosted in the past ten years, including the name of the candidate, the date of the event, and where the event was held"; and "a copy of any performance evaluation received in the course of your employment for the past five years."

As a final assault on the nominees, they are required to sign an oath at the end of the questionnaire that they "attest and affirm under penalty of perjury" that the answers and materials provided to Bowser’s Economic Development Committee are "true, accurate, and complete." The oath goes on to state that someone who "knowingly or willfully makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representations" could be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties. If Ms. Bowser believes that it is reasonable to require nominees to fill out this questionnaire, perhaps she and her council staffers should answer the questionnaire themselves first, and post their answers online.


Mayor Gray Explains that Cancer Is Beneficial Smart Growth
Kirby Vining,

(An imaginary scenario in which perhaps only those afflicted by wisdom and insight could see any resemblance to actual current events.)

Hizzoner Mayor Gray recently told a group of local developers who were eager to make helpful contributions to the mayor’s choice of personal political charities that cancer is much maligned but is in fact beneficial smart growth. The mayor explained, "I see cancer as the ultimate smart growth, metastasizing over entire bodies spreading new growth where there was once only tired old traditional tissue. Cancer takes root in healthy bodies and brings unusual new life forms and variety to tired old living things that must be changed against their will. Very much like your development projects, such as the McMillan Site project, that destroy historical structures and parks, but replace them with particle board palaces and wondrous mountains of vinyl siding. To those who compare your projects to dung, I say that dung is a rich fertilizer that benefits us all for the growth it sustains, and what could be more important than growth? I think we all have had enough of the past with its heralded traditions and stodgy old wisdom and beauty, and we’re ready for some real modern smart gypsum board and vinyl gems to spread like a cancer throughout our tax base. And this is of course consistent with my "One City" ambition: to have one cancerous smart growth envelope all this old stuff and these tradition-minded citizens who are just getting in the way of what we know must be done. I have encouraged this kind of growth by placing my own people in the right places in government to metastasize through these modern, cancerous smart growth notions and create the final solution to these traditionalists who speak of nothing but beauty and aesthetics and history." But the mayor’s talk was ended abruptly by massive hemorrhaging caused by a malignant neoplasm affecting his conscience and imagination, and he was rushed away before thankful developers could stuff more "contributions" in his pockets.


City Versus Suburbs
George Idelson,

Gary’s dichotomy between cities and suburbs is a false choice, especially in Washington. In part because of our Height Act, DC is less dense, less frantic than many other cities that are noted for their vitality. I can feel the difference when I move in and out of the city, and I like the difference. I also like the fact that we have a wide diversity of neighborhoods, some almost suburban. We risk losing some of that diversity with the one-size-fits-all zoning the Office of Planning is proposing and the assault on the Height Act the mayor seems to be embracing. The changes may seem incremental, but they are real. There is much we can do to make our city even better, but turning it into every town isn’t the way.

[George, we’re on the same page. The point of my posting is that urban planners who are hostile to suburban neighborhoods are also likely to oppose the neighborhoods in DC that have single-family homes with yards and driveways, instead of high-rise apartment buildings. Out planners should encourage the development of a variety of neighborhoods that DC residents prefer, rather than try to force every neighborhood into a single model of "urban," high concentration neighborhoods that the planners prefer. — Gary Imhoff]


Flouting the Law
Jonetta Rose Barras,

DC councilman and 2014 mayoral candidate Jack Evans has said he will hold a public hearing to resolve the controversy surrounding the instant numbers game lottery contract process. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi is responsible for the contract. Some business owners have complained that he circumvented District procurement laws. Read more at


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