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June 19, 2013

Weather or Not

Dear Appreciators:

In the last issue of themail, I asked whether you would please name anything encouraging about living in DC. No one responded. Oh, come on, this is an easy one, especially on a day like today and the past few days we’ve had. Just open the window, stick your head outside, and take a deep breath.

Gary Imhoff


Actions Talk . . . BS Walks
Randy Alan Weiss,

There are three members of the DC city council who are running for mayor. They are, of course, Councilmembers. Bowser, Evans, and Wells. Only Councilmember Wells has urged the termination of the so-called "constituent service accounts." In case you don’t know what these are, they are accounts for funds collected by a Councilmember and held in a separate account for "constituent services." Under last year’s ethics law, which can be found in the DC Code Sections 1-1163.38, "The Mayor, The Chairman of the Council and [any Councilmember] may establish constituent-service programs . . . [up to] $40,000 in any one calendar year." "Funds raised shall be expended only for an activity, service or program which provides emergency, informational, charitable, scientific, educational, medical or recreational services [to DC residences]." Permissible categories include funerals, housing, utility payments, payments for "necessities," food and refreshments, community events, and community-wide events. Impermissible categories include political activities, fines and penalties, giving away cash, sponsoring political organizations or any mass mailing within ninety days of an election. It’s interesting to note that neither the "permissible category" nor the "impermissible category" is exhaustive nor exclusive. That means, for example, that Councilmember Evans can continue to buy baseball tickets to Nats games (recreational services) and Councilmember Barry can raise money to pay his own housing, necessities of life, and utility bills. This also means that the funds can be used for any mass mailing outside of the ninety-day limit for any purpose.

It’s hard to say that the Act tightened up the previous law. Maybe it just made it a teeny bit tougher to hoodwink the public. The law doesn’t forbid paying the Chairman or Treasurer of these accounts salaries, nor does it limit the amount used for administrative purposes. The law should have closed down these accounts once for all and required that the funds in these accounts be distributed to charities. Folks can contribute to charities, and Councilmembers can certainly actively take part in raising money for charities. My suggestion to anyone running for mayor that, if you are to be taken seriously on ethics matters, close down your Constituent Service Account and distribute all funds to public charities.


War on Cars — Not Always Seen That Way
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

If LA can deal with this, maybe there’s hope for DC. "LA Breaks Driving Addiction as Bike-Train Commutes Grow," by James Nash, Bloomberg, June 19, "Los Angeles embodied America’s love affair with the automobile in the last century. In this one it’s trying to kick the car to the curb. The city that put drive-through restaurants on the map has doubled its network of bike lanes to 292 miles (470 kilometers) and expanded light rail by 26 percent in the past eight years, with another 18 miles of track coming by 2015. Bus and train ridership is on the rise, while the total number of passenger cars registered has declined in Los Angeles County — evidence more commuters are breaking their dependence.

"’I feel pretty spoiled by the transit system in LA,’ said Madeline Brozen, a 26-year-old transplant from New Orleans who uses a bicycle and buses to make a 12-mile trek from the Los Feliz neighborhood to the University of California, Los Angeles in Westwood, where she researches urban transportation. The one-family car Americans grew up with, combustion-engined and gasoline-powered, is under assault from an array of options: electric cars, hybrids and alternatives like bikes, light-rail and car-sharing plans such as the one operated by Avis Budget Group Inc. (CAR)’s Zipcar Inc. (ZIP) Los Angeles, the largest market in the biggest US state for vehicle sales, could be the ultimate test of the conventional car’s future.

". . . The city has become more accommodating to bicyclists, adding bike lanes and reminding drivers they must share the road with riders. Los Angeles is making plans for a bike-share program similar to New York’s Citi Bike, the network inaugurated last month in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Privately held Bike Nation USA last year announced plans for bike sharing in Los Angeles, beginning downtown this year, with as many as 4,000 bicycles eventually. The program is looking for a corporate sponsor, Derek Fretheim, chief operating officer of the Tustin, California-based company told the web site Curbed LA last week."

[If you present an article that speaks of driving as an addiction, as dependence that has to be broken, and celebrates what it sees as the "one-family car Americans grew up with" as being "under assault" as evidence that there is no war on cars, what would it take to convince you that the media are waging a war on cars? — Gary Imhoff]


Sick and Safe: Who Really Cares?
Jonetta Rose Barras,

It’s a good thing the DC council didn’t vote this week on the ill-advised Large Retailers Accountability Act. That bill would force businesses whose parent companies report annual sales revenue of one billion dollars or more or more to pay a salary of $12.50 per hour to their workers. The legislation, designed mostly to placate unions and the anti-Walmart crowd, is election-year political grandstanding.

Workers should beware.

The last time the council propped itself up as defender of the proletariat was in 2008, when it approved the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act. There was as much hype about that bill as there has been around the retailers’ accountability legislation. But according to a report by DC Auditor Yolanda Branch, expected to be released this week, workers may not have received what was promised. Read more at


Isn’t It Time to Rewrite Its Code, and Re-boot Our Congress?
Len Sullivan,

After trying unsuccessfully to get Washington, DC, the city, off its back for ten years, and then going dormant for five years, The nonprofit National Association to Restore Pride in America’s Capital, Inc. (NARPAC, Inc.) has reawakened to go after the real root cause of our embarrassing national political behavior: a hopelessly outdated Congress using a 226-year-old operating system total incompatible with the realities of 21st century America. As we say in our summary "Op-Ed":

"Where is our moral outrage over the ever-shabbier actions and inactivity by members of Congress, so inappropriately protected by our outdated Constitution? Why should that seminal creed justify legislative performance that fails to meet basic ethical standards of modern business, from bribery to false advertising? Why are many lawmakers taking oaths to special interest blackmailers (viz., NRA, ATR) at odds with their oath of office?

"Today’s Constitution still does not mention such key issues as democracy itself (viz., "one-voter-one-vote"), voters’ rights, or campaign abuses. Are we a democracy with only 65 percent of eligible voters registered, of whom only 15 percent turn out for primaries, 40 percent for off-year elections? Must we treat lobbyists, PACs, and corporations as individuals? Is loose money free speech? Should top Congressmen raise funds to buy the obedience of other states’ ‘representatives’? Why not establish honest campaign practices?"

And a rebooted Congress would surely resolve DC’s orphan status! If you lean towards our angst, check out why we’re back in business, as well as our full "Op-ed" at Give us your constructive comments there, and if so inclined, drop something in our tin cup. We — and you — need all the help we can muster. We will expand our web site as you inspire us.


InTowner June Issue Content Uploaded
P.L. Wolff,

The June issue content of The Intowner is now posted at, including the issue PDF in which will be found the primary news stories, museum exhibition reviews, and community news — 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, as characterized by the writer, "the dangers of cut and paste history"), as well as Recent Real Estate Sales, Reservations Recommended, and Food in the ‘Hood.

This month’s lead stories include the following: 1) "Dupont Circle’s Stead Park Athletic Field Redevelopment Seen as Near With Funding Now in City Budget for Start in the Fall"; 2) "Big Step Forward for Fall Completion of New Adams Morgan Soccer Field Welcomed"; 3) "Saturday, June 8: Gay Pride Parade Big Hit With Thousands Along Dupont to U Street Route." Our editorial this month revisits the controversial issue of regulating bicycle riding on the sidewalks. Your thoughts are welcome and can be sent by clicking the comment link at the bottom of the web page or by email to

The next issue PDF will publish early in the morning of July 12 (the second Friday of the month, as usual). For more information, either send an E-mail to or call 234-1717.


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