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June 23, 2013

The AG Jumps into the IG’s Game

Dear Fraudoholics:

One indication that the multiple investigations into political corruption may be broader than we knew is the complaint that Attorney General Irving Nathan filed on June 21 against the Peaceoholics and its founders, Juahar Abraham and Ronald Moten, Read both the complaint itself and Loose Lips’ summary of the case, The Peacoholics received massive funding from many government sources, including noncompetitive administration grants and city council earmarks, during the Williams and Fenty administrations, and questions from the public about how those funds were spent have never been satisfactorily answered. This complaint tugs at one corner of the cover over the Peacoholics’ questionable funding and spending, a grant from the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust, and seeks reimbursement. So far, Abraham’s and Moten’s defense against the charges has not been strong — it’s all a political attack by Mayor Gray because Moten was so prominent in Adrian Fenty’s reelection campaign, and if Abraham had been buying SUV’s for himself he wouldn’t have bought two that were the same color. If they want to make a convincing defense case in the future, they need to have a lawyer speak for them.


An important article about a recurring subject was published by the pseudonymous blog Titan of Trinidad, Several years ago, there was widespread concern that the Metropolitan Police Department was playing games with its crime reports and statistics, underreporting crimes and lowering the classification of crimes. The Titan of Trinidad site revisits this subject with a post that says, "Last week, we reported on the violent assault on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, in which a mob of fifteen persons attacked a bicyclist without provocation, beating him so severely that his eye was swollen shut. Over the next two days, we also noticed this crime went unmentioned in MPD’s public crime reports and online crime map, and wondered why. After all, MPD stated the attack was an aggravated assault (a Part 1 offense by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting standard, and the daily crime reports assure citizens that such reports contain ‘Part 1 serious’ offenses. Sadly, as with most assaults, citizens would have no idea that the incident took place if they were to examine public crime stats. As we tried to research this issue, we discovered other alarming findings: 1) MPD only reports crime data on nine specific offenses out of approximately one hundred fifty or so offense types, all others are intentionally hidden from the public, and 2) MPD may be under or misreporting the crimes to the public, and possibly in its annual FBI crime statistics. Shockingly, not only does the DC Metropolitan Police freely admit hiding a significant number of crime statistics from the public, but double-down on that position by saying they do so for our own good."

Gary Imhoff


Education Reform in DC
Dorothy Brizill,

After a long, deafening silence from the Gray administration and the city council, education reform has now been placed on the front burner by the District’s policymakers as the city prepares for local municipal elections in 2014. On Thursday, June 4, Councilmember David Catania, chairman of the council’s Education Committee, introduced seven education reform bills that were drafted without any civic or community input by a team of lawyers at the law firm of Hogan Lovells. As I noted in themail on May 1, Catania obtained funding for the Hogan Lovells project from "a private philanthropist [Emmanual Friedman] who ‘offered to retain counsel at private expense to prepare a legislative proposal for use’ by Catania and the committee." While the ink is barely dry on the bills drafted by Hogan Lovells, Catania has scheduled a series of council hearings over the next two weeks on those bills and other education bills introduced by his council colleagues.

The first hearings are on July 3, 9:00 a.m., on Bill 20-312, the "Unified Public Education Lottery Act of 2013," and Bill 20-313, the "Comprehensive Planning and Utilization of School Facilities Act of 2013; July 8, 9:00 a.m., on Bill 20-314, the "Parent and School Empowerment Act of 2013," and Bill 20-315, the "Public Education Governance Improvement Act of 2013"; July 9, 9:00 a.m., on Bill 20-310, the "Individual School Accountability Act of 2013," Bill 20-311, the "Focused Student Achievement Act of 2013," Bill 20-328, the "Increasing Access to High Quality Educational Opportunities Act of 2013," and Bill 20-41, the "Reading Development and Grade 3 Retention Act of 2013"; and on July 11, 9:00 a.m., on Bill 20-309, the "Fair Student Funding and School Based Budgeting Act of 2013." Government witnesses will testify on all bills on July 2 at 9:00 a.m.

Last Thursday, June 20, Mayor Gray gave an "education policy address on his vision and priorities for moving forward on public education reform in the District" at Savoy Elementary School in Ward 8. Gray delivered his eight-page, single-spaced speech,, to an unusual audience composed both of charter school advocates and Empower DC protesters. The speech itself is short on specifics, and doesn’t announce any new initiatives.


What's Good About DC?
Dan Gamber,

You complained that nobody responded to your request for comments on what is good in DC. I think people took your request to be just about politics. Looking at life in general, I would say things are great. Living in the U Street area (I used to cal it Meridian Foothills, Realtors used to call it Dupont/Logan) offers many of the advantages of West Side Manhattan, without the extreme density. We love:

1) spring and all the glorious flowers, and no need for heat or a/c; 2) being able to walk to most everything we need, or if necessary having two subway lines and several bus lines within a few minutes’ walk; 3) being able to walk to dozens of restaurants, many very good; 4) jazz, jazz, jazz; 5) being able to walk to the Studio Theater; 6) fall, relief from the often hot and humid summer, again usually no need for heat or air conditioning; 7) winter, usually fairly mild of late; 8) excellent long distance transportation options via plane, train, or car; 9) world-class medical care, much of it within walking distance; 10) Safeway, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, a farmers' market, a Lancaster County farm store, and soon Trader Joe's within walking distance; 11) world-class museums, theaters, opera, and Library of Congress; 12) the Smithsonian Folk Festival and many other festivals; 13) excellent and improving safe trails and bikeways for cycling; 14) the political farce played out daily on the Hill, and sometimes in the District Building, with Improve and Capitol Steps for commentary: 15) a gorgeous park a few blocks away, a park no longer controlled by the drug trade; 16) the fact that 15th Street, NW, is no longer a boundary to no-man's land but rather the entry to the booming 14th Street corridor.

Yes, aspects of DC government are lousy. Things like closing schools and doing nothing with the buildings for years or closing the Tenleytown Library before a contract was final for the new building, taking years for road projects that should take weeks. But some things are working very well these days, including street sweeping, trash and recycle collection, DMV (except for driver license exam waiting times), the new libraries, many rebuilt schools, some excellent schools (sadly mostly west of Rock Creek), fantastic continuing education opportunities with things like the local campuses of Johns Hopkins and the University of California system, all sorts of think tanks offering discussions of various kinds. . . .

We are retired, and plan to stay put as long as possible. The Dupont Circle Village will help that. We have looked at all sorts of places where friends have retired. Practically all require the use of a car, so when you can no longer drive you are housebound unless others will help. Most are in places that do not even have taxi services. Yes, the Ozarks are lovely and you may have the largest bridge club in the world, but if the nearest grocery store is twenty-five miles away it sucks. Orcas Island is fabulous, but if you have a medical emergency it better be when the ferry is running.


An Encouraging Aspect of the City
Lisa Swanson,

This one’s easy: The DC public library system. The new and the newly refurbished buildings are beautiful; they’re quiet and comfortable. I use Petworth and Shaw mostly. Books and movies are available for the easy browsing, requests are easily made online and fulfilled with a timely E-mail notice. Staff is outstanding: I returned a book with a random photograph in the pages. (It had been there when I got the book and I left it in.) A librarian tracked me down to see whether I wanted the picture back. Service plus.


DC's Corrupt Officials, and Those of NY State
Tom Grahame,

It is pretty amazing to have three recent city council members in jail or just having pled guilty to various violations of law, with further legal issues to be determined regarding the current mayor. That is a n unreasonably high percentage of our elected officials. That said, I was quite surprised to find, in a recent article in the Economist, that, "Between 1976 and 2010, 2,522 elected New York state officials were convicted of corruption. One in 11 state lawmakers who left office between 1999 and 2010 did so because of misconduct or criminal charges. . . ."

Apparently the reason that so many politicians act with such impunity in NY State is that, "The Board of Elections lacks the staff to enforce regulations or investigate problems," Therefore, it seems to follow that to avoid the chronic NY State condition, we need to have adequate policing and prosecutorial capabilities in DC so that politicians will pay strict attention to laws. Surely these investigative and prosecutorial capabilities matter more than whatever new ethics updates the Council adopts?


Constituent Services Fund and Participatory Budgeting
Richard Layman,

A constituent services fund isn't prima facie a bad idea. Just change the way that moneys are given out. I recommended that instead of the councilmember/staff doling out the dough, that instead a "participatory budgeting" technique be employed instead. PB gives the power to citizens to set priorities and choose what to fund.

In short, the solution to lack of democracy is to add back democracy and participation, not to eliminate it,,


Addiction to Automobiles
Paul Basken,

Following your logic, Gary, it's not an addiction if those who are addicted can't acknowledge it's an addiction. Hey, it took quite a long time on tobacco, with lots of angry denialism, so why should this be any different.


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

[In themail, June 19] Gary Imhoff wrote, "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 beig ‘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?"

Nice spin, inflexible as usual. The article's point is that LA is willingly/enthusiastically changing. Did you read citizen quotes? If that historically car-centric region can change, surely so can DC (as Fairfax County is changing). Your blind opposition to change is the pointless, one-sided, and doomed war — channeling entrenched interests/opinions threatened and enraged by change.

And Colorado changes too: "It is, in other words, an average highway. But not for long. Work has begun on an upgrade for US 36 that will incorporate a special fast lane for high-occupancy vehicles, bus rapid transit service, an electronic toll system for single-occupant cars and a bike path. It is, in other words, a highway designed to encourage people to drive less,"

Disclosure: I drive, live in Fairfax County, am unlikely to bike into DC, find Metro relatively inconvenient, and find some DC traffic/parking policies/practices inconvenient if not hostile. I'm just put off by your rigidity on this and other matters. Not everything is zero-sum math or media/government conspiracy.


The Key to Rebooting Our Faltering Congress Is. . .
Len Sullivan,

. . . first, for NARPAC to get its own web site address right (themail, June 19). Please visit us at and read our kickoff materials lamenting a hopelessly outdated Congress, using a 226-year old operating system. As we suggested in themail last week, if you think we're going in the right direction, please leave us a constructive comment, spread the word to your I-friends, 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.


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