themail.gif (3487 bytes)

June 30, 2013

Companion Pieces

Dear Companions:

There were two interesting companion pieces in the Washington Post this weekend: Colbert King’s "Corruption in the Crosshairs,", was about the ongoing investigations into political corruption, and Jonetta Rose Barras’ "Public Campaign Financing in DC: Not with Our Money You Don’t,", is about Councilmembers David Grosso’s and Kenyan McDuffie’s proposed legislation for a "public financing" scheme for DC’s political campaigns. Taxing people (or adding a percentage cost to District contracts for the benefit of politicians’ campaigns, as Grosso and McDuffie propose) and requiring the money be given to the political campaigns of politicians whom they don’t support isn’t public financing. Public financing is when members of the public voluntarily give donations to political campaigns. This is compulsory financing, forced financing, welfare for politicians, or as Jonetta quotes Dorothy in her article, "Earmarks for politicians." Extorting money from the public to give to politicians to run their political campaigns will not make campaigns more honest; it will only make campaigns more expensive.

Tell me, please, how adding this new funding source for politicians will eliminate under-the-counter, unreported, or cash contributions for campaigns. What’s the connection?

Gary Imhoff


Council Should Deny the Nomination of Neil Albert to the Library Trustees
Robin Diener,

The DC Library Renaissance Project opposes the nomination of Neil Albert to the Board of Library Trustees. Among other things, Mr. Albert’s focus is on real estate development, which is not a priority of the board. Moreover, the details of some of Mr. Albert’s very controversial actions in his previous role as a DC government official on two library development projects indicate that he is not suited for this particular board service.

Martin Luther King Library: On behalf of the administration of former Mayor Anthony Williams, Mr. Albert spearheaded an inexplicable attempt to divest DC of its central library (and only local memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). That plan — covertly introduced through a mention buried in the 2004 Budget Support Act — was notable in retrospect for its total disenfranchisement of the public. Eventually uncoupled from the BSA, the plan to sell Martin Luther King, Jr., Library became the subject of multiple hearings demanded by the outraged public and was subsequently dropped.

West End Library and Fire Station: In his position as Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development during the Fenty Administration, Mr. Albert supported and advanced July 2007 sole-source emergency legislation (a no-bid arrangement) for a large real estate development effort in the West End. The project involved the giveaway of multiple public parcels, including the West End Library. The private beneficiary of DMPED’s largesse in this case was real estate developer EastBanc. Sustained public outcry compelled the city council to investigate, and in the course of one hearing, Mr. Albert was summoned to testify about his ownership of an investment apartment in the condominium building located directly across from the proposed development -- a clear conflict of interest to which he admitted. The city council rescinded the emergency legislation in October 2007.

In a related issue, subsequent legislation was brought to the council by citizen groups working with the American Civil Liberties Union to require public inclusion in the "surplus and disposition" of public land, a "best practice" already used by other jurisdictions that testified during these hearings. After these improved public inclusion processes were mandated, a new and purportedly competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) on the West End project was issued in late 2008 by DMPED.

The parameters of the RFP were strikingly similar to the original no-bid proposal, and, despite much initial developer interest, there was no response to the initial RFP. Mr. Albert’s office adjusted and reissued the RFP, which resulted in only two responses, EastBanc’s and another developer’s (that proposal did not include the fire station property). Predictably, EastBanc’s bid — which had been shopped around the neighborhood since 2004 — was chosen by DMPED and the community was supportive, primarily because it had no idea that its extremely valuable assets were being traded away for a pittance.


Partisan Election for AG
Lars H. Hydle,

It is unfortunate that the election for DC Attorney General is a partisan election. The Council Judiciary Committee that originally worked on this charter amendment proposed that the election be nonpartisan, like elections for the School Board or the ANCs, but the council changed it to a partisan election, presumably to ensure Democratic dominance of the office. The voters who ratified the charter amendment in 2010 did not have the opportunity to decide whether they wanted a partisan or nonpartisan elections.

A nonpartisan AG election would give non-Democratic voters equal influence on the election, and give the winner the independence that the office needs as an internal DC check and balance on our government.


Not Buying Cars, Living at Home: the New Normal
Richard Layman,

With regard to the point that can be inferred from Gary’s opening commentary in the previous issue of themail, that there isn’t necessarily a quantum change in behavior amongst millennials concerning driving so much as they don’t have enough money to buy a car (and this is the same reason why many millennials have moved back home after graduating from college); that might be. But it doesn’t matter. It’s reasonable to presume that going forward, in a globally connected economy, many US jobs will no longer be able to command wage premiums and given worldwide demand, there will be more competition for oil, so prices will go up (currently the US consumes about 20 percent of the total production of oil and we have about 5 percent of the world’s population), even in the face of increased production responding to higher prices.

Living in smaller abodes, in connected places where more tasks can be accomplished nearby on foot, by bike, or by transit, and not having to own and/or use an automobile frequently for even the simplest trips, are three of the steps that people can take to maintain quality of life while living in reduced economic circumstances. (Many households spend upwards of 25 percent of their income on transportation — owning and maintaining a car.)

And for those of us who fear heart disease because of the health history in our families, bike-based transportation also provides simultaneous exercise (if I make it past fifty-four years of age, the age when both my father and his brother died from heart disease, I’ll attribute it in large part to biking for the past twenty-plus years and eating better). As the choice of transportation relates to the city proper, imagine that the city really does re-achieve a population of 800,000. If you think that adding 170,000 residents to the city, all driving, will make things better, "you got another think coming." For what it’s worth, I made a similar point in a piece in themail almost ten years ago (


Rebooting Congress’s Major Function
Len Sullivan,

Congress’s major function is obviously to prepare and pass the legislation that keeps our country sound and current. Do you have a good grip on who’s really making this "sausage," and how much it costs per pound? Check out NARPAC’s tutorial at and see if you think those links could get FDA approval.


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)