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October 9, 2013

Letters to the President

Dear Washingtonians:

John Fund writes about Mayor Gray’s encounter with Senator Harry Reid: "Today, Washington, DC, mayor Vince Gray and DC House delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton crashed a news conference being held by Senate majority leader Harry Reid on the Capitol steps. Reid didn’t appreciate the company. As Gray leaned into Reid abd demanded federal money start flowing so the District can pay its bills, Reid responded, 'I'm on your side. Don’t screw this up.’

"Reid was probably nervous because at the mayor’s earlier news conference, Gray had stood next to Republican congressman Darrell Issa as he criticized the Democratic-led Senate for holding up the District spending bill, which has already passed the House. ‘Every worker and every citizen of the District of Columbia needs to be counted as essential,’ Issa said.

"The last thing Harry Reid wants are prominent African-American Democrats demanding he follow the precedent the Senate set last week by funding a stand-alone bill for Pentagon spending by picking another part of the government they want to fund separately. Anything that undercuts Reid’s argument that individual spending bills are illegitimate makes his position harder to sell to a shutdown-weary public,"

To read Gray’s letter to President Obama, Speaker Reid, and Speaker Boehner on behalf of DC’s fiscal integrity, see

Gary Imhoff


An Open Letter to President Obama
A. Loikow,

I am one of your neighbors who supported your election with my vote and donations, yet whom you have consistently and callously ignored. I am your subject and a resident of the District of Columbia, and, now, thanks to your silence on an issue of critical importance to the health, welfare, and liberty of your neighbors in the District, I am likely to experience the shutdown of my state-level, local, and municipal services. I know this is a situation you would strongly oppose happening to the State of Illinois or the City of Chicago, but whose consequences you ignore in the District of Columbia.

This is all happening because we are denied the right to govern ourselves and spend our own state-level and local tax monies. The reason: the District of Columbia is a colony, whose budget is treated as if it were a federal agency, even though the funds involved are locally raised tax receipts. There is one simple solution that is just, democratic, and completely constitutional — statehood. The sole reason we are caught up in your and Congress’s debate over the federal budget and federal laws because the District of Columbia is not a state. Even though the people who lived in what is now the District of Columbia fought in the American Revolution, helped create this country and had the full rights of American citizenship until 1801 (to the extent that citizens of the states had them), for over two centuries District residents have been protesting the revocation of their rights and Congress’s and Presidents’ lack of effort to restore them.

A number of Presidents, beginning with President John Adams, and many members of Congress, have spoken out against denying the citizens of our national capital the same right to govern themselves that other Americans enjoy. They have recognized that District residents bear all the burdens of American citizenship but few of the benefits. Our status is virtually identical to that of the American colonists in 1774, except that Congress is our Parliament and you are our king. You should find this situation wrong, undemocratic, and abhorrent if you believe in Thomas Jefferson’s stirring words in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence that "all Men are created equal, . . . endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, . . . That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed. . . ."

As President William Henry Harrison notes in his inaugural address in 1841: "It is in this District only where American citizens are to be found who under a settled policy are deprived of many important political privileges without any inspiring hope as to the future. . . . Are their rights alone not to be guaranteed by the application of those great principles upon which all our constitutions are founded? We are told by the greatest of British orators and statesmen that at the commencement of the War of the Revolution the most stupid men in England spoke of ‘their American subjects.’ Are there, indeed, citizens of any of our States who have dreamed of their subjects in the District of Columbia? Such dreams can never be realized by any agency of mine. The people of the District of Columbia are not the subjects of the people of the States, but free American citizens. Being in the latter condition when the Constitution was formed, no words used in that instrument could have been intended to deprive them of that character. If there is anything in the great principle of unalienable rights so emphatically insisted upon in our Declaration of Independence, they could neither make nor the United States accept a surrender of their liberties and become the subjects of their former fellow-citizens. . . ."

Please speak out for the rights of your neighbors in the District of Columbia and demand that Congress rectify this 213-year-old wrong by approving H.R. 292 and S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act, and admit the residential and commercial sections of the current District of Columbia as the 51st state. Only then will residents of what is now the District of Columbia permanently have the same right to self-government as other Americans, including the right to determine their own state and local budgets and how they will spend their own state and local tax monies. Statehood would remove the blot on American democracy that numerous international bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee, have found to be a violation of the United States’ human rights commitments under international law. President Obama, please actively and emphatically support admission of the State of New Columbia that would free our state and local budget from entanglement with the Federal budget and this and future Federal budget disputes.


Harriet Tregoning on Metro Connection
Alma Gates,

In case you didn't hear the interview with Harriet Tregoning, broadcast on Metro Connection, WAMU-FM, on October 4, the link is Through a series of well placed questions, Ms. Tregoning, DC Office of Planning director, lays out her message very clearly: There is a need for more housing in the city and increased building height is the solution. There is also another message: without additional height downtown, the character of the city's 130 residential neighborhoods will change.

Ms. Tregoning works from a well-rehearsed script, and it is clear she believes what she says. For example, she cites a Congressional panel's question to city representatives, "does the Height Act continue to serve the interests of the city?" Without hesitation she adds that Darrell Issa followed up with a letter to the mayor requesting a Height of Buildings Master Plan Study to be jointly undertaken by NCPC and the DC Office of Planning. The Height of Buildings Act of 1910 has successfully established building heights throughout the city based on street widths.

This contrived effort by the city's leadership to change the Height Act is outrageous but not a total surprise. The same leadership stood by as the Office of Planning undertook a complete rewrite of the city's zoning ordinance that is about to go before the Zoning Commission for approval (a hearing notice link follows). That leaves only amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, which OP staff are readying for presentation to council once the last zoning approval is granted later this year. The Comprehensive Plan amendments will complete the trifecta necessary to transform the landscape of the city and its established neighborhoods. It appears Harriet Tregoning is the big winner.

Do you care about the zoning changes being proposed for your neighborhood and the city? A hearing notice for each subtitle of the zoning code can be found at The full and official text of the proposed amendments is available for viewing on line at Direct access to the proposed text is also available at


Clyde Howard,

Since Police Chief Lanier of MPD sees fit to put cameras all over the city, it seems fitting that the War on Cars is alive and well for the sake of the bicycle. These cameras will see the violations committed by cars, but no violation will be recorded against bicyclist. Years ago, before any city council, all bicycles had to be registered at the nearest police station and wear a small license plate on the frame. Today any cycle nut can ride the streets of Washington, DC, ignorant of traffic laws and common courtesy. Perhaps if enough of these cyclists were to become a hood ornament and car owners paint the symbol of a bicyclist on their doors signifying the number that have been made hood ornaments like the pilots did doing WW2 when they shot down enemy planes then may be the rules for cyclists will be enforced.

Going back to the cameras and war on cars, how would you feel if a crime committed against you were recorded on camera in lieu of having a real live officer on the street that could prevent crime and can immediately start looking for the perp instead of waiting for an officer to show up and take a report or for the picture to be developed before any bolo can be issued. Maybe we are moving toward the age where robots will respond to a call for help instead of a live people in uniforms.

The more cameras we have there will be fewer officers in uniform, consequently less interaction with law enforcement. The age of "Things to Come" is upon us. We must as residents of this city take a position that will be of benefit to all the residents rather then just a few politicians and misdirected persons put in charge of managing the city.


Four-Wheeled Entitlement
Paul Basken,

[Reply to Alma Gates, themail, October 6] As your confusion is one shared by a great many folks, especially those that seem to populate Gary's listserv, please allow me to explain. One, the overwhelming majority of our roads are built to specifications that greatly favor cars, from the width of the lanes, to the paucity of bicycle paths, to the timing and frequency of stop lights. It's all made to favor cars, and done so with my tax dollars as well as yours. When those facts are changed, your argument will make a heck of a lot more sense. But for now, most bicyclists, given the huge infrastructure disadvantages facing them, are just trying to find the safest way through it each day. That may not seem apparent to you, but that's most likely a result of the fact that you haven't spent much time as a daily bicycle commuter, gaining an actual hands-on appreciation of the facts you purport to understand.

Second, and more importantly, please describe a case where any of those violations that so aggrieve you have resulted in an injury to anyone other than the bicyclist. Then count the number of times when a violation by a car driver (including speeding, not signaling turns, coming within three feet on passing, texting or phoning while driving, not making full stops at stop signs or when making rights-on-red, swerving into bike lanes, among many, many others seen around here on a routine basis) has harmed people beyond the car driver. If you can even find one in the former instance, the ratio between the two is without doubt an extremely large number.

The lesson there is that you can be well assured that the average bicyclist is far less of a danger to you than the average car driver. It's such an obvious fact, and makes so clear that all this hyperventilating about bicycle violations is just pointless jabber, because the bicyclists simply aren't hurting car drivers. It's virtually 100 percent the other direction, and it's happening in an environment built with our collective tax dollars to emphasize car speed and safety, not bicycle speed and safety.

Rather than whining so much, please consider what you might gain by being a little more understanding, and doing everything you can to make it safer for bicyclists. The result might be that a few more people make greater use of bicycles rather than cars. While sitting in your car, you may think you're being slowed down by bicyclists, and they no doubt present themselves as a convenient and low-defense target for the anger that builds inside you each day as a motorist. But the simple, obvious, plain-as-your-nose fact that so many drivers just can't comprehend is that virtually every second of the huge delays you face while driving each and every day is caused by other car drivers. It's complete and utter nonsense to suggest anything to the contrary. So even if you don't want to bike, and simply want to have more open road to drive your car, try encouraging bicyclists, and making it safer for them, so that some day there might be fewer cars to clog your roads. There is a huge amount of confusion about these simple facts, at least around here. But that's not the case everywhere. Try reading and see if it helps you understand things a bit more.


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