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October 16, 2013

Self-Righteous Cynical Misanthropy

Dear Junior High Schoolers:

James Lileks has a pithy put-down of the comedy stylings of George Carlin, in which he describes Carlin’s recorded album "AM/FM" as having "the self-righteous cynical misanthropy beloved by a junior high boy." Yet, what better or more reasonable attitude to have when facing DC government?

Gary Imhoff


Public Hearings on Redrawing Voting Precinct Boundaries
Dorothy Brizill,

On October 4, the DC Board of Elections (BOE) announced that it was "proposing to realign all voting precinct boundaries in the District to correspond with existing Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) Single-Member District (SMD) boundary lines and to revise the precinct numbering system to associate each precinct to its designated ward. The new voting precinct boundaries will eliminate the existing precinct splits that divide . . . SMD area[s] into multiple voting precincts. The . . . 2013 Precinct Boundary Efficiency Plan (plan) will couple each SMD into a single precinct boundary as opposed to dividing an SMD into multiple precincts. The majority of the new precinct boundaries will contain only two SMD’s, while several precincts will contain no more than four SMD’s."

BOE’s plan to redraw voting precinct boundaries can be reviewed on the Board’s web site ( as well as on DCWatch (

DC residents and voters can comment on the new proposed precinct boundaries at two public hearings being convened by the BOE. The first will be held on Friday, October 18, at 10:00 a.m., in the Office of Zoning Hearing Room (Room 210, One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW) and the second on Thursday, October 24, at 6:00 p.m., in the Old Council Chambers (1st floor lobby, One Judiciary Square). Written comments on the plan may be submitted by mail to the DC Board of Elections, 441 4th Street, NW, Suite 250 North, Washington, DC 20001 or via E-mail to


Be Bold at United Medical Center
Samuel Jordan,

For several years now, the United Medical Center (UMC) has been a pawn in the latest version of the "choose our best safety-net hospital business model" game. When the hospital was seized in July 2010 from its owners, Specialty Hospitals of America, the game was on in earnest again. The McGladrey study in 2011 recommended down-sizing UMC, reducing thereby in-patient services, and its sale to the private sector based on the premise that no private sector hospital group would purchase a hospital with UMC’s payer mix. The McGladrey group did not conduct a community health care needs assessment.

In February 2013 a $12.7 million contract was awarded to Huron from Chicago to implement McGladrey’s recommendations, down-size, and sell. A month later, Mayor Vincent Gray announced that the District would build a new $150 million hospital instead that would not be down-sized, but would be owned by the District and managed by a private firm, with its revenues driven by payer collections. This plan was hardly realistic. Given the reduced payments expected from Medicaid and fewer federal funds to be distributed to hospitals serving a disproportionate share of indigent and uninsured patients, such a scheme would certainly depend upon contributions from the public treasury.

In July, UMC’s Board of Trustees approved a plan that calls for the city to "cast a lure" by waving $150 million for hospital construction or rehabilitation at the private sector in hopes that a buyer would be enticed to take a chance on a possible years-long "work around" with the District, leading to eventual ownership. While the $150-$200 million scenario does not envision significant down-sizing, it does not commit the city to developing the profitable service lines known to be needed by UMC’s patient base without a commitment of private money. Oncology, urology, and interventional cardiology are among the new departments that have been acknowledged as critical to increasing UMC’s market share east of the river. Nevertheless, there will be no certainty on their development without a bona fide offer to "plan, participate, and purchase" from the private sector.

These scenarios share a common denominator, long-term hospital capacity and services options for the communities of Washington’s Wards 7 and 8 and nearby Prince George’s County depend upon the availability of opportunities to monetize conventional health care strategies, i.e., "Can we make it profitable?" In developing such strategies, the District has not factored savings and revenues that can be generated by a comprehensive preventive care plan that actually reduces hospital usage by improving the general health status indicators of east of the river neighborhoods. The lion’s share of these savings would come from bolder approaches to the management and prevalence reduction of chronic illnesses, treatment of which represents approximately 70 percent of the public health budget in the District. The strategy favored in the District’s preferred UMC scenario does not also envisage a dedicated "health care tax" revenue stream generated by an incremental increase in the income taxes of the wealthiest District households. No exploration of such a tax increase is on the drawing board. Another source of revenues that could help with the cast of the lure to the private sector would be a fairer federal payment for the District for the hits we take in our local budget for services we provide and costs we defray for hosting the seat of the federal government. A well-executed public campaign is needed to embolden the council and mayor to attempt this tactic.

When the options are weighed, one fact is undeniable: UMC cannot be closed. If there is no private sector suitor, the hospital will require public operating funds. That may be the only scenario that will compel the District to leave conventional hospital financing schemes in the dust the consultants’ reports are gathering and to go boldly where the District has never gone before — savings from massive prevention programs, health care taxes on the District’s 1 per centers, a fair federal payment, profitable new service lines actually needed by communities east of the river, and a market-competitive, patient-friendly, physical structure and site plan at UMC. "In boldness there is magic, genius and power." — Goethe.


Clyde Howard,

It seems that those who just got here yesterday have taken the mantle of defending cyclists against drivers and their vehicles. Let’s get one thing straight, I rode bikes long before some of you were born. In my neighborhood a group of us would ride bikes to beaches like Carr's Beach, Sparrows Beach, Highland Beach, and Columbia Beach that was located near Annapolis, Maryland. This was done long before any super slab (interstate highways) were built; the roads were two-lane highways and you had to be experienced in traveling these roads if you wanted to stay alive. If we bicyclists had committed the many infractions some of these cyclists do by disobeying the traffic laws, I doubt if any would make such long trips in one piece.

My previous statements in themail about making hood ornaments out of some of these cyclists did not mean that we drivers should harm them maliciously, but should they ride through a stop sign or through a red light in front of them that drivers should not take evasive actions that could cause more damage to other people and property just to avoid a cycle nut who thinks that the traffic laws are not for him or her.

I have observed these cycle nuts disobey traffic signals and ride two or more abreast in the traffic lanes everyday, and they expect drivers to yield to them. Their numbers at some point in time will come up.


InTowner October Issue Content Uploaded
P.L. Wolff,

The October issue content is now posted at, including the issue PDF, in which will be found the primary news stories and museum exhibition reviews — plus all photos and other images. Not included in the PDF but linked directly from the home page is Stephen A. Hansen’s What Once Was feature (this month all about the long gone Hitt mansion on Dupont Circle and of the romances of William Hitt and Katherine Elkins, with, as the headline states, "an Italian duke thrown in." Also to be found on the web site pages, along with the recent real estate sales, "Reservations Recommended" and "Food in the ‘Hood" columns, is an extensive array of community news reports, highlighting among others, the annual "Taste of Dupont," the annual 17th Street High Heel Race, AIDS Walk, and other events and concerts not to miss.

This month's lead stories include the following: 1) "Historic McMillan Park Site in Bloomingdale Set for Big Development; Neighbors Object to Plan, Seek to Retain and Restore Open Space"; 2) "45th Dupont Circle House Tour to Feature Late 19th and Early to Mid-20th Century Residences"; 3) "Recent Preservation Board Decisions Reflect New Flexibility in Interpreting Its Law and Regulations."

Our editorial this month addresses frustration about how DC is affected when a federal government shutdown requires that we may not spend our own locally raised city taxes and what we see is the need to educate the American public that Congress does to us what it wouldn’t dare do to any other municipality across the country. Your thoughts are welcome and can be sent by clicking the comment link at the bottom of the web page or by E-mail to The next issue PDF will publish early in the morning of November 8 (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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