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January 29, 2014


Dear Washingtonians:

Alma Gates’ message, below, raises a question. Does the Office of Planning continue to oppose the Height Act, even in the face of overwhelming public support for it, simply because of its arrogant belief that it knows better than the public what Washingtonians should want for their city. Or does the OP believe that it exists not to serve the public, but to serve a different master?

Gary Imhoff


Failing to Endorse
Dorothy Brizill,

When the Ward 8 Democrats held its candidate forum and straw vote for mayor on January 18, no mayoral candidate received enough votes — 60 percent — to receive the organization’s formal endorsement. In a crowded field of eight candidates, the vote was fractured. Bowser received 127 votes, 41 percent, to Gray’s 94 votes, 31 percent. With the April primary fast approaching, it is likely that other endorsements votes by other organizations in the District may suffer a similar fate. One such example is organized labor.

While the role and importance of labor unions in national elections may have waned over the years, unions are still substantial in District elections. First, labor unions can provide funding to political campaigns, usually through their political action committees. More importantly, unions provide campaign workers and other resources that are needed in a campaign to man the campaign headquarters, organize the field and get-out-the-vote efforts, attend candidate forums, and staff telephone banks. In addition, unions are able to communicate with their members and provide a means by which candidates can deliver their messages directed to potential voter. While Vincent Gray has the strong support of virtually all major unions in the District in 2010, e.g., police, teachers, and the Metropolitan Council of the AFL-CIO, that is not likely to be the case in 2014. Unions are angry that Gray has broken a string of promises that he made in 2010 in order to get their support, for example that he would not retain Kaya Henderson as school superintendent and that he would replace Kathy Lanier as police chief. In addition, he vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act, a priority of labor unions, and his administration has had a cavalier attitude toward labor-management issues.

In 2014, no mayoral candidate has the unified support of labor. On Monday, January 27, delegates to the Metropolitan Council of the AFL-CIO, which represents 150,000 union members in the metropolitan area, participated in a marathon eight-hour Council decided to postpone its endorsement until sometime in February, which it will meet again. Even then it will be unlikely that any of the mayoral candidates will have enough support to get the two-thirds vote needed in order to secure the endorsement. Should that happen, each member union would then be free to go its own way and endorse its own candidate, or not to endorse at all.

In preparation for their interviews, the mayoral candidates (Bowser, Evans, Gray, Lewis, Orange, Shallal, and Wells) provided written responses to a detailed questionnaire developed by the AFL-CIO. Their responses can be reviewed at by clicking on “show replies” near the top of the page. To date, Mayor Gray has secured the endorsement of Local 25, the hotel workers union, and Jack Evans has received the support of the Maryland/DC State Council of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.


OP Beating a Dead Horse
Alma Gates,

Just when you thought the proposed changes to the Height of Buildings Act were on the back burner, the Office of Planning has turned up the heat. It seems the OP is continuing to advocate its proposed changes to the Height Act in spite of fairly unanimous public opposition. At both the DC Council and National Capital Planning Commission hearings, witness after witness presented testimony in opposition to OP's proposed changes to the Height Act. Blogs and public opinion polls returned the same results — leave the current Height of Buildings Act restrictions alone. No thank you, no changes.

But, according to the Current Newspaper, Tanya Stern, OP’s Chief of Staff, was at the recent ANC 4C meeting, making a presentation on the Height of Buildings Act. She said the city only has 4.9 percent of land remaining that can support growth. In other words, DC needs more height if it is to realize future development potential.

OP continues to advocate for changes to the protections that have preserved the city's most identifiable characteristic — it's horizontal skyline. What's wrong at OP? Is this more of its, "we know what's best attitude"? Is the agency truly tone deaf to the residents of the District of Columbia?


A Department Out of Control
Clyde Howard,

On Saturday, January 25, a friend and a fellow Shriner, C. Mills (Medric Cecil Mills, Jr.), — suffered a heart attack while crossing the street fifty feet from the front door of a fire station on Rhode Island Avenue, NE, The fireman on duty failed to render aid and assistance simply because he had not received a call from the 911 system. As a result Noble Mills died in the street, while the fireman did not carry out his duties and responsibilities. I hope that the widow of Noble Mills seeks legal recourse against the DC Fire Department. The issue was placed before the Fire Chief, but as usual there was no response. But what else can you expect from the DC government? What a waste.


Reelect Gray?
Deborah Bradford,

[Re: Dorothy Brizill, “Corruption and the 2014 Election,” January 22] I’m just praying that Gray does not get back in office again, I think it would such an embarrassment!


Orr Principal Under Investigation
Candi Peterson,

An elementary school principal, Niyeka Wilson of Benjamin Orr elementary school, is in hot water and under investigation for disparaging comments she made on Facebook about a pregnant parent and student with respiratory problems at the school. Here's what the DC Parent Action Consort (known as PAC) reported that Orr's principal posted on her personal Facebook wall: "Soooo. . . . 1 ambulance + 3 EMT guys + 1 hyperventilating can't breathe kiddo + 4 Metro Police Officers + 1 pregnant mentally disturbed parent screaming + 2 suspensions + 1 allegation of assault by me (FML) = a DYNAMIC DUO that conquers that and continues an in progress meeting @ the same doggone time !!! Adventures of Principal Willie and Omplare S. Magass." The Facebook post was subsequently deleted, after complaints were filed by parents.

Under the alias of DC parent Action Consort, presumably to protect the identity of Orr parents, several E-mails were forwarded to DC City councilmembers Alexander, Barry, Bonds, Cheh, Graham, Grosso, McDuffie, Orange, and Wells in an appeal seeking disciplinary action of Wilson for her misdeeds. A December 1 E-mail titled, “Principal Berates Pregnant Parent and Student After Flotus Visit,” reads as follows: "Weeks after the FLOTUS fanfare at Benjamin Orr in Southeast DC, Niyeka Wilson, first year DC Public Schools (DCPS) principal at Orr, posted disparaging comments on her Facebook page toward a pregnant mother of several Orr pupils and a student that experienced severe respiratory complications. The at-large community is outraged! Facebook is no place for knowingly, with reckless disregard, and despicable personal feelings of expressed malice, towards those Principal Wilson is employed to cultivate. It is irresponsible to state on Facebook that a ‘can't breathe’ student and a ‘pregnant mentally disturbed parent screaming’ as the ‘Adventures of Principal Willie.’ This has a negative impact on her ability to successfully lead reform at Orr and collaborate with parents, a mainstay of her professional duties.

“Orr Elementary has a large at-risk student population, and currently in ‘turnaround’ status. According to, Orr is ranked below average. How can a turnaround plan produce expected results if parents feel they have been ostracized by the principal? Consequently, good leadership and parental engagement is critical toward the successful transformation of this historical Anacostia neighborhood school. Principal Wilson's comment is indicative of a bad leader who has failed at the primary responsibilities of leadership in service to students and parents: shaping and fostering a vision of success, creating a hospitable school climate, and strengthening family engagement to directly enhance learning outcomes. This is not only a leadership flaw but a character flaw, too. Mrs. Wilson owes Orr parents and community an apology. We expect Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DCPS, and Jesus Aguirre, Director of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) give serious consideration for disciplinary action for such a gross act of wanton negligence. We ask that you impress upon Chancellor Henderson and Mr. Aguirre to act immediately."

In a January 15 E-mail response, Councilmember Yvette Alexander wrote: "If these allegations are true, I am deeply concerned with the lack of sensitivity and unprofessionalism characterized by this principal and would question their continued tenure at Orr." Chancellor Kaya Henderson responded on January 27 to the Consort's E-mails. She apologized for the lack of responsiveness to the complaints, indicating that she and Instructional Superintendent John Davis had not been made aware of them previously. Henderson wrote, "If you reported this to anyone at DCPS, can you please share to whom, so we can figure out where the breakdown in communication has occurred? It would also be helpful to have any additional information that might be helpful as we investigate this situation. . . .."

I am glad to know that there will be an investigation into this matter by the school district. I agree wholeheartedly with Councilmember Alexander. If these allegations are confirmed, Wilson should be given her walking papers. Anything less would send the wrong message, that children in schools East of the River don't matter. We all know if this occurred at a West of the park school, heads would roll.



Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC: The Lion of Anacostia, February 4
Susana Baranano,

John Muller is a local journalist, historian, and tour guide. He is the author of Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC: The Lion of Anacostia (The History Press, 2012), which has been selected as the DC Public Library’s 2013 DC Reads selection. On Tuesday, February 4, he will present a lecture on Douglass at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. The bar will open at 11:30 a.m.; lunch will be served at 12:15 p.m., and the presentation and question and answer period will be from 1:00 p.m.. to 2:00 p.m. The price will be $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers, and $10 for the lecture only. The book will be available for purchasing and signing. Register for the event at


Ward 3 Democratic Committee Mayoral Forum, February 11
Anne Loikow,

The Ward 3 Democratic Committee is proud to announce an issues forum for candidates for mayor in the April 1 Democratic primary election on Tuesday, February 11, at 7:00 p.m., at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church (Great Hall), 4201 Albemarle Street, NW, one block past Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street, NW, from the Tenleytown Metro stop on the Red Line. The candidates who have confirmed, in alphabetical order, are Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, Vincent Gray, Reta Jo Lewis, Vincent Orange, Andy Shallal, and Tommy Wells. The forum will be moderated by ABC 7/WJLA-TV journalist Bruce DePuyt with political analyst Mark Plotkin. To learn more about the Ward 3 Democratic Committee, see our web site at


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