themail.gif (3487 bytes)

March 30, 2014

Unruly Children

Dear Adults:

Last Wednesday, WUSA-TV broadcast a mayoral candidate debate among the four candidates whom they deemed stood the best chance if winning the Democratic primary: Mayor Vincent Gray and Councilmembers Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, and Tommy Wells. It was a disgraceful debacle. The candidates acted like a bunch of squabbling second graders. They interrupted each other, spoke over each others, and didn’t listen to each other. They all behaved badly, which may be why WUSA hasn’t posted the video of the debate on its web site. Jack Evans acted the Sulaimon Brown role, which means he spent the hour defending Gray and attacking Gray’s opponents, rather than trying to make a case for his own candidacy. Tommy Wells won the post-debate viewer poll. He won largely because he stayed silent for much of the hour, and only in the last fifteen minutes lowered his behavior to the level of the other candidates. He also won partially because the Wells campaign spent the two days before the debate telling its supporters to vote in the WUSA poll. Gray and Bowser fought each other like equals, and gave each other no respect, which was a loss for Gray. Each refused to let the other one complete a sentence without jumping in to contradict. In this debate, as was true throughout the campaign, neither Gray nor Bowser showed an ability, a talent, or a desire to behave well in a public forum, to work together, govern well, or to graduate from the second grade.


Last week, the DC city council held a hearing to express its outrage that Kahlil Malik Tatum, named as a suspect in the disappearance and possible murder of Relisha Rudd, could have been hired as a janitor at the homeless shelter at DC General Hospital, even though he had a past criminal record that included arrests and prosecutions for breaking and entering and larceny.

Last month, Councilmember and mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser held a council roundtable and introduced a council resolution to express her outrage that WMATA was doing background checks on potential employees that were “overly restrictive,” and that prevented it from hiring people with “relatively minor” felony convictions that were not job related. Metro general manager Richard Searles reassured Bowser that WMATA would hire felons. A felon could be hired for a position that didn’t require contact with the general public, if in the past ten years he or she had no more than one felony conviction for possession of a controlled or illegal substance; one felony conviction for receiving stolen goods; one felony conviction for assault; one felony conviction for robbery, theft, or larceny; one felony conviction for driving under the influence; one felony conviction for criminal mischief; one felony conviction for reckless driving; or one felony conviction for destruction of property. In a position that requires access to the general public, a candidate could be considered with any of the following felonies on his/her record in the past ten years: one felony conviction for robbery, theft, larceny; one felony conviction for driving under the influence; one felony conviction for criminal mischief; one felony conviction for reckless driving; or one felony conviction for destruction of property. That policy went a long way, but perhaps not far enough, to satisfying Bowser’s objection to restrictive background checks. It certainly wouldn’t rule out WMATA’s hiring Kahlil Malik Tatum,

If you’re the Homeless Services Program, or WMATA, or a private employer operating in the District of Columbia, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Nothing you do will satisfy the politicians in this city, especially in an election year when the politicians are ready to pander to a perceived voting block of “returning citizens.”

Gary Imhoff


Going to the Polls on April 1
Dorothy Brizill,

April 1 is election day for the District’s 2014 party primary. It is the next and final stage in the primary voting process, which began on May 17 and thirteen early voting centers scattered throughout the city. On April 1, the 143 voting precincts will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Anyone in line by 8:00 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot.) The April 1 primary election for the Democratic, Republican, Statehood Green, and Libertarian parties will present candidates for delegate to the US House of Representatives; mayor of the District of Columbia; chairman of the council; at-large member of the council; ward members of the council for Wards 1, 3, 5, and 6; US “Shadow Senator”; and US “Shadow Representative.” In addition, Democratic voters will elect offices to Democratic State Committee positions or national committeeman, national committeewoman; alternate national committeeman, alternate national committeewoman; at-large members of the state committee; and ward members of the state committee.

Basic information regarding the primary is posted on the web site of the DC Board of Elections, On the web site, voters can also check their registration status and the location of their voting precinct. Telephone inquiries can be made at 202-727-2525. The voter guide published by the DC BOE is posted online at

According to the BOE, 14,125 voters were cast at the early vote centers between March 17 and March 29, down from approximately 22,000 early votes cast in 2010. Voters were free to vote at any of the early vote centers, regardless of their residence, but the breakdown of votes by center was: One Judiciary Square (Ward 2) 2855, Chevy Chase Community Center (Ward 3) 2299, Turkey Thicket Recreation Center (Ward 5) 1975, Columbia Heights Community Center (Ward 1) 1194, Sherwood Recreation Center (Ward 6) 972, Takoma Community Center (Ward 4) 898, Benning Library (Ward 7) 798, Emery Recreation Center (Ward 4) 759, King Greenleaf Recreation Center (Ward 6) 625, Kennedy Recreation Center (Ward 6) 538, Stoddert Recreation Center (Ward 3) 460, Hillcrest Recreation Center (Ward 7) 457, and Bald Eagle Recreation Center (Ward 8) 294.


DCPS Inflates Costs of Teacher and Principal Positions
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

For school year 2014-15, DCPS is charging local schools $5,177 more for each teacher, social worker, librarian, and reading specialist than it actually costs: $94,626 versus $89,451 in actual, reasonable costs. For school budgeting purposes and to prevent discrimination against staff with higher salaries, all positions have the same cost, which is, at least in theory, the average of all staff in the same pay plan and pay grade. For all salaried positions, the two biggest costs are salary and benefits (mainly employer health and pension contributions). For teachers, it is reasonable to add in the cost of substitutes. The average of the teacher salaries shown in the DCPS response to Council Education Committee Oversight question 12 was $78,261. The average cost of benefits adds 12.66 percent, or $9,908, and substitutes add another $1282. Added together, they total $89,451. When multiplied by over four thousand teachers, $5,175 per teacher comes to over $20.7 million, or another 230 teachers.

What is that extra money being used for? DCPS is quite open. The FY14 and FY15 budget guides both cite advice from Education Resource Strategies (ERS), a think tank whose staff mostly consists of former Bain and Company corporate advisors. The budget guides attribute those funds to costs for bonus payments, buyouts (and other costs associated with excessing), fingerprinting/background checks, and any other “costs associated with teachers.” These are not costs that can be attributed to the local school. They are, instead, central costs resulting from implementation of seven years of failed policies management policies that have created high teacher turnover and caused more than 7,400 black students to leave DCPS since 2007.

Charging the local school for failed management policies is equivalent to stealing money from the victim of embezzlement in order to continue to fund that white collar crime. It’s time for the public to demand an end to mismanagement in the name of reform.


Mayor Gray: Explain Your CTE Plans for Spingarn and Phelps
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

Mayor Gray, in your speech to the parents and teachers who participated in the mayor’s DCPS budget hearing on March 20, you stated that Spingarn HS will become the home of six or seven Career and Technical Education Academies. Unfortunately, you left before public testimony began.

Your statement raises questions. Right behind Spingarn is Phelps ACE HS. Phelps, which was modernized and reopened in 2008, has the capacity for over six hundred students, yet is projected for only 354 students in SY15, a decrease of 57 from the SY2014 projection. DC OSSE’s October 2013 enrollment audit shows only 319 students in Phelps’ four grades. That’s only nineteen more students than the three hundred that were enrolled in 2010-11 in grades 9-11, when I taught at Phelps. Grade 12 was added in 2011-12.

Why are you projecting six or seven CTE academies in Spingarn, when the chancellor is unable to achieve an enrollment increase in Phelps, which is right next door? Are you planning to transfer Phelps or Spingarn to charter operators? Are you planning to hold the chancellor accountable for failing to require the principal of Phelps to bring that school to its full CTE potential? I have reported these issues to you previously, when I was the Washington Teachers Union building representative at Phelps. What have you done to resolve this problem in a manner that does not blame teachers or students? Please provide the public with your actual plans for Spingarn and Phelps.


FEMS, DC’s Achilles Heel
Anne Renshaw, President, DC Federation of Citizens Associations,

At a recent city council public hearing, the great debate resumed over how to repair the beleaguered Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) which has become our Government’s Achilles Heel. Noting the steady decline of indispensable services provided by FEMS over the decades, the DC Federation of Citizens Associations (Citizens Federation) once again backed a stand-alone EMS Department (a “Third Service” with police and fire rounding out this troika of DC emergency response agencies). As a compromise, the Citizens Federation also proposed the consideration of a separate and independent EMS Bureau, with its own budget and personnel authority, under a shared roof with DC Fire.

In May 1998, the DC Health Policy Council recommended “establishing a free standing Emergency Medical Services Department,” noting that “[the] primary mission of Emergency Medical Services is to save lives.” Fast forward to August 2006, when former Mayor Adrian Fenty stated, in a Washington Times article, that he “would create a Department of Emergency Medical Services and end the city’s fifteen-year-old troubled effort to combine EMS operations with those of the fire department.” However, the 2007 Rosenbaum Task Force {and subsequent EMS fix-it committees} came and went without permanent improvements to our EMS function. Even the council’s “Emergency Medical Services Improvement Act of 2008,” which enhanced the role of FEMS’ Medical Director, did not end the debate. The “Dual-Role/Cross-Training” strategy, with DC firefighters (FFs) required to be emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, won out over a “Third Service” or independent EMS Bureau. As a result, fire service professionals, in too many cases, were compelled to “do a job” they would rather not perform.

The overwhelming majority of both FFs and EMSers are gratifyingly capable individuals. That said, the following significant EMS management deficiencies in delivering this vital function still require substantial improvement or adjustment before more “missteps” occur which imperil the public’s safety: vehicle and paramedic shortages, problematic response times, fleet maintenance troubles, leadership and morale crises, pay parity/equal pay predicaments, training academy drawbacks, paramedic recruitment and retention complications and deployment tactic challenges. Also, the absence of stated short and long-term EMS plans, plus the long-overdue professional and objective evaluation of paramedic engine company (PEC) concept’s efficacy, is an additional significant shortcoming.

Mayoral contenders may say that they want to get to the bottom of the city’s flawed emergency medical service system. But what will these candidates actually do, if elected, perpetuate the current status quo or, based on decades of learned lessons, bravely pursue alternative models as recommended by several past analytical reports? DC citizens, the ultimate consumers and financiers of EMS (through considerable taxes), must ask the Mayoral candidates how they will end DC’s ever-continuing EMS conundrum. Unless an EMS restructuring is viewed by our elected leaders as a significant, critical and immediate solution, the EMS Achilles Heel will remain a public safety risk and national embarrassment to whatever administration comes into power.



Strategic Importance of Ethiopia in Africa Panel Discussion, April 1
Susana Baranano,

Join us for a panel discussion on the Strategic Importance of Ethiopia in Africa. Ethiopian tasting, coffee, wine and beer will be served at a speaker receptions. Learn about Ethiopia and its relationships with its surrounding countries: Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. We will highlight internal political, social and economic issues, including how Ethiopians are uniting in a social justice movement. We will also discuss US-Ethiopia relationships, including sister city agreements between Addis Adaba and Gondar and DC and Montgomery County.

The panelists will be Naida Michel Saad, Retired Loan Officer and Project Manager, North Africa Development Programs; Obang Metho, Executive Director of the Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia; Bruce Adams, Director, Office of Community Partnerships, Montgomery County; Ngozi Nmezi, Director, DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs, DC; Dr. Getachew Begashaw, Professor of Economics at W.R. Harper College, Chicago; and Greg Toulmin, Country Program, Coordinator for Ethiopia, The World Bank Group.

Thursday, April 1, 6:00-8:00 p.m., at the National Woman’s Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. Ten dollars for members; fifteen dollars for nonmembers. Reserve by telephone, 232-7363, ext. 3003, or online at or


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)