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April 20, 2014

Easter Egg Downhill Roll

Dear Celebrants:

African American Family Day was today, April 21, Easter Monday, at the National Zoo. As in several recent years, the pleasant day of picnics and zoo sightseeing ended with a gang fight. Some years are worse than others. In 2000, a sixteen-year-old shot seven youths. In 2011, a gang of teens stabbed a boy repeatedly. Today, one or more youngsters shot two teens.

The historical photographs of African American Family Day, starting in 1891, show well-dressed men, women, and children, still in their Easter finery, genteelly celebrating with an Easter egg roll down a hill in the zoo.

There’s no lesson to be learned here. There’s only regret.

Gary Imhoff


Gray’s Lame Duck Period
Dorothy Brizill,

The change in the District’s primary date from September to April has resulted in an unprecedented lengthy lame duck period in District government. Vincent Gray will continue to serve as mayor for an additional nine months after losing his bid for reelection in the primary. During the lame duck period, until a new mayor takes office in January, the business of government will go on, and Mayor Gray and his administration will be making critical decisions regarding the District’s budget and finances, the appointment of department and agency heads, and the filling of vacancies on boards and commissions.

On April 3, Mayor Gray transmitted his Fiscal Year 2015 proposed budget and financial plan of $10.7 billion to the council, While it is a budget and plan that Gray’s administration developed, he will not be in office to execute it. In the coming weeks, during the period in which the council will hold hearings on the budget (April 9-May 9), and prior to the council’s final vote on the budget, it is likely that the two leading candidates to succeed Gray as mayor, Muriel Bowser and David Catania, will regard the FY2015 budget as a campaign battleground, and both may try to reshape the budget to reflect their goals and priorities if they are elected mayor.

In addition to budgetary issues, personnel matters will also consume the Gray administration in the remaining months of his term in office. Two key administration officials, Terry Bellamy (DDOT) and Nick Majett (DCRA), have already announced their intention to leave the DC government, and they will certainly be followed by many others. Forgoing the appointment and confirmation process, many vacancies at department and agencies will likely be filled by appointing interim or acting directors, most likely the senior deputies now in place at departments and agencies. Another serious personnel issue during Gray’s lame duck period will be the need to appoint a new Inspector General. On May 19, the term of Charles Willoughby, the District’s current Inspector General, ends. While it is generally acknowledged that Willoughby has been an ineffective, weak IG, the office could be an important, powerful force in the District government. It has a fifteen million dollar budget, and is supposed to play a critical role in the District government through “independent audits, investigations, and inspections to detect and prevent fraud, waste, and mismanagement.” Under District law, Willoughby cannot serve as IG in a holdover capacity beyond May 19, the expiration of his term in office (DC Code 1-301.115a). Moreover, as a result of Bill 15-183, the Inspector General Qualifications Amendment Act of 2003, which was authored by Vincent Orange in an effort to replace Charles Maddox, who was then the IG, District law now requires the IG to be a member of the DC bar for a least seven years (with seven years’ experience in the practice of law) and to be a certified public account in the District of Columbia (with seven years’ experience in the practice of accounting, tax consulting, or financial consulting) prior to being appointed to the position (DC Code 301.115(a). With these stringent requirements, finding an individual who could be a good, effective IG to replace Willoughby will not be easy.

Another serious personnel issue that will need to be addressed during Gray’s lame duck period will be the need to fill vacancies and the expired terms of many members of boards and commissions, although in most instances District law allows board and commission members to serve as holdovers until they are reappointed or replaced. Given the poor performance of the DC Board of Elections during the April primary, serious consideration should be given immediately to replacing the two members of the BOE board whose terms have expired — Deborah Nichols on July 7, 2012, and Devariste Curry on July 7, 2013. In addition, the DC Board of Library Trustees, which is currently in the process of approving a $250 million plan to renovate the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, has three members whose terms on the board expired years ago — President John W. Hill on January 5, 2009, Vice President Bonnie R. Cohen on January 5, 2011, and Myrna Peralta on January 5, 2009. Moreover, Hill’s appointment to the Library Board should be reconsidered because since last fall he has lived in Detroit, where he serves as that city’s chief financial officer. Finally, Betty Ann Kane’s term as chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) ends June 30, 2014. The three-member PSC, which regulates utilities in the District, already has one seat that has been vacant since December 2011, when Rick Morgan resigned. Under District law, Kane can serve as a holdover member of the PSC for 180 days, until she is either reappointed or her replacement is nominated and confirmed.


Small Black Landlords Suffer Under Current Rent Laws in DC
Jacques Chevalier, II,

The next mayor and current city council chairperson must revisit the archaic tenant-landlord regulations and laws that are heavily weighted toward tenants and allow for abuse in DC courts. We black landlords have small properties and smaller margins of profits, and we typically endure three to six months of no rental payments, restrictions, court delays, and discriminatory treatment, while the 83 percent of black tenants in Landlord and Tenant Court skate and laugh at us by not paying rent. Of course the pro bono attorneys from the Legal Aid Society enjoy stealing our finances dry to satisfy the liberals wanting to protect the professional tenants in DC.

Someone in the District Building needs to rescue us and change the laws to ensure quick resolution for all. We need to amend the one-sided laws that favor tenants who regularly stop paying landlords rent. While landlords are not paid, we must still pay our debt service, taxes, and maintenance. Financial protection has been eradicated for landlords and reform now is warranted. Far too many black tenants are abusing us daily. Come to court and see the mounds of blacks in the courtroom for yourself if you think I am being racially motivated. The courts have coddled deceitfulness perpetuated by black tenants far too long.


Kathleen Sebelius and CareFirst, a Local Appreciation
Samuel Jordan,

Kathleen Sebelius has submitted her resignation to President Obama and thanked him for the opportunity to have been selected to serve as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human. In some quarters, Sebelius’ departure has been celebrated as confirmation of her incompetence and the alleged disaster that is the Affordable Care Act. In others, Sebelius was the flag-bearer for improved health care for millions and the first major attempt in fifty years to revive the dream of a national health care system comparable to that of other developed nations. But I would like to thank Secretary Sebelius for her inspirational example to DC’s local health care planners, and thank the activists she inspired who kept CareFirst as a nonprofit without a thirty-six million dollar slush fund.

In 2003, CareFirst submitted a petition to the insurance commissioner of the state of Maryland for permission to convert from its nonprofit status to a for-profit entity. The insurer has its headquarters in Owings Mills. CareFirst’s petition was the local entry in the conversion wave that was sweeping the national health insurance industry at the time. According to the script, a large, corporate deep pocket would negotiate a takeover of the “Blue” on the condition that the Blue would become a for-profit company. Conversion was the first step.

Approval of the conversion by the governing state insurance commission and legislature and subsequent purchase by the deep pocket corporation was the two-step dance resulting in the effective privatization of the insurer and the shift in its orientation from a company concerned for the well-being of its policy holders to a company concerned about enriching its shareholders and executives. [Finished online at]

In 2001, as insurance commissioner of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius rejected the petition of Kansas Blue Cross Blue Shield (KSBCBS) to convert as the first step in a purchase agreement with Anthem Insurance Company of Indiana (Anthem). A win in Kansas would be added to Anthem’s juggernaut through eight states in which it had successfully taken control of formerly nonprofit Blues companies. Sebelius’ action signaled the “end of the ‘trust-me’ era of nonprofit accountability in health insurance” according to “States of Health” (Volume 11, No. 4, Summer 2002). In that era, the Blues and the deep pockets simply alleged that bigger is better and that with the larger pool of capital represented by the deep pockets, the Blues would be even more secure against financial fluctuations that could threaten the insurer’s solvency.

Sebelius was the first insurance commissioner who successfully challenged Anthem to prove its assertions. With unexpected opposition, KSBCBS/Anthem failed to demonstrate that the conversion and purchase was in the best interests of Kansans. KSBCBS and Anthem were so arrogant in pursuit of the conversion that neither company even had an executive summary describing the proposed deal.

In denying the petition for conversion, Commissioner Sebelius cited research indicating that with every percentage increase in the price of premiums, over four thousand policy holders would lose coverage. Anthem/KSBCBS had announced that premium increases of at least seven percent were projected in addition to the 15-20 percent industry wide increases expected over the following several years. Kansans could have experienced a 22-27 percent increase in health insurance costs. In 2003, then-Governor Sebelius again explained her decision, “Anthem of Indiana’s need for big profits would have subjected the people of Kansas to millions of dollars in additional health insurance premiums.” ( March 6, 2003). She lectured across the country on the need for vigilance and compassion in the conversion process.

When CareFirst submitted its petition for conversion, local advocates, foundations, and health care providers formed CareFirst Watch with the leadership of the DC Appleseed Center. Their mission was to monitor the conversion process for its impact on the area’s health insurance market. CareFirst held 85 percent of market share in the District, Maryland, Delaware and northern Virginia. Outfitted with a $36.0 million slush fund, the company saw no insurmountable obstacles to its conversion and subsequent purchase by WellPoint Healthcare of California.

Health Care Now! (HCN), a charter member of CareFirst Watch studied the conversion process carefully and its impact history over the previous decade. HCN sought a more purposeful advocacy. As its executive director and with the help of HCN members and Congressman Jim Moran of northern Virginia, we organized the Cross Border Coalition to Keep CareFirst Non-Profit. The Grey Panthers, Stand Up! For Democracy in DC, and the Parents of Children’s (Hospital) were among the activists who saw the threat residing in conversion and joined the coalition. Employing the Sebelius model, research showed that with the expected premium increases and WellPoint’s history of very aggressive claim denials, at least fourteen thousand to nineteen thousand policy holders in the District alone would lose their health insurance coverage.

Among its most endearing actions while awaiting the conversion decision, CareFirst threatened Children’s Hospital with loss of its business unless the hospital offered greater discounts in its pricing (the hospital in turn told patient families they might go to Johns Hopkins.); CareFirst then told Children’s families they would have to find a new carrier, while knowing prior existing conditions would disqualify them. It also shushed the DC Council, whose members refused to attend a catered lunch at J.W. Marriott to hear Maryland’s Speaker of the Assembly, Michael Busch, discuss why Maryland would deny conversion. (Imagine if the DC council chair went to Annapolis to discuss a regional crisis and no one listened. Several DC Council members are on CareFirst’s board and committees and may be even more supportive next time. The Maryland legislature imposed a five-year ban on CareFirst conversion petitions. CareFirst announced seven percent premium increases to follow conversion/purchase through its consultant, Accenture, the legatee of disgraced Arthur Andersen. (This strategy was lifted directly from Anthem Indiana’s play book. It discontinued several lines of small group plans in Maryland in anticipation of a more lucrative catalogue of plans; and it offered a nineteen million dollar bonus to CareFirst CEO Bill Jews upon approval of conversion.

HCN caravans took families and very sick children to the Baltimore conversion hearings and helped to persuade the Maryland Insurance Commissioner, Steve Larsen, to follow the Kansas example and reject CareFirst’s petition. DC’s insurance commissioner subsequently concurred. In 2000, health care costs per capita in the United States were $4,550. By 2010, that expense had risen to $8,402 (Kaiser Family Foundation 12.19.2013). Using the Sebelius methodology, District residents saved $63.0-$86.0 million and kept fourteen to nineteen thousand policy holders and household members off the District’s dramatically tattered health care safety net.


InTowner April Issue Content Uploaded
P.L. Wolff,

The April issue content can be viewed 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 about the Force Elementary School in the 1700 block of Massachusetts Avenue and some of its prominent personages.

This month’s lead stories include the following: 1) “Meridian Hill Park and Adjacent Blocks Now Designated as an Historic District”; 2) “Controlling Adams Morgan Nighttime Club Crowds, Enhancing Public Safety Focus of Joint Undertaking Among All Stakeholders”; 3) “Dupont Circle Community Group Fundraiser Success Ensures Further Outreach Growth.” Also to be found on the web site pages are the “Reservations Recommended” and “Food in the ‘Hood” columns, along with the recent real estate sales feature, which will be posted on Tuesday.

On the Community News page will be found several short items of neighborhood interest, including information about what promises to be a fundraiser to benefit the Fund for Kalorama Park (22nd), Wonderland Circus night in Columbia Heights (23rd), a public forum to brainstorm ideas to be incorporated into the rehabilitated Martin Luther King, Jr., library (24th), free concerts at the Church of the Holy City (26th) and at First Baptist Church (27th), both on 16th Street. Our editorial, “Some Post-Primary Election Thoughts; Arrogance and Brushing Off Rent Control,” might just be politically controversial; E-mail to newsroom[at] The next issue PDF will publish early in the morning of May 9 (the second Friday of the month as usual). For more information, either send an E-mail to newsroom[at] or call 234-1717.



CFO DeWitt to Speak to Federation of Citizens Associations, April 22
Anne Renshaw,

DC’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeffrey S. DeWitt will speak on the state of DC’s fiscal health at the Assembly of the DC Citizens Federation. Entitled “DC’s Dollars and Sense,” the public meeting will be held on April 22 from 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church Hall, 2300 Cathedral Avenue, NW, near the Woodley Park Metro on the Red Line. CFO DeWitt left his position as Phoenix finance chief to join the DC government in January, replacing the previous CFO, Natwar M. Gandhi. Mr. DeWitt was selected after a seven-month national search headed by former-mayor Anthony A. Williams and Alice M. Rivlin, past federal budget director.

The Citizens Federation’s interactive Assembly will include a discussion between CFO DeWitt and community leaders about local government spending and DC’s $6.79B proposed budget for FY 2015. Property tax relief, possible tax increases, DC’s estate tax, bond ratings, FY15 “budget-busters” and DC budget autonomy will be various topics under scrutiny during the April 22nd Assembly session.

All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Avenue, NW (off Connecticut Avenue), is near the Woodley Park Metro on the Red Line. The front door church entrance will open at 6:30 p.m. Parking is allowed on Connecticut Avenue starting at 6:30 p.m. Mr. DeWitt’s presentation will begin at approximately 7:15 p.m., following opening announcements. For further information, contact Anne Renshaw, Citizens Federation President, at


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