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May 14, 2014

Trust in DC Authority

Dear Washingtonians:

Jack McKay, below, says that the essence of his dispute with Ed Cowan is their differing degrees of trust in the DC government’s authority. Isn’t that the same dispute that’s being litigated now in District Court, over budget autonomy for, and reduced federal oversight over, the District government? How much trust do you have in the good judgment and honesty of our local government? To run traffic, to run taxes, to run contracting, to run elections, to run schools, to run medical care? Our local politicians say we should trust them, and that we shouldn’t want anyone to exercise oversight over their actions.

Gary Imhoff


The Ward Eight Special Election
Dorothy Brizill,

On July 15, the DC Board of Elections is scheduled to hold a special election for the Ward 8 seat on the State Board of Education previously held by Trayon White, who resigned in March. The DC Board of Elections estimates that it will cost $287,000 to conduct the special election, including the cost of printing ballots, operating two early vote centers from June 30 to July 12, staffing all seventeen precinct sites in the ward on election day, and conducting a public information campaign to inform Ward 8 voters about the special election. Every year since 2011, the District has held at least one citywide special election to fill vacancies in the office of Chairman of the council and At-Large member of the council, as well as special elections in the ward to replace a ward councilmember and ward representative to the State Board of Education.

In addition to the cost of conducting a special election (more than $1.2 million for a citywide special election and $275,000 for a ward race), a growing concern must be the low voter turnout. In the last two citywide special elections in 2013 and 2011, only 11.32 percent and 10.36 percent, respectively, of all registered voters participated in the election. (The citywide special election in 2012 was to fill the vacancy created by Kwame Brown’s resignation as Chairman of the council. Because of the timing of Brown’s resignation, the special election to fill the vacancy was held at the same time as the scheduled general election, on November 6.) Voter turnout in those special elections was even worse in Ward 8, where only 4.79 percent and 6.12 percent voted in 2013 and 2011, respectively. In addition, it should be noted that in 2011 the special election was for an at-large seat on the council and to fill the vacant Ward 8 school board seat that resulted from the death of William Lockridge. Given the largely low profile of most of the current competing school board candidates and the fact that the Ward 8 special election will occur during the summer, it is very likely that the voter turnout will be extremely low, probably less that five percent.

In recent weeks, the BOE has suggested that the District explore other options with regard to conducting special elections. With regard to the Ward 8 school board vacancy, the BOE initially sought to postpone the election beyond the mandated 114 days, to include it in the November general election. As an alternative, the BOE proposed a mail-in ballot. Both alternatives would have required council approval, and Marion Barry, the Ward 8 councilmember, rejected them both, and insisted both on the July 15 date and that the election be conducted with the polls opened in the ward. Although it is too late to change how the July 15 special election will be conducted, now is a good time to begin a public discussion of alternative methods for conducting special elections in the District with the goal of lowering costs and increasing voter turnout. For example, can mail or Internet voting be instituting while protected voting integrity, can special elections be postponed until the next regularly scheduled election, can voting be held at strategically placed voting centers rather than by opening all precincts in a ward or all 143 precincts in the city, etc.


Faux Democrats Gentrify Minds
Perry Redd,

For some time, I’ve been speaking uncomfortable truths to my people — Black people. The end result so far, of course, leaves me empty because they keep doing the same thing that keeps them powerless. My hometown, DC, is slowly and consistently slipping away. As cordial as I try to be about this theft, the sinful condition of gentrification is under my skin. Gentrification is a shift in an urban community toward wealthier residents. It often spurs economic development by attracting businesses and lowers crime rates. Both are positives, but they also leads to a population shift in which poorer residents are priced out of their homes by wealthier newcomers.

Many castigate my admonition, but history will prove me right, accurate and true. At least 51 percent of the residents in DC are black, yet, seven of its thirteen legislators are white. If you think for one moment that white people legislate in the best interests of blacks in America, you are certifiably insane. America’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, and voting rights validates my charge. Of those thirteen members on the DC council, twelve of them — yes, twelve — are Democrats. My native city, a one-party town, scores a zero for a political future of racial inclusion.

The latest ploy to prevent any other political party from significance in DC politics will be enshrined in two bills, if passed (as Gary Imhoff wrote in themail on April 13). Democratic councilmembers Jack Evans, David Grosso, David Catania, Tommy Wells, Jack Evans, and Mary Cheh are the bills’ sponsors and cosponsors. Since 74 percent of DC’s electorate is Democrats, in “nonpartisan” primaries the nominees of all other political parties, including Republican, Statehood-Green, Libertarian, or other, would be selected by Democrats. Plus, if passed, the proposed Mayoral Debate Commission would give (Democratic) incumbents the power to determine which groups could hold candidates forums, and when, and set candidates’ eligibility criteria. Democrats marginalized my campaign when I ran for a DC council at-large seat in 2013. Oh, did I fail to mention that all of the bills’ sponsors and cosponsors are white? This proposed legislation is simply gentrification by way of politics.

Imhoff also points out that The Home Rule Act tried to ensure at least two seats on the council would represent minority parties and also allow a party to nominate only one person for those two at-large seats elected in each two-year cycle. So the latest fashion involves Democrats jumping ship, pretending they’re Independents. Who would subvert the democratic process like that? Corrupt Democrats would. What will we — DC residents — do to ensure democracy in DC? Let’s start by stopping these faux Democrats.


Is DC Becoming a Traffic Enforcement Police State, Continued
Jack McKay,

Mr. Cowan [themail, May 7] has much more trust in DC authority than I do. Take that 25 mph speed limit down at the bottom of the K Street underpass. That’s not set by any actual traffic safety analysis. It’s set by act of District council, many years ago. Why 25 mph, rather than 20, or 30, or whatever? Nobody knows; it’s just there. Is it appropriate for that underpass? Of course not, and if the Metropolitan Police Department had any sense of justice, the speed camera would be out on K Street, where there are actual pedestrians and cross traffic, and not down in the underpass, hidden behind a support pillar, where there are none.

For amusement, people should read the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) claim that there is a “safety nexus” justifying this speed camera. Among other things, the “safety nexus” document notes that there is a university nearby — Georgetown or George Washington, they’re quite confused as to which — and this proximity is presented as an argument for that speed camera promoting safety. What does the university, whichever one it is, have to do with the depths of that underpass, where there are no sidewalks, no pedestrians, no parked cars, no cross traffic, and a solid barrier separating eastbound from westbound traffic? Nothing whatsoever. But that’s how desperately DDOT has to strain to find some safety rationale for the speed camera. They don’t attempt to justify the speed limit, simply assuming, like Mr. Cowan, that it must have something to do with safety.

As for my failure to come to a complete stop, that was an error caused by my car dropping down from the parking-lot-type speed bump (not hump) immediately preceding the stop sign, just as my foot was coming down on the brakes, causing my mistake. There just happened to be an eager-beaver cop right behind me at the time. This officer knows nothing of my forty years of zero-moving-violation driving in DC, nor that I’m a pokey oldster who has to hug the right lane on Rock Creek Parkway, and must ignore the tailgaters trying to make me speed up on Beach Drive, as I drive at the posted speed limits. I’m the guy who is careful to stop before the sidewalk upon exiting an alley, as the law requires, and as practically nobody does. I wish I could seat that cop right beside me to see that he’s picked on one of the most careful drivers in the District, treating me as if I were a chronic stop-sign-runner, not just an oldster who inadvertently stumbled, just once, at a stop.

I don’t care about the fines, which are insignificant. I care about the injustice. The MPD ought to care about injustice, too, and should refrain from putting speed cameras at locations where the posted speed limit is substantially lower than any actual safe speed. Unfortunately, the District has become addicted to the revenues from these speed cameras, and is happy to have the MPD serve as their collection agency.


DC DMV Appointments for Limited Purpose Credentials Are Free
Vanessa E. Newton,

On May 1, the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles (DC DMV) began issuing Limited Purpose driver licenses and identification cards. DC residents who want to obtain a Limited Purpose credential are required to make an appointment. The appointments are free of charge and can be scheduled online. If DC residents are told that they need to pay a fee to schedule an appointment, then they should immediately report the suspected fraud by calling 911.


InTowner May Issue Content Uploaded
P.L. Wolff,

The May 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 an endangered synagogue mural in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood.

This month’s lead stories include the following: 1) “Developer’s Plan for Historic McMillan Park Site Vigorously Questioned During Hearings; Serious Community Issues Said Unaddressed”; 2) “New Group to Support DC Archives”; 3) “Mid-City Artists Open Studios Spring Event Set for Weekend of May 17-18.” 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. On the Community News page will be found several short items of neighborhood interest, including information about a public meeting on the 19th to learn about plans for the Renovation of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Central Library; this is a follow-up to last month’s public forum to brainstorm ideas to be incorporated into the rehabilitated historic Mies van der Rohe-designed library building.

Our editorial, titled “Again Police Overreact and Misapply the Law,” revisits an issue we have addressed a few times in the past going all the way back to our “Chardonnay Lady” editorial from the last century. Your thoughts will be most welcome and can be sent by clicking the comment link at the bottom of the web page or by E-mail to newsroom[at] The next issue PDF will publish early in the morning of June 13 (the second Friday of the month as usual). For more information, either send an E-mail to newsroom[at] or call 234-1717.



MLK Library Renovation Community Forum, May 19
Archie Williams,

Please join your friends, neighbors and library users as the architect team of Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo presents preliminary designs for the renovation of MLK Library. The community is invited to offer feedback and we look forward to your participation. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Monday, May 19, at 6:00 p.m.


Speed Dating for Democrats, May 20
Susana Baranano,

The Woman’s National Democratic Club hosts a speed dating evening with Professionals in the City. Join us for a fun evening of meeting new singles, enjoying great drinks and appetizers in a comfortable and relaxed setting, and nonstop laughter. At this event, you’ll enjoy speed dating, but with a twist. Every few minutes, we will have you rotate and meet someone new. Each time you rotate, we will announce a question that you and your “date” can talk about for those few minutes. After the few minutes are up, we will send you to the next round with a new single to meet, and a new question. After the event, send messages to whom you liked through Professionals in the City exclusive online system.

Tuesday, May 20, 6:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Check in is at 6:30 p.m., speed dating begins at 7:20 p.m. $35 for nonmembers, with light appetizers, cash bar. At the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. Register at,, or by telephone at 232-7363, ext. 3003.


Deborah Simmons Speaks to DC Federation of Citizens Associations, May 20
Anne Renshaw,

Deborah Simmons, The Washington Times’ well-known opinion-writer, will address the DC Federation of Citizens Associations on May 20 on the upcoming mayoral race, front-burner election issues, and candidates’ positions, and she will possibly forecast the next City Hall administration. The Citizens Federation’s Assembly, which is open to the public, will be held at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, 11th Floor South (Room 1114) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The presentation, including audience Q&A, will be held at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, Room 1114. For further information, contact Anne Renshaw, President, DC Citizens Federation,


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