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July 6, 2014


Dear Washingtonians:

In August 2013, Courtland Milloy wrote a laudatory review ( of Ron Moten’s self congratulatory and self justifying self published autobiography, Drinking Muddy Water. Milloy wrote then that, “So far, neither Moten nor [Jauhar] Abraham has been accused of wrongdoing. If anything, city officials have ended up looking incompetent for failing to provide oversight.” Milloy clearly sides with Peaceoholics in their dispute with the city over Moten’s and Abraham’s mishandling and misappropriation of city grant funds. He ends the review with a quote from Moten, “If the city auditors want to go through my books again, they can start with the one I wrote. . . . Go line by line about the politicians. That’s where they’ll find the malfeasance and corruption.”

But the story didn’t end in 2013. On July 1 of this year, Judge Brian Holman upheld “the District’s claims that Peaceoholics and Abraham improperly diverted, for personal unauthorized uses, District grant funds, which were intended to support youth anti-violence services, and [held] them liable for the full amount of damages that the District sought,” He entered a default judgment against Abraham and the Peaceoholics of $638,989. Moten’s lawyer now claims that Moten had nothing to do with Peaceoholics’ finances, even though he held the title of Chief Financial Officer, and that he looks forward to going to trial.


Streetcars are a fad that not even all the cool kids support. Emily Washington, on the Market Urbanism site, lays out bicyclists’ case against streetcar lines in ”DC Streetcar: Worse than Nothing,” “Earlier this spring, I was in a bike accident that cemented my opposition to DC’s streetcar. Because the streetcar tracks cover the right two-thirds of H Street’s right-hand lanes, bicyclists typically ride between the two tracks. This creates a situation in which the sudden need to swerve or a brief loss of concentration puts cyclists at a risk of catching their front tire in the track, causing an over-the-handlebars accident when the front wheel comes to a sudden stop. In Toronto, streetcar tracks are a factor in nearly one-third of serious bicycle accidents. While I can say I’ll now go to great lengths to avoid riding on H Street, DC’s lack of good east-west bike routes make it unrealistic to expect all cyclists to avoid the streetcar tracks. Avoiding tracks will be much more difficult for cyclists under DDOT’s plan to eventually construct 22 miles of tracks. Aside from creating a hazard for cyclists, this streetcar will only provide effective transportation for people visiting H Street retail destinations from the adjacent residential neighborhoods. It does not connect residential neighborhoods to job centers.”


Here’s another entry in the bad idea contest, as described by Mike DeBonis in The Washington Post: “In order to send a don’t-tread-on-us message to Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), sponsor of the budget amendment overturning DC’s marijuana decriminalization law, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and DC Vote are urging city residents to ditch their Ocean City plans and head instead to Rehoboth, Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, even Ocean City, NJ — anywhere but Maryland’s 1st Congressional District,” Representative Harris’ response is included in the Associated Press’ version of this story: “The nonprofit group DC Vote called for a boycott of all vacation spots in Harris’ district, including popular Ocean City. Harris, a Republican, says city residents ‘know better’ than to boycott his district. He says spending the weekend on the family friendly Eastern Shore is more important than increasing drug use by teenagers in Washington,” Does anyone think this boycott will be successful?


In the continuing saga of the shrinkage of local news coverage of the District, the “We Love DC” web site has announced that it will stop posting new stories by late fall,

Gary Imhoff


Ruben Castaneda and The Washington Post
Dorothy Brizill,

Last week, a book by former Washington Post reporter Ruben Castaneda was released, S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in DC. An excerpt was published in Politico,, “I Was a Washington Post Reporter. And a Crack Addict.” The autobiographical book chronicles Castaneda’s work at the Post as a night police/crime reporter in the District in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when Washington was dubbed the murder capital of the US (for example there were 434 homicides in 1989; most were drug related). The book details how drugs and violence overwhelmed the city during that period and also tells the personal story of Castaneda, who was an alcoholic and drug addict even before the Post recruited him from the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in 1989. Castaneda openly acknowledges that, as a Post reporter, he frequently wrote about how drugs and drug violence were overwhelming the city while he was at the same time drunk or riding a crack high.

In a Washington Post article in December 2007 simply titled “Cracked,”, Castaneda detailed how his addictions affected his work as a reporter, “During the previous three months, I had called in sick to work ten times. That’s a lot when you are part of a skeleton night crew of two editors and two reporters. That fall, I dragged myself in for my shifts, though I was in no condition to work because I’d binged on rock during the afternoon, then slammed down two or three gin-and-tonics to take off the edge. My eyes were bloodshot, my clothes were disheveled, and I often sported a day-old growth of beard.” Castaneda’s account is especially disturbing to anyone who lived or worked in the city during that period, particularly in the many inner-city neighborhoods that were totally devastated by the drug epidemic. Castaneda was a Post reporter who was assigned to report objectively on drugs and crime in the District while he was a customer of the very drug dealers and prostitutes who citizens and community leaders were organizing to fight.

Castaneda has written a revealing and self-critical book to cash in on his sordid past, but it is troubling that, to date, the management of the Post has remained silent. Castaneda describes how he would come to work disheveled, barely coherent, and reeking of alcohol. What did his editors and coworkers know about his addictions, and when did they know it. Did they simply look away and fail to acknowledge their own ethical conflicts in having one of their leading crime beat reporters writing articles about drugs, violence, and prostitution in the District while actively using crack and prostitutes himself? DC residents are owed an apology or, at the very least, an explanation from the Washington Post.


To the State Board of Education, re “Competency-Based Learning”
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

The announcement of the SBOE’ July 9 Summit on Graduation Requirements and Competency-Based Learning (CBL) states that the proposed changes in the graduation requirements, diplomas, and replacement of Carnegie units with competency based “units” contains sweeping generalizations, but no specifics, and assertions of fact with no supporting evidence.

The “SBOE seeks broad public discussion” of these proposals, especially the very radical change that “competency” credits would bring about, but after one year, the SBOE, including its “Policy and Research” section, has yet to provide the public with the evidence of the effectiveness of this radical change.

Requests: Please send me, and post on the DC SBOE web site: 1) a list of the specific “skills and knowledge beyond the traditional core subjects” that these proposed changes, including CB, will “help ensure that students [will] gain.” 2) A list of all studies and advice of experts that led you to conclude that CBL “will form a foundation for . . . encouraging personalized, deeper learning [and] for improving high schools.” 3) Evidence of improved student achievement and graduation numbers in socio-economically similar schools systems. 4) Studies and testimony and advice of experts arguing that the adoption of CBL would have a potentially negative effect on student learning. 5) An explanation of how CBL’s use of “personalized . . . learning,” which is a euphemism for online instruction, will improve student achievement more than relying on online instruction.

The SBOE web site that lists the proposed changes to the graduation requirements and credit unit requirements contains the following statement: “This revised set of graduation requirements were (sic) developed at the request of the State Superintendent of Education and reflect the ideas received from hundreds of educators, students, parents, community groups, the District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter school leaders, and experts,” Please post on the SBOE web site all of the comments “received from hundreds of educators, students, parents, community groups, the District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter school leaders, and experts” that were submitted to the SBOE on the subject of competency-based learning. I am looking forward to you positive reply and confident that you don’t think that public information should be withheld from the public.


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