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July 16, 2014


Dear Washingtonians:

Three articles to add to your must-read list: Jonetta Rose Barras, “Mayor Gray’s Legacy Won’t Be His Budget Veto,”; Eve Bratman and Adam Jadhav, in The Atlantic’s City Lab, “How Low-Income Commuters View Cycling,”; and Sandhya Somashekhar’s “Health Survey Gives Government Its First Large-Scale Data on Gay, Bisexual Population CDC Survey on Sexuality,”

Barras opens her article with a blunt assessment, “What was Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) thinking? His decision to veto the DC Council’s 2015 spending plans was just about the lamest act of any lame-duck politician in recent local history.” Further, “Gray called himself ‘disappointed’ by the override. That’s likely an understatement. Council members have been riding roughshod over him and his administration since his primary loss. The budget veto may have been his attempt to reclaim authority. But a smart politician would have used a more effective, less embarrassing way to reassert influence.”

Bratman and Jadhav are both bicycling enthusiasts who want to increase the number of people who bike. But they are also honest researchers. “With a $29 budget and a team of American University students, we surveyed more than 260 commuters in two surveys in 2012 and 2013. Below are three of our key findings.” First, “poor respondents spent more time commuting,” meaning that they had longer commuting times, largely because of having to take public transportation. Second, and most controversially among bicycling promoters, “Most people, poor and non-poor alike, still want cars. In 2012, survey participants ranked car ownership as the most desirable among nine transportation mode options. In 2013, 55 percent of respondents strongly agreed with the statement ‘I want to own my own car.’ Even increasingly popular car-sharing was not satisfying for respondents; when asked if they would ‘rather share a car through a program like Zipcar or Car2Go than own my own vehicle,’ 35 percent strongly disagreed. Also, 32 percent strongly disagreed with ‘I want a lifestyle where I don’t need to own a car.’” Third, “Cycling just isn’t popular among the urban poor (yet). In 2012, respondents ranked cycling seventh out of nine transport modes, ahead of only taxis and bike sharing.” The comments on the article are largely negative, with pro-bicyling commentators insisting bicycling is the wave of the future and the way to save the earth, and that poor people who think they want to own a car don’t understand their own best interest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did the survey about which Somashekhar reports. “The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual. The overwhelming majority of adults, 96.6 percent, labeled themselves as straight in the 2013 survey. An additional 1.1 percent declined to answer, responded ‘I don’t know the answer’ or said they were ‘something else.’” Again, the comments on this article are largely negative, with a typical gay commentator writing that the number is much too low and that, “I’ll trust my Gaydar over this crap any day.”

Gary Imhoff


Our Dysfunctional City Council
Dorothy Brizill,

At Monday’s legislative session, the city council voted to approve the nominations of Betty Ann Kane and Willie L. Phillips to the Public Service Commission. The vote came despite requests by civic and community leaders that the council postpone any vote on the nominations until the fall. In an open letter all councilmembers, these leaders cited the lack of public notice regarding the June 5 confirmation hearing, the need to evaluate Betty Ann Kane’s seven-year tenure on the PSC, and the need to research and determine whether Phillips, an attorney working at a trade association for electrical utility companies, is eligible to be a member of the PSC under DC Code 34-801. The full text of that open letter is below.

In a July 16 article in the Washington Business Journal, Jeff Clabaugh writes about a new J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey, released in February, and notes that “Pepco Ranks Near Bottom in Customer Satisfaction Survey,” “The survey, which measures customer satisfaction based on power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, communications and customer service, puts Pepco at No. 15 out of 17 East Cost utilities.”


Civic Leaders Request Delay in Council Consideration of PSC Nominations
Dorothy Brizill, DCWatch,; Gerri Adams-Simmons, Federation of Civic Associations; Ann Renshaw, Federation of Citizens Associations; Herb Harris, Consumer Utility Board; Keith Ivey, DC for Democracy; Joslyn Williams, Metropolitan Council, AFL-CIO

On Monday, July 14, the council will hold its final legislative session prior to the summer recess and will consider the nominations of Betty Ann Kane (PR20-812) and Willie L. Phillips (PR20-811) to serve on the Public Service Commission (PSC). A coalition of civic and community leaders and organizations (including the Federation of Civic Associations, the Federation of Citizens Associations, the Consumer Utility Board, DCWatch, DC for Democracy, and the Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO) is reaching out to you at this late date to inform you about the troubling special circumstances surrounding these two nominations and to enlist your support in getting the council to postpone any action of the nominations until the fall.

Within the District government, the Public Service Commission is charged with regulating utilities in the city, including electric, natural gas, and telecommunication companies. With its broad mandate, the work of the PSC touches the life of every resident and business that operates in Washington. Over the past few weeks, several articles have been published in detailing the highly unusual manner in which Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the council’s Government Operations Committee, handled the two nominations to the PSC (,, and In addition, there are several other matters that raise concern:

1) The June 5 confirmation hearing of the council’s Government Operations Committee was held without any public notice, and therefore citizens did not attend or participate in the review of the nominees. The timeline was that the nominations were introduced in the council on Thursday, May 29, and referred to the Government Operations Committee on June 3. The Government Operations Committee held the roundtable hearing on June 5, and on Friday, June 6, the notice of the committee hearing was published in the DC Register. Council records indicate that, for at least the past twenty years, a public hearing has been held for all nominees to the PSC, and that an average of 34.57 days elapsed between the time a nomination was introduced in the council and a confirmation hearing was held, providing adequate time for public notice. Because the work of the PSC touches the lives of every District resident and business, the confirmation process for appointees to the Commission must be particularly open and transparent.

2) In addition to regulating utilities in the District, in the coming months the PSC will have several additional important issues to review, for example, plans for the undergrounding of power lines, the sale of Pepco to Exelon, the city’s land swap with Pepco in order to build the soccer stadium at Buzzards Point, and the need to replace the District’s aged gas infrastructure.

3) At a minimum, the confirmation hearing on Betty Ann Kane must include a review of her seven-year tenure on the PSC and the widely held belief, for example, that she is neither fair not objective with regard to Pepco-related matters. And the confirmation of Phillips must allow for a review of his professional work as an attorney representing utilities. Since 2010, Phillips has been a senior attorney at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a trade association of electric utility companies including Pepco. He has been the attorney of record representing NERC’s membership before various regulatory bodies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). DC Code 34-801 details the criteria for appointment to the PSC. It states that “a person shall not be eligible for appointment as a commissioner if the person, at any time during the 5 years preceding appointment, personally served as an officer, director, owner, manager, partner, or legal representative of a public utility, affiliate, or direct competitor of a public utility.” At the very least, there should be a thorough review of Phillips’ tenure at NERC and a determination made as to whether he is eligible to serve on the PSC under this provision of the Code.

Civic and community leaders are especially concerned regarding the council process and review of the nominations, and ask for a postponement of any council action on the appointments until the fall, after the summer recess.


InTowner July Issue Content Uploaded
P.L. Wolff,

The July 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 intriguingly titled, “What Does the ‘Washington Post March’ Have to Do with the Embassy of Peru?”

This month’s lead stories include the following: 1) “ABC Board Issues New Rules Modifying and Extending Adams Morgan Liquor License Moratorium by Three Years”; 2) “Dupont Circle’s Stead Park Athletic Field Redevelopment Soon to Start, Further Plans for Park’s Rehab Endorsed by Neighbors” — along with a special updating report that raises DC agency competency issues; 3) “Gleaming New Safeway Store Opens in Petworth.” In addition to the lead stories, on the Community News page will be found a report titled “Historic Carnegie Library Redevelopment Planning Underway.” Also to be found on the web site pages are the “Reservations Recommended” and “Food in the ‘Hood” columns. The recent real estate sales feature will be updated within 24 hours.

The title of our editorial, “Bicycle Riding on Neighborhood Sidewalks and More: What Can be Done?” speaks for itself. Your thoughts will be E-mail to newsroom[at] The next issue PDF will publish early in the morning of August 8 (the second Friday of the month as usual). For more information, either send an E-mail to newsroom[at] or call 234-1717.


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