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Last updated 25 June 1998

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If you're any darned good at all Your National Capital City needs you.


Get Netscape, Okay?
Otherwise you're missing out, bigtime. And you should only have the best.
Well, blimey, I got listed in Slate.

SECTION 8 The Congress shall have Power .... (17)To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;
-And;
(18) To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
      - Constitution of the United States

Other Voices, Other Visions are here.

Please see the new Washington Metropolitan Police Department Page! Following reforms and investigations in and of the District Police.


Welcome to the Earth Operations Central Washington, DC Page!
Cherry Blossoms Surround the Washington Monument
The Jefferson Memorial Across a Blossom-ringed Tidal Basin.

The National Mall.
The Japanese Cherry Trees.

Azaleas are in bloom and flowers are everywhere.


Welcome to the Nation's Capital!
Watch your step.
And even more, watch your back.

Welcome to Washington. You've always wanted to come here, and now here you are! Or maybe you're here.


Happy New Year!

1 January 1998

We're so glad 1997 has ended. It was a terrible year for Washington DC, in so very many ways. It may go down in local history as The Year Things Began To Change.

1997, among other things, saw Mayor Marion Barry largely stripped of power in the City of Washington. As part of a bailout package from the Congress, the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority "Control Board" received the power to hire and fire in nine essential agencies, the Police Department (already under the Control Board's authority), Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, Public Works, Administrative Services, Corrections, Human Services, Health, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Employment Services, Housing and Community Development, and the Public Schools (already under the Control Board's authority). The Federal government agreed to pick up the tab on the staggering unfunded-mandate Pensions Fund for District government employees, and agreed to assume many of the responsiblities which would ordinarily fall not on a city, but on the state within which the city lay. This included an assumption of control over Lorton Reformatory, and an assumption of a much-greater share of Medicaid expenses.

The Federal government, as part of this District Revitalization Act, also commanded the Control Board to procure the services of management consultants, who were to have a 90-day period to assess the strengths and weaknesses of all aspects of the nine agencies now under the aegis of the Control Board. The management consultants found a cesspool of incompetence, infrastruture deterioration, mismanagement and in many places, the appearance of pervasive corruption.

In few places was the appearance of corruption, infrastructure deterioration, disarray of process, and managerial incompetence, so dismayingly revealed as in the Metropolitan Police Department. While crime, and even murder, declined greatly in Washington over the last year, this is seen as a mere conformance with a nationwide trend, which is mostly credited to the robust economy. In 1997 we saw reports from the management-consultants and from other sources which showed a police-department which had almost no inventory control in the evidence department, where only one out of ten officers made a single arrest or wrote a single ticket in any given year, where at one point in time over 80 police vehicles "could not be found", where one third of the vehicles were in dire need of replacement, and had working telecommunications in only one half of the vehicles; where an overtime-scamming scandal exploded from the ranks of the Homicide division to the very top of the department, where police chief Larry Soulsby resigned after Federal agents arrested his room-mate for embezzlement of police funds and extortion of married gay men.

Add to this recent disclosures of a corruption-riddled Water-works authority, where workers on city time used city equipment to do private business, regularly, and the whole city reflects an image not dissimilar to that of Zaire under Mobutu.

But it's not all corruption - a great deal of it is just incompetence, and an institutionalized culture of "not making waves". In some cases, this has allowed millions in potential revenue to go uncollected by the city's regulatory agency. In some cases, it's dangerous; it was also revealed this year that over half of the city's day-care and child-care facilities were operating without licenses. Incompetence in the housing and public-health authorities caused the Federal government to suspend payments to the city for the third time, when the city was unable to demonstrate where previous payments had gone. Simple mismanagement almost turned hundreds of sick people out of their houses at the start of winter. The City Administrator and a court-appointed receiver of the Child Welfare department both walked off of the job.

And the whole latter half of the year, as evidence came to light which exposed the rotting house of cards called the government of the District of Columbia, the man who had presided over the decay, Mayor Marion Barry, as he was stripped of the power to further wreck the place, complained loudly about the "rape of democracy".

There were a few good points. The District now has its first female Chief of Police, Sonya Proctor. The Petworth neighborhood, due to changes in investigative techniques and new attention to classification procedures in the office of the Medical Examiner, now stands revealed as the stalking ground of a serial killer. This is actually a good thing because now the residents are on alert, and the police will approach this problem from the right angle. Another good point about Petworth, Metrorail subway construction has been completed in the neighborhood, and soon it will be restored from its present warzone jumble of closed shops, destroyed streetfronts, and impassible trenched pavement.

Also useful, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has started dispensing monies again, however it's going straight to developers and to a receivership established to renew some of the city's worst eyesore properties. The police have received a vast cash-infusion of Federal money, and new cruisers are all over the place. Police presence across the entire city has increased dramatically since the orders went out to get cops out of offices and onto the streets. The District's schools, which were delayed in opening by weeks due to unsafe conditions, finally reopened after a settlement in an ongoing lawsuit was arranged, mostly to the satisfaction of all.

Saving the best for last, the DCFRA also finally selected a City Manager, a top-flight self-styled "dragon lady" from Texas, one Dr. Camille Cates Barnette. Her exemplary credentials and awesome experience will be sorely tested starting roughly 15 January, when she officially takes her place at the helm of city management. As to police corruption, not only is the department's internal-affairs division looking into it, but so is the US Attorney General's office and the DC Council. There is also a newly-appointed DC Inspector General due to start work on 15 January. Mr. E. Barett Prettyman Jr, a man of impeccable character and a lifetime of experience, presently with the top-flight lawfirm of Hogan and Hartson, has served as special investigator for the White House and for Congress and is expected to have quite an impact. An elderly but active man, he has stated that he does not intend to serve for more than a year. He has been given broad latitude by the Control Board to expand his office as may be required.

Acting Chief of Police Sonya T. Proctor has gone on record as stating that she intends to give her full support to any effort to restore citizen confidence in the Metropolitan Police Department.

As of now, the District of Columbia is in a period best described as "the calm before the storm".

Over the last year, the population of the District proper dropped by a net-loss of some 10,300 persons. Ordinarily this would not be cause for great concern, however, this is believed to represent the net-loss to the District of some 5200 households, a great decrease in the tax base. Washington's population, which held steady at about 650,000 throughout the 80s, has suffered a population decline of approximately one-sixth over the past seven years. While the rest of the region has experienced a robust economy compared to the nation at-large, and continued population growth, the District has been increasingly abandoned by the middle classes. During the late 1960s through the 1970s, for example, the District lost some 180,000 persons, mostly through the flight-to-the-suburbs of the once-large black middle-class.

Interestingly, over the last year, home sales have risen, though increasingly these sales are to whites, and increasingly to childless professional couples. These persons would be less concerned than would be families, regarding a failing infrastructure, the lack of trustworthy public education, or a lack of city services.

As city services are restored through management reforms, as the schools are brought back up to (or beyond) national standards, as the infrastructure is rebuilt, perhaps Washington will again experience population growth... but as things now stand, fewer people are now in town to pay the bills for what must be done to bring the city back up to speed.


Control Board Announces Projects Decision
269 Projects for $185 Million
Personnel, Contracting, Technology, Assets-Management Top List

On Monday, 5 January 1998, the DRFRA Control Board will send Congress their action plan for implimenting the reforms mandated by the District Revitalization Act and other actions of Congress. This is a slightly higher level of spending than had been previously proposed. After a series of meetings, the previous figure of $125 millions was revised upwards. This higher figure should stil allow the city to make ample headway on debt-retirements.

The District Revitalization Act required that the Control Board hire management-consultants and give them 90 days to investigate and assess management and other practices in the nine agencies stripped from the control of Mayor Marion Barry. Those reports inspired widespread dismay, fear and loathing. The Control Board was given another 90 days to devise a reform strategy, and report to Congress on their intended plan of action.

One primary failure seen throughout the District, in particular in the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Metropolitan Police Department, has been antiquated or dysfunctional information-systems. Rapid deployment and integration of these systems is rated as a top-priority. Also in the schedule is initiation of a program of reconstruction of the city streets, which have been for many years falling into a state of disrepair hardly better than would have been expected had there been no maintanance at all. Along with the refurbishment of trafficked streets, there is to be at last some attention paid to removing the thousands of dangerous trees that line the streets. Many of these trees were once the pride of the city, but unattended for decades, have begun to destroy the streets and sidewalks, and pose grave risks to persons and property.

There is to be a major stress placed upon those reform activities which can be implimented with little or no cost, secondarily upon those which can be implimented with minimal costs, and finally upon those high-cost actions which are simply unavoidable. A primary focus will be an increase in efficiencies, many of which increases can be achieved through a simple change of policy or routine, at little or no cost. A secondary focus will be on deployment or upgrading of information systems.

As for information systems, my offer of assistance still stands. If the City of Washington would like a full-blown Linux internet host (operating system and applications, drive only), complete with all of the standard features, for the cost of the brand-new Seagate 1.2gig harddrive onto which it's just been installed. Remember, it's all under the Free Software Foundation public license, and it would be perfectly-legal for the DC Government to copy the system wholesale onto whatever computers they might choose. This system includes some added functionalities, such as PostgreSQL database software, a web-crawler/site-indexer, and mailing-list software, and all source code. Interested parties in the DC Government should send me mail. Price? I'll sell it pre-installed on a harddrive, to the DC Government, for a mere one-hundred and fifty dollars. It's all ready to go and can be installed in a DC Government desktop in a few hours, ready to clone itself anyplace the government needs a full-featured and state-of-the-art operating system with no Year 2000 problems. They supply the computer, and I install the drive, and it's ready to go! It's a lot less expensive than would be any other option.


School Days
Court Strikes Down School-Trustee Board
Some District Schools History and Status Reporting

11 January 1998
In the first legal setback to
DCFRA Control Board authority, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit decided that the Control Board had exceeded its authority when it appointed a Board of Trustees to oversee the District's troubled schools and fired, without stating a cause, Schools Superintendent Franklin L. Smith.

However, the Court of Appeals declined to invalidate any actions of the Trustees, and declared a "de-facto validity" of all of those actions. Quoting Judge Laurence H. Silberman (as reported by the Washington Post), "We see no benefits in plunging the District's school system into further chaos by invalidating the actions taken by the Board of Trustees over the past year."

The Court of Appeals also upheld the "quite extraordinary powers" of the DCFRA Control Board, but declared a restriction on those powers. The DCFRA cannot delegate its authority outside of itself.

While the Control Board does have practically unlimited power over the District's schools, they do not have the power to fire the Superintendant at will without stating a cause for the dismissal.

Essentially, the Board of Education is elected by the people of the City of Washington, DC. The Board of Education, in turn, has the power to either act directly, or to delegate their power, but that power can be delegated, by law, only to the Superintendant of Schools. By creating a Board of Trustees under the DCFRA-appointed "chief executive officer/superintendant", the Control Board effectively gave that position control over a body which supposedly has control over him. Judge Silberman wrote, roughly, that the judges could not find any support within the law for such a circular chain of power that would effectively leave the superintendant able to hire or fire himself, becoming in effect a "loose cannon" in charge of children's educations.

The DCFRA Control Board is, as a result of this decision, considering whether or not to simply operate the District schools directly, possibly retaining the appointed trustees as an advisory body rather than as an administrative body. It appears that the chief executive officer/superintendant, retired general Julius W. Becton Jr, will remain in his position of managing authority for the District schools.

Washington DC's schools have long been troubled, with matters finally coming to a head in the last year. While once considered among the finest public school systems in the nation, and still the most expensive urban public-schools in terms of per-student expenditures, in recent years the schools have been plagued by a massive drop-out rate (quite often linked to the District's astounding teen-parenthood rate; even in 1982, 56 percent of all births in the District were to children), ridiculously low standardized-test scores, and a tendency to graduate illiterates due to a combination of a policy of "social advancement" and terrible administration. For instance, in a report issued by Education Week, on the very-standard National Assessment of Educational Progress test, only 20 percent of District students reached or surpassed the standard of proficiency in mathematics, and sciences, only 19 percent reached or surpassed the standard. (However, the District can take some comfort in knowing that the scores in neighboring Maryland were the worst of any State, largely due to the poor showing of students in Baltimore, where the schools are even worse. But Baltimore has one of the lowest per-capita expenditures, and the District's is the highest.) The schools were also the subject of a longstanding lawsuit over school safety, which resulted in the fall-1997 judicial closures of the schools as unsafe. Eventually, an agreement was reached which would provide for better oversight of the children's physical safety and refurbishment of the various school buildings.

The District schools are in possession of some 60 former school buildings which the schools would like to either sell or lease. At the present point in time, there is continual opposition to any sales of these properties. One the one hand, there is a great need for the District schools to generate revenue for their cash-strapped agency, and also there is a need to attempt to forestall the depreciation and deterioration of the properties. Selling the properties "as-is" would tend to generate that revenue. On the other hand, there is the issue of the District abandoning assets, although the physical condition of some of these buildings could call into question whether these buildings are assets or liabilities. On the third hand, many of these building have associated open-acreage which are presently under use as recreational facilities, or which could easily be opened as such once some safety matters were addressed. There is also the issue of leasing these buildings and facilities at a reduced rate, for use as community-oriented facilities such as adult-education or community-group meeting places.

There are also issues over ownership of the land, since many of these schools sit on land which was originally held as Federal-title lands, which were dispensed to the District under a variety of agreements, which in general specified that the land grants to the City were solely for the purpose of education or recreation. Thus it seems that sales of these properties are unlikely, however, the District will almost certainly lease these properties if only to help avert the costs of depreciation.

In the meantime, there remains the issue of restructuring the education system itself. One thing being tried is the time-honored solution of incentives in the form of cash used to attract and retain the highest caliber of administrative and instructorial personnel; and it was recently revealed that this is indeed an approach being tried. In terms of recruitment bonuses, Chief Operating Officer Charles E. Williams received $30,000 and Arlene Ackerman, chief academic officer, received a $25,000 signing bonus. Both are paid $120,000 annually, and both are elegible for performance bonuses in the $30,000 range. Elois Brooks, Ms. Ackerman's deputy, received in addition to her $110,000 annual salary, a $15,000 recruitment bonus. There have been predictable expressions of outrage over the size of both the bonuses and the salaries. If these people can turn the District's schools outrageous decline into a return to even merely-acceptable educational standards, it should be considered money-well-spent and a bargain at that.


Medical Examiner's Office Shake-Up

14 January 1998
Washington's Medical Exmainer's Office has gone through more changes in the last week.

It seems that for over a year, Assistant Medical Examiner Joseph P. Garceau had ben practicing medicine without a license. No matter that his patients were all dead, he was fired on the last day of his one-year probationary period as a new M-E. Garceau is not pleased. He's had one of the heaviest case-loads in the M-E's Office, and is understandably annoyed at the timing of his firing. His medical license was in effect when he was hired away from Alabama where he had served as a medical examiner, but the license expired on 31 December 1996. Thus, for the entire year of 1997, he served without a medical license and there is thus concern that many of the cases he handled might turn out to be invalidated in court. Garceau's position is that the medical license is in effect a technicality and does not in any way reflect on the competence of the physician, but is merely a certification, paperwork. He claims that he submitted the application to the District Department of Health, on time and in good order with the proper fees. He also claims that the District lost both the paperwork and the $300.00 fee. Given the slipshod performance of much of the District Government, this story does have a certain amount of credibility.

This affair is, however, possibly only the tip of an iceberg. In the troubled Medical Examiner's office, Garceau was not alone in practicing forensic medicine without a license. Deputy M-E Luis Sanchez has been working unlicensed since his certificate lapsed on 30 April 1997.

This brings to light yet-another failing of the District's bureaucratic processes. There doesn't seem to be any mechanism in place to either notify the physician that it's time for renewal, nor does there seem to be any mechanism for notification of expiration. One would think that a physician's credentials and licence to operate would be seen as an essential assurance to the patients and the physician's employer. There is certainly a difference between the version of practicing medicine without a license known as "quackery" and the version of practicing medicine without a license known as "oopsie". Yet the possession of a license is an absolute necessity if the public is to have confidence in the doctor. A doctor might be fully educated and technically proficient, yet unlicensed and the public needs to always wonder why that doctor is not licensed to practice. Were they denied a renewal for misconduct? For incompetence? Malpractice? The public deserves to know. The District Government must establish a new set of principles governing the Board of Medicine and their interactions with the Department of Health. When City-employed physicians and other professionals who require certificates are due for a license expiration, they city must be required to notify the physician of the expiration, and if the license expires without renewal, the city should seek out and notify the employing clinic or agency that the license is lapsed, and until certification is re-obtained, all practice must cease. The city should be very aggressive about investigating the status of recipients of their medical licenses, or the medical license, as a state certification of a physician's credentials and fitness for practice, becomes worthless.

Reportedly, this incident has prompted actions by District personnel, who will check the licensing status of all city-employed medical personnel.


Two-Year Turnaround!
Control Board, Reforms Credited
From Staggering Deficit to Slight Surplus

17 January 1998
Improved collections procedures and tax monitoring have combined with a robust economy, dramatically-increased tourism, and an increase in the population of young urban professionals, to leave the District government with a surplus of some tens of millions of dollars.

However, lest anyone get the idea that all is well with the District, it must be noted that some District agencies which experienced operating and contracting problems did not spend as budgeted, accounting for much of the surplus.

At one time, the city was running a deficit of roughly $500 million, and in fact was unable to pay major contractors such as the local power company, which was left so far in arrears that they began to power down traffic-signals and halted street-light maintenance. At one point in time, even the police were left barely functional and unable to secure office supplies.

It must be noted that within anything so ponderous as even a fully-functional bureaucracy, there is an effect akin to inertia. Some agencies which had experienced a near-collapse of their internal organizations, due to assorted layoff, managerial incompetence, and questionable business practices, found themselves unable to function sufficiently well as to be able to contract or spend as expected. The situation is akin to a person being too sick to get out of bed to buy food. The fact that they've got money in their wallet at the end of the month is not an indicator that they've become thrifty, only that they're bedridden.

However, one of the most-dysfunctional of the District's agencies, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, once characterized as byzantine in its internal process flow and dysfunctional to the point of bureaucratic collapse, has been a primary focus of restruturing and streamlining, with a new primary mission of collection of fees and taxes. Management consultant's reports had indicated that there was a vast revenue resource which had not been adequately pursued and this at least has changed. DCFRA Control Board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer has praised Chief Financial Officer Anthony A. Williams as having done an "excellent job".

Interestingly, this comes at a time when a new City Manager, one Camille Cates Barnett, PhD., has arrived and taken the reins of the nine largest city agencies which were stripped, by the Control Board, from Mayor Marion Barry. Her contract is scheduled to run for five years. However, the law which created the Control Board requires that it disband and return control to the elected City authorities once the District has run a balanced budget for four consecutive years - of which 1997 was the first. Presuming that the city can bring itself through the next three years under budget, that will leave Dr. Barnett working for two final years under the authority of whomever will be elected to the positions of Mayor and Council... unless Congress changes the law.

Dr. Barnett, a city manager with an excellent reputation for placing the needs of the citizen/consumer first, arrived in Washington last Thursday, and began a whirlwind tour of the City's facilities. She is reported to have remarked about the age of the facilities, the probable need for extensive repairs and upgrades, and in particular seemed to be distressed over the lack of data communications, specifically the lack of non-wireline data communications between such essential groups as the Department of Public Services and the Office of Emergency Preparedness. She met with various officials and asked the to prepare statements detailing their perceptions of problems areas and weaknesses in their departments.

There has been some considerable debate in Washington, very much a black-majority town, regarding the appropriateness of the Control Board's appointment of a white woman, and a Texan at that, to this position. The Control Board's leadership has stated categorically that race was simply not a consideration. Four of the Control Board's five members are black, and most are of an age where they well remember desiring to be judged by their abilities and the "content of their character, not the color of their skin" as Dr. Martin Luther King once dreamt. Judging from her career in Austin Texas, Dr. Barnett is certainly able, and possessed of quite a bit of character as well.

In the meantime, while budgetary austerity measures have evidently had a salutary effect, there remain many issues which have been to some degree addressed, but which are far from resolved.

First and foremost among these issues is corruption, thought by many to be not only city-wide, but entrenched from top to bottom. Last year saw immense upheavals in the Metropolitan Police Department. Among other things, Police Chief Larry Soulsby resigned under intense fire and scrutiny when his roommate was arrested on charges of attempted extortion of married gay men, and also on charges of misuse of police facilities and embezzlement of funds intended to assist in Witness Protection programs. Acting Chief Sonya Proctor has stated that one of her primary goals is damage-control (or possibly spin-control) addressing the public perception that the MPD is either incompetant or corrupt, and insists that if there is any corruption in the MPD she intends to get to the bottom of it all. In the meantime, a nationwide search for a new Chief of Police continues, and while nobody has in any way suggested any complicity on the part of Acting Chief Proctor (whose record is evidently quite spotless), there is a great deal of sentiment in many sectors regarding the impossibility of any person not-an-outsider being able to adequately address issues of corruption, cronyism or favoritism in the District police.

E. Barrett Prettyman, an attorney of "unquestioned ability and integrity" was, on 14 January 1998, unanimously confirmed as the new Inspector General for the District of Columbia. He has vowed to do everything in his power to root out corruption and waste within the District. He has proposed an extreme expansion (sorely needed by any accounts) of the staff and facilities of the inspetor-general's office. Presently budgeted for a mere $5.7 million, and almost utterly unequipped, the office will be responsible not only for dealing with corruption, but must spend at least $2 millions of this budget for a statutorily-mandated audit of the city's books. Prettyman's staff needs to be doubled, the staff vehicle fleet must be at-least tripled, and commtech such as secure-mobilephone and computers must be acquired, along with allocations for payment of informers. Perhaps some of the District's new budget surplus can be instantly earmarked for the inspector-general's staff; it's clearly the best way to assure that there will be a surplus next year - by weeding out corruption and waste.

E. Barrett Prettyman will, however, not be alone in his efforts to attack corruption in the District.

Now awaiting Senate confirmation as the District US Attorney for Washington DC is one Wilma A. Lewis, a Harvard graduate and 15-year veteran of the Washington legal system. Once confirmed, she will begin to aggressively investigate and prosecute all corruption within the District, whether purely-city level or of a Federal level. Her focus is expected to initially be directed at shoring-up public confidence in the local justice system, which has been the subject of a great deal of disrepute, disgrace, and disrespect in all areas, ranging from the afore-mentioned alleged all-pervasive police corruption and systemic mismanagement through the laughable evidence management system, through the Medical Examiner's office, which has been portrayed as the object of contempt and ridicule of professional forensic pathologists nationwide.

Lewis is assembling a team of well-reputed attorneys and investigators, some of whom are:

Ms Lewis succeeds Eric H. Holder, Jr, who has been named to the position of Deputy US Attorney General.

Medical Licensing Problems

On 14 January 1998 we reported that there was some confusion as to the need for a medical license to practice medicine in the District. In that report, we noted that there had been dismissals in the District's Office of the Medical Examiner, which has been professionally peer-reviewed as "a joke". We further noted that it might be a fairly good idea to check the credentials of all of the medical personnel employed by the District, and evidently we were taken seriously. (Or more likely, someone else simply followed the dictates of common sense.)

It appears that the Director of the DC Department of Public Health has been practicing medicine without a current license to practice within the District. Dr. Allan S. Noonan is licensed in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and his credentials and qualifications are not presently in question. He is a member of the US Public Health Service's Commissioned Corps, which provides services to medically-underserved areas under a military-style management authority. Thus, so long as he remains licensed in any state or commonwealth, he is considered as licensed to practice in any other state, in the same way that a US Armed Forces doctor is considered licensed to practice no matter where deployed. However, Dr. Noonan admits that maybe he "ought to go ahead and get one"; certainly it would be a good pro-forma move, considering that he, while technically practicing without a District medical license, just fired a M-E pathologist (Joseph P. Garceau) for, technically, practicing medicine without a license.

Welfare To Work Success-Story Being Smothered

Obvious Solution to District's InfoSystem Woes Pointedly Ignored

In yet-another example of complete and inarguable senselessness in Washington, the Washington Post revealed in a Business Section article of 16 January 1998, while the Barry-Cronies(tm) Administration's revilable Jobs Training Program received millions, of which (according to a DCFRA management-consultant's report) exactly none was spent on graduating exactly no trainees, a privately run training program is about to fold due to its complete inability to receive a grant from either the District government or the Federal government.

Capital Committment, Inc, of Southeast Washington DC, has trained some 593 District residents, three-quarters of whom were on public assistance, to the level where 90 percent of the graduates have been hired by local offices, on average making $25,000 annually. At present, the company is subsisting on corporate handouts. In many ways, this is the desirable model for all future specialized job-specific training, whereby companies in need of special skills will at least partially-fund the cost of training of workers. However, when one contrasts the success rate (90 percent) of this shoestring operation subsisting on the largess of their destination employment-pool, to the success rate (zero percent) of a very-well-funded public training program, the solution to the problems of both this company and the District's floundering jobs-training progams is this:

I propose that absolutely all Federal funds which were earmarked for the Barry Administration District of Columbia Jobs Training Programs be immediately redirected to Capital Committment, Inc, subject to the proviso that they train only District residents, that as part of their practice and training projects they must assist in the long-overdue and hellishly expensive commtech/infosystems wiring-upgrade so sorely needed by the District government, and that (when financed) they also expand their training program to make use of the facilities and staff of the nearly-moribund Universiy of the District of Columbia, with an expansion into instruction in serious computing. In this way, the District can afford to pay underworked UDC academics, the academics don't get disgusted and seek work elsewhere, wiring gets done on time and well-within budget, and the students get not only lots of practice but also experience credits. Also the District would have a ready pool of competent computer technicians, cutting-edge-technology students, who would be working on systems that they built themselves, and in the design of which they had major input. Money flows into the District, work gets done, local residents are served not only by the successful timely and inexpensive installation, but also by a growth in technical skills taught to deserving low-income residents.


University of DC To Get New Academic Focus
Barry Stumping For Continuance in Office
Judging by His Reception Washington Voters Are Clearly Quite Mad

24 January 1998
A report issued by consultants to the
DCFRA Control Board indicates that the University of the District of Columbia should be retained as a four-year university, complete with graduate programs.

The UDC has been suffering extreme attrition of the student body in recent years. With an enrollment level formerly in the tens of thousands, UDC is now lucky to approach an enrollment of 5000. Once blessed with excellent public funding support, the UDC was once seen as a very beneficial resource, particularly to the District's working-poor. Tuition at UDC had remained very low, and was extremely competitive especially when compared to tuition at other regional colleges, many of which are of international prestige and charge accordingly.

Among other things, the consultants - who include KPMG Peat Marwick, Biddison Hier, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy - recommended (as we have) that the UDC tighten its academic focus towards promoting higher education in areas that will enhance employment opportunities for students and graduates. The UDC has proven extremely useful even to non-graduates, in terms of employment potential, particularly through its remedial and adult-education courses. These last are considered an absolute necessity for a very large percentage of graduates of District schools. District public-school students ranked among the worst groups of scores on standardized tests, and many regional employers are reluctant to hire persons educated in District schools who have not also acquired higher-level academic credits. As a remedial resource, UDC has an excellent reputation, and is an open-enrollment university.

(The District schools have requested to have $5 million budgeted for an emergency implimentation of remedial programs, starting this summer. Federal Matching Funds are also to be used. The days when District schools pursued "social promotion" programs are over, and incompetent students will no longer be advanced to the next grade.)

The report suggests that the UDC impliment a selection of courses which would tend to fast-track students towards highly-technical and in-demand specialties such as information systems technical skills, avionics and other mission-critical technical disciplines, which are presently among the highest-paying careers and are also critically undersupplied with available competent practitioners.

Earth Operations Central has recommended and will continue to recommend that in particular, students in such courses should, where possible, assist in the desperately-needed information-systems and telecommunications upgrade which must occur in the District. Everyone would benefit, students would acquire extensive hand-on experience, job-well-done credits applicable to future employment, UDC continues to serve the residents of the District, both directly and indirectly and not-incidentally remains open as a four-year school. Also the District gets wired on-time and within budget.

Barry Has Risen From the Grave, Last Sighted Stalking Anacostia Voters
Stay tuned for up-to-the-minute tracking reports.

Believe it or not, he's running for Mayor.

Despite having run the District of Columbia completely into the ground, despite having reduced the Capital of the Free World into a laughingstock of the planet, despite having gotten his incompetent, corrupt and crony-riddled government literally yanked out from under him by an irate and disgusted Congress, Marion Barry is out stumping and preparing to run for Mayor.

Allow us to provide you with a perfect example of what the voters-for-Barry can look forward to... In posh and fashionable Northwest Washington, there is a bridge. It is the Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge. It traverses the Rock Creek Gorge some 140 feet above the highest recorded flood stage of Rock Creek. Considering that downtown Washington is below the "fall line" and its Potomac River is in fact tidal, and that for this bridge to be submerged, global warming would have had to melt not only every glacier but the entire Antarctic ice-cap - yesterday, after a steady deluge of rain amounting to several inches, the deck of the Duke Ellington Bridge was sufficiently flooded as to be impassable by most cars. Why? Because under the Barry-Cronies (tm) regime, the Public Works sanitation and water department was so corrupt that it has provided private plumbing services while on city time, and has so badly neglected essential public maintenance that the drains serving the deck of the Duke Ellington Bridge were completely clogged, and other neighborhood drains were so clogged that neighborhood run-off was directed onto this essential thoroughfare. While the bridge is solidly built, at least as regards the fine-cut stone arches, the decking above was not designed to accomodate the intense traffic of modern times, and adding enough water to float a Metrobus (literally) is like stacking Toyotas three deep from end-to-end and side to side. There's no doubt that the bridge was pressed to the edge of the design limitations, and this was not the only bus-floating puddle seen around town yesterday.

It's a clear and visible statement about where the Mayor's priorities lie - he'd really rather let graft, corruption and probably rake-off go on all around him, while the city risks literal structural collapse simply because his workers are too busy making double paychecks, doing private work on city time, to be bothered to go unclog city drains.

Another of the Mayor's priorities was demonstrated, that being his intention to be mayor-for-life no matter the cost to the city, much less the cost to the Nation's Pride. He still has possession of and control of his "City Hall On Wheels", a converted RV. This ponderous contraption was last seen in ward 7, east of the Anacostia, where the support for the Mayor is almost universal.

While at present the Mayor's authority over the most essential (and most dysfunctional) City Departments was stripped from him by the Control Board, the DCFRA Control Board is by law scheduled to be disbanded after four years of a balanced District Budget. Barry himself notes, "[w]hoever runs in '98 will have two clean years of democratic rule, as opposed to undemocratic rule, as opposed to totalitarian secrecy," a clear shot as the DCFRA Control Board, which he has derided as a "rape of democracy." As usual, the Mayor's memory seems to be a little warped by his own grandeur - he very conveniently forgets that under his administration, democracy in the District (if allegorized to consensual sex as opposed to rape) amounted to a cheap whore flat on her back for anyone with cash in hand paid under the table - and while the locals might have gotten used to this sort of antics, visitors to this city remain appalled at the sight of the ancient and haggard pockmarked wreck begging all comers to bring that money on.

The District is thus faced with a truly daunting conundrum - the DCFRA is mandated to keep the budget balanced and has secured a top-flight city Manager to "make it so" and thus there is no way to keep Marion Barry from being re-elected. This sadly appears to be a mere re-play of the time he spent out of power after his conviction for smoking crack on TV at the Vista Hotel. Just like Dracula, no matter what you do to him, he just keeps coming back, and the majority of the voters of the District, just like Dracula's victims, love every minute of the experience being bled dry. As soon as "forces of good" are gone, you just watch. We'll be back to the former state of affairs within the year, and with Barry Risen Yet-Again From The Grave, very quickly the whole of Washington DC will again suck, and again, anyone and anything that hopes to stay alive will be bailing out in droves.

Other News

The Metropolitan Police still haven't caught their probable serial killer in the city's troubled Petworth neighborhood in Northwest, but the rest of the city agencies are taking care of business.

Why Petworth? No neighborhood in the city has ever before been the subject of such a massive concentration of Revitalization or urban-renewal efforts. Again, why Petworth?

Petworth

In our opinion, there could not possibly be a better target for a neighborhood rescue. Petworth is immensely troubled, though this is nothing unusual in Washington. However, it's right across 16th Street from the Mount-Pleasant neighborhood. Mount-Pleasant and its adjacent neighborhood, Adams-Morgan are settled, relatively crime-free neighborhoods which are home to many thriving local businesses. Yet across 16th Street to the East, fashonable and trendy Columbia Road rapidly degenerates into a filthy hell of rat-infested alleys filled with blowing trash. By the time you reach 14th Street, it's very evident that you've made a wrong turn somewhere. The lovely neighborhood depicted in the classic 1952 film "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is nowhere to be seen, and the 1400 block of Harvard Street NW where the fictional Klaatu discovered the good side of humanity has been replaced by a street where evil stalks the alleys and early morning carjacking attempts have resulted in mutilation attacks. When you reach 13th Street, things don't look so bad, the houses are in general well-maintained - those which aren't boarded up. When you reach Georgia Avenue (7th Street extended), and the Howard University campus, you probably have no idea what is going on behind the almost-presentable facades and by now you've reached the conclusion you don't want to know what's going on back there... and you're right. But by now you've left Petworth proper, and the worst is behind you.

For years, Metrorail construction has dominated the local topography, turning the neighborhood into a no-man's-land of patch-riddled streets filled with detours, barricades and blocked-off sidewalks. Such businesses as there are have suffered, except of course for the liquor stores and the back-alley entrepreneurs. The area is home to dozens of squatters shacks and filthy nuisance properties. And people are getting killed, not merely shot in some revenge killing or personal vendetta, but murdered, quietly, and hidden by the stink of the filth that has piled up under the last decades of conspicuous neglect, nobody could sort out the smells of the rot of the city from the sickly odor of human decay seeping out from beneath the floors of abandoned residences.

Obviously, it's time for a change.

First, as of the end of last year, the Metrorail station officially opened in Petworth. Eventually, the Green Line of the Metrorail will link downtown with College Park, Maryland, and before too long, there will also be a Metrorail station near what's presently the worst of the war-zone, at 14th and Columbia Road. while much of the neighborhood is presently in a state of phenomenal decadence and inaccessibility, it could become immensely attractive to professionals and families if it were only cleaned up.

It's being cleaned up.

An amazing increase in the police presence, including beefed-up vehicular patrols, foot patrols, special operations units and even a National Guard presence, have driven many of the worst offenders from the local alleys, and buildings which had become infested with superjunkie squatters have been the subject of massive cleanup efforts. Trash is coming out of the buildings, along with human waste, discarded hypodermics, assorted paraphernalia, foul bedding, and it's all getting carted away. However, it could be argued that all this is doing is making the squatters' lairs into more attractive and safer residences. Clearly, there must be an influx of taxpayers.

We therefor propose a Petworth Initiative. The City of Washington government should develop a plan of action co-ordinating with the Federal Government, in particular the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to offer tax-credits to anyone of a certain income level who is willing to move into Petworth. Perhaps some variation of the DC Homesteading law could be applied. Basically, if someone moved into one of the abandoned properties, and made a certain amount of improvements, particularly if those improvements or alterations promoted public safety and security as well as restoring the property, title should be conveyed at a reduced or waived price. One of the restorers of the property that had two murdered women under the floorboards has already announced a major price-break for any police officers who wanted to buy that place. The City should also pitch in and do whatever's possible to attract quality residents.

Already, there are incentives for businesses to open or to relocate here, both within the District Revitalization Act and under the authority of HUD's Urban Empowerment Zones programs. If businesses can be assured of customers, they'll be happy to come, and if they can be assured of upscale customers, they'll come in droves.

If this process continues for five years, in a decade Petworth will be an attractive residential neighborhood well-served by public mass transit, populated by upscale young families paying into the public coffers, with a thriving business community also paying into the City revenue base.

And at least in Petworth, the killings will stop.


A Slow Week in Washington
Few Major Developments Locally

Washington is, understandably, in a bit of a turmoil this week.

There is of course the immense (if purely Federal-level) soap-opera case of whether the President did or did not engage in an affair with one Monica Lewinski, or did or did not suborn perjury either directly or through delgation to this or that high-ranking aide. Half of the Federal political establishment is muttering about impeachment and the other half of the establishment is clamming up tight and wishing it will all go away, or pretending it has gone away. We will wisely also pretend that it has gone away. We are trying to retain focus on local and regional issues.

Also, Washington is, and has been for some time, prepositioning itself to go on a war footing. Washington is always an interesting place during wartime. We will however refrain from any comment regarding the war effort, except as extreme circumstances might warrant.

Mayor Marion Barry is still pondering whether or not to announce his candidacy for another term as Mayor. Mayor Barry is reportedly considering options other than a continuing policital career. He definitely needs to find some way to make some money. His assets were essentially wiped out by his legal defense against the misdemeanor cocaine-possession charges which landed him in jail. He has considerable expenses, including his house, divorce settlements, and so forth.

DC Chief Financial Officer Anthony A. Willams was reportedly considering a run for the Mayor's office, but has refused to commit to entering the race. He's doing a fine job where he is. In fact, there may be a potential $160 million growth in District revenue. Mayor Barry, always quick to redistribute the wealth (generally into the pockets of his cronies) has proposed a tax-cut targeted to increase District Tourism. However, the money is not yet in the bank. As rapidly as the economy has exploded, it might as quickly recede into recession, though it is agreed that this is not likely. Still, it would be best to target the District's half-billion dollar debt for early retirement, before allocating funds not yet in hand.

In the meantime, one of the Mayor's security detail accompanied him on a vacation to Mexico, only to receive a page while in the air. Acting Chief of Police Sonya T. Proctor decided a bit belatedly that he was not to accompany the Mayor on his vacation.

The Metropolitan Police have made an arrest in two of the Petworth Murders.

Concurrently, a new sentencing system for those convicted in the District of violent offenses such as murder, rape, or armed robbery. Other crimes are also covered. This "truth-in-sentencing" system would require specific prison-sentences for specific crimes, with subsequent supervised release". At present, though the District has some of the most stringent possible sentences, application of these sentences has been extremely variable.

In other matters, for the second time this year, part of the bridge spanning Rock Creek on Military Road, one of the major cross-town arteries suitable for extremely-heavy traffic, collapsed.


Management Reforms Proceed Apace
Implimentation Phase Set to Begin
Personnel Reforms Enacted

Please don't forget to see the Metropolitan Police Page!

9 February 1998
Armed with a bare-bones staff of nine former employees of the DCFRA Control Board (the oversight agency empowered by Congress and selected by President William J. Clinton), the new City Manager of the City of Washington, Camille Cates Barnett Ph.D., has embarked upon a career of surveying the field, presumably preparatory to a career of taking names and then kicking some fat behinds out of their overstuffed and undeserved chairs.

After two weeks of initial assessment, amounting to a whirlwind tour of the agencies she is now empowered to administer, Dr. Barnett has announced herself dismayed but undaunted by the task ahead of her. She's quoted by the Washington Post as saying: "The biggest surprise is how bad it looks... Files in boxes, facilities that are literally falling apart while people are working in this, roofs coming down, carpets torn, walls that have not been painted in forever, and you know, that's out face to the customer. Basements are leaking and full of water. Trash everywhere. ...It's been a long time since I've seen stuff like that."

Welcome to Washington, Dr. Barnett.

Dr. Barnett has stated that she's going to be evaluating the heads of the nine city agencies over which she has direct control, and will probably use a system of evaluation of performance involving the "performance contract", wherein she will lay out a clear set of goals which must be accomplished to a certain nicety within speific times. Presumably, if these contracts are not fulfilled, "heads will roll".

However, Dr. Barnett does not have clear sailing ahead of her, not entirely. There is a noted political or philosophical difference of opinion and position between her and Mayor Marion Barry, whose major powers she has assumed, and it must be noted that Mayor Barry is apparently again stumping for office. If the city can be brought in on a balanced budget for another three straight years, whoever is elected in the upcoming City elections will enjoy unrestricted power for the last two years of that term of office. Barry is expected to present the next-year's budget within a month. It must be noted that one of the most sure ways that Barry could make himself look good and make everyone else looks bad (Barry has long since demonstrated this ability, and is considered better "tefloned' than even Ronald Reagon or President Bill Clinton) would be to produce a budget that is clearly within balance or running at a surplus, simultaneously hamstringing the ability of the City Manager Barnett to fund necessary upgrades and re-organization. Expect this, Dr. Barnett.

Dr. Barnett has other obstacles as well. The city workers had been promised raises by the Barry Administration (which hadn't the capital resources to buy toilet paper for the Metropolitan Police, at one time in 1996) and due to the lack of funds they have gotten this raise from neither the Barry-Cronies (tm) administration, nor from the DCFRA Control Board oversight administration. Barry didn't have the money and the Control Board was not funded to finance this. There are extreme issues here, and while the city was hamstrung with a Personnel Policy little short of ridiculous, useless workers could not be fired, only laid-off, and due to collective-bargaining provisions, often the most-tenured and highest-ranking workers were the most useless.

However, on Tuesday 4 February 1998, the DC Council, considered by many to be a toothless tiger and essentially lame as well, passed hallmark legislation which is seen by many as one of its first completely-relevant acts in recent history. While the DCFRA Control Board oversight authority may or may not technically be legally-bound to honor any or all of the provisions eneacted by this legislations, the intent of the law is certainly to be viewed as in concord with the needs goals of both the DCFRA, the City Manager, and the District Revitalization Act. It also removes any question as to the "democracy" of these policies. After all, the DC Council was elected under Home-Rule authority and clearly the City Council can be viewed as empowering the will of the People.

While taking the inordinately insulting (to Mayor Barry, whose cronies have been getting top positions and top pay along with signing bonuses) step of prohibiting Mayoral authority to issue signing bonuses, the law is otherwise an excellent step. It provides a clear system of rewards and sanctions, provides a requirement for employee evaluation based on written guidelines, and raises or promotions would be possible only after conformance with, or surpassment of, those guidelines. For the first time, the direct echelons of management would be able to discipline or fire employees based on performance, as opposed to their ranking of time-on-the-job or association with the Barry-Cronies (tm) political machine. The passage of this legislation lends total political legitimacy to any hirings or firings within the District government, and makes them look more like due-process of law under democracy, and less like an externally-imposed autarchy.

Other News

The DCFRA Control Board has reported to Congress that, with the exception of rent-controlled housing occupied by low-income elderly residents, all rent-control in the District should possibly be phased-out, and also is requesting immediate lifting of rent-controls in all vacant apartments in the District.

DCFRA Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer, an economist and a former Federal Reserve officer, was quoted by the Post as saying: "Many of the existing regulations and administrative procedures do impose unacceptable burdens on businesses and citizens in the nation's capital... In the coming weeks, we will determine which of those should be candidates for possible elimination. We will then take whatever steps are necessary to achieve that goal."

The recommendations of the Control Board, itself majority black, are likely to be ill-received by much of Washington's black majority of voters. Rent-control is a hot-button issue in much of Washington, which has historically been politically, socially, and especially financially divided along lines of race. There is and has been much loose talk of "The Plan", whereby "white america is out to dislodge the black man from Washington DC". We will hope that an elimination or restructuring of rent-control in Washington DC will not be seen as a part of "the Plan"; after all, the Control Board is majority black as is Mr. Brimmer. If this is to be seen as a class issue, therefor let it be seen as a division along lines of financial classes, favoring the smallholders who have a room to rent, or who may own a small building that they rent as apartments. A removal of rent-control on these facilities would enable Washington's remaining black middle-class to no longer be forced to either go broke fixing-up falling-down apartments while limiting their incomes from rent, or to simply stand by and do no refurbishing while they watch their rent-controlled properties degenerate. The middle-class in the District has traditionally invested in real-estate as it has been a "sure-thing" investment, but with the advent of rent-control some decades ago, many middle-class families saw the writing on the wall, sold their properties to anyone who would buy, and moved out of town, predominantly to Prince-George's County Maryland. Rising costs and inflation coupled with static controlled-rent to make real-estate ownership of rented apartments economically-useful only as a tax-write-off in a great many cases. In general it has become much more economically sound to simply allow properties to remain vacant and to depreciate. As a result, the District has become pockmarked by vacant eyesore properties owned by absentee landlords while the properties themselves deteriorate and become squatters-nests and "shooting-galleries" for neighborhood addicts. Permitting renting one's apartments to become profitable would tend to re-attract investment in the city's real-estate market.

Other Other News

The Washington Post reports that the former director of the Maryland Department of Human Services, one Ernestine F. Jones, has been doing a fine job rebuilding the District's once-chaotic Child Welfare and Foster Care services. She's also been given good marks by the Consortium for Child Welfare and by For Love of Children, both of which are local groups devoted to the protection of children and families.

District Schools

This has been a fun week for the District's schools, if your idea of fun is a concatenation of disasters all rolling together into a simple catastrophe. However, as it is said, "it's an ill wind that blows no good" - and what might seem to be a horrible hurricane at first, often is later seen to be a blessing that has washed clean the streets, to leave everything looking new and clean and shiny.

First, the District Schools' Special Education Director, Jeff Myers, quit. This might or might not be a good thing; he was hired by ex-General Julius Becton primarily to impliment management reforms in the Scpeical Education department. This department deals primarily with the special needs and considerations of the disabled children of the District. Sufficient improvement has been made that the US Department of Education has considered finally paying in the fund it withheld in July, said funds being withheld due to lack of compliance with requirements to give free and appropriate educations to the special-needs students.

However, Myers' departure might not be a bad thing. He was after all primarily a manager, with no particular background in education, and certainly no background in special-education. There are active measures now engaged in searching out specialists in this field, the need for whom is characterized as "desperate".

In mainstream education, at long last the District Schools (long-plagued with a deserved reputation for graduating illiterates, despite the nation's highest per-capita spending of any municipal district) is reforming their standards of grade-to-grade promotions. while still allowing "social promotions" based on age and age-groupings, students who are "social-promoted" will be admitted only to remedial programs unless and until they can demonstrate their proficiency to be according to their grade-level and age-group. Also, summer-school options will be significantly expanded. If those students whose grades are acceptable are out in the summer sun, that leaves the potential for intense concentration in the remedial venue. Accelerated learning can be achieved when a much higher ratio of specialists can be applied to students who are having dificulties in learning. It properly done, summer-school programs can be used to either help a student catch up to (or surpass) their proper level, and failing that, can better identify those students who may have special needs which had not previously been identified.

Sorry about the delay in this week's reporting!

I've been having some problems with the surly inbreds up here in Rockville, and figured that I should let my skull-fracture heal to the point where I'd be coherent in this dispatch, before composing it. Thank you for your patience.


17 February 1998
He's amazing. He could probably be the single perfect competitor against the incumbent-for-life Mayor Marion Barry. Probably no single individual has done more to Revitalize the district of Columbia, but his job is not yet complete. He was practically drafted for the Mayoral race, but he knows that he can best serve where he is, completing the job that he's started so very well.

Anthony A. Williams is the District of Columbia's Chief Financial Officer. Appointed by Marion Barry (in an out-of-character pick of competence over cronyism), confirmed by the DCFRA Control Board, Mr. Williams promised to resign if he couldn't straighten out the City's accounts books. Well, he's done that. In fact, he's brought the city in at a record $185.9 million surplus. However, despite the fact that the revenue stream has been greatly streamlined, this is no cause for jubilation.

We have previously compared the situation of the District to that of a person who is too sick to get out of bed. I myself was once so sick that I literally could not leave the house for three weeks, other than to stagger across the street once to buy some minimal food and lots of orange-juice concentrate. I couldn't eat, and could hardly drink; I lost twenty pounds. When my fever broke, I was ravenous, and at a point in the month when ordinarily I'd have been counting my remaining pennies, I was flush with cash... but as weak as a kitten - and prone to relapse.

This is the situation in which the District finds itself. Mr. Williams was quick to note that not everything is perfect. He's reported by the Washington Post as saying, "The District now has a performance problem as opposed to an overspending problem".

Well, you'd think that with this much cash in hand, the District could run right out and buy whatever it takes to fix everything. But this is not so. The improved financial situation here is largely a fluke, despite the herculean efforts of Mr. Williams and his staff. More than half of the budget surplus comes from a Federal assumption of city-run functions which would ordinarily be managed by the State within which a city lay, but which had been saddled upon the City of Washington. The Federal government as part of the District Revitalization effort plowed some $53 millions into purchasing the District's Lorton Reformatory, and another $53 million into Medicaid cost adjustments. This means that the actual improvement in the District is closer to a budget surplus of roughly $84 millions. Of this, some $40 millions were due to a failure by city agencies to spend as budgeted, a result of "poor procurement practices" and spending limitations imposed by the Control Board, which would not permit spending in certain areas until it could determine exactly which money was going to which vendor, and the circumstances under which the contracts had been awarded.

At any rate, even if some miracle can repeat this year's budgetary surplus in future years, the city must still pay off some $332 millions in accumulated bills from the previous years of deficits.

The District is in the process of streamlining its budgetary process. At this point in time, there will be a fairly large chunk of budget dedicated to managements reform, and it is indeed expected that within this, and within the next, fiscal years, we will see the realization of a great deal of increased efficiency and streamlining of the internal economy of Washington. We expect to see the emergence of a sort of Troika, or of Troika of Troikas, with one apex within the City Administration - with the positions occupied by whomever shall be elected Mayor in a primarily advisory role, with another position occupied by the Chief Financial Oficer, Anthony A. Williams, and with the final corner being the City Manager, Dr. Camille Cates Barnett. Another Troika can be expected to consist of the DCFRA Control Board itself, acting as a unified body, with another corner being the House District Appropriations and other Congressional ovesight committees, with the final corner being the Troika of the City Government. Another Troika is envisioned as the intergrade between the elections processes now getting underway, with the second corner being the media and their interpretations, and finally the public to be served.

The Mayoral race is heating up. Present contenders include Kevin P. Chavous, a 41-year-old Democrat from Ward 7, chair of the Education Committee of the DC Council. Mr. Chavous' Ward 7 comprises most of Southeast Washington. Also in the running is DC Council member Jack Evans, a Democract from Ward 2. Considered by some to be the "Federal Government's Man-in-Washington", he's a strong supporter of reform, particularly with regards to all public-protection issues. He also represents many of the highest-income sectors of the City. Not yet declared, but expected to run, is At-Large DC Council member Harold Brazil, a very widely-respected individual with a great deal of support city-wide. He's been one of the biggest supporters of financial and regulatory reform within the District, and also takes a tough stance against crime. Marion Barry, commonly referred to hereabouts as "Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry", has not yet officially declared, although as noted above he has been openly courting the voters.

Other News

Public Housing Reform and Rebuilding Surpass Expectations

On 16 October 1997 we remarked upon the pitiful state of Public Housing in the District of Columbia. We have been for some time publicly harping in various newsgroups such as dc.general concerning the state of the District and in particular Public Housing, public services to the poor and the needy, and we have in particular sought to address the issues putting it all together in such a way as to provide employment and training opportunities for persons leaving Welfare.

Perhaps our prayers have been heard, or perhaps great minds think alike. Or perhaps we're being a tad megalomaniacal today. At any rate, whatever the source of ideas, as long as they're good and as long as they're implimented, we must applaud sound judgement and vision.

On 22 October 1997 we noted that while the US Department of Housing and Urban Development had on 16 October 1996 suspended a $36 million block grant to the District because of shoddy recordskeeping, they had decided to re-issue most of that money - along with another $170 million - to one David Gilmore. Mr. Gilmore was in 1995 appointed by DC Superior Court Judge Steffen W. Graae as receiver of the DC Housing Authority. When Gilmore came onto the job, the District's public housing was essentially, where occupied at all, a hodgepodge of falling-down rat-infested slums where anything and everything was for sale except anything resembling hope or decency.

Mr. Gilmore has apparently done one bang-up job of getting it all together. No, everything is not perfect, but he's made more than a good start. First, the murder rate in public-housing projects has dropped by 50 percent within the last year alone, thanks to his staffing of a new police authority for the projects. Eyesores have been razed to the ground where they cannot be repaired. And most importantly, many of the projects are being rebuilt as mixed-occupancy facilities.

On 28 October 1997 we detailed Mr. Gilmore's strategy for excluding criminals and drug dealers from properties under his management, and in fact, he's done this.

Most importantly, he's also been putting the low-income residents to work rebuilding their own places. We have in the past repeatedly proposed that any move from Welfare-to-Work would have to be accompanied by substantial retraining, and one of the most-useful and easily-learned trades is that of construction, at least at the apprentice and journeyman levels. We have consistently proposed that if you're going to rebuild public housing, one should use the publicly-housed to do the rebuilding, under the supervision of professionals, who would use also use this as a training project. And Mr. Gilmore has done exactly that. In a Washington Post article, we see that his policies are successfully converting even former gangstas into taxpaying constructive citizens.


All Quiet on the Western Front
22 February 1998
This has been an exceptionally slow newsweek regarding Washington DC internal politics, aside from a fairly vociferous debate over the recent
shake-up in the Metropolitan Police Department, wherein Acting Chief Sonya T. Proctor dismissed three 25-year veteran District Commanders. This has not in any way been a slow news-week in Washington itself, which has of course been quite abuzz with fallout from the Monica Lewinski Affair, and also quite steadily preparing for the likely showdown in Iraq.

Among other things, District school officials have requested a budgetary increase of nearly 20 percent for the next year, citing a need for a "mammoth reform" of the District's educational system. In the last two years, while many other city agencies have received additional funding, the schools instead have had their funding cut. Among the requests for an expanded budget:

E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., the new Inspector General of District of Columbia has announced that there will be an expansion of his office. There are now only 40 employees, and they'll be hiring another 20 or so, now that the DCFRA Control Board has authorized a substantial budget increase.

Much of the budget increase will be spent on new equipment (they have almost none) and also to create a specialized core dedicated exclusively to investigations of the police department.

The Region

I have long been of the opinion that Washington DC could save itself a lot of money and simultaneously develop a corp of local technical specialists, by using the nearly-idle resources of the University of the District of Columbia to train undergraduate and highschool students to do technical work for the city, and then employ them in a technology upgrade initiative under the city's Summer Jobs program.

Virginia, which is nowhere nearly as cash-strapped as is the District of Columbia, has taken an interesting approach to their own technology shortage.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has no shortage of technology. Northern Virginia, long a hotbed of government-funded research and development interests, has in the past three years leapfrogged to a position second only to the fabled Silicon Valley of California, within the information technology and high-tech manufacture and assembly industries. In the last five years, more than 60 percent of the Commonwealth's growth in gross product has come from growth in the hightech and infotech industries.

Yet this immense boom, which has practically overflooded the coffers of the Commonwealth, is at risk of falling flat on its face, or at least it is being brought up against wall thrown up by the laws of supply and demand - there simply are nowhere near enough qualified workers to fill the slots required.

A new bill, introduced by Virginia Delegate Alan A. Diamonstein (Democrat, Newport News), is in many ways a state subsidy of technology companies. Community colleges and technical institutes would be given very large grants which would be earmarked for the development of programs which would fast-track people towards a non-degreed specialty. At present, many individuals who have full degrees in information technologies or in engineering specialties are locked into essential support positions which could probably be easily filled by someone with a specialized education short of the graduate degree level. Demand for persons with certain credentials such as local-network administration is so high locally that persons who graduate local training courses, such as the Novell Network Administration Certification courses, are beset by crowds of competing corporate headhunters, before they actually graduate.

Virginia appears to be leading the way into a future where there is not a universal insistence on a full degree as a prerequisite for any meaningful employment. Instead, there may be work for anyone who can complete highschool and another one to four semesters of accredited discipline or task-specific training. As it is, desperation reigns in Northern Virginia, where they are facing a current shortage of some 18,000 positions in technically-competent essential tasks, many of which are presently being operated in an emergency mode by overworked degreed persons. Over the next five years, the Northern Virginia Technology Council estimates a minimum of some 112,000 technical workers will be needed.


District Rebuilding Underway
Regional Demographics Changing
Social and Economic Conditions Forge Strange Attractors From Chaos

1 March 1998
Slightly more than two years ago, nearly three feet of snow in consecutive falls literally paralyzed the City of Washington. While the suburbs had largely struggled free within two days, Washington itself, no stranger to snow, still remained largely unplowed until the "February thaw"... and still that thaw left most of the residential streets of the District merely buried in slush and ice.

The city now has 366 snow-removal trucks.

In recent years, piles of trash have grown and grown, with garbage often rotting where it lay, feeding a population-explosion of the District's bold and cat-sized rats. Now, the fleet of aging and decrepit trash trucks has been shored up by the addition of 40 new trucks, which are scheduled for delivery any day now. Recycling, which had been abandoned in the District as a cost-saving measure even though it either forced eco-friendly residents to recycle on their own or otherwise essentially doubled the volume of trash to be hauled, will be resumed. And for the first time, the City will begin a program of regularly cleaning alleys.

Back in the mid-to-late 1980s, Mayor ("for life") Marion Barry embarked upon a campaign to lift Washington out of the seemingly-endless recession, courting Republicans and Business with his rightly-famous "Washington: A Capital City" program. He offered inducements to Business, and was very successful in attracting some large capital clients to the District. However, no matter the knock-offs on rents and taxes, by the mid 1990s business was less-than-thrilled with the prospect of moving to Washington. The byzantine tangles of the District's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs promoted a disorganized culture of regulation and licensing in which what-one-did had little impact and instead relied entirely on who-one-knew - and in the inevitable corruption and cronyism, tax-collections necessarily suffered. When combined with the tax-breaks and cash incentives (both above-board and under-the-table) we watched the city go broke at the same time that the Barry Administration expanded a policy of hiring incompetents so long as they would reliably vote to keep Barry in power and themselves employed doing basically nothing.

The streets rotted. Potholes literally swallowed cars. Washington's pride, its lovely urban park-forest, overgrew into an ill-trimmed thicket where some 5000 tottering and moribund trees loomed threatening across schoolyards, backyards, and major arteries, despite a catastrophic blowdown in the late 80s caused by a series of major microburst storms. Trash collected in the alleys along with abandoned and stolen vehicles (wrecks were never collected as they could not be profitably resold at the legendary DC auctions). Fallingdown properties seized for violations or as condemned properties were left unmonitored and became havens for addicts, who congregated to terrorize the neighbors whose repeated complaints to the City went unanswered while trash, debris, and human wastes collected.

In the meantime, the residents of the District fled the jungle which the District had become. As trash piled up, and the roads decayed, and the water became unsafe, predators largely abandoned the decrepitude of the ruins of public housing and took to the streets, turning Washington into a bloodbath with the highest per-capita murder rate in a nation whose internal violence outside of a declared Civil War has for thirty years astounded the rest of the world. The District lost one-sixth of its population in a seven year period, mostly the middle-class abandoning the District in a flight to the suburbs.

Of that sixth of the population, some 50 percent were black, and largely headed for Maryland, in general for Prince George's County, Maryland's only majority-black county. Whites tended to head about half and half to Maryland or Virginia, largely to upscale Montgomery County Maryland or to equally-upscale and largely-rural Fairfax or Loudon Counties in Virginia. Persons of foreign birth have trended more towards the suburbs in any case, in general preferring Virginia if Latino or some southeast Asian groups, with the close-in suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria witnessing the formation of a great many ethnic enclaves, and with Virginia in particular witnessing a huge rise in the numbers of, and membership in, ethnic youth gangs. Local authorities have identified more than 200 local youth gangs, most of them ethnic in nature. In particular the suburban police are detecting the presence and activity of Asian home-invasion gangs which prey primarily on immigrants, and the expanding influence of the dreaded 18th Street and Mara Salvatruca gangs, which are primarily composed of non-citizens and are based abroad.

The suburbs themselves have increasingly been pressed to the limits of infrastructure development. Fairfax County Virginia has experienced explosive growth in the last decade and is pressed to the wall, and is able to keep up only because of unprecedented expansion of industry, primarily in the eminently-taxable and extremely profitable high-tech and military-industrial sectors. In Virginia, Loudon County, until the last five years known primarily as "horse-country", has in the last two years seen a practically cancerous growth of tract housing catering to those people who prefer a bucolic near-country life. However, all major transportation arteries are already running to capacity, and cannot effectively be disrupted sufficiently to effect new construction along those arteries, which due to over-building is the only right-of-way avaiable for such new construction.

Commutes have in general doubled or tripled between the farthest residential suburbs and the central economic core. While the Edge City Effect has indeed tended to remove the centers of business from the District into the surrounding suburbs, still the majority of the residents of the Greater Washington SMSA drive at least 30 miles of commute daily. While those who raise families do prefer reliable services and infrastructure maintenance to be found in the suburbs, "the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth", as the song says (Geddy Lee). In any case, recent studies have indicated that somewhere between half and three-quarters of all local traffic congestion is due to people running errands of less than five miles travel. And here we see an essential equation between the availability of parking in the suburbs combining with the inconvenience of all shopping being restricted to zoning-regulated venues. One cannot shop without driving, and one cannot commute effectively due to the cars of shoppers. It should be noted that the regional paradigm outside of the District proper is that of mini-malls, strip-malls, and mega-malls, all separated by very large tracts zoned exclusively-residential, with the majority of middle-income housing being on average more than a mile from the nearest shopping.

Washington and the inner suburbs are increasingly being repopulated by young families, in general "Young Urban Professionals". Yuppies are, however, notoriously uninterested in civic involvement except as it can provide them a tax-break. However, they do have cash to spend, and they seem to prefer to walk rather than to take a car, evidently feeling that 30 miles per day of commuting in insane traffic is quite enough for them. They want convenience in their shopping, in their entertainment, and as the are as a general rule childless, issues such as schools are relatively unimportant. They also tend to make excellent salaries. While it is traditional for the young and wealthy to secure a major investment in housing, in the outlying suburbs housing values are dropping rapidly, and in fact, new housing is selling for very little more than the cost of materials and first resale losses of ten percent are presently not-uncommon.

The vast population exodus of the last seven years has left a great many properties in the District well within the purchasing power of even late-twenties couples and "house-mates consortiums", almost exclusively white, and very well-paid. Combine this with the Federal Revitalization payments, and the newly-efficient tax-collection policies of the District Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and the complete and statutory inability of Marion Barry to foul things up, and we see the District practically exploding into a new life, and demographically-speaking, it's a young, white, and childless life. While there has not been a great deal of forward motion in terms of rennaisance, at least deterioration has been brought to a "screeching halt".

First and foremost, the roads of the District are under a crash-priority rebuilding project. Where formerly on many streets a local need not look at the surround to determine location, but need merely count how many tire-eating potholes they'd bounced through, in some places they're now rubbernecking for streetsigns. In the warzone badlands of Petworth, NW Washington, we have seen the completion of a Green Line Metrorail station, and a promise of intense locally-dedicated Federal funding to rebuild the streets. Potholes are getting patched all over town, and that alone should do wonders to speed commutes. Where before the City was responsible for the repair of trenches dug by utility companies, as of 2 March 1998 the utility companies digging the trenches are required to repair their cuts through the streets and sidewalks, and will be held to strict codes and standards.

Work has resumed on "livability" projects outside the domains of motor-vehicles and roads. A new trash-truck fleet should arrive almost any day, and when the Alley Clean-Up project gets into full swing, the reek of decay and the dangers of the trash-fed rats should become a thing of the past. And within two years, once again Washington's urban forest should be a well-managed parkland instead of a running-wild jungle of trash trees and dying forest kings.

The City has also decided, through the Zoning Panel, to require privately-owned waste-transfer stations in the District (seven are presently operating) to have a 300-foot buffer-zone from residential communities, and a 50-foot buffer-zone from other properties. Many of the transfer facilities will essentially be put out of business in their present modes when forced to comply. Over half of the trash in those facilities, insanely, has been shipped in from the suburbs.

Meanwhile, back on the subject of revenue, the City has contracted to replace or acquire some 15,000 parking meters, and is revising parking laws and also providing for much more aggressive ticketing of parked vehicles. At present, the District has a unique law permitting front-door loading and unloading of delivery trucks, which is in many cases essential due to the impassability of the alleyways. However, loading zones will in the future be designated by signs, instead of the universal loading-zone default of simply stopping the vehicle and starting to unload. The present law essentially requires delivery vehicles to block traffic in order to avoid being ticketed.

Cellerino C. Bernardino, who was fired by Marion Barry for "bothering the Mayor with complaints about infrastructure" and who was reinstated by the DCFRA Control Board as the Director of the Department of Public Works, is attempting to take a firm hand but is hampered by a total lack of local talent. Under the Barry Administration, infrastructure and public works took a back seat to almost any other issue. The best talent has long since departed elsewhere, in particular, anyone competent to train the newcomers is long-since gone.

This leaves, however, the massive prospect of fixing the city's antiquated "weird-iron" computer systems. In the Department of Motor Vehicles, they've got a computer so old that the manufacturer no longer makes anything like it.

The District as a whole has been set with a budget for 1998 of $4.3 billion, much lower than in previous years. The City is now meant to be self-funding and will no longer receive any direct Federal payments other than those which would ordinarily be paid-in in such venues as highway-maintenance or such other programs, as a result of the District Revitalizaiton Act. Also, in lieu of a generic slush-fund payment as in the past, many district programs such as the courts and jails are being directly paid by the Federal Government.

Shameless Self-Serving Plug

Earth Operations Central and TJH Internet SP have been offering quick-fixes for this for over a year, however the District Government has instead earmarked $2.7 millions over the next two years for a new computer system.

TJH Internet SP suggests a Linux Unix-compatible system. We believe that by a simple process of reading the entire database of the Department of Motor Vehicles into a single file, that file could be very easily converted into a multitude of HTML (web-page) files, one HTML page per record. Served across the DC IntraNet, and indexed by such University developed and internet-standard search-engines as the Harvest System for Information Discovery. This would provide instant, reliable, and exceptionally low-cost Intranet access to all authorized DC employees, in an Internet-standard format which can include images, sound, on-the-fly-generated content, in fact, anything that any web-page can contain. Once the files were converted, some staff could be dedicated to filling out HTML forms online at the offices, using any standard web-browser that supports forms, which I do believe covers all browsers issued in the last two years. It won't seem much different to them from the present system, except that it'll be a lot easier to use, it will work all of the time, will cost about one-tenth to one-half of what any turnkey system would cost, and it will keep the customer happy at the proposed one-stop service shop at the Department of Motor Vehicles. And with a simple point-and-click at the appropriate Intranet link, police information and drivers-license information become accessible to appropriately-authorized users from other branches or Departments.

Cost per computer? Comparison shop in the Washington Post Monday Business Section pullout. PCs are cheap. Where to find staff? Here I'll get to the point and say that the City of Washington could save millions by reading a story in today's Sunday Post A-section concerning the burgeoning industry of high-school programmers. Young, hip, not out of high-school, and making $50,000 a year... and more cutting-edge than senior degreed software engineers with 20-years of experience who get paid $100,000. "Why Pay More?"

And yes, NT-serving, NetWares volumes sharing, and for that matter AppleTalk and of course standard TCP/IP can all be accomplished over EtherNet LAN, from a Linux box.

A Live One At The Morgue

After long years of decrepitude, in fact near-death, the Office of the Medical Examiner (DC Morgue) begins its climb back towards health and utility.

Plagued by a long string of sorrows ranging from the merely disgusting (a refrigeration failure left the dead rotting in 110-degree-F heat while a drain blockage caused the fluids of the dead to collect in a festering fly-blown pool inches deep) to the pettily sordid (the last Acting Chief M-E was fired for practicing without a license) through the professionally-laughable (the toxicology equipment is said to be so broken you couldn't prove poisoning if someone arrived in a labelled box packed with cyanide crystals), the Morgue has at last got a high-profile and competent leader.

Up until the last year's revelations of implausibly-mismanaged conditions at the Metropolitan Police Department's evidence-storage facility, the DC Morgue has been considered for nearly a decade to be the greatest single impediment to effective homicide investigation and prosecution in the District of Columbia.

In possibly the most-important-to-date hire by Chief Management Officer (City Manager) Camille Cates Barnett PhD, the Morgue has a new Chief Medical Examiner. Barnett will have increasing control over the nine City agencies stripped from Mayoral control. The Control Board has voted to decrease their day-to-day scrutiny and control of those agencies, and pass much greater oversight and responsibility to Barnett.

The new M-E is one Jonathan L. Arden, MD, recently famed for rebuilding New York City's floundering M-E's office, also a specialist in child fatalities, an alarming and increasing problem in the District. Over the next two years, the morgue staff will increase from 32 to 45, and in particular, more than $2 millions will be spent on modern equipment.

Dr. Arden (whose medical license is valid) will start work in mid-April and will be paid $165,000 annually.

Schools

Washington's schools share the infrastructure problems of the rest of the city. A citizens'-group court action had, earlier this year, resulted in a very-delayed opening of the schools, due to school-safety issues. Repair were made over the summer, ostensibly in a great hurry by the best of the local construction trade. However, an audit of the costs, and an examination of the work received compared with the funds expended raised troubleing questions, which were compounded by an expose last week by a local news channel, which followed school-repair workers for an entire day and saw exactly no work being done. A confrontation with the supervisor on camera brought only bald lies which were further revealed by surveillance film to be not only bald lies but a clear indication that nowhere enough heads have rolled, and that this is a remaining outpost of the endemic infection that brought Washington DC to the edge of the third-world and the brink of disaster - the disease of Barry-Cronies(tm)-itis.

All of this has combined into a howl of public outrage, at least amongst the parents who have had to either stay home from work to watch their kids during the closings, or those who have had to fret over whether or not it would be their child who stepped into an electrified puddle in the school halls or be struck by falling debris or collapsing structure.

On 24 February 1998 Charles E. Williams, a retired Army General, resigned from his position as Operating Officer and Director fo Facilities. Also resigning was the school system's chief lawyer, General Counsel Cecilia Wirtz. Williams had come under intense fire, in particular for his failure to consult with the City's bewildering and contentious special-interest education groups. Williams had essentially stepped into a thankless and nearly-impossible job of juggling nukes in a minefield while being shot at from all directions in a total fog during an earthquake, and dropped no nukes and only stepped on those mines that were completely unavoidable. And due to his efforts, while the earth is still shaking, the fog is beginning to clear. We can only pray that his successor can do half so well.


All Is Not Well But Better
Financial Status Improving By Leaps And Bounds
Caution is urged, we're not out of the woods yet

9 March 1997
Washington's financial future looks a little brighter. After this year's record $185.9 million surplus (largely the result of a one-time Federal payment under the District Revitalization Act), Moody's Investors Service has moved the District's city bond issues to the highest rating of junk-bond. However, it is not yet time to raise a cheer nor to tout the District as financially sound. Among other things, a statement from Moody's Assistant Vice President Kathleen Holt indicated that it would not raise the bond rating further until they can see how much input elected officials have in the city's financial administration and budget planning. Once the
DCFRA Control Board's term expires, elected officials will have no checks nor balances against a return to the decadently wasteful practices which allowed the District to slide into total insolvency requiring a Federal bail-out and effective occupation. Moody's, and other investors in the District, evidently presume that if these elected officials can provide the majority of input and decision-making in budgeting processes now, it might be safely assumed that similar practices would be followed once the Control Board steps down.

It must be remembered that investors, and the professional analysis firms such as Moody's to which those investors turn for advice, are impressed very little by talk. They do prefer to deal with facts and figures, and have gotten very good at cutting through rhetoric and spin. The facts and figures with which they are most impressed are those which appear on balance sheets, and nothing impresses better than money in the bank.

The Chairman of the Control Board, Andrew F. Brimmer, a longtime financial expert, economic theoretician and former member of the Federal Reserve, has interestingly proposed a tax-cut for the District. It is our opinion that this would be hasty in the extreme. While the combination of Control Board, international-caliber business and management consultants, and Chief Financial Officer Anthony A. Williams has indeed managed to post a surplus for this year, it remains to be seen how well any future budgets will continue to generate surplus. This year's surplus comes in a climate of economic prosperity unprecedented since the boom years after the Second World War. Such economic summertimes can be expected to be rare and indeed may be limited in growth and inherently recessionary in most circumstances. Nationally, the economy has benefitted by a unique concatenation of circumstances including a free-fall in the economies of the Asian Rim. Washington's uncertainties as to future surplusses are further compounded by the fact that most of this year's surplus comes from a one-time Federal payment and assumption of old-debt, combining with a gross upsurge in tourism. The City of Washington can never again count on a Federal bail-out of such epic and indeed astounding proportions.

Board Chairman Brimmer doubtless realizes all of this, and has considerable more information as his disposal than most of us. Perhaps he is aware of factors which would tend to favor a redistribution of wealth from the public coffers into the hands of the District's taxpayers, both business and residential. We, however, would tend to point out the old adage, amply demonstrated by the experiences of DC Schools's Gen. (ret) Julius Becton, that "nothing ever gets done on time nor within budget". the schools has massive cost-overruns in the emergency roof-repairs last summer, resulting in substandard work at a gross overbudget. The District has a profoundly entrenched culture of cronyism, "fix-it-later disease", and very poor quality control and oversight processes. Our advice is to let the surplusses pile up and ideally earn interest or pay-down debts. Saving for a rainy day is something the District has never (to our knowledge) done, and as long as there is so much experimentation going on in this City's finances, let's try the old tried-and-true of cash in the bank.

A group called the Fair Budget Coalition (a group of social-service providers) notes that while other needs have seen increasing budgets, over the last five years the Distrit has consistently slashed costs on the budgets by increasingly abandoning those populations which are most in need of services and at the highest risk. Issues of homelessness, drug-addiction, child safety and child health, have consistently been the targets of budget axemen. In many cases, the money has been available through Federal sources but was not diligently applied, and in other cases, the money was simply not there, or was administered extremely inefficiently. In any case, the poor have been tending to move out of the District, in particular the working-poor, who have largely tended to move into Prince George's County, Maryland. While the District's population has declined by approximately one-sixth in the last seven years, those persons who are moving into the District are largely considerably more affluent than were the populations which departed. The District is seeing a decline in the need for budgeting for social services such as aid to working-poor or Welfare families, and this combines with a higher-income taxbase to increase the potentials for surplusses. However, there are a great many improvements possible in the social services arena.

Other sources of less-than-rosy future budget pictures could be the extreme need to give raises to the employees of the District, many of whom have not seen raises in five years. Also, it is quite possible that the District has grossly underestimated the cost of a technology upgrade which is very badly needed.

DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting Congressional representative of the City of Washington, proposes a tax-break of another sort. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development's Urban Empowerment Zones concept has been applied in the District to give major Federal tax breaks to employers operating in zones where there is a high level of poverty. However, the poverty-level is determined by census-tract zone boundaries, which are quite artificial and have very little to do with the actual boundaries of neighborhoods and which thus grossly misclassify some businesses. One side of a street might lie in a "poverty zone" and thus qualify for the tax-breaks, yet the other side of the street might be in worse condition, but be in a census tract which contains enough high-income persons to disallow the grant of the tax-breaks. Delegate Norton seeks a global inclusion of the entire District of Columbia into a tax-reduction empowerment-zone. With some reservations, we concur, and also concur with her proposal that as District denizens are not blessed with full Congressional representation, at the very least they should have their tax schedules readjusted from the standard IRS schedules, to a 15-percent Federal flat-tax on all income.

Politicians Politickin'

In the City of Washington DC, after the long years of the entrenched Barry-Cronies(tm) administration, where positions were quite-often awarded at the behest of Mayor Marion Barry and underlings served at the pleasure of these appointees, with absolutely minimal personnel legislation either protecting the worker or ensuring their performance, it was not uncommon to discover upon close examination that entire departments were essentially an extension to adults of Barry's famous (or infamous) Summer Jobs for Disadvantaged Youth programs.

In City of Washington local politics, the fastest and best way to get and keep votes, which Marion Barry did with consummate grace if not the best of sense, is to award jobs. If jobs cannot be awarded directly, the next-best thing is to assure District voters that District jobs are reserved exclusively to District residents.

This is exactly what has been proposed by DC Council Member Kevin P. Chavous, who says (according to, as always, the Washington Post), I think it's appropriate that, as part of this reform, we express our sovereignity..." as the excuse for inserting a residency requirement into the sweeping new personnel-reform legislation now pending. Thus continues the always strident and often-acrimonous debate regarding Home Rule for the District, and the potential for Statehood of the District of Columbia. Notwithstanding the fact that, since, according to the US Constitution, "Section 8 The Congress shall have Power .... (17)To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States", the District by definition in no case whatsoever has Sovereignity, nor may it, without a Constitutional Amendment.

Congress is in a generally foul mood over the District of Columbia, and not surprisingly so. After essentially getting locked out of work some two years ago by the Barry-Cronies(tm) administration's complete inability to get the streets cleared of snow, Congress has taken a rather dim view of allowing the City that houses the Federal Government to be pretentious. Time and time again, Congress has made it clear (and in our humble opinion should continue to resoundingly so do) that any pretensions to sovereignity in the District should be greeted with the sound of a very large flyswatter.

With few naysayers in the DC Council, the rider was added to the personnel reform bill. One can only ask, "what were they thinking?" - Congressional sources have made it quite clear that rather than passing the much-needed personnel reform bill and accepting this rider as a concession, they will view the rider as a "poison-pill" and will scrap the entire package. This is clearly an act of presumption, megalomania and insanity on the part of the DC Council. Control Board Chairman Brimmer believes that after the bill leaves the DC Council to be reviewed by the Control Board, the Board could then pass on the rest of the bill after striking the residency provision. According to the Chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on the District, Rep. Thomas M. Davis (a Virginia Republican): "You can always tell wen it's an election year in DC... The city ought to be worried about giving people the best quality employees they can at the best price and delivering the best services instead of trying to make the city a job corps, which is what this seems to be doing." The subcommittee's James P. Moran Jr (a Virginia Democrat) said "What they ought to be doing is passing a resolution that they hire the most-qualified people." At the present time, one of those qualifications should be something resembling common sense, which would obviously be lacking in anyone who moved to the District exclusively to get a job with the District Government. If there are already qualified residents who are interested in City governmnet positions, why haven't they been hired? Maybe because they don't want a thankless job with the potential of an instant return to the former days of the Barry-Cronies(tm) administration should Barry be re-elected, and the Control Board step down. Under a residency requirement, in such a situation, anyone moving to town could suddenly find themselves jobless in a grossly-overpriced city where real-estate is very much a buyer's market. And the only people who would speculate enough to move into town in the face of such a possiblity would be obviously Carpetbaggers.

Meanwhile, in the other Chamber of Congress, Senator Lauch Faircloth - derided by many as the main bugbear of DC Statehood hopes, and cheered by many more as the man who may save the city from the Rapist of Democracy (an allusion to a speech by Barry decrying his loss of ability to further wreck the city as a "rape of democracy") - appears to be gearing up for a Bye-Bye-Barry push that could reduce the office of the mayor to a status even closer to the level of mere cheerleader and powerless figurehead. This may be somewhat hasty, as there is a possibility that Marion Barry may not be re-elected to office in the upcoming mayoral elections. However, right now, Barry is effectively in charge of the appointment of a new Chief of Police for the District. Under District law, Barry has the right to make a selection (or to fail to do so, or stall forever) for Chief, which selection must be approved by the DC Council and Control Board. Also, once hired, although the new chief cannot be fired by Barry, s/he would report to Barry and the MOU, or the "memorandum of understanding partners", which includes not only Barry but also a group of law-enforcement professionals and city officials. This, taken along with other recent Barry efforts to gain control over the appointment of a city Inspector General, demonstrates a propensity of Barry, who might well be the target or a bystanding-casualty of any new police investigations into corruption within the police department or the wider city government, to "put the fox to guard at the henhouse." There is little doubt in the mind of any serious student of recent District history, in particular the history of local governance, that a web of cronyism if not outright corruption extends throughout the entire city political system captained nearly uninterruptedly by Barry for the last two decades.

Senator Faircloth, of the Senate Appropriations Subommittee for the District and a major player in the District Revitalization effort, reportedly believes that many of the best applicants for the position of Chief of Police have been discouraged by the prospect of reporting to Barry. Senator Faircloth is considering having all agency heads report, not to Barry, but to the new Chief Financial Officer, Camille Cates Barnett PhD. In any case, time alone will tell what the City of Washington itself would choose; the elections are not far away. My own presumption is that the city will again vote for Mayor Marion Barry, expecting that when the Control Board disbands after four successive successful budgets, Marion Barry will again take the helm of the District's ship-of-state, and again the denizens of the District will party on into the long long night as we see the resurrection of the Barry-Cronies(tm) Crew, once more to drunkenly binge-pilot the ship-of-state directly towards the reefs that none profess to see, but which all know lie there in the murky waters of political self-determination.


Rebuilding Issues Special

10 March 1998
Anyone would agree that the District of Columbia is in dire need of Revitalization. Long years of mismanagement, in some cases a sort of benign neglect, has led to a division of the city into two zones, best classified under architectural terminology: the edifice or corpus, and the facade.

It's perhaps more emblematic of America than of Washington, or at least it's perhaps more to blame - Washington despite any other problems does largely remain eager to give America what it wants. And if America prefers style of substance, or appearance more than health, one cannot lay the entirety of the blame on the vendor who gives the customer what they want.

So we have seen Washington divide into two cities. The Federal Enclave, the facade, the alabaster city gleams with the constant expenditure of Federal funds, and indeed there are few sights more inspiring than that of the Capitol building looming atop the Hill, surrounded by the various executive office buildings, backdropped by the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. Over all presides the Washington Monument, the shadow of which daily sundials across the Rose Garden at the White House. The Mall is maintained scrupulously, and any American can puff with deserved pride to see how the icons of our way of life and our emblems of freedom glow amid a cherryblossom-clad new spring.

And then there is the real city of Washington. The vendor of the image, the gatekeeper at the themepark, the management of this city can indeed himself puff with a bit of pride, for after all he's done a fine job of helping keep the customer happy, of keeping them in the public areas of the theme park, and what matter that should the customer stray from the public areas they might be confounded and dismayed to see that behind the facade, all is not so pretty as one would hope. For those who have been curious, who refuse to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain", a visit to Oz could quickly go from shocking revelation to a sort of quiet terror when one took the wrong turn on the leg of the tour leading to the Washingotn Navy Yards.

Washington DC is built on the confluence of two rivers. At one time, the Potomac river was so polluted that visitors to the Great Falls section of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historic Park were advised that it was dangerous to go near the water, not simply because of the awesome flow of some tens of billions of gallons of water through a narrow defile, but also because of the tiny things that lived in the murky frothing soup. But three decades of environmental regulation and accelerated remediation have combined to restore the Potomac and most of its feeder streams to the point where one may safely eat the fish caught off of Haines' Point downtown, and the rowing-crews no longer risk hepatitus with each splash of the oar.

The Anacostia River, Washington's "other" river, has not been so fortunate. At one time it was so polluted that it, like the infamous Cuyahoga River in Ohio, was occasionally at risk of catching fire. The lovely Botanical Gardens were at one time a feast only for the eyes, as a wind blowing from the Anacostia could be almost guaranteed to either make your sinuses clog or to make you wish they had. The Anacostia has been cleaned up to the point where you can no longer walk from one shore to the other atop a pile of festering sludge, but it is not exactly a healthy river. This is sad, as the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia starts as spring-fed runoff watershed running through scrupulously-maintained parklands and private pasturages in upper Montgomery County Maryland, and in some parks remains a haven for trout. By the time it has reached the District, however, it has passed through some fairly industrial territory.

The territory bordering the Anacostia River, therefor, has not for some time been though of as desirable nor even healthy. Southeast Washington, in fact, has for years been considered one of Washington's main hazards. In deepest Southeast, one sees some lovely rolling hills and a great deal of urban forest, but when the wind blew east across the Anacostia in recent years, it carried with it assorted vapors and fumes that were not exactly conducive to health. This may be one reason why the cancer rate for people living across the Anacostia from downtown suffer death from certain cancers at something like 11 times the national average.

On the downtown side of Anacostia, between Pennsylvania Avenue SE and the river itself, there was, in 1990, nothing much but either industrial wastelands in dire need of bulldozing, or equally blighted public housing, much of it abandoned or inhabited only by the most desperate of the homeless or serious junkies. If one left the Capitol ground eastbound on Pennsylvania Avenue, and took a right on 6th Street SE, one passed by a number of forlorn and abandoned dead housing buildings, crossed under the Southeast Freeway (I-295) and suddenly one was smack in the middle of a genuine Hell. The Carrolsburg Public Housing Project was possibly the single most-emblematic edifice ever raised to the failed legacy of Johnson's Great Society. Abandoned cars took up more parking on the street than did workable ones. Nearby, a solid-waste transfer station piled up into a veritable mountain of filth locally known as Mount Trashmore. Noplace in town is more emblematic of the decay that is Washington-behind-the-facade than is "downtown Southeast".

But it needn't be this way. And in fact, change is afoot. Mayor Marion Barry has reiterated already-circulating proposals to develop "downtown Washington", generally defined as the area a few blocks to the north of Pennsylvania Avenue NW from roughly the White House (16th and Pennsylvania) to the environs of the Capitol Building ("0" and Pennsylvania). Extending north to roughly Chinatown (itself centered around 8th and H Streets NW), this is the site of the new and highly-acclaimed MCI Center. This is largely a business district, and largely a failed one at that. When the Federal workers go home at night, this is a ghost town. There are few residents outside of the wandering homeless, and even those trend towards the Mall, finding this area just a bit too much like a set in some "after the plague" science-fiction movie, left with all buildings standing but utterly abandoned. There's simply no money walking around out on the street. A downtown without residents is a downtown where the shopkeepers, especially retailers, simply close up shop when the sidewalks roll up after the Federal workers all return home to the suburbs.

Yet there are few sites available to house residents, due to a former extreme-emphasis placed on attracting businesses, generally non-retail, downtown. There are some plans afoot to convert former office buildings into residential spaces, such as condominiums or luxury apartments. These facilities will be, however, largely outside the reach of any but the highest-income of Washington area residents, who by and large have been flocking to the suburbs to ensure adequate services and safety and decent educations for their families.

What's needed in Washington is affordable, but not publicly-subsidized, housing, within easy reach of Downtown.

While residential housing may be very difficult to provide, due to space limitations, in "downtown Northwest", in "downtown Southeast" we see an entirely different situation.

A new vision for the Monumental Core was proposed last year. It may be quickly summarized thus: where the Monumental Core now appears on a map as a large east-west swath of greenspace (the Mall) edged-in by various buildings such as the White House, Capitol Building and the various National Museums and suchlike, the new and modernized Future Core will have an additional north-south axis of building-edged greenspace, running along South Capitol Street. It will probably extend to roughly 2nd streets SW and SE and down to Buzzard Point. In the map below, (courtesy of Yahoo), the leftmost blue swath is the Potomac River, the rightmost is the Anacostia River, and between the two is the Washington Channel, home of the Washington Marina. The green area between is Haines' Point, a popular recreational parklands area, and Buzzard Point is the southmost point between the Washington Channel and the Anacostia River. The SouthEast Office Center lies between the red "plus" and the Anacostia, bounded east to "M" and 6th Streets SW, where it becomes the Washington Navy Yard extending roughly to 10th Street SW (extended) bridges across the Anacostia.

In March 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the Washington Navy Yard to begin a cleanup of its facilities. The Navy Yard has begun to comply. This should make the Anacostia smell a little better, especially as the EPA begins to enforce much-greater compliance in the upstream watersheds of the Anacostia.

The sad and forlorn abandoned and infested housing projects along 6th Street SE between G Street and the Southeast Freeway have been razed to the ground, and townhouse construction is now underway, under the auspices of David I. Gilmore, the court-appointed reciever for the once-decrepit Department of Public Housing. Mr. Gilmore may turn out to be one of the most influential people in recent Washington history. He has presided over the deconstruction and reconstruction of many of Washington's worst public housing, including the above-mentioned ticking time-bomb Welfare Culture Enclave of the Carrolsburg Projects. These are presently the center of a high-priority renovation effort. They are, it should be added, a mere block away from the Washington Navy Yard. The Navy has stated that it intends to relocate 5000 employees to the Navy Yard. They will have to live somewhere. It should also be mentioned here that directly across the street from the Navy Yard lies the Arthur Capper apartments, a public housing project that is no less decadent than any of the other nearby public-housing facility. Mr. Gilmore has broached a plan to the US Marine Corp to expand their barracks, which are across the Southeast Freeway from the Navy Yard and the Arthur Capper, into the Arthur Capper itself. However, we can only hope that Mr. Gilmore will be able to find a place in some of his newly-renovated projects of the residents of the Arthur Capper, largely senior-citizens.

Can it be that the best hope for blighted "downtown Southeast" is the US Navy and Marines? At one time I would have immediately said yes, but the reason I would hav given was that this is what it would take to "take back" the Welfare Blight-zone. At present, the whole area outside of the military has almost zero influx of cash outside of the rapidly-vanishing Welfare Check. Ordinarily military centers are not particularly well-known for pumping money into communities, outside of assorted gyp-joints clamoring to relieve the enlisted-man of his liberty pay, but this will be no mere training or ordnance facility. The 5,000 employees the Navy is relocating from Crystal City are expected to pump nearly $4 millions into the immediate neighborhood, in lunch money alone. At present, there are very few local commercial establishments remotely capable of feeding 5000 people, and one has visions of a massive bidding war between fast-food outlets all vying for the right to feed the civilian employees. Fast-food places, I might add, are in general very interested in such things as making their immediate surroundings attractive.

In those cases where fast-food simply won't do, the Navy Yard is only ten blocks or so from some of the finest dining Capitol Hill has to offer. It must be added here that the nearest retail shopping tends to be in that exact part of "downtown Northwest" which is most desperately in need of cash customers... and where the retailers now close up shop when the Federal workers go home for the day, if Mr. Gilmore and the Navy and the incoming Naval workers can come to some sort of arrangement as regards some of the newly-renovated public housing units in the Carrolsburg Project, perhaps some of the Naval workers can reside there, and after the Federal workers abandon downtown Northwest, Naval workers residing in downtown Southeast can take the short ride over to shop in downtown Northwest, to spend their hard-earned money and bringing new life to the night streets.

This particular block of commentary was inspired by an excellent and thought-provoking article in the Sunday 8 March 1998 Washington Post, by Vernon Loeb.

I might add that as the Navy and the Marines move in, my District DEFCON rating tends to drop. On a rating scale of 1 ("stand off the planet and nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure") to 5 ("sheep may safely graze as the lion sleeps tonight"), Far Northwest Washington holds at roughly 3, SouthWest appears to be dead silent except for the occasional police raid on the extremely trigger-happy street crews, earning a rating of 2, NorthEast remains all over the map from 2 to 4, and SouthEast outside of Capitol Hill remains as always a frog being very slowly heated to well-done inside a powderkeg insulated from the flames of war only by a witches cauldron now roiling at a simmering boil.


Another Boring Week in Washington
Don't Rest Too Easy, Calm Comes Before A Storm

15 March 1998 In yet-another bid to restore his relevance to the City of Washington, disempowered Mayor Marion Barry has demanded a place on the DCFRA Control Board.

The legislation which created the Control Board specifically excludes elected officials from serving on the Board. Mayor Barry would have to step down from elected office to be eligible for inclusion in the administrative body which was created by Congress, and whose members were appointed by the President, to undo the damage created by almost two uninterrupted decades of the Barry administration.

The single individual most responsible for the day-to-day management of the City of Washington, Camille Cates Barnett PhD, has at last gotten moved into her new digs, which are located in the relatively-quiet neaighborhood of Mt. Pleasant. The house lies on Park Road NW, close to Rock Creek Park, in a neighborhood largely populated by longtime professionals, a youthful post-collegiate crowd, and a thriving Latino community.

Addenda and Pot-shots

We've been less-than-diligent in spreading the news as to what might often seem to be minimal addenda in the District's ongoing changes. This is catch-up week.

First and foremost, Yes The Cherry Trees Are Blooming Late. The region has experienced, for the most part, an extremely mild winter, the second-warmest on record. However, in the last week, an extreme cold snap froze radiators all over town. However, the cherry-blossoms seem to be mostly unaffected. Peak bloom is expected to be a week or so before that Cherry Blossom Festival, probably being at peak bloom around 25 March 1998.

We had noted on 25 October 1997 that due to entrenched sluggishness and lameness in the District government, millions of dollars in Federal grants (primarily designed to aid the most at-risk populations of the District, such as the homeless and terminally-ill, as well as those being moved from Welfare to Work) were either not applied for, or were applied for late or without sufficient documentation as to satisfy statutory reporting requirements. This had led to assorted reassignments of personnel.

Rather than have a repeat of this fiasco, on 9 March 1998, one Norman Dong was named to head the Office of Grants Management and Development. Dong had at one time worked for the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development prior to coming on-board with DC Chief Financial Officer Anthony A. Williams, for whom Dong acted as Chief of Staff. Those duties will now be handled by Laura Triggs. Dong replaces Sandra Manning.

In the District schools, issues remain and expand, raised by last fall's hasty roofing repair operations, which resulted in very delayed openings of the District schools. Among these issues, foremost seems to be the question of exactly how much fraud actually resulted from the extremely-hasty repairs. The repairs were massive and also there was evidently, due to the haste to get underway (caused by an ongoing lawsuit over school safety), insufficient opportunity to bid the job out for proper competition. This has resulted in a report by the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) which states that the cost to repair the roofs was roughly $20 per square-foot. Recently-resigned Chief Operating Officer for the District Schools, Charles E. Williams, had estimated the costs to be no more than $11 to $16 per square foot. The city had difficulty finding contractors willing and able to do the work, and this has been blamed for some of high cost. Intensified investigations, based on reports of potential fraud and actual hours-padding, are now underway.

We note in passing that the District Schools' Chief Financial Officer, Edward H. Stephenson Jr, was forced to resign effective this last week. During a period of extreme restructuring of the District Schools floundering academic programs, Stephenson was apparently less-than-diligent in timely submissions of a budget for 1999, and also evidently failed in some oversight and supervisory duties. Also there have been complaints from vendors and employees due to problems with the schools' accounting systems, attributed by Stephenson as partially due to computer problems. Stephenson had been involved with the schools for some three years, coming from the General Accounting Office to work with the DCFRA Control Board as a senior analyst. Evidently, there had been extreme strains between Stephenson and Anthony A. Williams, who may or may not have direct legal authority over school system management, which is normally controlled by Gen. (ret) Julius Becton. The District Schools continues to experience "growing pains" as all aspects are reorganized.

The District's Department of Motor Vehicles will now be headed by Henry I. Lightfoot, who had spent 21 years with Maryland's Motor Vehicles Administration, replacing Joan Bailey. The District's DMV has been plagued for years by information-system problems and general malaise.

The City of Washington's semi-independent Water and Sewer Authority (established by Congress as part of a massive effort to repair or replace the City's crumbling sanitation infrastructure) has made an offer of some $217 millions of bonds. They have been rated A-Minus by Standard & Poors. The city's water-supply has not failed safety ratings since September 1996, and the Environmental Protection Agency is now closing their Drinking Water Hot-Line telephone service.

Suburbia

In Maryland, as part of pre-trial maneuvers in a case involving an in-school possession of a pipe-bomb allegedly ordered by one student, made by another, and delivered by still a third, one defendent's attorney alleges that there is a flourishing pipe-bomb subculture in the suburbs of Montgomery County Maryland.

Interestingly, the State of Maryland, originally founded by England's Lord Baltimore as a haven for those suffering from religious persecution (at the time, Catholics in England were bitterly persecuted), now ranks sixth in reported incidents of anti-semitism according to the Anti-Defamation League.

A report by one W. Gregory Wims, a former president of a local NAACP branch, indicates that there was no evidence for a "pattern of abuse" by the County Police against minorities in Montgomery County Maryland. However he did recommend that officers have considerably more sensitivity training and noted that "certain practices and behaviors exascerbate the situation".

Weirdness
Versus Obliviousness

There's simply no way of telling what next one will find in the way of Weirdness around the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Yes, Washington is not only the Nation's Capital, it's also the Weirdness Capital. As bizarre as even everyday life in Washington might seem to "the folks back home", one can get used to it after a fashion. However, some days and some incidents stand out as being phenomenally odd even amid the everyday madness casually dismissed (by longtimers in the region) with the phrase "Welcome to Washington".

In a scam beginning to be seen increasingly nationwide, a man posed as a US Federal Marshall, "arrested" a man, escorted him back to his house where the "marshall" took the man inside, were joined by others, who then bound and gagged the residents of the home, and ransacked the place, fleeing with an unknown amount of cash and jewelry.

Also, for no discernable reason, something "changed" hereabouts on the eve of the awesome cold-snap which swept across the region mid-week. Amid peculiarities such as a man mysteriously found shot in a parking lot at the Pentagon, and publication of reports that four Egyptians had entered the country over a year ago and were preparing to make a move instigating a terrorist attack on the Pentagon in an unspecified mode, the entire region seemed to go on some sort of alert. Ordinarily one sees this sort of activity only when there are heightened military tensions as in the recent Persian Gulf buildup - however, in such situations the activity generally increases only in military personnel and those closely associated with military personnel or the military establishment. This was instead what appeared to be a vast agitation in the civilian population, or at any rate some very odd behavior was observed.

Over the last year or so, the rapidly dropping prices of assorted high-tech toys of the sort one finds in Sharper Image stores or Spy Shop mail-order catalogues has placed an inordinate number of laser-pointers and nightscopes out in the local communities. It has become not too uncommon to see people sitting in minivans scoping out the down-street action with a mail-order made-in-Belarus nightscope. Occasionally, one sees bizarre flares of bright-green light when one person's nightscope's 40-watt IR illuminator array passes across the receptor lenses of another's nightscope, overdriving the image-converter display. One also occasionally sees people, generally immigrant kids, wandering around with "done" walkman radios (you can easily modify a Sony Walkman (tm) radio to pick-up shortwave), evidently trying to locate local Ham radio stations. I personally find this annoying. So far as I can tell, the majority of longtime residents, or at least the Mainstream, seem to be utterly oblivious to any of this. Then again, see above regarding the allegations of a "flourishing pipe-bomb subculture" in regional schools. The locals seemed to be oblivious to that, too.

In the middle of last week, though, something set people off around here. The night before the cold-snap, people all over town were (even more than usual) driving like maniacs, like there was someplace the had to be, without fail, on time. The "nightscope people" were out scoping like nobody's business. At many local strip-mall shopping centers, it appeared that persons in unmarked vehicles were picketed on stake-out and I can only presume that this was all due to the revelation of the Egyptian Terrorist Pentagon Threat hitting the news. A bit of overreaction no doubt since this was observed in a suburb at least an hour's travel from the Pentagon. I suspect that if I'd have my CB or shortwave "ears" on, I'd have picked up some fascinating chatter. Some of it might even have been in English.

Things seem to have calmed down somewhat by now.

Welcome to Washington, one might say, but this is Montgomery County Maryland, an extremely upscale and appallingly liberal solid-Democrat jurisdiction. As Captain Rob Barnhouse said recently, discussing Montgomery County's belated official awareness of an emerging gang problem (primarily ethnic youth in search of a sense of community), "People have to recognize that the Montgomery County of the '90s is not what it was in the '60s and '70s." Federal, State and local-level law-enforcement will hold a conference in April to consider approaches to dealing with Youth Gangs in the area. Virginia has the greatest problem with youth gangs, regionally. In Montgomery County, the police consistently refused to admit that there was a developing gang problem, preferring to solve the problem by failing to address it. Once again, we see Obliviousness as a preferred technique of problem-solving.

DEFCON for Washington's Maryland suburbs appears to be hovering in the vicinity of 2 ("the lunatics have taken over the asylum"), with regional hotspots, notably the vicinity of Hewitt Avenue in Aspen Hill, and adjacent areas.

Confidence in Obliviousness is high, I repeat Confidence in Obliviousness is high.


Euphoric Equinox To All, Spring Cleaning Time's Here!
Arrivals and Departures
A Week of Stunning changes

21 March 1998

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only hesitant defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this hesitancy arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have had the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.

Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking the reformer, his opponents do so with the zeal of the partisan, while the others defend him only half-heartedly, so that between them he runs a dangerous gantlet...

- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

The United States Congress, in their historic creation of the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (DCFRA Control Board), responded handsomely to the need to secure functional governance for the Nation's Capitol, acting within the authority of the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, paragraphs 17 and 18. But to conquer is one thing. To rule wisely is another. President William Jefferson Clinton proved himself a wise ruler when he made his selection of the new rulers of Washington, and to the leadership of this body of civilian nobles appointed a true Prince.

Andrew F. Brimmer has done a fantastic job of selecting staff, making very difficult decisions, and endlessly pushing on the immense inert mass of a failed municipal administration, has actually managed to keep his footing while getting that vast inert lump up the slippery-slope of moist mud that is the interface between local and Federal politics, between outright occupation or complete systemic collapse. In the process, he has been accused of aiding and abetting the "rape of democracy", has been remarked upon for both his successes, and for his "autocratic ways". This city did indeed need a Prince and it got one, and just in the nick of time.

Washington DC, a creature of the Constitution and of Congress, was ministered-to by Dr. Brimmer - a lifelong veteran of law and of finance - as the Nation's Capital rather than as a city with a local constituency. Any benefits to the locals must come as a secondary result of the primary goal, which considering the conditions locally at the time of his appointment, might have been seen as complete and essential evacuation of the Federal enclave from Washington, or the avoidance of a direct military occupation, which in our opinion would have become inevitable by this date had not a middle road been found. When the Control Board was created, as part of the enabling Congressional legislation there was a proviso that no elected official could be a member of the Control Board and this wise policy was a direct statement from Capitol Hill that local needs would indeed be satisfied as mere spin-off from satisfaction of Federal requirements. In order to satisfy Congress and prevent an evacuation or occupation, an autocrat was needed.

Local conditions have greatly improved, it must be noted. Locally, all crimes are down an average of 22 percent in the last year, much moreso since the Board's empowerment. The nearly-anarchic kleptocracy of the Barry-Cronies (tm) Administration has been shored up, primarily through the disempowerment of Mayor Marion Barry himself and also through the removal, retirement or resignation of his hand-picked henchmen. In some cases, however, the Mayor had made excellent choices. The city's chief Financial Officer, Anthony A. Williams, aided and abetted by the Control Board and a Federal assumption from the City of functions ordinarily handled by a State, has brought the District's amazingly deficit-ridden budget into a state of surplus. There are some questions as to whether or not the surplus is largely a mathematical fiction produced by an disinclusion of financing charges for a new Convention Center and a disallowance of a not-yet-funded underbudgeting of the hand-over process for the Department of Corrections. Depending on how you cook the books, the City has either got a surplus of $127 millions or a deficit of $10 millions. In any case, the improvement is little short of miraculous.

An iron hand has done much good around here, but this is indeed the Capital of a Free Nation, and there is a certain glaring inconsistency in the presence of an occupation force, no matter how benign and well-intentioned, usurping democratic process in the local politics of that Capital. Many have said that Washington is fully recovered from 20 years of astounding mismanagement and decay, though even the most liberal of bean-counters will be quick to say that one data-point (the arguable surplus) does not a trend make. So the occupation will continue, defending the Nation's Capital and the Federal Government from the inhabitants of that Capital City, but it will now be a kinder, gentler occupation. The time for an autocrat, as stated by the autocrat himself, has come and gone. The Prince is abdicating. Largely lauded by the President and indeed almost every powerful person involved with the Control Board assumption of the reins of local government (except, as Machiavelli would have it, "all those who profit by the old order"), Dr. Brimmer has announced that he will not seek re-appointment to the Chair of the DCFRA Control Board.

We personally predict and would heartily approve of the appointment of one Constance Berry Newman, an extremely experienced Republican. Her credentials are impeccable, and her appointment would almost certainly bring a much more tight-focus to the needs of Washington's most needy. She has in the past been the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and thus clearly is very well-qualified for any management oversight. But her experience as Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Director of VISTA, and Commissioner and Vice-Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission all point to a career not only in public service and management but a strong interest in development of the poor, disempowered, and endangered, all of which last groups can be found in abundance in Washington.

Nowhere is this in greater evidence than the preent state of affairs in the

District Schools

On 4 November 1997 we reported that a lawsuit brought by a group of very-concerned parents had been resolved in part by the appointment of one Donald A. Brown. We here quote ourselves: "One Donald A. Brown, a real-estate developer, will become an unpaid advisor who will endeavor to oversee that some 27.5 percent of all future city borrowings for capital-improvement will be spent on upgrading the schools, safely, in watchdog and whistleblower mode. Julius W. Becton, Jr, a retired Army General with a great reputation for turning moribund facilities and operations into efficient organizations, is as part of the settlement required to abide by Mr. Brown's recommendations. All in all, close to a half-billion dollars is to be spent on a school-system physical-facility rebuilt over the next five years."

The conditions of the lawsuit require that someone be filling Brown's position as watchdog in oversight, and it is unclear at this moment as to whether or not Brown's departure without prior replacement invalidates the court's settlement. If the settlement is in fact invalidated, the students might find themselves faced with an early and extended spring break.

The District of Columbia Schools have, over the last few weeks, undergone massive shake-ups in the higher ranks. The Chief Operating Officer, one Charles E. Williams, reportedly doing a fine job considering the circumstances of complete organizational collapse and profound infrastructural deterioration in the physical facilities of the schools campuses, quit under fire from all quarters, including the Control Board. A week later, the Chief Financial Officer, one Edward H. Stephenson Jr, was forced to resign. Also departing, one Richard Weming, the director of Educational Accountability, an ominous sign. He was the person responsible for, among other things, collecting data on student test scores and dropout rates. Hopefully, his resignation was not done simply in order to forestall an oncoming near-suicidal depression at finally detecting a clear statistical trend indicating absolutely-irremediable dysfunctionality in the schools which would inevitably presage the creation of a completely illiterate and unacculturated generation of new adults who were utterly unprepared for life, victims of decades of neglect of the schools.

Brown may have resigned simply because, despite all diligent efforts to fulfill his mission of oversight, he had no responsible authorities with which to coordinate. If this is indeed the case, Brown, like so many others in the flight from management of the District's Schools, may have made the most effective move towards forcing an increase in the pace of reform. To paraphrase the profound philosophy of one Larry Niven: "Sometimes the only way to get defective machinery fixed is to toss a monkeywrench in the works and force management to redesign new systems."

Internet for District Schools

Even as top management flees in panic (if not comic) haste from the collapsing house of cards that is the District Schools, even as the University of the District of Columbia teeters on the edge of ruin and abandonment, even as thousands of needy District children and young adults and persons in transition for Welfare to Work cry out for training and opportunity, the District of Columbia public schools have decided to take advantage of some common-sense proposals I have made, though they do not go far enough.

In my Strategic Vision for District Infosystems Page, I point out that it is totally insufficient to blow millions bringing District Infosystems up to present standards. I point out that it is completely essential to plan proactively, ideally as far towards the future as is practicable given the uncertainties of the emergence of totally-unforseen technology.

The District's Schools have proposed such a vision. They would take advantage of the landmark legislation backing Bill Clinton - Al Gore proposals to have every school wired to the Internet by the year 2000. This legislation created the Federal Communication Commission's "Schools and Libraries Corporation", funded in part by added charges on telephone subscribers' bills.

Recently the Government Accounting Office (GAO) circulated an internal finding, not legally binding as of yet, which indicates that the FCC may well have exceeded its statutorily-defined authority in the creation of this corporation. The program was not intended to supply the schools with internal-to-the-building connectivity, but rather to simply insure that something like an Internet Dialtone was delivered to the schools. Internal wiring was the schools' responsiblity. Part of the proposal is for no mere ethernetting of the schools, now 90 percent complete, but would rather extend a much higher caliber of connectivity into the schools. The present proposal includes the installation of very high-capacity optical fiber into all classrooms. Gigabit and possibly terabit information flow capabilities would permit remote access to interactive multimedia, potentially to eventually include immersive or participatory virtual realities. Present technology would permit live video and audio feed, and one-way multimedia feeds between or within gigabit-connected facilities.

However, the rate of technical advance is presently so rapid that we believe this effort to be somewhat premature. Where the District School's proposal would run gigabit connections throughout all of the schools, we must remind everyone that there is a new move afoot, some variation of which will inevitably be approved. Please read something about the SuperNet/HiperLAN standards for close-range wireless communications.

Critics of the Schools and Libraries Corp have complained about program offerings of cellural phones, pagers, and beepers. Schools have begged for more money, and decried the lack of Corp funding for wiring internal to the schools.

Clearly, there is only one quite-obvious solution to these dilemmas.

Congress must quickly enact legislation, which will no doubt quickly be signed by the President, which revises the statutory authority of the FCC or empowers a new authority to assume a mission which would combine research & development in addition to the present mission of getting the internet to the walls of the schools. Additionally, there would be increased coordination with the giants of industry and academia. In particular, as regards District academia, the local technical schools could work in concert with the largely-idled staff of the University of DC, and coordinate through local Summer Jobs and Welfare-to-Work agencies and groups to put idle hands to work "wiring" the District Schools with low-cost intern/trainee labor, while providing hands-on training for those interns and trainees.

The mission: combine the beepers, pagers, and cellular phones fundings or allocations towards the installation of SuperNet/HiperLAN wireless intranet. From the schools' sides, they will increasingly allocate funds towards the purchase of palmtop computers, ideally pen-based with graphic capabilities. Industry is already vigorously expanding development of such devices, which I have dubbed Beltcom (tm). Incidentally, such a device has been actually made and marketed in the last year, less than three years after I predicted it almost exactly in a web-mounted science fiction novel. The price of both standard-technology split-spectrum wireless modems and palmtop devices have dropped dramatically in the last two years, and it cannot be overemphasized that the "intelligence" of devices such as beepers and cellular phones have risen proportionately, with prices remaining roughly stable. It must also be noted that the burgeoning ubiquity of Sun Microsystems' any-platform JAVA language has been extended into the realm of household devices by the PersonalJava operating system, which has produced widespread industry enthusiasm. Where the schools have formerly faced the daunting (though decreasing) expenses of supplying minimal computing access to all students, we would instead see students tending to fund their own access to computing technologies, with the schools providing connectivity and cirriculum-oriented software mostly composed of pre-developed industry-standard Embedded Java or Java Beans applications.

Keep in mind, always look to the future when deciding what to do today, by the time you get around to deciding what to do, the day you planned for may be yesterday's stale tech and old news.

Other News

Welfare Reform

A study issued last month indicates that the District ranks very near the bottom of the long list of jurisdictions progressing well on Welfare-to-Work. The study concludes that the only thing that could be done in the District to improve the transition would be to greatly increase access to child-care and day-care for the poor. We noted last year with extreme dismay that more than half of the District's day-care and child-care facilities were operating without licenses.

Immigration

Last week, the Washington Post reported that a longterm undercover sting operation had broken a ring which included Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agents as well as numerous others, including illegal and legal-resident aliens and citizens both naturalized and native. This ring was providing legitimate documents to illegal aliens who had already arrived in the United States. Among other abuses of process, the sting uncovered many "legitimate" (or at least, properly-documented) resident aliens and recent citizens allowing (for a hefty fee) their residences or businesses to be used as "fronts", generally for purposes of falsification of employment information on applications for work-permits or "green cards".

The extent of such rings is not fully known, but there have been suspicions voiced that the breadth, depth, and penetration of such schemes and organizations may be much greater than officialdom is willing to admit.

One well-known, but insufficiently policed, scam is the "mail-order bride" or "sham marriage" scam, wherein brokers locate potential immigrants, and arrange marriages with American citizens who are paid to enter a marriage of convenience with the potential immigrant.

One local investigation had been beginning to focus on the affairs of one Yong Quin Chen, 41, a legal permanent resident alien, and one Michael Ming Chung Cheng, 29, a US citizen. They are the owners of the Happy Garden Restaurant in Glen Dale, Prince George's County Maryland. During investigation of a kidnapping, FBI agents had encountered a stash of love letters which were "pre-dated" months in advance and were evidently intended to be used to hoax US consulate officials into issuing entry-visas for "chinese brides" to enter the US for (presumably sham) marriage to the men who signed the bogus documents.

This investigation is in the "very-preliminary stages" according to one INS official, who admits that the extent of this is not known.

What is known is that these two restaurant owners were under investigation in conjunction with a kidnapping, and an event of this week only underscores the likelihood of some involvement, if not in this kidnapping, in another.

Neighbors of these two men say that for a period of time "actually, I can't remember a time when it was not going on" very tired-looking Latino workers came and went from the house owned by the two men, escorted by Chen and Cheng. In itself this would not be illegal nor improper, as the law permits any citizen who can afford to sponsor immigrants, to do so.

What is improper are the following alleged events. Leo Mujick-Lara, a Mexican national of undetermined immigration status, was found severely beaten in the parking lot of a Manassas Virginia convenience-store. He alleges that after attempting to leave the Happy Garden Restaurant last week, one of the cooks beat him with a metal spoon and a claw hammer. He further alleges that he was kept under lock and key in the basement of Cheng's home, and allowed out only to work at the restaurant.

It appears that in the process of attempting to revise our national immigration policies and laws, we have unleashed a new demon, one not seen in this country since the time of the revolution, "indentured servitude", where a patron enables immigration, and then exacts a fee in labor or services. As Mujick-Lara alleges that he was sold from one forced-labor chinese restaurant somewhere in the American South, to another forced-labor chinese restaurant here in the Nation's Capital area, we can draw only one conclusion if these allegations are true. There exists in the suburbs of the Nation's Capital an ongoing criminal enterprise of immigrants, trading in immigrant slaves.

Mujick-Lara states that he was a bargain, sold for only $450.00.

DEFCON for Glen Dale Maryland rises slightly from 2 ("lunatics have taken over the asylum") to 1.8 ("foreign slave traders appear to have been operating for years and no authorities noticed"). DEFCON for Montgomery County declines, however slightly, to 2.1 ("just plain too weird for words").

DEFCON for most of Washington happily approaches 3 ("it's remarkable how normal it appears on the surface").


Washington Weirdness 22 March 1998

MACBETH: How now thou secret ...hags? What is't you do?
WITCHES[unison]: A deed without a name.
Well, of course the nature of true weirdness consists of a state of wonder, as in "I wonder if I really saw that?" - and in Washington it's of course no different. After all, as any prestidigitator will tell you (if you pay the Guild fees and swear enternal silence) "the hand is quicker than the eye, and eye is thus easily deceived". As we say around here, "Welcome to Washington".

Depending on who you are, and what you're doing, and how fast your eyes (or fingers) are, you may or may not have either been observant, or have perhaps succumbed to the sole known defense for Washington Weirdness, to wit - Obliviousness. But of course consider that any honest psychologist will readily equate induced-obliviousness in the face of prestidigitation, to hypnotic trance. It's a basic of the technique and practice.

"Keep your eye on the bouncing dot of 670nanometer laser-pointer light (or is that a targeting sight?), and don't forget to sing along."

Heck, she says it better than me and has a much better voice. Run right down to the CD store and give it a listen... our song of the week. Or maybe the city's theme song for the next few weeks.

Have I been blind, have I been lost
Was I unwise to keep my eyes open for so long
Hypnotized, mesmerized, by what my eyes have seen
In carnival...

- Natalie Merchant, Carnival


Police Special

Cherry Blossoms are expected to peak in the next few days. All of the other trees are all coming out in blossoms as well. Be sure to pack your hay-fever medicine.


Boom! There It Is
The Money's In The Pipe, Five By Five
Neighborhood Development Funds Released

27 March 1998 The government of the District of Columbia has long been known for problems dealing with grants monies. In few places has this been more noticable than in the realm of development grants from such agencies as the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

On 30 August 1997, we noted that HUD had, in 1990, suspended the DC economic development funds due to inadequate management and tracking of $38 million in block grants. We also reported on that date that HUD strongly criticized records-keeping and expenditures tracking by the District government. Several days later we noted the selection of one Richard Monteilh for a position as head of the District's Department of Housing and Community Development. On 16 October 1997 we reported that HUD had blocked some $40 millions in block-grants to the District, noting among other details posted on that date that the District ranked 945th of 950 cities in expenditure of grants received. Recently, we also noted the appointment of one Norman Dong to the position of head grants administrator for the District. We noted on 22 October 1997 that one David I. Gilmore had been directly-awarded some $20 millions for renovation of some extremely afflicted housing projects, the Valley Green and Skytower projects.

On 17 February 1998, we noted that the District budget had been fixed, ostensibly running at a surplus for the first time in many years. We also quoted the Chief Financial Officer for the District, Anthony A. Williams, as saying "The District now has a performance problem as opposed to an overspending problem".

This has continued to be the case, although as we reported, Public Housing reform and rebuilding surpassed expectations largely due to David Gilmore and his associates. However, outside of Public Housing, we have seen an extremly slow pace in deployment of funds towards Community Development projects.

This is no longer the case. Boom! $70 millions have been released into the community, through a variety of agencies, towards the Revitalization Effort. After a long period of assessment and cooridnation with some of the community's (and the nation's) most influential experts on urban renewal, various projects have been selected.

Some of these leading lights of urban development include (as reported by the Washington Post):

Among the forefront beneficiaries of some of this funding are:

Becton Resigns From Schools
Ackerman Tapped as Replacement
Highly-Rated, Respected Career Academic Administrator Already Making Profound Changes

General (ret) Julius W. Becton Jr, 71, has announced his retirement, effective this June, from the position of Chief Executive of the troubled District Schools.

Stating that he was tired, Gen. Becton has also indicated that his seocond-in-command, Arlene Ackerman, a career academic most-recently from Seattle Washington, would most probably be his replacement.

Often criticized, and in fact constantly under fire from all directions, Becton (appointed by the DCFRA Control Board) had taken steps to begin a massive rebuilding of the District Schools, which had languished under the administration of Mayor Marion Barry. Increasing violence, infrastructure disintegration, vacant facilities, wasteful practices, almost-total disorganization of records, academic dysfunction, and many other problems characterized the District's schools when the General was appointed.

Since then, there have been many changes, some for the better, some for the worse. In recent weeks, the administration of the schools has been rocked by an inordinate number of personnel changes, with resignations and dismissals coming one after the other.

Arlene Ackerman, presently Chief Academic Officer, has had a career specializing in turnarounds of damaged urban school systems, particularly in poverty-stricken inner cities. She has been quick to categorize the dismal test scores of District schools (just about last in the nation) as "educational genocide" and we are forced to agree. She has stated that her goal is to turn the District Schools into an "exemplary" system. One of her approaches is to base 50 percent of principals' yearly evaluations on how much students' test-scores improve. Few doubt Ackerman's academic credentials and her drive to improve the system, yet this will be her first real go with the management end of the schools.

Left unknown is how Ackerman will deal with the increasingly contentious ethnic communities in Washington. The Greater Washington Metropolitan Area has in the last decade become one of the top-five destinations for all immigrants, and Washington itself has a large population of ethnic minorities, predominantly Latino, quite often persons from war-torn Central American countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador who entered the country as refugees. It must be noted that within the last week, as a deadline nears for completing applications for asylum, very large demonstrations have been held at the Capitol protesting forced repatriations. The District of Columbia is by far and away majority-black, and Ackerman has been catagorized by some in her former school district in St. Louis Missouri as being concerned with prioritizing educational issues relevant to black students above issue relevant to students of other ethnic groups. Whether these issues are linked, it must be noted that last week the school systems Diversity Task Force resigned after presenting a list of demands to General Becton. These demands were evidently intended to remedy deficiencies in the District Schools approach to serving the children of immigrants. It can be presumed that some of the demands were for extended bilingual or multilingual cirricula, a concept which has come to be regarded by many as outmoded and harmful, even by Californian educators and even Spanish-speaking parents. (Incidentally, in neighboring Maryland, there is a measure before the House of Delegates to make English the official language.) The demands have not yet been published and are thus not subject to our analysis. At any rate, the immediate problem facing the District Schools is reversing the total inability of the system to serve even intelligent and well-adapted mainstream students. A secondary concern, and a great one, is reversing the system's grossly mismanaged and nearly-defunct disabled/special-education programs.

Also not known is what might be Ackerman's approach to the juvenile crime and the interactions between the law-enforcement and juvenile-justice systems, and the District Schools. On 3 March 1998, the US Department of Justice froze all juvenile-delinquency grant monies to the District. These funds, amounting to $3.2 millions, are presently administered by the DC Parole Board, which unlike so many other city agencies has been left (in our opinion either a grossly-negligent oversight or an act of complete insanity) under the control of Mayor Marion Barry. As has been the case with all other agencies left under the control of Mayor Barry, despite the ready availbility of funds already paid in to city coffers over the last three years almost none of the money has been spent, or at least has not been spent in any way that could be documented. The Mayor has followed his standard path of blaming his one-term predecessor Sharon Pratt Kelly (who served her one term during the time the Mayor was locked up for his broadcast use of cocaine with a mistress in the Vista Hotel) and Congress.

Recently, there have been assorted demonstrations and announcements pointing out the fact that one of the most consistent aspects of the Barry Administration has been increasing cuts in human- and social-services aimed at the poor, the homeless, the mentally-ill and those at the greatest risk of falling into habits of vice, crime or homelessness. As was noted by one David Reiser, of the DC Public Defender Service (as reported by the Post): "...[O]ur city's children are in dire need of anything we can give them." He further categorized the state of the city's juvenile programs as "outrageous". The District of Columbia has long been under court order to improve the conditions and handling of its youth, in particular in the Child Safety, Family Services and Juvenile Justice domains. A Federal audit concluded that District officials intentionally misled Federal monitors and investigators as to the state of the District's compliance with these court orders. Department of Justice officials have stated that they will work with District officials to develop a system whereby the District can demonstrate compliance, at which time funds may be reallocated insofar as they can be demonstrated to be used for the purposes intended. We predict that within the month information will surface regarding the District's juvenile justice system that will effectively blow the lid off of corruption, mismanagement and far-reaching misconduct if not criminality.

Totally unknown is what will be Ackerman's approach to the District Schools' Personnel Department's troubles. The Personnel Department is characterized as experiencing a state of chaos regarding their records system which little short of utter disorganization. While General Becton has done an extremely creditable job of addressing school-safety issues, in particular the physical facilities and school security. At one time perhaps three years ago, the District's schools were considered extremely dangerous due to constant access by non-students, many of whom essentially hid their dangerous street businesses within the halls of the schools. Non-student access to the schools is now much more controlled, and in-school violence has declined dramatically due to the increased presence of metal-detectors and security officers. But if General Becton is to be faulted at all, it is for the present disarray in the Personnel Department. Hopefully as Ackerman (or whoever is actually appointed as Chief Executive) assumes control before Becton's departure, he might be able to as his departing gift bestow a little bit of his organizational skills to cleaning up this one last mess.

Barry Offered An Out

Mayor Marion Barry is saddled with an amount of debt which, while not precisely staggering, has in the past left him very little choice but to seek re-election, not that he'd have it any other way. In any case, he's not really all that qualified for any sort of work outside of politics... except in one arena - the lecture circuit. Still, the lecture circuit doesn't pay all that well. The circuit depends on notoriety, positive or negative, and once out of the position of Mayor of Washington DC, Marion Barry becomes no longer notorious, but rather something of a memory best forgotten. therefor, there is no reason for Barry to depart, and many reasons to remain.

All of that may change, as he has been offered a position as a visiting professor by the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Area. this has been discussed for some time now, but only recently has funding become available for a firm offer - which is extended only so long as Barry does not seek re-election.

That might be advisable, as, in the last week a police memo surfaced wherein some of Barry's bodyguards stated that they had professional and ethical concerns due to the fact that Barry has been making stops at various places around town, having the bodyguarss wait outside, and occasionally, when hecked on, reportedly coming to the door partially-clothed or in a dishevelled state. Barry predicatably denounced the allegations as ludicrous and simply the result of election-year politicking.

Revitalization & Rebuilding

The District Line, which separates the District of Columbia from the State of Maryland which ceded that district to the Federal Government under Us Constitution Article I Section Eight Paragraph 17, was once primarily trafficked one direction at a time - in the morning, suburban residents left their families and commuted downtown. As conditions in the District continued to degenerate, as crime soared out of control and the murder rate became the shame of a nation already regarded as one of the world's most violent, families and businesses fled for the suburbs. However, Washington is far from abandoned. While the suburbs were seen as refuges of blessed peace and sound administration by those who fled the sound of gunfire or abandoned the crumbling infrastructure, lack of services, and corrupt administration - the city was recolonized by the balooning class of mid-level young urban professionals, many of whom were scarcely out of their idealistic college years. Suddenly blessed with the abiity to make rent, and the wonders of a truly beautiful city that after-all is the Capital of the "free world" and is rapidly becoming the de-facto planetary capital, almost any remotely-endurable neighborhood increasingly becomes the home of a burgeoning middle-class of upwardly-mobile young urban professionals, largely white, largely single, and quite often buying their first house.

In the meantime, the District's non-governmental employers had largely bailed out of town, relocating to the safer suburbs, where rents were lower and local governments were very free with the granting of incentives for relocation.

The yuppies, unless they were into law or government, no matter that they loved Washington, had to work in the suburbs. Even many of the government workers have in recent years seen their Federal headquarters relocated to the suburbs. In political terms this could only be expected and is good common sense - the Federal government simply comprises "too many eggs to put all in one basket". Ten years ago, the person who lived downtown and worked in the suburbs has a commute time roughly a third of that of the people who commuted in from the suburbs. This is changing rapidly, and as Washington becomes safer and more desirable as a place to choose to spend one's time off of work, Washington is now about to get slammed with what is essentially a double commute - with twice the wear and tear on the roads.

Some will of course have to be rebuilt. Some are being rebuilt, as Federal monies have begun to flow into roads projects all over the District and into surrounding areas.

Downtown, where fears of possible car-bomb attacks prompted the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets NW (in front of the White House, traffic has never been the same. Now the District proposes to restore some potential for smooth crosstown flow near the White House, and on other "touristy" areas of town, by re-opening "E" Street NW between 15th and 17th Streets NW. Among other things, the timing of District streetlights, which so far as anyone can tell has not been changed since the 1950s, is to be adjusted to reflect modern traffic patterns. Also, the District's baffling parking zones will be adjusted as well.

Tentative Selection of Washington's Next Police Chief Announced


8 April 1998
A note - The Consortium of Universities of the Washington Area has announced that, contrary to previous reporting, they would have absolutely nothing to do with offering Mayor Barry a position as a visiting professor, or for that matter, any position whatsoever, on the condition that he not run for re-election.

Barry, it must be added, has recently proposed a sweeping tax cut and a package of incentives to promote businesses to relocate to the District. However, as a previously undisclosed and staggering deficit in the District budget, apparently due to a failure to reduce the troubled District Schools' payrolls by some 400 persons (at least they do seem to have successfully gotten all of the "ghosts" off of the payroll), it appears that the District's much-lauded "budget-surplus" is questionable at best. A tax-cut, and business payouts as incentive to relocate, would seem to be a bit premature at best.


Financial Situation Unravels
Disorganization and Politicking Threaten Budget
Surprises are Everywhere, City Council Shoots City in Foot

9 April 1998
On
17 February 1998 We reported that the District's Chief Financial Officer, Anthony A Williams, had pulled a fiscal rabbit out of the District's shabby hat, bringing in a record budget surplus of nearly $190 million. We also noted in subsequent postings that this surplus might or might not have been to some degree a fiction of how the books were "cooked", due to some concerns as to the amount of interest to be carried on the MCI Center and the proposed new Convention Center, which would vary on the financing. Depending on whether 30-year or 40-year financial issues were secured, there might be (roughly) an additional $85 millions in debt, which was reportedly disallowed entirely from considerations of this year's budget. At any rate, not all of those monies could be added to this year's nor to next year's city budget. However, this was a first clue that perhaps the picture was not so rosy as it might be publicly presented to be.

We later noted that the District's schools continued to flounder, with a record string of departures throughout February and March of various high-ranking personnel, culminating with the 27 March 1998 publication of General (ret) Julius Becton's intention to step down from his appointed position as director of the District Schools. While many of these higher-ranking departures were of an at-least semi-forced nature, within the ranks of the Schools themselves, the rate of staff departures had taken a rather alarming upturn. Most of the departing teachers and mid-level administrative staff left because they had not received raises, or found themselves esentially hamstrung in the performance of their jobs due to appalling disorganization within the Schools' records and payroll epartments.

But all is more bleak than it appears! The budget surplus of some $189.5 millions has been essentially broken, torpedoed by the recent revelation that the District Schools are running at a previously-unsuspected (due to the confettied mess of their paperwork) deficit of some $62 millions.

As recently as Sunday, Mayor-for-Life (ideally without parole) Marion Barry proposed additional expenditures within the District, designed to at last benefit those most in need in the District, in particular stressing economic incentives towards home ownership, expanded city expenditures on assistance in day-care for the working poor and for job training. This is extremely laudable of the mayor, as during the past decade and more, the vast majority of funding cuts intended to bring the District's budget closer to balance have been in the area of services to the desperate and destitute.

The District is thought to be well on the way towards another record surplus next year, and Barry is thought to be at risk of creating huge inefficient programs which might take on a task which would be audacious and daunting even in such economic boom-times as are presently enjoyed nationally; and which might be nearly insupportable in times of economic downturn.

Add to this heady mix a proposal by (among others) DCFRA Control Board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer to cut District taxes, and we have potentially a recipe for disaster. This is possibly the classic failure of Republican ideology. We note that the recent economic upturn and present jubilant state of the nation's businesses may be initially attributed to a discarding of the traditional "Democratic tax and spend" approach to government, but we also note that possibly the single most-important factor in the continuation of this present boom has been the restraint of influential Young Republican Radical ideologues such as Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's accession to the voices of wisdom which have forestalled the Republican tendency to premature tax-cuts. We ourselves (we're "Radical Center Party") believe that there are few things more important than money in the bank, and to for a moment believe that there are no nasty surprises around the corner is foolish Pollyannaism. However, it is indeed essential that in a robust economy we should prepare for the future, if not through sound financial policies of fiscal restraint, then through securing the health of the working poor who are the traditional backbone of our society, of displaying our magnanimity and gradeur as a nation by granting succour to the the deserving needy, and securing the inalienable blessings of quality education not only to youth, but to educable adults who might (if better trained) improve their own lives and enrich society as well, had they but the intellectual tools or technical skills at the best level to which they might attain.

Therefor we will hope that there will be no more talk of tax-cuts. The District cannot be expected to run at a profit, though it can and should be expected to make all deliberate speed towards the day when it not only has retired its debts, and has retired them early, and indeed has money in the bank as a hedge against a "rainy day".

There will, however, be (we shall hope) continued talk of expanded day-care opportunities for the working poor, and more importantly, a continued house-cleaning in the District Schools. The present and recently-discovered District Schools budget-deficit of some $62 millions is expected to be somewhat ameliorated by the rapid discharge or furlough of some 450 workers.

Meanwhile, within the last week, in a move that has infuriated many onlookers and is absolutely certain to be shot down in Congress (and we absolutely support, and anticipate an opportunity to watch this particular turkey get shot down in flames), the DC Council unanimously approved a measure which would require District residency of all new hires to the City Government. It is unclear at this time whether or not this measure absolutely requires that all new hires be already resident within the District, or merely that new hires must assume District residency within some statutory time-period. It is our opinion that almost everyone competent to to do the work required to Revitalize city government in Washington is already working in private enterprise and probably making sufficient money as to be essentially unaffordable by the City of Washington. A requirement of prior/current residency for new hires would thus essentially statutorily doom Washington to a future of being administered by third- and fourth-raters. However, should new hires only be required to assume residency within the District within some statutory time-limit, this could have some positive benefits - if these new hires were registered to vote in the Distrct, they might well defend their positions in an accountable and reasonable administration by promptly voting for anyone except Marion Barry. Barry has yet to positively declare that he will seek re-election, but it is considered a foregone conclusion by most District cognoscenti that Barry has absolutely no other option than to run.


First, another apology. We have been less than diligent in our reporting, due to a sudden dearth of free time. The local economy has swelled to such unprecedented strength that we have actually secured renumerative employment, as a UNIX system administrator, which position has intellectual and emotional demands not dissimilar to those required in training a thousand cats to march in lockstep while playing musical instruments according to a rigorous parade schedule. We are therefor a bit braindead and do hope that our readership will not take it amiss if we are in the future a tad less long-winded.

However, we have absolutely no intentions of abandoning our ongoing commentary on the state of affairs in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Region, in particular, we intend to continue an intense focus on the District of Columbia.

And, given the time and opportunity, we will also continue to regale the nation and the world with odd tales of local weirdness, and will also attempt to continue our efforts to be an even-handed and Equal Opportunity Insulter (we play no favorites, evreyone's fair game).

Another Slow Week or Two in Washington
Yes, Things Are Still Broken But Prettier
Cherry Trees Bloom, Tourism Booms, The Color Green Predominates: Money

I have an interesting approach to developing this page: I keep a big stack of the Washington Post lying around. Once a week, I read the last few weeks worth of the Post, this page and related pages, and now and then I actually get ouf of the house and display my hideously deformed self about town, where I quickly find myself driven from the presence of the lovely and wealthy and educated elite, to be forced to consort with the people of the street. Actually, I don't mind. When you want to find out what's goin' on in the neighborhood, you don't hang out with the movers-and-shakers of international intrigue and transnational-corporate finance; one hangs with the local underemployed, street personages, disabled individuals, street musicians, bicycle messengers, bartenders, busboys, and street vendors. These people aren't forcing themselves to consort only with the pretty or powerful, since as a rule they'd rather avoid as opposed to seek "photo-ops". They also haven't a care as to their politics influencing their careers, and this combines with the fact that the rich and famous simply don't see them, and thus they not only speak their minds but are pricy to a truly amazing variety in fun facts to know and tell.

What they tell me this week is that the weather's beautiful, spring is here, and they've not seen so many tourists in a decade, and have certainly never seen so many tourists so early in the season.

Washington DC's largest non-government business sector is, surprisingly enough in a city noted for having the highest murder rate for large cities, hospitality and service. It has long been said of native Washingtonians that a Washingtonian is never unintentionally rude. It's true. By and large, it's how the money's made. Smile and give good directions and that tourist may just let you keep the change, give you an extra dollar, or tell all of their friends what a nice guy you were, not like those damned politicians'-aides up on the Hill.

"Us poor folks" are raking it in right now. For once, the Cherry Blossoms were delayed by a late cold-snap and popped out in nearly-perfect synchrony with the Cherry Blossom Festival. Record crowds were observed - and in this phenomenal economic boom, those tourists that came have been spending money like mad. We don't mind. In recent months, as a part of regulatory reform, many of the street vendors who had been operating without licenses have been forced to acquire licenses, and also to pay taxes which previously went uncollected. As a result, every cold cola any tourist buys pays a bit into the city coffers. Improvements to the city can now be better funded.

One improvement which is long overdue is a proposed revision of city signage. Downtown Washington streets are a bewildering array of signs, many of which convey their information in terms which range from the arcane to self-contradictory. One infamous pole conveys the essential information, in no less than 18 signs, that one may never park there, except at certain times which never occur. This pole is simply the worst and most obvious example, its brethren about town are numerous. Some towns have hideous billboards, which are prohibited here by law. Also prohibited here by law are streetfront cables - something that you just don't see in Washington are electric or telephone lines. They're all underground or in the alleyways. But there seems to be some obscure human instinct driving us to clutter up visual space - or perhaps the Washington Signage problem is simply a very visible metaphor for the tendency of Official Washington to regulate everything that moves and almost everything that doesn't. Washington, and the tourists whose tax-dollars help pay for it, deserves the least possible obscurements of the clean archetectural lines and sweeping vistas, and also, where possible, a single sign that conveys all required information in as intelligible a form as possible.

District Schools

Washington's schools are once again fornt-and-center in the news.

The DCFRA Control Board has approved a "must-pass" testing scheme for elementary school students. The students must meet or surpass a certain level on standardized tests, or approach that level and also be good performers in classrooms including summer school classes, in order to be promoted to the next grade in the following fall.

This comes on the heels of pronouncements by naysayers who have argued against a recent "We Push" campaign to prepare students in the higher grades for similar standardized tests. The Stanford Level 9 tests, which are said to be rigorous, begin this week. Educational theory has it that "educating to the test" will indeed tend to allow students to pass such tests, however, it is well known the educating to the test does not in any way increase the capacity for critical thought, on which skill District public schools students placed next-to-last in national rankings.

We fervently hope that the adoption of the requirement for satisfactory passage of the standardized test by elementary-school students will be accompanied by a deliberate emphasis on development of the capacity to exercise critical thought. District students have long been subjected to a very lax cirriculum, despite one of the nation's highest per-student expenditured of public funds. This cirriculum has been, by all reports, had very heavy emphasis on (in most cases) memorization and recitation, and in some cases, has taught very revisionist histories reputedly intended to shore up ethnic pride and feelings of self-worth, but in many cases the effects have been inculcation of facts which are completely at odds with the answers preferred by the broader academic communities, and are thus not reflected on standardized tests. A greater emphasis on critical thought would probably cause many test-takers to re-examine this indoctrination and hopefully to increase their test scores by selecting answers which are in greater concordance with academically-accepted knowledge.

We noted recently that General (retired) Julius W. Becton Jr had announced plans to step down in June from his appointed position as Chief Operating Officer for the District schools. This came on the heels of the announcement that the general District budget, which had been touted as being some $182 millions in the surplus for the next year, must be revised to reflect a deficit of some $62 millions in the District Schools. What we did not know at the time was that Gen. Becton had intended to resign almost immediately, but was talked out of it by DCFRA Control Board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer. Becton remained in his position after this talk, despite continuing pressures, many of which originated with Control Board member Joyce Ladner, who is responsible for overseeing Schools issues. Ladner has faulted Becton for having failed to drastically reduce the Schools' personnel. Becton has also come under fire because his emergency-repairs measures for building repairs, executed under extreme time-pressure due to assorted lawsuits and political actions, were not "adequately bidded-out" and thus some fairly immense and uncontrollable cost-overruns occurred. Investigations continue onto contractor abuses of the process of bid-procurements in this matter, as well as non-performance issues by assorted subcontractors.

One of Becton's greatest problems is the fact that the internal documentation processes within schools administration is considered "dysfunctional beyond chaos". There is almost no office automation, that which exists is outdated, and the paper administration system has been categorized as essentially nonexistent. Repair of such organizational disarray was one of Becton's military-career hallmarks. It is widely hoped that assorted political sniping at Becton can cease as his successor, Arlene Ackerman (a career educator), assumes the helm of the education system, in particular taking Becton out of the crosshairs of academic performance reviews. As Ackerman takes the helm, it is hoped that Becton will do some major house-cleaning within the records department.

Also, we note that the Post reports the sales of the following schools properties:

Leased:

In a move which might ordinarily have civil libertarians screaming about Constitutional conflicts, and one which is completely baffling as it comes from Mayor Marion Barry (and others), churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have been asked to request their faithful to donate time and resources and preaching power, all in the interests of promoting tutoring, off-campus education, mentoring and suchlike adjuncts to the educational process.

Welfare, The Poor, And Childcare

The District has recently moved from a position somewhere near the middle of the list of States, in terms of daily-payout amounts for subsidized childcare, towards the middle of the top of the list. However, it remains somewhat low in terms of rankings by municipality, and lower still in terms where local rents and expenses are considered.

The District government's tendency to balance budgets by triming programs which benefit the most-needy has recently come under fire by groups other than Earth Operations Central. The pastor of the Western Presbyterian Church in Northwest washington, one John W. Wimberly Jr, has echoed our note of a recent posting, to wit: "[any tax cut would be] a transfer of wealth from the have-nots to the haves". We couldn't agree more. There must be no tax cuts in the District until we see a re-establishment in full-force of the programs which benefit the most desperate, the homeless, the mentally-ill, and specially the mentally-ill homeless, who often live lives of daily horror and desperation compounded by the daemons of the mind and the abuses of an uncaring and often actively-hostile "normal" population.

Many local churches are circulating petitions which request that (as reported by the Post) "the highest priority for any budgetary surpluses be given to restoring efforts which help people sustain and rebuild their lives, i.e., substance abuse treatment programs, job-training programs ... and mental healths services."

Petworth and other Green Line Issues

Petworth, Columbia Heights, Park View, and indeed almost any of the neighborhoods along the Green Line of the MetroRail system, which will eventually run from farthest Anacostia through Downtown Washington to College Park Maryland, were as a rule rather poor or lower-middle-class neighborhoods. Where many of the other Metrorail lines were built through upper-class or business neighborhoods, and were built with the minimum of disruption to surface life, Green Line residents claim that their income levels have relegated them to disrespect and dangers incurred through inadequate safety measures during construction and insufficient remediation after construction.

They're suing. Alleging racial and economic discrimination, the suit also notes recurrent power and water service interruptions, trash pile-up, rat infestations, and rudeness to residents. Also mentioned have been assorted gaping holes in the pavement, and the reduction of entire neighborhoods to the appearance of shelled-out warzones.

It was within the warzoned Petworth neighborhood that an apparent serial killer lurked, killing at least six known victims. Others may also have been killed elsewhere. One man, Darryl Donnell Turner, has been arrested and charged in the matter of the deaths of two of the women. In the ongoing investigations, a judge involved in the case has noted that reports from the historically troubled (indeed, nationally reknowned as the national professional laughingstock) Office of the Medical Examiner have not determined fully the causes of death in all of the victims whose bodies were recovered close to Turner's residence. Turner's defense team has complained that they cannot properly prepare a defense if they do not even have any idea of precisely how many murders with which Turner will be charged.

Local residents held a neighborhood revival rally and parade to attract awareness of their neighborhood's unique problems and to promote the strengthening and revitalizing of the community through an effort to "save the youth of the community".


"Where Are the Improvements?"
"We're Not Seeing It"
Pace of Change Bafflingly Slow
Washington Still Nation's Deadliest City

26 April 1998
It's a little over three months since the
DCFRA Control Board swore in the new City Manager, Camille Cates Barnette PhD. Personnel changes are said to have been enacted all over the local government at all levels, however, these changes are also noted to have been largely in the arenas of accountability in fiscal terms.

The District has, however, seen very few changes at the street level, or at least any changes which are derived directly from the District government. As we note on our Dupont Circle Neighborhood Page, the Dupont South area, often called the "Golden Triangle", is considerably cleaner these days. This is not the result of improvements in city sanitations, but is rather the result of the deployment of the so-called "red jackets", a privately-funded quasi-official force of cleaners and "hospitality cadres". Funded by a voluntary tax from local businesses, assessed on a square-foot of office-space basis, this force has made reportedly stunning inroads on the trash the blows through downtown Washington, and their efforts are assisted by a similar group operating in the Old Downtown area. While in other sections of Washington, filth still lies uncollected while windblown trash and grit foul the air, at least in those parts of Washington where the business community has tired of waiting for government action, things do look a little better.

However, we are still not seeing the changes that really need to occur. For instance, if one drives south from Baltimore to Washington along the Baltimore Washington Parkway (possibly the most-common route taken by business travellers to the District, who usually arrive at the excellent Baltimore-Washington International Airport near Baltimore), one sees a level of infrastructural deterioration more appropriate to some poverty-stricken third-world nation than to the capital of our homeworld's wealthiest republic. This deterioration is of such a level that there can be no more quick-fixes - this calls for a complete re-engineering and must be done in co-operation with the Department of the Interior, whose US Park Service is the nominal "owner" of this stretch of road. Obviously, preparations for a complete rebuild of some stretches of this highway (and a complete deep-resurfacing of other stretches) take careful consideration over a long time, however there have been to my knowledge no public announcements of any scheduling of meetings which would address even planning issue. Certainly there have been no announcements of traffic disruptions caused by impending repairs.

Other parts of town are in no better shape, roadwise. We have begun to suspect that new technology may have to be developed and deployed to adequately address the physical aspects of the streets of Washington. This is one of the most-congested regions of the US, and in particular many of the radial arteries such as the B-W Parkway or the Canal Road/Cabin John Parkway are "only-route" chokepoints which carry very high volumes of traffic nearly around-the-clock. Some of this devolves from the geography of the region, and some of it from military planning considerations redounding to an era before powered flight, nuclear ICBM, or for that matter the present synthesis of low-level conflicts and military conflicts on urbanized terrain. In fact, a great deal of present state of Washington Metropolitan Regional political and cultural affairs become staggeringly clear after the one suffers the wrenching paradigm shift required to view this area in light of the concepts imparted by the above-linked US Army documents. More on this later. By the way, local DEFCON still is roughly 1.1 in certain local areas.

Another gross failure at present is the utter dearth of anything resembling a sane information, communications, and teledata systems policy in the District government. However, I must also note that there may be a great deal of sense in not attempting to install new teledata systems until certain housecleanings have been made. When dealing with certain agencies or persons within the District government, or for that matter with certain non-District regional agencies or policy-level persons, we note that it's probably all for the best that they are restricted to mid-1980s technology. As they say, "to really foul things up, you need a computer".

It has been often stated that "one should not attribute to malice what can may be ascribed to incompetence." Some will note that as time passes in the District under the DCFRA Control Board, the word "incompetence" might be much better substituted to "recalcitrance", or perhaps even "contumaciousness". Personnel changes are happening, the money's there, but nothing's getting done. Could it be mere foot-dragging? Or something less commonplace? Most of the people who could have done any really-effective foot-dragging have been secured from the helm, as it were, most notably Mayor Marion Barry and his Barry-Cronies (tm) cadres. In my opinion, what we are seeing here is one of three things - a complete failure of vision in the leadership, a major stalling-action towards an end as yet uknown (on the part of the DCFRA-authorized regime), or what we have here is an extreme (yet low-level) conflict between subcultures. Recent experiences cause us to lean most heavily towards either the explanation of a failure of vision, or towards the conflict between subcultures. But before anyone expects us to trot out "The Plan" on the one hand ("The Plan" is a belief deeply held by many blacks, and possibly rightly so, that "the whites" are determined to take over Washington) or to on the other hand make some foolish remark about any purported "Resistance to the Plan", let us make clear that we do not believe that there is or that there should be any need conflict between, nor jockeying for position by, any of the races in Washington DC. Rather, we believe that there is at present, or at least there is a-brewing, an extreme, quiet, and ultimately vicious war for cultural supremacy between several subcultures which share cultural precepts and attitudes heterogenously with no regard to mere racial or ethnic boundaries.

To categorize this as an essentially Republican/Democrat, or upper-class/lower-class, or even Left/Right conflict is premature and a gross oversimplification. It has long been observed that many Washingtonians, in particular the better-paid, are very well known for "getting things done", with at least a surface semblance of legality, though that legality might be more in letter and less in the spirit of the law. But Washington rewards success with more success, and power with more power - and in a city of administration and governance, morals and ethics quickly fall by the wayside in preference of results, by whatever means achieved. In our humble opinion, as goes Washington so goes the nation - and we also opine that the present emerging conflict (as yet low-level) is a profound conflict between autocrats with a "results-based" mode and culture, versus the culture of due-process, and administration of by and for the law. In terms of a Nation based on the concepts of Constitutional Rights, Personal Liberty, and doing things by the book, this cultural conflict comes perilously close to becoming one easily simplified into such simple terms as "good versus evil". What we see all around Washington right now, we believe, is massive footdragging and low-level conflict for Washington's urban terrain by the vast cadre, locally the dominant culture, of those attempting to preserve a culture of backroom double-dealing and political (or real) assassination, versus a cooperative and responsive and above-all, open and accountable culture of government.

Anyone who's easily amused could always read my over-the-top allegory on this, written in 1988 or so, called Strangers In Town. It's fairly short fiction, maybe five pages. Don't take it too seriously at face value. Take it absolutely seriously at the allegorical level.

Washington Still The Murder Capital

No Virginia, it's still not safe to let your children, nor your adults, nor for that matter anyone, play in the District.

Washington remains the deadliest city of any real size within the United States. According to an article in the 19 April 1998 Washington Post, the District has a murder rate more than double that of New York City or Philadephia, both of which cities have long had worldwide reputations as being extremely violent. The only city that came close in per-capita murder rate was Detroit. Washington as a city has a murder rate almost exactly six times the national average. According to former US Attorney for the District, Joseph E. deGenova, "[t]he police department's performance in fighting homicide has ben so bad for so long that it invites lawlessness." We concur, and have repeatedly said as much, for years. Washington has been for at least a decade as close as one comes to the state of (using the word in the ideological political sense) Pure Anarchy. One stays alive only because one doesn't come out, or because one is exceptionally polite, or because one picks only unarmed victims. Most people who notice this tend to move out of the District, which has lost one-sixth of its population within the last seven years. According to an unnamed National Institute of Justice official, as quoted by the Post, "[i]t's like a disease cycle, where you burn out all of the potential victims". Indeed, as statistics indicate, while the group most at risk of death-by-violence in Washington, young black males between the ages of 18 to 24 years, shrank by 44 percent over the first part of this decade, the numbers of murders rose to a level not seen in many active war zones. It may be that those who had no propensity for violence abandoned the town rather than become victims of it, leaving behind only the violent predators who increasingly began to battle one-another over turf. But strangely, this is not what one might expect. One might expect that known rivalries between gangsters who were known to one another would explode into deadly confrontations. Instead we see that in Washington some 96 percent of killings were at the hands of strangers. From this we infer that these are not gang rivalries as they are so commonly ascribed by the media; rather, this is a case of predators defending their turf against all outside intrusion which is capable of being perceived as a threat.

We note in passing that while the Metropolitan Police Department has attempted to take the majority of the credit for last year's decline in the raw numbers of homicides, in fact, half of the decrease can be attributed to increasingly proactive measures applied to the Public Housing projects which have fallen under the receivership of David I. Gilmore. Shortly after his being named as the receiver, he embarked upon many projects, one of which was the establishment of a 177-member police for for the agency. Charged solely with the preservation of law and order in the projects and contiguous properties, they have been able to develop a community focus which was not possible for the Metropolitan Police Department. We also note that despite the constantly falling population of the District itself, and the declining population of the unemployed and the continuing elimination of the Welfare lifestyle, the murder rate remains roughly the same once one recalculates taking these statistics into account.

While the population of young-adult black males continues to decline, largely through flight from the city, the population of "sub-adult" killers remains roughly the same, or rises somewhat, with a population explosion in the 12-18 years age-segment. (We also note in passing that since roughly 1984, the majority of births in any given year has usually been to unwed children, and thus probably a majority of this sub-adult class are from extremely disadvantaged and quite-likely dysfunctional family environments.) While District law forbids even law-abiding adults from even possessing a handgun, in some parts of town, possession of highpowered handguns by teens as young as 12 is not only commonplace, but probably more the rule than the exception to the rule. Extremely vicious career-criminal subadults themselves became commonplace, with only such heinous cases as the infamous "Little Man James" case being seen as newsworthy. As these superpredators have grown to adulthood during the last decade, they have moved from mere adult-class handgun violence into other venues of crime which require adult attributes such as motor-vehicle licenses and such other certifications as automatically redound to those who have reached the age of majority - and they enter their adult careers with perhaps as much as ten years of experience.

Again we must return to the theme of understanding recent history in the District of Columbia in terms of an ingoing insurgency engaged in (mostly) low-level conflict in pursuit of acquiring control of urban terrain.

During the mid and late 1980s, as crack cocaine swept the nation, in few places was it so rapidly deployed and so speedily and firmly entrenched as in Washington. While the District had always had a fairly extensive criminal subculture - to say nothing of the immense drug undergrounds whose subcultural domains extended far into the suburbs - at no previous time was the Mayor of any large city evidently operating in open support of a heavily-armed and extremely violent subcultural irruption. While Mayor Marion Barry was eventually arrested in 1990 in a videotaped "sting" operation by the FBI, with almost certain assistance from factions within the Metropolitan Police Department, the damage had been done. At the time of his arrest, the Mayor was partaking with a Federal informant and former sometimes lover, while his bodyguards were ordered to wait downstairs in the lobby of the Vista Hotel. In this breathtaking vista of the Mayor's private life, televised for all to see in all his tumescence and pecadillo, we saw evidence that the Mayor's use was no occasional matter, but that instead he was quite practiced in the art. Before his arrest, he was the subject of a local joke, which went: Q - have you been smoking crack with Mayor Barry? A - why not, everyone else does! Sad but true. As former FBI agent and DC police-issues authority Carl Rowan Jr says, "[t]he Mayor was palling around with suspected drug dealers, and all of the upper-echelon police appointees were political ... You tell me what message that sent to the cops?"

It probably didn't matter what message was sent to the cops, or at least not to a lot of them. As the wave of violence and murder grew to epic proportions, Congress passed legislation which required the practically-overnight hirings of nearly 1000 new police officers. Background-checking was spotty at best. More than 100 of the officers hired in this feeding-frenzy of personnel acquisition later went on to be arrested for everything from mere corruption through criminal association, through being narcotics "mules" to murder (and some allege that there was, and may still be, a political assassination wing within the MPD).

During the Cold War, it was a truism that the Communist Party absolutely desired to place loyalists in positions where they could control the selection of new hires, or effect the firings of individuals not amenable to the cause of the Party. We at Earth Operations Central remain convinced that if such a strategy was not consciously followed by the Barry-Cronies (tm) administration, the effect was precisely the same. In any case, rather than a Nation's Capital ruled by law, we saw an anarchy increasingly characterized by sloth, corruption, malfeasance, and above all, a Cult of Personality whereby the only hand at the helm was not that of law, nor certainly of Justice, but of Mayor-For-Life Marion Barry and his political appointees. Those decent officers in the force on whom we all depend were increasingly at the mercy of political appointees, many of whom have since been indicted for assorted criminal activities or abuse of their positions. In short, it is as if Mayor Barry could not have taken a more studied approach to filling the streets of Washington DC with well-armed young men while simultaneously hamstringing the entirety of the law-enforcement community in Washington. Essentially, Mayor Barry empowered no class of citizens, nor any class of guardians, but instead planted himself firmly on the side of an incoming cultural irruption at deadly crosspurposes to the citizenry, in effect opening wide the floodgates to an enemy invasion while reducing the army to unsupplied buffoons oficially mis-led by sympathizers to the invasion. We believe that only if one takes this outlook can one possibly impact the District's murder rate. God help us all had a real enemy embarked upon a mission of infiltrative insurgency, and low-intensity conflict in pursuit of acquiring the urban terrain of Washington; all they would have needed to do was to act as if they were law-abiding as regarded drugs and they would have been welcomed as liberators (no matter their hidden agendas) by the victims of what we shall hereinafter refer to as the Barryculture. We must stress here that being opposed to drugs does not mean that someone's good, let's just say that the Soviet Union never had any troubles with drugs and they weren't exactly dedicated to freedom and justice. On a note of closing we remark that it may be necessary to strategize against widespread crime and cultural irruption within the District in terms less paramilitary, and more in terms of the purely military.

New Police Chief Sworn In

Thus we see that the new chief of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department has his work cut out for him. Not only must he deal with such factors as the entrenched Barryculture both within the MPD and outside in the killing-streets of Washington, but he must also deal with other factors as well, such as a completely deteriorated physical-plant at almost all of the police facilities. Also, despite immense allocations of funds directly from the Federal government to the MPD, required technology is unavailable. Information technology deployment within the MDP is appallingly low, with even such primitive-but-essential equipment such as FAX machines, cellular phones, and even long-distance telephone access largely unavailable. Many have expressed a great deal of concern and confusion as to why so little of the funds allocated to the police department has been spent. We have presumed so far that this was due to a reluctance to commit to expenditures until a permanent Chief of Police was selected and sworn-in.

Unanimously approved by the DC Council, on 21 April 1998, Charles H. Ramsey was sworn-in as Chief of Police. A career policeman from Chicago, with 28 years of service and a reputation of being worthy of the highest degree of loyalty by Chicago's Finest, Ramsey vowed to bring to Washington a police department "rooted in and guided by ... honesty, integrity, respect for one another and for the community, fairness, dedication, committment and accountability for individual actions and organizational results." Ramsey had early remarked that he believed that the major fault with the MPD was less one of the qualifications of the officers, or even the facilities or equipment (though we expect that this part of the assessment will rapidly change) than with the way that services are delivered. We note in passing that despite last-years' remarks by then-Chief Larry Soulsby (since resigned in the wake of disclosures that his roommate, then-Lt. Jeffrey Stowe, had misappropriated MPD funds and had been engaging in extortion) which had given the impression that many more District officers would be deployed from offices and onto the streets, this has in reality never happened. We hope that Chief Ramsey will make good on this promise of Soulsby's and will escalate the process of launching former desk-jockeys onto the streets. We also hope that he will make sure that the District's officers are qualiied to use their weapons. Recently, it was discovered that something like half of the District's officers had not passed their weapons qualifications.

Ramsey is particularly known for his formative expertise in the concept of "community policing" which practice has already resulted in a much higher perception of public safety in the Public Housing projects, where it has been implimented by that agency's in-house police force.

Mayor Marion Barry, who aided in the selection of Ramsey for the position of Chief of Police, evidently didn't read the fine print on Ramsey's contract. Barry had expected that, although Barry has been stripped of any direct control over the MPD by the DCFRA Control Board and Congressional action, the new Chief would be reporting primarily to Barry. However, as the contract states, the prime point of contact to higher authority is to be with Control Board Vice Chairman, Stephen D. Harlan. The District "corporate counsel", one John M. Ferren, has pronounced the contract "illegal" as the Mayor cannot delegate his authority to the Control Board. However, DC Council Member Jack Evans, a member of the Memorandum of Understanding (or MOU) Group, says, the Mayor is playing a dangerous game by inviting a congressional takeover. Congress, which has the sole ultimate authority over the District of Columbia under US Constitution Article I Section 8 Clause 17-18, can very easily write legislation which would place the police department under direct Federal control. In light of the Mayor's role in the irruption of the Barryculture of crime and violence during the 80s and early 90s, and also in view of the fact that Barry was explicitly stripped of power over the police department in an effort to reverse the effects of decades of political-appointments of incompetents, cronies and criminals to positions of power by Barry, we very much hope that Barry will be cut out of the loop on all police matters of greater importance than reviews of the month's Parking Enforcement totals. Jack Evans said: "I can tell you the police chief will not report to the mayor." We're sure that this view is shared by Senator Lauch Faircloth, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee for the District of Columbia. Senator Faircloth, among others, has recently been pressing for turning the District Police over to the Federal government. We ourselves beg to differ, if not with the approach then with the degree; see our remarks above which state that we are of the opinion that there may well be a future need for direct military action in and around the District of Columbia in order to dislodge the irruptive culture's toehold in the region. In any case, simply turning operational authority of the MPD over to Federal management might well be insufficient without concomitant massive personnel turnover. It would, however, be an excellent second step, with Ramsey's confirmation, as an outsider not linked to nor compromised by ties to local corruption, as a first step. Overhasty action against irruptive subculture might result in terroristic backlash, for which eventuality the US and in particular the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area is grossly underprepared, according to an interagency study as reported by the Post.

Immigration Issues

Some weeks ago we reported that a Mexican man, illegally in the US, had been found beaten in Manassas Virginia. Subsequent developments revealed that he had been essentially sold as a slave for $450.00 by his previous owner, who had worked him mercilessly without any real pay, and he had fallen into the hands of some local owners of a Chinese restaurant, who had beaten him severely with a hammer when he decided his debt was paid and he tried to quit. At last the authorities are beginning to suspect that this sort of thing goes on and are taking some steps.

Last week in Silver Spring Maryland, which adjoins the District to the north, a legal resident alien from Mexico named Leandro Zamora Sanchez was arrested for harboring illegal aliens, at least 11 of whom he had living in his home. He employed them in his drywall business. Authorities acted on a tip that there were a large number of men living in a single-family home.

Sanchez owned two large vans. Authorities believe that he may have made frequent trips to Mexico to bring back workers. They might easily enter on a day-pass, and simply fail to return to Mexico. Ordinarily this would not be a problem for authorities, who regularly check nationality of suspicious persons near the border. However it appears in this case and is certain in many others, that instead of just failing to return to Mexico, illegals seek out well-established pipelines which provide transportation nationwide. In most cases, it's essentially the same thing as getting on a bus, although mostly the owners are either legal resident aliens or are naturalized citizens. This network of underground railroads, the camionetas (spanish for mini-van), appears to authorities to be increasingly less of a mom-and-pop operation and more of an ongoing criminal enterprise. The unfortunate consequence is that the fares are often paid on delivery, and if an exhorbitant charge is made, whoever will pay the fare can occasionally convince the passenger that they have a right of indenture. Also common is the use of rental trucks, which can carry many more passengers. In 1996, one such truck wrecked and was found to be transporting 41 illegal immigrants to the poulty farms on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The poultry industry nationwide has come under fire because of a combination of dangerous conditions, and a tendency to knowingly hire illegal aliens with the expectation that they cannot complain about unsafe working conditions. This leads to multiple potential horrors; for one, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis is quite common in Mexico and improperly-cooked chicken is an excellent means to spread it. Also the stories abound about illegal aliens being maimed by unsafe machinery at processing plants. (We wish to note here that most chicken obtained at most licensed restaurants is almost certainly prepared so as to eliminate those diseases transmittd by poultry.)

Also problematic is that sometimes this increasingly organized and increasingly hidden underground transport system is used as the enabler for prostitution and pronography rings. Recently the US Attorney began prosecution of such a ring which enticed women from Mexico with promises of employment and then forced them into prostitution, beating them if they refused to work or attempted to escape.

Federal, State and local authorities are said to be aggressively targeting these organizations, and are particularly interested in discovering any local "safe houses" and "waystations" in the Nation's Capital Region.


Congress Ready To Act To Remove Barry

3 May 1998
In a move which we (and many others) have
predicted in the last week, it appears that matters are coming to a head. Congress is moving rapidly to strip Mayor Marion Barry of the last remaining vestiges of any real power in Washington, the District of Columbia.

When Mayor Barry finalized the employment of Charles H. Ramsey, formerly of Chicago, as the new Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, he evidently didn't read the fine-print well enough. Ramsey is to report directly to the DCFRA Control Board rather than to Barry. Barry was predicatably outraged and predictably, the District's "corporate counsel" has declared that the law does not premit the Mayor to sign away his rights. Senator Lauch Faircloth, a North Carolina Republican and chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee for the District, is spearheading an effort to change the law. Under the US Constitution, Congress is the final authority in all matters whatsoever in the District and clearly congressional action takes precedence over District city law.

Washington's Metropolitan Police Department has long been plagued by allegations of corruption, and of complicity in crime, at least at the highest levels, where for nearly two decades, standardized personnel initiatives and policies have taken a decided back-seat to a purely-political system of appointments to high office for cronies of the Mayor. Some have charged that this is one of the single most important causes for the city's descent since the mid-1980s into a corrupt cesspool of violence, terror, and a population departure of a scale unseen since the medieval Plagues. Over a year ago, Congressional action stripped Barry of the power to hire and fire within the MPD, although he was not stripped of al authority as we have erroneously reported in the past (and we thank the Washington Post for pointing this out). Rather, a group called Memorandum of Understanding (or MOU) Group began to share oversight of the MPD. The MOU group was comprised of members of the DCFRA Control Board, notably Vice-Chairman Stephen D. Harlan, and other city officials responsible for various public-safety agencies such as the police department and fire department. This present revision of law would at last remove Barry from any control whatsoever over the MPD. This was reportedly a precondition of continuance in employment by Chief Ramsey, whose position would be essentially as a powerless figurehead unless slipped free for the reins of corruption, which seemingly all lead directly back to Marion Barry. It is impossible to investigate corruption when one is forced to report all efforts and findings to the person most-probably most responsible.

This legislative change is considered essentially a "done deal", awaiting only the President's signature, which is expected to be speedily forthcoming. Barry has predictably decried any and all efforts to get him removed from power. His main political strategy for the last few years seems to have been to pursue folly, and when prevented from it, try to incite riots with extravigant posturings related to an erosion of self-governance for the District. This is clearly bogus; in clear point of fact, Washington was not self-governed under Barry - rather it had surrendered the reins of power to an autocrat who governed not to the advantage of the District or its residents, but instead made no move which was not to the profit nor empowerement exclusively of Marion Barry and his political (and often criminal) associates.

As for the new Chief of Police, one of his first major actions seemed to have been a bit of a faux-pas, perhaps giving a demonstration of about the greatest degree of autonomy he might possibly have if under the control of Barry - he decided to enforce the one law against the only crime in town that can't be at least tangentially linked to organizations which have in the past experienced the friendship of the Mayor - he enforced the hated DC Seatbelt Law, and did it on the 14th Street bridge, at rush hour. At least he has demonstrated that he does know how he might, in case of emergency, completely gridlock downtown. This shows a clear command of tactics, if not necessarily of strategy - evidently some persons of rather high rank were sufficiently inconvenienced so that the new Chief reportedly said: "we do believe that this is something that we won't be repeating".

Traffic remains one of the greatest concerns in and about the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. On all sides of all arguments, feelings are on the rise conerning the decrepit Woodrow Wilson Bridge which carries I-495, the southern loop of the Capital Beltway, across the Potomac River at the southernmost tip of the District. It has been estimated that this six-lane drawbridge is no more than six years away from near-total collapse. There are no more-southerly bridges across the Potomac - which widens dramatically into a tidal flow immediately south of the bridge - and other bridges in the area are either not suited for heavy transport or would, worse, dump heavy transport into already-congested traffic travelling across deteriorated roadways. For instance, were there no Woodrow Wilson Bridge, northbound traffic from points south could either make a detour of some sixty miles around the Beltway to catch I-95 bound again to the north and east, or might be forced to take slow streets through Alexandria or Arlington, to cross into the District via 14th, Key, or I-66 bridges. The damage to already-broken District surface roads would be immense, and the traffic problems would be too horrific to contemplate. For instance, the most sensible and straightline route would be the cross the 14th Street bridge, which would dump truck traffic right downtown on the Mall, with a ten-block drive before taking a right on New York Avenue eastbound, with assorted zigs and zags around the old Convention Center. New York Avenue, right before it connects with the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (on which no truck traffic is permitted) is one of the region's most damaged roadbeds and has some of the worst surfacing - and its bridges are also on the country's "most in need of repair" lists.

One proposed new bridge would be some 12 lanes wide, and the bridge itself would be a much higher span, in order to obviate any need to open the drawbridge for any but the tallest of ships. At present, the drawbridge opens on average about once daily, backing up traffic for miles. The proposed bridge would have massive tie-ins (as does the present one) to a great many other local highways, and would move a great deal more traffic, some of which traffic would undoubtedly impact the local neighborhoods. Also, roughly 400 apartments units would be demolished, and during the entire construction process, there would be fairly massive impacts on local parklands and wetlands. There also remains considerable dispute over the proposed National Harbor development at the east anchor of the proposed bridge, which many had hoped to boost the local economy. Widespread support for the National Harbor is at present quite lacking, but times may change and it would be better that designers and engineers take this into consideration when they plan traffic flows and access ramps.


Crunch Time

10 May 1998
The expiration date of the first term of the Congressionally-mandated, but Presidentially-appointed, District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority
(DCFRA "Control Board") is fast approaching. Present Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer, a formidable man of exceptional talent and character (in particular his calm patience and dedication to excellence) has announced on or about 21 March 1998 that, due to emerging frictions with his fellow Board members, he will not be seeking a second term as Chairman, and several of his fellow Board members had announced that should he be re-appointed, they would not serve a second term.

Given the ample notification time, we would have thought that President Clinton, who is under balance-of-powers requested to appoint the members of the Control Board, would have made his selections in plenty of time to have permitted widespread public debate, both in the City of Washington, in the halls of Congress, and in the greater Nation which will in the end have to live with whatever is made of its Capital through the actions of this Congress and the Control Board.

It had been widely expected that, given the immense pressures for continuity of Board membership which would contribute in good wise to a policy of "all deliberate speed, the new Chair would most probably be a href="http://www.dcfra.gov/boardpg.html#anchor176686">Constance Berry Newman. However, as City and National Party Politics are ever a major concern in Washington, we are somewhat unsurprised to see President William Jefferson Clinton, a Democrat, offer an alternative to Newman-Member, who is after all, however moderate, a Republican.

President Clinton has yet to make a firm committent in support of his likely nominee, yet we expect that he shall indeed nominate for the position of Chair of the DCFRA Control Board, one Alice M. Rivlin, a fellow Democrat.

Alice M. Rivlin is presently the second in command of the Federal Reserve Board and is considered to have impeccable financial skill. She is also on record as having classed Washington as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We can only presume that Ms. Rivlin has not been outside of the Federal Reserve Board building in quite some time. There are issues concerning a confict of interest or at least a potential violation of regulation and law concerning holding more than one government position at a time; it may well be that to take on a position as the Chair of the DCFRA (an unpaid position) it would be required that she abandon the vice-chair of the FRB.

As regards qualifications, both Rivlin and Newman are exemplaries of how to have a career in government without being in politics. Newman's career has included stints in the top ranks of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In this regard, she might be considered one of the best possible choices for any position dealing with the management of the District of Columbia, as the District is, after all, basically too poor to pay for its own rebuilding, was seemingly devoid of competent management, a prime example of both urban decay and possessed of concentrations of the destructive and hopeless urban housing-projects and their deadly culture, and lord knows that a little product-safety needs to be supplied to the Nation's Deadliest large city.

Rivlin has the unique qualification that she was one of the few peopel who not only foresaw the District's present plight, but attempted to do something about it. However, she was not to be presented with the oportunity to forestall our present times, as her offers of service to then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly were rebuffed. Rivlin had been one of the first, and one of the few, to pay siginificant attention to the inevitable fiscal hamstringing of Washington when Congress mandated, but did not fund, pensions for City of Washingotn employees. Rivlin has spent much of the time since 1990, which she chaired the so-called Rivlin Commitee, working to either prevent financial collapse of the District, or to secure aid for it in an effort to slow the rate of the fall. We are at present unaware of to what extent her well-intentioned efforts were intercepted by the Barry-Cronies(tm) Administration's pack of carpetbaggers' malfeasance and incompetence, but it may well be that any additional fund she secured to aid the Distrit and its residents might well have only emboldened the Barry-Cronies(tm) to presume that Federal resources were a bottomless well for their double-dipping.

Support for either (or both) Rivlin or Newman is widespread. Few can find any fault with either, and both come with, as stated before, exemplary qualifications. However, we note that Rivlin states directly that she would adopt, and would expect other DCFRA Board members to act upon, the position that the objective of the DCFRA Control Board is to work itself out of a job as speedily as possible. This, in our opinion, is her sole flaw - and it is an immense flaw.

We take the position that the District of Columbia is, and should remain, only and forever a creature of the United States Constitution, with absolutely minimal local-government, none of whose powers should for an instant be considered as deriving from any source other than directly from Congress. It is clearly stated in the US Constitution at Article I Section 8 Paragraphs 17 -18. We believe that until such time as the US Constitution is directly amended to alter this state of affairs, or until the District of Columbia is admitted into the Union as a State, any true self-rule of the District of Columbia is unconstitutional, and that anyone who says otherwise has either not read their Constitution or believes themselves to be above it. I for one once swore an oath to defend the US Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic and I do not take well anyone who believes themselves to be above the Constitution.

The Founding Fathers in their wisdom stole a march from the wisdom of one of history's greatest and longest-lived empires, that of the Romans. The Romans, among other things, did not permit the armies of generals returning from victories to camp their armies within the gates of Rome, and indeed we see a practical parallel (though outdated) in the location of the Pentagon and most military forces across the river from the Capital itself. But more to the point, the Founding Fathers were exceptionally concerned about balances of powers, and thus although the President was commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he was prevented from attempting to make a power-grab for the capital by a counterbalance of exclusively-congressional control over the District. An additional counterbalance was added by the authority of the Second Amendment, which tended to arm the citizenry rather than a large standing army subject of the control of, and potential usurpation by, the commander-in-chief. We strongly caution that already, all law-abiding citizens of the District have long been disarmed, and that Executive branch law-enforcement in the District has been exceptionally lax outside of directly protecting the President, allowing an irruptive and violent illegal culture to not only occupy, but become the "mainstream" culture within the confines of the Nation's capital. We further note that Congress itself has no military authority other than control over the money-bags, which rein of authority is meaningless in a system long used to surviving on the imaginary monies of deficit spending. Our point here is that full Congressional control of the District of Columbia was specifically enabled by the Founding Fathers as a counterbalance to potential future usurpations or even tyrannies by the Executive Branch or the military - and to declare that one intends, against the specific letter of the US Constitution, to act directy towards a goal of eliminating Congress from the equation of power in the District - this should be an immediate disqualification from any position of authority over matters in the District. This goes double in the light of the status of Nation's Capital as overgrown trash-littered and decaying as it sinks into a swamp while the cops chase each other because they can't find ther murderers who have made the city almost as dangerous as Rwanda during the recent genocides. Perhaps this rationale was completely overlooked when the remarks were made, and as we said it would appear that someone hasn't been outside the pristine confines of the Federal Reserve Board in far too long. Control over Washington should be retured, in any measure whatsoever, only as soon as all damage has been repaired, and such control over Washington as shall ever be returned to "locals" should be in a measure which would never again permit such destruction to again be visited, from within, upon the capital of our great Nation.

Rivlin is quoted by the Washington Post as saying: "The current vesting of power in an unelected control board can be justified only as a temporary response to crisis and a transition to democratic process ... the control board was never intended to become the city government." And she's absolutely right. It was intended to bring a little economic stability to the local government, which was (foolishly, in our opinion - look what the city got for it!) extended some measure of self-determination in self-government. And when the Control Board was empowered to follow the money, they exposed a mass of corruption that was "astonishing in the depths of chaos" and characterized as "money down a rat hole". We are reminded of an incident during the reign of the last Chinese Emperor who intended to rid the Forbidden City once and for all of the scourge of institutionalized pilferage by the society of the palace eunuchs - rather than be caught and punished, the eunuchs, who had become quite much more of the real power than was the emperor himself, burned down the storehouses in the Forbidden City. The parallels are almost exact - and whether motivated by good or by ill, by a too-speedy release of tight controls over the District of Columbia, we would be again granting access to the eunuchs - who might either steal all that they might, or burn the place so that the extent of their crimes could never be fully ascertained. As a long-time local, and also as an American, I want to know exactly who was responsible for what, and with whose aid and why, my Nation's Capital was reduced to the laughingstock of the rest of the world to the extent where the vultures of a hundred lands have surrounded the place, as it had reached their ears abroad as a tale told of the city that was the harbinger of the National Doom.

The faster unrestrained self-control is returned to the District, the more speedily we shall inevitably see the place pilfered by the palace eunuchs. Obviously, the parallel to be drawn from history is to do what the Last Emperor should have done when he sought reforms: toss the buggers out before they burn down the treasury to conceal their misappropriations... and maintain a strong suspicion that whoever does not argue for this course of actions is either not thinking well, or is just plain in cahoots.

But with whom? Perhaps is is our logic (expressed in the above exposition on the Constitutional role of Congress in District governance, though we believe the Constitution itself is quite clear) that is at fault, but we must question the ideology or allegiances of such persons as the normally excellent Eleanor Holmes Norton, the voteless Congressional Representative for the District, who, despite being a member of Congress, seeks to strengthen the powers of the Executive branch within the District. In a memo of 5 May 1998, directed to the President but conveniently leaked to the press, she writes: "...the President's legacy [through the political direction pursued by the Control Board, presumably as a result of the ideological thrust and agenda of the President's political appointees] is manifestly tied to the city's self-government ... His appointed board is the key ingredient to the return of home rule ... As President, his strong voice for maximum empowerment for the residents of the city where he will have lived for eight years would have unique force. Beyond the nuts and bolts of government, there could be no greater legacy than to leave the people of the capital of the United States with their full rights."

Again, we beg to differ. See again our assertion that the Founding Fathers intended, based upon the historical precedents with which they must have been quite familiar, that there be a fine balance of powers within the District, as they distinctly stated that Congress should have exclusive discretion in all matters whatsoever over the District. That the Congress should so much as extend to the President the selection of the Control Board's membership is a tacit acknowledgement of these balanced powers, as after all the balance also works so that should Congress attempt a fiat or coup, the commander-in-chief has at his disposal a ready military. But Norton's memo seems to be something of an appeal to vanity as a sort of end-run around Congress. After all, we cannot overstress the historic parallels, which of which the Founding Fathers must have taken great consideration, concerning the encampment of troops within the walls of the City. At one time, even the numbers of the elect Praetorian Guard were restricted. But as more and greater fears allowed more troops within the city in an efort to bolster the power of the Emperor against the legal powers of the Senate, and as protection against the lawless and unruly Mob, we increasingly saw the emperor ruling in reflex to pacify the Mob, or to mollify the Military, and as his powers increased and those of the Senate waned, so died first the Republic, and then the Empire. To grant full control of the City of Washington to its residents is to invite the troops within the walls, and to give them full leeway to party drunk with the licentious mob.

Norton does have, however, some most-excellent points. And here we must again raise the issue of the famous fable, attributed to Aesop, regarding King Log and King Stork. Norton's memo strongly criticizes the speed of reform. While the DCFRA Control Board was indeed quite prompt in both their initial, and in their in-depth, investigations as to the cash-flow within the District bureaucracy, there has been an almost inexpressible air of slothliness if not indolence. Perhaps the original concept was that there would be a multiphase implimentation of District Revitalization, with the first term of the Control Board assessing weaknesses and strengths and pre-positioning the tools for a second term, which would then seize on the information and the tools and act upon their independent assessment of the first-term's recommendations and plans. In Aesop's famous fable, we saw that the frogs in their pond were tired of things as they were, and demanded of their god that they should be given a king. Mighty Jove tired of their croaking and threw a huge log into the pond, which, like the Control Board, initially caused a great splash but then (being a log) merely floated about and did nothing. Eventually the frogs took to sunning themselves on it, and in the end, again the frogs demanded of Jove a king. Mighty Jove then responded, and sent them a king... a stork. Norton notes in her memo that "[the] most important goal for the coming period is much more rapid reform, restructuring, and streamlining of the city government itself ... [the] board will want to change its emphasis to regard .. management problems as equal to or greater than the financial issues on which progress has already been made."

Norton also, all unintended, perfectly supports our ideological thrust of the District's government remaining a creature of Congress: "... unpracticed and perhaps resentful local officials lacking the necessary experience [ in our opinion, the majority of Barry-Cronies(tm)-appointed officials and their bootlick underlings - ed. ] to accept a repaired government, keep it in repair and improve it..." would be the result of, not as Norton suggests an insufficiently speedy transition back to "democratic" home rule, but instead the result of a too-hasty return to anything like home-rule before the house, as it were, has been sufficiently swept clean and ideally also heavily fumigated.

Federal Scope: Washington Impact
Washington Likely to Experience Major Benefits of National Policy Changes

In a perfect local example of the stunning sea-change to something like sanity, spearheaded by Radical-Center Republicans and other "smaller government is better" ideologues and their pundits (of which I am proud to classify myself), we applaud the opening of a new local presence of an essentially Democrat government outpost.

What? A Republican applauding a Democrat? You bet. While the excesses of institutionalized Democrats-gone-overboard promoted such gargantuas as the failed legacies of Johnson Era Welfare Housing Projects, the fact of the matter is that originally the Democratic Party was intended to be a people's party, reaching out to the common man, the poor man, the working man. Social policy addressing social equality was their strong point and where exemplified by the genius of such as Franklin Delano Rooseveldt, things worked and worked well and did so efficiently and did so for great numbers. But as will happen under any government not dedicated to the principle of "that which governs least governs best", what worked well grew and grew and eventually like most bureaucracies, tended to work harder at growing than at serving. Such was too-often the case with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). But of late, even Democrats have gotten tired of seeing what happens when the leech is left too long on the patient - the salutary effects of a minimal bleeding are overshadowed by the specter of a bloated parasite getting ready to pop and splash from the combination of internal pressure and not enough spine. Downsizing is good. Localization is good. Speedy efficient service is good. To quote HUD Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo: "We know government has to come out of office towers and go into the community if it is going to make a difference." (As quoted by, of course, the Washington Post, in an article in the 7 May 1998 edition, reported by one Judith Havermann, who if I recall correctly has been one of the sharper journalistic tacks under the fat behinds of some of the more reform-needful Federal bureaucracies.)

Enter the "One-Stop Service-Shop" concept of government. Instead of dealing with Grey Men in Grey Suits (or as is more common in Washington, some overworked mom wishing to their higher power that they hadn't gone into government) uncaringly handling exactly one minor aspect of yet-another filling out of forms in a mind-numbingly immense and faceless/soulless labyrinth of federal power, people will be dealing with locally small-officed staffs of persons trained specifically to help people through as much of process as can feasibly be handled locally, as quickly as possible, as thoroughly as possible. As befits an information age, forms can be filled out and submitted and processed electronically with the aid of a well-trained staff who have been charged with the mission of getting available funds to the deserving people who need it. Please read more about the HUD Next Door Local Office.

District Schools

District school officials, parents, students, and police all agree: violence in the District schools is so entrenched and so pervasive that it can be considered possibly the major factor outside of administrative disorganization which could be said to be responsible for poor academic performance. Washington schools are considered extremely unsafe, now less due to the physical condition of the facilites (although there is much left to be fixed in this regard) than to the stunning lack of security. Many attribute this to the fact that security in the schools themselves is provided by a private security firm, rather than being provided by either the Metropolitan Police Department, or by a proposed District Schools Police. There is, among other things, a failure of coordination between the overworked and underequipped MPD and the private security firm, MLM, Inc. Add to this the fact that there is in the District an immense proportion of school-age population which is not enrolled in class, yet which intergrades with actual students. This is particularly problematic at the environs of school properties, where legitimate students attending classes must with dropouts, who have often moved into a purely-criminal lifesyle, and who also often mix among the students on campus, often to evade either the MDP or rivals, customers and creditors. In many regards, until better security measures can be developed and implimented, the District schools are, outside of the classroom proper, essentially just a subset of Washington's vicious streets, but restricted only to a certain age group generally not noted for civility nor for self-restraint.

1999 Budget Passed by DC Council

For what it's worth, in the recently-passed DC Budget for 1999, school funding was slated to be increased by $90 millions.

$40 millions is slated for debt-retirement. The City's debt is massive, although the District Revitalization Act has taken a great deal of that debt away from the City and subsumed it within the Federal deficit.

Addenda, Apocrypha, Weirdness, Rot

As a followup to ongoing investigations into corruption in the District's Vehicle Inspection program, hundreds of District cabs licenses were suspended when it was revealed that the majority of the District's cabs were not only nowhere near capable of being able to pass even the ridiculously-law District vehicle safety standards, but were in fact completely unsafe to be operated on any public road. A system of payoffs appears to have been long in place, and allegedly absolutely no taxicab would pass the inspection, regardless of condition, unless bribes were paid, and also allegedly, no matter the condition of the taxicab, if the bribe were paid, an inspection sticker would be issued. Visitors to Washington should thus be advised that you may wish to walk anywhere you'd planned to be. I personally would not advise either the busses nor the subway. Personally I'd really rather get a root canal without benefit of anesthesia, than use public transportation anywhere within the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Not only do (as a rule) only the most rude and abusive of the "locals" ride the busses, but on the formerly pristine and safe trains, one feels safe only due to unawareness of what goes on in the background - at least twice within the last ten days, there have been major systemic failures of computers within the Metrorail system, which failures caused no catastrophe simply because there had been enough small failures within recent months so that safety-minded Metro employees had been alert to the expectation of a systemic failure - and were able to activate failure and safety protocols in time. Also keep in mind that increasingly the subway stations are the stalking grounds of criminals. In formerly upscale and "safe" Wheaton, recently a 14-year old girl was raped within the station itself, literally less than 40 feet of a surveillance camera, if I recall the layout of the Wheaton station correctly and if the incident was reported accurately. Where once "the trains" were considered the safest place to be in Washington, you are now advised to be on alert anywhere within the Metro system.

According to an article in the Washington Post, incidents involving laser pointers are on the rise, where they have become a disciplinary problem in classes, and have in fact resulted in medical problems, one reported by a school nurse, and the other by an opthomologist. Laser pointers are increasingly powerful, and increasingly cheap. We've noted this elsewhere. (Don't take this too seriously, it's all fiction, my attempt at realistic Tom-Clancy-style spooky paranoia. But then again, I do, after all, have a really good track record at prediction now don't I? No, seriously, it's all fiction. Mostly.) It's long been a fun trick in Washington to put a laser dot on someone and see if they're a spy or not; spies instantly identify a laser-pointer as a targeting device and one can often see some fascinating responses as training is evoked. You can also probably get shot too. Feel lucky?

In an interesting move in the DC Council, a proposal by Jack Evans, who is one of the main liasons between the police-department reformers and the DCFRA Control Board, was shot down in flames with a resounding crash. This was probably due to the fact that there is within the general region a certain mindset which is dedicated to instantly identifying any strategic or tactical weakness within any well-intentioned law. Evan's proposal was that police officers should be empowered to arrest for misdemeanors anyone who was the subject of on-the-spot testimony by neighborhood residents. However, I will speak as someone who knows: such a system would be instantly subject to the most rife abuses by any crew who doesn't mind lying with a straight face to get the cops to take their enemies off of the scene.

Speaking of the police, the District emergency services are all hoping to get Global Positioning Satellite (GPS)-based locator devices for their vehicles. Soon, Car 54 will be able to tell you where it is, not a common thing in Washington. Hmm, maybe if they'd "lo-jack"ed all of their vehicles a few years ago, perhaps the DC Police wold know where their 88 missing and unaccounted-for cars are.


An End to Cronyism?
Barry Announces He's Not to Run

Three Major Contenders Remain in Field
Historic Forces Converging Worldwide - Cronyism/Kleptocracy Ending Everywhere

Pardon my long absence, I've been busy elsewhere.

After months of tantalizing the public and the press, Marion Barry has at last made a public decision and has formally announced that he will not seek re-election.

This was a great disappointment, no doubt, to his supporters, of which no doubt have been those who formerly profited by their associations with the Mayor, his Party, and the Mayor's top-down management style. Marion Barry has of late become largely ceremonial, having been in effect reduced to the role of cheerleader (which rile he has vehemently eschewed) by the transfer of power away from himself and to the DCFRA Control Board, which has been moving rapidly towards the City Manager model of civil administration for the District of Columbia. Our longtime readers will doubtless remember that we heartily approve of such a move. But what of the candidates for an office which seems, for the forseeable future at least, to be largely ceremonial? Under the City Manager model, rather than being a true democracy (a form of government wisely eschewed by our nation's Founding Fathers as being too much at risk from the caprices of the plebescite) wherein the public will directly elect the one whom they shall choose to administer to their governance, instead the City Manager is as a rule appointed not by the electorate but rather by their representatives. This is a more measured and deliberate form of government, more amenable to stability and reason, in style and generally in the form of a Constitutional Republic. This is fitting and proper for the Capital of a Constitutional Republic. It is moreso proper that the Capital of this Constitutional Republic, and its administration, should itself be appointed by the Representatives of the Nation. Again, though, we must ask, what of the role of the contenders for the position of the District's Mayor? Are they to be mere cheerleaders? Or can they have a greater effect than this - or greater effect than they have had as members of the DC Council - should they be elected? For answers to these and to other questions, we must examine the contenders themselves.

But first let us re-examine at least in passing the DCFRA Control Baord itself. And thus let us first examine Marion Barry, whose personality, and the cult which built itself around that personality, has had an effect most profound upon the District of Columbia, and even much of the surrounding region, for over two decades. From his earliest forays into the Washington political scene, he had stood for civil rights, especially for the rights of the exceptionally poor, the disenfranchized, the disempowered. In his first term of office, close on the heels of Washington's first Home Rule Mayor, Walter Washington, Barry took a town which was characterized by President John F. Kennedy as having "southern efficiency and northern charm" and despite the growth of the Welfare Establishment and the failed legacy of Johnson's "Grand Society", made Washington the home of one of the largest, and certainly the most-affluent, black upper-income classes. He waged a tireless battle for business opportunity for his constituents, did more than probably any other person might to bring to Washington the one thing it most flagrantly lacked, a high-wage tax base. In his first two terms, - while the rest of the Nation sank into a near-depression as national industry flagged under the economic impacts of several fuel shortages, resultant near-depressions, explosive inflation, and a political and artistic doldrums of millenial proportions - Marion Barry practically invented the concept of the Service Economy and while nobody has ever succeeded in attracting an actual industrial base to Washington, Barry and his "A Capital City" program drew a massive influx of big money, and made Washington the headquarters of some of the world's most influential and wide-reaching service industries. Spearheaded by such companies as the upstart MCI, COMSAT, and a thousand others including some of the largest vendors of military-industrial projects-effectuators consultancies, while the rest of the nation largely rotted into the Rust Belt, Barry promoted an economic growth which was utterly unprecedented in Washington. The man could do no wrong, and everyone knew it - but all too unfortunately, the man who best knew that Marion Barry could do no wrong was the man himself. Riding high on the wave of the comparative prosperity of the Reagan-Bush years, and himself never one to "bind the mouths of the kine that tread the grain", Marion Barry brought to Washington a uniquely Democrat version of "trickle-down economics" - in a town famous for knowing how to "dance with the one what brung ya", the Mayor was Fred Astaire and when he led the dance, the whole town followed - and in the process, many attached themselves to his coattails, and unfortunately, the Mayor evidently wasn't too picky about to which-all fleas he gave a ride. As the local Reagan Era's military-industrial complex feeding frenzy upon the taxpayer's deficit account pumped a comparatively great wealth into the young professionals of the city and moreso the suburbs, crack cocaine hit the local scene, and the suburban yuppie drug undergound no less than the city's hopeless addicts, pumped millions into the pockets of any manchild brave enough to stand on a corner and risk being the one of a hundred that suddenly-outgunned police could process per hour into the revolving-door system of the overwhelmed District courts. Where when he'd danced with the military-industrial complex, Barry had made taxable millions for the elite of Washington, suddenly his true constituency, the District's poor, were richer than they'd ever dreamed, and all of it tax-free. Barry's political dance led him to some of the darker dancehalls of Washington, as the streets turned into bloodbaths. The money in the trade was definitely good enough to kill someone over without batting an eye, and a sore temptation to even the honest career civil servant. How could it be that Marion Barry could order the District's Finest to aggressively stomp out the ballooning income from the drug trades that was pumping millions into the local economy from the bottom of the heap, much as the military-industrial sector's tax-contributions was pumping it in from the top and the middle? Despite the cries to the world and the press by the mothers whose children had to sleep in bathtubs as protection from the rain of bullets that killed likely as not a bystander as the target, nothing happened - The Mayor had gone to bed with the one with whom he'd last danced. And so began the corruption, and so began the downfall of Washington, and of Mayor Barry. Home Rule, initially a great success, had instead proven to merely provide the tools for a looting of the Capital and the treasury, while allowing the city itself to sink towards infrastructural destruction and societal disintegration.

Through his last two terms in office, the Mayor's reign had resulted in a city where nothing worked, an out-of-control deficit (in 7 out of 8 years in the first two terms, he'd brought in a balanced budget), and arrearages so outrageous that the power company was turning off streetlights and traffic signals. When Congress threw more money at the problems, the money disappeared, insofar as could be told (documentation of this is not-surprisingly rather hard to come by) largely into the pockets of Barry's cronies and associates, who had come to dominate the District government, which had never had any comprehensible (nor even much extant and certainly not standard) civil-service personnel policies. Finally enough was enough and Congress began to assume direct control of the city. The DCFRA Control Board was created by Congressional action, and staffed by Presidential appointees. Investigations by world-class accounting firms and management-consultants revealed that as revolting as was the outward appearance of governance in the District, this was nothing compared to the cancerous rot that was revealed within, once Barry Cronies (tm) no longer stood at the gates of the offices to turn away any questions about where had the money gone.

We now have a City Manager form of government, but the historic forces which had created Marion Barry remain with us. First and foremost, there is the implicitly unConstitutional Home Rule movement in Washington DC, which has at its root a conundrum about which many heads have turned and many of the best minds have debated, to wit: "How can there be, in the capital of a nation which prides itself as the vanguard of Democracy, no effective plebescite and no self-governance?" We can answer only that in historical terms, this is not an issue of ideology, but of governance - history has shown that when the capital of a Republic is governed not by the representatives of the Republic, but by the government of the Capital, the result has tended to be the destrution of the Republic and the creation of an Empire, and increasingly, that Empire is not ruled by the Emperor, but by their courtiers. For the Republic to stand, it must be the Representatives of the Republic who administer its capital, and the City Manager, hired by the Congressionally-appointed DCFRA does indeed do just that, now hesitantly, but in the future, we should hope, more vigorously. The former Emperor in any case has been shown to have no clothes - and we now hope that the new management appointed by the Republic will shortly don their togas and begin to actually govern. If there is one sole truly-legitimate complaint expressed by the District residents which may be directed at the District of Columbia Financial and Management Authority, it is this: the pace of implimentation of actual reform has been so slow as to be invisible. Or perhaps there has simply been little or no publicity regarding the impacts of such reforms have been implimented. In any case, to appropriate an aphorism, "justice unseen is Justice undone". Let's see some action, ideally appropriate action.

We note that, possibly due to a Congressional (and in our opinion absolutely warranted) opinion that there has been a deliberately-delayed selection of new Control Board leadership in order to force a candidate possibly at loggerheads with the need to retain a pro-Republic ideological thrust. At any rate, Senator Lauch Faircloth (Republican, North Carolina, Chairman Appropriations Subommittee or the District) is seeking to extend the terms of the present Control Board members. As quoted by the Washington Post: The Control Board currently has operational control over most of the government ... The crisis [which would occur if President Clinton does not appoint new members by the expiration of term in June] I am describing could result in costly and debilitating lawsuits challenging the legal status of the Control Board, and create chaos in the delivery of city services."

It is with this background that we see that the outgoing lame duck, formerly-Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry, and the three formerly-DC-Council candidates for his increasingly ceremonial position, may indeed wind up providing the only real, if disempowered, leadership in the District of Columbia, if only through their rhetoric. We can only hope that their rhetoric, whether or not self-serving as must be in electoral competition, will be rhetoric about that which best serves the District of Columbia, for which we still have great hopes that it might be Revitalized into being once again a capital worthy of the Republic.

Enter the candidates:

Please see also the Metro Region Police Issues Page. We wish to add that in the last week or two, there have been increasing pressures on Congress, which pressures mostly seem to be directed at convincing Congress to ignore the US Constitution and to give up (not merely to delegate) its sole true control (that of the purse-strings) over the District of Columbia.

Given the history of local governance, while we agree with the pro-democracy sentiments of the District's residents and their representatives, we must also note the law as expressed in the Constitution, and also must express our concern that to in any way remove Congressional control over the District is a disservice not only to the people of the Distrct, but also to those of the greater Nation. However, given the probable future make-up of the DCFRA Control Board, and that the Presidentially-appointed nature of its composition, effectively the Control Board should be increasingly disempowered in day-to-day affairs, which must increasingly become the increasingly-empowered responsibility of the City Managment. The Control Board, however, should remain the oversight authority with power to naysay the City Manager at direct Congressional request - but other than that, it should stand back - as should Congress - insofar as is practicable, to allow the City Management to proceed with all deliberate speed in reforms, in particular to speed and improve the deliveries of city services, in particular public safety and infrastructural improvements. Micromanagement has been one of the classic touches of the Barry administration and we have all seen where that led. Let's have less driving by committee and more executive action. Let's also hope that the mayor-elect, no matter how technically powerless, will be given all due hearing as the personification of the vox-populi if necessarily not the res publica, a sort of perennial pollster out finding facts as to what the public not only desires, but feels that it has received. Again, "justice unseen is justice undone."


Politics And Money
A Very Busy Newweek All Around

2 June 1998
In a surprise move, one of the most-influential and least-known names around the city has declared for the race to be Mayor of Washington. City Financial Manager Anthony A. Williams, who in
mid-February astonished local pundits by bringing in the recently-passed DC Budget for 1999 under budget and mostly on time, with a putative surplus, has announced that he is running for Mayor, broadening the field to five serious contenders. Williams, who must quit his job as Financial Officer (and who has recused himself of responsbilities in that office for the duration of the campaign) in order to hold the increasingly-ceremonial position as Mayor of Washington DC, appears to be running on a platform of fiscal responsibility. Williams had evidently been quite satisfied in his indespensible position, where he had definitely worked wonders in trimming the bloated and byzantine maze of DC finances. However, roughly a month ago, a resident's group calling itself the "Draft Anthony Williams" committee, assembled and did as their name suggests - they drafted Anthony Williams for the Mayoral race. Please note that the DCFRA Control Board, which now essentially runs the City of Washington Government, is by law intended to disband when the city has run at a balanced budget for four years. Since Williams brought in the first balanced budget in the last year, if elected Mayor, he would spend at least one year as the actual controlling authority in the City, provided that he can bring in three more successive balanced budgets.

Another contender, local businessman Jeffrey Gildenhorn, is in the running, but this reporter is not fully aware of his campaign platform and will not comment at this time.

Anthony A. Williams is credited with balancing the budget for Fiscal Year 1999 in the District, but this may be (as we have stated repeatedly since the announcement of a budget surplus for DC FY '99) something of a fiction - and recent reporting in Washington Post to some degree confirms this position we've taken - said position being that due to marketplace comments regarding the funding packages and repayment schedules for the proposed Convention Center, the budget may be less-balanced than it was stated to be.

At present, there is a great dispute about size, location and financing of the proposed Convention Center, which was to be built right at the base of the District's historically-troubled Shaw neighborhood. The proposed center, characterized simultaneously as a "behemoth" and as "unscalable to the future" (it is expected to be outgrown by roughly 2010), the four- or five-story center would have at least one exhibit and conventioneers hall underground. It would, as envisioned, lie between Seventh and Ninth Streets Northwest, extending from Mount Vernon Place which bridges Massachusetts and New York Avenues between 7th and 9th, to "N" Street NW at the northern end. Semi-surrounded by a narrow bufferzone of half-block historic districts and bordering on the Downtown and Chinatown districts, with the imponderably blighted (but somewhat renascent) Shaw residential districts closing in from three sides, with the present Convention Center (a hideous concrete lump at Ninth Street and New York Avenue) possibly being connected by tunnel to the proposed facility. The present Convention Center, much-touted by Marion Barry, has been a major money-loser for the City of Washington. Despite the proportions of the present center, it's considered too small.

On the positive side of the issue, the new Convention Center is expected to provide something close to 10,000 new jobs, many of which are hoped to be filled from the surrounding neighborhoods, and it would be built on land which is mostly already owned by the City of Washington. Much of that region is at present occupied by particularly hideous vacant-lots and parking-lots, looking very much like what you'd expect to find in Washington in the aftermath of a limited nuclear exchange.

At any rate, the new Center, as proposed, will require the City of Washington to issue bonds in at least the sum of $685 millions. How this will be paid-for, should this Convention Center, like the last one, prove to be a flop, remains unknown in a time when the District will be receiving a great deal less of an annuity from the Federal Government, while simultaneously undergoing a huge reinvention of its own administrative systems which absolutely must include capital-intensive materiels acquisitions such as new emergency-agencies equipment, rolling stock, and infocomm systems.

Da Cops

The Metropolitan Police Department had a very bad week last week, and it's not getting much better.

A fairly small electrical fire forced most of the staff out of headquarters, and cut power to the entire facility for some days. This left, among other things, the "911" emergency-telephone staff out in the weather with nothing to do, and no way for emergency calls to get to the officers. It has been noted of late that the new Chief of Police, Charles H. Ramsey, would have his work cut out for him, not only in dealing with a massive revision of procedures within the police force but with the force itself. The force is widely perceived as being completely riddled with vice, corruption, general disorganization, cronyism, and in some cases raw ineptitude. Note that City Councilman Harold Brazil noted in a campaign speech that Washington must be "fixed" because it's just too embarassing to live in a city where two-thirds of murders go unsolved and half of the PD was shown to be technically unqualified to shoot straight at the firing range. (Embarassment aside, what of the danger?)

Ongoing hearings in City Council chambers show such things as a 20-year backlog in evidence storage in a facility that had grossly improper (and even unsanitary and unsafe) storage conditions, an out-of-control procurements and disbursements system, a waiting period of up to six months on police vehicle repairs, a "911" system that can handle only 15 operators/calls at a time, and this last week showed how incredibly close to collapse is the overburdened system. (We believe that a multiple-node distributed system would be the ideal.) The directory of the MPD's property division, one Abraham Parks, gave testimony as to the insanity of the practically-wide-open evidence storage facility (from which thieves reportedly steal evidence and other police property) being used to hold over three millions of siezed cash evidence: "[I]t's just frightening to know that we keep that much money on hand ... That amount of money is going to be tempting to a lot of people. It's a constant headache, and believe me, it's something I'd like to get rid of." Many large cities which have siezed large amounts of cash simply put it into a commercial banking account, where it can earn interest and also be safer than it would be in a rotting metal shed.

City Councilman Jack Evans, also in the running for Mayor, is reported to have been essentially bilious with disgust after the testimony. Running a very law-and-order based campaign, he's been the man in charge of most of the Council hearings and investigations dealing with the police, and has stated that it is his intention to put a thousand more cops on the streets of Washington. About a year ago, when the extent of mismanagement in the police department became highly-publicized common knowledge, it was revealed that only about one in ten officers on the force actually issued a citation or made an arrest in any given year. Statements were made that a great many of the desk-pilot officers would be deployed onto the streets in short order, but this in reality never occurred, or at least not on any scale close to that proposed. Evans hopes to change that. We will presume for now that he will also address the state of affairs that has some 93 MPD officers on administrative leave, collecting pay but unable to work. Some of them have been there for years, evidently without anyone uphill in the chain of command being particularly concerned about this.

Evans, who represents the downtown district, is also taking a very pro-business stance, hoping to bring back a return to the days when locally-owned businesses filled the streets' storefronts, unlike the present situation where all-too-often any given street looks like a boarded-up ghost-town.

Control Board Issues

Closing out their season (in case of emergencies, the terms of the present Control Board leadership has been extended three months), the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (Control Board) has definitely taken their stab at getting more business into Washington. They too have doubtless been a bit dismayed by the hemmorhage of the District's population (a sixth has left over the last seven years) and in particular the emigration of business from the District.

The Control Board passed several measures, among which were:

The last were dismissed at the request of the City Manager, Camille Cates Barnett. At last we're seeing some substantive changes here in the District. Barnett herself notes (according, as always, to the Post: "Any time there is a change in leadership, the executive team changes." Evidently the folks who were dismissed weren't getting with the program. To paraphrase Barnett as paraphrased by the Post, the way must be cleared for top talent to be attracted to dive right into the job and get things done and get them done with all deliberate speed.

Some have criticized the Control Board's actions as being a pre-emptory parting shot from an autocrat-led oversight board which has added, to the insult of the "rape of democracy" as Mayor Barry (predictably) called it, the injury of plopping down a large block of law delivered on the way out the door. But you just can't please some people - a recent survey showed that the public opinion of the Control Boards efficacy and usefulness (to say nothing of its pace) had taken a dive towards unprecedented depths. On a note of apology we can only point out that haste makes waste, and the Board had often been accused of being merely a pointman for Congressional micromanagement of the District. Better, then, to spend the longest possible time thinking out the final package (and in particular the intergradations between aspects of various fixes) before ordering implimentation.

And this is not the final act of the DCFRA as led by Andrew F. Brimmer. Presidential appointment of the new membership is expected daily, with Alice Rivlin expected to be the new Chairman. Rivlin is immensely qualified for the position, having been one of those who pointed out long ago with an amazing clarity of prescience, that the District as then-structured was essentially financially doomed. Brimmer has had his tenure extended for 90 days in the unpaid position of Chairman, in order to promote an orderly transition between regimes.

Shameless Self-Serving Plug and Personal Sniping

As regards Dr. Barnett's remarks about the needs for new leadership, for well over a year now I've had an offer on the table, to try to help save the District lots of money by a donation of free UNIX software. Within the last six months, I've even offered to throw in the harddrive it's installed on, for free - including gratis time installing and configuring it, and I know one copy of the original offer made it directly to the desk of dismissed former Department of Technology Director Hernon. If anyone in the DC government wants it, it's 251 megabytes and all it needs is a 486-or-better Intel-based PC with a NE2000-compatible card. Send me some mail if you want instructions on where to get it. And yes, it's already fixed for the Year 2000 crunch. Whoever replaces Hernon will hopefully have enough awareness of technology to have a clue as to what is being offered, for free. We can only hope that other replacements for indiligent or non-current staffers will also be willing to get their heads out into the sunshine and look around them for modern solutions.

It's clear where doing things the old way had led - it's clear what failing to do anything new was leading - and perhaps, as the summer and in particular the record year of tourism by Americans proceeds through town, curious to see what's being done to their Capital, perhaps we shall see clearly as the road to our future is carved out of the swamp the town has been for the last two decades.

But then again, this is Washington - don't expect much to change, and certainly not quickly.


District Development

In the last two weeks, we have sensed in the air a portent of sea-change, and had delayed our reporting until the nature of the change should be revealed.

Now we know - Money Magazine has published it's "Best Places To Live" listing for this year, and the Greater Washington Metropolitan Region ranked first on the East Coast. Admittedly, this includes the occasionally-posh Maryland and Virginia suburbs, which have had almost none of the difficulties of City of Washington itself, except insofar as they have actually bordered on the District. To those who can live in the quiet greens of suburbia, to commute downtown to work or to enjoy the unparallelled cultural treasures of the American Nation, this truly is the best of the best - but for years, for those living in Washington itself, the sense has been of the walls closing in, of the very earth preparing to open and swallow one up. For over the last seven years, one-sixth of the population of the District of Columbia had quietly (or noisily) departed for greener pastures, for safety, for jurisdictions which actually picked up the trash, or repaired the streets.

Those who abandoned the District were largely those who were fiscally able to move, yet lacked the cash resources to fortify themselves in palatial estates. The middle class essentially abandoned Washington in the early part of this decade, with the interesting exception of the youngest set of urban professionals, in general childless white couples who were less concerned about public services delivery. In essence, those who moved into town might be viewed as those who took advantage of the amazing decline in real-estate values and the buyer's market, to party on the Titanic as even the rats  - which better knew the realities of the underlying rents below the waterline of the City's ship of state - abandoned ship.

Despite the recent publication of surveys which expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the fact, and with the effectiveness, of the DCFRA Control Board, we will disregard this as mere political pre-positioning for the upcoming election year, simple lip-service, and take to heart the classic Washington wisdom - attend not what people say, but what they do. And the truth is out - people are moving back into Washington. Home purchases in the city were up by thirty percent over the last year. This is not yet cause for jubilation, as after all, 130 percent of nothing is still nothing and for the last few years people have been moving out, no moving in. But this is indeed a hopeful sign.

One of the major reasons that people had been moving out of town so steadily (outside of the obvious problem of the murder rate in "Dodge City") was the feeling of impending doom encountered anytime one tried to use a motor vehicle on the streets of Washington. A plan is being developed which would allow one contractor to maintain most of the District's most heavily-trafficked roads and highways. On top of the $900 millions at-last allocated by the Federal government towards the essential replacement of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge carrying I-95/I-495 across the Potomac River, additional monies are being sought from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) which would fund contractor maintenance of some of the most heavily-trafficked District streets which are not at present subject to Federal funding. This is in line with the sound and well-proven shift nationwide from bureaucratic bloat in City or County agencies, towards lean-and-mean private companies competing to provide the best service for the lowest cost. It must be noted that in particular, the State of Maryland is quite willing to co-ordinate with repair efforts in the District, as a huge number of Maryland's taxpayers must daily suffer the jarring transition from Maryland's excellent roads onto the washed-out cowpaths of the District's streets. Mayor Barry, some suspect, had long left the borderline roads to disintegrate largely as a means to incite irate Marylanders to promote his idea of a commuter tax, if only because it would cost less than constant vehiclular repairs.

The City of Washington continues to move aggressively towards major capital development. The DC Council approved the funding of $685 millions for the new Convention Center. $650 millions of this would be financed by the City with the issue of 34-year bonds, paid for by revenues from taxes on hotels and restaurants. The remaining $15 millions will be sought form the Federal government.

Also, after some years of dispute and acrimony which left the Nation's Capital without a Ritz (the former Ritz, at 1200 Massachusetts Avenue NW is now the St. Regis), Ritz-Carlton has announced that they will re-establish their presence in Washington, anchoring a mixed-use development at 22nd and "M" Streets NW, very conveniently located at the west edge of the "Golden Triangle" money-and-power zone of Dupont South. Midway between Dupont and Washington Circles, close to Georgetown, this development is expected to be completed roughly Fall of 2000, and will include not only the hotel, but also 200 luxury condos, as well as stores and restaurants.

Control Board Issues The US General Accounting Office (GAO) has raised questions as to the legality of the DCFRA Control Board's right to appoint a City Manager to run the City. In response, Senator Lauch Faircloth (North Carolina - Republican), chairman of the powerful subcommittee controlling the District's finances, is moving towards legislation aimed at permanently restructuring the District Government. There is some disagreement within the Congressional and Senate committees which regulate the District as to whether this is desirable or to what degree. Some favor permanent structural changes, while others believe that such changes should be temporary. All do seem to agree that the present system, whereby the DCFRA Control Board oversees all actions taken by the local government, is essential to revitalize the District.

Permanent changes in organizational structure and lines of authority have been proposed by outbound Chairman of the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Authority ("DCFRA Control Board") Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer. He proposes that the present office of the Mayor be reduced to a largely-ceremonial role, as is already the case under the rule of the DCFRA. The DC Council would assume a more-powerful role in certain venues of long-term decision-making, but the day-to-day administration of the City would become the purview of the City Manager. Additionally, there would be a Chief Financial Officer, and an Inspector General. This powerful troika would be restrained by some checks-and-balances such as being able to be fired only "for cause" by the mayor and only subject to the approval of the City Council, and would be appointed by the mayor, and confirmed by the City Council. Importantly, the members of the troika would serve terms of six years, longer than the elected term of the mayor, and thus they would be largely unaffected by election-year pressures. The Chief Financial Officer and the Inspector General would to some degree collaborate and act as a check-and-balance on the Chief Management Officer, by overseeing spending and budgetary operations, and by investigating graft, corruption, and waste.

While there are arguments being floated which label this as an essentially undemocratic process which leaves the voters disempowered by their inability to hold the mayor to task as he could not fire the Management Officers, we argue to the contrary - it would behoove the voters to elect a City Council and Mayor who were sufficiently cooperative to be able to act in concert to remove any Management Officers who were "out of control" or clearly doing a bad job. We further argue in support of this proposal as it introduces career professionalism into the government of a city which has been for two decades utterly corrupted by the political gladhanding and cronyism of a too-powerful mayor who ruled with absolutely no retraints other than the voter's refusal to re-elect. The result of all of this has been a top-down brain-draining of local government; professionalism (as opposed to politicking) was not only unrewarded but quite commonly punished. A city the size of Washington absolutely requires professionalism in management, unrestrained by merely-political considerations. This is even moreso the case as Washington is, after all, the Nation's Capital City. It would prove democracy to be well-done should the residents of the District elect high-quality professionals to the offices of mayor and council, who would then exercise their best professional, not political, judgements to ensure the selection of the best enablers for the policies which they would thereafter propose according to the will of the people.

In the meantime, Mayor Marion Barry has appointed one of the deputies of Anthony A. Williams (who has stepped down from his position as Chief Financial Officer, and which he has excelled) to the position of Interim Chief. Earl C. Cabbell, who has acted as controller, has indicated that he is not interested in becoming the permanent CFO. Mayor Barry has announced a nationwide talent search for a new CFO. According to the Washington Post, Williams first move after leaving his position was to challenge his rivals in the election to quit their positions as City Councilmembers, to even the playing field. Williams was required by law to leave his appointed position, but there are no such requirements for the elected Councilmembers, Kevin P. Chavous, Jack Evans, and Harold Brazil, to leave their positions.

Jack Evans, it should be noted, is (according to the Post) by far and away the best-funded candidate in the Mayoral race, with widespread support from the business community, and also from sources outside of the District. Evans has, among other things, announced (as has Kevin Chavous) that he'd introduce legislation allowing non-citizen permanent resident aliens to vote in City Council and School board elections.


Eighteeen Months to Meltdown
District Totally Unprepared for Year 2000
Congressmen Blast District Technology Unpreparedness

25 June 1998
Representative Charles H. Taylor, the North Carolina Republican chairing the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia was recently quoted by the
Washington Post as characterizing budgeted plans for enhancing the information technology position as "money down a rathole", since poorly-trained city employees could not possibly use the new computers which are in the budget.

In related news, Virginia Republican Thomas M. Davis III, of the House Oversight Committee for the District is reported to have stated, in a letter to the DCFRA Control Board's outgoing chairman, Andrew F. Brimmer, "The District of Columbia is in the worst shape of any entity" as regards a US Government Accounting Office (GAO) review of readiness for the upcoming Year 2000 crisis. He is further quoted by the Post as saying "This is obviously a troubling and disturbing piece of information".

We have been saying this for years. The District government was characterised by the DCFRA's management consultant's reports as being insanely unprepared, operating exclusively in "crisis management" mode, in effect fighting fires in an attempt to escape a conflagration. In my own conversation of 24 June 1998, with an unnamed official within the DC Office of Technology, I discovered that the official had gotten the InterNet on his desktop only the day before, and was not familiar with its use. That's too bad, I have a very nice and straightforward solution for the District of Columbia: I have offered, on the InterNet, for at least a year, a 1.2 gigabyte harddrive full of free software and a Linux (UNIX-like) operating system. It is freely-copy-able, is completely free, comes with a free installation and configuration, is designed to be used as a generic clone donor for the rest of the DC Government and was designed to be very point-and-click while simultaneously probably grossly-overpowered for the average District worker. Linux is absolutely Year-2000-ready. The offer still stands, and in fact I will personally deliver and install this meltdown-prevention service as soon as the District Government gets over being suspicious and points me at a computer and tells me to fix their problems. I have five years experience at operating a Linux-box internet domain. I can be reached via e-mail, or via telephone. Both the DCFRA and the DC Office of Technology have my phone number.

According to DCFRA executive director John W. Hill, Jr., to whom I had sent a proposal regarding the free Linux operating system, the District has a plan to address the Year 2000 compliance issues, but that they'll have to move with extreme speed to address the problem. He declined to specify any details of this plan. We can only hope that the District will not repeat the Barry Administration pattern of speedily selecting a vendor based solely upon their prominence in the local business community, or upon how much money can be slid under the table.

Whether or not the District government decides to use expensive commercial software or free Linux (we note that for the cost of the standard office software packages, which would be entirely obviated by a freeware Linux system, once can generally buy an entire computer), there is still the issue of training District employees to use their new computers or software. Insofar as we are aware, the District's Office of Information and Telecommunications Systems remains in crisis-mode, and has not in any useful manner addressed their historic inability to train District personnel. this lack of training has been their main weakness, according to the damning reports from the DCFRA's management consultants. New computers are not the need seen in the OITS and other District agencies served by them; new computers remain in boxes all across the DC Government office-scape. OITS policy is that nobody may use their computers unless they are certified as trained. some computers have remained in their boxes for so long that, though top-of-the-line when purchased, they are now antiquated dinosaurs.

District Schools

The District's troubled schools are this week the subject of detailed reporting.

In recent weeks, DC Schools Superintendant Arlene Ackerman, a career specialist in rescuing troubled inner-city schools, has laid off hundreds of District Schools employees. In her first round of layoffs, designed to help offset a projected $65 millions shortfall, roughly 150 workers got canned. Later, another 175 got canned, mostly from the central office which had a staff of 646 prior to the firings. This week, some 400 more got canned, mostly some 300 custodial staff. Former DCFRA-appointed schools administrator Gen. (ret) Julius Becton's failure to trim the personnel roster is cited by many as being the main cause of the school-systems gross budgetary overrun. Others cite total disorganization in the offices, leading to unsureness as to who exactly was (or was supposed to be) on the payroll. In any case, heads are rolling.

Contrary to a widely-circulated rumor, Ackerman and her high-level staffers have dismissed any notion of firing teachers. Indeed, Ackerman has embarked upon an audacious program of rebuilding the academics divisions of the District Schools, which has already been credited with rising standardized-tests results. While still sub-par, the rise in the test scores is considered astounding given the short period of time between Ackerman's accession to power and the administration of the tests.

In order to try to close the budget gap, high-level staffers have frozen almost all nonpersonnel spending. Additionally, while teachers are not at risk of the budget axe (with the exception of non-performance, for which Ackerman has declared she shall search with the eagle-eye), many will be transferred from their present locations to other facilities. Ackerman has repeated that there will be strict adherence to enrollments-based staffing policies.

In a related development, a principal at the highly-acclaimed Duke Ellington School of the Arts decided that in order to overcomply with an order for a staff reduction of 10 percent promptly dismissed the nationally-reknowned Literary and Media Arts department, prompting stunned and outraged dismay on the part of all concerned. Ackerman's staff is investigating the matter, and intense pressure is being placed on school officials seeking principal Robert Sands' (described as a "rogue" by Ellinton founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz) dismissal.

There is also to be an extended thrust of monitoring compliance with residency requirements for enrollments. At least some 700 students are known to be residing in Maryland, according to their enrollment applications, and the District Schools will begin charging for their continued attendance in District classes. If they can prove, according to newly-tightened documentation processes, that they actually reside in the District, these enrollment fees can be waived. In addition to tightening residency requirements, dozens of organizations which have in the past been granted pro-bono cost-free use of Distrit Schools facilities will now be subject to usage fees. These fees will include security and custodial fees. One Herman Gohn, president of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, is reported by the Post as having made the completely nonsensical remark that "...the schools don't belong to Arlene Ackerman or the school board". This may be true, however, the school board and Arlene Ackerman are charged with bringing the budget into balance by whatever means are necessary while concurrently improving the delivery of education services to the next generation of District residents.

But where can many of these organizations, some of which are quite probably the only thing standing between disadvantaged youth and a life of delinquency or crime, obtain the fees demanded of them by the District Schools? In an article in today's Washington Post, page D4 25 June 1998,we note that the DCFRA Control Board has agreed to fully-fund the District's Youth Jobs program. One of Mayor Marion Barry's few truly enduring and useful programs, providing jobs for some 11,000 local youths, the program had been in danger of failure this year until some $2.2 millions of city money was shifted, largely from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, to the Youth Jobs program.

The Youth Jobs program has been credited with reducing youth crime, under the theory that a youth involved in work not only brings home money, but has their time occupied doing something useful. Many of the organizations which had been getting rent-free use of the schools, should they be able to demonstrate that they were keeping kids out of trouble, or teaching them skills which would make them more employable, might themselves be eligible for funding toward their usage-fees, through means similar to those which funded the Youth Jobs program.

Alice M. Rivlin Sworn-In As Chair Of DCFRA Control Board

Alice M. Rivlin, PhD, has been sworn in as the new Chairman of the DCFRA Control Board. She has reiterated her focus on the speedily repairing the District, to the point where it can again be under, for better or for worse, Home Rule.

Dr. Rivlin, an economist, is a long-time Washingtonian, having arrived in the late 1950s. At one time associated with the prestigious Brookings Institute, she has authored a great many highly insightful position papers and reports on the District, including the legendary "Report of the Commission on Budget and Financial Priorities of the District of Columbia". Dr. Rivlin has most recently served as the vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, chief budget officer for President William J. Clinton, and head of the Congressional Budget Office.

800 Disabled and Elderly to be Evicted?

In 1989, the District government allocated $21 millions. By 1997, it was down to $8 millions. Next year it will be nothing. What is it, you ask? Nothing but another example of balancing the budget on the backs of those least equipped to adapt to changing financial circumstances: the DC rent subsidies for the disabled and the elderly have been cut across the board.

Starting October 1 1998, the DC government would no longer subsidize the rent of some 777 residents. The city has been paying up to 60 percent of their rent.

In a recent rally, Mayoral hopeful and onetime chief Financial Officer Anthony A. Williams was criticized by an opponent for going to Congress, behind the Mayor's back, in an effort to gain more discretion in creating the budget. William remarked that he hd done this mostly because the biggest budget slashes were in programs which deal with outreach for the poor. Poverty, hunger and homelessness are still big problems in the District, with most shelters and outreach services either unfunded volunteer efforts or are operations which are at the end of their financial ropes. Such shoestring-budgeted operations as are most of the District's shelters would be very hard-pressed to absorb nearly a thousand people, and in fact these new people to be sheltered are from the most at-risk walks of life, the elderly, the disabled, and their families. DC's shelters are no place to try to raise a family. They are, in fact, extremely dangerous even by the standards of the experienced homeless.

We will hope that the DCFRA Control Board, Congress, and the other powers that be will at to reverse this trend of discarding the deserving-needy, and will allocate funding to assist those who truly cannot take care of themselves.

Don't forget to also see the Police Special!


More commentary is to come!

Please see, for a day-by-day account of those events of 1997 which set the stage for the Year Of Change, 1998, the 1997 Washington DC, Not a Pretty Site (nor sight) Page.

As always, my thanks to the fine staff of The Washington Post for their diligence and forthrightness in reporting District issues.

Please search the Post for their previous coverages of:
Police Department Mismanagement
Control Board Coverage.
Get a District Government Executive Position!
Please apply your exemplary credentials and experience towards the reclamation of our Nation's Capital!


I am restructuring the Washington DC pages - the admittedly weird (but you ain't seen nothin' yet!) original Washington: Not a Pretty Site Page is here. Oh, before you go - a clue to the sarcasm-impaired: That page and most associated pages adhere strictly to my policy "if you can't beat them and you can't join them, mock them 'til their eyes bleed."

I'm also starting a page for the " other real Washington" - not necessarily the good parts, but the fun parts.

Other Voices, Other Visions

Fortress Washington. It's pretty sad how all of those concrete barriers have to be all over the place ruining the view.
DC OnLine - Analyses and Solutions. This is an excellently-linked page to a wide array of local-level and national-level thought concerning Washington.
Washington DC City Pages - Links to everywhere (including here!) complete with reviews, a top-10 list, dining resources, you name it.
An Outside View - please see the British National Party's Tale of Two Cities Page. Page down and see the review of Washington. Insofar as I can tell, a radical foreign British party shares most of Earth Operations Central's views of Washington. They rate Washington as a Third World City. Unfortunately they're right.
DC Darkside - Doug Thompson. As far as I am concerned there is no better reporter in this area. The Man should get a Nobel Prize. This, my friends, and my enemies, is the truth about Washington DC... and in many ways, eversomuch moreso, it's about life. Read it and weep for your society, for everything about Washington is merely a harbinger, a bellwhether, of everything the national society will accept as standard and de-rigeur ten years from now. So read, and weep, and fix Washington, DC - and adjust your nation's future. And get a kick right in the middle of your soul's heart as well. This site is only for the bold and those who take enough Prozac as to be unable to care... or you might just go out and do something.
National Association to Restore Pride in the Nation's Capital. "NARPAC, Inc. was formed last year because a small group of concerned citizens in the Washington, DC area believe that the Nation's Capital has become a national disgrace, and that it will take national attention and action to restore pride in it as a symbol of our hopes and dreams for the future." Earth Operations Central absolutely agrees, provided that the fear and loathing is also extended to the surrounding suburbs. They have an excellent links page.
DC Military. This website is run by Comprint Military Publications, a Gaithersburg MD outfit that targets military bases for delivery of Gazette-style newspapers.
DCWatch. Very informative, and covers most of the issues I don't cover, with considerably more local-level detail which would be of greater concern to neighbors.
Global Warming might put Washington DC underwater - from the Environmental Defense Fund.
Plausible Reality Extrusion Group. And boy can they extrude! They're considerably more extrusive than I am, but a lot less wacky. They've got some excellent resources associated with their pages, and lots of links to Washingtoniana.
The Washington Fun and Recreation Page.
Wash Web.
The Greater Washington Page. I don't know who's behind this slick piece of promotion, but these folks are determined to get people to relocate their businesses to the Greater Washington Metropolitan Region. Their Quality of Living page does have a lovely picture of the scenic grandeur of the Great Falls of the Potomac, but if you got this far in this page and can be convinced that there's anything remotely resembling a "quality of life" around this town, you need remedial education. This is, as best I can tell, a put-on by the Chamber of Commerce or something. If they don't get a grip, I'll have to parody them. This is a hugely-desperate attempt to sell Washington DC to the business community. As far as pages go, or as advertisement goes, this is indeed a lovely page, and very well-done.
Official Washington DC Homepage.

What Works Elsewhere

New York City Partnership & Chamber of Commerce. New York City has been praised nationwide as a city that has successfully revitalized itself. Crime is at an all-time low and the city's economy is booming. Perhaps people should take a look at what works there, perhaps similar approaches would work in the District.

Fun Stuff

Visit the Earth Page. Save your Homeworld!
Visit the Business MetaIndex Page.
Visit the Computing MetaIndex Page.
Visit the Sciences MetaIndex Page.
Visit the Earth Operations Central District Office. Try a Glimpse HTTP Search (searches HTML content).
Go back to the main EarthOps Homepage.