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October 14, 2007


Dear Victims:

I should have known that the comedy of errors hadn’t ended yet. I was able to send issues of themail, but several people have let me know that they began receiving the same issue at least once an hour, every hour, for twenty to thirty times. Perhaps all of you have had the same experience. I apologize, but I promise you that I haven’t been sitting at my computer spamming you hourly with multiple copies, although a few angry subscribers seem to think that that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, just to annoy them, or that I’m an idiot who doesn’t know how to send an E-mail. The web hosting service is trying to figure out why that E-mail kept getting resent, and to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. If it does, please let me know as soon as you start getting multiple copies, and if you are reading this online because you still aren’t getting it by E-mail, please let me know about that, too.

In the October 10 issue, which I hope you did receive, I wrote about Mayor Fenty’s and Chancellor Rhee’s plans for mass firings among teachers and administrators in the DC Public Schools. That plan has now been committed to proposed legislation, which is available at

Gary Imhoff


Board of Elections Nominee Hiram Brewton
Dorothy Brizill,

Mayor Fenty has nominated Hiram K. Brewton to fill the vacant seat on the DC Board of Elections and Ethics previously held by former US Attorney Wilma Lewis ( If confirmed by the city council, his term of office would end on July 7, 2009. Brewton is a resident of the Penn-Branch neighborhood of Ward 7. Since 1999, he has been the director of environmental services for the Downtown Business Improvement District (the Downtown BID). In a 2006 article in the East of the River newspaper, Brewton stated that at the BID he worked “to keep the downtown area extra clean and neat. We also train our staff to help visitors navigate Washington.” Prior to joining the BID, Brewton was an MPD officer for twenty years, from 1964 to 1984. In a recent telephone interview, he indicated that “as a voter” he understood “in a general way” the work of the Board of Elections, but that he was not familiar with the Board’s processes, procedures, or any of the controversial issues that the Board had grappled with in recent years.

Brewton’s nomination to the BOEE comes at a critical time. Increasingly, concern is being raised about the Board under Charles Lowery’s chairmanship. Even the normally reticent League of Women Voters, in a recent letter to the mayor, wrote, “We are, however, disappointed by lack of leadership on another important aspect of democracy and voting rights — the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. As we head into an election year, we urgently need a full Board led by a strong chair. We cannot understand why you have not made the appointment of a strong Board of Elections and Ethics chair a priority of your administration. . . . Recognizing the urgency of this issue, please promptly appoint a person to head the Board who has the stature of Ben Wilson, Clifford Alexander, Kathy Patterson, Walter Smith, or Roderic Woodson.” Moreover, in 2008 the District will hold three elections (a presidential preference primary on February 12, a primary election on September 9, and a general election on November 4), and the Board and its staff must be ready to ensure that those elections run smoothly.

Brewton’s nomination has been referred to Carol Schwartz’s Committee on Workforce Development and Government Operations, which will hold a confirmation hearing that has not yet been scheduled. At that hearing, councilmembers will have to grapple with a number of issues. Members of the Board of Elections have traditionally been knowledgeable about politics and the legal questions involved in election issues, but have not been actively involved in partisan politics or political campaigns. By contrast, Mr. Brewton acknowledges that he is not currently familiar with campaign finance or election law issues in the District, and he and his family have a long-standing close relationship with Fenty. Brewton actively campaigned to get Fenty elected, and according to Fenty associates, Brewton has been something of a father figure to Fenty. Mr. Brewton and his wife have hosted political fundraisers at their home for various candidates, including Fenty. (The OCF web site indicates that Brewton was reimbursed $623 for catering and refreshments for a Fenty 2006 event on November 11, 2006.) Moreover, Mr. Brewton’s son, Hiram Brewton II, went to school with the mayor and currently works in the Executive Office of the Mayor as a Ward 6 neighborhood services coordinator. If an issue came before the Board involving Mayor Fenty or a member of his administration, could Brewton be fair and impartial, considering his long, close association with the mayor and his past campaigning on his behalf?


Exploring a Run for the Ward 2 Council Seat
Rob Halligan,

I’m exploring a run for the DC Ward 2 council seat. Please read about it here: Please spread the word.


Gonna Be a Cold Winter
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

If you believe in the Acorn Theory, then it’s gonna be a cold winter. In my twenty years here in Dodge the theory seems to hold up very well. When there is an abundant crop of large acorns in the fall, then we will have a cold winter that year. This year the ankle busters are both big and abundant. So, be prepared for a cold winter.


Quiet Enjoyment and Free Speech
Joan Eisenstodt,

When does the right of “quiet enjoyment” overrule free speech? The daily demonstrations at 9th and E Streets, NW, with loud yelling and drums or drum-like sounds, are as bad as the construction noise or that of Coyote Ugly where we used to live. I know that there have been discussions about the demonstrators being hired hands (about which I have no problem) but it’s not who, it’s what and when and how much. Is there any recourse other than drugs for headaches?


In Favor of Cab Meters
Dror Karni,

There are only a few days left before the mayor makes his decision on the use of meters in DC cabs. Please call his office today at 727-6300 and tell him you want meters! Enough getting ripped off DC!

The cab drivers are organized and calling in daily. The mayor’s office is taking a tally of how the public feels. Please call now!


Group Songwriting
Phil Shapiro,

Boys and girls, today we’re going to do something very special and I’m so happy you’re all sitting around in a circle paying such careful attention. Today, I want you to clap your hands and sing along with me to this happy song we can sing whenever a news reporter calls us for a quote to use in their story. The song is called: “I Can Give You Any Quote You Want.” You can hear it right here.

Can you think of a silly verse to add to this song? Think of the most cliched thing that people say when giving a quote to a newspaper. Then send me that cliche (or your entire verse) and I’ll add it to the song. I’ll take the finished song and make a very happy video for YouTube.

Thank you Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Malvina Reynolds, Tom Paxton, and others. There’s nothing like a good song to bring people together. And I’d like to thank the Washington Post for calling me the other day for a quote. They didn’t like the quote I gave them, so I knew I needed to compose a song to let them know I’d give them any quote they wanted. Just tell me what to say. I’ll say it.


UDC’s Fundamental Problems
William Haskett,

One element in the situation of UDC has remained constant over all the years since its foundation, and that is the evident failure of the Washington Post to observe and analyze the University, even when it was clear that the general problem of DC Public Schools was exacerbated, and not relieved, by the existence of an ineffective level of higher-educational opportunity for its graduates. The creation by Congress of a funded program that would allow them to go anywhere else in the country must have had deleterious effects on the entries to UDC, and the general turn to charter schools is surely evidence of discontent with what was on offer in DCPS. Everything cried out for a widespread act of coordination of all of these things, but none was even attempted.

These are what I take to be fundamental problems with the University, which have gradually accumulated since it was formed out of FCC/DCTC, and WTI in 1976. It ought, I would suggest, take a high priority in the Mayor's program of action for his term of office. I should explain that none of this is in the least theoretical, but builds on personal experience from the founding of FCC in 1968 to my own retirement in 1995 as Professor of History. I’d be pleased to explain any item in it at any time. We all, I am certain, mistook the difficulties of founding a university at all, and what I would like to see is a more sober and serious look at what has gone wrong, and what can, even at this late date, be done about it.

An aging faculty (insufficient rotation going back to the 1970s): incompetent administration (over ten presidents from its founding year, 1976, to the mid-1990s, and even more provosts and deans, although the faculty remained much as it had been): a distant and poorly-informed Board of Trustees; rigidities of management as a consequence of the organization of faculty as a self-protective labor organization. Need for a fresh start, but never done. Pretenses and realities not regarded. Removal of competence by early retirement. Loss of morale. Gradual decline in recruitment, and insufficient connection with DCPS at all levels. Budgetary limitations, especially and essentially after 1988, an apparent lack of city council interest in the problems of higher education, and failures of effective supervision. Others and I myself attempted renewal of discussions with the acting President after Nimmons, but these efforts too died from inanition. Can we now get back to these issues? The University had a high (I believe) of around ten thousand students (around five thousand full-time equivalents), and is now, I believe, less than half that number in both categories. This is a vital and useful topic for a new mayor, and a changed council. I should add that the Law School is quite distinct in all these areas, and might, for all I know, be separated from the University (as it already largely is for budgetary and administrative arrangements).

I used to compile such gruesome facts, but really do not know who now does it, if anyone. The effective date for the founding segments of the present University was 1968. The era was different, of course, but the challenges certainly as great, and not widely discrepant to those presently addressed. A demographic survey of the institution would be telling, I feel sure, and might account for the overall lack of significant energy that the situation reveals. This would have to look, for example, at the length of terms-in-office, the age of incumbents, etc. This was a marked feature of most academic departments when I myself retired in 1995, when I was 65, and I doubt that the situation has improved in this respect since then.

I was yesterday reminded of a continued and obvious anomaly, one from which I myself benefited of course while I was at the university, but which remains an anti-incentive to movement in personnel even so. The question of aging and long-term retention of office is exacerbated of course by the inability of the University to impose a fixed retirement age. It was formerly seventy, but now can be any age that the faculty member chooses. This has the unexpected effect of blocking the appointment of younger and new faculty, so that the whole institution is borne down by a moribund process.


Off with Their Heads
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Queen Rhee seems determined to make the central office of the DC Public Schools a leaner and more productive support organization for the DC school system. To that end Rhee wants, and needs, the authority to fire those in the central office who are ineffective or incompetent. That’s a very good place to start in the reformation of the schools. Unfortunately, there are one hundred eighty union employees in the central office who cannot be fired even though many (all?) are likely ineffective. The solution to this problem is to reassign all of those union employees to other assignments in the school system. That’s the only way to assure success in a new, revitalized central office.


October 2007 InTowner
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the October 2007 online edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature (the accompanying images can be seen in the archived PDF version). The complete issue (along with prior issues back to March 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link in the Current and Back Issues Archive. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements.

The next issue will publish on November 9 (the second Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Top Floor, Roof of Adams Morgan Condo Destroyed by Major Fire — All Residents Safe Due to Quick Action by Firemen Hampered by Failure of Water”; 2) “Streetscape Upgrades OK’d by Adams Morgan ANC for 18th Street and Champlain Street.”



National Building Museum Events, October 18, 21
Jazmine Zick,

Wednesday, October 18, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Building for the 21st Century: Design and Efficiency: Lessons Learned in Building Modular, Affordable Housing. When it comes to manufacturing energy smart homes, the environmental and economic benefits of prefabrication are becoming an increasingly viable alternative. Professor John Quale, LEED AP, will speak about his experiences, in particular the 2002 Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, as Project Director for the University of Virginia’s ecoMOD project -- a multi-year project where interdisciplinary teams of students work together to design ecologically sound housing prototypes for affordable housing organizations. Free. Registration not required.

Sunday, October 21, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Family Program: Halloween Haunted House Workshop. Come and hear a tale about the haunted past of the National Building Museum! Create a spooky haunted house for your window at home for Halloween! Using wood and cardboard, families will construct a house or barn, decorate it with miniature ghosts, monsters, and jack-o’-lanterns and then create a short tale about its haunted (or hilarious) past. Enjoy treats, music and stories throughout the afternoon. $10 per house, Museum members; $16 per house, nonmembers. Most appropriate for ages 5 and older. Prepaid registration required by October 18. To register call 272-2448 or E-mail

Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


The Third Annual Vassar FilmFest, October 20
Ann Loikow,

The Vassar FilmFest showcases new films by Vassar alumnae/i, faculty, and students. This year’s featured attraction is Open Window by Mia Goldman, Vassar class of 1977, in which Hollywood veterans Cybil Shepard and Elliot Gould have starring roles. Open Window is the story of a struggling young photographer, played by Robin Tunney, and an assistant professor, played by Joel Edgerton, who are newly engaged and deeply in love and find their world shattered and their devotion put to the test by an act of violence. Although Mia is an experienced movie editor (her credits include Choose Me, The Big Easy and My Big Fat Greek Wedding), this is her first film as a writer-director and it recently won the Best Director award at the Los Angles LA Femme Festival.

The Filmfest will premiere Rough Cut, a new film by James B. Steerman, a professor of drama and film at Vassar, and Rebecca Holderness, Vassar class of 1979 and an assistant professor of acting and directing at the University of Wisconsin. Milwaukee. Rough Cut is based on Strindberg’s Miss Julie, but is set in a residential college and was filmed at Vassar. The adaptation of Miss Julie was done by two of Jim Steerman’s Vassar film writing students, Kelsey Egan and Jack Lienke, both of the class of 2006. This year’s featured documentary is The Education of Shelby Knox by Marion Lipschutz, Vassar class of 1980, and Rose Rosenblatt. Shelby is a high school student who challenges the abstinence-only sex education policy of the Lubbock, Texas school system. The film is both a coming-of-age tale and the inspiring story of how one young person becomes a leader and brings about political change.

The FilmFest is also spotlighting the ‘70s “buddy flicks.” Katherine Dieckmann’s (Vassar class of 1983) new film Diggers charts the mental and emotional shifts in four third generation Long Island clam diggers as they come to realize that their way of life is vanishing before their eyes. The economic and personal tribulations they face have much in common with those faced by many American industrial workers today who are or have seen their jobs disappear in a global economy. The featured student films are both documentaries by students from the class of 2007, Anna Moot-Levin and Hillary Lavin. The first explores a cousin’s devotion to her 18-year-old cousin, a Cystic Fibrosis patient who has defied doctor’s predictions and leads a life of love, joy and vibrancy. The second looks into the lives of Civil War re-enactors, including a Vassar student, who go to great lengths to make sure the story of the war is told with the highest level of historical authenticity, revealing the thin line between passion and obsession.

The FilmFest will be held on Saturday, October 20, from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., at the Jack Morton Auditorium at The George Washington University, Media and Public Affairs Building, 805 21st Street, NW. The auditorium is on the first floor of MPA Building which is located on the corner of 21st and H Streets, NW. The closest Metro stop is the Foggy Bottom, GWU stop on the Orange and Blue lines. The price for all the films is $35 and for the films and VIP reception with the filmmakers is $100. The FilmFest is the Washington Vassar Club’s annual scholarship fundraiser. For more information, go to the FilmFest web site at where you can register online.


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