Forward to May-June 2007 Federation News — Back to Federation of Citizens Associations main page — Back to March 2007 Federation News
Volume 13, Issue 4, April 2007
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax
|President's Message, George Clark
Officers and Board
Will This Task Force Finally Fix EMS?
There's a New Fire Chief in Town
Bilingual Yet?, Sally MacDonald
Out, Out Brief Candle
Out, Out Brief Candle, Part 2
Fix the Assessment System
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
City Administrator and Deputy Mayor
THE CHARLES SUMNER SCHOOL
|Patrick Allen, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants
Allen E. Beach, Treasurer
George Clark, Esq., President
Dino J. Drudi
Kathryn A. Eckles
Carroll Green. Past President
James H. Jones, Second Vice President
Ann Loikow, Esq.
Sally MacDonald, Secretary
Ann Renshaw, First Vice President
A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
Sadly, it took the death of New York Times editor, David E. Rosenbaum in January 2006 to activate a blue ribbon task force sixteen months later that hopefully will refashion the city's struggling emergency medical services into that world class organization envisioned by Mayor Adrian Fenty, Fire Chief-designee Dennis L. Rubin and the Citizens Federation.
The Rosenbaum family, in an unusual and altruistic arrangement with the city that set aside its $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the DC Fire & EMS Department, spearheaded the formation of a powerhouse Rosenbaum EMS Task Force which held its first meeting on April 17. Task Force members include DC and out of town fire and EMS chiefs, city officials, a physician and two Rosenbaum family spokespersons who also represent the public. The mission of this special task force is to "make a better pre-hospital medical system," something that has eluded the District for over a dozen years.
Inspector General, Charles J. Willoughby told the task force members that the death of David Rosenbaum was caused by multiple "failures" of the EMS system that included "incomplete patient assessments, poor communication between emergency responders, inadequate evaluation and documentation of the incident and lack of accountability. The results were significant: unnecessary delays in identifying and treating Mr. Rosenbaum's injuries and delayed recognition that a crime had been committed."
Task force member Councilmember Mary Cheh forced attention on the "impaired work ethic within the Fire & EMS Department." She asked several times about the need to "get underneath" the cultural system which has pitted firefighters against EMS personnel. IG Willoughby maintained that "each unit failed to perform duties" with respect to David Rosenbaum. "It has raised concerns regarding the mindset (of the firefighters and EMS personnel) and how they took the importance of their jobs."
Tobias Halliday, David Rosenbaum's son-in-law and the family's representative on the task force, spoke about the "equivalent of a cold war within EMS." He stressed the need to "make sure we spend time on the broader issue of the culture, indifference and apathy" that has eroded the effectiveness of EMS.
The four-hour meeting included presentations by DC's Medical Director, Dr. Michael Williams, as well as firefighter and EMS union representatives each arguing persuasively why EMS should either remain a part of an "all hazards" DC Fire Department or broken out to become a separate Emergency Medical Services ("third service") system. Kenneth Lyons, President of EMS Local 3721 spoke about the need for an independent, medically-driven EMS system, not merely EMS as a "function" of the DC Fire Department where firefighters are required to become emergency medical technicians regardless of whether they have the aptitude or interest.
The Rosenbaum EMS Task Force will meet again on May 24, at which time the meeting will be "open up for public comment," according to Chief Rubin. The Citizens Federation, which has raised community concerns about the city's anemic and troubled EMS system, will appear before the Rosenbaum Task Force. Subsequent meetings will be held on June 18 and July 17. The committee's final report and recommendations will be finalized at a two-day meeting on September 19-20.
Mayor Adrian Fenty said that he "wants real results" from the Rosenbaum Task Force. EMS has been the subject of past meetings, studies and reports reaching back to 1989. Will the Rosenbaum Task Force succeed in crafting a permanent improvement in the city's EMS pre-hospital delivery system? As Chief Rubin commented at the conclusion of the long meeting, "EMS has been a neglected system. We have a lot of work ahead but we got a great start today."
DC's beleaguered Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department has a new Chief. His name is Dennis L. Rubin and he served as fire chief of Atlanta from 2003 to date. Chief Rubin began his career as a Fairfax County, Virginia (VA) firefighter; in 1973, he moved to DC's Fire Department where he spent five years as a firefighter. Chief Rubin then became a station commander with the Fairfax, VA Fire and Rescue Department, followed by a four-year stint as a Captain with the Mesa, Arizona (AZ) Fire Department. From 1987 to 1996, Chief Rubin was a Battalion Fire Chief with the Chesterfield, VA Fire Department, supervising 17 full-time and 50 part-time employees. He relocated to Dothan, Alabama (AL) in 1996 to become its fire chief. In 2001, Chief Rubin was named fire chief of Norfolk, VA; in 2002, he returned to Dothan, AL as its city manager.
Chief Rubin's first day as DC's fire chief was April 16; on April 17, he chaired the first session of the Rosenbaum EMS Task Force which (we hope) will set a new and improved direction for the city's struggling EMS division. Medical calls, not fires, account for over 75% of the department's workload. A DC firefighter must become emergency medical technician (EMT) in order to have a job. (At this writing, the Federation is attempting to verify whether Chief Rubin is a certified EMT.) EMS matters will top Chief Rubin's agenda as the city is desperate to forestall a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against DC Fire and EMS from going forward. Stay tuned for developments.
When a caller now reaches the Mayor's Call Center (727-1000), he or she is asked to press #1 for service in English or press #2 for service in Spanish. It is a convenience for Spanish-speakers to have that option, and other non-English-speaking groups in the city may also, in the future, be able to have service in their languages. As a professional, working in Linguistics, I live with, and encourage, the use of different languages.
However, until Washington is declared to be officially bilingual or multi-lingual, and while English is the expected language of use in the government, residents should not have to request service in English. English is presumed to be the language of service here; service in Spanish, or other languages (however many), is an extra choice.
By making the choice between English and Spanish an equal one, the Mayor's Office has taken the unusual step of saying that Washington is bilingual. Those who have lived in bilingual countries or areas will quickly recognize the message.
The process of becoming officially bilingual is a serious and complicated one, which can change the character of a community. For that reason, it would have to be carefully debated and decided; in addition it involves immense cost, as signs, brochures and documents regarding all information, for every branch, office and department, would have to be reprinted, maybe doubly-printed, and replaced. Think of the considerable cost now when Metro, comparatively simply, decides to add new stops or signs!
If going bilingual, a surprising decision would have to be: Which language? Some years ago, a campaign was begun to make California bilingual. The State Legislature surveyed residents regarding their languages, other than English, used at home. There was a choice of six! It seems that, statewide, in addition to the Spanish-speakers, there was almost an equal number of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, along with Hmong! Each community became interested and involved. The issue died quickly.
It must be presumed that the DC government employee who made the decision regarding the mayor's Call Center did not understand the import of equating service in English and Spanish, and was without any experience in such areas. A very simple step would be to re-arrange the answering system, presently, for the one option of service in Spanish, with the possibility of adding other language choices in the future.
Until the major, and costly, community decision to become bilingual or multilingual is debated and made by our elected representatives, and only by them, service from our government in English is not an option!
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is akin to a candle whose flame has (temporarily) gone out. This relatively new department, once a division of the Department of Public Works, tumbled into the basement from its previous perch within the top echelon of city agencies. At its ’07 performance hearing before Councilmember Jim Graham, DDOT was publicly challenged to become a serious contender for the Federation's 2008 "Greatest Improvement in Public Service" honor that has been awarded only twice to exemplary city agencies (DC Office of Zoning, in 2004; DC Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2006).
What's wrong with DDOT? Let us count the ways. First, DDOT's staff has fallen into a bad habit of not responding to residents' e-mails and telephone calls within 48 hours. We might attribute this nonresponse to a relatively young, inexperienced staff at DDOT; however, some DDOT old-timers are equally at fault.
Second, DDOT handles constituent inquiries with the casualness of a long-suffering parent with too-inquisitive children. Written inquiries are often ignored or selectively answered. Instead of a complete and detailed reply to all the questions in an e-mail or letter, the constituent is more likely to find few well thought out answers. Asking for up-to-date neighborhood traffic data, for instance, is usually met with a "we'll have to get back to you" response which rarely happens. (Why is traffic data a state secret?)
Third, DDOT's follow-through is poor. (We call it as we see it.) Many traffic, transportation, roadway and public space problems that demand long-term action fall through the cracks. An example would be the Kanawha and 30th Street, NW residents' three-year, on-going effort to be reimbursed for serious sewerrelated damages to their homes. The Mayor will have to intervene to break this deadlock.
DDOT's new director, Emeka Moneme is trying. He is bright, outgoing, energetic, personable and persistent. But wrapping his arms around DDOT is an enormous task. Why, for instance, does it take weeks for one letter to be drafted, edited, approved and sent to a resident complaining about major traffic problems on a neighborhood roadway? Mr. Moneme, along with his staff, should listen, really listen, to residents' advice and opinions, and then act accordingly. Instead, we find DDOT pursuing its own agenda, often ignoring a neighborhood's sound advice on, say, needed traffic corrections.
Will DDOT respond to the Federation's challenge? Will it earn the "Greatest Improvement in Public Service Award in 2008? Shake, rattle and roll, DDOT. We encourage you to do better, for us and for yourself.
On Mar 29, 2007, at 12:38 PM, John Bosley wrote:
Hi Ms. Gentile:
It was a pleasure meeting with you earlier this morning. A number of the issues that were discussed are the responsibility of the Fort Myer subcontractor, Long Fence. Fort Myer is obligated to allow Long Fence some period of time to perform and to complete its contractual duties. That by necessity, must extend through this week. If by Monday, April 2, Long Fence has not performed, Fort Myer will perform the required duties in completion of this job. These duties include:
Installation and painting of the missing guard rail fence bolts;
Clean-up of sawdust and mud on the sidewalk around the guard rail posts;
Removal of the silt fence.
In regard to your concerns about removal of the remnants of the prior guard rail fence, erosion, groundcover plantings, netting, and regrading of the hill, please contact DDOT Progarm Manager, Muhammed Khalid at 202-671-4577. These items are not a part of the Fort Myer scope of work, and therefore, Fort Myer is unable to comment on them. DDOT has specifically requested that Fort Myer refer these items to them.
Finally, with regard to your concern about the damage to your split rail fence from the concrete block, Fort Myer agrees to pay you the sum of $200.00 in full and final settlement. Attached is a release to that effect. Please review and, if acceptable, sign where indicated. Upon execution, please call me. Again, thank you for your patience, and if you have questions, please call me.
Fort Myer Construction Corporation
From: Beth-Ann Gentile
Date: March 29, 2007 1:35:03 PM EDT To: John Bosley
Cc: A. Loikow, Carmen Gentile
Subject: Re: Fence Issues-Rodman Street, NW
Dear Mr. Bosley:
Thank you for coming to Rodman Street this morning the see the guardrail that you, through your subcontractor-Long Fence-installed for the District of Columbia along the top of our side yard.
I must take issue, however, with some of the assertions you make in your email to me of this afternoon. It was your subcontractor that destabilized the soil at the top of our hill by installing the posts. Prior to the installation of the new guardrail, we had no problem with soil erosion on the hill (except directly under the sidewalk) because we had groundcover holding the soil in place. Now the top of the hill is denuded and, as you saw, eroding rapidly. In addition, in installing the new guardrail, the old guardrail was removed but not the old posts and assorted fence refuse. Surely removal of the unsightly old posts and remnants of the old fence is also part of the installation process.
Can you supply me with a copy of your contract with the District? In the absence of my seeing the terms of the contract, I cannot accept your interpretation of the scope of work. I am sure the contract is a public document. Thank you.
Beth-Ann F. Gentile
From: Beth-Ann Gentile
Subject: Bolts for Guardrail at 3519 Rodman St NW
Date: March 29, 2007 6:46:51 PM EDT
To: John Bosley
Cc: Ann Loikow
Dear Mr. Bosley:
Long Fence was here this afternoon and put bolts in the unfinished portion of the guardrail. Unfortunately, somehow they were unable to do even this job correctly. The bolts on the post closest to our house do not match the rest of the guardrail. It is clear that Long Fence ran out of the matching bolts and installed ungainly, ugly bolts (with nuts on both sides-so they are not smooth on the front of the guardrail) next to our driveway-the very most visible location. Then they quickly slapped a coat of white paint on the mismatched nuts and bolts.
I do hope you come over soon and take a look. Long Fence needs to make the correction as soon as possible. In addition, contrary to your memo to me today, Long Fence failed to clean up the debris on the sidewalk they left more than a month ago. They did remove the silt fence but in doing so they loosened even more the soil at the top of the hill. In the absence of buttressing at the base of the sidewalk, and the installation of netting and groundcover on the denuded, loose soil at the top of the hill, the underside of the sidewalk and the top of the hill will erode very quickly. This could jeopardize both the sidewalk and the retaining wall that holds up our driveway.
To be perfectly frank, I am losing patience over the ineptitude demonstrated in the installation of this guardrail. Certainly it is not the District Government's, Fort Myer Construction's nor Long Fence's finest hour.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Beth-Ann F. Gentile
From: Beth-Ann Gentile
Date: April 3, 2007 12:45:29 PM EDT
To: K. Ginnerty
cc: A. Loikow, Carmen Gentile, John Bosley
Subject: Fwd: Fence Issues-Rodman Street, NW
Dear Mr. Ginnerty:
I inadvertently failed to send you a copy of these two emails I sent to Mr. John Bosley of Fort Myer Construction on March 29, 2007. I hope that we can resolve the guardrail matter quickly, before the spring rains. This small job has taken an inordinate amount of time for all of us. Thank you.
Beth-Ann F. Gentile
From: A. Loikow
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2007 3:45 AM
To: Dan Tangherlini
Subject: Fence Issues/Rodman Street, NW
It is amazing how botched this little job to replace a rotten guard rail has been. I suspect that when I go look at the fence later this morning that this weekend's storm will have caused even more erosion of the soil under the sidewalk since the silt fence is gone and the vegetation and metal bars holding back the soil under the sidewalk and on the hill were removed by the contractors. As Beth-Ann Gentile points out below, although bolts were installed in the half of the fence missing them, they don't match as they are smaller than the bolts in the other half of the fence! The rusted old fence posts and other construction debris have NOT been cleaned up and the dirt and debris on the sidewalk also still need to be cleaned up (unless the rain has washed it all down the hill onto the abutting property tonight). Also, the Gentiles still need some sort of access to their yard next to the driveway wall (a small opening or gate to allow a person through). See the pictures below which were taken on Friday, April 13, 2007.
Please have some D.C. official take responsibility for making sure District contractors fulfill their contracts properly and responsibly. Management of this project has been a mess and is still far from done (not even counting the need to get the DPR part of the fence repaired and all the other jobs needed at Hearst). I hope this is not an indication of how the city will manage school properties if the Mayor takes over management of school facilities. If so, folks will be campaigning to get the school board back. I know we can do much better (and hopefully not take so many steps backwards when we do it!). Thanks again, I hope,
Via Dino Drudi, City Administrator Dan Tangherlini's reply:
"Don't worry, as Local, Small, and Disadvantaged Businesses Director Erik Moses explained at the Councilmember Thomas' Ward Five economic development summit Saturday (April 14). Local, small, and disadvantaged businesses get special consideration for DC contracts, so you will just have to be patient with Long Fence's local, small, disadvantaged contractor.
If these businesses could compete on their own, we would not need to set aside half of all city contracts for them. Mayor Fenty, who comes from a local, small, and disadvantaged business background, is very sympathetic to the issues these businesses face and is proud to continue giving first source preference to these contractors. Please call me immediately if someone's house, the sidewalk or street slide into the valley, in which case we will order emergency repairs using a regular contractor or introduce emergency legislation in the city council. Please, however, understand that emergency repairs will have to wait in line until Sally MacDonald's sinkhole has been addressed."
Less light-heartedly, since George's neighbor runs Ft. Myers Construction, maybe he can swing by and look at it and subcontract to fix things up.
Dear Council Member Evans:
I would like to reiterate my request that the Council, and in particular the Committee on Finance and Revenue, urge and Mayor and Attorney General to discontinue its appeal of the decision in the class action lawsuit brought by Peter Craig challenging the District's assessment system and refuse to approve further funding of outside counsel for such lawsuit and direct that any remaining funds for such appeals be directed to improving the assessment process so that it complies with the Constitution and District law.
The property assessment process is badly broken and has been for years. You only need to talk to members of the Board of Real Property Assessment and Appeals to find out how broken the system is. The bottom line is, instead of wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars (or maybe millions by now) fighting these lawsuits, the District government should just FIX THE ASSESSMENT SYSTEM! Until that happens, the problems just continue and citizens pay not only in increased taxes, but in having to research and file appeals every year, wasting weeks of time every spring. I have attached the two emails from Mr. Craig describing Judge Hamilton's decision regarding tax year 2002 and regarding the District government's dilly dallying over complying with that order and its appeal.
I would also like to urge the Committee to look into the practices of the Office of Tax and Revenue, Real Property Tax Administration, and why that Office refuses to release the neighborhood adjustment factors requested by Mr. Craig, which appear to be required to be made public pursuant to D.C. Code §2-536. Below are emails on Mr. Craig's original request for information, OTR's response, its turning into a FOIA request, and the letter denying the FOIA request. There has got to be something crazy about some of those factors when my house's assessment for 2008 went up 28% when the last major work (besides fixing roof leaks, routine painting, replacing rotten wood, etc.) was 15 years ago and all appliances are 15-30 years old and when my next door neighbor's house, which they just bought in July 2006, is assessed for 65-70% MORE than they paid for it just last summer.
District property owners all over the city are having problems with the assessment process. Please see that it is finally fixed!
Thank you for your consideration of this problem and assistance in resolving it. Sincerely,
April 24, 2007
Awards Banquet, May 16, 2007
June 26, 2007
The Citizens Federation's 97th Annual Banquet and Awards Ceremony will be held on Wednesday evening, May 16, 6:30-9:00 p.m. at the Fort Lesley J. McNair Officers' Club. Mayor Adrian Fenty is our invited speaker. The cost will be $50 per person or $400 for a table of 8. Reservations (with attendees' names) must be received by May 1.
Order your association's tables now from Carroll Green (723-6063, Todo4u2@aol.com). Checks should be made payable to the DC Federation of Citizens Associations and sent to Carroll Green, 205 Sheridan Street, NW, Washington, DC 20011. This year's Banquet will be full of surprises and neighborhood highlights. Don't be left out!
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