Monday, October 15



THE VALUABLE DC HOUSING PRICES BLOG reports both sales prices and volume down on residences in September compared with a year ago. There are some remarkable figures hidden in the stats:

- The average price was down 4% Condos fell 17% while homes increased 11%. But almost of that increase was due to the price change of large homes. For example: a 4+ bedroom house was up 33% while two bedrooms or less were down 17%. Detached homes did much better than row houses

- The median price fell 18%

- The number of units sold was down 35%, with home volume dropping more than condo.


MARC DEAN MILLOT, ED WEEK - Imagine if President George W. Bush and Robert Gates were to argue for making every civil servant in the Office of the Secretary Defense an "at will" employee responsible to the Secretary, who would determine which employees would stay or go based on their performance over the next ninety days. . .

You decide the details of the response from Congress or among the public, but it's pretty clear it would not be positive. First, the Second World War didn't require turning the civil service over to the personal control of an appointed cabinet official. Surely the Republic is under no more serious threat today. Second, the failures cited were not fundamentally ones of the bureaucracy's inability to execute policy, but of the political leadership's decisions about policy.

Third, there are very good reasons civil servants are not at will employees. We don't want them beholden to politics. We don't want them to so fear for their job security as to put loyalty to the boss above loyalty to the people. We don't want department heads to think they have such power. . .

So why is it even debatable whether the District of Columbia City Council should give Mayor Adrian Fenty and Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee precisely this power over the school system's central office?. . .

I don't buy any of it, and I don't see why the City Council should either.

- We can't possibly be in a state of emergency so dire that the Chancellor needs to be given absolute power over the school system's civil service. . .

- There's no relationship between the supposed emergency and the requested powers. If the Chancellor fires every single central office employee tomorrow, reorganizes, and hires people she deems competent by the end of the week, there will be no change in student performance. For her and the Mayor to imply that student performance can't improve without the central office they'd prefer is ludicrous. . .


ROBERT E. PIERRE, WASHINGTON POST - [Rivers Correctional Instittuion] was built specifically to house inmates from the District. . . Busloads of wives, mothers and children trek here on a four-hour drive passing fields laden with watermelons, pumpkins and rows of cotton.

The rural North Carolina prison, run by the private GEO Group, has become a symbol for what inmates, their families and city leaders say is harsher treatment of D.C. inmates in federal prisons compared with other inmates. Drug treatment and job training options are inadequate, critics say. As a result, too many inmates return home unprepared to do anything but get sent back.

The 200 miles separating the District and Winton creates its own set of problems. Families can have difficulty getting information about relatives' health -- or even their whereabouts -- in a system that imprisons 193,000 nationwide. And the distance drains family resources and isolates inmates from city services that could aid rehabilitation.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON IS holding a hearing on DC's outsourced prisons, but it's a bit late since she, like other DC officials, failed to raise a mighty roar when the takeover occurred. The takeover was part of the federal government's inexcusable seizure of DC in the mid-1990s for which we are still paying the price.


MARK SEGRAVES, WTOP - It was your typical White House event. The Ballou Senior High School Marching Band was being honored by First Lady Laura Bush. . . The First Lady gave a brief speech. That's when [Mark] Plotkin literally sprung into action. He called across the East Room. . . In typical Plotkin style, he blurted out the following question: "Mrs. Bush, do you agree with those who say and believe that members of the Ballou High School band should not grow up to become members of the House of Representatives?" About half way through the question, Mrs. Bush realized this was not a friendly softball being lobbed from the peanut gallery, but a real question with an agenda from the press gallery. Mrs. Bush looked down and walked to her seat without a word. The smile was gone. At that moment, White House staff formed a human wall between the press and the First Lady and pointed to the door. . . . . As we left the East Room, Plotkin ran into White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. Bolten wasted no time telling Plotkin he had been disrespectful. As we stood in the horseshoe driveway of the White House, Sally McDonough from Mrs. Bush's press office hurried over to us. "Next time you have a question for the First Lady you can call me and request an interview.". . . McDonough asked Plotkin for his name and employer, which she wrote in her notebook. "Thanks, I'll walk you out." She escorted Plotkin to the gate.

NOTION'S CAPITAL - Last Week, First Lady Laura Bush addressed a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee about her deep concern for the peaceful democracy activists in Burma and the "shameful" crackdown on protests by young monks.

Yesterday she threw a reporter out of the White House for asking if the Washington, DC High School students she was honoring should aspire to be in the U.S. House of Representatives.

If Mrs. Bush can make official statements about democracy for the young people of Burma, she can answer a perfectly reasonable question about democracy for the youngsters of her nation's capital.


ARTHUR DELANEY, THE HILL - According to the D.C. Code, it's a crime to become intoxicated and endanger your own safety. So if you have a few too many in your own house and fall down the stairs, you could be subject to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. Nobody Hillscape consulted was aware of this crime. . . The attorney general's office had no information on the origin of this law. In the late 1970s the D.C. Law Revision Commission updated District laws for the home rule era, but some wacky stuff remained on the books. Until 1993, for example, consensual oral sex was a felony punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - The D.C. government is seeking a developer to transform 67 acres now known as Hill East, an area of federally owned land that includes the former D.C. General Hospital and the city jail, into a mix of offices, health facilities, housing and parkland. . . Known previously as Reservation 13, the area is south of RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory, bordered by Independence Avenue to the north, 19th Street to the west and the Congressional Cemetery to the south.

DC EXAMINER - The District of Columbia's troubled "nonpublic" tuition program overspent its budget by 70 percent - paying out $59 million more than expected in fiscal 2007 - and city officials are scrambling to pull money from other programs to close the gap, The Examiner has learned. . . The Examiner has written extensively on the special education system, in which hundreds of millions of dollars are thrown around to ship children to outside schools from Colorado to Florida with little regard for the students' health or safety.

ADD GWU to the list of colleges targeted by the masochistically rapacious corporados of the RIAA: a court has ordered the university to reveal email addresses and other info on its students. While they may have some good cases - one student allegedly downloaded 3,538 songs, they will undoubtedly increase the already large number of persons who intensely dislike the recording industry.

DC RANKS IN 6TH PLACE for the percentage of eligible residents registered to vote, but in 23rd place among the states in percentage of eligibles who actually voted in 2006.



Through October 29 the DC Department of Parks and Recreation will solicit bids to identify and select the most qualified owner for the Jesse Baltimore House, commonly referred to as Sherrier Place House located at 5136 Sherrier Place, NW in Palisades Park, Washington, DC. "We have been moving forward to move or raze the house from the property," said DPR Acting Director Clark Ray. The property is located next to Palisades Recreation Center . The District will give away the Sherrier Place House in its "as is" condition to the successful owner in exchange for the owner's physical removal of the structure. Those wishing to submit a bid may do so by visiting the Office of Contract and Procurement and completing a request for proposal by 2:00 p.m. on Monday, November 5, 2007.

Built in 1925 by Jesse Baltimore, the Sherrier Place House is a Craftsman-style, two-story Sears, Roebuck & Company " Fullerton " model house


Book Talk: Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community Presentations by Laura Cohen Apelbaum and Wendy Turman. Learn about the evolving history of Jewish Washington and see highlights from JHSGW's new 100-page full color coffee table book. Thursday, October 18 12:00 - 1:00 PM RSVP to Peggy Pearlstein, Library of Congress, 202.707.3779 Library of Congress - Thomas Jefferson Building Rm. 220 (African & Middle Eastern Division Reading Room) 101 Jefferson Avenue, SE


THE STAND UP FOR DEMOCRACY in DC Coalition will observe its 10th anniversary as an advocate for full democratic rights for DC residents at a gala celebration, fundraiser and historic overview of the DC full democracy movement on Friday, Oct. 19, 6-9 p.m. The event, to be held at the historic Carnegie Library, 801 K Street NW (Mount Vernon Square Metro) will commemorate the past decade in the struggle for full democratic rights and statehood for the District since the coalition's founding on July 31, 1997. Speaking at the event will be founders of Stand Up and other leaders of the DC democracy movement. The event will include the presenting of awards to heroes of the movement, as well as food, drink and entertainment.


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