Thursday, October 25

DC THURSDAY

SO MUCH FOR THE URBAN RENAISSANCE



DC FISCAL POLICY INSTITUTE - A detailed review of the District's economy reveals a number of disturbing trends and shows that the city's wide economic disparities are getting wider:

- Despite city-wide job growth, employment among African-American residents and those with no more than a high school diploma has been falling. The employment rate for these groups is at nearly the lowest level in 30 years.

- The gap between high-wage and low-wage workers in the District is at an all-time high. Wages have barely changed in 30 years for DC's lowest-wage workers, after adjusting for inflation, while DC's top earners have seen large earnings gains.

- Income inequality in the District is greater than in nearly every large U.S. city. DC's rich-poor gap has widened over the past two decades. An analysis of 59 large U.S. cities by the Brookings Institution found that income inequality in DC was greater in 2006 than in every city except Atlanta and Tampa.

- Poverty in the District is at the highest level in nearly a decade. Since with the late 1990s, some 27,000 more DC residents have fallen into poverty.

These findings show that the District has two different economies: one represented by construction cranes, new jobs, and growing incomes - and another represented by people who work but earn very little, who are not moving into better jobs or higher wages, and who may not be working at all. The gleaming side of DC's economy could continue to grow and prosper, but there is little evidence to suggest it would lead to any improvements for the thousands of residents who live on the other side.

Other stats:

- African-American residents are five times more likely than white residents to be unemployed. This gap was greater in 2006 than in any year since 1985.

- Employment among African-American adults has been falling since the late 1980s. The employment rate among black adults has even fallen during the city's recent economic boom. Some 51 percent African-American adults worked in 2006, compared with 62 percent in 1988.

- Employment among residents with a high school diploma is at the lowest level in nearly 30 years. Just 51 percent of DC residents at this education level are working. In the late 1980s, by contrast, nearly two-thirds of residents with a high school diploma were employed.

- Real wages have barely changed for low-wage workers over 30 years. Hourly earnings for low-wage working DC residents rose just six percent between 1979 and 2006, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a 40 percent increase for high-wage workers.

- African-American median income is no higher than in 1980. . .


RFK PARKING LOT MAY GET A LITTLE CROWDED

DC EXAMINER - Summer nights could get crowded at RFK Stadium's parking lots unless a brewing conflict is resolved between D.C. United and the Washington Nationals over who has priority to park there on game days. The District and the Nationals are discussing the use of RFK Stadium parking lots for game days in 2008, when Major League Baseball is supposed to be played at a new ballpark two miles away. But D.C. United is going forward with its plans at RFK once the baseball team has vacated. "We'll conduct our scheduling process in December as if they will not be here," said Dave Kasper, United's general manager.


THE GREAT CAPITOL TOUR BATTLE

POLITICO - Turns out those staff-led tours of the Capitol have some powerful allies, including 41 senators who are lobbying to save them. In the wake of articles in both Politico and Roll Call, the senators - among them Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) - wrote Stephen F. Ayers, acting architect of the Capitol, urging him not to eliminate the tours. The senators' letter was sent 10 days after 148 House lawmakers sent their own version. . .

The issue first arose during a Visitor Center information session in May in which congressional staffers learned there was a "working assumption" that staff-led tours would be eliminated once the Visitor Center was completed. Afterwords, Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) passed around the House letter to keep the tours.

EMILY BELZ, THE HILL - Myths, rumors and misinformation are rampant on Capitol tours as more than 8,000 visitors churn through the building on a given day. A tour group in the rotunda recently gazed at John Trumbull's portrait of Pocahontas's baptism. One woman asked, "Who is that man standing behind Pocahontas?"

"That's who she married - John Smith," the staffer tour guide shouted in response above the din of other tours. "Did she really marry him?" the lady continued in astonishment.

"Yes!" nodded the staffer.

"Did you hear that?" the mother told her young son in a baseball cap. "Pocahontas really did marry John Smith!"

Pocahontas actually married a man named John Rolfe - she falls in love with John Smith in the Disney animated movie.

Many interns who give tours say they make up stories all the time when they don't know answers to questions. Staff have admitted to feeding outright lies to interns coming in, just to make them look like fools. Many professional guides in the Capitol Guide Service are appalled, viewing staff guides as abusers of American history. . .

One of the red-shirted tour guides of the Guide Service who spoke anonymously recounted in red-hot fury the myths he has heard in his decade-plus as a tour guide. . .

He recalled one aide explaining that Washington apologized to Congress for losing the Revolutionary War.

In Statuary Hall, a likeness of Hawaiian king Kamehameha is striking with its gold draping. The story goes that the statue of the king arrived at the Capitol naked, and that the piece was sent back to Hawaii to be clothed - which is false. The Hawaiian delegation was furious when they found out about the propagated myth in 2003, calling it "highly insulting" that Kamehameha was portrayed with so little dignity. Unfortunately, the story is still told, as interns repeat it day after day in full historical confidence. . .

Another subject of myth is a statue of a Hawaiian, Father Damien, standing on the main hall on the House side. Damien lived and worked in a leper colony and died of leprosy. As one staffer led her tour by the statue, she explained, "He had to wear a box under his clothes so they wouldn't rub his skin off." Many others passed by and said the same thing to nodding listeners. The statue is, yes, boxy due to the artist's style, but Damien never wore a box under his clothes. . .


FLOTSAM & JETSAM: HOARDING MY MEZUZAH


SAM SMITH - According to the Washington Jewish Week, "That signature piece of Judaica is a fixture (literally and figuratively) on doorposts almost anywhere there are Jews. But in some isolated communities where the Jewish population is shrinking and scribes are becoming an endangered species, the supply of mezuzot is dwindling as well, and that's where [Aviva] Gottlieb comes in. The 27-year-old member of Kesher Israel Congregation in the District hopes to counter that trend by hunting for surplus mezuzot to ship overseas to communities that no longer take them for granted. . . The Mumbai area has long had the largest concentration of Jews in India, but "they are only about 4,000 in number a mere fraction of the vitality they once generated in the city," according to the Web site the-south-asian.com.

So now what the hell am I meant to do?

We bought our house from the estate of a recently departed Jew and have left the mezuzah on the door frame for the same reason Alfred Einstein had a horseshoe over his door. Asked a friend, "You don't believe in that, do you?" Replied Einstein, "Of course not, but they tell me it works."

I first became aware of the problem when the air conditioner guy started using all sorts of Yiddish expressions. I had to apologize for not understanding his references. He also apologized, saying he had just assumed I was Jewish because of the mezuzah. We immediately dropped consideration of BTUs and turned to the far more interesting matter of whether the devices provided protection for goyim as well as Jews. We eventually agreed it was best to hold on to it.

We've had an exceptional happy time in the house since then and the air conditioning has worked just fine; and so, despite the problems of the good people of the Mumbai area, I'm going to hold on to it.


CAPITOL POLICE ARREST POLAR BEARS; ABSCOND WITH $3,000 WORTH OF PROPERTY



ADAM EIDINGER - Dressed as a polar bear I was incarcerated for lawfully demonstrating at the US Capitol at the No War No Warming protests. All the polar bears arrested are planning to fight their charges on November 15 when we appear in DC Superior Court on charges of unlawful assembly. The direct action of simply singing and dancing is not a crime. Police shouldn't be so overbearing. . . Just because its time to step it up on ending war and global warming before its too late, is no excuse for cracking down on the lone voices who a few years from now will be the ones who got it right, just like the groups (I among them) who protested the war in Iraq six months before it started.

The police took lots of property from us, a tactic used against activists time and time again to discourage effective protests. In this case our effective PA system which made it possible for people to actually hear what we had to say was taken along with the following:

One Large Wagon (Red Metal and Wood trim) $60
One 250 watt powered speaker $800
One microphone $100
One Pitch control CD Player $40
One 1500 watt mobile power battery and inverter $440
Approx 60 music CDs $900
One Large Chrome Courier Bag w Purple Fur $120
Various XLR and RCA Cables $60
Approx 20 handmade paper mache polar bear masks $200
Approx 6 Handmade Polar bear hoods $90
Approx 4 pairs of handmade Polar bear gloves $80
One Stainless Steel Thermos $20
Two Stainless Steel Water Bottles $20
Two dozen Alpsnacks snack bars $50

Total Value/Cost basis $3,100


DC SHORTS

WASHINGTON POST - About one-sixth of the books, monographs and bound periodicals at the Library of Congress weren't where they were supposed to be because of flaws in the systems for shelving and retrieving materials, according to a survey to be made public at a congressional hearing today.

WASHINGTON POST - Richard and Sabine Yanul, owners of the Franz Bader Bookstore for 22 years, are closing up shop because the rent nearly doubled. Richard and Sabine Yanul, owners of the Franz Bader Bookstore for 22 years, are closing up shop because the rent nearly doubled.

LOU CHIBBARO JR, WASH BLADE - Four Georgetown University professors joined the university's gay student group in condemning a decision by campus police to forcibly block members of the group from delivering a gay rights petition to university president John DeGioia. The incident took place Oct. 11, minutes after gay students and their straight supporters participated in a campus rally to observe National Coming Out Day, an annual gay rights event aimed at encouraging gays to live openly. "Today we were made to feel not just unwelcome, but as total enemies and criminals at our own school, simply for wanting to give our president a T-shirt and more signatures from our petition," said Scott Chessare, co-president of the group Georgetown University Pride. . . According to accounts by Chessare and the Hoya, the Georgetown student newspaper, about 10 uniformed officers with the campus Department of Public Safety rushed to the entrance of Healy Hall, the administration building where DeGioia's office is located, and blocked the gay students from entering. One of the gay students was "forcibly removed from the Healy steps" by an officer, Chessare said. He said that when officers were asked why they were blocking the gay students' access to the building, they refused to give an explanation and "yelled" at the students in a demeaning way.


READER COMMENTS

HOW OTHERS RATE DC

- It seems like the categories you choose to rate the city on really matters. For example, if the city was ranked on "stadiums per capita", the new administration would certainly be improving the cities rankings. Realistically, won't you need to wait a somewhat lengthy period of times before you can see the payoff from some improvements? I doubt the payoff of having "notable neighborhoods" happened overnight... rather the city had to wait many years before the notability of the neighborhoods became relevant.

[Check out the story on the urban renaissance in this post]


BULLETIN BOARD

The 34th Annual Washington Studies Conference will be held Nov. 1-3. Your editor will be on a panel discussing home rule, civil rights and the struggle for political autonomy in the DC moderated by Courtland Milloy. Other panelists are Michael Fauntroy, Rebecca Kingsley and Peter Craig.

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