Monday, November 26



MARC DEAN MILLOT, ED BIZ BUZZ - Listening to John Merrow's November 19 report on DC Schools' Chancellor Michelle Rhee on the PBS radio version of The News Hour took my breath away. Yes, her audacity has refreshing features. But it's also frightening.

In the space of a few minutes Merrow shows Rhee:

- Removing principals within days of arriving on the scene - she actually gives one the news for subsequent broadcast to a national audience.

- Declaring war on her own central office.

- Arguing for the right to fire staff and teachers at her sole discretion.

- Dismissing the idea of any compassion for employees, in the name of student performance.

The Chancellor is a bit short on a concrete strategy towards this end, but the report suggests it amounts to "march or die" - perform or step aside.

Observing Rhee over the last several months reminds me of nothing so much as watching a dictator seize the reins of power. And as with all such stories, her rise depends on the public and its leaders being so disgusted with the prior state of affairs, and so lacking in the will to fix the problem earlier, that they readily give up cherished rights like due process, all the while forgetting to insist that Caesar define the standards of performance that will put her out in the cold she so willingly dispenses to others.



YOU have a hard time finding it in Susan Levine's Washington Post story, but according to a new report, the number of new AIDs cases in the city has actually declined 38% since 2002. The Post preferred to go with a "modern epidemic" headline.

While it is true, as the Post pointed out, "the District's AIDS rate is the worst of any city in the country, nearly twice the rate in New York and more than four times the incidence in Detroit" the Post's own chart gives lie to the claim that it "has been climbing faster than that of many jurisdictions." We have enough problems without that sort of gratuitous hype.

DC officials suggest the decline is due to poor reporting (although why reporting has gotten worse is not explained) A partial explanation may be the number of AIDs-prone citizens who have been forced out of DC in recent years. But in any case, the "modern epidemic" appears to have peaked some years ago.

As has been the case for a long time, neither the media nor officials in DC and elsewhere want to touch the potential effect of large numbers of males being locked up in prisons where they easily become involved in unsafe sex with other men and then return to a heterosexual relations upon release. It should be at least considered as a factor in the large number of black women testing positive and the 38% cases traced to heterosexual activity.

WASHINGTON POST - Almost 12,500 people in the District were known to have HIV or AIDS in 2006, according to the report. Figures suggest that the number of new HIV cases began declining in 2003, but the administration said the drop more likely reflects underreporting or delayed reporting. A quarter-century into the epidemic, the city's cumulative number of AIDS cases exceeds 17,400. . .

Starting in 2004, the number of new HIV cases among men and women ages 40 to 49 outpaced every other age group in the city. But the data made public today expose an alarming dimension of pediatric HIV. Each of the three dozen District children to test positive in the past five years was infected during birth.



MARY ROWSE - On Black Friday, November 23, 2007, the city illegally demolished the historic, federally-owned Jesse Baltimore House at 5136 Sherier Place NW, in the heart of the Palisades neighborhood. Acting without a required demolition license from the property's owner, the National Park Service, the city defiantly destroyed this historic 1925 Sears "Fullerton" mail order house, quickly turning it into a useless pile of rubble that will now take up space in a landfill. Jesse Baltimore and his brother spent three months in 1925 carefully assembling over 10,000 parts from Sears, Roebuck & Company to create this foursquare mail order home. It took the city a fraction of that time to destroy his hard work and disrespect the integrity of the house and it's place in Washington's architectural history. No other Sears Fullerton in the Palisades or in the city, and no other Sears foursquare house in the Palisades, was as intact as the Jesse Baltimore House.

The National Park Service had specifically told the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in a letter presented to them late Tuesday afternoon November 20, that the agency would not be issuing a "demolition license" for 15 days in order to give the Advisory Council time to determine whether the Park Service had met its legal responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act. The National Park Service and the city consistently failed to honor federal requirements during their review of the Jesse Baltimore House.

For nearly four years, Palisades residents and others around the city have flocked to support the home's preservation and return to the private sector. Over 1,450 people signed letters to the city asking for the house to be saved from demolition and put back into the hands of a new owner who would restore it in place and put it back on the tax rolls from which it had been absent for 50 years. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D voted overwhelmingly in 2006 to adopt a three-page resolution calling for the property's return to private ownership and restoration in place. The Jesse Baltimore House became a symbol for Palisades' residents who wished to preserve their community's rapidly disappearing early 20th century homes and their community's historic origins as a working class streetcar suburb of Washington DC.

Although Mayor Adrian Fenty signed a letter during his mayoral campaign saying he believed the house and land, assessed at over $800,000, should be returned to private ownership and to the city's tax rolls, he refused to intervene to prevent Friday's demolition of the Jesse Baltimore House. The home's destruction was also heavily pushed by Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Neil Albert. Mayor Fenty, Neil Albert and Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh ignored the pleas of individual residents who contacted them wanting the chance to fix up the house and raise a family there. Mary Cheh ignored over 1,000 letters from her constituents and a three-page Resolution adopted by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D--elected neighborhood representatives--asking for the home to be returned to private ownership, restored in place and returned to the city's tax rolls.

The Department of Parks & Recreation repeatedly failed to tell the truth when it said there were no bids received to move the house. Several people submitted bids including Marshall Soltz, a Palisades resident, who wrote to the Mayor, the City Council and the Department of Parks & Recreation asking permission to dismantle the house and move it to his Sherier Place lot a few blocks away. He received no response from anyone.


MATT SCHUDEL WASHINGTON POST - There was a time, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the cultural center of Washington might well have been Dorothy and Robert Bialek's living room. Or, if not there, it might have been their store at Dupont Circle, Discount Book and Record Shop, where the world's leading musicians, entertainers and writers signed their work and stayed on to have dinner with the Bialeks. Classical music giants Beverly Sills, Eugene Ormandy, Msitslav Rostropovich and Jean-Pierre Rampal were frequent guests at their table. . . For 30 years, as Washington began to emerge as a cultural capital, the Bialeks operated the city's first discount record and book store. On the side, they doubled as concert impresarios and salon hosts. . . Dorothy Bick Bialek was 85 when she died Nov. 5 at Johns Hopkins Hospital of a neurological disorder. . .


[This journal was a lonely voice that called for streetcars as an alternative to the Metro. As we correctly pointed out, the Metro was really a development scheme that would increase street traffic because it wouldn't meet the construction demand it created. It would also largely compete with successful bus lines instead of the automobile. Streetcars and exclusive bus lanes take space away from cars; subways don't. Further we could have had ten times the mileage of mass transit for the same price if we had built streetcar rather than subways. Now that our street traffic has grown so much we aresecond only to Los Angeles, the streetcar is finally attracting attention.]

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - Forty-five years after increasing auto traffic squeezed the region's streetcars off their tracks, that congestion -- now exponentially worse -- may be fueling their return. Several new streetcar lines are on track to arrive in the area, planned by municipalities hoping to return their commercial corridors to the pedestrian- and tourist-friendly places they were before the automobile began to dominate the scene. . .

The District government is planning streetcar lines along two of its oldest and most blighted commercial corridors, along H Street to Benning Road in Northeast, and from Anacostia to Bolling Air Force Base.

Arlington County is planning a streetcar line for Columbia Pike, one of the most heavily traveled bus corridors in the region.

And Alexandria, hoping to capitalize on a new water-taxi service from National Harbor to King Street, is set to offer a streetcarlike free shuttle service along a fixed 17-block route from the Potomac River banks through Old Town.

While there are recent stories of rejuvenated foot traffic and retail sales around streetcar lines in cities such as Portland, Ore., and Little Rock, Ark., the Washington region has been down this track before: The D.C. streetcar system was the envy of cities around the country during the "trolley fever" that swept the country in the early 1900s. But its last car was taken off the track in 1962, according to Joanie Pinson of the National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville. . .

Streetcars are a lot cheaper than heavy rail. Because streetcars operate largely along existing traffic rights-of-way, there are rarely tunnels to dig or bridges to build. Powered almost exclusively via overhead electric lines, they don't produce street-level smog and they run quietly. They are more expensive than buses, of course, but to a tourist there are important differences: no confusing schedules, difficult-to-understand routes or escalators into unknown subway stations. You can't get lost on a trolley. Just keep an eye on the track.


DCRTV - On 11/20, Peter Fay, longtime arts editor for WAMU 88.5's "Metro Connection," transitioned to life as Colleen Fay. One of the original forces behind the launch of "Metro Connection" in 1995, Fay, who is transgender, will continue as the show's arts editor. She will talk about this transition with Metro Connection host and producer David Furst on the show's broadcast at 1 PM on Friday, 11/30. "This has been an amazing time for me, and it's far from over. I'm both excited and terrified about what the future may bring. That being said, WAMU 88.5 and 'Metro Connection' hold special places in my heart, and I hope that our listeners can bear with me through this change," said Fay. "I want them to know that even as I change, my admiration and affection for them will not change." Adds "Metro Connection" host and producer David Furst: "What's important for me as the producer of the show is that the on-air information will stay the same - Colleen will continue to engage the local arts community and bring our listeners the same high-quality arts coverage they have come to expect

UNION CITY - In a case that echoes the issues driving the current writer's strike in Los Angeles and New York City, a grueling 7-day trial against the Washington Post ended last Monday. The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild challenged the Post when the publishing giant required employees to do work for now-defunct Washington Post Radio without additional compensation. The key issue in the writer's strike is payment for work in new and emerging media. Early this year, the Guild filed a similar complaint when The Post refused to negotiate with the Guild over the terms of work for The Onion satiric newspaper, which The Post had begun to publish and sell ads for. After an extensive investigation, the General Counsel of the NLRB concluded that The Post had indeed repeatedly violated federal labor law by refusing to bargain and by withholding information requested by the Guild in connection with Washington Post Radio and The Onion. That decision meant that the government would prosecute the case against The Post. Although Post Radio no longer exists, the Guild says that the principles at the heart of this case - that Post management is legally required to negotiate with the Guild when substantial changes are made to Guild-covered employees work - are more important than ever. A ruling on the case by the presiding administrative law judge is expected in the spring.

WASHINGTON JEWISH WEEK - For years, some pro-Israel activists have been troubled by university professors who demonstrated bias against Israel in the classroom. But last week was apparently a first: A George Washington University instructor resigned after being accused of teaching a class that was biased in favor of Israel. Hanna Diskin told the students in her "Arab-Israeli Conflict" class on Tuesday of last week that she would not be teaching the class for the remainder of the semester - and would be leaving the D.C. university - because she was upset that students in the class had complained about her teaching to the head of the political science department. Diskin, visiting from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told the class that the course she had been scheduled to teach next semester had been canceled due to the complaints. But a student in the class, senior Greg Berlin, said that political science department head Christopher Deering said that next semester's course merely had been deemed "inactive," or on hold, pending a review of class evaluations from this term.

THERE WERE SO MANY PEOPLE in the line for turkeys at Eastern Market on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, it not only extended out of the building, but two cops were on hand to control the gobbler grabbers.



AUTHOR STORYTELLING & FILM SNEAK PREVIEW Dec 7, Fri - 5:30-7:00 pm - Busboys & Poets - Blind Photographers shift how we think about art & perception. Author Tony Deifell shows scenes from upcoming film & tells stories from Seeing Beyond Sight (Chronicle Books).


At 10:43 AM, Sarah said...

So many good reports, so few comments!
My main problem with the DCPS governance transition is that there is not, to my knowledge, a program that outlines the goals that are to be met and how and when the new way of being organized to educate the youth is going to meet those goals. Right now it seems that having Ms. Rhee going around telling everyone in no uncertain terms that things are going to change in every nook and cranny of the system including that she will gain all manner of power to implement those changes along with some facilities repair and a recently announced plan for better security is all that the program amounts to.
While I think it's a good thing for everyone in the DCPS to be put on notice that they do not have the same unquestioned security that they once had, it is going too far to move further down a path of privatizing PUBLIC schools, which I believe is the whole intent of the No Child Left Behind Act. It sets unrealistic, impossible goals and the says that if schools don't meet them they have to put them into somebody else's--charter school, private company or "other".
That is simply one more way that We the People are being told that we cannot solve problems unless someone makes a profit from it. That's not true! and that is why I was not in favor of the Mayor's take over. It bears close watching and I really appreciate your reports on it.
Thank you.


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