Monday, December 17

DC MONDAY

COUNCIL LAUNCHES ANOTHER WAR AGAINST VENDORS

[Some years ago, the council and mayor reduced the number of vendors in the city by about half as part of their obligation to big business campaign contributors. Along the with the cab industry - also currently under attack - the vendors are a rare oasis of self-employment in DC for someone without a law degree. Once again the city government is showing how easy it is to discriminate against someone for economic as well as ethnic reasons. And beauty of class discrimination is that you get away with it]

DC VENDORS UNITED - We have an active membership of more than 120 dues-paying vendors doing business and providing services throughout the District of Columbia, primarily in food service. In addition to licensing fees to the City, we pay DC sales taxes and DC health inspection fees, as well as ever-escalating fees for the occupancy of public space on the streets and sidewalks of the District. The length of our food vending service in the District is more than seventeen years as an average among our members.

All of our members support themselves and their families earning minimum wages and without financial reserves. Our work is done during long hours, in all types of weather, at selling prices barely above our costs of materials and governmental fees. Most of us have limited or no alternative employment opportunities and few employment skills beyond those required for vending.

Many of our members are first generation Americans or legal immigrants, as well as single heads of households, with limited English language skills.

We question the proposed legislation transferring all space and location oversight and regulation of street vending to the Department of Transportation in particular, which has no knowledge of our business and to date has been unfair in dealing with our members, without strong due process and equal protection under the law.

And we protest the disjointed legislative proposal to leave vendor licensing with DCRA without guarantees and protection from continued abuse, as well as inadequate inter-agency coordination.

We also oppose the sweeping grant of new authority to the Department of Transportation to establish "Vending Demonstration Zones." Based on our experience with DOT in the past, this will likely result in pushing our members aside for big business interests along the lines of the attached article.

We do not want to be forced into having to work as employees of giant business interests, nor do we want to be sharecroppers in debt for our carts and free labor to white collar moneymen forever.

Our problems and our objections are supported by the experiences we have recently had with both DOT and DCRA under your recent "emergency legislation":

DC Government Representatives have made promises, which they have not kept.

Extreme fines have been wrongly imposed on our members, threatening to put them out of business.

Vendors have, for no reason, been forced to relocate to less attractive sites based on whim.

Other vendors with big-business connections have been given leave to not pay fees required of our members in a discriminatory way.

Triple licensing fees have been newly imposed without regard for our in-ability to pay them and without hearings, as required by law.

We suffer from conflicting directions from different District agencies, including the police, acting without notice or due process, to allow our views to be heard.

We need legislation creating a vendors advocate in the District government to protect our interests as the smallest and most disadvantaged businesses in the city.

Vendors need legislation for access to the District's business development, financing, technical assistance and training support now being offered to others.

Vendors need legislative protection from uncalled-for police harassment and needless government interference aimed at driving us out of business.

Large food serving trucks are routinely allowed to violate temporary parking rules, staying in one spot without paying space fees while competing next to our members who have paid them.

By agreement, existing vendors were to be grandfathered into their long-established locations and not be pushed out by newcomers, as currently being done.

New vendors have caused unfair police ticketing harassment of our members causing them exorbitant fees and/or the loss of their licenses without DCRA or DOT protection.

We consider ourselves an asset to the City and not a liability. We want the City to work with us and not against us.


CITY STILL THINKING ABOUT TRASHING KING MONUMENT

THE DC EXAMINER confirms our story about the central library, writing that "D.C. leaders have been talking to Bloomingdale's in recent months about locating a new store in downtown Washington, possibly in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library or perhaps on the Old Convention Center site. Sean Madigan, spokesman for the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, would only confirm the city has 'talked to Bloomingdale's about a lot of sites in the city.' Jim Sluzewski, spokesman for Bloomingdale's parent company Macy's, said the department store giant is 'always looking for new store locations, but we do not disclose where we may or may not be looking' But sources in Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration confirmed that the talks have included the MLK Library at 901 G St. NW as a "possible option."

A transition from "I have a dream" to "I want it all" may run into a bit of opposition since the MLK Library was the first major local monument to King. The city is also making noises about building something on and/or under the Carnegie Library, currently home to the Historical Society of Washington which would infuriate quite a few people for preservation reasons as well as since the HSW put $23 million into the building and has a 99 year lease from the city.

A far more sensible solution - if renovating the MLK building is too expensive - would be to build a new central library, also named after King, on the old convention center site - not buried in some high rise but on its own, a free standing tribute not only to a great civil rights leader but to the increasingly ignored fact that there are still folks in this town who read something more than news releases and stock market returns. The argument that the land is too valuable doesn't hunt. It's way pass time for city pols to show more respect for the people who live in this town than they do for corporados and diurnal undocumented and non taxpaying workers from the suburbs, aka commuters


PASSINGS: HILDA HOWLAND MASON


Debby Hanrahan

[From a talk delivered at the 10th anniversary of the Stand Up for Democracy in DC Coalition]

When the late, great Statehood Party pioneer Josephine Butler was in her final year of life, she was admitted to Howard University Hospital. One day, a friend and I were visiting Jo in the hospital, as were Jo's niece and grand niece, when Hilda came into the room. Jo mentioned to Hilda that her grand niece was going to Russia for three weeks over Christmas in a student exchange program. Hilda asked the young woman if she had a warm coat to wear in the bitterly cold Russian winter. When Jo's relative said no, she really didn't, Hilda said that wouldn't do -- and sat down and wrote her a check to cover the cost of a new down coat.

When Marion Barry was seriously wounded in 1977 in a shooting and hostage situation inside the District Building that resulted in the killings of a reporter and a security guard, Hilda and Charlie opened up their home for Barry to recuperate.

And there was the time when opponents of the building of the new convention center in Shaw needed money to file a lawsuit to try to stop the convention center from being built there. I went to the Masons' house with Beth Solomon to see about getting a contribution toward a $5,000 matching grant someone else was offering us to help pay for the lawsuit. Hilda was out, but Charlie did what he and Hilda always did. He listened to our pitch and wrote a check for $5,000 to cover the entire matching grant.

Hilda can be tough, too. Lawrence Guyot told me about the time in 1965 that he came to All Souls Unitarian Church -- Hilda and Charlie's church -- to ask to speak to the congregation on the activities of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Despite the church's reputation for progressive politics, Guyot, surprisingly, was turned down. When Guyot told Hilda about it, she immediately went to the minister privately and said, "Lawrence Guyot will speak, or Charlie and I will leave this church." . . . Needless to say, Lawrence Guyot got to speak at All Souls.

In addition to the numerous civil rights, civil liberties and peace organizations they helped legislatively, financially, and on the picket line, Hilda and Charlie would quietly help individuals get the training they needed for jobs, help people get into college, and do whatever they could for anyone they came across who needed help. . .

I came to know Hilda and Charlie Mason more than 30 years ago, primarily through the newly-formed D.C. Statehood Party. I had worked as Julius Hobson's secretary for a time in the late 1960s, then later had worked on Hobson's school board campaign and on Jo Butler's campaign for the D.C. Council, so I became heavily involved in the D.C. Statehood Party. I met Hilda and Charlie when Hilda was on the school board sometime in the mid-1970s.

Later, when Hilda was on the D.C. Council, I worked for her as a receptionist and community outreach person for a year or so. I can't say I worked for her. I ran behind her and Charlie. I couldn't keep up with them. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, I was in dozens of meetings with Hilda regarding Statehood Party activities, her election campaigns, and so many other issues of the time. In addition to the Statehood Party meetings, Hilda, like Jo Butler, seemed to be at three or four evening meetings every day of the week that took her to every neighborhood in the city. Additionally, like Julius Hobson and Jo Butler, Hilda had her eye not only on local matters, but on national and international issues, so Hilda might also be found at a Women's Strike for Peace meeting or a nuclear freeze event on any given night or weekend.

Hilda grew up in Campbell County, Virginia - Klan country - and learned about social justice - and injustice - at an early age from her parents. Her great grandmother on her mother's side had been a slave. Hilda's mother Martha was a teacher. Her father ran a number of small businesses, including at one time a country store. Hilda recalled an incident in her early years when her father hurriedly arranged to have an African-American man get out of town to avoid a lynching.

Upon finishing high school at age 16, Hilda immediately went into teaching in Virginia. Later, in 1945, she moved to Washington, D.C. with Carolyn and Joyce, her two daughters from an unsuccessful marriage. While working several jobs, she also attended Miners Teachers College, from which she received her B.S. degree in 1952. She went on to get an M.A. from the old District of Columbia Teachers College in 1957.

From 1952 until 1971, Hilda held a number of public education posts throughout the city -- teacher, counselor, assistant . . .

During that period as an educator, Hilda also became active in progressive causes. She helped organize the Washington Teachers Union in her school; she was involved in the successful effort to desegregate D.C.'s restaurants, and she was active in a wide variety of other civil rights activities. In 1957 she met Charles Mason, and they were married eight years later, thus beginning a unique partnership nurtured by love, family and social activism.

Hilda and Charlie during the 1960s worked through CORE and SNCC to help provide food, housing, clothing, medical care and transportation for people who came to Washington to demonstrate and to lobby for civil rights. Hilda worked with Julius Hobson on a number of matters, including his successful landmark lawsuit (Hobson v. Hansen) on the unequal treatment of African American students in the city's public schools -- and on the formation of the new D.C. Statehood Party.

In 1971, at Julius Hobson's urging, Hilda ran for and was elected to the Board of Education where she served along with Hobson and another of tonight's honorees, the future Mayor Marion Barry. Hilda was reelected in 1975.

An ailing Julius Hobson was elected to the D.C. Council as a Statehood Party candidate in 1974 and died in 1977, at which time the Statehood Party selected Hilda to replace him on the council. Later in the year she won an election to fill out the term, and was then reelected in 1978 and four elections thereafter, leaving office at the end of 1998.

Hilda holds the distinction of being the only person to defeat Marion Barry in a D.C. election. That happened in the 1990 election when Barry challenged Hilda for her council seat in the general election, but in that showdown the "grandmother to the world" beat the "mayor for life."

And maybe some of you don't know that Hilda has a police record. Yes, it's true. Back in November 1984 during the almost daily protests against apartheid at the South African Embassy, Hilda, along with Congressman Ron Dellums and Mark Stepp of the United Auto Workers union, were arrested at the embassy when they refused to leave the front steps of the building after being denied a meeting with the South African ambassador. Dellums and Stepp were held overnight in jail, while Hilda was released on her own recognizance.. . .

Probably Hilda's greatest accomplishment on the D.C. Council was to keep alive the University of the District of Columbia Law School -- named the David A. Clarke School of Law, but seen by a lot of us as the David Clarke/Hilda Mason/Charlie Mason School of Law. . . The Hilda-Charlie-Dave Clarke effort to save the UDC law school was successful and how lucky we all are for it. For today, the David A. Clarke School of Law is the most diverse law school in the nation, with 51 percent of its students from minority groups and 64 per cent women. Of the 192 American Bar Association-accredited law schools, the UDC law school has the fifth highest percentage of African-American law students. The Princeton Review rated it first in the nation for most progressive students. The applicant pool has almost quadrupled in six years. The first-time bar passage rates of the law schools graduates has increased to over 60 per cent. . .

While working in Hilda's office in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I had a chance to observe Hilda and Charlie close up. While citizen advocates for schools, civil rights, housing, tenants' rights, and social justice were frequent visitors to her council office, I don't recall any lobbyists for corporate interests even setting foot inside the door. It's not that Hilda wouldn't see them if they showed up, it's just that they knew Hilda was always going to put citizens' interests over business boondoggles.

And her door was always open. Constituents could just walk in and get an appointment on the spot, and they got to see Hilda -- not a staff member -- unlike today, when it's often like pulling teeth to get appointments with the councilmember herself or himself -- and then you might be limited to 10 or 15 minutes.

Once while I was working for Hilda, she and Charlie asked me to mail out contribution checks to the countless organizations and individuals to which they were contributing -- civil rights organization, peace groups, social justice organizations of one type or another. When I asked Charlie if I should keep a list of recipients so Hilda could call upon them to hold little neighborhood campaign parties at election time, Charlie looked at me quizzically and said, "We don't do that." . . .

Back in 1986, the D.C. Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild honored Hilda and Charlie with the David and Selma Rein Community Justice Award, named for two other great local champions of civil liberties. In the program for that event, Hilda was asked what had made her remain true to her principles over the years. She cited the example of her parents and the tragic death at age 13 of her grandson Nestor. And here I quote what Hilda said to the interviewer:

"It's in the marrow of my bones, it is in my blood. Almost every step I take, I feel like I'm doing what my mother and father would have done. And my grandson, Nestor, I feel like I'm walking in his footsteps, too. I can't forget where I came from. I can't forget what my parents did to preserve their own lives. Although I'm living comfortably now, I'm not going to forget how it once was for me. And I'm not going to turn my back on people who aren't as fortunate as I am."


ANOTHER FOX IN THE CHICKEN COOP?


CURRENT - The D.C. Council confirmed Crestwood resident Mary Oates Walker to the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Walker will replace Coca-Cola executive Curtis Etherly, who has moved up to a seat on the Zoning Commission. Walker, who worked on Mayor Adrian Fenty's campaign, has experience in real estate and has practiced labor and employment law. She and her husband head Walker Enterprises, a consulting firm that manages real estate development and other investments.
Walker's nomination was briefly held up for clarification about her family's investments. But council members said they felt some urgency to fill the seat, since the five-member zoning board has recently had to postpone deliberating some cases because it lacked a quorum. The zoning board reviews requests for variances and exceptions from District zoning laws.


STUPID CITY COUNCIL TRICKS

FRANK WINSTEAD, DC WATCH -
Councilmember Mary Cheh's Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs held a hearing "Omnibus Graffiti Reduction Act of 2007" . . . Over 70% of the bill's text is devoted to making victims of graffiti attacks pay for the privilege of being abused. . . Cheh's Ward 3 land owners could see liens that are a far smaller proportion of their property values than owners in less affluent Wards. This sinister Chehgressive tax could force poorer owners to sell their properties when they can't afford to remove the graffiti. Land speculators - developers would be a spray can away from a new source of DC properties. There is a brief, non-detailed mention of a once-a-year paint voucher to be made available by the DC government. And who in the government will be water-boarding the already victimized? The bill invests authority in the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for the Office of Tax and Revenue. . .


REMARKABLE PROFILE OF WASHINGTON NARCISSISM

ANGELA VALDEZ, WASHINGTON CITY PAPER - Tony Cord's epiphany struck in June 2006, after a Joe Jackson concert at the 9:30 Club. It was late at night, and Cord remembers stepping out on U Street a little warily, expecting a forlorn walk to his car and a grim drive home to Maryland through abandoned streets. Instead, the sidewalks teemed with people enjoying the nightlife. "I concluded there was an economic miracle going on," he says. "I saw how alive U Street was, and I can remember when it was dead."

Cord was a D.C. native, but he'd spent his midlife in the 'burbs. He was a successful executive with four kids, all of them moved out or soon would be, and a newly minted ex-wife. While he'd grown restless, his hometown had cranked back into action. . .

"I realized that D.C. is probably the most relevant, high-energy, high-potential world city on the planet right now," says Cord. He wanted to be a part of the inevitable renaissance. He decided, he says, "to get more involved...to try to position myself to be a bona fide leader." That night, Cord decided to embark on a campaign to conquer Washington.

A year and a half later, regardless of whether he's achieved his goal, he has perfected the affect of a powerful man. He has a signature drink, Canadian Club on the rocks with a splash of water, and a favorite cigar, the Carlos Torano Exodus 1959. He kisses hello the French way, on each cheek, and has the looks of a Cold War spy, with a crest of slate-gray hair, sculptural features, and a wide grin that reveals a set of very large, very white teeth. He says he's 46 but looks a bit older. This fall, he bought a black Maserati sedan.

Cord's ascendancy would not require a total metamorphosis. He was an executive in the Bethesda office of the international accounting firm BDO Seidman. And with two decades in the business world, he already knew his share of Washington bigwigs. But transforming from suburban suit to downtown player-that was no mean task. It would demand a deft navigation of D.C.'s social and cultural fortresses. Cord was deliberate in his attack.

"I'm a planful person," he says. "I believe there's room for one to reinvent oneself several times along the way.". . .

Cord's business-world networking zeal has the potential to come off as social climbing. But he doesn't get ridiculed the way some young socialites do. Instead, he gets chuckles. It's as if he's so over-the-top that his motives become less interesting than his dedication and unending positivism.

Cord has another motto: "I'm big because I say I am."


DC SHORTS

THE LEN DOWNIE AWARD FOR JOURNALIST OBJECTIVITY goes to the Post for this gem of a headline about another step in the socio-economic cleansing of east of the river: Visions Of Vibrancy Designs for Anacostia Combine Community, Commerce.

SPEAKING OF SUCH THINGS, long time residents in the H Street NE better start looking for another place to live. H Street was recently featured in the NY Times travel section.

HILLARY CLINTON WON the local Democratic committee' straw poll but not by as much as you might expect: 55 votes with 49 for Obama. The other 18 were divided among Edwards, Biden, Dodd and Richardson.

ONE OF THE SCHOOLS FENTY wants to close is Stevens downtown. According to a note on DC School Advocates, it was named after Thaddeus Stevens, a US senator who was a leader in the abolition movement. Sumner, now restored and used as the public school museum, archives, and meeting center, was another downtown school, named after Charles Sumner, another US senator who was a leader in the abolition movement. It was almost torn down and the land sold to developers in 1980, but was saved by a coalition of citizens, one of whose leaders was Calvin Lockridge, William Lockridge's uncle.

DC EXAMINER - A member of Metro's board of directors wants the transit system to have a financial incentive in making sure passengers receive reliable service. The board commissioned Metro staff to develop a proposal to refund passengers' fares if service is significantly delayed. Gordon Linton, who represents Maryland and came up with the idea, said a 15-minute or 20-minute delay would likely be long enough to trigger the refund.

DC METROBLOGS -
There was word that the Ron Paul Blimp was going to do a DC flyover but we can now confirm that this is definitely not happening. Ron Paul Forums thread cites "weather and FAA restrictions" for the change-of-plan; apparently the argument that "the First Amendment applies to airships" lost out to the prospect of being shot down or fined for violating the flight restriction zone around the DC area without prior authorization. The blimp, though now nearing completion, has been delayed incessantly due to weather and logistics.

PERCENT OF JOURNEYMAN and apprentice hours at the stadium site the city agreed would be by DC residents: 50%. Actual percentage: 38%

ANTHONY L. HARVEY, INTOWNER - All but 11 of DCPL's 27 libraries were announced for Sunday closings through the month of January, 2008. The reason given was a shortage of staff willing to work on those Sundays, notwithstanding that DCPL spends generously for overtime.

THE FIGHT OVER THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE BUILDING



READER COMMENTS

- Why does anyone continue to live in that city? it is crazy. two things I predicted came true: I predicted Fenty's ascent to the mayor's office, and I predicted he would make people wish Williams would have run again. Williams is laughing his ass off somewhere, saying see, you wanted a politician?

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