Examine your priorities

Hey, Capitol Hill people: What’s your problem? There’s a perfectly good newspaper landing on your doorstep every morning, for free, and what do you do? You pick it up, write “NO NO NO” on its cover, tie it to your front gate, and let it hang there forever. Then you stalk back inside and say harrumph!

The Hill is one of the neighborhoods targeted by the Examiner newspaper for free delivery, but dozens and dozens of you simply refuse to read it. Unless you’re a militant environmentalist who foreswears newsprint for the online version (and I’m not sure I’d trust you if you said you were), you’re missing out. The Washington Post’s District coverage is puny; on any given day more than two-thirds of its Metro section is devoted to the suburbs. So if you want to know what’s going on in the city you need to supplement, and the Examiner is there for the reading.

“The local coverage is very good,” Hill honcho and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Ken Jarboe said. “I haven’t understood why people don’t want it, either.”

If you don’t want the Examiner, publisher Michael Phelps points out that there’s a number to call on the second page, so you don’t have to be so ostentatious about it. (Plus, since so many of my neighbors do this, it seems to confound the delivery people and prevent me from receiving a copy.)

“Because we are free we’re eager to give our papers only to those who want to read them,” Phelps said. But any savvy consumer of local news should want to read Phelps’s paper. It nails plenty of exclusives. For example:

If you read The Washington Post, you would know from a June 3, 2006, story that two employees of the Board of Education’s charter office were placed on leave pending a federal investigation of misused funds. If you don’t read the Examiner, you wouldn’t know that one of the two, Steve Kapani, is the whistle-blower who initiated the investigation. The Examiner reported in January that Kapani was threatening to sue the District for violating whistleblower-protection laws.

On March 5, the Examiner’s Bill Myers reported that the school board’s lawyers wouldn’t even let Kapani, who is still on administrative leave, do volunteer work for Tommy Wells, Capitol Hill’s voice on the City Council. They forbade him to do so because Wells supports Mayor Adrian Fenty’s school-takeover plan, which the board opposes. This story is a quirky twist on the hottest issue in city politics today! And you’re missing it! Can you sense my hysteria from these exclamation points?!?! I’m hyperventilating!!!

“I don’t like the rightish bent of the Examiner’s editorial page,” you say. Aw, c’mon. It’s free. Your boycott is futile.
You can boycott the red-tinted Washington Times, if you must, but you’ll miss out on important stories by doing that as well. For a while only the Times reported on the momentous death-penalty trial of the District’s Larry Gooch, of which our non-voting congressional representative Eleanor Holmes Norton has loudly voiced her disapproval. Life or death!
Newspapers can be proprietary about stories and refuse to offer redundant coverage of a competitor’s scoop. So read the free paper when it lands on your stoop. Be a pal — don’t treat it like dog poop.


It’s Singles Night!


H Street N.E. is transforming from a blighted “corridor” into a happenin’ “strip,” so with all the bars that have popped up it’s no surprise residents want a crackdown on public drunkenness and urination and loitering. The funny thing is, the “quality of life” ruiners targeted by the neighborhood apparatus have nothing to do with the new nightlife; it’s the daytime sidewalk heads that have got to roll.

On Jan. 12, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) sent a letter with the text of a proposed ban on single-beer sales to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. On March 7, the board formally initiated the process for banning sales of single beers, malt liquor, and small bottles of spirits — the stuff all those loitering, pissing bums like to drink.

“What you want to get people to do is to come to that corridor,” ANC member Mary Beatty said, “and you want it to be pedestrian-friendly.”

The people who visit H Street just to drink on the sidewalk are not pedestrian-friendly, Beatty said. The ban will speed their already-in-progress replacement with the likes of HillScape and HillScape’s loutish contemporaries, who spend cash getting sloshed in the new H Street bars. The strip will be better-looking and less scary. Happily, there will be a net increase in drunken debauchery.

As with almost any District topic, this story has a can’t-miss racial angle: Wealthy whites treading on poor blacks. The argument over this angle is never carried out in person, but rather via anonymous nastiness on the Internet, that hallmark of modern civic discourse. Check any blog:

“You people are racist,” Commenter 1 says.

“Get a clue,” says Commenter 2. “How’d you like it if I pissed on YOUR house?”

And so on, ad infinitum.

Contrary to all that, Beatty says nobody has publicly brandished the “R” word at her ANC and the ban has a perfectly diverse coalition of support in the area. And this restriction is an Adrian Fenty thing — while a member of the City Council, Fenty proposed a moratorium on singles in his ward, and it has stuck. On. Feb. 27 the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld it. So this one is unstoppable.

Beatty says nobody has complained yet, but HillScape vows that someday the neighborhood rules brigade will set its crosshairs on all the newfound bar patrons making an after-hours ruckus. I know I’ll be there, screaming my head off.


Way too cool for school


The impending mayoral takeover of the school system may be the hottest issue in city politics today, but it wasn’t hot enough to lure more than two dozen folks to a March 7 “Community Forum on Proposed Education Reform” at Eastern Market’s Hine Junior High School. It had snowed all day, and the sidewalks were nasty.

At the beginning of the forum, Deleon Ware, a teacher at Jefferson Junior High School in Southwest D.C., talked about the way a kid growing up in Detroit “can get out of its school system and make a car.” 

“Our economy’s a little different,” Ware said. The only unique industry here is national lawmaking — an obvious farce to any child who trudges between a dilapidated schoolhouse and a broken home every day. This industry couldn’t soak up high school dropouts or grads even if they wanted to be a part of it. Sorry, Congress — you give the children no hope.
So Adrian Fenty’s gonna take over the system and make it better, reducing the elected school board to a near-powerless advisory role in the process. This forum, put on by the Ward 6 Democrats, was, essentially, a coping session.

Ward 6 City Council member Tommy Wells explained how he came to support the takeover as a Council member even though he opposed former Mayor Anthony Williams’s attempt when he was on the school board.

The takeover plan was disappointing news to newly elected school board member Lisa Raymond, who says she was briefed on the details only an hour before her swearing-in ceremony.

“Swearing-in was supposed to be a joyful moment,” she told HillScape. It wasn’t joyful, but Raymond says she’s regrouped and is focused on her task. But during the forum, when Wells was boasting of his staffing, she quipped: “Do you have a job for me?”