City Paper is not for tourists
Four Sundays ago, an urgent call came in on LL’s cell phone: LL’s mom was calling to report that she had unwittingly penetrated Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ security detail while holiday shopping at the Mazza Gallerie, in Friendship Heights.
Williams had his head down and eyes firmly planted on the terra firma when he barreled headfirst into LL’s mom at Neiman Marcus. The mayor had been Christmas-tree-ornament-shopping. He politely excused himself and quickly fled the scene before LL’s mom could properly ID herself.
After his political “near-death experience” in this summer’s petition fiasco, Williams promised to ditch his antisocial public mien. He admitted he’d been aloof and surrounded himself with campaign flunkies who constantly reminded him to make eye contact, smile, and try to connect on some level when among the hoi polloi. The ploys worked well enough to win Williams 66 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary and 61 percent in the general election.
The mayor’s journey from scandal to reinvention to re-election gave LL and our friends in the local media a bounty of spoofable material. So how could LL possibly pay back the D.C. pol whose missteps ended up throwing him off the Democratic ballot, launching an unprecedented write-in campaign, and bringing Republican fashionista Carol Schwartz out of mayoral-race retirement?
Maybe, say, a $12,999, 50-inch Plasma flat-screen TV?
Nope, that gift is already crossed off the D.C. politics holiday registry. According to an FBI search-warrant affidavit filed in U.S. District Court last week, Williams’ former campaign co-chair allegedly purchased that for herself using Washington Teachers’ Union dues.
With councilmembers collecting $90,000 salaries and hangers-on enriching themselves in such creative ways, LL had trouble spotting useful presents for the folks on our beat. But we refused to cop out and send greeting cards—this year was just too good for that.
Herewith, LL’s gifts for those who have given so much to this column in 2002:
Barbara A. Bullock
Former Washington Teachers’ Union president: vegetable loaf (recipe courtesy of
Fairfax County Adult Detention Center).
Every gift-giver has confronted LL’s quandary: What do you get the woman who has everything?
According to the FBI search-warrant affidavit, Bullock already has approximately $500,000 in hand-tailored clothing, a $57,000 288-piece Tiffany sterling silver set, a $20,000 mink coat, and a $6,800 Buccellati silver ice bucket—all allegedly purchased with the union dues of D.C. teachers. At first, LL considered a nice storage unit for Bullock, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment on Massachusetts Avenue NW. But last week’s raid by the FBI, the D.C. inspector general, and other cooperating law-enforcement authorities has taken those items off her hands.
Charles C. Maddox
D.C. inspector general: Intermatic TN711C
D.C.’s top interrogator came under scrutiny himself during his year-plus investigation into the mayor’s nonprofit fundraising. In hearings before the council, Maddox had to defend his legal qualifications as well as his D.C. residency: The inspector general, it turns out, splits his sleeping time between a Logan Circle condo and the Upper Marlboro house where his wife resides full time. The seven-hour marathon hearing included testimony from D.C. Shadow Inspector General Dorothy Brizill, who detailed Maddox’s jogging habits. If nothing else, Maddox needs to show his own watchdogs that the lights are going on and off at Logan Circle.
At-large councilmember: commemorative Jim Kelly jersey.
LL has no doubt that Schwartz will properly attire herself for her pending retirement from D.C. politics. One item she’ll probably store in her closet, though, is Kelly’s game-day battle garb. The aura of Kelly, who quarterbacked the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl losses, should comfort the colorful local Republican, who lost her fourth mayoral bid in November.
Former Washington Teachers’ Union executive assistant, former Williams re-election co-chair, and D.C. Democratic State Committee executive director: tour of the Houdini Museum, Scranton, Pa.
Like the master escape artist Harry Houdini himself, Hemphill didn’t get boxed in by the mayor’s nominating petition debacle—despite her role as campaign co-chair. She also avoided bad publicity for all the dysfunction in the D.C. Democratic Party—despite her role as executive director. And if she gets out of the Teachers’ Union mess—despite her role as Bullock’s executive assistant—LL nominates her for an appearance on the next CBS David Copperfield special.
Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr.
Little Tree car freshener six-pack.
Barry injected a little late-’80s excitement into the political scene by challenging Democratic incumbent Phil Mendelson in the at-large council race in early March. Six months before the primary, Barry polarized the electorate, got the Washington Post editorial board all in a tizzy, and made LL one very happy local-politics reporter.
Then Barry parked his Jag on a remote street in Southwest, to ostensibly meet a distressed “female political associate.” U.S. Park Police stopped by to observe a powdery ring around Barry’s nose and trace amounts of crack cocaine in his car. Hizzoner was out of the race less than a week later.
Ward 6 councilmember: Subway 6-foot party sub.
Ambrose can feed 15 to 20 of her Capitol Hill gentrifiers at the next meeting in which they plot to keep such low-prestige franchises as Blimpie’s from their tree-boxed neighborhoods.
Scott Bishop Sr.
Former Williams campaign worker: We the Peoples by Kofi Annan, Frasier complete Season 2 box set, and Martha Stewart Everyday hemstich flannel sheets.
Hired by the Williams re-election brain trust, the campaign-sign king knew little about spearheading a nominating-petition drive. Hemphill and Williams campaign adviser Charles Duncan ordered Bishop to collect 10,000 signatures in support of the mayor. Nearly 8,000 turned out to be forged or otherwise invalid, including the names of such notables as Annan, Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, and Stewart.
D.C. Democratic State Committee chair: Max Lite earplugs.
Neverson spends a lot of time away from home slapping the backs of his sundry Democratic Party cohorts. So LL figures he needs to curry as much favor as possible with the missus. Toward that end, LL passes along these fine sound inhibitors in hopes that they’ll end up in the hands of Angela Neverson. Because if “Brother Norm” screams as loudly at home as he does at political events, the earplugs will get quite a workout in 2003.
Kevin P. Chavous
Ward 7 councilmember: Department of Public Works Supercan.
The front yard of Chavous’ Hillcrest home turned into a trash-transfer station this month when Ward 7 neighborhood activists aligned with the fair-housing advocates of ACORN to express their displeasure at the councilmember’s efforts to clean up abandoned lots in Deanwood. Chavous and his wife, Beverly Bass Chavous, were outraged.
While cleaning up the mess, Chavous
might take this as an opportunity to rid his house of any Chavous for Mayor 2002 exploratory materials.
Peggy Cooper Cafritz
D.C. Board of Education president: It’s Just Lunch! dating-service membership.
The board president had a busy year fighting with all kinds of officials: Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi over a FY 2001 budget deficit; the D.C. Council over the FY 2002 budget; and her board colleagues over almost everything else. That didn’t leave much time for a social life. Cafritz confessed to Washington Post schools reporter Justin Blum that she suspected her autocratic style might be “intimidating” to potential suitors.
Adrian M. Fenty
Ward 4 councilmember: Schoolhouse Rock video.
This staple of ’70s Saturday-morning TV taught both Fenty and LL how to shepherd legislation through the democratic process. Apparently, however, the freshman councilmember needs another look at the classic “I’m Just a Bill.” The young legislator’s colleagues have taken to snickering when he stumbles over the rudiments of D.C. government. Unfortunately, the animated civics course offers little instruction on how an ambitious, striving pol procures a committee chairmanship.
Willie F. Wilson
Union Temple Baptist Church minister: Prince George’s County voter roll.
The fiery Ward 8 minister launched his own write-in campaign to challenge Williams for the Democratic nomination. Wilson said he spoke for those people whom Williams didn’t represent. That’s quite true: Many of those wearing Wilson’s “Voice of the People” T-shirts at campaign events drove home to Fort Washington, Laurel, and Mitchellville.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
delegate: Fifty States Commemorative Quarter Set Folder.
Norton failed to get Congress to authorize a special commemorative quarter honoring the District of Columbia—an embarrassment that should supply her critics with material for months to come. So if the District can’t get a quarter from the Hill, how close are we to voting rights?
Sherryl Hobbs Newman
D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles director: Norton Utilities 2002.
Mayor Williams made re-engineering the DMV a centerpiece of his administration: “[F]ellow citizens, we need to free ourselves from the tyranny of those DMV lines!” he said in his inaugural. Four years later, D.C. residents still spend hours and days in line getting their licenses renewed and their cars inspected.
With each foul-up, some official gets quoted as saying the computer system is outdated, it crashes all the time, or it’s just not up to the task. Then the city sends in high-priced consultants to remedy the problem. But have they tried going to CompUSA and picking up some of the finest diagnostic software on the market?
Charles H. Ramsey
Metropolitan Police Department chief: a box turtle.
Whenever Ramsey’s Missing Persons Unit gets stumped, just put the turtle to work.
Dwight E. Singleton
Board of Education member for Wards 3 and 4: Cicero, De Oratore, Books I-II.
Like the legendary Roman statesman, Singleton likes to reach for oratorical splendor in campaign appearances and debates on the school board. Too often, though, he sounds more like Dan Quayle: “Ward 3 schools have not diminished one bit under my leadership,” he bragged this campaign season.
At-large councilmember: Oregon Wild Hair moustache wax.
In an expression of fiscal austerity last May, the at-large councilmember shaved his moustache. But, then, in typical Brazil fashion, he quickly grew it back.CP
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Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Illustrations by Robert Ullman.