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Since making his mayoral intentions official, At-Large D.C. Councilmember Harold Brazil has been popping up all over the city in an effort to accumulate that most valuable political commodity: name recognition. Brazil will soon receive some unsolicited—and probably unwelcome—help propping up his name I.D. from the ‘Cause Children Count Coalition, a grass-roots advocacy group of churches, parents, and educators working to discourage tobacco and alcohol use by D.C. kids. Beginning Thursday, the coalition is sponsoring advertisements on city buses and bus shelters urging the D.C. Council to pass two bills restricting outdoor alcohol and tobacco advertising in the District. Members of the coalition point out the ubiquity of vice-oriented signage near D.C. public schools—in an eight-block radius from the Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Columbia Heights, there are nearly 100 advertisements for beer and cigarettes. The restrictive bills have been languishing in the council’s Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee, which Brazil chairs, and the coalition decided to run ads featuring Brazil’s council office phone number underneath pictures of youngsters smoking and boozing. “Councilmembers are always willing to introduce bills, but they often let them die in committee. What we’re trying to do is prevent this from happening with Harold Brazil,” says Dr. Alpha Estes Brown, chair of the coalition. “We’re giving him the opportunity to be a hero or a zero.”
Getting Testy In preparation for the Stanford 9 Achievement Tests, a group of Adams Morgan residents and local business leaders staged a motivational pep rally on Tuesday for 200 students at the Marie Reed Learning Center. “All of you know the answers,” shouted Thomas Stewart, an administrator for a public school advocacy group. “You were born with the answers. They’re in your heart and mind.” Getting them on paper is the challenge, though. The students were stumped when Stewart asked them to name D.C.’s mayor. After a short silence, a kid sitting in the back yelled, “George Washington.” Good thing the Stanford 9 doesn’t include a section on civics. Stewart offered up a short lecture on local politics and then proceeded
to read a letter of encouragement from the previously nameless chief executive.
Stealing the Show D.C.’s theater community usually credits longtime Arena Stage director Zelda Fichandler with founding the Southwest theater. Arena’s theater-in-the-round, in fact, is named after her. But former George Washington University professor Edward Mangum writes in the upcoming issue of Washington History magazine that he actually started and ran the Arena Stage for two years before handing it over to his ex-student Fichandler, who went on to hold the reins for decades. Washington History editor Jane Freundel Levey says Mangum’s revelation—and his insights on D.C. theater history—is news to her. “Mangum evokes a theater community of a simpler yet more contentious time,” says Levey. “Like many Washingtonians, I had assumed that Arena Stage was the sole brainchild of Zelda Fichandler.”
Eating Red Tape Hungry children in District day-care centers aren’t getting much sustenance from the D.C. government. In fiscal year 1997, the D.C. public school (DCPS) system distributed federal monies targeted for needy preschoolers to only 114 of the city’s 359 eligible day-care programs. Betty Wiggins, director of the DCPS food and nutrition program, says her office isn’t to blame. In other cities, the nutrition subsidy is handed out to anyone who takes care of poor children, but the District doles out federal dollars only to registered nonprofits. Child welfare advocates say that there are other problems as well. DCPS requires so much paperwork and takes so long to hand out the money that many small day-care center owners give up in frustration, says Bobbi Block, director of the Washington Child Development Council. Wiggins’ staff admits that its record-keeping is abysmal, and that the office offers scant assistance to day-care centers interested in signing up for the federal funds.
Reporting by Laura Lang, Paula Park, Michael Schaffer, and Elissa Silverman.
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