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After learning that formal challenges were required to purge names from D.C.’s bloated voter rolls ( see “Dead Man Voting,” 1/30), Ward 8 activist Sandra Seegars hit the streets. For 10 days, she scoured her neighborhood on foot, armed with a tattered copy of the list of registered voters in one hand and a pen in the other. Seegars discovered that almost 1,000 voters registered in her ward were listed at addresses that were either vacant, boarded up, or, as in the case of the Ridgecrest Heights apartment complex, torn down more than a year ago. Last Friday, she submitted nearly 1,000 sheets of paper to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics that painstakingly detailed each name, registered address, and reason to remove the voter from the rolls. “If they tell me I need something more, I’ll go and take pictures,” Seegars says.
Blessing the Rabbi When Khalid Abdul Muhammad, former deputy to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, spewed his particular brand of anti-Semitic venom in a speech to Howard University students in the spring of 1994, Rabbi Avi Weiss and a few cohorts staged a silent protest outside the auditorium. After a crowd of screaming Muhammad supporters surrounded Weiss, a Howard University security guard intervened, confiscating Weiss’ signs and ordering the rabbi to leave campus. Weiss filed suit against the university for assault and violation of his First Amendment rights, asking for more than a million dollars in damages. For more than three years, Weiss says, he offered to dismiss the suit if the university publicly apologized for the incident. As first reported in Legal Times, a D.C. jury last month finally awarded Weiss $5,000 in damages but rejected his claims of discrimination. Both sides in the dispute proclaimed victory. Howard University attorney Timothy F. McCormack says he’s “very pleased that the jury recognized that the university doesn’t discriminate against people.” Weiss’ attorney offered a slightly different interpretation: “Howard was arrogant, apparently believing that it could not lose a case against a rabbi with a D.C. jury,” says Steven Lieberman. “And they were wrong.”
Gender Bias After tackling the thief who had stolen a bicycle from a store in Adams Morgan, a City Bikes employee offered the ultimate dis: “And you took a girl’s bike, you idiot.”
Ethics Seminar Last week, Mayor Marion Barry launched a bold initiative to usher in “a new era of ethics in government and local politics.” Nope, this isn’t Barry’s coy way of saying that he’s ducking out of the ’98 race. Full of nurturing oaths, the initiative outlines eight easy steps to steer the District toward a more ethical future. Among other things, Barry proposes ethics officers, ethics training, ethics advertising, and even a high-school ethics essay contest. Noticeably absent from the plan: accountability for ethical lapses. The Barryspeak alternative? “Establish award and incentive programs to honor and encourage high standards….rather than relishing in the punishment of wrongdoing.”
Class Action This past fall, District schools chief Gen. Julius Becton announced that by the end of the school year all D.C. public school teachers would be required to renew their teacher certifications. Though the move was intended to purge the school system of those unfit for classroom duty, it appears to have put a scare in even the most qualified. A few weeks ago, a few of the most popular teachers at Murch Elementary were told they should pack their bags at the end of the school year even though they had filed the required paperwork repeatedly. “I personally walked down to the office, paid my $30, and handed them all the documents,” says Tim Welsh, a respected kindergarten teacher at Murch. “Then I get sent a piece of paper that says that I’m certified through this June and then after that I’m finished.” Yvonne Holt, who oversees teacher certification for the D.C. public schools, admits that a few glitches have occurred, but says that the paperwork will be straightened out in time for certified teachers to be back at their desks come fall.
Reporting by Laura Lang, Amanda Ripley, and Elissa Silverman.
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