Washington is a boring city for gay activists. With its many gay-friendly policies, D.C. often turns its gay-rights advocates into the Maytag repairmen of the movement, making some of their “activism” seem like make-work. Take last week’s open letter from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) to D.C.’s chief business regulator. The letter complains about last November’s unannounced city inspections of Cusano’s Meet Market. Cusano’s, a deli on gay-heavy 17th Street NW, has sold some erotic publications along with sandwiches and mainstream magazines. But someone repeatedly told city inspectors and police that Cusano’s was also selling kiddie porn. A horrified Mike Cusano was frustrated by the persistent rumors, which he called baseless. Finally, city inspectors looked for themselves and found nothing. Cusano is still angry about the accusations, which were spread to his landlord, his councilmember, and community watchdogs. “To me it’s harassment,” he says. But he adds, “I’m trying to keep a low profile.” Too bad for him. GLAA has made Cusano’s 3-month-old case its gay-rights cause célèbre. “We believe that the rights of the reading public have been needlessly put at risk,” the letter squawks, calling for “a full investigation.” City officials note that nothing illegal was found, no one was fined or charged, and they were just doing their jobs. Unfortunately, so are the activists.
Last month, when new D.C. public schools (DCPS) chief Gen. Julius Becton Jr. presented his fiscal 1998 budget, his introductory letter hailed “the beginning of truth and integrity in DCPS’ financial reporting.” His letter reflected the widely held opinion that prior DCPS financial documents had no credibility, thanks to years of poor financial management. However, that view doesn’t seem to jibe with that of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), which for seven straight years has given DCPS a “Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting.” According to ASBO, the award “recognizes school districts that adhere to sound principles and reporting procedures.” The key, it turns out, is that the award applauds the packaging in which DCPS has reported its fiscal disasterthe typing, the nice graphicsnot the book-cooking it took to create the current mess. “The award is for how you are presenting informationfor clarity and style,” says new DCPS finance chief Abdusalam Omer. “It’s not for substance, not for fiscal integrity, not for accountability, not for coming clean with the numbers.”
As part of the city’s Martin Luther King Day festivities (held on President’s Day, since the inauguration was on Jan. 20), Mayor Marion Barry was slated to speak at Harris Education Center at the tail end of a parade through Southeast. In typical Barry fashion, the mayor showed up well after the parade had started, but observers say he also ducked out six blocks early. Apparently, Barry got wind that more than 30 independent tow trucks were waiting for him at the end of the route, where they planned to confront Barry about the city’s decision to contract city towing services with just two private companies. Not only did the drivers get stiffed by the object of their protest, but 7th District police officers also ticketed them all for illegally parking along the parade route. Inspector Winston Robinson later determined that the tickets would be dismissed because temporary “Emergency No Parking” signs had been torn down. Nonetheless, the drivers spent Monday afternoon stewing and without anyone around to listen to their beefs. Robinson says, “They just hung around and watched the parade like everybody else. It was very entertaining.”