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Last month, Amanda Nelson needed to make two calls from the Black Cat at 14th and S Streets NW and used her calling card because she was short on quarters. When she got her bill, she noticed the two calls had cost an eye-popping $11. Nelson contacted her calling-card company, Bell Atlantic, which pleaded not guilty and bounced her to ClearTel Communications, the payphone’s long-distance carrier. ClearTel told Nelson to take it up with the Black Cat. But club owner Dante Ferrando told Nelson the Black Cat gets a mere $20 in monthly commissions from the phone, so he passed her off to QCI, the payphone’s owner. According to QCI account manager Richard Rice, QCI sets the coin rates for the pay phones they own, but it contracts with ClearTel for calling-card calls. So finally Nelson sicked her boyfriend on ClearTel, which stopped short of conceding that it regularly charges $5.50 for local calling-card calls, although the company did offer Nelson a 50-percent refund if she faxed in her bill. “Still,” says Nelson, “five-fifty for a local call is ridiculous.”
Casting a Double Shadow With D.C. Shadow Sen. Jesse Jackson having fled to Chicago three months before his term officially ends, you’d think a flurry of Republican candidates would be tripping over one another to replace him and break into District politics. But the only candidate the Grand Ol’ Party could scrounge up for the November election is 24-year District resident Gloria Corn. In fact, the party is apparently so strapped for candidates that Corn is also running for the city’s other shadow congressional seat. “No one else was running on the Republican ticket,” she says. With a slogan of “Vote for me twiceIt’s legal,” Corn faces Democrat Paul Strauss and George Pope of the Umoja Party for Jackson’s seat and Democrat Sabrina Sojourner for the seat now held by Shadow Rep. John Capozzi. Although the current shadow reps have busied themselves lobbying for D.C. statehood, Cornlike all good Republicanshas no interest in the cause. “It’s pointless to lobby for a fantasy,” says the three-time Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. Instead, Corn plans to lobby Republicans in Congress to hike the federal payment to the District and either eliminate federal taxes for D.C. or give the D.C. delegate voting rights. And if she wins both the volunteer positions? She plans to keep them, she says. That isn’t going to happen: While it’s true that it’s legal to run for both offices, it’s not kosher to hold them simultaneously, according to the D.C. Board of Elections.
Tax Relief As the District unleashes its all-out assault on tax scofflaws, it’s inevitable that a few innocent people will get caught in the web. And for those folks trying to prove their innocence, just getting the Department of Finance and Revenue (DFR) to return phone calls is a mammoth chore. Apparently, though, there’s one way to get the tax man’s attention: by getting your name in the paper. Last week, Washington City Paper reported on D.C. resident Judith Scholar’s yearlong ordeal to get in touch with auditors at DFR and convince them that she couldn’t possibly owe D.C. taxes for the year she spent working in Morocco. The same city officials who’d been dodging her for months called her three times on Friday to let her know that they were canceling her her tax bill. “I was very happy,” says Scholar. “That’s a big weight of my shoulders.”