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Each year district cabdrivers are required to pay $50 into a fund that supports taxicab-related legal proceedings and fare regulation. So far, though, less than $9,000 of the over $1 million collected has been put to use as intended. A District auditor’s report found that in 1992 and 1993, only $8,800 of over $250,000 spent was used for fare regulation or legal proceedings. The fund instead paid for a $12,949 “luxurious” retreat and a $4,000 conference trip to Florida for the Taxicab Commission. In addition, $162,000 was paid to the law firm of Leftwich, Moore, & Douglas for services the auditor found “not necessary.”And in 1994, the entire fund (nearly $600,000) was transfered to D.C.’s general operating fund where it “co-mingled” with the rest of the District’s loot. District cabdrivers recently filed a class-action suit against the Taxicab Commission, as well as Mayor Marion Barry, asking for the return of the $1.35 million they put into the fund, plus $1 million in punitive and exemplary damages.
Registering Contempt It’s been a long, hot summer for the Latino Vote USA registration drive: Its grand plans to stuff 3,000 Latinos onto the region’s voter rolls went down like a greasy enchilada, with two of three local interns quitting after claiming that the campaign sponsor was little more than a deadbeat in nonprofit’s clothing. The drive managed to register about 500 Latino citizens, but District-based intern Ben Ramos, who registered most of them, had nothing nice to say about the Chicago-based Midwest-Northeast Voter Registration Education Project. Another intern working in Virginia quit six weeks into the 10-week program—well after the Maryland intern had bailed out—because the Chicago office wasn’t sending buttons, posters, flyers, brochures, or a salary. Vote USA field director Rudy López asserted that the organization had not promised new materials, but instead told the interns to be chintzy—“Not everyone should get a brochure,” he said. López also said interns did not receive materials because they didn’t meet specified registration quotas. But Ramos said the quotas were downplayed by Latino Vote USA representatives in an orientation session for the interns—only to resurface when the organization had trouble delivering on its commitments.
Eastenders on the Potomac A group of dues-paying supporters of public TV recently thronged WETA’s Arlington studio with a very specific purpose. “Who the hell cares where they filmed the goddamn McNeil-Lehrer Report?’’ grumbled one guest. “I want to see Arthur.’’ He was one of 50 or so devotees there to greet actor Bill Treacher, who plays Arthur Fowler, the good-hearted loser of the long-running British soap opera, Eastenders, now in its 11th season on WETA. Fans had to pony up a $100 contribution for the chance to meet the show’s humble hero, who sipped chardonnay at the event in Virginia instead of the usual pint of ale he guzzles at the show’s watering hole, the Queen Vic Pub. In person he didn’t disappoint, signing autographs, smiling for snapshots, and praising the charms of his fans and their “lovely” city. In a measure of the show’s grip on its fans—or perhaps it’s fans nongrip on reality—one gushed that the show was even more lifelike than life itself.