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I am writing to you

about Erik Wemple’s creative column, The Needle. Now, I realize that it is mostly a tongue-in-cheek “index” to gauge the quality of life in our nation’s capital city, and so any criticism of it should not be too serious. However, I think that the July 1996 subtotal categories are quite off-base. The 10-point net fall from June represents nearly a third of the total, which is a move that should be reserved for truly disastrous situations. The bacteria problem in the drinking water represents a serious situation and a -6 is justified, whereas the -9 for the transfer of two tiny islands in the Anacostia River from one jurisdiction to another is way out of proportion, as is the -12 for the departure of Juwan Howard. Your index should show some stability—at the current rate, it will hit zero in a few months. Indeed, for the first four months, it showed evidence of that stability, with the good and the bad roughly canceling each other out. The -10 drop for July throws the whole index into disarray and even undermines its satirical quality, since the fact that it was begun at a 42 out of 100 level already shows that the poor old District is beset by myriad long-term, quality-of-life-corroding woes.

College Park, Md.

via the Internet