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The race to unseat Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans has all the makings of a sleeper—a well-funded incumbent whom the local press is treating like a shoo-in and poorly funded challengers everyone else is treating like jokers. Still, candidates James McLeod, a defense attorney, and author Raymond Avrutis are trying to make things interesting. McLeod has turned into a press-release machine, attacking Avrutis for petition irregularities in his most recent circular. And Avrutis made a big splash at the Monday-night endorsement meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, a group of gay activists. Before a crowd of seasoned D.C. politicos, Avrutis suggested that if the city’s domestic-partnership act were overturned, 69 men should join in a “circle-jerk” around the Capitol—in cold weather—in protest. “It was definitely one of the more bizarre events I’ve been through,” says a source who attended the meeting. Claiming to be the author of a book on exploiting unemployment benefits, Avrutis coaxed a few laughs with his deadpan comment that if he loses the Sept. 10 primary, he will be available for employment or unemployment benefits on Sept. 11. Evans, clearly shaking in his boots at the prospect of the primary challenge, has filed a challenge to Avrutis’ nominating petition with the D.C. Board of Elections.
Progress in the Parks Over the past decade, neighborhoods across the District have surrendered their parks to the masses of drunks and homeless looking for a place to hang their hats. But energetic residents are now reclaiming their leisure space, park by park. First, volunteers wrested control of 16th Street’s Meridian Hill Park from the local drug dealers and restored it to its earlier splendor. Then Logan Circle’s hookers and heroin addicts were ousted by middle-class dog-walkers. Last month, Adams Morgan’s tiny, rat-infested Unity Park was razed to the ground in preparation for an arty face lift. And now, the Friends of S and T Streets Parks are nearing completion of a 3-year project to renovate the puny parks along New Hampshire Avenue between S and T Streets NW. Two weeks ago, the Opler Foundation awarded the group $25,000 for topsoil, seeding, a new brick path, and a new water hookup. As a result, the parks’ derelicts have been displaced by kids with baseball mitts, and local yuppies only complain of an occasional Frisbee dent in their Range Rovers parked nearby—a welcome tradeoff, says organizer Iris Molotsky. Until now, she says, “Nobody ever went into the parks.”
Relativity In a city where weekly trash pickup is cause for celebration, good news is always a relative thing. So for a city that never fails to make the nation’s “10 worst” lists, ranking in the middle of any national survey is a welcome event. According to a new study of nonelderly married couples, when it comes to fairness in local tax structures, the District falls somewhere in the middle. The study reveals that the 95 percent of D.C. families with annual earnings below $276,000 are paying about 10.5 percent of their income in D.C. taxes, while D.C.’s wealthiest families (with average incomes of $700,000) pay 9.3 percent of their income to the city. Still, there are some who think the city could do better. “Although the District of Columbia does not have the worst tax system in the nation, it fails the basic test of fairness,” says Citizens for Tax Justice’s Michael Ettlinger, lead author of the study. “If you’re taking 10 percent from the lower classes, you certainly should be taking 10 percent from the rich.”