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After more than 40 years of reporting on D.C., you’d think that Washington City Paper would know the answer to most inquiries our readers may have about life in and around the District. But D.C. is ever changing, and so are our readers, meaning questions will naturally arise. And so, once again, we’ve arrived at the Answers Issue, our annual attempt to figure out these conundrums that vex Washingtonians.
Of the dozens of questions readers submitted this year, some yielded easy, though not widely known, answers, while others proved more complicated. Our writers worked the phones, sent countless emails, rifled through pages of public records, and scrolled incessantly through the social media accounts of a former elected official to bring you this information. They even managed to discover an unclaimed land that might be in D.C. or might be in Arlington, depending on how you interpret maps and ZIP codes.
Settle in and prepare to learn more about D.C.’s weird and wonderful ways. Maybe reading these questions will prompt questions of your own. Jot them down—there’s always next year. — Caroline Jones
Why don’t wards 3 and 7 have a 3A/7A ANC?
ANC 3A and 7A used to exist in wards 3 and 7, respectively, but they are no more. “It bothers a lot of people,” says Gottlieb Simon, former longtime director of the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. So what happened? There’s a story for each:
ANC 3A used to encompass Georgetown. Yes, Georgetown used to be in Ward 3 until after the 1980 census, when redistricting shifted most of the neighborhood to Ward 2. Only a tiny fraction, known as the Shackleton Sliver after former Ward 3 Councilmember Polly Shackleton, remained in Ward 3 so as not to redistrict the Georgetown resident out of a job. When Georgetown (and therefore ANC 3A) became part of Ward 2, officials were faced with the question of what to do with the other commissions. If 3B becomes 3A, then 3C would become 3B, and 3D has to become 3C. It gets confusing quickly.
“It was much simpler to drop the A from the list,” Simon says. “Most of the time nobody notices. Life is fine, and we manage to go on living that way.”
As for ANC 7A, which includes Fort Dupont, Benning Heights-Simple City, Fort Chaplin, Woodlawn-Payne Cemetery, Fort Mahan Park, and D.C. General and the DC Jail—we now call that 7F.
Simon says about 10 years ago when D.C. redrew ward and ANC boundaries, some folks in ANC 7A were concerned about the reputation the commission had earned and thought it would help to rebrand. The redistricting committee didn’t object, and so the commission reemerged with a new name.
“And that, children, is why there’s no longer a 3A and a 7A,” Simon says. —Mitch Ryals
Does D.C. have any unique borders or enclaves/exclaves? It is interesting that Theodore Roosevelt Island and National Airport are still within the District.
Believe it or not, the airport is its own jurisdiction. National is technically not part of D.C. proper, and even though it’s across the Potomac River and adjacent to Arlington, it’s not part of the city or the county. This is, at least, according to Rob Yingling, a spokesperson at Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
“It’s like another Arlington or Alexandria except with no residents and no elected officials,” says Yingling in an interview with City Paper. “It has its own police department, its own fire department, its own building codes, and other types of services you would normally affiliate with a city.”
Despite this, the airport doesn’t collect taxes (of course) or have its own ZIP code. The U.S. Postal Service, Yingling says, incorporated the airport into the 20001 ZIP code. This is reflected in the address of 1 Aviation Circle on the airport’s official website alongside the location, which is curiously specified as Washington, D.C. A quick Google search, though, indicates that the airport is located in Arlington, at the 22202 ZIP code, and this same information is shared on the airport’s official Facebook page. No wonder there’s so much confusion. —Michelle Goldchain
What happened at Channel 4 sports? Are local station sportscasters no longer a thing?
Regular viewers of NBC4 have likely noticed that the station has not employed a full-time sports anchor since Sherree Burruss left the station in December 2019 for CBS Sports. (Cary Chow and Dave Johnson were technically NBC4 freelancers, not salaried employees; Chow is now working in corporate communications, and Johnson continues as the sports director for WTOP, in addition to his work as a play-by-play radio voice.) After Burruss left, NBC4 had begun interviewing candidates to replace her when the pandemic arrived and sports events shut down, according to Matt Glassman, the assistant news director for NBC4.
NBC4’s website currently does not list a full-time sports anchor that works solely for the station. (Moisés Linares is listed as a sports anchor for Noticiero Telemundo 44 on NBC4’s sister station, Telemundo 44/WZDC, and contributes to NBC4 News.) FOX 5 also does not have any dedicated sports anchors. Darren M. Haynes is the sports director/anchor and Sharla McBride is a sports and news anchor for WUSA9. Scott Abraham and Olivia Garvey handle on-air sports coverage for ABC7.
“I would say that the pandemic was the catalyst,” Glassman says about the changes in how sports is covered at NBC4. “What it’s done is it’s given us the opportunity to try some new things and to experiment in a different way. … Nothing that we’re doing right now is necessarily a long-term play.”
NBC4 also has been using reporters and hosts from NBC Sports Washington on its broadcasts. Both stations are located in the same building. Glassman adds that NBC4 still has an off-air, behind-the-scenes sports staff, and says the station is “absolutely not” ruling out bringing back a full-time sports anchor. “We’re always evaluating what we need and who we need and all that kind of stuff,” he says. —Kelyn Soong
The best poke in D.C. is at Tiki Taco near Dupont Circle, right? All those make your own Chipotle-style places are bullshit poke, right?
There are a host of build-a-bowl poke places throughout the D.C. region, among them Poke Papa, Poki DC, and Poke Dojo, that allow customers to pile on toppings such as cucumbers, crab salad, cilantro, pickled ginger, and edamame. Are they bullshit? I’d like to offer an analogy. Some sushi rolls you find in the U.S. are filled with ingredients such as cream cheese, mango, and jalapeños and drizzled with sweet and spicy sauces. When I taught English in a small town in Japan, I showed my students what counts as sushi in the U.S., and watched their jaws drop. Sushi in Japan is far more austere, often to showcase the quality of the fish. Poke in Hawaii, which is excellent even in grocery stores, takes a similarly simplistic approach. Ahi tuna is cubed, tossed in soy sauce and sesame oil, and mixed with whatever’s on hand: raw onion, chopped nuts, or a special kind of seaweed. Tiki Taco adopts this more traditional approach, as does native Hawaiian-owned Abunai Poke. I sampled them both in January and slightly preferred Abunai Poke for its freshness and flavor. Abunai owner Akina Harada would likely agree with the question asker that some of the Chipotle-style poke places don’t cut it. She has playfully dissed them in the past. Shortly after Poki DC moved in nearby, she plastered stickers that read “Aloha, it’s POKE, not POKI!” on customers’ meals. As with traditional and Americanized sushi, both styles of poke can be delicious. —Laura Hayes
Jack Evans committed multiple ethics violations and voters renounced him at the polls, yet based on his Instagram he is warmly embraced by D.C.’s business leaders. Do they have no shame?
It’s not just the business community lacking shame! In Evans’ post-Council life, he’s become somewhat of a low-key influencer. He hasn’t brought dad jeans, boat shoes, and ten-gallon hats back in style (yet), but scroll through Evans’ Insta and you’ll see a Georgetown socialite who scarcely misses an opportunity to break out his tux and yuck it up with old pals or see the new James Bond movie.
Mayor Muriel Bowser makes regular appearances on Evans’ feed: at the RAMMYS, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s annual awards gala; standing by his side at a gathering marking the anniversary of the March on Washington; and at her birthday celebration, along with Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has also taken several opportunities to pose with his old pal, like at the D.C. Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala (along with former Councilmember Michael Brown). As did Sen. Joe Manchin and Bowser advisor Beverly Perry, who are seen cheesin’ with Evans at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., breakfast last October.
Evans’ ’gram also features pictures from Nantucket, at Caps games with Ted Leonsis and Jack Davies, and shots of him having an absolute ball putting his feet up while sitting in some pretty choice seats near the dugout at Nationals Park.
“Great stories and discussing future plans,” Evans captioned the photo. The receipt on the table appears to read “CRIME CRIME CRIME” and “Jack Evans 2024.” Prepare yourselves. —MR
What is D.C. shorts etiquette? It seems like some folks (hipsters, the fashion-conscious) never wear them. Is there also a demographic element? Age? Race? Are they just for White dudes? (Athletic shorts are excluded from this analysis.)
Fashion is subjective, so I spoke with two local stylists: Ting Lin and (my friend) Michelle Barsa. Shorts “can be done if done right, and at the right time,” says Lin, who started a fashion consulting business four years ago. That means wearing them in warmer months. “Then people will get it: It’s not like, ‘Oh that person made a fashionable choice. Maybe they’re just hot,” says Lin.
“It’s really important to distinguish the ‘D’ in the ‘DMV’ here,” Barsa adds. “Shorts are a totally different fashion phenomena once we leave the District.” Within city limits, Barsa argues shorts norms can be distinguished by neighborhood: “In Capitol Hill, anyone should feel free to wear their khaki shorts, particularly if they’re embroidered with some sort of oversize Atlantic sea animal.” In upper Northwest, there’s an abundance of “shorts with a purpose” (think cargo), and in Bloomingdale and Shaw, where D.C.’s alleged hipsters congregate, shorts “may be fine here, particularly if they’re worn ironically and/or with tights and boots,” says Barsa.
Lin says race doesn’t come into play much (but notes that a lot of White guys wear shorts to brunch). Barsa adds that Black people follow an unwritten rule: “If your legs be ashy, DO NOT wear shorts no matter how damn hot it is.” Age often plays a role in what type of shorts people are wearing. The younger crowd can be a bit more adventurous, Lin says, while older folks typically wear longer shorts in more subtle colors and patterns.
As for the idea that “more fashion-conscious people never wear shorts,” Lin calls bullshit: The fashion-conscious “can do a lot with shorts. They know how to outfit them. And it’s all about outfitting.” In short, shoes matter. “If you’re doing shorts and sandals, you’re really Cali,” says Lin. “Or Florida.” —Sarah Marloff
Has the Metropolitan Police Department ever apprehended and brought charges against a porch pirate and what were the legal consequences, if any? Are all the theft videos just pointless?
MPD data on arrests doesn’t have a “porch pirate” subclassification under its “Theft” category, so it’s tough to distinguish thefts of packages outside residents’ homes from burglaries and other types of theft, according to an MPD communications staffer. But D.C. has experienced a rise in package thefts during the pandemic and most recently around the holidays, according to resident reports and surveillance video.
Despite the unclear data on porch piracy versus other types of theft, we do know MPD has apprehended pirates. D.C. residents might recall MPD’s #ReturningChristmasJoy Twitter campaign in 2018 after officers arrested a man carting off 13 packages that weren’t his, then returned the packages to their rightful owners. On May 10, 2021, MPD arrested Sterling McGlaughlin, 28, of Northeast D.C. with charges of six counts of “Theft Two” for stealing unattended packages from residences in Northeast and Southeast, according to an MPD statement. In the District, these porch pirates can get slapped with fines of up to $1,000 if the item is worth less than that amount, and larger fines for more valuable stolen items. —Ambar Castillo
Some of the weed and mushroom “gift” suppliers also have DMT. Is basically anything giftable now in DC?
Well, sure, pretty much anything can be giftable. But is it all legal? That’s a different question.
Adam Eidinger, the proposer of Initiative 71 and co-founder of DC Marijuana Justice, tells City Paper that the District is “one of the safest spaces” for substances such as DMT because it’s “not a priority.” This is thanks to Initiative 81, which passed in November of 2020, making entheogens, such as psilocybin, among the lowest law enforcement priorities for the Metropolitan Police Department. But just because it’s a lower priority, that doesn’t mean that it’s legalized.
When it comes to cannabis, District voters passed Initiative 71 in November of 2014, legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, but a rider Maryland Rep. Andy Harris introduced has blocked the city from legalizing and taxing the sale of recreational cannabis ever since.
Currently, the only legal way D.C. residents who are 21 and over can acquire cannabis is by first getting a physician recommendation for medical cannabis, then completing an application through the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration for a physical medical cannabis card, and thereafter visiting any of the approved dispensaries in the city. Those who are not D.C. residents can purchase from D.C.’s dispensaries if their jurisdiction has been extended reciprocity.
For those who want to remove all the aforementioned steps and the many fees that come with them, gifting is always an option. Even so, the legal limit for gifting cannabis is a maximum of one ounce per person. Even under Initiative 71, it still remains a crime to receive money, goods, or services for any amount of cannabis.
Gifting in D.C. has long been scrutinized by members of the public and especially government leaders. According to Eidinger, though, those who buy cannabis and other substances “have nothing to worry about … It’s the seller that has to be concerned in the District of Columbia.”
But is basically anything giftable now in D.C.? It depends on who you’re asking and if they happen to be wearing the color blue. —MG
Has anyone in D.C. actually been fined for not shoveling snow from their sidewalk?
Yes, if businesses count. As of Jan. 28, seven commercial businesses have received citations, at $150 a pop, for not keeping their portions of the sidewalks snow-free and accessible to foot traffic this season. Additionally, two residences have received snow-shoveling warnings, according to Nancee Lyons of the Department of Public Works, the city agency tasked with enforcing sidewalk shoveling. If those warnings turn into citations, the fine for residents who fail to shovel is $25. —SM
Which charter school executive made the most bank at the expense of resources going to traditional public schools?
In search of an answer, City Paper scoured the most recently available 990 tax forms for as many charter schools as we could get our hands on—no thanks to the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which publishes 990s on its website but hasn’t updated the records since 2019.
Instead, we relied on ProPublica’s database of nonprofit tax records. Most schools’ forms were easily accessible, but some proved too elusive. In any case, the documents we reviewed reveal that at least 20 schools pay their top executives more than $200,000 a year. For context, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s annual salary is $220,000, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee makes $280,000 per year, and Christina Grant, state superintendent of education, makes $202,363 per year.
The last time City Paper examined charter school pay, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School’s CEO Allison Kokkoros was the highest paid charter school leader, earning a whopping $541,000 in compensation in 2017. For the 2019-2020 school year (the most recent information available), Kokkoros was knocked off the top spot but remains in the top five.
The highest earning charter school leaders are:
Patricia Brantley, CEO of Friendship Public Charter School, who made $390,645;
Linda Moore, founder of Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, who made $382,276;
Susan Schaeffler, founder and CEO of KIPP DC, who made $341,216;
Kokkoros, who made $319,430; and Joe Smith, CEO of Eagle Academy Public Charter School, who made $299,218. —MR
Editor’s note: Moore’s payment of $382,276 in SY 2019-2020 included a lump sum payment as part of a deferred compensation plan.
Who started the myth that D.C. was built on a swamp?
Hot and humid D.C. summers along with the incestous, swampy corruption among the political class that meets here makes this myth difficult to resist. But it is, indeed, a myth, according to DC History Center historian Jane F. Levey. It’s one of her favorite
“It’s a question of language,” Levey says. “So if you say, ‘Washington was built on a swamp,’ period, end of thought, that’s a total myth. If you want to be more specific about it, yes, there were a lot of springs and creeks and marshes here in the territory that was chosen for Washington. But that was because … at the beginning, you needed water in an era when you didn’t have plumbing and pipes and running water the way we do today. So that was a good thing that was going to support the city. And then it became, in the 20th century, a political canard. And it’s been thrown in our face ever since.”
But as to who started the myth, that’s a lot more difficult to answer. Back in the 1800s, people used the word “swamp” and “marsh” pretty much interchangeably, according to Levey.
“I don’t think anybody has ever been able to come up with patient zero on the myth,” she says. “It’s just not a possibility. And that’s because it’s such a complicated discussion of how the language was used.” —KS
On Channel 4 News, one anchor has a yellow script/notes, and the other has pink. Why those colors? It’s often one male and one female anchor, but it’s not pink and blue. It couldn’t be green because of the green-screen weather map.
Eun Yang anchors News4 Today at NBC4, where she recently celebrated 20 years of employment. She explains that the two scripts need to be different colors so the anchors know which stack to grab if the teleprompter goes down, but the colors don’t matter. “Some anchors do prefer a color, whether it’s tradition, habit, or superstition,” she says, likening the situation to preferring blue pens or black pens. “Personally, I don’t care what color a production assistant hands me. It depends on what paper is available and what the PA can load into the printer at that time.” —LH