Speakers Table

D.C. Council luxury tickets need to go

September 28, 2011

Next Saturday, Oct. 8, the Washington Capitals start their regular season. Under a sweetheart deal arranged by our elected officials, Councilmembers and the Mayor enjoy two free luxury suites in the Verizon Center. A similar sweetheart deal has been arranged with the Washington Nationals. The late owner of the Verizon Center, Abe Pollin, gave the Mayor access to a suite as a thank-you for $50 million dollars the District put into renovations to the arena. A second suite was given to the D.C. Council once Councilmembers demanded their own.

Bob Kabel, Chairman, D.C. Republican Committee (Photo by: D.C. Republican Committee) Bob Kabel, Chairman, D.C. Republican Committee
These so-called "free" luxury tickets are provided to our elected officials each year and famously caused a rift between former Mayor Adrian Fenty and the Council in recent years. Obviously, the luxury suites are a distraction for our elected officials, not to mention an invitation for more ethical problems. Like moths to a light, some D.C. Councilmembers compete for premium events and just can't help themselves from talking about it.

While the NHL regular season hasn't started, that didn't stop Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander. Councilmember Alexander, who is up for reelection, offered her free pre-season Capital's tickets on Monday night to any takers on her Twitter account.

You would think, under any normal circumstance, the practice of shelling out free luxury tickets to elected officials would be perceived as an ethical conflict, not to mention their easy conversion into election-oriented currency. Why should Councilmembers get free tickets when the rest of us have to pay for them?

Paul Craney, Executive Director, D.C. Republican Committee (Photo by: D.C. Republican Committee) Paul Craney, Executive Director, D.C. Republican Committee
Last week, the Council voted to raise taxes. Some Councilmembers used excuses that they needed to raise taxes for the sake of the "have nots" of our city. Others claimed there were no good alternatives but to raise taxes. Never mind the fact that they were voting to raise taxes when there was a projected surplus. Or the fact that Councilmember Michael Brown used taxpayer money to redecorate his office and Councilmember Vincent Orange floated the idea of pay raises. Moody's Investor Services and Fitch Rating placed the city's credit outlook from stable to negative.

It would be hypocritical for Councilmembers, to reverse course, a week after raising taxes for the "have nots" and hold onto the tickets. The D.C. Republican Committee sent a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown and challenged him to use the powers of eBay and auction off each and every ticket to raise money for the District. The letter to Chairman Brown encouraged him to deposit the proceeds into the General Fund. If some Councilmembers want to raise taxes, it is only fair they share a small sacrifice and sell the tickets for the public's good.

District residents deserve to be spared of the nonsense that seems to engulf our elected officials every year. Moody's may have downgraded the District's outlook but Chairman Brown can easily use eBay to upgrade our finances. We hope he will use this opportunity to permanently end this absurd practice and help increase our city's dwindling reserves.

Authors Bob Kabel and Paul Craney are Chairman and Executive Director, respectively, of the District of Columbia Republican Committee.

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Fashion feeding frenzy at the District Sample Sale

September 27, 2011

When Jimmy Buffett sang “You’ve got fins to the left, fins to the right,” who knew his lyrics would ring true for the fall 2011 District Sample Sale on Monday night, put on by the Haute Committee to benefit the WEAVE Charity. With prices up to 75% off  (yes, you read that correctly), dropping a discounted Marc Jacobs dress in a group of the fashion savvy and hungry could be just as dangerous as a shark feeding frenzy without the mess, but every bit as fierce.

Shoppers at the raffle table (Photo by: Guest of a Guest) Shoppers at the raffle table

Haute Committee (Photo by: Guest of a Guest) Haute Committee

The Haute Committee puts on the District Sample Sale twice a year, one in spring and the other in fall. The proceeds from ticket sales ($40 per person for general admission, $100 for VIP, and $250 for Benefactress), silent auction, and raffle go toward a charity of the Committee’s choosing. The spring sale helps a children’s charity, while the fall event benefits a women’s organization. This year’s proceeds go directly to WEAVE, a charity dedicated to eliminating intimate partner abuse.

WEAVE Charity table (Photo by: Guest of a Guest) WEAVE Charity table

Just walking to the event, you could start to feel the buzz of excitement as groups of excited shoppers seemed to triple by the block as they neared 1919 M Street. A 6:30 start time attracted swarms of Washington’s most fashionable as they circled the event’s clothing and shoe boutiques in search of the best deals. Over 25 of D.C.’s trendiest boutiques including Julia Farr, Caramel, Simply Soles, and Lettie Gooch set up camp in a loft donated by Vornado/Charles E. Smith to display summer mark-downs, and give guests a sneak peak at their fall looks.

Co-founders Mary Amons, Barbara Martin, Liberty Jones, Shannon Haley, Jayne Sandman (Photo by: Abby Greenwalt) Co-founders Mary Amons, Barbara Martin, Liberty Jones, Shannon Haley, Jayne Sandman

“I saw my first boot fight at this event,” said Barbara Martin, one of the event’s co-founders, “One woman had one boot, another had the match, and neither of them was going to give it up. But for boots originally $250 now going for $75, who wouldn’t fight for that?”

Clothing boutiques weren’t the only ones showcasing their best of the best. Restaurants such as Barcode, Current, and Hudson Restaurant & Lounge positioned themselves around the venue, sampling their menu favorites for famished guests who needed a break from the sales. Cocktails were also available for those wanting to take the edge off from all the excitement. Georgetown Cupcake also made for a delightful addition to the discounting affair. Strawberry cupcake in one hand, Diane Von Furstenberg dress on sale in the other - can life get any better?

For those who needed a little pampering, one80 Salon offered their services to give guests one of their famous “Gorgeous Glossy Blowouts,” (Allure Magazine 2009).

Jewelry by Allison Brooks at Queen Bee Designs (Photo by: Hillary Leeb) Jewelry by Allison Brooks at Queen Bee Designs

Celebrity sightings: Hark back to the cast of the Real Housewives of DC where Mary Schmidt Amons amazed with her super mom skills of running a five-kid household. In addition to her mom duties, she also found time to co-found the District Sample Sale along with Liberty Jones, Barbara Martin, Jayne Sandman, and Shannon Haley. Mary was spotted making her rounds at the event.


Fall trends: One thing is certain, backless dresses are "in" for those going out for a night on the town. High-waisted jeans, and big jewelry were also among the trends spotted at the District Sample Sale.

“We couldn’t have imagined this event having so much success each year,” said Martin. With lines out the door by 6:45, word has certainly traveled fast over the past five years.

Until spring, you fashion discount lovers!

For a complete list of sponsors visit District Sample Sale .


Written by Hillary Leeb

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Where are the adults in redistricting debate?

September 1, 2011

In the debate between Georgetown University students and representatives of the Burleith and West Georgetown neighborhoods over redrawing the ANC 2E's single member districts, it's clear that the students are acting like adults and the "adults" are acting like children.

Author Paul Musgrave is a Georgetown University graduate student (Photo by: Courtesy) Author Paul Musgrave is a Georgetown University graduate student
The first rule of good citizenship is realizing that you have to play by the rules---that special exceptions don't exist for you. That's doubly true when you hold a public office, whether that office is president, senator, or neighborhood advisory commissioner. Well designed rules work to ensure fairness, but even poorly designed rules are better than having no rules at all.

Yet ANC Chairman Ron Lewis and the other proponents of the so-called co-chairs' proposal for remaking the single-member districts (SMDs) are convinced that the rules don't apply to them. That's true both metaphorically, in the sense that they fundamentally don't believe in fair play for all residents of this community, but also literally, in that they have flagrantly disregarded the clear letter and intent of the relevant statutes.

The stakes are clear. Will Georgetown students be gerrymandered out of their fair share of representation? Or will the community build an institution that can work to resolve our problems instead of making them worse?

Lewis, Burleith Citizens Association leader Lenore Rubino and Citizens Association of Georgetown president Jennifer Altemus have chosen the latter. Their plan would restrict Georgetown students to only two seats on an eight-member commission. They have achieved this result by drawing district boundaries that are wildly malapportioned. The proposed University districts have 2,500 residents each within their borders, while other districts throughout the ANC have only 1,700--or even fewer.

The co-chairs proposed this arrangement despite the clear rule that districts must contain 2,000 residents, plus or minus 200, and that there cannot be a disparity of more than 10 percent between the largest and the smallest districts within an ANC. Lewis has justified this outcome on two bases. First, he claims, the statute allows for the districts to be drawn to represent neighborhood cohesiveness and the integrity of community life. Consequently, he argues, Burleith should be treated as one unit, and the campus as another one. Second, Lewis believes that it is fundamentally unjust for non-students to be represented by students, and for students to be represented by non-students.

Neither of these arguments is sufficient reason for breaking the statute. And neither of them is even internally consistent.

The statue does allow for neighborhood cohesion to be taken into account. But that is not an excuse for breaking the law's clear numerical targets. And such cohesion is often somewhat illusory. Why do students living on 37th Street have less to do with their compatriots living along O Street? What strong connection do the residents of Hillandale have with the apartment-dwellers adjacent to the Corcoran?

Nor does Lewis' claim about representation hold water. I am both a Burleith resident and a graduate student. In many ways, I share the concerns of members of the Burleith Citizens Association about noise, about trash violations, and about parties that get out of hand. But I also have an interest in maintaining frequent and convenient transit by GUTS bus between the campus and Dupont Circle and in knowing that 19-year-olds' careers won't be tarnished by an MPD noise violation.

Most of all, I want to know that the ANC will treat me and my fellow students, both graduate and undergraduate, with respect. Were I to reach out to my commissioner, would he dismiss my complaint out of hand because I'm not a property owner? The attitude that Lewis and many other proponents of the plan have displayed suggests that is exactly what would happen.

At each stage of the process, the co-chairs have sought to clothe a fundamentally unjust plan in a pretense of collaboration. Students served on the redistricting committee, but their sensible, constructive, and moderate proposals were rejected out of hand. Students showed up to the August 30 ANC meeting and were prepared to engage the commissioners in a civil  discussion about the merits of the co-chairs' plan, but the ANC bizarrely and without warning decided to limit public discussion on this crucial issue to 22 minutes--the length of a standard television sitcom.

On one level, I can understand the co-chairs' concerns. They want a quiet and clean neighborhood. So do I. I'm writing a dissertation, after all. But the co-chairs' reflexive opposition to all student input has blinded them to the most constructive way to achieve that goal, which is not ever tighter control of students' lives or ever-stiffer resistance to anodyne University proposals. Those attitudes promote a zero-sum approach to neighborhood affairs that is guaranteed only to make the

Instead, it's time for the co-chairs and others to meet with students to design an ANC that fairly represents all parties--not just because it's the law, but because it's the right, and the mature, thing to do.

Paul Musgrave is a Ph.D. student in Government at Georgetown University. He moved to Washington from Yorba Linda, Calif., where he was special assistant to the director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. A 2004 graduate of Indiana University, he was a
George Mitchell Scholar at University College Dublin.

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