ONE-AND-A-HALF DECADES AT THE SAME DESK
[from July 1998 issue]
As we were preparing for press, we suddenly realized that this first issue of volume 30 was to be the start of the 15th volume of this newspaper under our stewardship; that we have been at it for 15 calendar years and have been responsible for producing 180 separate issues. That translates into approximately (based on our overall number of pages, type size, etc.) somewhere in the range of two-and-half to three million total words circulated by us!
Fortunately, this publisher/editor didn't have to write all those words himself. We have, over the years, had much help from writers ranging from community activists to professional scribes.
One of those writers, inherited by us when we took over from John Schulter, who started the paper in 1968, was long-time Adams Morgan resident George Frain. His byline was part of the very first issue produced by the new kid on the block. He reported many things, such as how Carlos Rosario was honored by the then director of the Office of Latino Affairs, Willie Vasquez, for his seminal work in establishing that office 13 years before. This editor recalls inserting his own editor's note into that column which alerted our readers that George Frain also--along with John Schulter--was at the same occasion commended for assisting in the creation of OLA, as it was known.
So, as we look back on our start and remember George Frain, we also have these last couple of days been contemplating the unhappy coincidence that George Frain passed away at the beginning of this 30th anniversary month. He wrote for this newspaper for many years as Senior Correspondent, and, even after ceasing his regular contributions, stood ready to provide us special reports and neighborhood news tips. He will be missed by all. (A memorial service will be held on Monday, July 13, details of which are provided in conjunction with our regular "Around Our Community" feature in this issue.)
It is this publisher's hope that we have followed through on our commitment, stated in this space 15 years ago, that our focus would continue to be to "present news about concerns and happenings of direct interest to our community and about what residents and business people in our community are thinking and doing." Further, we stated our "underlying philosophy that this paper is for all of us--not just the editor and the contributors." To this end, we encouraged readers "not to be shy about letting us know what they think." We are pleased that they seem to have taken us at our word; we have printed every letter, whether the writer agreed with us or not--it never mattered, and still does not.
So, this publisher looks at 15 years with a certain degree of satisfaction, and hopes our approximately 100,000 readers do also. But, it's been a tiring 15 years with no real vacations (the First Amendment never sleeps, we've been known to intone) and, frankly, a very tough way to make a living. The day may well soon come when the torch needs to be passed. At such time about all we may really be able to say, other than it's been a hell of a run, is that of the four careers we've had, this one was the most challenging and the one we stuck with the longest. But until we get an opportunity to repeat that little bit of nostalgia, we're still at the same old desk and we hope our readers will continue to look for us each month. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In our editorial last month, "Oh, What a Tangled Web of Deceit the Convention Center Weaves," (From the Publisher's Desk, June 1998, page 2), we charged that Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans had instigated what we consider to have been inappropriate enforcement action against citizens who were posting signs expressing opposition to locating the convention center at the Mt. Vernon Square site. We had received information that this had been reported by NBC Channel 4.
Following receipt of new information that cast doubt on that which we had from what had previously been reliable sources, and in response to a strong denial conveyed directly to us by the council member, we obtained assurances from the Channel 4 newsroom that, in fact, no hard evidence of this allegation had been uncovered and therefore "no political accusations [were made] on the air, nor had others [been] allowed to do so."
We apologize to Mr. Evans and to our readers.
For the benefit of our readers, however, we do believe it is necessary to raise the question as to whether there was, in fact, some kind of politically motivated signal conveyed to the enforcement agency, the Department of Public Works. The question remains open in our mind for the reason that immediately at the start of the work week following the publication of our claim, we received a highly-charged telephone call from a DPW inspector who strongly urged us to understand that these actions had been taken solely on his own initiative, with no hint of direction from higher-ups or from politicians. Yet, within minutes of his call, we also received a call from a city council office alerting us to expect a telephone call from that very same inspector.
Be that as it may, we do return to raise once again the thought originally stated by us, that this is "the department that has trouble keeping the streets clean because they claim to have too few resources!" This misplacement of priorities was driven home to (at least) Dupont East residents the week immediately preceding and following the July 4th holiday: Trash didn't get picked up for close to a full week--from mid-week prior to the 4th to mid-week following.
When one citizen called DPW prior to the holiday to inquire about the holiday collection schedule the word was all trash not picked up on the regular day, Friday, would be collected on Saturday, the 4th. When the same resident called again Monday morning, the 6th, the rude female voice announced that nobody had to work if they didn't want to and maybe the trash would be collected this week- -but then, again, maybe not! The excuse was vacationing personnel and broken trucks. Sounds like the "good old days" all over again. Maybe Marion Barry wasn't much worse running DPW than the Control Board, after all!
Maybe if DPW wasn't so fixated on political signage protected by the First Amendment, more time and attention could be devoted to collecting festering garbage.
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