The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Posts about Humor


Cheh releases joke budget proposals

Councilmember Mary Cheh has established a tradition of releasing a satirical and humorous budget memo each year. This year's is out, and contains some great gems.

Photo by Daquella manera on Flickr.

She "proposes" using a Bingo game to determine who gets service next at the DMV; requiring Washington Post editorial writers to live in DC; and leasing office space in the Wilson Building to the FBI (to investigate the council, of course).

She lampoons Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's false claims in January that a DC law would force exterminators to dump rats in Virginia, by proposing a new "Cheh rat sanctuary" and a basic reading comprehension test for Attorneys General in other states.

But my favorite is this: "Some residents simply are not well suited to live in a major city. They fear sidewalks, bicycles, traffic, noise, parking, and university dormitories. To address their growing list of concerns, we shall establish the Resident Relocation Fund, which will subsidize the costs of these folks moving outside of the District and include a complimentary municipal bond, untaxed, from the jurisdiction of the ex-resident's choice."

The full memo is below.

To: Members of the Council of the District of Columbia
From: Councilmember Mary M. Cheh
Date: May 14, 2012
Subject: The District's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget

Tomorrow, we will take our first vote on the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. To encourage transparency and open debate, this memorandum provides a summary of all budget recommendations from my office. The recommendations are divided into Committee and Non-Committee proposals.

Committee Recommendations

1. Prohibit the sale of gasoline in the District beginning January 1, 2014. In the interim, the District shall raise its excise tax on gasoline from $0.235 to $8.75, which we are told represents roughly 50% of the jobbers' current markup on motor fuel in the District. Revenues from the tax shall be converted into capital dollars for the construction of a hydrogen automobile factory. Beginning January 1, 2014, hydrogen may only be purchased from stations operated by small and disadvantaged businesses grossing less than $777.9 million annually (or whatever Capitol Petroleum's gross revenue may be at that time).

2. Convert $12,000,000 from the District Department of the Environment's operating budget into capital dollars to fund the construction of a new shelter. The new shelter, known as the "Cheh Rat Sanctuary," will be open to families of rodents who have been forcibly relocated. At the shelter, they will be able to live together in peace and without fear of being exterminated. Based upon discussions at the "Rat Summit of 2012," the Virginia Attorney General offered to house the sanctuary on his Fairfax estate. We are awaiting further communications with the Virginia Attorney General's office and are preparing an MOU to facilitate the interstate transfer of funds.

3. Related to number 2 above, create a special purpose fund for fees collected as part of a new written examination to be administered to states' Attorneys General of other jurisdictions. The examination will measure knowledge of constitutional law and basic reading skills, and a passing score will be required for each Attorney General who wishes to opine on District matters. Sample questions may include: "Which of the following sentences does not include the word 'rat'?" Proceeds from the fund shall be used to establish public grief counseling units for rats and other commensal rodents who have lost family through pest control. The fund shall be managed by the District Department of the Environment.

4. Transfer $250,000 from the Department of Motor Vehicles' Adjudication Services to a newly created Global Positioning System (GPS) person-tracking program. Through the program, select individuals will be asked to wear GPS-powered, "District-loyalty" ankle bracelets used to implement the following requirements:

Council Members shall be barred from outside vacationing. Elected officials—particularly those with second jobs—should not waste valuable time and potential tax dollars vacationing in other jurisdictions. Moreover, a member may become beholden to a Hampton Inn in Maryland, whose free breakfast policy creates an obvious conflict of interest and may run afoul of the new ethics rules if the member chooses to have a second free waffle. The change should also boost tourism as vacationing members can highlight many of the District's top destinations and activities. Sample activities include touring archeological sites in Spring Valley, taking advantage of natural exfoliation in the Anacostia River, enjoying a mud bath at Blue Plains, or watching a filibuster in the U.S. Senate or at an ANC meeting.

Establish a residency requirement for the Washington Post's editorial board. This requirement is expected to generate tax revenues from new residents and additional tax revenues from whichever entity is now hired to perform public relations for former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

5. Transfer $25,000 in capital dollars to the District Department of Motor Vehicles. The funds will be used to establish a new, state-of-the-art, customer queue management system. All residents seeking DMV services will participate in mandatory BINGO games. When a patron achieves BINGO, s/he will become next in line for DMV services. The measure is expected to improve customer enjoyment at DMV and to decrease the average wait time by three hours and seventeen minutes.

Non-Committee Recommendations

1. Transfer 95% of all Council Committee budgets and FTEs to the Committee of the Whole. To maximize efficiencies and streamline the government, the following additional functions will now fall under the Committee of the Whole: Public Services, Consumer Affairs, Government Operations, the Environment, Public Works, Transportation, Planning, Economic Development, Housing, Workforce Development, Tax and Revenue, Health, Human Services, the Judiciary, Small Business, and Aging. The following areas shall be divided up among the other Council Committees at future date to be determined: the Office of Cable Television, the Office of Risk Management, the Boxing Commission, the Bicycle Advisory Council, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. In order to allow members to spend more time focusing on their revised committee responsibilities, the Committee of the Whole will now include only the following members: the Council Chairman.

3. Add a new requirement for the Council as part of the Budget Support Act. Recently, the Council passed legislation requiring all students to apply to at least one college in order "to raise expectations for students, and create a culture of academic excellence and success in District schools." Add a new BSA provision requiring all Council Members to apply to at least one job in order to raise expectations for members, and create a culture of professional excellence and success in District government. The measure is expected to be budget neutral.

4. Beginning October 1, 2012, Council Members who use profane language shall be required to deposit five cents into a special purpose non-lapsing fund, designated as the Saying Words Egregious to Aural Recipients by Juvenile Actors Reacting, or SWEAR JAR. Funds shall be distributed to DCPS schools to offset the $17 million shortfall for the IMPACT teacher evaluation system caused by the loss of private grant funds. After the first $17 million is provided to DCPS schools, remaining funds shall used to purchase ear muffs for use at Council breakfasts.

5. Transfer $3,000 from the Department of General Services maintenance fund to be used for marketing. As the District government continues to "right size," vacant District-owned property represents untapped income. Therefore, I am recommend allocating $3,000 to advertise available office space in the Wilson Building. With minimal outreach, we have already successfully leased a vacant suite of offices on the first floor of the building to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Washington Field Office. With just a bit more outreach, I believe we could easily fill other vacant spaces as well. For example, I understand that the Federal Bureau of Prisons is exploring some additional space in the basement and expects to conclude negotiations soon.

6. Establish the Resident Relocation Fund, a new special purpose fund. Some residents simply are not well suited to live in a major city. They fear sidewalks, bicycles, traffic, noise, parking, and university dormitories. To address their growing list of concerns, we shall establish the Resident Relocation Fund, which will subsidize the costs of these folks moving outside of the District and include a complimentary municipal bond, untaxed, from the jurisdiction of the ex-resident's choice.

7. Add a further amendment to the BSA. With the passage of B19-0474, the Lottery Amendment Repeal Amendment Act of 2012, the District gave up millions of dollars in potential revenue. Much of our concern related to the iGaming contract stemmed from the lack of transparency in the bidding process. To remedy that problem, add a BSA provision that would once again put an internet-based gaming system out for contract, but with the added mandate that the payment for that contract be made only with money orders. In doing so, the District will enhance its revenue stream while ensuring a clear and easily traceable contract process.

Should you have any questions about the below measures, please take a hard look in the mirror. The ideas here are brilliant and need no further explication. Please do not contact my staff or me with your questions or concerns.


Breakfast tweets: Less is more

Today, we're trying an experimental format for the links: Twitter style.

Photo by xtopalopaquetl on Flickr.
  • US DOT: Lowest traffic fatalities in 60 years (Transportation Nation, @marctomik)
  • "We don't want to come off as NIMBYs." But Arlington residents don't want a homeless shelter in their backyard (Post, @_jpscott)
  • The London Tube's central Zone 1 is very pricey, so a map shows how to get off outside and take bike share (Ollie O'Brien)
  • What are public/private partnerships PPPs? Where are they in the US and internationally? (Brookings, @bogrosemary)
  • What to get for the cargobike lover who has everything (& kids)? (Bike Noun Verb, @KidicalMassDC, @IMGoph)
  • On Friday, @beyonddc exposed the folly of highway "Level of Service." Now @e_jaffe takes on local street LOS (Atlantic Cities, @vebah)
  • An experiemental system can disable drivers' phones in the car without affecting passengers' phones (Daily Mail, Steve S.)
  • Lance's feelings about bike lanes in cartoon form (The Onion, @JoelLawsonDC)

Our current Breakfast Link editors are looking to move on from curating the links each day. Meanwhile, many of our contributors now use Twitter, and can submit or curate items through that service.

We decided to try creating a links post collaboratively, by building the post from tweets contributors and readers sent in to a new Twitter account, @GGWashTips, plus some from our regular tip queue. This is the result.

Have a tip for the tweets? Tweet it to @GGWashTips.

Want to edit the Breakfast Links in either the old style or this one? Email us at


Weekend video: Toronto's Pedestrian Jar

Safety for bike riders and pedestrians has become a big issue in Toronto lately. One workplace there has come up with an innovative idea to help improve safety for people crossing the street.

Maybe money raised from the jar could help Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his allies on city council pay for the $375,000 study of a popular "Barnes Dance' pedestrian scramble already installed at a major intersection that handles more pedestrians than automobiles.

Thanks to Where the Sidewalk Starts and Walk Silver Spring for the link.


Mickey on the Bikeshare

Mickey Martinez submitted this entertaining song. It's sung to the tune of "Charlie on the M.T.A.," the famous 1949 campaign song about Boston fare hikes and later popularized by the Kingston Trio in 1959.

Photo by Daquella manera on Flickr.
Let me tell you the story
Of a guy named Mickey
On a tragic and fateful day
Tossed his to-go mug in his backpack,
Kissed his cat and boyfriend,
Went to commute the Bikeshare way.

Mickey picked up his bike
At the Lamont Park station
And he pedaled to New York Ave.
When he got to the bike docks
He got 15 more minutes
Cuz there wasn't a spot to have.

CHORUS: Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
On the streets of Washington
He's the man who never returned.

Now all day long
Mickey rides through DC's streets
saying "What will become of me?"
The app says there's a free spot
Up by the Cathedral
And another at UDC. (CHORUS)

Mickey's boyfriend goes down
To the Q Street bike lane
Every day at quarter past two.
At the corner of 14th
He hands Mickey a sandwich
As his bike goes wheeling on through. (CHORUS)

Now you bikers of Washington
Don't you think it's annoying
That you can search for a dock all day?
Join the Capital Bikeshare
Pay your 75 dollars
Get poor Mickey off that bike someday!

Or else he'll never return,
No he'll never return
And his fate will be unlearn'd
He may ride forever
On the streets of Washington
He's the man who never returned.

The other thing you can do to help get Mickey off the Bikeshare is to keep encouraging DDOT to expand the numbers of docks, bikes and stations. They're accepting comments at, and there's a public meeting on expansion locations on Wednesday, May 25, 6-8 pm at 441 4th Street (One Judiciary Square), room 1107.


New streetcar brings gentrification fears to Lego City

Fifty years after they were first ripped out, streetcars returned to Lego City on Christmas Day. While they bring the promise of new jobs and increased mobility, fears of unwanted changes are building.

Photos by thecourtyard on Flickr.

"I know this is what you've been looking forward to," said Dan Reed's mom, newly-appointed director of the Lego City Department of Transportation, as the twenty-something graduate student assembled the bright blue tram. "Look at him playing with his toys."

The recently-opened Line 55, the first segment of a proposed citywide streetcar system, connects affluent Bricktown to Blocky Farm, a housing project in Southeast Lego City. Though they come every ten minutes, the seven-seat trolley is standing-room only throughout the day.

Nowhere are the effects of the new streetcar more evident than the Brick Street corridor, located near Lego City's main Public Transport Station. Since the trams started running Christmas Day, a skateboard shop, coffeehouse and gourmet pizzeria have opened.

Hip minifigures sip wine in sidewalk cafes as bright young toys on red bikes click by. Massive new condominiums built from Duplo blocks tower over the neighborhood's iconic, multi-colored rowhouses.

Ashley Lyman just moved to Brick Street and says her favorite part of the neighborhood is the activity. "I used to live in [suburban] Blockville and just sit in my big, pink house after dark," she says. "Here, there's always something happening! And I'm embarrassed to say it, but I hear [big box retailer] Blockmart is moving in and I can't wait."

Some established residents are frustrated by the changes, complaining that not every minifigure in Lego City benefits from them.

60-year-old Sarah Belk earned her nickname "the Mayor" for starting a neighborhood watch on Brick Street during the 1980's. "I've been a street sweeper, a doctor, and a pirate, but my taxes are so high, every brick I make goes right out the door again," she says. "What good is this new stuff for me? Lego City is trying to run us hard-working people out of here."

Henry Floyd, columnist for the Lego City Post and a resident of Brick Street, is opposed to the streetcar. He says the overhead arms and hands that power the tram ruins the area's "historic" viewsheds, but more importantly, that the entire project is a waste of money. "There are lots of ways to get around Lego City, but we can't all give them each their own lane," he says. "What's next? A lane for horses? For helicopters and boats and spaceships?"

"Kids in Lego City are being failed by our nonexistent public schools," he adds. "When is Dan's mom gonna buy him something useful, like a police station set?"

Some hope that minifigures on Brick Street will finally click the old and new together.

Local blogger Alex Block has lived there for five years, rehabbing old houses covered in childish crayon graffiti. "People like to focus on our differences," he says. "Some of us carry around giant phones. Some of us wear race car helmets. Some of us don't have eyebrows or noses. But we're all yellow and plastic on the inside."


Too that noticed I've

A recent xkcd comic is very appropriate:

Image from xkcd.

The 15th Street bike lanes, for example, have text that seems to read "PEDS BIKES TO YIELD TURN LEFT." (See this photo). Though I assume FHWA long ago did an analysis of which way was better for drivers, or maybe not.



Photo of the week: Yes, it is

Jeff Speck sent along this button from Sustainable Urbanism's Doug Farr.



"The Tourist Lane"

Recently, a funny photo was going around showing a New York sidewalk partitioned into a lane for New Yorkers and a lane for tourists. It turns out this was the latest Improve Improv Everywhere prank. (Bossi)

IE members even pose as NYC DOT workers directing pedestrians and taking a "survey" of people's reactions to the pilot, with an eye toward expanding it to the entire city.

Support Us
DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City