Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exelon/PEPCO Merger--Is it Good for DC Residents?

I testified at the recent hearing before the DC Public Service Commission regarding the Exelon/PEPCO merger.  If it was scheduled the same night as the State of the Union speech by our President to discourage attendance, it failed.  The hearing room was standing-room-only for a good part of the hearing.  All but 5 of the 56 registered to testify spoke, plus more than 16 people who signed up to speak at the hearing.  There were a few more who spoke after I left.  As a point of information it is important to know current PEPCO stockholders will receive cash for their shares and no longer have any direct economic interest in our electric service once it is owned by Exelon.

Among people who signed up at the hearing, 13 were against or worried, and 3 favored the merger.  I did not hear all the registered testimony, but the majority I did hear was against.  The only people favoring seemed to be those who worked for or owned companies that would benefit from potential Exelon contracts, or a few community organizations which had received grants from PEPCO for their activities.  These groups did not even seem to realize that Exelon made no guarantees of continued support, nor that its offices were far from potential community lobbying in Chicago.  Nor did they seem to understand how small these grants were compared to the huge potential cost to the entire community.  Do we really want to be part of a "too big to fail" organization.

[I will be adding links, comments and new paragraphs as this story unfolds.  Check back from time to time for new information.  For example, research needed on how many shares of PEPCO stock are owned by our DC Council members and how that might affect their votes.]

Testimony Regarding Exelon/PEPCO Sale, 
January 20, 2014 before the 
DC Public Service Commission, by G. Lee Aikin

Thank you for hearing our concerns regarding this sale. You will be receiving a lot of valuable technical and professional testimony from experts like Anya Schoolman and Scott Hempling, so I will focus my testimony elsewhere. My main concerns are safety and especially how this ownership change would affect our environmental future.

After about 5 years of effort we finally have PEPCO working with the community to effectively distribute and bill for solar energy. We hope that within one or two decades local solar can provide as much as 20% of our electrical energy, especially in hot sunny weather when it would reduce stress on the larger grid. Since Exelon mainly produces nuclear and is paid for that, they have no incentive to aid solar. One pro-Exelon speaker said 900 new jobs would result from “merger.” With only 2.5% solar in DC we have 800+ new jobs. Imagine how many new jobs we'll have with 20% solar.

Even if protections for solar are ever written into agreements, we need to examine how well Exelon has kept past promises. Some jurisdictions have successfully negotiated demands favoring the community. Our Council is letting the Commission do the heavy lifting. How many Councilmembers own Pepco stock and will receive a guaranteed payout if the deal goes through? Have they/will they recuse themselves from key votes? People call buying out PEPCO stockholders for $27 a MERGER. It sounds more like PEPCO is being swallowed whole like by a snake.

Regarding safety, I was surprised to see that Exelon owns Three Mile Island. I will never forget the frightening week in March 1979 when we feared there would be a major meltdown. After Fukushima, we all have a greater appreciation of what that could mean. In 1979 my sons were 5 and 8 years old, my husband and I debated where we should flee and what we should pack in our car as the suspense continued. Fortunately this accident caused by a combination of equipment and human failures and mistakes was ended without full meltdown. The $1 billion cleanup ended in 1993.

In 2011 sitting in my bedroom, I was shocked as the wall facing me began to vibrate and shake alarmingly. We learned this 5.8 quake's epicenter was close to a Virginia nuclear plant which fortunately sustained no serious damage. Several friends nearby had chimney damage that needed professional repair. One participant at this hearing spent $1,000 having his chimney rebuilt. Our Washington Monument and National Cathedral have spent $millions to repair, for this rather small earthquake. I was in the 7.5 Mexico City earthquake in 1957. Walking home after midnight, my date and I clung to each other to keep from falling down as telephone poles rocked wildly back and forth.

Don't underestimate the earthquake risks in the US.  Charleston had a major (6.5 to 7.3) quake in 1886 and New Madrid, MO, monstrous (8.0+) earthquakes in 1811-12. Boston had a major (est. 6.0 to 6.3) earthquake in 1755 within a month of the great Lisbon earthquake that killed around 50,000 in Portugal. New York quakes in 1737 and 1884 were about 5.5 magnitude. Other more recent eastern US earthquakes include: 
Kentucky shaken by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake in 1980; 
Arkansas with 88 quakes in June and July 1982, 4 between 4.0 and 4.5; 
a magnitude 5.9 earthquake 1983 in Indiana; 
Painesville, Ohio, 1986, magnitude 4.9 quake and aftershocks felt in 11 states; Southeast IL had a 5.2 quake in 1987, and 7 quakes magnitude 4.5 or more since1892.

Exelon has 22 nuclear reactors at 13 locations in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Fracking seems to be causing quakes in brand new locations.

I don't think any of us want to discount the risk of encouraging production of costly nuclear energy, at the expense of far safer and less costly solar and wind energy. In fact we should do everything we can to reduce our dependence on nuclear and carbon based fuel sources. In 2013, 47 people were incinerated in the oil train explosion at Lac Megantic, Canada, and in Qingdao, China 62 people died when a mile of pipeline exploded in that city. 

For more information on the little known Qingdao tragedy, see my blog article titled: Prevent Future Keystone XL Pipeline Disasters Now.

Please, members of the Commission, don't let Exelon destroy our budding solar and renewable energy efforts. Don't let them increase dependence on potentially deadly nuclear energy. And again, thank you for hearing our concerns.

A comment at an article on the 2011 earthquake summarizes many important points:

    “As a one-time resident of Virginia (Richmond) it has come to our attention that the North Anna plant, because of cost-cutting, short-sighted, mendacious, bonus-preserving measures, decided to dismantle its earthquake/seismic detection equipment--which if functioning properly, would have shut the plant down on the onset of the quake.  [What record does Exelon have regarding maintenance and safety in its many facilities?]

    But perhaps even more alarming, the plant is built to withstand nothing greater than a 6.0 magnitude quake before extreme failure. The quake a few weeks ago in Mineral, Virginia, was a 5.8 quake -.2 shakes (quakes) away from a dog-day disaster scenario.  [As my earlier listing of earthquakes shows, 6.0 is a very thin margin of safety. I wonder what the rating is for even closer Calvert Cliffs.] 

    Indicative of the aging nuke plants around the country, North Anna's bottom line, profit-driven management would rather pad the salaries and bonus's of it's top executives and share holders, than protect the few million Virginians who live within a 200 mile radius of the plant (200 miles the new exposure standard, thanks to the Fukushima disaster - still ongoing, we should add). [A serious problem with Exelon versus PEPCO is that being a generating rather than a distributing company, we in DC would be victimized by any major economic damage to Exelon caused by nuclear accident, nuclear waste storage issues, etc.]

    The only potential bright spot in an otherwise gloomy national picture, would have been had the disastrous quake exceeded the 6.0 tremor rating and unleashed cesium, plutonium and strontium into the atmosphere, the Continuity of Government (C.O.G.) plans of moving...Senators and Congressmen/women to the underground bunker facility in an undisclosed location (somewhere outside Warrenton, Virginia) would have put them all in the direct path of said radiation release....” [Although the writer jokes about the welfare of our Congresspeople, the fact is that Warrenton is near a nuclear plant, and we in DC are even closer to Exelon's Three Mile Island and Calvert Cliffs nuclear facilities.]

A future concern for us all is the $3 billion proposal to put all electric lines underground. Our DC Council has already approved $1 billion for putting lines underground. This will be paid for by a combination of taxpayers and rate payers. In other words, all of us. Obviously, this will be good for excavating, paving and construction companies. We need to ask how much of the other proposed $2 billion needs to be spent. PEPCO has already done considerable successful work trimming trees that caused past storm issues. We need to know regarding remaining above ground wire areas where homes are far apart, is it hard to find the exact site of an underground outage. When an above ground wire breaks, it is easy to find and fix the problem. How much more difficult and costly is it underground compared with frequency of above ground breaks?

This link shows a 1/16/15 letter from the DC Environmental Network urging DC Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson to SAY NO TO EXELON!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

McMillan Park, an Opportunity for DC Council to Serve the People Not Developers

DC Council Hearing, 11/12/14
By G. Lee Aikin, Fifty-three year resident,
with Guest Posts by Daniel Wolkoff and Kirby Vining after that

     What does the community want for this wide open expanse of grass and historic public structures? What should the DC government want with regard to supporting the community, growing our city, and proposing ideas for best use?

     This project will be carried forward by our new Mayor. Her mentor, a former Mayor was elected with small business support. He was defeated because he neglected the small businesses he said he favored, and concentrated on following the wishes of people west of 16th Street. Our new Mayor convinced a majority citywide she supports the interests/needs of the majority. Here is a big opportunity to show unconditional support. The city is now growing rapidly, but without careful, historically focused plans, those attracted to DC as it is now may face future disappointment and leave for MD and VA.
     New residents are drawn to the exciting combination of history, politics, public facilities, and as they settle down, to educational opportunities for their children both in schools and in the wider community with its parks and museums. There is also major concern over skyrocketing housing prices in DC. Many new residents want the city to maintain diversity. If developers are so greedy that all they care about is short term profits, they will destroy what makes DC such an attractive place to live. Their politicians will also suffer!
     We hear the city wants some return on it's $9 million investment. Giving a piece of land worth nearly $100 million to developers is unsound business practice.  It repeats the scandal of last year when a square block of downtown land worth over $100 million was given away to a developer for $20 million. I wonder how angry other developers were about such a giveaway? Our Mayor elect has said she will do away with this practice. The McMillan land is a fine place to display to us her ethics and commitment on stopping these expensive giveaways.
     I find it really distressing that after 28 years of just sitting there with a big fence around it, finally, now that big developers want to make big bucks, suddenly there is push to do something.  If the city is serious about serving the community, they should plan immediately, before any other decisions are made, to open a portion of the green space to the public by next spring.  Repositioning some of the fences, adding some seating, and a demountable building operated by our Recreation Department should cost nowhere near as much as some of the sole source, no bid planning and design contracts that have been awarded.
     Others have spoken about the community's plans and ideas, so I will limit mine. I have seen that young people today are fascinated by process and have a love for old and vintage things.  My 40 year old son is visiting and helping me sort through many things in our old home.  He works for high end lawyers and doctors on special projects, and keeps telling me, "Oh, I know someone who would like this old (lantern, car part, tool, etc.)"   
     This historic waterworks must be maintained as a museum, and as part of the Blue Plains education efforts.  I was surprised to be told that the old sand filtration system is superior to the chemically laden processing that our municipal water must now undergo. Apparently the chemical companies really were eager to change municipal water treatment to methods that would help their bottom line.
     The underground areas have wonderful potential for year round intensive agriculture for luxury crops like mushrooms. What a chance for our students to observe and take part in growing food and flowers for nutrition and for marketing. There should be USDA grant money available for this kind of training effort.  Elevated and spaced solar panels could provide energy for the underground agriculture, and shade from the hot summer sun for community gardens interspersed with the solar panels.  Farmers in Germany do this all the time.  By using both the underground acreage and the area above it the city will get double the use out of the property, with the attendant benefits of employment, income taxes, parkland, and lower health costs for the people benefiting from better nutrition and outdoor exercise.
     DC is almost a one industry town—government and its related activities. We need to diversify into production, arts and crafts, and develop appropriate technically skilled workers.  Here is the place where such activities can take place on a regular basis. Some housing would be suitable and it should be a healthy mix of low, moderate, and market rate income units. Then, of course we have the open space. Why do we need a soccer field at Hains Point with the convoluted exchange of the Reeves Center and other city property for developers.
     On April 21, 2012, a tour of the facility was made available to see the late 1800s sand filtration system which saved our residents from typhoid and other water borne illnesses. In 1986, when a more modern filtration system was installed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offered the site to the DC government. Our city paid $9.3 million and in 1991 the DC Historic Preservation Review Board awarded the site historic status. This provided permanent recognition of the combined park and water filtration facilities historic value. We should not loose that for shortsighted profit motives.
     Next, politics reared its frequently ugly head. In 1990 the Ward 5 Council member urged rather dense development of the site to gain a return on the city's $9.3 million investment. It was wrongfully presented that the community backed the idea, resulting in spirited protests by the community. I wonder what campaign money or construction deals were proposed behind the scenes on that one? Recently a no-bid contract consultancy deal was given to Vision McMillan Partners and EYA for site development proposals. No-bid?? Whose idea was that?
     A total of 97 people registered to testify at the Nov. 12, 2014 hearing at the Wilson Building which started at 10 am.  Most favored the community plan, not the one from the no-bid developer.  Future Mayor Muriel Bowser (who was absent much of the time), and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie chaired the two Committees sponsoring this hearing-- Comm. On Economic Development and Comm. On Government Operations. This is an excellent first opportunity to see our new Mayor in action and judge our future.  Tell your friends and others to follow this story on cable or the web, now and ongoing.

     Thank you for hearing our voices and please do the right thing for all the people not just the big developers and corporations.

     When I arrived shortly after 2 pm, registered testifiers in the 50s numbers were being called upon.  One of the most distressing things I heard is that 2 buildings of 13 stories are planned for the site.  All the neighboring buildings are 2 and 3 story.  Quite aside from scale and appropriateness for the neighborhood, is the question of handling traffic for so many residents and workers.  I have recently driven beside McMillan Park and across past Catholic University during rush hour.  It took me a half hour to drive 10 blocks, without any major development and 13 story buildings.
     A Dutch woman hydrology expert explained that corporate testimony expressing alarm about flooding runoff was wrong.  This was based on reports of a concrete underlining. She explained that with a yard or more of earth and grass above the concrete, all rain and snow would be absorbed and evaporate back into the air over time.  In fact, the corporate planned parking lots and other development would create far more runoff than the community plans and ideas.
     Our DC Statehood Green Party was well represented with people signed up to testify, including Joyce Robinson-Paul, Chris Otten, Eugene Puryear and David Schwartzman who I heard give excellent testimony, Debbie Hanrahan, Jenefer Ellington, myself, and Marian Douglas-Ungaro.  Anyone in our Party I missed, please forgive me.  Any who testified should feel free to add important facts in the Comments.  Community comments are also welcome.   

STOP MCMILLAN, Don't increase carbon emissions, urban heat island.
by Daniel G. Wolkoff

Subject: Urgent action for City Council McMillan surplus and land disposition

Neighbors of McMillan, for addresses and phone numbers just go to DC City Council, on line.
     Trying to get a City Council member's attention by email is a lost cause. The City Council members ignore all our emails.  This is a decade long effort to ignore the concerns of DC taxpayers and our children.  I invite all concerned residents to join my lawsuit, in DC Superior Court, to appeal the improper Zoning Commission decision to super urbanize and demolish McMillan Park.
     The media is doing a concerted avoidance,, "bias by omission". The Washington Post, so totally pro corporate, is busy taking a stroll down Memory Lane in the wake of Ben Bradley's death.  Reliving the days of Watergate, with Woodward and Bernstein, and The Pentagon Papers, while  not reporting 100's of protestors arrested in civil disobedience at The White House to STOP THE KEYSTONE PIPELINE, no real coverage of McMillan the "disposal" of our 25 acres by the City Council, Mayor and the development conglomerate.
     On McMillan, Mike DeBonis, avoids it, but Roger K. Lewis column in the Real Estate section paints a glowing column on the development that doesn't mention anything of the downside, the opposition, hundreds of testimony, petitions, zoning issues, etc, etc.  Of course, Roger K. Lewis is on Kojo, and Kojo puts you on MUTE the moment you call in and mention McMillan.  The miserable local developer in VMP, EYA has become WAMU corporate sponsor, and are spreading advertising money all over the place.
     I love all the local TV News stations, reporting for days if  Marian Barry has an outstanding parking ticket but not a single reporter has ever covered dozens of McMillan DC government hearings, meetings, protests, town  halls.  How much local political news can you fit in, in the 3 to 4 minutes before they go to the Redskins?
     Local media, the very few mentions, have been contemptuous of the public, Washington business journal "The McMillan Soap Opera Goes On".  The City Paper once upon a time muckraked the DC government regularly, but totally prodevelopment, a rag.  The only place for info is Scott Roberts Bloomingdale Blog, but it's a national issue.
[National Register of Historic Places nomination ( ) by DC Office of Historic Preservation architect Kim Williams]ly
     Our DC government has been governing without informed consent, and doesn't care, as Miss Bowser dissed my questions at BNCA , 90% off the district has no idea what is going on, it's a  Private Pig Fest!  I think the figure for the Surplus land disposition is negative $3.65 million, when developers all over the world would pay tens or hundreds of millions.  VMP once approved and land handed to them will undoubtedly sell it to Japanese, or Chinese developers, and walk with the money. 
     Brian, the Council has been lobbied by The Carmen Group, Grosso, Cheh had meetings, and I assume anyone else potentially on the fence.  The Jamie Fontaine PR firm, was hired, by Jeff Miller the Deputy Mayor( which he denied to Bowser oversight hearing Feb. 11th, 2014), and they have faked community support, or "neutralized opposition" and "created the appearance of support", 
so the government has kept its own agencies as oversight, and bought an "astroturf campaign" from Baltimore.
     I would ask the council member and staff, if they have ever been on the site, or in the mystical underground 20 acres of masonry "vaults". PLEASE ASK how does Mayor Gray find out what all the public needs are for the 25 acre green space? 
     Get responses in writing, and do not let these DC government hacks BLOW YOU OFF!
     The exclusion of the public, and the determination that the city Council has no responsibility to represent the Ward or At- Large, clearly has got to change now.
     Long story short, I would call our representatives, McDuffie, At-Large members, Gray, and staff, and demand that your needs for the 25 acre green space be acknowledged. We have the environmental concerns, water security, urban food and nutrition hub,        
cool breezes, community gardens, sunset views, not tunnels between rows of condos and offices. 
     Get answers not INSULTS, on this ABSURD declaration that "there is no longer any public need" for the land at McMillan. I would also blame each of these hacks, for the way they kept it fenced off, wasted about $40 million, which if the green space was in a white upper income section of DC, would have CERTAINLY been spent on safely opening up  access to the public, and not flushed down the overflowing sewers.
     Thank you from all the neighbors around the Park,

Daniel Goldon Wolkoff
McMillan Coalition  for Sustainable Agriculture
1231 Randolph Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017
Tel: 202-232-8391

I asked Mr. Wolkoff for more details and received the following:

I think one important aspect in our struggle to save McMillan for the community is the lack of information, the govt. was just thrilled to keep virtually everyone un-informed including themselves.

City Council members just differed on any awareness for years; Mary Cheh called my writing on McMillan "inspirational", but said she is not informed, and is it just too late.  David Grosso and Mary Cheh have "sustainable Agriculture", and increased public involvement in legislation bills, just not on McMillan.  David Grosso, our new younger At-Large, just said things like, "McMillan, don't go there".  Like just don't bother, it is a waste of your time. Cheh and Grosso had an appointment with Trammel-Crow lobbyists. The Carmen Group, top government lobby firm, paid $10,000 a month (indefinitely!) by Trammel-Crow. He then, right at the City Council push through, got very excited and just said "fantastic development", "hope we can do this right away".  These council members are giving away, and committing the govt. to a massive deal, but they have mostly never even visited the site!

The City Paper, Washington Business Journal used disdain ("more of the McMillan Soap Opera") to diminish any real coverage of the facts, and especially the opposition in the community.  I have called the method of keeping the issue out of public focus, "bias by omission". Kirby tells us that Washington Post and City Paper were called in to VMP, and pressured, I believe.

 My position is that elected officials are obligated to gather informed consent, on which Muriel Bowser just turned her head and ignored this, and most questions when posed at Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association meeting.

I would like to share some background.
Below is the DC Office of Historic Preservation staffer Kim Williams nomination to National Registry of Historic Places. But that office has completely circumvented their responsibility to enforce our and federal historic preservation laws.

Please read Nomination written by DC Office of Planning Historic Architect Kim Williams
  National Register of Historic Places nomination ( ) you will quickly understand that McMillan is a resource of NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE, and its preservation is NOT a Ward 5 issue, but a national issue. I have been disappointed that the Council has not educated the people in DC or even itself very well, while determining the future of this incredible site,, just awesome as originally designed and landscaped. 
Ms. Williams describes an engineering miracle in good condition and  remarkably preserved.

The Vision McMillan Partners development plan is financially driven and over-crowding of any great work is always a mistake, diminishing the original intent and elegance. Six congested "private" streets, 3000 parking spaces, and 50 brutalist building have no reference to the historic site. The unimaginative 5, 6 acre "McPark" proposed by VMP, is the only unpaved area, grudgingly carved out of the site and shows how little understanding these architects have of great urban design.  These are destructive compromises that  are not comparable to this spectacular Olmsted designed "great place", as required by the Historic Preservation laws, worthy of world capitol.

Daniel Goldon Wolkoff
McMillan Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture

Guest Post by Kirby Vining, Friends of McMillan Park

I hope some of this will help clarify some ideas in what at times gets to be a one-sided debate.  The things the Friends of McMillan Park are doing have been, I think, unfairly characterized by the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED).   Unfortunately, DMPED has worked hard to keep our side of the story out of the Post and City Paper, etc., so the end result is only the Vision McMillan Partners (VMP, the sole-source bid developer pushing the heavy development) side of things is visible in the press, generally.

In Friends of McMillan we’ve been trying to get the city to do what it appeared it was going to do based on the 2002 Office of Planning ‘Recommendations for McMillan Site Revitalization,’ which is to send out an RFP (Request for Proposal) for some feasibility studies (which was done, 2006: Solicitation for Land Development Partner).  But supposedly five responses were received from that, and then they were ignored.  The Williams administration sent out that ‘Solicitation,’ and then the new Fenty administration took the whole project away from the National Capitol Revitalization Corporation (NCRC) and disbanded the NCRC and gave the project to DMPED.  DMPED did not continue with the line of approach of the ‘Solicitation’ and the 2002 OP recommendations, but hired the existing VMP group as a consultant and the whole character of the project changed.  Friends of McMillan participated in the ‘Recommendations’ fora and strongly encouraged it then and encourages it now.  There are many very good and very specific recommendations for options for the site.  Demolishing 90% of the place to put up high rise buildings is not at all consistent with any of the recommendations.

Friends would like to see that process be followed: a competition for feasibility studies and a design competition.  Our core values state quite clearly that we’d like to see what can be done working with the resource, and would support ideas that are consistent with the Comprehensive Plan (whole sub-chapter of the Comp Plan concerns that site) and the historic resources. Questioned at a couple of Council hearings on affordable housing for the site, a number of us responded that we’re not against or for any particular recommendation
for reuse of the site, would like to consider any and all, but we’d like to see what can be done to work WITH the resources, above and below ground rather than AGAINST those resources. Community surveys reveal that a significant part of the community wants substantial surface area to be available as the parkland it was until the fences went up, but the Friends has not taken a position on that point, other than supporting the results of that door-to-door survey of 1,000 community households that we did.  The city has never done such a survey, but we did. 

The site is really two thing, directly related: it’s a surface area of 25 acres,
but it’s also those caverns down underneath it.  Those two considerations
are unique to the site, and there are two-fold possibilities there.  So many of
us, myself strongly included, would like to see what can be done to incorporate
those existing caverns into the design…this is also consistent with Comp
Plan and 202 Recommendations.

This  site is, architects have told me, the largest green roof structure ever built
on the east coast.  There are some tremendous possibilities, all of which are
abandoned by demolishing the underground.

But all this hope to see what can be done is precluded by the ‘exclusive rights agreement’ the Mayor signed with his consultant, denying any possibility for a design competition or even any outside bidding for any aspect of the land sale or development, proposing the VMP plan as a fait accompli. “Value” means many things in the context of that site, the value of the land is only one of them.  The scale of the Mayor’s proposed development, one mile from the nearest Metro, should be a factor, as the Comp Plan states, determining the scale of any proposed development.  [Having driven past the site during rush hour, I can attest that traffic is already horrible there.  What will it be with 13 story businesses and condos?  GLA]

There are some interesting possibilities here that are being ignored in the rush to give the deal to VMP, ultimately as a result of the land that was taken from EYA in the first (not the current) stadium deal long ago.  Why is DMPED so afraid of having an open RFP and bidding to see what things are possible there?

Thank you! -Kirby Vining

Tour the magical spaces of McMillan Park,

and please consider donating to our legal fund to stop the city’s plans
to demolish and sell our park:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Can Creative Use of Shipping Containers Help Solve the Low Cost Housing Crisis?




Candidate for COUNCIL CHAIR, Nov. 4, 2014

The lack of low cost housing is one of our major problems in DC. We are now growing at the rate of 1,000 new people a month. However, it is becoming harder and harder to find moderately priced (affordable) housing, and almost impossible to find
low cost housing. I have already written about this elsewhere on my blog.

That article on March 17, 2014 titled DC Low Income Housing Needs New Ideas points out that if the city keeps raising annual property assessments 10% and more, a mere 2% increase in rents will soon drive owners out of the rental market. Owners are faced with increased taxes every time a neighbor renovates their home. If one has not installed granite counters, stainless steel appliances, and fancy tiled bathrooms, why should the tax assessment be raised in parallel with the neighbor's fancy new house?

Therefore, if the Council continues to permit the 2% increase, they should also limit the increase for unimproved homes to no more than 2%. The increase in market value can be raised at time of sale at the actual market price.

I also wrote about the move to promote very small homes. These can work well as single units, but what of locations where apartment buildings make more sense or there is a high volume of need. Now I see a possible new solution: SHIPPING CONTAINER HOMES (Google that for many interesting articles).  In addition, the Google site “Shipping Container Home Plans" has hundreds of photos of home plans and actual buildings, some of which are multistory, multifamily.

 Recently, TV news reported on a multistory building going up at Catholic University to house students. We should plan to build similar structures in other parts of the city. The containers come in 20 and 40 foot lengths, are 8 feet wide, and 8'6” or 9'6” high. The photos mentioned above show many possible configurations using 1 and more units.  The above photo shows a 5 story structure.

For ease of construction and mobility of units multistory steel frameworks could be designed and individual units inserted. The city could allow leasing of plots of land for 10, 20 and even longer periods of years for erection of these frameworks. Thus people could buy their own low cost unit and it could subsequently be moved to another part of the city if they change jobs or want to be closer to family.  If a renter's economics improve or they are able to get funding from a bank or home ownership program, such units could even be permanently located on a foundation or pad. Thus the nearly universal wish for a home of ones own could be made available to many more people than is possible today.

At the recent Anacostia High School Mayoral Forum, I spoke with a vendor of "Street Sense" a newspaper by and for the homeless.  I told him about the concept and described one of the 20 foot unit plans that had a bathroom with shower, and a kitchenette with an undercounter refrigerator.  He said, "That is all I want, just a little place to call my own with a lock on the door."  When I said I believe that a small unit like that could be built for $20,000 to $30,000, he became very excited.

Checking mortgage rates for such a 20 foot unit, I calculated various costs for a $30,000 unit.  A 15 year mortgage at 4.5% would cost $230 per month.  A 20 year mortgage at 4.5% would cost $190 a month.  A 20 year mortgage at 4.5% for a $40,000 cost would require rent of $253 a month.   A 40 foot unit might cost less than twice as much, and would be suitable for a childless couple or single parent with one child.  Doubling the monthly pay yields $460, $380, and $506.  Evening considering the extra costs of utilities, these prices are still very doable for many poor and low income people.

The company linked here has detailed pricing and design information.  They appear to use higher quality materials and appliances than might be needed for a low cost housing program.  A house 16' by 20' (composed of two 8 x 20 units) is priced at $80,300, shipped, roofed, assembled and placed on a foundation.  The price for a 20' x 24' home (composed of three 8 x 20 units) treated as above is $101,300.  Two 8 by 20 units intended more for vacation or off grid use are priced $29,000 and $36,000.  This article speaks about the pros and cons of container repurposing.  The article is more con, but many of the comments point out pros neglected in the article.

This site showing homes around the world has a low cost house built in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It is number 15. Sarah House, and in a 12+ minute video the designer/builder explains how he has tried to make this house suitable for singles or seniors.  It is constructed from two 8' by 40' containers, and the narrator estimates cost from $103,000 to $112,000 to build.  He also points out that if mass produced, it would cost a lot less.  The above price includes learning and experimentation costs.

I hope our city has some builders, architects, and politicians willing to explore new and creative ways to house our homeless and poor.  Whether elected or not this November, I will try to help make this happen.

For creative leadership of the Council, VOTE G. LEE AIKIN, Nov. 4, 2014.

Monday, October 6, 2014

EBOLA Can Be Stopped, But Nobody Is Trying Low Cost, High Doses of Vitamin C, Although the Symptoms Say Scurvy

HOW MANY EBOLA VICTIMS COULD BIG PHARMA KILL? If They & Medical Establishment Don't Try Low Cost Readily Available Treatments like high Vitamin C doses.

If you care about human suffering, read this and pass it on!

Ebola is an incredibly nasty virus currently causing death and severe economic hardship in 3 west African countries. Several other west African countries also have cases but seem to be coping better. It is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids of the ill. The US military is sending teams of soldiers to help establish medical facilities and other things needed where the breakdown is most severe. The most effective measures currently applied are basic sanitation, and isolation of those sick or potentially infected. The MSM word is that we may have some new drugs or vaccines soon, that could reverse the infection trend around December (maybe).

When I first heard about the horrible symptoms, my immediate thought was runaway scurvy—breakdown of tissues, massive hemorrhage, and then death. So my next thought was, “Has high dosage Vitamin C, oral and/or intravenous been tried on Ebola?” Google search turned up a lot of information about this, with the opinion it could be highly effective and should be tested immediately. The sad part is nobody in CDC, NIH, our Military, or major hospitals has mentioned Vitamin C as a potentially useful low cost treatment. Of course Big Pharma has no interest in it because their profits come from new drugs and vaccines.

Here is a very detailed article, by Dr. Robert Cathcart, somewhat technical, with extensive details on how to evaluate amount of Vitamin C to use, and how much and how often to administer it. There are also a number of medical references.  If you know any medically oriented people, please forward this to them immediately.  Ebola is here, and we don't want any more people to die.

I first became aware of high Vitamin C therapy more than 30 years ago when I read about pioneering work being done by Dr. Frederick R. Klenner of North Carolina, using it to save people from poison snake and spider bites. He went on to treat many other conditions with considerable success as outlined here. After his death about 30 years ago, his many papers were organized and summarized here as a guide for clinical use.

A few years after I read about his work I was camping and encountered a group desperately trying to help a woman bitten in the neck by yellow jackets. She had forgotten her bee sting allergy kit, her body was swollen all over, her eyes swollen shut, and she was choking. I immediately gave her 10 grams of C orally (had to crush and give in water because of swollen throat). In 15 minutes, the swelling had gone down, her eyes were open and she had stopped choking. I also gave some Pantothenic Acid to help her adrenals, some B Complex and calcium. After an hour she still had symptoms so I gave her another 5 grams. I stayed with her a total of 8 hours, giving 5 g. every hour. Then she said she felt she could sleep, so I left her with a handful of C tablets to take as needed. She hiked out the next day.

The latest scary story (Dec. 2014) about Ebola is that it has shown up in a hospital in Mozul, Iraq, the city currently controlled and terrorized by ISIS/ISIL.  This has not been confirmed, but since people described as terrorists have stolen from or attacked medical facilities dealing with Ebola in West Africa, it is certainly not impossible.  Iraq government and World Health Organization have not yet confirmed or disproved the rumor.  Since travel in Mozul is controlled by the terrorists, confirmation will not be easy.  Either it is not true, or if it is there will be more cases soon.  Stay tuned.

Below are other sites and comments.

Here are a series of detailed articles on various aspects of Ebola and other diseases. They include ones on the great value of using Vitamin C, similarities in Ebola and other hemorrhagic viruses, how to treat yourself, noneffectiveness of colloidal silver (an anti-bacterial agent) for virus illness, and possible weaponization of Ebola/Marburg.

     “Ebola is probably the best known of a class of viruses known as hemorrhagic fever viruses. In fact, Ebola virus was initially recognized in 1976. Other less known but related viral syndromes include yellow fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever...Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, Venezuelan, Brazilian, Argentine, and Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, and Lassa fever. The Ebola virus infection, also known as African hemorrhagic fever, has the distinction of having the highest case-fatality rate of the viral infections noted above, ranging from 53% to 88%.  A new mosquito borne disease called Chikunguna, origin east Africa, is now spreading throughout the Caribbean.  My son in Puerto Rico says it is almost impossible to find Vitamin C in the stores because the government advises using it for this new illness and Dengue Fever.

     "These viral hemorrhagic fever syndromes share certain clinical features. The Cecil Textbook of Medicine notes that these diseases are characterized by capillary fragility, which translates to easy bleeding, that can frequently lead to severe shock and death. These diseases also tend to consume and/or destroy the platelets, which play an integral role in blood clotting. The clinical presentation of these viral diseases is similar to scurvy, which is also characterized by capillary fragility and a tendency to bleed easily. Characteristic skin lesions develop, which are actually multiple tiny areas of bleeding into the skin that surround the hair follicles. some cases even include bleeding into already healed scars.

     "Ebola virus and the other viral hemorrhagic fevers are much more likely to cause fatal hemorrhaging before any other fatal infection has a chance to become established....The virus so rapidly and totally metabolizes and consumes all available vitamin C in the bodies of the victims that an advanced stage of scurvy is literally produced after only a few days....viral hemorrhagic fevers typically only take hold and reach epidemic proportions in those populations that...have low body stores of vitamin C...found in...severely malnourished Africans. In such individuals, an infecting hemorrhagic virus will often wipe out any remaining vitamin C stores before the immune systems can get the upper hand and initiate recovery.

     "First of all, as anyone who knows about scurvy can state, vitamin C helps blood vessel walls keep their strength. But there is something far more serious at play with Ebola that vitamin C impedes. Something even more sinister than blood vessel weakening happens when Ebola depletes all Vitamin Cand that is a greatly accelerated release of blood vessel damaging cytokine IL-6. Any medical professional will be able to quickly look up the fact that vitamin C impedes the release of cytokine IL-6, which Ebola causes severe releases of in blood vessel walls. Once released in huge amounts, IL-6 further irritates blood vessel walls to such an extent it can blow holes in them, and this, combined with the already weakened condition from a lack of vitamin C will cause many vessels to rupture.

     "In short, vitamin C is like a magic Ebola bullet that not only curtails the release of blood vessel damaging cytokine IL-6, it also, at the same time, makes blood vessels return at least to normal strength (and possibly beyond with very high dosings.) These two things working together make vitamin C the probable best first line of defense against Ebola that is possible, [until an effective vaccine is developed.  This could be months or even years away.]

     "But there is more to this story than that…Since IL-6 plays a huge role in damaging blood vessels, it is important to stop its release. And there are some very simple foods that can be eaten that facilitate this....Green tea can curtail cytokine IL-6 release by 21 percent (which pales compared to vitamin C, but would be a bonus). Of similar value are apples, cinnamon, most berries, choke cherries, pomegranates, olive oil, flax seed oil and fish oil.

     "You should avoid caffeine and chocolate, because though both have the potential to help in some ways, they also have the potential to totally offset all benefit in everything else eaten (but this has not been fully studied out by anyone with regard to Ebola as far as I know) it is just that doctors who know this a whole lot better than I do say the chemistry could possibly go very negatively, so to be safe, avoid caffeine and chocolate.

     "The foods mentioned above pretty much round out the list as far as I know, and further playing around with things like garlic (which is great for practically anything) and hot peppers, ginseng and other blood thinning foods will probably be detrimental with a hemorrhagic fever.

     "The bottom line is that if Ebola does take off, those in the know do not just have to sit in fear and wait for death to come. Diet and vitamin C can easily make the difference between practically living normally through it all, or dying.”

[GLA Note:  We should immediately ship massive quantities of Vitamin C and C powder to the emergency areas to widely distribute for daily preventive use by at risk populations, and for medical treatment of those who are ill. Our soldiers over there should be taking Vitamin C daily to reduce likelihood of infection by Ebola and a number of other nasty illnesses.]

The medical establishment has not made low cost Vitamin C therapy and prevention a priority, this article gives more details on why they should.  I recently heard a report about vaccine use.  It was hoped that weaker doses could be used to treat more people.  Perhaps a study should be made to see if Vitamin C administration in 2 to 4 grams doses or perhaps even higher would enable the body to utilize the vaccine more effectively in smaller amounts.

     “….The few labs that do have access to testing Ebola are unlikely to be testing the effects of vitamin C on Ebola any time soon. However, two top medical vitamin C experts believe that it could help. As extraordinary as this might sound there is NO VIRUS yet investigated that a sustained high dose of vitamin C, given intravenously, or in high and continuous oral doses, hasn't killed off or substantially suppressed.

     "Dr Robert Cathcart, who has more experience treating potentially deadly infections with high dose vitamin C than any other doctor I know of, says, “the Ebola virus kills by way of free radicals which can be neutralized by massive doses of sodium ascorbate intravenously”. He refers to the case of Nurse Pineo saying she 'was the first white that survived the Lassa fever (another hemorrhagic fever) outbreak in Lassa and was taking vitamins of her own accord. (Fuller, JG. Fever. Reader's Digest Press. 1974.)' I have not been able to verify details of this case.

     "In his book ‘Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases and Toxins: Curing the Incurable’ Dr Thomas Levy describes how high dose vitamin C has successfully eliminated all known viruses. 'I have not found any virus for which vitamin C does not exert a virucidal effect, as long as enough vitamin C reaches the virus, such as in any acute infection.' According to Dr Levy “the virus so rapidly and totally metabolizes and consumes all available vitamin C in the bodies of victims that an advanced stage of scurvy is produced after only a few days.” He proposed that the haemorrhagic fever, inducing internal bleeding, which is the primary cause of death in Ebola, is remarkably similar to scurvy.”

     "What is known is that the greater the strength of an infection the higher doses of vitamin C a person can tolerate before reaching ‘bowel tolerance’ level, after which a person gets very loose bowels. [GLA note: burning urine or acidic farts are also a sign that one should reduce the dose slightly.  In addition when healing seems to be happening, Vitamin C dose should gradually be reduced.  Sudden stop can lead to a dangerous rebound effect.] This does suggest that the stronger the infection, which produces free radicals, the more rapidly it would exhaust vitamin C, which attempts to quench free radicals, potentially leading to acute induced scurvy, the main symptom of which is haemorrhage.

     "Both experts point out how important it is to achieve sufficiently high vitamin C level in the blood plasma, and to keep it high. The stronger an infection the more vitamin C is used up, hence also the more you can tolerate before reaching 'bowel tolerance'. Even if this doesn't occur it is terribly important to keep yourself hydrated at all times.

     "There are many potential reasons reason why high dose vitamin C makes a lot of sense in the treatment of Ebola. Viral infection is known to generate oxidative stress, which could be attenuated by vitamin C. Also, vitamin C has been shown to inhibit viral replication in vitro. And we know that in vitro very high doses of vitamin C generate hydrogen peroxide which has antimicrobial actions, but you would probably need intravenous vitamin C, or at least extremely high oral intake, to induce this effect.

     "The other thing I find really interesting about Ebola, but have yet to find the full story on, is that it appears to affect monkeys (primates) and fruit eating bats, but not other animals. Now, the only animals I know of who cannot synthesise their own vitamin C are primates, fruit-eating bats, guinea pigs, capybaras and the red-vented bulbul bird. So, if all vitamin C producing animals are immune, or at least survive if infected, that is really interesting. Infection appears to have primarily originated from handling dead primates and fruit-eating bats. It would be interesting to know if bats have lesser or no fatality than us humans by virtue of their high vitamin C intake.

     "Meanwhile, we have no proven drug or vaccine, although the Zmapp drug (a mixture of three genetically modified humanised monoclonal antibodies, originally derived from mice, guinea pigs and monkeys) in the limited number of cases so far tested, seems to have substantially increased survival rates. While not all given Zmapp have survived, it seems that those with stronger immune systems, given a strong enough dose early enough during an infection, have. However, it has not been subject to clinical or safety testing so is very much in the experimental stage. Also, sadly, supplies have run out so it is a very limited option. A vaccine against this particular strain of Ebola is currently being rushed through into clinical trial stage.

     "….there is certainly good logic, in the absence of other available treatments,, for the leading medical authorities to review the use of Vitamin C and for clinicians to consider this option.. Intravenous vitamin C has been used, and tested, for cancer, sepsis, and various infections with a very good safety record. A review in 2010 of 9,328 patients treated with IV vitamin C concludes that ‘Other than the known complications of IV vitamin C in those with renal impairment or glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, high dose intravenous vitamin C appears to be remarkably safe, .”  It is also worth pointing out that vitamin C treatment can be complementary to any other medical treatment, it helps the immune system to function better.

     "My advice, whenever there is a virus of any kind going around, is to keep your daily vitamin C level up. I take 2 grams a day in divided doses, and 1 gram every one or two hours if I get the first signs of a viral infection (e.g. blocked nose, itchy throat and headache). In the case of Ebola I would recommend immediate intravenous vitamin C. To find out what I have learnt about other killer viruses such as swine and bird flu and Vitamin C read my blog 'Can vitamin C kill swine flu?”

Other Information

[10/23/14]  A case if Ebola in Mali is now reported in a two year old whose mother died recently in Guinea.  The child has also died.  The small outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal seem to be under control and stopped.  There is a separate outbreak in the Congo.  So far there have been no reports of people dying from Ebola caught here in the US.  Even the family of Duncan, the man from Liberia who died, has been released from observation with NO illness.  Here is a report on the latest US recovery case, with lots of comments.

[12/23/14]  Reports from the most afflicted countries are becoming more optimistic.  The local militaries are enforcing common sense public safety measures.  These include no handling of dead bodies by relatives, calling trained authorities for body pickup and disposal, cremation of the dead, building more hospitals and clinics.  The scary statistics for the new year predicted a few months ago  no longer appear to be likely.  But still there have been no reports of significant use of Vitamin C, and at least 7,000 are already dead.

Since the medical establishment will be/has been slow to follow up on this low cost treatment we need to take responsibility for our selves and our friends. Pass this information along wherever you think it may help. Inform medical and health service people you know.  Buy a stock of Vitamin C for yourself and family. Remember, your body burns up or excretes Vitamin C rather quickly, so plan to take some 3 or 4 times a day when under stress or ill. It appears that most animals which produce their own C make an amount equal to around 2 to 4 grams a day compared to human weight.  

Another substance with powerful anti-scorbutic effects is PYCNOGENOL.  Today, it is commercially made from the bark of a French maritime pine or grape seeds.  It enhances the lifespan of Vitamin C metabolites.  The explorer Cabot discovered the effectiveness of pine bark when Indians along the St. Lawrence river saved his crew dying from scurvy with pine products.  I would use this in conjunction with Vitamin C therapy if I could find it. 

I am allergic to house dust, mold and other air borne substances. I have taken 3 to 6 grams a day of C for decades, and rarely get sick (which I did often before that). I divide that quantity and take it 3 or 4 times a day. When I start to sneeze or get a scratchy throat I pop a 1 gram (1,000 mg.) tablet which usually solves the problem. When starting to house clean I take 2 grams to protect against the dust.

So whether you are worried about Ebola or just Flu and the common cold, stock up on Vitamin C for the winter and worry less. If you have friends in danger areas send this blog post to them. If they want it, ship some Vitamin C to them as well.  If your soldier is headed for west Africa, give him or mail him a generous supply.  To calm the concerns about soldiers returning to the US with Ebola, they are being quarantined in Italy for 21 days.