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I've Heard of Slow Baking But This is Ridiculous

Last time we checked in with Ken Rubotzky, one of those rare and devoted souls who dares to take on the District of Columbia bureaucracy, he was mired in the tangles of the Government That Says No. All Ken wanted to do was open a bakery in the dramatically underserved neighborhood of Petworth.

But the D.C. government wouldn't stand for such insolence. For four years, Ken has fought the city, with his only goal being to bake cakes and serve them without hiding behind the thick bulletproof plexiglass walls that too often separate merchants from customers in the inner city.

Now, finally, Ken reports that he has broken through. But of course the city didn't even bother to tell him that he had won his case and could open his Torta Bakery on Upshur Street NW. No, Ken found out only by reading the fine print on his property tax bill, which showed a credit to his account in the amount that he had been fined because the city had--wrongly, as the appeals court has now ruled--classified his building as vacant rather than commercial.

The good news here is that one man, backed by his neighbors who rallied around him through the local web site, Petworth News, can push back hard enough to get the District to allow a small business to open.

The bad news is that Ken Rubotzky has wasted almost four years of his life trying to do what should have taken a few weeks, and the city's taxpayers and cake-eaters have suffered from the District's inability to help a citizen blast through the red tape and the arrogance.

Torta Bakery should be open within two or three weeks. Might want to buy a cake in celebration.

By Marc Fisher |  March 29, 2006; 7:18 AM ET
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