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Turnkey Lockdown Holidays
and the requisite family visits that accompany themare one of the few things D.C. Jail inmates look forward to. But this past Easter, a lockdown barred inmates from religious services, phone calls, and visits with friends or family. The emergency? A shortage of staff. “The problem can be traced to understaffing,” says Fraternal Order of Police Corrections Division Chair Clarence E. Mack in a letter to Mayor Anthony A. Williams. “At the present time, the Jail is being operated at only 50 percent of its authorized staff level.” Department of Corrections spokesperson Darryl J. Madden says the jail will be properly staffed once the department closes its Occoquan facility this month. “We’re going to fill every available vacancy,” says Madden. Mack hopes there aren’t too many holidays in between: “We’re being asked to work extraordinary hours,” he says.
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Hail to the Whatchamacallits On April 2, when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that its offensive name erased the Washington NFL team’s right to a trademark, experts called it a mainly symbolic victory. Now George Washington University law professor John F. Banzhaf III wants to give the ruling more impact: He’s threatening to challenge local TV broadcast licenses unless stations stop unnecessarily using the term by the beginning of next season. “What we have here is a unanimous determination, by a three-judge panel, that the word ‘Redskins,’ when used in conjunction with a football team, constitutes racial disparagement,” says Banzhaf. Banzhaf argues thatas with other offensive termsmost broadcast use should be limited to instances when the word itself is the issue. “They can say Washington beat the Denver Broncosyou’ll know what that means,” Banzhaf says.
A Clean Kill World leaders invade D.C. this week to attend the NATO Summit, but at least 172 locals have signed up for a confab of their own: The Rat Summit, April 17 at the Washington Court Hotel. The free, all-day bonanzacomplete with a keynote speaker, a mayoral address, and a break-out session on the biology of ratsis one of Mayor Williams’ new clean-city initiatives. In addition to local officials, a representative from Agrizap Inc., the makers of the Rat Zapper, will also be on hand. Marketed as the most humane trap available, the Rat Zapper lures rats into its “electrocution chamber,” delivering a fatal jolt of electricity once a rodent steps on its “kill plate.” “It does not fry or mutilate or cook or nuke the rat,” notes national sales director John Holden. Best of all, the Zapper alerts customers via pager or cell phone whenever a fresh victim gets zonked. Representatives from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society also plan to attend the event.
Dinero Doldrums Though D.C.’s Latino population is growing, the budget for the city’s Office of Latino Affairs continues to head south. The office deals with a “full range of health, education, employment, and social services” for the District’s more than 40,000 Latino residents, says Interim Director Frank Yurrita. But Mayor Williams lopped an additional $18,000 off its budget for fiscal year 2000. “It was an oversight,” explains Sandy McCall, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff for external affairs. Two weeks ago, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham met with Williams to restore the money and request an additional $250,000 for the agency. Yurrita has his eyes on an even bigger prize: “We are going to continue pursuing what we deserve, which is $1.3 million,” he says.
Advocate, Indeed 19th Street and Park Road NW: Total frustration. Elderly resident gets a ticket for illegal parking because road construction equipment and an abandoned vehicle with no tags have been hogging the spaces in front of her house for more than a month. Several messages to the Department of Public Works’ Abandoned Vehicles Division go unanswered. A concerned neighbor places a call to the mayor’s office and is referred to the Office of the Public Advocate. Erica Rice patiently listens to problem and arranges a conference call with the Abandoned Vehicles Division. They answer! Rice even uses the word “justice” in the conversation. The car is removed the next business day.
Reporting by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nefretiti Makenta, Brad McKee, Amanda Ripley, and Michael Schaffer.
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