When Dennis Hastert was elected Speaker of the House, the spin was that the little-known representative would moderate the GOP’s image, making his party palatable to the mainstream. That purported moderation doesn’t much help D.C. voters. Take his views on archconservative Bob Barr’s legislation forbidding D.C. to certify the results of last year’s medical-marijuana referendum. As first noted in D.C. News Service, immediately after Barr introduced the item, Hastert seconded him, saying it was crucial “to prohibit the legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia, where millions of our constituents come, year in and year out….They ought to be safe.” Hastert’s reasoning on Washington’s democratic rights was even more hazy. “Marijuana federally is an illegal substance,” he said. “This is a federal district. I think that is just logical.”
Getting Their Fix How do you rehabilitate a neighborhood? A few Deanwood residents say the first step involves kicking out the Umoja Drug Treatment Clinic at Nannie Helen Burroughs and Division Avenues NE. The center, operated by Providence Hospital under a city contract, offers a methadone clinic and counseling for more than 300 recovering heroin addicts. Some neighbors are quick to blame Umoja for neighborhood ills, from petty crime to an open-air drug market. “It draws undesirables to the community,” says advisory neighborhood commissioner Everett Thomas Lyles. But others argue that Umojaone of only three methadone clinics in the cityplays a pivotal role in the rejuvenation process. “It’s helping keep lives in order….I hear some people say that it’s the hive that attracts the bees,” says clinic manager Arthur Melvin. “But the bees were here before the clinic was here.” Neighbors have appointed a task force to address broad community concerns.
Calls From Above To harried Washington cognoscentiand others who value being connectedrecent advances in telecommunications must seem a gift from heaven. Literally. The February issue of Wired reports that Motorola pays approximately $100,000 per year for the divine right to mount its high-bandwidth antenna on the National Cathedral’s 234-foot west tower.
Papa Don’t Preach Opinions in run-of-the-mill child-support cases can’t usually be described with a word like “whup-ass.” But in a long and furious opinion released this week, D.C. Superior Court Commissioner Ronald Goodbread raised the rafters with a screed targeted at deadbeat dads who appear in his courtroom. In an edition of the Daily Washington Law Reporter that led with the latest attorney-client privilege opinion in the Monica Lewinsky case, Goodbread exceeded even the impeachment’s sound and fury by berating a father for having “never provided so much as a farthing for his nearly 21-year-old daughter.” The fatherwhose name was not releasedwas further flayed for dragging out proceedings for three years via antics like claiming he was broke even though he owned a profitable nightclub. Because the father’s “argument and attitude embody a paradigm which is all too often presented,” Goodbread wrote, he delivered a detailed opinion to serve as a “public policy” statement for future cases. No word from Brookings or Cato on the implications of Goodbread’s policy just yet.
The Jury’s In Last Wednesday, a U.S. District Court jury found Metropolitan Police Department Officer Kristopher Payne not liable on charges that he had used excessive force in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Antonio Williams. In February 1995, Payne shot Williams seven times after chasing him down an alley (“Overkill,” 10/23/98). Payne successfully argued self-defense, saying that Williams was high on PCP and toting an unloaded revolver. But Williams family lawyer Charles Parsons says that several excluded pieces of evidence might have changed jurors’ minds. In pretrial motions, a judge ruled against introducing testimony from a supervisor about his misgivings over Payne’s professional conduct. Parsons, who also notes that citizen complaints about Payne were ruled either unsubstantiated or too old to be relevant, says he plans to seek a new civil trial.
Reporting by Colin Bane, Jason Cherkis, Amanda Ripley, Michael Schaffer, and Elissa Silverman.
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