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Just weeks after Congress ordered an independent audit of the D.C. Superior Court’s financial management and personnel practices, the Council of State Governments has cited D.C.’s court system as one of the country’s best examples of quality management. In a recent report titled Managing for Success, the Council lauded the court’s use of Total Quality Management techniques, which emphasize “horizontal decision-making with employee participation and teamwork.” The recognition must be validating for court administrators, who have spent the last three months defending their top-down decision to stop paying court-appointed attorneys for the poor through the end of the last fiscal year due to an unrelated $8 million budget shortfall.

Dredging Up Support If you happen to spot a group of D.C.’s finest waddling through One Judiciary Square in wetsuits and fins next Tuesday, don’t be alarmed. The D.C. Council has scheduled a public roundtable that morning to solicit comment on whether cops who serve with the harbor patrol special operations division are entitled to “hazard” pay—$1,250 a year, to be exact. As part of their duties, the officers scuba-dive in local waters such as the Potomac, engaging in rescue efforts as well as searching for discarded evidence. But is taking a dip to track down a dime bag really any more dangerous than pulling a midnight shift on the mean streets? “That’s a question that’s come up,” admits Marie Rudolph, an aide to D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp. “That’s what we’ll try to find out.”

The Other Side of the Road The National Zoo just knocked another critter off its endangered species roster: a domestic rooster. Zoo officials first noticed a golden sebright bantam hen—a small pet chicken—wandering near the cheetah yards about a month ago. Concerned for the bird’s safety, they netted it and gave it to an adoptive family in Maryland. Her lonesome mate, a healthy red rooster, proved more wily, vanishing into the bamboo thicket outside zoo gates every time animal keepers gave chase. Zoo staff worried for the rooster’s life, fearing that he’d get picked off by the feral cats, foxes, or raccoons that live in adjoining Rock Creek Park—or worse. “I’m mainly concerned that he’ll get hit by a car,” animal keeper Dennis Davis said. “[B]ecause, believe it or not, this chicken has crossed the road several times.” Zoo officials finally nabbed the elusive rooster Tuesday.

Orange Baiting Ward 5 D.C. Council candidate Pat Mitchell may have lost the Democratic nomination, but she’s still fighting hard for her reputation. Mitchell is threatening legal action against Vincent Orange, who upset incumbent Harry Thomas in the primary last month. Mitchell claims that Orange’s campaign workers circulated untrue allegations that Mitchell was under investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for misuse of funds. In 1992, the Bloomingdale Civic Association, which Mitchell heads, received a $10,000 grant from the USDA to refurbish a park at 1st Street and Florida Avenue NW. In a letter dated Oct. 15, Michael Rains, area director for the Forest Service, dismissed the allegation. “Anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason or no reason,” responds Lisa Spells, Orange’s campaign manager. “Our campaign did not circulate these rumors.” No matter. Last Friday, Mitchell hosted a fundraiser for Orange’s general-election opponent, Republican nominee Ian Alexander.

Tokin’ Support Police Chief Charles Ramsey’s opposition to Ballot Initiative 59, which would legalize medical marijuana in the District, came as little surprise to most. Ramsey announced his stand at a nationwide police chiefs’ conference, where fellow top cops characterized similarly worded initiatives as scientifically suspect crime magnets. But at least one local was taken aback. Initiative 59 proponent Karen Szulgit had approached Ramsey about the initiative after an Oct. 8 town meeting. “He said, ‘We don’t take a position either way. We don’t get involved with politics,’” said Szulgit, who said she’d heard reports of beat cops telling people not to sign Initiative 59 petitions. “Eleven days later, he turns around and says this. My face is still stinging from that slap.” And opponents say marijuana impairs short-term memory.

Reporting by Elizabeth Murdock, Amanda Ripley, Michael Schaffer, and Jake Tapper.

Please send your City Desk tips to Elissa Silverman at esilverman@washcp.com or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.