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Bob Johnson’s Black Entertainment Television celebrated July 4 this year by giving dozens of employees their independenceinvoluntarily. While anonymous sources close to the 17-year-old cable network put the body count at 30, BET would only confirm that two of its more prominent shows, BET News and Screen Scene, have been canceled. “We had the normal cycle of programs that will be coming back and ones that won’t be,” says BET Holdings vice president Jeff Lee, who would not comment on the firings. Nevertheless, former BET News anchor Jason Hill confirms that he and a slew of news division colleaguesincluding longtimers such as news director Frank Rhodes and producer Stuart Perkinsreceived their pink slips last month. Hill, who only last year relocated from a CBS affiliate in Florida for his new position, got a termination letter on July 3. He finished his last show the following day, edited one final special program on basketball great Isiah Thomas, and was out the door on July 11. Hill says he had been looking forward to starting his second season on the show. “You invest time and effort into something and don’t expect it to be canceled that abruptlyespecially a news show,” he says. “I had no clue, man. I didn’t know.”
Last fall, a group of Cardozo-Shaw neighbors set their targets on five public phones squatting at the corner of S and 11th Streets NW. They say the phones lured pimps, pros, and dealers who used them as offices. Armed with photographs, petitions, and police evidence, the residents marched to the D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC), the agency that licenses pay phones. Since then, “the commission has done nothing,” says Shaw resident Andrea Carlson. But so much time has gone by that fate and circumstance have knocked out three of the five phonesno thanks to PSC. An arsonist burned down the building that one phone was anchored toshortly after the building’s owner was murdered. The second phone proved to be illegally located and registered to someone in Japan. AT&T agreed to remove another. On March 28, residents formally brought the owner of another phone before PSC, which has yet to rule. “Our tax dollars are paying for the commission, and they’re not performing,” Carlson says. Pamela J. Mills, acting deputy general counsel for PSC, says, “It isn’t taking any longer than any other case currently before the commission.”
For the past year, the Anacostia Garden Club has had designs on a patch of wetlands next to the Anacostia Metro station. But where the green thumbs envision a Frederick Douglass memorial garden replete with trees and wildlife, the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) sees blacktop. DPW has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to pave over the wetlands to expand Metro parking and to construct playing fields in Anacostia Park. “We think it stinks,” says Robert Boone, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society, an environmental group. Boone is convinced a bigger parking lot will contribute to fish kills in the Anacostia River. “When rain hits a surface, it gets very hot. Hot water is like dead waterit will not support aquatic life,” Boone says. “We’ve measured water running off parking lots at 95 degrees.” For the time being, according to Army Corps project manager Rebekah Hicks, the permit application is on hold until DPW provides an environmental assessment.