Sign up for our free newsletter
Since city officials began downsizing the D.C. bureaucracy, irate citizens have been phoning in bomb threats as frequently as pothole complaints. However, the threats have gotten out of hand for patients committed to the John Howard Pavilion for the criminally insane at St. Elizabeths Hospital. Since the end of October, John Howard has been the target of at least 15 bomb threats, which come in reliably at 2:05 p.m. every Thursday and Friday afternoon. The police, who are obligated to take every call seriously, are getting tired of the drill. Evacuating people like the “Mount Pleasant Shooter,” a schizophrenic man who randomly shot down several pedestrians, is a little more complicated than evacuating Janney Elementary School kids. After the first couple of bomb threats, the corrections department brought buses over to move the patients away from the building. Now the threats have gotten so routine that the police just move patients into the exercise yard while the bomb-squad dogs sniff around. Police have no suspects yet, but as one John Howard resident says, “They can’t even trace the calls.” Seventh District Police Inspector Winston Robinson suspects that the threats have most likely come from one of the patients. “That’s where John Hinckley and every nut in the world is,” says Robinson. He adds that so far police haven’t found any actual bombs, “but you never know.”
The Power(lessness) of the Press In August, Washington City Paper published an article detailing the city’s many screw-ups in delivering medical and other services to poor residents with AIDS (“Living, for the Moment,” 8/16). Four months later, absolutely nothing has changed. Poor people with HIV still haven’t received their federal housing grants after waiting as long as three years. Cash-strapped community groups that provide AIDS services to the poor are still suffering delays in city payments. The District still hasn’t activated a plan to help HIV-positive inmates secure health care, housing, and counseling when they are released. And local pharmacies, worried about delayed reimbursements from the city, are still threatening to stop providing drugs to low-income people with HIV. We’re not sure what’s more pathetic—the city’s refusal to improve or our own hopeless carping. According to Hank Carde, doyen of the city’s AIDS activists, it’s not just the media and activists who have no effect, but also certain senior-level city officials who are trying to reform the system. “They can’t get any more answers than we can,” Carde laments.
Political Hack Plenty of folks in town are peeved with Mayor Marion Barry, but the city’s taxicab drivers are taking their beef to the streets. Several hundred members of the D.C. Professional Taxi Cab Drivers Association Inc. (PTCDA) will be distributing fliers to passengers over the coming months to organize a drive to recall Barry. PTCDA Vice Chairman Louis Richardson says Barry’s meddling in cab regulations costs the city millions of dollars each year in uncollected fines and fees. The hacks’ core gripe is that suburban drivers are stealing local drivers’ fares by illegally picking up passengers in Washington. The PTCDA alleges that Barry has ordered local authorities to turn a blind eye to the violations because he has cozy relationships with the owners of suburban cab companies. “The mayor is letting the city go down the tubes,” Richardson says. “He’s incompetent or it’s corruption or it’s fraud. You’ve got a lot of black folks in this city who have found Marion Barry out.” No one from the mayor’s office returned calls for comment.