D.C. resident and “ex-offender” Joseph Coleman surfaced at Mayor Marion Barry’s March Ward 8 town meeting touting a proposal to build the “New Birth Power Plant,” a facility that would use prison labor to convert thousands of gallons of raw sewage and hazardous waste into energy and water for D.C. residents (see City Desk, 3/29). While the mayor seemed lukewarm on the idea, the power plant is gaining proponents among the District’s ex-politicos. Armed with pie charts and color graphics, former D.C. congressional Delegate Walter Fauntroy showed up at a D.C. Council hearing last week to advocate relocating inmates of Lorton correctional institution to a new solar geodesic dome in Anacostia that would house the plant. Coleman and Fauntroy believe income from sales of water and electricity would cover room and board for the inmates/workers and compensate crime victims. And Fauntroy promises that the plant would also be “environmentally purifying and spiritually based.” For all this, the New Birth Co.would need only $3.5 billion dollars for construction. Not to worry. Conscious of the city’s financial crisis, Fauntroy suggested that the Federal Reserve Board fund the power plant through loans similar to its financing of the Mexican peso bailout.
Firehouse Feuds Over the past few months, D.C. Fire Chief Otis Latin has assured city residents that temporarily closing firehouses on a rotating basis (a budget-cutting plan know as “firehouse roulette”) has not affected the department’s emergency response time. But local attorney Lawrence Mirel told the D.C. Council last week that the city might well be going up in flames. Representing the Firemen’s Insurance Company of Washington, Mirel testified that between Jan. 1 and April 30 the company suffered 30 fire losses in the District, paying out more than $2 million in claims. Suffering the worst year in its 150-year history, Mirel said the company is now paying out $1.66 for every dollar it collects in premiums. As a result, Firemen’s is raising its rates by 9 percent this year to offset the losses. Mirel blamed the rate increase on the fire department’s sluggish response time. Latin disputed Mirel’s figures, but even Latin’s own employees wouldn’t support his stand. At a May 28 meeting, the D.C. Firefighters Association unanimously approved a vote of no confidence in Latin.
Urning Their Keep First the National Park Service admitted it had lost one of its own monuments, the Cuban Friendship Urn (see “Have You Seen This Monument?,” 5/24). Then, asked by Washington City Paper about the missing urn, Park Service officials said it might have been stolen. Or, they said, it might have been misplaced when it was shunted aside in the early ’60s to make way for the Roosevelt Bridge. But it turns out that one ex–Park Service employee knew all along where the urn was. Park Service officials now acknowledge that the urn has rested in the same spot for the last 40 years, battered and forgotten in a fenced-in maintenance yard behind the service’s old Rock Creek Park headquarters. Glenn DeMarr, the Park Service steward who found the urn, says it was actually moved in 1957 to make way for the 14th Street Bridge. He prefers to characterize the yard as a Park Service “storage area,” but it sounds more like an outdoor File 13. The Park Service is now hoping to restore the urn and keep better track of it.