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“You don’t listen because you are nappy headed,” a Metrorail traffic controller reported hearing a manager say. “If you don’t train this student, I will have [Vice President of Rail Transportation] come down and walk your black ass out of here.”  

The allegation is one of more than a dozen made against Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center, which is responsible for overseeing train movement, power restoration, communications, and emergency response. It is the kind of workplace where controllers observe sexist comments being directed toward female colleagues, like “I wonder if you taste as good as you look.” 

An audit published Tuesday and produced by an independent panel accuses leadership at Metro’s rail operations center of fostering a “toxic” work environment. Workers tell auditors that the environment makes it difficult to do their jobs and is responsible for significant turnover (or a 27 percent attrition rate between 2019 and 2020).   

“[T]he control center’s environment includes distractions, fear, threats and conflicting instructions that prevent overworked and under trained controllers from fully and properly carrying out their duties. These serious safety concerns create a variety of safety risks for everyone who depends on Metrorail,” the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission’s audit says. 

The chaotic environment partly contributed to communication breakdowns between Metrorail personnel and the fire liaison during emergencies, including a 2015 smoke accident at L’Enfant Plaza Station and a 2020 derailment outside Silver Spring Station, according to auditors. And leadership even attempted to interfere with the independent review; controllers tell auditors that managers tried to shape their statements. 

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission’s audit is based on direct observations, interviews with Metro workers, including 21 of 26 controllers on staff, and a review of policies and other documents. Metro has 45 days to produce a step-by-step plan for 21 identified issues. Read the full audit online

According to the Post, Metro acknowledges a “foundational transformation is needed” and changes are already underway.  

—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com

CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)       

  • As of Sept. 8, D.C. reported no additional deaths related to COVID-19 but 47 new positive cases. The total number of infections is 14,362. Over the past week, D.C. saw an average of 46 cases per day, or a 12 percent decrease. [EOM]
  • DC Health updates its list of COVID-19 “high risk” states residents need to self quarantine for 14 days after returning from travel there. Montana and Ohio were added while Alaska and Arizona were taken off the list. Delaware remains off the list. [EOM]
  • The University of Maryland suspends 19 students for breaking COVID-19 guidelines. Meanwhile, the university reports 85 cases the first week of the semester. [FOX5]
  • Residents remember Deon Kay through protests and a vigil over the weekend. [DCist]

LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • D.C. is still working out the bugs moving into the second week of school. [Post]
  • D.C. Housing Authority is thinking about how to spend $50 million on rehab and repair of its dilapidated properties. [WBJ, Twitter]
  • New police commission questioned Chief Peter Newsham about his officer’s fatal shooting of Deon Kay. [DCist]
  • ICYMI: Police complaint records are hard to come by. [WCP]

YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? lhayes@washingtoncitypaper.com) 

  • The Trinidadian woman behind Souk is rolling out color-themed pastry boxes this month. [WCP]
  • Rebellion will close permanently on Sept. 19, citing a landlord unwilling to work with them during the pandemic. [PoPville]
  • On craving fried chicken in Chocolate City. [Feed The Malik]
  • Filipino fast food chain Jollibee to open in Wheaton. [WBJ]
  • Fake meat won’t save the world if factory farming continues to exist. [Eater]

ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? krandall@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Arts links will return next week.

SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? ksoong@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • In an incident captured on video, a Black man was exercising on the track at Churchill High School when a White man berated and threatened him. Many believe it was racially motivated. [WCP]
  • Mystics guard Natasha Cloud got 40 custom T-shirts made and delivered to the Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC within 48 hours as part of the NWSL players’ support of the Black Lives Matter movement. [WCP]
  • The Spirit have waived rookie Kaiya McCullough so she can sign with a yet-to-be-named European club. McCullough did not appear in any Spirit games this year, but made an impact as a passionate activist for racial and social justice. [Black & Red United]
  • It was an eventful weekend for Mike Rizzo, who signed a three-year contract extension on Saturday and then was ejected from a luxury suite in Atlanta for yelling at umpires a day later. [AP

CITY LIGHTS, by Emma Sarappo (Love this section? Get the full newsletter here. Tips? esarappo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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