IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Good morning, Washington. Your normal LL, Alan Suderman, is taking the day off. So I’m stepping in to survey D.C.’s local political media landscape for this Friday. (Come visit me over at my other interim gig at Young & Hungry, where I ate locally sourced muskrat last weekend at a house party in Mount Pleasant—a block from where former Mayor Adrian Fenty grew up!)
Ready, set, go, it’s news time!
Antsy for Action: So Vince Gray, what’s going on? The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis pens a column that more or less declares Hizzoner’s honeymoon to be nearly over. And what does the mayor have to show for it? At this point, Gray has a lot of plans. But as DeBonis rightfully points out: “Unfortunately, having plans doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got a plan.” Fenty came into office with a big agenda that he moved on quickly. Gray says: “Everybody has a 100-day plan. Why don’t we have a 200-day plan?” Furthermore, chimes DeBonis:
Gray admits the city has big problems: a chronically high unemployment rate, an education system that’s still a long way from leaving no child behind and a massive budget deficit.
But in the first 40 days of his administration, it’s hard to point to what Gray has done to address any of them, aside from acknowledging their existence. He has made key appointments that stand to have a great effect on those issues. But filling out the organizational chart only goes so far, especially for those already skeptical of Gray’s commitment to action.
But it’s not like Gray has been hanging out at the Chateau on Benning Road hand-dancing like he is known to do. (At least that’s not on his public schedule.) The mayor was in New York City on Thursday, meeting with suits on Wall Street—somebody has to charm the bond raters!
AFTER THE JUMP: Reaction to Those Dropped Drunk-Driving Cases; Metro’s Catharsis; Michelle Rhee Can’t Stay Out of the News; Naked Cops at Massage Parlors
Follow That Story! The Examiner‘s Freeman Klopott, hot on the D.C.-drops-drunken-driving-cases story, reports that D.C. councilmembers are interested in looking into “the city’s failed alcohol breath-test program and his decision to drop dozens of drunken-driving cases.” A “grilling” of D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan is planned and Ward 3’s Mary Cheh will be ready to skewer: “We’re sure going to ask about it…It looks like this problem has been going on for a while, but what is he going to do about it?”
A quick refresher from Klopott, who has been doing fantastic work on this story:
Nathan has been dropping drunken-driving cases in recent weeks, citing problems with the police department’s breath analyzers, whose results have been unusable as courtroom evidence since it was revealed in February 2010 that they were inaccurate. Defense attorneys say they believe the attorney general is dropping the cases because he doesn’t want to reveal the history of an investigation into two police officers who are responsible for a third of the city’s 1,400 drunken-driving arrests each year.
Union chief Kris Baumann defends his colleagues: “These are officers who have refused to lie and refused to hide what’s going on, and as a result the attorney general is trying to ruin their careers.”
Testing Gray’s Coattails: The mayor has voiced his support for interim D.C. councilmember Sekou Biddle in April’s special election to permanently fill an At-Large vacancy on the D.C. Council, but that doesn’t mean the former school board member is being showered with rose petals. Biddle, as you know, won the interim appointment to the vacancy, but as The Washington Times’ Deborah Simmons reports, Gray “will get an early test of his political capital in the April 26 special election to fill a City Council vacancy, and members of both parties already say the new mayor is misreading the tea leaves.”
Michelle Rhee Can’t Stay Out of the News: The Post’s Nick Anderson details the new (but old) controversy involving D.C.’s former public schools chancellor. A math teacher blogger dug into test scores and crunched some numbers and found that Michelle Rhee “lied repeatedly” about achievements she claims students she taught in Baltimore made in the 1990s.
The Great WMATA Catharsis of 2011: Doesn’t it feel good to have all these new members on the Metro Board of Directors and a permanent agency chief in place? They’re rolling up their sleeves, getting down to work, and admitting there are myriad problems. There were plenty of headlines from Thursday’s Metro board meeting:
A Metro official admits: “we bought some junk escalators.” [NBC Washington] Metro is just as bad a Pepco in the public accountability department. [WTOP] Metro may need to cut back on operating hours, including late-night weekend service. (Anyone hear a howl from Ward 1 Councilmember and former Metro board member Jim Graham, champion of D.C. nightlife?) [GGW] Metro won’t stop controversial bag searches, despite your whining. [GGW]
More Metro: During last summer’s mayoral primary campaign, your interim LL asked Gray whether he thought it would be a smart idea for an agency or authority outside the D.C. Department of Transportation, like Metro, to oversee the District’s future streetcar system or Circulator bus system. At the time, Gray didn’t give a firm response, saying planning and discussion would be involved. As the Post’s Luke Rosiak reports that Metro has begun to ponder how streetcar and light-rail projects in the District, Maryland, and Virginia might be coordinated and run when they’re operational. According to a press release on Metro’s study: “Goals include identifying ways to achieve capital cost savings for the region and efficiencies in maintenance and operations through shared design standards for vehicles, track and structures, and traction power, shared maintenance facilities and practices. The study also will encourage flexibility to support future regional network expansion and ensure customer convenience, including uniform signs, common fare collection methods and fare media.”
Shame Shame Shame! WJLA/ABC7 needs to borrow Arnold Diaz’s musically snappy “Shame Shame Shame” TV news segment intro for the story of the Metropolitan Police Department cruiser from the 4th District parked in a handicapped parking space in a shopping center in Silver Spring. “Police later told ABC7 that the driver of the vehicle has been identified and the matter is being investigated.” And more bad news for MPD’s image: Undercover officers have been naked while covertly investigating massage parlors! MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump tells The Washington Times: “Physical contact between a suspect and a member in one of these types of operations is prohibited, but, as you can imagine, it also can be very difficult to control.” For sure.
What If? Remember back when the D.C. area was itching to get the Montreal Expos to move to the area back in the mid-‘00s? Remember the debate over that big expensive stadium off South Capitol Street? What would have happened if Arlington got stuck with the stadium instead of Ward 6? What if there were no “Half Street, Whole Experience” and just a big hole instead? What if? [We Love D.C.]
Victory on 16th Street! The Embassy of Congo has backed off its request to create a double-entry driveway at the historic mansion it has purchased on 16th Street NW at Riggs Place. [GGW]
Mayor’s Schedule: Desk work until 2 p.m.; a meeting with Washington Convention & Sports Authority President Greg O’Dell at 2:30 p.m., a conference call with Kaya Henderson at 3:30 p.m.; a 5:30 p.m. reception in the mayor’s honor hosted by the D.C. Council; and a Pigskin Club awards dinner at 7:30 p.m. Packed day! LL bets Hizzoner will be running behind schedule.