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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“Suspicious Package More Suspicious Than Usual,” “WaPo: Weigel’s Comments Aren’t Cool, But Praying For A Sources Is OK,” “Vincent Gray To Offer Education Plan,” “Vernon Davis Headlines Gray Fundraiser,” “Assault Rifle Stolen From Maryland Cop“
Good Morning. Last year, this LL had gotten a tip that Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s Summer Youth Employment Program had become a magnet for violence incidents. LL had heard that it had been especially hard on the District Department of the Environment. After all, that agency had taken on more than 5,500 kids. But LL couldn’t get any comment from the Metropolitan Police Department. LL was stuck. So LL FOIA-ed for the e-mail traffic between DDOE and the MPD. LL got a total of 43 pages back. LL suspects he didn’t get all the e-mails. But what he got, he saved until this week—-the start of this year’s SYEP. In this week’s cover story, LL provides an account of just how scary the jobs program became—-especially for the Mayor’s Conservation Corps…Now on to the topic that’s dominating everyone’s morning.
MICHELLE RHEE STEPS UP FOR FENTY: WaPo and WAMU get exclusive interviews with the school chancellor in which she basically comes out and says she won’t work for Fenty challenger Vincent Gray. You can listen to WAMU’s interview with Rhee here. WaPo’s Nikita Stewart and Bill Turque write: “D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has all but ruled out staying in her post if Mayor Adrian M. Fenty loses his reelection bid to council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, who she said lacks Fenty’s commitment to reforming the city’s public school system. In two interviews Tuesday, with The Washington Post and WAMU (88.5 FM), Rhee placed herself in the middle of the D.C. mayoral race, shedding her reluctance to weigh in on the election. She edged closer than ever to framing the election as a referendum on her leadership, signaling that a vote for Fenty would be a vote for her tenure in the District and that a vote for Gray would place her at risk. Rhee told The Post that she ‘could not imagine doing this job without the kind of unequivocal support [Fenty] has given,’ standing by her despite criticism over school closures, bruising negotiations with the teachers union, layoffs and tough budget decisions. She also indirectly, but unmistakably, said she could not work for Gray, whom she painted as a candidate who lacks Fenty’s vision and resolve. ‘You can do school reform in lots of ways,’ Rhee said.’You can have more incremental changes. If that’s the way that a city decided to go, I probably would not be the best person for that. There are probably people that are better suited toward that different sort of tack.'”
Michelle Rhee has experience standing up for troubled mayors. Her interviews may have came off as calculated bombshells, but they worked on the media. Everyone’s covering this. Cheap shots aside, the question remains for District voters: Is school reform bigger than one person as Gray says or is Rhee too good to let go? And can the District every lose its savior complex? One WaPo blogger finds Rhee’s attitude troubling.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Metro stalls suicide prevention program, McCartney says Nats Park has not sparked any great development, DDOT goes after a dead mother’s driveway, people are still really pissed about MARC, and much, much more!
METRO’S SUICIDE PROBLEM: The Examiner’s Kytja Weir reports that Metro has stalled their suicide prevention efforts even as incidents spike: “When a 61-year-old Potomac, Md., man leapt from an upper level Metro station mezzanine to his death on Monday, he became at least the 15th person to use the transit system to commit suicide in less than a year and a half. But the agency’s plan to fight the tragic acceleration of self-inflicted deaths, which are now occurring five times as often as in the past, remains months late and far short of earlier promises. The first tangible steps are not due until at least this fall, a full year after the agency pledged to fight the growing problem. And any steps that would be visible to the public remain unscheduled. Meanwhile, at least six more people have taken their lives in the transit system since the first plans were announced last September. ‘We are committed to moving forward with this program,’ Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said. She said the delay comes from the inability of the agency to fully fund the programs. Since its opening in 1976, about two people a year have committed suicide on Metro. But that has changed rapidly over the past two years. Last September, after two teens killed themselves days apart following five other suicides in the year, the agency said it was partnering with a regional coalition of suicide prevention organizations led by CrisisLink. Then in November, Metro said it had changed gears and was partnering with D.C.’s Department of Mental Health, the D.C.-based American Association of Suicidology and the Toronto subway system. Metro planned to start a public education campaign about suicides, as other transit agencies such as Boston’s MBTA have done, and train all workers to spot and reach out to suicidal riders. The program was slated to start in February 2010. But it has yet to begin.”
NATS DEAD ZONE: WaPo Columnist Robert McCartney laments the fact that the Nationals have yet to turn the South Cap corridor into a bustling commercial district: “The gap between promise and reality is most dramatic on what might be called the developers’ block of shame — the stretch of Half Street SE between the Navy Yard Metro station and the stadium’s principal entrance at center field. About half of the fans at each game pass between the lines of wooden barriers concealing large, empty lots whose ground floors were supposed to already be housing fun places to eat, drink and shop. It’s a big disappointment for the District, especially considering that public money financed the stadium. The controversial project was pitched in part as a way to spur development in a neglected part of town.”
DDOT CRAZINESS: WTOP’s Mark Segraves reports on a DDOT conflict over a driveway: “A homeowner in Northwest D.C. is being ordered to remove his driveway that’s been in front of his house for nearly three years. The reason: the homeowner’s handicapped mother has died. In a letter obtained by WTOP, the District’s Department of Transportation has given Michael Chisek 90 days to remove a circular driveway in front of his Cleveland Park home because ‘the underlying need for this access no longer exists.’ The underlying need was Chisek’s handicapped mother. Chisek says his mother needed the driveway in order to get in and out of the house. Chisek’s mother passed away in March. The letter was sent May 3. ‘It has come to DDOT’s attention that Brenda Chisek passed away in March,’ the letter reads. ‘You have 90 days from the date of this letter to restore the public sidewalk and curb.’ The letter made no mention of condolences, and Chisek’s mother’s name was Bridget, not Brenda. Two days later, DDOT sent a second letter apologizing for getting her name wrong in the first letter.”
FIRE TRUCK: The most famous firetruck in D.C. is being auctioned off. Of course, Michael Neibauer has the story.
GRAY’S TRIPLE FLIP ON STREETCARS: WaPo’s Mike DeBonis expertly—-with an assist from DC Watch—-dissects Gray’s apparently tortured relationship with streetcar funding: “I revisit the streetcar issue briefly to highlight a notable piece of correspondence: More than four years before Gray decided to use streetcar money for other purposes, he opposed using streetcar funds for other purposes. In a Jan. 3, 2006 letter, helpfully archived by D.C. Watch, then-Ward 7 Council member Gray, along with members Marion Barry and Kwame Brown, wrote Mayor Anthony Williams urging him not to shift $10 million in funds earmarked for streetcars to expanding the Navy Yard Metro station in anticipation of the opening of Nationals Park. ‘Because of the time and money already invested in improving transportation technology in the city beginning with East of the River communities, it greatly concerns us that there may be consideration of using funds already dedicated to the Streetcar project to upgrade the Navy Yard metro station,’ the members wrote. ‘We respectfully request that any such proposal be reconsidered, as we would be greatly disappointed at the District’s inability to follow through with yet a second plan to modernize transportation in East of the River communities.'”
GRAY NABS VERNON DAVIS ENDORSEMENT: The NFL star hosted a fundraiser at Ozio last night for the mayoral hopeful.
MARC MESS: NC8 reports passengers are still pissed off about MARC train fiasco: “Train officials offered an olive branch to upset passengers Wednesday at Union Station for the rash of trouble with service. But passengers say it’s not good enough. What started as a meet and greet with Amtrak’s top officials, ended up being a complaining session at Union Station. MARC Train passenger Calvin Spears was among the hundreds stuck inside of a hot train last week for hours. Wednesday night, he is demanding answers. ‘As of yet no one has answered my question, what are the workers trained to do?’ said Spears. The MARC transit system has recently been plagued with mechanical problems, storm damage and massive delays. ‘They break down so often…and they have no back up plan,’ said commuter Barbara Smith. Mark Hartz explained, ‘The concern is, we are not getting the service we are paying for.’ Officials admit the way recent problems involving brake failure and malfunctioning traffic signals were unacceptable. MTA’s Ralign Wells said, ‘What I can tell you is that our investigation is gonna reveal whether there are procedures gaps.’ Amtrak promises to aggressively review its operations and look for changes, which could include disciplinary actions.” More coverage via WUSA9, WTOP.
VA NEWS ROUNDUP: Today, you can finally bring a gun into bar in Virginia.
NEW RAIL CARS: Greater Greater Washington has a preview of today’s WMATA public meeting on the design of the new rail cars.
PROOF MAYORAL RACE MUST BE GETTING GOOD: Georgetown Dish counted five Posties attending Fenty’s no-show debate w/ Gray.
INTRODUCING: The Fenty Chicken.
PROOF THAT THE D.C. COUNCIL ISN’T SO LIBERAL: Some D.C. Councilmembers love streetcars, bike lanes, and gay marriage. All great things. The council isn’t so sure it loves unions anymore. WaPo’s Mike DeBonis writes: “At the John A. Wilson Building, a little-noticed but highly contentious war between labor unions and construction business is playing out on Wednesday in a packed council hearing, with the upcoming city elections as a backdrop. The battle has been prompted by a bill introduced in February by D.C. Council members Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) and Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) that would essentially require union labor on all construction projects receiving more than $200,000 in city assistance and further require that contractors hire certain numbers of District residents. Needless to say, these ‘project labor agreements’ have the strong support of local labor leaders, and unions are pushing hard for the bill. But construction and business interests are deeply opposed to the legislation. The trade group Associated Builders and Contractors has devoted a Web site to opposing PLAs across the country, and the group also released a study in March claiming that a PLA mandate would ‘likely to have a destabilizing impact on an already depressed industry … leading to reduced employment of local residents and considerable harm to small and disadvantaged businesses.’ Brown’s bill, which attracted a crowd so large to Wednesday’s hearing that some spectators had to be sent to an overflow room, is no doubt an election-year issue. In February, a key union organizer called the bill ‘the No. 1 priority for labor in 2010’… So far, it’s not clear that the litmus-testing is going to get the unions what they want. The local AFL-CIO Metro Council asked council candidates about the bill on its candidate questionnaires. Among incumbents, Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) pledged to supported to the measure, but some usually reliable union backers have hedged their bets. ‘I can’t say YES at this time because I want to hear the testimony at the hearing,’ Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) wrote on his questionnaire.”
TRIPLE MURDER PLEA: Joseph R. Mays Jr. has pleaded guilty to murdering his live-in girlfriend Erika Peters and her two young sons in March 2009.
CEREAL SETTLEMENT: Civil case in D.C. Superior Court ends with an agreement to be paid in cereal boxes.
DCUSA’S TARGET TO EXPAND GROCERY SECTION: Will include produce.
THE BUZZ: Councilmember Jim Graham is really, really pissed about losing the Latino Caucus endorsement.
MAYOR’S SCHEDULE: No public events.
D.C. COUNCIL’S SCHEDULE: Is Elections Board ready for the primary? Nannie Helen properties, and much, much more.