City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“Strasburg Arrives: Let the Gouging Begin!,” “D.C. Schools Now Model For West Virginia,” “Fenty Booed At Dunbar Commencement,” “How The Gun Lobby Shot Down D.C.’s Congressional Vote“
Howdy. Good thing Mayor Adrian Fenty has never given a speech about transparency and/or accountability in front of a roomful of reporters and government watchdogs. Then he may have heard some really sustained boos. The Examiner’s Alan Suderman reports that during Monday’s hearing on Councilmember Mary Cheh‘s open-government initiative: “Many speakers complained that routine requests for information were often ignored or improperly denied by city departments. Those kind of complaints are nothing new and aren’t unique to the District. But the District’s problems, Cheh and other speakers said, have only gotten worse under the administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty, who rose to power on a platform of accountability. The average number of Freedom of Information Act requests wholly denied by the city has quadrupled under Fenty, while the average number of requests has stayed constant to previous administrations, according to figures from Cheh’s office. But Attorney General Peter Nickles said in a memo that records requests are becoming more complex as city resources to answer them are shrinking. He’s asking the Council to approve legislation that would allow the city to extend the deadline for answering requests beyond the now-mandated 25 days.” [emphasis added].
AFTER THE JUMP—-Rhee faces probe, Fenty gets booed for real, more problems for DYRS, Helen Thomas retires, and much, much more!
D.C. School’s Chancellor Michelle Rhee is facing a probe by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. WaPo’s Bill Turque reports that the compliant alleges “that Rhee violated the law by soliciting donations from private foundations that reserved the right to pull their funding if there was a change in the school system’s leadership. Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery, the office’s director, told Robert V. Brannum on Friday, in response to his complaint, that there was ‘reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred’ and that ‘a full investigation is warranted in this matter.’ Collier-Montgomery’s finding was first reported over the weekend by WTTG (Channel 5). Rhee raised $64.5 million from four private foundations (Broad, Walton, Robertson and Arnold) to underwrite pay raises and performance bonuses under the new contract ratified last week by the Washington Teachers’ Union. The foundations, which have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to education initiatives across the country, stipulated in letters that they reserved the right to review their commitments if there was a “material change” in the D.C. school system’s leadership. Brannum, president of the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations and a supporter of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray’s mayoral campaign, alleges that Rhee contrived to protect her job by accepting the leadership clause as a condition of the private funding — constituting a direct personal financial benefit. In a statement Monday, Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said the allegation is without merit. ‘The chancellor did not seek that condition and in fact wanted unconditional funding. She had no role or choice in the conditions the funders decided to impose,’ Calloway said.”
WAPO EDIT BOARD calls BS on the Rhee probe (which Jonetta Rose Barras did in the Examiner yesterday): “IN ANY OTHER city, an official who manages to raise millions of dollars from credible organizations to improve public schools would get a commendation. Not so in the District of Columbia, where the reward for such effort is a suggestion of wrongdoing. Equally incredible is that officials in the city’s Office of Campaign Finance are actually investigating these half-baked allegations against Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. Let’s hope reality sets in before there is real harm to education reform. Ms. Rhee has been put on notice that she is being investigated in connection with the solicitation of private foundation grants to help fund the new teacher contract. Four nonprofit groups have pledged $64.5 million to help underwrite raises and bonuses for D.C. teachers; as is standard in such donations, the donors have conditioned the money on consistency in leadership and the reform agenda. That, though, constitutes a conflict of interest to Robert Vinson Brannum, a civic activist and fierce critic of Ms. Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who brought the June 2 complaint. It’s hard to think that anyone could conclude that Ms. Rhee sought these monies to ensure her continued employ as schools chancellor. Nonetheless, the Office of Campaign Finance concluded there may be ‘reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred,’ and it warned Ms. Rhee of the possible need for ‘subpoena, depositions, interrogatories, interviews and audits.'”
NOW IT’S NINE: The Examiner’s Bill Myers reports that at least nine District wards have been charged with murder: “Last week, authorities charged 16-year-old Javon Hale with murder in the May 28 shooting death of day laborer Manuel Sanchez. Hale had been committed to the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and was out from a private group home on a weekend pass, a source with knowledge of his background told The Washington Examiner. Hale is at least the ninth juvenile ward to have been charged with murder since the beginning of the year. His juvenile history was first reported by Washington Post columnist Colbert King. Another city ward, 17-year-old Durand Lucas, was killed Saturday, shot down in the wee hours in Anacostia. He is at least the third juvenile offender to have been killed this year while in city custody.”
FENTY BOOED AT DUNBAR COMMENCEMENT: WJLA has the video and the story on Fenty’s rough moment just before giving the commencement address at Dunbar. But were politics at play? Vincent Gray thinks so. WJLA reports: “Both Mayor Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gray appeared at the event. Gray said he had initially been invited to deliver the commencement address, but was told a few weeks ago that he would only deliver welcoming remarks. Gray, a Dunbar graduate who is challenging Fenty in the September Democratic mayoral primary, suspects politics determined who actually spoke. His spokesperson, Doxie McCoy, says she believes Gray’s initial invite came from a panel of students and teachers. “I received some indication a number of weeks ago that the students and people associated with the school would like to have me as the commencement speaker,” Gray told ABC 7 News. Some students concur. They wanted Gray, less for his politics than his history. ‘I did cause he was a graduate of Dunbar Senior High School,’ said Dunbar grad Monica Matthews.” Key quotes: “The confusion about the top speaking slot led to some speculation. ‘I don’t know,’ Gray said. ‘I guess these decisions are made by the Chancellor and the Mayor. I don’t know.’ As for Mayor Fenty: ‘I didn’t even know there was an issue about the speaker. I’m sorry if there is an issue because the day belongs to the kids.'” More coverage via D.C. Wire, DeBonis.
DISTRICT MAY BE RUNNING SOUTHEAST HOSPITAL: D.C. Wire’s Tim Craig reports that “The District will auction off the United Medical Center property in Southeast Washington next month unless an agreement can be reached with the current owner, Specialty Hospitals of America, over how best to salvage the troubled facility. Attorney General Peter Nickles filed a foreclosure notice last week stating that the auction would be held July 9 on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building. Nickles has accused Specialty of defaulting on its lease by failing to pay its bills on time. The city is in talks with attorneys for Specialty to try to reach an agreement, but Nickles said the foreclosure notice was needed to set “an end date” for the talks. If an agreement is not reached, Nickles said, the city will seize the 17-acre United Medical Center property at the auction and operate it as a city-run hospital until a new owner can be found.”
METRO MESS: Yesterday, a 10-car train was put on the Green Line thus violating Metro’s mandated 8-car train limit. WTOP reports: “The problem? Metro trains are supposed to be a maximum of eight cars — so two cars were stuck in the tunnel while the train pulled into the station. No one was able to get on those last two cars. The long train made it through eight stations before it was finally taken out of service at the Waterfront station. Metro’s Steven Taubenkibel says a station manager contacted the Command Center to report the long train. Metro has removed five employees from service while an investigation takes place. The Tri-State Oversight Committee has been notified. This isn’t the first time a 10-car train has made its way onto the Green Line. Last August, a 10-car train left the Greenbelt Station and was in service for about 20 minutes before a passenger alerted the train operator about the long train.”
FENTY MAILING: Have you received your Fenty campaign pamphlet? D.C. Wire’s Nikita Stewart reports that a Fenty media blitz is underway: “Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who hit black radio stations with a go-go advertising campaign Memorial Day weekend, has now sent voters what appears to be his first mass mailing. The campaign literature boasts that Fenty is ‘getting results’ and ‘getting things done.’ It appears to embrace Fenty’s reputation for being arrogant and for not working with other elected officials — an approach that his advisers are hoping will put a positive spin on that image and will register with voters. In large type inside, it reads, ‘If it weren’t for Mayor Fenty’s leadership … we’d still be waiting for’ the modernization of schools, development and recreation centers and playgrounds.” Meanwhile, Gray is endorsed by Alice Rivlin, who headed up the financial control board.
SHARON PRATT WELCOMES BEING RELEVANT AGAIN: WaPo’s Mike DeBonis interviewed the former mayor at a Gray fundraiser over the weekend. She seemed more than ready to defend Gray’s work in her administration: ”That’s a debate we can win,’ Pratt said Sunday evening at a Gray fundraiser. ‘That’s a debate that Vince can win hands down.’ The Department of Human Services in Gray’s directorial days encompassed myriad social programs totaling more than $1 billion in yearly spending — one-third of the city budget at the time. What was once under Gray’s purview is now split between not only the human services department, but the Department of Health, the Department of Health Care Finance, the Department on Disability Services, the Child and Family Services Agency, and the Department of Mental Health, among other agencies. The ex-mayor — who entered office as Sharon Pratt Dixon, left office as Sharon Pratt Kelly, and now, in business as a consultant, is simply Sharon Pratt — says that in spite of the fiscal challenges Fenty alluded to, she and Gray can boast a record of reform. ‘We were out there early on providing disposable needles and condoms, and we were able to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS,’ Pratt said. ‘We brought that infant mortality rate down, that was under Vince’s leadership. We had terrific prenatal care programs, and we dealt with a whole lot of the ongoing issues that we inherited in a compressed period of time….There’s almost not an issue that ultimately that we didn’t address. That was Vince.'”
HECHT’S WAREHOUSE is still in limbo as a judge stalls the New York Ave NE building’s foreclosure proceedings.
CARJACKING: NC8 has a follow-up on the retired cop’s carjacking over the weekend. Apparently, the cop returned fire on his assailants. Is that legal?
CHIEF RAMSEY: Ex-D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey still doesn’t like D.C. Police Union chief Kristopher Baumann. He called him a bad name in a Philly newspaper. WaPo’s Mike DeBonis reports: “Old animosities were rekindled in a Philadelphia Daily News story published today on the high legal and back-pay bills exacted by police officers fired by Ramsey, now in charge of the Philly police, and subsequently reinstated. Reporter David Gambacorta consulted D.C. police union chief Kristopher Baumann, who drew on his many years of watchdogging the Ramsey-led Metropolitan Police Department in offering this assessment: ‘It’s not that hard to fire a police officer. What Ramsey cannot do is fire them appropriately.’ The top cop’s retort: ‘He’s a [expletive], and I don’t care if you quote me on that.'”
BWI: WAMU reports that full-body scans are coming to BWI.
HELEN THOMAS: Yesterday, the long-time reporter and headache to multiple presidents and press secretaries retired over her stupid anti-Israel remarks. Dana Milbank writes: “It was a sad end to a storied career. You’ll find no defense here of her anti-Semitic suggestion that Jews should ‘get the hell out of Palestine’ and ‘go home’ to Poland and Germany — where they were slaughtered by the millions. There’s no excuse for that, and Thomas deserved what she got. Yet the White House press corps will be diminished without Helen front and center, and not only because she was in that job before the current president was born. She brought a ferocity to her questioning that has eluded too many in subsequent generations. At a time when others were getting cozy with sources, her crabby, unrelenting hostility was refreshing. ‘When are you going to get out of Afghanistan?’ she challenged President Obama two weeks ago. ‘Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, ‘If we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.””
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