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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Bryan Weaver to Officially Challenge Jim Graham in Ward 1‘; ‘Teachers Make Rap Video to Motivate Students for Testing‘; and tweets galore!
IN LL WEEKLY—-Muzzle Burned: The moral high ground interferes with the fight for D.C. voting rights.
Morning all. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray‘s heretofore abortive mayoral run approached something like full swing last night in the home of philanthropist Judith Terra. About 200 gathered in the Gold Coast manse to drop off checks, pick up yard signs, munch on crudites and cookies, and give praise to the man who would topple incumbent Adrian M. Fenty—-who, not concidentally, held fundraisers at Terra’s home four years ago. Former Mayor Sharon Pratt, Gray’s old boss, offered a few words of support. Councilmember Michael Brown, in brief remarks, praised Gray’s work ethic and his ‘compassion,’ which, make no mistake, means something in particular. As Brown put it, Gray understands ‘you don’t have to kick the old people out to bring the new people in.’ The candidate, in a brief speech, roughly outlined a platform heavy on a ‘comprehensive approach’ to education—-more detail, he promised, will come at his campaign kickoff Saturday. Gray’s sendoff: ‘I’m a big Marvin Gaye fan,’ Gray told the crowd. ‘I want you all to adopt a battle cry of “Let’s Get It On.”‘ More at D.C. Wire.
AFTER THE JUMP—-The Blue Team takes shape; GOP will appeal Gray OCF findings; congressmen ride herd at Metro hearing; Gunn Report sees light of day; EPA sets ambitious runoff goals for WASA; Cheh wants D.C. to join popular-vote effort; FLOTUS hits River Terrace
MORE—-Gray announced his top campaign staff yesterday, starting with longtime friend and fellow Pratt administration vet Lorraine Green as his campaign chair. Adam Rubinson, a tech consultant who served as Suzanne Peck‘s deputy in the Williams administration technology office, is campaign manager. Mo Elleithee, big in national and Virginia politics, is a ‘senior advisor.’ Veteran media consultant Steve McMahon is on the team, as is ubiquitous pollster Ron Lester. He’s also got direct mail and new media people on board. Notable: Traci Hughes, ousted last year as Fenty’s MPD spokesperson, is handling press. And Gray’s executive assistant is Wilson Building vet Stephanie Reich, former chief of staff to Linda Cropp. Also seen at the event: Former Fentyites Neil Richardson and Clinton LeSueur. More at D.C. Wire.
The D.C. Republican Committee, meanwhile, won’t allow questions about Gray’s ethics to disappear. D.C. GOP Executive Director Paul Craney tells WaPo’s Tim Craig that the group plans to file an appeal to the Office of Campaign Finance’s findings clearing Gray of wrongdoing with regard to Democratic National Convention fundraising in 2008. The GOP position is ‘that [the OCF] decision “opens the doors” to elected officials using their offices to raise money for political purposes. Under election law, lawyers for the GOP allege, the act of raising money is governed by what organization or committee the money is raised for – not what it is used for….Gray, noting it is being filed by the GOP, called the appeal “purely political” in a brief interview Wednesday night. “They conducted a four month investigation and looked at all the facts,” Gray said of the campaign finance office. “It seems frivolous and unwarranted to me.” If the ruling is not overturned, GOP lawyers and leaders say elected officials will be able to use government resources to raise money for their campaign accounts so long as they specify the money will be used for charitable or non-political purposes.’ The appeal goes to the Board of Elections and Ethics, and perhaps then to Superior Court.
Jonetta Rose Barras, meanwhile, digs into the ‘sins of Sinclair Skinner,’ whom she deems an ‘FBOF,’ or Frat Brother of Fenty. The mayoral crony and engineering-form owner ‘has a memory worse than my 87-year-old aunt,’ she writes. ‘What the amnesiac did remember during his appearance before a D.C. Council committee was disturbing, and justifies banning his company from doing business with the city….Bilking the public is never acceptable. It’s always unethical, and demands punishment. David Gragan, the city’s chief procurement officer, attempted to penalize Skinner. Sources told me that on March 18 Skinner’s company was banned from city contracting. “On March 19 [Attorney General Peter Nickles] made OCP take it back,” a source said. That’s outrageous, but not surprising. In 2008, in a similar case involving recreation projects, Inspector General Charles Willoughby recommended the city collect $2 million in overpayments made to Jair Lynch Consulting/Alpha Corp. and the Temple Group. Nickles didn’t implement that recommendation. What does he care? It’s not his money….The attorney general’s intervention, preventing Skinner’s debarment, means Fenty doesn’t recognize the need to jettison the hustler from his inner circle. What’s more, it tells future contractors it’s OK to rip off the government—-especially if you’re a FBOF.’
MAYORAL FORUM ALERT—-D.C. Wire notes that the civic associations in Palisades, Cleveland Park, and Foxhall are hosting a mayoral forum on June 3 at Key ES; Gray and Leo Alexander have already RSVP’d, while the Fenty campaign ‘said it is still considering the request.’ Sulaimon Brown is wondering where his invitation is. There also is a forum scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Grace Episcopal Church in Georgetown; unclear who will be attending.
Reaction continues rolling in to the latest setback, and possible death knell, for the D.C. House Voting Rights Act. The WaPo editorial board says the move to avert a guns-for-vote deal was ‘difficult but correct’ and that it ‘won’t end D.C. residents’ struggle’ to win its franchise. ‘The city now finds itself back at square one with voting rights and sure to face more initiatives in an election year from a newly emboldened gun lobby. Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.), a co-sponsor of the extreme measures rejected by Ms. Norton, said he won’t be thwarted, and he announced plans to introduce separate legislation. That the District was willing to sacrifice a vote in Congress for the protections of its reasonable gun regulations should underscore their significance—-not only for city home rule but for homeland security in the nation’s capital. We would hope that the Democrats who control both houses of Congress and the White House would recognize the importance of this issue and not—-as has too often been the case—-be complicit in letting the gun lobby set the agenda. In particular, it’s time for President Obama to stick his neck out and insist on fair and sensible treatment by Congress of the city in which he now resides.’ WaPo columnist Bob McCartney also chimes in, writing: ‘The latest setback is severe. It’s likely to take many more years or even decades to achieve this patently righteous objective.’ But he too agrees the right decision was to shelve the bill. Who’s to blame? McCartney finders the gun lobby (duh), Republicans, Obama, Harry Reid, and ‘apathetic D.C. residents.’ On that last point, he quotes an anonymous Hill staffer: ‘There hasn’t really been a grass-roots uprising on this. Where were the D.C. residents, you know, marching on the Capitol grounds?’ The Georgetown Voice opines: ‘While the virtues of compromising on gun-control laws in exchange for voting rights remain debatable, some blame for the bill’s continued stagnation in congressional purgatory belongs to Norton. While Norton tends to be treated as a beloved institution in Washington, it is hard to understand lately why she deserves such deference and respect. From the late 1990s imposition of the D.C. financial control board to today’s push for voting rights, Norton has routinely failed to turn what little power she possesses into progress for Washington.’
COMPROMISE—-The McCartney Plan: ‘First, give the District two Senate seats, as well as the House seat. Second, give California two extra Senate seats. This could be done by splitting it into two states or amending the Constitution….[I]t would be easy to draw a border so the two new senators were elected from Southern California. They would probably be Republicans, whereas northern California voters would select Democrats. Because California has two Democratic senators, the net result would be to add two Republicans to the Senate. They would offset the two Democrats presumably elected by the District.’ Good luck with that one, Bob. Especially that ‘split California in two’ part.
A conflict is developing between Metro and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority over who will pay for new rail cars for the Dulles line, Lisa Rein reports in WaPo. ‘Unless Metro agrees to eliminate a $75 million increase on 64 rail cars it is preparing to buy for the new Silver Line, the [MWAA, which is building the line,] won’t agree to the deal, the officials said. At issue is Metro’s plan to have the Dulles rail project pay the entire cost of developing the new cars. Authority officials say that is unfair when the investment will benefit the entire Metrorail system. “It is not possible, nor is it reasonable, for the [Dulles rail] project to bear all these costs,” authority President James E. Bennett told interim Metro chief Richard Sarles this month in a three-page letter….Airports authority officials say they budgeted $190 million for the 64 cars, about $3 million each, based on cost estimates provided by Metro in 2007. But the price has increased to $265 million, or $4.1 million for each car. Metro, meanwhile, will pay significantly less, $2.5 million each’ for the remainder of the 748 cars in the contract with Kawasaki Rail Car. That’s because the early cars include higher ‘engineering, design and development costs’ than the rest; Bennett wants those costs spread across the entire order. Here’s the big politically treacherous threat being leveled: ‘If the Dulles rail project is not given a better deal on the cars, “commuters on the Dulles Toll Road and citizens of Fairfax County” will pay the extra cost, Bennett wrote to Sarles.’ Also Examiner.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill yesterday, Sarles told Congress that he has a six-month plan to get Metro on the right track. He was responding, Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo, to ‘strong criticism from lawmakers and experts about a pervasive lack of safety and oversight at the rail agency,’ including Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff‘s description of ‘grotesque’ track safety violations and a ‘dysfunctional and ineffective’ safety office. Also released by the House oversight committee: The heretofore secret Gunn Report [PDF], which ‘concluded that “Metro Rail has downhill momentum that will be difficult to stop!”…[Former GM David Gunn] took a hands-on approach, discovering a broken rail and seven concrete station platforms shored up by wood, according to the report. He also found serious problems with Metro management, including hostility between departments. In an opening statement, panel Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said: “There was so much bad blood between the engineering and maintenance departments that they would not even speak to each other.”‘ The good news: ‘Rogoff said that Metro has taken some “encouraging steps,” such as naming a new chief safety officer, but that it was difficult to determine whether communication had improved.’ Sarles says he’s pushed more money to safety and ‘outlined a plan that prioritizes safety training, beefed-up protection for whistle-blowers, the appointment of safety personnel as well as an updated manual designed to increase protection for track workers.’ More on the Gunn Report, and the circumstances of its release, at Examiner. Also WAMU-FM, AP, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
OVERSIGHT?—-‘Lawmakers focused on the lack of safety oversight at Metro, with some voicing support for strengthening the TOC and others calling for the three local jurisdictions that fund Metro to set up an independent safety commission, an idea first proposed Tuesday in a white paper issued by the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) called for a Metro safety commission funded and directed by the legislatures of the District, Maryland and Virginia, not through public agencies in the three jurisdictions, as the white paper proposed. Lawmakers noted that an initiative by the Obama administration to establish minimum federal safety standards and oversight for the nation’s public transit agencies would probably take time.’
TODAY—-The WMATA board takes up budget gap closing proposals, and Examiner’s Kytja Weir reports that the latest management plan, based on rider feedback, calls for ‘raising fares, laying off workers and begging for more taxpayer subsidies—-but making significantly fewer cuts to bus and train service.’ The Sarles plan would takes base rush hour fares to $1.95, with a max fare of $5, plus a ‘peak-of-the-peak’ surcharge and extra $0.25 charge for using a paper farecard. Bus fares would go to $1.60—-but SmarTrip users would pay $1.50. Among $8M in proposed cuts: ‘closing the rail system at 2 a.m., not 3 a.m. on weekends, with riders paying a flat $4 fare for late-night service regardless of the trip length…close four station entrances after 8 p.m. on weekdays and eight more on weekends…limit service around holidays, such as the day after Thanksgiving, and lengthen the waits for trains between 6 and 6:30 a.m. by two minutes.’ Also WAMU-FM, WTOP.
Also on the Hill yesterday: Fenty and Gray sat together before the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the District budget, where ‘they were playing for the same team…sitting side-by-side and sharing a microphone as they made the case for federal dollars,’ Ann Marimow reports at D.C. Wire. ‘House Appropriations subcommittee chairman Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) joked that those who had come to the hearing expecting “fireworks” from the two mayoral candidates were surely disappointed. “With you two, it’s clear that D.C. comes first,” Serrano said.’ At one point, Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) ‘quizzed Fenty about how he would protect the right of D.C. residents to keep and bear firearms following the 2008 Supreme Court ruling on the city’s handgun laws….”In Texas, we want you as law-abiding citizens to be able to protect yourself,” Culberson said, asking if Fenty didn’t want the same thing for District residents. Fenty politely nodded, before saying, “I believe residents of the District want very strict handgun laws.”…”It’s very different from Texas,” Culberson concluded.’ Serrano also noted a ‘fairly stable bipartisan consensus that the people of D.C. should not have Congress interfering in their local affairs.’ Of course, there also seems to be a pretty good consensus that D.C. shouldn’t meddle in Congress, either. Deborah Simmons notes at WaTimes that Fenty ‘offered detailed responses under friendly questioning from [Serrano], but was less forthcoming when challenged by panel Republicans on issues such as abortion, school vouchers and needle-exchange programs. Asked how many abortions have been funded with tax dollars since the Democratic Congress lifted restrictions last year, Mr. Fenty said he couldn’t answer….Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri Republican, asked Mr. Fenty if he is “comfortable” limiting the availability of vouchers in the face of a comment by [Michelle Rhee] strongly endorsing the right of parents to select the school for their children. Mr. Fenty quietly said that he was.’
WASA is under a potentially burdensome green mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency, David Fahrenthold reports in WaPo. The EPA’s proposed permit for the city’s storm sewers ‘would require developers to trap 90 percent of the water that falls on a plot during a storm. Water usually hits roofs and parking lots and runs into sewers, carrying trash and chemical pollutants. Under the permit, that water would be filtered naturally, through plants and dirt, or be caught in a receptacle for use watering plants.’ That would mean a much greater embrace of green roofs and rain gardens in new developments, and if developers can’t meet the standards, they would be have to fund off-site projects. The plan, Fahrenthold writes, ‘mak[es] the city a test case for an ambitious effort to stop pollution from flowing into rivers along with the rain’ and ‘would mean a major shift in thinking for a city covered in glass, concrete and shingles.’ On his blog, WASA General Manager George Hawkins expresses support for the goals of the permit proposal, if not its details, calling it ‘overly stringent.’ And ‘if we are too stringent on urban permits, development will be driven back to green fields by market costs – since stormwater can always be managed easier on larger parcels in the hinterlands then in heavily developed cityscapes. This is an outcome we do not want to encourage!’ Also AP.
Mary Cheh has introduced legislation that would commit D.C. to the ‘national popular vote’ movement. In other words, Patrick Madden reports at WAMU-FM, the District would commit to hand ‘their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote. If enough states commit to supply the 270 electoral votes needed to win, the popular vote winner would win the election….”There is something intuitively appealing in a democratic society that the person who gets the most votes actually wins the election,” says Cheh.’ The idea is that such a system would break the tyranny of the swing states. The requirements would not go into effect until states comprising 270 or more electoral votes joined the scheme. Five states have already passed the bill, and 14 others are considering. Gary Imhoff reacts in themail: ‘I actually hope this bill passes, because I can’t wait for the next time that a Republican president is elected, and Cheh and her other cosponsors have to explain to the public why DC is casting its electoral votes for a Republican rather than for the Democratic candidate who will undoubtedly have won 90 percent of the DC vote.’
Ajene Jones, 34—-who drove the van that slammed into a Toyota Camry at high speed in Hillcrest Monday, killing a mother of four and seriously injuring her children—-‘was high on PCP at the time of the accident and has a history of reckless driving,’ Theola Labbe-DeBose reports in WaPo. ‘Jones of no fixed address did not have a valid driver’s license at the time of the crash and was also on probation for a previous charge of driving under the influence, according to court records. About 7 p.m. Monday, people saw Jones driving on the wrong side of Alabama Avenue SE. Near 36th Place, his van collided head-on with the car Mary Elizabeth Wimbush, 37, was driving with her four children….Police said Jones never tried to apply his brakes and was traveling more than 52 mph.’ Jones had been arrested for driving without a permit last July, and the next month he was arrested again for DUI, for which he was put on probation. ‘He tested positive for PCP use in early January and 10 other times….He faced having his probation revoked and was scheduled to go before a D.C. Superior Court judge to explain his behavior. His court date had been set for April 28.’
Another scrap in the Brian Betts murder investigation: Freeman Klopott reports in Examiner that MoCo police spokeswoman Melanie Brenner ‘said that detectives are aware that Betts was gay and that they were “looking into the possibility that his lifestyle may have played a role in his murder.” Police have said they believe Betts may have known his killer and invited the suspect inside. A co-worker who went to check on Betts on April 15 when the principal didn’t show up for school found the door to Betts’ house open and a light on. The co-worker left the house and called the police. Authorities found Betts in his bedroom fully clothed and shot to death.’ WRC-TV reports that neighbors continue to be questioned. WAMU-FM, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV covered Betts’ wake yesterday in Manassas, which as many as 2,000 visited. He will be laid to rest today, NC8 reports.
Details on the Dec. 27 murder of gay man Anthony Perkins, from DC Agenda’s Lou Chibbaro: Police allege that Perkins ‘was shot to death in his car by a 20-year-old District man he met on a telephone chat line and who posed as gay for the purpose of luring him to a location where he could rob him.’ That man is Antwan Holcomb, who ‘was overheard saying he “shot the ‘faggy’ in the head and robbed him of a pack of Newport cigarettes” before leaving the car and fleeing the scene on foot, the affidavit says. It says the pack of cigarettes appears to be the only item taken.’ Hate-crime charged could follow, say prosecutors.
WaPo readers react to medical marijuana legislation. One member of Americans for Safe Access argues that allowing for-profit dispensaries is the wrong move, as is only allowing medical marijuana use in the user’s home or a hospice. Another correspondent, from Common Sense for Drug Policy, writes: ‘I don’t buy the argument that the District needs a restrictive medical marijuana law to head off “abuses.” In California, pretty much anyone who wants a medical marijuana recommendation can get one. So what? The recommendation allows consumers to buy locally grown marijuana of known quality and safety from dispensaries that generate tax revenue. Is it preferable that consumers buy marijuana from organized crime groups that also sell cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin? Is financing drug cartels a good thing?’
ALSO—-The fact that the council voted on medical weed on 4/20 was ‘simply a coincidence,’ David Catania tells WaPo. And, no, Catania doesn’t party.
FLOTUS, speed-skater Shani Davis visit River Terrace ES. ‘The visit was part of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move Campaign,” which is designed to encourage kids to get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. “We want your parents to have better information about the food you eat, we want to make sure your school is serving healthier food,” the First Lady said.’
More on streetcars: WBJ has more on federal funding request; CityBizList has report on streetcar’s impact on development. Streetcars 4 DC and The Hill Is Home have more recaps of Tuesday’s informational meeting. And Railway Age is on the story!
REMEMBER SNOW?—-Talk live tomorrow with DDOT about how to improve the response to massive snowstorms.
Lizard-killing has consequences in this town: ‘The Washington Humane Society claimed 43-year-old Nelson Privado was angry after his son returned home late from school in October and decided to take it out on the boy’s pet bearded dragon. Privado threw Beardie across the street, killing it. This week, Privado was convicted of animal cruelty and sentenced to 40 hours of community service, a $100 fine and one year of supervised probation,’ WRC-TV reports.
Informer covers Congress Heights School redevelopment—-being undertaken by Ward 8 ally and fundraiser Phinis Jones.
GW Hatchet covers Barry-Catania feud over public health contract.
The Washington metropolitan area is now the nationa’s eighth largest.
The Coolidge HS track team is really, really good.
Behold! The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute’s FY2011 Budget Toolkit.
Waah! 14th Street’s narrower! Waah!
Pepco Holdings sells off Connectiv power-generation arm for $1.7B.
Danny Glover was at Benning Library!
See pics from DCPS prom dress boutique.
Hey, look—-the Informer noticed there’s a new coffeeshop in Anacostia…
Bernard Simon, among the 1977 Hanafi Muslim hostages and the father of journalist and ‘Wire’ auteur David Simon, is dead at 89.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Human Services budget hearing on Department of Disability Services and Child and Family Services Agency, JAWB 412; 11 a.m.: Committee on Economic Development and Committee on Government Operations and the Environment joint hearing on PR18-646 (‘1320 Mississippi Ave, S.E. Disposition Approval Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 120; 1 p.m.: Committee of the Whole hearing on D.C. Public Schools, JAWB 500; 6 p.m.: Committee on Aging and Community Affairs roundtable on Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in Wards 3 and 6, JAWB 120.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, St. Elizabeths Hospital ribbon-cutting, 1100 Alabama Ave. SE; 3 p.m.: remarks, ‘Green’ Recovery Act grant announcement (with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan), Garfield Hill Apartments, 2301 Hartford St. SE.