City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Dirty Tricks in Ward 5?‘; ‘Fenty’s Proposed Budget Cuts Include Housing Program‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. If Eleanor Holmes Norton was expecting the District’s locally elected political leaders to line up quietly behind her decision to seek a full vote in the House of Representatives at the price of sacrificing the city’s strict gun laws, she was mistaken. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has fallen into line in favor of compromise, but D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray led an exodus yesterday, announcing at a morning press conference, ‘I do not support a bill that would have us give up our right to legislate and have us give up our gun control laws,’ Examiner reports. By the end of the day, councilmembers Kwame Brown, Michael Brown, and Harry Thomas Jr. had released statements opposing the deal; Yvette Alexander told WaPo she was ‘withholding judgment’; and Mary Cheh went so far as to start a petition aiming to kill what she termed a ‘disgusting deal.’ DCist reports that Shadow Sen. Michael Brown is against a deal, too, with Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta holding his tongue for now. Christ, even the League of Women Voters is lining up against a gun-amended bill, WaPo reports. Meanwhile…gun lovers stormed the District’s gates, almost literally—-rallying while armed across the river at Gravelly Point.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Shaw MS mourns Brian Betts; questions remain on Gray’s home repairs; momentum builds toward youth-justice reform; Wilson student abducts Wilson teacher; NYT notes DCPS contract squabble; there’s an Anacostia cleanup plan, but how to pay for it?
Scarce details emerge in the killing of DCPS principal Brian Betts. Police say that Betts was alive as late as 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, when he placed a phone call from his home. Examiner reports: ‘Friday was a previously scheduled day off from school, so Monday was the first day back since the slaying. School officials said they scheduled a 45-minute grief session in the morning. A “tribute page” to Betts created on Facebook had garnered nearly 1,000 fans and hundreds of messages from current and former students, and friends and family.’ At WaPo, Michael Birnbaum reports on that first day back at school at Shaw @ Garnet-Patterson MS. ‘This week was supposed to be dedicated to testing, and Betts was leading a major push to prepare for the exams. Rhee has rescheduled them for a later date. The front of the school was a makeshift memorial Monday, with roses, notes and candles on the stairs up to the main entrance and chalk inscriptions covering the sidewalks and doors. ‘ Also CNN, CBS News, WTOP, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
WHAT’S NEXT AT SHAW—-WaPo: ‘Until last week, [Betts] stood in front of his school every morning to dispense hugs and greetings to his students and their parents as they arrived. He wasn’t outside Shaw at Garnet-Patterson Middle School on Monday morning. And the hugs between students and staff were grief-stricken. As class was held Monday for the first time since Shaw’s beloved principal was found slain last week, the question was: Who can carry on the charge? Betts was D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee‘s anointed symbol for her reform efforts — someone who was making unconventional educational choices to turn around a school that had been struggling for years. He hired a staff of mostly young, mostly new teachers, saying that dedication was more important than experience. But with so much resting on one man’s shoulders, concerned community members wondered what will happen next….Rhee said that Betts built a strong enough team at Shaw that she’s not worried about the basic functions of the school. “Are there people in the building who can carry on the structures? Yes. Can one of these people fill Brian’s shoes? That’s a different question,” she said Monday night. “I wish I had a lot of Brian Bettses in my pocket, but I don’t.” For now, Assistant Principal Kimberly Douglas is in charge, Rhee said. She plans to run a search for a principal, and although she said it would be good for continuity if the eventual choice comes from the school, she won’t confine herself to it.’
WaTimes’ Jeffrey Anderson casts doubt on the ‘exoneration’ that Vincent Gray says the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance provided with regard to his home repairs. The OCF probe, Anderson writes, was ‘based on a misrepresentation by the developer’s attorneys and a questionable timeline of events.’ The agency, per a ‘extensive review by The Washington Times of the OCF investigative file,’ ‘accepted a series of invoices and payments, plus a written statement by the developer’s attorneys, that are contradicted by telephone records and documented conversations.’ To wit: The lawyer for a Wm. C. Smith & Co. subsidiary ‘wrote that [the company] was unaware that anyone was questioning the repairs until The Times’ story was published Nov. 18….But telephone records, calls and notes of conversations contradict that statement. On Nov. 4, The Times called William C. Smith Co.’s project manager, Erik C. Johnson, to ask about the company’s work for Mr. Gray, telephone records show. The Times called Mr. Johnson after multiple sources said they heard him brag about the company helping Mr. Gray renovate his home. The next day, The Times also called company Vice President Bradley J. Fennell, records show. In both cases, voice messages were left that described the nature of the inquiry. According to telephone records, from Nov. 4 to Nov. 17, The Times either called, left voice messages for Mr. Johnson and Mr. Fennell, sent text messages, or talked on the telephone to Mr. Johnson a total of 31 times.’ And then there’s the timing on Gray’s payments. ‘[OCF] documents show that all but one of the invoices were billed to WCS between July 30 and Aug. 31. Yet, a WCS general contractor’s invoice is not addressed to Mr. Gray until Oct. 30….Mr. Gray’s $10,051.04 check to WCS for electrical, carpentry, painting and cleaning services, and for the architect’s renovation plan, is dated Nov. 15 — 11 days after The Times began calling the company’s managers. According to a letter from his attorney to OCF investigators, which requests that “documents provided by Mr. Gray not be disclosed publicly,” Mr. Gray’s check cleared on Nov. 17 — the day before The Times’ article, and the same day Mr. Gray said repairs at his house “had absolutely nothing to do with the company.”‘
Families of those killed in last month’s drive-by shooting on South Capitol Street want changes to city law, Ann Marimow reports in WaPo—-in particular, they want an end to the DYRS ‘revolving door.’ ‘In testimony marked with anger, frustration and sadness, family members said the District’s justice and juvenile offender systems had failed their children by allowing the suspects, as [mother Nardyne Jefferies] said, to “roam the streets and prey on innocent children.” “I don’t think anyone in the public feels safe,” she said as she urged the council to change what she called outdated and lenient laws. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who presided over the hearing of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said he shared the frustration of those testifying. “If you are angry, you have every right to be angry,” he said. “There have to be consequences.”‘ Pair that with a WaPo op-ed from Jim Graham, who argues that the current youth justice system isn’t working: ‘Giving [D.C. Superior Court judges] limited authority to monitor cases it has committed to DYRS could be a good first step, but more needs to be done. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and [Chief Judge Lee Satterfield] should immediately form a commission to develop reforms to increase coordination, transparency and accountability among CSS, DYRS, the Metropolitan Police Department and other agencies. The commission’s recommendations should include legislative actions the D.C. Council could take to streamline and expedite information-sharing and services between local and federal agencies. It is time to halt the revolving door of the juvenile justice system and get our kids the help they deserve.’ Graham will introduce legislation today to establish such a commission.
THEATRICS—-‘At times the testimony Monday turned angry. Ronald Moten, co-founder of the anti-violence group Peaceoholics, and other community leaders criticized elected officials for not providing more job opportunities and resources for at-risk minors in Ward 8, which has an unemployment rate of 27 percent. Moten’s nonprofit group has been forced to lay off workers and move out of its headquarters after losing millions of dollars in city government funding. “We’ve got the answers. You all just don’t listen,” said Moten, who wore white gloves with red handprints that he flashed at the dais. “You all got blood on your hands.”‘
Bizarre story developing: Martin Weil reports in WaPo that a Wilson HS student abducted a Wilson teacher in Adams Morgan early Saturday and forced her to withdraw money from her bank account before she escaped in Wheaton. ‘In a startling incident with little if any precedent in the Washington area, the teacher, who had been forced into her own car, eventually managed to escape from the student and a second abductor. A juvenile was later taken into custody. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the incident appeared to be a chance encounter; the teacher was not targeted, the source said. The teacher suffered minor injuries….Little information about the incident was known Monday at Wilson. Several people connected with the school including parents and at least one administrator said they had not heard about it. Accounts of it evoked expressions of surprise and bewilderment.’ Also WTTG-TV.
Not convinced that the DCPS teacher contract is a big deal—not just here but nationally? Well, check out today’s New York Times editorial page, which urges union and city leaders to work out the financial dispute and move forward with the agreement. ‘The contract, which changes the terms under which teachers are paid and evaluated, could pave the way for better schools for the District of Columbia’s students and could become a model for agreements between school districts and teachers’ unions around the country….Mayor Adrian Fenty needs to get to the bottom of the budget flap as quickly as possible. The situation was further confused when the city’s financial officer issued a statement saying that there is no surplus, as claimed by Ms. Rhee. She says the city is committed to finding the money to pay for the raises in the new contract — although under the law, any proposals she puts forward must be approved by that same chief financial officer. One bright spot is that the union’s leadership has wisely separated the two issues — last year’s layoffs and the new contract. They need to keep tempers cool so their members make the right choice and ratify the agreement. And Ms. Rhee and the mayor need to quickly and fully disclose who messed up the math.’ NYT doesn’t seem to understand Fenty is relatively powerless to ‘get to the bottom of the budget flap.’
CFO Natwar Gandhi has come out against an $8.1M tax abatement for a Hilton Garden Inn in NoMa, Michael Neibauer reports in WBJ. ‘The 204-room, 128,500-square-foot Hilton Garden Inn, which is being developed by Spartanburg, S.C.-based OTO Hospitality Development Co., is part of the massive StonebridgeCarras Constitution Square project in the North of Massachusetts Avenue neighborhood. Under legislation proposed by D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6, the $59 million hotel would nab sales and property tax abatements totaling an estimated $4.1 million by 2013 and $8.1 million by 2017. That figure includes a $400,000 tax break the OTO hotel will bank under an abatement awarded to the Constitution Square developers in 2008….Funds are “not sufficient” to afford Wells’ proposal, the CFO wrote in his fiscal analysis of the bill. What’s more, Gandhi wrote, “No evidence has been provided to justify a need for this additional real property tax abatement.” The tax break is subject to a D.C. Council vote set for today, and CMs are expected to approve the deal.
Federal and regional officials announce $1.7B Anacostia River restoration plan—-a plan ‘which took two years and $2.8 million to formulate [and] includes more than 3,000 projects to reduce the garbage, sewage and runoff that have plagued the river,’ Alana Goodman writes in Examiner. ‘Strategies to be implemented include stormwater controls, stream restoration, wetland creation, fish blockage removal, reforestation, trash and contamination control and parkland acquisition….Creators of the restoration plan hope it will not only lead to better water quality on the river, but also save money by reducing flooding, decreasing infrastructure repairs from stormwater damage, and reducing energy use by bringing more shade trees to the area. Supporters also predict that the plan will create “green” construction jobs in the area and provide residents who live near the river with more recreational activities and a greater sense of community.’ In WaPo, David Fahrenthold details just how tall an order that $1.7B figure is—-‘so far,’ he writes, ‘none of that money has been budgeted.’ Martin O’Malley, Steny Hoyer, EHN et al. were at the announcement in Bladensburg. Also WTOP.
More on Lisa Raymond‘s departure from the State Board of Education, from WaPo‘s Bill Turque.
AP reports: ‘One person has died and several others have have suffered life-threatening injuries after a van collided with another vehicle, overturned and caught fire….[A]t least one person was trapped in the burning van, and firefighters helped passengers escape. Five people, including three children, suffered serious injuries.’ The collision happened on the 3600 block of Alabama Avenue SE. WTTG reports that a child is in ‘grave’ condition. Also WaPo.
Brush fire halts freight trains along CSX line in Northeast.
High-earning WaPo reader stumps for high-earner tax bracket in letter.
NC8 covers ‘Guerrilla Gardeners.’
Four more years, say Borderstan readers.
BIG THREE—-First meeting of regional execs including Bob McDonnell to take place today in Alexandria.
Streetcar update tonight at Wheatley ES in Trinidad.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole meeting, to be immediately followed by the 31st legislative meeting, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-9 a.m.: remarks, national capital regional meeting, Virginia Mega Projects program site, 6363 Walker Lane, Suite 500, Alexandria, Va.; 10:30 a.m.: remarks, Arboretum playground ribbon-cutting and recreation center renovation kickoff, 2412 Rand Place NE.