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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Marion Barry Again Disapproves‘; ‘First Vincent Gray Fundraiser Is Set for Next Week‘; ‘Nine Shot. Four Dead. Was It All Really Over A Bracelet?‘; ‘WaPo: D.C. Voting Rights Bill Headed for House Vote‘; and tweets galore!
IN LL WEEKLY—-Capped Stats: What happened to Mayor Fenty’s signature transparency initiative? Also: Nurses say snow firings are rooted in labor dispute.
Morning all. Sinclair Skinner is about to start his testimony before the D.C. Council as LL types this. But don’t expect too many answers out of the elusive dry-cleaner-turned-engineering consultant. As WaPo’s Nikita Stewart noted yesterday, Skinner’s lawyer, A. Scott Bolden, notified the council that his client will not answer questions on, among other things, ‘political activities (including political dealings with Mayor [Adrian M. Fenty]).’ But the questions will persist, especially if WaPo continues publishing A1 stories like today’s piece on the sweetheart deal offered by city to Banneker Ventures, the firm that in turn handed contracts to Skinner. Banneker, owned by Omar Karim, was not only handed a $4.2M management fee, Stewart and Paul Schwartzman report, ‘but it also got an unusual second fee that procurement experts say is generous and unorthodox in a public project.’ When the arrangement was questioned by D.C. Housing Authority board chair Bill Slover, Fenty removed Slover from the chairmanship. LL will be livetweeting today’s proceedings.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Reaction to DCPS surplus rolls in; Rhee decries ‘conspiracy theories’; DCHVRA keeps moving, but without Orrin Hatch; D.C. takes over Southeast hospital; taxi informant pleads out; streetcars in service by 2012?
MORE—-‘The “consultant’s markup” gave Karim’s firm, Banneker Ventures, 9 percent of fees charged by each subcontractor working on the parks projects. The extra fee could add more than $700,000 to Banneker’s earnings. Fenty’s aides call the arrangement “standard.” But when Bill Slover, then chairman of the D.C. Housing Authority’s board, learned of the additional fee in the fall, he called a special meeting of the board that oversaw the parks project. He urged the panel to halt Banneker’s work and withdraw from supervising the project. Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos, who serves on the housing board, immediately implored Slover not to delay the project. But Slover charged ahead: The Housing Authority issued the stop-work order Nov. 20. That same day, according to Slover, Tracy Sandler, who oversaw the mayor’s appointments to boards and commissions, called to inform Slover that Fenty was removing him seven months after having appointed him chair. Slover said he was given no reason. “I didn’t ask. I knew,” he said. “I haven’t heard from them since.”…[A]dministration officials have been unable to cite an example in which a project management team not involving Banneker has been awarded a flat fee plus a markup on subcontractors’ charges….In a meeting with Fenty in December, Allen Y. Lew, executive director of the District’s public school renovation program, complained that Banneker’s fees were “outrageous,” according to a source with direct knowledge of the discussion. After the council canceled Banneker’s contract, the mayor reassigned the parks project to Lew’s agency, which replaced Banneker with a new firm. Lew, who declined to comment for this report, paid the new project manager a flat fee with no markup.’
THE PROCESS—-‘The mayor, speaking on “The Politics Hour” on WAMU (88.5 FM), defended the process by which Banneker was chosen. “There’s no dispute that it went through a competitive process,” Fenty said. “There’s no dispute that the competitive process was completely separated from the executive branch of government.” But three officials from the Fenty administration, along with two from the Housing Authority, made up the five-member selection panel that reviewed bids from 13 firms seeking the parks contract. ‘
EXPERT ANALYSIS—-‘”Nine percent is ridiculous,” said D. Kent Goodger, a veteran contracting official who teaches procurement classes for the federal government. “They’re already getting a $4 million fee—-that’s an equitable charge, maybe a little high. But the additional 9 percent, it’s unconscionable. The D.C. government is getting ripped off.”‘
Surplus Shocker Day 2: The day after Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced a surprise $34M operating surplus, Bill Turque reports in WaPo on the ‘political fallout’ of a controversy that lands ‘in the middle of campaigns for mayor and the presidency of the Washington Teachers’ Union and on the D.C Council’s legislative docket.’ Both Vincent Gray and WTU’s George Parker called for the reinstatement of the teachers laid off last fall, and Gray tangled with one of his favorite sparring partners in a budget hearing yesterday, ‘press[ing] Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso to recommend to Fenty that the teachers be rehired. “What do we do, Mr. Reinoso?” Gray asked. “Do we go ahead and give these raises based on the largesse dropped in our laps? Or do we give people their jobs back?” Reinoso said the two issues—-the layoffs and the $34 million financial windfall—-were separate issues and should be treated as such. “We’re probably going to disagree about this,” Reinoso said. “I don’t think it’s constructive to engage in role-playing to engage in this situation.”‘ Parker, meanwhile, wants to move forward with the teacher contract proposal regardless, and he faces fury from internal foe Nathan Saunders, who deems the proposal ‘blood money.’ The council will take up Harry Thomas-penned emergency legislation on Tuesday. More council reax from WAMU-FM, NC8, WRC-TV.
MORE—-Turque also posts notes from his Tuesday conversation with Rhee: ‘I understand that there is a group of conspiracy theorists out there….All I can do is go back to facts. So people can conjecture all they want on hearsay and happenstance….What I think is important though is that the [chief financial officer] and the agency do not report to me. They are an independent agency. These are not DCPS numbers. These are OCFO numbers. So I think it is unfortunate. We had originally thought we needed to raise more [private] money for this contract…It was this huge concern about it not being sustainable in the long term. Now it’s fortuitous, a situation that allows us to pay more city dollars. Now we’re getting crap for that.’ And both Turque and Leah Fabel of Examiner note late March e-mails exchanged between Rhee and agency CFO George Dines showing that ‘Rhee was raising significant doubts about the existence of the windfall’ a week before the contract proposal was announced. Dines shared news of the surplus with Rhee, but he testified Monday that the contract was not funded.
ALSO—-The WaPo editorial board weighs in, seeing a ‘lot of reckless charges’ in official reactions to the surplus disclosure. The piece points out the finances aren’t under Rhee’s purview, that all the key questions need to be addressed by the independent CFO. But they want to know ‘what the D.C. Council will do with this information—-and with the surplus. The money is not all that much in an annual school budget of nearly $800 million. It could be used to rehire the teachers who were laid off last year, as some council members are demanding. Or it could be used to help pay for the generous retroactive and prospective raises that the union won for all its teachers in recently completed negotiations. Another way to ask the question: Does the council want to move forward, affirming a contract that will promote teacher quality and morale? Or would it like to obfuscate the facts surrounding this latest development and try to score political points?’ Jonetta Rose Barras sees the controversy as serving Gray’s political ambitions, little else. ‘[T]here may not be an agreement between the union and the city. That would give momentum to Gray’s moribund campaign. But it also would devastate many parents, who see the union contract as a critical step to enhancing the teaching corps, ensuring lasting improvements in the quality of education their children receive.’
The D.C. House Voting Rights Act is back, and the left-for-dead legislation could come to the House floor as soon as next week, WaPo’s Ann Marimow is first to report. The catch: The bill will ‘include some version of the pro-gun language that has bogged down the measure since last year,’ highly unpopular with the local political establishment. ‘Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the city’s non-voting House member, and congressional leaders said they are negotiating to weaken the gun amendment language. But Norton said she is unwilling to sacrifice the opportunity to win a long-sought voting seat for the District by insisting on a stand-alone bill. “This is the best chance we’ve had to get a House vote for D.C. in my lifetime,” Norton said. “Nobody would leave it on the table because it’s not at all clear when there will be another chance.” The time is right, Norton and other advocates said, because the bill’s prospects could diminish if the Democratic majority narrows after this year’s midterm elections and if the release of 2010 Census figures undercuts the legislative deal.’ Fenty is supporting Norton, but Gray and Mary Cheh tell WaPo they’re against the compromise, with the latter calling it ‘way too bitter a pill.’ Another complication: Assuming the House gun amendment differs from the Senate amendment passed last year, the upper house will have to vote again, and a key Senate Republican ally, Orrin Hatch, tells the Salt Lake Tribune he won’t support the bill. ‘Hatch championed the D.C. voting bill as recently as last year when it passed the Senate, but not this go-around. He is upset that the new proposal would give Utah a temporary fourth seat on a statewide basis, instead of using a map of four districts previously drawn by Utah’s Legislature.’ Also DCist.
The District of Columbia is now in the hospital business: Specialty Hospitals of America, operators of United Medical Center (the former Greater Southeast Community Hospital), have officially defaulted on their loan agreement, and the city has taken over operations of the facility, Michael Neibauer was first to report in WBJ yesterday. SHA, according to officials, ‘failed to make its $2 million-plus annual payment in lieu of taxes and to maintain performance measures. There were “numerous instances of default,” Attorney General Peter Nickles said Wednesday….Under the Notice of Entry (PDF), issued Monday, the District immediately took possession of the 17-acre hospital property, of all documents and records, and of management and operational control,’ though CEO Frank DeLisi will reportedly stay on. Both Nickles and David Catania yesterday pledged not to abandon UMC. ‘This hospital will not fail,’ Nickles said; Catania added that ‘the survivability of United Medical Center “has not been this bright in years.”‘ Nickles tells WaPo that ‘expert consultants’ are being brought in to run the hospital and get it into market-ready condition.
REMEMBER WHEN?—-‘Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi warned of financial disaster in an Oct. 23, 2007 fiscal impact statement, ahead of the D.C. Council vote on the Specialty Hospitals financial package. Specialty Hospitals, Gandhi wrote, “is not in a strong financial position,” with liabilities exceeding tangible assets by roughly $34 million. And the company’s five-year operating plan, the CFO said, “does not include sufficient detail to ensure that the hospital will be financially successful.”‘
IT’S OFFICIAL—-Kwame Brown has filed his papers for a council chairman run. And Kelvin Robinson tells WaPo’s Craig that he’ll be an at-large council candidate in the Democratic primary. ‘Robinson said he won’t make his campaign about [Phil Mendelson], who is seeking a fourth term. Instead, Robinson said he will focus on education, juvenile crime, neighborhood revitalization and job creation….Robinson said he will not be campaigning against the same-sex marriage bill, even though he’s not sure if he would have supported it at the time. “I would have probably done a different approach, but it’s the law of the land and I have no quarrel with it,’ Robinson said.’
FENCEGATE UPDATE—-So when Nickles ordered Vince Gray in violation of the law and liable for fines, WaPo’s Stewart reported yesterday, he was contradicting at least one city agency’s analysis of the situation: ‘Though DDOT’s inspections division found that Gray’s fence was on public property, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs deemed the fence on private property. Documents provided to The Washington Post by Nickles show that a DCRA inspector found the fence to be compliant after a review on March 3. “The work in question is located on the owner’s property and is not in public space. All work appears to be compliant with the permit in review,” the inspector wrote. Another report by DCRA’s chief building inspector said the agency could not draw a conclusion because it did not have a licensed survey of the property.’
WaPo’s Robert McCartney makes the case for preserving full MetroAccess service in the face of crippling budget shortfalls: ‘MetroAccess is costly. But it is crucial in allowing disabled people in the Washington region to enjoy something closer to a normal quality of life….A combination of higher fares and stricter eligibility could achieve most of the $10 million in savings that Metro would like to obtain from MetroAccess. That said, I think the cuts to paratransit service should stop there….Here’s my thinking: The region made a kind of promise to the disabled in the early 1990s when it committed to provide such transportation throughout Metro’s service area. Many disabled people made lifestyle decisions based on that pledge—-where to live, which jobs to take. We shouldn’t renege. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. We should protect the progress we’ve achieved in integrating the disabled into society.’
AAA holds press conference decrying proposed $3-per-hour parking meter rates; WaPo’s Tim Craig reports ‘growing backlash’ to fee proposals targeting motorists, whom AAA says Fenty views as an ‘ATM cash machine.’ Lining up with the car lobby: The restaurant lobby. RAMW’s Lynn Breaux ‘said the meter rates are hurting business because, in addition to the cost, many meters have a two-hour time limit. Restaurant owners say customers are being forced to continually run out to the street at night to feed their meters.’ Jack Evans and Kwame Brown also share concerns; ‘Our residents are being fee’d to death,’ says Kwame.
THREAT—-‘If Fenty and council members do not scrap the proposed fee increases, AAA officials hinted they would make it an issue in this year’s campaigns for mayor and council. “There is nothing like a good ol’-fashioned election in November to change minds,” [AAA’s Lon Anderson] said.’
New development in taxicab bribery scandal: Key government witness Abdulaziz Kamus, the Ethiopian community leader taped by federal authorities handing bribes to a top Jim Graham aide, has pled guilty, Maria Glod reports in WaPo, admitting that he was ‘part of a conspiracy in which public officials received or were offered $270,000 in cash, trips, limousine rides and other perks in exchange for favors.’ A court document ‘sets out a number of instances in which Kamus or his co-conspirators allegedly gave or offered cash or trips to officials….As early as April 2007, court papers say, Kamus gave [Graham aide [Ted Loza] about $2,000 in cash. On Jan. 6, 2008, Kamus offered to arrange for Loza and Graham to take a trip to Ethiopia “as a reward for their help enacting legislation to curb the issuance of taxicab company licenses,” according to the documents. A few days later, Kamus allegedly told Loza that he had obtained airline tickets for Loza and Graham to take the trip. A co-conspirator later said that Graham would not take the trip.’ Graham has not been implicated in any wrongdoing. Also Examiner, which notes that ‘Kamus was heard describing Loza as Graham’s “gatekeeper.” The cash helped Kamus get time with Graham through Loza.’
An MPD lieutenant has been charged with sexual assault for ‘groping another cop,’ Bill Myers reports in Examiner. ‘Burley Sanders, 46, pleaded innocent to the misdemeanor count in Superior Court Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said. He was arrested early Wednesday and charged with a June 27, 2008 attack on a D.C. police sergeant….A police source said Sanders was accused of coming up from behind the woman and groping her. The woman claimed she pulled away but was wrenched into Sanders’ lap, the source said….Sanders has been singled out for meritorious service during his police career. In April, 2008, he was one of several given an award for helping to solve a burglary in the Trinidad neighborhood. He was also one of the architects of D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier‘s controversial barricades in Trinidad.’
Public Defender Service wants outside investigation ‘into past convictions involving lab work by FBI agents whose performance or integrity later came into question,’ AP reports. That faulty lab work led to the false conviction and 28-year incarceration of Donald Gates.
GGW breaks news that streetcars could be running on the H Street-Benning Road line as soon as 2012 if a capital reprogramming is approved. ‘The reprogramming, recently circulated around the Council, cobbles together $63 million in unused capital funds from the Great Streets program, fire station and other facilities modernizations, and capital funds designated for WMATA’s federal match which has been delayed due to FTA processes….While the overall vision for a 37-mile system across the city carries a general target date of 2030, Councilmember Jim Graham and councilmembers around the H Street-Benning Road area have agreed to make that line the top priority. They also feel that a strong, immediate commitment from DC would help the streetcar system attract federal funds for future segments.’
Vintage chemical weapons found in Spring Valley are set to be destroyed today, Deborah Simmons reports in WaTimes. ‘The disposal process, which the corps calls the Explosive Destruction System, calls for enclosing the weapons in a sealed steel chamber that allows for safe detonation. The Army has used the process accident-free on more than 1,700 occasions, including in 2003 to destroy chemical rounds in Spring Valley. However, destroying arsine, which contains blistering agents, in a residential area would be a first.’
NYT covers the plans of Miami-based art collectors Don and Mera Rubell to buy the former Randall School in Southwest from the Corcoran and turn it into a combination of museum, hotel, and housing. ‘Mera Rubell calls the prospect of building a satellite museum for their collection in Washington a dream. “This is a story of urban renewal,” she said. “It’s about having faith and allowing yourself to dare to imagine a future.” But the dream is sure to face significant obstacles and questions as it is reviewed by several layers of district government. The City Council, the Zoning Commission and the Historic Preservation Review Board must all sign off on the plan. The new plan’s timing, coming as the Corcoran is preparing an exhibition from the Rubells’ art collection, has raised an eyebrow or two, though museum officials have said there is no connection between the two….[W]hile the community is eager for something to happen at the school, which has been vacant for several years, some officials question the price the partnership is to pay, $6.5 million, which is just a quarter of what the district tax assessment says the property is worth. “My primary concern is that we get the fair value, because it was originally underpriced,” said Tommy Wells, who represents the neighborhood on the council.’
The Georgetown Park mall will be auctioned on May 5, and EastBanc’s Anthony Lanier is expected to swoop in and take the property from Herb Miller. Melissa Castro reports in WBJ: ‘For four years, the two developers have tussled over Lanier’s claim that Miller, who bought Georgetown Park in February 2006, was legally required to give Lanier first dibs on the mall. Miller bought the mall through an entity called Georgetown Park Associates II LP. Lanier immediately filed suit against the entity. By recording notice of his suit in D.C. land records, Lanier made it impossible for Western Development to sell or redevelop the mall or even finalize lease negotiations with new tenants while the litigation is pending.’ Also NC8, WTTG-TV.
DCist’s Sommer Mathis witnesses the Green Machine in action, watching Hizzoner press the flesh during a morning visibility event in Logan Circle.
Activist and erstwhile supporter Peter Rosenstein calls on Fenty to reconvene a city HIV/AIDS summit, given new health stats: ‘I call on the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration to immediately reconvene the summit on HIV/AIDS organizations and health care providers from across the District that was held in April 2007. The summit was part of a promise by Mayor Adrian Fenty during his campaign to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I participated in that first summit but there was never a follow up to that meeting. It is time to bring that group back together to review where we have come from, where we are and to share new ideas and have input into where we go from here.’
‘Ward 4 Democrats Stick with Fenty,’ Informer reports.
DMV now allowing Muslim women to wear hijab in driver-license photos.
WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza looks at how Capital Gains has been working at Shaw Middle School.
Cops are looking for this guy.
Another MPD interview transcript from the Robert Wone case.
Man breaks into house, goes to sleep.
Drive-by suspects Orlando Carter and Nathaniel Simms are in court today.
Catholic U. students try out Eastern Market Metro plaza redesigns.
Pepco asks PSC to consider discount pricing plan.
Government Technology looks at new D.C. parking meter options.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Aging and Community Affairs budget hearing on D.C. Taxicab Commission, JAWB 123; Committee on Housing and Workforce Development budget hearing on Office of Ex-Offender Affairs, District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency, and Department of Employment Services, JAWB 412; 11 a.m.: joint oversight roundtable on ‘The Contracting Process Related to Parks and Recreation Projects,’ JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Public Works and Transportation budget hearing on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, JAWB 500; Committee on Finance and Revenue meeting, JAWB 120.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, Key to the City presentation to Joe Robert, Children’s National Medical Center atrium, 111 Michigan Ave. NW.