City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘DCPS Surplus Revelation Threatens to Blow Up Teacher Contract Deal‘; ‘Charter School Pledges To ‘Not Coerce’ Unionizing Teachers‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. And everything was going so well there for a moment. But now, in flabbergasting manner, the proposed teacher contract has been derailed by financing details. Pressed by the D.C. Council yesterday to answer an obvious question—-how you gonna pay for this?—-Chancellor Michelle Rhee described how 20 percent raises would, in part, be covered by a $34 million DCPS operating surplus, discovered not five months after 266 teachers were laid off to cover a budget gap. Few explanations were given—-aside from Rhee thrusting the mess into CFO Natwar Gandhi‘s lap—-and into the void have sprung a thousand conspiracy theories. But allow LL to go Zen on this surplus that has raised such hell: There is no surplus. After all, until Gandhi says there’s a surplus, there’s no surplus. And Gandhi remains mum. Notably, Rhee relied on her own, privately calculated figures and didn’t bring her agency fiscal officer to yesterday’s council proceedings—-the same agency fiscal officer who testified Monday that the contract isn’t paid for. Like LL said: Zen. Gandhi is expected to weigh in by month’s end.
AFTER THE JUMP—-D.C. doing well in covering uninsured; cyclist killed Monday is identified; mid-city bar-and-restaurant cap should be fixed by July; WaPo calls for sanity in tax breaks
MORE—-Bill Turque writes in WaPo: ‘American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker said Rhee’s disclosure of the extra money…renews questions about the legitimacy of the October layoffs, which sparked bitter protests and an unsuccessful union lawsuit….Weingarten and Parker demanded Tuesday that Rhee reinstate the laid-off educators or face a renewed court challenge to the legality of the job reductions. “This is a very serious situation,” Weingarten said. “It’s serious for the kids who lost their teachers and for the teachers who lost their jobs. The moment she knew there was no budget crisis, she had an ethical obligation to disclose that.”…”The chancellor needs to make the teachers whole,” Parker said. But both union leaders said they would urge their members, who will begin to review the proposed contract in informational sessions this week, to regard the layoffs as a separate issue that will be resolved in court.’ As for Rhee, she says: ‘We got this information very late in the game….The most important thing is for people to look forward.’ She tells WAMU-FM‘s Patrick Madden that ‘hindsight is always “20-20″…”At the time, the budget pressure did exist, all we can go off of was the information that we had at the time, which was that the budget pressure existed,” says Rhee.’
POLITICAL FALLOUT—-Harry Thomas Jr. is already agitating for a legislation to force the RIF’d teachers to be rehired. He tells WUSA-TV: “There are many teachers who we have learned through this process were great, dutiful employees that were released based on falsified numbers, and now we learn that there are numbers in the system that, quite frankly, could have avoided the pain that we caused the teachers,” Thomas told 9NEWS NOW. “Are you saying Chancellor Rhee’s administration deliberately misled the council,” asked 9NEWS NOW. “It seems to be that way. We’re going to check and make sure,” Thomas responded.’ Meanwhile, even stalwart Rhenty allies are skeptical: ‘”It’s just too convenient,” said council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who likened the school system’s budgeting process to a “three-card monte game.”‘
DCPS STATEMENT—-‘In September, OCFO provided budget information to DCPS that projected a $43 million shortfall. By law, agencies must be able to demonstrate that they have the resources for positions for an entire year in order to budget for and maintain those positions. The projected shortfall made it impossible to do this without reducing positions….The first indication from OCFO that there was a surplus in FY10 was at the end of February 2010. This was later confirmed in March 2010 by OCFO —before announcing the tentative agreement. The timing of this budget development is unfortunate….We must however, continue to push forward and build on our collective efforts to improve the quality of education we offer every child in the District and to reward and recognize teachers as professionals.’
WTU STATEMENT—-‘To put it simply, this is unacceptable. We once again request that DCPS reinstate the teachers who were laid off. If the teachers are not reinstated, the WTU requests a new hearing on the RIF, at which time the newly available budget information will be provided to the court….We also are requesting that the D.C. city council take legislative action to ensure greater transparency in the budget process. In particular, we would like to see more rigorous guidelines for determining what does—and does not—constitute a crisis that allows for unregulated actions like October’s RIF. The WTU calls for a close review of the unilateral powers currently accorded the chancellor and the mayor, to determine if more must be done to ensure that there is greater accountability, both to the council and to the people of the District of Columbia.’
THE MONEY—-Examiner’s Leah Fabel has the most in-depth analysis of Rhee’s numbers, from a report done by the private Parthenon Group: ‘DCPS currently spends about $345 million on compensation and benefits for its 4,400 teachers, according to the report. With payout of the contract’s retroactive salary increases, that figure would increase to about $404 million this year, but would be covered by portions of three pools of existing money: About $22 million in federal funds that have been set aside for raises, about $7 million from private donors, and about $34 million in savings resulting from a budgeting error realized in February….In 2011 and 2012, the costs would drop to $391 million and $384 million for salaries and pay raises. The declining figure partially reflects the school system’s continued focus on “right-sizing,” or balancing the number of students with the number of required teachers. DCPS officials speaking on background said they expect the number of teaching positions to fall by about 150 per year for at least several years. This would not necessitate more firings, officials said, because about 500 teachers leave the system each year because of retirement and attrition.’
BIG PIC—-WaPo’s Valerie Strauss writes at the Answer Sheet blog: ‘How did this happen? Because [Rhee] wasn’t straightforward in handling important budget information….Rhee said that estimates of teacher salaries were higher than they should have been last year, resulting in an unexpected surplus. And, she said, she didn’t learn about it until February, a few months after the teachers were pushed off the district payroll. February? It’s the middle of April. If you take her at her word, that she didn’t know until February, one might speculate that Rhee kept the news to herself because she was negotiating the contract with teachers and didn’t want the talks to blow up. Now, of course, union members may refuse to take money for raises that they know is available as a result of teacher layoffs. They may not. The union is calling for the laid off teachers to be reinstated. Whatever they do, what is disturbing is Rhee’s continued refusal to be up front with city residents about important information regarding school financing. She somehow thinks the information is hers to dispense when the timing is right — for her.’
ALSO—-NC8, WTTG-TV. Check blog reax from Dee Does the District, who writes: ‘Chancellor Rhee, I really want to love you. You have undertaken a monumental task and you are making some inroads. You’ve personally helped me out with a number of nuisance issues. But when something like this occurs, I find it impossible to put my faith in this District.’
QUOTE OF THE DAY—-From Vincent Gray: ‘If I were one of the fired teachers, I would be ready to put my hands around someone’s throat and squeeze till there was no air left….At the end of the day, some people’s pay raises [would be] funded with someone else’s job.’
TODAY—-RIF’d teachers are set to rally at 4:30 p.m. at the new DCPS headquarters, 1200 1st Street NE.
WaPo’s Tim Craig explains how Obamacare helps the District government more than most. ‘While states such as Virginia, which has limited health-care benefits for the poor and middle class, will probably struggle to conform to the law, the District and states that have made greater investments in expanding health insurance expect a smoother transition. “The District is in the enviable position of being five years ahead of the nation,” said [Catania]. “For nearly the past decade, the District has been doing what is right: Using local funds for health insurance. And now we are going to reap the benefit.” In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, city officials will announce that only 6.2 percent of District residents are uninsured, less than half the national average and lagging behind only Massachusetts in total percentage of uninsured residents….The District, where five years ago 13.5 percent of residents lacked health insurance, has been engaged in a sustained effort to get to universal coverage. Over the past decade, the city began spending tens of millions of dollars annually to extend coverage to childless adults and illegal immigrants who make up to 200 percent the poverty limit and are not covered by Medicaid. Now, under the legislation signed by President Obama last month, states can immediately begin transferring childless adults who meet the requirements to Medicaid, according to city officials….”We are going to cut our costs nearly in half, and we will provide a better benefit,” said Catania, who estimates that as many as 20,000 childless adults will be shifted to Medicaid this year.’
FENCEGATE UPDATE—-Gray is now being fined, DDOT confirms.
The cyclist killed downtown on Monday is identified as Constance Holden, 68, of Mount Pleasant, who was a 40-year veteran journalist at Science magazine. ‘At 68, she biked about 3 1/2 miles from her home in Mount Pleasant to her office on New York Avenue NW most days when the weather allowed,’ Ashley Halsey and Hamil Harris report in WaPo. ‘With dozens of world leaders in town for the Nuclear Security Summit, which began Monday and ended Tuesday, major traffic hassles were expected, and cycling looked to be one of the best ways to get around town for those comfortable in the saddle. But Holden’s ride home on Monday ended with her bike and body crushed as she set out from the office by a truck assigned to guard the motorcade route.’ Holden was a painter, musician, and ‘highly regarded for her coverage of biological and genetic bases of human behavior.’ Also WTOP, NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
WHAT HAPPENED—-‘Big trucks — some city dump trucks filled with soil to add weight, others military vehicles — had been used all day to block intersections against suicide bombers when the motorcades passed by. A pair of D.C. National Guard trucks were being rolled into position by a guide wearing a yellow reflective vest. Another yellow-vested person was directing traffic at the intersection, and a witness said Holden heeded a warning to step back toward the curb. The second truck hit her….Questions remained to be answered Tuesday: Did Holden roll out from the sidewalk, unaware that the first truck was followed by a second? Was the truck driver’s perch in the cab so high that it was difficult to see Holden below? Did the roar of sirens deafen Holden to the rumble of the approaching truck? D.C. police spokesman Hugh Carew said it has not been determined whether the driver or Holden was at fault.’
Harry Jaffe writes in Examiner: ‘After the investigation and the mourning, we will be left with the stark reality that bikes are fragile and cyclists are vulnerable. In a collision with a car or truck, the cycle loses. Being a biker of many decades, I have learned that lesson the hard way. Very hard. What’s to be done? Mayor Adrian Fenty and his transportation chief envision a city remade to welcome bicycles. They are busy dedicating bike lanes on major downtown streets. Fenty bikes around with a police escort for his triathlon training rides. For us mere mortals, how do we stay safe? How do we preserve life and limb on streets dominated by cars? Two words: enforcement and education. Both bikers and drivers have to pay the price for violating the rules.’
ALSO—-A ghost bike has been placed.
Some clarity on the future of the surprise bar-and-restaurant cap for 14th, U Streets: DCRA’s Linda Argo tells residents and business owners in a letter that the Office of Planning is drafting recommendations for expanding the frontage cap upward from 25 percent; they will then we submitted to the Zoning Commission later this month, DCist reports. OP director Harriet Tregoning tells Examiner that the issue is a ‘big misunderstanding’; she expects things to be worked out by July. Also Housing Complex. And Matthew Yglesias notes rightly that ‘forty percent of the members of the Zoning Commission are not in any way accountable to the residents of the city!’
Atlantic blogger Megan McArdle asks: ‘Why Are There No Houses for Sale in DC?’ She finds a ‘big “shadow inventory” of houses in late-stage delinquency or foreclosure’ and explains why those houses aren’t on the block: ‘There are two components to this, one DC-specific, one not. The specific part is the aforementioned tenant laws, which make New York’s arcane housing court system look like a bastion of pro-landlord sentiment….The broader nationwide problem is that banks have a huge backlog of these bad loans, which means first, that they simply don’t have the administrative capacity to put them all on the market at once, and second, that at least in the case of the larger lenders, they are trying to dribble them out over time and avoid crushing the market.’ (Via DCist)
The WaPo editorial board calls for a ‘cease-fire’ in the jurisdictional corporate-tax-break wars and stumps for legislation from Michael Brown mandating a CFO study for any proposed exemption. ‘There’s no question that such tax breaks can help lure new businesses and influence relocation decisions….Underpinning every request for special tax treatment is the argument that it will make the difference in a company coming to the city or a project going forward. Perhaps that is true, but, as the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute notes in its support of Mr. Brown’s legislation, no one in the District government is taking a hard look to see when that is truly the case. This bill would ensure that the right questions get asked. We would hope other governments in the Washington area would follow suit.’
NOTA BENE—-WRC-TV reports that Costco deal is on for Fort Lincoln, though press conference has been postponed.
Terrence J. Jones, 20, accused of killing 18-year-old Tanganika Stanton over a hamburger in 2008, is acquitted by a Superior Court jury. Keith Alexander reports in WaPo: ‘Jones’s attorneys, Elizabeth Mullins and Kia Sears of the District’s Public Defender Service, argued that police arrested the wrong man….The jury acquitted Jones on all seven charges. Witness testimony was key to the acquittal. One witness said the shooter’s hair was dreadlocked; Jones has never worn his hair that way….Another key witness was a boy who was riding his bicycle after school when the shooting occurred. Last week, the boy, now 10, took the witness stand and, in a low but strong voice, told the jury, as he had told police, that he saw Jones shoot at the women through the front gate to the apartment building. But the boy’s testimony seemed to unravel under cross-examination when Mullins repeatedly pressed him for details of the shooting.’
Metro police chief Jeri Lee has apologized for the infamous ‘large lips’ memo, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner. ‘Lee initially refused to acknowledge the language might have been offensive when he met with police union officials late last month…But the same day the article ran, Lee sent the apology to his staff, with the subject heading “The Examiner Newspaper Article.” “We apologize for any offense and will do our best to ensure publications are free from insensitive and/or offensive information in the future,” he wrote….In the apology memo, Lee said that the Metro Transit Police had recently closed several cases in which the victim described the suspect as having “freakishly large lips,” he wrote. A person was arrested “based upon this description,” he added.’
ALSO—-Two Metro workers have been suspended for March yard derailment.
Phil Mendelson vs. Dennis Rubin—-the latest, from WUSA-TV’s Dave Statter. ‘The March 17 hearing specifically covered the department’s growing overtime expenditures. It is an area where Rubin and Mendelson have long disagreed. A lot of the heat from this hearing seemed to center on Mendelson’s questions about the money spent to upstaff the department during the back-to-back blizzards. You will see in the video it is pretty clear the two men did not come to any agreement on the issue.’
D.C. cop is carjacked in Baltimore, loses gun.
Coming soon to Bruce-Monroe ES site, Housing Complex reports: ‘two basketball courts, a tennis court, a large green space and community garden, and a “tot lot.”’ Still no word on when an actual school might get built.
Man is shot in chest on 800 block of Yuma Street SE.
Police report: ‘The assault occurred near 30th and M and apparently sparked when a witness observed three subjects in a car that struck a parked car and attempted to leave the scene. The witness apparently told them to leave a note and as a result, he was beaten and kicked by the three.’
Eleanor Holmes Norton to GU College Dems: ‘“We are on the verge of getting this bill through both houses,” she said of a follow-up to the D.C. House Voting Rights Act of 2009. Hinting at the significance of Emancipation Day this Friday, April 16, Norton was optimistic that D.C.’s “200 years of struggle” would soon be coming to an end, and said that the hard work put into the bill by Democratic leadership would soon “bear fruit.”’
Restaurant lobby comes out against parking fee hikes and late-night Metro cuts, WBJ notes. And AAA, of course, rails against the parking hikes: ‘[P]arking is big business in the District of Columbia and it’s a sin and a shame,’ says spokesperson.
Re streetcars: Former Committee of 100 chair urges respect for overhead-wire ban in WaPo letter, ‘preserving the District of Columbia as a unique, horizontal world capital.’
Committee vote on sidewalk bill today, GGW notes. They’re targeting Kwame Brown as a swing vote.
Apropos of Capital Gains, a word in defense of bribery
Burleith vs. the GU campus plan
City law firms honored for pro bono work.
The Nuclear Security Summit is over. But Shaw and Mount Vernon Square activists rallied yesterday; they ‘want local authorities to give every day security the same attention they give special events like the Summit.’
Kelvin Robinson‘s as-yet-unfinished campaign Web site appears to be UnityForDC.org. Sounds awful like ‘One City’…
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary budget hearing on Sentencing and Criminal Code Revision Commission, Judicial Nomination Commission, Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, District of Columbia National Guard, Office of Victim Services, Justice Grants Administration, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Criminal Justice Coordination Council, and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, JAWB 412; Committee of the Whole budget hearing on Public Charter School Board, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, and the University of the District of Columbia, JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Finance and Revenue hearing on PR18-777 (‘Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Patrick Blake Confirmation Resolution of 2010’), B18-400 (‘Exemptions and Abatements Information Requirements Act of 2009’), B18-655 (‘Payment of Full Hotel Taxes by Online Vendors Clarification Act of 2010’), B18-707 (‘Processing Sales Tax Clarification Act of 2010’), B18-602 (‘Land Acquisition for Housing Development Opportunities Program Amendment Act of 2009’), and B18-723 (‘Withholding Tax Compliance Reform Act of 2010’), JAWB 123; 3:30 p.m.: Committee on Housing and Workforce Development meeting, JAWB 120; 4 p.m.: Committee of the Whole hearing on B18-724 (‘University of the District of Columbia Board of Trustees Quorum Amendment Act of 2010’), JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, health-care expansion announcement, Children’s National Medical Center, 2501 Good Hope Road SE.