IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Fenty on WAMU-FM: ‘I’m the One Making the Tough Decisions’‘; ‘Major Fire at Eastern High School‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. In his State of the District Address on Friday and in Saturday remarks opening his campaign headquarters, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has begun making a full-throated case for another four years as chief executive. WaPo’s Nikita Stewart, covering the Saturday event, reports that ‘Fenty said he has “ruffled some feathers” since taking office in 2007, but always to make the city better. “We pledged early on that we would not always make the politically popular decision,” Fenty said….Throughout the speech, Fenty returned to this mantra: “We did it because it was the right thing to do.”‘ It’s a theme he also struck during a Friday WAMU-FM radio interview, where he said, ‘We’re taking on issues that aren’t just tough, we’re taking on issues that are intrinsically not politically popular.’ Certainly many Fenty initiatives fall into that tough-decision category (school closings, police checkpoints, taximeters), but certainly others don’t (foreign travel, lack of transparency, alleged cronyism). Will voters credit him for the former while forgetting the latter?
AFTER THE JUMP—-Early Capital Gains results are mixed; Jonetta blasts OCF for Gray findings; Ron Machen speaks out on shootings; Eastern HS roof ignites; is Rhee the Bill Parcells of public education?
MORE—-From Stewart: ‘He was joined on a small stage by his wife, Michelle, baby daughter Aerin and parents, Jan and Phil Fenty. (Twin sons Matthew and Andrew were playing in a baseball game, he said.) Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), the successor to his council seat, had a lighter take on Fenty’s theme before introducing him to the crowd. “It ain’t easy being green, is it?” she asked, referring to Fenty’s campaign color and the “Green Team,” the nickname for his supporters….The event drew three protesters, who argued with Fenty volunteers outside the headquarters and held handwritten posters that read “RECALL FENTY.” Keith Lomax, a friend of Fenty’s since high school, confronted them. “I’m going to do something to you,” he told protester Randy Brown. “People are trying to get into the building.”…The crowd was filled with familiar faces: government workers, Fenty appointees to boards and commissions, fraternity brothers and Ward 4 residents who have supported him since he defeated Charlene Drew Jarvis for her Ward 4 council seat in 2000. Also WTTG-TV, WTOP. WaPo has video of the SODA.
TODAY—-Fenty appears before the D.C. Council to present his budget proposal. He will be met with protests from the Save Our Safety Net coalition, which is stumping for a income tax hike on top earners to maintain social-service programs, not to mention the questioning of a largely hostile council, led by his prime electoral opponent.
WHAT ABOUT VINCE?—-From last night’s Labor Seder, via the Metro Labor Council’s Union City newsletter: ‘Since 2002 the annual event, organized by Jews United for Justice (JUFJ), has brought together religious, community and labor activists to celebrate and renew the local struggle for justice via the vehicle of the Passover seder, which recalls the ancient Jewish story of struggle and liberation. Last night, DC City Council Chair – and mayoral candidate – Vincent Gray not only keynoted the seder, but explicitly pledged his strong support for protecting the city’s social safety net, the event’s focus. “And I encourage all of you to testify at the upcoming budget hearings,” Gray said, “A lot of people on the Council support the safety net.”‘
WHAT ABOUT DON?—-Nary a peep last week from R. Donahue Peebles, who promised to decide on a mayoral run when he returned from spring break. But expect to hear plenty this week—-he’s already booked radio appearances Thursday on WPFW-FM and Friday on WAMU-FM’s Politics Hour.
Informer previews the chairman’s race—-or at least the Kwame Brown campaign. ‘”The city needs a people’s champion,” Brown said. “I work well with my colleagues and I will keep the people’s issues at the forefront. I have worked six years on citywide issues.”…Neither Evans nor Brown would have to give up their current positions to pursue the chairmanship, because neither is up for re-election until 2012. Several members of the media have reported that Evans will get the backing of Fenty because the Ward 2 Council member has been an advocate on behalf of the mayor. However, Brown said it does not matter to him who supports whom. “As chairman, I can work with anyone,” he said. “I can function with anyone.”‘
LL QUERY—-Who got a chair-race polling call this weekend? E-mail LL with details.
Early results are in from the Capitol Gains pay-for-grades program, via WaPo’s Bill Turque. ‘Paying District middle-schoolers as much as $100 a month for good grades, behavior and attendance led to higher reading test scores for Hispanics, boys and students with behavior problems….The overall effect of the cash awards on the 3,000 students in 15 D.C. middle schools was less significant, however….The study’s author, Harvard economist Roland Fryer, said there was no evidence that the money led to the waning of student motivation or interest in learning. And although the program is “no silver bullet,” the results justify continued study, he said. “We have a set of promising results, and we need more,” Fryer said. But Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said Friday that she was pleased with the results, which cover the 2008-09 academic year. She added that she was “shocked” at the gains on DC-CAS standardized tests achieved by Hispanics and other subgroups….The future of the program, which is continuing at least through this school year, is uncertain. Rhee said she expects to get a “quick and dirty” assessment of this year’s student achievement soon. If the second-year results are similar, she said, she will push to continue the initiative despite the system’s tight budget.’ DCPS spent $1.2M on the program for the 2008-09 school year. First reported in Time mag.
WaPo’s Robert McCartney gives his usual thoroughgoing, evenhanded assessment of the DCPS teacher contract, concluding that the agreement marks a sea change in Rhee’s approach to interpersonal relations. ‘Rhee’s tentative agreement with the Washington Teachers’ Union is a genuine breakthrough, and not just for the District. Assuming that it gets final approvals, it makes the city’s schools a national model for education reform. It gives her a chance to create the lasting change that she’s said she wanted from the start….Just as impressively, in negotiating the contract, Rhee showed that she was capable of maturing as a leader and learning from mistakes. She can still be stubborn and needlessly combative. But she made some compromises instead of continuing to try to impose her entire agenda on the school system all at once….I’m happy to see it partly because I’ve been annoyed since Rhee arrived in 2007 that she was reaping so much glory before she’d actually accomplished much. Time magazine put her on the cover, and an education publication portrayed her in knightly armor as “D.C.’s Braveheart.” What had she done to deserve this? Largely, it was talk. Tough, rude, often self-righteous talk about the need to do whatever was necessary to improve education. It drew attention nationwide, even before actual change occurred….Now Rhee and the union leaders have produced an agreement that raises realistic hopes for more far-reaching transformation. That could lift the District’s public schools out of the bog of low achievement, where they’ve been mired for years.’
Profile deems Rhee ‘the Bill Parcells of the capital’s school district.’ Most interesting part: ‘When she hires principals, for example, she looks for three characteristics. First is for a prospective principal to be “okay with controversy” if it means “doing the right thing.” One of the critiques of which Ms. Rhee griped was that many D.C. school administrators are “conflict-averse” and so they cannot, or will not, make decisions that will anger people. A second condition is that a prospective principal be a good manager of children and adults, especially through change. Communicating effectively, knowing when to tighten or to loosen control, and providing an inspiring and compelling vision for the community are paramount. Finally it is imperative for the principal to be passionate about this work because “even at the end of the day,” says Ms. Rhee, “we’re so far behind compared to where we need to be.”‘
ALSO—-Reaction rolls in to the teacher contract proposal. Teacher Sol notes bonuses for National Board-certified teachers. Guy Brandenburg, a former WTU negotiator, says ‘YOU REALLY NEED TO READ THIS CONTRACT CAREFULLY.’ Says teacher Kerry Sylvia, ‘The contract can be an important tool in improving the quality of teaching and education in DC. However, we must ensure that it addresses the fundamental problems existing in many schools. I am reserving judgment and hope to have my questions answered soon.’ And Candi Peterson says the proposal contains ‘1000 Ways To Kill DC Teachers.’
SPOTTED—-By Reliable Source: ‘*Marion Barry on a beach getaway Saturday. The Mayor-for-Life and an unidentified female were spotted having drinks at Lupo di Mare restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (he had sparkling water, she an appletini).’
WaTimes’ Deborah Simmons highlights the budget concerns of Michael Brown and Phil Mendelson: ‘Mr. Brown says he is disappointed with the Fenty spending proposal and is ready to draw battle lines — with the Fenty administration on one side, and residents and voters who don’t have another nickel to spare on the other….”My first thought when the budget was released was that the main focus should have been on closing the budget gap, to give [the council] something” to work with, Mr. Brown said in an interview. “But increase in education? Where are the students? The other question, if the cuts aren’t deep enough, how are you going to raise revenue? … Be prepared for tax increases that can hit Marylanders and Virginians?”…During budget deliberations, Mr. Brown said, he will make his position patently clear to the mayor and other city officials. “No deep cuts in social services. We have the highest per-pupil spending in the nation. … There are 700,000 jobs in the city, [yet] 72 percent of them are held by people outside the District of Columbia. I’m aligning myself with the people who need help,” said Mr. Brown….Mr. Mendelson, chairman of the Public Safety and the Judiciary Committee, says he has several priorities that aren’t necessarily aligned with the mayor’s, chief among them a fiscally sound budget that does “as little damage as possible to law enforcement,” belt-tightening, leadership from the executive branch and more help for offenders and ex-offenders. Mr. Mendelson also said he is angry at overspending by officials with the Fire and Emergency Management Services agency. “I’m just disgusted with the fiscal management in Fire and EMS. They have $12 million in unbudgeted spending, and it’s outrageous the mayor is giving them more,” said Mr. Mendelson.’
Jonetta Rose Barras calls out the Office of Campaign Finance for letting D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray off the hook for his ‘Comcast letter’ soliciting donations for the Democratic National Convention. OCF concluded that the solicitation ‘was not for a campaign-related activity because Gray said the money would be used to promote voting rights at the National Democratic Convention in Denver. He was therefore “acting within his duties” as chairman. “It annoys me that [Gray] is using voting rights to clean up his mess,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the Republican Committee….[N]othing was stopping DSC Chairwoman Anita Bonds from knocking on Comcast’s door—-but we all know why she didn’t. A letter from the council chairman carried more weight. Thus, a corporation regulated by the city collected a valuable chit….[OCF’s] parsing of the law helps Gray close the door on an ethics issue that could have haunted him during his mayoral campaign. But it is a disservice to District residents….Trust me, a letter from a legislator on official stationery requesting a political contribution for a vaguely described “voting rights” activity is coming to a mailbox near you.’
ALSO—-Afro-American’s coverage of the Gray findings: ‘The dark cloud that hovered over [Gray] for four months lifted on April 7 after officials cleared him of two alleged ethics violations….The ruling could make for easier sailing for Gray as he begins his campaign against Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary this fall.’
New from DDOT: pay by phone! Reports WaPo: ‘The cellphone option starts Monday at 700 spaces in three parts of downtown: Union Station, Dupont Circle and the K Street-I Street-New York Avenue NW area. Here’s how it works: Sign up online at http://paybyphone.com or by calling 1-888-510-7275. You must provide a cellphone number, credit card number and the license number of the car or cars (up to nine) you plan to park. Once the account is activated, you call in when you’re parked in a cellphone space, tap in your registered cellphone number, the location of the spot (designated on the meter) and the number of minutes your vehicle will be there. If you linger over lunch, the meter will tell your phone that time is running out, and you can add more time without getting up from the table—-provided you haven’t exceeded the maximum time allowed. When the ticket writer strolls up, his handheld device will indicate your status.’ Then vendor is Verrus Mobile Technologies. Also WBJ, WTOP, WTTG-TV, GGW.
ALSO—-Resident suggests to Dr. Gridlock that D.C. adopt MoCo’s ‘CashKey’ system for meters. This, however, is a bit much: ‘I know the District has those ticket boxes [multi-space meters]. For the fast-paced lives we live, they are just plain impractical. There have been two occasions when I forgot to go back to my car to unlock it to put the white receipt in the window. This system is unfair because the city is setting citizens up to fail.’
U.S. Attorney Ron Machen speaks publicly for the first time about last month’s South Capitol Street drive-by, to WTTG-TV’s Paul Wagner. ‘Machen went to the scene that night after receiving a call from D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier. The new U.S. Attorney said Chief Lanier was not angry or emotional but wanted him there….”That was a devastating time,” said Machen in an interview Friday. “I felt terrible because I understand the emotion of that moment and how tragic the loss is. I talked to her for a few minutes. I wanted to help and went out to the scene.”‘ Machen responded to critics who say his office should have signed off on a warrant request that could have jailed one of the suspects ahead of the shooting: ‘I can’t talk specifically about that case but we are always bound by our obligations to make sure there is probable cause before there is an arrest and it is always a balancing act.’
ALSO—-The search continues for the fourth suspect in the drive-by, and Bill Myers reports in Examiner that police have identified the alleged gunman. ‘The 21-year-old is already wanted on a bench warrant after he missed a hearing for an unrelated marijuana and alcohol case, a police source said and court records confirmed. Detectives have quietly asked street officers to pick him up on the marijuana warrant and to hand him over to the homicide unit for questioning, a source with knowledge of the investigation said. Police believe the man is the third gunman who rode in a silver minivan and opened fire on a crowd of mourners on South Capitol Street Southeast on March 30.’ Also: ‘Police have been quietly staking out the funerals of the South Capitol victims, one source said. Detectives are worried about further retribution and have been videotaping the proceedings to gather evidence on potential witnesses, the source said.’
Man in wheelchair is struck and killed by SUV late Thursday while crossing Eastern Avenue NE, WaPo reports. The unidentified man ‘was struck by a 1997 Chevrolet Tahoe traveling on Eastern Avenue. He was pronounced dead Friday at Prince George’s Hospital Center. The incident is under investigation by the D.C. police major-crash unit.’ Also: WaPo’s Martin Weil covers the death of pedestrian Anh Dao Huynh in Washington Circle last week. The Arlington resident, 25, ‘had attended Bell Multicultural High School in the District, and had studied nursing “to help people.” Besides interning at a doctor’s office, they said, she was a desk clerk at a hotel in the West End.’ Says sister, ‘She does everything so perfectly. I would never have thought she would walk into the street without looking.’
A construction-related fire at Eastern High School sent thick black smoke high into the afternoon air yesterday. The school, amid a $76 million renovation, was undergoing roofing work at the time and initial indications are that some rubber material being installed was set ablaze. Thankfully, the roofers escaped without incident, the fire was quickly extinguished, and damage to the interior of the school is described by an FEMS spokesperson as ‘minimal.’ Reports from WaPo.
ALSO—-Another fire, earlier in the day, ‘totaled’ the playground equipment and slightly damaged the building at Turner @ Green Elementary School on Mississippi Avenue SE. Congress Heights on the Rise was all over it yesterday.
The St. Elizabeths orderly charged in the 2007 death of a patient he restrained is acquitted by a Superior Court jury, Keith Alexander reports in WaPo. ‘Prosecutors had charged Calvin Green, 54, with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Mark Harris, 39, a Northeast Washington man who had mental problems and had been a regular patient of the District-owned hospital since he was a teenager….Outside the courtroom, Green blamed the hospital for insufficient staffing, which he said lead to Harris’s death. “He didn’t deserve what happened that day,” Green said. “He was a patient. We needed assistance.” Green said that he did nothing wrong and that, had a nurse been in the vicinity, Harris might be alive. “Mark Harris and I shouldn’t have been in a situation like that. Someone should have intervened.”‘ A federal civil suit continues.
Melvin White, 27, was found shot to death early Saturday on 49th Place SE in Marshall Heights. And Barbara L. Smith, 25, was found stabbed to death in a parking lot on the 3000 block of 30th Street SE early Sunday. Police say it’s ‘an apparent homicide,’ WaPo reports.
MetroAccess driver arrested Friday for the sexual assault of a passenger in January. Reports Examiner: Jose Del Castillo, 55, ‘was arrested in his Gaithersburg home and taken to Prince George’s County, where he will be prosecuted. Castillo worked for Challenger Transportation—-a subcontractor for MV Transportation, which provides the MetroAccess service.’ Castillo was fired Thursday, and had been suspended since two days after the alleged assault.’ Also: ‘Metro officials also said that another MetroAccess driver was accused of sexual assault in Northeast on Jan. 3. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case, but the 31-year-old driver was fired Feb. 4 anyway.’ WTTG-TV reports that Castillo’s victim had Down syndrome.
Georgetown student is sexually assaulted: ‘The incident occurred about 6 p.m. Friday in Copley Hall, after the woman had left her room and was walking down stairs toward the basement,’ WaPo reports. ‘A stranger followed her, called to her and grabbed her from behind, according to the campus public safety department. He pushed her against a wall, placed a hand over her mouth and placed the other inside her shirt, the department said. The student pushed him and ran out the building’s back door. The assailant, whom she had never seen before, left in an unknown direction.’ Also Georgetown Voice, which describes the suspect as ‘white male in his early twenties, 6? tall, medium build wearing a black tee shirt.’
ALSO—-Person stabbed on GWU campus early Sunday after event; victim was not a student.
Gilbert Arenas arrived at a MoCo halfway house yesterday to begin his 30-day sentence, after two days in a county lockup. Writes Dan Morse in WaPo: ‘Residents generally live in 10-foot by 10-foot rooms with bunk-beds. They are given linens that they must wash themselves. Arenas will have access to the recreation yard, which has a basketball hoop. He will be able to watch cable TV in community rooms with other residents. Arenas’s team, the Washington Wizards, is on CSN at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night, against the Atlanta Hawks. But residents collectively decide what they want to watch—-with ultimate approval from staff members. Those who know Arenas have said privately that his likeable manner will serve him well inside the center.’
Motorcyclist dies in Saturday morning crash. Davis E. Gross, 22, of Mount Rainier, ‘hit a pick-up truck at Eastern Avenue and Newton Street in Northeast Washington….He was taken to Washington Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead. The truck driver, who was not identified, was treated at the hospital and released.’
Another ‘war on drivers’ story, this one from Examiner’s Brian Hughes. ‘In coming months, parking tickets, traffic fines and the price of merely owning a vehicle likely will increase as local officials, particularly in the District, look for ways to fill bare coffers—-at the expense of car-dependent residents facing one of the nation’s harshest commutes. [Fenty] is seeking higher penalties for dozens of traffic violations in an effort to generate nearly $30 million. The plan is highlighted by a photo radar push to collect $40.7 million this year and $56.8 million in 2011, a 40 percent jump. Absent a substantial increase in enforcement—-or tweaking the machines to photograph vehicles driving closer to the speed limit—-fines on speeding tickets will have to increase roughly 40 percent to meet the mark.’
Jim Graham assures constituents that four restaurants planned for 14th Street NW won’t be affected by impending zoning limitation. He writes: ‘As a long term solution, any proposed changes to the current limit would have to first undergo the Zoning Commission’s amendment process. When proposed rules come to the Council, however, we will revisit these limits to see what works best for the ARTS Overlay District today. We need to strike the right balance.’
A visit to Ballou HS by Police Chief Cathy Lanier is covered by NC8/WJLA-TV’s Sam Ford. ‘Cathy Lanier was monitoring a shooting incident in Northwest, as she came to meet students at Ballou one day. “Hi kids. Good morning, how are you?” the Chief said. The students liked the chief immediately, with one boy telling her she was “sharp.” The chief replied, “He’s a ladies man.”‘
HISTORICAL NOTE—-Remember the 1976 car bombing that killed a Chilean diplomat in Sheridan Circle? Turns out Henry Kissinger had rescinded a no-assassination policy days earlier.
In Sunday essay, WaPo architecture critic Philip Kennicott explains why the 1901 McMillan Plan, the ur-text of local preservationists, might not be the best guidance for Mall development. ‘[W]hat if we could free ourselves from reflexive worship of the McMillan Plan?’ he asks. ‘We might create a better city, more sustainable, more green, more inviting and more historically resonant.’ Most controversially: ‘The major memorials have, by long service, earned a right to permanence. But the proliferation of war memorials, and the astonishingly destructive plan to add an unnecessary “visitors center” near the entirely self-sufficient Vietnam Veterans Memorial, has led to a cycle of land grabs and authoritarian overbuilding, the most egregious example of which is the World War II Memorial. At some point, the removal of all these individual memorials, and the reorientation of memorialization to a single site for war remembrance—-perhaps a grove or a garden—-would be a more natural and sustainable vision for a 21st-century Mall….Allow trees to reclaim [the Mall], replant the old Smithsonian Pleasure Grounds, which were destroyed to make way for the grand view, and allow something green to encroach on the arid plaza of the Grant Memorial, at the base of the Capitol. Slowly unbuild the landscape and allow it to be reconsecrated by an idea that will be vital, terrifying and essential to the next century: the need for green places.’
WaPo poll: traffic is bad.
Northeast residents say they’re being ‘overrun’ with charter schools, WAMU-FM reports.
Hatchet profiles the Guardian Angels, at work in Washington Highlands/Bellevue.
Will dedicated Metrobus lines to DCPS schools be eliminated? Graham spokesperson says, ‘If the council member has anything to do with it, it won’t happen.’
WaPo letter-writer: Eliminating minimum wage, drug laws would help Ward 8 deal with violence.
Among this year’s Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce honorees: PR maven Cathy Renna, entrepreneur David Von Storch, and activist Bob Summersgill.
Tax question for married gay couples: Do you have to file jointly with the District government?
GOP council candidate seeks campaign manager.
Recent school lunch at Cooke ES: ‘French fries, a bag of Sun Chips, and an 8-ounce carton of strawberry-flavored milk.’ Ketchup, too!
Just what local politics needs: another Michael Brown.
The Wikipedia page for ‘Leo “The Candidate” Alexander‘ did not last long.
Legit suggestion: Why not diesel-powered streetcars? (LL answers: Because the District already bought a whole bunch of electric ones.)
The Nuclear Security Summit is here. Do yourself a favor and just don’t drive. WaPo reviews the business and neighborhood impacts, including: ‘In anticipation of gridlock, Center City Charter School closed its Shaw campus for two days, giving students a homework packet to complete in place of coming to class. “We were hopeful that we would able to manage the logistics in such a way that we could safely and practically keep the school open, but it turned out it was too much of a logistical challenge,” said Ralph Boyd, chairman of the school’s board of directors. The loss of two instructional days comes just weeks before students take the DC-CAS test.’ Also WTOP, WRC-TV.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole hearing on the FY2011 Budget Request Act and Budget Support Act of 2010, JAWB 500; Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary roundtable on ‘Continuing Overtime and Pay Problems in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department,’ JAWB 123.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10 a.m.: remarks, council budget presentation, JAWB 500.