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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Hill Rag: Skinner’s Firm Hired Out Survey Work, Pocketed Markup‘; ‘Kelvin Robinson Pondering Entrance to Council Race‘; ‘Judge Upholds Federal Oversight Of CFSA, Holds Fenty In Contempt‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. In a long-anticipated 46-page ruling released yesterday, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan sharply rebuked Attorney General Peter Nickles and his attempt to remove the Child and Family Services Agency from court oversight. ‘Not only did Hogan reject the city’s legal argument for ending the case, known as LaShawn v. Fenty, but he agreed with the plaintiffs in finding the mayor and his administration in contempt for, among other things, the way a new Child and Family Services director was chosen last year in the aftermath of the Banita Jacks case,’ Henri Cauvin writes at D.C. Wire (also print edition). ‘Instead of including the plaintiffs and the court-appointed monitor in the selection process, as it had agreed, the administration simply told the other parties that Roque Gerald, a veteran CFSA official who was serving as interim director, was Fenty’s choice to the agency.’ Nickles holds that last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Horne v. Flores means that courts must begin to step aside from oversight of local government, but Hogan ruled that Horne ‘did not mandate an end to the consent decree that the District entered into.’ Hogan’s key line: ‘Intransigence may be a nominal improvement from indifference, but it is still unacceptable in this context.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-Suspects had been in custody shortly before mass shooting; wires or no wires, that is the question; Benning Library opens at last; Fenty booed at Nats game, says AP
MORE—-Says plaintiffs’ attorney Marcia Lowry tells Legal Times, ‘The contempt order against the mayor should finally make clear to the mayor that the court’s orders are meant to be followed and not treated dismissively as the District did.’ Nickles vows to appeal. Jason Cherkis details the runup to the ruling at City Desk.
More depressing aftermath from the mass shooting a week ago: All three suspects arrested for the killings had been in the custody of authorities , Bill Myers reports in Examiner. There’s 14-year-old Malik Carter, who absconded from a DYRS group home days before. ‘Carter’s escape was just one of several missed opportunities in the days before the quadruple killings….Alleged triggermen Orlando Carter, 20, and Nathanial Simms, 26, had each been in custody in the days before the attacks. Orlando Carter, too, had a juvenile record….Simms was convicted of possession of marijuana on March 17 but his sentence was suspended. He had previously skipped a hearing in a 2008 domestic violence case, but the case was dismissed. In 2009, he was accused of threatening his girlfriend with a 9 mm pistol. Orlando Carter had been named in a bench warrant after he failed to appear for a marijuana possession hearing. The judge released him without further discipline when he turned himself in on March 22.’ Says MPD union chief Kris Baumann, ‘If we had real mandatory minimum sentencing and a real system of dealing with criminals, these people wouldn’t have been out.’
ALSO—-WaPo’s Tim Craig cites ‘sources’ in reporting that Fenty ‘wants to attend’ funerals for the shooting victims, the first of which is tomorrow. By way of context: ‘Big city mayors are usually no strangers to funerals as they seek to fulfill the role of comforter-in-chief. Fenty, however, has appeared hesitant at times to embrace that role. In December, dozens of current and elected officials attended Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin‘s funeral, but Fenty was noticeably absent….Fenty was also criticized last summer for failing to attend several of the funerals for the victims of the Metro train crash….But Fenty, who is up for reelection this year, may now be trying to rehabilitate his image in the eastern part of the city.’
The streetcar wars—-more precisely, the streetcar-wire wars—-are detailed by WaPo’s Lisa Rein: ‘The streetcars envisioned by District planners—-and the first three they’ve purchased—-are powered by overhead electrical wires. Similar wires are in use in Portland, Ore., Charlotte and a dozen other cities. But in Washington, the overhead system is scorned by preservationists as outdated visual clutter, not appropriate for a grand city of monuments and boulevards. So before city planners can realize their vision of a $1.5 billion transportation system that connects neighborhoods instead of moving commuters, they must battle some guardians of the federal city—-or redefine what it should look like in the 21st century.’ Wire opponents, who include the Committee of 100 and the National Capital Planning Commission, are protective of legally protected ‘viewsheds’ that are ‘not be to be tampered with’ and they want an underground or wireless system. City officials, including DDOT’s Gabe Klein and Tommy Wells, ‘say that aesthetic regulation is getting in the way of the new generation of mass transit, which they hope will prod investment in Southeast Washington and continue the city’s renaissance. And they’re ready to make the 121-year-old law [banning streetcar wires] history.’
MORE—-‘Klein said today’s wireless technology is costly and untested in cities like Washington with rain and snowy winters….He is floating a compromise to preservationists, a hybrid system that would run on wires outside the federal city and switch to battery power inside….[Wells] said he will introduce a bill this month to not only overturn the ban on overhead streetcar wires but also upend the definition of downtown Washington held for more than two centuries. The legislation would allow the council to determine which views in the federal city are worth preserving and which aren’t….”Frankly, the degradation of the air [from vehicles] is as bad if not worse than the wires,” Wells said. “The purists are making this a religion rather than a practicality….If the National Park Service only sees themselves as the steward of what happened over 120 years, we’ve got a problem.”‘ Good luck with that, Tommy.
Today’s entry in the Michael Neibauer Budget Series™: An FEMS cost-cutting move would consolidate the department’s hazmat response unit with an engine company, meaning that engine company would be unable to respond to fire calls during the average thrice-daily hazmat calls. ‘Pete Piringer, fire department spokesman, would only say the agency is “constantly evaluating emergency and support services” and the “most efficient and cost-effective manner for providing service” is always a consideration. He would not say which company would house hazardous materials. “I think it sounds like a risky proposition, that it’s a backhanded way of closing a firehouse without closing it,” said at-large D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson.’ The move would save $1.78M.
Unlike LL to miss this lips-related scoop yesterday, from Examiner’s Kytja Weir: A Metro transit police training memo ‘told them to ask crime victims if robbers had “large lips,” sparking anger among cops who said the agency was asking them to engage in racial profiling.’ The memo ‘listed several sets of questions for officers to ask…includ[ing]: “Did you notice anything unusual about the suspect? (i.e. large lips).” It was the only physical descriptor listed….[W]hen officers met with acting Chief Jeri Lee on Tuesday about the memo, [an attorney] said, the chief “refused to even acknowledge that it might have been offensive to some rank and file officers.”‘ The memo was quickly changed to refer to ‘facial scars and tattoos.’
At long last, the ribbon is cut on a new Benning Neighborhood Library. Joining DCPL’s Ginnie Cooper: Fenty, Gray, and Kwame Brown (misspelled Cooper’s name in a tweet). Reports NC8: ‘After more than a five years absence, the Benning branch library is back. It brought out the city’s top brass and, with school out Monday, lots of neighborhood kids….The library includes 22,000 square feet of books, DVDs, CDs, meeting space, and computers, which immediately filled up, with both adults and children. All is stored inside a glass, steel and concrete building that lets in sunlight and saves energy. “In fact, all of the lights are on a timer so that when they bright up they go off when you don’t need them,” said Cooper.’
MORE—-‘It was Mayor Adrian Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gray’s first appearance out in the neighborhoods since Gray announced for mayor. They were hugging, making friendly faces and smiling. Will such cordiality become the rule? “You know, when I’m doing libraries I think about library issues,” said Fenty. “When I’m campaigning, I think about campaigning issues.” Gray told us, “You try to be respectful of one another. I’m sure they’ll be days (when you don’t hug).”‘
READ—-Philip Kennicott‘s WaPo review of the structure: ‘Even as digital reading devices and other high-tech toys transform the experience of reading — and as reading itself declines in a world of video and other electronic blandishments — the Benning Library puts books front and center. Signs are positive that the city isn’t just adding new buildings and gadgetry, but striking a smart balance between old and new, traditional and contemporary library functions.’
Nats open the season. Subsequently moves across the wire: ‘WASHINGTON (AP) — While there were mostly cheers for President Barack Obama at the Washington Nationals opening day game, Mayor Adrian Fenty didn’t prove to be as popular. Many in the sellout crowd booed heartily Monday afternoon as Fenty was introduced during pregame ceremonies before the Nationals’ 11-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Fenty’s role was to introduce nine kids who had the thrill of running onto the field before the pros took over.’
ALSO—-Reliable Source captures mayor and sons.
WaPo columnist Robert McCartney attended yesterday’s ‘after-action report’ on the winter blizzards sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. He was most impressed by the ‘common-sense ways to overcome our national reputation for winter weather incompetence’ set forth by OPM director John Berry. ‘How about, Berry asked, if the region created a pool of snow-moving equipment and staff? It would supplement each jurisdiction’s own fleet of tractors and front-end loaders. It could be deployed to wherever the need was greatest. The federal government could share in the cost. Some of the equipment could also be used after hurricanes and in other emergencies such as a terrorist attack. Pretty obvious idea, huh? Berry had others….Berry also suggested that all jurisdictions in the region use the same parking rules in a snow emergency. For instance, on even-numbered dates, everybody would park on the side of the street with even-numbered addresses. That would make it easier for plows to navigate. It would make it easier to communicate the rules to the entire region. It’s so simple that anybody could have thought of it. But in Washington, the recommendation was sufficiently novel that it drew applause from the roomful of local politicians, agency heads, utility executives and civic representatives.’ McCartney notes that Kwame Brown, now COG chair, ‘endorsed Berry’s proposals in a summary at the end of the meeting.’
AIDS funding in the Fenty budget plan is examined by DC Agenda’s Lou Chibbaro. The proposal ‘calls for a $4.9 million increase in HIV prevention and intervention services, but would reduce overall D.C. funding for [HAHSTA, the former HAA] by $500,000….Fenty’s proposal shows the combined federal and city funding for the agency increasing by $3.3 million, from slightly more than $85 million in fiscal year 2010 to $88.4 million in fiscal year 2011. The mayor’s proposal calls for a drop in the city’s share of the agency’s budget from $11.1 million in fiscal year 2010 to $10.6 million in fiscal year 2011. “There is no cut in services resulting from the reduction in local funds,” said one city government health staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity.’ Still uncertain: Whether local funding levels meet Ryan White maintenance of effort standards.
Baltimore Business Journal covers DISB’s rejection of CareFirst rate hikes: ‘[A]fter fielding complaints from some CareFirst customers and determining that the insurer mistakenly miscalculated its [35 percent increase] request, D.C.’s regulator repealed the increase and requested CareFirst to roll its premium back to what it charged last year, said Stephen C. Taylor, the agency’s general counsel. The District’s insurance commissioner, Gennet Purcell, also requested CareFirst, the region’s largest health insurer, to refund individuals in that health plan — a pricey fee-for-service plan that allows customers to choose their doctor or specialist — the amount they were overcharged this year….The moves are the latest in a series of dance steps taken by state and federal regulators and health insurers to find common ground on insurance premiums….”We’ve certainly pushed to add more consumer protections,” Taylor said. “We’ve gotten several complaints over some of these increases. A lot of people are upset.”‘
Examiner editorialist Barbara Hollingsworth calls the Fenty budget proposal the ‘April Fools Day budget,’ offering her a chance to list instances of ‘waste, fraud or abuse’ in recent months. Among them: ‘$45 million was spent on the mayor’s controversial summer jobs program, which went $31 million over budget in 2008 while paying thousands of teenagers not to work…$48 million in earmarks was steered to Councilman Marion Barry’s ex-girlfriend and other questionable charities….$84 million in contracts was illegally awarded to the D.C. Housing Authority to renovate city parks and recreation centers without council approval….$272 million for a convention center hotel project that violates all good government standards by being exempted from city procurement laws.’ Writes Hollingworth: ‘Instead of demanding that Fenty properly account for every dime, the council allows him to get away with no-bid contracts, questionable development projects and unsustainable spending….Council members have been too busy taxing plastic bags, bribing students to study and approving gay marriage to question the policies that put the city’s future in such jeopardy.’
Changes to MetroAccess eligibility will be discussed at April 19 forum at WMATA HQ. From press release: ‘Metro officials will discuss plans to implement conditional eligibility in July. “Conditional eligibility means that, to the extent that they are functionally able, people with disabilities will be eligible to use MetroAccess for some trips while using Metro’s fully accessible Metrobus and Metrorail service for others,” said Frank Roth, Director of Eligibility Certification.’
COLD CASE—-Cops seek suspects in deadly 2006 assualt of Iraq vet in Adams Morgan. ‘D.C. police Sgt. J.C. Young said the group of men was spotted outside a pizza-by-the-slice place before the incident. In a case like this, investigators hope that one of the people in the group will have a change of heart and come forward with information about the person who threw the punch,’ Examiner reports.
Stage is set for convention center bond sale: An article in The Bond Buyer details a $250M offering expected later this spring. ‘The Washington Convention Center Authority’s chief financial officer, Henry Mosley, last week said the bond transaction — likely to include Build America Bonds and the district’s first issuance of recovery zone bonds — could be brought to the market in the next 60 to 75 days. District officials are meeting this week with the underwriting team to dust off the $537 million financing plan for the 1,174-room Marriott Marquis to be built across from the convention center, he said.’
How D.C. incorporation overhaul stands to affect nonprofits. For instance: ‘A volunteer immunity provision in current law, insulating volunteers, officers, directors and employees from law suits, would be eliminated’ and ‘Individual members of a nonprofit could be held personally liable for obligations of the corporation if the corporation is unable to satisfy a court judgment against it.’
Liberal superblogger Matthew Yglesias writes: ‘If Vincent Gray wants to get my vote in his bid to unseat DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, here’s an example of an important issue the mayor is totally wrong about.’ That issue would be increased Metro funding.
Stephanie Stephens, the two-year-old who died in Feburary after paramedics allegedly refused to transport her to a hospital, succumbed to ‘necrotizing lobar pneumonia,’ according to the medical examiner.
WONE CASE HEARING—-Legal Times: ‘If there was one truth to be gleaned from Monday’s hearing in the case of murdered Washington lawyer Robert Wone, it was this: Come trial on May 10, the defense absolutely does not want anybody to talk about sexual assault.’
Bill Turque‘s still having trouble getting enrollment data, other FOIAs out of DCPS.
Eleanor Holmes Norton joins congressional Haitian relief delegation.
WaPo’s ‘Where We Live’ profiles Rosedale, which ‘has recently started to see signs of the kind of revival the nearby H Street corridor has enjoyed for years, with an influx of bars and restaurants and a host of young professionals buying the large, affordably priced rowhouses that characterize the neighborhood’s housing stock.’
NCPC gives preliminary green light to new buildings at Bolling AFB.
FAIR BE WARNED—-Nuclear Security Summit promises to foul traffic around convention center for three days next week. Other precautions, WaPo notes, ‘include shutting the Mount Vernon Square Metro stop, closing streets near the convention center and curbing foot traffic. Trains will still run through the Mount Vernon Square station while it is shut from midnight Sunday to 5 a.m. April 14.
Officials said they expect delays and detours on 13 Metrobus routes from 9 p.m. Sunday until the morning of April 14. The DC Circulator’s east-west route will be cut into two segments.
The owner of a 14th Street drug store remembers the riots, 42 years later.
Harvard Street bridge construction leads National Zoo patrons to risk a crossing of busy Beach Drive.
Yorkie is returned to Southeast woman, but it’s the wrong Yorkie.
DDOT wants K Street NW closed on summer Saturdays for ‘Feet on the Street’ festival. Last year’s was in Fort Dupont.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled; budget review week.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.