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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Sources: Vincent Gray to Announce Mayoral Run Tomorrow‘; ‘Ahead of Campaign Announcement, Gray Disputes Fence Charges‘; ‘Who Will Run for D.C. Council Chairman?‘; ‘Inside D.C. General: Former Staffers Talk Mold, Bathroom Blowjobs, and Mismanagement‘; ‘Don Peebles: ‘My Inclination Is to Run’‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. Perhaps it was inevitable, this clash of titans. The WaPo editorial board wanted it. LL wanted it. The people wanted it—-so the polls say. And today D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray puts his political career on the line and files papers declaring his intention to challenge Adrian M. Fenty for the mayoralty. In an interview with WaPo, Gray explains himself: ‘I really believe the city needs a style of leadership that can bring people together.’ Alas, for those wishing for an Armageddon-like final battle for political supremacy, it will not be so tidy. R. Donahue Peebles and his thick wallet remain very much in the mix. ‘My inclination is to run,’ he told LL last night. ‘I will be a very competitive candidate, and I will win.’ The messiness cascades down the ticket, with a scramble for the council chairmanship now to ensue. Once WJLA-TV and LL broke news of Gray’s imminent filing, At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown spent yesterday working the phones, locking up support inside and outside the John A. Wilson Building. By yesterday evening he had the on-the-record support of Ward 3’s Mary Cheh, for one. Phil and Jack—-you’d best get movin’.
AFTER THE JUMP—-D.C. at bottom of Race for the Top; bag tax is working, stats say; hotel impasse nears breakthrough; city’s emergency radios malfunction temporarily; CFSA cleared in probe of Bowman case; Neibauer bolts for WBJ
MORE—-WaPo lede: ‘The race for D.C. mayor will start in earnest Tuesday, when Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray is set to officially announce a long-anticipated bid to take on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, setting up a battle between two men who have been at odds for much of the past four years. The contest could get considerably more competitive and unpredictable in the coming days: Millionaire developer R. Donahue Peebles said Monday that he is “planning to run” as well, backing off earlier statements that family issues would keep him out of the race.’ And the nut graf: ‘Gray, a former Ward 7 council member, has a natural base among African Americans in the eastern part of the city but is less-known elsewhere and starts the race with no campaign money….Fenty, who swept to office four years ago by winning every precinct in the city, must win back the trust of many residents who have been turned off by what they see as his aloof and abrasive style. The mayor still enjoys solid support among white voters in Northwest Washington and will seek to run on his accomplishments, which include improving student test scores at long-troubled city schools and reducing crime….Gray said Peebles’s interest in running did not sway his decision and confirmed that they spoke over the weekend but would not disclose the details of their conversation. If Peebles enters the race, “it makes it more challenging,” Gray said. “I’ve made a decision that’s right for the city and right for me at this juncture.”‘
STILL MORE—-From Examiner: ‘Peebles told the Washington Examiner on Monday that he, too, will file as a candidate within two weeks unless something dramatic occurs. “I very much want to be mayor of Washington, D.C. It’s been very kind to me and my family,” he said. Peebles said that Gray, a former city agency head, has been “a dedicated public servant” but he represents “a walk down memory lane.”…Fenty spokeswomen couldn’t be reached for immediate comment. But, shortly after initial news reports hit the Internet about Gray’s challenge, Fenty hastily called a meeting of his top advisers, a city hall source said.’ Also WTOP, WTTG-TV, WRC-TV.
THE FENCE—-Gray’s six-foot aluminum fence is still an issue, as reported LL and Jeffrey Anderson in WaTimes. DDOT posted a letter to Gray on Friday threatening him with $300 per day fines starting yesterday for the as-yet-unpermitted fence surrounding his Hillcrest home, but Gray says he sent in the requested documentation earlier this month. DDOT said yesterday it would not issue fines until the dispute was resolved. Also, an OCF report into home repairs and Democratic National Convention fundraising is due by April 9.
FENTY STATEMENT—-‘The Fenty campaign will take no one and nothing for granted as we head toward the September 14th primary….The city has made great progress over the past 3 years from beginning the critical reform of our public schools to reducing crime throughout the District and, with the residents’ support, we will continue to work as hard as humanly possible to make the District of Columbia a city that works for everyone.’
MEDIA MINUTE—-Examiner scoopster Michael Neibauer, the man who broke the fishy fire truck affair and sundry other stories, has resigned his post effective April 9 to cover D.C. development for the Washington Business Journal—-the post once occupied by the WaPo-bound Jonathan O’Connell. Nei-man tweets LL: ‘It’s just a great opportunity that opened up fast. And I’ll get to spend lots of time at the JAWB. Just like old times.’ Damn right: Can’t keep anything between this man and a D.C. Register.
Now this is a surprise: Of 16 finalists for federal ‘Race to the Top’ educational funding, the District has finished dead last—-well behind Delaware and Tennessee, which each won a share of the $4 billion at stake. Nick Anderson and Bill Turque report in WaPo. The fatal flaws: ‘[O]n the 500-point scale used to assess applications, the District lost support because of lack of union support, poor data collection and questions about the sustainability of its test-score gains. Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker declined to sign because he opposed the new IMPACT teacher evaluation system….An Education Department review panel said the union’s refusal to sign on “creates a concern” and “may create barriers and challenges to getting teachers to make the essential instructional changes” to reach its goals….The District lost points because its education data system is much less robust than those in Tennessee and Delaware. The District’s fledgling effort, known as the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data Warehouse (SLED), has been plagued by problems, including the dismissal last year of its main contractor….In a statement Monday, [Michelle Rhee] did not address specific issues with the application and said it was “a great honor” to be chosen as finalist. “Just advancing this far was an important validation that DC is on the right track with education reform,” she said. “We’re confident about our future prospects and we’re eager to reengage all of our partners as we prepare for Phase 2.”‘
ALSO—-Turque offers further detail on the federal review at the D.C. Schools Insider blog, including this: ‘Reviewers questioned whether the District was more interested in showcasing its “speed in achieving results and to become a national model” or in committing to the “detail and attention needed to build the capacity of staff to become great teachers and leaders.”‘
BAG TAX FTW—-Preliminary figures released by city finance officials indicate that city bag use has dropped precipitously, Tim Craig reports in WaPo. ‘In its first assessment of how the new law is working, the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue estimated that food and grocery establishments gave out about 3 million bags in January. Before the bag tax took effect Jan. 1, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer had said that about 22.5 million bags were being issued each month in 2009. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), sponsor of the bag tax bill, said the new figures show that city residents are adapting to the law far more quickly than he or other city officials had expected….”I’m thrilled with these results,” Wells said.’ Thus far the $.05 per-bag fee has raised $150K for Anacostia River cleanup. Also WBJ, NC8, WTTG-TV.
Movement on the convention-center hotel litigation: JBG lawsuit is dismissed by Superior Court judge, Sarah Krouse reports at WBJ, in what is ‘the first major court decision in what has become a tangle of lawsuits and countersuits over the $537 million hotel….Before the ruling was issued, it appeared the multiple disputes would be resolved in a matter of weeks, with [Peter Nickles]’ announcement that the parties were in settlement talks and were seeking a stay in the litigation. He said Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, had been meeting with the parties for several weeks. “Jack Evans and I interceded and used our good offices to show the parties the light, and that we wouldn’t put more money in it and that they’d be putting in money endlessly. We made it clear that this either resolves itself or we have other options. There’s no way we’d let the hotel flounder,” Nickles said before the judge’s dismissal.’ Also WaPo and Examiner’s Bill Myers, who has potential terms: ‘Under the proposed settlement, the city won’t pay any further money; instead, [JBG] will be given some limited rights to develop condominiums or apartments on the property. Construction was supposed to have started in the fall. The litigation stalled development, and now city officials are hoping to break ground no later than July.’
The first trial resulting from the June Metro crash will begin in September 2011, Legal Times reports. ‘That’s when they plan to bring at least one test case before a jury, with the possibility of settling other cases based on the outcome, said Patrick Regan, a name partner in Washington’s Regan, Zambri & Long and a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs. More than 20 lawyers piled into the courtroom to update [U.S. District] Judge Reggie Walton on the progress they’re making in the case….About 20 lawsuits filed on behalf of the passengers or their estates are being consolidated for the purpose of gathering and sharing evidence. Together, the lawsuits could mean millions in damages for the transit system and other defendants.’
Will D.C., Maryland, and Virginia be able to pony up for increased Metro subsidies? Not bloody likely, Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPoJim Graham (D.C.). “The challenge that we face is, assuming the mayor does not come up with the money, what do we forgo?” Graham said that the District’s contribution to Metro has grown since 2007, from $247 million to $352 million this fiscal year. “I am not in favor of fare hikes or service cuts,” he said. “We are very much hard at work on this.”‘
ALSO—-Moscow bombing prompts heightened Metro security, WaPo reports, ‘sending transit police and bomb-sniffing dogs on random sweeps through rail stations and yards and conducting “high-visibility” patrols.’ Also NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
An internal probe of the District’s handling of Renee Bowman, convicted of murdering two adopted daughters, is complete, WTOP reports: ‘Peter Nickles says an extensive review shows that social workers from D.C.’s Child and Family Services gave the proper oversight while Bowman was raising her adopted children. “There were visits continually through this period from social workers,” he says. “Her history of watching over kids was a long term one, it wasn’t a sudden one.” Nickles says Bowman had been a foster mother long before the District allowed her to adopt her first daughter in 2001. “She started the process in 1997 and the second child was adopted in 2005,” Nickles says. “There was a long period of review of her situation.”…Nickles says unlike the [Banita Jacks] case, social workers could not have seen the red flags leading up to Bowman’s actions. “It’s hard to conclude that had you been in the position that (social workers) were in at the time that they would have had cause for alarm,” he says. “It’s just tragic that something just snapped.”‘
City emergency radio communication system mysteriously shut down for three hours last night, Martin Weil reports in WaPo. ‘[O]fficials said that public safety was not jeopardized, but call LL skeptical. ‘No cause could be determined for the sudden halt in radio transmissions….However, police and fire department officials said they had patched together backup systems to send needed messages. “It’s just a minor inconvenience,” said one police official who declined to be identified. He said the loss of the radio system made matters “a little more difficult for us” but had not affected police service Monday night. Another police official said officers were communicating through cellphones, computers and e-mail. “Public safety is not being compromised,” he said. Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the D.C. fire and emergency medical services department, said the agency borrowed radio frequencies from Montgomery and Arlington counties, sending messages from transmitters in those jurisdictions.’ Also NC8, WTTG-TV, WRC-TV, which reports: ‘Pepco officials say the problem appears to be an electrical issue at the main communication transmission facility on McMillan Drive in Northwest.’
More D.C. General sordidness: Jason Cherkis reports at City Desk on allegations by former family shelter staffers of poor living conditions, bad management, and sexual misconduct. And Examiner’s Freeman Klopott reports on Howard Ray Barnes, 59, accused of selling heroin from his office at the city women’s shelter. ‘According to court documents, Barnes has been under investigation for selling heroin at the shelter since October, when “multiple reliable sources” informed authorities of the deals he was allegedly making there. Between Feb. 19 and March 17, District police supervised a heroin buy at the shelter and another from Barnes’ apartment at 1201 Boones Hill Road.’
Woman alleges ‘she was raped several times by a District police officer who wore his uniform the entire time,’ NC8 reports. ‘She is a 35-year-old admitted drug addict and prostitute. she claims a D.C. police sergeant intimidated her and forced her to have sex on several occasions while he was on duty. “He was like ‘are you ready to take care of me now?’ And he drove me once again somewhere to park to do what it is he wanted to me to do,” she told ABC 7 News. She says the series of events began in late February after she called 911 because she claims she was being illegally evicted from her home….She alleges the sergeant from the 6th District offered to help her keep her home, but told her the house was under surveillance and that he wanted her to become a drug informant….Sources explain the question of consent will weigh heavy upon the criminal investigation. As far as the department is concerned, sources say that if they determine there is wrongdoing the sergeant could face anything from suspension to losing his job. Right now, he is on desk duty.’
Your dutiful Spring Valley munitions update: At council hearing yesterday, Army Corps of Engineers reps testify that it ‘has not formulated a public safety plan in the event that an accident occurs when the agency destroys the weapons in April,’ Alana Goodman reports in Examiner. ‘While the engineers…detailed the precautions they will take during the disposal to make sure there is no public exposure, they admitted that they did not have a plan if their safeguards failed. “If all that planning goes awry and there’s a mistake, what I conclude … is that you do not have a public safety plan,” said Councilman Phil Mendelson. “That’s correct,” responded Todd Beckwith, a project manager with the Army Corps [who] said the safety measures that would be taken — such as sealing the ordnance and explosives in a stainless steel vessel, neutralizing any chemical reactions, and making sure that the weapons were destroyed at a safe distance from public property — made a public safety plan unnecessary.’
The WaPo editorial board lauds the ‘good news’ in the latest D.C. HIV/AIDS figures: ‘[T]he number of new AIDS cases diagnosed fell 33.2 percent between 2004 and 2008. The number of people who test late, meaning those who are diagnosed with full-blown AIDS within a year of testing HIV-positive, decreased by 9.4 percent in that same period. Meanwhile, the number of those who go from testing positive to having AIDS within a year of their initial diagnosis dropped by 19.6 percent. The overarching goal of Shannon L. Hader, chief of the HIV/AIDS Administration, is to get people into treatment and do it early. On this score, there was a 36.1 percent increase in those seeking medical care within three months of testing HIV-positive. And this begets more positive news. The number of District residents succumbing to AIDS fell 27.7 percent between 2004 and 2007….Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s appointment of Dr. Hader in 2008 marked a significant and hopeful change — not only for the operation of the agency, but also for the survival of those living with HIV/AIDS.’
Piggybacking on the poverty study released last week, WaPo columnist Petula Dvorak documents the rise is the city’s poor: ‘You can see it across the city, and not just at welfare offices. Look around. There are more panhandlers downtown and more folks using food stamps at grocery stores and farmers markets. Worst of all, you can see it in the overcrowding at D.C. General’s family shelter. At one point this winter at the former hospital in Southeast Washington, 200 families were crammed into a space meant for no more than 135, and mothers and children were sleeping on cots in the hallways….Poverty is the city’s most pernicious problem, and it’s going to take a heck of a lot more to defeat it than a $15,000 pamphlet written by Marion Barry‘s ex-girlfriend. This is not the deep-rooted, generational and tragic poverty you see in cities across the United States. What we see here are families that survive but don’t thrive. They are vulnerable to any gust of wind that might knock them down — an illness, a slow week at work, a missed paycheck, a lost job. The recession has been a hurricane for these folks, and it exacerbates long-standing problems in the District.’
ALSO—-‘Fenty has not been particularly good at making people feel that poverty is his top priority, and the widening gap between rich and poor in the District is not helping that image. Statistically and anecdotally, the issue is also about the chasm between black and white D.C.’
At Moultrie Couthouse: A St. Elizabeths nursing assistant is on trial for the 2007 death of patient Mark Harris. The defendant, Calvin Green, allegedly ‘grabbed Harris from behind, put him in a chokehold, threw him to the floor and sat on Harris’s chest for about 10 minutes as he waited for other staffers to come to his aid,’ Keith Alexander reports in WaPo—-killing him, and drawing involuntary manslaughter charges. And the case of Ronald Wynn Jr., 37, charged with shooting a man to death over a double-parked car, ends in mistrial, Alexander reports. ‘On Friday, the jury informed the judge that it had reached a partial verdict, finding Wynn guilty of obstruction and gun possession. But the jury said it was unable to reach a verdict on a murder charge. Prosecutors said they will retry the case in August. Wynn remains in the D.C. jail.’
Waterfront nightclub Zanzibar allegedly false-advertises D.L. Hughley appearance, gets sued!
More than you want to know about D.C. Bar elections, courtesy of Legal Times.
Raw sewage stinks up 800 block of Kennedy Street NW.
Columbia Heights redevelopment earns Urban Land Institute honors.
WDC Economic Partnership’s $100K Business Plan contest is back.
POTUS to toss Nats’ first pitch.
WUSA-TV’s Bruce Johnson remembers Paul Devrouax.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-9:30 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary meeting, JAWB 123; 10 a.m.: Committee on Health meeting on B18-356 (‘Jacks/Fogle Information Coordination Act of 2010’) and B18-622 (‘Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative Amendment Act of 2010’), JAWB 123; 11 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment roundtable on ‘Implementation of the Renewable Energy Incentive Program,’ JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.