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Greetings all. Chancellor Michelle Rhee sat before the D.C. Council yesterday for the yearly DCPS oversight hearing, and much of the discussion hewed to a few familiar topics. Or, as WaPo’s Bill Turque put it: ‘There are 123 public schools in the District. But anyone sitting through the first two hours of [Rhee]’s appearance…could be forgiven for thinking there is only one: Hardy Middle School.’ Despite member pleas, Rhee held fast to her decision to transfer that school’s beloved principal. She was also questioned sharply on decisions to delay renovations to several DCPS schools—-concerns she tried to foist off on independent facilities chief Allen Lew to little avail. (So little avail, in fact, that Marion Barry has scheduled an afternoon press conference to ‘accuse [Rhee] of breaking promise’ to fix up Turner ES.) Summing up, Tom Sherwood noted at WRC-TV that ‘it seemed like a rerun of the old school board days when council members questioned Rhee about individual school issues, rather than broad policy statements.’ Nothing like a little nostalgia.
AFTER THE JUMP—-HTJ admonished by OCF for staff nonprofit dealings; MPD slows hiring due to budget; Renee Bowman gets life; DCPS chef hung out with Alice Waters; potholes getting filled fast
MORE ON HARDY—-Via Turque: ‘Rhee has said that she wants to reinforce Hardy’s identity as a neighborhood school despite its citywide enrollment and that placing [Dana Nerenberg] there will more effectively send that signal….Rhee told the council there had been “a lot of rumors” about the future of the school. She assured members that Hardy’s popular arts and music program would remain and that all children attending the school would have a right to continue there. She also said the size of the building means there is ample room for children from outside the school’s attendance boundary. Council members said that Rhee has made the issue more complicated than it needed to be by being unclear about her intentions. Rhee acknowledged that communications with the Hardy community were not what they could have been.’
ALSO—-Rhee revealed who is paying for ex-White House aide Anita Dunn to advise her: It’s the CityBridge Foundation of philanthropist Katherine Bradley, who host Rhee’s engagement party earlier this year with husband and media mogul David Bradley. She’s ponying up $100,000 for Dunn’s fee. Says Rhee, ‘We’ve had a lot of challenges as it relates to our communications.’ Hearing coverage also from NC8 and WTTG-TV.
Harry Thomas Jr. is ‘formally admonished’ by Office of Campaign Finance ‘for allowing a top aide to work for a nonprofit while she was supposed to be doing her government job,’ Examiner’s Michael Neibauer is first to report. ‘Thomas, the Ward 5 council member, was cleared by the Office of Campaign Finance of the worst allegation—-that he facilitated a $55,000 contribution to the Ward 5 Business Council from developer EYA in exchange for his support for a project the contractor was pursuing. But the investigation did find that Thomas allowed his policy director, Victoria Leonard, to serve as co-founder, board member and treasurer of the Ward 5 Business Council, and to perform work on behalf of the organization during business hours using government equipment.’ Neibauer also reports that D.C. Council attorney Brian Flowers ‘warned Thomas last May that Leonard’s service as treasurer would be a conflict of interest if “she engages in the activity during working hours, or it involves the use of government property” [and] suggested it would be “prudent for Mrs. Leonard to abstain from any fundraising on behalf of the Ward 5 Business Council.”‘ The story was broken by the Brookland Heartbeat; its editor, Abigail Padou, calls the findings a ‘slap on the wrist given the evidence.’ Says Thomas: ‘Anything to make sure the public trust is protected, we will strengthen those measures and move in that direction.’
Also from Neibauer: The police department has stopped growing the number of sworn officers toward the stated goal of 4,200 thanks to budget pressures. ‘[MPD] was 4,017 officers strong as of Friday, Chief Cathy Lanier told a D.C. Council panel, and that’s roughly where it will remain….”We’re just hiring to meet attrition,” Lanier said during a hearing on the MPD’s performance. “The classes will continue. The hiring will continue. But it will be to meet attrition, not to expand the force any further.” Lanier said she has “significantly downsized the size of the recruiting branch” and “reduced the academy staff almost by half and put them back on patrol.” Also, about 40 officers have applied for early retirement, which will allow the department to replace well-paid cops with lower-salaried recruits.’ At the hearing, Phil Mendelson notes that MPD ‘has never studied how many officers are needed on the force…and it ought to.’ Plus token ANC quote from Kelvin Robinson! Also NC8.
ALSO—-GGW highlights Mendelson comments from the MPD hearing on how cops are ‘being too easy’ on drivers who kill pedestrians. ‘[T]here’s no prosecution, even though we have a reckless driving law. It’s as if, as a government, we are too easy on the driver, too forgiving of the driver, even though an individual has lost their life,’ he said.
OK, for real this time: Sinclair Skinner will testify before the D.C. Council on April 14, Nikita Stewart reports at D.C. Wire.
The Queens Chapel Road entertainment district is expanding! The gritty Northeast thoroughfare will soon be home to strip joint The Stadium Club, Dana Hedgpeth reports at D.C. Wire. ‘The new club’s owners paid $1.15 million to buy the nude dance license from the manager of Nexus Gold….The club’s Web site – stadiumclubdc.com – promises “special VIP rooms for private dance experiences with stadium girls,” and “up front table dances” for $20 a song, plus valet parking for up to 75 cars next door.’ Neighbors are concerned about ‘the parking impact, how it will use up police resources, and that people will be lurking around the neighborhood when they leave the club.’ Owner James T. “Tru” Redding, has promised ‘that he was bringing in a manager who had family ties to Ward 5.’ So there’s that.
BREAKING—-Prosecutors recommend that Gilbert Arenas spend three months behind bars, plus 300 months community service. Wrote AUSA in sentencing memo, ‘The defendant’s conduct since the time of the incident establishes that he has shown little genuine remorse for anything other than how this incident may affect his career.’
Renee Bowman, the woman who adopted three children in D.C. then proceeded to torture them and kill two, has been sentenced to life in prison by a Montgomery County judge, who, according to WaPo’s Dan Morse, called the case the most horrific he’d seen in his 25-year career in Montgomery County. Said Judge Michael Algeo: ‘Ms. Bowman, you had the opportunity to do something good in this world, something special, particularly as an adoptive parent….Instead, you tortured, brutalized and killed them.’ Bowman spoke: ‘I really don’t have much to say today, except that I am very sorry for the abuse…It haunts me. It haunts me every day. It’s kind of hard to stand here and talk about it, but I’m very sorry. Thank you.’ Both Algeo and prosecutors ‘questioned why Bowman was allowed to adopt the children in the first place.’
Power-civil-rights-lawyer-couple Carl Messineo and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard are profiled by WaPo’s Theola Labbe-DeBose, not long after big victories in the Pershing Park and other protest cases. ‘The tedious approach to assembling facts is a staple of their three-person law practice, the Partnership for Civil Justice, and reflects a deeper personal passion to defend the Constitution and create social change. “It’s not enough for us to say, ‘We are asking [D.C. police] to stop beating people,’ or whatever the violation is,” Messineo said. “We take it a step further and try to identify what it is exactly that is causing the violation to occur, because we want to make sure it never happens again to someone else.” In the process, the partnership has won some high-profile cases and made the city pay….All the while, they’ve managed to stay married.’ Peter Nickles testifies to their thoroughness!
BEST OF D.C. PREVIEW—-Partnership for Civil Justice wins Best Law Firm!
WaPo’s Jane Black profiles new DCPS food chief Jeff Mills. ‘Mills’s previous claim to fame was as a New York restauranteur [sic] and consultant who had a cameo on HBO’s “Sex and the City.” His now-closed hot spot, the Biltmore Room, won three stars from the New York Times. Since Chancellor Michelle Rhee handpicked him to remake the service, Mills has been trying to untangle the Alice-in-Wonderland-like world of school food, a curious system of subsidies and standards that can take years to master, let alone manipulate….Since taking the reins in January, Mills has toured the area’s models of school-food reform. He visited Great Kids Farms, an educational center run by the Baltimore City Public Schools. He ate lunch at the Washington Jesuit Academy, where meals are cooked from scratch and many of the ingredients are sourced locally. This month, Mills made a trip to Berkeley, Calif., courtesy of Chez Panisse chef-restaurateur Alice Waters, to see the famed Edible Schoolyard. His goal, he said, is to create the best school food service possible….More than anything, he says, he wants to put more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and fewer processed foods on school lunch trays. Privately, some school-foods reform advocates worry that Mills, 36, might not be up to the task. He is hooked on buzzwords such as “local” and “community” without a clear plan about how to integrate the concepts into the school food program, they say.’
Mail your damn Census form, urges Petula Dvorak in her WaPo column. ‘This historical lack of participation is especially heartbreaking in the District, where we mourn our “taxation without representation” yet are reluctant to stand up and be counted when the time comes. D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large), the council liaison for the census, told The Post that District residents who aren’t responding might be worried about some of the myths circulating about the census. He said some people think that if they fill out the form, the government could come after them for unpaid parking tickets. Really? People think that the District’s Department of Public Works needs the federal government to find you and your illegally parked car? It is the most efficient and ruthless branch of our city’s government.’
Man murdered in early Monday shooting is identified as Jordan DeAnthony Howe, 20, of the 3200 block of Buena Vista Terrace SE.
Examiner’s Kytja Weir reviews all the folks who get breaks on Metro fares—-primarily federal workers who get some $330M in government-subsidized rides and hence ‘wouldn’t feel the pain of proposed fare increases that could raise one-way subway fares to as much as $5.95.’ Why it matters: ‘The subsidies make many riders more willing to accept fare increases rather than face service cuts, since they may not have to pay the difference. But riders who don’t get subsidized rides would be pinched by Metro’s proposal to close an $189 million budget gap by boosting fares by as much as 28 percent.’ Oh, and current and retired Metro employees ride free, too—-10,000 of them.
ALSO—-The first public hearing on Metro gap-closing was last night in Virginia, attracting dozens. WMATA board will vote Thursday on buying new rail cars. And WaPo: ‘Metro is slowing trains on portions of the Red Line to 15 mph while repairing a segment of track—-at least doubling the travel time and leading to rush-hour backups….The speed restriction adds at least two minutes to the trip between [Friendship Heights and Bethesda]—-more during peak travel times, when more trains are passing through the area….Metro’s goal is to increase speeds to 40 mph by midweek, but there are no guarantees.’
DDOT estimates: ‘Since the year began, 11,384 potholes have been filled, compared with 2,912 potholes filled during the first 78 days of 2009.’ That’s 290 potholes a day, on average, WTOP says.
Valerie Santos speaks! Via WBJ: ‘[Santos] told a ballroom full of developers at the Grand Hyatt Washington that the city was making slow and steady progress on projects such as the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. She said her office plans to announce an urban planning firm and development advisory company for the Walter Reed site in the coming weeks and that developer William C. Smith will move forward with its work at Canal Park in June. In addition to public-private partnerships, Santos said that the District government is shifting to owning, rather than renting office space. “Those of you looking to lease – it’s probably not gonna happen,” she said. “We are trying to be more efficient in the use of our own buildings.”‘
ALSO—-The Triangle, GGW cover controversy over DMPED decision to turn 5th and I development site into a temporary parking lot. That’s to the chagrin of neighbors, who ‘allege that the parking lot does not conform with zoning, including incomplete fencing and a total lack of landscaping. The property is also being left unlocked at night, which is raising security concerns from neighboring residential properties.’
Fascinating column from John Kelly: What happened to the Association of Oldest Inhabitants (Colored)? The original, long-segregated AOI, b. 1865, ‘must have inspired black Washingtonians with similarly deep roots in the city to form their own group. AOI (Colored) was incorporated in 1916, modeling the language in its incorporation papers on the older group’s….From newspaper clippings, it’s clear that AOI (Colored) was an active force. It worked to integrate the city’s playgrounds, fire companies—-and the Redskins. Nelson has seen mentions up to the 1970s, but after that, nothing.’ AOI historian Nelson Rimensnyder is looking for anyone who knows what happened.
WE’RE NO. 2! WE’RE NO. 2!—-In green buildings, says the EPA. ‘A new District law promoting green building practices, coupled with recent debate on Capitol Hill about raising energy efficiency, may have helped motivate area property owners to install energy-saving devices,’ WaPo reports.
Could Southwest Airlines finally be coming to DCA? ‘On Monday, the low-cost, Texas-based carrier asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to force US Airways and Delta Air Lines to auction off 14 landing and takeoff slots at the airport to the highest bidder in a public sale,’ WaPo reports. US Airways and Delta are resisting tooth and nail.
WaPo’s Daniel de Vise covers AU student efforts to teach English to university employees. ‘AU students began tutoring workers several years ago in a modest, student-run initiative on a campus known for embracing public service….This year, the endeavor expanded from a few dozen participants to 100, with roughly equal numbers of tutors and workers. The students hope to do more than teach English. They aim to bridge the gap in language, culture and socioeconomic status that separates students from workers. In a sense, CLASE is about class.’
Metro Weekly’s Yusuf Najafi has more details on the Dec. 27 murder of gay man Anthony Perkins: ‘MPD Detective Michael Fulton says [Antwan Holcomb, 20], allegedly lured Perkins to his neighborhood after speaking with him on a gay phone line, “DC Raven.” “The victim went down there and we’re not quite sure what happened exactly inside the car, just that Perkins ended up getting shot one time in the head,” Fulton says. “A pack of Newport cigarettes is what was stolen from him.” Fulton says Holcomb is not gay, and that he is facing multiple charges beyond the Perkins homicide.’
NC8: ‘Police say burglars are targeting the apartments of college students at two area universities. The crime surge is happening just off the campuses of Georgetown and Howard universities. Four Howard University students packed up their belongings Monday after an early morning attack by six masked men inside their off-campus home.’
WBJ reviews the year past in the ballpark district. ‘The Capitol Riverfront neighborhood saw the number of residents more than double in the last year. Diamond Teague Park opened across from the stadium….The Yards Park, a public waterfront park on 5.5 acres, will open in July. Development will begin later this year on Canal Park, which will be finished next year.’
Benning library opening set for April 5.
Row house fire on 500 block of Peabody Street NW.
Annapolis resident’s stolen plates end up on illegally parked car in D.C.; DMV madness ensues.
Want to pay for the privilege of joining Hizzoner for a 5 a.m. workout? Then check out the DC SCORES Soccer Ball silent auction! ‘Don’t worry about being out of shape, these track workouts are designed for all skill levels – good luck keeping up with Mayor Fenty! After the session, you can pose for a photo with the Mayor and his team.’
HTJ, Marc Barnes, and Don Peebles mug for the Bisnow camera at James Brown book-signing.
CONGRATS—-To Pege Gilgannon, ubiquitous WJLA-TV photographer, who ‘will receive the lifetime achievement award from the White House News Photographers Association.’
Paul Devrouax, perhaps Washington’s most prominent and most successful black architect, died Monday. ‘Devrouax and his partner Marshall Purnell…designed such colossal projects in D.C. as Nationals Park and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center,’ WBJ reports. ‘Notable projects include the headquarters of Freddie Mac in McLean and Pepco in D.C….Margery Goldberg, founder of the Zenith Gallery, met Devrouax 25 years ago because their offices were nearby in the Penn Quarter neighborhood….”It’s a great blow to the city, and his legacy in the buildings they built will live on for decades, if not centuries….He was a role model to young, black architects coming into the field.”‘
TODAY—-Eleanor Holmes Norton‘s House subcommittee to talk snowstorm response. And Phil Mendelson holds a ‘Tax Town Hall’ to discuss assessments and other concerns at Hardy Rec Center at 6:30 p.m. (The town halls continue [PDF] through month’s end.)
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment hearing on B18-610 (‘Omnibus Procurement Reform Amendment Act of 2010’), B18-635 (‘Procurement Reform Act of 2010’), and B18-712 (‘District Surplus Property Reform Amendment Act of 2010’), JAWB 500; 11 a.m.: Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation and Committee on Public Works and Transportation joint roundtable on Contract DCKT-2010-CA-0120, JAWB 412; 6 p.m.: Committee on Aging and Community Affairs roundtable on Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in Wards 1 and 8, JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, playground groundbreaking, Langdon ES, 1900 Evarts St. NE; 12:30 p.m.: remarks, 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll ticket giveaway (with SecEd Arne Duncan), J.O. Wilson ES, 660 K St. NE.