IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Did Marion Barry Compare Michelle Rhee to Saddam Hussein?‘; ‘Barry Seeks ‘Jaguar, Mercedes, or BMW’‘; ‘Wells Sets Hearing Date On D.C. General‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. A federal law could require the District to move its primary elections from September to earlier in the year, Tim Craig reports in WaPo—-a move that would shift the city election calendar for the first time since home rule, would ‘dramatically change how politicians campaign for office, creating longer general election campaigns and accelerated fundraising schedules,’ and would create the possibility of six-month lame ducks. The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, Craig writes, ‘requires that service members receive absentee ballots at least 45 days before the November general election. But state elections officials say that will make it impossible for them to wait until September to choose nominees.’ Says Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, ‘We physically can’t do it and have a September primary…The earliest we could move it back is August, but August is a horrible month to hold an election because people are not really focusing on much other than vacation.’ Her suggestion is that ‘the District should consider after this year joining Virginia and holding its primaries in June, but that will be up to the council.’ Campaign season and budget season: Together at last!
AFTER THE JUMP—-Metro escalators still suck; Rhee introduces new principal to Hardy; O’Connell leaves WBJ for WaPo; Howard Theatre may want more city money; why female condoms are tough sell; UDC fetes Hill bigwigs; Omar Karim on Kojo!
Metro escalator outages have reached crisis levels, Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo, and the transit authority is being somewhat less than fully responsive about dealing with it. Currently, about 11 percent of Metro’s 588 escalators are out of service, and ‘Metro’s average escalator reliability has fallen for the past three years, from 93.7 percent in 2007, to 93 percent in 2008 and 90.5 percent in 2009. “As a longtime rider of the system, escalators are clearly a problem,” said Mortimer Downey, one of two new federal members of the Metro board. “Escalators are an integral part of the passengers’ ride and experience….They are not an amenity.”…Metro has turned down media requests for interviews on the escalator problem. The top Metro official in charge of escalators and elevators—-David Lacosse—-has since early January rejected repeated requests by e-mail, phone and in person for interviews by The Washington Post. “He has made it clear to us that he has no interest in being interviewed,” Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in an e-mail. “We have contacted him numerous times. He does not want to, and we have no authority to make him,” she said.’ Metro is in the midst of a ‘six-year, $50 million program to overhaul 206 escalators….So far, 42 units have been completed, with contracts awarded for another 74. The goal is to award a contract for the final 90 units by July, according to Metro.’
ALSO—-Examiner’s Kytja Weir reports that another Metrobus driver has been fired for texting on the job. And Tyson follows Weir’s scoop that the operator of the Red Line train that derailed near Farragut North last month had just returned from a lengthy leave. ‘A former Metro employee familiar with the investigation said the operator had not received the full 13-week cycle of training new operators undergo. Metro officials, however, said that regardless of what training she received, a basic mistake such as running a red light and triggering a derailment should have been avoided.’ And a GGW contributor has everything you need to know about Metro capital spending debates.
The latest on the Hardy Middle School saga: Chancellor Michelle Rhee, reports WaPo’s Bill Turque, is pushing back against parent attempts to keep Patrick Pope, beloved principal, in place by introducing his replacement. ‘She’s dispatched William Wilhoyte, her instructional superintendent for middle schools, to set up a series of meetings for principal-designate Dana Nerenberg with staff, students and parents. In a letter to teachers Wednesday morning, Wilhoyte said: “Mr. Pope, Ms Nerenberg and I have met several times to begin the process of developing a comprehensive and transparent Transition Plan for the remainder of this school year. We want to engage everyone in a thoughtful process that will help us to develop a plan that will minimize interruptions to the remainder of the school year while also offering the greatest opportunity for a smooth and informed transition process.”‘ Meanwhile, rumors persist that Nerenburg will be taking over sooner rather than later. Rhee appears before the D.C. Council on Monday.
A Harry Jaffe mash note to Nat Gandhi, complimenting him on his Wall Street-pleasing restructuring of city debt. ‘Over the course of two weeks in late February and early March, Wall Streeters came down to take a gander at the nation’s capital. Apparently, they liked what they saw….Officials with the CFO’s bond office took them to see Nationals Park, Eastern Market, Eastern High School—-all projects done with borrowed cash. After they had seen the bricks and mortar projects and met with Gandhi, the Wall Streeters blessed the debt restructuring plan. Gandhi estimated it would save $328 million over the next five years: $95 million in 2010 and $54 million next year. It required a push from Council Finance Committee Chairman Jack Evans to convince some members it was a good idea, but in the end Mayor Adrian Fenty and Council Chairman Vince Gray agreed to back the deal….That’s the good news.’ The bad news is that the deal extends our municipal mortgage and costs more in interest in the long run. For more on that, read WBJ.
FEMS Chief Dennis Rubin talks to WTOP and ‘promises changes to paramedic services after paramedics did not take patients to the hospital, including a 2-year-old girl who died. Those changes will include new guidelines for treating sick children. “If a person in our city has an ambulance arrive and they want to go to the hospital, that will be the case,” [Rubin] tells WTOP. “We are here to go out and evaluate and transport, not to evaluate and leave,” says D.C. Fire and EMS Interim Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner. Emergency room physicians trained in pediatric care should be the ones to diagnose a child. “Kids can’t tell you what is bothering them usually, especially those younger than 5,” Mountvarner says.’
WaPo’s Craig points out that all of the D.C. GOP’s new council candidates voted for John McCain—-meaning the Arizona senator got at least three black votes in the District.
CHEERS—-The prolific and well-sourced Jonathan O’Connell is leaving WBJ to join WaPo’s new Capital Business team. Says his old boss: ‘Jonathan has been a tremendous asset at the Business Journal, covering the D.C. government and nonprofits for nearly three years. He is a former employee of the year, and, to be honest, a great all-around guy. I will never be able to say enough good things about him, and we will miss him terribly. He was not only a valued employee but a good friend.’
Meanwhile, in his former publication: Melissa Castro covers ongoing struggles with Howard Theatre redevelopment efforts: ‘The theater just received a term sheet from a bank willing to front the theater $6.4 million for its available tax credits…That brings total funds available to $15.5 million, or 74 percent of the total needed to complete the renovation of the theater itself….Once the Howard wraps up the tax credit financing and the deal with an operator, it may go back to the city for funds to fill the remaining gap, Williams says. They better hurry — the D.C. Council is pretty quickly burning through the $21 million it has designated for economic development grants in the Howard Theatre District.’ And Missy Frederick covers unrest in the Georgetown retail scene: ‘Georgetown has experienced both the upside and downside of the contracting economy. The recession has forced several notable stores — including high-profile restaurants like the popular Nathans, chains like Ann Taylor and American Eagle and independent retailers like Commander Salamander and Up Against The Wall — to close, but those vacancies have opened a plethora of possibilities for newcomers. The retail vacancy rate in Georgetown is 16.9 percent, up from 4 percent a year ago.’
The city is offering financing to kick-start a stalled Rhode Island Avenue development, DCmud reports. ‘[P]lans can now move forward to transform the 8.5 acre surface parking lot at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, one of DC’s most stalled projects, into a sizable mixed-use neighborhood, Rhode Island Station….The District will provide $7.2 million in financing through a PILOT note toward the $108 million project, which will bring 274 residential rental units above 70,000 s.f. of retail in two buildings. Additional financing will come from the federal government in the form of Federal New Market Tax Credits and a traditional HUD-backed loan. Today’s announcement marks a significant step toward the execution of the District’s Great Streets Plan for Rhode Island Avenue.’ Also GlobeSt.com.
The D.C. prison population, via the Pew Center and WaPo: ‘[T]he Federal Bureau of Prisons…reported that the population of District inmates convicted in local court also declined…to 6,042 as of February, down from 6,507 in November 2008.’ The stat comports with data in Maryland and Virginia. ‘The reason? States have more programs to divert low-level offenders and probation and parole violators. Additionally, the report states, community supervision and prisoner re-entry programs have gotten stronger.’
iPods have been a deadly distraction here and across the country, Bill Myers reports in Examiner. ‘At least three people in the Washington region have died in accidents in the last year, while wearing headphones. Earlier this month, jogger Debra Schiebel, 51, was struck and killed by a semi tractor-trailer while crossing Constitution Avenue. Witnesses said Schiebel, wearing earphones, was crossing against the light….The most notorious case in the region was the death of retired New York Times journalist David Rosenbaum. In mid-January 2006, Rosenbaum went out for a stroll to take advantage of unseasonably warm weather. He was wearing his iPod headphones, and two men snuck up on him and beat him with a pipe. Rosenbaum’s assailants would later brag that they “caught [him] sleeping.”‘ A AAA spokesperson says to use headphones with care, lest you become ‘street pizza.’
WCP’s Amanda Hess reports at The Sexist on why the female condom might not do much to solve D.C.’s AIDS crisis: ‘This year, Washington will be the first city to roll out a large-scale promotion aimed at getting women to use a form of contraception few even consider. Thanks to a $500,000 grant from makeup company M.A.C., five local nonprofits will distribute 500,000 free female condoms at hair salons, barber shops, health centers, nail salons, and liquor stores around D.C., where owners are being recruited to tout female condom promotion to customers….”We’re trying to reach that critical threshold,” says Shannon Hader, director of D.C.’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA). “So if you have 10 women in a room, it’s not necessary that all 10 try out the female condom—but if a few of them have tried it, if your best friend has tried it, if half of you are familiar with it and know about it, then there’s a higher comfort level with the product when you’re introduced to it.” But female condom advocates have to do much more than throw out some free protection and wait for women to bite. Women have to be wooed to the condom.’
ALSO—-Via Hess: ‘The State of Transgender Hate Crimes in D.C.’
D.C. resident Reed Sandridge gives away $10 a day to a stranger, Susan Kinzie reports in WaPo: ‘Sandridge, 36, a businessman-turned-shoe-leather philanthropist, just wants to help. His mom, the daughter of a coal miner whom he remembers most for her kindness, always told him that when you’re going through tough times, that’s when you most need to give back. So not long after he was laid off, on the third anniversary of his mom’s death, he started his “year of giving,” documenting each $10 gift in a small black notebook and then blogging about the people he meets. By Day 94, he had given away almost $1,000, handing out money in blizzards, in rainstorms, on the sunniest of days.’ Visit his blog.
Quite a coup for Allen Sessoms—-UDC Capitol Hill event draws some notables, The Hill reports, including House appropriations chair David Obey. ‘Sessoms acknowledged that the school was in a period of transition, and committed to improving its academic standing, but he said, “we need to lock arms with our local and Congressional partners” to create long-term solutions. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) echoed Sessom’s optimism, telling the crowd that, “This is the year our state university finally rises to become the example of public higher education in this country.”‘
Man is found shot on 3900 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE early this morning. ‘Police say they believe the shooting happened on the Maryland side of Pennsylvania Ave., but the victim was found, still conscious and breathing, on the D.C. side.’
NC8 reports that ‘school bus carrying six special needs students and three others was involved in an accident with another vehicle. The accident happened at 4301 14th Street NW on Thursday afternoon near Roosevelt High School and McFarland Middle School.’ No serious injuries reported.
Cops need help finding armed robbers who targeted Northeast businesses this month.
D.C. National Guard units return from Iraq.
WaPo reader defends council earmarks for arts organizations: ‘These entities contribute to the vibrancy of our city. They make people who pay taxes want to live here. They make people spend their money here rather than going to Bethesda or Arlington.’
HIV organization moves into ‘Real World’ house.
WUSA-TV covers stripper lawsuit.
DCRA moves to Southwest today!
NOTA BENE—-The National Marathon is tomorrow. Best not to drive anywhere until mid-afternoon.
ALSO TOMORROW—-Norton Ward 8 town hall at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary agency performance oversight hearing on Office of Police Complaints, Metropolitan Police Department, Forensics Lab, Office of Administrative Hearing, and Office of the Attorney General, JAWB 500; Committee of the Whole agency performance oversight hearing on the University of the District of Columbia, JAWB 120; Committee on Human Services hearing on B18-667 (‘Families Together Amendment Act of 2010’), JAWB 123; 1 p.m.: Committee on Human Services hearing on B18-529 (‘Safe Children and Safe Neighborhood Educational Neglect Mandatory Reporting Amendment Act of 2010’), JAWB 123.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:45 a.m.: remarks, SunTrust National Marathon announcement, D.C. Armory, 2001 East Capitol St. SE.