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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Ted Loza Speaks: ‘This Is Bulls—t’‘; ‘Harry Thomas Gets Booted, Blames Fenty‘; ‘Bowser Moves to Reform D.C. Open Meetings Law‘; ”; ‘How Did D.C. General Get So Crowded? One Family Tells All‘; ‘Newborn Dies at the D.C. General Shelter‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. WUSA-TV’s Bruce Johnson reported yesterday, citing city hall sources, that D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray will be joining the mayoral race in the coming days. On camera, and in a statement, Gray brushed off the report. But inside the council chambers yesterday for a DCPS oversight hearing, Gray certainly sounded like a man with his mind on higher office. He repeatedly deployed the ‘One City’ trope that won him the chairmanship, and he found a willing audience in RIF’d teachers (some bearing ‘I Am Not a Child Molester’ T-shirts) and Hardy Middle School parents and students—-who marched on Freedom Plaza, decrying the ouster of beloved principal Patrick Pope and comparing Chancellor Michelle Rhee to Harry Potter villain Delores Umbridge. Usually a stickler for decorum, Gray minded not at all yesterday when hearing attendees applauded as witnesses took shot after shot at Rhee—-she’ll be testifying next week, in a separate hearing.
AFTER THE JUMP—-City parking-ticket revenues are lagging; attention DCPS teachers: it may soon be a firing offense to have sex with your students; more cash needed for Capital Gains; Lieberman could force Senate voucher vote
MORE—-From WaPo: ‘About a half dozen former educators at the hearing were wearing T-shirts with the message: “I am not a child molester.” Former school counselor Brenda Eichelberger said Rhee should apologize for the sweeping characterization and provide references to those who were dismissed and have had trouble finding new jobs. Rhee said in an interview that she would not apologize because “that statement was in fact true,” but she said it was “important to clarify that not everyone fell into that position.”‘ Also NC8. And Guy Brandenberg wraps up the proceedings nicely, from a Rhee-skeptic perspective.
LL and WTTG-TV‘s Roby Chavez have more on Harry Thomas Jr.‘s booting last week. ‘The boot was removed, but FOX 5 has learned the tickets remain unpaid….DMV records show the car with his license number was booted and is highlighted on bold red letters. “As you know, two or more accumulate over time and you get a boot and you become boot eligible, so guess what I have to do. I have to pay for the boot whether I was right or wrong. I have to pay for it,” said Thomas. Thomas paid the $75 to remove the boot. However, he didn’t pay $655 in outstanding parking tickets— like most people have to.’ HTJ might not have this problem if he used his councilmember plates; alas, he does not.
City ticket-writers are well behind year-to-date revenue figures, Alana Goodman reports in Examiner, thanks to a rising rate of challenges. ‘D.C. took in $70 million in parking ticket revenue in fiscal 2009 but will generate less than $45 million this year if current trends continue, according to data provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles to the D.C. Council’s public works committee….”We know that more people are not paying their tickets and that is causing a decline in revenue, probably directly related to the economy,” [said] Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham….The value of parking tickets issued between October and January, but were not paid, totaled $18 million. That’s half of what the District didn’t collect in all of fiscal 2009.’ The solution: 25 new ticket-writers begin training this month.
So DRES renewed its lease in the Penn Branch shopping center last month, but DMPED Valerie Santos has yet to sign off and send the deal to the council, Jonathan O’Connell reports in WBJ, because she wants ‘to achieve what the community ultimately wants, which is better quality retail.’ Kwame Brown, at yesterday’s DMPED oversight hearing, didn’t want to hear that: ‘The delays, he said, were “unacceptable” and “an embarrassment.” Ward 7 residents are waiting for improvements, he told her. “I want to be clear to them that you’re holding it up. And the mayor’s holding it up,” he said. He said he would organize a community meeting in Hillcrest at which Santos could explain herself.’ But apparently the Fenty folks are in no rush. Bottom line: ‘Santos made no commitment to send the lease extension to the council.’
Travel industry players assume a threatening posture regarding pending council legislation that would force bookers to pay sales tax on the full price of hotel rooms, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. ‘A recent letter to Council Chairman Vincent Gray, co-signed by five major travel associations, suggests that tour companies and online travel agents would divert bookings out of D.C. and into nearby jurisdictions if the tax is implemented. “The new tax would effectively reverse the welcoming approach Washington has had to the travel and tourism industry — damaging that critical industry, raising hotel prices, reducing the number of visitors, creating major paperwork with particular effect on small travel businesses, costing jobs, largely among the most economically vulnerable, and worsening the impact of the current slump in the process,” the group wrote….”They’re completely blowing smoke,” Brown said Monday. “These are taxes that the District of Columbia deserves to get.” Brown said he worked with the D.C. Hotel Association to craft the bill. Only national organizations, he said, are employing “scare tactics” to kill it.’
Behold the post-Fast Company political landscape: Kwame Brown had plans to introduce a bill today that would require DCPS to fire any teacher that had sexual relations with a student, Tim Craig reports in WaPo. ‘But Brown said late Monday that [Gray] has postponed action. Both the District office of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington Teachers Union have raised concerns about the proposal….Brown staffers said Monday the council member initially sought last week to change the law to make it a crime. But Brown (D-At Large) and his legislative staff determined Friday he needed more time to draft that proposal. He instead decided to push for emergency legislation requiring that such teachers be fired.’ ACLU ‘would want the bill narrowly focused on teachers with direct supervision over the students they have sex with.’ Also NC8.
DCPS needs more money, $255K more, for the Capital Gains program ‘because student participants are performing at a higher level than originally anticipated,’ but WaPo’s Bill Turque makes a fabulous point: If we have to pony up more money, don’t taxpayers deserve to see some results? Alas: ‘Since the roll out, staged for cameras with great flourish at Shaw@Garnet-Patterson Middle School, the District has offered no data answering that question. Officials have said the program’s creator and funding partner, Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer, is crunching the numbers and will be ready to say something when he’s, well, ready. A Freedom of Information Act request, which I filed in September, has not been answered.’
ALSO—-Turque covers Kwame’s annual trip to a North Carolina college fair with D.C. high school seniors. ‘Brown reported in an e-mail Saturday evening that of the 130 District kids who made the trip 121 received acceptances, and six got cash scholarships.’ Kudos!
Another day, another voucher editorial in the Washington Post! ‘[Joe Lieberman] plans to offer an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would continue federally funded vouchers for low-income students attending private schools in Washington. This could well be the program’s last chance….Over and over, parents cite their satisfaction with schools that are safer, where students are more respectful and where teachers better meet their children’s needs. Politicians like to say they want to do what is best for kids; here’s their chance.’
Metro has its eye on a new safety chief, WTOP’s Adam Tuss reports. ‘If he accepts the position, James M. Dougherty, who has served as the chief safety officer with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) for the past year, will take on a daunting challenge: Changing the culture of safety at Metro. According to the agency’s website, he has nearly a quarter century of experience in transit safety, occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene and environmental protection…. Metro board members believe that Dougherty will bring immediate stability. “Safety has been his mantra,” Metro Boardmember Jeff McKay tells WTOP. “We needed someone who lived and breathed safety, and he is a transit safety specialist.”‘ Also WaPo.
ALSO—-Via WaPo: ‘Metrorail ridership rebounded quickly from its February blizzard low….On Feb. 10, the day that wind and snow essentially shut down the Washington area, Metro operations were severely curtailed, and the number of rail trips dwindled to 36,097, a figure described by a spokeswoman as “very, very low.” But by Feb. 18, trips had soared to 803,641, Metro said. Typically, according to Metro, that level of ridership characterizes days during the height of the tourist season or during large-scale special events….The explanation for the sharp increase in Feb. 18 ridership this year was not immediately clear. One possibility was that effects of the storm on surface travel had not yet disappeared.’
WaPo’s Darryl Fears previewed last night’s Washington Interfaith Network rally, where Hizzoner was expected to join them in a ‘pledge to weatherize for free between 2,000 and 4,000 homes of low income residents to cut their energy bills, and it will train and hire up to 700 unemployed residents to do the work. Rev. Lionel Edmonds, pastor of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church and a co-founder of WIN, said the jobs will pay $13.25 to $25 per hour, depending on the task. The focus of the training by the Laborers International Union, a partner in the effort, “will be installing insulation,” Edmonds said….Edmonds said the city and churches have a database of thousands of homes in Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8 that could use weatherization.’
COINKYDINK—-M.M. Washington Career High School redevelopment award goes to Urban Matters, Mission First Development, Mt. Lebanon Community Development Corporation and Square 134 Architects, DCmud reports. ‘The school will be developed into 90+ units of affordable senior housing, The House of Lebanon, and 15,000 s.f. of community space with an estimated project cost of $25 to $30 million….Also involved in the 94,000 s.f. project is the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, which sits just a few blocks away from the project site and is part of the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN). Fenty reminisced about WIN saying the group “has come a long way” since he first began meeting with them, adding that WIN is now a “full-fledged community partner and developer.”‘
WaPo’s Carol Morello probes governmental efforts to drive up Census 2010 response rates: ‘Census officials say they are more worried about neighborhoods considered hard to count, such as Woodland Terrace. The apartment complex that lends its name to the neighborhood comprises more than 400 city-owned units, many in need of painting….Attitudes toward the census are mixed. Some residents regard it with suspicion; others hope it will generate money to build playgrounds and update the apartment complex’s balky plumbing….Darrell Gaston, 23, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member responsible for part of Woodland Terrace, said he would be pleased if half or more of his constituents fill out their census forms. “These are communities that have been distrusting government for a long time when it comes to services or quality-of-life issues,” Gaston said of Woodland Terrace and the residential streets around it….[Michael Brown], the council’s census liaison, said myths about the count are widely held in the District, where just 65 percent of residents responded to the 2000 Census. People fear that providing information will bring authorities to their doors over unpaid parking tickets, or for having too many people living in a house, or calls from telemarketers. None of these is the case.’ ALSO: A great picture of Phil Pannell at work in Census garb.
‘Gang whisperer’ Thandor Miller is profiled by WaPo’s Petula Dvorak. ‘Miller is your interpreter, an anthropologist who can translate their impossible-to-fathom culture, habits and language. “That right there, the arms crossed thing,” he says as he pulls out a metal chair and perfectly splays his 58-year-old body into that posture that drives so many teachers, counselors, probation officers, volunteers and mentors mad. “That’s ‘cool pose,’ ” Miller explains to about a dozen adults who work with these kids….Miller’s workshops are informed by his 40 years of mentoring the District’s youth and are part of his work with the DC Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation. He is a dynamic speaker, switching from educator in a sweater vest and fancy leather shoes to street boy mugging and thugging in a flash. He explains how to get kids to dress up for court. “They tell me they don’t want to dress up because they want to keep it real. So I tell them they also have to keep it real for the environment they’re dealing with. I call it ‘code switching,’ and that is their language. They understand it when you put it that way,” he says.’
Like LL, WAMU-FM covers Muriel Bowser‘s introduction of open-meetings legislation.
Dementia-suffering woman Doris Logan is reportedly discharged from GWU Hospital in nothing more than a hospital gown and slippers on Friday and is left to find her way back to her east-of-the-river home, WUSA-TV reports. ‘Recalls Tiffany Hunter, “When I asked the lady where’s my Mom, she said she’s not in the system anymore. I said how could that be?” Tierra Hunter, Logan’s other daughter, adds, “They said they sent her with two bus tokens on the way home. With no coat and it was very rainy on Friday. It was rainy and cold.” For more than four hours, the family frantically drove the streets of Southeast, crying and looking for their mother….Meantime, their mother was taking not one, not two, but three Metro buses back to Anacostia to an unfamiliar house she’d only moved into, just two weeks before. Remarkably, she made it-cold, and confused.’
For you National Law Journal subscribers: ‘A lawsuit about unused balances on calling cards in the District of Columbia has morphed into a test of D.C. consumer-protection laws, Jordan Weissmann reports. The D.C. Court of Appeals is planning to hear the case en banc, and lawyers for the plaintiffs’ bar and for corporate defendants are piling on.’
FLOODING THREATS—-Examiner: ‘The Potomac River — bloated by rain and melted snow — overflowed in parts of Georgetown and the Southwest Waterfront….Floodwaters also washed out portions of Constitution and Independence avenues, and along Ohio Drive near Hains Point. In addition, Coast Guard officials reported that high water levels had dislodged a construction barge anchored near the 14th Street Bridge. The barge rammed into one of the bridge’s support columns, but a Coast Guard spokesman said there was no structural damage and the bridge remained open to traffic.’ NC8 cruises on a fireboat.
Baptist Press holds out hope that District’s gay marriage law could be reversed—-via activist judges, natch: ‘Hope may seem lost for conservatives, but they were heartened March 2 when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — while turning back their long-shot emergency appeal to prevent the law from taking effect — said in a three-page opinion that their “argument has some force.” Opponents of the law, he noted, could appeal again to the Supreme Court once the D.C. Court of Appeals hands down a final decision on the “relevant legal questions.” Conservatives also are emboldened by the fact that it’s an election year and that a new Congress may have a more conservative makeup that could challenge the D.C. council on the “gay marriage” law.’
Two transsexual individuals attacked in Columbia Heights on Saturday by man wielding metal pole, MPD reports. ‘The investigation further revealed that the suspect attacked the complainants because of their gender identity. One of the complainants sustained injuries from the attack and received medical treatment. The suspect was arrested on scene.’
Via Legal Times: ‘The District of Columbia, Nevada, Washington, Montana, Utah, and Florida have the highest per capita rate of Internet crime perpetrators in the United States, according to the 2009 annual report by the Internet Crime Complaint Center.’
WaPo letter: ‘It’s amazing to me that D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is joining the Secret Service in adding to the woes of anyone driving west to east through the city by proposing to reduce lanes on I and L streets NW’ for bikes.
CHECK IT—-‘Rent Your DC Basement Apartment Legally‘—-whatever DCRA’s paying Mike Rupert, it’s not enough.
Justice First’s perspective on utility hikes: ‘No rate hike is acceptable, not even so-called moderate ones….Heat and light are a right!’
$14M project creates new Convention Center meeting space, WBJ reports. They’d still like that hotel, though, please.
Remember WASAwatch? Still posting!
Troubled Allied Capital to shed 91 District jobs.
Social Safeway reopening: less than two months away!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole meeting, to be followed by the 30th Legislative Meeting, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, scattered-site redevelopment project kickoff, 1350 Jasper Place SE.