There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘If Earmarks Were Prohibited, How Did Harry Thomas Jr. Get Them?‘; ‘Farewell, Washington City Paper‘ (from Erik Wemple, ex-LL), and tweets galore!
Morning all. On Saturday, WaPo columnist Colby King revisited the topic of D.C. Council earmarks, ‘the practice of steering money to pet projects and programs through D.C. spending bills.’ And, as in many of King’s columns, the topic returned to troubled youth and how tens of millions of dollars in earmarks sent to politically connected organizations might have helped D.C. kids in trouble. Remember the earmarks, he writes, when ‘tight-budgeted DYRS, implementing its lenient inmate-release policy, sends the alleged shooter back into the community. How will DYRS give him the needed monitoring, counseling and supervision, and protection against reprisals? It can’t.’ But earmarks are thing of the past, right? Banned in fiscal 2010 by Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray because of a budget crunch? Not quite: As LL reported Friday, Harry Thomas Jr. still managed to set aside a nice chunk of funds and influence how it was spent. Those aren’t earmarks! Thomas and Gray protest. But if it quacks like an earmark…
AFTER THE JUMP—-NYT checks out WASA’s George Hawkins; Thomas gets the boot; Jonetta calls out Eleanor; DMV safety inspections could be back; more ambulance problems aired at FEMS hearing; United Negro College Fund could save Shaw development deal
ALSO—-Blogger Richard Layman makes the valuable point that funding for arts groups and other community nonprofits isn’t the core issue with earmarks; it’s the lack of a fair, competitive process for distributing those funds. And GALA Hispanic Theatre, in a letter to the editor, says it feels shabbily treated by King’s last column.
WASA GM George Hawkins, the ‘long-haired environmentalist who now leads one of the largest and most prominent water and sewer systems,’ gets his closeup in the NY Times, as the centerpiece of a Charles Duhigg-penned article on the challenges facing the nation’s aging water utilities. ‘For decades, these systems—-some built around the time of the Civil War—-have been ignored by politicians and residents accustomed to paying almost nothing for water delivery and sewage removal. And so each year, hundreds of thousands of ruptures damage streets and homes and cause dangerous pollutants to seep into drinking water supplies. Mr. Hawkins’s answer to such problems will not please a lot of citizens. Like many of his counterparts in cities like Detroit, Cincinnati, Atlanta and elsewhere, his job is partly to persuade the public to accept higher water rates, so that the utility can replace more antiquated pipes. “People pay more for their cellphones and cable television than for water,” said Mr. Hawkins, who before taking over Washington’s water system ran environmental groups and attended Princeton and Harvard, where he never thought he would end up running a sewer system….But in many cities, residents have protested loudly when asked to pay more for water and sewer services. In Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Sacramento—-and before Mr. Hawkins arrived, Washington—-proposed rate increases have been scaled back or canceled after virulent ratepayer dissent….As these discussions unfold, particular attention is being paid to Mr. Hawkins. Washington’s water and sewer system serves the White House, many members of Congress, and two million other residents, and so it surprised some when Mr. Hawkins was hired to head the agency last September, since he did not have an engineering background or the resume of a utility chief….The mayor of Washington, Adrian M. Fenty, asked Mr. Hawkins to move to the city in 2007 to lead the Department of the Environment. He quickly became a prominent figure, admired for his ability to communicate with residents and lawmakers. When the Water and Sewer Authority needed a new leader, board members wanted someone familiar with public relations campaigns.’
MORE—-‘Mr. Hawkins’s mandate was to persuade residents to pay for updating the city’s antiquated pipes. At a meeting with board members last month, Mr. Hawkins pitched his radical solution. Clad in an agency uniform—-his name on the breast and creases indicating it had been recently unfolded for the first time—-Mr. Hawkins suggested raising water rates for the average resident by almost 17 percent, to about $60 a month per household. Over the coming six years, that rate would rise above $100….Others have attacked him for playing on false fears. “This rate hike is outrageous,” said Jim Graham, a member of the city council. “Subway systems need repairs, and so do roads, but you don’t see fares or tolls skyrocketing. Providing inexpensive, reliable water is a fundamental obligation of government. If they can’t do that, they need to reform themselves, instead of just charging more.”‘
Earmarks not his only woes: Harry Thomas got booted, Examiner’s Michael Neibauer is first to report. ‘for four unpaid parking tickets, totaling $655, that the Ward 5 representative claims he never should have gotten. Thomas’ 2007 Audi Q7 was booted at about 7 p.m. Wednesday as he attended a meeting with constituents….Thomas said the boot has been released and he’s fighting the fines….According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Audi was ticketed between Sept. 21 and Dec. 15 for being parked in a rush hour lane, $205, parked during street cleaning hours, $65, parked in a loading zone, $105, and parked in a bus zone, $205. The fines increase the longer they go unpaid.’ LL spoke to Thomas on Friday about the tickets; he saw foul play in the booting revelation. ‘Conspiring against the councilmember is what I’d say to you,’ he said. ‘That tells you what level it’s gotten to.’
Jonetta Rose Barras calls out Eleanor Holmes Norton for tone-deafness bordering on hypocrisy: ‘The political maneuvering of [Norton] can be breathtaking. She’s been known to brush aside her constituents’ desires, favoring her own or those of her beloved Democratic Party. Last week, for example, she proudly announced her victory in pushing back efforts in the Senate to mandate a public vote on same-sex marriage. Yet, the majority of District residents—-proponents and opponents—-believe the issue should be placed on the ballot, according to a poll released earlier this year. Norton also held up for attention her $5 million request for 2011 to President Obama’s administration. She wants the money to help District children who were closed out of the federally funded Opportunity Scholarship Program after initially being accepted….Get out of here! Norton knows she and other Democrats are the reason the program has yet to be reauthorized….Truth be told, Norton’s request is for guilt-easing money.’
Car safety inspections could return by April, Alana Goodman reports in Examiner, after inspection-station workers alerted Graham to hazardous cars. ‘Workers have produced at least 30 photos showing severely damaged vehicles that they say had to be allowed back on the road because they passed emissions tests. The pictures show cars with smashed rearview mirrors, broken windshields, hydraulic line leaks, and rear bumpers duct-taped into place….The maintenance employees were prepared to testify in person at the hearing Wednesday, but their requests for an administrative leave day were denied by DMV Director Lucinda Babers, who was at the hearing. “I’m sufficient to represent the DMV,” said Babers of the reason behind her denying the leave….Babers said that studies have not shown a connection between the condition of vehicles and public safety, and that further analysis would be done by the DMV. However, Graham said that type of study “misses the point.”‘ He plans to have emergency legislation ready for the April council meeting.
WaPo’s Ashley Halsey surveys H Street NE merchants affected by ongoing street reconstruction, and their belief in better times to come: ‘Within a year—-two snow-bedeviled months played havoc with the region’s construction deadlines—-a proper boulevard is to emerge from the construction cocoon, with wide sidewalks, granite curbs, freshly paved traffic lanes and new landscaping. Tracks are being laid for six trolleys, expected to arrive in 2012, that will run from near Union Station to Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue, in the shadow of RFK Stadium….There seems to be a consensus among the merchants of H Street that if they can weather the disruption, they will emerge with something a bit closer to an urban utopia than recent history has allowed. They see the best of upscale Capitol Hill to the south merging with the middle-class sensibilities of the Trinidad neighborhood to the north, blending in the ethnic and cultural diversity of Adams Morgan but with the fabric of community woven in a tighter knit.’ DDOT expects the project to wrap up by winter.
Neibauer covers Friday’s FEMS council oversight hearing, wherein Dennis Rubin called recent lapses ‘total failures.’ And WTOP’s Michelle Basch collects more disturbing stories about ambulance crews aired at the hearing. Among them: ‘Stephanie Thomas has a son with asthma and allergies. In 2008, when the then 9-year-old complained of chest pains, Thomas called 911. But instead of taking her child to the hospital, she says paramedics told her to put him in a hot shower. “Steam him out, you know, help open up the airways,” Thomas says. That’s the same advice paramedics gave the family of the little girl who died. The steam didn’t work for Thomas’ son either, and she eventually drove him to Children’s Hospital, where a nurse asked why the boy had not been brought in sooner.’ Also WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
Federal prosecutors are looking into more than 100 cases dating back decades ‘that need to be reviewed because of potentially falsified and inaccurate tests by FBI analysts,’ Keith Alexander reports in WaPo. The exoneration of Donald Gates, falsely imprisoned for 28 years, sparked the probe, which is being conducted by a DOJ special counsel. Patricia Riley ‘wrote that since December, her office performed a “preliminary review” of 78 of the cases and found “no misconduct.” Prosecutors have presented no findings so far on the remaining 22 cases. “We intend to fully research the remainder of the cases to determine whether additional disclosures are required or appropriate,” Riley wrote.’
Catholic Charities is now ‘requiring new employees to promise they will not “violate the principles or tenets” of the church,’ Michelle Boorstein reports in WaPo. This, of course, comes weeks after the organization dropped spousal benefits rather than extend them to gay couples. Spokesperson Erik Salmi ‘said the addition of the clause to the hiring letter was not a result of the new law but rather reflected a longer-term concern that employees adhere to the organization’s Catholic philosophy. Salmi said the new language “is more of an expectation than a condition. It’s letting people know this is the culture.” Asked if that meant employees could speak or act against the church without being fired, Salmi said: “We can’t speculate on the hypothetical. It’s handled on a case-by-case basis.”‘
Dr. Gridlock covers the many, many choices facing Metro riders and the WMATA board in balancing the transit system’s budget: ‘The list of options already was pages long when board members told the staff to look again to make sure the document included every concept that was legal and technically feasible from any responsible source. A review of what is now a 16-page document—-all the way up to Attachment F—-won’t give riders many clues about how Metro will wind up balancing the budget this spring. But even a glance will tell you this: We’re in serious trouble. The board is divided by jurisdictional interests, desperate for time, and uncertain how to maintain service and fares at levels riders will tolerate.’
ALSO—-‘Board member Jim Graham, who also is a D.C. Council member, said the overall impact of the proposals would unfairly burden the District’s transit riders. Several service improvements championed by Graham, such as the extension of the Yellow Line to Fort Totten and late Metrorail service on Friday and Saturday nights, are under review. Graham once again urged the board to borrow money from the capital budget, the long-term budget for equipment purchases and maintenance, to balance the operating budget and avoid service cuts. That idea remains unpopular with other board members who describe that as the start of a “death spiral” that would sacrifice the system’s future to preserve current service.’
RELATED—-WaPo covers Metro’s efforts to save money by encouraging MetroAccess users to use regular rail and bus service. ‘Many of the District’s disabled travelers…rely on MetroAccess, a shared-ride service for those who can’t navigate the bus and rail system. With Metro facing a projected $190 million budget gap for the coming fiscal year, new emphasis is being placed on helping people with disabilities be more independent.’
Coolidge HS introduces new football coach Natalie Randolph. Reports WTTG-TV: ‘Her news conference drew the kind of attention usually reserved for the Washington Redskins. It was delayed nearly two hours so Mayor Adrian Fenty could attend and proclaim “Natalie Randolph Day” in the city.’ The announcement even drew the coverage of WaPo’s Michael Wilbon: ‘This is a feel-good story now, but it only remains one if Randolph wins. And if you think the good old boys she’s coaching against will take it easy on her, think again. One player, Raynard Ware, told me, “different schools called me about transferring, and I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.'”‘
United Negro College Fund CEO ‘is committed to moving the 65-year-old financial aid provider into D.C.,’ Jonathan O’Connell reports in WBJ. Michael Lomax made the pledge at a Friday council hearing on $4.5M in city incentives to bring UNCF to the former Media Center One project in Shaw. ‘Lomax said the group’s board met last week to solidify plans to move to the District from Fairfax. “They reaffirmed first of all, our strategy, which is to move from the suburbs into the central city, where we will have direct and robust access to the students with whom we’d like to work,” he said. As part of its plan to purchase 50,000 square feet of office space in the Shaw project, planned for the northeast corner of Seventh and S streets NW, Lomax said UNCF plans to create a 5,000-square-foot financial aid assistance center on the ground floor.’ If a package is passed and a deal is inked, construction could begin this year.
ALSO—-American Society of Nephrology wants $7.9M in revenue bonds in order to move two blocks.
WaPo’s Bill Turque with the latest on the Hardy MS drama: ‘[P]arents angry about the ouster of principal Patrick Pope have accused [Rhee] of attempting to “segregate” attendance at the school. The charge comes as the group intensifies its campaign to force Rhee to reverse her decision, which is effective in June. They’ve met or scheduled meetings with almost every member of the D.C. Council. On Monday, they plan to rally at Freedom Plaza and speak at the council’s DCPS oversight hearing. There will be another protest Friday, March 19th, this one at the school….The dispute has created what some other Hardy parents describe privately as an increasingly shrill and even intimidating atmosphere. Some fear that the struggle to reinstate Pope will ultimately tear the school apart.’
Admitted cyclist Harry Jaffe writes in Examiner that Fenty administration bike-lane plans ‘[sound] fantastic, but I am concerned. Let’s face it: Biking is so green and carbon free and good for you it could solve all the world’s problems. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be friends and slim and bike together? Statistics, however, show that few of us will hop on a bike in downtown D.C. Just more than 2 percent of commuters come to and from the city on two wheels and pedals. It’s farfetched to imagine all the lawyers pedaling in from Bethesda. How would they dictate memos by BlackBerry to their secretaries? I fear we bikers are tempting a backlash from four-wheelers.’ Since when do we make policy based on the needs of Bethesda-resident lawyers? Oh wait…
ALSO—-WashCycle asks: ‘Does Fenty’s Cycling Matter?…I tire of hearing about how this bike facility or that is happening because Fenty is a triathlete. I’m training for a triathlon right now, and I don’t do my training rides on roads with bike lanes. If DC were building a velodrome or closing off Hain’s Point to cars to allow for bike training that would be one thing, but building cycletracks and a bike station are not things a triathlete would really care about.’
DCmud does an exhaustive review of the Skyland eminent domain dispute, including a conversation with Dana Berliner, who litigated the infamous Kelo v. New London case. ‘Berliner said the instance of eviction without subsequent development is a very common one. “What you are talking about here [at Skyland] is really speculative. Its a big development in a difficult part of town…that project could easily end up destroying the jobs that already do exist at Skyland. They could spend tens of millions of dollars and end up with nothing. Now, the project actually does employ people and raise tax dollars.”‘
The Hill covers the latest developments in getting federal disaster money for the February snowstorms: ‘Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is concerned that FEMA may not be fully in touch with the unique needs of the D.C. region and is worried that its response to the snowstorms may reflect that disconnect. “FEMA [is not] accustomed to snow emergencies that cripple big cities, much less the federal government itself,” said Norton.’
The latest on the fate of Mount Pleasant’s burned-out Deauville apartments, from WRC-TV.
DID YOU KNOW?—-Per WaPo: ‘On April 15, 1848, more than 70 slaves from Maryland, the District and Virginia gathered at the Seventh Street pier in Southeast Washington and boarded the Pearl, hoping it could take them to freedom. Stormy weather left them stalled in the Chesapeake Bay long enough to be recaptured, but the attempt brought fame to some of the passengers and buoyed the abolition movement.’ Now The Pearl Coalition, which hopes to commemorate what is the largest recorded slave escape attempt in American history, ‘thinks it has found the perfect learning tool: a schooner the same size as the slaves’ original getaway boat. The only problem: The vessel is stuck in El Salvador awaiting $300,000 in repairs before it can sail to its new home in the District.’ It could find a home in a redeveloped Southwest waterfront.
Tommy Wells has some competition in Ward 6, from Republican Jim DeMartino, reports Tim Craig at D.C. Wire. ‘A lawyer and former Marine Corps officer, DeMartino is currently a contract military analyst for the Navy Department. DeMartino, who lives near Nationals Park, is also on the board of directors at Capitol Hill Tower and the D.C. Cooperative Housing Council. He is closely aligned with Will Cobb, the independent candidate whom Wells defeated by a margin of 3 to 1 in the 2006 general election….DeMartino said he plans to run against Wells, who will also likely face a challenger in the September Democratic primary, because he wants to improve education in the city. DeMartino supports Chancellor Michelle Rhee and vows to fight to expand charter schools and protect the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.’ Funny issue to challenge Wells on.
More on the Carlos Allen ‘mayoral run‘ from WaPo’s Amy Argetsinger. The party-crasher ‘said he’s simply thinking about getting into the race—-“I really feel there are issues with the city”—-but thus far, no filing papers, no exploratory committee, no fundraising efforts, no petitions. Just that Facebook poster. Allen told us he’s waiting to see whether voters seem interested in him pursuing this.’ Let’s end this now: No, they’re not.
Dancer Quansa Thompson is suing The House, the Georgia Avenue strip joint, ‘alleging that the club pays dancers no wages but ought to under the law,’ Paul Schwartzman reports in WaPo. ‘Thompson found a lawyer, Philip Zipin, who, after some research, concluded that The House, like a preponderance of strip clubs across the country, classified their dancers as “independent contractors”—-as if they were plumbers, only without the tool belt (not to mention the shirt, pants and underwear). Zipin said The House’s practices—-its schedules, rules and fines—-amount to treating dancers as if they were employees, but without paying minimum wage. “This is exploitation,” Zipin said. Thompson is seeking $75,000 from The House, an amount that includes the wages and overtime she said she would have collected had she been working full time.’
Teacher-blogger Guy Brandenberg crunches DC-CAS numbers, concludes that Capital Gains pay-for-grades program doesn’t work.
Two women shot early this morning on the 4900 block of G Street SE in Marshall Heights. ‘Upon arriving on the scene, officers say both victims were conscious and breathing. They were transported to a local hospital,’ NC8 reports.
Antwan Holcomb, 20, has been charged in Dec. 27 murder of Anthony J. Perkins, 29. Holcomb was ‘being held at the D.C. Jail on an unrelated charge,’ WaPo reports.
Latest in Robert Wone murder case: Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner tells judge that he doesn’t plan to charge any of the three current defendants with Wone’s actual murder, but he ‘thinks one of the men, if not all three, was involved in cleaning the crime scene and that the men know who killed Wone and are covering for the killer,’ Alexander reports in WaPo. ‘Kirschner said the prosecution’s “theories are evolving” and that investigators were looking at Price’s brother, Michael Price, and his possible involvement in the death. Just months after Wone’s killing, Michael Price was arrested in the burglary of his brother’s house, Kirschner said. Prosecutors had discovered that Michael Price was enrolled in a phlebotomy course at Montgomery College and was absent from class the evening Wone was killed. Prosecutors said Wone had been drugged intravenously and that there were also nine postmortem puncture wounds on Wone’s body. Price, who has attended a majority of the court hearings in the case since his brother was arrested in 2008, was absent from Friday’s hearing.’ Trial is set for May 10. Also Legal Times, WMRW?
‘Georgetown Cuddler’ gets more than 26 years in prison ‘for burglary and assaults on five male Georgetown University students,’ Alexander reports in WaPo. Todd M. Thomas, 24, was convicted of ‘burglarizing the homes and assaulting the students between 2007 and 2008. The victims said they awoke in the middle of the night to find Thomas in their apartments. At times, Thomas was massaging or groping the victim’s shoulders and ankles. Another time, Thomas sexually assaulted one of the victims. The attacks occurred in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of 33rd and 35th streets NW.’ Another Cuddler is still thought to be at large.
Motorcycle cop found unconscious at 5th and H Streets NW on Sunday morning; he was revived at Howard University Hospital.
Metrobus, cars collide on Southern Avenue SE Friday morning.
COLD CASE—-Examiner notes that no arrests have yet been made in the 2005 murder of nine-year-old Donte Manning.
Ace zoning lawyer Maureen Dwyer has left Pillsbury Winthrop for Goulston & Storrs, WBJ reports. ‘Dwyer, the co-chair of the land use group at Pillsbury, said in a news release that Goulston’s size, scope of services and experiences better matched her clients, particularly universities. Dwyer’s clients include Georgetown, George Washington, American, Catholic, Trinity universities and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.’ Also Legal Times.
News flash: Not all gays want to get married now that they can, WaPo reports.
The National Organization for Marriage reportedly did push polling in the District over the weekend. The key question: ‘Do you believe that marriage between only one man and one woman should be legal?’ ALSO: Metro Weekly covers NOM political donations.
The Weekly Standard on ‘Metro’s inherent liberalism.’
Mike Grass to DDOT: Take down those U.S. 29 signs from Dupont Circle!
Nats water taxi will be back.
Charlie Bermpohl, ace Current reporter who owned the Spring Valley munitions story, is dead at 74.
THIS WEEK—-is Sunshine Week. Demand better from your government.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Economic Development agency performance oversight hearing on Department of Small and Local Business Development and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, JAWB 412; Committee of the Whole agency performance oversight hearing on D.C. Public Schools, JAWB 500; 1 p.m.: Committee on Housing and Workforce Development agency performance oversight hearing on Department of Employment Services, JAWB 120.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-2 p.m.: remarks, developer selection announcement, 27 O St. NW.