Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter
We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.
IN LL WEEKLY—-Dealing With Marion Barry: Is Vincent Gray a leader or an enabler?’
Morning all. Lots of smiles, lots of tears, and lots of reporters at the Moultrie Courthouse yesterday morning as same-sex couples lined up for their first opportunity to apply for marriage licenses in the District of Columbia. Notes AP: ‘Normally, the bureau handles 10 applications a day. On Wednesday it was 151, though at least four heterosexual couples did show up.’ WCP’s Amanda Hess interviewed many of them. First honors went to Sinjoyla Townsend, 41, and Angelisa Young, 47, partners of 12 years. Notes WaPo editorialist Jonathan Capehart: ‘The symbolism is obvious. They are African Americans in a majority-black city. And they are a proud rebuke to those who tried to use black conservativism on homosexuality as a hammer against equality. Gay rights are civil rights. Anyone who thinks differently should take it up with Townsend and Young.’ Hear, hear.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Lots more marriage coverage; the long road to marriage equality; Barry ponders political life sans committee; Trinity U. prez says Barry’s gotta go; feds approve December snow relief; more allegations of FEMS malpractice, resulting in child’s death; WHC keeps on firing
MORE MARRIAGE—-See Examiner, WaTimes, DC Agenda, Metro Weekly, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, Advocate. GLAA Forum notes the ‘beautiful sight outside Room 4485.’ WAMU-FM asks various couples about their wedding plans. WBJ, NC8, WTTG-TV cover the positive business impacts. WCP, WaPo, DCist, Legal Times have photos.
From WaPo: ‘The line to get into the marriage bureau was composed of racially diverse couples of all generations and appeared to include more women than men. By the end of the day, 151 couples had filed to be married, far surpassing the dozen or so applications the bureau typically collects on a single day. Some brought their children or spoke of the importance of their change in status to their sons and daughters.’
From NC8: ‘Lots of couples left with cupcakes given to them by the man who had pushed gay marriage through the council, Council Member David Catania. Catania came to greet the couples but was met by an opponent, the Reverend Rob Schenck. “Celebrate love always, but marriage is between a man and woman, only between a man and a woman,” said Schenck. Catania replied, “And you know everyone is entitled to their opinion.”‘
Yesterday’s joy followed three decades of preparation, Ann Marimow reports in WaPo: ‘Advocates employed an incremental strategy, quietly stacking up rights and responsibilities for same-sex couples to avoid soliciting an outcry from Congress….Soon after President Obama was elected in 2008, [Catania] saw an opening to take what he called the “necessarily bold” last steps. With Democratic majorities in Congress, Catania, who is gay, thought the marriage measure’s chances were best before the 2010 election cycle or near the end of Obama’s first term. Catania started meeting with advocates in December 2008 about introducing same-sex marriage legislation but initially agreed to hold off so as not to interfere with the District’s effort in Congress to gain voting rights in the House of Representatives. By last March, Catania and Mendelson were working to modify legislation that would have recognized same-sex couples married in other states as domestic partners to instead validate couples as “married.” The recognition bill was essentially to test congressional reaction.’
HIZZONER—-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty‘s statement: ‘The District has taken a historic leap forward, becoming a more open and inclusive city in which all residents can thrive. Congratulations to the all District couples who are committing themselves to one another under the eyes of the law. I wish you each a long and fulfilling marriage.’ He also discussed the matter on WRC-TV this morning.
Marion Barry‘s post-censure existence is examined by WaPo’s Nikita Stewart. ‘[T]he former four-term mayor shrugged it off, outlining how he can remain effective as a council member despite his lesser rank. “When you know more, you can do more. I’m not braggin’,” said Barry, 73, who sat for an interview in his office while eating a chili turkey dog from Ben’s Chili Bowl—-with a knife and fork.’ Stewart gets at the dirty little secret about taking Barry’s committee away from him: He didn’t do all that much with it, anyway. ‘Privately, council members and aides assailed Barry’s performance as committee chairman, questioning whether he pushed enough legislation on job creation, rent control, and other housing and employment issues. Legislative records show that Barry-authored bills out of those committees were often slow-moving or never made it to the full council for a vote….When asked to name his most significant legislative accomplishment through the committee, he said: “I don’t know. There are so many.”‘ Barry points to the opening of the Camp Simms Giant as an accomplishment—-a deal primarily negotiated by the Anthony Williams economic development team.
ALSO—-Barry stopped in at yesterday’s pre-fight press conference for the Floyd Mayweather–Shane Mosley bout. (‘The MC then reintroduced “the honorable Marion Barry.” A writer turned around to his friend seated next to me. “Honorable?” the writer said. “That’s…questionable.”‘) Bruce Johnson reports at WUSA-TV that Michael Brown ‘has told Barry’s [committee staff] he won’t fire anybody for the next thirty days. After that he will be making changes.’
Examiner’s Michael Neibauer looks at why federal prosecutors are likely to punt on Barry’s case: ‘Prosecutors are cautious of pressing charges despite Bennett’s detailed accounting of Barry’s alleged misdeeds. A law enforcement source told The Examiner that a successful public corruption case would be difficult with a lead witness, [Donna Watts-Brighthaupt], who has publicly contradicted herself and is still seen with the former mayor on occasion….Barry, 73, has always been a slippery target, from his 1990 misdemeanor drug conviction—-he was charged with three felony perjury counts and 10 counts of misdemeanor drug possession—-to his 2007 acquittal on drunken driving charges. Last year, prosecutors insisted that Barry go to jail for failing to pay his taxes. He walked away with probation.’
WaPo columnist Robert McCartney trots out the old black politics vs. new black politics shift in looking at the Barry sanctions, saying the 12-0 vote ‘contained an important unspoken message, especially from a rising generation of African American leaders based in the predominantly black, eastern half of the city: Step aside, old fellow, and clear the way for a new kind of politics….The most important thing about Tuesday’s vote was its unanimity. The resolution…was supported even by black council members who said their constituents adore Barry. “They love him unconditionally,” said [Yvette Alexander], who had perhaps the toughest vote as the representative of the other ward east of the Anacostia River, in addition to Barry’s. “For the record, I love Marion Barry, too,” she said. “But you have to take action when you see something wrong….We have to start really stating who we are and what we stand for,” she said.’
McCARTNEY’S QUESTIONS—-‘[W]hat will the council’s new emphasis on improving the city’s ethical standards mean for Fenty? Gray said the council wants to step up its investigation into the executive branch’s handling of more than $85 million in parks and recreation contracts. By the end of this week, it plans to name a special counsel, on a pro bono basis, to do the same kind of extensive, rigorous inquiry of those contracts that special counsel Robert S. Bennett did of Barry. “At the end of the day, we ought to be able to feel like we have had as thorough an investigation of the DPR contracts as we did of ourselves,” Gray said.’
Trinity University President Patricia McGuire on her blog: ‘Marion Barry should now do the right thing and resign from the DC Council. Over the years, his actions not only tarnished his once-golden reputation as a civil rights champion, they also damaged the reputation of the city, undermining DC’s ability to gain full political rights. Barry’s misdeeds have continued to stoke the twisted view that citizens of this city cannot govern themselves.’
CLICK—-Nate Beeler‘s Examiner cartoon: ‘How do you solve a problem like Marion?’
Do check out Chris Lewis‘s WCP cover feature this week on the demographic and cultural split over the preferable moniker for the city’s easternmost environs: ‘The residents of Wards 7 and 8 have long used a simple term to describe where they live. “East of the river” is the refrain, a way of explaining one’s position vis-à-vis one of the city’s principal fault lines—the Anacostia River. These neighborhoods have a lot of great architecture, ever-growing commercial amenities, some fab views of the city, and easy access to downtown. Yet there’s a constituency of folks who don’t like what “east of the river” connotes, and they’ve created an organization in part to address the matter. Members of “River East Emerging Leaders”—note the lower-case, hipoisie-appeasing acronym “r.e.e.l.”—have a new name for the place they call home. For these people, it’s “River East.” …In the District at-large, “River East” may be catching on. The Examiner and the blog “Greater Greater Washington” have both already used the term to refer to the region, as has 2010 mayoral candidate Leo Alexander. But back in Wards 7 and 8, many residents shudder at the notion of “rebranding.”‘
Jonetta Rose Barras, in a snappy Examiner column, says the council that regularly accuses the Fenty administration of being ‘lawless’ is guilty of hypocrisy. Exhibit A: Jim Graham ‘took to task the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for using what he called a “totally ambiguous general building code” to issue six tickets—-$500 each’ for not clearing snow from sidewalks. Exhibit B: Tommy Wells and Kwame Brown‘s attempt to rescind President’s Day snow emergency parking tickets. ‘It’s election year. Everyone’s reading polls and analyzing favorability ratings. I get that. But, the council, which creates local laws, shouldn’t attempt to undermine those local laws because it receives telephone calls from irate citizens or business owners, who might be voters or campaign donors….There already is the perception that D.C. is fast becoming a lawless municipality, where elected officials and their agents do whatever they want, whenever they want. Fixing tickets from inside the council chamber would have only underscored that impression.’
ATTENTION HARRY THOMAS—-The Obama administration has declared the District eligible for emergency aid to pay for the original, December snowpocalypse. Reports WaPo: ‘The federal funds are expected to cover 75 percent of the amount spent by the District for eligible expenditures…The statement said the city and some nonprofit organizations can collect federal funds for tasks such as snow assistance and repair of facilities damaged during the Dec. 18-20 storm. The money can also be used to pay for “protective measures, including snow assistance” during a 48-hour period around the storm.’
AP’s Jessica Gresko covers Congress’s new hands-off attitude toward D.C.: ‘Congress still must OK the D.C. budget and it can veto laws the City Council passes, though that’s rare. And despite some optimism early in Obama’s administration, [Eleanor Holmes Norton] still can’t vote on the House floor, though she can introduce bills and vote in committees. But cracks in congressional control have started to appear. For the first time in recent memory, Congress didn’t attach any restrictions, called “riders,” when it approved the city’s budget in December….And though Congress could have killed a gay marriage bill passed by the D.C. Council, federal lawmakers allowed it to become law without weighing in.’
FEMS is reviewing its handling of a case where a 2-year-old with breathing problems wasn’t immediately hospitalized and later died. Theola Labbé-DeBose reports in WaPo: ‘Emergency responders went to the 800 block of Southern Avenue SE shortly before 5 a.m. on Feb. 10, department spokesman Pete Piringer said. Paramedics arrived minutes later, and the toddler was evaluated but not taken to a hospital….About nine hours later, a 911 call was received from the same address for a child with breathing problems. The child was taken to Children’s National Medical Center, where she died the next day….Several emergency workers who responded to the call have been placed on administrative leave while the review is underway.’ Other news outlets—-WUSA-TV, NC8, WTTG-TV—-identify the girl as Stephanie Stephens. Also WTOP.
Dorothy Brizill has exhaustive coverage of the People’s Counsel nomination saga in themail this week. Vicky Beasley has been disapproved by the council, but now what? The council voted 11-1 (with Muriel Bowser opposing) to allow Betty Noel to continue serving in the post after her scheduled March 10 departure pending the appointment of a replacement, but word is Fenty intends to appoint an acting replacement. The question: Will Fenty sign the bill, or will another legal standoff ensue? Also: Activist Pete Tucker details how Beasley’s confirmation was derailed.
Examiner’s Bill Myers covers tax break worth $5M passed Tuesday by the council: ‘Without dissent, the council approved an emergency measure that grants a tax abatement to Steuart Investment Co., owner of the lot at the corner of Third and H Streets Northeast. The tax break is designed to help the Chevy Chase developer build a high-rise building with shopping, restaurants and apartments or condos….In the fall, Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi warned the council against the legislation because the city—-facing nine-figure budget gaps—-can’t afford it. The legislation was championed by [Wells], who represents H Street. The Steuart development, he said, “is the linchpin to the revitalization of H Street.” “H Street, since the riots of 40 years ago, has been a street noted by chaos, disorder, drug sales,” Wells told The Examiner. “The street is really rebounding, but it takes investment and city help.”‘
Washington Hospital Center fires eight more employees for no-showing during the February blizzards, Theresa Vargas reports in WaPo, though three of 16 previous fired were taken back on. ‘Hospital President Harrison J. Rider III announced in a letter to staff members Wednesday—-just days after he acknowledged the first round of firings—-that after a review of employees who did not make it in during the record-breaking snowstorms that hit the region between Feb. 5 and Feb. 11, it was concluded that 15 nurses and six members of the support staff should be terminated….Representatives of the nurses’ union, Nurses United of the National Capital Region, said they remain “mystified” over the firings. At least two of the terminated nurses had more than 30 years experience at the hospital.’ WaPo letter-writers, meanwhile, are up in arms. Also WTTG-TV.
WaPo’s Bill Turque follows up his blog post on Hardy MS with a full B-section story.
ALSO—-Turque reports that D.C. health data doesn’t meet standards for a major CDC school health report. ‘It turns out that the response rate for the District survey, overseen by OSSE…last February and March, was just 36 percent—-far below the 60 percent required by the CDC….When properly collected, the survey results—-which track trends in violence, sexually transmitted diseases, drug and tobacco use and other risky behaviors—-are used by local officials and non-profit agencies to make policy and target resources. OSSE’s poor performance means that the District will be working off data collected in 2006 (for the 2007 survey) until 2012, when information collected in 2011 is available.’
Mary Cheh takes issue with WBJ reporter Jonathan O’Connell‘s conflation of her apparent conflict of interest with Barry’s much more serious actual wrongdoing: ‘Cheh correctly points out that she has not been found to have broken any ethical or conflict of interest rules, not to mention any laws, and there is no reason to think she will benefit financially from the development deal. She found the mention alongside Barry unfair, saying, “It’s a cheesy linkage and a misleading linkage of me to the allegations of Mr. Barry.”‘
SURPRISE—-Poll of about 100 D.C. Chamber of Commerce members finds that about half ‘say the February snowstorms that hit Washington had a significant to disastrous negative impact on their business,’ WBJ reports. ‘There was no shortage of blaming the city’s response to the snowstorms in the Chamber’s poll either. Nearly 30 percent of those members polled rated their level of satisfaction with the District’s snow removal operation as complete dissatisfaction, ,while 50 percent said they were at least moderately dissatisfied. Only 2 percent said they were completely satisfied.’
D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute implores the council to look a revenue-raising when balancing the FY2011 budget: ‘There has been a lot of talk from the Mayor and Council about needing to examine our expenditures closely for savings….DC’s leaders haven’t given the same level of scrutiny on the revenue side. Now would be a good time to take a serious look at the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes lost each year by the District from credits, deductions and exemptions from taxes. Many of these have been on the books for decades, with no one checking to see if they are still effective or needed.’
ALSO—-A FY2011 budget forum is set for March 8 at the Sumner School featuring CFO, DCFPI, and council reps.
DCmud notes that the mixed-use project slated for 14th and W Streets NW—-a redevelopment of the Anthony Bowen YMCA—-is stalled indefinitely. LL, whose pad is a half-block away, looks forward to walking past a vacant lot for the foreseeable future.
Legal Times on the latest Robert Wone case filings. WMRW? notes that defense is claiming two of the three defendants weren’t properly Mirandized, raising the possibility that subsequent questioning is inadmissible.
National Catholic Register covers Archdiocese of Washington employee benefits saga—-complete with lots of scare quotes around ‘marriage’!
Police say they’ve solved a 2007 Adams Morgan murder, but the suspect has long since fled the country.
DDOT puts the kibosh on reversible lanes on 15th Street NW between K and Massachusetts.
Is Emergency No Parking system unconstitutional? Yes, says libertarian!
Sweet AdMo parking deal.
Howard Theater marquee damaged by wind.
Speaking of libertarians, here’s a libertarian perspective on DCRA. It ain’t pretty: ‘If you think you’re state is bureaucratic, try working in D.C. It is really a government among governments.’
Race to the Top finalists to be announced today.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Human Services agency performance oversight hearing on Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., JAWB 412; Committee on Health agency performance oversight hearing on Department of Health Care Finance, JAWB 500; Committee on Government Operations and the Environment agency performance oversight hearing on Office of Employee Appeals and Department of Human Resources, JAWB 120; 2 p.m.: Committee on Human Services hearing on B18-547 (‘Adoption Reform Amendment Act of 2009’), JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10 a.m.: remarks, National Cherry Blossom Festival opening press conference, Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.