City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘D.C. Council Votes to Censure Marion Barry‘; ‘The Bennett Supplemental Report, For Your Perusal‘; ‘Catania Moves to Cap Health Insurance Rate Hikes‘; ‘The D.C. Council, In Peeps‘; ‘Council Set to Censure Barry, Strip Committee Chair‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. Marion Barry scheduled his annual State of the Ward address weeks before anyone knew when exactly attorney Robert S. Bennett would deliver his scathing report or when the D.C. Council would respond to it, yet the speech would come just hours Barry’s colleagues handed him unprecedented sanctions. So perhaps it was appropriate that the event took place at a church, because a higher power couldn’t have set it up any better for Barry. At least 200 supporters gathered in the pews at Matthews Memorial Baptist, first to listen to Pastor Matthew Hudson, who before anointing Barry with oil said: ‘Don’t you think you can be the councilman of east of the river Ward 8 and not get in trouble. Let me tell you, the position is trouble.’ Then Barry rose and gave a largely unscripted speech, taking a page out of Whitney Houston’s greatest hits at one point: ‘They may take my committee chair, but they can’t take my dignity.’ How’d the crowd take it? Fabulously, of course, but one upstanding Ward 8’er, Eugene DeWitt Kinlow, rendered a different opinion on Facebook: ‘Just leaving Marion Barry’s State of Ward 8 event. What a tremendous waste of time.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-Complete Barry aggregation; WaPo editorial praises Gray; in other legislative business; SCOTUS won’t stop gay marriages, couple line up at Moultrie; free pizza, cupcakes for couples; Metro taps ex-New Jersey Transit chief for interim GM; Mendo, Thomas pick up early labor endorsements; Hardy MS parents lay into Rhee
GETTING PERSONAL—-The lede to WaPo’s A1 story, by Nikita Stewart and Jonathan Mummolo: ‘D.C. Council member Marion Barry, at times slumped in his seat, pleaded with fellow Democrat Muriel Bowser, reminding her that he had known her since she was 7 years old. He appealed to Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, recalling their 35-year friendship, filled with intimate conversations. Once the city’s most powerful politician, Barry dropped his usual defiant tone in Tuesday’s council meeting, where he was reduced to calling on longtime friends to save what’s left of his stature. “You don’t want to be known as the person who took Mr. Barry’s due process away from him,” Barry told Gray. “You’re too good a person. I know you better than that. I love you. You’re my friend. You got caught up.”…After the council meeting, Gray (D) was reflective and said in an interview that he did not mind Barry’s mention of their longtime friendship. “You were looking at a man who’s given 40 years of service to the city. He wanted to make the best case he could,” Gray said. “He was appealing to everything he possibly could.”…Bowser (Ward 4) said she had heard Barry tell the story of meeting her as a child before, but she was stunned that he shared the recollection on the dais Tuesday. “I was very perplexed. . . . I don’t know. I don’t know what to say,” she said in an interview. “I feel very sad about it, but I think the process was fair.”‘
THE GRAY LADY—-Ian Urbina‘s NYT piece: ‘In another twist in a long and troubled career, Councilman Marion S. Barry Jr., the former mayor of Washington, was unanimously censured and stripped of his committee chairmanship by his Council colleagues on Tuesday in response to corruption accusations. The Council also formally recommended that federal prosecutors investigate the accusations. The decision comes after a Washington lawyer, hired by the Council, concluded that Mr. Barry had misused public money and violated city conflict-of-interest laws by securing a $15,000 contract for an on-again, off-again girlfriend.’ Urbina notes that Barry’s 74th birthday is Saturday
CLICK—-Today’s WaPo A1
The WaPo editorial board praises the council for ‘[s]tanding up to Mr. Barry.’ Barry, it writes, ‘tried every tack as he sought to persuade his colleagues on the D.C. Council not to sanction him. He said he had broken no laws, claimed he was being treated unfairly, attacked the investigators and—-in a final, emotional appeal—-cited the history he shares with many on the dais. It was clear, though, that his council colleagues finally had had enough….The somber mood befitted the seriousness of the situation and was in keeping with the sure leadership displayed by Mr. Gray as he steered the council through uncharted waters. Mr. Gray recruited a top-notch investigator, gave him complete autonomy and had the resolve to follow through….[F]or all Mr. Barry’s protestations about being railroaded, there were 11 other council members taking a stand that no matter how popular you are or what you think you have contributed, there are consequences for wrongdoing. At last, Mr. Barry came face to face with them.’
WaPo’s Courtland Milloy atones for Monday’s column with a look at Barry in his dotage: ‘[H]is winded and rambling defense of indefensible behavior made it painfully obvious that the war has taken a toll. At 73, Barry should be enjoying life as a wise elder, not appearing to have failed once again to turn hindsight into insight, let alone foresight.’ In a interview, Milloy questioned Barry on women: ‘Love is very fleeting with me and I don’t know why…Whenever I get that feeling—-I call it my emotional buy-in—-I want to hold on to it so badly. The next thing I know my judgment is clouded. I’m seeing things that aren’t there and not seeing things that should be obvious. And just like that, it’s gone.’ Adds Milloy, ‘You got the impression that Barry still fancied himself as the mayor—-“Emotionally, it’s lonely at the top, very lonely,” he said at one point—-and that he had somehow mistaken [Donna Watts-Brighthaupt] for a first lady.’
Examiner’s Harry Jaffe offers some rare praise for Gray: ‘It was not easy for Gray; it took guts, preparation and organization. He had to enforce a unanimous vote against Marion Barry, the most popular political figure in D.C. history. And he got it….Gray’s demonstration of resolve and command of the council do not bode well for Fenty. Having stared down Barry, he is empowered. No doubt there will be more calls for Gray to challenge Fenty for mayor, but the city would be better off if Gray stayed put and ran a legislature that kept the mayor in check, whoever that might be.’
A little context from WBJ’s Jonathan O’Connell: ‘Barry is not the only council member to muddle himself recently in conflicts of interest when doing city business. Some may recall that Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., of Ward 5, drew an investigation from the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance last year after allowing a member of his staff to testify in support of zoning changes for an EYA project, even though his staffer also heads a nonprofit, the Ward 5 Business Council, that Thomas founded and that looks to both his earmarks and EYA for funding. Councilwoman Mary Cheh of Ward 3, meanwhile, held a roundtable — and voted twice — in support of legislation offering city property and incentives for a $193 million project to build two office buildings and a new fire station in Southwest last year. One of the equity partners in the deal is The Strategy Group of D.C, headed by Claire Bloch, who is none other than one of Cheh’s top campaign aides from 2006.’
ALSO—-Georgetown Metropolitan passes on some Jack Evans comments at the ANC
5E 2E meeting Monday: ‘I hate to say this about one of my colleagues, but every time Marion Barry does crazy things it feeds right into Congress’ view that he could be elected mayor again and “God forbid if they had control over their affairs what could happen then?” I was talking with Northrop Grumman about relocating and his name came up, and that’s a problem.’ Former WaPo reporter Allan Lengel, now proprietor of TickleTheWire.com. says it’s time for Barry to go.
IN OTHER LEGISLATIVE BUSINESS—-The council voted to reject a billboard deal with Clear Channel that would allow massive, movable signs to be placed on downtown buildings (check this VotH article for much excellent background). Also approved was emergency legislation allowing hotels to make exceptions to the smoking ban for yearly special events. The initial vote failed, but Evans swung the votes of Barry and Yvette Alexander on reconsideration. Smokefree DC is not pleased. A David Catania-sponsored bill to cap health insurance rates passed despite last-minute lobbying. Parks reprogramming survives after flood of e-mails. Millicent Williams is confirmed as HSEMA chief; Vicky Beasley is not confirmed as People’s Counsel.
Gay couples started lining up at the Moultrie Courthouse shortly after 6 a.m. this morning to be among the first to apply for marriage licenses on this, the first day of legal same-sex marriages in the District. ‘Scores’ are expected, WaPo writes, and AP reports that at least 50 couples were in line as of 8:30. The first, per AP: ‘Sinjoyla Townsend, 41, and her partner of 12 years, Angelisa Young, 47, claimed the first spot in line just after 6 a.m. They are already domestic partners in the city, so they are converting that partnership into a marriage license. “It’s like waking up Christmas morning,” Young said. “It’s really like a dream come true.”‘ Also WRC-TV, NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
A last-ditch appeal by opposition forces failed, when Chief Justice John Roberts declined to stay the law’s implementation. Robert Barnes reports in WaPo that Roberts wisely let the local courts do their job: ‘Roberts said that the issue is still being considered by the D.C. Court of Appeals and that it is not the time for the Supreme Court to get involved. “It has been the practice of the Court to defer to the decisions of the courts of the District of Columbia on matters of exclusively local concern,” Roberts wrote….”[T]he D.C. Court of Appeals will have the chance to consider the relevant legal questions on their merits, and petitioners will have the right to challenge any adverse decision through a petition for certiorari in this Court at the appropriate time.”‘ Also Legal Times, DC Agenda, AP, Metro Weekly, Jurist.
ALSO—-U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly tosses another gay marriage case for lack of standing, Legal Times reports. WTTG-TV covers the boon to the local marriage industry. AP’s Jessica Gresko looks at the role of the black church in pro-SSM advocacy. If you’re in line, David Catania would like to hand you a cupcake. Free pizza to the first same-sex couple to bring their license to Pete’s Apizza.
The onset of legal gay marriage has some couples pondering how to proceed, Michael Laris reports in WaPo: ‘As couples consider this first chance in the District to get licenses and, after a three-day waiting period, get married, many are trying to figure out how official recognition might fit with their years or decades of personal commitment. Many are focused on the ritual and ceremony, or rushing relatives into town, or the legal fine print. Some are thinking about how to make it in and out of the courthouse with dignity but without drawing klieg lights to their careers. Others are balking, pulled between the pride they might feel and frustration with their employers in the federal government who, by law, would continue to withhold crucial federal health and retirement benefits to their partners even after they were legally married.’
‘DO NOT underestimate the significance of this day,’ writes the WaPo editorial board, referring, of course, to the day that same-sex marriages became legal in the District of Columbia. ‘It is a day of celebration for the gays and lesbians who have pushed for recognition of their relationships. It is also a day to mark the progress society has made….That [local politicians] held together despite vocal opposition and court challenges from many quarters speaks to their commitment to fairness and equality for all of their constituents….[W]e believe that the tide of history is moving…toward a recognition that gays and lesbians, no less than heterosexuals, are entitled to sanctify their love in marriage, and that society will be better off when that right is universally extended. Those seeking to exercise that right in the District are expected to overwhelm the system Wednesday. The media will tell and retell their stories. Over time, though, it is our hope and expectation that gays and lesbians marrying the one they love will be unremarkable as a spectacle and normal as a rite.’
Catholic Archbishop Donald Wuerl tells WaPo that Catholic Charities’ decision to ‘avoid offering benefits to same-sex spouses of its workers is justifiable under Catholic teaching as long as the employees are paid a just wage. “The Catholic Church teaches to pay a just wage. The compensation package you use to pay that just wage isn’t defined by the church,” Wuerl said during an interview with Washington Post writers and editors. “Employers have the right to frame compensation packages. . . . At the end of the day, Catholic Charities is here serving the needy, after the law has passed, in complete conformity with the law.”…Wuerl said Tuesday that he was pained by perceptions that the church was threatening to walk away from services for the poor. He and his supporters say the council was to blame for not creating legal exemptions for faith-based social service groups.’ Also: HuffPo picks up the story.
Metro has identified an interim general manager: Richard Sarles, former chief of New Jersey Transit, is expected to be tapped by the WMATA board on Thursday for a term that could extend to a year. Ann Scott Tyson and Lena Sun report in WaPo: ‘If voted in by the board, Sarles would lead the troubled agency as it faces crucial safety and budgetary issues….Sarles would have to navigate complex politics, lobbying local jurisdictions and facing an unprecedented push from Congress and the Obama administration for increased federal oversight….[Chair Peter Benjamin] said board members recruited Sarles because he had two key characteristics they wanted in an interim general manager: “Somebody who knows transit well and can step right in and do the job, and somebody who will not be a caretaker, who will be an assertive and aggressive leader of the organization because we have a lot of issues we have to tackle, starting with safety.”‘ Benjamin tells Examiner that Sarles is a ‘top-level executive’ who would be ‘very heavily focused on safety.’ He is not, at this time, a candidate for the permanent job, Benjamin says. Also WTOP.
SARLES’ RECORD—-From WaPo: ‘From 2007 until January, Sarles headed New Jersey Transit, which has 11,000 employees and a combined capital and operating budget of nearly $3 billion a year…Sarles retired from that position after a new governor took office in New Jersey, appointing a new transit executive. But Sarles remains an employee of New Jersey Transit. Sarles previously headed the agency’s capital program for five years, and spent 20 years at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He has an engineering degree from Cooper Union and a business degree from Rutgers University. Sarles gained a solid reputation after pushing through the start of construction on the $8.7 billion Hudson River tunnel in 2009, to increase commuter train traffic to and from New York. He was also known for keeping fares constant despite the loss of more than $60 million in state funding last year, cutting costs and staff instead.’
ALSO—-The board ‘appointed Jack Requa, Metro’s former acting general manager, to head Metrobus…Requa was Metrobus chief when [John Catoe] became general manager in 2007. But after three Metrobus accidents that year, which resulted in four pedestrian deaths in a span just greater than a month, Requa was moved from bus chief to another executive position overseeing operations support.’ Also WBJ.
Phil Mendelson, Harry Thomas Jr. win early labor endorsements—-among the first major endorsements of DCision 2010. Says Metro Labor Council President Jos Williams: ‘Labor has candidates in Ward 5 and the At-Large D.C. City Council race in the September Democratic Primary….No one else need apply. I cannot think of any two elected officials in our jurisdiction who deserves our support more than Harry and Phil. Against all odds they have defended workers—-union and non-union alike—-without regard to retaliation from the Fenty administration. These are two warriors for working families in the District of Columbia.’
SWDC blog passes on reports that the Southeastern University campus has been sold to GS Graduate School, with an official announcement to come next month. Blogger wants to know: What happened to the $1.5M the city sent to SEU for renovations shortly before its demise? ‘Where did the money go? What kind of a plan created infrastructure that requires an engineering study (not an interior decorator) and may be better off demolished? Where was the oversight and where is the accountability?’
WaPo biz maven Steven Pearlstein explains why it’s a bad idea for local governments to pony up for Northrop Grumman: ‘These testosterone-filled contests are never really about money so much as pride and ego and political bragging rights. By the time the competition ends, the benefits from winning have been pretty much bargained away and everyone comes off looking rather silly….For the District, which is looking at a $200 million budget shortfall next year, getting into this bidding war is particularly loony. Virginia and Maryland officials can argue at least that the winner of the headquarters sweepstakes would collect income taxes on all those highly compensated executives, even if they commute home elsewhere. That’s the way the tax system works in most places, but not in the District…[I]t would take decades for the District to recoup the $24.5 million that the mayor and D.C. Council have offered Northrop over the next 10 years. District officials are also kidding themselves if they think the accountants, engineers and retired generals who run the defense industry are going to give serious consideration to moving their headquarters to the still largely vacant neighborhood near the new baseball stadium. These are not hip, young, urban pioneers we’re talking about—-and in any case, they’re likely to be Dodger fans.’
NEW IN WASHINGTONIAN—-‘Adrian Fenty: His Own Worst Enemy?’ by Harry Jaffe. From online excerpt: ‘I introduce myself and tell them the mayor is about to arrive. I ask what they think of Fenty. “Speaking as a person of color,” one says, “I don’t think he’s doing a lot of things he should be doing.”…The nation’s capital is in the midst of sometimes wrenching change, but Fenty doesn’t deserve all the blame—or the credit. DC has added 30,000 new residents in the last decade, 10,000 in the past year. Many are white; many are moving into traditionally black neighborhoods. The Thomas Crenshaws see themselves on the losing end. African-Americans behind deli counters, in law offices, at bus stops, in community meetings, and inside Langston Bar & Grille offer the same assessment. “He has no special affinity for black folks,” says Antonio Roberson, who owns the bar. “He’s a little too vanilla right now.”‘
WaPo’s Bill Turque covers a contentious meeting of parents at Hardy MS: ‘There are early signs that the lingering feud over Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee‘s decision to replace [principal Patrick Pope] may be driving away the very families she sought to attract with the leadership change: those in the “feeder” elementary schools in Northwest D.C….[A]ccording to school data, applications filed with the school for admission to the sixth grade—-the school’s entry level—-have declined sharply: from 162 at this time last year to 30 as of Monday morning. More striking is the number of applications they said have been received from the approximately 150 fifth grade families families at its official feeder schools, Hyde-Addison, Key, Stoddert and Eaton: zero. Last year about 35 percent of fifth graders from the feeders entered Hardy, most of the rest opting for Deal, Washington Latin charter school or other charters or parochial schools.’ Turque interviews feeder parents who say that, indeed, the turmoil has kept them away. WTTG-TV has video of the meeting.
New public school code of student conduct is examined by WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza: ‘Some education advocates say this will help students, especially those in charter schools, understand their rights. Victor Reinoso, deputy mayor for education, says these regulations will spell out a minimum standard of expectations. “With so many charters and even with D.C. public schools over the years, individual schools got to different places,” he says.’
Registration begins for summer jobs program, DCist notes: ‘The D.C. Council took care of their Marion Barry problem earlier this afternoon, so now it’s time to turn our eyes toward something else that always has the possibility to be a debacle for the city: the start of the Summer Youth Employment Program season.’ No word if Hizzoner plans to stick to the council-mandated $20M, six-week program or find the money for more.
Examiner’s Barbara Hollingsworth covers UDC foster care symposium, calls for less government intervention in parenting. ‘Law students of University of the District of Columbia professor Matthew Fraidin…discovered that 40 percent of the District children taken into foster care could be returned to their families within a week; 60 percent within three months. “That’s more than enough time to do enormous emotional damage,” said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, at an eye-opening, soul-searing symposium on foster care at UDC. “It’s almost certain that you never needed to tear that family apart in the first place.”‘
The vacant-property tax rate ‘clearly isn’t working and D.C.’s vacant-property tax is up for debate once again,’ Tierney Plumb reports in WBJ. So Muriel Bowser and Jack Evans ‘have introduced separate bills and are working together on a set of proposed amendments….Under the old Class 3 approach, the vacant rate was $5 per $100 of assessed value. A new Class 4 tax rate of $10 per $100 assessed could also be added, which would cover blighted properties only. Exemptions could also be reinstated, to cover vacant properties that are being renovated or sold.’
More on potentially faulty drunk-driving prosecutions: A defense attorney explains to WAMU-FM’s Jonathan Wilson just what could happen. ‘Jason Kalafat…says the attorney general-the office tasked with prosecuting these violations-needs to throw out Driving While Impaired charges because they rely specifically on the Breathalyzer score. That still leaves Driving Under the Influence-a similar law that takes into consideration field sobriety tests and details from the arresting officer, like slurred speech and bloodshot eyes….”In the District of Columbia, if you’re Breathalyzer score reaches .2 or above, the stature requires a mandatory jail time under the statute,” he says. “Because of the errors with the machines, the attorney general’s office is not able to pursue that mandatory jail time.”‘
MPD is looking to make greater use of reserve officers, WaPo’s Clarence Williams reports. ‘The plan is called the Reserve Corps Focused Initiative. Officially scheduled to begin March 19, it will spread dozens of part-time, volunteer officers into districts across the city, said Cmdr. Richard Southby, head of the Reserve Corps. “We’ll have an increased police presence throughout all the districts,” said Southby, an Australian native who has volunteered as a D.C. police officer for 20 years.’ Weekend party districts are prime territory for deployments.
Roll Call: ‘About 300 black police officers are hoping to file a class action lawsuit against the Capitol Police, more than eight years after they originally filed individual discrimination lawsuits against the department….The cases have been dragging on since 2001, when former Capitol Police Lt. Sharon Blackmon-Malloy initiated the lawsuit in her capacity as president of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association. Blackmon-Malloy’s claim — along with that of the other officers — is that the department has a long history of discriminating against black officers, with superiors creating a hostile working environment and denying promotions to qualified black officers.’
Did you know? Bishop Harry Jackson‘s Hope Christian Church has started holding Sunday morning services at E Street Cinema downtown, Lou Chibbaro Jr. reports at DC Agenda, and that has some gay activists seething. ‘Landmark Theaters, owners of E Street Cinema, told DC Agenda that it could not “refuse service” to the church and was obligated in this instance to rent space to Hope Christian Church….Timothy Daniels, a gay D.C. resident, has called the statement unacceptable and created a Facebook group promoting the boycott of E Street Cinema….But Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, said it would be a mistake to boycott or penalize E Street Cinema for renting space to Jackson’s church. He noted that he and other activists would likely speak out against a boycott. “The E Street Cinema is a public accommodation and cannot discriminate on the basis of religion,” Rosendall said. “The same Human Rights Act that protects us protects Bishop Jackson and his followers.”‘
Second arrest is made in January murder of gay man Gordon Rivers, Chibbaro reports. ‘Police identified the second suspect as 22-year-old Anthony Hager of Temple Hills, Md., and said he was arrested Feb. 25. It follows the Jan. 28 arrest of 17-year-old William Wren, who was charged as an adult. The killing, on the 2600 block of Naylor Road SE, appears to be the result of a botched robbert, police say.
Latest Robert Wone case filings from WKRW? Defense contends semen found on corpse was result of natural postmortem processes, not foul play.
Pedestrian struck and killed early Tuesday on 9th Street at Brentwood Parkway.
Fenty to VeloNation on Giro: ‘It’s a tremendous opportunity for the country as well as the District to show the world what we have to offer.’
Yet more on the snow melter.
Kwame Brown pays visit to fellow camping out for Haiti relief.
Fire last night at BlackSalt restaurant in Palisades.
Robert Bobb‘s now pulling in $425K in Detroit.
The last Trover shop will close.
DCRA’s Mike Rupert: Another Gov 2.0 Hero!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs agency performance oversight hearing on Office of the People’s Counsel, Public Service Commission, and Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking, JAWB 500; Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary agency performance oversight hearing on Sentencing and Criminal Code Revision Commission, Judicial Nomination Commission, Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, District of Columbia National Guard, Office of Victim Services, Justice Grants Administration, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Criminal Justice Coordination Council, and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, modernization unveiling, North Michigan Park Recreation Center, 1333 Emerson St. NE.