City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘City Property Assessments Drop by 6 Percent‘; ‘D.C. Property Assessments By Neighborhood‘; ‘D.C. Repubs Find Typo in Bag Bill‘; ‘University High: A Lesson in How Not to Start a Charter School‘; ‘Is Det. Michael Baylor’s Snowball Case Still Pending?‘; and tweets galore!
TUNE IN—-LL will be appearing today on The Politics Hour With Kojo Nnamdi, 12 p.m. on WAMU-FM, 88.5.
Morning all. Reaction to Marion Barry‘s woes continues to roll in. Both WJLA-TV and WTTG-TV did pieces yesterday on increasing doubts among Barry’s constituency regarding his leadership. Says one resident, Earl Hawkins, ‘It’s just too many things are coming up one after the other. It just kind of looks bad for us over here.’ Barbershop owner Ronald Shepard says, ‘I don’t feel like it would be bad to have some new blood in, you can’t always get a pass from the past.’ Last night, the executive committee of the Ward 8 Democrats met at Players Lounge to determine what response, if any, the Bennett Report’s findings demands. The group’s president, Jacque Patterson, tells LL this morning that no consensus has yet been reached. “It’s a very contentious issue,” he says. The Advoc8te, FWIW, is not pleased with the Dems’ leadership thus far.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Why Barry should stay; new assessments show 6 percent drop in tax base; Metro makes mid-level managers at-will in safety move; new recycling regs would mandate plastic/cardboard separation; Radio One pulls out from Shaw development deal; Giro looks like a go
And now for the counter-intuitive take, from Harry Jaffe, who has ‘Ten reasons to keep Marion Barry in office.’ Here’s a few of the best: ‘Barry still often comes off as the smartest, most well-versed, quickest member of the city council….Barry’s institutional memory is deeper and wider than anyone’s now in the government. Having used and abused the system for decades, he knows how it works….Barry is often the only city council member who will advocate for poor folks….Democracy is an imperfect process, but voters have elected Barry time after time….He makes some of his colleagues look good, in comparison….Barry is good copy.’ Good piece from Jaffe.
CHECK IT OUT—-Examiner cartoon by Nate Beeler
ATTENTION LANDED GENTRY—-Property tax assessments are being mailed today, and aggregate data has been released. Citywide, assessed value is down 6 percent, with commercial property driving most of the dip. City property tax chief Richie McKeithen appeared on WTTG-TV this morning to talk about the new numbers; check City Desk today for updates.
On WRC-TV yesterday morning, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty again got grilled on snow. He didn’t make any apologies for his snippiness on last week’s appearance. Asked to give himself a grade for his administration’s snow response, he declined: “That’s the job of people every election cycle.”
At yesterday’s WMATA board meeting, directors voted to move 160 mid-level Metro managers to ‘at-will’ employment status ‘in what officials described as an effort to improve safety at the troubled transit agency,’ Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo. Previously only 75 top managers (out of 10,000 total employees) could be fired without cause. A Metro statement said the move ‘is meant to increase accountability across all levels of management and supervision for the safety of employees and riders. Also at the meeting: Examiner notes that details on the imminent fare increases were nailed down—-they start Sunday morning—-and incoming chair Peter Benjamin offered introductory remarks: ‘We need to change how we handle safety at Metro….Certainly safety involves making sure we replace equipment and rehabilitate facilities so that they do not slip into disrepair. Safety involves introducing better technology. Safety involves establishing the right procedures and making sure that people follow them. Safety involves training… and retraining. Safety involves signage and communication. But most important, safety involves people: establishing a culture of safety and an attitude of attention to safety. This, in turn, requires that not only our customers, but also our employees feel valued, respected, and listened to.’ Also WBJ.
NTSB DAY 3—-The final day of testimony on the causes of and fixes for the June 22 Red Line crash ‘included pointed questions about safety lapses at Metro and testimony about oversight of subway and light-rail systems across the country,’ Tyson writes. ‘NTSB investigators and Metro officials heard from a panel of experts on “high-reliability organizations” that emphasized the need for an organizational culture that allows managers to learn from frontline employees what the problems are and how to fix them. “You don’t know what’s going on until [employees] tell you what’s going on,” said Rick Hartley, principal engineer for B&W Pantex, which handles security for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. “It’s kind of scary.” Union officials said, however, that Metro’s culture has focused more on punishing mistakes than on learning from workers.’ WUSA-TV looks at victim family reaction; WAMU-FM looks at what’s next; a report isn’t expected until June at the earliest.
ALSO—-WTTG-TV reports that the WMATA board ‘is apparently close to choosing an interim general manager to run the troubled transit system. A source familiar with the process has disclosed that the board interviewed its two leading candidates for the job on Thursday morning.’ GGW says WMATA is close to agreeing to join Google Transit. And Ohio resident, 74, is suing for $2 million after ‘one of the transit agency’s busses ran over her foot’ last February.
Proposed city recycling regs would require all city property owners to sort out all plastic and cardboard, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. ‘The revised rules also quadruple in some cases the fines for commercial property owners who repeatedly fail to properly recycle. Penalties for homeowners, generally $25, are not slated to change. The amended regulations are an attempt to broaden the District’s recycling collections and to discourage repeat commercial violations by holding down penalties for the first and second offenses, but hitting violators hard for subsequent wrongs….The revised regulations target businesses, the most prolific trash producers, for more rigorous enforcement.’ Fines could run as high as $1,500.
Tom Sherwood reports at WRC-TV that an event planner is hoping to break the Guinness world record for largest mass gay wedding in the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on March 20. Planners hope to get 400 couples to participate.
FedEx delivers huge load of marijuana to Capitol Hill couple, Paul Duggan reports on WaPo A1: ‘What happened to Eric Anderson and Melanie Sloan in their Capitol Hill townhouse Monday night occurs quite often in the city. So to D.C. police, it was fairly routine. As for Anderson and Sloan, though…well, imagine their surprise.’ Inside a cardboard box, another cardboard box, a Styrofoam box, foam insulation, plastic wrap, duct tape, more plastic wrap, and a layer of coffee grounds was 33 pounds of weed, worth about $120K. Yes, this is also what happen to Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife last year. Sloan, a federal prosecutor, ‘said the Berwyn Heights fiasco sprang to her mind the instant her husband told her about the coffee grounds. “Before he even looked in to see what kind of drugs they were, I called 911,” she said. “I told them exactly what was going on. I’m like, I don’t want them coming through my door with guns drawn, because I love my dog.”‘ Columnist Petula Dvorak covers the exact same story, adding: ‘Sloan waited for police, who took pictures of the mound of weed and jokingly inquired why she called them instead of having a party. Maybe everyone’s getting a bit more relaxed about pot.’
WHY IT HAPPENS—-‘Inspector Brian Bray of the D.C. police Narcotics and Special Investigations Division said he wasn’t at all surprised by the couple’s discovery. Suppose you’re a marijuana dealer in the District. You buy, say, 165 pounds of pot from a distant wholesaler, and you want it shipped to the city. You stake out a bunch of addresses at random and choose five houses whose occupants normally aren’t home during the day. Then you arrange for five 33-pound FedEx boxes to be delivered to those addresses, with no signatures required. With the tracking numbers, you can follow the shipments on a computer and be waiting outside when each arrives. Except sometimes—-for instance, on a Monday not long after a city has been snowbound—-traffic is horrendous, and FedEx drivers get caught in it. A shipment you’re waiting for doesn’t arrive until evening, after the residents have returned from work.’
Lanham-based Radio One has backed out of a deal to anchor a development project above the Shaw Metro station, ‘dealing a major blow to an already long-delayed mixed-used project backed by the city,’ Jonathan O’Connell writes in WBJ. ‘Radio One would have been the anchor tenant in Broadcast Center One, a project that was slated to bring 103,000 square feet of office space, close to 25,000 square feet of retail, 180 apartments for rent (45 of which would be reserved as affordable housing) and a 195-spot underground parking garage to the northeast corner of Seventh and S streets NW….The development team, comprising D.C.-based companies Four Points LLC, Ellis Development Group and the Jarvis Co., said the development…would still take place.’ And DMPED says $23M in city financing will stay in place for now. Radio One’s profitability had taken a hit in recent years, and now the pressure’s on to land the United Negro College Fund as a tenant. A hearing on a possible incentive deal is set for next week. Says Jack Evans, ‘It leaves everything a little bit uncertain right now.’ Also WaPo, which quotes Jim Graham: ‘To be told at the 11th hour that they would not be coming was quite a setback….This was a very significant turn of events.’
ALSO—-The city has dropped plans to build a new Anacostia headquarters for DDOT, O’Connell reports, and will seek leased space instead. The building would have been next to the Anacostia Gateway property at MLK Avenue and Good Hope Road SE, which now houses the Department of Housing and Community Development. But complicating matters is that the ‘D.C. Council used fiscal 2010 capital funds that had been set aside to build the second phase, Gateway II, for other uses, including the purchase of three clubhouses from the Greater Washington Boys and Girls Clubs.’
WBJ PRINT EDITION—-O’Connell covers the PLA/First Source bill introduced by Michael Brown and Harry Thomas Jr.: ‘The Brown-Thomas bill is particularly alarming to businesses, because last year, Brown replaced the council’s only Republican, Carol Schwartz, after the D.C. Chamber of Commerce campaigned against her….[Brett McMahon of Miller and Long] accused Brown of putting politics first. “The idea of putting anything in the way of anyone’s attempt to scratch out a living at this time is recognition that Mr. Brown will put whatever his political ambitions are ahead of real opportunities to create jobs and infrastructure in the city,” he said.’ And Tierney Plumb runs down the spate of convention center hotel lawsuits: ‘Lawsuits are common in major municipal or government projects, but legal experts say this dispute has turned particularly nasty, even for a town full of attorneys. And they say the case could still go either way….There has been some talk of a settlement between JBG and Marriott, according to sources familiar with the talks, but no deal appears imminent. And so the suits go on.’
More on the status of the Giro d’Italia: ‘Negotiations,’ Examiner reports, ‘are coming down the stretch. “We are working toward finalizing a deal that would work for everybody,” lawyer Mark Sommers told The Examiner. Later Thursday, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and other main players in the project met at the Italian Embassy to discuss the planning process and rally support from sponsors. The District would become the first city outside Europe to host a portion of the Giro. How close is the deal to being done? “We’re on the cusp,” said Fenty.’ WBJ quotes WCSA chief Greg O’Dell, who ‘says projections on what the economic impact would be on the area have not been finalized yet, but says they would be “pretty substantial.”‘ Invitees—-and potential sponsors—-at the embassy recpetion included Verizon, Marriott, and Ted Leonsis. Also CyclingNews.com, WaPo, DCist.
Retired U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson makes the case in WaPo op-ed for bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed‘s terrorism trial to the Prettyman courthouse: ‘KSM’s crimes were committed against the entire nation, and it is fitting that the nation’s capital should host his trial….The U.S. District Court in Washington has 15 able and experienced trial judges available for the case. I am sure my former colleagues on the court would not appreciate the extra work the KSM trial would require, but they have all become intimately familiar in recent years with the problems of the administration of justice in the age of terrorism. Moreover, most of them have tried high-profile, protracted and complex criminal cases, some of them capital cases. They have distinguished themselves and their court and are a credit to the image of American justice….The Justice Department has been rumored to be concerned with an alleged reluctance of D.C. juries to impose the death penalty, but no prosecution should ever be undertaken for the primary purpose of putting the defendant to death. The goal is a fair trial. Obtain the conviction, and the penalty will take care of itself.’
More from WaPo’s Clarence Williams on MPD awards night: ‘The event brought officers in dress blue uniforms across the stage of The Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation (The ARC) to recognize thousands of arrests, undercover investigations and crime reductions in some of the city’s most violent areas….Among those recognized were several units, including the 7th District vice unit, which logged more than 1,700 arrests for weapons, drug and prostitution offenses in far Southeast, officials said. The 5th District Street Crimes Unit from Northeast was honored as the “Crime Suppression Team of the Year,” and credited with about 9,300 arrests, including 1,100 warrant arrests….Police Service Area 706, a patrol assignment in the 7th District were awarded the PSA of the year for the city, and recognized for establishing community policing partnerships with residents, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and business owners….A few miles north in the 6th District, Cmdr. Robert Contee accepted the Crime Reduction Award as his patrol district bested six others for overall lowering of crime….The final award of the night was given to Cmdr. Lamar Greene of the 5th District as Commander of the Year. The 5th also won Best Performing District.’
ALSO—-Lanier spoke Wednesday at a meeting of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association to talk police technology.
Full D.C. Court of Appeals will hear case on a ‘key question about Washington’s local consumer protection law,’ Legal Times reports. ‘Exactly who can use it to bring a lawsuit? Lawyers for AOL and several major telephone companies are attempting to reverse two recent rulings by the court, in which it concluded that the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act allows individuals to act as private attorneys general and sue corporations on behalf of the public interest, whether or not they themselves have been injured….In their petition for rehearing, AOL’s lawyers from McGuireWoods, including partner John Wilburn, argued that by allowing “private attorneys general” to bring consumer protection suits, the appeals court was inviting a flood of litigation.’
DCmud writes up DDOT’s Gabe Klein after blogger sitdown: ‘By 2012 DDOT aims to more than double the bicycle road share, add 250 car-share vehicles, increase Circulator ridership by 47 percent, add six more “performance” parking districts and have 2.75 miles of operating streetcar lines. Yes, he went there: operating streetcars. Klein described an agency embracing a culture shift, one that focuses on sustainability, safety and open communication.’ Klein talked streetcars and new parking meters, noting of the latter, ‘Since their inception, 52% of patrons started using credit cards, and in the study area DDOT has seen a 30% increase in parking revenue. Klein said of the pilot, “revenues are up, people seem to love it” but that he was not ready to say it was a definite success until he knew more about the machines’ reliability.’
ALSO—-DDOT’s launched a Web site redesign and the District Transportation Access Portal, a dashboard-style site with data on the capital projects pipeline. DCist has a look. And GGW notes new online system for emergency no parking permits.
More on budget-balancing from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. ‘Taking a balanced approach that involves both revenues and budget cuts makes sense. But there are questions about where the surplus funds come from, and the way the agency cuts were made is questionable. DC’s budget includes too many small, specialized funds. Taking unspent funds from them may make sense, but it is really important to know which funds these monies are being pulled from.’ Pulling $3M from overstressed DHS: not a good idea.
Teacher-blogger Guy Brandenburg challenges the Michelle Rhee record: ‘I have done a little bit of analysis to see whether the schools where Rhee fired or replaced the principals actually did better on the DC-CAS than the schools where the principals were not replaced….What I found is that both groups of schools included ones where the scores went up a lot from SY 2007-8 to SY 2008-9, and both groups of schools had members where the scores dropped about as much. To me, using Rhee’s own yardstick, it’s hard to find any big difference between the two groups of schools.’
Another teacher-blogger is left with a good impression after a Rhee school visit: ‘[M]y biggest concern is…that she may not last, especially with Mayor Fenty’s popularity so low right now. The last thing a struggling urban district needs is frequent complete leadership overhauls every few years, and that very well may happen soon. These kids need high standards, but they also need consistency.’
AP: ‘D.C. fire officials say a teenager on a skateboard who grabbed a hook-and-ladder truck that was leaving a fire scene was run over by the apparatus….Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer says the truck was leaving the scene of a small kitchen fire when a 14-year-old male on a skateboard grabbed the truck to be pulled. The youth fell and the truck ran over his foot.’ Injuries are not life-threatening.
Jaffe on WaPo ‘pundit,’ Rhee ex Kevin Huffman: ‘Beyond their shared commitment to education reform—he’s a top official at Teach for America—Huffman says Rhee’s views don’t influence his columns: “She has no idea what I’m going to write from week to week.”…He usually speaks with Rhee at least once a day about their children. He has a steady girlfriend; Rhee is engaged to Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. Will Huffman write about DC schools? “I will resist the urge,” he says.’
Tom Sherwood’s Notebook—-on Hizzoner’s infamous WRC-TV snow interview, the Bennett Report, and same-sex marriage.
Christian conservatives make last-ditch appeal to Congress to stop D.C. gay marriage.
Daily Caller picks up on cigarette tax backfire.
The case against statehood, as presented in suburbanite’s WaPo letter.
Someone really doesn’t like Yvette Alexander.
White powder clears Prettyman mailroom.
Local bank profits: Up!
Sofitel goes to Bethesda company in $95M deal.
U Street visitor center opens today.
Adrian Fenty is a PILF.
TOMORROW—-Eleanor Holmes Norton‘s annual tax fair, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Washington Convention Center.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-Committee on Public Works and Transportation agency performance oversight hearing on District Department of Transportation, in conjunction with hearing on B18-596 (‘Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act of 2009’), JAWB 500; 11 a.m.: Committee on Economic Development agency performance oversight hearing on Office of Motion Picture and Television Development and Commission on Arts and Humanities, JAWB 412; 12 p.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary roundtable on option-year contract review, JAWB 120.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.