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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Erik Wemple to Leave City Paper, Will Edit Startup Local News Site‘; ‘Meet the District’s Useless Snow Melter‘; ‘Marion Barry: ‘I Should Have Known Better’‘; ‘Michael Brown All But Declares Mayoral Candidacy‘; and tweets galore!

Greetings all. In the sanctuary of Union Temple Baptist Church yesterday, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry made a rare apology, for a ‘violation of law of good sense and law of cound judgment’—-but not for a violation of law. That, he maintains, never occurred. Barry, however, declined to publicly detail his response to Robert S. Bennett‘s scathing report, beyond admitting that giving a contract to girlfriend Donna Watts ‘didn’t look good.’ It’s hard to tell how sincere the apology was. WUSA-TV’s Bruce Johnson reported yesterday that the apology wasn’t Barry’s idea—-that he was counseled by close associates to show contrition and scolded by his council colleagues for embarrassing them and the institution. But what real consequences will they muster? Also WaPo, Examiner, WTOP, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV.

AFTER THE JUMP—-NTSB hearings kick off; grumbles about tight leash at medical pot hearing; West Elm location shuts down; Giro d’Italia start is a go; ABC calls Deanwood ‘one of the worst neighborhoods in the country’

NTSB hearings on the June 22 Red Line crash got underway yesterday. Here’s WaPo’s lede for Day 1: ‘Metro received at least two signs before June’s fatal crash that its automatic crash-avoidance system might be fundamentally flawed….In 2005 and again in early 2009, Metro trains came perilously close to colliding, records show. On Tuesday, a Metro official testified that the same malfunction connects the near-misses with the June crash. “All three incidents have something in common. All three were failures of the automatic train protection system,” said Harry Heilmann, Metro’s assistant chief engineer, who headed the investigation into the incidents. “They were all failures of the fail-safe system.”‘ Examiner’s Kytja Weir leads with tough questions about Metro’s safety culture, and the paper’s Michael Neibauer covers the numerous infrastructure problems revealed by the crash, as well as the chilling experience of Brian Brooks, operator of Train 214, struck from behind. Also NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.

MORE WAPO—-‘Tuesday was a long day for Metro officials, who were questioned repeatedly about their commitment to safety. The safety board has not taken an official position on the cause of the crash, but the hearing made clear that investigators are examining broad lapses in oversight by Metro and monitoring agencies….NTSB hearing Chairman Robert Sumwalt, who posed some of the toughest questions, asked why Metro’s governing board lists oversight of funding and expansion among its core duties in the agency’s official procedures but does not include safety. “Why was safety . . . not in there?” Sumwalt asked new Metro board Chair Peter Benjamin.’

Medical marijuana hearing draws complaints from advocates that the proposed pot rules are too strict. Alana Goodman reports in Examiner on a few claims: Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access ‘argued that allowing patients to receive marijuana prescriptions solely from their primary physician was unrealistic, because many chronically ill patients see multiple doctors….Steve D’Angelo, director of a California marijuana dispensary, told council members that the people most qualified to dispense marijuana often have drug convictions and they should not be barred from working in dispensaries. Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn said marijuana treatment should not be limited to specific illnesses, because it would disqualify many individuals who need the care. In reply, said David Catania, ‘What we are trying to play defense against were the pot docs if you were that sprung up all over California who would write recommendations for the pain associated with wearing high heels and that’s a true story.’ Added original initiative co-sponsor Wayne Turner, ‘We’re so close and yet we can see it all disappear and it will disappear if Congress steps in and says no, you can’t do that.’ WaPo notes that questions of where and how pot will be grown is still TBD. Also DCist, NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.

So long West Elm: The upscale furniture retailer will be leaving its spot in Doug Jemal‘s Woodies Building after failing to meet sales targets, WBJ first reported. Moving into the space will be Forever 21, a trendy clothier that had already planned to move into the building and now has decided to take the vacated West Elm space. ‘The store arrived at the tail end of the housing boom, and anticipated demand failed to materialize as housing prices plummeted and the recession gripped the region,’ Ylan Q. Mui reports in WaPo. Says Norman Jemal, ‘The sun isn’t setting; the sun is rising….We’re going from one retailer to another that will do 30 or 40 times the amount of business.’ The West Elm deal was backed by a $4.9M city TIF, and Jemal tells WBJ ‘he is working to get the TIF transferred to the Forever 21 store, and wasn’t sure if the change would require legislation.’

The nomination of Millicent Williams as D.C.’s emergency management chief passes the D.C. Council’s public safety and judicary committee despite concerns about her experience and lack of a security clearance, Nikita Stewart reports in WaPo. ‘Some council members had initial concerns, but [Phil Mendelson], who is known as a Fenty critic, said they were swayed by Williams’s enthusiasm and the overwhelming support she drew at her confirmation hearing. Former D.C. emergency management directors Peter LaPorte and Barbara Childs-Pair, Darnell’s predecessor, spoke on her behalf, saying she has good management and people skills necessary for the job.’

ALSO—-‘On another Fenty nominee, [Muriel Bowser] has not yet been able to rally support for Vicky L. Beasley to head the Office of the People’s Counsel, the independent agency that represents utility consumers….Beasley said in an e-mail Tuesday, “I believe the process may discourage qualified candidates to seek to serve at the local level despite all of the talent located in our nation’s capital.”‘ A committee vote on a disapproval resolution is set for this morning.

A D.C. start for the 2012 Giro d’Italia looks to be a go: ‘An announcement regarding a Washington, DC start to the 2012 Giro d’Italia is imminent, according to reports in the Italian press,’ writes Cycling News. ‘The 2012 Giro d’Italia Working Group, headed by Mark Sommers and g4 Productions, has been working on the details of the proposed stages with the support of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, a triathlete and avid cycling fan….The race is proposed to begin with a prologue, which would take place among the city’s most iconic features including the Memorial Bridge which fittingly has two large statues donated to the country by the Italians after World War II. It would also pass by the famed Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington monuments, the National Mall and the US Capitol. A second stage would stay within the city for a circuit that finishes on Pennsylvania Avenue, and there have been discussions about having an additional two or three stages on the east coast before the race would head back overseas to Italy.’ VeloNation reports that an announcement could come tomorrow. Only question: Will Fenty be mayor when it happens?

OUTRAGE—-Yvette Alexander wants an apology from ABC-TV for referring to Deanwood as ‘one of the worst neighborhoods in the country’ on a recent episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

DOH releases report on preventable causes of death in the District. Per D.C. Wire: ‘The leading cause of death, representing 1,367 of 5,168 deaths of District residents in 2007, was heart disease followed by cancer (1,159), cerebrovascular disease (200), accidents (200) and HIV/AIDS (188), according to the report.’ And those preventable deadly behaviors? ‘Tobacco…Poor diet and physical inactivity…Microbial (infectious) agents…Alcohol consumption…Firearms…Medical errors…Toxic agents…Sexual behavior…Illicit drugs…Motor vehicles…Uninsurance.’ The report in full.

NYT covers Northrop Grumman headquarters move, writing that it ‘has set off a feverish competition among local governments to land the company….With the real estate consulting firm CB Richard Ellis, the company has focused on five locations in Virginia, three in Maryland and two in the District of Columbia that would provide 150,000 to 200,000 square feet, according to several people involved in the site search who were not authorized to speak publicly about it. It intends to make a final selection as early as next month….[R]egional rivalries have surfaced. “Would you rather be in downtown Washington or Crystal City?” in Virginia, [Jack Evans] said. “Bethesda is just a hike. The bottom line is they want to be close to the Pentagon, Capitol and White House. It’s almost like a no-brainer.”‘

Harry Jaffe pays tribute to outgoing PCSB chair Tom Nida: ‘As Mayor Adrian Fenty took over the public schools and dissolved the school board, Nida’s board thrived. It absorbed schools chartered by the old school board, monitored existing charters and authorized new ones. He and his board members and staff accomplished this with scant bureaucracy. “We held people accountable,” he says. If schools failed to perform, he closed them down….Nida expects to pay more attention to his real job, banking. He’s also starting a nonprofit that he hopes will serve as a guide to chartering boards nationwide.’

DC Agenda’s Lou Chibbaro Jr. previews courthouse-wedding plans for local gay couples: ‘Due to a mandatory three-business-day waiting period, jubilant same-sex couples — some of whom have been in relationships for more than 20 years — won’t be able to marry until March 9 at the earliest. That’s when the D.C. Superior Court’s Marriage Bureau completes the processing of their marriage licenses….[The Campaign for All D.C. Families] and other local LGBT organizations were still finalizing plans this week for a celebration linked to a possible joint appearance by same-sex couples at the courthouse on the morning of the March 3 to fill out their applications for a marriage license. “We have at least a half-dozen couples expected at the courthouse,” said Cathy Renna of Renna Communications, an LGBT-oriented public relations firm that’s coordinating plans for celebrating the start of the marriage law.’

OFFICIAL—-Barring act of God, you startr applying for a same-sex marriage license on March 3.

WaPo’s Bill Turque identifies more problems with the charter application submitted by University High PCS, which proposes to occupy part of the International Graduate University on Capitol Hill. For one thing, UDC disavows any association with the effort, and looks like they’ve plagiarized on their application, too. Shades of Victor Reinoso, says Turque.

ALSO—-Uberchef Alice Waters met with Michelle Rhee to talk school gardens, Slow Cook reports. And DCPS did a fab live chat yesterday on the out-of-boundary transfer process.

Eric Price, former DMPED under Tony Williams, has left Jim Abdo‘s employ, O’Connell reports in WBJ. He’s ‘returned to the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, where he was chief investment officer and director of housing production before joining up with the city in 1999. The HIT, as it is called, is a mutual fund that invests union pension money into a range of labor-friendly companies and industries.’ No word from Price on the reason for his departure.

Funding cuts threaten ‘Kids on Ice’ program at Fort Dupont, Courtland Milloy reports in WaPo. ‘Ironically, at the same time those passions for ice skating are increasing, funding for the Kids on Ice program is on the decline. Because of a drop in charitable contributions, as well as cuts in financial support from the D.C. government, Cox says, the Fort Dupont Ice Arena will face a $200,000 budget shortfall when the organization’s next fiscal year begins in April.’

Raccoons, fed by Metro employees, thrive inside Fort Totten station. Last Thursday, WaPo reports, ‘A man…yelled to the Metro employee that it wasn’t right for the animals to be there. He did have a point. Animals are strictly prohibited from Metro trains and stations. But the Metro employee, clad in an orange safety vest, responded, “They have more right to be here than you do!” Wilson said.’

D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute on the budget hole: ‘This is where the mayor and council, as well as DC residents, need to consider our priorities and make tactical decisions. During a recession, government resources shrink due to declining tax revenue at the same time demand for some programs and services increases. Greater scrutiny will be needed in the upcoming budget round to make sure we authorize a level of services that we can afford —and raise revenues if needed to fund the services we want.’

DDOT’s done hauling snow, WTOP reports.

Pizzeria defies city order, stays open.

Metro holding security drill tonight at Friendship Heights station.

Early-morning D.C. accident ties up traffic all the way down I-95 to Prince William County.

Why the way National Merit Scholarships are awarded is unfair to D.C. kids.

Sculpture project coming to New York Avenue, west of Mount Vernon Square.

Lots more Big Law profit reports at Legal Times.

WaPo profits are way up. Thanks, Kaplan!

Clark Ray will be meeting and greeting Sunday at Big Chair Coffee.

LeRoy W. Tillman Jr., AP metro reporter who later became a spokesperson for Washington Hospital Center, is dead at 54. ‘From 1985 to 1998, when Mr. Tillman was assigned to the metro desk in the Washington bureau of AP, he chronicled some of the biggest stories in the District, including the political death and resurrection of Mayor Marion Barry, the tenure of Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and such breaking news stories as the death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias. Mr. Tillman had hundreds of bylines during his career at AP, but his greatest contribution was anchoring a news desk that was responsible for typing out broadcast and print reports for news and sports. He also maintained the local daybook, a listing of the hundreds of events that take place in the Washington area.’

SIGH—-Could be more snow tonight, five inches or more.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Aging and Community Affairs agency performance oversight hearing on Office on Aging, Commission on Aging, Commission of Human Rights, and Office of Community Affairs, JAWB 412; Committee on Finance and Revenue meeting (scheduled), JAWB 120; 11:30 a.m.: Committee of the Whole agency performance oversight hearing on Office of Planning and Office of Zoning, JAWB 500; Committee of the Whole hearing on PR18-689 (‘Bellevue Small Area Action Plan Approval Resolution of 2010’), JAWB 500; 12 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs meeting on B18-402 (‘Certified Capital Companies Improvement Amendment Act of 2010’), PR18-579 (‘People’s Counsel Vicky Beaslely Confirmation Disapproval Resolution of 2010’), PR18-665 (‘Billboard Blight Removal Disapproval Resolution of 2010’), and PR18-674 (‘Board of Real Estate Shari M. Barton Confirmation Resolution Approval Resolution of 2010’), JAWB 120; 3 p.m.: Committee of the Whole hearing on B18-511 (‘Office of Zoning Independence Amendment Act of 2010’), JAWB 500; Committee on Housing and Workforce Development roundtable on PR18-596 (‘Executive Director of the Office on Ex-Offender Affairs Mr. Herman D. Odom, Jr., Confirmation Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 123.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:45 a.m.: remarks, Petworth Library renovations announcement, 4200 Kansas Ave. NW; 2 p.m.: remarks, autism wing ribbon-cutting, Cardozo Senior High School, 1200 Clifton St. NW.