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 CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Barry Reaction Too Strong? Too Weak? Just Right?‘; ‘Vincent Gray: So Far, So Good—But Far Still to Go‘; ‘One Barry Lesson: How Not To Run A Nonprofit‘; ‘More Than You Want to Know About the Eco-Impact of Snowmelt‘; and tweets galore!
IN LL WEEKLY—-Together at Last: Will upcoming election heal the split atop the Washington Teachers’ Union?
Morning all. LL’s cut Mayor Adrian M. Fenty some slack in the last couple of weeks, given that he’s had to deal with an act of God that would lay low any chief executive. But good to know the same old peevish Fenty we know and somehow tolerate hasn’t gone anywhere. This morning on his weekly appearance on WRC-TV, Hizzoner took some snow questions. For instance: ‘When is the last of the snow going to be cleared?’ asked anchor Eun Yang. Fenty’s reply: ‘It’s kind of a question that doesn’t make any sense….The snow is fallen and it’s not going to be gone until the temperature gets warm enough that it can melt. There’s only so much snow you can move.’ Yang clarified—-duh!—-that she meant getting snow off of city streets. Then she moved on to trash service, noting that she hasn’t had pickups at her Northwest home. That really set Fenty off: ‘Now listen, you work for Channel 4 news—-we have had probably 24 press conferences. At the last 20 of them, we have said to put trash in front of your house. I don’t know how in the world the reporters…couldn’t have gotten that information to you!’ Said Yang, ‘We did that but they never showed up.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-Plenty of Bennett Report reaction; Donna Watts-Brighthaupt shows why Barry won’t be going to jail; feds snub K Street bus project; Metro hires transit vet to perform assessment; potholes!
Yesterday’s commute was still troublesome. POTUS and FLOTUS had a tough time getting to a parent-teacher conference at Sidwell Friends. DDOT’s John Lisle to WTOP: ‘I think overall, the commute for most people will be returning to normal in the next couple of days—-if it hasn’t already.’ Also NC8, WRC-TV, WTTG-TV. But, hey, the 15th Street bike lane has been plowed!
ALSO—-WUSA-TV does a good job holding the National Park Service to task for not shoveling a thing: ‘At the three squares operated by NPS along a five block section of K Street Northwest, the sidewalks were mostly snow covered. Franklin Square at 13th Street is by far the worst. Along with very little bare sidewalk, there is a problem with numerous downed trees and limbs.’ WTTG-TV covers the importance of digging out fire hydrants—-response to a fire last night on 19th Place NE was slowed by shoveling. And here’s more inter-jurisdictional whining: ‘Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen said she didn’t hit any problems until she reached the District line,’ WTOP reports.
Informer: ‘District residents are fired-up about the city’s lackadaisical approach to plowing city streets clearing the roads in what has been described as the worst snowstorm in the District’s history. Some wondered if [Fenty] was waiting for spring to arrive before taking action. Fenty has been criticized for his failure to move quickly enough in preparation for a horrific snowstorm that had been predicted days in advance.’
Reaction rolls in to the Bennett Report: On WaPo B1, Tim Craig reports that councilmembers plan to pursue a censure resolution, perhaps accompanied by a move to strip Barry of his committee chair, ‘if he is not able to clear himself of public corruption allegations by next week.’ And how he could possibly do that, no one is certain. Craig continues: ‘Although Barry has long enjoyed a good relationship with many of his council colleagues, there were signs Wednesday that he is losing support.’ Mary Cheh called the report ‘so thorough and so detailed and so convincing that I really don’t see what rebuttal there could be.’ David Catania says, ‘These are very serious allegations. The conclusions—-they are not allegations, they are conclusions—-by our special counsel amount to the fact that Marion took kickbacks.’ Kwame Brown says, ‘Marion should have taken some responsibility….He should have expressed some remorse.’ But he didn’t. Barry was uncharacteristically silent today, but lawyer Fred Cooke said ‘he will draft a rebuttal to the report in coming days.’
On WTOP, Jack Evans said the the council ‘should create a process to examine possible sanctions against Barry, which could include removing his committee chairmanship. “There’s no regulation, so the Council would have to invent this for Councilmember Marion Barry. In this particular case, I think the Council should do that and will do that,” says Evans.’ WTTG-TV’s Karen Gray Houston asks, ‘What Will the Council Do About Marion Barry?’ She gets Kwame on camera: ‘Clearly it’s just a devastating report. I’ve know Councilmember Barry for a long time and never have associated him with any of the comments about money, so that was very disturbing.’
NC8 gets key Barry ally Anthony Motley on the record reacting to the report. As to the kickbacks detailed in the report, Motley says, ‘He loaned someone some money because they didn’t have a job and he helped pay some bills for this person because they couldn’t pay the bills….I think it was just repaying someone for loaning them money.’ As for the bogus earmarks, he says, ‘These are legitimate entities that were established to provide services to the citizens of Ward 8.’
Donna Watts-Brighthaupt does interview with WTTG-TV’s Roby Chavez, in the process illustrating why federal prosecutors might not be particularly gung-ho about prosecuting Barry: ‘In her first interview since the report, Watts was asked, “Did Marion Barry force you to give him money because he gave you a job?” “No. No, he did not,” said Donna Watts….”I don’t know how the relationship was between him and the nonprofits or anyone he does business with. It was not a kickback from me,” said Watts….”I can’t say he got what he deserved. No. For some reason, I feel he is Teflon Don and if he goes down then I am really bad. I feel like he will pull thru it,” said Watts….After the public lashing Barry showed up knocking at her house, then the two went to dinner….”He says we need to talk, he tells me everything is going to be okay. I have a lump in my gut because I’m waiting to be vindicated and I’m being dragged further”….”Maybe grilled people like company, but we needed to talk about this—-since we both got dragged. It’s not like we’re going to do a coalition or something. I have to respect the fact that in politics, Marion is seldom wrong and I hate admit it.”‘
Fenty was asked on WRC-TV if Barry’s an embarrassment: ‘I always have the same refrain. It’s up to the voters to decide what elected officials do to their own name and the city’s name. It’s my job to work with elected official who are sent down to City Hall by the voters of the District of Columbia….Obviously there are issues that come up from time to time. My job is to work with the city officials as long as they are down at city government to make the government work properly.’
David Catania to the Georgetown Voice: ‘I think that Councilmember Barry needs to reflect seriously on whether or not the continuous controversies that surround him are affecting his ability to deliver for his constituents….This has to frustrate his ability to deliver for his residents because he is spending so much time defending his conduct that there cannot be enough hours in the day for his constituents. So I think that he needs to look very hard at himself and whether or not he has organized his life in such a way that causes so much chaos that it means he can no longer deliver for his constituents.’
Robert McCartney writes in his WaPo column that the Bennett Report ‘has done a considerable public service to District taxpayers by blasting a gaping hole in the myth of council member Marion Barry’s selflessness….Although he struggled with drugs and the IRS, the lore said, Barry was never guilty of monetary corruption. Now, Bennett and [his] team…have alleged with abundant, rigorous detail that Barry engaged in widespread misuse of city funds for his own sake and that of cronies….[H]is reputation seems likely to diminish even among the faithful. In interviews I conducted in Anacostia, residents criticized him for taking money from Watts-Brighthaupt’s contract, although many still said he was the best mayor the District has ever had.’ Said one, ‘When you’re taking money away from your own people, it’s just wrong.’ McCartney wants a crackdown on earmarks, and he wants Barry to retire.
Elissa Silverman calls for drastic earmark reform at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute blog: ‘Among his recommendations, Bennett said the DC Council’s current practice of earmarking should be discontinued because it is “not a sound method for appropriating public funds.” We strongly agree with Bennett’s conclusion….DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray took steps to reform the process last year by making organizations meet certain criteria, but the Bennett report clearly shows stronger action is necessary….Transparency and accountability are the cures for this budget ailment.’
OTHER PERSPECTIVES—-Jo-Ann Armao laments Barry’s ‘wasted potential’; Marion Barry belongs in Congress, not in Jail‘; ‘Just Retire Already Marion Barry!‘; Politics Daily; DCist collects some Bennett Report highlights.
Oh well. The feds announce $1.5B in awards under transportation stimulus program, but the $76M K Street Transitway project is not among the winners, dashing DDOT’s hopes. ‘The money will fund 15 improvements in Maryland, Virginia and the District, including bus shelters, dedicated bus lanes, a transitway in Alexandria and new rapid bus service to the Pentagon,’ Ashley Halsey writes in WaPo. ‘Funding to create bus lanes on K Street will have to be found elsewhere.’ However, $13.6M will be coming to the District via MWCOG for ‘electronic gadgetry that will give buses traffic signal priority and provide real-time passenger information.’ Kytja Weir notes in Examiner that the District ‘has no other funding lined up for the $95.6 million K Street Transitway…”Whenever you apply for these grants it takes time, people get excited,” DDOT spokeswoman Karyn LeBlanc said. “So, we are disappointed.” But she says they will continue to look for other funding options, including any unused stimulus money from other jurisdictions.’ Also WBJ, DCmud. And also unfunded, to some rejoicing: The CSX Virginia Avenue tunnel project.
Great, one more thing the city needs to pay for in this tight budget season: Fire hydrant maintenance. Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner that WASA is seeking a steep hike in the reimbursement rate for hydrant inspections and repairs. ‘The WASA Board of Directors earlier this month took initial steps to raise the annual Fire Protection Service Fee, a levy paid by the District, from $217 to $680.48 per fire hydrant. There are 9,000 public hydrants, bringing WASA’s total yearly take to $6.1 million, whereas the agency currently collects $1.95 million.’ Says WASA GM George Hawkins, ‘[W]e have been spending a lot more money per hydrant for several years now without the fee going up.’ If the District decides to pay less, he warns, WASA will have to ‘do less.’
Jonetta Rose Barras weighs in with a rather superficial slam of Natwar Gandhi and the CFO’s office. The council, she argues, tends to ‘ignore his methods and the less-than-stellar results those processes produce. So, it wasn’t surprising to find legislators passing out accolades earlier this month to Gandhi for producing a “clean’ audit for fiscal 2009—-although beneath the surface of that report there’s sufficient cause for concern.’ Looking at the CAFR and accompanying auditor’s letter, any ‘so-called progress hasn’t been significant,’ she writes, pointing to ongoing vulnerabilities at the Office of Tax and Revenue. That translates, somehow, into a plea to CMs to hold Gandhi liable for agency overspending, not Hizzoner.
Metro has engaged transit expert David Gunn ‘to provide an overarching assessment of what ails the system and how to fix it,’ Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo. Now, this is a big deal: Rail nerds like LL are rather in awe of Gunn, who ran Boston’s MBTA, Philly’s SEPTA, Metro, the New York City Subway, and concluded his career by leading Amtrak before getting fired for making too much noise about its chronic underfunding. ‘Gunn, 72, reached by phone at his home in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, confirmed his appointment, saying he agreed to take on the job because, as he put it, “they need help.”…”It’s really a look at the management structure and what they are trying to accomplish with that structure and the resources,” including the capital and operating budgets, he said. In addition, he will look into what Metro reports to the board and “what tools are given to the board to perform its role of oversight.”‘ Oh, and he’s a Luddite: ‘With the e-mail and cellphone and raspberries, as I call it, when something goes wrong, they kick all the problems upstairs, and that is not healthy.’ Hope Fenty doesn’t hear about that.
OK, we’ve had plowing stories, we’ve had trash-pickup stories, now bring on the pothole stories! The journalistic progression of Snowpocalypse 2010 continues with a Halsey WaPo piece: ‘Pothole season usually hits full bloom a couple of weeks before the spring flowers, but this year melting snow and unseasonable gyrations in temperature have formed lots of pavement-cracking ice overnight. As the snowplows scraped away the final crust from back-to-back storms, they uncovered thousands of new potholes, some that got big in a hurry this week as thermometers jumped between the thawing 40s and freezing 20s.’ The Examiner’s version of the story, by Alan Suderman, is titled, ‘A pothole ate my car.’ Problem is, the pothole fillers are still driving plows in some cases. Potholepalooza is still a ways away, but to report a pothole in the meantime, you can call 311, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @DDOTDC, or fill out this Web form.
TO REVIEW—-‘For decades, potholes were such an issue that some local political platforms were based in large measure on a promise to fill them. Marion Barry once launched a $1 million mayoral “war” on potholes; in 1987, potholes were so large and numerous that snowplows had trouble clearing the streets. When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to the District in 1990, crews rushed to patch potholes in places his limo might travel. The same year, a candidate for the D.C. Council patched a dozen potholes herself to make a point….”It’s not as bad as it used to be,” Lisle said. “On any of roads that are older and not in great shape, it can be a problem.”‘
The DCPS central office is beginning its move from 825 North Capitol Street up to 1200 First St. NE; because the new space has less storage space, Bill Turque writes on his blog, a ‘crash program of document shredding’ has ensued to make space. Rest assured: The docs are being scanned before hitting the shredder. ‘All document reduction actions are in compliance with the Office of the Public Records Administrator guidelines,’ says DCPS.
The Archdiocese of Washington’s move out of foster care is covered by WaTimes’ Julia Duin, who calls it the ‘first casualty of the District of Columbia’s pending same-sex marriage law that will obligate all outside contractors dealing with the city to recognize gay couples.’ Says ADW’s Susan Gibbs: ‘It was a very high-quality program, so this was really hard….We said last fall that we could not continue this program if the bill was passed as written. Well, this has come to pass.’ GLAA reaction: ‘Good!’ Also NC8, WTTG-TV, Catholic News Agency.
WCP EDUCATION ISSUE—-At the Sexist, Amanda Hess details how DCPS teachers Jenn Thomas and Kevin Fox have had a hell of a time getting their adopted children covered by by city health insurance: ‘The last time Thomas and Fox went through the adoption process, they attempted to place the child on the health insurance plan that Fox maintains through D.C. Public Schools. A history teacher at Cardozo Senior High School, Fox figured his excellent coverage would take care of most all the child’s early medical needs. Instead, it plunged him into a three-year battle against a grumpy D.C. bureaucracy.’ And in Cheap Seats, Dave McKenna describes Roy Fagin‘s thus-far-futile quest to spark a swimming revival at DCPS.
Jeffrey Anderson of WaTimes picks up on potential changes to DCPS school lunch program: ‘”We’re taking this very seriously,” said Anthony J. Tata, chief operating officer for D.C. schools, who pointed to farm-to-school food delivery, school gardens and nutritional content on the school district’s Web site as key goals. “We’re looking for an innovative model, to balance nutritious food with a strategy that is cost-effective.”‘
More from WaPo on the change-of-venue request in the Chandra Levy murder trial.
Transgender woman, 27, was beaten on Jan. 25 on the 3700 block of Hayes Street NE in possible hate crime. ALSO IN AGENDA: Gay man allegedly beaten by D.C. Jail guards gets six months for misdemeanor sex abuse charge that landed him in jail in the first place.
City delivers $6M check to United Medical Center. Says Peter Nickles, ‘We are not walking away from you in this hospital….We will hold you to high standards. We will protect the taxpayers’ money. But we will not let you fail.’
On Guy Brandenburg‘s blog: ‘The Six Bogus Beliefs of Michelle Rhee’s DC School Reform’
Kathryn Baer shares some alarming homelessness numbers at her Poverty & Policy blog, via the Homeless Emergency Response Workgroup. ‘[I]n November, the Workgroup conducted an intensive, week-long survey of families who came to the the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center—-the District’s central intake for homeless families. Although the number was relatively small, the findings should be a red flag for the Fenty administration and the DC Council.’
Corcoran has partner to complete Randall School redevelopment project, WBJ reports. ‘D.C.-based urban development firm Telesis Corp. and CACB Holdings LLC, which is owned by a family of lucrative art collectors and hoteliers in Miami, plan to redevelop the property to include a contemporary museum, hotel and private residences. The freshly-inked $6.5 million purchase and sales agreement will need the OK from the D.C. government, a laborious process that could take up to 18 months.’
NPS is holding public meeting tonight to discuss Mall plans.
Howard Dean says some guy’s furious with Adrian Fenty (forward to 1:45).
Gray took in last night’s GW hoops win with Mark Plotkin
WaPo obit: ‘Ray Browne, 71, who as the District’s shadow representative for six years tirelessly lobbied Congress for statehood or for a member of Congress who could vote on the House floor, died of lung cancer Feb. 13 at his home in Washington. Mr. Browne, a Georgetown resident who founded an insurance company, was first elected to the unpaid, nonvoting position in 2001 and began working to get D.C. voters full representation in Congress.’
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on PR18-631 (‘Director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Millicent D. Williams Confirmation Resolution of 2010’), JAWB 120; Committee on Aging and Community Affairs agency performance oversight hearing on Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, Office of Veterans Affairs, Serve DC, Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, Commission on Latino Community Development, and Office of Latino Affairs, JAWB 500; Committee of the Whole agency performance oversight hearing on Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Office of the District of Columbia Auditor, Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining, Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, Public Access Corp., and Office of Budget and Planning, JAWB 412; Committee on Economic Development hearing on B18-50 (‘Mixed-Income Housing Amendment Act of 2009’), B18-250 (‘Senior Housing Modernization Grant Fund Act of 2009’), and B18-399 (‘Pennsylvania Avenue-Minnesota Avenue S.E. Eminent Domain Authorization Act of 2009’), JAWB 123; 10:30 a.m.: Committee on Finance and Revenue hearing on B18-518 (‘Home Improvement and Age-In-Place Incentive Act of 2009’), B18-599 (‘Clean Hands Amendment Act of 2009’); B18-524 (‘Clean Hands Amendment Act of 2009’), B18-599 (‘Clean Hands and BID Empowerment Amendment Act of 2009’), PR18-680 (‘Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Charles Mayo Confirmation Resolution of 2010’); and B18-530 (‘Real Property Tax Appeals Commission Establishment Act of 2009’), JAWB 123; 2 p.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment meeting (scheduled), JAWB 120; Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs roundtable on PR18-665 (‘Billboard Blight Removal Approval Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 123; 3 p.m.: Committee of the Whole roundtable on PR18-700 (‘Fiscal Year 2010 Income Tax Secured Revenue Refunding Bond Issuance Approval Resolution of 2010’), JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, DPR Spring and Summer Fun announcement, Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver St. SE.