City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Barry Took Kickbacks, Council Investigation Finds‘; ‘Read the Bennett Report on D.C. Council Contracts and Earmarks‘; ‘After Bennett Report, Whither Marion Barry?‘; ‘Bennett Report Moral: Don’t Date Marion Barry‘; ‘Donna Watts: I Didn’t Want To Be Beholden To Barry‘; ‘Barry Pressured Donna Watts To Impede Bennett Investigation‘; ‘Marion Barry: “There’s Nothing To Cover Up”‘; ‘It Pays To Be Marion Barry’s NA Sponsor‘; ‘Report: Barry Solicited Sexual Favors From Nonprofit Worker‘; and tweets galore!
Greetings all. Well, that was worth the wait, wasn’t it? Superlawyer Bob Bennett delivered his thoroughgoing report yesterday on the D.C. Council’s contracting and earmarking practices—-a report that took direct and brutal aim at the man who prompted the probe, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry. In a moment of great political theater, Bennett delivered his blockbuster findings before a full council dais—-that Barry took kickbacks from girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, that he steered ‘substantial financial benefits to some of his close friends and supporters’ via council earmarks, and that he tried to interfere with Bennett’s investigation. ‘We conclude Mr. Barry breached the highest ethical standards expected of him’ and ‘breached the public trust,’ Bennett said yesterday. In what Examiner deems ‘a surreal moment,’ Barry took on Bennett from the dais, but he could only sputter in reply. WaPo’s Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart note in A1 story that, even with all his prior troubles, ‘Tuesday’s allegations marked the first time the former mayor has been accused of pocketing taxpayer money.’ Here’s what stands to be the trademark quote of this episode from the mayor-for-life: ‘I am a different kind of councilmember….I ran to get resources, to uplift the people of Ward 8, to do everything I can to empower them.’ Question is, how much longer before the voters of Ward 8 see through this BS?
AFTER THE JUMP—-Complete Bennett Report reaction; DMV slammed with snow-emergency ticket protests; DCPS may extend the school day to make up for snow cancellations; snow busts Metro budget; gay marriage leads archdiocese to get out of foster care; city parking garage in Cleveland Park?
WHAT’S NEXT—-Barry has seven days to respond to the report; then Bennett will have a chance to supplement his findings. After that, the council will vote to refer charges to prosecutors. ‘Barry’s colleagues stopped short of calling for his resignation Tuesday, but several indicated that they support Bennett’s recommendation to submit the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office for investigation….[T]wo law enforcement sources familiar with the matter said FBI agents and prosecutors have been examining the allegations since they became public in July. Barry might have violated the law, they said, but prosecutors are not sure they could have proved the allegations in court and will cull information from the report, according to the sources….Absent a criminal probe, however, council members said the District charter has no mechanism for impeachment. But they have begun discussing a possible censure resolution.’ Mary Cheh called on the council to ‘condemn’ Barry; Kwame Brown tweeted, ‘Marion Barry must be condemned if the findng are deemed true.’
WHITHER EARMARKS?—-Bennett called the practice ‘like a narcotic drug’ and ‘not a sound method for appropriating public funds,’ in the end delivering a recommendation that the practice be eliminated. But there’s not much stomach on the council, it seems, for a blanket ban—-why, some CMs argue privately, should only the mayor’s friends get city money? Why not our friends? In any case, with $600M-plus budget gap fror fiscal 2011, earmarks may be subject to a de facto ban. See Examiner, WUSA-TV.
WAPO EDITORIAL—-‘Mr. Barry has been frequently caught but rarely held to account. This time the D.C. Council should follow the recommendations of its special counsel by repudiating Mr. Barry, stripping him of committee assignments and referring the matter for possible criminal prosecutions,’ the ed board writes. ‘As always, Mr. Barry claimed to be serving his needy constituents, though it seems the only people being helped were his political buddies and himself….It took guts for the council to undertake this review; Mr. Gray empowered Mr. Bennett to conduct an independent investigation and let the chips fall where they may. Now the council has to follow through by making Mr. Barry face consequences for his misconduct and by taking to heart the report’s suggestions to tighten controls on how public money is spent.’
HARRY JAFFE—-‘This time around, Barry might have set himself up; and this time, he might even take the fall,’ the Examiner columnist writes. But he says that’s still not likely to happen: ‘Will incoming U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen prosecute Barry as one of his first acts in office? Doubtful. Will Barry step down? Never. “This is a lawless town,” Barry said from the council dais Tuesday afternoon. He was referring to Mayor Adrian Fenty’s refusal to send contracts up for council review. Lawless—-that’s the way Barry likes it.’
THE ADVOC8TE—-‘Ward 8 will be so much better when we get rid of all these poverty pimps, hypocrites and scam artists that keep dipping in the “community chest” like it was their own personal piggy bank,’ writes the Congress Heights on the Rise blogger. ‘If Marion Barry really loved Ward 8 like he claims he does he would put his own selfish needs for fame, self-importance and a paycheck aside and he would resign immediately. Every day he remains in office he robs the community of it’s dignity, sense of purpose and integrity. He is robbing us of our future.’
Examiner’s Michael Neibauer tackles the snow’s potential effect on DCision 2010: ‘An excruciatingly slow city response to back-to-back crippling snowstorms will prove another test of [Fenty]’s political dexterity as he runs for re-election with polls showing his popularity in free fall. Traffic was a mess Tuesday — again — and some side streets remained treacherous. That the main roads were generally clear was of little solace to the D.C. residents still snowed in,’ Neibauer writes. ‘But the snow has not changed the campaign season story line. The mayor has lost the support of nearly 75 percent of D.C.’s black residents, according to recent polls, yet he still has majority support west of Rock Creek Park, a $3.1 million war chest, a well-oiled campaign machine and no blue-chip opponent for the Sept. 14 primary.’
GREAT FIND—-‘D.C. is not like Buffalo, N.Y., the mayor said during a recent news conference, “where everyone has a driveway, and everything’s flat.”…Those are the same talking points offered by the District government following the blizzard of 1996, a storm from which former Mayor Marion Barry struggled to recover. Linda Grant, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works then and today, explained D.C.’s struggles to the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 11, 1996: “Because we’re Washington, D.C., and not Buffalo.”‘
The post-snowpocalypse return to normalcy continues apace, Jonathan Mummolo and Amy Gardner report in WaPo, but not at the DMV: ‘For the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles, reopening Tuesday after a holiday meant having to face scores of angry residents, many there to contest tickets they had received for parking along a snow emergency route in recent days, some for $250. At the DMV’s adjudication services office—-where a line stretched around the corner and out the door Tuesday morning—-no one seemed immune, not even Charnita Alston, 38, a parking enforcement officer who was ticketed Saturday. “I didn’t know it was still in effect,” she said of the snow emergency. “You know, the city has just been crazy. It is chaos.”‘ Most, it seems, were ticketed Monday, after Hizzoner redeclared a snow emergency that morning. WAMU-FM says the snow’s charm has worn off in D.C. neighborhoods. Says one resident, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty much a parking war in my neighborhood now. I woke up to a screaming match.’
WaTimes’ Joseph Weber looks at the emerging after-snow trash problem: ‘The city’s Public Works Department is advising the city’s roughly 600,000 residents to put trash in dark plastic bags, then place them on curbs. The standard procedure is for residents to put their bags in government-issued, plastic receptacles in the alleys behind their homes.’ Also, the Fort Totten transfer station will be taking recyclables today. Says Jim Graham: ‘It’s a very serious problem….We had a great challenge with the snow, but now we have three emerging problems: trash, potholes and potential flooding.’ Also WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, and NC8, which has DPW promising to visit every home once by Saturday. WTTG-TV, however, has skipped the trash story and moved on to the pothole story.
WaPo also covers the return to school yesterday. In Northeast, the paper found one mess: ‘In the Edgewood neighborhood, both pedestrian walkways on the Franklin Street bridge connecting 10th and Seventh streets NE were completely blocked by ice and snow, forcing students to walk in traffic….On the Seventh Street side of the bridge, students at two charter schools, D.C. Prep and William E. Doar, and the private High Road Academy struggled to get to class. Before plows arrived Tuesday afternoon, the 700 block of the two-way Edgewood Street NE was down to one lane, making it difficult for school buses to unload.’ Also WRC-TV.
DCPS is considering lengthening the school day to help make up snow days, Bill Turque reports on his School Insider blog: ‘Spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said no decisions have been made, but that stretching the school day—-which currently runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.—-might be part of the make-up schedule DCPS is expected to release next week.’ Says DC Teacher Chic, ‘NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.’ Also: ‘Calloway said the District is also in discussions with D.C. State Superintendent of Education Kerri Briggs about adjusting the administration of the DC-CAS standardized tests, now set for the last two weeks of April.’
All the snow has almost certainly exacerbated Metro’s budget woes, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner: ‘Last week’s snowstorms hit Metro’s already shaky finances on two fronts: overbudget snow removal costs plus fewer fare dollars because of low ridership….The Examiner estimates the reduced rail ridership may have cost the agency $5.7 million in lost revenue from the workweek alone. Meanwhile, officials say Metro likely overspent the $2.5 million budgeted for snow removal for the year, though they don’t have a total cost. “We’re way beyond it,” said Metro board Chairman Peter Benjamin….Last week’s reduced service may translate to some savings in fuel and electricity costs, but the snow removal, overtime and hotel expenses for key workers are expected to outstrip those.’
ALSO—-Metro parking was still partially buried yesterday, WaPo reports: ‘At one point, as many as a quarter of Metro parking spaces were unusable because they were packed with snow. For residents who have spent more than a week digging out of their own driveways, the morning commute was a reality check.’
MORE SNOW NEWS—-Fenty estimates $10M in direct snow-removal costs; Tuesday commute was indeed still a mess; snow damages Tidal Basin cherry trees, WTOP reports; DCPS may be having some paycheck trouble; latest commute news from WTOP; parking ‘dibs’ continues in neighborhoods; plow-bitching continues in WaPo letters.
The Archdiocese of Washington is no longer in the D.C. foster-care business, Craig reports in WaPo—-‘the first fallout from a bitter debate over the city’s move to legalize same-sex marriage.’ Catholic Charities ‘transferred its entire foster care program—-43 children, 35 families and seven staff members—-to another provider, the National Center for Children and Families.’ The good news: Catholic Charities chief Edward Orzechowski ‘said the group is optimistic it will find a way to structure its benefits packages in other social service programs so that it can remain in partnership with the city without recognizing same-sex marriage. Asked if that meant looking at ways to avoid paying benefits to same-sex partners or ways to write benefits plans so as not to characterize same-sex couples as “married,” Orzechowski said “both-and.”‘ Also American Prospect.
CONFIRMED—-New projection for ‘gay marriage day’ is March 3.
Morning fire claims life of man; reports WaPo: ‘Fire department spokesman Pete Piringer says the fire broke out around 5:15 a.m. Wednesday at the home in the 5200 block of East Capitol Street southeast and three of the people inside got out when they were alerted by a smoke alarm. When firefighters arrived, Piringer says they found heavy fire conditions in the basement and they weren’t able to get to a bedridden man in the basement for until they knocked down the bulk of the flames in about 10 minutes.’ Also NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
D.C.’s first post-snowpocalypse murder: Michael Dean Roy Talley, 33, was founed shot dead Monday night in a building on the 900 block of 48th Street NE, Paul Duggan reports for WaPo.
New in the Robert Wone case: Prosecutors ‘said in a court filing that they were confident the three men charged with obstruction in the case know who killed Wone in 2006 and that they plan to introduce previous crimes associated with the men to bolster their case,’ Keith Alexander reports in WaPo. The three men may know the real killer, but the authorities do not. But there are some tantalizing new details: ‘Prosecutors said they were looking at the relationship between [Swann Street resident] Joseph Price and his brother Michael. Witnesses have told investigators that when Michael Price had gotten into trouble in the past, even criminal trouble, Joseph Price, who was an attorney with the Arent Fox law firm, would “attempt to help him.”‘ Also Legal Times, which notes that prosecutors ‘might introduce evidence of “dominance, degradation, enslavement, electro-torture, etc.”…”One could argue that the ultimate in dominating another human being is the taking of that person’s life,” [AUSA Glenn Kirschner] wrote in the government’s filing. “There can be no doubt that Mr. Wone was dominated in the worst possible way: he was killed.”‘
New in the Chandra Levy case: Suspect Ingmar Guandique wants his trial moved out of D.C. ‘Attorneys…say before he was arrested, the Levy case was described as “the most famous unsolved murder in modern Washington.” Now, with Guandique being charged with Levy’s rape and murder, his attorneys say pre-trial publicity has made it impossible for him to get a fair trial,’ WTOP reports.
Yesterday the D.C. Chamber of Commerce held a breakfast event and evening policy forum, and WBJ’s Jonathan O’Connell was all over it. Chamber CEO Barbara Lang, he writes, ‘has a mission this year and it is this: explain to D.C. elected officials how difficult, exactly, it is for small businesses to operate here.’ Eleanor Holmes Norton appeared at the breakfast, where she ‘cordially talked about her plans to request federal money to defray cleanup costs for the two recent blizzards and Congressional efforts to provide payroll tax relief to small businesses.’ And Michael Brown, author of a notably chamber-loathed bill, was set to attend the evening event.
Susie Cambria notes that Vincent Gray has requested a passel of agency heads to show up at Friday’s all-day hearing on spending pressures. Will they show up?
GGW points to Current article in which Mary Cheh advocates for a municipal parking garage in Cleveland Park to help out neighborhood businesses. Needless to say, urbanist dorks aren’t pleased. ‘This is a spectacularly bad idea. With an operating deficit of nearly a half-billion dollars, the District should not use scarce public funds to subsidize driving.’ Adds Ward3DC blog, ‘[T]he idea of spending millions of dollars for a parking structure in one of the most transit-rich communities in the region is absurd and certainly not an environmentally responsible solution normally supported by Councilmember Cheh.’
SCREW YOU—-Another political hack, prompted by snow response, thinks D.C. can’t run itself, wants Mort Zuckerman to swoop in and run our town. Karen Finney, a ‘Democratic consultant, strategist and commentator,’ goes on Politico and begs Zuckerman to run in D.C. ‘The recent drama of Snowpalooza is just one of many reasons Washington, DC could benefit from the leadership of a successful businessman like yourself. Not to mention that as a billionaire many will see you as potentially truly independent of the usual special interest politics. If New York City can have a billionaire Mayor, why not D.C.?’ Maybe because he doesn’t even live here! Sheezus! Evern worse, WaPo ed boarder Jonathan Capehart likes the idea!
ALSO—-Tony Kornheiser joins LL in slamming Chris Matthews. On a wamrer note, The Hill quotes North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad: ‘Those of us from North Dakota feel right at home with these conditions, but in fairness, this city, I think, has done a remarkably good job given how much snow has fallen here. I certainly found, once you are able to get your car dug out, you can move around. So hats off to the D.C. government for really, I think, doing a remarkably good job in extremely difficult conditions. This would even tough back home.’
Glut of commercial vacancies in Dupont, says report. ‘Dupont Circle’s total vacancy rate, which includes sublease space, has steadily gone up in Dupont Circle over the past few years as rent has gone down.’ The good news: A regional ICSC event was at National Harbor yesterday, and WBJ reports that ‘[g]rocery stores, burger joints and electronics retailers are all eyeing the D.C. area for potential expansion.’
VotH covers Tommy Wells proposal to reinsitute close-to-corner late-night parking.
DC Agenda’s Lou Chibbaro Jr. looks at finance reports from anti-gay-marriage groups and raises concerns about the nonprofit status of two Harry Jackson-affiliated organizations: ‘Without knowing the overall budget of the two groups, it could not be determined whether they are in compliance with or in violation of the IRS rules barring “substantial” lobbying activity by such groups. IRS rules stipulate that any “religious organization that engages in excessive lobbying activity over a four-year period” could lose its tax-exempt status.’
Also, if you still care, there was another BOEE hearing yesterday on another gay-marriage referendum proposal. GLAA Forum’s Rick Rosendall was there to document the loonies, such as sponsor Joyce Little, who ‘referred to the “satanic agenda of legalizing homosexual marriage.”…Little continued, “But God is real. Man in his arrogance is truly ignorant.” Her best line of the day was, “You are ushering in a Frankenstonian age” in which there would be creatures that were “half man and half dog.” She invoked Sodom and Gomorrah. She ended by saying to the Board members, “You too are going to hell. May God have mercy on your immortal soul.” Chairman [Errol Arthur] responded simply, “Thank you, Ma’am.”‘
Via why.i.hate.dc: ‘Last night I was walking into the gallery place/Chinatown movie theater and a group of teenagers ran out and started beating a random man in the street. They beat him unconscious and left him face down on the concrete. Horrified, I ran to get help, only no help could be found.’
Should Metro pursue corporate sponsors?
Information Week covers TrackDC.
D.C. Jobs for Justice recaps the year in activism for 2009.
LL has info on services for Ray Browne: His funeral will be held Friday at 9:30 a.m. in the Chapel of Holy Trinity Church, 3513 N St. NW.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: FY2009-2010 agency performance oversight hearing on the Department of Human Services, JAWB 500; Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary roundtable on ‘Continuing Overtime and Pay Problems in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department,’ JAWB 120; 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; 2 p.m.: Committee on Economic Development and Commitee on Government Operations and the Environment joint hearing on B18-572 (‘Disposition of Property Formerly Designated as Federal Reservations 129, 130, and 299 Approval Act of 2009’), JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.