City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘LL’s Jan. 31 Campaign Finance Report Roundup‘; ‘White House Party-Crashers Throw $40 to Clark Ray‘; ‘Council Will Vote on $6M in Aid for United Medical Center‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. The bulk of the Jan. 31 campaign finance reports are in, and forget the polls, the Green Machine keeps a-rollin’, with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty picking up another $818K in the past six months, bringing his re-election total to $3.58M. And he still has just over $3M in the bank, thanks to donations from folks ranging from philanthropic heavyweights Eli and Edythe Broad to poker superstar Phil Ivey—-not to mention all the boring developers and administration employees in between. In the only competitive race, Phil Mendelson has raised his biggest Jan. 31 total ($130K) to date to fend off Clark Ray, who has raised a decent amount ($80K), but spent quite a bit, too. Check LL’s candidate-by-candidate rundown; WaPo also covers the at-large and Ward 1 reports.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Rhee reacts well to polling numbers, Fenty does not; another reporter calls Hizzoner a jerk; the budget crunch gets real; $12M projected to United Medical Center; Northrup incentive package may come to council vote; arch-conservative S.C. senator holds up judge pick
Fenty and Michelle Rhee respond to WaPo polling showing deep dips in their personal popularity. Rhee strikes just the right note: ‘The bottom line for me is that more people think the schools are doing better….I know that people don’t like change, and if they associate me with change but like the results, that’s fine with me.’ As for Fenty, well, he apparently doesn’t care enough about what the people think to come up with a response: ‘Fenty…said he had yet to examine [the Sunday WaPo poll] showing that his overall approval rating has dropped from 72 percent in 2008 to 42 percent. “But once I have, I will be ready, willing and able to get you a statement,” he said.’ It was left to campaign co-chair Bill Lightfoot to reply: ‘You’ve got to break eggs to make an omelet,’ he said, boiling things down to a ‘perception problem.’ NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV gauge various resident reax; check DCist comments for the views of well-educated white 20-to-30-somethings. WaPo’s Nikita Stewart and Bill Turque discussed the poll results in a WaPo live chat.
The WaPo editorial board addresses the ‘Fenty paradox’—-the disconnect between citizens’ good feelings about their city and their bad feelings about their mayor. ‘His low approval rating is both a barometer of how difficult it is to bring about change — and a sign that he needs to make some changes of his own….Clearly, much of the disapproval aimed at [Fenty and Rhee] is attributable to the tumult caused by bold change. Closing schools, eliminating jobs and insisting on more accountability — while necessary — are not designed to win friends….Nonetheless, he ought not dismiss the legitimate criticisms of residents reflected in the Post poll….[W]hy would he want to jeopardize his very real accomplishments by providing grounds for complaint on such trivial matters? Mr. Fenty is said to eschew polls; he doesn’t approve of politicians who tailor their agendas to perceived political winds. It’s hard to fault that thinking. But the public isn’t wrong to want a mayor who is mature in his dealings with other officials, who is willing to listen to others’ positions and who will admit when he needs to change.’
WaPo columnist Petula Dvorak on the same subject: ‘When it comes to mayors, District residents have survived drug use, corruption and even bow ties. But maybe what we can’t tolerate is disdain. And that’s what [Fenty] seems to be serving up these days….After following him around for a story on his campaign, I actually thought he was going to make a pretty good mayor. But after he won the election, Fenty changed dramatically, shutting off the humanity people knew and admired. He worked hard to control his image and all the information coming out of city offices. Then there’s all that other stuff, too—-travel, baseball tickets, Lafayette Elementary, Dorothy Height. ‘But on top of that, there’s a patina of disdain that the mayor seems to have for District residents and the duties he has as their leader. And that is the part that becomes most unpalatable.’ And Dvorak becomes the second reporter in town to drop the j-word: ‘Apparently, in the District of Columbia, you can be a crack user and stay in office. You can even be a nerd and get reelected. I wonder where acting like a jerk will get you.’
ONE GUY’S STILL POPULAR IN THIS TOWN—-President Barack Obama. WaPo notes that its poll found 87 percent approval rates for POTUS. ‘Obama’s overall rating in D.C. far outpaces his 53 percent mark nationally in the latest Post-ABC poll, with the difference all among whites. White residents of D.C. give Obama a 79 percent approval rating, while nationally, Obama rates 44 percent approval among whites and 52 percent among whites who live in urban areas, according to the Post-ABC poll. Blacks in D.C. give Obama a 95 percent approval rating, about the same as his 96 percent mark nationally.’
Both Michael Neibauer in Examiner and Tim Craig in WaPo highlight the deep fiscal thicket the District faces this year and next. ‘Unlike previous years there is virtually no wiggle room or extra cash to carry the government through another budget cycle’ due to the new debt cap and a declining general fund balance, Neibauer reports. Craig focuses on the $200M-plus in current-year overspending, which Vincent Gray deems a ‘very alarming fiscal condition’ and blames on overoptimistic Fenty budget targets. Hizzoner, though, says in letter that he’s ‘taking immediate steps to balance the budget…will transfer reserve fund balances, curtail agency spending and rely on savings from federal stimulus programs.’ Then there’s next year, where the deficit could run as high at $600M for the operating budget, Neibauer reports, and ‘as much as $875 million may have to be culled from the Capital Improvement Plan to stay within D.C.’s statutory debt cap….Gandhi suggested he could restructure the District’s debt to hold the city under the cap, at least through 2014. That might be the only option: Council members are scoffing at cuts to capital projects in their wards, like the Skyland Town Center in Ward 7, the Southwest Waterfront in Ward 6 or the O Street Market in Ward 2.’
MEANWHILE—-The council will vote tomorrow on spending $6M in dedicated city health care funds to bailout United Medical Center, with another $6M likely needed in FY2011. Says hospital patron David Catania: ‘Has it turned out exactly as we hoped? No. But are we on the right track? Yes….It is a work in progress, but it is worthy work.’ Craig notes the move late in his budget story. Also Examiner.
NOT HELPING—-Weekend storm likely pushed city over $6.2 million snow removal budget, DDOT tells WTOP.
SOME GOOD NEWS—-The CAFR is clean for a 13th consecutive year, and independent auditors have found ‘no material weaknesses, compared to two for FY 2008, and three significant deficiencies, down from four last year,’ according to OCFO release. The full report is due within days.
Here we go: The council may vote tomorrow on a tax incentive package to lure Northrop Grumman headquarters to the District, Jonathan O’Connell reports in WBJ. Jack Evans ‘didn’t disclose the specifics of the package but said it would best anything being offered by suburban jurisdictions. “Whatever someone else puts down we’re going to match it and we’re going to beat it,” Evans said….Evans said Northrop was moving quickly to complete its search and indicated that Crystal City was probably the District’s toughest competitor to land the company’s headquarters. Sources familiar with Northrop’s search told the Washington Business Jan. 29 that the contracting giant was considering Meridian Group’s National Gateway project in Crystal City, as well as two sites in the District. One is 1801 K St. NW, one of the largest private office buildings in D.C., a 560,00-square-foot building constructed in 1971 just renovated by Somerset Partners LLC. The other is 901 K St. NW, a newly renovated trophy property near Mount Vernon Triangle owned by Carr Properties.’
Obama budget ‘would provide millions of dollars to upgrade the region’s troubled Metro system, clean up the Chesapeake Bay and limit the spread of HIV and AIDS in the District,’ Ann Marimow reports in WaPo. Also $10M for Housing First initiative—-‘about $7 million less than last year’—-plus $5M for health department ‘counseling, testing and treatment’ efforts. And $20M in ed funds to ‘jump start public school reform’; DCPS says the money ‘would help cover the cost of tightening up a data system that tracks student progress and also help a weekend school program.’ Also $35M to continue Tuition Assistance Grants. Plus Examiner.
Meant to link this yesterday, but the darn National Law Journal paywall foiled LL: Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has placed a block on the confirmation of Superior Court Judge Marisa Demeo due to her ‘history of very leftist activism,’ adding, ‘There are just a number of things that don’t look like a fair and balanced approach that you’d like in a judge.’ The holdup has made Demeo, currently a Superior Court magistrate, the longest-pending Obama judicial nominee; there even a compromise on offer—-Senate Dems would move to confirm Bush appointee Stuart Nash as well. Via TPM: ‘Chief Judge Lee Satterfield wrote a letter to Senate leadership in October saying that if Demeo and Nash were delayed further, the number of active judges would drop to 57 and “such a scenario would certainly test our ability to administer justice for the people of the District of Columbia in a timely fashion.”‘
Another Metro mishap, uncovered by Examiner’s Kytja Weir: ‘A Metro maintenance vehicle carrying 20 workers crashed into a contractor’s rail truck on icy tracks Saturday night, causing a domino effect on the Red Line that damaged at least four vehicles less than a week after two workers were killed by track equipment on the same line. The agency contacted its independent track safety oversight group about the crash on Monday, although the group’s chairman said Metro was required to notify the committee about the crash within two hours. The agency did not notify the media.’ The truck was moving slowly between Grosvenor and Medical Center stations; no one was hurt.
D.C. and Maryland seek to share sensitive juvenile crime data through ‘blanket court order,’ Aaron Davis reports in WaPo, ‘a move that has been hampered by federal privacy rules governing police and court records but that could also raise civil rights concerns….The state has been working to map all D.C. juvenile offenders who live in the state, and vice-versa, but the District has not been able to share information to complete the effort.’
Speaking of crime, Gilbert Arenas pens (maybe) a very apologetic WaPo op-ed: ‘I understand the importance of teaching nonviolence to kids in today’s world. Guns and violence are serious problems, not joking matters — a lesson that’s been brought home to me over the past few weeks. I thought about this when I pleaded guilty as charged in court and when I accepted my NBA suspension without challenge. That message of nonviolence will be front and center as I try to rebuild my relationship with young people in the D.C. area….While I regret a lot about this incident, letting the kids down is my biggest regret. I love the time I spend with the kids here in the District, and it means a lot to me whenever I can help lift their spirits or inspire them, especially kids who have difficult lives.’ Doesn’t sound like a guy who looking to skip town.
If scores of police dressed in battle gear swarm your Metro station this morning, do not panic: IT IS ONLY A DRILL, reports Ann Scott Tyson in WaPo. ‘About 50 officers, including Metro’s anti-terrorism unit, criminal investigators, special response teams and other squads, will move into the station about 7:30 to demonstrate heightened vigilance, Metro officials said. The transit agency won’t release the name of the station until early Tuesday and asked the media to refrain from disclosing it until after the exercise begins….Tuesday’s operation is a prelude to a series of much larger emergency exercises — the biggest ever in the Metro system — that will involve hundreds of officers from across the region responding to simulated explosions and gunmen in scenarios mirroring mass-casualty terrorist attacks.’
WaPo’s Turque confirms ouster of Spingarn HS principal, first reported by Candi Peterson. ‘As is usually the case with such personnel moves, there’s no official word on why. Reyes was in her first year as leader of the 560-student school on Benning Road NE….Mid-year changes in school leadership are unusual and when a first-year principal is removed, it typically signals significant issues.’
Monday-morning murder victim ID’d: Lamare Larkins, 27, was found fatally shot on 1300 block of Stevens Road SE, WaPo reports. ‘On Monday, the D.C. police Web site said there had been nine homicides this year. The corresponding figure last year was 14, the site said.’
Nugget from Bisnow: DMPED Valerie Santos ‘says she’s had increasing calls from companies wanting to get involved with St. E’s DC-owned East Campus. She told interested developers to “stay tuned” as her team creates incentives and completes analysis of office, retail, and residential market demand in the area. Another priority: aggressively enticing companies to move here and stay long-term by highlighting the benefits of proximity, amenities, and infrastructure improvements. To help developing areas, Valerie says her team seeks grocery stores and workforce housing along with helpful zoning regulations.’
D.C. United owner Will Chang, WBJ reports, has ‘begun to search for local or strategic partners who would be interested in investing in the Major League Soccer club. ‘Chang said he has begun to search for investors not because he faces any financial challenges but because he believes the addition of new partners with ties to D.C., or strategic interests in the team can assist the franchise in its effort to build a new stadium and other initiatives.’
JUDGE-STALKING CASE—-It’s in the jury’s hands now. Reports Jordan Weissmann in Legal Times: ‘In her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Brenowitz accused [Taylor Nuevelle] of “waging a campaign to stalk, harass and torment [Magistrate Judge Janet Albert],” after the judge ended their year-old relationship on Sept. 11, 2008. She said Nuevelle sought to “punish” Albert by threatening to publicly humiliate her and breaking into her house twice, once on the night of the breakup and again the next day. As for Nuevelle’s claim that the two had lived together – in which case she would have had a right to enter the house – Brenowitz dismissed the idea as an “elaborate domestic fantasy.”…Defense lawyer Dorsey Jones Jr. countered that it was clear Albert and Nuevelle lived together, given how many of Nuevelle’s belongings were at the judge’s house. As evidence, he lugged out a bulky, brown-cardboard UPS box, which Albert had used to ship back 43 pounds of Nuevelle’s things after their breakup….“The box does not lie,” Jones said.’ Also WaPo, which notes: ‘The week-long trial has become one of the more popular cases for trial watchers who have ducked into Judge Russell Canan‘s courtroom to watch testimony from the two women.’
U.S. attorney-designate Ron Machen passes Senate judiciary committee vote.
Job-seekers line up at St. E’s for Homeland Security construction work. ‘When Christopher Moskowitz got in line at six this morning, there were already more than 50 people ahead of him. They’re all hoping to land a construction job on the DHS site….”Just needing some work. Old lady coming down on me,” he says. “It was alright with her at first and she was understanding, but understanding doesn’t get the bills paid.”‘
The Hardy Rec Center roof is fixed!
GGW says put a lid on Connecticut Avenue underpass north of Dupont Circle.
Senate Square development, at 2nd and I Streets NE, is set for foreclosure auction. (This is NOT Jim Abdo‘s Landmark Lofts; they’re doing just fine, thank you very much.)
A dose of River East conservatism.
Bike lanes may be coming to L and I Streets NW, if not K.
NC8: ‘One month after the District of Columbia launched the nation’s first disposable bag tax, many shoppers are embracing the change.’
Nightly Anacostia Freeway closures this week.
SONUVA—-Could be more snow tonight.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: 26th legislative meeting, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-11:15 a.m.: remarks, groundbreaking for facilities renovation, Joseph Cole Recreation Center, 1199 Neal St. NE.