IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Council Issues Reports on Fishy Fire Truck Donation‘; ‘WTU President: Teacher Sex Misconduct Charges ‘Not Substantiated’‘; ‘WaPo Blog Post Critical of WaPo Disappears from Web Site‘; ‘D.C. Police Seek FOIA Officer‘; and tweets galore!
IN LL WEEKLY—-Michelle Rhee’s Loose Lips: The schools chancellor’s mouth gets her back in trouble. Also: Former teacher launches Fenty recall effort.
Morning all. After 10 months, the D.C. Council’s investigation of the fishy fire truck transaction is complete. Michael Neibauer, the man who broke the story, writes in Examiner that it ‘found no criminal wrongdoing, but it did conclude that the Fenty administration’s handling of the gift was sloppy, secretive and indifferent to city rules.’ In WaPo, Tim Craig writes that city officials ‘skirted procurement rules,’ and LL noted that the reports issued by committees headed by Mary Cheh and Phil Mendelson were both deeply critical of the way Mayor Adrian M. Fenty‘s administration handled the inquiry. WRC-TV covered the story, too. The response from the Fenty administration and allies has been swift and sure: to undercut the investigation’s motives and execution. Scott Bolden and Ron Moten both pointed out the ‘lost tapes’ incident; Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser both voted against releasing the Mendelson report, citing its ‘editorializing.’ AG Peter Nickles led the charge, calling the investigation a ‘political act,’ dropping barnyard epithets on LL to describe some of its claims. We all await the inspector general’s report on the matter.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Jonetta says the council has ‘investigation-itis’; Skinner’s again a no-show; Bill Turque’s amazing disappearing WaPo blog post; Gandhi isn’t buying Nickles’ legal arguments on contracts; Catania officially files for re-election
FROM THE CHEH REPORT—-‘In the matter at hand, standard operating procedures were not followed, and nongovernmental actors were able to obtain a fire engine and ambulance at no cost for the exclusive purpose of re-donating the property to a foreign government. What makes the transaction so incredible is the fact that so much effort—-at the highest levels of District government—-was expended to facilitate a transfer of surplus personal property without even a hint of potential benefit for the District government. Rather, the entire affair was merely the pet project—-even if well-intentioned—-of a senior District official and a well-connected nongovernment individual….Though no direct evidence of questionable motives on the part of the principals involved in the transaction was found, the mere possibility that influence can be exercised to pursue private aims requires the District to promptly and responsibly implement clear, understandable rules and policies. As seen with this particular donation, inside connections and access unknown to those of the general public resulted in the loss of value to the District government. Such mistakes should not have occurred, and they certainly should not be repeated.’
Jonetta Rose Barras sees the council firetruck reports as the product of ‘investigation-itis.’ As in: ‘Whenever the mayor frustrates the legislature, it calls for an investigation: The public housing authority signs contracts for recreation facilities; issue subpoenas, swear in witnesses. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee says some teachers fired last year had sex with students, were guilty of corporal punishment or failed to show up for work; the council chairman wants an “inquiry.” I pine for simple, aggressive oversight.’ Nay, ‘rigorous, sophisticated oversight.’ She does not detail what that might look like. Why doesn’t an investigation of a suspicious, wholly underexplained incident count as aggressive oversight?
Speaking of investigations, Sinclair Skinner was again a no-show at yet another parks contracting hearing, Karen Gray Houston reports at WTTG-TV. Bolden, his lawyer, says he was never ‘properly served’ with a subpoena; the council committee ‘showed a video of a server going to his home to serve him the subpoena.’
So yesterday Bill Turque decided to do a little blogging. After DCPS provided information on Rhee’s Fast Company comments to editorial board writer Jo-Ann Armao but not himself on Monday, he felt the need to explain the news-editorial firewall, and why Rhee might give info to the ed board but not a news reporter. Turque explained it thusly: ‘[T]he board’s [pro-Rhee] stance, and the chancellor’s obvious rapport with Jo-Ann…means that DCPS has a guaranteed soft landing spot for uncomfortable or inconvenient disclosures—-kind of a print version of the Larry King Show.’ LL couldn’t have put it better himself. But someone at 15th and L didn’t like it; when LL checked last night, shortly after 9 p.m., the post had been removed from the D.C. Schools Insider blog. Later last night, the item was reposted, albeit with the sharpest language removed—-yes, even the “Larry King” line. Erik Wemple has much more on the bowdlerization.
The government isn’t shutting down, yet: In the absence of any compromise with the Fenty/Nickles administration, Vincent Gray has apparently agreed to another extension of the council’s stop-payment order on option-year contracts, Nikita Stewart reports in WaPo. The ball is now in CFO Natwar Gandhi‘s court; he has to decide whether to follow the council’s legal interpretation or Fenty’s. Here’s the well-buried lede: ‘According to sources within the council and Gandhi’s office, Gandhi did not side with Nickles’s opinion. He based his decision to continue the payments on his discussions with Gray, they said.’ In other words, Gandhi and his lawyer, David Tseng—-who are independent of the mayor’s authority—-are not buying the argument Nickles is selling. Here’s what Nickles tells Stewart: ‘Is Gandhi going to bring down the government?…His bond rating won’t be doing well.’ That would be what you call ‘a political act.’
In other Nickles news, the grand case of Nickles v. Nichols—-as in D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols—-has been settled to the parties’ satisfaction. Under the settlement, Nichols will have unfettered access to all records of the defunct Anacostia Waterfront Corp./National Capital Revitalization Corp.; Nickles reserves the right to make privilege claims, to be settled by a third-party mediator, and if necessary, a Superior Court judge.
Is this what you call not wasting a crisis? In an interview with WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza, Rhee uses the controversy over her Fast Company comments to talk about how ‘discipline procedures for educators should be reformed.’ In particular, she wants ‘progressive discipline policies’ to be changed. ‘You can have one offense and maybe you get suspended for three days and another offense and you get suspended for five days and another offense and you get suspended for ten days. For things, laying your hands on kids and that sort of thing, which most parents and people would think “oh my gosh, if you do that, you shouldn’t be in the classroom anymore.”‘ She adds: ‘There’s got to be a higher standard for the adults that we allow to be in the classroom with children and that cannot be just a criminal standard.’
ALSO—-In a broader look at how school systems deal with sex charges, Leah Fabel notes in Examiner that ‘[i]nquiries from the D.C. Council about the identity of the D.C. teacher have been met, so far, with silence.’ Newsweek blogger says ‘The Real Issue Behind the Rhee Flap’ is ‘Why Can’t Schools Fire Bad Teachers?’ And yesterday, a ‘small but raucous’ band of teachers rallied at 825 North Cap demanding Rhee’s ouster. Informer covers the to-do, without much sympathy for Rhee. And in themail, Gary Imhoff writes: ‘[M]y guess is that she has practiced this kind of slur, and probably used exactly this slur before; that she has used it in her speeches around the nation. My suspicion is that Rhee has been badmouthing DC’s teaching corps as a whole, all around the nation, to puff up her self-created image as a white knight fighting against the forces of evil — the sex-abusing, child-beating, absent-without-leave teachers whom she battles every day.’
Don Peebles, as advertised, appeared at the Federation of Civic Associations meeting last night where he delivered what could only be called a mayoral stump speech. Stewart has a brief report at D.C. Wire, complete with prepared remarks; check City Desk later today for more. In related news: Informer covers Michael Brown‘s reporter chat: ‘If [Gray] does not decide to challenge Mayor [Adrian] Fenty, I will run for the office as an independent in the November general election,’ he said, adding that Hizzoner ‘campaigns like Obama but governs like Bush.’ Also: A day in the life of MAB, in pictures.
The Metro board heard yesterday from riders looking to influence today’s vote on emergency gap-closing measures. In WaPo, Ann Scott Tyson reports that hearing attendees writ large ‘strongly opposed Metro service cuts and instead backed 10-cent fare increases.’ And a ‘vast majority’ spoke out against service cuts, ‘saying it would harm job-seekers and businesses, cause safety hazards because of overcrowding and other problems, and prove counterproductive by driving riders away from the system.’ One witness deemed proposed 30-minute train headways ‘intolerable.’ In Examiner, Kytja Weir notes that a ‘recurring complaint’ was that ‘Metro had provided too limited a range of options for riders to choose among.’ Unsuck DC Metro notes that a woman, ‘frustrated by the poor choices before the Board, tore up a piece of paper with the four options on them and tried to deliver them to a very puffy and red looking Jim Graham who seemed unable to pronounce even the simplest of names.’ Also Dr. Gridlock, WAMU-FM, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, DCist.
AS FOR TODAY—-Weir also previews today’s board meeting, which will include, besides the vote on the gap-closing, the swearing-in of new federal members, the end of Jim Graham‘s term as chair, a safety report, and discussion of Tuesday’s worker deaths. She observes: ‘A black banner was hung over the Metro sign at the agency’s downtown headquarters Tuesday, in what is becoming a familiar sight.’ WTOP reports Sen. Barbara Mikulski‘s comments on the accident: ‘This was Metro on Metro. This was not a drunk driver at a railroad crossing….I think the congressional delegation has to think of ourselves as safety officers.’ WTTG-TV reports that the vehicle that struck and killed the workers likely did not use its back-up alarm, which is ‘[p]resumably…automatically defeated so Metro crews are not subject to the noise during long rail journeys in reverse.’
Oh, and that search for a new, permanent Metro GM? It’s gonna be tough, Tyson reports in WaPo. ‘Washington’s aging Metro system needs a high-caliber general manager who is tough yet politically shrewd, a proven expert in transit operations yet one creative enough to transform the agency’s culture, according to current and former senior officials. “That’s a tall order,” said Peter Benjamin, first vice chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Virginia). “Are you looking for Clark Kent? Yes.”‘
The print version of the Larr…um, the WaPo editorial board examines the state of the city’s only east-of-the-River hospital, without coming to much of a conclusion, other than to say that it cannot close. ‘The city’s investment has not gone to waste, but [David Catania]’s admirable zeal in saving the hospital cannot obscure the daunting challenges facing the city. More public funds will be needed; the question is how much….A task force that includes Mr. Catania, Mr. Gandhi, [Nickles] and other officials has been assembled to provide oversight and explore all options. It has its work cut out for it.’
IN OTHER NEWS—-Catania has quietly filed for re-election, Craig reports at D.C. Wire. He notes: ‘Catania’s decision to seek re-election makes it difficult for District Republicans to field an at-large council candidate this year. Catania is a former Republican, and GOP leaders say it’s unlikely one of their candidates could succeed in a race for the minority-party seat against him.’
Ted Leonsis‘ path to full Wizards ownership is more fraught that originally reported, Thomas Heath reports on WaPo A1. Washington Sports & Entertainment, the late Abe Pollin‘s sports-and-arena empire, ‘says it has the right to put the franchise and arena on the open market.’ That’s somewhat outside the ‘orderly process’ the Leonsis said had been put in place to handle the company’s disposition after Pollin’s death. ‘The events point to an unraveling of what many thought would be a smooth transition from Pollin to Leonsis, who had been a solicitous, loyal junior partner to Pollin over the past decade….They are thought to be more than $100 million apart in their respective valuations of a package that includes the National Basketball Association’s Wizards, Verizon Center and the local Ticketmaster franchise. Some estimates have put the combined value of the entities at well more than $600 million; others say it’s closer to $500 million.’ In any case, Leonsis has the right to match any open-market offer.
Yet another BOEE hearing on a gay marriage ballot measure. Snooze! At D.C. Wire, Craig writes, ‘With the elections board on clearly record now opposing a public vote on the issue, some same-sex marriage supporters have questioned the need for continued hearings.’ He does note that there’s a new legal argument on offer: ‘The D.C. Council…is arguing that a public vote should not be allowed because the city code prohibits a referendum on a matter involving the allocation of money. Same sex marriage in the District, city attorneys argue, will impact revenues.’ Hmm. Examiner covers the hearing, specifically Harry Jackson‘s latest appeals. For more detailed coverage, allow LL to direct you to Bob Summersgill‘s livetweets and Rick Rosendall‘s GLAA Forum post.
Also in the gay-marriage realm, it seems that the District’s favorite back-bencher, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), has filed a disapproval resolution in the House, prompting Eleanor Holmes Norton to put out a press release saying that she has assurances it won’t be taken up in committee. Keep in mind that Chaffetz filed a similar measure on the marriage-recognition bill last year; that went nowhere.
A year and a half into the nation’s largest Catholic-to-charter conversion, WaPo’s Michael Birnbaum examines the state of the Center City charter consortium: ‘A morning meeting has replaced morning prayer; students chant a code of respect. Girls wear the same plaid jumpers they did as Catholic students, and boys wear pressed shirts and slacks. Some say the dress code is enforced more strictly than it was in the Catholic days. Students unfailingly stand when visitors enter the room in a show of old-fashioned politeness….But the school also made moves typical for charter schools: lengthening the school day, focusing on student performance data and hosting workshops to improve teachers’ craft.’ Thus far, six of the seven original campuses remain open; the former St. Francis de Sales in Brentwood, closed last year. As for the test scores, well…
YOUR LL SOTU WRAP—-President Barack Obama did not mention D.C. voting rights. EHN reacts to WaPo’s Hamil Harris; guests of the president included ‘Clayton Armstrong, who served as the captain of the Ballou High School football team and Janell Holloway, a graduate of Benjamin Banneker Academic High School who is now at Harvard.’ Fenty sat in the front row of the speaker’s box.
Two men wrongly convicted of murder in the District and sent to prison for a combined 50 years are suing the federal government over their prosecution, Legal Times reports. ‘The former inmates, Joseph Eastridge and Joseph Sousa, whose suit is expected to be filed this week in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, say they are entitled to monetary damages since a federal judge issued a “certificate of innocence” that absolved the men of their alleged roles in the 1976 murder of Johnnie Battle….Patrick Regan and John Zwerling, lawyers for Eastridge and Sousa, said in the suit that prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory information at the time of the murder trial in D.C. Superior Court. The information included grand jury testimony that undercut the government’s theory that Eastridge and Sousa directly participated in killing Battle. (The murder had racial underpinnings. The accused defendants, who are white and former members of the Pagan motorcycle club, were charged with killing Battle, a black man, during a fight.)’
JUDGE-STALKING TRIAL—-Jordan Weissmann of Legal Times has the full rundown of Magistrate Judge Janet Albert‘s second day of testimony against ex-girlfriend Taylar Nuevelle. ‘Albert said that she “foolishly” decided not to file a complaint with police after Nuevelle was taken to the hospital that day in the hope that her former girlfriend would seek help on her own. Instead, she testified, Nuevelle continued sending a barrage of angry e-mails and text messages, sometimes demanding back personal items that were still at Albert’s house, but mostly berating her for their failed relationship….But she didn’t get a restraining order. Why? Albert said that, having worked on the court’s domestic violence unit for two-and-a-half years, she knew the staff. She called herself an intensely private person and said she didn’t want her personal problems invading her work life.’ NC8, WTTG-TV pick up the story.
WBJ’s Jonathan O’Connell covers tax credit proposal from Kwame Brown that would offer breaks to businesses that hire D.C. residents. ‘His “District Job Growth Incentive Act of 2010” would offer a credit to employers equal to half of what they pay in federal payroll taxes toward social security and Medicare for the new hires. Brown estimates the value for most employers at 3.825 percent of the annual wages they pay to new D.C. hires, which would equate to annual savings of about $1,900 for an employee earning $50,000….The bill would create possibly complex administrative requirements and monitoring for multiple agencies; it requires, for instance, that employers create at least 10 “new” jobs and that they be made “available” for at least a year.’
D.C., DOES director Joe Walsh are featured in Time mag piece on teen unemployment: ‘Carlton Tucker, a store manager at Best Buy in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, recently told a group of teens at a nearby job-training program that it was unlikely they would land positions at his store — because they are up against much more experienced workers….Growing teen unemployment — a problem that started before the recession and has been exacerbated by it — could lead to an American workforce that lacks the skills to compete with the rest of the world. “If we lose a generation of workers, there is no way this economy is going to stay competitive,” says [Walsh], director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Employment Services (DOES), which recently launched a new year-round youth-employment program. “This is an immediate crisis.”‘
Tom Sherwood‘s Notebook: He runs down the Rhee controversy, and notes that Mar
yk Segraves‘ new WTOP radio show, ‘Ask City Hall,’ replaces ‘Ask the Mayor’ because Fenty hasn’t been on once in his three-year tenure.
WaPo’s Darryl Fears on the difficulties of conducting the MWCOG’s homeless census.
In her Housing Complex swan song, Ruth Samuelson details the tangled web of business relationships surrounding U Street business mogul David Von Storch.
DCRA cracks down on unlicensed GU landlords.
Tai Shan will live out his days at the Bifengxia Panda Base, in the mountains of south central China.
Birther nutjob Orly Taitz is now litigating in the D.C. federal court.
Huge scoop for Susie Cambria: She’s got the D.C. Council budget hearing schedule!!!
Oh, you’ve been waiting for this one: DDOT’s ballpark parking report! GGW has it.
Marion Barry quote pins, via DCist.
LL owes an apology to Wayne Turner. The ‘interesting glassware’ in his house that LL referred to on Tuesday was by no means drug paraphernalia; rather it was a beautiful specimen from Turner’s large collection of hurricane lamps.
Calvin Lavonne Woodland, 17, is dead after being found shot in the neck on the 800 block of Barnaby Street SE, WUSA-TV reports. He is the younger brother of Calvin Woodland Jr., Jim Graham’s chief of staff; LL’s thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:45 a.m.: remarks, Fort Stanton Recreation Center reconstruction update, 1800 Erie St. SE.