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Morning all. Michelle Rhee‘s comments in a brief magazine article—-which you read about first right here at LL Daily—-are blowing up in her face. ‘I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school,’ she told Fast Company’s Jeff Chu. Now people are wondering who these child-molesting teachers are and why they were kept on the job until a budget-related mass layoff. Here’s what she told Bill Turque for Saturday’s WaPo: ‘Rhee declined to provide specific numbers Friday or details to substantiate her remarks about sexual misconduct and teachers striking students. Neither did she respond when asked by e-mail why such teachers were allowed to remain in the school system before the Oct. 2 job cuts.’ WTU’s George Parker calls the comment ‘reckless’ and says it ‘paints all teachers as being a group of child molesters who assault children and don’t come to work.’ Vincent Gray tells WTOP he’s ‘stunned’ and wants an explanation from Rhee today. And if you were wondering if anyone would go there, well, Turque went there: ‘Other union activists said they were especially offended by Rhee’s remarks, in light of the recent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by her fiancé, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.’ Also NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
AFTER THE JUMP—-United Medical Center to go nonprofit; Metro board gets its first two federal appointees; credit cards to be accepted in Metro turnstiles; Peebles gets back in the picture; unemployment hits record high; bag tax hits WSJ front page
United Medical Center is exploring nonprofit status in order to gain sound financial footing, Tim Craig reported Sunday in WaPo. ‘If approved, the status would be part of a broader deal to change the facility’s ownership and increase its access to cash. Although the change in status would not change the hospital’s mission to serve any patient who needs care, hospital executives say registering as a nonprofit charity would make it easier to serve some of the city’s poorest residents….By obtaining status as an Internal Revenue Service-approved nonprofit, the hospital might attract more charitable donations because contributions would be tax-deductible; would qualify for higher Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement payments, a crucial move for a hospital where eight of 10 patients have government-sponsored insurance; and would save at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tax liabilities… .But the change would likely spell the end of the city’s two-year experiment of partnering with New Hampshire-based Specialty Hospitals of America, a for-profit company, to keep United Medical Center in business.’ The 501(c)(3) process can take 18 months; Craig also follows up on last weekend’s reports of supply shortages.
THE BOTTOM LINE?—-‘City leaders maintain that closing the hospital is not an option….”We are going to have a few more weeks of things being tight, but at the end of the day, the hospital is not at any risk whatsoever of closing,” [David Catania] said.’
The Metro board has its first two federal appointees. The Obama administration has selected former deputy transportation secretary Mortimer L. Downey as a voting member and NCPC executive director Marcel C. Acosta as an alternate, Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo. They will be in place for Thursday’s big board meeting: ‘The GSA had planned to announce all four appointees together, but “given the importance of what is going on” at Metro, it rushed to appoint Downey and Acosta in time for that meeting, said a GSA official who spoke on condition of anonymity.’ Downey lives in Vienna; Acosta in the District; both say they are regular system users. And what interests will these gentlemen be protecting? Says Downey: ‘The federal government would like its employees to arrive at work on time, fundamentally alive.’ He also tells Examiner that Metro is ‘in serious disorder.’
And about that big meeting: Dr. Gridlock looks at the menu of options available to board members to close an emergency $40M budget gap. (Also Examiner.) And, in response to a rider PO’d about crowded trains, he looks at how Metro’s promise of eight-car trains hasn’t meant much.
ALSO—-Incoming WMATA board chair Peter Benjamin tells WTOP that Metro is ‘going to accept credit card and debit cards directly in the gates of our transit system.’ It could happen within 18 months.
Don Peebles is not out of the mayoral conversation, he reminds local reporters. Friday afternoon, he told WBJ’s Jonathan O’Connell that he’s ‘considering his options and would still like to run.’ Peebles says that, given his mother-in-law’s terminal cancer, his ‘final decision about whether to start a campaign, he said, will be the result of “how we’re doing as a family. Is there room and time for me to run for mayor?”‘ And he has his issue, saying that ‘the city’s poor economic shape makes him feel more strongly that he is the right person to lead the city.’ D.C. Wire followed up late Friday, where he ‘noted that the only reason to announce a candidacy early is to raise money, a strategy that is unnecessary for him because he would finance his own campaign.’ Let the record show that LL saw this coming.
Remember the Sick and Safe Leave Act? You know, the one the local business lobby threw a fit about? The one that led to the end of Carol Schwartz‘s council tenure? The law has been in effect for more than a year, but ‘many workers are unaware of their rights and businesses are unclear about their responsibilities,’ Ann Marimow reports in WaPo. ‘Advocates for low-wage workers and business leaders say the Fenty administration has delayed finalizing new rules that would get the word out to the community. Until those regulations are spelled out, critics say, workers are not guaranteed protection….[Fenty] said in a statement that the administration would submit additional regulations “in the coming days to further educate the public” and that the Employment Services department would continue to “answer any questions about the law.”‘
No relief in sight: District unemployment hit a record 12.1 percent in December. That’s ‘the highest since the government began collecting the data in 1976,’ Dion Haynes reports in WaPo, ‘and went up after having dipped in November from a previous high of 11.9 percent in October. Unemployment is particularly high for the District’s black residents, whose rate is three times the level of whites….Unemployment climbed in the District despite an added 600 jobs last month, according to the city’s Department of Employment Services. And it gained 6,100 jobs from December 2008 to December 2009. But because the labor force in the District has a large proportion of undereducated people, experts said, the majority of those high-paying jobs usually go to more qualified residents of suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.’ Also Examiner. Says Kwame Brown: ‘It’s a disgrace and a crime, and residents should be outraged.’ Outraged at whom, Kwame?
Three weeks into the bag tax, and WaPo’s Steve Hendrix takes a look: ‘[T]he nickel bag fee is having a big impact. Managers at stores that sell food or beverages say the switchover has cut the use of plastic bags by half or more. One Safeway in Northwest reports a falloff of more than 6,000 bags a week, about half of its former volume. And for customers, the bag law is changing the District’s carryout culture in ways large and small. A lunchtime army of office workers now ply the sidewalks with near-naked sandwiches and sodas filling their hands, making some diners more self-conscious about what they buy. Parking lots feature impromptu juggling acts as determined fee-avoiders teeter to their cars with heaping armloads of loose groceries. And people are stockpiling reusable shopping bags—-and routinely forgetting to take them shopping.’ The Wall Street Journal also takes a look, on Page 1 of today’s paper: ‘[N]early a month into the program, it’s turning out that government is having trouble legislating its way out of a plastic bag. The levy got off to a relatively smooth start in the district’s grocery stores, some of which handed out free reusable bags to ease the pain. Then things got complicated.’ Owners of non-food-related businesses speaks up about having to levy the nickel.
Jonetta Rose Barras looks at rampant overspending in the District government and sees CFO Natwar Gandhi to blame: ‘Where is the chief financial officer? Isn’t he supposed to ensure an accurate budget and keep each agency within those fiscal boundaries?…Gandhi may feign impotence, but Congress invested the independent CFO with broad power and authority over the District’s entire financial management system. He supervises the majority of finance workers in the government. It’s the job of those agency fiscal officers to help managers prepare budgets and to oversee every transaction, including payroll, payments to contractors, and other expenditures. If overspending occurs, the CFO ultimately bears responsibility. If there is financial mismanagement, lay the blame at Gandhi’s door.’
In brief Sunday editorial, WaPo urges President Barack Obama to give a crap about D.C. voting rights. ‘It’s been more than a year since he’s talked about the issue, and then only when we asked. In his State of the Union address Wednesday, Mr. Obama could break his silence….He wouldn’t have to weigh in on the gun issue or offer a prescriptive course to break the legislative logjam, though both would be welcome. He could just note that, as long as a people who pay their taxes and serve their country remain disenfranchised, all cannot be well with the State of the Union.’
MUST READ—-WaPo funnyman Gene Weingarten pens a piece light on yuks, about his stint as a Superior Court juror: ‘I was a juror in the trial of a man accused of selling a $10 bag of heroin to an undercover police officer. At the end of the two days of testimony, I concluded that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I also concluded that he should be acquitted. In my mind, it came down to a simple, unsettling question: Is it worse to let a drug dealer go free, or to reward the police for lying under oath?….As a juror, I was skeptical. As a citizen, I was angry. For one thing, I was mad about the whole case—-the bewildering amount of police time and taxpayer money spent on prosecuting one guy for selling $10 worth of narcotics. But as a juror, I felt it was not my business to object to that. I would have been willing to convict a defendant despite those misgivings. The police testimony was another matter. As witnesses, the officers had been supremely self-assured, even cocky; clearly, they’d been through this hundreds of times. As they passed the jury before and after testimony, they greeted us winningly. One of them winked at us, almost imperceptibly. Their testimony was clear, concise, professional and, in my view, dishonest….[T]he willingness to cheat, I think, is a poisonous corruption of a system designed to protect the innocent at the risk of occasionally letting the guilty walk free. It’s a good system, fundamental to freedom. I think a police officer willing to cheat is more dangerous than a two-bit drug peddler.’
Colby King, after an extended columnar interlude into extra-District affairs, returns to a dear subject: ‘What are we coming to in this city?’ That’s his lede to a piece pondering to death of 16-year-old Deonte Payton, ‘found shot to death inside an apartment building on Stanton Road SE. The brief story said his body was discovered by building engineers who went to the vacant apartment unit after neighbors complained about a foul odor. And then . . . nothing. Deonte Payton was a one-day story. How can that be? The bloated body of a murdered teenager is found and there’s hardly a ripple of interest? I’m not singling out The Post. The rest of the local media also gave Deonte’s death short shrift. That’s a shame. The homicide of a child is or ought to be a core concern, not just for the media but also for the public.’ An examination of the circumstances of Deonte’s death pivots to accounts of violence and threats at Spingarn HS. Here’s what ‘a certain ‘crew’ of extremely violent young women’ said to one teacher: ‘”I should slap the [expletive] out of you”; “the other day was your lucky day . . . I should have killed you that day”; I should have shot you in front of Popeyes when I had the chance.”‘
ALSO—-Colby pens an Outlook-fronting review of ‘Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men’: ‘It looks beyond the gunplay, offering a window on urban violence by putting faces with the cold statistics and presenting stories in the victims’ own words.’
City AIDS czar Shannon Hader, in WaPo op-ed, urges adopting the internationally-oriented President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) on the municipal level. ‘Launched in 2003, PEPFAR set high expectations, and it has achieved them, bringing treatment to more than 2 million people in less than five years. When I worked on PEPFAR in Africa, I saw the program’s successes firsthand. It was more than a matter of money; PEPFAR cut through the red tape and demanded government coordination and accountability. If this can be done amid political turmoil overseas, imagine its potential here.’
Also in WaPo op-ed: Peter Tucker takes aim at Jack Evans‘ second job at Patton Boggs: ‘On Jan. 7, in a strongly worded editorial [“Too many masters”], The Post condemned public officials who “serve in state government while drawing compensation from the private sector.” The Post stated that a public official who engages in this practice doesn’t care “much for ethics in government, the potential conflicts of interest or the idea that public service entails personal sacrifice.” The subject of the editorial was Robert Sledd, who has since been withdrawn as Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell‘s choice for state commerce secretary. The Post condemned Mr. Sledd (“by his actions and words he projects limited understanding of the nature of government service”), but Mr. Evans has been described in the paper as “a moderate, pro-business Democrat.” Yes, Mr. Evans is not the only council member to earn income outside of his generous council pay, but that only serves to raise the stakes on this issue. Why does The Post find this practice problematic in Virginia but not the District?’
Activists lobby D.C. Council to prohibit utility turn-offs during winter. Reports WaPo: ‘At a demonstration outside the Wilson Building, about 10 members of Justice First, an activist group, blasted Pepco for what they said were increasing numbers of shutdowns. Crystal Kim, the organization’s executive director, said she had no data to prove shutdowns were increasing but said she has received “a flood of calls” from residents requesting assistance with their bills. “Shutoffs are never the answer,” Kim said.’ More than 75 testified before the council’s public services committee, Examiner reports. Mary Cheh ‘pointed out that there are funds available, as well as programs through Pepco, for people who can’t afford to pay their bills. “I don’t believe at the moment that we’re leaving people who can’t afford to pay without heat [and] light,” she said.’ Also WAMU-FM, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
The final tally from the Harriette Walters accessory auction, closed Friday: $104,783, ‘most of which will flow back to the city’s piggy bank,’ Dan Zak reports in WaPo. ‘It’s a teeny-tiny victory for this swindled city, a sliver of restitution financed by American bag hounds who trolled the auction site with user names like “Ms Princess” and “blkwidow” and “nojob.”…The money that ends up in the city’s general fund will be allocated at the discretion of the mayor and the city council. Authorities had already recovered at least $10 million in cash and assets by last June, and more has since trickled in. Some of Walters’s jewelry was sold Nov. 14 in New York for a total of $381,900, and on Feb. 13 a live auction in Houston will include another nugget from the collection: a five-carat diamond ring valued at $40,000. Bit by bit, the city is reclaiming some of its dough.’ Zak also gets the Bag Snob to slam Mother Harriette’s poor taste in luxury bags.
Turns out Milton Lee Jr. was nominated to be a Superior Court judge twice, Legal Times reports: Once by the Judicial Nomination Commission, and once by a foot-dragging President Obama. ‘A White House spokesman said that the administration knew the JNC was choosing its own nominee, but that the two decisions to name Lee were made independently of one another. The spokesman declined to comment on why the White House missed the 60-day deadline, or on why it decided to send its own candidate once the JNC had already begun its nomination process.’
EOM musical chairs! Former MOCRS head Sarah Latterner now heads Community Affairs; Tracy Sandler moves from Board and Commissions to Serve DC. She’s replaced by Erica Easter, formerly of the Office of the Secretary. Ashley Marshall takes over correspondence, and Chris Taylor is your new MOCRS chief.
Suspect fingered in 20-year-old murder case: Frederick Morton, 57, arrested last year in connection with the 1997 murder of Sharon Moskowitz, has now been charged in the death of Charles Caldwell Haupt. ‘Haupt, 62, was found fatally stabbed Sept. 2, 1990, in his house in the 1600 block of 35th Street NW,’ Martin Weil reports in WaPo.
Suspect in 2007 Adams Morgan slaying is at large in South America, Examiner reports.
Marine stationed at D.C. Barracks, 20, is stabbed to death at Baltimore party.
Marion Barry hosts meeting in Henson Ridge ‘to discuss ongoing concerns about crime and a current of division between homeowners and renters in the mixed-use community,’ Clarence Williams reports for WaPo’s Crime Scene blog. ‘Residents like Lorraine Carter, a senior renter, discussed fears that the community still faces the threat of property crimes and gunfire. The management office was broken into over the New Year’s holiday; Thieves heisted computers during the burglary, sparking fresh concerns that 2010 is off to a rocky start.’
Some budget balancing principals from Sunday WaPo op-ed, courtesy of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute’s Elissa Silverman and her Maryland and Virginia counterparts: ‘It’s time for legislators to truly put everything on the table. This means a balanced approach to budgeting that includes revenue, rather than cuts alone.’ They suggest hiking sales taxes, implementing a millionaire’s tax, and tapping ‘rainy day’ funds (and making the District’s easier to tap).
WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky explains how the Rev. Arsene Jasmin left Haiti safe and sound, and made it to D.C. to say Mass on Sunday at Sacred Heart. NC8, WRC-TV cover the Saturday Haiti memorial Mass there.
Peter Nickles vows to Examiner that he’ll ‘get to the bottom’ of alleged overtime fraud at DPW.
Lou Chibbaro Jr. runs down the re-aligned MPD Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.
Powerball and Mega Millions: Together at last in the DMV. Says WaPo: ‘[T]he D.C. Lottery expects to make an extra $5 million over the course of a year with the addition of Mega Millions.’
WaPo covers the rising profile of the Washington Auto Show, which is ‘thanks in no small part to the billions of dollars that have been coming from the direction of Capitol Hill….Is there any other auto show that would mention the attendance of “hundreds of legislative officials” as part of the draw?’
Check out JDland’s ‘State of the Hood‘ for Near Southeast. And Georgetown Metropolitan does the same for his hood. NC8 covers the rash of store closings in Georgetown. But Carol Joynt reports someone’s moving into the old Nathans space.
Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta runs down ‘District of Columbia Statehood Efforts in 2010.’
GW Hatchet covers medical marijuana.
From Roger Ebert‘s review of ‘Waiting for Superman’ documentary: ‘The film focuses on Michelle Rhee, the reformer who became Chancellor of the public schools in the District of Columbia, which are the worst in the nation. She wanted to award bonuses to teachers who were producing better students. The unions stood firm: The pay scale remained fixed, and performance could not affect it. Rhee devised a rather brilliant plan and offered it to the teachers. They could (a) accept the current wages, which are capped in the mid-50s, or (b) vote for a plan in which teachers with better performance would earn as much as twice that much. Money itself, you see, is not the issue. Rhee’s plan was hailed as a masterstroke. How did the District’s teachers vote? The American Federation of Teachers refused to put the plan to a vote.’ Also Variety.
Well, all right! ‘D.C. Public Schools…does not anticipate making cuts’ to sports funding, WaPo reports.
The Slow Cook’s Ed Bruske has wrapped up his series on cooking inside a DCPS kitchen. It’s worth a read if you haven’t been reading.
Dave Statter notes that FEMS Chief Dennis Rubin failed to show at council overtime hearing.
Should the city keep tracking vacant properties? Or just ‘blighted’ ones?
Chuck Thies tells Examiner about His Washington.
Congrats to Irma Esparza, chief of staff to Kwame Brown, who got married earlier this month. WaPo featured the happy couple in Sunday’s wedding section!
Marion Berry is retiring.
NOTA BENE—-On Thursday, LLD linked to a letter in themail that accused the Office of Zoning of cutting back on compliance review. Zoning chief Jamison Weinbaum responds: ‘That is simply incorrect. Earlier this month, in an effort to streamline efficiencies and restructure certain employee responsibilities, the Director appointed Ms. Tracey Rose as the new Compliance Review Specialist in the Office of Zoning. Ms. Rose is a long-time OZ employee and is fully prepared to assist in compliance matters. OZ treats compliance as a critical component of its work on behalf of the public, and continues to provide exemplary service in this area. OZ encourages readers to visit its website for a thorough understanding of this program.’
TODAY—-‘Ask City Hall’ With Mark Segraves, 10 a.m. on WTOP radio. His guests: Vince Gray and Harry Thomas Jr.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment and Committee on Finance and Revenue joint roundtable on B18-580 (‘Energy Efficiency Financing Act of 2009’), JAWB 120; 11 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on PR18-627 (‘Contract No. DCFA-2009-C-2292 Emergency Approval Declaration Resolution of 2009’) and PR18-628 (‘DCFA-20009-C-2292 Emergency Approval Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.