IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Rhee Wedding Date: Proof She’s a Goner?‘; ‘Arenas Pleads Guilty, Plus: New Details on What Went Down in the Locker Room‘; and tweets galore!
Greetings all. A happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day to one and all. Today is also the anniversary of a less joyous occasion, but one momentous in the annals of District political history all the same: Twenty years ago today, D.C. police and the FBI arrested Marion Barry in a room at the Vista Hotel. Relive the nadir of home rule by reading Sharon LaFraniere‘s WaPo A1 story on the bust. Incidentally, the mayor-for-life made an appearance this weekend at the BET Image Awards. Also there: Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Don Peebles—-next to each other on the red carpet.
AFTER THE JUMP—-DCPS makes quiet plans to move Ellington, reopen Ward 2 high school; Rhee hints DCPS enrollment is up this year; Gray looks for out on contracts standoff; all you need to know about convention center hotel litigation; reax to Catoe’s resignation roll in
WESTERN HIGH LIVES?—-Bill Turque delivers big scoop in Sunday WaPo Metro: DCPS is considering moving the Duke Ellington School for the Arts from its current home into the Logan School in Capitol Hill. The current Ellington building, at 35th and Reservoir Road NW, would become a traditional comprehensive high school. ‘Representatives of Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and school construction czar Allen Y. Lew said no decision has been made and that there are no immediate plans for a move. But Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) strongly backs the idea, and a source familiar with the discussions, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals from officials in Mayor Adrian M. Fenty‘s administration for discussing internal deliberations [LL loves that disclaimer, BTW], said Lew’s office has developed cost estimates for relocating Ellington.’ Just so you know what’s part of the debate here, consider these comments from an Ellington parent: ‘Most of the parents I talked to are not happy, not happy at all….Times being what they are, parents in that community want their kids to be able to go to a school that they don’t have to pay for.’
DCPS ENROLLMENT UP?—-Rhee tells WTOP: ‘If our numbers that we turned into the auditors hold, then this will be the first time in a very long time that student enrollment…in the District didn’t go down.’
Vincent Gray steps back from brink on option-year contracts standoff, offering a 12-day extension on approvals, Nikita Stewart reports in WaPo. ‘The Home Rule Act requires contracts exceeding $1 million to be approved by the council, but Attorney General Peter Nickles has said he does not believe that the act applies to certain types of contracts, such as option-year agreements. In the case of the $875 million in contracts, he wants a written guarantee that the council will retroactively ratify them “en masse” before the administration submits them. Gray (D) said he cannot give that assurance because he has not seen all of them and cannot speak for the full council. The disagreement has created a deadlock. But in a letter to Fenty on Friday, Gray said that because progress is being made, he is willing to propose new deadlines of Jan. 26 for the submission and Feb. 2 for ratification.’ Says Nickles: ‘It’s sort of a game of chicken: “Give the information to us so we can prove we’re king of the block”‘ Please, please: We all know Nickles is king of the block.
SAYS BARRY—-‘I’m shocked that Peter Nickles, as a lawyer, would want to break the law….I’m willing to make them obey the law. If the government shuts down, it’s at the feet of Peter Nickles and Mayor Adrian Fenty. I’m tired of it.’
GIL PLEADS GUILTY—-In Superior Court Judge Robert Morin‘s courtroom Friday, Gilbert Arenas entered a guilty plea to a single charge of felony gun possession. His sentencing is set for March 26; prosecutors agreed in a plea deal not to ask for more than six months for Arenas, though Morin is not bound by that recommendation. See many, many media accounts, starting with LL’s, Examiner’s, AP’s, WaPo’s, whose Keith Alexander writes: ‘During his court appearance, Arenas showed little of the engaging personality that has made his No. 0 jersey ubiquitous at Verizon Center. He walked into the courthouse wearing a gray flannel pinstriped suit and answered questions from Morin with simple “yes, sir” and “no, sir” responses.’ At Legal Times, Jordan Weissmann has some nice scene from Moultrie.
GIL’S GUNS—-a .50-caliber gold-plated semiautomatic Desert Eagle; a silver-plated .500 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver; a black .45-caliber black semiautomatic Kimber Eclipse; and a 9mm Browning pistol with extended magazine.
Convention center hotel litigation finally hits pages of WaPo. Thanks to the dueling lawsuits between Marriott and JBG, Lisa Rein writes, ‘No construction bonds have been issued, and a D.C. Superior Court judge has twice refused to dismiss the case. Meanwhile, local business owners and civic leaders in Shaw, the historically black neighborhood counting on the hotel at Massachusetts Avenue and Ninth Street NW to advance its long-awaited renaissance, are furious at the latest setback.’ And here’s some background on the underlying tiff over the Wardman Park Marriott: ‘JBG, which owns 11 hotels in the Washington area, bought the 1,316-room Wardman with another company in 2005, when the real estate market was peaking. JBG planned to convert hundreds of the rooms into luxury condos. With the hotel market now flat, Marriott is resisting a potential decline in revenue if many of the rooms it operates are sold as condominiums, according to interviews and court documents. Jacobs declined to discuss the company’s dispute with Marriott, but said competition from a convention center hotel would threaten the Wardman Park.’ Meanwhile, Jonathan O’Connell thoroughly reviews the Marriott countersuit in WBJ.
Negotiations for the sale of Abe Pollin‘s sports empire to Ted Leonsis are underway, Thomas Heath reports in WaPo. ‘Representatives of Leonsis and of the Pollin estate have been in discussions since Jan. 6, hoping to settle on a price that Leonsis’s investor group, closely held Lincoln Holdings will pay for 56 percent of the Wizards and Verizon Center. It already owns 44 percent. If no agreement is reached by Wednesday on the total value of the team and arena—-which could range from $400 million to $500 million—-both sides could agree to extend the exclusive talks. If not, an appraisal process would kick in, allowing Leonsis further opportunity to reach a deal.’
WaPo op-edsters react to the resignation of Metro GM John Catoe. Newly former Virginia transportation secretary Pierce Homer argues that ‘the governance of Metrorail be updated to reflect’ the reality of a system more focused on maintenance than construction. His solution: ‘A general manager could be hired to professionally manage, operate and maintain the system, and the board chairmanship could be turned into a highly visible, fixed-term position responsible for the public face and policy direction of Metro. This would, of course, end the annual rotation of the chairmanship among Metro board members—-a good thing in itself. More important, it would allow the general manager to focus on the most critical tasks of all—-managing, operating and maintaining the rail system.’ And just the rail system; Homer suggests spinning off Metrobus and MetroAccess through a ‘serious program of devolution.’ And Jack Corbett and Kevin Moore of MetroRiders.org call Catoe’s decision to quit the ‘worst move’ he made as Metro’s general manager. ‘Instead of caving in to stinging media criticism, Catoe should have stayed around to lop off more heads in Metro’s hidebound safety bureaucracy and to work with the National Transportation Safety Board to implement its findings after hearings in February on last year’s Metrorail tragedy. Then he could have left, with a safer rail system in place and a positive legacy.’ They also have tough words for the WMATA board.
ALSO—-WTOP’s Adam Tuss asks whether Metro’s next GM might be a board member.
Fenty announces District’s contribution to Haiti relief. From Hamil Harris at WaPo: ‘The D.C. government is poised to send 100 firefighters and a K-9 search unit as well as several tons of supplies to Haiti…Fenty said mental health counselors also are standing by to help people local residents who may be having difficulty coping with the images they’re seeing on television.’ And D.C. fire trucks might end up on the isle of Hispaniola after all (temporarily). Haiti supplies being sorted at D.C. General.
PHEW—-D.C. priest Arsene Jasmine found safe in Haiti.
WaPo ed board lauds new Fenty administration grantmaking guidelines. ‘But D.C. residents should be asking why it’s taken so long for city officials to crack down on lax practices—-and it remains to be seen whether the rules go far enough.’ Get ready for the Bennett Report!
Harry Jaffe argues in Examiner that the District has a ‘real shot’ at luring Northrop Grumman to the District. The trump card, he says, could be Northrop board member Vic Fazio: ‘He’s a Washingtonian in the way that Lyndon Baines Johnson was of our town. Fazio served 20 years as a congressman from California. He co-sponsored legislation to make D.C. a state. He retired in 1998 and stayed here as a lobbyist. He’s one of us,’ Jaffe writes. At WBJ, O’Connell looks at the rising popularity of the NET 2000 incentive package that D.C. will likely use to lure Northrop.
WaPo: ‘A man pulled a motorist from a burning car on the Washington National Cathedral grounds Sunday and then walked away without giving his name, said authorities and a witness.’ Says the witness: ‘It was the bravest thing I have ever personally seen.’
Reaction rolls in to the prospect of a terror trial at the District’s federal courthouse. Or, as Bill Myers puts it in Examiner, the potential trial of Riduan Isamuddin has ‘set off a furious debate over whether the Justice Department is sacrificing public safety for political ideology.’ Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) really doesn’t like the idea, estimating security costs at $1B; Mary Cheh likes the idea of a civilian trial…in Virginia. And no, Virginia doesn’t want him.
Will same-sex couples move to D.C. to get married? Theresa Vargas reports in WaPo that at least some are thinking about it. ‘Gay activists and experts on same-sex couples say that if the District’s endorsement of gay marriage survives—-the council and mayor approved a measure last month, and Congress has 30 days to review the bill—-they do not expect a mass migration of suburban couples. What is more likely, they said, is that the tourism industry will see a spike as couples come from across the country to marry and then return to their home states. For couples in Virginia and Maryland with children, analysts said, the opportunity for legal marriage will probably be outweighed by misgivings about the District’s troubled public schools.’
WaPo’s Nick Anderson looks at preparations for the federal Race to the Top education funding contest: ‘In the District, where there are few limits on charter schools and [Rhee] is pushing in various ways to overhaul teaching, officials received funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help assemble their application for the federal reform grants….The federal application is complex and time-consuming, requiring detailed information about accomplishments and goals. Among the categories, the scoring rubric awards up to 58 points for “improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance” and up to 25 for “ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals.” A perfect bid would earn 500 points….For the District, a federal grant could be worth $20 million to $75 million.’
ALSO—-Rhee tells WaPo’s Turque that wedding to Kevin Johnson doesn’t mean she’s leaving town. ‘Yes, I’m fully ready for the commuter marriage!’ she e-mails him.
Charter school graduation rate drops, to 83.3 percent, WaPo reports. ‘Charter school officials said they were not worried, and they attributed the decrease to improved tracking. “I think what we’ve got here is probably better data rather than some precipitous drop-off,” said Thomas A. Nida, chairman of the D.C. Public Charter School Board.’
Nathan Saunders has a Web site up promoting his bid for the WTU presidency. His platform: ‘We must be commited [sic] to reclaiming our voice in the “reform” debate as the experts in public education….We must be absolute in our belief that teachers deserve adequate compensation and improved working conditions while perserving [sic] due process and tenure protections—-and make no apologies for that belief!’
Wait a long time for your Metro train? WMATA might now be more willing to give you your money back, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner. ‘The agency is looking to revise its guaranteed service policy that currently promises to waive rail fares when passengers are seriously delayed. “We need to give something back to the customers,” said Deputy General Manager for Finance and Administration Carol Kissal, especially as the agency may be asking more of riders with likely fare increases looming.’ The catch is that you have to leave from the same station you entered.
Tareq and Michaele Salahi throw party in Vegas, explain to Politico reporter why they’ll be taking the Fifth at a Jan. 20 congressional hearing on their dinner-crashing: ‘The answer’s easy. Eleanor Holmes Norton.’ That’s because EHN ‘issued a press release stating she believes he is guilty, thus making her an unfair judge of the matter, Tareq explained. Indeed, the Nov. 30 release calls the Salahis “practiced con artists who bamboozled the Secret Service.”‘
WaPo’s Heath looks at Logan Circle neighborhood activists-turned-developers Wayne Dickson and Carol Felix. They helped bring Whole Foods to Logan, and thought: ‘The brokers who did the deal made buckets of money off that….So, we sat there and said, “How hard can this be?”‘
Southern Maryland woman, 50, wounded ‘when shooting broke out while her car was stopped’ at Suitland Parkway and Stanton Road about 3 p.m. Sunday. ‘Police said two masked gunmen were targeting someone else,’ WaPo reports.
Two more ordered held in connection with the botched robbery that killed a man and ensnared a D.C. cop: Jarvis Clark, 19, of Temple Hills and Lynn Daniel Wilkerson, 33, of Hyattsville will in the D.C. Jail until trial, Keith Alexander reports in WaPo.
Oscar Noel Mercado, 28, ‘was killed early Saturday after a truck hit him as he stood behind his disabled car’ on 295 near the Foote Street overpass, WaPo reports.
Mount Pleasant ANC Jack McKay notes in WaPo letter that while murders may be down, robberies have been up in much of the city. ‘The District does a poor job of solving robberies, with a case-closure rate of 17 percent, compared with a 21.5 percent average for medium-size cities. As long as that is the case and robberies continue to rise, police resources should be devoted to tracking down and jailing violent criminals, not people who are merely “public nuisances.”‘
UDC President Allen Sessoms makes $315,650, lowest along the area colleges surveyed by WaPo.
Carol Joynt is not happy about no-parking signs on her Georgetown block: ‘For the past week we had “no parking” signs taped to the trees and sign posts covering half the block, effective from early in the morning until 5 pm each day, including Saturday. But nothing happened….This is cruel and unusual hardship for tax-paying Zone 2 sticker holders. Plain and simple. First of all, anybody who puts up “no parking” signs should be required to show up or pay a fine. Moreover, parking signs should be required to include a notation of who posted them. Residents have a right to know. We should be able to call someone and say, “Hey, what gives?”‘
Hey, the InTowner has a Web site! Check this typically verbose P.L. Wolff argument for an elected attorney general: ‘We have listened to the argument that it’s risky to select the chief law enforcement officer by popular vote since we could end up with an incompetent. Well, that’s always a risk, but it’s not a given by a long shot. Think New York City and some of the truly great DA’s, like the legendary Frank Hogan and the just recently retired Robert Morgenthau; they were elected (and re-elected) by popular vote. Why would we not be able to attract such stellar legal talent and have the good sense to elect such persons into a position of this importance? Is it possible that only a mayor has sufficient smarts (or integrity) to put the public good over political interest and expediency? We think not.’ Also, Peter Nickles’ ‘grating personality and obnoxious behavior should not be the reason for us pressing for the needed reform’…blah blah blah.
Poverty & Policy notes that D.C. food stamp expansion efforts have stalled.
Bloomberg covers urban chickens.
Two developers submit bids on city-owned Georgia Avenue parcel across from Walter Reed, says DCmud.
President Barack Obama spoke Sunday morning at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church.
Dr. Gridlock looks at the 11th Street bridge project.
Foreign real estate investors love D.C.
DID YOU KNOW?—-D.C. police motorcycles get sidecars for the fall and winter.
Construction begins on MLK Mall memorial.
MLK CONCERTS TODAY—-India.arie at KenCen; Chuck Brown at National Cathedral. Details at WaPo.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-12:30 p.m.: remarks, update on Haiti earthquake disaster relief efforts, D.C. General Hospital warehouse, 1900 Massachusetts Avenue SE.