IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—’Local Democrat Explains Vote Against Voting Rights, Admits Illegal Gun Possession‘; ‘Gay Marriage Is Not Fit for Ballot, Judge Rules‘; ‘Catoe Departs Metro: Now Who Will Want This Job?‘; ‘‘No Pressure’ On Catoe To Resign, Brown Says‘; ‘Bloggers: No Indication He Was Resigning‘; and tweets galore!
Morning all. Yesterday came the local political shock of the new year: Metro GM John Catoe announced his surprise resignation to WMATA board members, just weeks before a new three-year contract was to kick in. The decision came as many Metro observers—-riders, bloggers, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)—-lost confidence in his leadership on safety and operational issues affecting the aging transit system. But the board, to a person, has expressed confidence in the District native and all looked forward to a 2010 that was less dramatic, less chaotic, and less tragic than 2009 was. Now, whatever 2010 will bring, it seems drama, at least, is on the agenda. ‘His departure leaves Metro searching for a new leader as it confronts huge budget shortfalls and its biggest safety crisis in more than three decades,’ reads the triple-bylined WaPo A1 lede-all. ‘His announcement concludes a Metro tenure that began with high hopes that he would restore stability….Catoe vowed to make safety his top priority and change the culture at Metro.’ That did not happen.
AFTER THE JUMP—-How to find someone who wants this infernal job; judge keeps gay marriage off the ballot; Bishop Owens is back to his gay-bashing ways; Gilbert will plead; terror trial might be coming to Prettyman; Rhee and KJ set a date
The WaPo editorial board doesn’t hesitate to give him to the old screen-door treatment: ‘If Mr. Catoe sees the system’s string of train crashes, worker deaths, bus mishaps and safety lapses as distractions—-and not as issues that need to be addressed at the most fundamental level—-then perhaps he’s right about the need for change. Nonetheless, his departure could not have come at a worse time for the struggling system.’ Kytja Weir notes at Examiner that Catoe ‘had met with local bloggers Wednesday night, including some of his most vocal critics.’ You can read their varied reactions at GGW, why.i.hate.dc, We Love DC, Unsuck DC Metro.
FROM CATOE’S RESIGNATION LETTER—-‘Good leaders know how to impact change. Great leaders know when it’s time for leadership change. I hope I fall into the latter category. As such, I have decided that it is time for me to channel my future in new directions and provide the organization an opportunity to move beyond the current distractions.’ Also see his letter to Metro employees [PDF].
CONGRESS REACTS—-From WAMU-FM: ‘Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) says John Catoe’s retirement may mean a fresh start for the transportation system. “I had been working with Mr. Catoe, but I understand the pressures that happened over these last several months of accidents, service issues,” she says. “It’s been a struggle.”…Transit Subcommittee Chair Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) says the safety problems won’t be fixed without more federal funding. “They’ve taken sort of patchwork steps to make it safer, to overcome the deficiencies of the system,” he says. “It’s operating pretty well for a third-world transit system.”‘ Eleanor Holmes Norton also issued a statement.
FENTY REACTS—-‘On behalf of the District of Columbia, I thank John Catoe for three years of dedicated leadership as general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority….I wish him a fulfilling retirement, and look forward to welcoming new leadership at WMATA.’
NOW WHAT?—-Robert McCartney notes in his WaPo column that ‘after the “good riddance” toasts are over, the region is going to suffer a wicked hangover as the realization sinks in that Metro still needs to deal with structural problems that are far beyond the capacity of a single executive to solve.’ Catoe may not have been transformational on safety and communications, he writes, but he ‘was not responsible for three other serious troubles afflicting Metro: a shortage of reliable funding; an aged infrastructure; and a highly politicized, internally divided board of directors.’ (He added on on WAMU-FM that one appeal to potential execs is that ‘you could be the Michelle Rhee of Washington transit!’) The WaPo ed board adds: ‘One element of its search ought to be a look in the mirror. Most board members over the years have been committed to supporting a top-quality system, but their parochialism and micromanaging can sometimes make a hard job harder. The moment calls for self-reflection as well as a nationwide search.’ WaPo’s Ann Scott Tyson covers how the search for an interim and permanent replacement will proceed. ‘Asked whether anyone would be willing to take the helm, board member Chris Zimmerman of Arlington County replied: “I certainly hope so.” Zimmerman called the Metro job “one of the most important in the industry,” yet he acknowledged that the performance of the general manager is constrained by the funding and authority provided, both of which are limited.’ Also Examiner.
MORE—-Via McCartney: ‘”[Catoe] didn’t deliver on the promise that he made when he came on board, which is that he was going to be an operations guy,” said a local transportation source close to Metro who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid disrupting professional relationships. “I would have expected Catoe to do a lot more to reorient the entire staff to a no-holds-barred orientation on safety and rehabilitation. He’s had enough time to do that, and he hasn’t done it.”‘
Here we go: AP reports that the District’s federal court is being vetted to host a major terror trial, prosecuting al-Qaeda figure Riduan Isamuddin (aka Hambali) for planning a 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed more than 200. He was captured in 2003, and has been incarcerated ever since at Guantanamo Bay. ‘Authorities already have begun reviewing the security measures needed to bring Hambali and others before a Washington federal judge, the officials said. Conducting a trial in the nation’s capital would be a symbolic repudiation of the policies of former President George W. Bush, who portrayed Hambali as a success story in the Bush administration’s program of interrogating terror suspects in secret CIA prisons overseas.’ Obama administration officials say ‘the decision could come in a matter of weeks.’ It’s yet unclear whether the guy would be kept at the D.C. Jail or some other facility during the trial.
That was fast: Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson have set a date for their wedding. It’s Sept. 4, Reliable Source reports. Engagement party tonight hosted by David and Katherine Bradley and Ron and Beth Dozoretz.
Superior Court judge tells marriage initiative supporters to take a hike. In her 23-page opinion, Judge Judith N. Macaluso (you might remember her from such decisions as the Cora Masters Barry eviction proceedings) ruled that (a) the Human Rights Act applies to ballot measures and (b) that the marriage initiative violates the Human Rights Act. In addition, she joined Judge Judith Retchin is declaring an end to Dean v. District, the landmark 1995 decision that outlawed gay marriages in D.C. Tim Craig covers for WaPo, noting that the ruling, ‘a major victory for gay rights activists, makes it more likely that the District will begin allowing same-sex couples to marry in March.’ Harry Jackson responds: ‘We have always anticipated that our quest for voting rights on the issue of marriage would end up in our higher appeals court, and today’s ruling confirms that is where the issue is headed.’ More on their planned appeal. Also DC Agenda, WAMU-FM, WTOP, Metro Weekly, GLAA Forum.
Bishop Alfred Owens is back to his homo-hating ways, Lou Chibbaro Jr. reports at DC Agenda. The pastor of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in Brentwood reportedly said the following to his congregation on Jan. 3: ‘Sex is only pleasing to God in the marriage bed, and the marriage bed is a man and…a woman!…If marriage wasn’t between a man and a woman, you wouldn’t be here because two men doing it don’t produce no kids. And two women doing it don’t produce no kids! It’s all about family.’ One gay couple in the congregation, Jon Mack and Michael Garrett, walked out. You might remember when a previous LL reported in 2006 these Owens comments: ‘It takes a real man to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior….I’m not talking about no faggot or no sissy.’
Gilbert Arenas will enter a plea today on a felony gun possession charge. That charge can result in a five-year sentence, but Keith Alexander reports in WaPo that ‘the Washington Wizards guard has reached a plea agreement that could result in much less or even no jail time,’ citing anonymous sources. He will appear at before Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin this afternoon. ‘Morin, a former defense attorney, could sentence Arenas to probation, community service, a fine or some combination, or he could send him to jail….Defense attorneys who have battled District prosecutors on behalf of clients who had similar gun possession charges are watching the case closely to see if Arenas receives any special treatment.’ Meanwhile, Javaris Crittenton‘s Arlington home was searched by police, but no gun was found and no other charges have been filed. As for his future with the Wizards, ‘The differences between Gilbert Arenas and the [team] may have reached the point of being irreconcilable regardless of the outcome of Friday’s proceedings,’ Mike Wise and Michael Lee report in WaPo. Also AP, WTOP, WRC-TV, WTTG-TV.
ALSO—-WaPo op-edster (and chancelloric ex) Kevin Huffman compares Arenas’ ‘insincere’ apology to that of another local hero: ‘Marion Barry is the true exemplar of this category. Last year, a few days before he was charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend, Barry wrote to her: “In an effort to resolve this situation in an amicable manner, I sincerely apologize to you.” Only a true artiste can cite sincerity in such an insincere way.’
A CFO audit has found indications of massive overtime fraud among DPW workers, Bill Myers reports at Examiner. The draft report looked at the $3.45M in overtime earned by garbage workers in fiscal 2009, finding ‘blatant time and attendance fraud’ and ‘criticiz[ing] executives in the department for “not monitoring time and attendance for employees” or “delegating” the responsibility to underlings, who in turn rewarded relatives and friends with hours….One sanitation employee earned $1,435.93 in 10 days despite not having worked any regular hours during that time, auditors found. The time sheet did not agree with the overtime earned, yet the payments were approved.’ The audit recommends referring the matter to the IG’s office for possible enforcement action.
More on the local response to the Haitian catastrophe: This morning, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is set to host a press conference with Haitian ambassador Raymond Alcide Joseph. In WaPo, Petula Dvorak covers how locals are helping by texting. And, sadly, Michelle Boorstein reports in WaPo that the Rev. Arsene Jasmin, a beloved priest at Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Columbia Heights, is missing after the quake. ‘The smiling, 44-year-old priest had left Monday for a spiritual retreat and a visit with family in his native Haiti and hasn’t been heard from since—-another blow for a community reeling from the earthquake’s emotional aftershocks.’ Also WTTG-TV, Examiner, NC8.
In her Web column, Jonetta Rose Barras covers an impending crisis with Rental Housing Commission nominees, and rumors of overspending in District agencies: ‘Fenty administration officials confirmed for TBR the [Department of Corrections] is more than $10 million in the hole….Don’t think the corrections department is only agency overspending its approved budget. The Department of Parks and Recreation is experiencing an $8 million “spending pressure.” And because the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) can’t yet file Medicaid claims, it is having money troubles. Officials said the problem is between $10 million and $25 million.’
Harry Jaffe asks in Examiner: ‘Will D.C.’s next election be free and fair?’ Prompting this query is the fact that the election board ‘is in the process of choosing the company that will run the technical side of the balloting. Three companies seem to be in the running. Will it be a fair process? Will it pick the best?’
MISSING—-Donnay Terrell, 12, was last seen on Tuesday on the 1600 block of E Street NE. ‘Terrell is described as a black female who is 5’3″ tall and weighs approximately 140 pounds. She has dark brown eyes and black braided hair.’
Alleged crooked cop Reginald Jones gets new lawyer. He’s now represented by Brian K. McDaniel.
Kennedy-Warren tenants finally sue landlords Klingle Corp. and B.F. Saul, Melissa Castro reports for WBJ. ‘Five tenants filed the complaint on Dec. 17, in D.C. Superior Court, but the dispute goes back to the summer of 1996, when the building owners sought approval to build a new nine-story south wing at the building at 3133 Connecticut Ave. NW. In exchange for the tenants’ support for the plan, the tenants say, the owners agreed to address problems with windows, cooling and heating, plumbing and more. The owners also allegedly agreed that the costs of those repairs would not be passed on to the tenants through rent adjustments.’ But then they were.
ALSO—-Akridge sued by SW property owner, ‘claiming the company strung him along for years on an agreement to buy his property, which is near — but not part of — Akridge’s planned 9-acre 100 V St. SW project just south of Nationals Park.’ WBJ also has details on a lawsuit against United Medical Center.
District legalizes graffiti! Sort of! ‘MuralsDC began in 2007 as a publicly funded program designed to channel youthful destructive energies into positive forces throughout the District….Artists partner with local youth groups to reflect the positive culture and history of surrounding neighborhoods. Designs, devoid of political or commercial themes, are a collaborative effort among residents, businesses and artists. Student apprentices help research the area and prepare the site. They then are coached in various painting techniques and improving upon those used by illegal graffiti artists. ‘
Education Week rankings: D.C. at the bottom. ‘The report looks at state policies such as test results, accountability and school finance….The District received poor marks for student achievement.’
MEANWHILE, IN DETROIT—-Robert Bobb gets the Time magazine treatment.
MoCo hit-and-run driver found in D.C.
National Grange president hit with bag tax!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-12 p.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on PR18-629 (‘Office of Administrative Hearings Mary Oates Walker Confirmation Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 412; 2 p.m.: Committee on Health roundtable on ‘The Performance of the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration,’ JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-9:30 a.m.: remarks, emergency Haiti relief announcement, Embassy of Haiti, 2311 Massachusetts Ave. NW.