Morning all. Michelle Rhee appeared last night with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, for a segment on ‘What’s Next: Education.’ Said Cooper, ‘When we were brainstorming possible guests for this interview, Michelle Rhee immediately came to mind…she’s been fearless when shaking up the status quo.’ So what is next in education? ‘A focus on teacher quality and human capital in schools,’ Rhee says—-both in paying teachers more and making it easier to fire bad teachers. ‘As long as we have [tenure] protections in place, we are going to continue to have the problems in the public education system in this country that we have today.’ Furthermore, ‘in order to implement the solutions that are necessary, it’s going to take a lot of political capital on the part of our politicians and our leaders….One of the things that we’ve realized here in Washington, D.C., with our reform efforts is that you have to be willing to withstand a little bit of that opposition and pushback.’ In closing, Cooper asked Rhee for ‘three things you can’t live without.’ E-mail, she answered, plus ‘really good food, and on the professional side, I could not live without the boss that backs me every single day, Adrian Fenty….He is the most supportive and strongest mayor on education that you could possibly imagine.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-D.C. set to overtake NYC in commercial real estate; Rosenbaum medic will get her job back; District gets whiter; cop allegedly loses his service weapon for third time; Jack Evans scrambles to save hotel deal; Metro fare hikes could be coming sooner rather than later
Is D.C. about to become the capital of commercial real estate? The Wall Street Journal reports today on A1: ‘The office market in Washington, D.C., is poised to topple New York as the nation’s most expensive, reflecting the declining fortunes of the nation’s financial center and the government expansion under way in the U.S. capital.’ While rents have declined almost everywhere, according to one research firm, D.C.’s have fallen much less precipitously than NYC’s. ‘In the past, usually after recessions that shrink business and expand government, Washington has moved ahead. But this time, the gap has narrowed sharply and quickly. As recently as two years ago, average rent in midtown Manhattan was $61 per square foot, nearly $20 per square foot higher than the average in Washington’s prime downtown area. According to most commercial-real-estate brokers, the gap has nearly disappeared.’ NC8 notes that the residential market is picking up as well.
Selena Walker, the city EMT who decided to take the gravely injured David Rosenbaum to a more distant hospital so she could run some errands, was fired illegally, the D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled. The city waited too long to fire her, violating a rule saying that the city has 90 days after learning of an incident to take adverse employment action. ‘The decision is a blow to the Fenty administration, which took credit for a historic settlement with Rosenbaum’s family that required the city’s rescue service to be overhauled and which fought fiercely to keep Walker off the city’s payroll,’ Bill Myers notes in Examiner. Phil Mendelson tells him: ‘No one benefits from this, except Ms. Walker—-who gets four years’ back pay for not working—-and her lawyers.’ Also WaPo.
New details on Census Bureau estimates are out. ‘The city remains a majority African American city, though the numbers and percentage slipped in every year between 2000 and 2008,’ Carol Morello reports at D.C. Wire. ‘About 54 percent of the city is African American and 40 percent is white, the census figures show. At the beginning of the decade, the city was 61 percent black and 34 percent white….If the trend continues, some demographers have predicted that the District could cease being a majority African American city by 2020.’
Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner on yesterday’s taxicab hearing. Drivers alleged to Councilmember Michael A. Brown and other special committee members that the Taxicab Commission ‘has not met in nearly eight months and…has devolved into an ineffective agency that holds virtually no authority to manage or reform the industry.’ Because the commission hasn’t met, it hasn’t passed the fare increase that drivers are demanding. At D.C. Wire, Ann Marimow notes that DCTC chair (and federal informant) Leon Swain Jr. did not show up to testify due to his role in the ongoing federal investigation. Instead, the Fenty administration sent Commissioner Scott Kubly, ‘who read a prepared statement, struggled to answer some basic questions and informed members he was unavailable to stay for the duration of the meeting.’
D.C. police are investigating the alleged theft of a MPD lieutenant’s service weapon in Maryland, Bill Myers and Scott McCabe report in Examiner. ‘Veteran police officer Lt. Ronald Netter told investigators that his weapon was stolen while his vehicle was stopped late Wednesday near Temple Hills….Police used K-9 units Wednesday night and Thursday to try sniff out the missing gun. A teenage boy has been taken into custody in the case, police said. The teenager denied stealing the gun and said he knew Netter personally, said police sources familiar with the ongoing investigation. The loss of his gun could be a problem for Netter because this is the third time he has lost his service weapon, according to two sources within the Metropolitan Police Department.’
WaPo editorial board with a pair of barn-burners today: The first concerns the decision by congressional Republicans to insert themselves into the city’s gay-marriage debate. The editorialists convicts them of ‘flagrant grandstanding’ and hypocrisy. ‘Same-sex marriage rights for citizens of the District were granted not by a court but by the duly elected representatives of the people. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But if that’s not enough democracy for the Gang of 39, let it give District voters a representative to vote on taxes that District residents pay and wars that District residents fight. Then come back and talk to us about referendums.’
The second is on Metro’s safety culture, or lack thereof, as highlighted by the fact that a team of safety inspectors was nearly run over by a train. The incident reveals ‘what appears to be a perverse culture when it comes to safety at Metro, in which train operators and track workers regard each other with open antagonism; Metro safety classes do not bother to teach Metro’s own safety rules; and the transmission and accuracy of critical information—-for instance, the presence and location of track workers in the path of trains—-is slipshod and unreliable….All in all, it’s a portrait of a transit system whose attitude toward worker safety ranges from casual to slapdash.’ The editorial calls on Metro GM John Catoe to ‘move aggressively to remake Metro’s lax safety culture.’
MEANWHILE—-Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) steps up her criticism of the transit agency, according to Examiner’s Kytja Weir. She ‘wrote a letter to the board on Monday seeking information about how it is implementing federal safety recommendations, measuring the performance of Metro management and improving the reliability of trains and buses. “The residents of the National Capital region are tired of government not doing its job,” the Democrat wrote.’ She calls the oversight report ‘outrageous.’
In other Metro news, the WMATA board decided yesterday to hold off on making emergency cuts to balance the current budget, after telling agency staffers that their menu of options just wasn’t sufficient. On the table now are emergency fare hikes; suburban members wanted to consider a 20-cent across-the-board hike, but Chair Jim Graham essentially vetoed that idea. A hearing will be held to consider only a 10-cent hike. ‘If approved, a 10-cent fare increase would start in April and bring in about $4 million in additional revenue by the end of this fiscal year in July—-the same amount that would be saved through the proposed service cuts,’ Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo. With only a 10-cent hike, service could be cut to the point that trains might come only every half-hour on nights and weekends. (Urbanist types are not happy at all about Graham’s move.) Also on the table: ‘Increasing the amount of capital funds that would be shifted to the operating budget by $4 million, for a total of $16 million…Reducing the hours of Metrorail service rather than the frequency of trains….Restructuring bus routes rather than eliminating stops or segments.’ Also Examiner, WBJ, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
THE HEARING—-On Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Jackson Graham Building, 600 Fifth St. NW. To sign up to tesify or submit written comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Can the convention center hotel be saved?’ asks Jonathan O’Connell in WBJ. ‘If it’s a brawl between JBG Managing Partner Ben Jacobs and Marriott Chairman and CEO Bill Marriott, D.C. has been hit by a stray elbow….There is a quiet move afoot by Councilman Jack Evans, who has been fighting for the hotel since before the convention center itself was built, to get the two principals to resolve their dispute and leave the city out of it. Multiple sources close to the negotiations acknowledge this much: At the behest of Evans, Jacobs and Marriott are talking….[H]ere is a refresher on how big of a deal this is to the city. The District put up its most valuable downtown real estate plus $272 million in public financing, including the cost of the debt. All the politicians – from Adrian Fenty to Vincent Gray to Evans to Kwame Brown – lined up to assemble a financing package. No other deal under Fenty has enjoyed such cohesion.’
WBJ’s Sarah Krouse covers the regional scramble for the Northrop Grumman headquarters: ‘Once ruled out for its passive approach to luring companies, D.C. proved it can be successful at drawing in companies with its recent efforts to lure CoStar from Bethesda….Still, according to a source familiar with the bidding process, Montgomery and Fairfax counties have sent representatives to California to meet with Northrop officials. The District has not, and has no plans to do so. [Evans] said Northrop could have its pick of neighborhoods, but said the contractor and the subcontractors it employs have the potential to transform either the NoMa neighborhood or the ballpark area into a defense industry hot spot.’
Nineteen-year-old Emmanuel Durant Jr. died on New Year’s Eve protecting his family from a home invader, Theola Labbé-DeBose writes in WaPo. Durant, shot dead by the thugs at his home on the 200 block of Webster Street NE, ‘fought the attackers and, dazed and bleeding from a gunshot wound, rushed upstairs to warn his sister.’ Neighbors says Durant was ‘polite and well mannered and quietly took on a leadership role with younger children in the community.’
ALSO—-Arrest made in other New Year’s murder.
WaPo’s J. Freedom du Lac collects public reaction to the Gilbert Arenas arms affair. National figures might be crucifying the guy, but ‘closer to home, where Arenas’s oddball approach to basketball, life and his public image is better known, there was no such leap to assign deeper meaning to his decision to flaunt the rules and then mock those who took his actions seriously.’ That includes nuanced responses from Fenty (‘People deserve second chances, but they’ve really got to want them and desire them’) and Gray (‘People remember an incident like this and they completely forget all of the good things you may have done in the past’). Cathy Lanier also speaks. Also see video of their comments. Meanwhile, Harry Jaffe lauds the NBA for taking decisive action against Arenas.
More on Nathan Saunders‘ candidacy for Washington Teachers’ Union president, from Bill Turque at D.C. Wire. ‘Saunders’ candidacy raises at least the possibility that if [Rhee] fails to secure a new contract with the WTU before spring, she could be dealing with a union president who qualifies as her worst nightmare….Saunders, whose mother-in-law, Jimmie Jackson, served as WTU president before she was ousted by Bullock, represents a segment of union membership implacably hostile to Rhee’s program.’ Also WAMU-FM, who quotes Saunders: ‘Teachers are being asked to do more with less resources and more pressure, and being blamed for practically everything that doesn’t work.’
O’Connell covers the rising popularity of D.C. tax abatements for WBJ. That, he says, is due in part to the fact that, with the city near its debt limit, TIF deals are harder to float. ‘In the past two years, the city has approved TIFs for only a few deals, mostly marquee projects such as a 1,167-room convention center hotel, a massive overhaul of the Southwest waterfront and Citymarket at O, a residential, retail and hotel project of more than 1 million square feet planned for the Shaw neighborhood. During that same period, the city has considered forgiving the taxes of dozens of property owners, including schools, churches, social service organizations and — increasingly — developers of housing, retail or hotels.’ At the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute blog, Elissa Silverman calls for a tighter hand on such deals—-‘economic incentives such as tax abatements should not be given on an ad hoc, first come, first served basis. This important tool should be part of a comprehensive economic growth strategy that will benefit the city as a whole and not just one company.’
A body turned up near the scene of yesterday’s bridge fire on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, lying in Rock Creek. ‘Officials were unable to offer much detail but said it did not look as though the body was connected to the fire. The man, said to be in his 30s, was found about 100 yards from the site of the fire, which was under the bridge at Pennsylvania and 26th Street NW,’ WaPo reports.
Amanda Mahnke, the woman struck and seriously injured by a Metrobus last fall, is suing Metro for $30M, ‘alleging that Metro should have taken the driver off the road long before the crash,’ WaPo reports. The driver, Carla Proctor, ‘had been involved in two other accidents on the job in recent years and received five traffic tickets last January.’ She’s hired powerhouse trial lawyer Patrick Regan; WTTG-TV speaks to him.
Ward 8 activist and council candidate Anthony Motley has tipped police as to the killer of gay man Anthony Perkins, Lou Chibbaro Jr. reports for DC Agenda. Perkins ‘may have been the target of a thug who’s “terrorizing” the Congress Heights neighborhood where he was killed’ and is ‘believed to be responsible for a string of robberies that Perkins learned about. Motley said the robbery suspect may have thought Perkins was about to report him to police.’
Bowie women who robbed $214K from a D.C. government program for the blind are sentenced: ‘U.S. District Judge James Robertson sentenced Barbara A. Stevenson-Jones, 71, to a year and a day in federal prison. Her daughter, Pamela A. Stevenson, 51, received three years and five months’ and must pay restitution, WaPo reports.
Building being demolished at Southern Homes and Gardens collapses, NC8 reports. ‘Eventually, a crane was able to bring the high rise tower down completely, and evacuating residents proved to be wise as chunks of concrete littered backyards and people’s belongings.’ Says one resident, ‘My father is 80 years old and they gave us 15 minutes to evacuate…if it had been in Georgetown, they would have put me up in a hotel or somewhere else.’
ALSO—-Wall collapse reported in Northwest.
RH Reality Check blog describes the District’s ‘Punitive Sex Work Laws.’ Take this FWIW: ‘Anecdotal evidence suggests that having three or more condoms is considered a proxy for being a sex worker. Practices like these that discourage the procurement and use of condoms by sex workers, undermine the efforts of non-profit groups who do outreach with sex workers, and is an outrageous policy in a city that has the highest HIV rates in the country.’
D.C. Vote solicits suggestions for voting-right comments in SotU.
Please weigh in: Should City Desk Delete Nasty Comments?
WRC-TV: ‘Your one-stop shop on all things related to the D.C. bag fee.’
WaPo: Man poses as Secret Service agent, infiltrates Health and Human Services building, getting as far as Kathleen Sebelius‘ office. ‘Frederick J. Nickerson, 46, apparently left the building after being confronted by employees. He was arrested Tuesday on charges of impersonating a Secret Service agent and was being held pending a detention hearing next week in the District’s federal court. ‘
WaPo reader (from Upper Marlboro) loved the MPD gun sting operation: ‘This story shows that Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier is not afraid to make the hard decisions so often avoided by law enforcement leaders.’
Slain officer’s family responds to the death of James von Brunn.
In wake of Bernard Madoff scheme, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington revises investment rules. The organization lost $4.35M to the fraudster.
Four 6D cops honored for life-saving efforts.
WaTimes may move out of New York Avenue NE headquarters.
Panda farewell set for Jan. 30.
Shovel your sidewalks, says Hizzoner!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: joint public roundtable on ‘The Contracting Process Related to Parks and Recreation Projects,’ 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—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, DCPS graduation rates announcement, Cardozo Senior High School, 1200 Clifton St. NW.