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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Gay Marriage Passes Final D.C. Council Vote‘; ‘D.C. Gay Marriage: The Roadblocks That Remain‘; ‘A Year Later, Parks Projects Are Sent to Allen Lew‘; ‘Breaking: District Settles Pershing Park Case‘; ‘Pershing Park Plaintiffs Speak Out On Settlement‘; tweets galore!
CHECK IT OUT—-Pics of Vince Gray and Don Peebles breakfasting this morning at the Metro Center Marriott.
Greetings all. The D.C. Council voted, as expected, to legalize gay marriage yesterday; Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is expected to hold a ceremonial bill-signing by Friday. After that, the fate of marriage equality enters the uncharted waters of the U.S. Congress, not to mention the local and federal judiciary. Here is a sampling of the rhetoric that will persist through that process: ‘God’s war has just started,’ said ANC member Bob King to WaPo’s Tim Craig. Will Congress intervene? Eleanor Holmes Norton tells AP: ‘I believe I have assurances that the barn door is locked.’ There’s other angles here, too—-in his A1 piece, Craig notes the potential economic benefits of legal gay marriage: A CFO analysis ‘concludes that at least $5 million, and perhaps as much as $22 million, would be generated by same-sex weddings in the District over the next three years.’ There was very little talk of Catholic Charities yesterday; CMs and the archdiocese could not come to a compromise. But ADW said in a statement that talks will continue.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Banneker out, Lew in on parks project management; cop arrested on felony murder charge; main Pershing Park case settled; sting nets international heroin ring; man convicted of 1981 murder/rape freed due to DNA evidence; controversial Shaw billboards come down
MORE GAY MARRIAGE COVERAGE—-From Examiner, WaTimes, WBJ, NYT, WAMU-FM, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, ABC News, Metro Weekly, American Prospect, DCist. National Organization for Marriage vows to council: ‘We Will Overturn Your Same-Sex Marriage Bill.’ DC Agenda has story on the vote, photos, and coverage of last night’s celebration. DCist’s Martin Austermuhle explains ‘Why Same-Sex Marriage is Also a Win for Home Rule’—-because ‘there are literally hundreds of journalists and pundits today who are being forced to explain why our local legislation has to head to Congress for 30 days of review. And in the course of that explanation, there are bound to be people across the country who instinctively repeat what we’ve been saying all along: “Well, that’s dumb.”‘
OTHER LEGISLATIVE BUSINESS—-
—-Banneker Ventures is out as project manager for 10 controversial parks-and-rec projects. Under emergency legislation passed yesterday, the projects will be sent to school facilities chief Allen Lew. LL noted the irony of ironies yesterday evening: Fenty wanted to send the projects to Lew a year ago, but Harry Thomas Jr. foiled the plan, leading Fenty to devise his end-around. Both Nikita Stewart in WaPo and Michael Neibauer in Examiner cover the move. Expect court wrangling to come; AG Peter Nickles says he expects ‘a legal mess,’ and A. Scott Bolden, representing both Omar Karim and Sinclair Skinner, tells WaPo: ‘Last time I checked, a deal is a deal.’ As for Lew, he deadpanned to LL yesterday: ‘I feel like it’s Christmas. I’m jumping up and down.’
—-Stewart also notes: ‘Council members also voted 7 to 6 to remove the deputy mayor from the housing authority’s board of commissioners and put a resident in that seat. With four other mayoral appointments on the panel, a council majority agreed with sponsor [Marion Barry] that the executive pulled too much weight on the nine-member board.’ Expect a veto, however, and that vote is not veto-proof.
—-Tax abatements for both CoStar and Donatelli Development passed first-reading votes. The former passed by a thin margin; the latter was opposed by Phil Mendelson alone. ‘Supporters hailed both tax abatements—-worth $7 million to CoStar Group over 10 years and $13 million over 20 years to Donatelli Development—-as economic tools to help revive the city’s struggling office and residential markets. Opponents called them giveaways to private companies that set bad precedents,’ Lisa Rein reports in WaPo. In WBJ, Jonathan O’Connell notes that the council may have introduced a snag by requiring the company to locate outside downtown.
—-Surplus property bill passes at long last, O’Connell notes: ‘If Fenty signs the bill, as expected, he would then be required to submit two separate bills to the council — one to tag a property as surplus and one to sell or lease it — in order to enter into a public-private real estate deal. Currently the two are frequently lumped together.’ Still on tap: Bill to require citywide master facilities plan.
—-The council voted for the second time to clarify its intent that employees eligible for certain retirement bonuses should be paid in spite of a bonus, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. This, after Nickles said the council screwed up fix-it legislation it had passed on Dec. 1. Mary Cheh says that ‘this persistence in questioning the council’s legislative intent leaves me skeptical of his intentions.’
—-Jim Graham introduces bill that would ‘establish a new board to oversee DC’s Circulator and streetcar systems, routes and fares.’ GGW has much more.
DIRTY COP—-Officer Reginald Jones, a six-year MPD veteran, was arrested yesterday and charged with the Dec. 1 murder of Arvel S. Alston, 40, in Washington Highlands. Jones, according to police, didn’t pull the trigger but served as a lookout in the killing. Bill Myers, who broke the story for Examiner, writes that Jones, 40, ‘swept the streets of drug dealers so his friends could more easily rob one of their street rivals’ and possibly ‘acted as a street enforcer for a vicious drug crew.’ Writes WaPo: ‘Jones was on duty at the time and was at the scene in a patrol car assigned to the gun-recovery unit that he works for, a police source said. He fled when shots were fired, the source said. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier called Jones, 40, “a disgrace to the uniform.”‘ Alston and Jones were allegedly both part of a robbery scheme gone awry, with the fatal shot being fired accidentally by Alston’s son. Jones’ murder charge ‘may be brought when a death occurs during the commission of a serious felony.’ The son, Arvel Crawford, and a third man, Rashun M. Parker, 27, were also arrested; the robbery victim is being hospitalized. Also WTOP, NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
LANIER STATEMENT—-‘I was stunned and saddened to learn the outcome of a police investigation, which led detectives to arrest one of our own officers, here at the Metropolitan Police Department….We want this arrest to send the message that no one is above the law. We will not allow this department to be judged by one bad apple, rather we should be judged on how we handle that bad apple. In this case, that was with a swift arrest and certain justice to come.’
The largest of the Pershing Park mass arrest cases has been settled for $8.25M, bringing to an end a seven-year legal battle. Jason Cherkis reports for WCP that, in addition to the payout. the settlement ‘addresses the problems that have dogged this case long after the Sept. 27[, 2002] mass arrests: the missing and or/destroyed evidence and the OAG and MPD General Counsel’s embarrassing delays in handing over thousands of pages of relevant documents.’ Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice, which litigated the case, tells WaPo that the deal sends ‘a powerful message to police agencies throughout the country that you cannot engage in mass violations of constitutional rights without accountability and a heavy price to pay.’ And the city says it is ‘pleased to put this episode behind it and looks forward to working with plaintiffs on various initiatives that are intended to prevent any future peaceful public protest from becoming another Pershing Park event.’ Cherkis also collects reaction from plaintiffs. A smaller suit, pressed by four arrestees represented by GWU law prof Jonathan Turley, may be headed to trial. Also Legal Times, WTTG-TV.
Another big crime scoop from the Examiner: Scott McCabe reports today on a monthslong MPD sting operation that ‘recover[ed] more than $1 million in narcotics and 123 illegal guns while disrupting an international heroin ring.’ The operation was run out of ‘E.B.’s Auto Shop’ in Langdon Park, where cops ‘installed hidden cameras, hung a sign made from materials purchased at Home Depot and used informants to put word on the street.’ The cops’ cover: That they were ‘interested in buying illegal firearms to package up and send to Mexico for the escalating drug war.’ What they got: ‘Of the 123 guns recovered, 25 were assault rifles. They also recovered 2.5 kilograms of heroin with a street value of $500,000 and 2.8 kilos of cocaine valued at $300,000.’
IN OTHER STING NEWS—-Estimated $1.5M in counterfeit goods seized from Florida Avenue market, WAMU-FM reports.
Donald Eugene Gates, the now-58-year-old who has been behind bars since 1981 for a murder-rape, has been freed after recent DNA analysis shed doubt on a key piece of evidence in his case. Keith Alexander reports in WaPo that Gates ‘was to board a bus from a prison in Arizona on Tuesday afternoon and head to a new home—-and a new life—-in his home town of Akron, Ohio. Although the judge’s ruling frees Gates, it does not exonerate him. There will be a separate hearing to make that determination after more DNA testing is completed.’ Prosecutors vow to find the real killer of Catherine Schilling, though it will be difficult: ‘Evidence and case files are missing, and the original trial jacket is gone.’ Superior Court Senior Judge Fred Ugast, who presided over Gates’ original trial, ordered prosecutors to investigate all cases involving an FBI investigator who gave questionable testimony against Gates. Thus far, the government has given him ‘winter clothes, $75 and a bus ticket to Ohio.’ Also AP, Legal Times, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.
Harry Jaffe notes in his Examiner column that bill to elect the District’s attorney general is moving right along. ‘Personally, I like Peter Nickles and believe he’s the right attorney general for this mayor. A veteran litigator, he strikes fear into people who were used to laughing at D.C. as they stole from its coffers and abused its laws….The bill, crafted by [Mendelson], would allow for a four-year term. It is likely to pass the council early next year. It will be veto-proof. There’s little chance Congress will strike it down. It’s possible we could even vote for an attorney general in 2010. This would be a boon for D.C. and for democracy.’
Mendelson vows to investigate former Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe‘s sweet retirement arrangement. Mendo, D.C. Wire reports, ‘is convinced that [Ellerbe] was given a special arrangement just to allow him to reach age 50 before retiring so he could receive pension benefits more quickly. Mendelson said exceptions to retirement rules have been granted in the past, but only after legislation was passed. “Here, they go around the law, around the council, around public accountability.”‘ Also: WUSA-TV’s Dave Statter picks up the story. He also notes at his blog that he ‘first learned this might be an issue in June, a few days before Ellerbe was announced as the new chief in Sarasota County. At the time, we asked DC fire officials if any special arrangements would be made to help Kenneth Ellerbe maximize his benefits. A spokesman told us the answer from Chief Rubin was an emphatic “no”.’
Suspect in Chandra Levy killing pleads not guilty to new charges.
Fox News reports on what the removal of local abortion-spending restrictions will mean for the District: ‘City government officials are generally supportive of the change in law and are exploring ways to enact it, aides said. “We’ve already started to study the issues,” a City Council staffer said, predicting the matter could come up in the spring—-along with a change allowing the District to permit medical marijuana. One possibility is that abortion coverage could be added to the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, which is the city’s taxpayer-funded health program for low-income and other residents.’
WCP’s The Sexist notes that a woman is suing DCPS over the loss of her 7-year-old’s “sense of innocence.” ‘At what exact moment was the first-grader’s innocence whisked away from her, never to be returned? The moment [the child]’s teacher at Tenleytown’s Horace Mann Elementary allegedly announced to her first-grade class that she was planning to marry a woman.’
First $150M installment of Metro federal funding could be approved by President Obama within days, Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo—-giving local jurisdictions months to make good on their pledges of matching funds. Federal spending legislation ‘requires Metro to invest the funds in safety improvements,’ and the NTSB’s findings on the June Red Line crash stand to play a big part in how the money is spent. For the District’s part, Jim Graham says ‘we are ready to pay up.’
DMPED has issued two solicitations for Walter Reed site, WBJ notes. One seeks ‘a consultant to help create a master plan for the site, including transportation, landscape architecture and historic preservation services. Separately, the city is seeking a real estate development firm to provide a financial and technical analysis of redevelopment potential for the site. Both solicitations were issued Dec. 8 with a deadline of Jan. 8, 2010 and much of the work is expected to be done by the fall of 2010.’
Fort Totten development gets final approval from Zoning Commission, WaPo reports: ‘To receive final approval, the foundation had to submit information about the community benefits it planned to offer. It submitted a transition plan for tenants that assures them that they will be relocated during construction. The foundation would pay all moving expenses, and tenants would be provided with apartments in the new building. The tenants’ rent would not change; the foundation would pay the difference between their current rent and the new apartments’ rent, according to the letter. The foundation also agreed to provide, rent-free, a day-care center, a possible library and 600 square feet of office space to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC5A).’
Following city settlement with Clear Channel, billboards at New Jersey Avenue and P Street NW have come down. WBJ reports: ‘Clear Channel began removing the billboards Tuesday morning and will finish the job no later than Dec. 21. Clear Channel will also remove supporting posts for the billboards by Dec. 31.’ Cary Silverman and the Bates Area Civic Association are pleased.
Streetcars are here! Or at least they’re in Maryland. The Czech-built rolling stock destined for the District’s avenues was unloaded yesterday at the Port of Baltimore and shipped to Metro’s Greenbelt Yard for storage, WaPo reports. Their debut is scheduled for late 2012. Also WTOP.
Ground was broken yesterday on renovations to Wilson High School. WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza has student reaction to the move to UDC; says one: ‘You get to leave for lunch and you get to get your own food….That’s pretty cool.’ Housing Complex has renderings of the new Wilson High.
Slow Cook blog looks at Healthy Schools legislation again, notes: ‘This is a bill Michelle Obama could have written. Yet the precise sourcing of funds for these measures is left vague–proof again that it’s far easier to regulate what can be served in schools than to pay for improvements, especially in the middle of a recession when the bottom is dropping out of municipal budgets.’
Metro Weekly covers the death of spending riders.
Annual Kids Count study ‘shows the District is making progress in fighting child abuse, but has work to do in other areas,’ WAMU-FM reports.
Joel Klein talks to WaPo about Michelle Rhee.
WaPo letter writer on D.C. officials’ attitude toward Remote Area Medical: ‘Let them eat cake.’
Hirshhorn to get plastic bubble.
Another Klingle Trail meeting tonight.
Hearing next Monday on Zipcar expansion into residential areas.
It’s official: Hogan & Hartson will be Hogan Lovells.
Watch the first episode of News Plus With Mark Segraves!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-3 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs roundtable on ‘Implementation of the Proactive Inspections Program by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs,’ JAWB 412; Government Operations and the Environment roundtable on ‘Government Contracting Reform in the District of Columbia,’ JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.