Morning all. The D.C. Council will take its final vote to legalize same-sex marriage around noon today. That is in no small part the work of At-Large Councilmember David Catania. And WaPo’s Tim Craig notes in a Metro front profile that ’12 years to the day after he was sworn in, Catania will oversee his greatest triumph….Cementing a goal he set a decade ago, Catania has bullied his proposal through the political process, convincing not only his council colleagues and Democrats in Congress but also skeptics in the gay community that this was the year to act on same-sex marriage.’ At last night’s gay marriage rally, at Kennedy Rec Center in Shaw (see LL’s tweets), Catania chose not to play the bully, however, thanking the two members who won’t be voting for the marriage bill today, Marion Barry and Yvette Alexander, for the work they’ve done on gay issues in the past. ‘I’m a bit subdued,’ he said, ‘but tomorrow you will see a different side.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-Catania’s single; CMs want answers on Fenty bonuses; Gray says full smoke ahead on medical marijuana; Janey refers to self in third person; DNA clears man of 1981 murder/rape; D.C. Jail hopes cards help close cased; Joe Robert opens a can on Hill voucher opponents
MORE FROM CATANIA PIECE—-‘Catania’s doggedness has made him one of the most influential, yet feared, men in city government,’ Craig writes, due to his role as the city’s health czar, ‘as a key mediator in battles between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and other council members,’ and as a ‘politician who governs through intimidation.’ Not intimidated these days: Carol Schwartz! She says: ‘[H]is vindictiveness is legendary, and most are too afraid to talk about it for fear of more….If he does not get his way, he lets loose the petty bully to get even and, in that case, watch out for the bus.’ And Craig shares a personal tidbit: ‘Catania now finds his political and personal lives at a crossroad. His term expires in 2011, and he has not said whether he will seek reelection next year, although he has said he has more work to do in reforming health care. And, over the summer, as he was nearing his goal of legalizing same-sex marriage, Catania separated from his longtime partner, whom he had been dating for seven years.’ LL’s political prospectus: He will run. He’s told friends: Expect me to run until you hear otherwise.
ALSO FROM THE RALLY—-NC8, WRC-TV, and WUSA-TV who interviews the Rev. Joseph Palacios, a priest and Georgetown professor, who attended the rally. He says: ‘I’m gay….But I want to believe I’m fulfilling my promises as a celibate priest. Often times people assume that when people say we’re gay that we’re acting out sexually. I want to distinguish between a celibate gay priest who should not be afraid to identify with the gay community.’ Also, NPR’s All Things Considered does a D.C. gay marriage piece.
The Fenty’s administration’s bonuses are turning into a story with legs. Bill Myers, in his second-day story for the Examiner, quotes numerous CMs expressing ‘outrage,’ especially over the $600K in bonuses awarded thus far in fiscal 2010 after the practice was banned by the council. Vincent Gray calls them ‘highly questionable given the depressed economy.’ Kwame Brown calls them ‘a true sign of poor leadership’ (there’s a potential candidate’s comment, right there). And Phil Mendelson says, ‘To see somebody who already has a big salary getting a fat bonus on top and then turning around and [firing] employees is a bad picture.’ Nikita Stewart‘s WaPo story on the matter gives greater prominence to AG Peter Nickles‘ explanation, ‘that $561,000 was paid to employees in eight departments with a major chunk — $433,000 — going to lawyers in his office under a fiscal 2009 collective bargaining agreement.’
OH…and Examiner cartoonist Nate Beeler gets in on the bonus action.
City officials wrangle over how to proceed with medical marijuana, Craig reports in WaPo. Gray, whose opinion probably matters most at the moment, says full steam (smoke?) ahead: Send 1998’s Initiative 59 to Congress for review. Nickles says ‘that he has instructed his staff to review whether the council can use Initiative 59 to legalize medical marijuana or whether it is too dated to withstand legal scrutiny.’ And Eleanor Holmes Norton, as she told LL last week, holds to the view that congressional review of the initiative isn’t necessary, saying that in removing the rider, ‘Congress was under the assumption that the city would use administrative regulations’ to implement medical marijuana. ‘The biggest question facing city leaders is whether the city or another organization should get into the business of growing and distributing marijuana.’ Some sort of dispensary system looks likely; grow-your-own tends not to work well in cities. Also WTTG-TV.
REEFER RUSH?—-‘Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he has received more than two dozen e-mails or phone calls since late last week from marijuana growers or distributors who want to do business in the nation’s capital. “There are probably at least 20 of these cannabis shop owners on the West Coast that have a dead-eye target on the District,” St. Pierre said. “Over the weekend, we must have gotten 20 to 30 e-mails or phone messages from people I would say are entrepreneurs.”‘
Bill Turque covers the council’s Healthy Schools Act for WaPo. The legislation ‘supports the idea that the long-term health and well-being of schoolchildren is as much a part of education reform as improved teaching and more rigorous courses, [Mary Cheh] said. “You don’t work on math scores and say the heck with nutrition,” she said. “It’s not that these are fluff ideas. I don’t see this as something subordinate.” Cheh said that the bill, introduced last week, is also designed to address high rates of adolescent obesity in the District by increasing the amount of exercise that students get.’
ALSO—-Turque writes up further reaction from Clifford Janey on DCPS gains on national math tests—-gains that date back to his tenure as superintendent. ‘”The Janey footprint is there and it needs no excavation to be seen,” he said in a phone interview last week from his office in Newark, N.J., where he has served as superintendent of schools since mid-2008. “Those in-the-know, know. I don’t need affirmation to know we made some incredible acts of transformation in Washington D.C. over a short period of time that is evidenced now much more publicly through the NAEP.”‘ He takes particular credit for improving the District’s standardized tests—-calling it the ‘fundamental dirtywork of reformation.’
Mother seeks answers to why a D.C. cop struck her 18-year-old son with his cruiser Saturday. Theola Labbé-DeBose reports in WaPo that Darnisha Jackson-Milton, after her son Dominic Turner was hit, confronted police, but still has not gotten a straight story. Same goes for the public; MPD says in statement: ‘Multiple statements were taken following the incident and there are discrepancies over what occurred. The matter and the allegations are being investigated by the Internal Affairs Division. We cannot comment further.’ Turner, a recent high-school graduate, is out of the hospital. Also NC8, WTTG-TV.
Last night, Phil Mendelson met with a handful of citizens from the Shaw/Mount Vernon Square area to talk crime. Jack Evans was there, too, as were reps from the U.S. attorney’s office and MPD. LL stopped in after the gay marriage rally, early enough to see Evans and USAO’s Albert Herring sniping over prosecutions. LL will share further thoughts later, but do check out Cary Silverman‘s rundown of the meeting. The biggish news: ‘Mendelson committed to looking at a Chicago-style anti-loitering ordinance, moving away from his longstanding opposition to such laws as a violation of liberty.’
Man stands to be exonerated in 1981 murder case, Jordan Weissmann reports in Legal Times and Paul Wagner reports for WTTG-TV. ‘Donald Gates was convicted of raping and murdering a college student in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. The evidence against him consisted largely of testimony from a paid government informant and two hairs found on the victim that supposedly matched Gates’ own. On Tuesday, both prosecutors and defense lawyers will ask a District of Columbia judge to release Gates from prison after recent DNA testing showed “resounding” proof of his innocence.’
Jim Graham speaks to WTOP about leadership changes at Metro: ‘I want a system that is really able to respond to these extraordinary demands….For the extraordinary problems that we have right now, we need some really extraordinary people.’
START SNITCHIN’—-Inmates at the D.C. Jail have a new standard-issue plaything: Deck of playing cards embossed with details from unsolved crimes. Del Wilber reports in fab WaPo piece that ‘D.C. jail inmates play a lot of cards, and they almost always deal from “cold case” decks, which are handed out by corrections officials in the hopes that someone might help solve a long-dormant homicide….[T]he cards represent the authorities’ most direct outreach to criminals, a group that often knows the most about homicides because they hang in the same circles as many of the killers and victims.’ Since 2008, 4,000 decks have been distributed; no arrests yet, though one card-selling company claims 20 cases nationwide have been cracked by the decks.
The District is hashing out a $1.4M million dispute with Columbia Pictures over incentive fees for a production that shot this summer, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. The city’s agreement with Columbia ‘stipulated that the James Brooks production “How Do You Know?” remain in D.C. for 14 weeks, spend $8.5 million, and provide internship training for city residents. The District, in return, agreed to transfer to the production company $2 million out of the Film DC Economic Incentive Fund.’ Emergency legislation is on tap today to fix the problem. Says council finance aide Jeff Coudriet: ‘We need to get [Columbia] paid before people start bad mouthing us in Hollywood.’
Judge Frederick Weisberg will step down from the Robert Wone case as scheduled, Superior Court announces, pursuant to an order from Chief Judge Lee Satterfield. Judge Lynn Leibovitz will take over as of Jan. 1. Read WaPo, Legal Times.
DUST-UP AT DALY—-U.S. Marshals scuffled with a man they were trying to apprehend in the CSOSA office at the MPD headquarters building on Indiana Avenue NW. Reports WaPo: ‘[D]eputy U.S. marshals were called to take the man into custody after agency personnel found an outstanding warrant for him, apparently from another jurisdiction. The man resisted and one deputy marshal was believed to have suffered a cut finger in the struggle, the official said. When police arrived they found that the man had already been subdued.’
Susan Gibbs of the Archdiocese of Washington responds to LL on Nancy Polikoff‘s WaPo op-ed on the possible ‘Maine compromise’ on gay marriage and Catholic Charities: ‘While a religious organization can make a one time, irrevocable decision to move a pension plan under ERISA, it’s not really an option for a health plan. While one court allowed it, a Department of Labor advisory (Advisory Opinion 95-07A) says the option for religious organizations is “available…only to a pension benefit arrangement.” The uncertainty and some other complexities mean it is not really an option for religious organizations. There is an interesting dynamic that secular organizations in the District which are under ERISA would be exempt from giving spousal benefits to same sex couples.’
GWBOT survey of local business leaders finds them upbeat about the near future, but ‘most businesses still struggle with bank financing and credit and the ‘need for financing continues to hold many companies back from expansion,’ Examiner reports. Also WBJ.
Good news for District home sales—they’re up, WBJ reports: ‘D.C.’s median sale price was $364,000 in November 2009, down from $389,000 in 2008. The 620 units sold spent 72 days on the market compared to 75 days in November 2008. The number of units sold rose significantly — 98.08 percent — from November 2008. The average sale price in the District was 92.64 percent of the average list price in November 2009, a very slight increase from that percentage in November 2008. The average sales price was 92.24 percent in November 2008.’
MUST READ—-Joe Robert‘s letter to Jose Serrano, Dick Durbin, and Norton on the impending death of the voucher program. Mark Lerner has it at his Examiner blog. The megaphilanthropist accuses them of holding ‘appalling and disingenuous positions’ and being ‘obsessed with destroying a program that has impacted the lives of thousands of DC families.’ That’s just a taste.
Also check out former DCPS teacher Guy Brandenburg‘s look at the NAEP scores: ‘As usual, the press, especially the Washington Post, are eager to give all of the credit to Chancellor Rhee. That is a joke. As you can see in the following graph, which I made from publicly available data on national and DC averages, the trend in DC 4th grade math NAEP scores has been upward for quite some time – since the mid-1990’s.’
Metro Weekly covers controversy over changes to MPD’s GLBT outreach.
Huzzah! Benning Road NE construction is done east of 15th Street NE. Hizzoner can take a bow.
Council staffers participated in ethics training yesterday, WRC-TV notes. ‘The council members remain untrained, with their class planned for 2010. The council’s general counsel and ethics counselor, Brian Flowers, trained council staff with the help of Kathy Williams and William Sanford of the Office of Campaign Finance. They reviewed conflict of interest, financial disclosure, gift acceptance and outside employment for about 100 staffers.’
WUSA-TV follows up on taxi ticket dismissal story broken by WRC-TV.
Victor Reinoso talks about being a Peruvian-American.
Metro plans to close Grosvenor station, conduct major Red Line repairs over MLK weekend, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner.
Yesterday’s fog was big trouble.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole meeting, to be followed by 22nd Legislative Meeting, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, Wilson modernization kickoff, 3950 Chesapeake St. NW.