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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Congress Set to Lift Controversial D.C. Riders‘; ‘Pershing Park Case: Plaintiffs File Response To Sporkin Report‘; ‘Mayor-Council Contracts Tussle Generates Many Letters‘; tweets galore!
IN LL WEEKLY—-The Report Card: What hand will the D.C. Council ethics probe deal Chairman Vincent C. Gray?
Morning all. LL’s been using Twitter more and more of late to give his loyal readers even more up-to the-minute, 140-character-at-a-time LLage. If you’re already a tweeter, you can follow @mikedebonis to get his sometimes voluminous updates; if you’re not, bookmark LL’s Twitter profile and check in at your leisure. Got it? Now, all this Twitter discourse is prompted by tonight’s Washington City Paper ‘tweetup,’ where loyal followers of WCP tweeters—-including @wcp, @TheSexist, @housingcomplex, @jasoncherkis, @timcarman, @mikeriggs, et al.—-are invited to meet and share in some good off-line conversation and reasonably priced libations. 6 p.m. at The Big Hunt, 1345 Connecticut Ave. NW. See you there!
AFTER THE JUMP—-Congress set to lift riders—-abortions, needles, and medical marijuana for all; no progress yet on resurrecting vouchers; more questions on Vince Gray’s fence; new Web site for Kwame; street vendor pleads the First; sing it now: Costco is coming to town!
More today on the impending death of various congressional spending riders: WaTimes’ David C. Lipscomb looks at the possible future of medical marijuana, finds that all the public officials he’s consulted—-executive and legislative alike—-are treading carefully thus far. In WaPo, Darryl Fears and Tim Craig focus on the pending removal of restrictions on local funding for abortions. The conference reports ‘could face stiff resistance in the full House and Senate’ because of the abortion measure. ‘Last week, 35 Republican senators sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a letter warning that they might derail the spending bill if the restrictions on abortion were changed. “We want to assure you that we are prepared to take full advantage of our rights under Senate rules,” the letter states.’ An anti-abortion activist calls the distinction between local and federal funding ‘artificial,’ saying, ‘All of the funds spent by the city government are appropriated by Congress, and this is required under the Constitution so the buck does stop with Congress.’ In Examiner, Michael Neibauer notes actual spending provisions, with ‘$75.4 million for school improvement’ and ‘$17 million for Mayor Adrian Fenty’s permanent supportive housing program and $4 million for a “reconnecting disconnected youth program.”‘ And in themail, Gary Imhoff, always the counterintuitive type, writing that the riders give outsiders the image that we are a city ‘whose core values, whose major issues, are making it easier and safer to use hard drugs, legalizing soft drugs, making abortions free, and getting the feds to subsidize domestic partnerships. Yeah, that’s really going to advance the cause of getting full Congressional representation or statehood for the District.’
ALSO IN THE SPENDING BILL—-Sorry, Kevin Chavous and Tony Williams: Your voucher lobbying has yet to pan out. Michael Birnbaum reports in WaPo that congressional leaders are showing no stomach for funding new entrants to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. ‘The spending bill does not address whether the program will be reauthorized. That will be put to a separate vote sometime in the winter or spring. There is still a chance the program could be reopened to new students, but that appears unlikely given the language in the appropriations bill and general Democratic opposition to vouchers.’ And: ‘Bringing further upheaval to the program, the Washington Scholarship Fund, the nonprofit organization that has overseen the voucher program since its beginning in 2004, sent the Department of Education a letter last week announcing that it planned to withdraw from its role at the end of this school year if the program is not reauthorized by the end of January. Congressional staff members said it is unlikely that there will be a vote by then.’
Vincent Gray, responding to yesterday’s WaTimes article on his $12,000 fence, gives DCist a letter from the contractor, Eastern Gardens Maintenance of Bowie, Md., saying that it ‘offered to coordinate the landscaping work with the fence installation…includ[ing] all requirements associated with the installation so that when the project was finished you would have a completed landscaping job and a newly installed fence.’ DCist still has questions: ‘For one, did Gray have a prior relationship with Schultz, either personal or professional? How did he come to decide to contact this particular company? Keep in mind that the Washington Times story today indicated Gray may have gotten a pretty significant price break on this fence—-he paid $12,000 for something that another major fence builder said they thought was worth $25,000. For another, did Gray know when he hired Eastern Gardens that they were not licensed to work inside the District? Did Schultz ever make a representation to Gray about this one way or the other?’
Here is perhaps the the least-surpring WaPo editorial ever: ‘Only one conclusion can be drawn from national tests showing D.C. public schools outpacing many of their big-city peers in bettering students’ math skills: The reforms being undertaken by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee are working.’ But things are still bad at DCPS, they write, so ‘it’s important for the city to stick with Ms. Rhee and her bold reforms….Rhee has made enemies. Some on the D.C. Council have even talked about wanting to see her leave. These test results are evidence that Ms. Rhee, with the important backing of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), is doing all the things she was asked to do when she was put in charge.’ Also examining NAEP math scores: DCist.
On the ‘stay the course’ tack, see also Jonetta Rose Barras‘ Examiner column. Therein, Rhee tells Barras that forbearance is her watchword: ‘It’s like the school closings. They are going to have to live through it to realize this is not as catastrophic as they think.’ And yet: ‘Hardy parents are determined to keep Pope and their integrated arts curriculum’ and ‘race and class differentiate the Hardy scrimmage’ from other disputes. ‘Rhee won’t back down….[A]chievements announced this week may, once again, give the chancellor the upper hand.’
Costco is coming to town, finally: WaPo’s Craig and WBJ both report that Fort Lincoln developers have a deal with the retail-wholesaler; a letter of intent was signed yetserday after nearly five years of wrangling. Notes WBJ: ‘Fort Lincoln President Michelle Hagans has been looking for major retailers for the 42-acre site, bounded by New York Avenue, South Dakota Avenue and 33rd Place, near the entrance to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, for more than a decade. Hagans said she wants to have Costco—-and Target—-leases anchor a retail hub in a development once called Washington Gateway but which she is renaming The Shops at Dakota Crossing. She said other major retailers, such as Shoppers Food Warehouse, were still interested.’ The deal, which could generate 800 jobs, still needs $20M in city financing, set to come before the council next month. Possible store opening could come as soon as 2011.
NB—-LL claims some credit for breaking the impasse in Costco negotiations. His ‘How to Beat Costco’ guide for local retailers appeared in last week’s WCP shopping issue. Clearly it had them running scared.
Also coming to town, or at least wanting to come to town, is the Remote Area Medical Team—-the group you may have seen on 60 Minutes doing multiday free health-care giveaways. Anyway, Bruce Johnson reports at WUSA-TV, they want to do an event at the D.C. Armory in late January, and the Washington Sports and Convention Authority’s not cutting them much of a break on the Armory rental fee. And health officials, gasp, are asking that they possibly go through the Certificate of Need process, which could take 90 days. Question left unasked: Why do they need to do this in late January? (Oh right, to coincide with health-care bill negotiations!) Looks like this story was the product of some corporate synergizing: ‘RAM has asked WUSA9’s Community Services Office for assistance is bringing their program here and finding sponsors too help defray the costs,’ Johnson notes.
Ballou Senior High School has had to deal with some 40 small fires and false alarms, racking the Ward 8 school with chaos, Bill Turque reports in WaPo. That’s right: 40 calls for emergency services. ‘That’s an average of more than twice a week. Thirteen of the calls have been for smallish fires…mostly in stairwells and trash cans in the girls’ or boys’ bathrooms. A hallway bulletin board was ignited Sept. 9. Two fires broke out within 20 minutes of each other just before dismissal Sept. 29. The rest have been false alarms or other incidents, including calls for medical assistance.’ Officials call that rate ‘way beyond the norm.’ No one has been injured by the fires, but they have ‘disrupted the school day, shortening instructional time at the school, where just 24 percent of sophomores read at proficiency levels.’ Authorities have formed a ‘fire prevention team’ and FEMS has a ‘Juvenile Firesetter’s Intervention Program.’
Amid parks contracts probe, Marion Barry wants to oust DMPED Valerie Santos from her ex-officio post on the D.C. Housing Authority board via emergency legislation, Nikita Stewart reports at D.C. Wire. Also: ‘Last month, Fenty quietly removed Bill Slover Jr. as chairman of the board and replaced him with Larubi May….Slover, however, remains on the board, just not as chairman.’
Street vendor Frank Enten, 78, just wants to sell his political buttons on city sidewalks. He just doesn’t want to follow the city’s licensing and permitting rules, Del Wilber reports in WaPo, and he’s pressing his case in federal court ‘to prevent authorities from arresting him or requiring him to get the license and to sell at a spot chosen by the city.’ Enten and attorney Andrew Tauber argue that ‘the city’s restrictions are unconstitutional….Selling political and historical buttons is a protected form of free speech, they say, no different than hawking newspapers or literature, for which no license or site permit is required in the District.’ Writes an OAG lawyer: ‘He does not have the right to appropriate the use of public property for his own profit while refusing to comply with the very administrative regulations that ensure the safe and orderly conduct of commercial activity.’ Yeah!
WaPo columnist Robert McCartney looks at the D.C. Council/Catholic Charities dispute. He says it boils down to this: ‘[T]he church doesn’t want to miss an opportunity, however small, to oppose homosexuals’ right to wed.’ Furthermore: ‘The archdiocese is trying to cast itself as a victim of secular authorities’ intolerance of religious teachings. But that’s misleading because a deal to satisfy both parties seems within reach.’ McCartney, a Protestant, says the church needs to ‘cut a deal.’ ALSO: He drops a bit of news: ‘The council is open to a concession on one issue, adoptions. It’s reportedly willing to amend the bill to allow Catholic Charities to handle privately funded adoptions even if the church refuses to place children with same-sex couples.’
Ruth Samuelson at Housing Complex covers how hard it’s been to allow tenants to sue their landlords in L&T court. A council bill making such a change earned a rebuke when introduced from Chief Judges Lee Satterfield and Eric Washington, who said in essence, ‘Don’t step on our turf. The judges claimed the adjustment would be expensive (“judicial and non-judicial staff, space, and equipment would be necessary to meet the increased caseload”) and hard to manage (“Without such additional resources, the scheduling of those cases would be delayed”). They also claimed it would be illegal, under the District’s Home Rule Act, which prohibits councilmembers from affecting the court’s operations.’ So Satterfield appointed a committee to ‘develop a consumer friendly, expedited process in the Court’s Civil Division for tenants to seek remedies from landlords for housing code violations.’ But now the committee’s work has mysteriously ceased.
Fascinating tidbit in the Informer: Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, while in town last month to visit with top federal officials, ‘took time to venture into the city to meet its community leaders and talk to a small group of minority media….Pandit, 52, and a longtime resident of New York City, visited the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Northwest, where the DCUSA shopping center sits on one of the city’s busiest corridors, 14th Street….Pandit met with the Robert Moore, president of the Development Corporation for Columbia Heights, as well as members of the board and staff. Others who attended the meeting were District Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Valerie Santos; Sean Madigan, the director of communications for the Deputy Mayor’s Office and D.C. Councilman Jim Graham….Drew Greenwald, the president of Grid Properties and a New Yorker who was the leading developer of DCUSA was at the meeting along with some of Pandit’s D.C. staff. DCUSA was financed largely by Citigroup….”Our meeting was to inform him on what was going on in Columbia Heights,” Moore said. “We talked about Columbia Heights before the 1968 riots, what happened after they took place and the type of activity that is going on now.”‘
Building industry types are seeking changes to the District’s Green Building Act, Tierney Plumb reports for WBJ. One change involves bonding requirements; another involves updating LEED certification standards.
WAMU-FM’s Patrick Madden covers the confirmation hearing for OCTO Director Bryan Sivak, who said ‘he wants to use federal stimulus money to open as many as 70 public computer stations around the city….[R]esidents will be able to use computers with free wi-fi. There will be training programs as well, which, Sivak hopes, will help reduce D.C.’s double-digit unemployment.’ The grant is still pending.
Terror suspects arrested in Pakistan include Howard U. dental student. Examiner writes that Ramy Zamzam ‘was involved with the university’s Muslim student association, according to Samirah Ali, president of the group. “He’s a very nice guy, very cordial, very friendly,” Ali said. “It really caught me off guard.” A younger brother of Zamzam, interviewed at the family’s Alexandria apartment, said Zamzam has a 4.0 grade-point average and is “a good guy.”‘
DDOT changes New York Avenue NE signal timing to benefit pedestrians, jams morning rush traffic. WTOP is incredulous! ‘With the new pattern, the lights turned green for less than 40 seconds, says WTOP Traffic Reporter Stan Thomas, who was on the scene. “It’s a debacle,” Thomas said, describing the change during WTOP’s 6:38 a.m. traffic report. “It’s slow, crawling from the merge where the BWI Parkway and Route 50 merge before the Anacostia River. Traffic backed up on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Md. 202 and other roads that feed into the city. “It’s something I haven’t seen in my 10 years of reporting,” Thomas said. “They shaved time off the green cycle for inbound New York Avenue at Bladensburg Road for the morning rush. That is almost unbelievable. It is a mess.”‘
USA Today covers D.C.’s decision to cut out car safety inspections and looks at national implications: ‘In justifying the cut, the D.C. Council cited a lack of data proving periodic safety inspections save lives. Safety advocates, who’ve worked to expand periodic safety inspections beyond the 19 states that still require them, worry that others will decide to rethink the cost. They acknowledge that the way crashes are reported makes good data hard to come by, but argue that the current economy makes it even more important to check that drivers are maintaining their vehicles.’
Kwame Brown has launched a new Web site. And he’s got a new brand: ‘The We District.’ Says Kwame in release: ‘The We District is the connection between all of the District’s residents – from neighbors to nurses, classmates to co-workers, security guards to salon owners – there are common threads that make us all part of this unique and vibrant city. From one diverse corner of the District to the next, the city is the collective treasure we share and the responsibility we bear….The mission of The We District is to: Educate, Grow, Revitalize, Safeguard and Prosper. We can accomplish these goals by empowering residents to become part of the District’s community – engaging with their neighbors, intensifying schools, supporting local businesses and keeping DC a safe and family friendly city.’ LL has no idea what any of this means. It’s a nice-looking site, though.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), at Newseum event, calls for bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue NW ‘by the time of the next bike summit and called on DDOT director Gabe Klein (seated in the 3rd row) to make sure it happened. Gabe made no promises, but did talk about how we need to stop talking about cycling as outside the mainstream and instead about how sensible it is and how we need to balance the transportation network.’
Rhee on ‘power philanthropy’ at Washington Life mag.
Metro terror-attack detection system to get upgrades.
Metro GM John Catoe to testify on Capitol Hill today.
Want to rent Eastern Market for your wedding? $5,100, please.
Missing Ruby Tuesday’s employee found safe.
WTTG-TV picks up the rats at Reeves story.
Congress Heights on the Rise finally gets a look at ANC 8C office, is not impressed. ‘ANC 8C currently pays $900 a month for this office space at an expense of over $100,000 for the past decade and nearly $58,000 of that the last 5 years, the only significant expense reported. If this is what ANC 8C residents, community leaders and the DC Government think is the best we can do with our tax payer dollars then I suggest they need to raise their expectations ASAP!’
In the next six months, DDOT will plant 3,000 trees.
WaPo reports on Gallery Place salon that offers services to residents of domestic violence shelter.
Zoning office launches super-cool new Web site, complete with ‘an interactive map that provides residents, developers and land-use lawyers with up-to-date zoning information about properties throughout the city,’ WaPo reports.
Pro-gay-marriage rally set for 7 p.m. Monday at Kennedy Rec Center.
WASA to Shepherd Park: You no longer have to boil your water!
Informer covers Jeanette Michael‘s funeral last Saturday. Eric Holder was there; Fenty was not.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment roundtable on ‘Government Contracting Reform in the District of Columbia,’ JAWB 412; Committee of the Whole roundtable on PR18-606 (‘Taft School Disposition Approval Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 120; Committee on Public Works and Transportation hearing on B18-325 (‘Commercial Driver’s License Minimum Age Requirement Amendment Act of 2009’), B18-57 (‘Residential Parking Protection Pilot Act of 2009’), B18-277 (‘Ward 6 Residential Parking Protection Pilot Act of 2009’), and B18-327 (‘Ward 5 Residential Parking Protection Pilot Act of 2009’); JAWB 412; 1 p.m.: joint public oversight roundtable on ‘The Contracting Process related to Parks and Recreation Projects,’ JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-6:45 a.m.: guest, Connecting with the Mayor, WRC-TV; 7:10 a.m.: guest, Fenty on Fox, WTTG-TV; 5:45 p.m.: guest, Washington Post Live, Comcast SportsNet.