Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter
We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.
Morning all. Today the D.C. Council will take its initial vote to permit gay marriages in Washington. WaPo’s Tim Craig notes that ‘[o]ne bit of suspense will be how [Marion Barry] votes on the bill,’ given that ‘council members and gay rights activists note Barry can be unpredictable.’ Also in WaPo, Michelle Boorstein notes the emergence of ‘one of the most visible faces of opposition’ in Catholic Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, ‘a mild-mannered man known for compromise, pragmatism and working behind the scenes.’ Said Wuerl to WaPo: ‘When this legislation was introduced, it was my obligation as a teacher and member of community to say, this is a radical change in the definition of marriage as it’s always been understood by humankind, and we simply would not be able to accept that as compatible with our faith.’ He ‘remained hopeful that a compromise could be worked out,’ but it seems none is yet on offer. Tommy Wells tweeted last night: ‘Talked to Mendo – no amendment for the RCs – he met with them today. Just a tweak 4 ACLU.’ LL will be tweeting throughout the day.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Goodbye to Vinny Schiraldi; Nickles subject of National Law Journal profile; ‘power surge’ may have caused Metro yard crash; Fenty spent Friday in Miami; RIP Jeanette Michael
OTHER LEGISLATIVE BUSINESS—-Michael Neibauer reports at Examiner that Harry Thomas Jr. plans to press his ‘transit safety zone’ proposal through emergency legislation today because ‘people are being preyed upon’ this holiday season—-apparently within 50 feet of bus stops; experts consulted by the Nei-man are skeptical. And Jonathan O’Connell notes at WBJ that the council at last is set to toughen the property surplussing process. ‘In short, the bill would require that the city separate the declaring of property as surplus from the selling or leasing of it; presently Adrian Fenty‘s economic development team lumps the two processes together and submits them to the council after reaching a deal with a developer, so Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos will likely have to begin getting surplus bills through the council ahead of time.’
Farewell to Vinny Schiraldi: The reformist head of Youth Rehabilitation Services is headed to New York City, to head Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s probation department. He starts Jan. 31. LL wraps up his lightning-rod tenure, with attention to his triumphs—-notably, closing Oak Hill—-and his controversies. Nikita Stewart writes in WaPo: ‘Youth advocates praised Schiraldi’s nurturing tendencies and the outlets the agency provided, such as acting in a Shakespeare troupe and providing free lawn service for elderly residents. Leaders in the Fraternal Order of Police questioned whether Schiraldi was too lenient,’ with the money quote from Kris Baumann: ‘D.C. is now safer, and New York is a little less safe.’ Also Jeffrey Anderson in WaTimes; David Schultz at WAMU-FM; NY Observer; NYT, NY1, NY Daily News.
BLOOMBERG STATEMENT—-‘Reducing crime requires tough law enforcement and smart, aggressive policing, but it also means ensuring that those who’ve been arrested and sentenced to probation don’t get into trouble again….I know Vinny will bring the innovative thinking that has produced success at rehabilitation agencies around the country to the Probation Department.’
FENTY STATEMENT—-‘For nearly five years, Vinny Schiraldi has been a tremendous asset to the District, aggressively reforming the city’s juvenile justice system,” Fenty said in a statement. “He’s created and implemented innovative programs that will serve as national best practice models for years to come. Some of the District’s most troubled youths have greatly benefited from his work and commitment during my Administration as well as the previous Williams Administration. I wish Schiraldi much success, and congratulate Mayor Bloomberg on an excellent choice for probation commissioner.’
National Law Journal’s Jordan Weissmann with a lengthy profile of AG Peter Nickles, titled ‘Impatient.’ Sadly, unless you’re a NLJ/Legal Times subscriber, you can’t read it. Here’s the nut graf: ‘By title, Nickles, 71, is the city’s top lawyer and also akin to other state attorneys general. But the former star litigator with Washington-based Covington & Burling is also widely viewed as Mayor Adrian Fenty’s most trusted adviser, and his reach stretches far beyond the realm of law. He counsels the mayor and city agencies on policy. He vets potential personnel. He often serves as the administration’s public spokesman. And among lower-ranking officials, Nickles’ word is said to carry the same weight as Fenty’s. “People know that when Peter calls, he’s speaking for the mayor,” said the general counsel for one city agency, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. According to Nickles’ detractors, there lies the problem. His closeness to Fenty and his quick defense of the mayor’s decisions are sore points. In the District of Columbia Council, the city’s local legislature, some have begun referring to him as Fenty’s very own Dick Cheney.’
ALSO—-‘Nickles meets with some general counsel as often as once a week and monitors any significant legal or policy issues facing the agencies. In the case of agencies under a court order, he gets into the nitty-gritty, down to tracking staffing vacancies and making sure contractors are hired….Even for agencies not facing a consent decree, Nickles is often the mayor’s point person for implementing reforms. He said he is formulating a citywide “reform agenda” to be presented to the mayor. “You know, when I represented companies, I was an adviser to the board, an adviser to the CEO,” he said. “That’s what I feel like I’m doing here.”…Nickles said he wants to see all city agencies out from court orders by the summer of 2010, and he’s frustrated at the resistance he’s received from advocates and the press. “I’ve been involved with controversial litigation all my life,” he said. “And, of course, the press thought I was great then. ‘Sue the District! Bring ’em down! Great stuff.’…Now I can’t get anybody to say, ‘Isn’t it about time that we can get out of these consent decrees?’ “…Not surprisingly, those still bringing these cases don’t necessarily see it his way. “I think he’s lost touch with reality about what’s going on in these agencies,” said Marcia Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights.’
Your second-day stories on the Metro yard collision: Lena Sun reports in WaPo that the NTSB will investigate the Sunday crash, adding it to a docket that already includes the June Red Line disaster. Sun notes that ‘train operators have reported power “surges” that can occur when trains are moving slowly in the rail yards. The surge causes trains to lurch forward.’ Union leader Jackie Jeter also mentions the ‘surge’ explanation to WAMU-FM. Kytja Weir at Examiner reports that the crash ‘has called into question the safety of the transit agency’s oldest rail cars yet again’—-referring, of course, to the 1000-series cars that the NTSB deemed uncrashworthy. Two such cars were totaled and ‘were among the most damaged of the 12 cars — although they had been in the middle of the trains and the train was likely moving slowly.’
How ’bout some good news for Metro: Someone got hit by a train and didn’t die! In fact, it was good, old-fashioned horseplay—-not another jumper. Shortly after 3:30 p.m., two young men were roughhousing on a Red Line platform at Gallery Place, and according to Weir, ‘one apparently pushed the other into the last car of a stopped train,’ then the ‘boy hit the side of the train and fell to the platform.’ That led to 45 minutes of single-tracking and rush-hour delays. Also WTOP.
Wondering why Hizzoner didn’t show at the Abe Pollin funeral? He was out of town, blog Truth About It discovers—-catching some rays in Miami, and catching a Wizards-Heat game, which could qualify as a Pollin tribute, right? ‘And what would Black Friday be without some free advertising for the local DMV economy by Mayor Fenty, a walking billboard for Baltimore-based Under Armour and Fleet Feet, the Columbia Heights running store owned by his parents.’
WaPo newsroom picks up ed board scoop: Charter schools will indeed get police protection, as DCPS schools do, Michael Birnbaum reports. The changes are set to take place next month, and it’s unclear whether MPD will be providing more school resource officers, or whether the DCPS corps will be cannibalized to cover the charters. The principal of Friendship Collegiate Academy, where there has been regular violence outside of the school, ‘said she will be happy once police are in place. “I’m a little skeptical,” Peggy Pendergrass said. “It’s exciting to hear, and I’ll be even more excited when someone actually comes.”‘
Internal dissension within the Washington Teachers’ Union has again been laid bare, this time by activists unhappy with WTU President George Parker‘s legal efforts to reinstate laid-off teachers. Leah Fabel reports in Examiner that abotu 100 gathered to ‘express…disappointment in the union’s “misrepresentation, lack of evidence, and flawed legal strategies which ultimately led to a court ruling that DCPS was not required to reinstate us.”‘ Union VP Nathan Saunders ‘laid into Parker Monday, saying the union’s lawyers put forth too little too late in efforts to convince the judge that the firings were unlawful.’ Parker deemed Saunders’ rhetoric ‘posturing’ ahead of May’s union elections. Also WAMU-FM.
Homeless services to get $7.5M stimulus boost, Darryl Fears reports in WaPo. ‘City housing officials say the money will help 680 to 800 District households. The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds, awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in July, will help some families pay back rent, and others pay past-due utility bills. Homeless families could receive a rent subsidy for up to 18 months….But some struggling families might not qualify’ based on income limitations.
MUST READ—-WaPo’s Del Wilber chronicles the trials of MPD Detective Timothy Palchak and ‘hundreds of police officers and FBI agents who are leading the federal government’s war on child pornography.’ Wilber writes: ‘It isn’t easy work, pretending to be a pedophile….The plight of victims, who live with the knowledge that their abuse endures in cyberspace, has been well documented. But little attention has been focused on the toll such cases take on investigators, who loiter in the Internet’s seediest places and are required to study images that are too graphic to describe in a newspaper. The abuse is so disturbing that investigators rarely talk about it, even with their families….”Those sounds — the crying, the screaming on the videos, are embedded in your brain forever,” said Palchak, 38, who has been investigating child pornography since 2005. “The screams are complete terror. They are bad. But you have to battle through it and listen to it. The eyes, they are just like death. There is just no life in those eyes.”‘
Ruth Samuelson at Housing Complex covers council hearing on bill that might finally allow tenants to sue in landlord-and-tenant court. ‘[T]enants can currently file lawsuits elsewhere in the civil division of superior court. But the process is longer and “is nearly impossible to navigate without an attorney,” stated Julie Becker, a Senior Staff Attorney from the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, during this morning’s hearing.’
MPD will start gathering stats on anti-transgender crimes, Metro Weekly reports. ‘In an exchange with Rick Rosendall, vice president for political affairs for the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, Christopher Dyer, the mayor’s liaison to the LGBT community, said that the MPD will conduct a reevaluation of the 2008 reports. ”I’ve been told that MPD will be reviewing its data to identify those that are based on gender identity. They will be starting with this year’s crimes, and working backwards,” Dyer said in a response to a query from Rosendall, now posted on the GLAA Forum blog.’
Petula Dvorak‘s WaPo column explains the necessity of mandatory paid sick days. LL notes that the District can give itself a pat on the back for having passed a law—-loophole-laden as it might be, it’s something. Thanks, Carol!
WBJ: ‘Commercial groundbreakings in D.C. come to a halt.’ Cushman & Wakefield report says, ‘With the ongoing slowdown in tenant demand and dearth of credit, developers will remain on the sidelines until the economic recovery takes hold….Even if demand resumes with a rebound in the economy in 2010, it will likely require three to five years of net absorption to dwindle the amount of space currently available for lease.’
22-year-old woman reports sexual assault in her Dupont apartment. NC8: ‘Police say the attack happened at 5:30 Monday morning. The woman tells detectives she was sleeping when she woke up and found a man inside her apartment. She says he sexually assaulted her and then escaped. The basement apartment is on N. Street near 21st Street. Police say they aren’t sure how the attacker got in but they believe a door may been left unlocked.’ WTTG-TV scares the bejesus out of everyone.
Robert Wone case update: Lawyers are fighting over whether Judge Frederick Weisberg will remain on the case, or whether Judge Lynn Leibowitz will take over as planned.
Holocaust shooter update: James W. von Brunn still not healthy enough to face judge; next hearing set for Jan. 26.
The accused judge-stalker has a new court-appointed lawyer—-an aspiring judge, Legal Times reports!
Weekly Standard is critical of the lack of ‘religious freedom’ exceptions in the proposed D.C. marriage law: The ‘D.C. same-sex marriage law looks likely to become an instrument of leverage to pry people loose from traditional views on marriage. Churches and clergy would not be forced to conduct same-sex weddings. But in every other respect religious persons and institutions would be pressed to act as if there were nothing special about the lifelong, one-flesh union of the two complementary sexes. Those most vulnerable to such pressure would be persons and institutions financially beholden to the D.C. government.’
Eleanor Holmes Norton leads local congressional reps in recent official spending, Examiner finds: ‘Norton topped the list of spending between July and September at $384,048.’
What will local Episcopals do about gay marriage?
Jeanette Michael, executive director of the D.C. lottery board and a onetime chief of staff to Mayor Marion Barry, died over the weekend. Kwame Brown pays tribute: ‘As a pioneer and leader, she was passionate about many issues, especially education. She will be fondly remembered for her service to the District.’
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: 21st Legislative Meeting, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-5 p.m.: remarks, D.C. football team national championship announcement, Watkins Recreation Center, 420 12th St. SE.