City Paper is not for tourists
Morning all. A bit of free advice from LL to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty: When you’re under heavy criticism for your dictatorial methods, it’s probably not such a good idea to actually dictate your quotes to reporters, as you did in Sunday’s WaPo A1 piece by Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman on the pros and cons of your hard-charging style: ‘As a reporter wrote down his remarks, the mayor slowed and dictated even the punctuation of his comment: “When I am in the community, and people are talking about the issues confronting the city, comma, I rarely hear people say, ‘You are moving too fast,’ comma, in fact, more often than not, people are encouraging me to move faster.”‘ For one thing, Mr. Mayor, your punctuation is bad. That second comma should be a period or perhaps a semicolon. In the future, leave it to the professionals.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Another Metro collision; saying goodbye to Abe; WSJ covers gay marriage in D.C.; city pays for OUC employees’ massages; Karim plans to ignore subpoena; MPD gives up effort to fire cop
MORE FROM WAPO PIECE—-In their lede, Stewart and Schwartzman glean a little more about Hizzoner’s thinking in the infamous baseball-ticket dispute: ‘The mayor’s friends and advisers pleaded with him to bend. His refusal, they worried, made him look petty and threatened to undermine his relations with the District’s political establishment….When he relinquished the tickets in May, the mayor had made his point, telling confidants that he would cede nothing to his opponents, even on the most trivial of matters.’ In terms of disaffected supporters, only Adams Morgan ANC Bryan Weaver and Ward 3 Dems chair Tom Smith go on the record; campaign chair Jim Hudson, rumored to be frustrated with Fenty’s foibles, says: ‘Fenty is not warm and fuzzy….So?’ And here is perhaps the most newsworthy nugget of the piece: ‘When the director of the Human Services Department urged Fenty not to close downtown’s Franklin School shelter, the mayor, eager to press forward with his ambitious plan to put the city’s homeless in permanent housing, told Clarence H. Carter, “If you’re telling me you can’t do it, I’ll find a director who can,” according to witnesses. The mayor got his way, on his timetable.’
FENTY’S RESPONSE TO CRITICISM—-‘”I take it very seriously, I respect everyone’s opinion. We’ve made a lot of tough decisions. That’s part of being mayor of a big city.” He said complaints that his administration lacks transparency are “generalizations.”‘
More Metro bad news: Yard collision early on Sunday in West Falls Church injures three workers and totals three rail cars, causing $9M in damage. From WaPo: ‘The incident occurred at 4:27 a.m., when Train 902 was headed back to the rail yard for cleaning, [WMATA spox Lisa Farbstein] said. If all had gone according to plan, she said, the six-car train would have stopped directly behind another six-car train that was being cleaned by two Metro employees, a man and woman….But Train 902 instead crash[ed] into the back of the parked train. The impact injured the two cleaners, who were in the rear car of the parked train, and the operator of Train 902, who was in the front of that train, Farbstein said. It also damaged every car on the two trains involved.’ The trains had 1000-series cars ‘bellied’ inside them; it’s yet unknown whether that contributed to the crash. Also Examiner, AP, WMATA release.
Abe Pollin‘s Friday sendoff: Ashley Halsey recounts the remembrances in WaPo: ‘On Friday, amid the sadness, close friends and family members said Pollin…was far more than a popular basketball team owner who made a fortune in real estate….At parties, he dumped cocktails into potted plants when he realized he couldn’t keep pace with the drinkers. He had a passion for fresh vegetables, hunting produce stands on the back roads to Rehoboth, Del., for the perfect vine-ripened tomato. As a boy, he took along a salt shaker and ate those tomatoes on the spot. He loved root beer. He loved Sinatra for his voice and because you could hear every word. He cried when he listened to Tchaikovsky—-every time. He tackled a five-star meal and a good Popsicle with the same joy. He was a table tennis champion in his youth and a sports fanatic for life.’ Also WaTimes, WRC-TV, WTTG-TV. NC8 notes that Vincent Gray was there, but Fenty was not.
The city faces a 400-case backlog in investigating complaints of abuse, neglect, and fraud among providers of services to the developmentally disabled, Henri Cauvin reports in WaPo. The analysis comes from a report done by the Quality Trust for Individuals With Disabilities, whose director calls the trend ‘incredibly disturbing.’ The group’s report ‘notes progress in aspects of DDS’s performance,’ but ‘the backlog is a big concern and not the only one….The increasing number of emergency room visits by people receiving DDS services is troubling, the trust said, and could be a sign of inadequate routine health care.’ Not the sort of thing a federal judge set to decide whether court oversight of these things should continue will want to hear about.
Examiner’s Michael Neibauer finds a gem among city purchase card receipts: Some 40 Office of Unified Communications employees got city-funded massages as part of a ‘Employee Appreciation and Wellness Program.’ Says Fenty spox: ‘While the intent of the wellness activities was well intended, some were not an appropriate use of funds and will not ever be included in future activities.’ Some other notable transactions: $111,036 to the Capitol Skyline Hotel to house slum residents; $2,420 from OCTO to zzounds.com, ‘an online musical instrument retailer’; and $56 from MPD to the Palm in Denver.
ALSO FROM NEIBAUER—-Efforts by the city to designate ‘blighted’ properties for super-high property tax rate is running into roadblocks. ‘[A] limited timeline and confusion over what constitutes “blight” could mean few properties are captured by the highest tax. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs must submit a list of all properties that meet the conditions to the Office of Tax and Revenue by mid-January, so that tax bills can go out on time.’
Jonetta Rose Barras watched Tuesday’s council hearing on the lottery contract, and she smells fish in the air: ‘Testimony…raised serious questions about the fairness of the competition, including the ratings the bidders received and the price negotiations….[T]he CFO released a request for proposal that didn’t include a requirement for local, small business partners, although that’s a mandate in most District contracts. The difference in ratings between bidders on the technical section was so wide, everyone is suspicious—-except the CFO’s contract officer. Points for being located in a disadvantaged or empowerment zone of the city were not given to one of the bidders. And, Intralot, the company the CFO selected, didn’t provide the lowest bid.’ The council is set to vote on the contract tomorrow.
Wall Street Journal does D.C. gay marriage story: ‘The District of Columbia Council is expected to vote next week to legalize same-sex marriage in the nation’s capital. While Congress could use its power to overturn the law, local and national factors appeared to be aligned against any effort to do so….Many advocates in Washington on both sides of the debate say they don’t expect Congress to take action—-nor would even opponents of gay marriage want it to, given the contentious history between the city and Capitol Hill. “The citizens of the District of Columbia do not need the Hill to meddle in our affairs,” said the Rev. Patrick J. Walker, who leads New Macedonia Baptist Church and opposes gay marriage. “I’d rather see this in court than on the Hill.”‘
And, yes, the first vote is tomorrow. Michelle Boorstein reports at WaPo that leaders of the Catholic archdiocese and councilmembers are to set to have a last-ditch meeting today to broker a compromise. Says Archbishop Donald Wuerl: ‘We’d have to look very carefully at what they would oblige us to recognize.’ Trinity College prez, Heritage Foundation fellow, Nixon figure urge stronger religious exemption.
Saturday WaPo editorial warns that the city needs to step up to make sure the homeless are properly tended to this winter: ‘[I]t’s reassuring that city officials scrambled to come up with the money to fully fund the city’s hypothermia plan. It’s worrisome, though, that no one seems to know what will happen after April, and the confusion is causing problems for the nonprofit groups that help provide vital services to these vulnerable people….Administration officials said they believe the city is eligible for as much as $46 million in TANF emergency contingency funds that could be used to preserve services for the homeless. The city is applying for those funds and looking to see whether there is money to be saved in operational efficiencies. Both are welcome steps, but the administration also needs to give providers a clearer picture of how much money they can expect and when it will be available.’
Is there anyone is this town who thinks a D.C. Council subpoena is worth a damn? Omar Karim, he of Banneker Ventures, the firm that most greatly benefited from the Fenty administration move to send tens of millions in parks contracting to the D.C. Housing Authority, has informed the council that he will not be testifying at upcoming council hearing, Stewart reports at D.C. Wire. His attorney, A. Scott Bolden (who else?), in a letter cited scheduling conflicts and ‘fundamental issues’ with the subpoenas.
Chinatown development project goes bust, Melissa Castro reports in WBJ. ‘Paying $12.5 million for the last available corner in the heart of Chinatown seemed like a no-brainer, and [Yeni Wong] buzzed with excitement at the prospects for what she had dubbed “Gallery Row.” Gallery Row became Gallery Tower, which ultimately became Gallery Square. Today, Gallery Square is still boarded up and empty, and the entity that owns it, Wong’s Gallery Tower LLC, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. No amount of financial alchemy could save Gallery Square from the unforgiving capital markets.’ Wong’s lawyer ‘called the bankruptcy filing a “first step in its strategic plan to move forward with the renovation and rehabilitation” of the property.’
ALSO IN WBJ—-Jonathan O’Connell reports that ‘developers with holdings along the routes pegged for streetcar lines traveled with city officials to Portland, Ore., in early November to meet managers of the Portland system, car manufacturers and property owners who help finance the line.’ They included Wilkes Co.’s Sandy Wilkes, EastBanc’s Joe Sternlieb, and Forest City’s Deborah Ratner Salzburg. Why? ‘D.C. officials are already beginning to make the case that the system ought to have private sector partnership both in management and financing.’
Detective Kevin McConnell will return to the Metropolitan Police, reinstated after a federal civil jury refused to find him liable for the 2008 self-defense killing of Jason Taft outside a Skyland carryout. Harry Jaffe, who had long been pounding the drum for McConnell, is ecstatic: ‘Last week, after McConnell won in federal court, Police Chief Cathy Lanier asked to see him. They met in her office, according to his lawyer. The detective told his story. A day later, he was off the hook.’ Over the weekend, WaPo’s Del Wilber also looked at the case, ‘how different sides—-the government, Taft’s relatives and a civil jury—-have judged McConnell’s actions that August night,’ and notes why the case was a sight more controversial than Jaffe’s pieces would have you believe: ‘Internal affairs investigators wrote in a report, which jurors never saw under a judge’s ruling, that McConnell should have waited for backup before entering the carryout. He also was not carrying pepper spray, which is a control agent police can use before resorting to a gun, as required under department rules. Still, the investigators found, McConnell “had a legitimate concern for his life” when he fired the first shot. But the next two were not justified, the investigators wrote, because “they were only fired during a perceived attack.”‘ (Wilber updated Sunday with news of the MPD’s decision.)
And Theola Labbé-DeBose writes in WaPo about the rehab efforts of motorcycle cop Richard Carter, seriously injured in March when his bike, leading a motorcade, struck a car on Rock Creek Parkway. ‘He spent about a week in the hospital recovering from the surgery that pieced his body back together. Then Carter went home, where his real recovery began. Others have marveled at his work ethic and all that he has come through. And now he’s about to do what no one thought he could. He’ll be back to work next month….By D.C. police policy, Carter shouldn’t necessarily be about to return to work. The policy says injured officers who are unable to work for 172 days may be recommended for disability retirement, unless they get an extension on their leave….Carter has been off the job since his injury in March, but he said he has not been pushed out: “They served me with a notice saying that I reached that time period . . . but they haven’t said they’re trying to get rid of me or retire me or anything like that.”‘
Metro ridership is still below projections, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner, leading to ever-increasing budget shortfalls. ‘Last month, the transit agency said it expected to have a shortfall of $22.4 million for the entire fiscal year because ridership was falling below expectations since the June 22 train crash. But the agency is already $22.6 million short just four months into the budget year, according to a Metro report to be presented this week.’
ALSO—-Weir also reports that about 30 MetroAccess drivers fired for using their cell phones on the job have been rehired ‘as part of a compromise in union negotiations.’
Examiner: ‘The District issued 14,371 more parking tickets in October than it did in September, according to city data. And the city wrote more than 36,000 more tickets in fiscal 2009 than the previous year, thanks partly to 30 new meter readers and to new cameras on street sweepers that take pictures of illegally parked cars.’
WaPo’s Nick Anderson covers contradictory studies done on charter school effectiveness: ‘How are these independent public schools doing? The safest and perhaps most accurate reply—-it depends—-leaves many unsatisfied….”The people who said this was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread were wrong,” said Robert Maranto, a University of Arkansas professor of education reform, who counts himself in that group. “The people who said it would be a calamity were equally wrong.”‘
WaPo columnist Jay Mathews says he ‘spent too much time covering political and ideological battles. Exhibit A is, of course, the controversy over Michelle A. Rhee‘s tenure as D.C. schools chancellor, particularly the firing of hundreds of teachers. My colleague Bill Turque has done a terrific job following that story, but I could not resist butting in….The distractions hurt everybody in the short run, something worth noting, but in the long run, such disputes rarely yield policies that raise achievement.’
CSX train strikes car, pushes it into the Anacostia near Sousa Bridge early on Saturday. The car’s driver was not hurt. Then it happened again, less than 24 hours later. This time, two people sustained injuries.
Would-be thief chased from West End street into Rock Creek on Friday. Reports WaPo: ‘Amid the blare of horns and sirens, law enforcement and rescue personnel converged on the scene, near the Potomac River, and tried to coax the man back to land, a witness said. Eventually, an officer from the D.C. police harbor unit, in a protective dry suit, went in and brought the suspect out, authorities said.’
Leads are scarce in the Nori Amaya murder.
Capitol Hill bank robbery!
WAMU-FM’s David Schultz looks at the controversy over the avant-garde proposal for the Washington Highlands Library.
Examiner covers District’s ‘temporary urbanism’ efforts.
Dupont Metro escalators should be back in business this week!
Is Scott Montgomery ES going to close?
Another bloody voucher piece.
Wall Street Journal: ‘Nats Try to Give Away Their Season Tickets’
Obamas at GW hoops game.
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Some events, courtesy of WaPo: ‘The Whitman-Walker Clinic will hold a candlelight vigil at 5:30 p.m. at Dupont Circle. The Metro D.C. LGBT Community Center will host several events, ending with an “Our Heroes” exhibit of 150 black-and-white photographs of people who have influenced the struggle against HIV/AIDS. And World AIDS Day at the World Bank will feature a panel of speakers, including the bank’s president, Robert Zoellick, and the executive director of the Global Fund to fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria.’
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: press briefing for the 21st Legislative Meeting, JAWB 412; 11 a.m.: Committee on Housing and Workforce Development hearing on B18-104 (‘Tenant Access to Justice Reform Act of 2009’) and B18-179 (‘Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Preservation Clarification Act of 2009’), JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing announcement, Department of Housing and Community Development, 1800 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE; 2:30 p.m.: attendee, Obama administration discussion on HIV/AIDS, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, South Court Auditorium, 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.