City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“Sullivan to Nickles: ‘You’re Playing Games With The Wrong Judge’“; “Ximena Hartsock Headed to Youth Trust?“; “Pershing Park Case: Patterson Hopes District Has Learned Its Lesson“; tweets galore!
Greetings all. A congressional report connects Michelle Rhee to unsavory personal accusations involving her now-fiance, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. KJ has been accused of sexual misconduct with young women, and Examiner columnist Byron York writes that Rhee, while serving on the board of Johnson’s St. Hope nonprofit, ‘learned of the allegations and played the role of a fixer, doing “damage control”‘ for Johnson. A former St. Hope employee says ‘that Rhee told her that “she was making this her number one priority, and she would take care of the situation.” A short time later, the employee learned that the girl who had complained about Johnson had received a visit from Johnson’s personal attorney.’ Allegations against Johnson and St. Hope were first leveled by AmeriCorps’ inspector general, who referred the matter to federal prosecutors in California. The L.A. Times reports that Rhee had ‘several conversations’ with the IG ‘in which she made the case for Johnson and the school he ran in Sacramento…[saying] he was “a good guy.”‘ As part of a settlement with St. Hope, the sexual misconduct allegations were not addressed, and the IG was fired by the Obama administration in June. The LAT story notes that Rhee’s ‘role in the incident may have repercussions among city officials in Washington, where she has developed the profile of a contentious and controversial schools chief.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-WaPo ed board calls for probe of Gray allegations; ex-official’s name appears in court docs filed in taxi bribery case; Fenty’s swim habits spark Wilson pool controversy; council, Catholics explore compromise; DISB changes birth-control policy for insurers; Fenty airplane pitch leads to possible move for Bethesda company; report says UDC should spin off community college
The WaPo editorial board digs into Vincent Gray‘s recent bad press, saying that an ‘independent look’ into allegations of improper fundraising and questionable home repairs ‘would serve the interests of both Mr. Gray and the city.’ With regard to his home, ‘questions remain,’ they write. ‘Was it appropriate for a company that gets millions of dollars in D.C. government business to get involved in a project of this nature? Was there any connection between Mr. Gray’s payment and the inquiries by’ a WaTimes reporter? ‘Mr. Gray suggested that politics…is what’s at play. He would do better to clear up any questions by insisting that the city’s inspector general, or some other independent body, review the transaction. Likewise, the revelations about Comcast—-which Mr. Gray acknowledged should have been handled differently—-make it increasingly clear that either the Office of the Attorney General or the Office of Campaign Finance needs to get to the bottom of how the D.C. Democratic State Party handled its funds and fundraising last year.’
INCIDENTALLY—-Peter Nickles says he sees nothing untoward about Gray’s home renovations, done by a subsidiary of William C. Smith & Co., the megadeveloper: ‘There’s no indication of quid pro quo, except innuendo….It’s just a bunch of isolated facts put together.’
At long last, the name of former Taxicab Commission chair Causton Toney surfaces in court documents, Del Wilber reports in WaPo, as part of an affidavit filed in support of a warrant to search his house. According to prosecutors’ allegations, Toney ‘participated in a long-running bribery scheme that sought his influence to obtain lucrative taxi licenses,’ though he has not yet been charged and his lawyer denies any wrongdoing. The FBI has phone calls where Toney appears to have knowledge of and participate in the scheme whereby cab company owner Yitbarek Syume attempted to bribe current DCTC chair Leon Swain to obtain company licenses ahead of an anticipated moratorium. At one point, Swain asks Toney where his bribe money is. Replies Toney: ‘Okay…I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t even know that was going on at all….I’ll just tell him to get his act together.’ Toney’s name had earlier appeared on FBI audiotapes played in court.
ALSO—-More on Ted Loza‘s alleged misdealings: Warrants indicate he was pulled into the investigation through ‘intercepted conversations’ with Abdulaziz Kamus, whom he is alleged to have taken bribes from. ‘In a November 2007 phone call, Loza asked Kamus whether he could “raise a little money for us to go on this trip” to El Salvador. The next day, Kamus handed Loza $500 for the trip, the FBI alleged. By the next year, the FBI said, Kamus had arranged for Loza to accept about $3,500 for a trip to Ethiopia from an undercover FBI agent posing as a taxi investor, the court papers say….In the court papers, an agent wrote that a District-based advertising firm, Prisma Communications, paid for Graham to fly to El Salvador last year. Graham said that he knew a company had financed the trip but that it had no business with the city. He has denied any wrongdoing. “I am not a target of this investigation,” he said Thursday.’
Another exercise-related controversy for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty: Per the reporting of WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood, users of the spanking-new Wilson Aquatic Center (particularly Wilson HS swim team parents) are ‘grousing that the pool too often is not configured for the team’s 25-meter practices and contests. Instead, there are only eight lanes that each are 50 meters. The parents say that the longer lanes were there because Mayor Adrian Fenty—-a triathlete—-wanted the long lanes for his training and those of other triathletes.’ Fenty ‘didn’t directly answer whether he wanted the long lanes [but] said the pool is big enough for compromise so all swimmers can be accommodated during any week.’ DPR is coming up with a new lane schedule.
Speaking of the Democratic State Committee and handling of its funds, D.C. Wire airs more evidence of the internal dissension that’s plagued the party organ for months. Jeff Richardson, Stein Club president and DCDSC member, sent an e-mail yesterday to Lenwood Johnson and Philip Pannell asking them to cool their ongoing requests for federal investigations into DCDSC finances. He wrote: ‘In light of today’s press in the Post and the CityPaper and given the direction this investigation is going with the intense response by the D.C. Republican Party, I am personally requesting that you both consider delaying your action to allow DCDSC members to hear your specific concerns with the hopes of outlining a plan of action to address your specific concerns without further public embarrassment to the D.C. Democratic Party and D.C. Democrats.’ Johnson said he already sent a letter to the U.S. attorney; Pannell sent the e-mail to the press.
Petula Dvorak writes in her WaPo column that while the retail opportunities may have changed, some things in Columbia Heights have stayed the same. Such as the violence that recently claimed 9-year-old Oscar Fuentes. ‘The kids standing around with tattoo girl rolled their eyes and laughed at me when I asked whether they were surprised by the shooting and whether it’s made them more frightened to be out. “Where are you gonna hide? Kid got shot in his place. With his family right there,” a teenage boy with peach fuzz on his chin said….They are pretty blind to the optimism that a billion-dollar commercial development along this stretch brought to adults.’ WUSA-TV explores similar themes.
ALSO—-‘On Thursday, as Oscar’s family was preparing his funeral arrangements and kids stayed away from the playground, the Prince of Petworth blog posted a reader’s complaints about the neighborhood….”I ordered latté and it was a disaster….”‘
Has a new spirit of compromise come to city legislators and local Catholic leaders? Tim Craig reports in WaPo that councilmembers and Eleanor Holmes Norton are ‘reaching out to the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington to see whether they can find a compromise so the Church will not end its social services contracts.’ Church leaders have met with Vincent Gray, and Norton has spoken with Archbishop Donald Wuerl. One possible compromise broached by the council is to extend health benefits to another member of an employee’s household without specifying ‘spouse’ or other such language; similiar arrangements are used by Georgetown University and in San Francisco. ADW spox Susan Gibbs says ‘archdiocese officials were happy that city leaders were “finally responding,” but she said she was not sure the proposal alleviates the Church’s concerns.’
WBJ’s Jonathan O’Connell identifies the business that the Fenty administration wants to hand a major tax break: It’s CoStar, ‘a global leader in commercial real estate data.’ The deal went down this way, according to its CEO: ‘Fenty, sitting next to him on a flight back from a shopping center convention in Las Vegas last May, gave Florance a sterling pitch to move the company’s offices from Bethesda. When Florance brought up the difference in taxes, the mayor said, “We could try to solve that problem for you.” Fenty kept his word. In October, he proposed a tax abatement for CoStar worth an estimated $7 million over a 10-year period, provided the company sign a five-year lease in D.C. and maintain at least 250 employees there.’ A complication is that the CoStar tax abatement is intertwined with a Urban Institute tax deal that’s now on hold.
In another WBJ report, O’Connell looks at the $5M TIF deal that brought a West Elm furniture store to the Woodies building in 2007. The revenues from that deal are reportedly not meeting expectations. ‘Many retailers, particularly those linked to home sales, have not fared well in the housing bust and long recession, which could be hurting the 37,500-square-foot store.’ In the big picture, things are fine, CFO says: ‘In fiscal 2008, the city took in $30.2 million from TIF-related sales and property tax revenue and is required to spend only about $9.7 million meeting the associated obligations.’
New report urges UDC’s new community college to go it alone in order to ‘be embraced as “credible and legitimate” by a business community that has lost faith in UDC,’ Daniel de Vise reports in WaPo. The report, commissioned by D.C. Appleseed and the Brookings Institution, essentially argues that the community college should ‘focus on remediation, needed by more than 70 percent of students who entered the old UDC’ so that the ‘university, largely pruned of remedial students, can focus on raising the graduation rate.’ UDC leaders aren’t buying that total separation is necessary: ‘What’s more important, they said, is to produce results that will win over skeptics.’ They ‘endorse a separate administration for the community college, but not necessarily an independent board.’
Faced with uproar, Metro decides to delay SmartBenefits changes for a year. ‘The revisions were supposed to take effect Jan. 1. But Metro officials said Thursday that after hearing from commuters and employers, who also complained that the proposed changes were confusing and announced too late, they decided to push back implementation to give employers more time to figure out how they will administer the plan,’ Lena Sun writes in WaPo. ‘Metro officials said Thursday that the one-year delay might allow them to speed up the timetable for other SmarTrip improvements that have been repeatedly postponed.’ Also Examiner.
ALSO—-Metro opens its arm to Tri-State Oversight Board’s track inspectors, WaPo reports, requiring ‘all agency employees Thursday to cooperate fully with the transit system’s safety oversight body and executives to notify the board before denying a request from the group.’ The board also ‘called on the localities that fund Metro to provide more resources for the Tri-State Oversight Committee and urged the federal government to institute “robust” safety regulation and oversight of transit.’ Also Examiner, WTOP.
Harry Jaffe is glad to report that a federal jury has ‘absolved’ MPD Detective Kevin McConnell ‘of violating the rights of a man he shot in self-defense, in the line of duty’ as part of a civil case concerning a 2007 scuffle outside a Skyland carryout. ‘The question is, will the victory in federal court persuade D.C.’s police department to stop trying to kick him off the force?…McConnell was scheduled to come before the MPD’s Trial Board this week to defend himself against termination. The federal case forced a postponement. McConnell deserves a medal, not a slap-down. “Maybe,” he says, “somebody will do the right thing.” Somebody, like Chief Cathy Lanier.’ (Incidentally: Jaffe, in his story, refers to the good detective as ‘Mike McConnell’ even after he properly called him Kevin McConnell in a June story.)
Arrest made in the cold-blooded killing of Petworth shopkeeper Rufina Hernandez. Police yesterday afternoon apprehended Andres Lopez, 45, near Fourth and Kennedy Streets NW. WaPo reports that Police Chief Cathy Lanier ‘said Lopez had been arrested previously in the area near the store. She declined to say whether Lopez was the suspected shooter or whether the gun used in the slaying was found. The search for a second suspect continues, and Lanier sought further help from neighborhood residents.’ Also NC8, WRC-TV, WTTG-TV.
Blogger reports that Insurance Commissioner Gennet Purcell has ruled that coverage of birth control by health insurers is no longer mandatory. ‘Under Purcell’s watch, private insurance companies operating in Washington DC are now allowed to opt out of covering contraception in individual plans. This coverage is considered “non-mandatory” by the insurance commissioner and some women are finding their birth control coverage suddenly dropped.’ An online petition has been started.
HERE WE GO AGAIN?—-Jonetta Rose Barras reports in her online column that Jack Evans is pledging to reintroduce civil gang injunction legislation after the Fuentes murder. ‘”I intend to introduce it as stand alone legislation,” Evans said, adding that he also is working with the Office of the U.S. Attorney on another bill. He declined to provide details, however. Evans said the spate of murders in the city demand the council take strong and immediate action.’
Bill Turque with a D.C. Wire post on the cognitive dissonance between Rhee’s recent comments to a WSJ panel (‘collaboration and consensus building are quite frankly overrated in my mind’) and her inclusion in a Tom Brokaw-hosted ‘Characters Unite National Town Hall’—-‘a national town hall to search for common ground on complex social issues.’ Turque adds: ‘To be completely fair, her point is that too much collaboration and consensus building can lead to paralysis when trying to transform troubled institutions such as DCPS.’
Also from Turque: Watkins Security, which was kicked out of D.C. schools ‘after an inspector general’s report found that it was overpriced, underqualified, ineffective and employed some guards with criminal records,’ is back at DCPS schools as a subcontractor for U.S. Security Associates, one of the firms hired to take over from Hawk One. Says Watkins exec: ‘I don’t want to get into opening old wounds….I don’t need any adverse publicity. I want to go about my business.’
More unconfirmed rumblings from Candi Peterson that DCPS continues to hire teachers. She writes: ‘I have received emails confirming sightings of new ‘teacher hires’ beginning the second week of November, only a month after the notices of layoffs were given to 388 DC teachers and school staff.’
WaPo’s Ian Shapira examines the burdens of being a liberal trust-funder in this town, including a look at some who gather for ‘a kind of group therapy session about their families’ wealth….They are young people who have inherited or stand to inherit big money, and they are spending their post-college years living modestly and working to address the needs of the poor, hungry and politically disadvantaged. But the privilege they grew up with and the money coming their way nag at them in ways few people not in their position can fathom.’
THE BLADE REBORN—-The D.C. Agenda, successor publication to the Washington Blade, is now live on the Web. Writes editor Kevin Naff: ‘The former staff of the Washington Blade remains united and DC Agenda represents our effort at continuing the important mission and work of the Blade. It will grow and evolve to include a much larger and more diverse group of voices. But the core of the Washington Blade’s work remains unchanged. We will cover Congress, the White House, the LGBT rights movement, the D.C. marriage fight, local hate crimes and other political issues important to the LGBT residents of the city.’
WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza covers city’s cuts to child-care subsidies for low-income D.C. parents. ‘Fahim Shabazz says he has a four and five year old who attend St. Philip’s Child Care Center in South East D.C. He says his costs jumped from less than 10 dollars a week to more than 110 dollars for each child. And Shabazz says he doesn’t know what to do. “Should the day care bills be paid or should the house bills be paid?”‘ Also NC8.
Mother says her 9-year-old quadriplegic daughter was stabbed on DCPS school bus en route to St. Coletta’s School, NC8 reports. ‘Her mother says the bus driver called her and told her what happened. “She said the little girl that cut Nadja is 17 years old and they attend the same school,” said Rowe.’ St. Coletta’s says she cut herself; she remains hospitalized.
The new clerk for the District’s federal court will be Angela Caesar. WaPo’s Del Wilber reports that she ‘will oversee a staff of 84 and an annual budget of about $10 million. She has worked in the office for 19 years and was deputy for administration before being given the top job.’ ALSO IN WAPO BRIEFS—-Saturday is adoption day for dozens of city foster children.
Want to know more about Georgetown U.’s 10-year campus plan? The Voice can help.
WaPo letter writer has kudos for city health officials for the H1N1 clinics. ‘I want to commend the D.C. Department of Health for the planning, organization and human resources that went into this successful effort….Though most doctors and pharmacies in Washington have yet to receive their allotments of the H1N1 vaccine, I am pleased to say that the Health Department clinic offered a painless option for those who wish to be vaccinated now.’ WUSA-TV reports that the clinics, now at rec centers rather than schools, are still quite crowded.
Urn filled with veteran’s ashes still not found.
D.C.’s office vacancy rates likely to hit 15 percent before stabilizing, says Jones Lang LaSalle. ‘Expected boosts in the federal budget will continue to cushion the D.C. office market and shift absorption back into positive territory in 2010. But the continued delivery of speculative construction projects in the area is expected to force vacancy rates further upward and keep leverage squarely with tenants, said JLL.’
D.C. Health Care Finance Agency cuts staff, WBJ reports: ‘During the realignment, which took place Aug. 31, 79 separation letters were issued and 62 new positions were posted online for which its employees could apply. Of those 79, 47 were hired into new positions, seven retired, nine did not apply for any positions, and 16 applied and were not hired back, according to the department….”As the Department completed its transformation to a cabinet level agency, it was imperative for our organizational structure to mirror our mission,” the department said in a statement.’
14th & R condo deal moves ahead.
To reduce backlog, D.C. Court of Appeals tries shortening oral arguments from 30 minutes a side to 15 minutes a side. ALSO in Legal Times: Lobbyist accuses NYT reporter Ian Urbina of conflict because his father is federal judge Ricardo Urbina, who ruled on case involving lobbyist’s client.
WRC-TV covers Ray’s the Steaks move to Ward 7 as part of Donatelli development at Minnesota and Benning. And organic market headed east of the river, to Pennsylvania Avenue development. ALSO: Attention Kelo activists: ‘Mayor Adrian Fenty has proposed legislation that would allow the use of eminent domain to acquire property on the 2200-2500 blocks of Pennsylvania Ave. and the 2200-2400 blocks of Minnesota Ave. According to the legislation, on which the D.C. Council had a hearing today, eminent domain is needed because vacant buildings there are “obsolete, dilapidated, and deteriorated to the point of being nuisances to the community” and they “must be redeveloped in order to improve the safety and quality of life in the area and to attract businesses that are desired by nearby residents.”‘
Superior Court Judge William Jackson, who presides over the family division, gets 3-Minute Interviewed by Examiner.
‘Spotlight On: Michelle Fenty‘
Read Alice Rivlin‘s testimony in support of District budget autonomy.
WTOP’s Mark Segraves tags along on Coast Guard training mission.
Tommy Wells and residents ponder how to make ballpark area livable-walkable. Also: Ward 6 to get ‘new bike racks, wayfinding signs, large map kiosks at Metro stations, a heritage trail connecting Barracks Row and the ballpark neighborhood.’
Cyber-bullying at charter school!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on ‘Hate Crimes in the District of Columbia and Police Response to Reports of Hate Crimes,’ JAWB 500; 11:30 a.m.: Committee of the Whole roundtable on ‘Implementation of an Independent Community College in the District of Columbia,’ JAWB 412; 1:30 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs roundtable on PR18-579 (‘People’s Counsel Vicky Beasley Confirmation Resolution of 2009′), JAWB 120; 2 p.m.: Committee on Health roundtable on ‘The Performance of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration,’ JAWB 123.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:45 a.m.: remarks, Eastern SHS modernization groundbreaking, 1700 East Capitol St. NE.