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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“The Vincent Gray Home Improvement Invoices“; “Vincent Gray Calls Misconduct Allegations ‘Clearly Political’“; “Affidavit: Ramsey Ordered Pershing Park Arrests“; “Jim Graham’s New Logo Embraces Sartorial Trademark“; tweets galore!
IN LL WEEKLY—-All Bets Are Off: The lottery contract saga goes on. Also: Fired DPR employees claim the stats were juked to force layoff.
Greetings all. LL realizes the drip-drip-drip of recent news related to the 2002 Pershing Park arrests must be making his readers’ eyes glaze over at this point, but a rather momentous allegation surfaced yesterday in federal court: A D.C. cop has said in a sworn statement that he heard then Police Chief Charles Ramsey order the illegal arrests, saying, ‘We’re going to lock them up and teach them a lesson.’ WCP’s Jason Cherkis notes that Ramsey ‘repeatedly stated in depositions that he had not ordered the mass arrest of approximately 400 people during the Sept. 27, 2002, World Bank/IMF protests.’ The cop, Detective Paul Hustler, ‘states in his affidavit that officers were ordered to funnel people into the park’ and that he ‘was standing near Ramsey and various police officials at the time’ that the order was given. As troubling here is the cover-up: The city has sought to bar Hustler from giving a deposition; federal Judge Emmet Sullivan has ordered it to go forward, with U.S. Marshals or a magistrate judge in the room to make sure city lawyers don’t unduly interfere. Also Jordan Weissmann at Legal Times and Del Wilber in WaPo, Scott McCabe in Examiner, and AP. Ramsey’s lawyer, Mark Tuohey, says ‘Hustler’s comments might not be accurate and prove only that the detective overheard a conversation.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-Vince Gray starts answering questions about home renos, DNC fundraising; Chaffetz asks city honchos about feuding; Fenty tries to sneak in People’s Counsel nominee; Examiner editorial board not Fenty fans; Rhee gets WSJ ink; JBG lawsuit persists
Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray spent yesterday playing defense after a pair of newspaper stories raised questions about his ethical judgment. Gray addressed the allegations on NewsChannel 8, answering host Bruce DePuyt‘s questions defensively but frankly; LL summarized his remarks. WJLA-TV, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, and WTTG-TV all picked up the reports. And now, the second-day stories: Jeffrey Anderson follows up on his WaTimes scoop with more on how the work done on Gray’s house was ‘outside the normal scope of practice’ for William C. Smith & Co.’s construction subsidiary. A company spokesperson ‘was unable to point to any other examples of construction management jobs for single-family homeowners that involved minor repairs’ and declined to confirm, as Gray claimed, that the small repairs were incidental to a larger renovation. And WaPo joins the story, with a report from Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig saying that the deal ‘raised questions about whether Gray had used his influence to get the repairs from a developer that usually does not perform work on single-family residences’ though the WCS spokesperson said her company ‘has performed work on other private residences.’ The WaPo article also briefly explores the political ramifications, noting that ‘[i]n recent weeks, Gray supporters have said he could fashion a campaign around questions about Fenty’s ethical standards.’ Also see Jonathan O’Connell‘s WBJ reporting on the matter; LL has posted the invoices for the work. Meanwhile, in today’s Examiner, Michael Neibauer looks at the Democratic National Convention fundraising letter Gray sent to Comcast on council letterhead. In his NewsTalk appearance, Gray admitted that using the official stationery was a bad idea.
City leaders appeared yesterday morning before a House subcommittee in order to stump for legislative and budgetary autonomy for the District—-an Eleanor Holmes Norton-sponsored bill that would effectively remove congressional review of local government actions. In WaPo, Tim Craig frames things this way: Fenty and Gray ‘put aside their political differences Wednesday to support an effort on Capitol Hill to give the District more control over its budget and laws.’ Said Fenty to the lawmakers: ‘The District government of today is not the District government of the 1990s….We have come a long way, and we are not going back.’ The Democrats on the panel are cool; the Repubs, not so much. That includes our old friend Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. His take: ‘The District of Columbia is not a state, and it should be treated differently.’ Also NC8, Reuters, WAMU-FM, which notes that ‘District resident Nikolas Schiller wore colonial garb to today’s hearing, a protest that D.C. still has no representation. But Capitol police ordered him to remove his tri-cornered hat.’
GREAT—-‘At one point, Chaffetz tested the unity of Gray and Fenty, who have been feuding all year over a variety of issues, including tickets to Nationals baseball games and the handling of city contracts. “If things are going so well, what sort of grade would you give the mayor?” Chaffetz asked. “This legislation is not about the mayor,” Gray replied.’
As expected, pushers of a marriage initiative have filed suit in Superior Court seeking to overturn the elections board’s rejection of the measure. And they have turned to a novel legal argument to do so, WaPo reports: ‘In the 15-page filing, [Bishop Harry Jackson] and his seven co-petitioners argue that the city’s ordinances gives residents the same lawmaking power as the council, except for appropriations….”The people of D.C. have a right to vote on the definition of marriage,” said Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, the conservative legal group representing Jackson. “The D.C. Charter guarantees the people the right to vote, and the council cannot amend the charter for any reason, much less to deny citizens the right to vote.”‘ Funny, because the right to initiative/referendum is nowhere in the charter. Also Metro Weekly.
ALSO—-Chaffetz weighed in on gay marriage at autonomy hearing: ‘I’m disappointed the people are not getting an opportunity to vote on this issue,’ he told Fenty. Hizzoner ‘responded that he stands by the board’s opinion…”The voters of the District of Columbia have elected a fabulous council to make those decisions.”‘ And Rep. Brian P. Bilbray of California asked Fenty what he should tell his constituents about the District’s decision not to follow in his home state’s footsteps and allow a vote. Said Fenty: ‘What you can say is the people of the District of Columbia have a different set of laws.’ Snap!
GOOD NEWS—-‘Chaffetz said Wednesday that he does not see how same-sex marriage opponents will be able to derail the bill in Congress. “Democrats have the House and the Senate and the presidency,” Chaffetz said. “I’m going to try to fight back, but procedurally, they’ve got us pretty well wrapped up.”‘
Dorothy Brizill raises questions in themail about an upcoming hearing for People’s Counsel designee Vicky Beasley. Muriel Bowser, she writes, ‘has gone to great lengths to limit citizen participation in the hearing….[There was] no notice of the hearing published or posted on the council’s online calendar, not was a written notice of the hearing available at the council’s Office of Legislative Services….It clearly appears that Bowser, working in collaboration with the Executive Office of the Mayor, fabricated a tight time frame for council review and public scrutiny of Beasley so that the council will be forced to vote on her nomination at its next legislative meeting, on December 1.’ LL also notes that Fenty has not held a press conference to announce Beasley’s nomination.
MORE ON BEASLEY—-‘Beasley’s nomination by Fenty is at the behest of her mentor at Patton Boggs, Matthew Cutts, a Fenty pal who was selected by the mayor in 2007 to head the Sports and Entertainment Commission. Apparently, Cutts discussed with Beasley several possible positions in the Fenty administration, and she selected the People’s Counsel office, even though she is not a litigator and the People’s Counsel is a litigating position. The most important duty of the People’s Counsel is to protect the citizens from unjustified and unnecessary rate increases by utilities, and Noel’s success at that has led to Fenty’s displeasure with her. When Beasley met with some citizens who asked her what her priorities would be for the office, she didn’t mention rate regulation at all; instead, she said her top three priorities would be “smart metering, smart grid, and submetering.” These priorities should please landlords and utility companies, but they are peripheral to the real job of the office — representing citizens in the regulating process and protecting them from the rapacious utilities that are Fenty’s primary concern in making this nomination.’
A local editorial board says it’s ‘Time to stand up to Fenty’! No, silly, not that one—-the Examiner editorial board! The jumping-off point for the righty opinionists is the parks contracting scandal. ‘Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos‘ claim that “there was no intent to sidestep the council” is ludicrous. And if Fenty didn’t think [Ximena Hartsock] was capable of managing his parks projects, why did he nominate her to run the entire department? Because he knew she’d keep her mouth shut?’ The editoral dredges up other old Fenty nuggets, concluding: ‘The unspoken message is that the criteria for getting a top-level appointment or a lucrative government contract is not who’s the best qualified or who can do the highest quality work for the least cost, but who has the closest ties to the Fentys. This kind of cronyism inevitably leads to widespread government corruption. If the mayor’s friends are first in line at DPR, there’s a good chance the same thing is happening in other departments.’
WSJ covers Michelle Rhee‘s campaign against teacher tenure, writing that the ‘Obama administration says it wants to remake public education around the principle that the best teachers should be promoted and rewarded, regardless of seniority. And a brawl over just that idea is now playing out in the shadow of the White House.’ The story quotes Arne Duncan on DCPS teacher contract negotiations: ‘We generally don’t weigh in on local labor disputes, but this has gone on too long and they need to bring it to closure….There are a lot of good ideas on the table and this agreement could be a national model’
And PBS’s NewsHour delivers its latest report about DCPS under Rhee. This time, John Merrow looks at the teacher layoffs: ‘Rhee has been no stranger to controversy since she took control of D.C.’s public schools over two years ago. She’s closed 25 schools, replaced almost half her principals, and battled the teachers union over a new contract. But some believe Rhee’s latest actions pose a threat to her larger reform effort. When we spoke with Rhee back in July, she didn’t see money trouble on the horizon. According to her, the budget was strong.’
Councilmembers want to establish 50-foot-radius ‘safety zones’ around all city transit stops, Neibauer reports in Examiner, inside of which criminals would be subject to enhanced penalties. ‘The measure seeks to deter crimes “where we know people are proven to be targets,” said Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., who co-introduced the bill Tuesday with at-large Councilman Michael Brown. Criminals “prey on these persons who go back and forth using our public transportation system,” he said….A person who commits a serious crime, like assault, robbery or rape, within the zone faces 1.5 times the maximum fine for that act and 50 percent more jail time.’
And Tommy Wells wants to reduce the number of unexcused absences that D.C. public schoolkids can accumulate for authorities investigate, Kavitha Cardoza reports for WAMU-FM. ‘Children in D.C. public schools can have 20 total days of unexcused absences within a school year before a referral is made to Child and Family services. At least seven council members support changes to the District’s truancy regulations; they want children between the ages of five and 13 to have just 10 unexcused absences within a school year before authorities are contacted.’
From Tom Sherwood‘s Notebook: Yvette Alexander wasn’t invited to Fenty’s bag-tax press conference in Ward 7 earlier this week. ‘”Things were good at one point,” she said of her relationship with the mayor, “but now it seems we’ve taken a turn for the worse.” Alexander did not just support the bag-tax bill. She pointed out that she was a willing proponent who combated those who claimed the bill would affect low-income and seniors unfairly….Not inviting ward council members to events is nothing new for the mayor. But if he or his staff thinks they’re making political points, they might rethink the policy. What good does it do to irritate more than half the council on such things?.’
Metro board today will vote on approval for an executive’s 12-day, $14,000 trip to the Czech Republic, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner, even though said executive left on the trip 10 days ago. ‘The transit agency is asking for permission to approve sending Damon Cannon, a project manager, to oversee the shipment of three D.C.-owned streetcars that have been in storage…for more than a year. The board is required to approve all international travel—-though such approval is supposed to happen in advance. Yet his trip began Nov. 9, according to agenda materials.’
ALSO—-Metro employee allegedly used Farragut West station PA to ask riders to sign pro-union petition, WTOP reports.
Jim Graham has officially launched his re-election campaign, complete with nifty new Web site and logo. Jonetta Rose Barras, meanwhile, isn’t so high on Graham, writing: ‘If there were a “Chutzpah of the Year” award, D.C. Councilman and Metro Board Chairman Jim Graham would win hands down. The man is amazing.’ This, she says, because Graham embraced the idea of federal transit oversight while failing to exercise any meaningful oversight in his role as WMATA board chair. ‘[H]e has been adept at covering his flank, protecting his board colleagues and his main man Catoe during this season of intense scrutiny. What Graham hasn’t done, however, is adequately perform his oversight duties, guaranteeing a well managed, cost efficient, and safe mass transit system.’
Developer JBG’s lawsuit against the city over the convention center hotel deal has survived a motion to dismiss, Melissa Castro reports in WBJ. At an Oct. 29 hearing, Superior Court Judge Natalia Combs Greene ‘expressed deep skepticism toward the city’s jurisdiction argument, and her written decision reaffirmed the points she made in the courtroom. If neither the Contract Appeals Board nor the court had jurisdiction to second-guess the city, “then no governmental authority could prevent the District of Columbia’s executive and judicial branch from colluding to violate its own laws,” she wrote.’ Meanwhile, hotel construction is stalled: ‘Construction was slated to start in October or November, but no bonds have been issued to finance the project.’
Gruesome details emerge in the murder of 55-year-old Rosa May Fludd-Ross. She was beaten to death with a vase by her husband, Keith Alexander reports in WaPo. Fludd-Ross, he writes, ‘was found Sunday on the living room floor in her home in the 3100 block of 35th Street NE. She had been beaten, and an autopsy showed that she might have been dead since Friday or Saturday….Blood was splattered on the living and dining room walls and ceilings, according to the documents. The living room furniture, including the coffee table, was covered in blood.’ Her husband, Kenneth L. Ross, had been arrested twice before on domestic violence charges.
Emmanuel Johnson, 19, is wanted in the Oct. 30 murder of Deuante Ray, Examiner reports. ‘Johnson is described as a black male, 6-foot-1, weighing 157 pounds with medium length braided hair. Johnson is known to hang out between Minnesota Avenue NE and 49th Place NE. He may be staying with family or friends in Northeast Washington or Prince George’s County.’
Pedestrian struck and killed near National Cathedral identified as Donald Skelley, 78.
Metro Weekly covers GLLU changes.
Five GWU students arrested in raid of Foggy Bottom townhouse. ‘During the raid – which occurred the evening of Oct. 30 at a townhouse at 26th and I streets – police seized $1,171 in cash, three plastic bags of a substance that tested positive for cocaine, about 160 grams of marijuana, a scale, and plastic baggies, according to police reports and court documents.’
Allegro Apartments in Columbia Heights auctioned for $77.5M. The buyer, WBJ reports, is Georgetown’s Federal Capital Partners.
View 14 developer explains to Housing Complex why he deserved a $5.7M tax subsidy.
Speaking of tax breaks, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute notes that, under mayoral-introduced council bill, ‘high technology commercial real estate database and service providers’ stand to ‘get up to $700,000 in annual property tax breaks for 10 years — a $7 million subsidy. Considering that the District is already anticipating a $300 million budget shortfall for FY 2011 now seems to be an especially bad time to be giving up precious tax dollars.’ Who would this benefit? ‘No companies are named in the legislation, but in testimony before the DC Council a representative from the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development testified that they are actively recruiting one company, which was not named.’
Seminar teaches clergy how to develop affordable housing.
122,000 free reusable bags offered to seniors.
WCP’s Sexist explains what kind of discrimination would be allowed on your gay wedding day under the D.C. marriage bill: ‘The legislation says any “religious society, or a nonprofit organization which is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society” may deny same-sex couples any “services, accommodations, facilities, or goods for a purpose related to the solemnization or celebration of a same-sex marriage.” So just what sort of “services, accommodations, facilities, or goods” can be safely withheld here? The following is your guide to Legal Same-Sex Wedding Day Discrimination.’
Watch lengthy CNN piece on Catholics vs. gay marriage; Mary Cheh does some talking head.
GLAA’s Rick Rosendall writes WaPo about gay marriage editorial: ‘The editorial concerns a threat by Catholic Charities to stop providing social services for the city unless the bill is amended to grant the church a broader exemption to discriminate. The Post talks about self-righteous D.C. Council members while ignoring the self-righteous intransigence of the archdiocese.’
Georgetown Voice’s Will Sommer asks LL, Sherwood, and Mark Plotkin for their 2010 political predictions.
WaPo covers culinary competition featuring Rhee, Jack Evans plus kids.
In WaPo letter, a call to make the 15th Street NW bike lane two-way.
Center for American Progress debunks Harry Jackson.
City H1N1 clinics today and Saturday.
We’re No. 1 in STDs (versus states, natch)!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary and Committee on Health joint hearing on B18-71 (‘Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act of 2009’), JAWB 412; Committee of Finance and Revenue hearing on PR18-544 (‘The River School Revenue Bonds Project Approval Resolution of 2009’), PR18-564 (‘AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School Construction Revenue Bonds Project Approval Resolution of 2009’), PR18-565 (‘Qualified Zone Academy Revenue Bonds Project Approval Resolution of 2009’), PR18-566 (‘Hyde Leadership Public Charter School of Washington, D.C. Inc. Qualified School Construction Revenue Bonds Project Approval Resolution of 2009’), and PR18-567 (‘E.L. Haynes Public Charter School Qualified School Construction Revenue Bonds Project Approval Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 120; 11 a.m.: Committee on Economic Development hearing on B18-497 (‘Washington Convention and Sports Authority Alcoholic Beverage Sales Amendment Act of 2009’); B18-399 (‘Pennsylvania Avenue-Minnesota Avenue S.E. Eminent Domain Authorization Act of 2009’), and B18-457 (‘Small Business Stabilization and Job Creation Strategy Act of 2009’), JAWB 123; 2 p.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment meeting (scheduled), JAWB 120; 6 p.m.: Committee on Aging and Community Affairs hearing on B18-324 (‘Advisory Neighborhood Commission Vacancy Amendment Act of 2009’), JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-11 a.m.: remarks, 15th Street bike lane ribbon-cutting, 15th and Caroline Streets NW.