City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“D.C. Democrats Not Off the Hook, Say Finance Officials“; “The Friday Limerick Review“; tweets galore!
FLASH—-The Washington Blade is reported to have closed. Check City Desk for updates!
Morning all. This weekend saw the year’s penultimate All Hands on Deck for city police—-a program that continues in spite of an arbitrator’s ruling ending it, as Theola Labbé-DeBose reported Saturday in WaPo. Sadly, the enhanced deployment of officers failed to stop the violence in city neighborhoods. On Saturday night, a bullet ripped through the door of a Columbia Heights apartment and killed 9-year-old Oscar Fuentes. Just before 10 p.m., WaPo reports, ‘the boy’s family had rushed into the apartment to avoid an attempted robbery. The assailant, the sources said, fired through the door hitting the boy.’ Says one neighbor in today’s WaPo followup, ‘We have a chronic problem in the neighborhood with these gangs. It’s not okay for them to just come in and shoot people.’ The building at 1433 Columbia Road NW, Examiner reports, ‘reeks of urine and lacks a lock on the front door and even a doorknob, letting all types of problems inside. On Sunday afternoon, no one answered the door at Oscar’s apartment. A hole less than a centimeter in diameter was visible in the door. It cut cleanly through at an angle, about a foot above the doorknob. The hallway showed no other signs that a crime had occurred. A Happy Birthday sign hung above the door of the apartment next door.’ May the ‘assailant’—-much too kind of a term—-be brought to justice swiftly. Also NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Rhee says she’s to blame if Fenty can’t get re-elected; WaTimes does the full foundering-Fenty treatment; neighborhoods still want their parks, contracts be damned; FBI’s Persichini calls it quits; feds get serious about regulating transit; lots more on Catholic gay marriage conflict
ALSO—-In the first killing of this All Hands of Deck weekend, Frederick Darnell Ard, 42, was found shot multiple times on the 2000 block of 16th Street SE early on Saturday. In the third, Rosa May Fludd-Ross, 55, was found beaten to death Sunday morning on the 3900 block of 35th Street NE.
In Sunday WaTimes, David C. Lipscomb chronicles the transformation of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty from populist world-beater to vulnerable incumbent. ‘The 38-year-old mayor won all 143 precincts in the city’s Democratic primary three years ago after a populist campaign largely based on a record of fulfilling constituent service requests as a council member. But since spring he increasingly has come under fire for what some describe as a heavy-handed, authoritarian style of governing. Now, despite gains in test scores among D.C. students, a dramatic decrease in crime and relative financial stability in a down economy, the mayor’s leadership style and some questionable choices about how he has used the privileges of his office could endanger a re-election campaign that a year ago seemed virtually certain. And potential opponents who seemed like long shots now are emerging as contenders.’
And what if Fenty were to lose? He has a scapegoat already volunteering! Michelle Rhee was asked at a Friday Newseum event ‘how responsible’ she’d feel if Fenty weren’t re-elected, Bill Turque reports at D.C. Wire. Her reply: ‘Very responsible….When he hired me he told me this was his No. 1 priority and that he was willing to risk his entire political career in the pursuit of trying to fix the schools. The decisions we have made…were not always things that would guarantee harmony among adults.’ She also recounted his response to the realization that Fenty was ‘losing the PR battle’ over the teacher RIF: ‘It doesn’t matter if we lose the PR battle. And, in fact, it doesn’t even matter if we lose the re-election as long as we are operating with the endgame in mind. And for us, that is improving the schools. We’re not going to compromise any step of the way in that. And if I’m not re-elected then we’ll go down in history as the only administration that made every decision in what we believed to be the best interests of children instead of what was in the best interests of getting re-elected.’
As the D.C. Council takes Fenty to task over millions in surreptitiously awarded parks contracts, Nikita Stewart reports in WaPo on ‘a chorus of community activists and parks advocates throughout the District who say they fear that long-awaited parks and recreation facilities will be delayed or stopped’ by the tussle. The threatened facilities include Fort Stanton Recreation Center, French Street Park, and Rosedale Recreation Center. One Rosedale supporter tells the council: ‘We would appreciate them not putting our concerns between a political fight with the mayor.’ And Ward 7 ANC Willie Ross, concerned about the Kenilworth-Parkside Rec Center, says ‘the contracts must be investigated, but the council should have been more vigilant about its initial oversight….”I’m not speaking on the mayor’s behalf. I’m not speaking on the council’s behalf,” he said. “They’ve made all these promises. They showed us state-of-the-art designs. Right now, the people just want the community center opened.”‘ Hearings on the parks contracts continue this morning.
About those parks contracts: On Friday, Vincent Gray posted a letter to Fenty saying he’s ‘deeply concerned about the growing controversy involving contracting that does not comply with the law’ and asking Hizzoner to ‘personally step in and send all unlawful contracts to the Council.’ Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner that the letter was problem by a recently discovered memo from AG Peter Nickles, written last January, that ‘directed city contracting officers to stop submitting contract options to the council. That memo was not sent to the legislative branch.’ Nickles says he’s ‘completely stunned’ by Gray’s position. Also WaPo.
At Friday hearing, Gray took OSSE to the woodshed over delays in pre-kindergarten implementation, Leah Fabel reports in Examiner. ‘This [law] has little to nothing to show for it,’ said Gray of one of his signature legislative initiatives, adding complaints about ‘a lack of communication and progress from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.’ Some charters have opened new slots, but few private providers have been brought in the fold. Here’s your signature anecdote: ‘A [private] facility designed for about 60 infants and toddlers has stood vacant since its opening in 2006.’ Superintendent Kerri Briggs ‘laid out progress made during her 8 months on the job, including the establishment of early-learning standards, the awarding of nearly 30 grants, and continued efforts to bring together interested parties.’
A pair of momentous retirements in the realm of federal justice: Joe Persichini, head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office since 2006, is calling it a career as of Dec. 25, Del Wilber reports in WaPo. ‘In a brief phone interview, Persichini said he chose Dec. 25 as his final day on the job as a “Christmas gift for my wife.”‘ And Nancy Mayer-Whittington, clerk of the U.S. District Court since 1991 who ‘spent her career pushing the court to improve its technology and services,’ retired Friday.
An arrest has been made in the Wednesday daytime killing of George Rawlings, WaPo reports, though details are sketchy: ‘Based on information from one investigative source, the arrest came either late Friday or early Saturday. It was not clear what charge had been placed in the incident, and investigators gave no information about a possible motive in the killing.’ WRC-TV, WTTG-TV report that the suspect is a 17-year-old.
On the issue of gay marriage and Catholic Charities, WaPo editorial board sees compromise where councilmembers do not: ‘The clash raises tough questions. But they strike us as solvable, if council members shelve the self-righteousness and look for solutions….The city can ill afford to lose Catholic Charities’ services at homeless shelters and in health care. It’s the largest nongovernmental provider of social services in the District and certainly among the most competent. That’s why we’re somewhat mystified by the complacency reflected in comments such as those of council members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who dismissed Catholic Charities’ concerns as “somewhat childish,” and David A. Catania (I-At Large), who said that the city would simply find another partner. Given the District’s dismal track record with other nonprofit providers of social services—-see, for example, recent Post reports about the misspending of HIV/AIDS housing money—-we wonder at his confidence.’
Jonetta Rose Barras, too, argues that the church ‘should keep the faith’ on gay marriage concerns. ‘Catholic Charities is a well-managed operation. It provides high-quality services and kicks in its own money….The money from the District is substantial, but so is the money contributed by Catholic Charities—-$10 million in any year can do a lot of good. The archdiocese and executives at Catholic Charities could consider using this moment as an opportunity to launch a declaration of conscience campaign.’
The WaPo ed board today lauds Fenty & Co. for finally offering an unused DCPS school, Draper ES, to charter schools as an ‘incubator.’ ‘There are six incubator sites in the city. Three are former schools that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty agreed to make available. We hope that’s a sign of a new willingness by the city to make sure surplus schools are used for public education by allowing charters to buy or lease them.’ And Harry Jaffe goes a step further and calls the opening of the Acheivement Preparatory Academy at Draper reason ‘to start thinking about public education in Washington D.C. in a new light.’ His take: ‘Change is afoot, and the prospects for students of all ages and places are brighter—-much brighter….[S]tudents from the city’s roughest neighborhoods can hope for a decent, even stellar, education.’
NOTA BENE—-On Friday, ‘Mayor Adrian Fenty showed up to cut the ribbon on a charter school. It was the first time he had given such attention to a charter.’
Obama administration, citing Metro Red Line crash, announces plan to regulate transit systems, pointing to ‘haphazard and ineffective oversight by state agencies,’ WaPo writes. ‘Under the proposal, the U.S. Department of Transportation would do for transit what it does for airlines and Amtrak: set and enforce federal regulations to ensure that millions of passengers get to their destinations safely. Administration officials said the plan will be presented in coming weeks to Congress, which must approve a change in the law. The proposal would affect every subway and light-rail system in the country.’ Says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood: ‘After the [Metro] train crash, we were all sitting around here scratching our heads, saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do something about this’….And we discovered that there’s not much we could do, because the law wouldn’t allow us to do it.”‘ Metro says it welcomes the plan ‘with open arms.’ Also Examiner, NC8.
The federal announcement follows a Saturday WaPo story by Joe Stephens and Lena Sun on a Metro oversight innovation. To wit, the system’s safety officer, Alexa Dupigny-Samuels, will have to consult with Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn before taking any substantive action. This comes after it was revealed that Dupigny-Samuels was complicit in the decision to keep oversight inspectors off Metro tracks. ‘Asked whether Dupigny-Samuels had been demoted, [board chair Jim Graham] replied: “I would consider this a reorganization of her responsibilities in recognition of events.”‘
ALSO—-Turns out Metro’s labor wrangling is expensive. Who knew? WMATA and the transit workers’ union are paying $60K for arbitration in their pay-raise dispute, Kytja Weir reports in WaPo. That’s in addition to tens of thousands more in legal fees.
D.C. school officials have kicked off a program to serve breakfast to schoolkids in their classrooms, Bill Turque reports in WaPo. ‘Educators and health experts have long stressed the link between breakfast and academic performance, reduced obesity rates and other benefits….Educators say that a classroom breakfast helps minimize two traditional obstacles to getting more kids to eat. Many students from low-income families who eat free and reduced-price lunches underwritten by the federal government don’t take advantage of breakfast. It often requires them to go early to the school cafeteria, and it can carry the stigma of a government program, experts say.’ Eight charters, plus Garfield ES, are giving it a shot.
Dorothy Brizill, in themail, raises concerns about People’s Counsel designee Vicky Beasley: ‘Beasley is currently a corporate attorney with the law firm of Patton Boggs and has no knowledge or expertise in administrative law, utility regulation, or consumer issues….on Saturday, the Office of the People’s Counsel and the DC Department of the Environment held an Energy Expo at the Convention Center. Beasley attended, but would only speak with the exhibiting vendors. She refused Noel’s offer to introduce her to the OPC staff, and she refused to speak with me regarding her nomination.’ Also: Gary Imhoff points out a big problem with the District’s new Hatch Act.
City lawyers are still defending D.C. cop Kevin McConnell, who shot a perp dead in 2007 in what was later judged to be an unjustified shooting, Scott McCabe reports in Examiner. ‘The family’s attorney points to a internal affairs report that determined the shooting was not justified and to a disciplinary review that is seeking to fire McConnell over the incident. The District is trying to prevent that evidence from being heard, arguing that the findings don’t address the issues that will be presented at trial, court filings said. “Now, in the civil case, the District is trying to say he did nothing wrong,” said family attorney Gregory Lattimer.’ No comment from Nickles.
Another OCTOgate plea is finalized: Farrukh Awan, 37, admitted Friday to taking some $50K in kickbacks for steering city technology contracts. He faces up to 30 months in federal prison; sentencing is on Feb. 12. Only Yusuf Acar and Sushil Bansal are yet to plead out.
Report says language is an ongoing problem at city health care facilities, Neibauer writes in Examiner. ‘Of the 72 limited-English-speaking community members surveyed by the D.C. Language Access Coalition, about half of whom were uninsured, many told stories of trouble accessing medical services….The study’s subjects struggled to communicate their concerns and understand the instructions of their providers. They spoke of having appointments canceled because no interpreter was available, of being “left for last” while waiting for care, of struggling to have questions answered over the phone, and of not having access to important forms and documents in their native language.’
Fire, ruled accidental, destroys one DCPS school bus, damages two others at New York Avenue lot. Also: Saturday house fire injures three on the 1900 block of Kearney Street NE in Brookland. Two of the injured were burned firefighters.
Guns, cash, drugs seized by police from Shaw home, Examiner reports: ‘The district’s third patrol unit executed a search warrant for a house on the 1800 block of Vermont Avenue NW. Roy Rosa, 35, was charged with the intent to distribute drugs while armed.’
International cocaine trafficker Gregory Joel Sitzmann is sitting in D.C. Jail awaiting trial, and will remain sitting there, Examiner reports. ‘Sitzmann’s attorneys argued that he should be allowed out on bail so he could receive proper care for an injured shoulder. His lack of passport will keep him from running, they said….”The defendant’s claim that he is not a flight risk is ludicrous,” prosecutors wrote. The judge agreed.’
WaPo gives the 15th Street ‘contraflow’ bike lane the full treatment. ‘In an attempt to minimize the conflicts, the invisible line that separates drivers and cyclists on most busy urban streets has been defined by more than a half-mile of yellow posts on 15th Street NW, in the District’s first attempt at walling off a bike lane from cars,’ Ashley Halsey writes. ‘Following the lead of Paris, New York, Montreal and dozens of other cities, Washington and its bicycling mayor are reclaiming a piece of the road for people who travel on two wheels instead of four.’
On Sunday, rider tells Dr. Gridlock that he’s not sold on the bike lane: ‘I have had too many close calls with left-turning cars. If it was on a two-way street, where left turners might fear an oncoming car, it would make sense. I’m guessing the least anticipated problem is the oak trees above the lane. Because the city can’t get a street cleaner down the lane, it is covered in acorns, which play havoc with my tires. All this being said, I really have to say thank you to the city for at least thinking of trying something different.’
ALSO—-City bike chief Jim Sebastian says ‘the city hopes to develop dedicated bike lanes on at least four streets, two running north-south and two running east-west. He mentioned M and L streets as possible candidates.’
Joe Biden served the lunch crowd Friday at St. Aloysius Church’s Father McKenna Center. The veep’s presence, Daryl Fears reports in WaPo, ‘startled some of the 80 men who stood stiffly as the vice president’s entourage rushed past the dining area. Biden, casually dressed in a black baseball cap, black V-neck sweater, khaki trousers, rubber gloves and a worn brown apron, took his place behind a folding table and a tray of fish sticks. The vice president said he served the men because “you’ve got to remind yourself that but for the grace of God there go I. Sometimes you forget that this is real.”‘
Bill requiring health insurers to cover child autism to be unveiled today by Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells.
WAMU-FM covers DCPS ‘master educators’ program. Rhee, Kavitha Cardoza reports, has ‘hired 30 former successful teachers to coach and evaluate D.C.’s teachers in their subject area. Rhee hopes the coaching will improve the good teachers and that the master teachers’ critical eye will help get rid of the bad ones.’
Rhee appeared in a brief videotaped segment on this week’s Meet the Press, providing conversational fodder for Arne Duncan, Newt Gingrich, and Al Sharpton.
Jack Evans and Cary Silverman are together on one issue: Hating Phil Mendelson‘s crime positions.
WRC-TV’s Joe Krebs covers the story of two brothers, murdered months apart on D.C. streets.
Cold case: Two-year-old murder of Chinese restaurant deliveryman Hong Zhi Wang, 29.
VotH on efforts to create H Street historic district.
Rundown of Thursday’s Healthy D.C. hearing.
District bard Edward P. Jones is profiled by Neely Tucker in WaPo mag. A good long read for lunchtime.
City woos nonprofits for Walter Reed site, WBJ reports.
The case against parking tickets, from GGW.
MWCOG is in on Prince William ferry plan.
Washington Gas had a very good year.
The Redskins will keep on being the ‘Redskins.’
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 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 412; joint public oversight roundtable on ‘The Contracting Process Related to Parks and Recreation Projects,’ JAWB 412; 11 a.m.: Committee on Aging and Community Affairs roundtable on PR18-543 (‘Commission on Aging Eugene Coffey Confirmation Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 123; 1 p.m.: Committee on Health roundtable on ‘The Performance of the HIV/AIDS, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration,’ JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, launch of Anacostia River education campaign, Anacostia Avenue and Blaine Street NE.