City Paper is not for tourists
Morning all. It remains to be seen just how deeply last week’s D.C. Council hearings will affect Mayor Adrian M. Fenty‘s administration, but this much has become increasingly apparent: The man does not play well with others. WRC-TV‘s Tom Sherwood, David Lipscomb in Saturday’s WaTimes and Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig on Sunday’s WaPo A1 all cover the degeneration in interbranch relations that in retrospect seems destined from the start. But who could have seen the current nadir, where a 10-minute meeting last week between Fenty and Vincent C. Gray is seen as a hopeful signal of detente? The WaPo piece ends with a word from Tony Williams, who says he’s ‘confident’ that ‘important matters’ will bring the mayor and council together: ‘I certainly wasn’t lovey-dovey with them when I first started, but…I really took the council, no matter what the acrimony, as a coequal branch of government.’ Further evidence of ongoing acrimony below…
AFTER THE JUMP—-Complete coverage of the parks contract scandal; lots of postmortem analysis on the Thursday Rhee hearing; at least one person is done with ‘what’s best for the kids’; Fenty does Jamaican triathlon Saturday; UDC board in vacancy crisis; more questionable HIV/AIDS spending revealed by WaPo; Trachtenburg may be gone, but his salary lives in infamy
ABOUT THAT MEETING—-‘After two weeks of public rancor between the two branches of government, [Gray] invited Fenty to his office last week. The impromptu meeting lasted 10 minutes — hardly enough time to mend their differences — and was the first time the two had met one-on-one in at least six months. The chairman, one of those mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate, declined to disclose details. He did say that Fenty agreed to meet privately this week with council members to talk about [ousted DPR chief Ximena Hartsock].’
Do see LL’s wrapup of Friday’s exhaustive (and not yet completed) hearing into the Fenty parks contracting scheme, now involving upwards of $120M. And see coverage from WaPo’s Stewart, WBJ‘s Jonathan O’Connell, WTTG-TV‘s Karen Gray Houston, and Examiner‘s Violeta Ikonomova. The hearing revealed that Banneker Ventures, belonging to close Fenty buddy Omar Karim, had the power to dole out millions in contracts to the likes of Keith Lomax and Sinclair Skinner in less-than-transparent ways. Stewart notes: ‘Several council members, including David A. Catania…who has often supported the mayor’s initiatives, called the contracts illegal and insisted that they go before the council for review. “The worst thing you can do is dig in your heels,” Catania told city administrator Neil O. Albert. “Your office will be well-counseled to bring them back to us as expeditiously as possible. . . . This is not a water-under-the-dam moment.”‘
Jonetta Rose Barras, always one for the counterintuitive read, says in her Examiner column that the contracts hearing was ‘a farce,’ because ‘the roundtable was filled with nauseating levels of political posturing.’ Well, yeah, welcome to politics. Barras points out that city spending has been sent to DCHA before, but that’s about the only defense she can muster. That, and the fact that, you know, Marion Barry‘s made some questionable spending decisions himself as of late. But does that excuse the mayor’s fishy funding, which beats Barry’s by orders of magnitude? LL thinks not.
Michael Neibauer looks in Examiner at the ongoing fallout from the Oct. 2 DCPS firings. That includes the lawsuit currently being waged between the city and the Washington Teachers’ Union, and potential firing of DCPS CFO Noah Wepman, whose admission Thursday that he kept a budget deficit from the D.C. Council left his boss, Natwar Gandhi, exposed. Says Gandhi spokesperson David Umansky: ‘Action is being contemplated.’ Phil Mendelson (who missed the late-week hearings to discharge his duties as president of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Savannah, Ga.) says he and his colleagues are ‘struggling with how to handle the arrogance…on the one hand there ought to be a consequence and on the other hand what is in the best interest of the citizens and the school children.’ Neibauer also covers Rhee supporters’ organizing efforts, and Mark Segraves at WTOP also covers the Rhee hearing.
Also Sunday: WaPo’s Bill Turque looks at the current wrangling over Michelle Rhee and wonders whether her school reform agenda will meet the same demise as all those before, ‘disintegrating in a hail of recriminations and rhetoric.’ Still, he writes, ‘It was supposed to be different this time,’ with mayoral takeover legislation ‘designed to minimize the push-and-pull of ward politics, making a single executive accountable. But Thursday’s hearing vividly illustrated that no legislation can completely account for the mix of personalities who come together to execute it.’ Turque quotes ex-councilmember Kathy Patterson], who says ‘she likes Rhee’s chances but wants her to build more of a political base of her own. “Not just for self-protection, but to help make sure that reforms are grounded and have community support.”‘ Rhee says she’ll play nicer: ‘I have to continue to be really diligent in figuring out the best way to communicate.’
Couple that with Robert McCartney‘s Sunday column, which lays much of Rhee’s difficulties at the door of Rhee herself. His headline: ‘Rhee’s pride could trip up admirable effort.’ His lede: ‘The future of the District’s school system may well be decided by whether Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s forceful reform campaign becomes mired in a swamp of her own self-defeating hubris.’ He also notes quite aptly that ‘some of Rhee’s strongest allies [David Catania, Tommy Wells] were practically begging her to share more information with them and get along better with Gray.’ And his kicker comes from Mary Cheh: ‘She has this dichotomy which is not a correct one: Either do what I want, everybody be damned, or I’m giving up….You can accomplish your goals and work with other people.’
And WaPo’s Valerie Strauss has had just about enough of the ‘what’s best of kids’ arguments. ‘Tension is rising over a seemingly ever-larger gap between what Rhee says in public and what she does — and while everybody is arguing about who is right and who is wrong and who didn’t call whom back, guess who is going to suffer?…Rhee seems to think she can do whatever she wants because she is sure she is on the side of the angels in her reform efforts. She clearly views Gray as the defender of process rather than poor kids. Such characterizations are not only pointless but dangerous because they only increase a polarization that is sure to end in another failed reform….Rhee would get a lot further if she made her case to the public, explaining why she was doing what she was doing. She doesn’t have to be nice about it. She just can’t say one thing when something else is true. And she has done that more than once in recent months, and not only about the layoffs.’ Strauss wants a ‘high-level intervention’ between Rhee and Gray, brokered by…Fenty. Fat chance.
In the other corner you have the WaPo editorial board, which on Saturday gave its usual stout defense of Rhee: The chancellor, they say, ‘stands accused, it seems, of trying to manage her budget in a way that will do the least harm to students. Not a crime, you might think — unless, like Ms. Rhee’s accusers on the D.C. Council, you are more interested in scoring political points than in hearing what she is doing for children….We’ve urged Ms. Rhee and her boss…to make greater efforts to reach out to the council, and we stand by that advice. But reaching out is of no use if the other side won’t hear you in good faith.’ Kevin Carey of Education Sector seconds the notion that being nice isn’t everything.
And, surprisingly, you have Colby King, who on Saturday used the council inquisition as yet another excuse to bludgeon the city’s juvenile justice system. ‘[I]f test scores are up and the school system has stopped bleeding students, as The Post has reported, it’s not all bad. Face it, a good bedside manner is not one of Rhee’s strong points.’ Rather, the council should ‘investigate why the lives of our youth are being jeopardized daily by one of the very departments charged with helping them.’ That would be DYRS, of course, which released one Tyrone Hopkins to commit armed robbery. ‘This is the kind of inquiry that [Gray] and his colleagues ought to be pressing at public hearings. Why is no one in the District government, DYRS specifically, held accountable for these decisions? Why does the council tolerate such a mindset when it threatens public safety?’
ALSO—-City answers WTU lawsuit seeking to roll back RIF, arguing that ‘layoffs caused by budget considerations are not subject to arbitration and that the court’s reversal of the dismissals would be an unwarranted interference with the executive powers’ of Fenty and Rhee. Neibauer notes that Fenty has been lying low as of late, while ‘the relationship between the branches continues to worsen and perhaps has hit a new low.’ And CMs Kwame Brown, Mary Cheh, and Harry Thomas appeared Friday on WTTG-TV to talk schools.
Today, the board of trustees of the University of the District of Columbia has only five sitting members on its 15-member board. UDC leaders say that Fenty, who famously tried to kill the appointment Allen Sessoms as president, ‘is allowing its governing board to fall into disarray by refusing to fill vacant seats.’ Fenty says it’s on the council, which has killed numerous (mostly staggeringly underqualified) nominees. Writes Daniel deVise in WaPo, ‘Sessoms and board Chairman Emily F. Durso said Fenty and Rhee have declined invitations to meet with Sessoms since he became president in September of last year. “It’s a fit of pique that just won’t go away, as far as I can tell,” Durso said.’ A compromise hammered out, with Fenty to name half the appointees and Gray the other half, has fallen through.
The recent crackdown on Individual Development Inc., came after years of finger-twiddling on the part of the District government, Henri Cauvin reports in WaPo. Newly released documents reveal ‘that the city waited almost two years to take decisive action against IDI, a nonprofit group run by three prominent D.C. lawyers, and then did so only after questions were raised about the deaths of three IDI residents.’ This, of course, raises the question of whether the city’s latest arrangement with IDI, forged after the District filed suit to put the company is receivership (and a subsequent Fenty fundraiser hosted by IDI chairman David Wilmot), is worth a damn. Says University Legal Services’ Sandy Bernstein: ‘How many chances does this provider get?’
WaPo’s Debbie Cenziper unleashes the second salvo in her attack on city HIV/AIDS spending, looking at Beale Inc., which has been paid upward of $2 million to ‘provide experts, meals and note-taking’ to the Ryan White Planning Council and the HIV Prevention Community Planning Council. The company was run by Robin Beale, ‘convicted in federal court [in 2005] of taking part in a local mortgage fraud scheme that bilked lenders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.’ She blames HAA and the councils for directing runaway spending, including approvals for ‘invoices that listed unnamed employees and subcontractors, rent for a high-end office that was rarely used, and start-up costs for furniture and equipment that city officials later deemed improper.’ Members of the RWPC says they blew the whistle on Beale early to no effect; she stopped work in March.
ALSO—-Republican congressmen Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz called Friday for a federal investigation of misspent city AIDS funds, WaPo’s Darryl Fears reports. ‘We are concerned that the lack of oversight…is adversely affecting the District’s most vulnerable residents, and therefore request the committee begin a bipartisan investigation to examine the District’s funding of AIDS programs and services, including how federal AIDS dollars are spent,’ they wrote.
NICKLES V. NICHOLS UPDATE—-Another point for Deborah Nichols. From Lipscomb: ‘A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the Fenty administration to allow D.C. Auditor [Nichols] access to documents detailing real estate deals conducted by a pair of defunct city-run development corporations.’ Expect Nickles to send this to the D.C. Court of Appeals, again.
More courtroom troubles for Nickles, WBJ’s O’Connell writes: ‘I’m not an attorney but I can tell when someone is unimpressed, and that is how I would describe D.C. Superior Court Judge Natalia Combs Greene Thursday afternoon as she heard D.C. defend itself against a suit to block the city’s deal to build a convention center hotel with Marriott.’ Argued JBG lawyer: ‘What we have here is something that is only good for Marriott…[a] $22 million gift.’
WaPo ed columnist Jay Mathews covers the new IMPACT teacher evaluation system: ‘Will it crash and burn? Many think so. George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said “it takes the art of teaching and turns it into bean counting.” I have been sending the plan to experts across the country, and they are more optimistic than I expected….Many promising assessment plans have turned into blotches on the runway when not flown properly, often because they were too complex or too vulnerable to character flaws….But if it works, it could be a big deal and influence assessment even in the Washington suburbs.’
Hizzoner competed Saturday in Jamaican triathlon: ‘Fenty, who arrived late last night for the race, was shellshocked. “Oh no, I wasn’t getting near that PR,” he said, shaking his head, referring to his personal-best recorded at the Nation’s Triathlon earlier this year. “Not in this heat, not on these hills.” Still, he had a solid enough race to finish top 10 overall—eighth—in 2:42:29.’ With cheesecake pic!
Ingmar Guandique, accused killer of Chandra Levy, has allegedly threatened to kill a witness against him, Keith Alexander reports in WaPo. Prosecutors told judge that ‘Guandique and members of his Salvadoran gang, MS-13, sent two letters to the witness threatening him and his family if the witness testified’ at the Levy trial. Defense lawyers say the witness himself may have written the letters. Also WTTG-TV.
Craziness continues at judge-stalker trial: The suspect’s lawyer says his client wants him to withdraw, Legal Times reports. Can’t happen yet, though, because she’s having some sort of medical emergency that might be a put-on.
More information on two deadly shootings early on Friday: Deuante Ray, 20, was found shot dead on the 1100 block of 48th Street NE; and Robert Aren Eagleman Jr., 24, of Capitol Heights was found shot at 46th Street and Hunt Place NE, WaPo reports.
Man shot multiple times Saturday night on the 300 block of 37th Street SE.
Joshua Ruth, 17, is arrested in the July beating death of 76-year-old Clarence Dews. Ruth is alleged to have been one of two who attempted to rob Dews in Congress Heights. Ruth is charged as an adult, WaPo reports.
Woman struck Friday night on Suitland Parkway.
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg might be gone from GWU, but his salary is not forgotten: The $3.7M he collected in 2007-08 was tops among American university presidents—-by $2M, WaPo reports. Others: ‘American University President Cornelius M. Kerwin…received $1.4 million in 2007-08, fifth among all current presidents in the survey. Steven Knapp, former provost of Johns Hopkins University, replaced Trachtenberg at GWU, where he received $379,000 in 2007-08….[F]ormer Johns Hopkins president William Brody received $1.1 million in 2007-08; Georgetown President John DeGioia, $643,000; and former Howard University president H. Patrick Swygert, $560,000.’
Harry Jaffe explains how Jack Evans (and Bob Peck and Richard Cohen) saved the Black Rooster.
Metro mechanic accused of stabbing fellow employee at Bladensburg Road bus garage is found not guilty, wants job back. Daryl Redfearn had argued self-defense, Examiner reports (via WTOP).
Bus driver comes down with swine flu, NC8 reports. Fellow drivers demand vaccine shots, but they won’t be getting them just yet.
D.C. Appleseed’s Walter Smith takes his campaign against CareFirst’s reserves to WAMU-FM commentary.
Charter advocate Robert Cane, in Examiner: ‘Use schools for kids, not condominiums’
WaPo architecture critic’s review of parking exhibit at National Building Museum manages to work in slam of DC USA garage debacle.
Another alleged anti-gay hate crime against Georgetown student early Sunday. ‘Immediately prior to the assault, the suspect asked the victim several times, “Are you a homo?” The suspect fled the scene after physically assaulting the victim.’ On Friday, GU students rallied against last week’s alleged gay-hate-motivated assault.
TODAY—-Part 2 of the D.C. Council’s gay marriage hearing.
Number of ‘boot-eligible’ cars has tripled in seven months, WaTimes reports, thanks to photo enforcement.
WaPo’s Dr. Gridlock gets wise to streetcars.
WaTimes profiles Destination D.C. chief Elliot Ferguson. ‘”We are going after the international tourism market,” Mr. Ferguson said. “International tourists stay longer and they spend more. The reality is that the euro and the pound are doing much better than the dollar, so international tourists are eating at nice upscale restaurants and they are doing a lot more shopping.”‘
Blade covers annual Stein Club awards, given to Mario Acosta-Velez, Desi Deschaine (in memoriam), Phil Mendelson, Hilary Rosen, and Courtney Snowden.
Poverty & Policy’s Kathryn Baer says ‘Transparency In DC Has a Long Way To Go.’ Particularly as it relates to this year’s homeless services cuts.
Online lottery set for Nat’l Christmas Tree lighting tickets.
A pair of Scimitar-horned oryx, extinct in the wild, die at National Zoo.
Some hipster’s made Marion Barry for mayor T-shirts.
More than you ever wanted to know about Tiber Creek.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-9:30 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on B18-482 (‘Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009’), JAWB 500; 10 a.m.: press briefing, JAWB 412; 11 a.m.: Committee on Housing and Workforce Development roundtable on PR18-431 (‘Commission on Re-entry and Ex-Offender Affairs James Corbin Resolution of 2009’), PR18-432 (‘Commission on Re-entry and Ex-Offender Affairs Bobette Johnson Resolution of 2009’), PR18-433 (‘Commission on Re-entry and Ex-Offender Affairs Mark Irving Resolution of 2009’), PR18-434 (‘Commission on Re-entry and Ex-Offender Affairs Samuel Als Resolution of 2009’), PR18-483 (‘Commission on Re-entry and Ex-Offender Affairs Rodney Newman Resolution of 2009’), PR18-538 (‘Rental Housing Commission Peter Szegedy-Maszak Confirmation Resolution of 2009’), and PR18-539 (‘Rental Housing Commission Chantal Jean-Baptiste Confirmation Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 412; 2 p.m.: Committee on Housing and Workforce Development hearing on B18-458 (‘District of Columbia Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Amendment Act of 2009’), JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, leaf collection kickoff, 3500 block of Pope Street SE; 2 p.m.: remarks, DPR and Whole Foods partnership press conference, Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th St. NE.