IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Taxi Bribery Case: Syume on Tape Threatening FBI Informant‘; ‘Alleged Taxicab Scammer on Tape!‘; ‘Why Child Advocates Oppose the Jacks-Fogle Bill‘; ‘Ben Ali Created a Political Mecca‘
Greetings all. Perhaps you’ve seen this already, but you do need to check out this week’s WCP cover story, by Jeffrey Anderson. It’s the profile of Ronald Moten and his Peaceoholics that so many in this town have been waiting to read. Writes Anderson, ‘If you’re not familiar with Moten and his group, you’re not familiar with crime in the District. When asked who’s in charge of a [crime scene], an officer replies, “Probably that dude from Peaceoholics; he’s the big boss around here.” Standing nearby, a police lieutenant says she has no idea what Moten is doing. “He didn’t speak to me or any of my officers,” she says. That’s because Moten is wired at the upper echelons of the city bureaucracy.’ But that bureaucracy declaims just about all responsibility for Moten or his activities. Finding any sort of evidence of oversight or accountability for the group in agency after agency is a futile endeavor. Yet Peaceoholics stands to continue to thrive (even though Moten says he’s quitting). That’s because, Anderson writes, ‘D.C. can’t handle its young.’ The politicians and policy wonks don’t offer easy solutions, but Moten & Co. do. Does it matter if those solutions work?
AFTER THE JUMP—-Remembering Ben Ali; hundreds and hundreds rally against teacher cuts on Freedom Plaza; listen to the taxicab tapes at WCP; gay marriage could mean economic stimulus to city; and how racist is the D.C. Council?
WaPo remembers Ben Ali with an A1 profile by Matt Schudel: ‘His family-run diner on U Street NW has been one of the most enduring institutions of Washington, a place where families meet after church and where night owls come to talk, flirt and, not least, eat. The landmark eatery opened when U Street was the city’s glittering “Black Broadway,” a strip of nightclubs and theaters that catered to Washington’s black middle class and helped define the city’s pulse and taste. It became a steadfast symbol of Washington’s perseverance through good times and bad, feeding the dignitaries who came to Washington as well as the ordinary folks who call the District home….By the late 1990s, no D.C. politician would dream of running for office without dropping into Ben’s for a ritual half-smoke and milkshake. Former mayor Anthony A. Williams mentioned the restaurant in an inaugural address and called Ben’s the “restaurant where my constituents would most likely run into me.”…Former mayor and current D.C. Council member Marion S. Barry first visited the Chili Bowl in 1966. “I’ll tell you how much of an institution Ben’s Chili Bowl is,” Barry told The Post in 1998. While visiting Accra, the capital of Ghana, Barry met the city’s mayor, who was an alumnus of Howard University. “The first thing he said: ‘Glad to have you in Accra. Is Ben’s Chili Bowl still there?'”‘ Tributes also in Examiner, WaTimes, Afro, Informer, WBJ, AP, WTOP, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV. See also complete coverage at WCP’s Young & Hungry blog.
SAYS BILL COSBY—-‘Ben was a good friend. This is very sad.’
‘Thousands’ rally against teacher cuts on Freedom Plaza. Bill Turque reports in WaPo that they were ‘buoyed by fiery speeches from national labor leaders and local elected officials,’ including AFT President Randi Weingarten, WTU President George Parker, and AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, who calls the layoffs ‘a cold, hard case of union busting.’ Says Turque, ‘A sense of frustration and pent-up anger permeated the gathering, one of the largest shows of labor muscle in the city in recent history. It was designed by organizers to ratchet up political pressure on [Michelle Rhee] and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who is running for reelection next year.’ Also WAMU-FM, WTOP, NC8, WRC-TV, WTTG-TV, AP, Examiner, which quotes Parker saying, ‘No matter how many times Mayor Fenty talks about bad teachers, we know it’s a lie….We know you are good teachers.’
ALSO—-Parker pens WaPo op-ed, titled, ‘D.C. Can’t Fire Its Way to Better Schools.’ He writes: ‘Two years ago, when the mayor selected Michelle Rhee to be schools chancellor, we expressed a desire to work with her on what we thought were shared goals. Our request then was simple: Teachers want to work as partners with the administration to shape the reform agenda. The response: a series of punitive proposals that have fostered mistrust, brought teacher morale to a new low and done little to improve our schools….We thought we were finally beginning to collaborate for better schools, only to discover that good-faith collaboration with the District is more illusion than reality.’ Rhee disputes union budget numbers on Kojo Nnamdi‘s WAMU-FM show: ‘The bottom line reality is that we are facing a major budget problem.’ And Jay Mathews weighs in, too: ‘It is sad that so many educators removed by the firings appear to have been adding value to the school system. At the same time, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee was right to give principals the power to decide who had to go, even if the ensuing mess is likely to make it more difficult for her to establish a system of principal control over hirings and firings that is essential to improving D.C. schools.’
Turque also has an interesting tidbit from the WTU lawsuit: ‘The suit…said the [934-teacher] hiring spree was “far in excess of the number of new teachers hired for any school year in the recent past.” In prior years, WTU said, “the number of newly hired teachers ranged from 250 to 350.” That range is consistent with D.C. Council testimony earlier this year from school budget expert Mary Levy. According to her analysis, based on DCPS salary schedules, the District averaged 294 new teacher hires between fiscal years 2001 and 2008.’
As LL noted last night, prosecutors yesterday played a tape of alleged taxicab schemer Yitbarek Syume threatening to kill Abdul Kamus. WCP is first to have the tape up for your listening pleasure. Also Del Wilber at WaPo. He notes, ‘It is difficult to hear what Syume says on the tapes. But he is clearly irked by Kamus’s actions. At one point, he says he is going to ensure that Kamus will be “permanently eliminated.”‘
ALSO—-Graham aides Steve Hernandez and David Vacca were excused from testifying before a federal grand jury. WaPo’s Tim Craig sees that move as ‘another indication that the federal investigation is not heavily focused on Graham or his office.’
Here’s exactly the kind of story that Fenty doesn’t need right now: The family of 15-year-old Chantice Caruth, who died last week after collapsing at the Rumsey Aquatic Center, is not happy with how the incident was handled. Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner: ‘Whatever caused the tragedy, Chantice’s family is unhappy with the Fenty administration’s reaction, as are D.C. Council members and the president of the swim team’s booster club….DPR officially had no comment, but sources in the agency disputed charges of a lackluster response. Hartsock and several staff were at the hospital the night of the incident, sources said. The director expressed her condolences to the swim team via e-mail; her staff reached out to the family several times….Fenty’s Ward 7 outreach coordinator visited the Caruth family at their home Wednesday evening. Caruth received an e-mail from the government in response to a letter he sent seeking information: “We will have someone from the appropriate department be back in touch with you within 1-2 days to address your comment, concern, or question.”‘
Harry Jaffe declares that racism is ‘alive and well in D.C. Council,’ writing with respect to the Ximena Hartsock saga that Marion Barry ‘is once again demonizing people by the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character.’ More disturbing: ‘[T]hat Barry can still play the Pied Piper on the city council and lead a majority of its members over the cliff into racial politics. Three council members have shown they are particularly vulnerable to Barry’s racist appeal: Harry Thomas Jr., Michael Brown and Yvette Alexander….I have heard reports that some members, egged on by Barry, have tried to enforce a black voting bloc. Muriel Bowser, who represents Ward 4, has not fallen in line….Her thanks? According to my council sources, some staffers have started calling Bowser an “Uncle Tom.”‘ Yikes.
Melissa Castro reports in WBJ that legal gay marriage in the District ‘could inject up to $52.2 million into the city’s retail and tourism industry in the first three years, according to an April study by the Williams Institute, a sexual orientation think tank at UCLA’s law school.’ Says researcher: ‘”I think New England is kind of saturated with wedding venues at the moment — the New England states will have to duke it out amongst themselves…And Washington would have the South all to itself at this point.” With its symbolic status as a beacon of freedom, D.C. could become the hot spot for gay and lesbian weddings. It also would be the only major urban venue, other than Boston, to offer them.’
WaPo editorial board gives a push to gay marriage in the District: ‘The bill is short on pages, but its impact on the lives of gays and lesbians, and on the advancement of civil rights generally, is immeasurable….If we’re to believe the Capitol Hill chatter, Congress is unlikely to thwart its implementation. We hope that proves true.’
ALSO—-Craig takes live-chat questions on gay marriage.
Barry remained in Howard University Hospital’s ICU as of yesterday afternoon. Spokesperson Natalie Williams tells WaPo’s Craig that he ‘is now being treated for an infection but the prognosis is good….”They moved him to ICU just to treat it more aggressively.”‘
Lotsa fun stuff in WBJ this week: Jonathan O’Connell covers a rewrite of D.C. zoning laws that ‘would alter incentives for developers to bring housing, retail, parking and arts programming downtown.’ The changes will be reviewed by the Zoning Commission on Nov. 2. O’Connell’s also all over big-business lobbying to keep so-called ‘combined reporting’ off the District’s books. ‘The measure, passed with the city’s fiscal 2010 budget but not yet implemented, would enable [the city] to tax not only what a corporation earns in the District but a portion of the income it earns from any “unitary” business subsidiaries nationwide….In effect, D.C. would get a greater cut of companies’ nationwide earnings — and some don’t like it.’ Many states have already done it; says Chamber’s Barbara Lang, ‘We are going to fight that all the way.’ Also pieces on the city’s reply to the JBG convention center hotel suit (‘prompting the Chevy Chase developer to respond with a fiery argument that District taxpayers deserve a better deal than they are getting’), and a 27-year-old wannabe banker, and Castro looks at the combined WCCA/SEC.
Metro is anticipating a $22.4M revenue shortfall in its current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2010. James Hohmann reports in WaPo that the news is ‘forcing managers to urgently search for cuts in coming weeks.’ And CFO Carol Kissal warns that if ‘ridership does not bounce back by December…the cuts could grow.’ John Catoe pledges to ‘act swiftly to cover the $22.4 million needed for this year but did not offer details. Aides said he would spell out his strategy at the finance committee’s Nov. 5 meeting.’ Also WUSA-TV.
WHY IS RIDERSHIP DOWN?—-‘Kissal attributed the ridership declines to three factors: higher unemployment rates, which mean fewer people taking mass transit to work; lower gas prices, which make it cheaper to drive; and the June 22 crash that killed nine people and reduced capacity on the Red Line, the rail system’s busiest, by about a third, creating delays that drove people to seek alternatives.’
Girl, 17, is struck in head by bullet in the course of Edgewood Terrace shootout. She was been ‘critically wounded,’ WaPo reports. ‘[T]wo masked men approached the front of 515 Edgewood St….about 8:20 p.m. and at least one fired at the security officer, who returned fire,’ and the girl ‘was hit in the crossfire….It was not clear what prompted the attack, officials said.’
Metro and DDOT consider moving the Mount Olivet Road NE bus stop where Stephanie Richardson was struck and killed on Monday evening, WaPo reports. ‘The bus stop is in the middle of the block, and there is no crosswalk nearby. [DDOT] spokesman John Lisle said that DDOT and Metro are trying to decide whether to install a crosswalk in the middle of that block, move the stop or leave things as they are.’ Also WTOP-FM.
WaPo publishes nice, big reproductions of the enhanced video images that police hope will solve the 1997 murder of Sharon Moskowitz. ‘In the video, a man wearing glasses, an overcoat and a gray sweat shirt with “PITT” on the front is in the dairy aisle of a Giant supermarket in Shaw, at Seventh and O streets NW. He picks up a gallon of milk as a woman accompanying him pushes a cart. D.C. police said both people in the video are believed to still frequent the area.’
Police Complaints Board, Blade reports, ‘is calling on police to improve the monitoring of complaints that officers fail to respond appropriately to hate crimes, including anti-LGBT hate crimes….Pointing to a December 2008 City Council hearing on police response to hate crimes, the report says “some members of the public feel [D.C. police] and other criminal justice agencies in the District can and should do significantly more to investigate, deter, and punish hate crimes.”‘
Woman who died in Georgetown house fire is identified as Nadegsda “Nadia” Stanley, 78. WaPo reports that she ‘was a longtime presence on Washington’s social and diplomatic circuit’ and served as ‘a volunteer at Washington National Cathedral and the National Gallery of Art who also tutored disadvantaged youths in reading programs.’
Man arrested outside Friendship Heights Cheesecake Factory is hit with federal charges, WTTG-TV reports: ‘Police say the man’s name is Ahamed Ali, based on a driver license from Bangladesh. Witnesses and police say Ali had been hanging around Chevy Chase Pavilion for a couple of days, taking notes, making threats, and acting strangely….Investigators say Ali was overheard calling out: “I’m not scared to die! I will kill you! I will blow people up and the Metro!”‘
Police seek man in connection with string of Northeast taxi robberies.
WUSA-TV’s Dave Statter has some unintentionally hilarious video of FEMS firefighters doing a demonstration who get lit on fire and don’t notice. They’re all fine! You can laugh!
WBJ reports that Tuesday’s council business included approvals of three Anacostia real estate deals. ‘The biggest deal is for Bethesda-based Donatelli Development Inc.’s $78 million housing and retail project planned for the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road NE,’ which will not include a street connection that planning gurus had stumped for. Also, a tax break passed by council could ease organic supermarket into DC USA. ‘According to the store’s broker, Cushman & Wakefield’s Dave Dochter, the grocery store is still in the market seeking financing for the store, which it lost during the credit crisis. “We’re pretty optimistic, now that the new legislation has been put in place, that we can get things wrapped up soon and get them in there,” Dochter said.’
Hot on Digg: ‘Top Ten Marion Barry Moments’
OH FERCHRISSAKES—-WUSA-TV does the umpteenth story about how PCP is back! When someone actually starts providing some meaningful statistics, LL will start caring.
WRC-TV talks swine flu vaccine with Pierre Vigilance.
Hogan & Hartson exploring merger with London firm, National Law Journal reports.
Andrews Air Force Base is now ‘Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington.’ LL kids you not. And the logo…my God.
Trooper the Pit Bull, left to die in a dumpster, leaves animal hospital.
H Street NE to get pie shop.
FAIR BE WARNED—-Yellow and Green Lines will be a mess this weekend. ‘Waterfront-SEU and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter stations will close Friday night and won’t reopen until Tuesday morning. There will be no Green Line service at L’Enfant Plaza.’ Also, lanes will be closed on the 14th Street Bridge over the weekend.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment roundtable on ‘Performance of the D.C. One Card Program,’ JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-11:15 a.m.: remarks, Pre-K accomplishments announcement, Beers ES, 3600 Alabama Ave. SE.