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IN LL WEEKLY—-Fare Game: Where is the federal taxi investigation headed?
Morning all. Sad, breaking news: Ben’s Chili Bowl founder Ben Ali has died at 82. Check in at City Desk all day for memories and tributes to the proprietor of one of D.C.’s great culinary and political landmarks. In other news, Ximena Hartsock is fighting back hard after her D.C. Council ouster on Tuesday. The would-be parks-and-rec chief tells WaPo’s Nikita Stewart that several of the claims made by councilmembers on the dais Tuesday are false, and says she could be around for another couple of weeks at least, as her 180-day interim appointment runs out. Fenty, she says, ‘said he was devastated and he was very sorry.’ Have no doubt that the full-court press will continue: LL visited her at DPR headquarters yesterday, following a Univision camera crew into her office. More on the Save Ximena campaign later at City Desk.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Indicted taxi kingpin threatens to go all Mafioso on informant; WTU fires off lawsuit challenging RIF; Nickles gets smacked down by ex-chief judge; city steps up campaign against David Wilmot’s IDI; big fight at Ballou; and Red Line returns to normal!
From Jonetta Rose Barras Web column: ‘Ethnicity and gender are convenient canards for those who wish to ignore the mayor’s irresponsible actions and the candidate’s inadequate level of expertise. While boasting strong academic credentials, Hartsock was not, as some have said, eminently qualified to run the DPR….When TBR interviewed Hartsock earlier this year after being named acting director, which followed the capricious firing of Clark Ray, it was clear the she was in over her head….Hartsock willingly joined the mayor in violating two laws that had been passed by the council. By adopting Fenty’s modus operandi, she provided a glimpse to the council of her own professional standard. They were right to be troubled. The I-did-what-I-was-told excuse is not sufficient. Hartsock must have known there eventually would be consequences for her decision to embrace the executive’s violation of local laws….Some residents and council members have said Hartsock was hardworking and responsive. Truth is she was selectively responsive. Some council members and citizens got their calls returned. Others were left twiddling their thumbs, waiting to hear from any in authority at the agency.’
This much is clear: Yitbarek Syume is not the brightest criminal mastermind around. According to court documents filed yesterday, Syume threatened to kill informant Abdulaziz Kamus a day after Ted Loza‘s arrest for accepting bribes, Del Wilber was first to report at WaPo. Instead of possibly shutting his mouth and leaving town, he told an undercover FBI agent in a recorded meeting that he wanted to ‘eliminate’ Kamus and destroy evidence. Also, if you read Syume’s indictments from last week, you’ll find he actually went back and talked to Swain about his bribes after the Loza arrest. Also WAMU-FM, Examiner.
Let the lawsuits begin: WTU fires off their first legal salvo yesterday, claiming in a Superior Court complaint that administrators ‘targeted educators on the basis of age or their willingness to speak out against administrators,’ according to WaPo’s Bill Turque. The suit asks a judge to stop the District from firing the teachers, scheduled to come off the city payroll on Nov. 2. (Also WTTG-TV.) And, as Turque reports at D.C. Wire, some individual teachers are filing suit as well. He highlights the claim of second-year Dunbar English teacher Michael T. Green.
Meanwhile, Rhee continues making the media rounds—-to Examiner—-to explain why the layoffs were necessary. Turque rounds up the key commentary at D.C. Wire, including Rhee’s claims that the fired teachers were, on the whole, newbies rather than veterans. Here’s what she has to say about Marion Barry‘s ‘lying’ claims: ‘I always think that [Barry] has an interesting interpretation of things. I certainly am willing to answer any questions the council member has, but to be accused of lying—-I just don’t think that’s right.’ Rhee also issued an FAQ about the layoffs to ‘members of the DCPS community.’ George Parker, meanwhile, speaks to WAMU-FM.
Turque also profiles a pair of laid-off DCPS teachers. One, Eve McCarey, was a ‘hardworking, well-spoken’ special-ed teacher at Anacostia SHS. ‘McCarey seems to be the sort of teacher any hard-charging, reformist schools chancellor would want in a classroom. But despite layoff rules designed to help the system retain high-performing teachers, McCarey found herself out of a job Friday, along with other educators who range from idealistic Teach for America newcomers to a 32-year guidance counselor who is praised by parents as uncommonly effective.’ That would be Sheila Gill of McKinley Tech, who ‘had received excellent job evaluations in the past but that she hadn’t had one in the two years since Principal David Pinder arrived at McKinley.’
From WaPo letter: ‘My husband devoted his time, energy, eight years of teaching experience and 50-plus years of life experience to teaching. What we do know is that Mr. Fenty and Ms. Rhee demonstrated to those children that it isn’t enough to do your job well, be early and always prepared, and never give up on what you believe in….They took away my husband’s job, and they broke his heart. Such is life. These cuts will not improve the quality of teaching; they will only exacerbate the dysfunction of the system.’
THIS AFTERNOON—-Official WTU teacher rally, 4:30 p.m. at Freedom Plaza.
Peter Nickles gets a big slapdown in his tussle with D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols over access to AWC/NCRC real estate documents. As Mark Segraves at WTOP first reported, a Superior Court judge ordered Nickles to give up the documents sought by Nichols. The cast of characters who help deliver Nickles’ defeat is fascinating: The judge is none other than Eugene Hamilton, the former chief judge now on senior status, and representing Nichols in the case is ex-DCAG Bob Spagnoletti. Nickles vows to fight on, of course. Also Legal Times, WaPo.
The Fenty administration steps up its attack on Individual Development Inc., the mental-health contractor run by David Wilmot & Co. Following Monday’s lawsuit seeking receivership for three IDI group homes, the city has stopped placing its wards in any of the outfit’s 11 D.C. homes, Nikita Stewart reports in WaPo. The city cites ‘on-going concerns related to the systemic problems experienced by IDI in delivering adequate health care services and ensuring persons are protected from harm.’ Lawyer and board member A. Scott Bolden says IDI has done nothing wrong.
In her Examiner column, Barras has a message to all those service providers whining about lost earmarks: ‘Earth to nonprofits: The country is in a recession. The District experienced a severe revenue shortfall of more than $400 million for this fiscal year….Complaining organizations obviously would have District officials act as careless as their own boards of directors.’ Her point extends to the Accotink Academy, dependent on District special-ed placements for its survival.
RELATED—-Accotink Academy founder speaks to WAMU-FM.
WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood does piece on homeless services funding, receives assurance from city officials that ‘an emergency $11M would be found o keep the struggling programs working.’ And DHS chief Clarence Carter says D.C. ‘will fully ensure that resources are available to keep the shelters open.’ Also do see the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of why this is happening: ‘The reduction to homeless services isn’t coming because the District is losing TANF funds — federal block grant funding to DC remains unchanged. What the Department of Human Services has lost is local funding — $25 million in FY 2010 — due to budget cuts….The choices to fund some programs and not others were made largely outside the view of the Council and the public….Lack of budget transparency has real — human — costs.’
WaPo editorial board delivers some kind words for taxi-bribery whistleblower Leon Swain Jr.: ‘D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles is right to hail him as a genuine hero and role model. D.C. government history is unfortunately littered with instances of those in its employ looking away—-or even engaging—-in wrongdoing….Mr. Swain’s bravery, like the decision of a still unnamed worker to blow the whistle on a government swindle in the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer, are hopeful signs that a culture of accountability is perhaps taking root in the District.’
DC USA parking garage: Still empty! Paul Schwartzman reports for WaPo on the $40M Columbia Heights parking garage that continues to cost District taxpayers $100,000 per month in operating expenses. Says DMPED Valerie Santos: ‘I don’t want to say it’s a quote, unquote, mistake. At the time the District did what it had to do to attract a retailer it sorely wanted….Am I happy about the operating deficit? Of course not.’ The bigger picture is that the city is seeking to ‘rewrite 50-year-old regulations so they will no longer require developers to build a minimum number of parking spaces for new retail outlets, offices and apartments in areas near Metro stations.’ Says planning professor: ‘You shouldn’t think of this as any pioneering reform in Washington. You’re following the pack, and you’re a long way behind.’ Also see this D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of all the D.C. money that went into the DC USA deal.
Eight Metrobus drivers tested positive for drugs or alcohol following accidents, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner, citing a year’s worth of data. And, over five years, bus drivers comprised a disproportionately large portion of all positive tests. And, Weir notes, ‘Metro’s new cellphone policy for drivers is stricter than its alcohol and drug policy. Under the new zero-tolerance policy on cellphone use, an operator will be fired on a first offense if caught using a cellphone while operating a bus or train. An alcohol or drug violation, though, does not automatically translate to firing.’
ALSO—-Believe it or not, but the Red Line is back to normal between Fort Totten and Takoma. And WMATA spend $2M on new IBM monitoring equipment. Metro ‘currently uses an earlier version of the software, known as Maximo to manage its more than 12,000 rail and bus stations, 106 miles of track, 1,144 rail cars and 1,500 buses. It also uses the software for its 594 escalators and 275 elevators.’
Note to criminals: Watch what you say while you’re on a 911 call. According to WaPo’s Wilber, Deonte Marshall called for help in May 2008 and while on the horn with a dispatcher, told someone, ‘give me your [gun] before the police come.’ Then, when police searched Marshall’s Bloomingdale home, ‘they found a loaded .32-caliber revolver,’ earning him a federal gun charge. He was convicted Tuesday.
ALSO—-Wayne W. Pannell, 47, convicted of hiring a man ‘to call the office of Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines in February and threaten to kill her and abduct her son.’
Nearly a dozen minors were arrested at Ballou SHS yesterday morning, Jeff Anderson reports in WaTimes, ‘after an ongoing feud between street gangs spilled into the building.’ The ‘violence broke out in the technology wing of Ballou some time after 10 a.m., as two rival crews, “One Deuce” and “Congress Park,” took their ongoing feud onto school property….Shortly before noon, Ballou was still in a state of chaos, as officials tried to restore order and respond to parents who were angry about security conditions at the school. The front doors to the school were locked and visitors were required to pass through a metal detector monitored by officers with the private security firm Securitas Security Services.’
Still more fallout from the Hawk One collapse: Some employee are out a paycheck, Stewart reports at D.C. Wire. ‘Many of the guards have been transferred to other security companies, which now have taken over the city contracts to secure the buildings. But hundreds of guards did not receive their last checks from Hawk One.’ Some of them ‘stood outside the John A. Wilson Building Wednesday and spoke to council members Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who vowed to look into the issue.’ Nickles tells NC8 that things will likely get settled in bankruptcy court. Also WAMU-FM.
Landex Inc. picked to do $130M Park Morton redevelopment, Jonathan O’Connell reports at WBJ. ‘Linthicum, Md.-based Landex was one of three bidders for the project. The company has developed and manages more than 5,000 housing units, including the 166-unit Broadway Overlook project in Baltimore. Its partners on Park Morton include two D.C.-based firms, Warrenton Group [aka Warren C. Williams of lottery-contract fame] and Spectrum Management LLC, and architects Wiencek and Associates Architects and Planners PC. The developers say they have secured a contract to buy property from Central Union Mission, a homeless shelter, nearby on Georgia Avenue that likely helped secure the deal with the city.’ That deal seems not quite done, though. PoP has reax.
Stevens ES developer dispute makes it to Examiner’s pages. Bill Myers writes that Fenty ‘plan to convert a historic D.C. school for freed slaves into a luxury apartment building has run into fierce opposition from neighbors in tony Foggy Bottom and D.C. Council members.’ Myers also notes that Jack Evans‘ opposition is ‘crucial…because he has long been one of Fenty’s most loyal allies.’
Examiner blogger covers Palisades vs. Pepco fight.
District needs to ditch ‘mentally retarded’ term, Georgetown Voice’s Will Sommer argues.
Officials to keep tight leash on swine-flu vaccine.
WaPo blog: ‘With children and pedestrians at great risk, traffic safety is a political no-brainer. Mayor Adrian Fenty should launch a campaign: Don’t Dial and Drive in D.C.’
Newly enhanced surveillance video and pictures has police seeking information in 1997 murder of Sharon Moskowitz in Adams Morgan. ‘Investigators say they’ve exhausted all leads in the case, despite releasing video images of a person who used Moskowitz’s credit card within 24 hours of her death at the Giant Grocery Store at 7th and O streets NW.’ Also WRC-TV, WTTG-TV.
Downtown military recruiting office is vandalized.
Wardman Park Marriott lures black engineers’ convention away from Baltimore.
Only Birmingham, Ala., has a lower office vacancy rate than D.C.
Sporting News ranks Washington No. 14 best sports city.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-11 a.m.: Committee on Health and Committee on Human Services joint hearing on B18-356 (‘Jacks-Fogle Family Preservation Case Coordination Authorization Act of 2009’), JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Housing and Workforce Development meeting (scheduled), JAWB 120.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-6:45 a.m.: guest, Connecting with the Mayor, WRC-TV; 7:10 a.m.: guest, Fenty on Fox, WTTG-TV; 10:30 a.m.: remarks, grand opening of Career Transition Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Delano Hall, Building 11.