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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Jim Graham Takes City Paper to Task‘; ‘Breaking: Read the Taxicab Indictments; Suspects Tried To Bribe Leon Swain Jr.‘; ‘Leon Swain: Taxicab Whistleblower Hero‘; ‘D.C. Taxi Probe: Who Are These People?‘
Morning all. The official tally: 229 teachers have been axed from DCPS, along with another 159 support staff. And Chancellor Michelle Rhee handed out pink slips on the same day that Hawk One Security decided to go under. How’s that for timing? WaPo says that ‘[t]he combination of events, which included a skirmish between students and police at McKinley Technology High School that resulted in two arrests, highlighted the challenges faced by [Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty] as they struggle to reform the troubled system in lean economic times.’ Question is, who were those fired? ‘Rhee did not offer details but said the terminated employees as a group were “consistent with the overall demographic makeup of the staff.”‘ But WTU president George Parker ‘disputed Rhee’s numbers and analysis….He said early indications, based on calls he had received from teachers, were that the terminated group was predominantly “senior teachers over 50.”‘ (WaPo found one first-year Cardozo teacher who had been laid off.) The paper also posts the official press release and the principals’ firing script. Also AP, NC8, WTTG-TV, Washington Teacher, ‘Real Education Reform’ blog. WAMU-FM reports that Vince Gray wants hearings on the layoffs. Examiner’s Leah Fabel reports that some teachers will protest the firings by wearing black to school today. Candi Peterson indicates that more will be laid off today. And this morning, 150 McKinley students skipped class to march to 825 North Cap; Harry Thomas Jr. joined them.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Requiem for Hawk One; homeless service providers surprised by Fenty cuts; Hizzoner takes heat for AIDS visibility; District threw good money after bad university; and was Jim Graham offered bribes by cab interests?
Says the WaPo ed board: ‘D.C schools don’t have rubber rooms but an even worse situation: Bad teachers stay in the classroom. It’s a problem too long tolerated by school officials. So, as painful as Friday’s layoffs are, D.C. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee was right to shake up her instructional force….What’s most significant about the layoffs is the system used to determine which teachers should go. In contrast to previous years, when seniority played an outsize role in force reductions, Ms. Rhee placed a premium on the needs of individual schools and the interests of children.’
SO LONG, HAWK ONE—-The company’s not-wholly-unexpected collapse ‘sent officials scrambling’ and schools ‘opened Friday with a patchwork of police and school administrators staffing security checkpoints.’ Today, firms Securitas and U.S. Security Associates will take over. ‘The McKinley scuffle was the only serious incident reported. An estimated 200 students gathered outside the Northeast Washington school as the day ended to protest the staff layoffs. Witnesses said that a female student angrily confronted police and fell or was knocked to the ground. She was arrested….Police said two people were arrested but gave no details.’ Also WAMU-FM, NC8 (1); NC8 (2); WRC-TV, WTTG-TV, and WUSA-TV, which reports that military reservists showed up to guard a football game at Anacostia SHS.
The dimensions of the taxi bribery scam under federal investigation becomes more apparent with Friday’s indictments. More than 30 were charged, and most of those were arrested. Three have emerged as ringleaders, Del Wilber reports in WaPo: ‘[P]rosecutors accused Yitbarek Syume, 51, of Silver Spring; Berhane Leghese, 47, of Arlington County; and Amanuel Ghirmazion, 53, of Hyattsville of operating an audacious bribery scheme that sought to profit from changes in D.C. taxi laws….In a separate indictment, authorities alleged that Syume and 36 cabdrivers participated in a second scheme that provided the District official with more than $100,000 in payoffs in a single month in exchange for taxi licenses.’ That official is Leon Swain Jr., chair of the D.C. Taxicab Commission since 2007, who immediately went to federal authorities and has been named ‘Taxicab Whistleblower Hero’ by LL. Does this mean they city hall arrests are over? Maybe, maybe not: ‘Law enforcement sources say that [Jim Graham] is not a target of an investigation but that they are investigating his ties to the taxi industry.’ The cabbies are due in federal court this afternoon. Also Examiner, WaTimes, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, and WTTG-TV, which captures this exchange with Graham:
FOX 5: “Have you been offered a bribe?”
Graham: “I have not received a bribe of any kind, I have not done anything illegal or unethical.”
FOX 5: “Have you been offered a bribe?”
Graham: “I am not the subject of any investigation.”
FOX 5: “Have you been offered a bribe?”
Graham: “That’s all I’m gonna say.”
FOX 5: “You won’t answer that question?”
Graham: “That’s all I’m going to say for now if you don’t mind.”
ALSO—-Dorothy Brizill posts pictures of Graham and staffers with alleged briber Abdul Kamus. They’re from Graham’s Web site.
BUT WHY?—-‘In 2007, the D.C. government ended the city’s system of calculating fares by zone and adopted one that uses electronic meters. The indictment says that many in the industry believed the new system would lead to more regulation, “including stringent limitations on the total number of taxicabs licensed to do business.” By July of last year, the District enacted a moratorium on the issuance of licenses to operate multi-cab taxi companies….In apparent anticipation of the moratorium, Syume, Leghese and Ghirmazion conspired to bribe Swain to obtain “numerous” cab company licenses, the indictment says. The men were hoping to sell some of the licenses and hold onto others, which they believed would become more valuable, the indictment alleges.’ Also, Sam Smith returns to talk taxis.
Homeless nonprofits discover that city funding for their services has been cut by some $20 million, and they are not happy at all. ‘Advocates said the funding decrease likely will result in shelters being closed, forcing hundreds of adults and children onto the streets within months,’ Darryl Fears reports in WaPo. Says Tommy Wells, ‘Obviously, I was taken by surprise and furious because we have a tenuous relationship with the community as it is….You have to have honesty and transparency in actions, and this undercuts the relationship we’ve developed with the community.’ And: ‘Asked if he thought the administration action was a sleight of hand, Wells said, “You can call it whatever you want.”‘ The Fenty line: ‘Mafara Hobson…said in a statement that there was essentially no change in the homeless services budget.’ Also DCist.
In Fears’ other big story of the weekend, he covers disappointment in the HIV/AIDS activism community over Fenty’s reluctance to personally stump for the issue in the District. ‘Many activists have nothing but praise for Fenty’s AIDS policies….But the mayor appears to have little interest in becoming the public face of AIDS prevention, they complain, and has failed to use the power of his office as a bully pulpit to persuade District residents to get tested and practice safe sex.’ The story does contain a rare public apology from Hizzoner, for neglecting to mention AIDS in his State of the District speech: ‘Fenty said the omission was bad judgment. “I should have mentioned it,” he said outside an HIV testing site in August. “That was my fault. I need to work harder. I need to do better as mayor to promote awareness of this disease.”‘ Also WAMU-FM.
Fenty did appear briefly at Saturday’s AIDS Walk, which raised $800K for Whitman-Walker Clinic. N.C. Aizenman reports in WaPo that he ‘struck an optimistic note….”I really do feel that although our challenges are tough, the city has never been more energized and more mobilized,” he said to cheers from the crowd. “I really do feel that we’re getting the message out of getting tested and making sure that you use the right type of prevention.” Although the mayor has won praise for restoring competence to the city’s HIV/AIDS office and funding programs such as a needle exchange for drug addicts, he has also been criticized for not taking a more public role. And his short speech at the walk was no exception.’
WHEN CANNED REPLIES DON’T CUT IT—-‘It’s not clear whether Fenty has a personal stake in the AIDS issue. Asked whether he knows anyone who has HIV, or who succumbed to AIDS, the mayor said, “I’ll have to check and get back to you on that.”‘
Not long before folding this fall, Southeastern University was handed a $1.5M grant from the District government, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. A check was issued pursuant to a fiscal 2009 mayoral earmark in December; the Fenty administration has since ordered a stop to spending. That’s in addition to this: ‘The university netted $250,000 in 2009 to support its Allied Health programs, and nearly $110,000 from the Child and Family Services Agency over the past two years for “real property rental.” The Department of Employment Services also has spent more than $46,000 there for “training and instruction” since 2008.’ Says CFO: ‘[W]e feel D.C. got its money’s worth….From our perspective it was worth trying to save a 130-year-old institution.’
The District finally gets some good news from a federal judge: Paul Friedman indicates in Friday hearing that he would indeed consider removing at least some court oversight from the city special-education apparatus under the Blackman-Jones case. ‘But he said substantial concerns remain,’ Jenna Johnson and Michael Birnbaum report in WaPo. Some of those concerns were aired in a 115-page evaluation issued by court monitors: ‘The general environment of special education in the District remained a difficult one,’ it reads. And here’s what’s at stake: ‘The cost to taxpayers in tuition and transportation is about $200 million a year, and the number of students placed in private schools increased by more than 200 last year, according to the evaluation.
Colby King looks at student safety at the Friendship Collegiate Academy, a charter school across from the Minnesota Avenue Metro stop in Northeast. The problem isn’t inside the school, but outside, where the problem is ‘dropouts who live in the nearby Mayfair Mansions housing complex and a gang called the 37th Street Crew. These rival groups congregate around the Metro station directly across the street from the academy at the end of school day, and they make the lives of students a living hell….They “bully, threaten, and sometimes beat up our kids, who are easily recognizable.”…Girls, most of them dropouts, according to Friendship’s [Donald Hense], also hang out around the Metro stop, looking for rivals. One problem: ‘the D.C. police officer assigned to the academy as a school resource officer had been pulled out because police headquarters believed only regular public schools, not public charter schools, were entitled to resource officers.’ That seems to have been addressed.
Jonetta Rose Barras covers the Ximena Hartsock DPR confirmation hearing and asks questions ‘about the priorities of an agency that has allocated thousands to construct dog parks and may spend millions more on a Chevy Chase playground to install an unsightly fence and stadium-style lights neighbors decry as too expensive.’ Plus she’s inexperienced, has doled out high salaries, flouted personnel rules, blah blah blah. And then there’s this—-‘the matter of her citizenship. Born in Chile, Hartsock has been a “permanent resident” [what’s with the scare quotes?] for 13 years….Perhaps citizenship isn’t required for these jobs—-but it should be.’ Really? How about a loyalty oath?
WaPo ed board takes heart in Sen. Dick Durbin‘s comments that vouchers may well be reauthorized: ‘His concerns—-legitimate in our mind—-about oversight and the quality of some schools clearly rattled the scholarship operators. No doubt they are right to be suspicious of changes that could hurt the program. But we would like to think that if Mr. Durbin were intent on killing the program, he wouldn’t be spending so much time talking about how to make it better.’
D.C. Appleseed is seeking $100K to cover expenses in its fight to squeeze community health money out of CareFirst, Neibauer reports in Examiner. Wrote Appleseed ED Walter Smith in an e-mail last week: ‘Going toe-to-toe with CareFirst over whether the company has built up excessive surplus funds has forced us to incur $100,000 in unanticipated expenses during particularly difficult economic times.’ Smith tells Neibauer that the think tank ‘remains financially stable…but its reserves are down as a result of the eight-year CareFirst battle.’ The fundraising appeal solicited a nastygram from activist and CareFirst subscriber Peter Rosenstein, who CC’d his accusation that Appleseed is trying to ‘rip-off the CareFirst reserves’ to local media.
D.C. Court of Appeals says man misdiagnosed with HIV by Whitman-Walker isn’t entitled to ’emotional distress’ damages, Freeman Klopott reports in Examiner, but one judge, Vanessa Ruiz, finds that the so-called ‘zone of danger’ standard, ‘designed to prevent a flood of emotional distress lawsuits,’ should be reconsidered.
WaPo’s Yamiche Alcindor compares the new Overlook apartments to Parkside Terrace—-the housing project famously ‘plagued by drugs, criminals and violent attacks’ it replaced. At the $78M Overlook, developed by H.R. Crawford et al., ‘Residents now have three acres of green space and access-controlled parking. Every unit comes with new appliances and high-speed Internet capability. Community rooms, a computer room, a laundry room and a playground are on-site, and developers plan to add a credit union with ATM service, hair salon, convenience store and health-care suite for seniors. For most of the day and night, security guards pace the halls and monitor the building’s more than 120 cameras.’
D.C. cop shoots at would-be carjackers in Capitol Heights. ‘The off-duty police officer involved in Sunday’s incident…was not hurt,’ WaPo reports. ‘It was not clear whether he wounded either of the two people who tried to take his car at gunpoint, police said. They were at large Sunday night….In Sunday’s incident, the D.C. officer, whose name was not released, had just parked his vehicle on Brooks Drive about 6:20 a.m. As he got out, he was approached by two people, county police said. One showed a gun and demanded the officer’s keys. The officer got his service weapon and fired, police said. As the two people ran, one fired back, police said.’
With handgun restrictions again going before the Supreme Court, Peter Nickles pens a WaPo op-ed defending and explaining why the District needs its handgun restrictions: ‘Allowing guns to be lawfully carried on D.C. streets would make it much harder for law enforcement to identify someone illegally carrying a firearm, intent on drawing national and international attention to a cause….I can think of no more certain way to reverse the hard-fought gains against gun violence in our city than to permit the carrying of firearms in the city. I assure residents that I will do all within my power to vindicate the District’s firearms polices and to protect the public from gun violence.’
‘Is UDC poised to soar?’ asks Harry Jaffe. ‘This school year, UDC is starting to have the look and feel of a serious city college, more like the City University of New York than the prison it resembled a year ago….The train is being driven by two new conductors: board Chairwoman Emily Durso and President Allen Sessoms. Durso is the ideal chairwoman. A native Washingtonian, she earned her political and business chops working for Marion Barry‘s economic development team in the early years, helped Giuseppe Cecchi develop Techworld, and has been executive director of the Hotel Association for two decades. She started the hospitality high school. She knows every player in town and can make things happen—-like securing $45 million from the city council for capital improvements and achieving her goal of putting community college branches in all eight wards.’
Elderly woman dies in Georgetown house fire Friday, WaPo reports. The fire, on the 3000 block of O Street NW, ‘began about 3:50 p.m. and was contained to the first floor. It was quickly extinguished, but when firefighters searched the home, they found the woman’s body.’ Also WTTG-TV. NC8 reports the woman was 80.
Allen P. Parker, killed by a hit-and-run driver on Georgia Avenue NW last Saturday, was riding a Razor-type foot scooter when he was hit, Martin Weil reports in WaPo. ‘Police said Parker was riding the scooter about 10:25 p.m. Sept. 26 as he headed north in the 4300 block of Georgia Avenue NW. A dark-colored auto, also traveling north, hit the rear of the scooter, police said in a statement. The car did not stop, police said, and was last seen headed west in the 1000 block of Webster Street NW, around the corner from where Parker was hit.’ Parker’s bike, his usual mode of transport, had been stolen.
Man killed early Friday on the 1400 block of 18th Street SE identified as Eddie Raphael Blocker, 18.
Red Line trains still delayed near crash site, Kytja Weir reports for Examiner. No telling when that will change.
The Very Rev. David M. O’Connell will step down as president of Catholic University next August, Nick Anderson reports in WaPo, ‘after more than a decade as leader of a school with direct ties to the Vatican as well as influential alumni in political circles.’ O’Connell, 54, took over in 1998 and ‘is known for pushing to reinvigorate the university’s Catholic identity in a way that hews closely to Church teachings. Such efforts have sometimes been a challenge for Catholic college leaders who must bridge liberal and conservative points of view among students and faculty.’ More importantly: ‘O’Connell has raised about $180 million for the university.’ Also WBJ.
Recession feature of the weekend: WaPo’s Birnbaum covers kids forced to transfer from private schools to public schools. ‘[F]inancial pressures and the availability of good public schools have made the option irresistible to some,’ he writes. ‘Many private schools are struggling. Last year, the Archdiocese of Washington closed two schools in Southern Maryland. At least two local independent schools, the Newport School and Thornton Friends School, both in Silver Spring, closed over the summer, as did at least one small religious school, Ambassador Baptist Church Christian School in Anacostia….Still, serious enrollment problems at private schools appear to be fairly limited, something administrators credit largely to increased financial aid on their part and budget cuts in public schools that have swollen class sizes and reduced services.’
WBJ’s Jonathan O’Connell covers development activity in Shaw. Nike could me moving into Doug Jemal-owned building at 7th and Florida. Ellis Development says Radio One HQ could break ground by year’s end. Same timeline for renovations of the Howard Theatre, also being driven by Chip Ellis. And O Street Market work is moving forward. RenewShaw.com has all the details.
ALSO—-O’Connell looks at Michael Kelly‘s departure: ‘We will know a lot more about what Fenty thought of Kelly’s work when the board chooses a successor. Will it be Kelly’s deputy and interim replacement, Adrianne Todman, an expert from elsewhere or a friend of the mayor’s?’
Examiner’s Fabel covers local school suspension policies, and finds that ‘The region’s greatest [security] challenge has been in D.C. Public Schools, where a recent think tank report uncovered 3,500 emergency calls to the D.C. police during the 2007-08 school year. But cutting back on suspensions has been a key focus of Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and resources have been funneled toward that end. Under the staffing model she is phasing in at each school, “respect rooms” are available for students acting out to talk with a counselor about their issues.’
Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Alprin will be retiring after 26 years on the bench, Legal Times reports. And finalists are named to replace Jerry Byrd: Christopher Herrling of WilmerHale, plus Superior Court magistrates Milton Lee Jr. and William Nooter.
Banneker math teacher among 24 in nation selected for Einstein education fellowship program, Emma Brown reports in WaPo. Mark Hannum is ‘traveling the country to learn about and evaluate a National Science Foundation effort to connect graduate students doing cutting-edge research with K-12 teachers.’ Hannum is a year in and had been ‘asked to stay for a second year. He said he is weighing what to do next.’
Five win Meyer Foundation Exponent Awards, given to ‘exceptional local nonprofit leaders,’ and WaPo (which created the fortune that funded Meyer) is more than happy to cover who won: Lindsey Buss of Martha’s Table; Kelly Sweeney McShane of Community of Hope; David Andrew Snider of Young Playwrights’ Theater; Ana Lopez of Community Bridges, and Jonathan M. Smith of the D.C. Legal Aid Society. They’ll each get a two-year $100,000 leadership development grant.
WCP’s Dave McKenna responds to protestations over his coverage of Art Monk and Charles Mann‘s (non-)stewardship of Anacostia’s Carver Theater.
Chief engineer of the American Public Transportation Association, in WaPo letter, defends decision to ‘belly’ 1000-series Metro cars: ‘[T]here is clear engineering justification for moving the older cars to the center of the train….Through computer simulations and physical tests of train collisions, studies have shown that it is safer to reconfigure older cars into the middle. Rail cars in the middle of the train experience less force from a collision. Less force means less damage to the rail car.’ Makes sense to LL!
WaPo letter on Chevy Chase speed bumps: ‘The unnecessarily massive speed humps do in fact have the effect of diverting traffic to neighboring streets….The Morrison [Street NW] residents should take a moment to look beyond their own interests and realize they don’t live on a street, they live in a neighborhood. Their neighbors—-adults and children alike—-no more deserve to be hit by a car than they do.’
‘It wasn’t until Marcus Bryant joined the Youth For Tomorrow program that he was able to kick his three-year-long drug habit. Now, five months later, the 16-year-old D.C. resident no longer smokes marijuana several times a day.’ Thanks, Joe Gibbs!
Woman gives birth on Northwest sidewalk.
Legal Times covers Sunday’s Red Mass.
D.C. Vote lobbies on Hill—-with postcards!
Washington airport users want more WiFi, survey finds.
Vote-stymieing Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) in trouble again. Delightful!
David Catania is named ‘Most Impressive Democrat of the Week’ by HuffPo blogger. LL can think of one think wrong with that decision.
Fenty spotted by Reliable Source Friday at exclusive Meridian Ball.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m., press briefing, JAWB 412; 11 a.m.: Committee on Human Services hearing on ‘Options for Human Services Programming available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,’ JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, Parklands Turner Library ribbon-cutting, 1547 Alabama Ave. SE; 2 p.m.: remarks, Deanwood Community Center and Library topping-off, 49th and Quarles Street NE.