City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Graham Aide Arrested for Bribery‘; ‘Loza Indictment!‘; ‘Graham “Deeply Troubled” By Charges‘; ‘Ted Loza Arrest: Early Answers to Early Questions‘; ‘Loza’s Wife Worked for Group Receiving Council Earmarks‘; ‘Ted Loza on Paid Administrative Leave, Graham Says‘; ‘Jim Graham, Ted Loza, and Fiesta DC: How They Came Together‘
Greetings all. Just a tremendous amount of news around here in the last 24 hours, none bigger than the arrest of Ted Loza, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham‘s longtime top aide, on federal bribery charges. See City Paper’s complete coverage above; like Marion Barry‘s July 4 arrest, Loza’s collar points to other, more mundane forms of corruption involving the council earmark process. LL was first to report that Fiesta DC, recipient of $300,000 in council-directed funds, employed Loza’s wife. Many questions remain to be answered: For one, how could Loza get bought so cheap? For the favor granted, $1,500 was a pittance. Also, Graham insists he had no knowledge of Loza’s activities, nay, never even talked about taxi legislation with him. That is not easy to believe. What is necessary, and what LL has requested from Graham’s office, is a full accounting of how language exempting hybrid taxicabs from a license fees made its way into Graham’s medallion legislation.
AFTER THE JUMP—-A full rundown of Loza arrest coverage; Michelle Rhee graces the cover of the first redesigned WaPo mag; angry teachers protest at DCPS HQ; developers line up to praise Valerie Santos; questions persist on fire hydrants; and Neil Albert casts surprise vote against keeping John Catoe.
In their A1 lede-all on the Loza arrest, WaPo’s Del Quentin Wilber and Tim Craig detail to the ‘stream of things of value’ Loza is said to have accepted, including ‘trips…to Ethiopia and free limo rides to airports and other destinations in the D.C. area.’ They identify the indictment’s ‘Individual Number 1’ as Abdulaziz Kamus, executive director of the African Resource Center. That’s ‘a nonprofit organization that assists African immigrants, according to press accounts. Kamus, who hails from Ethiopia, has also been quoted in the media as an advocate for Ethiopian taxi drivers.’ And they add some meat to the bare-bones official statements of investigators: ‘Law enforcement sources said the probe is broad. Although the accusations against Loza are fairly recent, law enforcement sources said agents have been conducting a corruption investigation for at least a year. They also obtained wiretaps as part of the probe, said the sources, who, like other sources, spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.’
Question is, who are the feds really targeting? Is it Graham, or is it a taxicab operative? In his lede Examiner piece, Michael Neibauer seems to think it’s the latter: ‘Multiple sources familiar with the ongoing investigation told The Examiner that Graham’s staff had been meeting through the summer with an official from Medallion Financial, a New York company that loans money to cabbies for medallions. A top law enforcement official said the company was linked to the bribery probe.’ Neibauer also looks at the entities—-United Fleet Management, Prisma Communications, Fiesta DC—-named in an FBI search warrant.
In a look at the arrestee himself, Nikita Stewart and Craig write that Loza ‘spent the past decade building a reputation as the voice of the District’s Latino community and as the right hand of Council member Jim Graham.’ At the John A. Wilson Building, they write, ‘there were snickers at the paltry amount of the alleged bribe. But fellow activists in Ward 1, which Graham represents and where a significant percentage of the city’s Latino population resides, there was shock and disappointment.’ They also detail his ‘past money troubles, an assault charge and conflicts of interest with Fiesta DC.’
LOZA COMMENT—-He was released from custody yesterday on personal recognizance. Outside Prettyman, ‘Loza’s attorney, Pleasant S. Brodnax, said the Graham staffer did nothing wrong. “When all the facts come out and the entire context of this is understood, you will see that Mr. Loza is not guilty of bribery,” Brodnax said.’
WaPo editorial board weighs in with an early word on the arrest, calling it ‘reassuring’ to hear Graham deny any involvement. But, they write, ‘Allegations that Mr. Loza tried to influence this legislation raise questions about how or whether the committee can even proceed with it. Mr. Graham said that the bill was the result of a recommendation by a task force. It’s important that he provide a full accounting of its genesis and development, disclosing all meetings and contacts.’
For the first issue of the redesigned WaPo magazine, Marc Fisher profiles Michelle Rhee. Fisher gets interviews with Rhee’s parents, co-workers, top deputies, and old friends. The takeaway: She’s always been like this! As a teenager, Rhee ‘already had the mouth for which she has become infamous. She said what was on her mind, even if it stung. Finally, one day, her mother had just had it with her daughter’s blunt, even brusque, manner. Inza Rhee said to Michelle, “What is wrong with you? You just don’t care what people think of you!”‘ That gives way to a discussion of ‘the broom’ (check the outtakes from the Time photo shoot), and the thought from George Parker that ‘no previous superintendent has managed to wreck morale better than Rhee.’ There’s no huge scoop in here, but a lot of great detail about Rhee’s background and her style: ‘Rhee is all about control. She agreed to come to Washington only after being assured greater authority over the schools than any superintendent had ever had. Almost instantly, she managed to alienate important people.’ Fisher gets details on her manicure habits, too, but not her relationship with Kevin Johnson. Rhee also does video interview with WaPo columnist Steve Pearlstein.
ALSO—-Education Week blogger Lesli A. Maxwell has an interview with Fisher, who tells her: ‘In the end, I concluded that what you see is what you get….When I talked to her friends and people who’ve known her for decades, it all sounded quite consistent.’
About 60 teachers rally outside DCPS headquarters to protest teacher layoffs. In WaPo, Bill Turque calls them a ‘small but vocal band…joined by supporters and community activists.’ The rally laid bare the split in the Washington Teachers’ Union: ‘President George Parker did not attend the rally, which was organized in part by two of his most outspoken critics, union board of trustees member Candi Peterson and its general vice president, Nathan Saunders….Parker said the union didn’t endorse the rally because it was “hastily and loosely organized. “It did very little to serve the interests of our members, although it may do a lot to serve the political interests of Candi Peterson and Nathan Saunders,” he said.’ The ‘official’ WTU rally will be Oct. 8. Also WAMU-FM, NC8.
ALSO—-Rhee explains to WaPo the rationale and process behind the layoffs, summarized thusly: ‘Did [Rhee] engineer the impending round of DCPS layoffs by filling 900 jobs over the summer, knowing full well that the District’s financial condition would ultimately force her to reduce staff? She says no. Does she want to use the cutbacks as an opportunity to rid the system of teachers she considers underperforming? She says yes. Are veteran teachers at risk? Yes and no.’ As to who gets fired, Rhee ‘intends to use the cuts as an added opportunity to weed out those she regards as under-performers. “I’m trying to figure out how to manage the realities in a way that will benefit kids,” she said. “As we are having to downsize staff are we [looking at] people who add the least value? Absolutely.” Rhee said that means novices as well as veterans. In meeting with principals this week, Rhee said some wanted to drop as many younger hires considered “mistakes,” as they did older staff.’
John Catoe‘s contract as Metro’s general manager is renewed, but not without drama and controversy: City Administrator and District representative Neil Albert, acting on behalf of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, votes against the offer. Albert’s statement: ‘The challenges that [Metro] has faced in the recent past demand more aggressive leadership.’ He later told WaPo ‘that although Metro has made “some progress in recent years, there is still more progress to be made.” In addition, the statement said, the Fenty administration believes that “before a three-year contract was approved, the board should have used this opportunity to explore new, innovative options with regard to leadership.”‘ Catoe says he will ‘see what I need to do to meet that level or standard that would have allowed [Albert] to vote yes.’ Also WTOP, WAMU-FM, WBJ, and Kytja Weir in Examiner, who notes that the board ‘sweetened his compensation package…despite a summer of woes for the transit agency.’
WHY THE POWER MOVE?—-‘The mayor’s office has clashed with Catoe over real estate issues, most prominently the Metro headquarters building near Verizon Center. Fenty has long wanted the District to have the ability to sell the Metro building. The city would use the proceeds to build a new headquarters for Metro at the Anacostia Metro station, which would spur economic development in Anacostia, a priority for the Fenty administration. Catoe has said the city’s proposal would not serve Metro’s interest. Albert was formerly deputy mayor for economic development, and his appointment to the Metro board last October was seen as part of Fenty’s push to persuade Metro to change its mind on the building deal.’
Carla A. Proctor, the 43-year-old Metrobus driver who struck a jogger near Dupont Circle on Sept. 3, has been fired. WaPo’s James Hohmann writes: ‘Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said she was terminated Monday. “She was dismissed for failing to follow standard operating procedures,” a statement from Metro said. Farbstein declined to elaborate….Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, the union that represents Proctor, announced Thursday that it will help her file a grievance challenging the termination.’ As for the jogger: ‘[T]he brother of the jogger who was struck…said Amanda Mahnke is now in stable condition and has been transferred out of the intensive-care unit at George Washington University Hospital. “She has a long recovery ahead of her, though,” he said.’ The family is seeking witnesses to the accident. Also WTOP, Examiner and WaTimes, which has Metro spox saying Proctor ‘didn’t do everything she could to prevent the crash.’
LL was planning to spend some time yesterday watching Valerie Santos‘ DMPED confirmation hearing, but then Teddy Loza had to go and get arrested. But WBJ’s Jonathan O’Connell was there in JAWB 412. He notes the list of big-shot developers who showed up to pay tribute to the new boss: William Alsup of Hines; Jair Lynch; Robert Youngentob of EYA; Forest City’s Deborah Ratner Salzberg; not to mention DCBIA prez Chris Smith of William C. Smith & Co., who ‘said she was uniquely qualified for the job…”Given the impressive scope and daunting challenges of pending District-sponsored developments, such continuity in the succession of the deputy mayor position can only well serve our city,” Smith said.’ The big hiccup for Santos is the decision to hand the Stevens ES project to Equity Residential, which generated some short-notice neighborhood opposition.
RELATED—-Castlerock Partners will develop Howard Town Center site. ‘The land, located north of V Street between Eighth Street and Georgia Avenue in Northwest D.C., is set to be developed into 445 apartments, at least 100,000 square feet of retail and underground parking. The project is also slated to include a grocery store of at least 35,000 square feet, and [Castlerock] is weighing interest from The Fresh Grocer, a Philadelphia-based chain, Safeway and others.’
Great uncertainty remains about the adequacy and capabilities of the District’s fire hydrants, Theola Labbe-DeBose and Allison Klein report in WaPo. ‘As many as 6,500 of the District’s 9,000 public fire hydrants have not been tested for water flow, leaving firefighters unsure of how much water they will find when they arrive at an emergency and hook up their hoses.’ WASA has spent $32M on hydrant inspections and upped repair crews, the agency says ‘it would take several years to replace the rest of the city’s hydrants and that the work was “dependent on District funding.”‘ In the meantime: ‘To ease the uncertainty, WASA recently gave the fire department maps showing all the city’s large-diameter water mains….In addition, fire officials have identified 40 areas deemed potentially problematic or potentially sensitive, and they asked WASA to show them where the high-flow hydrants are in those areas….The fire department and WASA said the list is far from comprehensive. “Everything is a Band-Aid,” said a fire official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “We have to slow the bleeding. The core of the problem is infrastructure.”‘ Also NC8.
TODAY—-Fire officials appear before Phil Mendelson and other councilmembers to answer hydrant questions. Says Dave Statter, ‘For those who like fireworks, there is a pretty good chance you will see some today. We say that because the sparks seem to fly each time Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary Chairman Phil Mendelson questions DC Fire & EMS Chief Dennis Rubin. The two just don’t seem to communicate without a great deal of tension in the air.’
Another police chase starts in Prince George’s County and ends up in the District, though this time suspect didn’t end up shot to death by police at the end of it. According to WaPo, a man was driving in a van with his 3-year-old son when a cop attempted to pull him over in Bladensburg. He fled, ending up on New York Avenue NE, where the driver tossed items out of the van into the Anacostia—-‘Police later determined the objects were bags containing a “substantial amount of drugs”‘—-before attempting to bail and jump off a bridge. He was caught. Also WRC-TV.
WaPo’s Darryl Fears covers the opening of the AIDS Health Foundation’s Blair Underwood Healthcare Center, opened by the international nonprofit because D.C. is the ‘epicenter’ of American AIDS. LL will merely point out that D.C. may be such as epicenter, but 2141 K Street NW isn’t. AHF leaders ‘criticized District health officials for not sending a representative,’ saying that they ‘told us we were not needed. We have enough health-care providers. They would not allow us to participate in its [AIDS Drug Assistance Program] program.” DOH explains that AHF wasn’t snubbed on ADAP drugs, rather the contract for their distribution had already been competitively bid. AHF’s Michael Weinstein says the conflict might reach back to his group’s ‘AIDS is the District’s Katrina’ ads, which he says the city didn’t like: ‘If we need to be a voice to shake up the bureaucracy in D.C., then we will do that, but we prefer cooperation.’ Nice cooperating there. Also WTOP, WAMU-FM.
WHY NO FENTY?—-Says commenter: ‘he is a kappa and balir Underwood who is an activist and an actor is a proud sigma’
WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza looks at the death of the 15-year-old who threw himself in front of a Metro train last week: ‘Some teachers are questioning whether the school system did enough to help the 15-year-old boy who committed suicide on the Metro tracks last week….One teacher who taught him in the 8th grade described him as quiet and “very very smart.” She says when he moved to the 9th grade there was an incident involving “somewhat disturbing pictures” he drew. During a staff meeting, he was flagged for counseling services but she isn’t sure whether he received them….Teachers are also asking how he got out of the school building. Did something happen to provoke the student? How did no one notice he was gone?’
IN THE BLADE—-This week’s edition covers changes at the MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit; the reasons for the plea bargain in the Tony Randolph Hunter case; the reopening of Bob Siegel‘s Glorious Health Club on West Virginia Avenue NE (sans porn); and the final push to get the Gay Games in D.C.—-heading to Germany to lobby are lead organizer Brett Minor, David Catania, Valerie Santos, Eliot Ferguson of Destination D.C., and Fenty LGBT affairs chief Chris Dyer. ALSO: GLAA opposes GLLU changes.
In WBJ print edition, O’Connell covers changes that Muriel Bowser plans to make to the ‘often-criticized’ CAPCO program. The Ward 4 councilmember ‘wants to rework the program to strengthen oversight and promote investments that fit the city economic development strategy.’ The money will now be targeted at ‘companies that operate in the city’s emerging commercial corridors or those in four industries that offer high-end jobs: technology, health care, environmental services, communication, multimedia, financial services or insurance.’
DCPS, ‘citing concerns about the quality of instruction,’ has decided to pull 170 special-ed students out of the Accotink Academy in Springfield, Va., Michael Birnbaum reports in WaPo. Accotink ‘has worked with District students for more than 15 years’ and ‘said it had not been told of any concerns before notices were sent to parents Tuesday. They also said the academy’s teachers were highly qualified and that the school wasn’t going down without a fight. Most of the academy’s students are from the District, and the school, which has been open since 1964, will be forced to close if they are pulled, said Elaine N. McConnell, the academy’s founder.’ The city says ‘staff members were “indifferent” to the students and that the quality of teaching was “quite low.” It also said teachers didn’t seem to be following individualized education plans, which guide instruction for special education students. D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the school should have known from repeated monitoring visits that it was being evaluated. It was “not a close case,” he said.’
Harry Jaffe continues to serve as Nat Gandhi‘s best publicist, highlighting the CFO’s recent revenue estimates and engaging in one of Gandhi’s favorite exercises of late: comparing the District’s finances to Maryland and Virginia’s. ‘The District has had to cut its budget over the past year, but not so close to the bone. There has been pain, the city has cut funds to nonprofits, some teachers will lose their jobs, but the city is coming back to fiscal health. “The bottom may have been reached,” Gandhi tells me. “At least we’re not expecting to lose another $100 million.”‘
Eleanor Holmes Norton hosts forum on ‘Single Women, Unmarried Men: What Has Happened to Marriage in the Black Community?’ Guess who shows up: ‘Bishop Harry Jackson, who has been leading the effort against same-sex marriage in the District, was in the audience. When a question on it came up, Norton said, “That is an issue for the D C Council,” but then she said people should not judge others.’ Also WAMU-FM.
RELATED—-Jackson takes to WaTimes op-ed page to agitate for a gay-marriage vote: ‘The D.C. City Council plans to prevent the hard-fought freedom of the people in their charge to vote on this critically important issue. In fact, D.C. City Council members arrogantly declared their ability to speak for the citizens of the nation’s first city without even consulting them on one of the nation’s most defining social issues.’
Body found in water at Capitol Yacht Club yesterday morning.
WRC-TV covers Todd Place Crew indictments.
D.C. Court of Appeals rules that if you pay your lawyer upfront, he can’t start spending your money until he earns it.
ANNIVERSARY—-Franklin Shelter will have been closed one year tomorrow, Housing Complex writes. Lawsuits over its closing persist.
Yesterday was the opening convocation for the UDC community college; featured speaker was Vince Gray. There’s video! Also see video from the main campus convo earlier this week, with keynote speaker Don Peebles.
House of Ruth says its ready to take WEAVE clients if the domestic-violence nonprofit can’t get back on its feet.
Muslim Day of Prayer event scheduled for Capitol today; Christian righters go batty: ‘Christian evangelist Lou Engle said the Friday event “is much more than a nice little Muslim gathering. It’s an invocation of spiritual powers of an ideology” that “doesn’t have the same set of values that our nation has had.”‘
DOH launches H1N1 Web site: flu.dc.gov. Complete with confirmed case/confirmed death tally!
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund gets $2.5M pledge from Chicago foundation to build education center.
WTTG-TV: ‘DC Realtors Say Bidding Wars Are Back’
Petula Dvorak hangs out with some Masons.
44 laid off from CQ/Roll Call.
Lisle C. Carter Jr., the first president of UDC, is dead at 83.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-9:30 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on ‘Fire Hydrants and Water Supply for Fire Fighting,’ JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-11:15 a.m.: remarks, personnel and Department of Justice Grants announcement, Our Place DC, 801 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 1:30 p.m.: remarks, new DMV operation schedule announcement, Penn Branch Service Center, 3220 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.