City Paper is not for tourists
Morning all. It was a busy day yesterday at the John A. Wilson Building, starting with the morning’s protests of city child-care privatization (not to mention sundry other mayoral misdeeds) and continuing on through the first legislative meeting of the fall session. LL tweeted a few choice moments from the session. Some favorites: Kwame Brown‘s continental breakfast. How Michael Brown said that Tommy Wells ‘must be putting air in his bicycle’ after he left the dais. [UPDATE, 12:20 P.M.: Brown denies saying anything about Tommy Wells and his bike!] When Marion Barry said of ethics legislation: ‘It’s a situation that most of us can be proud of. All of us were following it anyway, but it’s just a matter of putting it together.’ And when Barry took ethics to heart and recused himself from the vote on keeping his
ex-wife estranged wife in her tennis center. Good times!
AFTER THE JUMP—-The fullest rundown of District legislative business you will find anywhere; school cited for unusual number of DC-CAS erasures was given cash prize for boosting test scores; Fenty hands Stevens ES to developer that neighbors hate; columnist deigns to publish correction; and media covers phantom taxi strike!
Here’s a complete rundown of yesterday’s council business:
—-The battle over parks-and-rec child care programs continues; hundreds picketed outside the Wilson Building before the meeting, making the lede of WaPo’s legislative meeting wrap. ‘The mayor’s disregard of the legislation, the privatization of other city services and other issues turned the raucous rally into an indictment of [Mayor Adrian M. Fenty]—-a mayor who rode into office as a populist and is increasingly seen by critics as the opposite. Signs referred to Fenty as “emperor” and “Mad Fenty.”…”This is serious business. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods. The only thing he cares about is a heated pool to swim in and a soccer field with his name on it,” said Roger Newell, chairman of DC Jobs With Justice.’ Inside the building, Harry Thomas Jr. inserted language halting day-care worker firings into budget legislation, setting the stage for a legal showdown. Also WAMU-FM, NC8.
—-And yes, the fiscal 2010 budget is finally passed. It strikes $2M in employee bonuses, WRC-TV reports. Though Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner: ‘At least one earmark did survive: $1 million for the Historical Society of Washington to support the nonprofit “in developing exhibits in the Carnegie Library.”‘ And the budget legislation includes authorization to purchase the 225 Virginia Ave. SE warehouse for $85M, finally completing a costly rent-and-rent-and-rent-to-own transaction. ‘After the buyout, the building is to be turned over to Bethesda-based developer Stonebridge Carras, which will turn it into the headquarters for the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities.’
—-Also as part of the budget, the $10 vacant property tax rate has been abolished, replaced with a $10 rate on ‘blighted’ properties. WBJ reports that ‘blighted’ is defined as ‘”unsafe, insanitary, or which is otherwise determined to threaten the public health, safety, or general welfare of the community” because of broken walls, roofs, windows, balconies or other poorly kept features. Boarded up properties will also count as blighted.’ Also Housing Complex.
—-The council unanimously passes an ethics code, one that basically recodifies stuff already on the books. WaPo notes that ‘Barry said today the new ethics code for council members is “a step forward” that demonstrates Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray‘s “progressive thinking.”‘ See WTTG-TV, DCist, and further thoughts from a certain Examiner columnist below.
—-‘The District’s disabled residents are free to ride their Segways on downtown sidewalks without fear of being ticketed by police,’ Neibauer reports. The decision was not without controversy; Jim Graham ‘questioned how a police officer would distinguish between disabled and able-bodied Segway operators.’
—-The State Board of Education compromise that LL detailed yesterday is a go. WaPo identifies the negotiators as Gray, Kwame Brown, David Catania, and Mary Cheh for the council; Peter Nickles and Neil Albert for the mayor.
—-The council held firm on Cora Masters Barry and the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, passing an emergency bill that would allow nonprofits contracting with the city to fix any lapses in corporate status without harm. ‘There’s been evidence that’s been brought forth to me where there has been similar situations that have been treated quite differently,’ Thomas tells NC8. Also WUSA-TV.
—-Wells introduces bill to protect foster kids from identity theft, WAMU-FM reports.
—-The $365M 11th Street Bridge project is full steam ahead.
—-No gay marriage bill was introduced.
Bill Turque has more in WaPo on the DC-CAS erasure (non-)investigation. His ‘closer examination’ of a cheating analysis indicates that ‘suspicious erasures were most heavily concentrated in third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms at a half-dozen schools’—-Aiton, Bowen, Langdon, Marie Reed, Takoma, and J.O. Wilson. And ‘[f]ive of the schools made gains that exceeded citywide averages. Langdon’s scores held relatively steady.’ Aiton was among the schools that got a cash prize last year for raising scores; this year, ‘Aiton’s scores in reading and math dropped sharply.’ And here’s the political ramifications: Vince Gray says he’ll ‘probably hold a hearing on test security issues’; SBOE member Mary Lord says the erasure analysis throw ‘a shadow on the results’; and SBOE president Lisa Raymond points to ‘a lack of checks and balances’ in the mayoral control structure—-the state authority (OSSE) asked the local authority (DCPS) for an investigation, a request that was pooh-poohed. After all, ‘the state reports to the same person [who runs] the local school district.’
ASTOUNDING—-CFO Natwar Gandhi is in with his latest revenue projections, and…they’re holding steady! This is ‘the first time in a year that he has not lowered revenue projections at the end of a quarter,’ WBJ notes. The indicators: ‘[W]ithholding taxes are up 3.5 percent for the fiscal year and up 5 percent in the current quarter. And a slide in deed taxes “seems to be ending,” Gandhi wrote, down just 3.8 percent over the current quarter despite being 41 percent down for the year. The gains come despite continued deterioration in sales tax collections. Gandhi said fiscal year-to-date sales tax receipts are down 4.7 percent and 9.7 percent in the current quarter.’
Huge one from WBJ’s Jonathan O’Connell: DMPED has quietly picked a developer for the Stevens ES site, and the neighbors aren’t happy about it at all. The Fenty administration wants Equity Residential to develop housing on the site; the neighbors want Don Peebles to do a luxury hotel there. ‘City and industry sources say Fenty planned to announce the selection at 4 p.m. Tuesday, but before the announcement Fenty’s team briefed Councilman Jack Evans on the selection and Evans—-whose ward includes Stevens—-was not pleased. No selection announcement was held….A neighborhood leader, Asher Corson, said the selection of Chicago-based Equity Residential was “completely baffling” and “100 percent anti-community development.” “This is the worst-case scenario,” said Corson, who is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the area and president of the Foggy Bottom Association [and Cheh’s press aide]. Both the ANC and the neighborhood group backed the Peebles bid. “This is literally the worst possible result.”‘
ALSO—-O’Connell looks at Walter Reed as a ‘huge but long-term prospect for Georgia Avenue.’ That, he explains, is because ‘there is nary an opportunity for a DC-USA or a Gallery Place to invigorate the strip thanks to miles of individual storefronts.’ Muriel Bowser tells him that the parcel ‘will begin with frontage along Georgia Avenue’ and notes ‘that the city has drawn up some plans…for the strip, suggesting a neighborhood park, open air marketplace plaza, retail plaza and a municipal parking lot.’
The latest WaPo editorial endorsement of D.C. school reform addresses critics who say that Michelle Rhee is ‘using the city’s budget problems as a way to get rid of teachers she doesn’t want.’ Well, says the board, ‘They’re probably right. But that doesn’t make Ms. Rhee wrong to take action against teachers whose hold on their jobs has little to do with their value to students,’ with the caveat that Rhee ‘needs to do a better job of demonstrating to teachers that the process will be fair.’ And here’s a message for legislators: ‘It’s unimaginable that the same council members who preached fiscal austerity are now faulting Ms. Rhee for trying to come up with savings to restore summer school rather than hoping more money will somehow materialize.’
A watershed moment for Harry Jaffe: He runs a correction! ‘I wrote that the U.S. attorney prosecutes everything from terrorism to drug cases to folks who drive tipsy. As many readers [including LLD] pointed out, the city’s attorney general handles drunken driving and traffic cases.’ That followed a slam of the council for its ‘toothless’ ethics code. ‘Gray’s code reads like the one you can find on the city council’s Web site; but like all the old codes, it lacks one crucial component—-consequences, as in penalties, as in pain….Perhaps the code’s lack of penalties prompted the council members to rhetorically pat Vince Gray on the back as they passed the code unanimously. Ward 8 council member Marion Barry was especially effusive. He made sure he commended Gray for his progressive leadership.’
GOOD ONE—-‘I would have at least added “don’t talk on your cell phone during meetings.” I have seen council members questioning a witness with a cell phone to their ear.’
Here’s what Bishop Harry Jackson had to say to the Values Voter Summit: A ‘K Street lawyer who decides to come out and call himself gay’ is unable to comprehend the struggles of a single mother in D.C. And that the gay-marriage movement ‘is a handful of privileged people…intolerant of anybody with another idea’ looking to ‘oppress and suppress truth in the name of freedom.’ And: ‘I’ve been living in this city for about 20 years…predominantly on the outskirts of the city.’ (via DCist). And do check the YouTube, if you can stomach it.
Taxi drivers protest medallion bill introduced by Jim Graham, which stands to ‘substantially increase the cost of operating a taxi in the District.’ In her lede, WaPo’s Yamiche Alcindor reports that ‘[a]bout 1,000 taxi drivers went on strike’ but it’s perfectly unclear where that number comes from. (Examiner reports ‘[t]housands,’ but that reporter at least found a woman who was having trouble catching a cab.) Still, ‘dozens’ showed up at the Wilson Building to picket. Graham says his bill ‘is aimed at protecting the market of District cabs’; cab driver Ali Tahmaseb says the bill ‘would enslave us.’ Also WUSA-TV, NC8 and WRC-TV, which reports that ‘there were no big rumblings heard about not being able to hail a cab across the District.’
Crash, shooting yesterday evening on New York Avenue NE become what WaPo calls ‘an urban drama played out before a full house of stalled commuters.’ At about 6:40 p.m., at New York and Montana Avenues NE, there was a traffic accident. ‘Asked to show his license, one driver jumped back into his car and stepped on the gas. A police officer, believing the man was trying to run him down, fired, police said. The fleeing car struck a pickup truck on New York Avenue and overturned. The driver ran but was collared near Fenwick Street NE.’ Traffic was fouled for about 90 minutes, as inbound lanes of New York Avenue were closed. Also WTTG-TV.
Sentencing memo is filed in the Tony Randolph Hunter killing, calling for the full six-month sentence for convicted assailant Robert Hannah. Prosecutors write, according to WaPo, that ‘since being arrested…Hannah was charged with shoplifting and “has repeatedly shown disregard for his court-imposed obligations and the criminal justice system….In the memorandum, the prosecutors contended that Hannah showed himself as “oblivious to the ramifications of his conduct” not only in striking Hunter but also in his subsequent behavior, extending weeks and months from the assault. The memorandum said a witness claimed that Hannah taunted Hunter as he lay on the ground, chanting “Wood Terrace,” the name of a landmark in Hannah’s neighborhood. It also accused Hannah of “habitual drug infractions and curfew violations” that “repeatedly and flagrantly” violated the “comparatively lenient” rules of the supervision program into which he was released.’ The filing goes some way toward explaining why charges more serious than simple assault wewnr’t brought: ‘[P]rosecutors revealed that Hunter was drunk and say it’s unclear whether he would have fallen otherwise. They also say a friend who was with Hunter changed his account several times,’ NC8 reports.
Feds yesterday alerted transit systems across the country to a ‘possible design anomaly in an automated control system’ that could have caused the June Red Line collision, Lena H. Sun and James Hohmann report in WaPo, ‘raising serious concerns about the safety of Metro and all other transit systems with the same technology.’ The investigation continues, but NTSB chair Debbie Hersman says that ‘our findings so far indicate a pressing need to issue these recommendations to immediately address safety glitches’ with Alstom Signaling audio frequency track circuit equipment. In Examiner, Kytja Weir explains that ‘equipment dating to the 1970s when the Red Line was built sent a “spurious signal” that mimicked audio frequencies sent by the rail operating system. That false signal fooled an automatic train safety system into thinking a section of track outside the Fort Totten station was empty.’ Systems in Baltimore, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and San Francisco may also be affected. Also WaTimes, WTOP, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
ALSO—-Metro set to spend $638K to fix door electronics in hundreds of 1000-series rail cars, WaPo’s Hohmann writes. Yes, the cars are old and scheduled to be replaced very soon, but spokesperson says ‘[w]e still need these cars to operate in service….Any type of replacement vehicle is several years away.’ The contract is with…Alstom Signaling. Also Examiner.
WaPo’s Alcindor covers Car Free Day festivities: ‘In the District, the Department of Transportation held a celebration downtown along F Street NW….More than 6,000 people pledged to be car free on the event’s Web site….Dozens of booths lined the streets, and volunteers passed out pamphlets to participants. Representatives from D.C. Circulator also gave free passes for bus rides. Bike and Roll, a bike rental and tour company, offered free rentals throughout the day.’ Also WAMU-FM, WRC-TV.
The Corcoran is selling off its parking lot, WBJ reports. This where the Frank Gehry addition was supposed to go. Says COO, ‘The current Corcoran administration has reassessed the Corcoran’s assets and decided to put this real estate on the market, fully understanding it may take time…While we recognize it is a down market, the Corcoran is marketing a unique space in downtown D.C., one block from the White House.’
Courtland Milloy weighs in on the Redskins’ name controversy, prompted by SCOTUS review of trademark lawsuit: ‘During the past 30 years, more than two-thirds of the nation’s estimated 3,000 schools with Indian mascots or nicknames have changed them. Everybody is starting to see the light. Even here. Both the D.C. Council and the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments have voted for resolutions saying that the Washington football team name is disparaging and should be changed. Many newspapers have taken courageous stands on the subject, too.’
Rambling WaTimes op-ed piece takes issue with D.C. schools’ STD tests: ‘The question is not whether chlamydia is good or bad. The question is whether it is the job of politicians to inquire into the sex lives of minors. Saying it’s for their own good prompts another question: Says who? Says a gaggle of anonymous bureaucrats and professional politicians, whose job it is to make decisions for other people—-and charging them for it.’ And get this: ‘It’s entirely possible that many young people do not think they are at risk of STDs for the simple reason that they don’t share lovers or needles. But the government—-not without due cause—-insists on treating all teenagers like heroin-addicted sex fiends. To be sure, a lot of them, if they aren’t already, will grow up to be precisely that.’
A WaPo reader has some suggestions for curbing Metro suicides: ‘First, have trains slow down before entering stations, so throwing oneself in front of a train doesn’t look as appealing. Second, and probably more effective than any simple suicide hotline advertisement on platforms, would be one designed for Metro suggesting it is selfish to involve others in your suicide and pointing out the trauma such acts cause train operators.’
ALSO—-Falls Church resident whines about how long it took for him to get to church on Sunday because of the Nation’s Triathlon: ‘Exercise is important to us all in a nation of overweight people. But why must we contend with so many events that disrupt traffic and make it difficult to get around?’
Truck carrying mobile DDOE ad pushing home energy audits is powered by biodiesel, Housing Complex reports. So that’s good!
Ground to be broken on Tenley library today! DCmud has a very nice rundown of the development saga leading up to it.
WUSA-TV covers Mount Pleasant solar co-op.
AP: $8M gift to National Postal Museum ‘will allow the museum to increase its Capitol Hill exhibit space by about 40 percent, expanding from a somewhat hidden basement to a more visible street-front gallery.’
Jason Cherkis, back from honeymoon, remembers defense lawyer Jensen Barber, who died Sept. 9. ‘It is hard not to still feel shocked that Barber will no longer be brightening up an intricate federal drug case with his southern charm and monogrammed peach-sorbet colored shirts.’
Judge Cheryl Long is retiring from active service on the Superior Court bench as of December. Get those resumes in to the JNC!
Your WASA bill’s about to jump, notes Barry Farm (Re)Mixed.
Blogger takes issue with the D.C. Lottery slogan, which is ‘Lots of people win’: ”Lots of people?’ It’s not the most professional thing, neither is it the most clever (California’s ‘A State of Winning’ is probably the punniest), but isn’t this how most conversations go?’
Examiner: ‘Mayor Fenty and his wife Michelle checked out the new Bibiana Osteria at 11th and H streets on Saturday night. The couple said their hellos around the dining room before settling into a romantic dinner.’
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-1 a.m.: Committee on Economic Development hearing on B18-332 (‘Department of Small and Local Business Development Amendment Act of 2009’), PR18-421 (‘Local, Small, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Contracting Regulations Approval Resolution of 2009’), JAWB 500; Committee on Human Services roundtable on ‘the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Servies lead entities/service coalition grants and facilities issues at the New Beginning Youth Development Center,’ JAWB 412; 1 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs hearing on B18-402 (‘Certified Capital Companies Improvement Amendment Act of 2009’), JAWB 120.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, Tenleytown Library groundbreaking, 4550 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 4 p.m.: remarks, Hearst ES playground groundbreaking, 3950 37th St. NW.