City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Michael Brown Stands for Gay Marriage; Yvette Alexander Does Not‘; ‘Obama In Ward 7‘; ‘Is Keeping AHOD Worth a $3M Budget Hit?‘
Greetings all. The Blade’s Lou Chibarro Jr. has a bead on when David Catania plans to introduce his same-sex marriage bill: ‘[S]ources, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said Catania told local activists he would drop his bill into the legislative hopper shortly before he speaks Sept. 30 before a D.C. Marriage Equality Convocation,’ which is a confab ‘intended to rally local LGBT residents to action in support of the same-sex marriage measure.’ Meanwhile, Harry Jaffe sees coming a ‘political storm the likes of which we have not seen since D.C. tried to legalize abortions…back in the 1980s.’ With a District gay marriage bill, he writes, ‘the rage in the hearts of black ministers and Catholic priests will join with the rage of religious conservatives in Congress.’ But god bless Lowell Duckett, a minister at Bible Way who tells Jaffe, ‘They will be selling their souls to the devil….They will have to go to the very people who oppose Home Rule—-Republicans and conservative Democrats. These folks have had their heel on the District for too long.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-The inside story of the tax scam prosecution; the Battle of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center heads to court; Clark Ray‘s a candidate for real now; the city’s traffic camera ‘jackpot’; and so long, Southeastern University.
ALSO ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE—-Bishop Harry Jackson hits townhall.com with another screed: ‘In DC, gay activists enjoy better education, better jobs, better housing, greater access to the system, and now – legislative power. Something is wrong when the privileged feign that they are the persecuted, when the powerful posture themselves as victims.’ And Queerty is looking forward to the bill, hoping it will prove to be a litmus test for congressional Democrats.
Del Wilber does a fab WaPo piece on the OTR tax scam investigation, profiling the efforts of prosecutors and FBI agents to bring Harriette Walters et al. to justice. ‘For the first time, federal prosecutors and FBI agents have discussed the investigation in depth, saying it was far more dramatic and tension-filled than court papers indicated. The case started with a lucky tip from a longtime bank security officer and quickly became a frenzied race to gather as much evidence as possible without tipping off suspects. Investigators visited D.C. government offices late at night to pull files. They strung along a key conspirator to give themselves more time to wrap up the case. Eventually, an FBI agent got Walters to confess in her own handwriting. And another agent befriended the former tax manager, easing her through a series of interviews that proved crucial to understanding the scheme’s scope.’
IT’S GONE—-‘As for the money?…After digging through records and interviewing scores of people, including Walters, agents have concluded that it was simply spent….There were no foreign bank accounts. No secret stash of cash or diamonds was buried in her back yard. Walters spent so much so quickly, authorities said, that she needed overdraft protection on her main bank account.’
The Cora Masters Barry eviction saga is heading to court: A. Scott Bolden filed suit Friday on behalf of Barry’s Recreation Wish List Committee, seeking to keep the city from tossing his client out of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center on Saturday. ‘All efforts to have a dialogue have not been successful,’ Barry tells WaPo’s Keith L. Alexander and Nikita Stewart. ‘I didn’t want this. I still don’t want it. I just want to continue the Wish List and to serve these families and these kids in a meaningful way.’ There will be a hearing before Superior Court Judge Susan Winfield tomorrow morning. ‘Bolden said he sent three letters and three e-mails seeking the city’s response to the committee’s desire to continue its relationship with the parks department. He said the city has been unresponsive.’ Also WAMU-FM, NC8.
Clark Ray is now officially running for a Democratic at-large D.C. Council seat, having kicked off his campaign Saturday morning outside Java Hut in Dupont Circle. Tim Craig covers in WaPo: ‘If Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) fails to draw a challenger, the Mendelson-Ray battle will probably be the marquee race in the 2010 city elections….[Ray] pledged to support Fenty’s school reform efforts and fight for increased access to higher education. He also vowed to bolster community policing and work to bridge the divide between the city’s poorest and wealthiest residents.’ Testimonial from Ray supporter Judy Leon: ‘”This is a dog whose life was changed by Mr. Ray,” Leon said, explaining how the 4-year-old yellow Labrador was rescued from a puppy mill. “She’s now able to come out of her shell [at the new Dupont dog park] and play with other dogs.”‘ Ray’s first hire: campaign manager Adam Barr, formerly of D.C. for Obama.
READ—-Ray’s kickoff speech
It’s official: Southeastern University has lost its accreditation and is all but dead, Daniel de Vise reports in WaPo. ‘The institution’s accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education lapsed Aug. 31. A report from the commission found that the small private college lacked rigor and was losing faculty, enrollment and financial stability.’ There will be no fall term; virtually all of the school’s students have transferred. And that GS Graduate School merger? ‘”The merger discussions are positive and we hope they will conclude soon,” [acting SEU president Elaine Ryan] said. A spokesman for GS offered no further comment.’
ALSO—-From de Vise, a story on how state-supported universities are handling budget cuts. It includes this fact: ‘The University of the District of Columbia, alone among schools in the Washington area, has escaped state budget cuts. Its $62.1 million local appropriation for the current fiscal year has not been touched.’
Jonetta Rose Barras continues hammering the Fenty administration on the DPR child-care privatizations: ‘Fenty’s actions surrounding privatization of day care services, used most by low-income families, have been unconscionable and repugnant. Some workers told of being shifted to “temporary” status, preventing them from receiving severance pay. One worker said she was told her center would close at the end of September. But on Aug. 24, she was ordered to quickly pack files and materials. The facility was shuttered that day; parents didn’t have time to find alternative care.’ Few answers, of course, were provided from the executive branch at last week’s Harry Thomas Jr. hearing on the matter”: ‘ Thomas had requested several agency managers attend his hearing. But only acting DPR Director Ximena Hartsock appeared. She provided little or no information, repeatedly articulating a stand synonymous with the Fifth Amendment.’
WaTimes editorializes on one of its pet themes: ‘Fenty’s traffic camera jackpot.’ Some incredible facts and good points in there: ‘4 million automated tickets with a value of $305 million have been mailed on behalf of the District in the past decade. That $305 million is chump change compared to a bigger heist being mapped out by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty….Once dozens of traffic cameras are upgraded to issue both speed and red-light citations, the District could easily achieve levels in excess of 1 million photo tickets per year. Given the District’s population of less than 600,000, this ticketing assault is in shooting range of two citations every year for every man, woman and child who resides in the city….For all the effort invested in collecting copious amounts of cash from motorists, the city has failed to provide a shred of credible, independently verifiable evidence to show its actions have yielded a safety dividend.’ Themail adds some thoughts.
MPD detective said to be connected to the suspect in the Pizza Mart murder last month hangs self in parents’ Capitol Heights home. Terrance Green had recieved a grand jury subpoena, and had been stripped of his gun and badge, WTTG-TV’s Paul Wagner reports.’Law Enforcement sources say investigators were questioning Det. Green about a relationship he had with Shanika Robinson, a woman accused in a brutal murder.’ Comment from Cathy Lanier: ‘I talked to several of his co-workers at the hospital last night—-several of the hardest working officers and detectives that worked with him….Even command officials saying very dedicated, very hard working, had a great reputation, very likeable guy.’ Also WRC-TV, NC8, WAMU-FM.
Attention ANC and SBOE members: You may soon be able to campaign for higher office without resigning! The House has passed a bill that would remove District employees and officeholders from federal Hatch Act provisions, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. ‘The Hatch Act bars federal and D.C. employees from running for partisan public office, from soliciting or receiving political contributions, or from engaging in political activity while on the job….The House unanimously agreed last week to let the District draft its own version of the Hatch Act, as each of the 50 states has done. The D.C. law, presumably, would spare all elected officials while still limiting the partisan activities of government employees.’
Also fron Neibauer: A look at the ‘audit blueprint’ for the IG’s office reveals a focus on ‘Medicaid, tax collections, procurement and city spending of roughly $900 million in federal stimulus—-all areas of high risk or extensive past problems.’ Says William DiVello, assistant inspector general for audits: ‘”We plan on being heavy on Medicaid this year, procurement and, to the extent we can, we really need to make some inroads on the stimulus,” said DiVello, whose staff is down four, to 36, due to budget cuts.’
Another WaPo story on how the area around the ballpark isn’t developing as quickly as hoped. This one, by Lisa Rein, focuses on new homeowners and tenants in the Southeast waterfront neighborhood who have moved in only to find little there waiting for them because ‘some developers who promised block after block of urban opulence for Washington professionals have delivered only craters in the ground and temporary parking on weedy lots,’ leaving ‘the 2,100 newcomers…to fend for themselves in what looks like an abandoned construction zone.’ BUT: ‘Empty luxury towers in a bad market have silver linings, such as free parking and health clubs and three months’ free rent offered by builders desperate to fill their condominium units with renters.’ Residents include Ken Salazar and heartthrob GOP Rep. Aaron Shock (quoted in the piece).
ALSO—-Commercial real estate isn’t doing much better. V. Dion Haynes covers the sparse tenancy in several local buildings, including Capital Riverfront properties.
Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper warns in ‘wide-ranging’ WaTimes interview that the D.C. Public Library system has been cut to the bone, and that she ‘will be forced to cut staff and reduce services if the proposed $44 million budget for fiscal year 2010 is further reduced.’ And, as WaPo has reported, new capital spending has increased operating pressures: ‘[B]uildings could open without enough staff to run them….”It’s kind of an interesting shuffle we’re doing with staff. There’ll come a point in 2011 when all the libraries under construction or being rebuilt will open, and we won’t have enough staff.”‘
Kathleen Penney is out as DDOT chief engineer, GGW reports. GGW, which has made Penney a bogeywoman of sorts for all sorts of urbanist/multimodal/liveable/walkable disappointments, thinly masks its delight.
ALSO FROM GGW—-Lawsuit filed in Wisconsin Avenue Giant battle. Don’t expect this to get settled for at least a couple of years.
‘Tens of thousands of conservative protesters’ show up to town Saturday, WaPo reports. ‘Authorities in the District do not give official crowd estimates, but Saturday’s throng appeared to number in the many tens of thousands. A sea of people surrounded the Capitol reflecting pool, spilling across Third Street and along the Mall. The sound system did not reach far enough for people at the edges of the rally to hear the speakers onstage.’ Also Examiner, WaTimes, WTOP, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV. And then WaPo covers yesterday’s Black Family Reunion, of which some participants deemed the previous day’s rally racist.
Undercover conservative activists get D.C. ACORN workers to help them set up a brothel. The workers, one a paid employee and one a volunteer, have been fired. Megan Greenwell covers in WaPo: ‘ACORN housing employee Sherona Boone and volunteer mortgage consultant Lavernia Boone are recorded guiding the pair on how to disguise the nature of the business on loan applications and advising Giles to “keep it low-key” to avoid being reported to the police….In the video at Washington’s ACORN housing office, in the Barracks Row neighborhood, O’Keefe tells the employees and volunteer that Giles has enough money for a down payment on a house but that she has been denied loans from several banks because she is a prostitute who intends to use the home as a brothel for herself and 10 Salvadoran girls. Giles says she plans to use her profits to fund O’Keefe’s congressional bid.’ Also AP, WTTG-TV.
Big setback for prosecutors in the Robert Wone murder case: ‘D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg said that he is “most reluctant” to let prosecutors argue that Wone was injected with a paralytic drug if the government is unable to put up more evidence to support the theory,’ Legal Times reports. ‘Weisberg is presiding over a case where the absence of evidence is, according to the prosecution, the evidence itself. But the judge seems more skeptical: “There’s no indication of a lot of things,” he said in court this afternoon.’
WaTimes’ Stephen Dinan discovers that $2.8M in Forest Service stim money meant for ‘wildland fire mitigation’ is going to Washington Parks & People. And, of course, ‘members of Congress said city parks don’t deserve the money while fires are scorching millions of acres of land and owners are losing homes.’ The money ‘also appeared to come as a surprise to the folks at Washington Parks & People. “We do not yet know anything beyond the information that we saw on the [Agriculture Department] Web site yesterday,” the group’s executive director, Stephen W. Coleman, said in an e-mail response.’
Jay Mathews says that schools suspected of possible DC-CAS cheating should be tested again—-just like the class in ‘Stand and Deliver’! ‘What can we do about the tainted test results in the District?…In D.C. classrooms that had the most dubious results, let’s get the students back together and give them another test, this time carefully proctored. I realize that they are now more than a year older. I hope we address these issues more promptly in the future. But I still think the retest will tell us something….[P]roviding D.C. kids the educations they deserve is too important to leave this in limbo. Let’s check, as they did in East L.A., and make sure we know how much our children have learned.’
Here’s a juicy tidbit from a San Francisco blogger: ‘Two rock stars of the education-reform world have had a falling out, I’m told by a friend who just attended a Washington, D.C., community meeting run by one of them – Steve Barr, in-your-face founder of the high-profile Green Dot charter school chain. Michelle Rhee (right), the headline-grabbing D.C. schools chancellor, is giving Barr the cold shoulder even as he makes a bid to take over Eastern High School on Capitol Hill. A tiny handful of parents from the neighborhood attended the community meeting Barr called to rouse the masses to mutiny against D.C. public schools, my friend reports. “According to Barr, Rhee has cooled to his advances and actually got angry with him on the phone when she learned that he was meeting with community members,” she e-mailed me.’
At the end of a forgettable Robert McCartney column on marijuana legalization is this paragraph: ‘Maybe She Does Walk on Water: The good news keeps coming for D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. After city schools opened without major disruptions, the system reported that enrollment was close to surpassing that of the previous year. If the number is confirmed in early 2010 after an audit, it would be a vote of confidence from parents. It also would embarrass Rhee’s detractors on the D.C. Council, who were skeptical when she predicted that enrollment would be so high. On Friday, we learned that she’s moved closer to a contract with the union. Let’s just hope that there aren’t too many mysterious erasures on the next round of standardized tests.’
Washington Teacher’s Candi Peterson responds to George Parker‘s irate letter about her teachers’ contract scoop: ‘Rather than accept personal responsibility for not having negotiated a union contract over the past two years as the chief negotiator, George Parker scapegoats union members while using members dues monies in order to do so.’ And so forth…
ALSO—-Randi Weingarten gives WAMU-FM her thoughts on test-based merit pay: ‘Weingarten says it’s unfair to base a teacher’s livelihood on standardized test. Or, what she calls a principal with a checklist and 15 minutes. Weingarten says a fair measure must look at how a teacher develops the whole child. She likens the process to evaluating oncologists based on how many patients they save.’
A day late, WaPo’s Theola Labbé-DeBose covers the All Hands on Deck arbitration ruling: ‘The dispute highlights the ongoing tension between Lanier and the union’s chairman, Kristopher Baumann, who has long derided the initiative as a publicity stunt that is not linked to a specific crime-fighting strategy.’ LL sees the ruling highlighting the stubbornness of the Fenty administration, seeing as the chief is vowing to continue a program that could cost $3M in unbudgeted overtime.
Two murdered, two others shot in weekend violence. On Saturday night, 16-year-old Antonio Ward was shot to death on the 5000 block of Just Street NE. Less than six hours later, Bowie resident Jason Liser, 32, was found with multiple gunshot wounds on the 4000 block of Minnesota Avenue NE. He died at a hospital. WaPo reports no early suspects in either killing. Three also shot early Sunday on 3100 block of Buena Vista Terrace SE.
Off-duty D.C. cop shoots man in Hyattsville early Sunday after finding the fellow ‘tampering with the officer’s personal vehicle,’ according to WaPo. He is expected to survive.
Man struck and killed by Metro train at Gallery Place Sunday morning, fouling Red Line for three hours. Writes WaPo: ‘Officials said witnesses reported that a man put himself in the train’s path.’
Felipe Caceres, 46, pleads guilty to strangling his stepdaughter, 12-year-old Marisol Caceres in July 2008.
Execution of D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad set for Nov. 9.
Here’s the WaPo postmortem on the Coast Guard exercise Friday that turned into a media firestorm. Contrary to what LL wrote on Friday, the Coast Guard did not in fact shoot up the Potomac. Or fire any shots at all. It was all CNN’s fault!
WRC-TV: ‘Security Trouble at the Zoo’!!!
Labor Day Metro closings delayed WMATA board member, Examiner’s Kytja Weir reports, leading him to speak up at a recent meeting: ‘Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay chided the agency in a board meeting for failing to coordinate its shuttle buses after he was caught in the mess trying to travel from Ballston to the Van Dorn Street station. What he said would normally take him about 20 minutes on the train lasted more than an hour on a Thursday evening as the agency prepared to replace track equipment during the long weekend. And it highlighted problems that could occur again as the transit agency is undertaking major track work on the Green and Yellow lines….He urged Metro to synchronize its shuttle service and train departures, while boosting communication with riders about their options—-or lack thereof.’
WASA board chair William Walker takes issue with WaPo coverage of Peggy Cooper Cafritz fire in letter: ‘Nowhere in the preliminary findings, to which the reporter referred, was there a conclusion that “an aging water pipe dramatically slowed efforts to fight the fire.” Rather, the report identified several factors contributing to the devastating impact of the fire, including the extent of the fire when firefighters arrived and the unique geography of the area.’ In other words, not just our fault!
H1N1 UPDATE—-The swine flu bug is already hitting local campuses hard, Daniel de Vise reports in WaPo: ‘In the District, Maryland and Virginia, college health officials have reported at least 50 cases of flu or flulike illness at Georgetown University; 37 at George Washington University; 17 at Virginia Tech; 16 each at Catholic University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County; 10 at American University; six each at Bowie State, Johns Hopkins University and Washington and Lee University; three at George Mason University; two at the U.S. Naval Academy; and one at the College of William and Mary.’
$9M in stim funds to go to local clean-fuel taxis, Yamiche Alcindor reports in WaPo. Unclear how many D.C. operators are participating.
Metro to get $78M in federal Homeland Security funding, WaPo reports. The money will buy ‘additional police officers and explosives-detecting dogs, install surveillance cameras on rail cars and buses, and implement and enhance emergency training for employees.’ See a full list of projects [PDF].
Colby King takes a week off from juvenile justice; spends his Saturday column laying into the Obama-haters: ‘[T]he depth of the hostility is extraordinary….Smears? Paranoia? It’s all sweet music to the ears of Lee Harvey Oswald wannabes.’
Former D.C. zoning administrator weighs in on the emptying of Cleveland Park storefronts. His point: ‘As the city planner who worked on this overlay zone for the D.C. Office of Planning, I would refer people to the original testimony on the case, which stated that 25 percent is not a “magic number.” If, over time, the public and the zoning commission conclude that a less restrictive rule of 30 or 35 percent is more appropriate for a particular area, that standard can be adopted by simple amendment.’ Ah, but no amendment is ever simple!
Whiter Central Union Mission? PoP has the latest.
Dee Does the District: ‘Your daily dose in DCPS incompetence‘
Blogger: ‘Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett allegedly visited Michelle Rhee in D.C. on September 11. Will he try to emulate Rhee’s work in D.C.?’
FOODIE TIDBIT—-Original Ledo pizza moving from Adelphi to College Park!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, DCRA enforcement announcement, 2245 Rhode Island Ave. NE; 5 p.m.: remarks, DPR athletic apparel giveaway, Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet St. SW.