City Paper is not for tourists
Morning all. Attorney General Peter Nickles is petitioning a federal court to drop its 35-year oversight of the District’s mental health care functions: ‘City attorneys say the court oversight…is no longer necessary, and even improper now,’ AP reports. ‘They say since a 2003 order that the city meet certain conditions under a court monitor, the agency has changed.’ To that end, the city has moved most mental health patients out of St. Elizabeths Hospital and into community-based facilities. This is the second longstanding class action that involves court oversight of a core D.C. government function that Nickles has sought to slough off in the last year. His attempts to get U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan off the Child and Family Services Agency’s back have thus far been unsuccessful.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Metro’s close calls get a close look from WaPo; WMATA’s 2011 budget shortfall may hit nine digits; Peaceoholics mentor convicted of sex assault; Columbia Heights brothers revealed as young murderers; what select District government officials make; and did DCPS investigate cheating allegations?
For Sunday A1 story, WaPo’s Joe Stephens and Lena Sun uncover further details about the ‘Metro Scare Under Potomac,’ where three Orange/Blue trains nearly plowed into one other in 2005. ‘[N]ewly obtained records and interviews detail just how close the trains came to what documents said would have been “disastrous collisions.” They also illuminate similarities to the June 22 Red Line crash that killed nine people near Fort Totten as well as to a March 2 incident in which two trains came “dangerously close” on Capitol Hill.’ The NTSB confirms it is studying the ’05 incident closely. Among the paper’s findings: ‘Records and interviews indicate that Metro engineers did not perform exhaustive on-site tests of all components related to the incident in 2005 because they thought they had found the problem and did not want to further inconvenience passengers.’ And WMATA was somewhat leisurely in implementing recommended safety changes.
WMATA FIRES BACK with ‘line-by-line list of corrections, clarifications and comments’
So, yes, this news couldn’t come at a worse time: WMATA is now projecting a $100M-plus budget gap for the fiscal year beginning next July. ‘The forecast, to be presented to board members Thursday by Chief Financial Officer Carol Kissal,’ writes James Hohmann in WaPo, ‘is intended to offer early guidance and start discussions over how to plug one of the largest budget gaps in the transit agency’s 33-year history.’ Fare increases will be almost certain—-increases on top of already-scheduled inflation adjustments—-and something will have to be done to bring MetroAccess costs under control. Also Biz Journal, WTOP.
Barry Harrison, the Peaceoholics mentor accused of sexually assaulting a Spingarn SHS student in the school’s basement, has been convicted on five charges. Writes Keith Alexander in WaPo: ‘The case came down to credibility. Harrison’s attorney insisted that the victim and three of her female classmates concocted a story that Harrison, who served time in prison for a 1984 murder, used his position as a mentor to prey on female students at Spingarn High School….In the end, it was Harrison’s prison record, which he spoke of while on the stand and which he shared with the teens while working in the school, that his supporters say influenced the jury, not the evidence in the case. “Based on the evidence, we don’t feel it was the right verdict,” said Ronald Moten, a Peaceoholics co-founder. “If Mr. Harrison didn’t have the prior conviction, people wouldn’t look at him the way they look at him.”‘ Harrison faces as much as 90 years; sentencing is Nov. 13. Also AP, WTTG-TV.
DON’T WORRY—-‘In the past, Moten would rely on D.C. police criminal background checks, but those reports only go back 10 years and failed to detect Harrison’s 1984 murder conviction. Moten now uses FBI criminal checks, which are more comprehensive. In an e-mail, D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said the school system will continue to screen Peaceoholic employees and other workers who come in contact with students.’
Colby King examines the tragic death last month of bystander Deborah Ann Brown in Columbia Heights at the hand of 17-year-old Devonte Carlton. King reveals that ‘Devonte’s brother is Lafonte Carlton. Name sound familiar? It should….Lafonte Carlton, then 18, was charged in January with two homicides in the District — one allegedly committed in December 2008, the other on Jan. 9. He was under the supervision of DYRS at the time of his arrest.’ It is unknown, per confidentiality rules, whether Devonte was a DYRS ward. Wait till next week’s column for that revelation. In the meantime, ‘each alternative-placement decision ought to be reviewed by an impartial, and professionally competent, third-party not beholden to DYRS in any way. If warranted, those early-release decisions should be reversed.’
FROM THEMAIL—-Dorothy Brizill notes: ‘At Saturday’s funeral, the city did a further disservice to Debbie. No government officials attended her funeral service. Neither [Mayor Adrian M. Fenty], Jim “the sheriff of Ward One” Graham, nor MPD Chief Cathy Lanier attended, sent a representative, flowers, a card, or letter of condolence. Their sympathies are elsewhere.’
Bill Turque stays on top of DC-CAS cheating allegations with Monday story reporting that DCPS never fully cooperated with a mandated OSSE investigation of suspected 2007 cheating. The narrative points to some of the tensions between Michelle Rhee and Deborah Gist that led up to Gist’s departure earlier this year. Here’s the sort of thing at stake: ‘Bowen Elementary in Southwest Washington was one of schools where test results improved dramatically in 2008. The percentage of children showing proficiency in reading grew by 27 points, from 36.2 to 63.2 percent. The 34 students in one class averaged more than 10 wrong-to-right erasures on the exam. The citywide average for wrong-to-right erasures on the reading test in elementary grades was between 1.4 and 2.3, according District officials.’ DCPS and OSSE went back and forth but no explanation ever came.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY, EH?—-‘[D]espite repeated requests for a full copy of the [McGraw-Hill erasure study], District officials released only summaries and correspondence describing the analysis. Two e-mail messages sent Friday to Victor Reinoso, who as deputy mayor for education oversees the superintendent’s office, were not answered.’
ALSO—-Tests have simply disappeared from Spingarn, Leah Fabel reports in Examiner, leaving parents ‘wondering not only how their children performed, but if the school made any academic progress at all after six years of near-straight failure. They also would like to know who is to blame. “We’ve gotten about six different stories,” said James Long, the school’s PTA president.’
Jonetta Rose Barras looks at the dim prospects for a gay-marriage referendum, looks at the at-large council race, and sees anti-gay-marriage anger being directed at Phil Mendelson and David Catania. ‘If opponents lose in their effort to have a public vote on an issue sure to change the culture of the nation’s capital, and Catania’s bill passes the council, don’t expect them to go into that proverbial dark night. They will look for someplace to direct their anger and dissatisfaction: Mendelson and Catania. The battle could be messy and complicated.’ But where’s their candidates?
The WaPo editorial board, to its great credit, looks at what LL last week deemed an ‘obscure home rule defeat‘: The decision by the D.C. Court of Appeals preventing the District from prosecuting violations of its own False Claims Act, and other local criminal laws. The editorialists say ‘the city should have the right to seek justice for wrongs against its government’ and call it ‘another instance of the District being denied the ability to look after its own interests.’ The board suggests lobbying Congress for redress.
Call this one a D.C. Vote fever dream: The Hill examines the prospects for an October House vote on the D.C. House Voting Rights Act, after health care is all buttoned up. There is no reason to believe this will happen save for D.C. Vote’s eternal optimism.
Catherine Bellamy, held up as a Housing First success story, was found dead inside her District-provided home last month. Her son has questions for NC8: ‘Julius Bellamy says his 50-year-old mother was wheelchair bound, HIV positive, diabetic and struggled for years with cocaine and heroine. …Bellamy showed ABC 7 News photos he says he took of his mother’s apartment after her decomposing body was discovered inside. There was little food, insect larvae infestations and filthy living conditions. “My mother died because the program she was in did not show the proper care to her,” said Bellamy.’
Aspiring artist and teacher Moriba Salim Hylton, 27, died last Sunday. He’d been about to start a job at the William Doar charter school when he was shot in the head on Aug. 29 in Shaw. WaPo’s Theola Labbé-DeBose covers a Thursday night vigil for the Ellington grad: ‘Clutching candles, people sobbed as the speakers pierced the spreading darkness of the summer evening with pleas for justice and anecdotes about their son, brother, cousin, boyfriend, neighbor and friend….A quiet coterie of police officers ringed the group, a visible reminder that the perpetrator was still at large.’
WaPo’s Michael Laris details the city’s H1N1 flu response strategy, including mass vaccination centers, a extended vaccination network, and a special Web site: ‘Pierre Vigilance, director of the D.C. Department of Health, said officials want residents’ own doctors to handle the bulk of the vaccinations if possible. Higher-risk groups will get the initial shots or nose sprays, with the general population to follow. But for the significant numbers of people who don’t have access to medical care, large-scale vaccination sites will be in place. Schools will be used, and Vigilance said recreation centers are being considered.’ Also WTOP, WTTG-TV.
THREE RULES—-Wash your hands, cover your cough with your sleeve, and go home if you’re sick.
Harry Jaffe sees recent uptick as further proof that ‘Downtown D.C. is the Fort Knox of commercial real estate.’ He writes: ‘I see a sign that property in the nation’s capital has once again proven its value to foreigners. Since the 1980s, I have seen waves of foreign investors risk millions for hot downtown corners. The Canadians came first, followed by the Brits and the Germans and the Japanese – the Dutch and the Australians. And the Saudis. The Germans paying top dollar for a K Street building is hard currency proof of D.C.’s value.’
Yamiche Alcindor kicks off her Sunday WaPo piece with this fact: ‘For the first time in nearly a decade, the majority of court-supervised ex-offenders in the District are unemployed.’ The poor economy is almost certainly responsible, and the story quotes ex-cons arguing that ‘that the bleak economy has forced ex-offenders, already at the margins of employment, to return to crime to survive.’ Ike Fullwood says the unemployed are more likely to get a GPS tracking collar.
In a companion piece, Alcindor’s fellow WaPo intern Martin Ricard looks at how ex-cons attempt to ‘Shed the Stigma of Prison’ in their post-incarceration lives. ‘For some ex-offenders, the most important part of reentry is not freedom from a jail cell but making an internal change. For some, that means forgiving themselves for their crimes. For others, it’s deciding to stop and listen to the world around them. But, with a criminal past hanging over their heads, how do they get there?’
WaPo’s Paul Schwartzman steals a page from the Parade magazine playbook, lists ‘What Washingtonians Make’ for Labor Day special. Among the list of 100: Michelle Rhee, schools chancellor; Adrian M. Fenty, mayor; Paul Strauss, shadow U.S. Senator; Cathy Lanier, police chief; Frederick H. Weisberg, Superior Court judge; Marion Barry, councilmember; and Lonnie Wade Jr., DPW dead animal operator.
In WaPo, Dion Haynes reports that a coming federal hiring boom could be a great boon to the regional economy. ‘It could reduce the region’s unemployment rate, now at 6.2 percent, if jobless people here are hired, and it could revive stagnant home sales if people outside the area are hired. Moreover, as agencies expand to accommodate more workers, they could opt to lease space, boosting the moribund commercial office market.’
AP’s Brett Zongker profiles new National Mall superintendent John Piltzecker. He will oversee $50M in stim projects. ‘[T]he 25-year park ranger and administrator understands the public outrage over the Mall’s current condition. Mr. Piltzecker, 52, said he’ll work to marshal both public and private money to renovate the Mall.’ WAMU-FM, too. ALSO—-Zongker profiles new Smithsonian chief Wayne Clough.
About 350 Howard students protest university administration, WaPo reports, citing ‘a long list of grievances — including problems with on-campus housing, delays in financial aid payments and labor practices — and at one point threatening a sit-in before they were turned away from the building’s doors.’ They also say an administrator censored the campus newspaper. Also WTTG-TV, WRC-TV, NC8, which notes that ‘Howard Alum Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs sent out Twitter messages Friday, telling students if they need him to help make their voices heard, he’ll come down.’
SIGH—-‘Although the students were, in part, advocating press freedom, organizers asked participants not to speak to reporters unless the student organization’s public relations director was present. Students who spoke to one reporter were repeatedly hassled by others.’
WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza interviews Steve Barr of Green Dot Public Schools about his group’s possible entry into D.C.
WTTG-TV notes that there’s still no ETA for H Street/Benning streetcars: ‘The city still hasn’t figured out how to power the trolleys, but you have to believe, if they build the tracks, the trains will come.’
ANOTHER E-10 STORY—-WTTG-TV covers the busy engine company by way of explaining new FEMS initiative to reduce 911 calls for routine medical issues.
Student at Tyler ES, 5, goes missing; mom is called an hour later and given this explanation: ‘[W]hen she rushed to the school, the principal told her children had disappeared inside the building before, so he had a 30-minute rule: He doesn’t notify police or parents for at least 30 minutes,’ she tells NC8. The boy was found six blocks away, crying in the street.
Three men arrested in connection with Saturday afternoon shooting of cab driver at 21st and I Streets NE. The suspects’ apprehension followed a four-hour ‘siege’ in a Carver Terrace apartment building.
NATS PARK STABBING—-Employee-on-employee violence: ‘Officers said the incident occurred inside a kitchen next to the Presidents Club about 8 p.m. A team spokesman, however, said the incident occurred in a service tunnel. “At no time were customers involved,” the spokesman said.’ A youth clinic went on as scheduled the following morning. Also NC8.
Two boys, 14 and 15, wounded in Monday afternoon drive-by on 1400 block of Good Hope Road SE, outside Ambassador Baptist Church. Wounds are described as ‘serious but not life-threatening.’ Also WTTG-TV.
Carjacking results in police chase ending at 11th and K Streets SE, near Potomac Gardens, WRC-TV reports. Police were fired upon, but did not return fire; WTTG-TV reports that suspects are in custody.
NO MURDERS THIS WEEKEND—-Lanier e-mails Fox 5: ‘On average over the past five years there have been from three to five homicides over Labor Day weekend. We did analysis and deployed in most likely areas with goal of ZERO homicides.’ Congratulate her tonight at the Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting.
Great question from WaPo letter writer: Why does the District plant annuals in tree boxes and other public spaces? ‘The cost of the annual planting must be enormous, and it has to be repeated every spring….Why not plant native perennials — local varieties of plants that will come back each year, stronger and sturdier than the year before? Why not plant perennials that are tough enough to live on the street and are naturally suited to our weather? Sedums and coneflowers and black-eyed Susans and ornamental grasses. There are hundreds of varieties of perennial sedums alone able to withstand torrents of rain and droughts.’
WaPo’s Emma Brown does a nice feature on the Labor Day barbecuers down at Anacostia Park who camp out to secure the prime sites for their holiday shindigs. One pavilion had been claimed by 2:30 a.m. Monday.
Upper Marlboro woman pleads guilty to $350K real estate scam targeting District homes.
Amanda Mahnke, the jogger struck Thursday by a Metrobus, is recovering. Police, WUSA-TV reports, are mulling charges against the driver.
MISSING—-Michael Thomas Haresign, 23, unseen since Friday at his home on the 4600 block of 46th Street NW, WUSA-TV reports. ‘Police say Haresign’s family have been unable to contact him and are concerned about his welfare.’
WaPo letter writer with a good point: ‘This past week has been notable in the more than 10 years that I have lived in the District. With children returning to school, there has been one noticeable absence in The Post: no article about a major disaster related to the opening of the D.C. public schools….I consider this a small but significant victory in the reform efforts of Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.’
Harris Teeter is coming to The Yards, Jonathan O’Connell reports for WBJ, citing a signed letter of intent. ‘The store near the ballpark will be 50,000 square feet in the ground floor of a building planned for 401 M St. SE as part of Forest City’s major mixed-use waterfront development.’ Don;t look for anything to open before 2011.
An interview with Anwan Glover (Backyard Band, The Wire): ‘I work with The Peaceoholics, man. I’m an outreach specialist, I work with those guys. And they were one of the movements, part of my movement, with me being successful today and off of the street life bangin’ and doing what I was doing out there. Because they reached out. They were there to stop me. Because you can’t just tell a little dude, “Come on, man. Don’t do that.” They ain’t trying to hear that. They want to see what else you got in store….I’m getting ready to holla at the Mayor and also Council Member Kwame Brown and see if they can put me a three-story building together for the youth in my city because they’re really suffering just staying out of trouble.’
D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols calls ANC 8C office expenditures ‘an uneconomical and wasteful use of public funds,’ Congress Heights on the Rise reports.
FAIR BE WARNED—-10,000-plus wingnuts to descend on District for weekend ‘Taxpayer March on D.C,’ WaTimes reports: ‘The three-day event will begin Thursday morning at the D.C. Armory in Southeast Washington and is expected to end Saturday with a march from Freedom Plaza down Pennsylvania Avenue to a rally on the U.S. Capitol steps. Participants can attend workshops and lobby their congressmen while attending rallies on health care and the economy.’
DCist with photos of last weekend’s dog park opening.
Examiner’s Kytja Weir profiles traffic uberreporter Lisa Baden: ‘She delivers her bulletins in an instantly recognizable style that has made her a celebrity among both motorists and listeners at home. “Smiles, song, schmaltz. She is the person on our air that people either love or they either hate,” WTOP news director Mike McMearty said. “Or they love to hate her.” For WTOP, that makes Baden a key ingredient in the traffic-and-weather formula that helps the news station dominate the market.’
D.C.’s ‘newest degree-granting postsecondary institution’: The Humane Society University. For reals.
What’s up with all those weird heart sculptures? Colombian politics, it turns out.
Weekend Metro shutdowns: No big deal!
Woman accepts marriage proposal on Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls, proceeds to fall off cliff.
Dan Snyder not completely heartless. But close.
BEST LL WISHES—-To WCP’s Jason Cherkis and his wife Sara, married Sunday in Buffalo. Mazel tov!
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, affordable housing development announcement, 400 Eastern Ave. NE.