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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“Where Congress Will Let D.C. Do Needle Exchange

Morning all. Today, the D.C. Council will meet to do battle with the Budget Shortfall of the Beast—-$666 million through October 2010. LL, sadly, won’t be there to cover. By the time, you read this, he’ll be on his bicycle headed to the beach for some vacay. But earlier reporting from LL and other newsmen has led to plenty of reactions to the council’s plans: From the police union, which doesn’t like hiring cuts or retirement-plan changes. From city Republicans, who think local elected officials need a pay cut. From local biz types, who are wary of a quarter-point hike in sales taxes. And from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who doesn’t like education cuts or potential CFSA/Medicaid changes.

PROGRAM NOTE—-LL will be out for a week. Jason Cherkis will be your LLDer during the sojourn. Peace!

AFTER THE JUMP—-More fallout from the Peggy Cooper Cafritz fire; Harry Jaffe says Fenty kids going to Lafayette ES; the fight to keep needle exchange in the District; new St. E’s hospital too small; and 11 POs to close?

You saw this one coming, right? The WaPo editorial board criticizes the D.C. Council’s willingness to cut education in order to close the 2010 budget gap. But the criticism is light: ‘We wish the council could have avoided cuts to public education….But the proposed cut of less than $30 million is relatively minor when compared with the $1 billion the District spends on education, and council members are correct to argue that all city departments must share in the sacrifice brought on by these hard economic times. We question, though, the council’s priorities in funding an expensive study of the schools and beefing up the bureaucracy of the state school board while curtailing summer school and making it harder for students to graduate.’ But the body ‘showed its mettle in refusing to take the easy way out of the budget dilemma by using, as Mr. Fenty had suggested, the city’s rainy-day funds or one-time accounting moves.’

A day after fire all but completely destroyed the home and art collection of former school board chair Peggy Cooper Cafritz, WaPo’s David Montgomery and DeNeen Brown remember the place the manse had in the city’s political and philanthropic communities. ‘A neighborhood lost its signature architectural landmark, styled like a summer manse with its gables, columns and big, welcoming porch. A city lost one of its more memorable artistic, political and social salons — a vital interracial crossroads where problem-solvers and creators could mingle and brainstorm. The international arts community lost a stunning assemblage of African and African American art that Cafritz displayed throughout the eight-bedroom house. And a generation of young artists — many of them nurtured at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which she helped establish — lost a refuge where they were celebrated and inspired, and where their art was sometimes displayed for patrons and admirers.’ Also WUSA-TV.

WaTimes’ Deborah K. Dietsch adds more on the art: ‘In collecting, Mrs. Cafritz didn’t go for the obvious, such as the sculpture of Martin Puryear, a 68-year-old black artist whose career was surveyed last year at the National Gallery of Art. Instead she sought out younger, lesser-known talents such as South African artists Robin Rhode and Mustafa Maluka, and Australian painter Nick Cave, who also plays with the Bad Seeds, a rock band. ‘

MEANWHILE—-Questions persist about the water supply to the neighborhood and about the performance of firefighters who could not quickly extinguish the blaze. Allison Klein and Theola Labbé-DeBose note in WaPo that there simply was not enough water available to douse the fire. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin fingered WASA on Wednesday night but a spokesperson for the utility says ‘that firefighters found low pressure because they tapped too many hydrants on the same eight-inch water main’ and should have found another one. And neighbors say they’ve long had water issues: ‘NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell, a neighbor who ran to the scene of Wednesday’s fire, said she has complained about the water pressure and the quality of the water, which has been dirty, for some time. ‘ Fenty promises a ‘public report in explicit detail’ by next week. Also NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.

ANOTHER BIG FIRE—-Last night, at vacant apartment building on 300 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE. NC8, WUSA-TV cover.

Harry Jaffe with a lightly sourced scoop: ‘Chatter around town has it that Mayor Adrian Fenty and his wife Michelle have decided to send their twin sons to public school in the fall….West Elementary is the Fenty’s neighborhood school, but the school off 16th Street in Upper Northwest has been in turmoil. Michelle Fenty toured five grade schools — Janney, Murch, Key, Eaton and Lafayette — across Rock Creek Park. Each had a shot. My sources tell me the twins will attend Lafayette.’

City officials are working to beat back a congressional amendment that would essentially end needle exchange programs in the District, Darryl Fears reports in WaPo. The plan is to keep the rider barring such programs from within 1,000 feet of places where children gather off of the Senate’s D.C. budget bill, in the hope that a House amendment can be removed in conference. ‘With that goal, D.C. Council President Vincent C. Gray ordered a map to show that the amendment — which would prohibit the allocation of funds to needle exchange programs near schools, day-care centers, pools, parks, arcades, colleges and other locations — covers all but small pockets of the city.’ LL has the map.

WHERE WAS ELEANOR?—-‘The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), said he did not receive a map or a call from the city. “If my staff has heard from any of the opponents of this, they haven’t shared it with me,” he said….”I was surprised,” Kingston said, that Norton didn’t approach him after the amendment was offered during an appropriations committee hearing. “It’s possible that she thought that some of these groups reached out to me,” he said. Norton bristled at Kingston’s remark. She said the congressman misrepresented the amendment in his original announcement, saying it would only restrict needle exchanges within 1,000 feet of schools, which is already prohibited by D.C. law….A spokesman for Kingston said the congressman clearly spelled out the amendment’s full intent and passed out a copy at the appropriations hearing that Norton attended.’

Feds are threatening to close 10 District post offices: Columbia Heights Finance, Fort Davis, Friendship Heights, Ledroit Park, Naval Research Laboratory, Navy Annex, Northeast, Petworth, Randle, and Woodbridge.

New Chandra Levy-related news: Prosecutors say they’ve identified another woman attacked in Rock Creek Park by Levy murder suspect Ingmar Guandique. WaPo’s Keith Alexander reports that a court filing indicated that ‘the newest witness identified Guandique as the man who ran up from behind the witness on a jogging trail, pushed the person to the ground, then stabbed the witness in the back.’ Also: ‘In the filing, prosecutors said they plan to identify witnesses who allegedly spoke with Guandique about using drugs and alcohol before his attacks. Guandique also allegedly sodomized one of his cellmates.’

Examiner’s Kytja Weir reports that a Metrobus driver was arrested yesterday after a Southeast crash for driving on a suspended license. ‘The crash, which injured one person, occurred about 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Good Hope Road and 25th Street in Southeast D.C. when a Route 92 Metrobus traveling to Congress Heights and another vehicle crashed….But as police were investigating the crash, they found the commercial driver’s license of the Metrobus driver was suspended. Carletta S. Douglas was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license, according to Metro.’

Metro officials are reviewing allegations made on the Unsuck D.C. Metro blog of a bus driver talking on her cell phone. In WaPo, James Hohmann writes that a witness ‘wrote to the blog that he was riding the 63 bus from Takoma on Tuesday morning when the driver got off to take a phone call at a stop near the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station. After more than three minutes, the post said, a passenger yelled at the driver to get back on the bus and keep driving. She returned to her seat and “drove several hundred feet before ending her call,” the blog post said.’ John Catoe says the driver stands to be fired.

ALSO—-Catoe tells WaTimes that technology problems fingered in wake of Red Line crash ‘could have consequences for transit systems nationwide.’ He tells a powwow of reporters and editors: ‘We’re not the only one with this type of system. Most rail operations around the country have a similar system to this.’ Also noted: WMATA’s insurance premiums, ‘which were renewed July 1, nearly doubled to $8 million per year.’

The new mental hospital at St. Elizabeths will be too small to handle the population its intended to serve, lest more is spent on the hospital in 2010, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. ‘The dearth of space — the hospital will be roughly 70 beds short — was revealed as D.C. Councilman David Catania, chairman of the health committee, explained to his colleagues why the Department of Mental Health needs $2.32 million more for a project most thought was fully funded….D.C. officials familiar with the hospital project tell The Examiner that those who designed the building some seven years ago assumed — based on study data — that more people would receive their mental health treatment in community hospitals like Providence or United Medical, rather than a state hospital where patients are often committed long-term.’

ALSO FROM NEIBAUER—-Council set to roll back failed vacant-property tax hike from $10/year per $100 assessed to $5.

Ribbon is cut on $39M restoration of Foggy Bottom’s School Without Walls. ‘The project began last year and combined the 118-year-old former Grant Elementary School building with a 68,000-square-foot addition,’ WTOP reports. ‘Officials say School Without Walls will now be able to house up to 100 more students. It will also have wireless computer access and video conferencing capabilities.’ GW Hatchet also covers.

Phil Mendelson reiterates calls for OUC Director Janice Quintana‘s ouster to Fox, in wake of investigation.

After her conviction, Banita Jacks police interview tape is released. WRC-TV, NC8, WUSA-TV all have it.

YIKES—-Ten people are trapped in Cleveland Park Metro elevator for about an hour and a half.

Yet again, James W. von Brunn‘s initial appearance in federal court has been postponed due to health. Arraignment now set for Sept. 2.

Tort reformer argues in WaPo letter that budget plans should include reforms to ‘[t]he District’s well-intentioned but overly broad Consumer Protection and Procedures Act….Packed with incentives for lawyers to bring abusive lawsuits against small-business owners, it perversely works to drive businesses, jobs and tax revenue out of the city.

Biz Journal’s Jonathan O’Connell notes that the Northwest One land deal is set to be voted on today by the council.

Reason magazine blog, natch, tut-tuts District for tax hikes.

Eleanor Holmes Norton supports a memorial to the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Fourteenth Legislative Meeting, JAWB 500.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-12 p.m.: guest, Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU-FM; 12:45 p.m.: remarks, Street Soccer USA Cup opening ceremony, Washington Kastles Stadium, 11th and H Streets NW; 1:30 p.m.: remarks, D.C. Tennis Week/Legg Mason kickoff, 16th and Kennedy Streets NW.