City Paper is not for tourists
Morning all. The D.C. Council has five days to pound the District’s budget into shape, a process that will take place behind closed doors this afternoon following Friday’s public hearing—-aptly dubbed a ‘Beg-a-Thon’ by WaPo’s Tim Craig. He notes that ‘[e]ven before the hearing began, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chairman of the finance committee, gave word the pleas most likely would not be successful. “This chamber will be filled today with organizations and individuals asking for money,” Evans said. “Given the situation we are in, I don’t see how we can restore a dime.”‘ Michael Neibauer notes another Fenty administration budget move in Examiner: Raiding ballpark tax revenues to cover shortfalls. The tax, meant to pay down the Nationals Park debt, would send $50M to the general fund over three years. Barbara Lang and other business types, needless to say, are none too happy with that development. Expect Gray et al. to dispose with the one-time gimmickry.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Taxman comes after Marc Barnes and Chris Donatelli; feds confirm Marion Barry investigation; independent DCPS evaluation moves forward after all; Banita Jacks trial nears end; and should D.C. be first to embrace universal voter registration?
Neibauer also peruses the list of city property tax delinquencies—-all 5,200 names—-and comes up with some good ones, ‘including a powerful Washington lobbyist, a developer and a nightclub owner.’ The lobbyist is Tony Podesta; he says his taxes ‘are paid by the bank. If they sell my house, I’m going to sue the bank.’ The developer is Chris Donatelli; he says he ‘definitely paid that.’ And the impresario is Marc Barnes, who owes nearly $50K on his Love nightclub and a neighboring property; says Barnes, ‘We’re paying the tax.’
Federal authorities ‘have opened a wide-ranging investigation’ into Marion Barry‘s contracts and earmarks, Bill Myers reports in Examiner, citing ‘multiple law enforcement sources.’ Prosecutors, he writes, ‘have taken a new interest in the contracting questions, the law enforcement sources said. The investigation has not reached the grand jury stage, but investigators are canvassing several possible violations, from federal conflict-of-interest laws to fraud to unlawful services, the sources said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” one law enforcement source said. “You don’t isolate one statute to work something. Those really wash out…in any case.”‘
WaPo’s Henri Cauvin covers the welfare cuts included among Mayor Adrian M. Fenty‘s proposals for closing the city’s budget gap. If you’re an adult member of one of the 16,000 households receiving TANF benefits and you’re not working or looking for a job, your benefits stand to be cut in half after six months, and ended completely after one year. ‘The rising TANF caseload and the increasing number of households that do not meet the work requirements have strained the city’s resources, City Administrator Neil O. Albert said recently in testimony before the council…It is clear, though, that the move is about more than cutting costs. [A] memorandum, provided to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, calls the policy shift “significant” and describes the changes as a “new covenant of mutual responsibility with those we serve.” The city appears to be particularly concerned about long-term TANF recipients. About 3,000 households in the District have been on TANF for more than five years, and about 600 of those have been receiving benefits for more than 10 years, according to the memorandum.’
DID YOU KNOW?—-Clinton-era ‘welfare to work’ never came to the District: ‘The District has not sanctioned many recipients who fail to meet TANF’s requirement that they hold jobs or participate in job search programs….The District’s practice has limited its ability to use federal funds for TANF payments, and the city has elected to use local money to cover the remaining households.’ And: ‘Federal guidelines prohibit anyone from receiving TANF benefits for more than five years. The District is paying the full amount for anyone beyond that limit.’
A House bill passes that would allow federal funding of needle exchange programs, but its utility in the District is questionable. Like the recently reimposed budget rider, the bill ‘includes a restriction against using the money to assist any program that distributes needles within 1,000 feet of day-care centers, schools, parks, playgrounds, pools and youth centers,’ Darryl Fears notes in WaPo. According to nonprofit, ‘no part of the city would be eligible for a needle exchange program if the restrictions are approved.’
ALSO—-Do read Fears’ Sunday profile of the Rev. Rainey Cheeks, who has been ministering to a largely black and gay flock for decades: ‘Inner Light Ministries in the District’s H Street corridor might seem like a traditional black church, with fiery sermons, electric gospel music, a soulful choir and a congregation that sways and claps in rhythm. But it is hardly that. For 16 years, it has served as a sanctuary for a small community of black gays and lesbians who say they feel shunned from all directions….At Inner Light, members say they can be themselves. In the pews on a recent Sunday, a woman adoringly placed an arm around the shoulders of her girlfriend. A man with a linebacker’s strong build sat near the front wearing mascara. And condoms sat in a basket near the door in case any worshipers wanted to grab some on their way out.’
WaPo editorial board comes out strong for Mary Cheh‘s election reform package—-for same-day registration in particular. Also lauded is Cheh’s look at ‘universal voter registration,’ which would ‘shift the impetus for registering voters from the individual to the city, which would use existing data from the tax or driver license rolls to assemble the list of eligible voters.’ D.C. would be the first jurisdiction in the country to use that approach. One catch: ‘The provision to create an advisory council to the Board of Elections and Ethics needs to be rethought. Not only is the exact role of this board unclear, but there is a danger that its members, most appointed by the mayor and council, could politicize what must be an independent, nonpartisan process.’ ALSO—-‘More study is needed to understand why’ crime is dropping so precipitously.
WaPo’s Bill Turque reports that the Fenty administration has not—-repeat, has not—-cut funding for an independent school evaluator from the FY2010 budget, as reported last week. What you had here was a communications breakdown: ‘When we inquired about this on Monday, mayoral spokeswoman Mafara Hobson referred us to city administrator Neil Albert‘s testimony that day before the D.C. Council, which said nothing about the evaluation….But deputy mayor for education Victor Reinoso said today that the funding wasn’t cut and that the $325,000—-the District’s 20 percent contribution to the cost of the study to be conducted by the NRC (National Research Council)—-is sitting in the auditor’s budget.’ In fact, a planning meeting on the study is set for today.
Turque gets a hard number of outgoing principals from DCPS: ‘[S]chool’s out permanently for 25 of them….Jennifer Calloway, Rhee’s spokeswoman, said this year’s departures “could be the result of retirement, resignation or non-reappointment,” but that personnel rules barred her from providing specifics. In any event, since becoming Chancellor in 2007, roughly half of the principals’ posts in DCPS have changed hands.’
Residents continue to receive District tax refunds they don’t deserve, WRC-TV reports. According to Mary Cheh, at least one person was told to pay the city back, with interest.
In Blade, Lou Chibbaro Jr. covers efforts to prepare for a possible full gay marriage bill this fall: ‘From visiting Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings to offering training on how best to speak about marriage equality, local groups and activists are working hard this summer to set the stage for a bill D.C. City Council member David Catania (I-At Large) has pledged to introduce.’ ALSO—-Coverage of controvery over charge in Tony Randolph Hunter case; Desi Deschaine‘s burial.
Per Biz Journal: Gray doesn’t seem to be too hot on allowing District to appeal BRPAA cases in court, Jonathan O’Connell writes. ‘Gray said putting more appeals in Superior Court wasn’t a solution. “There’s nothing about it that I find especially attractive,” he said of the provision, adding that it was unlikely the council would adopt it.’
Harry Thomas Jr. turns in his constitutent service fund reports three weeks late; D.C. GOP put out a press release, and WaPo covers: ‘Thomas appeared confused as to why the report had not been filed. “To my knowledge it should have been filed,” Thomas said. “It was filed online. There is no reason it shouldn’t have been.” A few minutes later, Thomas called back to say he made a mistake. “It should be rectified today,” Thomas said. “There is no particular reason why it hasn’t been filed.”‘ Here’s a possible reason: He was too busy meeting with Falun Gong advocates!
Colby King takes advantage of the Skip Gates affair to recount some messages sent on the Cleveland Park listserv earlier this summer. Example: ‘About 5 p.m. Monday, a well-dressed black male knocked on my door. I was at home sick and did not answer, but he had stepped back far enough from the door for me to see him through the window. This may be coincidence, but I thought it was worth mentioning.’ Writes a correspondent to King, ‘Folks in these communities have Black friends and co-workers. They vote for Obama. They have all of Michael Jackson‘s and Miles Davis‘s recordings. But when they see a Black man at their door or their neighbor’s door and he is not wearing a postal, FedEx or UPS uniform, they see thief, burglar or worse.’ (You could have read about the messages first at City Desk.)
In a WaPo letter, the DYRS health chief strikes back at King’s column last weekend on the use of a sleeping drug on city wards. Andrea Weisman writes that King ‘garbled facts about the drug and showed a lack of understanding about the challenges of working with youths in a secure facility.’ Furthermore: ‘That The Post continues to print unsubstantiated information from anonymous sources who appear to have a vested interest in thwarting reform continues to be dismaying.’
Looking to open a strip club? Then you need to see Eric Whitehead; he’s got a license to sell, and fast. Problem is, O’Connell reports for Biz Journal, that finding a location for your strip club is tricky business. ‘Whitehead said he nearly sold the license for $1.4 million, but that the buyer, whom he did not name, backed out after failing to find an area that would welcome a strip joint. “Every time they attempt to move into a neighborhood, the community gets up in arms,” he said.’
ALSO—-O’Connell has more on the Fort Dupont enviro lawsuit.
Allen Sessoms appears on WRC-TV to talk up the UDC community college. Also introduced: Jonathan Gueverra, the new head of the community college.
Metro operator opens train doors on wrong side, is placed on leave pending disciplinary action. Writes James Hohmann in WaPo, ‘Passenger Chester Joy, 62, riding the Metro home at 7:55 p.m., was standing on the platform side of the six-car train when the doors on the other side opened, above a narrow catwalk and the third rail. “All of a sudden I’m looking out at the wall,” said Joy, of the District, who had been out with his wife celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary. “Holy mackerel.”‘
Erik Wemple to John Catoe: Quit yer whinin’! ‘Why does Catoe have any right to get a look-see at NTSB’s findings before the fine taxpayers of this region do? We’re talking here about an an investigative/oversight agency, Catoe. In releasing its findings to the whole world in one heave, that agency is doing its job.’
WTTG-TV reports that WMATA has hired folks to pass out flyers with headline ‘Red Line Accident Investigation: What we’ve learned so far and what we’re doing to keep Metro as safe as possible.’
The KIPP AIM Academy equestrian team is profiled in WaPo: ‘Most of the students live in Southeast Washington and come from families of meager means, which would typically make horse riding—-an expensive habit—-off-limits,’ Martin Ricard writes. ‘But in two years, [Lelac Almagor], an English teacher at the charter middle school who started the equestrian program, has managed to forge a sort of magnetic, magical connection between the kids and the horses. By giving them a new kind of challenge, Almagor said, she has been able to take them beyond the confinements of school and their inner-city environment, all the while building character and drawing them closer to the classroom.’ The team trains at a Brandywine stable.
Why your neighborhood mailbox may have disappeared: ‘In the Washington area alone, half the blue boxes that were on the streets nine years ago have been pulled up and taken to warehouses to molt in storage or be sold for scrap, leaving 4,071 mailboxes remaining in the District, Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs.’
City shortlists Hine developers—-sort of; as Housing Complex notes, the only developer to get the ax was the nonprofit National Leadership Campus (aka the ‘green blobs’).
14th Street NW closed intermittently today between Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues due to ‘high-level talks between the U.S. and China at the Reagan Building.’
Thomas Short, 18, found dead of gunshot wounds late Friday on the 1100 block of Howard Road SE.
BANITA JACKS TRIAL—-Closing arguments expected today. Reports WAMU-FM: ‘Defense attorneys called two witnesses so far. One testified about the amount of natural light in the house when U.S. Marshals discovered the girls bodies. The other, a forensic examiner, told the court that he found no hairs or fibers in marks on the girls necks. Both witnesses testified for a total of less than half an hour….Defense lawyers have argued that there is no physical evidence linking Banita Jacks’ to the girls’ deaths. They also say medical examiners still don’t know for sure how the four girls died.’ Also NC8, WUSA-TV.
Robbery suspect barricades himself in Marshall Heights home midday Friday; after more than an hour, he was arrested.
Man jumps onto tracks at Van Ness Metro station Friday afternoon, is struck and gravely injured.
Harry Jaffe takes a close look at Destination D.C.’s recent tourism report: ‘What could bring more travelers to our fair city? The Smithsonian museums and the Mall are hard to beat; I would say we need more funky neighborhoods and better shopping, modeled after San Francisco. What could make tourists flee? Crime. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has to keep her heel on the necks of the Capitol Police to patrol the tourist haunts.’
Jonetta Rose Barras has still more on the forensics lab contracting feud. Tompkins Builders, she reports, had filed a complaint with the Contract Appeals Board. ‘The city violated the spirit, if not the letter, of its own laws, rules and regulations. For example, administration officials, according to government sources, raised “concerns” to Tompkins about the qualifications of two subcontractors — Southland and T.A. Beach — included in its proposal. Interestingly, those same companies subsequently were included in Whiting-Turner’s proposal.’
Odor fouls Massachusetts Avenue post office (next to Union Station), WaPo reports. ‘At the office Saturday, an unidentified, impossible to ignore odor settled in the lobby where customers waited in line to mail and pick up packages. “Help!” said an employee, who asked that her name not be published out of fear of getting into trouble. “This has been going on for weeks.”‘ The smell, says knowledgable party, ‘is the result of a leaking pipe somewhere in the bowels of the building….”It smells like sewage,” said Ann Posa, 48, who was visiting from Pennsylvania.’ TEE HEE, BOWELS.
District lawyer Patrick E. Bailey is suspended for three years for failing to report Jamaican manslaughter conviction to bar authorities.
D.C. cabbie has a message for pedestrians, via John Kelly‘s WaPo column: ‘Get back on the sidewalk. [Andrew Simkins] is a D.C. cabdriver, and as such he notices where Washingtonians stand while waiting for the crosswalk light to turn green. Often where they stand is in the street….Once he’d pointed them out to me, I noticed them everywhere: People who’d stepped off the curb and were standing a foot or two in the street, as if they needed a nanosecond’s head start when the light turned green.’
ALSO IN KELLY—-‘Two weeks ago, [Deborah Gist] received official confirmation from Guinness that she had set a most-kisses-in-a-minute world record….At the time, Deborah was state commissioner of education for the District. She’s since moved to Rhode Island to be that state’s education commissioner. But as far as the record goes, it was set here in D.C., a place not often associated with kisses.’ That’s 112 smooches in a minute, in case your wondering.
Robert Brannum compares the leadership styles of Michelle Rhee and Cathy Lanier.
Blogger: ‘The DC City Council is out of control. Yes, the behavior of the Council that governs our nation’s capital is often a little loopy and certainly completely left-leaning, however recent events have proven that the members have lost their minds.’
Wondering what’s going on with the H Street streetcar project? Show up Aug. 6 at Atlas Theater.
Power outages followed Saturday storms.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.