City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“Honoring Obama With Park Would Slight Stephen Girard!“
Morning all. Mary Cheh tells Examiner reporter Bill Myers that she would support ceasing all budget earmarks ‘until we’re satisfied that there will be no misallocation.’ Myers also cites ‘[c]ity hall sources’ saying that Cheh and David Catania ‘have been lobbying their colleagues to take a bolder stab at reform to prevent further embarrassment from Barry’s latest scandal. The pair met with Chairman Vincent Gray…and Michael Brown…while the four were in Philadelphia this week’ at the state legislators’ conference.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Poplar Point soccer stadium reportedly back on the table; GAO takes a look at DCPS school reform; library official purge the rolls, causing big problems; LL’s neighbors whine about noise; and Marion Barry explains why he has nothing to apologize for.
The Government Accountability Office has weighed in on D.C. school reform. The federal auditors give Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee thumbs-ups ‘for “bold steps” taken to close under-enrolled schools, improve test scores and develop teachers’ skills and methods of monitoring their performance,’ Bill Turque reports in WaPo. ‘But Cornelia M. Ashby, director of education and workforce issues for GAO, told the Senate subcommittee that “some false steps” had hampered efforts to transform the system, which serves 45,000 students in 128 schools.’ Among them: Not effectively communicating school staffing decisions to community members; persistent inequity among schools in per-pupil funding; late hiring of ‘teacher coaches’; and ‘a lack of clear strategic planning with specific targets that can be communicated to the community stakeholders.’ On that last point, Victor Reinoso told senators, ‘Our emphasis has been on accountability and results, and less on plans which the city was quite successful in doing previously.’ Also WAMU-FM.
Examiner’s Leah Fabel notes that ‘Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., empathized with Rhee in her struggle to craft a contract with the Washington Teachers Union that would allow more flexibility in firing bad teachers….”We don’t think this is a system that is thinking about the best interest of student achievement at its core, and is detrimental to a culture of accountability,” Rhee said. She said district and union officials hope to strike a deal before the beginning of the school year.’
MUSIC TO VINCE GRAY’S EARS—-From the report: ‘A more transparent process, one that made public their rationale for decisions, would have helped assure stakeholders, including the D.C. Council, that changes…were made consistently and fairly.’
ALSO—-A not-terribly-surprising study concludes that school choice is only as good as the transportation to the school you choose; Turque writes at D.C. Wire that ‘low and moderate income District families would be even more far-flung in their enrollment patterns were it not for transportation issues. Nearly 40 percent of parents interviewed by University of Colorado researchers said lack of mobility is a barrier to school choice….Researchers didn’t have much in the way of possible remedies for the transportation gap, suggesting cash vouchers and a better effort by localities to inform parents of their rights under NCLB.’
Quite the scoop from Biz Journal’s Jonathan O’Connell and Sarah Krouse: ‘The president and CEO of D.C. United recently re-engaged D.C. officials in discussing an idea that seemed completely dead months ago: a new soccer stadium at Poplar Point….According to a source close to the discussions, [Kevin Payne] has met with D.C. Councilman Jack Evans…and congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton…to ask that they reconsider partially funding a soccer-only stadium on Poplar Point….The source close to the negotiations said Payne met with Evans in May at the office of Winston & Strawn LLP partner Bill Hall, and Payne and Evans later met with Norton.’ O’Connell also covers the reboot of the Poplar Point master planning process.
POSSIBLE TERMS—-‘One possibility for a stadium, according to the source, would be for the city to provide land at Poplar Point and back partial financing for the stadium using revenue from five sources: taxes on ticket sales, concessions and parking, as well as rent for use of the stadium and the sale of naming rights. Any remaining gap in cost would be made up by the team.’
After news that a track circuit bond at the site of the Red Line collision had been malfunctioning for 18 months, Robert McCartney demands in his WaPo column that John Catoe and Metro ‘Show Us More Candor’ regarding system safety. Comments from wary riders ‘highlight the damage done by Metro’s awkward, tardy work in providing complete information to the public after the deadliest accident in its history. Rather than grab the initiative in telling riders about what it’s doing to spot and fix safety issues, Metro has scrambled at times to respond to information already raised by the media or federal safety investigators. Catoe knows he’s got a problem, and he said in an interview after the news conference that Metro would do better.’ McCartney does a nice job exposing intra-WMATA politics and Metro/NTSB tensions. See also WTOP, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV coverage.
THANK YOU—-‘Catoe acknowledged…that he erred in not immediately making public the discovery of anomalies in circuits other than at the crash site near Fort Totten….”In hindsight, I see that I should have said that before,” Catoe said.’ This after, Examiner reports, the NTSB disputed his claims that the newly discovered ‘anomalies’ were nothing like the ‘anomalies’ thought to have caused the crash.
ON THE HILL—-‘In an important step for the cash-strapped agency, the House voted 256 to 168 Thursday night to provide $150 million for capital needs and upkeep in the next fiscal year as part of the chamber’s transportation appropriations bill. The funds could help Metro replace its oldest rail cars, which were involved in the accident and have been criticized for their crashworthiness.’
WTOP highlights a fascinating video from Metro control center showing what a dead circuit looks like.
O’Connell also reports in Biz Journal that real-estate types are not happy, not happy at all, with a Fenty-backed plan that would allow the city to appeal BRPAA tax-assessment rulings in court, which city officials argue ‘would give D.C. the chance to contest especially “egregious” deductions granted by the board.’ BUT: ‘Tanja Castro, a partner at Holland & Knight who represents commercial real estate holders, said allowing the city to challenge appeals in court “would be a terrible thing, especially for small commercial property owners.” She said the real problem was that, “the assessor’s office has not recognized that real estate values have dropped and they continue to over-assess properties.”‘ And, says David Fuss, dean of the tax appeal bar: ‘In this economy it’s like shooting the wounded’ and it ‘only reinforces the idea that the District is an inhospitable place for business.’
ALSO—-O’Connell covers Union Station development plans, including bus terminal and Akridge air-right project over the tracks.
Marion Barry tells WTOP‘s Neal Augenstein why he apologized to his colleagues but not to the public: ‘I apologized to the Council, because in every situation, in every war, there’s unintended consequences….I’m not going to apologize to the public, because I’ve done nothing to apologize for. The Park Service ought to be apologizing for illegally arresting me. If you do something, you ought to apologize. Like with the drug situation—-even though I was entrapped, I did cause embarrassment to the people, so I apologized.’
Is all not well at United Medical Center? Biz Journal’s Vandana Sinha reports on a lawsuit filed by Capital Behavioral Health claiming that hospital owner Specialty Hospitals of America ‘reneged on promises made to the District and to Capital Behavioral itself, causing tens of millions of dollars in losses for the mental health provider and wasting 75 percent of the hospital’s capacity.’ CBH says it was supposed to serve as a provider in UMC’s ‘medical mall,’ but the hospital reneged on the contract. SHA says there never was a contract. ‘Capital Behavioral claims the damages extend beyond its own company….the provider says the original plan would have saved the District the $50 million it spends each year to ship “behavior-disordered” children to institutions in other states and “would have vastly expanded and improved the scope, quality and cost-efficiency of critically needed mental health services.”‘
BANITA JACKS TRIAL—-The proceedings wind to a close, WTOP reports, with testimony from ‘forensic entomologist’ Madison Lee Goff, who ‘told the judge that based on the life cycles of insects found in the bodies, the latest the girls could have died was October 2007 and no earlier than spring of 2007.’ And Dr. William Rodriguez III, ‘a forensic anthropologist for the U.S. Department of Defense, testified that he is “absolutely certain” Brittany was stabbed.’ Will Jacks take the stand? We’ll know today. Also WRC-TV, WTTG-TV.
MEANWHILE—-The cop who admitted on the stand this week that he changed his account of visiting the Jacks residence in 2007 is under internal investigation by police, WaPo’s Paul Duggan reports. Police spokesperson Traci Hughes says that Sgt. James Lafranchise was not breaking policy at the time when he did not immediately complete a reports after an April 2007 visit, but a rule requiring immediate reports is in place now. Says Hughes: ‘The department was made aware of the discrepancy in [Lafranchise’s] accounts when he testified…Now that the discrepancies have come to light [the department] is conducting an internal investigation.’ Also WTTG-TV.
Rollout of extra-large accordion-style buses on the X2 line has been delayed by the Benning Road construction, ‘leaving the older buses overcrowded and frustrating many riders,’ according to a WaPo report. ‘At two recent meetings, Metro consultants told residents that they were looking at several short-term options to alleviate the problems associated with the delays. Possible remedies could include using express buses similar to those used along the Georgia Avenue route, increasing the bus frequency and encouraging riders to use their SmarTrip cards to reduce boarding delays.’
D.C. Public Library purges its cardholder rolls of inactive and duplicate accounts, but hundreds of active borrowers get dumped, too. Writes Emma Brown in WaPo, ‘The records of about 147,000 patrons who had not used their cards to check out books or DVDs since March 1, 2007, were deleted June 18, IT Director Chris Tonjes said. But along with the targeted accounts, the records of at least several hundred active patrons who don’t check out books but do use the library’s online resources were eliminated….”We learned a lot,” Tonjes said. “We didn’t really think we would have a segregated population of people who only use the library for one set of activities rather than a whole set of activities. That was a surprise that came out of this.”‘ Cards can be reactivated by visiting your local branch.
Harry Jaffe writes up the Fort Dupont baseball academy tussle. He don’t take too kindly to dem meddlin’ federales: ‘For some reason known only to bureaucrats, the National Park Service has been trying to close down the ice rink at Fort Dupont since 1996; now they are standing in the way of a baseball academy along Ely Street SE….The shenanigans and foot-dragging at Fort Dupont are nothing less than egregious.’ Jaffe ID’s the obstructionist as NPS official Peter May, ‘who essentially controls parkland in the national capital region’ and ‘sits on the National Capital Planning Commission and the D.C. Zoning Commission, wield[ing] immense power behind the scenes.’
D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute weighs in on the Fenty budget plan: The cuts, Jenny Reed writes, ‘fall heavily on programs affecting DC’s low-income residents – the very residents that are struggling the most during this economic downturn’ including ‘[r]ental assistance, neighborhood economic development, adoption subsidies, and financial assistance to grandparents taking care of grandchildren, just to name a few.’ And then there’s TANF, Katie Kerstetter points out, which faces a $6.2M reduction. ‘The Mayor’s budget proposal would cut monthly cash benefits for these families if they do not meet requirements to participate in work activities – and for the first time in DC’s history, could eliminate benefits entirely for some families. The proposal also would increase benefits for those who meet the requirements.’
D.C. maintenance man’s window will get another chance at pressing asbestos lawsuit, thanks to appeals court ruling reported in Examiner.
U Street residents grow weary of neighborhood noise, Yamiche Alcindor reports for WaPo. ‘[S]everal people in the corridor [are] calling for greater enforcement of noise codes. They worry that U Street will one day become like Adams Morgan, where traffic and crowds brought in by clubs and bars make living in the area almost unbearable….Investigators from the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration routinely patrol the area at night for noise violations. If an investigator discovers a violation, a business could be fined or its license suspended….Cynthia Simms, community resource officer for [ABRA]…said the agency will intensify its enforcement efforts next month by allowing investigators to fine violators $250 on the spot.’
Benning Terrace youth feted with Phillips seafood dinner for keeping neighborhood truce alive, Melissa Giaimo reports in WaTimes. ‘When members of a gang known as the “Avenue” carried out a shooting at a Fourth of July celebration in Benning Terrace’s circle, critically injuring a young man and wounding four others, [Center for Neighborhood Enterprise founder Bob Woodson intervened…[and] facilitated a series of meetings…[that] culminated with a pledge to peace….Mr. Woodson said the young men have kept their promise. “Now that they’ve kept their word and demonstrated that they can act as a single community, the first reward is going to be this dinner,” Mr. Woodson said.’
Eleanor Holmes Norton moves to rename D.C. National Guard scholarship program after Metro crash victim Maj. Gen. David Wherley.
Not that there was any doubt: Dan Tangherlini‘s Treasury nomination passes Senate Finance Committee.
Head of MPD FOP chapter weighs in on Obama comments that Cambridge, Mass., police acted ‘stupidly’ in Henry Gates arrest, via Examiner: ‘”I was shocked that the president even made a comment about that [arrest]. It was totally uncalled for,” said Marcello Muzzatti, president of the FOP chapter in D.C. “He wasn’t there. He doesn’t know what happened.”…”Typical. Just go ahead and blame the cops. It’s the easy thing to do,” Muzzatti said.’ And WUSA-TV asks: ‘Do You Have To Follow A Cop’s Orders?’
More on early Thursday shooting: Victim is identified as Maurice A. Smith, 33, a resident of the 3000 block of Stanton Road SE; another victim, still unidentified, was found near the crime scene on the 1200 block of Eaton Road SE.
WUSA-TV’s Derek McGinty covers the demise of the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund.
NC8 covers the emptying of Cleveland Park’s storefronts.
O’Connell does Biz Journal Q&A with Urban Alliance’s Veronica Nolan about job training for youth, contracting with the SYEP, et al.
Watergate Hotel may have been auctioned, but drama remains over garage.
Yet another AHOD stats breakdown, from WCP’s Jason Cherkis.
DDOT tried to pave over a brick alley in Park View with asphalt but valiant residents put a stop to that!
Also, the DDOT honcho in charge of performance parking, says GGW‘s David Alpert, ‘couches his explanations in bad frames.’
Warren Brown is back: The CakeLove owner is featured in AmEx ad.
‘Adelheid Heller, 86, the last surviving member of the family that owned Heller’s Bakery, a Mount Pleasant institution for more than half a century, died July 11….The Hellers, who opened their bakery in 1930, took pride in making, by hand and completely from scratch, their decorated cakes, coffee cakes, rich pound cakes, hearty German bread, chocolate chip and oatmeal-raisin cookies, lemon meringue pies, sugary doughnuts, muffins, cupcakes, croissants and other baked items. Mrs. Heller, known as Addie, worked up front and was the bakery bookkeeper.’
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole public oversight hearing on the FY2009/FY2010 budget gap-closing plan, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.