City Paper is not for tourists
Morning all. Yesterday evening, WaPo reporters Lena Sun and Lyndsey Layton posted a story with this shocking lede: ‘The train control system designed to prevent Metro crashes is malfunctioning across the railroad, suggesting that a technological failure at the heart of last month’s fatal crash may be widespread, according to officials and documents.’ The story went on to report that in addition to the circuit thought to be involved in last month’s Red Line crash, six circuits have been shut down, meaning trains can only pass through them one at a time at 15 mph. Needless to say, Metro GM John Catoe and board chair Jim Graham weren’t terribly happy, calling an evening press conference to harangue the Post in front of news cameras. Catoe deemed the story a ‘gross falsification of the facts’ and ‘an example of someone taking information, not understanding the information and misreporting it.’ But aside from a difference what constitutes ‘widespread,’ what was actually incorrect in the story? That was never really explained at the news conference or in a WMATA press release. See Examiner, WTOP, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
AFTER THE JUMP—-Marion Barry faces more earmark questions; Metro driver remembers ‘close call’; WaPo editorialists hit hard on BRPAA; remains discovered at Forest Haven; and Vince and Adrian give each other the silent treatment in NYC.
More Marion Barry earmark fishiness, reported on by WaPo’s Tim Craig. This involves a grant Barry steered to the National Association of Former Foster Care Children of America, employees of which claim that its executive director ‘engaged in “unethical” conduct in administering a $291,000 grant to provide tutoring, life skills instruction and other social services to city youths.’ Two employees say they didn’t get paid. Barry has further skin in the game: Serving as ‘fiscal agent’ for the group is a group headed by one of his closest associates, Anthony Motley,’who said he takes a 5 percent fee for passing the city money along.’ D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols is investigating.
ALSO—-Barry’s legislative counsel, Essita Holmes, has resigned. She assisted in drawing up the incorporation papers for his suspect nonprofits. A Barry spokesperson tells WaPo that she ‘planned to leave Barry’s council office months ago to start her own law firm.’
Metro locked down employee access to certain safety reports in the days after the Red Line crash, reports the Frederick News-Post‘s Marge Neal. ‘After The News-Post published documents from Metro’s system log on June 26, national media outlets followed suit with articles and news broadcasts beginning July 2. The sources think Metro locked down the computers the next day to prevent further media leaks.’ The reports are used by employees ‘as a tool,’ a Metro source says, ‘and it’s important to have access to them.’ Continues source: ‘This makes it look like Metro is more concerned with damage control and stopping leaks than they are safety….They thought the leak made them look bad, but this makes them look worse.’
Retired Metro operator recounts his own ‘close call’ with a malfunctioning signal system to Examiner’s Kytja Weir—-an incident eerily similar to the Red Line crash. In 2005, working the evening commute between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, he came within 35 feet of crashing his full train into another underneath the Potomac. ‘Too close for comfort,’ Larry P. Mitchell says. When he called the incident in to dispatchers, he says, ‘I heard another train operator cut into the conversation, and he told central control he just pushed the emergency brake…His train stopped 12 feet from mine, and you could hear the panic in his voice. Then I knew something was wrong.’ Mitchell and the other operator, Weir notes, ‘were awarded top Metro safety prizes that December.’
WaPo editorial board gets medieval on BRPAA, saying ‘it’s past time for an overhaul of a body that directly affects a quarter of the District’s revenue.’ The problems? ‘Inept management, a lack of transparency, illogical decisions and failure to adhere to statutory requirements,’ to name a few. And the solution? ‘The key is adequate staffing of the panels that hear cases….A suggestion to open appointments to non-city residents who do business in the District has merit. Better yet, though, would be to professionalize the operation with full-time experts. Such a system would cost more, but it would produce dividends in revenue and public confidence.’
Residents and cops come together on the Internet, Theola Labbé-DeBose reports in WaPo. ‘Police departments that once treated information technology as an internal tool for tracking crime are opening up to the public, inviting them to join online discussion groups, participate in social networking and even help solve crimes,’ she writes. ‘Police in the District, along with Loudoun, Prince George’s and other Washington area counties, offer crime-mapping and other tools on their Web sites. But in the District, online conversations between officers and residents appear to be the way police use technology to reach the most people at one time…The exchanges, which are mostly about crime but can delve into such topics as trash pickup or rats, often prove useful to “lurkers.”‘ Those include Muriel Bowser—-and reporters!
Harry Jaffe in Examiner: ‘Raising D.C. taxes is a prescription for disaster.’ He recounts D.C. officials’ Friday pilgrimage to Wall Street, where ‘Fenty’s plan to make one-time cuts didn’t fly. [Bond raters] wanted to see reductions in fundamental expenses—-such as human services and education. And they had one more message: Don’t raise taxes.’ So, says Jaffe, ‘now is the time for our pols to stiffen their backs and cut programs, even if it means people will lose their jobs.’ See also WAMU-FM report on the junket.
TIDBIT—-On the NYC trip, ‘Gray and Fenty hardly spoke—-not the best way to present a united front.’
Community benefit agreements for developers: Jonathan O’Connell covers ’em in Biz Journal. ‘The agreements began as a way to legally formalize concessions developers made to neighbors in designing their projects….The process appears to have devolved into a rather obvious form of bribery, in which the very groups writing the agreements are the ones receiving funds.’ His conclusion: ‘[T]he purchasing of support certainly doesn’t make for time- or cost-efficient development, and at the moment it’s hard to see how the community’s interests are being met this way, either.’
Clark Ray has a Ward 7 meet-and-greet scheduled, Nikita Stewart reports at D.C. Wire. Location is ‘at the home of Greg and Candace Rhett….Rhett has been a longtime fixture in Ward 7 politics. He joined a crowded field of candidates for the Ward 7 council seat in the 2007 special election.’
BANITA JACKS TRIAL—-Testimony continues from medical examiners, who find it difficult to pinpoint a cause of death for the Jacks children because of the advanced decomposition of the bodies. But, writes Keith Alexander in WaPo, ‘They said they still were confident that the girls were slain….The medical examiners said they attributed the deaths to homicides based on the marks on the bodies, as well as other factors such as how the bodies were found in Jacks’s Southeast Washington rowhouse Jan. 9, 2008.’ Also: Jacks herself ‘on Monday started limping into court with a wooden cane.’ See WTTG-TV and NC8, which reports that ‘looking at the girls eyes for telltale signs that they died from strangulation was impossible because their eyes were gone.’
Remains, ‘possibly human,’ have been found at Forest Haven, the former District facility in Laurel, Md., for the mentally retarded that closed in 1991. NC8 reports that city officials ‘reportedly found something that look suspicious in the backroom, including possible remains….NewsChopper 7 captured pictures of MPD homicide investigators and cadaver dogs on the scene Wednesday, trying to determine if the remains are human.’
WTTG-TV covers the District’s expensive vacant properties.
Tommy Wells seeks changes in Eastern Market management, Voice of the Hill reports: ‘The legislator wants to give more authority to an oversight body that includes community representatives. Currently, the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, which is run largely by citizens, can advise the city on market issues, including those related to the market manager, but it cannot make final decisions. “I don’t want to go back to the way the market was managed,” Wells said. “I don’t believe a community advisory model works well.”‘ OPM is currently running the market, but Wells notes that in the past ‘OPM fell down on the job. As a landlord, the city did not do a great job of taking care of the market.’
ALSO IN VotH—-Eastern Market Metro plaza plans released for comment; Uline Arena target of preservation effort; editorial board wants greater whistleblower protections, DDOT to return letters from ANCs.
Watergate Hotel still belongs to the bank; the only bid presented at auction was a $25M opener by lender PB Capital Corp. See Housing Complex, Examiner, WTOP, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, AP, Biz Journal, which reports that Michael Darby of ex-owner Monument Realty was there and ‘took reporters’ aggressive questioning in stride. “That’s the right result for me – it gives me the chance to be involved with the project going forward….I have the money to move forward with the project—-whether they’ll work with me, I don’t know.”‘ Biz Journal’s Melissa Castro also does a fab scener.
WaPo reader asks why, in light of $666M budget shortfall, ‘is the $23 million, 48,000-square-foot renovation to Stoddert Elementary School in Glover Park underway?’ He rattles off how the school serves few kids, the neighbors hate the project, how trees are being destroyed, and how his ‘quality of life’ has been affected. ‘If the District wants to reduce its budget deficit, canceling or scaling back the Stoddert project would be a good place to start.’
First portion of delayed charter school payments have been sent to schools, Mark Lerner reports in his blog. A PCSB official ‘explained to me that the first $57 million [out of $103 million] had been distributed to the school last Friday, with sites receiving either 50 or 75 percent of the money owned to them depending upon their needs. He anticipates that the Mayor will submit the District’s 2010 budget to the U.S. Congress by the end of the month. The rest of the first quarter funds should be available to schools within two to three weeks after the submission of the budget to Congress.’
From yesterday: WaTimes’ Thom Loverro also does a fine job covering the holdups preventing a Fort Dupont Baseball Academy. Good stuff: ‘Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, a co-owner of the Nationals who also chairs the Dream Foundation, said the park service has thwarted all efforts to get the academy started. “I felt all along the park service has a mandate to protect lands under its control,” she said. “If they chose to, they can facilitate these transfers. If they decide they don’t want it, they can make it very difficult. They don’t want to facilitate this transfer. I see what is going on. They have a bureaucratic chip on their shoulder.”‘
Twenty-two area high school students, some of them from D.C. high schools, are in swine flu quarantine in Beijing.
UDC biologists help clean up local waterways.
Ten years for Fox News producer convicted of possessing and sharing child porn in his Dupont Circle apartment, Examiner reports. DCist notes the sentence disparity compared to the NPR editor let off last week.
Double shooting reported last night outside an apartment building on 2400 block of Elvans Road SE. WUSA-TV reports that ‘[o]ne man is listed in critical condition, the other is said to be stable at this time.’
Park ranger discovers the real identities of Civil War soldiers buried at Fort Stevens, WUSA-TV reports.
GGW on changes coming to the Northeast ‘Starburst’ intersection.
Roll Call buys CQ.
DAYBOOK—-NORAD flight exercises this morning; Public hearing at 7 p.m. on Columbia Heights performance parking at Kelsey Temple Church of God, 1435 Park Road NW. ‘Topics to be discussed will include updates on curbside parking, the turnover rate of metered parking spaces and other modes of reducing congestion in the neighborhood,’ says WaPo.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.