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Morning all. Yesterday, At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania‘s pursuit of the Marion Barry money trail lasted all of five minutes: He read a statement raising serious concerns about the six nonprofits that Barry created and funded through earmarks last year, then recessed his hearing after saying that he would refer the matter to the Office of the Inspector General. Barry, because he can’t help it, lashed back in a rambling, poorly edited letter accusing Catania of a witchhunt motivated by personal animus over his opposition to gay marriage. Nice to see a change of pace from Barry—-for so long, he’s accomplished his political goals by dividing this city by race; now he’s trying to do it with sex. See additional coverage in Examiner, WaPo, WaPo again, NC8, and WTTG-TV.
AFTER THE JUMP—-DCPS test scores keep rising; NTSB raises more questions about Metro safety; lurid details emerge from Banita Jacks proceedings; Fairfax Country wants D.C. to change its alcohol laws; and how D.C. councilmembers are like Hinky Dink and Bathhouse John.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee can breathe again: Newly released test scores again show meaningful gains. Writes Bill Turque in WaPo: ‘The biggest gains…were in the elementary grades, where almost half of the students tested were deemed proficient: 48.6 percent in math (up from 40.5 percent in 2008) and 49.4 percent in reading (up from 45.6 percent in 2008)….Gains at the middle and high school levels were more modest. Reading proficiency grew from 39 percent to 41 percent; math proficiency, from 36 percent to 40 percent.’ But through the harsh NCLB lens, things have regressed, thanks to more ambitious targets: ‘Just 27 percent of public schools—-34 of 128—-made [adequate yearly progress]. That is down from 31 percent—-45 of 143—-in 2008.’ Also Examiner.
GOOD PR—-‘Perhaps most striking was the change in what many education experts regard as the most alarming of all testing statistics—-the gap between scores of white and African American students in public schools. Rhee reported yesterday that last year’s narrowing of the achievement gap continued in 2009 across all grade levels and subject areas. The gulf between secondary math students closed by 20 points, from 70 to 50 percent.’ But, as blogger notes, the gains weren’t big enough to meet NCLB’s ‘safe harbor’ provision.
The WaPo editorial board, needless to say, is pleased that their intellectual investment is paying off. But they can’t gloat too much: The results ‘are, as Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proclaimed, “very good news.” Nonetheless, it is hard to celebrate when more than half of the system’s students still aren’t proficient in the basic skills. So the proper response to the latest data on student achievement must be one of resolve—-to continue the critical reforms started under mayoral control that seem to be making a difference for the city’s troubled schools.’
CHEATING ALLEGATIONS?—-Turque writes at D.C. Wire that a number of tests were invalidated after reports that kids got an early look. An OSSE letter, ‘from which all names and other details have been redacted, also says that multiple school staff were dismissed following an investigation….[State Superintendent Kerri Briggs] said that it was “unacceptable for teachers to copy and share assessment forms with students before the testing window has begun.”‘
Ryan Avent argues that circumstance more than leadership are responsible for DCPS gains: ‘[T]he recent gains in DCPS test scores must be evidence that Rhee is doing a bang up job, right? Er, no. I mean, it’s possible she’s done some good, though I’m highly skeptical. Her attempt to pay teachers a lot more has so far been foiled, and her other personnel decisions seem designed to promote gimmick-wielding, career-building administrators uninterested in creating school conditions that might encourage good teachers to stay despite the middling pay. I was a strong Rhee partisan once upon a time, but it seems to me she’s been spinning her wheels at best.’
NTSB tells Metro that its safety systems aren’t up to snuff. The system, Lena Sun writes in WaPo, needs a ‘real-time, continuous backup that would alert train operators to potential problems and stop trains when necessary.’ The response: ‘Metro, in a statement, said it “will devote all of our resources” to developing additional protections. It is unclear how long such a process would take, but the costs are certain to add to the cash-strapped agency’s financial burdens….Metro Board Chairman Jim Graham, who represents the District, said the agency would do its best to “go out and invent something” but urged the NTSB to address the key mystery of why the circuit keeps failing.’ Also WaTimes, AP, NC8, WTTG-TV.
Examiner’s Kytja Weir tees up today’s Hill hearing on the Red Line collision, nothing that local congressional leaders ate ‘looking into creating federal safety standards to regulate subway systems in the wake of the recent Metro crash’ and that they ‘want to find a way to regulate agencies that face no set of standards.’ For the nation’s transit systems, ‘a network of self-enforced rules and a checkerboard of oversight bodies watch over them but lack the carrots and the sticks to force transit systems to operate safely.’
And federal Metro funding moves forward.
GOOD POINT—-Examiner columnist Barbara Hollingsworth notes that ‘news that Metro is planning to spend $177 million next year on a major overhaul of the Red Line is not very reassuring….the accident occurred just five days after a Metro crew “fixed” that particular section of track.’
From Keith Alexander‘s WaPo account of the Banita Jacks proceedings: ‘Jacks, in an interview with D.C. police detectives hours after authorities found her living with the decomposed bodies of her four daughters, said she had a dream in which she was Mary Magdalene and her late boyfriend was Jesus Christ.’ That account comes from police tapes reviewed yesterday by Judge Frederick Weisberg, tapes in which Jacks ‘told detectives that she had not eaten since October and that her children had not eaten since September. “They got used to not eating,” she said. During early 2007, Jacks said her utilities were turned off: first her water, then the electricity and then the gas. “Nobody would help us,” she said. Also Examiner, WaTimes, NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
MORE DRAMA—-‘Before the videos were played, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Jackson showed [an MPD detective], who was testifying, a poster-size crime scene photo of the three youngest girls lying side by side with their heads turned to the right, all dressed only in white T-shirts. The girls’ grandmother, Mamie Jacks, left the courtroom.’
Examiner’s Michael Neibauer details the differences between the House and Senate versions of the D.C. appropriations bill: ‘House provided $768.3 million for D.C., about $29 million more than President Barack Obama requested in his budget submission. The Senate offered $727.4 million, $12 million less than that sought by Obama. So which chamber will have the upper hand once the budget bills clear both houses and enter conference? “I think you really never can tell,” said Alice Rivlin….”It depends on the personalities and how hard they’re willing to fight for what they believe in.”‘ The Senate bill retains the medical marijuana rider, but not the abortion rider.
Jonathan O’Connell notes at Biz Journal that five land deals expected to move at today’s council meeting will not, because ‘two councilmembers, Kwame Brown, D-At-large, and Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, have decided the council ought to wait to act until the fall, holding the bills until then. The reason is unclear….Maybe Brown and Cheh feel that holding the bills displays to Fenty the importance of the legislative branch. But the message to developers, construction firms and to Temple Court residents is: We’re going to take our time.’
Examiner: ‘A Fairfax County panel is calling on the neighboring D.C. government to reinstate criminal penalties for underage drinking, arguing that Fairfax teens are crossing the Potomac to get drunk with little fear of consequences.’ Not a single shred of evidence that this is the case, but Jim Graham ‘said he would look into the request to establish criminal penalties for underage drinking. “I have a lot of respect for my colleagues there,” he said.’
Annapolis’ Capital newspaper on New Beginnings escapes: ‘When you review the long, depressing history of the Oak Hill Youth Center – of which New Beginnings is the latest incarnation – you don’t come across many prompt admissions of mistakes, followed by the firing of incompetent employees. It’s enough to give us a flicker of hope about New Beginnings. But not a very big flicker….As long as we are stuck with New Beginnings, all we can do is urge district officials to have enough consideration for their neighbors to run it properly. That includes realizing that their “anti-prison” can’t rehabilitate juveniles it can’t keep on the premises. And that means secure doors and windows – and perhaps some more fences with razor wire.’
Vincent Gray appears at American Federation of Teachers conference with Randi Weingarten, who says of D.C. contract negotiations: ‘They, my friends, have been in the fight of their lives.’
BAD TIMES FOR THE NATS—-Not only did they fire their manager, but now they have WTTG-TV in their face about their lousy attendance. ‘For the District, the team’s failings are making the city’s $700-million stadium look like a bad investment….The office of the Chief Financial Officer estimates the city will raise $50.2 million through its Ballpark Revenue Fund, more than enough to make the $32-million bond payment on the stadium with money left over. The bulk of that however does not come from the Ballpark itself, but rather from a utility tax and a business tax in the city. “We’re stuck continuing to burden our businesses to subsidize these owners and they’re not even giving us the consideration of putting their own money into a decent team,” said Catania.’
The Hotel Washington…er, W Hotel bar re-opens, and WaPo’s Michael Birnbaum is tasked with writing up the resurrection: ‘[T]he reopening of the 91-year-old hotel building in a time of terrorism, war and a new presidency also raises questions about security in a jittery capital. Louis R. Mizell Jr., a former intelligence official who analyzed the Hotel Washington’s rooftop sightlines while working for the State Department, recalls that when he first visited the hotel, he thought to himself, “If I was a bad guy, I’d love this position.”…Many security consultants, former Secret Service agents and military snipers contacted for this report wanted nothing to do with any discussion of rooftop security so close to the White House—-“Just not appropriate in the public arena,” one said—-and one sniper alerted the Secret Service to The Washington Post’s inquiries.’
In WaPo letter, Theresa Conroy, former GOP council candidate, compares D.C. councilmembers, with ‘their citywide parking privileges, their luxury box at Nationals Park and their constituent slush funds,’ to the likes of ‘“Bathhouse John” Coughlin and Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna, Chicago aldermen in the early 1900s who used their political power to award municipal contracts to friends and supporters. Former senator Paul H. Douglas (D-Ill.), commenting on Hinky Dink and Bathhouse John in his introduction to the book “Bosses in Lusty Chicago,” asked, “Will the prosperous and affluent abstain from taking advantage of the community and devote themselves to its service?” For the D.C. Council, the answer seems to be no.’
OH MY GOD—-‘Pedicabs Have No Rules Or Regulations,’ WUSA-TV reports. Just check this horror story out of San Diego: ‘A retired school teacher, Sharon Miller, died from a head injury she received on the Fourth of July when she was thrown from the three wheeled vehicle. She was not wearing a seat belt.’
Per Biz Journal: ‘D.C. has 13,028 households worth more than $1 million, representing 5 percent of all the District’s 260,749 households. That makes it No. 10 among all states for millionaire-to-households ratio. In 2008 it ranked No. 8, with 14,781 millionaire households, or 5.73 percent.’ Also: ‘D.C. ranks No. 1 among the 50 largest U.S. cities for job postings per capita…with 133 postings per 1,000 residents.’
Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington change leadership.
Tech geeks grab hold of Cathy Lanier comments calling users of speed-trap-avoidance technology ‘cowards.’
Blogger: ‘Marion Barry is the Greatest Superhero Ever’
DAYBOOK—-10 a.m.: Senate Finance Committee takes up the nomination of Dan Tangherlini to be assistant secretary of treasury for financial management and chief financial officer, 215 Dirksen SOB.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole meeting, to be immediately followed by the 13th legislative meeting, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-9:15 a.m.: remarks, Summer Youth Employment Program update, Fort Dupont Activity Center, Minnesota Avenue and Randle Circle SE.