City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“Gay Marriage in Washington, D.C.: Coming Tuesday at 12:01 a.m.
IN LL WEEKLY—-LL’s lights are out this week, preempted by WCP’s fab Housing Complex Day coverage.
Morning all. The WaPo editorial board handed a spanking today to the D.C. Council, calling ‘ill-advised’ attempts by Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Phil Mendelson to prevent broadcasts of Ronald Moten‘s ‘open deposition’ on the fishy fire truck. ‘Even more troubling is that a council whose members are so obtuse about what the public is entitled to know will now apparently have total control of a public access channel….Perhaps there were reasons for keeping [Moten’s] testimony secret, but if so the council should have figured out lawful ways of keeping the questioning confidential. It cannot retroactively take something off the public record. With the council’s decision to take control of the channel devoted to council proceedings, we can only imagine what else—-a misstatement? an embarrassing moment?—-might be deemed unsuitable for public consumption.’
AFTER THE JUMP—-The fateful ‘Wee-Z’ bond; Fenty alleged to order tear-gassing of suspect; political strings said to be pulled on Gold Coast sidewalk installation; gay books back on summer reading lists; Colombians flood D.C. Jail; and how OTR sent a bad refund check to the wrong guy.
The NTSB acknowledges new clues in the Red Line collision—-it could be all be due to a bad…Wee-Z bond. Five days before last Monday’s crash, Metro crews replaced the piece of equipment, crucial to the signaling system, near the crash site. According to computer logs, the bond malfunctioned, causing the track circuit to flicker erratically from occupied to unoccupied. As Lena Sun and Lyndsey Layton report in WaPo, ‘no one at Metro detected the problem’ before the crash. ‘Instead of completely failing, the track circuit “fluttered” on and off so quickly that…the failure would not have been obvious in Metro’s downtown operations center, where controllers monitor real-time movement of trains by watching an illuminated graphic depiction of the 106-mile railroad. “It was happening so fast, you would just blink and miss it,” [WMATA rail chief Dave Kubicek] said. “Realistically, you had to be looking at the exact area at the exact place” at the exact time. A controller would have to be staring at something the size of “a button on a BlackBerry” to detect the malfunction.’ Also WaTimes, WTOP, NC8, WRC-TV, WTTG-TV, and Examiner, which notes, ‘Boston officials called Metro to report that the Boston subway system had suffered similar signaling troubles with Alstom products.’
KUDOS—-To the Frederick News-Post, which first reported the Wee-Z issue on June 26: ‘The documents show what is known as “flip-flopping,” with the circuit alternately reporting the track as “occupied” and then “vacant.” The report for track circuit number B2-304, where the stopped train was located, starts at 4:45 p.m. and ends at 5:38 p.m., about 40 minutes after the crash. Throughout the time period covered by the report, the circuit shows the track either occupied or vacant as often as every couple of seconds. At 4:57:03 p.m., about the time of the crash, the report shows the track to be vacant until 5:37:44, when it reports the track is occupied. Less than a minute later, the report again states the track was vacant, even though train wreckage was on the track. One second after that, the track was reportedly occupied again. The circuit flip-flopped again before finally showing the track to be occupied at 5:38:40.’
WJLA-TV/NC8 SCOOP—-‘Two sources who must remain anonymous because they are close to the investigation allege that Metro technicians knew about a serious circuit problem on the track five days before the deadly accident and that they allegedly reported the problem to supervisors days before nine people lost their lives….Sources say the technicians all claimed they notified supervisors and Metro’s maintenance operations center about the circuit problem five days before that collision and that the information was entered into Metro’s maintenance computer database.’
WHAT IS A WEE-Z BOND?—-Allow LL to indulge his railfan-dork side here: It’s an Alstom brand name for a device called a track impedance bond. Running through the rails are two types of current—-the high-voltage DC current that powers the train (running back from the third rail), and a low-voltage AC current that carries the signals associated with the signaling and protections systems. Among other things, a Wee-Z bond allows the high-voltage current to continue down the track to return to the power station, while keeping low-voltage signal currents from bleeding into the next track control block. The bond in question contains a receiver to collect the proper signal from one block and a transmitter to send it on down to the next block.
Did Mayor Adrian M. Fenty stick his nose into the police handling of a May hostage standoff? That’s among the allegations in MPD union chief Kristopher Baumann‘s federal suit against the District, Bill Myers reports in Examiner. ‘According to internal police reports, officers refused to lob tear gas because they were afraid of panicking Moore and provoking another round of gunfire. They were told that the mayor — through [Chief Cathy Lanier] — had “pressured” them to do so, records show. According to one police memo, the front-line officers were told that “the mayor called the chief and told her to end this situation asap.”‘ Says Lanier: ‘It is utterly ridiculous to suggest that the Mayor would interfere in a law enforcement operation. I do not know who would make such an absurd accusation.’
Income tax refund snafus: The Office of Tax and Revenue sent out at least two checks they shouldn’t have—-and how’s this for Nat Gandhi‘s luck: one of them went to nemesis David Catania‘s partner. Both WTOP‘s Mark Segraves and WaPo’s Nikita Stewart are on the story. Writes Stewart, ‘The questions: How many checks went out? And how many were cashed? No one knows for sure, but Natalie Wilson, spokeswoman for the tax office, said the instances appear to be isolated. “These were processing errors. We have no indication that it’s a widespread problem. We’re still looking into it,” she said. “There have been no additional calls [about unearned refunds] from taxpayers.”‘ Also NC8, WRC-TV.
Jonetta Rose Barras points out ‘Dual downers for traditional values’—-those being, of course, gay marriage and medical marijuana. ‘”It’s interesting that this [marijuana] measure, [with] its own controversy, is allowed to go on the ballot with the full support of the city. Yet, the controversial subject of same-sex marriage or definition of marriage cannot,” said Ward 5 civic leader Kathryn Pearson-West, adding that she still wanted a referendum on both. But, that probably won’t happen.’
ALSO—-Gay-marriage opponent Brian Brown says the new hope is to have an initiative on the November 2010 ballot. That assumes that they can surmount the legal challenges.
Whither the body of Toni Brown? asks Keith Alexander in WaPo. The family of the 33-year-old who died June 5 are in a squabble with the D.C. courts—-they want the $6,000 funeral paid out of the victims compemsation fund, claiming the cerebral hemorrhage she suffered was the result of a two-year-old shooting. The doctors, and hence the courts, say the malady that killed her is not related. Mother Stephany Hill ‘says that her daughter’s death meets the criteria for the funeral money. “My baby never had high blood pressure or hypertension before she got shot,” said Hill, sitting in the wheelchair she has used since 2005 after a series of strokes. “Everything that happened to my baby happened to her since she got shot.”‘
GGW’s David Alpert says sidewalks were left out of North Portal Estates on the orders of Fenty, at the behest of a ‘politically-connected’ resident therein: ‘[P]edestrian advocates learned that DDOT had dropped the sidewalks on direct orders from Mayor Fenty. According to sources within DDOT, a politically influential resident affiliated with the civic association asked the Mayor to delete the sidewalks. Without any official public notice, DDOT made the change.’ No names are named.
Top District officials remain concerned about Colombian drug defendants being held in D.C. Jail, Gary Emerling reports in WaTimes. ‘The concerns have led city officials to ask the federal government for more money to provide security for the increasing numbers of prisoners, who are being held at the District’s corrections campus in Southeast.’ Says DOC head Devon Brown, in a court filing: ‘an “unprecedented number” of city inmates – 60 in all – are thought to have ties to a Colombian drug organization. Such prisoners must be kept separate from each other and “could easily use their skills and resources to coordinate unrest, violence or escape.”‘
Biz Journal’s Jonathan O’Connell covers yesterday’s hearing on adding ex-offenders to the Human Rights Act. Needless to say, business types weren’t too thrilled with the whole thing. ‘Dozens of formerly incarcerated men told the council of the difficulty of getting a job in the city after being convicted of a crime. They were opposed on many points by the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, universities and other employers concerned about safety and loss of control in making hiring choices.’ Also WUSA-TV’s Bruce Johnson, who says that, ‘privately,’ councilmembers say the bill ‘has almost no chance of passage.’
ALSO—-O’Connell points out that the NCPC is moving forward with a study on a 10th Street SW overhaul (“an idea that has drawn the interest of big wigs at the Federal City Council”), and NPS is looking at redoing the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. And he rightly takes writer Dave Zirin to task for connecting stadium funding to Metro crash.
On WaPo B1, Bill Turque follows up on last week’s EdWeek scoop—-that Michelle Rhee is in talks with the L.A.-based Green Dot charter outfit to take over a DCPS high school. ‘Rhee met last week with Steve Barr, founder and chairman of Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 17 small charter schools in Los Angeles and one in the Bronx, N.Y. He is perhaps best known for his forcible takeover of Locke Senior High School from the Los Angeles Unified School District last year. Green Dot replaced most of the faculty, divided the 1,800-student school into smaller “academies” and dramatically increased spending on security. Although signs of academic success are unknown—-this year’s round of standardized test scores has not been released—-Green Dot has won praise for making the campus safer and sparking significant increases in attendance and student retention rates. That was enough for Rhee to consider Green Dot as a possible partner.’
This teapot tempest is over: Gay-themed titles are back on DCPS summer reading lists, School Library Journal reports. ‘The District of Columbia Public Schools added nine LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) titles—-including Justin Richardson‘s And Tango Makes Three (S & S, 2005) and Todd Parr’s The Family Book (Little, Brown, 2003)—to its final list after a meeting between the school district and the District of Columbia Public Library on June 18—-a few days after local schools had already closed for summer vacation.’
Cameron Taihi “Tai” Williams, 37-year-old Metro crash victim, is laid to rest at Bible Way Temple. Also in attendance, WaPo reports: the mother of fellow fatality LaVonda “Nikki” King. ‘More than 200 mourners gathered yesterday to remember Williams; King was buried Tuesday. Moments before the service began, [mother] Janice Williams, adorned in a black dress, leaned over her son’s casket and kissed him on the check for the last time. When the casket was closed, the celebration of his life began.’ And at Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, Veronica DuBose was sent off by several hundred. Writes WaPo: ‘At the service, filled with joyful hymns and hopeful words that brought congregants to their feet several times, DuBose’s family and friends offered tributes, praising her kindness, professionalism and fun-loving spirit….[S]everal of her cousins wore T-shirts showing a smiling DuBose, her hand on her hip, with words that read, “Gone but not forgotten.”‘ Also NC8.
ALSO—-Brian Brown, driver of the rammed train, speaks at Jeanice McMillan‘s Buffalo funeral. Reports AP: ‘Brooks limped to the lectern and in a steady voice told hundreds of mourners: “She saved lives.”‘ Also WUSA-TV.
Michael Neibauer covers Jim Graham‘s taxi-cap proposal in Examiner: ‘The soaring number of taxicab operators in D.C.—-roughly 8,000, most of whom own their own cars—-is a “pressing and urgent problem,” Graham said. There are more licensed drivers in D.C. per capita than any place in the world, he said, and new applicants continue to take the required class, giving them access to the driver exam administered by the D.C. Taxicab Commission. A glut of drivers could jeopardize the chances of any cabbies making an adequate living, Graham has said.’ Taxi commission chair Leon Swain, without endorsing the proposal, calls the system ‘overbloated.’ Also WAMU-FM.
Gary Imhoff says of the taxi bill, ‘It’s an awful burden on councilmembers to have to determine the optimum number of people who should be allowed to practice any profession. Wouldn’t it be a relief for politicians if someone could invent an economic system under which the optimum number of workers could be determined automatically, say by the market? Under this magical system, people would enter and leave different job markets on their own accord, depending on their own judgments of how good a living they could make, and politicians wouldn’t have to make decisions for everyone else about which occupations they would be allowed to pursue. Has anyone heard of an economic system like that?’
Rhee gets a visit from Tom Brokaw, Turque reports. He ‘features her this evening at 7 pm on the USA Network as part of his “American Character Along Highway 50,” a series of dispatches about notables along the road that stretches from Ocean City, Md. to Sacramento, Ca.’
WaPp editorialist Jo-Ann Armao asks, ‘when is the president going to get serious’ about D.C. voting rights? ‘Obama hasn’t done a thing since being sworn in to help voting-rights advocates….So, the bill sits as D.C. residents are denied a voice in their government. And the president tools around town, the one he purports to a citizen of, in a limousine that, by virtue of what it doesn’t say, is fast becoming a symbol—-of presidential apathy.’
The first day of NextBus wasn’t without its hiccups, Martin Ricard reports in WaPo. ‘Apparently, the new high-tech system Metro initiated to offer riders real-time schedule information at all 12,000 of its Metrobus stops in the District, Maryland and Virginia couldn’t quite make out [a user’s] command. This experience wasn’t supposed to happen on the first day Metro brought back NextBus, after major communication problems sidelined the project two years ago. The updated system is supposed to be stronger, faster and more reassuring to busy riders….[F]or the most part, it works, Metro officials said.’ PoP reader loves it!
The daughters of Renee Bowman, found packed in a Calvert County freezer, showed signs of being abused prior to their deaths. According to WaPo’s Dan Morse, one ‘suffered broken bones in her hand and arms, according to documents filed in circuit court yesterday. The body of the other girl showed lacerations on her scalp, according to the documents, written by a Montgomery County homicide detective to support murder and child abuse charges….The girls’ surviving sister told detectives that she and her siblings were beaten and choked by Bowman, who kept them locked in their room and forced them to use a bucket when they had to go to the bathroom.’ The girls were all adopted in the District. Also WTOP.
You hate to see this, even after 25 years: Melvin Jackson Jr. is currently being tried for the 1983 murder of French national Raymonde Plantiveau in Glover Park, Hayley Peterson reports in Examiner. And Jackson’s defense ‘attacked the victim’s morals during closing arguments Wednesday, calling her a “loose woman” for birthing six children and traveling independently of her husband….Defense attorney Ross D. Hecht said Jackson had consensual sex with Plantiveau 10 days before she was killed, saying that explained why Jackson’s semen was found inside her. The prosecution contended that Plantiveau did not speak a word of English and therefore could not have consented to sex with Jackson.’ Jackson was implicated by DNA evidence; WTTG-TV has more.
Robert McCartney asks in WaPo column, Are ‘African Americans are feeling more patriotic’? He talks to Howard University summer school students: ‘The African American journalism students agreed overwhelmingly that Barack Obama‘s election has strengthened blacks’ enthusiasm for our nation and trust in the democratic ideals we will honor Saturday….But African Americans tend to love their country more for what it has promised—-especially on July 4—-than for what it has delivered. That’s hardly surprising, given nearly 2 1/2 centuries of slavery, followed by another century of segregation and, despite progress, continuing discrimination and disproportionate economic hardship.’
Reuters: ‘U.S. capital city, once recession-proof, feels pain.’ Nat Gandhi interviewed.
D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute’s Katie Kerstetter has ID’d ‘Five Principles to Close DC’s Budget Gap.’
WAMU-FM’s Sabri Ben-Achour reports on the homeless kids at Sasha Bruce House. ‘Some children here have been rescued from the sex trade. Some come because their families just can’t take care of them. A few have been thrown out of their homes for being gay. Here they get counseling, housing, help with pregnancy, classes on things like how to cook or be a parent.’ ALSO—-Homeless adults pay tribute to Michael Jackson.
Shantella Sherman covers for Informer last week’s ‘Four Living Mayors’ event hosted by the Humanities Council. Only two showed.
Derrick Jones, 28, found shot to death yesterday evening in his apartment on the 2300 block of Hartford Street SE.
More on Fairfax County City, from Examiner.
Notes WaPo reader, ‘Much of the reporting on the end of the recount in the Minnesota Senate race has mentioned that the residents of that state had been partially disenfranchised by not having two senators. While I am happy that this has been resolved, I hope that somewhere in this discussion there will be some note of the fact that D.C. residents are totally disenfranchised in the House and Senate.’
A ‘big dig’ to put New York Avenue underground? Richard Layman thinks out loud…
Help Jair Lynch come up with ideas for live-work space at his !4th-and-Florida condo building.
Quads born to Maryland couple at Howard University Hospital.
The ‘Obama Ate Here’ map.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-11 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on B18-91 (“Notice of Pendency of Action Amendment Act of 2009”), JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-No public events scheduled.