City Paper is not for tourists
Morning all. LL Daily reached a milestone over the weekend, when the 1,000th person confirmed a subscription to the District’s most comprehensive compendium of local news and political intelligence. That person joins a stable of highly influential readers (the 1,000th subscriber, in fact, is a certain member of the D.C. Council who shall remain nameless). LL doesn’t mean to crow (much), but he does want to thank all of you for your support over the past seven months, as LL has sacrificed his late nights and early mornings to keep you up to date on all District happenings, political and otherwise. And it’s only going to get better: Have some suggestions for LLD? Let LL know!
AFTER THE JUMP—-Metro funding mishegoss; Nat Gandhi ‘exploring’ an escape?; Harry Jackson calls D.C. the ‘Armageddon of marriage’; and the real DCision 2010: medical marijuana.
MUST READ—-Eli Saslow‘s A1 Sunday WaPo account of what happened inside Metro car 1079 before, during, and after it slammed into another Red Line train last Monday: ‘[P]anicked shouts came from the front of the car….”Oh no. Watch out!” one passenger shouted. “Oh my God!” screamed another. Bottoms instinctively grabbed the handrail of the seat in front of him, heard a shrieking crunch of metal, was thrown forward in his seat and saw something coming toward him that at first didn’t make any sense. It was a jumble of dust, shoes, glass, seats, carpeting, Metro maps, metal poles and people. It was the front half of Car 1079. But in the first instant, it appeared as a rolling, roaring wave that was coming closer and closer. Carpeting near Bottoms’s feet began to rise up and crumple like tissue paper. The wave swept within 15 feet in front of Bottoms . . . 10 feet . . . 7. A studied theologian and an experienced chaplain, he recited a simple prayer. “God, make it stop.”‘
Remembering Jeanice McMillan: Mourners filled the Temple of Praise, on Southern Avenue SE, to bid farewell to the woman sitting at the front of car 1079. Write Annie Gowen and Josh White in WaPo: ‘Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. brought the Temple of Praise congregation to its feet when he said [McMillan] “saved lives” in trying to apply the emergency brakes on her Red Line train before it slammed into another during Monday evening’s rush hour. She would be honored “as the Metro hero,” he said. Hundreds of mourners—-including more than 100 Metro employees, some in their blue uniforms—-gave Catoe a sustained ovation. “When the investigation is completed, we will find she went beyond her job,” Catoe said afterward. “I believe she saved lives. She was able to slow that train up before it crashed.”‘ Also WTOP, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, Buffalo News.
ALSO—-Interfaith service, which WRC-TV covers.
WaTimes’ Sarah Abruzzese and Gary Emerling write up Metro’s longstanding funding problems: ‘In 2005, an international review panel said Metro was the best subway in the nation. But beneath the accolades lies an aging infrastructure that has languished owing to the pay-as-it-goes partnership of the transit agency in the nation’s capital. In the wake of the crash on the Red Line last week, lawmakers are scrambling to fund fixes….Metro has lacked a dedicated funding source to reliably bolster its budget, and officials are forced to rely on allotments from federal and local governments, along with whatever internal revenue can be generated through sources such as fares, advertising and parking. In other words, as the economies of the District, Maryland and Virginia go, so goes Metro’s budget.’
HISTORY—-‘Metro has had a constant fight with members of Congress, who see funding the sprawling system as another example of irresponsible pork-barrel spending. In a 2008 Op-Ed article in The Washington Times, Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, decried requests by Mr. Catoe….”Area transit authorities and congressional leaders have got to be kidding,” he said. “They want American taxpayers to buy additional rail cars and to finance a slew of Metro maintenance projects, new capital improvement proposals and dozens of personnel hirings. The Metro wish list doesn’t end there.” Mr. Coburn also mentioned the need to replace 220 rail cars but said that “to expect taxpayers to foot the bills without an accompanying and concrete pay-as-you-go proposal is irresponsible.”‘
WaPo editorial board on the subject today: ‘Critical investments in the infrastructure and maintenance of Metro are overdue, and the tragedy should be a call to action for Congress to finally come up with the needed federal dollars….We heard a lot of platitudes last week, including statements from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, about the importance of Metro as “America’s subway.” It’s time the government put its money where its mouth is.’
Jonetta Rose Barras refuses to blame the Metro crash on money: ‘[T]o lay the death of nine people and the injury of 80 others at the foot of WMATA’s balance sheet trivializes the tragedy and excuses irresponsible decisions made by managers with the approval of the board of directors. While the National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t completed its investigations, early reports suggest all tracks lead to management — poor management.’ To wit: the NTSB warnings on 1000-series cars; the failure of track inspections to discover a failed sensor.
About those cars: Metro needs money to replace them, sure, but it also need money for a whole bunch of other stuff, Kytja Weir writes in Examiner. ‘About $500 million [in] capital costs were committed six years ago for various equipment and facilities that needed repairs or replacements. In addition to fixing up the 33-year-old rail system as well as bus garages up to 100 years old, Metro has been trying to expand its capacity to meet growing ridership. This involves increasing the power system so it can handle longer eight-car trains.’ Why not use stimulus money? Peter Benjamin points out that stim money has made-in-USA focus, and no U.S. manufacturer makes transit cars.
Jim Graham, on WTOP Friday, about why it wasn’t considered earlier to place 1000-series cars only in the middle of Metro trains: ‘It should have been considered. Hindsight is 20/20.’ Also noted: ‘Graham also admits that there may have been a feeling within Metro that the agency’s computerized anti-crash system was fail-safe. “I know that there was considerable reliance on the fact that we have a collision-free system. That this doesn’t happen.”‘ Graham tells NC8 that WMATA is considering ‘mothballing’ the cars altogether.
A sad sendoff for an immigrant victim of the crash: WaPo’s N.C. Aizenman and Matt Zapotosky cover Ana Fernandez‘s wake and funeral: ‘At an all-night wake at a Hyattsville church to mourn Fernandez’s passing in last week’s Metro Red Line crash, her parents, Fidelina Fernandez and Victor Napoleon Bautista, wiped away tears and hugged mourners who were passing by the coffin. Nearby, Ana Fernandez’s son, now 21, and her husband, Oscar Flores, shook hands with her friends. One woman collapsed in the church, packed with hundreds of people, and had to be helped to a pew.’
TONIGHT—-Memorial service for Ann and Maj. Gen. David Wherley, 6 p.m. at the D.C. Armory. Voice of the Hill with more on Gen. Wherley’s founding of the Capital Guardian Youth Challenge Academy (initial cut out of this year’s District budget, incidentally, but restored by the D.C. Council).
Meanwhile, WTOP reports, Red Line service is ‘back to normal.’
MISSED THIS—-Buried inside last Tuesday’s Examiner: ‘The District’s Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, in one of his usual tussles with Councilman David Catania, might have let slip his future plans. During Gandhi’s meeting with the council Monday, Catania said, “You have options Nat; you don’t have to work here.” To which Gandhi replied: “I know. I’m exploring those.” Gandhi later clarified to The Examiner that he is “always exploring various options.” “In this town,” he said, “you take it one day at a time.”‘ Michael Neibauer was the only reporter in the room.
EASTERN MARKET RE-OPENS—-In Friday morning ceremony, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, and others threw open the doors of the market, rehabilitated to the tune of $22M. Writes Yamiche Alcindor in WaPo, ‘After squeezing through the double doors, the visitors, many of whom live in the neighborhood and wanted to see what had changed, took time to study the meats, smell the flowers and sample the food. And as they had done in the days before a fire ravaged the market and forced its vendors into a temporary home, the regulars formed a long line to wait for the market’s famous crab cakes.’ Said Gray: ‘This is literally the phoenix rising from the ashes.’ Also Examiner, WaTimes, Biz Journal, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, We Love DC, and National Review (critical of the federal funding of the market).
Also re Eastern Market: ‘I have a tremendous amount of suspicion that it was arson,’ Tommy Wells tells Voice of the Hill Friday. That opinion, of course, puts him at odds with the D.C. fire department, which at first claimed that the 2007 fire resulted from an electrical mishap, but has since retreated from claiming any cause at all, citing lack of evidence. WCP’s Jason Cherkis, as it happens, thinks it was arson, and he’s wondering why it too Wells so long to speak up.
‘THE ARMAGEDDON OF MARRIAGE’—-In WaTimes, Melissa Giaimo profiles Bishop Harry Jackson: ‘The son of a civil rights activist who fled Florida with his family when a state trooper threatened his father at gunpoint, Mr. Jackson knows firsthand the struggles to be recognized in the democratic system. But same-sex marriage, according to Mr. Jackson, is no civil right. “How dare someone piggyback on the civil rights movement?” he said. “What you really have is an elite group of people masquerading as a minority and systematically imposing their will on the majority.”…[N]owhere does he consider the fight against same-sex marriage more important than in the District — which he has called “the Armageddon of marriage.”…”I think what will happen in D.C. will have an impact on national policy on marriage in a way that no other city or state will have had,” he said.’
THE NEXT ROUND—-‘[Jackson] vowed that he and his supporters will take further legal action when the council introduces the anticipated same-sex-marriage bill in the fall. “We do have a plan, and we’re not going away,” Mr. Jackson said….In the days ahead, Mr. Jackson said that he hopes to work with leaders of other faiths, particularly Roman Catholics, to oppose same-sex marriage. He said that the focus needs to be overcoming what he views as ignorance about the unintended consequences of same-sex marriage.’
Trying to FOIA city e-mails before May 2008? Fuggedaboudit: Bill Myers reports in Examiner that the Fenty administration made it practice to destroy government messages after eight weeks until that late date, when the council said stop. That information comes from a court affidavit filed by OCTO e-mail honcho Rob Mancini in the course of litigation over police discipline waged by Kris Baumann and the police union. The upshot: ‘D.C. law has long defined e-mails as public records but hasn’t been clear about how long they should be preserved. “You’ll find it’s a big, fat gray area,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an Arlington-based nonprofit group that fights for open records. “It’s the next big litigation area.”‘
BAUMANN QUOTE GRADE—-‘For those who are benefiting right now, they should be worried about what happens when the mayor’s office turns on them and they find there is no laws to protect them.’ Solid A—-very true, and very much broader than this issue.
D.C. parking fine revenues: 25 times more than Fairfax! Eight times more than Montgomery! That’s the not-so-shocking takeaway of Mark Segraves‘ WTOP piece: ‘According to records obtained by WTOP, the District collected $67,311,140 in parking fines in fiscal year 2008. Compare that number to Montgomery County, which collected $7.9 million in the same time period. Fairfax County collected $2,619,635. On a per metered/pay space basis, Montgomery County collects about $372 in fines per year, while the District rakes in $39,232 in fines per metered/pay space…. In the District, the average is $113 in fines per resident each year.’
Dorothy Brizill on Ron Moten‘s council ‘deposition’ last week: ‘In his testimony, Moten is belligerent, contentious, and contemptuous of the council and its investigation. In his testimony, Moten claims that the inquiry is politically motivated and an attempt to “get Fenty” and to embarrass Peaceoholics and himself. In his responses to questions, he is evasive and provides few details, and on numerous occasions he refuses to answer questions by claiming that they are not relevant or are repetitive, or by claiming that he has a poor memory; he instructs the councilmembers to cut off their questioning, saying that, “I don’t have time for this.” At various times, he takes on a self-righteous, martyred attitude, portraying himself as a savior of young people in the District and proclaiming that his work in the community saves lives. In the end, however, Moten substantially recanted his original story of his involvement in the fire truck giveaway.’ And he names names!
The District could be on the hook for $176M in child welfare costs that should have been borne by the feds, Neibauer writes in Examiner. ‘The city has decided to quit seeking federal payments on millions of dollars of medical services, officials said, until it can untangle the application process and put a new system in place….Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi told city leaders last week that temporarily discontinuing Medicaid billing within CFSA meant abandoning $44.6 million in the current fiscal year. The loss comprises half of the projected “spending pressures,” unexpected costs such as overtime and severance that the city must cover to balance the 2009 books.’ BTW—-the city seems never to have told the council this was a problem.
THAT OTHER REFERENDUM—-Not gay marriage, silly, but pot. Neibauer looks at the House appropriation subcommittee decision to allow the District to spend money on a medical-marijuana ballot measure. ‘The Financial Services panel, which has oversight of D.C., has removed from the 2010 budget 11-year-old language outlawing the District’s use of federal or local funds to legalize marijuana or reduce penalties for its possession or distribution.’ Apparently, though, that doesn’t simply allow us to enforce the 1998 vote, which passed with 69 percent of the vote. No matter: ‘If added to the ballot now, it will pass again, said Chuck Thies, a political strategist who worked on the 1998 pro-initiative campaign. “I look forward to it being on the ballot next year,” he said. “I expect there would be a well-funded, well-organized citywide effort for 2010.”‘
COPS CLOSE COLD CASES—-MPD makes arrests in the 1999 disappearance of Yolanda Baker, 35, and the stabbing of Elizabeth Singleton, 32, in the same year. Lawrence Davis, 45, was arrested in the latter case; Terrence Barnett, 44, was arrested in the death of Baker, whose remains have not been found. WaPo notes: ‘”No body” murder prosecutions are difficult; it was reported last year that only two such trials had ever been held in the District.’
Also from Myers: ‘A man convicted of stashing marijuana in his jacket will get a new chance to interrogate one of the officers who arrested him after the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the officer might have been trying to curry favor with prosecutors to ward off a brutality investigation.’
In his weekly WaPo education column, Jay Mathews covers the unionization of a Baltimore KIPP charter school. Toward the bottom he slips this in: ‘[Randi Weingarten], the nation’s most interesting union leader, also appears to be making progress in negotiations with D.C. public schools. D.C. Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson, the school system’s chief negotiator, and a Weingarten aide said talks are going very well, a sign that important innovations may be coming. Baltimore could use some of the Weingarten magic….’
Court monitor to charter schools: You’re not pulling your weight on special ed. Michael Birnbaum reports in WaPo: ‘”Charter schools . . . generally have not enrolled students with significant disabilities who required extensive hours of special services or education,” the monitor, Amy Totenberg, wrote….The report casts a somewhat harsh light on a fast-growing sector of public education in the city….Totenberg said some charter schools explicitly limit the number of hours of special education they will provide and counsel parents to enroll their children at regular public schools or at private or other public charter schools that focus on students with disabilities.’
REALLY?—-‘Today is a sad day in the lives of students and parents of Anacostia High School, when you Mrs. Rhee want to turn over our school to people like Mr. Donald Hense of Friendship Edison. When the founder of Friendship Edison says that the reason the students of Anacostia can’t learn is because their mother’s are on crack cocaine this is a sad day. He made this statement at the Anacostia construction meeting. Again as a parent why would someone say this about our children’s parents this way?’ Via Candi Peterson at the Washington Teacher.
Outspoken DCPA teacher Kerry Sylvia returns to her blog: ‘After 9 years in DCPS, I was really feeling discouraged and began questioning if it was time to leave the system. I kept asking myself why the dysfunctional workings of DCPS got to me like they did this year. Why? Well, I think a large part had to do with the continuing charade that, despite some recent cracks, still has convinced many that DCPS reform is moving in the right direction. I can’t tell you how discouraging it is to witness on a daily basis systemic problems that continue to be ignored while so much time and money are being spent in areas that might make DCPS look good in the short term, but will probably not lead to long term and systemic improvement.’
Southeastern University graduated its Class of 2009 this weekend, likely to be its last—-with a loss of accreditation and a possible takeover by the GS graduate school impending. Gowen covers for WaPo: ‘Uncertainty about the school’s future hung over the otherwise joyous occasion at Constitution Hall, as 310 of the school’s 814 students received diplomas. Some had been rushing to take as many classes as possible in the event the school dies….The graduation capped a strange school year, during which Southeastern officials tried to maintain the school’s accreditation and then, after they realized it probably would be lost, began to help students transfer. A summer session of 100 classes for students trying to finish up starts today.’
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman of D.C. is one of two federal judges nationwide to openly flout sentencing guidelines regarding crack vs. powder cocaine convictions, Del Wilber reports in WaPo. ‘The unwarranted sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences is one that has been written into the law and the guidelines, and there is no good reason for that,’ Friedman wrote in an opinion sentencing crack dealer Anthony Lewis to 10 years in prison (he could have gotten as many as 19 years under the crack guideline). Friedman followed the lead of Iowa judge Mark W. Bennett, who, unusually, granted Wilber an interview. Also weighing in: Former U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor, who, Wilber writes, said ‘prosecutors are concerned that judges will begin adopting their own sentencing standards.’
Anthony Motley kicked off his council campaign Saturday; LL wasn’t able to attend, but the newly minted independent spoke to WaPo’s Nikita Stewart: ‘Motley said in an interview that there are divisions in the city that he wants to eliminate: geography and race but also one between ministers and the gay and lesbian community. Motley said he pulled together a meeting between the two groups to talk about the legalization of gay marriage. Motley, who said he has supported domestic partnerships and other gay issues in the past, said he has not decided whether he supports legalizing same-sex nnuptials [sic]. “I’m evolving on that,” he said. “I have not gotten to the point that I can say definitively.”‘
More on the demise of the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund: WaPo’s Martin Ricard writes, ‘The decision appears to end the dream of [Susie Kay,] a woman known for the size of her heart, who struggled to bridge two worlds and show that there was more to Southeast Washington, where she taught, than poverty, violence and despair. “She broke down those stereotypes, she eliminated those myths,” said Theodore Brannum, 28, a former beneficiary of the program who is Hoop Dreams’ program director. “She would do everything she could, not only to make sure that the students could learn but that other people could learn from the students.” Hoop Dreams started in 1996 as a one-day charity basketball fundraiser that took in $3,000. Over the years, it grew rapidly.’ Also Biz Journal.
Nelson Rimensnyder, noted District historian and noted District Republican, proposes a compromise in WaPo letter: Trade the House vote, sans gun amendment, for a voucher reauthorization. ‘This is Politics 101: Each party gets what it wants. Such compromises enabled House Democratic leaders to get the D.C. Home Rule Act in 1973.’
WaPo reader draws parallels between the Metro crash and the Minneapolis bridge collapse: ‘[A]ttention in Minneapolis and the Washington area has been focused, in part, on keeping professional baseball in town with expensive, publicly financed stadiums. Meanwhile, basic infrastructure in both cities is crumbling.’
South Carolina blogger compares Fenty’s secret travel with Mark Sanford‘s: ‘Now to be fair to the mayor, he did leave someone in charge and at least some in his office knew his whereabouts. The really big difference, though, is that he wasn’t cheating on his spouse….In the vernacular I suppose one could say that the mayor is in the clear for all of his secret trips unless he’s found to be screwin’ someone other than the taxpayer.’
In terms of disaster preparedness, Daniel J. Kaniewski, deputy director of George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute, liked what he saw after the Metro catastrophe: ‘Within minutes of the accident, which killed at least nine people and injured more than 75, scores of emergency vehicles from the District and surrounding jurisdictions descended upon the scene. As I monitored the radio traffic of the local agencies involved, I expected to hear chaos; instead, I heard the calm and ordered dispatch of emergency units, along with informative reports from first-responders.’
Rufus G. King III, former chief judge of D.C, Superior Court, takes issue with WaPo reviewer Philip Kennicott‘s description of H. Carl Moultrie I Courthouse as ‘grim.’ Moreover, ‘To say that the Moultrie Courthouse is “dreaded by all District residents as the site of biennial jury duty” dishonors and discourages this vital public service.’
Fresh from The Nose—-the Ballad of Bill Rice, as sung by Tom Sherwood:
Poor Bill is dead Poor Bill Rice is dead He’s lookin’ oh so peaceful and serene (with Mark Segraves chiming in) and serene His bike’s laid out to rest A broken Blackberry on his chest His e-mail box has never been so clean
[NB: Rice is not actually dead. Though he still hasn’t returned LL’s phone calls.]
Legal Times covers the D.C. Bar annual dinner.
What’s happening to all the gas stations? WAMU-FM’s Jessica Flores finds out.
Party for Socialism and Liberation: ‘D.C. City Council votes down racist gang injunction bill‘
A third way on Adams Morgan! In WaPo op-ed, neighborhood leaders Kristen Barden and Pat Patrick take issue with the previously rendered opinions of Terry Lynch and Denis James.
DID YOU KNOW?—-Monica Conyers, disgraced Detroit city councilwoman and wife of Rep. John Conyers, is a UDC law grad?
Kwame Brown seen by Washingtonian at North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson‘s NBA Draft party, at the Park at 14th. He was pick No. 18.
Paolo’s restaurant (aka the poor man’s Cafe Milano), at Wisconsin Avenue and N Street NW, catches fire Saturday night, fouling Georgetown traffic.
Joe Robert, fresh off brain surgery, back in the saddle at his struggling investment concern.
WTOP covers Barbecue Battle.
WaPo ed board says something about speed humps.
The District is back in federal court this morning over CFSA; Judge Thomas F. Hogan is hearing arguments in a contempt motion—-a legal move that could land the child welfare agency back in receivership.
MEA CULPA—-LL reported Friday that the Harriette Walters sentencing would be today; it’s actually tomorrow—-9:30 a.m., in U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan‘s courtroom.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10 a.m.: Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation hearing on B18-329 (“Child Development Program Act of 2009”), JAWB 412; 10:30 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment hearing on B18-3 (“District of Columbia Government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act of 1978 Vesting Amendment Act”); B18-31 (“District Retirement Program Post-Employment Health and Life Insurance Benefits Amendment Act of 2009”), JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs meeting, JAWB 120.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, citywide used car lot enforcement sweep announcement, 5913 Blair Road NW.