Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter
We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“See Adrian Fenty Speeding Down East Capitol Street!“
Morning all. Jason Cherkis with some all-too-rare Sunday WCP reporting: He reveals that Fire Chief Dennis Rubin, while taking in yesterday’s Nats-Mets tilt, was struck with falling paper debris from the National Anthem fireworks show. That led the strapping, mustachioed chief to stop, on the spot, further Nationals Park fireworks displays, even though the debris, a source says, is ‘normal.’ Cherkis reports that Rubin ‘got super testy’ and at one point asked of fireworks honchos, ‘Do you know who I am?’
INCIDENTALLY—-The strapping, goateed LL was at the game, too. He has but one fireworks-related query: Are the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ fireworks, timed to coincide with ‘rockets’ red glare’ and ‘bombs bursting in air,’ not the tackiest thing going in Washington these days?
The WaPo editorial board (like us at WCP) want answers on why police waited a 30-minute eternity to enter the home of Erika Peters and her children—-an interval in which they were murdered by Joseph Mays: ‘We are not prejudging emergency personnel who have jobs fraught with the hazards of being second-guessed. There’s no question that 911 gets countless hang-ups. Children do fool around. Police can’t just barge into homes without proper cause. Officers did aggressively respond to the call. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has said that, by the time the call came in, it was too late. She may well be right, but it’s troubling that efforts by the D.C. Council and Washington City Paper, which first raised questions about the case, to get basic information were stonewalled by officials who cited an ongoing investigation. “This is a particular case that is very high-profile. It was very fatal,” Janice Quintana, director of the office that handles 911 calls, told D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) on March 26 as she explained why she wouldn’t provide information. That’s exactly why the administration should be more forthcoming.’
Big win for Mary Cheh: Sequoia Voting Systems agrees to hand over voting-machine source code for inspection, Tim Craig reports in WaPo, ‘setting the stage for one of the most comprehensive probes on the reliability of electronic voting equipment.’ The demand for the source code followed the malfunctions on primary night last September. ‘Electoral change advocates said the agreement, finalized yesterday in D.C. Superior Court after the city threatened a lawsuit, is one of the first times a manufacturer of electronic voting machines has been forced to endure a public vetting of how its equipment tabulates returns. “It is certainly going to serve as a precedent not just for further investigations in the District of Columbia, but around the country,” said John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action, a national voting rights organization.’
WaPo’s Keith Alexander profiles superprosecutor Deborah Sines, tasked with trying some of the most high-profile murder cases to come through the U.S. Attorney’s Office. ‘Killers Fear This Woman,’ reads the hed. Alexander moves on to detail the various threats leveled against Sines over the years, as well as her personal quirks: ‘Her office bookshelves are lined with murder mystery novels and thick forensic pathology books. On a recent day, a bunch of autopsy photos were on her desk, showing men with a variety of bullet wounds. She keeps several plaques on the walls, including one that says: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process, he does not become a monster.” In a corner, she keeps 26 pairs of pumps, neatly stacked in boxes, and a change of clothes. Her biggest fashion statement is not her Brooks Brothers suits but the Chuck Taylor Converse high-tops she wears to and from court and inside her office. She has six pairs, different colors to match whichever suit she’s wearing.’
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED—-MPD officer ‘stopped at Georgia Avenue and Webster Street NW about 6 p.m. to tell a man that he had dropped money. The man then kicked the officer and ran, a police spokesman said. He was taken into custody and the officer went to have his leg examined,’ WaPo reports.
The latest crackerjack spy scandal: Cathedral Heights couple charged with spying for communist
Cuba. Write Del Quentin Wilber and Mary Beth Sheridan in in WaPo, ‘Within hours of the couple’s appearance yesterday at U.S. District Court in the District, a novel-worthy tale began to emerge from court documents and law enforcement sources, depicting an elderly couple of famed lineage, living in a Northwest Washington neighborhood and traveling abroad under code names, motivated by ideology to pass information to Cuban agents….The couple, Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, were charged with conspiring to act as illegal agents and to communicate classified information to the Cuban government. They pleaded not guilty and were ordered held in jail pending further court proceedings.’ Also WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
At least 17 times this year, Metro drivers have opened the doors of their eight-car trains without being fully pulled up to station platforms, Lena Sun writes in WaPo, ‘posing a significant hazard of riders falling onto the tracks.’ The problem is that operators forget they’re driving longer trains, ‘and don’t pull the trains all the way to the front of the platform. Instead, they are berthing them as if they were six cars long, with the end cars no longer abutting the platform….The improper door operations are among the most serious of safety violations. Operators are suspended for 12 days without pay for the first offense. A second offense disqualifies them from operating a train for 18 months, and the third offense results in firing. In the 17 incidents, 13 operators were suspended and four were disqualified, returning to positions as bus operators, records show.’
Michael Neibauer in Examiner covers efforts to fix the crime-ridden Adams Morgan ‘dead zone’ where Champlain Street NW dead-ends into the Marie Reed Learning Center. ‘On Thursday, following more violence there, Mayor Adrian Fenty and Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced the installation of a CCTV camera at the corner of Kalorama and Champlain. The D.C. Department of Transportation, meanwhile, is working to reopen the breezeway to traffic perhaps by the end of summer. “There really isn’t a magic bullet,” said Bryan Weaver, Adams Morgan advisory neighborhood commissioner. “I think from a deterrent standpoint, the camera is more important than the street. The next thing I’d like to see is the city fulfill its promise to fix up the recreation center. It almost is a self-fulfilling prophecy: Treat it as ghetto, that’s what it becomes.”’
ALSO FROM NEIBAUER—-District gun rules became permanent on Friday. ‘Despite strong opposition from gun rights advocates, the Metropolitan Police Department reported in Friday’s D.C. Register that no comments were received since January. District leaders believe they have met the Supreme Court’s directive, that the Second Amendment guarantees D.C. residents the right to keep a handgun in the home for self-defense.’ But the rules face challenges from courts and Congress.
Va. Reps. Gerry Connolly, Jim Moran, and Frank Wolf pen letter to city complaining about lack of foreplanning on 14SB and Chain Bridge reconstruction projects. “It is clear that adequate advance notice was not given to the residents, workers and tourists whose commutes are being adversely affected by this work. Initiating construction on two of the five bridge connections between Northern Virginia and the District without such communication is unacceptable and unfair.” Adds Connolly: ‘The failure to communicate with a quarter-of-million people, who use these two bridges — and with your counterpart in Virginia, is almost criminal.’ Also WaPo.
Two years after Tonya Bell plowed into 49 bystanders, Unifest returned to Anacostia this Saturday. Tim Craig covers for WaPo: ‘[I]t was all back on Martin Luther King Avenue — the music, the chicken-on-a-stick, the ribs, the hula hoops, the cheerleaders and dance squads….Vernon Hawkins, executive director of the Unifest Foundation, said the incident was so traumatic that he and other officials decided to cancel the festival last year. “We had to be sensitive to those individuals who were injured and the community itself,” Hawkins said. “We needed to retool things, get better planning and develop a broader program.”…Yesterday, Martin Luther King Avenue was protected by a fortress of barriers and police cruisers, creating a buffer that appeared to stretch almost a mile….In recent years, more than 100,000 people descended on the festival, although there appeared to be only a few thousand there yesterday at mid-afternoon.’
Are remains found in Brandywine, Md., those of missing Ward 4 woman Pamela Butler?
Colby King, in his Saturday column, made the case why the words of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh et al. had bearing on the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller. You should read it. Perhaps more topical is his jumping-off point, a phone call he took during his years on the WaPo editorial board from the wife of a D.C. government official he’d lambasted, leading to his dismissal. ‘”I hope you’re satisfied,” the caller said….”An honorable career down the drain.”…I wasn’t satisfied. I was stunned, sorry for what had happened to her family and disturbed by the disruption in her daughter’s life, and I fumbled for words to express my concern for their welfare….I could not, with wide-eyed innocence, pretend that the harsh editorial had no impact on her husband’s fate. I felt then, and I believe now, that I could not be absolved of what happened to him. The editorial may have had a bearing on the outcome.’
THE BIG QUESTION—-Who was the official? Send your guesses to LL.
Jonetta Rose Barras, in her Examiner column, covers legislative efforts to change the terms of ‘at-will’ employment in the District government. Says Harry Thomas Jr., co-introducer of the MSS Employment Amendment Act of 2009, “You have to have an appearance of fairness….We don’t have that now. There seems to be a total abuse of power that has created an environment of fear. That’s not good for the government, the workers or District residents.”
Harry Jaffe, in Examiner column, uses local Democrats’ presidential-license-plate resolution to (a) issue a swipe at said local Democrats and (b) push his pet plan to exempt the District from federal taxation. ‘Abandon the high-minded, justice-and-democracy argument and go for the dough. Rather than ask the president to tack on the “Taxation Without Representation” plate, advocate a new one that reads: “Free D.C. — From Taxes.”…As for true political clout, I ask: Are we more likely to get our way in Congress if we have one member with full voting rights; or would we have more raw power if we were wealthy enough to contribute to 435 congressional campaigns and 100 senators? License plates speak jargon. Money talks.’ YEAH, HJ—-And you think we have a dysfunctional local political culture now?
IS IT SMART-CAR COMPATIBLE?—-Local firm sells GPS apparatus that warns your of upcoming speed traps. Writes WaPo‘s Dan Morse, ‘The system, known as PhantomAlert, feeds the locations of speed cameras and red-light cameras into standard Global Positioning System devices and prompts the devices to warn drivers when they are near one. PhantomAlert has subscribers throughout the nation, including more than 2,000 in the Washington region, said the company’s owner, District resident Joseph Scott….”If drivers think they only get a ticket when their little device goes off, that could lead them into a false sense of security, which could cause them to speed,” said Lisa Sutter, a District employee who is responsible for camera enforcement, overseeing 22 speed cameras and 49 red-light cameras.’ Also WaTimes.
Nonprofit tallies District government’s substance abuse costs as approaching $1B per year, Examiner’s Hayley Peterson writes. ‘The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse lumped together all costs associated with drug use in 2005 to determine how much federal, state and local governments were spending. Expenses ranged from health care for smoking-related diseases to incarceration for drug dealers to recovery programs for alcohol and prescription drug addictions. According to the center’s calculations, 18.9 percent of the District’s $4.2 billion budget in 2005 went to drug-related costs.’
John Kelly explores the genesis of ‘Adams Morgan’ as a moniker for the mid-city neighborhood centered on 18th Street and Columbia Road. The name has its genesis in a mid-’50s urban renewal effort: ‘The group’s name — the Adams-Morgan Better Neighborhood Conference — illustrated the integrated makeup of the group. Adams was the name of the neighborhood school for white children, Morgan the school for black children. The group wanted urban renewal, but not of the sort that was turning much of Southwest into concrete canyons….The name stuck.’
Wilson Bridge bike path opens, but where does it go? ‘A few trails on the Maryland side lead to federal parks, but not all are connected, and some require riding along a busy highway. No unbroken path leads into the District,’ Tara Bahrampour reports in WaPo. ‘One problem is that the most direct route to the District would require laying down a trail past five privately owned homes. Despite an easement, those residents have resisted the idea. Eric Gilliland, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said the District is working on plans for a bike trail along South Capitol Street that could link with trails leading to National Harbor — but only if Maryland builds connecting trails on its side.’
Kalorama Citizens Association’s Denis James issues a WaPo rejoinder to Terry Lynch‘s op-ed last week calling for a less boozy Adams Morgan. Lynch, he writes, ‘should stick to the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. Those of us who live here and are deeply involved in our community already understand the tragic effects that an overabundance of one use, alcohol, can bring….I can assure Lynch that the community is already working on solutions….The appearance of 18th Street from Columbia Road to Florida Avenue will be revamped with wider sidewalks; parallel parking replacing the angled parking that makes the area look like a used-car lot; fewer travel lanes; well-placed loading zones, bike lanes and racks; and a crop of new trees. These traffic-calming and safety measures will help discourage the current overabundance of late-night activity and make 18th Street more of a neighborhood street.’ And don’t even THINK about messing with Marie Reed!
Volunteers with City Year will fill in for the axed Metro ‘Mystery Rider’ program, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner. ‘The “secret shopper”-type program was commissioned by the District, which is paying $150,000 for the corps members’ transit passes, which they use to travel to schools across the city for their work as tutors and mentors. That’s less than the $195,000 the transit agency expects to pay to Maryland firm Widener-Burrows & Associates for the first year of a $916,000 contract for its mystery rider program. And Metro doesn’t have to pay City Year.’
Also from Weir: Metro to study improving pedestrian, biker access to rail stations.
WaPo readers chip in with their parking-ticket horror stories. Writes one: ‘If the District can’t teach its parking enforcement officers to read the signs before issuing a ticket, then parking at any meter at any time in Washington is a gamble.’
FEMS has offered a job to MoCo fire spokesperson Pete Piringer, Theola Labbé-DeBose reported Friday at D.C. Wire. Big question: Whither Alan Etter?
Banita Jacks asks for a bench trial.
Jerrell Haney, 22, was shot to death early Sunday morning on the 2000 block of 16th Street NE; another person was wounded.
Accused Eastern Shore hoaxster’s car found in D.C.
WRC-TV covers the ‘YDRs’—youth development representatives—-charged with rehabilitating kids under District supervisions. Complete with a look inside the D.C. Youth Services Center.
Roll Call covers proposed District purchase of BGCGW properties. ‘The city’s proposed purchase of the Eastern Branch signals that the residents of Ward 6 could find themselves dependent on the government for these services, a shift from the past situation in which the center was a well-established community institution despite being privately owned.’
ALSO IN ROLL CALL—-Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta gets involved in the Sonia Sotomayor push through Facebook app.
Reason’s Jacob Sullum takes issue with the District’s war on khat. ‘[W]e are left with the fear that cabdrivers use khat to “stay alert”; apparently Fenty prefers his cabdrivers sleepy and distracted.’
OSSE official no longer interested in Montgomery, Ala., superintendent job.
IN OTHER JOURNALISTIC TRAVESTIES—-WaTimes hands ‘CITIZEN JOURNALIST’ space to head of pro-voucher organization to write pro-voucher piece.
Charles Ramsey got $9,000 to move to Philadelphia.
Biz Journal has your Rammy winners. Among the honorees: Restaurant Eve, Cork, Rasika, CityZen, Central, chef Robert Wiedmaier, and lawyer Dimitri Mallios.
Bernard Barker, Watergate burglar, is dead at 92.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, HSEMA annual report announcement, Engine Company 15, 2101 14th St. SE; 1:30 p.m.: remarks, Langdon Elementary playground ribbon-cutting, Langdon ES, 1900 Evarts St. NE.