City Desk

D.C. Tries to Keep Relisha Rudd Case Visible One Year After Her Disappearance

relishacolorphotoMayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier, and other officials involved in the search for Relisha Rudd marked the one-year anniversary of the child's disappearance with a press conference at the Metropolitan Police Department’s headquarters.

MPD, along with the FBI, Metro Transit Police Department, and Amtrak, are “beefing up” efforts to find the missing nine-year-old girl, according to Bowser, although no updates on the progress of the investigation were discussed.

“While we can’t talk about all the work that’s going on behind the scenes that’s not visible, what I can do is try and keep Relisha Rudd and this case visible in the news media,” Lanier said. “This is a press conference to keep this in the public eye, not to share any new information.”

Lanier’s statements indicated that police are relying on the public for leads regarding Relisha’s location. She was last seen on March 1, 2014 with Kahlil Tatum, a janitor at the homeless shelter where she lived with her mother and brothers. Tatum was later found dead of a presumed suicide.

“We’ll be out distributing flyers in multiple locations,” Lanier said of canvassing events scheduled for Monday morning and evening. “We’re looking for that shred of information that somebody might have that they have not passed on.”

Relisha is currently presumed to be missing by MPD, according to Lanier. “We don’t know, but there are many missing children who are found months, weeks, years, even, later, so we’re holding out hope that she’s still alive,” she said.

Laura Zeilinger, the acting director of D.C.’s Department of Human Services, addressed the status of D.C. General, the city's largest family homeless shelter and Relisha's former place of residence. “The physical space is very clean, there are staff on every single floor, there is security 24/7, there are cameras,” Zeilinger said. “We’re doing absolutely everything we can to make sure this a dignified space for families to be while they are experiencing homelessness.”

According to Zeilinger, D.C. General’s heating, air conditioning, and security cameras—which have been the subject of resident complaints—are all currently operating properly.

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Brenda Donald said that training regarding child abuse and domestic violence has been increased for all human services employees and contractors. “This training is ongoing,” she said. “Before, there hadn’t been a checklist from each of the agencies to make sure everybody was getting it, and that’s in place now.”

Bowser closed the press conference by thanking the FBI specifically for their continued assistance on the case and for securing a $25,000 reward for information that leads to Relisha.

Photo via MPD

D.C. Commits to “Vision Zero”


Mayor Muriel Bowser has committed D.C. to "Vision Zero," a Swedish transportation concept where jurisdictions are asked to create a timeline to end traffic fatalities and pledge to implement the changes necessary to reach that goal.

The commitment was announced earlier this month as part of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx's Mayors' Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets initiative. The proposed date for release of D.C's Vision Zero plan is March 6, according to a Bowser spokeswoman. Eleven District agencies are involved in the planning process, according to spokeswoman LaToya Foster, including the Metropolitan Police Department, Office of Planning, Office of the Attorney General, and Department of Public Works.

Greg Billing, advocacy coordinator for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, says the first step in the Vision Zero process is setting a deadline for ending pedestrian, cyclist, and driver deaths. (New York and San Francisco share a goal of 2024.) Coordination and cooperation across city departments and agencies will be key to ensuring the right policy changes are made.

"Vision Zero takes commitment from the top leadership all the way down to implement and to actually see through that vision," says Billing.

Read more D.C. Commits to “Vision Zero”

The 30 States Andy Harris Should Micromanage Before D.C.

Before Andy Harris badgers D.C. into federal compliance, he might want to look at 23 other states—and his own.

Before Andy Harris badgers D.C. into federal compliance, he might want to look at 30 other states—and his own.

After the District moved forward with its legalization of marijuana last week over objections from Congress, the leading opponent of the legalization measure lobbed an accusation at the residents of the capital city: ingratitude.

"We provide half a billion dollars [annually] to the District," Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican, told the Associated Press. "One would think they would be much more compliant with the wishes of Congress."

But by Harris' measure, 30 states should be even more docile when it comes to the whims of federal lawmakers.

The D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis has crunched the numbers and ranked D.C. and the 50 states by the percentage of their revenue that comes from the federal government. The office's conclusion: D.C. ranks just 31st in financial reliance on the feds.

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Read more The 30 States Andy Harris Should Micromanage Before D.C.

District Line Daily: Relisha Still Missing

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

Sunday marked one year since Relisha Rudd was last seen, but police and advocates for the homeless and missing children are still searching for her.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • The Bowser administration may kill D.C.'s streetcar expansion plans. [WAMU]
  • Gregory Dean, the former fire chief in Seattle, will reportedly take over at D.C. Fire and EMS. [NBC4]
  • Weed is still banned on D.C.'s college campuses. [City Desk]
  • Already, one of the new escalators at the Dupont Circle Metro station is undergoing a major repair. [WAMU]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY: Read more District Line Daily: Relisha Still Missing

Photo: Men Watching Virtual Reality Movie

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Men watching virtual reality movie, Snake River at DC Independent Film Festival,
700 Block Pennsylvania Ave, NW, March 1st.  © 2015 Matt Dunn

Weed May Be Legal in D.C., But It’s Still Banned on Local College Campuses

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It’s every D.C. dorm-room stoner’s dream. Yesterday, marijuana officially became legal in the District. We’re assuming many celebratory joints were lit across local college campuses, followed by, of course, frantic Febreezing.

Yet the rules at universities in D.C. regarding pot haven’t changed. Possessing and consuming weed is still against the rules on campuses, no matter what the pesky local voters decided. According to American University Vice President Gail Hanson, for the foreseeable future “manufacture, possession, use, and distribution of marijuana will continue to be violations of the Conduct Code.” Students found with weed on campus property will continue to face referrals to the student conduct office, rather than the cops. The same applies to students at Catholic University, which has no plans to revise its policy. Neither do Howard or Gallaudet, which both prohibit the drug.

Read more Weed May Be Legal in D.C., But It’s Still Banned on Local College Campuses

When the Tap Runs Dry, DC Water Uses Social Media To Keep Customers Informed and Amused

Water Main Repair-Andy Le5

When Pamela Mooring arrives at work in the morning, the communications manager faces a surprise—how many water main breaks will DC Water crews be visiting that day? “I don’t know yet what is on their list to work today,” she says. “There could be one or five [sites].”

The wind chill on a particularly cold February morning is measuring at 5 degrees below zero, Emergency Management's Jonathan Reeves tells Mooring in an email. Despite the frigid temperatures, she seems quite unfazed at the prospect of standing outside at one of DC Water’s work sites all day. “I have one glove! At least one hand will be warm,” she jokes.

Water main breaks require minimal to extensive repair, ranging from a few hours to an entire week of work. DC Water has posted the fifteen step process on their website in detail, for the extra-curious D.C. citizen.

“[Resident response] runs the gamut,” says Mooring. Some are very appreciative that our employees are out there in all types of weather to ensure their critical water service. Some obviously don’t like the inconvenience. We all forget how much we rely on water until we don’t have any.”

Perhaps the positive attitude from customers who can’t wash dishes or shower is owed to DC Water's social media strategy, as demonstrated on its Twitter and Facebook page. In addition to using Twitter to communicate quickly with struggling residents, the agency uses social media to share tips (thaw frozen water pipes with a hairdryer to “save a few bucks”) and facts (the median age of D.C.’s water pipes is 79) with clever graphics.

Read more When the Tap Runs Dry, DC Water Uses Social Media To Keep Customers Informed and Amused

Buy D.C.: Revenge

Each week, Buy D.C. will highlight shops and items you can only find in the D.C. area, curated by Kaarin Vembar, owner of personal shopping and wardrobe editing service Closet Caucus.


Chatter: In Your Dreams

cover-issue1838-lgWhat you said about what we said last week

Maybe we’ll look back and remember this as the week our readers lost their minds, nearly taking us along with them. Somehow the Internet tossed up on our calm shores a commentariat so uncharacteristically combative, we’re still recovering from whiplash. What happened, guys? We have so much love for you, but the conversation just went off the rails.

Response to Aaron Wiener’s cover story on the scholarship program TheDream.US got especially nasty. Specifically, it appears some commenters had taken it upon themselves to defend the nation’s borders by railing against “illegal immigrants” in the comments section of our site. Much of it we found too offensive to print here, but John Smith calmly captured the zeitgeist, saying of Sadhana Singh, the Guyanese student and scholarship recipient featured in the story: “Let’s focus on the real issue here unfairness. She should be deported. Plus of course it is against the law for her to be here, that is if the law was enforced and it hasn’t been since Democrats lied about the fence to Reagan.” It’s on you, Democrats, that this woman is getting an education funded by a scholarship set up to help those ineligible to receive federal money. It’s on you!

But of course the us-versus-them camp had its opponents, too: cminus rose to the general defense of families whose kids are on a path like Singh’s. “How about we keep an ambitious and hard-working family like the Singhs, and instead send Guyana some lazy and ignorant native-born Americans?” Then carlos the dwarf piled on: “You gotta love the people who would turn a child into a criminal for something her parents did. Heartless, cruel, and counterproductive.” And the name-calling had only just begun. Can’t we all just get along?

Title Nein

After reading Will Sommer’s piece on Councilmember Mary Cheh’s doubts over the legality of a public school for black and Latino boys, a surprising number of commenters seemed to think the school in question would be “black only,” providing their expert legal opinion that this would be illegal.

Zestious bravely waded into the comments section about half a dozen times with more or less the same message: “it’s NOT an ‘all-black’ school, it’s an ‘all boys’ school in Ward 7/8. An ‘All black’ school that receives Federal funding would be unconstitutional.” Mg3440 gets a gold star for keeping it civil while pointing out that “Mary Cheh is raising a valid concern about the ‘Empowering Males’ initiative. Unless equal resources & opportunities are available to females, the program almost certainly violates Title IX. If the district wants to keep the program, it’s going to have to admit females or make a comparable program available for females. That’s the law. Get over it.” Tough love, Mg3440. And then there’s this claim: “Mary Cheh is just looking for publicity,” wrote RV.

Finally, noodlez gave his caps lock key a workout and showed some love for Will Sommer: “GOT DAMN THE BAMMA JUST SUBMITTED PROBABLY THE BEST ARTICLE AND PIECE OF JOURNALISM HE WRITTEN ALL YEAR.” Bama has one M, noodlez.

The Search for Relisha Rudd Continues One Year After Her Disappearance

Relisha Rudd

Relisha Rudd was last seen on March 1, 2014. Her whereabouts for the past 363 days have been unknown, but there is a grim possibility. Just 26 days after the last confirmed sighting of the then-8-year-old girl, D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier raised the theory that she may have been murdered. (Her presumed abductor Kahlil Tatum, a janitor at the homeless shelter where she lived, was found dead of a presumed suicide days later.) But now, nearly a year after her disappearance, some advocates are holding on to hope that Relisha will come home alive.

Officially, there’s no fresh news to report. A spokeswoman with the Metropolitan Police Department says the investigation into Relisha’s disappearance remains open, but the department is unable to discuss details. “MPD will assign as many detectives as necessary to follow up on active leads,” says spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump.

The search for Relisha also continues for advocates of the homeless and of missing people and children. The founders of Black and Missing, a foundation that publicizes cases of missing people of color—cases that are traditionally undercovered by the national media—are based in the D.C. area and have been particularly visible in the continued outreach on Relisha’s case.

“We still believe she’s alive, and we’ll believe that until a body’s found,” say co-founder Natalie Williams. As Relisha’s ninth birthday was marked in October without her, volunteers from Black and Missing, along with detectives from MPD, held an event to hand out missing-person flyers at several locations including near D.C. General, the shelter where Relisha was living with her mother and brothers until her disappearance. (The shelter is still operated by The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, which critics say hasn't done enough to improve since Relisha vanished.) Read more The Search for Relisha Rudd Continues One Year After Her Disappearance

District Line Daily: Pot Deal

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

Before she was elected mayor, Muriel Bowser struck a deal with the city's marijuana advocates to keep legalization low-key so as not to provoke opponents in Congress.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • Metro fares won't increase this year, but service cuts are still on the table. [Housing Complex]
  • Mayor Bowser now has sticker art detractors. [Loose Lips]
  • Wireless carriers may miss another deadline to provide cellphone service in Metro tunnels. [WAMU]
  • Vandals have struck a D.C. mosque twice in one week. [ABC7]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY: Read more District Line Daily: Pot Deal

District Line Daily: Call and Response

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

This week's cover story: When Washington City Paper Arts Editor Christina Cauterucci was groped in Adams Morgan, she called D.C. police. What happened next surprised her. Here's why.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • Weed is legal in D.C.! We've got some dos and don'ts for celebrating. [City Desk]
  • But where to celebrate? Pot legalization advocates struggled to figure that out last night. [Post]
  • One year after a homeless child vanished, critics say the shelter operator should go. [Housing Complex]
  • The new interim D.C. taxi commissioner on how professional cabbies should compete with ride-hailing services. [WAMU]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY: Read more District Line Daily: Call and Response

Our Dos and Don’ts for Celebrating Legal Pot

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As of Feb. 26, pot is legal in the District, with a few caveats. House Republicans sent a threatening letter to the mayor’s office Tuesday, but the city is moving forward with the law anyway. We’re declaring Thursday a weed holiday, so here are our dos and don’ts for celebrating.

Do

  • Why possess it when you can own it? Adults 21 and over are allowed up to two ounces. Fashion yours into a trendy floral crown, then go bid “good day” to a police officer. Someone will definitely try to steal the weed off your head, however.
  • Get really high! You can only consume it legally in a home, but tell everyone you’ve ever met what you’re doing, then tweet an “I’m so high” selfie to MPD Chief Cathy Lanier.
  • Get really high with your friends! If every party guest brings their two ounces, you can probably stay baked for about a week.
  • Say thanks. Your local elected officials are standing up to Congress to enact a controversial law. Now that you can legally give (not sell) another adult up to one ounce, fruit baskets seem passe.
  • Start growing your plants. ComfyTree (a marijuana education company) offers a year of support for home growers, so if you get stuck growing your three mature or six immature plants, there’s help.
  • Put down the pipe and get back to advocacy. Initiative 71 doesn’t have any rules about taxing or regulating pot, so advocates are working on that now.
  • Get cracking on your business plan. Entrepreneurs will want to be ready before the city tackles tax and regulate legislation. Step one: “It’s like [Uber/Snapchat/Tinder/other] but for weed!” Step two: Profit!

Don’t

  • Smoke in public or drive while high. Still illegal. 
  • Take your weed on a romantic picnic, just the two of you. No marijuana on federal property, which includes lots of D.C. parks and public spaces.
  • Possess it in public housing. D.C. police won’t arrest you, but they’re required to report drug use in public housing facilities to federal authorities.
  • Annoy your landlord. If your rented residence is non-smoking, use a vaporizer, or bake some brownies.
  • Be a bad parent. Adam Eidinger, chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, said it best: “If you’re in the same room as your kids, you shouldn’t be smoking pot with them. It’s inconsiderate to them.”
  • Be a minor. D.C. police will confiscate kids’ pot under two ounces and avoid arrests, but any more will get you in more trouble.
  • Try to sell or buy it. When pot changes hands, you can pay with a hug, a handful of dirt, or the solemn promise that you’ll build your supplier a really, really great streetcar, but nothing of actual value can be exchanged in payment.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Gear Prudence: Should I Let My Bikeshare Membership Expire?

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Gear Prudence: I know it’s illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in the “central business district” in downtown D.C. But where exactly is that? And how are people supposed to know where the borders are? Any tips? —Seemingly Indiscriminate Demarcation Enrages Walkers And Lessens Knowledge

Dear SIDEWALK: In more draconian times, the perimeter was marked by the very Game of Thrones method of displaying on pikes the heads of those caught trespassing on downtown sidewalks. While the more bloodthirsty pedestrians (to say nothing of the pike lobby) would love this method to return, there is no visual warning to a cyclist about to enter the “no sidewalk cycling” zone. You could avoid the problem entirely by never riding on any D.C. sidewalks, but the law doesn’t oblige to you do that, and neither does GP.

DDOT has a map of the “no sidewalk cycling” area on its website, but that’s not exactly useful when you’re already out on the road. The boundaries are basically south of Massachusetts Avenue NW/NE to D Street SW/SE and from 23rd Street NW to 2nd Street NE. Here’s a fun way to remember this: Pedestrians will be SoMaD if you ride on the sidewalk here. Repeat that 23 times to yourself, and you’ll never forget. —GP

Gear Prudence: I’ve been a Bikeshare member since 2011, and it was really important for getting me into biking. Now I own my own bike, and my annual membership is up for renewal. I’ve been using Bikeshare less and less, so I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore. Should I just let it expire?—Considering Abandoning Bikeshare Involvement

Dear CABI: You still like Bikeshare, and you have a history, but it’s just not the relationship you once had. And not having to rely on the Bikeshare fleet to get around has plenty of advantages, including freeing up bikes for the rest of us. “It’s not you, it’s me” is a lame breakup line, but it’s also pretty spot on. It’s OK; Bikeshare wasn’t exclusive with you anyway.

However, a membership is a nice insurance policy if you’re ever without your own bike. If the upfront cost of the annual membership is too much, consider the Day Key option. Since you already have a key, it only costs $7 for a 24-hour rental membership. Each subsequent time you use your key, it’s another $7 for another 24 hours, so it can start getting expensive if you use it a lot, but this is definitely the best choice for an irregular user in a pinch. —GP

Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who blogs at talesfromthesharrows.blogspot.com and tweets at @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email gearprudence@washingtoncitypaper.com.

This Week’s Page Three Photo

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400 Block of 7th Street NW, February 24

Past page three photos are also in this gallery.

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