City Desk

D.C. Government: Yes, Workers’ Comp Needs Better Oversight

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There’s routine mismanagement, and then there’s mismanagement that’s gotten so bad that government officials decide they have no choice but to own up to it.

The District’s Department of Employment Services, apparently, is suffering from the second kind.

City officials appeared before a D.C. Council committee last Friday to account for the diversion of tens of millions of dollars from a troubled workers’ compensation program run by DOES—money that went to bolster the city budget and hire “transitional” employees, among other uses—and to acknowledge that they’d allowed a disbarred, unlicensed lawyer to serve as an administrative law judge for 16 years.

Pledging to address a longstanding failure to perform financial audits, a lack of consistent leadership, attrition of qualified judges and a backlog of injured workers’ claims, DOES and Gray administration officials admitted that $37.9 million had been transferred from the program to the city’s general budget—$24 million of which they say they don’t intend to restore.

The five-hour hearing before At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who chairs the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, was prompted by Washington City Paper stories about the illegitimate judge and a questionable era of budget management that officials now attribute to citywide fiscal pressures.

Read more D.C. Government: Yes, Workers’ Comp Needs Better Oversight

The Needle: Drunken Charm

Best of DC?: Adams Morgan was designated a "10 Great Neighborhoods in America" by the American Planning Association. Not the D.C. neighborhood I would have chosen to be on the list, but good to see a neighborhood make the list nonetheless. +3

F Celeb Sighting: Mari Vanna's manager talks about the celebs that have stopped on the restaurant. First on his list? Jonathan Cheban, who is a real good friend of Kim Kardashian. -1

Read more The Needle: Drunken Charm

LivingSocial Founder to Lead Graham Holdings, Parent Company of Slate and Kaplan

LivingSocial co-founder and former CEO Tim O'Shaughnessy has a new gig. Starting next month, he'll be president of Graham Holdings Company, the investment and acquisitions company formerly named after the Washington Post, which it sold last year.

O'Shaughnessy will lead the post-Post company in a new direction, Graham Holdings Company Chairman and CEO Donald Graham said, according to a release on Business Wire.

O'Shaugnessy, 32, oversaw LivingSocial as it grew into a $2 billion company. He also oversaw it as the online coupon business model collapsed and the D.C.-based company took nosedive after nosedive. He stepped down as CEO in August.

"I think the structure of the business is unique and allows for a long-term view at a time in which it’s more and more difficult to think five or ten years out," O'Shaugnessy said in the release. "The financial fortress that is this business—the healthy balance sheet and the great businesses will allow us to invest and grow new great businesses are incredibly stable and will give an opportunity for the management team and everyone involved to build the next generation of this Company.”

Graham Holdings Company still owns Slate, Foreign Policy, and Kaplan Test Pre.

O'Shaughnessy should have a comfortable transition to the new company. He's married to Graham's daughter, who is CEO of SocialCode, a social marketing technology company owned by Graham Holdings.

Illustration by Jandos Rothstein

 

Cheh to Introduce Legislation that Would Legalize, Regulate UberX

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh is introducing legislation today that would legalize and regulate UberX and similar ride-share companies in the District—an outcome that, much to the chagrin of city cabs, has been long in the making. Emergency legislation allowing services like UberX and Lyft has been expired for months, so these companies have been operating in what has been referred to as a "legal limbo."

The legislation would require a private-vehicle-for-hire company like UberX to have primary automobile liability insurance of at least $1 million each time a passenger is inside a vehicle, as well as while a vehicle is en route to pick up a passenger that requested it. When the vehicle is on duty but has yet to be dispatched, it must have an insurance policy in place that provides minimum coverage of at least $50,000 per person, with up to $100,000 available to all people involved in a collision.

The proposed legislation says that UberX driver applicants must be screened by an independent background-check company and would be disqualified if they have been convicted of a violent crime or a sexual offense. Applicants who have been convicted of a felony fraud or identity theft would also be disqualified. Applicants are not required to be fingerprinted, something that D.C. cab driver applicants must do.

WUSA9 reports that Uber is satisfied with the proposed legislation, saying the required insurance policies are similar to what they already have. The District's cabs, however, says the legislation does not do enough to make it an even playing field for them. UberX prices are cheaper than cabs', and the D.C. Taxicab Commission regulates the cab fare rates. But, under this new legislation, cabs that are hailed through an electronic service, can set different rates than the standard metered rates.

Read more Cheh to Introduce Legislation that Would Legalize, Regulate UberX

Gear Prudence: Birds Keep Crapping on My Bike!

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Gear Prudence: The bike rack my office provides has shade, but that shade comes at the price of birds using my precious steel steed for target practice. Not a day goes by when my bike isn’t peppered with the telltale signs of our avian friends’ relentless digestion of local woodland berries, and this is taking its toll on the custom powder-coated livery on my dream bike. The other parking options at my office are bad (e.g. the railing on the ADA access ramp, a questionably moored parking sign, or a hapless young tree), so the rack is my best bet. Help!Getting Upset At Noisome Offenses

Dear GUANO: Well, shit.

But for the shade, you could mount to your handlebars a solar-powered molded owl figurine (with realistic head movements!) to try to keep the birds at bay. Instead, you could cover your bike with a tarp and let the birds have at it, though handling the increasingly besmirched tenting hardly seems like an improvement, to say nothing of where you might store it between commutes. I don’t know—is “Bike Your Cat to Work Day” a thing?

The bigger question is this: If this is your dream bike, why are you leaving it exposed to the elements every day anyway? Either drag it into your office or leave it at home, and commute on a bike better suited to the birds’ evacuation route. —GP

Gear Prudence: There are many of us who have long daily bike commutes that take us outside the bounds of civilization and into far off places like Fairfax or Montgomery County. One unique issue related to these cross-country commuter treks is the occasional need to pee due to excessive coffee intake and/or weak and aging bladders further softened by hours in the saddle. How do you feel about the side-of-the-road nature break?Plentiful Embarkation Emissions

Read more Gear Prudence: Birds Keep Crapping on My Bike!

District Line Daily: More Secretive Service News

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.

A House panel grilled the head of the Secret Service yesterday over recent, high-profile agency breaches and called for an independent review of the agency. The White House fence jumper, whose entry into the White House spurred these questions of the agency's performance, was indicted yesterday and is expected to appear in court today.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • The "yoga tax" goes into effect today and yogis are trying to get out of it. [Post]
  • A porta-potty blocked the 15th Street NW cycle track Tuesday. The company responsible was slapped with a $300 fine from DDOT. [Post]
  • The National Capital Planning Commission is recommending that Frank Gehry's revised design of the Dwight D. Eisenhower be approved. [Washington Business Journal]
  • In an annual address, D.C. Public Schools Chief Kaya Henderson said the schools are on track for big, sped-up progress. [Post]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

Read more District Line Daily: More Secretive Service News

White House Fence Jumper Indicted, More Secret Service Lapses Revealed

The Texas man who jumped the White House fence and ran into the building with a folding knife on Sept. 19 was indicted on federal and local charges Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for D.C. announced.

Omar Gonzalez, 42, was handed three charges, including the federal offense of illegally entering a restricted building while carrying a dangerous weapon. He was also charged with allegedly violating D.C. law by carrying a dangerous weapon outside a home or place of business and unlawful possession of ammunition. After Gonzalez was arrested at the White House, officials searched his car nearby on Constitution Avenue NW and found hundreds of rounds of ammunition in it.

His federal charges carry a maximum of 10 years in prison, while his D.C. charges a maximum of five years for carrying a dangerous weapon and one year for the illegal possession of ammunition. Gonzalez is expected to appear in court today.

The Sept. 19 incident has highlighted security lapses and dysfunction within the Secret Service agency, leading officials to question whether the agency is effectively protecting the president and his family.

A House panel grilled Julia Pierson, the head of the Secret Service, yesterday and lawmakers from both parties called for an independent investigation of the agency. After Gonzalez ran into the White House, the Secret Service originally said he was unarmed and stopped by agents as soon as he entered into the White House. It was later revealed that he ran through a good chunk of the first floor while carrying a knife on him. He was ultimately stopped by a secret service agent that was not on duty.

Read more White House Fence Jumper Indicted, More Secret Service Lapses Revealed

The Needle: Worst Nats Fan

Can't Go. Won't Go: Mayoral candidate David Catania has never—never ever!—been to Nats stadium. Catania was strongly opposed to using public funds to finance the new stadium. Will voters care? -3

Not Bad, Norton: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton suggested today at a Congressional hearing that the Secret Service just build a taller fence around the White House to stop fence jumpers. Seems logical! +2

Read more The Needle: Worst Nats Fan

Photo: Crowd Listening to Joshua Bell

© 2014 Matt Dunn

Crowd listening to Joshua Bell at Union Station, Sept. 30th.

Want Free Nats Playoff Tickets? Just Have a Threesome With This Charmer

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A D.C.-area man is generously offering two free Diamond Club tickets to Friday's opening Nationals play-off game. The only catch? You must have a threesome with this self-described 24-year-old athletic dude.

The ad, as first pointed out by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, reads:

I have two Diamond Club tickets for Fridays opening playoff game. The tickets include all you can drink beer & wine as well as all you can eat gourmet food. I am willing to part with these tickets to you and a friend in exchange for a threesome (two women only). I am not some old gross dude, actually 24 and athletic. I just cant go to the game and don't really need the extra money, and have always wanted to take place in a threesome. Please send 2-3 photos of you and your friend, so I can see what we're working with.

Despite being the ultimate strings-attached deal, the poster reassuringly notes that this is a "no strings attached deal."

If you are interested in this offer, please copy citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com on all exchanges.

Photo by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

District Line Daily: D.C.’s Problematic Safe Drivers

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.

Revenue from traffic cameras is about $70 million less than anticipated, which could unbalance the District's $6.3 billion budget.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • A House committee will grill the head of the Secret Service over the White House fence jumper. [WAMU]
  • The suspect arrested in the case of the missing UVA student provides a lead in the 2009 murder of a Virginia Tech student. [Post]
  • A statehood advocate filed a lawsuit saying that unless D.C. is granted statehood, federal agencies like the FBI can't leave the city. [WAMU]
  • The District's program to decrease infant mortality is facing funding cuts as the mayor touts a new effort to increase efforts to reduce these rates. [Post]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

Read more District Line Daily: D.C.’s Problematic Safe Drivers

The Needle: Secretive Service

 

And Another Screw Up: The Secret Service messes up and once again does a PR job. The man who jumped the White House fence and ran through an unlocked door into the building actually made it much farther than previously disclosed. He overpowered a Secret Service officer and ran through a good chunk of the main floor. Let's hope this flub doesn't mess things up for D.C. residents and tourists walking along Pennsylvania Avenue trying to see the White House. -5

Behind the Scenes: A Native American who participated in the shooting of The Daily Show's Washington football team name segment tells his side of the story. He says he was ambushed and harassed by fans at the Washington football game. He said he had "never been so blatantly threatened, mocked, or jeered," though given the show, he knew what he was getting himself into. -3

Read more The Needle: Secretive Service

American University Is the Latest Metro Savior for the Nationals

The Washington Nationals have once again successfully dodged the question of how to get fans home from their playoff games.

If any games run late this postseason and Metro needs to stay open later than its normal business hours, American University will be footing the bill on behalf of the team. Because some playoff games start later than regular-season games, someone needs to put down about $30,000 to keep Metro running for each extra hour in case it's needed. Metro returns a portion of that deposit depending on how many people rode during that hour. 

The Capitals, Wizards, and the Washington football team all pay for late Metro use when needed. (Yes, even Dan Snyder's team is better on this than the Nats are.) But the Nationals have, in their short playoff history, made an art of avoiding the question.

In 2012, the first year the team made the playoffs after arriving in D.C., they refused to pay the Metro costs. Eventually, LivingSocial came in and said they would put down the deposit. This year, it's AU's turn to play baseball hero. AU and Metro announced today that Nats fans would have access to special late-night service Sunday through Thursday for games that are still in play by 10:30 p.m. Metro typically closes on midnight these days, and Metro could stay open, if necessary, as late as 1:20 a.m. On weekend nights, Metro already operates until 3 a.m., late enough to get fans home under most foreseeable baseball circumstances. In the event of late service, fans would only be able to enter the system at the Navy Yard station on the Green Line, though they could leave from any station.

AU President Neil Kerwin says such a gesture was natural for the Tenleytown university considering that it's already known for getting people "to where they want to go." The Nats didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more American University Is the Latest Metro Savior for the Nationals

District Line Daily: Secret Service Stumbles

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.

It took the Secret Service four days to realize that bullets had hit the White House after a gunman opened fire at the building from his car in November 2011, according to a Washington Post report, which shows how the Secret Service poorly responded to this shooting. Sasha Obama was in the White House at the time of the shooting—and the president and first lady were pissed.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • Will the next D.C. mayor want to keep Police Chief Cathy Lanier on board? [Post]
  • Frager's Hardware says it will reopen in two years in its old Capitol Hill location that was destroyed by a fire. [Housing Complex]
  • D.C. streetcars begin simulated service today, and passenger service is expected to start in November. [News4]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

Read more District Line Daily: Secret Service Stumbles

Photo: Kelly Towles @ Crafty Bastards

© 2014 Matt Dunn

Kelly Towles at Crafty Bastards, Union Market, Sept. 27th.

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