City Desk

Is Stadium Club Strip Club a “Sexually Oriented Business Establishment?”

High-end strip club Stadium Club could lose its ability to operate under the zoning rules for its location, after the D.C. Court of Appeals vacated the club's status as a non-"Sexually Oriented Business Establishment" and sent it back to the Board of Zoning Adjustment to reevaluate.

A sexually oriented business wouldn't be permitted in the commercial zone where the club is located, on Queens Chapel Road NE, and neighborhood activists have claimed for years that the strip club shouldn't be allowed, either.

The ruling on Thursday by the three-judge appeals panel is the latest setback for the purported high-end "gentleman's club," which has been the backdrop for allegations of sexual extortion of a dancer; a lawsuit against a former Baltimore Ravens football player and a D.C. police officer for allegedly beating up a pair of security guards; a parking lot stabbing; and a million-dollar case of fraud involving misuse of government funds.

In remanding the case, the panel chastised the BZA for ignoring the club's actual operations, failing to conduct sufficient fact-finding, and deferring to the "opinion" of Zoning Administrator Matthew LeGrant, who granted non-SOBE certificates of occupancy in 2010 and 2011, despite explicit testimony of investigators posing as patrons of the club.

Club owners James "Tru" Redding and Keith Forney could not be reached for comment.

Read more Is Stadium Club Strip Club a “Sexually Oriented Business Establishment?”

The Needle: Hellish Island

Hot Hot Heat: D.C. has the sixth-most intense heat island in the United States, according to a report by Climate Central. The study found that, on average, the D.C.urban area is 4.7 degrees warmer during summer than its neighboring, rural areas since 2004. -4

Child's Play: How do you get the D.C. Department of Transportation to pay attention to a large sinkhole in your neighborhood? Put your child in it, take a picture, and tweet it. -3

Read more The Needle: Hellish Island

D.C. Cab Commission May Launch New Van Service East of the River and in Other Neighborhoods

D.C. taxicabs have long been criticized for failing to serve low-income neighborhoods, particularly east-of-the-river neighborhoods in wards 7 and 8. But today, D.C. Taxicab Commission Chair Ron Linton says the commission  has a plan to put independently operated vans in these underserved areas.

The vans would take people anywhere from two to 20 blocks for a fixed rate of $5 or $6, with specific boundaries dictating where they could operate. The idea is that these vans would be used to take people—multiple people at once—to the nearby grocery store or a friend's house in places where it's nearly impossible to hail a cab. In addition to east-of-the-river neighborhoods, the vans may also operate in parts of wards 5 and 6 and even around upper 16th Street NW, where there are service gaps.

Linton says he expects low-income seniors to account for a large portion of the vans' customers.

The commission is still studying the boundaries and feasibility of the plan, which isn't definite. He hopes the mayor can officially announce the van service this November, with a launch date sometime next summer.

Linton said at a press conference today that during his tenure as chair of the cab commission, one of the "most perplexing matters has been that we have four to five distinct areas in the city where the people who live in those areas are underserved by public vehicles for hire."

Just like standard cab drivers, drivers of these vans would own their vehicles and meet the same requirements needed to be a standard cab driver. Linton says the city would work with the potential drivers to obtain loans to purchase the vans. The vans, however, would not have meters, which means they could only operate in their designated areas for flat rates.

Read more D.C. Cab Commission May Launch New Van Service East of the River and in Other Neighborhoods

District Line Daily: The Education Issue

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

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The Education Issue is on stands today. Read it to find out about social activism at Howard University in the wake of Ferguson, the intense NIMBYs fighting the construction of AU's new dorms, and what's behind D.C's most troubled law school.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • The D.C. Department of Transportation has installed 7.5 miles of bikes lanes this year, including the first in Ward 8. [Post]
  • Former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt draws comparisons between the 1991 Mount Pleasant riots and Ferguson. [WAMU]
  • The Supreme Court issued a last-minute order delaying gay marriage in Virginia—the day before the state was scheduled to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples. [New York Times]
  • U.S. Park Police have identified a suspect in connection with an April sexual assault at a park near the Georgetown Waterfront. [Post]

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

Read more District Line Daily: The Education Issue

Social Justice Still Drives Howard University

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Hundreds of student volunteers arrived on Howard University’s campus a week early to help freshmen move in to their new dorms. They lugged their belongings to their new homes, directed them around campus, and caught up with friends before classes started.

It was the kind of scene that was repeated on university campuses around the country over the last couple of weeks. But while everyone was settling in at Howard, law enforcement officials clad in military gear were in Ferguson, Mo., confronting people who were protesting the death of Michael Brown—the unarmed black teenager shot by a white police officer at least six times on a Saturday afternoon. Before he was killed, Brown was also slated to start college this month.

Illustration by Robert Meganck

So a few hours before an assembly for freshmen move-in volunteers started last Wednesday, Howard University student government leaders decided they had to say something about Brown—a teenager that Howard University Student Association Vice President Ikenna Ikeotuonye said “could have been any one of us.”

The 300 students were instructed to stare straight ahead and pose with their arms up and their palms forward—a gesture that, particularly in the aftermath of Brown’s death, is universally understood to mean “don’t shoot.”

“After we explained to them what that photo was about, the room went from a lot of chatter to just dead silence. It was somber,” says Ikeotuonye, a senior.

Ikeotuonye snapped the photo on his Canon camera, made some edits on his computer, and sent it to his staff on student government. It eventually landed on Twitter, was retweeted tens of thousands of times, and got nods in local and international papers (including in one post on Washington City Paper’s website).

The sheer number of students in that small-framed photo is striking. But it’s more than just the packed auditorium that makes the picture so powerful. These are Howard University students, students who had just arrived at the Mecca—with a capital M, as it became known during the Black Power movement in the 1960s—of black intellectualism in the U.S. The thought that even these top-tier students have to worry about walking down the street and getting shot by the police in this country resonated with people.

“No matter where they are from, no matter what their story is, these kids are black kids, which is why they had their hands up in the first place,” says Gregory Carr, the head of the Afro-American Studies department at Howard. “Can they ever jailbreak this identity that basically communicates a different humanity? I don’t know that they can, I don’t know that they can ever do that.”

But, Carr says, “the Howard brand means you can’t assail these kids.” Read more Social Justice Still Drives Howard University

Why Did American University’s Law School Plunge in the Rankings?

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American University’s law school woos its students with a chance at the kind of international law jobs in which they might handle classified documents. In the spring of 2012, however, one graduate says his classmates got some practice being secretive about something decidedly less important to national security: their own job prospects.

In order to avoid offending classmates who faced unemployment after racking up more than $150,000 in student debt—nine months after graduation, just 42 percent of the class had jobs that required passing the bar—students who actually had offers had to engage in their own cover-ups. “Everything was sort of hush-hush,” says the graduate, who asked not to be named to avoid so as not to damage his new, nonlegal career.

Illustration by Robert Meganck

Lately, the prospects for American University’s Washington College of Law have looked just as grim. Since 2013, the school has plummeted down the U.S. News and World Report law-school rankings, dropping 23 positions from 49th in the country to 72nd. Thanks to its graduates’ dubious employment prospects, meanwhile, Washington College of Law has become a target for activists who see it as one of the worst examples of a law school that dupes students with unlikely legal ambitions, only to stick them with a mountain of inescapable debt when they graduate.

All the same, the school has started construction on a new campus in Tenleytown that the university expects will cost $130 million. As the Washington College of Law expands its goals in the face of its ratings collapse and a nationwide drop in law applications, it looks headed for a collision between its aspirations and the realities of what a mid-tier law school can realistically offer its students.

In AU recruitment videos, a juris doctor degree from the Washington College of Law looks like the first step toward a glamorous career like the one enjoyed by law school dean Claudio Grossman, a Chilean polyglot who moonlights as a United Nations human rights official. As students hold up meme-friendly signs in one video—“International Networks,” “Global Education”—Grossman intones about how world institutions based in the District offer his students a jump into international law.

University of Colorado Law School professor Paul Campos has his own, less-exalted idea of what Washington College of Law’s promotional materials should look like. Campos’ dream pamphlet for the school would show what he says even a moderately lucky AU law graduate faces: a career picking up drunk-driving and divorce cases in the suburbs, making a mid-five-figure salary to pay off more than $150,000 in debt.

Read more Why Did American University’s Law School Plunge in the Rankings?

The Needle: Nope, Not for Lovers

 

Nope, Not for Lovers: The Supreme Court put a hold on a ruling that overturned the same-sex marriage ban in Virginia Wednesday, meaning that same-sex couples can no longer wed in the state Thursday as planned. The state's attorney general, who supports overturning the ban, says he supports the stay as way to prevent further complications down the road in case the court eventually decides to keep the marriage ban in place. -5

Shame Spiral: A longtime NFL referee avoided working Washington football games because of the team's offensive name. +5

Read more The Needle: Nope, Not for Lovers

Gear Prudence: My Building Hates Bikes!

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Gear Prudence: Before each bike commute, I want to make sure I have the essentials with me. What do you think are the minimal necessities a bike commuter needs? Is a patch kit and a Metrocard enough? —Packed, Ready, Ever Prepared

Dear PREP: The minimal necessities will vary depending on the length and terrain of your commute and your individual preferences. A patch kit is a good idea, but then you’d also want to bring along tire levers and a pump. Might as well also take a spare tube. If you can fix a flat tire, you’re probably handy enough to fix other things and could carry a multitool. A backup tire? Sure! Two? Twice as good! Carry a folding bike on the rack of your normal bike “just in case?” Shark repellent because you can never be too cautious? Hard to say no. At this point, you’re probably driving a Subaru hatchback to work just to carry all of your bike contingency “essentials.”

Travel light. If you’re not handy and never too far from a bus stop, leave the tools at home. Nothing ruins an already ruined commute more than trying to fix a busted bike on the side of a road. Don’t bother. Put your bike on the front of the bus and sort it out later. Aside from bus fare, always carry some ID. That’s important. —GP

Read more Gear Prudence: My Building Hates Bikes!

So Long, “Quizmaster of Georgia Avenue”

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Dalton Hirshorn has run the pub quiz at Park View's Looking Glass Lounge for about as long as the bar has existed. His trivia night has been praised by the Washington Post, by readers of Washington City Paper, and even by a budding pub-quiz magnate looking to expand his barroom footprint. So Hirshorn, the self-proclaimed "Quizmaster of Georgia Avenue," had no compunction about getting "a little indulgent" last night during his final pub quiz in the District before he moves to New Orleans.

For the audio round, Hirshorn played only AC/DC songs. And the quiz's "mystery person"—about whom he sprinkled clues throughout the night—was, well, himself. At one point, Looking Glass staff dimmed the lights, put on "For Those About to Rock," and revealed a sheet cake featuring Hirshorn's face.

Most of the pub quiz's regulars were there, "and we had some people who used to come a few years back," Hirshorn says. Team names included "First Katrina, Now This?" and "Hurricane Dalton to Take Louisiana Preteens by Storm."

"I sort of felt like I was breaking up with 70 people," Hirshorn says.

Each week, Hirshorn hosts the Looking Glass quiz as well as one at Glover Park's Breadsoda. In a 2011 cover story on the corporatization of pub quizzes, I wrote about what makes Hirshorn's independent trivia night so successful: Read more So Long, “Quizmaster of Georgia Avenue”

Metro Pays Feds $4.2 Million to Over Alleged Procurement Violation

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is out more than $4 million after it reached a settlement with the United States following allegations that it used federal grant money to fund a transit project without following federal guidelines.  The settlement follows a two-year-old whistleblower complaint filed in U.S. District Court for D.C.

In 2010, Metro awarded a grant to Virginia-based Metaformers, Inc. to integrate the transit agency's financial and business systems for a total cost of $14 million. Metro funded the project with about $9 million in grants from the Federal Transit Agency.

But, according to a press release from D.C.'s U.S. Attorney's Office, a condition of the grant money was that Metro would "comply with statutes, regulations, and FTA rules mandating full and open competition when procuring goods and services using FTA grant funds" and would not award contracts in a way that caused a conflict of interest.  The agency allegedly violated these rules in awarding the contract.

In 2009, Metro had awarded Metaformers a relatively small $256,000 contract, using a full and open competition process before it decided to grant it to them. But a year later, when the agency awarded the $14 million contract, it allegedly awarded the contract with no competition and with no justification for doing so.

“The American people have a right to know that their government is following rules and regulations in spending the taxpayers’ money,” U.S. Attorney Ron Machen saidin a press release. “Our office has targeted government contractors who fail to meet their obligations, and this settlement shows that we expect agencies that receive federal funding to honor the integrity of the contracting process as well.”

Read more Metro Pays Feds $4.2 Million to Over Alleged Procurement Violation

Where Do D.C. Natives Who Leave the District Go?

Last week I wrote about an interesting feature in the New York Times that used Census microdata to map out how Americans have moved between states since 1900.

The data from D.C. showed that only 37 percent of residents in 2012 were actually born in the District—a statistic that isn't all that surprising, given D.C.'s well-known reputation as a transient city. More interestingly, the data showed that more people currently living in D.C. were born in New York than in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

But where do people born in D.C. go once they move? The Times updated their infographic to show where people migrate to from their home states. About half the people born in the District now live in Maryland or Virginia, with more Washingtonians choosing to to move to Maryland over Virginia. After Virginia and Maryland, the third largest number of Washingtonians lived in Florida in 2012.

Here's some of the data below; it can be seen in its entirety here.
Read more Where Do D.C. Natives Who Leave the District Go?

Have You Seen This Rogue Cyclist?

If this video is any indication, the war on bikes is real. And it's not just a car vs. bicycle battle. It seems that sometimes bicyclists need to watch out for other bicyclists.

The video, taken last Sunday on Beach Drive NW, shows a cyclist riding in a paceline trying to pass another cyclist, taking down three people in the process. After the collision, the perpetrator keeps on riding and doesn't stop to help the cyclists he knocked down.

According to a Facebook post from Bike Rack DC, a bike store on 14th and Q streets NW, one person was left unconscious from this incident and another broke his hand.

The shop is asking if anyone can identify this man who rides a silver/blue Pinarello bike.  If so, contact the store at (202) 387-2453.

District Line Daily: Michael Brown, Still Fighting

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.

Former D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown, who is currently in jail, is still fighting the D.C. ethics board's charges against him—charges that could result in large fines. Documents show he is arguing the city's ethics rules "do not cover the circumstances of an FBI sting operation."

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • Washington football team players showed their solidarity with Ferguson, Mo., Monday night, walking onto the field with their arms raised and palms forward, the sign for "don't shoot." [WAMU]
  • Police are searching for a man who sexually assaulted a woman near the Petworth Metro station Sunday night. [Post]
  • The police union will endorse David Catania for mayor. [Loose Lips]
  • IRS agents seized documents from the troubled and mismanaged Park Southern housing complex in Ward 8 last week, the closest thing that mayoral hopeful Muriel Bowser has to a political scandal. [Loose Lips]

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

Read more District Line Daily: Michael Brown, Still Fighting

The Needle: Honesty by Honest Tea

Stronger Ethics: Honest Tea set up unmanned racks of Honest Tea for $1 in cities around the country to determine which city is the most honest in America. D.C. wasn't the most honest city, but it was the most-improved, with its honesty quotient up to 96 percent compared to last year's bottom ranking of 80 percent. (Honolulu was the most honest city.) +4

Bike Dominoes: Forget the war between bikes and cars. Here's a video of some serious bike on bike violence on Beach Drive NW. -3

Read more The Needle: Honesty by Honest Tea

Uber Sets Out to Disrupt D.C. Corner Stores

Uber isn't stopping at taxis: The app-based ride share company now wants to disrupt D.C.'s corner stores.

The company announced the launch of Uber Corner Store today—a service that will deliver toiletries and candy to people, items that many D.C. residents can easily find at the corner store right next to their homes. (But why walk down the block and interact with neighbors when you can do it all on your phone?)

The new service is currently in its experimental phase and, for now, will only run for a few weeks. It is currently only delivering to a small swath of D.C., mostly in Northwest.

A spokesman for Uber wouldn't say where exactly the company was purchasing these items, but says it's "working with a variety of logistics providers to deliver the items and have sourced them from various retail stores in the area." There is no fee, but Uber has its own prices for the items. Uber didn't immediately answer questions as to how the prices are set. Here's a catalog of the more than 100 items the service is willing to deliver to you.

"This limited-time-only experiment will run for a few weeks—but the more you love it, the more likely it will last," Uber wrote on its blog.

To test out the new service, just go to the standard Uber app and select the corner store option. The services is only available from Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Read more Uber Sets Out to Disrupt D.C. Corner Stores

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