City Desk

The Needle: Are You Happy Yet?

So Celeb: Pharrell has made his choice clear and thinks Muriel Bowser is the candidate to vote for. Why? Who knows. -2 

Rumor Mill: Rumors are once again circulating that UNIQLO is opening in CityCenter. That would be great news, but don't get too excited: Last time these rumors turned out to be very much false. +/- 0

Read more The Needle: Are You Happy Yet?

Marijuana Could Be a $130 Million Annual Market in D.C.

How much is your high worth?

To the D.C. government, it's far more than a family-sized bag of Doritos and a candy bar.

The D.C. Council is in the middle of a marathon hearing this afternoon looking at how the city government would regulate the sale of marijuana, should voters decide to legalize it at the polls Nov. 4. (A new Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll found that 52 percent of likely voters want it to be legalized.) In prepared testimony, Yesim Sayim Taylor, the director of fiscal and legislative analysis in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, estimated that marijuana and marijuana-related sales would create a new market in D.C. worth $130 million a year.

This estimate is grounded in the assumption that 122,000 people purchase about three ounces of pot per year. (The 122,000 comes from an estimated 91,000 D.C. resident users, 28,000 commuters who are users, and 3,000 tourists.) Taylor estimates that the cost of legal marijuana in the District will be $350 per ounce.

Taylor could not actually say how much this would bring to city coffers because it is still unclear how much it will be taxed. The current legislation to regulate marijuana proposes a 15 percent tax, but Taylor could not estimate how much that tax could dissuade people from purchasing marijuana, or how many illegal users would move to the regulated market. Additionally, actually implementing the tax framework could be complicated, requiring the hiring of additional employees.

Initiative 71—the Nov. 4 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana—does not legalize the sale of marijuana, just the possession and cultivation of small amounts. According to the City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll, 43 percent of likely voters think it should be legal to sell less than an ounce of marijuana and it should be taxed.

Today's hearing was a joint one between the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs and the Committee on Finance Revenue. At-Large Councilmember David Grosso crafted the legislation—the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013—to regulate marijuana and says the Council will be working on it over the "next couple months."

Read the testimony below:

Photo by Hupu2 via Wikimedia Commons

This Week’s Page Three Photo

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1000 Block of F Street NW, October 28

Page three photos are also in this gallery.

District Line Daily: The Politics 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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Our Politics Issue is online and on stands today. There's poll results on what voters think about everything from mayor, to pot, to guns, and homeless shelters. And we make our endorsements. Read it to see who we think should be mayor, the two at-large council members, attorney general, and more.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • A majority of D.C. voters want the city to host the summer Olympics in 2024. Here's why that's such a terrible idea. [Vox]
  • Attorney general candidate Edward "Smitty" Smith tried—unsuccessfully—to get other attorney general candidates to drop out of the race to avoid a Karl Racine win. [Loose Lips]
  • Police are investigating the second fatal stabbing in a month in Columbia Heights. The latest incident occurred Wednesday night on the 1400 block of Perry Place NW. [Washington Post]
  • The D.C. Council will hold its first hearing today on legislation that would allow the city to tax and regulate marijuana like Colorado and Washington state. [News4]

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

Read more District Line Daily: The Politics Issue

How D.C.’s Plan to Save Low-Income Housing Went Wrong

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“(The New Communities Initiative) is a tremendous opportunity for our city, one of the most important things we have done in the last 10 years.” —Mayor Anthony Williams, July 2005

When Williams uttered these words, New Communities seemed a bold leap, setting a new standard for “urban renewal,” in which long-term, low-income residents would benefit most from the changes. The pledge was to build new affordable housing with wrap-around services adjacent to decaying complexes, so that tenants got new homes in their own community while a larger mixed-income redevelopment took place.

The program began with a pair of murders, the most obvious being the January 2004 execution of 14-year-old Jahkema “Princess” Hansen in the Sursum Corda complex near First and M streets NW, cut down for having witnessed an earlier killing. Hovering ghost-like in the background, however, was another death: that of a tight-knit Southwest D.C. community in the first wave of inner-city renewal in the 1950s.

That history fed community skepticism of New Communities in Northwest One—the North Capitol Street area adjacent to Sursum Corda, where the whole program began—as residents questioned whether demolition and displacement would trump the building of new units in the community. But neighborhood advocates like me helped overcome the suspicion, arguing that this time would be different, and we would fight to make it so.

Now the New Communities Initiative is in serious trouble, with the biggest news in its 10th year being a city-commissioned report detailing its fundamental failings. The recommendations for reviving the program in the report by Quadel Consulting and Training only magnify the danger. Underneath the measured, wonkish tones is an unmistakable message: New Communities can only be saved by breaking its original promises—those, that is, that haven’t already been broken.

One measure of this betrayal: The New Communities program in Northwest One has resulted in a net loss of more than 100 deeply subsidized—read: truly affordable—units thus far.

This is not how it was supposed to be… and I speak as someone in the room when this all came together, in community meetings at St. Aloysius Catholic Church following the highly publicized murders, failed HUD inspections, and consequent feared loss of hundreds of units of affordable housing.

Over the years, I have been heartbroken as, one by one, those hopes were dashed, those pledges compromised, even discarded. Now the last chance to salvage the essentials of the original vision and keep faith with the long-term, low-income residents lies in the hands of a new mayor and D.C. Council. Read more How D.C.’s Plan to Save Low-Income Housing Went Wrong

The Needle: Rock the Vote

Almost Halfway There: The executive director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections predicts 40 percent turnout for next week's election, a significant increase over the 27 percent turnout at April's primary. +5

Where in the World? The Wizards Marcin Gortat, who is from Poland, says there are people in NBA who don't know where Poland is. Some of the apparently think it is in Africa-2

Read more The Needle: Rock the Vote

Gear Prudence: What’s a Good Bike-Themed Halloween Costume?

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Gear Prudence: I’m looking for a good comeback for annoying comments people yell at me while I’m riding my bike, like “ride on the sidewalk!” or “get off the road!” Thoughts? —Please Eradicate Snarkiness Toward Every Rider

Dear PESTER: Ah, the one withering word or phrase that will not only silence the haters, but make them feel bad for ever opening their mouths. After you let loose with it, not only will the offender regret their comment, but this comeback will make them never bother cyclists again. It will be epiphanic. They’ll soon realize bicyclists are great. Maybe they’ll get a bike and begin to ride to work. And then, all because of your snappy line, they’ll become cycling evangelists ready with their own snappy comebacks to those who dare yell at them, thereby converting even more former enemies to the cause. Soon all harassers will be on bikes in a glorious future of understanding and harmoniousness!

I don’t think so.

A witty rejoinder (or fusillade of curses) might get someone to shut up. Or it won’t. At best, it’ll make you feel better momentarily. At worst, it’ll needlessly escalate the situation. Ignore dumb people and the dumb things they say. —GP

Gear Prudence: I’m wondering if you had any ideas for some bike-themed Halloween costumes. —Beseeching Original Outfits Read more Gear Prudence: What’s a Good Bike-Themed Halloween Costume?

Official Washington Mourns Ben Bradlee

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"This is Washington," Donald Graham, the CEO of the company that formerly owned the Washington Post, said this morning as he began a tribute to Ben Bradlee during his funeral at Washington National Cathedral. "City of big reputations. And Ben was responsible for puncturing some of those reputations."

And indeed, it didn't get more Washington than the funeral of the legendary Washington Post editor who oversaw the Watergate coverage and, at the helm of the paper for nearly 25 years, is credited with shaping it into one of the top news outlets in the country.

The funeral had the makings of every classic Washington event—not least because it was televised on C-SPAN. There were politicians, celebrity journalists, and even the Post's new owner Jeff Bezos temporarily left the west coast to pay his respects. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry had prominent seats in the front row of the cathedral, which has a capacity of about 2,000 people. (The seats were about half-full.) Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was there shaking hands, as was New York Times editor Dean Baquet.  New Yorker editor David Remnickformer Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, and prominent lawyer Bob Barnett were all listed as pallbearers.

By 9:15 a.m., dozens of people were lined up outside the cathedral just to get into the 11 a.m. service. (Biden swooped in at the last minute.)

And then, of course, there were gaggles of reporters on the clock, confined to the balcony, straining to see who was in attendance as the enormous cameras of a half dozen photographers aggressively clicked about at high speeds. Read more Official Washington Mourns Ben Bradlee

D.C. Residents Make Up Less Than 20 Percent of Police Force

In the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., shooting, in which a white police officer shot a black teen, questions about the racial dynamics of the country's police forces and the departments' relationships with the cities they serve naturally arose. Ferguson is a predominantly black town, but its police department is more than 90 percent white, suggesting that most of the officers don't live in Ferguson.

FiveThirtyEight subsequently published an article showing that most police officers throughout the country don't live in the cities in which they work. The article showed that less than 20 percent of police officers in D.C. lived in the District, but that figure included all police forces like Park Police and U.S. Capitol Police.

So what about the Metropolitan Police Department—the people who are on the ground patrolling commercial and residential neighborhoods throughout the city? Well, the numbers aren't much different.

Information obtained by Washington City Paper through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that just 17 percent of MPD's nearly 4,000 officers actually reside in the District. Sixty-two percent live in Maryland, and nearly 20 percent call Virginia home. The "other" category—less than 1 percent of the force—reflects new hires or pending retirees who may have non-local addresses.

 

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The police force in 2013, according to the department's most recent annual report, was comprised of 57 percent black officers and 33 percent white officers.

MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump says the police department aims to recruit District residents through efforts like the Cadet Program, which targets D.C. high school students or graduates. The program allows these residents to earn college credit at the University of the District of Columbia so they can meet the recruit entrance requirements. The department also provides financial assistance and other incentives to officers looking to become first-time homeowners in the District of Columbia.

District Line Daily: Feds Heighten Security

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.

Security will be increased at various federal buildings throughout D.C. and the country as a "precautionary step," the Department of Homeland Security announced. DHS would not say which buildings would receive heightened security and what the measures would be. The announcement comes a week after a gunman fatally shot a Canadian soldier and then stormed into Parliament.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • The family of an Options Public Charter School teen filed an $11 million suit against the school and others after a substitute teacher performed oral sex on the student. [Washington Post]
  • The D.C. Council passed legislation Tuesday permanently legalizing ride share services like uberX and Lyft in the city. [City Desk]
  • An unmanned rocket headed to resupply the International Space Station blew up last night a few seconds after liftoff from Wallops Island, Va. [Washington Post]
  • More women fear they may have been recorded by the Georgetown rabbi who has been charged with multiple counts of voyeurism. [News4]

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

Read more District Line Daily: Feds Heighten Security

The Needle: Mourning George Washington

Collective Aww: George Washington University hooked this little girl up after she cried in a now viral video upon learning she wouldn't be able to meet George Washington. Hopefully, the university's mascot suffices. +3

You're Not Crazy: The Red Line does actually have more delays than other Metro lines. -4

Read more The Needle: Mourning George Washington

Uber Celebrates Passage of Rideshare Legislation

Cab protest from earlier this month

Uber is very happy with the way things worked out at today's D.C. Council meeting.

Much to the honking chagrin of the local cab fleet, the D.C. Council passed legislation today that would regulate ride-share services like uberX and Lyft, allowing them to operate with indisputable legality in the city. Emergency legislation allowing these services to operate has been expired for months, so these companies have been operating in what has been referred to as a "legal limbo."

Introduced by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the legislation, which strengthens insurance and driver background check requirements, passed this afternoon in a 12-1 council vote.

"You spoke, D.C. listened," Uber wrote in a celebratory email to its customers this afternoon. "Nearly two years ago the D.C. Council secured a place for Uber in the District. Today, we are thrilled to announce that the Council has passed a comprehensive ridesharing framework, providing a permanent home for uberX in the District.

Before the council voted on the bill, D.C. cabs flooded the streets in front of the Wilson Building in protest. (This isn't the first time they've had such traffic-inducing protest.) Cab drivers argue that the legislation does not do enough to level the playing field between the heavily regulated cabs and their competitors. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham attempted to get an amendment passed that would set a floor price for these ride-share companies, restricting how little they could charge. This ultimately failed, and Graham cast the bill's lone dissenting vote. Under this new legislation, cabs that are hailed through an electronic service can set different rates than the standard metered rates.

These ride-sharing services cannot pick up street hails. Hack inspectors are permitted to check a driver's phone if they suspect they picked up someone from a street hail and not electronically.

Under the bill, these companies must conduct background checks on all drivers dating back seven years. They are also required to have primary automobile liability insurance of at least $1 million when a passenger is inside a vehicle, and vehicles must display some sort of emblem or decal to identify that it is a rideshare vehicle, like, say, Lyft's pink mustache. 

Photo by Perry Stein

 

 

The Onion Relocates Tryst Coffeehouse to Kansas

Adams Morgan Tryst coffeehouse has so much Midwestern charm that it can actually pass for a quaint, independent Kansas shop.

That is, of course, if you can believe the Onion—a satirical news site that you shouldn't actually believe.

The Onion published a list of the "6 Best Companies to Work For" and included a place called Grounds For Thought Café on the list. The accompanying photo for the imagined coffee shop? D.C.'s very own Tryst.

The description made it clear, however, that this establishment wasn't physically in D.C., though it very much could have been. The reverence paid to the wi-fi network is quite apt.

At this independent café in Lawrence, KS, employees get to feel the unbelievable rush of power that comes with being the sole distributor of Wi-Fi passwords. While they typically earn no more than $10 an hour and do not receive comprehensive benefits, workers experience a thrilling adrenaline high dozens of times per day by serving as the all-powerful gatekeepers of the café’s “CoffeeBean” wireless network, unleashing an intoxicating flood of endorphins through their body every time they give a knowing half-smile and, in an ever so slightly lowered voice, bestow their godlike knowledge on another patron.

Thankfully, the good folks at the Onion did not Photoshop out the D.C. flag in front of Tryst in photo, allowing Tryst to stay true to its D.C. roots while in Kansas.

Photo by Daquella manera via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Oneida Nation Says Virginia Voters Will Reject Ed Gillespie Like They Did George Allen

Is Republican Virginia Senate candidate Ed Gillespie going the way of ousted Virginia Sen. George "Macaca" Allen on Nov. 4?

The Oneida Nation—the New York tribe that runs the Change the Mascot campaign trying to get the Washington football team to change its name—says yes.

Gillespie ran an ad during the Washington football team's victorious Monday Night Football game against Dallas last night, attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Warner for not taking a stance against a Senate bill that would revoke the NFL's tax-exempt status if any of the league's team names contain a racial slur. (Which, obviously, one does.) In the 30-second ad, Gillespie uses the Washington football team's moniker a number of times throughout.

"Mark Warner refused to answer if he supports the bill or not," Gillespie says in the ad. "Why won't he fight the anti-[Pigskins] bill? Why won't he answer the question?"

Read more Oneida Nation Says Virginia Voters Will Reject Ed Gillespie Like They Did George Allen

District Line Daily: Bowser’s Treasure Chest

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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Campaign finance reports filed Monday show that Muriel Bowser is the best-financed mayoral candidate, but both leading contenders are spending big during the final stretch of the campaign. Bowser has spent more than $200,000 on television ads in the past 17 days and more than $120,000 on postage. Catania spent $140,000 on campaign literature. Bowser has $435,241 left to spend, while Catania has $129,104.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • The latest White House fence jumper was deemed incompetent to stand trial and was ordered to a mental health facility. [Washington Post]
  • The Washington football team unexpectedly won last night's game in overtime, breaking the Dallas Cowboys six-game winning streak. [News4]
  • Police Chief Cathy Lanier addressed concerns over police stops and potentially discriminatory police tactics.  [Washington Post]
  • The District will appeal a federal judge's decision to overturn D.C.'s ban on carrying guns in public. [City Desk]

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Read more District Line Daily: Bowser’s Treasure Chest

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