City Desk

Norton Asks for Congressional Sledding Break

"Let's hit the slopes!"

Like everything else Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton does, her fight to legalize sledding on Capitol Hill looks set to be a slow, grueling fight. After Capitol Police shut down sledders last month—reportedly at the request of a persnickety congressman—Norton asked for the lifting of snow restrictions. That process could take until the end of March, if not longer.

But the weather won't wait that long. Ahead of tomorrow's predicted heavy snowfall, Norton wants a one-time sledding waiver for District kids to run from Thursday to Sunday.

In a press release, Norton urges Capitol Police chairman Frank Larkin to temporarily pull the sledding ban for what's (hopefully) the last snow of the winter.

"Have a heart, Mr. Larkin," Norton says in her release. "A kid’s heart that is."

Don't bust out the trash can lids and cafeteria trays just yet. A Capitol Police spokeswoman didn't respond to my request for comment, and a spokesman for Norton says they haven't received a response yet from the agency.

Update, 7:30 p.m.: Put away the sleds. Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, writes in an email that the agency will continue enforcing the rules about winter sledding restrictions.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Gear Prudence: Why Don’t Cyclists Use Available Bike Lanes?

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Gear Prudence: Occasionally when I’m driving along some of the streets that feature the city’s finest bike lanes (L, M, and 15th), I see cyclists not using them and on the open road with cars. When biking, I always go out of my way to get to the safety of a bike lane. I’ve racked my brain trying to understand their motivation for avoiding the lanes and riding with traffic, but I just don’t get it! What gives? —No Obvious Logical Answer, Needs Explanation

Dear NOLANE: You haven’t really biked in D.C. until you’ve been told by a ragey driver to “GET IN THE BIKE LANE!” Even after the shouter has been met with “THERE’S NOT EVEN A BIKE LANE HERE!”, there’s typically exasperation and honking and the exchanging of middle fingers and hopefully nothing worse. When there is a bike lane present and a cyclist isn’t in it, it can be baffling. But there are reasons.

The big obvious reasons for temporarily riding outside a bike lane are big and obvious: bike lanes attract obstructive detritus (construction equipment, dumpsters, delivery vans, wrong-way cyclists, wayward pedestrians). Some people on bikes, rather than contend with these nuisances, simply choose to bypass them by moving into a general lane. The same occurs when avoiding the potholes, metal grates, ice, steel plates, flotsam, jetsam, and other hazards that can lead to suboptimal or dangerous cycling. Another common reason: the cyclist is preparing to make a turn at an upcoming intersection that’s on the other side of the street. 

There are others, however, who eschew bike lanes not from temporary necessity, but a conscious choice. Justifications include: “I ride fast and can keep up with cars”; “Bike lanes, as designed, are unsafe, and it’s safer and predictable to avoid them”; “Bike lanes relegate bicyclists to a second-class status and I deserve as full rights to the road”; and “An evil witch cursed me and if I ride in the bike lane, I’ll turn back into a toad.” Under District law, the presence of a bike lane doesn’t mandate any cyclist to ride in it, and while this might irk or confuse observers, where to ride is a matter of personal preference.That said, I would contend that the overwhelming majority of city cyclists prefer bike lanes, always try to ride in them, and desperately want more and better ones. —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.

D.C. Declares a Snow Emergency for Thursday


The District government will declare a snow emergency Thursday morning at 7 a.m., Mayor Muriel Bowser's administration announced Wednesday afternoon. That means cars parked on snow emergency routes will be towed and incur heavy fines and fees—$250 plus towing and impound fees.

So where shouldn't you leave your car when the flakes start to fall? This map using data from the D.C. government will show you:

If you do park on a snow emergency route, you can click here to find your car later.

The latest forecasts call for between 4 and 7 inches of snow here in the District. Check on the city's snow plows here, and here's our winter storm anxiety advisory from last February to help prepare for what the weather will bring.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

District Line Daily: Pot in Private

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.

The D.C. Council voted unanimously yesterday to ban marijuana smoking in private clubs or bars.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie introduced a bill to legalize drinking outdoors at breweries and distilleries. [Young & Hungry]
  • The Smithsonian banned selfie sticks. [DCist]
  • D.C. is cracking down on parking boot theft. [WTOP]
  • Kaya Henderson got her first raise as head of D.C. Public Schools. [Post]

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

Cherry Blossoms to Reach Peak Bloom Between April 11 and 14

cherry blossoms

We interrupt your regularly scheduled winter to bring you this news: D.C.'s famed Tidal Basin cherry blossoms are expected to reach peak bloom between April 11 and 14, the National Park Service announced this morning.

The festival held to celebrate this glorious sign of spring will begin on March 20 and end on April 12.  Scheduled events include the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and the Anacostia River Festival, which will be presented in part by the 11th Street Bridge Park.

The cherry blossoms hit peak bloom on April 10 last year. Follow the bloom schedule here.

Photo by Flickr user sdixclifford using an Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

District Line Daily: Weed Club Ban

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.

The D.C. Council is poised to ban pot smoking in bars and private clubs, though not without resistance from the city's pro-marijuana activists.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • Marijuana edibles are OK for members to make, but not sell, at Union Kitchen. [Young & Hungry]
  • D.C. commits to "Vision Zero." [City Desk]
  • Muriel Bowser's pick for fire chief will make $10,000 more than his predecessor. [Loose Lips]
  • The Tidal Basin and Potomac River may never have been covered in ice so late in the season. Will that affect the cherry blossoms? [Capital Weather Gang]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY: Read more District Line Daily: Weed Club Ban

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.

all-states

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

bong

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.

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