City Desk

Loose Lips Daily: Half-Smoke Diplomacy

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Morning all. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty starts the last full week of George W. Bush's presidency after a couple of major PR coups. On Saturday afternoon, Barack Obama picked Fenty up in his motorcade and the two headed to Ben's Chili Bowl for lunch, surprising the Ali family and the Ben's regulars. Obama and Fenty are both renowned health nuts, but Obama, god bless'm, not only ordered a half-smoke with chili, mustard, and onions, LL is told, but went back to ask for shredded cheddar cheese after spying a fellow patron dress her dog with it. Fenty went for, ahem, a turkey dog, cheese fries, and water. (And LL is positive he didn't come close to finishing those cheese fries.)

The next day, Fenty appeared on Meet the Press alongside Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and Ben's aficionado Bill Cosby. Asked about his conversation with the prez-elect by host David Gregory, Fenty said Obama "is very concerned about the city issues....We talked about schools, affordable housing, voting rights here in Washington, D.C." He also got into a bit of a back-and-forth with Cosby about half-smokes, revealing that Cos had said backstage that Obama "hadn't earned" his free-half-smoke status. Cosby then called Fenty "Mr. Loose Lips." Hey Cos! There's only one Loose Lips in this town—and he don't eat no turkey dogs.

OH, CHARLENE—UDC makes pitch to take over Southeastern University, the private community college in Southwest, Bill Myers reports in Examiner. Such a merger would fulfill new UDC president Allen Sessoms' desire to include a community college component in UDC. But whither Southeastern president Charlene Drew Jarvis? Says Myers: "It's unclear whether she would have a role in a post-merger university."

Meanwhile, colleague Jonetta Rose Barras wholeheartedly endorses the marriage and provides additional details: "[A] draft 'letter of intent'...among other things would allow UDC to assume all of SEU's 'vibrant' associate and baccalaureate degree programs. SEU students could enroll at the UDC tuition rate. UDC will 'determine who [on the faculty] to transfer' to its roster of professors and which administrators might also be merged with the school's existing management staff, according to government sources familiar with the discussions between UDC and SEU." GRUMBLINGS—"Some folks worry about acquiring SEU's debt. Others believe trustees don't have the authority to act without approval from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and the council. Still others think Sessoms is moving too fast; they say he should first fix the mess he inherited."

Thousands come to Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in Brookland on Saturday to mourn the six who died in the tragic New Year's Day fire. Attendees of the wake and/or funeral included Fenty, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. (who had employed one of the victims), Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, and Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. Bill Turque covered the scene for WaPo: "A single tragic death can send ripples of grief deep into a community. Six at once forms a wave that can devastate....'Do I have any believers in the room? Do I have any believers in the room?' asked Bishop Alfred A. Owens, shortly after funeral directors gently closed the six white coffins lined up under the pulpit for a viewing that lasted almost three hours." Also WTOP, NC8, WRC-TV,

Eric Payne, contracting chief for CFO's office, is fired by Nat Gandhi, WaPo's Dan Keating reported Friday evening, assing the move comes "three weeks after the D.C. Council refused to approve a new $120 million lottery contract put forward by Gandhi's office." Says Payne: "I am surprised and disappointed by their actions."

Eleanor Holmes Norton will introduce Eric Holder to the Senate judiciary committee Thursday at his confirmation hearing.

Politico's Jonathan Martin looks at how Obama plans to "bridge the...gulf" between local and federal Washington. Points out this quote he gave to George Stephanopolous: "One of the things that I don't like historically about Washington is the way that you've got one part of Washington, which is a company town, all about government, and is generally pretty prosperous...And then, you've got another half of D.C. that is going through enormous challenges. I want to see if we can bring those two Washington, D.C.s together." And he's going to be visiting churches!

Marc Fisher looks at Michelle Rhee & Co.'s attempts to take control of Truesdell ES. "Truesdell, an overheated, underenrolled behemoth of a building just off Georgia Avenue NW in Petworth, is a crucible in Chancellor Michelle Rhee's hurried campaign to transform the city's schools....Five of Truesdell's 35 teachers have been placed on 90-day improvement plans, Rhee's tactic for ridding the system of lousy teachers."

WaPo's Petula Dvorak profiles Yoshio Nakada, the homeless man and Japanese national beaten to death in Foggy Bottom on Christmas Eve. "To the numerous communities in his orbit, Nakada mysteriously alighted one day, enigmatic and enthusiastic," she writes. "He sang songs tailored to everyone he met, never panhandled and endlessly scribbled English names, numbers, words and song lyrics on scraps of paper: fliers, newspapers, maps, even the cardboard sleeves from coffee cups." The crime is still unsolved: "The latest attack is stoking fear among the District's homeless. Robert McCray, who often ran into Nakada while both lived on the streets, said people are being told to sleep in groups and avoid being alone."

David Catania gives the business to CVS at Friday council hearing, embracing union-funded study showing that the pharmacy megalith conspired to switch patients from doctor-recommended drugs to more profitable alternatives. "Catania," according to Biz Journal's Vandana Sinha, "said he envisions a bill that might prohibit individual pharmacists from switching patients to different drugs than what's been prescribed without either the patient's or doctor's consent or knowledge. 'The individual pharmacist is not going to be willing to risk [his or her] livelihood,' said Catania at the hearing. 'That seems to me the only way to get at this.'"

In themail, Gary Imhoff wonders why many D.C. IG reports aren't released to the public, as the law says they should be. And Dorothy Brizill examines the miscommunication during yesterday's inaug rehearsal (see below).

Paul Jones, 17, is shot dead Friday night on 1300 block of Columbia Road NW, leading to more hand-wringing about violence in gentrifying Columbia Heights. Several others also shot on Friday night.

The man charged in the 1996 killing of Shaquita Bell agrees to plea deal, will serve only 15 years in prison. Michael Dickerson accpeted the deal in return for a guilty plea and agreeing to lead cops to Bell's body, which still hasn't been found. Says Bell's mom: "I felt like the prosecutor was working against us. I'm really hurt." NC8 has video.

Peiro Fuentes Hernandez, arrested for the murders of Mike and Ginny Spevak, changes his mind once again and pleads guilty to Superior Court judge. Fuentes Hernandez, according to WaPo's Keith Alexander, "told D.C. Superior Court Judge Michael L. Rankin that he had had time 'by himself' to think things over and that he wanted to proceed with the plea....'I'm feeling a lot better,' Fuentes Hernandez said. 'I understand everything better now.'"

Examiner's Kytja Weir asks a good question: With Metro ridership at all time highs, why is WMATA facing such monumental budget problems? Says board member Peter Benjamin, "Every rider in the system is subsidized....As more people ride, it costs us more." And "fares don't cover everything, especially in the case of MetroAccess where the average ride costs the system $38. Meanwhile, the maximum fare for the federally required service is $6.50."

Rapist convicted by jury who received incorrect instructions will not get a new trial, D.C. Court of Appeals orders.


PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT—Inauguration ceremonies rehearsed, with soldiers Derrick Brooks and LaSean McCray standing in for Barack and Michelle Obama. (The practice speech? "My fellow Americans, God bless America.") CP's Rend Smith was on the scene, chatting up some of the 150 or so spectators. "[T]here was the uncomfortable moment when Rick Warren's stand-in came out to deliver the invocation, and almost everyone in the cold January morning groaned, and some guy from Virginia (I asked him) said pretty loud, 'Did you hear some people booing over there? Must be from Dupont Circle.'" Also AP coverage, WAMU-FM.

SOME GLITCHES—"Miscommunication between agencies has led to confusion over which streets were closed Sunday for an inaugural parade rehearsal....Large parts of Constitution and Independence Avenues were shut down, and that the information was not made available to the public." And Jim Graham tells WTTG-TV he's not happy.

Don't count on non-emergency care at D.C. hospitals during the inauguration, officials say. "Pierre Vigilance, the city's health department director, says D.C. emergency rooms will likely be busier than usual. He is urging inaugural attendees to seek medical attention from their primary care doctor before Jan. 19 or after Jan. 20."

WaPo editorial board slaps inauguration planners, saying, "The government has done a great job telling people what they can't do on Jan. 20." Furthermore: "Confusing and sometimes conflicting information has been released. Myriad groups are involved in the logistics; why can't they collaborate on one easy-to-navigate Web site? Not enough attention has been paid to service employees and health workers who need to get to work. Legitimate questions have been raised about whether Metro's planned operating hours are sufficient and how fare card use will affect crowd flow."

INAUGURAL BACKLASH?—AP says some folks are staying home cause there's just too much hassle. "Among the reasons that people have backed out are concerns about overcrowding in the city and potential cell-phone outages."

Instapundit: "I wonder if Adrian Fenty's overoptimistic predictions might actually encourage people who would otherwise have gone to stay home, rather than face the kind of gridlock that 5 million people would have produced."

Harry Jaffe has some inaug transpo recommendations: "Shut up and bike." Pedal power, he says, is "clearly the most sensible and efficient way to get around the Tuesday in question."

But what about water taxis?

Looking to enjoy the inauguration festivities among friends, just not 2 million of them? You have options, WaPo's Theresa Vargas reports. "The desire to spend the inauguration among a crowd, just not among millions, is spurring places across the region to open their doors as an alternative to the expected pandemonium of the Mall and the official parade route."

Crowds won't be quite over when inauguration is over: 200,000 expected for March for Life on Jan. 22, Examiner reports.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune tees up the festivities, details local anxieties.

Metro to stop service on Sunday 1/18 and Monday 1/19 at midnight, possibly frustrating inaugural partiers, Examiner reports. Why? Says John Catoe, "If we do not have any hours of maintenance Sunday and Monday, we could have a collapse of the system." Wouldn't want that!

Bill Duggan hits the (blog) pages of the NYT. They want to know, just how much inaug business are you expecting?

Those parade tix that went on Ticketmaster on Friday? Gone in one minute.

Don't expect lavish food options at balls: "It's just cash bars and cheese cubes. The food is not glamorous at all."

Thinking of riding MARC trains to inaug? Well, you can't! Buses, however, are still available.

AP does inauguration "by the numbers."

MTV will broadcast Youth Ball; has canceled its shindig that had been scheduled for Reagan Building.

Lotta history down there by the Hay-Adams, WaPo's Darryl Fears finds out. Yup, lotta history.

For more on the inauguration, including the latest news, housing and rentals, parties, and events, check out City Paper's DC Inauguration Guide.


The bad economy could be good for D.C. area, says AP reporter.

Water main breaks downtown this morning; L Street NW closed between 16th and 17th.

Beloved blogger DC Teacher Chic has a replacement.

Former Charles Ramsey aide and former Chicagoan Kevin Morison and wife Ellen Leander tell Obama that's he'll "like the neighborhood." Silver Spring resident shares her thoughts on the Chicago-D.C. transition, as well.

ADVICE FOR ARNE—Local ed types, including D.C. charter school teacher, give Arne Duncan some tips in WaPo ahead of his confirmation hearings as SecEd. As does current SecEd Margaret Spellings.

AWWW ALERT—Baby gorilla unveiled at National Zoo. Says WaPo: "Zoo officials said the birth is significant because the animals, western lowland gorillas, are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species." NC8 has pix and video.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—No events scheduled.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 am: remarks, Saturday Scholars Program relaunch announcement; Aiton Elementary School, 533 48th Place NE.

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  • KCinDC

    envisions a bill that might prohibit individual pharmacists from switching patients to different drugs than what’s been prescribed without either the patient’s or doctor’s consent or knowledge.

    How is that not already illegal?

  • Colver

    Either quit smoking cigarettes or smoke smarter...