City Desk

Loose Lips Daily: Vivek Gets Back to Work

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—"State of the District Speech Mysteriously Postponed"

Morning all. Vivek Kundra is back! According to WaTimes, "White House officials have confirmed that Mr. Kundra, who ran the D.C. [technology] office from 2007 until this year, is not a target of the federal investigation and that he has been allowed to return to his position" as federal chief information officer. Christina Bellantoni and Gary Emerling also confirm the 1996 theft charge first reported by blogger Hot Air, add a few tidbits: "Gary L. Segal, Mr. Kundra's lawyer at the time, told The Washington Times he has 'zero recollection of that case.' White House officials said they were aware of the theft but declined to comment about the vetting process for Mr. Kundra. [White House spokesperson] called the incident a 'youthful indiscretion' years in the past....Still, news of the theft comes at an inopportune time for President Obama, who has seen some of his choices for top political posts drop out and come under criticism." Also WTTG-TV, Valleywag, Gawker, CNet, NYT, which reports that former boss Tim Kaine intervened to get him reinstated.

OCTOgate UPDATE—Federal judge orders alleged ringleader Yusuf Acar held without bail, citing "overwhelming" evidence and flight risk. WaPo, AP, NC8, WTTG-TV, and WUSA-TV, which adds that Sushil Bansal "has stepped down as CEO of AITC, a firm with $13 million in DC Government contract[s]."

Short legislative meeting for the D.C. Council yesterday. Some headlines: They voted to nix parks budget reprogramming to rebuild Chevy Chase ball fields, according to Nikita Stewart in WaPo. They're considering going back on vacant-property tax rate hike, according to Michael Neibauer in Examiner. And Harry Thomas Jr. wants tax breaks for gas stations; cue urbanist outrage!

Neibauer also covers yesterday's stimulus-spending hearing: "There are plans to use stimulus money to reconfigure the New York Avenue bridge, to enhance the Pennsylvania Avenue streetscape and to increase the safety of popular walking routes to schools, [Dan Tangherlini] said. Billions more dollars will be available through competitive grants for transportation projects 'of regional and national importance,' Tangherlini added, to improve high-speed Internet access for low-income neighborhoods, to purchase and improve vacant properties, and to hire more police." Also NC8.

Traditionalist Catholics line up in opposition to Anthony A. Williams' nomination to the Order of Malta, "a millennium-old, elite church charitable society," Michelle Boorstein reports in WaPo. Says petition signed by 24 order members, "This man is notorious across the United States for his loud, constant and public opposition to Catholic teaching." REALLY?

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on Jan. 16 granted his police chief broad powers to deputize citizens, Bill Myers reports in Examiner. "Under an order signed by Fenty, [Cathy Lanier] and 'her subordinate officials' are allowed to appoint 'special privates' during an 'emergency.' The unpaid citizen-cops 'shall possess all the powers and privileges and perform all the duties of the privates of the standing police force of the District,' the order states." Peter Nickles explains the order was needed for the inauguration and hasn't been used since. So, Myers asks, why hasn't the order been rescinded? "That's a good question....I'll have to think about that."

Harry Jaffe, god bless him, keeps pounding away on the murder of 14-year-old Arthur Daniels. "I had the chance to put the matter before Chief Superior Court Judge Lee Satterfield....In hindsight, does Satterfield see a problem? 'Judges take these requests for hold seriously and make a call,' he told me. Was he satisfied with the process? 'Absolutely. We aren't counting how many lives have been saved by cases where judges have ordered that a defendant be held.'" He closes with a swipe at Phil Mendelson.

Ringling Brothers elephant march proceeded through town yesterday, David Betancourt reports in WaPo. "The march took place as a legal battle that has raged for years comes to a head today with closing arguments in U.S. District Court. Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, is accused by several animal rights groups of abusing their elephants with so-called bull hooks, instruments used to train the animals for performing. Feld's lawyers deny any abuse and contend that survival odds for circus elephants are better than for those in the wild, where they face being shot by hunters, sometimes taking months to die from wounds." Also AP.

Eleanor Holmes Norton lunched yesterday with Michelle Obama at B. Smith's, WaPo reports in a brief. "Norton said in a statement that the women discussed many things, 'like any girlfriends who put no limits on their conversation.' The first lady had suggested the lunch to Norton during a Super Bowl party at the White House last month, Norton said."

TEE HEE—Cop among those collared in prostitution sting, WaPo's Paul Duggan reports. Officer Robert A. Schmidt was caught Feb. 20 at the Embassy Suites by the Convention Center. "The document quotes their conversation in a room wired for sound and video. 'So, what do you do for a living?' Collado asked him, after the two had exchanged pleasantries. 'I work with the government,' Schmidt said, to which Collado replied, 'How cool is that!'" Schmidt, with the department since 1994, had charges routinely dismissed after attending john school.

Biz Journal's Jonathan O'Connell covers politicos' Monday talk to the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. "The forum, hosted by the chamber at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center, began and ended with discussion of an effort by Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, chair of the finance committee, to cut commercial property taxes over the next two years and commercial income taxes over the next three," with debt savings paying for it all. Also in attendance: Evans co-sponsors Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown, and Muriel Bowser, plus Michael Brown and Marion Barry.

BUDGET PREVIEW—"When Alex Orfinger, who is both chairman of the chamber and publisher of the Washington Business Journal, asked whether cuts to education and human services would be considered when the council receives Mayor Adrian Fenty's budget proposal this week, only Barry gave a definitive no, saying he would be 'adamantly opposed' to such cuts, given that the poor 'get kicked in the behind the most' during a recession. Other councilmembers appeared open to the idea, although Gray pointed out that many human service programs cannot be cut because of legal requirements or federal funding formulas and Kwame Brown said that the answer might not be in heavy cuts but in greater accountability."

Steny Hoyer: DCHVRA vote will take place. But "[w]hen exactly a vote will take place is still unknown." According to RealClearPolitics, "Hoyer indicated that the possibility of passing the bill with the gun amendment attached—a take-what-we-can-get approach—had been discussed with D.C. voting rights advocates, including Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and D.C. officials. However, Hoyer said Norton's opinion would be weighed heavily in the final decision and that some version of the bill would be voted on in the House."

IN OTHER EHN NEWS—Legal Times: "Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was in talks with the White House about reviving her judicial nomination commission. Under the Clinton administration, her commission had recommended a single nominee to the White House for each of the District's [federal] judicial vacancies."

WaPo editorial board tackles the HIV/AIDS news with a lots of stats and a "reason for hope." After a brief passage decrying past HAA mismanagement, the piece gets upbeat: "With accurate data and an agency finally equipped with talent and resources, the District stands a chance of driving those numbers down in a sustained and targeted way to save lives."

Courtland Milloy reacts to the staggering HIV/AIDS numbers by proposing a TV commercial "that goes something like this: You see a man holding a gun to a woman's head and pulling the trigger while professing his love for her. Voiceover: 'Is that any different from what a 'down-low brother' does when he has unprotected sex with other men, then comes home and has sex with his unwitting wife?'" Only one problem, Courtland: On Monday, Dr. Shannon Hader said the whole "down-low" phenomenon has been overblown by the media and represents a small part of the problem in this city. You did quote Jocelyn Elders, though!

DCPS enrollment decline more serious than first thought, Bill Turque reports for WaPo—the 2008-09 number is 45,190, marking "their steepest annual decline since the District started using an outside firm a decade ago to verify the student population. "The annual audited count is usually accompanied by an official announcement. But this year, none was made."

HMM—Biz Journal: "The D.C. Department of the Environment has let go of Jack Werner, director of its D.C. Energy Office, and Ralph McMillan, chief of utility and operations for the Energy Office, saying it planned to move in a new direction but giving few details about the change." Werner seems cool with the move; McMillan not so much. "The changes come as the Energy Office ramps up its program offerings, including new annual renewable energy grants totaling $2 million for city residents, businesspeople, school leaders and nonprofits."

NPR's Morning Edition does piece on rookie teachers in DCPS, focusing on Meredith Leonard, 22, who teaches sixth-grade English at Shaw/Garnet-Patterson Middle School. Her thoughts: "There is a difference — you can't pretend there isn't — between new teachers and teachers who've been in the system a long time."

ALSO ON NPR—On Point does piece on HIV/AIDS numbers. And yesterday, Morning Edition also did an AIDS story.

Survey says more regional commuters are choosing transit, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner. "The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board is slated to hear the survey results today, which compare a recent survey of about 9,000 households in the Washington region with the results of a similar 1994 study. The latest survey, which was conducted from February 2007 to March 2008, found that driving still dominates. But the share of drivers rose only slightly, shifting from 72.1 percent in 1994 to 73.1 percent, even as the population soared. The proportion using public transportation grew more, with 17.6 percent of commuters relying on transit in the latest survey, up from 15 percent in 1994."

FEEL-GOOD STORY OF THE DAY—Kids helped by YouthBuild nonprofit gather to build mobile home for folks who lost their domicile in Hurricane Dolly, WaPo reports. Also WTOP, WTTG-TV.

Your P.G. United update: Jack Johnson asks Metro to sell land adjacent to Morgan Boulevard Metro for stadium, according to WaPo. Metro rules "require a competitive bidding process when selling land to private developers but...the agency sometimes negotiates sales directly to other government entities. Sales must be approved by Metro's board of directors." The parcel is also being sought by Johnson-connected developers. MEANWHILE—Key legislator backs off original financing plans, according to Biz Journal, introducing bill that would no longer authorize...borrowing but instead ask the Maryland Stadium Authority to negotiate with the team on how to split the costs." Fans rally in Annapolis.

Another installment of David Nakamura's Mayoral Statement Watch—this week: OCTO! Here's Mafara Hobson's response to four detailed, reasonable questions: "Because the case is under investigation, AG has advised that I won't be able to respond right now."

Arena Stage gala was Monday night, had "Wizard of Oz" theme. Eleanor played Glinda the Good Witch; Tommy Wells the Wizard. Jack Evans also was there. Examiner (with EHN pic), Washingtonian.

TNR details the tightrope walked by AFT president Randi Weingarten—especially regarding DCPS contract negotiations: "But, as the D.C. example shows, even a politician and tactician as good as Weingarten won't be able to forever serve the dual masters of a change-averse union and the national imperative to fix our urban public schools and improve public schools overall. A lot more than Weingarten's reputation rides on how she manages her way through the tension."

City honchos on Anacostia development: Hold your horses!

Summer jobs: They're back.

DCist joins the chorus on Fenty travel.

U Street's Mocha Hut IS CLOSING!!!

NC8 covers street-sign crackdown. Terry Lynch alert!

WRC-TV covers Pepco power-stealer crackdown!

WaPo letter writers react to "Mayor" John Ensign's WaPo op-ed on his gun legislation. One calls it "misleading at best and dishonest at worst"; another, "petty and patronizing politics."

Richard Layman asks, "Is DC anti-development?...I would say not."

APROPOS OF NOTHING—WUSA-TV: "Survey Says Women Love To Clean"

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on Bill 18-138, the "Omnibus Anti-Crime Amendment Act of 2009," Bill 18-151, the "Public Safety and Justice Amendments Act of 2009," and Bill 18-152, the "Hot Spot No Loitering Zone Act of 2009," JAWB 412; 11 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment roundtable on green building practices, JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Human Services meeting (scheduled), JAWB 123.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—9:15 a.m.: guest, 9 News at 9, WUSA-TV; 10:30 a.m.: remarks, Naylor Road Housing announcement, Naylor Road Housing, 2601 and 2603 Naylor Road SE; 3:45 p.m.: remarks, Summer Youth Employment Program registration kickoff, Ballou Senior High School, 3401 4th St. SE.

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  • Mahidhar

    What a joke. Not only is his theft record suspect (let's face it, youthful indiscretion or not people don't really change fundamentally) his management ability MUST be questioned. This happened IN HIS OFFICE for christs sake. How can we put him in charge of so much capital? He has good ideas but isn't the only person in the country capable of doing this job. He should move on, and if not willing to resign on his own, should be asked to resign. It's a double standard from this administration. Again.

  • Rich L.

    It seems that the bar on youthful indiscretion is being moved up some. I can understand 15 years old or even 18 years old being youthful. This guy was 22 years old (roughly)DOB 10/9/74 date of crime 6/14/1996. That makes him almost 22 and a college grad. Judging by what happened in his D.C. office the man is still young at heart or else has very little management capability.

    As far as vision, from what I can tell he is pushing of the shelf technologies like Google Apps as a solution to governments' problems. Amazing insight. From my perspective our problem with government technology is government employees like Vivek Kundra.

  • http://dcdl.org KCinDC

    Rich, you're a little late. Henry Hyde and George W. Bush managed to push the threshold age for youthful indiscretions well into the 40s some time ago. And 21 is pretty youthful nowadays. I don't think the old charge is relevant, especially considering we have no details about it. Whether he should have known about the crime in his office is a different issue.

  • http://www.washingtonpaper.com XDC

    To be honest, a youthful indiscretion at 22? We do not know the details of the crime. However, we do know he managed the office and promoted Yusef Acar (3) times in a year of being in charge of that office. As far as the corruption in DC Government, as a former DC employee I can tell you, DC Government makes the people in Chhicago look like childs play. You can go to any office and find it it is accepted those who resist it don't get promoted those who report it get fired. Officials like Kundra hire family/friends to make sure there is loyalty see how many new "Indian meaning India" contractors and employees have been hired during Kundra also see how many contractors "knew" Kundra. He may not have taken money in this case BUT he had to know what was happening. Also, how he is going to save the US money when he let his own employees steal millions from DC tax payers, again. This is so sad for DC Taxpayers really sad.

  • abuzznDC

    XDC is correct.
    From Hemphill to Walters corruption in DC Govt is structural. OCTO is but the latest to be exposed supplementing their incomes with under the table deals. The blatancy, goes as far as OCTO providing many DC officials with large flat screen TV's for their offices. Who mind you, is so lucky enough to have a job, where you may be able to watch TV while at work? Last check an ordinary computer can provide streaming video. But then again, any DC employee who says "The Emperor is wearing no clothes", will not be expected to be seen again as a Stars and bars employee.

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