City Desk

Tragedy on the Red Line: Loose Lips Daily

As much local politics as humanly possible. Send your tips, releases, stories, events, etc. to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. And get LL Daily sent straight to your inbox every morning!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—"Red Line Trains Collide Near Fort Totten: Deadliest Crash In Metro History"; "On the Scene: Metro Collision Eyewitness Accounts"; "Rammed Train Had Been Stopped for 10 Minutes"; "Old Questions About Crashworthiness of Metro Cars"; "District Revenues Keep Falling, Gandhi Says"

Morning all. LL thought yesterday's big news was going to be Nat Gandhi's new revenue projections. Sadly, he was wrong: Minutes after 5 p.m. yesterday, a Red Line train heading inbound toward Fort Totten careened into the rear of another train stopped on the tracks underneath the New Hampshire Avenue NE overpass. The impact killed nine (as of this writing), including train operator Jeanice McMillan, 42, and injured scores. It is the worst accident in Metro's 33 years of carrying passengers. Please do check City Paper's coverage of the collision, including LL's interviews with train passengers and Darrow Montgomery's aftermath photographs. A lot of very, very good journalism was being done yesterday. That includes the WaPo lede-all, WaPo rider accounts, WaPo blog, Examiner lede-all, Examiner rider accounts, WaTimes lede-all, WaTimes rider accounts, WaTimes on emergency response, NYT, LAT, ABC News, AP, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.

AFTER THE JUMP—More Metro collision reports; where to find $340M in three weeks?; Fenty pulls out the line-item veto; Kevin and Michelle on the town!

HEADLINES—WaPo: 'At Least 6 Killed in Red Line Crash'; Examiner: 'Deadly day for Metro'; Express: 'CATASTROPHE: At least 4 people are killed in deadliest train collision in Metro history'; WaTimes: '6 dead in worst Metro crash'

ON THE SCENE—Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Metro General Manager John Catoe, Fire Chief Dennis Rubin, Police Chief Cathy Lanier, FBI Assistant Director Joe Persichini, Metro board chair Jim Graham, Councilmembers Muriel Bowser, Harry Thomas Jr., and Michael A. Brown.

OBAMA SPEAKS—'Michelle and I were saddened by the terrible accident in Northeast Washington, D.C., today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends affected by this tragedy. I want to thank the brave first responders who arrived immediately to save lives. My staff has been in touch with Mayor Fenty’s office and will continue to monitor the situation.'

EARLY SPECULATION—Ex-WMATA beatster Lyndsey Layton recounts this 'eerily similar' incident in WaPo: 'Four years ago...the signal system briefly failed in the tunnel between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn, forcing two quick-thinking operators to stop their trains manually to avoid a crash. In the June 2005 incident, the operator of one train noticed that he was getting too close to the train ahead. The signal system was telling him the track was clear, but he hit the brakes. The operator of a third train on the line hit the emergency brakes on time, too. Metro officials were stunned by the events, which they said at the time had not happened before, and launched an investigation. It was unclear last night whether they ever found a cause.' Still, the operator yesterday, outside on a clear day, should have seen the train approaching. Other possible factors: an incapacitated operator, a 'zoned-out' operator, brake failure, or a malfunctioning signal relay.

UNBELIEVABLE—Metro didn't send out a rider alert until 7:02 p.m., WaTimes reports, and this is what it said: 'Disruption at Fort Totten. Trains are turning back at Rhode Island Ave & Silver Spring due to a train experiencing mechanical difficulties outside of Ft. Totten. Shuttle service has been established.' Mechanical difficulties?

INFORMATION CONTROL—From Dave Statter's STATter 911 blog: 'With a large section of the city shut down, Metro's Red Line at a standstill, and loved ones desperately looking for information, the city went into an information blackout mode within the first hour of the crisis. While at least one fire department PIO provided initial information in the first minutes, sources within city government tell STATter911.com that word came from Mayor Adrian Fenty's press office that no more interviews were to be done, or information relayed to reporters until a 7:15 PM press conference by the mayor.'

GOTTA LOVE THE BIZ JOURNAL—They've got the Board of Trade angle covered.

FASCINATING—WRC-TV has footage of the 1983 1982 fatal Metro crash—the blizzard/Air Florida day. WTTG-TV, too.

***

Now, about those revenue numbers: They're not good. The city has to find at least $190M to cover the last three months of FY09—making a raid of the rainy-day budget reserve fund pretty much the only realistic option. But, as Natwar Gandhi tells Examiner's Michael Neibauer and WaPo's Tim Craig, 'The whole idea of a rainy-day fund is to use it when its rains...Well, it's pouring out there.' But tapping the reserve would mean compounding the FY10 problem—from $150M to $245M or more. David Catania sees some federal help coming, and Jack Evans wants to repay any draw on the reserve in full within one year—meaning $340M in last-minute cuts. That's what will occupy the council between now and the council recess. See also comprehensive accounts from Biz Journal and LL.

NEW METAPHOR, PLEASE—Hey, Nat: Enough about the economic tsunami already!

The WaPo ed board called it: Fenty deploys the line-item veto to keep the State Board of Education and schools ombudsman under mayoral control, Neibauer reports in Examiner. From Fenty's letter to the council: 'Too often in the past, the old D.C. Board of Education meddled in the day-to-day operations of the public schools. This interference substantially undermined the management authority of past superintendents and principals, while politicizing even the most basic operations. By no mere coincidence, student performance suffered terribly.' The council has 30 days to muster nine votes to override—will be close!

The Summer Youth Employment Program kicked off for real yesterday, with Fenty pumping up the Green Summer Job Corps with a press conference. NC8 was there to ask questions, in the wake of the Columbia Heights shooting, about background checks for participants. Fenty's reply: No way!

SEND YOUR SYEP TIPS TO LL. Confidentiality guaranteed.

Could L.A.'s Green Dot charters be coming to D.C.? Possibly as a traditional-school NCLB conversion? Writes EdWeek: '[Green Dot founder Steve Barr], who is in town for the conference, said he is talking with Chancellor Michelle Rhee about bringing his model for small high schools to the District of Columbia. He kept the details mum, but said a few D.C. high schools could undergo an overhaul similar to the one that Green Dot brought over the past school year to Locke High School, an enormous, long-suffering high school in Watts.' Read about Green Dot in the New Yorker.

In other Metro news: WMATA reports a rise in robberies, Lena Sun reports in WaPo, thanks to 'crimes of opportunity' targeting ever-multiplying electronic devices. 'Although overall crime in the Metro system is relatively low, robberies have been on the rise for the past few years, reflecting spikes elsewhere in the region, Metro officials have said. Metro's ridership has been growing, and large numbers of riders carry cellphones, portable music players and other electronic devices, which are easy to steal and easy to sell, they said. Metro reported 240 robberies for the four months ending April 30, compared with 187 robberies for the same period last year.'

Former WASA board chair Glenn Gerstell rallies to outgoing GM Jerry Johnson's defense in WaPo letter. The paper's story on Johnson's WSSC move, he writes, 'dredged up WASA's lead problem from more than five years ago, devoting much of its length to Mr. Johnson's role in that situation. The story omitted or did not give sufficient weight to important facts.'

Eleanor Holmes Norton meets with Park Police chief on Trey Joyner shooting.

Fake grass! It's overtaking local school athletic fields! So says Daniel de Vise in WaPo, who points out that no fewer than 10 District ballfields now have the green plastic stuff. 'Many high schools nationwide are turning to artificial turf. Long considered prohibitively expensive for public schools, synthetic turf has gone down in price and up in quality. Some school officials consider it a better investment than grass. Unlike grass, synthetic turf can survive relentless wear and tear. It can support play in the dead of winter and after a deluge.' REMEMBER THIS? 'Last summer, D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) held a news conference at Anacostia High School in Southeast Washington to push for environmental tests of synthetic fields at six schools. But Tony Robinson, an official with the D.C. Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, said the public response to artificial turf "has been overwhelmingly and enthusiastically positive."'

SmartBikes: Is the District looking to dump ClearChannel as operator? Georgetown Metropolitan thinks so: 'Well it turns out that Clear Channel doesn’t think the deal they agreed to includes running an additional 90 bike stations. So as a result they’re balking. On top of it, District officials are interested in expanding the program to reach Arlington or Alexandria. Since they don’t allow advertising on bus shelters in Arlington, Clear Channel is particularly uninterested in running the program there.' GGW thinks ditching CC is a good idea.

DCmud interviews condo developer Paul Robertson: 'There’s still plenty of opportunity in the U Street and Shaw area, and certainly Columbia Heights, Brookland and Petworth – that’s where I see it going. But there’s still infill in better neighborhoods. It’s harder to find and certainly harder to find at a price that makes sense, but it’s there.' And: 'I would take whatever steps necessary to significantly reduce the time it takes to get a building permit. They are making strides at DCRA, but, if I were the mayor, that would be a priority because it would really facilitate more development and therefore generate more tax revenue for the city.…Also, I would start an initiative to work the utilities....People tend to focus on the DC government, but what they don’t often realize is the complexity and the time consuming nature of dealing with Pepco, WASA and Washington Gas.'

Rhee and Kevin Johnson: Together at the Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner. Also: An account of Rhee's remarks to the National Charter School conference.

Former UDC President William Pollard will lead CUNY's Medgar Evers College. 'Located in central Brooklyn, the college offers high quality professional, career-oriented undergraduate degree programs in conjunction with a liberal arts education. With an enrollment of more than 6,300 students, an all-time high, Medgar Evers offers 18 baccalaureate degrees as well as seven associate degrees.'

Heritage Foundation runs down the whole D.C. gay-marriage debate for righties.

GGW looks at the Hine proposals.

More Marion Barry at Silverdocs video, from Pop Cesspool.

Breadline tells Biz Journal they're 'closed temporarily for repairs.' But WCP's Tim Carman, never one to settle for the party line, turns up the health inspection report that led to the closing! Ten critical violations!

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10:30 a.m.: Committee of the Whole hearing on B18-292 ("Closing of a Public Alley in Square 5928, S.O. 08-4393 Act of 2009") and B18-154 ("Bloomingdale Court Alley Designation Act of 2009"), JAWB 500; 11 a.m.: Committee on Finance and Revenue hearing on PR18-236 ("Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Towanda Paul-Bryant Confirmation Resolution of 2009"), PR18-233 ("Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Trent Williams Confirmation Resolution of 2009"), PR18-234 ("Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Robert Cooper Confirmation Resolution of 2009"), PR18-235 ("Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Leslie Boissiere Confirmation Resolution of 2009"), PR18-299 ("Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Louis Patrick Chauvin Confirmation Resolution of 2009"), PR18-300 ("Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Frank Sanders Confirmation Resolution of 2009"), PR18-301 ("Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals for the District of Columbia Keith Stone Confirmation Resolution of 2009"), B18-265 ("Release of the Deed of Trust Amendment Act of 2009"), B18-281 ("Affordable Housing Opportunities Residential Rental Project Property Tax Exemption and Equitable Real Property Tax Relief Amendment Act of 2009"), B18-291 ("Arboretum Place Economic Development Act of 2009"), B18-299 ("Waterfront Park at Yards Act of 2009"), B18-303 ("F Street, N.W., Downtown Retail Priority Area Clarification Amendment Act of 2009"), and PR18-358 ("Fiscal Year 2009 Income Tax Secured Revenue Refunding Bond Issuance Approval Resolution 2009"), JAWB 412; 2 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs meeting (scheduled), JAWB 123.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—8 a.m.: remarks, update on Metrorail collision, New Hampshire and South Dakota Avenues NE; 10:30 a.m.: remarks, new H.D. Woodson Senior High School design plans announcement, 55th and Eads Streets NE.

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