The End of St. Elizabeths: Loose Lips Daily
IN LL WEEKLY—Vote on It: The liberal case for putting gay marriage on the D.C. ballot.
Morning all. Local and federal big shots gathered yesterday to break ground on a $3.4B Department of Homeland Security headquarters on the St. Elizabeths grounds. It's the federal government's 'largest [office building] project since the Pentagon,' WBJ reports. Among the attendees: Secretary Janet Napolitano, Sen. Joe Lieberman, GSA Administrator Paul Prouty, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, and Marion Barry. (WaPo architecture critic Philip Kennicott notes: 'Councilman Marion Barry was late, and Mayor Adrian Fenty even later....') The project, scheduled for a 2016 opening, will bring 14,000 employees to Ward 8. But Kennicott strikes a somber note: 'What had begun in the 1850s as one of the country's most innovative facilities for treating mental illness, and remains one of the city's largest and most sylvan sites for development, is beginning the long, slow process of rebirth as a modern, Level 5 security complex, to be surrounded by double perimeter walls and all but closed forever to the public.'
AFTER THE JUMP—DCPS enrollment looking strong; judge puts kibosh on property tax sale; Cleveland Park soon to be ghost town; the AG says lay off the underage drinking; and cigar aficionados vexed by proposed blunt ban!
DCPS enrollment, less than two weeks into the school year, is very close to last year's figure, Bill Turque reports in WaPo. The current figure is 44,397—not far off from the 44,681 enrolled last year, but somewhat further off from the 45,000-plus originally projected. But 'encouraging news' nonetheless: 'Several schools featured in the "Rediscover DCPS" student recruitment campaign, which included radio, bus and Metro ads, exceeded enrollment projections. They include Hardy Middle School in Northwest (101 more than its projected total of 316), Tyler Elementary in Southeast (62 more than a projected 237) and Wheatley Education Campus, a pre-K-8 school in Northeast (70 more than an expected 364 students).'
Following a lawsuit, the city has been forced by a court to postpone its annual delinquent property tax sale. LL and Examiner's Michael Neibauer both cover Superior Court Judge Brook Hedge's decision to issue a preliminary injunction stopping the sale after Illinois-based tax-sale investor Aeon Financial sued alleging illegalities in the sale process stemming from OTR's decision not to sell properties owing less than $1,200. 'The District's glib argument was it could withdraw any property from sale for any time period,' Hedge noted in her order. 'That effectively is eviscerating the [tax sale] statute.' D.C. Wire also covers.
The emptying of Cleveland Park storefronts gets the full WaPo treatment from Katherine Shaver, who asks, 'How did one of the District's most affluent and stable neighborhoods fall on hard times? ("It's official," one blogger declared recently. "Cleveland Park is dead.") How will the historic neighborhood rebound?' Will more parking fix the problem? An end to restaurant/bar restrictions? 'How Cleveland Park charts its survival could determine whether it will retain the slightly sleepy feel of a leafy suburban area, like its northern D.C. neighbor, Chevy Chase, or rev up into even more of a dining and nightlife destination, like Dupont Circle to the south.'
DID YOU KNOW?—Ward 3 councilmember Mary Cheh 'lived in Cleveland Park in the 1980s before moving to nearby Forest Hills.' Her take: 'You can't even maintain a coffee shop in Cleveland Park? Come on. That's pretty telling.'
Speaking of Cheh, big win for her on the Tenley library project: The Fenty adminstration has agreed to finance structural supports in the new library, Neibauer reports in Examiner, thus allowing for overhead development in the future. 'The added supports are vocally opposed by neighborhood leaders who fear a residential tower would steal a significant amount of already-limited green space from the adjacent Janney Elementary School. They are widely backed by smart-growth advocates who want to see transit-oriented development on the prime site at Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street, steps from the Tenleytown Metro Station.' Says Cheh: 'Not to have additional development there doesn't make sense.'
Prompted by Attorney General Peter Nickles' move to seek an end to the Dixon class action, Jonetta Rose Barras takes a look at the changes in the city's mental health care system over recent decades. She's not a fan: 'Decades ago, well-meaning advocates filed a lawsuit against the District, forcing the release of thousands of mentally ill people who had called St. Elizabeths Hospital home. Community care was all the rave. I was never a devotee....The fact that today our streets are lined with troubled individuals is evidence of the flaw and failing in the push-them-out movement.' Her thought: 'Given the history of this executive, this certainly isn't the time to remove the monitor. Actually, the growing numbers of mentally ill on city streets suggest this may be the time to rethink the entire community strategy. At the very least, the court may want to appoint a new monitor—one more keenly focused on quality and consistency of care.'
ALSO—See Jonetta's Web column, where she takes another bite out of Nickles, rails against DPR 'dog swims,' and makes this excellent point regarding the national health care debate: 'The District has the most progressive healthcare system in the country. The government provides insurance to low-income, working class residents through its Healthcare Alliance. It invested millions of dollars in developing a health information technology system, and it provides state of the art services thousands of children....If the feds, Congress and Norton really want to see what health care reforms looks and smells like they can step into their own backyard.'
Nickles is firing right back at his legal opponents in recent court filings, writes Nikita Stewart at D.C. Wire. In one filing, he calls Auditor Deborah Nichols' request for AWC/NCRC files 'overly broad and unduly burdensome.' And with regard to the union-filed lawsuit over the DPR child-care layoffs, he calls it a 'garden variety labor dispute...in the guise of federal constitutional claims.'
ALSO—This is from April, but just came to LL's attention. The three-piece will really speak to the youngsters:
Examiner's Leah Fabel covers the teachers contract leak first published by Candi Peterson, plus WTU prez George Parker's irate reaction to it. LL SEZ: Parker's letter was a bad idea; all it did was give the leak legitimacy.
Two shot last night just inside the Benning Park Recreation Center, on the 5100 block of Fitch Street SE, WUSA-TV is reporting. 'Both victims were taken to a local hospital. The man is reported to be in serious condition and the female victim is stable.'
Once again, Louis H. Martin, 46, has foiled prosecutors looking to convict him in connection with a 2006 robbery of the downtown Mervis diamond outlet. 'The first two times Martin was prosecuted,' Keith Alexander writes in WaPo, 'charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. This time, Martin, who was on probation at the time of his arrest for a 1997 bank robbery, was charged with 10 counts, including receiving stolen property, possession of an unregistered firearm, resisting arrest and drug possession.' After an eight-day trial and some jury shenanigans, a mistrial was declared by Superior Court Judge Russell Canan.
John Kelly does the column that Mark Plotkin has wanted LL to write for months: Why are statues of Pierre L'Enfant and Frederick Douglass, meant for the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall, still sitting at One Judiciary Square? Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced legislation to do so in the past; why not now? Her office's statement: 'Currently, she has a number of pending unprecedented D.C. bills. All agree that strategically we should proceed with the most difficult first, the D.C. House Voting Rights Act of 2009, and we're getting close on that.' Says Plotkin: 'She should be using these statues as an example of how we're invisible in the American political system.'
OOH, LIKE IT—Suggests Kelly: 'Here's an idea for the D.C. Council: Require licensed city tour guides to preface every tour with: "Residents of Washington do not enjoy voting rights equal to other citizens of the United States."'
Bob Peck, ex-Board of Trade head now back at GSA, tells WBJ that he 'wants to get something done with the [Old Post Office Pavilion] — perhaps a privately financed re-do like the Hotel Monaco — as soon as the economy improves, and he'd love to see some street-level retail liven up the sidewalk in front of the FBI building if the logistics and security issues can be worked out.' Also: 'Peck called for more creative ways to integrate security features into federal buildings. He said bollards, ubiquitous in the District, "don't make a lot of sense," and added that there are other ways to defend public buildings.'
BRING IN P. DIDDY—Howard students aren't satisfied by university administrators' response to their protests last week, saying, according to Michael Birnbaum in WaPo, 'that concessions made...were "a start" but that they planned to keep pushing for more on-campus housing, better access for students with disabilities and technology upgrades on campus, among other improvements.' President Sidney A. Ribeau, in a Hilltop interview, 'agreed to improve access to the financial aid office by extending its hours and moving it to a larger location until Sept. 25. Ribeau also said a recycling program would be instituted on campus by the end of the month. But he said that some of the requests, such as 24-hour library access and widespread wireless high-speed Internet service, were not affordable at the moment.'
WaPo's Jane Black and Ashley Halsey III manage to cover the possible White House farmers' market without resorting to hysteria over traffic impacts or the First Lady's rumored involvement. DDOT, they report, is awaiting support letters from the GSA (who would lose parking at its headquarters) and the local ANC before proceeding with a permit.
'THE GHOST BIKE IS BACK. THIS TIME IT STAYS.'—From LL's inbox this morning: 'Early this morning, 22 white bicycles (ghost bikes) were placed around the intersection of Connecticut Avenue, R Street, and 20th Street NW, at the location where cyclist Alice Swanson was killed. The bikes are replacing the original ghost bike which was removed by the city under the direction of the Mayor's office. The city has also removed the secondary memorial placed by Ms. Swanson's aunt. The original ghost bike was placed in front of La Tomate restaurant by the Washington Area Bicycle Association as a memorial to Ms. Swanson and a warning of the dangers that confront cyclists....The bikes will be decorated with flowers throughout the day. A blog with a statement about the revenge of the ghost bikes can be found at: aliceswansonridesagain.wordpress.com.'
Metrobus driver who hit jogger Amanda Mahnke tested negative for drugs or alcohol, WTOP reports. 'At last check, Mahnke was listed in stable condition. She suffered a skull fracture and several other fractures.'
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund will take over care of 13.5 acres of grounds from the National Park Service, AP reports, saying they are '[f]rustrated with poor maintenance' by NPS. 'The private Vietnam veterans group plans to spend $96,000 in the coming months to repair a broken irrigation system and provide weed treatment, fertilization, aeration and other work. The group, which is working with the National Park Service to make sure the improvements adhere to the agency's specifications, intends to continue maintaining the grass in the long term.'
The Wall Street Journal editorial page whines about how the media ignored Tuesday's voucher protest. And they make this point: 'Democrats had pledged that if the D.C. Council supported the voucher program, they'd revisit it....Well, a majority of the D.C. Council has since sent lawmakers a letter expressing support. Yet Democrats are still preventing Congress from living up to its end of the deal and voting to restore funding.'
Cigar Aficionado and WUSA-TV cover Yvette Alexander's proposed 'blunt ban': 'According to people who know, pot smokers buy the cheaper stogies, then replace the tobacco on the inside with marijuana, keeping the outer layer tobacco skin which allows the "blunt" too burn slower and longer. Operators of tobacco stores are worried about the language in the bill. They say their customers also purchase "premium" cigars, one or two at a time.' Seriously—'according to people who know'?
Wheelchair-using GU student sues Mr. Smith's for discrimination! NC8 reports: '"I was told by the manager that the bar was too crowded and that I was a fire hazard and I was not allowed to go to the back of the bar," [Taylor Price] said....And according to Price, that's not all the manager said. "He pointed to the corner and told me that if I wished to remain at the bar that I would have to sit in the corner," he said. And when Price says he and his friends told the manager he could be sued, they said he fired back saying, "So sue me."'
The Georgetown Voice's Will Sommer does a little profile of Gary Imhoff and themail. As for today's edition of themail, Imhoff writes that on gay marriage, 'The cards have been dealt and the game is fixed.'
More than 35 GWU students have reported 'flu-like symptoms' in a 36-hour stretch, Hatchet reports. Yes, it's probably H1N1.
Two arrested in Cleveland Park CVS robbery.
Superior Court judge refuses to halt National Baptist Convention election.
Hogate's is back—Hogate's Cafe, in any case. Tommy Wells and Harry Thomas Jr. cut the ribbon yesterday.
Yesterday was Ward 7 Night at the Shakespeare Theatre.
Fenty in New York today for kickoff of 'Cities of Service' volunteerism initiative, hosted by, who else, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—No events scheduled.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—No public events scheduled.