D.C.’s Taxicab Confessions: Loose Lips Daily
Morning all. More details trickled out this weekend on the investigation that led to the Ted Loza arrest. On Saturday, WaPo reported that the Loza collar 'has roots in a corruption investigation of the District's taxi industry that began more than a year ago' that includes 'court-authorized wiretaps and the use of informants wearing recording devices. It is widespread and continuing and involves bribes in excess of $100,000,' according to law enforcement sources. WUSA-TV has even more explosive charges: 'Sources close to the FBI probe tell 9NEWS NOW that [Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham] is also a target of the probe....Our sources say both Graham and Loza are on tape talking with who they thought was a cab company representative when in fact they were communicating with an undercover FBI agent.' The mystery man remains Ethiopian community activist Abdulaziz Kamus, who, reports indicate, tried to bribe a taxi commission member before cooperating with authorities to snare Loza—and who else? Also Blade, WRC-TV, WTTG-TV, WUSA-TV.
AFTER THE JUMP—What the taxi investigation all means; WJLA-TV's new Fenty poll numbers; Mendo wonders why it has taken two years for fire officials to study water maps; behind the scenes of the ghost bike removal; Metrobus driver ran red light before hitting jogger; and lamenting the death of the earmark.
LOZA REACTION—WaPo's Ruben Castaneda and Nikita Stewart head to Fiesta DC to gauge support for Graham and Loza. 'On a warm, bright day, a dozen people who attended Fiesta DC said in interviews that they were surprised and disappointed by the arrest of Loza....Graham attended Sunday's festival and marched at the head of its parade. He said it was important for him to attend and talk to constituents in light of the allegations against Loza...."I've never been charged with anything. I've done nothing wrong," Graham said as Guapo, his West Highland terrier, sat nearby in the shade of Graham's festival booth....In interviews with festival-goers, it was clear that Graham has built a reservoir of goodwill and trust among residents of his ward.'
Jonetta Rose Barras with some tidbits in her Web column: 'For years, however, elected officials in both the executive and legislative branches have complained about Graham's modus operandi, which they said often involve heavy quid pro quo trading. Further, even after so-called deals were struck, they said they were frustrated by the councilman's willingness to renege, especially if a more "attractive" offer was made....That, said Wilson Building sources, may have created an environment in Graham's office where his staff believed it acceptable and maybe even expected that they negotiate favorable deals that could enhance the councilman's political standing.'
Some good points in themail from Gary Imhoff: 'Cab medallions serve no purpose except to limit competition, and they don't benefit anyone except the owners of large fleets and those who barter medallions, who profit hugely....So why should government officials want to impose a cab medallion system on Washington, if it doesn't benefit either drivers or riders? We're coming closer to finding out why, but we're only at the beginning stages of the prosecution, and only a small part of the investigation's findings have been revealed. In the coming weeks and months, we'll find out more. In the meantime, don't assume anyone's innocence.' And Dorothy Brizill makes this point: 'Under District law, the Office of Campaign Finance, a subordinate unit of the BOEE, "administers and enforces District laws pertaining to campaign finance, lobbying activities, conflict of interest, and the ethical conduct of public officials." In recent years, however, neither the BOEE nor the OCF has been effective, aggressive, or thorough in investigating or rooting out corruption in the District government.'
ALSO—Bill Myers notes in Examiner that Devin Black, the 19-year-old former Graham intern accused of shooting at another teen outside the Columbia Heights Metro. 'Last-minute motions are scheduled to be argued Monday morning and jury selection could begin that afternoon.'
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty couldn't have picked a better week for this news to come out: A automated telephone poll of 500 households commissioned by WJLA-TV and conducted by SurveyUSA determines that 51 percent of District residents disapprove of Fenty's job performance. And, as LL wrote in reaction to the poll Friday, '"even more believe he cares more about advancing his career than about the city's needs." The poll, echoing another poll done earlier this summer, shows an emerging racial split on Hizzoner. Where 23 percent of blacks approved of Fenty, 66 percent of whites approved. And members of his own party like him less than others: "Among Democrats, Fenty had a 54-percent disapproval rating. Throughout the survey, Democrats judged Fenty more harshly than Republicans or independents, who make up a very small percentage of District voters."'
D.C. fire officials will be getting a 'refresher course' in the city's water system, FEMS announces at Friday council hearing. The sessions, according to WaPo's Theola Labbe-DeBose, 'will give an overview of the water system and how to read WASA's water maps, as well as specific information about locations, such as Chain Bridge Road, where special factors such as narrow streets and hilly terrain could affect firefighting.' Phil Mendelson is wondering what took so long, saying 'the department has disregarded water maps for years and did not have a coordinated plan for attacking the fire—an echo of problems it had fighting a blaze at an Adams Morgan condominium in 2007.' Meanwhile, Mary Cheh calls on Fenty to appoint a 'hydrant czar' to 'take control and make sure we have a comprehensive plan' on water issues. Also NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, and Dave Statter, who does his usual thorough job detailing the hearing.
Dave Stroup of why.i.hate.dc gets to the bottom of the Alice Swanson ghost bike removal via a bunch of FOIA requests. What the documents show is high-level decisionmaking in the mayor's office. The initial request to remove the bike came from the Dupont Circle Merchants and Professionals Association, then, 'when the media began asking questions about the ghost bike's removal, there was much discussion within DPW, the Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM), and DDOT on how to respond....The public affairs campaign regarding the incident began to get muddled, as it was unclear whether the Mayor's Office or DPW would take the lead in responding....[Mafara Hobson], Fenty's Director of Communications was unwilling to take the lead wanting "to leave the Mayor's name out of the matter."' There was some discussion of a permanent memorial to Swanson, but that was shot down. 'If anything, this whole incident has revealed some tension and blame-passing between DPW and Fenty's office. Fenty's office demanded the prompt removal of the bike, and then essentially hung DPW out to dry.'
WaPo treats this news like its some big surprise: Metro moved the questionably crashworthy 1000-series cars to the middle of trains after the Red Line crash primarily as a PR move, the paper reports on Sunday A1: 'While repeatedly portraying the move as one that might improve safety, interviews and newly obtained documents show Metro conducted no engineering analysis before launching the initiative. Metro took the action "as a means to address public perception," Metro safety chief Alexa Dupigny-Samuels told a safety panel in July in a previously undisclosed letter.' LL does recall the NTSB essentially calling the cars unsafe in collisions; this is exactly the kind of PR stunt he can get behind.
Barras, in Examiner column, stands up to defend the Fenty vote against renewing John Catoe's contract as Metro GM: 'Catoe isn't suffering the consequences of his mismanagement....Since the tragic collision on June 22 that killed nine individuals and injured scores of others, there has been ample evidence he may have been sleeping on the job. Catoe and his team have made flawed or downright foolish decisions. They have ignored the advice of industry experts, the transit union and federal safety officials.' Barras cites the decision not to replace the 1000-series cars, writing, 'Metro may claim to not have the money for new cars, no one should believe that.' So what are we supposed to believe?
GOOD POINT—'Reportedly, [Catoe] will receive a salary of $315,000 a year; $6,000 to augment his health insurance; and an annual housing allowance of $60,000. (Wait, wait: Where is the man living? Why can't he pay for his housing out of that very generous salary?)'
Robert McCartney to John Catoe: Embrace the bloggers! The WaPo columnist takes the unidentified gentleman behind Unsuck DC Metro to lunch and comes to this conclusion: 'I think Mr. Unsuck is right that Metro is too complacent about deteriorating standards. The shortcomings described on his blog and others that follow Metro, although anecdotal, offer a damning portrait of flawed habits. [Catoe], whose contract was just extended for three years, should pay attention. The bloggers have come to speak for Metro's core customers and serve as a kind of collective conscience for the system.'
WTTG-TV with some blockbuster new details on the Metrobus accident earlier this month that severely injured jogger Amanda Mahnke: 'FOX 5 has learned that police concluded the light was already yellow when the bus driver entered the intersection, and that light turned red when she was midway through the intersection. At the same time, the jogger got a walk sign, and that's when she was struck. Investigators did not find an iPod or headphones at the scene.' And look who was on the scene: 'Clark Ray heard the crash, and ran to the jogger's aid. "The Metro driver slowly began getting off the bus, seemed to be in shock a little bit, saying, 'I had a yellow light, I had a yellow light,'" said Ray. "Another lady on the side was saying, 'No you didn't, no you didn't.'"'
Jay Mathews looks at how Michelle Rhee's golden boy—Brian Betts, principal of Shaw MS at Garnet-Patterson—isn't getting it done where it matters most: on the test scores. Shaw's DC-CAS scores, for the most part, have declined. 'Is this the beginning of the decline and fall of Michelle Rhee and her pack of intense, data-spouting principals, such as Brian Betts? Some experts and online commenters, smart people concerned about public education, think it is. They will not mourn the passing of this latest and most self-confident cast in the endless melodrama of the D.C. schools....I remain on the other side of the argument. Despite the sniping at Rhee, the best teachers I know think that what happened at Shaw is a standard part of the upgrading process.' ALSO—Mathews reacts to WaPo mag story on Rhee.
Time mag 'broom' photog: 'I'm still in awe at how much impact this singular image had on her reputation. The American Federation of Teachers also called me this week, asking if they could use the broom image for a flyer for their rally. I had to say no. I'm not about vilifying an advocate who puts no one but children first. The teachers are desperate to use my image for their cause, and I'm on the other end of the rope tugging to not let go of the integrity and original intentions behind the image making.'
WaPo editorial board indulges in a bit of gloating over new study on NYC charter schools. The study, they write, 'demolishes the argument that charter schools outperform traditional public schools only because they get the "best students."....[It] should cause traditional schools to emulate practices that produce these remarkable results....The desperation of poor parents whose children are stuck on waiting lists for charter schools is well-founded. And every time the union scores another lobbying success...to hold charters back, more poor children will pay a price.'
Another council session, another piece of Mendo nanny legislating, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. Legislation Mendelson plans to introduce would allow property owners to ban smoking up to 25 feet from their buildings—including in public space. That provision is part of a 'major expansion of the District's smoke-free law' which also 'sets 18 as the legal age to purchase or possess tobacco products, requires retailers to post signs warning of the dangers of smoking, [and] ramps up enforcement of sales to minors.' Says AOBA's Shaun Pharr: 'We have nothing but good feelings for the intent here, but it's public space....We don't really have the right or the authority or control over that public space between the wall of the building and the sidewalk. I just think there's some legal ambiguity we'll still need to clear to up.'
In WaPo Metro op-ed, Marianne Scott of the Humanities Council of Washington decries the death of the earmark in the 2010 city budget: 'This decision to eliminate earmarks for social services, arts and humanities groups to help close the budget gap snuffed out what advocates of government transparency view dubiously as disbursement by fairy godmother's wand. In Cinderella's world, once the power of the wand dissipated, the glass slipper still promised a way to a happy ending. But in the District, nothing will be left behind after midnight. The earmark money was not redirected toward transparent, open-grant cycles by which nonprofits could compete to deliver their services and programs, which, after all, are still needed....Let's take time now, before the next cycle starts, to consider fiscally responsible ways for government to invest in a range of nonprofits that have specialized abilities and that work to provide programs and services that make our city a better place to live.'
Valerie Santos was not too forthcoming Thursday when pressed by councilmembers at her confirmation hearing to detail her development priorities, Jonathan O'Connell reports at WBJ. 'There is reason for members of the council to be anxious; every single one has development priorities, most every project is in need of public investment, and there is less public investment to go around in these lean budget years....She declined to offer specifics to Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6, when he asked how a streetcar system could be funded, or to Muriel Bowser, D-Ward 4, when she asked how the debt cap was being managed. Marion Barry, D-Ward 8, got fed up with Santos for not picking a smaller number of projects and getting them done. With dozens of real estate projects being considered, "every major project you have is off schedule, behind schedule," Barry said.'
ALSO—Ruth Samuelson notes at Housing Complex that DMPED has issued an RFP for the Franklin School—no, none of the charter school proposals were 'viable.' Says Sammy, 'The Franklin School seems destined to become a boutique hotel. It's gorgeous. It's right downtown, almost equi-distance from the convention center and the White House. It looks out across a leafy park. You can already envision the lobbyists strolling out the front door after dining at whatever celebrity chef-driven bistro ends up there.'
Police make more arrests in the 'Pizza Mart slaying' of Shahabuddin Rana last month, WTOP's Mark Segraves reports. Arrested are Leon Robinson, 25, brother of Shanika Robinson (already charged in the case), and Isaiah Genus, 26, of Southeast.
ALSO—Shelton B. Robinson, 21, of Northeast is arrested for March slaying on Anacostia Road SE.
It's not just teachers who are upset at the upcoming round of DCPS layoffs—principals, too. The Council of School Officers local sends letter to Michelle Rhee, Bill Turque reports at D.C. Wire, taking exception with remarks that firings are in principals' hands: 'The principals do not set their budgets, nor do they have any authority to do this. DCPS controls every aspect of the budgetary process, including final determinations that must be made with respect to job cuts for financial reasons....If you are going to claim that there is a budgetary shortfall and cuts are necessary, we do not want our principals to be scapegoats. The ultimate responsibility for these cuts is yours and not that of our hard-working principals.'
Parents are upset over DCPS decision to pull kids out of the Accotink Academy, WUSA-TV reports. 'Parents and concerned volunteers questioned the wisdom of moving special needs students after they've already started school....Parents say they'll protest and owner Elaine McConnell says she'll fight the decision and may even sue the city for slander.' And DC Teacher Chic says: 'Dr. Nyankori, you've got some 'splaining to do, and not just to me. One-hundred seventy students need your answer.'
Police union files retort to city's reply to arbitration ruling striking down All Hands on Deck, D.C. Wire reports. Not only does the FOP call the city's position 'unfounded,' but the 'union also asked for legal fees, "as an appropriate sanction to the FOP for having to respond to a motion that ignored the prior opinion of the arbitrator, was filed outside of the proper procedure for appealing arbitration opinions, and that is frivolous and obviously designed to attract media attention rather than to raise legitimate arguments."' Oof.
D.C. Repubs quick on the draw with anti-Graham robocall to Ward 1 voters: '[A] woman says she is "disappointed" that Graham's office "was raided by authorities and his chief of staff was arrested for bribery." The caller also referred to a summer intern in Graham's office who was arrested this summer, accused of shooting two people at the Columbia Heights Metro. "Under Graham's failed leadership, the DC Council is getting worse not better," the caller stated. "We need anyone but Graham in 2010."'
Metro Weekly covers rowdy AIDS meeting: '"Go ahead Mayor Fenty," Matthew Kavanagh, an audience participant representing DC Fights Back, said loudly into a microphone. But Fenty was not at the Sept. 21 HIV/AIDS community discussion called by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and Kavanagh asked for 30 seconds of silence to emphasize his absence...."I am tired of the fact that the mayor isn't here," he said, receiving the night's loudest cheers from the audience. "I'm tired of the fact that the mayor, if this room were full of developers, would be sitting in the front row … and there would be an emergency plan."' HAA chief Shannon Hader had attended in his stead.
WaTimes 'citizen journalist' covers the River East Emerging Leaders, the group founded by ex-Ward 8 council candidate Charles Wilson. '"REEL started out of a need to get the progressively focused and young-at-heart residents actively involved in the community-building process," says Mr. Wilson, who works for the accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP. "There was a need, and it wasn't happening."'
Examiner says there's too many speed bumps—or 'raised potholes,' according to AAA—in D.C. and MoCo. DDOT 'is facing a revolt from residents in the upscale Chevy Chase-D.C. neighborhood. The agency recently plopped down a speed bump in the 3700 block of Morrison Street, NW—and have been besieged by angry residents ever since. "It kind of shocked everybody," Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Gary Thompson said. "The neighboring blocks are in an uproar."'
Mendelson still thinks there should have been a trial for Robert Hannah.
WTTG-TV interviews mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown. His talking points: jobs, HIV/AIDS, his financial expertise. 'We intend to win this race with "Love for D.C.,"' he says.
John Kelly: 'There's No 'Washington, D.C.'' And, in today's column, he investigates a art project scheduled to be installed on the 14th Street Bridge: Mikyoung Kim's design 'calls for the installation of what's called dichroic acrylic in the tower's six windows. When hit from inside with the beam of a rotating lighthouse bulb, this translucent material will glitter with a rainbow of colors. So what does it mean? I asked. "The kaleidoscope takes a spectrum of colors of light and all that spectrum works together to create a kind of unified color-cone vision," she said. "I think that was an appropriate image for a gateway to the District of Columbia."...There could be something slightly LSD-ish to Washington's newest landmark.'
D.C. sniper's wife tells all: 'Mildred Muhammad wrote about [her] isolation and torment for years in her journals. She began when her ex-husband, John Allen Muhammad, took their three young children from her nearly a decade ago. She continued when he was convicted of the 2002 sniper attacks in the Washington area and still jots down her emotions as her ex-husband awaits his scheduled Nov. 10 execution....Those journals became the genesis for her new memoir, "Scared Silent: When the One You Love...Becomes the One You Fear," due out Oct. 13.'
COLD CASE—Examiner looks at the now-five-year-old murder of locksmith Ehud Raich in Marshall Heights.
Weekend drills tested city readiness to respond to a terror attack, WAMU-FM reports. 'Saturday's exercises tested the city's response to an actual terror attack. But Sunday's drills will test District agencies' performance on 'sheltering operations' – which assist people in the aftermath of a wide-scale emergency.' Also WUSA-TV.
DOH expects swine flu vaccine to arrive next week.
Atlantic blog covers conflicts between National Equality March, scheduled for next month, and local gay-marriage efforts.
GW Hatchet covers Stevens ES development.
3,000 gather for Muslim prayer service at Capitol; meanwhile, 'Christian protesters gathered with banners, crosses and anti-Islamic messages. One group, which stood next to a 10-foot-tall wooden cross and two giant wooden tablets depicting the Ten Commandments, was led by the Rev. Flip Benham of Concord, N.C. "I would suggest you convert to Christ!" Benham shouted over a megaphone. Islam "forces its dogma down your throat."'
UDC unveils mural.
Magic Johnson visits Bell Multicultural HS.
President Obama watches daughter Malia play soccer in Northwest on Saturday morning.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—11 a.m.: Committee on Aging and Community Affairs roundtable on PR18-356 ('District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights Michael Ward Confirmation Resolution of 2009') and PR18-357 ('District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights NKechi Taifa Confirmation Resolution of 2009'), JAWB 123.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, unveiling of Columbia Heights plaza and fountain, 14th Street and Park Road NW; 2 p.m.: remarks, 7th and N Street park groundbreaking, 7th and N Streets NW.