City Ready to Settle Pershing Park: Loose Lips Daily
Morning all. Yesterday, the Pershing Park police misconduct case went back in front of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who chewed out the District in August for failing to produce key documents. According to Mike Scarcella at Legal Times, he's calmed down over the city's discovery failings, but not much. Sullivan 'said he will not "forego and forget" penalties against the District that could include contempt proceedings and monetary sanctions....[H]is primary concern is fixing the city's document retention and production system.' AG Peter Nickles told Sullivan that the city cases before him 'are a "disaster" and reflect poorly on "all of us."' Replied Sullivan: 'Not on the court.' As for the case itself, Nickles, citing 'two important breakthroughs,' expects a settlement by Thanksgiving.
AFTER THE JUMP—Graham staffers get grand jury subpoenas; tobacco giant Altria wrote much of Mendo smoking legislation; no Gay Games for D.C.; vouchers might have a future after all; the mayor-for-life loves Wal-Mart; and lawsuit threatens to delay convention center hotel even longer.
Good news and bad news for Jim Graham in today's WaPo. First, the bad news: Two of his staffers have been sent grand jury subpoenas. Steve Hernandez, clerk of the public works and transportation committee, and David Vacca, the legislative analyst who is Graham's point man on taxi issues, have both been summoned for Oct. 8 testimony. The very good news: 'Several law enforcement sources said that Graham is not a target or even a "person of interest" in the investigation'—contradicting WUSA-TV and WTTG-TV's reporting in past days. 'However, a law enforcement source said, authorities are scrutinizing Graham's and Ted Loza's dealings with the taxi industry.' Also WaTimes, DCist.
Harry Jaffe looks at WJLA-TV's Fenty poll and rambles about what it all means: 'We can quibble with the methods and the timing of the poll; bottom line, it ain't good news for Team Fenty....Will it affect Fenty's chances for a second four-year term? No. Anything can happen in life and politics, but if Fenty can avoid revelations about a major corruption rap or personal indiscretion, he's a sure bet for a repeat term. He has no serious challengers....Does this poll matter? Yes. It shows Fenty has higher approval ratings among whites than blacks. There's some comfort for Fenty in that fact: Historically, whites vote in D.C. at higher rates than blacks....The best news for all of us—rich or poor, white or black or brown—is the poll says Fenty can no longer take vast parts of the city for granted.'
WaPo's Tim Craig pens a twofer covering Yvette Alexander's blunt bill and Phil Mendelson's newly introduced bill to authorize public space smoking restrictions. 'At a hearing Tuesday before the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, supporters and opponents of both measures faced off over how far the District should go in controlling tobacco and drug use....Several advocates for health organizations, including the American Lung Association, testified in support of Mendelson's bill. Altria, the parent company of Richmond-based Philip Morris, also announced its support for the legislation, even though it would be the city's first effort to allow restrictions on smoking in outdoor public spaces...."It doesn't go far enough," said Bob Summersgill of Smokefree DC. "In California, they don't allow smoking on beaches and [in] public parks, and I would love to see that here, even though we don't have that as a goal."' Also WAMU-FM.
In Examiner story, Violeta Ikonomova notes that not only did Altria testify in support of Mendelson's bill, but 'Altria lobbyist Mary Eva Canton drafted the majority of the legislation, [Mendelson] told The Examiner. And the day he introduced the bill, Mendelson received a $500 campaign contribution from Canton. "That's the problem when you work with friends and they have suggestions," Mendelson said. "It all gets into the mix."' Issue is, some of the bill's restrictions may give Altria brands a competitive advantage. 'After hearing how the bill could benefit Altria, Mendelson said he was "not happy." Altria's Canton, meanwhile, maintained that bill's sole purpose was to keep underage users from getting tobacco products....Mendelson said there would be changes to the bill, and that he didn't approve of the weight-based packaging requirements.'
BUMMER—District loses its Gay Games 2014 bid to...Cleveland? Lou Chibbaro Jr. notes in Blade: 'Its organizers pointed to commitments of funding from Cleveland and nearby Akron, which pledged $100,000 to the Gay Games organizing effort if Cleveland was awarded the host city designation. During the Gay Games site selection committee's visit to Cleveland in August, the city's bid committee organized a rally at the Rock and Roll Museum's grounds that drew about 7,000 people. The turnout was far larger than rallies that D.C. and Boston's bid committees organized for the site selection members.' Also on selection committee's minds: This would mean more to Cleveland. Among the officials in Köln for the big disappointment: David Catania, Valerie Santos, Chris Dyer. Was it the video?
JBG sues District over hotel deal! The litigation means 'the long-awaited convention center hotel may again be in jeopardy,' Melissa Castro reports in WBJ. The developer is 'asking a D.C. judge to delay construction of the hotel while JBG disputes the contracting process, which it calls an "invalid sole source procurement."...Greg O'Dell, CEO of the Washington Convention Center Authority, said the agency's bond counsel is "seriously concerned" about the lawsuit and that the suit will likely have to be addressed before bonds could be issued....JBG argues that the council's legislative acts changed the terms of the offer so substantially that the city had an obligation under D.C. procurement law to put the new offer out for rebidding.' The Contract Appeals Board recently found that JBG lacked standing to make that argument.
Metro sues Doug Jemal! Federal lawsuit filed in Maryland, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner, 'says that Jemal's Fairfield Farms LLC...piled soil on a corner of its property off Addison Road in Prince George's County near the transit system's Orange Line tracks. The weight caused the hillside to fail, the lawsuit says, shifting the ground under the bridge and the track supports between the Cheverly and Deanwood stations. It has caused "significant damage," the suit says, forcing trains to run at slower speeds through the area.' Metro is seeking $11M in damages. And did you know: 'The case is the only one of more than 50 suits involving the transit agency filed in federal courts in the past year to have Metro listed as the lead plaintiff, court records show.'
Sen. Dick Durbin wants more oversight of private schools accepting voucher students, he announced at a hearing yesterday, according to WaPo's Michael Birnbaum. '"We've got to demand the same standards" for voucher schools, he said, "as we do [for] our public and our charter schools." Durbin said that if stricter oversight is instituted, he would support continuing the program, which handed out $12 million in scholarships last year, for students now enrolled.' Oh, and those 300 kids that the WSH couldn;t account for at the last hearing? They've been accounted for. Also WAMU-FM and the WSJ ed board.
ALSO—Another Hill rally today to 'Save School Choice.' Press release: 'Invited and/or confirmed speakers include U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader John Boehner, former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, D.C. Councilman Marion Barry, Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams, former D.C. Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) Founder and Chair Howard Fuller, and Bruce Stewart, former head of school at Sidwell Friends School.
More details emerge in letter on why the city decided to sack student database contractor, Bill Turque reports at D.C. Wire: 'The Sept. 9 letter, hand delivered to Williams, Adley managing partner Kola Isiaq, said in essence that the firm made a hash of just about every critical element of the project, formally known as the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data Warehouse System (SLED). One section refers parenthetically to a "Defect # 616," never a good sign.'
Let's see which D.C. councilmember races to ban it first: J. Freedom du Lac reports that salvia, the short-lived, smokable, increasingly popular hallucinogenic herb, is legal in fewer and fewer places, and the District is one of them. His lede: 'On 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan, just past the yellow "Drug Free Zone" sign, the B&K News Stand sells hookahs, rolling papers and "Purple Sticky Salvia."....It's perfectly legal to sell, possess and ingest salvia in the District. But the same stuff, long used for medicinal and mystical purposes by Mazatec Indians in Mexico, will get you arrested in Virginia, where a ban on salvia passed unanimously in both the House and Senate last year.' But why ban it? A psychopharmacologist tells du Lac: '[E]mergency rooms aren't reporting an increase in salvia overdoses or other issues related to the drug' and '[s]alvia doesn't appear to be addictive, nor is it particularly toxic....But, he warned, "this is a powerful drug. If someone were to drive on it, that would be a very bad thing."' You know, kinda like alcohol.
DCist notes: So much for that fewer-than-100-murders thing.
Marion Barry comes out strong for Wal-Mart to WBJ's Jonathan O'Connell: 'Barring another major store stepping up, Barry says he will do everything he can to get D.C. to provide whatever Wal-Mart needs to build there, whether land or subsidy. "We need as much consumer goods as we can get," he said. "Here is a community in Ward 8 where there is one grocery store and one pharmacy for 70,000 people."...Barry said he had met with union representatives for retail workers and assured them that he is "union to the bone," but he wouldn't let that stand in the way..."If he can make a deal for Wal-Mart, I will do whatever I can for that. I will cash in whatever political chips I got."'
Hawk One Security in its death throes? The long-criticized DCPS security contractor 'appeared to be in financial trouble,' forcing the school system to develop contingency plans if the company folds, WaPo reports. 'The company released a statement saying that it "has had some financial challenges over the last several months due to the lack of timely payments by the D.C. government. As a result, paychecks to a small percentage of employees could not be deposited." The statement said all employees would be paid by Wednesday.' NC8's Sam Ford finds guards whose paychecks have bounced.
The WaPo editorial board isn't as dismayed by the supposed PR-driven decision to 'belly' 1000-series Metro cars as the paper's news editors are. But that doesn't mean everything's A-OK. 'If the move served both to reassure passengers that Metrorail is safe and conceivably provide an extra measure of safety, then perhaps it was worth the money—Metro hasn't said how much—that was spent to rearrange the trains. No harm, no foul, right? Possibly. But there are a couple of aspects to this episode that leave us discomfited.' For one, when will funding come through to replace the old cars. Two, where's the oversight? 'The agency needs more oversight—not only to reassure the commuting public but also as a second set of institutional eyes on what has become a worryingly accident-prone system. That's just common sense.'
Former AG Linda Singer leaves Zuckerman Spaeder for Cohen Milstein, where she plans to 'launch a new public client practice,' Jeff Jeffrey reports at Legal Times. 'The new practice will focus on aiding state attorneys general in litigation involving fraudulent mortgage lending, unsafe and deceptive practices in the sale of prescription drugs, and misclassification of independent contractors in violation of state tax and employment laws. The practice will work as outside counsel for state attorneys general's offices.' Coming with her: Her former chief of staff, Betsy Miller, who was at Crowell & Moring.
Michael Vincent Hodge, longtime chief of city revenue bonds and TIFs, is dead at 62. He had lung cancer, according to WaPo obit. 'From 1993 to early 2007, Mr. Hodge greatly expanded the city's program to issue bonds that help finance construction projects and other development efforts for nonprofit organizations and corporations....He issued billions of dollars in bonds that helped fund such projects as the Washington Nationals' stadium, the International Spy Museum, offices for the Smithsonian Institution, underground parking at the Kennedy Center, redevelopment at Gallery Place, museum expansions and other projects at universities, schools, hospitals, theaters, hotels and retail stores.'
It's official: The Circulator route along Wisconsin Avenue NW to upper Georgetown has been saved by city officials, 'although they don't know where they'll find the funds to operate the route,' Yamiche Alcindor writes in WaPo. 'A spokesman from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's office and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) both said the money to save the route will most likely come from the council's budget. But that budget has been approved and does not include funding. Evans said money will have to be transferred from other projects. It was unclear Tuesday afternoon which projects would lose funds to pay for the Circulator route.' Also DCist.
Happy the Hippo is gone, safe and sound in his new home in Milwaukee. National Zoo staff, Michael Ruane reports in WaPo, secreted the pachyderm out of town in a low-key, early morning maneuver. 'The zoo, which had been planning the operation for a while, said it smuggled Happy out of town for his own benefit. He's a sensitive guy and was leaving the only home he's ever known. Zoo officials feared a goodbye fuss might upset him, and who needs an emotional hippopotamus on an 18-hour drive?' Also WAMU-FM, WTOP.
Some jokester—or is it jerkster?—shoves petri dishes into the depository box of a Wachovia branch across Pennsylvania Avenue NW from the FBI building, 'causing a false alarm and three hours of street closures Tuesday on Pennsylvania Avenue in the District,' according to WaPo. The petri dishes were sealed and will be subject to further testing.
Two plead guilty in $1.6M check scam: 'Prosecutors said the men [ Naibeye Koumbairia, 35, of the District and William Glay Jr., 33, of Germantown] directed a team of scam artists who cashed high-quality counterfeit checks in the Washington area from 1999 through 2007,' Del Wilber reports in WaPo.
Korrin Annunciata Dunbar, 19, has been missing since Sept. 18 from the 4600 block of Burroughs Avenue NE. 'Dunbar is described as a black female with a dark complexion. She is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs approximately 130 pounds. She has black corn rows with black and burgundy curls. She was last seen wearing a brown shirt and blue pants.'
School bus catches fire near 20th and Evarts Streets NE, injuring driver and aide.
Michael Vick comes to Covenant Baptist Church in Southwest to talk to kids about dogfighting. 'He says he would fly home every week for the fights,' WAMU-FM reports. '"For what reason? I don't know, to this day," Vick says. "It was something so pointless."' Also WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV. AP reports a 'sparse crowd' at the Humane Society-sponsored event.
ALSO—WUSA-TV gives an update on Trooper, the pit bull found in a dumpster in August.
Michelle Rhee: Top chef master? Maybe not, but Turque notes at D.C. Wire that she'll be participating in charity celebrity cookoff, where she and teammates will have '35 minutes to make a specialty drink, appetizer, main course and dessert with ingredients they will learn about only moments before the contest.
Listen to Fenty's NPR appearance yesterday, with Cory Booker.
WUSA-TV covers green jobs training through Pathway DC, 'a partnership between Goodwill and the Green Builders Council of DC.'
Eugene Robinson expounds further on 'rogue cad' Barry: 'He was one of the most charismatic politicians I've ever met, at any level. I know that people stole from the public till under his watch, but whatever he did, it wasn't for personal gain. He is a deeply, deeply flawed man who has a big heart.'
Do meter maids hold off on the parking tickets near synagogues on Jewish holy days? Ruth Samuelson thinks they might.
Capitol Hill United Methodist's '30s-vintage organ is restored.
'One economist calls the D.C. region the new New York.'
The Black Rooster Pub is closing within weeks. Ruggers, and Chuck Thies, are not pleased.
Flight exercises scheduled for today.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee on Economic Development hearing on B18-304 ('Affordable Housing For-Sale and Rental Distribution Amendment Act of 2009'), JAWB 500; 12 p.m.: Committee on Finance and Revenue hearing on B18-463 ('First Congregational United Church of Christ Property Tax Abatement Act of 2009'), JAWB 123; 1 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs hearing on B18-53 ('Public Service Commission Timeliness Standards Act of 2009'), JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, Rosedale Community Center groundbreaking, 1701 Gales St. NE; 4 p.m.: remarks, Fort Reno ribbon-cutting, Fort Reno Park, 41st and Chesapeake Streets NW.