Cheap Seats Daily: WUSA’s Bruce Johnson Plays Softball With Art Monk and Charles Mann About Anacostia Debacle
WUSA-9 reporter Bruce Johnson brought Charles Mann and Art Monk into the studio to let the ex-Redskins complain about City Paper's reporting on the non-profit group they ran called the Good Samaritan Foundation.
I've been writing for years about Monk and Mann's handling of the old Carver Theatre building in Anacostia. Monk and Mann's group bought the site from the D.C. Government for $255,235 in 2004 and sold it this summer to a charter school for about $3 million. The sale means Monk and Mann reneged on a decade-old pledge to Anacostia community leaders and residents to build a job training center for high school kids in the neighborhood.
Monk and Mann used that pledge to raise millions of dollars in government grants and charitable donations, but they never opened the center before selling the former city-owned property for more than 10 times what they paid.
Johnson's WUSA report included a shot of him standing outside the former Carver Theatre site in Anacostia and saying, "At one time it was home to the Good Samaritan Foundation."
No, Bruce, it wasn't ever home to the Good Samaritan Foundation. That's the main issue.
But, if Monk and Mann wanna go there again, by golly, let's go there again:
(AFTER THE JUMP: You're going to go there again? Bruce Johnson ignores the pledges that Monk and Mann ignored? Bruce Johnson ignores the millions of donated dollars Monk and Mann raised for a building that never opened? Bruce Johnson ignores the $775,000 in tax dollars given Monk and Mann for a center that never opened? Bruce Johnson forgets to tell viewers he worked with Mann? Dan Steinberg's an artist? George Michael analyzes Dan Snyder? It's all about the tailgate for Skins fans?)
In 1999 Monk told a crowd of hundreds at Birney Elementary in Anacostia they would build the training center. “[Monk and Mann] came from a strong religious grounding,” recalls former D.C. Councilmember Arrington Dixon, one of the organizers of the Birney Elementary gathering and among the community leaders dismayed, to put it mildly, by Monk and Mann's failure to follow through. “They told us that, and we were moved by that...We got behind [Monk and Mann's training center project], rallied people in the community to get behind it, made calls and did what we could to make what we were told was a community center happen.”
In November 2000, Monk and Mann announced that a host of local companies, including Andersen Consulting and Clark Construction, had “committed $1 million” toward the creation of the center. Also in the fall of 2000, Mann wrote a piece in the Good Samaritan Foundation newsletter that quoted a proverb (“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”) and asserted the center would open in 2001. Also in 2000, Monk and Mann said the Accenture Celebrity Golf Tournament had donated $120,000 to the cause, and in 2001, they put out a press release boasting that another $100,000 from that year’s Accenture event could be “used for a new training and outreach center for the group.”
In a press release disclosing the latter golf gift, Mann said the new money “puts us closer to realizing our dream of opening the training center in early 2002.”
Monk and Mann got tax dollars by promising to build the center, also. The federal budget for fiscal 2003 contained a $500,000 payment to the Good Samaritan Foundation “to acquire and renovate a building to expand outreach and mentoring services to at-risk District of Columbia youths.” In the 2004 federal budget, they were given another $275,000 earmark for the same purpose.
In June 2001, because of Monk and Mann's purported plan, the D.C. government had leased the Carver Theatre property to the Good Samaritan Foundation, and Monk and Mann immediately announced construction on the center would begin that August. That didn't happen. In fact, Monk and Mann had done nothing at the site other than hold groundbreaking ceremonies by 2004, when the city sold the property outright to the group.
In April 2006, with construction yet to start and the Carver Theatre site having deteriorated into a big trash dump and local eyesore, Mann told me the project was going to cost $2.3 million. Given all the fundraising the group had done using the promise of a training center, that much money should have been in the Good Samaritan Foundation's piggy bank at that time.
Johnson's WUSA report, which aired earlier this week, totally ignored Monk and Mann's fundraising for the training center that never was. Johnson did say, however, that despite the ten-fold sale price the Good Samaritan Foundation is in debt over the Carver Theatre property.
Also, Johnson's piece asserts that that City Paper's most recent story on the decade-long debacle in Anacostia cost Monk and Mann "a $450,000 Congressional earmark" for the Good Samaritan Foundation. Johnson, however, does not mention that Monk and Mann got $775,000 in Congressional earmarks in the 2003 and 2004 federal budgets for a center that, we now know, they never opened.
Johnson (who used to work with Mann at WUSA) also fails to mention that the Good Samaritan Foundation doesn't really exist any more. Monk and Mann quietly changed the name of their group to Youth Power Center while unloading the Carver Theatre site for, again, more than 10 times what they paid for it. Neither the Good Samaritan Foundation website nor the website of the Youth Power Center references that Monk and Mann sold the site that was to serve as the epicenter of the charity's efforts.
Johnson's report says, "Monk and Mann say they were never given ample chance to respond to the articles." Monk and Mann never responded to several interview requests from City Paper for the stories they went on WUSA to complain about.
The Great Dan Steinberg has elevated stenography to an art form. Steinberg's latest Rembrandt is a transcription of the George Michael/Mike Wise interview that aired yesterday on WJFK.
It's all good, but reading George Michael, who was on the Redskins' owner's payroll for years and years, say Snyder "wants to win" reminds me of all those times Lisa Marie Presley would be asked about ex-hubby Michael Jackson, and she'd always say some version of: "He's just a normal guy."
Not much hope among Redskins fans heading into the Tampa Bay game at FedExField.
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