Omar Karim Speaks: Loose Lips Daily
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—'Jeff Smith Officially Exploring Ward 1 Bid'; 'Cathy Lanier: Hogtying Detainees Prevented Mass Fornication'; tweets galore!
Morning all. Omar Karim, principal of Banneker Ventures and the man at the center of the ongoing parks contracting controversy, appeared before councilmembers yesterday, flanked by attorney A. Scott Bolden. He was sometimes righteous, sometimes conciliatory, and mostly nervous. LL tweeted much of the proceedings; Nikita Stewart writes in WaPo that Karim 'denied pulling strings to win a multimillion-dollar construction contract this year, but...acknowledged ties to city employees involved in the procurement process.' Karim invariably described his relationships to city officials as purely 'professional'—including Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. Of course, he later said, 'I generally don't have business conversations with the mayor.' Some other key moments: CM Mary Cheh flustered Karim early on by asking about his law firm, Liberty Law Group; he later said had nothing at all to do with man of mystery Sinclair Skinner's Liberty Engineering, which has gotten a hefty chunk of the parks subcontracting. Then Cheh read a March e-mail when mayoral official David Jannarone wrote to Karim, saying, 'Come on, dude, we talked about this.' And Bolden told CMs that Skinner, his client, would not be available without a subpoena. So where is all this going? Today, AG Peter Nickles informed councilmembers this morning that the mayor will be submitting emergency legislation that would retroactively approve all the parks contracts and allow work to move forward. There are surely not nine votes to pass that measure on Tuesday.
AFTER THE JUMP—Graham says big management shakeup coming to WMATA; spending bill passes house without riders; Giro d'Italia plans coalesce; apparently private schoolkids have to carry a note when they have a day off and public schoolkids don't; Segraves show debuts tomorrow; Gregory McCarthy set to do Antarctic marathon
Before Senate panel, Jim Graham promises 'very substantial management changes' at Metro, and fast. 'We're going to change Metro, and it's going to happen very rapidly,' he said, Lena Sun and Joe Stephens report in WaPo. Those comments came after Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) 'testified that Metro has been paying "lip service" to lapses in safety oversight and accountability. She said she was "really hot about this" and called on the Metro board to take "appropriate and immediate action."..."They need a more vigorous and aggressive form of management at Metro," said Mikulski, stabbing a finger in the air during testimony before a Senate transportation subcommittee.' Changes could be announced as early as today, and Graham said 'that General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. was finalizing details, suggesting that the transit chief might survive the shake-up.' Also Examiner; Kytja Weir also covers Hill leaders' reaction to the White House transit oversight plan.
The D.C. spending bill has passed the House of Representatives sans controversial riders. Ian Urbina covers in NYT: 'Congress took an important step toward granting the nation's capital more control over its own affairs Thursday as the House voted to remove a measure that bars the city from using local tax money to help low-income women pay for abortions.' Senate approval is expected next week.
In Vincent Gray's threat to order payments stopped on option-year contracts lest they come to the council for review, Michael Neibauer in Examiner sees 'a game of political chicken, with services like traffic ticket processing, trash hauling and meals for low-income children at stake.' From Gray's letter to Nickles announcing the ultimatum: 'I think you know I am a person who prefers collaboration over conflict. But as you also know, as a former six-year member of the Council, we have an important oversight function to perform and the failure to be provided with contracts and other documents impairs our ability to discharge that role.' Says Nickles: 'In my view, the deals are valid....But keep in mind I don't want the District to come toppling down.'
NYT covers meeting yesterday between Fenty and Giro d'Italia officials. Says race director Angelo Zomegnan: 'We can't say it will 100 percent start here, but we think that it is very, very possible and we're moving forward to work togethe....There are a lot of things that must happen in the next few weeks before we can say it's 100 percent. But I think it looks good.' And lawyer/mayoral buddy Mark Sommers, who is leading the chase for the Giro, says 'the two parties came to a tentative agreement to start the Giro here. "The large conceptual ideas have been agreed upon," Sommers said, adding that both the prologue and the first stage would be held entirely inside the confines of the district.' Said Fenty, who worked in a lunchtime bike ride yesterday: 'I believe it would be one of the most fabulous events ever to happen in Washington, D.C., from an athletic discipline standpoint.' Also VeloNation.
Best LL wishes to Gregory McCarthy, the former top Williams administration official now a Washington Nationals executive. He's planning to run the Antarctic Ice Marathon over the weekend, David Montgomery reports on WaPo A1. 'The average temperature of the inland Antarctic race course is about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The snow and ice are hundreds of feet deep. There is no life, except for the human visitors. A cold, constant and potentially deadly wind blows from the South Pole, hundreds of miles farther south....McCarthy's reason is sort of existential...."I've been running out of things I could ever be the first to do," he says.' But will he be the first from D.C. to run marathons on seven continents? Probably, but no one's quite sure. He trains with Hizzoner on occasion, and 'the interlocking local running and political communities will be logging onto the ice marathon's Web site to follow McCarthy's progress,' Montgomery writes. '"When he told me he was going to run in Antarctica, I thought it was a little crazy," said D.C. Council member Jack Evans...."He's found a different way to push himself," said Mayor Fenty.'
The Slow Cook covers legislation introduced by Gray and Mary Cheh that would introduce the following to DCPS: 'Sustainably grown local produce. School gardens. Stricter nutrition standards. Free breakfast. Elimination of sodas, many junk foods and trans-fats. Mandatory physical education. Composting....[I]t places heavy emphasis on schools making meals "whenever possible" with local products grown without artificial fertilizers, pesticides or non-therapeutic antibiotics or growth hormones. It also would phase out styrofoam and plastic meal trays and eating utensils in favor or biodegradable alternatives. It bans from schools all sports drinks, sodas, iced teas and "juices" with minimal actual fruit, except when provided free by parents or sold at sporting and other extra-curricular events. More stringent nutrition standards would be phased in over a four-year period.'
WaPo's Bill Turque gives an account of Michelle Rhee's first office-hours session, at Smothers ES: 'About two-dozen parents and other stakeholders signed up and took a number to wait for a one-on-one with the schools leader. Flanked by a member of her "critical response team" and spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway—using a watch to track the five-minute time limit that was honored more in the breach—Rhee alternated among three tables to listen to the concerns.'
Harry Jaffe asks: 'If D.C. builds great schools, will white kids come?' Prompted by the Hardy MS debate, Jaffe writes that white parents like himself 'are pleased to send our kids to the neighborhood elementary schools in upper Northwest or Capitol Hill. But middle school is problematic. Students from all over the city—read: black kids—come to Alice Deal and other middle schools. Same for Wilson Senior High. Many white parents choose to send their precious offspring to private schools or move to Maryland for a better public school system. Now that school modernization czar Allen Lew is fixing our buildings and Rhee is starting to see results from her education reforms, will white parents begin to send Suzie and Johnny to public schools? Beats forking over $30,000 a year for privates.' Says Rhee: 'African Americans will get increasingly nervous. They see it as a zero-sum game: more whites in good schools, fewer blacks....It will be a tough slog.'
FROM LANSING, MICH.—Robert Bobb tells Michigan state legislators that he wants to run the Detroit Public Schools—not just manage their budget. His reality-check rhetoric is right out of the Fenty/Rhee playbook: 'You have no greater example of how a school district can fail than that of the Detroit Board of Education.'
The D.C. Court of Appeals has spoken: Disassembling and removing a boot from your car indeed 'destroys' and 'injures' it, leaving you open to malicious destruction charges, Legal Times reports. '"The disassembly of the 'boot' was undoubtedly a significant detriment to that device's use in traffic and parking law enforcement," [Senior Judge James Belson] wrote in the Dec. 10 decision. By analogy, the judge noted that a broken human arm is temporary but still affects the "purpose of its ordinary or intended use."'
Could the Watergate Hotel end up back in Monument Realty's hands? DCmud notices that Monument's looking to hire a contractor to refurbish the property, 'suggesting the DC developer may be closer to a work-out on the property it lost to the bank earlier this year.' Also WBJ.
Report projects that D.C.'s office vacancy rate will match that of Northern Virginia by the third quarter of 2011—that would be the 'first time in more than a decade' that that's happened, WBJ reports. The good news: 'Rising vacancies in D.C. mean lower rents for tenants on the move. So companies that could normally afford space only in the suburbs will be able to take advantage of lower District prices, upgrading to space closer to the center of the city.'
ALSO IN WBJ—Joe Robert's investment company nears bankruptcy; mixed-use project slated for Atlantic Plumbing site near Howard headed for foreclosure; and the litigation between Herb Miller and Anthony Lanier over Georgetown Park Mall drags on.
WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood covers slumlord crackdown, which 'has resulted in 5,000 housing code violations. The city is not waiting for tenant complaints, but inspecting buildings throughout the District. "And over the next 3 years, we're going to inspect every facility in this town," said Nickles, who at one point became so worked up he cursed....He said the landlords now think, "Well goddamnit maybe we better fix the housing; maybe we ought to avoid going to jail. Maybe we ought to do right by the tenants."'
Did you know that it's 'police policy...that private school students who are out of school on a day that public schools are in session must carry a letter from the school' lest they get picked up by truancy officers? Well, it's true, and Mark Segraves reports at WTOP that your kids might get picked up in a van without enough seatbelts, as allegedly happened to kids last month at St. Peter's school on the Hill.
More on Remote Area Medical Corps: WUSA-TV's Bruce Johnson says it looks like the free-medical-care outfit will get a break on venue fees, but DOH is still insisting—gasp!—that they provide more information about their services. Unity's Vincent Keane 'says it's critical to get people plugged into long term care—and not just a one day trip to a doc from out of town.' And David Catania says, 'It's not our intention to artificially place barriers....But we do take safety very seriously in this city, as we should.'
WaPo's Ashley Halsey covers the New York Avene NE signal-timing debacle: 'An average walking pace is about 3.3 miles per hour (3 mph for women, 3.5 mph for men). At that speed, it would take 29.7 seconds to get across New York Avenue. In setting the timer for the new pedestrian crosswalk signal, District traffic engineers allowed for that. Then, traffic trying to escape town during Wednesday's evening rush backed up from the intersection to Florida Avenue, 1.8 miles. Incoming drivers fumed through a repeat Thursday morning...."We're going to have to look to see if there's some other solution," said Karyn LeBlanc, a DDOT spokeswoman. "That's a very long light, and we can't strand [pedestrians] on the medians."'
The city's legal aid organizations are in dire funding straits, report finds. WBJ reports that the study 'found that sources of funding for legal aid programs have sharply fallen, including a 60-percent drop in Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts grants the D.C. Bar Foundation awarded in June 2009. There has also been a 20-percent fall in D.C. government support for legal services, effective May 2010, and a more than $1 million drop in charitable donations and volunteer services.'
Fenty will meet with the protesters arrested outside the mayoral bullpen on World AIDS Day, Lou Chibbaro Jr. reports at D.C. Agenda. Also in this week's Agenda: Chibbaro covers the arrest of a trangender woman for the Julia Corker carjacking; Monday night's pro-gay-marriage rally at Kennedy Rec Center.
D.C. Jail will use RFID technology to track inmates, corrections officers, Council of State Governments reports. 'If a corrections officer in a Washington, D.C., jail falls down on the job or his security is compromised, special radio frequency identification chips send out the alert –– "man down!" Using the same computer-chip technology, every inmate will wear a wristband so officials will know in real time where the inmate is.'
Phil Mendelson holding meeting on crime in Shaw/Mount Vernon Square area on Monday. Cary Silverman says: 'This is a good opportunity to ask Councilmember Mendelson, who chairs the Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary, about his positions on various anti-gang/crime initiatives, such as civil gang injunctions, pre-trial detention, and anti-loitering laws.'
Kwame Brown talks Costco with WTTG-TV.
Marion Barry reportedly traveling to Shorter, Ala., for World Conference of Mayors anniversary.
GGW covers planning for Mount Vernon Square area.
Angela Alexander, wife of mayoral candidate Leo Alexander, is helping to oversee Walter Reed as a naval officer, Afro reports.
Metrobus collides with pickup at 15th and I Streets NW yesterday afternoon.
Mini-Target in Georgetown this weekend.
Blogger: 'I think I just solved Michelle Rhee's PR problems. OK, not me so much as two researchers from California whose study argues that blaming other people is contagious.'
News flash: We've got a lot of traffic.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—12 p.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on PR18-506 ('District of Columbia Homeland Security Commission Cathy Lanier Confirmation Resolution of 2009') and PR18-507 ('District of Columbia Homeland Security Commission Dennis Rubin Confirmation Resolution of 2009'), JAWB 412; 2 p.m.: Committee on Health roundtable on 'The Performance of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration,' JAWB 123; 3 p.m.: Committee on Aging and Committee Affairs meeting on B18-177 ('51st State Commission Establishment of 2009'), B18-324 ('ANC Vacancy Amendment Act of 2009'), PR18-543 ('Commission on Aging Eugene Coffey Confirmation Resolution of 2009'), JAWB 120.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—No public events scheduled.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery