Super-Size Edition: Loose Lips Daily
Greetings all. Big news weekend means extra-huge and extra-late LL Daily today. Might as well lede with the latest chapter in Debbie Cenziper's WaPo series on the District's HIV/AIDS spending, which ran Sunday. This time, she focuses on the East of the River Initiative, now the Effi Barry HIV/AIDS Program, which was established to get help to Wards 7 and 8, where one in four infected residents live. 'But since 2004, the city has awarded just 6 percent of $100 million in AIDS funding to specialized nonprofit groups east of the river, forcing families to scramble for care in other parts of the city.' Of $3.5M earmarked for east-of-the-river care, 'the city spent more than $1 million from the fund on grants to nonprofit groups in other neighborhoods. Much of what was left was awarded to programs that had little lasting impact east of the river, hobbling a well-intentioned effort to drive money into an area that has long lacked a network of established nonprofit groups to help slow the spread of the disease.'
AFTER THE JUMP—Fenty's paid out $15M in employee bonuses over three years; Friday night massacre at WMATA; rider-free D.C. spending bill is through Congress; McCartney wants a strong challenge for Fenty; DCPS math scores show persistent racial gap; Henson Ridge is hellish, while Trinidad is not as hellish as it once was; another gay-marriage out that the ADW won't be interested in; D.C. kids are Pop Warner champeens
MORE FROM CENZIPER—Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray emerges as an outspoken critic of the city's spending, calling one grant, to a Richmond-based group, the 'absolute quintessential insult.' And Cenziper places some of the mismanagement at the hands of the late Effi Barry, who ran the program just before her death from leukemia, 'awarding the money without competitive bidding' and to groups with questionable records. David Catania says the troubles are growing pains: 'I don't doubt for a second you're going to see some of these new organizations have issues that are going to cause us to shudder. But by and large, I think it's been successful. This hasn't been done before in the District. You're not going to get it right right out of the gate, and I don't believe we did.' More:
The Health Department used the fund to pay for a high-end study instead of services, a neighborhood AIDS office in Ward 7 that closed within months and grants to nonprofit groups tainted by financial and operational problems, records show.
One counseling program that received $60,000 from the fund was run by a woman whose counseling certification was revoked by the city last year. City investigators determined that she had listed false academic credentials on her application, including a purported doctoral degree from an online enterprise that sold degrees for $599.
Another group that promised medical care and support received $50,000, despite a long and troubled history with the Health Department's HIV/AIDS Administration, whose monitors had cited lapses in services and questionable budgets. The group has since moved to Maryland.
The D.C. Council banned bonus payments in the fiscal 2010 budget, but that hasn't stopped Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration from continuing the practice. Bill Myers reports in Examiner that since FY2010 began on Oct. 1, 290 employees have collected more than $565K in bonuses—including $2,600 for AAG Tom Koger, two months who after he 'was publicly blamed for the disappearance of key evidence' in the Pershing Park lawsuit and removed from the case. Says FOP's Kris Baumann: 'Either Koger engaged in behavior where he had to be removed, or he deserves a bonus. It can't be both....Is that the price we pay to have Koger fall on his sword?' AG Peter Nickles says that 'most of the bonuses were required by union contracts and the city's hands were tied.' Myers also looks at city bonus payments in previous years, finding $15M in such awards since the advent of the Fenty administration. 'Among the big winners were Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who was handed $41,250 in August 2007 after barely two months on the job; Department of Health Director Pierre Vigilance, who was given $15,000 in 2008; and city property manager Robin-Eve Jasper, handed $18,000 over two years.' Ted Loza, too, got small bonuses from Jim Graham.
FRIDAY NIGHT MASSACRE—The management changes at Metro came down in a late Friday memo: 'Both Deputy General Manager Gerald Francis and Chief Safety Officer Alexa Dupigny-Samuels will step down from their jobs,' Lena Sun reports in WaPo. 'Metro sources said Francis will leave for a job in the private sector, while Dupigny-Samuels will remain at the agency.' The ousters come a day after John Catoe, Jim Graham, et al. were forced to grovel in front of Sen. Barbara Mikulski at a Capitol Hill hearing. More from Sun: 'Under the new structure, Catoe will handle more of the operations and delegate administrative duties. Francis is a trusted confidante of Catoe's who worked closely with him when the two were at the Los Angeles transit agency. He will be leaving in March; Metro is conducting a national search to fill the position. Rail chief Dave Kubicek will take over his job in the interim....In addition, Metrobus chief Milo Victoria and Assistant General Manager Sara Wilson, who oversees communications and corporate strategy, will also step down from their jobs.' Add in Emeka Moneme's departure, and Catoe is losing one-third of his management team. Also Kytja Weir in Examiner, who notes that 'more changes are also ahead as the federal government will soon gain a voice on the agency's board of directors in exchange for providing $150 million in long-sought funding.' Four federal members will be in place for upcoming budget talks. Also NC8, WTTG-TV.
The WaPo editorial board, meanwhile, eschewing '[s]enatorial grandstanding,' placed a vote of confidence Sunday in Catoe himself: '[W]e have seen little evidence to date to indicate that Mr. Catoe has contributed to the system's failures either by negligence, poor judgment or ineptitude. To the contrary, Mr. Catoe, whose three-year contract was renewed by the Metro board in September, is widely respected in this region and nationally as an even-keeled, detail-oriented and deeply experienced transit professional. It would be wrong if the drive-by testimony of a single U.S. senator triggered a groundswell for his removal....If Mr. Catoe is to be casually blamed for Metro's troubles, we'd like to see evidence for it, as well as some indication that his departure—which would likely leave the system at least temporarily headless—would stand a good chance of making things any better.'
IT'S ALL BUT OFFICIAL—The riders are gone. Following House approval, U.S. Senate passed spending package Sunday that includes District budget. Gone are Hill-imposed restrictions on abortions, needle exchange, and medical marijuana. In WaPo, Eleanor Holmes Norton calls it 'the biggest win for home rule in decades.' As for medical marijuana, Catania says 'city leaders will proceed with caution. "I wouldn't expect it to be implemented anytime soon, because we are going to need to do thoughtful planning," he said, noting that guidelines must be written about who can grow, distribute and receive marijuana.' MM lobbyist says it 'could be available in the District by the end of 2010.' More from LL. Also Politico, WAMU-FM, NC8 on MM, WRC-TV.
ALSO—In Saturday editorial, WaPo lauds riderless District budget: 'No other jurisdiction in the country must contend with the obstruction that residents of the District face from Capitol Hill. These three programs [abortion, needle exchange, and medical marijuana] are no doubt controversial. But the duly elected representatives of the people of the District—in the case of medical marijuana, the people themselves—made the decision to support them. That they are close to becoming law gives us hope that other victories are in the offing.' And today, the board says voucher compromise in budget bill 'is really slow death' for the program. 'Key lawmakers in the appropriation process have been, at best, disingenuous about their intentions, thus placing the program's advocates in their current no-win situation,' calling out Dick Durbin and Jose Serrano by name. Heritage Foundation is also unhappy. Jonetta Rose Barras has thoughts on all this: 'By their actions, [Democrats] asserted it was fine to pass dope around District neighborhoods; encourage low-income women to become pregnant, then have taxpayers cover the costs for abortions; and use local and federal money to distribute needles in areas where young children might come upon them. But it's unacceptable to use federal dollars to provide high-quality education for poor children.'
WaPo columnist Robert McCartney, eminently reasonable Montgomery County resident, says that Fenty needs a serious challenger, stat. But only one. 'The District and the rest of the region would benefit if a robust challenger would press [Fenty] to defend a mixed record that has disappointed many of the hopes that accompanied his 2006 election. In particular, we need him to feel some heat over apparent cronyism in city contracts, needless bickering with the D.C. Council, the city's East-West economic divide and, of course, the future of Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's school reforms.' He laments the 'nerve-racking dance' of Vincent Gray, Don Peebles, et al. over who will take a swing; he thinks Gray has the best shot. He gets more from Peebles: 'Peebles, 49, said in the interview that if he ran and won, he'd use his experience building one of the nation's largest African American-owned companies to run the city as "a compassionate business." He said he'd grant tax breaks for development only outside of downtown, to target resources at the neediest parts of the city, and end what he called "significant episodes" of apparent conflict of interest in granting city contracts.' He's now promising a decision by year's end; last week he was saying by Dec. 15.
Math scores are up for the District's public schoolchildren, but the achievement gap persists—and has even widened. As Bill Turque reports in WaPo on the NAEP findings: 'The average scores of white D.C. fourth-graders over the past two years grew from 262 to 270 (on a scale of 500), but their African American peers' rose just three points, from 209 to 212. The achievement gap actually grew between 2007 and 2009, from 53 to 58 points.' The conclusion some are drawing is that the big gains 'were propelled largely by white students who are already high achievers.' D.C. VOICE's Jeff Smith says the numbers 'suggest that we've raised the aggregate by treating those at the higher end of the scale, which is problematic and troublesome'; Kwame Brown says 'what's scary is we're not spending nearly the time and energy we need to spend on our middle schools.' Turque also speaks to Clifford Janey, who says school district need to look at moving from 180-day school years to 200-day schedules.
WSJ editorialists would like to see greater Obama administration involvement in DCPS teacher contract negotiations. '[T]hings seem to be improving under maverick Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. So it's curious that the White House hasn't done more to support her reform efforts, especially since they track so closely with the Obama Administration's own stated education goals....Education Secretary Arne Duncan...loses his voice when it comes to backing Ms. Rhee in contract negotiations. "We generally don't weigh in on local labor disputes," he told the Journal last month. The problem with this passivity is that union-negotiated collective-bargaining agreements are often the biggest barrier to enacting these education reforms. By not using their bully pulpit to back state and local reformers like Michelle Rhee, Mr. Duncan and President Obama are sending mixed messages, emboldening the opposition and jeopardizing their own education objectives.'
WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood unearths massive potential corruption among cab authorities, who are seemingly dismissing hack tickets en masse. 'News4 has learned that thousands of tickets issued to taxi drivers for violating cabbie rules and traffic regulations have been routinely dismissed. Documents obtained by News4 show that 66 percent of all contested tickets for cab drivers are dismissed—higher than the average for ordinary citizens. We'd tell you what that average is but D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles told city workers to not respond to any of out questions on ticket writing and who and how those tickets are handled. Nickles said he could not confirm or deny an FBI investigation into the taxi tickets....But high level sources said the unusually high ticket write-offs have attracted the FBI's attention. Questions have been raised about outside influence on the city adjudication bureau.'
In Saturday Metro fronter, WaPo covers the difficulties of Remote Area Medical Corps in bringing their well-regarded traveling medical roadshow to the District. (See coverage of their work at WaPo and on 60 Minutes) Henri Cauvin ledes with the fact that the Sports and Convention Authority are charging the charity $77K for use of the D.C. Armory. 'Founder Stan Brock said RAM has never been asked by other site operators to pay anything approaching that fee. The cost is "prohibitively high" and still climbing...."We just don't know what the bottom line is going to be. There are things that just keep coming up."' And DOH is seeking more info, 'particularly about follow-up care for people who would be treated at RAM's clinic.' And 'some local public health leaders say the organization is misguided in wanting to hold a clinic in the District, which they say has created a system that makes basic health care easier to reach than in most jurisdictions.' Says Unity Health Care's Vincent Keane: 'It kind of creates a hoopla event that really doesn't solve the more systemic problem.' WUSA-TV, which is co-sponsoring the event proposed for January, also follows up with third-day story. HuffPo picks up the story, too.
D.C. cop strikes 18-year-old with cruiser in Brookland, flees scene; neighbors have a whole bunch of questions. Reports WaPo: 'Dominic Turner suffered broken ribs, internal bleeding and a back injury. He was struck about 8:30 p.m. Saturday after officers had chased him and a group of friends near 20th and Newton streets NE, family members said. A witness said the men were running from police when the cruiser struck Turner, knocking him to the ground in an alley. It was unclear why police were chasing Turner and the others.' Witness says 'he saw the men running and then heard a thud,' then 'an officer got out of the car, which was damaged on the right side, went up to Turner, held him up by the shoulders and said something to him. The officer then dropped Turner to the ground, got into the car and left.'
WaTimes reporter David C. Lipscomb reports on an odd arrangement worked out by Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. He's been chief of the Sarasota, Fla., fire department since July, but he's still on the D.C. FEMS employee rolls, on unpaid leave, so he can start collecting his pension in full at age 50 rather than wait till 55—worth, in Ellerbe's case, about $600K. No one at FEMS or DHR are answering questions about how the arrangement came about. Phil Mendelson says 'the arrangement threatens to further strain morale at the department. "It doesn't sound right to me," said Mr. Mendelson...."It sends the wrong message to the others in the rank and file."'
Zones, zones, everywhere there's zones! Prompted by violence outside Ward 7's Friendship charter school, all 13 CMs have signed onto legislation to create 1,000-foot temporary 'safety zones' around public schools where loitering would not be permitted, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. 'With a "Safe Passage Emergency Zone" in place, officers could scatter groups of three or more individuals—known gang members or violent offenders, for example—and arrest those who refuse to leave. Such a zone, under the bill, could remain in place for up to five consecutive school days, and only between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.' Peter Nickles says the measure is 'halfhearted, ineffective and has legal problems'—this from Mr. Checkpoints. 'The AG said he was crafting a crime bill now "which is serious about doing something about crime."'
The dream of Henson Ridge isn't quite panning out as its residents had hoped, Theola Labbé-DeBose and Clarence Williams report in WaPo. 'The neighborhood of manicured lawns and new siding is a phoenix among the ashes of carry-out food joints and check-cashing places on a stretch of Alabama Avenue SE. Conceived and constructed as an antidote to the surrounding urban blight, the planned community replaced razed public housing projects in 2003. But then cars were stolen. Homes were burglarized. And when stray bullets crashed through windows and walls, residents could no longer deny that the neighborhood's violent past had resurfaced like a stubborn ghost....The violence has been a jarring wake-up call for newcomers, whose first-home down payments were a deposit on a dream. And the fear and uncertainty are déja vu for the returning residents of the notorious former Frederick Douglass and Stanton Dwellings public housing projects.'
On the flipside, WaTimes' Lipscomb covers increasingly placid conditions in Trinidad. '[T]here's a quiet in the neighborhood now that wasn't here 14 months ago. That's how long it's been since anyone was killed here. That was the end of a five-month spate of violence in this 2-square-mile community that saw 10 people killed. D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. represents the area and is clearly pleased with the accomplishment. "Don't you jinx me," he said playfully, when asked about the reduction in violence.' Some credit checkpoints; some credit youth outreach; some credit collaboration; and Chief Cathy Lanier credits this: 'We took a lot of the violent gang members off the street....I've always said there's a handful of people that can wreak havoc.'
Examiner's Neibauer covers efforts by H Street denizens to combat rising crime. '[B]usiness owners spent their own money to augment patrols,' hiring off-duty cops to patrol the area. 'The reimbursable detail is costing H Street business owners about $3,000 a month, Joe Englert, owner of a half dozen bars and restaurants on the street, said Saturday. The goal is to attract visitors from a 40 or 50 square-mile area, he said, so it behooves H Street entrepreneurs to "make people feel as safe as possible."...There were 15 violent crimes...and 39 property crimes reported in the past 60 days within 1,000 feet of 11th and H streets, according to D.C.'s crime map. That's 13 more crimes total—a nearly 32 percent increase—than in the same period in 2008. Violent crime is down in the past 60 days within 1,000 feet of 15th and H, statistics show, but property crime is up.'
And Harry Jaffe says that declining murder rate is misleading—crime is up! Be afraid! His evidence: The Julia Corker carjacking, increases in GLBT bias-related incidents, rape in Dupont apartment. (No citywide stats cited.) 'My point here is not to malign the cops. To the contrary, they often do a great job. But it's crucial that the police brass level with the citizens on the increases, rather than the decreases, in crime.'
Also from Neibauer: OCFO yielded $8M less than expected in this year's property-tax auction, 'as conservative, skittish bidders refused to bite on more than 700 properties with delinquent bills.' And, yes, this 'leaves the District's coffers millions short in a down economy when the revenues are most needed.' To blame: The economy, the credit cruch, and the hiked Class 3 tax rate for vacant properties.
OK, Archdiocese of Washington: Maybe you don't like the San Francisco/Georgetown solution to the gay marriage/Catholic Charities impasse (aka the 'plus-one' solution). But AU law prof Nancy Polikoff has another out for you—the Maine solution, where the Portland diocese got itself out of local requirements to offer benefits to domestic partners by submitting to federal ERISA rules on benefits, which wouldn't require the church to recognize gay spouses. Of course, Polikoff believes that the church isn't interested in a solution: 'Given the ease with which Catholic Charities can achieve its stated goals — maintaining its city contracts and extending benefits only to different-sex spouses — I have to wonder why it insists that there is an irreconcilable conflict. Two explanations seem plausible. The church may want the most prominent platform possible for both opposing same-sex marriage and urging an overbroad religious exemption; it gets this by threatening to cut social services. Alternatively, Catholic Charities might be planning to cut its programs anyway because they cost the archdiocese so much money, in which case the same-sex marriage bill provides a convenient scapegoat.' And adoption? That's a 'red herring,' she writes. Final gay marriage vote is tomorrow.
Nonprofits and small-business owners aren't happy about propsed tax break for CoStar, the real estate information outfit now HQ'd in MoCo, WBJ reports. Says letter: 'It does not make sense to take a portion of D.C.'s most valuable real estate off the tax rolls for 10 years or to target economic development resources on large businesses in downtown D.C., rather than on small businesses and other parts of the city.' Signatories include owners of Politics and Prose, Busboys and Poets, and Ace Hardware D.C., plus the Capital Area Food Bank, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, and Urban Alliance. CoStar CEO Andy Florence responded to the petition at WBJ, saying the company 'has a goal to create 500 to 1,000 jobs in D.C. over the next decade' and will 'be paying $3 million to $5 million in additional taxes a year to be in D.C. versus Maryland' even with the abatement.
Crighton Allen, a Washington & Lee student who investigated child welfare cases as a summer intern for the D.C. Public Defender Service, says in WaPo op-ed that there are serious problems with the system: 'I was flummoxed by the sheer size and far-reaching scope of the network. The District's court system means well, and there is no greater cause than working to improve a child's life. Plus, as the tragedies that befell Banita Jacks's children and others have shown, it can be a cataclysm for all involved when cases fall through the cracks. But after my experience, I can't imagine that the city's youth social services system ever functions at an acceptable level of efficiency. Its vast size is too great an obstacle.' One 11-year-old 'had 11 professionals assigned to her case at one time or another....On the rare occasions that the members of this team convened to discuss the girl's well-being, the meeting notes revealed a lot of ego but little progress. Bickering, turf wars and red tape took the place of focus, cooperation and the open exchange of information. Every professional possessed an ironclad conviction that he or she alone knew the best course of action. Everybody was talking, with not much to say. And nobody was listening.'
Jay Mathews asks in his WaPo column: When should charter schools be closed? He looks at Ideal Academy Public Charter School, 'one of the worst schools in the city,' and asks why it's still in business. PCSB chair Tom Nida says the school hasn't been given enough of a chance to turn itself around, while a parent argues that the school is serving her son well, bad test scores and all. Says Mathews: 'A higher standard more quickly and firmly applied might provide plenty of options for her son. But I suspect that on this matter she is not going to listen to me, or the president. We are not going to close many bad charters until we convince her that even that temporary disruption in her child's life will give him a better future.'
ALSO—WAMU-FM's Kavitha Cardoza covers Nida effort to improve charter boards.
NYT covers Giro d'Italia's possible D.C. start. 'A maestro of marketing, [Angelo Zomegnan] is the driving force behind bringing the first two stages of the Giro to the streets of Washington in 2012. He said the project would cost about $5 million. Some critics say starting the race in the United States is unrealistic: too expensive, too much of a hassle and too punishing for the riders, who would have to deal with jet lag. Others say it is nonsensical, comparing it to hosting the middle two games of the World Series overseas. "Is it crazy? Oh sure, yes, I've heard that," Zomegnan said last week before meeting with Washington's mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, to discuss race plans. "But I think it is good to take chances. I don't say, why. I say, why not?"' He is facing a backlash from riders.
In WaPo letter, Metro union chief Jackie Jeter says that judge's decision in DCPS layoffs case bodes ill for the struggles of her own union members: 'Now, alarmingly, we're hearing the same sort of rhetoric from [Catoe], who announced last month that Metro would appeal the arbitration award for the collective bargaining agreement between the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689. While refusing to honor the binding arbitration award, Mr. Catoe has been building a case for balancing Metro's budget on the backs of its workers....The authority's snub shows brazen disregard for the people on the front lines of the region's public transit system, as well as for the process to which authority officials agreed.'
In another WaPo letter, a former DCPS teacher says he 'find[s] it perplexing that The Post's editorial board continues to participate in [Rhee]'s cult-of-personality campaign despite a body of evidence, some reported in these very pages, that much of what has been accomplished is an illusion....As a resident, I want Ms. Rhee to succeed, but I'm beginning to think that the editorial board is participating in a public relations war in which truth has once again become the first casualty.'
WAMU's Mana Rabiee covers Rosedale residents' frustrations over rec-center delays due to contracing fiasco. Says neighborhood leader, 'They obviously need to rectify what the procurement process needs to be. The flip side of that is that our community along with many other communities in the city are going to suffer in the meantime.'
Did top Rhee aide Kaya Henderson ever say that Hardy MS principal would be left in place? Perhaps not, Turque reports at D.C. Wire, but another aide certainly did. Rhee's explanation to parents, shocked with Pope was ousted: 'We wanted to make sure we were able to communicate to the Hardy community at one time, with me being able to explain exactly what was happening. So we were waiting for this time in order to do that, so people could ask questions and I could answer them.'
Sentencing for Peaceoholics worker convicted of sexually assaulting Spingarn student is postponed.
HUZZAH—City-run H1N1 clinics are now open to all comers—not just those in 'priority groups.' Clinics upcoming Thursday at Fort Davis Community Center and Saturday at Kennedy Rec Center.
Dr. Gridlock explains what's taking so long with federal Metro funding: Congress authorized a $150M cash injection, but it hasn't actually yet been appropriated. 'Unfortunately for Metro's leaders, a lot happened in the transit system in the year between authorization and appropriation, and very little of it was good for Metro. As a result, Metro is working itself into a big problem with its benefactors.'
Man, two weeks and Colby King hasn't uttered a word about Vinny Schiraldi...
Tom Sherwood's Notebook: On Ginny Cooper's whooping and LL's freezing.
AFT's Randi Weingarten tells Detroit News that a Rhee-like figure is not what Detroit needs.
More on council's Healthy Schools bill.
DCRA amends billboard regs!
Fireplace causes Friday blaze on 1200 block of S Street NW.
CityCenter development on old convention center site won't break ground until 2011, Housing Complex reports.
City schools officials want to know: What to ask for in their Obama 'Race to the Top' application? Forum tonight at Friendship PCS's Chamberlain Elementary campus.
Ximena Hartsock had a "Moving Forward" party on Friday at Don Juan's in Mount P. Vinny Schiraldi's farewell bash is Jan. 6. Susie Cambria has details.
Big ups to the D.C. Public Library, which has seen a 100 percent borrowing increase since 2006. Free gift bags tomorrow for first 100 MLK patrons.
Huge ups to the Watkins Hornets, Pop Warner Pee Wee national champions! The Hornets (15-0) vanquished the Florida City Razorbacks in Saturday's championship game in Orlando. WaPo reports on Sunday's welcome-home event at Watkins Rec Center, which drew 200. '[Fenty] said he watched the game on ESPN360. He was so impressed that he told the children that the District will give them Super Bowl champion jackets at a future council meeting and also said he will present the head coach, Delante Williams, with a key to the city.'
TONIGHT—Gay marriage rally at Kennedy Rec Center, 7 p.m.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—2 p.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment hearing on B18-377 ('Green Building Technical Corrections, Clarification, and Revision Amendment Act of 2009'), JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, Benning Road construction announcement, Benning Road and 19th Street NE.