Snow Cleanup Funds Scarce: Loose Lips Daily
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—DDOT Starts Construction on 11th Street Bridge Project, Sort of; and what's up with Cathy Lanier's latest All Hands On Deck summons?
Morning all. Given all that's happening out there this week, choosing a top story of the day is a tough call, but I am going with this one: ST. Es STILL STRUGGLING—That's according to a new report completed by civil rights attorneys for the federal government and summarized by the Washington Post's Henri Cauvin. This is quite an issue. As the Post notes, the District's hospital for the mentally ill is "falling short in patient safety, nursing care and other areas covered by a court settlement intended to reform the infamous institution in Southeast Washington."
More: "Indeed, the findings reflect the steep challenges facing the District as it attempts to remake the hospital and the rest of the mental health system and to end the long-running class action suit over care of the mentally ill. From the new hospital building that is scheduled to open in March on the St. Elizabeths campus to the closure of the government's main outpatient treatment agency, the D.C. Department of Mental Health has hardly been still over the past few years.
But the pace of change has yet to satisfy the federal judge overseeing the class action suit or the Justice Department team monitoring the settlement agreement for St. Elizabeths, the only public psychiatric hospital in the city and a landmark with a long, sometimes troubled history."
After the jump: More on St. Es; what's up with the D.C. snow cleanup budget for the rest of the winter?; EPA talks tough on C-Bay pollution; can't someone generate a blog post at D.C. Wire?; and a little bit more.
One of the report's major concerns is a gang rape that occurred at St. Es in July. According to the report, the event wasn't even mentioned in "routine treatment reviews of three of the four alleged attackers. But while the documents failed to note the rape allegation, one of the alleged assailant's documents recommended, without explanation, that the patient be observed for 'sexually inappropriate behavior.'"
The bigger picture here is that the city, under the direction of Attorney General Peter Nickles, is seeking to pull St. Es out of the governance arrangement under which it currently operates—that is, with oversight from the courts and the Justice Department. No wonder that Nickles told the Post that the reform effort at St. Es "reflects real progress and a strong commitment to improving care." Examiner on same.
Older drivers are out there.
WARNING FROM THE FEDS TO CHES-BAY WATERSHED STATES: CURB POLLUTION OR ELSE! In years past, the EPA hasn't been too terribly tough on states around here that contribute to pollution in the glorious Chesapeake Bay. Now that's changing, according to Post reporter David Fahrenthold. Here's what could the feds could do if these states—and the nonstate District of Columbia—don't heed their watersheddy duties, according to the Post account: 1) "Object to state-issued permits for new sources of pollution, such as factories, sewage-treatment plants or suburban storm sewers." 2) "Require states to offset pollution in one area by cutting it in another. If a state can't find ways to curb pollution from farms, for instance, the EPA could require stricter cuts from sewage-treatment plants." 3) "Take tighter control of federal money that goes to states for antipollution programs, to make sure it is used to solve outstanding problems."
I'll bet these watershed states are quaking now! Examiner on same.
HOW MANY SEAT INCHES DO YOU NEED? That's the question at which Metro Columnist Courtland Milloy tilts. He laments that he can't get comfy on flights and he's not fat, either. Airlines assume 18 inches if good enough for a seat to accommodate the average American, whereas movie theaters and other industries are realizing that 22 is a better bet. Milloy says he measures 18 inches and still couldn't deal with his seat on the way home from Houston.
Better stock up on those quarters. That's the message from WaPo staff writer Nikita Stewart's piece on how area budget crises are going to affect parking and other activities around the region. The skinny for D.C.ites: "The District's fiscal year began Oct. 1 and brought increases in sales, cigarette and gas taxes. But there's more to come Friday, with the bag fee [five cents per plastic bag]. And by mid-January, the city will complete the conversion of 14,749 parking spaces to charge $2 an hour." Let LLD translate that for you: If you just want to make a quick stop to get a cup of coffee, you'd better scrounge up two quarters, at least. Because you're going to need 15 minutes for that ritual, especially in light of how many specialty coffee drinks are ordered these days. And 15 minutes, under these new rules, will cost you 50 cents. And don't think for a minute that you can duck in and get back out without detection by a parking goon: They're everywhere! Stewart gets some nice quote from Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans: "Nationally, people are fed up with the government nickeling and diming consumers. That's what we're doing. You can call 'em fees. They're all taxes. If it's a duck or a chicken, it's all a bird. ... Our challenge going forward is, with flat revenues, what are we going to do?"
More on the bag fee from the WaPo edit board: "The District is still days away from a new tax on plastic and paper bags, and the complaining has already started. That's understandable given the fundamental change in habit that people are being asked to make. Nonetheless, the new law is a worthy effort aimed at reducing local litter and cleaning up polluted waterways. Not only should it be vigorously enforced, but we also hope it spurs neighboring Virginia and Maryland to follow suit."
And letter writers to WaPo keep alive the great debate over the actions of D.C. Police officer Michael Baylor, he who drew a gun at a snowball fight at the corner of 14th and U Streets NW on Dec. 19. One Gerald E. Sheldon of Rockville responds to a previous letter writer who defended Baylor because he knew of someone who lost an eye during a snowball fight. Writes Sheldon: "There is not much danger to the driver after he stops his vehicle and is still inside his car. I suspect very little in the way of injuries due to thrown snowballs is inflicted on people inside Hummers. Once the car has come to a stop, the driver's exiting the vehicle and escalating the situation by drawing a gun is what causes danger, such as in the situation at 14th and U." And one Vincent M. Vacca of D.C.: "In all three Dec. 26 letters about the D.C. snowball fight and snowstorm, I noted a feeling of, if not forgiveness, then perhaps understanding of off-duty Detective Michael Baylor's pulling out his gun after his Hummer was pelted with snowballs. Is it that Mr. Baylor doesn't subscribe to the admonition that law enforcers never unsheathe a weapon unless they intend to use it?"
D.C. Wire STILL IDLE! Come on, this is getting embarrassing. I mean, it still features that Dec. 23 item on Nickles commenting on Fenty's security detail. Yeah, we all know this is dead week, but can't you just fake it or something. Yesterday, we here at LLD offered a few ideas on refreshing the blog, and nothing happens. Hasn't anyone else noticed that there's just no activity on this crucial blog? This is what it says on D.C. Wire's "about" page: "The D.C. Wire is live! Washington Post reporters will take you to the heart of the District's political life, from neighborhoods to the D.C. Council to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's bullpen." Please, D.C. Wire contributors, make all those words resonate. Get on the phone right now, and call a source. Just update this blog, today. The way I'm counting, you guys have six staffers on this blog. You can't all be skiiing this week. We'll check in with you tomorrow.
Examiner columnist Harry Jaffe makes a strong statement in favor of increasing penalties for PCP-related crimes. Using two anecdotes of possibly PCP-related mayhem, Jaffe says that the bill of Phil Mendelson to up penalties for PCP possession is inadequate. "Mendelson has introduced legislation to make PCP possession a felony, and to suggest jail time of 'not more than five years.' Mendelson makes a good start, but as often happens with this city council, he doesn't go far enough. Rather than 'not more than,' the language should read 'a minimum' of five years. We know that PCP causes random mayhem, violence and homicide. Let's take people who use it — and make it — off our streets."
And Examiner reporter Kytja Weir has this little nugget in a piece about snow removal and budgetary difficulties: "The snow budgets could be tapped again this week. The National Weather Service is forecasting light snow or freezing rain from overnight Wednesday into Friday. The District said Tuesday it was preparing to battle slick roads when revelers descended on the city for New Year's Eve. The city has spent $4 million of its $6.2 million snow removal budget, said District Department of Transportation spokeswoman Karyn Le Blanc." WaBizJo on same.
Ben Conery and David C. Lipscomb of the Washington Times get out of the gate with the first year-end crime roundup. And the data looks good, as we've been expecting: "The year is drawing to a close with homicides in the District at a 45-year low, reflecting a national trend that law enforcement officials are attributing to multipronged crime-prevention strategies that include advances in communication and coordination. With just two days left in the year, according to preliminary numbers from the police department, the District has had 138 homicides compared with 184 at the same time last year, setting up the city to record the lowest number of homicides since 1964, when 132 were reported killed. Metropolitan Police Department officials attribute the decline to a "perfect storm" of crime-fighting strategies, including a new culture of communication within the police department."
LLD's apologies to NBC4's Tom Sherwood, for failing to link to his excellent billboard-removal story of earlier this week. As is often the case, Sherwood comes up with angles and facts that aren't in other accounts.
Fenty Today: 2:30 pm, Remarks: Uniform Grantmaking Procedures Announcement. Location: 441 4th Street, NW