Will There Be Answers?: Loose Lips Daily
Morning all. Chancellor Michelle Rhee yesterday continued to extricate herself from the muck created by her now-infamous Fast Company comments. She explained that her comments about 'teachers...who had had sex with children' referred to a single teacher under investigation for sexual misconduct at the time of the RIF. Right now the prevailing attitude seems to be Vince Gray's, who said the bare-bones explanation 'is a beginning and hardly an end to the matter.' In a afternoon JAWB press conference, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. demanded 'evidentiary evidence' of what Rhee claimed; LL would settle for plain old evidence, particularly in light of his conversation this morning with WTU President George Parker, who claims that the allegations against the teacher in question 'were not substantiated.' Rhee declined to discuss further details with LL yesterday, saying the matter was in the hands of police. So the grandstanding will go on. Said the chancellor to WaPo, 'If we had put something out on Friday, that would have been better.' For sure. See also Examiner, WAMU-FM, WTOP, NC8, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
AFTER THE JUMP—Metro safety laxness claims two more lives; DPW needed $800K in November to cover extra overtime; city lures United Negro College Fund with 10-year tax abatement; judge takes the stand in stalking trial; Time covers medical marijuana
Says Harry Jaffe in Examiner: 'Rhee needs an image consultant. A marketing manager. A junkyard dog press agent. Something!...Rhee has to start making teachers feel they can play a positive and crucial role in her grand design. More carrot, less stick. Rhee gets this. She's been meeting twice a week with teachers for the past few months. Time for an image makeover. Can Rhee do warm and fuzzy?'
It simply will not end: The Red Line is host to another tragedy, this time when early yesterday morning a 'hi-rail' truck backing up on the tracks just north of Rockville station struck and killed two veteran workers, Jeff Garrard, 49, and Sung Duk Oh, 68. NTSB investigators are investigating the accident, and, Lena Sun and Joe Stephens write in WaPo, 'They are also trying to fathom why a long string of safety lapses and oversight failures that have been brought to light at the transit agency appears to continue unabated....Many details were not immediately made public, including whether one of the two technicians had been assigned to watch for oncoming traffic, as is generally required under Metro's safety rules. The [NTSB] said the four workers in the vehicle were placing devices to warn approaching trains to slow in advance of beginning their own work on the tracks.' Speaking two days before the end of his term as WMATA board chair, Jim Graham called the accident 'a direct result of human error,' but said little else, adding, 'If people pay attention to their duties, then our system is perfectly safe.' Metro is expected to announce emergency safety measures today. The accident comes six weeks after independent track safety inspectors were nearly struck by a Metro train; it has renewed calls for federal oversight of transit safety. Also WTOP, NC8, WRC-TV.
THE KILLER QUOTE—'Let me tell you something—I'm scared to ride the subway. It's fearful. Metro is totally inconsistent,' a Gaithersburg resident tells WaPo. That paper's editorial board jumps off from that utterance to declare that 'it is wrenchingly clear that Metro's problems go deep.' They go on to warn against tapping capital funds to pay for operating shortfalls, saying that 'the risk of a capital spending shortfall translating into more deaths, injuries and accidents is all too real.' (Graham actually presented a legitimate defense of the practice to Dr. Gridlock.)
THE VICTIMS—Garrard and Oh together 'had worked for Metro for almost 10,000 hours before their careers ended Tuesday under the crush of a three-ton truck backing down the tracks in the middle of the night,' Lisa Rein and Ann Scott Tyson report in WaPo. Bot worked as technicians on the automatic train control system. 'Garrard knew his job was not a safe one, said his wife, Grace Ann. Lugging, mounting and maintaining the 50-pound devices that transmit signals to trains along the tracks; relying on a lookout to make sure no trains are in the workers' path; being agile enough to jump out of the way in case of danger—these are the risks Garrard and Oh took every day.' She added: '[H]er husband was so careful when he was on the tracks that the truck that backed up and hit him "must have come out of nowhere." He had told her repeatedly in the past year that he was nervous that the aging transit system was not getting enough attention from Metro.' She also tells Examiner that he 'felt that there were some practical safety issues that could be resolved if management had listened to the people in the trenches....He just wanted more communication between the decision makers and the people that were actually doing the work.' Also WUSA-TV.
UNREAL—WaPo builds a timeline of Metro worker fatalities. Six have died since June 22, 2009.
The accident, of course, comes the day before a hearing on Metro emergency budget gap-closing measures, as WaPo notes. Again, the options are: 'Cut service by $4 million and transfer $12 million from the capital budget....Use $16 million from the capital budget....Impose a 5-cent surcharge on all fares and take $11.2 million from the capital budget....Impose a 10-cent surcharge on fares; take $6.4 million from the capital budget.' The WMATA board will decide what to do Thursday.
Examiner's Kytja Weir with some intel on WMATA leadership: 'Graham said he expects the board to announce an interim leader on Thursday to take the place of General Manager John Catoe, who is resigning April 2. Catoe did not attend the press conference, but his Chief of Staff Shiva Pant stood at the podium with Graham and acting Chief Safety Officer Michael Taborn, signaling a possible internal pick.'
Mike Neibauer Examiner scoopage: DPW needed an $800K reprogramming in November to cover excess overtime costs—this, two weeks before auditors 'found numerous instances of time and attendance fraud, undocumented and unauthorized overtime, and excessive and "extreme" payments' at the agency. DPW says the money went to cover 'numerous scheduled and unscheduled overtime events required to complete the work of the agency and also to assist other agencies, i.e. snow clearing and other urgent weather events, numerous special events like the Mayor's turkey giveaway event over the holiday, and last year's presidential inauguration.' Um, 'the Mayor's turkey giveaway event'? So DPW workers were paid time-and-a-half to help pass out goody boxes festooned with the mayor's name and campaign colors?
District is ready to offer the United Negro College Fund a 10-year tax abatement to lure the organization to Media Center One development, Jonathan O'Connell reports in WBJ. 'D.C. approved a $23 million subsidy package for [Media Center One] in 2008 and [Stan Voudrie], a principal at D.C.-based Four Points LLC, said that having the office space accounted for by Radio One and UNCF would be enough to get the project financed and out of the ground. Voudrie said the development—built atop the Shaw-Howard University Metro station—would include accessible space for high school students to research financial aid and college options....The D.C. Council recently approved tax abatement deals for CoStar Group Inc., Donatelli Development and other companies looking to move to the District or make good on their investments in the city's neighborhoods, but critics...have said the deals often neglect small businesses and nonprofits.' But is the District buying jobs or merely prestige? Or just steady rent payments to connected developers?
ALSO—Donatelli Development will develop restaurant in upper Georgia Avenue storefronts. 'The restaurant will be a partnership between Donatelli and brothers Eric and Ian Hilton, the duo behind 14th Street establishments Marvin and The Gibson. Hilton said the two-story bar and restaurant has not been named but will pay homage to the building's history as Billy Simpson's House of Seafood & Steaks, a restaurant that became a meeting place for civil rights leaders in the 1960s....Fenty selected the Donatelli team in the fall of 2008 for the two storefronts and a vacant lot up the street, which will also include a Hilton brothers establishment.'
WaPo's Keith Alexander does a fab piece on the judge-stalking case that Legal Times has been closely following. To recap: Taylar Nuevelle is standing trial on burglary, unlawful entry and stalking charges after being found in Superior Court Magistrate Judge Janet Albert's attic. 'Rarely is a judge the victim and the center of a criminal case, but Albert, who was sworn in in 2003, took the witness stand Tuesday and told a jury of a love affair gone awry that resulted in Nuevelle unleashing a furor of threatening phone calls and text messages, and eventually breaking into Albert's three-bedroom Northwest Washington home....Prosecutors say cellphone records show that Nuevelle called Albert 473 times between Sept. 11 and Oct. 22, 2008, including 139 times in one night.' Nuvelle says she was trying to get her stuff back. The proceeding has some professional implications for Albert, who is facing a investigation over a Nuevelle-leveled charge that she 'had used her influence to remove a child from a home—without the mother's consent or a court order—and had the child live with the two women for almost six weeks.' Meanwhile, Jordan Weissmann at Legal Times covers Albert's first day on the stand.
ABOUT THE DEFENDANT—'During hearings before the trial, Nuevelle often smiled when speaking in court, but then wept when she spoke of her past relationships and being physically abused. She has taken an active role in her defense. She fired her first lawyer and is often seen speaking to or passing notes to Jones and reviewing exhibits before he speaks. Between hearings, Nuevelle sits alone reading "Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court."'
Time mag covers D.C. medical marijuana: 'Don't ask [David Catania] if there are more serious issues he should be working on. "Every time someone says that, I think my head should explode," he says. "As far as I'm concerned, this is an important issue. The evidence I've seen certainly suggests a powerful medicinal use for marijuana that can stimulate appetite and can reduce pain and suffering. So frankly that's my decision, and I'm capable of doing more than one thing at a time, as are my colleagues and as is this government."....He leans toward more restrictive implementation, knowing that any legal-weed law can be struck down by future governments. "The voters approved the medical use of marijuana, not the recreational use of marijuana," he says. "The more professional and controlled and evidence-based our system is, the greater likelihood it will be sustained going forward."'
Good to see someone's still employed at WaTimes: Jeff Anderson contributes investigative report on DCPS food-service contractor Chartwells-Thompson, which 'has a history of marginal quality and food-safety scares amid concerns over the nutritional content of its school menus.' They are owned by fast-food operator Compass Group and have contracts in D.C., Chicago, and elsewhere. 'Rhee took over as chancellor in 2007, and soon opted to privatize the school lunch program. Her goal, she said, was to provide schoolchildren with tastier and healthier meals. At the time, she and D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said they hoped to save $10 million each year by outsourcing food services in the city's public school system....But it is unclear whether she has met that goal — or that Chartwells was a wise choice.' Compounding the questions: It's next to impossible to get nutritional data out of DCPS or Chartwells. See the Slow Cook for much more on how bad the Chartwells food is.
Capitol Hill carjackings continue, VotH reports. Police count three, and '[o]ne of the most recent victims of an armed carjacking was a deaf father of two who lives near Eastern Market. The man, who declined to give his name, said he was exiting his parked car outside a friend's house at 12th and D streets NE last Friday when he noticed a tall black boy who he guessed was about 16 years old wielding a submachine gun. The perpetrator took the keys and drove off, followed by what he believed were four accomplices in a separate car.'
Sorry, folks: You may not, in fact, dance at the Jefferson Memorial. In the case of a woman arrested in 2008 for doing just that, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates 'ruled in a 26-page opinion Monday that the interior of the memorial is not a public forum where people might dance, even if they are silently boogying to music on headphones,' Del Wilber reports in WaPo. The defendant, Mary Oberwetter, is represented by Alan Gura, the famed Heller v. D.C. lawyer. From the opinion: 'The purpose of the memorial is to publicize Thomas Jefferson's legacy, so that critics and supporters alike may contemplate his place in history. The Park Service prohibits all demonstrations in the interior of the memorial, in order to maintain 'an atmosphere of calm, tranquility, and reverence....Prohibiting demonstrations is a reasonable means of ensuring a tranquil and contemplative mood at the Jefferson Memorial.' Also DCist, WTTG-TV.
Foggy Bottom ANC picks EastBanc over Toll Brothers et al. to do West End redevelopment project, GW Hatchet reports. Also: They nixed a nightclub's liquor application. And HPRB recommends GW residence halls for historic protections.
D.C. cops, with warrant based on bad info, break down door of Capitol Hill couple. They want $3,000 to cover the damage, WJLA-TV reports.
150 protest immigration policy at ICE headquarters in Southwest.
DC Agenda covers LGBT Census outreach efforts. '[F]or the first time, the Census Bureau will count same-sex married couples as it continues the practice it began with the 1990 Census to count unmarried same-sex couples.'
Kelvin Robinson is the new chair of ANC 6A. Hear that, Tommy Wells?
Some lovely WaPo letters on the bag tax. LL's favorite: 'I wasn't worried about the 80 cents a month, but now I realize that I'm a tool of big government, being gouged for almost 10 dollars a year, all because I want to take a nice Sunday walk with my wife and daughter to get my groceries conveniently. Alas, I'm just too selfish to prove my point with a noble, irrational gesture such as driving to Virginia for groceries.'
WTTG-TV covers Yvette Alexander's stickup.
Water main breaks in Mount Pleasant.
Meet Tai Shan's lawyer.
UDC law dean stumps for Massachusetts public-interest law school.
Dave Matthews to play Nats Park in July.
Another BOEE hearing today on gay marriage referendum.
Starting Monday, the Eastern Avenue bridge over 295/Kenilworth Avenue will closed for 10 months of repairs.
SotU tonight means street closings around Capitol.
A fond LL farewell to Ruth Samuelson, who is leaving WCP's Housing Complex after 16 months of great coverage of D.C. real estate.
TONIGHT—Vincent Gray and Don Peebles both address the Federation of Civic Associations; 6:45 p.m. at the Old Council Chambers at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th St. NW.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee on Finance and Revenue meeting (scheduled), JAWB 120; 1 p.m.: joint public oversight hearing on 'The Contracting Process Related to Parks and Recreation Projects,' JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs and Committee on Finance and Revenue joint hearing on B18-546 ('Neighborhood Preservation Amendment Act of 2009') and B18-407 ('Blighted Properties Abatement Reform Act of 2009'), JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—1:30 p.m.: remarks, Georgetown Library construction topping-off, Book Hill Park, Wisconsin Avenue and Reservoir Road NW.