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Return to Normalcy: Loose Lips Daily

As much local politics as humanly possible. Send your tips, releases, stories, events, etc. to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. And get LL Daily sent straight to your inbox every morning!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—'Snowplow Privatization: Harebrained or Not?'; 'Bring Back the Flamethrowers!'; 'Has Your Street Been Plowed?: A Survey of ANC Commissioners'; 'Maria Lewis Pleads Not Guilty To Snowball Charge'; and tweets galore!

EMBARRASSINGLY NON-SNOW-RELATED LL WEEKLY—Friends Like These: Business types may come to regret their Schwartz ouster.

Morning all. Things begin to approach normal today, with the federal and District governments in business, most Pepco lines and most Metro lines back in service, and the city's main drags plowed down to pavement. D.C. saw about 30 inches of snow in the past week, and temperatures in the high 30s today will mean some good melt today. But what about the melt on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's political fortunes? LL points you to a good ABC News story on snow politics, featuring a keen insight from a history prof: '[Snow]'s symbolic about other problems. It's symbolic about the way people see the whole city functioning.' If the city's functioning as well as the polls tell us, the snow may not have much impact on DCision 2010. LL's observation: The snowpocalypse hasn't moved the needle much. Those who didn't like Hizzoner still don't like him, and those that like him are giving him the benefit of the doubt. Happy shoveling.

AFTER THE JUMP—Armao: Matthews slam was good for Fenty; Machen confirmed as U.S. attorney; Pearlstein on convention center hotel mess; developers not hot on Franklin School

Continuing the spate of snow-politics stories, AP picks up Fenty storm-response complaints. '[R]esidents complained that snow removal by [Fenty]'s administration seemed arbitrary, with some streets plowed numerous times, others not at all....How quickly the elected officials get rid of the stuff could determine their political futures, a hard lesson learned over the years by some big-city mayors.' Yeah, yeah—we know, Michael Bilandic and such. Kudos for getting Marion Barry, who knows something about subpar snow removal, on the record: 'Snow, politically, in Washington — in most places — is a very high-stake poker game....People are very emotional about snow.' Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, too. Also WaTimes.

WaPo editorialist Jo-Ann Armao weighs in on Chris Matthews' big mouth: 'Matthews’s broadside about Fenty’s response to this week’s record snowstorms was so ridiculous it actually had the effect of minimizing the impression of the District’s failings in dealing with this week’s record snowstorms....I couldn’t help but shake my head at the harangue on "Hardball." It’s one thing for the show to have as a supposedly knowledgeable commentator someone who wasn’t even here for much of the storm — council member Harry Thomas Jr., who was in Miami for last week’s Super Bowl. But it’s another thing for Matthews to invoke Katrina.' As for Harry Jaffe, he writes, 'I'd like to shove a sock in [Matthews'] big mouth....[DPW's] Bill Howland has been managing local government agencies longer than you have been yammering. He and [DDOT's] Gabe Klein worked day and night, slept a few hours in the offices, and went back on the street so that you could drive in from Chevy Chase. Perhaps that's the problem: The snow made you disoriented. You started from your manse in Montgomery County, where the streets had not been plowed, and you didn't know when you crossed into D.C., where the streets actually were clear.' (Armao colleague Jonathan Capehart remains in Matthews' camp.)

Great, New Yorkers are back to being jagoffs again—via the Daily News, which polls Gotham congressmen: '"Wimp is the word, let me tell you," said Bronx Rep. Eliot Engel. "In New York, I think I can count on one hand all the time they've closed the schools for my kids or even for me and my wife. Yet in D.C., there only has to be a threat of snow and they're closing the schools for a week."' At least Rep. Jose Serrano, chair of the District oversight committee, has our back: 'Serrano, speaking from his home in the Bronx after treating the blizzard there as an opportunity to shoot a little video, was willing to cut D.C. some slack. "I think what happened in Washington is that they handled one snowfall well, they handled another snowfall well," he said, referring to previous storms that exhausted local snow removal budgets. "But when you get this much snow, I don't care who you are. They handled it pretty well. I'm pretty impressed."'

More NYT snowmageddon coverage: 'In downtown Washington, at least, winter’s messy white flakes have become a four-letter word. “For me it is,” said Frank Pacifico, a manager of the District Department of Transportation field unit. “I could go a decade or so without hearing it or saying again.”...“Unfortunately it’s a pretty vicious cycle,” Mr. Pacifico said. “People begin digging out and don’t wait for snow plows to come through, and then when they do, they block them in. We hope that the public is watching and staying inside.”'

Examiner's transportation update: 'Metro plans to resume rail service Friday on all but the Shady Grove-to-Medical Center segment of the Red Line and the Ballston-to-Vienna part of the Orange Line. Trains will run up to 25 minutes apart and stop at midnight rather than 3 a.m. Metrobus and MetroAccess will resume limited service,' Kytja Weir writes. 'District officials didn't want to make promises about when neighborhood streets would be plowed. "As soon as possible," District Department of Transportation spokeswoman Karyn LeBlanc said.' Keep in mind that DDOT has a 60-hour standard for getting plows to side streets. That would expire early Saturday morning.

NO KIDDING—Wednesday say the lowest Metro ridership in system history.

Airports are open. But travel's gonna be a mess for a while. That's OK for Hillcrest community leader Kathy Chamberlain, WaPo reports: 'She was supposed to fly home from Kauai, Hawaii, on Monday, and a series of delays and cancellations this week didn't faze her one bit. She has been monitoring her Hillcrest neighborhood e-mail list, with its complaints of roads unplowed for days, power outages, people trapped in their houses, and so on. "Not for a nanosecond have I wished to be back there," she said.'

Latest on disaster funding: Eleanor Holmes Norton claims that a presidential emergency declaration is all but a done deal; The Hill relays a Fenty comment to MSNBC that he 'spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday, who assured him that the federal government will reimburse the cost to the D.C. government, a move that he called "a big help."' Fed blogger notes, '[W]hat DC really needs is not temporary relief, necessarily, but infrastructure investments in a subway and light rail system that can be easily reactivated in a major storm, and a snowplow and salt fleet that's in consistent good working condition.'

Is a mayoral press conference a guaranteed way to get a snowplow to your block? WaPo's Ann Marimow spoke to a woman who spotted heavy equipment shortly before Hizzoner showed up on 18th Street SE, in Anacostia. But: 'Daniel "Big Apple" Ellis, the plow operator on the street, said he had been out in the neighborhood since 7 a.m. The only reason he was still there by late afternoon, he said, was because "people are not letting us do our job. They're getting in the way." Ellis said residents were dumping snow back into cleared streets as they tried to shovel out their cars and others were following his plow insisting that he also hit their streets. "I didn't want to say, 'no,'" Ellis said, adding that he knew nothing of the mayor's plans.'

Jim Graham, overseer of DDOT and DPW, announced in a press release yesterday morning that he's holding council hearings into the city snow response. Fab bit of Grahamstanding, no? Turns out they're actually the regular performance oversight hearings scheduled every budget cycle. But still, hearings they are.

WaPo's Tim Craig covers what councilmembers ought to be doing following a blizzard: Helping out their neighbors. Best anecdote: 'Monica Bell of Hillcrest sent The Washington Post a letter Tuesday afternoon praising [Kwame Brown], who has an all-terrain vehicle, for plowing out residents' sidewalks and driveways. "I heard my dog barking and went to the front door to see what all the fuss was about when I saw a man digging snow from around my minivan." Bell wrote. "Once he finished with our van, he moved across the street to my neighbor's car and so on and so forth ... I was absolutely touched."' Also: Graham did a plow ride-along; Michael Brown sent out a list of volunteerism opportunities.

ALSO—Barry shares more expertise: '[Barry] said Fenty should have contracted a fleet of lightweight plows to work in District neighborhoods as soon as he heard that the region could be in for a historic snowstorm. "What I learned from (snowstorms in) 1987 and 2006 is the District doesn't have enough equipment," Barry said. "I learned these big plows can't get through these small streets."'

DCPS: No school today, but a previously scheduled training day is a go. Here's what Michelle Rhee e-mailed to teachers: 'One of the key messages I hear from teachers at the listening sessions I do at schools across the city is that we need to do more to support you in our work. The district-wide professional development days are a key opportunity to do exactly that. Because we have such a limited number of these days, and because the worst of the weather has passed, I have decided to move forward with the scheduled activities tomorrow.' Says blogger, 'Please tell me this is a joke. Michelle Rhee has a serious sense of humor.' School is set to open Tuesday; 'Other than some broken equipment, no major damage had been found' at schools, Michael Birnbaum reports at WaPo. Then there's the issue of make-up days; DC Teacher Chic identifies some days that could be used in lieu of extending the school year.

MUST READ—Fab story from WaPo's Monica Hesse on idiot winter drivers. To wit: 'Some idiot appeared driving a Miata in the District's Mount Pleasant neighborhood, where he tried, for reasons unknown to God or man, to park on an unplowed street. Jason Kowal and friends spent much time and muscle helping him, only to have the idiot demand to be moved out again: He was afraid of getting a ticket and wanted a better parking space. That might be the last time Kowal offers assistance. "I think we're all at the stage," Kowal says, "of shaking our heads and moving on."' The moral of the story: 'Washington idiots cannot be taught, in the course of one snowstorm, advanced snow behavior. These skills must be acquired through lifetimes of bad weather driving.'

The plight of the power lineman, as captured by WaPo's Michael Ruane: 'As the Washington area dug out of this week's blizzard on Thursday, an army of bleary-eyed linemen and other utility workers battled wind, snowdrifts and exhaustion to restore power to the thousands who had lost it — in some cases for more than a week. The huge swaths of Pepco outages at the peak of the two storms had mostly been reversed by Thursday, officials said, and work crews were down to handling so-called "single no currents," or isolated, individual outages.'

WBJ looks at the snow's economic impacts: 'What is the economic impact of the government shutdown? It’s hard to tell. There is no official measure of public sector productivity, according to Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis. “I don’t think you can put a number on it.”' WSJ downplays the damage: 'Losses from weather events come in two forms: Business that is postponed, the sweater not bought today, but bought next week, and business that is lost forever, such as restaurant-goers who can't make it through snowdrifts. "Generally, these kinds of things don't have a meaningful effect on the economy," said Moody's Economy.com economist Mark Zandi. "It affects the timing of economic activity, but in terms of dollars and cents, these kinds of things don't add up to much."...The storm kept travelers out of Washington hotels, a definite minus to the city's hospitality industry. But some hotels filled up rooms with local residents who lost power at home.'

The WaPo editorial board tells us what it all means: 'The last time we had to confront such vulnerability was in the context of terrorism and crime — after Sept. 11, 2001, when we began to understand how a terrorist attack might topple the supporting pillars of modern life; and a year later, when we saw how even one evil-minded gunman (or, as it turned out, one plus a boy), could bring that life nearly to a halt. Since then, vigilance and fear have, inevitably, given way to complacency. If these latest snowstorms prod Washingtonians to replenish their supplies of fresh water and canned food and replace the batteries of their emergency radios, something useful will have been accomplished; self-reliance should be encouraged, as far as it can take us.'

BIDs pitch in to help clear snow from commercial districts, WBJ reports. NoMa BID's got shovels; Golden Triangle BID has snowblowers. Also: 'The city has a contract with Clear Channel to clear areas around bus shelters, and the [Golden Triangle] BID has been coordinating with the DDOT command center to let them know what has and has not been brushed off.'

Carol Joynt chronicles the plow progress in Georgetown, passes on this reader note: 'I was out getting provisions and after the Whole Foods was closed I walked toward CVS just as a MPD police cruiser dropped off a dancer at Good Guys (she didn't have a spec of snow on her so this was obviously door to door service). Just wish that I had my camera or phone with me. I guess its MPDs own stimulus package!'

JUST IN CASE— If you heard rumors that 'the mayor had ordered plows "to plow only in the Wards of 2, 3, and 4,"' they are 'incredibly untrue.'

SUNDRY SNOW NEWS—Roof collapses are still a concern. Check pic of crushed rowhouse awning at WAMU-FM; NC8, WTTG-TV have video. Trees also raising hackles; NC8 covers folks on 300 block of Allison Street NW who say tree that fell in storm should have been removed long ago. WRC-TV's Pat Collins reports from Q Street SE—a street still very much snow-clogged yesterday. Meanwhile, WUSA-TV covers snow-removal frustrations in generic 'Southeast' (as well as a happier scene in Palisades). WTTG-TV does National Guard ride-along and has latest video of the D.C. General slushpile. WaPo covers funeral difficulties and grocery-stocking woes. And Marc Fisher follows up on the abandoned Safeway—the grocer will be collecting on IOUs left, thank you very much.

***

In last minute pre-holiday business, Senate confirms Ron Machen as the District's new U.S. attorney, along with more than two dozen other Obama nominees. WaPo's Del Wilber reports that it's unclear when Machen will start.

Penalties for liquid PCP possession stand to increase under council bill, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. The Phil Mendelson-sponsored legislation would make it a felony to possess any amount of the potent drug. 'District prosecutors are backing [the bill], saying that the violent psychosis often spawned by the drug's use warrants a felony charge in any amount. But D.C. defense lawyers respond that just holding the drug, without intent to sell it, does not merit a long prison sentence.'

WTU responds to corporal punishment numbers published in WaPo: 'Allegations of corporal punishment are not official charges....Current DCPS policy requires every claim of corporal punishment by a student–whether substantiated or not–to be reported to and investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department. Disciplinary actions are taken by DCPS only if the allegations are verified. As a result, the actual number of substantiated allegations of corporal punishment is significantly lower than the 220 incidents reported by Hawk One.' How much lower? Unspecified.

WaPo's Steven Pearlstein delves into the 'sorry saga of the D.C. convention center hotel.' He writes that he's 'learned to cast a wary eye when government officials want an economic development project more than the private interests chosen to develop it do. Projects grow bigger and more ambitious than they need to be, thereby requiring more subsidies than they deserve, until virtually all of the economic benefits wind up in the hands of private interests. Here in Washington, there is no better example of that than the convention center hotel.' He does a fab job recapping the whole sordid story. 'It's hard to know who is more to blame for this fiasco. On the one hand, [JBG President Ben Jacobs]'s motives are anything but pure and his gambit borders on a shakedown. On the other, Jacobs's criticism about the lack of due process and his claim about a sweetheart deal have a ring of truth to them.'

WBJ's Jonathan O'Connell reports that developer interest in the Franklin School has been light: 'Fenty received only two development proposals for Franklin....One proposal, by Brooklandville, Md.-based Cana Development, would turn Franklin into a 30-room boutique hotel above a restaurant and culinary training program. The other would turn the site into an elementary and middle school for the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, which bid in tandem with D.C.-based Jair Lynch Development Partners.' Says Cana principal, 'We would help to gentrify that community and that area.' The news is a boost to community activists who want 'to turn the building into a “High School for Global Citizenship and Diplomacy.”'

ALSO—O'Connell notes ACLU lawsuit over Gales school RFP: 'Church and state issues aside, anyone who has seen the dilapidated shell of a brick building at 65 Massachusetts Ave. NW, can see that 27 days – counting weekends – isn’t a lot of time to come up with a viable plan. And the ACLU isn’t the only one to complain; the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District has been eyeing Gales for its workforce program for the homeless and is looking for an extension, too.'

WaPo Mag checks up on D.C. woman's search for affordable housing.

Daily Caller reporter struck by cop car wants answers!

Storm strands med-marijuana advocates who flew in for canceled council hearing.

Another plank of Clark Ray's council platform: Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

MyerEmco: Kaput.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10:30 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on B18-549 ('Community Impact Statement Amendment Act of 2009'), B18-556 ('Liquid PCP Possession Amendment Act of 2009'), and B18-557 ('Private Fire Hydrant Amendment Act of 2009'), JAWB 412.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—No public events scheduled.

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  • Truth Hurts

    LL's too modest to mention that WAPO reprinted his creative characterization of Mathews: "a non-comuter-tax-paying Moco resident". It's in today's WAPO print edition on op-ed page as well as online at washingtonpost.com/postpartisan. Congrats to DeBonis and CP for being out in front on this one.

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