City Desk

How Marion Barry Rolls: 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—'Why Is Marion Barry Driving a Car Registered to His Crony?'; 'The Reason Why Prosecutors May Not Charge Barry'; and tweets galore!

Morning all. The Marion Barry saga rolls on; yesterday evening, LL reported that Barry has been driving a car registered to Anthony Motley, the D.C. Council candidate fingered in the Bennett Report as having pocketed some $50,000 in earmark funds. No answers were forthcoming about the arrangement. Meanwhile, Barry lawyer Fred Cooke tells WRC-TV that, in a response due Thursday, 'he expect[s] to raise several questions about the conclusions in the report.' WTTG-TV asks, 'What Should Happen to Marion Barry?' And Examiner's Harry Jaffe makes the point that, once again, Barry is riding to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's rescue. 'The youthful mayor appeared to be on his knees. Potential competitors licked their lips. Could Fenty be taken out in September? Enter Marion Barry....In a blink, the headlines flashed from Fenty Can't Clear Streets to Barry Accused of Corruption.'

AFTER THE JUMP—Fenty details FY10 overspending plan, will tap special-purpose funds to cover general-fund shortfall; ex-emergence-management chief criticizes Fenty snow response; Hizzoner lays tennis beatdown on schoolkids; Metro having a hard time finding interim GM; commercial real estate storm is brewing

MORE JAFFE—The council, he writes, can put the pressure back on Fenty if they 'grow a pair': 'Will the other 12 council members call Barry out for his obvious abuse of power and public funds? Will they mete out some consequences and publicly humiliate him? Or will they let the old goat slide?' Some kudos for Kwame: '[W]hen at-large member Kwame Brown called for "censure," he showed some political bravery. From the dais, he said Barry should at least have shown some remorse. To me, he said: "It would be irresponsible for the council to condone such behavior."...Skeptics have attempted to link him to Barry, in part because his father, Marshall Brown, was a Barry aide. The son is not.'

VINCE GRAY WEDNESDAY—On NC8's NewsTalk: '"I think the Council is prepared to do the right thing," Gray said on NewsTalk, adding that included possibly stripping Barry of his committee assignments or chairmanship. "{The punishments} could include censure as well," Gray said when asked about censure. "We have the authority to do that. [What] we don't have the authority to do—just so people are clear—is to remove Mr. Barry from the Council."'

THE GOOD NEWS—Barry's transplanted kidney is working A-OK, he tells the Informer. 'Barry said that while his health is fine, there are a few minor ailments that he has to deal with. "There are times that I feel lethargic and I do get a headache sometimes," he said....The transplant caused Barry to change his diet. "I eat no pork or beef and I have restricted my sweets," he said. "I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and fish. I rarely eat fast food but I do have a couple of pieces of fried chicken every once in a while."'

RELIABLE SOURCE—From live chat: 'Washington, D.C.: Poor Marion Barry—can't your newspaper leave the poor guy alone? Amy Argetsinger: Poor Marion Barry? Poor us! He keeps CREATING these stories! Our poor Metro staff doesn't have a day of rest.'

ALSO—Robert Wechsler of CityEthics—a nonprofit that's been hired by the D.C. Council to draft new rules—writes on his blog: 'It's an excellent report, and its recommendations, especially regarding council earmark grants, are must reading in any city that allows or is contemplating this sort of grant.'

***

Examiner's Michael Neibauer scores details on the Fenty administration plan to cover $200 million in current fiscal-year overspending. The plan, he reports, 'includes releasing inmates from jail early, removing students attending costly private schools outside the District at taxpayers' expense and resuming some Medicaid billing.' About half the gap may be closed via spending cuts; the other half will come via a 'redirection of dedicated fund revenues — like the tree or fishing license fund — to the general fund.' Says Phil Mendelson: 'This isn't dealing with the problem. Nobody's home. Nobody's taking responsibility for adhering to the budget.' LL's question: How is the city going to 'reduce the number of students in non-public placements' to save $11M before Oct. 1, when the semester is already well underway?

DRAMA—Vince Gray wanted a dozen agency directors to show up before the council today to detail what they're doing, but as of yesterday he was told that only Neil Albert would be testifying—prompting a scorching late-night press release from the chairman's office. But Neibauer updated his story this morning to say, via Gray's spokesperson, that 'Fenty had changed his mind, and the agency chiefs are now scheduled to appear.'

Former D.C. emergency management director Peter LaPorte testifies to council committee that, in his opinion, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty should have treated the snowmageddon as an emergency operation, Tim Craig reports in WaPo. LaPorte told Mendelson's public safety committee that he served as snow czar' during the Williams administration, 'which he said made it easy for government agencies to coordinate response efforts. "If I was [asked] how to run that snowstorm, I would have run it out of the emergency management" agency, said LaPorte,' who 'became the latest voice to question how [Fenty] managed the storms.' Fire and police unions, meanwhile, skewered Hizzoner for a lack of snow planning. Fenty, natch, doesn't care to defend how he did things: 'Fenty did not did not directly answer questions about how he managed the storm, but his spokeswoman issued a statement Thursday praising snowplow crews.' Note that 'Fenty never ordered a state of emergency during the storms, although the governors of neighboring Maryland and Virginia did.' Unclear, however, what that means.

MORE—LaPorte's comments came during a confirmation hearing for new HSEMA director Millicent Williams. Mendo asked her about the agency's snow performance: '"How much of this was the District government saying, 'We don't need help. We can do it ourselves'?" asked Mendelson....Williams, who is also facing questions about whether she is qualified to head the District's security and disaster response operations, [said] that she was working behind the scenes last week to coordinate emergency response efforts. "The fact of the matter is, our agency is doing its best work when people don't know we are there," Williams said in an interview after the hearing. "We are a coordination body. We help to connect resources to where the problems are, and so it's not necessary for me to be front and center."' LaPorte, for the record, supports Williams' confirmation.

So after Hizzoner got all snippy on WRC-TV yesterday morning, he then headed over to the Hillcrest Rec Center, Ann Marimow reports at D.C. Wire, where he 'challenged elementary and middle school students from the Winston Education Campus in a game of short court indoor tennis....Fenty, dressed in a red-striped tie and black boots, told the kids to "take it easy on the mayor." But the mayor certainly didn't go easy on the kids. He pointed and called "Out!" as their balls flew out of bounds and threw his hands up in victory, leaving undefeated after about a half-dozen rounds.'

BTW—The blog reaction to Fenty's interview is not good.

At yesterday's meeting, Metro board members began to tackle the budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year. That could include as much as $90M in fare hikes, which is what management is recommending, Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo. 'The fare hikes would include a 25-cent increase in the boarding charge at peak rail travel times and would raise the maximum peak-period fare from $4.50 to $5.00. The proposal, announced at a Metro Board meeting, also would add 50 cents to the $1.25 boarding charge for buses and increase the price of a bus pass from $11 to $15.' That plan also assumes $40M in uncertain federal funds, so additional cuts or borrowing might be necessary. Examiner's Kytja Weir notes that Metro spending in the current budget year has been further stressed by the snowstorms, which 'have cost Metro more than $20.4 million and counting, busting the agency's $2.5 million snow removal budget for the year.' WMATA is seeking direct assistance from the feds.

SCOOP—From WTOP's Adam Tuss: 'Metro is finding it hard to corral a temporary replacement for the top position at the transit agency....[S]o far, those that have been offered the job of interim general manager have turned it down. A Metro source tells WTOP that at least two internal candidates have been offered the top spot at Metro, but they have declined. External candidates are said to have been offered the position and they have declined.' Reportedly among the decliners: former acting GM Jack Requa.

ALSO—Art projects coming to Farragut North, Takoma stations; new Rosslyn entrance gets preliminary OK; GM mum on derailment probe; Metro trains are late.

NTSB votes to add rail-car design to its list of 'most wanted' transit safety priorities—a decision certainly influenced by the Red Line disaster, in which a 35-year-old Metro car was crushed. 'The board called on the Federal Transit Administration to develop and establish standards for minimum crashworthiness and guidelines for removing equipment that cannot be modified,' Lena Sun reports in WaPo. Chair Debbie Hersman calls the move 'essential to improve transportation safety.' So how does this impact Metro? Unclear as yet: 'Replacing the 300 oldest cars would cost nearly $1 billion. Metro has started the process to buy new rail cars for the extension to Dulles International Airport. Those new cars...also will be the design used to replace the [oldest, 1000-series cars.' Also Examiner.

D.C. will be at the center of a coming commercial real estate crisis, Dion Haynes reports in WaPo. 'The foreclosure wave is likely to swamp many smaller community banks across the country, and many well-known properties, including Washington's Mayflower Hotel and the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo, are at risk, industry analysts say....In Washington, the number of troubled properties has multiplied at a phenomenal rate, with the value growing from only $13 million in 2007 to $40 billion now....The region trails only South Florida and metropolitan New York in the per capita value of commercial real estate assets in foreclosure, default or delinquency, according to the research group Real Capital Analytics. The threat is especially acute in the District, the firm said, where the catalogue of troubled commercial real estate properties has grown tenfold since April....Whether the commercial real estate bubble bursts in a catastrophic event or subsides slowly and less dangerously will be determined during the next year.'

WBJ's Tierney Plumb covers the ongoing drama over the city's vacant property tax rate. Or is it the blighted-property tax rate? Whatever: 'This past fall, the D.C. Council eliminated the city's vacant-property tax and replaced it with the blighted-property tax of $10 per $100, in the process also eliminating exemptions that existed under the old tax for property which is vacant for reasons such as a temporary move....Such misinterpretations of the law — and a wave of complaints from the public — have prompted some council members to try to amend the law again. [Muriel Bowser] and [Jack Evans] have introduced separate bills and are working together on a set of proposed amendments.'

ALSO—D.C. Chamber of Commerce will be moving from K Street into Pew Trusts' 'nonprofit village,' Jonathan O'Connell reports. 'President Barbara Lang said the move to the Pew building from 1213 K St. NW late this summer would resurrect the visitor's center thanks to proximity to tourist magnets like the Ford's Theater and the International Spy Museum. "It's a great location — perfect for foot traffic," Lang said.' Pew, meanwhile, is still trying to get tax abatements.

MORE SNOW STORIES—NC8 covers roof damage, parking dibs. WRC-TV says snow mounds are still blocking lanes of traffic. WUSA-TV finds more uncleared public sidewalks. WTTG-TV covers trash, potholes, federal funding. And WTOP's Neal Augenstein goes to Buffalo for some snow perspective. He notes: 'Parking is different in Buffalo's suburbs....The city and suburbs have an alternate side of street parking rules and no street parking after Nov. 15. The rules that dictate on which side of the street you park apply even in the summer. Stepniak says that takes the confusion out of things. "When people get a regular pattern, they get used to it," he says.'

NOTA BENE—DDOT's Gabe Klein tells Tom Sherwood: 'My personal feeling is that the best thing for the taxpayers would be to have plans for this level of snow but not necessarily to permanently ramp up to a level to clear 70 inches of snow.'

RE: DIBS—Hill resident threatens those who might take his/her dug-out parking space. Now, LL supports the practice of dibs, but not two weeks after a snowfall. Sheezus.

Hill residents want some answers about a new charter school somehow affiliated with the mysterious International Graduate University, Bill Turque reports on his WaPo blog, and they aren;t getting any: 'University High Public Charter School wants to lease space at IGU, on D Street SE, for a college preparatory program targeted to at-risk youth....Capitol Hill residents have been frustrated by their inability to get information from University High's executive director, Terry Shelton, a former treatment team coordinator at Oak Hill Youth Center and probation officer for D.C. Superior Court. During a bizarre two-hour meeting at IGU Wednesday evening, Shelton would not disclose the members of the group's founding board, although they are listed in the application on file with the charter board.' (For more on IGU, check this City Paper reporting.) Thinking is, reports Turque, that the charter deal is 'a way to preserve IGU's non-profit status, which could be jeopardized by its licensing issues.'

Gay marriage is likely less than two weeks away, but DC Agenda's Lou Chibbaro's found a problem: '[T]he application form for a marriage license at the D.C. Superior Court still leaves space only for the names of bride and groom. But a spokesperson for [David Catania] said the marriage license application form is among a few last-minute details that the city and the court are expected to address in the next two weeks.' And, yes, same-sex couples will be able to get married at the courthouse.

Mall plans are presented to Commission of Fine Arts; Michael Ruane reports in WaPo on the changes included in the 600-page plan: 'The memorial to Gen. Grant and his dashing soldiers would preside, burnished and restored, over a transformed Union Square at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. The dilapidated Sylvan Theater, the 1970s-vintage outdoor venue south of the Washington Monument, would be replaced with a multipurpose performance space that would serve food and souvenirs. The under-used Constitution Gardens would be upgraded—its lake reconstructed, its landscape rehabilitated. There would be lots and lots of restrooms.' See the plan and comment at the NPS Web site.

GOODBYE, GRAVEL?—'On the open expanse of the Mall proper, the plan would pave over the now-gravel walkways. The gravel is a "health issue" for many people, Spain said, "and it's a maintenance nightmare for us." Several commissioners, including Chairman Earl A. Powell III, objected, saying gravel walkways, if they're deep enough, have worked elsewhere.'

ALSO—CFA nixes monument labels, approves Hirshhorn bubble.

Architect Shalom Baranes argues in WBJ for a loosening of city building-height restrictions from a green perspective: 'The height limitations in Washington initially legislated by Congress in 1910 force architects to squeeze floors into a much tighter vertical configuration than they would be otherwise. Squeezing 12 office floors, for example, into a maximum allowable height of 130 feet requires that every system servicing the building — ducts for heating and air conditioning, structural floor systems, lighting or sprinkler systems — be designed in a tight and inefficient flat configuration that requires more raw materials....The height act limits building heights on commercial streets to the widths of the streets they face plus 20 feet, and on residential streets to 90 feet. Congress should increase both by 10 feet. That would allow for more energy-efficient delivery of services.'

WaPo's Petula Dvorak writes up how the Hill has come together for Dane Ellis, an attendant at Exxon station at 4th and Pennsylvania SE, who was badly hurt in a December fire at his Temple Hills home after trying unsuccessfully to save his disabled niece. 'Folks noticed his raw wounds, the nose burned, the ears still pink. His customers organized a fundraiser for him at a local bar, the Tune Inn. "At 5 o'clock, the place was packed. They raised about $4,000 for me," Ellis said. "It was real nice. I couldn't believe how good people were." He's become a fixture during his 14 years at Capitol Hill Exxon, and folks stopped in this week...to check on his condition and to offer him some winter clothing, because he lost everything in the fire.'

Two teens are charged in the Feb. 3 murder of Carlos B. Alexander. One has been identified, 18-year-old Daquan Johnson. And Paul Anthony Ashby, 47, has been charged with the murder of Carnell William Bolden, found on Dec. 31 on the 3000 block of Park Drive SE. Also: Feb. 3 murder in Columbia Heights could be self-defense.

Eric Holder and Eleanor Holmes Norton appear at UDC event to promote responsible fatherhood. '"A father's role in the life of a child is irreplaceable," said Holder during the keynote address opening "A National Roundtable and Town Hall Meeting on Fatherhood" that was sponsored by the Alliance of Concerned Men. "If we are going to call ourselves men then we must act like men."'

D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute's Katie Kerstetter monitored yesterday's DHS oversight hearing. Bad news: 'The recent $2.8 million cut appears to put in jeopardy plans to assist DC residents with disabilities. The Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) program provides a monthly cash benefit to individuals with disabilities who have applied for federal disability assistance and are waiting for their applications to be approved, a process that can sometimes take years....The city stopped providing benefits for new IDA applicants last June, creating a waiting list of over 1,000 residents.' DHS has instituted a 1,500-person cap on IDA recipients.

Corcoran School is looking for additional space in Northwest.

Howard Theater documentary to air later this month.

Zoo may be short a panda, but they got two new leopard cubs.

Mike Panetta remembers Ray Browne.

McKinley Armstrong, legendary McKinley High hoops coach, is dead at 81.

LL KUDOS—To Matthew and/or Andrew Fenty, who brandished a lovely "SQUEEZE THE ORANGE" sign at last night's Georgetown-Syracuse game, which they wanted with their dad and grandpa Phil from baseline seats. Alas, the Hoyas came up just short.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole hearing on FY2010 budget spending pressures, JAWB 500.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, Newark Dog Park groundbreaking, 39th and Newark Streets NW.

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  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    Barry, stupid, crooked and a human stain!

  • Typical DC BS

    With Metro constantly looking at ratcheting fares up, I have never heard any mention of Metro employees having to forego any raises / benefits or be furloughed to help close the budget gaps, unlike other governmental employees in the area. Any ideas why this is?

    Also, why did Metro's Peter LaPorte not get questioned about Metro's failings in clearing snow from the tracks for several days at it's above-ground stations? Metro didn't deserve any accolades for its performance these past few weeks, that's for sure!

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  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    'Typical DC BS', the problems with Metro is the crooked transit union. The union allows employees who are lazy, rude, have no work ethic and are stupid, and keeps protecting these employees from being properly discipline or terminated for gross misconduct at the expense of the public and it's safety.

    On top of that the union has refused many times in the past to make wage concessions, it's extortion of the public plain and simple. Metro has no back bone to take on the transit union, in light of their criminal actions in other major cities around the US.

    Metro holds public hearings for what!, they do what they want to do anyway so we are screwed no matter what!

    What the riding public need to do is boycott Metro rail and bus, for a day, a week what ever it takes to send a message!

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  • http://www.myenglishtouch.com John

    I agree completely Rick. Unions had their place when they were established so many decades ago, but their time has passed. The rise of Human Resources departments made workers unions obsolete. Employees need to be employed because of their own merit, not the complaints of a union.

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