Here Comes the Metro Control Board: Loose Lips Daily
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—'Key Fenty Supporter Judith Terra Is ‘Keeping Options Open’ for 2010'; 'At Least Six Stabbings Inside D.C. Jail Since November'; and tweets galore!
Morning all. Four U.S. senators—Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), and David Vitter (R-La.)—tell Metro in letter that if safety concerns 'cannot be addressed immediately and comprehensively, then we believe that the federal government should consider all possible options to ensure the safety of the Metrorail system, including direct federal intervention.' What could 'direct federal intervention' entail? Joe Stephens and Lena Sun report in WaPo that the possibilities 'could include restrictions on funding, additional investigations or a federal takeover of Metro's governing board.' (Call it the transit control board.) Adds WaPo: 'The developments escalated the battle over Metro's future to an unprecedented level and moved the focus to the transit agency's boardroom.' The letter came on the same day that senators—Dodd and Menendez, plus Maryland Dems Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin—introduced legislation to establish federal oversight of all transit systems.
AFTER THE JUMP—More on DCPS teacher misconduct ramifications; Ward 8 gas not good enough for Barry's Benz; Fenty keeps cab fares capped at $19; Gandhi on city debt capacity: 'we basically have nothing'; so long, Tom Nida; the city snow melter's undisclosed location
MORE FROM LETTER—'The derailment of a Metrorail train on February 12, 2010, is the latest in a series of safety incidents, several of them fatal. We understand that WMATA is in the process of reforming its safety operations and request a briefing on these efforts. We believe it is imperative that such systemic failures be appropriately addressed and resolved as quickly as possible to provide peace of mind to the millions of riders in the national capital region....The Red Line derailment near the Farragut North Metrorail station on February 12, 2010, is part of a troubling pattern of safety incidents involving the Metrorail system. In total, the Metrorail system has witnessed 17 deaths in seven separate incidents over the past five years, far outpacing the number of fatalities on any other mass transit system in the country....WMATA’s safety record is unacceptable. Such a pattern cannot be viewed as a string of isolated “accidents.” Rather, it is clear that there is an institutional failure on the part of WMATA.' Also Streetsblog, Examiner, which quotes ex-NTSB chair Jim Hall saying Metro has shown 'a reluctance to provide transparency and openness to its customers and the oversight structure.'
More details on DCPS teacher misconduct: Chancellor Michelle Rhee tells Vincent Gray via letter that she 'has fired 10 D.C. teachers for administering corporal punishment and two for sexual misconduct since July 2007,' Bill Turque reports in WaPo. 'Another 28 teachers served suspensions of as long as 10 days for administering corporal punishment, defined by District law as the use or attempted use of force against a student as punishment or discipline. The report...does not include names and offers only fragmentary descriptions of the incidents. Most involve grabbing, shoving, slapping, scratching or arm-twisting.' As for the two teachers fired (pre-RIF) in cases of sexual misconduct, there were few details. All of these were among 68 cases involving teachers referred to police; but dozens and dozens more accusations were never substantiated. See the full DCPS response [PDF].
RHEE TO TEACHERS—In an e-mail sent late Friday, Rhee wrote that educators 'ended up unfairly and inaccurately portrayed with a broad brush' in the Fast Company item. 'I am concerned that media reports may again leave the impression– unfairly and inaccurately–that this is a broader problem in DCPS than it is. It's not true, and I know the Council will join the Mayor and I in making that clear if and when they choose to make this report public. The vast majority of DCPS teachers are the hardest working people I have ever seen, dedicated to making sure our students succeed and going beyond their job descriptions every day to make a difference in the lives of the children in their classroom....[I]t is important that the Members of the Council, the news media, and DCPS officials make it clear that the instances documented in the report to DC Council reflect the conduct of a very small portion of our teachers. We also want you to know that we are deeply committed to making sure that you—hard working teachers who are doing amazing work to move our children forward—are not implicated by the mistakes of a few.' Also Examiner.
'Barry and his Ex—Back Together!' is the headline on Bruce Johnson's WUSA-TV piece on the Bennett Report aftermath. 'Council members say privately they are angry at Barry over the contracts to friends and his rekindled relationship with his ex. The two have been spotted at Barry's home in Southeast, DC. A majority of legislators tell 9NEWS NOW they are prepared to vote to censure Barry and send the case to federal prosecutors.'
ALSO—Don't miss South East Socialite's Barry interview: 'NOW YA’LL GONNA LOVE THIS! We talked about the gas stations on MLK ave. I told him how I get gas in PG County because I refuse to give my dollars to business owners that do not maintain their property. He goes on to tell me how I need to keep the money in DC. So I asked, do you use the gas stations on MLK? His response: No, I drive a Mercedes; I’m not putting that gas in my car! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'
A new year, a new interbranch pissing match: 'Mayor Adrian Fenty is spurning a D.C. Council directive to lift the $19 cap on taxicab rides that start and end in the District, contending that Congress awarded his administration total control over fares and meter regulation,' Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. 'The council killed the cap in the current budget, adopted last August, but the limit remains. According to an opinion issued by the office of Attorney General Peter Nickles, the mayor was awarded by Congress exclusive authority to set taxi rates and the council's action "unlawfully" interfered with that power.' The Taxicab Commission, citing Nickles, won't do anything pursuant to the council's legislation; says Michael Brown, 'If that's the case, then there's no need for the Taxicab Commission....If you take the rates away, that obviously limits what the commission can do.'
Some budget scuttlebutt from WBJ's Jonathan O'Connell: 'There is discussion about cutting some agencies and merging others to save costs....For developers and residents who are hoping the city will find some cash to save their flagging local development projects, there is more bad news. It looks as though the city — barring some new action — is already on the way to technically violating its debt cap, which limits how much the city can borrow for tax increment financing, payment-in-lieu-of-taxes and other subsidies. A recent article in the Bond Buyer (registration required) quotes D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi saying "we basically have nothing" in additional bonding available other than what is needed to sure up the budget, and that the cap will be violated in fiscal 2011 unless $350 million is found to provide for some existing bond debt. The only capital projects that will get funded, Gandhi said, are the ones already in the pipeline.'
Where's the snow melter? That's what WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood tried to find out, after a viewer sent in pictures of the $120K machine languishing in a city lot. 'The D.C. snow melter was an emergency city purchase in 2003, brought in from Nova Scotia and set up at 17th and I streets to help clear the snow downtown....News4 went searching Monday for the snow melter, said to be sitting idle on a West Virginia Avenue motor pool and repair lot in northeast Washington, but it was hidden from view. City officials declined a request for an on-camera interview, saying in a statement the snow melter needed parts, was difficult to operate and wasn't worth using again. So it sits on the city's public works lot. And just to make it more mysterious, the city government refused the News4 request to photograph it.' Typical.
WaPo's Darryl Fears covers a $15.4M stimulus grant given to the District government, in conjunction with the D.C. Primary Care Association and the Providence Health Foundation of Providence Hospital, 'as part of a nationwide effort to improve patient records, promote record-sharing, and train people for careers in health care and health information technology.' Providence is focused on job training, and DCPCA is focused on helping local providers implement electronic records systems to meet a 2015 Medicare-imposed deadline.
More from WaPo on the Sunday night murder of a teen, identified as Joel Watkins, 16, of the 600 block of Jefferson Street NW. 'He apparently is the youngest person slain this year in the District. No motive in the killing in the Brightwood/Manor Park area could be learned Monday night. "We don't know a lot about what happened," said D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser....According to Bowser, Joel attended the Transition Academy at Shadd....A neighborhood resident said he was one of three siblings.' Also WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
Renee Bowman is convicted in Montgomery County of murdering her daughters Minnet and Jasmine, whom she adopted in the District. Notes WaPo: 'State's Attorney John McCarthy said Bowman adopted the girls to receive the stipend from D.C. that comes with such custody. "This woman was in it for the money. And by killing the children, keeping them literally on ice, the money continued to flow," he said.' Also WTTG-TV, Examiner, which notes that the District 'paid her more than $152,000 to care for the girls.'
COLD CASE—The killer of 17-year-old Brittney Delacy Hall, shot in Petworth in 2007, is still at large.
Farewell to Tom Nida, who took a bow as Public Charter School Board chair last night after five years. Mark Lerner pays tribute on his Examiner blog: 'Perhaps most important is that the growth of charters under Mr. Nida's leadership, and the corresponding drop in DCPS enrollment, led directly to a Mayoral takeover of the traditional schools and the hiring of Chancellor Michelle Rhee. That progress is now being made in improving both the academics and the physical condition of the regular schools is what proponents of school choice have argued would happen all along.'
Another Metro driver is fired for texting while driving. WTTG-TV: 'The photos first appeared on the website unsuckdcmetro.blogspot.com. The passenger writes on the blog that the bus was so crowded he was forced to stand up front near the driver. The operator was driving down 14th Street when the pictures were taken according to the photographer. You can see the phone partially hidden under the driver's leg.'
C Street House: Is the Capitol Hill domicile of big-shot conservatives 'an exclusive club for powerful officials...masquerading as a church' for the tax benefits? So says a group of ministers petitioning the IRS to take away its federal tax-exempt status. As for local taxes? 'D.C. authorities inspected the house in 2009 and classified it as 66 percent taxable and 34 percent tax-exempt,' WaPo reports.
How much do you trust DaLockerRoom.com for your political news? Because they've got a scoop: 'Reliable sources have informed me that DC Council Chair Vincent Gray WILL challenge incumbent Mayor Adrien Fenty, and run for Mayor in 2010,' one Royce Roberts reports. 'I know your thinking…”Why should we believe you DLR?”' Dunno—because you spelled 'Adrian Fenty' wrong?
DCmud reports that the Hay-Adams Hotel plans to add a floor atop its historic Lafayette Park digs to accommodate a restaurant that can capitalize on its fab White House vista. 'Sources say the hotel is close to final approval for concept, which required sanctioning by the DC and federal governments, and of course the Secret Service, which will one day run all of Washington DC.'
B. Francis Saul II, he of megalandlord B.F. Saul Co., will grand-marshal this year's St. Patrick's Day parade, with wife Patricia. He 'is the great grandson of an Irish immigrant and has been a significant benefactor to the Catholic Church. He has received the Papal Medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the highest award that the Catholic Church can bestow on non-clergy.'
Slow Cook's Ed Bruske interviews DCPS COO Anthony Tata about school-lunch reform. Rather pro forma but note: Tata says that 'our Food Services staff are currently researching alternative milk products to flavored milk that are attractive to students but do not contain as much sugar.'
EHN introduces bill to honor Langston Golf Course.
DDOT crews 'moved swiftly Monday to lay down fresh lane markings on the 14th Street Bridge after drivers said that plowing and salting had virtually erased temporary lane markings,' WaPo reports.
Aha! A defender of Fenty's infamous WRC-TV snow interview performance! Alas, he is in Minnesota, 'where we don’t haul snow off our streets – we understand the snow stays on the ground until it melts.'
Circulator service is now a part of Google Maps. Notes DCist: 'Until Metro gets its data in there, the service is nearly useless.'
Homeless rousted from 1401 New York Ave. NW?
Congrats to the Miner ES glee club, which performed 'Heat Wave' Sunday at the White House for the Governor's Ball.
THIS MORNING—Don Peebles on CNBC's Squawk Box, 6:30 to 9 a.m.
THIS AFTERNOON—Medical-marijuana hearing, 2 p.m. in the cozy confines of JAWB 123. Toke of the Town notes that '[m]edical marijuana advocates feel the proposed legislation is too restrictive and doesn't live up to the spirit of the 1998 voter initiative. The advocates plan to propose a set of amendments to the bill.' All of which will probably fail.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment agency performance oversight hearing on the Office of Contracting and Procurement, Office of Employee Appeals, Public Employees Relations Board, and Department of Human Resources, JAWB 412; Committee on Libraries, Parks, and Recreation agency performance oversight hearing on Department of Parks and Recreation, JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Health and Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary joint hearing on B18-622 ('Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative Amendment Act of 2010'), JAWB 123.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:45 a.m.: remarks, Preventable Causes of Death report release, Fort Davis Community Center, 1400 41st St. SE.