City Desk

It’s Sweep Season: 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—'Omar Karim Gets Heated on Kojo'; and tweets galore!

Morning all. Today is a red-letter day in the District of Columbia. Because Mayor Adrian M. Fenty might finally get a legit opponent? Perhaps, but that's not what LL had in mind. Rather: Street cleaning is back! Yes, you'll again have to worry about moving your car lest you incur $30-a-pop parking tickets. But a welcome development, with months of snow-deposited grime coating city thoroughfares. Fenty kicks off sweep season with a press event in River Terrace this morning.

AFTER THE JUMP—Colby grades the DCision 2010 incumbents; Rhee hires White House vet for communications advice; promised schools are delayed; Cheh throws cold water on Fenty jobs plan; WaPo outlines WMATA board overhaul; NOM push-polls for Leo Alexander

Colby King, in Saturday WaPo column, has some fun with DCision 2010, sharing his thoughts on the incumbents, starting with Hizzoner: 'Despite having built a credible record on which to run, the mayor has a higher hurdle to clear: likability. Fenty's not the candidate I shadowed in races for a Ward 4 council seat and the mayor's office. On those occasions, small armies of enthusiastic young people, believing in him, worked their tails off. Seniors made over him as if he were a grandson. That Adrian Fenty liked people, listening closely to their concerns. People walked away from him feeling he would think about them when they were gone. Not now. The bond of affection is just not there....Governance isn't just about implementing best practices. Attentiveness and feelings matter, too. Gray knows that. It's a lesson Fenty needs to relearn.' Moving on to Phil Mendelson: Empathetic, but 'routinely stiff-armed like a rookie by Fenty and [Peter Nickles]' and 'given to whining.' David Catania 'rivals Gray as the council's best legislator.' Jim Graham is devoted to 'relentless pursuit of whatever is immediately advantageous.' Mary Cheh 'lays claim to the law and aggressively protects her constituents' interests.' Harry Thomas Jr. 'must work up to father's reputation for faithfulness to values and customs.' And Tommy Wells 'takes the prize for decency and good intentions. He wields authority, however, with a light hand.'

Michelle Rhee has hired former White House communications director Anita Dunn 'to more effectively handle the heavy load of local and national news media attention that Rhee attracts and to help roll out major stories to greater strategic advantage,' Bill Turque reports in WaPo. 'Dunn is expected, however, to assist with an announcement of the long-awaited labor contract between the District and the Washington Teachers' Union, which could be finalized in the next few weeks. "We hope to get her wisdom and advice on how to handle things. She has incredible experience," said Marrianne McMullen, chief of staff to Peggy O'Brien, Rhee's head of family and public engagement. McMullen added that Dunn's contract would be paid for with private donations.' The big picture: 'Supporters and critics of the chancellor have said that she would benefit from more sophisticated communications advice. Although Rhee has attracted wide attention for her school reform efforts, she has drawn almost as much notoriety for statements and gestures considered politically maladroit and damaging.' Gary Imhoff reacts: 'A public relations consultant who advises all-out war against critical media outlets and who says that Mao Tse-tung is one of her two favorite political philosophers — that sounds like a perfect match for Rhee, but it doesn't sound like someone who will do her any good.'

Also from Turque: Several schools promised overhauls won't be getting them immediately, Rhee says, due to the city's darkened fiscal outlook. 'Rhee and [Fenty] roiled neighborhoods across the city when they announced the closure of 23 schools that were either underenrolled or in poor physical condition. In at least three cases, they softened the impact of the deeply unpopular decisions by promising to modernize or rebuild the schools while students were relocated. Since fall 2008, students at Bruce-Monroe Elementary (Ward 1) have attended Park View Elementary; children from Brookland Elementary (Ward 5) are enrolled at Bunker Hill; and Turner Elementary students (Ward 8) have gone to Green Elementary. Parents in each community were told that new or vastly modernized buildings would be ready within two to three years. But the school system's $200 million-a-year capital program...faces a budget squeeze as tax revenue declines and deficits mount. "Our biggest issue is money," Rhee said. "We don't have as much of it as we did before." Asked whether, in retrospect, she overpromised school communities, she said: "I promised based on what [the financial situation] looked like at the time. I didn't expect the capital budget to take a hammering."' WaPo colleague Valerie Strauss calls the reversal 'inexcusable.'

MORE—'Officials acknowledge that the ambitious modernization effort led by school construction czar Allen Y. Lew has been more expensive than anticipated, costing about $1 billion. Extra work added to two major modernization projects—including more classrooms at Alice Deal Middle School (Ward 3) and acoustical upgrades to walls and ceilings at the 118-year-old School Without Walls High School (Ward 2)—sent costs $30 million over projections....The construction budget was also stretched by what a senior District official called "unplanned directives" from Fenty's office. They included new playgrounds and athletic fields for two Ward 3 elementary schools, Eaton and Murch, costing a combined $2.7 million. And Wheatley is receiving an $8 million recreation center that was not in Lew's original spending plans.'

Cheh challenges Fenty weatherization jobs program, telling WaPo's Darryl Fears that money specified for the project simply isn't there: 'The fund has about $7 million "that couldn't possibly be devoted only to weatherization projects because there's a whole variety of projects to which the money is dedicated, under the law." Cheh (D-Ward 3) said city hall is working to create green jobs through energy conservation projects, "but we shouldn't raise hopes that these claims will be realized in the short term. It could be this year or next. It could be a year or more. We're ramping up to provide jobs, but not at the pace or timetable that things are being suggested." Those details weren't mentioned at Covenant Baptist on Monday, where almost a thousand people filled the standing-room-only sanctuary and an overflow room downstairs....The city would first have to issue millions of dollars in bonds and find someone to manage the project. "When we do get there, weatherization will be a part of it," [Cheh] said. "This may be a project that could be realized, but to speak about it as if it's right around the corner may be a little more than the facts can bear."'

Omar Karim appeared on WAMU-FM's Politics Hour Friday. Hosts Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood wanted to discuss cronyism allegations, but Karim was more interested in talking about how WMATA's trying to screw him out of a U Street development deal he'd been awarded. LL wrote up the appearance, as did WaPo's Nikita Stewart, who notes that Karim roundly denied the shakedown encounter alleged by Don Peebles in her recent Fenty cronyism story.

MORE ON THE WMATA DEAL—Jazz @ Florida Avenue, it's called. '[Karim] said he had learned two hours earlier that the board at WMATA has again taken the agreement off its agenda. Banneker won the development project in 2008. "Now, WMATA has $200,000 of ours," he said. "Some people have said it's political...One of the board members wanted another developer." Sherwood asked if the board member was [Jim Graham], who serves on the Metro board. "That's what I've been told," Karim said....Graham, chairman of the Metro board's real estate committee, said he is not responsible for what could be a severing of the Banneker deal. "There have been ongoing, serious questions from several members of the Metro board that he does not have the ability to perform," he said. "It's not about politics...and it's not just about Jim Graham either." Banneker, he said, currently does not have a development partner and is trying to renegotiate the deal in a way that could be unfair to other developers who originally bid on the project in 2008.' Also see DCmud's breakdown of Banneker's thin record.

A Sunday WaPo editorial outlines the problems with WMATA board structure, and describes what an overhaul should look like: 'Metro's 16-member board of directors, and the three-jurisdictional compact that codifies its structure, are relics. Once, when Metro was more a construction project than a major mass transit system, the board's structure made some sense. A rotating one-year chairmanship ensured that Maryland, Virginia and the District would feel fairly treated in the process of contracting for, building and locating 86 stations and 106 miles of track. But once the system was built, Metro's governing system became more hindrance than help....The chairman should serve for multiple years, not just one. Elected officials should be barred from moonlighting as board members. The current structure, under which the general manager must be all things to all people, plus run an agency of 10,000 employees, is untenable. If the general manager is expected to be the public face of Metro, dealing with the board, the community and the media, then he or she should have a strong deputy who functions as the system's chief executive. Either that, or position the board chairman to be the face of Metro and leave the GM to handle operations.'

David Rosenbaum's son-in-law takes to the WaPo local editorial page to assess the progress of FEMS in the wake of Stephanie Stephens' preventable death and other reports. 'I can report that progress has been made,' Toby Halliday writes. 'But much still needs to be done....One of the most significant [EMS Task Force recommendations] was to create a unified, truly integrated Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, where emergency medical services were given proper priority and decisions were driven by what's best for each patient. Chief Rubin fought hard to keep this approach in his department. Yet he still defends crew uniforms emblazoned with "DCFD" and calls concerns about labels "ridiculous." But symbols of the department's mission and identity are hardly trivial.' Halliday calls for stronger fire/EMS unification, a strong medical director, better training and supervision, and a review of staffing plans.

FURTHER—'I disagree with advocates of a separate EMS service in the District because I think fire-based responders need to be better trained, supported and integrated with the EMS mission rather than further isolated from it. I also disagree with The Post's recent suggestion that the EMS Task Force should be reconvened. Instead, Mayor Fenty, the D.C. Council and Chief Rubin must complete their unfinished work without additional conditions. We also need ongoing independent evaluation of emergency medical services. The mayor should create and empower an independent public ombudsman or citizen review board to ensure that the department remains accountable for its progress and performance.'

In themail, Dorothy Brizill raises objections to the Muriel Bowser-introduced open meetings bill: '[T]he bill takes a step backward and details a laundry list of exceptions and loopholes to the open meetings requirement that would render it ineffective, meaningless, and possibly worse than the current law....Moreover, the bill's open meetings requirement extends to any "public body," which is defined as "any council, task force, board or commission of the District government established pursuant to statute, regulation, or order."...[T]he term "public body" "shall not include the District of Columbia courts, governing bodies of individual public charter schools, the Mayor's cabinet, and the professional or administrative staff of public bodies when they meet outside the presence of a quorum of those bodies."'

WTTG-TV's Paul Wagner covers controversy over MPD's participation in the federal "Secure Communities" program, under which 'the fingerprints of people arrested for certain crimes would be shared not only with the FBI but with Immigration as well,' with possible deportations at stake. 'It is a policy many in the Latino community find deeply troubling. But at a city council hearing Friday Chief [Cathy Lanier] used the murder of a little boy as an example of how "Secure Communities" would work to prevent violence. On a Saturday night last November, nine-year-old Oscar Fuentes was shot and killed as he stood inside the front door of his family's apartment...."In that particular case, Said Chief Lanier, "the person who murdered Oscar Fuentes, Mr. Pena, had seven prior arrests in the District of Columbia and was here illegally, had we had Secure Communities Oscar Fuentes would still be alive." Chief Lanier says the Feds want the program in place by 2013, so she's determined to have the District's policy written and ready to go by then.'

The National Organization for Marriage is now push-polling for Leo Alexander, a Daily Kos diarist reports. According to one listserv poster, a call 'asked: "do you know that Mayor Adrian Fenty signed a bill making gay marriage in washington, dc legal? and Leo Alexander opposes same sex marriage? "' Alexander responded: 'Those were bought by NOM not by my campaign....and we didn't approve the script.'

Streetcars could be running on H Street NE by 2012, reports VotH. 'Preliminary plans call for the circular line to start at a newly built turnaround in the middle of Benning Road near its intersection with Oklahoma Avenue NE. The streetcar would then head up H Street to Union Station through a viaduct that would be cut out of the H Street Bridge that crosses above the Amtrak tracks. The streetcar track would be built underneath the Amtrak yards and end up at 1st Street. [DDOT streetcar czar Scott Kubly] said the Transportation Department is working with Amtrak and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation to accomplish that feat.' Also: Examiner covers Wisconsin Avenue streetcar push.

Examiner's Harry Jaffe looks at Michelle Obama's upcoming commencement address to Anacostia High grads: 'No question the first lady is the perfect role model for Anacostia's girls. She can relate. When she was coming up on Chicago's rough side, people told her she was "acting white" when she studied hard and got good grades. She gets major cred for bringing that message to kids who don't hear that at home. But I can't help but wonder why the Obamas won't go all the way and dispatch the president to Anacostia High. It is, after all, the black boys who are most in need of a role model—a strong African American male who stays married, loves his wife, cuddles his kids, plays hoops and lives in the White House.' (BTW Harry, FLOTUS didn't make it to that tobacco press conference on Friday—she called in sick.)

In her 'Zaminer column, Jonetta Rose Barras says Fenty chose wisely in making parks a priority. 'Spend a day at one of the District's parks and it becomes clear why [Fenty] has invested so much political capital in them. When they are well-maintained, they often are used by thousands of taxpayers, which can translate into votes. But they also showcase the city as a vibrant, diverse cosmopolis....As the nation's capital, the District is a magnet for tourists. Those people come mostly to experience the federal enclave of monuments, museums and galleries. But beyond the White House and Capitol, where ordinary residents are found, the city is quite spectacular. Clean and well-manicured neighborhood parks bolster that assertion.'

Believe it or not, a developer is set to break ground this spring on a speculative office building in downtown Washignton, Dion Haynes reports in WaPo. '[D]oes a plan by a Swedish developer to break ground this spring on a 10-story, 165,000-square-foot Class A office building near Verizon Center—which has no tenants pre-leased—signal a return to the glory days? Not necessarily. Officials at Skanska USA Commercial Development say they recognize that demand is way down for office space and that credit is almost nonexistent for builders. But they say they're in a special situation: Skanska is financing and constructing the building itself. The company says it believes the project is in a can't-miss location: at 10th and G streets NW—within blocks of two Metro stations, eight hotels and more than 40 restaurants.'

ALSO—Donatelli breaks ground on 3801 Georgia Avenue project.

Federal judge allows DOH worker's whistleblower claim to move forward, Legal Times reports. 'Christina Conyers Williams, who worked for D.C.'s Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration...alleges that her bosses tried to have her terminated after she delivered negative remarks about a plan to adopt expensive new data software during a 2006 council oversight hearing....Afterwards, she claims her superiors became antagonistic and unsuccessfully tried removed her from her job for allegedly failing to comply with a District residency requirement, according court documents.'

WaPo ombo asks: 'Did The Post 'celebrate' gay marriage in D.C.?' His conclusion: 'My only complaint about the more recent coverage is that The Post should have offered a stand-alone story on the legal challenge to same-sex marriage. The D.C. Court of Appeals has yet to rule on an effort to put the issue to a citywide vote.' Also: 'A key question is whether the news coverage, over time, adequately exposed readers to varied views. Bishop Jackson agrees it did. In an interview, he accused Post reporter Tim Craig of intentionally underestimating the crowd size at an anti-gay-marriage rally; it's a serious charge that Craig and his editors deny. But beyond that, Jackson said, "the volume of coverage on us was fair."'

ALSO—Baltimore Sun covers 'Gay Marylanders flocking to D.C. to exchange vows,' noting that 'at least 25 percent of the 151 license-seekers the first day were from Maryland.' Minister who married first registered gay couple lauds 'true family values' in WaPo piece. And remember that event planner hoping to set a world record for largest mass gay wedding? They only got 10 couples.

A short profile of youth-violence activist Kenny Barnes Sr., from Examiner's Scott McCabe. 'Barnes, a clinical psychologist, says violence is a public health issue, not a legal issue. "Do I think prisoners need more time? That's not even the issue," he said. "That's waiting until after something happens. By that time, it's really too late." Barnes now runs a nonprofit called ROOT Inc., which seeks to prevent more killings by working with kids who at risk for getting into serious trouble.'

DCist reveals that city tap water will stay chlorinated extra-long this year: 'The issue is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which runs the Washington Aqueduct, decided that this year the switch to chlorine needed to last much longer, according to WASA spokesperson Alan Heymann. In previous years, the chlorine smell lasted for about one month. But this year, they determined that the District's aging pipes needed additional time to get fully cleaned, so the chlorine treatment was scheduled for a full three and a half months, from Feb. all the way through to May 17. That additional time means you may be noticing a stronger smell than normal, as well.'

WaPo's Jay Mathews unearths a difference of opinion between Wilson HS teacher Erich Martel and his principal, Peter Cahall. Martel, to prevent cheating, uses gives different versions of tests to his classes, but Cahall isn't in favor of that approach. '"You are creating an expectation that students will cheat," Martel recalls Cahall saying. "By creating that expectation, they will rise to your expectation." When I asked Cahall about it, he did not deny that he said it. His intention, he said, was not to prohibit Martel's methods but to urge him to consider another perspective...."I would prefer that teachers use more rigorous assessments when possible, that require written responses and higher levels of thinking. In addition to being more challenging and requiring a sophisticated skill set, these types of assessments are also more difficult for students to copy."'

ALSO—How many DCPS schools are participating in Capital Gains? Blogger Guy Brandenburg is awfully confused.

Charter school performance reports now available (via Turque).

DCPS reportedly will partner with PC maker to 'donate a Moby tablet to every child in an at-risk school as part of a multi-year program in new media and learning.'

Old Naval Hospital renovation will start soon, believe it or not.

One is dead in double shooting shortly after midnight last night on 1300 block of Alabama Avenue SE.

Body of Northeast resident Pierre Williams, 31, was found in the Anacostia on Saturday. Also WUSA-TV, which reports: 'The body was found by two rowers late Saturday afternoon just south of the 11th St. bridge. Police retrieved the body at the Eastern Power Boat Club on the 1300 block of Water St....Boaters at the Club said they were told the victim was a young black man who had Jay-Z tickets in his pocket. That concert was held at the Verizon Center on March 3.'

Dr. Gridlock on how to fix Gallery Place station.

UDC associate provost is finalist to become chancellor of Wisconsin college.

Smartbike update: DDOT's Gabe Klein says in Friday live chat (via WashCycle) that 'We are very very very close to an announcement that will put 1000 bikes on the street (as a start) this year.'

Andre Chreky, hairdresser to the rich and powerful, declares bankruptcy.

SONUVA—No more than 3.4 ounces of liquid or gels now allowed in Prettyman courthouse, thank you very much.

Less than two weeks to cherry blossom season. Be prepared.

Hearings on Metro gap-closing measures start tonight in Oakton, Va.; first D.C. hearing is Wednesday at St. Francis Xavier church.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole agency performance oversight hearing on D.C. Public Schools, JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on B18-563 ('Uniform Principal and Income Technical Amendments Act of 2009'), B18-617 ('District of Columbia Uniform Law Commission Act of 2009'), and B18-660 ('Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board Extension Amendment Act of 2010'), JAWB 123.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, street sweeping season kickoff, intersection of Anacostia Avenue and Dix Street NE; 2 p.m.: remarks, Harry Thomas Sr. Recreation Center renovations unveiling, 1743 Lincoln Road NE; 6 p.m.: remarks, Mayor's Arts Awards reception, Carnegie Library, 801 K St. NW.

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