What’s the Best of D.C.?: Loose Lips Daily
Morning all. Washington City Paper's annual Best of D.C. issue hits the streets today. That means no LL Weekly this issue, but no dearth of political content. Pick one up on newsstands today, or check back at washingtoncitypaper.com mid-day, when we'll have all our content posted–including such fab categories as Best D.C. Government Agency, Best New Hire, Best Congressional Meddler, Best Lawyers, and many, many more.
AFTER THE JUMP—WaPo urges politicians to set aside politics on new teachers' contract; new report says one in five D.C. residents is in poverty; BOEE orders new voting machines; Senate rejects D.C. gay marriage amendment; D.C. residents speak out against Metro cuts; Love is back
WaPo editorial board says 'it is critical that city leaders put aside politics to ensure a fair and deliberative process' for approving the soon-to-be-unveiled teachers contract. 'Petty rivalries must give way to what is right for students, fair to teachers and affordable to the District.' Those rivalries include Washington Teachers' Union infighting, they write, calling 'worrisome' the 'role upcoming union elections will play in ratification of a contract.' And the there's the council, which 'has the important duty of ensuring that any contract is in the public's best interest. But when it comes to schools, council members have displayed a regrettable penchant to second-guess and try to micromanage [Michelle Rhee]....It's important that the teachers' contract not become fodder for anyone's campaign but be judged on what it will do to improve teaching and help children.'
MORE—'Before any contract is put to a vote by the rank and file, it must be judged affordable by the District's chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi....It's likely that Mr. Gandhi will want to ensure that the District is not locking itself into an expense it can't sustain, so it's important that Ms. Rhee be forthcoming about the source of her funding and what happens when those funds run out. Likewise, it's critical that Mr. Gandhi be open to Ms. Rhee's ideas; a distressing fallout from last fall's teacher layoffs is an apparent rift between Mr. Gandhi and Ms. Rhee. Estrangement between two of the city's most critical officials is unacceptable.'
Some details from Defeat Poverty DC's new report, courtesy of WaPo's Tim Craig: 'Nearly one out of five District residents lives at or below the poverty line, a statistic that helps expose a widening gap between the rich and the poor in the nation's capital,' the report indicates. 'The study...concludes that last year the District experienced its biggest single-year increase in poverty since 1995. Based on unemployment rates and other data, the coalition estimates that the city has 106,500 residents—up 11,000 in a year—living at or below the poverty rate, which in 2009 was $21,800 for a family of four....The coalition notes that the District's official rate won't be known until more census income data are released later in the year. But the report is designed to sway the political debate in the District this year, when voters will elect a mayor, a D.C. Council chairman and six council members....[T]e revised poverty estimates could be more uncomfortable news for [Mayor Adrian M. Fenty], who has been battered by criticism that he has not focused enough on the District's neediest residents.' Download the report from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. Also WAMU-FM.
BY THE NUMBERS—'The overall poverty rate in the District rose to 18.9 percent in 2009, up from 16.9 percent the previous year, according to the report. In contrast, the Census Bureau has reported a steady increase in median household income in the District, estimated at $58,000 in 2008. But there are big disparities between white and black families. Although white households had a median income of about $101,000 in 2008, the median income of black households was about $39,000.'
President Obama signs emergency declaration for February snowpocalypse, opening federal funds for governments and certain nonprofits. 'The Federal Emergency Management Agency says more funding may be made available later,' NC8 reports.
Feds, 'citing more than $15,000 in unpaid income taxes from 2005 through 2008,' file tax lien against Marion Barry, WaTimes reports. 'The IRS declined to comment on the filing, which was prepared in January but publicly filed with the District on Feb. 22. The document states, "We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid." The previously undisclosed filing comes less than a year after U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson extended by two years Mr. Barry's probation following his 2005 guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of not filing a tax return.' Barry lawyer Fred Cooke calls the filing 'old news' and notes that Barry has already has a payment plan.
ALSO—Reliable Source wanted to ask Barry about reality show. Barry won't talk. 'I'm not at liberty to discuss this,' he says.
Amid an endless flurry of amendments to the health-care reconciliation bill, Utah Sen. Robert Bennett introduced a measure that would 'protect the Democratic process and the right of the people of the District of Columbia to define marriage (i.e., mandate a gay marriage referendum), NYT reported yesterday (picked up by DCist and WaPo). The amendment was tabled early this morning, 59-36-5. Kudos to Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, who crossed party lines to vote to table.
ALSO—What will health care reform do for the District of Columbia? Allow this congressional PDF to answer that question!
Meanwhile, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) tells city Repubs at annual Lincoln-Douglass Day dinner that they can win local races in this bluest of blue bailiwicks, Craig reports at D.C. Wire. 'Noting the GOP is fielding a record four candidates for council seats this year, Thune urged about 200 guests to work hard this year to make inroads in the District. "That's where it starts, that is how it starts," Thune said of the council races. "It starts growing and it builds and it builds and pretty soon you are winning Senate seats in Massachusetts."...A rising star within the national Republican Party, Thune avoided discussion of divisive social issues during his speech to District Republicans, many of whom are fairly liberal on such topics of abortion and same-sex marriage. He instead sought to recast the GOP around former President Reagan's principles of low taxes and limited spending.'
DID YOU KNOW?—Thune is the first Republican senator from South Dakota to oppose D.C. voting rights! That fact was shared with LL Tuesday night by noted historian and loyal Republican Nelson Rimensnyder, who confronted Thune over that fact. The bridge that carries 395 over the Washington Channel is named for South Dakotan Sen. Francis Case, who stumped for voting rights in 1954.
LL doesn't even know where to begin with this one: Former Examiner gossip columnist Karen Feld is suing the nurse she had hired to take care of her after 2008 brain surgery, Keith Alexander reports in WaPo. The litigious circus heiress says the nurse 'allowed "unauthorized" men to enter Feld's hospital room, leaving Feld fearful because she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the 2007 beating.' What beating, you may ask? That would be the beating that Feld alleges that her brother ordered 'after she was removed from her aunt's shiva service in 2007.' The nurse, for her part, says she quit after only a week on the job, 'after Feld allegedly attacked her during a profanity-laced rant.' Oh, and Feld brought her toy poodle Campari to court yesterday, telling a judge that the dog 'has to be at her side at all times because he is trained to sense her seizures.'
Scenes from last night's Metro gap-closing hearing at St. Francis Xavier church in Penn Branch: '"Lemme show you something," said Deborah Jones, 50, digging into her purse and pulling out her Metro SmarTrip card. "This is like life and death to me." Jones said she was on the way home when the bus driver told her about the public hearing, the second of six the transit agency has scheduled,' Nicole Norfleet reports in WaPo. 'Jones, echoing others in the room, said she relies on Metro buses to get to work and simply to get around. Most of those who came to comment are bus riders angered at the prospect of routes being cut or service hours reduced.' WMATA CFO Carol Kissal did her best to explain Metro's budget pressures but was faced with this point of view: 'I understand that you all said y'all have a budget. We all have a budget.'
ALSO—Norfleet reports on Metro's purchase of battery-powered 'mobile emergency response vehicles,' or MERVs, which could 'could turn a 45-minute walk for firefighters with gear into a four-minute ride' and 'crews can also carry them to emergency scenes, assemble them there and use the carts to transport people or to move equipment.' They're being purchased with a $860K federal grant. Also WAMU-FM, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV.
Board of Elections and Ethics awards contract to replace the city's current electronic voting machines with new machines that create a 'paper trail.' Paper-ballot scanners are also bring replaced. The new equipment, paid for with federal HAVA money, is made by Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software. Via BOEE press release [PDF]: 'The Board is spending less than $1 million – less than a third of the budgeted amount – in federal funds provided under the Help America Vote Act. Under the terms of the contract, the District is paying ES&S $918,072 for 200 iVotronic machines, 175 Model 100 precinct optical scanners, and two Model 650 high speed scanners with related software, peripheral devices and support.'
Fun fact, courtesy of Examiner: 'The District spent roughly $141 a day on each inmate, compared with an area-high $117 per student.' The good news is that, on average, D.C.'s inmate spending in on par with other local jurisdictions. Says Phil Mendelson, 'It's tragic....We spend a lot of money on inmates, and it's not a constructive way to spend government dollars when you compare it to what we could get if we spent the money on schools.'
Via Bill Turque: Top DCPS instructional superintendent William Wilhoyte hit the jackpot, quite literally: 'Wilhoyte was looking at about a 1-in-7-million chance when he dropped a quarter into the "Royal Spins Deluxe" slot machine on March 7 at [Charles Town Races and Slots] in West Virginia. He hit a jackpot just short of $2.6 million. "It's exhilarating, for sure, but also a bit embarrassing," he said in a Wednesday morning e-mail. ...He called the slots "a mindless activity in which one puts money into machine and pushes a button and hopes that somehow one will beat the odds. Not the most intellectual of activities, but then there's the 2.6."...Asked his age, he'll say only "young at heart," although he is probably north of 65. He says he has no immediate plans to retire.'
More problems with the Watergate Hotel: Issues with the property's parking garage have derailed Monument Reality's buyback deal, Lisa Rein reports in WaPo, and the snafu 'threatens to throw a wrench in a sale to other potential buyers.' At issue is whether the hotel's 99-year-lease dating back to the '60s which provides more than 80 parking spaces for a mere $12 a year is still effectual. Lawsuits have been filed, and ownership, Rein writes, 'likely to remain in limbo for months.'
WRC-TV compares school lunches in the city and suburbs: 'School district officials chose which cafeterias were clear for our cameras, then gave us free rein to find out if all school lunches make the same grade. At Columbia Heights High School [sic] on 16th Street NW, one of the district's largest high schools, there are three lines: one for pizza, one for burgers and fries, and one for the daily special. Thirty miles away at Westfield High School, the biggest high school in Virginia, there are more choices: a salad bar, a deli, and more than a dozen different entrees, plus freshly baked cookies. Westfield students can also get nutritional bits about every bite, something they had asked for.'
A thief this morning stole an idling car with a one-year old girl still inside, but the car and the baby have been found, NC8 reports: 'The vehicle was later discovered not far from where it was stolen. Police say the little girl doesn't appear to be injured, but has been transported to a local hospital as a precaution.' Also WTTG-TV.
Keith Daniels, 35, is wanted by police in the Dec. 23 rape of a Southeast woman. 'There isn't a more dangerous person roaming the streets,' fugitive task force leader tells Examiner's Scott McCabe. Daniels did time on a early-90s murder charge.
LOVE IS BACK—The megaclub, shuttered since a New Year's Eve stabbing, will reopen Saturday, WaPo reports. 'General Manager Kris Ramson says guests coming this week will notice "more security, both inside and out," and other changes stipulated by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration in order for the club to reopen. "We're just trying to get out feet wet" and see how it goes, he says.'
Congress Heights on the Rise notes the Fenty recall, and Hizzoner's general unpopularity in 'River East': 'For the life of me, I can't understand why the Mayor continues to ignore the situation by not coming East of the River and at least attempt to mend some fences (and some hearts). I find myself asking what everyone asks themselves after a particularly nasty break-up, "what the hell went wrong?" The longer this plays out the larger and more bitter the split becomes. If Team Fenty waits too long to come a courtin' the River East vote it is going to feel real obvious and disingenuous – kind of like asking for a date on a Friday night at 11:45pm.'
Civil rights icon Dorothy Height has been admitted to Howard University Hospital's ICU in 'stable' condition. Yesterday was her 98th birthday, reports WaPo's Hamil Harris.
NAEP reax: Examiner, WAMU-FM, WUSA-TV, and WaPo's Jay Mathews, who writes: 'The big story from my twisted perspective is that a certain person who bet me $50 that [Rhee] would be gone by this summer is going to lose that money....Some people thought Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) might dump her to get reelected this year, or might himself lose the election because of that growing unhappiness with her aggressive management style. But a 5-point score jump at a time when the national scores are flat is more than enough to keep Rhee safe for another year or two at least, if she wants to keep the job, which she says she does.'
Informer covers Rhee hearing.
Nine D.C. high-schoolers get GWU full rides.
The 'New Ballou'?
ACORN's Barracks Row office is no more.
Fenty spotted in Connecticut Avenue traffic jam, poses for picture.
SAVE THE DATE—Emancipation Day is Friday, April 16, and D.C. Vote has a Capitol Hill advocacy day scheduled for that morning.
TODAY—Vincent Gray appears on 'D.C. Politics With Jonetta,' 11 a.m. on WPFW-FM, 89.3.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee on Economic Development agency performance oversight hearing on Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, JAWB 412.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—6:45 a.m.: guest, Connecting with the Mayor, WRC-TV; 7:10 a.m.: guest, Fenty on Fox, WTTG-TV; 10:30 a.m.: remarks, Safe Shores ribbon-cutting, former Bundy School, 429 O Street NW; 3 p.m.: remarks, MSM health report release, Wanda Alston House, 804 46th St. NE.