Motor City Mayhem: Loose Lips Daily
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—'Voting-Rights Funding Again Goes to D.C. Vote'; 'District's Post-Heller Gun Laws Are OK, Judge Says'; 'No Jail Time for Gilbert Arenas'; 'CFSA Has Different Take on Newborn's Death at D.C. General'; and tweets galore!
Morning all. Not enough mayoral intrigue for you, with Vincent Gray set to announce a decision any day now and developer Don Peebles also waiting in the wings? Well, what about good ol' Robert Bobb? A Detroit radio station reports that Bobb, currently serving as emergency financial manager for the Detroit Public Schools, 'confirmed that he met with people who want him to run for mayor of Washington,' adding: 'I live there, I have meetings with people, I will continue to have meetings.' But the former school board chair remains in touch with reality: 'Who would go and run for mayor in any city when the election is coming up, the primary is in September, when the incumbent has 3.2 million dollars in war chest?' And consider this: The Detroit News calls D.C. 'a model for how Detroit can improve both teacher and student performance,' citing improvements on the NAEP 'Nation's Report Card' tests that are 'attributed to [Michelle Rhee], who has a laser-like focus on improving teacher quality.' An interesting thought: Could Bobb, a savvier political operator than Rhee, have produced the similar results with less uproar had he run the D.C. schools?
AFTER THE JUMP—WaPo says NAEP scores 'vindicate' Rhee, again; D.C. gun laws okey-dokey, says judge; Gilbert gets off easy; hike in bus fares perhaps unfair; Eleanor slams Fenty on voting rights; the case for 'innocence commissions'; Hizzoner in Jamaica!
Wholly unsurprising Saturday WaPo editorial calls the NAEP reading scores 'further evidence that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is doing the right things'—never mind that granular data breaking out DCPS vs. charters has yet to be released. 'There's no question, as critics of Ms. Rhee are wont to point out, that some of the foundation for today's successes lies with work done by former superintendent Clifford B. Janey. But does anyone really think there's no correlation between these unprecedented gains and the reforms undertaken by Ms. Rhee?...In upending that status quo, Ms. Rhee has ruffled feathers and made enemies. One only had to listen to questioning from council members such as Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) or Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) during the hearing to know that she's made people unhappy....Undoubtedly, there are things she might have done differently, but in the area that matters most, Ms. Rhee is producing results.'
ALSO—Friday cartoon from Tom Toles
HELLER II—The District's post-Heller gun laws have passed their initial test in the federal judiciary, with U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina deeming the city's registration requirement and its ban on assault weapons constitutional under the landmark 2008 SCOTUS ruling. Maria Glod reports in WaPo: '[Phil Mendelson] said the ruling shows the District reached the correct balance between the rights of residents and the need to promote public safety. "The police remove an awful lot of firearms from the streets every year that are unregistered and owned by criminals, members of gangs and people who rob other folks or shoot other folks," Mendelson said. "Because law-abiding citizens register their guns, it makes it easier for the police to identify and arrest the criminals."...Heller's attorney, Stephen P. Halbrook, said it is "highly likely" his client will appeal the decision. Halbrook said Urbina "uncritically accepted" the government's position and "simply ignored our evidence."' Also AP, Legal Times, Christian Science Monitor.
WaPo follows up on WCP reporter Jason Cherkis' scoopage regarding the D.C. General family homeless shelter. 'Families Forward, the contractor in charge of the troubled family shelter...will probably be fired next week after allegations that several employees of the nonprofit agency solicited and had sex with female residents....[Tommy Wells] said D.C. Department of Human Services Director Clarence H. Carter had assured him that the contract will be terminated when the emergency hypothermia season for homeless people ends Wednesday. Wells said numerous residents had made allegations of sexual misconduct by workers at the shelter in Southeast Washington. Families Forward has acknowledged firing about five workers as a result of the complaints, but it failed to notify DHS of what had occurred, he said.' Also WRC-TV.
Are police officers bad drivers? Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner on the high rate of cop car wrecks: 'The Metropolitan Police Department has more than 1,500 vehicles in its fleet, and 237 times last fiscal year the drivers of those vehicles were involved in "preventable accidents"—a wreck that should never have happened. Department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump refused to provide the number of non-preventable crashes, but the figure was in the 600 range the year before. So roughly one in two D.C. police vehicles wreck annually, though the department notes in documents provided to the D.C. Council that by "the nature of policing, MPD logs many more vehicle miles traveled than other agencies."' Says AAA spokesperson. 'It's almost like they're teenagers—overconfident in their ability to drive. They take defensive driving courses, but they probably should take more of them.'
Hizzoner was in Jamaica over the weekend, according to the reporting of the Jamaica Observer. First Lady Michelle Fenty addressed Barbican Pines Optimists Club, and the mayor addressed the extradition of alleged drug trafficker Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. 'The mayor, a member of the Democratic party—one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States—noted on Friday that although not a lot of citizens in Washington, DC were talking about the case, it was a matter that needed to be dealt with...."I am confident that it will be worked out. Jamaica and the United States have always enjoyed a very long and strong partnership, and working relation," the mayor told the Sunday Observer.'
Gilbert Arenas avoids serving jail time for felony gun possession, with Superior Court Judge Robert Morin giving him 30 days in a halfway house, plus two years probation and 400 hours of community service. Said Arenas: 'I am very sorry that all this happened. Every day I wake up wishing it didn't.' Read WCP's courtroom coverage. Paul Duggan writes in WaPo that Morin 'scolded him for immaturity but said probation was more appropriate than time behind bars....Morin, in a packed courtroom, said he was aware of the media's intense focus on the celebrity seated before him in a dark blue suit and blue suede loafers. As Arenas waited to hear his sentence, the judge said that he would not be influenced by the publicity or the fame of the defendant and that he had presided over hundreds of gun-possession cases, each time weighing identical factors before deciding whether to impose a jail term. Arenas benefited from nearly all the criteria. Among the factors Morin noted: Arenas has no history of violence; there is no indication that his guns were loaded; no one was hurt; neither man pointed a gun at the other; Arenas legally owned the weapons in Virginia; and he took responsibility, cooperating in a police investigation and pleading guilty to a felony less than a month after the confrontation.' The Wizards, meanwhile, announced they would not try to void Arenas' contract—a near-impossible task. Also AP, Legal Times, WTOP, WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV.
ALSO—'In Morin's courtroom, Arenas, 6-foot-4, rose to say his piece, his voice low and occasionally catching. He recalled a much-publicized incident Jan. 5 in Philadelphia before a Wizards game with the 76ers, when a grinning Arenas, surrounded by his teammates, pantomimed that he was shooting them—another joke for which he was widely scorned. "I know my action wasn't the best for me...taking it lightly," he said. "But that's my personality....That's who I am. I like making people laugh. I like making people smile."' WaPo has a full transcript of his comments.
TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE—Michael Wilbon writes in WaPo: '[W]ould greater Washington, D.C., forgive Gilbert Arenas and give him a second chance? Yes, absolutely. This isn't Philly or Boston or New York. We're soft-core sports, with no screaming tabloid headlines, very little built up anger that doesn't involve parking or seats at Redskins games. As far as forgiveness goes around here, I have one thing to say: Marion Barry.'
WaPo columnist Robert McCartney goes big-picture, and finds Morin's sentence appropriate: 'I'd become fed up with all the self-righteous outrage over the incident in which the Wizards basketball star brought four unloaded—repeat, unloaded—handguns into the team's locker room in December. Was it illegal? Yeah. Was it stupid? Double yeah. But the hand-wringing over Arenas has been out of proportion to the offense, given the extent to which guns are tolerated and even lauded in our culture. Which do you think is more relevant to society's overall health: Arenas's using the guns as props to taunt a teammate on Dec. 21, or the 15 people shot to death in the District since that date?...Jauhar Abraham, president and co-founder of the anti-gang group Peaceoholics, said the uproar over Arenas was ironic given how widespread guns are in the city...."Boys from 13 to 24 are in possession of it. They have easier access to guns than they do to computers."'
The equity of proposed Metro fare hikes is explored by WaPo's Ann Scott Tyson. 'Metro's proposal to raise fares would disproportionately affect commuters who depend on bus transportation and are least able to pay, according to outraged bus riders whose complaints are backed by Metro data....Rail passengers, who face a 15 percent increase in fares, have a median income of $102,000; 75 percent are white, 18 percent are unemployed, and one in 50 lives in a household without a car. Bus riders face a 20 percent rise in fares. They have a median annual income of $69,000; 50 percent are minorities, 23 percent are unemployed, and one in five has no car in the household, according to a Metrobus rider profile from 2007, the latest such data available....The bus-riding population stands to suffer more than rail users because it tends to rely more heavily on public transit, Metro board member Jim Graham (D.C.) said in an interview Friday. "What it boils down to is, how hard will we hit those most transit-dependent and least able to pay?"'
ALSO—Metro officials want federal transit subsidy to be reauthorized, Examiner reports. WTTG-TV covers potential MetroAccess cutbacks. WMATA board green-lights Rhode Island Avenue pedestrian bridge. And union chief Jackie Jeter explains in WaPo op-ed why Metro's problems are bigger than one GM can handle: 'The challenges confronting Metro rest first and foremost with the Metro board....In short, Metro needs a major structural adjustment. Without a real commitment to oversight, operational transparency, dedicated funding and institutional accountability, our transit system will remain perilous. We can begin with a restructuring of the Metro board itself.'
TODAY—Metro holds emergency response drill in RFK parking lot: 'It will depict a simulated explosion on a Metrobus with multiple passengers injured, another explosive found in a bus garage, and a phone call saying that more explosive devices are under other buses.' The drill is unrelated to the Moscow subway bombings, but Metro says it is 'on a heightened state of security.'
In light of the exoneration of Donald Gates, jailed 25 years for a crime he didn't commit, an ex-cop shares a way to prevent a reprise. James Trainum writes in WaPo: 'Gates's case and thousands like it across the country highlight the desperate need for a review of the criminal justice system as a whole. Some jurisdictions have already begun this process by establishing Innocence Commissions. Set up by legislative act or the judiciary, these commissions are designed to draw upon the experience of prosecutors, defense lawyers, law enforcement officers, judges, legislators, scholars, forensic experts and crime victims and their advocates. In the District, such a commission could operate much like the domestic violence and child fatality review boards already established by the D.C. Council, which analyze the circumstances surrounding deaths in the hope of finding ways to prevent them in the future. A D.C. Innocence Commission could be empowered to conduct a review of any wrongful convictions that come to light, to determine what went wrong and why. It could also study the legal process to find roadblocks on the path to exoneration....Mistrust on both sides, egos and personal and agency agendas can get in the way of justice. The recommendations of an Innocence Commission could create safeguards in this system, building on laws and procedures already in place to address problems related to eyewitness misidentification, faulty forensic science, false confessions and other areas.'
ALSO—How to improve outcomes for ex-offenders? Not by increasing money for public defenders, Jim Arkedis writes in WaPo op-ed: 'In the District, money would be better used to improve post-release rehabilitation and mental health programs. Without better support for parolees, we cannot break a cycle that leads to the reconviction of two-thirds within three years. This astonishing statistic is due to many factors, but here are two big ones: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 74 percent of inmates enter state prisons hooked on drugs or alcohol and 56 percent have a significant mental health problem....Quality all-service programs are rare. Those that do exist in the District—such as the program run by So Others Might Eat—are difficult to get into.'
Legal gay marriage in D.C. has presented some clergy with difficult choices, Daniel Burke reports in WaPo: 'As gay rights spread through civil society, an increasing number of clergy are, like Snyder, caught by conflicting loyalties, forced to choose between church law and civil law in pastoring to their gay and lesbian congregants...."My heart breaks for them," said the Rev. Amy Butler of Calvary Baptist Church, "because they do not know what to do." Butler said Calvary, which will marry gay and lesbian couples, is reassessing its ties with several Baptist denominations, including the conservative Southern Baptist Convention.' One battleground: Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Georgetown, where pastor Mary Kay Totty is openly defying church doctrine to perform gay weddings.
ALSO—WaPo's Annie Gowen covers the struggle to diversify area congregations, focusing on Calvary. 'In choosing to integrate its Spanish speakers into the main congregation rather than holding separate services, Calvary is at the vanguard of a nascent but growing movement toward multiculturalism in American worship that some believe is the wave of the future.'
Eleanor Holmes Norton appeared Friday on WTOP's Politics Program With Mark Plotkin. She addressed the chances of getting D.C. voting rights through Congress: 'Norton says she thinks 2010 is the year a bill giving the District a voting seat in the House of Representatives will become law. However, Norton isn't commenting on the state of the bill just yet. "I'm not in a position to tell you what the bill looks like now, but you will find out very soon." Norton indicated "soon" is about two weeks away...."[I will] carry a bill to the floor that I think can pass the House and the Senate. This is our last clear chance to get voting rights in a very long time," Norton says.' Also, as Gary Imhoff notes in themail, she took a swipe at Hizzoner: 'Plotkin asked her about how closely Fenty worked with her. Norton replied that when Fenty was elected, she was excited to work with a young, energetic mayor, and she called him to invite him to dinner. Three years later, that dinner has yet to happen. "The mayor appears not to have conversations with other elected officials," Norton said. "We do have some conversations with members of his administration; there seems to be a reluctance even there."' Also The Hill.
Jonetta Rose Barras argues in Examiner column that as we educate our children, we need to educate their parents: 'A significant number of District parents either are high school dropouts, barely graduated and are considered functional illiterates, or don't speak English. Those handicaps affect their ability to provide an early educational foundation for their children....But District officials have allowed the territorial games of adults to hamper aid to those children and their families. In 2009, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration submitted a proposal to spend $800,000 for a "baby college" pilot program targeting at-risk families and pregnant mothers...."It didn't go anywhere because of politics," one source told me, adding that some D.C. Council members wanted the Health Department to run the entire program.'
Renowned California chef Alice Waters stands up for the Healthy Schools bill now before the D.C. Council, Tim Craig reports in WaPo. 'Waters's focus is on the school lunch portion of the bill. More than three decades ago, Waters began upending how some Americans viewed food when she opened [Chez Panisse] in California. Now, her Edible Schoolyard is a source of inspiration for chefs and school administrators across the country. "We have that power to turn that daily school lunch from an afterthought into a joyous education, a way of our caring for our health, our environment, and our community," Waters says in her [written] testimony. "When this legislation takes effect in Washington, D.C., it will signal best practices to all of us and pave the way for our nation to follow."'
ALSO—Slow Cook's Ed Bruske was impressed by Barry's support for healthy lunches at Friday's hearing.
More on private funding for teacher raises from WaPo's Bill Turque: CFO Natwar Gandhi has told the council that in order for him to certify any private funds, he needs 'some form of legally binding commitment from donors (e.g., a contract, notice of grant approval).' And do know: The city 'would remain obligated to provide funding to uphold the collective bargaining agreement in the event that private funds became unavailable.'
At Dunbar High School, operator Friends of Bedford is, according to WaPo's Jay Mathews, 'having some difficulty getting Dunbar students who must take the DC-CAS to show up for the extra teaching they need....Dunbar administrators have 25 tutors working two hours after school every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, to help lift students from the Below Basic level of the DC-CAS, where many of them are, to the Proficient or Advanced level, where they should be. How many of the 138 have shown up for tutoring? "About 45 to 50," [Dunbar COO Niaka Gaston] said.'
As DCist noted over the weekend, legendary film critic and prolific tweeter Roger Ebert expressed some 140-characters-or-less support for DCPS: 'D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's reforms are paying off: District students LED THE NATION in reading gains—across all ethnic lines.'
A head-smacker, courtesy Mike Neibauer: You can't sing in the Capitol Visitor Center, it turns out: 'A screening of the documentary "My Tale of Two Cities" was scheduled to close with David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," leading the audience in a sing-along of "Won't You Be My Neighbor." But there is no music or singing allowed in the $621 million visitor center without special approval, and the rules could not be bent—not even for Mr. Rogers' delivery man. So Newell performed the tune like it was spoken word poetry, though he couldn't help but sing the last few notes. The Capitol Hill Business Improvement District, which hosted the screening Tuesday night of the Pittsburgh-centered film, was told Monday by a CVC special events assistant that there is no "music/singing in the CVC," what the assistant deemed "one of those random nuances in our rules" having "something to do with the business of Congress."'
Tommy Wells kicked off his re-election campaign Friday evening at Eastern Market. LL was there, as was WaPo's Craig, who writes: 'Wells was joined on stage by [predecessor Sharon Ambrose], former council member Harold Brazil and school board member Lisa Raymond. Wells also picked up endorsements from Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and three of his colleagues, Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), David A. Catania (I-At large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At large)....Wells plans to campaign on his efforts to improve neighborhood amenities, including the rebuilding of Eastern Market, a new recreational center and library in Rosedale, and new retail along H Street NE. Wells is also a major advocate for new bicycle paths and the planned streetcar project. During his speech, Wells also heralded efforts to improve the schools in Ward 6, noting there are long waiting lists for some of them.' LL highlights: Mendo leading a 'four more years' chat; $2 pours of wine; complimentary Matchbox sliders.
WAMU-FM's Sabri Ben-Achour covers problems with the city's solar co-op program: 'Mickey Martinez was among the very first applicants last year. "The official in charge said look, we're not staffed yet," says Martinez. In fact, the $2 million dollar program was never fully staffed. It was run as a side project by one overworked individual and a series of rotating interns. Forms were lost, forms were rejected, Martinez didn't receive his money until October—nine months after he should have received it....Edith Westfeldt is deputy director of Workforce Development at the Community College of D.C. She says the school created an entire 'green jobs' training program built around the demand for solar grants, but then couldn't implement it. "Because of the delay of getting the rebates out, the prime candidates we had for the solar training had to go find other jobs," says Westfeldt. "It is a little heartbreaking."'
'If California legalizes pot, will D.C. follow?' WaPo's Craig asks. 'On Wednesday, advocates for legalizing marijuana officially secured enough signatures to put a referendum on the California ballot this November asking voters to legalize and tax pot. And, judging by recent legislation in the District, what starts in California often eventually makes it way to the left-leaning District....Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, estimates it would be six years or less before the marijuana legalization debate makes its way to the District.'
Two are shot dead early Saturday in separate incidents, WaPo reports: 'Police found Isidoro Flores, 44, of Arlington County suffering from a gunshot wound in the 1200 block of W Street NE after responding to a report of a shooting about 2:30 a.m....A second victim, William R. Rhames, 34, of District Heights was found with a gunshot wound in the 1200 block of Southern Avenue SE after a separate shooting report.' Also NC8.
How to fix a shadowy child welfare system? UDC law prof Matt Fraidin makes suggestions in a WaPo letter: D.C. law should be amended to open child welfare proceedings, with judges retaining authority to close some or all of a hearing or record in a child's best interest. This approach, already in place in many states, balances accountability with privacy....Secret courts endanger children's safety and prevent voters and taxpayers from making informed judgments about this most important of governmental functions.'
WaPo's Jacqueline Trescott sees the tide turning in local arts fundraising: 'Washington's arts groups are cautiously coming out of the recession. A year ago, widespread fear of going under was an unspoken feeling, yet not many closed their doors. Accelerated fundraising and novel approaches to getting donors, members and money made the difference. All over town, development offices are the nerve centers of the region's arts economy. They can be depressing or jubilant places, one-person shops or a full-fledged staff. But in the last 18 months, most of them have experienced moments of deep anxiety.'
Police seek gray-whiskered man connect to five, count 'em, five bank robberies in the District, Martin Weil reports in WaPo. The latest: 'The robbery at the Chevy Chase Bank branch in the 1200 block of F Street Thursday was another one in the series in which no gun was shown.'
WaPo's Michael Ruane, continuing his obsessive coverage of cherry-blossom history, covers the 1937 'Cherry Tree Rebellion'—'one of the strangest and most passionate chapters in the now-almost 100-year history of the cherry blossoms in Washington.'
ALSO—Via WBJ: 'The Trust for the National Mall will take over the Cherry Tree Endowment Fund from the National Park Foundation to raise the approximately $700,000 needed annually to maintain the trees.' Tidal Basin seawall construction could mar the experience. And WAMU-FM covers the economic impact of the blossoms.
Saturday morning Metrobus accident injures three, snarls traffic near New York and Florida avenues NE.
Two D.C. men killed in Thursday-night P.G. car crash; they had been fleeing police.
Herndon resident to Dr. Gridlock: More roads, less Metro, please.
Three budgetary questions for Jack Evans, from the Save Our Safety Net folks. One: 'If the DC budget is so tight, why are you proposing a bill that would throw $25 million in incentives at Northrop Grumman, a weapons contractor that is unlikely to bring accessible jobs to DC's increasingly jobless residents?'
GovFresh blog Q&As CTO Bryan Sivak about TrackDC initiative. For instance, did you know: 'Track DC is an ASP.NET web-application that interacts with the back-end tier retrieving and transferring data to the client through AJAX calls. The Report/Data Engine Service is a schedule based service that extracts information from various data sources (Oracle, QuickBase, Google Analytics, Google Data Feeds, etc.).'
Whistleblower group alleges that FEMS used city contractor's psych exams to 'retaliate against employees and weed-out whistleblowers'; Mendo is investigating.
Activist: D.C. not doing enough to combat HIV/AIDS.
Howard President James Cheek remembered, in snowstorm-delayed memorial service.
School reform in D.C.: a socialist perspective! (Real socialist, not Glenn Beck socialist.)
Find D.C.'s 'hard to count' census tracts.
Population in ballpark district doubles in a year, WAMU-FM reports.
As much space at the Department of Homeland Security now has at St. E's, it's not enough, DCmud reports.
Wednesday GU gay-marriage discussion features David Catania.
Now at GALA Hispanic Theater: church.
Vince Gray confirmed for Labor Seder!
D.C. gov participates in 'Earth Hour'
Hairstylist Andre Chreky is a sexual harasser, jury finds.
What to do with your Emancipation Day.
From the WaPo obit for architect Paul Devrouax: 'When [Devrouax] was in the Army in 1968, he was sent from his post at Fort Meade into downtown Washington to quell the rioting after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He patrolled the intersection of 14th and U streets NW, near the heated center of the unrest. Almost 20 years later, Mr. Devrouax (pronounced DEV-uh-roh) returned to the same corner, only without his helmet and rifle. By then, he was a principal in Devrouax & Purnell, one of Washington's largest black-owned architecture firms. He and his partner, Marshall Purnell, designed the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, the first major building to rise on U Street in decades. It was at the vanguard of an entire neighborhood's revival. "I watched the city burn down," Mr. Devrouax told The Washington Post in 1989, "and I find it ironic that later I would be involved in building it back up again." For more than 30 years, Paul S. Devrouax Jr. helped weave the urban fabric of Washington. He and his firm worked on some of the region's largest and most significant buildings, including the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Pepco building, what is now Verizon Center and the Freddie Mac headquarters in McLean. Along with HOK Sport of Kansas City, Devrouax & Purnell designed Washington's Nationals Park, which opened in 2008....On March 22, after attending meetings for possible projects, Mr. Devrouax died at his home in the District of a heart attack. He was 67.'
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—11 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary and Committee on Government Operations and the Environment joint roundtable on the 'Public Safety Plan for the Destruction of Spring Valley Munitions,' JAWB 120; 2 p.m.: Committee of the Whole agency performance oversight hearing on the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—No public events scheduled.