The State of the District Is…: Loose Lips Daily
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—'Gray Miffed at Fenty Over Missing Budget Details'; 'Did the Office of Campaign Finance Contradict Itself?'; 'Bicyclist Struck Purposely By Motorist in Bloomingdale'; and tweets galore!
Afternoon all. Sorry for the tardy LLD today, but your diligent aggregator headed out to the not-quite-finished Deanwood Recreation Center in Ward 7 this morning to join a legion of seniors and city officials witnessing Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's fourth State of the District Address. As in previous years, the speech was heavy on facts and figures but light on soaring rhetoric. (This year, unlike last year, he did not neglect to mention HIV/AIDS, for one thing.) Fenty did boast of leading a 'cleaner, safer, more dynamic city' than the one he inherited, and he made a strong case for it—one he'll be making on the hustings over the next five months. But the locale itself highlighted what Fenty has ahead of him—not only is Deanwood Rec located solidly in Vincent Gray's base, but the facility, scheduled for a summer completion, is being managed by Banneker Ventures, the firm of controversial buddy Omar Karim—who was in attendance this morning. One big unanswered question of DCision 2010: What will pending investigations of his contracting arrangements find?
AFTER THE JUMP—WaPo details Fenty fee hikes; OCF findings could leave D.C. Dems broke; Schmoke played key role in solving contract impasse; Karim's Metro deal is derailed; FLOTUS talks voting rights
The myriad revenue-raising measures in the Fenty budget proposal are reviewed by WaPo's Nikita Stewart. 'Parents trying to enroll children in special education programs, for instance, would be charged if they wanted hearing transcripts. And groups would have to pay to hold meetings in the historic Charles Sumner School, at 17th and M streets NW. At the same time, Fenty is looking to boost the city's income from established revenue sources. His budget would raise residential and metered parking fees to generate $4.8 million....But Fenty and his opponents in this year's mayoral race, including D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), can expect to hear the ire of residents on the campaign trail. "Charging for use of the Sumner School is akin to charging patrons to use the public library, or students to attend the public schools," Parisa Norouzi, director of Empower DC, an advocacy group for low- and moderate-income residents and a government watchdog, wrote in an e-mail....Businesses could pass along to consumers the costs of new and increased fees. In one case, Zipcar, the car-sharing service, would have to start paying for the use of parking spaces around the city. In another, intercity bus services such as Boltbus and Megabus would pay for permits to load and unload passengers on city streets. Combined the two actions would produce $490,000 for city coffers, according to the proposed budget.' Also: sidebar details some new fees.
CLASSIC—'In response to attempts to reach city officials, Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said Thursday that the city administrator, Neil O. Albert, was not available to comment. "The proposed 2011 budget allows the Administration to maximize efficiency by streamlining agency operations, controlling spending and eliminating vacant and redundant positions," she said in a statement.'
The D.C. Democratic State Committee is 'struggling amid money problems, infighting,' Tim Craig reports in WaPo. Campaign finance authorities have fined the DCDSC $18K and want at least $30K in donations returned. 'But the committee has only $21,000 in the bank, according to Dan Wedderburn, the party's treasurer. Leaders of the local party, which is in turmoil because of infighting, say they will challenge the recommended fine when the issue lands before the Board of Elections and Ethics. Still, the committee's money woes are embarrassing to some activists, who are calling for the ouster of Chairman Anita Bonds. "What is going on in the D.C. Democratic State Committee is just obscene," said committee member Philip Pannell, who is critical of party leaders and filed a complaint....Bonds, who noted that the party was broke when she took over three years ago, vowed that it will rebound quickly, even if it is fined. "If we have to raise the money, we will be raising the money," said Bonds, adding that only a few detractors are calling for her ouster. "We will be asking for support. The party will be solvent."'
AMEN—Says Pannell: 'It really is quite sad that you would have the chair of any political party anywhere in the United States thinking it's acceptable and rational to raise considerable amounts of money and feel the receipts and expenditures do not need to be reported.'
WaPo's Bill Turque examines the role of mediator and ex-Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke in getting DCPS and the WTU to strike a contract deal: 'Schmoke didn't make the principal players grow fonder of each other, but both sides said this week that without the mediation of the Howard University law school dean and former three-term mayor of Baltimore, the tentative agreement announced Wednesday would not have come together. "I give him full credit," said [Michelle Rhee], who was a young elementary school teacher in Baltimore when Schmoke was mayor. "By the time we brought him in, we thought, 'This thing is never going to happen.'" "What he did was he kept us talking," [Randi Weingarten] said. "The rancor you were seeing outside the room was similar to the rancor at the bargaining table."...Schmoke became a presence at AFT headquarters on New Jersey Avenue, convening the two sides in one room and pulling them apart when things heated up. More than a few times, the sun was coming up as negotiators straggled home. There were days, he said, when he "felt like Sisyphus pushing the rock to the top," only to see it rolled back by fresh disagreements over language, uncertainties about private funding or unexpected external events, such as the October layoffs of 266 teachers....For Rhee and her senior staff, who had relatively little experience with collective bargaining, Schmoke was a reassuring force who explained that they would not get everything they wanted and who constantly reminded them of the consequences of not reaching a deal. "He was great in helping us keep the big picture in mind," Rhee said. "Very even-keeled and soft-spoken, the perfect guy to shepherd us through this process."'
ALSO—Two additional contract notes from Turque: One, he looks at the little-known Laura and John Arnold Foundation, founded by a young ex-Enron trader who struck it big betting on natural gas futures. The foundation is giving $10M of the $64.5M total in private funding. And Turque also passes on Gray's first official reaction to the contract proposal: 'While I appreciate and am grateful for outside resources and new partnerships that help our children achieve and reward high-quality teachers, there is no such thing as a free lunch....Grants or donations of this magnitude rarely come without expectations or some kind of give and take. We will need to determine what those expectations are, what DCPS might be expected to give as it takes funds to the tune of $64.5 million, what strings are attached, and whether D.C. taxpayer dollars may be at-risk at any point.' See also reax from American Enterprise Institute, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Arne Duncan.
Brishell Jones, 16, is the final victim of last week's drive-by shooting to be laid to rest. Annie Gowen reports in WaPo on her funeral: 'For most of [Jones]'s short life, her fiercely protective mother tried to shield her from the crime and violence of their Southwest Washington neighborhood, sending her to Catholic schools and even home-schooling her for the past year. In the end, Nardyne Jefferies couldn't protect her only child. The frail young woman—an aspiring chef—was with friends just two blocks away from her home on March 30, when she was among four teenagers shot to death by assailants who sprayed a crowded street with an AK-47-style assault weapon....In a two-hour service Thursday, more than 950 mourners gathered at Canaan Baptist Church in Northwest to remember the 16-year-old known as "Bri" with hymns and tributes. Religious leaders and politicians—including [Fenty] and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)—mourned the bright life lost and railed against the crime that led to her death....In fiery language that brought the mourners to their feet, the Rev. Larry Owens Jr. castigated government officials, the media and even parents for neglecting the young people in the neighborhood where the killings occurred, a fraying stretch of South Capitol Street where Southeast and Southwest meet. "I still look to the Father and say: 'Lord, why? Why did you allow such a thing to happen?' " Owens said in his eulogy.' Also NC8, WRC-TV.
Harry Jaffe argues in Examiner column that, yes, civil gang injunctions could have prevented the shooting. 'Attorney General Peter Nickles blames D.C. council members. Last year he and [Fenty] tried to get the council to pass a law that would allow cops and prosecutors to identify members of violent gangs, take them off the streets and keep them jailed....Hiding behind dimwitted charges that the law could be racist and allow cops to single out black kids, Barry, Michael Brown, Yvette Alexander, Harry Thomas Jr. and other council members shouted down the bill....It went down in a welter of demagoguery...."Now we are going through another cycle of violence," Nickles says. "We light candles, we say moving things, then more kids are killed. What's the council doing about it?" Short answer: little beyond going to funerals. Georgetown Councilman Jack Evans is willing to reintroduce the civil gang injunction law again. Can the rest of the council rise above racism, pass the bill and let cops lock up bad guys? What's truly racist is that the council—in not acting—allows more black kids to be killed.' Problem with Jaffe's analysis: The suspects haven't been identified as being members of a gang; and CGIs would just mean they'd have been tossed in jail.
Banneker Ventures, and principal Omar Karim, are in a sticky spot after the WMATA board voted unanimously late last month to table a two-year-old development deal, Sarah Krouse reports in WBJ. 'Metro officials declined to say exactly what that means, so it is unclear whether the relationship between Metro and the Banneker team, which includes Bank of America Community Development Corp., has ended. If that is the case, Banneker's attorney, A. Scott Bolden, a partner at Reed Smith LLP, said he will look into possible legal action. "We haven't received any formal notification that it will be rebid and under the agreement, Metro is free to do that, but if they do decide to rebid we'll be looking quickly at every legal option," he said....[Jim Graham] says the partnership is likely over. "If it was tabled, it was tabled," he said. "There has been no other board action, so I assume it will not move forward." Bolden said Graham has been an opponent of the project since the team was selected....The board's vote "smacks of political interference when Metro and the city and Banneker should be pushing in the right direction and the same direction," Bolden added.'
ALSO IN WBJ—Boutique hotel projects multiply across the city; DMPED seeks federal funding for 'sustainable' St. Elizabeths East development; the latest on the Gallery Square property at 7th and H, with Monument Realty swooping in to swipe it from Doug Jemal; and construction honcho explains why mandated union labor is a bad, bad thing.
WaPo's Petula Dvorak lauds Ray's the Steaks and owner Michael Landrum for taking a chance on far Northeast Washington: 'Landrum said he has hired about 18 employees who live in wards 7 or 8 and plans a staff of 40 to 50. The restaurant will open to the public next week, with a menu tweaked slightly for the new location....Let's face it: Good steak and a few dozen jobs will not be the saviors of a neighborhood. And here's the riddle: Do we sing praise that a fancy place (sorry, but any place with cloth napkins isn't really a "joint") has come to the block or do we despair that a nice restaurant is foolhardy in a part of the city struggling with unemployment, poverty and housing issues? As one heckler who kept shouting at Fenty said: "How is a restaurant we can't afford to eat at going to do anything for the community?" This restaurant means that the community gets something more than a sub shop or a burger joint or all the deep-fried horrors of corner carryouts. It means that there is faith in a community, without the need for a bulletproof shield.'
The de facto 14th Street restaurant ban blows up: DCist covers, noting that 'Going forward, all eyes should be pointed toward the Zoning Commission. It is they who are tasked with amending the current overlay rules, and they hold the power to do something as simple as adopt a quickie amendment changing the percentage even before the entire rewrite is completed.' GGW looks at the city zoning apparatus in general and why a bar-and-restaurant restrictions can be a good thing. WTTG-TV also covers, marking the first time in LL's memory that a zoning dispute has made it in a local TV newscast.
Just what we need: Another 'regional entity with the power to tax and guide decisions on how the Washington area should grow in the next 20 years.' That's what a group of 'real estate and academic leaders' called for yesterday, Lisa Rein reports in WaPo. 'The leaders spoke at an event to introduce the new 2030 Group, which consists of prominent developers. The group says it does not want to replace other government and industry groups devoted to regional cooperation, but that without a wider sphere of influence for business leaders who can fight the fragmentation of the District, Virginia and Maryland, Washington's long-term economic prosperity will be threatened. They said the new organization should consist of local civic government and business leaders....The challenges are well-known. Commuters stew in gridlock because roads and public transit have not kept pace with Washington's growth. The demand for housing makes ownership unaffordable for many workers. Some of the region's school districts are stellar, some mediocre. If the states and the District don't share money and ideas to address these issues, Washington will not be able to absorb the 1.6 million new jobs, a roughly equal number of new residents and 700,000 new homes predicted for the area by 2030, group members said....The Greater Washington Board of Trade, a group of business leaders, greeted the 2030 Group with skepticism, questioning the need for another effort that could compete with it and with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. "I'm not clear yet what they're trying to achieve," board President James C. Dinegar said.' Also Examiner, WBJ, WAMU-FM.
With Metro's public gap-closing hearings all wrapped up, a summary of responses has found that riders 'spoke out against cuts in Metro rail and bus service while urging local jurisdictions to increase their funding,' Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo. 'Large majorities of the 3,633 respondents to an online Metro survey favored fare increases, including 80 percent for off-peak fares and 76 percent for peak fares, Metro said. Seventy percent backed raising the Metrobus boarding charge. One new type of fare increase, in which Metro would charge more for trips taken during the 90-minute "peak of the peak" rush-hour times in the morning and at night, won support from 71 percent of those surveyed....About 79 percent of people commenting at public hearings or who wrote in specifically opposed service cuts....Metro's board of directors will debate the alternatives for filling the budget gap at their next meeting April 22 and set a goal of convening a special session April 29 to decide on the measures.' Also WRC-TV, Examiner, which notes a heartening trend for Jim Graham: 'Nearly 61 percent supported tapping into the capital budget reserved for long-term fixes to the system to pay for day-to-day operations, but with various caveats such as using less than $30 million.'
News flash: Obama groupies aren't so interested in DCision 2010, or at least those gathered at Local 16 Wednesday for a health-care celebration, WaPo's Craig reports. 'The activists who showed up last night to celebrate the passage of health-care reform – many of whom are not regulars in the local District political scene – could be a ready-made force for one of the candidates for mayor. But neither [Fenty] nor his chief opponent in the September Democratic primary, [Gray], had a presence at the event. Instead of immersing themselves in a potentially divisive Democratic primary for mayor, the activists appear to be reorganizing themselves for the 2010 congressional elections. And, once again, their focus will probably be on Virginia.'
ALSO—Rail cracks plague Red Line, meaning slower trains.
FLOTUS talk to local TV outlets about living in D.C. From WJLA-TV: '"It's been such a welcoming place to me and my family – the girls in particular," Mrs. Obama said....When asked if she has a favorite restaurant in the city, Mrs. Obama replied, "Oyamel is one of my favorites because it's a good menu and good margaritas." She also said that one of the president's favorites eating spots is U Street's Ben's Chili Bowl. "I haven't been there but I have to go, he (the president) loves Ben's," she said.' From WRC-TV: 'As a good neighbor, Michelle Obama hasn't overlooked a certain, popular license plate slogan. The first lady supports D.C. in its fight for voting rights, an issue her husband hasn't embraced quite like his new neighbors had hoped he would. "He is a supporter of the rights of citizens here in D.C. to have the vote," the first lady said, "and I don't think there's much convincing that you have to do there, you just have to get it done."'
New State Board of Education candidate: Melissa Rohan, in Ward 6. From her campaign Web site: 'Currently, Melissa serves on the Potomac Lighthouse Public Charter School Board of Trustees and is an Executive Board Member at Jenkins Hill Child Development Center. Moreover she is one of the founding parents of the SW Families Playgroup. Additionally Melissa is an active volunteer with Teen Life Clubs, a program of Children's National Hospital, through the Junior League of Washington....She has lived in Ward 6 for nearly 10 years, and her family currently resides in Southwest Waterfront. The Rohans are active parishioners of St. Peter's. They also enjoy Nationals games, where Matt works, and patronizing local restaurants as a family.' The incumbent Ward 6 board member is Lisa Raymond.
Missing since March 18: Darrell Cousar, 16, WTOP reports. 'Cousar is described as a medium complexioned black male, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing approximately 145 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. He was last seen wearing a gray coat, blue pants and a white shirt.' Last seen in Anacostia.
The mystery of Trinidad Springs—still unsolved.
District settles with car-title lender.
Mass. Ave. property sells to Equity Residential for $167M.
High winds down trees, power lines.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—No events scheduled; budget review week.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, State of the District Address, Deanwood Recreation Center, 49th and Quarles Streets NE; 12:30 p.m.: guest, Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU-FM, 88.5.