Meet Vince Gray: Loose Lips Daily
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—'Vince Gray Rallies Supporters With Feisty Attacks on Fenty'; 'Voting Rights, D.C. Vote, and Return on Investment'; 'A Leaner CFSA Means Fewer Kids, Families Under City Watch'; and tweets galore!
Morning all. Saturday afternoon, Vincent C. Gray kicked off his mayoral campaign with a speech brimming with rebukes of incumbent Adrian M. Fenty. It was a hearty serving of red meat for a crowd that at times seethed at the current regime, chanting 'send Fenty home!' at times, and it was the prelude to what's sure to become an intensely personal campaign. Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig report in Sunday's WaPo on the big picture, how Fenty and Gray 'face vastly different hurdles to win, setting up a race that appears to be wide open. Fenty needs to reconnect with voters who four years ago placed their hopes in a young candidate willing to take on the city's biggest challenges. The relatively unknown Gray, the D.C. Council chairman and former bureaucrat, must introduce himself to much of the electorate and convince voters that he is a viable alternative to Fenty.'
AFTER THE JUMP—WaPo reports some Green Team disarray; Gray speech reax; Turque examines 'crisis of confidence' in DCPS finances; council targets pawnshops; big business eyes St. E's redevelopment; farewell to Officer Bryson and Officer Peterson
MORE—'Fenty's closest advisers and friends say they are alarmed that the campaign has yet to capitalize on his strengths, such as improved student test scores, fewer homicides, a rising population for the city and new neighborhood amenities. Supporters fear he has been too slow to put together a full campaign team and craft a successful message. Campaign chairman Bill Lightfoot played down the delay in assembling the team but acknowledged that "there has not been a concerted effort to say, 'This is what I have done.' Although Gray did not file to run until late March, his supporters and advisers are confident that they can compete with, or even outmatch, the energetic Fenty in generating enthusiasm and lining up endorsements and volunteers. "There are a lot of people out there frustrated with Fenty, but not really sure what the alternatives are," said Mo Elleithee, a senior Gray adviser. "We need to show these people that Vince is a credible alternative."...Fenty loyalist Ellie Anderson, 76, lives in Shepherd Park, a Ward 4 neighborhood known for its high voter turnout. "I see a lot of people that have Vincent Gray signs," said Anderson, who is worried the Fenty campaign has not reached its stride. "Most of those people were in Adrian's 2006 campaign." Anderson said she cannot understand the "anger" toward Fenty. The mayor "has worked himself to death. He's at an office opening, a park opening, a pool opening two or three times a week," she said. Though many residents in predominantly black communities say Fenty has ignored them and their needs, Lightfoot said the mayor has to remind them that "the people in Ward 8 are going to new playgrounds and recreation centers just like people in Ward 3."'
BURIED LEDE—'Privately, Fenty campaign advisers worry that some of his 2006 supporters have lost the passion that helped propel him to office. The advisers also fret about Fenty's responses to controversies—some of them self-inflicted, such as his refusal to share his travel schedule. Recently, the Fenty campaign has appeared to lack a coherent message as it has struggled through fatal shootings in Southeast, endured another council hearing on parks contracts and managed reaction to a controversy over school layoffs and budget figures. Some observers say that may have been a result of not having Tom Lindenfeld, the man credited with masterminding Fenty's 2006 campaign, on board. Lindenfeld and Lightfoot said they were negotiating a contract and fully expected him to be hired.'
GRAY SPEECH REAX—Jonetta Rose Barras reviews the speech: 'Folks who went...hoping to hear specifics about [Gray]'s mayoral platform, surely were disappointed. The nearly 30-minute kickoff speech—flatly delivered, despite aid of a teleprompter—was a broad outline of the usual issues and a series of attacks on [Fenty]....His supporters appear to be old-guard politicos: former government functionaries and longtime residents unhappy with changes in their neighborhood—a code phrase for white gentrification. He also has a sprinkling of disgruntled Fentyites, who had imagined the young executive as politician-wizard reforming the government without controversy, slaying—not succumbing to—a century-old patronage system and remaining unaffected by the powers of the office....[T]here's evidence the process-driven council chairman has slowed or arrested the reforms Fenty has sought to implement....That kind of behavior creates doubts in the minds of citizens who didn't like the government before Fenty and his predecessor Anthony A. Williams arrived on the scene. Gray will need many of those folks if he wants to win. He won't get them by rehashing well-known problems or by attacking his opponent....If Gray wants to move the city forward, the next time he has a captive audience, he could try less Fenty trashing and more future focusing.'
—From WaPo's Craig: 'In a hard-hitting 20 minute address that took repeated swipes at Fenty's personality and record, Gray (D) set the stage for a potentially bruising campaign against the first-term mayor. Although he did not mention Fenty by name, Gray repeatedly referred to "cronyism" in city government and accused the mayor of stoking "childish bickering" that has stifled the city's progress....Gray, 67, used his speech to cast himself as a public servant who had fought his way through life. He spoke of growing up in segregated Washington in a one-bedroom apartment with his parents, neither of whom attended high school. "My brother and I slept on rollaway beds in the living room," Gray said. "Let me tell you—it's pretty destabilizing to a young person to see your bedroom disappear every morning."
—From a WaTimes report by Deborah Simmons: 'Mr. Gray's speech targeted Mr. Fenty on schools, which the mayor has said since day one of his administration are his No. 1 priority. In a lengthy autobiographical speech that touched on crime, jobs and his hard-scrabble beginnings, Mr. Gray told supporters at the headquarters of the Historical Society of Washington that his mayoral administration would provide ethical leadership, "bring people together" and restore real transparency to the decision-making process. "[W]e need a mayor who understands that the best way to achieve real and lasting school reform is to involve the community—not impose his will," Mr. Gray said. With scores of teachers, public safety employees and other city workers cheering him on, Mr. Gray promised to "double our efforts to empower, recruit, reward and retain good teachers—and, frankly, fire not only bad teachers, but unproductive government employees in any position."'
—From Patrick Madden of WAMU-FM: 'In his speech, Gray called himself a consensus builder with the background and experience to "unite" the city. But it was his consistent attacks on Mayor Adrian Fenty's personality and governing style that earned the loudest applause from supporters at Saturdays rally....Gray offered a few policy specifics. He spoke about improving early childhood education and creating more jobs, but its clear the two candidates are not that far apart on the major issues – and this race is shaping up to be more about personalities than policies.'
—Gary Imhoff writing in themail: 'What's missing from the news stories is the great enthusiasm of the crowd. Gray's speech, which had dozens and dozens of applause lines, didn't tire out the group, which had as high a level of energy and enthusiasm at the end as at the beginning....Fenty doesn't engender anything like the enthusiasm he did in 2006; instead, his best chance to hold on to office is through intimidation. Walking through the crowd during Gray's speech at the kickoff event was Fenty friend and supporter Ron Moten, taking numerous photographs of the attendees, and at the end Moten stood at the door of the Carnegie Library, taking names.'
BALLOON WOULDN'T FLOAT—On WAMU-FM's Politics Hour Friday, Jack Evans said he's 'unlikely to run' for council chairman. D.C. Wire notes: 'For weeks, Evans has been saying that he may bow out of the race, given an impending marriage to his fiance and raising his 13-year-old triplets. Privately, sources close to Evans, a longtime incumbent who has represented Ward 2 for 19 years, said he worried about waging a race for the chairmanship against at-large Council member Kwame R. Brown, who has now won twice citywide.'
If DCPS officials were hoping for a quick conclusion to the Washington Teachers' Union RIF lawsuit, well, they aren't getting it. At a court hearing Friday, Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff, who had earlier ruled last October's teacher layoffs to be proper, is raising new questions in the wake of the $34M surplus revelations. 'Bartnoff's action breathes new life into the union's legal challenge,' Bill Turque writes in WaPo. 'Bartnoff said Friday that the case was "morphing" because of recent events. "The issue is now whether it was reasonable for the chancellor to believe last fall that there was a budget shortfall to justify" the layoffs, she said. She deferred a motion by District lawyers to dismiss the case and granted the union "limited discovery" to explore the financial information that was available to Rhee at the time of the layoffs....Robert C. Utiger, a lawyer for the D.C. attorney general's office, called the discovery authority given to the union a potential "fishing expedition."...In response to a question from Bartnoff, Utiger said there is little the District can do for the laid-off teachers, even if a budget surplus is authenticated. The most they would receive is "priority consideration" in the event that jobs open up that match their skills.' The parties are back in court June 18. Also NC8 and DCist considers the 'Flummoxing Budgetary Shambles' at DCPS. 'Man, this is almost as complicated as Lost.'
More broadly, Turque examines a '$34 million crisis of confidence in D.C. schools' in Sunday's WaPo. 'Follow the money, if you can' is how he begins recounting the disputes between Michelle Rhee and Natwar Gandhi 'The remarkable back-and-forth between the chancellor and the chief financial officer also has parents, teachers, District officials and business leaders asking: Why do the school system's finances appear to be such an impenetrable mess?...[T]he financial muddle also grows out of tensions Rhee has created with her high-velocity, high-profile quest to transform the city's long-struggling public schools. [Fenty]'s huge political stake in the success of the education overhaul makes Rhee the 800-pound gorilla of his administration. Early in Rhee's tenure, the Democratic mayor put out the word that D.C. officials said "no" to her at their peril....[D]iscord and disarray have been closer to the norm than the exception for Gandhi and Rhee. While the school system financial officer reports to Gandhi, Rhee's unique status in the government means that the person in that post effectively serves two masters. The arrangement hasn't gone smoothly, with the turnover of the school finance deputies. Sources told The Washington Post in 2008 that finance chief Pamela Graham was forced out by Rhee after she raised questions about excessive hiring and spending. Rhee said she did not force Graham to quit. When Graham left, Rhee persuaded Gandhi to replace her with Noah Wepman, then 34 and an assistant to then-City Administrator Dan Tangherlini. Wepman's relative lack of experience gave Gandhi pause, sources familiar with the transition said, but he ultimately agreed to assign him....But by November 2009, Wepman was gone after telling the D.C. Council that he did not alert Gandhi to a $13 million budget gap that helped trigger October's teacher layoffs. Gandhi certified the school system's 2010 budget as in balance without knowledge of the gap. Wepman, who has declined interview requests, has never really explained why he didn't keep Gandhi informed. Despite council members' calls for Wepman's resignation, Gandhi spokesman David Umansky said Rhee pressed Gandhi to keep Wepman on. Rhee said she "continued to express my confidence in Noah."'
HMM—'The dispute has also shaken the confidence that the city's business leadership has in Rhee and Gandhi. "It doesn't seem like anybody knows how much money is being spent on a regular basis," said James C. Dinegar, president and chief executive of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. He calls that "inexcusable."'
D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols delivers a report that lands with a nice campaign-season thud: Various executive branch agencies have racked up more than $70K in unpaid parking and other tickets, with more than $1,000 of that belonging to cars assigned to executive offices of Fenty and Michelle Rhee. 'One of the vehicles assigned to the mayor's office has $770 in unpaid fines, and a vehicle designated for Rhee's office has $345 in fines,' Stewart reports in WaPo. 'According to the auditor, the agencies said that the outstanding fines had not been paid because they "could not consistently identify the employee who was assigned to use the vehicle when parking and traffic fines were issued." The unpaid fines were among several problems the D.C. Auditor's Office found with the management of the city's 2,635-vehicle fleet. The Fleet Management Administration, a division of the Department of Public Works, does not keep a list of which city employees are authorized to operate government vehicles. The city also lacks uniform policies for all employees, such as prohibiting those who have driving infractions from operating vehicles, according to the report....The auditor's office also looked at a fuel card assigned to Fenty and found that a police employee used the card on October 3, 2009, in Randallstown, 47 miles from the city. But because the card "did not have the vehicle identification feature, it could not be determined whether the [police] employee used the Mayor's fuel card to refuel a government owned or leased vehicle assigned to the Mayor."'
TIGHTEN THOSE MIRRORS!—'In [fiscal 2008 and 2009], the city shelled out nearly $1 million in automobile damage claims for accidents incurred by employees in the five agencies studied and in the Department of Public Works. One $5,000 claim involved an employee in the Department of Parks and Recreation who failed to "keep in proper lane," according to a police report. The employee was on the way to "Bible Study."...The employee's supervisor wrote in a report that similar accidents would be prevented by tightening the vehicle's mirrors and reminding "drivers to be extra careful."'
NOT TO PUT TOO FINE A POINT ON IT—'The report comes at a time when [Fenty] has proposed increasing parking meter rates and fines for traffic violations in an effort to close the city's budget gap.'
The WaPo editorial board comes out in support of the D.C. Republican Committee challenge to the Office of Campaign Finance ruling that found no misconduct in Gray's 'Comcast letter.' They write: 'The Republicans may have political motives, but they raise legitimate questions about the decision by [OCF]. The interests of good government call for further review....GOP officials make good points about the faulty reasoning behind this ruling. Under the law, what counts is who received the money, not the worthiness of its purpose. There is no question that the convention account in which the Comcast donation was deposited was an official organ of the Democratic State Committee and, as such, subject to all regulations governing political contributions....The OCF finding, if left standing, could set a worrisome precedent. Nothing would prevent officeholders from using their positions to raise money for their campaign accounts as long as they say that the money will be used for non-political purposes tangential to their offices. The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics should hear the case.'
More voting-rights-defeat reax, starting with WaPo's Colby King, who writes that the D.C. House Voting Rights Act, even without a gun rider, is fatally flawed. 'It would have meant accepting the assertion that Americans in the District of Columbia don't have a fundamental right to representation in Congress; that D.C. congressional representation is a privilege that Congress may extend or withhold as it sees fit. The voting rights bill pulled by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) this week was not worth having, even if it would have allowed D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) to vote on the floor of the House. Under terms of the now-scuttled bill, [Norton] would have enjoyed that privilege—only until another Congress decided otherwise....Let's face it: There's only one way to gain our rightful place in America. It's the same approach taken on behalf of disenfranchised Americans before us: a constitutional amendment. I hear the groans, but I plow on....We can't give up or look for an easy way. There is none.' In a WaPo op-ed, meanwhile, Mark Plotkin asks a simple question, 'Where were you on D.C. voting rights, Mr. President?' He recalls: 'When asked about D.C. voting rights in a meeting with reporters and editors at The Post [after his election], [President Barack Obama] called the issue "partisan" and "controversial." What he should have said in no uncertain terms was that this was a fundamental component of democracy—a statement such as "I can't wait to sign a bill that should remove this blight on democracy."...Obama made a cold political calculation: Ignore those people. They don't count. And you wonder why the bill went nowhere and why the future looks so bleak. President Obama won't give the District the time of day.' Maureen Fiedler asks at the National Catholic Reporter, '[W]here is the archdiocese' on the issue? DCist's Martin Austermuhle asks: 'Where Does the D.C. Voting Rights Movement Go From Here?' And D.C. Vote, feeling nervous, responds to criticism in WaPo and WCP.
ALSO—Annandale resident chimes in, dismayed by city leaders' eschew of the gun deal: 'D.C. officials should change the slogan on city license plates from "Taxation without representation" to "Taxation without representation by choice."'
The key witness for city investigators piecing together the circumstances of last month's deadly South Capitol Street drive-by shooting is one of the suspects, 26-year-old Nathaniel Simms, Paul Duggan reports in WaPo. Simms 'has given homicide detectives a detailed account of the mayhem, including the names of his alleged accomplices, their specific roles in the attack, the motive for the gunfire and how they obtained the weapons used to kill four people and wound several others,' Duggan writes, citing courts docs and police sources. 'Based largely on information provided by Simms, the sources said, two other men were arrested Thursday....Simms has told police that [Robert Bost] took part in the attack and that [Lamar Williams], who was not present during the shootings, supplied the guns, according to the sources and affidavits. The affidavits say that [Orlando Carter], who also has pleaded not guilty, was the driver of the rented, silver-colored minivan used in the attack on a group of people standing outside a dilapidated residence in the 4000 block of South Capitol Street SE. Bost, armed with a .45-caliber pistol, was in the front passenger seat, according to the affidavits. The suspect who is being sought, Jeffrey Best, 21, was in the back seat with a 9mm handgun, the affidavits say. Simms, also in the back seat, was armed with an AK-47-style assault rifle, according to the sources and affidavits. As Carter drove and the others opened fire, the four wore "black ninja-style masks to conceal their identities," one of the affidavits states.' Also WRC-TV, WTTG-TV.
Meanwhile, while WaPo editors and reporters have declined to name the now-cleared 14-year-old suspect in the slaying, the editorial board has no such qualms, mentioning Malik Carter's name in a Saturday editorial lauding his exoneration as an 'important affirmation of a system that worked.' But that's not all: 'The importance of the government's ability to share this information with the public cannot be overstated, and we hope it serves as a guide for officials considering changes to the juvenile justice system. Malik had been under the supervision of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, and so his arrest sparked calls to overhaul how the District deals with its juvenile offenders. While that reaction was overblown, there is a need for a measured look at the system. While previous reforms should not be abandoned, there are legitimate concerns about how young offenders who may pose continuing threats to the community are treated. Strict confidentiality laws are a bar to an understanding of the issues and, as such, undermine public confidence in the department and the youth it serves.' Examiner, meanwhile, gathers a selection of pundits who are shocked and appalled that police could make such a mistake, including Mary Cheh and Joe diGenova.
The WaPo Capital Business team—Dana Hedgpeth, Lisa Rein, and Jonathan O'Connell—looks at the business opportunities in St. Elizabeth redevelopment efforts, what's to become 'a 4.5 million square-foot federal mini-city for the Department of Homeland Security' on the St. E's west campus. 'It's the largest federal construction job since the Pentagon in the 1940s. The $3.4 billion consolidation of Homeland Security's far-flung agencies in one campus is slated to create 16,000 direct construction jobs involving at least 100 contractors over the next six years....The potential for development is breathtaking. Panoramic views of official Washington and Northern Virginia. Interstate 295 and the Congress Heights Metro station minutes away. A District government vowing to mold 170 acres it controls on the east campus across Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue into a destination place of shops, offices and homes. Another $3 billion in still-to-be-let construction contracts. Eventually, 14,000 DHS workers who will come and go every weekday, plus 2,000 daily visitors to the Homeland Security campus. The area, some say, could become another Crystal City of federal contractors hopping on the $17 billion Homeland Security train.....[D]espite the hopes of community and city leaders and local residents, the obstacles to bringing back the neighborhoods around St. Elizabeths loom large. Lenders, planning experts and some developers say a 9-to-5 workforce alone, especially one behind a secure perimeter, will do little to spur development around the campus unless a large retailer comes along with it. The land rush that engulfed the area across the river five years ago as the new Washington Nationals ballpark was on the way isn't in sight around St. Elizabeths, at least not yet. There are few available large commercial spots nearby and land-use experts say there will be a lag time before the surrounding area starts to change....Federal officials are putting in few amenities on the west side of the campus in hopes of getting DHS workers to patronize businesses in the surrounding neighborhood and to go to the east side of St. Elizabeths. The city owns 170 acres on the east side of the campus and is creating a blueprint for a mix of offices, shops and restaurants, and housing to attract, not just DHS workers—90 percent of whom live in Maryland and Virginia—but also the community, which is now underserved by retail...."This campus has been the heart of this community for generations, and we want to make it become that again," said Harriet Tregoning, director of the city's Office of Planning. "We don't want it to be a place where people come to work and then leave for the day, and we get their fumes. We want to capture them to live and work here."'
After 28 years inside St. Elizabeths Hospital, presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr. is set for permanent release. WaPo's Annys Shin looks at what he has ahead of him. 'At 54, the one-time presidential assailant lives like a kid on perpetual spring break. The closest thing he has to a 9-to-5 job is a volunteer gig at the hospital library. He fills his free time strumming on his guitar, crafting pop songs about ideal love or going on supervised jaunts to the beach or a bowling alley....Over the government's steadfast objections, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman, who oversees his case, and Hinckley's doctors are slowly preparing him for what they see as inevitable: His release from St. Elizabeths—life on his own....Hinckley now enjoys the most freedom he has had since his 1981 arrest for shooting and wounding President Ronald Reagan, two law enforcement officers and White House press secretary Jim Brady. Brady suffered brain damage and remains partially paralyzed....Hinckley now splits his time between two very different gated communities: the crumbling campus of St. Elizabeths and Kingsmill, the 2,900-acre luxury resort community to which his parents relocated from Denver in the late 1980s to be closer to him. One has a shelter for the homeless, knee-high weeds and boarded-up buildings; the other boasts three championship golf courses, a yacht club and a spa. Around St. Elizabeths, the fatal shooting of a resident might earn a brief in the local paper. Around Kingsmill, the fatal shooting of a pet cat is front-page news....Hinckley has voiced his preference. If released, he hopes to settle in Williamsburg. And who can blame him? Instead of Martin's [carryout], he has the Pottery Wine and Cheese Shop, where Hinckley and his mother are a frequent sight. Instead of carryouts, he has the Mill, a gourmet coffee shop overlooking tennis courts, where the manager says Hinckley sat recently with a small group of people drinking coffee....But Williamsburg compares less favorably to Ward 8 in one crucial way: The residents are not quite as accommodating. While Hinckley was accosted at least once during an outing in the District by an angry citizen who recognized him, he has ventured out undisturbed on hundreds of other occasions, with hospital staff or on his own. In Williamsburg, by contrast, his social worker...found it nearly impossible to find Hinckley a volunteer job. The Humane Society, a local foundation, a homeless services group, a retirement home, a prison, and the Salvation Army, among others, turned him down.'
A master planner has been selected for the city's 62-acre Walter Reed Army Medical Center site. It's
Banneker Ventures...just kidding. It's Chicago-based Perkins and Will, Jonathan O'Connell reports in WaPo. 'Fenty picked the company from 15 competing for the work—a sign of a competitive market for municipal planning work. The company's experience planning re-use of another military facility, the Presidio of San Francisco, played heavily into its selection, according to Fenty spokesman Sean Madigan. "We saw a lot of commonalities in their work for the Presidio Trust and the work that we'd like to see them do here," he said. The two properties are similar in that they feature urban military hospitals surrounded by communities eager for economic development, according to James Wood, Perkins and Will principal.'
Pawnshops are under council scrutiny these days, and WaPo's Ovetta Wiggins explains why: 'Pawnshop oversight legislation sponsored by [Muriel Bowser] won unanimous approval last week as an emergency measure; the council is expected to discuss a permanent measure next month. The action follows a nearly three-month effort by some residents and business owners to stop Famous Pawn from moving into a vacant real estate office in the 7300 block of Georgia Avenue NW....Opponents of the pawnshop say they don't want it to hurt the redevelopment that is expected on 62 acres of the soon-to-be-closed Water Reed Army Medical Center and the economic boost that it is expected to give the Georgia Avenue corridor. But the legislation contains no specific provisions to prevent the pawnshop from opening....Under the D.C. measure, a pawnbroker would not be allowed to charge fees exceeding 24 percent, ANCs in the affected areas would be given 30 days' notice before a license is issued, and the commissions would be given "great weight during deliberations to approve or deny the license application."' A lawsuit concerning Famous Pawn is also underway.
Mr. D.C. Register, aka Michael Neibauer, reports in WBJ on new pedicab regulations released Friday. 'Pedicabs, the rules state, must be operated only on public streets and in accordance with the "safe operation of bicycle regulations." They must include a seat belt for each passenger, hydraulic or mechanical disc or drum brakes, at least one battery-operated head lamp, battery-operated tail lamps, turn lights, reflective tape, a loud bell and spoke reflectors....The proposed rules, which...were drafted after conversations with New York City and Boston officials, prohibit pedicab operators from parking or riding on a sidewalk, from riding while intoxicated, from parking in a restricted zone identified for other vehicles and from riding on any D.C. street with a posted speed limit of more than 30 mph.'
The city has designated the 1900 block of Q Street NW as 'Diego D'Ambrosio Way,' in honor of the proprietor of Diego's Hair Salon, stylist to the rich and powerful. As WaPo's Christy Goodman notes, his work gets an endorsement from no less a personage than the mayoral mom: '"He is the most friendly, most charming man," Jeanette "Jan" Fenty said of D'Ambrosio. She is commonly introduced by him as "La mama de mayor," she said. "The 'Ciao, bella!' makes you feel so good," said Fenty, who brings her grandsons to the shop....Friends and family members sang along to the music blaring from his shop Friday, as meatballs and pastries were passed among the crowd of about 200 people at the street-naming event. [Fenty] said D'Ambrosio is "not only a fantastic barber this side of Rome, but he is a true Washingtonian."'
The temporary chlorine-y state of our tap water is more than a matter of inconvenience, Rose Overbey writes in a WaPo op-ed. 'The chlorine efficiently kills germs in those old pipes, but when it comes out of the faucet, it remains a powerful chemical. I recognize that WASA must clean the city's pipes, but extended higher levels of chlorine raise a number of concerns....In a hot shower, your pores open, allowing the chlorine to soak in and wreak havoc with your skin's natural oils. The same thing happens to hair. Have you ever noticed how your hands wrinkle quickly in a pool? The chlorine is drying them out. And that's just what it does to the outside of your body....WASA's most recent charts of chlorine levels show that the water flowing through our pipes is already teetering close to the maximum levels recommended for pools, let alone for drinking water. Pipes might be able to handle the extra chlorine for three and a half months, but should people have to?...For the sake of its customers, WASA needs to decrease its dependency on chlorine flushes and put a higher priority on replacing antiquated pipes.'
New York Times investigation raises questions about Imagine Schools, operator of three charter campuses in the District, and describes how 'it is coming under growing scrutiny from school boards and state regulators questioning how public money is spent and whether the company exerts too much control over the schools.' Among those regulators is the D.C. Public Charter School Board: 'At Hope Community Charter School in the District of Columbia, which opened in 2005 and where Imagine helped identify board members, the board agreed to pay Imagine virtually all of the school's revenue, to allow Imagine to set the school's budget subject only to approval that "shall not be unreasonably withheld or delayed," and to seek Imagine's approval for how it spends charitable gifts....Josephine Baker, executive director of the [PCSB], which grants and oversees charters in Washington, said the board had concerns about who was running the show at Hope Community. "It's not just Imagine, though Imagine is the one that probably has given us the most concern," she said. "We find it is very hard for schools that hire management companies to maintain their independence, and charter schools are supposed to be independent." Mrs. Baker said she did not think the contract between Imagine and Hope Community would be approved today, in part because the entire model of using management companies is flawed. "There are not a whole lot of charter schools that are just marvelous, and those that are do not have management companies," she said.'
ALSO—NYT fronts story on changes to New York schools' layoff protocols. No surprise: '[Chancellor Joel Klein] frequently cites the teachers' contract in Washington, D.C., as a model. Last year, when the Washington schools chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee, laid off nearly 300 teachers, she was not bound by seniority.'
Washingtonian has posted a portion of Harry Jaffe's 10,000-word opus on the Robert Wone murder, featuring an exclusive interview with his wife Kathy. An excerpt: 'Was the murder of Robert Wone a perfect crime? We may never know exactly what happened that night on Swann Street. We're left with the tragedy of Wone's killing—an unexplained act of violence that has tested the power of friendship and brought out the best in some prominent Washington figures. It has forced Kathy Wone to search for the beauty of the human spirit after the love of her life was taken away. "Right after Robert died, my world was blown into so many pieces—not even pieces but mountains of ash," she told me in one of two exclusive interviews about her life with Robert; she declined to talk about the pending cases. "I wondered: Is there even really a finish line to putting one's life back together?"'
After two decades in the MPD press office, officers Kenny Bryson and Quinton Peterson are retiring. WaPo's Clarence Williams pays them their due at the Crime Scene blog: '[T]his pair anchored the Metropolitan Police Department's Public Information Office as low-key subordinates in a high-profile office. On Friday, Bryson, Peterson and their colleague Barbara Jean Gooding—a 39-year civilian employee herself—will answer their last phone calls and retire. Collectively, they have fielded calls about cases of international interest—such as the shooting of President Reagan in 1981 and the disappearance and murder of Congressional intern Chandra Levy in 2001—but also worked lesser-known cases, particularly during the violence of the crack cocaine wars. They were rarely the lead face or voice for the department in such cases, but day-to-day the trio were on the front lines of ongoing tension between a demanding press corps seeking immediate answers in cases that all too often lacked any resolution, immediate or otherwise. "I will remember always having to deal with one crisis after another and answering only God knows how many questions," Peterson said this week. "It got so bad that at one point I'd answer my phone at home, 'Public information office, Officer Peterson.'"'
An off-duty MPD cop was robbed a gunpoint Saturday night in Suitland, Matt Zapotosky reports in WaPo, and the officer fired his gun at the assailant. 'The suspect, apparently unhit by the gunfire, fled on foot with an unknown amount of cash.' The cop was not hurt.
Two convictions, via WaPo: Pedro Petrovic, 37, is guilty of first-degree murder in connection with a 2008 shooting on Riggs Road NE; he faces 60 years or more. And Makeya Liggins, 20, pled guilty to assault with intent to kill. The assault followed a Jan. 24 argument with his mother over cornbread. 'Liggins got a knife from the kitchen, followed his mother into the bathroom and stabbed her in her chest. "I told you I would kill you," Liggins said to his mother, according to prosecutors. Then he fled to a relative's house, where police arrested him. His mother, whom prosecutors did not identify, survived.'
Nautica Brown, 14, is missing. WTOP reports that she 'was last seen on Friday at 6:45 a.m. in the unit block of Brandywine Street SE. Brown is described as medium complexioned black female with short brown hair. She's 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 98 pounds. She was last seen wearing a blue coat and white shirt.'
This year's Servathon was this weekend; some 7,000 area residents participated in Greater DC Cares' yearly volunteerism push. WaPo's Ovetta Wiggins reported from the Washington Home, where '[m]ore than 100 volunteers gathered...to clean windows, play checkers, wash baseboards, build planters, paint trellises, polish brass plaques and serve meals. But mainly, they talked and listened.' Also WTTG-TV.
Resident Christopher Herman writes in to Dr. Gridlock to make the case against the 11th Street Bridge project: 'Project documents and expert studies show that a new freeway shortcut across the District means more, not less, traffic on local streets and more congested and more dangerous freeways....Adding a trolley and a bike path does not change the fact that this project is a throwback to the 1960s that a cash-strapped city cannot afford: It gobbles $300 million needed for infrastructure rehabilitation and upgrades, and it consumes limited borrowing capacity. It is not too late to reevaluate.'
DDOT has a new chief engineer: Ronaldo T. "Nick" Nicholson, formerly of the Virginia transportation department, takes over Kathleen Penney's old spot. 'In his role with VDOT, Mr. Nicholson oversaw the successful completion of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, and the design and start of the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane projects, The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project and other large scale design-build/design-bid-build transportation projects....Mr. Nicholson is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineering, the Transportation Research Board and a life member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.'
At Poverty & Policy, Kathryn Baer warns of a troubling provision in council legislation: 'Part of a proposed amendment to the District's Omnibus Public Safety Amendment Act would permit any community group of any size to file a civil action against these groups as constituting a "public nuisance." The court could then issue an order to "abate, enjoin and prevent" it. Violation of the order could lead to a fine or imprisonment. And not groups only. Any individual perceived as interfering with "the quiet enjoyment of life and property" by any group purportedly organized for the benefit of the community could be subject to such a lawsuit. We can see what the cosponsors of the bill—–Councilmembers Jim Graham and Jack Evans—may have had in mind....[But] the language of the Graham-Evans amendment is way over-broad and an open license to harass and displace homeless people and others who are already socially and/or economically disadvantaged.'
Thomas Phillips IV, 22, falls down smokestack to his death at Connecticut House apartment building early Saturday. Reports WaPo: 'Fire and emergency medical crews arrived at the apartment building in the 4500 block of Connecticut Avenue about 3:45 a.m. Witnesses told rescuers that it appeared the man fell from the top of the smokestack on the roof of the nine-story building, said Pete Piringer, a D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman. "Firefighters and rescuers were met by individuals who indicated there may have been several people or a small gathering on the roof," Piringer said, adding that the roof has a designated rooftop patio area. The man was found at the bottom of the smokestack shaft on the building's B2 level, a fall that authorities estimated would have been 90 feet. Rescuers were able to access the site and bring the man to floor level, where he was pronounced dead. Police are investigating the circumstances of the man's fall and would not say whether alcohol was involved.' Also NC8.
Former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse writes to WaPo: 'There are two fundamental questions to ask about the medical marijuana bill passed by the D.C. Council: (1) Is smoke a safe drug delivery system? and (2) Is it safe to approve drugs, especially those with high abuse potential, by ballot initiatives and legislative actions? Any sensible person would answer "no" to both questions....Medical marijuana is a stalking-horse for legalization. This can be seen in California, where medical marijuana advocates have had great success and are pushing for full legalization. But it is not a smart public health strategy.'
Man gets cocaine charges dropped, thanks to SCOTUS ruling.
National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association asks: How germane is Brian Betts' 'lifestyle' in coverage of his death?
The Socialist Worker covers the new DCPS teacher contract and subsequent controversies. Title: 'Telling lies to attack teachers in D.C.' Nut graf: 'In short, the proposed contract is a scheme to divide teachers and undermine tenure rights—which is why it is being funded by the likes of the union-hating Walton family and real estate billionaire Eli Broad. For most teachers in the district, the involvement of private donors is a major cause for concern. If passed, the contract would allow the leading national forces behind the dismantling of public education to carry out their plan on [DCPS].'
Community College real-estate deal is done. 'CCDC now said it will immediately begin building out the 88,000 square feet of space at 801 N. Capitol St. that it will use for classes and other services. The school plans to be open in time for fall classes this year,' WBJ reports. 'According to the lease, UDC will occupy the building for 17 years, paying $1.8 million in the first year with rent escalating to $3.8 million in 2027. The community college, which is separate from UDC's four-year undergraduate programs, also plans future campuses at the former Bernie Backus Middle School at 5171 South Dakota Ave. NE, as well as a planned 3 million-square-foot mixed-use project at Hayes Street and Kenilworth Avenue in Northeast D.C.'
Metro cars derail in New Carrollton yard.
WAMU-FM previews the SYEP.
WUSA-TV asks, 'Do DC Police Get Enough Help From The Community?'
It may still be better in Baltimore, but fewer Washington residents are choosing to move there.
What's the connection between Marion Barry, Peaceoholics, and Barry crony Roy Littlejohn? Congress Heights on the Rise tries to make some connections.
Why lawns are bad for the Bay.
Check out DDOE's Green D.C. map.
'When it comes to illegal immigration, Leo Alexander "gets it."' And he's having a fundraiser...in Arlington!
Man says Metro train's doors closed on his neck.
Fire station gets green roof.
University of Richmond profiles alumnus Maurice Henderson, now running the D.C. Counts campaign.
The American Lung Association may have left D.C., but its 'Quitline' hasn't.
The man who brought beach volleyball to Potomac Park is dead.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee on Public Works and Transportation budget meeting on Department of Transportation, Bicycle Advisory Council, and Pedestrian Advisory Council, JAWB 500; Committee on Health budget meeting on Department of Mental Health, JAWB 412; 2 p.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment roundtable on PR18-792 ('District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics Mital Gandhi Confirmation Resolution of 2010'), JAWB 123.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, Anacostia Neighborhood Library ribbon-cutting, 1800 Good Hope Road SE.