Better Than the Burbs: Loose Lips Daily
Morning all. Here's the kind of newspaper lede big-city mayors dream of: 'Suburban governments lag behind the District in efforts to help slow the spread of AIDS even though they are home to nearly half of the Washington area residents infected with the disease,' Darryl Fears writes in WaPo, wrapping up a new study by the Washington AIDS Partnership. 'In what is billed as the first look at the scope of HIV/AIDS infection in suburban Washington, the study decries the lack of coordination that it says denies thousands of infected people the medical and support services they need and deserve, "regardless of where they live." The study calls on local governments to establish standards so that everyone gets tested for HIV during routine medical visits, unless they opt out.' You know, like in D.C.! Suburban officials whine that urban comparisons are unfair, but how about these fun facts: 'Despite having one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the nation, the city is on its way to becoming a model of aggressive prevention. In the past three years, it has issued millions of condoms citywide, created a sex education curriculum and offered tests for sexually transmitted diseases for all public high school and some charter school students.' Yay us. Now if we only hadn't allowed the epidemic to run out of control in the first place...
AFTER THE JUMP—Gray locks up big-sunglasses vote, still straddles on schools; you can fight parking tickets, Examiner discovers; WaPo ed board slams Maryland for Metro welching; Northrop is Old Dominion-bound; Blade is back; time for a bottle tax?
MORE—The A1 report is paired with a Petula Dvorak Metro column, which features one of her best lines to date: 'The report found that HIV-prevention education in schools is "inconsistent and timid." "Ha! I can't bring a condom into a school," [a Virginia sex educator] said. "I can't even talk about condoms." Yes, we have no bananas.'
News flash: Attractive, 20-something white woman with giant sunglasses plans to vote for Vince Gray! Tom Sherwood discovers this, but also cruelly highlights Gray's legislate-o-speak in a WRC-TV report on his campaign kickoff.
In other Blue Team (or Cerulean Team?) news: A D.C. Wire mini-biography of Gray campaign manager Adam Rubinson from WaPo's Tim Craig reveals a fellow without a whole lot of recent campaign experience: He 'last managed a campaign 20 years ago when he worked for U.S. Rep. Nita Lowery (D-NY).' (It's Lowey, but close enough.) Rubinson worked a deputy chief technology officer in the Williams administration and is leaving a job as a Deloitte consultant to run the Gray tilt. 'Rubinson said he first met Gray four years ago when Gray was a candidate for council chairman. A self-described local political junkie, Rubinson would watch Gray, who was then a Ward 7 council member, on the local government access channel. "I was one of those Channel 13 junkies and I always admired him," Rubinson said of Gray. "My dad was inspired by John Kennedy and I am inspired by Barack Obama and Vince Gray."...During a meeting three weeks ago at the Marriott Hotel downtown, Rubinson said Gray unexpectedly made the offer. 'We started talking political strategy and he found out I had managed a campaign before," Rubinson said. "And it was rather to my surprise he then asked me to be his campaign manager." When asked if he's up to the job, Rubinson noted he's managed projects and programs with budgets of "tens and tens of millions of dollars."..."I have managed people and projects and I have written campaign plans," said Rubinson, who is also an attorney. "Everything I have done my whole life has prepared me to run a campaign."' Hmm—LL detects a lack of subject-matter experience. If this guy was a Fenty executive-branch appointee, he might be sweating his council confirmation.
ALSO—Ben Butler, head of the DPR employees union, writes at the DC Union Power blog, 'While it has often been said that anyone would be better than Fenty, the question we labor leaders should now be asking is just what do we want from Vincent Gray? Certainly Mr. Gray should not expect for us to blindly support him. We need to obtain specific commitments from this candidate....Without specific commitments, we could end up with another mayor who says one thing and does another.' And WaPo's Craig notes at D.C. Wire that Gray still hasn't given a straight answer on whether he'd keep Michelle Rhee or not. But he is not advocating a return to the school board days. 'Gray told reporters after his speech that Rhee doesn't have to be in charge for school reform to be a success. Although he stressed he will consider keeping her if he is elected, Gray thinks it's time the debate over the future of school overhaul efforts moves beyond Rhee. "I voted for school reform before I even knew Michelle Rhee," Gray said. "We voted for a new governance approach several months before she came on board. There probably will be a lot of people that will ask me that question, but that is something she and I will have to work through."' Bottom line: 'With education shaping up to be a top issue in the campaign, it remains to be seen if voters allow Gray to avoid taking a firm position about Rhee's future. And, in this case, the polls won't help him pick a politically expedient course.' Also note that he hasn't mentioned anything about Rhee's marriage in weeks.
Meanwhile, Hizzoner continued his election-year ribbon-cutting tour in Anacostia yesterday, where he opened up a new $14.7M library on Good Hope Road SE. 'The new library, which can hold 80,000 books, DVDs, CDs and other materials and features 32 computers for public use, was six years in the making. Though the former library's closing pre-dated the Fenty administration, the mayor was criticized in 2007 for quickly moving to rebuild the Georgetown public library after a fire when construction on other libraries, like Anacostia, were in limbo.' The political context is thus: 'Over the past three years, the Fenty administration has saw the opening of dozens of new parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, libraries and recreational centers. Although many of them were in the planning stages before Fenty took office, administration officials argue they deserve credit for pushing the projects to completion.' Also WAMU-FM.
NOTA BENE—'Since [the January WaPo] poll was published, Fenty's official scheduled has included at least one event in Southeast a week, suggesting he understands he faces an uphill reelection battle unless he improves his numbers in that part of the city.'
It pays to fight parking tickets, Examiner's Bill Myers seems surprised to discover. 'Nearly three-fifths of motorists who challenged their D.C. traffic tickets beat city hall and another two-fifths beat back parking tickets in challenges...Another 38 percent of people who fought tickets from photo radar machines won, the District Department of Motor Vehicles reported in its fiscal 2010 "Performance Plan." Even when people lost their initial challenge, 1 out of 3 were able to reverse the tickets on appeal. Who says you can't fight city hall?' Those stats prompt a recrimination from the AAA that LL will not be repeating in this space. And never mind that '[o]nly 3 percent of photo tickets were "adjudicated" in fiscal 2009,' while 7 percent of parking tickets and 20 percent of moving violations were challenged. Myers explains why there might be an issue: 'internal documents suggest that part of the problem is the staff is overwhelmed.'
The WaPo editorial board sounds the alarms for Metro as 'storm clouds continue to gather over its long-term financial and operational health.' Signs of the apocalypse: A gap-closing plan that raids the capital budget to pay for operational needs, and 'for a transit agency whose infrastructure is as aging and accident-prone as Metro's, it's a foolish move and creates a budgetary hole that will be difficult to fill in the future.' Whose fault is this crisis? Maryland's! 'Virginia and the District have indicated that they're prepared to find additional funds so that Metro needn't raid its capital budget. But Annapolis insists it's already ponying up $14 million more next year (bringing its subsidy for Metro to $230 million) and that it will go no higher. The trouble is, much of that $14 million is for services rendered — namely, more residents of Montgomery and Prince George's counties using MetroAccess, the agency's service for passengers with disabilities. It's troubling that Maryland won't dig slightly deeper to safeguard Metro's future....Metro, sorry to say, is on a slippery slope, and Maryland is pushing it downhill.'
ALSO—GGW's David Alpert, now one of the occasional contributors to the WaPo All Opinions Are Local blog, writes that Metro is on the horns of a semantic dilemma: Apparently, 'the WMATA general counsel has issued an opinion on a technical but important question: Whether Maryland's lack of payment for capital obligations in FY2010 is a "failure to pay" or a "failure to appropriate." Apparently, Metro Matters [WMATA's capital program] says that if a jurisdiction doesn't pay what is promised, WMATA can borrow the money on its behalf and charge interest, but if the legislature of that jurisdiction just never appropriates the money, it can't. There was some question about which it was, and for at least some of the money, the general counsel believes it's a "failure to pay."'
Northrop Grumman is going to Virginia. It sure was fun to pretend they weren't going to do this all along. Kudos to WBJ on the scoop. WaPo reports: '[CEO Wes Bush] gave credit to competitive offers from Maryland and the District but said in Monday's statement that the company's "final decision was driven largely by facility considerations, proximity to our customers, and overall economics."' No kidding. Also Examiner.
YAY, SOUTHWEST!—WaPo's Lisa Rein celebrates the re-rebirth of a quadrant in a Metro fronter. 'For 50 years, Southwest Washington was divided in half by a mall and an office complex that withered with age. Like the freeway that isolates the neighborhood from downtown, Waterside Mall left its community without a center. Today, the mall is gone, two gleaming glass office towers with a splashy ground-floor Safeway supermarket have risen in its place and the road that was mothballed to build it is back, with wide sidewalks for pedestrians. Fourth Street might be a stretch of asphalt over two city blocks, but its reappearance in a neighborhood plagued by a generation of poor urban design is an important milestone in its revival.' However! 'Tight credit markets have put a bigger renaissance on hold. Forest City, which is developing Waterfront with Vornado/Charles E. Smith, is still trying to line up financing for the second phase. And a plan to transform 47 acres along the Washington Channel into an inviting stretch of housing, restaurants, shops and cultural attractions has not been started, for the same reason.' Still, there's a pretty sweet Safeway...
The bag tax is a success. Now a bottle tax? NC8 reports: 'Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells says maybe there should be some strategy to get people to recycle more disposable plastic bottles instead of throwing them away.' And WAMU-FM's Peter Granitz reports: 'At the annual Anacostia River Clean Up, Wells said new rules are needed because local littering laws are only so effective. "For some people it's part of their daily thing to just throw trash on the ground," he said. "We've got to turn that around and get people to be responsible. We can do a better job of getting the message out there."' Wells was concerned enough about a potential misconstrual of his words to call in a pre-emptive strike to LL yesterday, emphasizing he has no plans for legislation 'right now.'
The fifth and final suspect sought in last month's South Capitol Street drive-by slayings is in custody, 'ending the search for the alleged perpetrators of the most lethal outbreak of violence in the city in years,' Paul Duggan writes in WaPo. That would be Jeffrey D. Best, 21, who was apprehended yesterday morning. Also a factual update: 'Police initially had said that four people were killed in the drive-by attack, which occurred about 7:30 a.m. March 30 outside a ramshackle tenement in the 4000 block of South Capitol Street SE. But court documents detailing the police investigation, which were made public Friday, say that three victims were slain in the drive-by and that the fourth had been killed minutes earlier in an attempted robbery nearby.' Also Examiner.
Your daily DCPS budget update: WaPo's Bill Turque asks at his blog, given that Nat Gandhi is claiming $30M in central-office overspending, where exactly is that overspending? 'I assumed that by now, DCPS would have a more detailed idea of what Gandhi was talking about. But Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway and her boss, Marrianne McMullen, said they had nothing. Same for mayoral flak Mafara Hobson. Calloway and McMullen both referred me to Gandhi flak David Umansky, who declined to comment. George Dines, the school system finance officer who is in the middle of this mess, continued his no-response policy.' But answers could come today!
Support the Free and Equal D.C. Fund: Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta's vehicle to fund political payback against voting rights foes is hosting a fundraiser next Tuesday at Local 16, DCist notes. 'According to the invitation to the event, "Money raised will be used to fund targeted campaign activities and independent expenditures in [Rep. Jason Chaffetz's] home district. We'll make sure his constituents know he's been spending his time in Washington attempting to do the job of the a DC Councilmember, instead of representing the interests of Utah's 3rd district in Congress."...Donations are being accepted in amounts of $25.51 (I'll drive him to the airport!), $51 (I'll help him pack!) or $151 (I'll make sure the door hits his a** on the way out!).' Check out the sweet art on the F&EDCF Web site.
THE BLADE IS BACK—Starting Friday, D.C. Agenda becomes the Washington Blade, re-establishing one of the most storied monikers in Washington journalism. The change, which comes five months after the original Blade folded, follows the February acquisition of the name and corporate assets by a group of former Blade employees. Dan Zak reports in WaPo: 'Working with half the staff of the Blade (which last year had 24 full-timers) and an array of freelancers, D.C. Agenda...relied on the generosity of lawyers, accountants, advertisers and readers from around the world, many of whom contributed pro bono or financial support, according to editor Kevin Naff. "A lot of people really have an emotional connection to the Blade, and the outpouring since it closed was overwhelming and was really what led us to carry on," Naff says. "We'll be a leaner publication and we'll grow as we can afford to grow, but Friday's issue, as of now, is 56 pages, which is remarkable considering Agenda launched with eight pages." The acquisition replants Blade ownership in the District under Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia Inc., which Naff, publisher Lynne Brown, sales executive Brian Pitts and other staffers formed in January to publish D.C. Agenda....The moniker "D.C. Agenda" will live on inside the Blade as the title of its arts and entertainment section.' Also WBJ.
Just a real mess yesterday morning on 395: A trash truck 'was on Interstate-395 near South Capitol Street when it caught fire and the driver dumped the load at about 10:30 a.m. Monday.' Then 'a motorist ran over the foot of an officer who helped direct traffic after the incident. The officer's injuries were not serious,' NC8 reports.
In the Augusta Free Press of Waynesboro, Va., one Sanford D. Horn explains, at great length, why the D.C. House Voting Rights Act was a terrible, horrible, no-good idea. Except for the gun part, of course.
Susie Cambria would like those agency Q&As posted to the council Web site now, thank you very much.
Fake DCRA inspector: Still on the loose!
Meet the 7000-series Metro cars.
Missing 14-year-old has been found.
We're good at Census.
How Gonzaga College HS introduces its students to poverty.
Rapper Head-Roc holds forth on the state of Bruce-Monroe Elementary.
Fred Smoot-owned Waffle House at 14th and U?
The Leo Alexander Wikipedia page is back. How long will it last this time?
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee of the Whole budget hearing on Office of the State Superintendent for Education and Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, JAWB 412; Committee on Economic Development budget hearing on Department of Small and Local Business Development and Commission on Arts and Humanities, JAWB 120; 1 p.m.: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs budget hearing on Public Service Commission and Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking, JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:45 a.m.: remarks, Diamond Teague Park ribbon-cutting, 1st and Potomac Streets SE.