City Desk

Steve Cavendish Named Editor of Washington City Paper

cavendishSteve Cavendish, news editor of the Nashville Scene, has been named editor of Washington City Paper, interim publisher Eric Norwood announced to staff today.

"Washington City Paper is a place with a tradition of journalistic excellence and rabble-rousing that I’m lucky to join," Cavendish said via email. "I’m very excited to return to D.C., a city my wife and I love and have missed, and I look forward to working with the talented staff already there to put out one of the best alt-weeklies in the country. "

A 1993 graduate of Belmont University, Cavendish worked at the Washington Post from 1999 to 2002 as a news editor and sports designer. After stints at the St. Petersburg Times and Chicago Tribune, he became editor of Nashville City Paper in 2011. He joined the Nashville Scene and Nashville Post in 2013 after Nashville City Paper was shuttered.

"Steve Cavendish is one of the most talented editors I have ever worked with," says Chris Ferrell, president of Southcomm, a Nashville-based company that owns both Washington City Paper and Nashville Scene. "Although I know readers in Nashville will miss his work, I can’t wait to see what he can do at the helm of the Washington City Paper."

Cavendish will succeed former Washington City Paper Editor Mike Madden, who left the paper in March to join the Post. He will begin in June.

Photo courtesy Steve Cavendish

WMATA Open to Changes at Columbia Heights Dog Park

page Three

Columbia Heights residents have long used the vacant, fenced-in land at 11th Street and Park Road NW as a dog park. But officially, it's not a dog park. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority owns the land, much of which is taken up by vent shafts for the Green Line tunnel beneath the property.

Neighbors have been asking for years for amenities that real dog parks get, like a water source, a double-entry gate, and changes to the fence so small dogs can't escape.

WMATA says it won't stand in the way if the city decides to make that happen. Morgan Dye, a spokeswoman for WMATA, wrote in an email that the transit authority is willing to license the space to a third party for free, on a few conditions. Someone would have to insure the property to protect WMATA from damages, and WMATA vehicles would still need 24-hour access to reach its facilities.

WMATA itself doesn't itself plan to make changes to the property to make it more suitable to dog owners. That's up to the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, "though we would work with D.C. government to make this happen if they wanted to pursue it," Dye said.

Dye said WMATA has held "many conversations" with community members—most recently in February—who have come together periodically to ask for improvements.

Two years ago, a group calling itself Friends of Columbia Heights Dog Park organized to push for changes. According to Robyn Swirling, who led that effort and met with WMATA in 2013, "conditions haven't changed at all" since then. Swirling has moved on though: She's since moved out of Columbia Heights.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery 

D.C.’s Infant Mortality Rate: An “International Embarrassment”?

baby"Washington, D.C.'s infant mortality rate is an international embarrassment," tweeted New Republic web editor Ryan Kearney this morning. He included a link to a story the magazine had just published about a new Save the Children report finding that D.C. had by far the highest infant mortality rate of 25 capitals of high-income countries. D.C.'s rate, of 7.9 deaths under the age of one per 1,000 live births in 2012, is above America's national average of 6.1 and dwarfs the rate in cities like Stockholm, Prague, and Oslo, where it's under 2 per 1,000.

That looks truly embarrassing for D.C.—until you compare it with other American cities. According to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count project, which the report used in creating its rankings, 18 major American cities have rates equal to or higher than the District, as of 2011. D.C.'s rate that year was 7.5 deaths per 1,000 births, a substantial decline from its rate of 13.1 just four years earlier. Chicago's was 7.9. Atlanta's was 9.3. Philadelphia's was 9.3. Baltimore's was 10.8. Detroit's was 12.4. Cleveland's was 14.1.

As the New Republic points out, the geographic inequity that so often infects the District applies to infant mortality as well. The infant mortality rate in Ward 8 is more than 10 times higher than in Ward 3. That truly is shameful, although it's not unique to the District.

But looking at the citywide data, it's not fair to put the badge of embarrassment on D.C. alone. High infant mortality affects cities across the country, many much worse than D.C. This embarrassment belongs to America.

Image via Shutterstock

D.C. Restores Millions in Improperly Diverted Workers’ Comp Funds

ddoeHQAn independent audit of workers' compensation funds administered by the District’s Department of Employment Services has resulted in restoration of $5.4 million that officials had improperly diverted to the city budget for other purposes.

The audit, conducted by accounting firm F.S. Taylor and Associates and completed in January, covers fiscal years 2007 to 2011, a period during which DOES neglected to complete a single annual audit. Missing audits for fiscal years 2012 through 2014 are underway and should be completed by June 30, according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. The restored funds were provided through a transfer from the city contingency reserve to DOES, an OCFO spokesman said.

The workers’ comp program is set up to cover medical and rehabilitation costs and long-term disability benefits resulting from workplace injuries. Employers pay for the program through annual assessments paid into two separate accounts: The “Special Fund” provides benefits in cases of uninsured employers or pre-existing disabilities. The “Administration Fund” covers the costs of running the program.

Last July, following a six-month investigation, Washington City Paper reported that District officials had been diverting millions of dollars in unspent funds for years into the general budget. D.C. law says “all moneys and funds” in the Special and Administrative Funds “shall be held in trust by the Mayor,” and that such funds should not be used for any other purposes. Just as shocking were revelations that DOES hadn’t completed an independent audit of the workers’ comp program since 2006, as required by law.  

At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who chairs the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, held an oversight hearing last September, in part to get to the bottom of the funds transfers. Officials from the Gray administration admitted that, in 2011 and 2012, they transferred $37.9 million from workers' comp to the city’s general budget—$13.4 million of which they already had restored. At the time, Mayor Vince Gray's budget director said the city did not intend to restore the balance of $24.5 million.

Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt testified at the hearing that the financial maneuvers were part of recession-era budget shuffles that predated his tenure, and promised to ensure a thorough accounting of the matter. Auditors then found "material weakness" in financial compliance and "significant deficiency" in internal financial controls dating to before Gray took office. They identified improper transfers and recommended the city return $5,414,630 to the workers' comp funds in fiscal year 2015. City officials agreed with the auditors and returned the funds in April.

The workers' comp funds fiasco came on the heels of revelations, uncovered by this reporter in February, that DOES had allowed a disbarred, unlicensed lawyer to serve as an administrative law judge for 16 years, and suffered from a lack of consistent leadership, attrition of qualified judges, and a backlog of injured workers’ claims. At the September hearing, injured employees, advocacy groups, and lawyers for employees and employers complained of delays in issuing decisions and inconsistent application of the law, in addition to the diversion of funds.

Acting Director Thomas Luparello pledged to address shortcomings with the workers' comp program and proposed that workers’ comp judges be required to show certification on an annual basis that they are members in good standing of a state bar. In December, the D.C. Council unanimously approved legislation, introduced by Orange, requiring all attorneys, hearing officers, and administrative law judges who perform legal duties for the District government to file an annual "Certificate of Good Standing" with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.

Deborah A. Carroll, former interim director and past administrator for the D.C. Department of Human Services Economic Security Administration, now heads DOES.

On Friday, Orange said he is waiting for the 2012-2014 audit to see if more funds should be restored to the workers' comp program. He credited the City Paper's coverage for sparking action by his committee, and he thanked DOES and the OCFO for responding to the concerns voiced at the hearing. "We need to stay on these issues and be more aggressive in our oversight," Orange said.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

District Line Daily: Eastbound

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

Martha's Table is the latest longtime nonprofit located on 14th Street NW to make plans to move east as the corridor has changed.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • A brand new condo building in Northeast is being torn down. [NBC4]
  • D.C. got robbed at the James Beard awards. [Young & Hungry]
  • Trailing in the Ward 8 vote count, Trayon White warns of dog pools and dictatorship. [Loose Lips]
  • Bicyclists have been waiting for years for a solution to the U-turn problem in the Pennsylvania Avenue NW cycletrack. [WAMU]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

Balanced Breakfast: You can get breakfast pizza at 7 a.m. downtown.

R.I.P.: Derek Anthony Colquitt, the Junkyard Band bassist and manager known as House, died in a motorcycle crash.

Table for $25: Another app that wants you to buy restaurant reservations launched in D.C.

Read more District Line Daily: Eastbound

District Line Daily: Table for $25

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

Another app that charges for restaurant reservations—up to $25 per person when tables are scarce—launches today in D.C. Fifteen area restaurants are partnering with the app.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • In Ward 8, a new face claims Marion Barry’s legacy. [Post]
  • D.C. installed new speed cameras. [CBS9]
  • No signs that people are trapped inside the Watergate's collapsed parking garage. [NBC4]
  • City Paper's longtime publisher, Amy Austin, is leaving the paper after 30 years. [City Desk]

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Hidden Costs: Don't want to pay $150 for Landmark Music Festival passes? Hold out for free ones.

One City: D.C. is one of the most segregated cities in America.

Navy Vineyard: What looks like D.C.'s first winery is coming to Navy Yard.

Read more District Line Daily: Table for $25

Washington City Paper Publisher Departs After 30 Years

2014 JUNE Amy Austin 2014

After 30 years as publisher of Washington City Paper, Amy Austin is leaving the paper. Austin announced her move in a staff meeting this afternoon. Her decision to depart follows the December acquisition by City Paper's owner, Southcomm, of Wisconsin-based Cygnus Business Media.

The full text of the letter she read to the paper's staff is reprinted below:

Welcome. It’s always a great feeling to gather everyone in a circle together. If I haven’t told you this recently, you’re a great staff. The news you hear today will come as a surprise to you.

As you know, Southcomm acquired Cygnus late last year, and it’s led to some changes, including some leadership changes. After discussion with Southcomm, I will be leaving my job as publisher of Washington City Paper and explore other opportunities.

Eric Norwood will be taking on the role of interim publisher. As Chief Operating Officer and Group Publisher, he’ll help lead the search for the next publisher.

We leave each other with many high notes. Allow me to briefly recap what we’ve already accomplished in 2015. Let’s lead with revenue: We celebrate year over year revenue growth. This year’s “Best of D.C.” revenue exceeded last year’s by 17%. The events team has had 5 successful events in 4 months. We’ve integrated a tremendously powerful editorial and creative team.

The most important thing, though, is the great local journalism we’ve done. We’ve kicked butt on issues around the Bowser administration, homelessness, changes in the local food scene, and well, butt-pinching. We’ve published two comprehensive guides—Spring Arts and Best Of D.C. We’re mobile ready for Google. All of this is what we’ve done in a few short months. 2015 is filled with highlights of amazing staff achievements. You’re doing great and you’ll continue to do great.

I leave with mixed emotions, including tremendous sadness to not see you everyday. But I also leave with jump- up-and-down-joy at the quality of work, journalism and marketing, accomplished during the time I have had the privilege of working for Washington City Paper.

Now, I am joining what you’ve heard me call the City Paper living room, gathered with all the people who have contributed to City Paper over the last three decades. It’s a great party, filled with people who want to change the world for the better. We are the journalists of our time: Kate Boo, Jon Cohen, Eddie Dean, Tom Scocca, Te-Nehisi Coates, Clara Jeffery, Stephanie Mencimer, Jake Tapper, Ryan Grimm, Dave Jamieson, Jason Cherkis, Michael Schaffer, Jack Shafer, Tim Carman, Mike Debonis, Jenny Rogers, David Plotz, Lydia DePillis, Jamie Slater, Mike Kanin, Sean Daly, Erik Wemple, Annys Shin, Ally Schweitzer, Amanda Hess and Mike Madden. And, as you know, many more. We are the business leaders, the IT professionals, the sales leadership, the creative directors and the public service employees who left the City Paper better than you found it. I am grateful for my time with each of you.

When I started I lived in Adams Morgan and often walked to the offices on 6th and K. At the time some called me foolish for walking the city. I loved it. I still love to walk the city. D.C. and I grew up together. I grew and now know how much I love running a business, hiring and developing staff, creating meaningful relationships with my heroes, the women and men who open up and run local businesses, and the fiercely loyal audience who City Paper serves with consistently good journalism about the town we call home.

As my friend and former editor, David Carr used to say, it’s time to figure out what is next for me. I love my WCP, I love my D.C., and mostly I love you, the staff that makes things happen every day.

Read more Washington City Paper Publisher Departs After 30 Years

District Line Daily: Metro Fare Jumpers

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

WMATA plans to increase police presence at stations where fare evasion is most common, since many assaults on station personnel begin with confrontations over jumping fare gates.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • Two high school friends in Columbia Heights win the Gates Millennium Scholarship. [Post]
  • Anacostia–The Series wins its first Daytime Emmy Award. [Arts Desk]
  • One Eight Distilling launches series of limited-edition spirits. [Young & Hungry]
  • Meet Capital Bikeshare’s hardest-working bike. [Post]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

The Rescuer: D.C.'s only urban search-and-rescue dog, who's currently helping with the earthquake recovery in Nepal, prepares to retire.

Green, Mean Fighting Machine: Mayor Muriel Bowser stocks up on D.C. Council allies.

Cat Woman: A look at D.C.'s first cat cafe, featuring internal emails from a wary D.C. Department of Health.

Read more District Line Daily: Metro Fare Jumpers

Buy D.C.: Critter Care

Each week, Buy D.C. will highlight shops and items you can only find in the D.C. area, curated by Kaarin Vembar, owner of personal shopping and wardrobe editing service Closet Caucus.


Chatter: Ward of the 8

cover-issue1847-lgWhat you said about what we said last week

We’ve been asked a few times why City Paper didn’t make endorsements in the Ward 4 or Ward 8 special elections, a source of lively conversation with attendees at both of the debates we hosted in the leadup to Election Day. (“Who are you endorsing?” “No one, we’re not endorsing.” “OK, but who are you endorsing?”) But really, we here in charge of Chatter must confess we didn’t make endorsements because our commenters are just too damned good at it—why compete?!

Take hoo boy’s advice, offered up in the comments section on Will Sommer’s recent Ward 8 cover story: “Ms. May is the best chance they have. Don’t vote for another dope fiend Ward 8!” Does an endorsement get any better than that? Also appreciated: when commenters rail against our reporting. N.B., we’re taking notes! Alan Page groused: “This article has quite a few problems.” Alan, you should know we’re looking to fill a vacant editor position. Please continue. “Naming LaRuby as a frontrunner in the absence of polling data is nonsensical; fundraising acumen does not guarantee victory in Ward 8… Clearly, any committed interest group that turns out in force can win an election for a candidate in a broad field…” Shadowy interest group alert! Are your spidey senses tingling yet? “Lastly, stating that 35 murders occurred in Ward 8 last year without pointing out there are 75,000 residents in the ward is disingenuous, at best. That’s a rate of less than 1 out of every 2,000 residents, hardly a murder rate likely to scare off investment in a town whose real estate market is on fire.” Not to be a stickler for numbers, but that’s actually a remarkably high murder rate—the 2013 murder rate in the average U.S. city was 5.2 people per 100,000 residents, according to the FBI’s crime stats. In other words, Ward 8’s murder rate is the about same as Detroit’s (45 per 100,000 people).

Nice Guys Finish Last

In response to Sommer’s LL column on the Ward 4 race, a commenter named council staff (insider info?) wrote, “Brandon Todd is a nice guy but that doesn’t make him a good council member and a good member is what is needed in ward 4... I mean it has already been said that Brandon Todd did not do a good job as a member of Muriel’s staff. I cannot see him writing legislation moving ward 4 forward or being a good rep for the ward. He looks old and worn out already because he didn’t want this Muriel pushed him into it.” Do you hear that feminists? Women aren’t the only ones whose looks are picked apart on the campaign trail. How’s that for equality?

Department of Corrections

In last week’s issue, Brew In Town initially misstated the price of the Bardo Zeus IPA. It is $6 for 16 oz., not $5 for 12 oz.

District Line Daily: Fluff Piece

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

Our cover: Six animal tales from the District, including a profile of D.C.'s only search and rescue dog, a look at the arms race to attract renters with fancy dog amenities, and a preview of the city's first cat cafe.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • House committee threatens to slash federal funding for Metro. [Post]
  • Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown D.C. to support Baltimore demonstrators and demand the return of District officers deployed to the Maryland city. [NBC4]
  • Why D.C.'s police force is different than Baltimore's. [Washingtonian]
  • Police seek driver in fatal hit-and-run. [WTOP]

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Sorry, But...: Gear Prudence on what to do when you can see another cyclist's butt through his shorts.

Pressing Issue: A new place on 14th Street NW is serving cocktails in a French press.

Friends in High Places: At least one Bowser ally is joining the D.C. Council.

Read more District Line Daily: Fluff Piece

Black-Crowned Night-Herons: Beloved—But Uninvited—Guests at the National Zoo

nighherons_zoo

It’s like a National Geographic special. 

You can peer straight into these birds’ bulging, red-orange eyes. You can get close enough to touch (though you shouldn’t) the wispy, white head plumes that they sprout during mating season to lure a hottie. Like the famous swallows who return to the Capistrano region each spring, D.C.’s own black-crowned night-herons have been schlepping back to the National Zoo for more than a century for a safe oasis to raise their chicks.

Read more Black-Crowned Night-Herons: Beloved—But Uninvited—Guests at the National Zoo

Man’s Best Friend Forever

Cover_Humane-3

Shakela Brown isn’t sure how many doors she’s knocked on over the past five months.

“Oh my goodness,” she says with a laugh. “It’s been a lot of doors.”

Since November, Brown, a Washington Humane Society employee for the past 21 years, has visited hundreds of households as part of the Pets for Life program. Designed by the Humane Society of the United States and implemented by local organizations like WHS, the initiative aims to bring resources and information about pet care to communities that have the most need and the least access. 

Read more Man’s Best Friend Forever

Wild Things

anacostia_ducks

In March, a sign of the improving health of the Anacostia River appeared in the form of a bald eagle nest at the National Arboretum. It was the first time in 70 years a pair of eagles nested at the site, located along the banks of the Anacostia River.

Over the past couple of decades, the District has worked toward improving the health of the Anacostia through city agencies like the Department of the Environment and partnerships with groups like Earth Conservation Corps, Groundwork Anacostia, and the Anacostia Watershed Society. The river’s degradation began in the 1700s when white settlers brought with them unsustainable tobacco farming and continued into the 1950s when “population growth, industrial pollution, an open dump, and urban disinvestment had all but destroyed” the river, according to AWS. By the 1970s,  96 percent of the Anacostia tidal wetlands had been ruined.

Read more Wild Things

The Rescuer

Chris Holmes and Cazo

In May 2014, Lt. Chris Holmes and Rescue K9 Cazo were called to the scene of a building collapse on K Street NW.

An unoccupied brick building had partially collapsed, sending the third and fourth floors of the adjacent strip club into the second story, where The Cloakroom’s dancers were jumping from the windows. Holmes and Cazo were sent in to search for victims. “It was just raining bricks inside,” Holmes recalled recently at Engine 21 in Columbia Heights. 

Cazo completed his search within minutes, but the first-duty chief on the scene still believed he heard victims inside. Holmes trusted his dog. “He searched it and came back and was like, ‘Nobody’s here boss,” the D.C. Fire and EMS veteran says. “[The chief] said, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said, ‘Positive.’”

Moments later the unoccupied building’s interior collapsed completely as more of The Cloakroom came tumbling down. No one was inside—the voices had been coming from a radio.  

Read more The Rescuer

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