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DeMorning DeBonis: June 22, 2010


One year ago today, two Red Line trains collided north of Fort Totten, killing nine aboard. Ann Scott Tyson looks back at the year past and finds that "the transit authority's safety record has worsened, and officials acknowledge that there has been too little progress." Just to recap: federal oversight legislation "remains stalled in Congress; state oversight is fractured and weak; Metro lacks a permanent leadership team; and the NTSB's final report on the cause of the June crash ... isn't expected until late next month." NTSB chair Debbie Hersman sums up the state of the system: "There are significant deficiencies in their safety culture. ... We do not see the frequency of accidents on other properties that we are seeing on Metro." See also anniversary coverage from WTOP, WAMU-FM, NewsChannel 8, WRC-TV, and WTTG-TV.

AFTER THE JUMP -- more details on New Beginnings disturbance -- incident raises questions about juvenile justice secrecy -- DCPS contract hearing airs WTU election disputes -- the urbanist manifesto


NEW TROUBLE AT NEW BEGINNINGS -- More on the Sunday-night distubance at New Beginnings Youth Center from the Post's Henri Cauvin, who reports that the Laurel facility "had been overcrowded for days" prior to the incident. "Designed to hold 60 people, New Beginnings had been overcapacity for several days, according to a union official. ... After staff from the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, which operates New Beginnings, signaled the end of recreation early Sunday night, some detainees balked. Three of them ran onto a roof of the building and two others refused orders to enter their living units. ... When the shift commander tried to defuse the situation, a 20-year-old detainee from the unit punched him in the face, fracturing the man's jaw. ... During the attack on the supervisor, an electronic key card was taken from him and other units at the facility were opened. ... [I]t was not until officers from Anne Arundel County and Maryland State police responded that all of the youths were back in their units." The big picture: "[T]he disturbance Sunday night will probably intensify scrutiny on DYRS, which is the subject of a extended class-action suit over care and custody of juvenile delinquents in the District. ... If it recurs, such crowding could complicate the city's efforts to end the lawsuit, known today as Jerry M. v. Fenty."

MORE -- Tommy Wells is asking questions about the incident, Patrick Madden reports at WAMU-FM. In the Examiner, Harry Jaffe describes the scene this way: "New Beginnings became a New Party: kids on the roof, kids ripping sprinklers from ceilings and flooding rooms, kids rampaging through the halls." And Bill Myers reports that there's confusion over which authorities will handle the case. "New Beginnings belongs to the District but is in Anne Arundel County. County and District officials said D.C. police are supposed to have jurisdiction, but the U.S. Attorney's office in D.C. can't prosecute cases from Maryland. 'We are reaching out to the prosecutors out there to resolve the matter,' U.S. Attorney's spokesman Ben Friedman said."

OPEN SEASON -- And on the Post's editorial page, a call for more transparency in juvenile justice proceedings cites the Sunday incident: Police "wanted to view the facility's surveillance videos to determine responsibility for the assault of a staff member and other possible crimes. Instead, they ended up in court because the city's confidentiality laws for juvenile offenders precluded release -- even to the police -- of this material. How much more absurd does the situation have to get before the D.C. Council does something about rules that show more regard for those who break the law than those who need its protection? ... Attorney General Peter Nickles, who is conducting a review of the juvenile justice system, told us that he's increasingly convinced that strict confidentiality laws harm public safety by shrouding the system in such secrecy that public confidence is undermined. And, as council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) argues, confidentiality has the perverse effect of hampering efforts to help youths by keeping information from people who could use it. Wouldn't teachers, pastors and coaches, he asks, be better able to help at-risk youths if they knew what was going on in their lives? Instead, the law prevents youth rehabilitation officials or police from alerting anyone to a potential problem. Mr. Wells is sponsoring legislation that would relax these rules. The only question the council should be asking is whether the changes go far enough."

A MOTHER'S FURY -- The mother of Brishell Jones, murdered in the March drive-by shooting on South Capitol Street, has penned an angry letter to Mayor Adrian Fenty, WUSA-TV reports. In her letter, she slams Fenty for not allowing police officials to testify at a council hearing earlier this month on youths absconding from DYRS. "Now today I see on the news and read in the papers a riot took place at the wonderful, country club for killers I wonder if this will raise an eyebrow on your face or will you continue to insist all is well on the multi-million dollar facility," she writes. "It is more than obvious to everyone outside of those who supported the insane building and structure of a facility without any structure or discipline whatsoever this is a breeding ground for vile offenders to freely walk away and commit some of the most unspeakable crimes imaginable. ... Have a nice day because since my beautiful, intelligent, loving, peaceful child's brains were blown out of her little head just a few yards from our home that she and I once shared happily together I no longer have nice days."

'HARDER THAN FLORIDA' -- The election drama at the Washington Teachers' Union came up at Monday's hearing on the new DCPS contract, and it doesn't look pretty, Bill Turque reports at D.C. Schools Insider. "On Friday, an attorney for general vice president Nathan Saunders, one of [President George Parker]'s two re-election opponents, filed a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging that Parker has improperly tampered with the conduct of the contest. This is more than an arcane, intramural dispute. The next president of the WTU will play a key role in working with DCPS to implement the details of the new contract." Thanks to missed deadlines and finagled rules, Parker's re-election is in doubt. "At Monday's D.C. Council hearing on the contract, which comes up for a vote next week, Parker tried his best to explain the Byzantine workings of the WTU. 'There are political differences within the WTU,' he said, a significant understatement. 'This is harder than Florida, George,' said Council member Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5), who said he'd received numerous complaints from union members."

INTRACTABLE -- Also from the DCPS contract hearing: Leah Fabel reports in Examiner that teachers who retired ahead of the deal are upset that they won't be receiving back raises. "Jacqueline Shuler, who retired in 2008, called the provision unfair at a Monday council hearing. 'The contract should not be ratified until provisions have been made to compensate teachers who retired during the contract process,' she said. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee defended the decision, saying it allowed for more competitive raises for teachers still in the classroom. Contract negotiations 'are a lot about determining priorities and where you're going to push and pull,' Rhee said. 'There were limited resources.'" Those teachers laid off last fall will get some back pay. Tom Sherwood also covers the proceedings at WRC-TV, as does Kavitha Cardoza at WAMU-FM.

URBANIST MANIFESTO -- Prompted by Ann E. Marimow's new-voter story this weekend, Greater Greater Washington's David Alpert sets up the mayoral race on behalf of a voter bloc of new potency: "From talking to many new residents, the dominant theme I keep hearing is: The variety of mini-scandals involving Mayor Fenty trouble many people, but ultimately, they want to know that the schools will be better, the streets safer, the neighborhoods more vibrant, and the transportation options more diverse in 5, 10, and 20 years as they and their future, unborn children need jobs, schools, playgrounds, nice neighborhoods, ways to get around, and places to eat and shop. The process by which government makes decisions is important, but the decisions they make are even more important. [Vincent Gray] is running on process, Fenty on results. Which matters more?" That is not a question that Gray will want people to be asking on Sept. 14.

KIPP WORKS -- Students enrolled in charter schools run by the Knowledge Is Power Program, aka KIPP, "significantly outperform their public school peers on reading and math tests," according to a new study, Turque reports. "But the report, from Mathematica Policy Research, to be made public Tuesday, is unlikely to resolve debate over what is behind the network's success. Skeptics say that the program benefits from highly motivated parents seeking alternatives to ineffective public schools and that KIPP often winnows out students who don't fit its program." KIPP's three District middle schools enroll 960.

PAY UP -- Lawyers for the Heller plaintiff (the case that overturned the city's handgun ban) have submitted their latest bill, and it's not small, Mike Scarcella reports at the Blog of Legal Times: "The total amount sought is $3,126,397.25. ... [Lead lawyer Alan Gura] said in court papers that his firm does not have standard, fixed hourly rates. Instead, Gura performs work typically on a flat-fee contigency basis. 'As of this writing, nearly nine years have passed since I first agreed to take on this matter, in the hopes of being paid on the very long shot that we would prevail,' Gura wrote in an affidavit filed June 18. 'Nearly two years have passed since we prevailed before the Supreme Court, and still the prospect of receiving any actual payment from the defendants appears years off. ... The ancillary benefits from being involved in this project, though personally rewarding, do not make this venture economically viable. Only payment of a reasonable fee for the work performed would make this venture economically rational.'"


Robert Wone trial update: Defendant's mom says she had the alleged murder weapon all along! (Post)

"Hey Travis, Why Don't You Just Run for Mayor?" (DCist)

Fenty attended Obama Father's Day event at THE ARC; Hizzoner got a shout-out from POTUS (Time, Getty Images)

Free public wi-fi coming to Chinatown/Penn Quarter/Mount Venron Square area, courtesy of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (WBJ)

D.C. Water chief George Hawkins makes a cameo experience on the Today Show, along with a Coldplay soundtrack and some nice shots of the McMillan Reservoir (NBC -- forward to 0:52)

Shudder: Klingle Road is back in the news; DDOT has released environmental impact statement (GGW)

Tommy Wells, D.C. "smart" meters figure big in piece on "performance parking" in L.A. (KPCV-FM)

More on the Fenty-canvasser crack bust (City Desk)

Design is unveiled for new "Center for Education and Leadership" across from Ford's Theatre (Post)

David Catania honored by Justice Department gay=pride group (Blof of Legal Times)

EastBanc dropped from plans to develop Burleith school (G'town Dish)

More than you really need to know about D.C. Water's embrace of social media (The Cline Group)

How could TANF work better? (D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute)

Hey DCPS: Tout your National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists! (All Opinions Are Local)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Red Line crash victims remembered in morning memorial service -- Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes set to open Tuesday, finally -- another hearing on fire-department overtime

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 22, 2010; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: No more sugary milk, cereal for D.C. Public Schools

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