DeMorning DeBonis: June 23, 2010
TODAY IS JUNE 23, 2010 -- 83 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
A former personnel official at the Department of Health Care Finance "is alleging that agency leaders forced her to falsify and embellish internal documents to make it easier for officials to hire certain employees over better qualified applicants," Tim Craig reports today. The allegations follow questions raised by Marion Barry about the racial makeup of the agency's top leadership. "Candice Young, who worked as a human resources adviser for the agency from June 2008 until January, said she was forced to alter dozens of documents so that Director Julie Hudman could legally place friends and allies in top-level jobs within the agency" -- accusations which stand to further fuel the impression that some city civil-service jobs aren't in fact open to competitive hiring. Hudman calls the claims "untrue and without merit." WTTG-TV also covers the allegations. Note this comment from Peter Nickles: "The last thing we need to do in this town is start race-baiting." And yet ...
AFTER THE JUMP -- Red Line remembrance marred by Metro legal move -- McDonnell power move continues -- BOEE debuts Internet voting for overseas absentees -- council takes up wire ban -- ribbon cut on Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes
*** MAIN COURSE ***
RED LINE REMEMBRANCE-- "A Metro remembrance ceremony for last June's Red Line crash was supposed to serve as a tribute to the victims, survivors and rescue personnel. Instead, it ended in bitterness Tuesday as the families of some victims lashed out at the transit agency," Ann Scott Tyson reports at WaPo. The mother of one victim, for instance, "accused Metro of shirking its responsibility and failing to resolve the underlying technical issues that contributed to the accident." The remembrance also suffered from an unfortunate legal juxtaposition: Yesterday, lawyers for the victims' families were in court opposing a motion to dismiss claiming "sovereign immunity" as a "quasi-government entity"; Metro says the motion was "partial" and "a routine step in such a lawsuit." Also: NTSB chair Deborah Hersman acknowledged the anniversary in comments before the board's business Tuesday. And save the date: "Next month, on July 27, our investigation culminates, when the Safety Board considers the accident's final investigation report," she said.
DELAYED DIGNITARIES -- Yes, believe it or not, Mayor Adrian Fenty was late. Writes Tyson: "[Fenty], who arrived just in time to make his remarks midway through the program, called the crash 'one of the greatest tragedies ever to strike the nation's capital' and handed bouquets to the victims' families after Metro unveiled a bronze memorial plaque bearing the names of those killed." Vince Gray didn't attend the ceremony at all, but did attend a luncheon for the families afterward.
BOB PLAYS HARDBALL -- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's brinksmanship on Metro funding continues. Yesterday, he
vowed to again said he might hold up a $12.5 million payment to WMATA, due July 1, "until a decision is made on whether the state can have two seats on the agency's board of directors," Anita Kumar reports for the Post. His comment: "I think it's a fair request. ... The federal government did the same thing last year and asked for representation for the funds they were providing. Maryland and D.C. already have representation." McDonnell did not attend the memorial service yesterday. "My schedule didn't allow me to attend, but that accident was one of a number that has plagued Metro over the last number of years," he said. [UPDATE, 10:15 A.M.: McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson says that the decision on whether to withhold the funding isn't contingent on whether state representatives are included on the Metro board -- a decision which is expected to be made tomorrow by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. "He and the [transportation secretary] are going to wait and see what happens tomorrow." she says.]
INTERNET VOTING IS HERE -- Post tech columnist Rob Pegoraro takes a look at the D.C. election board's trial of online balloting for overseas voters using open-source software: "Starting with September's primary election, D.C. citizens serving overseas in the military and others posted far out of town won't have to choose between voting secretly but slowly by mailing in a paper ballot or voting quickly, but with no guarantee of secrecy, by submitting a ballot by fax or e-mail." Instead, very-absentee voters will be able to apply online, get a secure PIN, and cast their vote remotely. Rob calls it "an overdue step for electronic voting. It may also be the only hope left for electronic voting, considering the woeful history of closed, proprietary systems that on good days merely confuse voters with badly designed interfaces and on bad days lose votes for mysterious reasons (as happened in the District in the 2008 primary)."
MUSEUM MIRE -- Fourteenth and G eyesore will persist: "The organization planning an Armenian Genocide museum two blocks from the White House owes more than $350,000 in back property taxes and is mired in litigation, delaying the project by at least two years," Michael Neibauer reports at WBJ. "The Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial Inc., owner of the long-vacant Federal American National Bank building ... on Tuesday asked for, and received, a two-year extension from the Board of Zoning Adjustments on zoning variances that it had also received from the same panel in 2008. The bid for an opening 'before 2011,' as the museum's Web site continues to promise, is clearly not in the cards."
H STREET WIRES -- Council debates lifting overhead wire ban on H Street NE, and NewsChannel 8 is there: "Environmentalists and business owners squared off against historians and preservationists at a D.C. Council hearing Tuesday. ... At issue is whether the District's Home rule charter would allow it to upend a law that's been on the books for more than a century. Streetcar advocates say the D.C. government should be allowed to plan its own infrastructure. H Street business owners want streetcars up and running as soon as possible -- with or without overhead wires. ... [O]pponents say the District still must answer to federal entities like the National Capital Planning Commission. And with construction well underway, they wonder what happens if the District is overruled by the feds. 'And that really means that we're going to be spending money that we'll have to spend two or three times, who knows?' said George Clark, a member of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City." Housing Complex previewed the proceedings.
PLANNING HARDY II -- DCPS names "Blue Ribbon Planning Commission" to design new middle-school arts magnet -- aka the successor to Hardy Middle School's Arts Intensive Program. Leah Fabel reports in the Examiner: "Chancellor Michelle Rhee has pulled together the elite of the D.C. arts scene to serve on the school's planning board, from jazz legend Wynton Marsalis to Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser. Septime Weber, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, will join them ... as will Tony Gittens, director of the D.C. International Film Festival and the District's former lead man on arts and humanities. Not one to stray from her vision, Rhee found an artistically minded numbers guy, too -- Fred Bollerer, chief operating officer at Corcoran College of Art." Opening is set for fall 2011 at location TBD.
YOU'VE GOT A LANE ON PENNSYLVANIA-- Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes are open, for real this time: In attendance: Fenty, DDOT director Gabe Klein, federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and James Oberstar (D-Minn.) Post transpo-reporter Ashley Halsey reports from the afternoon ceremony. Said Fenty: "There is no better place for the District of Columbia to demonstrate its commitment to traffic safety than right here on America's Main Street. ... We believe there is room here for everyone -- on four wheels, two wheels and on foot -- and we will use this pilot to determine how best to share Pennsylvania Avenue and make it safer." Added LaHood: "Bike paths like this one -- which will provide cyclists with access to the most historic corridor in Washington, D.C. -- are part of a cleaner, greener future in American transportation. ... I applaud the efforts of Mayor Fenty, Director Klein and their dedicated staff to make our nation's capital a model livable city." Oh, and Blumenauer says it was his idea.
DOWN WITH DOGS -- Food sold by D.C. street vendors may be a bore, but it's not for lack of trying on the city's part, Tara Bahrampour reports today: "For three years, the city has been urging District vendors to offer more complex fare. It has changed regulations making it easier for them to branch out. It has taken hot dog distributors to see the variety offered elsewhere. And it has run a series of informational meetings in six languages called 'You Don't Have to Sell Hot Dogs.' The effort has been to little avail. All but a handful remain wedded to wieners and half-smokes. When asked why, the vendors -- many of whom are immigrants -- often cite a confusing raft of city health and bureaucratic regulations similar to those required of a restaurant. They also say they are intimidated by the owners of storage depots where they park their carts; the owners sell them hot dogs and packaged food and, many vendors say, pressure them to sell more dogs, not less."
REPORT FROM ANACOSTIA HIGH -- Is there a turnover problem at Anacostia Senior High School? Teacher/writer Dan Brown writes at Huffington Post: "I visited the Sojourner Truth Academy for ninth-graders on Friday, June 18. What I saw and heard didn't match the hype. When I asked a student who gave me a tour of the building what the best part of school was for him, he told me: "the teachers... but they're all leaving. I asked around, and indeed, many 'energetic new staff members' were departing in sadness and embitterment."
HEALTHY AIN'T EASY -- Deborah Simmons wonders in the Washington Times whether the hype behind the Healthy Schools Act can match reality. "Supporters call the meal requirements some of the most stringent in the nation, but some parents question whether [DCPS] has the capacity and the money to implement the new requirements in a cost-effective manner by the time schools open in August," Simmons writes. "Detractors don't disagree on the causes of the weight problem. But the chancellor faces a 'difficult task' because of limited control over school food services, which are contracted to private companies that lack strong parental input. ... Rhee has concerns, too, including that some schools don't have cafeterias or kitchens."
CABLE CON? -- Jonetta Rose Barras tries her hand at consumer-affairs reporting in Examiner today: "Once upon a time, Comcast offered a generous package of more than 50 channels to its limited basic and basic subscribers. In recent years, there has been a steady reduction, leaving those customers with fewer than two dozen channels. 'It's been reduced to the point that you're better off with one of those converter boxes the government provided last year and an antennae,' said another basic customer." She calls on District regulators to crack the whip when the company renews its license in 2012. Now, Jonetta, you know I love you, but: You need to rely on multiple anonymous sources to bash Comcast? Stand on any street corner in this town, and you'll find a half-dozen on-the-record gripes faster than you can say "XFINITY." Better to read her Web site, where she asks whether the Office of Risk Management mess can be laid at the feet of CFO Nat Gandhi.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Gray is late for City Paper interview because "there was an attempted burglary at the chairman's Hillcrest residence across town." Wait for it: "Maybe it's time to build a big fence around the chairman's home? Oh wait ..." (City Desk)
More on the murder of Jamal Bell, 16, outside a Brightwood go-go show Friday; it was held in the basement of a Catholic church across from 4th District police headquarters. The archdiocese says the room was "rented by a D.C. police officer, who was holding a graduation party for her daughter." (WJLA-TV)
David Catania wants teacher evaluations made public. "Rhee agrees. But George Parker, the president of the [Washington Teachers' Union] does not. He says licensure information is available but evaluations? 'That's more personal and that's more confidential,' says Parker." (WAMU-FM)
Confirmed: Todd Edelman, Milton Lee Jr., and Judith Smith are now associate judges of the D.C. Superior Court (The Blog of Legal Times)
More on appeals court decision challenging city poster removal in Brookland (Examiner)
Bill Turque puts the newly announced charter closings in context: "Is charter school board getting tough?" he asks. (D.C. Schools Insider)
Capital Pride politicos caught on video! (Blade)
Alternative viewpoint on New Beginnings: "Frankly, if D.C. wants to beat its breast about 'local autonomy' and 'home rule' (home misrule in practice), it needs to relocate its juvenile facility within city limits so when the juvies run wild, there is no doubt about who has legal jurisdiction." (Examiner letter)
Former mayor candidate Marie Johns is now officially deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (FishbowlDC)
More than you need to know about city sustainable-energy financing (DCmud)
Intersection not as orderly as portrayed, says Columbia Heights resident (Post letter)
Brown-bag it with DDOE head Christophe Tulou (D.C. Food for All)
Fun stat, courtesy of Neibauer: "The total value of all taxable property in D.C. topped $153 billion in 2009, and the total value of tax exempt real estate topped $81 billion. All told, the District registers $234 billion in real estate value. But it can only tax 65.3 percent of it." (WBJ)
Fox 5 asks: "Are D.C. Curfew Laws Effective?" (WTTG-TV)
Hearing set for Thursday night on new special-ed rules (D.C. Schools Insider)
The most fascinating infrastructure map this reporter's ever seen (District Curmudgeon)
*** DESSERT ***
Signatures, it ain't: "Disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff has landed a new job at a kosher pizzeria in Baltimore soon after his release from prison. Abramoff began working Monday at Tov Pizza, Ron Rosenbluth, the restaurant's owner, said Tuesday. The former Washington power broker, whose activities led to the conviction of a congressman, is learning about the business and will eventually be helping with its marketing, Rosenbluth said." (AP)
*** ON THE MENU ***
D.C. Vote protests gun-law-meddling Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) this morning -- mayoral candidates meet-and-greet the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at Howard University tonight.
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