DeMorning DeBonis: July 28, 2010
TODAY IS JULY 28, 2010 -- 48 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
It was indeed a "wild night of politicking and fighting" yesterday at Eastern Market, where the Ward 6 Democrats hosted a mayoral forum and straw poll that devolved into accusations of vote fraud. Supporters of Mayor Adrian Fenty say that Vincent Gray backers "cheated" by taking ballots to seniors unable to stand in line. Long story short, their votes weren't counted in the official tally, but Gray didn't need them -- he took 218 votes to Fenty's 158. Tim Craig rightly points out that Team Gray "managed to out-organize Fenty in an area of the city where Fenty lawn signs are plentiful." He writes: "Fenty appeared to have a small advantage among voters who walked to the straw poll from homes near the market. But Gray surprised Fenty's 'green team' by chartering at least three buses to transport seniors from other parts of Ward 6 to event." Yes, it's just a straw poll. But last night's result should be alarming to Fenty partisans who have been comforting themselves with the thought that their side is better organized and better equipped to deliver their voters to the polls. What does it say if they can't muster a decent showing in a supposed stronghold?
AFTER THE JUMP -- NTSB delivers scathing review of Metro accident -- thousands of Pepco customers still without power -- medical marijuana likely won't be available till next year -- D.C. again in Race to the Top
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MORE FROM EASTERN MARKET -- "The seniors contributed to what organizers called a record crowd for a Ward 6 Democratic Committee straw poll, a sign of increasing interest in the race. One participant quipped it took her longer to vote in the non-binding straw poll than it did for her to cast her ballot at her precinct in the 2008 presidential election. ... Gray, who managed to out-organize Fenty in an area of the city where Fenty lawn signs are plentiful, fell short of winning an official endorsement from the committee that represents Democrats in Capitol Hill, Southwest and neighborhoods around H Street. ... With Ward 6 shaping up to be a key battleground in the Sept 14 Democratic primary, few expected either Gray or Fenty to win an outright endorsement. But both candidates appeared to pull out all the stops in a bid to win over the hundreds of voters who showed up for the event at Eastern Market." Molly Redden has a thorough rundown of the event at the Georgetown Dish and WJLA-TV's Sam Ford (who co-moderated the forum) covered the event, too.
'CLASSIC ORGANIZATIONAL ACCIDENT' -- The National Transportation Safety Board has spoken: "Chronic track circuit failures and a negligent attitude toward safety made a catastrophic accident such as last year's fatal Red Line crash inevitable" and "conditions that led to the crash pose a continuing risk," the board concluded, per Ann Scott Tyson's A1 story today. "The NTSB found that nearly half of the 3,000 track circuit modules Metro uses could seriously malfunction and that a quarter of its rail cars, the oldest in the fleet, offer little protection in a crash, posing an 'unacceptable risk to Metrorail users.' Although Metro is monitoring the problem circuits much more aggressively to manage that risk, the board recommended that the troublesome equipment and old rail cars be permanently removed as soon as possible." The board's findings came as no surprise. "But the formal announcement Tuesday and the harshness of the board's language underscored the depth of the problem at Metro. ... With undisguised irritation, [board chair Deborah Hersman] criticized Metro for not implementing many previous NTSB recommendations aimed at improving safety. 'It's almost like we are talking with someone who is tone-deaf. They are not hearing it, they are not getting it and they are not addressing the problems,' she said. 'Our frustration is that if they don't listen this time, I am not sure what can be done.' Metro's top-to-bottom failure to prioritize safety -- exhibited by turnover and vacancies in its safety office -- is 'a manifestation of the sickness that was going on inside this organization,' Hersman said. 'They were monkeying around.' ... 'This accident is a classic organizational accident,' said NTSB member Robert L. Sumwalt." See the board's animation of how the accident happened. Dr. Gridlock calls it a "withering rebuke of those collectively responsible for operating the nation's second-largest subway system." The Post editorial board notes: "Hersman insisted the findings did not constitute an indictment. Nonetheless, her own verdict was withering." Examiner's Kytja Weir meet with Hersman on Friday.
WHAT ABOUT THE BOARD? -- Ann writes: "NTSB members said safety was not made a priority by Metro's senior management or board of directors, adding that as of January, Metro board Chairman Peter Benjamin had not placed safety oversight in the board's mission statement and that former chairman Jim Graham had not heard of Metro's safety oversight organization, the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC)." David Alpert writes at GGW that expectations that the board should have taken a more active role in safety oversight are "unrealistic. ... It's probably true the Board could have asked more tough questions. They could have commissioned an Inspector General's report. But they asked safety questions of the General Manager and got what seemed like satisfactory answers."
NOTA BENE -- From Ann's story: "Despite Metro's problems, [Hersman] said Washington's rail transit system, the second-busiest in the country with about 200 million passenger trips a year, remains far safer than the region's roads. Thirteen people have lost their lives on Metro trains in the 34-year history of the system, the same number killed every two weeks in automobile accidents on area roads, she said."
WE GOT THE POWER -- As of 8:30 a.m., the District had 2,320 Pepco customers without power. Montgomery County had 28,120 and Prince George's 5,446.
WAIT FOR WEED -- Though now technically legal, it will be months before District residents can get themselves some medical marijuana, Tim reports today. "The delay is driven by a lack of detail about how the city will operate the program, which includes a first-in-the-nation provision requiring dispensaries to price the marijuana on a sliding scale so the city's poorest patients can obtain medicinal pot for free." Draft regulations "to license dispensaries, track doctors and users, and identify where to allow the wholesale production of marijuana" will be issued next week, the Fenty administration says, with a monthslong review period to follow. David Catania says the first dispensaries could open "early next year." Another question: What will the feds do about legal pot in their back yard? Tim writes: "[W]ith the federal Drug Enforcement Administration headquartered in the Washington region, some advocates remain nervous about a possible federal response. Officials with the DEA were not available to comment Tuesday. But Catania said he is encouraged by an Obama administration-issued directive from the Department of Veterans Affairs allowing patients at VA hospitals and clinics to have access to medical marijuana in the 14 states where it is legal."
TRUE BLUE -- "Togo West is not enough" to get the Board of Elections and Ethics back in full working order, Jonetta Rose Barras says in her Examiner column. The council, she says, also needs to confirm Republican Mital Gandhi to the board's minority-party seat. "The council voted earlier this month at the recommendation of Ward 5's Harry Thomas Jr. to table consideration of Gandhi's nomination -- although Cheh's committee had approved the appointment and presented a resolution recommending the entire legislature does the same. ... It's about protecting the basic tenets of democracy. The council's failure to act would mean members of only one party would certify this year's election. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the flaws in that situation."
DYRS REVIEW -- Examiner's Freeman Klopott has more from the "Nickles Report" on the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. He leads with the release of Sanquan Carter days before he participated in the South Capitol Street drive-by massacre. "Carter's release from custody just days before he allegedly shot and killed Jordan Howe over a costume bracelet is the norm for the District's Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services, the report concluded. 'DYRS procedures and practices favor release to the community without regard to the youth's needs, prior criminal acts or potential for re-offending,' the report says. In Carter's case, DYRS failed to put a hold on the 19-year-old that may have prevented his release from jail after serving time for several adult convictions."
RACE IS ON -- D.C. is again a Race to the Top finalist, the federal education department announces. Secretary Arne Duncan, the Post's Nick Anderson writes, "was asked whether D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's decision last week to fire more than 200 teachers would enhance the city's chances. 'It's a race to the top,' Duncan said. 'I don't think anyone's going to fire their way to the top.' But he generally praised Rhee for having 'honest conversations' about teacher performance and he noted that the chancellor had struck a deal with the Washington Teachers' Union for performance pay. He called it 'a breakthrough labor agreement' and said, 'the details of that, they'll work out at the local level.'"
FOR THE WIN -- Tim also has the scene from Monday night's Washington Interfaith Network "accountability event." There, the two candidates in the mayor and chairman races pledged, among other things, to "remove city money from any bank that charges more than 10 percent interest on consumer loans. ... Facing more than 800 WIN members representing more than three dozen local congregations, the candidates also agreed to spend more to weatherize houses to spur job creation, create more affordable housing, launch a citywide youth basketball league and stop diverting the city's $100 million Neighborhood Investment Fund to other uses. But the pledge to join the national battle over high interest rates, billed by advocates as 'usury,' represents the newest issue in WIN's agenda." Both Fenty and Gray talked up their commitment to creating jobs. "Part of Gray's message, however, was muddled by his delivery. Speaking from a pulpit, Gray started shouting and rushing through his prepared remarks, making it difficult for some (including D.C. Wire) to understand him. Fenty was far more composed, telling the audience that he kept the commitments he made to WIN during his 2006 campaign."
ABOUT THOSE FIRINGS -- Michelle Rhee talks about DCPS teacher firings on NewsChannel 8 (via DCist): "'For me, it's really a matter of thinking about the children,' said Rhee, who was sure to mention several times that she has two children that attend DCPS schools. 'I do not want my children in the classroom of an ineffective teacher.' She went on to describe the evaluation process in detail. And Post readers react: "We can't continue to overpay teachers who aren't teaching, and we can't continue to hold on to teachers who refuse to change their methods after receiving poor evaluations," a Fairfax resident writes. As it was many years ago when the unions began, teachers deserve a fair wage for a fair day's work, with no discrimination in the workplace. In return for that, they owe the school districts they work for -- and their students -- some results." A DCPS teacher writes to say that IMPACT is a "poor formula for rewarding excellence or weeding out laggards. The old system, which Ms. Rhee never seriously tried to use, was quicker and better. Failing teachers could be put on notice, given support and fired in 90 days if they could not improve." And a College Parker asks: : "How long does Ms. Rhee intend to stick around to accept the success or failure of her policies? I would challenge the chancellor to promise to stick with the school system until clear and sustained evidence of this great crusade's success has been found."
CHILDREN IN POVERTY -- A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation has found an alarming level of poverty among District children -- "much higher than the national average," WAMU-FM reports. "The reason is the way D.C.'s population breaks down. ... 'When you look at the residents here in the city who have children, then the poverty issue really comes to the forefront,' says [Kinaya Sokoya of the D.C. Kids Count Collaborative]. Sokoya says single adult professionals and married couples without children are doing pretty well, but they don't make up for the parts of the city where the children are. 'Wards 5, 7, and 8 are the wards that have difficulty, and they have actually most of the children,' she says. The report, called the Kids Count Data Book, says that 41 percent of D.C. children live in families where no parent has full-time or year-round employment. That's 14 points higher than the national average.'
*** SMALL PLATES ***
"Earlier this week, I told Mayor Fenty I think he's the hottest mayor in America. He said, 'I don't read any blogs, but ... Glittarazzi.'" (Glittarazzi)
Draft D.C. Housing Authority rules would allow the agency to terminate housing vouchers for drug users and their families (Housing Complex)
Charter schools will get $10 million in federal funds to help match DCPs teacher raises (Examiner)
Peter Nickles settles with Morgan Stanley over predatory lending claims (WBJ)
Vincent Orange holds Georgetown fundraiser. "But most attendees weren't there to write checks; they were part the Orange campaign." (G'towm Dish)
Federal funds will help fix up burned-out Mount Pleasant apartment building (Jim Graham press release)
On the scene at yesterday's CVS ribbon-cutting in Petworth/Park View (Park View DC)
Tell DDOT how to improve Circulator service (WJLA-TV)
In Tom Sherwood's Notebook, analysis of the teacher firings (WRC-TV)
Should summer-jobs participants get paid to go to school? (The Other 35 Percent)
AP covers D.C.'s distribution of female condoms (via WTOP)
Arena Stage ribbon-cutting set for Aug. 16 (press release)
Another chief executive for Washington Hospital Center (WTOP)
Break of 20-inch water main fouls U Street, floods basements (WTOP)
Man arrested for June murder in Adams Morgan (Crime Scene)
Bring back the Shuttle-Bug! (GGW)
Bribe-taking correctional officer gets a year in prison (DOJ release)
Plan your weekend: The latest MPD go-go report is out! (City Desk)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Fenty addresses National Urban League conference, breaks ground on Gibson Plaza Apartments reno
July 28, 2010; 10:25 AM ET
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