DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 8, 2011
TODAY IS FEB. 8, 2011 -- DAY 38 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
For all you folks out there worried about what a Republican House of Representatives could do to the District of Columbia, this should really put a scare in you. The Post's Jonathan O'Connell reports on concerns that the GOP's penchant for budget cuts could affect the $3.4 billion Department of Homeland Security project on the St. Elizabeths campus -- a project that is carrying hopes for an east-of-the-river economic revival. He notes: "Although more than $1 billion has already been appropriated, the government could still derail the Southeast Washington project or delay its currently planned 2016 completion by withholding funding this year or next. 'It's a pretty easy place for Congress to say, "There's a place we can save $4 billion,"' said Tim Jaroch, David Nassif Associates' managing general partner." A former General Services Administration official says "it would not surprise him" if Congress scales back the St. E's plans, because some officials might now feel that agency consolidation "wasn't such a hot idea." Before you hit panic buttons, however, top GSA official Bob Peck says that from his perspective, he wants to move even more personnel to the site than already planned.
AFTER THE JUMP -- City officials explain what happened with the thundersnow -- Post explores who's registering guns in the District -- Gray backs plan for forensics department -- more grumbling about council salaries -- Gray holds first general presser
*** MAIN COURSE ***
ALSO -- As for the St. Elizabeths that's still a hospital: Jason Cherkis reports at City Desk that a new report from University Legal Services finds that while the city's mental health services might be in a new building, the treatment of patients has not necessarily improved, that "the same issues that have been addressed in the past continue to occur even in the new hospital." For instance: "For its roughly 300 patients last year, there were 388 physical assaults. In July and August, there were 88 assaults on patients and staff. This past year, there were also 63 reports of 'abuse, neglect or exploitation'" as well as 10 sexual assaults, and 342 reports of physical injury-of which 158 were the result of physical assaults. ... University Legal Services quotes hospital officials acknowledging the violence is higher than national stats."
THUNDERSNOW POSTMORTEM -- Just what happened on Jan. 26 to cause widespread traffic chaos and multihour commutes? New transportation committee chair Tommy Wells called a hearing yesterday to figure that out and how to keep it from happening again. Tim Craig reports in the Post that in the future, the city "may ask residents and downtown office workers to stay indoors and temporarily evacuate some major thoroughfares should another severe winter storm slam the area at rush hour." Said interim DDOT chief Terry Bellamy, "If a portion of drivers had opted to wait out the [Jan. 26] storm, crews across the region may have had more success in clearing the roadways." DPW chief Bill Howland said "road crews were well equipped to handle the storm but were left flat-footed by gridlock and trees and power lines brought down by the wet snow" -- and, later, abandoned vehicles.
Moreover, no one asked the police to do traffic control at major intersections. Fail. More coverage from TBD and WTTG-TV.
WHO'S PACKING HEAT? -- The Post's Paul Duggan looks at just who exactly has been registering handguns in the District of Columbia in the two-and-a-half years it has been legal. His findings: "[H]undreds of residents in Washington's safest, most well-to-do neighborhoods have armed themselves, registering far more guns than people in poorer, crime-plagued areas of the city, according to D.C. police data." To put a finer point on it: "In the 20016 Zip code, encompassing some of the District's wealthiest enclaves in upper Northwest, 151 firearms have been registered. That is more than 10 percent of the citywide gun total in an area with about 14,000 households, according to U.S. Census data. No other residential Zip code in Washington has seen as big an influx of legal guns since the ban was ruled unconstitutional. 'Mine are loaded - locked and cocked - right where I can get them,' said one gun owner in the 20016 Zip code. He is a 64-year-old K Street lobbyist who lives in the affluent Spring Valley neighborhood with his wife and teenage daughter." Another stat: About twice as many guns have been registered in Ward 3 as in Ward 8 (140). Says Lt. Jon Shelton, head of the MPD firearms registration unit, "You have to figure, what are legitimate guns costing now? ... A basic revolver is going for $350 or $400. And you're talking about $650, $700 for a quality 9 millimeter. So who's got that kind of money to just throw out there for a gun?"
FORENSIC FILES -- Mayor Vincent Gray is supporting Phil Mendelson's move to separate the city's soon-to-open forensic crime lab from the Metropolitan Police Department, Freeman Klopott reports in the Examiner. But will there be enough moolah? "Gray's public safety deputy Paul Quander said the mayor supports Mendelson's proposal but with reservations. 'Anyone accused of committing a crime facing scientific evidence should be assured that methods of analysis have undergone the scrutiny of scientific peer review and are independent from any real or perceived conflicts of interest,' Quander said during a council hearing on the bill. But, he later added, 'given our current fiscal pressures, we may not be able to immediately expand the lab into new services.'"
FAT CAT COUNCIL MEMBERS -- The Examiner's editorial board does not like the high salaries for D.C. Council members: "David Catania tried to justify the excessive six-figure salaries on grounds that the Council has to perform the functions of a city, county and state. ... That may be true, but the U.S. attorney here is also in charge of prosecuting local homicides, and the multitude of federal law enforcement agencies in the nation's capital provide a higher level of security than the city would otherwise enjoy. And being the nation's capital means the city government benefits from a tourism industry that supplies a never-ending flow of visitors with money to spend. Considering that D.C. is just 68 square miles with a resident population of 601,723 -- compared to New York, the most densely populated city in the United States, with 8.4 million people living in 305 square miles -- D.C. Council members should be making less than their Big Apple counterparts, not more." The Hoya also takes up the issue.
WE LOVE WAL-MART -- Lydia DePillis points out at Housing Complex that anti-Wal-Mart agitation among local politicos here has been restrained compared to New York, where council members have been teeing off on the megaretailer. "Why the difference between D.C. and New York? Partly, it has to do with the historic strength of the union movement in the big apple, which never developed to the same extent in D.C. Also, lots of parts of the District are actually much more suburban feeling than even the furthest regions of Brooklyn. Finally, New York communities are comparatively well-served by a wider variety of lower-end grocery chains, like C-Town and Key Food, which also feel more threatened by Walmart's encroach."
THAT WAS FUN -- Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), one of two black Republican freshmen, told the Informer's James Wright the following: "If you live in the District, perhaps an exclusionary zone should be set up where District residents do not pay federal taxes." That was in turn picked up by the Hill, which set off another round of self-determinationistic handwringing from DCist's Martin Austermuhle: "Ultimately, exempting us from federal taxation is the lazy way to address the District's second-class status. But with a history worth of failed attempts to change things, is lazy the best we might have to hope for?" But while West might be pondering the notion of a tax-free D.C., Roll Call's Daniel Newhauser tweeted last night that no such bill will be forthcoming from the Floridian.
WHAT VOUCHERS MEAN -- National Journal looks at how vouchers will play on the Hill: "School vouchers are a side issue for most key players involved in reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. But some powerful lawmakers like House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., want to make sure they weigh in on vouchers as part of the broader effort to rewrite the K-12 law. One clear way to do that is by supporting a bill introduced by Boehner and Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., to restore funding for the District of Columbia's voucher program. ... If the voucher debate takes hold, it may be hard to hear arguments about other looming issues like the 2014 deadline for school districts to achieve 100 percent proficiency."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Hardy Middle School's interim principal is Daniel Shea, a former Montgomery County principal (G'town Dish)
In Ted Loza case, judge not sold on key piece of evidence (Courthouse News)
Budget cuts mean AU students have to pay for their STD tests (The Eagle)
Missed this Monday: DCPS funding for traditional and "specialty" schools doesn't match up, study finds (Post)
In a first step toward absolutely nothing, the Georgetown University Student Association votes to oppose the new noise law (Vox Populi)
Work on Shaw Metro development, future home of United Negro College Fund, is officially underway (Examiner)
River Terrace Elementary is given a stay of execution; Shaed Elementary School remains on the chopping block (D.C. Schools Insider)
Several filing amendments later, Kwame Brown's campaign is not in debt after all (Examiner)
D.C.'s 10 most valuable (taxable) properties netted the city $80 million in property taxes (WBJ)
DCDSC sends out non-Sekou Biddle communiques -- but not necessarily on time (DCist)
More on CoStar's real-estate windfall (Post)
Pepco apologizes in full-page Post ad (AP)
More on new DISB chief (IFAnews.com)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray holds first press conference, 11:30 a.m. in the Wilson Building's ground floor press room; meets with Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) on the Hill -- Eleanor Holmes Norton appears on the Hill with D.C. Water's George Hawkins to advocate for stopping bottled water use -- D.C. Council hears briefing on CAFR, 10 a.m. in council chambers
| February 8, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike, The District
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