News Bullets, treehouse of horrors Friday;

Still a bit under the weather here, but managed to slog my way to work. No worries, I don't have a fever (yet) so it's unlikely to be Swine Flu. I did wash my hands before putting on a biohazard suit, just because I love you all so much.

DCPS CFO Noah Wepman attempts to answer questions from the Council

Michelle Rhee versus the Council: a draw? While I was home sick yesterday I attempted to watch part of the D.C. Council hearing on the school layoffs. Yes, indeed it was broadcast live on television. I was able to pay attention for a bit before nodding off, enough to see DCPS CFO Noah Wepman get taken to school (har, har). My goodness, I must be getting old because Noah Wepman looks like he just turned 21. I don't understand how someone could be so unprepared for a hearing of this importance. I understand getting nervous, but... wow. Overall there is a lot of animosity between the Council and everyone else. Nat Gandhi didn't really want to answer any of the questions, and Wepman looked like someone who was begging for just a few more minutes to finish his midterm. Rhee is an excellent politician who swooped in and pretty much turned the whole thing into a draw. What's the likely outcome of all of this? Who can be sure, but at this point this is all mostly just political posturing for the election. Mike DeBonis somehow managed to stay awake and alert throughout the whole thing, he has a good summary and I'm sure a wrap up later today.

DC sucks at counting, attempts to bolster Census effort. The District is hoping to get a better count in the 2010 census, to help secure more federal funds. Fun fact, each citizen is worth around $3,500. Good lord. The District's census response rate is low, and Mayor Fenty believes there are many "hard to count" people that just aren't being included in the total population. I'm guessing this includes numerous homeless people, college students, and most people under 30 who don't want to actually consider themselves DC residents.

DC OTR shutters 8 restaurants for unpaid sales taxes.
The Office of Tax and Revenue is doing a "show of force" and shutting down places with unpaid sales tax. According to an OTR press release, the eight restaurants are: INTI,1825 18th St. NW, Prince of Georgetown, 3205 Prospect St. NW, Besta Pizza, 5029 Connecticut Ave. NW, Porter's, 1207 19th St. NW, Prince Café, 1042 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Mendocino Grille, 2917 M St. NW, Café Nema, 1334 U St. NW, Argonaut, 1433 H St. NE. Word on the Twittersphere is that Argonaut has paid their tax bill and has reopened.

Parks and Recs hearing today. The Council will be at it again, today looking into the matter of the illegally diverted parks and rec construction contracts. We'll see how that plays out. The Council has a few options to consider, including filing a lawsuit against the Fenty administration. I'm all for the fireworks, honestly.

Who will kill the Post? WJLA and NC8? In case you've missed it, the people behind Politico have decided to start a new DC-oriented news site. It will be Internet-only, but will get content from WJLA-TV and News Channel 8. I'll be writing about this more in depth over at my other site, but I'm a bit skeptical of the chances that this will truly be a "Washington Post killer." In order to truly revolutionize local news coverage, you'll need a better model than "a new web site." You'll also need to do a bit better than just redistributing the content that's already distributed on WJLA and NC8. We're talking more original content, which means more reporting, which yes means a staff. Rumors have it there could be upwards of 50 people staffing this new site. How in the world is that supposed to break even? You can't model a local news site around the Politico model, it's a bit different. We'll see... the owners have a lot of money to throw around so they can deal with some losses for a while.


News Bullets, sick and tired Thursday;

Abbreviated edition today, I'm sick. Thank good for Tivo, right? And laptops. Here's hoping I'm not getting the Swine Flu after talking about how the vaccine will turn you into a reptilian zombie. So, my apologies for the less-than-thorough morning news update. Hopefully I'll feel better later today and can work on some other pieces, including "Why We Hate DC" number 2. Also, for anyone interested, I'm almost complete with the third piece in the series about Metro safety and I'll have a piece ready soon about this whole Politico-NewsChannel8-WJLA local news site.


Peter Nickles sends Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) flowers to make amends.
The District AG, who had called Cheh an "angry woman" did what any man in the dog house does--he sent flowers. Yes, in an effort to make up for his sexism, he decides to get the angry woman flowers. For her part, Cheh has played this all wrong. She is not politically savvy. She joked that she also liked chocolate and has displayed the flowers in her office. The appropriate response would have involved explaining that flowers don't negate a violation of District law, and flowers also don't make up for a stunning display of a lack of respect. On this token, though, maybe Marion Barry can send Ximena Hartock some flowers and make everything better.

Phil Mendelson to run for D.C. Council Chair?
Well, maybe, if all sorts of other things happen. "Rumors" around the Wilson Building say that Mendelson might run for the chair spot, though that's likely dependent on Gray running for mayor. If Gray runs for mayor, then Jack Evans will also seek the chairman spot. Mendelson is facing former DPR chief Clary Ray as a challenger for his current at-large seat.

Michelle Rhee faces the D.C. Council today.
Mike DeBonis is live blogging the hearing, which I'm sure will produce some fireworks. Who wants to bet we'll see another skirmish between the Council and the Mayor's golden child? Part of me is impressed that Rhee has stuck around in this position this long, given that she's really been facing a no-win situation. A schools system in poor shape, but little wiggle room to make any sort of Big Picture changes. We'll see what she has to say to the Council. Should be worth watching.


MPD releases operating procedures after FOIA fight. After an eight month battle, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has prevailed in a Freedom of Information Act battle with the D.C. Metropolitan Police. The General and Specific Directives, which dictate how MPD manages their police powers. These are now available for everyone to read, which is always a good thing.

WaPo gives us the deetz on the Real World.

And with that, I have to leave you.


Why We Hate DC, Reason #1: The "networking" blowhard

Note: These are not 'ranked' in any way. This is the first one I wrote about, so it's #1.

If you consider yourself a young professional in D.C., then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Have you ever been invited to go to a "networking" happy hour, or any sort of "networking" event?

If you're like me, you hate the entire idea of these sorts of things. Does anyone really believe that some dude you meet at a happy hour and exchange your "program assistant" business cards with will really be able to get you a job somewhere? There are a few problems with this logic, the first being that anyone who has the power to truly influence hiring decisions won't be going to a networking event at the Front Page. Second, if you do have any sort of influence at your organization, you aren't going to go out on a limb for someone you barely know. Third, the economy is in the toilet and there's 500 people applying for every job opening in this town.

As such, these events are often attended by the person I'll describe as the professional networking blowhard. This is the guy (or girl) who absolutely has to tell you about how amazing his job is, and how much he has accomplished in the 23 years he has been alive. Did you know that he went backpacking in Asia and is so tired of seeing temples that he will be happy if he never sees one ever again? Also, when he studied at Oxford, his flatmate from Mehhh-He-Ko (Mexico) taught him about the perils of the Zapatistas? What does he do now? Well, he works on an important program at [prominent non-profit]. You've never even heard of where he works, but don't worry, he'll tell you all about it. If you work for another non-profit, or a government agency, he'll have a story about how just the other day he ran into the executive director (or cabinet secretary) of where you work. "Yeah, I totally ran into Secretary Chu downtown and we talked about renewable energy. He's a nice guy."

But you're just jealous of his success!

Nope. In my experience the people who you actually want to meet, and actually want to make "connections" with are too busy actually doing things to attend some sort of grown-up equivalent of a high school mixer. The people who are making a difference and who may be in a position to help you make a difference as well don't go around talking about their epic life experience. You'll find the real people to "network" with at events that have some sort of meaning, or that revolve around something you are actually interested in. Reach out to people who write things you enjoy reading. Attend a community meeting about a topic that you feel is important. Volunteer for something that's a bit obscure and isn't filled only with people trying to deal with liberal guilt.

Of course the networking blowhard isn't endemic to D.C. They likely exist in many cities. However, the nature of D.C. seems to encourage their development. We have a constant rat race, with everyone trying to gauge how they stack up. You have a whole bunch of people who were told they would change the world and they don't know how to play nice in the sandbox once they realize they aren't actually that special. You think you've got a good job that makes a difference? Well, there's always somebody doing more. No matter who you are. Need confirmation of that? Just remember that arguably the most powerful person on the entire planet lives just down the street from you.

Verdict: This personality trait is often cited as one of the reasons why people hate living in D.C. You seemingly can't go anywhere, to a bar, a restaurant, or a party without meeting this person. This is a justifiable reason to cite when expressing discontent about our city. However, this person can be avoided. Shy away from any sort of activity that is billed as a networking event. Shy away from any sort of forced socialization that is branded as a way to meet people who can help "develop your career." The person who is going to help you get the job you dream of, or help you start a new business is probably somewhere working on something they think is important. You won't find them drinking the $3 rail drink special in a suit and tie spouting off stories about that time they met Tony Blair on the lift.

You're in America now jackass, it's called an elevator.

News Bullets, no man is an island, Wednesday;

Good morning. Could be another festering mess of gross outside today, we'll see.

Working on a new series, I can't promise it'll be daily, but it might be. Since I've pushed a lot of the news analysis and such over to the other site, I can use this space for other things, such as personal peeves and lest we forget, cursing. Anyhow, I'm going to start compiling a list of all of the various things that people hate about DC with a bit of a blurb about if it's warranted or not. Essentially a watered down version of the "Eye on" series I tried to start, but realized I don't have enough time to do properly.

Anyways, look for the first post later today, time permitting. Onwards and upwards to the news of the day.

Metro cannot multitask, delays awesome Smartrip changes. By awesome, I mean features that should have been implemented from the beginning. Think about how nice it would be to have bus and rail passes on your Smartrip. Think about the ability to have it refill automatically, or to add funds over the Internet. Well, those features were supposed to arrive in 2005, but were pushed back. Metro insisted they would be ready by the end of this year, but they've been pushed back to the end of 2010. Instead, Metro insists they have had to focus on changes urged by the federal government.

Progress on outsourced Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The National Capital Planning Commission has approved a new security plan around the site of the to be constructed Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. That's nice, but what I had forgotten about this was that the statute of King is being made in China. There was a big hubub about this a few years ago when the decision was made. Perhaps we can ship China a memorial to the Tiananmen Square tank guy.

More people eligible for H1N1 vaccines. If you have an underlying health problem (this is vague, ask your doctor for details), you can probably get the swine flu vaccine in DC. Likely expect long lines and panicked people. Not responsible for any zombification or other potential side effects as a result of vaccination. In all seriousness it's probably a good idea.

DC full of single, depressed assholes says U.S. Census. The Post has word that the number of single households in the District has accelerated greatly. Demographers are pointing to various causes for this, ranging from DC's attraction of young, selfish rich yuppies who don't care to live with others, and society's growing acceptance of young, selfish, rich yuppies who choose to live alone. Given the recession it's actually a bit surprising to see this, I'd figure there would be more "my accountant told us we should shack up" scenarios, and a whole lot more people turning to group houses. However, for most of the people who would be able to, or would consider living alone, there is still a wealth of jobs available.

DCHA gave contracts to friends of Fenty, including Keith Lomax. Remember earlier in the year when Fenty was in hot water for letting his friend Keith Lomax drive his city-owned SUV? Well, lo and behold Lomax also received part of those $82 million in under-the-table contracts. If you're a bit confused by the whole contracts matter, you aren't alone. I've got a big summary here, though there are still many unanswered questions. One question I do have an answer to, where Fenty went to undergrad. The answer: Oberlin. Yeah, I know, right?

Finally, my favorite Tweet of the day. @dcfireems: update - 5201 Conn Av NW - around midnite - 'bug bomb' explosion - no fire no injury (except displaced bugs) - damage $25K DC F&EMS clear 2a


News Bullets, you are not Tiger Woods Tuesday;

OK Washington, I've got a bone to pick with you. It's barely raining and yet many people decide to break out the golf umbrellas. Come on now. I'm happy for you that you enjoy Titleist golf balls, but if you're walking down a crowded sidewalk and don't have a family of 10 under that umbrella, save that for the U.S. Open. I see you coming down the sidewalk in a suit (without a coat, because coats are for suckers) and your massive umbrella, knocking everyone else's puny peasant umbrellas out of the way. Except me, I didn't even deploy my umbrella (because it wasn't really raining). That will leave both of my hands free to do a nice quiet golf clap when your bigass umbrella gets stuck in a tree and you get pissed.

Now let's take a look at the day's news.

Triple shooting in Southeast leaves one dead. A 24-year-old man was killed, and two others injured in a shooting near 23rd Street and Savannah Terrace, SE. The other victims, aged 41 and 19 are expected to survive. Following the shooting, police were searching for a man dressed all in black. Surprisingly, it appears that search has not yet yielded an arrest.

Bishop Harry Jackson taken to school at gay marriage hearing. Harry Jackson, a "recent" DC resident and anti-gay marriage advocate was smacked down by at-large Councilmember David Catania. Jackson insists that it's important for the District to put gay marriage on the ballot, and have all residents vote on the matter. Jackson even evoked Martin Luther King to make his point. Catania then asked Jackson if he was aware of the last time the rights of a minority were put to the test on a ballot. Jackson said he did not know. Catania was more than happy to tell him, it was in 1865 and District residents voted against extending voting rights to freed African-Americans. Catania then asked Jackson how many times he had voted in the District, the answer of course being none. Thanks to the CityPaper for some excellent coverage.

Battle lines drawn in Council versus Fenty skirmish, and NBC Washington is there with an offensive headline. The saga over Parks and Recreation continues to unfold, with Fenty's extention of Ximena Hartsock's employment by another 180 days. In response, Councilmember Cheh (D-Ward 3) remarked the appearance of a "lawless administration." AG Peter Nickles took exception to this, calling her statements stupid and characterizing her as an "angry woman." Our favorite DC news source NBC4, writes it up under the headline "D.C. Catfight." A sexist article asking if the AG is sexist. Awesome. Also, if you're having a hard time wrapping your head around the whole Council versus Fenty battle and how Hartsock plays into it, I have a summary of the whole mess.

It has been six years since Walter E. Washington died. He's got a convention center named after him, but we still don't have good government in D.C. Sad that in the six years since his death, and the four mayors that have followed, no one has come close to honoring his legacy.

Loose Lips Daily celebrates one year of insane political coverage. Congrats, Mike.

Fedex Field surrendered to Philadelphia. The Redskins continue to make their case as the worst team in the NFL this season. It doesn't matter who calls the plays if the people on the field can't execute them. Or even catch a ball. Or even execute a snap correctly.


News Bullets, crêpe wars Monday;

As much as you griped about it being dark and cold this morning, I hope everyone has a chance to appreciate the fall weather. Looks like this might be the last week of sixty degree weather, so enjoy it while you can. As you probably know, here in DC we don't so much have seasons as we have winter and summer, both of which are roughly six months long.

In honor of it being Monday, here's a clip for all the nerds out there. That's actually most of you, except for all the people from WMATA who come here. For their sake, though, I hope they have a sense of humor as well. Fun fact, that sort of bothers me, High Fidelity came out eight years ago.

Annnnnnd now, today's news. Let's get the depressing stuff out of the way first.

Violent crime strikes Petworth again, shootings in Columbia Heights and Bloomingdale as well. It was a violent weekend in the District, with a shooting death Friday night in Petworth, as well as a Saturday morning officer-involved fatal shooting on Upshur Street. I've got more on that over at my Serious Business web site. Petworth has been rocked by a number of shootings in the past week, which is actually out of the ordinary. As much as I like to say "welcome to the beautiful life" extremely sarcastically, it is true that gun violence has been down this year in Petworth. We'll see if this past week is an anomaly, or if it continues.

More complicated government shenanigans. This time it involves Mayor Fenty, the DC Housing Authority and construction contracts. The City Paper has a good FAQ on the latest controversy, but here's the very brief summary. Mayor Fenty sent a dozen parks and recreation construction contracts to the DC Housing Authority. The DCHA then gave these contracts to "friends" of the Mayor without any DC Council oversight. The total price tag of these contracts is over $82 million. On Friday, District Attorney General Peter "transparency is for suckers" Nickles determined that yes, the DCHA must send contracts of over $1 million to the Council. Another slap in the face to the Council. Things aren't looking pretty. Makes the whole Parks and Recreation saga a bit more interesting. Also of note, Ximena Hartstock gets a reprieve, being renamed as the Acting Director of DPR. She gets another 180 days in her job, but after that she is out.

Man accused of pimping out his foster child on K Street. A Temple Hills man is in custody facing charges of sex trafficking. Shelby Lewis is accused of raping his 12-year-old foster child, and selling her for sex. Lewis was arrested after police found two of his teenage prostitutes walking K Street.

Would 14th Street like some crêpes with that wine and cheese? Another day, another fancy new place slated to open on 14th Street. Sometimes, though, the trendiness gets a bit out of hand. Prince of Petworth reports that not one, but two "crepes spots" (the word is crêperie) will be opening on 14th Street. In fact, they are opening almost exactly across the street from each other. I'm not joking, you'll be able to look out the window and see the competition. Who will win the crêpe wars? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say neither. Having two choices will result in neither attracting enough business to stay afloat.

Same-sex marriage fiasco underway. Anti gay-marriage activists staged protests this weekend in anticipation of today's public hearings. Many are calling to put the issue on the ballot, rather than let the DC Council "create laws." Previous efforts to have a public referendum on gay marriage have failed. The Board of Elections and Ethics have repeatedly said that you cannot have a public vote on a measure that is discriminatory. Makes sense. At the Wilson Building, a marathon session of public testimony is expected this afternoon. 269 people have signed up to testify.


News Bullets, craft Slurpee Friday;

It's been one of those weeks. I know it's been a bit light on content here, I've been busy with other projects as well as the whole having a job thing. Too bad I can't afford to hire a personal assistant. I've been kicking around the idea of spending a bit more time expanding each news bullet with more commentary (and in appropriate instances humor! what a concept!) and then posting those throughout the day. We'll see what happens. But for now, it's Friday, and here's your update.

File under incredibly awkward. Matthew "Question Mark Guy" Lesko appeared with embattled DC Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) at the Lincoln Theatre last night to open the Betzen Ball Comedy Festival. They warmed up the crowd for headliner Patton Oswalt. I always just assumed Graham and Lesko were the same person, given their striking resemblance to one another. Though it is hilarious to see the man whose office is being investigated for taking bribes appearing with the man who tells you how to get free money from the government.

Metro to begin testing prototype of a 'real time' sensor monitoring system. Yesterday Metro announced they are ready to run some tests of the new safety monitoring system developed by an Annapolis contractor. This system was ordered in response to urgent NTSB recommendations following the 6/22 crash. It's unclear at this point when this new safety system will be ready to go, or how much it will cost. This is a good development, to be sure, but it also speaks to the fact that the Automatic Train Control system does not fail in a safe way. If we have to spend millions of dollars to develop a system to check to the ATC system in real time, perhaps it would have been money better spent earlier to develop a better train control and signaling system. I'll have more on this as more information becomes available.

Flower pot closes 12th Street downtown during rush hour. Yup. The Post tells us about how a flowerpot near the Federal Triangle Metro station sparked a suspicious package investigation. MPD, DC Fire and EMS and Metro Transit Police shut down part of 12th Street near Pennsylvania Avenue for about 40 minutes last night. It's always good to err on the side of caution, I suppose... but who calls in a flowerpot as a suspicious package?

DDOT imagines up to eight streetcar lines in the District. Go big, or go home... right? Or do both, it's Friday. The District Department of Transportation unveiled new plans for streetcar lines throughout the city. Greater Greater Washington has a whole lot more on this, as well as a map. A system like this would be amazing, given the number of District neighborhoods not serviced directly by Metrorail. I'm glad Gabe Klein and company have put together these pretty maps and plans, but the "what's next" part is difficult. Securing funding for a project of this scale won't be easy, and many people won't understand how "streetcars" are relevant in the 21st century. Shouldn't we all have jetpacks by now, anyways?

Stop the fucking presses, slushies are now a food trend. Yeah, you read that correctly. "Craft" slushies will soon be coming to the former second location of Garden District on 14th Street. Metrocurean writes, "Proof bar man Adam Bernbach has a playful roster of libations planned. Slushies — yup, just like the ones at 7-Eleven — will be served." The slushies will be served at Estadio, a new Spanish restaurant planned by the owner of Proof. OK, this is really a trend that can stay in New York. Here's a concept restaurant. A gourmet 7/11. It will look just like a real 7/11, except the Slurpee machines will be filled with slushy cocktails, and it'll serve deconstructed taquitos and donut foam.

By the way I went to ChurchKey. Yeah, I stopped over at the new destination beer bar in Logan Circle. It was the opening night, along with the downstairs restaurant Birch and Barley, and it was packed. It probably wasn't a good sign that when I arrived the front door was locked. They were not at capacity... I think the staff may have been unsure how the door works. The place has a lot of promise, and they do have an impressive beer list. My biggest gripe is the deceiving menu. Beers are listed with price and and serving size. Many are listed as 16 oz servings. I ordered the Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, advertised as a 16 oz serving. It was brought in a glass that could not have held more than 8 oz. In fact, I didn't see a single glass in the place that was a true pint. Time to reprint those menus. Anyways, it's a very promising development for a spot south of P Street in Logan.


News Bullets, it's so easy Thursday;

If my Twitter is to believed, people are starting to notice that it's getting dark in the mornings. Also, swine flu has hit Capitol Hill and my office. Oh noes! Good thing I purchased that military surplus biohazard suit on eBay back in April. It pays to be prepared, folks.

Who are the taxicab bribery defendants? The City Paper's Jason Cherkis takes a look at those dozens of would-be cab drivers arrested in the bribery scandal. This is a very emotional piece, and tells a compelling story. To summarize, if we are to believe the defendant's stories, they were unwitting pawns in the larger bribery scandal. Those at the top used these people dreaming of being cab drivers to ferry bribes to Taxi Commissioner Leon Swain's office. It seems pointless that these people were arrested in the first place, as Swain and others are on tape saying that the details of the plot should never reach these lower level people. But, they have all been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. We'll see if those charges stand. Way to go City Paper for telling this story.

The happy-go-lucky blogosphere strikes again. Reading DC Blogs this morning, I see the top featured post tells everyone to stop worrying about Metro. This gem comes to us via the "DC Universe" blog. I'm wagging my finger a bit at the editors of DC Blogs, for selecting a piece that tells us 9 people dying in the Red Line is no big deal, right after a compelling video of the Red Line crash response was released by DC Fire and EMS. Anyhow, DC Universe sez:
But the bottom line is, something like that [buses driving by], and God only knows how many other fuck-ups Metro commits on any given day--and I think it's fair to mention that only a tiny percentage of those fuck-ups result in people getting killed--don't change the fact that Metro is still one of the best public transportation systems in the world.
With the moral being "stop stressing about Metro" and "deal with it." DC Universe takes aim with people who are thoughtfully trying to help Metro improve service, and suggests we all just give up. This attitude is the reason why the mythical "change" we all want is so hard to come by. Hey, did you know that a majority of Americans have health insurance? Also, I have health insurance. So what's the big deal if others don't? They can just go to the ER anyways! I hear DC Universe is planning on testifying at the Metro Board meeting. Here is the presentation, entitled "Happy Go Lucky:"

Fancy beer bar and "rustic Americana" restaurant opens on 14th street.
That's right, the location pretentious white people have been waiting for is finally open! I'll admit, I can be considered among those who are a little excited to try out Birch and Barley and ChurchKey. This is also exciting as it's a development south of P Street in Logan Circle. The restaurant and beer bar have taken over the former location of Dakota Cowgirl and Ramrod. As everyone else has already noted, be sure to make some Ramrod jokes if you attend. 14th and You has some photos, as well as Metrocurian. Since this is a beer bar and not a wine bar, it won't get added to the "wine and furniture" walking tour of 14th Street.

Wither the alt-weekly? As noted above, the City Paper produces some excellent content. But would you pay for it? The idea keeps getting teased over at CityDesk and I have to wonder what this means for the future of the free weekly paper. Editor Erik Wemple takes a shot at Leonard Downie Jr's vision of the future of journalism, and I chime in with a few thoughts of my own. Would you pay to read the City Paper? I might, but it'd have to be some excellent content presented in a very awesome way. I heart the City Paper but no one these days wants to pay for content and I have a feeling a ton of people would just say "I'll read Prince of Petworth instead."

Economic recovery causes DC to post negative decrease in unemployment. Yeah, you see what I did there? The District unemployment rate is now at 11.4% That's up from 11.1% in August. To compare, badly hit Michigan comes in at 15.3%. That's right, we're only 3.9% behind the rust belt! Of course, Virginia and Maryland are sitting much prettier, both under 10%. When people say DC is recession-proof, they are referring to the federal government. Sadly, there's a whole bunch of people who live in DC who do not have cushy federal jobs.


News Bullets, too many real bullets Wednesday;

I know I've been involved in a lot of serious business projects lately, writing about social services, crime, and of course Metro. These things are very important, of course, but they aren't always the fun, let's spit our coffee on our computer screen sorts of things. It's difficult to bridge the gap, and I suppose that's why the Daily Show and the Colbert Reports are the outliers. I'm kicking around a few good posts that aren't news related at all, and I hope to have a few of those up soon. I'm posting most of my serious business items over at a new site, so those will stay separate for the most part.

Shooting at the not-so-Safeway leaves teen in critical condition. Debate over the Petworth Safeway's nickname aside, this is depressing to say the least. A male in his teens was shot in the head outside of the Safeway on Georgia Avenue, just a few blocks from the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station. No suspects are in custody, but the shooter was reportedly approached by two people before the shooting. It's easy to immediately say, "look, see, Petworth isn't safe." However, to be fair, there are more shootings near Columbia Heights than in Petworth. So the thing to say is "look, see, these neighborhoods are still troubled, even though young, white, upwardly mobile bloggers have moved there recently." Maybe we should drop a Target or Best Buy in Petworth to really get things moving.

Police-involved shooting in Northeast. No real details on this yet, but an officer shot and killed a man in the 900 block of 21st St. NE. This is about a block from the location of Saturday's fatal stabbing.

Shooting reported near the Convention Center. DC Alert sent out a message about a shooting at 7th and N, NW last night. There hasn't been any news stories about this one, and I'm waiting for any further information from MPD. This comes amid a summer of shootings in Shaw, which Jim Graham has declared to be a gang war. I have a bit more on the violence in Shaw over at District Daily.

Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) proposes new bill of rights for animals. The Post looks at a Council bill aimed to help improve the treatment of wild animals. The measure, among other provisions, would clamp down on the types of traps that can be used for larger, non-"pest" animals. The Humane Society helped Cheh craft the bill, which is available for download from the Councilmember's web site. Hey, I'm all in favor of this, no doubt. I think this says something about what people in Ward 3 spend their time worrying about.

Is Chief Lanier losing the trust and respect of her officers? Harry Jaffe asks the question in the Examiner. This piece outlines the tension between officers and their chief, especially in the light of recent union-management disputes. An interesting read, to be sure, and gives some insight into the problems... though I have a feeling these sorts of disputes occur no matter who the Chief of Police is. Generally in a department as large as MPD, the chief will always be more of a politician than an officer.


News Bullets, do the right thing Tuesday;

Jim Graham steps down from taxicab oversight. Huh? Graham (D-Ward 1) has requested that taxicab matters be moved from his Committee on Public Works and Transportation to the Council's Committee of the Whole. Previously, Graham had refused to do so and insisted his innocence. He is still claiming innocence, but now saying he wants to ensure no distractions. Well, Jim, I'm glad to see you are just now a bit concerned that a huge scandal involving bribery and potential murder plots could be a distraction. Who wants to bet that this move by Graham is connected to the fact that Ted Loza may be negotiating a plea deal? Will Graham be taken down by this? We'll see...

Shootout in Southeast leaves one man dead, another wounded. MPD responded to a shooting in the 4800 block of G Street, SE last night. An adult male was pronounced dead at the scene, and another male was found critically wounded. WJLA reports the surviving victim is a teenager. I believe this edges the homicide count up to 110.

Free swine flu vaccinations tonight. The District government will begin H1N1 vaccinations tonight for children, young adults, and pregnant women. From WJLA:
Two of clinics will be held Tuesday night at Cardoza (sic) Senior High School and Ballou Senior High School from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. The clinics will provide H1N1 injection or nasal spray vaccinations to children, young adults and pregnant women. Children from 6 months up to 24 year-old young adults are eligible for the vaccination.
There will be one vaccine clinic in each city's ward every week over the next month. The clinics will rotate between schools in the District on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
I'm too old to get one at the clinic, but honestly I don't want one. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I am concerned that it may turn people into reptilians.

Cafritz fire started by oily rags. Remember when Smokey the Bear or a creepy dude in a dalmatian suit told you to be careful with paint cans and oily rags? That they could start fires? Well, yeah, the giant fire at the Peggy Cooper Cafritz mansion was likely caused by rags soaked in linseed oil. The rags were used to treat patio furniture, and were improperly stored. Problems with water flow hampered firefighting efforts. The Washington Times has a piece about the trading of blame regarding the water problems.

Don Peebles says he might run for DC mayor. Good for you, Mr. Peebles, but move back to DC first and tell someone other than the Washington Business Journal.


News Bullets, unsafe at any bus stop Monday;

Anyone else actually watch the entire Redskins game yesterday? Loved that safety at the end, way to go, really, kudos indeed. Jim Zorn is now off play calling duty, and a new offensive coordinator will be named later today. It's unclear exactly what the point of JZ is now, other than to look pretty and pointlessly throw challenge flags.

Metrobus and Metrorail unsafe, claims WTOP. I agree, but not exactly for the same reasons. WTOP's Adam Tuss and Mark Segraves obtain some employee discipline records from WMATA and the numbers aren't pretty. The article, Ride At Your Own Risk ledes with "[s]ince 2004, Metro bus drivers and train operators have been cited more than 4,000 times for endangering the lives of their passengers." Over that same period of time, 18 employees have been fired. WTOP made the spreadsheet of information available, and the category with the most infractions was "bus collisions." There were 1,650 documented. The numbers seem a bit odd, though, with 484 collisions in 2005 and only 110 in 2008. That's quite a decline. Metro GM John Catoe declined comment for the article, though a Metro spokesperson did say the agency is looking at their discipline policies. Without some context, or comparison to other transit agencies, it's difficult to make sense of these figures.

Recession over for some, frugality gets boring. The Washington Post looks at people who never really had to worry about money and gave up their credit cards because it was fashionable. Well, now, fashion is fashionable again and it's time to make up for lost handbag purchases. Retail therapy is back! While the recession may be over for some, many are still dying of AIDS and the homeless still don't have proper services. Sadly, though, donating to non-profits is not a form of retail therapy.

Damning investigation in the Post about the city's AIDS programs. If you missed the feature piece in yesterday's paper, I share some thoughts over at a new web site, District Daily.

Man stabbed and killed in Northeast. George E. Wakefield, 30, of the 1100 block of 21st Pl. NE was found stabbed near his home early Saturday. No information has been released about any motive or suspects. The location, a bit east of Trinidad is just a few blocks south of the National Arboretum.

Some residents nervous about Fort Totten redevelopment. The plans to build the "Art Place and Shops at Fort Totten" are still a bit up in the air, but residents are already being moved to temporary housing. From an article in the Post:
The foundation has not decided how the project will be financed and is awaiting city approval to move forward. The D.C. Zoning Commission recently held a hearing to discuss the request for the planned unit development. In the meantime, the foundation, which received the land as a gift about 50 years ago from the late Morris Cafritz, a real estate mogul and an influential commercial and residential builder in Washington, is moving residents into temporary apartments about a block from their current homes.
This is an interesting project, because it's being spearheaded by a 501(c)3 foundation. The goal of the project to revitalize the community and also build an 'arts outpost' of sorts. The Cafritz foundation provide current residents with new apartments when they are completed, and will also pay the difference in rent. If this turns out to be the case, this could be a great development in that area. With access to both the Red and Green Line, it could be a prime location. Seems like a good deal for everyone involved if it gets off the ground.


That's a paddlin'

Have a good weekend.
I'm going to pay zero attention to the blogosphere this weekend.

The Price of Safety: Part II, Recent derailments expose problems

Follow along with this series over at Greater Greater Washington.

Previously, we looked at a rash of accidents involving Metro track workers. A common theme across many of those incidents was a problem with the implementation of safety rules within Metro.In some cases, had rules been followed, the accidents would not have occurred. In other instances, implementation of NTSB recommendations might have averted tragedy. A similar theme emerges upon a close examination of Metro's recent history of derailments. For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the past 6 years of derailments. The fatal 1982 Orange Line derailment will be addressed in a later installment.

Since 2003, Metro has experienced a significant number of derailments. Many of these incidents involved out-of-service trains in rail yards, or on segments of pocket tracks. There are several notable incidents in recent history that have involved in-service trains, including one that resulted in passenger injuries. The causes of these derailments vary, though one factor remains the same--a failure to implement safety improvements throughout the system.

On January 20, 2003 the last car of a Blue Line train derailed along the elevated track outside of the National Airport station. Forty-six passengers were safety evacuated on that frigid night, though the damage totaled over $100,000. Over the next five years, there would be at least nine more derailments. In June of 2005, amid the rash of derailments, the Washington Post published an investigative piece entitled "Safety Warnings Often Ignored at Metro." The feature piece pours over internal Metro documents, as well as accident reports, and comes to some startling conclusions. Many of these were eerily prescient. After the National Airport crash, an internal investigation determined that employees were aware of the potential for problems. Documents showed that track managers expressed concerns relating to the type and condition of the track being used at the location. According to interviews, those concerns were passed up the chain to upper management, though no action was taken.

Warnings about other causes of derailments, such as a lack of track lubrication were also ignored. Investigators determined a lack of lubrication caused a derailment at the Alexandria rail yard. There was a brief push towards getting track properly lubricated, but over time the efforts began to falter. Don Painter, former manager of the track department, told the Post that he blamed a lack of institutional memory. "The superintendent retired, the assistant superintendent went to a different location, the maintenance manager went somewhere else, and the guys, when no one told them they needed to keep lubricating, the ball got dropped."

It took a year and several derailments later for Metro to implement directives regarding track lubrication.

Metro's track department was rife with systemic problems, especially concerning track inspections. The Post's investigation turned up a 2004 audit that showed some track workers did not know how to report problems to their superiors, and that inspectors often overlooked problems because they were required to cover an unrealistic amount of track each day. Additionally, prior to 1999 there was no official training program for track walkers, and audits showed that even after programs were implemented there was a lack of proper training.

In 2005, Susan Coughlin, a former NTSB member, noted that these incidents were "indicative of systematic oversight problems which, if left unaddressed, could produce a catastrophic accident."

Nearly four years after the Blue Line derailment, and 18 months after the Post article, a Green Line train derailed outside of the Mt. Vernon Square station. At 3:45 pm on January 7, 2007, the fifth car of the six-car train derailed, injuring 23 people. The NTSB determined that a problem with wheel maintenance caused the derailment. In the Railroad Accident Report, the NTSB also identified systemic problems within Metrorail. From the the report, RAR-07-03,

WMATA was aware of the wheel climb derailment problem with the 5000-series cars before this accident. Transit industry research and discussions with WMATA management indicate WMATA was aware of work done by the Transportation Research Board for the National Academy of Science and National Academy of Engineering on flange climb derailments in transit operations. Additionally, WMATA commissioned, participated in, and received the final Wheel-Rail Interface Study from the TTCI. Extensive testing to determine the cause of these relatively similar derailments in the 5000-series cars failed to produce a solid answer. Also, the APTA panel concluded that there was no single cause in the seven derailments it examined; however, the panel did identify several specific factors and made recommendations for WMATA to consider to prevent future derailments. Nonetheless, after requesting reviews by industry experts and funding related research work, WMATA failed to effectively address the proposed safety recommendations before this accident. The Safety Board therefore believes that WMATA should establish a process, including a single point of responsibility, to prompt timely evaluation and action on proposed safety improvements that are identified as a result of accident and derailment investigations and related research projects.
In June 2008, an Orange Line train derailed outside of the Courthouse Metro station. There were no injuries, but over 400 passengers needed to be rescued from the tunnel. Significant damage was done to the track in the area. Interestingly, the train operator did not immediately realize the derailment had occurred. A Metro supervisor happened to be riding on the train, felt a jolt, and alerted the train operator. The train had traveled more than 2,300 feet with the front wheels of the third car off the track.

An internal Metro investigation determined that a track walker had failed to report a significant problem with the track in the area. From a WMATA statement:
"Our inspector failed to recognize the out-of-tolerance rail conditions," according to Metro's Chief Safety Officer Ronald Keele. "The track conditions compounded with the forces of the moving train caused one wheel to climb atop one track and the other wheel to drop to the ground. We are very fortunate that there were no injuries."

The findings of Metro's internal investigation determined that the track inspector failed to detect "defects in the track's geometry" in the area of the derailment and "violated several inspection procedures," according to Keele.

The inspector did not inform the Operations Control Center of dangerous track conditions, did not report any dangerous or defective conditions to his supervisor, and failed to properly measure the space between the two tracks.

The inspector was suspended for five days as it was his first offense. Again, Metro stated they would work to revamp their training for track inspectors.

Metro's safety record regarding derailments highlights significant organizational deficiencies. Time and again, there was prior warning that problems could develop. Time and again, these warnings went unheeded. The same pattern emerges when looking at prior collisions and "near-misses" on Metro. Again, we see warnings from both within Metro and the NTSB that were ignored. It was no secret that trouble was brewing.

News Bullets, yell at the clouds Friday;

Why try and 'beat' the other sites to being the first to put together a list of news stories. Waiting a bit lets me capture a few of those that might slip under the radar. If you try to always read this over coffee in the morning, my apologies. The weather is still awful, looks like fall has ended in DC and we are officially moving onto that wintery-mix of horrible weather that lasts until March.

Yes, you can tweet from your iPhones on the Metro. Expanded AT&T coverage was switched on today at a selection of Metrorail stations. Over the next two years service will be expanded to the rest of the system and within tunnels. In short tunnel lengths (e.g. Metro Center to Gallery Place and to Judiciary Square) you can get a signal in the tunnels. 3G appears to work fine, as well. Hold the praise for WMATA though, expanded cell service was a federal requirement as part of a funding bill. Thanks to @perkinsms for pointing that out this morning, along with the #rainonparade hashtag.

AG Peter Nickels considering taking checkpoints to the Supreme Court. Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals refused to hear the District's appeal about the legality of police checkpoints (ala Trinidad). Golly gee, I sure hope the District takes this one all the way up to the Court. What a waste of time. Hopefully the Court wouldn't even hear this case, which is ridiculous. Setting up roadblocks and asking people for ID to enter a neighborhood does not prevent crime and does violate the constitution. AG Nickels, don't you have better things to be doing, like unfairly blocking FOIA requests?

Vincent Gray for Mayor? Nice joke. At least for now. Mike DeBonis fools us via Twitter and CityDesk with a photo of a Gray for Mayor campaign sign. It's for a campaign in Lancaster, Pa. Will Gray run? At this point it's too early to tell, and honestly, I'm not that jazzed about the idea. I don't know who could run a campaign that would 1) have a chance against Fenty and 2) be someone worth supporting. Again, the big question, will someone run against Jim Graham?

WTOP gets in on the botched firefighting demo, way after everyone else. Yes, there's a scandal unfolding regarding Chief Rubin's handling of the mishap. I'm not so much interested in the actual story at this point, but more just saddened to see WTOP bother writing a story that includes the phrase "According to the Washington Post..." Jesus, guys, make a phone call or something, you're an actual news outlet! Do some reporting.


News Bullets, wishing my office had a fireplace Thursday;

Wow, I do believe my fingers are a bit numb from this morning's cold rain. Looks like a mostly slow morning for news, with a power outage being pretty much the top story. Also of note, though some huge news about streetcars in the District.

Power outages in Northwest DC. Around 2,400 District residents are without power this morning. From the DC Alert message sent out around 8 AM: Pepco reports a Power Outage at 16th St, NW and Alaska Ave, NW. Traffic lights are also out. MPD is on the scene. DDOT Units is enroute to the scene to direct traffic. What a lovely morning to wake up without power, too.

Streetcars coming to H Street NE before Anacostia? We've been hearing for a while now about these streetcars. Tracks are being put down both along H Street NE and in Anacostia. There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered, mostly revolving around how the cars will be powered. In any event, Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) says he has a promise from Mayor Fenty to get the cars running along H Street first. From the WBJ:
"I called Fenty and asked Fenty and he said he would make H Street first," Wells said. "It completely transforms that whole corridor." Running a starter line in a place where residents will embrace it was essential, he added. "It’s probably the biggest decision about streetcars."
Once all of the technical issues are worked out, a streetcar could be very interesting to see. The shift in emphasis to H Street is huge news. However, despite Wells' comments, this is all mostly conjecture still. A Gallery Place to H Street Circulator would be a good measure to push for in the meantime.

Does FOIA need some fixing in the District? Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) thinks so, and is planning a bill to accelerate FOIA response time. The Washington Times (I know, right, I'm surprised as well) has a write-up about the bill, and the circumstances that have led to Cheh's actions. From my limited experience (which will likely grow over time), FOIA requests will be answered completely and in a timely manner if the materials tell a story that's favorable to the agency in question. It appears in most other cases you will receive incomplete results or nothing at all. In most cases, you would have to go to court to demand the documents, and that's still no promise you will receive them. So yes, it does seem FOIA could use some improvement. Cheh is no fan of DC Attorney General Peter Nickles, who has been accused stonewalling FOIA requests. There are no details yet as to what Cheh's planned bill would include.

Speaking of DC Government documents... Mike DeBonis at the City Paper has an email from Supreme Commander, D.C. Schools Michelle Rhee to Acting DPR Chief Ximena Hartstock. The October 5 email explains that Rhee was speaking to the Washington Post editorial board on behalf of Hartstock. Rhee assured Hartstock there would be a positive editorial the next day. Visit CityDesk to see a screenshot of the email. Also, here is the editorial that Rhee was discussing.


News Bullets, rules and regulations Wednesday;

108 and counting. Yesterday's horrific drive-by shooting in Northeast added to the homicide count. As reported everywhere, two teenagers were killed and three more wounded near a housing project in the 5300 block of Clay Terrace NE. This occurred the same day that the City Paper ran an article crediting Chief Lanier with the drop in homicides. What's puzzling is that violent crime across the U.S. has been down this year. I'll go ahead and agree with the CP's basic premise, that Lanier's information sharing initiatives are more productive than her gimmicks. I still think it's far too early to be crediting anyone with a predicted drop in violent crime.

Transit union to 'protest' by following the 'rules.' File this under confusing public relations strategies. Metro's employee union is urging all bus drivers to operate "by the book," which will result in slower travel times. Buses will travel the speed limit and not pass each other at stops. Also, bus drivers will not be driving buses with broken turn signals and no speedometers. The story seems to get spun as 'a protest'--a way to piss off customers to get management to do something. Management shouldn't be encouraging drivers to speed or drive broken equipment. And so now, after two pedestrians have been struck (in one case it looks likely the bus driver was at fault), the union decides to encourage drivers to follow the rules? I don't know, but maybe that should have been the case, always?

Wild pack of dogs threatened police on horseback in Fort Dupont Park. That was a fun headline to type. A pack of 16 dogs threatened to attack a U.S. Park Police officer who was training a horse in the park in Anacostia. The officer fired his weapon to scare the dogs away, and then chased them back through the woods. He found a woman with more dogs near a car. The woman was taken into custody on an outstanding traffic warrant.

DDOT will have a meeting tonight about the K Street Transitway. This could be big, if it ever gets done. The District will present information about an environmental assessment for two different design options. Public comments are encouraged. The meeting will be tonight at 6PM at the Carnegie Library, 801 K St NW. If we can get the K Street Transitway done, along with streetcar lines in Anacostia and H Street NE within 10 years, I'll be amazed. At that point I'll definitely advocate Gabe Klein to serve a term or two as Secretary of Transportation.

The Real World DC is actually over. The cast has left D.C. Hey, guess what, it wasn't a big deal. It'll be interesting to watch a few the episodes, I'm sure. The show's executive producer told NBC4:
"The neighborhood was great. The people in town were great. We had a wonderful time. We love it here. Washington, D.C., is an amazing, livable city, and I think as an outsider you didn't know that. You knew about the monuments, but you didn't know what a great city it was, and we all discovered that."
Maybe the show will do some good for D.C., at least help the rest of apathetic America realize actual people live in the city.

AT&T signal at Judiciary Square? I briefly had full AT&T service (no 3g, though) while my Red Line train was at Judiciary Square today. Was this a fluke? Didn't have enough time to try and make a phone call, and the signal faded as we got into the tunnel.


News Bullets, up in flames Tuesday;

Marion Barry has been released from the hospital. Just in time to lead the charge for the new Civil War over gay marriage. Barry had been admitted to the hospital last Monday for dehydration, and was moved to the ICU for a kidney infection. This man only has one kidney, and it isn't his, so he's got to be careful. Guess all that Haterade he was drinking during the Ximena Harstock hearings didn't do much to keep him hydrated.

THEY STILL CANNOT GET IT RIGHT. Yesterday there was a shooting at 1300 1st Street, SW. Chicquelo Abney, 18, was killed and one other person was injured. As I noted yesterday, DC Fire and EMS tweeted about the incident, reporting the location as 1300 I St, SW. WUSA9 re-reported this, though it was eventually corrected. NewsChannel 8 is still using the WJLA copy that places the shooting at 1300 1st St NW. How hard is it for people to look at a map?

Lanier shrinks MPD's Gay and Lesbian Liason Unit. The Washington Post looks at how the MPD hiring freeze, as well as officer redeployment will affect the department's specialty unit. Essentially less officers will remain dedicated members of the GLLU, while more officers will receive brief training to assist with issues in the community. Many say that the reduction of dedicated officers will work against the goal of the unit. There's still little information about the investigation of the stabbing of two transgendered women in Truxton Circle. Initial speculation was that it may have been a hate crime, though I have been unable to find out any more information. No suspects have been arrested.

Fire Department Sprinkler Demonstration turned into "a comedy act." Last week a DC Fire Department sprinkler demonstration went horribly wrong. One firefighter was injured when a plexiglas curtain went up in flames, melted, and dripped onto firefighters setting their gear ablaze. As it turns out there was no safety officer present at the demonstraton, no safety briefing had been done, and there was no backup line to put out the fire in the event that it spread. DC F&EMS Chief Dennis Rubin said it "looked like a comedy act."

Man attacks GW grad student with a hammer.
The GW Hatchet is reporting that a male grad student was attacked in a campus bathroom by a man wielding a hammer. The attack occured on Friday, and the suspect is described as a bald, possibly middle eastern man between the ages of 25-40.


Hopefully DC F&EMS is better at dispatching than tweeting

This afternoon @dcfireems tweeted about a shooting in Southwest D.C. The message text was:
shooting - 1300 blk I st SW - 2 victims Priority 1 - serious and life-threatening transp to hosp PD investigating
As far as I know, and I could be wrong, there is no 1300 block of I Street, SW. Or the shooting was on a boat located at an estimated location of 1300 I Street, SW.

Perhaps they meant the 1300 block of 1st Street. Or maybe it was in SE? There's not really a 1300 block in Southeast either. Was it downtown? I think we'd see more coverage if it was at 13th and I NW.

Remember folks, this is the same @dcfireems that will keep you informed in the event of a nuclear blast.

UPDATE: WUSA9 is parroting the incorrect tweet:
WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA)-- Two men were transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries after a shooting on the 1300 block of Eye Street SW.

DC Police say the shooting occurred at approximately 1:15 PM. They say they found one man at the above location and a second man was found shot in the neck in the alley way off N Street SW.

Police say they still don't have a motive for the shooting but they are looking for a black male, wearing a black hoodie, and blue jeans,

Police also recovered a weapon at the scene.

We will have more on the story on 9NEWS NOW and WUSA9.COM
Written by 9NEWS NOW
At this point, with the reference to N St SW, I'll speculate the shooting was actually in the 1300 block of 1st Street SW. Way to fact check, WUSA9.

UPDATE x2: I tweeted a correction to @WUSA9:
@WUSA9 @dcfireems I'm pretty sure you all mean the 1300 block of 1st Street SW. Because 1300 Eye Street SW doesn't exist.

Their response was:
@DaveStroup It's 1300 I street as in the letter I, it's spelled out as eye so people don't think it's 1st street :-) thanks!
Now I'm just shaking my head.

How did everyone else do? Well, WJLA sort of gets it right, they say "Southwest" in the headline. But then they report the address as the 1300 block of 1st Street NW.

News Bullets, federal 'holiday' Monday;

Today is Columbus Day, a rather pointless holiday unless you happen to work for the federal government or a bank. The Metro is operating on the "It's a Sunday, and SW DC has just been bombed" schedule, so my apologies if your daily commute involves traveling south of Gallery Place on the Green or Yellow lines.

Man arrested had threatened to blow up Metro trains. Police say a man arrested last week near the Friendship Heights Metro station had made threats to "blow up people and the Metro." The man, Ahamed Pinto Ali, has been charged with threatening to "place a destructive device" near mass transportation with the "intent to endanger the safety of any person, and with reckless disregard for the safety of human life." Police briefly evacuated the area but located no actual explosives. Ali did have a notebook with the words "I will kill" written as well as diagrams of local buildings.

Criminals show lack of respect for Columbus. There were several shootings around the District this weekend, though details are a bit slow to trickle out. On Friday reports are that two Hispanic men were shot near 13th and W, NW. The suspects, two black males in their 20s, escaped. On Sunday, a man was shot near the corner of 8th and H Street, NE. The suspects were described as assailants on bicycles. Prince of Petworth has reports of shots fired at the intersection of Euclid Street and Columbia Road in Adams Morgan (near the Christian Science Reading Room). No one was hit, but a suspect was arrested and two handguns recovered.

Sign a fancier on-line petition regarding Metro. Michael Perkins over at GGW has a petition calling on the area governments to fully fund Metro. This is a great idea, as many of Metro's problems stem from a stable revenue source. This petition is much better done than the Fire Catoe petition, which I fully admit was constructed in haste. Online petitions are pretty much good for one thing, and one thing alone--getting media attention. The more outrageous your demands, the more people in the news will pay attention. I fully support Michael's efforts and signed the petition myself, we'll see if it gets any traction.

Jack Evans wants the Circulator to go to Rosslyn. The Ward 2 councilmember wants the rules changed so that D.C. Circulator routes can leave the District. The goal is to replace the Georgetown Metro Connection (blue bus) with the Circulator. It's interesting that the Council may be considering expanding the Circulator program just weeks after DDOT flip-flopped on cutting service up Wisconsin Avenue. The Circulator route currently connects Georgetown to the Metro via Foggy Bottom. Service to Rosslyn would be helpful for some, I'm sure, but I can think of a few other ideas for new routes within the District that would be useful. (Possibly extending the Woodley Park line up to Cleveland Park, or over to the Cathedral. Not to mention, I don't know, something to reach over to H Street NE.

DC GOP Chair is a hip twenty-something who likes Bloc Party and the Killers. No, really, read all about it.

Also, don't miss a special Sunday post, "What we talk about when we talk about hating D.C."


What we talk about when we talk about hating DC

Over the past few months I've spent a good deal of time here explaining myself, noting that "I don't really hate DC." It is true that I don't loathe DC the way James or Rusty did. I'm not itching to get out of here, ready to accept some destination such as Columbus, Ohio as superior to the District of Columbia.

That said, though, we all have our reasons to hate DC. Let's be honest, it's not that hard. There's a reason why people read this site, and it's not just because they want to hear my musings on DC politics. There's good reason to hate DC. It's especially easy for the young 'transplants' to hate this city, and most of them end up leaving. Generally, I'm shocked that I've stuck it out here for as long as I have, and by the day it seems I'm well on my way to staying put for the long-haul.

I was in the mood to put together a list, so here's a look at a few common "I hate DC" statements.

I can't find a good job. It's absolutely true. If you moved to DC straight out of college or grad school, you are not going to land your dream job out of the gate. Unless people commonly refer to your father as Senator or Former President, you will not be changing the world before age 25. Deal with it. While you may have gone to Brown (hey, it's a good school, right?) and always been told you will be President one day, that day is not today. Tomorrow doesn't look good either.

You have no friends. You moved here straight out of college, and maybe your friends all went to New York. It's extremely difficult for many people to make friends in this town. Generally, the only people who will speak to you are homeless people, those ACLU canvassers, and maybe someone who is trying to get in your pants. Here's a tip, if you want to make friends in this town get a job in the retail or service industry. I don't care how many "non-profit professionals" meet-ups you go to, you aren't going to come away with a good group of friends.

There are too many homeless people. There is a significant amount of homeless people in D.C. Not only do you have the city's local population, but you also have people (sadly, especially veterans) who come from across the country to the nation's capital. Walk through Chinatown on a Sunday morning and you'll likely have at least one person shove a Veterans' Administration ID card in your face, asking for $14 to buy a bus ticket to Harper's Ferry. Don't worry, the DC Government has added a whopping negative $20 million dollars for homeless services this year. (Yeah, see what I did there, that's called "political communication." Maybe you'll make some friends and land that dream job after you get an MA in it from George Washington University.)

I want a one bedroom apartment close to the Metro for $800/month. Everything in this city is expensive. If you are moving to DC from any other major city in the United States (except maybe New York or San Francisco) prepare to pay amounts you never imagined possible for accommodations you would have previously laughed at. Oh, you had a one bedroom apartment near Wicker Park in Chicago and only paid $900? You want to live near U Street now? Double that and that's about what to expect. If you want to live near anything fun or a Metro station, you'll need a better job.

What do I do with my car? The Metro sucks. If you live in the District, it's going to be a bitch for you to park your car. Especially since you don't want to change your residency to DC, and you live in a group house with six other people and no dedicated parking spots. Also, the Metro likely is far away from where you live and doesn't always go where you want it to. It's also delayed a lot. Get DC tags for your car, and learn about street sweeping schedules. Better yet, ditch the car, and learn the buses. After a few years, you'll likely resign yourself to the fact that you'll spend a whole lot of time waiting.

The government is so corrupt. Again, absolutely correct. The same could be said, likely, for other cities but that's not particularly an excuse. The Government of the District of Columbia has many, many problems and it's unlikely any sort of earth-shattering reform will happen any time soon. It would help if more of the "young, idealistic" types got involved at the local level, but even so that's not enough people to unseat Jim Graham or Adrian Fenty. Only increased demands for transparency and something better will help, and that will take decades. In the meantime we'll continue to shake our heads at the fact that governments are perfectly able to pull money straight out of their asses to pay for all sorts of military equipment, while local jurisdictions have to kick battered women out of shelters because of decreased tax revenue.

There's a lot to hate about DC. It's a cliquish town that's easy to move to but hard to make your home. A good deal of people who gripe about DC are the ones who still consider themselves outsiders. I started reading this site when I was still a student, and I didn't know if I'd stay in DC. It's been seven years now, and I'm still here. There's plenty of things I hate, but with each passing year I begin to understand why people say "if you hate it so much, why don't you move."

It's not that we love DC, but more that we've come to accept it. It's the nation's capital, and in theory, a place full of promise. We were promised a city on a hill but instead ended up with a dream deferred. It's no easy task to make the District of Columbia your home, but when you do, you'd like it if some people could show it just a little bit of respect.

That includes both 'transplants' and 'elected officials.'


News Bullets, Metrobusted Friday;

For those who try to read WIHDC over their morning coffee, my apologies. I've been a bit sick this morning, so here's an abbreviated edition of the day's news.

Ben Ali dies, Ben's Chili Bowl trends on Twitter. The news of Ben Ali's death spread across a mostly broken Twitter yesterday, causing "Ben's Chili Bowl" to be a top tweeted term. A friend of mine who lives in Canada even mentioned it to me, though false rumors that the restaurant was closing were also spreading. Mike DeBonis at the City Paper had a good piece yesterday about what Ben's stands for in the DC social/political scene.

Don't bother using Metrorail this weekend.
Last month we dealt with limited Yellow/Blue line service to Virginia over the Labor Day weekend. This month, we have limited service over the Columbus Day weekend. Metro did give us plenty of warning, but far less people have Monday off this time around. I know Metro needs to do a lot of work all around the system, so holiday weekends are preferable. This is going to be a pain in the ass, though, for anyone who has to work on Monday anywhere near Southwest.

With the word of DC legends Jawbox reuniting, one last push for Cello player. The classic DC band lead by J. Robbins will be playing the Jimmy Kimmel show on December 8. You can see more about this over at the City Paper. J. Robbins also helped Alexandria Rock Cellist Gordon Withers record his forthcoming album. WTOP ran a feature today on Withers' efforts to crowdfund the production of the album. We mentioned his efforts here a while back. Check out his project and if you want, pre-order a copy of the album.

Rash of cab robberies in Northeast. Police are searching for a man they say is responsible for a serious string of cab robberies in Northeast. What's amazing is that in two of these cases the man also stole the cabs. WJLA-TV has a photo of the suspect, who also may have robbed the Lowest Price gas station on 12th Street NE. Unrelated, there was also a shootout in Northeast, in the 500 block of Edgewood St. NE. A woman was shot, and then an armed Special Police Offcer returned fire. The woman is in critical condition as of the last update.

Apologies for the brevity and lack of humor. It's a beautiful day out, if you aren't sick or swamped in work, go outside and enjoy it.


Why Metro's "return to normal" statement is meaningless

Yesterday, Metro was very pleased to announce that regular service was restored on the Red Line, 107 days after the fatal June 22 accident. Specifically, the track circuit repairs between the Fort Totten and Takoma stations had been completed. Previously trains were running at reduced speeds, and often one at a time through the area near the crash site. The restoration of "normal service" means these restrictions have been lifted.

Except, not really. The NTSB has not yet completed their investigation, and no definitive cause for the accident has been identified. There's been hints to the cause, most of which focus on the track circuit system malfunctioning. It's unclear why it took over 100 days to perform the repairs, though it appears as though Metro replaced everything that could have possibly broken.

So why isn't this a good thing? Why can't we just close the book and move on and ride on the Metro and be happy? Well, track circuits are still malfunctioning. According to Metro's own Internet-available records, it's happening on most every line and with frequency. When these circuits malfunction, speed is decreased in the area and trains have to be manually dispatched one at a time through the segment of track.

I ride on the Red Line every day. Having done a good deal of research into Metro and their safety record, and the June 22 crash, I can't say I'm at all encouraged. I used to think I'd feel a little more at ease knowing more about the system, in those moments stuck in the tunnel. The other day, when the 'explosion' occurred near Metro Center, I was in a train waiting between Farragut North and Metro Center. We sat for about 15 minutes in the tunnel, and I could see the lights of the train waiting behind us. Once we finally got moving again, the train struggled. This isn't the first time this has happened in that spot, the train would jerk a bit as it moved maybe 15-20 feet forwards, then roll back another 5, brake, and then try again. Took a good 2 minutes or so to get rolling again. I saw the lights of the following train get closer while we tried to move. It wasn't exactly comforting. I know that a collision is unlikely, but it's also a non-zero possibility.

Track circuits are malfunctioning, resulting in delays and slowdowns. Service is not back to normal, and it's unlikely it will be back to normal any time soon. The specific cause of the 6/22 crash hasn't been identified, and there is not yet a real-time monitoring system for circuit malfunctions. "Normal" was a system where these track circuit problems were not being detected, and where trains crashed into one another. "Normal" is a Metrorail where safety issues are not a priority. To say that the system has returned to "normal" is meaningless.

Repairs have been done, but there's a long way to go before Metrorail restores "full service" or returns to any sort of safe, sustainable status that could be called "normal." Let's not pretend that the problems that led up to the 6/22 crash have been fixed.