News Bullets, Nickles versus Nichols Thursday;

Good morning. My apologies for the light posting as of late, I've been working on some big changes behind the scenes. I'm taking a lot of the reader feedback into account, and hopefully most everyone will be pleased with what comes out of this. No timeline on when anything will happen, but I'm working on it.

Metro sez Red Line service "returned to normal."
I'll have more on this in a full-length post later, but I believe the reaction all around the area is "You lie!" Metro issued a press release yesterday touting that the circuit repairs between Fort Totten and Takoma have been completed. Remember that the NTSB has not yet identified the root cause of the June 22 collision, so more repairs and upgrades may be necessary. While service at the location of the crash may be 'closer to normal,' trains are still running in manual mode, and circuit malfunctions around the entire system continue to cause delays and slowdowns. "Returned to normal" is a poor phrase, as normal still means broken.

Taxicab scandal now includes murder plots. According to the FBI, following Ted Loza's arrest alleged consiprator Yitbaerk Syume discussed killing an informant with an undercover agent. Syume planned have Abdulaziz Kamus "permanently eliminated." I'm not surprised, given that the media threw around Kamus's name as an informant. I hope beyond hope that when all of this shakes out and heads roll, we do get some kind of real taxicab reform in this town. Here's the way the process works: Councilchair Vincent Gray takes taxicab oversight away from Jim Graham, and the Council works on new 'taint-free' legislation. Harsh oversight, no more half-assed meters duct-taped to the dash and no taxi-license in sight. No more "I don't have change for a $20." Cabs are one of the most prolific, least regulated businesses in this city.

There's a really complicated documents scandal unfolding in the DC Government. I feel like this is something I should be following, at least in order to better present this in news bullet fashion. DC Attorney General Peter Nickels denied Deborah Nichols, the DC Auditor, access to documents pertaining to some land deals the District was involved in. Nichols went to court, and yesterday District Superior Court judge Eugene Hamilton ruled that she should have access to the documents. What does any of this mean? Well, it shows a glaring lack of transparency, with the executive branch attempting to block access to the auditor. That's never a good sign. The documents in question pertain to two corporations set up by the DC Council to promote development, including along the Anacostia waterfront. Both corporations dissolved in 2007. It's unclear to me why Nickels would be hesitant to turn over these documents, this could use some more investigation.

Metro's cell phone policy is stricter than the drug and alcohol policy. The Examiner reports that drug and alcohol policy violators can be given a second chance to avoid firing. Under the employee union's collective bargaining agreement violators are offered a chance at rehabilitation. Upon a second violation, they can be fired, but at some point the record is wiped clean. Metro does say that employees can be fired if their drug or alcohol use contributes to an accident. In a related story, the Examiner notes that 8 Metrobus drivers failed drug and alcohol tests following crashes. Unfortunately the Examiner isn't able to track down what the circumstances surrounding those accidents were, or what the eventual outcome was (driver fired, etc). An interesting statistic but without more information it's mostly useless. Other than to say that seems a staggeringly high amount of drug/alcohol-related crashes in a one-year period. We'll see if WMATA issues a "real deal." Also to take away, the Metrobus safety handbook has not been updated in 20 years. Remember, safety is everyone's responsibility. Maybe we can make Metro a safety wiki.

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