To start off, 14th & You has some information on volunteer opportunities for Thanksgiving, which I have taken the liberty of copying and pasting into this post:
Over at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, SaVanna Wanzer is looking for volunteers on Wednesday at 4 PM to assist in the preparation and cooking of a charity Thanksgiving dinner. Give her a call at 202-797-3509 if you are interested.Man stages protest at 17th and K Streets NW, throws Molotov cocktails. As a friend put it, "it's like Grand Theft Auto but funnier." Not so funny for the man who is now in custody, though. The protester, identified as Kyung Song "James" Kil, was demanding "Justice" and $200 million. Fox5 has some more information, though it's very unclear exactly why he wanted $200 million. Downtown traffic was snarled as police searched the vehicle, a rented U Haul van.
Emmaus Services for the Aging: Every year on Thanksgiving, Emmaus coordinates the delivery of over 150 Thanksgiving meals to needy seniors throughout the city. This year, they will be delivering meals from 10a - noon, and they could use some help. Although their website is out of date (at this point, I've given up hope on the October 2007 newsletter "coming soon") I've been told on good authority that you contact Patricia Hughes at 202-745-1200 if you are interested in volunteering.
Burgundy Crescent Volunteers are going to be busy throughout the day on Thanksgiving. They need volunteers from the ungodly hour of 4:45 am - 7:00 am for "unspecified duties". From 10:30a - 2p they will be serving dinner to the needy at Rosemary's Thyme, located at the corner of 18th and S. From noon - 2p, they are organizing a clothing drop-off, also at Rosemary's (if nothing else, it's a perfect opportunity to clean out your closets). Finally (whew) they will be serving lunch from 10a - 3p at the Green Door Clubhouse, a home for those with mental disabilities. Interested in volunteering for any of these events? Contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food and Friends needs volunteers to deliver meals throughout the day on Thanksgiving (shifts are available on the hour from 8a - 11a). They also need volunteers to assist with meal preparation and to coordinate activities on what promises to be a very busy day. Click here to learn more about volunteering on Thanksgiving Day.
The Community for Creative Nonviolence, the nation's largest homeless shelter, is preparing to serve Thanksgiving meals to over 2,000 needy individuals on Thanksgiving Day. If that sounds like a formidable task, that's because it is--and they could use some help with all that needs to be done. Specifically, they could use some assistance preparing food, serving meals and spending time with their guests. No sign-up is necessary, but those who are interested should call 202-393-1909 in advance for information.
Finally, while not specifically Thanksgiving related, while we're on the subject of food, the Capital Area Food Bank is always looking for donations in time and goods to help them fulfill their mission--now and throughout the year. Click here to learn more about what you can do to assist them.
Arrest made in cold case homicide from 1997. Sharon Moskowitz was murdered in her Adams Morgan apartment 12 years ago, after walking in on a burglary. Thanks to enhanced video footage, a suspect was identified. Frederick Edward Morton, now 57, was already serving a jail sentence in Pennsylvania. He has been brought to the District and charged with first-degree murder.
Barry's bird giveaway botched. Police were called to calm a crowd looking for free turkeys in Ward 8. The giveaway is a tradition, but this year demand far exceeded supply. To receive a free turkey, residents needed to supply proof of residency in Ward 8. Many left empty-handed. I find it interesting that there was more demand, more identification required, and more problems at a turkey giveaway than at the D.C. H1N1 vaccination clinics.
In case you missed it, Wizards owner Abe Pollin is dead at age 85. The pioneering owner with gusto passed away Tuesday. There's pretty much wall-to-wall coverage of Pollin on every news outlet. His bio is worth a read if you didn't know much about him.
Washington Post no longer a national newspaper. The Post is shutting down its few remaining bureaus in major U.S. cities. Offices in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles will be closed to save money and re-focus efforts on coverage of Washington, D.C. news. We'll see how well that works out.
Metro tests extra lights at stations, still can't fix escalators. New lighting has been installed at the Judiciary Square station, reports Lena Sun with the Post. The new lights are in the mezzanine area, and were a result of rider complaints. Still broken, however, are the escalators at the Q Street entrance at the Dupont Circle station. Two of the three escalators have been broken for some time. Sometimes I think it would be faster and cheaper to send someone to engineering school, have them invent a new escalator, manufacture and ship the parts to D.C. and install it themselves. This is a bit ridiculous. I don't know if the $38,000 spend on extra lighting could help accelerate escalator repairs, but meh.
That's it. Enjoy the holiday. Thanks for reading.
Washington Post follows up on a missing persons case from February. Pam Butler, 47, disappeared without a trace the day before Valentine's Day this year. Her boyfriend, Jose Rodriguez-Cruz, was initially a person of interest, though no charges were ever filed. Butler has not been seen or heard from since, and MPD has had very little to go on. Not many new details are revealed, but the piece profiles both Butler and Rodriguez-Cruz. This is the first part of a series the Post is doing on the case.
Tri-State Oversight Committee monitors to inspect Metro tracks next month. After much controversy, independent inspectors will have access to Metro tracks. As I've noted time and again, Metro's suffers from a lack of transparency and a lack of emphasis on safety. Inspections are a good thing, but for this to ever become something more, there will need to be surprise inspections with no notice, to see how Metro operates on a day-to-day basis.
District settles in case over mass arrests in 2000. The D.C. government has agreed to pay $13.7 million to roughly 600 protesters who were arrested in 2000. The plaintiffs were activists arrested after sitting down in a street already closed by D.C. police. Some were also making gazpacho. From CityDesk:
The deal includes a maximum payment of $18,000 to each of the 600 people on the class-action suit. Up next, Pershing Park.
The Becker case also included individuals who had sat in a street already closed by D.C. Police. They had linked arms in such a way rendering them useless. D.C. cops had charged at them and beat them with batons. The activists suffered broken noses and head wounds as a result.
Messineo recalls the scene he uncovered through the lawsuit: "A [police official] shouted 'let’s do it!' and the officers charged off the bus, their badges and nameplates removed. They took the batons and smashed them into the faces of people who’s arms were immobilized. They suffered broken noses, broken teeth."
Nothing new here--sadly--D.C. cabs discriminate. Fox5 does an investigation on taxicab discrimination. What we know: It's hard for a black man to get a cab in this town. Fox5 goes out and proves it. We've all likely seen this first hand, I've seen friends of mine waving $20 bills at cabs, trying to get a ride to Petworth and having the cabs drive away. I've hailed a cab for a friend, only to have the cab drive away when he tries to get in. While taxicab robberies do occur, this outright, ridiculous discriminate is completely uncalled for. Yet another thing to file under, "we resign ourselves to this."
A reader, Nikhil, sent in an account of a recent robbery on the Red Line. I thought I would post this, it's a good example of a brazen rush-hour snatch, and highlights the difficulties of catching the suspects.
On Nov 10th, 2009 , I was returning from my office in DC by the WMATA metro train. For the past two years , I have been using the same route (Red Line) to commute to office.In a follow-up email, Nikhil wrote:
When I reached Friendship Heights , I sent out a message to my wife that I reached the station, so she can come and pick me up at Twinbrook station. This was at 5:32 PM.
The train was crowded, as expected, as these were peak hours of commute. I was sitting close to the door with my haversack between my legs. I was playing a game on my iPhone. There were about three guys standing near the door.
At about 5:40 PM, the train pulled up at Medical Center station and the doors opened. Suddenly , in a swift action, one of the guys standing , snatched the haversack and ran out. Another guy grabbed the iPhone from my hand, which I tried to hold on to. He managed to break it free out of my hand and fled too. As an instant reaction, I ran after them out the train. On the platform, I yelled "Hey, that's my bag." That's all I remember.
I probably fell down after that. I had a concussion and don't remember much. My jaw is broken in two places. The doctors have wired it shut and I am on liquid diet
Somehow I am not as angry at the robbers, as I am at the system. How can the security let this just happen, in the peak hours of commute? Even if it did happen, how come the criminals are not found?
Today I went to the metro detectives. We saw the videos of what happened. Apparently when I ran after the robbers, one of them punched and pushed me to the side. Anyways the cameras are worthless at Medical Center. If such a robbery happens again, there is no way of finding the robbers.Sadly, this happens all too often on Metro. The crowds during rush hour provide excellent opportunities for a getaway, and with current staffing there's no way to have a police presence at every station. Nikhil wonders how the system could be made safer, and this is a good question. As it stands now, people who commit robberies on Metro are almost guaranteed an easy getaway. Metro has been deploying undercover 'bait' units to try and catch these crimes in progress, but it's unlikely that will serve as much of a deterrent.
All I can say is if you are the victim of a robbery on Metro, be sure to report it, even if it is a hassle and even if it's unlikely the suspect will be caught. Accurate crime statistics are necessary to secure more funding for transit police. Sadly, there's no easy fix to stopping crime on the Metro, no easier a fix than stopping robberies on the street. Hopefully we'll see more cooperative efforts between transit police and MPD or surrounding jurisdictions with criminals utilizing Metro for crimes or for getaways.
Another rash of suicides on the Metro. Over the weekend a woman was killed at the Brookland station when she jumped in front of a train. This follows a death a week earlier at McPhereson Square. This year has seen a record number of suicides by Metro, and the transit agency had been in talks to help train front-line employees to intervene. The Examiner had the big scare headline this morning, but the article does have some interesting information.
*gasp* a new Michelle Rhee controversy! This time we've also got a sex scandal and the Obama Administration. It's a gross sex scandal, to be fair. I haven't even begun to research all of this, but it looks like Rhee went to bat for her (now) fiance when he was accused of sexual misconduct. DCist had a good round-up of the hubub this weekend, and Loose Lips had some details as well.
Student seriously wounded in fight at charter school in Northeast. A 17-year-old student was stabbed and seriously wounded Friday afternoon at the Young America Works Public Charter School in Northeast. MPD has a suspect in custody, who is also a student at the charter school near the D.C.-Maryland line, in the Riggs Park neighborhood.
Another safety problem for Metro, this time on the Silver Line. As construction on Metro's Silver Line continues, questions have been raised about safety. A 32-year-old pylon is at the focus of a Federal Transit Administration investigation. The foundation for a future bridge was laid decades ago, and the contractor working on the Dulles rail extension has resisted conducting structural testing.
At issue is whether enough testing has been done on the pilings within the pier foundations. Until federal officials intervened, Dulles Transit Partners, the contractor building the first 11.7 miles of the $5.2 billion, 23-mile Silver Line, resisted testing most of the foundations, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post through Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews.We've got a lot of buck passing between the FTA, the construction firm, DOT and the airport authority, so it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Who will evaluate the evaluators? The Post has an interesting look at Michelle Rhee's new teacher evaluation program, dubbed IMPACT. An experienced teacher gives his thoughts on the system, and why it seems inappropriate for those teaching middle or high school. Reading this piece does make it seem as though Rhee's new system is a bit absurd. If anything, it goes to demonstrate that any sort of rigid "points" system will generally fail to properly evaluate anything in the real world.
Get ready for Fenty's birthday bash. Mike DeBonis has some of the details of the ridiculous affair that will play out on December 5. Fenty is turning 39, and coincidentally also running for re-election for Mayor of the District of Columbia. The party will be held in a giant empty mansion built on land intended to house a mayoral mansion. I, for one, am glad that there is not a mayoral mansion.
I didn't have a chance to comment on the murder of Oscar Fuentes, but let me just say a few things. I'll even be a bit controversial. Sort of. This is an uncomfortable topic for many people to discuss.
A 9 year-old boy was shot and killed in his family's apartment about 1,500 feet away from where I live. Just blocks away from multimillion dollar developments and areas that have seen redevelopment in the last few years. But also, just blocks away from the scenes of plenty of other violent crimes.
The obvious things: A lot has changed in Columbia Heights in the last decade. I don't think anyone, not even Petula Dvorak at the Post, is trying to say that's not the case. I'm not going to argue that the commercial development on 14th Street has been a bad thing. It hasn't. It's created jobs and drawn people from all over the city to the area. It has boosted housing prices and in just the past few years we've seen many properties around that area get rehabbed and new ones get built. For people looking for a place to live in the city, it can be very attractive. It's close to transit, has plenty of retail, so on and so forth.
However, it's also very close to a crime hotspot that hasn't changed much at all. And, it seems, for the time being will not change. Let's be clear here, in most cases, the crime in Columbia Heights does not directly impact the neighborhood's new residents. There are robberies to be sure, but generally we do not read stories of people getting shot coming home from work. As such, it's difficult to put a human face on the tragedy that plays out all too often in the neighborhood.
Here's where things get uncomfortable, so let's just say it. The affluent people moving to Columbia Heights don't suffer much from the violent crime located near public and low-income housing. Until we hear about a 9-year-old child getting killed, it's difficult to even humanize the crime statistics. Far too often I see comments like "well, at least that's one less gang-banger" after a shooting.
Anyone who tries, even for a minute, to pretend Columbia Heights isn't a perfect example of the "two cities" problem is full of crap. Completely. Are there people in the neighborhood who are concerned about crime? Of course. Are there people in the neighborhood who donate money and volunteer in the neighborhood? I'm sure. However, the longer we go without even talking about this, the deeper the divide grows.
In the Post, Dvorak contrasts an empty playground and the feeling of hopelessness among the lower income residents with frivolous complaints about a coffeeshop on a blog. I think her comparison is a great one, because it shows this divide. I'm not going to say I'm some sort of saint who is spending his days trying to find big picture solutions to cycles of poverty. However, I'm not going to pretend like these problems don't exist. Where is the mayor on this? He should take a page from Obama's book and get out there and talk about this. Say a few things that are uncomfortable. You can't find a solution to a problem if you don't even acknowledge the problem exists.
Instead of calling Petula Dvorak names, I'm glad she's at least sparked a bit of debate here. A tragedy is a tragedy, and a nine year-old boy was shot and killed in his home. Many others have been shot, and many others have died in acts of violence in this neighborhood. Some were gang members, and some were criminals. Before they joined gangs, and before they committed crimes, they were little boys just like Oscar Fuentes. They were dealt a shitty hand, and not everyone gets to escape from a life of poverty and crime. I hate so much the fact that we become so desensitized to crime that we forget this.
Being away from blogging for a couple days was also a much needed break. Things move so fast in the world of the Internet, and stepping back for a second reminds you that life can go a bit slower. That's a thing I hate about DC, and to a certain extent, the 'blogopshere' in general. No one takes any time to read, or really even think. I'm guilty of this as well, how I opted to do "news bullets" rather than say 2-3 longer pieces each week. To a point this is more successful, people love being able to read a site's content in 15-20 seconds. Who has time to read the longer stuff? Who reads a 2,000 word piece on Metro?
Things in DC move so fast, and everyone races to cover the same story and get their own $0.02. This results in that same echo chamber we see often, where two or three stories dominate the blogs and everything else falls through the cracks. I hate this. I've had a lot of people tell me that they wish there was a site that in a (short) glance, gave them a picture of what's going on in DC. Not lifestyle stuff, but news. A site that touches on the big stories, but also keeps people in the loop about ongoing topics. A site that smashes the whole idea of 'news cycles' into bits and starts over.
That's the direction I'm going to take the other site, and I'm working on some fancy mission statements and all. However, I've noticed that in DC people get bogged down in planning. There's been a few projects I've tried to be involved in, but I got sick of the entire process of having two or three orientation meetings, followed up informal gatherings, where nothing gets done and people just talk about themselves.
I'm writing about this here, because I'm guessing there are a few of you who feel the same way. I'm looking for a few people to help over at District Daily, to turn it into something that serves everyone in the city, not just bloggers or policy wonks. A site that distills the big topics in our city and presents them in any easy to read, easy to understand format. It'll follow up on stories, and also provide a human touch. If you're interested in helping out, you need have no qualifications other than interest. We won't have a bunch of B.S. meetings, and you can likely start building this without even meeting me in person. It's about doing, not talking. Reach me at email@example.com.
Back to WIHDC. A common thread I've noticed is when I visit other cities, I always wish I could stay there. Of course there are problems everywhere, but DC presents a lot of unique annoyances and downright dealbreakers. Housing prices are ridiculous, and honestly I can understand why many people don't want to purchase a $300,000 or more small rowhome in a neighborhood still suffering from gang problems. If I took my monthly rent payment and went to Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, or down here in Raleigh/Durham, I could get more. I could get more in likely a nicer neighborhood.
I know some people who have purchased homes in DC, and I commend them. They are taking a risk, with the possibility of a hefty payoff in the future. The purchases will leave them struggling for the near future, it's hard for people 3-4 years into their careers to afford a home in the District. For me, I've lived in both Logan Circle and Columbia Heights. I'm paying through the nose for a nice(ish) apartment, within walking distance of grocery stores and the Metro. But I still hear gunshots outside my window. I know the odds of myself being shot are fairly low, but when thinking of the future and the eventual hopes of owning a home and raising kids, you start to rethink things.
And now we've come full circle to the whole problem of people fleeing the city once they decide to have kids. I see this changing a bit, baby strollers are everywhere these days. Mount Pleasant, Bloomingdale, etc. have contingents of young parents raising kids. Will they flee when the kids reach school age? Unless both parents are pulling down over $100K I'm going to guess that yes they will.
How can the city make itself more family friendly? Rhee or whoever eventually replaces her can try to improve the schools, but it's going to be rough. Some cities have solved some problems by merging their school district with surrounding suburbs, which is possible if they are all within the same state. DC enjoys no such possibility. DC can't even tap into the larger resources of a state, the way other cities may be able to. Talk about DC statehood often overlooks the problem that if DC was a state, it's entire tax base lives within a very small area. People in Northern Virginia often complain they subsidize the rest of the state, but that subsidization helps the rest of the state weather economic downturns.
I'm rambling here, to be sure, but that's a luxury I don't normally have. I'm going to take advantage of it. I've got a few days to live a bit slower, with no obligations and no deadlines. Taking a breather from DC often reminds me why I ever started reading Why I Hate DC and hits home why despite my occasional optimism, I still get disgusted and disappointed more often than not.
Is Mayor Fenty too obsessed with his bicycle and fitness? City Paper's Mike DeBonis wonders if all of hizzoner's exercising is messing with his head. There's no definitive conclusion, but it's rather obvious at this point his exercise regimen is certainly harming him politically, if not physically and mentally. Take a break, Fenty, or it might just cost you more than an election!
Metro faces criminal charges for polluting sewer system. In an unprecedented move, federal authorities have filed criminal charges against Metro for violating the Clean Water Act. In 2003, the transit agency used hydrofluoric acid to clean railcars. They were supposed to pre-treat the runoff before dumping it, but the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission detected high acidity and charged Metro with a violation. Metro continued to dump the acid for six days near Greenbelt. It appears Metro will accept a plea deal. Wow. It is surprising to see these criminal charges, but way to go federal government.
Van broken into near Mall, urn with veteran's ashes stolen. Army Col. Norbert Otto Schmidt was to be buried with full military honors today, except on Thursday someone stole his ashes. A 12-passenger van was parked near the National Museum of the American Indian when it was broken into around 3 pm. A computer, some jewelry, Schmidt's death certificate and military papers were also stolen. I have to say, if the person responsible for this is ever caught, lock them up and throw away the key. Take the electronics and jewelry, whatever. There's absolutely no reason to take the urn or the military papers. I'm sure the jackass who did this just tossed the urn and the papers in the trash.
Catholic Church proves they are a bunch of jerks. Did we already know this? I think so. The Church threatens to suspend social services in DC if the city passes legalization of same-sex marriage. Here's an idea, how about you read the Bible every now and again. There's this part, called the New Testament (which your church was founded on, believe it or not). The wacky dude with crazy ideas would help everyone, gay, straight, and even those who were put out in Denver because they wouldn't render services.
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) campaign purchases $2000 worth of bobblehead dolls. Yup.
Violent Wednesday in Northeast. Yesterday afternoon a man was shot and killed as he boarded the X2 Metrobus in the 1400 block of H Street, NE. The victim was identified as George Rawlings, the brother of Deonte Rawlings, who was shot and killed in 2007. It appears George Rawlings, 21, may have been targeted as a witness to a shooting on Halloween. There was another shooting late Wednesday in Deanwood that killed one and wounded another.
NTSB to hold hearings regarding the Metro crash. I'm not holding my breath that this will mean much, since the NTSB has no official oversight role. The more important part is what Congress does about this... there is legislation floating around that would work to establish better oversight. Whether it passes or not, remains to be seen. In any event, these hearings will prove interesting to anyone following the story.
Sidwell Friends School attracts crazy protesters, students respond. A group of fringe protesters showed up outside Sidwell Friends the other day. How did the school respond? The students made their own signs and offered a counter-protest.
Nice! I like that. I'd also like to see protesters with signs that say, "why not send your kids to public school, Obama." Harder to counter-protest against that.
When five anti-Obama, anti-gay protesters appeared in front of the school's Wisconsin Avenue NW entrance Monday morning, they were met by 150 Sidwell students waving signs ranging from "There is that of God in Everyone" to "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It."
"I guess they think they can influence what we think because we're young and vulnerable," said Daniel Edminster, a Sidwell junior. "They can't."
Kennedy Center flouts
Garden District filed bankruptcy. 14th & You notes the 14th Street garden shop has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This perhaps proves the point that opening a second location mere blocks away is not always the best idea. The recession, as well, did not help. The future of the remaining location near 14th and S is unclear... though I'd say it's even money it will be replaced by a wine or cheese shop.
Metro to allow inspectors on subway tracks. Metro chair Jim "The Teflon Elton John" Graham says he gave General Manager John Catoe a talking to and now the Tri-State Oversight Committee can have inspectors observe Metro safety protocols. This comes only after a front page Washington Post article and threats from Congress to cut off federal funding. Previously Metro safety chief Alexa Dupigny-Samuels had denied requests for safety observations, and instead offered to allow a small group to observe a controlled setting on a weekend, off-peak. If you wondered why it is important that people continue researching Metro's safety, I think this is a great example. It should also be noted, although Graham told the Post inspectors can go in, and WMATA issued a press release, no one has contacted the oversight group with any details. The U.S. Senate may hold hearings about Metro's safety. The House held some hearings this past summer after the 6/22 crash.
The D.C. Sniper 'mastermind' was executed last night in Virginia. I'm curious, how many of you were in the area for the sniper attacks? I remember the whole zig-zagging nonsense as well as the lookout for the white van. I'm rather ambivalent towards the execution. Part of me would have preferred to see someone like that rot in prison. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, declined to stay the execution. John Allen Muhammad was pronounced dead at 9:11pm last night, a little more than 7 years after the sniper attacks.
Washington-area jackasses can't figure out how to be unemployed. Nice piece in the Wall Street Journal about out-of-work executives being stupid with their money. One family, from Chevy Chase, MD is having a rough go of it. The husband was laid off from his corporate executive job, and he discusses how he uses his severance package to make sure no one knows he is out of work. He also has turned down a half-dozen or so job offers, because he didn't like them or thought he could do better. For a bit of reference, he was a banking executive.
After losing his job, Mr. Joegriner expected to land on his feet within six months, he says. In that time, he turned down three job offers to be a chief financial officer, either because he didn't like the salary or the description of duties, and thought he could do better. One was nearby; the others would have required the family to move out of state. All paid somewhat less than he had previously earned.At the end of the piece, he turns down yet another job. It didn't include a severance package. But it's cool, because we're going to make a quick recovery.
Fenty to replace Ximena Hartsock by December 1. The mayor met with a 5 member envoy from the Council to discuss a ceasefire. It appears that Fenty has agreed to get ousted DPR chief Hartsock out the door by the end of the month. We'll see who replaces her... perhaps one of Fenty's college buddies?
Man killed after being struck by two Secret Service vehicles. Not in the District, but damn. The Secret Service vehicles hit a pedestrian near the intersection of the Suitland Parkway and Naylor Road in Temple Hills, Maryland last night at around 2:30 am.
The whole "let's point and laugh at things" and "kick the bastards when they are down" model is very popular. People love to read those types of pieces. Sometimes they are fun to write. There are also a lot of big problems in DC that need to be addressed. Real problems. A lot of people get all of their local news information from blogs. A lot of people don't bother reading the Post. In case you missed the memo, things aren't exactly peachy in the city. The stories aren't often simple, and aren't always easy to distill. But I try. I'll keep poking and prodding. I also call 'em like I see 'em.
WTOP's Mark Segraves takes a look at Fenty's use of a police escort when riding with his little group, DC Velo. This is, of course, "totes" ridiculous. I don't think it's ridiculous for the mayor to have a police escort, however, it's poor form to use one when riding a bicycle during the business day. If he wants to go for a little bike ride on the weekends, I don't care, and he can even take a cop if he wants. Here's a better idea for the work week: How about you commute to work using your bicycle, which you love so much? You can even have a police motorcade for your bike if you do that. How about you check out the bike lanes DDOT has been installing? How about you set an example for people who might want to try bicycle commuting? Do something useful with your hobby. Because it is a hobby. You are not a full time, professional cyclist. A few years ago a group of people decided to hire you for a job. kthx.
It may still be 2009, but we're heading into what could turn into a hotly contested election year. Fenty is up for re-election, and we know people disapprove of his job. He's on weak ground, and the right candidate could make a race of it.
Last week, I talked with Fenty's only official challenger (yet), Leo Alexander, to discuss the current scandals as well as the outlook for the 2010 election. I've got an entire candidate profile up over at District Daily, and instead wanted to write a bit more opinion on the matter here.
Leo Alexander is noteworthy because he says things we don't want to hear. He borrows a page from Bill Cosby and talks about social responsibility. He doesn't pretend that we don't have major social issues in this city. He acknowledges that we have problems with race relations, problems that can't be solved with gentrification alone. He openly talks about the crack epidemic from the 80's, and how we have a generation of people growing up in situations filled with hopelessness without positive role models.
Alexander talks about deploying an army of social workers to help piece things back together. He also talks about jobs programs, but programs that teach a real skill or trade. Simply handing out mindless summer jobs and then forgetting about it isn't enough.
These ideas resonate with me, and I suspect with a lot of other people who pay attention to the news in the District. We also hear what we'd expect from any anti-Fenty candidate. Alexander believes the Fenty administration is the most corrupt administration in the city's history. He wants investigations. He wants more transparency. He wants to build a better relationship with the D.C. Council. He wants to fire Michelle Rhee. He wants to be the people's mayor. Of course.
So this is all great, he urges creative approaches to big problems. He calls for a bold vision for D.C. schools, that includes less emphasis on private and charter schools. He wants a government with integrity and compassion. It all sounds great. However, he's got to get the message out. He needs resources. He will need to raise money. Right now he's got the support of D.C. cab drivers, except that's pretty much radioactive for now, given the bribery scandal.
There's also the tricky matter of knowing how serious he is. It's easy to sit down and write up a platform to try and fix D.C.'s problems. It's harder to make things happen, and Leo Alexander has no public office experience and no record to stand on. He makes a lot of very good points and has some very good ideas. He's also very good at selling his point of view. He could have a shot, but he'll need to get his campaign organized. He recognizes that this campaign will be fought on the Internet, using social media. He needs a better web site, he needs more social media tools. He needs to use Twitter, and he needs to use email lists. If only to just get the attention of other politicians and journalists. He needs to build buzz.
All in all I like to see someone challenging Fenty with new ideas. I want Leo Alexander's campaign to build some momentum so there can be a real discussion of these issues. I have to say that I was surprised by Alexander when I spoke with him. However, for now, he remains so far off the radar that his Wikipedia page has been deleted.
Metro barred independent safety monitors from observing the system. Last month I looked some previous accidents on Metro involving track workers, and found some disturbing trends. Today the Post ran a front page story on safety problems involving Metro workers. This is fascinating material, but also very troubling. From the article:
I'm not surprised by any of this, nor am I surprised by Metro's failure to release documents to the Post. It's par for the course with WMATA, and yet another reason why I am continuing to work on this research.
Since the spring, Metro officials have barred independent monitors from walking along subway tracks to observe safety procedures while trains are in normal service, even if escorted by Metro employees, newly obtained records show.
The monitors, from the Tri-State Oversight Committee, wanted to determine whether Metro was following rules put in place in recent years after a number of workers had been fatally injured on the job.
Instead, they have spent the past six months pressing Metro in writing and in person for access -- a period in which two Metro employees were struck and fatally injured on the tracks.
The monitors became so frustrated that at one point, internal e-mails show, they discussed formally notifying federal officials and invoking their toughest sanction: declaring Metro to be officially out of compliance with safety requirements. Such a move could cause Metro to lose part of its federal funding.
Could the DPR contracting mess been avoided? Well, yes, Fenty could have not gone around the Council. However, Michael Neibauer at the Examiner takes a look at how the D.C. Council's actions last year may have pushed Fenty further. A year ago, Fenty wanted Allen Lew, the DCPS construction/facilities chief to manage DPR capital projects. Just as now, the Council was not pleased with this idea, and passed legislation preventing Lew from working on projects outside of DCPS. This is interesting, though still the question remains as to why Fenty didn't want to improve DPR's ability to handle these projects. Instead, Fenty wanted then-DPR Director Clark Ray to focus on programming... and would later replace him with Ximena Hartsock. Hartsock also had no experience with capital projects and would instead focus on programming.
Police searching for shooter in Georgia Avenue robbery and murder. Rufina Hernandez of Hyattsville was shot and killed in a robbery of the La Casa de Morata liquor store in the 5400 block of Georgia Avenue Saturday night. Police think the suspects may live in the neighborhood. They are described as two men in their 30's or 40's.
Deer stumbles into lion den at the National Zoo. And no, this isn't some sort of political metaphor. A deer from Rock Creek Park managed to make its way into the lion exhibit at the zoo, where it was seriously injured. It was able to make an escape, but zoo workers had to euthanize it due to serious wounds. Yes, there is video of it. No, I haven't watched it and don't plan to.
Officer-involved shootings may be the result of PCP use. 2009 has seen an increase in officer-involved shootings in the District, and MPD Chief Cathy Lanier believes it may be due to increased PCP use. In 8 out of the 12 shootings involving MPD this year, PCP was involved. In 2008, there were eight MPD-involved shootings.
Coming up later this morning: A look at Leo Alexander's campaign for D.C. Mayor.
So what's in the news?
There was the horrific shooting at Fort Hood. I'm not even going to discuss this because I still don't think anyone has any idea on what happened. First the shooter was dead, but now he's alive. First there were three shooters, now it was a lone gunman. A lone gunman, armed only with handguns, kills 13 and injures 30? That's 43 people shot. I imagine amid the confusion there could very well have been some friendly-fire incidents. I give it at least a week before we know anything for sure. We do know the alleged dead or alive shooter was from the area, born in Arlington and attended Virginia Tech.
Another person considering possibly maybe running against Jim Graham. Previously we learned that Adams Morgan ANC commish Bryan Weaver had formed an exploratory committee. Now the Examiner alerts us that DC VOICE executive director Jeff Smith will probably be "thinking" about it over the holidays. It's a Friday, so I understand it being a bit slow for news. Here's a scoop for the first person to read this, maybe I'll consider mulling over the idea of possibly running for Council as well! In all seriousness, I hope that we can have at least one serious challenger in Ward 1. I won't be voting for Graham, I can tell you that much.
David Baldacci hearts Chief Lanier. WTOP has a story about how a fictional character, DC Police Chief "Beth Perry" is based on Cathy Lanier. We also learn that Lanier owns not one, but five blind dogs. The book True Blue was released last month, but it was not until now that someone from WTOP began flipping through it at a nearby Borders.
Council subpoenas Hartsock. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. has issued a subpoena to interim Parks and Rec Director Ximena Hartsock. Hartsock is demanded to appear before the Council to discuss the controversial parks contracts.
That's it folks. Have a good Friday.
From: Prince of PetworthIn all seriousness folks, part of doing business on the Internet is opening yourself up to criticism. The key is knowing how to respond in a constructive manner.
To: Dave Stroup
Subject: Hey Buddy!
Thanks for all your comments and concerns about my posts. I really appreciate the attention. I am sorry you have not been able to convert Stroup Media into a full time job. I am sorry that you are a bit jealous that I have been able to do so. I really look forward to meeting you in person one of these days. I think we'd actually get along quite nicely. I'm not one to wage public wars, so again I just wanted to say thanks for the attention you've been giving me and your concerned comments in PoP. I will not let you down my friend.
Metro urgently needs funds to repair their broken, poorly thought-out infrastructure. Yesterday's power failure has left Metro in a terrible position. According to the Post, the transit agency needs $14 million immediately to replace aging power units, including the one that failed yesterday. The unit that blew cannot be repaired, leaving the agency's headquarters with only one power unit to run everything, including rail operations. Metro officials were unable to explain why there is no backup system in place. It's extremely unclear why the entire rail system has one point of failure at their headquarters. Seems like extremely poor system design to me. Also, the fact that a power failure at the downtown office takes their website offline is just ridiculous. It's a must in the information age to have a backup off-site.
Barricade situation ends in arrest in Northeast. Daniel Higgs, 28, was arrested following a 2-hour stand-off in the 4600 block of Hunt Place, NE. The incident occurred around 10 AM when police attempted to serve an arrest warrant. WJLA-TV reports that the MPD SWAT team rescued a woman and a baby who were in the home at the time.
Mary Cheh wants to ban a whole bunch of chemicals. Can Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) run for mayor? I think that would provide a lot of much needed entertainment. I don't doubt that Cheh is an educated and capable person. Not for a second. I think she does an excellent job representing Ward 3, whose constituents can be concerned if artificial exfoliant beads are harming marine life. Cheh's bill would ban a number of chemicals proven to be harmful to humans or the environment. The Councilmember insists there are plenty of healthy alternatives available, and “they can be just as clean and have just as significant an exfoliant experience.” Sometimes it's difficult to believe that she serves on the same Council as Marion Barry. The disparate priorities in different parts of our (rather small) city can be jarring.
Sloth bear at the National Zoo dies. Merlin, a 27-year-old sloth bear died after a brief illness. This comes on the heels of the deaths of two rare ornx. Anyone else remember that spate of deaths at the zoo several years ago? Back when a half-dozen or so animals died in a few months. Ah, looks like that was in 2003.
U.S. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) wants an elected District Attorney for the District. Norton believes that D.C. residents should elect their prosecutor, as is the case in most large cities. In 2002 voters approved a referendum calling for a locally elected AG. Norton has introduced a bill in Congress to make the change.
Well, today, Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) sent out an email complaining about the lack of notice.
Dear Friends,In a later follow-up, Graham stated that he does not want to stop construction, but does want to pause to consider the impact on the area. I'm not entirely sure why there is a restriction on parking north of U Street, but it is likely temporary pending completion of the rest of the project. What baffles me is that Graham was surprised by the project and also claimed that many others were unaware.
This weekend--with little or no notice or explanation--DDOT temporarily removed parking for an entire block of 15th Street (between U Street and V Street).
Parking is very scarce in Ward 1 neighborhoods. Residents should not be asked to live with such surprises.
I am currently working with DDOT to make sure that area residents are properly notified for all non-emergency removal of parking.
DDOT has in mind a good purpose--a 15th Street Bike Lane Project--but that does not excuse the need to let people know what is happening when a whole block of parking becomes eliminated. Once proper notice is given, and Ward 1 neighborhood reaction solicited, we can better understand that DDOT proposes to establish a pilot bike lane without any loss of parking on 15th Street above U. It may make great sense for pedestrians, bicyclists and people who need to park!
I do appreciate that DDOT pulled out the poles once I brought this omission to their attention.
Please pass on to others who are interested.
Bests, CM Jim Graham
The bulk of the work is south of U Street, and outside of Ward 1. I asked Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) about the matter, and he stated his office was well aware of the project. He also noted that as far as he knew, no one had complained.
If DDOT has impacted one block of parking along 15th Street in Ward 1, I can see it being a very minor inconvenience. I live in Ward 1 and understand that parking is scarce. However, parking is often impacted for all sorts of construction projects, with little or no notice. For Graham to take a stand on this topic seems a bit foolhardy. The "people who really want to park on that one part of 15th street" constituency is likely much smaller than the people who are in favor of the contraflow bike lane. Graham apparently likes the idea of the Mayor's office getting things done without consulting the Council, so much as it doesn't impact a few parking spaces.
UPDATE: It appears that the contractors extended construction north to V street, which was unexpected. However, the fact remains it was only 1 block that was impacted.
Power outage "cripples" Metro. Top story on most blogs this morning, Metro suffered a power outage at their headquarters that totally flummoxed the system. All sorts of things, such as communications to buses, Smartrip processing, the WMATA.com site, and station PA systems have been impacted. It's completely ridiculous that an overnight power outage could cause this many problems. Redundancy, Metro. Please. I don't even want to know what effect this had on safety systems. (Of course Metro will deny safety problems, but I wonder if they were still able to monitor for track circuit failures).
MPD fails to learn "zero inbox theory," or the meaning of grossly negligent privacy violations. The Metropolitan Police Department has been keeping boxes of child sex abuse records unlocked in a dirty, dirty hallway. The hallway of horrors and HIPAA violations is located in the records division at 1700 Rhode Island Ave NE. According to the Examiner, that location is a sideshow of complete negligence:
The inspectors also reported the Youth Investigations Division employees are forced to work in potentially dangerous conditions. Inside the building were materials that may contain asbestos, broken floor tiles, degraded pipe insulation, and evidence of rat infestation, including rat droppings.Can we get some Fenty-friendly rehab contracts going for MPD records storage? Be careful or the Law and Order: SVU scriptwriters might go dumpster diving.
Dan Snyder pities Redskins fans. Aww, he feels for us. Team owner Dan Snyder finally gave some comments about the Redskins, and well, they are mostly pointless. The only thing worse than being a Redskins fan is being thrown a pity party by Dan Snyder.
WaPo exclusive: College students are jackasses. "I'm in a frat, bro." I can't believe people are paying $40K+ to attend this school. Here's a peek at how some GWU students feel about the swine flu vaccine.
"I don't need it," said Sal Marchesano, 21, a senior, as macho laughter ripples across the recreation room, which is adorned with a replica of a human skull and a mostly full bottle of hand sanitizer. "They would have to come here to give me the shot. No. They would have to come to my room. When I'm free."Man, part of me hopes that H1N1 mutates to some sort of horrible, horrible thing that only affects people who are wearing clothing with greek letters emblazoned on them.
More trouble over at Prince of Petworth. The Crown Prince of Cluelessness is begging his commentariat to play nice after some awful instances of racism. Some of these commenters give WTOP a run for their racist money on craziness. PoP, I want to help you here. People will never play nice. You will need to vet your comments, and if you allow anonymous comments you will see horrible things and you will need to moderate them. Sadly this is just the case, always. You've been around long enough to realize this. Welcome to the Internet, PoP. You may want to check out web sites such as Google.com to start your journey.
Biggest Loser filmed in DC? At the White House? Supposedly last night a DC-themed episode of the Biggest Loser aired. I don't remember hearing anything about this, but supposedly the contestants cooked a meal at the White House kitchen? Anyone catch this?
Television still loves DC, even if people are 'turning away' from Obama. The LA Times has a round-up all of the TV shows that have been filming in DC lately. Again, nothing will ever come close to the West Wing as far as DC-based shows. The city is too trendy right now so most everything that is filmed here is nonsense throwaway material.
If you head over to the Prince of Petworth, you'll notice a gem titled "Say What You Will About Fenty, But He Is Fixing Up a Lot of Parks." Dan Silverman, the professional blogger who operates Prince of Petworth full-time writes "I know folks have generally not been too happy with Mayor Fenty’s performance lately. But I have to give him props for fixing up tons of parks around town."
This comes amid a huge scandal involving the Mayor's questionable dealings to build and renovate parks. It's been mentioned on every news outlet in the District, it's been a big story in the Post, and if you read any blog you will have come across it. It is IMPOSSIBLE to have missed this story. The Council has held hearings and is crafting emergency legislation to prevent this from happening again.
I know a lot of people read Prince of Petworth for his happy-go-lucky style of "writing," which includes doors, porches and smells of the day. However, for someone who has made "blogging" a full time career, writing nonsense such as this is completely inexcusable. Especially when Silverman is generally recognized as a "news source" in the city. What bothers me the most isn't even that Silverman is agreeing with Fenty's "ends justify the means" argument... it's that it looks like he didn't even know there was a huge scandal unfolding.
Anyhow, on to the news bullets. This part-time blogger only has so much time to work with.
Police investigating suspicious death on 16th St, NW. MPD is looking for answers after discovering the body of a female in an apartment in the 3600 block of 16th St, NW. So far very little information has been released, except to say the circumstances are suspicious.
D.C. Council seeks crackdown on parks spending. As a result of the unfolding parks and rec scandal, Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5) will introduce emergency legislation preventing contracts from bypassing the Council. There would also be limits to what DPR could spend without going to the Council. This is a good start, but the better solution would be to have an executive that didn't bypass the rules in the first place. Nickles and Fenty will likely find some other way to divert money.
Cheesy, but I approve. Echoed across the universe, Andrew Hertzberg and and Andy Rollman got engaged at yesterday's Council hearing on same-sex marriage. The best part of all of this, though, was a comment by Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). Thanks to Twitter, this gem did not go unnoticed.
@summersgill CM Graham suggests that couple should consumate (sic) their marriage on the plaza in Col Hgts. Wrong word.District government pays out to family of St. Elizabeth's patient who was stomped to death. The city has paid $1 million to the family of Alan Martin. Martin, 56, was a doctor who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was placed in a room in St. Elizabeth's with William Dunbar, 29, who had homicidal thoughts and had threatened family members. Dunbar killed Martin by beating him and crushing his skull. A jury found the District negligent for Martin's death, but the city stalled on making the payments. The always warm and fuzzy attorney general Peter Nickles made the payment saying he wanted to "get it over with."
Coming up this week: The best of Twitter, including the new "nuggets of hate" feature. Also, bust out those E-Meters because we'll be talking Scientology.
More testimony on gay marriage. Today more than 150 people will testify before the D.C. Council on the topic of gay marriage. The measure is expected to pass and Mayor Fenty is expected to sign it into law. One of the main questions is how much leeway to allow religious organizations in denying same-sex couples services. A church can refuse to recognize gay marriage, but more tricky questions arise such as can a place be forced to rent a their space to a gay couple. These are some thorny issues that make my head hurt a bit on Monday morning.
Better and cheaper is excuse for improper spending. At least that's what they Fenty administration tried to say on Friday. They claim that the normal process just wasn't getting things done, so they moved money around and got results. This whole ends justifying the means argument played out a few years ago, and the Council didn't buy it then, either.
Real World casting call in D.C. OMGZ! There will be a casting call in D.C. next Saturday for people interested in appearing on MTV's The Real World. That's right kids, maybe you can inspire a blogger in another city to start a web site dedicated to hating you. Interested? Head over to the Town Tavern in Adams Morgan from 10 AM-5 PM. How appropriate it would be at Town Tavern.
Washington Post editorial board writes another love letter to Michelle Rhee. Sometimes I think the City Paper spends a little too much time on media criticism, but not today. Erik Wemple takes a look at the Post's latest ode to Rhee. Gotta love the Post's subhead: "The D.C. Council seems to worry about everyone but students." How many times in one week can we fall back on saying breaking the law to achieve results is OK. We aren't talking about stealing bread for a starving family here. There are financial regulations for a reason and if no one respects them, things will get a whole lot worse.
Former GWU president was paid an absurd amount of money. Stephen J. Trachtenberg was compensated $3.7 million in 2007-2008. That amount dwarfs any other university president in the United States by at least two million dollars. To compare, Georgetown University president Jack DeGioia made only $643,000. Guess we know where all of the tuition money goes--GWU also happens to be the most expensive college in the country.