Wednesday, July 11

DC WEDNESDAY

COUNCIL APPROVES EXORBITANT PAY FOR RHEE

THE CITY COUNCIL not only approved an a $275,000 salary for untested, inexperienced new school head Michelle Rhee, but also - with a straight face - gave her a signing bonus of $41,000, as if she was some baseball star they couldn't get otherwise.

But then the council has a pretty screwed up view of what the school system is about, witness David Catania's comment that it was like a private sector company and that students were "the most important product of this city." That's it, kids, just think of yourselves as another iPhone and everything will be okay.

Rhee will also get a bonus if she does her job right, which implies an expectation that she won't.

Rhee will be making more than three times as much as a teacher with 20 years experience and a doctorate.


LABOR, CIVIL LIBERTARIANS FIGHT SPEECH CENSORSHIP BILL

UNION CITY - In a spirited noise bill hearing Monday, the most effective testimony came from UNITE HERE Local 25 Executive Secretary Treasurer John Boardman, who simply left the microphone off, making it impossible for DC City Council members to hear what he was saying. Local labor leaders, residents, legal experts, and community representatives packed the room to strongly defend freedom of speech at the hearing on the proposed Noise Bill introduced by Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, which would limit the decibel and distance levels of non-commercial public speech. "This bill impedes our rights," said Boardman, after turning on his microphone. "You can't limit distance and volume and expect to have free speech." Added Metro Council President Jos Williams, "the inconveniences of a few does not justify changes in the current law that protects the free speech rights of hundreds of thousands in DC."

Quoting Daniel Webster, Johnny Barnes of the ACLU of the National Capital Area said "if there was one right I would keep, it would be my First Amendment rights, because with the freedom of speech I could get all my other rights back." Councilmember Kwame Brown, who spoke at the recent SEIU 1199 rally on Military Road, raised concerns with the proposed restrictions. That rally "was probably louder than 70 decibels and we probably wouldn't have been able to protest," under the proposed bill, said Brown. "I don't want to protest in a whisper." Opponents of the bill noted a lack of public support for the restrictions. "You don't see a large group of civic organizations and residents supporting this," said Tony Norman, of the McMillian Park Committee. "The fact is, this bill is nothing more than an attempt to silence a specific group," said ANC Commissioner Nate Mathews.


DC'S LITTLE BAGHDAD

IF YOU read the blogs, you can get the impression that Columbia Heights is becoming DC's little Baghdad with white gentrifiers the Shiites and poor blacks and latinos the Sunnis. Since poor blacks and latinos don't have too many blogs, we're largely getting one side of the story but, even so, it seems the level of hostility and cultural narcissism is unusual for Washington, which historically has done better than many places in ethnic relations. What appears to be missing is cross-ethnic involvement as well as consciousness that the newcomers are, in the eyes of many, invading their territory. There is also, among some, an assumption that is what's good for young white home buyers is the best for everyone.


DC SHORTS

UNION CITY - More than 200 DC homecare workers voted to join 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the first time such workers have organized in the District.

MARK SEGRAVES, WTOP - It's going to be easier to breast-feed in public and at work if some D.C. lawmakers get their way. In the final session before a two month summer recess, the D.C. City Council preliminarily approved a law that would require employers to allow women to express breast milk at work. The Child's Right to Nurse Act of 2007 would "ensure a woman's right to breast-feed in any location where she has the right to be with her child, public or private." A final vote will be taken in September.

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