Saturday, November 10

DC FRIDAY

DRUG WARRIORS RAISE COCAINE PRICE, CAUSING VIOLENCE TO INCREASE

WASHINGTON POST -The price of cocaine has increased sharply in the District and other U.S. cities because stricter enforcement has curtailed supplies on the street, federal drug officials said. Nationally, the price of cocaine shot up 44 percent from January to September, and the purity dropped 15 percent, according to a report released yesterday by the White House drug policy office and the Drug Enforcement Administration. . .

D.C. police investigators said that they had no statistical evidence to back the DEA's claim but that dealers appear to be fighting over a dwindling product. They said that could be contributing to a recent rise in other crimes, such as homicides and robberies. When supplies are scarce, some dealers turn to other crimes to make money, said D.C. police Inspector Brian Bray, head of the narcotics branch.

"When there's the same amount of demand and less supply, people are going to try to get what's out there," Bray said. "That's when you see violence on the street level. A lot of these beefs are drug-related. A lot of homicides are drug dealers fighting over turf and supply."

The District has had 165 homicides this year, a 12 percent increase compared with the same period last year. Because many cases are unsolved, authorities can't say how many are drug-related. . .


FENTY RETREATS FROM PLAN TO DESTROY PUBLIC E-MAILS

TOM SHERWOOD, CHANNEL FOUR - "Score one for the little guys and open government." That was jubilant WTOP reporter Mark Segraves on Monday after learning Mayor Adrian Fenty had rescinded an executive order requiring permanent deletion of all city government e-mails after only six months. Segraves is a master of Freedom of Information Act requests. E-mails can be a gold mine to explore public policy.

It may well be the mayor's first significant reversal, and he deserves credit for acting swiftly. The e-mail destruction plan. . . alarmed journalists, investigators and activists who were all worried about tracking government decisions. . . Even if there were technical reasons for eliminating e-mails, the mayor never would win the public relations battle if damning or other negative e-mails surfaced after someone thought an e-mail had been destroyed.

Segraves had gotten the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Press Club revved up to oppose the order. Segraves said council members in public had made only wimpy responses to the mayor's delete order. And no one had introduced emergency legislation to stop it cold.


DC PLANS DRIVERS LICENSE THAT WILL SPY ON USERS

DC EXAMINER - Privacy advocates are alarmed by a D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles initiative to embed SmarTrip computer chips inside every new D.C. driver's license, making it easier than ever to track D.C. residents on their travels through the transit system. The DMV will spend $830,000 a year to install SmarTrip chips in all driver's licenses and identification cards starting in October 2008. . .

SmarTrip does, however, provide Metro and the government with a system to follow users, though Hazel said the agency "has no intention to track [a] person's movements on the Metro system." People who read this also read:

"If you're paying your fare with it, they're going to have the ability to know by name who entered each Metro station at what time and who exited a Metro station at what time," said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "That can be used by the government to track your comings and goings. It's an absolutely awful idea."

Metro's policy is to release Smar-Trip information to law enforcement purposes, or at a cardholder's request. . . Melissa Ngo with the D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center said D.C. is "setting up an infrastructure where the government can track you all the time."


HOMELAND SECURITY PLANS TO SEIZE, LOCK DOWN ONE OF NATION'S MOST ENDANGERED PLACES

NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION - St. Elizabeths Hospital - one of the country's most significant historic places, and one of only 2,500 surviving National Historic Landmarks, is threatened with large scale demolition of its historic campus. . . The U.S. General Services Administration, the federal government's "landlord," plans to construct a huge headquarters facility for the Department of Homeland Security within the grounds of St. Elizabeths.

As planned, the $3.5 billion headquarters would require 6.4 million square feet of office space and parking structures. Between one third and one half of the historic buildings and landscape features at St. Elizabeths would be razed for the over-sized project.

Preservationists agree that the Homeland Security headquarters would destroy the 175-acre historic site, which was listed as one of the National Trust's 11 Most Endangered Places in 2002. . .

TOM SHERWOOD, CHANNEL FOUR DC - The federal security bureaucracy is moving apace to take over the stunning lands that make up the west campus of the old St. Elizabeths Hospital. . . The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the D.C. Preservation League, the National Coalition To Save Our Mall and the Committee of 100 on the Federal City are leading the efforts to save the old 1800s buildings on the land. . .

It would be a shame if the walls go up and only securicrats get to sit there, watching over a glorious city they helped closed down to protect. Doesn't sound quite like "land of the free and home of the brave," does it? If the security bureaucracy closes down that land with more security fences and security walls, you'll never ever see it again.

WIKIPEDIA - The hospital, founded by Congress in 1852, largely as the result of the efforts of Dorothea Dix, a pioneering advocate for people living with mental illnesses. It opened in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane, and rose to prominence during the Civil War as it was converted temporarily into a hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1916, its name was officially changed to St. Elizabeths, the colonial-era name for the tract of land on which the hospital was built. The hospital had been casually known by this name since the time of the Civil War, when-in their letters home to loved ones-patients of army hospitals temporarily located on the grounds were reluctant to refer to the institution by its full title.

It is speculated that St. Elizabeths has treated over 125,000 patients, though an exact number is not known due to poor recordkeeping. Additionally, thousands of patients are believed to be buried in unmarked graves across the campus, but, again, records for the individuals buried in the graves have been lost. More than 15,000 known autopsies were performed at St. Elizabeths between 1884 and 1982, and a collection of over 1,400 brains preserved in formaldehyde, 5,000 photographs of brains, and 100,000 slides of brain tissue was maintained by the hospital until it was transferred to a museum in 1986. In addition to the mental health patients buried on the campus, several hundred Civil War soldiers are interred there as well.

At its peak, the St. Elizabeths campus housed 7,000 patients and employed 4,000 people. Beginning in the 1950s, however, large institutions such as St. Elizabeths were being criticized for hindering the treatment of patients. Community-based healthcare, which included local outpatient facilities and drug therapy, was seen as a more effective means of allowing patients to live near-normal lives. The patient population of St. Elizabeths steadily declined.

By 1996, only 850 patients remained at the hospital, and years of neglect had become apparent; equipment and medicine shortages occurred frequently, and the heating system was broken for weeks at a time. By 2002, all remaining patients on the western campus were transferred to other facilities. Although it continues to operate, it does so on a far smaller scale than it once did.

The campus of St. Elizabeths sits on bluffs overlooking the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers in the southeast quadrant of Washington. . . It has many important buildings, foremost among them the Center Building, designed according to the principles of the Kirkbride Plan by Thomas U. Walter (1804-1887), who is perhaps better known as the primary architect of the expansion of the U.S. Capitol that was begun in 1851.

THE HOSPITAL'S EARLY MISSION, as defined by its founder, the leading mental health reformer Dorothea Dix, was to provide the "most humane care and enlightened curative treatment of the insane of the Army, Navy, and District of Columbia." During the Civil War, wounded soldiers treated here were reluctant to admit that they were in an insane asylum, and said they were at St. Elizabeths, the colonial name of the land where the Hospital is located. Congress officially changed the Hospital's name to St. Elizabeths in 1916.


DC SHORTS

WUSA - The District of Columbia's Department of Motor Vehicles wants to do away with in-person appeals of parking tickets and wants to make appeals available by e-mail or regular mail, instead. Under the DMV plan, the in-person appeals, used more than 70,000 times in fiscal year 2006, would end in December, 2008. . . City Councilman Phil Mendelson says, "I think the proposal is wrong, absolutely wrong. Citizens of the United States have a fundamental right to confront their accuser. That is what a hearing is about. The city government has been trying for years to make their process easier and to essentially deprive citizens of their rights. . . They issue millions of tickets every year. There is, in my view, nothing wrong with issuing a ticket when somebody parks illegally, but if you're going to do that, you're going to have a process that has to be fair to citizens."

ANNIE GROER, WASHINGTON POST - From her arty - quirky - earthy home decor shop, its burnt orange facade visible for a block along a once-forlorn stretch of 14th Street NW, Noi sold a carefully curated mix of goods: stylish china, linens, lighting, art and tchotchkes. . . But on Tuesday, six weeks shy of her 60th birthday, the tiny dynamo, who stood just over five feet tall and weighed under 100 pounds, died after a fall at Sibley Hospital while awaiting surgery for colon cancer. . . Chudnoff had spent more than a decade in retail, managing the Classics for Kids clothing store in Kensington and selling Japanese dinnerware with a partner on weekends at Capitol Hill's Eastern Market.

PAUL SCHWARTZMAN, WASHINGTON POST - Preservationists howled when developer Douglas Jemal, in need of land to construct a downtown office building, threatened to raze the 57-year-old [Waffle Shop], a classic of the Art Moderne style, with its sleek glass and metal facade, gold and red mosaic tiling, and steel and neon sign. Jemal has agreed to another solution, which will save the Waffle Shop from the wrecking ball as it transforms the diner and the vista along 10th Street NW across from Ford's Theater. Brick by brick, counter by counter, stool by stool, the developer plans to take apart the diner and reassemble it on another property he owns, most likely on Seventh Street across from the Washington Convention Center. After it reopens, according to an agreement among Jemal, preservationists and the District, the diner will remain what its sign advertises, complete with serpentine counters and eminently affordable offerings.

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - The Rev. John Adams, president of So Others Might Eat, says his organization should not pay property taxes on its facilities because of its nonprofit status. The plain brick building at 2125 18th St. SE, like all of those operated by a 37-year-old D.C. nonprofit, serves the homeless and very poor. Its 30 small apartments are filled with people who would otherwise be living on the streets. But there is a major difference that makes the simple building called Freedom House stand out from others operated by nonprofit groups: Barring a legislative change, the city could collect property taxes on it. . . SOME, along with a nonprofit affiliate, Housing Opportunities Inc., acquired most of its recent buildings through limited liability corporations or limited partnerships that it controls. . . But the for-profit component, along with a change requiring that tax-exempt housing go to the "transient," disabled or terminally ill means, according to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, that SOME may need to pay property taxes on nine of its buildings as if they were a for-profit business.

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - The Hotel Washington will close by the end of the year to undergo a massive, yearlong renovation that will transform the 90-year-old historic landmark into a sleek W hotel. The refurbished property is expected to reopen by the end of 2008 or early 2009, said Joe Sita, chief executive of Dubai-based Istithmar Hotels, which owns Hotel Washington

JESSICA GOULD, WASH CITY PAPER - The party at Republic Gardens is over, at least for now. Whitney Restaurants Inc., the company that operated the club at 1355 U St. NW since 2003, was evicted Oct. 29 because the business owed more than $200,000 in back rent and taxes, according to landlord Henry McCall. The U.S. Marshals Service, which handles all evictions in D.C., carried out the order Monday morning. "That building has been gutted out," McCall says. A day later, McCall changed the locks and padlocked the two doors at the club's entrance. "I've never seen anybody I've wanted to shoot as much as him," he says of Whitney Restaurants Inc. President Elbert Robinson, his former tenant.

RUTH SAMUELSON, WASH CITY PAPER - Back in the early 1990s, these dim train tunnels were a graffiti artist's utopia. Taggers came from all over the city, painting a river of electric pieces down the tunnels' flat, perfect concrete walls. The cops showed up sometimes, sure. But you could slip between the dividers separating the tunnels and get away. . . They called this space the "Art Under Pressure Tunnel" and the "Hall of Fame." Among writers (another name for graffiti artists), the place was a nationally known spot, says Cory Stowers, a 30-year-old who first visited the Hall in 1995. It's all still there, if you want to see it. Go to the corner of 14th and D Streets SW, just a stone's throw from the Holocaust Museum. Head toward Virginia and then peel off to the left just before the bridge. The graffiti starts by a ramp, leading up to the tunnel, and it stretches all the way down to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. . . Thanks to the hassles, the Hall of Fame's no longer the mecca for writers it once was. But these days, they're not catching a break anywhere else in the city. Besides "Big Brother" monitoring the streets, there are other forces at work. Gentrification, and its accomplices, are beating down the District's graffiti culture, say various artists

BEGINNING WITH THE DC RIOTS, large stretches of the city would remain vacant and undeveloped for decades as developer-contributor buddies of local pols waited for values to rise. At the time, we proposed a five year tax abatement to get the riot strips moving again, but, of course, that wasn't part of the plan. Now that the city is being manically developed, we find council members - again acting in support of campaign contributors - even beating up on churches that have vacant properties. Evan and Cheh had the gall to call them "offenders."

WASHINGTON POST - At a D.C. Council hearing on nuisance properties last month, [Terry Lynch of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations] was one of the witnesses who testified about their frustration with the government's failure to attack the age-old District problem. The hearing was called to allow residents to comment on a council bill that would increase the tax on vacant properties to encourage rehabilitation and renovation. . . Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) did a little digging and are challenging Lynch to put his money where his mouth is. "We found your testimony to be somewhat curious," they wrote in a letter to Lynch this week. "As you know, many of your 42 member congregations own vacant properties, and are some of the biggest offenders in residential neighborhoods where we have fought for years to return such properties to productive use."

DC EXAMINER - The D.C. Council adopted legislation Tuesday requiring all new apartment and condominium complexes include substantial space for bicycle parking, though the measure's final version backed off similar standards for existing buildings. . . Existing buildings must provide reasonable bicycle parking spaces based on demand from residents. . . Commercial property owners, meanwhile, will have to guarantee that at least 5 percent of their vehicular parking spaces are set aside for bicycles.

THE EXAMINER REPORTS, "D.C. leaders are furious that the Washington Nationals' 2008 fundraising gala will be held at National Harbor in Prince George's County, while the District continues to fork over cash for the team's new Southeast ballpark. Nationals' owner Ted Lerner was offered a deal he couldn't refuse: free use of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center for the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Dream Gala 2008. Gaylord agreed to "underwrite the total cost of the evening," one team official said, which leaves more money for the various youth organizations that benefit from the fundraiser. The deal was worth roughly $250,000, a Nationals' spokeswoman said."

WELCOME TO BEGINNING OF THE GAYLORD DRAIN on the DC economy. We may not only have vacant church buildings to anger council members but empty convention centers as well. And there are plans for a ferry to take visitors over to Alexandria when they get tired of the tacky Gaylord scene. What can DC do about it? End several decades of trying to look like every other big American city and concentrate on its unique cultural, visual and historic qualities. That is, assuming the Fenty administration doesn't bury it all inside more painfully dull highrises like they're doing with libraries and fire houses.

WASHINGTON POST - Before they became limousine famous, Emmylou Harris and Bruce Springsteen played in a litany of run-down, no-name joints, where small, unsuspecting audiences got that rare chance to see, hear and touch undiscovered genius. In Washington, that joint was the Childe Harold, a cozy, wood-lined saloon in Dupont Circle, where, in its heyday, patrons filled every nook and cranny, the bathrooms reeked of marijuana and everyone talked for years after about whom they saw perform there. . . After 40 years, the Childe Harold shut down for the last time. The owner made no announcement, saying he was too grief-stricken over losing something that has been in his blood since he was a teenager washing dishes in the kitchen and, later, broiling steaks for Springsteen between sets. . . At its creation in 1967, the Childe Harold was christened for a Lord Byron poem celebrating a young man's world travels. The saloon soon became associated with one of its first owners, Bill Heard Jr., a whiskey-drinking raconteur whose brawling ways had gotten him kicked out of a host of gin joints across town. At his own place, though, Heard was free to rant and rave, sometimes at his customers, including George McGovern, who wandered in one night in 1972 looking for French food only to get an earful from the owner about how his presidential campaign was doomed.

KATIE PEARCE, CAPITOL HILLL VOICE - Former critics of the Department of Parks and Recreation's proposed dog park regulations have praised the latest version of the rules, as more accommodating and realistic.. . . "I'm really excited," said Bill Schultheiss, member of a task force that worked with the department to revise the controversial original regulations. . . According to a newsletter from Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser, the city allocated $600,000 toward the creation of dog parks in fiscal year 2008, estimating that each new park will require between $150,000 and $200,000. . . Dog parks should be 5,000 square feet, the provisions recommend - "unless parkland availability precludes ... meeting this guideline." The parks department director can reject unsuitable locations for dog parks, such as areas near playgrounds, athletic fields or community gardens, but will make such decisions on "a case-by-case basis."


BULLETIN BOARD

NOV 11

PANEL DISCUSSION ON GENTIFICATION Sunday November 11, 2 pm. It will be held at Busboys & Poets, located at 2021 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. The panel features, Nathan McCall, whose new book, Them, is the inspiration for this forum about the pros and cons of gentrification. Other participants include: Chris Chambers, attorney and author, who will serve as moderator; Dee Hunter, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for Ward 1; Rick Lee, owner of Lee's Flower and Card Shop, Inc., a 50-year-old family business; Tony Samara, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, George Mason University.

TAKOMA THEATRE

THE TAKOMA THEATRE CONSERVANCY is hosting interviews next week with individuals or groups who may be interested in renting the theater, whether for performing arts, educational purposes or special events. Interviews will be held on Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 15 -17, at the Takoma Village Cohousing, 6827 Fourth Street NW (next to the Takoma Theatre). Each interview will last 30 minutes and will be informal and confidential. The theater is in a historic district and is designed by a well-known architect, John Jacob Zink, who also designed the Uptown in DC, the Flower in Silver Spring, and the Senator in Baltimore. It is one of his early buildings designed in the Greek Revival style that predates the full Deco style of Zink's later work. Construction was begun in 1923 and completed in 1924, thus the theatre includes features that were common to the early film theaters transitioning from Vaudeville when live acts often preceded film showings. The auditorium is acoustically near perfect and currently has 516 seats.

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