Tuesday, November 20

DC TUESDAY

DC PRIGS AND THE ABC BOARD

JACK MCKAY, DC WATCH - So-called "voluntary agreements" allow small bands of residents to impose stringent requirements on local restaurants and other liquor licensees. These VAs are supposed to render such businesses "appropriate" for the neighborhood, according to certain very specific criteria, e.g., "peace, order, and quiet." But the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board avoids examining these VAs to confirm that the conditions are indeed justified based on those conditions, knowing that that would produce a wave of time-consuming disputes.

For example: live music and dancing are banned in Mount Pleasant restaurants. The ban on dancing is especially egregious. What possible connection is there between dancing in a restaurant and "peace, order and quiet" outside the restaurant? The restaurateur is even instructed to prevent his customers from moving tables to create a dance floor, should they be so inclined. The ABC Board has never required the proponents of this ban to defend their claim that dancing is a threat to peace in the neighborhood. When the conditions of a VA are challenged, perhaps by residents who think that folks dancing in restaurants are not disturbing the neighbors, the standard reply is that the restaurateur didn't object to the ban when he signed the agreement.

Our local gang of mossbacks also requires, in their most recently imposed VA, that the restaurateur not "obscure the windows of the establishment in such a manner as to eliminate the ability of those outside to see into the establishment from the street." . . . I presume it's so their vigilante squads can peer into restaurants to make certain that no one is singing or dancing or playing a musical instrument. It's no wonder the streets of Mount Pleasant are lonely and deserted at night, even on fine summer weekend evenings. It's a funless place, thanks to those who think that anyone having a good time in a Mount Pleasant restaurant is a threat to "peace, order, and quiet" in the neighborhood. The ABC Board, unhappily, allows itself to become the enforcement agency for such people.


DC SHORTS

COUNCIL WON'T BE CONFUSING NATWAR AND MAHATMA ANYMORE. . . But if you get rid of Gandhi because of the people he hired, what do you do with the people who hired him?

WASH POST - Every D.C. classroom will have a desktop computer by February under a $4 million technology initiative. The money will pay for more than 6,300 computers, which will be installed in the city's 141 schools. . .

WHICH IS NICE, but not quite as good as Maine, which has a program to give every middle schooler their own laptop.

DC EXAMINER REPORTS that DC's AG Linda Singer has a budget of $92.3 million with roughly 725 lawyers and administrative staff. Last year the agency has handled 29,000 legal matters and 70,000 child support cases, including D.C. Public School legal work.

THE SUPREME TORT has agreed to hear DC's no gun ban case. Why do we have an uneasy feeling that the city's colonial status may be reinforced by its decision?

THE CITY'S plan to end personal appearances in parking ticket cases is not only extremely undemocratic, the figures tell it's wrong as well. Reports Gary Emerling in the Times, "More than 55 percent of motorists who challenged their parking tickets in person or by mail had their tickets dismissed by the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles in the fiscal year that ended Oct. 31, agency statistics show. The figure is up from fiscal 2006, when 43 percent of contested tickets were tossed. In 2004 and 2005, DMV adjudicators dismissed roughly 44 percent of challenged tickets. Of the roughly 132,400 people who did not want to pay their parking tickets last year, about 73,600 waged successful challenges."

DC EXAMINER - The federal government gave the District more than $1.8 billion in 2006 to aid programs from HIV prevention to counterterrorism. In an overwhelming majority of cases, the handling of federal money in those programs violated local and federal regulations, private audit firm BDO Seidman LLP reported. Two areas of city government, the public schools and its Medicaid reimbursement program, were so shoddy that they pose a threat to the District's bond rating, BDO reported.

GARY IMHOFF, DC WATCH - Rhee is trying to give the impression that she is considering all the options for restructuring thirty-one city schools that have failed to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress goals for five consecutive years, because she doesn't want to give the public or school employees adequate time to organize against her preferred option -- privatizing all or almost all of the thirty-one schools. In fact, however, representatives of the four private school operating companies that she favors have begun visiting the schools, and the process of giving them control is well underway, though not finalized. The implications of this turnover are massive for school system employees. Privatization of the schools will be a backdoor way for Fenty and Rhee to break the teachers union. By District law, contractors are forbidden from supervising and giving work orders to District government employees, and the Washington Teachers Union has a contract only with the District government, not with these private school management companies. Unless several laws are changed, the teachers who work in any schools that are turned over to private companies will no longer be government employees, protected by their employee rights and benefits, and the union will lose hundreds and potentially thousands of members.

WPFW is celebrating 30 years on the airwaves with a celebration on Saturday, December 15 at the Convention Center.

WUSA - After months of conflicting reports, D.C. officials say they now have an accurate count of broken fire hydrants in the city. The fire department and the Water and Sewer Authority have agreed that the number of out-of-service hydrants is 213. That's out of a total of approximately 9,000.

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