Wednesday, November 14

DC WEDNESDAY

FENTY'S ATTACK ON CAR OWNERS' RIGHTS DESIGNED TO ADD MILLIONS

THE NEWSPAPER - In an attempt to stem the loss of revenue from motorists contesting parking tickets, cities are effectively eliminating the traditional due process rights of motorists to defend themselves at an impartial hearing. By the end of next year, Washington, DC's Department of Motor Vehicles will not allow anyone who believes he unfairly received a citation to have his day in an administrative hearing. . .

The move is intended to allow automated street sweeper parking ticket machines to boost the number of infractions cited well beyond the 1.6 million currently handed out by meter maids. As one-third of those who contest citations in the city are successful, the hearings cut significantly into the $100 million in revenue tickets generate each year.

Under the DMV's plan, motorists will only be able to object to a ticket by email or letter where city employees can ignore or reject letters in bulk without affected motorists having any realistic recourse. . .

Motorists in many cities besides DC complain about unfair citations. So far, Baltimore, Maryland's Inspector General has uncovered 10,000 bogus parking tickets issued to innocent motorists. In Boston and other cities in Massachusetts, motorists cannot challenge a $100 parking ticket in court without first paying a $275 court fee. If found innocent, the motorist does not receive a refund of the $275.


FENTY DOES SOMETHING RIGHT FOR A CHANGE

WASHINGTON POST - Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced a wide-ranging plan to provide permanent housing for the city's chronically homeless, to preserve affordable housing by making it harder for landlords to convert buildings into high-priced condos and to help fund 500 townhouses affordable to low- and moderate-income workers. . . In July, Fenty announced to the interfaith network that his administration would allocate $117 million yearly to protect and create affordable housing. He pledged to require that 30 percent of new units built on city-owned land be affordable for low-income residents. He also called for a partnership between the city and the interfaith network to build 5,000 homes as part of a project to create housing for residents who make $25,000 to $60,000 a year. Planning and construction for the first 500 such homes will begin next year at three sites in Southeast and one in Northeast. . .

Under the mayor's plan, 350 homeless people who primarily live on downtown streets would be moved into existing apartments and other units. With that housing would come an array of social services, officials said. Another 150 units of so-called permanent supportive housing would be built by Catholic Charities USA on vacant city-owned land at Fourth and H Streets NW. That project would also house the chronically homeless, as well as low-income residents.


AND WHY SOMETHING HE TRIED TO DO WASN'T RIGHT

[Fenty attempted an absurdly improper ploy of destroying all e-mails after six months. He backed down so, unlike Bush, he doesn't have to get scolded by a federal judge]

AP - A federal judge Monday ordered the White House to preserve copies of all its e-mails, a move that Bush administration lawyers had argued strongly against. U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy directed the Executive Office of the President to safeguard the material in response to two lawsuits that seek to determine whether the White House has destroyed e-mails in violation of federal law. . . The Federal Records Act details strict standards prohibiting the destruction of government documents including electronic messages, unless first approved by the archivist of the United States.


BILKEMOR LLC

TOM SHERWOOD'S NOTEBOOK - The two major suspects in the tax office, Harriette Walters and Diane Gustus, were known to occasionally "lavish gifts" on co-workers. Huh?

Why would lavishing gifts in a tax office go unnoticed by honest workers? We want to know more about those gifts, to whom they were given, and how they may have blinded the ethics eye of employees.

The Notebook keeps hoping we'll hear from an inside employee who saw what was going on and did something about it. But it appears from prosecutors that the break came when a suburban bank clerk questioned a $400,000 check.

WHILE WE'RE AT IT, who did the legal paperwork for the fake corporations? The suspects or someone not yet apprehended? While some of the companies were fake, some were real and, in any case, one would have expected the banks to want some documentation before they opened an account.

IT WOULD BE NICE if someone in the establishment media fessed up to the fact that the greatest fiscal scandal in modern DC history occurred under Tony Williams and Adrian Fenty and not Marion Barry. But that would spoil the storyline, wouldn't it?


RECOVERED HISTORY: NOT A FIRST FOR NATWAR

AVRAM GOLDSTEIN WASHINGTON POST, JUNE 25, 2002 - Federal prosecutors charged a former District official yesterday with embezzling $248,000 from a city bank account and working for several years as a high-level city lawyer even though he was not licensed to practice law. Saamir "Sam" Kaiser, 38, used the money for personal expenses last year, including a down payment on a Mercedes-Benz, a honeymoon vacation, rent at his West End apartment and $55,000 he wired to his British bank account before fleeing to England in January, according to documents filed by prosecutors in U.S. District Court. Kaiser worked as a lawyer for the D.C. financial control board before it disbanded and then as general counsel to D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi until November . . . "There are some doubts about how he was able to do this," Gandhi said, but added, "If you cannot trust a lawyer to do the right things, who can you trust?"


RECOVERED HISTORY II: HOW TO GET FIRED FROM THE DC GOVERNMENT (IF YOU'RE POWERFUL ENOUGH)

AS THE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT talks about cleaning house, it is worth remembering that how you get laid off in the DC government depends on who you are. This item describes an approach we are not likely to see at the school system.

DC CITY DESK, 2000 - When Anthony Williams was chief financial officer he fired people in a sudden and insulting fashion on short notice. Some 20-year workers were told to get their stuff and leave within five minutes while under the watch of security aides. Cuts took place with no provision for retraining or job placement.

Now, just a few years later, his successor, Valerie Holt, is getting quite different treatment. She's received a $130,000-a-year job at the Labor Department, which will, believe or not, be paid for by DC taxpayers. According to the Washington Post, "[Alice] Rivlin and Williams said the arrangement was the right thing to do, noting that Holt had served the District government for 16 years and was entitled to a measure of respect. Holt, 51, served as CFO for just under a year. The control board 'wanted her to leave for another professional job in a dignified manner,' Rivlin said."


RECOVERED HISTORY III: THE HOSPITAL CRISIS THAT DIDN'T HAVE TO HAPPEN

KATHRYN SINZINGER, COMMON DENOMINATOR, 2002 - A long-secret report prepared for the District's now-dormant financial control board reveals that board members knew Greater Southeast Community Hospital's finances were shaky when they overruled a unanimous D.C. City Council and signed a five-year multimillion-dollar contract with the hospital to administer health-care services for the city's indigent population. . . Greater Southeast - which, along with its parent company, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection last November - was recently replaced by the D.C. Department of Health as the contract's administrator but remains part of the network. . . A copy of the full Price Waterhouse Coopers report, while provided by the control board to the mayor's office, has never been given to the council or to the public.

DANIEL P. MCLEAN, CEO, GWU HOSPITAL, 2003 - Make no mistake: The health care plan for the District's uninsured residents put in place by D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams with approval from the now-defunct control board is an abject failure.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the mayor decided to close D.C. General Hospital and its clinics and replace them with a privatized system of care. While elements of this decision -- such as linking enrolled residents to primary care physicians for a "medical home" -- made sense, the plan failed to account for the needs of those the new system was intended to serve or of the health care providers who served them.

Numerous mistakes followed the initial faulty decision.

One of the largest was the company chosen to run the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, as the privatized health care safety net was named: Doctors Community Healthcare. This out-of-town firm had no track record in running similar programs, and its financial stability was questionable. It had recently purchased the bankrupt Greater Southeast Community Hospital and was promising to provide most of the needed care there. But its financial problems aside, Greater Southeast did not offer the range of specialized health care services that had been available at D.C. General, meaning that patients displaced by the closure of that public hospital had to turn to the other private hospitals in the District to receive care -- hospitals that had been providing two-thirds of the uncompensated care in the city even when D.C. General was fully operational.

Don't worry, the mayor told the hospitals. The District would make sure that they would not be harmed by the end of D.C. General. They would be paid for their services, he said. Moreover, Greater Southeast would pick up the ball, developing more services, including Level I trauma services, to serve the people covered by the alliance. The mayor said an emergency facility would be kept on the old D.C. General campus to help reduce the need for patients to travel to Greater Southeast.

GARY IMHOFF, DC WATCH - Closing DC General Hospital allowed the mayor to capture a vast tract of valuable public land to divvy up among his favored developers and to redirect public health care dollars to his two largest campaign contributors. But it was a devastating blow to public health care in the District.


POST ADMITS GUN BAN DIDN'T WORK

[We've been saying this for years. The real news is that the Post has finally discovered it. The overwhelming cause of the increase in gun violence was the institution of a war on drugs in the 1980s.]

PAUL DUGGAN WASHINGTON POST - Three decades ago, at the dawn of municipal self-government in the District, the city's first elected mayor and council enacted one of the country's toughest gun-control measures, a ban on handgun ownership that opponents have long said violates the Second Amendment. . . Although studies through the decades have reached conflicting conclusions, this much is clear: The ban, passed with strong public support in 1976, has not accomplished everything that the mayor and council of that era wanted it to.

Over the years, gun violence has continued to plague the city, reaching staggering levels at times. . .

In 1977, the first full year of the ban, the city recorded 192 homicides, a rate of 28 per 100,000 residents. The total rose to 223 in 1981 (a 35 rate), then fell to 147 (a 23.5 rate) in 1985 -- the lowest annual homicide toll in the District since 1966. At the time, the rate for the country as a whole also was trending down.

Which turned out to be the calm before the slaughter.

The advent of the lucrative crack-cocaine market and the unprecedented street violence it unleashed in poor neighborhoods nationwide sent homicide rates soaring in the latter half of the 1980s. Not only did the number of killings surge in the District, as it did in most urban areas, the homicide rates here also far exceeded the rates in crack-ridden cities where handguns had not been banned.

In the peak killing year, 1991, the District recorded 482 homicides, or 81 per 100,000 residents, more than triple the 1985 rate. And more than ever, as the city became known as "the nation's murder capital," the gun was the weapon of choice. In 1985, firearms had been used in 65 percent of D.C. homicides. In 1991, they were used in eight out of 10 slayings.


RODNEY THE CHILDE HAROLD BARTENDER

CHILDE HAROLD REMEMBERED

DC ROCKS - I don't know how many times I heard Rodney the bartender bellow last call at the Childe Harold, but it's more than I care to count. Another Washington Institution is gone, and this one at a relatively young age considering it opened in 1967. . .

Everybody knows that Springsteen and Emmy Lou Harris played there long before they were big wigs; they even named sandwiches for them, but not everybody knows that The Ramones played there as well. And lots of local acts like The Insect Surfers, Razz, The Nurses, Catfish Hodge, and The Bad Brains. (Nobody named a sandwich for them.)

Marshall Keith of The Slickee Boys remembers this: "Since it was a tiny club, it made it really exciting, because people were packed in and falling all over each other. I saw The Ramones there. There was no punk rock in DC then. They were inspiring. Their stage moves seemed choreographed to me, which at first was disconcerting, but it was so effective that they were great. They (and anything punk) was panned in the Washington Post. It took a few years and Joe Sasfy before favorable punk reviews made their way into the mainstream. . .

Root Boy Slim and The Sex Change Band was also a frequent performer. Slim would change clothes between sets wearing anything from zoot suits to hippie togs. Sometimes he had strippers with him just in case his show wasn't wild enough on its own which is hard to believe if you ever saw him.

The music ended long ago, unfortunately, and the guy who started it, Bill Heard Jr. is gone as well. So are Rodney and Root Boy Slim. Maybe they are off some place-all having a drink together where there is no last call.


DC SHORTS

EAVESDROP DC - 1: "So you live in the Watergate". . . 2: "I do. The famous Watergate complex". . . 1: "It's famous?". . . 2: "Yeah - the Nixon scandal and everything". . . 1: "Oh - I don't really follow current events."

ZENITHA PRINCE, AFRO-AMERICAN - There is an air of preparedness and of excitement around 820 Chesapeake St. . . A red patterned armchair and ottoman beckon through an open doorway in a room where a pink flowered comforter laid just so across a bed evokes thoughts of comfort, of home. For homeless veterans in Southeast Washington, D.C., that's what Chesapeake Veterans Center will be, a place of refuge. The new facility, put together by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Access Housing, the Veterans Administration and members of the D.C. City Council, is a major step in serving the District's estimated 2,000 homeless veterans, officials said. The "heartchild" of former City Councilman H.R. Crawford, the center will provide 43 single-occupant transitional housing units to complement the 30 transitional and 20 permanent units provided by the Southeast Veterans Service Center.

POTOMAC CONSERVANCY - Potomac Conservancy grades the health of the Potomac river watershed a D+, saying "polluted runoff from our parking lots, roads, and roofs," soil erosion, unhealthy stormwater, and river pollution are overwhelming and degrading the Potomac River system. The Agenda lists several steps that local and state governments can take immediately to help the river in two critical action areas: land development and stormwater management. There have been some reductions in nutrient and sediment pollution, the report says, but the pollutants still exceed their caps, and levels are not decreasing enough to significantly improve water quality. Of the rivers that flow into the Chesapeake, the Potomac delivers the largest amount of sediment each year, and the second-most volume of water.

WASHINGTON BLADE - The District of Columbia, if counted among the states, is the gayest. Among U.S. cities, it's the eighth gayest. And the number of same-sex couples identifying their relationship in U.S. Census surveys is five times larger now than it was when the information was first collected on a national scale in 1990. Those are just some of the conclusions found in a study released Nov. 2. [The] report shows that the 2006 Census Bureau data estimates there are 779,867 same-sex couples in the United States - up from 145,130 who self-identified in the 1990 decennial census. In the District of Columbia, the number of same-sex couples went from 2,213 counted in 1990 and 3,678 counted in 2000 to a slight drop to 3,520 estimated in 2006.

WASHINGTON GARDENER - The latest edition of the free weekly Washington City Paper reports on a disturbing incidence of theft on Capitol Hill. Apparently now folks in DC have to chain down their newly planted bulbs. Now I can see why some people are tempted to steal blooming roses or figs or tomatoes -- even though I find the practice about as low as selling crack to preschoolers-- but I cannot wrap my head around the effort and lunacy it takes to actually go and dig up someone's unsprouted bulbs. You'd have to know when and where they are planted -- I assume by observing them, then you have to trespass and risk getting caught digging them back up -- all-in-all not a quick operation. That is a lot of premeditation for something that is worth around 50 cents each. In the article they mention a possible secondary market - to whom? Does anyone out there buy their bulbs on a street corner from some shady old man? I think not. Tulip bulbs are edible, so I wonder if that is it.

[Could it have been an animal?]

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL reports house prices in DC up in October over the previous year.

SIRIUS Satellite Radio says that Make it Plain, a daily political talk show hosted by Mark Thompson, will launch on November 14 weekdays from 5 to 8 pm on channel 146. Thompson, also known by his African name Matsimela Mapfumo, has been a Washington, DC-based radio host for 20 years. He is a longtime NAACP activist, emcee of the Million Man March, founder of the Umoja Party, and an ordained minister.

LEO HENDRICHS, DC WATCH - In [the] Northwest Current it was reported that Chancellor Rhee, speaking at a Washington Rotary Club meeting, said Mayor Fenty told his cabinet members: "No one is allowed to say no to the chancellor except me. . . . If I hear that someone is standing in the way of progress, that person's job would be at risk." Mayor Fenty repeated his statement, Rhee said, when he learned that some high-level city officials were turning down her requests. Question: save for maybe Mr. Nickles, who else in Mayor Fenty's administration has this privilege? Where is it all this going?

GREAT MOMENTS IN THE FENTY ADMINISTRATION - Fenty had an event called the "Nationals Ballpark Sod Press Conference." He knows where he's needed.

TIM KAUFFMAN, FEDERAL TIMES - Developers of the Homeland Security Department's new headquarters need to go back to the drawing board. Federal planning officials who must approve the project said it's too big in scope and needs to be scaled back. "It's too much. It's too much development," said Harriett Tregoning, a member of the National Capital Planning Commission who represents Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty on the commission. . . "We simply can't allow that to go forward," said Commissioner John Parsons, who represents the Interior Department. "How can we sit here and say that's OK because we need the office space?" . . . The commission ordered GSA to come up with a third option that limits above-ground development on the former St. Elizabeths Hospital property to 2.5 million square feet. . . It's unlikely GSA will be able to meet the commission's size requirement, said Commissioner Mike McGill, who represents GSA on the panel. The size of the development meets Homeland Security's requirements to have its headquarters staff collocated on a single site. . . "We cannot create a headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security on St. Elizabeths with only 2.5 million square feet of space," McGill said.


BULLETIN BOARD

NOV 16

DAVID W. BLIGHT A SLAVE NO MORE (Harcourt, $25) A leading historian of slavery, Blight provides context for two newly uncovered slave narratives. John Washington and Wallace Turnage recollected their childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, and their escape and service during the Civil War. Blight continues their stories into the years following the war. Politics & Prose, 7 pm.

DEC 7

AUTHOR STORYTELLING & FILM SNEAK PREVIEW Dec 7, Fri - 5:30-7:00 pm - Busboys & Poets - Blind Photographers shift how we think about art & perception. Author Tony Deifell shows scenes from upcoming film & tells stories from Seeing Beyond Sight (Chronicle Books).


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