Friday, December 7

DC FRIDAY

THE REAL REASON FOR CLOSING ALL THOSE SCHOOLS?

[It occurs to us, based on her own remarkable budget deficit, that it would be more financially rewarding to the city to close Michelle Rhee rather than all these schools.]

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - By closing 23 D.C. public schools, Mayor Adrian Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee hope to save the city $23 million and better match school facilities to the District's changing demographics. They also could dramatically increase the city's portfolio of developable land.

According to the D.C. Public Schools Office of Facilities Management, the schools slated for closure comprise 2.2 million square feet of building space and about 75 acres of land, some of it in neighborhoods that are of interest to developers but where open lots are rare.

"We would be very interested in looking at what's available," said Jim Abdo, chief executive of Abdo Development. Abdo turned the 101-year-old Bryan School, at 1315 Independence Ave. SE, into luxury condominiums, winning an award from Fenty for historic preservation in the process.

It's not difficult to guess which of the current crop would be most attractive to developers.

At the top of the list might be Hine Junior High School, a 131,300 square-foot Capitol Hill building at the corner of Eighth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE that is set snuggly among Eastern Market, the Metro station of the same name and the Barracks Row retail corridor.

Brookland and other neighborhoods east of The Catholic University of America could see new development on three sites within a half mile of the Brookland Metro station if Fenty's plan goes through.

Eight of the schools are in Northeast Washington, where parents have opted for charter and private schools in recent years, leaving schools operating with many fewer students. . .

Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for Rhee, said the schools would be maintained by the city after being closed, community input would be sought regarding their future, and there are no plans to sell them. Adrian Washington, a principal of the Neighborhood Development Co., said he expects many of the buildings to be turned into charter schools.


THE WIZARDS OF OOZE


[The fact that the city pols are fighting over these seats merely adds evidence to the case for the whole Verizon Center subsidy deal involving what amounts to a legal bribe: you give us $50 million and we'll give you some great seats. By any standard of decent governance it would be a criminal act, but DC, of course, is another matter. Note also, that the Verizon Center giveaway is over twice the amount mentioned in the preceding story as being saved by closing a bunch of schools. Maybe if Brookland gave Mayor Fenty and the council some heated, enclosed, food enhanced boxes at Turkey Thicket, perhaps they'd let them keep some of their schools]

WASHINGTON POST - Who's sitting in the catbird seat -- the city's 24-seat luxury suite at the Verizon Center with an unobstructed view of Gilbert Arenas and other Washington Wizards? Nobody. For now.

Representatives of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and the D.C. Council are fighting over who should get to sit in the lavish box given to the city rent-free by Wizards' owner Abe Pollin. It's equipped with televisions, a food service area and a private bathroom.

It was Pollin's goodwill gesture to the city after the council approved giving $50 million to renovate the Verizon Center this year. The $50 million was the city's goodwill gesture to Pollin for building the arena credited with helping to revive downtown Washington.

But the goodwill between Fenty and the council has been waning in recent weeks. Rather than get in the middle, a politically savvy employee thought twice about handing over the tickets to Fenty folks who had planned to pick up the hot items last week. Something just didn't seem right. That exchange could have boxed the council out of the box. So the savvy employee contacted appropriate parties, and the tussle over the tickets was on.

A few council members didn't hesitate to demand their fair share.

At RFK Stadium, the 40 or so tickets for the Washington Nationals and D.C. United were split between the mayor, who received a third, and the 13 council members. The tickets are distributed by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.


STUPID CITY COUNCIL TRICKS

DC EXAMINER - A Logan Circle man who refused to remove a ladder from the side of his house, perhaps allowing thieves easy entry to his neighbors' homes, has inspired legislation requiring District residents to keep their ladders locked away. The bill, introduced by Ward 2 D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, mandates that all ladders, when not in use, "shall be stored within a fully enclosed locked structure or locked and secured in a side or back yard so they are screened by a fence or wall from the view of any neighboring property, street or alley."


THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD


[Socio-economic cleansing moves east of the river big time]

DC EXAMINER - Developers have quietly slated the long-neglected Anacostia area for close to 10 million square feet and $3 billion worth of housing, offices and retail over the next four years - almost 20 times as much development as the underserved area has seen during the past six years. . . Developers have planned or proposed more than 2,800 new condos or houses for the area before 2011, according to WDCEP numbers. By comparison, only 227 new housing units were built there between 2001 and August of this year. Half a million square feet of retail space is planned for the area, which has few restaurants and has had no grocery store before a Giant Foods opened there Wednesday. About 1.2 million square feet of office space is also on the way, compared with the 74,000 square feet of new office development the area has seen since over the past six years.


BREAKFAST WITH FENTY


MARK SEGRAVES, WTOP
- Gray asked Fenty, "What is our relationship with you?"

Fenty finally spoke up, "This is not a final proposal."

Graham explained that he thought a Ward Council Member should be part of any decision made on school closing in their Ward. "I thought I'd have a bigger role," he said the Fenty.

Fenty was quick to respond. He leaned across the table and stretched his arm toward Graham and told him that Council Members don't dictate police deployment, "But that hasn't stopped you from sending hundreds of emails, calling assistant police chiefs, calling me, to get more cops in your Ward. I suggest you put the same energy in to the schools."

It was the most forceful Fenty had been. He didn't raise his voice, but he made a point that resonated with everyone in that room. It was a moment, that defined the change of temperature in the room. And it as about to get a lot hotter.

As Graham recoiled back in his seat, he fired off one last shot across the bow.

"Don't plan on selling any buildings. . . " Before he could even finish his thought, much less his sentence, Fenty said in a firm tone, "Let's not start threatening people, I don't think you want to threaten me.". . .

Fenty sat quietly looking at Tangherlini seated next to him.

That's when Council Member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) took the floor. Pointing at Fenty Barry said, "You're missing the point."

Fenty interrupted, "I'm not missing anything."

"Yes, you are. Let me finish," Barry said.

Fenty looked across the table at Gray and said, "Mr. Chairman, I'm not going to be disparaged. I'm not going to sit here and be told I'm missing the point."

Barry asked, "Can I finish?"

Fenty, "No."

Barry winced, "I can't finish my f***in' statement. I resent that."

Barry quickly uttered some quick apology that eased the tension and brought a few laughs, but then it was back to business.

Barry recounted a conversation he had had with Tangherlini earlier. . .

LOOSE LIPS, CITY PAPER - When the meeting ended, the acrimony didn't. Earlier, Barry had recounted a detail of a private meeting with City Administrator Dan Tangherlini, in which Tangherlini essentially said that the council wasn't being informed of certain mayoral initiatives because the mayor didn't want the council leaking things before the mayor could. Afterward, within earshot of Segraves, Tangherlini went up to Barry and told him to keep their private conversations private lest he and Barry have no more private conversations.


ALWAYS THOUGHT THE POST WAS A BIT DIDACTIC

DCRTV - Donald Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Company, will rebrand the firm as an "education and media company" at a meeting with Wall Street analysts and shareholders today, reflecting the rise of Kaplan within the Post Company and the decline of its flagship newspaper. Kaplan, which the Post Company purchased in 1984, now accounts for 50-cents of every dollar in Post Company revenue, by far the top earner in the company, according to the company's third-quarter earnings report released last month. The newspaper division, primarily the Washington Post, accounts for just 21-cents of every dollar. Kaplan passed the newspaper division in revenue in the third quarter of 2003.


DC SHORTS

UNION CITY: DC Jobs With Justice, the DC Employment Justice Center and the Metro Washington Council yesterday launched a campaign urging Councilmember Carol Schwartz to move quickly to pass the Paid Sick and Safe Days Act. The act would guarantee a minimum number of paid sick days for all DC workers. But while the entire DC City Council signed on in support when the bill was introduced last May and Councilmember Schwartz promised to pass the bill by the end of the year, the bill is still languishing in her committee as 2007 draws to a close.

LEROY HALL ASKS the interesting question: How do you achieve smaller class size by closing schools?


READER COMMENTS

SCHOOL CLOSINGS

This school closure plan is simply the end result of two decades of gentrification and structural adjustment. Middle class families with children were forced into the suburbs, depopulating the District. Fenty's plan simply accepts this as a fait accompli. Instead of pushing an agenda to reverse it, repopulating the District and reducing the huge income inequality that has grown in the same period, the Mayor, his allies on the Council and the Federal City Council are continuing the Control Board regime with the facade of an elected government. So the fight against this school plan is really a fight for the other DC that is possible, more just, more equal. - David Schwartzman


DC ALMANAC


SAYLES BOWEN

WIKIPEDIA - In 1868, [Sayles] Bowen was nominated by the Republicans as a candidate for Mayor of Washington against Democrat John T. Given. At that time, post-Civil War Washington had been ravaged by the war and by a desperate shortage of funds from Congress; the city had deteriorated so badly that there was much talk in the Federal sector of relocating the seat of government to St. Louis. Bowen ran for mayor under the slogan "A vote for Bowen is a vote for keeping the capital in Washington." In that year's July election, blacks voted in Washington for the first time, and because of Bowen's famous support of civil rights, he received narrow support from white voters and overwhelming support from black ones. The margin was extremely narrow in favor of Bowen, but close enough to necessitate a recount by the City Councils; however, while the it was still proceeding, the Republicans on the recount committee (including the most powerful Republican politician in the District, Alexander Robey Shepherd) publicly declared Bowen the winner and he took office.

Once elected, however, Bowen's activism startled even the Radical Republican contingent that then dominated Congress. He agitated for complete integration of the city's public school system. When that failed, he turned instead to constructing a network of schools specifically for "persons of color," diverting large sums of city funds and even providing $20,000 of his own.

Bowen's policies of activism on behalf of black civil rights outraged well-to-do white citizens of Washington, but even the Republicans who had enforced black rights and suffrage in the capital concluded that Bowen was far more interested in civil rights for blacks than in governing the city and administering public services (his actual job as mayor). He spent extravagant portions of the city budget in creating schools and employment for blacks, which, while regarded as noble by the Republicans, drained the coffers of money that was intended for maintaining the city. Bowen was even charged with reducing street service to men using penknives to cut the grass between the cobblestones on Pennsylvania Avenue.

By 1870, the city's debt had increased by 33 percent over its total two years before. Bowen was universally blamed, enough so that his furniture was seized in a judgment to try to replenish Washington's funds. Although he sought reelection that year, Republicans united with Democrats to vote overwhelmingly for his opponent, Matthew Gault Emery.

After leaving office, Bowen served as president of the Freedmen's Aid Society, and as a member of the board of trustees of colored schools of Washington and Georgetown the board of school commissioners. He died in 1896 and was interred at Congressional Cemetery.

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