Wednesday, December 12

DC WEDNESDAY

FENTY: SPITZER SOUTH?

ADRIAN FENTY MIGHT want to take a look at what has happened to NY governor Eliot Spitzer who, as the AP noted, "barreled into the New York governor's office barely 11 months ago riding a record-setting wave of popularity." Spitzer in that 11 months now finds himself with a 37% approval rating. Fenty's situation may not be as bad - of course the local media doesn't poll on such things - but he is clearly in much worse shape than when he started. And he's not helping matters by trying to bully the council and parents into buying his poorly conceived, highly spun and extraordinarily arrogant school takeover.

The other day he told reporters: "Whatever it takes to make every one of our schools excellent, and to make sure every one of our young people gets an excellent education, do it -- no matter what it is and no matter who gets upset."

There are two problems with this: first he is forgetting that he is an elected mayor and not a dictator and, second, neither he nor his chancellor have any striking qualifications for accomplishing the task they have assumed. For example, even accepting the District Building spin concerning Rhee's abilities as a teacher, it is already clear that she didn't teach budgets or personnel management and we are paying the price for it.

Basically, we have an inexperienced mayor and chancellor following either the wishes or the dictates of a self-perpetuating cabal of corporados whose real interest in DC is as a profit center, along with the Washington Post that has just admitted it is no longer a newspaper but an educational and media company, albeit without outlining exactly what economic interests the educational side of the company might have in the reorganization of DC schools.

The misleading mythology about local schools is amazing. For example, we checked the so-called "adequate yearly progress" of DC elementary schools and found that the public schools are doing better than the public charter schools which are doing better than the private ones. You'd never know that from reading the Kaplan Post.

MEANWHILE, althoughh we don't have any approval polling, we do have this from As David Nakamura in the Post:

"To celebrate his 37th birthday, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty wanted a celebration befitting a populist mayor thanking his faithful electorate. Fenty (D) reserved a 5,000-person ballroom at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, ordered up huge plates of hors d'oeuvres, hired go-go legend Chuck Brown to provide the music and invited 10,000 city residents, sending printed invitations and reminding them with robo-calls.

"But when the doors opened Thursday night, partygoers were met with all the atmosphere of a bad high school dance. Throughout the evening, the ballroom remained less than one-fifth full, with hundreds of empty seats lined up row after row. Those who did show up mostly sat around wondering what to do as three gigantic television screens hanging from the ceiling played a slideshow of Fenty photos."

GARY EMERLING, WASHINGTON TIMES - Mr. Thomas and council member Marion Barry introduced legislation that would require Fenty officials and D.C. agencies in charge of city properties to provide detailed explanations of why they are allocating parcels of land for use by private companies and developers.

For example, Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, would have to submit a resolution to the council stating the property is not required for public purposes and prove why it should be sold or leased to developers, instead of housing city agencies that now lease private space.

Another key part of the proposed bill is a requirement that the mayor hold at least two public hearings near the property before designating it as a parcel for private use. . .

Council members in October reneged on a plan proposed by Fenty officials to negotiate exclusively with developer Eastbanc Inc. for the sale and redevelopment of the West End Neighborhood Library, a fire station and nearby land. Members initially approved the deal by a 12-1 vote, but voted to reconsider the plan following an outcry from residents and community groups. . .


ART, MUSIC & FOREIGN LANGUAGES TO BE VICTIMS OF FENTY-RHEE BUDGET FOUL-UP

WASHINGTON POST - Fenty (D) and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced at a morning news conference that they would delay a planned expansion of art, music and foreign language classes to help close a budget gap of more than $100 million. The programs were originally set to begin in the spring. All told, Rhee said she has identified $17 million in savings and another $15 million in potential new revenue that will go toward eliminating the budget shortfall reported to the council by city finance officials two weeks ago.


BRANCH LIBRARIANS FIRED BEFORE CHRISTMAS AND UNDER GUARD

[Note the age discrimination involved in some of these firings]

WASHINGTON POST - Almost 40 employees of the D.C. Public Library system -- about 10 percent of the workforce -- will be leaving their jobs in early January as part of what officials describe as a plan to "transform" the beleaguered system and rejuvenate its personnel.

The group leaving includes the head librarians of seven of the District's 27 libraries. The head librarians at the Mount Pleasant, Petworth and Woodridge branches were fired, along with five subject specialists at the central Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The eight were let go "without cause" on Nov. 29 or 30, officials said. They were placed on paid administrative leave through Dec. 31, then accompanied to their desks to retrieve their belongings and escorted out the door. . .

Thirty other employees, including the head librarians at the Capitol View, Southwest, Washington Highlands and West End branches and the head of the Black Studies department at the central library accepted financial incentives to retire. . .

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), the chairman of the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation, said that he would probably call a hearing with library officials to explore the impact of the retirements and firings on library service, to inquire about the reasons for the terminations and to discuss the importance of hiring D.C. residents to fill vacancies.

Davenport said the employees who opted to leave have worked from 21 to 54 years in the library system. She did not know the average age of those workers but she said the average length of service was 34 years. The goal in refilling the positions, Davenport said, will be to hire more high-tech savvy employees. "We need librarians and library associates who are digital natives, who have grown up with that stuff and have the competence and confidence to use it.

"We need a skill set that is very comfortable working with teenagers because that's a group of city residents that need library services," she said. "And we need people who are very comfortable with change because they're coming into an environment that's changing."

The firing of Ellen Kardy prompted an outpouring of support by the Friends of the Mount Pleasant Library, where she worked for almost 17 years. Kardy declined to comment, but Friends of Mount Pleasant President Richard Huffine said: "The concern we have is that Ms. Kardy was an institution in our community, more so than the library itself. She survived all the lean years and now we have $8 million coming from the city for a [library] renovation. She was going to finally see that branch come back to its glory and that really breaks our heart."


FENTY RIDES ROUGHSHOD OVER LOCAL MOTORIST RIGHTS

MARC FISHER - Come next year, anyone who lives in, works in or visits the District will lose a basic right: the right to protest a parking ticket in front of a hearing officer. . . Advocates for motorists say there's a nationwide drive by cities and states to push up revenue from tickets in part by making it harder for ticketed citizens to make any kind of appeal for human mercy. In Boston, for example, it can now cost $275 in fees to appeal a $100 ticket.

But in Washington, there's at least some reason to believe that you're better off protesting a ticket by mail than in person. My own anecdotal experience from sitting in on proceedings at the D.C. DMV tells me that hearing officers do occasionally bend to appeals accompanied by teary or pleading speeches. The statistics tell a different and more persuasive story: More than 55 percent of those who fought their tickets in the past year got those citations dismissed. But a considerably higher portion of those who made their stand by mail rather than in person got off: fully 65 percent.

So maybe the city won't win more cases by eliminating in-person hearings. Still, given such egregiously high levels of error by meter maids and police, the least the city could do to ensure fairness is to allow those who receive tickets a chance to present their evidence in person. Any judicial process needs to be open to public monitoring to ensure fairness; pushing these hearings entirely to mail and e-mail strips away transparency.


DC SHORTS

EAVESDROP DC - Overheard in an Alexandria cardiologist's waiting area, as the receptionist crew talked death and funeral arrangements: "I've already got it arranged with my family. They're going to dump my ashes into a planter down on the Mall, near the Smithsonian, so I can watch people and cars and shit."

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