Thursday, April 10

DC THURSDAY

FENTY WANTS TO SPY ON YOU ALL THE TIME IN 5,000 DIFFERENT PLACES

GARY EMERLING, WASH TIMES - D.C. officials are giving police access to more than 5,000 closed-circuit TV cameras citywide that monitor traffic, schools and public housing - a move that will give the District one of the largest surveillance networks in the country. . . "We've been sort of sounding the alarm on this stuff for a long time, saying these little pieces - they grow," said Art Spitzer, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area. "You put a camera here, it's not so bad, you put a camera there, it's not so bad. But then it turns out all the sudden, we find out there are 5,200 cameras. That's a big number."

Council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said that the proposed move was "breathtaking" and that the initiative "has not been thought through."

"There is a huge civil liberty implication because they're talking about a fully [interoperable] system," said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat. "If it is as big as they are suggesting, this is a major change."

The mayor said the Metropolitan Police Department currently monitors 92 surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods. The number of cameras available for the department's use in those neighborhoods will increase to 225 under the initiative, although Mr. Fenty said police and other agencies also will have access to 1,388 outside cameras and 3,874 cameras inside buildings throughout the city.

Nearly 3,500 of the cameras are operated by D.C. Public Schools. The city's transportation department operates 131 of the devices, which are normally trained on streets but can swivel. . .

Chicago, widely seen as the U.S. city that has made the most aggressive use of surveillance technology, has installed more than 2,000 cameras and began linking the devices into a single network in 2004. The camera network in London, referred to as the "Ring of Steel," is thought to be the most extensive in the world, employing about 500,000 cameras.

MARY BETH SHERIDAN WASHINGTON POST "Having it all together in one place brings us one step closer to the kind of scary movie scenario where they can track somebody moving across the city," said Art Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union for the Washington area. . .

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said in a statement that the new system "will provide decision-makers with a more efficient and effective source of video information, both for day-to-day monitoring as well as during emergencies." [Note his casual use of the term 'day to day monitoring' as if such spying was constitutional]. . . The growing use of security cameras across the country has drawn criticism, with residents fearing violations of their privacy. Such cities as Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia do live monitoring.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, called the project "a very radical change." . . .

DOROTHY BRIZILL, DC WATCH More than three thousand of the cameras are in DCPS facilities. As you know, there is a great effort made to protect the privacy of children in the schools, and a volume of the municipal regulations addresses the school system. For example, in order for a news outlet to take a camera into a school, it has to get the permission, not only of the principal, but also of the chancellor. While school cameras are now used only by school personnel on an in-school basis, under this proposal students would be surveilled by Homeland Security employees away from school campuses, violating the privacy of school children.

BASEBALL: THE MOST EXPENSIVE SPORT IN TOWN

DAVID A NAKAMURA, WASH POST BLOG - So two games into the home schedule for the Washington Nationals and they draw only 20,487 in the 41,888-seat stadium. Was this a fluke due to the mildly chilly weather or a sign that maybe D.C. never really did want baseball back? And what about all that economic development that was supposed to come to the area because so many fans would be around for each game? At the Post yesterday, an editor was trying to give his tickets away and was having difficulty finding takers.

ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK at it is to note the Nationals had 29 more spectators at this week's game that the DC Uniteds averaged last year at considerably less cost to the DC taxpayer. Here, thanks to Steven Goff at the Post, are recent average attendance for various local sports:

  • Washington Redskins: 2006 Average: 87,631
  • Maryland Football: 2006 Average: 49,393
  • Washington Nationals: 2007 Average: 24,217
  • D.C. United: 2007 Average: 20,458
  • Washington Wizards: 2007 Average: 18,372
  • Maryland Basketball: 2007 Average: 16,822.
  • Georgetown Basketball: 2007 Average: 10,441
  • Washington Mystics: 2007 Average: 7,788.
  • GW Basketball: 2007 Average: 3,403
  • Washington Capitals: 2007 Average: 13,929
  • 2005: 33,651
  • 2006: 26582
  • 2007: 24217

INFALLIBILITY DOESN'T COME CHEAP THESE DAYS

CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY TOWER - Pope Benedict's historic visit to campus will cost the University $800,000, President Rev. David M. O'Connell said during House Mass. Half of the funds come from the reallocation of the budget for projects that were already in the works; the other half was personally raised by O'Connell specifically for the papal visit according to University spokesman, Victor Nakas.

The pontiff never intended to hang out in the Pryzbyla Center and visit classes O'Connell told the Tower. The visit is intended to make a much more significant impact on Catholic education around the country.

"The pope had chosen Catholic University because it is the national university of the Church, because it is located in the most powerful city, in the most powerful nation in the world to be his pulpit to give an address to the church in the United States," said O'Connell. . .

Fr. Robert Schlageter and Mike Andrew, assistant dean of students, will lead games, videos, cheers and prayers in preparation of welcoming the pope. . . The Holy Father is anticipated to stop, wave to the crowds and be greeted by O'Connell and a student. . .

About 3,000 requests have been made for media credentials for the papal visit to the University. "There is a great deal of intense interest in what the pope is going to say," said O'Connell.


PASSINGS: THE BIRDMAN OF DUPONT CIRCLE

INDICATORS

CENTER FOR BUDGET & POLICY PRIORITIES The richest 20 percent of DC families have average incomes 13.5 times as large as the poorest 20 percent of families. . . This ratio was 8.8 in the late 1980s. .. The very richest families - top 5% - have average incomes 26.2 times as large as the poorest 20 percent of families. The District's Richest Families vs. Families in the Middle . . . The richest 20 percent of families have average incomes 4.2 times as large as the middle 20 percent of families. . . This ratio was 2.7 in the late 1980s. . . The average income of the poorest fifth of families did not increase significantly. . . The average income of the middle fifth of families did not increase significantly. . . The average income of the richest fifth of families increased by $67,905, from $120,636 to $188,541. This is an increase of $3,994 per year.

DC SHORTS

YEAS & NEAS, DC EXAMINER - Bouncers in the city's clubs would do well to know just who it is they're smacking around. Nearly two weeks ago, Councilman Jim Graham's chief of staff, Ted Loza, was hit repeatedly by a bouncer at Marvin, the hot new French bistro-cum-lounge on the corner of 14th and U streets. Loza says he was "assaulted" in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 22. According to a report Loza filed with the police department, the incident began when "Bouncer #1," as he's identified, was being rude and threatening to Loza's female friends. After Loza attempted to intervene, the bouncer cursed at him and put his finger in Loza's face, prompting Loza to push him back. Another bouncer broke them up and assured him that there would be no further problems. Loza says the bouncer later told him, "When you leave, I'm going to get a piece of you." When Loza and his friends left about a half-hour later, the bouncer followed them out and, after some verbal jousting, "Bouncer #1 hit me in the face a couple of times and gave me a bleeding nose." When the police arrived, they told Loza his choice was either to let it go, or they would arrest everyone involved. . . .Which brings us to the question of what the pugilistic bouncer didn't know. Loza's boss, you see, chairs the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, which has oversight over all the alcoholic beverage licenses in the city. The bouncer has since been let go, according to Graham.

JONETTA ROSE BARRAS, DC EXAMINER Some people hoped Stanley Jackson would resolve the problems at the University of the District of Columbia. But, as the current acting president, he has generating a stream of complaints. Recently, the faculty senate unanimously voted "no confidence" in his leadership. The senate is dissatisfied with Jackson's appointment of Eurmon Hervey Jr. as acting vice president for academic affairs. The group's steering committee, after interviewing Hervey, found his credentials inadequate. . . This recent dustup comes after a year of continuous controversy, beginning with the ouster of Pollard and Provost Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, and the discovery that James Dyke, chairman of the UDC trustees, snagged more than $400,000 of District funds for Northern Virginia Community College where he served on a board that raises money for that school. UDC is a basket case. There are problems with the large percentage of the school's budget that goes for administration. The facility is crumbling before everyone's eyes, the list of courses isn't competitive, and trustees seem more focused on their pet projects rather than the entire institution. "Nobody really cares," says Wilmer Johnson, a member of the senate steering committee. Despite calls for help from faculty and students neither Mayor Adrian Fenty nor D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray has take significant action. Meanwhile, a movement is building to convert UDC into a community college. That would be disastrous for those District residents who want a four-year college degree but can't afford the tuition at many of the private schools. For these individuals, UDC is their last best hope

BRUCE JOHNSON, WUSA - Students at the District's Wilson high remain on restrictions during their lunch hour despite their earlier walkout in protest. School spokesperson Mafara Hobson told me on Wednesday that while students cannot leave the grounds for lunch as they had prior to several assaults on students by students --they are no longer restricted to their classrooms for lunch. . . the cafeteria,gym and auditorium are all available under tight supervision.

LOU CHIBBARO JR, WASHINGTON BLADE D.C. high school students who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual are four times as likely to contemplate suicide than their heterosexual counterparts and regularly report being bullied and harassed by their classmates, according to a survey released last week by the District's public school system. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is part of a national school-based survey funded by the federal government, also found that 23.3 percent of gay high school students in D.C. reported having used methamphetamine, or crystal meth, compared to just 2.5 percent of straight students.

DEUTSCHE WELLE, GERMANY - Germany's Green Party is setting up a branch in the United States. The bottom-up initiative aims to bring a more international perspective to the party's work and combat anti-Americanism among some members back home. The chapter is due to be officially founded in Washington DC. It hopes to tap into the experiences of the growing number of Germans working in the US capital in international organizations, foundations and think tanks, as well as in the media, the culture industry and higher education. "We've discovered that there are a lot of Germans in town who are young, tolerant and cosmopolitan and who share Green values or are active in the Green party," said chapter co-founder Arne Jungjohann. "We want to offer them a platform.". . . It is the Greens' second branch abroad. The party also has a group based in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Commission.

HILL RAG Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B recently experimented with a mediation strategy enlisting volunteers from nearby ANCs to help resolve neighborhood disputes. At its March meeting, the commission saw the results of one such experiment . . . At the commission's February meeting, neighbors opposed renovation plans for 612 E St. SE, and the commission refused to support the historic preservation application for the project. At March's meeting, however, owner and neighbors appeared side by side with a mutually acceptable plan which the commission agreed to support. Resolution in this case was reached through the assistance of Tom Hamilton, who volunteered as mediator on behalf of ANC 6A. The ANC's February position said the project was "disguising a zoning matter" as a historic preservation case. Of particular concern was the plan to remove a garage roof, thus subtracting that structure from lot occupancy calculation to make room for a larger-than-otherwise-permitted rear addition. New plans address neighbors' concerns but still rely on additional lot occupancy gained through partial garage roof removal.

SMITHSONIAN MAG - Back in the early 20th century, long before computers or telephones were standard, postcards were like e-mail. The letter carrier stopped by three or four times each day and postcards were cheap, costing a mere penny to mail. You could send a card in the morning to a friend across the city to set up a date that night. It would arrive around noon, and your friend still had time to confirm before dinner. Businesses learned that postcards were an easy way to advertise, and might print up thousands, says Jerry McCoy, a D.C. deltiologist (postcard enthusiast). . . . They're also important historical documents. "Researchers almost never think of postcards as sources of visual information," McCoy says. "But often the only place you can find photos of a business is on a postcard." For example, [a] postcard from the Casino Royal, a Chinese restaurant and hot night spot in the 1950s. On the back, comedian Cal Claude scribbled a message about his performance there with Nat King Cole in 1955.. . . By the 1980s, the Casino Royal was an adult entertainment theater and was heavily damaged in a 1985 fire.


YEAS & NEAS, DC EXAMINER In one of Destination DC's new ads to promote city tourism, Fenty is depicted running in Rock Creek Park. According to the D.C. GOP, however, the ad "has a subliminal message, shop at Fleet Feet Sports, owned by Mr. & Mrs. Phil & Jan Fenty," the mayor's parents. You see, as Fenty runs in the ad, he sports a Fleet Feet T-shirt. "Mayor Fenty is asking D.C. taxpayers to sacrifice $100 in new taxes and fees in his FY2009 budget all while promoting his family's business in taxpayer funded ads," said GOP Chairman Robert Kabel. . . A spokeswoman for Destination DC said all the participants in the ad campaign were allowed to select their own wardrobes.


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