Tuesday, April 1

DC TUESDAY

ACLU, DC ACORN TO TEACH RESIDENTS THE RIGHTS DC POLICE WANT TO ABUSE

The ACLU and DC ACORN are having a training session and community canvassing to counteract the police department's planned Constitution-ducking "voluntary searches" of home: "MPD says officers will go to Eckington, Columbia Heights, Washington Highlands (and possibly other neighborhoods) to ask residents' permission to search their homes They will ask residents to sign a consent form, which answers some questions but not others. But even though the form says that someone could be charged with a crime as the result of the search, too many people may not understand what is written or take the time to read the form carefully. Our job is to ensure that residents really understand the consequences of agreeing to a search and that they have an absolute right to refuse - without retaliation of any kind. The sessions will be on Saturday, April 5 12:30 – 1:30 pm with canvassing to follow. St. James Episcopal Church 222 – 8th Street, NE Washington, D.C. (between the Red Line's Union Station and Blue/Orange's Eastern Market stations)

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CATANIA PROPOSES REQUIRED SUBSIDY OF PRIVATE INSURANCE COMPANIES FOR THOSE WISHING TO LIVE IN DC

WASH TIMES David A. Catania announced a universal health care program he hopes to have included in Mr. Fenty's final budget proposal. The "Healthy DC" program would be funded in part through tax increases and require city residents 18 years and older to have health insurance by next year. Residents would be required to certify their coverage on 2010 tax returns and would be fined at least $250 a year for noncompliance, though exceptions could be granted. . . The $56 million-a-year program would be made available through a contract between the District and provider CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and uninsured residents earning more than 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines would be eligible for enrollment.

WHILE HELPING POORER RESIDENTS with health insurance is a good idea, as is requiring insurance companies to charge individual customers group rates, demanding that people buy insurance from predatory private insurance companies is in no way universal healthcare, a point that neither Obama or Clinton understand either. This is dramatically different from requiring automobile insurance since you don't have to drive a car but you do have to live. Especially given that 25-30% of what people pay in insurance goes to advertising and administration, this is certainly a rip off compared to a single payer program supported by 59% of all physicians in this country according to a recent poll.


DC SHORTS

MARCIA DAVIS, WASH POST BLOG About 70 Woodrow Wilson High School students walked out of the building and streamed onto the football field today to protest the loss of their free lunch period, part of Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's new security plan aimed at quelling violence at the Northwest Washington campus. Responding to the recent arrest of 13 students for fighting, Rhee halted the policy allowing students to go anywhere on campus for lunch and ordered students to eat boxed meals in their classrooms. The change went into effect today, the students' first day back after spring break. During the second-period lunch around noon, dozens of students left the building from a rear entrance and assembled peacefully on the football field. About 30 minutes later, the students began returning to the building. The walkout was among several ways students expressed their dissatisfaction with the security policy. Other students wore black armbands and promoted an alternative to Rhee's proposal.

ONCE AGAIN, Adrian Fenty is acting as though he gets to call all the shots. . . . WASH TIMES: Chairman Vincent C. Gray and Mrs. Schwartz criticized the budget for a lack of detail about how funds were shifted among agencies. Mrs. Schwartz said the lack of such detail means "we don't know where the money is going, what changes are being made.". . . "We may see a bottom line that hasn't changed, yet there may be dynamics within that agency that are important to us in evaluating [the agency] going forward," Mr. Gray said.

CHANNEL FOUR A report finds that the D.C. public school system's high school graduation rate falls in the middle of the pack when compared with other cities. The report by the nonprofit group Editorial Projects in Education examined the dropout rate in the nation's 50 largest cities and their suburbs. According to the report, about 52 percent of public school students in the 50 cities graduate after four years in high school. Researchers found that about 58 percent of D.C. students graduate on time, which puts the system 22nd among the big-city systems. . . SO ONCE AGAIN we find our schools are not as bad as we have been led to believe. Has the Washington Post or the Federal City Council told you that 4th grade reading and math scores have risen the past few years? . . Or that SAT scores are up slightly from 1981? . . . This isn't to say the system doesn't have major problems, but a false disaster scenario won't help us solve them. It will just hasten the break-up of the public school system which some of our leaders seem to want.

EAVESDROP DC Little girl: Can we ride the green line? . . . Mother: No. . . Little girl: Why? . . . Mother, whispering: Because the green line goes to scary places. . . P St. NW, at dinner: Girl 1: What was that place I wanted to go to? The one with two presidents' names? Girl 2: Adams Morgan? Girl 1: Yeah!

WTOP A union representing about 25,000 grocery workers in the Baltimore-Washington area says it has reached a tentative agreement with two major supermarket chains. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union had earlier warned of a possible strike at Giant Foods, which is owned by Royal Ahold NV, and at Safeway Inc. Workers will vote Tuesday on whether to ratify the agreement. The union says it will make details of the agreement public on Wednesday.

STAR LAWRENCE, DC WATCH I have been away from DC for twelve years, but I can tell you this “Hello, could we come in?” thing is huge with police out here in the Phoenix area. When my kid was a teen, I made the mistake of letting them in to get a friend of my daughter's who had been declared a runaway. It was two female officers. I thought they would step inside while I called the girl. Instead, they fanned out and started opening cabinets and went into my daughter's room. This irked me so much, I pulled the girl aside and said don't talk to them, don't say anything. They saw that popular marijuana leaf poster on my kid's wall and came to me and said, “You should throw your daughter out of the house.” . .

YOLANDA WOODLEE WASHINGTON POST Tom Brown, chairman of the Ward 8 Workforce Development Council, has perfected an approach to attacking urban poverty: He takes employers on a job tour in Southeast Washington neighborhoods to personally meet with unemployed residents. Since October, more than 100 residents have found jobs in the twice-monthly sessions at churches and community centers in the heart of the neighborhood. The goal is to employ 300 residents a year. "The success of it is because of the intimacy of the setup," Brown said. "It's straight talk between unemployed residents and employers."

WASH POST The D.C. rent administrator has rejected a deal between the landlord and tenants at the Kennedy-Warren apartment building on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington, reviving a dispute earlier this year that led to what city officials described as one of the largest rent strikes in local history.

A majority of the tenants in the historic section of the art deco building, which is next to the National Zoo, had signed an agreement with the landlord, Bethesda -based B.F. Saul Co., to avoid rent increases, including a $233 monthly renovation surcharge that went into effect in January and a $179 monthly surcharge paid since June. In exchange for forgiving rent increases for those who signed the agreement, the landlord secured the right to raise rents to market rates in vacated apartments in the historic wing. But Grayce Wiggins, the city's rent administrator, found on March 24 that the agreement was "patently coercive," punishing tenants who had refused to sign by not allowing them to lock in their rental rates. In rejecting the agreement, the administrator said the deal allowed the landlord to circumvent D.C. rent control laws for future occupants by removing hundreds of units from the city's stock of affordable housing.

JERRY MCCOY, DC librarian extraordinaire, will be presenting an illustrated slide lecture "Greetings from Hometown Washington, DC" at the the Library of Congress (April 4th, 3:30-5). The free talks feature vintage DC postcards from his collection.

FRED SOLOWEY, PRESIDENT, BANCROFT ELEMENTARY PTA A number of people have asked me how to help and what to contribute to help out the Bancroft Elementary families displaced by the recent Mount Pleasant fire. What's most needed now are cash donations to help families as they try to settle into new apartments in the near future. Friends of Bancroft will accept tax-deductible donations. Checks must be made out to Friends of Bancroft (with Fire Fund on the memo line) and either dropped off at the school office or mailed to: PTA President Fred Solowey Bancroft Elementary School 1755 Newton Street, NW Washington, DC 20010

WASH BIZ JOURNAL A long-running dispute over whether to demolish the Christian Science Church at 16th and K streets NW continues to escalate, according to sources close to the issue, in a case that pits the property rights of religious institutions against the legal authority of city historic preservation officials. The Christian Science Church wants to take a wrecking ball to its building, while the land owner, D.C. developer ICG Properties, plans to build a new church alongside separate office and retail space. But the District's Historic Preservation Review Board in December designated the church a historic landmark, determining that it is a rare and outstanding example of a school of mid-century modern architecture, known as Brutalism, that must be protected. . . With more than 100 churches sitting in coveted historic districts in the city, developers are closely watching the course of events. The dispute could eventually be decided in court, observers said, possibly establishing a new precedent governing the extent to which D.C. can regulate the land use of religious institutions. . . In typical historic preservation disputes involving churches, historic preservation officials said, negotiations ensue and in most cases a settlement can be reached that allows historic buildings to be preserved while also allowing churches to gain more value from their land through development. . . "The building has turned into a concrete straightjacket," said Roger Severino, counsel to The Becket Fund, a nonprofit religious rights law firm that represents the church. Severino contends that blocking demolition would impose a "substantial burden" on the church, both by preventing it from building a more practical chapel and by making it more difficult to sell. Severino and church officials also point to federal laws that, they maintain, prohibit the city from regulating church-owned property. But ambiguity in those laws and conflicting court decisions make it unclear whether churches can actually exempt themselves from the historic preservation process. . . "No court has ever said the mere fact of being landmarked is a substantial burden," said Robert Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at George Washington University.

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