Friday, May 16

DC THURSDAY

FENTY SWEETHEART DEAL OF THE WEEK

David Nakamura and Nikita Stewart. Washington Post - Mayor Adrian M. Fenty pushed ahead in his bid to award a $120 million D.C. Lottery contract to a start-up firm, asking the D.C. Council to reconsider his controversial proposal, a day after the legislative body moved to block it. In two letters to Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), Fenty (D) simultaneously withdrew the contract legislation from the council's consideration and resubmitted it. The maneuver gives the administration 45 more days to persuade council members to support the deal, which would have been declared dead today if no action had been taken.

Fenty and D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi are seeking to give control of the lottery operations to W2I, a nine-month-old venture, but council members have questioned the firm's credentials. Gandhi has said the city is losing $5 million a year under the management of Lottery Technology Enterprises, which has been working with the city for 25 years. . .

W2I is a partnership between international gaming services provider Intralot and W2Tech, a firm established less than a year ago by real estate developer Warren C. Williams Jr. and his wife, Alaka Williams. Council members have raised doubts about Warren Williams, who operated a nightclub that was closed after a patron was fatally stabbed. He also owns an apartment complex where residents have criticized his management.

UNION OFFICIAL GOES TO THE TEACHERS FAIR

Candi Peterson - DCPS teachers from our closing and restructured schools showed up to the first in a series of teacher transfer fairs on Saturday, May 10, at Eastern Senior High School. As a Washington Teachers Union Board member, I took the opportunity to attend the afternoon session of the transfer fair. It was a challenge to gain entry, given that my name was not among the list of those teachers and related school personnel from closing and restructured schools. I, like many others, were asked to show my ID. When I indicated that I was a WTU Board of Trustee member and flashed my business card, inquiry was made at the security checkpoint whether I was coming to the transfer fair as an observer. I nodded in agreement that I was. Checkpoint staff advised me that I would need an escort to walk down a flight of stairs to the transfer event, which I readily accepted.

At first glance, I noticed that there were approximately one hundred forty schools listed on the Excel spreadsheet that was provided to potential applicants, outlining school vacancies for positions ranging from teachers of varying specialties to special education coordinators. Although one hundred forty schools were on the list to interview potential applicants, approximately forty-four schools were conspicuously absent for reasons unclear to all of those in attendance. Many teachers who inquired about the "absent schools" were advised to leave their resumes and told that someone would be in contact with them later.

I took the opportunity to speak with as many teachers as I could. I saw looks on my teacher colleagues' faces that ranged from worry, fear, disappointment, depression, and confusion to frustration, even pain. Even without knowing me, teachers welcomed the opportunity to speak candidly with me. Many wondered what would happen to them if they did not get selected for a position. Some spoke of wanting to follow their students, while others grappled with their own uncertain futures - with college tuition yet to pay, ailing and aging parents, and the fiscal responsibilities of day-to-day life. The hard-core reality is that mid-level to senior teachers just might get overlooked by a reformed school system that favors younger, teachers under age forty. Principals can buy two inexperienced and uncertified teachers for the price of one experienced, certified one. It seemed to me that all they were asking for is a little help from our school system. . . After all, these are the same people who held our system together when for many years DCPS jumped from one educational bandwagon to another, changed superintendents every two-and-a-half years, lacked a long term educational strategic plan, was consistently under funded, failed to provide appropriate professional staff development, lacked high quality leadership, and disregarded the input from our most critical stakeholders - our teachers and related school personnel.

DC SHORTS

Our Official DC Standardized Test results for the grown-ups running our city has been updated

Washington Times The D.C. public school system's entire inventory of buildings made the D.C. Preservation League's annual list of endangered places in the city this year. "Years of deferred maintenance as a result of budget cuts and mismanagement have left many school buildings in an advanced state of disrepair," said the group. Members also were deeply concerned about the future of the school buildings, despite a promise last year by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, to close 23 of the 165 buildings, including those of Elizabethan and Modernist designs, and repair the rest.

Arts Journal Starting next week Night at the Museum II: Escape from the Smithsonian, a Ben Stiller vehicle, will be filmed at the Smithsonian. This is the first time the Smithsonian has allowed its name to be used in a commercial movie title. See the complete memo from Smithsonian acting Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture Richard Kurin after the jump. . . Set primarily in Washington D.C., the movie will include scenes at the Castle and, in particular, the National Air and Space Museum. . . The original film, shot at the Museum of Natural History in New York, resulted in increased attendance

DC Examiner Fort Reno Park was shut down Wednesday after U.S. Geological Survey satellite imaging reports found levels of arsenic that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's safety threshold. Snow fencing was set up around the 32-acre park at Chesapeake Street and Nebraska Avenue in the Tenleytown neighborhood. Park service officials say the park, a popular site for sports and concerts, will be closed indefinitely.

Radar Heads are voluntarily rolling at the Washington Post as reporters across the paper have opted to take company buyouts from the cutback-happy paper. Among those grabbing the cash: David Broder, known as "the dean of the Washington press corps" because he gave a young Henry Adams his first job on a copy desk. (Broder will remain as a contract employee.) Post executive editor Len Downie is also rumored to be leaving. Finally, sports columnist/radio host/ESPN talking head Tony Kornheiser announced this morning on his radio show that he'll take the package as well. Sad as we are to see the 30-year Post vet Kornheiser go-and we did honestly enjoy his columns, even if he was named Radar's "9th Most Hated Internet Personality" - we're sure his 15 other side gigs won't keep him too far out of the spotlight.

Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Split This Rock will be offering: "GLBT Poets of Washington," a guided walking tour of the Dupont Circle neighborhood, June 21, 10:30 am to Noon. Led by Dan Vera, the tour costs $5 and advance reservations are required. Celebrate Gay Pride Month and learn how gay literary culture has flourished from the 1970s to the present in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, with the influence of such writers as Essex Hemphill, Ed Cox, Tim Dlugos, Michael Lally, Lee Lally, Richard McCann, Andrew Holleran, and many others. Stops include Dupont Park, Lambda Rising Bookstore, the site of the Community Bookshop, and writer's homes. This is an expanded version of the tour first developed for the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in March 2008. The tour takes approximately 1.5 hours and will run rain or shine. Limited to 25 participants. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and carry water. The tour starts outside the Starbucks Coffee where Connecticut Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue intersect with the northern part of Dupont Circle. To register, please send your name, email, and phone to beltway@mac.com.

Montgomery Blair Sibley, who represented the late DC Madam, Deborah Jeanne Palfrey has been suspended by the Florida bar for three years, resulting in reciprocal suspension in Washington, DC.

"He is someone who abuses the legal process," said Barnaby Min, counsel for the Florida Bar.

Nikita Stewart, Washington Post The D.C. Council approved Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's $5.7 billion spending plan for fiscal 2009 yesterday after inserting several amendments, including doubling the cigarette tax to $2 and keeping Klingle Road closed in Rock Creek Park. . . The council stripped $6 million from unused salaries of vacant positions to help pay for the small-business tax break. The council also cut more than $800,000 from video surveillance that links thousands of city-owned cameras -- a program that civil libertarians have said invades privacy. Pushed by Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), the council also inserted language that prohibits the administration from taking further steps with the program until Fenty (D) submits rules to the council for approval. So far, more than 4,000 cameras are being monitored from one site. Ultimately, the city wants about 5,600 cameras linked. . . The outreach effort was part of a lengthy roll of nonprofits and social service agencies that will get earmarks as big as $10 million, for Ford's Theatre, and as small as $10,000, for the Friends of the Hillcrest Recreation Center.

Reasoned discourse on local listservs Neighbors, in the absence of viable prosecution despite police action, I believe it is time to bring in the police, judge and prosecutioner. In the absence of Judge Dredd or Robocop I suggest a community collection to bring in a few Blackwater, CACI or similar community policing agents. If we can leverage unfettered power elsewhere, why not here? Please let me know if you are willing to help fund a community policing effort to fight back on the mayor's lack of action. - Hill East Listserv

Marc Borbely, Fix Our Schools The city council voted unanimously to reject the mayor's proposal to repeal requirements for DCPS budget information and budget hearings. This victory for transparency and public input was thanks to the leadership of Chairman Gray, and the backing of every councilmember, especially Gray, Barry, Schwartz, Cheh and Wells, all of whom expressed their support for DCPS budget information and public input at a council hearing on April 25. More than one thousand parents, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, teachers, and other school reform advocates submitted a letter urging the council to preserve parents' (and others') ability to provide meaningful, informed input before DCPS budgets are finalized.

DC Watch Jonetta Rose Barras has been fired by WAMU-FM as cohost of the DC Politics Hour, recently renamed the Politics Hour, which airs on Fridays on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. WAMU severely diluted its focus on District issues when it expanded the focus of its one-hour-a-week coverage to include Virginia and Maryland. Now it has gotten rid of the one on-air personality who had the most experience and knowledge of District politics, history, and neighborhoods. On WTOP, Mark Plotkin's weekly hour of political commentary now spends much more time on national politics than on anything local. No District television station has any regular program that covers District politics. The Washington Times had a large buyout and downsizing of its staff two weeks ago, and the Washington Post is in the midst of its second large buyout in the past two years. In all of these moves, the principle seems to be that experience, background, and knowledge can be easily dispensed with, because people who have them are more expensive to hire than people without them. Improving the financial bottom line by hiring cheaper employees is more important than keeping up the quality of the news product. This is the same principle being followed in our school system, except that there inexperienced administrators without background and knowledge are proving to be as expensive, or more expensive, than those they replace. . . Erik Wemple, City Paper Barras' dispute with WAMU follows a classic '00s model. Over time, says Barras, her managers at WAMU expanded her responsibilities. Whereas the show was once titled The D.C. Politics Hour With Kojo and Jonetta, the station subsequently expanded its scope to include Maryland and Virginia, rechristening it as The Politics Hour With Kojo and Jonetta. Though Barras thus gained two big jurisdictions to cover, her compensation didn't experience a comparable gain. "They changed the name of the show and scope of the show and then were pissed off because I was asking for more money," says Barras, who has also worked extensively for Washington City Paper over the years.

Go easy on the pork barrel complaints. The $10 million for Ford's Theater was outrageous but many extremely important non-profits depend on special funding from the city to keep going. The idea that these grants should stop is based on an extremely simplistic and selfish view of government. Here are just a few of the good groups that got helped this time around: CHAMPS, Cultural Tourism DC, the Historical Society of Washington, the Marshall Heights Community Development, $1 million to the Lincoln Theatre, Washington Parks and People for the Hoaward University archeological team and to reclaim four parcels of vacant propery in Columbia Heights, the Ethiopia Community Service and Development Council, Vietnamese-American Community Service Center, Avalon Theatre, Field of Dreams, Keely's Boxing and Youth Center, Takoma Theatre, Greater Washington Urban League, the Capitol Hill Community Foundation for community gardens and so on. While there were a number of indefensible grants - such as a half million bucks to DC Vote to pursue its continued support of colonial government by seeking only a vote in the House - many of the grants are not only important but an essential part of communities and our cultural life. It is fine to fight over individual grants but the idea that all such grants are evil is basically a rightwing lie.

Hill Rag Fenty says this budget will add a lot to DC public schools, but no one has been able to find that money in the budget. The mayor also touts lots of new money for housing, yet some key housing programs actually are losing funding. . . In the two years since Fenty has been in charge, public works has seen the largest budget growth. . . And there's a large drop for the Housing Production Trust Fund - DC's main source for affordable housing production. That's because the Trust Fund is tied to DC's deed taxes, which are plummeting. The decline means that the city may not even have enough to fund existing projects. Overall, the housing budget for 2009 is lower than this year's. But it's a lot higher than in 2006. . . Overall, 2009 is not a human services budget, with funding that is relatively unchanged from 2008 and just 1.4 percent higher than in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. . .

DCRTV WAMU (88.5 FM) is touting its fifth place overall finish in the DC radio ratings. Usually, public radio outlets, like WAMU, are not included in the commercial radio ratings. WAMU says its broadcast of NPR's "Morning Edition" ranks third, with 353,000 weekly listeners. The evening drive, anchored by NPR's "All Things Considered," placed second, with more than 214,000 weekly listeners, according to WAMU. The station, which programs news and talk on weekday, and some music programs on weekends, also touts its top-rated Saturday morning and Sunday lineups. When compared with public radio stations in other markets, WAMU says it ranks third nationwide, with 534,100 DC metro listeners, and a weekly total audience of 621,600, including the Baltimore metro. This places WAMU behind only San Francisco's KQED-FM and NYC's WNYC-FM in public radio listenership.

New ANC Listserv Whether you're a new ANC Commissioner learning to navigate the maze of DC government, a seasoned Commissioner with knowledge to share, or a constituent with suggestions for organizational improvement, you use this Google group. Some goals of this group for the immediate future include: Initiate an inter-Commission dialogue to identify issues surrounding the delivery of government programs and services. establish a forum to promote civic organizations, community organizing and community events, city-wide, develop standard operating procedures for the effective management of our commissions and for improved communication with DC offices and agencies.

Politics 1 US Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) declared his $2 million condo in DC as his "permanent residence" until 2005 in order to claim a valuable homestead property tax exemption in DC. Only after reporters asked about it did he end the practice, according to a source. Interestingly, Lautenberg's wife maintains a luxury apartment at 555 Park Avenue in New York City were she is registered to vote. Lautenberg is registered to vote at his NJ condo. The concierge at Lautenberg's NJ condominium building in Bergen County told our source that Lautenberg rarely visited the premises in the last couple of years and only began using the apartment again in the last couple of months. The concierge said that Lautenberg's office sends a staffer to pick up his mail each week. By the way, Lautenberg also owns a $2 million ski chalet in Vail, Colorado. Look for Congressman Rob Andrews's to make an issue of all this in the primary, raising questions about the sincerity of Lautenberg's commitment to New Jersey residents.

DC Examiner A D.C. proposal to install sirens across the National Mall to warn visitors of impending terrorism or other hazards has run into a federal roadblock over aesthetics, District officials say. The National Capital Planning Commission objected to the pilot siren project based "on the look," said Jo'Ellen Countee, spokeswoman for the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. The protests, she said, were raised during a meeting several months ago and have yet to be resolved. The sirens have not been rejected, responded David Levy, NCPC's director of urban design and plan review. "Those in attendance basically expressed that there was really not enough information to provide informative feedback," Levy said. "There was very little information on what kinds of devices they wanted to install, where they wanted to put them and on what buildings they wanted to put them on. We never heard back from them.". . . Bill Line, National Park Service spokesman, said the federal agency has proven itself adept at evacuating masses from the National Mall "in pretty quick order" during the past two Fourth of July celebrations, in both cases for severe thunderstorms.

Mary Lord DC State Board of Education The real question for parents is: does my child have a sub-par teacher? The answer is, probably not - at least not because she or or he isn't 'highly qualified' or 'certified.'

Under DC's rules, an engineer cannot teach math, even though engineering majors use a lot of high-level math and probably placed out of the courses required for a certificate. A history professor isn't "qualified" to teach history here. etc. Many special ed teachers responsible for teaching all subjects (in special programs, for instance), aren't "highly qualified" because they don't have a bachelor's in every subject they teach - i.e., math degree, history degree, etc. Last month, the DC State Board of Education approved a new definition of "highly qualified" similar to the federal definition and those in other counties. Now, a teacher can demonstrate content knowledge of math, say, by passing the Praxis II (like SAT II) test. The board took this step to widen the talent pipeline so that DCPS wouldn't have to take the one 'qualified' candidate that fit our city's narrow and restrictive definition. We have a long way to go in creating a system that can attract and support top teachers. . . Also, bear in mind that private, religious and charter schools do not need to jump through these hoops, and many of their teachers seem to be doing a fine job of educating children.

Vinnie Rotondaro, Washington Post A few months back, I attempted to get a license for a vending cart that would sell homemade Italian goods. . . . I realized that, unlike New York and Los Angeles, where you can get cheap, interesting food right on the street, the District has seemingly forged an alliance with chains such as Cosi, Chop't and Potbelly's, quasi-restaurants that pay much higher quarterly fees to the city than carts would. Consequently, the street life is remarkably dull, lunch options are usually whittled down to two or three options (all chains), and vendors almost exclusively sell pretzels and hot dogs. The city's licensing process for carts is a practice in futility. To begin with, the city is constantly placing moratoriums on the issuing of licenses. . . Meanwhile, applicants are told that they must buy carts and have them inspected before their applications can be processed. This doesn't mean before they get their licenses; it means before the application for a license can even be entered into the system. Most carts cost at least a couple of thousand dollars. Some cost as much as $10,000. It's a risky purchase, considering that the license hasn't been granted yet. This is especially true for immigrants, who account for the bulk of vendors in any city.

Sopan Joshi, Washington Post -It was 50 years ago that Max Kampelman returned home to a surprise. His wife told him she didn't know he had agreed to head a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the zoo. Some neighbors active in a Cleveland Park residents group had just formed Friends of the National Zoo to help run the Smithsonian National Zoological Park along Connecticut Avenue NW. They nominated Kampelman to be the first president of FONZ. . . FONZ, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, grew from four members in 1958 to the current 100,000 . FONZ had six part-time officers in 1958. Today, 1,800 volunteers and more than 300 paid staff members (about 90 of them permanent) provide vital zoo services. "We couldn't run this place without FONZ," said John Berry, zoo director. "There just aren't enough federal employees or funds to do all the work that needs to be done here." The zoo has about 350 staff members including veterinarians and public relations specialists. The zoo doesn't charge an entrance fee. It's one of only four major zoos among the more than 200 accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in the United States that don't.

Hilltop According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, in 2007 Howard University had a within six-year graduation rate of 60 percent, up two points from the rate the journal reported in 2006. This is 16 percent above the national average graduation rate for blacks across the country which is 44 percent. . .

Howard is one of only seven HBCUs, which include Fisk University and Claflin University, that graduate more than half of its student-body. http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=695

WTOP Last Friday night, when D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cardozo/Roosevelt game, it signaled a new era in high school sports in the nation's capital.

For the first time ever, D.C. Public High School students got to play a night game. The game was held at Banneker Baseball Field on Georgia Avenue, NW, the first D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation field to host a night game. But not the last. According to Moses Alexander Greene, a spokesperson for DCDPR, Francis, Guy Mason, and Taft Recreation Centers are also ready for after dark action, and by mid-June, every DCDPR field in the city will have working lights. Most jurisdictions take well-lit community ballparks for granted. But just as the District's school facilities went neglected for years, so too were the parks and rec centers.

The Washington Informer is 50 years old. The Washington Informer is an African American, woman-owned newspaper founded on October 16, 1964 by the late Dr. Calvin W. Rolark. Over the past 38 years, The Washington Informer has grown from an 8 to 12-page weekly to an average of 32 pages or more covering a broad range of topics . It has a circulation of 50,000.

DC'S MOST ENDANGERED PLACES OF 2008

Chosen by the DC Preservation League.

Joseph Taylor Arms Mansion (Chancery of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) 1800 New Hampshire Ave, NW

Georgetown Streetcar Tracks O and P Streets, NW

Foundry Branch Trolley Trestle

St. Elizabeths, West Campus 2700 Martin Luther king Boulevard, SE

Walter Reed Military Hospital 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW

Third Church of Christ, Scientist 900 16th Street, NW

Historic DC Public Schools Citywide

Barney Circle Neighborhood, SE (Potomac Ave SE, to 17th Street SE. Kentucky Ave. SE to Pennsylvania Avenue SE.)

Judiciary Square Clusters 300 Block of E Street, NW

Barry Farm Frame Houses 2700-2800 Wade Road, SE


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