Friday, August 8

DC FRIDAY

CURRENT NEWSPAPER SETS FENTY STRAIGHT

Current Editorial - Mayor Adrian Fenty has pushed an aggressive economic development agenda since taking office. . . . But we worry that the desire for action is too often cutting out the opportunity for reasonable community input. The proposed public-private partnership at the site of the Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library and Janney Elementary School is a key example. The actions of the city's economic development officials make it seem that they are not interested in listening to neighbors--a radical disconnect from the Adrian Fenty approach during his tenure on the D.C. Council and during his mayoral campaign. Community leaders had to file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain public documents. The city-sponsored meetings held ostensibly to vet proposals did not provide an opportunity for unfettered questions. Instead, city officials selected queries from among those submitted on note cards by audience members.

And when the mayor was ready to announce his administration's choice of LCOR Inc. to develop an apartment building atop a new library, he did so at a hastily arranged outdoor news conference--held just a few hours after an early-morning announcement was distributed to the media. Even Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh--who had pressed for consideration of a public-private partnership at the site--was caught off-guard and ended up speaking without having had the opportunity to see the final proposal. The administration did not hold a community meeting to discuss the details in the days before the announcement, nor has it held one since.

This doesn't seem sustainable. In contrast, the same office is pursuing the correct course in the West End--after initial missteps that led to such a public outcry that the D.C. Council rescinded legislation authorizing negotiations about a land sale. Since then, the deputy mayor's office has allowed neighbors to take the lead in analyzing facilities needs. And now the office is holding its second public meeting on the community's desires.

As the city continues its ambitious development pace, it should replicate its West End approach, not its many mistakes in Tenley.

DC SHORTS

The new Shaw library has deteriorated badly
. . . and it hasn't even been built. Check out what has happened to the architectural design in just the past six months.

Washington Times - The Third Church of Christ, Scientist, is taking on the District government in a legal dispute that church members say pits historic preservation of buildings against religious freedom. The church wants to replace its 37-year-old building at 900 16th St. NW with a new one that has less of a bunkerlike appearance and is easier to maintain. But the District's Historic Preservation Office is trying to block demolition permits, saying the architecture of the building makes it a historic landmark that must not be destroyed. Attorneys for the church filed a lawsuit in federal court based on the unusual reasoning that interference with the church's reconstruction plans trample's its members' First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. . . The church is gaining support from religious denominations across the Washington area led by the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. . . Church members say the current building does not have enough windows and doors to make it inviting to the surrounding community. A lack of contemporary insulation and ventilation produces enormous heating and cooling bills, according to church leaders. They also said replacing some lightbulbs high in the ceiling requires building a scaffold each time, again creating unnecessary costs. . . "The Historical Preservation Office of D.C. government has frankly lost its way," said Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, a community service group representing 44 church congregations in the Washington area. "This is a case by far of overreaching and overzealousness."

Looks like the Teachers Union may not cave in to Michelle Rhee after all. Reports Bill Turque in the Post: "The president of the Washington Teachers' Union all but ruled out acceptance of a proposal by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee that would require tenured teachers to spend a year on probation in exchange for huge salary increases and bonuses. George Parker said Rhee's measure would unfairly deprive teachers of due process rights and expose them to arbitrary firing by principals. He said the provision is a major obstacle to reaching a tentative agreement on a new contract. He also suggested in an interview, for the first time since talks began late last year, that city and union negotiators might have to settle for 'some type of traditional agreement.' He added that unless Rhee and school system negotiators modify the proposal before teachers report to work Aug. 19 -- six days before classes begin -- he wants it taken off the bargaining table. 'I don't want teachers going back to school with this concept hanging over their heads,' he said."

The Washington area was selected by Forbes as the 7th worse commuting center. "15% of commuters take over an hour to get to work, the second highest rate in the country. Drivers spend 60 hours a year stuck in traffic, and only 26% of commuters get to work in under 20 minutes-- the worst rate in the country. The only thing saving D.C. from a worse ranking is its efficiency ranking for carpooling, public transportation and walking, the country's second best."

Glenn Ford, Black Agenda Report - In Washington, DC, the Statehood Green Party, through labor-intensive, grassroots work, has managed to garner more votes in the last several elections than the local Republican Party. That's an amazing accomplishment, given that the Statehood Greens get virtually no coverage from the Washington Post newspaper - which means little or no exposure in the corporate television media, either, since all the stations follow the Post's lead. . . The paper's congressional reporter, Paul Kane, recently slipped up and told the "brutally honest" truth about the Post's methodical manipulation of the "news." Kane claimed the Greens and Ralph Nader "got plenty of coverage" in the 2000 election, when, in his words, Nader "had a chance to play a decisive role in some states." According to Kane, "there is little indication that the Greens will have any major impact on the '08 election." Then Kane declared, "Until you [Greens] demonstrate that there is some level of support for your party, our paper isn't going to spend precious resources reporting on whatever it is you're doing." . . . The Washington Post won't even cover the Greens in DC, where they are second to the Democrats in voter appeal.

If you're looking for someone to change the climate and the debate in the District Building, take a look at David Schwartzman who is running for the at large council seat for the DC Statehood Green Party. The council hasn't had a good watchdog since Hilda Mason's early days. Schwartzman would certainly fill the bill, especially on fiscal issues. And he's a scientist to boot. A bullet vote for Schwartzman would be the strongest statement you could make for a free DC this time around.

Yeas & Nays, DC Examiner - It looks as if a comeback is in store for the Jockey Club, a restaurant for Washington's cave-dwelling old guard that opened in the then-Fairfax Hotel (now Westin Embassy Row) in 1961 and closed in 2001, when it was replaced by more modern eateries that never quite caught on. During the Jockey Club's 40-year run, one could always spot scores of politicos and Washington notables, and celebrities, too: Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio and Warren Beatty, just to name a few (the club even gave Nancy Reagan her own "Nancy Reagan chicken salad"). Former Vice President Al Gore spent some of his childhood living in the Fairfax Hotel, which was owned by a relative. Rumors of the club's revival have been floating around for a while, but the hotel has finalized details and is already thinking about a grand reopening bash this fall . . . The aim is to restore the Jockey Club to its original form, including not only the physical layout and design, but some of its signature dishes as well (steak Diane, Dover sole, etc.).

Gary Imhoff, DC Watch - Bill Myers exposed in the Examiner the Fenty administration's request for $20.1 million in additional funds for the Youth Summer Jobs Program. The administration made the request to the Chief Financial Officer for money from the city's contingency fund, which is supposed to be used only in emergencies, rather than to the city council, which would have resulted in hearings about why the program has been so poorly managed and why the budget was so underestimated." The Post followed up on this story, in an article by Michael Birnbaum that discloses that the mayor and the Department of Employment Services failed to reveal to council members, prior to the council's going on summer recess, that there was a substantial budget shortfall. I'm awaiting the Post editorial explaining why this mean old council shouldn't exercise any oversight of this perfect mayor or of his handling of the program.

Chief Lanier has a strange way of fighting violent crime. First, she chases it out of Trinidad to other places with her unconstitutional checkpoints. Now her ballyhooed "All Hands on Deck" program resulted in 80 tickets in murder ridden Upper Northwest for criminals talking on cell phones, not wearing seatbelts or ignoring crosswalks. That ought to scare them away.

City Paper - For those still waiting for a final pronouncement on the cause of the Eastern Market fire of April 30, 2007, be prepared to wait a little longer. . . Various D.C. Fire & EMS personnel believe (and a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives report insinuates) that the three-alarm fire started on the outside of the building-a synopsis that contradicts the publicly stated opinions of District Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, who believes the inferno was caused by an electrical problem. Eight months later, things are still muddled. In the most recent issue of the Hill Rag, Rubin appears to be hanging tough with his original conclusion. Referring to a "final report" on the market fire, he explains that the blaze "was determined to be electrical in nature with four or five suspected sources, but accidental in nature." But the report Rubin is referring to, authored by D.C. Fire employee and certified fire investigator Sgt. Phillip C. Proctor, doesn't corroborate Rubin's outlook. With 10 pages of painstaking detail followed by a one-paragraph conclusion, Proctor's report is, at the very least, noncommittal. "Based on a systematic fire scene examination," it surmises, "witness statements, and all the available information to date, it is the opinion of the undersigned that the origin of the area of this fire is near the west wall of the structure. The exact point of origin has not been identified at this time. The cause of this fire has not been determined and is currently still under investigation."

The Fenty regime is trying to short-circuit zoning regulations in dealing with closed schools. Saying they want to move quickly as a matter of right, without BZA rulings or ANC opinions, they are looking for an emergency zoning ruling that rid the need for any quasi-democratic procedures.

Wash Post DC Wire - Look what Mayor Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gray are fighting over now: Parking spaces. No one wanted to speak publicly about the matter, but here is what D.C. Wire is told: Turns out that Gray recently arrived at the building to find both council spaces filled, one by the official Tahoe used by his office and the other by a city car that is used by City Administrator Dan Tangherlini. One of the mayor's three spaces (one is where Tangherlini generally parks) was open, so Gray parked there. That didn't sit well with the mayor's office, we're told. There was the threat of towing. Into the mix stepped John Falcicchio, adviser to Fenty (D) and all-around get-it-done guy. Before long, a tow truck showed up behind the Wilson Building. But Ronald Collins, deputy secretary to the council, traded words with the mayor's team, explaining that the council controls the parking spaces. Towing the chairman's car, he suggested, might result in a loss of those spaces. That resulted, we're told, in a retreat by the mayor's team and a compromise. The chairman got his spot back.

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