Wednesday, August 20

DC WEDNESDAY

LESSONS YOUNGSTERS LEARNED FROM FENTY'S SUMMER JOBS PROGRAM

DC Examiner - A summer job is supposed to teach youngsters useful life lessons - like the value of work, being prompt and taking responsibility for one's efforts - but D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's disastrously mismanaged summer jobs programs wound up teaching them all the wrong things.

For starters, somebody in City Hall should have figured out that there was no way to create enough 10-week jobs for 21,000-plus teens in a city that still struggles with adult unemployment.

So the make-work summer program turned into a fake-work program that fooled none of the youngsters, who have a built-in radar for adult dissembling. Lesson learned: Adults can be dumb.

The Fenty administration compounded the problem by promising the maximum pay to everybody who enrolled, whether they worked or not and even if they didn't qualify, as with the 51-year-old who was being paid.

Lesson learned: You can get paid by government for doing nothing. . .

Worse, after blowing through the program's $21 million budget with a $31 million cost overrun (260 percent), the Fenty administration had to ask the city to dip into its emergency fund.

Even so, thousands of youngsters were turned away without receiving their promised paychecks because the mayor's office didn't have the cash to back up its promises.

Lesson learned: Don't trust City Hall.

Real summer jobs - whether it's flipping burgers, stuffing envelopes or sitting in the hot sun all day supervising younger kids at the local pool - teach the value and dignity of work performed well. Teens discover that a job requires more diligence and effort than they've ever had to expend before. But Fenty's fake-work program taught them that no real effort is required, since participants who quit or never showed up for their assignments got paid just like everybody else.

Lesson learned: Only losers follow the rules.

Properly managed summer jobs programs can be of real value in a community.

Teens need to understand the relationship between effort and economic reward before heading out on their own, but Fenty program participants were cheated out of this valuable, life-altering lesson. Could it be the program was mismanaged because the adults in charge never learned it, either?

NEW PRESIDENT FOR UDC

This journal was a lonely voice opposing the merger of Federal City College, Washington Technical Institute and the DC Teachers College into a single University of DC, Each of these institutions had a unique and important function and could have been improved without excessive effort. Instead the city created the monster of UDC, which required a CEO, political manipulator and showboater rather than merely a competent educator who could have quietly run any of its former parts.

Now 15 presidents and 26 provosts later, we're trying again, this time with Allen Sessoms, currently president of Delaware State University. Reports the Post, "The man tapped to be the next president of the University of the District of Columbia outlined an unprecedented overhaul of the long-troubled institution, calling for turning part of the existing school into a community college, creating an honors four-year program and adding graduate programs that could include a medical school.

"There have been numerous calls for the District to have a community college, including a report by the Brookings Institution in June, which noted that nearly a third of the jobs in the area require more than a high school diploma but not a full bachelor's degree. UDC, an open-enrollment institution, offers classes at multiple levels, including those leading to an associate's degree, but critics say university officials have favored the four-year program, leaving too few options for students."

One thing Sessoms could add to his agenda: turning the main courtyard and some of the building space on that level into a mini-shopping area that would help to subsidize the university.

C & O CANAL NEEDS HELP

Matthew Logan, C& O Canal Trust, letter to the Post - Surprisingly few Washingtonians realize that the C& O is a national park, let alone one of America's most heavily used recreation areas. In fact, it receives more visitors every year than Acadia, Everglades, Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, Yellowstone or Zion national parks. Its enormous popularity -- both with out-of-town visitors and local residents -- is due in large part to the accessibility afforded by its distinctive, ribbon-like configuration. The park stretches for 184.5 miles along the eastern bank of the Potomac River, from Georgetown in Washington to Cumberland, Md., yet in many places it is no more than 50 yards wide.

Most of its 3 million visitors come to enjoy recreational opportunities such as hiking, birdwatching, fishing, cycling, etc. But to view the canal as merely a place to exercise is to miss so much of what makes it unique. From an ecological standpoint, the park is of incalculable value to the health of the Potomac River (the source of most of the region's drinking water) and, by extension, the Chesapeake Bay. . . . The park is also home to one of the East Coast's biodiversity hotspots: the Potomac Gorge, which provides habitat to more than 1,500 species, including nearly 200 that are listed as rare, threatened or endangered. The park also has more than 1,300 historic structures in various states of repair. They account for fully 5 percent of all historic structures within the entire national park system.

Sadly, like the Mall and the 390 other units of the national park system, the C& O Canal has been chronically underfunded and -- despite the best efforts of the hard-working and dedicated professionals in the National Park Service -- it often shows.

DC SHORTS

The school system's brutalist boss
, Michelle Rhee, not only feels free to trash the city's teachers but the DC city council as well. In an article in the business mag Fast Company, Jeff Chu writes that she "refuses to play the traditional, subservient role of a D.C. agency chief with the city council, which, despite its limited authority over DCPS, has repeatedly questioned her decision making and management." When Rhee catches a council hearing on late night TV she sees "her own version of a horror movie. . . 'There's this crazy dynamic where every agency head is kowtowing. They sit there and get beat down. . . I'm not going to sit on public TV and take a beating I don't deserve. I don't take that crap.'"

Sounds like someone should introduce her to DC law as well as to common sense. Her arrogance and narcissism is beginning to make her predecessor and fellow egomaniac, General Becton, seem almost normal. The good news is that even the Washington Post eventually tired of General Becton and he faded into the mist.

Gary Imhoff, DC Watch - At Wilson High School, we have just had a graphic example of how insecure a teaching job can be under the whims of Rhee's administrators, even for a teacher as admired and beloved as Dr. A rthur Siebens, whose students have written about him several times . . . Why on earth should teachers give up whatever protection tenure can give them against arbitrary and capricious decisions that they 'fit in
with the new' order? What have Rhee and Fenty done to earn the trust of teachers? Why should teachers believe that they won't be treated just as shabbily at Siebens, that they won't be scorned and swept out by young, arrogant, and inexperienced school officials who are convinced that they know it all and that anyone who was in the Washington school system before they took over should be 'excessed' and disposed of?

We have in the past recommended a saner approach to bureaucratic reform, such as coming up with a plan of where you want to be a few years from now, including the specific jobs that will be available after the reorganization. This not only would allow the public to know what was actually being proposed - something Rhee hasn't let us in on - and would let staff know whether their job would be there or not. If not, the employees would have time to look for another job or apply for one of the jobs under the new plan. Using such an approach is far less disruptive than the slash and burn approach of Rhee.

There is some good news from the school system. Phelps Vocational School is going to be turned into a new high school for architecture and the construction trades. The renovated building has been certified by the Green Building Council and will include color-coded ceiling pipes to help students understand the system, something that the late John Wiebenson, activist architect and cartoonist for the Progressive Review, introduced some years ago when designing a suburban Virginia school.

Historic Washington - Artists displaced by downtown development will celebrate their return at 923 F Street, NW beginning 6:30 PM Friday, September 5. . . The effort was spurred by the Downtown Artist Coalition, which was formed in 1999 to help the many artists who were facing possible eviction by redevelopment of the 900 block of F Street. The effort to preserve some of the last remaining artists' studios downtown culminated in a 2001 agreement involving not only DAC but also the Committee of 100, the DC Preservation League, the landowner, the Archdiocese of Washington; developer Akridge and the District government. Included in the new Carroll Square development at 975 F Street, NW, is 7000 square feet of working art studio space, now leased from Akridge by DAC, which subleases 6 studios to many of the artists who originally occupied space on the street.

The good folks of Brookland have been organizing to get power lines put underground when the local streetscape gets upgraded. The effort is apparently not appreciated by the Fenty regime. A notice from Anne Anderson notes, "Sorry to report that the good community work of getting signs up on 12th St NE from Michigan Ave. down to Rhode Island Ave. about the upcoming press conference next Saturday have all been removed this morning, apparently by DDOT. We want to alert the community that the planned streetscape upgrade that was recently announced does not include "undergrounding" the power lines, which is one of the items about which there has been solid consensus in the Brookland community over the years.
So, we had put up signs pointing out that the electric pole could be a tree instead. Apparently our message was not acceptable to someone. I have not, in my experience of hanging signs for events, ever had them taken down like this. I can only imagine that this is an example of selective enforcement. At this point I am not feeling like I am living in a society where free expression is allowed.


Over 100 college presidents have called for an open discussion about lowering the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. The presidents of the University of Maryland and John Hopkins both signed the statement, but not one president from a DC campus.

Statehood Green candidate
for the city council at large, David Schwartzman, reports that "At the TENAC Candidates Forum, Paul Strauss informed me that Eleanor wrote the [Democratic] draft 2008 Platform language on DC's status and implied there wasn't any hope of changing, and he would not attempt to get Statehood inserted. Eleanor at the same forum reiterated her argument that DC was not ready for Statehood, only for 'voting rights,' responding to Joyce Robinson Paul's question."

Channel 4 - Commuters frequently are urged to walk, use public transportation and ride bicycles to cut down on traffic and pollution, but one woman's bike wasn't appreciated at Union Station because it was too ugly. Georgina Ardalan would ride her rusty bike to Union Station, park it and take Metro. She said security guards took it because it's ugly. . . Ardalan said on a recent commute, she returned to Union Station to find her bike was missing. A Union Station regular told her security guards had taken the bike. She went inside to retrieve it. She was told that it looked old and rusted and appeared to be abandoned. Ardalan did get her bike back, but she would like a new lock. Security cut her bike lock when they took the bike. She said she can't leave the bike anywhere until she gets a new lock. Jones Lang LaSalle, the management company that runs Union Station, did not return phone calls from News4.

Harry Travis, Concerned 4 DCPS - I find it really curious that nobody is talking about the Fenty decision to pay high school students to attend summer school. That is one way in which the program participation rates grew so quickly. . . . Just recently there was a national news story about the controversy surrounding paying students to do well on tests, etc. In DC we just paid students to attend summer school, implemented a policy of requiring no homework in summer school classes and let a lot of kids slide on attendance in those classes. What those new policies will produce is an increase in the number of students who graduate and/or graduate in 4 years. So DCPS will appear to be making great strides in improving academic outcomes. There was no debate and will be no debate.

1 Comments:

At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Paul Strauss said...

Sam -

It is not accurate to say that I, and the other members of the Statehood Congressional delegation would not try to get DC Statehood into the platform at the upcoming Democratic Convention in Denver. I respect David Schwartzman, as an activist and fellow candidate for public office. I felt is was important to be frank with him in my assessment of our chances for amending platform language at this point in the drafting process. However, to suggest that absolutely no attempts would be made is simply not true. In addition to whatever final platform language appears, I also want to stress that there will be numerous other opportunities that we will use to build support for DC Statehood in Denver. Senator Obama and I have discussed DC Statehood on two occasions during the Presidential campaign and numerous other times during his career. He has personally assured me of his support for DC Statehood each time. I remain convinced that as significant as the platform language may be, the most important thing I can do to advance the cause of DC Statehood is to work hard to ensure the election of Barack Obama as our next President.

Paul Strauss
United States Senator
District of Columbia (Shadow)

 

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