Thursday, January 22

DC THURSDAY

INAUGURATION WRAP

Gary Imhoff, DC Watch
- First, the good news. There wasn't a single arrest at the swearing-in ceremony or inauguration parade. This is testimony not only to a well-behaved crowd, but also to unusual restraint by the many law-enforcement agencies that overlooked numerous small, harmless infractions. Now the bad news: all our predictions about the ill effects of giving security agencies a free hand to run the event came true.

We said that - unless DC government officials stood up for this city's residents and our visitors and insisted on changes - overweening security restrictions would result not only in gridlock but also in keeping people away from inaugural events. This proved especially true at the parade, which was one of the most sparsely attended inaugural parades in recent memory. One of our friends reported having gone through three checkpoints in a block and a half to get to the Wilson Building, on the parade route. This deliberate blocking of attendees resulted in a parade route that even at the beginning had blocks of empty sidewalks guarded by solid lines of police officers. Most blocks never got more crowded than 7th Street in Chinatown on a Friday night, with spectators only three or four deep at most.

The level and extent of security restrictions was unprecedented. As The New York Times reported, "Though intelligence agencies have detected no credible threat to any inaugural event or to Mr. Obama, law enforcement agencies, operating from a network of centers, will command ground, air and waterborne forces numbering in excess of 20,000 police officers, National Guard troops and plainclothes agents from more than 50 agencies, according to security planners.". . .

The problem arises not just from the massive growth in the size and cost of security for this inauguration, but from the imposition of new and uncalled-for restrictions on the freedoms of Washingtonians and others who attended the inauguration. "With hundreds of rooftop marksmen and thousands of police and guardsmen deployed throughout Washington, inaugural parade participants have been told not to make any sudden moves or turn their heads to look at Obama as they pass his reviewing stand." Luckily, the majority of parade participants had the good sense to ignore this ignoble command; in this democracy, peasants are still able to gaze upon the faces of their rulers. . .

DCist, January 20 - At about 4:15 p.m., a group of about 20 drummers and musicians were parading down the middle of 13th Street NW in Columbia Heights, playing their instruments and headed south to the African American Civil War Memorial at 10th and U Streets NW. The group brought along a wheeled cart with drums and other instruments on it. People in the parade said they were with the Rhythm Workers Union, a local activist group which holds drum circles around the area. Paraders said the event was organized by email, and some people from the Code Pink antiwar group joined up along the way.

Washington Post - "Overall, I've heard great things about biking that day," said Eric Gilliland, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. . . He said the volunteer valets parked 1,127 bikes at the 16th Street location and had to build a separate enclosure with spare crowd-control fencing to handle overflow. At the Jefferson Memorial location, 827 bikes were parked. "We didn't lose a single bike, and the one helmet that went missing was eventually found," Gilliland said.

Peggy Fox, WUSA - Charter buses started dropping off passengers at Reagan National Airport early in the morning, starting a domino affect that overwhelmed U.S. Airways. Dozens if not hundreds of people missed their flights while waiting for hours in the U.S. Airways line for the ticket counter. It appeared many did not know they could move up front and use the automated kiosk. Transportation Security Administration officers closed one doorway to contain the crowds into one line which snaked around orange cones and then out into the cold. . . I asked Morgan Durrant, the U.S. Airways Spokesperson why they failed to get so many passengers on their flights and he said they were overwhelmed by the volume, even though they knew all the passengers with bags would be heading home today. He denied overbooking flights and said U.S. Airways even brought in extra staff to help. Passengers clearly thought it wasn't enough.

Michael Neibauer, DC Examiner - The D.C. Department of Public Works and the National Park Service picked up more than 90 tons of garbage in less than 12 hours following the inaugural festivities, said Nancee Lyons, DPW spokeswoman. On Wednesday there were still two garbage containers with capacities of 20 to 30 tons that had yet to be weighed, putting the potential total mess at roughly 260,000 pounds.

More than 100 city employees worked from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to clear much of what was left behind - piles of newspaper, plastic bottles and food wrappers. The worst areas for trash, Lyons said, were K Street NW, Union Station and the Metro area off of Independence Avenue.

ANOTHER DAY WITH RHEE

Kerry Sylvia, Real Education Reform DC - Right before the holiday break I received an e - mail inviting me to be a teacher in this year's 2009 Saturday Scholars program. After looking at the details provided, it seems like the program is going to be a huge investment - hundreds of teachers will be paid $30/hour for 5 and a half hours each Saturday, January 24 - April 18. . .

The program's focus is to help "DCPS students prepare for the spring 2009 DC - CAS." As a teacher who continues to witness DC schools still lacking in so many areas - resources, supplies, enrichment activities, teachers - it is extremely frustrating to see more money and programs focusing on "teaching to the test".

To make matters worse, "The Saturday Scholars program is an intervention strategy for students who are on the cusp of proficiency for Reading and Math on the DC - CAS."

Where are the programs for the students who are at below basic? What about the students in my World History class who are reading at a 4th grade level? Or, the students who cannot pass Algebra because they don't have basic math skills? So, not only are we teaching to the test, but we are choosing to ignore those that need help the most.

What are the priorities of DCPS? Is it really about children first? Or is it about making ourselves look good?

Could DCPS' focus on improving its measures of "student achievement" actually be in conflict with what's best for student learning?

CLIPS


Gwen Ifill
apparently thinks Adrian Fenty is DC's first black mayor. According to a NY Times review of her book, "Ms. Ifill writes in this volume more as a reporter than as an analyst, and by far the freshest portions of her book deal not with Mr. Obama, but with other African - American politicians who have achieved breakthroughs on a state or local level - including Artur Davis; Cory A. Booker; Michael A. Nutter; former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. from Tennessee; Gov. David A. Paterson of New York; Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts; Mayor Michael B. Coleman of Columbus, Ohio; and Washington's mayor, Adrian M. Fenty."

Mark Segraves, Capital Community News - The District's chief financial officer, Natwar Gandhi, gave the DC Council a huge lump of coal in their Christmas stockings. Gandhi is projecting a $127 million dollar budget shortfall for this fiscal year. And that's not the worst news. The fiscal year 2009 budget gap can be fixed by shuffling the deck chairs a bit. The city has $47 million in reserves which can be used, and another $80 million will come from a projected surplus Gandhi expects to have after the fiscal year 2008 numbers are tallied. The really bad news is for next year when the District could have a half a billion dollar shortfall a double digit unemployment.

Gandhi projects there will be a nearly $450 million budget gap in fiscal year 2010 and unemployment could reach 9.8 percent. You have to go back to the early 1980s to find a period when the District faced such a dismal economic outlook. The only current DC Councilmember who has ever had to deal with this type of budget crisis is Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who was mayor during the 1980s. The District's current mayor was 12 years old during the District's last fiscal meltdown, and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), the longest continuously serving member of the council at 18 years and counting, was just out of college and working at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The city could spend over $600 million for the Nationals and give $50 million to the Verizon Center but can't cough up enough to keep its own recreation centers open on Sundays.

Washington Post - Nervous city employees in the Community Services Agency of the D.C. Department of Mental Health have been waiting to see exactly how the department plans to contract out public mental health services to private clinics, saving up to $14 million but costing some 200 jobs. . . Doctors, clinicians and assistants are wondering when they will have to search for work. The employee unions have said the proposed plan would be unfair to workers and clients who rely on them. Mentally ill patients do not trust easily, and their transition to private clinics will not go smoothly, they warned. The mental health department serves nearly 15,000 residents, 4,000 of whom are treated by employees at the CSA. Among its many programs are resident training that shows family members how to attend to mentally disabled relatives. Troubled patients go to pharmacy-equipped clinics for prescription medicine, sometimes on the verge of a mental breakdown.

The Nationals are cutting prices for individual tickets by $10 or more in some 4500 seats. This follows a similar cut in prices for another 7500 seats last fall.

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