TODAY IS MAY 6, 2011 — DAY 121 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
PREVIOUSLY — D.C. bag tax could expand after Montgomery passage
The Examiner’s Harry Jaffe is back at it today, nursing his self-admitted “obsession” with “the way the city treats its cops, the looming drop in sworn officers, the politics behind the impending budget negotiations.” Jaffe sounds the alarm on police staffing, saying the department is “headed to historic lows below 3,800 [sworn officers].” Historic, you say? Historic like 2006, when staffing was also below 3,800? Or like 2001, which is about where staffing levels would be in late 2012 should Mayor Vincent Gray’s budget proposal pass as-is? For a reality check on the police staffing debate, read my not-a-column, where I look at the various claims as to optimal police staffing, which all tend to be based largely on the seat of one’s pants. Meanwhile, academic research shows a tenuous connection at best between marginal changes in police staffing and crime rates. Take it from an American University criminologist: “I have visited a lot of police departments in my life. I can’t remember ever visiting one that didn’t say they needed more cops. ... The last 20 years of criminology has taught us it’s really what you do with your cops that counts.”
AFTER THE JUMP — Sulaimon served, but will it stick? — numbskull sends powdery letters to DCPS schools — breath testing for drunk drivers coming back soon, says AG — Peggy Cooper Cafritz leaves Chain Bridge Road — a school for the Stevens School?
*** MAIN COURSE ***
SULAIMON SERVED? — Sulaimon Brown has been served with a subpoena — but does it matter? Mary Cheh announced Thursday that Brown and fellow witness Cherita Whiting had been served, after process servers had been unable to find them for weeks. The rub: Both were served by certified mail, which is allowed under D.C. Council rules. But both Brown and Whiting are saying that they won’t be showing up for the May 13 hearing. Tim Craig writes at D.C. Wire: “Reached by phone, Whiting denied that she has received a subpoena and said she has no plans to appear at the May 13 hearing. ‘I have not been served anything,’ Whiting said, adding that she was referring Cheh’s statement to her lawyer, A. Scott Bolden. ‘I have not been served and, secondly, I have nothing to say.’” Brown sent me this text message at 11:21 p.m. last night: “This is clear evidence that mary chey will break the law to cover for vincent gray. Her hearing is a disingenious witch hunt that I will not be a part of. Sulaimon Brown.” More at DCist, Examiner, WaTimes.
LETTERS, WE GET POWDERY LETTERS — Some knucklehead, apparently in Texas, thought it would be a good idea to send powder-filled letters to 29 D.C. Public Schools, throwing the afternoon into chaos. Mary Pat Flaherty and Bill Turque write in the Post: “Initial tests found no toxic substance in the items that arrived in office areas and mailrooms, and ‘no students have been in danger at any point,’ said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and EMS Department. ... The FBI was collecting letters from the scenes, according to spokesman Andrew Ames. Ames also said that the powder did not appear to be dangerous but could not say what it was. The envelopes, which were mailed from Dallas, had typewritten labels with the addresses of each school and a letter containing the words ‘AL AQEDA-FBI,’ according to an alert the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center sent to D.C. agencies. The letters are identical to ones D.C. schools received in October 2010, the center said.” Gray deemed the act “dastardly.” WRC-TV reports that four more letters were found at schools this morning, and WUSA-TV reports another letter was received at the DYRS Youth Services Center on Mount Olivet Road.
BREATHALYZERS COMING BACK — Breath testing for drunk drivers could be back “within a few months,” Attorney General Irvin Nathan tells the Examiner. “Nathan said his office, the police department and the medical examiner now have a plan in place to bring the breath test program back. The city has applied for a $100,000 federal grant to hire a technician in the medical examiner’s office to oversee the program. The three agencies have also agreed on a policy that includes audits and other checks on the breath tests,” Freeman Klopott writes. “All that’s left, he said, is to get the grant and hire someone for the job. ... Asked about the program Thursday morning on WTOP, Police Chief Cathy Lanier sounded less committed to the time frame Nathan described to The Examiner. ‘We should have it up and running in the next couple of months, but I’m not going to force it because I want it to work,’ Lanier said.”
PEGGY SELLS — Philanthropist and former school board president Peggy Cooper Cafritz is selling the lot where her once-fabulous Chain Bridge Road mansion stood before burning down in 2009, Michael Neibauer reports in WBJ. She tells the Nei-man: “Why am I selling? There are two reasons, one is emotional and one is financial. ... Emotionally, I don’t know if I could go back there. It would be like trying to recreate a life that has basically been destroyed. I don’t know if I can or should spend the kind of time it would take to recreate that life. With the time that I have, it would be better trying to do some of things I did at 3030 somewhere else.” The financial reason: “I could not afford to rebuild 3030 as it was.” She also appears to be stuck in a dispute with the Office of Tax and Revenue, Neibauer reports. Also: Her lawsuit against D.C. Water continues.
SCHOOL FOR STEVENS? — Also, Neibauer looks at what’s going to happen to the Stevens School under Vincent Gray. The neighbors, who effectively killed the previous proposal to turn it into apartments, now are pushing to keep it as some sort of school. And then there’s this tidbit: R. Donahue Peebles, who previously bid on the property before toying with a mayoral run, “recently met with Gray, a well placed D.C. source told the Washington Business Journal. Whether Peebles bid again to redevelop Stevens is unclear — he did not respond to numerous requests for comment. The Gray administration confirmed the two met for a private lunch, but details of their discussions were not released.”
REMEMBERING THE RIOTS — The 20th anniversary of the Mount Pleasant riots was commemorated yesterday in Lamont Park. David Nakamura reports in the Post: “Organizer Pedro Aviles, founder of the Latino Economic Development Corporation, said he hoped to use the memory of those dark days to reenergize the community to fight for improved city services. ‘There’s been some regression,’ he said. ‘We used to have very strong community advocacy organizations.’ ... After the disturbances, [Mayor Sharon Pratt] formed a Latino task force and established a Spanish-speaking police unit. But the city’s financial troubles of the mid-1990s set back the efforts. And the city’s recent fiscal woes have continued to hurt: [The Latin American Youth Center] has lost about $1 million in funding in the past year. She said the Latino high school dropout rate remains high. At Thursday’s rally, Beatriz ‘B.B.’ Otero, D.C.’s deputy mayor for health and human services, told the crowd of about 100 that progress is coming and cited her appointment as evidence. Among those listening to her were white neighbors walking their dogs and pushing babies in strollers. Though Mount Pleasant still has Latino businesses, it has gentrified, forcing many of those who grew up there to move out.”
ON JO BAKER — On the occasion of her retirement from the Public Charter School Board, a Post editorial recognizes Josephine Baker: “That the District today is a model for education choice is evidence of her leadership and why replacing her will be a challenge. ... During her tenure the city’s charter system grew from a handful of schools to the current 52 charters on 93 campuses. So popular are charter schools — nearly 40 percent of D.C. public school students attend them — that it’s hard to recall their rocky start or how city and school officials vilified them as a Republican Congress’s intrusion into local affairs. ‘Didn’t care, didn’t matter,’ Ms. Baker told us of not knowing the political persuasion of charter backers and instead focusing on the ‘best interests of the children.’ Charters have provided a healthy alternative to parents eager to escape bad schools, thus helping spark the education reform that has brought marked improvement in the traditional schools.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Cheh “happy to be out of the joint” (WTOP)
Tiger educator Michelle Rhee says we’ve “gone soft” on kids (AP via S.F. Chronicle)
Unions rallying Monday against Rhee, Scott Walker (Metro Labor Council)
Drug bust was worth $3 million retail (City Desk)
$330 million contract for D.C. Water tunnel project goes to Traylor Brothers-Skanska-JayDee (news release)
CYITC needs “vision,” Tommy Wells says (WaTimes)
Why paying people to live closer to work is a good idea (Housing Complex)
Ex-GM exec to replace Robert Bobb in Detroit (Free Press)
Zoning office, NCPC put more stuff online (GGW)
Metro’s budget situation not critical, thanks to “leadership” (GGW)
Hey Council: “Income Tax Migration is a Myth” (DCFPI)
More reasons why Ward 8 shouldn’t cross the river (The Hill Is Home)
Where Marion Barry spent Cinco de Mayo (G’town Dish)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray rededicates Benning Library to Dorothy Height, 11 a.m. at 3935 Benning Road NE; appears on the Politics Hour, noon on WAMU-FM; holds Ward 1 town hall on budget, 7 p.m. at Bell Multicultural High School, 3145 Hiatt Place NW — D.C. Council budget hearings on the D.C. Council, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Office of the District of Columbia Auditor, Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining, Office of Cable Television, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; on the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500