City Scrambling to Fund Union Bonuses
Labor leaders stepped up pressure on the District government yesterday to cut their $1,700 bonus checks by next Wednesday's deadline as city leaders worked into the night to find $9.9 million to pay for them.
At a news conference, leaders of the largest unions, representing 5,807 city employees, said Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), the D.C. Council and financial control board would be breaking a contract with the unions if the money isn't paid by Wednesday.
"It boils down to one thing: A contractual commitment has been fulfilled and agreed upon and now we're calling on the mayor, city council and control board to make sure the agreement is implemented on Dec. 15," said George T. Johnson, an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees official who was closely involved in the bonus negotiations with the mayor.
By day's end, city officials had not come up with a financing plan. The financial control board was told Wednesday that the money must be found by today or the checks won't be ready by next week.
AU Students Seek Playground Donations
Students at American University are trying to raise $50,000 to build a playground in April on an abandoned lot in the Congress Heights section of Southeast Washington.
Senior Kim Williams, coordinator of Project Playground, said her group is seeking grants and corporate sponsors and will hold a series of campus fund-raisers to collect money to pay for landscaping and equipment. The group's goal is to install the equipment April 15, National Youth Service Day.
The students have received permission to develop the site at Sixth Street and Mississippi Avenue SE from the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, which owns it. The future playground is between Simon Elementary School and Hart Junior High School.
For more information, call Williams at 202-885-7585.
Park Service Wants Battlefield Land
The National Park Service is trying to buy a 240-acre farm that is the last privately held parcel within the boundaries of Monocacy National Battlefield near Frederick.
The Araby Farm was the setting for the final phases of the Monocacy battle, also called "the battle that saved Washington," that left more than 1,600 dead, wounded or missing on July 9, 1864.
The property, about three miles south of Frederick, is owned by the Josephine Clapp family and is closed to the public.
It was included within the boundaries of the 1,670-acre battlefield when Congress created the national park in 1934.
State Task Force Given Principal Mission
A state task force has been appointed to examine the training of public school principals and recommend ways to improve their preparation and recruitment.
Maryland's principals are under more pressure to bring their schools up to higher standards; in the meantime, nearly three-quarters of the state's middle and high school principals are expected to retire within five years, and not enough replacements are coming up through the ranks.
State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick appointed the 19-member task force and asked it to report back in the spring. Howard County Superintendent Michael E. Hickey will head the committee along with Don Barron, principal of Montgomery Village Middle School.
Legislator Plans Bill to Unmask Klan
A Montgomery County state senator said he will introduce legislation next month aimed at preventing hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan from wearing masks or hoods during demonstrations.
Sen. Leonard H. Teitelbaum (D) said his bill is similar to a statute used recently to curb participation in a planned Klan rally in New York City. It is based on a Virginia law that successfully survived appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court's decision upholding the statute.
In a statement, Teitelbaum said the purpose of his measure is to discourage hate groups from promoting racial and ethnic hatred under the guise of anonymity.
Promotion Averts Hospital Resignations
The chief physician of a state-run psychiatric hospital in Falls Church was named acting director yesterday, helping state officials avert a mass resignation that would have included the physician and dozens of other staff members.
In an emergency meeting with employees at the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, state mental health Commissioner Richard E. Kellogg announced that Mohamed El-Sabaawi had been promoted to interim director.
Nearly 40 doctors, psychologists, therapists and social workers threatened to resign after El-Sabaawi, the facility's third medical director in 14 months, told staff members last week he planned to leave to take a job in North Carolina. The staff protested the resignation, which they said was part of "the continued instability of this institute."
State Shades the Rules for Inmates
New grooming regulations imposed by the state Department of Corrections will not scuttle one of the most popular job-training programs for female inmates.
The rules issued Nov. 15 barred female prisoners from coloring their hair, a key element of the cosmetology programs at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women and the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland.
That sent officials scrambling to find a compromise because cosmetology students learn and practice skills on other inmates. Without hair coloring skills, the students could not be licensed by the state Board of Cosmetology.
Under the compromise, accepted by the state Board of Cosmetology, the Department of Corrections will allow hair coloring as long as an inmate's hair remains within the same color range. Inmates with gray hair may hide it with another color. Students also will work with mannequins outfitted with human hair and will color the hair of corrections employees.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"You had good days and bad days, based on whether he had a good day or a bad day."
-- Lisa M. Stevens, one of the keepers of Hsing Hsing, the giant panda whose death at the National Zoo Nov. 28 is still mourned by those who cared for him.