Senate Quickly Approves D.C. Budget
Acting with extraordinary speed, the U.S. Senate approved the District's 2005 budget without debate by unanimous consent yesterday, one day after the Appropriations Committee released a public version of the $8.2 billion bill.
"What was most important ... was what was not in the bill," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), noting that the legislation was free of language repealing the city's gun laws. The bill contains $560 million in direct federal aid, including $195 million for D.C. courts, $34.5 million for defender services, $3 million for the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, $10 million for the combined sewer overflow project, $4 million for the Metro system payment, $1 million to phase in a downtown circulator bus system, $40 million for school vouchers, regular and charter public schools and $32.5 million for member earmarks to be identified later.
School Board Member Won't Run
D.C. school board member Julie Mikuta (District 1) announced yesterday that she will not seek reelection in November, citing frustration with the pace of change in the school system.
"I've had a strong sense of urgency and focus on our most important issue, student achievement," she said, adding that she believes "I can make more impact by working to improve education in another capacity."
Mikuta, 35, a former teacher and Rhodes scholar, was elected to the board in November 2000.
Man Killed by Fairmount Heights Officers
Fairmount Heights police shot and killed a man last night outside the police station during a confrontation, according to the Prince George's County police department, which is investigating the matter.
The incident began about 6:40 p.m., when someone entered the Fairmount Heights police station at 6100 Jost St., near the D.C. line, to report that a man parked outside had a gun, said Cpl. Joe Merkel, a spokesman for the county police.
Two Fairmount Heights officers approached the car, and a confrontation ensued, Merkel said. The man then drove off, dragging one of the officers, who may have been holding onto the car or the driver. The officer suffered minor injuries.
At that point, one or both officers opened fire, striking the driver multiple times, Merkel said. The car stopped in the road about 50 yards away, and a handgun believed to belong to the man was recovered at the scene, Merkel said.
The driver, who was in his late twenties, was taken to Prince George's Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead late last night, Merkel said. The driver and the officers were not identified last night.
Officials of the Fairmount Heights police department, which has 13 officers, declined to comment.
Construction Restrictions Advance
A bill that imposes a stricter test on residential construction in Prince George's County moved out of committee yesterday.
The County Council's Public Safety and Fiscal Management Committee voted 4 to 1 in favor of the bill, which would allow new homes to be built only if the police and fire departments meet specific benchmarks for staffing and response times.
Council member Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie) said the bill is designed to ensure that the county's emergency services are able to handle the county's rapid growth.
Developers and members of the business community argued that the measure amounts to a moratorium on future building. "It's a horribly irresponsible piece of legislation," said John Pyles, a developer in the county. Pyles said builders should not be held responsible for the county's inability to hire enough police officers and firefighters. "The county needs to do a review of what its needs are, not come up with shotgun pieces of legislation," Pyles said. Council member David Harrington (D-Bladensburg) said the bill would not halt building. Instead, he said, it would impose standards that need to be met. "The bottom line is, should we build communities when we know police and fire times are inadequate?" he asked.
Student Dies After Being Hit by Car
A Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School student died yesterday of injuries he suffered Tuesday when he was hit by a car before sunrise while walking to school, officials said.
Samuel Morris, 15, a 10th-grader, died at Suburban Hospital at 10:10 a.m. He was crossing the northbound lanes of Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda, just over the District line, at 6:28 a.m. Tuesday when he was hit by a 1995 Saturn, according to Montgomery County police.
Police are investigating the accident, and no charges have been filed.
Sides Argue Redskins Pedestrian Ban
A Prince George's County administrative panel heard yesterday from a lawyer representing Washington Redskins fans who oppose a policy that blocks pedestrian access along a road to FedEx Field on game days.
No ruling was issued on the second day of testimony before the Board of Administrative Appeals. Chairman Raymond Krasnick told attorneys for both sides to submit a brief by Oct. 4 answering specific questions, after which the board will issue a ruling.
A Prince George's police officer and the acting director of the county Department of Public Works and Transportation testified yesterday that the pedestrian ban along Redskins Road was necessary to protect the safety of fans. Two pedestrians have been killed walking near the stadium, Cpl. Michael Rose said.
J.P. Szymkowicz, an attorney for the fans, argued that the public works department lacked the authority to close the sidewalks. He said the team and county officials need to explore other, less-restrictive methods, such as providing temporary fencing or a pedestrian overpass, before blocking pedestrian access.
Pesticide Use Around Schools Criticized
Maryland authorities have not done enough to comply with a state law regulating pesticide use around schools, according to reports released yesterday by a watchdog group.
The Maryland Pesticide Network, a coalition of groups, said some schools continue to use pesticides as their first response to pest problems. A state law mandates that pesticides be used only when other nontoxic methods of pest control do not work.
Bags of Cement Dropped at Mixing Bowl
A truck dropped 15 bags of cement onto the highway at the Springfield interchange yesterday morning, clogging traffic into early afternoon, said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The bags -- each weighing 80 to 100 pounds -- were reported shortly after 7:30 a.m. by a local fire and rescue unit heading to another accident. The bags covered about 200 yards of the two-lane ramp heading from Interstate 95 to the Capital Beltway toward Tysons Corner, Morris said. The ramp was reopened shortly after noon. The truck did not stop, she said. "Whoever spilled it or dropped it didn't realize the bags had fallen off or just carried on," Morris said.
A street sweeper was called in to clean up the mess. Traffic was backed up to Exit 158, about nine miles south of Springfield, until early afternoon, Morris said.
Panel to Look at Schooling for Offenders
The state Board of Education voted yesterday in Richmond to proceed with plans to require state agencies to set up methods of ensuring that children return to school after serving time in juvenile prisons and detention homes.
The decision comes eight years after the General Assembly passed a law requiring the board to officially spell out details of what schools and juvenile corrections officials must do to prepare incarcerated students to return to public school.
More than 1,000 children are in Virginia's juvenile prisons or detention homes.
Representatives of several state agencies have formed a task force to review existing reenrollment practices and to help shape the new measures.
"This shows that if you don't have judicial review of detentions, then the executive branch can take people who are essentially totally innocent . . . and hold on to him for three years."
-- Shayana Kadidal, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, on the impending release of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen held in solitary confinement as an "enemy combatant" for nearly three years but never charged with a crime. -- Page A1
Compiled from reports by staff writers David A. Fahrenthold, Darragh Johnson, Joshua Partlow, Ovetta Wiggins, Allan Lengel, Spencer S. Hsu and Del Quentin Wilber and the Associated Press.