TODAY IS JUNE 2, 2011 — DAY 152 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
Wednesday night’s 18-panel hearing on a new ward redistricting plan gaveled to a close sometime after 1 a.m. Most of the witnesses were Ward 6 residents vexed at the prospect of being drawn into Ward 7 ( with at least one of them threatening to move). Read the #redc Twitter feed for tidbits:
(@amorrissey: “#redc public hearing: like one big ANC meeting, in that most of the people are fired up and a large chunk of the city couldn’t care less”
@codykrice: “I predict zombie attack if Congressional Cemetery is moved from Ward 6 to 7”
@imgoph: “Jack Evans gets snacks. I want snacks!”)
More cogent redistricting thoughts can be found at Greater Greater Washington, where David Alpert argues that passions wouldn’t be so high were wards not “mini-empires” ruled by an “emperor of his own little domain.” Better to give ANCs more life by drawing them to represent neighborhoods, not pieces of wards, he says. And at Housing Complex, Lydia DePillis makes the case that all the redistricting hand-wringing is way overblown, that “ward boundaries don’t actually mean much, unless you’re redrawing them.” They don’t affect property values, school zones, police districts and more. She adds: “[S]hould the groups that come out and yell loudest to stay in one ward or another be obeyed? Not if they make arguments like the ones I heard most often during meeting after meeting after meeting.”
AFTER THE JUMP — Pepco outages STILL keeping D.C. gov offices closed — nearly a year before breathalyzers return — Jeff Thompson’s $12 million payout — Kwame Brown’s big deal no big deal — Neil Stanley sits for DYRS confirmation hearing
*** MAIN COURSE ***
FLASH — The following D.C. government offices are STILL CLOSED by power outages: 1200/1300 1st St. NE (DDOE, DCPS, DOH), 33 N St. NE (DHS), 35 K St. NE (DMH), 899 North Capitol St. NE (OSSE, DHCF, DOH), 810 1st St. NE (DISB), 1133 North Capitol St. NE (DCHA). 801 North Capitol St. NE, home to the Community College of the District of Columbia, will open at noon. J.O. Wilson Elementary is closed for classes. A cooling center is open at Walker-Jones Education Campus..
NO BREATHALYZERS SOON — Breath testing for suspected drunk drivers won’t be back until next March, law enforcement authorities told the D.C. Council at a hearing Wednesday. Mary Pat Flaherty covers for the The Washington Post: “Until then, officers will continue to rely on urine samples and roadside sobriety tests, such as walking and turning, to make their cases — a more expensive and cumbersome way to curb drunken driving. ... Deputy Attorney General Robert Hildum acknowledged at the hearing that the breath-test program needs an overhaul and not the series of lesser fixes that have been tried since the scandal in early 2010, when officials said that testing was invalidated by faulty equipment and had overstated breathalyzer scores in about 400 convictions dating to 2008.. ... The absence of a reliable breath-test program has contributed to a drop of about 42 percent in drunken driving arrests by D.C. police — from 572 in the first five months of 2010 to 328 in the first five months of 2011, according to statistics cited at the hearing by Kristopher Baumann, head of the police union. Also, attention defense attorneys: “During the hearing, Lucas Zarwell, acting chief toxicologist at the medical examiner’s office, said that urine testing is ‘an old way of doing things’ and that alcohol levels registered through those tests ‘have very little correlation to blood concentrations for alcohol.’” This comes, the Examiner notes, after city officials said the program would be back this summer. Says Phil Mendelson, “There’s every indication that we’ve lost our deterrent for drunk drivers.” Baumann tells WTTG-TV the following: “The Office of the Attorney General has absolutely no business handling criminal cases in the District and I think that’s very clear. They can go back to being the Office of the Corporation Counsel and handling civil cases, but this is not a serious organization. It’s not an agency that should be handling anything in the criminal realm.” Also AP, WAMU-FM.
YIKES — From Flaherty’s report: “Hildum said prosecutors continue to get convictions and that urine testing had an unexpected benefit. With those tests, Hildum said, officers have found that 12 percent of drivers arrested for driving drunk also tested positive for PCP. ‘It is a disturbing statistic,’ and the finding ‘begs what we do going forward,’ Hildum said.”
COST OF DOING BUSINESS — In this week’s Loose Lips column, Alan Suderman digs into the many business dealings of Jeffrey Thompson of the Chartered Health Plan and the Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates accounting firm — including a 2008 lawsuit against Chartered quietly filed by the city government, then quietly settled for $12 million. Chartered is the city’s largest Medicaid managed-care organization. The upshot, Suderman writes: “If you’re a politically connected businessman who takes home a large chunk of the District’s Medicaid money and the city itself says you’re doing naughty things, don’t worry. The worst that’s likely to happen is you’ll pay a fine—and then no one will blink as you continue making gobs of dough. ... That the company kept getting District money, even after the District brought serious allegations of fraud against it, shows just how reluctant the city is to cut ties with the politically connected.” The suit’s allegations included that Chartered paid other Thompson companies more for services rendered than it paid other companies. Also note: “Politically connected” doesn’t begin to describe Thompson, who has sent loads of cash into the campaigns of most of the city’s elected officials.
NO BIG DEAL — Also: Suderman argues that Kwame Brown’s ability to keep an income-tax-rate hike out of the 2012 budget “wasn’t that big a deal.” Not only was the amount of money a pittance, he notes, “consider that the council voted last year against a similar proposal to jack up the income tax rates of the wealthy, in that case those earning $350,000 a year or more, also by an 8-to-5 margin. Mayor Vince Gray, then council chairman, voted against the proposal. New member Vincent Orange is strongly opposed to raising taxes. That Brown was able to muster the same number of votes opposing an income tax increase as last year’s vote hardly makes him the next LBJ, especially considering that what likely sealed the deal for Brown was offering Marion Barry tax abatements on a few churches in his ward.”
DYRS CONFIRMATION HEARING — Neil Stanley’s confirmation hearing as Youth Rehabilitation Services director was Wednesday, and Tom Howell Jr. covers for WaTimes: “Recent escapes, violence against DYRS employees and a revolving door of agency leadership in the last year or so loomed large in the opinions of more than 20 witnesses who testified in support of or against Mr. Stanley. His supporters included the school director at the New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel and the lawyer overseeing the Jerry M. class-action suit that prompted court monitoring of the city’s juvenile justice system.” And in opposition: “Belinda Wiley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 383, said Mr. Stanley — whose tenure includes stints with various city agencies, including the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of the Environment, and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs — has a ‘transient and unstable’ resume of floating among D.C. agencies. ... And Tasha Williams, a liaison from the Fraternal Order of Police, said DYRS leadership has yet to demonstrate it can “take back the department from the youth.” Do note: “Council member Marion Barry said at the outset of the proceedings that [Stanley] does not have the relevant experience to lead [DYRS] and will not get his vote. ‘It’s not personal. It’s not personal at all,’ Mr. Barry said. ‘It’s just I have a commitment to try and help these young kids.’”
WHAT ABC NEEDS — In the wake of Chuck Brodsky’s dismissal, the Georgetown Dish’s Beth Solomon calls on Gray to “recast [the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board] as both a protector of neighborhoods and a promoter of a key economic force in the city.” After decrying Brodsky’s “arrogance, disrespect for community leaders, and questionable standards of conduct,” Solomon notes that Gray will be appointing six of the board’s seven members. She has some suggestions: Georgetown ANC Bill Starrels, Kalorama Citizens Association honcho Denis James, and former council candidates Bryan Weaver and Jacque Patterson, to name a few.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Deborah Simmons: Gray needs to do more to compete with National Harbor, Prince George’s outlets (WaTimes)
The case that most haunts MPD’s homicide commander (Post)
The unique challenges of running a legitimate massage parlor (City Paper)
Kaya Henderson to Informer: “Michelle Rhee and I are two different people who essentially believe in the same general principles in terms of public education and education reform.” (Informer)
Gray messaging maven married to Rhee’s top fundraiser (Loose Lips)
Guilty verdict for 2008 murder not coming as easily as prosecutors expected (Post)
UDC law faculty get $588,367 worth of raises (jrbarras.com)
Gray administration agrees to release data on DCPS cafeteria food rebates (Slow Cook)
Chinatown policing strategy still working, two years later (WaTimes)
Rhee takes on the NAACP (N.Y. Daily News)
How to fix H Street NE’s “soft middle” (DCmud)
Turn Dupont staircase covers into kiosks? (GGW)
Brian Betts’ killer to be sentenced Thursday (WJLA-TV)
Let the National Gallery have the Federal Trade Commission building, and move the FTC to a redeveloping part of D.C. (Post letter)
Federal mandate prompts change to sex offender registration rules (Examiner)
Alexandria considers joining Bikeshare (WAMU-FM)
Walter Reed docs want delay in Bethesda move (Examiner)
The D.C. Statehood Student Association, brought to you by Nate Bennett-Fleming and Markus Batchelor (DCSSA)
D.C. Water partners with restaurants to offer free water-bottle refills (WRC-TV)
Bike lane battle in Eckington (GGW)
Charge tourists, paper farecard users highest fares! (GGW)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray meets with AIDS 2012 Host Committee, 12:30 p.m. at DOH headquarters, 899 North Capitol St. NE; attends Kappa Scholarship Endowment Fund awards, 5:45 p.m. at American Federation of Teachers, 555 New Jersey Ave. NW; does Washington Blade forum, 6:30 p.m. in JAWB G-9; attends candlelight vigil for Isaiah Harris, 8 p.m. at Garnet-Patterson Middle School, 2001 10th St. NW — D.C. Council hearings on “Interstate Compact for Juveniles Amendment Act of 2011” (B19-13), “Southeast Federal Center/Yards Non-Discriminatory Grocery Store Amendment Act of 2011” (B19-22), “Brewery Manufacturer’s Tasting Permit Amendment Act of 2011” (B19-118) And “Director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Neil A. Stanley Confirmation Resolution of 2011” (PR19-128), 11 a.m. in JAWB 120; “South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011” (B19-211), noon in JAWB 500 — Cathy Lanier does “Ask the Chief,” 10 a.m. on WTOP.