TODAY IS JUNE 24, 2011 — DAY 174 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
How does a celebrity get a police escort in Washington, D.C.? Allow The Post’s Mary Pat Flaherty to explain how it worked for Charlie Sheen: “It was quite simple. The event promoter called the cellphone of an acquaintance he has known for 20 years. The acquaintance happened to be an officer who works in the Special Operations Division, which handles such requests. ... The promoter had a good reputation for paying the bill to cover such off-duty escorts, Officer Stanley Radzilowski testified, so providing the service with a promise of a check was not a worry. Radzilowski, who took the promoter’s call, passed the request to his lieutenant, who testified that he then approved the run to Dulles International Airport to fetch Sheen. Radzilowski said he knew which officers were done with their regular shifts and called them to make the trip. Two days later, testimony showed, the department received a check for $445 to cover the tab.” Those details came out in a D.C. Council hearing Thursday. But, as Mary Pat writes, “much more remains unresolved, particularly about the policies surrounding who gets an escort and when.” More after the jump.
AFTER THE JUMP — MPD commander publicly takes on Lanier — Taxi outrage continues with release of video — D.C. budget leaves House approps relatively rider-free — Caribbean Parade, voting rights rally tomorrow
*** MAIN COURSE ***
CHUTZPAH — More from Mary Pat: “In an unusual turn, the head of the special operations division or SOD — Cmdr. Hilton B. Burton — publicly disagreed with Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier at the hearing over the department’s practices for escorts. ... Burton, who has headed SOD for a year, said it had been common practice to escort celebrities for at least the past nine years. He provided a list of 47 trips, which included escorting sports teams and performers such as Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Paul McCartney and others. Some of the trips would have occurred while Lanier headed SOD, he said. ... Lanier said the department policies on escorts are explicit and allow escorts for the president, vice president and heads of state, with some allowances ‘case by case’ for other requests based on public safety concerns. But those exceptions have to go to top supervisors, she said, and the breakdown in the Sheen event and testimony she heard at the hearing led her to believe that there are officers and supervisors who ‘apparently don’t understand general orders.’ ” Burton also testified that Lanier was “not truthful” in saying a subordinate’s transfer wasn’t for disciplinary reasons related to the Sheen publicity; Lanier said Burton’s testimony was “ ‘a familiar tactic’ designed to let him try to invoke whistleblower protections if he is disciplined.” Do note that Burton is currently suing Lanier for discrimination.
LEDE OF THE DAY — From Tom Howell Jr. in WaTimes: “Believe it or not, actress Hilary Duff and Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan have something in common: Both enjoyed a D.C. police escort before bad-boy celebrity Charlie Sheen highlighted the muddled policy issue in April ...” Much more at the Examiner, WUSA-TV, WRC-TV, Daily Mail, WUSA-TV.
MORE TAXI OUTRAGE — The outrage over the arrests at Wednesday’s Taxicab Commission meeting continues, with the release of video from the hearing and an account from Reason.tv’s Jim Epstein of how he ended up in handcuffs. And it was bound to happen sooner or later: Harry Jaffe and I wrote columns about the same subject on the same day! Harry focuses on the D.C. Taxicab Commission’s treatment of Epstein and reporter Pete Tucker, noting that a statement from DCTC interim chairwoman Dena Reed “misstated the facts. She said Tucker was ‘filming’ the meeting. Commission rules do prohibit videotaping of its meetings. Tucker maintains he was taking still pictures. Reed said the exchange between Tucker and the police took place in the hallway. But video shows officers cuffing him right in front of her. She said the taxicab commission did not call for the police to intervene. So Tucker called the cops so they could arrest him?” In the not-a-column, I look at what the incident says about the functionality of the Taxi Commission and the state of regulation in the city: “[B]esides cueing the media’s righteous indignation, the arrests highlight the feud that has played out in an obscure corner of government for four years, if not longer. Cabdrivers have been deeply at odds with the commission, which has the dual role of writing and enforcing industry regulations, since early in former mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s term. ‘You reporters got a taste of what it’s like to get treated by the Taxicab Commission,’ said Larry Frankel, an organizer of the self-employed drivers who make up the bulk of the taxi fleet.” Jaffe quotes Tommy Wells on the subject: “I don’t know if the commission ever worked. ... Do we need one? I’m looking at an overhaul, and what happened the other day proves the need even more.”
JUST IN TIME — From today’s Post editorial page: “Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration has organized an ‘Executive Media Skills Seminar’ for the city’s agency heads and senior staff. The goal for Friday’s event is to “build effective working relationships between reporters and government agency directors.” Here’s a tip: Try not to arrest people who are covering a public meeting. ... The District’s open-meetings law is silent on whether photography or recordings are permitted, but surely it shouldn’t take a court order for the public and media to exercise basic free speech and free press rights. And, if any agency needs more sunlight, it is the chronically troubled cab commission. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, who is investigating the incident, sensibly told reporters he believes these meetings should be open and subject to recordings as long as they’re done in a manner that doesn’t disturb the proceedings. That should be the end of this matter, in addition, we hope, to dropping the charges against Mr. Tucker and Mr. Epstein.” At DCist, Martin Austermuhle notes that the city’s vaunted new open meetings law provides no protections for those who would record or photograph public proceedings. At Greater Greater Washington, David Alpert notes that this is just the latest Park Police-related outrage: “The Park Police chose to turn some silent and respectful dancing at the Jefferson Memorial into a major issue, and again overreacted to the subsequent dancing protest. They even told an ABC7 news crew they couldn’t report from the Mall, which is entirely false. They even shut down all the food trucks at Farragut Square despite them operating completely legally.” Also City Paper, Pixiq, WRC-TV.
RIDERS ON THE STORM — The District’s 2012 spending bill has left the House Appropriations Committee without new riders besides the abortion funding ban included in the bill as drafted. Ben Pershing reports in The Post: “The spending measure, which the House Appropriations Committee approved along party lines, would reduce the federal government’s payment to the District by $62 million compared with 2011, with the D.C. courts, school construction and the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program among those items targeted for cuts. ... Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on Thursday tried to remove the abortion measure from the legislation, offering an amendment that would preserve a ban on federally funded abortions in the District but allow the city to use its own money for that purpose. Her amendment failed along party lines, 20-27. ... Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), chairman of the subcommittee that authored the bill ... said the abortion issue was so important to her fellow Republicans that she believed the entire bill, which also carries funds for the Treasury Department and other agencies, could fall if the ban was not included. ‘If we don’t get the bill to the floor with the language prohibiting abortion, I’m afraid we may run into other challenges,’ Emerson said.” Also AP, the Examiner.
TOMORROW — Voting rights activists rally at the White House, 11 a.m. in Lafayette Square. DCist’s Austermuhle aired sotto voce grumbles that Gray would be marching in the Caribbean parade rather than joining the rally. It appears to have made an impression: Hizzoner issued an advisory early this morning assuring us that he will “SPEAK AT WHITE HOUSE RALLY THIS SATURDAY AND CONTINUE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY.”
SMOKY MESS — Last week, I reported on how the D.C. Council fouled up on an exception to the city smoking ban intended for the Fight Night charity event. Rather than allowing one or two exceptions, they allowed as many as 79. Yesterday, Smokefree D.C.’s Angela Bradbery lit up the Council: “There are several profoundly disturbing things about this mess ... The Council made a major policy change — weakening a phenomenally popular law — without any public notice or chance for public input. (They did it through an amendment to the budget process.) The Council didn’t bother to read the wording of what they were voting on. Instead, they just relied on those who presented it (Councilmembers Jack Evans and Michael Brown). ... What an outrage. What sheer arrogance. What incompetence. What a mess.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
DCFPI to council: Slow down capital funding shift, put less “magic money” in savings (DCFPI)
Key figure in South Capitol Street shootings was entrusted to Peaceoholics’ care a week prior (WaTimes)
Louisville corrections chief turns down D.C. DOC offer (Gannett)
Metro passes budget without major service cuts (the Examiner)
Boy, this is stupid (the Examiner)
Gray’s editorial board outreach? Kind of a bust. (Loose Lips)
“D.C. Business Groups: We are Relevant!” (Housing Complex)
Can we get a third Medicaid MCO, please? (WBJ)
Kathy Wone has settled her civil suit against her murdered husband’s roommates, Steven Tschida reports (WJLA-TV)
House subcommittee will look at Metro safety today (AP)
Marcus Ellis, reportedly “not in the plans of D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson,” will step down as DCPS athletic director (The Post)
Superior Court judge’s husband called for jury duty; guess whose courtroom he’s sent to (The Post)
As DCCAH chair, Judith Terra says she’ll do “what we humanly can to create jobs, educational opportunities, fresh ideas, and a new spirit of enthusiasm for the District’s creative economy” (Arts Desk)
Qataris aren’t allowing bars at CityCenterDC (Housing Complex)
Mark Warner wants Dulles rail project to take a 15 percent haircut (The Hill)
Zipcar gets a competitor (TBD)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray attends Washington Building Congress meeting, 7:30 a.m. at the Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW; appears at “Media Skills Development Institute” for cabinet members, 9 a.m. at The World Bank, 1818 H St. NW; appears at opening ceremony for William C. Smith Company’s summer jobs program, 10 a.m. at The Arc, 1901 Mississippi Ave. SE; appears at Georgia Avenue/Rock Creek East Family Support Collaborative cookout, 2 p.m. at 1104 Allison St. NW; attends Joseph K. Smith Memorial Summer Camp Fundraiser Dinner, 6 p.m. at Navy Yard Catering and Conference Center, 6th and M streets SE; attends Continental Society “Nite at the Improv” event, 6:30 p.m. at Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave. NW — D.C. Council confirmation hearings on DDOT’s Terry Bellamy, 11 a.m. in JAWB 500; on People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye, noon in JAWB 412; Department of Human Services’ David A. Berns, 2 p.m. in JAWB 120