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October 31, 2014

Posts in "Around Washington"

October 30, 2014

‘Smitty’ Vying to Become D.C. Attorney General

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Smith is one of five DC attorney general candidates. (Courtesy Smith Campaign Flickr account)

Through the drizzling rain on a gray October morning, blue signs emblazoned with “Smitty” are visible in the windows of a three-story red brick building in Shaw. In a small office upstairs, campaign staffers are working to make sure the signs’ namesake becomes D.C.’s first elected attorney general.

Edward “Smitty” Smith, a Democrat and D.C. native, is hoping his government experience and Washington roots will resonate with voters and set him apart from the four other Democrats vying for the position.

“I’m the only person in this race who’s managed government attorneys,” Smith told CQ Roll Call in a recent interview at his campaign headquarters. “This is a government office; it’s not a law firm.”

The posters bearing his nickname can be spotted all over the city. He’s been called “Smitty” his entire life — his Aunt Barbara came up with the nickname when he was born. Smith said he was called “Smitty” so often, he did not learn his real name until he was 3 years old.

Before entering the AG race, Smith held a number of positions in the Obama administration, including chief of staff and prosecutor at the Federal Communications Commission, program director at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and adviser at the Department of Commerce. Smith’s first job with the Obama administration was as deputy general counsel for the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Full story

October 28, 2014

D.C. Council Clears Road for Uber

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Traditional taxis have railed against the measure for months, including a rolling protest around Capitol Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Taxi drivers lost a fight against for-hire ride services Tuesday, when the D.C. Council passed a bill that Uber says “provides a permanent home for UberX in the District.”

The company, which in August hired President Barack Obama’s former political strategist David Plouffe to run its political and public relations operations, praised D.C. for passing the legislation. It mandates county, federal and multi-state background checks on drivers going back seven years, $1 million primary insurance coverage from the moment a driver accepts a request and annual vehicle safety inspections by a certified mechanic. Uber said in a blog post that the bill makes D.C. a “trailblazer in the transportation industry.”

Hundreds of local taxi drivers, organized by Teamsters Local 922, planned a rolling protest around Freedom Plaza to show their opposition to the measure. They say it fails to create a level playing field with the private sedan services, who are costing the cab drivers business. A similar honking armada surrounded Capitol Hill in June.

The bill underwent some big changes as it worked its way through the council, including a name change. Lawmakers said calling the services “ridesharing” conflates them with carpooling, and other modes of transportation meant to defray costs associated with vehicle ownership or commuting. Instead of that term of art, the District opted for “private vehicle-for-hire” services.

Under the legislation, Uber, Lyft and other companies would have to comply with fare transparency provisions, like traditional taxis. The company must disclose its calculation method and applicable rates being charged, as well as offering to estimate fare. Additionally, the bill protects passengers’ pocketbooks in situations like Snowmageddon. When the mayor declares a state of emergency, the drivers are prohibited from setting exorbitant fares.

RELATED:

Uber Hires Former Obama Strategist Plouffe To Run Its PR Efforts (Video)

Airports Become Battleground for Taxi And Shuttle Operators’ Struggle Against Uber

D.C. Taxi Revolt Disrupts Capitol Hill Traffic

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October 27, 2014

Alyce Dixon, Feisty World War II Vet, Gets Private Sit-Down in Oval Office

President Barack Obama welcomes one of the spunkiest centenarians in the District of Columbia to the Oval Office for a private Monday afternoon meeting.

World War II veteran Alyce Dixon, who turned 107 on Sept. 11, will sit down with Obama and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. According to the congresswoman’s office, veterans and D.C. statehood are on the agenda, but Dixon is sure to crack a few jokes. The quick-witted Washingtonian is widely known for her sense of humor, on display in a 2012 profile by the Army and .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4-DUpMGcHg

Dixon was born in Boston in 1907, the third-oldest of nine children. Her family moved to Washington in 1924, and Dixon briefly attended Howard University. In her 20s, she worked at the Lincoln Theatre on U Street Northwest, serving as a secretary then a cashier. From 1940 to 1943, she worked as one of the first civilian employees at the Pentagon.

Dixon joined the Army in 1943, among the first African-American women in the nation to enlist. She served in England, France and Scotland. Her unit was tasked with eliminating floor-to-ceiling stacks of undelivered mail and packages addressed to U.S. servicemembers but stored in foreign warehouses. They cleared the mail backlog in record time, and Dixon was awarded a medal for good conduct, according to the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs.

After her service, Dixon returned to the Pentagon. She retired after 35 years with the federal government, and continued to volunteer around the city. Her humor is a hit with staff at the V.A. medical center in Northwest Washington.

“She has the unique ability to bring joy to others, and is known especially for her bubbly personality and comedic storytelling,” Norton said in a 2011 House floor speech commemorating Dixon’s birthday.

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October 24, 2014

Ebola Roundtable Sparks Divisions Over District’s Preparedness

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A protester outside of the White House encourages a travel ban from Ebola-affected countries. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Though national attention turned to a congressional hearing on Ebola preparedness Friday, two members of D.C. Council Committee on Health also met to assess how the District is preparing for the virus, resulting in clashes between lawmakers, hospital officials and nurses.

“We are nowhere near prepared for an Ebola patient at our hospital,” said Jowita Lyn, an emergency room nurse at Providence Hospital in Northeast D.C.

Referring to breaches in protocol that led to two nurses contracting Ebola while treating an infected patient in Dallas, Texas, Lyn said, “What happened at Texas Health Presbyterian could easily happen at Providence Hospital.”

Lyn treated one of the suspected Ebola patients in D.C. at Providence. She said she knew to ask whether the patient had traveled to an affected country because of her own research on the subject.

The nurse said the only training she received was a printout of Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Lyn also said the protective gear at the hospital were “paper thin gowns that are barely thicker than a napkin.” Full story

October 23, 2014

WMATA: Current Procedures ‘Sufficient’ for Countering Ebola

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WMATA will not institute new protocols to address Ebola. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the wake of concerns about the Ebola virus in the U.S., leaders in the D.C. transit system met last week to review protocols for preventing the spread of infectious diseases on the metro system and determined current procedures were sufficient to counter the virus.

Richard Sarles, general manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, sent an email to WMATA employees Monday, explaining that he met with “senior leaders in our Rail, Bus, Safety, MetroAccess and Police departments” to review the protocols.

Sarles did not say that any new policies would be put in place to respond to Ebola, but instructed employees to continue to follow existing procedures to prevent infections.

“We reviewed both standard operating procedures for routine cleaning, as well as more extensive responses to address health hazards throughout the system,” Sarles wrote in the email, obtained by CQ Roll Call. “Given the fact that we are entering flu season, as well as rising concerns about the transmission of the Ebola virus, I want to remind all of us about the protocols we must follow.” Full story

October 20, 2014

Late-Night Terrorism Drills Test D.C. Officials

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Homeland security officials staged a shooting similar to the 2013 Navy Yard tragedy. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Police in the District of Columbia responded to a staged suicide bombing shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday, on the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site in Northwest Washington.

“Where’s everybody going? Can you help us?” a woman shrieked from a curb near the scene of the explosion.

The actress whimpered, putting on a dramatic display for observers from the FBI and other government agencies watching one act in the District’s full-scale overnight emergency preparedness drill from a nearby hilltop.

The cop who rescued the actress rushed back up to the doorstep of the brick building, avoiding the body of another faux victim who did not survive the blast. Within minutes, a firetruck pulled up and firefighters unrolled a hose, preparing to decontaminate the area in case the improvised explosive device turned out to be a chemical bomb.

“Anybody who can walk comes this way,” instructed one of the first responders near the fire truck, after getting a rundown on casualties and injuries from an officer. So far, police had found at least seven victims in the staged terror activity, including some amputees.

The dramatic exercise was staged to test the District’s public safety capabilities. The emergency responders and actors from this scene would be followed in the next few hours by the hazardous materials team, bomb squad and other specialized teams who would be reacting to multiple terrorists attacks for the training event.

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October 17, 2014

National Christmas Tree Lighting Lottery Starts

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Decorations might stay off the shelves until after Halloween, but if you want to see the Dec. 4 National Christmas Tree lighting on the White House Ellipse this year, you better get your head wrapped around the holidays at least for this week.

The lottery for tickets to attend the annual event opened Friday and will close on Oct. 20.

Full story

Grazing Wars: Grass March Cowboys Ride to Capitol Hill

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Martin poses by his horse trailer parked southwest of the Capitol. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

A Prius driver pulled up next to the horse trailer parked on Maryland Avenue midday Thursday, a block southwest of the Capitol, and asked Nevada ranch hand George Martin what issue brought him to Washington.

“Regulation without representation,” responded Martin, 69, who was keeping a watchful eye on a dozen horses and three of his great-granddaughters, while the rest of the crew that rode with him for nearly 2,800 miles paid a visit to the Hill. Capitol Police rules ban the Grass March Cowboy Express from saddling up on Capitol grounds, so the two horse trailers and a chuck wagon stayed parked outside the National Museum of the American Indian.

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October 16, 2014

Official Confirms 12 Ebola Investigations in D.C.

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CDC Director Tom Frieden appears during a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At least a dozen Ebola cases have been investigated in the District of Columbia, the director of the city’s Department of Health disclosed Thursday, but no one has tested positive for the disease.

Dr. Joxel Garcia told reporters officials were able to rule out the disease after isolating the patients, and said no one is currently in isolation. Unlike a widely-reported Oct. 3 scare at Howard University Hospital, most of these cases flew under the radar of local news media. Without going into specifics, Garcia said things should have been handled better.

“I think that we have to start learning if a patient is at risk or not before we start telling people that we have a patient or not,” Garcia said. “The number one thing is to protect the people in the District.” Full story

October 15, 2014

Obamacare Lawsuit Challenges Congress’ ‘Small Business’ Status

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DC Health Link enrollment under attack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The conservative group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that members of Congress and congressional staffers who enrolled in health care via the D.C. small business exchange did so illegally.

At a press conference at the National Press Club Wednesday, Judicial Watch claimed the House and Senate should not have been classified as small businesses in the health care exchange. The group said the classification violated D.C. law, which characterizes small businesses as those with fewer than 50 employees.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton pointed to documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, showing House and Senate applications to the D.C. Exchange Authority categorized the institutions as small businesses with 45 employees.

“The documents we obtained from D.C. Health Exchange show that every member of Congress who has enrolled in Obamacare has obtained their insurance coverage — and any taxpayer subsidies — through fraud,” Fitton said Wednesday.

When asked for a comment on the lawsuit’s charges, a spokesperson for the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority said, “We cannot comment on pending litigation.” Full story

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