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September 16, 2014

Posts in "DC Mayor"

September 16, 2014

Navy Yard Memorial Event Marks Anniversary of Tragedy

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U.S. Navy Captain Michael Graham calls to let people know he is OK after he escaped building 197 following the Sept. 16, 2013, Navy Yard shooting. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On the one-year anniversary of the tragic Navy Yard shooting in Southeast Washington, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, is inviting the Capitol Hill community and others to an evening ceremony honoring victims and survivors.

Among the 12 people gunned down by Aaron Alexis were three constituents from the Maryland Democrat’s district. All will be honored, along with the first responders and law enforcement involved in the response, during the 6 p.m. public ceremony at Canal Park, 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE, a green space near the Navy Yard gates.

“With so many Fifth District residents who serve in military and civilian roles at the Navy Yard — or know someone who does — many of us continue to keep our thoughts and prayers with the victims, survivors, and families of all of those affected,” Hoyer said in a statement.

In the immediate wake of the shooting, the congressman said he expected the event to renew discussion of gun control in Congress but was skeptical any action would be taken.

Twelve months later, lawmakers with oversight responsibilities in the Senate and House have probed into the security clearance background screening process that failed to identify Alexis as a potential threat. An independent panel appointed by the Department of Defense and a White House report have also delved into security clearance procedures.

President Barack Obama memorialized the rampage in a Tuesday statement and said the nation has continued to “improve security at our country’s bases and installations to protect our military and civilian personnel who help keep us safe.”

“One year ago, 12 Americans went to work to protect and strengthen the country they loved,” Obama stated. “Today, we must do the same — rejecting atrocities like these as the new normal and renewing our call for common-sense reforms that respect our traditions while reducing the gun violence that shatters too many American families every day.”

Navy Yard employees, some of the Navy’s top brass and Mayor Vincent Gray will also be in attendance for the Tuesday evening ceremony, organized by the group Near Southeast Community Partners.

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September 12, 2014

Cynics Be Damned: Krepp Endorses Norton … on Statehood Efforts

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Krepp is backing Norton on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

Ruthless campaigner Tim Krepp emailed supporters on Friday afternoon to say he wholeheartedly supports Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and they should, too. Krepp hopes to defeat the congresswoman, who is running for her 13th term representing the District, in the November election, but he wants everyone to rally behind her on Monday. Norton will testify to a Senate panel on a cause near and dear to most Washingtonians: D.C. statehood.

“Heck, I’ll even link to her website,” the tour guide, author and former naval intelligence officer wrote in his email.

Krepp also gave considerable praise to citizen activist Josh Burch, and his group, Neighbors United for DC Statehood.

Burch mobilized much of the support on Capitol Hill, pestering staffers for meetings, and status updates on the hearing promised in June 2013 by  the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del. The Brookland resident, who squeezes in time for lobbying around his full-time job for the D.C. government, has not been invited to testify.

Krepp is counting on Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to make a solid case for why a 51st star should be added to the flag. Scholars on both sides of the issue will also be weighing in. An expanded witness list released Friday by the committee includes shadow Sens. Michael D. Brown and Paul Strauss, two men who effectively serve as pro bono statehood lobbyists to the Senate.

The “New Columbia Admission Act” would give D.C. voting representation in both chambers.

During a Friday appearance with WAMU’s Kojo Nmandi, Burch acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the GOP-controlled House, but said the hearing would be key to getting members of Congress “on the record” about their positions.

“We need to know who are friends are publicly, and we need to know who our detractors are publicly,” Burch said, “because right now, without a vote on anything, everyone can just sort of hide behind the, ‘Oh, my boss hasn’t made a decision on this legislation.’ We need to know where public officials stand on this.”

Activists hope to pack the Dirksen committee room with statehood supporters. They encourage attendees to wear red to support the cause.

Krepp is dismissing cynicism, claiming it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy to assume statehood will never happen.

“If we declare victory after Monday’s hearing and go home, we’re going to be right back here in 2034 celebrating the first hearing in twenty years all over again,” he wrote. “We need to keep this momentum going and not let it drift away like we’ve done before. The key is sustained effort and civic involvement.”

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September 10, 2014

Panelists Selected for D.C. Statehood Hearing

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Rivlin will testify on D.C. statehood. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:37 p.m. | Expect humanitarian and fiscal arguments for why the District of Columbia should become the 51st state during next week’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the issue.

The witness list for the first hearing on D.C. statehood in more than two decades includes local elected officials, constitutional law experts, a civil rights leader and senior Brookings Institution fellow Alice Rivlin, the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office and an expert on fiscal policy.

Full story

D.C. Marijuana, Gun Riders Left Out of House CR

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Norton characterized the CR as an “important step in our efforts to protect the District’s right to self-government.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans unveiled what they’re calling a “clean” continuing resolution on Tuesday night, to the delight of budget autonomy advocates in the District of Columbia.

Two divisive provisions in the House-passed spending bill that opponents said intruded on D.C.’s right to Home Rule were left out of the legislation that would keep the government functioning through Dec. 11. Full story

September 5, 2014

Former Gray Campaign Driver Pleads Guilty to Role in ‘Uncle Earl’ Conspiracy

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More prosecutions could be forthcoming from investigation into Gray’s 2010 campaign. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mayor Vincent Gray’s driver during the 2010 campaign has admitted to federal prosecutors that he knew about the “Uncle Earl” finance scheme taking place behind the scenes.

Mark Long, 47, the former director of advance operations for the 2010 campaign team, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to defraud the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance by funding and concealing illegal contributions.

Long admitted knowing that business owner Jeffrey E. Thompson, aka Uncle Earl — a nickname federal prosecutors say was used to conceal the corrupt campaign financier’s identity — and business owner Eugenia C. Harris, who paid him for his services, intended to and did conceal the payments from the finance office. Full story

September 4, 2014

D.C. Throws Its Hat in 2024 Summer Olympics Ring

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Supporters of DC2024 point out that Washington is the nation’s fittest city. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Why should Washington, D.C., host the 2024 Summer Olympics?

Because “unity begins here,” according to a flashy website launched Thursday by the team behind the bid that features photos from local soccer fields, swimming pools and baseball parks, and an assortment of tourists making “U” shapes with their hands in front of national monuments.

“We are at the crossroads of the world—home to international institutions, established destinations, transportation hubs, and world-class accommodations,” the site announces, boasting the Capitol region’s 175 embassies, 618 museums and 850,000 daily Metro commuters.

There’s no mention of Congress or photo of Capitol Hill. Instead, they’ve captured Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street Northwest and Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe near Dupont Circle.

DC2024 also brags that the nation’s capital is the most fit, healthiest living and most walkable city in the United States.

The group is headed by Virginia-based investor Russ Ramsey and Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who serves as vice-chairman.

Other members of the team include former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, restauranteur José Andrés and Mark D. Lerner, principal owner and vice chairman of the Washington Nationals and others with vested interests in D.C.’s 10 pro sports teams. Former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein, and Mystics president and managing partner Sheila Johnson are also on board.

At least two members of DC2024 are well-connected political appointees. Jim Hudson was President Barack Obama’s nominee for director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the second highest-ranking official in London after the ambassador. Mark Weinberger served as an assistant secretary of the Treasury in the George W. Bush Administration, and was appointed by Bill Clinton to serve on the Social Security Advisory Board.

Washington is competing with Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco as potential hosts. Regional political allies are teaming up to back the bid. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley declared his support on Thursday, joining Mayor Vincent Gray and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has also come out in support of the Olympic bid.

 

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August 28, 2014

Gray Hails End of Federal Oversight at St. Elizabeths as Victory for Local Autonomy

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mayor Vincent Gray is hailing an agreement between the District and the Department of Justice ending federal oversight of Saint Elizabeths Hospital as a “milestone” in his administration’s effort to loosen the federal government’s grip on local affairs.

On Thursday, the DOJ asked to dismiss a court-enforced settlement agreement that put the feds in charge of overseeing patient care at the city’s public psychiatric hospital. Deadly patient-on-patient assaults in 2005 placed the long-troubled facility on the DOJ’s radar for civil rights violations.

Federal officials oversaw the hospital for seven years, as D.C. worked with the Department of Behavioral Health to stop patient abuse and neglect and improve care and treatment. Under the terms of the June 2007 court order, St. Elizabeths was required to meet 224 performance benchmarks related to clinical discipline assessments, discharge planning and other problems. The agreement also required the hospital to submit bi-annual reports to DOJ and undergo bi-annual site visits. Full story

August 19, 2014

Norton Questions Mostly White Ferguson Government

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Norton criticized racial disparities in Ferguson. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is characterizing the nearly all-white elected leadership and police force in majority-black Ferguson, Mo., as “poison.”

“Here you have mostly white police force in a mostly black community, but I’m really perplexed about why most of the elected officials are white as well,” Norton, a Democrat, said Tuesday during an interview with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart. “Is there something about the way elections are done in Missouri or in the county?”

Though members of Congress have raised the alarm about mounting violence and militarized police in the St. Louis suburb, Norton, a Yale-educated civil rights lawyer, may be among the first to raise the issue of racial disparity among Ferguson’s elected leadership.
Full story

August 4, 2014

Should D.C. Fine the House for Stocking Cafeterias With Styrofoam?

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Honda hopes D.C.’s ban on the use of Styrofoam puts pressure on the House. (Bill Clark/ CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Plastic foam food containers will be banned from use in the District of Columbia beginning in 2016, but the material still reigns supreme in House cafeterias.

Democrats who chided Republicans for reinstituting Styrofoam when they took control of the House in 2011 want to see the old standard replaced with an environmentally friendly alternative, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did when she was speaker. Pelosi’s “Green the Capitol” initiative included compostable utensils and takeout trays, but it was nixed after financial criticism and was folded into existing sustainability efforts managed by the Architect of the Capitol.

Though the local Styrofoam ban, signed into law by Mayor Vincent Gray in late July, is not applicable to the Capitol grounds, some Democrats hope it could reopen the dialogue about how House cafeterias are stocked.

“Maybe they should fine the Hill,” suggested Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., a former legislative branch appropriator who spoke out against the GOP’s choice to begin using the plastic foam packaging again in 2011. He said then that it exposed his staff, colleagues and constituents to known health risks. Full story

July 30, 2014

D.C. Officials Plotting New Course to Keep Gun Control Intact (Updated)

Updated 7:30 p.m. | Though they won’t yet say how far they are willing to take their fight, District of Columbia officials plan to do everything in their power to limit the carrying of handguns in the nation’s capital, arguing that despite a court’s ruling that paves the way for more permissive laws, Washington is a unique place with heightened security concerns.

“An absolute ban on [carrying handguns] may not pass constitutional muster regardless of the judge, so we’re going to prepare by working on legislation that will pass muster” said Tommy Wells, a Democrat who represents Capitol Hill on the D.C. Council.

As chairman of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Wells will play a key role in D.C.’s response to the July 26 ruling by Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. that declared the complete ban on carrying handguns in public unconstitutional. The court granted a stay of the ruling Tuesday, giving District officials 90 days to figure out how they will protect public safety while complying with the Constitution. Full story

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