Thursday, December 20



UNION CITY - In what opponents termed a harbinger of union busting of public employees in DC, the DC City Council voted 10-3 Tuesday to approve legislation that gives school Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the State Superintendent and the Director of Financial Modernization power to unilaterally fire employees without cause or due process. "This bill was about workers rights, not school reform," said Metro Council President Jos Williams after the vote, "and the public lost on both counts today." The bill - introduced by Council Chairman Vincent Gray . . . creates an "employment without tenure" status similar to the "at-will" classification sought by Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee in their original legislation. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. - with the support of Councilmembers Marion Barry and Phil Mendelson - introduced an alternative school reform package - rejected 10-3 - that would have affected fewer workers, maintained workers' rights to due process, and provided retraining for workers not exempted under the bill.


- A D.C. firefighter faces disciplinary action for disobeying a superior's order by deciding to fight a fire in Northwest Washington last month, his attorney said yesterday. The trouble started about 1:40 p.m. Nov. 21 when a call went out about a house fire in the 1800 block of Second Street NW. Lt. Gerald Burton was driving a fire engine several blocks away on his way to a training class and called a supervisor to say he was in the area and could help. The supervisor told Burton not to go to the fire and instead to continue on to the training class, according to Burton's attorney, Donna Rucker. Rucker said Burton kept driving. When he was two blocks from the fire, he was flagged down by people on the side of the road, who told him that a home was burning. He then went to the house and saw flames, Rucker said. Burton again alerted his supervisor, who told him to play a backup role in fighting the fire rather than a frontline role, Rucker said. When Burton arrived, he and another firefighter riding with him found themselves the only firefighters on the scene, Rucker said.

Burton and the other firefighter put out the blaze, Rucker said. Nobody was in the house at the time of the fire, and nobody was injured. Alan Etter, a spokesman for the department, said the fire was electrical and started in the home's basement. The fire caused about $150,000 in damage. Burton, who has been a D.C. firefighter for 21 years, faces a two-day suspension without pay for disobeying an order, Rucker said. If he chooses not to accept the suspension, he can take the case to the department's trial board.


A sold-out crowd of 1,700 packed the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington as Pacifica's WPFW-FM celebrated its 30th anniversary with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Dick Gregory, jazz legend Sonny Rollins, vocalist Gloria Lynne and singers Sweet Honey in the Rock. General manager Ron Pinchback told Journal-isms that the station had to stop selling tickets 36 hours before Saturday's event . . .

The Washington Post will raise its weekday and Saturday newsstand price from 35-cents to 50-cents beginning 12/31. The home delivery price and the Sunday newsstand price will not change. The Post's most recent newsstand price increase came in 2001, when it went from 25-cents to 35-cents. Over the past six years, the Post, like most US newspapers, has watched its circulation and advertising revenue decline, in part because readers and ad dollars are fleeing ink-on-paper newspapers for other media, principally the internet. Post daily circulation peaked at 832,232 in 1993. It now sells an average of 638,000 papers Monday through Saturday. Newsstand, or single-copy, sales account for 18 percent of daily sales of the Post. The bulk of its lost circulation in the past 14 years has come from a decline in single-copy sales. In comparison, USA Today charges 75-cents for a newsstand copy, the New York Times $1.25, but the Washington Times is still only 25-cents.

- D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's announcement of an early-retirement plan that would pay up to $128 million to city employees is the latest mayoral action to be criticized by council members, who say Mr. Fenty is cutting them out of the process. "To just put it out there so that people are all lined up, and then we're like an afterthought, is not the way to run a government," said Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican. "But unfortunately that is the way this administration is starting to run our government.". . . Mrs. Schwartz said the mayor introduced the retirement plan as "a done deal" and buried the need for council involvement at the bottom of the press release.

IT WOULD BE GOOD idea for the US Attorney to investigate the sweetheart deal between the Verizon Center and local pols who gave it $50 million and then got free suite seats afterwards. It has all the earmarks of a bribe. As the Post reported, "Access to the luxury box is one of the biggest perks for public officials in the District. . . The luxury suite comes courtesy of Verizon Center and Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who offered it to the city after officials approved $50 million in taxpayer money this year to fund improvements to the 10-year-old arena.". . . The reason we suggest that the US Attorney investigate is because the new acting local attorney general, Peter Nickles, was one of those in line for seats.

SUE HEMBERGER, CONCERNED 4 DCPS - I'm headed quickly over to the recall camp. Not in opposition to this bill, but in support of its logic. We should be firing incompetent council members and mayors. Yet they always seem to feel that they are entitled to their jobs, not matter who poorly they perform them. I don't see how we're ever going to improve the miserable quality of our local government if heads don't start to roll.

DC EXAMINER - Washington Gas Light Co. has agreed to drastically scale back proposed rate increases for its D.C. consumers, walking away from a yearlong case with next to nothing, under a settlement agreement reached last week with the District government and other parties. The 8.1 percent rate increase that Washington Gas sought for its residential customers has been slashed to less than 1 percent, according to details of the deal released by the D.C. Public Service Commission, the District's utility regulator. The proposed 5.1 percent increase for commercial gas clients is now 1.7 percent.




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