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Wednesday, May 4, 2016 11:12 a.m.

D.C. spent $55 million on January snow cleanup

D.C. spent more money on snow cleanup in January than in the past seven years combined. Nicole Radivilov | Hatchet Staff Photographer

D.C. spent more money on snow cleanup in January than in the past seven years combined. Nicole Radivilov | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Liz Provencher.

The D.C. Council went into an emergency session Tuesday to vote on how to repay $55 million spent on snow removal during one storm this January, according to the Washington Post

When almost two feet of snow threatened to shut down the city in January, city officials were forced to hire independent contractors to clear up the mess. The dozens of contractors hired cost the city more than the amount spent on snow removal in the last seven years combined.

City officials charged almost half the expenses to pay the contractors on city credit cards. This caused the city’s credit card balance to rise nearly 20 times its normal level, The Post reported.

J.P. Morgan shut off the District’s line of credit causing D.C. Council to take an emergency vote Tuesday on what actions they would take to repay the debt.

“It was a bit of a surprise and had us scrambling to pay our bills.” Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh told Washington City Paper.

District officials and J.P. Morgan came to an agreement shortly after the credit maxed out, so city agencies could continue to function.

D.C. Administrator Rashad Young said the credit closure was a “non-issue” and was resolved in less than 24 hours, according to Washington City Paper. Young also said the city has paid all but four contractors, who will be paid in June after the Council’s approval.

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D.C. legislators passed a ban on public marijuana clubs Tuesday, DCist reported Tuesday.

The D.C. Council passed the ban by one vote on its first reading. Seven council members voted in favor the ban, including chairman Phil Mendelson, Judiciary Committee chair Kenyan McDuffie from Ward 5 and Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh, according to DCist.

City officials extended the marijuana ban in January at Mayor Muriel Bowser’s suggestion. The council voted to allow the clubs, but Bowser did not support the legislation because the city would not be able to regulate the clubs.

The decision comes after city officials set up a task force to look into the marijuana clubs. The task force will meet for the first time on Friday, DCist reported.

Ward 1 council member Brianne Nadeau is a member of the task force and called the ban “a a slap in the face,” according to DCist.

“This narrative that the permanent ban can be revisited is false as long as the (Congressional) rider is in place,” she told DCist. “A task force with a 120-day timeline is supposed to be planning for the present, not the future.”

McDuffie said the task force will still be relevant and the council will likely revisit marijuana clubs.

“Until we have that ability [to regulate], we should maintain the status quo,” Mendelson told DCist.

D.C. could make almost $100 million from taxing the sale of the drug by 2020, according to a study released earlier this year.

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Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, pictured at a  Foggy Bottom Association meeting last year, now works at a law firm along two D.C. lobbyists . Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, pictured at a Foggy Bottom Association meeting last year, now works at a law firm along two D.C. lobbyists . Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

The Foggy Bottom Council member’s new job could turn out to be a conflict of interest for his legislative job.

Jack Evans, the D.C. Council member for Ward 2, accepted a job at the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in October, where at least two D.C. lobbyists also work, Washington City Paper reported Tuesday.

The lobbyists at the new firm, John Ray and Tina Ang, work on issues like the Pepco and Exelon merger and with major D.C. figures including D.C. gasoline mogul Joe Mamo and other developers, according to documents reviewed by Washington City Paper. Ray is a partner at the firm and a former at-large Council member, the paper reported.

Tom Lipinsky, a spokesman for Evans, said in a statement to Washington City Paper that Evans plans to avoid conflict of interests in his new job. Councilmembers are allowed to hold positions outside of their city jobs.

Evans had previously worked at another firm, Patton Boggs, until January of last year in addition to his $133,000 per year job on the Council. He makes an additional $60,000 annually from Manatt, the paper reported.

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Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 2:20 p.m.

Gray announces he will run for D.C. Council

Former D.C. mayor and GW alumnus Vincent Gray announced he will be running for a D.C. Council seat Thursday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Former D.C. mayor and alumnus Vincent Gray announced he will be running for a D.C. Council seat Thursday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Joseph Konig.

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced his candidacy for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat Thursday.

His bid comes about two years after he lost his mayoral reelection campaign to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. In a press conference Thursday, Gray said he was focused on where he could do the “greatest good” if elected.

“I’m a public servant at heart,” he told WAMU Thursday. “This is an opportunity to continue to do things for people.”

Gray, an alumnus, previously represented Ward 7 from 2005 to 2007 and later served as Council chairman. He has lived in the area for many years, and has spent time fixing up his home there since he left office.

“Ward 7 is home. I’ve lived in Ward 7 for a very long time,” Gray told WAMU. “There is, sadly, wide dissatisfaction at this stage with the representation.”

Council member Yvette Alexander currently represents Ward 7 on the Council. Polling done by a pro-Gray political action committee, Higher Ground PAC, has Gray leading Alexander by 16 points, according to a press release.

Gray’s reelection bid was marred by a years-long federal investigation into a $668,800 illegal campaign fund that allegedly buoyed his 2010 mayoral bid. Federal officials ended that investigation in December without bringing charges against Gray. Gray has since said if it were not for that investigation, he could have coasted to a reelection victory. Several of Gray’s associates were prosecuted as a result of the federal investigation.

“When people ask why I am returning to the campaign trail, I tell them, ‘Because we have a lot of work to do,’” Gray said in a statement Thursday.

The Ward 7 democratic primary will be held June 14.

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Student Association President Andie Dowd said at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night that she remains neutral on  a D.C. Council bill that could send University Police Department officers on patrols off campus.  Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Student Association President Andie Dowd said at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night that she remains neutral on a D.C. Council bill that could send University Police Department officers on patrols off campus. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Joseph Konig.

Students and neighbors met Wednesday night to hash out details of a D.C. Council bill that would would allow University Police Department officers to patrol off campus.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the neighborhood group that held the meeting, will formally suggest changes to the bill based on the discussion. During the nearly two-hour-long meeting, students and neighbors asked for more specifics in the bill, which they said was vague and hard to understand.

The bill is the most formal effort to send UPD officers off campus in recent years, and would impact all campus police officers in D.C. Officers would also be able to assist at other institutions in the event of an emergency, an effort that Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier would oversee.

Attendees asked for definitions about what the Council considers on- or off-campus locations, whether satellite campuses like the Mount Vernon Campus would be counted in the legislation and how crime data would be tracked.

ANC Commissioner Florence Harmon said the bill is “elitist” and “offensive” because it allows university students living off campus to avoid dealing with the Metropolitan Police Department when breaking city laws.

“I’m a little bit worried that we’re granting kids who come from privileged backgrounds a pass, versus the teenager in southeast who’s partying and doing the same thing,” Harmon said.

Eve Zhurbinskiy, an ANC commissioner and a sophomore, said at the meeting she is concerned that the official D.C. Council hearing for the bill will be on March 17, when many students will be away from GW for spring break and unable to testify in person.

“I think that kind of takes away our student’s voice from on the bill,” Zhurbinskiy said.

The commissioners agreed to ask the Council to postpone the hearing date, so that more university students could attend.

The Student Association opposed the bill last month, saying it would threaten the safety of students on campus. Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie had introduced the bill in December. GW has yet to take a public stance on proposal, but did seek to empower UPD off campus in 2013.

Student Association President Andie Dowd spoke at the beginning of the meeting and said she remains neutral on the bill. She said she knows student leaders from other institutions in D.C. are concerned that the police jurisdiction could be controlled by one person. She said she plans to meet with McDuffie’s office to discuss the bill further.

“I look forward to meeting with them and hopefully coming up with a more concrete decision on what the student body is feeling,” Dowd said.

Marina Streznewski, the president of the Foggy Bottom Association and a long-time neighbor, said the FBA will hold trainings to teach community members and students to about how to effectively testify in front of the Council.

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Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 11:27 p.m.

SA Senate opposes UPD off-campus patrols bill

Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, proposed a bill opposing legislation in the D.C. Council that would allow campus police officer to patrol off campus. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, introduced a bill opposing legislation in the D.C. Council that would allow campus police officers to patrol off campus. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Student Association Senate voted Monday night to oppose a D.C. Council bill that could increase the University Police Department’s jurisdiction.

Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, said the bill, which would permit campus police officers to exercise authority in areas off campus at all D.C. universities, threatens the safety of students on campus.

“Taking GW police officers, which are supposed to police the George Washington University, harms students because it takes our resource and potentially threatens the safety of students on campus. The presence of CSAs has been reduced and we’ve had incidents of people not [affiliated] with the University entering residence halls,” he said.

Proposals to expand campus police officers’ power in the District have historically failed, but a coalition of local universities’ student governments have teamed up to formally denounce the D.C. Council bill.

Executive Vice President Casey Syron said the SA Senate will send a letter with other local universities to the D.C. Council in the next several weeks to formally announce their opposition to the bill.

Both Syron and SA President Andie Dowd commended also the senate for its unanimous condemnation of the University for not revoking Bill Cosby’s honorary degree in November. GW reversed its decision Monday afternoon.

“I was really proud to be a Colonial today and take a stand against that terrible, terrible man,” Syron said.

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new task force against robberies in D.C. Wednesday. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Photographer

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new task force against robberies in D.C. Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo by Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Kendrick Chang.

Updated: Jan. 14 at 8:48 p.m.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tasked a group of city officials and law enforcement officials to focus on cutting down crime in the city, the most recent effort to combat the uptick of crime in D.C. over the last year.

Bowser announced the creation of the Robbery Intervention Task Force on Wednesday which will coordinate strategies to combat theft crimes and target repeat offenders, The Washington Post reported. The task force will be comprised of several law enforcement agencies including the Metropolitan Police Department, Metro Transit Police, U.S. Attorney’s office, At-large Council member Anita Bonds and Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen.

“We must do better so every D.C. neighborhood is safer,” Bowser told The Post.

The task force’s creation comes after a 10 percent increase in robberies between 2014 and 2015. Several neighborhoods, including Foggy Bottom, were targeted the most. The District closed 2015 with a 54 percent increase in homicides, according to the Post.

Bowser said the task force will help law enforcement and officials to coordinate efforts and pick out patterns that could prevent
offenders from repeating crimes.

“The task force will target offenders by quickly identifying and responding to patterns of a robbery spree,” Bowser told the Post.

Bowser said the D.C. Council has moved too slowly in responding to the uptick in crime, according to the Post. She also criticized Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who is the chair of the Council’s judiciary committee, for stalling her most recent anti-crime legislation, the Post reported.

Some of Bowser’s proposals that require action from the D.C. Council include hiring more crime scene specialists, raising the penalties of crimes committed on Metro trains and expanding a job-training program for prisoners.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Council member Anita Bonds is a Ward 5 Council member. She is an At-large Council member. We regret this error.

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Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh introduced a ban on gasoline-powered leaf blowers in D.C. at a D.C. Council meeting Tuesday, DCist reported.

Cheh, who is also a professor at GW Law School, said she had heard noise complaints from residents in her ward about the leaf blowers. Those neighbors recently formed a group called the Concerned Wesley Heights Neighbors, who complained about the leaf blowers publicly at a November Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in their area.

The neighbors argued at the meeting that the equipment powered by gasoline is louder and pollutes more than other types of leaf blowers. Cheh told DCist that banning a piece of machinery that also may be harmful to the environment is an added benefit because she could not regulate the leaf blowers solely on their emissions.

“We couldn’t predicate the ban on the issue of emissions, but I got enthusiastic because those machines are big polluters,” Cheh said.

Cheh’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who represents Foggy Bottom, would prohibit the use of the lawn machinery after Jan. 1, 2022, giving a six-year window for D.C. residents to switch out their gasoline-powered blowers for electric ones. At that point, D.C. residents could face fines of up to $500 for using the banned blowers.

“If we could make life more peaceful and more environmentally friendly, I think we should do that,” Cheh told DCist. “It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not this and nothing else.”

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Isobel Moyheddin.

Those hoping to see the District’s temporary ban on marijuana in clubs expire later this month saw their hopes go up in smoke – at least for the next 90 days.

The D.C. Council did not vote in favor of emergency legislation that would continue to ban marijuana in private event spaces and clubs Tuesday, but after pleas from Mayor Muriel Bowser the council reopened the debate and elected to extend the ban for another 90 days. Marijuana will continue to be prohibited in private clubs for that period of time until the council votes again, according to The Washington Post.

Bowser asked the council to extend the ban because the city would have no ability to license new marijuana clubs that might open in that time.

Many had expected the council to vote to adopt the emergency bill that would continue to enforce the ban on marijuana in private clubs and spaces, but it did not pass. The failed legislation would have clarified parts of a bill passed in 2014 that decriminalized the possession of marijuana, and focused on the difference between public and private spaces.

In 2015, the D.C. Council signed a temporary bill into law that banned marijuana in private event spaces and clubs. That temporary legislation, which was proposed by Bowser, was set to expire on Jan. 15.

In November 2014, 65 percent of D.C. citizens voted in favor of Initiative 71 which would effectively legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Those advocating for further legalization have faced obstacles from D.C. and federal officials alike, including a vote from Congress last month against allowing the District to regulate and tax marijuana.

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Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 2:49 p.m.

News to watch for in 2016

2015 had its fair share of news, with budget cuts, administrators stepping down and conversations about mental health on campus. But with the year coming to a close, here’s some of the news that you should look out for in 2016.

More budget cuts

University President Steven Knapp announced another round of budget cuts this month, which will continue for the next several years. Hatchet File Photo.

University President Steven Knapp announced the most recent round of budget cuts earlier this month, adding on to ones officials have been implementing over the past year. GW asked administrative divisions to cut 5 percent of their budgets after missing budget projections because of declines in graduate enrollment.

At the most recent Faculty Senate meeting, the chair of the senate’s finance committee Joseph Cordes said the University should still be looking for ways to cut back on spending, but did note that GW’s budget is in better shape now than it was earlier in the year.

Filling administrator vacancies

Terri Harris Reed, the University's first vice provost for diversity and inclusion, announced she is leaving GW last semester. Her spot is one of three provost positions now open. Hatchet File Photo

Terri Harris Reed, the University’s first vice provost for diversity and inclusion, announced she is leaving GW last semester. Her spot is one of three provost positions now open. Hatchet File Photo


Top officials like Provost Steven Lerman announced they would be leaving their positions this year, leaving the spots vacant and needing to be filled. With Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Forrest Matlzman filling in as provost on an interim basis, GW is still in the process of finding a permanent replacement for Lerman, and a formal national search is expected to begin soon.

Other former officials like the former Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed and the former Vice Provost for Online Education and Academic Innovation Paul Schiff Berman also announced they would be leaving their position at GW and opening up the spots for new leaders to move into the programs GW is hoping to prioritize. But it appears unlikely that Berman will be replaced, and his post will likely be dissolved.

New vendors for J Street, District House

A new food vendor may be announced for J Street this semester. Hatchet File Photo

A new food vendor may be announced for J Street this semester. Hatchet File Photo

GW’s contract with the food service provider Sodexo is ending next spring, opening J Street and Pelham Commons to potential new vendors. The University began the search for a food service provider this fall in a process that has included students’ input, and many candidates for the Student Association’s top two positions included lobbying for a new vendor in their campaigns.

District House, GW’s newest residence hall, is set to open in the fall and will also have five food vendors in the bottom floor of the building, similar to the set-up in the basement of Shenkman Hall. Officials said last year that the University should have the vendors in the building decided by this spring.

UPD patrolling off campus

UPD, university police

A new bill in the D.C. Council could allow University Police Department officers to patrol off campus. Hatchet File Photo


Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who is the chair of the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill two weeks ago that would allow University Police Department officers to be able to patrol areas off campus.

GW said that the University, as part of a group of 13 universities in the D.C. metropolitan area, approached McDuffie about campus policing in the past year before he introduced the bill, but declined to say if GW specifically supports the bill because it is pending litigation. UPD officers had been reprimanded for patrolling off campus in the past, but GW has pushed for officers to have jurisdiction in areas near campus.

Juniors stuck on campus

District House will house about 850 sophomores and juniors. Courtesy of the Office of Campus Development

District House will house about 850 sophomores and juniors. Courtesy of the Office of Campus Development


Rising juniors in the fall 2016 semester will be the first class to experience not having the choice to live off campus their junior year, a policy announced two years ago. The housing mandate, which was proposed by a group designed to identify ways GW could generate more revenue, was defended by Knapp, who said the purpose of the decision was not to increase revenue from the added number of students that would live in GW housing next academic year.

To house the additional students, District House is expected to open next fall and will be home to about 850 sophomores and juniors, but the lease on City Hall, which houses about 380 students, is set to end in 2016. Student leaders have said they are concerned that there will be no space left for seniors to live on campus.

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