News and Analysis



Tuesday, June 16, 2015 8:17 p.m.

Senators convene over Metro safety

Maryland and Virginia senators also want to ride a safe Metro.

Four Democratic senators attended a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss safety measures in the public transportation system following an incident at L’Enfant Plaza where the station filled with smoke in January, DCist reported.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said at the conference that the Metro hasn’t been operating as safely as it should.

“Safety has to have a higher priority,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said at the meeting. “I’m disappointed with the response since the L’Enfant incident. There are still some [National Transportation Safety Board] recommendations that have gone unfilled.”

A report from the NTSB showed that some power cable connections weren’t protected from materials like water and dust and could have caused smoke to fill L’Enfant Plaza in January, according to The Washington Post. The Federal Transit Authority is set to release a report on Wednesday, DCist reported.

The federal government has given Metro authorities $150 million each year for the past six years, but this year’s budget included $100 million for safety upgrades, DCist reported.

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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who has served as the District’s lone delegate to Congress since 1991, lashed out at a Republican congressman this week for his plans to propose a bill that would ban the city’s traffic camera system. Hatchet File Photo.

A Republican congressman from Michigan is moving forward with a bill to ban traffic cameras in D.C., which the city’s sole representative in Congress has attacked as an intrusion into local affairs.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. is fighting against  the possible legislation by Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., which would ban red light and speed cameras.

“In the District of Columbia, like everywhere else, local traffic laws are written by local elected officials, not members of Congress who are unaccountable to D.C. residents,” Norton said in a release.

“If Representative Bentivolio wants to write local traffic rules, he should resign from Congress and run for local office in Michigan,” she added.

Bentivolio has not yet introduced the bill, but found two co-sponsors, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., and Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, a spokesman for Norton wrote in an email Thursday.

Norton has railed against his effort as the “anti self-government” bill.

A dozen states have tried to outlaw their speed camera systems, which are used by hundreds of jurisdictions in 24 states, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Proponents claim the cameras allow police officers to focus on other crimes, while skeptics argue they can deprive drivers of due process.

A survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earlier this year found that the majority of D.C. residents — 87 percent — supported the use of red-light cameras and 76 percent supported the speed camera system.

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray, told the DCist that the camera system has helped lower traffic fatalities in the city by 73 percent since 2001. Speed and red-light cameras also generated $85 million in revenue during the last fiscal year.

The draft bill comes as home-rule advocates have long fought to obtain a voting representative in Congress or even have the federal government grant the District statehood. Residents voted overwhelmingly in April to give D.C. power to spend its own tax dollars without congressional approval, but lawmakers can still push bills, such as the 2012 effort to ban abortions after 20 weeks, if they do not live in the District.

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Kendra Speak, a sophomore, buys an ice cream sandwich from Kirk Francis at his McPherson Square food truck Captain Cookie and the Milk Man. The D.C. Council amended regulations for food trucks Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo.

The D.C. Council’s last-ditch effort to overhaul the city’s food truck regulations Tuesday may finally strike a compromise with the mobile eatery owners.

Earning unanimous approval from the council, the bill marks a turning point in the four-year-long struggle pitting truck operators against brick-and-mortar restaurant owners.

The bill, which paves the way for food trucks to become permanent sidewalk fixtures across D.C., will now sit on the desk of Mayor Vincent Gray for him to sign or veto by June 22.

As in past versions, the council’s bill calls for a monthly lottery to allow vendors to park in certain downtown areas. The Council’s amendments have shrunk the radius around designated vending zones from a first-suggested 500 feet to 200 feet, the DCist reported.

The Council’s version also requires trucks to only park in areas with six feet of unobstructed space instead of the originally proposed 10 feet. Another amendment, introduced by Council member and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, lowered the fine for parking at an expired meter to $50, easing pressure off trucks that lose in the lottery.

Food truck owners mounted a fundraising and publicity campaign in April in the face of the proposed system that they claimed would undercut their businesses, and GW students spoke out against the original regulations last month at a seven-and-a-half-hour-long hearing.

The rules were first floated in March, and mark the city’s fourth attempt at a deal.

The approved regulations free the District’s more than 100 food trucks from “ice cream truck rules” that had required parked vendors to have a line of customers waiting for service at all times. Legislators had already approved portions of the regulations that addressed food safety and labor standards two weeks ago.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012 7:14 p.m.

Candidate for D.C. senate seat asks for jail time

Pete Ross

Pete Ross. Photo courtesy of Pete Ross.

A candidate for the District’s shadow senate seat was sentenced today by the D.C. Superior Court to one day in prison as a result of a December arrest during a voting rights demonstration.

Pete Ross will spend the night in prison – instead of serving out the typical low-level punishment of probation and a fine – after pressing for a stricter sentence to draw attention to the District’s lack of voting rights, according to DCist.

The December protest called for full representation for the District in Congress. D.C.’s delegate in the House of Representatives, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, can serve on and vote in committees and introduce bills but lacks the power to vote on legislation on the House floor.

Ross, who has spent more than $200,000 out of his own pockets in an effort to win the April 3 election, was also convicted in 2007 for failing to pay federal employment taxes, according to The Washington Post.

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Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 6:44 p.m.

Efforts lag to recall top city officials

Vincent Gray

A city activist is pushing for the recall of alumnus and Mayor Vincent Gray, above, and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown. Gray called the effort "ill-advised." Hatchet File Photo

Efforts to recall two of the District’s top leaders will face a two-week delay, after the city activist who filed paperwork to begin the process failed to show up at a D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics hearing Wednesday.

Frederick Butler submitted a notice of intent Jan. 11 to call for a special election offering voters a chance to boot alumnus and Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown. But his absence from Wednesday’s hearing prompted the board to postpone recall talks, and Butler said he will pick up petitions to distribute Feb. 13, DCist reported.

Butler said he was at his job during the hearing and the individual who was supposed to have represented his party didn’t show up.

In his recall notice, he cited “unethical behavior” by Gray and Brown. The officials each responded to the allegations with lists of their accomplishments and goals.

Gray said he finds it “ill-advised” to hold a recall “given the cost entailed in holding a city wide special election and the progress the Gray administration is making in a number of areas critical to the future of our city.”

For the recall initiative to hit the ballot, Butler must collect signatures from at least 10 percent of the District’s voters – more than 45,000 people – in 180 days.

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Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 10:06 p.m.

District officials react to recall efforts

Vincent Gray, mayor

Mayor Vincent Gray said in response to a move to recall him that holding a special election would force the city to incur an extra cost, adding that his administration is moving the District forward. Hatchet File Photo

The city’s two highest officials responded last week to the early efforts from a District activist to oust the pair from their seats in a recall election.

Frederick Butler filed paperwork of intent Jan. 11 to recall alumnus and Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, citing “unethical behavior.” Gray said in a response obtained by DCist that he considers it “ill-advised” to hold a recall “given the cost entailed in holding a city wide special election and the progress the Gray administration is making in a number of areas critical to the future of our city.”

He provided a bullet-pointed list of his top achievements, ranging from education to job growth and safety.

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown also outlined his accomplishments and goals, adding that with help from District residents, he can “keep the District strong.”

Butler must gather signatures from at least 10 percent of D.C. voters – or more than 45,000 individuals – in 180 days to get the recall on the ballot.

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A water main break in Foggy Bottom has caused authorities to shut down parts of Pennsylvania Avenue near 20th Street, as well as parts of I Street near 20th and 21st streets, according to the DCist.

Authorities expect the areas of 21st Street between K and Pennsylvania Ave. to “remain a mess throughout the morning,” DCist reported.

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