Entries in Washington DC (7)


DC Government ‘Reviewing’ Firefighters’ Appearance with Obama

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The District of Columbia’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services says there are no plans to punish first responders for their participation in an economic speech by President Obama, but are still reviewing the event.

Earlier this week, Obama surrounded himself with police and other first responders during remarks regarding the real world impact of the across-the-board package of federal spending cuts known as sequestration, looming in March should Congress fail to reach a deficit reduction agreement. But Washington’s fire and EMS chief told a local TV station the appearance of three firefighters at the event may have violated department regulations.

“I didn’t know about it, the deputy mayor didn’t know about it, the mayor didn’t know about it,” Chief Kenneth Ellerbe said. “There should be protocol followed anytime one of our employees representing the District of Columbia appears at a public event.”

Ellerbe told a local TV station that the employees had been ordered to file special testimonies on how they became guests of the White House event and who authorized it. The news report prompted a statement from the city government Friday.

“Contrary to reports in local media, the DC Fire and EMS Department is not considering any disciplinary action against uniformed personnel for appearing alongside President Obama,” reads the Friday-night release, adding “DC FEMS is simply reviewing its internal protocols for such appearances to ensure that both the Department and its employees are fully informed.”

“We fully support the efforts of President to highlight the essential and life saving work that our first-responders do every single day, and welcome his invitation for our members to participate,” the statement said. “We’re exceedingly proud of the men and women that wear the DC FEMS uniform, and thank the President for his support.”

An after-hours inquiry to the department was unanswered as of press time.

Capt. Ed Smith, president of the DC Firefighters Association Local 36, said it is not likely the department will actively discipline the members who participated in the Obama event, but he remains cautious over the broader implications of the review. The association president told ABC News the officers involved were off duty and that firefighters had routinely attended similar public events in the past without incident. The invitation came from the White House through Local 36′s parent organization, the International Association of Firefighters.

“If it led to discipline later it would be taken as retaliatory,” he said, adding he knew of no protocol breached by appearing in-uniform. “There is a pattern of retaliation with the chief and the department and that is a concern of mine.”

Smith said he has seen such measures first-hand. In October an independent arbitrator ruled in favor of the captain’s claim that he was involuntarily transferred due to his union activities.

The emergency services of the nation’s capital have historically gone to good lengths attempting to appear neutral to the national politics embedded there. For example, the police and fire departments generally refuse to divulge crowd counts for the city’s many protests and demonstrations. Any estimate given would likely be targeted as politically motivated.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


DC Corruption: Calls Mount for Mayor Vincent Gray to Resign

Daniel C. Britt / The Washington Post(WASHINGTON) -- From drug possession to tax fraud, city officials in Washington, D.C., are notorious for being less than law abiding.

This week that cloud of corruption descended on Mayor Vincent Gray after a woman who worked closely with his campaign pled guilty to funneling money from a wealthy D.C. businessman into Gray's 2010 mayoral campaign. While Gray has not been charged with a crime, the calls for him to resign over the campaign snafu are mounting.

Gray is running a city notorious for shady politicians. In the past four years half of D.C.'s top government officials have been under investigation by either federal authorities or the D.C. board of elections. Two have resigned, two have served prison time and two have been closely connected to staff members who pled guilty to felonies.

Gray has insisted he does not "think there's widespread corruption here."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marion Barry, DC City Councilman and Former Mayor, Is Hiring

Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The District of Columbia’s often-controversial and always-colorful “mayor-for-life” Marion Barry is hiring.

For $46,350 to $75,000 per year one brave soul can serve as the communications director for Barry, now a D.C. councilman.

Since Barry has been spokesman-free for months, his chief of staff Joyce Clements-Smith has had the tricky task of smoothing over Barry’s recent comment that the “dirty shops” run by Asians in his ward “ought to go” and his lamentation that the area’s clinics were hiring too many Filipino nurses.

His former communications director, Natalie Williams, tried to unseat Barry in last month’s Democratic city council primary. Barry defeated Williams in the primary, paving the way for his second term on the city council.

Qualified candidates to be Barry’s new spokesperson must have at least a bachelor’s degree and live in or move to D.C. Whomever is up to the task “designs and develops a communication plan,” “writes, manages or directs a staff in the writing and dissemination of press releases,” manages Barry’s website and responds to constituent and media inquiries.

Even the Mayor for Life has a sense of humor about his unquestionably challenging job post. Shortly after the position was posted on April 30, Barry tweeted “Seriously … looking for a bright energetic hard worker. Won’t be boring. :)”

“…and obviously not for the faint of heart,” Barry added via Twitter.

Neither Barry nor Williams returned ABC News’ requests for comment.

The four-term mayor is an institution of D.C. politics, albeit a contentious one. Barry, 76, was convicted of cocaine possession in 1990 and served six months in prison. Three years after being released he was re-elected for another term as mayor.

In 2002 he was arrested again after traces of marijuana and cocaine were found in his car, but no charges were filed.

 Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Files for Candidacy in Washington, DC

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney is now the only Republican officially running for president in the District of Columbia.

Josh Romney, the third-oldest son of the former Massachusetts governor, handed in a stack of 700 signatures at the D.C. Board of Elections on Wednesday, accompanied by two local campaign supporters in Republican National Committeewoman Betsy Werronen and D.C. State Board of Education member Patrick Mara. As of yet, no other candidate has completed D.C.’s filing process, though three have started it.

“Sorry for this -- we appreciate it,” Josh Romney told the registrar on duty, smiling as a few cameras flashed with reporters looking on. “I guess you have to do this a few more times.”

“Probably,” she replied.

The heavily Democratic district isn’t generally a hotbed of Republican primary competition. After its April 3 presidential primary, D.C. will send just 19 voting delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., out of over 2,200 delegates total -- fewer than every state except New Hampshire (12), Vermont (17), Delaware (17) and Rhode Island (19).

Republicans could face a drawn-out primary process in 2012, after the Republican National Committee changed its rules and pressured states to reject winner-take-all rules for delegate allotment, and it’s narrowly conceivable that every delegate vote could count.

The Romney campaign has already paid a $5,000 filing fee to the D.C. Republican Party, as have Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., all of whom have taken initial steps to file for candidacy in D.C.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gingrich Cancels DC Book Signing on Day Before Debate

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the day before a pivotal ABC News Republican presidential debate in Iowa, shortly after national polls solidified him as the GOP front-runner and amid criticism that his campaign organization in Iowa is skeletal at best, Newt Gingrich decided to make his only public appearance Friday 1,000 miles away from the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

Gingrich and his wife, Callista, had planned to spend the afternoon selling and signing their books at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, but cancelled at the last minute after citing public safety concerns. The bookstore, it seems, could not handle the crowd.

Gingrich campaign officials will instead host a conference call contrasting his positive messaging with rival Mitt Romney’s negative advertising.

Friday morning, both The New York Times and The Washington Post ran stories about how Newt Gingrich continues to hold book signings while campaigning -- a point ABC made earlier this week. The Times headline Friday is “Gingrich, Ahead in Polls, Is Still Selling Books Laws.”

Since September Gingrich and his wife have held 10 book signings for their three books and 11 screenings of their three documentary films.

In July, shortly after 16 of his top campaign advisers quit, Gingrich’s campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told Politico that the product promotions are part of his campaign strategy.

“He sees them as important communication devices -- what his values are, what’s wrong with the country and what he thinks can be done about it,” Hammond said.

The disavowed staffers quit, in part, because of Gingrich’s insistence on holding the book and movie events, often in states that are not traditionally part of the primary campaign trial. Before leaving the campaign, a senior staffer even emailed the team saying “we didn’t sign up to be hucksters for products for sale.”

That was long before Gingrich’s rise to the top of the primary pack.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Controversial Education Reformer Resigns As D.C. Schools Chancellor

Photo Courtesy - Kris Connor/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Michelle Rhee, who made a reputation for being a firebrand reformer, resigned from her job as head of the D.C. Public Schools on Wednesday, a casualty of a bitterly fought mayoral race. Though Rhee and her take-no-prisoners education reforms were not officially on the ballot in D.C., when Rhee's champion, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost the Democratic primary last month, it was widely assumed that Rhee's tenure as schools chancellor would soon end.

At a press conference Wednesday morning in Washington, Rhee said that her decision to step down at the end of this month was one that she and the incoming mayor, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, made together.

"This was not a decision that we made lightly, but it is one that I believe is absolutely essential to allow Chairman Gray to pursue our shared goal of unifying the city behind the school reform efforts that are making such a large difference in the lives of the children across the city. In short we have agreed together that the best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside," Rhee said.

"I have put my blood, sweat and tears into the children of the District of Columbia for the last three and a half years and I completely enjoyed every minute of it," she said. "The thought of not being in this role anymore is heartbreaking, to put it mildly, but I do know that it is the right thing for the school system and the right thing most importantly for the children of D.C."

During her tenure, Rhee, who appears in the new hit documentary Waiting for Superman, became a national figure for school reform. Student test scores improved and dropout rates declined in the city. Rhee negotiated a controversial contract with the teachers union that enabled her to fire the lowest-performing teachers in the system and evaluate teachers based on their students' performances.

"All across the country now, because of Chancellor Rhee and her team, from the White House to documentaries, people are touting D.C. as a model for how to attack bureaucracy and get results in an urban school system," Mayor Fenty said.

But Rhee's approach to reform was not without controversy. In July, Rhee came under fire when she dismissed 241 teachers and put an additional 737 on notice. She has also been accused by the education community and District residents of alienating those around her. For example, in December 2008, her attitude was called into question when she posed on the cover of Time magazine with a broom in hand under the title "How to Fix America's Schools."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


The Presidential Planner: Wednesday, Sept. 29th

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama wakes up in Des Moines, Iowa Wednesday where he will hold a backyard discussion on the challenges facing the middle class. Governor Chet Culver and Mayor Frank Cownie of Des Moines will also join the event. The president will then travel to Richmond, Virginia, for the last stop of his "Moving America Forward" tour, where he will meet with a local Richmond family at the Southampton Recreation Association before hosting a discussion on the economy with families from the area. In the evening, the President will return to Washington, D.C. after his four-state three-day tour.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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