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Outlaw taxis – a modest proposal

22 Sep
A shorter version of this was published yesterday at Breitbart’s Big Government.


Uber – the best known of several ride-sharing companies that run an app that allows passengers to use their smart phones to find drivers for hire and pay them with credit cards – is now worth over $40 billion dollars.  By contrast, the value of taxi medallions is dropping in major cities, faced with the competition from Uber, Lyft (valued at $2.5 billion), and the other ride share upstarts are providing.  In New York City, for example,  taxi revenues are dropping almost 10% annually.

Uber et al have a lot of advantages over the traditional taxi cabs: generally lower prices; the certainty of knowing you’ve hired a ride share vehicle and it is actually coming to you, as opposed to attempting to hail a cab; and being able to contract for and pay for a ride without the rider knowing your race, radically reducing the racial discrimination against black consumers well known to African Americans and regularly depicted in American comedy.  It’s capitalism and free markets abolishing racism and bigotry and making people wealthier by giving them more options and lower prices.  As capitalism always does.

Lobbyists working for the taxi companies have struck back, attempting to get politicians like NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio to outlaw Uber and the others; and Hillary Clinton has made warnings about the “gig economy” part of her campaign.

Part of the campaign is using a PR megaphone to amplify and repeat any anecdotes about sexual assaults that have occured in Uber cars, particularly those where drivers assault a passenger.  These stories are anecdotal however, and it is hard to compare sexual assault, and crime generally, across different transportation providers, in part because police don’t collect and categorize the incidents that way.  An internet search will turn up stories about rapes in taxi cabs as well, despite the supposedly more thorough background checks of their drivers.  The DC Metro system reports  one to three rapes on its system for most of the recent years, but over 80 “sexual offenses.”  As a result, D.C. now budgets tax dollars on a PR campaign asking passengers to report sexual harassment – apparently they are betting Bill Clinton will be moving back into the White House.  (On the much less populated L.A. subway, the L.A.Times reports that one in 5 riders reports “unwanted sexual behavior,” and one in 14 says they have been groped.)  I myself, pretty obviously not female, in several decades of only very occasionally taking a D.C. taxicab or Metrobus, have had one taxicab driver suggests he offered additional services, and one bus driver smile broadly and adjust his wares as I got on a late night bus in a rather suggestive move that was so unexpected it didn’t register until minutes after I had sat down – and I am assuming these things happen to women more often.


But the rape scare mongering is just the jury tampering.  The anti-Uber pogrom has gone beyond the taxi lobbyists and corrupt taxi commissions and been picked up by the labor movement and the Democrat Party’s statist establishment as a way to strike out against any opportunities for work that can’t be subjected to the with-holding tax – the federal government’s free loan program to itself – and that can’t be easily unionized.  Shannon Liss-Riordan, a boney, witchey-looking Boston labor lawyer who specializes in attacking independent contractors, is suing Uber to have all Uber drivers reclassified as employees.  She plans to stuff Uber drivers, and young entrepreneurial Hansels and Gretels in general, into her statist oven.  (Who will be feasting?  According to OpenSecrets FEC records, Ms. Liss-Riordan donated about $15,000 to Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Kennedy in 2012-2013 alone.)


These obviously serious issues don’t require outlawing Uber, as the taxi lobbies want.  Uber can make its application procedure stricter at anytime, and will do so if anyone sues it for damages – just as many apartment buildings now do criminal background checks on applicants in an effort at due diligence to indemnify themselves if it turns out someone sues them for letting in a pedophile or rapist as a resident.

Less discuss some even weightier issues.

7-11.  Who among us has not gone into a 7-11 or similar establishment, to get that all important first cup of coffee of the day.  Like many Americans, we want it hot, we may want it black or blond, sweet or not, but we want it now.  And whom do we meet?  Very often, a taxi driver.  Often one from a country where milk or cream, especially in little plastic containers infused with chocolate or hazelnut or Amaretto, is an unheard of luxury.  He stirs, he pours, he measures, he tastes.  He adds honey or Splenda.  After three or four minutes he steps aside, and the native born American on his or her way to work can finally put cup to tap and get his or her morning Java.  Uber drivers do not clog the nation’s coffee lines.  They are at their second job, and they are driving their own car which they got in at home where they could make and bring their own favorite coffee in their own thermos or cup.

Bike Lanes.  Perhaps you are ecologically minded, morally superior to both the Ubertarians and the Taxi cronyists.  Or perhaps in the Obama depression you just can’t afford to buy or repair an automobile.  You are happy some cities have added bike lanes that you can use on downtown streets, just for you, where you don’t threaten pedestrians – especially dog walkers with 3 or more leashed dogs all running in different directions – and cars don’t threaten you.  You are familiar with government vehicles, delivery vans, and construction trucks parking in your bike lane, and maybe even an Uber or a taxi double parking in it for a disembarking customer.  But the Uber driver will never park in the parking lane and have his Uber driver friend stand in your bike lane so they can chit chat – it’s his or her second job and they are trying to make money, not kibbutz with their friends.  Taxi drivers on the other hand seem to park in lines where they think people will be emerging from hotels etc. needing a taxi, and they get out and stand around and talk – in the bike lanes.

Corruption.  All kidding aside, this is the real issue.  The taxi industry, as it exists now, in almost all cities has been a regulated oligopoly or monopoly paying off politicians or their staffs as well as taxi commission members to limit competition and thereby keep prices higher, in exchange for donations, bribes and kickbacks.  The reason local cities are ruled by statist Democrats who keep their populations unemployed, in poverty, and illiterate (so they will continue to vote for Democrats), is that powerful economic interests keep the Democrats in power.  Real estate developers are part of the mix – D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton rakes in donations of $200,000-400,000 each election, to run unopposed, mainly from construction unions and real estate developers (one year she got around $40,000 from a single New York based development firm), and she sits on the Congressional committees that dispense federal leases and federal land parcels in D.C. (No journalists ever investigate this.).  Another part of the mix is government “teachers” unions, that donate heavily to Democratic candidates who oppose school choice and who protect the daily kidnapping and selling of poor brown and blacks kids to the unions and their failed schools, in exchange for campaign donations.  Finally there are the taxi commissions, which have long been bribing local Democrats to keep fares high by restricting competition and new transport providers.  The results:  Baltimore, Anacostia, Ferguson – tinderboxes of poverty and hopelessness.

Some cities have changed a little as reform minded yuppie Democrats have moved into urban areas.  Charter school movements are sweeping some cities.  In Washington, D.C. the voters in newly gentrified Columbia Heights neighborhood tossed out an incumbent, the city’s first elected gay city Council member, Jim Graham, in the 2014 Democratic primary, in part because one of his staffers was prosecuted for taxi commission related bribes.  (Graham himself, now a private sector citizen, has come around to favor deregulating taxis and Uber.)  Washington City Paper dubbed this new species of left-liberal urban Democrats who want free markets and consumer choice in any area important to themselves, from their car service to their children’s education, “Ubertarians.”


We need to end taxis, taxi commissions, and taxi medallions just to clean up our politics and get rid of politicians who are willing to prevent the progress and innovation and free entry into markets that creates new jobs and new wealth.

It’s time to swing the ax and get rid of taxis and taxi medallions.  They are our decade’s peculiar institution.  Yes those who have invested in them will lose hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars.  It doesn’t matter.  They can make money driving for Uber, just as the plantation owners of old could learn to pick their own cotton.

Lifestyles of the tax predator ruling class – IRS chief John Koskinen

11 Jul

Chief IRS prevaricator John Koskinen lives on Redwood Terrace NW in the upper middle class Colonial Village neighborhood, in the North Portal Estates section favored by high level fat ‘crats, in a house Zillow estimates to be worth $1.8 million.  Though he seems to have persuaded the local DC tax authorities to assess him at only $1.3 million.

Back in December last year he hosted an event at his home for Mayor Gray, DC’s incumbent Mayor who lost in the Democratic primary because of an ongoing investigation that he took $700,000 in illegal contributions from a single real estate developer.

Koskinen previously worked in the DC government and as a CEO at Freddie Mac, the government sponsored enterprise implicated in the housing crisis. His wife of 50 years, Patricia Salz Koskinen, is a retired professor of education who taught at and earned her PhD from the University of Maryland.

Hillary Clinton – One Shoe Drops

14 Aug

Didn’t Jesse Jackson Jr. go to prison for this today?

Unease at Clinton Foundation Over Finances and Ambitions

Jason Henry for The New York Times
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking at an American Bar Association meeting in San Francisco on Monday.

Soon after the 10th anniversary of the foundation bearing his name,Bill Clinton met with a small group of aides and two lawyers from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Two weeks of interviews with Clinton Foundation executives and former employees had led the lawyers to some unsettling conclusions.
Multimedia
Joao Silva/The New York Times
Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, in South Africa last week.

Readers’ Comments

The review echoed criticism of Mr. Clinton’s early years in the White House: For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation had become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest. It ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in.
And concern was rising inside and outside the organization about Douglas J. Band, a onetime personal assistant to Mr. Clinton who had started a lucrative corporate consulting firm — which Mr. Clinton joined as a paid adviser — while overseeing the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation’s glitzy annual gathering of chief executives, heads of state, and celebrities.
The review set off more than a year of internal debate, and spurred an evolution in the organization that included Mr. Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, taking on a dominant new role as the family grappled with the question of whether the foundation — and its globe-spanning efforts to combat AIDS, obesity and poverty — would survive its founder.
Now those efforts are taking on new urgency. In the coming weeks, the foundation, long Mr. Clinton’s domain since its formation in 2001, will become the nerve center ofHillary Rodham Clinton’s increasingly busy public life.
This fall, Mrs. Clinton and her staff will move into offices at the foundation’s new headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, occupying two floors of the Time-Life Building. Amid speculation about her 2016 plans, Mrs. Clinton is adding major new initiatives on women, children and jobs to what has been renamed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
Worried that the foundation’s operating revenues depend too heavily on Mr. Clinton’s nonstop fund-raising, the three Clintons are embarking on a drive to raise an endowment of as much as $250 million, with events already scheduled in the Hamptons and London. And after years of relying on Bruce R. Lindsey, the former White House counsel whose friendship with Mr. Clinton stretches back decades, to run the organization while living part-time in Arkansas, the family has hired a New York-based chief executive with a background in management consulting.
“We’re trying to institutionalize the foundation so that it will be here long after the lives of any of us,” Mr. Lindsey said. “That’s our challenge and that is what we are trying to address.”
But the changing of the guard has aggravated long-simmering tensions within the former first family’s inner circle as the foundation tries to juggle the political and philanthropic ambitions of a former president, a potential future president, and their increasingly visible daughter.
And efforts to insulate the foundation from potential conflicts have highlighted just how difficult it can be to disentangle the Clintons’ charity work from Mr. Clinton’s moneymaking ventures and Mrs. Clinton’s political future, according to interviews with more than two dozen former and current foundation employees, donors and advisers to the family. Nearly all of them declined to speak for attribution, citing their unwillingness to alienate the Clinton family.
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Last Thursday, Mr. Clinton arrived two hours late to an exuberant welcome at a health clinic about 60 miles north of Johannesburg. Children in zebra-striped loincloths sang as Mr. Clinton and Ms. Clinton made their entrance, and the former president enthusiastically explained how his foundation had helped the South African government negotiate large reductions in the price of drugs that halt the progress of HIV. Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s minister of health, heaped praise on the effort. “Because of your help we are able to treat three and a half times more people than we used to,” he told the crowd.
The project is typical of the model pioneered by the Clinton Foundation, built around dozens of partnerships with private companies, governments, or other nonprofit groups. Instead of handing out grants, the foundation recruits donors and advises them on how best to deploy their money or resources, from helping Procter & Gamble donate advanced water-purification packets to developing countries to working with credit card companies to expand the volume of low-cost loans offered to poor inner city residents.
Lydia Polgreen contributed reporting, and Kitty Bennett contributed research.

If you are new to DC, this explains why we have so many corrupt politicians…

23 Jun
and why the media and the other elected officials do so little to expose them — they spent decades drinking lead:

Lead contamination in Washington, D.C. drinking water

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The discovery of widespread lead contamination in Washington, DC drinking water
 resulted in a Congressional investigation that damaged the scientific reputation of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), left thousands of children with lifelong
health risks, and led to a re-evaluation of the use of chloramine in public drinking-water
systems. Marc Edwards, an expert in plumbing corrosion, discovered lead levels at least
83 times higher than the accepted safe limit while performing research into premature pipe
 corrosion for the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA). He found that
 the decision to change from using chlorine to chloramine as a treatment chemical had
 caused the spike in lead levels. After the Washington Post ran a series of front-page articles
 about Edwards’s findings, resulting in widespread public concern, the
United States House of Representatives conducted an investigation. The House found that
the CDC had made “scientifically indefensible” claims in a report that had indicated there
 was no risk from the high lead levels. The Post investigation uncovered evidence of
 widespread misreporting of lead levels at water agencies across the United States,
leading to regulatory crackdowns and changes in Environmental Protection Agency policies.
The problem was addressed in 2004 by adding additional treatments to the water, preventing
the chloramine from dissolving lead in the water mains, solder joints, and fixtures.
In 2010, the CDC reported that 15,000 homes in the Washington, D.C. area might still have
 water supplies with dangerous levels of lead.

Contents

  [hide

[edit]2001–2004: Initial reports of elevated lead

In 2001, more than half the water samples taken from 53 DC-area homes under the
 procedures required by the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule showed levels of lead
 exceeding the national standard of 15 parts per billion (ppb).[1] Lead disrupts the
physical and mental development of fetuses, babies, and young children, and can
cause kidney problems and high blood pressure in adults.[1] The rule does not
assume that there is a “safe” level of exposure, but notes that 15 ppb is an “action
 level” where utilities must take action.[1] The rule was created in 1991, after research
showed that drinking water could account for one-fifth of all lead intake.[1] Lead is not
normally present in drinking water; it is released from the inside surface of lead service
 lines (pipes that run from the main to the house), joints connected with lead-based
 solder, and lead fixtures inside the house. Based on these findings, WASA was
required to notify the public and implement plans to replace lead service lines in key
 areas of the municipal water system.
The first media attention came in late 2002, when the Washington City Paper ran an
article about a resident of American University Park whose water tested six to 18 times
 the EPA Lead and Copper Rule’s action level.[2] WASA found that homes in its service
 area with lead service lines averaged five times the EPA limit for lead during a year-long
period.[2]The results were unexpected; the EPA scientist overseeing DC’s water
 suggested that drought conditions might have raised the alkalinity levels of the
 Potomac River, leading to a change in the pH of the water.[2] As a result, WASA was
required to start replacing seven percent of the district’s lead service lines each year
 until the levels dropped below 0.015milligrams per liter.[2] At the time, about 23,000 WASA
 customers had lead service lines.[3]
In March 2003, Marc Edwards, a professor of civil engineering and expert on corrosion in
 drinking-water systems, was conducting research into an unexpected increase in pinhole
 leaks in copper water pipes in the DC area. WASA funded Edwards’s research.[4] Suspecting
the leaks were caused by a change in the water chemistry, Edwards used a field meter to
 test for lead in one home’s water. The meter could read values up to 140 ppb. His initial reading
 pegged the meter, so he diluted the sample to ten percent of its original strength. Even so
 diluted, the sample still pegged the meter,[5] indicating the water contained at least 1,250
 ppb of lead.[6] “Some of it would literally have to be classified as a hazardous waste,” Edwards
 said.[5]
After Seema Bhat, a water quality manager at WASA, told her superiors at the agency and at
 the EPA about the lead levels and warned that federal guidelines required aggressive action,
she was fired by the agency. A federal investigator found that she had been improperly terminated.[3]
The lead levels required WASA to conduct a wider survey of their water quality. By the fall of
2003, it had tested more than 6,000 homes in the District, finding that two-thirds tested had
 more than 15 ppb of lead in their water.[3] The survey showed that over 4,000 homes served
 by WASA had lead levels exceeding the acceptable level.[7] More than a third of the homes
 surveyed—2,287 out of 6,118—had levels exceeding 50 ppb.[3] The water tested over 300 ppb
 in 157 homes.[1] Despite this result, WASA did not notify its customers of the risk until November
2003.[7]
Although regulations required WASA to include the specific warning “Some homes in this
 community have elevated lead levels in their drinking water. Lead can pose a significant risk
 to your health.” in the water bills of each affected customer, WASA’s notice omitted key parts
 of the phrase such as “in their drinking water” and “significant”.[7] Although Federal law required
 WASA to hold public meetings to discuss the problem and actions people could take to protect
 themselves, they advertised the meetings as being “to discuss and solicit public comments on
WASA’s Safe Drinking Water Act projects”, omitting mention of lead.[8] The EPA was required
 to review the notice before it was sent out; one D.C. Council member, commenting on the EPA’s
 approval of the faulty notice, asked “Where were you, EPA?”[1] The EPA later found that WASA’s
notice violated federal law because of the omissions.[9]
In January 2004, the Washington Post reported that the mayor and several D.C. Council members
 had not been informed of the elevated lead levels.[8] The Washington City Papersaid that Carol
 Schwartz, the councilmember who chaired the Committee on Public Works and the Environment,
was not informed of the lead issue until that newspaper contacted her during the last week of
January 2004.[3] Early communications from WASA limited the health advisory to pregnant women
and small children in homes with lead service leads, but later tests showed the high lead levels were
 also present in homes with copper service leads.[7]
Meanwhile, on January 2, 2004, WASA called Edwards and threatened to cut off his access to
monitoring data needed for his research, and divert funding from him to other researchers, unless
 he stopped working with the homeowners whose water showed high lead levels.[5] Soon after,
the EPA discontinued its own contract with Edwards.[5]

[edit]2004: Washington Post

The issue became front page news when the Washington Post ran an article titled “Water in D.C.
 Exceeds EPA Lead Limit” on January 31, 2004 across six columns of page A1.[8][10] Reporter
David Nakamura was contacted by one of the homeowners whose water was tested by WASA
 during its survey after he received the test results.[1] Nakamura—who had no prior experience
with clean water issues—initially thought it was a minor issue, but agreed to help the homeowner
 get a response from WASA.[10] When WASA would not give him a straight answer, Nakamura
pressed them for full data on the tests.[10] Nakamura says that, even though he was “stunned”
 at the facts reported in that first story, thePost “had no idea about the size and scope of what
was to follow.”[10]
The article quoted Erik Olson, an analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, as saying
 “This is a really big deal… If schools go over 20 parts per billion, they immediately take the
 water out of production.”[8] WASA recommended that residents let the tap run for 30 seconds
 to one minute before using it to reduce the risk.[8]
This first Post article was the first public mention of the theory that the lead levels were tied
to chloramine. The traditional use of chlorine had been stopped four years earlier, out of
 concerns that it could produce harmful chemicals in the pipes.[8] Long-term exposure to the
byproducts from chlorine treatment has been linked with cancer.[11] The paper quoted officials
as saying that it was possible chloramine was more corrosive to lead pipes.[8] (In fact, the
Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for the Washington Aqueduct that supplies water
 to WASA, rejected a recommendation to add phosphates to the water to prevent lead leaching
 in the mid-1990s.)[1] The change to chloramine was made after the EPA issued regulations
concerning disinfection byproducts formed when chlorine reacts with organic matter in drinking
water; the EPA considered these byproducts to be a potential health threat.[12] Chloramines do
 not produce disinfection byproducts.[12]
After the first article, the Post formed a core team of reporters to investigate the issue.
Nakamura was joined by reporters Carol LeonnigJo Becker, Avram Goldstein, and D’Vera Cohn;
editor Marcia Slacum Greene provided daily oversight.[1] Nakamura was the lead reporter for
 the breaking news coming from WASA and City Hall, and wrote profiles of key players.[10]
Leonnig reported on the federal and EPA response to the contamination.[10] Cohn investigated
the Washington Aqueduct angle and worked with water quality and environmental experts.[10]
Goldstein covered the DC Department of Health.[10] Becker looked at water quality nationwide.[10]
After the first article appeared, residents inundated WASA’s water hotline with calls and
overwhelmed water testing laboratories with requests to have their tap water tested for
 leadcontamination. District elected officials immediately called for an emergency public
meeting, and established an inter-agency task force with the EPA to investigate and manage
 the problem.[7] However, messages to the public at the time were often confusing and
 contradictory: while WASA was suggesting running taps for 90 seconds to flush out any
 lead, the EPA was demanding that recommendation be changed to ten minutes.[7]
The Post article lead WASA to hand out over 30,000 free water filters, hire health experts,
 and offer free blood tests to residents.[1] Some water fountains were turned off due to lead
 levels.[1] In 2004, the D.C. Council held 11 oversight hearings on the issue; the US Congress
held four.[1] American University claimed that its water was safe to drink, because the larger
water mains feeding commercial sites like the college were not made of lead.[13]
After Nakamura’s first few stories for the Post on the issue, he was contacted by Seema
Bhat’s attorney.[10] Bhat, who was then fighting her dismissal from WASA, shared
 thousands of internal documents with Nakamura.[10] The documents, Nakamura said,
 “provided a fairly clear picture” that WASA had been trying to find a way to avoid the cost
 of replacing pipes and adding additional chemicals to the water.[10] He said Bhat’s documents
 were critical to the Post’s investigation.[10] He recalls that, while reading the documents, the
 team found WASA memos indicating that they tried to find “clean” houses to test to reduce
the apparent average lead level from the testing, but the more they tested, the more “dirty” h
ouses they found.[10]
By April 2004, there were reports of some DC-area homes reaching lead levels of 6,000 ppb
to 48,000 ppb.[14][15]
In June 2004, the EPA cited WASA for a “serious breach” of the law, including withholding
six test results showing high lead levels in 2001, dropping half of the homes that had
previously tested high for lead levels in subsequent testing, and avoiding homes known to
 be at high risk for contamination.[16] In July, a WASA-commissioned report supported the
Post’s claims that the agency had known about the high lead levels for years, but had failed
 to notify regulators or the public.[17]

A DC WASA lead service line being replaced in 2008.

In August 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers started adding orthophosphate to the water in
 hopes of preventing lead leeching.[18][19] By November, WASA’s board of directors had
committed to a plan that would replace all of the agency’s 23,000 lead pipes by 2010, at
 a cost of $300 million—starting with 2,800 lead pipes to be replaced in 2005.[18] WASA
estimated that the repairs would cost residents $6 to $7 a month.[20] The agency was not
legally responsible for the portion of the lead service lines within a homeowner’s property lines;
 however, they offered to perform the work at a set rate, and arranged a low-interest loan
program with Wachovia Bank to help homeowners afford the cost.[18]
By January 31, 2005, the Post had run over 200 stories on the issue, amassing thousands
 of pages of correspondence through the Freedom of Information Act.[1] Gloria Borland, a
 District resident, testified before Congress: “If the [Washington] Post had not exposed this
scandal, our children today would still be drinking lead contaminated water”.[14]
Post reporters Nakamura, Leonnig, Cohn, Becker, Craig Timberg, Monte Reel, and Sarah
 Cohen won the 2005 Selden Ring Award for the articles.[21] Michael Parks, director of USC
Annenberg’s School of Journalism and Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor of the
 Los Angeles Times, said “The Washington Posts work was a very important piece of
journalism—important to every man, woman and child living in the District of Columbia,
drinking its water and thinking it was pure. And it was important to the residents of other
cities whose water is contaminated by lead and other toxic substances”.[21] The award’s
 cash prize of $35,000 is believed to be the largest in journalism.[22] According to Nakamura,
 some at the Post were surprised to win the award, because of the atypical nature of the
Post’s investigation. Most winners conduct a long-term investigation and then publish long
 articles over a few days with the results; the Post covered the investigation as a series of
 beat stories.[10]Nakamura said he had never heard of the Selden Ring Award until the day
 his editor told him that the team had won it.[10]

[edit]2004: The CDC report

On March 30, 2004, an “MMWR dispatch”, Blood Lead Levels in Residents of Homes with
 Elevated Lead in Tap Water — District of Columbia, 2004, was made available on the
MMWR web site. It was then published by CDC as “MMWR Weekly, April 2, 2004 /
53(12);268-270″.[23] The report “summarizes the results of the preliminary investigations, 
which indicated that the elevated water lead levels might have contributed to a small
 increase in blood lead levels (BLLs)”. The report describes the background, and the
 various kinds of blood tests it employed, and explicitly states: “All blood tests were used 
in this analysis.” There is no mention at all of any test results not being available, not
 even in the caveatsection, where other potential sources of error are discussed.
The report concludes that the high amounts of lead in the drinking water may have led
 to a slight rise of the blood levels; however, not to the levels of official concern. It also
 claims that the average levels were sinking. However, the report notes that there is no
 known “risk free” level, and therefore recommends that efforts should be made to
 eliminate lead in children’s blood entirely.
The report later was strongly criticized, both by Marc Edwards and by the
 United States House Committee on Science, Space and Technology;
 see #Congressional review of the 2004 CDC paper.

[edit]2004–2005: Government hearings

At an oversight hearing before the House Committee on Government Reform in early
 March 2004, Marc Edwards testified that his studies showed the change from chlorine
 to chloramine was the cause of the elevated lead levels.[24] He stated that the chloramine-
treated water was leaching lead not only from the old lead lines, but also from brass fixtures
 in homes.[24] Brass is made with lead; even brass classified as “lead free” under the
Safe Drinking Water Act can contain up to eight percent lead.[24] Edwards said that this
 could be the cause of the high lead levels in areas where WASA did not use lead lines.[24]
He also cautioned that replacing lead service lines with copper could make the problem
worse; newly installed copper lines could react with the chloramine in a way that would
increase corrosion of the remaining lead lines in the system.[24] The chief of the Washington
Aqueduct disagreed, saying that tests taken after the chloramine treatment commenced
didn’t show any additional corrosiveness.[24] He believed corrosion inhibitors, like
 organophosphate, could be added to the water to prevent lead leaching.[24] In the spring
 of 2004, a temporary switch from chloramine back to chlorine for annual pipe flushing
caused a 25 to 30 percent drop in lead levels, lending credence to the chloramine
 theory.[11][25] In one home that was tested by WASA before and after the switch,
lead levels dropped tenfold.[11]
On March 23, 2004, Anthony A. Williams (the mayor of the District of Columbia) and
Carol Schwartz (chair of the DC Council’s Committee on Public Works and the
Environment) wrote a letter to President George W. Bush, asking the federal government
to reimburse WASA $24,093,700 and the District of Columbia $1,730,401 to cover
expenses from the lead contamination.[26] The letter justified the request for full
 reimbursement by saying “the regulatory decisions of EPA appear to have generated these
costs” and that it would be “inherently unfair” for taxpayers and WASA customers to pay
those costs.[26] In 2005, President Bush proposed cutting the EPA’s budget by almost
a half-billion dollars, mostly from clean-water programs.[27] He wanted to decrease
spending on replacing aging water facilities by 83 percent.[27]
On March 30, 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that found the lead “might have
contributed a small increase in blood lead levels.”[28] The report claimed that no children
with dangerously high blood lead levels were found, even in the homes with the worst
lead levels.[29]Officials in other cities, such as New York and Seattle, cited the report as
 justification for a less-than-aggressive response to high lead levels in their own water.[28]
 Water testing in the first six months of 2004 showed 90 percent of homes having 63 ppb
of lead or less in the water.[30]
In October 2004, Edwards co-authored an article in the Journal of the American Water
 Works Association that linked chloramine use with greatly increased lead leaching.[31]
A report commissioned by the D.C. Council released on December 8, 2004 faulted the
 federal government’s regulation of the city’s water supply as a factor in the lead contamination.
The report noted that no one agency was responsible for the water quality: The Army Corps
 of Engineers treated the water, WASA delivered it, and the EPA performed the quality
checks.[32] It urged the Council to assume authority for the entire system.[32] In the last
six months of 2004, 90 percent of homes tested had lead levels of 59 ppb or lower.[30]
The city’s interim inspector general, Austin A. Andersen, released a report on WASA’s
 performance in January 2005. Andersen called for WASA to enter a formal agreement
with the city’s Health Department to ensure that future communications about water
health issues were timely and worded appropriately.[9] WASA rejected the need for
such an agreement.[9] That same month, the Architect of the Capitol issued a warning
 to Capitol Hill employees that they should not use water from bathroom or kitchen
 faucets for drinking or cooking.[33] Some water fountains on the campus were turned off,
although employees were told it was okay to continue using the others.[33] One home on
 Capitol Hill was found to have 308 ppb of lead in 2003.[34]
On January 21, 2005, the EPA ordered WASA to notify more than 400 homeowners
that the agency had mistakenly told them their house’s water lead levels were safe, and
 to replace an additional 500 service lines to comply with federal law.[30] The EPA said
that WASA had flushed the water line for five minutes before running the lead tests for
those homes, resulting in artificially low readings; such a lengthy flush is not permitted
 by EPA standards.[30] The EPA did not believe that the flushes were done intentionally
 by WASA to reduce lead levels.[30] The testing had been done as part of an effort to
avoid the expense of replacing lead lines in areas where it found low lead levels.[30]

[edit]2004: Other cities investigated

In 1999, an EPA survey estimated that the United States’s drinking-water systems were
 in need of $150 billion worth of repairs over the following 20 years.[20] However, in April
 2004, an EPA spokesperson told the Washington Times that “high lead levels are not
 a pervasive problem”.[20] At a Congressional hearing that month, the EPA testified that
 it had no current information on lead levels in 78 percent of the nation’s water systems,
and that as many as 20 states had not provided any data.[14]
On October 5, 2004, the Washington Post ran a front-page article reporting that cities
across the United States were illegally manipulating lead testing results, such as
 discarding high readings or avoiding homes likely to have high readings.[16] A former
 EPA official described it as “widespread fraud and manipulation” on the part of water
utilities.[16] That July, however, an EPA administrator told Congress that “we have not
 identified a systemic problem”.[16] Using data from the EPA, the Post identified 274
utilities that had reported unsafe lead levels between 2000 and 2004.[16] Some utilities
 defended their testing practices as being approved by state regulators; others argued
 that the lead was actually leaching from customers’ fixtures, not their plumbing.[16]
Among the cities that the Post faulted through the EPA data were:[16]
  • Boston, where state regulators discovered that at least one quarter of the
  •  locations tested were not at high risk for lead contamination;
  • Detroit, where the utility failed to test required high-risk homes;
  • New York City, which reported lead falling to safe levels in 2000—but omitted
  •  300 test results that would have marked the water as unsafe in 2001 and 2002
  •  if reported;
  • Philadelphia, which could not produce documentation for their decision to 
  • discard a high test result from 2002—despite being required by federal law to
  •  do so—that would have put the city over the EPA limit if it had been included;
  • Lansing, Michigan, which discarded four tests that would have put the city’s 
  • water over the limit because the homeowners supposedly did not follow the
  •  proper directions in collecting the samples—even though the law prohibits 
  • doing so;
  • Ridgewood, New Jersey, which removed “hot” houses from its testing after 
  • exceeding the safe limit in 2000;
  • Providence, Rhode Island, where high levels were found in 2002, failed to
  •  inform the public as required and instead waited more than the legal limit of
  •  four months to test again;
  • Seattle, where state regulators allowed the utility to miss a 1997 deadline to
  •  reduce the corrosiveness of its water by six years, allowing high lead levels
  •  to persist during that period;
  • Portland, Oregon, where the city and state decided to launch a lead-danger 
  • educational campaign instead of building a treatment plant as required by law
  • —and the EPA later suggested the utility drop urban homes with high lead
  •  levels from its testing and replace them with suburban homes with significantly
  •  lower levels.
The Post article lead the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York
to open an investigation into the city’s drinking-water lead levels.[35][36] Regulators in
 Michigan and Oregon also investigated utilities singled out by the Post in those
states.[36] Senators James M. Jeffords and Paul S. Sarbanes called for the EPA
to impose tougher standards; Jeffords and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton called
 for an investigation of the EPA following the Post’s findings.[37]
Seattle had already suffered widespread lead contamination in its public school
system in 2003. One parent, a scientist who had initiated the investigation there,
said “we continue to suffer from an epidemic of lead complacency” nationwide.[38]
The EPA said that between 2003 and 2005, only four large water systems had
 unsafe lead levels: Washington, DC; St. Paul, MinnesotaPort St. Lucie, Florida;
and Ridgewood, New Jersey.[27]

[edit]2005–2006: Lower lead levels

By January 2005, a year after the high lead levels were publicized by the Post,
 advocates were calling for the firing of local and federal officials involved in the issue,
saying that they had done too little to fix the problem.[39] Eric Olsen of the Natural
 Resources Defense Council said that officials “have fallen down on the job” because
 thousands of residents still had unsafe water.[39] The group Lead Emergency Action
 for the District called for an overhaul of WASA’s management, an independent study
 of needed improvements to the water system, stronger laws, and action from the
EPA.[39] “We want fines and a criminal review,” said Olsen.[39]
In March 2005, the EPA proposed changes strengthening the Lead and Copper Rule.
 The changes require utilities to give test results directly to homeowners, and to notify
state and federal regulators before changing water-treatment methods.[40] Critics,
such as Clean Water Action, called the changes “revisions at the margins”.[40] Rick
 Maas, co-director of the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina,
said the revisions would “solve maybe 5 to 10 percent of the problem” with the Rule.[40]
Trade organizations, such as the American Water Works Association, found the
 changes “basically reasonable”.[40]
That month, WASA said that recent tests showed encouraging declines in lead levels,
 which it attributed to the orthophosphate treatments started in August 2004.[25] Out
of 51 homes tested, only four had readings above 15 ppb; ten of those homes were
above the 15-ppb standard the previous year, but fell below it in this test.[25] WASA
also noted that the Army Corps of Engineers would continue using chloramine
throughout the year to keep the water chemistry stable.[25] By May 10, 2005, the
 company was announcing that its tests were “below the ’90th percentile lead
 action level.'”[41]
As of January 2006, WASA said that about 29 percent of its customers had chosen
to replace the lead service lines within the customer’s property.[42] In a January
press release, WASA said that the average lead level in its most recent tests
was 7 ppb.[43] The authority also claimed that a voluntary blood-lead-level
 screening it funded showed no identifiable public health impact from the elevated
lead levels.[43]
The EPA formally reduced its oversight of WASA in May 2006, after testing
showed the lead levels had remained below 15 ppb for a full year.[42] However,
 the agency continued to require WASA to submit 100 samples every six
 months for at least another year; the normal requirement is 50 samples a year.[42]
Even after the lead levels abated, the Post continued to note other problems with
 the District’s water supply. In 2007, it noted that WASA’s periodic “chlorine surge”
 resulted in high levels of haloacetic acids, a chlorine disinfection byproduct believed
to be unsafe.[44] Utilities use annual or biannual chlorine surges to remove pathogens
 such as cryptosporidiumthat are not adequately killed by chloramine.[44]
 Independent testing by the Environmental Working Group showed 40 percent
of samples exceeded federal safety limits for chlorine byproducts, but officials
 from the Washington Aqueduct and WASA said the levels were probably
 temporary and that the water was safe to drink.[45]

[edit]2006–2010: EPA, CDC, expert reports faulted

In January 2006, the Government Accountability Office released a study
criticizing the EPA’s efforts monitoring lead levels in drinking water across
the United States.[46] Although the study found that lead in drinking water
had generally declined since the 1990s, it noted that data collection problems
 “may be undermining the intended level of public health protection”.[46]

[edit]Guidotti paper

In 2007, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives published a paper about
 the public health response to the lead contamination, written by a team of academic
 investigators headed by Tee Guidotti of George Washington University.[47] Guidotti
and his team had been hired as consultants by WASA in 2004;[48] he had told the
 WASA board that water only accounts for seven percent of the typical two-year-old
child’s lead exposure.[49] The paper analyzed data from the 2004 screening program,
identifying sources of confounding or bias. Four indicators were examined, and none
showed evidence that blood lead levels had been affected by the elevation of lead in
 drinking water. The investigators concluded that the evidence did not clearly
 demonstrate a correlation between lead in the District’s drinking water and blood
 lead levels. However, they cautioned that a population study was not suitable for
 establishing such relationships. They called for reduction in exposure from water
 as well as from other sources.[47] The paper stated “There appears to have been
no identifiable public health impact from the elevation of lead in drinking water in
Washington DC in 2003 and 2004.”[50]
The Guidotti paper was called into question by members of the DC Council in
February 2009, after the Washington Post ran an article about a more recent study
 by Marc Edwards that found a correlation between water and blood lead levels in
area children.[51] The National Institutes of Health, publisher of the journal in which
 the paper appeared, were unaware that George Washington University’s contract
with WASA gave the water authority final approval over anything Guidotti wrote
concerning the authority.[52] Guidotti was also supposed to remove the sentence
about public health impact from the paper before publication, because experts
reviewing the paper had rejected that finding; he failed to do so.[52]Guidotti and
 WASA both denied that the agency influenced the paper;[52] Guidotti said he
didn’t view the contract as giving WASA preapproval over the paper, and therefore
didn’t disclose it to the journal.[53] In an August 2006 e-mail obtained by the
Post from Edwards, Guidotti agreed to replace the sentence with “Measures
to protect residents from exposure to lead in drinking water may have
prevented more frequent elevations in blood lead” before its publication, but
 that did not happen.[53] The journal refuses to accept research that is under
a sponsor’s control; it conducted a review to determine if the paper should be
retracted—the journal’s first such review in its 30-year history.[53] The paper
 had been cited as evidence that the lead contamination had not harmed District
 residents.[53]
In an e-mail to the Washington City Paper, Guidotti refuted any claims that
WASA influenced the team’s findings. He clarified that WASA’s contract
was with the university, not Guidotti personally. He said “The data in our 2007
 study are valid, the analysis was accurately reported, and we stand by the
conclusions.”[54]
The review panel convened by Environmental Health Perspectives released
its findings in June 2009, finding that the controversial sentence was included
 due to “inattention to detail” and found no evidence that Guidotti was trying to
 mislead readers.[50] The panel recommended that Guidotti submit an apology
 and correction; he did so.[50] The panel said it found evidence that neither
 Guidotti nor WASA intended for the utility to exercise approval over the research
conclusions.[50]

[edit]Edwards paper

The March 1, 2009 issue of Environmental Science and Technology included a
paper by Marc Edwards, Simoni Triantafyllidou, and Dana Best that established
a link between the elevated lead levels in the drinking water and potentially
 harmful blood lead levels in area children.[55] The Washington Post announced
 the results of that study on January 27, 2009.[56] The report found that 42,000
children who were in the womb or under age 2 during the contamination are at
 risk of health and behavioral problems.[56] In some areas, the number of children
 with enough lead to cause irreversible IQ loss and developmental delays more
 than doubled between 2000 and 2003.[56] These findings contradicted previous
statements by WASA that there were no health impacts, as well as the 2004
CDC MMWR report.[56] David Bellinger, a Harvard University neurologist, told
 the Post, “If these data were available previously, I would be surprised that
 anyone would be assuring the public there was no problem.”[56]
The CDC refused to provide Edwards with the data necessary to perform the
 study.[57] He convinced the Children’s National Medical Center to share the
 data with him in 2008.[57]
The paper won the Editor’s Choice Award for Best Science Paper of 2009 from
the editors of Environmental Science and Technology.[58]

[edit]Congressional review of the 2004 CDC paper

Edwards’s study raised new questions about the March 2004 CDC Morbidity
and Mortality Weekly Report that downplayed the health impact of the lead
contamination. Salon noted that the CDC had found a link between lead pipes
 and high childhood blood lead levels in the district in 2007, but did not publicize
 the study.[28] The principal author of the 2004 study—Mary Jean Brown, who
 co-authored the 2007 study—acknowledged that thousands of blood tests were
 missing from the 2004 study, but defended the paper’s conclusion that any harm
 was slight.[28] “There is no indication that DC residents have blood lead levels
 above the CDC levels of concern”, she wrote.[59]
However, Edwards’s results came from analysis of the same data used for the
 2004 CDC report. When he wrote to the CDC’s associate director of science,
 questioning the report’s conclusions and methodology, he received a belated
reply: “We have examined CDC’s role in the study and have found no evidence of misconduct.”[28]
The United States House of Representatives‘ Science and Technology Committee
opened a congressional investigation into the 2004 CDC report.[59] Investigators
 found that although the CDC and city health department reported dangerous lead
levels in 193 children in 2003, the actual number was 486 according to records taken directly from the
 testing laboratories.[59] Representative Brad Miller of North Carolina called the CDC report’s data
 “wildly incomplete”.[59] The underreported results came from the city’s health department, which 
had said the missing tests were omitted because some labs did not report low lead levels to the 
city.[59] The health department data was also the basis for Guidotti’s paper.[59]
The investigation found that the CDC knowingly used flawed data in drafting the
 report, leading to “scientifically indefensible” claims in the 2004 paper.[60] It als
cited the CDC for failing to publicize later research showing that the harm was more serious than the
 2004 report suggested.[60] After the investigation’s findings were released, the CDC initially stood by
 the report’s findings that no significant harm was caused by the lead, but acknowledged that the claim 
that no children with lead poisoning had been found was “misleading”.[60]Edwards called for the
 CDC to retract the paper and for Brown’s resignation.[60] “If you were a child living in D.C. at that 
time, a single glass of tap water could have elevated your blood lead to unsafe levels,” said Edwards.[61]
The report strongly criticized Brown for failing to check the original lab results.[60]
 It also noted that one section of the 2004 CDC report said not one of the people
living in a home with water lead levels 20 times higher than the action level had
elevated blood lead, but it failed to mention that most of those people were
 drinking bottled or filtered water, not tap water, before their blood was tested—
a fact Brown and her co-authors were well aware of.[60] The investigation found that
 Brown gave her fellow authors just three hours to review her work before it was
submitted for publication.[61]
A year after the Washington Post published the results of the investigation, the CDC
 published a “Notice to Readers” in the May 21, 2010 issue of the Morbidity and
 Mortality Weekly Report admitting that the 2004 report was misleading.[62] It said
 the original report “did not reflect findings of concern from the separate longitudinal
 study that showed that children living in homes serviced by a lead water pipe were
more than twice as likely as other DC children to have had a blood lead level
≥10 µg/dL.”[62] A further Notice to Readers published in June 2010 clarified tha
the results in the 2004 report “should not be used to make conclusions about the contribution of 
water lead to blood levels in DC, to predict what might occur in other situations where lead levels 
in drinking water are high, or to determine safe levels of lead in drinking water.”[63]
The Post described the CDC’s Notice to Readers as “a full vindication” for Edwards,
 who spent tens of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to fund his research,
and who was the target of attempts to besmirch his professional reputation by the
 CDC and EPA.[57][61] Tom Sinks, the deputy director of the CDC’s national center
 for environmental health, told the Post “Looking backward six years, it’s clear that
 this report could have been written a little better”.[57]
In 2010, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UAS) claimed that the CDC Advisory
 Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning had been expected to lower the action
level for lead in drinking water below 10 micrograms per deciliter in the summer
 of 2002.[64] According to the UAS,
 Tommy Thompson, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, took the unprecedented
step of rejecting a number of nominees to the committee selected by staff scientists.[64]
 Instead, the group claims, Thompson appointed at least two appointees with financial
 ties to the lead industry.[64] A 2010 Washington Post editorial cited the group’s
 statement as a reason why the District’s lead contamination “was practically inevitable”
due to politicization of the CDC.[65]
Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Delegate to Congress representing the District, accused
 the CDC of a coverup.[61] Jim Graham, a member of the DC Council, said “To now
 learn that the Centers for Disease Control not only got it wrong but may have
 intentionally misled District residents and our water agency is the ultimate betrayal
 of the public trust”.[61]

Lead service replacement continued through the 2000s (decade), but may not have helped the problem.

A 2010 study by Brown at the CDC essentially confirmed Edwards’s findings.[66]
 It also found that the 15,000 “partial pipe replacements” performed by WASA—
where lead service lines were replaced up to a homeowner’s property line, but no
further—may not have effectively reduced lead levels, and may have made the
problem worse.[67] WASA spent $97 million to replace 17,000 pipes, including
 the 15,000 partial replacements.[68] A Post article about the report lead to
 jammed phone lines at WASA and increased demand for bottled-water
 delivery.[67] The study indicated that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water,
and that children in homes with even a partial lead service line are at a much
 higher risk of lead poisoning than those with no lead in the line.[69] WASA
said the finding “is not news” to them; General Manager George Hawkins told
WAMU that the utility had been acting as if the CDC’s findings were fact for
 some time before the report was released.[70] Hawkins said that WAMU was
 not seeing elevated levels of lead in homes with partial pipe replacements.[70]

[edit]Class-action lawsuit

On February 17, 2009, John Parkhurst, the father of twin boys living on Capitol Hill,
through his attorneys Stefanie Roemer and David Sanford of Sanford, Wittels & Heisler,
 filed a class action lawsuit against WASA in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia,
seeking $200 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages.[71] Parkhurst, a
50-year-old single father and psychologist, prepared food and formula for the boys using
tap water from the time they were 8 months old until 2002, when they were two years
 old.[72] The complaint was later amended to add additional five children, on behalf of
 a proposed class consisting of all children who, at any time from 2000 to 2004, while
six years of age or younger, consumed water supplied by WASA that passed through
 a line containing lead (whether directly or prenatally through their birth mothers), and
who had blood-lead levels of 10μg/dl or higher. The suit claims that WASA “undertook
Herculean efforts to shield itself from liability and to otherwise deny
 responsibility”.[71] Parkhurst successfully sought to make the case
class action.[73] Contemporary news reports indicated that WASA had not seen the
 lawsuit at the time the story broke, but included comments from WASA spokespeople
 that more studies would be needed before lead in drinking water could be linked
 to health and behavioral issues.[73]The agency said that such claims would need
 to be substantiated on a case-by-case basis.[71] WASA’s motion to dismiss the
complaint was denied in October 2009 and discovery has been ongoing since.[74]

Does DC need a clean sweep of all incumbents?

9 Jun
Do most of them cover for each other?  Or simply not pay attention?

LGBT activists saddened, angry over Kwame Brown resignation, criminal charge

By Lou Chibbaro Jr. on June 7, 2012 @WashingtonBlade
Eleanor Holmes Norton, David Catania, Kwame Brown, gay news, Washington Blade

Eleanor Holmes Norton & openly gay City Council member David Catania speak with Kwame Brown. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
LGBT activists joined fellow D.C. residents in expressing sadness and anger over an ongoing city corruption investigation that led to the resignation Wednesday night of D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown (D-At-Large).
Brown’s resignation came hours after federal prosecutors charged him with committing felony bank fraud. Sources familiar with the case said he was expected to plead guilty to the charge at a hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
An atmosphere of tension and uncertainty within the city government over Brown’s predicament intensified when gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) called on Mayor Vincent Gray to resign if he continues to refuse to publicly answer questions about a separate investigation into alleged wrong-doing in his 2010 election campaign.
In an interview with Fox 5 TV News, Catania said, “The time has come, especially in light of what we expect to happen with the chairman today, for the mayor to provide answers to the questions that people have regarding his campaign or return as a private citizen and address those issues.”
Catania appeared to express what many observers at the Wilson Building, which serves as D.C.’s City Hall, were saying privately.
“The Wilson Building has been transformed into a rumor mill and, you know, people simply speculate as to when the next shoe will drop,” he told Fox 5 News. “Enough is enough.”
Brown’s resignation came five months after D.C. Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) resigned less than a week before he was charged with embezzling $350,000 in city funds. Thomas pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced in May to 38 months in jail.
Last month, two high-level officials in Gray’s 2010 mayoral election campaign pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations. The violations involved illegally diverting campaign funds to pay a minor mayoral candidate to stay in the race and harass and heckle then Mayor Adrian Fenty, Gray’s main rival in the election.
Gray has said he knew nothing about the scheme, and no evidence has surfaced to indicate he engaged in an illegal act in connection with the payoff to candidate Sulaimon Brown. But sources familiar with the case say federal prosecutors continue to investigate whether Gray and others were involved in the scheme.
On Wednesday, prosecutors with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia filed a charging document called a criminal information against Council Chair Brown accusing him of engaging in bank fraud.
The document says that between August 2005 and August 2007 Brown “knowingly and willfully devised a scheme and artifice to defraud Industrial Bank, N.A.” It says the alleged scheme involved obtaining a home equity loan from the bank to buy a boat by falsifying loan application documents that overstated his income by “tens of thousands of dollars.”
Sources familiar with the case said Brown consented to the criminal information and waived his right to have the allegation brought before a grand jury. Defendants who select the criminal information option almost always agree to an offer by the government to plead guilty in exchange for a less severe charge or a promise by the government to seek a more lenient sentence, according to court observers.
“I hereby resign my position as Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia effective immediately,” Brown said in a letter he submitted to the Council’s secretary at 4:29 p.m. Wednesday.
“I have made some very serious mistakes in judgment for which I will take full responsibility,” he said in the letter. “I have behaved in ways that I should not have. I was wrong, and I will face the consequences of that conduct,” he said.
“This is a grim day,” said Rick Rosendall, vice president for political affairs of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. “Kwame Brown was an ally of the LGBT community, if not in the top rank.”
Rosendall noted that Brown wasn’t an early supporter of same-sex marriage and he didn’t support a bill to allow gay clubs displaced by the Washington Nationals baseball stadium to move to new locations. But Rosendall said Brown “redeemed himself in recent years, including by co-introducing the marriage equality bill.”
Gay Democratic and Ward 8 activist Phil Pannell called Brown’s resignation “heart breaking,” saying he worked on all of Brown’s election campaigns. When Brown ran for the Council Chair position Pannell arranged for him to visit gay bars across the city, helping Brown build support from LGBT voters.
Pannell and Lateefah Williams, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, said Brown’s departure from the Council would not change the Council’s overall strong support for LGBT related issues.
“My immediate reaction is this won’t have an impact on our community,” Williams said in referring to LGBT support on the Council.
“It is always sad when someone people trust and respect does something to betray that,” said gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein. “Kwame Brown will have to pay the consequences but the District is doing well and we need to focus on that and esure that whatever the result of his transgressions are they don’t impact the greater good of the people.”
Council members Phil Mendelson and Vincent Orange, both At-Large Democrats, are believed to be the two candidates in contention for the post of interim chair. Under the city’s Home Rule Charter, the Council has authority to elect an interim chair if the Council chair position becomes vacant. Under the charter, the Council’s four at-large members are the only ones eligible for the interim chair position.
The interim chair serves until a new permanent chair is chosen in a special city election. Sources familiar with the Council have said Mendelson appears to be the favorite for the interim post.
Under the Home Rule Charter, Council member Mary Cheh, who holds the position of president pro tempore of the Council, became the Council’s acting chair until the Council elects the interim chair. Cheh said she has called a special Council meeting for June 13 for the purpose of allowing the Council to elect the interim chair.
Cheh is a strong support of LGBT rights.
Like other political activists, gay Democratic activist Brad Lewis, a former Stein Club president and resident of Ward 8, said he was angered as well as saddened over the Kwame Brown resignation.
“In a short period of time we have had two elected officials resign after being charged with a felony,” Lewis said. “This doesn’t look good for us as a city. It doesn’t help us in our effort to expand home rule and obtain budget autonomy,” he said in referring to longstanding efforts by the city to end Congress’s power to give final approval to the city’s budget.
Pointing to ongoing investigations of other Council members and the mayor, Lewis added, “It seems like half of our officials are under investigation. It all stems from greed and ego. People feel they are above the law.”
D.C. gay Republican leaders Bob Kabel and Robert Turner echoed Lewis’s sentiment. Kabel is chair of the D.C. Republican Party. Turner is president of the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans, a gay political group.
“Our city deserves better than this,” Kabel said in a statement. “The charges against Kwame Brown are serious and are a result of elected officials feeling entitled to benefits they don’t deserve.”
Kabel added, “Until District residents begin electing Republican officials, our city will continue to endure similar embarrassments and unethical behavior from our elected officials.”
Turner said he was troubled that two members of the City Council have resigned over corruption scandals within a period of barely six months.
“Kwame Brown says he wants to take the honorable course by resigning,” Turner said. “The honorable course is not to commit fraud in the first place…Sadly, the question on everybody’s mind is ‘who’s next?’”