City State: Morning Roundup

An influential group of Ward 7 residents voted last week to back a campaign to oust D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander next year, Jeffrey Anderson reports in The Washington Times. The killer quote comes from H.R. Crawford, a former council member from Ward 7 who was among the group of 20 or so advisory neighborhood commissioners, civic association presidents, former school board representatives and lawyers: “It’s nothing personal. But we’re becoming the joke of the city. We need someone who is going to speak up for this community. We are an intelligent, well-educated community, and we want good representation. You look at Wards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and you see development all over. No community would sit idly by and do nothing.” Yvette, already under attack from her constituents who have asked the Office of Campaign Finance to investigate her constituent services fund spending, now faces questions about lagging development and deals she made — or didn’t make — during redistricting negotiations. Can 2012 come soon enough?

D.C. Lottery officials are gearing up for unprecedented gambling over the Internet through “demonstration games” that will allow players to get their feet wet before wagering real dollars, Tom Howell Jr. reports in The Washington Times. Six games will roll out and are expected to go live in four to six weeks ahead of pay games this fall. This despite legal questions about Internet gaming in the District and curiosity over whether Congress will jump in and put a halt to the experiment. We expect many questions to be answered at a hearing June 29 on the matter.

A federal grand jury is hearing evidence into accusations of election misdeeds leveled by a former mayoral candidate at D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s campaign, according to the Washington Examiner. Prosecutors must get a grand jury’s approval to file felony charges, and in a high-profile case might use a grand jury for misdemeanor charges. They also use grand juries to issue subpoenas to third parties, such as banks and other financial institutions.”

A change in policy in the D.C. fire department went into effect in March and restricts injured or ill firefighters and paramedics from performing limited-duty assignments, or desk jobs, for longer than 30 days, according to the department’s revised order book. But the fire union and five pregnant employees say the policy is applied unfairly to pregnant women, Andrea Noble reports in The Washington Times.”It’s making you choose between life outside the fire department and a career,” said a six-year veteran of the fire department who is five months pregnant with her second child. Under the previous policy, there was a 180-day cap on the amount of time pregnant, ill or injured employees were allowed to work limited-duty assignments, said Edward C. Smith, president of the D.C. Firefighters Association. Is it just us, or has it only been 10 years since an EMS supervisor told a class of trainees they could lose their jobs if they became pregnant and three female trainees got abortions based on the advice?

A ward of the city with a history of escape absconded from Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport on Sunday as he was being transported back to the metropolitan region for a court appearance, officials with the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) said. Jeffrey Anderson in The Washington Times names the 18-year-old man and details how he was one of four DYRS detainees to escape a facility in South Carolina just a few months ago.

MetroAccess drivers have been caught falling asleep at the wheel 87 times in less than three years, according to agency statistics, the Washington Examiner reports. One driver was busted after running into a curb and blowing a tire with two disabled riders aboard. “The drivers were busted between July 2008 through May 2011 by special cameras inside the vehicles of the federally mandated paratransit service, which shuttles disabled and elderly riders unable to use Metro trains or buses. The cameras constantly film the drivers yet preserve the recordings only when the vehicle makes an unusual move, such as braking too hard, accelerating too quickly or hitting something.”

Strict gun laws, widespread smoking bans and a failure to legalize same-sex unions have left Maryland residents with the fewest personal freedoms of any state in the nation, according to a recent study, David Hill in The Washington Times tells us. The study — released this month by the Mercatus Center, a libertarian think tank based at George Mason University — ranked the Free State as 50th in personal freedom and 43rd in overall freedom, citing not just personal restrictions but tight regulations on labor, gambling and occupational licensing.

The Washington Post wrings out yet a third day’s story from its evidently wide-ranging recent poll. The subject today: “More than a third of city residents single out HIV/AIDS — first identified 30 years ago — as the city’s biggest health concern. Nationally, cancer and obesity get far more mentions.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Virginia E.W. Jackson is calling for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation in the wake of a badly botched gun-trafficking operation blamed for putting weapons in the hands of a border agent’s killers, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports. “While Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives acting Director Kenneth Melson is facing increasing pressure to step down, Jackson’s putting the blame on Holder, a former legal advisor to President Barack Obama.”

GOP presidential candidates are making stops in reliably blue state Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reports. “In the past three weeks, Maryland voters have gotten an up-close look at Republican candidates, possible candidates and party bigwigs, including pizza magnate Herman Cain, tea party star Sarah Palin and the top GOP budget maker in Congress, Rep. Paul Ryan.” The paper says “state Republicans say Maryland’s primary April 3 could prove influential, particularly if the GOP field remains murky and voters across the country take longer than usual to make up their minds.”

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