- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

Zoning shenanigans
The D.C. government bungled its way into yet another lawsuit last week, this one involving a new halfway house being placed in Ward 5.
A group of residents calling themselves the Concerned Citizens for Ward 5 filed a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order in D.C. Superior Court on Friday against the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and Bannum Inc. to stop the Florida-based company from moving forward with its plans.
Bannum has a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to turn an old warehouse at 2210 Adams Place NE, near the corner of Bladensburg and Queens Chapel roads, into a community corrections center for anywhere from 150 to 300 returning offenders.
That area is zoned for commercial and light manufacturing. But a halfway house is classified as community residential housing, which makes the construction of the facility in that location illegal, residents said.
The particulars of the suit seem to indicate that DCRA and the D.C. Board of Zoning attempted to do an end run around those who live nearby.
David A. Clark, director for DCRA, sent a letter to attorney Donald M. Temple, representing concerned residents, telling him the reconstruction of the property and its use as a stopping point for felons was a matter of right, calling it "institutional" and not up for community scrutiny.
And DCRA didn't notify the community of the plans, which were to be completed by April 1, until mid-January.
When D.C. Council member Vincent Orange, Ward 5 Democrat, found out about it, he immediately contacted the Bureau of Prisons.
"Accordingly, I would ask that you advise Bannum Inc. of my position and withdraw any plans … in locating a halfway house," Mr. Orange said in a letter to Stewart Rowles, the bureau's community corrections administrator.
He then contacted DCRA Director David A. Clark and demanded a stop-work order on the project, but nothing was done in either case.
"Ward 5 currently houses three of the six halfway houses in the city," Mr. Orange said, adding, he "doesn't want another one."
Another trick to the saga is that the law firm of Holland and Knight, which represents Bannum, has tried for the past two years to alter D.C. zoning regulations to make halfway houses a matter of right. The firm's efforts were undermined by council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.
Now it's up to the courts to decide, but that's politics.
Goodbye to stress
Sen. Malfourd W. "Bo" Trumbo has decided that 14 years in the Virginia General Assembly is enough.
Mr. Trumbo, 48, cited his battle with diabetes and the stress of the legislative sessions in announcing his retirement last week.
"I have, over the years, increased in weight and been unable to eat properly. In consultation with my doctor, I lost about 25 to 30 pounds and started an exercise regimen before the session," the Republican from Fincastle said.
"I had to make a choice. I used this session as a gauge."
Mr. Trumbo, a lawyer by profession, served a two-year term in the House of Delegates before winning the first of three four-year terms in the Senate representing the 22nd District. Thanks to his broad knowledge of the Senate's operating rules, he took command of the influential Senate Rules Committee in 1998 after the Republican Party claimed its first Senate majority.
His exit adds him to a succession of lawmakers most of them Democrats who have left the legislature from southwestern Virginia, a region that has seen its clout in the General Assembly diminish as a result of redistricting, population shifts toward major urban areas and other factors.
Many of them cited the increased stress and incivility of the legislature as a factor in their decisions to leave, just as Mr. Trumbo did in an interview Tuesday.
"The tension between the House and the Senate has taken its toll," he said.
Though a member of the majority, Mr. Trumbo was never a partisan warrior and preferred compromise with Democrats to conflict. It earned him respect in both parties.
"He was the kind of legislator who, when he came to Richmond, put Virginia's interest first and didn't necessarily try to put partisan interests first," Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, said. "He was one of those members who forged compromise on very difficult issues. I know I looked to him on any number of issues because he had that sense of fairness."
As chairman of the Rules Committee, Mr. Trumbo was a key figure in keeping partisanship in check a task that became tougher in recent years.
"The transition between Republican and Democrat that in and of itself causes tensions on the institution," he said. "I've taken too much of that on personally to try to make sure the institution isn't harmed."
Little things that came to him as the Senate's chief disciplinarian also added up. For example, he said, senators may not use Senate postage to mail newsletters, so some of them tried to put their political promotions into letter form and send them at state expense.
Mr. Trumbo had to tell them no.
"They're generating this stuff for political purposes," he said. "I don't want anybody to say anybody did anything improperly. It's important to me that we don't have any of that."
In with the old
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has appointed a former congressman who led his postelection transition into office, and a member of his government streamlining and efficiency panel to posts on the University of Virginia's governing board.
L.F. Payne, a Democrat who represented Virginia's 5th District in Congress for five terms before stepping down to make an unsuccessful race for lieutenant governor in 1997, will hold a seat on the university's Board of Visitors.
Mr. Payne, of Nelson County, is chief executive officer for McGuire Woods Consulting, one of the state's most influential government affairs firms.
After Mr. Warner's victory in the 2001 governor's election, Mr. Warner named him to head his transition effort.
The governor also appointed John O. "Dubby" Wynne, the retired president and CEO of Norfolk-based Landmark Communications Inc. Mr. Wynne served last year on Warner's Commission on Efficiency and Effectiveness, a panel headed by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder to find ways to cut the costs of government.
Susan "Syd" Dorsey, who manages IBM Corp.'s global marketing to state and local governments, will serve on the UVa. board along with Georgia M. Willis of Ruther Glen, a vice president of Virginia Heartland Bank. Both women received their undergraduate degrees from the university in the early 1980s.
Question and answer
Stubborn superintendents and belligerent boards have made them gray, but parents in Prince George's County are still being asked to turn in their homework.
This week, parents who met with the Maryland Association of Boards of Education were asked to turn in their questions for the candidates whom they will quiz next week beforehand so the questions could be screened.
"They said they wanted to make sure there was nothing personal in there," said one disgruntled parent. "It is not as if we are going to ask them about their sexual orientation."
This latest incident is only another straw for parents who say they have been excluded from the selection process of the new chief executive officer who will replace Iris T. Metts on July 1.
The board now has before it three finalists, including one, Andre Hornsby, who has a history of dealing with parents and school board members that rings an all-too-familiar bell for many in the county.
One parent said she was struck by the manner in which school board President Beatrice Tignor has "processionally choreographed the search process."
"This has been their process, and this will be their CEO," she said.
Ehrlich starts typing
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is expanding his multimedia presence with a biweekly newspaper column, adding to the e-mails and talk-show appearances he has used to spread his message since taking office.
The media-saturating former congressman's campaign committee sent out an e-mail bulletin two weeks ago asking supporters to tell their legislators to support Mr. Ehrlich's plan to legalize slot machines to help balance the state's budget.
The new governor has also appeared frequently on regional television programs and talk radio, particularly in the Baltimore market, where he developed a rapport with radio hosts and disk jockeys during his days in Congress. That rapport led him to take a Polar Bear Plunge into the Chesapeake Bay in January.
During his eight years in Congress, he hosted a monthly program on public-access television and wrote a column for weekly community papers, including the Dundalk Eagle in his Baltimore County district. The topics ran the gamut from national defense to Maryland state issues.
The new column, titled "Eye on Annapolis," also will be for smaller weekly newspapers that do not have the staff or the budget to open a bureau in the state capital.
"There is a lot going on in Annapolis right now," Mr. Ehrlich said in a statement. "The challenge before us fully funding every school, balancing the budget and improving the way Annapolis does business impacts every Maryland family. People want to know what's happening."
Mr. Ehrlich's first column as governor, distributed last week, thanked state employees for their work during the snowstorm two weeks ago.
Maryland Democratic Party spokesman David Paulson said the column was well within the scope of what public servants can legally do, but he called it an "official activity that masks a political communication."
"I think he would be wise not to take on too much lest he forget entirely that he's supposed to have a slots bill on the table by the end of the week," Mr. Paulson said. "This, though, fits with Bob. I think he cares more about politics and issues than results."
Staff writers Brian DeBose and Vaishali Honawar and the Associated Press contributed to this column.

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