- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Bus kills 2 women in crosswalk in NW

Two women were killed when they were hit by a Metrobus last night in Northwest about 6:40 p.m., D.C. police said.

The Route 54 bus was headed to the Takoma Metro station, Metro officials said. It hit the two women in a crosswalk while turning left from Seventh Street onto Pennsylvania Avenue. Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said it appears the bus had a green light and the women had a walk signal.

Both women were from Virginia and in their 40s. One died at the scene, and the other died at George Washington University Hospital. Their names were not released last night.

The bus operator, a Metrobus driver since 2000, will be charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, Miss Farbstein said.

This is the second fatal pedestrian accident involving Metrobus this year. The first was Jan. 16 on 16th Street Northwest. Carla Gonzalez, 24, was struck when she ran in front of a bus heading north on 16th Street about 10:30 p.m.

Last night’s accident brings the number of pedestrians killed in the District in the past 11 days to six. Last year, there were 17 pedestrian fatalities in the District.

In an effort to reduce bus accidents, Metro recently began testing ultrasonic technology on its buses which would alert drivers to nearby obstacles. The devices have been installed on 50 buses in Northern Virginia.



Loudoun considers property-tax increase

Loudoun County officials are deciding whether to increase the tax rate for homeowners by about 8.5 percent at a time when average home values have dropped for the first time in more than a decade.

The county’s proposed operating budget of $1.2 billion for the next fiscal year increases funding for the county’s growing school system.

The tax rate would rise to 97.5 cents for each $100 of assessed value.

But homeowners would not be hit as hard as they were in past years when soaring assessments led to big increases in their tax bills, even when tax rates were lowered. With falling home values, homeowners would see their tax bills increase by an average of about 2 percent, or $85.

County Administrator Kirby Bowers said he is holding down spending by most county departments. But the county is under pressure because of its fast growth.


Verizon pays $2 million for directory mistakes

Verizon Communications will pay $2 million to Virginia customers affected by mistakes in phone directories.

The settlement was approved by the State Corporation Commission on Tuesday. It comes after a two-year investigation by state regulators of complaints about wrong numbers, dropped listings, published private lines and other mistakes.

A report last year by the commission said the discrepancies were likely a result of both computer and human errors.

Under the settlement, Verizon could face up to $4 million in payments if listings are not improved over the next three years. The settlement establishes a 99-percent accuracy rate, according to a commission statement.

Customers affected by errors since 2004 have until May 14 to submit a claim with the commission’s Division of Communications.


Mother not competent for trial in son’s death

A Dinwiddie County judge has ruled that a woman accused of fatally stabbing her 6-year-old son is not mentally fit to stand trial.

At a hearing Tuesday, the judge ordered Julie Futrell, 34, into the care of the state mental-health department for up to six months — where doctors will try to rehabilitate her so that she understands the charges against her and can assist in her own defense.

Commonwealth’s Attorney George Marable III said that if Miss Futrell cannot be restored to competency, she technically could be held by the state mental-health department for the rest of her life because she is charged with capital murder.

Her son was found stabbed to death in their home Nov. 26.

Miss Futrell was arrested the next day after she was found in the psychiatric ward of Southside Regional Medical Center, where she apparently had checked herself in.


Schools settle suit on urban journalism

More than two dozen urban-journalism programs throughout the U.S. will not use race as a criterion for enrollment under a settlement with a white high school student who was rejected by one of the programs.

Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and other principals agreed to the settlement in return for the Center for Individual Rights withdrawing its legal challenge of the programs, both parties said yesterday.

In September, the center filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of Emily Smith, 16, who said she was accepted last spring to the Urban Journalism Workshop at Virginia Commonwealth University. One week later, she said, she was rejected after program sponsors learned she is white.

Since 1984, VCU’s College of Mass Communications has conducted the two-week summer journalism program during which students attend classes, live on campus and produce a newspaper. At the end of the workshop, one student is awarded a scholarship.

The program is intended to encourage minority students to pursue journalism careers.

The settlement requires VCU and other programs sponsored by Dow Jones to select students “without regard to race.” The programs also agree to publicly acknowledge they will offer no preferential treatment or discriminate against any prospect “on the basis of race or ethnicity.”



School system stops automated calls

Computer glitches have prompted Washington County public school officials to pull the plug on automated morning telephone calls informing parents of snow days and delays.

The latest error occurred Tuesday, when parents were called as early as 4:30 a.m. with an outdated message of a school closing six days earlier, the school system’s information management director told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

The AlertNow Rapid Communications Service also malfunctioned last week, when it called fewer than half of the 14,700 participating families with news of the Feb. 7 closure.

School officials said they still will use the $25,000-a-year service to deliver other types of messages.


UMES cancels concert after violence reports

A homecoming concert featuring hip-hop star Busta Rhymes and rapper Jim Jones was canceled after University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) officials received what they described as police intelligence linking the performers with violence.

Officials at the historically black college tried to explain their decision to cancel the Feb. 21 concert in a meeting Tuesday with about 400 students at the Student Services Center. They cited the death of Mr. Rhymes’ bodyguard, who was killed on the Brooklyn, N.Y., set of the singer’s “Touch It,” video last year and a shooting after a Jones concert in Virginia Beach in September that left one dead and three wounded.

“Their music advocates gang activity and violence, and with recent concerts, there has been [reports of] violence,” university spokeswoman Suzanne Street told the Salisbury Daily Times. “The decisions are based on intelligence and in the best interest of students and the campus community.”

The concert was set for the 1,100-seat Ella Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center and would have included entertainers Monica, Baby Cham and DJ Nix in da Mix.

Student leaders were notified early Tuesday of a Maryland State Police report that led to the “tough decision for the administration which was certainly hard for students to hear,” Miss Street said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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