- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009


Locals urge dropping the gun amendment

A regional group of elected officials is urging Congress to approve a bill that gives the District a full vote in the House without any unrelated amendments.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Board of Directors on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution urging passage of the D.C. Voting Rights Bill without language that would repeal most of the city’s gun-control laws.

The board has a history of supporting greater political rights for the District dating to 1972, when members passed a resolution supporting Home Rule.

The board includes local elected officials from the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Although the District has elected a representative to the House since the 1970s, that delegate can only vote in committees.

Ex-D.C. auditor sentenced for bribe

A former D.C. tax auditor from Silver Spring was sentenced Wednesday to four months in prison for taking a $6,000 bribe.

El-Hadj Drame, 36, also has to pay restitution and perform 100 hours of community service, federal prosecutors said.

He pleaded guilty in November to accepting the bribe from the owner of a city business. In return, Drame told the owner he would lower the company’s tax liability without anyone’s knowledge, prosecutors said.

After explaining the scheme to the business owner, Drame met him Nov. 14 and received a white envelope full of cash. A day later, he informed the company’s accountant of the reduced tax liability.

Drame was conducting a tax audit on the business when he created the scheme, prosecutors said.



Schools chief eyes job cuts

A vast reorganization and 179 fewer jobs are among the proposals Baltimore schools Chief Executive Officer Andres Alonso made Tuesday to close a budget deficit.

Low-performing schools would be closed or merged with higher-performing facilities.

“We do not want to have a school system where kids are settling for a third, fourth choice,” Mr. Alonso said before he presented his plan and proposed budget for the 2009-10 academic year to the school board.

A 15-percent reduction of central office staff from 1,186 workers to 1,007 would help save $55 million, he said. Those whose jobs are cut would be able to apply for other positions in the district.

The proposed cuts would mark a second year of downsizing at headquarters under Mr. Alonso’s administration. Last year, 310 positions were eliminated.

Mr. Alonso said he wants headquarters to be lean so more money can go directly to schools. He favors giving principals flexibility over spending, within a framework, and holding them accountable for results.

“The schools have to be at the center of the universe, and central has to revolve around the schools,” he said.


Motion to dismiss in bribe probe

A Baltimore city councilwoman and a developer are trying to get corruption charges against them dismissed.

Attorneys for City Councilwoman Helen Holton filed a motion asking a judge to throw out the four-count indictment. They argued that Mrs. Holton did not do anything illegal.

She is accused of voting in favor of tax breaks for developer Ronald Lipscomb after he paid for a poll conducted on her behalf. But the councilwoman’s attorneys said Mrs. Holton is protected from prosecution for her legislative acts under the Maryland Constitution.

Mr. Lipscomb’s attorneys are asking for the bribery count against him to be dismissed. They say his payment for the poll was a campaign contribution, not a bribe.

A hearing on the motions to dismiss is scheduled for April 23.


State to explore teacher tracking

Maryland needs to do a better job tracking teacher performance, the state board of education said Wednesday.

The board said that it would explore a partnership with neighboring states to create a regional database. The goal would be to keep tabs on the performance of teachers and students as they move from school to school and state to state.

Maryland is well behind other states in setting up such databases, state Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said. Twenty-one states already have systems in place that track teachers, while Maryland only has a system that assigns a number to each student to track individual progress.

The state has applied for a federal grant to extend the database to include teachers.



Republican wins county board race

Republican John C. Cook narrowly defeated Democrat Ilryong Moon in a special election to represent the Braddock District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, according to unofficial election returns Wednesday.

With all 25 precincts reporting, Mr. Cook had 6,292 votes to Mr. Moon’s 6,203.

The victory could be another sign of hope for Republicans entering a crucial election season in November, when all 100 seats in the House of Delegates and the governor’s mansion are up for grabs. The win is a Republican pickup on the 10-member board, but Democrats still control the state’s largest locality by a 7-3 margin.

Results from the election held Tuesday had been postponed because of a problem with a voting machine. Elections officials finalized the unofficial returns Wednesday, and Mr. Moon, a county school board member, said he would not contest the results.

“I thank the Board of Elections for its difficult but professional work today counting the votes that were cast,” said Mr. Cook, who will replace board Chairwoman Sharon S. Bulova. “There is no greater honor in public life than to be selected by your neighbors to be their representative in government.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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