Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Corruption creeps


Photo by watchsmart on Flickr.
Commissioner charged with fraud: William Shelton, former ANC 5B commissioner, has been charged with fraud for allegedly stealing $30,000 in ANC funds. He is expected to plead guilty. (Post)

Thomas casts a long shadow: Harry Thomas, Jr. started scheming to embezzle money even before he took office, but he couldn't have done it without the help or willful ignorance of some other officials. (City Paper)

Senator costs DC an election: A senator has cost the District nearly as much Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. embezzled, by placing an anonymous hold on a bill to speed DC's special election to replace Thomas. (Roll Call)

DDOT cancels streetcar contract: DC has canceled the $8.7 million United Streetcar purchase order and will reconsider competing bids. Inekon, DDOT's original streetcar supplier, protested the award to United Streetcar on technical grounds. (WBJ, Dan M)

Performance parking in Georgetown: DDOT is talking with stakeholders about bringing performance parking to Georgetown. Although officials insist it is strictly exploratory, they have already begun the groundwork for implementation. (Patch)

Maryland prefers gas tax to sales tax: Maryland's leaders would much rather see a gas tax hike than a sales tax hike to pay for transportation. (WAMU)

Taxi tumult over surcharges: For two hours, taxicab drivers spoke out against eliminating surcharges like those for extra passengers and luggage. Drivers said the changes would put them out of business. (Post)

Bus cameras show the story: Metro has released hundreds of drivecam clips showing crashes, traffic violations and near-misses from its Metrobus fleet. Ted Harris, acting head of Metro's bus fleet, says the clips are used in training. (WTOP)

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David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast living in Mount Vernon Square. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin

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The thing I saw most in the clips is how some pedestrians risk their necks crossing against lights and in areas where they can't be seen.

That and bus drivers running red lights, that's scary too.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 12, 2012 8:57 am • linkreport

Those taxi drivers sure are comical. I read in the Express newspaper this morning that one of them described the proposal to limit the age of the cars they use as 'genocide'!

by renegade09 on Jan 12, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

Despite how much Suderman tries to vindicate Tommy Wells, or how much Wells trys to deflect the blame, Wells bears a large portion of the blame in CYITC's shenanigans.

I particularly loved this Wells gem:

"Wells says the reporting requirements he foisted on the CYITC in 2007 forced Thomas to submit fraudulent documents that created the paper trail"

Umm... nice try Wells, but as we saw Thomas wasn't submitted documents at all until last year (2010) when Tim Dys accusations got traction and the District AG started its discovery.

One might be able to forgive Wells one CYITC issue, but their shenanigans have been ongoing for 6 or 7 years.

Wells has generally been about as useless on the Council as Cheh, spending his time and the time of his Council staff (like Cheh) on ridiculous pet projects and tiny "feel good" initiatives that benefit a tiny handful of city residents (if anyone at all) rather than tackling the fundamental structural problems this city has. I would have a little more respect for the guy if he didn't do what everyone else in this town does and pretend to be the "teflon man" when what we really need are people who take responsibility for their actions.

by freely on Jan 12, 2012 9:51 am • linkreport

Shelton pocketed $30K in ANC funds? That's barely pocket change in this town.

by Jack Love on Jan 12, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

I have no sympathy at all for the taxi drivers. There hasn't been any proposal in which they were on the other side, and didn't complain about loss of money.

Fortunately, many DC residents know the deal. If you board (lets say at Union Station) and the driver pops the trunk to allow your bags, put them right on inside the vehicle with you. I've had airplane boarding-sized bags and been charged for something that could have sat on the seat. Imagine those not familiar with that scam. They got what they wanted the other month and this needs to be part of the deal.

WRT streetcars, why did the city move forward with the Oregon company if they had a lower technical score. Did the lower cost analysis mitigate the lower score?

WCP: I don't follow Suderman's "Gray shouldn't have stood by Thomas for so long" line of reason. I don't recall him standing by his man.

by HogWash on Jan 12, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

@Jack Love -- that is why this is pathetic. Poor guy will probably go to prison, lose his pension, house, and marriage, for the price of a new Chevy. Stupid.

Same goes with Thomas -- stealing $350k is not enough, compared to what he is losing. If you are going to steal, make the risk worth it: don't go for anything less $3-4M, or at least 2-3 times the value of your house.

Most embezzlement cases work this way; the amount stolen is too low by a factor of 10 compared to what is risked.

by goldfish on Jan 12, 2012 10:15 am • linkreport

@Hogwash --

Inekon's filing pointed out three ways in which DDOT's selection process deviated from the criteria spelled out in the streetcar procurement (amended) RFP: It didn't reject United Streetcar's submission as non-responsive when it failed to garner the minimum number of technical points required; it didn't weight technical points properly vs. price (60-40); and it awarded Buy America points after removing that factor from the criteria. Fixing any one of these errors would have resulted in the contract being awarded to Inekon rather than United.

by skeptical on Jan 12, 2012 10:41 am • linkreport

Performance Parking is NOT just a way to increase parking rates but actually something meant to increase parking efficiency. However, it seems like they always pilot PP in places where the result will be increased parking fees, giving the concept a bad name.

Why not implement PP downtown? If that happened, many places downtown (like on Constitution) would have nearly free parking on weekday evenings because there's not much demand. That would show that PP isn't some kind of conspiracy to raise parking rates and would quicken its adoption throughout the city.

by Falls Church on Jan 12, 2012 10:48 am • linkreport

@Skeptical..Thanks!

Considering that, do you know why the district selected them anyway? Sounds fishy.

by HogWash on Jan 12, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

Good question Hogwash. To borrow from StrangeFruit's comment to a prior posting on this:

"Forbes Magazine also pointed out that, "Oregon Iron Works, got its start in the plush world of military contracting, and later used these political connections to become the only US-based manufacturer of streetcars." And, the company's president, former lobbyist Chandra Brown, is good at winning government contractors, but not delivering a competitive product (streetcars)on-time."

by DCster on Jan 12, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

No idea. United was the low bid and, presumably, their technical score was low because they have essentially no track record -- the logic could be that they've gotta start somewhere so the cost savings might justify giving them the chance.

by Skeptical on Jan 12, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

The main bone of contention appears to be the points awarded for "Buy America" that weren't in the original RFP. Another faux pas in the ready-fire-aim saga that is the DC streetcar program. Good for Inekon for blowing the whistle when DDOT and politically-connected bidder tried to pull a fast one.

by Paulus on Jan 12, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

These links seem over editorialized, or under fact-checked today, more than usual...

by @SamuelMoore on Jan 12, 2012 11:49 am • linkreport

@SamuelMoore

Where do you see inaccuracies?

by David Edmondson on Jan 12, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

So what will become the streetcars that DC bought from the Czech Republic that are now sitting in Greenbelt (with the city paying rent of course)? Will they ever hit the streets? If not, why were they purchased in the first place? What about he city-financed trip for DDOT officials and SE residents to Portland to "observe" their streetcar system? What was the point of that boondoggle? When will streetcars run by the Anacostia Naval Annex? If not next week, then why are the signs warning drivers to watch for streetcars already in place? Oh yea, and the most important question of all...how will the streetcars be powered?

But the bigger question, doesn't DC have an Inspector General who is supposed to be asking these types of questions?

by dcdriver on Jan 12, 2012 12:50 pm • linkreport

The elimination of those extra fees seems worth the slight increase; especially the per passenger surcharge. Just out of curiosity, does anyone know when these new cab fares go into effect? Also according to this article regarding the cab fares http://tinyurl.com/7ge3yrx gratuity is already a part of the fare; does anyone know this to be the case?

by Joe on Jan 12, 2012 1:27 pm • linkreport

A gasoline tax will hurt rural people because driving is their only transportation option.

Perhaps the gasoline tax could be set in proportion to the population density so that rates would be higher in more densely populated counties.

by The Civic Center on Jan 12, 2012 1:49 pm • linkreport

When hacks try and scam bag handling fees, etc, just take it firim their tip

by TGEOA on Jan 12, 2012 1:52 pm • linkreport

The streetcars sitting in Greenbelt were purchased for the Anacostia streetcar. It's looking extremely unlikely that they will be ever used on that line, and I give 50/50 odds on that line ever operating at all.

by andrew on Jan 12, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

@TheCivicCenter:

Perhaps the gasoline tax could be set in proportion to the population density so that rates would be higher in more densely populated counties.

I'm sure these rural independent stalwarts will find a market-based solution to the problem of higher gas prices without putting their hands in the pockets of their densely populated neighbors.

by oboe on Jan 12, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

@andrew

And yet, incredibly, DDOT has already put up street car-related traffic signs along that line. I thought the trend was against extraneous traffic signs (ie "Deaf Child" etc), yet here we have signs for a streetcar line that is not operating and that may never operate. I think there was some politics involved here, put up the signs, get people thinking about the line, and maybe the money for it will magically appear.

by dcdriver on Jan 12, 2012 5:51 pm • linkreport

Gas is already higher in densely populated areas. Plus it would have a negative effect anyway as the people in densely populated areas would just switch to other modes.

by Canaan on Jan 12, 2012 8:18 pm • linkreport

Reducing from 114 to 70 for the number of days until a special election is held makes it significantly more likely that a candidate with ready-made access to deep financial resources gets a huge leg up in the election. Sure, it results in providing the people with representation sooner than later. But at a high cost to the goal of making our political system conducive to allowing candidates to pursue an unexpected opportunity through grassroots outreach. Yes, I want to see people elected to office who can demonstrate the ability to conduct an effective outreach campaign. But this reduces the time period so much, it makes running too elusive and provides voters fewer meaningful choices. Injurious to the health of our political system. Norton should drop her support for this. No, I don't like anonymous senatorial holds.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jan 13, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

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