Tag Archives: District of Columbia

Union: Look to Circulator and D.C. Streetcar for evidence of why Metro shouldn’t be privatized

Source: Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post, May 16, 2017
 
Reliability problems with the D.C. Circulator and planning and construction shortfalls of the city’s streetcar system are examples of why the District and Metro should be wary of privatizing more services, the transit agency’s union said Tuesday.  Although the District Department of Transportation owns the Circulator buses and oversees the D.C. streetcar, Amalgamated Transit Union International says there’s an implicit warning for Metro.  “Fix the service you have; take responsibility for the quality of service you have,” said Michael McCall-Delgado, a strategic researcher at ATU International and author of a new report, “Fool D.C. Twice.” … The union report holds the District partially responsible for the decline of the region’s transit system, saying that instead of investing in Metro, local leaders pushed seemingly “hip” and “premium ridership” projects to attract millennials to the city. …

… ATU, which represents more than 9,000 Metro employees through its Local 689 chapter, has rejected Wiedefeld’s shift toward privatization, including a proposal that would use private contractors to fill station manager or track inspection jobs on the second phase of the Silver Line. Contractors could also be used to operate such facilities as new bus garages. Separately, Metro has nearly doubled its spending on private contractors over the past two years. In its report, however, the union takes D.C. officials to task for failing to hold contractors accountable for construction, planning and service failures. The report highlights how the Circulator, operated by Cincinnati-based First Transit, has been beset by maintenance problems for years “while avoiding government oversight,” according to the union. Circulator buses have a notoriously poor reliability record, with the 2016 audit finding an average of 22 defects per bus. Many of the defects — nearly three per bus — were tied to safety equipment and should have been caught during routine inspections, the audit said. And the problems have persisted: A report this week from WAMU said reliability issues have left the Circulator up to 10 buses short of its quota when buses depart its lots each day. …

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Privatize Metro? Wiedefeld’s Outsourcing Plan Provokes Union Wrath And May Not Save Money
Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, May 1, 2017
 
In his long-term financial proposal to get Metro back on track and back on budget released April 19, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld included a few vague sentences that could open the door to a partial privatization of the system.  The sentences, while far from a proposal for a large-scale privatization, have raised alarm among members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents 9,200 frontline employees. “They’re attacking us anyway they can,” Union president Jackie Jeter said to reporters, just moments after the transit workers turned their backs on WMATA’s leaders and staged a walkout during a board meeting last week. …

Transit Union Turns Back on Metro Leadership, Stages Walkout Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, April 27, 2017

Dozens of members of the D.C. region’s largest transit union turned their backs on Metro’s leaders during a tense board meeting on Thursday, then raised their fists to the air and marched out of WMATA headquarters in downtown Washington, defiantly chanting “We move this city.”  The labor action was to protest Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld’s new proposals to reduce costs at the nation’s second-busiest mass transit system, and the union’s president took the unusual step of divulging confidential details of ongoing contract negotiations. …

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What a New Study on Vouchers Means for Trump’s Agenda

Source: Leah Askarainam, The Atlantic, April 28, 2017

… But a report released Thursday found largely negative results for students who participated in the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, suggesting that many of the program’s beneficiaries might actually fare better if they turn down the private-school money.  The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) compared test scores for two groups of students: students who, through a lottery process, were selected to receive vouchers, and students who applied for yet didn’t receive them. The study compared the progress of both groups of students from spring of 2012 to 2014 and found that, a year after they applied for the scholarship, math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. What’s more, after narrowing the pool of students down to those in kindergarten through fifth grade, both reading and math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. …

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A Federal Funding Fight Over D.C. Vouchers
Source: Hannah Hess, Roll Call, Hill Blotter blog, March 17, 2015

Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to protect the D.C. school voucher system, a GOP pet program championed by Speaker John A. Boehner and others. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans are gearing up to move forward on a bill reauthorizing vouchers in the nation’s capital, an initiative known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. They are concerned the White House has again signaled the demise of the federally funded private-school program in its fiscal 2016 budget request…. The president’s budget includes $43.2 million to remain available until expended, a reduction from $45 million in fiscal 2015. The administration wants $3.2 million of the proposed figure to be used for an evaluation of the program…..

Graduation rates up for D.C. public schools, down for charter schools
Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, March 17, 2015

D.C. Public Schools’ graduation rate increased last school year by two percentage points, to 58 percent, but the city’s public charter schools recorded a drop of nearly seven points, to 69 percent, according to new data. The citywide average for the Class of 2014 — 61 percent — was almost unchanged from the year before, according to data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The city’s graduation rate remains far below the national average of 81 percent….

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AMR’s D.C. Crews Vote to Form Local Union

Source: EMS World, March 24, 2017

Nearly 200 EMS professionals at American Medical Response (AMR) have voted to form a local union with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 20.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducted the union election on Tuesday and Thursday. The NLRB counted ballots Thursday evening with more than 70% voting in favor of unionizing. EMTs and paramedics at AMR transport patients to and from facilities across the metro area and provide backup 9-1-1 medical response in coordination with the DC Fire Department. The private EMS provider signed a contract with the district in 2017. Workers formed a union to address ongoing issues that impact patient care, such as scheduling, fatigue, training, equipment and employee turnover. …

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D.C. private ambulance drivers consider unionizing
Source: Sam Ford, WJLA, March 21, 2017
 
In the year since the American Medical Response private ambulances came on, the number of horror stories around D.C. ambulance care have mostly gone away. But workers are voting Tuesday and Thursday on whether to have the AFSCME, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, union represent them. Since march of last year, AMR’s private ambulances take the low priority patients in D.C. freeing up the city’s ambulance for the more serious cases. But some of the EMTs and paramedics of AMR are saying they are pushing for a union, hoping for better equipment, better training and scheduling. … D.C. currently spends $12 million a year with AMR.

EMTs for DC contractor say personal vehicles being broken into while they respond to 911 calls
Source: Tisha Lewis, FOX5, February 9, 2017

[Ed. Note: AFSCME is currently organizing these workers]

Several first responders for a city medical transportation contractor said thieves are breaking into their cars while they are responding to emergency calls across the District.  Ambulances for American Medical Response are dispatched to several hospitals around Washington D.C. But their employees said a parking problem at work is making their cars targets to theft.  Paramedic Kyle Seymour said his employers refuses to move the ambulances in their parking lot to give workers a place to park in. …

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School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

Source: Martin Carnoy, Economic Policy Institute, February 28, 2017
 
Betsy DeVos, the new U.S. secretary of education, is a strong proponent of allowing public education dollars to go to private schools through vouchers, which enable parents to use public school money to enroll their children in private schools, including religious ones. … This report seeks to inform that debate by summarizing the evidence base on vouchers. Studies of voucher programs in several U.S. cities, the states of Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and in Chile and India, find limited improvements at best in student achievement and school district performance from even large-scale programs. In the few cases in which test scores increased, other factors, namely increased public accountability, not private school competition, seem to be more likely drivers. And high rates of attrition from private schools among voucher users in several studies raises concerns. The second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools. In the only area in which there is evidence of small improvements in voucher schools—in high school graduation and college enrollment rates—there are no data to show whether the gains are the result of schools shedding lower-performing students or engaging in positive practices. Also, high school graduation rates have risen sharply in public schools across the board in the last 10 years, with those increases much larger than the small effect estimated on graduation rates from attending a voucher school.

… The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs. Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear. The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. …

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Teachers At A D.C. Charter School Want To Try Something New: Unionizing

Source: Martin Austermuhle, WAMU, February 22, 2017
 
Advocates for public charter schools often argue they’re a better alternative to traditional public schools because charters aren’t weighed down by a central administration, school boards and a unionized workforce. But teachers at one D.C. charter school are now looking to do something that’s commonplace among their colleagues in D.C. Public Schools: form a union.  Teachers at Paul Public Charter School in the Brightwood neighborhood of Northwest D.C. have submitted a petition to the school’s management asking that they be permitted to create a union, the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff. It would be associated with the American Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers and staff at 229 charter schools in 15 states. If they succeed, it would become the first union in D.C.’s charter sector, which educates close to half of the city’s 90,000 students. Paul converted from a traditional public school to a charter school in 1999. … But any move towards unionization could face a number of challenges, both political and philosophical. Though charter schools are publicly funded, they are exempt from the D.C. law requiring the government to enter collective bargaining agreements with public employees. An organizing effort in 2012 by the Washington Teachers’ Union — which represents teachers in DCPS — fizzled due to legal and political obstacles. A decision last year from the National Labor Relations Board means the teachers’ attempt to unionize will come under the federal law that applies to private sector workers. That gives the school’s management two choices: willingly recognize the teachers’ request for a union, or call an election in which staff would have to vote on whether to unionize. …

Feds cite D.C. charters for high suspension rates, particularly for black students

Source: Joe Davidson, The Washington Post, February 14, 2017

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says suspension and expulsion rates for charters in the capital city are double the national rate and disproportionately high for black students and those with disabilities. … When D.C. charter schools kick students out, they are not allowed to return, the GAO reported. They generally transfer to a traditional public school. … It’s no surprise that the greater suspension and expulsion rates for charter schools fall heavily on black students. From preschool discipline and throughout the criminal justice system, studies have shown that black people are treated more harshly than white people for similar conduct. The GAO “found that the rates of suspension for Black students in D.C. charter schools were about six times higher than the rates for White students and the rates for students with disabilities were almost double the rates for students without disabilities.” …

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Life Is Hell for Tenants of Giant D.C. Slumlord Sanford Capital-And Taxpayers are Subsidizing the Company

Source: Alexa Mills and Andrew Giambrone, Washington CityPaper, February 2, 2017

… Mold, vermin, broken refrigerators and toilets, children and elderly living without heat and air conditioning, units open to vagrants no matter how many times tenants complain—these are standard conditions at buildings owned by Sanford Capital, the company that owns G Street Apartments and at least 16 other D.C. properties, amounting to hundreds of units across the city. Sanford Capital has been buying apartment complexes that are home to the city’s working poor for more than a decade. In extensive reporting on the company’s practices, City Paper found that Sanford employs a systematic strategy for allowing buildings to become so squalid that residents are forced to leave. The company also files for evictions in bulk. In some cases, Sanford has rushed to replace the modest rents of the working poor with those of very low-income people who hold government-issued vouchers set at similar or higher rates—the District footing the bulk of the rent bill and ensuring a guaranteed stream of revenue for the company.

… According to D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), Sanford has amassed nearly $150,000 worth of fines since 2009 across 26 addresses.
Many residents in Sanford’s properties receive housing vouchers or other forms of rent assistance that are bankrolled by taxpayers. … D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against Sanford Capital in October, seeking a court-appointed receiver to oversee a rehabilitation plan for Terrace Manor, a Sanford property in Southeast. Racine is also asking the company to abate housing code violations and for restitution of rents tenants paid while Sanford was illegally neglecting apartments. … In other words, the city is simultaneously enriching and suing Sanford. … Estimating conservatively that vouchers average $1,000—some are more, some are less, and they depend on family income, among other factors—Sanford is being paid about $340,000 a month, or $3.7 million a year, by District and federal programs. … Advocates say Sanford accepts formerly homeless and low-income voucher tenants because the company is guaranteed to make money from them, at least for the duration of the benefits those tenants receive. The District’s rapid rehousing program, for example, helps people move into more stable environments than shelters, but the subsidy is time-limited so some landlords are reluctant to welcome participants. …

Metro halts plans to privatize parking

Source: Max Smith, WTOP, November 18, 2016

Metro has canceled a request for proposals to privatize its parking lots. Documents related to the procurement, dated Thursday, say that Metro must re-evaluate the requirements. When Metro published the initial formal request in September, it hoped to find a way to give a private company the responsibility for maintenance and upgrades in exchange for the rights to collect parking fees. General Manager Paul Wiedefeld included privatizing parking on his list of potential management changes for Metro back in March. Concerns about the proposal included whether there could be a conflict between maximizing parking revenue and maximizing the number of people who take the train rather than joining D.C. area traffic jams.

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The Deal That Could Hurt D.C. For 50 Years
Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, September 15, 2016

Public transit in Washington, D.C., is in rough shape. After years of safety issues, including several train collisions, the agency in charge, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA), is proposing to cut train service hours. But another proposal may be even more troubling. Two weeks ago, WMATA began taking bids from private companies to operate its parking facilities. In exchange for a big up-front payment to the agency, the winning company would collect fees from people parked at train stations for the next 50 years. … It discourages public transit. In order for the private company to make a profit, parking rates will have to go up — as much as 3% a year, according to WMATA. If it costs more money to park and ride the train, people may look for other ways into the city. We lose control of assets we own. In a similar 75-year deal, Chicago handed over its parking meters in 2008 to banking giant Morgan Stanley for a one-time $1.2 billion payment. But that’s not all it handed over. The city is penalized if they do anything that cuts into Morgan Stanley’s profit, like adding bus or bike lanes. … It’s short-term thinking. The parking facilities currently pull in nearly $50 million a year for WMATA. Privatization would send that money—and more—to a private company instead of the public. In Chicago, Morgan Stanley is on pace to make back its $1.2 billion upfront payment by 2020, with more than 60 years of meter money still to come. …

Metro Seeking Private Contractor to Manage Its Parking Garages; Prices Could Go Up
Source: Scott MacFarlane, NBC Washington, September 3, 2016

Metrorail is preparing to hand over responsibility of its lucrative parking garages to a private contractor, the News4 I-Team has learned. WMATA currently manages 26 parking garages and 30 parking lots among its stations in D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Now the agency is seeking bids from companies interested in operating, financing and maintaining the transit system’s parking system. … While WMATA would be giving up the bulk of its parking revenue, the contract would grant money to WMATA. While the amount is unknown, it could exceed WMATA’s current parking revenues. In its proposal to would-be contractors, WMATA suggests the price of “base parking fees” increase 3 percent each year for the duration of the deal. The agency said it would also consider expanding the hours during which parking is charged, to include holidays and late nights. … The bids from private contractors are due by Oct. 28. WMATA is seeking a 50-year agreement with the contractor, according to an agency proposal reviewed by the I-Team. The proposal said it expects to close the deal by next July 1. The contractor would oversee the system’s 59,267 daily parking spaces, 56 parking lots and garages, and 3,445 parking meters. …

Auditor: DC Schools Should Stop Outsourcing Food Service

Source: Associated Press, October 8, 2016

A report from the District of Columbia auditor said the city’s school system should stop turning over food service to outside contractors. The report released Friday said outsourcing food service has not saved the city money as school officials promised and will continue to cost the system millions of dollars a year. In their response to the auditor’s report, school officials said they continue to oppose bringing food services back in-house. Former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson repeatedly argued that food service was not a “core competency” of the school system. …

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Chartwells Era Ends As DCPS Selects New Food Providers – Following a whistleblower lawsuit last year
Source: Andrew Giambrone, Washington City Paper, May 23, 2016

The school-food provider at the heart of a whistleblower lawsuit in 2015 that revealed substandard food quality and fraud will not serve D.C. Public Schools students next academic year. DCPS announced in a statement on Friday that it has chosen DC Central Kitchen and SodexoMagic, with Revolution Foods as a subcontractor, to provide meals at more than 110 facilities. … The announcement follows a request for proposals DCPS posted in December, featuring a one year contract with four options years to renew. Still, which entities applied for the RFP won’t be publicly available until the contracts are approved because of procurement rules. Under the proposal, 12 schools in Ward 7 would be served by DC Central Kitchen, while the rest would be served by SodexoMagic and Revolution Foods. DC Central and Revolution served hundreds of thousands of meals last year. ….

Audit of Equipment Lays Bare D.C. Schools’ Problems in Kitchen, Again
Source: Jeffrey Anderson, Washington City Paper, March 14, 2016

The saga of D.C. Public Schools’ food services program took a troubling turn last month when D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson issued a “Management Alert Letter” informing officials that the program lacks an accurate and comprehensive inventory of kitchen equipment. Patterson and her staff visited several DCPS cafeterias and witnessed meal preparation and service, and interviewed cafeteria managers and staff workers. In assessing the equipment the schools use to prepare food, Patterson writes in a Feb. 12 letter to DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, “We witnessed inefficiencies and waste including equipment that we were told had been broken for a year or longer.” … Patterson intends to provide the D.C. Council with further information in the coming weeks so it can decide on whether to mandate “in-sourcing” the school food program, which could save the school district a considerable amount of money and result in more local control over what DCPS students eat. Her review looks at other school districts, such as Philadelphia, which contracted out with Aramark, a competitor of Chartwells, then brought food service back in-house, she says in an email to Washington City Paper.

Chartwells-Thompson withdraws from DC Schools contract
Source: Mike Buzalka, Food Management, July 15, 2015

Chartwells-Thompson recently settled a whistleblower lawsuit for $19 million that alleged it had mismanaged the dining program and overcharged the city. In her letter, Cass reiterated the company’s “vehement disagree[ment] with the allegations” and noted that “we chose to resolve this matter amicably instead of litigating which would have lasted for years and served as a significant distraction to us, DCPS and the District…Our hope was this resolution would allow us all to move past the distractions and return our collective focus to serving students.

Embattled D.C. schools food vendor quits contract, puts pressure on city
Source: Aaron C. Davis and Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, July 14, 2015

The vendor that provides food services to the D.C. Public Schools has told the D.C. Council that it wants to withdraw from the contract this fall, a sudden and unexpected move that puts immediate pressure on the District to find a new provider for nearly 100 schools. Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, the District schools’ embattled food vendor, informed council members Tuesday that it wants to quit the lucrative contract and move on after a large whistleblower settlement and wranglings over allegations of mismanagement.
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DC Water Closes Historic Deal

Source: Kyle Glazier, Bond Buyer, September 29, 2016

The DC Water and Sewer Authority closed on a historic deal Thursday, issuing the nation’s first Environmental Impact Bond (EIB) to fund the initial green infrastructure project in its DC Clean Rivers Project. The $25 million, tax-exempt EIB was sold in a private placement to the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and Calvert Foundation, netting DC Water a 3.43% interest rate that is comparable on a cost of funds basis to its historic cost. The proceeds of the bond will be used to construct green infrastructure to absorb and slow surges of stormwater during periods of heavy rainfall, preventing an overflow of untreated sewage (known as a combined sewer overflow, or CSO) into the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers or their tributaries. The green infrastructure includes absorbent materials and gardens that mimic natural rain absorption processes. … The investors will receive interest payments as typical for bondholders. Depending on the results, an additional payment may be due on the bonds’ mandatory tender date of April 1 2021. If runoff reduction is greater than 41.3%, a “tier 1” outcome, the investors will receive from DC Water an “outcome payment” of $3 million. In a tier 2 outcome where runoff reduction is 18.6% or better but less than 41.3%, the investors will be due only their normal principal and interest. In a failed tier 3 outcome where runoff reduction is less than 18.6%, the investors will owe DC Water a “risk share” payment of $3.3 million that the trustee will then factor into future payments. That would net the investors a roughly 0.5% return, and DC Water would abandon green infrastructure for traditional tunnels or “gray” infrastructure. …