Tag Archives: District of Columbia

A Safe Bet?

Source: Chris Heller, Washington City Paper, June 26, 2015

As light reflects off the water, blinding from view the scrap yards and concrete plants and parking lots, it’s easy to imagine the area’s future: a riverfront entertainment district that spans southeast to southwest, from Navy Yard to Fort McNair, the two ends anchored by two stadiums. The first, Nationals Park, opened seven years ago. It cost $693 million. The other, a new home for D.C. United, will be the most expensive soccer stadium in America. All told, about a billion dollars will be spent on these two stadiums. Both projects involve significant public investment, although each represents a distinct model of financing. Both pursue the same, long-sought dream to develop land along the Anacostia waterfront. And perhaps just as important, both reveal the lengths that policy-makers, past and present, will go to raise the profile of the District. If Nationals Park and the soccer stadium ignite a sports district as promised, it would stand counter to years of sports economics research. If they don’t … well, if that happens, the D.C. government will have subsidized two businesses owned by some very wealthy people. While Washington’s other sports owners not-so-quietly poke around for new digs—yes, Dan Snyder, that means you and the Pigskins—we’re left to wonder: which of these deals will become the model for future stadium deals in the District? Is either truly beneficial for the city’s economy? And when, exactly, is it okay to use public money for private sports?

Charter school founder, company agree to pay $3 million to settle lawsuit

Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, May 4, 2015

Charter school founder Kent Amos and his management company have agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged he used the company to divert taxpayer funds from the school for his personal gain.
A consent agreement was filed in court Friday by the District of Columbia, Amos, the Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter Schools, and the management company, of which Amos is president. According to the agreement — which is expected to become effective as soon as a judge signs it — the money will go to the school or to its “successors.” ….
District sues, accuses CEO of using charter school funds to make his company rich
Source: Associated Press/WJLA, June 3, 2014

D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan is accusing the founder of one of the oldest and largest charter school networks in the city of funneling millions of school funds to a for-profit management company owned by the school founder. Nathan filed a legal complaint Monday against Kent Amos, who founded Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School, and runs the for-profit company Community Action Partners and Charter School Management LLC (CAPSCM). Dorothy Height serves more than 1,600 students at four campuses, and an online school….The Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) complaint alleges that “the diverted funds were used to enrich the company and Amos, to the detriment of the school.” According to the complaint, the company received millions of dollars in fees for work that could have been performed or was performed by employees of the school. The OAG alleges that CAPSCM and Amos has forced the school to pay CAPSCM more than $13 million in so-called “management fees” since 2004, including approximately $4.4 million over the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, when CAPSCM’s purported management work was largely performed by employees of the school. The lawsuit also charges that Amos and the management company “are on track to receive about another $2 million” for the current school year for work that could be performed by school employees…..

D.C. officials allege improper diversion of charter funds
Source: Emma Brown, Washington Post, June 2, 2014

Kent Amos, founder of one of the oldest and largest D.C. charter school networks, allegedly funneled millions of school dollars to a for-profit management company he owns, according to a legal complaint filed Monday by D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan. Amos founded Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School, or CAPCS, as a nonprofit organization in 1998. About four years later, Amos and two colleagues founded a for-profit management company that was, according to the complaint, “a chimera created by Amos to effect distributions” of the school’s operating profits. … D.C. charter schools are legally allowed to contract with for-profit management companies, including companies with which school leaders have financial ties. But the District’s complaint alleges that Amos violated the law by using a shell company to divert tax dollars meant for students to himself and his co-owners. …

CVC Workers Allege Retaliation After Strike

Source: Bridget Bowman, Roll Call, Hill Blotter blog, April 28, 2015

Two Capitol Visitor Center contract workers have filed an unfair labor practice complaint against their employer for allegedly retaliating against employees who participated in a strike last week. “When I went into work on Thursday I was being harassed,” CVC cashier Kellie Duckett, 30, said in a Tuesday phone interview. “[The manager] cut my hours, she cut me and a co-worker’s hours, she was just pretty much following me around Thursday. And Friday is when she took me in her office and she threatened my job.” On April 24, the advocacy group Good Jobs Nation filed the complaint to the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of Duckett and fellow CVC cafeteria worker Tracy Allen. The complaint is filed against Restaurant Associates, which employes the food service contract workers in the Capitol complex.
Duckett and Allen were among the 13 CVC workers who participated in an April 22 strike and rally at the Capitol, along with 23 Senate workers. They said their manager began retaliating against them when they returned to work the next day. But the company said any retaliation is not allowed….
Dem leaders want Senate food workers to make $15 an hour
Source: Alexander Bolton, The Hill, April 28, 2015

Democratic leaders are calling for Senate restaurant workers to get paid $15 an hour, after media outlets reported that one food-service employee is homeless. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is next in line to become Senate Democratic leader, said he and his colleagues have spoken to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) about raising wages for Senate food workers. Schumer said Tuesday he supports paying workers $15 an hour.

Food workers, janitors walk out on U.S. Senate
Source: John Verhovek and Dana Bash, CNN, April 22, 2015

About 40 contracted workers from the United States Senate walked off their jobs Wednesday morning and joined more than 1,000 labor activists at a rally calling on President Barack Obama and Congress to require federal contractors to pay their workers more. The Senate workers — employed at the upper chamber’s cafeteria, on janitorial duty and in other food service jobs — along with other federal contracted employees, are calling on the President to sign a “Model Employer Executive Order” that would give federal contracting preferences to companies that can pay their workers $15 an hour….Compass Group, a British-based catering company, confirmed that their subsidiary — New York based Restaurant Associates — contracts workers for the Senate cafeteria, but would not comment on the actions or demands of Olotara and other employees….

Senate Restaurant Staff Rebel Against Benefits Freeze
Source: Warren Rojas, Roll Call, Heard on the Hill blog, March 10, 2015

The 30 or so remaining dining services personnel who got swept up in the transfer of power from the Architect of the Capitol to Restaurant Associates in 2008 may now need pols to rectify unforeseen circumstances that have soured the entire experience for them. The fight for parity has been brewing ever since Norma Rogers — who told HOH she’ll have logged 33 years working on Capitol Hill come April — began investigating how her retirement package might shake out. Much to her dismay, Rogers discovered that as far as federal actuaries are concerned, she stopped being a government employee as soon as the catering services swap got inked into law. … Per the supervisor, the dramatic changes, including an ineligibility for overtime pay and disqualification from employer-sponsored life insurance coverage — the source said RA insists those benefits are tied to AOC; The Architect’s office maintains RA should shoulder the burden — were not part of the agreement presented to those who elected to stay put in the congressional dining halls. ….

Why the federal government still sometimes doesn’t obey its own minimum wage laws

Source: Lydia DePillis, Washington Post, Wonkblog, April 10, 2015

….Contractors on federal land are supposed to make a bit more than that — but over the years, the laws that require it have been sparsely enforced and widely violated. And loopholes make sure fewer workers are covered in the first place. Take Glover. Groundskeepers are covered by the Service Contract Act, which dictates that they be paid a “prevailing wage” set by the Department of Labor. In D.C., the wage for groundskeepers is $13.07 — which would make a big difference to Glover, who lives on a cot in his sister’s basement in Maryland because he can’t afford his own place. … The Smithsonian Institution, which runs the zoo, says that Service Contract Act doesn’t cover him. Spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson says the Friends of the National Zoo, a member-supported nonprofit that employs all the maintenance and concessions workers, isn’t primarily concerned with providing services covered by the Act, so the law shouldn’t apply to the whole contract….. In its complaint, Good Jobs Nation says in total the violations have deprived 65 workers of $1,578,700 in wages at three workplaces over the two years the statute covers. Their findings illustrate the difficulty the federal government has had in enforcing its own laws since they were passed decades ago….

Council Blocks Controversial Jail Contract

Source: Will Sommer, Washington City Paper, Loose Lips blog, April 14, 2015

Endorsements from two mayors and a heavy lobbying campaign weren’t enough to convince the D.C. Council to let controversial correctional health provider Corizon take over at the D.C. Jail. After months of wrangling with the Tennessee-based company, a slim majority of the Council voted to disapprove the jail health contract backed by Muriel Bowser. The dispute came down between six opponents of the contract, which looks bad because of Corizon’s record for attracting lawsuits over its allegedly deficient inmate care, and proponents who either want the Council out of contract approval or because they actually think it’s a good deal. After a motion to change an approval resolution from backer Vincent Orange was amended by six councilmembers to become a disapproval (a majority on the temporarily eleven-member Council), the contract’s fate was clear. Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, David Grosso, Phil Mendelson, Brianne Nadeau, and Elissa Silverman voted to disapprove, while Yvette Alexander, Anita Bonds, Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, and Vincent Orange voted against efforts to shut down the contract. With the contract blocked, current jail health provider Unity will keep running jail health services for now….
D.C. Council to vote on controversial proposal for prison’s health services

Source: Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post, April 12, 2015

The D.C. Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a controversial proposal to manage health care in the city’s jail system that would award a $66 million contract to a company that has been mired in legal troubles in other states where it has performed similar work. A contract with Corizon Health would cost the District government 7 percent more than an offer made by the company’s chief competitor and the city’s current provider, Unity Health Care. It would take the work away from a locally run nonprofit group and hand it to a Tennessee-based for-profit corporation. And it would go against the fervent opposition of scores of civil rights groups that say that Corizon has an abysmal track record in inmate care….

The Shady For-Profit Company Poised To Take Over DC Prison Healthcare
Source: Alice Ollstein, ThinkProgress, December 16, 2014

The DC City Council could vote as soon as Wednesday on a 5-year contract for the notorious prison healthcare company Corizon to operate at the DC Jail and Correctional Treatment Facility. The contract would give the company jurisdiction over the medical care of the more than 10,000 DC residents that cycle through the jail every year….

DC Public Charter Schools

Source: Kojo Nnamdi Show, April 13, 2015

Public charter schools launched in the District nearly 20 years ago, and while enrollment has leveled off after years of spectacular growth, demand for the highest performing schools is still strong. We speak with the head of the DC Public Charter School Board about addressing coordination with traditional public schools, special needs students, Common Core standards, and financial oversight.
Scott Pearson Executive Director, DC Public Charter School Board
Kavitha Cardoza Special Correspondent, WAMU 88.5 News
What It Takes To Serve On A D.C. Charter School Board
Source: Kavitha Cardoza, WAMU, January 16, 2015

Nearly half of all D.C. children attend charter schools, which are publicly funded, free and open to all. Charters are also free from many of the regulations governing traditional public schools, and each one operates with plenty of autonomy and independence. That means what happens at these schools — and there are about 100 of them — is shaped not by the city’s schools chancellor or mayor, but by the individual boards that oversee them. We spoke this week with Carrie Irvin, the head of Charter Board Partners. It’s an education nonprofit that supports and promotes effective public charter school governance….

Medical battle behind bars: Big prison healthcare firm Corizon struggles to win contracts

Source: David Royse, Modern Healthcare, April 11, 2015

…Corizon, the licensed vocational nurse’s employer, is the nation’s largest for-profit provider of correctional health services. In February, Corizon and Alameda County together paid an $8.3 million settlement to Harrison’s family. It was the largest civil-rights wrongful-death settlement in California history. That was only the latest high-profile setback for Brentwood, Tenn.-based Corizon, which has lost five contracts with state prison systems over the past three years and is fighting to hold on to others. In New York City, some officials want to end Corizon’s contract in city jails because of quality-of-care concerns. The firm also is under pressure in Florida, where the head of the state prison system said she plans to rebid its healthcare contracts, including one with Corizon. In Washington, D.C., members of the District Council, citing litigation and complaints about Corizon services elsewhere, oppose the mayor’s push to approve a Corizon contract to serve the city’s inmates. There have been numerous allegations of quality problems with Corizon’s care raised in lawsuits and news reports around the country, including charges of long waits for care and prisoners dying after not being properly diagnosed with cancer and other diseases. Corizon staff reportedly gave a 19-year-old Florida inmate Tylenol for severe pain for months before outside doctors found bone cancer that later killed him. In New York City, an inmate allegedly was told to throw his severed finger away because it couldn’t be reattached, though it later was. Last August, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Corizon’s parent company Valitas. In issuing its negative outlook, Moody’s cited, in part, “operating headwinds due to recent contract losses.” ….

….According to a 2014 report by the Reason Foundation, only 14 states operate their own prison healthcare, while 36 contract for at least part of it and 24 have contracted out all prison healthcare services. There are no data on how many local jails use private medical vendors. Privately held Corizon became the largest correctional healthcare provider in 2011 when Valitas Health Services, parent of the former Correctional Medical Services, acquired America Service Group, creating a company serving more than 400 facilities. Valitas is majority-owned by Chicago-based private-equity management firm Beecken Petty O’Keefe and Co. Corizon had $1.4 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ended June 2014 and now cares for 345,000 inmates in 27 states. Competitors include Nashville-based Correct Care, which cares for about 250,000 people in 37 states, and Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health, which cares for 112,000 inmates in 13 states. Other providers include St. Louis-based Centurion Managed Care, a joint venture between Centene Corp. and MHM Services, and several other smaller for-profit and not-for-profit providers. Many of Corizon’s contracts are holdovers from its predecessor companies. Since the merger, it has won new contracts, including taking over Arizona’s state prison contract from Wexford and winning part of Florida’s business after a long court fight there over whether prison healthcare could be privatized. States spend $8 billion a year on prison healthcare, the Pew Charitable Trusts says. States spend $8 billion a year on prison healthcare, the Pew Charitable Trusts says. But since 2012, Corizon has lost statewide contracts covering 84,000 inmates in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. ….

Charter schools less likely to have libraries

Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, March 10, 2015

Charter schools are far less likely than traditional schools to have libraries or librarians, surveys show. During the 2011–12 school year, 49 percent of public charter schools reported having a library media center compared to 93 percent of traditional public schools in the United States, according to a survey by the National Center on Education Statistics. Nationwide, one-third of libraries in public charter schools had full-time, paid, state-certified library media center specialists, compared to two-thirds of traditional public schools. Publicly funded, independently operated charter schools typically have greater discretion over their spending and often have smaller or temporary facilities…

Contractor overbilled District on homeless spending, auditor finds

Source: Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, March 6, 2015

An auditor’s report on the District’s homelessness programs found that its main contractor overbilled the city by more than $5.3 million in 2014, largely through the use of an accounting practice that appears to be a violation of city and federal law. The review also found that the contractor, the nonprofit Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, had inadequately distinguished between programmatic and administrative costs, a key indicator of whether funds are spent efficiently.
D.C. family homeless shelter beset by dysfunction, decay
Source: Justin Jouvenal, Robert Samuels and DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post, July 12, 2014

…Despite its intended purpose as a sanctuary, the shelter is too often beset by dysfunction, decay and disease. Sometimes, it is the more than 460 children living there who suffer the most.

Among the investigation’s findings:
● Staff members charged with caring for and protecting families often preyed upon them….
● Living conditions are often so poor at the crumbling 90-year-old facility that residents suffer, are sickened or are put at risk…..
● The threat of violence, lax safety precautions and a lack of services have created an environment of fear and isolation….

….The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP), the nonprofit group that runs the shelter under a $13 million contract with the city, referred all questions to city officials….

….Such interactions are banned by employee guidelines aimed at protecting residents, but logs of shelter incidents obtained through FOIA requests and written testimony by a TCP official shows that fraternization was not uncommon. The shelter has about 110 full-time employees and about 50 full-time security staff. The documents show that residents complained of workers’ inappropriate interactions on at least 14 occasions since 2012, including 10 reports of sexual misconduct. Records show that the allegations resulted in TCP and its subcontractors firing at least seven workers and removing three others from the shelter. One of the complaints was found to be baseless, and the outcomes of others are not reported. Most of the problems involved male staff members targeting female residents. ….

…City officials and homeless advocates say D.C. General has never been properly maintained because most saw it as a Band-Aid for the city’s homelessness problem. The city began using the facility as a temporary shelter on cold nights in 2001, when the family shelter, D.C. Village, became overcrowded….

Friendly FIRE

Source: Chris Maisano, Jacobin, Jacobin, Issue 15/16, Fall 2014

Social impact bonds offer private interests yet another opportunity to enrich themselves at public expense. …

Goldman Sachs wants you to know that it’s not just about plundering the globe for profit — it wants to do a little good along the way. That’s why the vampire squid has started founding seemingly innocuous philanthropic outfits like the Urban Investment Group (UIG).

Established in 2001, the UIG is the perfect embodiment of what labor journalist Bob Fitch used to call “friendly FIRE,” per the old shorthand for the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. Always attuned to the public-relations value of its activities, UIG promotes itself with a gauzy language of community uplift centered on the buzzword “double bottom line”: the simultaneous pursuit of social change and return on investment.

In a gesture of exquisite irony, its first investment was in the Dorothy Day Apartments, an affordable housing development in Harlem named after the founder of the anticapitalist Catholic Worker movement. Since then, it has invested billions of dollars in projects such as community health centers, charter schools, early childhood education, low- and moderate-income housing units, small business loans, and community development grants. As Alicia Glen, the former UIG chief currently serving as deputy mayor for housing and economic development under Mayor Bill de Blasio, put it: “We’re not all evil squids. We’re nice little calamari.”

Glen’s highest profile deal as head of UIG was a $42 million investment in Citi Bike, the privately funded bike-sharing program whose signature blue bicycles have become ubiquitous throughout Lower Manhattan and the gentrified zones of north-central Brooklyn. But bikes may not be the most important legacy of her tenure at Goldman. The bank, together with some of the biggest names in social policy, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector, has led the way in establishing the burgeoning field of social impact bonds (SIBs)…..

…The SIB market is still rather small in terms of dollars, but its promoters are intent on achieving rapid growth. The current total value of SIB transactions in the US is estimated at approximately $100 million; sixteen states and Washington, DC either have an active SIB underway or are considering implementing one…..

….Public-sector unions are increasingly aware of the threat SIBs pose and have begun to rally against state-level legislation that would expand their use. AFSCME Council 94 in Rhode Island has been outspoken in its opposition to a bill that would allow the state to implement a $25 million SIB program….