<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.comen-usTue, 24 Jan 2017 10:21:57 -0500Tue, 24 Jan 2017 10:21:57 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Metro to Run Extra Trains Friday for March for Life]]> Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:40:34 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-515762974-%281%29.jpg

Metro plans to add extra midday rail service for Friday's March for Life rally, transit officials announced Monday.

Between morning and evening rush hours, Metro will run trains about every eight minutes on each line, which will translate into service at downtown stations every two to four minutes, officials said.

Metro will also run more eight-car trains and will have extra staff available to help visitors. In addition, the transit system will not conduct any midday track work Friday, Metro officials said.

Metro is encouraging those headed to the march to avoid rush-hour travel if possible. The March for Life opens at 11:45 a.m. Friday with a musical performance before the rally starts at noon, according to the official website.

Metro's also recommending riders buy and load SmarTrip cards in advance to avoid long lines at Metro fare machines. Riders should make sure their cards are loaded with enough value for all their travel throughout the day.

SmarTrip cards are available at all Metro stations and at CVS and Giant stores. 

Although Metro doesn't ship individual SmarTrip cards bought online, group organizers buying 25 or more can place a bulk order at 202-962-5700 and receive overnight shipping if they order before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[3 D.C. Council Members, Mayor to Watch Parade]]> Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:52:34 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ap+story.jpg

Only three of the District of Columbia's 13 council members plan to view the presidential inauguration from the Wilson Building.

Normally, the district's elected officials jostle with hand-picked constituents for a premier view of the inaugural parade. This year, The Washington Post reports only three council members and Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser have said they'll be watching.

Republican President-elect Donald Trump had the support of only 4.1 percent of the city's voters in November.

Some council members describe their absence as a political gesture. Others have personal or public business elsewhere.

Democratic Council member Jack Evans says he can't remember a similarly small turnout in his 26 years in office. He's planning on coming to watch what he says he views as "a historic occasion." 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Peaceful Transfer of Power?]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 05:23:59 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/congress-prep.jpg

No one really knows how many people are coming to Washington to celebrate Inauguration Day on Friday or to participate in assorted protests.

But there will be a lot.

The security clampdown of the capital of the free world is ratcheting up quickly. At the beginning of the week, the heavily fenced-in National Mall looked like an encampment.

What are authorities most worried about?

There have been no "specific, credible" terrorism threats. But it’s routine now to plan for some type of organized terrorism — domestic or foreign. That’s taken for granted.

There also now-routine worries about "the lone wolf.” That’s a single individual, either domestic or foreign, who either purposefully or insanely decides to take action. This type of person is much harder to detect. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham told us that law enforcement is scouring social media for hints of any such persons. Domestic “militia extremists” who oppose the federal government and have suggested or engaged in violence are on the watch lists, too.

With all of this preparation, it’s important that law enforcement documents note the right to peaceably gather and protest. You may agree or disagree with protesters, but they have a right to assemble.

The inauguration of Donald J. Trump has yet another level for potential violence — a clash between protesters and Trump’s most aggressive defenders and supporters.

Nearly two dozen protest groups were seeking sites to stage their events. A handful sought permits to celebrate the new president.

Law enforcement officials are aware some protesters publicly have said they illegally intend to shut down the inaugural or parade or create chaos. Other protesters intend to have such numbers that they easily distract and overwhelm the official event.

The unknown is, What response will come from those ardent Trump supporters who will be offended by the protesters?

There is a concern among law enforcement that some Trump supporters could clash with protesters. The worst fear is a vigilante-like response, as well as fistfights or other incidents.

We saw some of this at Trump political rallies during the campaign. But none of those campaign events match the hundreds of thousands who will be on the streets of Washington.

What will they do? What will they do? That's the added worry this week.

■ Police advice. The advice is simple for anyone who just wants to attend the inaugural as a historic moment in our history: Pay attention to your surroundings and be alert to the mood of the crowd. Be aware of places where you can withdraw from the crowds.

Sad to say, that is advice you might consider in any public place, not just Inauguration Day. The important point is for Americans to live their lives as openly as possible and not cower in fear or withdraw from public events.

■ If you don't go: NBC4 will have full coverage of the inaugural on Friday, beginning with our early shows before NBC network coverage takes over. Your Notebook will join anchors Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler to cover the inaugural parade in the afternoon.

You may have heard that Charlie Brotman will join us, too. Since 1957, Brotman had officially announced parade participants for the new president as they passed the presidential reviewing stand. The 89-year-old Brotman was raring to go one more time until the Trump inaugural committee dumped him. NBC4 invited him to join us, and he accepted. Tune in.

NBC4 also is doing something different on the web and in our app: We are going to "broadcast" all morning live online from a Capitol Hill coffeehouse. Anchors Wendy Rieger and David Culver will host a broad series of guests and invite your questions as they talk about our city, the people who live here and how local Washington fits into this big day. Download the NBC4 app to participate.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe: DC Council's Flush With Cash. How Will They Spend It?]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 20:06:13 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/122016+dc+council+paid+family+leave.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

The District of Columbia is flush with cash.

The city around the monuments is more financially comfortable than any time in the Home Rule era, according to bean counters in the D.C. Council and chief financial officer’s shop.

"We’re in great shape," Vincent Gray tells me. The former council chair, former mayor and current Ward 7 council member should know.

If Donald Trump continues his threats to "drain the swamp," he will be taking on a city with funds to fight back.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt’s latest revenue estimates reported D.C. ran a surplus of $221 million in 2016. "I’ve never seen this large an upward revision," said D.C. Council budget director Jennifer Budoff.

DeWitt also estimated higher revenues in the range of $66 million for the following five fiscal years.

There’s more:

The District has north of $2 billion in its fund balance. Its rainy day funds have cash reserves north of $1 billion, which could carry the city for two months. Its pension and health funds for retirees are fully funded. Bond ratings have gone from junk status to AAA.

"DC is among the more financially stable major cities of the country," says former CFO Natwar Ghandi, "if not the most financially stable." Especially when you compare it to Boston, L.A. and Chicago, cities that are raising taxes, assessing new fees and cutting services.

With all this cash floating around, it’s time to start following the money.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is crafting budgets to support her run for a second term. Packed with rookies, the D.C. Council will slice and dice her spending plan. Six first-term members with little experience in balancing a budget will have millions to throw at new programs.

Can you say "Council high on cash?"

Sorting through the numbers in the CFO’s December 30 report, I settled on the $66.6 million in extra revenue expected for FY 2017. Last year’s $221 million surplus must be applied to past spending. The anticipated extra cash for 2018 to 2020 must be applied to tax relief, which will eventually make D.C. one of the most attractive places to live and do business.

That leaves the $66.6 million for this year in play for our batch of current political leaders to spend as they wish, for one-time expenditures. A million here, a million there is plenty of cash.

Their predilections are telling.

"We anticipate that they will be used to address items like WMATA funding needs, temporary housing for homeless individuals, to address housing costs," and "other programs," the mayor’s budget director, Matt Brown responded by email.

Whew! Nada for tax abatement, police or jobs, but, hey, it’s only $66 million.

Chairman Phil Mendelson is on the same page, kind of. He would devote as much as $50 million to purchasing new subway cars.

"It’s a good example of one-time expenditure with a long-term benefit," he tells me. He would put some into building affordable housing. He prefers "spending or holding rather than expanding recurring services."

Now comes Vincent Gray, suddenly the law-and-order candidate. He would stash half into tax relief and give the rest to cops. "We need hiring incentives for new officers," he says, "and we need bonuses to keep the best officers from leaving or retiring."

Kind of a hiring bonus akin to pro athletes?

"Exactly," says Gray, who many believe is eyeing a mayoral run to avenge his 2012 loss to Bowser.

Elissa Silverman, at-large member and leader among progressives, worries about the Trump effect.

"I would use that money to for any actions by the new Congress or president that might threaten our safety net," she says, such as threats to the immigrant community or unraveling of Obama’s health care program.

On the upside, Silverman would devote some of the $66.6 million to on-the-job training programs for DC residents in hotels, hospitals and restaurants. The D.C. Central Kitchen needs $4 million for a new kitchen training facility. And if there’s cash on the table?

"I would retrofit all public buildings with child care centers," she says.

Jack Evans, the most veteran member, recalls the District going broke in the 1990s. "I would resist any new commitments," he says. "It’s best to use the money for maintaining what we have. Or reducing taxes. This is not sexy stuff."

Speaking of not sexy, Ed Lazere of the Fiscal Policy Institute and incoming at-large member Robert White would apply any extra cash to affordable housing.

For my money, David Grosso has it right.

"More wraparound services for schools," the at-large member offers. "Social workers, college counselors, mental health professionals."

Talk about unsexy.

"After four years chairing the council’s education committee," he says, "I think we have to be more deliberate about how we approach each neighborhood’s schools, if we want to close the achievement gap. Some schools east of the Anacostia are dealing with students with tremendous amounts of trauma. They need basic services."

The cynic might advise Bowser to cut out the middleman and send $100 checks to each D.C. resident. The math works. But that’s not going to happen.

So let’s keep track of the $66.6 million and hope it goes to public education and public safety, in that order. If they fail, the District’s flush times might come to an end.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[More Than 1,200 Bus Permits Issued for Day of Women's March]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 07:35:26 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Women%27s+March.jpg

About three times more permits to park tour buses in D.C. have been issued for the day of the Women's March on Washington than on Inauguration Day, according to D.C. officials.

Councilmember Charles Allen told News4 on Wednesday that about 200 permits were requested for the inauguration on Friday, Jan. 20. The city has received about 1,800 permits for the following day, Jan. 21, when thousands are expected to attend the Women's March on Washington in protest of President-elect Donald Trump.

As of Thursday afternoon, 393 permits were issued for Inauguration Day and more than 1,200 for the march.

More than 183,000 people said they will be going to the women's march, according to the event's Facebook page.

Chris Geldart, the director of the D.C. Department of Homeland Security, said although more bus permits have been issued for the Saturday after the inauguration, he is not sure which day will have larger crowds.

"I can't tell you which is going to be more or less people, or how many people from the 20th are going to stick around for the 21st to add to the numbers," he said.

Geldart said he asked the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to include the women's march as part of the inaugural special security events, but his request was denied.

"This may not be an official sanctioned event by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, but it is an event that’s happening because of the inauguration," Geldart said.

D.C. police and the National Guard will oversee security during the march. The cost of security will likely be covered by a federal grant, he said.

More private ambulances will also be in service for the inauguration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Guns, Again ]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 05:37:15 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/gun+generic1.JPG

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie a few days ago introduced a bill to get rid of the federal law establishing “gun-free” zones around public schools. He calls his bill the “Safe Students Act.”

The conservative Republican’s news release was blunt.

“Gun-free school zones are ineffective. They make people less safe by inviting criminals into target-rich, no-risk environments,” Massie said in early January. “Gun-free zones prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves, and create vulnerable populations that are targeted by criminals.”

In December, Rep. Massie announced he had re-launched a Congressional Second Amendment Caucus. Again, he was blunt.

“The recent election results present us with a new opportunity to advance pro-gun legislation and reverse the erosion of the Second Amendment that’s occurred over the last few decades. I look forward to working with the new President and this determined group of conservatives to promote a pro-gun agenda,” Massie stated.

The views of Massie, who represents a largely rural area of Kentucky, are important to us locally because he has sustained an effort to overturn the District of Columbia’s urban gun laws. Massie supports “open carry” on city streets and neighborhoods. In the past, Massie’s efforts have been stymied by the Senate and/or the Obama White House.

But times have changed. Donald Trump will replace Obama in a matter of days, and the House and Senate are firmly in the hands of Republicans. Another assault on D.C. gun laws could come at any time.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton already has fired a defensive shot. She is pointing out the new “security” signs outside entrances to Hill office buildings.

These bright red signs warn visitors “Do not attempt to enter the building with any of the prohibited items listed below.” The first line on the list cites any firearm “regardless of any permit to carry status in any state.” Also banned are replica guns, ammunition, Tasers, explosives, fireworks and “any pointed object,” including daggers or razor knives.

Norton highlights what she and others see as hypocrisy. “It is ironic that the Republican-led Congress, which has relentlessly tried, but failed, to overturn D.C.’s gun safety laws, including its prohibition of guns in D.C. government buildings, has not tried to overturn the federal guns laws that protect Members in the Capitol Complex, but instead is doubling down to ensure Members are protected,” Norton said in a news release. “Many of my Republican colleagues appear to be concerned about their own safety, but not the safety of D.C. residents and visitors, who are protected by D.C.’s local gun safety laws as they travel about the city.”

In the past, Rep. Massie has dismissed allegations of hypocrisy, saying the Capitol Hill buildings are fully protected at entrances, so there’s no need to carry guns inside.

Norton noted that federal law (40 U.S.C. § 5104) prohibits guns in the entire Capitol Complex, both in the buildings and outside them. A separate federal law (18 U.S.C. § 930) also prohibits guns in federally owned or leased buildings, as long as notice of the prohibition is conspicuously posted.

Of course, that leaves open a few questions.

Why is Capitol Hill so protected? Why not let “open carry” be the law of the land? If we can carry guns on the streets, churches and other public places, why not carry them 24/7 inside the halls of Congress? And think how much we taxpayers could save if we took more responsibility for ourselves instead of depending on government and the U.S. Capitol Police to protect us.

If everyone is armed who wants to be, what could go wrong?

■ Local D.C. gun laws. As we noted, the District bans open-carry firearms (at least until the courts or Congress changes the policy). To carry a concealed weapon within the District, you have to have a permit issued by the city. Importantly, there is no reciprocity with other jurisdictions. You may have a license to carry a weapon in Maryland or Virginia or any other state, but that doesn’t give you the same right in D.C.

Several thousand law enforcement officers expected to come to D.C. to aid with crowd control and other security will be temporarily sworn in by D.C. police to allow them to carry weapons.

■ ACLU advice. The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union plans to put online and distribute a leaflet with advice to protesters and other citizens about their civil rights at a time of heightened security.

“We’re just in the final stages of preparing a leaflet that will be printed up in large numbers,” said Art Spitzer, legal director of the District ACLU office on Connecticut Avenue NW. He said it would include “things that people from out of town might not know” about local Washington and the federal complex here.

For example, the leaflet will note that there are any number of police forces — city police, Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Capitol, Federal Protective Service and so on that may interact with visitors and protesters.

Spitzer said the D.C. police do a far better job of crowd control than in years past, but noted some individuals and protest groups “want to be arrested.”

■ The official 411 on 1/20/2017. Last week the District government and Secret Service held a press conference on plans for the Trump Inaugural and its effect on citizens, businesses and transportation. The city has created a website with most of the information: inauguration.dc.gov.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Md. Gov. Proposes Tuition Caps, Tax Breaks for Student Loans]]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 18:38:42 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/061516+larry+hogan.jpg

Tuition increases next fall at Maryland's public colleges and universities would be capped at 2 percent, and student loan interest would become fully deductible on many people's state tax returns under proposals Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday.

Hogan said the proposals, if approved by the General Assembly in the session starting Wednesday, will provide relief from crippling debt and help make a college degree affordable.

He noted that nearly 60 percent of Maryland college students graduate with debt averaging more than $27,000.

"This financial burden is preventing many young Marylanders from achieving early financial security," including home ownership and retirement savings, the Republican governor told a news conference at the University of Maryland in College Park. 

He said he's budgeting $17.5 million to enable the state's 14 colleges and universities to cap tuition increases at 2 percent for the second straight year. The schools would otherwise have to raise tuition by up to 5 percent, Hogan said. 

Tuition at the flagship College Park campus this school year is $10,181.

Hogan also proposed allowing Marylanders earning less than $200,000 a year and couples making less than $250,000 to deduct all their student loan interest on their state income tax returns starting in 2018.

Currently, Marylanders earning less than $80,000 can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest. Hogan said his proposal would save Marylanders $20 million a year.

College Park senior Brandon Enriquez, a student member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, applauded the proposals. He said the prospect of high debt compels some students to choose majors based on earning potential rather than their passions.

Katherine Swanson, the student government president at College Park, said the proposals sound good but lack details.

"We're going to have to wait and see what is actually introduced in the session," she said.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[DC Mayor: Obamacare Repeal Could Cost City $623 Million]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 19:08:44 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/Muriel_Bowser.jpg

Washington's mayor says repealing President Barack Obama's health-care law could cost the city up to $623 million a year.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a letter Friday to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that more than 96 percent of District of Columbia residents have health insurance as a result of Obamacare. That includes 19,000 people with health insurance through the individual marketplace and 60,000 people insured through the small business marketplace. The District's population is 681,000 and it has one of the lowest rates of uninsured people in the country.

The Democratic mayor says many of the insured people have complex medical problems and couldn't afford premiums without federal subsidies.

She's urging Congress not to repeal the law and instead to expand access to affordable health coverage.

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[$489M Proposal for RFK Campus Includes Rec Center, Food Hall]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 23:02:01 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/RFK+Stadium.jpg

A large crowd showed up the the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Thursday night to see major plans to redevelop the RFK Stadium-Armory site.

The $489.6 million proposed project includes:


  • Three multi-purpose recreation and community fields,  
  • A "Market Hall," which would offer concessions, prepared food and groceries for both neighborhood residents and visitors  
  • A state-of-the-art sports and recreation complex that would house activities including indoor basketball, soccer, go karting and entertainment programming 
  • Three pedestrian bridges that would provide access to the east side of the Anacostia and connect the RFK campus to Kingman Island, Heritage Island and River Terrace 
  • A Robert F. Kennedy memorial, which would be built in the place of the existing stadium once it is demolished

Events DC, which is overseeing the plans, said those five "short-term" features can be built over the next two to five years.

One plan for the campus would incorporate a new NFL Stadium, should the Washington Redskins choose that location. The team would have to cover the cost of the new stadium.

Two alternate plans include building a 20,000 seat arena or having no major stadium or arena at the campus.

Road improvements are also included in the proposed budget for the campus.

"The long-term vision emphasizes the addition of roads that will provide a cross-grain to the current arterial roads, to make the entirety of the site, program elements and parking more accessible and traversable," Events DC said. "In addition, based on community feedback received, the amount of green space will be increased by 240% to make the site more sustainable for years to come.

Events DC is encouraging residents to take this online survey to voice their opinion of the plans.

Photo Credit: OMA and Robota
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<![CDATA[Virginia Congressman’s Proposal Would Threaten Federal Jobs]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 20:35:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Morgan+Griffith+GettyImages-106892018.jpg

A Republican congressman from Virginia wants to make it easier to cut the pay or dismiss individual federal workers, which could have a big impact on the workforce in the D.C. area with all of its federal agencies.

Rep. Morgan Griffith of Roanoke wants to revive a rule to allow any member of congress to cut salaries or individual jobs almost despite civil service. It would help cut government waste and other spending, he said.

“It's beyond silly,” said Mike Causey of Federal News Radio. “I don't know how to comment."

Each federal job creates six private sector jobs, Causey said.

“We represent over 700,000 federal workers in virtually every zip code in the country,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Workers, the largest federal union.

If approved by the full Congress, the move would gut civil service and private sector jobs depending on them, Cox said.

“Federal employees as well as the American public needs to be on the telephones calling their members of Congress,” he said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[ANSWER Coalition Granted Protest Permit for Inauguration Day]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 11:33:14 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/230*120/2017-01-04_1132.png

The Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition now knows where they will be located for their protest on Inauguration Day.

The National Park Service granted the ANSWER Coalition a protest permit for a small portion of the west end of Freedom Plaza, News4's Mark Segraves reports. 

The NPS said in an update Tuesday that 25 groups have requested permits to protest on federal land during President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.

All but one of those permits -- to the Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition -- has not been issued yet because the inaugural committee has not said which locations they do not need to use, a Park Service representative said.

A Park Service representative said the agency will find space to accommodate all protest groups.

<![CDATA[DC Council Swears In New Members]]> Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:17:21 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/2017-01-02_1752.png

The new year brought new worries for the D.C. government as new council members were sworn into office Monday.

While the city is growing and is financially stronger than ever, leaders fear the new conservative Republican Congress and White House may interfere with or overturn some of the liberal city's laws.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, longtime delegate to the United States Congress representing the District of Columbia, put it more bluntly.

“Any changes in our criminal justice should be initiated and recommended by the District of Columbia, not the Congress of the United States,” Norton said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser met briefly President-elect Donald Trump in New York in December, but neither has released details. She said D.C. has more than 20 years of balanced budgets and said she'll try to work with Congress.

“Our approach, of course, is to see what the new landscape is at the White House and the Congress,” Bowser said.

Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen is the new chairman of the judiciary committee. He said the city has to be especially wary now.

“I think we're going to have to be on guard and probably a little bit on the edge of our seat for this,” Allen said. “We've seen we've had a hostile Senate and Congress, sometimes, toward the district, and we've always had President Obama as a backstop. We don't have that anymore.”

District civic leaders said the city has to put aside political differences at home to withstand Congress.

“That is going to be a concern,” said Earl Williams, president of the Federation of Citizens Associations. “They're going to have to stand strong and support the residents of the city and not let us get run over by a new administration.”

Former mayor Vincent Gray and other new council members were sworn in during Monday’s council meeting. Gray, who will represent Ward 7, at-large Councilman Robert White and Ward 8 Councilman Trayon White all took the oath of office while Bowser and others watched.

Bowser defeated Gray for mayor two years ago. She sat nearby as Gray, a potential opponent again in 2018, offered veiled criticism of Bowser sloganeering instead of action.

“Too many people in our city have watched while some neighborhoods have prosperity while others remain stagnant,” Gray said.

Gray blames his loss as mayor a long-running federal investigation into his 2010 campaign. He was not charged in the investigation, but 12 people pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation, which uncovered evidence of more than $3.3 million in illegal contributions to various campaigns between 2006 and 2011.

He said he is looking ahead.

“People ask me all the time about running again for mayor,” he said. “It is not a decision I’ve made. As I’ve said to you, before, a number of times, it is certainly something we’ve not ruled out.”

Bowser said she's running again but hasn't set up a campaign committee. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, another potential candidate for mayor, said he'll make any career decision later this year.

<![CDATA[DC Styrofoam Ban Gets Tougher in 2017]]> Fri, 30 Dec 2016 18:56:15 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/123016+dc+styrofoam+rules.jpg Starting Sunday, restaurants are not only banned from using polystyrene, they are required to sell food and drinks only in recyclable or compostable containers. News4's Mark Segraves takes a close look at the new law and meets a business owner who uses the foam and then crushes it into compact bricks that he sells.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Confirms Farewell Address in Chicago]]> Mon, 02 Jan 2017 11:17:37 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_16341784442411-Obama-Flag-nbcots.jpg

As his time in the Oval Office comes to an end, President Barack Obama on Monday gave the country a preview of the farewell address he will deliver in Chicago on Jan. 10, a mere 10 days before President-elect Donald Trump is to be sworn in.

Obama, in a written statement, explained that the American people have helped him lead during his presidency, a theme he plans to highlight in his speech.

"I'm thinking about [my remarks] as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thought on where we all go from here," he wrote.

The sitting president offered encouragement to his fellow Americans, who he said have hit obstacles since he took office.

"Since 2009, we've faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger," he said. "That's because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding — our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better."

The U.S. president's farewell address, Obama noted, is a tradition that dates back to 1796, when George Washington said goodbye to Americans before transferring power to his successor, John Adams.

Read his full email below:

Email from the President: “My Farewell Address”


In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power, he also set a precedent by penning a farewell address to the American people. And over the 220 years since, many American presidents have followed his lead.
On Tuesday, January 10, I'll go home to Chicago to say my grateful farewell to you, even if you can't be there in person. 
I'm just beginning to write my remarks. But I'm thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here.
Since 2009, we've faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger. That's because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding -- our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better.
So I hope you'll join me one last time. 
Because, for me, it's always been about you.

In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power, he also set a precedent by penning a farewell address to the American people. And over the 220 years since, many American presidents have followed his lead. 

On Tuesday, January 10, I'll go home to Chicago to say my grateful farewell to you, even if you can't be there in person.  

I'm just beginning to write my remarks. But I'm thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here. 

Since 2009, we've faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger. That's because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding -- our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better. 

So I hope you'll join me one last time.  

Because, for me, it's always been about you.

-President Barack Obama

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster]]>
<![CDATA[How Trump Campaigned, and Will Govern, on Social Media]]> Mon, 02 Jan 2017 04:50:08 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/trump-florida.jpg

Getting off social media won't be one of Donald Trump's New Year's resolutions, a top aide confirmed Sunday, adding that America can expect more policy pronouncements and newsmakers in 140-character missives from the president-elect before and after his inauguration, NBC News reported. 

Days after Trump surprised national security experts by calling for more nuclear arms, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer told ABC News that Trump wouldn't shy away from using Twitter freely when in office — although the last time U.S. nuclear policy was detailed, it came after a year of deliberation.

"I think it freaks the mainstream media out that he has this following of over 45-plus million people that follow him on social media, that he can have a direct conversation. He doesn't have to have it funneled through the media," Spicer said on ABC's "This Week." "You're going to see — absolutely you're going to see Twitter." 

Trump's 2016 was colored by dozens of Twitter-spurred headlines and results — some intended, some not. Take a look at his top 140-character moments.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe Report: Who Won, Who Lost in Local D.C. in 2016]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:23:47 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20161228+Jaffe.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

As 2016 came to a close, denizens of the District got great news: the nation’s capital gained another 10,000 people, according to the U.S. Census. We are keeping pace with a steady increase that’s brought our population to more than 680,000, the highest number in four decades. That’s far short of the 888,000 high D.C. reached right after World War II, but we are getting there.

Mayor Muriel Bowser immediately beat her chest: "Our neighborhoods continue to grow safer and stronger, and our schools continue to enroll more students and improve outcomes."

Not so fast. Demographic and market trends beyond Bowser's control are attracting new residents to the center city. Moreover, Bowser didn't have such a great year in 2016. She’s on the wrong side in our year-end look at last year’s winners and losers.

First, some losers:

Mayor Muriel Bowser: During her second year in office, the rookie chief executive took a major hit to her political machine. Her three council candidates lost to detractors, among them arch-enemy Vincent Gray, who still believes she stole the election from him in 2014. Bowser lost crucial battles with the Council. Like Hillary Clinton, Bowser has yet to settle on a message that could propel her to victory in a campaign that will commence next year.

Staying the course will steer her into the rocks.

Ted Leonisis: the multi-talented owner of our pro basketball and hockey teams is great at being accessible to fans, but he has yet to deliver a winner. Neither the Wizards, the Capitals nor the Mystics contended for titles in 2016, and this season is not starting well. The fans are getting restless. "We do have to be patient," Leonsis told radio listeners last month, "but I do understand what people are saying."

Deliver contenders and quiet the crowd.

Kenyan McDuffie: Where has the chairman of the Council’s Judiciary Committee been as the streets of D.C. became less safe by the day, especially at night? We have absorbed this week's brutal murder of Tricia McCauley by a man who should have been behind bars, the still unsolved killing of DNC staffer Seth Rich, the carjacking of a mom unloading groceries in Chevy Chase, the senseless killing of 129 people, mostly African Americans. Attorney General Karl Racine told me violent young offenders are "wreaking havoc" in D.C. In the fifth police district that covers McDuffie’s ward, gun crimes and sex abuse rose in 2016, and violent crime was up across the board. 

McDuffie touted his 2016 crime bill as "a step in the right direction," but it was high on prevention and short on consequences. Meanwhile, the criminal justice system remains "broken," in the words of outgoing police chief Cathy Lanier, and McDuffie has failed to plug the cracks.

Vincent Orange: The veteran District politician seemed to be prepared to lose his at-large seat in the last election. A month after Robert White beat him, Orange was named president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Great fit for an accountant who had chaired the business, consumer and regulatory affairs committee. Problem was Orange refused to resign from the council; he wanted to run the chamber, starting in August, yet run out his five-month term on the council. He gets to collect his $125,000 city salary and his chamber pay check, while he chairs the committee that affects chamber affairs?

Way too greedy. His colleagues forced him to resign, an his ability to advocate for small business took a hit.

Now, for those for whom 2016 was a win:

James Alifantis: The owner of Comet Ping Pong withstood the insane social media storm that wrongly accused him of conspiring with Hillary Clinton to run a child sex ring from his pizza joint’s basement. He and fellow business owners along his stretch of Connecticut Avenue below Nebraska Avenue NW suffered verbal threats until early December when a gun-wielding nutball drove from North Carolina to his restaurant to personally "investigate" and free the enslaved kids.

Stay Calm and Make Pizza.

Elissa Silverman: The at-large council member successfully crafted the District’s landmark family leave legislation and ushered it through months of hearings and compromises. She listened to critics. She scaled back the time of paid leave. She held firm and helped maintain a veto-proof majority.

Come January, the first-term legislator has the opportunity to lead the council’s emerging progressive majority.

Ivanka Trump: The soon-to-be First Daughter won the right to develop the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2014. In 2016 she delivered the Trump International Hotel in time and under budget. Ivanka was the face of the Trump Organization in negotiations with the General Services Administration. Along the way she won over and developed strong ties with local leaders like Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Bowser and Councilmember Jack Evans. As First Daughter with President Trump’s ear, she’s poised to wield the most power in the interplay between the District and the White House.

Rushern Baker III: The Prince George's County executive rolled the dice by advocating for gambling on the shores of the Potomac River. This month MGM National Harbor opened its doors to flash the glitz of Las Vegas just south of the Wilson Bridge. Baker looks like a winner now, but he was betting on the come. Let’s see if the casinos, hotels and high-end restaurants pay off in jobs and tax revenues for his constituents.

Odds are in his favor.

Paul Wiedefeld: People love to hate Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. He's the guy who summarily shut down the region's subway system for safety. They blame him for slowing service to fix the tracks, recommending rate hikes and cutting jobs.

But those closer to the debacle that Metro has become -- thanks to deferred maintenance and lousy management -- know Wiedefeld is taking heat for getting Metro on the right track, so to speak.

Jose Andres: The restaurateur and food impresario bailed out of Trump International Hotel when The Donald disparaged Mexicans as "rapists." That earned him Trump’s ire and a lawsuit. Andreas not only didn’t cave, he grew his local restaurant organization ThinkFoodGroup to the MGM National Harbor with plans for more openings. 

In 2016 Andres proved himself to be the region’s dominant restaurateur.

Bryce Harper: The Washington Nationals lost in the playoffs, per usual, but their phenomenal young star came out a winner. Prior to the 2016 season, Harper got the reputation as a hitter and fielder with unlimited potential, but that prowess came with a hot head and tendency to fling himself into outfield walls. Last season Harper endured the maddening tendency for pitchers to throw him nothing but unhittable balls. He fell into a slump. But he never pouted or raged. Staying calm, he played through injuries and still turned in a decent batting average, stole a bunch of bases and never wavered in the field.

In December he married Kayla Varner, his high school girlfriend. In 2016 the rookie star, at 24, started to mature.

Finally, Phil Mendelson: When Mayor Muriel Bowser dropped the f-bomb on the council chair in May in a fit of pique over her bill to help the homeless, Mendo didn’t respond in kind. Knowing he had the upper hand, he smiled and took his leave. Mendelson repaid the mayor by re-crafting and passing his own homelessness law. He then helped pass a veto-proof family leave bill, which Bowser opposed. In his quiet, resolute way, the veteran council member now becomes the most popular elected official in the District. If he can maintain control over the fractious and immature council that will occupy the dais in January, Mendelson could be the most powerful elected official, as well.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Joe's Staying! Biden Says He'll Live in D.C. After January]]> Mon, 26 Dec 2016 12:30:46 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20161226+Joe+Biden+Jill+Biden.jpg

Like his boss, Vice President Joe Biden says he'll stay in Washington, D.C. -- at least part-time -- after he leaves office Jan. 20.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Biden and his wife plan to stay in the city, and that Dr. Jill Biden plans to continue teaching English at Northern Virginia Community College.

That means both the former vice president and the former president are staying in the city that has been their home for eight years. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama plan to stay so their daughter, Sasha, can complete high school.

The Obamas have rented a home in D.C.'s upscale Kalorama neighborhood, home to ambassadors, congressmen and media figures. According to CNN, the 8,200-square-foot home has nine bedrooms and eight and a half bathrooms.

There's no word on where the Bidens might live in D.C.

<![CDATA[25 Most-Read Stories on NBC Washington in 2016]]> Mon, 26 Dec 2016 16:17:43 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/collage71.jpg The year started with a bang as the D.C. area was hammered by nearly two feet of snow -- and things didn't calm down much from there. From an unprecedented Metro shutdown to a stunning twist in the presidential election, here are NBC Washington's 25 most-read stories of 2016.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DC Businessman Jeffrey Thompson Released From Prison]]> Wed, 21 Dec 2016 06:54:13 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Jeffrey+Thompson+file.jpg

A District of Columbia businessman who poured millions of illegal dollars into political campaigns was released from prison Wednesday following a 90-day sentence. 

Jeffrey Thompson was released from federal prison in Kentucky Wednesday, News4's Scott MacFarlane reports. 

Thompson admitted setting up a $660,000 slush fund that aided Vincent Gray's election as District mayor in 2010. Several other people who worked on Gray's campaign pleaded guilty to felonies.

At the time of his sentencing, the defense asked for two years probation and 1,200 hours of community service, citing Thompson's cooperation with the investigation and noting how he has lost his businesses and his standing in the community. The prosecution also did not seek prison time, asking for six months home confinement and the fine.

But the judge said Thompson's downfall was not enough of a deterrent to others and called him the mastermind of the scheme who tried to obstruct the investigation once he was caught.

He was sentenced to three months in prison followed by three months of home confinement. Thompson was also fined $10,000. 

Gray denied wrongdoing in the case and was not charged, but the scandal was a factor in his failure to win re-election.

Gray's case was dropped last year. He won the Ward 7 seat on the D.C. Council in November.

Thompson will serve the final three months of his federal sentence at home in Washington, D.C. A judge rejected his request to travel to Jamaica during the holidays, according to court filings.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[DC Council Confirms New Public Schools Chancellor]]> Tue, 20 Dec 2016 21:19:19 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Antwan+Wilson.jpg

The D.C. Council confirmed the next public schools chancellor by voice vote Tuesday.

Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Antwan Wilson will start Feb. 1.

Wilson was selected, in part, for his success in raising achievement scores, sources told News4.

"As superintendent [in Oakland], he has focused on managing and improving a complex organization, championing important messages to improve teaching and learning, increasing high school graduation rates, and improving social and emotional learning in special education processes," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said when she announced her choice.

He also negotiated increases in teacher pay and per-student funding in Oakland, Bowser said.

According to the Oakland Unified School District website, Wilson previously served as assistant superintendent for post-secondary readiness in Denver Public Schools for six years, where he led Denver's Middle, High, and Intensive Pathway Schools. He arrived in Oakland in April 2015.

Former Chancellor Kaya Henderson stepped down at the end of September. John Davis is serving as interim chancellor. He previously held the role of DCPS chief of schools.

Photo Credit: Oakland Unified School District ]]>
<![CDATA[One-on-One With Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan]]> Tue, 20 Dec 2016 20:07:47 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000017132709_1200x675_838028867561.jpg Prince George's County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins discussed a range of issues from the recent presidential election to the upcoming 2018 Maryland gubernatorial race with Gov. Larry Hogan. Watch the complete interview here.]]>