Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 6/4/09

New beginnings, same results?

The New Beginnings Youth Center had a bad start.

Mayor Adrian Fenty and youth rehabilitation director Vincent Schiraldi had barely left the “state-of-the-art” juvenile detention center when it had its first escape.


Although there are newly designed fences to keep the 60 youth offenders in the campuslike complex, apparently one of the inmates scaled a building and scurried over a fence the day after the mayor's visit.

At Friday's opening ceremony, Schiraldi was justifiably proud of the $45 million facility in suburban Maryland. It will treat troubled youth with more respect and try to turn their lives around with education, job training and individual attention, officials said.

Until now, the youth offenders have been housed in dilapidated conditions in which Schiraldi famously said he wouldn’t allow his dog.

At the ceremony, Schiraldi said, “The good news is you don’t have to make it look like a nasty prison in order to make it safe and secure.”

Now, with the first escape, some nasty-looking barbed wire is being installed in vulnerable corners. And at least for a while, there are more security guards stationed around the perimeter, too.

Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells, chair of the council committee that oversees youth services, made an unannounced visit to the facility on Monday.

But the New Beginnings officials wouldn't let NBC4’s camera on site. (Funny, they seemed to welcome our camera on Friday for the grand opening.)

Wells was making his first visit to New Beginnings. He didn’t skip the opening ceremony on Friday; he wasn’t invited by the mayor to attend. Wells will now hold a hearing to find out more about the design of the facility.

• A Ticket To Ride

Complain all you want about those pesky speed cameras, but they’re catching everyone.

Even Mayor Fenty.

The City Paper’s Loose Lips column first reported last week that the mayor’s Smart Car was captured on a speed camera May 11 going 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit in the 5500 block of East Capitol Street.

The mayor paid the $50 fine.

• Clark Ray Returns

Just weeks after he was sacked as recreation director, Clark Ray is preparing to run for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council.
Ray is widely liked and respected by many in the city, and folks were stunned by his abrupt dismissal as recreation chief. In private, Ray has blamed troubles with then-City Administrator Dan Tangherlini for his firing, not the mayor.

Ray formerly worked for the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and was an early foot soldier in the Fenty campaign for mayor in 2006. His job as recreation director took him into neighborhoods all over the city. Not a bad way to learn what’s on the people’s minds.

So far, Ray has allowed a “draft committee” to be formed on his behalf. But he appears to be targeting the Democratic seat held by incumbent Phil Mendelson.

Mendelson is no lightweight. He may be the least publicity-savvy member of the council, and aggravatingly detailed on issues (to reporters), but he always seems to find the voters when he needs them.

• D.C. United Still Kicking

West Coast real estate tycoon Victor MacFarlane has sold his share of the soccer team. It appears MacFarlane realized that his big-footed effort to sweep into town and get a sweet development deal with either the city or Prince George’s County was going nowhere.

From the moment MacFarlane got involved, there were suggestions that he didn’t care about soccer except to use it as a tool. Whatever he originally thought, the sinking economy didn’t help him here or on the West Coast.

But don’t despair, soccer fans. Our sources say a soccer stadium deal -- less costly to the city -- is more likely now that MacFarlane is out of the picture.

• WAMU Host on Friday

We don’t know what to expect, but your Notebook is going to be the guest host Friday at noon for the WAMU Politics Hour. Kojo Nnamdi is traveling.

On the eve of the Virginia Democratic primary for governor, we’re lining up live interviews with all three candidates. But the Notebook is sure we’ll work some city issues into the hourlong program as well. Feel free to call in with any question you have.

• Vacation Time

And we’ll be away next week on vacation. If we can get up the energy, we might send in a column. But then again, depending on the number of piña coladas consumed, we might not.

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