A.U. Alum Shot, Killed Outside Shaw Metro Station

August 31, 2015

Matthew Shlonsky, a 23-year-old District resident, 2014 American University graduate, Cleveland native, Deloitte consultant and former Capitol Hill intern, was gunned down outside the Shaw-Howard University Metro station Aug. 15, while on his way to a party at Right Proper Brewing Company.  He was pronounced dead at Howard University Hospital shortly after the 5 p.m. shooting. 
According to police, Shlonsky hopped out of a cab with friends at the corner of 7th and S streets NW when he was hit by a bullet meant for someone else.  Police are searching for a burgundy color Chrysler 300 with Maryland license plates after reports that a vehicle matching that description fled the scene around the time of the shooting.
The shooting was the latest in a string of gun violence in Shaw, a rapidly changing historic downtown neighborhood that many residents generally consider safe. Notably, at 7th and O streets NW, a few blocks south of where Shlonsky was killed, three people were shot last Tuesday, August 11 and one person was shot and killed on Memorial Day. 

D.C. Public Schools Kick Off School Year, Get Low Marks

D.C. Public Schools kicked off the 2015-2016 school year today, sending kids back to 113 schools around the city. In a statement, DCPS noted an uptick in enrollment for the fourth year in a row, the opening of four new schools and a new lifetime learning program called “Cornerstones,” aimed at teaching students skills they will need for life.

“Challenging curriculum has always been part of DCPS’ strategy, but going forward, students will receive the same high-quality learning experience, no matter where they live or go to school,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “Every first-grader, from Simon Elementary in Ward 8 to Janney Elementary in Ward 3, will bioengineer a frog habitat and 10th-graders at every high school will build electric batteries. And starting this year, every DCPS second-grader will learn to ride a bicycle, regardless of whether they have one at home. All high schools will provide at least six Advanced Placement courses, and some will offer more than 20.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser played her part for back to school by making appearances at schools all over the District to highlight the Slow Down Campaign, “to remind drivers that school is back in session and that they should slow down in school zones.”

Despite promising new programs and expansions at D.C. Public Schools, personal finance data website WalletHub rankings give the District’s school system incredibly low marks. WalletHub found that D.C. students have the lowest math and reading and SAT scores in the country, and the city’s schools have one of the highest dropout rates when compared to those in other states. This despite the fact that D.C.’s adult residents are some of the most educated, or most schooled, in the country.

There are good schools in D.C., but getting your kids into one requires living in some of the city’s most expensive real estate. A District Office of Revenue analysis released in June showed that housing prices in D.C. neighborhoods closely correlate with test scores in community schools.

MPD Cracks Down On ‘Johns’ With Prostitution Sting

August 17, 2015

The Metropolitan Police Department’s Human Trafficking Unit has arrested 41 men since July 14 for soliciting prostitution in Northwest D.C.

Starting in January, the MPD unit has conducted a number of sting operations at hotels around Thomas Circle not far from the city’s old Red Light District on 14th Street NW. Police lured johns online with fake advertisements, giving the men men hotel room numbers and arresting the ones who showed up.

Police were spurred by reports of street prostitution from local businesses and churches around Thomas Circle and along the bustling 14th Street corridor downtown. Prosecutors in the District have increasingly focused on prostitution cases of late in an effort to battle human trafficking.

The arrests come after Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans proposed new legislation that would crack down on johns by allowing police to tow and boot their cars. The “honey, I lost the car” bill, as Evans dubs it, is meant to embarrass johns and decrease prostitution in the city. He said recently there has been an “enormous increase in street prostitution” in the city.

His proposal comes from a long line of ideas the District has experimented with to crack down on prostitution since the early 1990s. Other ideas tested out by the city government to put a damper on prostitution include banning right turns on certain streets and starting a “John School” to shame and frighten men caught soliciting prostitutes.

U.S., Cuba Resume Diplomatic Relations

At midnight July 20, the U.S. and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations after 54 years of broken ties. Amidst the celebration, the media went into a frenzy, creating copious Cuba content. Below are some of the more interesting pieces, on history, architecture, politics, gossip and more that came out of the day.

As part of the network’s coverage on Cuba, CNN looked at the fraught history of the Cuban Interests Section here and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

CNN also took video inside the Cuban Embassy on 16th Street, showcasing the property’s elaborate architecture, ornate stain glass ceiling, marble staircases and more.

The New York Times reports on the U.S. embassy opening from the ground in Cuba, and looks at the changes the country faces as diplomatic ties fade away.

A new CBS poll shows that 58% of Americans support resuming diplomatic ties with Cuba while only 24% oppose it. In addition, 54% of Americans support ending the trade embargo between the two countries.

In a press conference today, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that as diplomatic ties resume, so should the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba end. He added that the blockade “caused a lot of suffering to the Cuban people.”

The Washington Post’s Reliable Source theorizes that restored diplomatic ties will lead to more soirees at the Cuban Embassy, where an exclusive bar Hemingway’s serves the best mojito in town, according to one source.

In other U.S.-Cuba news, the U.S. Men’s national soccer team trounced the Cuban team 6-0 on Saturday to advance to the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Gold Cup Semi-Finals.

Developer Pulling Out of M Street ‘Micro-Unit’ Project

Local developer SB-Urban has dropped its plan to convert the Latham Hotel at 3000 M St. NW in to a “micro-unit” apartment complex, according to the Current Newspapers.

The Latham Hotel micro-unit project was one of three that SB-Urban is developing in Northwest Washington targeting affluent young people with small but well-furnished apartments located in desirable neighborhoods. The company’s two other developments, slated for Blagden Alley in Shaw and at 15 Dupont Circle in the historic Patterson Mansion, are still a-go, with plans to begin construction on both this year.

SB-Urban bought the Latham Hotel building in November 2013 for $45.4 million. After the purchase, the company went through a number of hoops, gaining the approval of the Old Georgetown Board and the Board of Zoning Adjustment to renovate the space into a development consisting of 140 units with 330 square-foot floor plans.

SB-Urban’s Mike Balaban told the Current, “At the time we acquired the site, the hospitality market in D.C. was quite depressed, and that has now long since changed,” adding, “It’s now a very strong market that’s very actively being sought by investors and operators from literally all over the world.” On the building’s future, Balaban said, “We think it’s a great site and something great will come of it.”

Goats Return to Congressional Cemetery

The keepers of the Historic Congressional Cemetery brought in the goats for another, 24-hour round of heavy landscaping today. The goats, officially called the Browsing Green Goats of Prosperity Acres in Sunderland, Maryland, come in every year to clear out invading vines, poison ivy, weeds and other unwanted vegetation from the cemetery, which was established in 1807. In the process, they drop their own brand of organic fertilizer which helps grass grow in the lot. Check out photos of the Historic Congressional Cemetery clearing below.
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Knife-Wielding Woman, Shot by Police, in ‘Serious Condition’

A woman is in serious condition MedStar Washington Hospital Center after threatening police officers responding to a fire in Northeast with a knife on Saturday. The woman, who has been identified as Renita Nettles, 22, by the Washington Post, is being charged with assault with a deadly weapon and arson, according to a police report. She suffered a single gunshot wound to the shoulder, according to the Post.

The police officer who shot Nettles has not been identified by the Metropolitan Police Department, but a spokesman said he has been placed on administrative leave, which is routine in cases like this one.

The source of confrontation in the Clay Terrace neighborhood is unknown, but many bystanders took photos and videos of the shooting, sharing them on social media, too. One of those videos, which is graphic in nature, can be seen (here)[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQjh_nsMI1Q]. Viewer’s discretion is advised.

Beleaguered Georgetown U. Track Team Under Fire for Sexual Misconduct

August 13, 2015

After facing an investigation earlier this year over racial bias, the Georgetown University track program is being probed about allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

A day after a blog post titled, “Georgetown Track Exposed” appeared online July 16 providing information about sexual misconduct on the men’s track team, Georgetown U. released a statement acknowledging a probe into such activities that started in April 2015. In addition, the University’s communications office wrote that the university has met with every member of the team to review school policy and the allegations. The university also closed the men’s track locker room, where some of the misconduct was said to have occurred.

Georgetown University’s statement did not bring light to the activities that led to the investigation, though it did note that the sexual misconduct investigation is “separate from a review regarding allegations of racial bias within the track program being conducted by the Georgetown University Office of Institutional Diversity Equity and Affirmative Action (IDEAA), which began in late March following a report of racial bias.” That investigation stems from runner Stefanie Kurgatt’s claims that track program coaches conspired to kick her off the team.

The “Georgetown Track Exposed” blog post, on the other hand, provided more detail on why the team is under investigation for sexual misconduct. The anonymous blogger wrote, “During conversation concerning discrimination [with the university], issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the MEN’s LOCKER ROOM were brought up.” The writer goes on to describe a video the men’s team produced as a trailer for its annual “Hoya Snaxa Awards” that included long distance runners performing “overtly sexual activities between each other.” The awards, emails posted by the anonymous blogger show, were given out for things like “Hottest Mom,” “Best Drunken Performance,” among with other crude superlatives.

The author says that the video previewing the awards “prompted the University to open an additional Title IX investigation based on violations of the Georgetown University’s Code of Sexual Conduct.” In addition, the blogger says the university immediately took the video, which was released “through Georgetown University Email accounts,” down.

According to the university, neither investigation has concluded.

Urban Chic to Close for Good by the End of the Month

August 7, 2015

Clothier Urban Chic will close its Georgetown store for good at the end of this month. Owner Lindsay Buscher announced Thursday that the shop, known for carrying clothes by high-end designers like Diane Von Furstenburg and Trina Turk, is closing and attributed its failure to the rise of cheaper clothing outlets (namely, H&M and T.J. Maxx), and upstarts like Rent the Runway in Georgetown.

Buscher attempted to revive the flailing store in March with a relaunch focused on drawing in younger customers. The bid failed but Buscher told the Washingtonian, ““I love Georgetown, and I love and will miss all of our loyal customers that have stood by our side for the last decade.”

The store is holding a closing sale, starting today, with prices starting at 35 percent off. Urban Chic paid rent for the month of July but a store representative says she doubts that the merchandise will last until the end of the month. Urban Chic is located at 1626 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Bodies Wash Up in Rock Creek, the Potomac and the Tidal Basin

July 16, 2015

The Metropolitan Police Department has discovered 3 dead bodies in Washington waterways this week, and has attributed the discovery of those bodies to heavy recent rain.

The first body was found in the rear of the Swedish Embassy at the 2900 block of K Street NW. Officers appeared on the scene to investigate a “body floating in the water” and “discovered a deceased male,” according to an email from the department. Police say the body was in the water for an “undetermined amount of time” and that they do not know the cause, or the location, of the man’s death. The department has scheduled an autopsy to find out more about the man’s death Officials also said that the deceased man “carried identification” indicating North Carolina residency.

On Wednesday, police retrieved two bodies from the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River, respectively. U.S. Park Police called MPD to the scene when they discovered a partially submerged, “unconscious and unresponsive” adult male in the Tidal Basin around 6:30 a.m. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Meanwhile, MPD is continuing their investigation of the death as a homicide and asking anyone with information about the body to call the department at (202) 727-9099.

Lastly, MPD’s Homicide Branch is investigating unidentified remains that were found in the Potomac River near the Kennedy Center around noon Wednesday. The police said in a statement that MPD’s K-9 Unit was the first on the scene and that Office of the Chief Medical Examiner transported the body to their facilities for further investigation.