Archive for the ‘Business and Money’ Category

The Morning News: Leap Day Edition

Happy Leap Day, that day that comes around once each four years to prolong the suck that is February!

District Property Assessments up 7% in 2007

Congratulations DC! Despite the mortgage lender crises, housing starts on the decline and all manner of other market-depressing factors, your assessed values according to the Revenue office went up 7% last year! Be sure to pay your property tax online promptly to help overcome the $96M deficit we talked about earlier this week.

Maryland Cuts Blue Crab Harvest

There will be less of your amazingly tasty blue crabs harvested this year, so expect prices to take a hike at area crab shacks for a bushel of these tasty crustaceans. Please also take a moment to chuckle politely at the headline writer at WJLA.com, who forgot that it’s “because”. Not “becuase”. Go on. Feel superior.

Wait, that’s against the law? I thought it was a perq!

Turns out the deputy director of the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections has been fired for impersonating a Fairfax County law enforcement officer. She’s been charged in Fairfax County for the infraction. Seriously, what situation makes you feel that’s appropriate?

The Morning News: Wait, Super What?

It’s going to be warm and grey today, with temps in the mid sixties and a decent amount of cloudcover. Rain’s not likely til tomorrow, but carry an umbrella for the heck of it. People may think you a dandy.

Lawyers Present Argument for Guns

The lawyers for Dick Heller, principal defendant in District of Columbia v. Heller, presented their case yesterday by filing their brief with the Supremem Court. Oral arguments won’t be heard until the 18th of March. In the intervening 70 years since the last firearms ban review at the high bench, the AK-47 was invented, as was the TEC-9, and several other firearms that perhaps the founders hadn’t yet envisioned in the hands of the general public.

Arlington Gives Go Ahead on New Clarendon Development

If you’ve walked up Wilson Boulevard from the Clarendon Metro, you’ve seen the all-but-abandoned buildings that line Wilson from Highland up to the Clarendon Ballroom. If you think that’s what the country chose to issue demolition permits for, you’d be wrong. Instead it’s the building at the corner of Wilson and Highland, across from the DIA offices, that got the go ahead. Go figure.

Security Barriers Cause Accident

Chance are you have seen the barriers at Constitution and First north of the Capitol. Most of the time, they’re recessed below the street and folks drive over them just fine. Except last Friday, when one popped up in the middle of traffic, causing a serious accident. The malfunctioning barrier sent two people to the hospital as their van crashed in to the barrier when it was raised unexpectedly. Jeez, guys, that’s pretty scary. How many times does that get to happen?

The Rocket’s in Town

Accused-steroid-user and all-around asshat Roger Clemens is in town to testify before Congress under oath about his behavior concerning steroids and human growth hormone. The Mitchell Report, released this winter, has testimony from Clemens’ trainer swearing that he was on drugs for much of the last few seasons. But, fear not, the hearing is behind closed doors and won’t be on C-SPAN. Feel free to call him a jackass if you see him on the street.

Best Ways To Spend Your Rebate in DC?

It seems that a deal has been reached on an economic stimulus package (heh, I said stimulus package) that would put a bunch of fluid dollars into the hands of Americans everywhere. If you make less than $75k, look for a check around $600. Married couple? $1200.

So, if this is truly to be economic stimulus, how can we best spend it in the DC area? I don’t think big chains need any more of our money, so maybe it’s time to look at local businesses that could use a few extra bucks, so that takes out a whole bunch of stores. So, for the best local effect, maybe shops like Belmont TV might be the place to go for electronics and whatnot. Shops like Kramers and Politics & Prose for books. DC is blessed with an abundance of non-chain restaurants, so maybe a night out with your hubby/sweetie would be a good idea, as well.

If you’re going to get stimulated, you might as well help out some of the local businesses, yeah? Where are you going to spend your rebate?

The Morning News: Through the Fog

It’s pretty garbagey out there today. Fog this morning, thunderstorms later. Our last day above 60°F for a while. Enjoy it while you can.

Housing Market in Recovery?

The Examiner thinks that housing market is stabilizing, maybe even recovering, at least in NoVA and DC. The median sale for a house in December was $425,000, up 4% over November, but we’re still down 2% year-over-year. So, relax just a bit, home-owners, it may be okay, after all. No need to freak.

Bank Robbery Turns Into Major Mystery

This is really pretty bizarre. Usually, when a bank’s robbed, they know right away. However, yesterday’s heist at the Wachovia near the FBI HQ took place at 9:30am, but wasn’t noticed until after 3:00pm. A man dressed as a Brinks security guard walked right into the vault, packed up $370,000, and walked right up. Proof that when you look like you belong, you can get away with, well, $370,000. They figured it out when the real guard showed up that afternoon.

Oops.

New Metro Cars? Maybe…

Metro’s looking at a brand new design for their rail cars, a drastic change from their current design. So much of a break, even, that the new cars wouldn’t link up with the older cars. It’s likely that these cars won’t go into service until 2013 at the earliest, and would likely run along the Orange Line extension out toward Dulles Airport. Metro is waiting to hear about how the Federal funding for the extension will work, but will then be ordering 128 new cars across the two phases, if things work out monetarily.

Two Healthcare Bits

The Whitman-Walker Clinic will be expanding services in the DC area, as well as doing a major overhaul on its social service programs. It will also be launching a public awareness campaign to the socio-economic groups hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The former chief pharmacist for St. Elizabeth’s somehow managed to steal $95,000 in drugs from the hospital. The husband/wife thief team sold about $236,000 worth of stolen medication in combination form St. Elizabeth’s and Kaiser Permanente. Interestingly enough, his wife was sentences to six months in prison, while he faces generally between 24 and 30 months. No idea why the sentences are so different.

WMATA Bumps Fares Come January

The governing body has approved a fare hike that will raise Metro fares by up to $0.60 per trip, parking by $0.75 per day and bus fares by $0.10. The fare hike is designed to prevent a $110M shortfall predicted in next year’s budget. Here’s how the fare problems break out:

The new base rail fare: $1.65 (up from $1.35)
The new max rail fare: $4.50 (up from $3.90)
The new parking rate: up to $4.00 (up from $3.25)
The new metrobus fare: $1.35 (up from $1.25, remains $1.25 if you use SmarTrip)

No word on why Metro chose to leave bus fares static for SmarTrip card users, or why a similar option (or at least a lower fare hike…) wasn’t provided to rail users. The new fares take effect on January 6th, 2008, so enjoy your “cheap” fares for the rest of the year, and get ready to budget up to another couple bucks a day for next year’s fares.

Wirefly is on the ropes

Either the world is more connected than I thought or I spend too much damned time on the web. (Why can’t it be both?) This might have slipped my notice if I hadn’t come across the blog of Kate Michaels, Ms DC 2006 earlier this week (she’s in Bobbitt’s production of The Secret Garden at Adventure Thearter, which I wrote about the other day) and noticed the banner for the National Marathon in this post. “The Wirefly National Marathon” boasts the website.

Unfortunately it seems that InPhonic, Wirefly’s parent company, is flagging well before the 26th mile marker. They’re seeking chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as they try to sell off their assets after a fairly unpleasant downward spiral over the last few years. Companies come and go and, quite frankly, under normal circumstances the demise of any organization in the cellphone business is more likely to make me cackle than cringe. I hate cellphone companies.

However InPhonic is a local and an employer of over 1,000 people. So aside from wondering how much the bankruptcy judge will let them off the hook for their sponsorship of the 2008 marathon, I wonder how many people are going to be looking for work here in town when the post-sale gutting is complete?

Half of Virginia Legislature Elected Without Challenge

So, yesterday was election day in a few states, and Virginia was one of them. The entirety of the House of Delegates and State Senate was on the block. The Democrats captured the State Senate, while the Republicans maintained control of the House of Delegates. What my cohort Don pointed out to me was disturbing: 77 of the 140 seats were not contested. Meaning, they ran unopposed. Meaning, they raised a bunch of money ($95k+ in some cases…) to win an election they were going to win anyway.

When you look at what it takes to run for state office here, coffers of $200k+ (more in many cases), a tolerance of a media that’s bent on crucifying that which is nuanced or complex instead of merely black & white, not to mention a two-party system that’s predicated on revenge and scoring points with the tip of the sword. I guess it’s really not all that surprising that half the seats weren’t contested. Is it?

The $20 Project: Hair Cut, Coffee and Rubbers

Michael's Barber Shop 13-08-07_1136

I can’t really afford to go out for lunch here in Bethesda because I don’t make nearly as much money as almost anyone else in town. Instead, I eat at my desk while working and reserve my actual lunch break for doing errands. Yesterday was no different. My first stop was to Michael’s Barber Shop on St. Elmo Ave., where I got my mop chopped to an appropriate length. The barbers there are very nice folks, always happy to chat or allow customers to be quiet, taking their cues appropriately and thus guaranteeing a good tip. Haircut: $14, including a $2 tip.

Coffee - hell yeah!

Next I got a cup of coffee at the convenience store at the corner of Norfolk and Woodmont. You know the place, where the construction workers from nearby building projects spend their lunch hours betting on horses and playing the numbers. The cute Philippine lady at the counter always gives me a nice smile and wishes me a nice day. So much better than Starbucks next door, where all you are likely to get is fed through the cattle chute and spit out a door to again mix with society. 20 ounce coffee: $1.40.

Rubbers

My last stop on the lunch break express was to the CVS to pick up some unlubricated rubbers. Not for any sort of traditional use, mind you, but to use as airlocks for the hard cider I am making. I don’t have a fancy recipe like Derek Terrell probably does but will share it with you anyway. You take a jug of apple cider from the store (no preservatives, mind you – just straight juice), sprinkle in a teaspoon of bread yeast and attach a jimmy hat to keep bacteria-laden air from coming in. After the woody wrap is unrolled and affixed, simply wait until it stops inflating. Then you have some good, old-fashioned hard cider. Rubbers: $4.19

Total cost of my lunch break: $19.59

Less a buyer’s market than a non-payer’s one, really

If you’re much of a radio listener you’ve probably heard some talk these last few days about the most recent numbers on foreclosures, a measure of just how FUBAR the housing market – and potentially therefor, the economy – is. Well there’s some hard numbers on RealtyTrac over here. With 331 new filings in the 3rd quarter the District is up 903% from the three previous months and 1339% from the 3rd quarter last year, though that number might be inflated as RealyTrac’s data gathering has improved from last year.

Those of us living in the neighboring areas can’t fall back on that though. Marylanders are up 66.7% for the quarter and 549% from last year, Virginia is not quite as bad with 55.7% and 488.7%. No little * to indicate we can’t trust those numbers – there’s 5 times as many people potentially losing their houses this year as last. RealtyTrac ranks the states by changes from quarter to quarter, putting us 16th and 21st in position in increase from Q2, if you’re feeling competitive.

Personally I think the real ugly is in the year change though. That 549 and 488.7 puts us at #1 and #2 for nosedives from last year, exceeded only by New Hampshire, whose whopping and unbelievable 2785.1has the * indicating that their numbers are questionable. I’d take some solace from the fact that there’s a lot of ground in those states beyond our immediate area if they weren’t so close in number – that makes me inclined to think the action is largely here, where the big runups in price were.

Will Zones Die So Easy?

dc_taxi.gif Will the Taxi Zones really die so easily? I’m not sure they will. I can see a potential taxi-strike, or maybe some sort of peculiar form of passive protest? Then again, how would you know if your cab driver was being a jerk to you because of the meters he’s had to take over, or because he’s a nutjob with a crappy-ass cab?

It’s really going to be hard to tell if they take up the passive protest route. I suppose a court challenge isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, but I look forward to seeing what’s next. Mayor Fenty has said “he has no idea how much the transition will cost or what the timetable will be,” according to the Washington Post, which is a bit of a bummer. I was hoping to see a drop-dead date today for the changeover, but I suspect now they’ll have to standardize the fare rates, not to mention settle on a meter platform, and get them installed in taxis. So, I think the death of the taxi zone is probably still at least 9 months off, and probably closer to a year given the District’s proclivity toward taking a good amount of time to do anything.

Now, if we could just make cabbies sit for The Knowledge in DC…

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