Gray behind D.C. license plate scans; $1M to Rawlings family

WASHINGTON — D.C. Mayor Vince Gray was a guest Wednesday on WTOP’s “Ask the Mayor” program with Mark Segraves.

The mayor unveiled the ballpark settlement amount for the DeOnte Rawlings case, following the announcement earlier this month that the family’s $100 million lawsuit against the city had been resolved.

Given the circumstances surrounding the “14-year-old kid, who himself, had a checkered past,” the city agreed to a less than $1 million settlement, Gray says.

He also discussed his recent trip to Tampa Bay to check out the Buccaneers’ training facility. Gray hopes to attract the Redskins’ training grounds, currently housed “way out” in Ashburn, Va., back into city limits.

His administration is “in discussions now” with the Redskins.

Regarding another “football” team, the mayor says he hopes D.C. United will remain in their home city, but it “comes down to finding” a stadium and having the money to do it.

Gray was unapologetic on two D.C. initiatives: HIV tests at a city DMV office and new police cameras that can record thousands of license plates and the cars’ locations, and store that information for up to three years.

“We’re trying to reach people wherever we possibly can,” Gray says of the tests for HIV, which has a 3 percent prevalence rate in D.C.

“We have the ability to ensure, if caught early enough, people’s quality of life will not be affected at all.”

Most of the cost is footed by a private institution that runs the tests in government space, though public health employees contribute to the process.

However, Gray adds he thinks the cause is worthwhile even if the city was paying for everything.

He says also the license plate scanners are an essential element to combating crime.

“Right now I look at it as an absolutely wonderful addition to our arsenal of tools,” the mayor says.

Learn more about what the mayor thinks of the six planned Walmarts in D.C., and congestion and speeding on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway by listening to the full audio at right, or checking out this live blog:

10:56 a.m., speaking about his administration’s communications team shakeup, and negative media coverage:

“I think the media have a job to report balanced news. I would assume you guys are skilled, so you get at the news yourselves. If there are ways you think we could do a better job of getting news out, I can tell you, sincerely, we would like to hear that.”

We’ve had 491 people placed into the “One City, One Hire” program. Those who need a job, or those who have a job to offer, can call 311 and ask to be connected to DOES.

10:56 a.m., speaking about the Florida Ave. Market:

I don’t know. It’s a privately run organization. I went over there after the fire and congratulated our Fire & EMS folks. I don’t have a specific date yet.

10:55 a.m., speaking about making D.C. greener:

We are focused on becoming the greenest city in America. We are close to, if not at the top of LEED certified buildings. “We are working now to get people more oriented to recycling programs.”

10:54 a.m., speaking about Southeast-Southwest Freeway congestion:

Relief is on the way. I noticed, once, most of the tags were from Maryland. Those drivers will be rerouted in the future.

10:51 a.m., speaking about the DeOnte Rawlings shooting and ensuing suit settlement:

We’re paying less than $1 million to the family. Given the circumstances, “a 14-year-old kid who, himself, had a checkered past,” it seemed the prudent thing to settle this.

10:47 a.m., speaking about keeping D.C. United with a stadium:

We would love to have D.C. United stay, but it comes down to finding a stadium and having the money to do it.

10:45 a.m., speaking about taking a trip to Tampa to check out training facilities:

The Redskins training facility and camp is “way out in Virginia.” The best opportunity to have the Redskins play in Washington would be to have their training facility here.

(I paid for this trip out of my own pocket)

Tampa’s is a “phenomenal facility.” We’re “in discussions” right now.

10:41 a.m., speaking about the Turkey Bowl:

It will be an exciting game, the Coolidge Colts versus the Dunbar Crimson Tide.

Their recent matchup was one of the best high school games in the city.

I’m rooting for the best team to win. (Gray attended Dunbar).

Kickoff is at 11 a.m. Thursday at Eastern HS on Capitol Hill.

10:38 a.m., speaking about extending the streetcar system into the Maryland suburbs:

I hope we can. These kinds of forward thinking transit approaches have enormous potential.

10:37 a.m., speaking about Police Chief Lanier renewing her contract:

I think she’s done a wonderful job of policing the city.

Without getting into the details, I think she’s someone who has done an absolutely sterling job and I look forward to her being here.

10:34 a.m., speaking about cameras that record car license plates and location, and keep that information on file for three years:

“It’s an incredibly effective crime-fighting tool. I think it’s a crime deterrent.”

We’re in an “evolving era” in crime technological advancements. I don’t know if this needs to be regulated, but it’s something that will be discussed with the legislature.

“The crime-fighting benefits are tremendous.”

(On the length of time the information is kept) “We are the nation’s capital. We attract people who wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

“It will evolve, it will change. It may be regulated over time.”

“Right now I look at it as an absolutely wonderful addition to our arsenal of tools.”

10:32 a.m., speaking about the speeding on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway:

“Don’t forget we have cameras we use for enforcement at this stage.”

There’s a car that sits just off that freeway and enforces speed.

10:24 a.m., speaking about the six Walmarts to be built in D.C., versus small businesses:

“We have been quite supportive of small business in this city,” which represent up to 70 percent of local business.

“There will be no reduction in our commitment to and attention to small businesses” in D.C.

“The Walmarts are proposed in areas where I don’t think small businesses will be affected at all.”

They provide benefits, and provide 1,800 jobs, 51 percent or more will go to D.C. residents.

I don’t know if they would sell alcohol in the city. But we have other, similar operations that sell alcohol in the city.

10:22 a.m., speaking about free HIV testing at D.C. DMV locations:

“We’re trying to reach people wherever we possibly can.”

We have a 3 percent prevalence rate, and we’re trying to do whatever we can to deal with this epidemic.

“We have the ability now to ensure, if caught early enough, people’s quality of life will not be affected at all.”

We entered into a partnership with a private organization that has received some funding from the public sector.

“Of course we have tax dollars involved with our staff,” with health department personnel.

“But these tests are very, very inexpensive. Even if we had to pay for them ourselves, I would suggest we do that.” The costs are much higher with a prevention program.

10:15 a.m., speaking about Sulaimon Brown and Harry Thomas, Jr. investigations:

We have not been asked to testify about Sulaimon Brown.

You always think about these things (when running for reelection). (The mayor would not answer if he’s running for reelection.)

10:13 a.m., speaking about functionality of the D.C. government:

I think we’re functioning quite well.

“We were coming in the door around fiscal stability.” When people see the audit in the coming months, they will see we’re “handling the city in a fiscally prudent manner.”

Crime is down, particularly in homicides, and we have one of the best early education programs in the country, including special ed.

10:08 a.m., speaking about the 13 arrests at the Franklin School:

We’re still trying to figure out who they were. They appear to be some fringe group that has denounced the overall campaign.

“At the end of the day, the MPD did exactly what they should have.”

“Lawlessness will not be tolerated in this city.”

10:04 a.m., speaking about the costs Occupy D.C.:

It’s around $1 million, which is largely for the police activity. There are two movements: The group in Freedom Plaza, and McPherson Square.

There are also the DDOT costs for when they’re out marching and moving, and the DPW costs to maintain the trash.

Those are significantly less than the police costs.

“It’s difficult” to determine how much longer the taxpayers and our budget can afford this.

“It is a financial consideration, but not solely. Obviously there are the constitutional rights for those involved.”

We had an extensive meeting with the local federal law enforcement officials. No “end date” for the protests was discussed.

“Both of these places where they’re located involve federal property.”

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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