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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 04/12/2011

DeAfternoon DeBonis: April 12, 2011

TODAY IS APRIL 12, 2011 — DAY 97 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — D.C. abortion funding: the facts — Marshall Brown dismissed from Biddle campaign after Post commentsD.C. fleet management needs improvement, draft report finds

In the middle of Constitution Avenue NE yesterday, Vincent C. Gray yesterday became the first D.C. mayor to be placed under arrest since his old boss, Sharon Pratt, was cuffed in 1993 under similar circumstances — protesting the dealings of a federal government that easily intrudes into the city’s parochial affairs. Gray was joined in the Capitol Police lockup by six D.C. Council members — Kwame Brown, Yvette Alexander, Sekou Biddle, Muriel Bowser, Michael A. Brown, Tommy Wells — and 34 private citizens. Gray strolled out seven hours later with the Browns, expressing a hankering for a Horace and Dickie’s fish sandwich. For a protest intended to bring national attention to the city’s ongoing autonomy issues, it worked well enough: Gray appeared on CNN this morning, telling America that D.C. was “thrown under the bus” by Congress. Politico covered the arrests, as did Slate, Fox News, the L.A. Times, National Journal, Roll Call and The Guardian. Heritage Foundation headline: “D.C.’s Mayor Arrested for Not Understanding the Constitution.” Wonkette headline: “D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray Arrested, But Not For Usual D.C. Mayor Reasons.”

AFTER THE JUMP — Good news: needle exchange still allowed; Metro funding intact — the facts on D.C.-funded abortions — plenty of outrage to go around — Marshall Brown handed walking papers by Biddle — Fenty sitting on $440K from campaign — preliminary Sessoms audit is scathing

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE ON ARRESTS — Closer to home, Martin Austermuhle writes at DCist: “Residents of Washington have heard big talk on voting rights for years, and for any number of reasons the movement in support of it has been stuck in neutral — if not rolled backwards — during the same time. Many residents and advocates needed something to remind them that a fire remained, and yesterday’s actions were it.” Lydia DePills writes at City Paper: “Will the act of civil disobedience change anything in the budget negotiations still underway in the buildings on the hill they sat on? Well, probably not. But to the extent that preventing D.C. women from getting abortions and drug addicts from getting clean needles is a symbolic act by the federal lawmakers ... then perhaps symbolism is as good a weapon as any.” GGW’s David Alpert asks what’s next: “Those that showed up and got arrested took a great step for DC rights today. But we can’t stop here. Residents and elected officials alike have to keep this energy going, whether it’s with more protests or other acts that draw attention to DC’s cause. More people may need to get arrested. And what can make this issue get more attention far outside the Beltway?” Also Examiner (”his arrest might serve as the reset he’s needed to right his wayward administration”), WaTimes (which calls Eleanor Holmes Norton “[n]oticeably absent” from the arrests) and DCist. Also: The Post has a photo gallery from the arrests; WRC-TV has video of Gray’s 1 a.m. remarks after being sprung from jail.

GOOD NEWS — The Post’s Ben Pershing reports that the final language of the budget deal “spares the Washington region many of the spending cuts and controversial policy changes” that House Republicans had sought. “The measure does include a prohibition on the District using its own money to fund abortions for low-income women. ... But in something of a surprise, the bill does not include a ban on D.C. needle-exchange programs. ... The measure fully funds the federal government’s $150 million share of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s capital budget, which will be matched by $50 million apiece from the District, Maryland and Virginia. ... The bill cuts just over $50 million from federal payments to the District — almost $30 million less than was cut by the original House bill — and some of those reductions come in areas where the city and/or Obama said they didn’t want the money. The measure reduces funding for D.C. Courts by $17 million — compared with $25.5 million in the House bill — and cuts $10 million from the budget of D.C. Water. The bill includes $77 million for District schools — $17 million more than the House bill provided — with $42 million devoted to traditional public schools, $20 million for charter schools and $15.5 million for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.”

ABORTION FACTS — Here’s more details on the reality of taxpayer funding for abortions in the District: “District taxpayers have been billed for 117 elective abortions, totaling about $62,000. That covers abortions billed under the health plans funded by Medicaid and the D.C. HealthCare Alliance program since Aug. 1, 2010. ... [T]wo caveats: That 117 figure includes abortions billed by only two of the three managed-care organizations that have contracts with the city. The third, Unison, has yet to submit its billings for the period since abortions were first covered. Also: Those billings still have to pass a adjudication process, where the claims are scrutinized by city overseers.” The New York Times reports: “In a national budget that is measured in trillions of dollars, that might not seem like much. But for this city, which raises $5 billion in tax revenue each year but does not have the final say over how to spend it, the compromise — which restores a ban on the use of local taxpayer money for abortions — served as a bitter reminder of its powerlessness. ‘It looks to me that we were easy enough to throw under a bus, and that’s where we landed,’ said [Norton].” Also: TBD’s Sarah Larimer does an ”explainer” on D.C. abortion funding. And colleague Amanda Hess puts together a “Choose your own D.C. restitution adventure!”

DUH — From the NYT: “Republican lawmakers say they tinker mostly because they can. ‘Because D.C. is primarily financially under Congressional oversight, I think people feel more empowered to specifically have input there more so than other states,’ said Representative Tim Scott, a freshman from South Carolina who is on the Republican leadership slate in the House. ‘I don’t think there is much more to it than that.’”

OUTRAGE I — Today’s lead Washington Post editorial: “It was pretty clear during the tense budget negotiations that nearly closed the federal government that there is a lot Democrats and Republicans don’t agree about. What unites the two sides, though, is their utter disregard — if not contempt — for those who make their home in the District of Columbia. That President Obama personally dealt away the District’s autonomy in order to get a budget deal is pretty much all anyone needs to know to understand why there’s been so little progress in getting voting and other rights for the District. With friends like that, who needs enemies?”

OUTRAGE II — Harry Jaffe’s version, from the Examiner: “My question is, where were the Democrats who might have protected the District’s limited self-government? This is a jurisdiction that reliably votes 9-1 for the Dems. Surely, the Democrats would protect our right to spend our own tax funds without Big Brother sequestering some funds and spending others. Truth be told, Democrats have rarely helped the District become more independent. ... To Barack Obama, the District is merely a backdrop for speeches; for first lady Michelle Obama, we provide a stage for veggie gardens and farmers markets. But when it came to hard-core politics and money, neither the Obamas nor the Democrats in Congress have much interest in our rights — as taxpayers or American citizens. We are only pawns in their game.”

MARSHALL BROWN SENT PACKING — A day after the Post published a story that quoted Marshall Brown saying that “new white voters ... believe more in their dogs than they do in people,” he was summarily dismissed from his organizing role in the Sekou Biddle campaign. As I wrote: “The comments appear to have been too divisive for Biddle, who is seeking to cross racial lines in his appeal. ... Biddle issued a statement Monday afternoon: ‘While change can be difficult and at times uncomfortable, these kinds of comments are hurtful. My wife and I choose to raise our children here because of the diversity the city has to offer. Marshall Brown does not speak for me or my campaign and his comments in Marc Fisher’s story do not help move our city forward. While he is a longtime family friend, I found his comments to be counterproductive at a time when I am working so hard to bring people in this city together.’” This is also an excuse to dredge up the name of David Howard. DCist commenters have a field day. More at Loose Lips. Meanwhile, Jason Cherkis asks at City Paper: “Was Marshall Brown Right About White Residents?” Austermuhle calls Brown’s comments “A Great Way Not to Get Votes.”

DPW’S LOOSE REINS ON FLEET — The D.C. Council’s probe of city fleet management practices, led by Wells, is nearing an end, with a preliminary report circulated yesterday for likely approval today by the transportation committee. The top-line findings: The Department of Public Works hasn’t been following the law restricting the purchase or lease of SUVs and gas-guzzling vehicles. Also: For an agency charged with centralized management of the city fleet, it has been unable to provide an accurate accounting of city vehicles. The report also puts a coda on the Kwamemobile saga: “Brown’s demand for a ‘black-on-black SUV’ ran afoul of D.C. regulations holding that government vehicles must be of ‘maximum fuel efficiency and minimum body size, engine size, and equipment necessary to fulfill operational needs.’ If an agency desires anything larger than a compact sedan, its director must explain in writing why it is ‘essential to the agency’s mission.’ But in the case of Brown’s Navigators, as well as a Navigator and Lincoln Town Car leased for the mayor, no written explanation was ever provided, the report said.” Also: The Office of the Attorney General is still in negotiations to settle the Navigator leases. The Examiner’s Freeman Klopott, meanwhile, homes in on the performance of the D.C. Housing Authority, which owes about $10,000 in tickets and allows take-home cars for numerous employees. Also WRC-TV and WaTimes.

FENTY’S THOUSANDS — What’s Adrian Fenty doing with the $440,709 he had left over from his failed mayoral campaign? Not a whole lot, Michael Neibauer reports in WBJ. The money’s been given to “Forward Faster,” a new nonprofit. Former Fenty aide John Falcicchio tells the Nei-man that “Forward Faster has yet to hold a board meeting and hasn’t even figured out what it will do with its windfall start-up capital. He said it might operate similarly to a citizen-service fund. It is nevertheless unusual that Fenty and his allies would retain control over such a large sum after leaving office. His predecessors gave theirs away. ... Of course, none of them had a pot nearly as massive as Fenty’s to dole out. He amassed a huge sum, and now he’ll have all the time in the world to pick his causes in a new endeavor financed by past political supporters’ contributions. A question going forward: Do any of them want their money back?”

SESSOMS SPENDING PROBE — WTTG-TV has an early look at the internal UDC audit report on Allen Sessoms’ travel expenses. Among the preliminary findings: Sessoms didn't submit expenses for approval as required under his contract. Also: “The President’s ‘Travel Authorization’ forms were incomplete or incorrect. ... Expense reports are missing ‘original receipts.’ ... The President’s ‘corporate’ American Express card was inappropriately used to pay for ‘personal expenses’ and ‘family travel.’ ... The President’s Office booked multiple ‘refundable’ airline tickets to the same location and never cancelled the tickets the President didn’t use.” Upshot: “It is now up to UDC’s Board of Trustees to decide what kind of action, if any, it will take. The board is expected to release the final audit report this week in anticipation of a D.C. City Council Oversight hearing on Wednesday.”

WEBB KEEPS TALKING — Fired DOES Director Rochelle Webb gives a postmortem interview to the Washington Times, which goes Page 1 with the story. Tom Howell Jr. writes: “After watching it all unfold in government reports, testimony and a string of unflattering Google hits, she wants to ‘fill in the blanks.’” Most interesting part: “Ms. Webb said she was thrown under the bus by the same folks who signed off on her transition benefits. And, she added, she was the only one who felt the heat despite learning from her driver that previous DOES directors had employed staff members as chauffeurs. ‘It wasn’t that I came in and created a driver position or demanded a driver,’ she said. Ms. Webb self-reported the use of a driver in a survey sent to agency heads by [Wells]. When asked by staff what to put down on the questionnaire, Ms. Webb recalled that she said, ‘The truth.’ ‘I think that was new to some in District government,’ she said.” Webb says she and her son are staying to “make a go of it in D.C.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

While Gray was in jail, incommunicado, Allen Lew was in charge (D.C. Wire)

Schools budget “not clear at best,” say hearing attendees (Examiner)

Cheh aide David Zvenyach named D.C. Council’s general counsel (Examiner)

Jay Mathews to Arne Duncan: “Will you take back that blue ribbon [earned by Noyes Elementary] if investigators prove it was awarded for illegitimate scores?” (Class Struggle)

NPR picks up ‘erase to the top’ (All Things Considered)

”Too many signs of success to dismiss former D.C. chancellor’s achievement” (WaTimes)

Heritage Foundation defends the Post! (Heritage blog)

D.C.’s lobbyists on the Hill (Center for Responsive Politics)

Georgetown U. plays to the Zoning Commission (GGW)

Man shot to death Sunday was DYRS ward (WaTimes)

”D.C. Gentrification Bingo” (DCist)

Ballou, Coolidge, Walls debut lacrosse programs (Post)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray appears at Urban Land Institute real estate conference, 9 a.m. in Reagan Building; meets with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), 2:30 p.m. on Capitol Hill; appears at Cultural Tourism DC, Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, and U.S.-Islamic World Forum galas — D.C. Council budget hearings on Department of Mental Health, 10 a.m. in JAWB 123; D.C. Retirement Board, Office of Employee Appeals, Public Employee Relations Board and Department of Human Resources, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; Office of Ex-Offender Affairs, noon in JAWB 500 — Tommy Wells presents vehicle report findings, 10 a.m. in JAWB 120 — City Paper/WPFW-FM at-large debate, 7 p.m. at Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW

By  |  12:50 PM ET, 04/12/2011

 
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