Most Read: Local

Posted at 12:37 PM ET, 04/08/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: April 8, 2011

TODAY IS APRIL 8, 2011 — DAY 93 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

For nearly nine hours Thursday, the early workings of Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration were laid bare in a cramped John A. Wilson Building hearing room. Through the testimony of former DOES director-designate Rochelle Webb, her son Brandon Webb, ex-mayoral chief of staff Gerri Mason Hall and others, it became awfully clear that business as usual involved a lax vetting and hiring process, where job offers were extended and salaries were set for political allies and family members with little regard for interviews, background checks or much else. But that much we pretty much already knew. The expected main event, the testimony of Sulaimon Brown, did not materialize; the main event ended up being Brown’s appearance in the hearing room, followed by his departure from the Wilson Building, stopping on the way to tell reporters that he thought the council’s probe was a politically tainted “witch hunt.” But afterwards, more substantive details emerged about Brown’s hiring from Hall, who said during her testimony that Lorraine Green, accused of orchestrating a deal to hand him a job in return for political attacks on former Mayor Adrian Fenty, told her in a late December meeting that she “need[ed] to check with Vince regarding reaching out for [a] position.” Hall said she never subsequently spoke to Gray about Brown; that she hired him in late January to “remove [a] distraction” from the mayor.

AFTER THE JUMP — much more from JAWB 120 — Eleanor Holmes Norton goes off on House Republicans — why trash service would stop for a week then resume — no more subsidized bus fares in Anacostia? — Pepco threatens to raise D.C. rates due to combined reporting

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE ON HEARING — Early testimony from Brandon Webb and Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe — and e-mails obtained by the council — opened up gaping inconsistencies between their testimony and that of former Gray HR Director Judy Banks, as Alan Suderman notes at Loose Lips. Mary Cheh says she will be bringing Banks back for more testimony — along with Gray campaign consultant Howard Brooks (alleged by Brown to have been the bag man for payments to Brown), who was a no-show, and Gray transition chairwoman Lorraine Green. At the top of his Washington Times story, Tom Howell Jr. notes that Hall began her testimony with an apology: “Along the way, I made mistakes, including failure to pay sufficient attention to the background process.” For a taste of Brown’s impromptu news conference, consult YouTube video shot by WAMU-FM’s Patrick Madden, WRC-TV video, Mark Segravesphoto or Suderman’s account. Here’s Suderman’s pic of Mary Cheh staffers hit the street trying to find Brown to serve him with a subpoena. Still more from Examiner, WAMU-FM, the Afro, DCist, and the Wall Street Journal. (Yes, the Wall Street Journal.)

EXCHANGE OF THE DAY — David Catania: “Your mother becomes a cabinet member and you’re hired the next day. You don’t find that odd?” Brandon Webb: “The morality of it, sir, is not in question because it was an excepted service hire.”

FRIENDS LIKE THESE — Harry Jaffe writes in his Examiner column: “It’s not often that I agree with Marion Barry. But a few things the former mayor and current council member said at Thursday’s hearing into Vince Gray’s cozy hiring practices rang true. ... As the details poured out about how Vince Gray’s former personnel chief, Judy Banks, plugged Webb into a job in the fire department — then unhired him — Barry took to the microphone. ‘Judy Banks was acting on behalf of Vince Gray,’ Barry said. ‘I just want to get that straight.’ What makes Barry so sure? ‘That’s the way I did it for 16 years when I was mayor,’ he said. In fingering Gray, Marion Barry did us two favors. First, he cut through the chaff that Gray’s people are spreading to shield the mayor from any blame in the hiring game. They threw Banks and short-lived Chief of Staff Gerri Mason Hall under the bus. We have yet to hear Gray apologize or take full responsibility. Second, Barry allows us to hold Gray to the standard he set during the mayoral campaign, when he harangued Adrian Fenty for cronyism and corruption. Might Gray not be guilty of the same, or worse?”

ELEANOR GOES OFF — The other big story Thursday: the imminent government shutdown. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton set the tone early in the day, going on WTTG-TV to call the necessity of shuttering the District government in case of a congressional impasse “the functional equivalent of bombing innocent civilians.” Putting a point on that: “It’s time that the District of Columbia told the Congress to go straight to hell. ... If these Republicans insist that if they don’t get the whole pie they’ll take the whole country down with them ... then we have got to make them pay the price.” DCist picked it up, then CBS News (nearly shearing the comments from their original context of a District shutdown). From there, it went to the Drudge Report and the conservative websphere. (Note: Not everyone was pleased with Norton’s tirade. A “Draft Adrian Fenty for Congress” Facebook page popped up yesterday.)

SHUTDOWN LATEST — So what will happen in a shutdown? Freeman Klopott holds the following in the Examiner: “The complex relationship between the District and federal governments can best be understood through garbage. ... Federal regulations allow city agencies to provide services that protect public health, safety and private property in the case of a shutdown. A DPW spokeswoman on Thursday said the agency’s director has determined that garbage in covered containers doesn’t provide a danger to public health until one week has passed. So after one week, DPW can resume trash pickup. The same reasoning extends to open trash containers on city streets, the spokeswoman said. Those pose an immediate health risk and will be emptied throughout a federal shutdown, with no delay, she said.” So what to do with your trash? Here’s one idea: “If [John Boehner] shuts down the government I am taking my trash to his house.” GGW does a full exegesis of other trash-depositing options. As City Paper’s Mike Madden puts it: “You can deny D.C. its voice in Congress, you can even try to rename our streets for dead Republican presidents, but mess with our trash collection at your own risk.” Taxation without sanitation, indeed. In other news: District courthouses remain open. Also Examiner. City Paper’s Rend Smith notes that while police are “essential” in a shutdown, the Office of Police Complaints is not. And TBD quotes Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss on the prospect of a shutdown: “It’s not like I’ll be missing any more votes than I usually miss.”

13 USC 1342 — The provision in federal law that stands to make District residents’ lives for difficult: “An officer or employee of the United States Government or of the District of Columbia government may not accept voluntary services for either government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law except for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. This section does not apply to a corporation getting amounts to make loans (except paid in capital amounts) without legal liability of the United States Government. As used in this section, the term “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property” does not include ongoing, regular functions of government the suspension of which would not imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

TOP-HEAVY MPD — The Examiner editorial board uses the same lede as Harry Jaffe in their piece examining the police budget: “We don’t often agree with D.C. Councilman Marion Barry, but he was right on the money when he demanded scrutiny of the Metropolitan Police Department’s top-heavy compensation policy. ‘It should be going to the officers on the street,’ Barry said. He’s right. ... [T]he number of top cops making six-figure salaries jumped 30 percent during her tenure, including $110,730 paid to one inspector whose primary job is updating the chief’s email and calendar. [Police Chief Cathy Lanier] is following a well-trod bureaucratic path by larding up pay and perks for her top staff instead of concentrating all available resources on the front lines. ... Police union chief Kristopher Baumann correctly notes that the city has a choice between keeping residents and visitors safe or continuing to fund giant bureaucracies that provide little, if any, measurable public benefits. But there’s still little indication that the mayor, the council or Lanier are really willing to do what it takes to make public safety their top priority.”

METRO TO HIKE ANACOSTIA BUS FARES? — Double Metro scoopage from the Examiner’s Kytja Weir: First, the WMATA board is considering “lengthening the wait time for trains on weekends to as much as 20 minutes to save an estimated $6.1 million, plus cutting some D.C. bus service and the discount program for Anacostia bus riders to save an additional $2.16 million. Since 1991, the District has been subsidizing bus riders in Anacostia by 50 cents per bus ride, according to Metro. The discount was created when the Anacostia Metro station opened because bus routes started to turn back at the Metrorail station, rather than continuing into downtown, said District Department of Transportation Associate Director Scott Kubly. That meant riders used to paying a single bus fare had to pay a rail fare, too. But the discount went to all Anacostia bus riders whether or not they transferred at the rail station. Kubly said the city hopes to change the program so the discount goes to only those riders who actually transfer to and from the rail system, a modification he said would better reflect the policy put in place 20 years ago. SmarTrip cards now make the change possible, he said.” Also: “Metro gave $88,500 in bonuses to seven workers last year, after denying it had paid out any bonuses at all. The seven employees, who make more than $119,000 per year in annual salaries, earned bonuses ranging from $6,500 to $20,000 in cash, according to information received in a public records request. Those bonuses hit well above the $2,000 cap the agency has said it allows for performance awards. The cash-strapped agency handed out the awards the same year it raised fares for riders.”

LATEST SPIN — The latest from Michelle Rhee on the erasure allegations, via a HuffPo piece: “USA Today recently reported on an important topic: the reliability and integrity of student test scores in Washington, D.C. during the first three years of mayoral control of the city’s schools. With student achievement becoming an increasingly important part of accountability systems nationwide, we have to ensure test scores accurately reflect what students have learned. The reports, however, unfairly leave the impression that district leaders unduly influenced or avoided an investigation into possible cheating. Further, it implies cheating was widespread. I was chancellor of the schools at the time, and I would like to set the record straight.” Click through for the straight-setting.

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Pepco on combined reporting: “Taxing Pepco on income earned in other jurisdictions will likely also increase the cost of utility service in the District ...” (WBJ)

To accommodate observers of Passover, elections board offers early voting on Sunday, April 17 (Four26)

If parking meter ads aren’t kosher with feds, then why will Bikeshare ads be OK? (WBJ)

Rats invade Moultrie! (Post)

How Gray’s $8.7 million cut to HIV/AIDS budget is not really a cut (Blade)

How Ward 8 schools forum “turned into an unscheduled infomercial” for Ward 8 SBOE candidates (D.C. Schools Insider)

Vincent Orange gets WTU nod (D.C. Wire)

D.C. Lottery to help reconfigure 20 stores to boost sales (WBJ)

EHN’s staff completely essential (D.C. Wire)

More on Wednesday night violence (Post, Examiner)

Peter Rosenstein digs into the Gray budget (Blade)

Zoning map now Googlefied — thanks, OP! (GGW)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends affordable housing groundbreaking, 10:30 a.m. at 1840 Kendall St. NE; does Washington Post live chat, 12:30 p.m.; appears at National Cherry Blossom Festival performance, 6:15 p.m. at Reagan Building plaza; attends Capital Area Gay Lesbian Chamber of Commerce awards dinner, 9 p.m. at Park Hyatt — D.C. Council budget hearings on Metropolitan Police Department, forensics lab, Office of Police Complaints, Office of Administrative Hearings and Fire and Emergency Medical Services, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500; Public Charter School Board, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education and Office of Zoning, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412 — WAMU-FM’s Politics Hour features Orange, Sekou Biddle, Patrick Mara, Bryan Weaver, and Josh Lopez, noon on 88.5 FM

By  |  12:37 PM ET, 04/08/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company