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Posted at 11:02 AM ET, 08/05/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 5, 2011

TODAY IS AUG. 5, 2011 — DAY 215 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

In the not-a-column this week, I have a look at the not-uncommon practice of District politicos who opt to hire registered city lobbyists to represent them as lawyers. I take a particular look at Yvette Alexander’s decision to hire David Wilmot to handle her recent case before the Office of Campaign Finance: “Wilmot no doubt did a creditable job representing Alexander, but the quality of his advocacy is not in question. What is questionable, and is particularly questionable for a city government under a microscope, is that Alexander would turn to perhaps the John A. Wilson Building’s most powerful and best-paid lobbyist for legal aid. ... Alexander said the decision to retain Wilmot, whose roots in city politics go back decades, was a no-brainer. ‘David Wilmot has been a family friend for years,’ she said. ‘I’ve known him long before I was a council member.’ ... No doubt that friendship is powerful, and no doubt that District politics is a small world, as Alexander puts it. ‘It’s kind of hard to find someone that you can’t connect to something,’ she said. ‘You know how they say there’s six degrees of separation? In D.C., there’s two.’ But you don’t have to be an ethics maven to see the potential for at least the appearance of malfeasance in allowing lobbyists to render services to the politicians they lobby.” Note that Alexander declined to discuss whether she paid Wilmot a fair market rate: “I’m not going to discuss my fee. ... That’s my personal information.”

AFTER THE JUMP — Business lobby smacks Gray for budget veto — Summer jobs program wraps up — Does Hill rancor bode ill for District autonomy? — Informer says HTJ should go

*** MAIN COURSE ***

BIG BIZ NOT HAPPY — In a fairly rare occurrence, three of the city’s heavyweight business groups lined up together to question Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s decision to veto a delay in a new tax on municipal bond proceeds. Leaders of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, Federal City Council and Greater Washington Board of Trade said in a statement that the veto was “misguided and done without proper notice or conversation with the business community, or other elected officials.” Federal City Council CEO John Hill added in a tweet: “I believe that in government additional revenue is the enemy of efficiency.” More at WBJ, the Examiner, WaTimes. Meanwhile, Tim Craig reports at D.C. Wire that Chairman Kwame Brown “said Thursday that there is little chance he will accept a tax increase on the wealthy to delay implementation of the city’s new bond tax, setting up a showdown” with Gray.

SYEP IS DONE — This year’s summer jobs program ends today, and Isaac Arnsdorf wraps things up in The Post — nothing, among other things, that it was more expensive than planned: “The mayor’s budget office estimates the six-week program — scaled back to 14,000 participants after years of rising costs and logistical chaos — will spend a total of $18.8 million. That’s about $250 more a person than last year, when the program cost $22.8 million and served about 21,000 people. The Department of Employment Services, which runs the program, could not provide a detailed explanation for the higher costs, but officials have previously cited the extra work that goes into assigning participants, training supervisors and running orientation sessions.” That said, “Officials said this year’s program saw far fewer complaints of payroll problems and ‘kid-dumping’ — or sending participants to work sites where they had nothing to do, as happened in recent years.” But there were still isolated mix-ups and reports of sexual misconduct at two worksites. And, as one nonprofit director points out, the program still has an identity crisis: “The city needs to decide what is the purpose of the summer jobs program — is it a crime prevention strategy, in which case it makes sense to hire as many youths as possible, or is it a quality jobs program that gets youths on the right track to a viable career?”

BAD NEWS ON THE HILL — What does the current congressional climate mean for District autonomy? The Hill’s Debbie Siegelbaum has a look, consulting D.C. Vote’s Ilir Zherka, a pessimist: “If you’re coming out of this debate, and if Republicans and certainly the hard-core social conservatives and the Tea Party people feel like they’ve won, then I think they are encouraged to be extremists when it comes to the fiscal year 2012 budget. ... The take-away from this for them will be if they stick to their guns and threaten to blow up the budget process and shut down the government — then they will exact concessions. In those circumstances, when that happens around the federal budget, usually the District of Columbia doesn’t do well in terms of riders.” He adds: “Clearly the president had a few principles that he was using to guide him in these [debt limit] negotiations, but at the end of the day it was not completely balanced. ... All of us are a little fearful about what that means for September.”

’TOTAL DISDAIN’ — Harry Jaffe finds evidence of the “Metropolitan Police Department’s total disdain for street cops” in the case of officers Tamika Hampton and Kimberly Sillah. They are fighting to stay on the force after being accused of “dereliction” after using their weapons while responding to a 2009 domestic incident. “In telling Hampton it wanted to throw her off the force, the MPD mentioned she had had a stellar record for her seven years as a cop. ‘Not only did we do what we were trained to do,’ Hampton tells me, ‘we went above and beyond in trying to leave the scene and not use force.’ ‘This shows me how dirty and corrupt this department is at the top,’ she adds. ‘I have lost my trust and hope in this job.’ The department’s top brass said it would not comment on the personnel matter, which is headed to trial board.”

INFORMER SPEAKS UP — Many of us missed this editorial in last week’s Informer: “When the story broke, [Harry Thomas Jr.] asserted his innocence and said, among other things, that he would fight these allegations because of his children and to protect his family’s legacy. Thomas’ father was a three-term councilmember and his mother is a well-respected former DC Public Schools principal and leader in her own right. Nevertheless, with so many questions of malfeasance among members of the council, Thomas seems to be the easy target for righting a ship that has gone way out of control. Many District residents, including Thomas’ Ward 5 constituents say they are disappointed, angry and embarrassed by him and other members of the city council. Thomas was elected by voters who trusted him to lead ethically. That trust has been lost. His resignation would be welcomed.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Cutting “government waste” is harder than it looks (GGW)

Tom Sherwood interviews Kathy Wone (WRC-TV)

Town hall meetings on Internet gambling start Aug. 16 (WaTimes, DCist, WAMU-FM, official schedule)

School-level test results sharpen charter gains over DCPS; also, outside operators aren’t making much impact (D.C. Schools Insider)

Explaining the District’s cash flow (DCist)

Peter Rosenstein makes the case for full-time council members (Blade)

Grimke School could be cleared for redevelopment soon (WBJ)

Inside Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (Housing Complex)

Explaining the racial disparity in marijuana arrests (City Desk)

Kaya Henderson: The Afro interview (Afro)

Chuck Brodsky no longer out front and center in triathlon event (City Desk)

Facade easements perhaps not a total scam after all (G’town Metropolitan)

Gray meets with transgender activists (Blade)

Hine redevelopment plan passes historic review panel (DCmud)

A UDC professor responds to last week’s not-a-column (Post letter)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends closing events for summer jobs employees: 10 a.m. at Villages at Parklands Splash Park, 1931 Savannah St. SE; 10:25 a.m. at Sumner School Museum and Archives, 1201 17th St. NW; 6 p.m. at Department of Employment Services headquarters, 4058 Minnesota Ave. NE; also attends “topping out” for Unity Anacostia Health Center, 11 a.m. at 1500 Galen St. SE

By  |  11:02 AM ET, 08/05/2011

 
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