DeMorning DeBonis: July 28, 2011

TODAY IS JULY 28, 2011 — DAY 207 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — District CFO warns of dire debt ceiling consequencesGray on Thomas: ‘I just don’t want to dump him out the window’

Why is Police Chief Cathy Lanier so darn popular — outstripping every other elected official in town, according to polls, save for President Obama? In this week’s City Paper, Rend Smith takes a crack at an explanation of how she’s “survived controversial police tactics like neighborhood checkpoints, a rushed murder arrest outside DC9, and a cheating scandal involving a top deputy — not to mention lesser boo-boos like the controversial police escort that sped Charlie Sheen to a performance where he joked about Obama’s birth certificate.” It’s not because of a buddy-buddy relationship with reporters. For one, she’s a hugger: “Lanier may be in charge of a law-enforcement organization, but out in the community, she’s visiting-aunt affectionate. On the job, she squeezes politicians and citizens alike. She also hugs her fellow cops. One retired cop who regularly worked with her on countering terrorist threats to the city complains of being hugged at least twice a month.” But more importantly, Lanier gets results, and she does it while building close ties to the neighborhoods her force polices. As Smith puts it, “her ability to retain the confidence of people in a city where the definition of governmental professionalism itself has become a polarizing subject is a real accomplishment.”

AFTER THE JUMP — Is HTJ’s legal defense fund kosher? — Robert Brannum joins the Gray administration — Finally, a parking ticket amnesty — Nat Gandhi says U.S. default will screw city finances — Terry Bellamy says he’s staying the course

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MAYOR LANIER? — Political observer Chuck Thies says, “If someone asked him to pick an ‘outsider’ mayoral candidate for 2014, it’d be Lanier. It’s a provocative notion. The District’s high-speed demographic change has lots of politics-watchers talking about the likelihood of a white mayor before too long. But the notable thing about Lanier is how different she seems from the other Great White Hopes. She’s no streetcar-hugging, bike-lane-frequenting habitué of D.C.’s gentrification zone. To the contrary, she’s a Ward 5 resident whose blue-collar affectations play best in the parts of town where her original patron, Fenty, got his butt kicked.”

ILLEGAL DEFENSE FUND? — And now on to the Harry Thomas Jr. news. In themail, Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff argue that any legal defense fund set up by lawyer/lobbyists Fred Cooke and John Ray for Thomas’s benefit will be illegal, citing this line of D.C. Code: “No registrant [lobbyist] or anyone acting on behalf of a registrant shall offer, give, or cause to be given a gift to an official in the legislative or executive branch or a member of his or her staff, that exceeds $100 in value in the aggregate in any calendar year.” Also, they note, there’s no exception for outside-income disclosure requirements for blind trusts. And in Loose Lips, Alan Suderman also ponders whether said fund will not only pay for his legal defenses, but will also fund the $300,000 settlement he signed with the city. Do note this: “On Friday, the same day the settlement was finalized, Thomas had to turn over $50,000 to the D.C. Treasurer. But the check didn’t come from Thomas himself. The remitter on the check, according to the Office of the Attorney General, was Cooke’s law firm.” Furthermore: “Thomas, who makes $125,583 a year as a councilmember, isn’t broke. But he’s had enough financial struggles to make people wonder where he’s going to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars. ... [Irvin Nathan], the attorney general, says he doesn’t care who pays Thomas’ legal fees — or the settlement money. A provision in the settlement prohibits Thomas from participating in a charitable organization for five years, but Nathan says that has nothing to do with any legal defense fund. If people want to donate to pay off the remaining $250,000 tab, and their donations are all legal, ‘then yes, of course, he could use the funds for that purpose, too.’ ”

MEANWHILE — Thies, writing in the G’town Dish, is “madder than a kid who just got his candy stolen” about Thomas’s antics.

WELCOME TO THE ADMINISTRATION — Robert Vinson Brannum, news-conference-attending, military-medal-wearing, Post-editorial-hating Ward 5 activist, has been hired on a $37,000 contract with the Office of Veterans Affairs, Suderman reports: “[Gray community affairs chief Steve Glaude] says Brannum wasn’t rewarded with a city job because of his ‘media activities’ nor solely because of Brannum’s support of the mayor’s campaign. Brannum was hired, Glaude says, because he’s been an avid advocate for veteran’s affairs ... and has the skills necessary to help the Office of Veteran’s Affairs prepare for the Sept. 11th commemoration.” Glaude adds that “if you know anything about Robert, he can be quite animated in his request for employment.”

PAY YOUR TICKETS, MARYLANDERS — The long anticipated ticket amnesty is here. “Starting Monday, all overdue parking, photo-enforcement and moving violation tickets issued before Jan. 1, 2010, can be paid without penalty,” Nikita Stewart reports in The Post. “Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said the city expects to collect $6.3 million through the ticket amnesty program, which ends Jan. 27. ... DMV Director [Lucinda Babers] did not have a breakdown of who owes outstanding tickets, but she knew the region’s biggest transgressors: Maryland drivers get nearly 38 percent of tickets issued and Virginia motorists follow, with about 23 percent. District residents incur about 17 percent of summonses issued. ... The DMV doesn’t have an explanation for why Maryland drivers get so many tickets. ‘They park illegally,’ Babers said matter-of-factly.” Also WUSA-TV, WTOP, WaTimes, the Examiner, WAMU-FM.

NEW TAXI BOSS — Ron Linton, former chair of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and longtime reserve police officer, is your new Taxicab Commission chairman. Nikita reports: “Linton, who has worked as a consultant on the the city’s school modernization program, said he was contacted by city Administrator Allen Y. Lew about the job. ‘I thought it might be a nice last hurrah,’ said Linton.” And he said he won’t be arresting any reporters: “I’m not frightened of journalists. ... There are no state secrets over there.” More from the Examiner, which reports that Linton is noncommittal on a fare increase: “I will be just as concerned about the elderly and others who need [taxis] as I will about the drivers who want a wage increase.” Heck, even Terry Lynch says nice things about him.

WE COULD BE IN TROUBLE — CFO Natwar Gandhi says a federal default could be bad news for the District. Yes, the city’s bond rating is at risk, but more immediately calamitous would be a potential lack of short-term borrowing capacity. Should markets seize and D.C. not be able to float tax anticipation notes, crucial bills could go unpaid and the Control Board could come back. It’s a long shot, but not impossible. Also the Examiner, WAMU-FM.

MEET TERRY BELLAMY — The Post’s Patricia Sullivan profiles DDOT chief Terry Bellamy, under pressure to maintain his agency’s innovative ways as several top managers exit: “Bellamy might soon have to decide whether the city can continue to be an innovator. He’s following the media-savvy tenure of Gabe Klein, a former entrepreneur and extrovert who introduced bike-sharing, installed fancy new parking meters and pushed forward the old-school use of streetcars. ... Whether Bellamy will be a change agent like Klein, his old boss, or a more traditional department head as his 27 years of experience in the field hint at, may be dictated by budgets and differing mayoral philosophies. ... Bellamy ‘absolutely is forward-thinking and progressive,’ Klein said. ‘The only question is whether he will be allowed to be as innovative as he wants, and whether he will be able to draw in the talent.’ ... But many of Bellamy’s goals have a distinctly practical cast. ‘One of our key things is we have to maintain our core, make sure we keep our roads, our signals, and make sure our sidewalks are ADA-compliant, and make sure our assets stay at least in good condition,’ Bellamy said.” News: DDOT has ordered helmets for Bikeshare users, and there are no plans to lower parking meter prices.

THE NEW GENTRIFIERS — The young, professional types transforming east-of-the-river neighborhoods get a close-up from The Post’s Emily Wax: “Many of them could afford the rowhouses of nearby Capitol Hill or the condos of U Street or Adams Morgan. But they all chose to live in Ward 8, once a neighborhood synonymous with poverty, drugs and violence — but one whose skyline is slowly changing, pierced by rising office projects, condos and burgeoning retail. They prefer to live east of the river, they say, because they feel at home in the black community and because they take pride in living near historic sites like the Frederick Douglass House. ... The new residents love that their homes are more affordable than those in the rest of the city, have porches with a view of the Capitol dome and are a quick Metro ride or a 10-minute drive from downtown. Although gentrification in much of the city means an influx of young white professionals, in communities east of the river it’s overwhelmingly young black professionals who are moving in — or, in some cases, moving back.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

That infernal Tourmobile contract might be illegal (Housing Complex)

As Yogi Berra might say, no one uses Capital Bikeshare anymore — it’s too popular (WaTimes)

Mayor’s Interfaith Council is missing Buddhists, Mormons, Hindus and Jehovah’s Witnesses (TBD)

With Ward 2 now Shawless, Jack Evans moves campaign HQ to 14th Street NW (Housing Complex)

Pot smoked outside Wilson Building (WAMU-FM)

MPD still failing transgendered community, advocate says (Metro Weekly)

What MPD’s gay liaison training is like (Metro Weekly)

Where kids are leaving the school system (Housing Complex)

Mary Cheh wants Irv Nathan to dig into CVS (DCist)

Be the news DCPS athletic director (the Examiner)

Shepherd Parkers wonder what Walter Reed closure will bring (WAMU-FM)

Tonight: Bike across the South Capitol Street bridge with Tommy Wells (CHotR)

“Don’t Leave Us Fenty” enters the YouTube Hall of Fame (Grantland)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray announces pay-by-phone parking program, 11 a.m. on 700 block of F Street NW; swears in members of boards and commissions, 6:30 p.m. in JAWB G-9

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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