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Posted at 09:57 AM ET, 07/07/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: July 7, 2011

TODAY IS JULY 7, 2011 — DAY 185 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

It’s not just an Audi SUV. D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), it appears, used his Team Thomas groups to fund many, many more personal expenses. For Thursday’s Loose Lips column, Alan Suderman FOIA’d the attorney general’s office for the remainder of the Team Thomas bank records. He says they show that Thomas used his nonprofit’s bank account to pay for a trip to Hooters, a satellite TV subscription, various hotel and restaurant charges, a car wash, golf, golf and more golf. Writes Suderman: “Some of the spending listed in the bank records certainly could have been used for ... legitimate purposes, but it’s tough to know without more detailed records or help from Thomas, who declined to comment for this article. ... Thomas has made blanket statements that Team Thomas’ finances have been above board and has asked for patience while his attorney, Fred Cooke Jr., prepares his legal defense. Asked about specific charges in Team Thomas’ bank records, Thomas says he can’t speak while his case is in court. Cooke says he has nothing to say ‘whatsoever’ about the charges. ... That silence, though it might be standard etiquette on the golf course, is deafening. If Thomas had a simple and straightforward explanation for how his for-profit and nonprofit acquired and spent money, he surely would have given it by now. If there’s an easy answer for the Hooters bill, the satellite TV, the perfume store, and the many, many golf-related charges, why not give it?”

AFTER THE JUMP — How Wal-Mart conquered D.C. — activists vent at hate crime hearing — D.C. CAS scores to be released tomorrow — Allen Lew vs. Dorothy Brizill

*** MAIN COURSE ***

LET’S GET BUSY — The Washington Post editorial board endorses Tom Lindenfeld’s ideas for cleaning up District government: “There’s a particular power to the suggestions coming from an experienced political hand with an unvarnished, up-close view of D.C. politics and government. Is there any doubt that the cynically misnamed constituent service funds are little more than political campaign extensions? Who knew about the practice of setting up nonprofit organizations to defray the costs of nonofficial mayoral travel (i.e., at least in past administrations, paying for family members’ travel)? Why on earth would the city want to continue to do business with any interest that defrauded it or that worked under false pretenses? To date, D.C. ethics reform has amounted to little more than lip service and half-hearted attempts. ... By contrast, the reforms outlined by Mr. Lindenfeld are specific and practicable and, as he pointed out, have proved effective in other jurisdictions. Voters could do worse than to use them as a benchmark of the ethical seriousness of their representatives.”

GRAY FLIPS ON DULLES METRO — After having chats with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Mayor Vincent Gray announced Wednesday that he has changed his views and asked the city’s Airports Authority appointees to support the cheaper aboveground Metro station for Dulles airport. Ann Marimow and Nikita Stewart report in The Post: “Gray (D) ‘reconsidered the position,’ he said at a news conference, ‘because I don’t want to wind up with nothing.’ ... Both McDonnell and Davis have backed an aboveground airport stop. ... It was not immediately clear how Gray’s change of heart would affect the 13-person board, which includes members appointed by the president, the governors of Virginia and Maryland and the District mayor. ‘It does have an impact,’ said former D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford, one of three District members on the authority’s board. But he said: ‘At this juncture, I remain committed, if we can work it out, to the underground rail plan. There has to be some kind of consensus with our partners.’” Also WAMU-FM, WTTG-TV, DCist, Examiner, WBJ.

HOW WAL-MART WON — On the cover of this week’s City Paper: Lydia DePillis’ in-depth look on how Wal-Mart eased its way into the District with much less drama than anyone might have guessed. “Instead of a slow reveal that would give opponents time to gain traction, Walmart had asked landlords and developers to keep quiet until their sites were locked in, making the developments seem inevitable. Walmart had already seeded the ground with years of charitable giving. [W]ith four actual stores to talk about, the image campaign kicked into high gear, complete with press events touting donations bigger than many local non-profits had ever seen. Six months later, with the four sites cruising toward approval, you might conclude that Walmart’s strategy had won the day. And you wouldn’t be wrong, exactly. But in other cities where the retailer used the same aggressive and determined campaign, like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, opponents put up vastly bigger fights than in the District. ... D.C.’s pols, though, treated anti-Walmart activism more like an annoying distraction than an opportunity to score populist points. ... The most sophisticated retail entrepreneur in the world brought its A-game to D.C. It probably didn’t need it.” Lots of good stuff in there on how the mega retailer wooed the city’s community groups and opinion leaders, including this quote from Manny Hidalgo of the Latino Economic Development Corporation: “Is Andy Shallal going to bring a couple thousand jobs to the District? No. He lives in a beautiful home in Adams Morgan. Please get off the soapbox, come back to reality ...”

MEET THE WAL-MART TEAM — “Superlobbyist David Wilmot had been on retainer since early 2006, collecting $290,000 over the next four years to lobby on legislation that affected Walmart’s interests (like D.C.’s 2006 living-wage bill—which passed, but only applies to government-funded jobs). For the new push, the company hired a team including attorney Claude Bailey, who handled legal matters for construction of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Verizon Center, and Nationals stadium. He and consultant Brett Greene, who managed the finances for Gray’s 2006 D.C. Council chairman campaign, worked community meetings, exchanging handshakes with local officials. For on-the-ground assistance in Ward 7, Walmart brought on local Councilmember Yvette Alexander’s campaign manager, Darryl Rose, and her campaign treasurer, Derek Ford. Restivo, Bailey, Walmart senior director of government affairs Bill Thorne, and Terry Lee from public relations firm Walker Marchant all showed up for meetings with councilmembers.”

SALUTARY SHARIAH — Also in City Paper: DePillis offers a closer look at the Shariah-related restrictions on the CityCenterDC development’s Qatari financing, which put the kibosh on banks and bars. “You didn’t have to be an anti-Muslim paranoiac to have misgivings about the new rules: Although banks have never been an asset for street life, bars are an integral part of the living downtown ... putting eyes on the street even late at night. There’s no need for an anti-Shariah secular jihad, though. Because of how Islamic finance has adapted to Western markets—and how CityCenterDC had planned to operate all along—Shariah strictures won’t make the consumer experience any different than if the investor had been true-blue American. Besides, we don’t have much choice. While U.S. investors stay skittish, ‘Shariah funds’ backed by states like Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait are some of the fastest-growing sources of cash for development in U.S. markets and abroad. If D.C. got cold feet, Arab investors would be more than happy to go somewhere else.”

HATE CRIMES — Lots of coverage for a D.C. Council hearing on hate crimes. The Post’s June Q. Wu focuses on new promises from Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier to work with the gay community to address reporting concerns. “Lanier said she was ‘perplexed’ by testimony that questioned her department’s efforts to document hate crimes and bias-related incidents; she pointed to examples of community outreach and bias training for officers as examples of their commitment. ‘We engage in every way we can,’ she said at the hearing.” But she told Phil Mendelson she would do more. The Examiner’s Freeman Klopott and WAMU-FM’s Patrick Madden focus on rising numbers of hate crimes committed against whites and Hispanic residents, as opposed to anti-gay hate crimes. Said Lanier, “It’s the changes in the city, the new versus old residents and the development areas. People who commit crimes take advantage of those areas.” Other themes: Accurate reporting of hate crimes is generally difficult because it involves making a value judgment on a crime’s motivation; there is blame-shifting between management and rank-and-file over who needs to do a better job. More from WaTimes, Blade, Metro Weekly, Legal Times.

SUMMER LOVIN’ — The Examiner does its best to stoke outrage that local municipal legislatures take summer breaks: “Critics have long argued it makes little sense for these legislative bodies to go on extended breaks, pointing to wide-ranging problems that don’t disappear while politicians are away from their lucrative jobs — an argument they say is all the more pressing as area governments grapple with massive funding shortfalls. ... In Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, council members will enjoy a 40-day recess this summer; meeting rooms will remain dark in the District and Alexandria for two straight months; and Fairfax and Arlington counties are taking a month and a half and 30 days off respectively. However, elected officials say it is unfair to label their recess period a vacation. ‘The recess means I can take the time to work on items that are problematic and require research,’ said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh. ‘If people think I’m not working then they’re way off base.’” In case you forgot: “D.C. Council members rake in the second-highest salaries among lawmakers in the nation’s largest cities, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trust.” And, yes, Kris Baumann is quoted. Sidebar: Legislating ends, but scandals continue!

PREVIEWING THE CAS SCORES — Aggregate D.C. CAS test scores will be announced Friday morning. Bill Turque sets the table: “It’s hard to tell whether the news will be good, bad or mixed. Government agencies traditionally off-load negative news on Fridays, assuming that light Saturday newspaper readership will limit a story’s impact. But that strategy seems beyond quaint in the digital age. The District is also giving this announcement some production energy, with multicolored fliers inviting a cross-section of stakeholders to the ‘special briefing’ at the Safe Shores Child Advocacy Center at Bundy School. In any event, the scores will be closely scrutinized, given the erasure revelations and last year’s decline in elementary reading and math proficiency numbers. ... One small but symbolically significant footnote to Friday’s CAS briefing: Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s name is nowhere to be seen on the announcement. It’s strictly Gray, Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright and D.C. State Superintendent of Education Hosanna Mahaley. ... The messages Gray is reinforcing here: The era of the rock-star chancellor is over, and that with nearly 40 percent of the city’s public school population, charters are no longer the stepchildren of D.C.’s education system.”

COP DISCIPLINE — WUSA-TV has a breakdown of D.C. police discipline: Since 2010, three captains, 11 lieutenants, 29 sergeants and 137 officers were sanctioned for various offenses, including drug use, lying to investigators and other potentially criminal behavior. The controversy: “The police union and some others in the department say the Chief has not gone far enough in disciplining high-ranking officials. ‘You have nobody above the rank of captain that received any discipline. You have inspectors, commanders, assistant chiefs, the highest ranking people, the highest paid individuals, supposed to have the most responsibility, none of them are disciplined,’ said Kristopher Baumann. ... Said Chief Lanier, ‘The higher their rank, the more they should know better. And the more accountable and the more impact their conduct will have on the department.’”

‘I FIND YOUR ATTITUDE A BIT QUESTIONABLE’ — Via themail, here’s how Allen Lew reacted to Dorothy Brizill’s questions about the new IG report criticizing his management of the school modernization office: “The mayor said he still hadn’t read either the Auditor’s report or the Inspector General’s report. Lew said to Dorothy: ‘I find your attitude a bit questionable, okay. Why you focus on this as much as you do, I have no idea what your agenda is, okay.’ ... The mayor supported Lew; they both implied that they found it questionable that a reporter or a citizen would ask about major reports by the two offices that are charged with investigating misconduct by city officials that found repeated instances in which Lew flouted District laws and regulations and proper accounting practices.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Blackman is dead; long live Jones (D.C. Schools Insider, WAMU-FM)

Council still trying to pry records from Sulaimon Brown (Loose Lips)

D.C. is No. 1 — in “environmental governance” (D.C. Wire)

Questions persist about alleged SYEP sexual assaults (WAMU-FM, WJLA-TV, WUSA-TV, WRC-TV, WaTimes)

Investigation finds “irregularities” in DYRS official’s hire; unclear if it will derail Neil Stanley’s nomination (WaTimes)

Commander Hilton Burton, who called Cathy Lanier a liar, says he’s been “ostracized” at MPD (City Desk)

Despite federal memo, Gray administration will “move forward as planned” with medical marijuana (WTOP)

Eleanor Holmes Norton wants $1 million in federal funds for Spring Valley health study (Post)

Intellectual disconnect between Gray’s federal autonomy position and his Internet gambling position (Loose Lips)

St. Elizabeths orderly found not liable in patient’s death (Crime Scene)

Deborah Simmons says city officials should roll out red carpet for Redskins (WaTimes)

Gray is “embroiled in a mountain of scandal which will not only ensure his seeing just one term, but may also open the door for ‘Chocolate City’s’ first white Mayor in the near future.” (Atlanta Post)

How DCPS makes sure it’s competitive in the teacher market (Post)

Shorter Metro station names? Frank Smith might not be happy. (Examiner)

Mendelson to MPD: Fix your breast-feeding problem so I don’t have to (Examiner)

YES, FILMING COPS ON THE STREET IS LEGAL (WUSA-TV)

Keep the bond tax exemption dead (GGW)

Police join with Guardian Angels, neighborhood residents to secure Metropolitan Branch Trail (Post)

Coming soon: LED street lights (TBD)

Two people in Ward 4 think Muriel Bowser could do more (Informer)

Is it fair to charge Zipcar $400 a month for exclusive use of a parking space? (Yglesias)

The summer’s Big Show begins at Prettyman (Post)

Noyes principal (not the one accused of cheating) leaves to pursue cupcake-baking (D.C. Schools Insider)

Kaya Henderson ain’t much of a grammarian (Post letter)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray hosts National Cherry Blossom Centennial meeting, 10 a.m. in JAWB; visits Tshwane, South Africa, Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa and acting South African Ambassador Johnny Moloto, 10 a.m. in JAWB — D.C. Council hearing on supplemental budget, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500; hearing on Pepco reliability bill, 1 p.m. in JAWB 412 — Kwame Brown pleads his case to the Board of Elections and Ethics, 10 a.m. at One Judiciary Square 220N

By  |  09:57 AM ET, 07/07/2011

 
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