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Posted at 10:26 AM ET, 06/10/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: June 10, 2011

TODAY IS JUNE 10, 2011 — DAY 160 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

Start your weekend by reading these reassuring words from D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, issued in a blast e-mail sent to supporters last night: “No doubt this was a challenging week for the Council and the District - from difficult hearings to allegations against Councilmembers. I don’t need to re-hash all of the news items from this week, but I do need to reassure you that my colleagues and I are firm in our commitment to serving the District with integrity. I intend to continue proving that to you each and every day, and I ask that you continue to reach out to us with your concerns.” Then watch video of ex-council staffer Ted Loza accepting bribes in a car parked in front of the John A. Wilson Building at WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, and WRC-TV, to which Loza’s old boss Jim Graham says: “I said no whenever I had the opportunity to say no. I’m at peace with myself ... I’m very proud of the fact I said no.”

AFTER THE JUMP — more on Team Thomas — will new ethics bill clean up city government? — Petula wants Gray to “man up” — V.O. demands Economic Development panel — Gray recall chatter starts...

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE ON TEAM THOMAS — The Washington Times squeezes a couple of more stories out of the Harry Thomas Jr. lawsuit. First, Jim McElhatton notes that Thomas never reported any of the income from his charity or for-profit company on mandatory disclosure forms. And who knows if he reported any of the income to the IRS. Also, Jeffrey Anderson notes that developer Keith Forney was the “second-highest contributor” to the Team Thomas charity. “Some Ward 5 residents are disturbed by the Forney donations and say Mr. Thomas is out of step with their concerns about the Stadium Club, which they claim is a nuisance and a magnet for prostitution. ‘I always wondered why Councilman Thomas supported strips clubs moving into Ward 5,’ said Don Padou, president of the Ward 5 Improvement Association. ‘Now I know; one of the owners paid Thomas a bunch of money. It is a shame when an elected official will sell out his people for a lousy $6,000.’ Mr. Forney’s name first surfaced as a Team Thomas contributor in January, when Mr. Thomas dismissed his contributions as ‘minimal at best.’” Also at Loose Lips, Alan Suderman notes that Thomas’s charity won grants from the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. (before he was a council member) despite not holding a 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

HALF-MEASURE ETHICS BILL? — In the not-a-column this week, a closer look at the ethics overhaul bill introduced by Kwame Brown and Mary Cheh. Independent ethics expert Robert Wechsler isn’t terribly impressed: “The Brown-Cheh bill ‘is a step in the right direction, no doubt about it,’ he said. ‘But it’s a piecemeal solution when there could be a more truly comprehensive solution.’ For example: The Office of Government Accountability has broad powers to investigate potential ethical lapses, but its enforcement powers are nil, so it must refer any wrongdoing to the ‘appropriate authority.’ And its findings can be appealed not once, but twice — to the Board of Elections and Ethics and to the District courts. ‘It could take years before it even gets to an “appropriate authority,”’ Wechsler said. ... Cheh readily admits that the bill might not be ideal, deploying the old adage about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. ‘Is it something that’s the end-all and be-all? I don’t think so, but it’s a start,’ she said Thursday. ‘Maybe it’s better to get something with advantages and good features and get the ball rolling.’”

‘MAN UP,’ VINCE — From Petula Dvorak Post column: “The number of D.C. Council members not under some kind of investigation is dwindling, and our not-the-jerk mayor is about as effective as a lone ice cube in a hot tub. ... We, the voters, are their bosses. We put them there, gave them the keys and told them to drive. Now a lot of us are asking ourselves: What were we thinking? From Starbucks counters to the community swimming pool to online tirades, everywhere I go I hear one big sentiment: It’s time for our elected leaders to sit down, shut up and do the job we’re paying them to do. It’s also time for D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) to man up and take control. ... Things look pretty hopeless for D.C. residents these days. Not only does it seem as though we’ve lost the momentum of the past couple administrations, but the city feels rudderless. We need something more than town-hall meetings, ‘One City’ slogans slapped on anything and everything, and ‘preposterous.’”

V.O. MAKES A MOVE — The Times’s Tom Howell Jr. gives ink to Vincent Orange’s very public lobbying push to take over the Economic Development Committee. “Mr. Orange touted himself as the best person to take the helm on the economic development committee on Wednesday, just moments after Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown announced the committee’s duties would be assumed by the Committee of the Whole. ... Even before Mr. Brown’s announcement, observers in the John A. Wilson Building saw little prospect of Mr. Orange gaining the chairmanship. After all, Mr. Orange lost to Mr. Brown in last year’s race to be council chairman, and Mr. Brown was singled out as one of the people who picked Sekou Biddle over Mr. Orange to fill Mr. Brown’s vacated at-large council seat until the special election. ‘This has nothing to do with whether there’s bad blood or not, this is the operations of the government here right now,’ Mr. Orange said. ‘You don’t have talent just sitting on the bench. In a baseball game, when a pitcher’s done, you have to bring in a relief pitcher.’”

YAY, RON — Harry Jaffe writes in praise of U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen: “People who commit crimes in the District are starting to pay for them with hard time. Credit goes, in part, to Ron Machen, who’s been U.S. attorney for the District for a bit more than a year — time enough to assess his record. I’m not saying Machen alone is responsible for putting these bad guys behind bars for long sentences. It takes cops, detectives, line prosecutors, witnesses and judges to convict and sentence perpetrators. But Machen has set a tone for his assistant U.S. attorneys: Press hard for convictions, shy away from plea bargains, demand stiff sentences. In other words, Machen wants criminals to feel the pain, and not just murderers; he has put together strong teams for white collar fraud and public corruption. I get the firm impression that Machen don’t play. This adds up to bad news for District politicians who are under investigation for various alleged misdeeds. Both Harry ‘Tommy’ Thomas Jr., and Mayor Vince Gray should be worried — very worried.”

RECALL, SCHMECALL — Frederick Butler, protege of Sinclair Skinner, has posted half of a Recall Vince Gray web site (linked to in yesterday’s DMDB). No recall effort can officially begin until January, but this apparently is enough to prompt an Examiner blog post, a WMAL-AM spot, an AP dispatch, and a thoughtful DCist post from Martin Austermuhle: “Of course, while it’s easy to demand that someone resign or threaten them with a recall, both are ultimately hard to come by in local politics. ... [W]hile there might be a lot of r-words being thrown around for our scandal-ridden elected officials, resignation and recalls hardly ever happen. Of course, that’s not to say that they may not this time around — especially if the U.S. Attorney decides to press charges against any of the accused.”

ISO METRO MAN — The Examiner’s Kytja Weir has more on Michael Brown’s decision to step down from the WMATA board: “The at-large councilman has had the worst attendance record of any board member. He missed two-thirds of Metro’s board meetings over 18 months, as The Washington Examiner reported in August. Since then, he has continued to miss many — or show up for small parts — of the bimonthly meetings. Brown acknowledges he hasn’t been to many of the meetings. He said he has been busy working on redistricting for the D.C. Council and says the schedule of an at-large council member makes it difficult to attend more meetings. ... He said he and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown already have interviewed a handful of replacements. ... With Brown’s departure, the District has two slots to fill, Brown’s seat and the one previously held by Tony Giancola, who now holds one of the federal alternate positions.” Meanwhile, ex-council candidate Josh Lopez suggests a Greater Greater Washington contributor as a replacement — a suggestion that GGW is happy to pass on.

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Peter Nickles: “They’re lucky I’m not there, because there were a lot of other things I had sort of in progress.” (Loose Lips)

”Mayor Gray’s Sulaimon Eyeroll” (WRC-TV)

More on Yvette Alexander, crime-fighter (WTTG-TV)

MPD’s Kenneth “Todd” Williams honored as Detective of the Year for closing Chandra Levy case (McClatchy)

Departing special-ed officials get pats on the back from federal judge (D.C. Schools Insider)

How’s this for progress? “The only part of D.C. government longtime resident Virgil Orstander says works well is the Department of Motor Vehicles.” (WJLA-TV)

Is cop serving as a fig leaf for disciplinary transfers? (City Paper)

Jeffrey Anderson tries to incite Cathy Lanier-Chuck Ramsey feud; Ramsey won’t play (WaTimes)

Fire hydrants are in good shape, in case you were wondering (WTOP)

Jeff Miller, formerly of JBG and Trammell Crow, is DMPED development chief (Patch)

One resident’s reason for not wanting to be in Ward 8: Rhymes with “carrion ferry.” (Dumping Ground)

Gray has himself some Shake Shack (Young & Hungry)

Georgetown’s new brand (Housing Complex)

Now blogging: Former DOES Director Joe Walsh (The Policy Wonks)

Superior Court Senior Judge Stephen Milliken robbed on iPhone on Metro (WAMU-FM)

Chinh Le is Legal Aid Society’s new legal director (Legal Times)

A novel about D.C. zoning? (Housing Complex)

New IT chief for UDC (news release)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends Dunbar High School’s commencement, 9:45 a.m. in Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium, 1130 6th St. NW; kicks off “One City Summer Fun” program, 1:30 p.m. at Banneker Rec Center, 2500 Georgia Ave. NW; tours Safe Shores, 3 p.m. at 429 O St. NW; attends Street Soccer USA National Cup event, 5:45 p.m. at Kastles Stadium, 800 Water St. SW; attends Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce gala, 6:40 p.m. at Mandarin Oriental, 1330 Maryland Ave. SW; attends Friends of Volta Park fundraiser, 8 p.m. at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, 1524 35th St. NW — D.C. Council hearing on “Child Support Guideline Commission Michele Zavos Confirmation Resolution of 2011” (PR19-154), 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; on the “Purity Amendment Act of 2011” (B19-139), noon in JAWB 412 — AG Irvin Nathan appears on The Politics Hour, noon on WAMU-FM

By  |  10:26 AM ET, 06/10/2011

 
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