TODAY IS MAY 10, 2011 — DAY 125 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
Another blast of 2012 budget news: The Washington Times reports from yesterday’s hearing, where business big shots weren’t happy about combined reporting, hikes to parking taxes, and other revenue-raisers. Arts groups objected to the proposal to extend the sales tax to tickets for theater and other live arts events, City Paper notes. WUSA-TV highlights the potential demise of the Community Benefits Fund and all the attendant promises delivered during the ballpark financing debate. WTTG-TV’s Matt Ackland and Housing Complex’s Lydia DePillis both note the gaping $20 million hole in homeless services, which would essentially close homeless shelters except when it dips below freezing. Still more budget coverage from WTTG-TV and WAMU-FM. Meanwhile. D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown clarifies to the Examiner’s Freeman Klopott that his budget plan would eliminate Gray’s proposal to raise income tax rates on individuals grossing more than $200,000 a year — but he plans to leave intact a cap on itemized deductions that would raise $16.7 million. Committee markups begin today and continue through Tuesday; I’m tweeting details from the committee reports as I get them.
AFTER THE JUMP — Vincent Orange to be sworn in at 4 p.m. — surprise: Harry Jaffe’s facts are wrong — UDC president’s residence a “money pit”? — 660 DCPS employees get excessed; no guarantee of new jobs — Roque Gerald bids adieu
*** MAIN COURSE ***
FLASH — The Board of Elections and Ethics has voted to certify the results of the April 26 special election. Vincent Orange will be sworn in as an at-large D.C. Council member at 4 p.m. in the council chambers.
‘SOAK THE DEVELOPERS’ — The Examiner’s Harry Jaffe is concerned about the surge of homelessness on our city streets, sure to be exacerbated by the city’s new budget. What to do? “Taxing D.C.’s rich residents even more is not the answer,” he writes. “Our wealthy neighbors already pay more than their share, for services they do not use. According to the 2010 D.C. Data Book, compiled by the chief financial officer, residents who make more than $200,000 — about 1 percent of the population — paid 47 percent of the total individual income tax revenue in 2008. By now I suspect they are responsible for more than half of the personal income tax revenue.” (More on that below.) Rather he’d see the budget gap closed by “cutting government workers, forcing workers to take furloughs and making all but the cops and firemen skip raises.” And here’s his more interesting idea: “Texas has oil; we have office buildings. It’s time to make more from our natural resource. Rather than taxing our residents, it’s time to raise taxes on commercial real estate developers and owners in transfer fees and tax rates. These folks own the most precious real estate on the planet. The vacancy rate on offices is less than 10 percent. Much of the downtown property is held by institutional investors, such as public employee retirement funds in California and Europe. Make the absentee owners pay for their gold-plated investments in the nation’s capital.”
WAIT A MINUTE, HARRY — But, as is not unusual, Jaffe doesn’t get his facts quite right. Hat tip to Keith Ivey, who notes the following about those richest city residents who are taxed enough already: “In reality, according to the 2010 D.C. Data Book he cites, those making more than $200k made up 5.2% of filers, not 1%. They did pay 46.5% of income tax (of course that ignores property and sales tax), but he doesn’t mention that those 5.2% made 40.2% of the income in DC, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for them.” (I checked; Ivey’s right.)
BOONDOGGLE ON RITTENHOUSE STREET? — The UDC president’s residence appears to be a “taxpayer money pit,” WTTG-TV’s Tisha Thompson reports, continuing her hard look at President Allen Sessoms’ spending: “Eight years ago, UDC spent more than a quarter million dollars bringing the residence up to snuff. New furniture, a new roof and $90,000 for marble and granite countertops. But then, it sat vacant for more than a year until [Sessoms] moved in. So, in 2008, the University started another spending spree. There were critical items like $35,000 to repair a bad leak and $265,000 to fix a stone retaining wall. But then there’s $15,000 for all new stainless steel appliances and $76,000 for custom-made bookshelves, installed at the president’s request. [UDC spokesman Alan Etter] says President Sessoms ‘Told me that he has a lot of books. They’d been in boxes in his basement for over a year and it was time, there was opportunity for them to come in and make an appropriate space to hold books.’ The house sits on a third of an acre but UDC spent more than $1,200 a month on landscaping. FOX 5 wondered is this normal?” It’s not.
660 DCPS EMPLOYEES EXCESSED — “Excessing” notices went out to 660 DCPS teachers and other employees Friday — meaning their positions have been eliminated for the upcoming budget year. In the past this wasn’t such a huge deal: Teachers were shifted to vacant and new positions elsewhere in the system on a seniority basis, but that’s not how it works now. Bill Turque explains in the Post that “the contract negotiated last year under former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee makes excessing ‘performance-based,’ employing criteria including an educator’s most recent evaluation, ‘unique skills and qualifications’ and ‘contributions to the local education community.’ Seniority still counts, but not for nearly as much. Moreover, placement of excessed teachers requires ‘mutual consent,’ meaning that school principals aren’t required to pick them up and can elect to hire newly recruited teachers instead. ... Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said Monday that under the new contract, excessing is just a way to purge the school system of older teachers. ‘Excessing is the new teacher firing,’ he said. ‘It’s a lot more palatable, politically correct term.’” It will be some time before we know how many employees will actually lose their jobs. The Examiner’s Lisa Gartner reports that 13 positions were excessed at Ellington, which is set to receive a budget increase next year. Adds Bill on his blog, “It wasn’t exactly the most ceremonious way end to Teacher Appreciation Week.”
ROQUE TAKES A BOW — CFSA Director Roque Gerald submitted his resignation Monday, bringing to a close a nearly three-year tenure that saw a stabilization of the agency after the Banita Jacks crisis but also ongoing difficulty in bringing lasting reform. I write in the Post: “Gerald’s resignation will be effective at month’s end, said agency spokeswoman Mindy Good. ‘Although this was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my professional life, it stems from a personal sense that I need to pursue new horizons,’ Gerald wrote in an e-mail to his staff. ... Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who oversaw the agency as chairman of the human services committee during most of Gerald’s tenure, credited him with clearing a backlog of cases that built up after the Jacks revelations. ... Under Gerald’s tenure, the child welfare agency has avoided another public crisis, but lasting reform has been elusive. It has been the subject of a federal class-action lawsuit for two decades. And although the city agreed to an exit plan in December, the monitor’s report released last Monday indicated that the agency is far from meeting the conditions necessary to do so.” Also: Examiner, AP.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Kwame: “D.C. is hip, hip and young, and I’m part of the generation of families with young kids movement that’s happening in this city.” (Examiner)
DCPS teacher evaluation czar Jason Kamras: “We’d like to get north of 75 percent [value-added] coverage. It’s going to take us five years to get there.” (D.C. Schools Insider)
Anonymous teacher: “It is time to admit that the DC-BAS system is not working to help improve our students’ education ...” (Answer Sheet)
Changes to the HealthCare Alliance will hurt (Beyond Bread)
D.C. cop accused of pointing gun at woman’s head (WaTimes)
Washington Hospital Center nurses agree to contract, which reinstates those fired after Snowmageddon (Post)
Surplus emergency vehicles set on fire (WTOP)
Get “connected” in NoMa (Housing Complex)
Read the DCFPI poll on the D.C. budget (DCFPI)
DCRA issues regulations on indoor signs (WBJ)
Rhee: Gone but not forgotten (WAMU-FM)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray attends Vincent Orange’s swearing-in ceremony, 4 p.m. in JAWB 500; attends Shepherd Park Citizens Association meeting, 6 p.m. at Shepherd Elementary School, 7800 14th St. NW; attends D.C. Appleseed awards dinner, 8 p.m. at Capital Hilton, 1006 16th St. NW — D.C. Council confirmation hearing on Office of Veteran Affairs Director Matthew Cary and Office on African Affairs Director Ngozi B. Nmezi, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; Committee on Public Services and Regulatory Affairs budget markup, 2 p.m. in JAWB 120