TODAY IS MAY 27, 2011 — DAY 146 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
”Redistricting is the issue that gets people the maddest,” said Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) yesterday as he, Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) marked up their border-redraw plan. The new lines certainly got Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) irate, who said the redrawing of his ward — which lops off its eastern end and sketches its western border messily around certain Evans-desired locales — “calls into question ... the seriousness of the committee.” But that wasn’t even the markup’s main event — at least as far as TV cameras were concerned. Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), ticked that the new lines don’t draw his ward west of the Anacostia River, demanded to be heard, and when Brown didn’t recognize him, he talked anyway. And kept talking. Evans proceeded to call a vote and adjourn the meeting while Brown and Barry bickered. You really just have to watch — whether on NewsChannel 8 or WTTG-TV. More coverage, sans video, from WAMU-FM, DCist, WaTimes and Examiner. Also: Do note that the new Ward 6 looks alarmingly similar to the Minnesota Viking, with Shaw for horns, the Waterfront for braids and Eastern High School for a nose.
AFTER THE JUMP — budget aftermath — Post editorialists not cool with Gray Wal-Mart ultimatum — Gray presses ahead with Peebles suit — is “FEMS” too gay?
*** MAIN COURSE ***
ABOUT THAT BUDGET — In case you didn’t get enough budget coverage already: The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute has a very good rundown of exactly what was in the proposal that passed Wednesday. In the not-a-column, I look at the reason why Chairman Kwame Brown was so insistent on eliminating a proposed income tax rate hike: “Rewind to last summer, when at-large member Brown was running for the chairmanship and facing uncomfortable questions about his personal finances. Under pressure to prove his fiscal bona fides, he presented himself in Upper Northwest salons as a budget hawk who would hold the line on tax increases. The pressure only increased after February’s revelations that two city-paid luxury sport-utility vehicles had been ordered on his behalf. And with Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s budget targeting human services for stiff cuts, Brown has felt it on all sides. ... By delaying a $21 million budgetary maneuver and leaning on a $13.4 million proposal to tax non-District-issued municipal bonds for the first time, Brown was able to offer a little something for everyone — social service advocates got $23.4 million in funding for the homeless and needy, and the income tax increase went away.” Bloomberg reports that the proposed new tax on municipal bonds issued outside the District “could face a rocky time” getting final approval. Save Our Safety Net is rallying to keep the council from rolling back that tax.
VINCE AND WAL-MART — The Post editorial board is not cool with Gray’s Las Vegas ultimatum to Wal-Mart, writing today that it “comes dangerously close to crossing the line between tough negotiation and political extortion.” The Skyland-or-else proffer, they write, would unfairly obstruct stores that “would serve communities that lack adequate shopping options, especially for fresh, affordable food” and create “1,200 retail jobs, 400 construction jobs and an estimated $10 million in annual tax revenue for the District.” Also: “Wal-Mart is not asking for government help, either in subsidies or zoning changes. But Mr. Gray, according to The Post’s account, indicated he would be prepared to reject the company’s request for building permits. Victor L. Hoskins, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, told us that the ultimatum comment was made in ‘jest’ and was an overstatement of the city’s position, which he characterized as passion for development east of the river. We are glad to hear a clarification of the face-to-face meeting. There’s no question that a fair amount of horse-trading goes on when companies enter — or are courted by — a market. But threatening to interfere with a governmental process is nothing more than a shakedown.”
”FEMS” EFFEMINATE? — The Blade’s Lou Chibbaro Jr. writes about a little-discussed reason for the DCFD vs. FEMS feud within the Fire and Emergency Medical Services department: “Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe acknowledged that his decision to postpone an order that firefighters place the initials ‘FEMS’ on the shirts and jackets they wear while on duty was based, in part, on that acronym’s perception as a possible derogatory reference to gay men. ... Openly gay D.C. firefighter Tim Bennett said gay and straight firefighters know that the term ‘fem’ has long been used as a derogatory reference to effeminate men or gays. He said he and some of his fellow firefighters expect the FEMS logo prominently displayed on the back of their jackets and shirts will subject them to ridicule. ‘I was speaking to another member,’ Bennett told the Blade. ‘I’m not sure if he knows I’m gay or not, but he was just relating a story. He didn’t mean any offense by it, but he was saying how his grandmother heard about this and her quote was, “FEMS? What’s that sound like, a bunch of [UNKIND HOMOPHOBIC SLUR]?” ... And I think that’s the kind of terms and judgments it will elicit,’ said Bennett.” Adds the firefighter, “I can say the whole FEMS thing is a pretty poor choice of an acronym. ... I just think it invites distasteful comments, even if unintentional.”
THE SUIT GOES ON — If you thought Gray’s mayoral win would mean a swift end to city litigation against fellow Fenty foe Don Peebles, think again: Michael Neibauer reports in WBJ that the city is continuing to press its lawsuit alleging that a Peebles-controlled company overcharged the city for expenses related to an Anacostia lease. Another lawsuit, against the owners of 801 North Capitol Street NE, is also pending. And more to the current point, more lease audits are coming: “As the city’s budget shortfalls ballooned to $300 million-plus, these lease audits have taken on added importance in the Gray administration, and the Department of Real Estate Services has recently initiated 10 more. D.C. holds upward of 90 separate leases, some in the same building, for more than 3.3 million square feet. Rent alone costs $123 million a year, or about 2.5 percent of the District’s $5.2 billion general fund. ‘DRES is proactively auditing District leases on a rolling basis,’ said Brian Hanlon, the agency’s interim director. ‘The audits ensure alignment of lease terms and financial obligations.’” Also: The Peebles lawsuit has produced an interesting list of potential witnesses.
DYRS KIDS ON THE LOOSE — Two 17-year-olds under DYRS care escaped from a D.C. residential treatment center Wednesday, Jeffrey Anderson reports in the Washington Times. The two “jumped from a third-floor window at the Alternative Solutions for Youth facility in the 5800 block of 14th Street in Northwest, according to sources within the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. The sources said the teens cut off their Global Positioning System bracelets when they escaped and are still at large.”
TEAM THOMAS ALERT — A reminder from Alan Suderman on Why “Team Thomas Matters” at the Loose Lips blog: “[Harry Thomas Jr.] is backing a taxicab medallion bill, which a lot of cabbies fear may help taxi king Jerry Schaeffer take over the industry (Schaeffer says it ain’t so). Thomas is also a big cheerleader for bringing Wal-Mart to the District, and Schaeffer owns the land in Thomas’ ward where the big-box store might go. ... Schaeffer told LL he hasn’t donated any money to Team Thomas, but has donated to Thomas’ political campaigns (and the campaigns of a lot of others). It would be nice if LL could simply trust Schaeffer and be on his merry way. But that’s not LL’s job. Trust but verify, friends, trust but verify. The campaign records, LL can check; the records of Team Thomas, he cannot.” The attorney general’s office tells me the probe should wrap up in the coming weeks.
WHAT IS THIS, BALTIMORE? — Mark Segraves reports at WTOP: “The D.C. Department of Transportation says thieves have stolen copper wire installed in underground conduits at least four times in recent weeks. Officials say in some cases the thieves may be posing as road contractors at staged work zones in order to commit the crime. They may even be detouring traffic. One wire theft caused an illuminated Interstate 295 sign to go dark on northbound Kenilworth Avenue between Polk Street and Eastern Avenue. ... The thefts come as scrap metal dealers are paying nearly $3 per pound for copper wire. ... DDOT says it is working to restore power at the theft locations, and the agency is exploring how to ‘enhance the security’ of its electrical conduits. According to DDOT, the stolen wire is worth approximately $38,000.” Also WTTG-TV.
CULTURE OF DEATH? — For his Examiner column, Harry Jaffe speaks to Cafritz Foundation award-winning employee Tracie Martin, who does child fatality reviews. “Martin investigates what the schools, the social workers, the juvenile justice groups and the cops did — or should have done — to save a life. What can she tell us? ‘There’s no one answer,’ she says, ‘but given that nearly 100 percent of the homicides are black males, we need to look at the problem culturally.’ Kids who are killed often have mental health problems that could have been addressed when they were young. ‘Culturally,’ she says, ‘there’s a stigma to mental illness in the black community. We need to pull away from that.’ Infants often die in beds with their parents. ‘It’s culturally accepted across the board,’ she says. ‘But bed sharing is not that good. Parents can be intoxicated or too tired.’”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
D.C. Medicaid office paid equipment vendors without federal certification, audit finds (WaTimes)
Melissa Castro interviews Committee of 100’s George Clark: “To think of us as an anti-development group is wrong — I don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.” (WBJ)
That school security contract? Gray actually did submit it for council review (WaTimes)
Mendelson calls June 23 hearing on MPD celebrity escorts (AP)
Finding a judge without ties to Sidwell Friends is rather difficult (Washingtonian)
Food contractor gives students at one DCPS elementary scallions as a snack (Examiner)
Ward 3’ers march against AU campus plan, DHS development (G’town Dish)
Former MPD Assistant Chief Brian Jordan finalist for Cincinnati chief job (Hyde Park Daily)
Jim Graham plus salmon equals delicious? (Loose Lips)
Bikeshare is rewarding riders who help it “rebalance” the system (GGW)
South Korean, Chinese interest love downtown real estate (WBJ)
Metro a mess this weekend; several stations will close (Post)
Bishop John L. Meares, a white man who built a small black congregation in the District into a pioneering Maryland megachurch, dies at 91 (Post)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray opens pools for the summer, noon at Barry Farm Rec Center, 1230 Sumner Road SE — D.C. Council hearing on Committee on PR19-131 (Chief Technology Officer Robert A. Mancini Confirmation Resolution of 2011), PR19-204 (”Chief Procurement Officer James D. Staton Jr. Confirmation Resolution of 2011), and Bill 19-0197 (Executive Service Compensation System Changes and Pay Schedule Approval Amendment Act of 2011), 11:30 a.m. in JAWB 412 — Kwame Brown on the Politics Hour, noon on WAMU-FM