DeMorning DeBonis: May 31, 2011

TODAY IS MAY 31, 2011 — DAY 150 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

If Mayor Vincent C. Gray thought this would get lost in the shuffle ahead of a holiday weekend, nope: A bill introduced March 31 to reset the executive pay scale, increasing maximum salaries by about $100,000, had a hearing Friday. City Paper’s Alan Suderman covered the proceedings, during which Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) said that “there’s no way” the bill was leaving her committee. Why? As Suderman notes, the pay-raise proposal “comes a few months after Gray took a political beating for paying some of his cabinet members salaries that exceeded the council-set pay cap” and that “there’s also the awkward point that Gray’s hiring and pay practices are currently under investigation by a whole bunch of people.” Now there is a legitimate argument to be made that an executive deserves the flexibility to attract and retain the people he or she wants. But now is not the time for Gray to be making that case, the pundits agree. Says Suderman: “The proposal is so bad that some of his political allies can’t help but openly mock it. ... It’s not just the investigations, Gray just proposed raising the income tax of the city’s wealthy while cutting social services for the poor to help fill a massive budget gap.” Jonetta Rose Barras unloads on Gray in her Examiner column, saying Hizzoner “either has a tin political ear or he’s more arrogant than the average politician” and “has acted like a politician who believes himself entitled everything he wants when he wants it.”

AFTER THE JUMP — House GOP so far keeping hands off gay marriage — MPD brass complain about Lanier’s discipline — Deborah Nichols to leave auditor post — Developers not happy about Sin City ultimatum — Brodsky out; new Hardy principal in

*** MAIN COURSE ***

GAY MARRIAGE SAFE, FOR NOW — The Post’s Ben Pershing explores whether the city’s same-sex marriage law is in danger of interference from congressional Republicans. Despite a warning from Eleanor Holmes Norton that D.C. gay marriage is “under attack,” Ben writes, “it’s not clear who is leading the charge. Neither the chairmen of the committees that oversee D.C. issues nor the Republicans who previously offered such measures are planning to do so now, although the fight could surface in the appropriations process later this year.” A host of key House GOP leaders say that they’d vote for a bill overturning gay marriage in D.C., but that they weren’t personally interested in introducing a bill themselves. More likely is a spending rider: “Republicans have frequently gotten D.C.-related social ‘riders’ signed into law by attaching them to must-pass spending bills. That’s what happened in April, when the abortion and private-school voucher measures were included in the spending resolution negotiated by President Obama and House Republicans. If Republicans append a rider to a broader debt-reduction measure if one occurs, Obama and Senate Democrats would oppose such a move, but it’s unclear whether they consider the issue a deal-breaker.” Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage said same-sex marriage foes have been “preoccupied” with other things and will get around to D.C. eventually: “I expect that there will be some vote. ... I don’t know what form it’s going to take.”

THE BRASS STRIKES BACK — Four high-ranking MPD officials have filed a complaint against Chief Cathy Lanier for engaging in a “ ‘disturbing pattern of discriminatory conduct’ in handing down harsher discipline for male officers than female officers,” Jeffrey Anderson reports in the Washington Times. “Cmdr. Willie Dandridge, Cmdr. Hilton Burton, Capt. Victor Brito and Capt. Kevin Anderson identify 10 male officers disciplined and demoted by Chief Lanier and eight female officers who avoided a similar fate, and claim that ‘when allegations of misconduct swirled within the command staff, if the command official was a woman, she was never demoted and rarely disciplined.’ ... Of particular concern, according to separate discipline cases pending before the D.C. Court of Appeals, is Chief Lanier’s repeated use of a statute that gives her the right to demote commanders to the lower rank of inspector or captain without cause or a hearing. Critics say the statute has been overused and that the chief has used the threat of no-cause demotions to influence the rulings of officials who serve on police disciplinary panels, known as trial boards.” Lanier said in a statement that “discipline under her predecessor, Charles H. Ramsey, was too severe” and that she “has strived to differentiate between inadvertent mistakes and firing offenses but won’t hesitate to replace members of her department who fail to perform to acceptable levels.” And, yes, this was all prompted by how the Diane Groomes test-cheating allegations were handled. Also in the Times: Tom Howell Jr. reports that 20 officers left MPD in the four weeks ending May 21 — above the oft-cited 15-per-month figure that the council has been basing policy decisions on. But department figures says the current average for the fiscal year thus far is 13.5 per month.

AUDITOR OUT; NON-AUDITOR IN — After “months of rumors and widespread speculation,” Deborah Nichols is officially out as D.C. auditor, Dorothy Brizill reports in themail (not yet online). To replace her, council Chairman Kwame Brown has chosen Yolanda Branche, and Dorothy has some questions: “It is not clear why Nichols is not being reappointed, but [Brown]’s motives in replacing her with [Branche] need to be explained. Brown’s press release claims that Branch ‘is an attorney admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.’ However, the records of the DC Bar Association show that Ms. Branche’s legal license in DC has been suspended. ... Branche gives her address as being in the District, on Banneker Drive in the Fort Lincoln section of Northeast. However, she isn’t registered with the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to vote in the District, so I queried Brown’s office about her actual residence. In response, Ms. Branche E-mailed me that, ‘I am not a DC resident,’ although she pledged to move into the District within the 180-day limit. Ms. Branche is not an auditor, though she began working in the DC Auditor’s Office in the past year as a senior analyst. Prior to that, she owned and operated a greeting card company, Bayview Cards in St. Leonard, Maryland, where she actually lives.” Branche has longstanding ties to John Hill, former Control Board executive director who is now CEO of the Federal City Council.

REDISTRICTING UPDATE — I wrote a redistricting rundown for Saturday’s Post: “Race, class, identity and parking — such are the volatile ingredients in the District’s ward redistricting, a contentious decennial tradition now playing out on the D.C. Council. ... ‘It’s about you being able to get what you need,’ said Sondra Phillips-Gilbert, an activist in the Rosedale neighborhood, which stands to move [from Ward 6] to Ward 7. ‘Who wants to belong in a poor ward? I’m black; I don’t.’ Other Hill East residents have other, less emotional arguments, but the passion brought to drawing of ward lines is not new.” Jack Evans responded to Tommy Wells’ retweet of a claim that Evans wants to “drop any area that isn’t lily white and filthy rich.” Said Evans: “He needs to grow up ... I don’t know what else to say. His personal attacks I think are beneath the council.” Also: a handy map! Also, Bill Turque notes on his blog that former Ward 6 council member Sharon Ambrose intervened with members of the redistricting panel to keep Eastern High and Eliot-Hine Middle schools in Ward 6: “I said I thought that this was going to generate more grief than they would want to handle,” she said. Also, Wells calls Phil Mendelson a “nitpicker” who “can be irrational” when drawing ward lines; while Mendo accused Wells of “taking a pass” on being involved with line-drawing. See also activist Martin Moulton’s argument for keeping the Convention Center with the rest of Shaw — with graphic!

WAL-MART DEAL REAX — Developers aren’t too jazzed about Gray’s Sin City ultimatum to Wal-Mart, Jonathan O’Connell reports in Capital Business: “[B]rokers and developers of other Wal-Mart sites now see the future of their deals tied to the future of Skyland, a development plan that has dragged on for more than a decade. ‘It kind of came out of the blue, I can tell you that,’ said Grant M. Ehat, principal of JBG Rosenfeld Retail. ... ‘It just feels like it’s a very strong tactic, and I don’t know whether it will work or not. It sure doesn’t make us feel very good — that our destiny now is being taken out of our own hands. But I guess the mayor and the city council feel that it was warranted in order to get Skyland going,’ he said. Lydia DePillis digs into the story at Housing Complex, noting that Yvette Alexander called Jonathan’s original account of the ultimatum “so not true” and “more of a negotiation with Walmart that we wanted a city-wide [community benefits agreement].” Funny, council member, that’s not what you said when I asked you about the meeting last week ...

DOWN WITH GAS ‘SCAPEGOATING’ — A Post editorial takes a whack at AG Irv Nathan’s probe of gas station mogul Joe Mamo: “Mr. Nathan can have at it, but we doubt there’s any wrongdoing afoot. ... The case against Mr. Mamo rests heavily on the fact that operators who lease their stations from him must also agree to buy their fuel from a wholesale supply firm he controls. That sure sounds anticompetitive. But Mr. Mamo’s business model is both common in gas retailing nationally and perfectly legal in the District — under a law that Mr. Mamo’s lobbyist persuaded the D.C. Council to pass in 2007. Does it hurt consumers? The answer is a somewhat counterintuitive but emphatic no, according to both a host of economic studies and a 2007 policy statement by the Federal Trade Commission. ... As a reward for their efficiency, Mr. Mamo’s business and others like it face an attack from the city government. In addition to Mr. Nathan’s probe, council members are threatening repeal of the 2007 law. Leading the effort, in a 180-degree reversal of her position four years ago, is Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3). ... If there’s been a more blatant example of political scapegoating and opportunism in D.C. lately, we can’t think of it.”

BRODSKY OUT — Chuck Brodsky resigned from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Friday, ending his controversial chairmanship. The Examiner’s Freeman Klopott had the news first Friday. Brodsky explained his decision in a statement: “Out of respect for concerns voiced by members of the DC City Council and a number of ANC and Community Groups regarding my dual role as a Washington, DC small business owner and as Chairman of the ABC Board, I have decided to resign my seat on the ABC Board. I do this out of respect for both groups and in the interest of putting the emphasis and focus back on the city’s business and the needs of the citizens of the District of Columbia.” The Georgetown Dish delights in the news: “Brodsky’s resignation ends a tumultuous tenure that drew anger from community representatives and charges that his private business interests and personal relationships created crippling conflict of interest issues that threatened the reputation of the Board.”

ABOUT THOSE MUNIS — The Bond Buyer (“the daily newspaper of public finance”) covers the council’s muni bond tax vote, saying that the decision to tax non-D.C. public bonds for the first time has “jolted local municipal bond investors who could see their taxes jump.” Jack Evans is proposing a “grandfather” clause for bonds currently held by city taxpayers. One money manager says the District “doesn’t really have that many high-quality credits,” complicating investment decisions. Says another: “The tax would not have the impact for investors today that it would have had five years ago because munis are not as attractive an investment — ‘a reflection of what’s going on in the municipal bond market in general,’ said Elizabeth Larson, a principal with district-based Evermay Wealth Management. ... The tax would ‘put another nail in the coffin for why not to buy municipal bonds for D.C. residents,’ she said.”

NEW HARDY PRINCIPAL — Hardy Middle School finally has a new principal, Bill Turque reports on his blog: Mary Stefanus — a “veteran suburban St. Louis principal who ‘kicked butt’ at her last assignment, in the estimation of one staff member. ... Stefanus was the choice of a community-based principal selection panel that screened several candidates. In a letter home to Hardy parents Friday, Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson said she agreed with the recommendation. The panel’s approval gives Stefanus a big leg up over predecessor Dana Nerenberg, who was thrust into the post last year by then-Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee after she reassigned the popular Patrick Pope.” More at Patch, Georgetown Dish and D.C. Urban Moms.

FENTY ON THE MEDIA — Interesting tidbit from Fishbowl DC coverage of a “civility dinner” of politicians and journos at Georgetown’s Halcyon House: Former Mayor Adrian Fenty “said during both of his mayoral campaigns, rumors swirled about him beating his wife. Despite his knock on the media earlier, he said, ‘The media never ran it. I think there’s integrity and rules that they follow.’ ” Also: Fenty was seen “struggling with parking meter” last week.

STATE OF THE NARRATIVE — Rhee has taken her campaign to Nevada, prompting this precis of her Washington stint in the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “In a thinly veiled effort to put the heat on Ms. Rhee, defenders of the status quo turned their sights last year on incumbent D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who hired and supported Ms. Rhee. After Mr. Fenty was defeated in the 2010 Democratic primary, Ms. Rhee resigned. Watch for many of her reforms to be reversed.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Whom D.C. officials met with in Vegas: “Safeway, CVS, Wegmans, Kohl’s Department Stores, AMC Theatres, Under Armour and Darden Restaurant Group, operator of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Seasons 52 and other concepts.” (Capital Business)

More on “perfect storm” hitting summer programs for youths (WAMU-FM)

Kwame Brown on Kojo, discusses SUVs: “If I had to take some things back, I would.” (WAMU-FM)

Metro paying big bucks for new social media position (TBD)

Richmond columnist rails against D.C. taxi medallions (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

DPR Director Jesus Aguirre did the pool-inaugurating cannonball on Friday (@mikedebonis, WAMU-FM)

Fix D.C. unemployment by improving service jobs (GGW)

OCFO’s Waterfront Station lease is the city’s costliest (WBJ)

Tom Zeno, who prosecuted Marion Barry’s tax cases (and John Hinckley’s release requests), retires at 59 (The Post)

DMV looking for new space to replace Georgetown Park branch (DRES release)

John Capozzi pushes Pepco to go green (Examiner.com)

Why arresting people for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial is stupid (GGW)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray breaks ground on Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, 11:30 a.m. at Fort Dupont Ice Arena, 3779 Ely Place SE — D.C. Council hearings on “Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgements Recognition Act of 2011” (B19-216), “Fine Proportionality Amendment Act of 2011” (B19-214) and “Receipt of Stolen Property Amendment Act of 2011” (B19-215), 10 a.m. in JAWB 412 — Council goes back to court regarding hiring investigation subpoenas; Sulaimon Brown expected to appear, 1 p.m. at Moultrie 415

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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