TODAY IS JULY 27, 2011 — DAY 206 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
Today in Harry Thomas Jr. news: Bruce Johnson reports at WUSA-TV that the “embattled” D.C. Council member has told unnamed “key supporters” he will not step down from office. The Post editorial board wonders why his colleagues haven’t put more pressure on him: “ ‘It’s always difficult for legislators to say a colleague should step aside when they have to work together the next day,’ lamely explained council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large). That may be true, but failing to hold Mr. Thomas accountable for his unacceptable behavior makes the council complicit in it.” Colleague Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), in comments to Loose Lips, distances herself from any suggestion that Thomas should relinquish his seat: “I don’t know the ramifications of the settlement but I do know that he did not admit guilt. ... And that’s the key thing.” Jonetta Rose Barras writes in her Examiner column: “If District legislators don’t secure Thomas’ resignation, they should be held responsible for creating fertile ground for the budding culture of corruption in city government and politics. They would have allowed it not just to take root, but also to thrive.” Thomas, incidentally, did not take the opportunity to appear with Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) at a bill-signing this morning; instead, he spent time at an Economic Partnership event.
AFTER THE JUMP — New tensions atop Washington Teachers’ Union — Irv Nathan throws cold water on tax claims — Homicides way down this summer — A year later, still no medical marijuana —Three potential elected AGs
*** MAIN COURSE ***
‘REPULSIVE’ LEGAL FUND — The Post editorial raises questions about Thomas’s legal defense fund: “Could one reason for his resolve be the establishment of a legal defense fund that no doubt will attract more contributions for a sitting council member than for one who left office in disgrace? The possibility that Mr. Thomas could use his public office to help meet obligations to the city he is alleged to have defrauded is repulsive, and it underscores the need for his removal. ... John Ray, a former council member who is one of Mr. Thomas’s attorneys, said a legal defense fund is being established. Mr. Ray told us Monday that no money has yet been raised but a trust is being created with an appointed trustee who would collect and disburse funds without the knowledge or involvement of Mr. Thomas. Mr. Ray said he didn’t know the answers to our questions about permissible uses of the money, limits on contributions or disclosure of donors. He referred us to Frederick D. Cooke Jr., another of Mr. Thomas’s attorneys, who declined to discuss the fund. It’s unclear what laws or rules would apply to this fund. No one from the Office of Campaign Finance, the D.C. attorney general’s office or the general counsel for the D.C. Council was willing to discuss the issue.”
NEW SPARKS ATOP WTU — You think the relationship between WTU’s president and vice president was bad when it was George Parker and Nathan Saunders constantly squabbling? Apparently it’s no better now that Saunders has the top job. Examiner’s Lisa Gartner reports that he has suspended VP Candi Peterson “for failure to perform the duties associated with your position.” Peterson, for her part, says Saunders “verbally abused” her and spoke to her “like how you would talk to a dog.” Saunders declined to comment. Gartner writes: “Peterson said she is looking for a lawyer. ‘We’re a union, we represent people, but here we are reprimanding someone without any type of progressive discipline, discussion, or dialogue,’ she said.”
NATHAN DASHES TAX CLAIMS — Attorney General Irvin Nathan threw cold water Monday on the notion that CFO Natwar Gandhi failed to collect many millions in property taxes over the past decade. A plain reading of a 2001 city law, he wrote in an opinion, would seem to require commercial property owners to pay more tax than the city has been collecting, but Nathan added that there is little in the legislative history to suggest that is what the D.C. Council intended to do. “As a consequence,” he wrote, “there is ... certainly not enough clarity to suggest that there be litigation to reassess prior payments to seek additional amounts of tax on past recordations.” David Catania, the D.C. Council’s attorney and the lawyers who first identified the issue disagree.
HOMICIDES WAY DOWN — Kudos to the Examiner’s Scott McCabe for noting that city homicides have fallen dramatically this summer — never mind the “summer of blood” rhetoric regularly spouted by certain columnists. “Since Memorial Day weekend two months ago, the number of killings in D.C. has dropped by 44 percent compared to the previous year. Before the holiday, which traditionally kicks off the summer season, homicides in D.C. were up 16 percent. The pace of killings in the city have slowed so that homicides for the year are down 12 percent and violent crime is down 7 percent, according to police records.” McCabe consults a criminal justice professor: “Once it gets too hot, the violence can drop off, she said. ‘It’s like the fight-or-flight theory, when it becomes too hot, criminals flee to places cooler. ... It may have reached the point that it’s so blasted hot outside that violent offenders, like everybody else, are staying inside.’ ”
STILL WAITING — It’s been a year since the city’s medical marijuana law went into effect, and advocates are still waiting for the city to set up a regulatory apparatus that will allow plants to be grown and weed to be sold to eligible patients. Tom Howell Jr. covers for WaTimes: “In protest, activists will take to the steps of the John A. Wilson Building Wednesday to make three demands: full implementation of the medical marijuana program, permission for patients to grow their own pot and the establishment of an affirmative defense clause for patients who get caught in the legal system.” Tim Craig notes they brought their own pot of pot.
POTENTIAL AGs — Peter Rosenstein floats some names of potential attorney general candidates in 2014, noting that it will “be important to elect someone with the proper credentials rather than someone just using the office as a stepping stone to the mayor’s office.” His names: former council member, now trial lawyer Bill Lightfoot; former appointed attorney general Bob Spagnoletti; and Orrick partner Pauline Schneider. Notably unmentioned: David Catania.
STRICTER STANDARDS, HIGHER WATER BILLS — In a decision that could well mean higher water bills, Chief U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to toughen pollution standards for the Anacostia River watershed. The Post’s Del Wilber reports: “The suit against the EPA was brought in 2009 by two nonprofit groups, Anacostia Riverkeeper and Friends of the Earth. The groups argued that pollution caps adopted in 2007 by the EPA would not meet the requirement that the river be clean enough for recreational uses. ... Lamberth sided with the environmental groups, finding that the EPA could not prove that its new standards would reduce pollution enough to permit people to swim in the river. ‘EPA merely expresses its hope that the proposed reductions will do the trick,’ he wrote.” Via WAMU-FM, D.C. Water’s George Hawkins notes that ratepayers will bear the cost.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Christopher Barry pleads guilty to drug charges (The Post)
Eleanor Holmes Norton joins calls to make National Park Service more responsive to urban needs (GGW)
DCPS’s “Hopes and Dreams” will be worked into strategic plan (WAMU-FM)
UDC to study monument to pioneering black officer (Diverse)
D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute is hiring an education analyst (DCFPI)
Improving the Southwest federal district (GGW)
Harriet Tregoning is A-OK; her foldable bike is not (Housing Complex)
A “511” system for regional transportation info? (GGW)
Ninth Street Bridge: dedicated (WJLA-TV)
Zoning Commission approves massive GWU science building (Hatchet)
Michelle Rhee: a “Bloomberg Risk Taker” (Bloomberg)
Bishop Harry Jackson is back ... in Maryland (DCist)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray holds news conference, 10 a.m. in JAWB G-9; attends luncheon for summer jobs participants, 1 p.m. in JAWB