TODAY IS MAY 2, 2011 — DAY 117 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
PREVIOUSLY — Cathy Lanier addresses D.C. summer crime concerns
Mayor Vincent C. Gray's statement on the killing of Osama bin Laden , whose terror campaign changed the face of Washington and how its residents and visitors interact with their city: “Along with the residents of the District of Columbia, I thank President Obama and members of the national security team for the leadership demonstrated in conducting the operation that resulted in the death of one of world’s most sought-after terrorists, Osama Bin Laden. And while the operation will not erase the pain nor diminish the threat of terror, I hope that this service of justice brings some comfort to the families and friends of loved ones lost on September 11, 2001. I salute the courageous men and women of the United States armed forces and members of the intelligence community for their dedication and steadfast commitment to the fight against terrorism worldwide. We will continue to work in coordination with our federal partners to ensure that appropriate protective measures are being taken to ensure our ongoing readiness and safety. District residents are reminded to remain vigilant at all times.” Gray and Police Chief Cathy Lanier will be participating in a Washington Post live chat and will be answering reader questions about city security at 1 p.m.
AFTER THE JUMP — Kwame Brown deposed in Fred Cooke’s office — Judy Banks stands by her testimony; Catania calls it perjury — can Vincent Orange restore public confidence in the D.C. Council? — D.C. more competitive than most, Gandhi says — Appleseed report says feds need to pony up for Anacostia cleanup — no Whole Foods for ballpark area
*** MAIN COURSE ***
KWAME GETS DEPOSED — D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown this morning sits in the offices of his lawyer, Fred Cooke, fielding questions from Office of Campaign Finance attorneys about his poorly documented 2008 council campaign. Dorothy Brizill has more in themail about why this is strange: “For most of the months that OCF’s audit was underway, Brown refused to secure private legal counsel after his attempt to make the case that he should be represented by a DC government attorney was rejected by OCF. Since the release of the final audit in April, Brown’s legal counsel has been Fred Cooke, who is also the attorney for the Committee, Dawn Cromer, Charles Hawkins, Che Brown, and Marshall Brown, despite the obvious potential for conflicts of interest. Also troubling is the location of tomorrow’s deposition at Fred Cooke’s law office. I firmly believe that OCF’s decision regarding the site of tomorrow’s deposition smacks of special treatment for Chairman Brown. In the many years that I have followed the work of OCF and the Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE), I have never known OCF to conduct a show cause hearing or take a deposition except at its offices in the Reeves Building. For example, in past OCF cases involving Mayors Barry and Williams, they both came to OCF’s office for a hearing or to be deposed. However, according to William Sanford, OCF’s General Counsel, in the past year or so, OCF has on two other occasions acceded to requests by attorneys who represented council members to hold depositions in their (the attorneys’) offices.” More at Loose Lips, D.C. Wire.
STAND BY YOUR STORY — In the third installment of the D.C. Council’s Gray hiring inquisition Friday, Mary Cheh and company questioned former Gray HR director Judy Banks for a second time, after her original testimony was contradicted on numerous occasions at the second hearing. She stood by her story. Nikita Stewart covered for the Post: “One of the most significant inconsistencies ... involves the hiring of Brandon Webb, son of former DOES director Rochelle Webb, as a special assistant in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Although Banks has said that Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe requested to hire the junior Webb, Ellerbe has testified that it was the other way around. His testimony appears to be backed by an e-mail trail and testimony from both Webbs. ‘Candidly, I don’t see why you keep digging yourself in a hole,’ D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) told Banks as Rochelle Webb sat in the audience, often shaking her head. ‘Well, you’re going to have conflicting testimony,’ Banks said at one point. She added later, ‘You can’t prove what I’m saying is not true.’” Banks also addressed her relationship with Howard Brooks, who is accused of delivering cash to Sulaimon Brown: “She said that she saw him in the Gray transition office but that she did not know what he did for the campaign. ‘I asked him one day to purchase a hot dog for me. I was hungry,’ she said.” Banks remains employed at the Washington Convention and Sports Authority. Tom Howell Jr. writes in the Washington Times: “So far, Ms. Cheh said, the hearings seem to show there was a small group of trusted individuals making personnel decisions on behalf of Mr. Gray. She said her sense is that Mr. Gray was ‘shocked’ by how the decisions played out and by ‘and how it undercut his administration right at the beginning.’” Examiner and AP also covered. And Brown stood up WUSA-TV’s Delia Gonçalves after he promised her an interview.
V.O. TO THE RESCUE — In her Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras wonders if Vincent Orange will bring change to the Council: “Many people have insisted he will change the legislature’s current direction. That’s a huge burden. The legislature has floundered under Chairman Kwame Brown who, along with other members, has been ensnared in scandals. Residents who went to the polls last week complained of the stench of corruption coming from the John A. Wilson Building. They chose someone they perceived as an outsider — except the new voice is an old voice.” That’s OK, Jonetta says: “He had an indisputable record of achievement during that time and was intolerant of an obstinate bureaucracy: He forced out Inspector General Charles Maddox and refused to confirm Judy Banks [yes, that Judy Banks] as permanent personnel director.” Now, Orange says he’ll introduce emergency legislation to create an ethic committee in order to “force members to state their positions in public.” Says Jonetta: “That’s the kind of forceful, direct action that won Orange friends, and enemies, during his previous council terms. If he pushes ethics too hard, he could put himself on collision course with Brown, who may interpret it as an assault on his leadership. Orange ran last year for the chairman’s seat Brown now occupies. There’s every reason to believe the once and future councilman continues to imagine himself future chairman.” Another view, from Doug Parrish at Georgetown Patch: “Orange was not elected because residents believe he’ll bring about change. He was elected because he’s well known, and he ran a strong campaign. That’s what a seasoned politician does.”
WE’RE COMPETITIVE! — In Sunday’s Post, a welcome rebuttal from Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi to all those studies lamenting the District’s low “competitiveness” and high business tax burden. “These last-place rankings conjure up an image of a District in decline, with fleeing businesses leaving behind empty office buildings, undeveloped lots and boarded-up storefronts. Except that is not true. Today, the District’s private sector is vibrant and growing. ... First, the studies’ narrow focus on taxes as a driver of business investments excludes more important factors, including the built-in advantages of the federal presence, population demographics and residents’ education levels. ... Second, the studies have a methodological flaw. They take a ‘representative firm’ and apply statutory tax rates, ignoring the reality of aggressive tax planning by businesses, which reduces what they actually pay. In the District, almost two-thirds of businesses pay only the minimum of $100 a year. When actual business taxes paid are ranked, the District falls in the middle of the pack. Another Ernst and Young/COST report, from March 2010, showed that D.C. business taxes as a percentage of private-sector gross state product were slightly below the national average, with the District at 4.2 percent vs. 4.7 percent for the United States as a whole. The District ranked the same as Maryland, but below Virginia.” A thought: It will be interesting to see how combined reporting will affect all this “aggressive tax planning.”
PONY UP, FEDS — A new D.C. Appleseed report on the Anacostia River includes a “surprisingly bold suggestion to federal officials for cleaning it up,” Darryl Fears reports in the Post today. “You bear most of the responsibility for polluting the river, and you should do more to help restore it. “The watershed, which includes parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and the District, is tainted by legacy toxins — chemicals dumped in the river years ago from sources like the Navy Yard — that endanger fish and make swimming dangerous, the report said. Dating back to the Civil War, the federal government has denuded forests that ameliorate the rain runoff, discharged poisons into the river while manufacturing weapons, built a sewer system that sometimes discharged raw waste and destroyed protective wetlands through dredging. Therefore, the federal government should take a more active role in coordinating the cleanup, says DC Appleseed.” Scheduled to attend the report unveiling: Gray, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; David Hayes, deputy secretary of the interior; and Nancy Stoner, the Environmental Protection Agency’s acting assistant administrator for water.
’IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY’ — The head of Rock Creek Academy, the special education school that city officials are looking to close, strikes back, claiming to the Post’s Bill Turque that “regulators are motivated more by potential cost savings than the best interests of the students who attend the school at public expense.” Shawn Meade, Rock Creek’s president and CEO, “charged that the city’s budget squeeze has led officials to target the network of private schools that serve about 2,800 emotionally and physically disabled children with challenges deemed too severe to be addressed in city schools. ... ‘It’s about the money,’ Meade said Friday in an interview at his office. ‘The intent is to close down all the non-public schools in D.C.’ ... D.C. officials scoffed at Meade’s assertion. ‘This is absolutely not about the money,’ said Tameria Lewis, assistant state superintendent for special education. ‘This about our obligation under the law and morally to ensure that students in the District of Columbia are receiving a high quality of education and all the service they are due in a setting that is safe and conducive to success.’ But Meade said the report compiled by the agency is replete with distortions and inaccuracies.” He pledges to appeal.
NO WHOLE FOODS FOR YOU — Doesn’t look like Near Southeast will be getting a Whole Foods after all: “William C. Smith Co. says it is no longer seeking an $8 million tax abatement for development plans in Southeast Washington, likely defeating the company’s efforts to lure Whole Foods there,” Jonathan O’Connell reports in Capital Business. ”]I]n the two months since the announcement, no member of the D.C. Council submitted a bill requesting the abatement, and the company acknowledged last week that it had withdrawn its request for the project. ... The grocer could still open a store in Southeast. Sources familiar with discussions between the developer and the grocer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by the companies to discuss the proceedings, said that Whole Foods was irked at publicity of the negotiations but was fielding entreaties from other developers.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Still no deal to extend Metro service for late Nats games (Examiner)
How did DCPS teacher who had sex with student get hired in the first place? (WUSA-TV)
In praise of the printed voter guide (GGW)
Post editorial board to cyclists: Obey the law! (Post)
Rev. Anthony Motley: Better coordination could have prevented zoo stabbing (Post)
Kaya Henderson co-headlines nonprofit event with Netflix founder (NewSchools Venture Fund)
Days after Leon Swain’s firing, tough new cab regulations published in Register (DCist)
Boston gets wise to Bikeshare (Boston Globe)
Residents complain to preservation board about Hine redevelopment plan (Examiner)
D.C. Court of Appeals orders new trials for two murder convicts (Examiner)
Gray renominates Anthony Hood to Zoning Commission (Housing Complex)
Outstanding questions about OSSE’s budget (Action for Children)
More on the District’s de facto gun hiatus (WRC-TV)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray attends DC Appleseed Anacostia River report release, 10 a.m. at Yards Park; attends Federal City Council board meeting, 11:30 a.m. at the Capital Hilton; holds budget town hall meeting, 7 p.m., at Brightwood Elementary School, 1300 Nicholson St. NW — D.C. Council budget hearing on the Commission on Boxing and Wrestling, Commission on Arts and Humanities, Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, and Destination DC, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500; D.C. National Guard, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Office of Unified Communications, Department of Corrections, and the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, 10 a.n. in in JAWB 412