TODAY IS MAY 26, 2011 — DAY 145 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
Word of the day: “Jackmandering.” That is the Twitter meme of the moment for Ward 6ers are upset about draft redistricting plan released last night that puts a portion of the Hill East neighborhood (despite an apparent concession to Tommy Wells to leave Eastern High School and Eliot-Hine Middle School) in Ward 6. Nonetheless, expect to hear a lot of sound and fury in the coming days; the plan will be marked up today at 1 p.m. by the special redistricting committee, which includes Ward 2’s Jack Evans, who handed Shaw to Ward 6 to make up for Hill East’s loss. A hearing is set for June 1. The rhetoric stands to get pointed, to say the least. For a taste, check City Paper’s writeup of Tuesday’s march down East Capitol Street. This reporter’s already hearing from folks accusing Evans of jettisoning the blackest, least affluent section of his ward while absorbing a rich portion of Penn Quarter. Check this tweet from @codykrice: “Guiding principle of the #jackmandered #reDC plan seems to be for W2 to drop any area that isn’t lily white and filthy rich.” That won a retweet from Wells himself.
AFTER THE JUMP — budget rundown — Sulaimon needs a real subpoena — Gray tells Wal-Mart: Skyland or else — the many problems with one center for troubled D.C. youth — many unanswered questions about taxi bill — Ted Loza to be sentenced soon — Kwame likes hot yoga?
*** MAIN COURSE ***
BUDGET PASSES FIRST VOTE — Ladies and gentlemen, we have a budget. It has many tax and fee hikes, but it does not include a sales tax on theater or new tax bracket for the rich. It does however, tax out-of-District municipal bonds for the first time. And the business lobby took a beating, with combined reports and a higher parking tax remaining in the budget. Also, despite CFO Natwar Gandhi’s objections, the council went ahead a passed a list of spending priorities for anticipated new revenue — which will not include a “buy-back” of the bond tax, a debate that provided the most dramatic moment of yesterday’s meeting: “In a unusual example of open horse-trading on the council dais, Wells won the support of Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) [for eliminating the buy-back] after agreeing to set aside about $500,000 for a D.C. Emancipation Day celebration next April, to be held at the Lincoln Theatre on U Street NW. ... Orange, who was sworn in this month after winning a special election April 26, is on the theater’s board of directors. He did not mention the affiliation on the dais, but he said in a subsequent interview that he did not see a conflict of interest because his board position is unpaid. ‘I don’t think the city has been doing right by the theater,’ he said. ‘Even right now, it’s facing some financial difficulties.’ Freeman Klopott quotes Orange in the Examiner: “Clearly it was a Kwame Brown budget that was passed.” OK, then. DCist notes that park advertising and sponsorships will now be kosher. More writeups abound: Tom Howell Jr.’s WaTimes recap is particularly good, and also see DCist, GGW, WBJ, AP, WAMU-FM, and Deborah Simmons being Deborah Simmons.
ABOUT THAT BOND TAX — From the Post: “Although the District now stands alone in granting tax exemptions on public bonds issued outside its borders — Indiana recently ended a similar exemption — several council members said they feared that a new bond tax would be unfair to current bondholders and would disproportionately affect retirees. Still, former mayor Anthony A. Williams applauded the council’s decision. ‘The District has made headway in reducing taxes over the years. We’re very proud of that,’ he said. ‘But I don’t think we should be the only jurisdiction to offer this benefit.’ ... Helen Modly, a Middleburg-based financial planner who has clients in the city, said that the broad exemption ‘always was kind of a nice thing for District residents.’ But she said she understood why legislators looked to end it. ‘If you had to come up with a tax increase in the District that really only affected the wealthy, I think they did a pretty good job,’ she said, adding: ‘To say that this something that’s going to affect the elderly, no. It’s going to affect people in high tax brackets.’”
YOU DIDN’T GET SERVED — Sorry, Mary Cheh: Mailed subpoenas aren’t going to fly, a Superior Court judge said Wednesday. Nikita Stewart covered the proceedings: “Unable to locate [Sulaimon Brown], the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment had tried serving him by certified mail. But Judge Judith N. Macaluso said at a hearing Wednesday that the committee would have to take the traditional route. ‘The bugaboo of service raises its head,’ she said. ‘I’m not aware of any exception to the service requirement.’ In a brief interview after the hearing, David Zvenyach, the council’s general counsel, said he may prepare a brief to convince Macaluso that Brown could be served by certified mail. ‘Ultimately, we’re going to try to serve him,’ he said. ... In a statement Wednesday, Brown said, ‘I’m pleased with the judge’s decision. Respect for the rule of law and fairness has spoken. I hope Mary Cheh and Vincent Gray are listening.’”
SIN CITY ULTIMATUM — Jonathan O’Connell’s been reporting his face off in Las Vegas this week, including his big scoop that Gray threatened Wal-Mart with a Sin City ultimatum: Open a store at Skyland, or else. “]I]n the meeting, held with Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins and five members of the D.C. Council ... Gray said he made clear that he will not support the chain’s efforts to open anywhere in the city without anchoring a redevelopment of Skyland. ... ‘They’re interested in developing four stores,’ the mayor said in an interview after the meeting. ‘All of us said, “What about a fifth store?” They hemmed and hawed, and it ultimately came down to — you have a choice. You can do five stores or you can do no stores.’ ... Gray indicated he would be willing to go so far as to nix the company’s requests for building permits on privately owned sites, even for neighborhoods where residents favored Wal-Mart’s opening. ... Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said Skyland is one of several dozen sites in the region that the chain is considering. ‘As we move forward on the approval process for our four announced locations and the 1,200 jobs they will create, we also will expedite our due diligence on Skyland to determine whether the site can come to fruition,’ he said.” Also: Jonathan explains why Wegmans’s parking demands might sink any D.C. deal and reports on potential tenants for CityCenter.
WHERE D.C. SENDS ITS TROUBLED KIDS — On City Paper’s cover this week: Jason Cherkis looks at one particular residential treatment facility where the District agencies have been long been sending their most troubled youth: “With three sprawling campuses in Virginia’s Tidewater region, The Pines is the biggest for-profit residential treatment center in the state. It’s a complex operation that sustains itself on the idea of accepting just about any kid. The sexual predator, the orphan, and the gang member all occupy The Pines’ fortress of smash-proof glass and sky-blue cinderblock. But in the past three years, The Pines has faced more abuse and neglect allegations than any other RTC facility in Virginia, according to a review of state records. Its campuses have been under constant scrutiny, threats of sanctions, and state orders to correct problems. One staffer described M’s unit as a ‘dog pen.’ ... As it happens, this story from the far side of Virginia should matter to D.C. residents. Every year, the District spends tens of millions of dollars sending its most troubled children to distant RTCs — and The Pines has benefited like few others. ... Why keep using the place? City officials were aware of some problems, according to hundreds of emails and monitoring reports obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. But those same documents demonstrate a cozy relationship between the city and the facility, one that persisted despite the countless warning signs. Other governments moved more quickly. In early spring, well after the management change, North Carolina announced that it had begun the process of yanking its own kids out of The Pines. D.C. agencies, though, have been confused on just how to respond. On May 16, after repeatedly defending the placements in interviews for this story, DYRS announced plans to pull them.”
’SANTA CLAUS WITH THE BOGEYMAN INSIDE’ — In Loose Lips, Alan Suderman shines a light on the taxi medallion legislation now in the Council hopper: “[S]upporters of a taxicab medallion bill ... say implementing a system like those found in other major cities would regulate a ‘free for all’ industry, lead to better taxi service and help reform the D.C. cabbies’ oft-maligned reputation as a ‘laughingstock.’ But opponents of the bill present an alternate future: one in which a small group takes control of the taxi industry, squeezes out the little guy forever, and in the process, makes District riders pay more, wait longer (or forever, in some underserved parts of the city), and get crummier service than they did before the medallions came along to ruin a system that doesn’t really need a major overhaul. ... When introducing the bill in March, Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry said he was ‘[looking] forward to pushing’ the bill in order ‘to give equity and equality to our cab drivers.’ But now that the legislation is moving along through the process, many of those old-time drivers who would benefit most, whose ranks probably number close to 1,000, don’t believe Barry or other supporters of the bill have their best interests at heart. ‘The medallion bill is a gift from Santa Claus with the Bogeyman inside,’ says Nathan Price, chairman of the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association.” One question: Is this all a big scheme to make Jerry Schaefer even richer?
HOT YOGA? — The Informer profiles Kwame Brown: “The chairman of the District’s legislative body is focused on serving the people of the District the way he believes it would most benefit them. [Brown] said that he will not imitate what past chairs of the D.C. Council have done. ‘I am Kwame Brown,’ he said. ‘People know me. They say that Kwame Brown is the people’s chairman.’ ... Brown said that he’s ready to move forward to help District residents, despite the distractions. However, he wants to make it clear that he is not Vincent Gray and he will do some things differently. ... ‘Vincent Gray is the mayor and the first chair to become mayor. He is 28 years older than I and Linda Cropp is older than I.’ Brown said that while Gray and Cropp have grandchildren, he still has small children. He said that while ‘Gray likes to play softball and Linda likes to knit, I like running, riding bikes, playing basketball and hot yoga. ... I come from a different generation.’”
SUMMER IN THE CITY — Youth Today covers a new report from D.C. Lawyers for Youth that “challenges the widely held belief that notable spikes in juvenile offenses and arrests, particularly in urban areas, occur during the summer months. From 2007 through 2010, weekly averages drawn from Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department data show that overall juvenile arrests and juvenile arrests for violent crimes during summer months (June, July and August) never exceeded the average for spring months (March, April and May). The same is true when comparing arrest averages during the academic year to those during summer break: the school year average is always higher. ... ‘We’re not looking to influence police behavior,’ said Daniel Okonkwo, executive director of D.C. Lawyers for Youth. ‘What we want to do is push back on public perception.’” Meanwhile, WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza covers estimates that “as many as 15,000 students will not have summer activities they would have had in the past. ... Ram Uppuluri, who heads the D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates, says the cuts can create an ideal situation for the city’s young people to get into trouble. ‘In the absence of anything positive, how can we be surprised if young people choose to be engaged in negative activity?’ he says.”
TEDDY GOES TO JAIL — Federal prosecutors want a 14-month sentence for former council staffer Ted Loza, who pled guilty to accepting payoffs and making false statements to investigators. Del Wilber has more at Crime Scene: “In court papers, prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman to sentence Loza to the top end of the guideline range because he had shown no remorse, had not yet accepted responsibility and had refused to discuss the case with prosecutors during a recent meeting. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb wrote that Loza also pressured an unidentified non-profit group to finance his travel and even ‘strong-armed a “loan,” by threatening to withhold the entity’s government financing.’ ... In their own set of court papers, Loza’s lawyers urged the judge to sentence the former staffer to probation because he was dedicated to his community and had ‘fully accepted responsibility for the actions he took.’ ‘Mr Loza is needed by the community and his family,’ wrote his attorney, Pleasant Brodnax. ‘His absence from the community has been detrimental to many individuals, especially those in vulnerable populations.’”
WE SPEND A LOT ON EDUCATION — A new Census Bureau survey of educational costs puts D.C. second only to New York state, Lean Fabel reports in the Examiner. Of course, D.C. isn’t a state. But let’s not forget that “the D.C. Public Schools consistently [rank] among the worst in the nation based on state-to-state rankings.” Some explanation: “Compared with the 50 states, and especially its relatively wealthy neighboring states, the District has a far greater percentage of students with needs that require — often by law — higher staffing levels. A spokeswoman for D.C. Public Schools commended the city’s higher outlay for education over the past decade, calling it ‘a great thing for the District and for our students.’ She also questioned the formula used by the Census Bureau data-crunchers. The direct per-pupil spending available to principals next year will be just over $10,000, she said.”
BAG TAX SCOFFLAWS — NewsChannel 8’s Mike Conneen reports on the findings of a “secret shopper” who discovered that 38 percent of surveyed businesses required to charge the five-cent bag tax were not doing so. “Out of 208 businesses inspected across the District, the department gave 80 of them warnings for not charging the fee. And when businesses were reinspected, 27 percent were repeat offenders. Resulting in a fine of up to $100.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
In which I explain the potential massive loss of tax collections to Kojo Nnamdi (WAMU-FM)
Mystery council candidate Arkan Haile emerges “to briefly share my thoughts on some important issues facing our city” (Arkanfordccouncil.com)
Kaya Henderson reaches out about DCPS’s future, with the help of a consultant (D.C. Schools Insider)
Superlobbyist Bruce Bereano rallies against gas station mogul Joe Mamo (City Desk)
Eleanor Holmes Norton on Oprah Winfrey: “She did more for African Americans than all of us put together” (Post)
Child Fatality Review Committee annual report coming soon (Post)
Don’t eat those Anacostia fish! (WAMU-FM)
WDCEP’s tweet outs Oakland mayor’s trip to Vegas (SFGate)
Hard to get soccer going at Banneker High (City Paper)
An easier way to complain to the government (Daily Gripe)
More detailed psychological evaluation ordered for cop shooter (Post)
Norton issues nebulous warning about potential Hill attack on D.C. gay marriage law (Blade)
UDC moves to post required Human Rights Act notices (Blade)
More than two minutes of testimony at Metro board meetings? (Examiner)
On last night’s Capital Bikeshare meeting (GGW)
”Washington’s bikeshare is a capital idea” (Grist)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray addresses Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers, noon at Omni Shoreham, 2500 Calvert St. NW; attends Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month celebration, 6 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW — D.C. Council redistricting markup, 1 p.m. in JAWB