TODAY IS APRIL 1, 2011 — DAY 86 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
It’s budget day! Mayor Vincent C. Gray this morning will unveil his fiscal 2012 budget proposal to the D.C. Council. Here’s what to watch for: Will Gray raise taxes? There will be “revenue enhancements,” no doubt — “combined reporting” of corporate income taxes is in the budget, according to several sources, generating about $22 million. As Freeman Klopott reports in the Examiner, a parking tax hike — the first since 1976 — is likely, but the amount of an increase is unclear. But the big unanswered question is whether Gray will hike income tax rates. As I write in the not-a-column today, given their recent troubles, Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown will have a hard sell to make on any broad-based tax hike. The other questions surround where Gray will find his promised cuts: From public safety, while the number of sworn police officers has already dipped precipitously? From homeless services, already cut to the bone? From health care, possibly leaving more residents uninsured? From affordable housing programs? From low-income energy assistance? For more analysis of the sure-to-come social service cuts, look to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, which already has a very good pre-release briefing on its web site. And follow me on Twitter throughout the day for much, much more.
AFTER THE JUMP — Gray’s report of transition expenses leaves questions unanswered — Gray gets boos at Nats game — “white identity politics” in D.C.? — erasures: yet another Rhee-action — labor peace on 15th Street — the mysterious Vincent Orange dossier
*** MAIN COURSE ***
SUNSHINE, PLEASE — Gray has thus far not fulfilled a promise to fully disclose his transition expenses, Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart report in today’s Post: “Gray and his top transition aide said they would provide a full accounting of how much money he raised for and spent from his One City Fund. By bypassing public funds, Gray is under no legal obligation to release the information — a flaw in local campaign laws, critics say. In early January, the Gray administration reported that the fund had raised $669,860 in the weeks following the general election. The administration also released the names of donors up to that date, but no itemized expenditures were made available. In response to repeated requests from The Washington Post, Gray transition director Reuben O. Charles released a summary of how he says the transition team spent $942,448 between the election and inauguration. The one-page document does not itemize vendors, employees and businesses for several large expenses. The document is also out of balance. When its categories are added, the amount spent is $2,859 less than the total listed. ... A senior official with the campaign, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak for the transition team, said the expenditures are being audited internally. A full accounting will be released when the audit is complete, the official said.” What we do know: Most of the $900,000-plus raised went to the inaugural ball. $52,000 went to Charles, and about $15,000 went to Howard Brooks, implicated in the Sulaimon Brown allegations.
BAD DAY AT BALLPARK — The boo birds came out for Gray’s appearance yesterday at the Nats’ opener. Writes DCist: “]T]hen again, what executive leader hasn’t been booed at Nationals Park? Adrian Fenty heard the heckles on Opening Day. So did George W. Bush in 2008. Even President Barack Obama heard some scattered boos during last year’s ceremonies. Maybe it’s just something about the stadium that leads people to vocalize their negativity? Nah, it’s just Gray’s performance.” WTTG-TV devotes more than five minutes of its late newscast to the boos. Also: Nats lose to the Braves, 2-0.
THE CONSEQUENCE-FREE LIFESTYLE — The Post editorial board reacts to news that Marion Barry is driving a car that is not registered: “What is so distressing about [Barry]’s latest escapade is not his belief that he can live outside the law. That’s old news. What’s distressing is that he seems to be correct in his assessment. How else to explain the apparent indifference of police and other officials to the fact of Mr. Barry tooling around town in a car not properly registered? That Mr. Barry is allowed to continuously embarrass the people he was elected to serve erodes the city’s credibility and ability to manage itself. ... Who buys a car without proper title? Who thinks it is okay to just slap on old license plates from a different car? But, then, every time Mr. Barry breaks the rules, whether it is refusing to file tax returns, failing to pay federal and local taxes or arranging a city contract for a girlfriend, he seems to get a pass.” A Barry spokeswoman told the board “he has parked the car and is not going to drive it until the matter has been cleared up.” Fox News also notices.
‘WHITE IDENTITY POLITICS’ COMING TO D.C.? — Provocative piece in City Paper from American Prospect scribe Adam Serwer, who argues that “the demographic forces that framed D.C.’s last mayoral election may prove to be the prologue to a new era of polarizing racial politics in the District, one in which explicitly catering to its most affluent white residents is a path to victory rather than a route to an ignominious defeat. ... D.C.’s white residents, who have always had more influence than their numbers might imply, make up a big enough share of the population to play their own game of identity politics. During a D.C. Council meeting earlier this week, At-Large Councilmember David Catania argued that Mayor Vince Gray’s personnel troubles were evidence of ‘a political caste system in the District,’ a loaded phrase that augurs the possibility that a lack of whites among mayoral appointments could someday be just as controversial as Fenty’s selection of Michelle Rhee as schools chancellor or Cathy Lanier as police chief. As the city gets whiter, whites are going to start demanding more of the spoils.” Problem with that analysis: The Democratic Party’s dominance complicates matters and amplifies the power of the black vote.
D.C. NEEDS A SHERIFF REDUX — Harry Jaffe provide his version of the D.C.-needs-a-sheriff column (ahem). From the Examiner: “The fact is that public officials in the capital city have no fear of skirting laws or regulations. There is no credible investigative authority, no consequences for improper or illegal acts. ... [Catania] puts it this way: ‘At the end of the day, there is no entity in local government that can darken your doorway and send a cold chill down someone’s spine — not one.’ Which is why our public officials — from the mayor’s office to clerks — feel they can skirt the law. There’s no cop, no consequences. What to do?” Best idea: “[W]e could replace [Inspector General Charles Willoughby] with a strong-willed, tough-minded prosecutor type; and we could finance and expand the OIG. The enabling legislation calls for serious criminal investigations. E. Barrett Prettyman, the IG back in the late 1990s, was the man. A call from him could make a politician lawyer up real quick. Who could that person be? ... ‘David Catania would be perfect,’ [Jack Evans] says.”
‘ERASE TO THE TOP’ — Today in test-cheating allegation news: Michelle Rhee has yet another reaction to the report published in USA Today, saying that she is “100 percent supportive” of a closer look at the erasures at Noyes Elementary and other DCPS schools. Note that she did not tell USA Today that, but rather Bloomberg Radio. Meanwhile, Kaya Henderson details the improved security features of DCPS’ standardized tests to WTTG-TV and WUSA-TV. The Examiner quotes her saying she wants to scale back the “hard-core testing environment” in DCPS schools: “I think we’ve swung the pendulum from one extreme to the other, right — from absolutely no accountability to uber-accountability that has people stressed-out and crazy and whatnot. ... I think we’re now finding our way — or we have to find our way — back to some happy medium.” The mother of a Nalle Elementary student also tells WUSA-TV that her son was told to change DC-BAS answers. Kwame Brown tells the Examiner that no D.C. Council hearings are in the works on the matter. Bill Turque notes on his blog that the contract DCPS signed with an independent test security firm ordered that it investigate “in a manner that minimizes demands on DC Schools staff. ... In some cases, it may be easier to interview an appropriate person rather than to have the staff synthesize materials if they are not maintained in a way that makes it easy to send them in advance of the interviews.” The firm, Bill writes, “did exactly what DCPS asked it to do, which looks like it’s not going to be enough to get to the bottom of the erasure issue.” Valerie Strauss writes on her blog that a “surefire way” to get to the bottom of things “is to subpoena everybody in D.C. with potential involvement or knowledge and have them testify under oath. That includes Rhee.” More from New York magazine, Rick Hess, HuffPo.
AT-LARGE RACE UPDATE — Sekou Biddle won an on-air endorsement from Catania on WPFW-FM’s D.C. Politics show yesterday — barely. Even though the Biddle camp had pre-touted the endorsement in an embargoed news release, the show went 59 minutes sans plug, with host Chuck Thies starting to sign off, before Catania jumped in to endorse Biddle, also a guest on the show. More from Examiner and Four26. Tim Craig’s D.C. Wire take: “By securing the backing of Catania (I-At large), Biddle can try to redouble his efforts to highlight his independence and reach out to voters who are dismayed with Gray and Brown. ... Catania’s endorsement of Biddle is a blow to [Patrick Mara]. Two years ago, Catania played a key role behind-the-scenes in helping Mara unseat former council member Carol Schwartz in the GOP primary.” Bryan Weaver gets an endorsement from D.C. Urban Moms and Dads founder Jeff Steele: “Those who are fed up with business as usual and are looking for a candidate who will be an independent voice on the Council, standing for transparency and accountability, should vote for Bryan Weaver.” The Georgetown Dish wraps up last night’s Ward 3 forum, with a focus on university expansion politics. Meanwhile, Martin Austermuhle is shocked, shocked to learn that there has been opposition research done on Vincent Orange, and that, gasp, the at-large campaign might go negative: “I recently received a 133-page dossier on Orange detailing all of his vulnerabilities. It’s quite a read. It also has the stink of the sort of opposition research you see in electoral campaigns, and I don’t doubt that I’m not the only local writer that got it. ... The point seems clear, though — here’s a bunch of material for you to use on Orange. As a benefit, if I or any local journalist chooses to use it, any candidate can point to it at the next forum and say, ‘Hey, did you read [enter name of publication here]? Did you see what it said about Vincent Orange and [enter issue of your choice here]?’ That way, they go negative, but not directly. Pretty smart. (And yes, I’m debating what to do with the material.)”
PEACE ON 15th STREET — The noisy union protests outside the Madison Hotel have come to a provisional end, meaning the Post editorial board can again editorialize in piece. Michael Neibauer with details at WBJ: “The union protests outside the 353-room hotel at 1177 15th St. NW came to a sudden stop Thursday morning after Unite Here Local 25 and the hotel manager, Destination Hotels and Resorts, reached a tentative settlement Wednesday night, said D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2. ... ‘We’ve gotten a lot of complaints,’ Evans said. ‘We haven’t just ignored them. We’ve been actively involved in getting this done.’ The ear-splitting protests started in late January, shortly after Atlanta-based Jamestown Properties purchased the Madison and brought in Destination as the new manager. Dozens of workers were laid off shortly thereafter, and the new owner refused to accept the terms of the union’s existing contract. ... [T]he protesters at no point violated the District’s noise control law, because a revised noise ordinance adopted by the council in 2008 was amended at the last minute, with Evans’ support, to exempt all commercial areas from noise restrictions. D.C.’s labor organizations targeted council members ahead of that vote, and were successful in watering down the bill.”
METRO CUTS A-COMIN’ — The Metro board is looking to cut bus and train service rather than ask member jurisdictions to pony up more subsidy, Kytja Weir reports in the Examiner: “The service cuts the board is considering are similar to those the agency considered last year, according to Chief Financial Officer Carol Dillon Kissal: rerouting buses with low ridership, closing station entrances, increasing the times between trains. ... Kissal said cutting late-night service on weekends likely wouldn’t be considered to close the budget. Instead, that may be revisited over the summer as a way to make more time for maintenance work.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Phil Pannell gets Stein Club nod in Ward 8 SBOE race (Blade)
Catania asked on WPFW if he’d run for AG: “I haven’t made any decisions about that. I haven’t ruled anything out,” he says; Beth Solomon proceeds to make a campaign poster (G’town Dish)
AG’s office used bad breathalyzer data to secure guilty pleas, defense lawyer alleges (WTTG-TV)
Baltimore firm selected to do master planning for St. E’s east campus — in four months (WBJ)
Council considers allowing breweries to hold on-site beer tastings (WaTimes)
More on Catania’s youth mental health legislation (DCist)
Will UDC campus require lots of new parking? (Housing Complex)
UDC now a member of the East Coast Conference (news release)
Why a Metro zone system is a bad idea (GGW)
Obama picks PDS attorney Corinne Ann Beckwith for Superior Court bench (AP via WUSA-TV)
Improving the Ward 7 Wal-Mart (GGW)
If you’re looking for some Rhee-themed April Fool’s Day content... (Sacramento Press)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray unveils FY2012 budget proposal, 11:30 a.m. in JAWB press room; meets with Post editorial board on budget later in day; D.C. Council confirmation hearing on Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking Director William P. White, 2 p.m. in JAWB 500; Committee of the Whole roundtable on the Rhode Island Avenue Small Area Action Plan, 2:30 p.m. in JAWB 412