TODAY IS APRIL 19, 2011 — DAY 104 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
One week remains until District voters will choose an at-large D.C. Council member and State Board of Education members in wards 4 and 8. In the at-large race, things look to be coming up citrus: According to campaign finance reports due Monday, Vincent Orange remains in the catbird seat financially, with $134,851 to spend getting out his vote in the final week. He’s trailed by Bryan Weaver, with $30,584; Sekou Biddle, with $24,612; Joshua Lopez, with $19,438; Patrick Mara, with $15,423; Arkan Haile, with $7,011; and Alan Page, with $1,180. Biddle and Mara, however, have benefited from vigorous independent campaigns being waged on their behalf — Biddle from the service employees and hotel workers unions; Mara from the D.C. Republicans and BUD'S PAC. Still, as Loose Lips notes this morning, “these low turnout special elections are all about who can best get their voters to the polls,” and “Orange has enough money to drive each of his voters to the polls in an orange-painted limousine (fully loaded, of course) if he so chose.” Now might be the time that Biddle calls up Mayor Vincent Gray to ask him to make his once-enthusiastic endorsement count. But can he? In-person absentee voting continues through the week at One Judiciary Square (441 4th Street NW, 2nd floor north). Still undecided? Get one last look at the candidates tonight at Eastern Market.
AFTER THE JUMP — all parties mum after OCF meeting with Kwame Brown campaign staff — third escape from New Beginnings renews union gripes — parsing the meaning of the “D.C. 41” — inside the Gray budget — city pressuring Nats to pick up late-night Metro costs
*** MAIN COURSE ***
WHERE’S KWAME? — The Office of Campaign Finance heard yesterday from D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown’s campaign, accused of failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and expenditures for his 2008 re-election campaign. Tim Craig describes the scene at D.C. Wire: “[Campaign treasurer Dawn Cromer] arrived at OCF’s office accompanied by attorney Fred D. Cooke and Brown’s father, Marshall Brown. The hearing was not open to the public, but the three were spotted entering the office shortly before 10:30 a.m. Five minutes later, however, Marshall Brown exited the room after he was apparently told he was not an official party to the investigation. Cooke refused to answer numerous questions from reporters about the proceedings. When a reporter asked Marshall Brown why he was there, Cooke shouted, ‘Don’t answer, please.’ . . . Wesley Williams, an OCF spokesman, said Monday’s proceedings were held behind closed doors because it was ‘part of the investigative process.’” More from Tom Howell Jr. of The Washington Times, also on the scene: “[Kwame Brown], who was elected chairman of the council in November, had the option of attending Monday’s hearing and declined. His chief of staff said Mr. Brown will have no comment until the investigation is complete. His lack of comment mirrored that of Mr. Cooke, who would not even disclose whether he represented Mr. Brown, Ms. Cromer or the campaign committee. ‘I have no comment,’ he told reporters in the lobby. ‘We’re leaving, because we have to go.’” Suderman notes at Loose Lips: “Now LL is no P.R. expert, but it certainly doesn’t look good for Kwame Brown when his father shows up and then gets booted from a hearing that presumably focuses on campaign money going to a family member without being reported.” Also Examiner, AP.
THIRD ESCAPE FROM NEW BEGINNINGS — A 17-year-old escaped from the New Beginnings Youth Development Center early Monday morning, become the third youth to escape from the facility since its 2009 opening. He “attacked a guard early Monday morning, stole his keys, climbed the fence using a nearby ladder and escaped in the guard’s car,” Allison Klein reports in the Post. “Neil Stanley, interim director of DYRS, said in a statement that officials were working with District police and other authorities ‘to pursue all possible leads to recapture the youth.’ Stanley said in the statement that the incident was under investigation and that no further details would be released. ... Tasha Williams, chairwoman of the union that represents correctional officers at New Beginnings, said the escapee and another detainee popped open the locked doors to their rooms, came out and beat the officer. They stole his swipe card so they could leave the unit and made their way to an exterior fence, where a ladder was lying around, she said.” Jim Graham, who now has the pleasure of overseeing DYRS, says the following: “We’ve got a big problem here. . . . I have serious doubts whether we have a secure facility at New Beginnings.” The union tells WUSA-TV that the guard was “badly beaten” and tells the Washington Times he was “severely beaten . . . in an incident . . . that has shocked even veteran corrections officials” — though he was released from the hospital by Monday night. Also WTTG-TV.
’HOME FOOLS’ — Harry Jaffe pens a smart Examiner column looking at last week’s arrests through the lens of the late Julius Hobson Sr., “the original and most authentic of home grown activists” for District home rule. “What would Hobson do now?” Jaffe asks. “Would Hobson take to the streets? Get arrested? I doubt it. Hobson was a pragmatist. He understood the era within which he operated. Anything seemed possible in the 1960s and 1970s. Blacks and liberals beat Jim Crow. Poor people set up tents on the National Mall. College kids helped end the Vietnam War. But the era of street protests is gone. . . . My guess is he would poke fun at the District leaders and their show arrests. He would realize that appealing to Congress or the White House in these times is a fool’s errand. He would demand that the mayor and the city council not make fools of themselves by acting stupid, by outfitting themselves with fancy cars, by hiring their friends and family. He would want them to run the government and schools well. The current D.C. leaders, he might say, are the new Home Fools.”
WHAT IT ALL MEANS — Meanwhile, Martin Austermuhle offers a more earnest reflection on the “D.C. 41” arrests at DCist. “[T]he protest is merely a tactic. It’s not a strategy for success, nor is it an end point. All 600,000 of the city’s residents could take turns getting arrested throughout 2011 and end up with nothing more than misdemeanor charges against us. The movement and the city’s elected officials have to find a way to work the success of last week’s protest into a larger end-goal, be it full legislative and budgetary autonomy or a reinvigorated push for statehood. The political context may not be great — Republicans will hold the House until at least next year, if not beyond — but the timing is. Next year is the 150th anniversary of D.C. Emancipation Day, and the year after that is the 40th anniversary of the Home Rule Act. Those two dates could bookend a large citywide push for a stated goal, say legislative and budgetary autonomy. Can more people get arrested in the process? Sure. But should them getting arrested be the only thing that gets done? Absolutely not.”
INSIDE THE GRAY BUDGET — The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute releases its deep-dive analysis of the Gray budget plan. An overview: “Mayor Gray’s proposal largely keeps in place cuts that have been made since 2008—in areas ranging from libraries to child care—in addition to making significant additional reductions in human support services. The disproportionately large cuts proposed to human service programs—two out of every three dollars cut in Mayor Gray’s proposal come from these programs which include homeless services and aid to people with disabilities—were largely made to protect areas like education and public safety (see figure 1). However, these cuts cannot be viewed in isolation. City leaders’ hopes of improved educational outcomes and public safety could be undermined if residents lack shelter, economic opportunity, and basic support for children and other vulnerable family members.”
CALL FOR ETHICS COMMISSION — A modest proposal from The Georgetown Dish: “We propose Mayor Gray and/or Chairman Brown set up a an independent commission on government ethics, chaired by Alice Rivlin, the eminent District resident of unquestioned ethics and morality, to examine our entire broken ethics system and recommend a set of changes. We want Ms. Rivlin because of her distinguished national career and long-time involvement with the District. ... In addition to Ms. Rivlin as chair, we suggest Marie Johns as co-chair. Ms. Johns, now with the Small Business Administration, is the former president of Verizon D.C, and best-known for her credible 1996 mayoral candidacy. In addition we suggest former at-large Councilmember Bill Lightfoot, a trial lawyer and member of the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, and former D.C. Auditor Matt Watson to bring thoughtful insights and solutions to this commission.” Umm, can we get an outsider up in this?
TO MAINTAIN DIVERSITY, ‘CONTROLLED CHOICE’ AT DCPS? — Writing at the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog, wonk Mike Petrilli looks at a looming problem in D.C. Public Schools: “Rather than settling into a nice racial balance, several D.C. schools are on their way to flipping from all-black to all-white in just a few years. Go visit schools like Brent on Capitol Hill or Ross in Dupont Circle and you’ll notice that their fourth-graders are mostly African-American and their kindergartners are mostly white. Follow that trend for a few more years and say goodbye to our once-in-a-lifetime shot at integrated schools. . . . So what to do? One possibility is to move to some version of ‘controlled choice,’ whereby public officials would work to manage enrollment at D.C. schools in order to create more socio-economic balance.” Petrilli works through a few options, including a full elimination of neighborhood school boundaries (good luck with that) and an expansion of magnet schools.
AT LEAST IT’S NOT ABOUT TICKETS — The Nationals are still sparring with the District government about who will cover the cost of late-night Metro service for extra-innings games. Patrick Madden reports at WAMU-FM: “During past seasons, the city covered the costs of bringing in extra trains if there was a long rain delay or epic 18-inning contest that caused a game to end past Metro’s normal operating hours. But that agreement is unique. All of the other sports teams and concert venues in our area pay Metro for any late-night service. Council Member Tommy Wells says he would to see the Nationals pick up the tab, which Metro says costs $90,000 per hour. ... Right now, the Nationals are on a six-game road trip, which gives both sides about a week to reach an agreement.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Toward a “big tent” urbanism: “Urbanists’ lack of concern for the effects of large-scale migration in cities ... undermines the credibility of their ideas. This lack of concern makes urbanism look to many like a front for the interests of the most footloose and unrooted in society - professional, childless singles and couples.” (GGW)
Tuition Assistance Grant program “is alive and well” following federal budget deal (College Inc.)
DCPS cafeteria contract still “crap,” food chief says (Slow Cook)
Gray marijuana rules hike fees, give ANCs big role in dispensary/cultivation center approval (DCist)
A first look at the DIY redistricting maps (GGW)
Lawsuit challenging “post and forfeit” might become class action (Legal Times)
Will District taxpayers foot the bill for Wal-Mart employees’ health care? (GGW)
WHC blames D.C. “bed tax,” Medicaid DSH changes in layoff announcement (WBJ)
Michelle Rhee, private-school graduate, “is education’s Sarah Palin” (New York Times)
”Blacks Ponder Loss of Majority Status in D.C.” — including former Ward 3 council candidate David Hedgepeth and UDC board president Joseph Askew (BlackVoiceNews.com)
Adrian Fenty still hanging out at Harvard (McClatchy)
Great to see Carol Schwartz back in action: “I’m prepared to go to jail for withholding my federal income taxes.” (WTTG-TV)
OK, who forgot to put up the flood walls? (WUSA-TV)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray interviews with Al-Jazeera, 11 a.m.; attends Seder at Adam Rubinson’s house, 5:30 p.m. — D.C. Council COW/legislative meeting, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500 — Ward 6 at-large candidates forum hosted by Martin Austermuhle and Bruce DePuyt, 6:30 p.m. in Eastern Market’s North Hall