TODAY IS JUNE 30, 2011 — DAY 178 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
So what did we all learn about Internet gambling — excuse me, “iGaming” — in the District of Columbia yesterday? Well, for one thing, lottery officials appear to have ignored the fact that some residents are going to be less than jazzed to have gambling locations placed near their homes without their input. The Post’s Michael Laris reports on Wednesday’s hearing: “D.C. Lottery officials had said in recent days that they would rely on a network of hundreds of WiFi hot spots in government buildings and commercial establishments to launch online betting across the city in September. But in response to calls Wednesday for a possible delay, lottery officials reversed course, saying they might focus first on allowing that betting in private homes.” In other news, the “random number generated games” that will be offered will operate much like slot machines — or, if you prefer, the “video lottery terminals” that were so controversial when proposed here in 2004. In any case, between the technological challenges of guaranteeing a player is physically within the city and the possible NIMBY objections, the proposed Sept. 8 go-live date is not likely to hold.
AFTER THE JUMP — Jeff Thompson’s money machine — $10.2 million Chartered settlement — super-secret donor saves DCPS sports programs — Saunders calls IMPACT racist — year’s delay for streetcars — education official shills cereal to kids
*** MAIN COURSE ***
LEGAL REVIEW — Examiner and WaTimes highlighted Attorney General Irvin Nathan’s analysis that online betting in the District is legal, but it’s not quite that simple, Laris writes: “Nathan testified that the city’s efforts are legal, so long as the technology being put in place ensures that all gambling activities stay within city limits. ... Nathan said the District had submitted the new law and the city’s plans for implementing it to the Justice Department, which enforces federal anti-gambling laws. Nathan said the agency has yet to respond to the city. ‘Obviously, we’d be interested in their views. They have the matter under advisement,’ Nathan said. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the D.C. law.”
GRAY’S TAKE — From Tom Howell Jr. in WaTimes: “D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in response to questions at his weekly news briefing that he wanted a better understanding of how I-Gaming would be regulated before making a decision on whether he supports the practice. Of special interest was how the D.C. Lottery would ‘ensure people being involved in this type of gambling are in the jurisdiction,’ Mr. Gray said.” Also AP, Loose Lips, WUSA-TV. In themail, Dorothy Brizill covers the hearing and also notes VLT pusher Pedro Alfonso’s nomination to the D.C. Housing Authority board.
’KING OF CAMPAIGN CASH’ — In this week’s Loose Lips, Alan Suderman lays bare a poorly kept secret of city politics: accounting-and-health care entrepreneur Jeffrey Thompson is a cash cow for elected officials’ campaigns. “A review of campaign records shows that Thompson, his companies, employees at his companies, companies that do business with companies he owns, and others with some sort of link to Thompson have given about $630,000 in direct campaign contributions over the last 10 years. Add in contributions from Thompson and his companies to political action committees and elected officials’ constituent services funds, and the total shoots past $730,000. That money puts Thompson in a rarified world of the District’s top political donors, with a good chance of being the top individual money man. ... Over the time Thompson has been pumping cash into politicians’ campaigns, he’s enjoyed a type of most-favored contractor status with the District. His various companies have lengthy and large city contracts, including a more than $320 million-a-year deal for his Medicaid-managed care provider, DC Chartered Health Plan Inc.” The money has gone to “to every sitting councilmember except Ward 6’s Tommy Wells. On the high end is At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who has gotten at least $100,000 during the last decade.” The larger point: “There’s no good-government watchdog group in D.C. keeping close tabs on who is funneling large amounts of money to District pols, in part because it’s not easy. It took a lot of detective work to track the perfectly legal ways Thompson directs money to campaigns, and even more hours of tedious data entry by LL and his interns to compile the Thompson money list.” (Interns? LLs get interns now?)
CHARTERED GETS ITS MONEY BACK — Speaking of Chartered Health Plan: We reported yesterday, shortly before the Council met with Gray to go over budget numbers, that the city’s Health Care Finance office had recently signed a $10.2 million settlement with the company. That news put an edge on questions about the recently approved $32 million in new spending on the city’s managed care contracts with Chartered and UnitedHealth. And it helped to bury news from Gray that he planned to use the current year surplus to fund new police officers next year. About the settlement: “Health Care Finance Director Wayne Turnage said Tuesday that the District was compelled to settle the complaint ahead of the city’s annual negotiation with the two Medicaid managed-care providers. ... He said that actuaries employed by the city estimated the District’s ‘exposure’ at $10 million. But David A. Catania (I-At Large) argued Wednesday that managed-care providers are expected to assume the risk that the rates they agree to might not cover their costs. The settlement, he said, amounted to a ‘retroactive rate increase.’” Also note that D.C. sued Chartered over improper billings in 2008, resulting in a $12 million settlement. Said Catania, “We make them entirely whole in one fell swoop.” Also WBJ.
SECRET DONOR SAVES DCPS ATHLETICS — A mysterious secret donor has given $1.5 million to D.C. Public Schools athletic programs, Lisa Gartner reports in the Examiner. Cate Swinburn of the D.C. Public Education Fund describes the person as “a very generous, anonymous donor with an interest in supporting programs that promote the health and well-being, and in particular PE and athletics, for DCPS students.” Okay, then. The money will “help schools purchase athletic equipment and add programs for girls.” But DCPS is being cagey about details, fueling more complaints about its transparency. “’]W]hy would they not want to share that information?’ said Linwood Jolly, a School Without Walls Senior High School parent and president of the magnet’s Home-School Association. Even after learning of the donation, Jolly said he’s skeptical and is unsure whether to abort Walls’ plans to fundraise independently. ‘I feel the same way as we’ve been feeling about the overall DCPS budget,’ he said. ‘We’ve been left in the dark. We don’t get any info, and the info we get is wrong.’”
HOW IMPACT IS RACIST — Ahead of the release of IMPACT scores, WTU President Nathan Saunders is on the warpath. WAMU-FM’s Kavitha Cardoza reports: “Saunders knows that the Teachers’ Union doesn’t have the right to negotiate the teacher evaluation tool. But he says as teachers and members of WTU, ‘we are, therefore, subjected to an unjust law. And to the extent that IMPACT is unjust in the context of racist, of discriminatory, we can strike either the evaluation tool down or certain portions of the evaluation tool.’ ...As far as racism in IMPACT, Saunders points to a portion of the Civil Rights Act that deals with laws that disproportionately affect a group of individuals who are part of protected classes, including women and African-Americans. ‘I believe that once we get all of the data in hand, potentially we will see an effect on African-American women schoolteachers that is indirectly related to where they teach, how they teach and things of that nature,’ he says.” He says a pending court case will clarify teachers’ rights to challenge their IMPACT ratings.
STREETCARS DELAYED — Streetcars won’t roll down H Street NE until fall 2013 at the earliest, a year later than expected. WTOP’s Adam Tuss broke the news, reporting that the city still needs to let a contract to build the power infrastructure. “In addition, D.C. is still in negotiations with Amtrak about constructing a storage facility under what is known as the ‘Hop-Scotch’ bridge on H Street behind Union Station. ... And while those negotiations and contract details get figured out, the District still has another issue on its hands: It needs more streetcars. Right now, DDOT has three streetcars, but [spokesman John Lisle] says H Street alone will need five or six. The three streetcars the city purchased years ago cost roughly $10 million total.” More from WJLA-TV and the Post, which quotes Lisle thusly: “2012 was the ambition ... But, given what’s left to be done, that’s not going to be realistic.” Gray is set to hold a news conference on H Street today to mark the end of major construction on streetscape improvements there.
YAY, CEREAL — Quite a tidbit in themail from Dorothy Brizill, who reports that State Superintendent of Education Hosanna Mahaley shilled for a corporate donor at a recent news conference: “As you may recall, you indicated to the audience that General Mills was one of the District’s ‘partners.’ You then asked the kids sitting in the first few rows if they knew what General Mills makes. The kids responded, ‘Cereal.’ You then asked, ‘What else?’ The kids responded, ‘Yogurt.’ You then stated to the assembled audience, ‘When the new Wal-Mart opens, remember to ask your parents to buy cereal and yogurt made by General Mills.’” Mahaley’s response: “It is typical to recognize corporate and philanthropic partners for their contributions to the District. As someone who benefited from the Free Summer Meals program as a child, I am very excited about the opportunities it provides low-income children, and was probably a little too enthusiastic around my appreciation for their support for the District’s children.”
YVETTE V. MO — The Informer’s James Wright surveys Ward 7 residents on the potential Yvette Alexander/Ron Moten matchup. A sampling of opinions: “I will not vote for Ron Moten. I will vote for Yvette Alexander before I vote for him.” ... “My feelings about her are not totally negative. I have seen positive contributions from her since she came into office.”... “I will confess that I don’t know that much about her and I have not heard of him. Frankly, all of those folks, whether it is the D.C. Council or the mayor, are not doing right by the people. The problem is that when they go uptown, they forget about the people in the community.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Vince Gray loves meeting with foreign dignitaries (Loose Lips)
View 14 sells for record price. Can we stop the tax abatement now? (WBJ)
Gary Imhoff does not think Tommy Wells is the guy to regulate taxicabs (DCWatch)
”Contempt of cop” arrestee, now vindicated, tells his story (Metro Weekly)
The complicated summer task of getting young District residents wet (City Paper)
Deborah Simmons: “Who’s in the boat with the mayor as it begins to cross to the other side of the Anacostia?” (WaTimes)
Northeast resident uses bus as home addition (WJLA-TV)
Evans introduces tax “re-clarity” legislation (WBJ)
No more fee waivers for parks permits (DCist)
Robert Wone settlement not confirmed (Blade)
UDC: Still cheap! (WTOP)
Michelle Rhee biographer: “Education is the new abortion” (NYDN)
It’s Goodman League time again (Post)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray holds H Street news conference, 10 a.m. at 1333 H St. NE; makes appearance at Senior Citizens Picnic, 11:15 a.m. at Oxon Run Park, 9th Street and Valley Avenue SE; speaks at D.C. Chamber of Commerce luncheon, noon at FedEx International Affairs office, 300 Maryland Ave. NE; attends Transformers screening, Gallery Place theater, 701 7th St. NW — D.C. Council hearing on “The State of Collaboration between DC’s Adult Education and Workforce Development Systems,” 10 a.m. in JAWB 500; confirmation hearing for Department of Human Resources Director Shawn Stokes and Public Employee Relations Board nominees Charles J. Murphy and Wynter P. Allen, 2 p.m. in JAWB 412