TODAY IS JUNE 8, 2011 — DAY 158 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
PREVIOUSLY — Thomas could face loss of D.C. Council committee post — D.C. Council meets privately to discuss Thomas allegations. Looking for some context on the ethical crisis the District government now finds itself amid? Marc Fisher gives in a shot in today’s Post: “Not since the bad old days of the 1980s has the D.C. government offered its critics such a rich vein of material to support the notion that the city is run by people with an ethical blind spot. The allegations about council members abusing public dollars and about Gray’s campaign leaders giving improper payoffs and a city job to a fellow candidate have resurrected doubts that had largely been silenced during the mayoral administrations of [Adrian M. Fenty] and Anthony A. Williams.” He quotes Bill Lightfoot, the former D.C. Council member and Fenty supporter: “This is not back to the ’80s in that even then, there were not allegations of council members taking money. ... What we’re seeing now is a reflection of a bigger problem: The elected officials think they’re entitled to a lifestyle and privileges that ordinary people do not have.” See also Tom Sherwood’s Notebook: “If a city could hang its head in shame, then for the District of Columbia, this might be a moment to do so,” the veteran WRC-TV reporter writes. “Taken all together — and there are actually more questions about other council members’ finances — the city is sliding fast into the state of derision and distrust that characterized the 1980s and early 1990s. More than a decade of work to revive the city’s reputation, begun by former Mayor Tony Williams and D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp, now appears in jeopardy. The stain is growing. A pall of scandal now hangs over the city government. Who will fix it? How? And when?”
AFTER THE JUMP — Thomas fights to keep his committee post — behold your embattled D.C. Council — Ted Loza passed a bribe to Jim Graham; he sent it back but did little else — believing Sulaimon Brown
*** MAIN COURSE ***
THOMAS FIGHTS — Sometime later today, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown will announce what sanctions will be taken against Harry Thomas Jr. while the graft allegations leveled against him are resolved. His decision follows a private meeting of council members in the Wilson Building yesterday. From my Post report: “Three council members who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Brown’s wishes to keep the meeting private described a candid and somber tone. Thomas, who spoke first, did not directly address the allegations in Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan’s civil lawsuit but said he would be vindicated. Each member then spoke in turn, with several suggesting that Thomas’s continued leadership of his [Economic Development Committee] could be a distraction for the council. ... ‘We want there to be a process,’ said Brown, who said he would have additional conversations with members Tuesday evening. ‘We want to move quickly, but we also want to be diligent about it.’” In the Examiner, Freeman Klopott quotes one anonymous member: “Council members want him to resign, and wanted him to know it.” Thomas initially told reporters he would not give up his committee chair; later in the day, he told WTTG-TV’s Matt Ackland: “The importance is that the institution of this city and the institution we represent is protected.” Sherwood notes on WRC-TV that Brown said “Let’s go deal with Harry” before starting the meeting. WUSA-TV has Thomas lawyer Fred Cooke on camera: “One of the things that people often confuse is whether the personal behavior of a council member or elected official really affects their ability to deliver their public responsibility.” Also WAMU-FM, WTTG-TV, AP.
OLD SCHOOL — Jonetta Rose Barras, in a bravura Examiner column today: “From the moment Republican Timothy Day and the D.C. Republican Committee requested then-Attorney General Peter Nickles open the investigation, the Ward 5 legislator has danced, demonized and demagogued. His performance has been reminiscent of old-style D.C. politics — the version in which politicians shamelessly and falsely cast themselves as victims, allegedly battling powerful forces preventing them from providing money and programs to vulnerable populations. But those pols were serving only their interests. That kind of leadership — replete with peacock pronouncements like those by Thomas — was perpetuated in the District by Marion Barry. It divided communities, failed the people it purported to help, and eroded public confidence in government. During the past decade, former Mayors Anthony A. Williams and Adrian M. Fenty worked to bury that model. But in the past several months, Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, and Councilmen Michael A. Brown and Thomas have demonstrated themselves disciples of that brand, while Barry has assisted them in aggressively exhuming it. The true sufferers are District residents.”
FYI — DCist provides a handy rundown of your embattled D.C. Council members.
GRAHAM REFUSED BRIBE — Almost forgotten in all the Wilson Building hubbub yesterday: Ted Loza, who accepted illegal gratuities as Jim Graham’s chief of staff, faced sentencing in federal court. The proceedings continue today, but Victor Zapana and Del Wilber report in the Post that prosecutors played tapes in court that included this fascinating tidbit: “[Government witness Abdulaziz Kamus] handed Loza $2,600 in an envelope to pass along to Graham — money the council member did not accept, according to officials. During a meeting videotaped later, Loza returned the money to Kamus. Graham said in an interview that he told Loza to immediately return the money but was so shocked by the experience that he did not call authorities. ‘I accepted nothing of value, including cash, from anyone who may have had an intention of attempting to influence legislation,’ Graham said.” But Graham appears not have alerted authorities that Kamus was passing bribes or that Loza had at least initially accepted them. Also WAMU-FM, AP/WaTimes.
HEARING AFTERMATH — Think Sulaimon Brown is an unhinged loon who cannot be believed? Think otherwise, a Post editorial argues: “Mr. Brown, for all his bizarre affectations, appeared without an attorney and testified under oath. He has produced documents that support his version of an unseemly — and possibly illegal — quid pro quo. Though it has yet to be determined whether Mr. Brown is telling the truth, his version of events has also not been undermined. ... Mr. Brown has produced text messages, cellphone records and, most recently, money orders that provide some support for his claim. ... Mr. Brown may be eccentric, but he’s been specific about dates, times and places.” Meanwhile, Martin Austermuhle writes at DCist that Monday’s hearing “may not have shed much new light on many of the allegations that have been raised, but it did provide plenty of tension and theatrics that may well go down in local political lore.” Jeffrey Anderson of The Washington Times focuses on Monday’s other witness, Cherita Whiting, noting that she “lied about a felony conviction on a 2010 job application to work for council member Phil Mendelson.” She did disclose the felony on a form submitted for a Gray administration job, but that form is unsigned and undated.
PECK TO SCRUB THE BUDGET — Gray called his entire cabinet to a news conference yesterday to announce his “One City Performance Review” — a review of city government spending to be led by former Chief Technology Officer Suzanne Peck. Nikita Stewart writes in the Post: “The selection of Peck, a major fundraiser for Gray’s campaign last year, was unveiled during an unusual news conference Tuesday, during which the audience saw a taped message from former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell (D) and a live video feed from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D). Peck performed similar reviews in those states to generate revenue and cut spending. Rendell called Peck a ‘tough-as-nails leader.’ Peck, who built her wealth working in technology for private companies and is known for her philanthropy, will work pro bono and will report to City Administrator Allen Y. Lew. She said the first efficiency and savings would be demonstrated in not having paid staff. She said she will rely on agency heads and on experts who also will work pro bono.” Also AP.
REDC PASSES FIRST VOTE — During its legislative business Tuesday, the Council initially approved a redistricting plan — one that keeps the residents of Hill East together in Ward 6, while shifting the site of the Reservation 13 redevelopment to Ward 7. Tom Howell Jr. has a full report in the Washington Times: “Marion Barry offered the lone dissent in a 12-1 vote, calling the plan ‘morally wrong’ for keeping all of his ward east of the Anacostia River. [Barry] said the redistricting subcommittee blocked his ward from expanding its diversity and business prospects to shake its reputation as an impoverished bloc. ‘I know I’m not going to win this, because the fix is on. It’s shameful,’ he said, noting his ward feels ‘kicked in the behind’ by the subcommittee. ... Barry said “the fight is not over” ahead of a second vote on the plan in about two weeks.” Klopott adds that Barry is threatening to ask the Department of Justice to review the boundaries — never mind that federal law is meant to aggregate minority votes, not dilute them. No dais amendments were accepted yesterday, including a proposal to unite Woodley Park in Ward 3.
RISE OF THE TWITS — Need a hopeful note on D.C. politics? Maybe you should read Bryan Weaver’s GGW piece on “what’s next for progressive reform” in D.C.: “I predict that in the next year, we’ll see an unprecedented amount of cooperation across the river, across ethnic lines, and across many issues from a new generation of activists, ANC officials, and candidates for office that will change the face of DC politics. ... [W]hat is there to be optimistic about? A lot, actually. First, the characterization that new white residents — or in the preferred nomenclature, ‘Myopic Dog-Loving Cafe-Dwelling Bicycle-Riding Snowball-Throwing Twits’ — don’t care about people of color and don’t have any connection to the black community is just false. Look at the faces of people fighting to save DC’s social safety net; the people who are at the grassroots fighting for statehood; the people who are in the trenches promoting conflict mediation for youth, fighting against street violence. Serious numbers of white Washingtonians are daily activists for these causes. ... Secondly, and just as important, is the new generation of African-American and Latino reform activists who have a universal vision for the District. This generation doesn’t just see DC as just ‘east of the river’ vs. ‘west of the park.’ ... Last week I had lunch with a long time Ward 8 democratic muckety-muck who proclaimed the era of the DC old guard dead. He said that the machine that backed Vincent Orange in the special election cannot win a high turnout, city-wide race ... if we are smart. He said that a powerful coalition of ‘myopic twits,’ progressives, disenfranchised Fenty loyalists, renegade unions, small businesses, and smart growth advocates can run the table in the next citywide elections.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
DCPS graduation rate is up slightly, to 73 percent, though calculated by questionable method (D.C. Schools Insider)
Whatever Eleanor Holmes Norton is proposing for the National Mall, it is not a flash mob (TBD)
Council OKs new forensics agency (Examiner)
New Hampshire takes up D.C. statehood support bill (WaTimes)
Where D.C.’s rental housing is (Housing Complex)
Prosecutors will retry murder case that ended in mistrial (Post)
Council passes athletic concussion bill on first reading (Examiner)
UMC/WHC obstetrics partnership easily passes Council (WBJ)
“The woman whose SUV struck and killed a Columbia woman in Dupont Circle in October was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder ...” (Post)
How Hardy Middle School got a new principal (Patch)
”What Michelle Rhee has been up to” (Answer Sheet)
DDOT starts rehabbing old Georgetown streetcar tracks (GGW)
This should be a nice tax boost for the city coffers (WBJ)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray holds news conference, 1 p.m. in JAWB G-9; holds news conference on congressional budget riders with Norton, 3 p.m. in U.S. Capitol HC–5; appears at Apprenticeship Academy graduation, 4 p.m. at Cardozo Senior High School, 1200 Clifton St. NW — D.C. Council confirmation hearing on Office on Aging Executive Director John M. Thompson, 11 a.m. in JAWB 412