TODAY IS MARCH 22, 2011 — DAY 76 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
No “Whitewash” here! D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) announced Monday she’d be seeking subpoena power for her probe of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s hiring practices — which means the investigation is now in the realm of fire trucks and parks contracts. Nikita Stewart reports at D.C. Wire: “Cheh, chairman of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, said she does not ‘anticipate using it at this time,’ but she said she wants the power to force potential witnesses to testify.” And who are those witnesses? Sulaimon Brown, Lorraine Green and Howard Brooks, to start. “Also on the potential witness list: Reuben Charles, director of Gray’s transition; Judy Banks, interim director of human resources; Wayne Turnage, director of the Department of Health Care Finance; Talib Karim, former chief of staff to Turnage and Gerri Mason Hall, Gray’s former chief of staff who was fired last week.” Oh, and the hearing is set for March 28 — same day as Gray’s State of the District address — although Cheh suggests that the U.S. attorney’s office might request a delay. More from Examiner, Loose Lips, WTTG-TV.
AFTER THE JUMP — Gray steps further from tax hikes — Kwame Brown can’t get no respect — Lanier to council: MPD is running low on sworn officers — the real reason behind the Hardy drama?
*** MAIN COURSE ***
BUDGET PREVIEW — Today in budget tea-leaf-reading: WAMU-FM’s Patrick Madden asks Gray to give him an indication of his current thinking on tax hikes, “and while he didn’t take it off the table, he came very close. ‘We’ve had discussions about tax increases. I do not envision any property tax increases, we do not envision any income tax increases. You know, across the board tax increases -– I don’t envision anything like that,’ he says. And regarding D.C.’s sales tax, Gray says he doesn’t see that going up either. So how will the mayor close the gap? Besides cutting spending, Gray says there are other options, in terms of raising additional revenue, but he wouldn’t disclose what they are.” Meanwhile, Gray is asking for public input on the budget, but Susie Cambria and DCist are pointing out that the mayoral budget proposal at this point is all but complete in its broad strokes.
CAN’T GET NO RESPECT? — Is Council Chairman Kwame Brown getting dissed by his colleagues? So argues Loose Lips Alan Suderman: “There’s talk at the Wilson Building that Brown just doesn’t have, and likely never will have after Navigatorgate, the level of respect councilmembers had for Mayor Vince Gray when he was chairman. Gray may be neck deep in his own problems right about now, but there was a general consensus that he was pretty good at holding the council together at his old gig. The heartburn over Brown’s leadership could be the kind of idle talk that comes whenever a new boss takes over, or it could be true, and Brown’s at risk of losing control.” Exhibit A: The open-hearing beating that Tommy Wells and Jack Evans dealt Brown last week over his Lincoln Navigators. Exhibit B: Harry Thomas and Jim Graham getting into a full-bore bickering session on the council dais during a legislative meeting. Exhibit C: At-large candidate Sekou Biddle’s public demand that Brown pay the city back in full for the Navigators — potentially more than $30,000.
RUNNING LOW ON COPS — In his Examiner column, Harry Jaffe highlights Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s testimony at a recent oversight hearing: “The number of sworn officers in the nation’s capital stands at 3,875, the numbers are heading south at a rate of 15 a month, and the department has quit hiring. If and when we reach 3,800, Lanier testified, we could be in trouble].] ‘How did we get here?’ Judiciary Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson asked. ... Seasoned cops are leaving the force, young street cops are frustrated by the department’s punitive disciplinary system, retirees can’t wait to flee. The result is a thin blue line that is beginning to break as the city approaches another crime season of heat and hostility. ‘Cutting my budget,’ Lanier responded.” Here’s the Jaffe plan: “How about we start by adding $60 million, which includes the amount cut from the cops and adds enough to hire enough officers to keep us safe?” Police union honcho Kris Baumann suggests defunding “giant bureaucracies in agencies that produce little, if any, widespread public benefit.”
THE TRUTH ABOUT HARDY? — Georgetown resident Ken Archer, writing at Greater Greater Washington, points to a claim in Richard Whitmire’s Michelle Rhee biography that Hardy Middle School principal Patrick Pope was removed because he “manipulated the admissions process to reduce the numbers of poor students gaining admission to the school” — not because Rhee sought to “whitewash” the school, as Pope supporters long claimed. “A high-level education administrator who served in the Fenty administration confirmed to Greater Greater Washington that this was a real concern of [Rhee] and her deputies. Rhee and her team discovered that Hardy, whose students are 75 percent black, had a far lower percentage of poor students than other schools with a similar racial makeup, despite students being selected by a lottery. Officials worried that Pope was making Hardy into a haven for out-of-boundary, well-off African-American students, disadvantaging others from poorer backgrounds. On the other hand, the breakdown is similar to that of magnet schools, suggesting the disparity could also simply have resulted from Hardy changing from a typical neighborhood school into a de facto magnet school.” Archer also takes a look at DCPS demographic data, finds that “[n]o middle school in DC has as large a gap between the percentage of African-American students and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students as Hardy Middle School.” His conclusion: “Patrick Pope transformed Hardy, with some degree of DCPS approval, into a de facto magnet school.” Whitmire wrote that Pope “takes strong exception to the suggestion that his application process discriminated against any students.”
TRAGEDY — Breaks your heart: “A 15-year-old girl hanging out with friends in a Southeast Washington apartment Sunday picked up what she thought was an unloaded handgun, playfully pointed it at another teen and pulled the trigger,” Theola Labbé-DeBose reports in the Post. “The girl told police in an interview that she had taken out the ammunition clip before she aimed the gun at an 18-year-old, Detective John Bevilacqua said. ‘She removed the magazine, was playing with the gun, pointed it at [the victim], pulled the trigger and shot him,’ Bevilacqua said. ‘She didn’t believe the gun was still loaded.’ Gary Gordon, 18, was killed. He was a senior at Anacostia High School who loved to play basketball and was serious about his studies, said Richard Williams, a friend who said he has known Gordon since kindergarten.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Finally: Someone cracks the Donatelli Code! (New Columbia Heights)
Why budget cuts should spare Interim Disability Assistance (DCFPI)
Four of 13 arrested in Benning Terrace gang roundup were DYRS wards (WaTimes)
Sinclair Skinner op-ed “is the rough equivalent of an op-ed piece by Bernie Madoff exonerating his behavior because of economic failures elsewhere ...” (Rebuilding Place ...)
Biddle’s free-Metro-for-students plan could cost $6 million or more (D.C. Schools Insider)
Metrobus stop removal plan doesn’t go over so well (Examiner)
At-large candidates criticize city handling of Bruce Monroe ES closing (Examiner)
Behold: The Marion Barry Photoshop contest (TBD)
Two more pleas in taxi bribery plot (WTOP)
More on the cocaine-carrying 10-year-old (WTOP)
McKinley Tech principal accused of doctoring grades (Examiner)
Your shower is about to start smelling like a swimming pool (DCist)
Dennis Kucinich is actually living in Randle Highlands, not Anacostia (Housing Complex)
Jeb Boasburg’s federal-bench confirmation means a Superior Court vacancy (Legal Times)
Constitution Avenue, however, is beyond the ‘Palooza’s wiles (Post)
We’re oh so happy (Examiner)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray holds weekly news conference, 10:30 a.m.; attends Washington Interfaith Network meeting, noon; meets with Delta Sigma Theta sorority members, 3 p.m.; meets with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, 4:30 p.m.; appears at International Women’s Media Foundation 20th anniversary event, 6 p.m. at National Press Club — Cheh holds hearing on “Delinquent Debt Recovery Act,” 10:30 a.m. in JAWB 412; Graham, Mendelson hold joint hearing on “Interstate Compact on Juveniles Amendment Act of 2011,” 11 a.m. in JAWB 123 — Takoma D.C. at-large candidate forum, 7:30 p.m. at Promised Land Baptist Church, 401 Van Buren St. NW