The Washington Post

DeMorning DeBonis: March 23, 2011


PREVIOUSLY — Team Thomas catches eye of D.C. campaign finance officeD.C. Council vehicle questions date back to 1975D.C. budget cuts lead to shortage of garbage cans, recycling bins

Lotta news today. But first, let’s look at the first 10 weeks of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown’s tenures by the numbers. Clarus Research Group, which did valuable polling on last year’s city campaigns, has a new survey out. It ain’t looking good for our city fathers: Gray’s job approval stands at 31 percent, with 40 percent disapproving. As for Brown, 43 percent disapprove of the job he’s doing, with only 27 percent approving. There are significant racial and geographic splits for both, per the Clarus news release: “Gray does better among African Americans (42%) than whites (17%). He also does better among Democrats (32%) than non-Democrats (25%). From a regional standpoint, his approval rating is higher in the area of the city that comprises wards 4, 5, 7, and 8 (42%) than it is in the area comprising wards 1, 2, 3, and 6 (21%). Gray does worst among white men (12%) and best among black women (43%). ... Brown does better among African Americans (38%) than whites (12%). His rating is a net positive among blacks (38% approval to 30% disapproval) and in the area comprising wards 4, 5, 7, and 8 (36% approve, 19% disapprove).” There’s One City for you. Says Clarus’s Ron Faucheux in a news release: “Vincent Gray’s public standing has taken a beating. His job approval is much lower than Mayor [Adrian Fenty]’s job rating was throughout most of his term.”

AFTER THE JUMP — Orange has lead in little-noticed at-large race — ABC member accuses chairman of self-dealing — OCF takes a look at Thomas disclosures — new DOES director got two taxpayer-paid months at the W — DPW fresh out of Supercans — AG finally sues online travel sites


MORE POLL — More from Clarus: “Job ratings of Gray and Brown are significantly lower than other public officials. President Obama posts a job approval rating of 88% in D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier has an 84% positive rating, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton scores 82% approval. Acting Education Chancellor Kaya Henderson has a 42% approval rating and an 8% disapproval rating. As a whole, the D.C. City Council’s approval rating is 54% and disapproval rating is 22%.” Clarus also polled the at-large council race: “The survey shows Vincent Orange running first with 28%. He’s followed by Sekou Biddle 6%, Patrick Mara 6%, Bryan Weaver 3%, Josh Lopez 3%, Dorothy Douglas 2%, Tom Brown 1%, Alan Page 1%, and Arkan Haile with less than 1%. Forty-nine percent are undecided. ‘This race has yet to capture public attention,’ said Faucheux. ‘It’s wide open with nearly half the voters now undecided.’” WaTimes also wraps up the figures.

TODAY IN SULAIMANIA — WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood covers the status of the Sulaimon Brown allegation probes, noting that “several staffers have already been interviewed by the FBI.” Here’s what Gray said at his news conference yesterday: “I haven’t heard from them directly. ... They may have contacted [lawyer Bob Bennett].” Mary Cheh tells the Washington Times that Gray has been “extremely helpful” regarding her inquiries.

ABC CONFLICT GOES PUBLIC — A fabulously juicy political tussle on the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, broken by WTOP’s Mark Plotkin: Member Mital Gandhi has resigned after accusing board chairman Chuck Brodsky of having “used his position on the seven-member board ... to coerce other city organizations for the benefit of his private business.” Gray boards-and-commissions chief Ron Collins is looking into the matter; both Brodsky and Gandhi are Fenty appointees, though Brodsky is particularly close to the former mayor. The Examiner’s Freeman Klopott details the alleged conflict of interest: “In an e-mail announcing his resignation to city officials and D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board members, Gandhi said Brodsky asked for his support in changing a city regulation on behalf of Washington Wholesale Liquor Company because the company was a ‘prospective sponsor’ for Brodsky’s Nation’s Triathlon and might ‘also support [Brodsky] in a future [D.C.] council bid.’” Washington Wholesale wanted permission from the board to use a Maryland warehouse rather than the smaller District warehouse it uses now — a wish granted by the ABC Board in January. Gandhi is letting the letter speak for itself; Brodsky denies the allegations and calls Gandhi “ethically challenged.” The Georgetown Dish, which has been bulldogging Brodsky for months, is pleased as punch to learn of the new allegations, quoting Jack Evans calling for a “full investigation.”

LAP OF LUXURY, DOES EDITION — Today in Gray administration spending outrages: Alan Suderman reports at Loose Lips that new DOES Director Rochelle Webb “had one of her employees chauffeur her to and from her home for her first two months on the job in an apparent violation of District law,” according to information provided to Tommy Wells. By law, only the mayor is supposed to have a driver. “Webb had [the chauffeur] pick her up and drop her off from home during her first two months at DOES. Or in government-speak, Lindsay ‘transported the Department Director to and from temporary residence and to attend all meetings using DC 5896, a 2007 Chevy Impala.’” And about that temporary residence: “Neville Waters, a spokesman for DOES, says Webb spent her first two months in the District living — at taxpayer expense — at the W Hotel downtown (he says they had the cheapest rate). Waters says Webb’s office is located at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road NE, and she requested a driver because she had just moved to the District and was unfamiliar with the area. Evidently, she was unfamiliar enough with the area that she didn’t realize the DOES office is a block from the Minnesota Avenue station on Metro’s Blue Line; a trip from Metro Center or McPherson Square, near the W, would have taken about 20 minutes and cost $2.80.”

OCF PROBES THOMAS — The Office of Campaign Finance has told Harry Thomas Jr. that he’s under investigation for not possibly disclosing outside income. What I wrote: “The office, which enforces the city’s financial disclosure laws, is looking at the purchase of an Audi sport-utility vehicle bought by a company affiliated with Thomas and then re-registered in Thomas’s name. The company, HLT Team Thomas/SwingAway LLC, also collected more than $10,000 in payments from Thomas’s 2006 campaign committee. Furthermore, Thomas said in November that his now-defunct nonprofit organization, Team Thomas, paid for travel he made after he was elected. Council members are required to file yearly disclosures of gifts and outside income; Thomas declared no such income during the period in question. ... Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republicans, hailed the new investigation. ‘It’s pretty broad, and I’m happy that OCF’s actually pursuing this,’ he said. ‘It is a very serious matter.’ ... Thomas said Tuesday that he welcomed the campaign finance probe. ‘I have no reservation about them looking at what’s been done,’ he said. ... ‘I’m confident we’ll be all right.’” Also Loose Lips, WaTimes.

SUE THE GNOME — The District of Columbia has finally decided to join more than 40 other states and municipalities in suing online travel vendors. Acting Attorney General Irvin Nathan announced at Gray’s weekly news conference that he’d be filing suit against the likes of Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline for not remitting the full sales tax on hotel rooms purchased by their customers. Nathan said the city could be losing $4 million to $10 million per year, and he was seeking payments as far back as 1998. His predecessor, Peter Nickles, never filed a suit, arguing that similar challenges had been largely unsuccessful in other places and that the common practice of hiring an outside firm to pursue the litigation on a contingency fee basis was not legal in the District. Nathan said Tuesday he has tasked three OAG lawyers with pursuing the case. Also WaTimes, Examiner, WUSA-TV, Afro, WAMU-FM. DCist does a particularly fine job illustrating the story.

SUPERCAN SHORTAGE — Budget cuts mean sacrifices — including a Supercan shortage. Here’s what I report in today’s Post: “Nancee Lyons, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works, said last week that her agency has been out of recycling receptacles since the fall. The same goes for Supercans — the jumbo receptacles given to households that get once-weekly pickup — as well as the smaller, 32-gallon containers distributed in center-city neighborhoods that get twice-weekly trash collection. The shortages are a consequence of a $3.9 million cut to the public works budget last fall, part of an effort by then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and the D.C. Council to close a $188 million city budget gap for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. More containers are now on the way — 580 Supercans, 2,000 32-gallon recycling carts and 1,200 32-gallon trash cans — ­although there appears to have been some debate over whether that was going to happen. Lyons said last week that her agency was considering ending the practice of handing out free cans and bins. But ... it has registered among DPW management that eliminating trash cans wasn’t the place to slash $200,000. ‘That wasn’t one of my best decisions,’ said DPW’s director, William Howland, at a D.C. Council hearing earlier this month.” DCist also picked up the story.

ELECTION ON THE CHEAP — The Board of Elections and Ethics is preparing for a cut-rate April 26 special election, and Martin Austermuhle looks at the budgetary sacrifices at “Earlier this month the board received $590,000 to run the special election. ... But even under the most optimistic scenarios, that’s still roughly $178,000 short of what’s needed. ... To date, the board has not been informed how much more it can expect. As a consequence, it has delayed plans to send out a mailer and is still unclear on how early voting will proceed — if it proceeds at all. (The idea is to have early voting, but only at the BOEE offices at Judiciary Square.) ... [BOEE Executive Director Rokey Suleman] admitted that since fewer voters tend to turn out for special elections, fewer ballots have to be printed. (He estimated that 60 percent fewer ballots are needed.) And since BOEE may not be able to send out a mailer to every D.C. household telling them of the election, the chance of lower turnout only increases. Works pretty perfectly, huh? ... [P]lenty of other things will be cut relative to the November 2010 general election, including electronic poll books, printing costs, temporary staff, and roving area representatives for election day.”

DRAWING ANC BOUNDARIES — The Census Bureau will release the official 2010 figures for the District on Thursday, kicking off a months-long redistricting process. Geoff Hatchard (aka @IMGoph) writes at GGW that the ANC line-drawing process, which follows the ward redistricting process, stands to be much improved: “New ANC boundaries should take into account how neighborhoods have changed and how relationships between commercial and residential space in the city have evolved, while also considering how those relationships are planned to continue to change in the coming decade. The city’s population has grown for the first time since the 1940s, and new ANCs that accurately mirror that growth are needed.” Among the issues: Equalizing the number of SMDs in each ANC; having odd numbers of SMDs in each ANC; should ANC boundaries conform to ward boundaries; should ANCs correspond to traditional neighborhood boundaries?

A BRIDGE TO EMPLOYMENT? — Protesters want more D.C. residents hired to work on DDOT’s massive 11th Street Bridge project, Michael Ruane reports in the Post. “Carrying signs reading, ‘DC Jobs for DC Residents,’ ‘I Want to Work’ and ‘Jobs for Justice,’ the group walked the downstream span of the twin bridges, which cross the Anacostia River, urging motorists to honk in support. On the Anacostia side, they gathered in Anacostia Park, across from an entrance to the giant construction site, where they chanted, ‘We need jobs! We need jobs!’ and were addressed by D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). ... John Lisle, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, which oversees the bridge project, said the department is sympathetic and has been working with the contractors to get more District residents hired. ‘These are legitimate concerns,’ he said. He said the contractors may need certain kinds of workers skilled in building bridges or working over water. ‘It may not be as simple as telling a contractor they need to hire more D.C. residents,’ he said. ‘At the same time, employment is one of the priorities the mayor has set out. We want to make sure that D.C. residents have the same opportunities as everybody else.’”


DCPS is upping security on standardized tests as investigators look into alleged grade tampering by McKinley Tech principal (Examiner, Post, WTTG-TV, WUSA-TV)

Voucher bill could hit House floor next week (D.C. Wire)

Adams Morgan park is now in the hands of the Office of Latino Affairs — “an end run around local laws,” says Jonetta Rose Barras (Examiner)

Kwame Brown sets “citywide community conversations” on Kaya Henderson (D.C. Schools Insider)

Barry and Fox’s Stuart Varney go toe-to-toe once again. Try to look away. (Fox Business Network)

Why is Gray taking so long to appoint directors at DDOT, DRES, and DHCD? (Housing Complex)

Mary Cheh explains her debt collection overhaul (Examiner, WTTG-TV)

“Metro trains have been involved in a troubling series of low-speed collisions in rail yards” (Post)

Allen Sessoms uses his UDC-funded home for completely legitimate purposes (Housing Complex)

Vincent Orange launches Web site (

Barry not happy with how Office on Aging chief was picked (TBD)

Unions not happy with Neil Stanley’s appointment to head DYRS (WaTimes)

Cocaine-carrying kid is back with mom (D.C. Schools Insider)

Eleanor Holmes Norton “petrified” about Libya incursion (WMAL-AM)

Good teaching: Nature or nurture? (Quick and the Ed)

Current papers raking it in from at-large candidates (Four26)

Barry got a parking ticket (@alansuderman)

Thea Bowman Preparatory Academy gives up its charter (Examiner, WUSA-TV)

Foreign object caused escalator collapse (WTTG-TV)

Nathan settles suit over lottery accessibility (Legal Times)

Gene Weingarten is right: M Street SE is too wide” (GGW)

John Kelly: “Where did nepotism come from, anyway?” (Post)

Sherwood: “Thank goodness Mayor Gray didn’t appoint a commission on potholes.” (WRC-TV)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray breakfasts with council members, 9 a.m.; talks about “Creating a Culture of Health,” 10:30 a.m. on JAWB steps; visits new computer lab at D.C. General shelter, 11:30 a.m.; visits Howard Law Schools class, 6 p.m. — Council confirmation hearings for Acting AG Irvin Nathan, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500; for DMPED Victor Hoskins, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; for Acting DOES Director Rochelle Webb, 11 a.m. in JAWB 120; for Acting DSLBD Director Antonio Hunter, 2:30 p.m. in JAWB 412; and for Contract Appeals Board member Monica Parchment, 3:30 p.m. in JAWB 123

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.


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