TODAY IS MAY 17, 2011 — DAY 132 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
PREVIOUSLY — D.C. Council members counting on June revenue boost
Help us, Natwar Gandhi, you’re our only hope! So said the D.C. Council, in essence, when on Monday it met to hash out the big decisions on the District’s 2012 budget. Hire more cops? Maintain homeless services? Roll back proposed tax hikes? It sure will help when the chief financial officer swoops in with tens of millions of dollars more in late June, as is expected but not guaranteed. Still, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown will have to hash out a balanced budget before then, and don’t expect it to include a hike in parking permit fees. Freeman Klopott’s Examiner rundown notes that members, collectively, would like to add $350 million in additional spending to the budget (heck, it’s probably even more than that). He also runs through a couple of the testier moments during the nearly six-hour meeting, including the “damn liar” that Marion Barry directed at Yvette Alexander that was more playful than it might seem in print. In the Washington Times, Tom Howell Jr. writes about Jack Evans’ efforts to roll back various tax increases. More from NewsChannel 8 and WAMU-FM. And WTTG-TV covers Jack Evans’ proposal to roll back parking meter rates.
AFTER THE JUMP — more cops, says Jaffe (again) — higher parking fees, says Alpert (again) — audit takes issues with the Allen Lew way — D.C. Water starts major construction effort — Michael Brown makes re-elect official
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MORE COPS ALREADY — Harry Jaffe writes in his Examiner column that the new budget represents “Kwame Brown’s defining moment,” his “first true test of his leadership skills and his political courage.” That’s right, folks — he needs to add more cops to the budget. But here’s to progress, which is this sentence: “No one knows how many sworn officers the city needs to keep the peace.” He continues: “We once had 5,200. Jack Evans, who represents Georgetown, downtown and parts of Shaw, wants to mandate 4,000 by law. There seems to be general agreement that fewer than 3,800 cops could tip the balance toward the criminals. We are losing about 20 cops a month in attrition and retirement, and Chief Cathy Lanier quit hiring for lack of funds. Now there are about 3,850 cops, and we are headed down to 3,600. ... [Phil Mendelson] has failed to lead on this basic public safety issue. The city needs Chairman Kwame Brown to step in and keep the streets safe.” Also, Jaffe blames Mendelson for the recent dip in sworn officers, even though it was MPD’s decision not to send through a funded recruit class due to spending pressures.
IN DEFENSE OF PARKING FEES — David Alpert reacts at GGW to the invective directed at Tommy Wells over his proposed hike to residential parking permit rates: “Few issues generated as much passion, though there was plenty of argument over numbers of police officers, UDC funding and more. But in a budget that makes very deep cuts, there was more passion for keeping parking cheap and for keeping taxes on the wealthy low than anything for keeping people off the street and from going hungry. Evans, generally the Council’s most eager to ‘comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted,’ complained that the RPP increase was ‘nickel and diming,’ and said that if the Council wants to fund an initiative, ‘just fund it.’ But earlier in the session, he presented his own committee report which recommended removing almost every source of revenue for the Council to ‘just fund’ many important programs. ... This parochial argumentation seemed more bizarre in the context of all the cuts that threaten the life or health of some of the least fortunate residents. Asking households with 3 cars to pay $100 more per year is apparently ‘exorbitant,’ to use Thomas’ term, but having families unable to get basic food and shelter didn’t stir up nearly as much outrage.”
TSK TSK, ALLEN — D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols dug into Allen Lew’s Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization and confirmed what observers have long suspected: The guy gets things done, in part, by not always following the letter of the law. Michael Neibauer has more at WBJ on Nichols’ findings that Lew “flouted procurement rules, made payments without valid written contracts and, in at least one case, allowed the relative of a contractor’s project executive to draft a $750,000 change order that went to that contractor.” The audit for fiscal 2008 and 2009 found that Lew “established a ‘cumbersome and opaque’ contracting system designed to ‘obstruct transparency and accountability,’ the audit said. But Lew described his set-up as ‘nimble’ and necessary to deal with the urgent matter of decrepit, aging schools. In his written response to the audit, Lew explained that he ‘intentionally dispensed with much of the bureaucracy and top-hamper that had traditionally impeded progress, and instead assembled a highly qualified team of construction and development professionals with proven track records of implementing large sophisticated projects.’ ... Lew’s operation was quintessential Fenty — work fast and lean, while paying some attention to procurement rules, but not enough to slow the job.”
PUBLIC WORKS — D.C. Water today breaks ground on the first of a trio of big-ticket projects. Darryl Fears reports in the Post: “Tuesday’s groundbreaking will begin construction of a $1 billion facility to reduce nitrogen in wastewater. Nitrogen is a pollutant that helps create dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by sucking up oxygen. The next step will be installation of a $400 million thermo-hydrolysis system in which tanks pressure-cook solid waste to kill pathogens, feed the waste to bacteria that excrete methane, and use the methane to generate enough electricity to power 40 percent of Blue Plains, the world’s largest wastewater treatment plant. The process would turn sludge into a super fertilizer called a Class A biosolid.” And later this fall, the utility will break ground on a massive wastewater storage tunnels intended to prevent sewage from overflowing into area waterways.
ONE MORE — Michael A. Brown, surprise, has filed to run for a second term as everyone’s closet Democrat and favorite at-large Council member. Alan Suderman writes at Loose Lips: “Be sure and check out his new Web page, where it appears Brown will be going with the color red for his campaign signage and using the slogan ‘Independent Democratic Candidate for DC Council At-Large.’ There’s also a link, the only link so far on the page, to the Democratic National Committee, where Brown’s father, Ron Brown, once served as chairman. Brown showed the District in 2008 just how easy it can be to win a council seat simply by changing one’s party status from Democrat to independent.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
DCPS parents ticked about extra day (D.C. Schools Insider)
Council to vote on subpoena enforcement (Examiner)
Evans, Mendelson stand and deliver at another Near Southeast redistricting meeting (EMMCA)
Drunk driver who killed Hopkins student gets three years (Post)
Lisa Farbstein departs as Metro spokeswoman (Dr. Gridlock)
Public hearings begin on Metro service cuts (Post)
More on wheelchair-accessible cabs (GGW)
All about Colonel Brooks’ Tavern regular Kaya Henderson (Examiner)
Dig deep into Capital Bikeshare (Housing Complex)
Hey, Sulaimon: Health Care Finance is hiring (Post ad)
What the heck? Sinclair? (YouTube)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray appears on “Ask the Mayor,” 10 a.m. on WTOP; appears at D.C. Water groundbreaking, 11:30 a.m. at Blue Plains, 5000 Overlook Ave. SW; attends Calvary Women’s Services annual gala, 7 p.m. at Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; attends Crestwood Citizens Association meeting, at Grace Lutheran Church, 4300 16th St. NW — D.C. Council Committee of the Whole meeting and additional legislative meeting, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500