TODAY IS MAY 18, 2011 — DAY 132 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
The D.C. Council will be going to court this week to force testimony from a trio of players in Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s early hiring troubles. From my Post story today: “While the subpoena wrangling represents an obstacle to the council’s investigation, there are new signs that federal authorities have accelerated their criminal probe. Previously, the U.S. attorney’s office said that it was ‘assessing’ the matter. On WTOP radio Tuesday, Gray said that he has voluntarily turned over e-mails and phone records to federal authorities but that he had not been interviewed. Kenneth V. Cummins, a private investigator who did vetting work for the Gray transition, said that his firm, Capitol Inquiry, turned over e-mails and 41 completed background checks pursuant to a federal subpoena issued last month. ‘Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anything in what we provided that warrants any kind of criminal investigation,’ said Cummins, who said he had been in touch with federal investigators as recently as last week. Friday’s council hearing came to an abrupt end after Lorraine A. Green, the head of Gray’s campaign and transition, declined to answer questions about the elder Brooks, citing the active federal probe. Thomas C. Green, her attorney and no relation, told council members that the U.S. attorney’s office ‘will more likely than not want to talk to her’ again.” As Alan Suderman notes at Loose Lips, “it certainly looks like there is lot more than assessing going on at present.” Also WaTimes, DCist, Examiner.
AFTER THE JUMP — Michelle Rhee and George Parker: together at last — Inside Kwame Brown’s new ethics bill — Joe Mamo speaks — How to spend, or not spend, the city’s coming windfall — Terry Bellamy looking like new permanent DDOT head
*** MAIN COURSE ***
GEORGE AND MICHELLE — How about this: Former Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker has joined former sparring partner Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization as a “senior fellow,” the duo announced Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Said Parker: “As union leaders and former union leaders, we all have to think outside the box. ... [StudentsFirst] is something I believe has a lot of promise, because it is inclusive. It includes diversity in terms of opinion. ... We must be willing to discuss the tough issues if we are going to improve the quality of education for children. ... We cannot solely determine our best teachers solely by how long they’ve been teaching. Performance has to play a significant role. ... We all have to be about putting the best possible teachers in front of our children, and performance has to play a significant role in doing that.”
BIG ETHICS BILL — Kwame Brown dropped his big ethics bill yesterday, co-introduced with Mary Cheh. Some of the details: A new Office of Government Accountability would be created and handed broad investigatory powers over “any matter involving lobbying, conflict of interest, financial disclosures, and other ethical matters and standards of conduct.” A five-member ethics advisory committee would be established, which could recommend updates to city ethics laws. And financial disclosures would become much more stringent, closing loopholes involving nonprofit dealings (hello, Harry Thomas Jr.) and charitable fundraising. And then there’s this: “Elected officials would have to disclose, without exception, ‘the identity of any client for whom the public official performed a service in connection with the public official’s outside income.’ Currently, city law only requires them to disclose clients who do business with the city or have matters before the Council. In other words, the council’s practicing lawyers — Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and David Catania (I-At Large) — would have to disclose complete client lists for the first time.” Jack, needless to say, isn’t pleased, though there are exceptions if disclosure would “violate any law, rule, or legally recognized privilege under District law.” Chuck Thies tells the Examiner’s Freeman Klopott that the bill “is a giant leap forward in the right direction. ... The council’s hand has been forced, Kwame Brown’s hand has been forced, and anything less than legislation that creates robust reform would have been a whitewash.” Also WaTimes.
MAMO SPEAKS — Joe Mamo, the gasoline mogul who is now enjoying the scrutiny of the city’s attorney general, responds to news of an antitrust investigation in interviews with City Paper’s Christine MacDonald and yours truly. From my piece: “Mamo said that his prices are reasonable and that the recent price spike has diminished his profits by 20 to 30 percent. ‘Everybody’s getting squeezed. We’re getting squeezed; our dealers are getting squeezed, because how much can you raise your prices?’ he said. ‘There’s no correlation between the increase in price and our profit. If we were gouging, it would be very clear we made a huge windfall.’ ... Mamo said he would not release the price information, citing business confidentiality agreements, but he said his markup as a wholesaler has ranged between 5 and 18 cents per gallon. During the recent price spike, the markup has been 14 or 15 cents — close, he said, to the national average.” Also: “Blaming the distributor is scapegoating simply to get politicians their airtime,” he tells MacDonald, author of the definitive Mamo profile, adding: “I am being scapegoated, but so are other distributors, as well as some dealers around the country.” Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Mary Cheh introduced legislation that would restrict the ability of Mamo and other gasoline distributors to operate gas stations.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE MAGIC MONEY — Jonetta Rose Barras has a message in her Examiner column for those “unapologetic spendthrifts” on the D.C. Council who have “fixated on imagined revenues” they hope will be delivered in the form of upgraded revenue projections. “Frugalistas, like me, equate the council’s actions with counting chickens before they hatch — never a smart move. ... [C]ouncil members who collectively had a $350 million unfunded wish list also have to be reined in. Consequently, Brown proposed a formula that would mandate 50 percent of new revenues be used to replenish the city’s reserve fund, which has been nearly depleted because it was used to lessen the recession’s blow; 25 percent would go to assisting the city’s ‘needy’ populations, and 25 percent would help forgo taxes, prevent public safety reductions and meet infrastructure demands. ... He said the plan would send the right signal to residents and Wall Street while providing an opportunity for a compromise among council members on contentious issues. ‘It might be the first time you have Jack Evans and Marion Barry agreeing on something,’ Brown joked. That ‘Kumbaya’ moment may bring temporary satisfaction. But relying too heavily on anticipated revenues to balance the budget means the council would have failed, once again, to realistically define the scope, role and responsibility of government.”
COMPASSIONATE BUDGETING — Another view, from Art Levine of the Huffington Post: “Mayor Gray and much of the rest of the city council are moving on their own to make the city’s disabled, youngest and neediest citizens the sacrificial lambs of the proposed new city budget. ... It’s yet another troubling sign of the rightward shift of state and national Democratic Party leaders. It’s a trend that can be seen everywhere from Democratic legislators in Massachusetts voting to strip public employee unions of the right to bargain collectively to national Democrats meekly accepting until it’s too late GOP messaging on deficit cuts and tax breaks for the rich. Here in Washington, city services are already so strained before the proposed cuts that even families with young children seeking emergency shelter are routinely turned away, and have often been given instead bus tokens to ride the buses all night with their toddlers and infants.” Another good line: “[T]he city population is so liberal and Democratic that a new poll by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute found that 90 percent of taxpayers earning over $100,000 favor raising taxes on the wealthy to help pay for social services. That’s a level of affluent professionals’ supporting raised taxes you’d be hard pressed to find outside of an Upper West Side cocktail party hosted by The New York Review of Books in honor of Naomi Klein.” DCFPI, incidentally, makes its case today for devoting any revenue windfall to services, not savings.
NEW HOUSING BOSS — City Paper’s Lydia DePillis sits down with new Housing and Community Development boss John Hall. His priorities: “]M]aking effective decisions on housing production, where you do it and how you do it, is going to be vital. It’s also going to be vital how you leverage resources that are out there, so that you’re not building in a vacuum. I’d like to see a master development plan done, and that usually helps get everybody on board. It would involve coordination with the Office of Planning. Whether we do it ward by ward, what are some prime areas that we can use as nodes — I think the corridor here with Good Hope and Martin Luther King is very prime. Development is coming this way. So to plan ahead, instead of being reactive to development, is going to be key for us as well.” His reaction to the Post’s HUD reporting from the weekend: “It maybe could have been a little more hopeful. But the truth hurts, and I will use it as an opportunity to adjust. I look at this story as basically a monitoring visit. It highlighted some things where we’re not doing so hot.”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Gray on WTOP: Post editorial photo was “way beyond the pale”; city isn’t going to bend over backward for D.C. United; will establish “fair rate” for taxis (WTOP)
Examiner’s youth crime stats are misleading (DCist)
Ward 4 would hardly be the most affected by an RPP hike (GGW)
Skyland demolition could begin in fall, but still “18 or 20 months” to settle eminent domain cases (Examiner)
“Highly effective” teachers still waiting on award checks (D.C. Schools Insider)
More on Allen Lew audit (Examiner)
Baruti Jahi will take another shot at Muriel Bowser (Loose Lips)
Demoted cop says he’s a “scapegoat” for (WaTimes)
“Sinclair Skinner’s Tips on Financing a Political Campaign”! (SinclairSkinnerBlog.com)
More on D.C. Water’s Blue Plains upgrades (WAMU-FM)
Appeals court: No dancing at the Jefferson Memorial! (Legal Times)
A good look at Evans’s 20th anniversary cake (G’town Dish)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray attends grand opening of new Mary’s Center, 10 a.m. at 3912 Georgia Ave. NW; holds weekly news conference, 1 p.m. in JAWB G-9; meets with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan, 3:30 p.m. in JAWB