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DeMorning DeBonis: July 13, 2010

TODAY IS JULY 13, 2010 -- 63 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

If you were expecting the D.C. Council's probe into the questionable parks contracting of Mayor Adrian Fenty to provide grist for the election-season mill, prepare to be disappointed. At a briefing of council members Monday, attorney Robert Trout said his investigation into Banneker Ventures and its subcontractors "won't be finished until late September at the earliest -- after this year's Democratic primaries," Bill Myers reports in the Examiner. Also, Trout now plans to look at how Abdullahi Barrow, partner of Sinclair Skinner in subcontractor Liberty Engineering and Design, "obtained his license just months before his company was made a subcontractor in several parks and recreation contracts." The expansion of Trout's bailiwick prompts this crack from lawyer A. Scott Bolden, who is representing the main targets of the probe: Trout "is quickly becoming the Ken Starr of the Banneker investigation. Quote me."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Michael Brown hit with tax lien -- Catania and Nickles spar with Barry at hospital hearing -- NRA lobbyist: "I honestly don't care about D.C. voting rights" -- MPD wants council to allow Secure Communities participation -- Heller lawyers want big payday

*** MAIN COURSE ***

LIEN ON ME -- At-large council member Michael Brown has been slapped with a $52,000 federal tax lien, making him "the third city lawmaker to face scrutiny over personal or tax debts in recent months," Jim McElhatton reports in the Washington Times. "Mr. Brown said he is close to paying off the tax debts. He said he has been on a scheduled installment plan with the IRS for about two years and that he's never missed a payment. He said his last payment is scheduled for August. 'Nothing has been done wrong, zero,' he said, adding that his situation is no different from those of millions of Americans working to pay off taxes through installment plans with the IRS. Mr. Brown said the tax issue surfaced after he took a deduction that the IRS later challenged as taxable income. He said he didn't challenge the agency when it said that the money should have been taxed. He declined to identify the deduction he sought." And do note: "Mr. Brown, a lawyer who won citywide office in 2008, is a member of the council's Committee on Finance and Revenue." And he has stumped for higher income taxes for high earners, prompting this comment from a National Taxpayers Union rep: "We can only hope that council member Brown's experience with the IRS will give him additional perspective about the financial hardship taxes can create, including local income taxes."

'TOO CLOSE TO CALL' -- WUSA-TV's Bruce Johnson reviews the state of the mayoral race, noting that Fenty's TV ads "tackle for the first time what aides have been saying in private -- that the mayor had lost half his support in but three years because the voters don't like his attitude." Fenty tells Bruce: "We've pushed the envelope and ran with an aggressive style ... Nothing is perfect, but you can't argue with the results." And Gray responds to Michelle Rhee's indication that she's probably not going to stick around for a Gray administration: "If she thinks that there's progress being made and she's got demonstrable evidence of that, then I would hope she would continue to be dedicated to the children of the city." Here's Bruce's take: "This race is simply to close to call."

HOSPITAL HEARING -- WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood covers the United Medical Center takeover, including Monday's hearing: "D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles told the council on Monday that saving the hospital 'is the highest priority' of the Fenty administration. It appears that the council likely will vote for the mayor's nonprofit board as a stopgap while a new buyer is sought. D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi acknowledged the hospital's importance to the eastern part of the District, but he warned the council that it must be prepared to spend more than the estimate $15 million a year to subsidize the hospital." Channel 4's cameras also capture plenty of bickering between David Catania and Marion Barry. Meanwhile, Harry Jaffe finds at the hearing "the entertaining mix of hypocrisy and histrionics we have come to expect." His take: "The city got rooked -- again -- this time for more than $80 million. In the unraveling of the United Medical Center hospital deal, there is a loose string. Give it a tug and you can see the half-baked dreams, liberal guilt, bets on the come and the kind of funny money accounting that led the District to the financial control board and near bankruptcy 15 years ago. ... The city has borrowed to the hilt and drained its savings. And now we own a public hospital. Can you say -- good money after bad?"

'I HONESTLY DON'T CARE' -- In the New York Times, Eric Lichtblau covers the expansion of the National Rifle Association's influence into non-gun-related policy areas. You know, like D.C. voting rights. "Its push this spring for greater gun rights in the District of Columbia served to effectively kill a measure -- once seemingly assured of passage -- to give the district a voting seat in Congress. ... 'What you're seeing is a recognition that support for the Second Amendment is not only a very powerful voting bloc, but a very powerful political force.' Chris W. Cox, the N.R.A.'s chief lobbyist, said in an interview last week at the group's Washington office, a few blocks from the Capitol. He pointed to the debate this spring over loosening gun laws in the District of Columbia after a 2008 Supreme Court ruling found the city's gun ban unconstitutional. At the time, advocates for District voting rights saw their best chance in many years to gain a voting seat in the House, but they abandoned their own proposal after gun rights supporters attached a provision weakening local gun laws. 'I honestly don't care about D.C. voting rights,' Mr. Cox said of the legislative maneuvering. 'I care about reforming D.C. gun laws, and we're going to use voting rights or any other vehicle at our disposal to address what we consider a blatant disregard for the Constitution.'"

SECURE COMMUNITIES BATTLE -- A council hearing digs into the police department's embrace of the federal Secure Communities program, criticized by some for being anti-immigrant. But the cops say that "their ability to investigate terrorists would be undermined" by a council measure that would prevent MPD participation in the program, Freeman Klopott reports in the Examiner. Under Secure Communities, "local police send Immigration and Customs Enforcement the names of every arrestee to be checked against immigration databases. But every member of the D.C. Council has backed a bill that would prohibit District police from sharing arrest information with ICE. ... On Monday Assistant Chief of Police Peter Newsham described the bill as 'premature' during a public hearing. 'This preempts the police ability to implement the program in a way that's unique to D.C.,' Newsham said. ... Newsham said officials want to limit the program so that misdemeanors and domestic violence cases would not be included in the arrest information sent to ICE." WAMU-FM's Jessica Gould quotes a Latino Federation of Greater Washington organizer: "We believe that the program will directly target the Latino community in the United States and especially in Washington, D.C.."

SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY? -- Council member Tommy Wells wants the city to pony up for development on H Street NE, Michael Neibauer reports in WBJ: "Wells' bill ... would direct $5 million of the $25 million to the Steuart Investment Co.'s Third and H project, fulfilling a tax abatement promise made to the developer last year. Another $5 million would support 'tax increment financing and real property tax abatements to support small business development.' ... The legislation, at least the small business aspect of it, is an attempt by Wells to address complaints that the original neighborhood retail TIF served only to attract major anchor tenants, an aide to the councilman said. Wells, a Democrat, is running for reelection."

SHOW HIM THE MONEY -- City lawyers are fighting a $3.1 million fee request by attorneys for the Heller v. D.C. plaintiffs, Mike Scarcella reports at Legal Times. "The attorney, Alan Gura ... said in court papers that prosecuting the case was 'far more protracted and difficult' than anticipated. ... In response, lawyers for the District have filed papers calling Gura's petition for fees 'a study in unreasonableness.' ... The District attorneys--Ellen Efros, Robert Utiger and Andrew Saindon--said legal fees should not exceed about $830,000. The attorneys applaud Gura for 'an impressive, indeed precedential win' but maintain that city residents should not have to pay for 'over-preparation' for oral argument at the Supreme Court." The city goes on: "[T]he 'public interest' falls squarely on the shoulders of the District and its residents whose essential services are threatened by shrinking budgets, not the wallets of plaintiff's counsel, which will be more than adequately filled under the fee proposed by the District."

FEWER STICKS, MORE CARROTS -- At Poverty & Policy, Kathryn Baer rails against David Catania's proposal to punish parents for their children's truancy. "[T]he proposal is grounded in the notion that a large number of parents just shrug their shoulders when they're told their kids didn't show up for classes. If we wield a big enough stick, they'll act on the problem. What, I wonder, are poor parents supposed to do. Even if they've got the time and wherewithal for transportation to take their kids to school, what can they do to make sure they'll stay there? If they tell their kids how important it is to get an education, will those given to truancy listen? Catania's plan won't just punish parents for behavior they probably can't control. It will punish all the children in the family."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Convention center hotel deal is a go; "There should be a fence going up in the next 30 days," Kwame Brown says (WBJ)

Behold the Orange Plan! (D.C. Wire)

Artomatic at Hine Middle School? (DCist)

Eleanor Holmes Norton tells Fox 5 she's hosted a meeting to solve federal-local streetcar conflicts (WTTG-TV)

Goofy flier "Celebrating D.C.'s First Deaf Mute Gay Marriage" distributed at MPD unit; "This is not the first time D.C. police have been asked to look into anti-gay literature being passed around police offices," Scott McCabe reports (Examiner)

Metro responds to bus imposter: "Work is underway to enhance security at Metro facilities" (Post)

New CYITC director Ellen London explains how nonprofits like the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation help the city's children (WAMU-FM)

Escalator shutdown at Dupont Circle Metro leads to rider chaos (Post)

Are the city's "performance parking" zones being neglected? (GGW)

Real Housewife Stacie Turner: "Oprah on the Potomac" (Washingtonian)

Ronald Reagan statue to be placed at Reagan National Airport (WTTG-TV)

Real-estate industry fetes Mary Cheh (Housing Complex)

Ten-year-old struck and killed on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown (Post)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Fenty, Rhee, Victor Reinoso announce 2010 CAS scores (already?) -- last council meeting before recess; votes on streetcar wires, access to juvenile criminal records -- Kojo talks juvenile justice reform with DYRS' Marc Schindler

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 13, 2010; 8:52 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: In endorsement showdown, D.C. gay activists stand by Phil Mendelson

Comments

I strongly agree with Kathyrn Baer and Jonathan Smith's opposition to Catania outrageous threat to introduce a bill to throw welfare families into the street because of truancy. What is not being raised is the harsh reality of being poor in DC, with TANF 60% of the federal poverty level (go to DC Fiscal Policy Institute for documentation). Could it be that with higher Metro/bus fares many families simply don't have the money to send their children to school regularly, especially since Fenty/Rhee closed 23 neighborhood public schools? Further, as Mai Abdul Rahman showed in her piece in NorthWest Current (June 30,2010), District government hasn't taken advantage of federal funding for subsidizing transportation for low income folk (Job Access and Reverse Commute and the United We Ride programs). What a shame and how typical!

Meanwhile, here is a sad commentary on the Council’s misplaced priorities: they cut $1.3 million in Adult Education in the FY2011 budget (compared to FY2010) and wiped out Emergency Rental Assistance entirely - in a depression for so many residents no less - while they voted 8 to 5 to defeat a very modest tax hike for wealthy residents (the Graham amendment) that would have avoided the new hurtful budget cuts and helped to partially restore the $50 million for affordable housing and other essential needs already cut in the FY 2010 budget. Both incumbent At-Large Council candidates, Mendelson and Catania voted for no tax hike for wealthy residents but did vote for new regressive fees that have the heaviest burden on low income residents. Have they no shame? For more go to davidschwartzman.com.

David Schwartzman
DC Statehood Green Party Candidate for At-Large Council

Posted by: dschwartzman | July 13, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

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