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Posted at 8:09 AM ET, 12/21/2010

DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 21, 2010

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS DEC. 21, 2010 -- 12 DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION

PREVIOUSLY -- Peebles files countersuit against Nickles, claims defamation -- Ward 7's Yvette Alexander launches fitness challenge -- With Chaffetz out, identity of D.C.'s GOP overseer in doubt -- Mary Cheh breaks arm severely, will miss council meeting

D.C. Council Term 19 -- and Vincent Gray's chairmanship -- ends with today's legislative meeting, and members will be faced with tough questions on fiscal equity: Will online travel sites be taxed on the full price of the rooms they hawk? Will "combined reporting" be the law of the land for big businesses selling their wares in D.C. -- eliminating "creative" tax accounting and generating $20 million a year for the city? Will the council relax the affordable housing requirement for new residential development on the Southwest Waterfront? Will a $34 million tax break be handed to the operator of the Union Station shops and parking? Will homeless residents be turned away from shelters if they cannot prove some form of city residency? One thing that is almost certain: Today's council votes will likely end welfare as we know it in the District of Columbia. In today's Post, Ian Shapira examines what that really means.

AFTER THE JUMP -- FBI stats show rise in assaults, dip in property crime -- why do the D.C. Dems get to have meetings in city buildings? -- Nickles looks back -- Young Dems endorse Biddle -- preservationists win big settlement

*** MAIN COURSE ***

FROM IAN'S STORY -- Those who stand to lose benefits "are single mothers who dropped out of high school. They often come from troubled families and have spotty work histories. Some also struggle with alcohol or drug abuse or mental health issues. The cuts would have a deep impact on the city's poor, particularly its children. Among the 17,000 families in the city's welfare program, about 40 percent - or 6,800 - have been getting benefits for more than five years, receiving an average of $370 a month. ... Critics say the council's measure has been cobbled together too quickly and could flood the foster-care system and homeless shelters with families and children. 'To be doing this now, when the effects of the recession are still at their height, is unfortunate, and to be doing it in such a hurried way is not thoughtful,' said Peter Edelman, a Georgetown University law school professor who is a leader of the health and human services committee of Gray's mayoral transition team. ... [M]any longtime welfare recipients are ill-equipped to find work. With no job, five children and a boyfriend who is an unemployed former drug dealer just back from prison, Diane Greenfield has grown accustomed to life on the welfare roll. For a total of seven years, Greenfield - a former temp at a downtown law firm who has struggled with pot and PCP addictions - has been receiving city welfare checks. The 28-year-old says her assistance from the D.C. government - $540 a month in cash plus $850 in food stamps - is just enough for diapers, deodorant and other necessities. 'Are they going to guarantee me a job to raise my kids?' asked Greenfield, who lives in an apartment in Southeast Washington operated by the nonprofit Community of Hope for those who have struggled with drug addiction. 'If they don't, then it's going to be, "Are they going to take away my kids?" It's scary. If they cut me off, how am I supposed to get Pampers, shoes and socks for my babies?'"

LATE NIGHT TWEET -- From @TommyWells: "Mary Cheh said she will support a new shelter in Ward 3 for homeless families if I vote to table bill with residency reqmnts for DC fams."

ASSAULTS WAY UP; OTHER CRIMES DOWN -- New FBI national crime stats are out, and they show a rise in violent crime in D.C., Scott McCabe reports in Examiner. And once again Police Chief Cathy Lanier is poo-pooing the stats, preferring her department's internal figures: "The FBI's semiannual crime numbers show that reports of violent crime around the nation dropped 6.2 percent from January to June. That wasn't the case in the nation's capital, where 4,057 murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults were reported in the first half of the year, compared to 3,801 over the same period last year. ... Lanier dismissed the FBI report, saying it doesn't reflect a true picture of the crime scene in the District. Lanier prefers to use the department's own crime calculations, which show a 7 percent decrease in violent crime. Although the FBI report uses crime numbers provided by D.C. police, the report 'is not a good measure of District crime,' Lanier told The Washington Examiner. District police go by the D.C. Code to determine the city's crime rate and to make strategies for fighting crime. ... Aggravated assaults in the District jumped 25 percent in the first six months this year, the FBI reports. The other categories of violent crime -- murders, rape and robberies -- all went down. Murders in D.C. dropped 10 percent, compared to 7.1 percent around the rest of the county. Property crime in D.C. dropped 8.7, compared to a 2.8 percent decrease nationwide."

KEYS TO THE CASTLE -- The Post editorial board wants to know why the D.C. Democratic State Committee regularly engages in the "indefensible" practice of using government buildings for its meetings and events -- including for last week's at-large council candidates debate: "No one would think it okay for the Republican Party to hold a partisan candidates' debate in the Capitol rotunda. Democrats would know better than to use Dirksen office space to stuff party fundraising envelopes. The line between proper use of government resources and party politics is pretty clear. Except, it seems, in the District of Columbia. Here, one-party rule has resulted in such coziness between government and party officials that the use of District facilities for partisan events apparently has become business as usual. .... What's most troubling is that no one seems to bat an eye at the practice. ... The D.C. Republican Committee has finally taken umbrage at the practice and has filed a formal complaint with the Office of Campaign Finance. The agency will determine whether to launch a preliminary investigation. It shouldn't have to come to that; [Gray] and [Kwame Brown] should make clear that this misuse of government resources will end immediately."

SO LONG, PETER -- Harry Jaffe does an exit interview with Peter Nickles for his Examiner column: "On his way out, he had a few choice words for his enemies, listed a few victories, admitted some defeats. 'Adrian and I were a great team,' he says. 'I didn't mind taking the heat. It's been a blast.' He blasts 'advocates' and 'masters' for agencies under court control as 'a class of vested interests who are ripping the city off.' He must admit, of course, that he failed to convince judges that the city was ready to take back control of various social service agencies still under court control. 'I was the darling of the advocates when I was one of them,' he says. 'Now they hate me.' He sees the city's takeover of the United Medical Center in Southeast as a major win and says, 'If the city continues to exercise strict scrutiny, it can be a success.' One of his biggest failures was the inability to rein in Medicaid expenses; the city loses about $200 million a year by not properly processing reimbursement requests from the federal government, he says. 'We need outside help,' he says. 'No one would listen to me.' Will anyone listen to Irvin Nathan, Gray's nominee for attorney general? ... Answers coming in 2011."

BACK TO WORK -- From the Metro Labor Council AFL-CIO's Union City newsletter: "THIS JUST IN: Snow Nurse Wins Job Back: Geri Lee, the longtime Washington Hospital Center nurse fired earlier this year (Nurses Prepared For Battle At Washington Hospital Center), has won her job back. The National Nurses Union (NNU) reported last night that arbitrator Roger P. Kaplan had found that the Washington Hospital Center 'terminated Geraldine Lee without just cause' and ordered her reinstated with back pay. 'We all look forward to seeing Geri Lee back on the job later this week,' NNU's Stephen Frum told Union City. 'The Union will continue to pursue justice for the other nurses unjustly fired and disciplined for absence during the snow storms. Together we win!'"

NON-V.O. ENDORSEMENT -- Press release: "Washington, D.C. - December 20th, 2010 - DC Young Democrats (DCYD) has officially endorsed Sekou Biddle to fill the At-Large Council seat that Chairman-elect Kwame Brown vacated and agreed that all DCYD members who serve on the State Committee will vote as a bloc to support him. When making this decision, DCYD considered (1) the degree to which the candidate sees an opportunity to work with DCYD moving forward; (2) the candidate's platform, especially as it relates to improving DC's education system, embracement of diverse groups and lifestyles, employment opportunities for residents, affordable housing availability, and public safety; (3) the candidate's experience; and (4) the candidate's viability in a city-wide election."

CHALLENGING 'POST AND FORFEIT' -- A D.C. attorney arrested for disorderly conduct in 2008 is challenging the legality of the MPD's "post and forfeit" policy -- in which persons arrested for petty offenses are allowed to pay a small fine for their release, but lose any chance to challenge their arrest. Legal Times has the story about attorney Hamilton "Phil" Fox III of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, who "said he was not given an option to be released on a citation with a promise to appear in court later. The program, Fox said, 'uses the coercive power of the criminal justice system to exact money from arrestees in exchange for release from incarceration and conditional termination of the prosecution of any arrest charges.' ... Fox said in the suit that 'post and forfeit' revenue is not accounted for by city police. The suit, which Fox wants to become a class action, examines the extent to which the program is constitutional. ... A lawyer for Fox, Washington solo practitioner William Claiborne, called the 'post and forfeit' money a 'bribe sanctioned by the government of the District of Columbia.'"

PRESERVATION PAYOUT -- The settlement that paved way for the demolition of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist will pay the D.C. Preservation League more than $600,000 to give up its legal challenges, Lydia DePillis reports at Housing Complex: "According to a statement by the league, the fund will be used 'to enhance citizens' knowledge and understanding of modernist and religious architecture in Washington, and to provide grant funding for research, training, building rehabilitation (bricks and mortar), and other eligible projects.' The settlement was met with surprise from some quarters in the preservation community, given that DCPL had fought so long and so hard to save the church, only to settle for a few hundred grand. ... DCPL itself could only issue this statement: 'The terms of the settlement agreement are supported by the DC Preservation League and is a satisfactory resolution to the dispute among the parties.'"


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Cardinal Donald Wuerl will give invocation at inauguration; Grammy nominees Chuck Brown and Raheem DeVaughn headline evening entertainment (D.C. Wire, DCist)

No national search done for Gray's fire chief (Examiner)

Still no cause of death in Ali Ahmed Mohammed case (WTTG-TV, TBD)

Metrobus driver spent 13 years on leave, kept uniform and ID card and bonus payments (WaTimes)

D.C. area drinking water contains trace amounts of harmful hexavalent chromium (Post, City Desk)

District businesses must recycle their cardboard (WBJ)

Debating a new football stadium for Hill East (GGW)

In case you didn't know: Ron Collins and Eric Richardson are Gray's first gay appointees; Gray's LGBT liaison to be named this week (Blade)

Marshall University trains MPD's forensic scientists (Huntington News)

FedEx lobbyist Gina Adams is new D.C. Chamber board chair (WBJ)

Michelle Rhee an "example of courage, tenacity and dedication to the future of this country" (On Leadership)


*** ON THE MENU ***

The 53rd and final meeting of the 19th Council of the District of Columbia, 10 a.m. -- Census figures announced at 11 a.m.: will D.C. top 600,000?

By Mike DeBonis  | December 21, 2010; 8:09 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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