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Posted at 11:18 AM ET, 12/22/2010

DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 22, 2010

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS DEC. 22, 2010 -- 11 DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION

PREVIOUSLY -- Brown 'fully supports' Sekou Biddle, but no endorsement yet -- Council votes to allow its staffers to fundraise; exempts committees from sunshine law -- Brown keeps education oversight, hires Board of Education member

So what did outgoing D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray and his colleagues get done in their final meeting together Tuesday? An Adams Morgan hotel project won a $46 million, 20-year tax abatement. The Union Station tax break never made it to a vote. But a break on the Central Union Mission's property tax bill did. A proposal to cut off welfare recipients was softened considerably. The city's decision-making bodies -- except for council committees -- are now subject to a stronger sunshine law. Lottery regulations were changed to potentially allow online gambling. Rent control was extended for 10 more years. Homeless families that can't prove some connection to the District will be turned away from shelters beginning in March, following a good deal of discussion about whether or not Baby Jesus was actually homeless. After the jump, Tim Craig considers the legacy of the Gray era.

AFTER THE JUMP -- District population exceeds 600,000 -- More committee speculation -- DC9 death autopsy report brings little closure -- Gray education appointments expected today

*** MAIN COURSE ***

THE GRAY ERA -- From Tim's story: "During the 18th session since home rule took effect in 1973, the council legalized same-sex marriage and medical marijuana, rewrote gun-control laws, imposed a 5-cent tax on plastic bags to advance the cleanup of the Anacostia River and adopted standards for healthier school lunches. ... The just-concluded council session will be known as one in which members appeared to find legislative confidence in the aftermath of the financial control board. The council embraced an activist agenda and exerted more control over city government, increasing oversight of the administration of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). 'The legislature has strengthened,' said council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large). 'Our response during the Fenty administration was to pass laws and impose new requirements on budgeting, financial planning and policy analysis.' Gray, who became emotional in an interview, said he is most proud of the council's high ratings in recent public opinion polls and a collaborative spirit that led to significant pieces of legislation during his four years as council chairman, including mayoral control of schools and the expansion of pre-kindergarten. ... The city faces a $440 million budget shortfall next year, prompting many members to predict the next council will be consumed by a debate over taxes and spending. And with the Republicans set to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, council members said the era of approving bold legislation has passed. 'I think that progress at times requires a moment of reflection and a moment of shoring up victories as opposed to the constant trajectory, which is financially unstable,' said council member David A. Catania (I-At Large)."

MORE ON ADAMS MORGAN TAX ABATEMENT -- From WBJ's Michael Neibauer: "The hotel, pool, restaurants and health club are slated to take over the First Church of Christ, Scientist building at Euclid and Champlain streets NW, as well as a small office building behind the church. 'There's no alternative plan. There's no other project waiting in the wings to assume this,' Councilman Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, said of the church, which generates no tax revenue today. Proponents argued the project will create about 1,500 construction jobs and roughly $7 million per year in tax revenue once the hotel opens. Councilman Kwame Brown, D-At Large, the incoming chairman, said he will yank the abatement if [developer Brian Friedman] doesn't make good on his promise to hire more than 700 D.C. residents. Critics didn't buy it, but it didn't matter. ... 'This is $46 million to a private developer where we are being asked with a gun to our head to take it or leave it or an apocalypse happens,' said Councilman David Catania, I-At large. 'It is a false choice. ... Who is he?' Catania asked of Friedman. 'He is no one to us.'"

MORE ON HOMELESS BILL -- From City Paper's Lydia DePillis: "The discussion was some of the most emotional and at times accusatory I've seen in the Council chambers this budget season. Four Councilmembers spoke passionately against the measure, with Harry Thomas reminding his colleagues that baby Jesus was displaced while homeless. [Mendelson] called the bill "cruel," and Mary Cheh said she could find the money in her committee's budget to take care of all comers if it came to that. 'When I go home at night, and I'm scurrying to my front door freezing and shivering, and I think of this measure, I just don't want to do this,' [Graham] added. [Tommy Wells] called [baloney] on his colleagues, reminding them of past opposition to shelters in their own wards, and the council's refusal to raise new revenue. 'This is a hollow call for justice,' he said. (Though, to be fair, Graham and Thomas led the charge to hike taxes on high income earners). '...What you want to do is just dump more families into D.C. General.'"

MORE ON CENTRAL UNION MISSION -- Also from DePills: "Under aggressive questioning by [Wells], Graham seemed to have contracted amnesia about the reason the sorry situation had come about, saying the Mission changed its mind about the Georgia Avenue location because of a 'zoning issue,' which at least isn't the whole truth. 'My understanding is that you were instrumental in not allowing them to open a homeless shelter there,' Wells said. 'Now the district government is paying real money for this error...I'm really frustrated by this.' Then David Catania jumped in. '"So we're bailing them out, as well as, I would say, bailing out the ward Councilmember,' he carped. 'Everything about this is wrong. Rather than fund access for justice, we are going to pay debts for a bad business decision.' The tax break ended up passing 8 to 4, with Wells voting present."

JOB-TRAINING CASH PAYS SEVERANCE -- Fenty was sharply criticized by council members for shifting $495,000 in job-training funds to pay for severance packages for members of his administration. Nikita Stewart writes at D.C. Wire: "The amount transferred skirted the $500,000 threshold that would have triggered approval by the D.C. Council. On Tuesday, Council Chairman-elect Kwame R. Brown and council member Michael A. Brown sent Fenty a letter asking him to reverse the action. 'In the midst of our current jobs crisis, how can the Mayor begin to justify removing resources that are aimed directly at preparing District residents for sustainable employment,' Michael Brown said in a statement. 'During the recent budget discussions, the Council made extremely difficult decisions to cut a host of worthy programs and to make it a top priority to restore funds cut from Adult Training in the FY 2011 budget.' Fenty's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment." Remember, the council already blocked severance payments, which are likely owed under employees' contracts.

***

POPULATION MILESTONE -- According to official 2010 Census tallies, the city has edged over the 600,000-resident mark and has added new residents on a decennial count for the first time in 60 years. The Post's Carol Morello and Dan Keating explain what it all means: "Growth has swelled the number of residents in every quadrant of the city and shifted the District's racial and ethnic mix. Whites and Hispanics have been moving in, while many African Americans have left and might be a minority before the next census is taken. City officials were exultant at a population count that confirms the city's resurgence, repeating the exact count of 601,723, down to the last citizen. Planning Director Harriet Tregoning called it a 'huge milestone.' Joy Phillips, associate director of the State Data Center, said it was 'a dream realized.' Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said it was an endorsement of the work his administration has done. ... The city is becoming a place for more high-income earners. In 2010 dollars, the annual median household income was about $50,500 last year, up about $7,800 from 2000. Many demographers and historians say that a fundamental change is underway and that the city's recovery is only beginning. 'The District has always been, or tried to be, the center of our economic life but not our residential life,' said Jane Freundel Levey, director of heritage programs at Cultural Tourism DC. 'What this demonstrates is that we're on the path to becoming a residential center, too.' "

MUSICAL CHAIRS -- With news that Kwame Brown, like Gray, will keep education oversight under his own purview, City Paper's Alan Suderman tries to figure out who will get the coveted economic development committee: "At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown has expressed interest, though the thinking in parts of the Wilson Building is that K. Brown would not want to give a potential opponent in an upcoming mayoral election such a plum assignment. ... Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry needs a committee, but LL doesn't see him getting economic development. In hushed tones, LL heard from a couple of people that Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. might be the lucky one getting economic development. Thomas, who currently heads the Committee on Parks, Recreation and Libraries, probably wouldn't mind the upgrade. But he does get the gig, K. Brown better hope the Team Thomas saga doesn't escalate into something really embarrassing. Just today, Thomas pushed for a $625,000 payment to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro LLC mixed-use development. If that name rings a bell, it's because that's one of the developers The Post editorial page has reported donated to the councilmember's sports youth non-profit, which has been described by political opponents as a slush fund."

NO CLOSURE -- Jonetta Rose Barras is having some trouble closing her ledger on 2010, she writes in her Examiner column: "I went through my notebooks, hoping to learn if the District's business for 2010 was being properly closed out. Regrettably, the Office of Campaign Finance's examination of Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr.'s actions surrounding his operation of several nonprofit organizations hasn't been completed. Neither the audit of Chairman-elect Kwame Brown's campaign finances nor the special investigation of that recreation facilities contract issued in 2009 by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration has finished. 'We have no jurisdiction over nonprofits. [But] we are looking at any violation of standards of conduct,' an OCF staffer told me about the Thomas probe." And then there's the Trout Report: "There has been some debate about whether authorization for the investigation could extend beyond the current Council Period 18, which ends Jan. 2. The council's General Counsel Brian Flowers didn't know. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray also didn't know. My head hurts. All I wanted was closure."

WHAT HAPPENED AT DC9 -- The death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed outside the DC9 nightclub has been ruled a homicide -- but it is still far from clear whether a crime has been committed, Paul Duggan reports in The Post. (Also see Sommer Mathis's outstanding work at TBD.) What is increasingly clear is that the "vigilante justice" and savage beating described by Police Chief Cathy Lanier the day after the death appears not to have happened. WTTG-TV's Brian Bolter interviewed Lanier last night, asking her if she regretted her statement: "No. I did in that case what I do in every case. I have to balance making a statement and letting the public know what we have and keeping that statement very narrow and to what the facts are. So my statement that day was based on the facts that were submitted in the charging document. I always base ... what I say on what is in the charging document. ... If I don't say anything or if I withhold information, it makes the community nervous." Also: Lanier said MPD's "biggest challenge is 2011 is going to be challenging this youth violence ... [Gray's] background in human service and social services is what I've said we've needed all along."

NEW BOSS AT DRES -- A memo sent yesterday to Department of Real Estate Services employees, from Director Robin-Eve Jasper: "To all my friends at DRES: It is with great pleasure that I inform you that Mayor-Elect Gray has selected one of our own, the charming Brian Hanlon, to be Interim Director of DRES. For those of you who may not know Brian, he is a Senior Project Manager in the Construction Division. Brian is smart, amiable, able and an all-around great choice. ... I think you should each be proud that the work of the agency over the last several years was sufficiently well thought of that Mayor-Elect Gray was comfortable picking a senior DRES employee to serve as Interim Director."

*** SMALL PLATES ***

"Vincent Gray's First Broken Campaign Promise": Not consulting with gay lobby on public-safety appointments (GLAA Forum via TBD)

Two-year bachelor's degree from UDC? (College Inc.)

BIA says First Source "has come to be regarded overwhelmingly by impacted employers as unduly burdensome, adversarial and essentially irrelevant to the larger issues of resident unemployment" (Housing Complex)

Robert Hildum remains as interim DYRS director for now (Examiner, DYRS)

Help MPD catch the Brookland murderers (Crime Scene)

The Council "should systematize the process for [tax] breaks to require some analysis of each one and set an overall cap" (GGW)

Peter Nickles files brief in Supreme Court challenge to D.C. gay marriage (Blade)

Grade-system confusion affects DCPS athletic eligibility (The Post)

It's a Klein-o-Tron! (TBD)

Gray hangs with Georgetowners (G'town Dish)

Will D.C. implement a "green area ratio" for developers? (DCmud)

ANC forms Wal-Mart committee (Brightwoodian)

No, Sky News, it is not "still widely thought that Adrian Fenty lost his job in part because of his administration's response to two huge snow storms" (Sky News)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Gabe Klein's exit interview, 10 a.m. on TBD NewsTalk -- Gray to name education appointees, 1 p.m. at Reeves Center

By Mike DeBonis  | December 22, 2010; 11:18 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Michael A. Brown ponders entry to D.C. Council special election as Democrat

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