DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 4, 2010
TODAY IS JAN. 4, 2010 -- DAY 3 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
"Misunderestimate" me at your peril, new D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown wants his colleagues and other observers to know. Tim Craig parses the meaning of Brown's early moves as chairman, from his decision to consolidate his staffs on the John A. Wilson Building's by punching a hole into his old office suite, to his decision to snub Jack Evans for the chairman pro tempore designation, handing it instead to Mary Cheh. The moves have been taken as his "efforts to stand out of Mayor Vincent C. Gray's shadow and exert his control by sending a message to skeptics who doubt his leadership abilities." Said Brown: "Look at the decisions I have made, look at the choices I have made. ... I think it's clearly a signal that I care about moving this city forward and this legislative branch forward." Meanwhile, on a day that saw plenty of boxes being shuffled around the Wilson Building, Gray arrived for work in a chauffeured SUV shortly before 2 p.m. Monday after working at home earlier in the day. He proceeded to give reporters a tour of his new office. See reports from the Post's Nikita Stewart, WTTG-TV's Karen Gray Houston, and WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood.
AFTER THE JUMP -- Wells gets Metro board nod -- big day for Sekou Biddle's at-large hopes -- redistricting process begins, led by Evans and Michael Brown -- firefighters rake in overtime -- DMV ponders ticket amnesty
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MORE FROM TIM -- "Although he defeated former council member Vincent C. Orange by 15 points in last year's election, Brown has endured a whispering campaign around city hall about whether he is up to the job of chairman. Brown dismisses the leadership questions, saying those who criticize him are 'cowardly' because they don't put their names behind their comments. But observers say Brown, who at 40 is one of the youngest residents to be elected chairman, is under considerable pressure to quickly distinguish himself. ... Although Brown and Gray are expected to work closely together, Brown may be tested earlier in his term to prove he - not Gray or renegade factions of the council - is pulling the strings in the legislative branch. 'He's going to have to choose a line in the sand sometime, because otherwise they will attempt to roll him,' said Douglas Patton, a lobbyist with deep roots in District politics. ... Instead of using committee assignments to shore up political standing for possible future disagreements with the new mayor, Brown appears to be building a firewall against other potential rivals on the council, members say. Many of Brown's allies, including Cheh and [Phil Mendelson], are also close to Gray. 'It's not clear to me Kwame wins a conflict with Vince Gray,' said one council member, who asked not to be identified to be able to speak freely. 'I do not see if there is a clash between the legislative branch and mayor that there are seven votes held by the chair, but that may be unimportant to him.'"
DONE DEAL -- Tommy Wells will indeed join the WMATA board as the council-appointed voting member, replacing Jim Graham. Ann Scott Tyson writes at Dr. Gridlock: "The move comes as the Metro board undergoes major turnover. Some of the changes are fallout from recent elections. Others are a reaction to criticism leveled against the board in two recent reports that attacked Metro's governing structure as outmoded, lacking accountability and overly involved in day-to-day decisions. Several board members have acknowledged frustration at serving in the time-consuming position for little or no pay or public appreciation." TBD's Dave Jamieson points out that Wells, in fact, has been known to use the Metro system from time to time.
BIG DAY FOR BIDDLE -- Yesterday was a heckuva good day for at-large council candidate Sekou Biddle. Old buddy Kwame Brown went public with his endorsement, telling Tim that Biddle is a "phenomenal guy ... with a sense of integrity." A fundraiser set for this evening at Ben's Chili Bowl featuring a high-powered host committee list, including Gray confidante Lorraine Green and Fenty backers Max Brown and Tom Lindenfeld. And last night Biddle smoked Vincent Orange in a straw poll held by the Ward 6 Democrats, with 43 votes to Orange's eight. On the plus side for Orange: Last night, Kelvin Robinson dropped out of the at-large race, throwing his support to V.O. -- but it's probably not much more than a few members of the Democratic State Committee. Also: GGW has some good questions for the candidates.
BOUNDARY-DRAWING PROCESS BEGINS -- Redistricting of the city's political boundaries has officially begun, with the appointment of Evans and Michael Brown to co-chair the council committee undertaking the process. Mendelson, who chaired the redistricting committee 10 years ago, is also pitching in. Freeman Klopott reports in the Examiner: "[R]edistricting has historically been a contentious process as neighborhoods fight to retain their ward identities and collective voting power ... [and] is also often cause for a fight among the ward council members as they both respond to their constituents' desires and fight to keep intact certain neighborhoods -- often those with wealthier residents who can help fund campaigns. Some council members have also historically seen redistricting as an opportunity to add balance to the city's black and white division. ... Evans said this year's changes might not be as wide-reaching and, therefore, less of a source for conflict. 'Traditionally, Wards 7 and 8 have not had enough people and we've needed to shift lines in their favor,' he said. 'Preliminary numbers show the populations there may have increased, so the changes may not be as dramatic.'" The Census Bureau will have the official numbers ready later in the spring.
KING VINCE? -- Harry Jaffe wonders in his Examiner column if Gray will be running the D.C. Council, too: "The majority of council members love Vince. Love him! ... Will they be so eager to please their friend who's now mayor that they forget their role in oversight and counter balance? 'The council could be in danger of becoming a rubber stamp for the mayor,' one veteran D.C. politician says. 'Too much power in the hands of one individual -- whether it's Marion Barry or Vince Gray -- is always dangerous.' He's referring to Marion Barry's first two terms as mayor, when the council members were known as 'Marionettes,' more enablers than legislators. ... I count seven votes for anything Gray desires, including Barry and Yvette Alexander from Ward 7. As for loyal opposition, we have Muriel Bowser from Ward 4, at-large member David Catania and Jack Evans, whose ward runs from Georgetown through downtown to Shaw. With seniority and spunk, Evans could wind up leading the opposition."
FEMS OVERTIME -- WTTG-TV's Roby Chavez delivers a hard-hitting look at overtime abuse at the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department: "Last year, 25 firefighters racked up more than a million dollars in overtime. FOX 5 has found one person, a commanding officer, who has earned overtime nearly every pay period in the last two years. The firefighter has earned nearly $100,000 in overtime each year. At times, Lt. Richard Lehan has racked up 90 hours of overtime when others complain they are getting very little. Documents show at least two other firefighters earned $100,000 in overtime last year. ... the D.C. Council imposed a new law last year. It says no firefighter or officer can earn more than $20,000 in overtime. However, documents show Lehan's overtime continues to exceed that amount even under the new law. ... On Monday night, [FEMS] could not say which supervisor or assistant chief approved all the overtime or why it was approved, but issued a statement saying the department has made changes and now uses overtime management software called Telestaff. ... The only problem according to sources is that the person in charge of the computerized Telestaff scheduling of overtime is Richard Lehan and his firefighter brother, Eddie Lehan."
DMV AMNESTY? -- The Department of Motor Vehicles is pondering an "amnesty" for those who owe more than $300 million in unpaid parking and traffic tickets, Klopott reports in the Examiner: "The amnesty would allow drivers to pay only the original fine with all penalties waived on delinquent tickets. Officials estimate that it would raise $6 million at a time when the District is facing a nearly $500 million budget gap in the next fiscal year. ... DMV chief Lucinda Babers said the change of administrations from Mayor Adrian Fenty to Mayor Vince Gray means the department will now have to 'wait and see' whether its annual performance plan remains in place. 'We'll wait to go over the plan in detail with the new city administrator and the new mayor to see exactly how we want to proceed,' Babers said." Incidentally, Klopott notes on Twitter that he owes $500 himself.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
James Sandman, DCPS general counsel and former Arnold & Porter managing partner, leaves to head the federal nonprofit Legal Services Corp. -- "the best job in American law" (D.C. Schools Insider, Dr. Gridlock)
Takoma Education Center students, ousted by fire, are back to school at Meyer Elementary after "miraculous" emergency renovations (Post)
Operations deputy Terry Bellamy is interim DDOT director (Dr. Gridlock)
NCPC nixes mixed-use hopes outside St. Elizabeths (Housing Complex)
DCPS spends big on consultants (Guy Brandenberg)
Evans "disappointed" with GU campus plan (G'town Dish)
The Post is fighting to unseal jury questionnaires in the Chandra Levy murder trial (McClatchy)
Metro IG: Train drivers peeing on tracks (Examiner)
Metro riders speak out against bag searches (Post)
What Marc Fisher thinks of the regime change (D.C. Wire)
What Post readers think of the regime change (Post)
Fab Darrow Montgomery pics of Sunday's swearing-in (Examiner)
More pics from the inaugural ball (DC Fab)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray leads voting-right activists in Capitol Hill protest this morning -- Biddle fundraiser, 7 p.m. at Ben's Chili Bowl
| January 4, 2011; 10:50 AM ET
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