DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 14, 2011
TODAY IS FEB. 14, 2011 -- DAY 44 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
The signature non-budgetary political battle of the spring is shaping up to be the fate of United Medical Center. Nikita Stewart reported Friday at D.C. Wire that, with key Adrian Fenty appointees refusing to resign from the UMC board, Mayor Vincent Gray is asking the D.C. Council to expand the board with his own appointees, in a page right out of the FDR playbook. "We want to do everything we can to expedite the transfer of this hospital to private ownership," Gray said. "We've heard from many people, including our bond rating agencies, that we need to move into another direction." That sets up a bruising conflict with Council member David Catania (I-At Large), who believes the city needs to nurse the hospital back to stability over the course of several years before selling it. The context for all this is the city's visits Thursday to its bond raters. The Examiner's Freeman Klopott reports on the trip, quoting Council finance maven Jack Evans saying that the city has "pledged not to dip into our fund balance or use similar gimmicks, but rather match our revenues with expenditures in balancing the budget." The Washington Times' Deborah Simmons also reports on the hospital issue, seizing on a line from a mayoral press release in declaring that Gray, Evans, and Council Chairman Kwame Brown are all backing a quick sale: "Gray, Brown and Evans believe private ownership is the best way to ensure the hospital's long-term survival as a medical facility that is critical to the health care of residents east of the Anacostia River."
AFTER THE JUMP -- GOP continuing resolution takes shears to D.C. aid -- IG probes DISB purchases -- Allen Lew will have to stick to a budget for the first time -- don't make Wal-Mart jump through hoops, says Post editorial -- Eleanor takes new subcommittee chair on "field day"
*** MAIN COURSE ***
GOP TAKES OUT SHEARS -- House Republicans want to drastically cut federal aid to the District of Columbia for the remainder of the current fiscal year, hacking $80 million from District government functions and another $150 million in Metro capital aid. Ben Pershing reports at D.C. Wire: "House Republicans' proposed cuts ... would hit several different categories of District services. Compared with spending levels for 2010, the bill would reduce payments for D.C. courts by $25.5 million; school improvements by $15.4 million; the Water and Sewer Authority by $10 million; the forensics lab by $15 million; veterans' housing by $7 million; and programs for "disconnected youth" by $4 million. Notably, the measure would not reduce funding for redeveloping the campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital for the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters, despite fears among some District observers that the project might be targeted." GGW writes: "If many of these go through, or even just the WMATA cut, it's worth having a serious conversation about small civil disobedience steps to illustrate how much Congress needs things like our transportation network, including Metro." Expect to hear more on the District's budgetary future later today, after the Obama budget proposal is released at 10:30 a.m.
IG PROBES DISB SPENDING -- The D.C. Inspector General is probing questionable payments in the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking under former director Gennet Purcell, Tim Craig reports in today's Post. Some $7,300 was spent via purchase cards at Electroworld, a small-time electronics retailer with ties to Purcell's husband, disbarred lawyer Will Purcell. Another $5.800 was spent at Best Buy "for five televisions the office needed to keep abreast of current events." Gennet Purcell said the IG has found nothing amiss and "blamed the investigation on agency employees upset by cost-cutting that led to a dozen layoffs." The meat of the conflict: "[I]nvestigators are looking into whether procurement procedures were followed and are trying to sort out the relationship between Will Purcell and Electroworld and its owner, Nevaldo Bailey. In 2008, the Purcells sold their Rockville home to Bailey for $585,000. Public business records do not list Will Purcell as a principal or employee at Electroworld. ... But Will Purcell is known to Electroworld employees. When a Washington Post reporter called the repair shop recently and asked for Will Purcell, an employee said he could be found at the Kennedy Street location. When the reporter called that store, an employee said Purcell was out but was expected to return."
'LEW'S ERA OF BIG SPENDING IS OVER' -- Nikita profiled new City Administrator Allen Lew in Sunday's Post, and she starts by busting a piece of Lew mythology: He might be Mr. On Time, but he ain't exactly Mr. On Budget: "Turns out that Lew - an architect by training who became a go-to construction guru, beginning with New York City's Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center in the 1980s - hasn't had much practice cutting budgets. Although he repeatedly says he completed construction projects 'on time and on budget,' a Washington Post review of more than a dozen projects shows that most ballooned in price. ... But with the District's massive deficit, Lew's era of big spending is over. He won't be able to just ask for more money to pick up the trash, clear snow, deliver social services or build parks and pools. Instead, he must maintain services with fewer resources while managing the expectations of a public used to certain services but who balk at higher taxes or fees and a Republican-led Congress that is increasingly interested in District government. ... Lew declined to discuss details of his cuts and how he plans to get unemployed residents back to work. But he said the difference between 'a masterpiece and just another painting' isn't the brush or fancy paints. 'It's the artist,' he said with little humility."
WELCOME WAL-MART -- The Post editorial board says Wal-Mart should be welcomed into the District with open arms -- and without demands for community benefits aside from new jobs and low, low prices: "[T]here's opposition, mainly from a coalition of labor, community and environmental groups alleging that the mega-retailer mistreats its workers and undercuts small businesses. But Wal-Mart says that, in a city with unemployment as high as 30 percent in some neighborhoods, it will create jobs paying on average $12.49 an hour, above the minimum wage. Most will be full time with benefits. There are few small businesses to be driven out. Just ask the commerce-starved residents of Wards 5 and 7, who, in large measure, seem to relish the opening of a Wal-Mart near their homes. ... Its officials say that they may be willing to enter into community benefits agreements; there are concerns that need to be addressed when the company submits its plans to the city's office of planning (the D.C. Council has no formal role, since the parcels in question are appropriately zoned). But unsubstantiated criticism should not be allowed to derail a private investment that, on balance, appears to be to the advantage of the District and its residents." Also: Capital Business editor Dan Beyers examines the megaretailer's entry into D.C.
FIELD DAY -- Eleanor Holmes Norton is taking Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), new chairman of the District oversight subcommittee, on a field trip today. Daniel Newhauser reports at Roll Call: "[Gowdy] has already met with D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi and former Mayor Anthony Williams. Now Norton gets her turn. 'I want to go wherever she wants me to go. This is her town and she's the expert. I need to learn,' Gowdy said. 'It's important for me to not meet with people in Longworth [House Office Building], where my office is, but to go to them.' But Gowdy might get a cool reception in some parts of the city. The subcommittee chairmanship is a position some activists disparagingly call the 'D.C. Overlord.' That's not how Gowdy sees it, however. 'I didn't run for mayor of the District of Columbia. I didn't run for whatever other titles people want to give, some positive, some not so positive,' he said. 'Give me a chance, see what I do. I'm not asking you to trust me, I'm just saying give me a chance to hold hearings.'" Per Gray's schedule, the field trip includes a meeting with Hizzoner at the Wilson Building.
WHERE'S THE PLAN, VINCE? -- Like myself, Jonetta Rose Barras is wondering what exactly Gray wants to do with his mayoralty. She writes in her Examiner column: "Once upon a time -- the mayor likes it when I use that phrase -- Gray was a plan man. Raise your hands if you remember those days of tangible, measurable reality. When, at the start of the last administration, Mayor Adrian Fenty sought control of the city's entire education apparatus -- including D.C. Public Schools, then-Council Chairman Gray was unrelenting in his demand that the executive produce a plan saying what he was going to do with his expanded authority. The legislature hadn't yet approved the mayor's request. Still, Gray wanted a plan. It's gander time. Where is your plan, Mayor Gray, for using your new authority? Gray was elected mayor in November. It's true he wasn't officially sworn in until Jan. 1. Still, it's mid-February and most folks aren't sure where he's taking them. ... The measure of a leader isn't just a vision statement. It's also his ability to produce and implement an actionable set of steps to realize his ideas. Without such a document, residents are left wondering and singing, 'Where are you going to? / Do you know? ...'"
BIO PICK -- Jay Mathews reads and reacts to "The Bee Eater," Richard Whitmire's biography of Michelle Rhee. "Rhee fans like me will enjoy remembering her unexpected success in bringing energy and sanity to the District's central office, closing 23 underused schools and getting an innovative new teachers contract. Her critics will nod as they read of her needlessly alienating city officials and good teachers and carelessly reawakening the race issue. Whitmire makes his admiration for Rhee clear but seems as baffled by some of her decisions as many of her friends were. ... The details of what happened to her in the District may seem old news to some, but those of us who care about the city's schools want to understand what went wrong. Whitmire gives us much to think about." Whitmore, meanwhile, is quoted in a St. Petersburg Times piece on Rhee opposition in Florida: "The pushback that [Rhee's teacher quality focus] sparked, especially around firing teachers, was the biggest reason Adrian Fenty lost his re-election bid as mayor and Rhee had to step down."
LOPEZ ON THE ISSUES -- Some highlights from Friday's GGW live chat with at-large candidate Josh Lopez. His top three policy goals: "Implementing the progressive tax increase to assist with the budget shortfall ... More parental involvement in our public school system ... Implementing effective strategies to create jobs for DC residents." On cutting the budget: "We can start out with cutting city council's pay. ... With special education we could reduce the budget by providing the necessary resources inside of DC, instead of wasting millions of dollars transporting them outside of the city." On aid to developers: "I am against all tax break until we pass legislation that effectively evaluates whether these breaks will help us in the long run." On his personal choice of transportation: "BMW ... Bus, Metro, Walk ... and carpool."
PEPCO'S PROFITS -- If you haven't already, read Annys Shin's Sunday A1 piece on Pepco's financial performance and feel the steam coming out of your ears: "As Pepco customers in the District and Maryland have contended with inaccurate outage maps, rising electricity bills, and long hours and days of waiting for their lights to come back on, Pepco Holdings investors have prospered. In the past year, they have reaped the benefits of surging revenue, a 12 percent increase in the stock price and a steady stream of dividends. Last year, Pepco Holdings paid more than $240 million in dividends."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Sixty years for Ingmar Guandique (Post)
Set to appear with DCPS reps at collaboration conference, WTU President Nathan Saunders pulls out (D.C. Schools Insider)
Kwame Brown is looking for a new D.C. Auditor (DCist)
Among reinstated teachers: One fired for proselytizing and cursing (Examiner)
IMPACT data is for more than rating teachers -- "officials are beginning to use the fresh troves of data it generates for other purposes, such as assessing administrators and determining which universities produce the best- or least-prepared teachers" (Post)
To save cash, BOEE might not send out mail notices for special election (Examiner)
Soda lobbyists still making the rounds (Housing Complex)
Congressional Republicans want Old Post Office sold to developer (Cpaital Business)
Meet D.C.'s tea partiers. Both of 'em. (Post)
Hey, D.C. gov employees in Union Square: You have a new neighbor: the IRS (WBJ)
"Smooth Sailing Seen" for D.C. voting rights -- in 1978 (DCist)
Metro employee took WMATA property home, still allowed to retire with benefits (Examiner)
Not enough guns in D.C., says reader (Post letter)
Suburban traffic jams are the District's fault, says reader (Post letter)
LAYC charter school plan dead, but not dead dead (Housing Complex)
More on transit police lawsuit (Post)
Uniontown Bar and Grill builds community east of the river (Post)
The latest on O Street Market construction (DCmud)
Okie Street NE is offensive (Post)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray meets with Norton and Gowdy, lunches with seniors at Capitol Hill Towers, holds cabinet meeting, and meets with Cathy Lanier -- Kwame Brown on NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt, 10 a.m. on NewsChannel 8 -- confirmation hearing for DOES Director Rochelle Webb, 11 a.m. in JAWB 412
| February 14, 2011; 10:40 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike, The District
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