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Posted at 10:38 AM ET, 02/18/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 18, 2011

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS FEB. 18, 2011 -- DAY 48 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

Interim D.C. Council member Sekou Biddle (D-At Large) clarified his feelings on raising taxes to solve the city's budget gap. Yesterday's hopelessly nuanced position of "I-don't-want-to-do-them-unless-we-have-to-and-if-we-do-let's-make-sure-taxes-are-raised-on-council-members" is today: "I do not support a tax hike on businesses, individuals or households making above $125,000." As DCist notes, "That's quite a walk back, there." Tim Craig writes at D.C. Wire that the flip "highlighted Biddle's inexperience in trying to navigate the political minefields associated with the tax debate in a city with both large numbers of needy residents and some of the highest concentrations of wealth in the country." The tax question is proving to be a hot one on the special election campaign trail, so let this be a warning to you candidates: Get your answers straight.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Post editorial calls on Gray to support vouchers -- activist slams Evans for introducing cigar bill after aide's cancer death -- a retreat at the retreat? -- Obama shift on St. E's funding threatens redevelopment plans -- police union threatens suit over AHOD continuation

*** MAIN COURSE ***

'WHAT'S THE HARM?' -- The Post editorial board calls on Vincent Gray to drop his opposition to vouchers lest he harm the city's public schools: "If [Gray] isn't careful, he could well argue the District out of $60 million in federal education dollars. ... Money alone isn't reason for Mr. Gray to change his mind, but given that District children benefit from the program and that parents are desperate for the choice if affords, it's unfathomable that he is opposing this worthwhile program." The editorial also seeks to debunk the "forced on us by Congress" line by referencing Kevin Chavous and his rallying of D.C. school parents. "We don't like the fact that voucher supporters, mainly House Republicans who have made the program an educational priority, seem willing to yank that money if the voucher program is not continued. But, by the same token, [Sen. Joseph Lieberman] made a good point when he asked Mr. Gray 'What's the harm?' in accepting that money in exchange for helping a small number of students get a better education. No harm, at all; only gain." Also: WTTG-TV covers the voucher debate. And TBD notes that senators' claims about the D.C. education system were pretty spot-on.

OUCH -- Bob Summersgill, SmokefreeDC activist, harshly calls out Jack Evans at the GLAA Forum blog for introducing his usual yearly smoking exemption for hotels --geared to allow the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner -- days before staffer Jeff Coudriet died of cancer. "This is a special favor for Jack's friends. It isn't illegal, but it isn't ethical, and it isn't good for D.C. David Catania spoke about Jeff and lamented his passing of a smoking related illness so young. David noted that the indoor smoke-free workplace law, smoking cessation programs, and higher taxes on cigarettes has significantly reduced smoking in D.C. David suggested that some legislation related to reducing smoking or smoking-related illness be named for Jeff. Jack, this is no way to honor Jeff. This is an insult to Jeff. Withdraw the bill now, and never do this again."

HOW'S THAT FOR A RETREAT -- Members of the D.C. Council gathered at the Washington Convention Center yesterday for a retreat. Harry Jaffe writes in the Examiner that he had "a mole or two in the room": "What topic engendered the most passion? Crime? Schools? Ethics? Nope. Tickets to sporting events was the hot topic of the day. I hear there will be no Ticketgate this baseball season." No kidding. "Among the less fun subjects that came up during the retreat, members discussed emergency planning. What happens if there's an evacuation or threat akin to the 9/11 attack? They agreed there is no plan, and that they need one. What of the touchy subject of ethics? On the campaign trail, Kwame Brown vowed to establish an ethics panel. He told me two weeks ago he was committed to one. His colleagues? Not so much. When the subject did come up, [Marion Barry] fumed. He railed against former Attorney General Peter Nickles for starting 'politically motivated' investigations. His colleagues piled on. ... Was it an ethical lapse when Barry and at-large member Michael Brown neglected to pay D.C. taxes? Guess we won't find out from the city council; Chairman Brown's proposed committee seems to be dead."

ST. E's SHAKEUP -- The Obama administration's move to postpone the development of FEMA headquarters on the St. Elizabeths east campus "turns the District's development plan for that area on its head," Michael Neibauer and Sarah Krouse report in WBJ. The agency was set to anchor a "mixed-use residential, office, retail and institutional space ... which would sit across from the planned Department of Homeland Security headquarters on the west campus. But Obama's proposed fiscal 2012 budget defers the FEMA project for at least a year. ... Local builders and politicians had envisioned a host of DHS- and FEMA-driven growth on the east campus, including a domestic security university, office space for subcontractors doing business with the federal agencies, a technology incubator and work force housing, all between the Anacostia and Congress Heights Metro stations. ... The result: D.C. officials say east campus development will begin to the south with a transit-oriented project at the Congress Heights Metro station, instead of to the north, which would have fostered growth, including retail and subcontractor space, directly across from the new DHS construction. 'By cutting FEMA, they're making less amenities available to their employees,' said one official in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development."

AHOD TO CONTINUE; UNION TO SUE -- The Fraternal Order of Police is threatening to sue Gray over the continuation of All Hands on Deck and reassignment of investigators to patrol duties. WTTG-TV's Maureen Umeh has the story: "In his plan for public safety, Gray said he wanted to redefine community policing, doing away with strategies that amount to 'gimmicky efforts to increase visibility.' ... But according to two documents signed by D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, that program and All Hands on Deck will continue. [Union chief Kristopher Baumann] says it's a slap in the face to officers who voted for Mayor Gray, expecting him to keep his word. 'If he's not able to follow through on the commitments he made, which is the reason he was elected, we got a real problem because we're only seven weeks in,' said Baumann. 'If this is going to be the pattern where he's going to perform the same sort of shenanigans that the prior mayor did, which actually got the prior mayor put out of office, it's going to be a long four years for everyone in this city. ... He was elected because he said he would do certain things. He needs to do those things,' Baumann said." In related news: Three MPD officers are claiming they were told by OAG not to answer questions on the witness stand about faulty breathalyzers, WTTG-TV reports.

V.O. SPEAKS -- Highlights from Vincent Orange's GGW live chat, starting with his top three goals: "Assisting in balancing the budget. Create a Job Czar and enforce living wages legislation I got passed in 2006." On plugging the budget: "Some of my input would include looking at Medicaid reimbursement (we have lost $347.7 M because we have not requested the reimbursement); making sure we have the regulations in place to get the $22M from combined reporting; selling our real property tax liens which can generate in excess of $100M; and generating revenue from leasing our DC Net fiber optic network." On taxes: "I'm not inclined to raise taxes." On the effectiveness of first source: "I will go after the entities that want to get the job done and be rewarded in the process. When I was CM in charge of Gov't Operations, agency heads told me that they could not comply with the law that states they must spend at least 50% of their budgets with LSDBEs. I held hearing and put the spotlight on them. When I started only one agency was in compliance with the law. The next it went to 37 agencies being in compliance and after three years, 54 agencies came into compliance." On his long-hanging signs: " I had 10,000 signs. We may have missed a few. I apologize. If you provide the location where we missed a sign or two, we will go take them down."

DEMOGRAPHIC NOTE -- Tim Craig wraps up the at-large field for The Post. Did you know?: "The election will also determine whether the council continues to have a majority of African American members and could produce the the city's first Hispanic council member. Currently, there are six white and seven African American members, including Biddle. Eight of the candidates for the seat are black. Two are white, and one is Hispanic."

HOW TO FIX UMC -- A hospital consultant, Mark Legnini, writes in All Opinions Are Local about a long-term solution for United Medical Center: "Most financially viable hospitals rely on insurers that pay at higher rates to make up for some that don't pay as well. An independent hospital in Southeast lacks that opportunity because so many of its patients are uninsured or have only government coverage, such as Medicaid. That's why one or more other D.C. hospitals (which are doing quite well) should establish a mix of outpatient and inpatient services at United Medical, in coordination with services elsewhere in the District, to serve Southeast. The District should consider city hospitals not as an influential lobby and service provider for the suburbs (half of all patients in D.C. hospitals aren't D.C. residents), but as an industry that needs to better serve all D.C. residents. The District has the regulatory power to force the hospitals to do so."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Missed this yesterday: Meet politically connected gasoline mogul Joe Mamo (City Paper)

New DMPED Victor Hoskins introduces himself (Housing Complex)

Voting rights activists wake up John Boehner (DCist)

How Whitman-Walker Clinic saved itself (Blade)

DCPS late on paying coaches and athletic directors, they say (Examiner)

A call to plug the gaps in Sick and Safe (DCFPI, WUSA-TV)

Why isn't Biddle embracing his (D)? (Examiner/Local Opinion Zone)

Maker of rolling papers sues District over new anti-paraphernalia law (Legal Times)

IG report: Unemployment office workers undertrained (Examiner)

Longtime WMATA board member Peter Benjamin is stepping down (Examiner)

Just what is the fiscal situation at UDC? (Afro)

Can Metro capital funding be saved? (WTTG-TV)

Real reasons that women don't run for office (TBD/Amanda Hess)

Infamous slumlord David Nuyen is back on DCRA's radar (WUSA-TV)

Budget cuts could gut grandparent caregiver program (Informer)

Convicted OTR employee gets probation (Crime Scene)

American Bar Association agrees that non-states can vote in House Committee of the Whole (DCist)

Catania's Pill Bill gets national exposure; Yvette Alexander takes her doubts to Twitter (Ms. Magazine, Washington Independent, @CMYMA)

D.C. Water set to raise rates again (Post Now, WAMU-FM)

Howard Town Center project again delayed (DCmud)

A call for Jim Graham to lay into ABC Board Chair Chuck Brodsky (G'town Dish)

Richard Sarles: "I would hope that anyone...getting on our train should not be drunk." (DCist)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray meets with Rushern Baker, Ike Leggett in Silver Spring -- oversight hearing on Office of Ex-Offender Affairs and Department of Employment Services -- special committee on parks contracts meets to extend time once again

By Mike DeBonis  | February 18, 2011; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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