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Posted at 8:50 AM ET, 02/22/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 22, 2011

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS FEB. 22, 2011 -- DAY 52 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

Outrage continues to mount over the Kwamemobile(s), and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown responded to TV news reports yesterday by saying he is "seeking to return" the vehicles. But, as Alan Suderman points out, there's not much leeway to break the leases early. And the outrage comes nearly a month after Brown first learned the cost of his wheels -- during which time he might have moved as quickly as he did yesterday to jettison his auto. WTTG-TV's Karen Gray Houston and WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood showed up at the doorstep of Brown's Hillcrest home, where they got shots of not only Brown's (second) city-paid Navigator, but also a Navigator that Brown personally owns. In other tidbits: Dave Stroup points out that the Kwamemobile has garnered $200 in parking tickets. WUSA-TV's Bruce Johnson has "heard that D.C. officials are afraid of being hauled before a committee on Capitol Hill to explain why the chairman and possibly others need luxury vehicles." WTTG-TV invited passers-by in Chinatown to vent about Brown's ride and the rising salaries of Mayor Vincent Gray's team. And WAMU-FM's Patrick Madden reports that Brown "will address the issue later today."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Post editorial calls for OCF overhaul -- Jonetta wants Gray to back vouchers -- Jaffe wants Fenty back -- Innocence Project casts doubt on 1984 convictions in red-ball murder

*** MAIN COURSE ***

OUTRAGE LEVEL I -- Writing at DCist, Martin Austermuhle looks at the cuts-for-thee-not-for-me approach on display from Brown and Gray: "Sure, cutting a luxury SUV and forcing city officials -- both in Gray's administration and in the council -- to take pay cuts won't be but a drop in the bucket of the possible $600 million budget deficit. At most, we're talking about a few hundred thousand dollars in savings. But cuts have to start somewhere, and even small cuts are cuts all the same. Moreover -- and the District's elected officials should know this better than anyone -- optics matter. If you're forcing social service providers to take big hits, it helps your argument a lot if you're not doing it while your inflated pay remains untouched."

OUTRAGE LEVEL II -- City Paper's editor, Michael Schaffer, calls on Brown to refund taxpayers for at least one of the autos, out of his $190,000 per year salary: "Brown's office tells Washington City Paper that 'the chairman takes full responsibility' for the debacle. But what, exactly, does full responsibility entail? The willingness to have egg all over one's face in public? That particular choice isn't really up to Brown anymore. On the other hand, if he really wants to take responsibility, his next move is simple: Take out a checkbook and reimburse the city's empty treasury for the cost of your automotive grandiosity. ... [T]hat money could still buy a lot: playground equipment, library books, a bunch of summer youth employment jobs. In fact, the cost of the two cars comes very close to adding up to the $48,715 that the Metropolitan Police Department -- which may soon be shrinking its rolls thanks to the budget crunch--offers as a starting salary. By writing a check to cover his boo-boo, Brown would offer an object lesson in real responsibility -- taking on the part of a pol who claims to be serious about the budget. So, come on, Chairman Brown. Pay us back. And then enjoy your ride, entertainment system and all, guilt-free."

OUTRAGE LEVEL III -- Jeff Steele, founder of the well-trafficked D.C. Urban Moms and Dads discussion group, calls on Brown to resign: "The revelation that Brown has put the District on the hook for two luxury SUVs costing over $3,700 per month is a betrayal of voters, destroys his credibility to cut DC's budget, and makes him a poster child for Congressional Republicans. The best thing he can do for the City is resign. ... I'm sure it wasn't his goal, but Brown has just become the next Marion Barry. Conversely, a Brown resignation will show the doubters that a cavalier attitude toward the City's finances is no longer acceptable. It will show a level of accountability that was never seen in the administration of former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. It will show those jumping on this story to say "we told you so" that while they may have been right about Brown, they were wrong about DC. Brown's resigning would make lemonade from lemons."

OVERHAUL OCF -- Prompted by its latest decision -- declining to find anything wrong with the D.C. Democratic State Committee's use of city facilities -- the Post editorial board calls for a "major overhaul" of the Office of Campaign Finance. "The ruling is the latest questionable decision by an office that is fast losing any credibility for its ability to ensure a level political playing field. ... This is not the first time a decision by the office has raised eyebrows. ... It didn't hesitate to launch a full-fledged investigation of then-D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who raised private funds to give pay increases to teachers, but it has yet to decide whether it will investigate why D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) didn't disclose donations to his questionable nonprofit from companies who had business with the city. It's clear there needs to be a major overhaul of this office. Mayor Gray could start by bringing much-needed bipartisan balance to the Board of Elections and Ethics, which oversees the office and appointing, as required by a law, a Republican. And council Chairman Brown, who has made ethics reform a priority, should make clear that government offices are not the place for political parties, whatever their affiliation, to do their business." Suderman feels the board's attention to this matter is misplaced.

'ONE CITY, GRAY STYLE' -- A classic Jonetta Rose Barras two-fer today, as the Examiner columnist attempts to shoehorn both United Medical Center and the voucher revival together, bound by Gray's fecklessness. She's more effective on the latter than the former: "The District doesn't lose by supporting options for poor and working class families. In fact, it's a win-win. The federal government would fund the voucher program. Further, the District could get additional funds for education if elected officials support the scholarship program. ... If Gray can't tolerate vouchers, then he should also object to the Tuition Assistance Grant program. Congress also imposed it on the city. ... But, don't expect him to pooh-pooh that program: Many of its recipients are from middle and upper-income families. It's one city, Gray style."

DON'T LEAVE US, FENTY -- Nikita Stewart's Sunday reporting on the sky-high salaries commanded by Gray's top management echelon has Harry Jaffe pining for Adrian Fenty in his Examiner column: "Fenty had myriad faults. ... But he came into office knowing that the D.C. bureaucracy was constipated. Officials talked a good game, but services to residents were often lousy -- from education to street cleaning. Fenty set out to make government more efficient and accountable, and in many cases he succeeded by force of will and direct intervention. Rather than deputy mayors, Fenty had BlackBerries, which he used to jostle agency heads. ... Fenty hired top-notch people, and he ran the government as a meritocracy. Vince Gray has often hired agency heads because of their connections and his familiarity with them. Fenty's critics tagged him with being brusque and brash, but the man got things done and made the bureaucracy perform for residents. So far, Gray has made the government perform for his friends -- and their kids."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

"Vincent Gray is offering a glimpse into his style of governing. It isn't pretty." (American Spectator)

Innocence Project raises doubts about eight convictions in high-profile 1984 murder (WTTG-TV)

Ron Moten, youth violence Cassandra? (City Desk)

Hardy Middle School parents march on Wilson Building (G'town Dish)

Fine, fine, says Jay Mathews: Kill the vouchers, but save the charters (Class Struggle)

Calvin Gurley knocked off at-large ballot by BOEE, leaving 10 candidates (DCist)

HPRB puts kibosh on developer's scofflaw home (WBJ)

Anti-GU residents find signs vandalized (G'town Dish)

Hey media: Find another east-of-the-river neighborhood (GGW)

Detroit loves Robert Bobb; Detroit hates Robert Bobb (MLive.com, MLive.com)

Rhee gets "half true" rating from Florida fact-checker (PolitiFact.com)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends International Council of Shopping Centers meeting at National Harbor, attends Dorothy I. Height Post Office naming ceremony -- oversight hearings for Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, Board of Social Work, and Children's Youth Investment Trust; D.C. Water/Washington Aqueduct and D.C. Taxicab Commission; D.C. Public Library; Office of the Inspector General, Office of Risk Management, Office of Disability Rights, and Department of Real Estate Services -- confirmation hearing for FEMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe

By Mike DeBonis  | February 22, 2011; 8:50 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: D.C. politicos react to Kwame Brown's SUV issues

Comments

"Fenty hired top-notch people, and he ran the government as a meritocracy. Vince Gray has often hired agency heads because of their connections and his familiarity with them." Is this rewriting of history? Fenty appointed friends and frat brothers to various boards and other positions and handed over contracts to his buddies as well.

In terms of vouchers if Barres wants us to accept her logic, we should have the government subsidize apartments in wealthy neighborhoods and condo buildings for poor families. What about offering poor families premium health insurance instead of Medicaid?

Posted by: letsbereal2 | February 22, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I want to know WHO on Kwame Brown's staff ordered these vehicles, AND WHO approved the lease? They need to be fired. I voted for Kwame Brown, and this is unacceptable.

Posted by: linroy62 | February 22, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I want to know WHO on Kwame Brown's staff ordered these vehicles, AND WHO approved the lease? They need to be fired. I voted for Kwame Brown, and this is unacceptable.

Posted by: linroy62 | February 22, 2011 10:07 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
linroy62,
you are what is wrong with DC government. I know you voted for Kwame and probably Gray. These are a bunch of fast-talking, zoo-suit wearing ostentatious men. Brown had serious money woes prior to running for his current position. A guy like this is highly susceptible to fraud and criminality. City service is going to devolve into what it was under Barry. The affluent parts of the city will still get their services because they are connected and well organized. The middle class (black) and poor (black) will feel the effects severely. This is just the begining.

Posted by: jab00 | February 22, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

This is the height of hypocrisy.

Here we have a city that has officially adopted what are arguably the most driver-unfriendly transportation policies in the nation. The city actively discourages commuters from outside the District from coming to town in their cars and agressively preys on those who do with traffic cameras and ever more expensive and confusing parking regulations which are enforced vigorously.

On a positive note, the District has invested heavily in alternatives such as bike lanes, the NOMA-Silver Spring Trail, the Circulator bus, streetcars, and of course Metro.

And with all of that, the District's chief legislator wants to roll around in a $2000/month tricked out gas guzzler while the city deals with a multi-million dollar budget gap.

You gotta love it.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 22, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

A Ford Escort will get you around D.C.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 22, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm a DC resident and voter and I did not vote for any of these clowns. I hope that Congress will use this as a reason to cut DC's funding and try to force both Brown and Gray out of office. Even if Kwame doesn't resign, I hope what comes of this is some rule changes for the DC gov't. They need to get rid of these "entitlements" like luxury cars for the mayor and council members. They need to codify something along the lines of "...have use of a vehicle for city business. The vehicle shall not be more expensive than the base model of the current police cruiser...."

Posted by: blankspace | February 22, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

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