DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 2, 2011
TODAY IS FEB. 2, 2011 -- DAY 32 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
An old issue is brought again to the fore this Groundhog Day in Jim McElhatton's Washington Times reporting on D.C. Council members' outside employment and the potential for undisclosed conflicts of interest. The piece starts with this unnerving and perfectly legal fact: "D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown last year reported earning $45,000 in outside income on top of his six-figure government salary for 2009, but who paid him and why is anybody's guess." That's because "it's up to the lawmakers to police themselves on potential conflicts of interest. ... D.C. rules require lawmakers to make public their outside income sources only if an employer or client did business with the city government or stood to gain from pending legislation during the past calendar year." Contrast to the feds, who require political appointees to "sign ethics forms that must include all clients or employers who have paid the appointee more than $5,000 during a one-year reporting period -- regardless of whether the employer or client did business with the government." The article goes on to repeat criticisms often made of council members who hold outside employment -- Michael Brown, David Catania, Mary Cheh, and Jack Evans, who has long been subject to questions about how his council work has interacted with the work done by his law firm, Patton Boggs. Neither Brown or Evans responded to questions for the story, McElhatton writes.
AFTER THE JUMP -- Yvette Alexander owes Verizon $5,000 for a phone bill for ward office -- Muriel Boweser wants Pepco to pay for hotel rooms; Mary Cheh wants to ban robocalls -- CAFR released, shows small surplus -- Bryan Weaver's issues
*** MAIN COURSE ***
YVETTE'S VERIZON BILL -- Another hot read in the Times, from Jeffrey Anderson, who reports that Ward 7 Council member Yvette Alexander owes Verizon some $5,000 in unpaid phone bills on her ward office on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. And there's some question about the office itself: "On Tuesday, Ms. Alexander acknowledged having trouble in the past making rent payments but denied that had anything to do with her terminating the lease on the condo she has occupied for at least three years, which she also has used as her campaign headquarters. The building is owned by former D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford, a developer and property manager who also represents the District on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board. ... 'My landlord has been amenable to our situation because he knows that the rent comes out of our constituent services fund,' she said Tuesday. 'But we've never been more than two or three months behind. You can't give money that you don't have.'" Also: Alexander's late on her finance report for her constituent services fund.
LEGISLATIVE BUSINESS -- Tuesday's Council meeting saw a handful of headline-grabbing bill introductions. There's Muriel Bowser's proposal to make Pepco pay for hotel rooms for customers if they can't get the power back on during periods of extreme temperatures. Writes Tim Craig, "Bowser conceded her proposal will likely face significant opposition from Pepco and other utility companies, but said its time the city sends the message that recent prolonged outages are not acceptable." Meanwhile, Mary Cheh floated a ban on political robocalls so as to give residents the ability to enjoy the peace and quiet of their homes," Freeman Klopott reports in the Examiner. "If passed, the bill would expand upon an existing federal law that went into effect in September 2009 that only allowed robocalls to be made to consumers who have provided written permission. But where the federal law exempts political candidates, Cheh's bill does not. David Meadows, executive director of the D.C. Democratic Committee, said the committee has used robocalls in the past. 'They're a double-edged sword,' Meadows said. 'A lot of people do find them to be a nuisance, but they can also be effective.'" More from DCist.
THE CAFR IS RELEASED -- The city's comprehensive annual financial report is out, along with the accompanying management appraisal, Nikita Stewart and I take a first look at D.C. Wire. The city finished the year with a small cash surplus, about $3.4 million local dollars in a $5.4 billion budget. But CFO Nat Gandhi warned city officials not to spend down savings any further: "It is imperative that the District adopts future budgets on the principle of current year spending not exceeding current year revenues," he wrote in a letter accompanying the report. As for management: "KPMG, the District's auditors, gave the city's books a clean bill of health in a companion report, but the firm identified five 'significant deficiencies' in city management. ... [M]ore than three years after a $50 million embezzlement scandal rocked the Office of Tax and Revenue, auditors continue to identify weaknesses in financial oversight there. ... While procurement and vendor payment issues seem to have have persisted, the new report makes no mention of Medicaid billing management or issues in the D.C. Public Schools, which were major points of emphasis in past reports."
WEAVER ON THE ISSUES -- Highlights from Bryan Weaver's Greater Greater Washington web chat yesterday, starting with his top issues: "Without a doubt youth issues--we fail our young people at almost every level in this city and we need to do better in so many ways ... Also oversight/transparency/reform of our government and how it functions ... And finally sustainable development/growth." On juvenile justice: "There are about 2K juvenile offenders that are in the system. But we only have a 60 bed lock-down facility for the 60 most violent offenders. Those kids get all the services available, but the 61st most violent kid ends up in a group home with no services or they are outsourced to a for-profit out-of-state facility ... We spend $61 million to have someone else in another state to care for our children. We have to find a better way to make better choices with that money." On jobs: "[S]mall business really drives the economy here and provides so many jobs, we are always quick to give tax breaks and incentives to the large projects, but we do very little to support our small, local businesses." On vouchers: "Vouchers are a gimmick. It's $7500 to low-income families and there are almost no good private schools that have that low of a tuition." On signature-gathering strategies: "I'm following the lobster roll truck around." Also Weaver's Web site is up, and DCist notes that it's beating the competition so far. Remember: Candidates forum tomorrow!
CATANIA FLOATS PENSION REFORM -- Jonetta Rose Barras highlights a pension reform proposal floated by David Catania in her Examiner column: "The federal government now shares the District's pension obligations, pitching in most of the roughly $500 million in retirement benefits distributed each year. But the city's contribution is escalating. ... Catania said pension reform is a 'common sense strategy for building defensible budgets going forward.' ... Among other things, Catania's legislation would require an in-depth examination and analysis of the city's true pension liability and periodic review of estimated disbursements against actual outlays." Most controversially, the bill would limit cost-of-living increases in pension benefits and "would disallow overtime, vacation time and bonuses as part of the calculation of benefits and eligibility."
HERE COMES THE JUDGE? -- Three are finalists for D.C. Court of Appeals judgeships, including a couple of familiar names: Todd Kim, the District's solicitor general, and Walter Smith, the former assistant corporation counsel now executive director of D.C. Appleseed. Also in the mix is Corinne Ann Beckwith, an appellate lawyer with the Public Defender Service. President Barack Obama
is free to choose one of those three, or another person altogether will choose one of those three, or a nominee from a previous list. [UPDATED, 2:30 P.M.: For Court of Appeals and Superior Court nominations, the president is required to select names put forth by the Judicial Nomination Commission.] Also Legal Times.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
A new call for instant runoff voting in the District -- this time, to fix the early-primary problem (GGW)
Streetlight breaks; AU prof directs traffic (WRC-TV)
Evans holds a fundraiser (G'town Dish)
UDC plans five green roofs (WBJ)
"Is your bus farebox working?" (GGW)
Hine redevelopment will be smaller (Eastern Market Metro Community Association)
Furlough plan now law (WTTG-TV)
DCPS students get primer in "digital dating abuse" (WAMU-FM)
Remembering D.C. firefighter (and former Post employee) Marc Dancy (WRC-TV)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray appears on Governing Magazine panel, 10 a.m. at National Press Club; visits North Michigan Park Civic Association Meeting, 7 p.m. at Michigan Park Recreation Center, 1333 Emerson St. NE
| February 2, 2011; 9:01 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike, The District
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