DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 4, 2011
TODAY IS FEB. 4, 2011 -- DAY 34 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
PREVIOUSLY -- Kwame Brown details $45,000 in outside income
How's this for a mouth-agape real estate deal? CoStar, the real estate services firm lured to the district via an Adrian Fenty airplane conversation and a $6 million council-approved tax abatement, sold its downtown building for a $60 million profit. "The deal completes the most profitable flip of commercial real estate in Washington from the recession to date," Jonathan O'Connell writes in The Post. The steep profit, City Paper's Lydia DePills writes, is enough "to make a tax break hawk's blood boil. ... [A] cynical person might wonder whether CoStar's pleas of financial hardship should it move to the District might have been a little overblown, if it could have forecasted such a windfall profit from the sale. ... One can hardly blame the company for being a smooth operator -- it's the Council that ends up looking like the rube." Keep in mind the District will see a $1.5 million tax check from the deed transfer alone. And the big question is, how many D.C. resident jobs has CoStar brought? The company is saying it will create 700 jobs, the Examiner reports.
AFTER THE JUMP -- More Gray Cabinet appointments coming today -- City puts some homeless in hotel rooms -- Public Service Commish getting tough with Pepco? -- Early recap of at-large council forum -- Tregoning says Wal-Mart will help "food deserts"
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MEET THE NEW (DEPUTY) BOSS -- At a news conference this morning, Mayor Vincent Gray will name Beatriz "B.B." Otero, founder and chief executive of CentroNia, deputy mayor for health and human services. Nikita Stewart with the scoop: "Otero founded CentroNia in 1986 in a church and served 15 children, according to the organization's Web site. It has grown to serve more than 3,000 children with expansion into Takoma Park and with a charter school. ... Otero will likely be considered an unorthodox choice since she is not a medical doctor and her background is stronger in education than social services. The native of Bolivia has a degree in education from the University of Maryland." Other appointments coming today: HIV/AIDS czar and directors of the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking; the Office of Ex-Offender Affairs; the Office of African Affairs; and the Youth Advisory Council.
HOMELESS TO HOTELS -- The city is moving to prevent overcrowding at the D.C. General family homeless shelter, Henri Cauvin reports in today's Post, by "carefully screen[ing]" those seeking shelter and moving some families into hotel rooms. "The practice of using hotels for emergency shelter for the homeless fell out of favor under Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). Fenty wanted his administration to focus on longer-term options for housing the chronically homeless, who are primarily individuals. Advocates for the homeless endorsed those efforts, and still do. But a crush of families last year, many driven out of their homes by the recession, created a crisis for the District and its lone shelter for the families. ... Human Services played down the hotel placements, apparently intent on keeping them as a tool of last resort. In an interview, Fred Swann, head of DHS's Family Services Administration, stressed that hotel placements are typically made by charity groups and that the city hasn't embarked on any new policy." Jason Cherkis writes at City Desk that hotel placements are "not a good thing. ... But it does beat an overcrowded D.C. General."
PEPCO CRACKDOWN? -- The D.C. Public Service Commission is, at long last, getting tough with Pepco on power outages. Freeman Klopott reports in the Examiner that utility executives have been summoned to a hearing by the oversight body "that some D.C. officials say is in the power company's pocket." Klopott notes that "outrage hasn't only fallen on Pepco; the public service commission has been a target, too," quoting Mary Cheh calling the PSC "extraordinarily timid and entirely generous to the electric company." PSC Chair Betty Ann Kane defends her body: "I think people misunderstand how much we regulate. ... We are concerned, and that is why we're looking at making more stringent standards."
HAVING IT BOTH WAYS -- In the ol' not-a-column this week, I ruminate on the Pew report that revealed the high salaries and high spending of the D.C. Council -- and the subsequent claims that the District is different, more a state than a city: "That argument, however, helps expose the special problem of legislating in the District, which happens to be overgoverned and undergoverned at the same time. ... With a 13-member council doing the lawmaking done by much larger bicameral assemblies in 49 states, the barriers to legislating are lower in the District than anywhere in the nation. ... Does the city's compact council mean more efficient government? Or an incentive to throw legislative darts against a wall?" Another problem: "It doesn't help that the D.C. Council is just down the street from Congress. In taking their cues, municipal lawmakers and officials are more likely to look the 14 blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue than to the statehouses or city halls around the country."
BROWN WANTS MEMBERS' CLIENTS DISCLOSED -- Harry Jaffe's Examiner column explores whether Kwame Brown is adopting a "transparency for me, not for thee" approach to his council chairmanship. Not so, says Brown. He says the campaign debt reported yesterday by the Examiner is bogus, and he tells Jaffe (as he told me) about the source of his outside income last year. "The new chairman talked about ethics often during his campaign. Now that he's in office, he intends to create a 'special committee on ethics and investigations.' He plans to take up such a committee with his colleagues during their one-day retreat later this month. Should the council change disclosure rules for outside income, so that lawyers on the council must list all of their clients, regardless of whether they do business with the city? 'They should be fully disclosed,' the chairman tells me. That might be a hard sell for lawyers and lobbyists on the council: Jim Graham, Jack Evans, David Catania, Mary Cheh and Michael Brown."
AT-LARGE FORUM -- This reporter wasn't able to make it to last night's at-large council forum hosted by Greater Greater Washington, D.C. for Democracy and the D.C. Environmental Network, but he was able to watch much of it thanks to a live video stream provided by Sum of Change -- who now have the video posted on their Web site. You could do much worse than read P.J. Orvetti's recap at NBCWashington.com: "The event was respectful to the point of somnolence, with candidates offering one-minute answers to moderators' questions and not engaging one another. The questioners were criticized for focusing on issues like statehood and smart growth, and very general and vague queries about the budget, rather than on immediate problems confronting the District." Sekou Biddle "came off as cool and confident." Josh Lopez "offered a strong defense of Fenty's record." Patrick Mara "stuck to his moderate libertarian message." Vincent Orange "often ran over his time limit with wordy answers." Jacque Patterson "came off as unprepared." And Bryan Weaver "said the council is controlled by business interests and the wealthy."
TREGONING BACKS WAL-MART -- Last night, the D.C. Building Industry Association hosted a panel discussion on economic development in Ward 5. City planning chief Harriet Tregoning was there, and she stepped up for Wal-Mart, DePillis writes at Housing Complex: "[S]he pointed out that the city still has food deserts, and that the super-retailer was going into several of them with smaller-format stores that will sell a lot of food. 'I'm getting a lot of pushback, a lot of brouhaha, about these stores,' she said. 'But you know, they're bringing groceries.' At the same time, Tregoning emphasized the need for national tenants to bend to the needs of the surrounding area. 'We expect you to build something that fits,' she said." DePillis notes: "It's a sign of Tregoning's influence that she's the one to speak on behalf of the Gray administration to the people who make development happen in the District."
EXAMINER FOR VOUCHERS -- An Examiner editorial says there's "no more excuses" for not supporting school vouchers: "The true value of OSP is reflected in its 91 percent high school graduation rate, almost double D.C. Public Schools' 49 percent rate. Since the lack of a high school diploma is a major impediment to academic or professional advancement, canceling OSP doomed thousands of current and future District youngsters to repeat the cycle of poverty their parents are so valiantly trying to escape. ... D.C. residents should demand that Democrats in Congress, including the District's own Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, support a proven educational program that benefits D.C.'s most at-risk children and will bring in millions of additional dollars for the city's public schools to boot."
FROM THE BENCH -- President Obama yesterday nominated three women to D.C. Superior Court. Writes Legal Times: "If confirmed, Jennifer Di Toro, Donna Murphy and Yvonne Williams would fill the vacancies created by the retirements of judges Kaye Christian, Brook Hedge and Judith Retchin." Di Toro is legal director of the Children's Law Center; Murphy comes from DOJ's Civil Rights Division; and Williams is a former public defender. Also: The Senate Judiciary Committee approves James Boasberg and Amy Berman Jackson for federal district judgeships; nominations now go to full Senate.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Seriously: More tax breaks for View 14? (WBJ)
Gray goes to Palisades, touts Biddle and Cheh. Also: He now has three BlackBerries (G'town Dish)
"[W]e need to stand up for our rights" against congressional "busybodies," Peter Rosenstein writes (Blade)
Biddle pledges to crack down on truancy (the Examiner)
In case you just can't get enough opinions about Hardy Middle School (G'town Dish)
The state of crime east of the River -- is MPD understaffed there? (GGW)
Police captain taken off the street pending internal probe into locker room argument (Crime Scene)
Maryland delegate explains why Marion Barry got the most applause at Rushern Baker's inauguration (Gazette)
Why are sidewalks closed in front of the convention center hotel construction site? (TBD)
Ex-MPD cop admits running dice games from Maryland home (Crime Scene)
Disturbing. (The Post)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Jacque Patterson appears on NewsTalk, 10 a.m. on TBD TV -- Gray breaks ground on Watts Branch environmental project, 10 a.m.; announces new Cabinet members, 11:30 a.m.; attends Dupont Circle fundraiser, 6:30 p.m. -- Phil Mendelson holds hearing on "Enforcement of Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety," noon in JAWB 412