DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 7, 2011
TODAY IS FEB. 7, 2011 -- DAY 37 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
The week begins on a terribly somber note, with news that D.C. government veteran Jeff Coudriet died Saturday at 48, after a battle with cancer. Jeff was a friend and a great help to city reporters, most recently as clerk of the D.C. Council's finance and revenue committee, but also in his previous jobs at the council and heading the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Borderstan and the Georgetown Dish have remembrances posted. Besides being a loss to Jeff's family and friends, it's also a tremendous loss to Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and his staff, who have to deal with the loss of one of their own not two years after the tragic death of aide Desi Deschaine. Both of them brought many smiles and laughs to the John A. Wilson Building, along with their great dedication to their jobs. Friends and colleagues can leave a message on Jeff's Facebook page or post a tribute on Twitter.
A memorial service is set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 at Foundry United Methodist Church, on 16th Street NW (h/t Susie Cambria). [UPDATE: Evans' office said that the memorial service is not yet finalized.]
AFTER THE JUMP -- Gray appoints health deputy, AIDS czar, insurance regulator -- Yvette Alexander's questionable office lease -- DRES boots Reeves Center tenant -- Gray details Boehner meeting -- Rhee biography hits bookstores
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MORE GRAY APPOINTMENTS -- Mayor Vincent Gray's latest round of appointees, unveiled Friday, was headlined by the selection of B.B. Otero to be deputy mayor for health and human services, "putting her in charge of overseeing the city's most expensive cluster of agencies at a cost of more than $3 billion annually," Nikita Stewart reported in Saturday's Post. "Otero said her approach would be to build 'relationships, bringing people together and making sure that in every decision we make, children and families are considered first.'" Also appointed: Gregory Pappas, a doctor and anthropologist with a long record working on HIV/AIDS issues, will be the city's AIDS czar. "We're headed in a good direction, but I think we can do more and we can do better," he said. Charles Thornton, formerly of Sasha Bruce Youthwork, will head the Office on Ex-Offender Affairs; Cedric Jennings, Gray's top council youth aide and the subject of the book "A Hope in the Unseen," will head the Youth Advisory Council; Ngozi Nmezi, currently at the Department of Real Estate Services, will direct the Office of African Affairs; and Bill White, now a consultant in New Jersey, will head the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking. And how does he feel about CareFirst and its surpluses? "I have some initial thoughts that I'm not going to express," he said. The Blade's Lou Chibbaro has more on Pappas, who is gay and a longtime District resident.
YVETTE'S OFFICE -- The Washington Times raises questions about Ward 7 Council member Yvette Alexander and her lease of a ward office from her predecessor, now-developer H.R. Crawford -- starting with Alexander's spotty record of making rent payments and proceeding to her legislative dealings with Crawford. Alexander introduced legislation in 2009 that would allow the city to seize and redevelop numerous properties immediately surrounding the building that houses her office - a deal that would appear to benefit [Crawford]," Jeffrey Anderson reports. The legislation didn't go anywhere, but an ethics expert tells Anderson that "at the very least there is an appearance of a conflict of interest." Crawford "denied that he stood to gain from the legislation" but confirmed that Alexander wasn't staying current on the rent. "I don't want to jeopardize anything for anyone," he said. "I have to work with these folks." Another issue: Crawford said at one point he lowered the rent "not based on market value but because he cares about the community." That, however, would appear to be an in-kind contribution that would be subject to campaign finance laws.
REEVES TENANT BOOTED -- In other lease news: The Municipal Deli, a longtime tenant of the Reeves Center, is getting evicted by the city, Lydia DePills reports at Housing Complex, and the deli's owner says it's "kind of political" because he supported Gray in the election. "The Department of Real Estate Services, on the other hand, says that they issued a notice to quit on Dec. 21 -- a month after then-director Robin-Eve Jasper announced her departure -- because [owner Fitwi Tekeste] is $345,044.88 in arrears on rent payments since 2000. The rent has been unbelievably low, coming out to about $12 per square foot for the 2,689-square-foot space, which is less than a third of market rate. ... But Tekeste says things are more complicated. ... In 2009, he says he struck a verbal agreement with DRES officials -- who work eight floors up -- to not pay rent while he was re-doing his electrical systems." As a wise man once said, verbal agreements aren't worth the paper they're written on.
GRAY AND BOEHNER -- Gray on Friday detailed exactly what he discussed with House Speaker John Boehner in a letter to the Post, responding to concerns that he should have been more aggressive in defending the city's spending prerogatives: "Although it was a very brief meeting, I certainly discussed the city's fiscal problems. ... The purpose of my meeting was to get to know Mr. Boehner, the person and the leader, and for him to get to know me. It was an opportunity for us to exchange views and for me to better understand his perception of the District. ... Further, a discussion of vouchers, which some believe to be an effective means for extending educational opportunities to children, enabled me to share with the speaker the broader agenda of full democracy and self-determination for the taxpaying residents of the District. ... Rather than use my first meeting with the speaker principally to state opposition to a GOP proposal, the basis of which could not be identified, I sought instead to build a cooperative relationship that I believe will serve the District well in the long term." DCist's Aaron Morrissey responds and "wonders how many more chances Gray will get to meet with the speaker of the House and press him about the urgency of the city's financial concerns -- not to mention the opportunity to mention to him that we're not peachy keen with being House Republicans' little fiefdom." Meanwhile, Ben Pershing reports at D.C. Wire that House Republicans are proposing drastic cuts to the spending bill that includes District appropriations.
WALKERS, BIKERS AND THE COUNCIL -- On Friday, Phil Mendelson and his public safety committee held a hearing on pedestrian and bicyclist safety, with an eye toward whether new laws are necessary. Dave Jamieson liveblogged the proceedings for TBD. One advocate, for instance, said that "traffic law for yielding to pedestrians needs to be clearer -- i.e., it needs to say exactly how much distance cars need to give pedestrians at crosswalks." Relatives of several recent pedestrian and bicyclist victims of traffic accidents testified at the hearing on various failings of laws and law enforcement. And police union chief Kris Baumann testified in favor of broadly expanding automated traffic cameras: "Load up on 'em ... As many as we can get. Double the fines, triple the fines, for repeat offenders. You wanna talk about a revenue source? I know you can't say it and the chief can't say it, but if people wanna come into the city and drive badly, fine 'em, and generate revenue from that." Mendelson's thoughts: "If someone is driving a 2,000- or 4,000-pound machine, they need to be held to a higher standard." See additional thoughts and coverage at GGW, WTOP and Examiner.
MIND THAT CAFR -- Examiner columnist Jonetta Rose Barras digs into the "Yellow Book," aka the management report accompanying the comprehensive annual financial report, which this year identifies a number of oversight failings in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. Three years after the Harriette Walters tax scandal, she writes, conditions at the Office of Tax and Revenue "remain ripe for theft." That's in addition to continuing issues in the city's procurement department. Jonetta puts the heat on CFO Natwar Gandhi: "What might help more is having an attentive and aggressive CFO. ... [Gandhi] and his team may want to celebrate the fact the city balanced its budget for the 14th year. But no one should be dancing in the halls of the John A. Wilson Building. ... when the District faces a potential $600 million budget gap for fiscal 2012, taxpayers' money should be better protected and managed."
A LAMENT -- Colby King, in his Saturday Post column, laments the "calamity" of the black family as Black History Month gets underway. He notes that the city wards with the highest percentages of black residents have the highest rates of teen births and juvenile arrests. "This isn't top-secret stuff. Nor is the pattern new. We don't need maps to tell us what the problem of teen births means to the city. We know that most teenage mothers don't graduate from high school; that many of the youths in the juvenile justice system are born to unmarried teens; and that children of teenagers are twice as likely to be abused or neglected and more likely to wind up in foster care. We know, too, that children of teenage parents are more likely to become teen parents themselves. An intergenerational cycle of dysfunction is unfolding before our eyes, even as we spend time rhapsodizing about our past. No less discouraging is the response that has become ingrained."
HERE COMES RHEE BIOGRAPHY -- "The Bee Eater," Richard Whitmire's biography of former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, is available for purchase starting this week, and Whitmire has embarked on an op-ed tour of sorts -- starting with a Huffington Post piece deconstructing "Waiting for Superman"'s Oscar snub. "My advice to those cheering [director Davis Guggenheim]'s comeuppance: Sip your victory drinks quickly, because your heady celebration lacks legs. Critics of 'Superman' and Rhee overlook two realities: Rhee was trying to do exactly what this applauding crowd says they want, which is improve public schools, and those charter schools in the movie truly are that good." And in the New York Post, he argues that Rhee's approach to conducting teacher layoffs should be emulated: "What happened to Rhee in Washington may have been a public-relations and political debacle, but as a policy decision it was hugely successful. She got rid of some her worst teachers and swapped in better ones, a strategy that accounts for the significant academic gains Rhee made there."
BOTTOM LINE -- Extending Bush tax cuts saves the top 1 percent of District earners $77,000 apiece, reports Ed Lazere of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. Here's the rub: "The size of these tax cuts helps put recent discussions of income tax increases in D.C. in perspective. A proposal in 2010 to increase the D.C. income tax rate by one percentage point on income above $200,000 would have meant an increase of $2,650 for a family earning $465,000. Yet these families will pay $9,400 less in federal income taxes in 2011 as a result of the 2001 Bush tax cuts. Even with a D.C. income tax increase, their total income tax liability would be far lower than a decade ago."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Gray says he's taking furlough days, too (Post Now)
Even adjusted for inflation, council member salaries are high at the moment (Loose Lips)
The "Potomac Primary" appears to be history (Examiner)
Former Dunbar operator explains what went wrong: "We just needed more time. ... I think that once the central office changed over, once the election took out [Fenty], we lost some of the support" (Examiner)
Why it's troubling that most members of the D.C. National Guard don't live in D.C. (All Opinions Are Local)
Maryland has better female representation than D.C.; Virginia has worse (TBD)
Council throwing Gray a little party later this week (Loose Lips)
Georgetown University is now the city's top private employer, supplanting Howard U. (WBJ)
Adams Morgan businesses brace for streetscape work (Examiner)
Still more on traffic camera expansion, with outraged quotes from AAA's Lon Anderson (Post)
Will reimbursable detail cuts mean less security at D.C. bars? (Hatchet)
A voucher parent's testimony (All Opinions Are Local)
Silver Spring man says camera-issued tickets are illegal (WUSA-TV)
CSOSA focuses on the female ex-offender (Post)
College students organize against new noise restrictions (Hatchet)
Jack Evans has some advice for you at-large council candidates (G'town Dish)
Another roundup of last Thursday's at-large candidates' forum (DCist)
Why the Solar Decathlon should say off the Mall (Post)
D.C.'s police oversight agency offers help to Fairfax County (Crime Scene)
San Francisco paper wants end to National Airport flight restrictions (S.F. Chronicle)
The latest guilty-juror chronicle from Superior Court, with a twist: Comparing the defendant's fate with that of BP executives! (Irish Times)
Dish and Current host at-large candidates forum on Feb. 23 (G'town Dish)
Farewell to WBJ columnist Melissa Castro -- the Superior Court docket is about to be a lot less scrutinized (Inner Loop)
Congrats to GGW on its third anniversary (GGW)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray appears at United Negro College Fund groundbreaking event at Lincoln Theater, 11 a.m. -- transpo committee chair Tommy Wells hosts hearing on Jan. 26 snow response, 10 a.m. in JAWB 123 -- Mendelson holds hearing on establishment of independent forensic science department, 11 a.m. in JAWB 412
| February 7, 2011; 10:34 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike, The District
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