Skipping Out On The Economy: Loose Lips Daily
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—"Vincent Gray Calls For AG Peter Nickles To Resign," "Watch: The Marion Barry Wrestling Move," "Why Didn't Adrian Fenty Get A Ticket?," "Harry Thomas Jr.: Speeding Ticket Scofflaw?"
Good Morning. During the last few weeks, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Attorney General Peter Nickles, and even the mayor's summer jobs program have popped up as campaign issues. They are the subjects of editorials, debate, overly angry LL Daily columns, and tons of comments from our awesome, loyal readers. But maybe this substitute LL is missing something. This Sub LL just hasn't heard enough talk about the District's economy. Yeah, we all care about Spike's new pizza place. But his new pizza joint or the new Chipotle in Columbia Heights aren't stories that tell the full picture of the District. It's only half that picture. The other half? The other half doesn't draw comments, is rarely seen or heard from in the mainstream media. I'm talking about the more than 10 percent who are unemployed. Or the many who are under-employed. Or those of us who live paycheck to paycheck. On July 7, all the homeless shelters were at or very near capacity. The D.C. General emergency shelter held 131 families and 227 children. I recently spoke to a father who told me he and his family were stuck living in their car because they couldn't get into D.C. General.
Mayor Adrian Fenty would much rather talk about a minor traffic violation. WaPo's Mike DeBonis reported yesterday morning that Fenty had been pulled over in Chinatown for failing to signal a right turn. Is this newsworthy? Sure. But what was so telling about it was that Fenty actually addressed his violation with the press: "'It was a mistake. It was a hundred percent my fault,' he said, calling the police officer who pulled him over 'one of our best officers.'" I think that's one of the mayor's better apologies and longer press statements we've had in a while.
What Fenty's administration doesn't want to talk about? Jobs. Specifically, the city's auditors findings that his administration did not enforce the living-wage law and local hiring requirements. On May 18, D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols issued a 24-page report [PDF] on her findings. Here's what our new LL, Alan Suderman, reported in the Examiner:
"The District failed to enforce its own law requiring local hires for taxpayer funded developments, costing residents hundreds of jobs and potentially $14 million in lost wages, a new city audit has found.
The city's First Source program requires developers working on city-funded projects to fill 51 percent of newly created jobs with District residents. But a review of 16 projects started under the guidance of two now-defunct, quasi-independent agencies shows that only four projects met that threshold.
The projects that did have the required number of District residents include the DC USA retail complex in Columbia Heights and the Mandarin Oriental hotel by the Tidal Basin.
Developers can get a waiver for the 51 percent requirement if they show that there was a "good faith" effort to find residents with the needed skills. But Department of Employment Services, which is tasked with implementing the First Source Program, said they have no record that the agency ever tried to determine whether good faith efforts were made.
D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols said a rough estimation puts the number of potential jobs lost to nonresidents at 361, and the potential wages lost at $14 million. Nichols said the figures show the "type of economic fortune that could have occurred for the District and its residents had District agency officials and developers been more committed to [First Source] laws and procedures."
Nichols found that Mayor Adrian Fenty's office had essentially ignored the city's Living Wage Act of 2006, which requires city contractors to pay workers at least $12.10 an hour.
Nichols also noted that Fenty's administration, including Attorney General Peter Nickles, refused to allow her access to all the documents she requested for the audit."
Inevitably, the D.C. Council wanted a hearing on the matter. The hearing was yesterday. Guess how that turned out?
No one from Fenty's administration bothered to show up. WaPo's Ann Marimow reports on the administration no-show: "Council members Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Michael Brown (I-At Large), who presided over the hearing, expressed frustration that Fenty's administration has not made the employment measures a priority. There was no one at the hearing Thursday to defend the administration's position, only the missive from the attorney general. An aide to the council's Economic Development Committee said the panel had confirmed participation from the Department of Employment Services and the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. But two hours into the hearing, there was no sign of an administration representative. [Auditor Deborah] Nichols said she was surprised that no one from the deputy mayor's office had appeared. She said she was told that their team was too busy to meet in late June because they were preparing for Thursday's hearing. Brown called the absence 'unacceptable.'"
Instead of actual Fenty officials answering questions, the D.C. Councilmembers got a letter from AG Peter Nickles saying the District was in compliance.
Housing Complex's Lydia DePillis covered the hearing as well. This wasn't the first instance of the Fenty administration stonewalling the auditor's investigation into the living-wage law. At the hearing, Nichols told the D.C. Council:
“This administration doesn’t even consider itself subject to philosophical standards, practices, that you would expect them to have, that you see in national government, local, state governments throughout the country,” Nichols said. “It’s just not the same mentality.”
In Tim Craig's WaPo piece on the oddly personal feud between Gray and the AG, the city auditor summed up the problem with Peter Nickles as good as anyone: "Deborah K. Nichols, told a council committee that Nickles has made it more difficult for her office to assess the performance of the government because he interferes with the flow of information from the administration. 'Everybody has to have a system of checks and balances. When you are the check and the balance, there's a conflict,' said Nichols, who has worked in the auditor's office since 1982. 'When you are the spokesperson, the attorney general and the investigator, there's a conflict.'"
We thought we elected our own Cory Booker. Now we know the only thing they have in common is that they're both bald. Can you imagine Fenty living in James Creek or Barry Farm? Instead, we got a mayor who zips around in a Smart car and really loves sports. Where was he headed when he got his little traffic warning? He wasn't racing off to a senior center or an ANC meeting or a church basement. He was off to his cushy seats at a Washington Kastles team-tennis game.
This is my last LL Daily and possibly my worst (where's the aggregation?). It's everything my anonymous readers hated—whiny, bias-seeming, etc. Oh well. I will be getting back to doing some reporting for Washington City Paper where I will be covering the social-services beat. So you'll probably be seeing stories about homeless services, affordable housing, and a lot of other stuff that may or may not turn into campaign issues.
Anyway. Here are a few quick links:
Kwame Brown is in some serious trouble (Tom Sherwood)
D.C. Streetcars loose $25 million grant (The Examiner).
One mayoral candidate drops out and throws support to Gray (D.C. Wire)
Catania takes a really tough stance on truancy (WaPo).
We're really buying a hospital? (DeBonis)
Double shooting in Southeast (NC8)
Adams Morgan apts. to be converted to condos (WBJ)
Amtrak adds Richmond-to-D.C. service (WTOP)
Georgia Commons Topping Off
Location:3910 Georgia Ave. NW
D.C. COUNCIL'S SCHEDULE:
1 p.m. Roundtable on: The Settlement Agreement with Banneker Ventures, LLC [that's going to be fun]
Location: John A. Wilson Building, Room 500