Loose Lips

Candidates Turn Out for Ward 8 Board of Education Seat, and Maybe Something More

Philip Pannell

What motivates someone to run for a spot on the District's toothless State Board of Education? The $15,000 stipend is nice, obviously. There's the chance to shape young minds—albeit a much reduced one since 2007, when the mayoral school takeover replaced the Board of Education with the current board.

In Ward 8's special election for an SBOE seat, though, it just might be the chance at something bigger.

"You see so many folks who use it as a launching pad," says candidate Derrell Simpson. A fourth- and fifth-grade reading teacher with the National Center for Children and Families, Simpson says he's worried about what his opponents are looking to get out of the seat.

Those opponents—Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Darrell Gaston, frequent volunteer Nydria Humphrieslongtime activist Philip Pannell, and Tierra Jolly—-are competing with Simpson for the special election scheduled for July 15. The race also briefly attracted shadow representative and recent failed at-large candidate Nate Bennett-Fleming, who dropped out this morning.

Read more Candidates Turn Out for Ward 8 Board of Education Seat, and Maybe Something More

4/23 Blaze It: Petition Drive Starts for Marijuana Initiative

Adam Eidinger

Washingtonians who want to enjoy legal pot can finally put their names behind it. After months of wrangling, the District of Columbia Board of Elections issued petitions this morning that could put legalized marijuana on the November ballot.

The initiative, organized by the D.C. Cannabis Campaign and backed by a $20,000 donation from California soap tycoon David Bronner, would legalize the possession of two ounces of marijuana outside a home and the cultivation of three mature marijuana plants.

Now that they have their petitions, activists have to collect 22,373 signatures. If they turn in the petitions in July, the initiative will be on the November ballot. Otherwise, they have until October to turn in petitions for some future special election.

The campaign has already started phone-banking using numbers collected outside polling places and Superior Court, a plan Cannabis Campaign chairman Adam Eidinger said he hatched after visiting a phone bank for Ward 1 Democratic candidate Brianne Nadeau in her successful drive to oust Councilmember Jim Graham.

Read more 4/23 Blaze It: Petition Drive Starts for Marijuana Initiative

Morning Links

A House subcommittee will take up the District's marijuana decriminalization bill. [DCistPost]

Budget autonomy fight heads to court. [LL]

Local treasure Russ Ptacek camps out in front of Muriel Bowser's office. [Twitter]

Jail guard arrested after allegedly agreeing to smuggle in contraband. [Post]

How D.C. beat out Prince George's County for CBS Radio. [WBJ]

Police pursue trail assaulters. [Post]

LGBT groups unhappy about missing out on city grants. [Blade]

What caused the shooting at the National Zoo? [Post]

Read more Morning Links

Budget Autonomy Fight Could Be Resolved by Mid-May

The D.C. Council's fight with Mayor Vince Gray over budget autonomy could be resolved only two weeks before the Council has to make its first vote on the mayor's budget, according to a schedule laid out today in a federal court hearing over the lawsuit filed by the Council and Chairman Phil Mendelson against Gray and Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt.

The ruling, which could come any time after May 14 from U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, could resolve the dispute between Gray and the Council over whether Gray and DeWitt should be forced to accept a budget produced under the budget autonomy rules. Or maybe it won't be resolved, and the District will plunge into a government shutdown and the return of the financial control board, as the Gray administration has warned could be the consequences of the District unilaterally enacting budget autonomy.

Sullivan suggested that he's opposed to a motion from the Council's attorneys to move the lawsuit back to Superior Court, where it was original filed. "I have my doubts about the argument that the court lacks jurisdiction," Sullivan said.

Sullivan also warned the attorneys not to come up with any last-minute revelations at the May 14 hearing. "Don't save your best argument for oral arguments," Sullivan said.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Morning Links

Inspector General Charles Willoughby retires. [LLPost]

One of lobbyist David Wilmot's clients liked him enough to give him a Bentley. [LL]

Vince Gray administration tries to move budget autonomy lawsuit into federal court. [Post]

Two people shot at the National Zoo. [Times, WAMU]

Get ready to replace your District driver's license. [City DeskPost, WAMU]

Ralph Nader can't stop West End Library development. [Post]

Petula Dvorak: Homeless need affordable rents. [Post]

Charter board set to consider new schools today and tomorrow. [Post]

Post ed board backs HOT lanes. [Post]

Clinton library release has a little bit of Home Rule. [Post]

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Inspector General Ditches Gray Administration

Vince Gray's lame duck administration is losing another cabinet-level official. According to a press release from the mayor's office, D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby told Gray recently that he's retiring.

In the release, Gray thanked Willoughby for his nine years of service since being appointed acting IG during Anthony Williams' administration in 2005. It's good that Gray is finding nice things to say about Willoughby, because LL is having trouble doing the same.

Over the past few years, Willoughby's distinguished himself by being uninterested in doing much investigating. In 2011, Willoughby opted against investigating Gray campaign whistleblower Sulaimon Brown's allegations on a pretext. His office went on to produce incurious looks at both Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham's Metro dealings and the D.C. Public Schools test erasures scandal.

Instead, Willoughby's office spent its energy pursuing handicap-parking placard scofflaws. And who could forget Willoughby's feud with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, the rare District government watchdog that actually turns out worthwhile investigations?

Willoughby didn't respond to an immediate request for comment about his future plans.

One of David Wilmot’s Clients Really, Really Liked Him

Businesses hoping for the services of Wilson Building mega-lobbyist David Wilmot can expect to pay for it. In just the last six months of 2013, Wilmot collected thousands of dollars each in monthly retainers from six clients, including the likes of Walmart, Anheuser-Busch, and pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA. Another client, though, has helped the District superlawyer in a more creative way: by giving him a Bentley.

Last year, Wilmot found himself embroiled in a court case over whether his income had increased enough that he should pay more in child support. That left him trying to explain how he could afford a luxury car even as his tax returns showed his income dropping. In the case of the Bentley, he explained, it was a gift from a client.

"Defendant represented that he, as an automobile aficionado, owns, or has owned, multiple automobiles, including a 1996 Mercedes, a 2004 Range Rover, and a 2004 Bentley, which was a gift from a client," Superior Court Judge Alfred S. Irving wrote in his December 2013 findings of fact about the case, which Wilmot eventually won. Read more One of David Wilmot’s Clients Really, Really Liked Him

Morning Links

Arbitration board backs fire department's new work schedule. [Post]

Cooperating with the feds doesn't keep Jeff Thompson too busy to hang out with Robert Griffin III. [LL]

Here's what the driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants will look like. [Post]

City could be on the hook for $60K after ANC recording disappears. [LL]

The April 1 primary had really, really bad turnout. [Post]

Activists push minimum wage referendum. [WAMU]

Party on: DCRA agrees to temporarily let Ibiza nightclub reopen. [WBJ]

Read more Morning Links

ANC Recorder Antics Could Cost City $60K

shutterstock_86070817A missing audio recording could end up costing the District government tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and lead to criminal charges against a Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, according to a new court ruling.

To understand how a simple Freedom of Information Act request spun out of control, let's begin with the byzantine politics of Brookland liquor licenses (yay). In May 2013, ANC 5B protested a liquor license application for Brookland's Finest, an as-yet-unopened restaurant located on Jackson Street NE, even though a majority of the nearby residents supported the license. The opposition to the license included ANC commissioner Carolyn Steptoe, who previously earned some notoriety for protesting another development by painting signs on the front her house.

Brookland residents Conor Crimmins filed a FOIA request for documents related to the protest and a recording of an ANC meeting that Steptoe had created on her own recording device. Instead of handing over the files, though, the ANC fought the case all the way to court. Steptoe, who argued that the recording couldn't be obtained through an open records request because it was her own property, eventually handed over the recorder after Superior Court Judge Michael O'Keefe ordered her to do so.

Read more ANC Recorder Antics Could Cost City $60K

When Uncle Earl Met RGIII

Admitted shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson could be facing six months in prison, so it should be no surprise that he's out enjoying life while he can. But what a group he's found to pass the time with! Via Instagram, Thompson surfaced last night having dinner with the Washington Pigskins' Robert Griffin III and DeSean Jackson and, uh, rapper ("Lil") Bow Wow.

The star-studded crew met for dinner at Pennsylvania Avenue NW's La Perla. While Thompson is the only member of the dinner party who's masterminded a years-long election scheme, most of the Twitter chatter about the dinner seemed to be focused on fans' disappointment at RGIII for meeting with former Like Mike star Bow Wow.

LL asked the Pigskins how the political mastermind of D.C. met the football mastermind of Landover, Md., but the team didn't respond to a request for comment.