Loose Lips Daily: D.C. Budget Theatrics Up on the Hill Edition
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Good morning Washington. Your normal LL, Alan Suderman, is back from vacation, but on Capitol Hill this morning. Today is a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the D.C. budget. More on that in a sec.
Don’t forget to pick up this week’s print edition, our Summer Music Guide! Or click on it here. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, but for those interested in civic affairs, Lydia DePillis details how music has returned to Mount Pleasant Street, and the complicated relationship between Mount Pleasant neighborhood activists, the Latino community, and the city.
In his Loose Lips column, Suderman has an exit interview with Sekou Biddle, D.C.’s newest ex-councilmember, who lost last month’s special election "possibly because of that support by the District's two most powerful elected officials." Biddle doesn’t it see it that way and "goes out of his way not to pin his defeat on Gray’s and Brown's missteps. 'To be frank, those things didn’t help my cause,' is about as strong a statement Biddle would offer."
Anyhow, news time! And there’s a lot of it!
800 Emails! Mayoral confidant and adviser Lorraine Green continues to sit in the hot seat. The Washington Post got its hands on a "trove of more than 800 e-mails, released to members of a D.C. Council committee investigating Gray’s hiring practices, contrasts with statements Green’s attorney made to The Washington Post that she did not vet or interview job candidates." The emails, per Mike DeBonis and Nikita Stewart, show that Green "was involved in matters as mundane as doling out license plate assignments and as significant as helping screen his top-level appointees." In a statement, Gray spokeswoman Linda Wharton-Boyd said: "It is completely expected and routine to rely upon human-resource experts and other qualified professionals to assist in the discussion, vetting, inquiry, questioning and finally in making recommendations to the decision maker...There is nothing untoward or improper in Lorraine Green...lending her considerable experience and expertise in helping to establish a talented, committed, well-credentialed group of seasoned professionals to help lead the District government." Read more here.
Also, The Washington Times continues to hammer away on the Cherita Whiting branch of the hiring saga, saying that "was earning $98,000 per year, not the $65,000 annually the Gray administration previously reported to the D.C. Council, according to D.C. government employee listings obtained by The Washington Times." The official response comes from Boyd: The "'information is not accurate.’ She said perhaps the job was 'slated' at $98,000 annually but that ‘Ms. Whiting’s salary was only $65,000.'" And in a quick email to Suderman this morning, Whiting said of the Times' report: "THIS IS A BOLD FACE LIE...IF I WAS MAKING THAT MUCH....I WOULDN'T HAVE RESIGNED!"
AFTER THE JUMP: South Carolina Congressman to Be Schooled in the D.C. Budget, the Big Gas Station Inquiry, White House Denies President Said “John, I'll give you D.C. abortion,” and so much more!
Up on Capitol Hill: A delegation D.C. officials—Mayor Vince Gray, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown, Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, former D.C. Control Board Chairwoman and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Alice Rivlin, D.C. Board of Trade CEO Jim Dinegar, and Municipal Market Advisors Managing Director Matt Fabian—are testifying on Capitol Hill (click here for their testimony) about the D.C. budget. The venue? The House Oversight and Government Reform’s subcommittee on health care, District of Columbia, census, and the National Archives, chaired by South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy. Freeman Klopott of the Examiner reports that hearing is "unprecedented in its timing." Why? According to Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, D.C. officials normally aren’t asked to testify about the D.C. budget until after it has passed the D.C. Council and has the mayor’s signature. “This is unprecedented, it never happens," Evans said. “Maybe he’s new.”
Gowdy is new to town! DCist’s Martin Austermuhle notes: "I'd like to think Rep. Gowdy will be educated on how much being second-class D.C. can suck [today]. Good. He needs to hear it." During the hearing: "From Gowdy's questions, I get the sense that he's less a bad guy and more a young legislator stuck with a crap committee." Bless Martin, and others, for their livetweeting.
Still, there’s potentially a lot at stake. D.C., you see is under the gun. Per Ben Pershing at The Washington Post, “[t]here are seven separate ‘triggers’ which would automatically revive” the D.C. financial control board. Good thing Rivlin’s there. She knows a thing or two about such things! So does Gandhi, who says that none of the triggers will be pulled.
California Republican Darrell Issa, according to Suderman "show[ed] up at [the] last minute to question Gray, just as he was about to leave." Which might reinforce Issa’s statements to Pershing earlier that Congressional Republicans aren’t intent on a control board: "We have concern but we don’t have any expectation of the control board needing to come back." And D.C. officials are making their case strongly. So good news for D.C., right?
In related news, Michael Blake of the White House Office of Public Engagement spoke about D.C. autonomy at gathering at All Soul’s Church on Wednesday night. Via Bruce DePuyt, Blake observed that "it's feeling a little tense in here," an apparent reference to the federal budget deal where restrictions were place on public funding for abortion services in the District. Blake denied a Post report that during budget negotiations with congressional leaders, President Obama said, "John, I'll give you D.C. abortion," a reference to Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. Blake said that D.C. abortion funding was on the table because there was no other way around the Republican’s steadfastness on the issue.
Gas Probe: D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan announced a formal investigation into local gas station mogul Joe Mamo’s company, Capitol Petroleum Group. Mamo was the subject of an eye-opening profile by Christine MacDonald in Washington City Paper last fall. Per DeBonis, Nathan will probe allegations that Capitol Petroleum Group has been “engaging in practices that could be leading to inflated pump prices.” Also to be investigated: whether “Mamo’s dual role as a station owner and gas wholesaler represents an illegal restraint of trade.” One question from LL: How will this probe affect the Gray administration’s relationship within segments of the local Ethiopian community, which holds Mamo in high regard. (See comments on MacDonald’s story.)
Special Ed Compliance Update: In D.L. v. District of Columbia, a federal judge "lambasted city attorneys this week for ‘repeated, flagrant and unrepentant failures to comply with Court orders’ in handling pre-trial discovery."
New Hire: The Gray administration has selected Lisa Mallory as the permanent head of the Department of Employment Services. Suderman chimed in on Twitter: “Woman partly responsible for the bad optics that cost Rochelle Webb her job, now permanently getting Webb's job.”
What Do the Numbers Say? DCWatch’s Gary Imhoff offers a reminder on the recent D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute poll, whch got major play in the Post this weekend and in the local press: "The poll done by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute...appeared to be fairly straightforward, and press reports about it didn’t express any skepticism or ask questions about its findings. DC citizens, the poll seemed to prove, want higher taxes and don’t want any cuts in the city’s social service programs. But the DC Fiscal Policy Institute is an advocacy organization that has always supported higher taxes, and especially supported higher tax rates for richer taxpayers. If an organization’s poll shows that the public supports its policy positions so strongly, a little skepticism is called for."
DCFPI’s Elissa Silverman will be on WPFW-FM at 11 a.m. to discuss the D.C. budget with Chuck Thies.
Vince and Maya Finally Connect: Here’s latest on the protocol fuss over poet Maya Angelou and the mayor’s attempts to honor her. Success!
News From the Former Fenty Administration: The long goodbye between former District Department of Transportation director Gabe Klein and the city seems to be reaching a conclusion. He’s on his way to Chicago and is anxiously awaiting the first snowfall.
Meanwhile, former Mayor Adrian Fenty has been appointed to the advisory board of EverFi Inc. and “will lead the company’s national cities education campaign,” according to the Washington Business Journal.
After At-Large Councilmember David Catania’s bill to form a commission to study Metropolitan Police Department officer levels was killed last week, his at-large colleague, Phil Mendelson wants the city to pay an outside firm $100,000 to conduct the six-month study.
Schools news! According to the Post, D.C. is “launching a pilot program to reduce truancy among 120 chronically absent ninth-graders” at two public high schools, Ballou and Anacostia, and the Washington Mathematics and Science Technology Public Charter School.
A DYRS ward was shot and killed off West Virginia Avenue.
This isn’t necessarily promising for D.C.’s economic self-esteem.
A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled that the city had "reckless disregard and … deliberate indifference" for a Georgetown property owner.
The myopic little twits won!
A friendly reminder about local unemployment: “Putting DC residents back to work requires addressing the gross mismatch between the skills of the District's unemployed and those required by the area's knowledge economy.”
Wow, there’ve been some big local mediascape changes! Former Washington City Paper and TBD.com editor Erik Wemple is leaving Allbrittonland and heading to The Washington Post, the publication that he dutifully covered for years as part of his editor’s perch here on Champlain Street NW. What will this future Postie be doing? A media column. (Sorta like David Carr?)
More naval gazing! The Post’s Tim Craig, is headed to Iraq for a few weeks, so don’t expect to see him around the Wilson Building. Also, City Paper’s Jason Cherkis is leaving for the Huffington Post. Consultant Chuck Thies noted that D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham is "dancing on his desk." Cherkis is one of the city’s most tenacious reporters and we’ll miss him and his commitment to investigative journalism. Also, if Fishbowl D.C. ever cared about the local D.C. political media landscape, it’d be writing about this Twitter fest.
Yes, we’re all screwed in the event of a terrorist incident.
Mayor’s schedule: 8:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m., House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill, Rayburn Building; 12:30-1:30 p.m., Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. Joe Riley Youth Leadership Awards Luncheon, National Press Club; 2-3 p.m., Desk work, JAWB; 3-3:30- p.m., meeting with the ambassador of Namibia, JAWB; 6-9 p.m., Leadership Conference on Civil Rights 35th Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Awards Dinner, Washington Hilton
D.C. Council schedule: 10 a.m., Committee on Aging and Community Affairs meeting, Room 500, JAWB; 11 a.m., Committee on Housing and Workforce Development meeting, Room 500, JAWB; noon, Committee on Health meeting, Room 500, JAWB; 2 p.m., Committee on Economic Development hearing, Room 412, JAWB; 2 p.m., Committee on Human Services meeting, Room 500, JAWB; Committee of the Whole meeting, Room 500, JAWB