Loose Lips Daily: Budget Deal and Ward Boundaries Edition
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Good morning Washington. There’s a ton of news this fine, humid morning, complete with redistricting maps and budget news! But before we get to all that, a quick note of housekeeping: Your normal LL, Alan Suderman (known in some commenter circles as Alan Sewerman, ha, that’s funny!), is in Ward 8 this morning doing some reporting, so I’m here putting together your daily digest of all the District of Columbia political news you can stand to stomach (with assistance from Nick DeSantis).
Check out this week’s print edition, which hits the streets today. Jason Cherkis, in his final cover story for Washington City Paper, examines The Pines, a residential treatment center in Virginia that has housed many juvenile offenders from D.C. and has a long record of problems. Cherkis asks: "Why is D.C. sending its most troubled kids to facility with 2,000 abuse and neglect allegations?"
In Suderman’s Loose Lips column, we get a look into the politics behind D.C.’s proposed taxi medallion system, with cameo appearances from lobbyist John Ray, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, former taxicab commissioner Leon Swain, and a bunch of grumpy cab drivers who say all of this is "full of shit."
Anyhow, let’s get to it. News time!
We Have a (Preliminary) Budget! The D.C. Council approved a preliminary budget deal, which saw D.C. Council Chairman and almond lover Kwame Brown get his way on avoiding a tax increase on high-income District residents. As Mike DeBonis writes in this morning’s Washington Post, "to close a budget gap once estimated at $322 million while funding an array of social service programs that [Mayor Vince] Gray planned to cut, Brown and his colleagues found scads of revenue in several new taxes and fees — including a little-discussed proposal to tax non-D.C. municipal bonds for the first time."
Granted, yesterday’s vote was just a first vote. But there are some winners and losers that have emerged from the Wilson Building debate. Winners include Metro (which will see funding from the Wilson Building increased), live-music lovers (the proposed tax on live performances was nixed), and some social services (which had been slated to see big cuts). Losers include D.C. Councilmembers Phil Mendelson, Jim Graham, and Michael A. Brown, who attempted, but failed, to have the income-tax hike put back in.
DeBonis writes that "in a novel move, the legislation passed Wednesday sets spending priorities for new revenue expected in the coming months as the city economy improves. Although it is unknown how much new revenue there will be, the council decided how it would spend as much as $125 million in yet-to-be-identified funds."
Winners of this magical funding include the Metropolitan Police Department, which would get $10.8 million to hire more officers. Councilmember Vincent Orange is all smiles, too: He got the council to pinpoint $508,000 of this magical funding for D.C. Emancipation Day celebrations at the Lincoln Theatre, where he is a board member. (The U Street NW theater itself would get $500,000.) Per DeBonis: "He did not mention the affiliation on the dais, but he said in a subsequent interview that he did not see a conflict of interest because his board position is unpaid." Mmmm- kay?
The Washington Times notes that this budget should "satisfy bond raters on Wall Street by devoting 50 percent of additional revenue to the District’s general fund balance."
Councilmember Tommy Wells wanted to allocate just one-third of additional revenues to restore the general fund balance, which irked Councilmember David Catania. Per the Times, the "District is in an enviable position because it saved its money in prior years. Had it not, he said, 'we would have had an apocalypse in this city in 2009 when our revenue plummeted.'"
Vince’s View: What sayeth the mayor? He sent a letter saying he supports the budget! Per a press release from Wednesday evening: "Mayor Gray continues to support his proposal to increase the top tax rate for income above $200,000. He believes it is a more progressive and equitable tax policy than the tax on out-of-state bonds that the Council approved today. The Mayor expressed concerns that a tax on bonds may adversely impact the investment portfolio of retirees who could be on fixed incomes. Nonetheless, he added, 'If the Council ultimately decides to swap the bond tax increase for the income tax increase, it is not a change that would prevent me from supporting the budget.' ...
The Mayor said he supports many of the $52 million in funding priorities identified by the Council. The priorities include increasing the number of police officers, restoring funds to the Housing Production Trust Fund, supporting mental-health initiatives, and keeping the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library open on Sundays. However, Mayor Gray concurred with the District’s Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Natwar Gandhi, in strongly discouraging the Council from counting on predicted future revenue increases in an uncertain economic environment to fund additional budget items."
Also, for those so inclined: here’s the full dump of budget amendments, in two-part PDF, courtesy Susie Cambria!
AFTER THE JUMP … Redistricting Maps Are Out, A Ted Loza Update, Watching for GOP Meddling on D.C. Marriage Equality, Searching for Sulaimon … and so much more!
Ward 6's Blood Is Boiling: Draft ward redistricting maps were released Wednesday evening in advance of today’s subcommittee vote on the new ward boundary scheme, which lops off the eastern end of Capitol Hill from Ward 6 and gives it to Ward 7, which lies primarily east of the Anacostia River. According to a press advisory from the office of Councilmember Michael A. Brown, chairman of the redistricting subcommittee, last night, Brown "hopes that this final compromise, which will retain Eastern High School and Eliot-Hine Middle School in Ward 6, will satisfy all residents across the city."
LL’s bet on those hopes: Fat chance, at least among those carrying signs at Monday night’s redistricting rally on Capitol Hill reading "Hell No, We Won’t Go to Ward 7!"
Looking at the maps released last night, the vast majority of D.C.’s ward boundaries will remain unchanged as part of the required once-a-decade reapportionment. Ward 6, which needs to shrink to have a roughly equal population to the city’s other wards, is slated to lose most of what lies east of 17th Street NE and 17th Street SE, but gain some blocks in Shaw and Southwest and shifts some blocks in the eastern sections of downtown with Ward 2. Ward 6’s new Shaw appendage would serve as a buffer between Ward 5 and Ward 2, which currently share a boundary.
Greater Greater Washington, which had its fun redistricting scenarios game in recent weeks, tweeted last night that this proposed Shaw extension for Ward 6 is not compact and contiguous and pointed to its own map option that would instead give Ward 6 a larger chunk of downtown. (Do you really think Councilmember Jack Evans, who sits on the redistricting subcommittee, would willingly give up his Ward 2 downtown base? It’s easy to hope and dream. In any regard, "Jack knows where his donors are.")
Freeman Klopott tweeted that the redistricting committee used GGW’s maps for the Ward 7 expansion on Capitol Hill, so maybe all those angry Hill East and Rosedale residents should go march on GGW ringleader David Alpert’s house in Dupont Circle? Which, naturally, is in Ward 2.
Speaking of Jack Evans, there’s something called Jackmandering! Look at this tweet: "Guiding principle of the #jackmandered #reDC plan seems to be for W2 to drop any area that isn't lily white and filthy rich." Well, it's hard to say that was the definitive driving force—under the plan, Evans would keep the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and pretty much any other expensive piece of downtown real estate—but it’s worth pointing out how much Ward 2 has changed since the days that the esteemed John A. Wilson represented what was at the time the District’s most diverse ward. No more.
Also, in a re-election run, Michael Brown might find that he is not as well liked on Capitol Hill anymore. Says Tim Krepp in The Hill Is Home: "[T]he indifference and callousness of our elected leaders is an understatement."
Technicalities: A judge says that the D.C. Council must serve Sulaimon Brown a subpoena through traditional means. The search continues! LL suggests calling a press conference, then just waiting for Brown to show up.
Teddy Loza Update: Prosecutors want Ted Loza, the former chief of staff to Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, to spend 14 months in prison for his role in the taxi bribery scandal. Per The Washington Post, "In court papers, prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman to sentence Loza to the top end of the guideline range because he had shown no remorse, had not yet accepted responsibility and had refused to discuss the case with prosecutors during a recent meeting."
Attempts at Comedy: When Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh isn’t in a state of annoyance, she can be funny! But the councilmember should never toy with the emotions of those who hold the Klingle Road debate near and dear to their hearts. That could backfire!
Gross: Despite warnings, there are people who fish and eat catfish from the Anacostia River! Eh, at least, the District government isn’t promoting an Anacostia fishing derby!
On Guard: While there is "no specific action" currently underway to undermine D.C.’s marriage equality law by Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is, according to the Washington Blade, warning that "the approval by a House committee of an amendment to delay or kill the repeal of the 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' law may be a predictor of efforts by House Republicans to target the city’s same-sex marriage equality law.
Briefly noted …
A mixed bag for bag-tax compliance.
Library makeovers are in store for some D.C. Public School facilities.
Gallup says D.C. residents know how to chill.
The University of the District of Columbia hasn’t been in compliance with D.C.’s Human Rights Act.
ENH is trying to unclog the Mall. Good luck with that!
Want to be a gentler gentrifier? Here are some tips.
Mayor’s schedule: 10-11:45 a.m., desk work, JAWB; noon-1 p.m., welcoming remarks at the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers annual meeting, Omni Shoreham Hotel, Woodley Park; 1:30-6:30 p.m., desk work, JAWB; 7-8 p.m., remarks and awards presentation at the Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month Celebration, MLK Library, 9th and G streets NW
D.C. Council schedule: Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs meeting, Room 120, JAWB, 2 p.m.