City Paper is not for tourists
Hey, 2016, come on in. No, sit down. We need to talk. Look, Loose Lips loves you very much, but we’ve had a rough go. I just think we should see other years. There, there. I know it’s hard. Look, we’re not leaving you empty-handed. Whenever the wind whistles in the leaves, you’ll think, “Loosies.”
The Cancel-Your-Own- Damn-Subscription Award
It goes to The Washington Post’s own Jo-Ann Armao. This year, the associate editorial page editor—the Larry King of local news—gave her all to help Mayor Muriel Bowser’s D.C. Council picks. She endorsed four candidates, three of whom lost.
It’s almost as if print media were in some kind of decline.
Speaking of those lovable D.C. Council losers, a shoutout to the winner of the …
Came to Do Good, Stayed to Do Well Award
…goes (emphatically) to outgoing Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May. In Bizarro World, May’s apprenticeship under Marion Barry synthesized with her technocratic rhetoric and her alliance with Mayor Bowser’s Green Team to create such political energy that she’s already mayor of D.C. In these precincts of actual space-time, though, May’s just a soon-to-be ex-councilmember.
But all is not lost for her. During May’s brief government tenure she made significant headway with what LL can only politely call “partnerships” with cronies Monica Ray and Phinis Jones. It’s nearly impossible to take a stroll in Ward 8 without stepping on a May-Ray-Jones business interest.
On the topic of causes not entirely lost …
The Franchise Reboot Award
…goes to once (and future?) Mayor Vince Gray, who overcame Jo-Ann Armao’s endorsement rejection to earn a sequel to his Ward 7 councilship. Gray convinced voters that he was fully vindicated after the U.S. attorney’s investigation into illegal 2010 campaign financing was shut down last year without his being prosecuted.
But no sooner had Gray won his election than he was subpoenaed in the civil lawsuit of District whistleblower Eric W. Payne, who alleged that Gray had tried to rig a lottery contract for one of his old pals back in 2008. A lawyer from the D.C. Council showed up instead, solemnly asserting that any effort to put Gray under oath would outrage the sanctity of his right to parliamentary immunity.
As for Payne, he is the clear choice for this year’s …
“You Never Got Me Down, Ray” Award
Payne spent nearly seven years in litigation against the District, and took every punch they could land. He lost his home, his self-confidence, and two babies when his wife miscarried. He eventually got a job—in Saudi Arabia.
The record shows Payne took the blows, and just two days before Thanksgiving a civil jury awarded him $1.7 million in damages, plus back pay and attorney’s fees.
But it’s not necessarily a happy ending. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, who is said to be eyeing the mayor’s chair, is threatening to appeal the verdict. So this may go even more rounds.
And since you brought up endless litigation, our …
Every Day I’m Shoveling Award
…goes to our own Mayor Bowser, who finds herself with ground to break but nothing to do at the McMillan Reservoir. The same civic titans who thought that Columbia Heights would look great have spent years assuring the good people of North Capitol Street that the mega-development of the old sand filtration plant would make their neighborhood extra spiffy.
Somehow Bowser’s word just isn’t enough (what, is she letting Jo-Ann Armao write her stuff?). Earlier this month the D.C. Court of Appeals sided with opponents in vacating zoning approvals for the city’s longest-running—and most complex and contentious—real estate project. So Bowser gets to “break ground” on a project that may never happen.
Not every D.C. politico is so behind the curve, though, which is why our …
One Step Ahead Award
…goes (emphatically, again) to former D.C. public schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. Though the narrative around Henderson’s tenure was in many ways misinformed, Henderson was widely hailed as a savior of a school system beset by disparities in achievement. Even so, there were a few eyebrows raised when Henderson announced that she was leaving the job.
The mystery cleared up when the AP got its hands on a “negotiated disposition” from the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, in which Henderson was formally censured for shaking down school vendors for contributions to a swanky gala. In the end, Henderson blamed someone else—her former patron Michelle Rhee—saying that her predecessor had done the same thing.
While you’re thinking of Rhee, now’s a good time to mention that she’s this year’s proud recipient of our …
Don’t Tease the Press Corps Award
Times are tough all over, but reporters are usually more articulate in their whinings. So you can’t imagine the hearts that soared—and then came crashing to earth—when Rhee’s name was floated as President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary. At last: Subject matter! Pitches! Employment!
Alas and alack, Rhee found better things to do with her time. “I am hopeful about the opportunity,” she tweeted, “to find common ground on this important issue of education and will do whatever I can to be supportive.”
You weren’t all about breakups, 2016, which is why the …
Match Made in Heaven Award
…goes to (once again emphatically) former D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier. It was a bit of a puzzler to some of us when Lanier first announced that she was leaving the District to become the NFL’s security czar. After all, given the kinds of problems the NFL has had with its security office…
Never mind. No doubt NFL commissioner (and human scrotum) Roger Goodell was tired of ducking questions about why he had done nothing to protect women, children, and, well, terrestrial life from his ballers. He must’ve seen the answer to his prayers in a camera-loving law enforcer who’s really, really good at PR.
Speaking of people moving on, let’s not leave out a very special recipient of a very special award:
Orange Is The New Sacked
Vincent Orange has always reminded LL of Geraldo Rivera: one of those
slightly silly, slightly sinister characters who just won’t go away. (The same could be said of herpes, of course. So we’re spoiled for metaphors.)
The voters ignored the advice of Jo-Ann Armao this year and tossed Orange out of the D.C. Council (again). He tried to stick around on the legislative body while heading the chamber too, but the shameless conflict of interest pushed even the Post editorial page that had endorsed him to write that “his actions make us regret our past support for him.” Outcry became loud enough that he was forced to take his leave early, proving that there’s only so much public service a guy can offer.
Lowering as that kind of thing is to the spirit, we don’t have to despair. Because the …
Always Scummy In Philadelphia Award
…goes to Green Team booster Tom Lindenfeld. The Wilson Building has seen its share of scandals. (From times past: the union boss and her closet full of wigs; the former District Council chairman and his fully loaded Navigator; the mastermind whose corruption was record-setting. It’s all so tacky, it would make a pimp weep.)
But when Lindenfeld—who helped put Bowser and her mentor Adrian Fenty into the mayor’s office—followed the Yellow Brick Road to Philadelphia, he got himself caught up in the somewhat complex, certainly lucrative corruption vortex swirling around former Congressman Chaka Fattah. For his pains, Lindenfeld got himself a felony conviction and the chance to testify against the man behind the curtain. (Fattah got 10 years.)
See, 2016? There really is no place like home.
Special to Loose Lips this week, Bill Myers lives and works in Washington. He often wonders why Jo-Ann Armao doesn’t call. He tweets @BillCapHill. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.