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Not so long ago, it was a yearly LL tradition to give back to D.C. politicos for everything they’ve they had given to the column. That tradition took a hiatus for a couple of years because, well, LL just wasn’t feeling that grateful. But this year, the Secret Santa is back.
Herewith, LL’s holiday gifts:
» The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind
After coming under repeated fire for keeping big city plans away from the D.C. Council, the Fenty approach to governing at times seems to come out of The Treasure of Sierra Madre: Legislative branch? We don’t need no stinkin’ legislative branch! But LL feels Fenty could be taking the imperial executive approach so much further. To wit, he offers Hizzoner an award-winning rundown of how President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney went about making an entire branch of government (maybe even two) entirely irrelevant.
Vincent C. Gray
» David Nakamura’s and Theola Labbé’s E-Mail Passwords
Since becoming council chairman, Gray’s had one persistent complaint about the Fenty style of doing business: No one tells him anything! When Fenty announced Rhee’s hiring, the Washington Post had it first. When the police department announced a big reorganization, it was in the Post first. When the school closings list was announced, it was in the Post first. LL feels there’s an easy remedy to this kind of informational asymmetry. LL’s offering Gray access to the e-mail accounts of the Post’s top city hall and schools reporters. Then all Vince needs to do is get a staffer to check those inboxes a few times a day for dc.gov addresses. Boom—no more surprises! (That’s once LL gets the passwords himself, anyway.)
» Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
On Monday, Attorney General Linda Singer resigned, and reports cited her conflicts with Nickles, Fenty’s general counsel, as a big part of the reason why. Fenty had his consigliere involved in all sorts of city legal issues, leaving Singer to work on relatively penny-ante affairs. Nickles has been named interim AG, but since he has no intention of moving off his Great Falls, Va., horse farm, he won’t be put up for the permanent post, meaning another lawyer is on the way. If Fenty’s going to have multiple legal honchos operating in his government, LL thinks they need to bone up on this bit of pop psych to avoid another turf battle.
» Milton Bradley’s The Apprentice Game
LL considered giving the schools chancellor, who brags of sending some 5,000 e-mails per month, the latest and greatest in BlackBerry or Treo technology. But in an administration full of gadget junkies, whatever device LL picked would quickly become hopelessly obsolete. No-what Rhee needs more is a little practice in human-capital management, what with the new legislation allowing her to fire DCPS central office employees essentially at will. Who better to learn the nuances of termination from than Mr. “You’re Fired” himself, Donald Trump? (Hairpiece not included.)
David A. Catania
» Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Phone Number
It’s been a relatively quiet year for the health committee czar and at-large councilmember. Sure, he’s once again managed to piss off the pharmaceutical industry with his proposal to regulate drug salesmen. That’s all old hat for Catania, though. His big project this year was saving Greater Southeast Community Hospital from closure—and believe LL that salvaging insolvent urban hospitals is a skill in demand. Take the Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, which was just kinda-sorta bailed out by the Maryland legislature. Catania, a still-practicing attorney, could do this one, too, and charge $500 an hour for the privilege.
» Ledco Digital 44-Inch Dual Hot Roll Laminator
Since winning a sweeping victory across the city last fall, the at-large councilmember had the political capital and the wherewithal to offer a counterbalance to the Fenty imperial executive. And city reporters know it: When folks need a little oppo quote on the latest Fenty plan, they’re going straight to Mendo. That means his press operation deals with a lot of press clippings. And keeping all of those clippings looking nice requires the finest in plastic-coating technology.
Harry Thomas Jr.
» Jon Kitna Detroit Lions jersey
In an old Secret Santa column, a previous LL bestowed At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz with a commemorative Jim Kelly jersey for her repeated almost-but-not-quite runs at the mayoralty, much like early-’90s Super Bowl trips for the Buffalo Bills. In that vein, this LL thinks the council’s resident jock would appreciate the threads of a perennial league doormat, considering the stuff Thomas has had to deal with this year while representing Ward 5 on the council. First, he was forced to fend off a bunch of strip clubs dislocated by the baseball stadium. Lately, his ward was hardest-hit by DCPS school closings, leaving him to hold a town-hall meeting chock-full of angry voters. Not even Barry Sanders could run away from that luck.
Natwar M. Gandhi
» A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style by Tim Gunn and The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia
The District’s financial czar has always held himself out to be a thrifty guy—he’s long been known for buying exclusively used cars, for instance. Apparently Gandhi’s eye toward economy extends to fashion, too. For the better part of a decade, Office of Tax and Revenue employee Harriette Walters and accomplices stole tens of millions from District coffers while spending much of it on high-end couture and handbags. Apparently none of D.C.’s fiscal bureaucrats noticed an employee making $88,000 a year was wearing $5,000 suits. Since Gandhi & Co. need some help distinguishing their St. John Knits from their Ann Taylor, LL offers these tomes from the Bravo network’s style mavens.
» The Wire Season 4 Box Set
The quintessence of the Fenty governing model is something called CapStat, where various city department heads come into the Wilson Building press room and sit in front of a table while Fenty, City Administrator Tangherlini, and CapStat director Kevin Donahue pepper them with questions for an hour. Sound like the recipe for crackerjack political theater? Well, it’s not. LL would much prefer something along the lines of the “Comstat” sessions in the fictional Baltimore of this HBO series, where police commanders stand at a podium and are cajoled, berated, and sometimes fired by the police commissioner and his deputies. Now that’s governance!
Eleanor Holmes Norton
» Macanudo Rothschild Cigar
Norton’s never come as close to becoming a full voting member of Congress than she did this year, when a bill to give her a seat came within five Senate votes of passing. Were this You Bet Your Life circa 1952, Groucho Marx might have said, “Close, but no cigar!” Well, Eleanor, LL’s gonna give you a smoke anyway.
» The 1960 D’Oyly Carte Opera Co.’s Recording of the H.M.S. Pinafore
Violent crime’s up a bit under the police chief’s watch, but she seems to have stumbled upon a winning, cutesy-named strategy: Her “All Hands on Deck” plans, whereby all available cops and reserves flood the District for a finite period, managed to somehow prevent any shootings from taking place over an entire weekend earlier this month. Assuming they’re going to be doing plenty of deck-swabbing in the year ahead, these guys need a soundtrack. LL is assured the 1960 D’Oyly Carte is the finest Pinafore of them all.
Robert C. Bobb
» E-Z Pass Account
When he was Anthony A. Williams’ city administrator, Bobb’s office featured a pair of green D.C. street signs reading “Bobb’s Way” and “The Highway.” So how’s “Bobb’s Way” going these days? After handily winning the school-board presidency, Bobb thought he was on his way to becoming a major power broker in city government. Alas, Fenty pushed through his school takeover bill, and Bobb accelerated his exile to the wilderness with a ham-handed attempt to slow the takeover by cajoling Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu to place a hold on its congressional approval. To assist in his trip down the highway, LL’s going to make sure Bobb won’t be delayed at any toll booths along the way.
Marion S. Barry Jr.
» ADT SafeWatch Pro RF Security System
After Barry’s home was burgled in October while he was out of the country on business, spokesperson Andre Johnson put out a statement expressing the councilmember’s frustration that “the police are using this as a distraction instead of focusing on the murders that have been committed” in Ward 8. Well, LL wouldn’t want any further property crimes at the Barry domicile to preoccupy the boys in blue, so he’s giving the councilmember the finest in home-invasion safeguards.
» Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Closure Plan
Reinoso’s been Fenty’s point man on education from the very beginning, but his tenure was nearly derailed early on. In May, a citizen reviewing the Fenty plan to improve student achievement discovered large sections of the document had been copied verbatim from a similar document produced by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina. Reinoso took the blame for that disaster, which still didn’t derail the mayoral takeover. Lately, Reinoso’s shop has again come under fire for the method by which it’s proposing school closings. Easy, LL says: WWCMD?
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