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Good morning Washington! Your normal LL, Alan Suderman, is off this week. News time…
A Busy Day at the Wilson Building: Members of the D.C. Council had plenty on their plate on Tuesday. Councilmembers confirmed Mayor Vince Gray’s pick for D.C. attorney general, Irv Nathan. WAMU-FM’s Patrick Madden reports: “So far, the attorney general has kept a lower profile than his predecessor Peter Nickles, but Attorney General Nathan has a few politically sensitive items on his plate. Nathan took over the investigation into a nonprofit run by [Ward 5 Councilmember] Harry Thomas and is also handling the situation involving the Police Department’s faulty breathalysers.”
At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson introduced emergency legislation to temporarily waive D.C.’s 10-day waiting period for new gun owners in the city. Madden explains the somewhat complicated background: “There are no gun stores in D.C. and federal law prohibits guns purchased in one state to be taken into another jurisdiction without a federally licensed dealer serving as the middleman.” D.C.’s only licensed gun dealer has temporarily closed his shop, meaning there’s no legal way to purchase guns inside the District. Lifting the 10-day waiting period would ease any backlog when the dealer, Charles Sykes, reopens his operation. Says Mendelson: “This doesn’t solve the problem but this ameliorates the problem to some extent and sends a message that we are sensitive to the burden to potential gun owners.”
Mendelson also introduced a measure that would allow a very special version of the District of Columbia flag, one with a “Taxation Without Representation” slogan, to be flown on Flag Day. One DCist commenter makes an astute observation and has a suggestion: “So this bold statement of District defiance will only be flown on Flag Day? Way to stick it to the man! For Arbor Day, I suggest the Council cut down a tree where nobody can hear.”
Also, councilmembers tabled legislation introduced by At-Large Councilmember David Catania that would have created a commission to study recruitment and retention of Metropolitan Police Department officers as the force nears the critical 3,800-officer level, The Washington Times reports.
What else? Per The Washington Post, councilmembers “approved a resolution calling for the passage of a federal Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” and asked Congress to “[l]eave us alone” on abortion.
AFTER THE JUMP: Bye-Bye Biddle, Tommy Wells’ Victory in Montgomery County, Arts Funding Blues, Our One But Divided City, and Walmart Speedbumps!
The Long Goodbye for Sekou Biddle: At-Large Councilmember Sekou Biddle, who secured the D.C. Democratic State Committee’s appointment to the vacant dais slot when Kwame Brown became D.C. Council chairman, is making his exit from the position, which Vincent Orange will assume once his special election victory from last month is certified. Biddle thanked his colleagues, who got him a cake and a vase with the dates of his short council tenure. Biddle also said he’s looking forward to serve with his colleagues “in some other capacity.” What, exactly, does that mean? Stay tuned to find out!
We Were There So You Didn’t Have to Be: LL’s colleague at Arts Desk, Benjamin R. Freed, took in Monday’s three-hour Committee on Economic Development hearing on arts funding chaired by Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., a movie buff who “took a minute to talk about meeting Clint Eastwood during last fall’s filming of J. Edgar, a biopic about the inaugural FBI director.”
While Office of Motion Picture and Television Development Director Crystal Palmer testified about her office and what it does to attract Hollywood dollars to the District, the big news dealt with the recent proposal to shift federal National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs funds from the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts to the local D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Freed reports: “The witnesses representing local arts organizations were uniformly skeptical of the NCACA transfer, with George Koch of Artomatic calling it a ‘red herring’ that would leave D.C. arts funding dependent on a source of revenue that could be yanked away when Congress votes on a federal 2012 budget.”
Wells’ Victory in Montgomery County: Usually, legislative news from outside the District line doesn’t prompt Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells to send out a congratulatory press release. Unless, of course, it deals with taxes on single-use plastic bags! Members of the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved legislation that is more or less a copycat of the D.C. legislation that Wells has previously pushed and is credited for a dramatic reduction in the use of plastic bags. “I applaud Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and the County Council for today’s vote in support of a shared responsibility and shared stewardship for the Anacostia River…Mr. Leggett and his team took a smart approach, built the political will, and worked with a coalition of businesses and environmental leaders to achieve today’s success.” (The MoCo ban tax also covers paper bags and bags at stores that don’t sell food.) Prince George’s County: You’re on notice!
Cartographic Realities: DCist takes a look at maps put together by D.C. for Democracy’s Keith Ivey from last month’s at-large special election and asks: “So This Is What One City Looks Like?” The maps illustrate what we already know about the election results. Victorious Democrat Vincent Orange dominated Ward 4, Ward 5, Ward 7, and Ward 8. Republican Patrick Mara won Ward 2, Ward 3, and Ward 6, while Democrat Bryan Weaver had his strongest showing in Ward 1.
Budget Lessons: Want a basic rundown on the D.C. budget? You could go to Mayor Gray’s town hall tonight in Ward 5 at Luke C. Moore Academy Senior High School. Or, you could watch this video from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. Actually, you should probably do both.
Reconciliations: At the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, the director of detained services has been under court order to stay away from his wife and three children because of an incident where she claimed her life was threatened. But she “has recanted her allegations and is seeking to have the court order rescinded,” according to The Washington Times.
Traffic Speedbump: As the city is learning, dealing with Walmart on development issues can be very complicated. Per LL’s colleague at Housing Complex, Lydia DePillis, on the proposed Georgia Avenue Walmart: “The District Department of Transportation says Walmart’s traffic study—which forecasted no serious problems that minor signal changes wouldn’t fix—is woefully inadequate, and recommends that the review process stop while they sort things out.”
Possible Scenarios: DePillis also poses an interesting question: Now that Vincent Orange is back on the council, how might that shape the course of the future of the Capital City Market, which Orange, as Ward 5 councilmember tried to have redeveloped into “New Town.”
Mayor’s public schedule: Weekly press conference, 10 a.m, Room G-9, JAWB; Desk work, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Weekly meeting with Kaya Henderson, 4 p.m.; Ward 5 budget town hall meeting, 7-8:30 p.m., Luke C. Moore Academy Senior High School
D.C. Council schedule: Committee on Government Operations and Environment hearing, 10 a.m., Room 500, JAWB; Committee of the Whole, 10 a.m., Room 412, JAWB; Committee on Human Services hearing, 11 a.m., Room 120, JAWB; Committee on Health hearing, 2 p.m., Room 123, JAWB