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  • District Budget Gap at $322 Million
  • Good morning sweet readers! Sleep, where are you?! News time:

    Not So Bad After All: The big news at the Wilson Building yesterday was that the projected budget gap for fiscal 2012 now stands at $322 million. Not great, but certainly a lot better than the $600 million number people were using a few weeks ago. This is good news for your local politicians, who now won’t have to make as many tough decisions as originally feared. It’s also another good sign for the anti-tax-increase crowd led by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans (though the fact that a $322 million budget gap, in and of itself, isn’t a sign that it’s time to talk about tax increases just shows how the debate over taxes goes in the U.S. these days). Navigatorgate had already made it pretty darn difficult for Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown to preside with a straight face over a legislature that’s raising taxes. Nevertheless, Mayor Vince Gray was careful yesterday to emphasize that tax increases are still “on the table” and he’s not ruled anything out. The Post‘s story on the budget numbers includes the fact that DCPS now won’t have to make as severe cuts as it had originally planned.

    UDC Defense: The University of the District of Columbia pushed back yesterday on reports that its president, Allen Sessoms, is wildly spending money on first-class travel to exotic locales. Reports the Post: “He said that he buys comparatively pricey refundable tickets because his schedule often changes at the last minute and that he favors first class because of leg problems. ‘You negotiate to the lowest refundable first-class ticket,” said Sessoms, president of Washington’s public university since 2008. ‘It’s all receipted, all above-board.'”  (LL negotiates to the lowest refundable bus fare when traveling to the Wilson Building from Adams Morgan, so he understands.) Not true, reports Fox 5’s Tisha Thompson, who first broke Travelgate. She says UDC’s travel records are a “mess.” Thompson also has Councilmember Tommy Wells sounding angry and asking for the D.C. auditor to investigate, and Council Chairman Brown sending a very stern letter to Sessoms demanding his outstanding request for UDC’s financial information be turned over today. Meanwhile, The Examiner‘s Jonetta Rose Barras notes that the university has been giving bonuses in lieu of salary increases while at the same time telling District lawmakers that it really needs $8 million to keep the community college afloat. “Spokesman Alan Etter told me the bonuses were provided to “nonunion” workers, and the payments were unrelated to the university’s budget shortfall.” And Fox5 reports that some UDC students want Sessoms to resign.

    AFTER THE JUMP: Kwame can change… Jaguar booted… House GOP vs. D.C.?

    Learn to Love Me Again: Brown pledged to reporters yesterday after the council hearing that he’s going to work hard to rehabilitate his image, which was badly battered by the storm known as Navigatorgate. “We are going to focus on the people’s business … You’ve got to go back and win the trust of all the people who are disappointed and I am going to do that everyday,” reports the Post‘s Tim Craig, who goes on to talk about what Brown’s support for At-Large Councilmember Sekou Biddle might mean in the April special election. “With Biddle relatively unknown citywide, he may still need Brown to garner support in areas of the city where the Brown name holds sway. Yet, some of Biddle’s opponents are salivating at the prospect of Brown remaining active in the campaign. ‘Voters are not happy with the leadership they see right now,’ said Josh Lopez, a Democratic candidate in the race. ‘They see Biddle as a rubber stamp. D.C. residents want someone new.’ Brown seems uncertain if he will be aggressively hitting the campaign trail for Biddle. Asked Tuesday if he would be an asset or liability to Biddle, Brown said he’s just ‘supporting someone’ he ‘believes in.'” Also, when the Examiner‘s Freeman Klopott asked if Brown would do it all over again, Brown said “If I could go back and do it now? I would make sure that [Department of Public Works Director] Bill Howland returned the the first [Navigator] like I asked him to, and then I would go back to my own truck.”

    The Biggest Story of All Time: ABC7’s “D.C. Bureau Chief” Sam Ford spent yesterday standing around Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry‘s Jaguar, which was booted after Barry failed to pay $700 some worth of parking tickets. For some reason, Barry only paid some of the fines, but still managed to get the boot taken off.

    In other news: Councilmembers Barry and Yvette Alexander oppose a bill that would allow notary publics to perform marriage ceremonies, which the gay community supports. Man to plead guilty for his role in D.C. taxicab corruption case. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton says the House GOP is trying to humiliate Gray by not accommodating his schedule and allowing him to testify on the school voucher program.

    Mayor’s schedule: 8:30 a.m., Wednesday Clergy Fellowship Breakfast, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; 10 a.m., Read Across America Day Kick-Off Event, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building; 1 p.m., Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation City Title Luncheon, Verizon Center, Acela Club; 3 p.m., Interview With Washington Informer’s Denise Rolark-Barnes, DCTV/Brooks Mansion; 4 p.m., meetings and desk work, Wilson Building

    Council schedule: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Committee of the Whole on charter schools; 10 a.m., Committee on Government Operations on chief technology officer and Board of Elections and Ethics; 2 p.m., Committee on Public Services on Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011; 2 p.m., Committee on Government Operations on D.C. primary date