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Good morning sweet readers! Make sure and pay your overdue library fines. News time:
Transition Time: Now that the ugly job of passing a budget is over (more on that later), the transition team of Almost Mayor Vince Gray can gets its rear in gear and start naming names. Word on Twitter from various reporters this morning is that Gray is going to announce his new chief of staff and city administrator this afternoon, and DCRA’s Linda Argo, OCTO’s Bryan Sivak and DDOT’s Gabe Klein were given their pink slips (though the first two names haven’t been confirmed). Klein invited reporters over for a friendly chat this morning to tell them that he’s going to turn New York Ave into one giant bike lane to officially break the news. Fenty supporters: Commence panic! What’s in store for the other Fenty agency heads? Stay tuned. And after Gray’s announcements, it probably won’t be long before Almost Council Chairman Kwame Brown starts naming committee chairmanships (sneak peak: the topic of LL’s column tomorrow!)
AFTER THE JUMP: Budget Blowout; The Fenty is Back; Lanier Loves Yoga…
Hooray for long-form journalism! The Post puts a lot of work into this story about Project Empowerment, the District’s expensive job training program. Reporter Theresa Vargas tags along with three hard-luck residents who are trying to escape a world of violence, drugs and poverty for one with a steady paycheck. It’s a great window into a world that’s often neglected by the press. It’s also very timely too, as Gray has made getting the District’s residents to work his top priority. Vargas’ story shows how difficult, and expensive, it’ll be to reach that goal. In that same vein, be sure and read this heartbreaking post by Jason Cherkis, on the horrible conditions kids face living at D.C. General.
Budget Malaise: Did you hear? The D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to a new budget yesterday that was needed to fill a $188 million gap. Budget stories are usually pretty boring to write (and to read) but fortunately for us all, there were plenty of histrionics yesterday. Ex: “If you had a choice between soaking the rich and soaking the poor, which would you select?” said CM Jim Graham. The winners: taxpayers making $75k a year or more, who won’t see their taxes go up. The losers: long-term welfare recipients, who could see their benefits decrease 40 percent next year. Postie Tim Craig reports that Gray even expanded the cuts to the Temporary Aid to Needy Families welfare program above what Fenty had proposed. Why? Because the “Grim Reaper is at the door” and there’s no way he’s going to allow another control board” to run the city’s finances. There’s also four day furloughs for most guv workers, which LL No. 6 thinks is a cheap fix that only puts off the hard decisions. More coverage here, here and here. LL No. 4 blasts Gray for the untransparent way in which he made budget decisions, again. Save Our Safety Net isn’t happy either.
Other actions the council took yesterday included inserting a provision that allows for the D.C. lottery to operate online gambling and may run afoul of federal law, extending rent control 10 years, and blocking separation pay for Fenty loyalists who were hired right after the last campaign for a lame-duck, totally coasting administration (thank you, thank you).
The Fence is Back!: Remember the brouhaha over the illegal and immoral fence Vince Gray‘s built around his home? Well, looks like Gray is going to have the last laugh in that battle, reports the Post‘s Ann Marimow. The police department wants to put a fence around Gray’s house for security reasons: “You have to have perimeter security to slow someone from gaining access to his property,” said Assistant Police Chief Alfred Durham about Gray’s home on Branch Avenue, just a stone’s throw from the border with PG County. Marimow doesn’t point out, but LL can attest from badgering Fenty’s neighbors this summer about whether he’s a jerk or not, that the current mayor doesn’t have a fence around his Crestwood home. (Although, maybe he needed one.)
Resistance is Futile: Interesting think piece by LL No. 2 on how the District government is quite literally becoming a nanny state while undermining the traditional family structure. “Consider these facts: Three-year-old children are placed for the entire day in the care of the public schools. If they attend after-school programs, they don’t get home until late evening. Many receive all their meals—breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks—in some nondescript cafeteria.” Says CM Tommy Wells: “The general feeling is the parent doesn’t know best …we’ve decided children are better off with [the government] than with their parents.”
I Prefer Chair Aerobics: LL is seeing a lot of smoke but no fire in this piece by the Examiner’s Freeman Klopott on Police Chief Cathy Lanier making space for a private workout room so she and her top staff can do yoga and step aerobics. The missing key ingredient: a price tag. The story makes it unclear whether the new yoga room will cost the taxpayers a dime or not. If a police janitor just moved a few boxes so Lanier can do a few downward dogs, big deal. If she’s using maintenance funds to install full length mirrors, ballet bars on the wall, and a kicking sound system to blast Sweatin’ to the Oldies IV, then that actually is a big deal.
Wal-Mart will meet you now.
When they tear down LL’s cubicle and rebuild it as a hotel, a room will may cost $411 a night.
City bureaucracy, at its finest, allows for firefighter under investigation for potential fraud to get paid for two years while not having to work. Nice scoop, Segraves.