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Sounding Like Republicans Edition: Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry are sounding like Republicans these days, arguing that government assistance is creating dependency and perpetuating poverty. The pair, who represent the poorest parts of the city, have proposed a bill to limit how long residents can receive welfare cash payments. As the Post‘s Tim Craig reports, “‘For far too long, we have cradled a large part of the population, and our cradling has actually handicapped people,” Alexander said. ‘Many of our residents view government assistance as a way of life, and in my opinion we are actually hurting our residents instead of helping them.’ As part of the welfare reform act signed into law by former president Bill Clinton in 1996, the federal government placed a five-year lifetime limit on participation in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. But states are allowed to keep recipients on the rolls longer than five years if they use local funds. The District, long known for its generosity in providing and protecting social services for the poor, has embraced a limitless policy, costing D.C. taxpayers about $35 million a year. But Barry and Alexander, both of whom represent neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, say too many District residents now rely on their monthly check from the government. About 40 percent of the city’s 17,000 families on TANF have been getting benefits for more than five years. They receive an average of $370 a month. ‘We have to break the cycle,’ Barry said. ‘Part of the purpose of the bill is to start a dialogue about how ineffective our current system is.'” Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells said the bill isn’t going anywhere, but it’s interesting to see this topic come up. Almost Mayor Vince Gray sang a similar tune the other night at a little get-together on Capitol Hill, saying “I’m not sure that we haven’t become enablers” when it comes to welfare distribution.
AFTER THE JUMP: No COS for Charles; We’re Not P.G.!; Are Elections Even Worth it? …
No COS for Charles: Tim Craig, who begat the rumor that mystery man Reuben Charles was expected to be Gray’s chief of staff, has now taken that rumor away. Citing sources in the Gray camp, Craig reports that Charles is “is unlikely to become the new mayor’s chief of staff, but could land another role in the administration … Charles currently leads day-to-day operations for Gray’s transition team, and jobseekers have been clamoring for his attention. He was featured recently in Washingtonian magazine as someone prominent residents should get to know. Despite his close-working relationship with Gray, Charles has been battered by a series of media reports about a series of liens and judgments that have been filed against him in other states. Many appear related to his business career. Although he’s being more thoroughly vetted by Gray, the chairman has been telling friends that Charles is not a leading candidate to become his chief-of-staff. It’s unclear whom Gray could tap for that position, but sources say Gray most likely won’t be making major personnel decisions until after Thanksgiving.”
More DYRS Problems: The Times‘ Jeffery Anderson and Matthew Cella take a closer look at the embattled Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and report that “more than one in five D.C. homicides in a recent 12-month period involved a DYRS ward, either as a victim or a suspect … [and] at least 14 of the city’s 130 publicly identified homicide victims between Sept. 1, 2009, and Aug. 31 were under DYRS supervision at the time they were killed. … Former federal prosecutor Robert Hildum, named interim DYRS director in July and the third to lead the agency this year, has harsh words for the agency he inherited from former director Vincent N. Schiraldi, a nationally known figure in the world of juvenile justice who just six years ago presided over a complete restructuring after the agency had become a national disgrace. Mr. Hildum, whose future at the agency is uncertain given the upcoming change of administration in city government, discussed a review he conducted while working as a juvenile prosecutor in the city attorney general’s office of cases in which DYRS wards were accused of homicides.’The conclusion we saw was that they were lacking in oversight, they were lacking in services. There didn’t seem to be any consequences for noncompliance. They seemed to reward noncompliance,’ he said.”
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: Zaminer’s Harry Jaffe says the lesson to be learned from PG County Executive Jack Johnson’s recent troubles is this: D.C.’s politicians aren’t so bad, after all. “Everyone likes to tag politicians with ‘corrupt.’ So if you ask people outside the District about Marion Barry, they might say: ‘Yeah, he was corrupt.’ Really? During his 16 years as mayor and many more in city council, Marion Barry was never caught taking a dime from anyone. No bags of cash from developers, no fancy shoes from contractors, no jewelry from lobbyists. A bottle of cognac from friends who happen to be doing business with the city? Perhaps. Crack from girlfriends? Absolutely. Federal prosecutors, beginning with Joe diGenova, despised Barry. They knew he was flawed and vulnerable. They dogged him, bugged him, trailed him. They got zip in basic public corruption. Ask D.C. residents whether Mayor Adrian Fenty is corrupt, and many will glibly say: of course. They will point to the $80 million in recreation center development contracts that went to his friends, and they will assume he steered them and got something in return. If that’s true, why did a city council investigation come up empty? Why has Robert Trout, the lawyer chosen by the council to dig deeper, not been able to report any incriminating transactions? Why are the feds who nailed Jack Johnson not on Fenty’s tail?” Maybe Trout hasn’t been able to report any incriminating transactions because he hasn’t released his report yet…
You Call This An Election?: The Post‘s Mike DeBonis asks: “Does it make sense to pay several hundred poll workers to work an election that’s likely to see many polling places serve only a handful of voters? Especially when the city is in tough fiscal straits?” Couldn’t D.C. try having a “shorter early-voting period, maybe, or with some of those 143 polling places consolidated into “voting centers.” Or, perhaps, even an election done solely by mail ballot, like in Oregon and much of Washington.” The Board of Elections and Ethics is “preparing to provide some options to the council, possibilities that we might be able to do to save the taxpayers some money,” said BOEE spokeswoman Alysoun McLaughlin — including the options mentioned above. But any changes, she said, will probably require the council to pass emergency legislation in the coming months.” D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who oversees matters electoral, said she’s ‘hopeful’ that money for a full-bore election will be found without much fuss. She raised the possibility last week of using federal grant funds; that’s unlikely, however, since federal election grants are supposed to be used for improving elections, not for actually holding elections. Don’t look to Cheh to propose any money-saving shortcuts, calling that ‘the absolute last, last thing I would do. … Philosophically, I don’t think we can give this short shrift,’ Cheh said. ‘People need a full opportunity to vote.'”
Pepco Denied: Pepco was refused permission to add a 15th surcharge to customer’s bills to pay for energy efficiency programs that the District recently defunded, WBJ‘s Michael Neibauer reports.
If it Keeps on Rainin’, Levee’s Going to Break: The government is going to build a levee on 17th Street to protect the National Mall, so that future generations can pay $7.50 to get into the Air and Space Museum.
Do you know the difference between a house mouse, a field mouse and a deer mouse? Neither do snap traps covered with peanut butter, which makes Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh‘s Wildlife Protection Act the council just passed a royal nuisance, says a lobbyist for the National Pest Management Association.
Cathleen Black, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pick to head the city’s schools is trying to fight “mounting skepticism” that she’s the right person for the job. Who does she turn to for help? Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, of course.
Fenty Schedule: Unveiling the first electric car charger. 10:45 a.m., Reeves Center.
Council: 11 a.m. “Mount Pleasant Street Small Area Action Plan Approval Resolution of 2010” 2 p.m. “Food, Environmental, and Economic Development in the District of Columbia Act of 2010” 4 p.m. “Prohibition on Government Employee Engagement in Political Activity Act of 2010” “Corrupt Election Practices Amendment Act of 2010”