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AUGUST 3: Kids at Work

Today’s Event: I’m mad as hell about the Summer Youth Employment Program’s cost overruns. The D.C. Council held a hearing yesterday on Fenty’s request to extend the program, and discovered that the mayor’s political ambitions have (again) got the best of him. The Post reported this morning that the administration took millions from services for needy families and used it to supplement the jobs program. Now Fenty wants to extend the program. Mary Cheh sums up my feelings perfectly in the Examiner: “To borrow a phrase from my daughter, this blows.”

Influence: I’ve always been in favor of the summer job’s program—specifically, Mayor Anthony Williams‘ smaller-scale, appropriately budgeted summer jobs program. Fenty’s predecessor’s SYEP never seemed to make these kinds of bad headlines. But in 2007 and 2008, the Fenty version had cost overruns totaling more than $54 million. (I recently wrote a cover story chronicling the troubled  program.) I’d swing my vote to lean Gray if the D.C. Council weren’t so inept at overseeing the effort. Councilmember Michael Brown had vowed to watchdog the SYEP all summer. How do you miss a program expanding from $23 million to $34 million? How does the council miss the continued gutting of homeless services? Maybe Gray was too busy making YouTube videos.
Net impact: Neutral. Gray is running on his record of checking what he calls a dysfunctional administration. But in this case of high-profile dysfunction, his council didn’t do anything until some  headlines appeared.  I’m thinking of writing in D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols for mayor.

But: Today, the D.C. Council voted to reject Fenty’s jobs extension by a 9 to 2 vote. Gray voted with the majority, rejecting the argument that a no vote meant you hated young people. WaPo quotes a disappointed kid who broke out in tears after the vote. Sorry kid, but Gray did the right thing.