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Millions and Millions: A month ago, Mayor Vince Gray’s team released their new, terrifying estimate of the budget gap facing the District in fiscal 2012: $600 million. But today, chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi declared the actual shortfall will be $312 million. The difference, apparently, is due to higher than expected tax revenue from commercial properties; real estate taxes are expected to be up 16 percent next year. If the budget is really getting healthier at a rate of $70 million a week, maybe the city can lease a Lincoln Navigator for everyone by the fall! +3
Go Ride a Bike: At times during last year’s mayoral election, you could be forgiven for thinking it was, instead, a referendum on bike lanes. New Census data makes clear, though, that the lanes are good for something—they get people riding bikes. Rates of Washingtonians commuting to work on two wheels are highest in neighborhoods where the city has installed good bike infrastructure. (No word on whether the Census findings have been adjusted to take former Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s job teaching at Oberlin into account; for a commute that far, you’d need to use a SmartCar, not a bike.) +2
One (Healthy) City: If the only thing hold the D.C. government back from greatness is junk food, greatness will soon be upon us. (Of course, that could be a big if.) Councilmember Mary Cheh is introducing legislation to replace the vending machines in city and federal buildings with offerings that have at least one ingredient besides high fructose corn syrup. Last year, Cheh brought veggie burgers to DCPS lunch menus, so she’s probably serious. City workers can now look forward to vending machines always being out of celery around 4 p.m. every day. +2
Riggo Goes to Kenya?: The perfect gift for a football-loving wildlife photographer can be hard to think up. Nature and the NFL don’t always go together perfectly, after all. Fortunately, John Riggins has solved the problem. The Washington Redskins career leading rusher ran a sweepstakes for a Kenyan photo safari on his website, which is now closed, but you can still purchase a trip for the low price of $2,995. On closer examination, it’s unclear whether Riggo will necessarily accompany the winner on the trip, but so what? Remember: To get a reclusive cheetah to pose for a picture, just whisper to it, “Loosen up, cheetah baby.” +1
Yesterday’s Needle rating: 21 Today’s score: +8 Today’s Needle rating: 29