City Paper is not for tourists
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-‘Fenty Budget Cuts 385 Jobs, Increases Schools Funding‘; ‘Last-Minute Budget Change Costs Taxpayers ‘Tens of Thousands’‘; ‘Fenty Cut Line to Get on Plane, Says Eyewitness‘; and tweets galore!
TUNE IN—-LL will be on the Politics Hour With Kojo Nnamdi, noon on WAMU-FM, 89.3. Guests include Vincent Gray.
Morning all. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, back from a short vacation, released his fiscal 2011 budget yesterday—-sort of. A last-minute change to keep the Office of the Tenant Advocate intact necessitated reprinting dozens of budget books, costing taxpayers lots of money. (He could have just written a letter.) It also means that details were scarce and many questions about the budget plan remain unanswered at this point—-including the magnitude of cuts to safety net programs serving the poor, disabled, and homeless. (An electronic version of the budget was finally posted this morning.) What we do know: Fenty proposes to increase education spending by $140M, accompanied by a small rise in fire and EMS funding, in the face of a half-billion-dollar budget gap. The money is made up through a passel of fee hikes, a new one-percent tax on hospital billings, and the return of the infamous ‘E911’ fee, as well as 385 job cuts, a pay-hike freeze for employees, and spending almost $100M out of the city’s dwindling savings account.
AFTER THE JUMP—-More budget details; questions persist about prosecutors’ handling of mass shooting suspect; drive-by’s wheelman was DYRS ward; bunch of new charges for Teddy Loza; Gray extremely concerned that Rhee will have a happy marriage; Northrop not coming to D.C., says report
WAPO LEDE—-Metro section report from Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig: ‘Faced with a $523 million shortfall and a reelection campaign amid his waning popularity, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proposed a 2011 budget Thursday that would slash 385 jobs and increase fees but would continue to spend heavily on public schools and recreation….Fenty’s proposal comes just days after D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) announced that he would challenge the first-term mayor and a drive-by shooting left four people dead and five others wounded, eclipsing the city’s record-low homicide rate….Fenty’s planned budget is considered one of the most challenging in a decade. In addition to the city’s shrinking revenues, high unemployment rate, burdening debt and borrowing limitations, the spending plan will now be negotiated through the prism of an election year by a mayor seeking reelection and the man seeking to oust him.’
COUNCIL REAX—-‘His proposed $5.3 billion local spending plan is already being criticized by council members and government watchdogs for flawed math and misplaced priorities. The release of the full budget was delayed by hours Thursday morning, with the Fenty administration scrambling to keep the Office of the Tenant Advocate intact after The Washington Post reported online that the agency would be consolidated to save money. Budget books had to be reprinted. “I’m the author of the legislation that created the office,” said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), a Fenty ally. “I was certain it would be rejected . . . so what’s the point? To his credit, the mayor did not hesitate at all with taking it out” of the proposal, Graham added.’
THE FEES—-WaPo reports that ‘a 39-cent increase in the fee on phone lines through the e911 fund could produce $7 million, and a 25-cent bump in parking meters that now cost 75 cents per hour could raise $3.6 million. Other ways to generate dollars include increasing 13 renewal fees through the Department of Health, affecting such practitioners as chiropractors and acupuncturists; raising fines on 71 different traffic violations, including passing a stopped school bus; and selling advertising on the back of parking meters and parking meter receipts.’ Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner that Fenty would ‘[e]stablish new fees for use of commercial loading zones, use of public space by car-sharing companies, and intercity bus loading’ and ‘[c]harge $100 for “relocation” rush-hour tow.’ Residential parking permits fees would rise from $15 to $25. Increased traffic fine could raise $28 million.
WHERE’S THE CUTS?—-Fenty pledged to ‘do more with less,’ but at the council budget briefing, Gray said, ‘When you read the documents, it sounds like things are great—-and we know things are not great here or other places.’ He tells Neibauer: ‘You read this document, you think we’re rolling in dough.’
BOTTOM LINE—-‘It was clear from his presentation that Fenty is staking his political future on being known as the mayor who made education a priority and worked to slow the expansion of government, even if it means cuts to many human-service initiatives that have long been valued by some District residents.’
MORE—-Metro would receive no additional money to prevent service cuts, Examiner reports, though Graham says he will work in committee to find some extra cash. GGW also notes the lack of additional Metro subsidy and notes that folks who wrote the mayor on the issue received a particularly inartful form letter in response. Receipts from the bag tax would be used to fund street-sweeping under the Fenty plan, D.C. Wire reports, much to Tommy Wells‘ chagrin. Also WAMU-FM, WRC-TV.
WaPo B1 hed: ‘Mayor Fenty booed on delayed arrival at scene of fatal shootings,’ by Ann E. Marimow and Clarence Williams. ‘It was 9:20 p.m. Wednesday, more than 24 hours after the shots were fired, when Mayor Adrian M. Fenty arrived at the scene of the District’s deadliest outbreak of violence in years. And people gathered there were angry. They booed, cursed, pointed fingers and yelled, “Where have you been?”…The mayor’s delayed appearance at the Southeast Washington crime scene reinforced perceptions among African Americans in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River that Fenty is out of touch with their community. The administration’s evasiveness about his whereabouts also bolstered the impression that Fenty is secretive.’ What did Hizzoner have to say? ‘The team that works for me knows exactly what they need to do in my physical absence….As long as I am communicating with my senior team and they have their instructions, that will be the case.’ Tony Bullock, the former press secretary to Mayor Tony Williams, says ‘the mistake was not to get the basic information out there. At some point, you don’t owe every detail to the public, but people do have a right to know where the mayor is, because things happen.’
MORE—-‘Before Fenty arrived Wednesday night, council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) told the crowd that neither Fenty nor Lanier had responded to his phone messages about the shootings, which occurred in his ward. “That’s disrespectful to the 70,000 people that live in this community,” Barry said to the crowd, which at times chanted, “We want Gray!”‘
WaPo’s Williams highlights the conflict between city police and federal prosecutors over whether a warrant should have been pursued for drive-by suspect Orlando Carter ahead of the Tuesday shooting, with ‘officials saying that the man remained free because of a good-faith disagreement between detectives and prosecutors over the strength of their evidence.’ Such disagreements, Williams writes, ‘are common and…prosecutors often tell detectives that they need more evidence before making arrests.’ New U.S. Attorney Ron Machen says in a statement: ‘We can only approve arrest warrants when sufficient probable cause has been established…after a thorough review of the evidence.’ Writes Williams: ‘Although prosecutors, like detectives, were eager to take Carter off the streets last week, they did not think that the evidence gathered by police at that point was solid enough to pass muster with a judge, authorities said. The decision not to seek the warrant—-meaning that Carter was free Tuesday when the bloodbath occurred—-rankled homicide detectives. They complained privately to reporters after the drive-by shootings that Machen’s office had been too cautious….Chief Cathy L. Lanier noted the dissatisfaction Thursday in an appearance on NewsChannel 8’s “NewsTalk” program. “Our officers and detectives that speak out—-I understand why,” she said.’ Also WTTG-TV, WRC-TV, WTOP, which reports that a victim’s father ‘alleges prosecutors’ reluctance to move forward was because the eyewitness who could identify Carter was a black girl. [Norman Williams] recounted a conversation with prosecutors he says happened in a courthouse hallway. “I said, ‘Are you telling me an African-American witness is less credited than a white witness?'”‘
Harry Jaffe writes in Examiner that there’s a problem with all the finger-pointing: ‘The police didn’t have the goods on Orlando Carter. Yes, he was implicated in the March 22 shooting. But cops did not have a positive identification. All they had was one witness who looked at a photo of Carter and said it “could have been him.” But it could have been someone else, too. No judge will issue a warrant on coulda-shoulda….Behind the scenes Ron Machen was steamed—-for good reason. He just took office as the city’s top law enforcement official. He prosecutes cases brought by the Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and all police forces in the capital. He also handles counterterrorism cases, cyber crime. You name it. The Senate confirmed him in February. He’s barely had time to hang pictures in his new office—-and he gets blamed for four deaths. That’s harsh—-and unwarranted. Let’s hope Machen is the forgiving type. If he starts pointing fingers, it could get ugly.’
The other political angle to the shooting: The getaway driver, identified by Examiner as 14-year-old Malik Carter (brother of Orlando), was an absconded DYRS ward, Bill Myers writes in Examiner. ‘Sources familiar with his background say that Malik had been arrested at least nine times for crimes ranging from possession of a stolen vehicle to armed robbery. Before Tuesday’s rampage, he had fled a youth home, the sources said. Critics said Thursday that the Fenty administration has been lax on juvenile crime.’ The DYRS employees’ union is already starting to make hay out of the issue. Also WUSA-TV.
ALSO—-‘Could D.C. officials have prevented the mass shooting in Southeast?’ asks a WaPo editorial today. ‘What makes the shooting even more disturbing is the revelation that police wanted [Carter], arrested last week on suspicion of a March 22 murder, but prosecutors refused to seek an arrest warrant from a judge because they believed there was insufficient evidence. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office said it is a “rare circumstance” for police and prosecutors to disagree, but it’s critical both offices get together to review how this case was handled—-and whether different procedures need to be put in place….Then too, there must be answers from the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services; the 14-year-old driver of the minivan, as well as one of the victims, appears to have been ostensibly under department supervision. The driver…had nine previous convictions, including theft and assault, and had absconded from the department’s custody. The agency has undertaken many worthy reforms, but there have been troubling and persistent questions about how it places and supervises troubled youth in community settings. How was this boy being supervised, and were there missed signs of problems?’
AND—-Neighbors are nervous that the cycle of retaliation could continue. WaPo notes that the 14-year-old may not be charged as an adult under D.C. law. And Lanier says a dispatcher’s handling of the pursuit after the shooting ‘was a textbook example of how she hopes other officers might respond to similar circumstances….”It was incredible.”‘
A grand jury has brought myriad new charges against Ted Loza, the former top aide to Jim Graham arrested in September for taking bribes. WaPo’s Craig reports, ‘accusing him of accepting or soliciting more than $30,000 in cash, trips, limousine rides and meals in exchange for pursuing legislation favorable to the taxicab industry’—-a sight more than the $1,500 he’d already been accused of taking. New charges include another bribery count, conspiracy to commit bribery, extortion, and making false statements. ‘The indictment spells out an effort by Loza to solicit or accept numerous gifts from [Abdulaziz Kamus] for himself or others between August 2004 and November 2008. In exchange, according to the indictment, Loza agreed “to influence the passage of legislation” that was pending before a committee that at the time was chaired by Graham….No charges have been filed against Graham, and there is no indication in the indictment that he did anything illegal. When reached Thursday night, Graham would only say, “The indictment does not charge me with any wrongdoing of any kind.”‘
MORE—-In late 2007, conspirators ‘stated that they planned to offer Graham another trip to Ethiopia in exchange for his support of legislation to impose a moratorium on the issuance of taxicab licenses. On Nov. 27, 2007, prosecutors allege, Loza solicited money from Kamus for a trip that he and Graham were allegedly taking to El Salvador. After speaking with [taxi company owner Yitbarek Syume], Kamus drove to the John A. Wilson Building on Nov. 28. Outside the building, Kamus gave Loza about $500 in cash, the indictment alleges. Then, on Jan. 6, 2008, Kamus offered to arrange for Loza and Graham a trip to Ethiopia “as a reward for their help in enacting legislation to curb the issuance of taxicab licenses,” according to the indictment. A few days later, Kamus allegedly told Loza that he had obtained airline tickets for him and Graham to take the trip. Syume also made hotel arrangements, according to the indictment. But Syume told another unidentified co-conspirator by telephone later that month that Graham had refused to make the trip, according to the indictment. “Syume stated that for ‘safety’ reasons Public Official No. 1 would not travel to Ethiopia until after the moratorium on the issuance of taxicab company licenses had been enacted,” the indictment states. During the next three months, Loza is alleged to have accepted limousine rides from Kamus for him and his relatives, cash payments of $500 and $4,000, and free parking for his girlfriend.’
Mayoral candidate Vincent Gray really, really wants to make sure that Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson have a strong marriage, or at least that’s the messgae he sends when asked whether he’d keep the firebrand schools chancellor should he win the mayoralty. Bill Turque reports in WaPo that ‘Gray said he would decide whether to retain Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee only after he is elected and raised “burnout” and her impending marriage to [Johnson] as issues he would want to discuss with her.’ Keep in mind that Rhee ‘has said she is fully prepared for a commuter marriage with Johnson…But Gray, in an interview Wednesday following a community forum organized by critics of Rhee wondered whether she would want to continue. “She’s apparently getting married later this year,” Gray said. “Her spouse obviously can’t move here. So the question that would be germane to me is, does she want to commute 3,000 miles in order to be with her spouse? People get burned out in these jobs. I was a department director for four years at [the D.C. Department of Human Services], and after four years you burn out. It’s good to go do something else at that stage. So that would be all part of the conversation.” Rhee declined to comment.’
MORE—-‘Gray’s remarks represent part of an awkward political straddle that, it appears, he will try to execute as a candidate. His base of support includes segments of the African American community and organized labor that are furious with Rhee for her decisions on school closures and teacher layoffs. In the coming weeks, he will likely work to hold their support in place while trying not to alienate voters in other parts of the city, especially in the predominantly white wards 2 and 3, where Rhee’s reform efforts have been popular.’
Turque also writes at D.C. School Insider, detailing how Wednesday night’s JAWB education forum featuring ex-superintendent Clifford Janey and other, mostly anti-Rhee education advocates, became ‘an emotionally-charged rally for what the 150 or so in attendance clearly saw as their dream ticket for 2010: Gray-Janey-Saunders.’ Gray attended, and ‘came with red meat for the anti-Rheeites, trashing her decision to reassign Hardy Middle School principal Patrick Pope and accusing her of not engaging with parents or articulating a coherent vision of education the District from early childhood through college. With Washington Teachers’ Union president George Parker looking on, Whiting lionized WTU general vice president Nathan Saunders, his opponent in next month’s union elections, as a “standup guy” who “speaks for the teachers when they can’t speak for themselves.”‘ He said of Janey:’What a first-class professional. What a first-class human being.’ For his part, Janey ‘never directly mentioned Rhee or Fenty. But he rejected one of Rhee’s core contentions about school reform, which is that nothing is more important than the quality of the classroom teacher.’ He told Turque that ‘he and Gray are not plotting a restoration of the pre-Rhee DCPS. “It’s not a coup.” Of Gray he said: “I do wish him well. We need some healing in this city.”‘
What about the gay vote? Lou Chibbaro Jr. explores how a Fenty/Gray race will play out in the LGBT community at DC Agenda: ‘[M]any of the city’s top gay Democratic activists said they were not ready to take sides in the race, a development that some viewed as a sign that activists have concerns about Fenty. Gray’s entry in the mayoral contest also opens the way for at least three gay-supportive Council members, whose names have surfaced as possible candidates for Council chair, to enter that race, creating another difficult choice for LGBT voters. “One way to look at this is it’s a good thing,” said Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance. “It’s a luxury to be able to choose among friends.”‘ If Phil Mendelson runs for chair, Clark Ray ‘would be in a far stronger position to win that contest.’ Ray, for the record, isn’t endorsing his old boss, Fenty. (DCist notes that Ray went hard after Mendo on the South Cap shootings.)
Metro officials delayed publicly reporting two cases of rape on WMATA property, Ann Scott Tyson reports in WaPo. ‘Metro officials gave differing accounts of why the public was not informed about the crimes. Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said on Tuesday that the police deliberately withheld information on two assaults that occurred in the parking garage of Largo Town Center in February as they searched for suspects. However, Peter Benjamin, chairman of Metro’s board of directors, said information on the attacks “got lost in the shuffle” during the February snowstorms. “I think there was an intent” to inform the public, he said.’ There have been four rapes on Metro property; one of the incidents happened in the Largo Town Center garage, but ‘Metro police could not immediately provide details or the locations of the two other rape cases.’ The story was first reported Tuesday by Examiner’s Kytja Weir.
The District is out of the running to host Northrop Grumman’s headquarters, Derek Kravitz and Dion Haynes report in WaPo, with the company having ‘narrowed its choices to Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties….The Los Angeles-based defense contractor has apparently eliminated the District, where small-business owners complained about the $25 million in tax breaks and grants that the company was being offered, as well as Loudoun County….[Kwame Brown], who chairs the council’s economic development committee, said he was unaware of whether the city was still in the running. He said he thought city officials were still negotiating with the company. “It’s unfortunate if D.C.’s not selected,” Brown said. “We knew it would be a long shot.”‘ If true, the decision would spare city lawmakers from a tough election-year vote.
An update on convention center hotel news from WBJ’s Sarah Krouse: ‘The dismissal of The JBG Cos.’ lawsuit over the convention hotel has cleared the way for the Washington Convention and Sports Authority to turn its attention to selling bonds to help fund the hotel….[I]t will take 60 to 90 days to finalize the bond documents, which means the earliest construction could start would likely be June….But even as the District begins the process of assembling the bond documents, it’s not clear what JBG will do. The Chevy Chase developer could appeal the decision, a move that could mean months of waiting as it meanders through an appellate court. It could cut its losses and walk away. Or it could continue the settlement talks with Marriott and the city that had been under way for three weeks prior to the ruling.’ It you care what Scott Bolden thinks, he’s quoted.
ALSO—-Krouse on federal leasing binge: ‘The down market, long-planned agency consolidations and Bob Peck‘s return to the General Services Administration have boosted the agency’s activity in recent months, with the federal government gaining leverage in cutting local deals. With vacancy rates up, especially in submarkets like the Capitol Riverfront, NoMa and Southwest, landlords looking to fill space have little choice but to play ball….D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has criticized the GSA for not moving swiftly enough with its deals and for leasing rather than buying space, said she has been happier with the agency’s pace under Peck’s leadership, but said leasing is still a work in progress.’
Metro’s hearings on possible gap-closing measures wrapped up last night, notes WaPo’s Tyson. ‘Board approval is required for any significant fare increases or service cuts, and the board will weigh the public feedback as well as the results of an online survey that Metro is conducting to gather more opinion on the many possible options for filing the budget gap. ‘The board has not endorsed any of the options released for public comment. Indeed, although the board voted to allow the broad public discussion after complaints that the last round of hearings earlier this year had an overly restrictive agenda, board members made clear that they opposed some of the proposals. Given the magnitude of this year’s budget shortfall, several board members view as virtually inevitable some fare increase.’
ALSO—-New Metro safety chief James M. Dougherty starts April 19.
Census director appears at Ben’s Chili Bowl on Census Day. Also there: Norton.
The sale of Allied Capital is complete, and WaPo biz columnist Steven Pearlstein laments the demise of the firm: ‘At Allied’s office on Pennsylvania Avenue this week, employees wearing jeans were packing up their belongings. [Ares Capital] will run the combined company from its offices in New York, keeping only 20 employees here in Washington. And while most top executives are out of a job, they aren’t going away empty-handed, thanks to the generous severance payments due under their contracts and a deal struck with Ares to vest their stock options. Even after giving up more than $3 million of his severance, [William Walton] is set to walk away with $6.5 million in cash and vested options valued at $1.7 million, according to the official proxy. As he sees it, that sum makes sense given how much value he’s been able to salvage for Allied’s shareholders, who last week overwhelmingly approved the sale to Ares. From another angle, it looks to be a pretty generous gratuity for someone who drove the company into the ditch in the first place.’
WaTimes editorial slams D.C. Council bill mandating union labor for city-assisted projects. ‘Evidence rapidly accumulated that President Obama will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship in order to do the bidding of big union bosses. Now Washington’s city council seems poised to pursue the same, sorry course.’
Gilbert Arenas, as ordered, has paid $5,000 to a crime victims’ compensation fund. Still no word on his halfway house detention.
D.C. Court of Appeals overturns man’s conviction, ‘saying that a D.C. Superior Court judge improperly ordered Martin not to talk to his lawyer during a weekend recess that interrupted the prosecutor’s cross examination of Martin,’ Legal Times reports. Kelvin Martin had been ‘charged with one count of aggravated assault while armed and one count of assaulting, resisting or interfering with a police officer with a dangerous weapon.’ He will be tried again.
David Catania tells Georgetown students how gay marriage was passed in D.C.
American Medical News covers rollbacks of CareFirst rate hikes.
Pepco gets April Fooled by enviros.
Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to be closed for construction for two years.
APRIL FOOLS—-‘After 12 years as Councilmember, two decades with Whitman Walker and 28 years as a member of the bar in goodstanding, [Jim Graham] is finally retiring to have some much needed rest to his cabin in Berkely Springs….A small donations of $30.00 will cover the lunch and gift (checks can be made payable to Ted Loza). As a special treat there will be toasts by Chief Judge Lee Satterfield, Councilmember Frank Smith, Ted Loza, Abdulaziz Kamus, former and many more friends and admirers.’ Brought to you by Jeff Smith. Also, check out GGW, which did its typically outstanding April 1 work. The 14th Street Bridge post, in fact, fooled a very high-ranking council staffer.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, update on Department of Human Services contracts, People’s Drug Building, 64 New York Ave. NE.