City Paper is not for tourists
Every month (sometimes more often) the D.C. Council meets on a Tuesday for its legislative meeting, where the full body sits in the chamber all day and actually passes bills and things like that. There’s usually some fairly interesting stuff, but there’s usually even more not-so-interesting stuff. Of late, Chairman Vincent C. Gray‘s started doing a press conference the day before to get reporters acquainted with the concil’s business. LL goes to these things so you don’t have to, and he will now be rounding them up in convenient bullet form:
- The tally this morning: Four reporters (myself, the Examiner’s Michael Neibauer and Jonetta Rose Barras, and the Post’s Nikita Stewart), eight of 13 councilmembers (Gray, Ward 1’s Jim Graham, Ward 3’s Mary Cheh, Ward 6’s Tommy Wells, Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander, and At-Large members David A. Catania, Carol Schwartz, and Phil Mendelson), and approximately three dozen staffers and randoms. In other words, about a 10-to-1 nonpress-to-press ratio.
- Gray announced that he’s hired a new communications director to replace Denise Reed, a longtime Wilson Building fixture who left Gray’s office in December for a job with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Her replacement is familiar face: Doxie McCoy, who’s served as the press aide to congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton since October 2001. She starts next week.
- Graham announced emergency legislation to force the mayor to issue rules implementing mandatory inclusionary zoning. (Here’s the whole complicated background on “IZ”—-long story short, the rulemaking’s been delayed to give the development community a chance to weigh in.) Graham had introduced a nonemergency bill last month that would have given the mayor 30 days after enactment to issue the regs. This bill gives him until April 1.
- While we’re talking emergency legislation, there’s 10 emergency bills on the agenda coming out of the mayor’s office, all of which are contract approvals (the Council has to approve any contract greater than $1 million). Barras questioned Gray on why this stuff’s being done by emergency legislation. Blame, naturally, went to the mayor’s office and a blown contracting and procurement system. Good question, Jonetta!
- Mendelson announced a pair of bills coming out of his committee. One will require the sale of “fire-safe” cigarettes in the District by July 1. (Fire-safe cigs use a different type of paper that cause them to extinguish themselves if not actively puffed.) The other is the Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Act of 2007, which creates a fund dedicated to fighting, yes, auto theft, funded mainly by a $5 hike in the yearly car registration fee. The money’s overseen by a mayoral-appointed board and can be spent on more cops, bait cars, public-awareness campaigns, and things like that.
- Schwartz got up to talk about her “Paid Sick and Safe Days Act of 2007,” which is now the “Accrued Sick and Safe Days Act of 2007.” The new name reflects the fact that the bill stands to be heavily amended, mostly to make it more palatable to folks who do the hiring. “We have really worked hard to win a buy-in from the business community,” Schwartz said. Despite the changes, the votes haven’t been counted yet (members of the Service Employees union rallied at the Wilson Building this afternoon, citing “wavering as Tuesday’s vote nears” in a press release) and there’s rumors of mayoral veto being bandied about.
- Gray gave some early, rough numbers on the budget surplus from FY07: Total surplus is about $248 million. About $50 million of that has been earmarked for spending, and another approximately $100 million was allocated in a December supplemental appropriations bill. Of the remainder, Gray indicated he’d hoped to put that money away for a rainy day, and given the economic outlook right now, looks like things could get rainy indeed. Revenue projections won’t be in from the CFO’s office for another few weeks—-but LL did get this fun tidbit from Gray: “Dr. [Natwar M.] Gandhi has informed us it will not be like we’ve seen in the recent past.”
- The Fenty steamroll on school closings is all but complete. Last month, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry and Ward 5’s Harry Thomas Jr. introduced their “School Closing Fairness and Accountability Emergency Act of 2008,” which would have given the Council a chance to vote on the proposed school shutterings. On Friday, both Barry and Thomas stood behind Fenty as he announced the final closings list (as Marc Fisher pointed out in his column over the weekend). And today, Gray quiety announced that Barry and Thomas had withdrawn their bill.