Marion Barry hospitalized in Las Vegas, report says

Posted at 10:18 AM ET, 05/21/2012

Marion Barry hospitalized in Las Vegas, report says

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post

D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) suffered a blood clot while traveling to Las Vegas for an annual retail convention, according to tweets on his official account Sunday night.

”Got a blood clot while waiting on plane in Memphis,” said a tweet posted shortly before 8 p.m. Eastern time. “Taking blood thiner. I thank God it was caught.”

Neither Barry, 76, nor his chief of staff immediately returned calls or e-mails Monday morning. WRC-TV reported Monday morning that Barry was taken to Summerlin Hospital Medical Center; it is unclear whether he remains admitted.

A subsequent tweet referenced a recent Barry controversy, when in a council hearing last month, he lamented a high number of immigrant nurses, particularly from the Philippines. But the tweet singled out the “kind professional Filipino staff” who treated him Sunday.

“I stand corrected; I truly didn’t mean 2 hurt or offend,” it read.

Barry during his recent re-election campaign (Linda Davidson – The Washington Post)

Barry is among more than a dozen D.C. elected officials and staff who traveled to Las Vegas for the annual retail convention hosted by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The officials, who this year include Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), will attempt to woo big-name retailers to development sites across the city.

It’s not the first time Barry has been hospitalized while traveling on official business. He was famously admitted to a Los Angeles hospital in 1987 while on a Super Bowl trip. It was one of Barry’s most high-profile health issues in a public career full of them. Most recently, he underwent urinary tract surgery in January.

The 2001 death of a 28-year-old British woman on a long international flight brought great attention to the heightened risk of blood clots during air travel. A 2007 World Health Organization study found that the risk of clotting roughly doubles after four hours of travel.

Kenyan McDuffie wins Ward 5 seat on D.C. Council in race to replace Thomas

Kenyan McDuffie wins Ward 5 seat on D.C. Council in race to replace Thomas

By Tim Craig and Mike DeBonis, Published: May 15

Democrat Kenyan McDuffie easily defeated 10 other candidates Tuesday in a race to replace disgraced former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr., picking up support in all precincts by pledging to restore integrity to the office and unite a ward divided over gentrification.

With all 18 precincts counted in Ward 5, McDuffie trounced his closest competitor by a 2-to-1 ratio, garnering almost 45 percent of the vote in unofficial returns. He will be sworn in after results are certified on May 30.

After declaring victory shortly after 10 p.m., McDuffie said District residents can look forward to “a new, fresh, independent, honest broker on the council.”

“It’s a mandate — people want ethical, honest leadership,” said McDuffie, 36, a onetime letter carrier who became a Justice Department attorney. “They want someone who is going to represent everyone in the ward.”

The contest, viewed as a breakthrough for a new generation of young District political leadership, became a referendum on who could best lead a rapidly changing ward trying to balance its middle-class roots with an influx of new residents.

For all but eight of the past 25 years, the politically active ward had been represented by Thomas or his father, Harry Thomas Sr., a political patriarch who died in 1999.

The son, once viewed as a rising star in District politics, was forced to step down in January after admitting that he stole more than $350,000 from the city. Early this month, a federal judge sentenced Thomas to 38 months in prison.

The scandal weighed heavily on the minds of voters, who said they were eager to move past what they consider an embarrassing mark for the ward.

“I’m trying to make more of an effort to be involved and know what’s going on,” Marybeth Grannis, 38, a nurse, said after she cast her ballot for McDuffie at Dunbar High School, in Truxton Circle in Northwest Washington.

Nine Democrats, one Republican and one independent, all African Americans, appeared on Tuesday’s ballot, but the race largely came down to McDuffie, Delano Hunter and Frank Wilds. Hunter trailed McDuffie with 20 percent of the vote. Wilds was third with 15 percent.

Ward 5 includes much of Northeast, including middle-class neighborhoods such as Michigan Park, Lamond-Riggs, Brookland and Brentwood, and part of the increasingly pricey U Street corridor, including Eckington. The ward is predominantly African American, although its white population has doubled in recent years to 16 percent.

During his campaign, McDuffie quickly cobbled together a broad coalition of progressives, environmentalists, union leaders and gay rights activists, among others.

McDuffie racked up overwhelming margins in several Ward 5 neighborhoods that have undergone demographic changes, including Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle. But McDuffie also carried several more socially moderate precincts in the northern part of the ward that observers had predicted as Hunter or Wilds strongholds.

Though McDuffie most recently worked for Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) as a public safety adviser after he left the Justice Department in 2010, both the mayor and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) stayed out of the contest.

Bryan Weaver, a progressive activist who is heading up a petition drive to ban corporate contributions to city political candidates, said McDuffie’s victory represents “a new era in District politics.”

“You have younger folks coming forward, and not from anyone’s political machine,” said Weaver, a former Ward 1 advisory neighborhood commissioner. “It’s a fresh start.”

Despite receiving broad support from liberal and good-government activists, McDuffie has resisted embracing the label “progressive” amid an ongoing debate about what the term means in modern District politics.

“If people want to call me progressive, it’s up to them to do it,” said McDuffie, who will be up for reelection in 2014. “But I do like to think of myself as forward-thinking.”

In addition to McDuffie, Wilds, Magnus and Hunter, Democrats Shelly Gardner, Kathy Henderson, Drew Hubbard, Ruth E. Marshall and Rae Zapata competed in the contest. Tim Day, the accountant who first raised questions about Thomas’s theft in 2010, ran as a Republican. John C. Cheeks ran as an independent. Day finished fourth with 5 percent of the vote.

The race — which drew nearly 10,000 votes — largely centered around efforts by McDuffie and Hunter, 28, to break into District politics in the face of a strong campaign by Wilds, a 67-year-old businessman who has been involved in Ward 5 politics for decades.

McDuffie worked as letter carrier while attending the University of Maryland School of Law in the early 1990s. After graduating, he went to work in Prince George’s County, first as a law clerk and then as an assistant state’s attorney. From 2008 to 2010, he was a trial attorney for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, according to his résumé.

Despite his past service in government, McDuffie positioned himself as an outsider with the integrity to again make residents proud of their representative.

“I wanted someone young who I felt would be energetic, a family man,” said Joyce B. Dixon, 70, who voted for McDuffie in Michigan Park, in the northern part of the ward, after deciding he was “not shady.”

Hunter, a community organizer, began building a strong network of support in the ward through his self-described effort to emulate former mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s (D) passion for retail politics. He and McDuffie challenged Thomas unsuccessfully in 2010. In that campaign, Hunter struggled to clarify his opposition to same-sex marriage, which he has since dropped.

“I wanted someone who could clean up and get all the hoodlums off the streets and from in front of my house,” said Janie Brown, 68, who voted for Hunter at McKinley Technology High School in Eckington.

Hunter would have been the youngest person ever elected to the D.C. Council. Michael Clark, 26, said he voted for Hunter because he was “transparent and passionate” and “has energy.”

“There are a lot of new, younger voters in Ward 5, and we should have a representative who speaks to the things closest to us,” said Clark, a property manager who lives in Eckington.

Hunter was sidetracked during the campaign by reports that he has been sued three times since 2010 over unpaid rent and once over credit card debt.

Hunter said he got in financial trouble during his 2010 campaign but has learned from his mistake.

Still, the controversy unnerved some voters.

“I definitely don’t want Delano Hunter,” said Ilyssa Parker, who works for a nonprofit organization. “I question his integrity, and the gay-marriage thing, his finances. If you can’t do your own finances, how can you run the city’s finances?”

Wilds, the businessman and former advisory neighborhood commissioner, sought to counteract his opponents’ relative youthfulness by stressing his roots in the community and business experience.

“We go back years,” said Catherine Kelly, 81, adding that she used to cut Wilds’s hair. “I don’t know the other candidates.”

Some Wilds supporters also raised concerns that McDuffie was too connected to self-described progressive leaders from outside the ward, including Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who was the only council member to officially endorse a candidate.

Yet, even some seniors felt that it was time for a more youthful face on the council.

“I thought it was time to shift to a new generation,” said Rohulamin Quander, 68, a retired administrative law judge who walked to Burroughs Elementary School in Brookland to vote for McDuffie.

“He knows we’ll be watching,” added his wife, Carmen Torruella-Quander, 66.

Ward 5 candidates’ views on transportation, safety, development

Ward 5 candidates’ views on transportation, safety, development

By Tim Craig, Washington Post, Published: May 12

When voters in Northeast Washington go to the polls Tuesday to elect a council member to replace disgraced Harry Thomas Jr., they won’t just be electing a new representative for Ward 5.

They will also be selecting the potential swing vote on the 13-member council, presenting voters with outsize influence in determining future policies that could shape the city for a generation.

With the D.C. Council increasingly fractured by personal rivalries and differences on policy, many council members and Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) will be looking to the new colleague as a potential tie-breaking vote. The winner will be sworn in within days of the election and casting votes, including on the fiscal year 2013 budget.

Although 11 candidates are in the race, political strategists and Ward 5 observers believe that Kenyan McDuffie, 36, Frank Wilds, 67, and Delano Hunter, 28, all of whom are Democrats and have competed in past Ward 5elections, are best positioned to pull off a victory. But with turnout expected to be light, former council staffer Drew Hubbard, 34, a Democrat, and Republican Tim Day, 40, could also potentially claim victory.

In recent days, The Washington Post posed a series of questions to all of the competitive candidates to gauge their views on some issues of concern to voters citywide.

Transportation

Q: Would you support doubling the city’s $35 residential parking permit fee to encourage more residents to take public transportation and free up more parking in residential areas?

A: McDuffie, Wilds, Hunter, Hubbard and Day all oppose the idea.

Q: Do you agree with the city’s plan to build a 37-mile, $1 billion streetcar network? If so, how would you pay for it?

A: Day wants the streetcar plan “scrapped” until a new, comprehensive transportation plan for the city is developed. McDuffie and Hubbard support streetcars but wouldn’t make it a priority until other programs, such as affordable housing, are better funded.

Wilds would support streetcars only if all the money comes from the federal government or through a regional partnership with Maryland and Virginia. Hunter said the streetcars are a “good investment” and require continued funding.

Q: Do you support continued taxpayer investment to expand the number of Capital Bikeshare stations?

A: Hunter said yes. McDuffie and Hubbard said only after other spending priorities, such as affordable housing, are met. Wilds said no because he worries that stations are “cluttering up sidewalks.”

Day said he would not support additional funding until a broader transportation vision for the District was in place. “Adding bike share stations to certain parts of Ward 5 is a moot point because they are mostly seniors and not going to ride them,” Day said.

Public safety

Q: Would you vote to give D.C. police officers, who have not had a new contract since 2007, a pay raise if it resulted in cuts to other public-safety programs?

A: Day said yes. Hunter, Hubbard and McDuffie said they think there may be money in the budget to give the raises without making other cuts to public safety. Wilds said he would give police officers a raise only if it is accompanied by raises for teachers and firefighters.

Q: Should Internet gambling be legalized in the District?

A: Hunter, Hubbard, McDuffie and Wilds said they are not opposed to the concept, but would first want broad vetting from the community. Day is opposed.

Q: Should criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana be reduced and made similar to those in surrounding states?

A: Wilds, Hunter and Hubbard said yes. Day said no. McDuffie responded that he first wants to hear the community’s views. “I don’t think the council needs to assume that they know best what people want in terms of marijuana, particularly people who live next to open-air drug markets,” McDuffie said.

Development

Q: Is new development good or bad for Ward 5?

A: All the candidates said it’s good for Ward 5, except Day, who worried that the area could become too much like Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan. McDuffie also stressed that development should be “community-oriented, responsible and sustainable.”

Q: With renewed talk of raising the city’s 130-foot building height limit, is there any part of Ward 5 where taller buildings might be appropriate?

A: McDuffie, Day, Hunter and Hubbard all oppose taller buildings in Ward 5. Wilds would support taller buildings along New York Avenue NE as part of a refurbished “hotel zone.”

Q: If you could attract one business to the ward, what would it be, and where would you put it?

A: Wilds said a District government agency for Rhode Island Avenue NE. Hubbard said a Kinko’s or coffee shop at Rhode Island Avenue NE. Hunter said a large gym, perhaps at the Shops at Dakota Crossing development in Fort Lincoln. McDuffie said “something with job training,” but that he wasn’t sure. Day, an accountant, said an accounting firm.

Q: Are big-box stores good or bad for Ward 5?

A: All the candidates said they were good if they were well planned and included community benefits. “My concern is we just don’t have copies of what is in the suburbs,” Hunter said.

Social services

Q: Do you support spending city money to extend health insurance to undocumented immigrants?

A: Hubbard, Hunter, McDuffie and Day said yes. Wilds said no, adding, “we can’t supplement everybody.”

Q: Do you think welfare benefits should be cut off after five years, as is called for under the 1996 federal welfare reform law?

A: All candidates say they would support time limits, but they are not currently convinced that the appropriate job training and life-skills training is in place to help recipients make the transition. “We can’t say, ‘Here you go’ for five years, and then say, ‘Oh well, good-bye, we don’t care about you anymore,’ ” Day said.

Q: Should the District’s summer-jobs program for teenagers be means-tested to free up more space for youths from low-income families?

A: Hunter, Wilds, Hubbard and Day said no. McDuffie said yes.

Taxes

Q: Currently, residents who earn between $40,000 and $350,000 a year pay an 8.5 percent rate while residents who earn more than $350,000 pay an 8.95 percent rate. What do you think the highest tax rate should be and at what income level?

A: McDuffie, Day, Hubbard and Hunter would keep the current rates, though Hubbard eventually wants a “more progressive” structure. Wilds wants to cut the city’s 6 percent rate for residents who make less than $40,000 while raising taxes on those who make more than $300,000. “The rich should pay more,” he said.

Schools

Q: Should at least some charter schools in Ward 5 have a neighborhood admissions preference so that some residents near those schools can be assured seats?

A: McDuffie and Hunter said no, fearing it could undercut the flexibility those schools need to be successful. Day said yes. Hubbard said he believes “there should be some threshold” where charter schools could become neighborhood schools. Wilds appeared unfamiliar with the topic, saying he would do “what’s best for the community.”

Q: Should 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be tied to test score growth, as is currently the case?

A: All the candidates said no, raising concerns that such an evaluation fails to adequately capture teachers’ true classroom performance. “Sometimes, test scores are just reflective of the school and the community the school is located in,” Hunter said.

Staff writers Mike DeBonis and Bill Turque contributed to this report.

Catania defends health care for illegal immigrants as Gray signals opposition

Catania defends health care for illegal immigrants as Gray signals opposition

May 05, 2012 — 7:43 PM, Alan Blinder, Examiner Staff Writer

A D.C. councilman’s plan to allocate an extra $20 million to health care for illegal immigrants — a move that defied Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2013 budget proposal — has drawn sharp criticism from the mayor’s office and set the stage for what could become a pitched battle between the city’s legislative and executive branches.

"We are seriously worried that the [at-large Councilman David] Catania plan takes critical money from one program and shuffles it to another program," Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro told The Washington Examiner. "He hasn’t found any new money. He’s just creating holes in other places."

In an internal memorandum obtained by The Examiner, city officials said Catania’s plan "selectively grabs ‘savings’ from line items in the Department of Health Care Finance’s budget."

But Catania said that wasn’t true.

"We have enough resources to provide decent health care to everyone who lives here," Catania said. "I believe very strongly that we ought not to treat immigrants differently than other residents of our city."

On Thursday, the council’s health committee, which Catania chairs, announced it had found enough money to provide hospital care to participants in the DC Healthcare Alliance, a city health insurance offering that mostly caters to illegal immigrants who aren’t eligible to participate in federal programs.

The panel said it balanced the program’s new budget by, in part, controlling personnel costs and correcting estimates for enrollment.

Confronted with another budget shortfall, Gray had proposed slashing the program’s funding and transferring more of the costs of caring for illegal immigrants to the federal government. But that plan, which Gray unveiled in March, drew quick criticism from Catania, along with a vow to restore the dollars.

Even though the council came under harsh criticism last week for failing to approve a plan to pay District workers for furlough days they were forced to take in 2011, one union leader said the decision to move forward with the health care funding didn’t bother him.

"I’m never going to pit employees and their concerns against other legitimate concerns," said Geo Johnson, the executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ affiliate in the District. "I don’t advocate that at all."

D.C. Council member Catania comes up with $20M for health coverage for illegal immigrants

D.C. Council member Catania comes up with $20M for health coverage for illegal immigrants
By Tim Craig, May 3, 2012, Washington Post

D.C. Council member David A. Catania has found an additional $20 million in the budget to continue offering free health insurance to 19,000 undocumented immigrants, reversing a proposal by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) that could have restricted them from receiving emergency care.

Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the council’s Health Committee, has made full funding of the Alliance Insurance program a chief priority as the council prepares for final budget deliberations.

But the council would be restoring the health insurance program at the same time it is scaling back other government services, including millions in services for the poor, potentially sparking fresh debate about whether city benefits for undocumented immigrants are too generous.

When the Health Committee convened on the budget Thursday, Catania announced that he and his staff had found $20.5 million in savings by eliminating some vacant positions, recalculating Medicaid enrollment and transferring some funds between Health Department units.

The five-member Health Committee unanimously approved Catania’s plan to transfer the money to immigrant health care. The full council is expected to accept the agreement when it votes on the budget later this month.

“The mayor’s proposal would have treated immigrants differently,” Catania said in an interview. “I believe, for us in this city, it was critically important we reject that.”

Gray had proposed scaling back the Alliance program to balance his 2013 spending plan by shifting some of the burden for immigrant care onto hospitals and federal programs for uncompensated care.

Created in 2001 after D.C. General Hospital closed, the Alliance Insurance program provides coverage to residents who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to be able to afford private insurance.

But following the 2010 passage of President Obama’s health-care legislation, which boosted Medicaid eligibility, the city was able to transfer thousands of residents into the federal program.

Now, about 99 percent of residents covered by locally funded insurance are undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for federal benefits.

Catania said preserving the program this year was a crucial and symbolic step in the nationwide battle over immigration and health care.

“It’s big America versus small America,” Catania said. “I gravitate toward the notion of big America. Big America is one who welcomes people who want to work.”

If the program is cut, Catania said, undocumented immigrants would not be covered for specialty or emergency care at many area hospitals. But Gray had argued the patients would still receive care through funds hospitals establish to provide services to the uninsured.

A Gray spokesman said the administration is reviewing Catania’s proposal.

Catania’s decision comes as the council has been struggling over whether the city can afford to repay its employees a combined $22 million for furlough days they were forced to take last year. By fully funding the Alliance program, public employee unions are likely to put renewed pressure on the council to come up with the money.

For Catania, however, cutting Alliance would be a setback to his long-held goal of offering universal health insurance in the District.

In 2010, the city estimated that only 6.2 percent of District residents were uninsured, less than half the national average and lagging behind only Massachusetts in total percentage of uninsured residents.

The District was only able to achieve those rates by extending coverage to undocumented immigrants, Catania said.

“This is a rich city, and we have the resources,” said Catania. “We ought to be a leader, and not a follower, and showing the rest of the country this is America.”

D.C. Council Can’t Decide How to Spend Extra Cash

D.C. Council Can’t Decide How to Spend Extra Cash

Posted by Alan Suderman on May. 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm, Washington City Paper

Who should come first in the D.C. government’s list of priorities? Welfare recipients, city workers, undocumented immigrants, or out-of-state municipal bond holders?

Alas, the D.C. Council can’t decide. This afternoon, they voted themselves to a 6-6 deadlock on Mayor Vince Gray’s supplemental budget for the current fiscal year that would have spent $22 million reimbursing city workers for four furlough days.

Prior to the vote, the councilmembers took turns accusing each other of having misplaced priorities.

Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry and At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange took Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans to task for caring too much about mostly wealthy District residents instead of city employees. They were referring to the numerous residents, who tend to be well off, who are upset that the city has started taxing dividends paid on out-of-state municipal bonds.

Evans tried unsuccessfully to tie a new sales tax on food trucks to an effort to abolish the muni bond tax. He also took great offense at Barry and Orange’s suggestion that he catered to the rich over hard workin’ city employees, saying he loves both children equally. (Not his actual words) In the end, Evans voted for the $22 million payout to city employees while Barry, for some reason as yet unknown to LL, did not.

At-Large Councilmember David Catania accused his colleagues of being members of the Tea Party for their refusal to go along with a compromise plan that would have reimbursed city employees for two furlough days while also funding health care for undocumented immigrants in D.C.

"I didn’t expect the Tea Party to come to Washington," Catania said. "Frankly, I’m ashamed."

And Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham told everyone to think of the children, as he has done several times in the past, before trying to get his colleagues to vote on shifting nearly $6 million of the furlough money for increased spending for welfare programs. Graham got a total of one vote, his own, for the effort.

The bigger story that’s still getting unpacked right now is the mayor’s inability to get seven votes on budget supplemental, something that shouldn’t be so hard given that we’re talking about spending extra money here, not making cuts.

Missed rent payments add to Michael Brown’s financial woes

Posted at 05:09 PM ET, 04/19/2012

Missed rent payments add to Michael Brown’s financial woes

By Tim Craig, Washington Post

D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown’s failure to pay his District taxes and mortgage on time in recent years was always likely to become an issue in his bid for reelection this year.

Now, fresh records show he also may have had trouble paying his rent on time.

As The Washington Post reported in January 2011, Brown and his wife failed to make timely property tax payments on their $1.4 million Chevy Chase home, eventually accruing a past due balance of $14,263. Brown quickly paid off the debt once the story was published, but it helped highlight the council member’s ongoing financial challenges.

Brown makes $125,000 a year as a council member and takes home another $240,000 annually as an attorney, according to Brown’s most recent financial disclosure form.

But banks or mortgage lenders issued five notices of foreclosure sale from when he bought the house in 1996 through late 2010, according to records. None of the notices proceeded to auction.

More recently, records indicate that Brown has missed rent payments on two apartments that have been under his name at the Rittenhouse Apartments on 16th Street NW over the past two years.

On March 17, 2011, Rittenhouse LLC filed a complaint in D.C. Superior Court alleging that Brown had “failed to pay” $4,031 in rent. At the time, according to court documents, Brown’s rent was $1,709 a month.

Brown was summoned to an April 13, 2011, court hearing, but he failed to show up, records show. The case was dismissed four months later.

In an interview, Brown said he “didn’t know anything about” the March filing. He noted the dates on the court documents “didn’t make any sense” because they stated the total rent due was for “February 2011 to March 2010.”

“That was a mistake,” Brown said. “I don’t know anything about that…I know nothing about that.”

But Rittenhouse LLC filed another complaint against Brown on Jan. 13, after he moved into another unit in the building. Rittenhouse alleged Brown missed one month’s rent, $2,160, according to court records.

The company withdrew the complaint in early February. Complaints are usually withdrawn after the defendant settles the debt or agrees to a repayment plan.

Brown acknowledged the existence of the January filing and said he has fully paid that month’s rent.

“I was two or three days late,” Brown said. “I was a couple days late, and the management company chose to take this action, which they have every right to do. Rather than notifying me I was a couple days late, they chose to file, which is fine, but I paid well before anything happened.”

Rittenhouse’s assistant property manager declined to comment. Mark R. Raddatz, the attorney who represented Rittenhouse Apartments LLC, also declined to comment.

In the November general election, Brown is seeking his second term as one of four at-large council members. He will be competing against Council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At large), Republican Mary Brooks Beatty, Independent David Grosso and State Hood Green Party candidate Ann C. Wilcox.

Voters can select up two candidates, and the top two vote-getters will win at-large seats. With registered Democrats accounting for three out of every four registered D.C. voters, Orange is heavily favored to win the most votes.

Brown is also favored to win reelection. But Beatty, a former Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and Grosso, an attorney and activist from Ward 5, could mount a stiff challenge by hammering Brown over ethics and his status as an incumbent.

In April 2011, the Internal Revenue Service filed a $50,000 lien against Brown for failure to pay income taxes dating to 2004. According to a copy of the lien, Brown failed to pay $7,128 in 2004, $28,625 in 2005, $5,176 in 2007 and $11,951 in 2008.

Brown is on a repayment plan.

D.C. Council’s killing of mayor’s plan is a sign of tension betw een government branches

D.C. Council’s killing of mayor’s plan is a sign of tension between government branches

By Tim Craig, Washington Post, Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 8:45 PM

Amid increasingly dour relations between Mayor Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, a unified council on Tuesday rejected Gray’s plan to spend a $79 million budget surplus.

With the District flush with cash after higher-than-expected revenue this fiscal year, Gray (D) has proposed using the funds to close midyear budget gaps in funding for schools, libraries, health care and economic development. He also has recommended repaying city employees a combined $20 million for four furlough days that they took last year to help close a projected budget gap.

But flexing his political muscle as he tries to position himself as a fiscal hawk, Brown (D) rallied all 12 council members to kill Gray’s proposals. Brown said it was irresponsible to authorize additional funding in what he said was the administration’s response to overspending by some agencies.

Instead, the council approved $15 million in new spending to close a shortfall in charter school funding and shore up the city’s Unemployment Compensation Fund. If Gray wants to spend more, he must submit another proposal for consideration, the council said.

“We pass a budget and the agency simply does not comply with it, and then it comes back to us asking for money?” Brown said before the vote. “Clearly, it’s the responsibility of agency management to resolve this kind of spending pressure internally.”

Brown’s effort comes after several weeks of tension between him and Gray, which has unnerved some council members.

After Brown and Gray were elected as political allies in 2010, they pledged to cooperate and put an end to the high-profile spats between the council and then-mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

But relations between the city’s two highest-profile elected officials have deteriorated as both men try to govern amid federal investigations into D.C. political campaigns.

Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said in a statement after Tuesday’s council vote that the council was “unfortunately . . . just kicking the can down the road.”

“We will continue to work with the council to ensure that [spending] pressures are resolved in a responsible manner,” Ribeiro said.

Asked to comment on Ribeiro’s statement, Brown said he had no response because Ribeiro was “clueless.”

“I don’t respond to the mayor’s spokesperson, because I think he’s clueless on some things that came out of his mouth,” Brown said.

Brown added that he will respond only to comments by the mayor, even though Ribeiro speaks for Gray. “If the mayor says some things, I will respond,” Brown said. “But I’m not going to respond to a communications director who said things that are not as factual as they should be.”

Ribeiro would only say: “We don’t engage in that kind of name-calling.”

Last week, a Washington Examiner story quoted an unidentified senior Gray administration official as calling Brown “a do-nothing chairman.”

Despite Brown’s insistence that he will respond only to the mayor, government officials said Gray has struggled in recent weeks to get Brown on the phone.

Gray called Brown “a couple” times last week but the two men were only able to exchange voice mails, staffers said. Both men agreed Tuesday evening to meet on Thursday.

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said he is concerned the rift between Gray and Brown may be expanding.

“People want to see this government function well and expect the [mayor and council to work] collaboratively,” he said. “If there is tension between either the mayor or the chairman, whoever is at fault, it needs to be fixed.”

Part of the friction between the two appears to stem from a power play over who should take the lead in shaping city spending plans.

On Tuesday morning, Brown said he was going to pass emergency legislation requiring that the mayor get council approval before reallocating any money in the capital budget. Under current laws, the mayor must get council approval only when the administration seeks to spend more than $500,000.

Gray said he “strongly opposed” Brown’s bill, saying it could cripple ongoing construction projects. Brown withdrew his proposal before it came up for a vote.

But Brown isn’t the only member questioning Gray’s oversight of the budget. Several members said they were concerned that Gray appears so willing to spend the city’s surplus instead of looking for savings in other agencies.

Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said the plan approved by the council Tuesday is “careful, measured, responsible measure.”

And while the council rejected much of Gray’s proposal, Brown said he would reconsider the matter, including whether the city should repay employees for their missed days.

Council chair presses for restrictions on Gray’s budget power

Council chair presses for restrictions on Gray’s budget power

Alan Blinder, Examiner Staff Writer, Mon, 2012-04-16 22:22

The chairman of the D.C. Council wants to force the mayor to receive the legislative branch’s permission before reallocating public dollars during this year’s budget review period.

Under emergency legislation Council Chairman Kwame Brown will move to a vote on Tuesday, Mayor Vincent Gray would be required to submit to the council for review any proposed changes of less than $500,000 to the capital budget. The mandate would only be in effect during the 56-day budget review period, which ends in mid-May.

"The current situation makes it extremely difficult for the council to make future capital budget policy decisions based on complete information," Brown wrote in a resolution accompanying his legislation. "This emergency legislation would improve budget transparency and enhance the council’s ability to conduct rigorous oversight of the capital budget."

The proposed rules would require Gray to submit any changes, known as "reprogrammings," to the council. If no legislators objected during a five-day waiting period, the reallocations would be approved.

But if a lawmaker opposed the changes, the waiting period would be extended to 30 days. If the council did not vote for or against the requested reprogrammings during that time, the mayor’s request would be allowed to move forward.

Pedro Ribeiro, a mayoral spokesman, said Brown’s proposal is "immensely ill-conceived and raises some serious questions and could seriously damage the way government actually functions in the District."

But Megan Vahey, Brown’s chief of staff, said the proposal isn’t a power-grab and is similar to restrictions other governments have imposed.

"We can’t have a moving target when we are doing our oversight," Vahey said. "We’re not asking the administration to change the way they do business. All we really need to know is how the capital budget is being changed.” Brown’s legislation would also require the mayor to disclose any holds or freezes on capital project spending.

"We have no idea that this money exists," Vahey said. "It just doesn’t show up in the budget book. "Although the new rules as written would apply only to the current budget review cycle, Vahey said Brown would explore making the changes permanent.

In final vote, Orange beats Biddle in at-large Democratic primary

In final vote, Orange beats Biddle in at-large Democratic primary

By Tim Craig, Saturday, April 14, 7:48 PM

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange was the winner of the April 3 at-large Democratic primary after a final vote count Friday added to his lead over challenger Sekou Biddle.

In a race that had been dominated by the ethics debate, Orange emerged with a narrow 543-vote lead 10 days ago over Biddle, a former council member who was trying to return to a job Orange snatched away from him in a special election last April.

But after the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics counted absentee and provisional ballots Friday, Orange surged to a 1,746-vote lead. Orange won the absentee and provisional ballots by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, and Biddle conceded the race Friday evening.

“It’s good we are going to put this behind us and move forward,” Orange said Friday. “It’s good to be the Democratic nominee and push forward the Democratic agenda.”

Orange’s victory means the five D.C. Council members up for election in the primary won their races, a signal that city voters were relatively unfazed by the ongoing federal investigations into city political campaigns.

In the final weeks of the campaign, candidates and elected officials were jolted by news that the FBI and the IRS raided the home and office of one of the city’s biggest political donors, contractor Jeffrey E. Thompson.

Thompson and his companies have donated at least $100,000 in the past decade to Orange, a former Ward 5 council member and unsuccessful candidate for mayor and council chairman.

Orange admitted that Thompson had also raised $26,000 in “suspicious” money orders and cashier’s checks for his 2011 council campaign.

Biddle hammered Orange over ethics, but the 54-year-old council member denied any wrongdoing.

“I never had an ethics problem,” said Orange, who noted that he wants to ban second salaries for council members.

The at-large race also featured former Prince George’s County Council member Peter Shapiro and activist E. Gail Anderson Holness, and some Biddle supporters have accused them of splitting the opposition vote and handing the contest to Orange.

After the counting of absentee and provisional ballots, Orange received 40.4 percent of the vote to Biddle’s 37.4 percent. Shapiro finished with about 11 percent, and Holness took 7.4 percent.

Although Biddle congratulated Orange “on a hard-fought race,” he noted that the three challengers in the race had won a combined majority of the vote.

“What we saw was significant numbers voting for candidates other than the incumbent,” Biddle said. “People are saying pretty clearly with their votes that they want and need something they have not been getting.”

The results revealed a highly polarized electorate, mirroring the split between majority-white and majority-black neighborhoods that surfaced in the 2010 Democratic mayoral primary.

In wealthy Ward 3 in Upper Northwest, Orange received just under 7 percent of the vote. But Orange dominated east of the Anacostia River, winning 63 percent of the vote in wards 7 and 8.

In addition to Orange’s victory, Democratic council members Muriel Bowser (Ward 4), Yvette M. Alexander (Ward 7) and Marion Barry (Ward 8) also won their primaries. Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) ran unopposed, as did Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and shadow representative candidate Nate Bennett-Fleming.

The city’s ceremonial shadow senator position was also up for grabs, and incumbent Michael D. Brown won that race.

Barry, Bowser and Evans are running unopposed in the November general election. Alexander will face Republican Ronald Moten, former head of Peace­oholics and an ally of former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

Orange will appear on the November ballot with council member Michael A. Brown (I-At large,; Republican Mary Brooks Beatty, a former ward 6 ANC commissioner; Independent David Grosso, a lawyer and activist from Northeast; and lawyer Ann C. Wilcox, the D.C. Statehood Green Party nominee.

The two at-large candidates with the most votes will win, but one must be a non-Democrat.

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