D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi had some rare good news on Tuesday, announcing that D.C.’s budget deficit, recently projected at nearly $600 million, is down to $322 million thanks to “expected growth in the city’s commercial real estate market,” the Washington Examiner reports. It is the first time since December 2007 that Gandhi “has said the city’s future finances appear to be better than previously predicted.”
But Mayor Vincent Gray cautioned against irrational exuberance. “It certainly makes the situation better, but we don’t want to overstate the optimism here,” Gray said at a news conference. “The good news is we got more money, but we still have enormous problems.”
We Love D.C. adds that Gandhi also reported the city’s private sector “added 15,433 jobs last quarter, but unemployment rolls grew by 2,000 people.”
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* Interim At-Large D.C. Councilmember Sekou Biddle is leaving no signature unchallenged as he tries to knock a few rivals off the April 26 special election ballot. According to Bryan Weaver’s campaign, Biddle has challenged the signatures of top members of Weaver’s staff, several District elected officials, and even Weaver’s wife. Weaver said, “If I didn’t take every part of the process very seriously, this would be pretty funny.” According to candidate Jacque Patterson, Biddle has challenged the signatures of former mayors Adrian Fenty and Anthony Williams on Patterson’s petitions.
Republican Pat Mara, whose petitions are being challenged by both Biddle and candidate Joshua Lopez, called the challenges “a frivolous, politically motivated attack.” Mara said his campaign “is especially displeased with Councilman Biddle, who should be safeguarding taxpayer dollars, not wasting them on politically motivated escapades.”
* Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton “ripped into her Republican colleagues Tuesday morning at a hearing on the District’s school voucher program, accusing them of trying to ‘humiliate’ [Gray] and ‘disrespect his office,’” the Washington Post reports, after the House Oversight Committee panel dealing with D.C. affairs refused to make small accommodations so Gray could testify as scheduled. Norton said, “In 20 years of service in the Congress I have never seen any highly placed public official treated so shabbily. It was offensive, petty and beneath the dignity of Congress.”
However, Norton said she did not think subcommittee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy was behind it. Norton said, “The chairman knew nothing about it. I don’t know who did it but my best guess is that it is someone on the staff.”
* The Post reports D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown says he will work to “‘win back the trust’ of city residents angered or troubled by his decision to request a ‘fully loaded’ Lincoln Navigator.” The Post notes Brown was reportedly “booed by some audience members while trying to speak at a fundraiser for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, held at the Kennedy Center,” last week.
But it seems Brown still doesn’t quite get it. Asked by the Examiner what he would do differently if he has the chance, Brown said, “If I could go back and do it now? I would make sure that [Department of Public Works Director] Bill Howland returned the first [Navigator] like I asked him to, and then I would go back to my own truck.”
* Not to be left out of the recent Council vehicle shenanigans, DCist reports Ward 8’s Marion Barry had his Jaguar booted Tuesday “because Barry has nine unpaid parking tickets, including citations for parking the Jag in front of a fire hydrant and in a bus zone.”
* Legislation was introduced at the D.C. Council Tuesday that would let notaries public perform marriages, the Washington Times reports. Proponents “say the new law builds on the law allowing same-sex unions, in part on the theory that gay couples who might not want to have a religious service or go to the courthouse would have another, more private choice.” But not everyone likes the idea. “I don’t think that is the right entity to perform the services, as it diminishes the ceremony,” said Barry, who has been married four times.
* The Examiner reports D.C. Public Schools enrollment climbed for the first time in 41 years this year. The 45,630 students enrolled are 2 percent more than last year.
* Maryland’s same-sex marriage legislation stalled in the House of Delegates Tuesday when two legislators who had previously expressed support -- and who are co-sponsors of the bill -- deliberately skipped a vote.
One of them, Prince George’s County delegate Tiffany Alston, sent the Post a confusing statement saying that she has always “told the people that elected me that I personally supported the same sex couple’s right to marry,” but that her duty as a legislator is “compounded when your personal religious beliefs are contrary to what you believe to be fundamentally right for society” and that she needs “a little more time to weigh my final decision.” It remains unclear, then, why she agreed to become a co-sponsor in the first place.
* The Post reports a proposal to raise Maryland’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon is gaining support, after seeming to have little chance of passage just a few weeks ago.
* The National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched a website that tags Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine as the “Cheerleader-in-Chief” for President Obama. True, that’s his job, but as Kaine, the former Virginia governor, mulls a U.S. Senate run, his closeness to the president could haunt him.
* The Virginia Department of Transportation says Gov. Bob McDonnell’s “$4 billion transportation plan would pump about $13 billion into the state’s economy and create more than 100,000 jobs over the next six years,” the Examiner reports.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC