Today’s DMV Daily comes to you from Rochester, N.Y., the city so nice they named it once. It took us seven hours in the car to get up here for Thanksgiving, but that beats playing “Seven Minutes in Heaven” with the TSA.
Mayor-elect Vincent Gray might be wishing he was 400 miles away from D.C. today as well, now that he’s broken down the budget mess in a well-reviewed speech. While he gets points for candor, Gray is still left with a massive budget hole to fill. He said the deficit is $188 million right now, and will climb to nearly twice that soon. Revenues are down 16 percent, spending is out of control, and tough decisions are in order. Gray did not rule out tax hikes, but said he prefers to start with spending cuts.
“I know that too many District families and businesses are hurting from the recession as much as or even more than the District government,” Gray said. “So I will not ask District residents or businesses to pay one single dollar in tax increases without first assuring them that we have scrubbed the budget and found every last dollar in savings first.”
Fair enough. But options are limited. The current budget is $5.3 billion, but nearly a third is devoted to fixed costs like Metro -- and a big share of what’s left goes to essentials like education and public safety. The Washington Examiner says Gray intends to gut about $230 million from the budget, and the Washington Post says Gray conceded that increases in “one or more major tax categories” are coming despite his reluctance. The Washington Times reports At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown says “funding cuts in schools and public safety are inescapable.” Gray plans a hearing next Tuesday, with votes on Dec. 7 and Dec. 21. It looks like a working Thanksgiving weekend for the city’s next mayor.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* MPD Assistant Chief Diane Groomes may be the Bill Clinton of the District: Everyone admits she did something wrong, but they don’t want her to lose her job because they like her. Groomes was placed on administrative leave after, as the Post reported, being “involved in compromising a test administered to some members of the command staff as part of their in-service training.” But she is one of most beloved D.C. officials among colleagues, the media, and the public, and many are coming to her defense.
The Georgetown Dish reports Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans said in a letter to Chief Cathy Lanier that Groomes “is an incredible asset to MPD, Ward 2, and the entire District. While she may have experienced a lapse in judgment, we cannot allow this incident to overshadow her contributions to our neighborhoods, which simply cannot be overstated.” Prince of Petworth also notes that “there has already been a lot of support for Chief Groomes on various listservs throughout the city,” and there’s even a small but growing Facebook support page.
* The Post reports Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. says he will meet today’s court-imposed deadline for handing over subpoenaed documents about his Team Thomas nonprofit to D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles. Thomas, who is considering a run for a citywide Council seat, “said the records would show donations the group received, expenses and events hosted by the nonprofit.”
* The Post reports At-Large Councilmember David Catania wants to run the D.C. Council’s education committee. As chairman, Gray said education “was so important that all members should have a stake in it” and shifted it to the Committee of the Whole. But Catania, who currently heads the health committee, “argues that education should be broken out as a stand-alone committee.” Incoming chairman Kwame Brown will decide.
* WTOP says D.C. “ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in the country, according to new FBI crime statistics.” But reading on, it’s revealed that the District “ranks 22nd overall” -- well out of medal contention. DCist’s Aaron Morrissey says WTOP makes it sound like “we’re basically living inside Thunderdome,” when the reality is much less dire. Though D.C. is the fourth most dangerous large city, the FBI and others say the data are being misused to make an alarmist case.
* Capital News Service reports Prince George’s County legislators “insist that recent criminal charges against the outgoing county executive and several others will not put the county at a disadvantage when the legislative session begins in January.” State Senate President Mike Miller “said the General Assembly would be sympathetic to the county.”
* Adam Pagnucco, an astute and fair observer of Maryland politics, is leaving Maryland Politics Watch to become chief of staff to new Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer. Just Up the Pike proudly says Pagnucco “got his start writing for this very blog over four years ago.”
* The Virginia State Board of Elections has officially certified Rep. Gerry Connolly’s re-election in the 11th District. Connolly defeated small-government advocate Keith Fimian by 981 votes. George Mason University communications professor Stephen Farnsworth told the Examiner, “You can’t sell smaller government to a district with a high number of government workers and government contractors, but you can come pretty close.”
* A writer to the Arlington Yupette blog says that while Arlington needs a new homeless facility, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network should not run it: “It’s completely irresponsible to spend tens of millions each year to keep people on the street, and build an ever-larger shelters and an ever-larger bureaucracy to manage ‘street people.’”
* The Times says D.C. Lottery fans “will have to wait until 11 a.m. Tuesday to buy lottery tickets, an unprecedented five-hour delay in service.” How will we ever survive?
* D.C. Public Schools wants students and families to “Give Thanks For Your Local School.”
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC