When Vincent Gray becomes the sixth home rule mayor of the District of Columbia next week, he will face several immediate challenges -- with a deficit that could near a half-billion dollars next year leading the list. So Gray, who has said he does not want to raise taxes, will be looking for ways to save.
Michael Neibauer of Washington Business Journal has one suggestion. Noting that a D.C. Inspector General’s audit from July “saved taxpayers more than $400,000 by ending a deal that was ‘not in the best interest of the District.’” Neibauer wonders “if the inspector general could audit every contract the District issued, just how much the city could recoup.”
Harry Jaffe has another idea. In his Washington Examiner column, Jaffe writes, “The city council is very generous with our cash. Case in point: the $46 million the council agreed to give up in tax abatements to the developers who propose a luxury hotel in Adams Morgan. For 20 years, the hotel owners will not have to pay a dime in real estate taxes.” Jaffe says the D.C. Council should make “a New Year’s Resolution: no more handouts to developers.”
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* The Washington Post reports that despite Michelle Rhee’s assurances that her senior management team in D.C.’s public schools “would remain intact until at least the end of the school year, the system’s chief operating officer will leave next month.” Anthony Tata is decamping for the Wake County, N.C., school system, joining “several other key school officials just below the senior level who have left in recent weeks.”
* The Examiner reports that “the future of a long-vacant school sitting on prime downtown real estate” will be added to Gray’s agenda after the D.C. Council neglected to act on Mayor Adrian Fenty’s proposal to sell off the Franklin School building.
* The Examiner reports that “more than half of family households in parts of the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County are run by single parents,” and the number is nearly 75 percent in the east of the Anacostia section of D.C.
* The Natural Resources Defense Council notes on its blog that “before adjourning for the year, the House and Senate passed a bill that requires federal agencies to comply with local stormwater fees that are used to treat and manage polluted stormwater runoff.” Before the bill was passed, the feds had told D.C. Water that they didn’t want to pay.
* The GW Hatchet reports that Campus Reform, “an organization dedicated to providing resources for young conservative students,” has named the George Washington University as “a school conservatives should watch out for due to a perceived liberal bias on campus.”
* The Wall Street Journal has listed “the beacon-bright Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library” in D.C. as among the best architecture of 2010, saying the “utilitarian but inventive” design “represents a new approach also seen in others under construction in many cities.”
* The Post reports “some Virginia spending hawks” are troubled by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to “steer dollars to some private nonprofit groups even as tax revenues remain sluggish.” The causes themselves are not controversial, and McDonnell says “the groups are doing good works -- works that would be more expensive for government to perform -- and creating jobs.” But the plans, which include a $500,000 for food banks, are raising eyebrows among fiscal conservatives.
* ARLnow reports truck drivers “are taking advantage of a loophole in Arlington’s zoning laws that allows them to park for extended periods of time in residential neighborhoods, provided they park next to a county-owned property” -- which means the curbs next to schools, parks, and libraries “have become a free parking lot of sorts for big trucks.”
* In an editorial, the Post says the Prince George’s County Council was smart to strip Leslie Johnson “of a prerogative to control development projects,” but says the episode “raises the question of why any council member in Prince George’s should wield such influence over developments in their districts. If the council were serious about cleaning up the county’s image, it would eliminate this pernicious practice.”
* The Associated Press reports Sen. Barbara Mikulski “will become the longest serving woman in the history of the U.S. Senate when she is sworn in for her fifth term next week,” eclipsing Margaret Chase Smith, who served 24 years as a Republican from Maine.
* The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, a bit jealous of all the attention the National Zoo is getting, says on its blog that “we’ve got lion cubs, too.”
* The Post wants your vote on the best local Twitter users.
* The Hill is Home has some ideas for New Year’s Eve.
* What are the 40 best dishes on Washington-area restaurant menus? Washingtonian has the list.
* DCentric’s Anna John stumbles upon a blogger’s list of 50 things he loves about D.C.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC