It’s just like the bad old days.
During last year’s D.C. mayoral race, critics of Vincent Gray warned that his election would mean a return to cronyism and protection of those at the top of government, at taxpayers’ expense.
It's possible that we’re now seeing that come true.
As the city stares down a half-billion dollar deficit, Gray is reactivating long-dormant deputy mayoral jobs, and the six-figure salaries that go with them. The daughter of Gray’s campaign chair and the son of his chief of staff were given city jobs shortly after Gray took office.
A job was found for Cherita Whiting, “an early and strident supporter” of Gray’s campaign, despite her criminal record, the Washington Times reported. She’ll be earning $65,000 per year. Sulaimon Brown, a fringe mayoral candidate last year who used most of his debate time to urge people to vote for Gray (who he was, at least officially, running against), got a $110,000 per year gig.
Department of Human Resources interim director Judy Banks is earning $180,000 -- which, according to the Washington Post, “exceeds a $179,086 cap on her type of position. ‘I like to deal in round numbers,’ Banks said.” So why not round it down?
In fact, several Gray hires now exceed the salary caps. The administration’s solution: It plans to submit legislation to increase the caps. Chief of Staff Gerri Mason Hall and Communications Director Linda Wharton-Boyd each make 25 percent more than their Fenty Administration predecessors.
Meanwhile, the man who succeeded Gray as D.C. Council chairman has one sweet ride -- two, actually. As reported here yesterday, Brown instructed city officials to order him a “fully loaded” Lincoln Navigator L with a “rear entertainment system, GPS, moon roof, [and] aluminum wheels” -- and when it arrived with a gray interior, not the black Brown wanted, he ordered another one. Taxpayers are on the hook for the lease on the gray one through October.
Now that the story has broken, Brown’s office says he wants to return one of the vehicles, but it’s not clear how he would do that. Washington City Paper’s Michael Schaffer writes, “If he really wants to take responsibility, his next move is simple: Take out a checkbook and reimburse the city’s empty treasury for the cost of your automotive grandiosity.”
Is this what we voted for last fall? If this is “One City,” I want another one.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* And then there were 10. The 10-day challenge period for ballot access signatures for the At-Large D.C. Council special election began Saturday, and one of the 11 contenders, Calvin Gurley, was found to be short of 3,000 valid signatures. As DCist writes, “Any D.C. resident can truck on down to the Board of Elections and Ethics…request any of the nominating petitions and go through the painstaking process of checking signatures against information in the D.C. voter registry.” Ward 1’s Bryan Weaver is the next-closest to the cutoff, having submitted about 3,400 signatures.
* The Washington Examiner’s Jonetta Rose Barras criticizes Gray for opposing school vouchers, saying D.C. “doesn’t lose by supporting options for poor and working class families. In fact, it’s a win-win. The federal government would fund the voucher program. Further, the District could get additional funds for education if elected officials support the scholarship program.”
* The Georgetown Dish reports Hardy Middle School students and parents “braved the chilly, drizzly weather and demonstrated at the Wilson Building on President’s Day, holding signs and chanting for the reinstatement of Patrick Pope -- the long-time principal removed by Chancellor Michelle Rhee last year -- and the restoration of the arts and music program for which the middle school was known.”
* In an interview with City Paper’s Rend Smith, Peaceoholics co-founder Ron Moten “seemed to not so subtly suggest a thriving Peaceoholics organization might have helped avoid the bloodshed” in a Columbia Heights triple-shooting Saturday.
* D.C. police say vandals “ripped out yard signs opposing Georgetown University’s proposed expansion plan and set them on fire on the front steps of a Burleith house Sunday night,” the Dish reports.
* At Greater Greater Washington, Erik Weber wonders who will pay for Metro’s pointless bag searches after the Transportation Security Administration grant for the program runs out.
* Former lieutenant governor Don Beyer won’t be running for U.S. Senate in Virginia, the Post reports. Beyer, who currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, is not interested in giving up that post.
* The Examiner writes that Gov. Bob McDonnell says it would be tough to turn down the 2012 Republican vice presidential nomination if offered. Though McDonnell “has repeatedly batted away talk of national plans” for next year, he told WWBT-TV, NBC’s Richmond affiliate, that it would “probably” be hard to reject an offer from his party’s nominee.
* The Culpeper Star-Exponent writes that “the bulk of a wide-ranging package of bills targeting illegal immigrants in Virginia is officially dead” after a state Senate committee declined to take them up Monday.
* McDonnell wants lawmakers “to support bills to help address Virginia’s depleted system for dealing with people with intellectual disabilities,” the Examiner reports. The federal Justice Department “recently issued a scathing critique of the state’s services for the disabled,” and the state could be sued if it doesn’t take action.
* The Examiner reports a Virginia Senate committee killed two bills “aimed at tackling Northern Virginia’s road congestion” on Monday. Critics said the bills “disproportionately favored widening highways over developing transit-oriented projects.”
* The Post reports that while Virginia Del. Bob Marshall’s “proposal for the state to begin minting its own gold and silver coins as an alternative currency to the US dollar didn’t quite make it through the legislature this session,” wooden coins “with Marshall’s likeness with the words In Bob We Trust and Bob Bucks have been distributed” around Richmond over the past couple of weeks.
* The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce is hoping a shuttered movie theater will become the site of a new Costco, Potomac Local reports.
* Red Maryland’s Brian Griffiths says Republican state senators should filibuster over tax increases, not same-sex marriage.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC