DMV Daily: Vince is Listening

Gray meets with Council before submitting budget

Mayor-elect Vincent Gray is on a listening tour of the D.C. Council. The Washington Examiner reports Gray is holding one-on-one meetings with councilmembers to discuss the District’s $188 million budget deficit. Gray met with at least six councilmembers Thursday and will meet with more today. But sources tell the Examiner that Gray is doing more listening than talking inside the meetings. Rather than laying out “his specific plans for fixing the budget shortfall,” Gray is feeling out councilmembers about what programs they “want to save, where they want to cut and if they support raising taxes.”

But in the end, Gray will have to make the tough decisions. Gray is actually seeking at least $238 million in cuts, in order to get a jump on an even bigger deficit expected next year. He has also said he considers tax increases a last resort. Gray has exiting mayor Adrian Fenty’s budget proposal in hand, filled with the sorts of draconian cuts only a politician leaving office could recommend. But if Gray really wants to balance the budget, he may have to lean heavily on Fenty’s harsh plan.

Gray and his staff will hammer away this weekend, with the goal of getting a plan to councilmembers by Tuesday morning.

Elsewhere in the DMV:

* In his Examiner column, Harry Jaffe writes that earlier this week, Gray “divulged the big bucks and the donors who have ponied up $180,000 to finance his transition team and his inaugural festivities. Some of the region’s fattest cats bellied up to Gray’s bar and plunked down $25,000 to help him celebrate his victory over Adrian Fenty. Can you say: ‘Pay to play?’”

* The Washington Post reports D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles wants the city’s courts to enforce the subpoena he issued last week for the records of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.’s nonprofit group, Team Thomas. Nickles has just a month left in office, and seems to be trying to get the matter dealt with before time runs out. Washington City Paper reports that Nickles “also tacked on a request that Thomas cover court costs and attorney fees in addition to answering the subpoena. Asked how much that might be, Nickles said that a reasonable rate for this time would be about $450 to $500 an hour.”

Starting in 2014, the AG post will be an elected one, but Nickles has already said he will not run, according to the Georgetown Dish. Only At-Large Councilmember David Catania has publicly expressed interest in a run so far.


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* It looks like Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans’s proposal for “a $2 to $3 billion, 110,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof to bring the Redskins back to the District” was not exactly serious, according to City Paper’s Lydia DePillis.

* The Post reports the Senate Judiciary Committee cleared two of President Obama’s nominees to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, James Boasberg and Amy Berman Jackson, on Wednesday, “but they and two other picks for the court appear stuck for now amid an end-of-session Senate logjam.”

* New Washington Teachers’ Union President Nathan Saunders “promised a ‘progressive’ administration rather than a ‘reactionary’ one, and said his No. 1 priority is to protect members’ job security,” the Washington Times reports. He said, “During the Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty administrations, WTU was not a real partner, but treated like a red-headed stepchild. It’s not always in the best interests of our membership to do something that is politically expedient. … My job is to protect members.”

* The Examiner reports Rhee will join the education transition team of Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott, a Republican. While it remain unclear “what role Rhee would serve under Scott,” her name “topped his 18-person education team list.” The Post says Scott’s office “described Rhee as a nationally ‘recognized education reformer’ who will ‘help him find innovative ways to create a new education system for a new economy.’”

* Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier hopes to stay on under Gray, she told WTOP Thursday. “I’m a career employee here, I love the city and I love what I do,” she said. WTOP adds that Lanier “makes significantly more than most other D.C. employees, including her boss.” She will earn $225,813.87 this year -- “more than the annual pay for the mayor of $200,000, all members of the council and the D.C. chief financial officer.”

* The Post’s new conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin interviewed Gov. Bob McDonnell. The most interesting tidbit: Asked if he would definitively state that he will not run for president in 2012, “he didn't bite. He merely said that he has 'many new initiatives' he wants to see through and that 'there are any number of good candidates, including some former and current governors, he would look forward to supporting. Yes, he sure left some wiggle room there.”

McDonnell is not making any early moves toward a presidential run, and it seems unlikely. But he could be leaving himself open to the vice presidential nomination.

* Blue Virginia notes that Rep. Jim Moran was one of the small number of Democrats to oppose the extension of the Bush tax cuts to those earning less than $250,000 per year. In a statement, Moran said, “We should allow the Bush tax cuts to expire as designed. … Failing to do so would add $3.7 trillion to our current $13 trillion in national debt.”

* Not-a-witch/not-a-senator Christine O’Donnell “will be the primary speaker at the Northern Virginia Tea Party’s annual banquet” next week, the Falls Church News-Press reports.

* The fight for the leadership of the Prince George’s County Council could come down to the vote of newly elected member Leslie Johnson, who was arrested in a corruption probe last month, the Gazette reports. The Council seems to be split 4-4 between Andrea Harrison and Ingrid Turner, and Johnson would be the fifth vote for Turner. Though some have called on Johnson to step aside, she is expected to take office Monday.

* The Baltimore Sun reports state Sen. David Brinkley, the former minority leader in the Maryland Senate, has been elected minority whip. Sen. Allan Kittleman was elected minority leader by the Republican caucus.

* Giant isn’t quite saying that Salvation Army bell-ringers should be boiled with their own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through their hearts, but it’s coming close. The supermarket chain is limiting the amount of time bell-ringers can stand outside their stores this holiday season, offering some blather about the customer experience as an excuse. DCentric’s Anna John contacted Giant with some specific questions, only to receive a boilerplate statement in reply. When she tried again, she got a curt “no comment.”

* ARLnow reports “a crew from Dateline NBC will be filming the evening mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in South Arlington on Saturday. The church is being featured for its upcoming humanitarian mission to Haiti.”

* Security blogger Bruce Schneier facetiously argues that the only way to protect the Washington Monument is to prevent people from visiting it.

* American University’s American Observer is running a detailed series on D.C. as “A City Divided.”

* What are the best additions to the D.C. scene over the past few years? Prince of Petworth takes a look.

* “Looking for a great stocking stuffer this holiday season?” How about a membership in the D.C. Young Republicans?

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

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