Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry continued his reinvention as a late-to-the-party welfare reformer in a Washington Post op-ed this weekend. Barry concedes that the legislation he is cosponsoring with Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander is “imperfect and incomplete,” but says it is “intended to start a serious dialogue on how to break the cycle of generational poverty, government dependency and economic disparity in the city.”
While many are chuckling at Barry’s leading of this particular charge, he makes the fair point that something called “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families” should be, well, temporary. Barry argues that the District “is one of only a few jurisdictions in the country that spend local government funds to allow TANF aid to go on indefinitely,” and that a five-year limit would hardly be heartless. Barry, echoing Bill Clinton and past welfare reform advocates, says the system as it stands serves only to “enslave residents in joblessness and dependency on the government rather than lifting them up and giving them an opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency through job training and employment.”
Pretty sober-minded stuff from the Mayor for Life. But as DCist’s Catherine Finn writes, “this being Barry, the op-ed piece didn’t come without controversy.” Last week, Barry reportedly “sent an e-mail to editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao (cc-ing Don Graham and Katharine Weymouth of course) telling her to act more professionally, claiming her personal feelings of Barry had colored her column. Apparently this behavior will get you an op-ed in the Post.”
The local aid group Bread for the City takes exception to the Barry-Alexander plan, saying on its blog that its “current language would make families ineligible for all public benefits -- no Medicaid, no child care, no food stamps, no homeless shelter” -- after five years. Far from “encouraging work,” Bread for the City says such tactics “are likely to result in higher rates of child poverty, with many families disconnected from any form of support.” The group instead backs competing legislation offered by Councilmembers Michael Brown and Tommy Wells that would expand TANF job training and education services, and do a better job of tracking progress.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* The Post says Reuben Charles “is out of the running” for incoming Mayor Vincent Gray’s chief of staff following a spate of stories about his “rocky financial history.” The Post says Charles’s “breakneck rise through the ranks of the Gray mayoral campaign was so fast it rendered the staff unable to control the public scrutiny.” But his fans say Gray “folded too easily to pressure from critics who say Charles lacked the experience and maturity” for the big job. They say Charles “deserves credit for fundraising and for gaining the trust of education reform stakeholders worried that a Gray mayoralty would slow progress in schools.”
* In the Washington Times, Deborah Simmons writes that the District “is facing a $175 million gap this fiscal year and a potential deficit as high as $400 million in the coming months,” and Gray is set to deliver “what’s being billed as his ‘State of the District’s Budget and Finances Message.’” The Post says Gray “said Friday that the city’s financial predicament will not keep his administration from expanding access to infant and toddler care,” but he “did not say how much he thought the city could afford.”
* Washington City Paper reports Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Harry Thomas Jr., and Phil Mendelson want the D.C. Superior Court to block the District’s $550,000 settlement with Banneker Ventures, the firm run by a former Adrian Fenty frat brother. The Post says omnipresent D.C. attorney A. Scott Bolden, who represents Banneker’s Omar Karim, “said the council is ‘overreaching’ its authority in writing to the judge.”
* Fenty’s mulling of increased fees for residential parking passes has the Georgetown Metropolitan arguing that multi-car households should pay more first. The Georgetown Metropolitan writes that doubling the fee “does seem like a quick and easy way to raise revenues while spreading the pain pretty thin,” but “we ought to raise it for houses with two cars, and raising it even more for houses with three or more cars.”
* A cyclist who was hit by a taxi in Northwest D.C. last month says on the Struck in D.C. blog that he got home from the hospital to find a $150 ticket, quite literally adding insult to injury. He charges that the police “filed an accident report, without talking to me at all” and that they “had not talked to any witnesses either.” The officer, he says, “only put down what the cab driver told her, which was completely false” -- that he had run a red light. He is seeking witnesses to back up his account.
* In Maryland, Bob Ehrlich continues to decline to comment on the Election Night robocall caper. The Post says Ehrlich “appeared Saturday morning as a ‘mystery guest’” on his wife’s WBAL radio show, and during a commercial break, a reporter asked him about the calls. Ehrlich reportedly said, “No comment.”
* In an editorial this morning, the Post weighs in on the Jack and Leslie Johnson affair, saying that though Leslie Johnson “is innocent until proven guilty,” her taking office early next month “would be a further embarrassment for a county stung by the federal charges” against her and her husband. The Post says she should step down, rather than permitting the case “to become a distraction to the incoming county government.” In his Post column, Courtland Milloy writes that as a Prince George’s County resident, he is “so embarrassed” by the arrests “that I don’t even want people to know I live there.”
* The Post adds the names of former Amtrak executive William Campbell and Tea Party activist Andrew Langer to the long roster of possible Maryland Republican Party chair candidates.
* In Virginia, the state’s Republicans have opted to nominate their 2012 U.S. Senate candidate through a primary, not a party convention. Likely contenders include ex-Sen. George Allen, Del. Bob Marshall, businessman Bert Mizusawa, and Prince William Supervisor Chairman Corey Stewart. David Skiles, blogging at Common Sense, says the primary “was the best option if we want to win back the seat we lost to Jim Webb in 2006,” since it gives candidates “the best chance to increase name identification, enroll new voters, and build a statewide political operation.”
* The District Curmudgeon goes on a bicycle tour of D.C.’s Wards 5 and 7.
* Unsuck D.C. Metro says something nice about WMATA!
* “Capicostia”? Wasn’t that the “Battlestar Galactica” prequel?
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC