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The comprehensive DC politics roundup — December 7, 2022
By Chris Kain
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Mendelson delays vote on DCHA bill
For hours, it looked like the DC Council's consideration of a bill to overhaul the DC Housing Authority's governance would mark the dramatic climax of the legislature's daylong meetings on Tuesday.

Then, just as late-night talk shows were about to start, DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson offered a brief monologue of his own. After repeating his assessment of the bill's merits, he announced he was pulling the item from consideration until Dec. 20, the council's next meeting and its final one of Council Period 24. He cited the absence of at least one council member and discomfort among some others despite a series of amendments to the version he introduced with Mayor Muriel Bowser

"I'm going to withdraw this today with the intention of bringing it back in two weeks," Mendelson said minutes before the marathon legislative meeting came to a close at the end of a 18-page agenda that included 50+ bills and resolutions.

The proposed emergency legislation would dissolve the 13-member Board of Commissioners that governs and oversees the DC Housing Authority, replacing it temporarily with a smaller Stabilization and Reform Board. Critics have objected to the prospect of greater mayoral control, the removal of dissident voices from the current board, and the push for reforms without full input from residents of DC's public housing and voucher holders served by DCHA.

The bill's introduction came in the wake of a devastating assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of DCHA's management and operations. The agency presented a formal response last week, but faces a March 31 deadline for making substantial improvements to correct the 82 deficiencies identified in the HUD report.

— WaPo's Steve Thompson, Karina Elwood and Michael Brice-Saddler report on the latest developments: "The plan, proposed last week by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), had evolved rapidly to garner the nine-vote supermajority needed for passage. But more than eight hours into the meeting, after Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) left to avoid an overlong day as he deals with health issues, it became clear Mendelson would not get it over the goal line.

" … The decision came late in the night at the end of a jampacked agenda that saw the council take consequential votes to make Metrobus rides free in the District, overhaul the city’s troubled Department of Forensic Sciences and change how D.C. Public Schools is funded. All three measures will require a second vote and the mayor’s signature to become law." [WaPo]

— From DCist's Martin Austermuhle: "Working with Bowser and Councilmember Robert White (D-At Large), Mendelson pushed to amend the bill, increasing the size of the planned new board to nine members and adding more representation for residents of public housing and voucher-holders. In an interview with DCist/WAMU earlier this week, White said he saw the new board as a critical step to preventing a federal takeover of the Housing Authority.

"But those changes failed to assuage concerns raised by some lawmakers, especially those who saw the bill as being rushed through. On Tuesday morning, Attorney General Karl Racine spoke out against it, followed thereafter by Councilmember Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), who said she wanted to maintain the board’s independence and the presence of representatives who live in public housing." [DCist]

— District Dig's Jeffrey Anderson examines the politics behind the debate over DCHA's governance structure: "D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser took decisive steps last week to orchestrate a complete takeover of the federally funded, independent D.C. Housing Authority.

"Just two months after a devastating performance audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that detailed long standing failures to deliver clean, safe and affordable housing to low income residents, Bowser has proposed to hire her own real estate development consultants to guide an agency-wide turnaround, and to appoint a single bloc Board of Commissioners to replace a current board that includes elected commissioners and voices of dissent." [District Dig]

Annemarie Cuccia reports for The DC Line and Street Sense on what DCHA's promises of operational reforms mean for voucher holders and residents of public housing: "DCHA officials and local lawmakers discussed the future of the agency at a hearing on Nov. 30, one day after the housing authority officially responded to the HUD audit listing 82 deficiencies of the agency. DCHA has the highest public housing vacancy rate in the nation, fails to keep units in livable condition and mismanages both the Housing Choice Voucher Program and lengthy waitlists for housing, HUD found.

"DCHA Executive Director Brenda Donald — who took over in mid-2021 amid widespread dissatisfaction with the prior management — insisted the audit was 'not a wake-up call' with reform plans already underway, but lawmakers and advocates are demanding the agency substantially improve after years of promised improvements have fallen short." [The DC Line]

— In GGWash, Carolyn Gallaher delves into the HUD report's key findings: "In early October, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a devastating assessment of the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA). The audit identified 82 violations of HUD policies that span every step of the District’s delivery of HUD-subsidized housing services.

" The audit’s findings are extensive. Below, I zoom in on three problem areas: DCHA leadership, its public housing waitlist, and its housing choice voucher program." [GGWash]
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AG Karl Racine announced this morning that his office is suing Amazon, saying the company stole tips from delivery drivers and lied to consumers. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon's illegal scheme tricked consumers by making them think they were increasing drivers' compensation when the money actually went to reduce the company's labor costs. Amazon subsequently reimbursed the Amazon Flex drivers as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, but Racine's office says it has thus far avoided civil penalties for consumer harm. "My office will use every tool available to hold Amazon — and any company that lies to consumers and cheats workers — accountable. Amazon is one of the richest companies in the world. It can and must do better," Racine tweeted.
  • DC Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton says the final version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 includes several provisions she sought for the District. The text released yesterday authorizes studies on a secondary drinking water source for DC; swimming in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers; and flooding in Federal Triangle. The House and Senate passed the bill earlier this year, and negotiators have worked on a compromise version. "There is an urgent need for Congress to act to protect the drinking water and other infrastructure of the nation’s capital from serious vulnerabilities, and I am pleased WRDA contains three provisions to address issues D.C. has long confronted," Norton said in a press release.
 'D.C. Council advances bill that makes Metrobus service free.' DCist's Jordan Pascale: "The District is one step closer to free Metrobus service after the D.C. Council voted to advance a bill that would eliminate any cost to board buses in D.C. starting next July.

"The Metro for D.C. bill was approved 13-0 in a vote by the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday afternoon and later passed easily during the council’s legislative session. The bill is still subject to one more vote before the full council before it’s passed.

" … The bill also creates overnight bus service on 12 popular routes and invests $10 million annually in more bus service, which [Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen] noted will be spent along corridors that are traditionally under-invested." [DCist; also WaPo, WTOP, UrbanTurf]

 'D.C. domestic workers may soon have employment protections under new bill.' DCist's Héctor Alejandro Arzate: "The D.C. Council has voted unanimously on its first vote to pass the Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act of 2022, which would extend rights and protections to more than 9,000 domestic workers – including house cleaners, nannies, and home health aides. On Tuesday, ahead of the Council’s vote on the bill, domestic workers and members of the D.C. chapter for the National Domestic Workers Alliance rallied outside of the Wilson Building.

" 'For me it’s like breaking a wall,' says Ingrid Vaca, who has worked as a domestic worker in D.C. for more than 20 years.

"The bill, also known as the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, was first introduced in March by At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman and eight other council members to include domestic workers under D.C.’s Human Rights Act, which makes discrimination illegal for more than a dozen protected traits." [DCist]

— ICYMI: 'DC Council poised to pass domestic workers bill of rights' [The DC Line]

 'D.C. Council approves series of significant criminal justice reforms.' DCist's Jenny Gathright: "The D.C. Council unanimously approved a group of criminal justice reforms that would make police disciplinary records publicly available, strengthen oversight of the D.C. Jail, and expand people’s opportunities to get their criminal records sealed or expunged.

"The votes came during a marathon legislative session on Tuesday night. They will be brought before the council for a second vote later this month, and then – if approved – go to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk for her signature. They’ll then move to Congress for its review — a consequence of the District’s lack of statehood.

"The bills, particularly the police reform package, mark the conclusion of a two-year process that began in the summer of 2020, when the council passed a series of emergency police reforms in response to widespread protests against police violence. In addition to making permanent those emergency reforms — which include requiring the public release of body camera footage after police shootings or use of force incidents, limiting the use of tear gas, and prohibiting neck restraints — the final package also adds additional provisions that councilmembers say are designed to increase police accountability." [DCist]

 'D.C. leaders trek to England to tout tourism as pandemic hinders other international travel.' WBJ's Daniel J. Sernovitz: "A Greater Washington delegation has kicked off an overseas marketing mission to talk up D.C. tourism in the United Kingdom — what's been the second-biggest source of international visitors to the nation's capital — as the pandemic continues to hamper foreign travel.

"Since this past weekend, Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination D.C., and John Falcicchio, D.C. deputy mayor for planning and economic development, have been in London to promote travel to D.C., to lure more international visitors back to the city and region.

"Visitors from overseas accounted for just a fraction of the District's 19.1 million total visitors last year, at just shy of 270,000 people, according to Destination D.C. figures. That's well off from an estimated 24.6 million total visitors to D.C. in 2019, of which 1.8 million came from abroad, with the highest number from China, which has yet to see travel rebound." [WBJ]

 COLUMN - 'A gentle girl becomes a tough woman. But how much more killing can she take?' WaPo's Courtland Milloy: "You may have heard of Asiyah Timimi, an anti-violence activist in D.C. and mother of three sons. She has been in the news lately because of her advocacy and because each of her sons has been a victim of gun violence.

"Two of them are mostly recovered from their injuries, but the youngest, age 27, remains paralyzed after being shot in the spine last year.

"I met Timimi during a recent discussion about solutions to gun violence held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in the District. She was advocating for better mental health services. Her son had become so depressed about being paralyzed, she said, that he would try to roll his wheelchair into oncoming traffic." [WaPo]

 OPINION - 'WMATA is a laggard on electrifying buses.' Steve Banashek, Elliott Negin and Timothy Oberleiton in GGWash: "Earlier this year, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority managers told the agency’s board of directors* that WMATA is a national leader when it comes to transitioning its fossil fuel buses to a zero-emission fleet.

"In fact, WMATA is lagging behind other major transit agencies across the country.

"While WMATA’s Metrobus Fleet Plan, which the board approved in 2021, will not replace all of its fossil fuel buses until 2045, fleets in Los Angeles and Houston are scheduled to be all-electric by 2030. King County, Washington—which includes Seattle—plans to electrify its bus fleet by 2035, and buses in Chicago and New York City are slated to be electrified by 2040." [GGWash]

 'Proud Boys wanted to call MPD Lt. Lamond to testify in their defense.' City Paper's Mitch Ryals: "Lawyers for former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio are asking a judge to dismiss the January 6-related charges against him after learning Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant Shane Lamond will not testify for the defense as they had planned.

"MPD placed Lamond on administrative leave in February for alleged improper communication with Tarrio leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Lamond is a 22-year veteran of the force, and as head of the intelligence branch, he communicated with the Proud Boys and other groups planning demonstrations in the District." [City Paper]

 'GW University purchases Foggy Bottom building from World Bank.' WBJ's Tristan Navera: "George Washington University has expanded its footprint in Foggy Bottom.

"The university exercised an option Friday to acquire the 463,151-square-foot 600 19th St. NW from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, an arm of the World Bank Group, according to information from the D.C. Recorder of Deeds.

" … GWU and IBRD had inked an option on the 10-story building in 1980, so long as it executed on the deal before 2022 — the university began the process to acquire the building in 2019, deeds show." [WBJ]

 'Ruby Corado describes D.C. civil case as 'persecution.' ' Wash Blade's Ernesto Valle: "Casa Ruby founder Ruby Corado told the Washington Blade on Friday during an interview in the Salvadoran capital the allegations that D.C. officials have made against her amount to 'persecution.'

" 'This is persecution,' Corado said during an interview at a San Salvador coffee shop. 'At the end of the day I am interested in people knowing all these things, because I am a human rights activist and what is happening to Ruby Corado should be an alarm for any human rights defender.' " [Wash Blade]
 ICYMI — the top clicked items from DL's last newsletter: 'Beloved market and cafe Little Red Fox is closing' [Washingtonian]; 'Elizabeth Taylor loved John Warner. Life in Washington nearly killed her.' [WaPo]; 'Sorry, the $17 cocktail is totally normal now' [Washingtonian]
Link Dump
'Study to identify backup drinking water supply for DC area gains strength' [WTOP]

'Less complicated fares, shorter wait times ahead for Metro customers?' [WTOP]

'D.C. mayor launching nationwide search to replace 911 director' [WaPo]

'Giuliani 'weaponized' law license in Trump election suit, D.C. Bar argues' [WaPo]

'News4's Pat Collins to retire at end of 2022' [NBC4]

'Here’s the story behind the Columbia Heights holiday tree, 'Tiny Timber' ' [DCist]

'DC region bucks national trend on 2021 drunk and drugged driving death numbers' [WTOP]

'Hook Hall owner brings pickleball complex, D.C.’s only indoor roller rink to Northeast' [DCist]

Letter to the editor: 'Bowser should sign the Revised Criminal Code Act' [WaPo]

John Kellly: 'Friendship Place helped a survivor of abuse turn her life around' [WaPo]

'WeWork closing Mount Vernon Triangle location amid downsizing' [WBJ]

Arts and Entertainment
  • 'Broadway’s smash hit 'Into the Woods' is coming to the Kennedy Center' [WaPo]
  • 'DC native and Spike Lee scribe Michael Genet stars in 'Wicked' at Kennedy Center' [WTOP]
  • 'Becoming ballet: Introducing the Washington Ballet’s studio company' [City Paper]
  • 'First Look: With joy, Seven Reasons team shares Venezuelan roots, and food, in Chevy Chase' [DCist]
Twitter Chatter
National Mall to host commemorative exhibits, performances and installations next year:
From the DC delegation's trip across the pond:
Foggy conditions this morning — is that the Thames or the Potomac?
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