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August 20, 2014

Posts in "DC Mayor"

August 19, 2014

Norton Questions Mostly White Ferguson Government

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Norton criticized racial disparities in Ferguson. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is characterizing the nearly all-white elected leadership and police force in majority-black Ferguson, Mo., as “poison.”

“Here you have mostly white police force in a mostly black community, but I’m really perplexed about why most of the elected officials are white as well,” Norton, a Democrat, said Tuesday during an interview with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart. “Is there something about the way elections are done in Missouri or in the county?”

Though members of Congress have raised the alarm about mounting violence and militarized police in the St. Louis suburb, Norton, a Yale-educated civil rights lawyer, may be among the first to raise the issue of racial disparity among Ferguson’s elected leadership.
Full story

August 4, 2014

Should D.C. Fine the House for Stocking Cafeterias With Styrofoam?

honda 061 0601014 440x292 Should D.C. Fine the House for Stocking Cafeterias With Styrofoam?

Honda hopes D.C.’s ban on the use of Styrofoam puts pressure on the House. (Bill Clark/ CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Plastic foam food containers will be banned from use in the District of Columbia beginning in 2016, but the material still reigns supreme in House cafeterias.

Democrats who chided Republicans for reinstituting Styrofoam when they took control of the House in 2011 want to see the old standard replaced with an environmentally friendly alternative, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did when she was speaker. Pelosi’s “Green the Capitol” initiative included compostable utensils and takeout trays, but it was nixed after financial criticism and was folded into existing sustainability efforts managed by the Architect of the Capitol.

Though the local Styrofoam ban, signed into law by Mayor Vincent Gray in late July, is not applicable to the Capitol grounds, some Democrats hope it could reopen the dialogue about how House cafeterias are stocked.

“Maybe they should fine the Hill,” suggested Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., a former legislative branch appropriator who spoke out against the GOP’s choice to begin using the plastic foam packaging again in 2011. He said then that it exposed his staff, colleagues and constituents to known health risks. Full story

July 30, 2014

D.C. Officials Plotting New Course to Keep Gun Control Intact (Updated)

Updated 7:30 p.m. | Though they won’t yet say how far they are willing to take their fight, District of Columbia officials plan to do everything in their power to limit the carrying of handguns in the nation’s capital, arguing that despite a court’s ruling that paves the way for more permissive laws, Washington is a unique place with heightened security concerns.

“An absolute ban on [carrying handguns] may not pass constitutional muster regardless of the judge, so we’re going to prepare by working on legislation that will pass muster” said Tommy Wells, a Democrat who represents Capitol Hill on the D.C. Council.

As chairman of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Wells will play a key role in D.C.’s response to the July 26 ruling by Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. that declared the complete ban on carrying handguns in public unconstitutional. The court granted a stay of the ruling Tuesday, giving District officials 90 days to figure out how they will protect public safety while complying with the Constitution. Full story

July 28, 2014

In D.C., Response to Judge’s Handgun Ruling Is Mixed and Muddled (Updated)

Updated 6:01 p.m. | For all practical purposes, a federal judge’s weekend ruling that overturned local laws prohibiting District of Columbia residents from carrying guns outside of their homes has opened the door for non-residents to tote handguns into the city and has made it potentially easier for members and staffers to transport firearms across the District to the Capitol.

D.C. police have been ordered not to arrest people for carrying pistols and deadly weapons in public. Washingtonians can still face criminal charges for carrying unregistered firearms and ammunition, but the millions of people who visit the nation’s capital are exempt from those provisions under an order from Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. The chief’s guidance effectively put the District’s firearm regulations, at least for non-residents, on a par with the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the country. D.C. police got additional guidance from Lanier on Monday afternoon. She clarified that the ruling applies only to handguns, not long guns or shotguns that are still illegal, and that committing crimes with handguns remains illegal.

For non-residents, legal possession of a handgun in D.C. is based on the laws of their home jurisdiction, meaning D.C. police will be responsible for knowing and enforcing licensing and permitting restrictions from around the country. Lanier noted that additional information on gun laws in other states will be forthcoming and said that in the meantime, officers can call a 24-hour information line.

Lanier’s orders came in response to Judge Frederick Scullin Jr.’s July 26 ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia that D.C.’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. In the 19-page decision, Scullin wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.

In her follow-up guidance to officers, Lanier nodded to the confusion. “Unfortunately, this ruling has left many unanswered legal questions that are currently being reviewed by the [Office of the Attorney General],” she stated.

Federal laws and a portion of D.C. code still prohibit people from carrying weapons on Capitol grounds, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider. But members and staffers already have weapons privileges for the Capitol campus dating back decades.  Full story

July 17, 2014

Scarce Prospects for Senate Shooting Down D.C. Gun Control

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D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Alfred Durham, prepare for a news conference in Rayburn on a House passed amendment by Rep. Thomas Massie’s, R-Ky., that would “block D.C. from enforcing its local gun laws, as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 Financial Services and General Services Appropriations bill,” July 17, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., is optimistic about Senate support for an appropriations rider that would dismantle local gun laws in the District of Columbia, but he doubts the chamber will consider the measure.

“Twenty rank-and-file Democrats in the House voted for the amendment, and I know Democrats in the Senate would vote for the amendment,” Massie said in an email to CQ Roll Call. “But I suspect that Harry Reid will do everything he can to prevent that vote from happening.”

The Senate majority leader’s office did not respond to questions about Massie’s pro-gun proposal, which would make D.C. perhaps the most permissive jurisdiction in the nation. Neither did some of the vulnerable red-state Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee who are up for re-election in November — Alaska’s Mark Begich and Louisiana’s Mary L. Landrieu — who have also advocated greater autonomy for the District. Full story

D.C. Could Become Nation’s Most Permissive Gun Jurisdiction, Under House Proposal (Video)

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Massie is wading into the District’s gun laws. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of Congress’ most outspoken libertarians is the latest member to try to overturn the District of Columbia’s local gun laws. If successful, his proposal would make the District, home to cabinet officials, dignitaries from around the world and the president perhaps the most permissive gun jurisdiction in the country.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who in June rallied a bipartisan majority around an amendment to end warrantless collection of Americans’ online activities, attached language prohibiting D.C. from enforcing local firearm restrictions to the House bill funding the District.

“Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that struck down the D.C. handgun ban, as well as the unconstitutional gunlock provision, it is still difficult for D.C. residents to exercise their God-given right to bear arms,” Massie said Wednesday on the floor. “Congress has the authority to legislate in this area pursuant to article I, section 8, clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to ‘exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever’ over the District of Columbia.”

In a move decried as an assault on Home Rule, Massie tried to wield that authority Tuesday night with a similar amendment, but the measure was ruled out of order due to a procedural flaw. To the outrage of Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Council, he tried again on Wednesday and the House adopted the gun rider 241-181, with the support of 20 Democrats. Full story

July 16, 2014

Pedro Ribeiro Leaves Gray for Obama, Will Be Replaced by Doxie McCoy (Updated)

DC budget 12 100913 440x312 Pedro Ribeiro Leaves Gray for Obama, Will Be Replaced by Doxie McCoy (Updated)

As Gray’s chief spokesman heads to the Obama administration, Norton’s former communications director takes his place. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:43 p.m. | As chief spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray, Pedro Ribeiro tried to keep the focus on the scandal-plagued executive’s governing achievements amidst allegations of corruption against Gray from Justice Department prosecutors.

Now, approximately four months after “Uncle Earl“ reshaped the D.C. mayoral race and helped dash Gray’s hopes for a second term, Ribeiro will leave his side to join the Obama administration.

Ribeiro’s Aug. 8th departure for a senior post at the Department of Homeland Security was announced in a Tuesday email to members of Gray’s cabinet and quickly made the rounds in local media after a Tweet from WUSA 9′s Bruce Johnson. The announcement lauded Ribeiro, known for his sometimes tough, passionate defense of Gray.

“Pedro has been a trusted and valued advisor and counselor to the Mayor and his entire senior team as well as an effective spokesperson who managed to disagree with the press when he had to without being disagreeable,” Gray chief of staff Chris Murphy said in the email. “We are sorry to see him go.”

Ribeiro has been with the mayor for nearly three years. In an interview with the Washington City Paper, he said being combative was part of the job and said, ”There are instances where I have been a dick, and I know it.”

In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Ribeiro said that it was “part in parcel” of his job to defend the Gray administration in instances where they clashed with the federal government.

During the October 2013 federal government shutdown, Gray sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget declaring all the city’s workers essential, in an effort to avoid putting the jobs of roughly 32,000 District workers at risk of furlough. He also demanded a meeting with President Barack Obama to talk about the harmful impact of the budget stalemate on the city.

Ribeiro pointed out that Capitol Hill veterans who go to work for the administration often have to deal with the same conflicts between their boss and the president and said that on the “vast majority of policies,” Gray was pleased with where the federal government was going.

The White House has lured other prominent Gray administration officials to its ranks. In February, Harriet Tregoning, then-director of the D.C. Office of Planning announced she would resign to go to work for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Several deputies have recently departed the lame-duck mayor’s administration.

Ribeiro is being replaced by his deputy, Capitol Hill alumna Doxie McCoy. The former spokeswoman for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., will be promoted to Gray’s communications director.

July 15, 2014

Mayoral Candidates Would Vary Approach to Hill on Home Rule

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Harris says he knows best about marijuana policy in the District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A day after Rep. Andy Harris declared he was targeting with an appropriations rider a locally passed law that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana in the District of Columbia punishable by only a $25 ticket, Mayor Vincent Gray publicly denounced the congressman.

The Maryland Republican’s rider — strongly opposed by the White House — provokes questions about how the field of candidates vying to replace Gray in November would handle congressional infringements on home rule, which vary from face-to-face confrontations to economic boycotts, to Democratic nominee Muriel Bower’s plan to utilize a team of lobbyists. Full story

July 14, 2014

D.C. Council Overrides Gray’s Veto of Yoga Tax, but Beer Language Safe

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This yoga pose just got more expensive. (CQ Roll Call File Photo.)

The District’s fiscal 2015 spending plan will likely make D.C.-brewed beer more accessible, and working out a little more expensive.

Despite warnings from Mayor Vincent Gray about the ill effects of taxing gym memberships and altering funding for a 22-mile streetcar network, no members of the D.C. Council were swayed to change their vote on the city’s fiscal 2015 spending plan.

By a 12-1 margin, the council voted on Monday to override Gray’s veto of the $10.6-billion spending plan

While Gray declared his disappointment with the fiscal 2015 budget approved by the D.C. Council, brewery owners should be pretty happy. Tucked into the bill is a new law that establishes a permit for District breweries that will for the first time allow customers to purchase and drink the brewery’s beer while visiting the facility.

Under the Manufacturer Tasting Permit Emergency Amendment Act of 2014, a brewery can apply for the new $1,000 permit.

At the John A. Wilson building, debate focused on streetcars and tax packages, with no mention of the new beer provisions.

The lone “no” vote on the budget, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, said he feared the city was favoring income and business tax cuts over transit funding. He cited the city’s housing crisis and an “emerging transit crisis” and called the budget “shortsighted.”

Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser, who represents Ward 4, said she didn’t support the 5.75 percent tax on health club services but would not back Gray’s veto.

“At the end of the day, however, I recognize so many important things in this budget, including how we fund progressive and widespread tax breaks for residents and businesses in the District of Columbia,” she said. Councilmember David Catania, an independent who is running against Bowser for the mayoral seat, also voted to override Gray’s veto.

The lame duck mayor issued a statement saying he was disappointed that the council “did not see fit to work with me to craft a reasonable compromise that serves the best interest of District residents,” and reiterating the sentiment of his July 11 veto. Gray estimates the budget would delay the planned streetcar system until 2045.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Marion Barry alleged Gray’s priorities were out of whack and the District should be investing in shelters, apartments for the homeless and schools instead of the new rail network.

Barry said he thinks the project has no cost benefit and slammed the track work that has been completed on H Street Northeast. ”I’m going to continue to fight against another penny being spent on the streetcar,” he added.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:02 p.m.
DC Council, DC Mayor

July 11, 2014

Gray Vetoes D.C. Budget, Cites Yoga Tax, Streetcar Funding

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lame duck D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced Friday that he plans to veto the D.C. Council’s fiscal 2015 budget, a move that could rekindle protests against the so-called yoga tax.

Gray cited the 5.75 percent tax on health club services as one of his main beefs with the measure that cleared the council on a 12-1 vote in late June, and asked lawmakers to delay their summer recess for 30 days to work with his administration on a compromise.

“I cannot, in good conscience, sign a budget that hurts seniors, taxes wellness, dramatically delays and drives up the cost of the D.C. Streetcar system, and ties the hands of future Mayors to respond to fiscal problems,” Gray said in his Friday statement, released along with a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

One of Gray’s greatest concerns is the long-delayed D.C. Streetcar project, which he said would be delayed until 2045 under the current proposal. He also says it would increase the cost of the program by 50 percent.

Because the council only needs nine votes to override a mayoral veto, the mayor’s objections might be moot. An amendment that would have killed the tax on wellness services was defeated by a 9-4 vote.

Still, Gray maintains he could not in good conscience go along with the council’s proposal.

“Although I will not be in office when the majority of this budget is implemented, I cannot turn a blind eye to the impact that it will have on the next administration and District residents,” he said.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 3:17 p.m.
DC Council, DC Mayor

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