Who broke up with whom?


Gabe Klein

I apologize, readers. A few hours ago, I wrote that Gabe Klein “has announced that he will leave his post on January 1, rather than stay on under a Gray administration”…well, it looks like he wasn’t exactly given the option to stay (via WaPo):

Several city officials have already announced they are leaving the Fenty administration, including transportation chief Gabe Klein, who on Wednesday became the first Cabinet official to publicly say he is not being kept in his post by Gray.

With his advocacy of bicycle and pedestrian amenities, promotion for public transit, and unorthodox approach to traffic and parking, Klein developed a devoted following among advocates of “smart growth,” who have emerged as a potent political force. But he was also at the center of a significant political headache for Gray during his campaign: the city’s streetcar program, which was canceled then restored under pressure during council budget negotiations.

Klein, along with several other agency heads, was delivered a termination letter Tuesday. Retaining Klein, along with planning director Harriet Tregoning, had been the goal of broad campaigning among some planning and neighborhood advocates. But other groups called for Klein’s ouster, criticizing him and his department for inadequate planning and community outreach.

Tax Yoga, Help the Poor?


Double-taxes for this well-groomed, flexible Frenchie!

No one enjoys higher or additional taxes, but judging from some of the pleas for support I’ve received from various groups that are worried about how budget cuts will affect the poorest, youngest, most vulnerable residents of our city, I wonder if taxing yoga and sweet-smelling dogs is preferable (or more ethical). Via the City Paper:

Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry wants to extend D.C.’s sales tax to include: pet grooming, health clubs, armored car services, private investigations and admission to live performances.

You’ll recall that similar measures were considered last budget go round, but the all-powerful Yoga lobby put a squash to them.

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Ganging up on Food Trucks


Fojol Bros, a popular D.C. Food Truck.

This is disappointing, short-sighted and a few other words I’m not allowed to type; Councilmember Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) is thinking about emergency legislation to prohibit new food trucks while taxing the existing mobile nom-purveyors who got in while the getting was good. But, wait! There’s more (via WCP)!

Indeed, D.C. Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Janene Jackson confirms that she’s teamed up with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and the Apartment and Office Building Association to ask for the cap, as well as a 10 percent sales tax, since proposed regulations that would govern food trucks are unsatisfactory.

“It’s not that we don’t want mobile food vendors,” Jackson said. “We’re in a deficit, and if bricks and mortars have to pay up, then we all have to pay up.”

My colleague Alan Suderman is also hearing that the issue could come up as soon as tomorrow’s Council legislative meeting, where members will be voting on a plan to close the budget shortfall.

I’m reminded of Love Bites, the truck I profiled here which is run by a local, African-American, mother-daughter team, who are using family recipes to create something delightful. It’s unfortunate that the City Council would bow to pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and the Restaurant Association to bully entrepreneurs. Yes, we need to address the budget– but if that’s all this were about, then they’d be talking about just taxes (which is understandable), not taxes AND a moratorium (which is not).

Gray has Lunch with a VIP Constitutent

The White House

Long tables are more Presidential!

It sounds like Mayor-elect Gray’s lunch with President Obama went well (via The Hill):

Speaking alone to reporters outside the White House, Gray described his lunch with the president as “delightful” and said that it was “Even better than I could have hoped for.”

“One of the most important things to me was that the president really wants to work closely with our city,” he said. “We’re going to — in the days and weeks ahead after I’m sworn in — are going to work very closely together.”

I had a feeling D.C. schools would come up, after that infamous interview the President did with Matt Lauer for TODAY, which referenced his daughters attending private school…

Gray said that the president and he spoke about improving public education and early childhood instruction in Washington, as well as funding for infrastructure around the proposed new Department of Homeland Security headquarters in impoverished Southeast Washington. They also discussed solutions to the city’s high unemployment rate.

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Mayor-Elect Gray Prioritizes Lunch over a Funeral

My twitter feed is buzzing about Mayor-Elect Vince Gray missing the funeral of a police officer who died while serving, last week. Gray was having lunch downtown:

It’s going to be a long day for Vince Gray, Mayor-Elect of the District of Columbia.  Instead of attending the funeral of Officer Paul Dittamo, who died last week in the line of duty, Gray was in the dining room at the 4th Estate, the restaurant in the National Press Club, according to the restaurant’s Twitter account.  We called The Fourth Estate, and he arrived at 1pm for a lunch with Council Chair-Elect Kwame Brown, where he still sits at press time.

According to the Post’s Mike Debonis, Fraternal Order of Police chief Kris Baumann was “apoplectic” at the no-show.  You can understand his frustration and anger, given that Baumann and the Police union were leading supporters for Gray on his campaign.

Local blog We Love DC deserves credit for spotting the restaurant’s tweet and figuring out where the Mayor-Elect was. Even outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was criticized in the past for being a no-show at high-profile funerals, managed to make an appearance and offer remarks, though he was late.

The comments under this We Love DC post highlight why this was a bad move for Gray. “Welcome back to Barryland!“, a reader said, comparing the Mayor-Elect to Mayor-for-Life, Marion Barry. Here’s another:

Is anyone at all surprised by this? Vince’s first two days post election have been a disaster. It’s not going to get any better, people.

It’s been years since I worked on a campaign, but I feel qualified enough to offer this wee bit of advice; don’t give your detractors fuel with which to flame you, if you can help it, especially when you’re trying to eliminate division and lead “one city”.

Live from Busboys and Poets…Election Night!

We are here at Busboys and Poets on 14th street, where Free Speech TV is hosting a panel discussion/dinner during a live broadcast of election night coverage. Interesting tidbits from the panel, below:

Midterm elections = an older and whiter turnout?

“Race is always a huge factor in the United States.”

The racial divisions that existed before Obama was President, existed after…and in some ways, are worse.”

If 2008 was the year of Obama, is 2010 about voters “demanding a recount”?

Discussion of how Obama built a movement around himself in ’08, but not in ’10, when some may have hoped to ride his coattails.

Is America a Center-Right nation?

– they are taking a break. a panel has been lowered…over the panel. –

Panel now discussing whether Obama was progressive enough. “He could be FDR or he could be Bill Clinton…he chose ‘Bill Clinton’”.

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Word to Tommy Wells

Just saw the following tweet from Ward 6 Council Member, Tommy Wells. If true, this is unfortunate (and I’m usually on the side of Food Trucks):

Via Tommy Wells Twitter account

Considering the heated, ongoing food truck war, this is the last thing trucks should do. The strongest argument that brick and mortar restaurants make against mobile purveyors of noms is that the status quo is unfair, mostly because of the different taxes food trucks pay vs. traditional restaurants. If a truck is avoiding paying a vendor fee, that’s unfair, as well.

Also– allowing customers to cannibalize another establishment’s amenities in order to chow down on $15 lobster rolls? That’s…tacky. One would expect more from both the purveyors and patrons of such a WASP-y concept. My word, I’m clutching my pearls, as I type. I’ve reached out to Lobster Truck DC for comment, will update you all if I receive one.

UPDATE: I spoke to Lobster Truck for a few minutes this afternoon, but they couldn’t hear me/seemed unavailable, so I asked them to call me later this evening. I’ll keep you posted.

Hey D.C., enforce the sidewalk snow-removal law.

Walking in the street because of unshoveled sidewalk, December 2009.

It almost feels dissonant to think of snow during our current, swamp-like, Summery September weather but Hyperlocal Glover Park’s post about snow removal is on point.

Whenever D.C. gets a big snow, an absurd hole in the District’s public-safety law reveals itself. Furious citizens demand that the hole be patched, and lawmakers promise to do so. Then the snow melts and people forget. The law is not fixed. Eventually, it snows again.

And when that happens, snow on unshoveled sidewalks quickly gets trodden down into hard packs, which then freeze into ice sheets that can last for weeks. The sidewalks become unsafe for small children, elderly people, and those with disabilities. People slip and break bones. People walk in the street and get hit by cars. People feel trapped at home for fear of injury.

Angry, frustrated citizens ask why there isn’t a law requiring residents to keep their sidewalks clear. But in fact, there is such a law. According to the D.C. Code (§9-601), anyone whose house fronts a public sidewalk must clear the sidewalk of snow or ice within eight daylight hours of the last flake’s falling.

The problem is, D.C. doesn’t enforce that law. Continue reading

Won’t someone think of the Food Trucks?

Sauca, one of many mobile purveyors of food in DC

Just in time for lunch– the City Paper’s Tim Carman has written a great feature about Food Trucks in D.C. and the challenges they face from those who feel threatened by their surging, Twitter- powered popularity:

If they so desired, locals would never have to eat another fake half-smoke again.

If only supply-and-demand economics were so easy. The sudden appearance of gourmet food trucks that delighted so many lunch-hour consumers simultaneously horrified the established restaurant community—a deep-pocketed, politically wired bunch.

Now, like in Brooklyn and Los Angeles and every other city where mobile vendors represent new competition, the District’s inline businesses are turning to the legislative process to ease their pain. Thus when it comes to the street-food options, you may not have the ultimate say. Lawyers, lobbyists, social-media activists, councilmembers, and business owners are all working the levers of power to determine what rolls your way for lunch.

It’s powerful stuff. I know I’ll never look at Amsterdam Falafel the same way again– and I’ve been a loyal customer since they opened. I am sympathetic to the concerns of small business owners and thankful for what they give to our communities, but after reading Carman’s piece, some of them just sound…petty.