by Borderstan.com March 13, 2013 at 11:00 am 0

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

"Property"

DC Deputy CFO Stephen M. Condi (back to camera) testifies to committee members David Grosso, second from left, and Jack Evans, second from right. (David McAuley)

An attempt to slow down the rise of DC home property assessments took a step forward on Monday, March 11. The DC Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue heard testimony about the possible effects of new law which caps yearly increases of a property’s tax assessment at five percent.

The current cap is 10 percent. DC Council Bill 20-0022 would also eliminate the current requirement that a property’s assessment be at least 40 percent of its market value.

An assessment is defined as “[t]he value assigned to your home by a government tax assessor to determine property tax payments.”

History of the Bill

Committee on Finance and Revenue Chair, Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), opened the meeting by recapping the bill’s history. In recent years, assessed values of many district properties have increased by 25 to 50 percent, Evans said. In response, laws were passed to limit the maximum possible increase in a property’s assessed value.

The first law limited assessment increases to 25 percent yearly. Then successive laws limited assessment increases to 12 percent, and then to 10 percent. Still, Evans said, people testified last year that they can no longer afford to pay taxes on a yearly 10 percent increased assessment.

“There seems to be widespread support on the council” for the measure, Evans said. He added, however, that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson does not support the bill. Speaking after Evans, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) called the bill “an important one.”

Impact on City Revenue

The only witness testifying about Bill 20-0022 was Stephen M. Cordi, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the DC Office of Tax and Revenue. Cordi testified that the changes were “straight forward” and there would be “no significant problem with implementation.” Cordi said that, without the legislation, the assessments of over half the properties in DC would go up over 5 percent.

When pressed for a ballpark estimate of the possible annual loss of revenue to the city, Cordi speculated that the figure might be around $10 million, but emphasized that he was not sure.

The DC Government ended fiscal 2012 with a surplus of more than $400 million. Mayor Vincent Gray has vowed that the surplus will stay in the bank.

The bill will move into final committee markup in four to eight weeks, after which it must be approved by the full council and the mayor, and reviewed by Congress.

At the same meeting, the council heard testimony on bills to grant property tax relief to certain individual organizations. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) joined the meeting to champion relief for two projects in his district, the low-income Jubilee Housing Residential Rental Project and the Gala Hispanic Theater.

Representatives from The Washington Latin School and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception also testified in favor of their requests for property tax relief.

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by Borderstan.com February 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm 3 Comments

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

"Settles"

John Settles is no longer in the special election race for City Council. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The city’s special election for an At-Large Council seat is now less than two months away — and we finally know who is, and is not, on the ballot. The election is to fill the seat formerly held by Phil Mendeslson, who won a special election in November for Council chairman — and is currently held by Anita Bonds, who was appointed by members of the Democratic Party to fill the seat until the election.

One of the original eight candidates will not be on the ballot come April: Logan Circle resident John Settles. Supporters of candidate Elissa Silverman challenged the ballot petitions of candidates Paul Zukerberg and John Settles. A total of 3,000 valid signatures were required to be on the ballot in April (there is no party primary, just the general election on April 23).

From John Settles’ February 26 statement: “It is political tricks of the status quo that taint the process and disproportionately impact new candidates, those with new ideas, positive energy, and no allegiances to the political establishment. It is an exploit of political insiders, insistent on maintaining power, at the expense of the betterment of the city. Civic-minded citizens need to stand up and call out those candidates, and their supporters that engage in these tactics. The Board of Elections also needs to answer the question of how they can limit voter choice, and impact elections using faulty data.

It turns out that Settles submitted more than enough signatures, but many were deemed invalid, per the DC Boards of Elections and Ethics requirements (DCBOEE). Now, Settles, who is out of the race, questions the DCBOEE’s records and their reason for knocking him off the ballot. One of Settles’ main questions goes to the accuracy of the DCBOEE voter registration files — the board has not been quick about processing change of address forms for DC voters.

The  candidates that remain in the race are Michael A. Brown (who lost his At-Large seat last November), Anita BondsMatthew FruminElissa Silverman, Paul Zukerberg, Perry Redd (Green Party) and Republican Patrick Mara. For more information about the candidates’ stand on the issues, visit Let’s Choose DC, a website created for the April 23 election by Greater Greater Washington, DCist and Popville.

Under the DCBOEE guidelines, registered DC voters who sign petitions must be registered at their current address. But, Settles asks whether this really matters in an At-Large (citywide) election, as long as voters are registered at a valid address in DC — and at what point is the DCBOEE responsible for its tardiness in processing change of address forms.

Statement from Settles

On February 26, Settles released the following statement, titled “Dirty Politics and Petition Changes” (Silverman’s reponse follows) –

“Less than four months ago I was listening to the news, and within a span of 10 minutes I heard about a rash of armed robberies on streets across the city, proposed school closings, and the increase in the average cost of a home in DC. As I thought of these and other problems, gripping my neighborhood and the broader city I thought about what I might be able to do. I decided to enter the race for the DC City Council.

“I had no idea of the sacrifice it takes to run for office. In spite of the difficulty I discovered, I was still ready to start courageous conversations and at the very least have a positive impact on the debate. Initially I was getting some pressure from a few insiders to drop out of the race.

“Just as my campaign was gaining momentum, a supporter of Elissa Silverman, a competitor, challenged my petition signatures, on her behalf. The DC Board of Elections requires candidates to collect 3,000 signatures from registered voters, in just over a month. We collected well over the required number, however, around 500 were ruled not registered and over 675 of these signatures were contested because while the signers were registered to vote in DC, they had moved and their new address was not in the Board of Elections system. Thirty-one people who signed were residents of the homeless shelter; they were ruled invalid because in the midst of struggling to keep their lives together they didn’t file a change of address form. Hundreds were elderly residents living in senior citizen facilities. The other majority were low-income individuals, who move frequently due to the high cost of housing in the city.

“The data used to determine the validity of the challenge has been in question for years. Even after receiving a count from the Registrar, we found over a dozen voters that the Board of Elections had ruled as not registered, were in fact registered, the board admitted the error, and revised the count. Many signers that were challenged informed us that they had just voted in November, and that they had changed their address, either when they renewed their driver’s license, or voted.  It is surprising that a voter can update their change of address at a polling station on Election Day, and still be eligible to vote, but they can’t sign a petition to get a candidate on the ballot. In a city wide election why does it even matter that someone is not at the same address if they are registered to vote?

“It is political tricks of the status quo that taint the process and disproportionately impact new candidates, those with new ideas, positive energy, and no allegiances to the political establishment. It is an exploit of political insiders, insistent on maintaining power, at the expense of the betterment of the city. Civic-minded citizens need to stand up and call out those candidates, and their supporters that engage in these tactics. The Board of Elections also needs to answer the question of how they can limit voter choice, and impact elections using faulty data. Elissa Silverman, and her supporters also need to explain how in good conscious they can disenfranchise homeless individuals, seniors, low income individuals, and minorities, using data that they contend is faulty, in a current lawsuit against the board of elections.

“Even if I lose the opportunity to campaign to voters in this Special Election, I am still committed to taking on the status quo, starting courageous conversations and being part of the solution.  A technicality may end this campaign, at least for now, but my compassion for the people does not end here or now.  I want to thank the voters who signed my petitions, the volunteers who helped me in this campaign and the supporters who were encouraging throughout the whole process. Even if it is not in electoral politics, my desire for action and change has only been intensified by this experience.”

Silverman’s Response

Candidate Elissa Silverman responded to Settles’ statement with the following statement –

“I put my own petitions through the exact same process used to review John’s petitions before I handed them in to the Board of Elections. I put that process in place given my experience collecting signatures for a grassroots initiative to put a campaign finance reform bill on the ballot, and so I could guarantee to my volunteer circulators and signers that I would meet the ballot requirement. I think we need more oversight over the Board of Elections and its process to register and update voters, and I vow to do that on the Council.”

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by Borderstan.com February 26, 2013 at 8:00 am 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

"Graham"

Graham stripped of ABC Board oversight by DC Council. (Borderstan file photo, Luis Gomez Photos)

On Monday, February 25, the DC Council voted to strip Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) of his oversight of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. The measure was first proposed by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on February 21.

The 13-member council voted 11-2, with Graham and Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) voting against the resolution. The bulk of the U Street corridor and neighborhood are in Ward 1, along with Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant and Howard University.

Immediately after the vote, Graham released the following statement:

“It is time to move on. I have very important responsibilities as chairman of the human services committee and all the responsibility of representing Ward 1. Going forward, I will continue to represent the people who elected me to serve with the same passion and fervor as I have from my first day in office.”

The public reprimand comes after the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability found “substantial” evidence that Graham broke the code of conduct in a lottery contract bid.

A tweet from Bruce DePuyt (@News8NewsTalk) quotes Barry saying, “We all trade votes. I’ve done it. I’m arguing due process. He’s had no opportunity to defend himself.”

“This is a somber moment and a sad one, of course, because there is no joy in what we were asked to do today,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) in a statement. “But, it is an obligation that falls to us and that we were and are duty-bound to discharge. Put very simply, we must keep and preserve that most delicate of commodities: public confidence.”

A reprimand is the least serious action the council can take against a member. It must be approved by a simple majority and carries no punishment. Barry was censured in 2010, which is more serious, WTOP reports.

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by Borderstan.com February 25, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

"Graham"

Councilmember Jim Graham. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) could have a challenging week ahead of him. The Washington Post reports that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson aims to strip Graham of his oversight of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board as a public reprimand to the veteran DC politician; he was first elected in 1998.

Mendelson’s potential action comes after the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability found “substantial” evidence that Graham broke the code of conduct in a lottery contract bid.

On February 21 Graham released a statement to constituents:

The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability had no basis to issue findings and pronounce judgment against our client without granting him a chance to be heard, allowing him to review and challenge the evidence to which we were denied access, and conducting a full adversary hearing. The Board violated the law and its own rules. That is not the ethics process that the Council sought to put into place, nor is it one whose decisions are worthy of respect or weight. Today we filed for relief and are confident that the court will agree that the Board acted lawlessly and denied Councilmember Graham basic fairness and due process.

After the findings, Graham repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and told constituents he has no intention of resigning. Washington City Paper reports that Graham is filing a lawsuit to “seek a temporary restraining order against the ethics board, who Graham says violated his rights to due process by issuing a negative report without having a full hearing.”

Ward 1 Democratic candidate Brianne Nadeau released the following statement:

The residents of Ward 1 find ourselves today with a representative who is under scrutiny for his deeply troubling, ethically questionable behavior. Today’s vote results from the fact that he has not been willing to take responsibility for his actions or apologize to the people of Ward 1 for engaging in back-room deals when he should have been out addressing real issues in the community. This is not the Jim Graham we used to know.

Nadeau has already announced her candidacy against Graham in the 2014 Democratic primary for the Ward 1 Council seat. She is a former ANC 1B commissioner.

The council will take up the measure of reassigning the ABC Board responsibilities at a special meeting on Monday. Coincidentally, that same day, Graham will hold a public roundtable on rule making that will impact enforcement of alcohol sale to minors. The rule making would require and provide legal consequences for the failure of bars to check IDs of people who come in.

Graham first convened this public roundtable on January 24 and recessed it to provide additional time for testimony. The question for the day will not be the outcome of the roundtable discussion. The question is: Will this be Graham’s last ABC Board oversight meeting?

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by Borderstan.com February 12, 2013 at 9:00 am 1 Comment

From David McAuley. Email at david[AT]borderstan.com

"Evans"

Jack Evans, Ward 2 Councilmember. (Luis Gomez Photos)

As of today, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans becomes the longest-serving DC councilmember in history. Evans has served 7,947 days (21 years, 9 months). Evans’ office says that there are no special ceremonies or observances planned for the day.

Ward 2 includes most of Borderstan (Dupont-Logan) west of 11th Street and south of U Street NW, and extends to Georgetown, the Potomac and the Capitol.

Evans was first elected in a special election held on April 20, 1991, to fill a seat vacated by John A. Wilson, who had become Council chairman. He was sworn in on May 13, 1991. On that day, gasoline cost an average $1.11 a gallon at the pump, the Soviet Union was asking the West to save it from collapse and a 28-year-old Roger Clemens was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.

Evans has strong ties to Borderstan. His most recent re-election campaign headquarters was at 1402 14th Street NW, near the corner of Rhode Island Avenue. He opposed the proposed closing of Garrison Elementary School at 1200 S Street and was part of an effort that ended with a January 2013 reversal of the decision to close the school.

He has been involved for many years in attempts to resolve parking problems resulting from the changes in the neighborhood, most recently with a March 2012 proposal for a new parking regime in Logan Circle to make on-street parking easier for residents. His website also highlights his contribution to the establishment of well-known landmarks as the P Street Whole Foods, the Washington Convention Center and the Watha T. Daniel Library, as well as the future City Market at O Street in Shaw, scheduled to open in May.

Until today, the longest-serving DC councilmember was Hilda Mason, who served as an at-large member of the DC Council from 1977 to 1999. Mason died in 2007.

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by Borderstan.com September 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

"DC forum"

A public forum with DC Councilmembers will take place at Busboys & Poets on Sunday, September 9. (Luis Gomez Photos)

On Sunday, September 9, DC at least six members of the DC City Council will participate in a public forum with local journalists and residents from 5 until 8 pm at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street NW).

So far, Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), Michael Brown (I-At Large), Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) are confirmed to participate in the forum. Bowser and Evans are on the ballot this year. Mendelson is running in the special election for Chairman of the DC Council to replace Kwame Brown, who resigned earlier this year.

“Many communities feel disconnected from what ought to be their city hall,” said Nick McCoy, a local activist and moderator of the upcoming event. “We’re holding this forum to reassert the people’s right to hold our public servants accountable.”

Local media outlets such as the Washington Blade, the Washington Informer and WPFW, among others, will have an allotted time period to question the candidates. Time will also be made for members of the public to address the officials.

For more information, contact Nick McCoy at (202) 280-5403.

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by Borderstan.com July 12, 2012 at 8:45 am 1,314 0

"Vincent Gray"

Mayor Vincent Gray:  As of Wednesday, three DC councilmembers have called for his resignation. (Luis Gomez Photos, file photo)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com

On the heels of DC Mayor Vincent Gray’s recently exposed shadow campaign, three of the city’s 12 sitting concilmembers have now called for Gray to resign on Wednesday due to the scandals in his 2010 Democratic Primary campaign against incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Councilmembers Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), David Catania (I-At Large) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) have said Gray should resign in the wake of federal prosecutors investigating Gray’s 2010 election campaign for illegal funding. Catania even went so far as to call the mayor a “joke,” adding that he is a “laugh line” and an “embarrassment.”

What is notable about Cheh’s Wednesday statement is that she endorsed Gray over incumbent Fenty in the September 2010 Democratic Primary. It was not a popular move among Cheh’s constituents in the upper Northwest Ward, which voted overwhelming for Fenty over Gray.

So what exactly happened to account for these accusations? Well, it is reported that Gray’s 2010 campaign misreported (or failed to report) $650,000 funneled from local contractor and (major) local political donor, Jeff Thompson. (Read more about Thompson in the Washington City Paper – in particular, how his home and office spaces were raided in suspicion of illegal activities related to the 2010 campaign.)

On Wednesday, Gray spoke about his allegations in a press conference where he confessed that he was not aware of the illegal reporting of contributions to his campaign. Gray said that he has no intentions of resigning.

Whether or not he was aware of it, Eugenia Clarke Harris, an aide in Gray’s campaign, pleaded guilty to charges that unreported money was used in campaign efforts to beat out incumbent, Adrian Fenty. Two other aides have pleaded the same charge. According to NBC Washington, Harris could receive 30 to 37 months in prison, and a fine between $6,000 and $60,000.

And even though Thompson’s contributions hardly made a ripple in the money pond of the election (Gray reported raising and spending about $2 million, whereas Fenty spent nearly $5 million), local politicians and supporters are outraged and feel betrayed by the candidate that campaigned on integrity.

Early this morning, ABC7/NewsChannel 8 reported that “Campaign workers for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray tell The Associated Press that day laborers who worked at polling places on Gray’s behalf in 2010 were routinely paid $100 in cash — twice the legal limit.”

Borderstan Area Voted Overwhelmingly for Fenty

The Dupont, Logan and U Street areas of DC voted overwhelmingly for Fenty over Gray in the September 2010 primary. Fenty carried 9 out of 10 local precincts, winning six with more than 70% of the vote.

DC’s electorate is overwhelmingly Democrat, which means winning the Democratic Primary is almost always tantamount to election. But, in the November 2010 general election, Fenty got approximately 23% of the vote in a write-in campaign organized by Fenty supporter Joshua Lopez. Locally,  Fenty got 30% in Ward 1 (which includes the U Street corridor and Adams Morgan) and 39% in Ward 2 (which included the Dupont and Logan areas). For example, Write-In (Fenty) received 43% of the vote in Precinct 16 at 15th and R Streets NW.

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by Borderstan.com July 11, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,083 1 Comment

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

"Uber Towncar"

Uber and its supporters killed a  DC Council amendment restricting its services. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The Uber conundrum took yet another turn this week as the DC Council briefly considered an amendment that would restrict the car service’s ability to operating only as a luxury alternative.

Uber, the tech-enabled car service that brings luxury cars to the doorstep of anyone with a smartphone, has been embattled by the DC Taxicab Commission since its launch last December.

Yesterday’s proposal was an attempt to bring the car service into compliance with DC law, and was the fruit of several months of collaboration between councilmembers, the Taxicab Commission and Uber representatives.

The sticking spot in these negotiations was a proposed price floor that would force Uber to operate only as a “sedan class” service. The price floor mandated that Uber charge a minimum fare of $15 – three times the taxicab minimum – crippling its plans to expand into lower-cost transportation services in the District, as it has in New York and other cities.

In a characteristically impassioned e-mail sent yesterday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick denounced the price floor, accusing members of the DC Council of stifling entrepreneurs, and calling on his supporters to reject this politically motivated interference (yes, he went there). Twitter-savvy Uber users took the cause viral, and in the 12 hours that followed, Council members received tens of thousands of Tweets and e-mails urging them to strike down the amendment. Many undoubtedly came from an online petition at change.org in support of Uber.

Yesterday morning, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) announced that she would do just that, but expressed disappointment at the breakdown of what she believed was an amicable agreement. “Uber contacted me and asked to work together to legalize services like [theirs] in the District, and I have met with Uber many times, negotiated in good faith and believed that I had reached an agreement with them last week,” Cheh wrote in an e-mail.

Despite being caught off guard, Cheh stated her intention to reintroduce the amendment – likely without the $15 minimum – before the council. “I am flabbergasted but flexible,” she said. In a time when things move as fast as Uber, she probably has the right attitude.

In fact, that line proves all too true. Late yesterday Councilman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) introduced an amendment to the taxi modernization bill recognizing Uber’s operations as legitimate under DC law. The amendment, which leaves out the contested price controls, was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Micahel A. Brown (I-At Large), David Catania (I-At-Large and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).

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by Borderstan.com June 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm 0

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

Last week the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) released a statement commending the D.C. Council for its approval of a partial extension of alcohol service hours at D.C. restaurants, bars and hotels. The measure, which will allow later alcohol service on holiday weekends (and a few other instances), will take effect this fall.

"Borderstan"

(Luis Gomez Photos)

In the winding road that led to this compromise, the RAMW consistently lobbied for more liberal bar service hours, arguing that easing these restrictions would generate revenue for the city and raise its global profile. Amidst a near-collapse of the initiative last month, RAMW and other hospitality industry interests flexed their muscle to get the proposal on the books.

So when you wake up especially disoriented on some future Sunday morning, you’ll know who to thank.

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by Borderstan.com June 7, 2012 at 7:42 am 1,479 2 Comments

By Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]borderstan.com.

DC, Council, Wilson, Building

The DC Council is based at the Wilson Building, 14th and Pennsylvania NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Now slightly less fully loaded, Kwame Brown announced his resignation from the City Council on Wednesday. The now former chairman of the DC Council admitted in his resignation letter to lying on his bank loan application a few years ago and apologized for any “negative attention” his conduct has brought.

DCist tracked the story and has his resignation letter, Mayor Gray’s reaction and the earliest rumors of his resignation. In the meantime, Councilmember Mary Cheh will be interim chair and the Council will choose a replacement from the At-Large pool of members next Wednesday — Phil Mendelson and Vincent Orange, both Democrats, and David Catania and Michael A. Brown, both Independents. BTW, The Washington Post has already made its choice: Mendelson.

UPDATE: Washington City Paper is reporting that Brown has now been charged for “violating the District’s campaign finance laws during his 2008 re-election campaign.”

With several members potentially considering a run for mayor, it will be quite interesting to see who makes a move,who receives support and from where that support originates. Hat tip to DCist for great coverage of this breaking story. The Council will meet June 13 says The Post, to select a temporary replacement until a special election can be held, which must happen no later than 114 days after Brown’s resignation. By our math, that means an election must be prior to late September.

There is also a caveat that comes with being Council chairman — no outside income (like the mayorship). DC councilmembers area allowed to earn as much as money as they want from outside jobs. So, who is willing to give up the extra bucks for a shot at being Council Chairman? It’s a pay raise from the $125,000 for being a plain old councilmember to $190,000 for being chairman.

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by Borderstan.com June 6, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com

In a neighborhood that is home to many of the District’s top restaurants and bars, it is hard to ignore the politics surrounding the food and beverage industries. (See our recent post on the potential Alcoholic Beverage Control license moratorium in the 14th and U Street area.)

"Martini Glasses"

Later hours for DC bars on holidays. (Luis Gomez Photos)

For starters, it is hard to overlook that the local hospitality industry is a core economic engine for the city, contributing more than $2.5 billion to the DC economy. And in a time when it is difficult to find employment in neighborhoods beyond Borderstan, it is hard to ignore that the local service industry employs more than 48,000 people.

That is why, a June 5 vote from the DC Council left the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) and several local businesses cheering — the vote permits hospitality venues to partially extend licensed alcoholic beverage service hours.

Now, what, exactly, does that mean?

Well, my fellow Borderstan friends, that means, starting this fall, DC restaurants and bars will have extended licensed alcoholic beverage services by one hour on holiday-related dates. And luckily for you, in a government-important city, holidays occur more frequently than dragon blood references on “Game of Thrones.”

It is predicted that the supplemental money generated by the service extension will help the Council to eliminate a projected city budget deficit, without increasing local taxes or fees for both residents and businesses. DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who proposed the service extension option on a year-round basis in order to generate a minimum $3.21 million in additional sales tax revenues, previously announced his support for the Council compromise.

“Local residents appreciate how our city relies on a dynamic nighttime economy,” said RAMW president, Lynne Breaux. “They understand how this policy change allows us to better, and more fully accommodate, a growing population with diverse working and living schedules, and it’s why a service extension has been embraced without significant or broad-based opposition originating with residents.”

The legislation results in the District’s move towards joining eight states in allowing on-premise alcohol sales at restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels until 3 am on weeknights and six states permitting sales until 4 am on weekends.

And for those who fear the bump in nightlife hours will impact public safety, you will be happy to know that DC Metropolitan Police Chief, Cathy Lanier, expressed her full confidence that expanded service hours throughout the year would pose no additional burdens on law enforcement personnel or public safety.

Looking for even better news? The Council also voted for a separate provision, allowing for extended service hours during the five-day Presidential Inauguration period next January.

And if you were in town for the last Inauguration, you know what a big deal that is… so, in other words, come election time, meet me at the bar?

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by Borderstan.com May 29, 2012 at 8:00 am 0

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

Last week the DC Council passed Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2013 budget proposal with an unusual absence of tax increases. Final approval is scheduled for June 5.

DC bars will be able to serve alcohol one hour later on selected holidays. (One Photograph A Day)

The Council chose spending cuts rather than tax hikes to close its projected $172 million budget gap. Still, council members made sure to assemble a quarter-billion dollar “wish list” of additional spending should tax revenue exceed projections for the coming fiscal year.

As the Washington Blade‘s Mark Lee points out, in true DC tradition, it did not occur to councilmembers to plan to reduce business or personal income taxes in the District, where they are the second and fourth highest in the country, respectively.

Of note, the DC budget partially implements Mayor Gray’s now-famous proposal for a one-hour extension of alcohol service period at city restaurants, bars and hotels, as a way of generating tax revenue and balancing the District budget.

Although the Mayor’s original proposal failed to pass the Council, Chairman Brown’s compromise was approved — providing for later service hours on the night before all federal and DC holidays, Friday through Sunday preceding Memorial Day and Labor Day, and New Year’s Eve and July 4 when they fall on a Monday.

Amidst their relatively rare instance of tax moderation, DC officials relished the comparison between itself and neighboring Maryland, which this week approved a series of tax hikes. “Thank God Maryland keeps raising their taxes, one of these days they’re going to catch up to us,” Brown quipped.

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by Borderstan.com May 15, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,486 4 Comments

The city drinks a lot, with happy hours all days of the week and patios packing in patrons before the humidity settles over the District. So it’s not terribly surprising that, while the proposal to extend permitted alcohol sales by an hour failed, other measures are slated for debate.

Barrel House liquor store

The Barrel House liquor store at 14th and Rhode Island NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

This week, a report commissioned by Jim Graham’s Committee on Human Services was released. The report, issued by the Alcohol Beverage Control Working Group, includes provisions to sell on Sundays, create permits for wine pubs to brew their own juice and brew pubs to fill growlers for patrons.

DCist has the full scoop on the recommendations. So far, we haven’t seen much of what occurred during the meeting but Graham’s blog indicates he will now work on draft legislation that incorporates the recommendations.

Any proposed changes to DC liquor laws are particularly noteworthy in the Borderstan area. Ward 2, which includes the Dupont-Logan area is home to 40% of the entire city’s liquor licenses. Ward 1 (which includes the bulk of the U Street corridor and Adams Morgan) is in second place with 16% of all DC licenses. (See DC Liquor Licenses by the Numbers: Ward 2, 40% and Ward 1, 16%.)

Stay posted (and stay thirsty)!

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by Borderstan.com April 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,421 5 Comments

By Michelle Lancaster. Follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]borderstan.com.

The most recent town hall event in Foggy Bottom yielded some interesting feedback from the crowd, who seemed decidedly opposed to Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposal to extend liquor sales hours. The move is intended to make up a budget shortfall, but some residents and Council members fear the short-term budget solution would cost residents peace, quiet and safety.

"Borderstan "42_Bus"

Would longer hours for liquor sales and bars keep taxes down? (Luis Gomez Photos)

If approved, the change would allow bars and restaurants to continue slinging libations until as late as 4 am beginning October 1. The proposed change would also allow retail liquor sales to begin at 7 am, two hours earlier than what currently stands, Monday through Saturday (same for beer and wine sales at grocery stores). Sunday sales at liquor stores would still be prohibited.

The GW Hatchet covered the event and provided a choice quote. We’ve discussed the resident suing Mood Lounge in the past, and he showed up to voice his displeasure at the idea of having to hear more Beyonce at 3 am (we sympathize).

But the group opposing the liquor extension had best be careful about who they enlist to their cause, because a certain Mr. Smith’s comment may inflame some folks. During his remarks, he said, “”I’d rather have every citizen of DC pay an extra $10,000 a year in taxes to fill the budget hole than have this plan.”

Of course, I am sure the amount would not hit anything close to $10k per year per citizen in extra income tax — but you get the idea.

As noted in an earlier post from Alden Leonard, some local neighborhood listervs have been abuzz over the proposed changes (particularly the U Street one), in areas with a high concentration of bars and clubs. There are concerns about trash and litter, in addition to people being out and about drinking even later.

As a lady that likes her cocktails and just paid DC a good bit of money in taxes, I have to admit this gave me some pause. Clearly, it is not an either booze-all-hours or take a giant-tax-hike-choice. But put in terms like that…”All the Single Ladies” sounds a little less terrible to this writer.

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by Borderstan.com April 16, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,077 0

DC, liquor, laws, Cairo, Liquor, Store, Luis, Gomez, Photos

Photo of the Cairo Liquor Store at 17th and Church NW before its exterior makeover. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

Earlier this month we reported that Mayor Vincent Gray had proposed extending alcohol service by one hour as part of his Fiscal Year 2013 budget. If approved, the change would allow bars and restaurants to continue slinging libations until as late as 4 am beginning October 1.

The proposed change would also allow retail liquor sales to begin at 7 am, two hours earlier than what currently stands, Monday through Saturday (same for beer and wine sales at grocery stores). Sunday sales at liquor stores would still be prohibited.

This week, the mayor’s proposal received an important endorsement from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). In testimony before the Council’s Committee on Human Services, RAMW President Lynne Breaux stated her “wholehearted” support of the initiative. Others in DC’s business community have expressed similar support.

It’s worth noting that some local neighborhood listervs have been abuzz over the proposed changes (particularly the U Street one), in areas with a high concentration of bars and clubs. There are concerns about trash and litter, in addition to people being out and about drinking even later.

Gray’s plan was inspired in large part by the extended bar service hours in January of 2009, in celebration of the Presidential Inauguration. For four days, bars and restaurants served booze into the wee hours, generating a surge of revenue for the city and, one assumes, a major hangover for the revelers.

Regardless of whether Gray’s proposal succeeds this time, he is also pursuing extended alcohol service for the 2013 and 2017 inaugurations.

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