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DeMorning DeBonis: June 18, 2010

TODAY IS JUNE 18, 2010 -- 88 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

Vincent Gray's hot streak on the mayoral hustings continues: Last night, he was declared the winner of the Ward 3 Democrats' straw poll, held a week ago, by a count of 174 to Adrian Fenty's168. The endorsement vote of organization members in the supposed Fenty stronghold was less close, 40 to 15 -- still not enough for an official endorsement, but enough to further stoke doubts like those expressed in the Examiner by Harry Jaffe this morning: "When he won the Democratic primary [in 2006], the book on Fenty was: 'He can campaign -- but he can't govern.' ... Now the opposite seems to be true. Fenty can govern, but he can't campaign. On the trail the mayor wears his impatience on his BlackBerry, turns up unprepared for interviews, can't pack a room to make sure he wins the early straw polls. ... As mayor, Fenty is notorious for relying on the counsel of one -- himself. That may have worked. Now he shares the campaign bunker with moneyman [John Falcicchio], for a brain trust of two. Neither is a seasoned political pro. Fenty has made limited use of Tom Lindenfeld, his veteran pollster. His spokesman, Helen Hare, is a rookie. ... Unless Fenty hires some political pros, he will need a briefing on the life of an unemployed lawyer." Ouch.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Peebles out, we think -- Gray's fence could be down within weeks -- Holder calls voting rights a "moral" issue -- Weingarten responds to Rhee advice -- defending the Fenty LGBT record -- two new federal judge nominees

*** MAIN COURSE ***

OUT FOR GOOD? -- Don Peebles tells WPFW-FM listeners that "at this point right now, I cannot be a candidate for mayor" -- after, yet again, invoking his mother-in-law's health for sort-of bowing out. But is he really bowing out? As I wrote Thursday, "the door is closed all but a crack, just enough to allow Peebles continue his public straddle and continue to be mentioned in newspaper stories as a possible candidate and interviewed on radio shows as a political player -- perhaps his real goal here." Michael Neibauer writing in WBJ puts it this way: "So, finally, we have a decision from Peebles, maybe," A statement Peebles released after the interview was much less equivocal: "I will not be a candidate for mayor of Washington, D.C. in 2010. ... While I will not be a mayoral candidate, I intend to challenge the debate, raise the expectations of what voters should expect of their elected officials and further emphasize the need for economic development." Also DCist.

FENCEGATE CLAIMS ITS VICTIM -- The days are numbered for Gray's six-foot fence: "He has 30 days to relocate or lower the black aluminum fence that surrounds his Hillcrest home, according to a letter dated June 9 from the District's Public Space Committee," Ann E. Marimow reports at D.C. Wire. "The panel, charged with protecting the character of the city's neighborhoods, gave Gray two options to act by July 9: lower his 67-inch fence to the limit of 42 inches or move the fence back to the property line. Rulings by the obscure but powerful committee are final. Gray is consulting with his attorney, but has "not yet made a decision on whether he will move the fence or decrease the height," his campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes said Thursday."

'MAKE THIS HAPPEN' -- In a speech at UDC, Attorney General Eric Holder addresses D.C. voting rights, Ryan Reilly reports at Main Justice: "As a D.C. resident ... this is not a political question, this is a moral one. If residents of this city pay taxes in the amount that they do, serve in our armed forces the way that they do, are good Americans in the way that we are, we simply deserve the vote. Politicians should figure what the manner is in which we make this happen. It's way past the time right now when every D.C. resident should have representation." Holder, you'll recall, moved last year to overrule a Justice Department opinion that the D.C. House Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.

RANDI RESPONDS -- American Federation of Teachers prez Randi Weingarten responds in the New York Daily News to Michelle Rhee's teacher-contract piece from last Sunday. How's this for a lede? "It's all well and good that [Rhee], who just negotiated her first labor contract, has a first-time bargainer's pride of ownership and ... is offering unsolicited advice to New Yorkers about how to resolve the current teachers contract impasse. But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and so is trying to apply simplistic lessons from the D.C. contract to New York. Doing so is akin to doing test prep instead of teaching and learning: It ignores context, only touches on the facts and provides a quick-and-easy fix instead of a real solution." She proceeds to describe the D.C. contract as not particularly groundbreaking. Look to Bill Turque for context.

BREAKFAST WITH MICHELLE -- Examiner education writer Leah Fabel attended Thursday's Bisnow "power breakfast" at Sequoia featuring philanthropist Katherine Bradley, Post publisher Katharine Weymouth, and Rhee, who said: "It's OK not to be liked. And I'm really good at this right now." She also disclosed that students will be surveyed on what they think of their teachers, though that won't be part of the formal evaluation process. Examiner editorial writer Barbara "Sunshine" Hollingsworth also attended. Her take: "Rhee is not exactly setting the bar very high when she aspires to be the best urban school district in America. ... [O]n the whole, urban school districts are perfect examples of government sinkholes, where billions of dollars disappear annually with few tangible results to show for it. ... In other words, if Rhee is successful in accomplishing her ambitious Five Year Plan, DCPS will still be only the best of the worst."

DEFENDING THE FENTY LGBT RECORD -- Responding to criticism that Fenty is "MIA" on gay-and-lesbian issues, Lambda Rising bookstore founder Deacon Maccubbin takes to the Washington Blade to defend Hizzoner's record. But he waits until the fifth paragraph to mention anything LGBT-related. "I always have great admiration for candidates who actually deliver on the promises they make during a campaign," he writes, describing the strong Fenty record on education, crime, city services, and then gay issues -- which includes signing the marriage bill, but also providing transitional housing for gay youth, improving HIV/AIDS prevention, and establishing a LGBT economic development summit. He closes: "I know some criticize him for being aloof, but I base my decision on results, not on personalities, and my decision this year is to support Adrian Fenty for mayor because I believe he has proven an ability to get the job done."

HEY, LOOK! -- A second post on the Fenty campaign blog, only three weeks after the first: "The Fenty campaign thanks the GLBT community for the great contributions and progress they have brought to the District," it reads before going on to describe the accomplishments noted by Maccubbin.

MUST READ -- The fabulous Paul Schwartzman checks up on Austin Spriggs, an architect and the holdout owner of a Massachusetts Avenue townhouse who refused to deal with developers who eventually built around him. (Spriggs was the subject of a 2006 Post profile by Lyndsey Layton.) "In and out of his office the developers paraded, offering Spriggs millions for the building that had housed his small architecture firm since 1980. Each time, Spriggs told them no, holding out for more money. Then, as offers dried up, he vowed to turn the place into a pizzeria that would feed newcomers to the once-forgotten strip. ... Four years later, the block-long crater that surrounded Spriggs's building is occupied by glass, steel and brick towers. The pizzeria never opened. Two months ago, after his bank threatened foreclosure, Spriggs put the property up for sale for $1.5 million, nearly half of what one developer had once hoped to pay him. No offer has been made. ... By any measure, Austin Spriggs is a man who missed his Champagne moment."

ROBES IN WAITING -- President Barack Obama nominates two to the District's federal trial court, joining Robert Wilkins in awaiting Senate confirmation. David Ingram reports at the Blog of Legal Times: "The two nominees, D.C. Superior Court Judge James Boasberg and Trout Cacheris partner Amy Berman Jackson, have been mentioned as possibilities for more than a year. ... Boasberg has been a judge on the local D.C. trial court since 2002. He was previously an assistant U.S. attorney in the District for six years, according to his White House biography. ... Jackson has been with Trout Cacheris since 2000. Along with name partner Robert Trout, she represented former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) in a trial that ended with Jefferson found guilty of corruption." Jackson, notably, has been Robert P. Trout's top deputy in probing the Fenty parks contracts for the D.C. Council.

'SILENT PHIL'? -- Clark Ray benefits from this Dem at-large race preview on WRC-TV's site, written by P.J. Orvetti: "A somewhat overlooked race for D.C. Council At-Large offers one of the starkest candidate contrasts on this September's primary ballot. Incumbent Phil Mendelson, seeking a fourth term, is a decent and amiable fellow. He stands for the things his constituents want him to stand for, and votes the way they want him to vote. But he is a nearly invisible presence in the District, and has left few footprints. Taking on Silent Phil is Clark Ray."

McDONNELL METRO MOVE -- Fallout from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's threat to withhold Metro capital funding if state-level appointees aren't allowed on the WMATA board: "Reps. Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran, both Democrats, wrote a letter to [McDonnell] stressing 'serious concerns' about the proposal to give two of the four Virginia board slots to political appointees instead of elected officials from Northern Virginia," Kytja Weir reports in the Examiner. They specifically disputed the McDonnell administration's claim that the commonwealth deserved half the positions ... They argue that Northern Virginia riders' fares and parking fees are not included in those numbers, thus underestimating how much local residents are contributing." And the Post editorial board weighs in: "[McDonnell's] demand is justified. The threat to withhold funding is not; it's blackmail. ... Metro is not a political trophy to be squabbled over; it's one of the busiest and most critical transportation systems in the nation. Northern Virginia needs to recognize the state's legitimate interest and contribution, back down and allow Richmond a vote on the Metro board. Richmond should negotiate without holding the system hostage."

WONE UPDATE -- The Robert Wone conspiracy trial rolls on. Keith Alexander reports from Moultrie Room 310: "Judge Lynn Leibovitz ruled that there was enough evidence for the trial to proceed to the defense phase. Leibovitz did acquit two of the defendants, Dylan M. Ward and Victor J. Zaborsky, of tampering with evidence, saying that the government never presented any direct evidence that the two men touched the knife that was found at the scene or Wone's body. But Ward, Zaborsky and Joseph R. Price are also charged with more serious counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Those charges will stand, as will the tampering charge against Price, Leibovitz ruled.... But the judge cautioned that her decision was neither a 'verdict' nor a 'signal' of what the final outcome of the trial might be. Bernie Grimm, Price's attorney, called Leibovitz's decision 'the correct decision at this point' but added that there's a 'higher standard' that applies for the verdict" -- which could come late next week.

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Vince Gray was feeling under the weather (Capital Land)

Clerk murdered at Benning Road check-cashing store Thursday morning; Fenty appeared on the scene (Post, NC8, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV)

IG report finds sensitive Adult Protective Services records "unorganized" and "lying on unattended desks, in open boxes, and in carts waiting to filed" (Examiner)

Tim Carman with the definitive take on the tempest over Washingtonian's unfortunate Ray's the Steaks review: "Yes, the phrasing isn't the best or as precise as it could be; it has an unfortunate anthropological tone to it, which naturally doesn't play in Ward 7, particularly coming from a magazine called the Washingtonian that doesn't consider Anacostia part of its coverage area." But... (Young & Hungry)

I wrote about Maryland. You know you want to read it. (Post)

A former Oak Hill teacher challenges Colby King: "He seems content to blame the [DYRS] and perpetuate a culture of fear. ... I await more journalism from The Post that examines how the lack of support leads so many youth to end up in DYRS care in the first place." (All Opinions Are Local)

Metro scrambles to implement complex fare increases: "About 300 Metro employees are rotating through 10- and 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, to carry out the computer programming, fare machine changes and extensive information campaign to try to prevent confusion among customers." (Post)

Council postpones Hurt Home surplussing till next week (Georgetown Dish)

McGruff-puncher is back on the job (Post brief)

East of the River resident demands dog park! (Congress Heights on the Rise)

WASA's D.C. Water's George Hawkins sits down with bloggers (Housing Complex)

Fake UPS employee invades home, pistol-whips woman (NC8)

More on slug crackdown (WTTG-TV, WAMU-FM, DCist)

Appeals court rules against DPW and in favor of Brookland activists pursuing First Amendment claim (City Desk)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Fenty cuts ribbon on Marvin Gaye Park -- council hearing explores special license plates for vets -- new umemployment figures expected Friday -- Stephen Strasburg vs. Gavin Floydand I'm with Gavin!

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 18, 2010; 9:26 AM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010 , The District  
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Next: Ray faces gay backlash after taking minister's endorsement in D.C. race

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