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DeMorning DeBonis: June 25, 2010


Michelle Rhee's Silverdocs star turn is the subject of a Bill Turque story today on the Metro section front page: "After countless newspaper and magazine profiles, television time with everyone from Tom Sherwood to Tom Brokaw, and a presidential debate shout-out from Barack Obama, Rhee is having her Hollywood moment. It comes in the form of 'Waiting for Superman,' a new documentary about the troubled state of public education from the makers of 'An Inconvenient Truth,' the Academy Award-winning examination of the consequences of climate change. ... The film, which will get its national release in September, is built around the stories of five children -- including one from the District -- stuck in failing public schools. While chronicling their parents' struggles to place them in coveted public charter schools, where admission is determined by lottery, director Davis Guggenheim recounts the history of failed attempts to improve the nation's education system. He uses Rhee's turbulent tenure in the District as a case study in the obstacles reformers face. But Guggenheim's version of recent D.C. history is unlikely to sit well with teachers. He depicts Rhee as the super-hero of 'Superman,' a combination of Wonder Woman and Xena fighting to bring the D.C. bureaucracy and Washington Teachers' Union to heel. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, is cast as the antagonist, appearing vaguely sinister in that grainy political-attack-ad style while rallying rank-and-file audiences against the forces of reform." Problem is, a lot has happened since the movie was cut.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Rosenstein officially breaks with Fenty -- Michael D. Brown enters at-large race -- Jacks social worker speaks -- Nickles still investigating lottery deal -- dumb rule foils K Street festival.


MORE -- Turque reports this Rhee comment from the post-screening Q&A: "I have a reputation for not being warm and fuzzy. But that movie made me cry." Examiner's Leah Fabel shares more tidbits: "'Is this movie dangerous?" asked National Public Radio correspondent Claudio Sanchez. 'I hope so!' [Rhee] responded. 'People always ask me why I do this ... This film answers that question.' Weingarten spoke from the defensive, trying to convince viewers that unions, too, have been and can be a part of reform. 'It's almost as if I always have to answer the question, 'When did you stop beating your wife?'"

HEARING IMPAIRED -- Tom Sherwood attended Monday's hearing on the DCPS teacher contract, chaired by Vincent Gray. He calls it an example of "How NOT to Hold a Hearing." He writes in his Current column: "Now never mind that the hearing started 20 minutes late. That's a common complaint about the council -- members of the public sit and twiddle their thumbs as legislators wander into the chambers when they're good and ready. Incredibly, after the delayed start, this hearing by [Gray] went on for five hours before Rhee was called to the witness stand. ... Had routine rules and time limits been observed, the hearing would have been maybe two hours old before Rhee took the stand. Not five. But Gray plodded on. He didnt even take a break himself until four and a half hours had passed. As he got up, he announced that Rhee would be his first witness when the hearing resumed. But when he got back, he discovered that one or two other public witnesses had since arrived. So Gray asked Rhee to leave the witness stand and to resume her seat in the audience."

ET TU, PETER? -- In a lengthy (5,100-word!) Blade op-ed, gay activist and erstwhile Adrian Fenty supporter Peter Rosenstein explains why he won't be backing Hizzoner's reelection: "Either Fenty changed when he became mayor or many of us badly misread him when he was a candidate. He now appears to be someone who doesn't really care about people -- an autocrat, unwilling to deal with any criticism or discussion of differences of opinion. Staff who disagree with him are fired, while others outside the administration who don't agree don't get their calls returned. The mayor continues to speak in campaign sound bites when he should be confronting complicated issues in depth. He deals with the lives of city workers in what appears to be a cavalier manner and won't deal with constituents in a real give and take. Watching him govern the city it seems that his mantra is often act first and think later. ... Fenty is clearly not the mayor the LGBT community thought they would get. But then if you listen to the heartbeat of the city, he is not the mayor many other communities thought he would be, either."

GET DOWN WITH BROWN -- A fascinating new entrant in the at-large council race, Lou Chibbaro Jr. reports in the Blade: Michael Brown -- not the Michael A. Brown who's already an at-large member, but Michael D. Brown, the current shadow senator. MDB says "that he regrets any confusion that may arise over his name but didn't know what to do to correct the situation. He called requests that he put his photo on his campaign posters unfair and unacceptable. 'Nobody puts their picture on their sign,' he said, noting that neither [Clark Ray] nor [Phil Mendelson] have photos of themselves on their campaign posters. ... Shadow senator Brown, a political campaign consultant and former Democratic National Committee staffer, said he strongly backs LGBT civil rights and strongly supports the city's same-sex marriage equality law. He's running on a platform calling for D.C. statehood." The potential effect: "The boost in wards 7 and 8 that [Ray] may receive from his endorsement by Rev. Willie Wilson could be negated by confusion."

JACKS SOCIAL WORKER SPEAKS -- Carl Miller, the city social worker who handled the Banita Jacks case before the bodies of her slain four children were discovered in January 2008, speaks to the Post's Petula Dvorak. She writes: "All of the social workers who had anything to do with the Jacks case were thumped in grand fashion by an angry and decisive [Fenty]. ... As satisfying as it may have been to can Miller because he didn't swoop in to save these girls, it's not realistic to end the career of a 34-year-old man who had been a reliable social worker for eight years. 'The people doing this, telling me I was being placed on administrative leave, they were crying. They knew it was not right,' he told me. The D.C. arbitrator agreed when he reviewed the firings. 'Basic notions of fairness and due process have not been met in this case,' arbitrator John C. Truesdale wrote. ... I understand the need to roll some heads for what happened. ... Placing the blame solely on the shoulders of three social workers who by all accounts are solid, was a cheap political move on Fenty's part that made him look strong to some, cruel to others, and further endangers the city's most vulnerable population -- abused children."

METRO MONEY -- It looks as though Virginia's Metro money will be coming through after all. At a Metro board meeting yesterday, Ann Scott Tyson reports, "Metro's interim general manager, Richard Sarles, warned Virginia that if it does not act within 24 hours to renew its pledge to provide $500 million ... it will jeopardize a contract to buy new rail cars. ... But Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton said he told several senior Metro staff members, including Chief of Staff Shiva Pant, on Wednesday that Virginia is willing to pay even if it does not receive the seats." A Metro statement confirmed that Connaughton "explained to Virginia's Metro Board representatives that he would commit to the funding with no strings attached" as long as there would be dialogue about adding state-level representation to the Metro board. Examiner's Kytja Weir, however, is less sanguine about the chances for compromise. Also: Board members gave final approval to fare hikes, and you could be paying more as early as this weekend, Tyson reports. Only Jim Graham voted against the new $1.4 billion budget, saying "he was concerned about the effect of the higher fares on the people least able to afford them."

SKEWED STATS? -- In his Examiner column, Harry Jaffe accuses school-facilities activist Mary Filardo of "contort[ing]" stats to paint: "Filardo, director of the 21st Century School Fund, this week released figures accusing [facilities chief Allen Lew] -- and indirectly Fenty -- of favoring wealthy white wards. ... Filardo accuses Lew and Fenty of spending more money on schools in white wards and neglecting black ones. She's also peeved that she was not part of the planning process. Filardo contorted the numbers to suit her conclusion. She and her bean counters divided funding into square footage and per student ratios, which showed the least money going to middle-class Ward 4, and too much to Georgetown in Ward 2. It also showed plenty going to poor wards, which undercut her conclusion. ... [I]t's about time the adults quit turning success stories for kids into racial conflicts to suit their 'activist' needs." Jaffe, however, never quite explains why Filardo's "bean counting" method is misleading.

ALSO -- Whither Lew come January? "Lew has worked well under Fenty but has strong ties with Vincent Gray, the council chairman who's challenging Fenty. My sources say Lew is 'agnostic' and would stay to complete the job."

MORE LOTTERY CONTRACT DRAMA -- Peter Nickles wants to know why the D.C. Council gave local partner W2Tech a hard time while "[failing to] scrutinize local firm Veterans Services Corp.," Jeffrey Anderson reports in the Washington Times. "'Were they treated the same way? Obviously not,' said Mr. Nickles. 'In the first procurement, the chief financial officer put together a huge binder including the skills and background of Intralot's local partner. In the second procurement, no one has looked at the skills and capability of the second local partner, and they have a 51 percent interest in the lottery.' ... Mr. Nickles challenged the notion that VSC should be irrelevant to the council vote. He said if the council knew VSC was a 51 percent partner, 'I would think the council would ask the same questions as the first procurement. Then the CFO would've been asked to inquire about the capability of the local partner.'" It is not entirely clear to what end he makes this point.

DEATH AT THE MARKET -- The Post's Rick Rojas looks at the Wednesday shooting at Lida's Wholesale in the Florida Avenue wholesale market, which killed Ming-Kun Chih, 59, and son Li-Jen Chih, 32: "The vendors on Fifth Street said the shootings punctuate an increase in shoplifting and criminal activity that has become practically a routine part of their business. ... Many people who work in the area said it is a haven for homeless people and drug addicts. And most businesses in the area deal with large amounts of cash." Meanwhile, Deborah Simmons writes in a Washington Times news story (!) that the killing is "the story of a city whose leadership wants to deny Second Amendment rights to its citizenry and business owners, while, at the same time, play liberal politics on behalf of the 'perps' who prey on ordinary people as they go about their daily lives."

NO GO ON K -- DDOT's plan to close down K Street for a summer festival is a no-go, reports Greater Greater Washington, because the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency won't allow traffic to cross K Street. "In April, DDOT decided to try hosting the [Summer Streets] event on K Street from Seventh Street to Georgetown and the Capital Crescent Trail. Seventh, 14th and 17th Streets would have remained open so that cars, trucks and buses could travel between the areas north and south of the route, and the route would have run under Washington Circle, allowing traffic to cross there, as well. Unfortunately, they ran into a virtual concrete bollard in the form of [HSEMA]. According to DDOT's Anna McLaughlin, HSEMA does not allow any areas open to traffic inside an area closed off for a special event, and DDOT did not want to create an enormous barrier across the entire city. MPD and FEMS, which participate in planning for special events through a special task force, were unwilling to budge. ... This policy makes no sense. This has been done in exactly this way in cities everywhere."

WHERE'S SAINT PATRICK? -- With the rollout of the high-profile planning committee for a new arts magnet middle school, Bill Turque asks: What happened to Patrick Pope, the ex-Hardy Middle School principal who was supposed to be helping? "Asked in an e-mail if Tuesday if Pope was still involved in the middle school project, Rhee said: 'Yes,' with no elaboration. He is scheduled to report to DCPS headquarters on July 1, where he will work under Josh Edelman, Rhee's director of school innovation."

THIRD WHEELS -- More from Wednesday night's Alpha Kappa Alpha candidates forum, from Tim Craig at D.C. Wire: "In a risky strategy for a top-tier candidate, Gray got bogged down during part of the debate in a squabble with former television reporter Leo Alexander. Alexander, who has been struggling to gain attention in what so far appears to be a two-man race, went on the offensive against Gray, accusing him of being as much to blame as Fenty for the city's problems. ... Alexander specifically challenged Gray for not doing more to prevent [Rhee] from laying off 266 teachers last year. ... While Alexander aligns with Fenty in attacking Gray, candidate Sulaimon Brown often defends the chairman. ... 'I say this at every event, if you can't vote for Brown, then vote for any color, Brown, Gray, but please don't vote for Fenty,' said Brown, pointing at the mayor."

WONE CASE VERDICT TUESDAY -- The Robert Wone trial is all over but for the verdict. Keith Alexander on the last day: "As the attorneys laid out their closing arguments in the Robert Wone conspiracy trial Thursday, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz seemed to be focused on one crucial question: Why didn't the three men offer police and detectives more information to help solve their friend's slaying four years ago? Leibovitz, a former prosecutor, repeatedly interrupted defense attorneys' closing arguments with questions as to why their clients did not offer more suggestions as to who could have entered their home Aug. 2, 2006, and fatally stabbed Wone three times in his chest. ... Leibovitz, and not a jury, has spent almost five weeks hearing the case after defense attorneys requested a non-jury trial and the prosecution consented. Leibovitz said she expects to issue her decision Tuesday. The men face a maximum of more than 30 years in prison if convicted on all charges. In response to the judge's questions, defense attorneys said their clients never considered identifying anyone by name as Wone's killer, specifically one another, because the men -- who consider themselves a family and are in a three-way committed relationship -- have a tight bond, and implicating another family member wasn't possible."

TRAGEDY -- "Montgomery County police were investigating a crash Wednesday night in Silver Spring that killed Khalifah Muhammad, 18, and his brother Idris, 20" -- sons of Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Anthony Muhammad, Phillip Lucas reports in The Post. "Khalifah Muhammad, a rising sophomore English major at Morehouse College in Atlanta, was recently named the school's freshman of the year. ... Muhammad family members did not comment. They were planning a vigil at Kennedy High School in Silver Spring on Thursday evening. Commissioners in Ward 8 said they were pulling together to support the family. 'Mr. Muhammad is an active, dedicated person in our community, and we're grieving with him. It's a tragic loss,' said Ward 8 commissioner Lendia Johnson. 'He's devastated, as far as I can say. He adored his children. He was an excellent father.'"


On A1, Paul Duggan looks deeply at the death of an immigrant day laborer, allegedly at the hands of a 16-year-old DYRS ward. (Post)

In wake of a 6-year-old's death, council to look at pool safety. (Post)

Center Leg air-rights disposition bill passes council committees. (WBJ)

Nickles says he's willing to stick with Fenty if reelected.(D.C. Wire)

Lydia DePillis interviews new HPRB chair Catherine Buell. (Housing Complex)

New temporary plan for Bruce-Monroe Elementary sure looks like a permanent park. (GGW)

Tighter truancy rules approach final council vote. (Washington Times)

"Should Anacostia Businesses Get Steep, Long-Term Tax Abatements?" (Housing Complex)

Georgetowners start to speak up on Hurt Home deal. (G'town Dish)

Union Station tax break pulled from city budget. (WBJ)

News flash: "Mayoral Money Goes to Campaign Consultants." (Washingtonian)

Klingle Road battle reignites in City Paper comments section. (Housing Complex)

Poll: "2010 DC Elections: What Are YOUR Top 3 Issues?" (Borderstan)

DCPS puts student chats with Rhee online. (YouTube)

Georgetown Park Mall could be auctioned today. (

GU campus plan opponents get yard signs.(Vox Populi)

Will there be a Ward 2 straw poll? (G'town Dish)

EPA puts the kibosh on D.C. water main map. (GGW)

Check out the Ward 8 Farmers' Market. (All We Can Eat)

Two charged in slaying of Benning Road check-cashing store clerk. (WTTG-TV)

Screen on the Green saved again. (Save Screen on the Green)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Fenty cuts ribbon on massive new Deanwood Rec Center -- council hearing on homeless shelters.

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 25, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Mayor Triathlete: Positive or negative?


About Tom Sherwood's description of the WTU contract hearing:

I was not surprised that Sherwood picked apart Gray's handling of the Council's hearing on the WTU contract.

My question is, why shouldn't Michelle Rhee have to sit and listen to other people's testimonies. Also, why is it that Rhee or "expert" witnesses can testify for as long as they want but parents and teachers are restricted to three minutes.

Sherwood can easily find more important things to complain about.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | June 25, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse


I think Mr. Sherwood was pointing out the fact that the Chairman Gray is jerk. Waisting anybody's time is wrong.

Anyway, Let me help you:

1)why shouldn't Michelle Rhee have to sit and listen to other people's testimonies.

Answer: she should. and, she did. But, she shouldn't have to wait for 5 hours while Mr. Gray twiddles his thumbs.

2) why is it that Rhee or "expert" witnesses can testify for as long as they want but parents and teachers are restricted to three minutes.

Answer: because their is are question and answers in the expert testimony. Citizens are making statements. Also, there are far fewer "experts" than citizens.

And, again....Gray is a egotistical jerk.

Posted by: politicalrealist | June 26, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

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