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DeMorning DeBonis: June 4, 2010


Shortly before 8:40 p.m. yesterday evening, in the gymnasium of the Field School on Foxhall Road NW, the unthinkable happened: Mayor Adrian M. Fenty went negative.

After a 2006 campaign where he never said a cross word about opponent Linda Cropp and three-plus years of referring to the "best council the District of Columbia's ever had," he finally realized amid a well-attended mayoral debate that Vincent Gray wasn't going to define himself as an old-school political operator. So after Gray delivered slam after slam at Fenty's management of the budget, Hizzoner pointed out a few salient facts: Gray could have changed the mayoral decision to spend down city savings, but he didn't. And, oh yeah, how 'bout that whole streetcar thing? (See Mike Neibauer's piece below.) And then he went farther, harkening back to Gray's days in the Sharon Pratt administration. There, Fenty said, Gray presided over "the No. 1 agency that overspent its budget" -- an early salvo in what's sure to become an assault on Gray's record as an executive. Said Fenty, "That's that old politician thing, where you have your cake and eat it, too, and people are very tired of that." More on last night's debate later today right here and at D.C. Wire.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Fenty's full slam -- big questions on teacher contract implementation -- more on the new streetcar debt -- D.C. a "transparency leader"


FENTY'S FULL SLAM -- "I just again have to go back to the question. ... It's not just the CFO who approves our budget and our recommendations. The council of the District of Columbia has voted on our recommendations. So I don't know how you vote on exactly what we recommend and then come to these forums and say, 'Well, I disagree with everything.' If you're not going to find other ideas and alternatives during your day job as a legislator, then you can't, when you're running for office, be against all of them. It's kinda like when you just said that you were against how we build the recreation centers [Gray had called it "one of the worst examples of cronyism I've ever seen in the District of Columbia"], but you came to the ribbon-cutting at the Deanwood Recreation Center. That's that old politician thing, where you have your cake and eat it, too, and people are very tired of that. They want a mayor and they want decision-makers who are going to get things done. And when you talk about fiscal discipline, what are you talking about? It can't be the early '90s when the Department of Human Services was the No. 1 agency that overspent its budget and caused the the District of Columbia government to go into financial red ink and have the control board come in -- that can't be the fiscal discipline you're talking about. It can't be the shenanigans that were pulled around the streetcars the other day -- wherein we had a balanced budget, we had the streetcars completely paid for, and at 2 o'clock in the morning, the city council, drafted by Chairman Gray, took the money away only to use it, to spend it on pork and other pet programs. And they found $47 million out of thin air and added that to the budget...."

TEACHER CONTRACT: DEVIL IN THE DETAILS -- The contract may be ratified and headed for a quick sail through the D.C. Council, but the Post's Bill Turque explains why the new DCPS teacher contract may not deliver all that it says it will: "Both sides agree that the accord, which awaits final approval by the D.C. Council, will mean something only if both parties are serious about fulfilling its terms. Even the 2004-07 contract acknowledged that past agreements were undermined by a lack of trust, poor communication and chronic turnover in school district leadership. 'We've never had an agreement fully implemented,' said union president George Parker. 'The challenge for all of us is to act to implement' the new agreement so that it doesn't become what he called another 'paper tiger.'" But Chancellor Michelle Rhee is sanguine; the important part of it, she says, isn't up to interpretation -- the part that "virtually eliminates seniority rules, giving principals unprecedented power to select staff on the basis of performance." Outstanding question: What will happen to the contract if Gray wins and Rhee leaves?

ALSO -- Where were all the teachers? the Turquester asks on his blog. Turns out that 54 percent turnout ain't bad for a WTU election. And, in Examiner, Harry Jaffe tallies up the winners aside from Fenty and Rhee. AFT President Randi Weingarten, he writes, "comes out a big winner, too. In many ways Weingarten had more at stake and more to lose in the negotiations. A player in the national teacher's union for decades, she arrived in the capital last year and immediately found herself in the middle of a nasty local scrum. Consider how her rising star might have fallen if she couldn't even negotiate a contract in a tiny jurisdiction such as D.C.?" Also: She called Rhee to tell her the contract was approved.

A STREETCAR NAMED DEBT -- When Vincent Gray flip-flopped on streetcars, he kept the program moving by borrowing $47M. In WBJ, Michael Neibauer looks at what that decision means. For one: It "will end up depleting by one-third the debt service capacity available for other, yet-to-be-financed projects in the city" and it "depleted the available below-cap money by $4 million a year, leaving virtually no wiggle room for other projects going forward." Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans puts it this way: "We borrowed $47 million with the stroke of a pen. I have and had significant problems with that approach. It's just not a good practice." Neibauer also dredges up this lovely quote from the 2008 debate over whether to self-impose a debt cap. At the time, Gray said it would "require the council to make tough choices on what we borrow in the future, but it will also ensure that future generations of Washingtonians are not saddled with excessive debt."

DRIVE-BY SHOOTING: BREAKING THE CYCLE -- First: Read Part 2 of Paul Duggan's look at the prelude to and aftermath of the March drive-by on South Capitol Street -- including a detailed account of the pre-shooting dispute between police and prosecutors over the arrest warrant that could have taken a key suspect off the streets. Just do that now. Okay? Now you can read Paul's look at how MPD's policing strategies have changed to prevent that sort of retaliatory violence. "'It begins with an emphasis on officers building trusting relationships in the community, creating sources of information, [Police Chief Cathy Lanier] said. 'And when someone gives us information, we can't sit on it or think it over. We have to act on it immediately, so they'll see action out of us.' To promote a rapid flow of information and quick responses and prevent tips from falling through the cracks, she said, officials have created faster lines of communication among the department's myriad units and officers in different parts of the city. 'It's been a department-wide effort, every member, and it's taken three years of constant focus,' Lanier said. 'And it's allowed us to jump on a lot of things before they happen.'"

SEE-THROUGH -- "The District of Columbia has emerged as a transparency leader," declares Governing magazine reporter John O'Leary. In a YouTube video, he talks to city data warehouse manager David Strigel. His bottom line: "Making raw data publicly available has lessened the burden on city infrastructure. Since its implementation, city administrators report less time spent fielding questions and requests for information. Data feeds also serve as the informational backbone for the city's CapStat program, an internal performance management system used by the mayor and city officials to track agency performance against established goals. Such readily available metrics create a culture of accountability that has resulted in improved performance in key areas such as reduced health care wait room times, lower city fixed costs, and institutional improvements in fighting crime." Just one question: Has O'Leary ever filed a FOIA request in this town?

INSIDE THE GUN DEBATE -- In this week's City Paper, writer Byron C. Tau looks at the behind-the-scenes wrangling over the D.C. House Voting Rights Act, in an account spun largely from D.C. Vote's Ilir Zherka and Eleanor Holmes Norton. Key part: "Zherka recalls heated Sunday night strategy calls over what course to take: Grab the Congressional vote and treat the gun-law gutting as inevitable? Walk away from the whole stinking mess? Norton says that, after canvassing constituents, she decided to go ahead with the vote. In April, leadership aides say, Norton went to House Democratic honchos and acknowledged that she would accept the NRA's gun language....[T]here was suddenly trouble on the city side--where people wondered just how much they were willing to pay to change Norton's title from delegate to representative. Mayor Adrian Fenty initially gave the deal his blessing. Gray fired away. 'I honestly believe [people] will not respect me when they hear I traded their safety for a vote,' he said. By the Tuesday of the vote, Norton was starting to waver, too."

ALSO -- Watch a video from D.C. Vote's "file-in" at gun-bill-supporting Rep. Travis Childers' (D-Miss.) office -- starring Patrick Mara and John Capozzi!

FORUM FOLLIES -- Democrat Sulaimon Brown claims he is the first mayoral candidate to collect the requisite 2,000 signatures to get on the primary ballot. However, that wasn't enough to get him included in Wednesday night's D.C. for Democracy candidate forum. "They are going to regret this," he vows. Meanwhile, Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig fact-check Fenty's claim at the DC4D event that he had "built" 11,000 units of affordable housing ("preserved or created" would have been more appropriate), and Craig looks at a Gray-Fenty disagreement over the implications of an elected attorney general.

EXCLUSIONARY FOOL -- The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that a 2005 police search of a Sursum Corda teen -- a search that turned up lots of drugs and cash -- was unreasonable, Mary Pat Flaherty reports today. The minor had been searched by a police officer, who found nearly $1,000 in cash. When the officer said he was impounding the money, the teen threw a fit, leading the officer to arrest him for disorderly conduct -- then the officer found 24 baggies full of crack. The court held that because the kid "did not urge the peaceful crowd to interfere," the "rationale for his arrest was wrong," and hence, "the search that followed was illegal." The police union ain't happy. Says FOP honcho Kris Baumann: "At some point, police have to be allowed to be the police."

ROBE-READY -- The Judicial Nomination Commission has named contenders for the Superior Court bench, to replace retiring Judge Odessa Vincent, Legal Times reports. The following recommendations have been sent to President Obama: Joseph Beshouri, a Superior Court magistrate; Teresa Howie, an assistant U.S. attorney; and Maria Elizabeth Raffinan, a supervising attorney at the Public Defender Service.

TRINIDAD TRAGEDY -- Four-year-old "ran into the street to get a ball when he was struck by a Dodge Charger" and was killed near Montello Avenue and Raum Street NE, NewsChannel 8 reports.


The Metro board is willing to entertain GM candidates without transit experience, Ann Scott Tyson reports. "Our primary search is for somebody in the public sector who is an exceptional manager, administrator and communicator, and a leader," member Peter Benjamin tells her. (Post)

Behold the Bishop Harry Jackson-approved slate of Democratic primary candidates. (DCist)

Wone case update: Prosecutors play defendant Joe Price's police interview in court. "If I had anything to hide, I wouldn't be talking, because I know better. But I don't," he said. (Post)

The local Guardian Angels are broke. (City Desk)

As expected, Vincent Gray is very pleased with the progress of the Ward 7 Youth Baseball Academy. (Housing Complex)

FEMS beard litigation rolls on ... and on ... and on ... (Legal Times)

Three more snagged in DMV driver's license scam. (Examiner)

Whither the D.C. Center? Says Jim Graham, "I don't have earmarks anymore. If I had an earmark, they would definitely get it." (Blade)

Gateway Georgia Avenue Main Street "has quietly and quite suddenly disappeared, abandoning $150,000 in taxpayer funds and setting back the effort to revitalize the upper Northwest D.C. corridor." (WBJ)

The Whitman-Walker Clinic may have discriminated against a transgender activist, city human-rights office holds. (Blade)

There will be soccer shown on Dupont Circle. (Post)

*** DESSERT ***

"Four peaceful protesters stood outside the Grand Hyatt on Thursday, where the Scripps National Spelling Bee is under way. The group is campaigning to simplify the way the English language is spelled. They think 'fruit' should be spelled f-r-o-o-t and the silent 'w' would be dropped from the end of 'slow.'" (AP via WTOP)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Council finance and development committees take up 395 air rights deal -- Don Peebles addresses Hospitality High School grads at the Renaissance Hotel.

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 4, 2010; 10:29 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Adrian Fenty's gloves finally come off


Did Sulaimon Brown show up and make similar complaints at last night's forum? He was complaining about it back in April:

Posted by: KCinDC1 | June 4, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

No comment casue I am trying to loose the fat and filth from my soul.

Posted by: FakeFatSEChurchby7DPo-Po | June 4, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I actually don't think anyone should be surprised that the Mayor went negative. It is apparently part of his personality change.

In the last campaign he worked the streets, smiled at people, talked to them and appeared to actually listen. He was always polite to the other candidates making his points.

Since becoming Mayor he doesn't do any of those things so I think the arrogance he shows to people in general will just be part of his campaign. He clearly isn't going back to Mr. Nice Guy.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Will people like it or will they just think he is being rude and boorish? Who knows?

As Debonis says in the column there are 102 more days- being negative that long could become tiresome.

Posted by: peterdc | June 4, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

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