DeMorning DeBonis: June 8, 2010
TODAY IS JUNE 8, 2010 -- 98 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
Is the city campaign finance office right to probe Chancellor Michelle Rhee's private fundraising, or is this just Brannum's Folly? Colleague Bill Turque takes a look at the complaint filed by Ward 5 activist Robert Vinson Brannum alleging that Rhee personally benefited from the new teacher contract. Say what you will about Brannum and his complaint, the campaign finance office found "reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred" and is now investigating. Rhee, through a spokeswoman, calls the allegations "nonsense" -- a position seconded by The Post's editorial board today: "[I]t's disheartening to see this kind of small-minded hounding of those who seek to better reward teachers who do a good job helping children learn. There would seem to be no better way to discourage public service than to turn the District into a place where no good turn goes unquestioned." Kathy Williams, general counsel for the finance office, puts it this way: "We have to look into the matter. ... The man made a complaint and we're going to look into it."
AFTER THE JUMP -- United Medical Center could be auctioned -- Fenty transparency record at issue -- Leo the spoiler? -- Cue the summer-crime politicking -- Adios, Apps for Democracy
*** MAIN COURSE ***
NOTA BENE -- As the Turquester notes: "Brannum, a Ward 5 activist and one-time school board candidate, is also supporting [Gray] in his attempt to unseat Rhee's boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. But he insists that election-year politics have absolutely, positively nothing to do with his decision to pursue an ethics complaint." The response from Gray, via his campaign: "I will leave the investigation to the Office of Campaign Finance. My focus is making sure teachers are protected under the new contract and that the quality of education improves for our children. I applaud collaboration with private foundations, but any lasting improvement to education, and funding for those improvements, cannot be tied to one person. That is a recipe for failure and will ultimately be a disservice to kids in DCPS."
HOSPITAL ON THE BLOCK -- If the city and the current operator of United Medical Center cannot reach terms on saving the hospital by July 9, the facility will be sold, Tim Craig reported yesterday evening at D.C. Wire. But the move is in part a negotiating tactic: "Attorney General Peter Nickles filed a foreclosure notice last week stating that the auction would be held July 9 on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building. ... The city is in talks with attorneys for Specialty to try to reach an agreement, but Nickles said the foreclosure notice was needed to set 'an end date' for the talks. If an agreement is not reached, Nickles said, the city will seize the 17-acre United Medical Center property at the auction and operate it as a city-run hospital until a new owner can be found."
BOO BIRDS -- Nothing like an election-year graduation: TV cameras capture Dunbar Senior High School alums expressing their unhappiness with Fenty, their commencement speaker. The heckles are accompanied by some controversy over who actually got invited to make the speech -- Fenty or Dunbar grad Gray. The council chairman says he's been extended an invitation, but that seems to have happened after Dunbar's nonprofit operator, Friends of Bedford, had already asked Fenty. Both showed up; Gray delivered opening remarks, and Fenty handled the stem-winder. The students, WJLA-TV reports, "wanted Gray, less for his politics than his history. 'I did cause he was a graduate of Dunbar Senior High School,' said Dunbar grad Monica Matthews." Hamil Harris, also on the scene, captures another opinion: "I don't think that it was right that they booed the mayor. I cheered for him," said Bianca Jackson, 18.
FOIA'LED -- Examiner's Alan Suderman covers yesterday's hearing on Mary Cheh-sponsored open-government legislation -- not to be confused with Muriel Bowser-sponsored open-meetings legislation, soon to get a hearing of its own. The testimony of "a parade of open government advocates, lawyers and union leaders" is such: "District government is opaque and unaccountable and has several employees working hard to keep public information out of the hands of the public." And the stats back up those claims: "The average number of Freedom of Information Act requests wholly denied by the city has quadrupled under Fenty, while the average number of requests has stayed constant to previous administrations, according to figures from Cheh's office." Peter Granitz of WAMU-FM also covers, noting, "The bill is called the Open Government Act, which might explain why no one spoke out against it at today's public hearing." But Nickles argues in a memo "that records requests are becoming more complex as city resources to answer them are shrinking," and wants the council to move in the opposite direction -- by extending the 25-day deadline agencies must follow in responding to FOI requests.
LEO THE SPOILER? -- DCist's Martin Austermuhle takes a comprehensive look at the possibility that silver-tongued Leo Alexander could swing the September primary. But in which direction? "Assuming Alexander could end up being a spoiler, the question then becomes, at who's expense? On first look, probably Gray's. Alexander has focused his campaign on the theme of generational poverty, and has spent time in neighborhoods across the river trying to build a base of support. These are the areas that long ago soured on Fenty, so the mayor has less to lose. ... Additionally, Fenty and Alexander stand on opposite sides of the divide on public schools, while Gray awkwardly straddles the middle of the key issue. ... There's also the issue of same-sex marriage. Fenty and Gray both support it, while Alexander has said that it should be put to a citywide vote. Among those voters who don't like Fenty and are still uncomfortable with same-sex marriage, Gray may prove to be a non-starter." And, Austermuhle notes, Alexander's been savaging Gray on the stump every bit as much as Fenty.
TROUBLED YOUTH -- Bill Myers does the tally in Examiner: No fewer than nine youths committed to the city care now stand accused in murders committed this year. Javon Hale, the 16-year-old identified last week by Colby King, is the ninth. And three DYRS wards have been slain since January, including Durand Lucas, 17, killed Saturday. "After three teens who were in youth agency custody were accused of murdering D.C. principal Brian Betts, [Nickles] promised to review the agency and find out what went wrong. He said Monday he expected to wrap up his investigation soon but said the community-based approach is still working. 'I don't think it has failed,' Nickles said." WRC-TV is also on the story.
THAT TIME OF THE YEAR -- Summer is upon us, which means it's time for Examiner to publish a spate of Harry Jaffe crime columns. Today's edition: "The season of high crime is upon us. Streets get hot, tempers flare, bullets fly, knives slash. Cops tell me knifings are up. Carjackings are out of control in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River; burglaries and theft from cars are way up west of Rock Creek Park." And there's a campaign season afoot! So here are some questions for the candidates: "Why has Fenty refused to negotiate with the police union? Neither cops nor fire fighters have had raises in years. Unhappy cops are less likely to keep us safe. ... Would Gray keep Police Chief Cathy Lanier? If not, would he choose a new team from within the department? ... Why does the MPD report different crime stats to us and to the FBI?"
EQUAL PAY -- Charter-school advocate Robert Cane takes exception to Jonetta Rose Barras calling his and fellow activists' complaints about school funding equity "whining." Rather, he writes in an Examiner op-ed, "charters and my organization have been enthusiastic supporters of [Rhee] and better funding for all public schools -- charter and traditional -- and their teachers, whose salaries are a major component of school operating costs. Our quarrel is with [Fenty] who has been unwilling to treat D.C. public charter schools fairly by providing them with equitable funding of operating expenses, including teacher pay." And that extends to the new teacher contract. The threat: "[T]he city's blatant disregard for its own law ... have led some in the city's public charter school community to consider legal action against the city." (Cane also responds at the Post's local opinion blog.)
OF NOTE -- Cane and other prominent charter school activists and funders were out in full force at the Gray fundraiser held at the Alice Rivlin residence Sunday night.
ALL FLASH NO SPLASH -- "Apps for Democracy," the well-publicized, Vivek Kundra-initiated software competition, is no more. New Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak tells Governing magazine that he's decided to wind down the program because "the applications spun up by these contests tend to be more 'cool' than useful to the average city resident." Rather than "fringe applications," Sivak wants techies "focused on solving core government problems." The Hill's technology blog takes a more direct jab at Kundra: "The contest is just the latest of Kundra's efforts as D.C. CTO to come under greater scrutiny since his departure. Kundra vaulted to prominence by touting his forward-thinking projects like the Apps contest, implementing Google Apps for civic employees and creating online dashboards that monitor D.C. technology investments, but none of his projects seem to have made a lasting impact on the District's government."
HUH? -- Examiner editorialist Barbara Hollingsworth doesn't like the new DCPS teacher contract. Her position: Any deal that unionized teachers like this much couldn't possibly be any good. "WTU members think they have good reason to distrust Rhee, so it's doubtful they would have overwhelmingly approved the new contract if it threatened their job security. Indeed, WTU President George Parker said he was "extremely pleased" with the results. And why not? His members will soon be the best-paid teachers in the country for delivering the third-worst results."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Polling the experts on the DCPS teacher contract: Joel Klein calls it a "game changer"; a writer notes, "Education philanthropists are putting a lot of money into D.C. but they're not going to be able to do that in more than one or two cities." (National Journal Online)
Youth Mayor Markus Batchelor shares his thoughts on DCision 2010 (Markus @ Large)
Gray and David Catania spotted Sunday night at Restaurant Association gala. Pic of Vince chatting up Phyllis Richman! (Georgetown Dish)
Mutant 10-car train! (Post)
Northeast carjacking is caught on camera (NC8)
Local hospitals not great on gay-friendliness (The Sexist)
The mayor's race at a glance (WhoRunsGov.com)
Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, Take 2 (Dr. Gridlock)
Ex-cop found guilty in '08 shooting (Crime Scene)
*** DESSERT ***
THE SAVIOR IS COME. (Post)
*** ON THE MENU ***
No public events for Hizzoner -- council's quiet, too -- candidates pad their bank accounts ahead of the June 10 finance report: Vincent Gray at HR-57, Vincent Orange at Hudson Lounge, Kwame Brown at Buddha Bar
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