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DeMorning DeBonis: July 15, 2010

TODAY IS JULY 15, 2010 -- 61 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

An unusual sensation for me, reading a Loose Lips column instead of writing one. But Alan Suderman's debut is a pleasure; he writes the column I meant to write for months and does it complete with a J.R.R. Tolkien reference -- which, yes, I had to look up. In an unprecedented "beat poisoner," he looks at how Mayor Adrian Fenty's "spectacularly dysfunctional" press operation has ill served him. "Fenty is facing the very real possibility that in two months he'll lose the Democratic primary to D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray. And many of his troubles involve what political operatives call 'atmospherics' -- the very stuff a PR professional is supposed to manage. In the Fenty administration, though, the paid PR professionals are AWOL. Instead, the mayor has let his very own Samwise Gamgee, D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, become the de facto spokesman. 'I cringe every time he opens his [expletive] mouth,' said one Fenty pal, who spoke on condition of anonymity for, well, obvious reasons." But one guy's not anonymous: good ole Tony Bullock! "[T]he former spokesman for Mayor Anthony Williams summed up the obvious: 'The AG should not be the spokesman for the mayor. That's just wrong right away.'" And "one reporter," who isn't but might as well be me, "said it's hard getting help even on stories that would portray the mayor in a positive light. 'It's like pulling teeth getting information out of them, and when they finally say something it's usually vague and not useful,' the reporter said." So there: Now you know how us reporters feel. Bravo, Alan! Your LLDs are still awful short, though.

AFTER THE JUMP -- more test score reactions -- what Rhee's wearing at her wedding -- does Harry Thomas still owe student loans? -- new federal judge nominee -- Ron Moten, "human rights activist"

*** MAIN COURSE ***

WHAT IT ALL MEANS -- A host of second-day stories on DC-CAS scores: Gary Imhoff writes in the mail that "I expect to see a Washington Post editorial contradicting all its previous editorials that claimed that small gains on the standardized test scores proved [Michelle Rhee]]'s genius, admonishing readers that standardized text don't prove anything, and that they should not pay any attention to them." Not quite, Gary: The Post's editorialists urge forbearance: "Despite the latest results, the larger trend in achievement is upward. ... Inevitably, this year's test scores are bound to be employed in the politics surrounding Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's bid for reelection. Certainly, he and Ms. Rhee should be held to account. But so should they be given credit for the fact that D.C. students are performing better than three years ago." Meanwhile, Bill Turque wonders on his blog why charter data was delayed. Jay Mathews, on his blog, says "I told you so." And a Post reader argues that tests shouldn't mean students lose their field trips. Also Fred Klonsky with schadenfreude, Eduwonk with solace.

SCOOP -- "Rhee's Bridal Gown Designer Revealed!" courtesy of KCRA-TV, Sacramento. "Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been tight-lipped about his upcoming nuptials to Washington D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee. But on Tuesday, he confirmed one tidbit of information: the designer of Rhee's wedding gown. ... Johnson dove into his Blackberry and looked for the answer. Coming up with nothing, he whispered to a staffer and sent him running for the name. The staffer returned with the critical information." It's Monique Lhuillier of Los Angeles, who has done gowns for Carrie Underwood, Britney Spears and a Gore daughter!

PAY YOUR BILLS - Hey look! Another D.C. Council member with long-forgotten debts! Well, maybe. Harry Thomas Jr. is disputing the claims of federal prosecutors who say he owes $16,000 on 30-year-old student loans, Suderman reports at City Desk. "[T]he case was dismissed last year by United States Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson after an attorney for the government, Thomas Mauro, said he hadn't properly served Thomas with court papers. Lucky break, right? Not so fast: Mauro isn't letting this go without a fight. He's since asked Robinson to reconsider, in a filing that doesn't paint Thomas in a very flattering light. Mauro said the only reason the case was tossed out in the first place was because he realized Thomas' lawyer wasn't actually licensed to practice law in the District. In the latest filing, Mauro says Thomas hasn't responded to multiple calls to his council office to discuss the case, and has 'no legitimate defense' against the government's claim that he owes them money."

WHERE'S HIZZONER? -- Deborah Simmons, writing in the Washington Times, notices that Hizzoner hasn't been perfect on his debate attendance as of late: "Mr. Fenty was a no-show for at least three public forums in the past week and a half, including the most recent debate on Tuesday night at Israel Baptist Church in Northeast. Whatever the reason for his absences, the mayor has offered no explanation and voters are starting to notice. Still, he's carrying out his mayoral duties by, for instance, appearing Tuesday morning at a news conference in Southeast to talk about school test scores." She correlates Fenty's declining attendance record with changes in the Fenty 2010 communications staff! Conspiracy! Also: WAMU-FM's Patrick Madden covers Tuesday night's forum at Israel Baptist Church in Brentwood. Highlight: Faith getting in Sulaimon Brown's face.

IS THE COUNCIL TARGETING GO-GO GIVEAWAYS? -- My favorite Fenty ally, Ron Moten, is raising questions about a D.C. Council emergency bill to criminalize vote-buying, Tim Craig reports at D.C. Wire. To be precise, Moten "worries that the legislation will outlaw the go-go concerts he has been organizing to rally support for the mayor. ... The bill, sponsored by council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), enshrines in the local code the federal prohibitions against paying someone to vote or register to vote, or accepting payment to vote or register to vote. It also makes it a local crime to use a false name to register to vote. Violators could be fined as much as $10,000 and face five years in prison. ... Moten worries that the council, led by Fenty rival Vincent C. Gray (D), is trying to quash the mayor's go-go concerts, which are designed to get low-income African American residents registered to vote. ... In an interview, Cheh said Moten clearly does not understand federal election law if he thinks her bill will outlaw get-out-the-vote concerts. She noted that President Obama used concerts extensively to rally support during the 2008 presidential campaign. 'If he is not capable of understanding, then that is really unfortunate,' Cheh said. 'If he is trying to create issues where none exists, that is troublemaking and that is also unfortunate, but that seems to be his stock and trade.'"

A REGULAR DESMOND TUTU -- Speaking of Mo: He shares his thoughts on the chairman's race with the Afro's Dorothy Rowley: "'It seems like a lot of dirty politics are happening in both races,' said District resident and human rights activist [human rights activist?] Ron Moten. 'I just don't think some candidates are trying to run off their records.' ... Moten said there's no clear contender at this point. 'There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes,' Moten said. 'Neither [Kwame Brown] nor [Vincent Orange] are bad guys, but it just so happens that for the moment, Brown has the name recognition," he said, 'and that will end up giving him more pull.'"

SHOE TO DROP? -- WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood follows up with some thoughts on his big Kwame debt scoop: "There are two things about Kwame Brown's situation that political types are wondering, especially those who support him. The first question is a common one. Is that all there is? Will the debt disclosure prompt other revelations of financial woes? That's the trouble with these types of stories -- other information could begin to drip out. Brown has told close associates that there's nothing else. But second, why did he let this financial mess go on so long?"

STATUARY BILL NO LONGER STATIONARY -- A House panel has approved placement of two District statues in the Capitol, but not without a fight, Ben Pershing reports in the Post. "Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.) ... offered an amendment to Norton's bill that would have reduced the District's statue quota from two to one -- making clear that the city is different from the states -- and that would have given each U.S. territory a statue. The amendment was defeated. ... 'There is a distinction between the states of the union, the territories [and] the District of Columbia,' Lungren said, criticizing 'those who are trying to circumvent the Constitution' by saying the District deserves equal status with the states. He added that he supports ceding most of the District to Maryland. ... Its prospects in the Senate remain unclear, particularly if other Republicans echo Lungren's concerns. 'I would think that a Democratic House with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president could at least pass a statue bill,' Norton said."

FEDERAL JUDGE NOMINEE -- Another Obama nominee to the District's federal trial bench: Beryl Howell, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Legal Times reports. "Howell, a former federal prosecutor in New York, has served on the Sentencing Commission since 2004. From 2003 until 2009, Howell has been executive managing director and general counsel at Stroz Friedberg, a litigation consulting and technical services firm. Howell has also served on the staff of the U.S. Judiciary Committee as a senior adviser and as general counsel to Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Howell was a federal prosecutor between 1987 and 1993 and became deputy chief of the narcotics section in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York."

COPS SHOOT DOG -- What is this, Prince George's County? WTTG-TV reports: "[Gary Tavenner] was about 30 minutes from home when he got a call Sunday that his burglar alarm had gone off. It was just a false alarm, but police were already on their way. Soon after, he received another phone call that his dog needed help. ... In his front yard, he says he was greeted by three MPD officers. 'I said, "What happened? Where's my dog?" And immediately, they surrounded me and they said if you want some trouble, we'll lock you up,' said Tavenner. He then went around the back of the house and through the basement door. He says the dog was in a pool of blood in the corner of the basement. ... Gidget will spend the next few days recovering in the hospital. The dog has racked up about $10,000 worth of vet bills. Tavenner hopes MPD will pick up the cost."

OBAMA APES FENTY? -- Post editorialist Jonathan Capehart writes: "I've written a lot about the HIV/AIDS epidemic here in Washington, where at least 3 percent of the city's population is living with the disease. That's a wide swath of heartache across every socio-economic strata. But we know that African Americans and men who have sex with men are bearing the brunt of the epidemic -- in the District and across the country. The District now makes HIV testing a part of routine care. And it is pushing to get people into treatment sooner than they currently are. That the city has those devastating statistics and a plan to (try to) slow the spread of the epidemic is a testament to Shannon Hader, the outgoing HIV/AIDS chief, and the man who appointed her, Mayor Adrian Fenty. I see that same commitment and focus in the new federal plan."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Check it out: WAMU-FM has a new political blog! (The Front Burner)

Bad Breathalyzers have drawn $1 million in lawsuits (Examiner)

Scenes from Mary Cheh's "Margaritaville" constituent-services fundraiser; boldface names include David Catania, Michael Brown, Phil Mendelson, Betty Noel, John Ray and ... Vincent Gray (Georgetown Dish)

The most non-partisanormative Stein Club endorsement coverage you'll ever read (Metro Weekly)

A look at the new pediatric ER at United Medical Center, set to open in September. Also: Fenty shows human emotion! (WRC-TV)

"Behind the Razor Wire at New Beginnings" (WRC-TV)

Council voted to tighten truancy restrictions on Tuesday (Examiner)

Also: Positive way to solve chronic truancy (Post letter)

Homicide detective tracks down son's killer after 20 years, testifies against him (Post)

Clark Ray makes his pitch to a breakfast organized by ex-Mendo challenger Scott Bolden, aptly described as "the Reed Smith lawyer who is so ably defending the friends of the Mayor charged with improperly receiving District contracts" (Georgetown Dish)

In fact, Examiner, not all east of the river neighborhoods are "Anacostia" (Congress Heights on the Rise)

Contrary to prior reports, union representing Protective Services officers is still undecided. Sort of. (D.C. Wire)

Zoning Commission OK's Skyland redevelopment. Really. (Housing Complex)

Meanwhile, massive Kenilworth Parkside development languishes (DCmud)

Take that, feds: The National Association of Clean Water Agencies says you should pay your stormwater fees! (WaterTech)

Tent city is still going strong in Shaw (NC8)

Valerie Santos to keynote Filipino leadership event (KAYA)

We're sooo smart. (Post)

For the procurement nerds: A defense of design-build (GGW)

Aggregation correction: Slain teen Stanley Dawson was not in fact a DYRS ward (Capital Land)

More on BOEE's new online overseas ballots (WAMU-FM)

The Secret Safeway is closing! (DCist)

Find three things wrong with this story. Actually, don't stop there. (Afro)

*** ON THE MENU ***

On-air mayoral debate on Jonetta Rose Barras' WPFW-FM show (89.3) featuring questions from Eugene D. Kinlow and yours truly -- Leo Alexander at 10 a.m.; Fenty and Gray at 11 a.m. -- "An Evening of Education and Entertainment In Support of DC Statehood," 6 p.m. on the Capitol's west lawn

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 15, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Comments

I can't believe more ink isn't spilling over the Kwame Brown personal finance situation. How can someone who was actually *sued* by credit card companies run the city budget as council chairman? What a joke!

Posted by: homer44 | July 15, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I agree. It is one thing to say that your family has accrued $50,000 in credit card debt, but to be sued means you made no effort to work with the bank to pay off your debt.

If there was anyone more viable than Vincent Orange, I would say it would be close.

Really, this is such a sad state of affairs for the District.

Posted by: LukasWP | July 15, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I wonder why the Washington establishment is really going after K. Brown?

As someone struggling in today's economy, I wonder by Brown did not take advantage of the programs available to help folks in his position. This goes to show that trying to keep up with the Jones can ruin you in the end. Both personally and politically.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | July 16, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

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