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DeMorning DeBonis: July 16, 2010


It was hard to tell Thursday whether things were hotter outside under the sun on Champlain Street NW, or inside the WPFW-FM studios, where Jonetta Rose Barras hosted a mayoral debate light on issues and heavy on personal attacks regarding unpermitted fences and shady lottery contracts -- and "signaling a campaign likely to be soiled by mudslinging in its final eight weeks," colleagues Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart write. But that was hardly the most entertaining part. After Adrian Fenty and Vince Gray jousted on air with Jonetta, Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, and yours truly, Fenty ally Ron Moten chased Gray to his car, demanding to know why he'd been described as a "crony" in a press release. Unsuccessful in getting an answer from Gray, Moten then held an impromptu (and surprisingly well attended) press conference to press his point. Examiner's Freeman Klopott also quoted this protestation: "[Fenty]'s never been to my house, I've never been to his house... We don't go out to eat." City Desk has video of Fenty calling Moten a "great Washingtonian"; Moten chasing Gray through the WPFW/City Paper building; and Moten holding court outside. Listen to the debate at WPFW's website.

AFTER THE JUMP -- D.C. Court of Appeals says no gay-marriage vote -- watch the Marion Barry reality show trailer -- what Wal-Mart will mean -- Catania loves cats -- OTR offers "amnesty"...


MARRY AWAY -- There will be no gay marriage referendum, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in a 5-4 vote yesterday in what is likely to be the final judicial review of the issue. Barring an unlikely Supreme Court intervention, only Congress can stop the gay marryin' now. Keith Alexander writes up the ruling for the Post, noting that the five affirming judges -- Phyllis D. Thompson, Vanessa Ruiz, Inez Smith Reid, Noel Anketell Kramer and Anna Blackburne-Rigsby -- said the Board of Elections and Ethics was within its rights to deny a gay marriage initiative. "The judges said they were convinced that the council would not have authorized 'any initiative' that would have discriminated against residents and violated the Human Rights Act. The judges also wrote that the board 'correctly determined that the proposed initiative would have the effect of authorizing such discrimination.' " That latter holding, crucially, was endorsed by the remainder of the court, meaning that the "four judges who sided with [Bishop Harry Jackson]'s attorneys said they primarily questioned the board's interpretation of the law that allowed them to reject the referendum ... agree[ing] that Jackson's initiative would have led to discrimination prohibited by the District's Human Rights Act. 'Non-discrimination, tolerance, acceptance and inclusion are all fundamental values to be fostered in a pluralistic society,' their opinion said. 'But these aspirations are best achieved through a system of laws, and it is vital that the institutions of the District government observe the limits placed upon them' by District laws." The Post's editorial board says the ruling "is likely to resonate for some time to come and protect all manner of minority groups from having their civil rights stripped at the ballot box." And by the way, SCOTUS: You "should decline to hear the matter and respect the District's right to home rule." Also Blade, Legal Times, Washington Times, GLAA Forum, Human Rights Campaign, Heritage Foundation.

BARRY WORLD -- See it now: the trailer for "Mayor for Life," the "dynamic new reality series that will grant audiences with an in-depth look into the life of former Washington D.C. Mayor, and current D.C> Councilmember Marion Barry -- through the face of scrutiny, triumph and a second chance to set the record straight." Starring: Michael A. Brown! Kwame Brown! Fred Cooke! Harry Thomas Jr.! Andre Johnson! Donnie Simpson! And a very special appearance by Christopher Barry! "Struggling to rebuild his once political powerhouse image, Barry attempts to maintain a relaetionship with his only son ... while still under constant investigation by the federal and local government for his indiscretions."

ALWAYS LOW PRICES, HEATED DEBATE -- Hey, look, Wal-Mart's coming! In my not-a-column, I look at the political implications. Union saber-rattling may end up being just that. "A New York Avenue Wal-Mart would serve a Ward 5 market where many have to travel miles for groceries, often across Eastern Avenue into Maryland. District officials want those groceries, and they need that tax money. ... The fact is, sources knowledgeable about the city development process said, Wal-Mart will be able to fly into town with a minimum of city meddling. The site is already zoned for industrial and commercial uses, so the D.C. Zoning Commission -- made up largely of political appointees -- probably won't get involved. Wal-Mart, if it follows its standard corporate practice, won't ask for city support, meaning the council won't have to weigh in." Meanwhile, City Paper's Lydia DePillis looks at the neighborhood and planning angles. "[T]he usual fight against the chain's arrival may be tempered here, both by a certain fatalism--they're coming, whether we like it or not--but also by a growing realization on the part of District officials and citizens that they could have a chance to try to bring Wal-Mart into an urbanist framework, as crazy as that sounds. Can D.C. find a middle ground between the kneejerk NIMBYism and the blind pro-business boosterism that often greets a Walmart expansion?"

CAT-ANIA -- Little-known but unsurprising facts about David Catania: He's a cat owner, Petula Dvorak reveals in her Friday column, which is about pet owners devotion to sick animals. "The case of Morty Schwartz is a tough one to hear. He was a handsome, magical cat who patrolled his alley with swagger and spent hours flirting with a cute house cat through her window. [Catania] wanted the best for the alley cat who had eyes for his girl. It's a long story, but it comes down to this: Catania took Morty to the vet to get him neutered and cared for and learned that he had feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV. ... Morty got sick. Horribly sick. Before he died, his owners had applied costly creams to his wounds, pumped IV-bags of fluid into his furry limbs, hand-fed him oral medications."

GET OUT OF TAXES -- The Office of Tax and Revenue is launching a "tax amnesty" program, "providing thousands of scofflaws the opportunity to pay their back bills with interest but without penalty," Michael Neibauer reports in WBJ. "The two-month amnesty program will cover most taxes, income and sales included.... The CFO's office released few details including exact dates out of concern that people will simply stop paying their taxes ahead of the program's launch. Taxpayers owe nearly $200 million to the D.C. government, a staggering figure that would alleviate much of the District's financial struggles. ... 'Frankly you're just trying to get the money,' [Jack Evans] said. 'If they're people who overlooked it, forgot it ... that's the taxpayer you're looking for, the innocent mistake rather than the intentional non-payer. Nobody likes these things, but it saves the government in a way because you don't have to pursue these people.'" The CFO's office hopes to raise $20 million.

DAMNED TICKETS -- Another traffic ticket scofflaw? These fines are even older than the seven-year-old ticket left unpaid by Vincent Gray. City Paper's Alan Suderman reports that Kwame Brown "has four outstanding traffic tickets in Maryland that are at least 17 years old. ... At one stop in October 1992, Brown was given tickets for speeding (50 mph in a 35 mph zone), not wearing a seat belt, and driving with an expired license. The original fines ranged from $25 to $40. Brown pleaded guilty, but didn't pay the fines, court records show. And in March 1992, court records show Brown was given a ticket in Baltimore County for 'fail[ing] to display [a] license on demand,' and was given a $20 fine. Court records show Brown didn't appear at a hearing to enter a plea and that ticket is still outstanding. Said Brown's campaign spokesman, James Jones: 'Thank you very much for making us aware of that, we'll take care of it.'"

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY-- Vincent Orange says Kwame's credit card debt makes him unfit to be council chairman. "It's poor judgment for him not to have cleaned that situation up," Orange tells WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood. "Is this the person you want to send to Wall Street? Is this the person you want to send to Congress?"

GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTH CARE -- Fenty quietly named a sixth member to the United Medical Center board Monday, Ben Fischer reports in WBJ: It's Department of Real Estate Services head Robin-Eve Jasper. That makes six appointees, six administration insiders -- indicating Hizzoner couldn't find a single private-sector person he could trust to run the hospital. Alas: "In addition to Fenty's six, the Council will appoint three, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi will appoint one, and the hospital's largest union will appoint one. Three nonvoting members also sit on the board."

TEST SCORE REAX -- The Georgetown Dish's Molly Redden collects reaction to the new DCPS test scores from elected officials. "They're sad and quite dismaying," says State Board of Education President Ted Trabue. And Mary Cheh says she's "a little suprised, and a little disappointed." Catania notes "they're better than they were three years ago." But State Board member Mary Lord disputes that premise: "2010 elementary reading scores for DCPS didn't just dip. They plummeted below 2008 scores, erasing most of the gains made under Chancellor Rhee's tenure. Three years of mayoral control and massive change, and we've moved to 44.4 percent of student proficient from 39 percent. For $750 million in public money, and a lot more in private funds, shouldn't we see higher return on our investment?"

TEACHER BITES THE DUST -- Harry Jaffe laments the departure of teacher Joe Riener from Wilson High School: "I imagine it was his 'expressed feelings' that got him crosswise with Pete Cahall, Rhee's handpicked principal. Cahall is all about authority; Riener is all about challenging it. He's a rebel; dare I say subversive. Take the clock. Riener didn't want one in his room. 'I would lose the kids for the last 10 minutes of every class,' he said. 'Besides, in my classroom I make the rules.' Cahall loves rules and clocks. He put one on Riener's wall. Riener disabled it. Cahall threatened to write a letter of insubordination. Riener relented. In teacher evaluations over the years, Riener rarely scored well. Rhee's IMPACT crew gave him low marks, but he could have survived, until Cahall dropped his score 20 points -- for not complying with school rules. Faced with termination, Riener, 62, retired. ... My question for Rhee: Can her new system accommodate quirky but passionate educators who can inspire?"

GHOST RECON -- Ballou High School was lauded by Fenty and other city education officials this week for its good performance on last year's testing, Bill Turque writes on his blog, but: "What none of them said was that all 80 of Ballou's educators will have to reapply for their jobs. Ballou is one of six low-performing schools where Rhee has ordered a staff 'reconstitution,' an option she has under federal law. Rhee said Wednesday that there was no disconnect between celebrating the school's achievements and scrambling its staff, indicating that Branch sought the shake up. 'We have a lot of faith in the administration there,' she said. 'The best thing we can do is give the administration the support they need and are asking for. The reconstitution is part of that.'"


Michael D. Brown on his council run: "The name recognition helps. ... There's nothing I can do about it. It would be dishonest if my name was Bruce Jones and I changed it, but I've had this name for 57 years." (Capital Land)

Georgetown Business Association puts Fenty on notice: "The Mayor's campaign initially agreed to a ... forum, but it has become uncertain that he will participate. If he doesn't, it will be more difficult for the businesses and residents of Georgetown to make informed decisions in this very important election." (Georgetown Week)

An 18-year-old summer jobs participant was shot Thursday morning at Raymond Elementary in Columbia Heights; Michael A. Brown blames it all on Fenty (WJLA-TV, WTOP).

Man found dead outside Watts Branch Rec Center (WTTG-TV).

Deborah Simmons takes an all-too-well-narrated tour of Ward 8 with Barry, (Washington Times).

The case against BOEE's Internet voting trial (Educated Guesswork).

Phil Mendelson flip-flopped on streetcars, Clark Ray is happy to note (H Street Great Street).

Cathy Lanier talks about the go-go report on Kojo (City Desk).

Police seize $200K worth of drugs, plus guns and cash, in televised Trinidad bust (WTTG-TV).

Child's death leads to questions about Georgetown intersection (GGW).

Vacant properties, broken down by ward (Housing Complex).

More lead recriminations (All Opinions Are Local).

*** ON THE MENU ***


By Mike DeBonis  |  July 16, 2010; 2:55 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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