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DeMorning DeBonis: July 1, 2010

TODAY IS JULY 1, 2010 -- 75 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

An obvious truth about the mayoral race is now an open truth: Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is telegraphing as clearly as ever that if voters don't return Mayor Adrian Fenty for a second term, she exits with him. On A1 today, Bill Turque and Nikita Stewart report her latest comments -- telling the Post that she "could not imagine doing this job without the kind of unequivocal support [Fenty] has given" and telling WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza that she hasn't seen a "willingness to make some very difficult decisions" from Vincent Gray. What does it mean politically? Not as much as you might think. The ultimatum certainly will help Fenty make his case in Ward 3 and gentrifying neighborhoods, where he needs loads of votes. But it also takes pressure off Gray, who's been pressed on the hustings to give an unequivocal up-or-down on Rhee's future. Electoral blackmail, after all, isn't very "one city."

AFTER THE JUMP -- fishy fire truck hits auction block -- 2009 summer-jobsters targeted in violent attacks -- ambulance chasers thrive in spite of law -- PLA bill headed nowhere fast -- Eagle Forum loves Leo Alexander

*** MAIN COURSE ***

THE POLITICS -- More from Bill and Nikita: "[Rhee]is as unpopular as Fenty in some sections of the city, especially east of the Anacostia River, where many children languish in low-achieving schools. A Washington Post poll in January showed that 54 percent of parents disapproved of her performance and that her standing with African American residents had slipped. In a Post poll two years earlier, 50 percent of black residents said they supported her. In January, 62 percent disapproved. Her best use as a Fenty asset would be in predominantly white Northwest sections of the city, where schools are better and residents admire her tough stance against the teachers union. Fenty must roll up large majorities in those neighborhoods to offset his weaknesses elsewhere. Rhee is a dilemma for Gray as well, as evidenced by his refusal to say what would happen to her if he is elected. To announce that she has no future in a Gray administration would risk eroding his support in predominantly white communities. To say he would keep her would mean losing significant support in strongholds such as wards 7 and 8."

THE BIG PICTURE -- "[B]usiness and political leaders say Gray and Rhee would have much to lose by parting company. Rhee would leave behind the unfinished business of fixing the schools, a job that vaulted her from obscurity to national prominence as a voice for education reform and also made her something of a celebrity. ... Although there are signs of progress -- a halt in enrollment decline, significant gains on national tests in math and reading in fourth and eighth grades -- Rhee has said that it would take five to eight years to achieve dramatic results. And even some supporters say privately that a resignation driven by an election would risk rendering hollow one of her foundational views: that urban school districts suffer because adults place their interests ahead of those of children. To leave, without at least trying to come to terms with Gray, they said, could be seen as the ultimate adult-interested decision. Should Gray win and decide to sack Rhee, he risks halting at least some of the momentum Rhee has generated. Gray has said that chronic instability at the top of the school system has hindered past reform attempts."

ALSO -- Valerie Strauss writes at Answer Sheet: Rhee's "all-but-direct threat to quit if Fenty loses to [Gray] in September's Democratic Party raises a question about her priorities, not to mention her reluctance to admit that she might not have all the answers to fixing D.C. schools. ... Never mind that she really doesn't know how Gray will approach their relationship. What political candidates say during a campaign is not always what they do if they win and take office. Considerations change. What is more important, and of more concern, is that Rhee surely knows the importance of consistency in school leadership. She knows she was the seventh person to head the school system in a decade when she arrived in 2007, and that the constant turnover at the top was disastrous for the city's schools. Rhee states frequently that her concern is only for D.C. schoolchildren. If that is so, it seems odd that she would be so quick to suggest that she might abandon them without giving a new mayor a chance to do what she considers the right thing."

THE FENTY CHICKEN -- Behold today's Examiner cartoon, by Nate Beeler

YOURS! -- The fishy fire truck could be yours! Michael Neibauer, who broke the gosh-darn story, carries the scoopage full circle at WBJ: "The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is auctioning the 1998 Seagrave Pumper, with 55,290 miles, that it attempted to quietly donate to the beach town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic early in 2009. The engine was going for $4,500 as of 5 p.m. Wednesday on liquidation.com, with another week to go before the auction closes. More than 100 bids have been placed so far. 'Engine runs, is drivable,' the description states, but there are no keys. ... It is unclear whether Sosua finally got a fire engine."

DONE DEAL -- The first Pershing Park settlement is final: $13.7 million will go to 464 eligible arrestees, Maria Glod reports. "U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman said the class-action lawsuit, which has wended its way through the court for about a decade, will benefit "future generations" who want to speak out and air their grievances. ... Under the settlement, each person arrested and found eligible for compensation will be awarded $18,000, and the record of that arrest will be expunged. It also requires additional training for police officers. 'It is an important settlement. It's an historic settlement,' Friedman said. 'This is a fair settlement to the plaintiffs and in the interest of the First Amendment.' ... George C. Valentine, deputy attorney general for the District, said in court that officials concluded that 'settling the case in a fair manner was in the best interest of the public.' The city, he said, 'is paying a very high price.'"

SHIRT HAPPENS -- Last year's summer jobs program -- the Mayor's Conservation Corps in particular -- was plagued by payday violence visited upon teens wearing easily identifiable T-shirts, Jason Cherkis reports in City Paper. So what's different this year? "The Mayor's Conservation Corps will have roughly 2,300 workers; last year, it had more than twice as many youths and represented nearly a quarter of SYEP enrollment. And police brass, [Assistant Chief Diane Groomes] says, have actively planned for any troubles, holding meetings with District agencies. "We know the sites and we know where the volatile ones would be, " Groomes says. "They would get extra attention from us...It's always a work in progress when you have 21,000 kids." ... But there's one thing that will remain constant: The Mayor's Conservation Corps will keep on wearing uniforms. Sharon Cooke, DDOE's spokeswoman, explains that the new uniform will consist of a white shirt and yellow work vest. ... They will, however, be allowed to change into their regular clothes on paydays."

BLOOD-SUCKING LAWYERS -- Council hearing explores whether the city's efforts to prevent ambulance chasing are working. Police and lawyers say they aren't, Alan Suderman reports in Examiner. A 2006 law was supposed to keep unscrupulous lawyers from getting access to accident reports for three weeks. "But the Metropolitan Police Department's policy allows accident reports to be released to anyone with an ID who signs a form saying they won't use the information to solicit legal business within the 21-day period. ... 'I've never once been asked to fill it out, never, at multiple police stations,' personal injury lawyer Keith Watters said at a D.C. Council hearing Wednesday. Watters said there is also a thriving black market for accident information, with tow truck or ambulance drivers possibly being paid for tips. 'Let's face it, there's a lot of money at stake,' he said."

THE LIMITS OF UNION POWER -- Bill to force union labor on city-assisted construction projects appears to be headed nowhere fast. I teed up the issue yesterday afternoon, noting that on union questionnaires, "Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) pledged to supported to the measure, but some usually reliable union backers have hedged their bets. 'I can't say YES at this time because I want to hear the testimony at the hearing,' Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) wrote on his questionnaire. Wrote Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs one of the two committees that would have to move on the legislation: 'I believe that this bill requires careful consideration and is best done away from the heat of campaigns.' And Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large), usually a stalwart supporter of union interests, declined to say he'd support the bill at all. 'I support the concept of the legislation but the issue needs further study,' he wrote." And Neibauer gathered string from the hearing, noting that Graham, Kwame Brown, and bill introducer Michael Brown each distanced themselves from the labor provisions.

THERE WILL BE CASH -- The Virginia Metro funding holdout is likely to end this morning, Kytja Weir reports in the Examiner. "Metro's board of directors is scheduled to hold an emergency phone meeting Thursday morning to approve the deal. The rushed-yet-public meeting would allow the transit agency to make a Monday deadline to order new rail cars, paid for partly with those funds. Metro and Virginia had been engaged in a game of high-stakes chicken after Gov. Bob McDonnell threatened to withhold $50 million from the agency unless the state was able to appoint two of the four Virginia representatives to Metro's board, instead of the current slate of local elected officials. ... But even with an agreement, the issue of Metro board representation hasn't been dropped. Virginia officials and the four Metro board members are expected to offer dueling resolutions Thursday night at a meeting of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which chooses who serves on Metro's board. McKay said he expects the votes may split on party lines."

PHYLLIS LOVES LEO -- Leo Alexander finally files his campaign finance report. He doesn't have a lot to show for it -- $701, to be exact. But, hey, he's got moxie, and he's got a $200 donation from the Eagle Forum -- the conservative outfit founded by Phyllis Schafly that's been "leading the pro-family movement since 1972." Tim Craig writes at D.C. Wire: "So what makes Alexander so appealing to an organization whose mission includes exposing 'radical feminists' and supporting the 'American identity?' No one answered the phone at Alexander's campaign headquarters, but on the campaign trail he often speaks out against illegal immigration, arguing illegal immigrants are taking away jobs from native Washingtonians. Alexander also supports a referendum on whether same-sex marriage should be legal. But much of Alexander's campaign centers on a populist message of creating more jobs and firing Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee."

BALLPARK BLUES -- Bob McCartney on ballpark-area development: "I'd bet the Nats will have their first winning season before the once-seedy neighborhood gets anywhere near completing its renaissance. The main obstacle is the same financial crisis that stalled the area's revival in the first place. Banks are still scared to lend money so that numerous large-scale construction plans can go forward. Meanwhile, the gap between promise and reality is most dramatic on what might be called the developers' block of shame -- the stretch of Half Street SE between the Navy Yard Metro station and the stadium's principal entrance at center field. About half of the fans at each game pass between the lines of wooden barriers concealing large, empty lots whose ground floors were supposed to already be housing fun places to eat, drink and shop. It's a big disappointment for the District, especially considering that public money financed the stadium."

DEANWOOD DRAMA -- The Informer's James Wright lays bare some of the political tensions at the Deanwood Rec Center unveiling last week: "Both Gray and [Yvette Alexander] arrived after the ceremony and the chairman, who is challenging Fenty for the Democratic Party nomination for mayor in September, wasn't happy that he missed the ribbon-cutting. He said that the mayor's staff had changed the time of the ceremony without notifying him. 'I think it was completely inappropriate for the mayor to change the time of the ribbon-cutting without letting me know,' Gray, 67, said. Alexander, 48, had no comment on the matter however; bystanders noted that she was obviously livid about not being present for the official grand opening. Later that day, Alexander announced that there would be "another ribbon-cutting" and urged residents to support Gray for mayor. When Ronald Moten, a Fenty supporter pointed out that her support for Gray on city property was a violation of the Hatch Act, she summarily dismissed him by saying 'whatever.'"


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Never count the guy out: Herb Miller finds a way to hold on to the Georgetown Park mall (WBJ)

NFL tight end, Dunbar alum Vernon Davis hosted Ozio fundraiser for Gray; all "YOUNG PROFESSIONALS, CHIC TRENDSETTERS, AND TASTEMAKERS" invited (D.C. Wire)

Joseph R. Mays, 46, pleads guilty to the murder of Erica Peters and her two sons (Post)

As deaths mount, Metro's anti-suicide measures move slowly (Examiner)

"The very fact that Fenty pulled out of a debate on the very issue on which he has staked his political future is amazing enough. But then, it really isn't. As with so much of Fenty's efforts, he has managed to anger the very people he should be winning over." (American Spectator)

WPGC personality ain't quite down with Hizzoner's dancing (eVIPlist.com)

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) to fundraiser crowd: "Mayor Fenty wears all of [his smart phones] on his belt like a Batman-type or utility-type of thing." (WRC-TV)

About 600 D.C. residents who can't get health insurance could get covered thanks to $9 million in new federal funds (Post)

With disabled resident gone, DDOT orders Cleveland Park driveway removed via less-than-diplomatic letter (WTOP)

Report: Central Union Mission will get Gales School after all (DCmud)

Fenty made it to the Capitol Hill Sweetgreen opening last week (DC Fab)

Live from the DHCD auction (Housing Complex)

Jamie Oliver is quite pleased that DCPS is banning flavored milk, also refers to D.C. as a "state with Capitol Hill around the corner" (JamieOliver.com)

Rhee talks contract (WTTG-TV)

Gee, Michael Brown is great! (Informer)

Yes, many Posties at Monday's non-debate (G'town Dish)

Loeb's Deli soon to cease being a viable Wilson Building lunch option (ABJ)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray rolls out education plan at Thurgood Marshall Academy -- council talks election readiness

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 1, 2010; 8:55 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Before raiding streetcar funds, Gray was against raiding streetcar funds
Next: Rep. Jared Polis endorses Fenty at gay campaign event

Comments

Mr. DeBonis...Can you please tell me why you chose to list the ages of Mr. Gray and Ms. Alexander, how important to the story was this information or are you trying to send a message of agism and prejudice without openly stating it. I think that this type of reporting and subliminal messaging is beneath your journalistic integrity (that is if you have any).

I say the Washington Post do the same thing to Linda Cropp and look at what we go a young man who had not cut his political teeth yet and still throws temper tantroms.

There is never a time when reporting someone's age is beneficial to the story at hand and it is a low-ball tactic. We are smarter than that.

Posted by: lacairaine | July 1, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for your comment, lacairaine.

No subliminal messaging on my part -- your beef is with the Informer, from which I copied and pasted that passage.

I don't agree that there's "never a time when reporting someone's age is beneficial to the story at hand" -- in fact, it's regular practice at many newspapers to include persons' ages in certain types of stories -- but I don't typically include them in my roundups, unless it's mentioned in the source material.

Posted by: Mike DeBonis | July 1, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I generally don't read that news paper and maybe this is the reason. I will post the same comment on their site if they have one.

Thank you for clarifying. It is never beneficial to this type of story or reporting on this type of issue.

Thank you once again.

Posted by: lacairaine | July 1, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Mike,

As this city has a long history of disinformation campaigns by political opponents and investigations that sound bad, but later turn out to be bogus, it would be nice to see some fire held under the folks that initiate the smear.

Case in point: the firetruck. Much ado about nothing, but there's not nearly enough coverage of the fact that the mayor was largely exonerated.

After making a big frakkas about an allegation that turned out to be somewhere between unsubstantiated and a waste of the city's time, don't you have an obligation to right the misinformation?

Otherwise the Post reporters just looks like suckers who can be manipulated by any candidate or insider that releases anything they feel like.

If you're not going to do the investigation up front to validate the allegation because you want to get the scoop then you need to do the work on the back end, to clear the person maligned and expose the people who released the faulty information.

Posted by: FormerMCPSStudent | July 1, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Nice to see the lying and hypocritical Rhee exposed for what she is: a bald-faced liar and a hypocrite. When she's telling the teachers union and everyone else to "make selfless decisions for the sake of the children," she's making the most selfish decision of all, declaring if Fenty isn't re-elected, she's taking her ball and going home. She doesn't give two sh*ts about these kids in the first place.

Posted by: MACCHAMPS04 | July 1, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

@MACCHAMPS04, I too, agree. Rhee and the current mayor, are not be believed.

Posted by: fivetogo | July 1, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

C'mon, no fair! Fenty is making this too easy.

From the Gray camp, I'd expect to see dispatched to every public event the Mayor holds, a bald chicken, wearing the mortar board and carrying a book.

Debate education?!? Naaaaah, he's chicken.

Posted by: Trulee | July 1, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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