DeMorning DeBonis: July 21, 2010
TODAY IS JULY 21, 2010 -- 55 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
The lottery contract just isn't going away. The lucrative and politically sordid deal that has for lingered three years is now very much a campaign issue. Last week, Mayor Adrian Fenty accused his opponent, Vincent Gray, of misdealings in the matter on WPFW-FM last week, and now Attorney General Peter Nickles has asked the inspector general's office to investigate the contract award -- "in particular," I write, "that lawmakers approved a partnership with a local contractor that did not undergo a full vetting." Make no mistake that the move is a direct attack on the ethical bona fides of Gray, who as council chairman oversaw the messy contract approval process. Washington Times reporter Jeffrey Anderson, who has been raising questions about the latest contract award in several recent articles, notes in his story that Gray once worked with the mother of Emmanuel Bailey, the local contractor in question, when she worked at the D.C. Department of Human Services. But still to be determined: Is there any there there?
AFTER THE JUMP -- Williams endorses Fenty -- BOEE chair set to leave just before election -- Australians learn about Marion Barry -- will Vincent Orange shake up the D.C. Council? -- Michelle Rhee's longevity
*** MAIN COURSE ***
TONY FOR ADRIAN -- Ex-Mayor Anthony Williams tells the Post's Nikita Stewart that he's backing Fenty for a second term. At a plaque unveiling in Columbia Heights, Williams "praised Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who was not in attendance. 'It's not about who's on your holiday card list. It's about who's delivering for this city,' said Williams, who recently held a fundraiser for Fenty. ... In an interview, Williams, who endorsed former Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp against Fenty in 2006, used his 'holiday card list' line to explain his support of the mayor whose popularity has waned. ... Williams's endorsement of Fenty has caused a bit a family rift. His mother, Virginia Williams, is squarely in the [Gray camp]. ... 'Obviously, I love and respect my mother. I disagree with her on this. She's probably going to disown me,' Williams said, laughing. Williams also noted that his endorsement hasn't carried much weight in the past, pointing to Cropp and former Council member Harold Brazil who lost to current Council member Kwame R. Brown in 2004. 'I don't think my endorsement, one way or the other, makes a difference. People vote for the person,' he said."
BOEE CRISIS -- With less than two months until Primary Day, Board of Elections and Ethics chair Errol Arthur has announced he will leave his post next month to become a Superior Court magistrate judge. "Arthur's resignation means there will be two vacancies on the three-member board, meaning it would lack a quorum if it tries meet after that date," Tim Craig reports at D.C. Wire. "Arthur's abrupt resignation is forcing some council members scramble behind-the-scenes to seek a quick consensus between Fenty and [Gray] ... Council member David A. Catania (I-At large) said he and Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) are trying to broker a consensus. They hope to have a list of potential replacements to the mayor and chairman within a day or two." The council would have to return from recess to approve the consensus pick. Another possibility: That Fenty would unilaterally name an emergency pick, which would "certainly fuel the already explosive squabbling between Fenty and Gray supporters over concerns about the potential for election fraud." Also Examiner.
ON CAMERA -- Fenty visited the Post newsroom yesterday for his endorsement interview with the paper's editorial board. Newsroom reporters, such as myself, did not attend the meeting, but Fenty did a nearly 10-minute video Q&A with editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao. She asks him how he became so unpopular: "I believe that it's largely my fault. Sometimes in a particular job you get so focused on getting the job done, getting results, that you don't spend enough time communicating those results to people." Today, Gray visits the Post for his endorsement interview.
CONSPIRACY THEORY -- Australian journalist profiles Marion Barry, aka "Washington's original black leader": "After 40 years as a political activist, elected official and one of the most controversial political figures in America, Marion Barry is still dividing opinions. In the 1960s and '70s the firebrand son of a share cropper made a name for himself as a leader in the civil rights movement. In the '80s and '90s, more than 20 years before Barack Obama came to town, he was the embodiment of black political power in this city and he carried with him the hopes, aspirations, frailties and failures of his own community. ... Now in his mid-70s he's had plenty of opportunity to reflect on his controversial career but he still maintains he was the victim of an organized vendetta. 'Certain powers of the federal government, certain enemies were after me for a long time,' he says. Whether you buy the conspiracy theory or not the fact is he is still an extraordinarily popular figure."
'COUNCIL CHANGE AGENT' -- In her Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras explains why Kwame Brown has the support of his council collegaues: "It isn't just that opponent Vincent Orange, a former Ward 5 councilman, has been on the outside for the past three years. Brown -- the man, who posted at polls life-size portraits of himself and presidential candidate Barack 'Change-we-can-believe-in' Obama -- has promised more of the same. No changes to committee structures and no changes to council rules. Orange has pledged to shake things up: Every member won't get a committee; they will be subjected to additional training; and there will be changes to the Office of Policy Analysis (a creation of [Gray's] that has had little effect on the quality of the council's public policy work.) Essentially, Orange has cast himself as the mechanic for the poorly functioning legislative branch."
AMERICAN STANDARD -- D.C.'s State Board of Education is set to vote today on "common core" standards" for English and math, the Post's Nick Anderson reports, joining Massachusetts in moving toward the national model and "adding momentum to a movement that in a few months has swept Maryland and two dozen other states." Here's the rub: A Thomas B. Fordham Institute report "found that the current D.C. standards in English are superior to the common core standards, even though D.C. public schools have long been known for weak performance." But high standards, obviously, don't necessarily translate into high achievement. "Board President Ted Trabue said he is optimistic the measure will pass. 'We strongly want our students to be on par with those in the rest of the country,' he said. D.C. State Superintendent of Education Kerri Briggs said approval would enable the city to join with states in developing assessments, curriculum and teacher training."
THE CHURN GOES ON? -- Bill Turque does the yeoman's work of tracking the longevity of every D.C. Public Schools chief dating back to Vincent Reed's late-70s tenure. If Gray is elected and Rhee leaves, he writes, "she's still likely to leave town as the District's longest serving schools leader of the last 20 years. She reached the three-year mark last month, surpassing her predecessor, Clifford Janey, who served two years and nine months (Sept. 2004 to June 2007). A modest post-election transition period should get her past Paul Vance, who lasted three years and five months (July 2000 to December 2003). That leaves only Franklin Smith, whose five years and four months (July 1991 to Nov. 1996) is likely out of reach unless Fenty wins a second term or she and [Gray] reconcile their differences."
WHO GETS CREDIT? -- Also, Bill addressed the percolating questions over whether Michelle Rhee or Janey gets more credit for increases in test scores. "There's no one answer to the question. In some ways it resembles the partisan debate that emerges when the economy goes bad or surges under a new president. Supporters will credit the administration for the good news and blame the bad on the old crowd. Opponents of the incumbent will greet good news with the coattail argument and hold him accountable for setbacks." Says Rhee: "The fact is that over the last three years, DCPS students have made unprecedented gains in academic achievement, according to every measuring stick available to us. ... That is a record that we are proud of."
VICTIMS' RIGHTS -- Post reporters Susan Kinzie and Stephanie Lee highlight funding issues with the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, run by the city court system: "The fund, run by the D.C. Superior Court since 1997, uses revenue from court fees to cover immediate needs such as shelter, medical treatment, counseling and funerals. Part of the money also goes to D.C. nonprofits that help crime victims. But the motel housing provided by the court fund isn't safe, say officials with some of the nonprofits. They have been pushing for more money from the fund for the shelters they run and for other services and have asked the District to seize control of the fund. They are also requesting $4 million from Congress. The motel rooms are safe, court officials say. They say that nonprofit groups are concerned about a drop-off in funding during the past few years, and that although those concerns are understandable, they take a back seat to the issue of how best to help all crime victims. The debate highlights the challenges of providing help to some of the city's most desperate residents, and it shows how far those efforts have come -- and how far they have to go."
USAO CHANGES -- Big changes in Ron Machen's U.S. attorney's office, Keith Alexander reports in the Post. Glenn L. Kirschner is out as chief of the homicide unit after six years, as are deputies Deborah Sines and Daniel Zachem. Sines and Kirschner will return to trying cases; Zachem is taking a leave of absence. Also: "Other changes within the office include the creation of a gang unit to focus on violent crimes. Machen has tapped Washington criminal defense lawyer Vincent H. Cohen Jr. to join him as his No. 2 in the office."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Mary Cheh wins AFL-CIO endorsement; no pick made in Ward 1, Ward 6, council chair races (Metro Labor Council)
Why Metro is having more escalator problems and what it is doing to fix them (Post)
Check out Mike Panetta's anti-Jon Tester radio ad (NBCWashington.com)
A dozen new speed cameras are being placed on city streets -- "a move critics say puts the District on track to net $41 million from tickets" (Post)
Police union wants answers on sexual assault stats (WTOP)
Fake Obama Twitter: "Can Adrian Fenty take over for the rest of the year? Give him Rogaine and no one would ever know the difference." (@theUSpresident)
Eleanor Holmes Norton and Jason Chaffetz get into it on the House floor (Salt Lake Tribune)
New DYRS chief Robert Hildum has some history, helping to push out fire department whistleblowers (City Desk)
Get ready, Vince Gray: Here's the urbanist questionnaire (GGW)
DDOT inches closer to Capital Waterfront move (WBJ)
Congress approves Washington Channel transfer, clearing way for Southwest Waterfront redevelopment (WBJ)
Ward 5 opponent: Harry Thomas Jr. "Continues To Blame Others For Any And Every Problem That Arises" (campaign release)
Is Georgetown "Fentytown"? (G'town Dish)
OSSE delays special-ed rate changes (D.C. Schools Insider)
City energy office pays Good Samaritans' exorbitant Pepco bill (Post)
Metro manager is suspended for making "statements against elderly people, young black men and Asians" in graduation speech (Examiner)
Drive-by shooters target Deanwood home, critically wounding 21-year-old woman (WTTG-TV)
Man apparently commits suicide overnight on M Street NW (Post Now)
More on the new Washington Highlands library design (DCmud)
Jack Evans: still running (Politico Click)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Ward 2 Dems hold mayoral forum and straw poll, 7 p.m. at the Washington Plaza Hotel -- first summer jobs payday!
July 21, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories: Morning Mike , The District
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