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DeMorning DeBonis: July 27, 2010

TODAY IS JULY 27, 2010 -- 49 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

The requisite 30 legislative days have passed, Congress has kept its mouth shut, and now medical marijuana is theoretically legal in the District of Columbia -- though not actually legal, because regulations governing the growth, distribution and prescription of the stuff have yet to be released. Tim Craig has more at D.C. Wire: "Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said in a statement the bill become law after Congress finished its business Monday night because neither the House nor Senate opted to intervene. ... 'We have faced repeated attempts to re-impose the prohibition on medical marijuana in D.C. throughout the layover period,' said Norton. 'Yet, it is D.C.'s business alone to decide how to help patients who live in our city and suffer from chronic pain and incurable illnesses.' Although the bill has now cleared Congress, patients will likely have to wait at least several months before they can obtain the drug from a city-sanctioned dispensary."

AFTER THE JUMP -- all about Vincent Orange -- NTSB crash findings released Tuesday -- WTU vows to sue over teacher firings -- MPD's waived event fees -- real-estate-agent lobby backs Gray -- Fenty calls out Pepco

*** MAIN COURSE ***

V.O. STRAIGHT UP -- Ann Marimow follows up Monday's Kwame Brown profile with her look at fellow chairman candidate Vincent Orange: "Former colleagues and observers say that in his two terms on the council, Orange was a bulldog for Ward 5, pressing for the redevelopment projects that created a bustling shopping center on Brentwood Road at a time when major retailers had little interest in locating in the city. His penchant for promoting his ward, and himself, led to a series of successes on the council. His doggedness ensured the construction of three recreation centers and the restoration of McKinley Technical High School, one of the better-performing high schools in the city, according to standardized test scores. But that same focus at times led to misguided steps in policy and politics, according to former council colleagues and political observers. He unsuccessfully sued then-D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp, for instance, when he disagreed with her decision that the committee he chaired lacked jurisdiction over the baseball stadium project -- which he supported -- a move she dubbed 'bizarre behavior.' And, fearing that he would be outvoted during debate over a 'living wage' bill, Orange put off a vote and then scheduled the meeting for a Saturday, only to cancel it at the last minute." Also mentioned: His pro-business record, "5" pin, Pepco service, Emancipation Day sponsorship, lavish nightclub bithday parties, Democratic State Committee fiscal stewardship, and same-sex marriage conversion.

NTSB SPEAKS -- The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to offer its explanation of last year's Red Line catastrophe. Ann Scott Tyson previews the report in Tuesday's Post: "Federal investigators have focused on the failure of Metro's automatic train-control system in the accident, in which one train slammed into the back of another that was stopped north of the Fort Totten Metro station in Northeast Washington. ... But the NTSB meeting Tuesday is expected to go well beyond a narrow conclusion on the causes of last year's crash, both because of the spate of accidents that have plagued Metro and possible consequences for other subway systems, according to Metro and NTSB officials. 'My expectation is this will be broader than the usual technical report,' said Mortimer Downey, a federally appointed member of Metro's board of directors. The NTSB report 'could well go beyond [the crash] to talk about general safety concerns.'" Outstanding question: How will WMATA pay for any potential safety recommendations? Also AP, which notes the political angling: "D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said Monday that she hopes the NTSB's recommendations include interim fixes to keep people safe while longer-term changes are in the works. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said Monday that he, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty have been asking Metro for more regular updates on safety initiatives and fixes, but there needs to be more cooperation and transparency. 'That is the best elixir for shaking out the cobwebs that right now are dogging the Metro system,' O'Malley said." WJLA-TV goes inside the mechanics of the NTSB investigation.

WTU WILL SUE -- Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker tells the Examiner's Leah Fabel that the union plans to sue the D.C. Public Schools over the performance-based firings of 185 teachers. "'The story is not the firings so much as the document upon which the firings are based,' Parker said. 'It is a flawed document.' He derided the 'euphoric' reaction of observers and news reports nationwide, saying he's 'never seen a superintendent receive less scrutiny than Chancellor [Michelle Rhee].'... The class-action suit would address what Parker sees as the unfair pieces of the evaluation tool, developed by Rhee's central office team without union input. It will be filed as soon as D.C. Public Schools releases to the union a list of the fired teachers, he said. Parker is especially miffed that 5 percent of a teacher's overall score is based on the performance of his or her school. 'A teacher's evaluation should be based on what he or she can control,' he said."

EUPHORIC REACTION -- At Education Week's "Rick Hess Straight Up," the American Enterprise Institute reseacher writes: "[O]nce again, Rhee got it right. As jarring and painful as it may be for those used to the clubby routines of K-12, this is what transformational leadership looks like. ... When it comes to Michelle, though, I needn't have worried. She stepped up, big time." And here's some political analysis: Vincent Gray "waffled," Hess writes: "Those who are asking what Gray's election would mean for Rhee's agenda may have all the answers they need right there." Seyward Darby, writing at The New Republic, also uses the W-word to describe Gray's reaction, which is to say: "Gray hasn't taken a firm position on IMPACT, just as he hasn't taken a firm position on Rhee or her firings. If he wins, Gray could keep the evaluation system and Rhee. Or he could get rid of both. Surely D.C. voters deserve a more definitive answer." And the National Review's Chester E. Finn Jr. writes: "If Adrian Fenty should lose the mayoral primary in the District of Columbia, and Michelle Rhee should exit the schools chancellor's office, I'd recommend her to the Pentagon to take charge of the Iraq and Afghanistan situations. She keeps her eye on the ball, doesn't take no for an answer, recognizes and rewards talent, and purges the ranks of mediocrities." See also William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal. A more nuanced take comes from Linda Perlstein of the Education Writers Association, who writes: "I didn't realize how strongly news of Michelle Rhee's firings resonated until several people who don't even live around here asked this weekend what I thought of them. 'Is this a big deal, or not?' they said. I explained how in theory getting fired for performance reasons isn't shocking, but in teaching it is." She follows with some smart questions and concerns.

DO THE WAIVE -- WTTG's Paul Wagner looks at the more than $600,000 in police event security fees waived by the Fenty administration for street festivals and athletic events. The 2009 National Marathon alone had $200,000 in police costs waived by the mayor's office, and this year's race racked up $280,000-plus in waived overtime fees. Fenty tells Wagner: "I don't know anything about either the specifics or the macro. I don't know anything about what we do to run these event. I just know that I support them." Wagner has letters from City Administrator Neil Albert decribing an "annual agreement" with the Greater Washington Sports Alliance. The Alliance isn't talking about said arrangements.

REALTORS SPEAK -- Vince Gray continues to rack up interest group endorsements, grabbing the endorsement of the Washington D.C. Association of Realtors (and no, I will not be all-capping "Realtors," trademark police -- sue me). Tim Craig has the group's statement: "It is an important election for the future of the District and the neighborhood communities we serve daily. ... We believe our REALTORĀ® [bah!]-endorsed candidates will work to retain a vibrant real estate market, improve our already great neighborhoods, and move the District forward." Lydia DePillis writes at Housing Complex: "[I]t seems possible that WDCAR may have taken exception to the Fenty administration's imposition of 'nuisance' fees, especially the administration-backed new class of vacant property tax legislation." Also winning endorsements: Kwame Brown, David Catania, Phil Mendelson, Harry Thomas Jr., and Tommy Wells. No mention of Mary Cheh or Jim Graham!

FOIA FOLLIES -- David Alpert has done some fine reporting on his blog, Greater Greater Washington. And he now inches ever closer to earning his true-blue reporter stripes: He has now engaged in a petty, stupid, inane FOIA fight with the Fenty administration. He describes the 'Kafkaesque' experience at GGW: "DDOT FOIA officer Diana Jordan has twice violated the legally mandated time limits, denied a request on a technicality, and has now asked for additional time to complete an extremely trivial request for a single email where she surely knows exactly what I want and could deliver it in thirty seconds. Most bizarrely of all, the purpose of this investigation wasn't ever to criticize DDOT, but to investigate a specific decision, possibly worthy of criticism, from WMATA. ... AG Peter Nickles has argued that the government can't handle all the FOIA request they are receiving and needs extra time. It seems that if they simply complied with the requests instead of spending so much time trying to resist them all, they could probably get through them faster." Read it and seethe. On a similar note, Freeman Klopott reports on documents finally forced out of the D.C. Housing Authority by a Superior Court judge after eight years of litigation.

TOGO SAILS -- Togo West's confirmation hearing was not a particularly tough one. As I wrote Monday: "Despite a few pointed questions about his relationship with Adrian Fenty and lightning-rod Attorney General Peter Nickles, West sailed through the relatively brief hearing. West's impeccable resume -- including 40-plus years of District residency -- allowed him to avoid the pitfalls faced by previous, less experienced Fenty nominees. Under questioning from Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh, West described career of quiet public service, mostly on the federal and national levels. 'I have not been a shadowy presence in District politics,' he told the three members present. 'I haven't been a presence at all.'" Also DCist

EXERCISING RESTRAINT -- Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff on Friday took the nearly unheard of step of enjoining the National Law Journal from publishing information it had legally obtained. The dispute centered on Jeff Jeffrey's National Law Journal story on an unpaid-fee claim filed by Hogan Lovells against POM, the makers of pomegranate juice. Jeffrey discovered why POM had hired Hogan in the first place -- to defend the company against a regulatory action -- but Bartnoff held that the information should have been sealed. NLJ editor David L. Brown wrote in an editor's note: "We fought this order vigorously in court; we thought and continue to think that it is a violation of the First Amendment, and we are working on an appeal. ... We strongly believe Bartnoff's action harms the integrity of the court by placing process concerns over fundamental constitutional rights." Mike Scarcella of NLJ/Legal Times has the complte backstory, including Bartnoff's money quote: "If I am throwing 80 years of First Amendment jurisprudence on its head, so be it." And get this: "Lynda Resnick, co-founder of POM, is linked to the leading U.S. Supreme Court case barring prior restraint against national security claims, New York Times Co. v. United States (1971). Resnick's then-boyfriend, Anthony Russo, persuaded her to let him and his colleague Daniel Ellsberg use a Xerox machine at her advertising agency to copy the Pentagon Papers, according to The Washington Post. Resnick ended up as an unindicted co-conspirator, according to the Post."

FENTY CALLS OUT PEPCO -- With Pepco slow to restore power to 13,000 ratepayers in the District and another 150,000-plus beyond, Fenty takes aim at the utility. WTOP reports: "Standing in front of a toppled tree in Northwest D.C. Monday, Fenty complained that Pepco has not been very forthcoming with information. The mayor says the District is ready to move downed trees if Pepco would turn off electricity in the area of downed wires. 'I got to be just perfectly frank,' says Fenty. 'As we stand here today, we have none of that. You cannot just say it's going to be days and weeks. People some need some specifics and they need fast response'" And WUSA-TV reports that the Public Service Commission is on the job: "Betty Ann Kane, Chairman of the [PSC,] said she had been on a number of conference calls with the utility and was briefed on their response plan to the storm. Kane said thus far she has no complaints; but added that 'we will be getting a report to review when this is over.'" Here's the reality, via the Post's Michael Ruane: "Tens of thousands of people in the Washington region are likely to be without power for days. ... Pepco officials said that it could be Thursday before all power is restored and that the utility had called in 350 crews from outside the area to help restore service to the almost quarter-million people without electricity." That's doesn't mean, the Examiner notes, that customers are taking it with grace. Harry Jaffe, columnist of that paper, offers a perspective flattering to District officials: "From what I could gather, Adrian Fenty's government kicked into high gear. ... What was not working well was Pepco's response." Also AP, WTTG-TV.

NICKLES CONFLICTED? -- Liz Ryan of the Campaign for Youth Justice responds to a Post editorial critical of her DYRS position. "The Post alleged that I and others acted rashly and without merit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The mayor's decision to abruptly and without consultation replace Marc A. Schindler as interim director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services should alone raise questions. ... Despite the fact that Mr. Nickles was warned by Judge Herbert Dixon about a potential conflict of interest for his role in the Jerry M. case regarding the District's juvenile justice system, it appears that Mr. Nickles repeatedly gave counsel to the mayor that a reasonable observer could view as a conflict with his previous position as lead plaintiff's counsel. I ask The Post's editorial board: Whose rushed judgment? Yours or mine?"

CONFIRMATION STATION -- City Paper's Alan Suderman has the complete, thoroughly disputed back story over Fenty's no-show at the D.C. Latino Caucus endorsement meeting Saturday. Apparently the sentence "We've agreed to attend the July 24th endorsement forum" does not constitute a confirmation. Who knew?


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Was it "micromanagement" when Vincent Gray said he didn't think a Wilson High School biology teacher should have been fired? (Post editorial)

The most ambitious ANC candidate website you've ever seen (jionipalmer.com via @IMGoph)

Don Peebles is the 32nd "most impactful" black business leader of the past 40 years (Black Enterprise)

City cancels SYEP theater program run by Friends of Carter Barron (NC8)

Mid-City: A neighborhood name worth $200,000 (Housing Complex)

As of Tuesday, building owners can ban smoking within 25 feet of their buildings -- the measure, however, is effectively unenforceable (WBJ)

Some McLean Gardens/Cleveland Park neighbors not happy that Mendelson's messing with their dog park (Examiner)

It's not too late to run for ANC! (We Love DC)

Who's Mr. Mistake now, Vince? (DCist)


*** ON THE MENU ***

NTSB to release Metro crash findings -- Rhee discusses firings, 10 a.m. on NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt -- labor fetes Gray on IBEW rooftop -- Ward 6 Dems forum and straw poll, 7 p.m. at Eastern Market

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 27, 2010; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Rapper Stinky Dink has 'five for Fenty'

Comments

Are the writers quoted above talking about Rhee or Palin?

How many of these folks have or had children in DPCS. A bunch of outsiders who just like Rhee does not give a damn about DCPS chilren but the agenda of conservative and Obama to take over public education.

Gray will win the election.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | July 27, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Ward 6 Straw Poll results Gray 223, Fenty 157...and believe me the Fenty team KNEW it was going their way, but alas, as I stated earlier in these posts...this is just a mirror of what is to come on September 14.

Precinct 81 brought it HOME for Mr. Gray...I am a resident of that Precinct and we are UNIFIED squarely behind Mr. Gray.

Posted by: lacairaine | July 27, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

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