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DeMorning DeBonis: July 29, 2010

TODAY IS JULY 29, 2010 -- 47 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

"Some politicians rule by fear, others through persuasion. Vincent C. Gray governs by process," writes Mike Grass in this week's City Paper cover story -- a piece that well documents the mayoral candidate's uber-deliberative ways. "After four years of what Gray maligns as an impulsive, opaque, and abrasive executive style, the chairman is betting that voters want something a little more deliberate and respectful." Grass alights on many familiar episodes from Gray's career -- the streetcar-funding vote, his long hours, his difficult years at the Department of Human Services, his "steel trap" mind, his position on Michelle Rhee, his handling of Marion Barry's misdeeds, the "low-level" ethics questions he's faced. Less well-known: the long memories of Glover Park residents who remember his role in a proposal to house the homeless at Guy Mason Rec Center, and his penchant for medium-sized dishes of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. More after the jump.

AFTER THE JUMP -- LL digs into Leo Alexander -- is the Nickles DYRS Report hopelessly conflicted? -- summer-jobs program could be truncated without emergency council vote -- Wall Street hates UMC takeover -- People's Counsel to probe Pepco storm response

*** MAIN COURSE ***

THE REAL NEWS -- Behold David Catania's not-particularly-negative take on Gray: "Catania [says] Gray's version of process does not always include going the extra mile to consider opposing views. 'I don't see him as Socratic,' Catania says. 'I don't see him going out of his way to solicit a contrarian point of view...He's not a natural contrarian.'" But: "Catania ... thinks a Mayor Gray wouldn't necessarily limit himself to the watchdogging, process role embraced by Chairman Gray. 'I see Mayor Fenty as a gas pedal. ... Our chairman is a brake. ... Their personalities fit those roles perfectly,' Catania says. And if their roles change? 'I believe Vince can be that accelerator.'"

THE CASE AGAINST PROCESS -- Writes Grass: "In the worst-case scenario, the political lesson of a Fenty defeat would be that mayors dare not alienate the status quo's powers-that-be--the councilmembers seeking free baseball tickets, the unionized teachers who fail performance tests, the bureaucrats who demand to be treated like favored children even after years of lousy performance. Better to hide behind process, and be polite to one and all. If you're inclined to read the campaign this way, Gray's endless focus on process leads inevitably to bad government. Sometimes, after all, cities need to be shaken up, and to Gray's critics, they need leaders who care more about the end product -- the outcome -- than they do about how you get there."

ALEXANDER THE GREAT? -- This week's Loose Lips column digs into third-wheel mayoral candidate Leo Alexander. The interview began on this note from Alexander: "One of my supporters said: 'Don't talk to the City Paper, their readership is gay'" Cue LL Alan Suderman's precis of Alexander's campaign: "Gay readers, of course, fall somewhere well outside the demographic Alexander is pursuing in his quixotic bid for the Democratic Party nomination to be D.C.'s next mayor. Alexander has made opposition to gay marriage and illegal immigration the centerpieces of his effort. Which is part of why he lags well behind Mayor Adrian Fenty and [Gray] in the race. ... Alexander is almost certainly the newest member of that small fraternity of men who voluntarily spend their free time and money on the Sisyphean task of losing the mayoral race by a buttload of votes. In forum after forum, Alexander -- who is very nice in person -- shows up and gives angry 30-second sermons about how we've lost our moral compass, how we need to oppose gay marriage, how illegal immigration is to blame for many of the city's problems and how there isn't a dime's worth of difference between Fenty and Gray. That last part may be true when it comes to policy issues, but wedge issues haven't gotten Alexander very far in deep blue D.C. He's got no money; he scores only a handful, if any, votes at straw polls; and in case he thought he'd have a better shot if he switched teams, his social conservatism isn't even welcome in the D.C. Republican Party." ALSO: The Board of Elections and Ethics heard a challenge Wednesday to Alexander's ballot petitions. A decision should be issued by week's end; it's going to be close.

INSIDE THE NICKLES REPORT -- As I first noted Wednesday, and as Freeman Klopott reports in the Examiner, there's a bit of a conflict of interest embedded in the Attorney General's report on juvenile justice: New DYRS chief Robert Hildum "led the investigation that toppled the agency's previous chief," raising "credibility issues," Klopott writes. "DYRS handles sentencing, commitment and rehabilitation of juvenile criminals. It's now [Hildum]'s job to set the sentencing for the juvenile offenders he previously prosecuted as the former head of the attorney general's public safety division. 'Hildum's new job undermines the credibility of being able to say he provided an objective evaluation of the system,' said D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, whose committee oversees DYRS. 'Now, he will have to overcome the argument that he's a prosecutor in charge of sentencing.' ... A May 20 version of the investigation report lists Hildum as the primary investigator, but his name was dropped from the final July 14 report, which Attorney General Peter Nickles released Wednesday. No lead investigator is named in that final report. On Wednesday, Nickles told The Examiner that he led the investigation, not Hildum."

SUMMER JOBS DRAMA -- There's a slight problem with the Summer Youth Employment Program, Tim Craig reports at D.C. Wire: It's scheduled to continue through Aug. 17 for a total of seven-and-a-half weeks. But according to the city budget passed by the council last year, the program can only last six weeks. Thus, extending the program will require council action. "Joseph P. Walsh, director of the Department of Employment Services, sent Gray a letter asking to support legislation authorizing the extension when the council meets Thursday afternoon to take up Togo West's nomination to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. ... Walsh said the administration has secured one-time federal money from President Obama's stimulus bill to pay for the extension. Despite some initial confusion over job placements, there have been relatively few complaints from parents or students about the program this year. But administration officials say Gray, who is running against Fenty in the mayor's race, has not responded to Walsh's urgent request to schedule a vote on the legislation."

WALL STREET SPEAKS -- Wall Street is none too happy with the District's foray back into the hospital business, Natwar Gandhi tells city officials. The CFO's letter to Fenty and Gray, Michael Neibauer writes in WBJ, says that "three major credit rating agencies all take a dim view of D.C.'s recent takeover of United Medical Center, a financially struggling hospital in Southeast D.C. that's barely stayed afloat under private control." Wrote Gandhi, "Although I believe it is unlikely that the acquisition of UMC alone will result in an immediate rating downgrade, I believe that the hospital's financial operations will be very carefully watched by rating agencies and Wall Street investors alike" -- adding, "Successful negotiations to sell the hospital with financial provisions favorable to the District will be viewed positively." Frequent Gandhi skeptic Catania "called the letter Gandhi's 'jump the shark moment.' ... Catania accused Gandhi of trying to deflect responsibility from his office in the event that a downgrade comes on his watch. 'I don't take this letter seriously,' he said."

SURPRISE -- Jeff Smith, not longtime incumbent Jim Graham, won the D.C. Chamber of Commerce endorsement in the Ward 1 council race. Also endorsed: Phil Mendelson.

PEPCO ON NOTICE -- Pepco's handling of the Sunday thunderstorm aftermath will be reviewed by the Office of the People's Counsel, David Sherfinski reports in the Examiner. Says Interim People's Counsel Brenda Pennington: "The frustration of consumers with outage restoration times underscores the fact that there is an electric reliability problem in D.C. ... Reliability has been a major concern of OPC and electric utility consumers even before the winter storms and the weather of this past week. Pepco has consistently failed to deliver the quality of service D.C. consumers deserve and expect; it is time to find out why."

FREE MITAL -- The Post's editorial board adds to the growing chorus urging an up-or-down vote for Board of Elections nominee Mital Gandhi. "For the sake of fairness, council members need to stop stalling on Mr. Fenty's Republican nominee. ... If there are, as some suggest, legitimate issues with Mr. Gandhi's nomination, why not call the nomination and have an up-or-down vote? The council's inaction has created a situation in which the city is headed into a politically charged election season with imbalance on its board. ... The Federal Election Commission has a tradition of pairing its appointments so as to maintain partisan fairness; D.C. officials need to find their own solution lest they be accused of playing politics with this important board."

TEACHER-FIRING REACTION -- Guesting on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet blog, Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas explains what is wrong with IMPACT: "There's no polite way to say this: The procedures described in the DCPS IMPACT Guidebook for producing a value-added score are idiotic. These procedures warrant this harsh characterization because they make a preposterous assumption based on a misunderstanding of the properties of the DC Comprehensive Assessment System." Cue a very detailed discussion of standardized testing scales. ALSO: In a piece titled (groan) "A Rhee of Hope," Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi writes at Reason that the firings are "a precedent-setting moment" and Rhee is "a radical in the best sense of the word." Another blogger writes that he's "inspired by the bold leadership and tough love from the D.C. chancellor." And in one of the best pieces written on IMPACT yet, a kindergarten teacher blogging at Teaching Serendipty explains in great detail what works with the system and what doesn't.

NO-SHOW REACTION -- Wondering how the D.C. Latino Caucus feels about Adrian Fenty? This is from a letter sent to the group's supporters, other politicos, and reporters: "Of the many times we have called on Mayor Fenty, only twice have we been able to get an affirmative response and an actual show. The first time was to attend the 2006 DC Latino Mayoral Forum as candidate for Mayor; the second time was to collect a check for $2000.00 we gave him when we endorsed him, also in 2006, shortly after the Latino Mayoral Forum. After that, regardless of the reason, our calls have been denied or ignored. Our members' endorsement vote on July 24th, 2010 of 37 votes for Vincent C. Gray and 1 for Adrian Fenty is the way some members of the Latino community are beginning to manifest their frustration and anger towards an administration that constantly neglects and disrespects it." Suderman has a wise take: "[A]s the summertime no-shows pile up, the list of offended parties only grows -- and starts to include voters farther and farther from the actual corridors of power. Fenty's camp seems to think the disses won't damage his 2006 reputation as a pol who can get things done. LL isn't so sure."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Summer jobs kids still getting mugged (City Desk)

Take a look at the new Watha T. Daniel Library -- pretty sharp! (DCist)

"Should there be two WMATA Boards?" Uh, no. (GGW)

Maribeth Raffinan, a public defender, has been nominated by Preseident Obama to the D.C. Superior Court (White House release)

National Law Journal has appealed Judge Judith Bartnoff's self-described throwing-80-years-of-First-Amendment-jurisprudence-on-its-head prior-restraint decision. Go get 'em. (Blog of Legal Times)

Also: More outrage about the decision (American Lawyer)

Are you conducting a school supply drive for D.C. kids? Then tell Susie Cambria and get some free publicity! (Susie's Budget and Policy Corner)

How nonprofits are "making due" without council earmarks (Afro)

KIMA school fights to keep its charter (Afro)

Barry lifts hold on DDOT relocation (Housing Complex)

Eleanor Holmes Norton loves dancin' (press release)

Bruce Monroe School bidders sought (WBJ)

Early adopters of public-space smoking ban include Mayflower Hotel (NC8)

CUA architecture students re-imagine the Foggy Bottom waterfront (Housing Complex)

Mock election winners: Ice cream, three-day weekends, and Mercedes-Benz (AP)

Jim Graham vows to save the Haydee's tree (Housing Complex)

Why burying power lines isn't as smart as you think, genius (Examiner)

H Street entrepreneur beaten and robbed (WRC-TV)

Those female condoms have, um, off-label uses (Metro Weekly)

Stinky Dink react! (City Desk, WAMU-FM, DCist)

Oooh -- the Inner Circle Theater may return! (DCmud)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Council set to vote on Togo West confirmation, 3:30 p.m. -- OCFO announces tax amnesty program -- Ward 1 candidates forum sponsored by Jobs with Justice, Empower DC, Metro Washington Labor Council, et al., 6 p.m. at True Reformer -- mayor and chairman candidates forum sponsored by D.C. Appleseed, D.C. Vote, Defeat Poverty D.C., et al., 6:30 p.m. at UDC Building 46E

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 29, 2010; 10:05 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Fenty campaign challenges independent Gray fundraising

Comments

" Better to hide behind process, and be polite to one and all"

Keep in mind that going according to process needn't be hiding behind it, but rather following the law. And being polite doesn't mean being acquiescent, it means not being offensive.

A mayor who follows the law and is not offensive doesn't sound so bad to me.

Posted by: efavorite | July 29, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

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