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DeMorning DeBonis: July 2, 2010


Lots of outlining going on! Vincent Gray "outlines his agenda for education in District," Bill Turque and Nikita Stewart write Friday. And Bill also writes about how Mayor Adrian Fenty "outlines plans to cut special-ed costs and return students to public schools." Gray is making his case that education reform "cannot hinge on one person." And, as Bill and Nikita write, Gray supporters aren't happy about Rhee's growing personal involvement in the election. Former Ward 6 council member Sharon Ambrose was present at the Gray rollout, saying she was "offended" by the whole thing. "My whole time in D.C. politics, I've never seen anything like this. ... Listen, this is not about your career. This is about the children." Also in attendance: Marion Barry, who "praised Gray's plan for going beyond 'teaching to the test' and being more comprehensive." As for the Gray plan itself, Bill alights upon the key line: "Vince Gray will lead not by empowering a strong Chancellor and stepping back, he will lead by empowering a strong Chancellor and getting involved." More below.

AFTER THE JUMP -- local leaders strike back against NCPC chair's streetcar interference -- Risk Management chief is placed on leave -- why Vince Gray is political tofu -- Fenty courts the business community -- it's almost parade time!


ON THE GRAY PLAN -- Bill and Nikita write: "The plan promises more transparency, funding equity for public charter schools, tax credits for early-childhood programs and greater support for the city's neighborhood high schools. ... Gray reiterated his support of mayoral control of the school system, noting that Fenty had voted against a similar takeover as a council member. Gray's plan adopts ideas embedded in the District's new contract with the Washington Teachers' Union, including holding educators accountable for student performance and paying them accordingly. The plan does not offer a cost analysis, but under questioning, Gray said he has identified areas in which the school system is overspending, including special education, in which millions of dollars are paid to transport and educate special-needs students in private schools at taxpayer expense. ... According to Gray's blueprint, school reform has been damaged by a lack of respect for community input and failure to provide stakeholders with basic information about school budgets and other key matters." Also Examiner, DCist, and the plan itself [PDF].

ON THE FENTY SPECIAL-ED PLAN -- Bill describes new plans to get kids out of expensive private placements: "The options, which officials said they will present to parents in meetings over the next few weeks, include forming public-private partnerships to build new facilities, co-locating 'schools within schools' in joint ventures with private operators, expanding special education services in neighborhood schools by establishing separate classes for students who need full-time services, modernizing the city's special education schools and retraining staff, and offering scholarship-type grants so parents can buy special education services on the open market. Fenty announced the initiative 90 minutes after [Gray] unveiled his schools platform. Fenty's plan was designed in part to address recent criticism from special education parents who have expressed alarm at District attempts to 'reintegrate' private school students without what they describe as adequate advance notice or careful consideration of their needs. ... 'Time and time again, we have been questioned about our capacity,' [DCPS special-ed chief Richard Nyankori] said. 'Today should mark the first day where we end the questioning about capacity.'"

LETTERS, WE GET LETTERS -- Streetcar-wire battle heats up with a heated letter from city transportation director Gabe Klein to National Capital Planning Commission Chair L. Preston Bryant, who has urged federal officials to withhold funding for the H Street transit project. Here's a taste of Klein's missive: "I find it impossible not to interpret your letter opposing the Urban Circulator grant application as an attempt to leverage influence on the overhead wire legislation now under consideration by the DC Council. This use of apparent blackmail is troublesome since NCPC appears to be attempting to sidetrack a rare funding opportunity for a key transportation project that lies beyond its authority and jurisdiction. It also appears that you are seeking to inappropriately expand your strictly advisory role related to projects in the District. Furthermore, I have been informed that the letter sent to the FTA was not approved by the members of the Commission and does not represent their views on the topic. Therefore, I respectfully request that you retract your letter immediately if you wish to have a productive dialogue with DDOT going forward." Snap! Go to Ashley Halsey's story Friday for all the context you need. GGW also notes letters sent to Bryant from planning chief Harriet Tregoning and NCPC vice-chair (and top Gray aide) Rob Miller.

RISK MANAGED -- Kelly Valentine, director of the Office of Risk Management, is on administrative leave weeks after revelations of $3 million to $6 million in "misplaced" life insurance premiums. Chip Richardson, mayoral general counsel, replaces Valentine, and Kai Blissett, deputy director of the Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs, replaces Richardson. The Examiner's Alan Suderman adds: "Nickles asked the city's inspector general to conduct an investigation into Risk Management. Besides the FBI and the inspector general, city Auditor Deborah Nichols and the finance office's integrity team have also begun probes. Valentine hasn't responded to repeated requests seeking comment. In addition to the multiple investigations, Risk Management has been besieged by multiple outside contractors demanding payments on outstanding debts. ... Fenty told The Examiner that 'nothing happened in the last two weeks' to prompt Valentine being placed on leave. 'This is the appropriate management action,' he said."

READ MY ARTICLE -- In my not-a-column Friday, I dissect the Fenty message of "making the tough decisions" and wonder if that's really why his re-election campaign is in such dire straits. "Politics, unfortunately, is more complicated than ascribing mass disaffection to 'tough decisions.' Decisions are tough and unpopular for a reason -- they involve annoying, aggravating and alienating the voters who put you into office. If the mark of a good politician is being able to do so to accomplish great things, the mark of a bad politician is to do so to accomplish nothing at all. Here are some questions Fenty might well be asking himself on Sept. 15, the day after the primary: What if he hadn't made a habit of having his employees not show up to council hearings? What if he had released his travel schedule? What if he'd just handed over the baseball tickets? What if he'd found some time to meet with Dorothy Height? What if he'd shown up at those funerals, at that education debate? These incidents have scoured away his support, and the unsettling fact for Fenty ought to be that his grand urban project -- fixing a disastrously underperforming big-city school system -- is now at risk." Meanwhile, Gray is doing well by being "political tofu -- a nutritious but flavorless mush able to absorb whatever flavoring voters would fancy."

BIZZED OFF -- In a very good Examiner column, Harry Jaffe goes behind the scenes of the dueling Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce mayoral endorsements. "Process, which Fenty despises, may have saved his cookies. In years past, the Board of Trade's regional political action committees have heard the candidates' pitches and made the endorsement. But this year, for the first time, the board's executive committee passed judgment and gave its stamp of approval. 'If we are a regional organization,' Board of Trade chief Jim Dinegar told me, 'we have to bring a regional mind-set.' Fair enough. But had the board stuck to the long-standing practice of having the D.C. political action committee endorse, there's a good chance it would have gone for Gray." As for the Chamber: Its members are "much more focused on business within the District," Jaffe writes. "They are the ones who have to deal directly with the government, the mayor's appointees and his bureaucrats. Their endorsement is much more telling. Fenty understands this. That's why he dispatched his political henchmen and top appointees to phone some of the chamber's political committee members. My sources say John Falcicchio, Fenty's campaign fundraiser and manager, personally called to lobby for the chamber's imprimatur. Can you say strong-arm? No dice."

ELECTORAL READINESS -- Council government-ops committee holds hearing on coming elections, which will debut same-day voting and other innovations. And Emily Babay of Examiner reports that Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh, who pushed through the legislation introducing said innovations "is worried that the new process could lead to vote-buying and fraud." But Board of Elections and Ethics honcho Rokey Suleman says he's ready: "The BOEE plans to have five lawyers staffing a hot line to respond to fraud allegations. But that might not be enough. ... 'Five seems a little thin to me,' Cheh said. ... He said some ballot clerks will be trained specifically in processing same-day registrants, but voters should expect long lines if they wait until election day to register.' A mock election is set for July 26 and 27, and also: Improvements to absentee balloting provisions are planned.

THE BARRY STREETCAR PLAN -- The eagle-eyed David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington spots another for-it-before-he-was-against-it moment on streetcars: "Councilmember Marion Barry (Ward 8) has repeatedly expressed puzzlement that a streetcar is planned on H Street. He seems to think the idea suddenly appeared out of the blue. However, he shouldn't be surprised: his own administration published a plan with that very project in 1997. ... The H Street streetcar is a brand-new idea that suddenly appeared? Mr. Barry had never heard of the concept? If that's right, then Mr. Barry must not have ever read the 1997 transportation plan published by the government of the District of Columbia, Marion Barry, Mayor. That plan shows a streetcar on H Street, but no streetcar at all in Anacostia." David, bless him, finds it more surprising than most that post-control board Marion Barry might not have been fully engaged with the government he led.

ASKED AND DENIED -- Fenty marital rumors surface again, this time when Police Chief Cathy Lanier was asked about a rumored "cover-up" on WTOP Thursday. Her response: "Actually, those rumors surfaced - I believe - as soon as he began running for mayor, and they've been around ever since. ... Periodically, they will pop back up, but I can tell you without any question, nobody in the Metropolitan Police Department would cover that up. Certainly, I wouldn't cover that up as a district commander. ... Somebody would have come forward with factual information about that if that had happened. ... Sometimes we just have to deal with this kind of craziness." WTTG-TV's Paul Wagner followed up.


OMG: "The Truth About PLAs Exposed During DC Council Hearing"!!! (

"If Rep. Jared Polis Backs D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Will You?" Queerty)

Hill East funding deal also keeps McMillan site redevelopment moving (Housing Complex)

Convicted judge-stalker Taylar Nuevelle gets five-plus years in prison; says lawyer, "The lesson of this is don't have a bad break-up with a lesbian judge. ... It means you go to jail for five and a half years." (Post)

Vince Gray frets about his fence (D.C. Wire)

Lanier vows that Robert Wone murder case remains under investigation (WTOP)

Petworth CVS is really well-lit Park View DC)

Kwame Brown keynotes Carlos Rosario Public Charter School graduation; topic: vocational training (press release)

Surprise: Another extension on Capper/Carrollsburg redevelopment (Housing Complex)

Courting "the all important Go-Go vote" (The Readout)

Check out these bus stops on "Massachusettes Av" and "Connecticutt Av" (WUSA-TV)

*** DESSERT ***

So there's a band named Marion Barry. "Thrash / Experimental / Grindcore," in case you were wondering. (MySpace)

*** ON THE MENU ***

General election candidates pick up petitions today -- Capitol Hill parade kicks off Sunday at 10 a.m. -- Palisades parade Sunday at noon

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 2, 2010; 10:33 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Mary Cheh still staying out of mayoral race


The CVS in question is in Park View, not Petworth, thanks.

Posted by: Kent64 | July 2, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

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