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DeMorning DeBonis: July 7, 2010

TODAY IS JULY 7, 2010 -- 69 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

A nice scoop on Mayor Adrian Fenty's parks contracting this morning from Bill Myers, writing in the Examiner: Abdullahi Barrow, partner of mayoral buddy Sinclair Skinner in Liberty Engineering and Design, was issued an engineering license by city authorities "even though the man has never passed the professional exam." Myers reports that Barrow "failed his engineer's exam seven times" before, in 2008, "the Fenty-appointed Board of Professional Engineers unanimously granted Barrow the professional license because of his 'eminence' in the field" -- a rare way to secure a D.C. engineering license. His lawyer, A. Scott Bolden, dismissed as "nonsense" suggestions that Barrow wasn't qualified: "He's got a master's degree, he's got several years of experience in D.C. government, he's got substantial experience in the public and the private sector over several years, including being a former chief building inspector for the District government," Bolden said. So it shouldn't be too much trouble to pass a standard professional licensing test, no? Keep in mind that Skinner also testified he had twice failed the test himself before moving over to the firm's business side. He had more success there, securing about $900,000 in city parks work.

AFTER THE JUMP -- deal reached on convention center hotel -- judge rejects challenge to hospital auction -- Gray woos bloggers -- Jonetta hates the Gray ed plan -- Randi Weingarten tries to clean up WTU mess

*** MAIN COURSE ***

HEAT WAVE -- Man, oh, man it was hot. And it remains hot. Rick Rojas and Phillip Lucas write the Post's B1 lede-all: "The searing temperatures are expected to endure through the week, with a high nearing 100 on Wednesday. Showers and thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday, but 'they're not going to do anything as far as giving us relief that day,' said Andy Woodcock, a National Weather Service meteorologist. ... Emergency officials across the region said Tuesday that they have responded to calls for hyperthermia, but none appeared to be life-threatening. ... The District opened four cooling centers Tuesday, but few residents took advantage during the day, said Cornell Chappelle, deputy director for community partnerships at the D.C. Department of Health and manager of a cooling center on Rhode Island Avenue NE. The city was planning to open eight homeless shelters overnight for those seeking to avoid the heat. City pools, libraries and senior wellness centers will also have extended hours through Thursday, officials said."

WE HAVE A HOTEL -- Hallelujah: "The JBG Cos. and Marriott International have reached an agreement in principle to allow construction to begin on the District's planned $550 million convention center hotel this fall," Jonathan O'Connell reports in the Post. "The deal between the two companies would allow all the lawsuits to be settled and the convention center authority to begin issuing the bonds needed to finance the 14-story, 1,167-room Marriott Marquis hotel planned for Massachusetts Avenue and Ninth Street NW, according to D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles. The deal was reached in a July 1 meeting at city offices in the John A. Wilson Building among Nickles, D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and executives from the two companies. ... He said [Fenty] had been pushing for the matter to be settled as quickly as possible. 'I want a press conference next week,' Nickles said. 'The fight is over, the bonds will be issued, we'll break ground, we'll have 2,000 jobs for city residents.' ... Evans, who has faced scrutiny over his role in negotiating a settlement in the deal because he is a real estate attorney at Patton Boggs, declined to comment."

HOSPITAL SALE A GO -- The auction of United Medical Center remains on, as a judge "rejected Specialty Hospitals of America LLC's attempt to stop the imminent foreclosure" of the troubled hospital, Ben Fischer reports in WBJ. "The ruling, issued by Judge Henry F. Greene, came around noon Tuesday. Specialty had argued that [Nickles] failed to prove Specialty had defaulted on any part of the 2007 arrangement with the District to run the hospital with D.C. support. But Greene allowed the foreclosure to proceed on Friday. Nickles said the district is now preparing for the foreclosure auction, which will be conducted at 10 a.m. Friday on the steps of the John A. Wilson building, complete with an auctioneer. ... Specialty Hospitals spokesman Scott Sobel said hospital officials are in talks with District officials about how to engineer a transition of power without harming patients. They are also determining how best to transfer hospital equipment owned solely by Specialty out of UMC to its other D.C. properties."

WHAT'S UP IN WARD 1 -- New polling! New polling! New polling! The Jim Graham campaign surveyed 300 Ward 1 Democrats, finding 68 percent support for Graham and only 15 percent supporting either Jeff Smith or Bryan Weaver. As Tim Craig notes at D.C. Wire, "Because the poll was conducted by the Graham campaign, the results should be viewed with a bit of skepticism. But the numbers track with Graham's success in the 2006 campaign in winning 86 percent of the vote against Chad Williams." More interesting numbers are to be found in the mayoral race: Fenty leads Vincent Gray 43 percent to 37 percent in a ward where he carried 67 percent of the vote in 2006. As Tim writes: "Despite that narrow lead, many observers believe Fenty needs a much greater margin in Ward 1 on Election Day to overcome Gray's expected advantage in communities in Northeast and Southeast Washington. ... Still, Graham's poll demonstrates that Gray still faces a challenge in becoming better known. Only three out of four Ward 1 residents recognize Gray's name, compared with the nearly 100 percent who knew Fenty's. And with 18 percent of Ward 1 residents undecided, there is still a path for Fenty to match his 2006 numbers in Ward 1."

BLOGGERS AND VINCE -- The Vincent Gray blogger sitdown gets generally positive reports. Dave Stroup posts accounts at We Love DC and at Greater Greater Washington. "Gray is an experienced politician and also a bit of a policy wonk. The first impression you get is that he knows what is going on, and that he doesn't always need to fall back on talking points. It is obvious that Gray is running a campaign aimed directly at people who have felt left behind by Fenty. Gray stresses that he is a uniter, and that he wants to be the mayor of 'all of the people, not just some of the people.' ... On the matter of the controversial streetcar funding maneuver, Gray was very candid. He admits it was a mistake, both in the initial cut as well as how it was handled. He maintains that he never intended to cut off all of the funding, but rather direct efforts at better planning. There was a 'misunderstanding,' he says, and that 'it should not have happened.' He says he is dedicated to getting streetcars running as mayor. His candor was surprising, and he did offer a sincere and personal apology." DCist writes: "While taking questions on everything from schools to streetcars, Gray demonstrated an exacting knowledge of policy details, implications and implementation. He spoke of how certain city programs weren't working, and explained how alternatives would better meet their goals. ... If the roundtable exposed anything, it's that Gray does best when given a chance to speak freely. In many of the forums in which Gray has appeared, his detail-oriented personality hasn't translated well, especially with the strict time limits that are often imposed. But in this more intimate setting, Gray came off as thoughtful and thorough. He's clearly dedicated to the prospect of being mayor, and seems to relish the idea of proving that he can be as reform-minded a mayor as Fenty has been." Borderstan notes his thoughts on Police Chief Cathy Lanier: "I think she's certainly done some good things. On the whole, I would critique her as doing a positive job." But he's still not for civil gang injunctions.

TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK -- Jonetta Rose Barras savages the Gray education plan: "It appears to have been lifted from education documents developed by [Fenty]'s administration, or programs already instituted by D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee." The most biting swipe: "Remarkably, Gray failed to identify how he might pay for certain aspects of his plan -- providing additional financial support to public charter schools or doubling the number of guidance counselors citywide, for example. He has said savings from improving special education will produce the necessary funds. If Fenty had made that 'don't-worry-about-money' pronouncement, Gray and his council colleagues would have been all over him, calling him irresponsible, among other things." Close readers, she concludes, "won't find any substantial difference between Gray and Fenty's plan -- except the council chairman offered his with a warm smile and the promise of tons of town hall meetings. There's one more thing: Fenty has been implementing his plan for the past three years."

LESSONS FROM SOUSA -- The Post's Jay Mathews looks at the story of Sousa Middle School, as told by Stephanie McCrummen in Tuesday's paper, and asks: Does it "prove Rhee is right?" Jay says no and yes: "One, the Sousa starting point was terribly low, among the worst I have ever seen, so it is hard to imagine the school going anywhere but up. Two, a year is not nearly not enough time to see how well a school will do over the long haul. Three, McCrummen, as she said in the story, started working on the story knowing these gains "were the biggest of any public middle school in the city last year," so this cannot be considered a typical school of the Rhee era. Four, Rhee has given Sousa many more resources than you would find at such a small school---56 adult staffers for just 230 students. Five, the principal replaced most of the teaching staff AFTER that good first year of gains. ... Nonetheless, it is a good school to talk about because the principal created exactly the kind of distress among many of his teachers that has led Rhee to have such a bad reputation among many veteran educators here."

GRAY ON AIDS -- Gray to the Examiner blogger on what he'd look for in an HIV/AIDS czar: "It has to be someone who understands the virus and who understands how to work with people. There are many communities concerned about HIV/AIDS. And there has been a lot of volatility over the years. We want someone who is willing to go out in the community and recruit others with the same kind of commitment. And then try to understand what resources have been lacking and the extent to which we could fix that. One thing I won't do is over promise to people because you lose your credibility. You may have attracted someone because you made certain promises. It's devastating to say 'I know we promised you this but I'm sorry we can't deliver'. You wind up with a soured relationship." Via Amanda Hess, who asks at the Sexist: "Is Gray suggesting that the District couldn't deliver on its promises to its last HIV/AIDS director?" Hmm.

RANDI'S BACK -- More on the Washington Teachers' Union election mess from Bill Turque at D.C. Schools Insider: A hearing on Executive VP Nathan Saunders' lawsuit against the union and President George Parker "was scheduled for Tuesday but then taken off the court calendar after [AFT President Randi Weingarten] held a two-hour conference call Thursday evening with Parker, Saunders and their lawyers. 'I am exasperated with all sides,' Weingarten said Tuesday in a phone interview from Seattle, where the AFT is holding its annual convention. 'I said that it is our position that the elections process must commence immediately. I was also concerned that the executive board removed a candidate for president's salary.' Weingarten said she was not sure exactly what role AFT would take, but that the union 'was reviewing all the options.' Jay R. Holland, Saunders' attorney, said all sides were 'exploring ways to get the issues resolved and we hope to do so. If we cannot we will ask court to promptly put [the case] back on the calendar.'"

SENSELESS -- A life tragically cut short: "A new world was just beginning to open up for Joshua Hopkins, and he was ready to seize everything in it," Chris Jenkins writes in the Post. His sophomore year in college beckoned, and with the confidence of a young man finding his muse, he was excited about the challenges that lay ahead. His goal was to complete his communications major at Fairmont State University in West Virginia and follow in the footsteps of his older cousin and mentor, Lester Davis. Family members and friends had begun to see a change, from unfocused teen to responsible young adult. But while joking with friends early Saturday, not far from his Northeast Washington home, the 19-year-old was shot dead. ... Hopkins made an impression on many of the adults he met. After his junior year of high school, he interned on Capitol Hill in the office of Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). He was remembered there Tuesday as a curious and attentive employee who always asked several questions about each assignment he received, no matter how mundane it may have been."

ANOTHER NEW DC.GOV SITE -- Check out DCRA's new website, featuring the new Property Information Verification System (aka PIVS). Gets rave reviews from DCist, G'town Dish, and We Love DC.


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Check out new DYRS policy paper, dated June 28, laying out "How the juvenile justice system is improving public safety" (Susie's Budget and Policy Corner)

Is the employee-appeal language in the DCPS teacher contract bulletproof? Maybe, maybe not. (Education Week)

Cheaper SmarTrips coming -- but not till late August (Examiner)

Give back our infrared trail counter! (WashCycle)

Capital Criterium bike race will be held downtown Sunday morning; festivities also include a "GiroDC2012 Celeb Charity Ride" featuring Hizzoner, Italian Ambassador Guilo Terzi, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Gabe Klein! (WOL-AM)

First blog post from new Loose Lips! (City Desk)

Fenty: Not so up on the Robert Wone case -- hasn't been briefed in "a couple years," he says. Ever pick up a paper? (Blade via YouTube)

Western senators want more long-distance flights from DCA; Virginians, however, aren't pleased (Post)

OMG: "The D.C. Court of Appeals has concluded that its power to overturn arbitration awards is limited." (Legal Times)

Still a few issues with the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes (GGW)

"No foul play" seen in July 4 death of law student at Minnesota Avenue Metro (Post)

Outgoing Catholic U. president speaks (Post)

More on the stalled plans for the Armenian Genocide Museum (Housing Complex)

Jerk loots Argonaut (City Desk)


*** DESSERT ***

It's three years old, but hey: Check out Bootsy Collins and Phil Mendelson, together in the GREATEST PHOTOGRAPH EVER TAKEN! (D.C. Chamber of Commerce)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Council hearing on rent control -- council candidate debate at Ward 4 Dems event at Emery Rec Center

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 7, 2010; 8:52 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: Council questions parks contract settlement
Next: DeMorning DeBonis: July 8, 2010

Comments

Interesting that JRB criticizes Gray for lifting elements of the existing education plan. Is that a bad thing? What I have always found astoundingly bad about education policy is NOT capitalizing on the successes of others, but instead trying something entirely new using ideas that have no track record whatsoever. Plaigarising elements of education policy that work here or elsewhere isn't something to criticize, it's something to be applauded: instead of reinventing the wheel, you build on good work before you.

As for how he's going to pay for it, well, it's certainly an important question, but when compared to Fenty's policy of "spend everything you can until your credit runs out" what are we really talking about here? Fenty's entire administration runs on the basis of building expensive new things (like parks and streetcars) with absolutely no plan for how to pay for them, or pay for their future upkeep. If only one major element of Gray's plan involves spending money we don't have then it's a big improvement.

Posted by: jamietre | July 7, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

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