DeMorning DeBonis: July 8, 2010
TODAY IS JULY 8, 2010 -- 68 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
Post columnist Bob McCartney has a smart take on the mayoral race -- more precisely, on Adrian Fenty's refusal to honor "the old rules of D.C. politics." To wit: "[H]e hates face-to-face meetings with groups of constituents pushing one agenda or another. Although he loves going door-to-door to talk to voters, a refrain heard everywhere is, 'He won't sit down with us.' The city's top union leadership, grouped in the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, hasn't met with Fenty since early 2007. The group includes 40,000 D.C. voters. On the business side, Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, hasn't talked to the mayor since a 10-minute meeting soon after he took office. Religious leaders complain that he won't come to church anniversary celebrations or the funerals of prominent pastors. Fenty is the first mayor in memory to decline such routine courtesies. Even if he rejects the advice, can't he at least hear what people have to say? 'One thing that Adrian hasn't really learned, in the District there's a lot of ceremony. People expect you to go through certain protocols, a certain dance, and then make a decision,' said a prominent D.C. politician who has endorsed Fenty and spoke on condition of anonymity to be free to criticize him." Vincent Gray, meanwhile, has been dancin' away.
AFTER THE JUMP -- Vince's traffic ticket -- More tests for DCPS -- Did Rhee break the Hatch Act? -- More Banneker settlement drama -- Surprise hearing for PSC nominee -- Kwame earns Chamber backing
*** MAIN COURSE ***
TICKET TALE -- Vincent Gray got a traffic ticket in 2002 and didn't take care of it until after he entered the mayoral race. Mike Laris and I team up on the story: "Campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes said Gray was on his way to a Washington Redskins game when he attempted to get around a traffic jam by driving on the right shoulder. Gray was among several drivers stopped and cited for the maneuver, she said. ... 'He thought he had paid the ticket,' Hughes said Wednesday, adding that Gray takes 'full responsibility' for the offense. ... Gray was ordered to appear in a Prince George's County court March 4, 2003, but records indicate that he did not show up. ... In a May 12, 2010, letter, Gray attorney Timothy F. Maloney of Greenbelt said Gray was 'completely unaware that this matter remains opened,' and he asked the court to set a trial date. ... But Gray has now decided not to challenge the ticket, and he has instructed Maloney to send a letter indicating that he would pay the fine, Hughes said. 'It's my understanding it will be sent my the end of the week,' she said."
MORE TESTS COMING -- Bill Turque expands on his earlier blog-based reporting to write today about the planned expansion of standardized testing in the D.C. public schools. Said plan, he reports, is to "significantly expand the use of standardized tests so that, eventually, every D.C. student from kindergarten through high school is regularly assessed to measure academic progress and the effectiveness of teachers. The plan, to be phased in beginning in the spring, is certain to reignite debate about what some D.C. parents and teachers already regard as a test-happy culture. ... The additional tests would cover English language arts and math in kindergarten through second grade, math 'pretesting' in third grade before the DC CAS, social studies and science in grades six through eight and core subjects in high school. Officials said none of the high school exams would be high-stakes tests for students, in the manner of the Maryland High School Assessments, a set of exams in English, algebra, biology and government that seniors must pass to graduate. Tests would be given about every six to eight weeks and at the end of the year, allowing teachers to identify student weaknesses and adjust classroom strategies. Administrators would also be better able to spot shortcomings in teaching, officials said."
HATCH JOB -- Bill also asks the question on the tip of so many tongues in certain political circles: "Did Michelle Rhee violate the Hatch Act?" That is, did the schools chancellor violate federal restrictions on the political activities of public employees by expressing opinions on the mayoral race? He writes: "The Hatch Act, the federal law that regulates political activity by D.C. employees, says they 'may not use their official authority or influence to interfere with the result of an election.' In a series of interviews last week, Rhee seemed to be doing precisely that, staking out her support for the mayor and characterizing the D.C. Council chairman as a conventional politician too concerned with public opinion. ... District lawyers were concerned enough about it that they briefed her at the start of the political season. My questions to D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles and his Hatch expert (Hatch man?), Thorn Pozen, e-mailed Tuesday morning, have not been answered. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency that enforces the Hatch Act, wasn't much help. ... That clear everything up?"
IS THE DEAL DONE? -- More Banneker Ventures settlement drama: Michael Neibauer notes at WBJ that the $550,000 settlement was made in spite of emergency legislation drafted by the council that would have banned settlements of "any disapproved contract that is the subject of a duly initiated and active Council, District Auditor or Inspector General investigation." City Paper's Alan Suderman, meanwhile, reports that council members have asked Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi not to pay the settlement. "No word yet on whether Gandhi has the authority -- or will -- to breach the settlement," he writes. And in the Examiner, Freeman Klopott reports that the Banneker settlement agreement "prevents the city from reclaiming millions in previous payments and makes it impossible for the District to sue the company if investigators determine the contract was obtained through fraud." A council hearing on the settlement is set for Friday, themail says.
INFORMER'S TAKE -- "Momentum Shifts to Gray in Mayor's Race," James Wright reports in the Informer. The nut graf: "Washington insiders contend that [Fenty] has lost touch with many District residents and his chief opponent, [Gray], has managed to capitalize on the mayor's weaknesses. Fenty, 39, Gray and former TV reporter Leo Alexander are considered viable contenders in the Sept. 14 Democratic Party nomination for mayor. 'It would seem that Chairman Gray is out in the public and is willing to have a conversation and dialogue about where the city should go,' said Jeffrey Richardson, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city's leading gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender political organization. 'Gray is talking to the broader community and Fenty is not connecting.' ... Gray's success comes as no surprise to Anthony Rice. ... 'I am not really happy with Fenty. There were changes in the city that I thought were going to take place but have not. I expected him to do more to get jobs for people,' the married father of three said. Rice, a Northwest resident, said that 'it seems that Fenty is catering to a certain demographic.' ... 'I have not made up my mind [as to] who I will support. I will think long and hard about it, but if Marion Barry got into the race, I would vote for him again,' Rice said, with a mischievous grin."
BAD NEWS IS GOOD NEWS -- A Post editorial lauds the Public Charter School Board for swiftly shutting down a number of failing schools: "Such toughness will help ensure that only the best-quality schools are offered to D.C. parents who are in search of educational alternatives for their children. ... Shutting a school is never to be celebrated; it's disruptive to students and their parents. It is clear, though, that the board had no choice but to move against schools not serving student interests."
SURPRISE HEARING -- Dorothy Brizill asks in themail why yesterday's hearing on Betty Ann Kane's nomination to chair the Public Service Commission got so little notice from Muriel Bowser's public services committee. "Privately, Bowser and her staff have indicated that they intended to take every measure to avoid the situation that occurred in her Committee last fall, when Vicky Beasley's nomination to serve as the People's Counsel, replacing Betty Noel, was rejected by the council. ... At that time, even though Bowser gave less than 48 hours notice of Beasley's confirmation hearing, more than thirty witnesses showed up to testify, with the vast majority opposing the nomination. This time, Bowser's and her staff's decision to give less than 24 hours notice of Kane's confirmation hearing resulted in only one public witness, a Kane supporter, showing up at today's hearing."
CHURCH AND STATE -- Nice find by WTTG-TV's Melanie Alnwick: A tutoring group approved by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education has ties to the Church of Scientology, and some parents are none too happy. "Applied Scholastics International is one of 29 tutoring services listed in the Title I Supplemental Educational Services Guide. ... The list makes no mention of the group's controversial ties. But Applied Scholastics' website does not try to hide its connections. ASI uses a method called Study Technology, 'an exact system which teaches one how to learn' that was "researched and developed by L. Ron Hubbard." Hubbard is the founder of the Church of Scientology. ... FOX 5 has learned that D.C. Public Schools paid the group a total of $12,000 in federal funds for tutoring services provided for the 2009-2010 school year."
CHAMBER FOR KWAME -- Kwame Brown wins the D.C. Chamber of Commerce endorsement for council chair, beating out Vincent Orange. Ann Marimow reports at D.C. Wire: "The chamber's endorsement was somewhat surprising because Orange was until recently a Pepco vice president and because of his friendship with D.C. Chamber of Commerce president Barbara Lang, with whom he has had a long working relationship. Lang's operation is technically separate from the chamber's PAC, which made the decision after casting secret ballots. Last week, Brown won the endorsement of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, a regional business group."
NEW AT DCPS -- Maryland education veteran Carey M. Wright is the new DCPS chief academic officer, Turque reports on his blog. "The announcement finally completes a reshuffling of Rhee's senior staff that included the departures last year of Chief of Schools Tracy Martin and Chief of Teaching and Learning Sherry Ullery. They were part of the trio that Rhee imported in 2007 from Cleveland, where they served under former school district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Only chief of staff Lisa Ruda remains. Their posts were folded into the newly created chief academic officer's job, which had been filled on an interim basis by consultant Michael Moody, a key figure in developing the IMPACT teacher evaluation."
BLOOD SHORTAGE -- Area blood banks are experiencing a "critical shortage," Klopott reports in the Examiner. "A bill proposed by D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas is designed to help alleviate the shortage. Since February, the D.C. City Council has been examining the possibility of allowing the D.C. Health Department to pass regulations that would change the minimum blood donation age from 17 to 16. Current regulations allow 17-year-olds to donate blood without a parent's consent; the change would allow 16-year-olds to donate with a parent's consent. Virginia, Maryland and 35 other states already allow 16-year-olds to donate."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
How's this for a sense of humor: A group called "Sweatfree DC" met yesterday with Mary Cheh. (Labor is Not a Commodity)
More from Vince Gray blogger sitdown: Let's talk housing -- inclusionary zoning and New Communities, etc! (District Curmudgeon)
Why rent control will never be made permanent (Housing Complex)
Reports of sexual assaults are up in the city, "with some neighborhoods increasing at a double digit rate," chief says (WTOP)
City inmates' death rate is twice the national average (the Examiner)
Ick: Grease spill clogs U Street traffic, slightly alters this reporter's commute (Dr. Gridlock)
Is UDC being gentrified? (Prince of Petworth)
D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute is troubled that spate of tax abatement bills "represent the continuation of an uncoordinated, ad hoc approach to economic development and affordable housing in D.C." (The District's Dime)
Joshua Hopkins, the college student slain July 4, was a DYRS ward -- the fifth killed this year (the Examiner)
"After man vanishes with cash for D.C. league, another fights to save it" (Post)
The Robert Wone civil case moves forward, under Superior Court Judge Brook Hedge (Crime Scene)
Brookland trees saved! (the Examiner blog)
The case against the many cases against a Barney Circle Historic District (GGW)
Heat wave ups FEMS calls (WAMU-FM)
The holiday weekend yielded a grand total of ... 14 illegal fireworks citations (City Desk)
Marion Barry: The wrestling hold (City Desk)
Attention council chair candidates: Be prepared to ask questions about the Georgetown U. campus plan (G'town Dish)
Hindus are very pleased with D.C. Council decision not to tax yoga -- at least one yogi is, anyway (Awesome DC)
*** DESSERT ***
As good a lede as you'll read this year, courtesy of The Post's Michael Ruane: "The capital of Wednesday's weather misery, the crossroads of heat and stink and dust, might well have been the bus shelter on the southwestern corner of 14th and U streets in Northwest Washington. There, about noon, with the temperature at 99, the intersection reeking of cooking grease spilled from a trash truck and street sweepers raising clouds of dust, a Metrobus pulled up with its destination sign reading: 'Not in service.' At this, Monica Bowles lost it."
*** ON THE MENU ***
Council hearing on first source compliance -- health committee previews youth mental health report -- government ops looks at property dispositions -- Kwame Brown and Vincent Orange square off at the Latham Hotel, 7 p.m.
July 8, 2010; 10:52 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike , The District | Tags: Fenty aloof; vincent gray ticket; rhee hatch act; banneker settlement; d.c. schools testing
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