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DeMorning DeBonis: July 9, 2010


Scoop of the day honors to Tom Sherwood, who reports that Kwame Brown, at-large council member and chairman candidate, owes north of $50,000 on three credit cards and has been sued in three separate collections cases. "The documents show Brown owes the American Express company more than $8,000 in late payments and fees. Brown owes Visa more than $25,000 in late payments, penalties and fees for his Signature card. A second visa card has an overdue balance of $22,000," the veteran WRC-TV newsman reports. "In an interview with News4 Thursday afternoon -- an interview that he asked to be held outside of the Wilson building -- Brown did not try to explain away the personal debt problems. Brown told News4 that he and his wife had been 'living beyond our means.' He said he has taken steps to live on a budget and has worked out payment plans for all three of the credit cards." Brown tells the Post's Ann Marimow that "the purchases that led to the repayment plan were made over several years on day-to-day items, such as violin lessons and after-school care for his two children. 'It just trickles and trickles,' he said. 'It is what is and we're moving forward as a family.'" Violin lessons, sure, but Brown has long had a taste for fine clothes and cars, such as the Cadillac Escalade EXT he now pilots.

NOTA BENE -- I'll be appearing on NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt today at 10 a.m. Brown will also be on, following my appearance.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Gray says Nickles must go -- Fenty debuts first TV spots -- United Medical Center could be auctioned today -- Catania calls for sanctions for parents of delinquent children -- city loses federal streetcar money


TAKE A HIKE -- Vincent Gray calls for the ouster of Attorney General Peter Nickles in the wake of his settlement with Banneker Ventures, in what is the most clear-cut move to date demonstrating that Gray is transitioning from consensus-minded council chairman to no-holds-barred mayoral candidate. Less than two years after casting the deciding vote to confirm Nickles, Gray now says "that Nickles is serving not as the city's top lawyer but as 'the mayor's political hatchet man,'" Tim Craig writes. "In a new and aggressive attack on the Fenty administration's ethics, Gray said in a statement that Nickles cannot be trusted to be impartial because he has been 'protecting the mayor's cronies' and working as an 'enabler of the mayor's cronyism.' 'His politicization of the office is inappropriate at best, and illegal at worst,' said Gray, who supported Nickles in a heated 2008 council confirmation vote. 'And by protecting the mayor's cronies, he has put the interest of the mayor squarely ahead of the interest of his actual client.' ... In an interview Thursday, Nickles strongly defended his record and suggested that the recent heat wave had rendered Gray unstable. 'I think the heat must have gotten to the chairman,' Nickles said. 'I am sorry to see that Gray has got so caught up in the political campaign that he issues these kinds of political statements." Also WJLA-TV, WTOP, City Desk. And Martin Austermuhle writes at DCist: "Unfortunately, it's become increasingly clear that Peter Nickles not only sees himself as the Mayor's lawyer, but also as the Mayor's political hatchet man, and enabler of the Mayor's cronyism."

PETE 'N' VINCE -- Meanwhile: D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols, who works for Gray and the council, steps up her criticism of Nickles and the Fenty administration at a hearing on First Source/living-wage law compliance. Lydia DePillis reports at Housing Complex: "'To get any records we want, whether they're in the possession of a contractor, an employee, or an independent agency, and If we want to interview someone, we have to go through them,' she said. 'And that's not the way an independent, objective audit that has credibility can be conducted. Because the outcome can be controlled.' Her frustration was obvious. 'This administration doesn't even consider itself subject to philosophical standards, practices, that you would expect them to have, that you see in national government, local, state governments throughout the country,' Nichols said." And Washington Times reporter Jeffrey Anderson continues to focus on the lottery contract deal, asking: "How did an unexamined local firm with questionable credentials end up with a majority equity share of the lottery after the contract had been awarded to an international gambling giant?" There are no good answers to that question, and Nickles vows to investigate. "I'm not done with this," he says.

FENTY HITS THE AIR -- Behold the first Fenty TV spots! Here's one the Post was given an early look at, featuring Ward 4 community leader Kalili Anderson: "Some people say Adrian has changed, that he's arrogant. But it took his determination to renovate the Tewkesbury into affordable and gorgeous housing for Ward 4 residents. That's not arrogance, that's the determination he's shown as a council member and as mayor. He listens to folks and then he gets about doing the job." The Fenty campaign slogan hits the screen: "No Excuses. Just Results." WRC-TV's Sherwood has another, "about how Fenty, who is running for re-election against Vincent Gray, is perceived by people east of the Anacostia River. The woman in the ad says that Fenty is 'rebuilding Old Congress Heights School. It has been vacant for 25 years.' ... The Fenty ad ends with ... the woman in the ad saying, 'Mayor Fenty is different because he makes the hard decisions.'" Those two, along with a third 15-second ad, will be hitting local cable and network outlets through the coming weeks.

HOSPITAL AUCTION TODAY -- In my not-a-column today, I tee up today's United Medical Center auction, expected to proceed barring any last-minute legal moves. "A UMC takeover would represent the most significant deprivatization since the control board disbanded. There is no happy example of a local government smiling its way through the hospital business. Just across the District line in Cheverly, Prince George's Hospital Center has been on the brink of failure for years -- surviving on a string of ad-hoc fixes by county and state officials. And then there's D.C. General Hospital -- a sprawling charity hospital that became a fiscal black hole for the city, swallowing tens of millions a year in taxpayer funds before Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) pulled the plug on inpatient care in 2001. ... 'This is not D.C. General,' Catania said. 'We are not advertising United Medical Center as the charity hospital. ... It's a smaller operation, and it's a more limited operation.' ... [I]t's not just the politicians who are invested in keeping UMC alive and well. Owners of the city's six other full-service hospitals would consider the facility's closing a 'disaster,' said Robert Malson, president of the D.C. Hospital Association. They're afraid of a flood of poor and uninsured residents that could strain their own precarious bottom lines. 'Keeping this hospital open provides a core public service,' Malson said. 'It has to be compared to police, fire and other services.'"

TARGETING PARENTS -- At truancy hearing, David Catania says that parents of delinquent children "need to face real consequences that might include losing their welfare benefits" and plans to introduce legislation along those lines, Henri Cauvin reports today. "But a leading advocate for the poor in the District said any effort to go after people's welfare benefits would do far more harm than good. 'This is a terrible idea,' said Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Legal Aid Society, which helps people obtain public benefits. 'Families need more support. If you want parents to be good parents, you have to give them support.' ... At Thursday's hearing on the mental health needs of children and teens in the District, Catania said too many aren't receiving the support they need from their families or from the city's social services agencies. He said the rampant truancy reflected in official statistics is a symptom of that dysfunction. ... During the 2008-09 school year, more than one in five District public school students had more than 20 unexcused absences, according to statistics cited by Catania at the hearing. ... Historically, school system attendance records have been so poor that the data from 2008-09 may understate the truancy problem." Catania also tells the Examiner: "We can no longer permit the status quo. ... Parents have to be the primary architects in making sure their kids are going to class."

'REMARKABLE' PROGRESS AT NEW BEGINNINGS -- Progress in the education system for juvenile offenders is deemed "remarkable" by a court monitor, Henri also reports. "Once marked by a dearth of certified teachers and a lack of appropriate special-education services, the school serving sentenced juveniles was turned over to a private foundation three years ago and has become a model educational program for a juvenile correctional facility, the monitor, Grace M. Lopes, said. ... Called the Maya Angelou Academy, the school is operated by the See Forever Foundation, which also runs the two-campus Maya Angelou Public Charter School in the District. The academy is housed at New Beginnings, the detention facility that the District opened in Laurel last year for long-term juvenile detainees, and its bright, modern space would be the envy of many parents who send their children to D.C. public schools. ... For DYRS, the report is a boost to its efforts, which have been faulted repeatedly by critics who disagree with the agency's emphasis on rehabilitation."

NO STREETCAR BUCKS FOR YOU -- Federal transportation officials have decided not to give D.C. $25 million to extend the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line to the Benning Road Metro stop across the Anacostia. DDOT spokesperson John Lisle tells the
Examiner's Kytja Weir that the decision "may change the timing of when this extension is built." But "it would not derail the city's plans to build a $1.5 billion network of eight lines around the city by 2020. The first part of the H Street line, currently under construction, is slated to begin running by spring 2012." Big question: What effect did the nasty letter sent by NCPC chair Preston Bryant have on the process? At GGW, David Alpert says not much of one: "FTA had chosen the recipients for the grant over a month ago. Bryant only sent his letter two weeks ago. Therefore, disappointing as it is, DC wouldn't have gotten the $25 million to extend the H Street streetcar line across the Anacostia River in any event. On the other hand, it's certainly possible that politics played a role in several ways. ... Several commenters noted that the Urban Circulator grants seemed focused on swing states." That we ain't.

FENTY UP SLIGHTLY IN POLL -- The Blade polled Capital Pride festival attendees in a wholly unscientific manner, finding Fenty leading Gray 40.7 percent to 33.8 percent. Lou Chibbaro writes up the findings: "In the hotly contested race for City Council chairman, respondents in the Blade straw poll indicated they would vote for at-large City Council member Kwame Brown over his main rival, former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, 37.2 percent to 8.3 percent. Slightly more than 43 percent said they were undecided in that contest. ... In the race for at-large Council member, incumbent Phil Mendelson outscored gay challenger Clark Ray, 45.1 percent to 13.9 percent, among straw poll respondents. About 35 percent said they were undecided in the race. ... The 145 respondents are too few to make the straw poll a statistically valid sample of the LGBT D.C. residents who attended the Capital Pride festival. But Blade editor Kevin Naff said the straw poll provides the only available glimpse so far into where LGBT voters stand in the race for mayor and City Council chair and the contest for an at-large Council seat in which an openly gay candidate is considered to have a shot at winning. ... Gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, a volunteer in Gray's mayoral campaign, said the Blade poll shows strong potential for Gray, even though it reveals him to be trailing Fenty among the sample of Pride festival goers. ... Deacon Maccubbin, former owner of D.C.'s Lambda Rising bookstore and a Fenty supporter, said he wasn't surprised at the Blade poll's finding that a large number of respondents are undecided in the mayoral race. 'But I have seen movement toward Fenty and I think he'll do fine,' he said. 'I think the gay vote is going to go the same way the city vote goes.'"

CHAIRMAN DEBATE -- The Georgetown Dish covers the Georgetown council chair debate. Brown and Vincent Orange "[N]either candidate would raise income taxes on citizens making over $500 thousand a year when asked point blank whether or not they would," Molly Redden reports. "Name-dropping abounded, too, with both candidates seemingly competing to say Natwar Gandhi's name as many times as possible, and Brown referencing his work with Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans at a rate that could be seen as gratuitous. Of course, there were exceptions--like Brown's reminding the audience that he would let chastised Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry chair a committee--'a special kind of committee,' he said, qualifying his affirmative answer. Orange asked Brown pointedly why he had declined a series of three televised, one-on-one debates. Brown answered that he preferred to use his time to 'touch the voters' in person. On purpose or not, Brown didn't prepare a question for Orange. He fumbled until finally asking whether he could count on Orange's support if he, Brown, were elected Chair. The room burst into laughter."

LET'S GET SILLY -- Long live the "political silly season," Harry Jaffe writes in his Examiner column. He leads with Gray's attack on Nickles. "Gray has a point; I, too, wondered why Nickles forked over more than half a million bucks to Banneker Ventures, a contractor whose deals with the city are the subject of an investigation. But why did it take Vince two years to grow a pair?" (He does pose a great question: "Why would Nickles knuckle under to Banneker owner Omar Karim when he refused to settle with the Pershing Park plaintiffs who had sued the city for illegal arrest?") Jaffe also mentions Fenty's having to answer questions about marital rumors, Kwame's credit cards, and Gray's traffic ticket.

DCPS AND LGBT -- Michelle Rhee pens a Blade op-ed touting strides toward making DCPS more receptive for gay families: "DCPS has made some very impressive gains in student achievement over the past three years, and I am proud of the work that made it happen. But despite our strides we are far from where we need to be, and this includes our capacity to serve LGBTQ students and families. It's not feasible to give discretionary transfers to all gay couples just so they can send their kids to school, and no parent should have to search far and wide for a school that will serve their family well."

GO, LEO, GO -- Leo Alexander's press agent -- aka Washington Times reporter Deborah Simmons -- reports on her favorite candidate's education plan. "[T]here's barely one - never mind six - degrees of separation between [Fenty and Gray's] education positions, while the No. 3 candidate wants to shake up the entire establishment. ... Mr. Alexander thinks both of his rivals are missing the point. 'The problems are generational illiteracy and poverty,' Mr. Alexander said. 'We're not tackling that.' 'Half of our children are being born into poverty and one-third of children 16 and older are functionally illiterate,' he said. A long shot who had about $700 in campaign cash according to his June report, Mr. Alexander said he will focus his efforts on getting youths and adults academically prepared for today's work force and global economy by establishing effective vocational, training and licensing programs that lead families to paychecks."

WHY HE'S RUNNING -- Clark Ray explains in the Blade why he's running for Phil Mendelson's council seat: "The fact is that my opponent and I both believe in full equality for all D.C. residents. And as part of a same-sex family, I thank him for supporting marriage equality. However, as a gay man I also know another "seat at the table" will make a real difference. I will represent the needs of all of D.C.'s residents, but I also understand first hand what it means to be a part of the LGBT community. And as part of an interracial couple, I know that my experiences and those of my partner Aubrey, an African-American, differ greatly. I've seen up close the racism and bigotry that too often is still a part of our community."


Wholesale DCPS enrollment may be stabilizing, but high school enrollment continues to drop (All Opinions Are Local)

Alice Swanson's ghost bike returns (We Love DC)

Hizzoner and hiz Smart car run afoul of the constabulary (DeBonis)

Executive witnesses are no-shows at council hearing on living wage/first source (D.C. Wire)

D.C. Court of Appeals tosses murder conviction -- overruling trial judge James Boasberg, who has since been nominated to the federal bench (Legal Times)

Should the annual fee for liquor licenses be higher? (All Opinions Are Local)

Hurt Home deal passes council committee (Georgetown Dish)

Whistleblower Sharon Wise's lawsuit rolls on, without Vince Gray (City Desk)

The Gray-Cheh ticket remains officially unauthorized (City Desk)

Blue Line to Greenbelt? (Post)

"Richard W. Carr, 63, the oldest son of Washington real estate magnate Oliver T. Carr Jr. and an executive with his family's companies who helped restore the Willard Hotel and revitalize the West End neighborhood in the District, died June 25" (Post)

*** ON THE MENU ***

1 p.m. hearing on Banneker settlement -- Fenty attends topping-off for Georgia Avenue project

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 9, 2010; 10:02 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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