DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 13, 2010
TODAY IS AUGUST 13, 2010 -- 32 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
Good morning, friggatriskaidekaphobics and others. Colleague Nikita Stewart today attempts to answer a pertinent question: What happened to the city's "fund balance," the accumulated savings that have dipped from $1.5 billion to $650 million under Mayor Adrian Fenty's watch? It's become a major campaign issue, and the Fenty administration offers its fullest defense to date: "The budget gap we were facing was enormous," says City Administrator Neil Albert, who described spending savings as "part of a multi-pronged approach that included cutting expenditures, consolidating programs and increasing parking meter fees, other fees and traffic fines." Still, CFO Natwar Gandhi and Wall Street bond raters aren't pleased, and Nikita reaches ex-CA Robert Bobb in Detroit, who says that spending down savings is "what gets cities in trouble." But why accumulate such a rainy-day fund if not to spend it when the downpour arrives? Will Singer, Fenty's former budget chief, says that the city's surpluses are "a point of pride" for Gandhi but it's a pride that is not "well-placed." And while "[r]aising taxes would make Wall Street feel really good"... "[t]hat doesn't make it the right thing to do."
AFTER THE JUMP -- will Fenty's '90s-themed attacks backfire? -- sports nonprofit benefits from government ties -- council votes to reject Banneker settlement -- key urbanist warms to Gray -- OCTO crooks sentenced -- Ron Moten explains his female preferences
*** MAIN COURSE ***
WAR ON THE OLD GUARD -- In my not-a-column, I ponder whether Fenty's negative ads -- reflective of his broader struggle against the city's ancien regime -- are going to do him any good: "The choice between old and new is the foundation of the Fenty message, but it's been presented in a manner that further stretches a divide that he's already torn open with zest. And it might not do him many favors. Consider his predecessor, Anthony A. Williams, who for all the criticism he took in his two terms as mayor for his political aloofness, maintained respectful relations with the old guard -- with [Rock Newman] and Cora Barry, to name two. Williams, like Fenty, fired his share of city employees, but he managed to evade a mass insurgency. This was a guy, after all, who couldn't even get on his reelection ballot but still cruised to an easy victory as a write-in. But where Williams parachuted into the city's political culture and handled it with care, Fenty was raised in it and came to loathe it -- his stump speech these days attacks the empty speeches, the fake smiles, the hollow promises he says he heard growing up. In ex-Cabinet official [Vincent Gray], he sees the embodiment of those old ways, ripe to be vanquished for good." Also: Gray hits back at Fenty's negative ads with a negative Web clip: "Instead of producing negative ads, maybe Adrian Fenty should be producing a plan for the city's future."
SUCKING AT THE DC.GOV TEAT -- In this week's Loose Lips column, Alan Suderman digs into the cozy ties between D.C. government and the Greater Washington Sports Alliance. "[President Bob Sweeney]'s politically connected organization -- which helped organize a fundraiser for Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans and employs the wife of Ward 5's Harry Thomas, Jr. -- has benefited from at least $1 million in grants from the city. Not to mention nearly a half million bucks in fees waived by the office of one of the marathon's celebrity runners: Mayor Adrian Fenty. Between 2007 and 2008, Sweeney's total pay and benefits package jumped 26 percent, according to the most recently available public tax records. That year he made a total of $415,278 -- up from $329,402 in 2007 and $316,691 in 2006. And if you're a D.C. taxpayer, you helped fund it. ... At-Large D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson says Sweeney's high salary makes it hard to justify the city cutting GWSA such generous breaks. 'They're pretty comfortable, and here we are waiving fees,' says Mendelson, who heads the council's public safety committee. 'It's just hard to defend.'"
GOOD REVIEW FOR GRAY -- GGW's David Alpert submits Part 3 of his series, "Should urbanists be nervous about Vince Gray?" On "smart growth," he writes, the answer is "easy. ... Gray is on the right side." Alpert says the development process needs to be more deliberative: "Sometimes getting the deal done moves the ball forward more than a plan, but when buildings last for 50 years or more, moving hastily can lock in bad design for a generation. In Ward 7, the Donatelli development at the northwest corner of Minnesota and Benning has shaped up to be a real disappointment even in ways that have little to do with the economy. DMPED chose Donatelli's plan despite community consensus around another bid. DMPED also plunked a parking lot down at 5th and I and totally blew it with the Tenley Library. On development, Gray's approach will be to create a good plan and hear out all the opponents before moving ahead, while Fenty's approach has been to move ahead without any plans or much listening. Here, both approaches have merit, and I'd give a small edge to Gray's." Says a commenter in retort: "I'm not sure what we're supposed to take away from an article that says, essentially, 'Gray Walks With Urban Activists, Tells Them What They Want To Hear.'"
LOOK AT THE LOTTERY -- The Post's editorial board, echoing Attorney General Peter Nickles, would like a closer look at the lottery contract award: "As the District gets closer to the hotly contested primary for mayor, any word and every action is seen through a political prism. So it is with [Nickles] and criticism about his request for an independent investigation into the awarding of a lottery contract. We don't discount the possible influence of politics, but there are so many questions surrounding the District's tortured effort to get a new lottery operator that it is prudent that an outside review be conducted."
EVANS MISSES VOTE! -- The parks contract saga rolls on, with an emergency council meeting yesterday where members voted to stop the $550,000 settlement payout to Banneker Ventures, Suderman reports. "On Wednesday, Banneker filed suit in Superior Court. The complaint was not immediately available, according to a court clerk, but Nickles said Banneker is suing over the council's refusal to honor the settlement. ... This puts Nickles in a little bit of pickle, because he's supposed to defend the city against lawsuits like the one Banneker just filed. He indicated to LL that the council will have to find another lawyer, because he's thinks Banneker has a good case and he's not about to argue against a settlement he spent months working on and thinks is best for the city. 'I can't say what I agreed to makes no sense,' he said." Also: "The real loser here is Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who is on vacation in Nantucket with his kids. Evans told LL he hasn't missed a vote in 15 years, and he's 'annoyed' the council couldn't wait for him to get back next week so he could vote."
MO'S BONS MOTS -- TBD collects the choice quotes from a two-hour interview with Ron Moten. The most compelling political figure in town says he's the "unsung hero" of the Fenty campaign. He says Fenty's taken "a lot of [behind]-whuppings" for education reform, "and that's the reason we have a race right now." Fenty, he says, "should be getting a building named after him" for driving himself around. And he says he hasn't married because "you don't have a lot of Coretta Scott Kings out here."
GOODBYE YUSUF -- The OCTOgate saga comes to an end with sentencing for two key figures, Spencer Hsu reports in the Post: Former security chief and ringleader Yusuf Acar "was sentenced Thursday to 27 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $558,978.50 because of his involvement in a long-running contract bribery and kickback scheme. ... Farrukh Awan, 38, another former employee of the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer, was sentenced Thursday to 14 months in prison after pleading guilty in November to conspiracy to commit wire fraud as a lesser player in the scheme. Awan, of South Riding, was ordered to pay $156,807 in restitution and forfeit $46,648."
DEBATE RECAP -- Savor these reports from two minor mayoral candidate forums: The folks at Defeat Poverty D.C. recap the HIV/AIDS-focused event held Wednesday night at Eastern Market, which Fenty did not attend. Leo Alexander "called for more sex education in our schools, and proposed putting condoms in every public bathroom where alcohol is served"; also he pledged to "get himself tested and publicly announce his test results." Gray "[s]tated that education is key to reducing the HIV/AIDS and that there is no 'sure fire way' to reach the young people who need to be reached. ... Gray's platform boiled down to education, testing, counseling, and treatment." Examiner's Freeman Klopott covered yesterday's Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce event, where Fenty and Gray address the summer jobs program. "Gray answered [that] kids in the program had to learn three things: Come to work, come on time and get along. The chairman said he'd include a life skills program. He noted, 'but by the time kids get out to the Summer Youth Employment Program, it's too late.' ... Fenty, who hasn't released a plan, seems more satisfied with the status quo. 'Government will never solve all our problems," Fenty said. "For these youth, there's no alternative. At best they'd watch TV all day. ... The program is intended to give them something to do.'"
FACT CHECK -- The TBD "Facts Machine" continues its deep dive on the claims made by Fenty and Gray during Wednesday's televised debate. Fenty's description of his own crime-reducing, homeless-housing record earns him an "Honest Abe"; Gray's claims that certain types of crime have risen under Fenty earns a "Total Malarkey."
LET'S TALK ABOUT CRIME -- Harry Jaffe would like to know why city candidates aren't talking about crime. "Are we now so safe in our streets and homes that we don't need our politicians to delve into the crime issue, tell us what they have done and what they might do in office?" he asks in the Examiner. "Mayor Adrian Fenty says crime numbers are down, and he touts falling homicide rates as testament to his crime-fighting programs. Are his numbers accurate? Does he deserve credit? Challenger Vincent Gray has been silent on crime and violence. He rarely talks about public safety on the campaign trail or in forums. His Web site purports to cover crime, but his plan is pure palaver. No specifics. Zero. Nothing from Gray -- or Fenty -- on the alarming rise in sexual assaults." Also, Bill Myers, in his Examiner swan song, reports that two DYRS wards were shot dead Wednesday night.
FENTY SPENDING -- DCist's Martin Austermuhle digs in to Fenty's campaign spending: "Sure, there's campaign staff, yard signs, advertising, and the such. But Fenty's campaign has also been shelling out money for an army of canvassers, the very folks that walk District neighborhoods with literature, hang campaign signs, gather outside mayoral forums, and so on. ... Of Fenty's [$1.8 million] outlay, around $800,000 went to staff and canvassers -- lots of them. On August 2, for example, the campaign paid 183 canvassers anywhere from $50 to $1,450 -- over $70,000 in all. ... Now, there's nothing particularly new about paying folks small amounts to serve as an on-the-ground presence for an urban political campaign. (In fact, some people we spoke to saw it as something of a positive, serving as a virtual summer jobs program.) But when compared to Fenty's energetic and volunteer-driven 2006 campaign, it certainly has some people talking."
BATTLE OF ATTRITION -- At D.C. Schools Insider, Bill Turque wonders about the magnitude of the attrition problem among DCPS teachers: "DCPS says it doesn't have any readily available numbers. But estimates developed by Mary Levy, who just finished a stint as a budget consultant to the D.C. Council, indicate that the school system has a big problem retaining teachers--even bigger than other urban school systems that struggle with attrition. Using DCPS payroll records between 2001 to 2010, Levy found that an average of 76 percent of DCPS teachers leave after five years or less of service. Of the 971 teachers hired in fiscal year 2002, for example, Levy concludes that 724 were gone by 2007. About a quarter of all new hires last a year or less. 'To me, this is really alarming,' said Levy, who spent years analyzing school budgets for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs."
'51ST STATE' PLATES -- Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta has a modest proposal for changing the city's license plates: Ditch "Taxation Without Representation" for "The 51st State." He explains on his blog that the "Taxation" plates "are about 10 years old at at this point, and I think they've lost their effectiveness. More importantly, they are out of line with what we really deserve - full statehood. Then I saw a Delaware plate, with the motto, 'The First State,' based on the fact they were the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution. That got me thinking. ... why don't we have DC Statehood Plates??" Another change: scarlet background!
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Feds are investigating Robert Brannum's Hatch Act complaint against Michelle Rhee (D.C. Schools Insider)
Cleveland Park businesses try to turn it around, with $50,000 worth of help from the D.C. Council (WBJ)
Fenty to Mark Segraves: "Any time you switch somebody [it's a risk]. If you switched who the investigative reporter is at WTOP, you don't know if the next person will be able to really go in and uncover a lot of stuff from the government" (WTOP)
Ex-offenders organize to "ban the box" (Washington Times)
What a medical marijuana prescription might look like (City Desk)
A hostel for Southwest? (DCmud)
New partnership means JBG's 14th and S development can move forward (WBJ)
MPD warns Navy Yard pedestrians after accidents (GGW)
Still a possibility Gay Games could come to D.C. in 2014 (Blade)
How do we liven D.C. cemeteries? (City Desk)
Local politicians love beads (TBD)
Eleanor Holmes Norton to be roasted (Planet Washington)
Signed 8-by-10 photo of Marion Barry: Yours for $.99, plus shipping (eBay)
Rock Creek flash flood sweeps minivan away! (Post)
*** ON THE MENU ***
All Hands on Deck weekend -- Gray rallies Saturday in Ward 8 -- Mark Segraves has Jim Graham on "News Plus," 10 a.m. Sunday on WDCW-TV
August 13, 2010; 9:48 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike , The District
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