DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 18, 2010
TODAY IS AUGUST 18, 2010 -- 27 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
Gotta rush today's DMDB intro here! This morning saw some hot developments in the mayoral race, and yours truly is all over it: A new independent poll shows Vince Gray with a small lead over Adrian Fenty, and a new Fenty ad features Hizzoner returning to his boyhood home pledging to do better. Will voters buy it? Tune into WAMU-FM at noon, where you're likely to hear more of the Fenty apology tour as he debates Gray live with hosts Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood. Follow @mikedebonis for instanalysis!
AFTER THE JUMP -- Bloomie lays down a marker for Fenty -- Is Fenty an arrogant "bonehead"? -- No payment to Peaceoholics, at least for now -- How "livable walkable" is playing in Ward 6 -- Why Western senators want us to have guns
*** MAIN COURSE ***
THE BLOOMBERG NOD -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Fenty Tuesday afternoon, in a private room of NYC-born Italian restaurant Carmine's, telling D.C. voters they are "really lucky" to have Fenty as their mayor. From Nikita Stewart's piece on the endorsement: "His phrasing was strikingly similar to Fenty's campaign advertising: Fenty has made 'tough, smart decisions' and Fenty 'gets the job done.' Pointing to a lower crime rate and improvements in the school district, Bloomberg said the city 'shouldn't run the risk of [losing] all the progress that has been made.' " Do note: "Behind the scenes, the mayor's public persona and the public perception that he is arrogant, which worried Fenty's friends and advisers last fall, are similar to issues that hampered Bloomberg's 2009 reelection bid." TBD's Sarah Larimer shares Fenty's explanation for why it matters: "If it means anything, I think it means that the people who are running the biggest cities in this country and know the issues and know the challenges best, believe that we're doing a good job." Examiner's Freeman Klopott calls Bloomberg Fenty's "idea man." City Paper's Alan Suderman notes the mosqular focus of national media outlets: "Much of the news conference focused on Cordoba House and Bloomberg's love of the Bill of Rights. ... But after the urgent-to-D.C.-voters matter of whether a Muslim community center -- that's already been approved by the relevant zoning authorities -- should be built in New York was disposed of, Bloomberg had plenty of nice things to say about Fenty. And Fenty had plenty of nice things to say about Bloomberg." The Blade's Lou Chibbaro notes that Bloomberg stood up for Fenty's support of gay marriage, saying: "I do not believe it's the government's business to get involved in family lives, particularly when no one gets hurt. And I think you should have a right to marry anybody you want, love anybody you want. It seems to me it is just as basic a right as everything else. Period. End of story." Also check video from the endorsement. Also AP, WSJ, Politico.
ABOUT THAT MOSQUE -- So what did Fenty say about the NYC mosque? Not much: "I'm going to defer to the mayor on anything specific to New York, but we certainly do support organizations being able to participate in the religious freedom that every other organization has always been able to do so here in this country."
NO JUSTICE, NO PEACEOHOL? -- The Peaceoholics questions persisted yesterday, with council member Tommy Wells relaying to Tim Craig that he'd been assured by DYRS Chief Robert Hildum that no payments to the group will be processed. But that doesn't mean that there was never any intent to process a payment.
"Reached by telephone Tuesday morning, [co-founder Ron Moten] also denied that Peaceoholics was expecting an imminent no-bid contract from the city. But Moten said the organization was never paid for gang-prevention work it performed last year, and he conceded it's looking for additional revenue. 'I can tell you, if we got $400,000 this week, I would go pray on my knees and thank God,' Moten said. 'We deserve it.' " Said Fenty after the Bloomberg event: "I believe that DYRS ... thinks that [Peaceoholics is] doing a great job and they will continue to use them as long as they do that great job." More from City Paper's Rend Smith, who broke the story and who obtains audiotape of Shaw activist Martin Moulton questioning Fenty on Moten and Peaceoholics: "As Moulton levels his microphone at Fenty, the mayor seems to get both candid and prickly. ... 'What is the purpose of that criticism?' Fenty retorts when Moulton asks why there's been so little transparency regarding Peaceoholics funding and work. Fenty tells Moulton he doesn't need to see numbers regarding the Peaceoholics and their operation: 'I've met the kids, I mean, I don't need any statistics.' " Fenty goes on to describe Peaceoholics funding as "de minimis ... so small, I can't even believe a well-meaning person would even come close to criticizing." And Moulton tells CP: "I don't handle a budget of billions of dollars. Maybe if I did, $3 million wouldn't seem like a lot." By the law, all this Peaceoholics bizness is doing NOTHING to win Jason Cherkis's vote for Fenty.
WHAT A 'BONEHEAD' -- Post columnist Courtland Milloy has a chat with Minnie Green, 84, and she's got some feelings on the mayor's race: "'I tried to caution them. Adrian and I were buddies, but there was something in that bonehead that just didn't click with me.' That 'something,' she said, was arrogance, a trait that has emerged as a defining issue in a Democratic primary. ... [T]o Green, a longtime community activist in Petworth, arrogance is no mere personality quirk but a character flaw often rooted in self-deception and a false sense of superiority. 'As soon as Adrian became mayor, he tore his drawers by hoarding baseball tickets for his cronies,' Green said. 'Then he went from petty to pathetic by trying to throw a reception for a fraternity with taxpayers' money and then, after getting caught, still gave millions of dollars in ... contracts to his friends. That's what arrogance does. It keeps you from admitting your mistakes and makes it impossible for you to learn from them.' Although Green speaks only for herself, her sentiments resonate through a network of like-minded matriarchs that makes up the spiritual backbone of the city."
Green has nicer things to say about Gray: "He can relate to people in need and knows how to draw on community resources to help them. ... When Adrian goes anywhere near poor people, he sticks out like a sore thumb."
THE POLITICS OF 'LIVABLE WALKABLE' -- Me on the Ward 6 race, which has incumbent Tommy Wells fending off a challenge from former mayoral chief of staff Kelvin Robinson. The nut graf: "Wells has become a local politician of a modern sort, conversant in a brand of retail politics well suited to the close-knit neighborhoods and liberal politics of Capitol Hill and its environs. His animating principle is emblazoned on yard signs and on the awards he distributes to ward denizens each year: a 'livable and walkable city.' ... But his vision, combined with fast-paced development, has opened Wells to criticism that "livable-walkable" is a vision with selective benefits. He faces a challenge from [Robinson], who says Wells has focused on his home neighborhood of Capitol Hill to the detriment of the ward's outlying communities. More pointedly, Robinson said Wells's advocacy of sweeping environmental and social legislation -- including his signature accomplishment, a city-mandated 5-cent tax on disposable grocery bags -- has come at the expense of bread-and-butter concerns such as reducing crime. 'The question is always asked, "Livable and walkable" for whom?' Robinson said. 'That's how it has played out.'"
WHAT THE WESTERNERS THINK -- The Post's Freddy Kunkle heads out west to compare our region's attitudes toward guns with those in Arizona and Montana, whose senators have taken aim at D.C.'s gun laws. John McCain (R) and Jon Tester (D) "declined requests for interviews. But their bill reflects a philosophy that seems part of the American West's genome. Even Arizona's flag, based on a design created by the team captain of the former territory's rifle team during a national rifle match almost a hundred years ago, symbolizes the way guns are woven into the state's politics and culture, whether for self-defense or sport. ... Kerry D. McMillan, 55 ... sounds puzzled about why places such as the District impose so many restrictions on an adult's access to firearms. Criminals don't obey the law anyway, he says. 'To us, we don't see what the big deal is,' McMillan said. 'I'm surprised that the restrictions that exist now actually were ever passed, because I think law-abiding gun owners are as responsible with single-shot, bolt action, semiautomatic, handgun, revolver, even fully automatic weapons, as they would be one with the other.' "
ELECTION READINESS -- Jonetta Rose Barras wonders in her Examiner column whether the Board of Elections and Ethics will be ready: "Rokey Suleman, BOEE's executive director, and his 21 regular and 17 temporary staff members won't be evaluated based on correction of past problems -- ballot shortages, insufficient workers, and the appearance of phantom voters. They'll rise or fall on their handling of no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and same-day registration and voting -- changes instituted this year by the D.C. Council. Some national experts have said the unprecedented reforms being implemented in one election sets up the board to fail. There's no question the pressure is on. ... [T]he way Gray and Fenty have gone after each other, don't expect it to end when the polls close. The BOEE has set aside Sept. 22 through Sept. 24 for hearings on contested ballots. Let the squabbling continue."
FORUM REVIEW -- Highlights from last night's mayoral debate sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women, moderated by our own Nikita Stewart. Reportage at D.C. Wire by Hamil Harris: "[T]he hottest exchange was whether D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles is the best person for the job. Nickles's detractors have accused him of acting more like the mayor's personal lawyer rather than representing the best interests of D.C. residents. But Fenty cited Nickles's 47 years of experience at a major law firm, and also his vigilance as attorney general. ... But Gray began his comments by saying that as mayor, he'd fire Nickles. 'I have already called for him to be fired,' Gray said. 'The question is not: "Does he understand the role of attorney general or general counsel?" Frankly, I wonder: "Does he understand the role of mayor?" He acts like the mayor of the District of Columbia.' " The Clarus poll indicates that few voters have heard of Nickles, and the ones that do don't mind him that much.
There was also a forum last night on "sustainable and local business" at the flagship Busboys and Poets, but as the Georgetown Dish notes, Fenty did not attend. So "Gray took a luxurious 12 uninterrupted minutes to explain how the District, the only urban 'state' in the union, is a leader in green laws, including requiring new construction to meet LEED standards. Then he hit softball after softball question out of the park."
ABOUT THOSE STREETCARS -- GGW's David Alpert, in his latest look at Vince Gray, examines what exactly happened with the streetcar flip-flop. "Gray had been hearing for some time the streetcar concern trolls' arguments: the plans aren't done, it doesn't have a beginning or an end, the power systems aren't decided. More importantly, he says he was persuaded in the late-night round of budget changes that the funds for implementation could be delayed a year, with planning still funded, to work out all the outstanding questions. ... In our conversation, Gray said that he is ultimately responsible for all decisions that come from his office, and takes responsibility for this one. He should have been more aware of the consequences of this budget change. But nobody can seriously argue that Gray isn't knowledgeable about the budget. He's far more knowledgeable than Adrian Fenty; even Fenty himself admits that, saying he focuses on the big picture and leaves details to his staff. Which brings us to the real question urbanists should be asking in this race. The decision isn't between Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray, since quite honestly, Gray and Fenty both share most elements of a policy agenda, from education reform to Smart Growth and a streetcar network. The key decision is between the Fenty Cabinet and the potential Gray Cabinet. Who will have better top people?" The commenters lean strongly to Fenty.
RENT STRIKE SETTLED -- A two-year rent strike at the Marbury Plaza apartments in Southeast Washington has ended with a $5 million repair plan, thanks in part to city intervention. The deal will "repair or replace roofs and heating, air-conditioning, hot water and building-access systems," Derek Kravitz writes in The Post. "More than 100 residents launched the strike in 2008 after building conditions became 'subpar' and negotiations with the complex's owner, the Lightstone Group, stalled. ... A string of hot days in June and concerns over failing air-conditioning units for elderly residents prompted the offices of D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles and D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) to push for a settlement, officials said." Also WBJ's Sarah Krouse.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Rhee is open to disclosing teachers' value-added scores -- which has been done, controversially, in L.A.: "Even though it would certainly cause potential challenges for the district, it's the right sort of pressure we want to see to reform the system." (D.C. Schools Insider)
There are big holes in how alcohol authorities screen applicants for liquor licenses -- big enough for a drug kingpin to slip through! (Washington Times)
Pics from Gray's Capitol Hill fundraiser hosted by Adam Clampitt (Hill Rag)
Charles Ramsey is set to enter the "Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame"; Jason Cherkis is appalled (City Desk)
Gray's "Only 1 in 10 District high school graduates complete college" claim is "total malarkey" (TBD)
D.C. gov preps for probable flooding (WTTG-TV)
Robert Wone civil trial will start June 13 (Crime Scene)
Maryland boy, 16, shot in Fairlawn (Crime Scene)
A recap of last week's Ward 8 mayor forum (Informer)
New York restaurateurs heart D.C. (Examiner)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Fenty and Gray debate on WAMU-FM -- Fenty, Rhee to appear with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this afternoon to announce early-childhood imitative progress -- Empower D.C. hosts candidate forum on education, 6:30 p.m. at Sumner School
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