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DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 20, 2010

TODAY IS AUGUST 20, 2010 -- 25 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

Tim Craig does an A1 deep dive on Vincent Gray's record as council chairman, noting that he "helped oversee the enactment of some of the most consequential pieces of legislation since home rule in 1973, including school reforms, the same-sex marriage law, the rewriting of gun-control regulations, the legalization of medical marijuana and the bag tax ... because he carefully maneuvered through the web of personalities on the 13-member body with grit and diplomacy." The downside: "While even detractors acknowledge Gray has helped professionalize the council, his critics say he is a micromanager -- the kind of leader who orders up meetings to prepare for other meetings. They also say the deep-rooted hostility between him and the mayor has damaged the government, a problem compounded by Gray's resistance to police other members of the council." And look who's sharing that point of view: Attorney General Peter Nickles! "I think one of the reasons he has gotten so much unanimity on the council is he usually gives in to the most aggressive council member on any particular issues. ... To me, that's not leadership." But generally, observers give Gray good marks for his leadership. More below.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Doug Jemal is in a cash crunch -- The other message a Bloomberg endorsement sends -- The Fenty 'de-jerkification' program -- Fenty tells gay community he'll do better -- Would Gray hire good people?

*** MAIN COURSE ***

GRAY ON EDUCATION -- "Gray counters that he seized the reins of leadership almost immediately upon being elected in 2006 when he had to assign committees. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), one of the body's more senior members, was jockeying to become the chairman of the education committee. Despite his longtime connection to Barry, Gray eliminated education as a standalone committee and put it under the control of the committee of the whole, which he chairs and all members sit on. 'That in some ways captures the entire Gray approach to governing,' said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). ... From that perch, Gray sought to stake out his piece of education reform by writing the 2008 bill that provided additional funding to enroll more 3- and 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten and toughen training standards for pre-kindergarten teachers. Yet, Fenty administration officials question Gray's efforts on the campaign trail to take credit for the recent expansion of pre-kindergarten. The real growth in slots, administration officials say, has been in the public schools because of funding increases proposed by [Adrian Fenty] and [Michelle Rhee]."

VINCE IS NO LBJ -- Perspectives on Gray's leadership style: "[David Catania] (I-At Large) has not endorsed a candidate in the primary, but he called Gray a 'great blocker,' saying he uses his authority to fend off interest groups or business interests before they can organize to try to derail controversial legislation. 'I have had some biggies come at me -- CareFirst, Pepco, the beverage industry -- and it could have been quite a different scenario if I had someone else as chair,' said [Mary Cheh] (D-Ward 3), who also has not declared for a candidate in the race." On a different note: " 'He let [members] run wild, and no one is afraid of him,' said one senior government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as to talk freely about the chairman. 'An executive has to be feared. ... Look at Lyndon Johnson: No one crossed him in the Senate or when he was president, because they knew there was a price to pay. With Gray, there is no price to be paid.' "

DOUG JEMAL IS SHORT ON CASH -- Big ole scoop from Michael Neibauer at WBJ, who reports that Douglas Jemal, the most important city developer of his generation, "owes nearly $6 million in back real estate taxes to the District" and that the government will auction a "massive list of properties" next month if he does not pay up. "Jemal, in a candid interview from his office at 702 H St. NW, acknowledged taking his lumps in the recession. Though he owns billions of dollars worth of real estate in the District, at least 19 of his planned projects have stalled. The taxes, meanwhile, are piling up and he's generating little revenue to pay them off. It's a familiar tale for so many businesses in a bad economy, only on a much larger scale. 'I'm short of dollars, like everybody else,' Jemal said, adding he has already paid $20.6 million to the District for fiscal 2009 real property taxes." He owes more than $5 million on about 79 properties. "Jemal said his charges will be paid: 'I won't lose these properties.' He has $1 million in escrow to pay a portion of the delinquent bills, and he plans to refinance an office building at 950 F St. NW, the Atlantic Building, to generate an additional $25 million." Also in hock to the city: Monument Realty, which owes $960K on 11 ballpark properties.

MIKE & ADRIAN -- In my not-a-column, I have a look at how Fenty's Michael Bloomberg endorsement highlights a few unflattering comparisons. "What was meant to be a showcase for two politicians who have hammered bureaucracies into lean, 21st-century machines was also a showcase for two politicos who no longer enjoy the overwhelming popularity they once did. Like Fenty today, Bloomberg and his war chest faced an underfinanced and underestimated opponent last year, beating Democrat Bill Thompson by less than five points." But there's reasons why Fenty's situation is more perilous than Bloomberg's was: "Where Mayor Mike alienated the electorate thanks mostly to pushing through an exception to city term limits to grant himself a third term, Fenty's political near-death experience comes thanks to more than one issue. And Bloomberg was a man willing to spend whatever it took, and he could do it out of his own pocket -- more than $100 million. Perhaps most important, he's also more self-possessed, more willing to use his mayoral swagger to cajole, convince and lead."

'DEPUTY MAYOR FOR BUTT-KISSING' -- City Paper editor Michael Schaffer outlines a possible Fenty "de-jerkification program": "For a statistics-obsessed executive like Fenty, though, vague promises of political chumminess shouldn't suffice. If Fenty really meant it, he'd accompany the pledge of good fellowship with the sort of specifics that can be illustrated on an org chart, measured with empirical evidence, and tracked via CapStat. My suggestion: Fenty should promise that in a second term, he'll appoint a Deputy Mayor for Butt-Kissing. The DMBK's job would be simple: He or she would be in charge of buttering up councilmembers, activists, and anyone else whose ill feelings could slow the mayoral agenda. Tickets to see the Nats? A birthday card for a councilmember's chief of staff? A proclamation likening some local party official to Abraham Lincoln? See the DMBK. With the task centralized, Fenty would no longer have to rely on his own limited supply of chumminess to grease the wheels of politics."

GOP FOR FENTY -- Thomas Patrick Melady, former ambassador to the Holy See active in the D.C. Republican Committee, delivers a Fenty endorsement in the Washington Times without mentioning Fenty's name: "I am a lifelong Republican and will not participate, but I am very much interested as I want the genuine progress made in the past several years in reforming D.C. schools to continue. ... At last we have the beginnings of real reform. In many instances in a pluralistic democracy, change is conducted in a smooth, orderly fashion. But sometimes, change requires dramatic action. D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has been giving the strong, aggressive leadership needed to assure we achieve our public goal that every child has an effective teacher. And, the fact is that major improvements initiated by Ms. Rhee have been fully supported by the mayor."

APOLOGY TOUR ROLLS ON -- Fenty does an extended interview with Lou Chibbaro Jr. of the Washington Blade, who asks: "Some of your critics in the LGBT community who are backing Vincent Gray say you have not been as visible as they would prefer in speaking out on a number LGBT-related issues, including hate crimes, and that you haven't attended many LGBT events. Is that a fair criticism?" Replies Fenty: "Yes, it is a very fair criticism. It's actually probably extremely fair. I've got to do a much better job being more visible in my second term, and I will. ... I have got to get out into the community. I've got to get out in people's doorsteps, at community events. You name it; I did not do as good of a job as I should have in my first term as mayor in getting out to the community. And I should be held responsible for that, to do it better in the second term." Also: Jeff Richardson, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, makes the case for Kwame Brown as chairman in a Blade op-ed.

IS SHE OUTTA HERE? -- Brown and Harry Thomas Jr. both wonder to the Examiner's Freeman Klopott whether Rhee will leave town after the Sept. 14 primary -- whether or not Gray wins. " 'She's getting married to the mayor of Sacramento,' said Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas during a breakfast with reporters Thursday morning at City Diner. 'Is she going to have a bicoastal marriage?' At-large Councilman Kwame Brown, who is campaigning to be the next D.C. Council chairman, expressed a similar sentiment during a meeting with The Washington Examiner's editorial board Thursday morning. 'Is Michelle Rhee prepared to stay?' Brown asked. 'If she's not, then we'll have to go through a new chancellor and the implementation of a new philosophy.' Both councilmen stressed that the possibility of Rhee's leaving calls for the need to institutionalize reform."

CITY TARGETS B OF A -- A city contracting official has ordered Bank of America to pay $13.5 million for its role in enabling the $50 million Harriette Walters fraud scheme, Klopott reports in the Examiner. "Bank of America said it plans to appeal. The bank has 90 days to appeal to an independent board. If the payment comes through, it'll be the first cash the District has recovered from the biggest corruption scandal in city history. 'This is the first step in recovering District monies that Bank of America was obliged to protect, but did not,' D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said. The contracting office's decision only covers a small portion of the $117 million lawsuit Nickles has filed against the bank. ... In its contract with D.C., Bank of America agreed to perform basic security measures that should have caught the scheme well before it reached such a massive scale, Nickles said."

EASING URBANIST MINDS -- Another installment in the "Should urbanists be nervous about Vince Gray?" series at Greater Greater Washington. David Alpert wonders if Gray would hire good people -- in other words: "Keep Harriet Tregoning, Gabe Klein and Michelle Rhee while sending Peter Nickles back to Great Falls? Skies are looking sunny with Gray!" His takeaway: "[T]he potential Gray appointments have to remain a big question mark. We know who we'll get with Fenty, some good, some not so much. We have a few hints about who we might get with Gray, but we'll have to vote without solid knowledge. ... I titled this series, 'Should urbanists be nervous about Vince Gray?' Ultimately, I would say we should not be. There are some unknowns, but there are also many promising signs. The race is very close, and if Gray should win, I am optimistic that he would continue the progress D.C. has made."

UNIONS HIT THE AIR -- Union releases ad saying city employees have a "problem with our boss," Nikita Stewart reports at D.C. Wire. The 60-second spot produced by the American Federation of Government Employees, they of the "demon teddy bears," goes like this: "He disrespects us. He treats us as if we just don't matter. ... It was cold and arrogant." Note: "The ad never mentions Fenty's name and only reveals his identity at the end: 'an uncaring boss who also happens to be the mayor.' ... Spokeswoman Enid Doggett said the new radio spot is airing on Radio One stations, costing the union $20,000 over the next two weeks."

IN PRAISE OF GRAFFITI -- In his Examiner column, Harry Jaffe describes a worthy summer-jobs program: "I was surprised when one of my daughters invited me to Keep Art In The Schools Jam, a spontaneous art happening last Sunday at the Hillyer Art Space near Dupont Circle, where kids sprayed graffiti art on plywood panels. Imagine my further surprise when I discovered that the graffiti artists were participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program, as in getting paid to paint graffiti as art. Greatest surprise of all? It made sense to me; as a D.C. taxpayer I felt my tax dollars were being spent well."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Coming soon to Judge Reggie Walton's federal courtroom: Roger Clemens, Ron Machen's first high-profile target (Post)

A. Scott Bolden's childish ban on speaking to City Paper apparently stands (Loose Lips)

Fenty responds to Defeat Poverty D.C.'s candidate survey; Jason Cherkis is impressed (DPDC, Loose Lips)

The case against DCPS' "TEAM" awards (Examiner)

Pro-Gray blogger says new Fenty ad "Actually Not Terrible" (Unofficial Vince Gray for Mayor Blog)

DDOT's Urban Forestry Administration to be rebranded "d.Trees" (Housing Complex)

Tommy Wells explains how "livable-walkable" can fight crime (TBD)

Rulemaking stands to affect reemergence of food trucks (We Love DC)

Are there security holes in the DMV's renew-by-mail program? (DCist)

Appeals court judge decries "most egregious case of police disobedience to the requirements of Miranda and Edwards that I recall coming before this court during my years on the bench." (The Bog of Legal Times)

Rhee as football coach (D.C. Schools Insider)

Former Norton aide Julia Hudson will be National Capital Region administrator for GSA (WBJ)

Peaceoholics apparently have cool city-paid video-gaming setup (City Desk)

Donatelli backs out of Navy Yard Metro development deal (WBJ)

KIMA charter school is filing suit to challenge charter revocation (Afro)

BOEE needs "technically savvy registered District of Columbia voters to serve as Precinct Technicians and Special Ballot Clerks" (press release)

"Why does D.C. only give residents four sandbags?" (WTOP)

Cops bust suspected dogfighting ring in Southeast home (WUSA-TV)

Fixing "food deserts" (WaTimes)

Leo Alexander explains his love for Golden Corral (TBD)


*** ON THE MENU ***

TBD's NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt features an at-large council debate between incumbent Phil Mendelson and challengers Clark Ray and Michael D. Brown, 10 a.m. -- The Politics Program, featuring guest host Mark Segraves features Mary Cheh, 10 a.m., WTOP -- The Politics Hour With Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood features a Ward 1 debate between Jim Graham, Jeff Smith, and Bryan Weaver -- NewsPlus with Mark Segraves features Mark and myself talking about local political races, 11 a.m. Sunday, WDCW-TV.

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 20, 2010; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Worshiping the false god of fiscal rectitude in D.C.

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