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DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 23, 2010

TODAY IS AUGUST 23, 2010 -- 22 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

Regular DMDB readers will be quite aware of Mayor Adrian Fenty's contrition tour of the past couple of weeks. What Nikita Stewart reveals in her Sunday A1 piece is that his public pledges to change have been accompanied by private apologies to "used-to-be, could-be supporters who have walked away from the 39-year-old mayor, turned off by the persistent perception that he is arrogant, that he is incapable of listening to opposing views and, worse, that he doesn't care. ... Discreetly, [Fenty is] contacting voters to apologize for dismissing their views and promising to be more inclusive if reelected. Over the past few weeks, he has called at least 100 of these activists and other voters. Rattled by the strong showing of challenger Vincent C. Gray, the D.C. Council chairman, in the Democratic primary race, Fenty has turned the campaign trail into a tour of contrition -- a path supporters and advisers privately say he was not initially willing to travel." To be determined: Whether the assurances are credible when delivered less than a month before Election Day. Notes one political communications expert: "I think a backfire could occur if people think he's not sincere. ... The kiss of death in a campaign is, 'Is he just a politician?'" The Georgetown Dish thinks so.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Barry for Gray -- Omar Karim's brother breaks with Fenty -- it's the first day of school; will it be Rhee's last at DCPS? -- Fenty-Gray op-ed duel! -- council candidates debate on air -- Ward 5 straw poll tonight

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE ON APOLOGIES -- "Fenty's new effort, which he says is part self-realization and part campaign strategy, was born out of concern by a handful of campaign advisers and supporters that he was not connecting with former loyalists who had turned their backs on him or remain undecided. A list of voters to contact was quietly assembled by supporters, including City Administrator Neil O. Albert and council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4). ... Fenty said he had not appreciated how many residents he had excluded until Gray entered the race, and he began a more intense canvassing operation. 'That's when I really started to get the feedback from people, and then, at that point, you learn it, and then you talk about it and tell people what you're going to do,' Fenty said. 'The commercial ... we've been putting together for some time in recognizing that, while we delivered results, that there's definitely some things I did wrong, made mistakes ... I have to improve upon for next time.'"

GRAY RESPONSE -- From @grayformayor: "Adrian Fenty's new apologetic tone is not a change of heart. It's a change of strategy."

MORE GRAY ENDORSEMENTS -- Gray won Saturday's Ward 8 Democrats straw poll overwhelmingly, Tim Craig reported Sunday, "after a heated day of politicking that included council member Marion Barry officially getting behind the council chairman." Gray won about 80 percent of the vote -- though no same day registrations were allowed, hampering Fenty ally Ron Moten's turnout tactics. "Although Ward 8 has long been expected to be a Gray stronghold in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, he appeared to get a lift from Barry, a former mayor who represents Ward 8. Four years ago, Barry endorsed Fenty a week before the primary, although the two did not campaign together. On Saturday, Barry donned a Gray T-shirt and hat and personally greeted nearly every registered Ward 8 Democrat who showed up for the straw poll. 'I'll be working hard for him,' said Barry, who in a robocall also urged Ward 8 residents to attend the straw poll. 'We have just begun to fight.'" Gray also picked up endorsements from the Caribbean-American PAC and the Muslim Democratic Caucus. The latter is particularly notable, Tim notes at D.C. Wire, because the caucus is led by Talib Karim, brother of Omar Karim of Banneker Ventures -- the Fenty frat brother who came under fire for winning tens of millions in parks contracts. "[Talib Karim], a big supporter of Fenty during his 2006 campaign, said in an interview that he's concluded that the administration 'has gone astray' and is excluding too many people from the government. 'I quoted a passage from the Koran on Islamic teaching that says, "You can speak a word of truth even if its against yourself and your family,"' Talib Karim said. 'And while I love my brother and I am willing to lay down my life for him, I am obligated to stand up against what I see is the wrong that is occurring on the part of the mayor and those closest around him, and for that reason, I personally said I was supporting the chairman.' ... Talib Karim said he ultimately decided to back Gray because he said Fenty is 'retaliatory' and hasn't done enough to reach out to the Muslim community."

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL -- D.C. schools open today amid a "a high-pitched mayoral primary that is being fought largely on the reform record of schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee," the < ahref="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/23/AR2010082300003.html">Post notes. Examiner's Leah Fabel writes that today is "the start of what likely will prove the most important year yet for gauging the successes of [Rhee]," as dozens of new principals and hundreds of new teachers enter the system to replaced those retired or fired." Bill Turque notes that "with the mayor in a tough primary fight, school officials seem to be going the extra mile in preparation," setting up a phone hotline, Web site, and social media accounts to handle parent concerns. Jay Mathews notes the confluence between the schools and the ever-approaching election: "School opens today in the District. For the next three weeks, Americans who care about the future of urban schools will watch the city closely. If [Fenty] loses the Democratic primary, [Rhee] -- the most divisive D.C. educator in my 39 years at the Post -- will likely leave. If Fenty wins, she probably stays. Whether that is good or bad depends on your point of view." Does it ever. Jay's on the Rhee/Fenty side. In other developments: Wilson High School students will be attending class in UDC's charmingly-named Building 52 as Wilson undergoes renovation. UDC students will, for the first time, be able to stay in a university dormitory for $4,270 per semester. And thanks to the Healthy Schools Act, City Paper's Alan Suderman notes, means no more "beef fiestada pizza" and much more "Roma tomato and cheese whole wheat flatbread." Fenty, Rhee and Victor Reinoso are scheduled to greet students at J.O. Wilson Elementary in Northeast.

TFA TIME -- On A1 today, Michael Birnbaum looks at the "expanding role" of Teach for America recruits in D.C.'s public schools, and the persistent concerns about their relative lack of training. "The quickly expanding organization says that the fast track enables talented young instructors to be matched with schools that badly need them -- and the Obama administration agrees. This month, Teach for America won a $50 million federal grant that will help the program nearly double in the next four years. But many educators and experts question the premise that teaching is best learned on the job and doesn't require extensive study beforehand."

HEALTHY AIN'T CHEAP -- The Healthy Schools Act is an "unfunded mandate" for city charter schools, Deborah Simmons reports in the Washington Times. Some charters, she writes, "are scrambling to meet some requirements of the new law, which says schools must feed students locally produced fruits and vegetables and offer students overall healthier meals. The act also raises the bar on physical fitness. 'The majority of charter schools are going in commercial buildings,' said Robert Cane, executive director of the advocacy group Friends of Choice in Urban Schools. (FOCUS). 'We support good food and exercise, but charter schools have scrambled to meet requirements.' Charter and traditional schools often lack cafeterias, and most charters lack green space for children to play or hold gym classes. Many don't have a swimming pool, gymnasium, football field, tennis court or a track course."

OP-ED DUEL -- Fenty and Gray match up in paired campaign op-eds that appeared in Sunday's Post Metro section. Fenty spends most of his piece selling his education record: "I could not be more proud, as mayor and as a father of three young children, of the progress we have made in transforming our schools from a symbol of dysfunction into a national model for education reform. Our students, teachers and administrators, under the leadership of Chancellor Michelle Rhee, have made unprecedented gains, and they deserve an enormous amount of credit for their hard work. But there is so much work left to be done." He adds: "Like any leader, I have made my share of mistakes, and I've learned some valuable lessons. You have my promise that I will continue these aggressive reforms with a more inclusive approach and an even greater urgency to deliver for our residents." Gray argues in his piece that city residents are "desperate for a change in leadership." He runs through education, jobs, and crime before closing on this theme: "[W]e need to change the way the mayor's office operates. There have been too many instances of mismanagement and cronyism over the past four years. Every day seems to bring another story about overspending in city programs, depletion of the District's rainy-day fund, hundreds of cases of lost DNA evidence, or secrecy and lack of transparency, such as $82 million in contracts being steered to the mayor's fraternity brothers without council approval. My administration will make the fiscally responsible decisions necessary to keep the city on budget, restore transparency to the mayor's office and put an end to the pay-to-play politics that are rampant in the Fenty administration. By working together, bringing a holistic and collaborative approach to our challenges, and restoring the public's trust in the mayor's office, we truly can help create 'one city' in the District of Columbia."

UDC BOARD SHOWDOWN -- The dispute over UDC board appointees continues to boil, Tim writes at D.C. Wire, after Fenty pocket-vetoed legislation to allow the university's board to operate with a reduced quorum, "setting up a direct challenge" with Gray -- who has blocked Fenty board appointees. "In recent months, Fenty and Gray have been locked in an intense struggle over the composition of the board. Despite repeated efforts to broker a compromise, Gray has challenged the qualifications of Fenty's nominees." Gray wants appointees with "influence and affluence"; Fenty wants an up-or-down vote for his picks. Tim writes: "When the council returns from summer recess next month, Gray is expected to re-introduce his legislation. If it is approved as permanent legislation, council will be able to override a Fenty veto with nine votes."

MORE PEACEOS -- The contract for a $100,000 grant administered by the Peaceoholics did not include performance deliverables, Freeman Klopott reports in Examiner, though "program manager from Fenty's office provided performance measures to the police department for the Peaceoholics' grant." The contract, obtained via a police union FOIA request, shows that Peaceoholics, administering the money for another group, "spent $97,500 of the $100,000 grant on salaries" with a "large portion of the remaining cash was used to buy Wii and Xbox video game systems, games for each and DVDs." What is not clear is whether it is unusual for performance measures not to be included in a grant contract, but provided via other avenues.

EARLY VOTING IMPACT -- Klopott also looks at how expanded early voting is changing campaign tactics: "'This is fundamentally different,' said [Fenty] campaign spokesman Sean Madigan. 'We literally have two weeks where we can engage getting out the vote and our approach will be completely different as a result.' D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray's campaign is looking at it in the same light. 'This creates an entirely different dynamic for the elections,' said Gray campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes. The campaigns have been checking names off for months, categorizing them as in favor of their candidate, opposed or undecided. Starting Aug. 30, they'll start putting that information to use by knocking on the doors of voters who their campaigns are certain will vote for their candidate. In some cases, they'll then give them rides to the poll."

DEBATES! -- Two downticket debates Friday: The Democratic at-large council candidates faced off on TBD's NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt. GGW's David Alpert quizzed Phil Mendelson, Clark Ray and Michael D. Brown on streetcars and affordable housing via Skype. Also see a wrap-up from DCist's Martin Austermuhle, who writes, "Even when faced with a tough question ... Mendelson's notorious wonkiness proved disarming. While sharing the enthusiasm over the economic development the streetcars could bring, Mendelson said the project had been 'boot-strapped' and was being implemented in a piecemeal fashion." And on Friday's WAMU-FM Politics Hour, the three Ward 1 council candidates -- Jim Graham, Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver -- debated. There's video available at the Kojo Show Web site. WCP's Jason Cherkis notes that Graham addressed his chief of staff thusly: "I run a really tight ship. ... I'm a hands-on councilmember. ... Everybody has experienced somebody who has done something they were not aware of."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

District unemployment dropped 0.2 point in July, to 9.8 percent (Post)

Kwame Brown wins endorsements from the Current papers, Fraternal Order of Police (D.C. Wire)

In radio appearance, Mary Cheh lays into Pepco: "The communication between Pepco and its customers was pathetic, totally pathetic." (WTOP)

Fenty wins praise on gay issues vis-a-vis Gavin Newsom (Queerty)

Clark Ray, asked if he'd change his name to "Michael Brown," replies: "I thought about filing as 'Phyllis Mendelsohn' but I thought better of it." (DCist)

Puerto Rico spends more than D.C. on statehood lobbying, but not that much (TBD)

Just what is "DC CHAIRMAN," anyway? (Loose Lips)

Petworth/Park View residents rejoice: Safeway could be coming to your 'hood (Capital Business)

Nickles settles with alleged church-bilkers (Post)

More potential cases of "political identity theft" on the local scene (Loose Lips)

A NSFW-takeaway from City Paper's Fenty profile (Village Voice)

Borderstan readers prefer Kwame. By a lot. (Borderstan)

Malcontents love letting DDOT have it on the agency's excellent Facebook page (TBD)

Second at-large entrant means contested primary for the Statehood Greens (Blade)

DCPS social worker charged with Prince George's bank robberies (Post)

Attorneys for accused Chandra Levy killer will not be able to pre-screen jury pools for Hispanics (Post)

Mount Pleasant Library renovations to begin at last (TBD)

Free Shakespeare -- just ask your council member (Arts Desk)

Bryan Weaver talks "issues of drinking, community, and youth" (Really Though?)

Congrats to Mike Grass: DDOT finally took down those faulty U.S. 29 signs -- most of them, anyway (City Desk)

Socialist Workers Party decries teacher firings! (The Militant)

D.C. ex-pat Annys Shin can't get enough mayoral race coverage! (Story Lab)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Ward 5 Democrats straw poll, Michigan Park Christian Church, 1600 Taylor St. NE, 6 p.m.

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 23, 2010; 9:40 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: As Fenty softens, Peter Nickles offers no quarter

Comments

To Voters:

Fool me once, shame on you!

Fool me twice, shame on ME!!!

Posted by: gordonbundy | August 23, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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