DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 27, 2010
TODAY IS AUGUST 27, 2010 -- 18 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
Tim Craig's B1 story today on Vincent Gray's personal relationships contains a whole bunch of fabulous detail -- about his crossing of the color line at George Washington University, the lasting friendships he enjoys with his mostly Jewish frat brothers, his love of softball and hand-dancing, and his ties to old-guard figures like Vernon Hawkins, David Wilmot and H.R. Crawford. But if you remember only one thing about this story, it is likely to be this: Gray's abiding love of "Sex and the City." Tim writes that Gray "has seen almost every episode and can recount in great detail the fictional lives of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha" and calls the TV series his favorite because it "underline[s] the value he places on friendship." Killer anecdote: "Two months ago, a week after the movie 'Sex and the City 2' was released, Gray sneaked out of his office in the middle of the day to watch it alone at Gallery Place. 'They always manage to stay together,' Gray said of the four friends. 'They rally around each other and support each other when it matters most.'" I think I need a Cosmo.
AFTER THE JUMP -- DCPS and the achievement gap -- election may not be over Sept. 15 -- is Fenty committed to urbanism, smart growth? -- potential UMC buyer speaks out -- medical marijuana's entrepreneurial class -- the case against primaries
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MORE ON GRAY'S CIRCLE -- "The mayor's advisers say that to understand Gray, voters should look at his strong ties to some of the District's political veterans, such as, former mayors Marion Barry (D) (now the council member from Ward 8) and Sharon Pratt (D). They warn that such connections would lead Gray, if elected, to repopulate city government with throwbacks who were responsible for policies that drove the city to near-insolvency in the 1990s. ... Gray, who has become a more aggressive candidate in recent weeks, counters that such 'rhetoric' is insulting. 'Who is the old guard?' he asked. 'Beyond the rhetoric that is embedded in that, I don't even know what it means. There is no old guard sitting in the wings waiting to be brought back into government.' Gray's said his 'closest friend' and adviser is Lorraine Green, who headed the Office of Personnel in Pratt's administration and later became deputy director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under President Bill Clinton. Green, now an Amtrak executive, chairs Gray's campaign for mayor. ... He also gets political advice from lobbyist David Wilmot, one of Barry's confidants when he was mayor; Vernon Hawkins, who headed the Department of Human Services during Barry's fourth term as mayor; developer H.R. Crawford, a former council member; Emily Durso, executive director of the D.C. Hotel Association; political consultant Linda Greene, a public relations strategist and Barry's former council chief of staff; and former Rockville mayor Susan Hoffman. Other advisers include his longtime chief of staff, Dawn Slonneger, who worked for Gray when he headed Covenant House in the late 1990s. ... Terry Lynch, a Fenty supporter who heads the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said he believes Gray 'was a straight shooter' on the council. But Lynch said it's easier to reward friends as mayor. 'There is a lot of money on the table, and, in these times, a lot of people want a piece of the action,' he said."
MIND THE GAP -- Progress in closing the "achievement gap" between white and black students in the D.C. Public School "has stalled," and Bill Turque takes a close look on A1 of today's Post. "Data that [Michelle Rhee] released this week show that the difference in the percentages of white and black students who score at proficiency levels on the annual D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests had narrowed from 2007 to this year. The most significant improvement was in secondary schools, where the spread in math achievement dropped more than more 18 percentage points, from 70 to 51.4 percent. But year-to-year results show that progress has slowed markedly. After narrowing from 2007 to last year, the gap in secondary math proficiency widened by slightly less than 2 percentage points. Secondary reading scores show the same flattening trajectory. The District's struggle to close academic divides based on race and ethnicity is playing out in school systems across the country, where progress has also stagnated. And experts caution against making sweeping judgments about the District's prospects for continued improvement based on a year's worth of data." What's it all mean? "[W]e may need to somehow attack family poverty before we see greater progress in closing achievement," said one expert, making a direct attack on Rhee's teacher-focused reform philosophy. Also: The TBD Facts Machine puts the achievement gap in a campaign context, handing Gray an "Honest Abe" for his test-score claims.
GONNA BE CLOSE -- In my not-a-column, I look at the possibility that the primary election could be subject to a protracted Florida-esque battle over provisional ballots: "There may not be any hanging chads or Brooks Brothers riots here. But there is the possibility that, more than a week after primary day, we still won't know whether Gray or Fenty won. And the result may very well be in the hands of the two-member election board. ... Under the District's new same-day registration requirement, all ballots cast are special ballots [subject to review by the elections board] -- so there will almost certainly be more special ballots cast in this primary than ever before. In 2006, for instance, of about 106,000 votes cast in the Democratic primary, only 2,912 were special ballots. This time around, election officials estimate, based on experiences in other jurisdictions, that turnout could be driven up by 7 percent or more. Combine that with the expectation of a higher turnout, and the number of special ballots could approach 10,000. The race doesn't have to be razor-close for those ballots to matter, just plain-old close. And if that happens, the lawyers will be going to the mattresses."
PROFILES IN COURAGE -- Adrian Fenty sits down with Washington City Paper, a week after the paper asked on its cover, "Is Adrian Fenty a Jerk?" The Loose Lips blog has some early looks at what Alan Suderman deems "the single toughest interview in the history of the world." Fenty assured the paper's writers and editors that Rhee will be staying in D.C., marriage to KJ or no marriage to KJ: "[I]t's not only an understanding that we personally have literally, almost verbatim. ... I'm almost 100 percent confident that there's no way she feels right now that she has done everything that she sought out to do. I think that is Michelle Rhee as a person knowing her both personally and professionally. ... I don't think these are two people who would speak this publicly and strongly about their personal life if they didn't mean it. It's not just her, but her finace, Mayor Johnson has said he is committed to the relationship. I think they understand their import and their impact in their respective jobs. And as I tell people: They are very young. Even if they spend another eight years both in the positions they're in, they're barely going to be 50, then they'll have the rest of their lives to live together and do whatever they want." Also, yes, he is invited to her wedding. And Fenty rules out an independent run if he loses the Democratic primary to Gray: "First of all, I really never get into what I would do [if he lost] ... but I'm going to be honest with you, I wouldn't do that." At the end of the day, he even wins over Jason Cherkis -- for now.
GRAY ON GAY -- And Vince Gray sits down with the Blade's Lou Chibbaro Jr. With regard to the gay community, Gray says, "I certainly want to make sure that I continue my aggressive support that has been there as a Ward 7 Council member and as Council Chairman. Certainly, you can be absolutely sure that we won't be extending proclamations or any kind of resolutions or proclamations that are anti-LGBT on issues that are important to the LGBT community." Burn! He also addresses policing ("not only will I retain the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, I want to hire a sergeant who will really be responsible for managing that unit or have one deployed there") and his support for gay marriage: "I have stood fast and I will continue to do that in the belief that the Council clearly had the authority as elective representatives of the people -- that we have a very strong human rights law in the District of Columbia that makes it clear that we shouldn't put anything out before the people that would actually take rights away from folks ... and that's been corroborated by the courts."
URBANIST HAS FENTY QUALMS -- In the flip side to his "should urbanists be nervous about Vince Gray?" series, GGW's David Alpert shares his thoughts on Fenty: "One nagging thought in my mind is whether the Mayor's support for Smart Growth or sustainable transportation is really heartfelt or strong enough. In education, there's no question where the Mayor's heart lies. He's absolutely, 100% for education reform, and he stands behind everything Michelle Rhee does. The same goes for public safety and Cathy Lanier. But in other areas, sometimes his commitment to this vision is tepid, and in other areas, the vision is itself poor. On education, he knows where he needs to be. On transportation or planning, he has people who can explain where he needs to be. On economic development, he doesn't have either. It's okay for Fenty not to be able to articulate a vision in great detail, or be as policy wonkish as Vince Gray. But I'd prefer him to be willing to stand behind his 'A+ people' who have that great vision. Mostly, he does, but sometimes, when the chips are down, he doesn't, and not necessarily with a good reason." Alpert exposes some conflicts with Fenty's just-do-it attitude on issues like sidewalks in Ward 4 and inclusionary zoning, and he expresses doubt that Fenty is personally committed to urbanist principles. The takeway: "When the Mayor is really not as well versed in some of our issues as he could be, doesn't strongly stand behind the key principles, and has some bad people in related areas, it creates some doubt."
HOSPITAL BUYER SPEAKS -- Businessman George Chopivsky talks to WBJ's Ben Fischer about his proposal to buy United Medical Center from the District government (which I mentioned last month). "Chopivsky, a little-known medical entrepreneur whose companies have started and operated psychiatric hospitals for three decades nationwide, though none locally, is pressing for more access to hospital records before firming up his initial $100 million proposal. But he says he can turn a profit at the only D.C. hospital east of the Anacostia River -- something two private companies have failed to do in the last decade, ultimately draining city resources that could have been redirected to other projects. Operating out of his Northwest D.C. office, Chopivsky has assembled a team of tentative partners with enough clout -- including lobbyist David Carmen, lawyer Scott Morrison of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and potential financiers at Bethesda-based EagleBank -- to get the attention of D.C. policymakers. But his company, Capital Behavioral Health LLC, is still embroiled in a $225 million lawsuit with the hospital's former owner, Specialty Hospitals of America LLC. ... Also working against Chopivsky: He's never run an acute-care hospital." Here's what key player David Catania has to say: "He's expressed interest, but there's no proposal. And that's what is maddening about this whole exercise. As far as I'm concerned, he's wasting people's time. ... I have no interest in selling this hospital to another private organization that has no experience running an acute-care hospital, period."
THE BUSINESS OF POT -- The Post's Derek Kravitz looks at how the business of medical marijuana stands to play out in the District. He notes that "some of the entrepreneurs best positioned to lead the way have blemished backgrounds -- including drug convictions -- at odds with the city's vision." Some local advocates and politicos are afraid of "Amsterdam on the Potomac," and are wary of folks like Stephen DeAngelo, "a ponytailed Washington native who runs one of the largest legal pot dispensaries in the world," but has drug charges in his background. "Alan Amsterdam and Adam Eidinger, the owners of Capitol Hemp in Adams Morgan and Chinatown, have started the D.C. Patients' Cooperative and are eyeing a location somewhere in Adams Morgan or Capitol Heights. ... Amsterdam, 43, opened the first American-owned marijuana coffee shop in 1998 in the Netherlands. He pleaded guilty to marijuana possession after being arrested in Rockville in 1995 but received a suspended sentence. It's still unclear whether he would be able to be involved in his shop's day-to-day operations. 'My lawyer is working on it,' he said. 'He says everything is kosher.'" Catania has some thoughts on this issue, too: "I don't think they're serving themselves well by weighing in this much so early in the process. ... I just think, frankly, that they're creating a lot of nervous energy."
DITCH THE PRIMARIES -- A case for abolishing primary elections in the District, penned by Topher Mathews (aka the Georgetown Metropolitan), who writes at GGW: "I can only think of a few legitimate purposes for a primary election, and they either don't or shouldn't apply to DC. First, a primary allows a party to unite its resources around a single candidate in order to wage a general election campaign. In DC there is no general election campaign. ... Second, a primary allows a party to unite its vote around a single candidate so that a 'spoiler candidate' doesn't split the party and allow another party's candidate to win. Whether or not this was ever a legitimate goal, it simply wouldn't apply if the city were to adopt a preferential voting system. The most compelling reason to scrap DC's primaries is enfranchisement. This is because even though the primary election is the de facto general election, there are always more District residents that show up for the actual general election." The better option, Mathews argues, is an instant-runoff system.
YADDA YADDA -- Harry Jaffe hits some familiar themes in his Examiner column today, which is light on show and heavy on tell: "It's safe to say that Washington's local political establishment is firmly behind the challenger. Add in former Mayor Marion Barry and you have the apparatus that ran the city from the dawn of Home Rule in 1974 to 2006, when Fenty took office. Can you say entrenched old guard? ... Fenty believes glad-handing is beneath him. Agreed. He thinks a night spent at an annual dinner is a waste. Agreed. Fenty is a crappy politician. Agreed. Does that mean if we put the usual suspects who make up the establishment back in power that the city government would function better? I am not so sure. ... So what's their beef? They could not get the mayor's attention. That's a valid point, and Fenty was shortsighted in ignoring the usual suspects. But if they are back at the table next January, they will feel better, but will the government function better? I think not."
WHO WON DEANWOOD? -- Fenty and Gray's claims to the Deanwood Rec Center are examined by the Examiner's Freeman Klopott. Both candidates "have been claiming the $33 million [center] as their own success. As a result, the center has been spun so far around the political washing machine that residents don't seem to give either politician credit for it. ... It's clear many of its residents have bought into at least some of Gray's campaign spin, which has often highlighted the mayor as someone who cares more about the city's white citizens. But many in the Deanwood neighborhood don't necessarily credit Gray with the project -- and when they link Fenty to it they find ways to question the center's value to the community."
TAKE THAT -- Good stuff from the Washington Times' Deborah Simmons, who ably rebuts the scaremongering guide to D.C. penned by a conservative activist ahead of tomorrow's Tea Party rally. The writer, Bruce Majors, "is trying to pass as an expert on the 'safety and mores' of Washington, and, like a cow chewing its own cud, is regurgitating the perception that the tea-party movement is a racist, whites-only movement. It's a perception that black conservatives have been fighting for a long time. ... What's really ludicrous is the misperception that a single geographical quadrant of the nation's capital is assumed to be a safe oasis, while the other three are 'why chance it' territory. There is no such thing as a safe harbor, and Washington, the whole of it, has more to offer its visitors than national monuments and national parkland."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Michelle Rhee and the real-estate market (Housing Complex)
Hizzoner wins the endorsement of my old paper: "Undaunted by political opponents, Fenty has made sound decisions in the face of loud protest." (Georgetown Voice)
Leo Alexander wants to put your HIV status on your driver's license (Blade)
"DC to settle controversial Neighborhood Safety Zone Program case. Three residents get $3,500 each. Plaintiffs' attys estimated fees: $700k." (@mikescarcella)
Clark Ray web ad swipes at Phil Mendelson over smart growth record (YouTube)
"[W]hereas the appearance of a perceived racial 'disloyalty' haunted [Harold Ford Jr.] with black women (among other things), Fenty's problem is pretty much the same problem I've seen others have with him -- he's called cold." (The Black Snob)
Gay Republicans not happy with GLAA's ratings (D.C. Wire)
League of Women Voters dons suffragette garb for White House voting rights protest (TBD)
Roger Clemens to be arraigned Monday at Prettyman (AP)
Civil trial on Red Line Metro crash pushed to 2012 (WTTG-TV)
City officials look to relocate slug lines. Says one slug carrier, "If they can put bicycle lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue, they can set up slug spots." (Post)
Hope you weren't buying "Mindy's Muffins" last month (City Desk)
Foxhall Road subdivision off to slow start (Housing Complex)
Should FTC hand over historic Pennsylvania Avenue office building to National Gallery? (WBJ)
Mendelson rallies union activists at protest of construction company (WRC-TV)
Parents of former KIMA students scramble to find new schools (WAMU-FM)
Rhee lunches with youth theater advocate (Theater Educates)
From Detroit: Questioned on health concerns, Robert Bobb says he's just fine (Detroit Free Press)
Another perspective on the Sixth and I debate: "Let us break down the evening: Education. Education. Israel. Israel. Israel. Iran. Iran. Bikes. Sanctions. Buses! Re-cess-ion. Israel. Michelle Rhee. Michelle Rhee. Michelle Rhee. OMG a bunch of Jewish Peoples cooperated and organized something. Iran. Poverty? In DC?" (Wonkette)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Kojo and Tom have Michelle Rhee on at noon, WAMU-FM -- Natalie Randolph makes her debut as Coolidge football coach, taking on Archbishop Carroll at home; the Fenty campaign is hosting a tailgate party starting at 5 p.m.
August 27, 2010; 9:55 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike , The District
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