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DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 2, 2010

TODAY IS AUGUST 2, 2010 -- 43 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

The Post's editorial board has endorsed Adrian Fenty (D) for mayor: "The District of Columbia today is a better place to live and work than it was four years ago. It is for that reason that we enthusiastically endorse Mr. Fenty in the Democratic primary for mayor. He should have another four years to entrench the progress he has made." As I noted Friday, this is the earliest The Post has endorsed for a major executive position since picking Parris Glendening for Maryland governor two months early in 1994. They let Vince Gray (D) down easy, calling him a "devoted and sober-minded public servant," albeit one "driven more by animus toward Mr. Fenty, and his style of governing, than by any agenda of his own." City Paper's Alan Suderman notes that the endorsement comes as a surprise to few. As does the Georgetown Dish.

AFTER THE JUMP -- More on the editorial -- Michael Brown has lousy Metro attendance record -- The perils of Gray's big tent -- Obama and Gray meet at Mystics game -- Brawl breaks out at DYRS awards ceremony in Wilson Building

*** MAIN COURSE ***

THE CAVEATS -- From the editorial: "He has made mistakes. Some were just silly, such as his refusal to share baseball tickets with D.C. Council members. His political enemies have overblown others, such as the fuss over the planned donation to the Dominican Republic of a fire truck that turned out to be virtually worthless. However, secrecy about his travels, an almost pathological unwillingness to consult outside his inner circle and the awarding of a few suspect contracts to friends raise unsettling questions about his judgment. Like many others, we've wondered why the mayor would allow stubbornness to endanger the good work being done by his administration. We understand that Mr. Fenty's determination to shake up the status quo was bound to provoke antagonism. But you don't have to be aloof or highhanded to move fast."

THE SECOND TERM -- "His top second-term priority is the same as his top first-term priority, and rightly so: improving the city's schools -- and, yes, [Michelle Rhee] would stay. Meanwhile, Mr. Fenty would seek to continue progress in public safety and services to residents. He is unhappy that he didn't have time in his first term to do more on public housing, and he talks movingly about the need to fix a situation where people languish for years on housing waiting lists. As further evidence of his willingness to wade into rough political waters, Mr. Fenty says that he hopes to work with the governors of Virginia and Maryland to improve Metro management and service. It is the one aspect of city life, Mr. Fenty notes, that has deteriorated during his term."

GRAY RESPONSE -- Via D.C. Wire: "We're not surprised. The editorial board has consistently signaled its support for the mayor since he was elected, and throughout this entire campaign. But even in its endorsement, The Post raises concerns about the Mayor's 'secrecy about his travels,' his 'almost pathological unwillingness to consult outside his inner circle' and his awarding of 'suspect contracts to friends,' saying that these things 'raise unsettling questions about his judgment.' A growing number of Washingtonians agree, and that's why we're seeing so much momentum for Vince Gray in this campaign."

***

METRO NO-SHOWS - The Examiner's Kytja Weir examines the attendance records of Metro board members, and finds some bad habits among the District's reps: "D.C. Councilman Michael Brown had the worst record ... missing 66 percent of 79 committee and board meetings since he was appointed last year. The poor attendance has come as Metro has been searching for leadership amid its most challenging year. The National Transportation Safety Board slammed the board just last week, saying a lack of direction was a critical factor in safety lapses that cost lives last year. ... The minutes themselves are generous. D.C. City Administrator Neil Albert showed up for a 9 a.m. finance committee meeting on May 13 at 10:29 a.m. He was counted as present. The minutes show he has missed 29 percent of the meetings, the fourth-worst record overall and the worst of any director with a full vote. 'Whenever I am not here there's probably a good reason that involves the work of the city,' he said." Neither Brown nor Albert get paid for their service, unlike Prince George's County rep Marcell Solomon, who is paid $39,656.90 to serve on the part-time board and still has a lousy attendance record. Brown's defense: "My attendance hasn't been great but my engagement has always been there. ... Engagement can't just be measured by attendance."

PERILS OF THE BIG TENT -- As a mayoral candidate, Gray has made a lot of promises to a lot of people -- charter-school equity, jobless training, early education and so forth -- and if elected, he'll have a hard time delivering on his promises, Tim Craig reported Sunday. "Gray's wide-ranging and potentially expensive policy positions have helped him amass a coalition most politicians would envy. He has received endorsements from the AFL-CIO, public employees unions, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, the D.C. Tenants Advocacy Coalition, the D.C. Realtors Association, nurses, social workers and gay and Hispanic Democratic groups. ... For the most part, supporters say Gray hasn't made specific promises, although they are drawn to his reputation for collaboration and want to be closer to the levers of power. But with the city government likely to face continuing budget shortfalls, if he is elected, Gray can expect to be tested quickly on how well he can say no. ... Council member Marion Barry (Ward 8), a former four-term mayor who has a long-standing relationship with Gray, said he had better 'be prepared' for an influx of demands because 'the American way is to the victor goes the spoils.' ... 'The unions are going to come. All the advocacy groups are going to come. I'm going to come,' Barry said. 'I have a self-interest in this race. We want major development east of the Anacostia River. People want jobs, training programs. And he's just going to have to be prepared for that.' "

VINCE AND POTUS -- Gray and President Obama exchanged pleasantries at Sunday's Mystics game, Tim reports at D.C. Wire. "Gray and Obama were both guests of Ted Leonsis at Sunday's WBNA Washington Mystic's game. According to Gray staffers, the chairman was unaware that Leonsis, the owner of the team, had also invited Obama until a few minutes before game time. When Obama walked in with daughter Sasha, he and Gray exchanged pleasantries for about a minute, but he and the president sat several seats away from each other. Gray spent part of the game chatting up Alana Beard from the Mystics and Reggie Love, Obama's personal assistant who played basketball at Duke, according to campaign aides. During the game, Leonsis also had Gray introduced to the crowd, flashing his picture on the Jumbotron at the Verizon Center. After the game, Obama and Gray again shook hands before they parted ways, according to campaign aides."

GET YOUR VOTE ON -- Today I write about the many changes in the District's voting process -- no-excuse early voting, same-day registration, voter-verified paper trails -- and the concern that the pace of changes is causing: "In one fell swoop, D.C. voters will find themselves on the cutting edge of national election trends. After a series of problems with the 2008 city elections led lawmakers to overhaul voting equipment, standards and procedures, the way D.C. residents vote is changing dramatically. ... The D.C. Council directive has had officials, many of them overseeing their first city election, scrambling to buy new equipment, formulate new procedures and train hundreds of poll workers. The scope of the changes and the quick timetable for implementation have some observers concerned. 'They've got good people, but the city council, quite frankly, has loaded too much on them,' said Doug Lewis, executive director of the National Association of Election Officials. 'You've put in infinite points of failure. It's just too much all at once.' But Rokey W. Suleman II, executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics since July 2009, said his agency will be ready for the primary elections Sept. 14."

IT'S THE BUDGET, STUPID -- Colby King argues in his Saturday Post opinion column that the continued tenure of Michelle Rhee isn't the top issue in the mayoral race. "The city's financial health, as I've said before and now say again, is issue No. 1. That's a hard sell, I know. Municipal finance comes without a face. There's nothing sexy about abstract numbers and statistics. Balance sheets don't preen when they are admired or respond to threats or cringe when yelled at. Annual financial audits don't frown, pout, talk back, cry or quit to spend more time with their families. But hard truths can be found in numbers. The pluses and minuses, lines pointing up or down, graphs and ratios help tell the fiscal tale. Within the District's numbers is a story that must not be ignored this election year. Simply put, the city's fiscal health is not all it should be. That should concern everyone. ... The time between now and Election Day should be used to pin down the candidates on the budget and spending. I know, I know, that's a little like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. But it is essential to find out where all the mayoral and council candidates stand on issues such as drawing down the general fund, balancing the budget with cuts (where) or tax increases (on what or whom), and protecting the city's bond rating."

GRAY'S IMPACT -- A little bit more from Vince Gray on IMPACT, courtesy of the Dish's Molly Redden: "Regarding IMPACT, the evaluation system for DCPS teachers that [Rhee] has recently cited in the potential firing of over 200 District teachers, Gray did not say much more about the system than he has already. Without dismissing IMPACT, Gray questioned the amount of deliberation that preceded its implementation, which he said raised questions as to its validity. He pointed out that in one Michigan school district, the rollout process took all of three years, and said if he were elected, he would want "some measure of the effectiveness of IMPACT." Gray also wondered how well it could account for the stress teachers who teach in poor conditions face in schools."

SUMMER JOBS RAID -- Advocates for the poor are slamming the Fenty administration's move to pull $8.4 million out of federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families funds to extend the summer-jobs program. Kathyn Baer notes at Poverty & Policy that DHS Director Clarence Carter may have promised to use the money to shore up homeless funding. "Either that or the mayor is taking funds that are urgently needed to serve the very low-income families in the District's TANF program," she writes. "What's sure as can be is that neither the President nor any of his people ever suggested leaving homeless families out on the streets so that some kids can have summer-long subsidized jobs that could have gone to poor jobless parents." The usually measured Susie Cambria is stunned, calling the Fenty move "shenanigans." And Brookings' Martha Ross, writing at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute blog, calls it "fiscally irresponsible, and it's not the right way to run a high-quality youth employment program."

TALKING BUSINESS -- Dueling op-eds in the pages of Capital Business from Fenty and Gray! Writes Gray: "For more than three years D.C. has been without a long-term, coordinated economic development strategy. The Fenty administration's shortsighted and opaque approach to economic development has created an uncertain business climate in one of the least volatile markets in the country. This lack of planning and poor leadership could not have come at a worse time and our historically high unemployment rates are due in no small part to the District's dismal capacity to either develop an economic development vision or follow the previous administration's plan." Writes Fenty: "In the past, politicians would have tapped a blue ribbon panel for a hefty report that would just end up collecting dust on a shelf. We can't afford that approach today. Our economic development strategy foundation is based on a decade's worth of planning. Now is not the time for another task force. It is time for action. During the next four years, we will redouble our efforts to create jobs, rebuild our waterfront and infrastructure and promote the District as a 21st-century, globally competitive, sustainable city."

VIVA FREE PRESS -- Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff on Friday decided against "throwing 80 years of First Amendment jurisprudence on its head," after all -- lifting an order that kept National Law Journal from printing information it had legally obtained from a court file. But not before Keith Alexander penned a Saturday Metro-fronter on the decision, which, he notes, "end[s] a dispute that legal observers said was destined to become one of the biggest First Amendment cases in years." The Wall Street Journal's law blog also picked up the story. And today, The Post's editorial board decries Bartnoff's rare "prior restraint" ruling, calling it an "extraordinary -- and extraordinarily bad -- decision." Oh, and that sensitive information? Juice-maker POM Wonderful has been under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, NLJ is now free to report.

DYRS IRONY -- Really not what you want to happen here: "An awards ceremony recognizing good behavior by youth in the District's juvenile justice system ended in a brawl and three arrests," Scott McCabe writes in the Examiner. "Fenty had just finished handing out the honors to the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services' most successfully rehabilitated offenders when three of the girls got into an argument, according to law enforcement sources and police records. ... Administration officials and security quickly moved in to stop the Thursday night fray, but the melee continued for several minutes, witnesses said. Police backup and D.C. fire and rescue workers were called to the Wilson Building to help quell the violence and take care of an injured person. Neither the mayor nor any of the attendees were seriously injured." Three women, ages 18 to 20, were arrested for fighting in public. WJLA-TV also covers the story; alarmingly, reporter Stephen Tschida and his crew were "detained" and escorted out of the Wilson Building while reporting.

FREE MITAL, PART 354 -- Gray has become "so focused on his future he ignores his legal obligation to ensure fair elections," Jonetta Rose Barras writes in her Examiner column. In other words, he should move to confirm Mital Gandhi to the Board of Elections and Ethics posthaste. "Gray seems to have aligned himself with Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas, who is antagonistic toward Gandhi's nomination. Who knows what Thomas has against Gandhi? One thing is certain: Gray wants Thomas' help in winning Ward 5 and he's willing to do what it takes to get that assistance. ... If he fails to place Gandhi's nomination on the agenda for Monday's session, ensuring all types of political voices are present on the elections board, then Gray would have made it clear that his all-us-together philosophy is nothing more than talk." Barras doesn't mention the self-interest Gray has in not confirming Gandhi: If he's elected mayor, he'd get to make his own pick come January. GLAA Forum points out that the seat isn't owed to a Republican necessarily, as the D.C. GOP would have you believe. And Dorothy Brizill is still not impressed with Gandhi, calling him "by far the worst appointment the mayor has sought to make. He lacks the integrity, independence, and work ethics the position requires."

WEED UPDATE -- The latest on medical-marijuana implementation, from the Examiner's Liz Essley: "The mayor's draft order calls for the District Department of Health, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the Metropolitan Police Department to share duties of regulating the drug -- but they won't be able to make the rules until Jan. 1, 2011. Proponents of medical marijuana wonder what's taking so long. 'This seems like a really long time, and I don't know why they wouldn't have already done this,' said Jeffrey Kahn, a rabbi who hopes to open a medical marijuana dispensary near the Takoma Metro station. Until agency regulations come out in 2011 and dispensaries are allowed to open, marijuana will be illegal, even for those with qualifying medical conditions."

CROSSING A COLLEAGUE -- Tommy Wells has taken the rare step of publicly supporting the primary opponent of one of his council colleagues: He wrote a $100 check to Bryan Weaver, running against Jim Graham in Ward 1, Jason Cherkis reports at City Paper. Says Weaver: "Like others, I clicked on something on my Twitter account and saw his video. ... I saw it was fresh, bold, really a great effort. And I wanted to tell him that and the way we do it in politics is we write a check. He hit all my issues, but he did it in a great fresh way." He hasn't given Graham a dime yet.


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Clark Ray gets the Deborah Simmons treatment: "Between sips of Coke and bites of a BLT at Trio Restaurant in Dupont Circle, this child of the South who loves neck bones and greens discusses his roots, his passion for public service, his accomplishments and his campaign platform." (Washington Times)

Wrap-up of Thursday's UDC forum: "An ideal format for Gray, the no-opponent, no-time-limit forum proved challenging for [Kwame Brown]." (G'town Dish)

A pro-Rhee page from Katie Couric's notebook (CBS News)

Statehood activists Tim Cooper and Mike Brown respond to Eleanor Holmes Norton's way forward on voting rights (Post letters)

Gray economic development program coming this week (Life in the Village)

Free clinic coming to Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Wednesday (Post)

The Rhee question "just won't go away" for Gray (WAMU-FM)

Decoding Fenty's campaign signs (Loose Lips)

A former DCPS student defends IMPACT: "If there was some teacher-evaluation system that was strong enough to remove ineffective educators despite the iron fist of the union, I never saw it." (Post letter)

Trial set on disabled access to lottery tickets (AP via Examiner)

Victor Reinoso joins the blogger corps (Eduwonk)

"It's just funny that the West Coast's premier institution of higher learning has faculty/employees who are just like the rest of us -- foul-mouthed-Rhee bashers." (The Frustrated Teacher)

Oklahoma wants a Michelle Rhee of its own (The Oklahoman)

Rhee still an Aspen Institute favorite (James Beldock)

Venture Philanthropy Partners sends $5.5 million to KIPP D.C. -- "another sign of private money shaking up public education in the District" (Post)

D.C. Public Library wins $1.5 million to upgrade computers (news release)

UDC wins $10.75 million in federal money (WBJ)

Ward 5 weeps: Kathy Henderson will not appear on the ballot (Frozen Tropics)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Summer-jobs hearing starts at 10 a.m., with legislative meeting to approve extension likely to follow -- Ribbon-cutting for Watha T. Daniel Library

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 2, 2010; 1:08 PM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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