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DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 30, 2010

TODAY IS AUGUST 30, 2010 -- 15 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

The primary election is upon us: At 8:30 this morning, voters will begin lining up at One Judiciary Square to cast the first-ever early ballots. So how will they vote? Somebody did a poll, you might have heard: "Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is foundering in his reelection bid against his chief opponent, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, despite a widespread sense that the city is heading in the right direction, according to a new Washington Post poll." With an apparent 17-point deficit among likely voters, Fenty deemed himself the "underdog" yesterday and implored reporters to scrutinize Gray's record: "People have asked tough questions of me for the past four years and, from what I can tell, we have answered all the questions. Now, let's see how my opponent does under the same types of tough questions." Gray, meanwhile, appeared at a "Women for Gray" fundraiser, where he told supporters to beware of "complacency." So how did this happen, how did an all-precinct sweep turn into a near-desperate gap of this magnitude in less than four years? Could it be an epidemic of "Hate Fenty Fever," as Jonetta Rose Barras puts in the Examiner? Or, as I argue in my analysis piece today, is it a whole bunch of reasons?

AFTER THE JUMP -- more poll reaction -- the Big G sideshow -- Post ed board wants Gray to stop flinging contract accusations -- has Fenty botched gentrification politics 101? -- Floyd Flake preaches the Fenty gospel -- checkpoint case settled

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE POLL STUFF -- Check out a graphic presentation of the poll results. In a blog post, I explained how the poll was done. City Paper says things are "gettin' toasty" for Hizzoner. TBD also reports on the Fenty react, which includes this quote: "I think what's very encouraging to us ... is people are saying that by huge margins that they believe that the city has moved forward and our administration has directly helped to move the city forward." Local TV outlets WRC-TV, WTTG-TV and WJLA-TV have stories. We've also put up an online poll mirroring the telephone poll questions if you'd like to participate.

GO-GO DRAMA -- After answering questions about the poll in the parking lot of United Medical Center on Sunday, Fenty lent credence to an odd sideshow, heading down to the Big Chair to join key supporter Ron Moten and go-go artist/actor Anwan "Big G" Glover. The latter claimed over the weekend that he'd been ousted from his radio hosting gig on WKYS-FM for his vocal support for Fenty -- a move he attributed to Gray campaign shenanigans. But at the press conference, Glover said he's only been "indefinitely suspended" through the election and he said that the KYS program manager who informed him of the suspension didn't mention any Gray campaign involvement. Still: "Do the math," Glover said. A spokeswoman for Gray said he "doesn't even know who Big G is." Fenty joined Glover and Moten in denouncing an infringement of Glover's "First Amendment rights."

ABOUT THOSE CONTRACTS -- The Post's editorial board, writing at length Sunday, says Gray needs to put more proof behind his claims of Fenty malfeasance on parks contracting: "[I]n increasingly strident tones, he accuses Mr. Fenty of running a less than honorable administration. 'Pay to play,' 'rigged contracts' and 'shady deals' are just a few of the terms that Mr. Gray has hurled at Mr. Fenty leading up to the Sept. 14 primary. What is the basis for these assertions? The central exhibit in Mr. Gray's case against the mayor -- in fact, as far as we can tell, pretty much the only exhibit in his case against the mayor -- is $82 million in contracts for work on parks and recreation centers, a small fraction of which went to companies with ties to Mr. Fenty. ... There are legitimate questions to be asked. Was there undue influence in the contract process? Did the city get a good deal? How were subcontractors selected, and why pick one that lacked certain city certification? We were particularly troubled by the mayor's decision to demote the board chairman of the D.C. Housing Authority who says he raised objections to what he saw as an unusual fee arrangement. ... But to date, after hours of testimony before the council, there has been no evidence that Mr. Fenty misused his office to enrich his friends."

THE OTHER BIG G -- In Sunday's Outlook section, Post columnist Bob McCartney explains the racial gap as a function of Fenty's inability to master gentrification politics: "Notwithstanding the progress Fenty has made in improving the District's schools and lowering its murder rate, his biggest shortcoming in the minds of many black voters is that he has mishandled the most important long-term issue facing the city: gentrification, and the racial politics that go with it. ... [Gray] is exploiting that weakness by campaigning as someone who would oversee the city's economic and demographic transformation more fairly -- and thus do a better job of bridging the city's racial gap. ... Ironically, gentrification won't be a pressing issue in the first part of the next mayor's term, because the recession has stalled real estate development in the city. However, as soon as the business cycle turns up again, gentrification and demographic transformation will return to the top of the agenda. The social and economic trends are unstoppable. People increasingly dislike the suburbs because commutes are so long, and many young people coming to the region prefer a lively, urban lifestyle. The choice in this election, on both style and substance, is how to manage such change."

FENTY TO BOB -- "When I got elected, my thought is, okay, let's amass as many results as humanly possible over the next four years. One, because that's what you're elected to do, and two, because if you're able to do so, I assumed people ... will reelect you. I realize now at the end of the four years that was flawed thinking. Yes, you absolutely have to deliver results, but there's more to it. You have to include people ... you have to include everybody."

FENTY TO EXAMINER -- Freeman Klopott offers a pair of stories culled from Fenty's interviews with the Examiner's editorial board and newsroom. One has Fenty saying that he wants voters to judge him on his performance, that if "you're able to fulfill all of your work goals ... and been able to succeed on them, then you should keep the job." Another focuses on juvenile justice issues, in which Fenty says that if Robert Hildum wants to remain in charge of DYRS, "he must show ... that he can strike a balance between keeping dangerous offenders behind bars and allowing young criminals back into the community for rehabilitation." That indeed would be nice.

ANOTHER NYC IMPORT -- The Post's Hamil Harris captures the scene at Thursday night's Ward 7 church event for Fenty, featuring big-deal New York preacher Rev. Floyd Flake: "Flake, who spent a decade in congress before returning to his 25,000 member congregation in Queens in the late 1990s, headlined a Fenty rally at the Holy Comforter Missionary Baptist Church. 'Somebody has to step up,' said Flake, adding that 'one of the biggest barriers' to education reform is the agenda of [teachers unions]. 'If it were their children, they would want them to have the best education.' He spoke to the audience of about 100 of the virtues of residents and officials charting their own future, especially as it relates to gentrification, a concern among some D.C. residents who fear they might be priced out of the city. 'I support this mayor because I believe in this moment in history he is the only one that gives you some hope of being able to have a community that would have some hope, that would look like us, still living here in the next generation,' Flake said."

WHAT WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT -- Colby King led his Saturday column with the heartbreaking story of Keith Deantre Washington, a young man that DYRS could not keep from an early death. Colby has written about his mother's plea for help in May. "It was an exercise in futility. The boy's dead. His mom's dying inside. His DYRS case manager is still drawing a paycheck. Sadly, that's not what people care about these days. It's all about Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee: Will her coattails pull [Fenty] to electoral victory? About [Gray]: Can he do well west of 16th Street NW? And about power: Which side of the District has the most political clout? The conversation is certainly not about the destruction -- and self-destruction -- of young black boys in our city. Naw, black boys are the source of all the bad stuff that keeps the District from becoming a world-class city. They are the face of the school system's high dropout rates. They are the earners of those low test scores in the achievement gap. They are the bodies lying on the ground behind the yellow tape. Black boys are best not discussed these days in polite company or on the campaign trail." He finds a like mind in Ward 1 council candidate Bryan Weaver, who says that the city needs to build more secure beds for troubled youth.

WHISTLE STOP -- So a jury ruled Thursday on a whistleblower case involving members of the Metropolitan Police brass. The reaction could not have been more confusing, with both sides declaring victory, and the police union and the department trading claims on what the verdict means. Me, I'm going to let colleague Keith Alexander handle it: "A D.C. Superior Court jury ruled that senior police officials, including Chief Cathy L. Lanier, violated the District's whistleblower act when they suspended a police officer in 2005 after he informed city officials that the department allegedly brokered an illegal deal to provide security for the Gallery Place entertainment area downtown. The jury ruled Thursday that officer Sean McLaughlin was wrongly suspended after he alerted the mayor's office and the D.C. Council that the department had brokered a deal to make officers available to provide security in the area, after the department had rejected requests by McLaughlin and other officers to supply off-duty security in the same neighborhood. ... Still, while union attorneys were able to prove that McLaughlin's suspension was directly linked to whistleblowing, attorneys were not able to prove such a case for [two other officers]. Using the two officers' personnel files, D.C. attorneys convinced the nine civil jurors that their being disciplined would have occurred without whistleblowing, based on their prior departmental infractions." AG Peter Nickles calls the whole thing a "waste of union member funds." Get the picture?

SUNDAY WITH MICHELLE -- Rhee appeared Sunday morning on ABC's This Week, along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and teacher union majordomo Randi Weingarten. Bill Turque wraps up the proceedings, noting that Duncan and Weingarten (and host Christiane Amanpour) sucked up most of the oxygen. "Rhee ... did say that she was 'about to announce in the next couple of days' the first round of payments to top-performing DCPS teachers. ... Amanpour, a distinguished foreign correspondent, was not completely up to speed on the District story. She asked Rhee how she managed to 'get rid of 241 teachers and get the unions onboard.' The answer, of course, is that the unions weren't onboard. Rhee implied that the new IMPACT evaluation system, which uses test score growth as one of its measures for some teachers, was a product of bargaining with the teachers. That's not the case, and Weingarten gently corrected her a few minutes later." Here's a transcript.

FORWARD MARCH -- This reporter spent most of Saturday in the Post newsroom typing his analysis piece, so he did not get to witness either Glenn Beck's march or the other big show up at Dunbar High School. Harry Thomas Jr. was among the organizers of that latter "Reclaim the Dream" march. City Paper's Alan Suderman notes a brief interview on NPR where Thomas, billed as a "civil rights leader," holds forth: "We can't allow another group to skillfully use that day, and use the greatest orator and his speech, to promote their political ideals. ... This has been purposefully done -- it is hypocrisy at its highest degree ... just another tactic of divisive behavior to keep people apart." Both Fenty and Gray appeared at the march, with Fenty garnering some boos. Eleanor Holmes Norton also chimed in: "Glenn Beck's march will change nothing," adding he has "March on Washington envy."

THAT GUY -- Remember Bruce Majors? Here's more from the author of the Tea Party Guide to Washington: "Eleanor Holmes Norton thinks it is racist.... or at least 'worrisome' to suggest any part of DC is dangerous. ... I wonder which parts of the city Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Reverend Al Sharpton, and Mayoral candidate Vince Gray thinks are NOT safe for tourists? Would they send a tourist anywhere without any guidance, as all of DC, under their governance, is safe? Since they seem to suggest that it is racist to say any part of DC might be dangerous, may I pick three addresses, one for each of them to sit on a stoop and read a book outdoors all alone for an evening? If there is some cul-de-sac somewhere that is not completely as it should be, what have they done about it lately?"

CHECKPOINT CASE SETTLED -- Three residents who sued the city over the 2008 Trinidad checkpoints are settling for $3,500 apiece, Mike Scarcella reports for Legal Times. Says plaintiffs' attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice: "We wanted to end the program, and we did." The D.C. Circuit helped, of course. "She called the case one of the most critical civil rights cases in the country. The plaintiffs' lawyers believed the law enforcement program would have become a model for police departments around the country had the program succeeded in the District. The District said it will pay 'reasonable' legal fees, which the plaintiffs' lawyers estimate at $700,000. ... Nickles this afternoon called the settlement a good deal for the city. 'We don't need the checkpoint. We can handle the problem in other ways that are consistent' with earlier court rulings."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Another Fenty music video, this one featuring Backyard and Stinky Dink (YouTube)

And an Adrian Fenty music video that does not feature Backyard or Stinky Dink (YouTube)

The Washington Teachers' Union formally endorses Gray (WTU blog)

Turque explains differing "achievement gaps"; Guy Brandenburg takes issue with Post editorial board claims; Jay Mathews also weighs in (D.C. Schools Insider, GFBrandenburg's Blog, Class Struggle)

A handy guide to identifying Michael D. Brown: "Michael D. Brown did not make the city's All-Met basketball team as a high school student. But neither did Michael A. Brown. So that's a wash." (TBD)

Why were Gray's signs at 7th and H Streets painted over? (WUSA-TV/Bruce Johnson's Blog)

Inside UDC's new dorm (Post)

District sues SLED firm (WBJ)

Natalie Randolph loses her first game as Coolidge head football coach (Post)

"Is Michelle Rhee Using Natalie Randolph to Make It Look Like She Cares About Girls in Sports?" (City Desk)

Thanks to dismal graduation rate, UDC makes Washington Monthly's list of worst colleges (Class Struggle)

City brings cops to McMillan site meeting (Housing Complex)

Learn more about the District's leadership on "blended pre-K" (Ezra Klein)

Marion Barry disapproval resolution expires; Gage-Eckington Park moves forward (TBD)

A Southeast neighborhood debates one store's beer and wine sales (Post)

More on GLAA rankings (Blade)

Kwame Brown is too busy campaigning to listen to music! (DCist)

Hand Dancing for Dummies (DCist)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Early voting begins 8:30 a.m. at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th St. NW, in the old council chambers

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 30, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Early voting begins

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