DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 9, 2010
TODAY IS AUGUST 9, 2010 -- 36 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
In a surprise pick today, the Post's editorial board endorses Vincent Orange over Kwame Brown for the council chairmanship, writing that VO "is best able to match the legacy of intelligent leadership best typified by former council chairman Linda W. Cropp" and that "his up-from-poverty background, experience as an attorney and certified public accountant, and accomplishments on the council suggest he has the right skills to lead the council." Brown's demerits: "[H]e is a likable politician with an unquestioned commitment to the city. ... Yet it is not clear that he has the maturity or judgment to lead the 13-member council. That conclusion is strengthened by the troubling recent disclosures about his personal finances. It's hard to accept Mr. Brown's boast that he is the best steward for taxpayers' money when he has run up personal debts of more than $700,000." Here's an early reaction from the We Love DC blog: "Wait, What?"
AFTER THE JUMP -- what Adrian and Sharon have in common, by Colby King -- TBD launches with Gray piece -- DCPS school scores are in -- OCTOgate briber sent up the river -- why OCF didn't 'vindicate' Barry
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MUST READ -- Colby King's Saturday Post column manages an expert diagnosis of why Adrian Fenty might well be headed down Sharon Pratt Kelly's primrose path. "Today's nation's capital is whiter and browner and has more affluent voters in neighborhoods where many of [Marion Barry]'s 1994 supporters lived. Still, this year's election has echoes of the angry Kelly, [John Ray] and Barry battle. Emotions are riding high over much the same issue that animated many of the black voters who flocked to the polls in 1994: a determination to show who has the power to pick the District's Democratic mayoral nominee. On that score, Fenty is where Kelly was as she entered her final year in office. The gregarious Fenty who took office four years ago, sweeping every precinct in the city, is now seeking reelection pretty much as a loner. His circle of advisers seems as small as Kelly's was, and it's almost as hard to identify. Fenty's restructuring of city government -- particularly his school system reforms -- and his go-it-alone governance style have sparked resentment similar to the reaction to Kelly's alleged aloofness and her attempts to shrink the workforce. Both were fulfilling campaign promises. Now, as was Kelly, Fenty is estranged from the bureaucracy over which he sits. Many city workers view him as they did Kelly: as a mayor who chooses to fly solo, listening only to himself; as a loner who shut out experienced Washingtonians who could have helped him. And as a result, Fenty -- like Kelly -- is seeking reelection without the support of those who have traditionally played important roles in the city's political life: government workers and their unions, families, friends and churches. He's struggling to regain the support of longtime middle-class and working-class residents who feel they have been relegated to second place by an administration that caters to, and is under the influence of, that old race and class bugaboo: 'others.'"
I FOR ONE WELCOME OUR NEW MEDIA OVERLORDS -- TBD is here: The mold-breaking news Web site and TV channel (so long, NewsChannel 8) launched early this morning, and one of its first reported pieces is Sarah Larimer's look at "the playbook for cranking out a white paper for the most deliberative big small-time politician in D.C. history" -- in other words, how Vince Gray's economic plan came together. One flattering anecdote: "One afternoon this summer, [Gray] held court in a stuffy conference room at his campaign headquarters for a work session on the jobs/economic development plan. According to developer Sandy Wilkes, who helped advise the campaign on economic issues and attended the meeting, Gray spent an afternoon 'pushing the group not to just go to the usual economic development tool box.' For the duration of the session, Wilkes said, Gray didn't take any calls on his cell and didn't check his BlackBerry. Lunch break? Not for this plodder -- Wilkes said Gray had Chinese food was brought in. The candidate iron-butted his way through the whole meeting. 'It was a tour de force,' Wilkes said. 'It really was.'" For more on TBD, check out Paul Farhi's Saturday Post coverage. TBD editor Erik Wemple pens a welcome message to readers.
SCHOOL SCORES ARE IN -- Individual school test score data has been released by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. More analysis will surely be forthcoming from the D.C. School Insider and others. But one thing is certain: More schools will be failing to make No Child Left Behind-mandated achievement targets, which steepened considerably this year. That means that more schools are likely to be subject to federally mandated changes. The Examiner's Leah Fabel looks at how those changes are already proceeding at DCPS -- focusing on two "reconstituted" schools, Garfield Elementary and Hamilton Education Center, that are now in the process of removing large numbers of teachers. "At Garfield, where 72 percent of the teachers earned poor evaluations, only 20 percent of students scored 'proficient' on the 2010 reading exam, down from 25 percent in 2009. The math scores were even worse -- 16 percent of students passed, down from 24 percent in 2009. Less than 1 percent of the school's 280 students scored 'advanced' on either test," Fabel writes. "Exactly how many teachers will lose their jobs will not be finalized until the middle of August. But the lowest-performing schools are almost certain to see the most turnover as principals take advantage of their new-found power to oust low performers." And who will these new teachers be? There's no hard demographic data, Fabel reports.
BIG DEAL FOR LIL' BENNY -- High-profile weekend campaign event: The unveiling of "Lil' Benny Way" on 11th Street NW just south of U. Nikita Stewart writes at D.C. Wire: "Fenty and Gray, his chief rival in the Sept. 14th Democratic primary, were civil and made no campaign speeches. They stayed on topic: Anthony 'Lil' Benny' Harley, who died of a heart attack in May at age 46, was a go-go legend and was dedicated to giving back to the community by helping young people learn music. But 11th street between T and U streets, where an alley now bears Harley's nickname, was teeming with campaign workers for Gray and Fenty. ... Concert passes bearing Harley's image were given to people in attendance. Harley's silhouette was drenched in a teal green so that the keepsake looked like campaign paraphernalia. The passes were paid for by Fenty and Democratic council members Jim Graham and Kwame R. Brown, both running for election and both in attendance Saturday." Also Examiner blogger.
BRIBER BEHIND BARS -- The first sentences are handed down in the OCTOgate case, Crime Scene reports: "Sushil K. Bansal, 42, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy of the District to two, 20-month terms, to be served concurrently at a minimum-security federal facility in Pennsylvania. Bansal pleaded guilty in April to one count each of bribery and money laundering. 'It is sad for you and for your family,' Kennedy said. 'It is also sad for all of your employees and the District of Columbia, and here I speak for the citizens of the District of Columbia.' ... 'I am sorry to be standing here,' Bansal said, apologizing for what he called 'such disgraceful acts' and pleading for leniency on behalf of his wife and 7- and 11-year-old daughters." Ringleader Yusuf Acar will be sentenced this week.
BOOZE BOARD PURSUES POT -- Medical marijuana regulations were released Friday by the Fenty administration. I took a look in a Saturday story: "Under the regulations, the city health department would be responsible for registering legal marijuana users. But the licensing and oversight of the facilities that will grow and distribute medical cannabis would be handled by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and its enforcement arm, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. The prospect of having the same regulators overseeing medical marijuana and liquor stores concerns advocates who have fought to have cannabis recognized as a medical treatment, not just as a drug for recreational use. ... Wayne Turner, who co-wrote the 1998 initiative, said Friday that he was glad to see the city move forward but was 'completely blindsided' by the role of alcohol regulators. 'Dispensaries are the front line, and the liquor board is completely inappropriate to run this program,' he said. 'Are we talking about medical marijuana Jell-O shots here?'" Also WJLA-TV.
METRO NO-SHOWS -- "Who's minding the Metro board?" the Post editorial board asked Sunday, prompted by Kytja Weir's Examiner piece singling out Marcell Solomon of Prince George's County and D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown for their poor meeting attendance. "Mr. Brown, who seems to regard his service on the board as an amusing hobby, skipped 52 meetings, about two-thirds of the Metro board's sessions, since the start of 2009. ... In his defense, Mr. Brown points out that he's an alternate member, without a vote on the full board, so -- this part is implicit -- who cares if he plays hooky? In fact, alternate members are empowered to vote on critical and often decisive issues in committee meetings, which are numerous and which he skips at the same rate as full board meetings. Mr. Brown serves on the Metro board at the pleasure of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, who should immediately replace him with someone who cares enough to show up."
NO VINDICATION HERE -- In another weekend editorial, the Post explains why the Office of Campaign Finance's clearing of Marion Barry is not the "vindication" he says it is. "It seems that Mr. Barry's reading of the report is as selective as his understanding of what constitutes proper ethical behavior for a public official. Not only did the report concur with the major findings of Special Counsel Robert S. Bennett, but it also delivered a harshly worded admonishment for conduct that 'adversely affected the confidence of the public in the integrity of the District Government.' ... The [Bennett and OCF] investigations differed, though, on whether Mr. Barry's actions violated the city's conflict-of-interest laws. The office of campaign finance appeared to bend over backward to see things Mr. Barry's way, with the most glaring example being the conclusion that [Donna Watts-Brighthaupt] 'produced a satisfactory written product.' Mr. Bennett's report made a convincing case that the work product didn't conform to the final contract and that portions were, in fact, copied from the Internet. The U.S. attorney's office was also asked to investigate and, while it won't comment on its plans, we can only hope it, too, is examining the matter."
METRO MAYHEM -- Friday night Metro brawl has politicos reacting, per today's A1 report by Valerie Strauss and Phillip Lucas: "It was the second reported big fight involving young Metro riders in the nation's capital this summer, and some elected officials called Sunday for better security and new approaches to deal with the problem. ... Violence among young people during the summer is a longstanding problem in the District, and it is the reason there is a curfew that requires city residents 17 and younger to be off the streets by midnight. ... 'I think the police should be looking at a very focused strategy targeted on that problem,' said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who heads the public safety committee. He rejected an idea raised Saturday by council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who suggested extending the city's teen curfew. Mendelson said such a move would not have prevented Friday's fight because of timing and the ages of many of the participants. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who had supported a move by Wells in June to broaden the curfew, said it was not the answer to the kind of problem that erupted Friday. ... Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) called for non-police measures to the fight. 'I think we need to look at other strategies and target critical places where young people gather,' Thomas said."
HANDS WRUNG -- "District politics hit its nadir last week," writes Jonetta Rose Barras in her Examiner column, referring to the council's votes on summer jobs and the Board of Elections nomination of Mital Gandhi. "Some D.C. Council members, led by Chairman and mayoral candidate Vincent Gray, demonstrated during that meeting that they will do whatever it takes to defeat Mayor Adrian Fenty, including pitting residents against each other and sullying an ordinary citizen." On summer jobs, "criticism of Fenty's overspending was appropriate. Deliberately creating a dichotomy -- homeless versus youth -- to score political points was unconscionable." As for Gandhi, "David Catania observed that the campaign to sink Gandhi's nomination was inexplicable and he had 'never seen anything like it.' I hadn't, either. Sadly, the absence of integrity is becoming the rule -- not the exception." Meanwhile, City Paper's Jason Cherkis explains why the homeless money the council saved is sorely needed.
STICKS AND STONES -- Congress Heights on the Rise has video of Mary Cuthbert, Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner and prominent D.C. Democrat, calling her ANC challenger a very nasty racial slur. Keep in mind, this isn't the first time Cuthbert's spoken in those terms.
MAYORAL BLOGGER -- Meet Victor Reinoso, blogger! The deputy mayor for education does a guest-poster turn at Andrew Rotherham's Eduwonk. He describes how he think things get done: "As I see it, the recent progress in student achievement has not happened by accident, or because of some grand, genius plan. Rather, leaders stuck to some fundamental principles: Be unafraid to try something new. If it's in the best interests of kids, do it. Process, while important, cannot be the enemy of reform. ... It hasn't been perfect along the way, but as the first time up on the bike of this new approach to reform, it's more than any of us had been able to do in decades."
REVERSE LAND GRAB? -- The federal government might be taking some land back from the District. The Fenty administration wants the federal government to pay for major infrastructural improvements to the east campus of St. Elizabeths, Jonathan O'Connell reports in today's Capital Business. "The question of who will own the FEMA site, however, may become a sticking point. ... If the city were to lease or sell the property to a private developer, which could then lease it to the federal government, D.C. would collect long-term property taxes and lease payments, which it could also borrow against to finance infrastructure improvements. ... But the federal government has been moving to own, rather than lease, more of its real estate. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), through a spokesman's statement, said she expected that the GSA would acquire the site in exchange for in-kind infrastructure upgrades on some other parts of the campus."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Is accused bribee Ted Loza back on the campaign trail? (Examiner Local Opinion Zone)
Foundation head defends Rhee teacher firings (Post op-ed)
Hotel PAC makes no mayoral pick; also endorses Kwame Brown, council incumbents (WBJ)
Federal appeals court rules that warrantless GPS tracking is illegal; SCOTUS likely to weigh in (The Blog of Legal Times)
A call for a "third way" mayoral candidate (Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space)
Is it fair that so many Metro riders -- federal employees -- don't feel fare hikes? (Post)
Adam Clampitt hosts Ward 6 fundraiser for Gray (Loose Lips)
What a Washington Post editorial can do (themail)
Also: A reader disagrees with the Post's Fenty endorsement (Post letter)
More on voting changes (G'town Dish)
Hallelujah: Starburst intersection to be paved by month's end (Frozen Tropics)
A grim tally: eight pedestrians, four cyclists struck by vehicles this week (GGW)
Georgetown library to reopen in October (G'town Metropolitan)
Five assaults investigated as possible anti-gay hate crimes (Blade)
Why did this Park View home get a curb cut? (GGW)
$1.4 million bequest from the Charles and Hilda Mason estate funds scholarship to Virginia college (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Ward 8 mayoral forum, hosted by Tom Sherwood, 6:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeths