DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 20, 2010
TODAY IS SEPT. 20, 2010 -- 43 DAYS UNTIL GENERAL ELECTION
The weekend is gone, the election postmortems have been written, we've all caught up on our sleep, and the work of governing the city now goes on. Tim Craig and I today explain what city government will be dealing with after Vincent Gray's defeat of Adrian Fenty: "Fenty and Gray will have to work together to address a midyear budget deficit that some predict could approach $100 million. The men, who haven't had a face-to-face meeting for nearly a year, plan to sit down together this week. They must continue to run a city-owned hospital and determine the fate of dozens of appointees to boards and commissions who have not been confirmed."
The job starts with tomorrow's D.C. Council meeting. Jonetta Rose Barras, in her Examiner column, says Gray needs to ditch the campaign rhetoric right away: "It's truth-telling time. ... [T]he financial plan Gray crafts -- with assistance from Brown and the outgoing mayor -- must include significant budget-cutting. That action must be taken without regard to the long line of Gray supporters queued up and salivating at the government trough."
AFTER THE JUMP -- How Fenty lost the black vote -- The edu-narrative emerges -- Did the teachers unions strike back? -- Private education funders ponder withdrawal -- Robert Bobb says "We'll see" -- Briggs bails -- Guess who had the "Worst Week in Washington"?
*** MAIN COURSE ***
JAWB TANGO -- "Brown's elevation will set off jockeying over who will replace him as chairman of the influential economic development committee. Gray's departure also promises to realign the balance of power on the 13-member council in a reshuffling of political alliances. Members Michael A. Brown (I-At Large), Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) all endorsed Gray and could see their influence grow. Moderate members who often aligned with Fenty -- Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) -- could see their clout wane. ... Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and [David Catania], all of whom have support among whites, are emerging as potential power brokers. ... Fenty dominated in majority-white neighborhoods, racking up about 80 percent of the vote in Wards 2 and 3. As Gray seeks to try to make inroads with voters who didn't support him, he's likely to turn to Wells, Cheh and Catania for advice and support." Forgot early Gray supporter Phil Mendelson -- also a power broker!
THE MONEY -- Already identified is $35 million in expected fiscal 2011 Medicaid funding that was not approved by Congress. An additional $20 million needs to be found to cover lower-than-anticipated Medicaid reimbursements for the school system in the current year. Next week, the city's financial office is expected to release its quarterly revenue estimates for 2011. Evans said Friday that he expects the figure to approach $50 million. 'I'm not sure if I'm the mayor, I'd make any tough decisions at this point,' Evans said. 'I'd just kick it to the council.'"
RACE AND MAYORAL RACE -- Two big themes in post-election coverage: race and education. Tackling the former, The Post's Chris Jenkins and Paul Schwartzman set out to determine how Fenty lost the black vote: "Kelvin Carvana, 42, a black resident of Shepherd Park, in Northwest, who works in construction finance, said he was struck by the dearth of black appointees in the mayor's Cabinet. And he walked away from Fenty. 'In this area, you have the most educated, affluent collection of people of color in the entire country,' Carvana said. 'We're all articulate, we're all perceptive, and he didn't realize that that was his market. He thought he could just run roughshod and cater to whomever he wanted to cater to and leave people disenfranchised. He just thought we were going to sit there and take it.'" Adds another man, who was rubbed the wrong way by employee firings: "Does he understand that a job is a family's livelihood? I didn't know anybody who was fired personally, but I can relate. I know how it feels, and I felt for those teachers and their families. That was it for me. Would never trust him again." Also: WPFW-FM's Askia Muhammad tells the Defenders Web site, "People hated him because he was a figment of his own creation. That is, he believed his own press releases. ... He seemed to believe that white people have colder ice than blacks... Nobody liked him but white people."
THE MYTH OF POST-RACIALISM -- WAMU-FM host Kojo Nnamdi wrote on race in Sunday's Outlook section: "Gray's diplomatic skills will be severely tested as he tries to continue the city's growth without disturbing its racial sensitivities. It's a daunting task. I admire anyone who undertakes it. It's crucial that the city's white residents understand that assertions of a post-racial District -- where a mayor should not be expected to take race into account when crafting policies or making appointments -- ignore the sensitivities of their black neighbors who have seen generations of dreams crushed by discrimination and racism and don't appreciate being advised to 'get over' their pain. ... Gray's official campaign slogan was 'One City,' but his candidacy resonated mainly with just one segment of the city's voters. Now he has to make government work for everyone, so we can all focus on the unemployed and the homeless and the schoolchildren who need us to get past this anger and permanently change the conditions for them, the least among us. Good luck, Vince. You'll need it."
THE EDU-NARRATIVE -- Much more ink was spilled on education reform -- its effect on the mayoral race and its prospects afterward. Politico nicely sums up what's becoming the national narrative: "Fenty staked his career on overhauling the District of Columbia's education system with Obama-style reforms -- closing dozens of failing schools and firing hundreds of teachers. Fenty's defeat this week -- due in no small part to community and teachers union resistance to his education push -- is emerging as a cautionary tale for education reformers, who fear that it could cause others to back away from aggressive reform programs swept into the mainstream by President Barack Obama's 'Race to the Top.' His downfall, observers fret, serves notice to officeholders coast to coast that they could suffer Fenty's fate if they embark on that ambitious brand of school reform championed by Fenty and his controversial schools chief Michelle Rhee."
HOW REFORM LOST -- Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt with a more nuanced take: "[T]here's good reason to think that most voters were not voting against school reform. They -- especially black Washingtonians -- were upset with what they saw as Fenty's arrogance, disrespect and pettiness. He and Rhee both were punished for their tin ear and self-inflicted wounds, which became so iconic for local residents that they need no explication: 'baseball tickets,' for example, or 'broomstick cover.' ... Maybe [Gray] will recognize that sentiment and push forward. He has said all along that he, too, favors school reform, only with more inclusiveness. But, like sensible politicians everywhere, he will have to think twice, and twice again, before taking on the unions that gave him important campaign support."
WHY REFORM WILL CONTINUE -- State Board of Education members Mary Lord, Ted Trabue, and Laura McGiffert Slover, in the pages of The Post, assure all that, indeed, education reform will roll on, enshrined in the requirements of Race to the Top: "Stronger science programs, great teachers and data systems to track individual student achievement over time and hone instruction: These are just some of the improvements that the city's $75 million contract with the U.S. Education Department should help realize over the next four years." Add to that "common core" standards and universal pre-K, and the city will be doing just fine without Rhee and Fenty, they write -- thanks, in part, to themselves: "In retrospect, the most pivotal governance change wrought by the 2007 D.C. education reform law may not be mayoral control but the creation of a robust state education agency with authority and responsibilities distinct from the District's largest local school system."
MORE EDU-WONKERY -- Mark Simon, a former head of the Montgomery County teachers union and a DCPS parent, says in a Post op-ed that Fenty's loss was "about bad decisions, particularly on school reform. ... Rhee certainly rates as smart, charismatic and bold. But she made decisions early in her tenure that alienated every constituency she needed, and she rested her 'reforms' on strategies that national education researchers have repeatedly warned against." Stuff like over emphasizing test scores, neglecting community outreach and relationship-building, rushing a new teacher evaluation system, and "instilling a culture of fear." Mona Charen, a syndicated columnist writing in the Examiner, says that voters "betrayed their kids" and that President Obama could have stopped it: "For most District children, who were just placing a foot on the proverbial ladder of opportunity, the election was a buzz saw -- unresisted by the first black president." A California blogger writes that "the only negative that I can see happening as a result of [Tuesday]'s election in D.C. is that it dramatically increases the odds of Ms. Rhee coming here to Sacramento." Indeed, the good folks at Education Sector say that the California schools are a challenge that meets Rhee's talents. A Commentary magazine columnist writes that "the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. ... They are about to experience -- again -- the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap [Rhee] up as education secretary." And a Heritage Foundation blogger writes that Rhee's "groundbreaking proposals and tenacity should be imitated by other reform-minded state and local leaders throughout the country."
WILL PRIVATE FUNDERS BAIL? -- The Examiner's Lisa Gartner looks at what the Fenty loss might mean for the private funding that made the new teacher contract reality. The D.C. Public Education Fund, the Rhee-and-Fenty-created nonprofit that funnels private money into the city schools, says performance bonuses for teachers would "probably not" survive if foundations pull their $21 million in remaining cash after a Rhee exit. So what will the funders do if Rhee leaves? "When reached for comment after the primary, Denis Calabrese, president of the [Laura and John Arnold Foundation], wrote in an e-mail, 'We are strong supporters of the kind of reforms that have been put in place under Michelle Rhee's leadership. ... If for some reason changes take place, either from a personnel or policy perspective, we will evaluate the new situation at that time.' A spokesman for the Robertson Foundation said they're 'watching what happens' in the weeks ahead."
GRAY AND RHEE KEEP DANCING -- Rhee was forced to walk back her assessment of Fenty's loss as "devastating" on Friday: "I was not criticizing D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray. I was describing the perception by some that this election had been a referendum on reform of the D.C. schools itself. If the results were to be read as a repudiation of reform, that indeed would be devastating for D.C. children, for the city and for children throughout the country who are so dependent on successful school reform efforts." Gray, though, still wants to have a sit-down with Rhee and talk things over. He told WAMU-FM listeners Friday, "There are some days when we've done very well together, the other days, just by the nature of the process, when it's been contentious. But that's to be expected. That's the nature of the business we're in."
YOUR NEXT CHANCELLOR? -- A Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist catches up with Robert Bobb, who says about serving a Gray administration: "He has to win the election in the fall. ... We'll see what happens. I'm dealing with a $367 million budget deficit and trying to get almost 80,000 students educated." More: "I'm a fan of Michelle Rhee because she's on the cutting edge of reform. ... I don't know how she could continue in that role, given that she campaigned against him"; "I can go into an African-American community and say I grew up on a sugar cane plantation where education was the only way out. ... I think how you relate sometimes gives you a slight edge, particularly in an urban environment."
MEET VINCE -- New York Times reporter Ian Urbina introduces Gray to the Gray Lady's readers: "Whereas Mr. Fenty, who was the city's youngest elected mayor, was often viewed as a get-things-done autocrat, Mr. Gray, who will be the city's oldest elected mayor, is viewed as an easy-does-it diplomat, always cordial and soft-spoken. Mr. Fenty was willing to make politically risky decisions -- like firing hundreds of underperforming teachers or requiring meters in taxis -- in part because he was not beholden to the kind of special interests that backed Mr. Gray. Now, those same special interests that endorsed and campaigned for Mr. Gray are waiting for their wishes to be fulfilled. Many of them will not be easily granted. ... Mr. Gray will also need to convince skeptics that his collegial, collaborative approach will not mean a return to the status quo and the dysfunctional days of the 1990s, when the city was racked by rampant crime, government graft and an impenetrable bureaucracy that ignored constituent services. And while many people viewed Mr. Fenty as constantly putting his foot on the accelerator, Mr. Gray seems more inclined to apply the brakes."
GOP OUT -- Fenty announced he would not accept the nomination, calling his GOP write-in win "recognition of the great progress this city has seen" and pledging to work with Gray. City Paper reported that Fenty couldn't have accepted it even if he wanted to, thanks to D.C. Law 7-92, which "says that during primaries, victorious write-in candidates need to be registered with the political party that's nominating them." Politics Daily calls the GOP nod an "ironic postscript to Fenty's fall from grace."
EARLY EXIT -- The Fenty administration exodus began with the resignation Friday, effective immediately, of State Superintendent of Education Kerri L. Briggs. Bill Turque reports on his blog: "Fenty appointed Briggs, a former Bush-era Education Dept. official, to replace Deborah A. Gist in April 2009. She helped shepherd the District's Race to the Top application to acceptance and moved to put a badly off-track effort to build central education data warehouse back on its feet." She wrote in a valedictory e-mail: "I am very proud of these accomplishments and the hard work from all of you." The interim superintendent is the agency's general counsel, Beth Colleye. Briggs replaced Deborah Gist, and word of Gist's candidacy for the chancellor job is now blowing up in Rhode Island, where she now works.
OPEN THE PRIMARIES -- The Post's editorial board again calls for opening closed party primaries to independent voters: "Why is it okay to register and vote on Election Day, but not okay to join a party and vote on Election Day? Isn't the whole point to get as many people as possible involved in critical elections? Prohibitions against switching parties at the last minute are understandable, given the danger of partisan political mischief. But the only damage done by excluding independents is to the rights of these individuals. Other states that have same-day voting and registration either have open primaries that permit independents to participate or allow independents to register in a party on primary day. Now that the primary has been decided, the council should revisit this issue and correct its mistake."
HARD TO ARGUE -- Adrian Fenty won "Worst Week in Washington" honors from Chris Cillizza on Friday: "No politician -- we repeat, no politician -- should ever lose an election when a majority of voters look favorably on what he or she has done in office. Yet on Tuesday, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty accomplished that feat. Four years ago, Fenty won the Democratic primary by nearly 30 points. Now, his political fortunes are in reverse, after he lost his reelection bid against D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray in last week's primary -- a loss that even Fenty's staunchest allies acknowledged was preventable. ... What Fenty forgot -- or ignored -- is that politics is about relationships. Because people felt that he didn't care about them, his policy successes simply didn't matter in the voting booth. Adrian Fenty, for forgetting a basic rule of Politics 101, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something."
ILLEGAL OR MERELY SLEAZY? -- The Post's Ben Pershing digs into the controversy over the Eleanor Holmes Norton fundraising call leaked to Andrew Breitbart's Big Government. "Did Norton's call actually break any rules? Legal experts had different takes on the question." Members of Congress are allowed to mention leadership positions and committee assignments when soliciting funds, but they cannot tie their pitches to specific projects -- such as the massive St. Elizabeths project, which Norton mentioned. But it's unclear if the lobbyist Norton was calling had any involvement with the St. E's project. A Republican ethics lawyer tells Ben: "Whether there's an appearance issue or an actual legal issue will turn on what the tie between her committee and the lobbyist is." Another, bipartisan lawyer "said it seemed clear to him that the call didn't violate any rules," saying "nothing in the message ... linked the solicitation to a particular project." Big Government, meanwhile, argues that the call proves that "the real Culture of Corruption is systemic within the Democrat Party, and always has been. It is baked into the cake, as it were, so much a part of it that Democrats literally cannot see it for the corruption that it so obviously is."
COURTLAND REAX -- Reason magazine editor Matt Welch reacts to Courtland Milloy's incendiary column from last week: "[I]n the city where I choose to live, where I pay hefty local taxes, where I have sincere hopes about placing my daughter in a public school system ... where I have witnessed stunning changes for the better in just two years of interacting with the local elementary school, one of the country's foulest and most powerful special interests, the overwhelmingly Democratic Party-financing American Federation of Teachers, just spent $1 million large to make sure that the last glimmer of reform for this famously bottom-of-the-barrel school district gets snuffed out, in a wave of anti-Stuff White People Like spite. This is your mainstream Democratic Party, people. ... I hope you [expletive] enjoy it." The American Prospect's Adam Serwer responds, which only gets Welch more riled up. Post readers also respond forcefully to the column.
JAFFE'S ADVICE -- Some transition advice from Harry Jaffe, writing for Washingtonian: Gray needs to "[b]eg Allen Lew to stay"; reach out to the police rank-and-file; keep Bill Howland at DPW, Lucinda Babers at DMV, Gabe Klein at DDOT and Clarence Carter at DHS; keep the taxi meters (duh); and, get this, "[h]ire Adrian Fenty as city administrator." Fenty, he writes, should burrow in his political appointees, fast-track development projects, hold press conferences, and apologize "and say you'll do a better job next time. In case there is one."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Gray took calls from top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett and a White House mayoral liaison last week. He tells Mark Plotkin, "I'd like to know where the president stands on statehood for the city, and what he would be prepared to do to facilitate that." (WTOP)
Rhee appeared Thursday on a John Stossel education special on Fox Business: "I serve at the pleasure of the mayor. I am not protected by tenure." (YouTube)
Philly columnist tells Mayor Michael Nutter to watch out, lest he get Fenty'd. (Phila. Inquirer)
Clark Ray on Fenty loss: "There was a time when Adrian had three BlackBerries on him, and, as a director, if Mrs. Jones thought that the AC at Lamond-Riggs was not working, she'd email Adrian directly, and he'd call me to get it fixed. He was that involved. ... All of a sudden, here's a man they felt personally connected to who doesn't want to tell them where he's going on vacation, he doesn't want to tell them why he brought in Michelle Rhee in the middle of the night. So they felt -- the residents as a community -- that they were owed an explanation for everything he did, and I think he brought it on himself." (DCist)
Another reason Hizzoner lost: "Adrian Fenty annoys the crap out of any TV viewer over the age of 45." (Roxie's World)
Neglect "interest group politics" at your peril, Steve Pearlstein writes. (Post)
Council will vote tomorrow on Union Station tax breaks. (Capital Business)
Jay Mathews: Keep Friends of Bedford. (Class Struggle)
How the Marbury Plaza rent strike is "representative of the way newer residents are demanding change east of the Anacostia". (Post)
City day-care licensing is "slow and unwieldy." (Post)
A finely graduated Fenty-Gray electoral map. (@stanton816)
Why cabbies hate Fenty. (All Opinions Are Local)
Breaking down the gay vote in the mayoral race. (Blade)
DOJ OK's D.C. general-election plan for overseas voters. (WTOP)
Who forgot about Muriel? (D.C. Wire)
Hey, feds: Where are your Metro board appointments? (Post editorial)
Fenty loss due to empathy deficit? (On Success)
Jonetta Barras says "the Democratic Party ... is becoming an uninviting place for young, idealistic, hard-charging professionals who seek to break an antiquated model dependent on union and other special interests relationships for its continuation." (JRBarras.com)
Senators threaten Airports Authority. (WTOP)
Mendo introduces concussion-protection bill. (AP via Examiner)
Parking meter policies could change under Gray. (WTOP)
"Capital Bikeshare, launching today, will change everything." (GGW)
City cuts back on hazardous-waste drop-off days. (TBD)
MIT B-schoolers study D.C. school reform. (Sloan School of Business)
DCRA targets illegal billboards. (TBD)
D.C. health insurers want rate increases. (Examiner)
D.C. National Guard dedicates family center to Dave and Ann Wherley, who died in the Red Line crash. (press release)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Council press conference, JAWB 410, 10 a.m.
| September 20, 2010; 10:41 AM ET
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