DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 21, 2010
TODAY IS SEPT. 21, 2010 -- 42 DAYS UNTIL GENERAL ELECTION
The first D.C. Council meeting in two months is now underway, and it's more notable for what won't be discussed than for what will. Dropped from the agenda at the last minute was a tax-break deal that would have benefited the manager of Union Station's retail space to the tune of tens of million of dollars over the coming decades. Superlobbyist David Wilmot has been pushing a deal to drop the "possessory interest tax," which would allow redevelopment of the space. Versions of the deal had the support of Jack Evans and Tommy Wells, but council Chairman Vincent C. Gray nixed the deal Monday, as WBJ's Michael Neibauer notes, telling reporters that what bothered him was "the fact that we're doing it." The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute pushed back hard against the deal -- noting, among other things, this fact: "If the bill were passed, the Starbucks in Union Station would not pay commercial property tax, while Sidamo Coffee & Tea a few blocks away on H Street NE would." They even did a video! Could the break reemerge? Evans tells Neibauer it's merely "on hold at the moment."
AFTER THE JUMP -- Rhee does the Oprah show -- Vince Gray as Lyndon Johnson? -- Nickles subject of bar complaint -- Racial divide not that deep, Jaffe says -- Some New York perspective -- The bag tax is still working
*** MAIN COURSE ***
COUNCIL PREVIEW -- Ann Marimow writes at D.C. Wire off an unusually well-attended pre-meeting presser: "Even though the election is officially over, the lingering tensions between the council and the Fenty administration persist. The council Tuesday will try to override two bills the mayor rejected during the recess period in a 'pocket veto.' ... The second bill would allow trustees of the University of the District of Columbia to operate with reduced membership, because of the high number of vacancies on the panel." Also: "Gray said that the council would only sign off on mayoral appointments critical to 'moving the government forward.' When asked to identify such areas, Gray replied, 'I haven't identified anything,' adding, 'That doesn't mean there won't be something.' " And the last subpoenas in the parks contract investigation have been issued. Special counsel Robert Trout expects to finish up by year's end. The Examiner's Freeman Klopott looks at the future of interbranch relations under a Mayor Gray: " 'We will not see the kind of checks and balances seen over the past years where the council consistently stood up to Mayor Fenty,' at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson told The Washington Examiner. 'There's the potential that Vince will be to the City Council what Lyndon Johnson was to Congress. ... He'll understand everyone and work through issues to get significant legislation through.' ... Gray could use his unique position to force councilmembers to heed his will as they grapple with cutting services and raising fees. But councilmembers said he's more likely to continue to employ the collaborative approach he's used for nearly four years as chairman. While he does that, councilmembers likely will fall in line with Gray's demands as they position themselves to be in the future mayor's favor. Said at-large Councilman David Catania: 'I don't think Vince Gray will engage in any unruly power grabs.'"
RHEE ON OPRAH -- "This is a warrior woman!" Oprah Winfrey declared of Michelle Rhee in an episode of her show aired Monday. TBD notes that Rhee "discussed the controversial 2008 termination of Marta Guzman, the former principal of her daughters' school, Oyster-Adams Bilingual School. 'Probably the most disheartening thing about that was the parents from the school, a lot of them were upset and they came up to me and they said, "Well surely, Michelle, she could not have been the worst principal in the District," ' Rhee said. 'And I said, "Is that the standard that we have? Not the worst?" That's not good enough for our children." ' Bill Turque summarizies the appearance on his blog, noting that some "factual points fell victim to friendly fire." For instance: "In a discussion of how to deal with ineffective teachers, she minimized the significance of professional development, saying that it was not fair to ask parents to put their children in the classrooms of educators who might be better in a year or two. 'There is no way I would put up with that [as a parent],' Rhee said. Yet that is precisely what's she's done with more than 700 D.C. teachers judged 'minimally effective' on last year's IMPACT evaluation. ... Perhaps even more puzzling was Rhee's answer when Oprah asked about the difficulty in firing teachers. 'You have to meet literally a criminal standard,' she said, which is true when pursuing cases of sexual misconduct or corporal punishment. But firing teachers for poor performance -- next to impossible in DCPS for years -- is now an option through IMPACT if their scores are low." TBD, meanwhile, debuts a "Rhee Watch" feature. WUSA-TV also covers the Oprah appearance.
NICKLES UNDER INVESTIGATION -- Peter Nickles is under investigation by the Office of Bar Counsel, which is investigating a complaint filed by a group of child advocates that he violated conflict of interest rules by getting involved in juvenile justice issues after spending years as lead plaintiffs' attorney in the city's long-running juvenile-justice class action. More interesting: The Superior Court judge in the case, Herbert Dixon, appears to have taken a role to aid the investigation. Klopott has in the Examiner an e-mail from Nickles to fellow administration officials: "As someone who knows a little about this issue, having been lead Jerry M. counsel, I would like my suggestions considered -- Thanks." Nickles calls the advocates' complaint "frivolous."
LET'S WORK THIS OUT -- The Post editorial board with a post-election plea to think of the children: "Attention will be focused on whether Ms. Rhee will stay and, if so, for how long. The more pertinent question might be: What is the best outcome to maintain progress in the D.C. schools? ... Encouragingly, both the outgoing and incoming administrations seem to recognize the stakes. [Adrian Fenty] has promised to do all he can to promote a smooth transition; the departure of the state education superintendent had apparently been in the works for a while and was not, as has been perceived, a reaction to Mr. Gray's election. Ms. Rhee has poured her all into school reform and, if she ends up leaving, needs to be careful to leave the system as well positioned as possible to make further gains. We would hope, for example, that she would encourage the talented people she has recruited to stay and continue their work."
WHAT RACIAL DIVIDE? -- Harry Jaffe makes a strong case in his Examiner column that the city's racial divide is being overstated: "This is a narrative about power in the suites, not the streets. What we witnessed Tuesday was a bloodless coup. Four years ago, Fenty beat council Chairwoman Linda Cropp and ousted the black ruling class; a week ago the black ruling class took the city back -- period. ... Middle class blacks expect Mayor Vince Gray to restore their control of the government and the city. Can he? He can mollify them by appointing more blacks to top jobs. He can invite them back to a city hall that Adrian Fenty seemed to close off -- to whites and blacks, in my view. And he can hold town hall meetings to make Washingtonians feel more connected to the government. But could Mayor Gray redistribute wealth and services from white Washington to black Washington, as Marion Barry predicted last week? Not likely and not quickly, but his election would ensure racial peace, which we have had for decades."
THE WRONG WAY TO REFORM -- New York Times columnist Bob Herbert uses Fenty as Exhibit A in the hazards of neglecting the base: "The idea that we had moved into some kind of postracial era was always a ridiculous notion. Attitudes have undoubtedly changed for the better over the past half-century, and young people as a whole are less hung up on race than their elders. But race is still a very big deal in the United States, which is precisely why black leaders like Mr. Fenty and Mr. Obama try so hard to behave as though they are governing in some sort of pristine civic environment in which the very idea of race has been erased. ... Mr. Fenty was cheered by whites for bringing in the cold-blooded Michelle Rhee as schools chancellor. She attacked D.C.'s admittedly failing school system with an unseemly ferocity and seemed to take great delight in doing it. Hundreds of teachers were fired and concerns raised by parents about Ms. Rhee's take-no-prisoners approach were ignored. It was disrespectful. Blacks responded last week by voting overwhelmingly for Mr. Fenty's opponent, Vincent Gray, who is also black. This blowback undermined whatever Ms. Rhee and Mr. Fenty had hoped to achieve. Thanks to their ham-handed approach to governing and disregard of the sensibilities of their constituents, both of them will soon be gone. But the children they claimed to care so much about will still be locked in a lousy school system."
FALSE HEROES? -- New Yorker contributor Nicholas Lemann questions school-reform orthodoxy thusly: "In the current school-reform story, there is a reliable villain, in the form of the teachers' unions, and a familiar set of heroes, including Geoffrey Canada, of Harlem Children's Zone; Wendy Kopp, of Teach for America, the Knowledge Is Power Program; and Michele Rhee, the superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C. And there is a clear answer to the problem -- charter schools. The details of this story are accurate, but they are fitted together too neatly and are made to imply too much. For example, although most of the specific charter schools one encounters in this narrative are very good, the data do not show that charter schools in general are better than district schools."
SHARE THOSE BIKES -- Capital Bikeshare is a go. The Post's Ashley Halsey explains the program, and TBD's Dave Jamieson is a there for the politics: "Fenty was asked whether he thinks progressive infrastructure projects like Capital Bikeshare will move forward with the same enthusiasm under a Gray administration. 'I not only hope they do, I really believe they will,' he said. 'The Democratic nominee has been around the city long enough to know how much momentum there is.' Asked whether Gray would be wise, as some have said, to hang on to Fenty's more popular Cabinet members on the planning side -- [DDOT's Gabe Klein] and planning director Harriet Tregoning, specifically -- Fenty demurred. 'I'm going to stop short of giving any advice to my successor,' he said. 'He was chosen by the voters to make decisions and the city has confidence in him to make the right ones.' "
*** SMALL PLATES ***
The bag tax works! (WSJ)
Donna Brazile: "On the last Sunday before the election, where was Fenty? Out running a marathon and not in church where most politicians go seeking last-minute converts. The message here is simple: Never lose contact with those who backed you in the first place." (BlackVoiceNews.com)
Bring back the schools ombudsman! (WaTimes)
ANCs want exemption from open-government law (Loose Lips)
Leadership lessons from Fenty's loss, including: "Don't lose sight of the process while achieving results" (Capital Business)
Lightning-rod chancellors are a dime a dozen, but charter schools are forever (Examiner blog)
Who be Ward 8's Jim Graham? (Barry Farm Remixed)
The nascent Fenty write-in campaign (Facebook)
Ron Machen backs crackdown on government leaks (Legal Times)
Rochester schools chief says he's not going anywhere (Democrat and Chronicle)
Better signs on construction sites, please! (Housing Complex)
Rhee's failing: She is "wedded to a Manichean world view in which she is 'for the kids' and everyone else is standing in her way." (Cogitamus)
Bureaucrats nix Capitol car-recharging station (WBJ)
Potential for chicken-bone debris has ANC opposing 7-Eleven wing sales (TBD)
Independent school reform study to be ready in November (AP via WTOP)
The headline on Kojo Nnamdi's Sunday Outlook piece was not a good fit (DCentric)
*** ON THE MENU ***
The 47th legislative meeting of the 19th Council of the District of Columbia
| September 21, 2010; 12:54 PM ET
Categories: Morning Mike, The District
Save & Share: Previous: Nickles under investigation for conflict of interest
Next: D.C.'s September primary likely to be its last
Posted by: gworley1 | September 21, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse