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DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 24, 2010


"They came, they met. And then they came out to say that they met." So said Bill Turque about what happened between Vincent Gray and Michelle Rhee on the fifth floor of the John A. Wilson Building Thursday. And it's about all you really can say, though that did not stop folks from saying more. City Paper's Alan Suderman read the body language: "The schools chancellor looked awkward, unhappy, and basically like she'd rather be anywhere else on the planet ... Instead of talking Rhee spoke volumes in other ways. She kept a healthy distance from Gray while he was talking, wore a facial expression that said 'Dear Lord, please beam me out of here,' and started heading for the exit even before the news conference was over." Perhaps that had something to do with what they talked about: Gray's education position paper! Maybe I didn't want to be a fly on that wall after all. Here's Washington Post video of the brief presser. TBD did a blow-by-blow of the nothingness. Also WTOP, WaTimes, Examiner. WUSA-TV's Bruce Johnson reports that Rhee fiance Kevin Johnson said his S.O. is open to staying in D.C.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Eric Holder gives Gray the thumbs up -- Neil Albert and Linda Green to head transition teams -- what Fenty's loss says about the challenges of black mayors -- inside the election numbers -- council hears about overcrowding at New Beginnings, D.C. General shelter


WHAT WAS DISCUSSED -- The conversation, Bill and Tim Craig report today, "hewed strictly to education issues and did not address her future in the job. 'We did not talk about Chancellor Rhee staying or going. We talked about the state of education in the city,' Gray, the D.C. Council chairman, said upon emerging from his Wilson Building office with Rhee to speak to a throng of reporters. Gray said the two will likely meet again within the next couple of weeks, a message reinforced by Gray advisers, who emphasized that the meeting was never intended to resolve the issue of Rhee's tenure. ... Gray called the session an "excellent discussion" that largely centered on the details of the 12-page education platform he released during his campaign against [Adrian Fenty]. 'We talked a lot of about the elements of my education paper,' Gray said. 'We talked about career and technical education. We talked a lot about special education. We talked about stakeholder involvement. We talked about a lot of issues that came right out of my paper.'"

AG IN THE HOUSE -- Before the Rhee summit, Attorney General Eric Holder stopped by to pay his respects to Gray. Tim writes at D.C. Wire: "'You're looking good, man,' Holder said when he saw Gray in the lobby of city hall. Holder and Gray then spoke to reporters shortly before they went into the chairman's office for a closed-door meeting. 'I want to congratulate our presumptive mayor and talk about how the Obama administration is committed to making sure we do all we can with regard to public safety and continue what I think is a good relationship between the administration and the city government,' Holder said. Holder said he will be asking Gray what he wants President Obama to be 'focusing on' and 'what things specifically he wants the Justice Department of focus on.'" WTOP's Mark Segraves got Holder, a former District judge and prosecutor and current Spring Valley resident, to say that he voted for Gray. That, Segraves writes, "came as a surprise to many veteran city hall reporters who didn't expect him to reveal who he voted for." At Politico, Josh Gerstein notes: "Holder's surprising disclosure of his vote raises a slew of political and ethical questions. Was Holder bucking his ultimate boss, Obama, who seemed to have some affinity for Fenty? ... Do Holder and Fenty have some unpleasant history? Do Gray and Holder have some positive history? And is it ethical or wise for a sitting attorney general to announce his vote in an election?" A legal ethicist says he's "not alarmed by what Holder said, but it is unusual."

IN OTHER TRANSITION NEWS -- From Bill and Tim's story: "On Wednesday, Gray and Fenty had their first face-to-face meeting since the election. Gray advisers said Fenty came to Gray's office mid-afternoon to reaffirm promises that he will cooperate fully with the transition. Gray said Fenty has designated City Administrator Neil O. Albert to be the administration's point person for facilitating the shift. Despite Gray's often-frosty relations with Fenty, the chairman and Albert have generally worked well together. Gray said Albert has already contacted Lorraine Green, a vice president at Amtrak who will be heading up Gray's transition, to arrange for follow-up meetings."

THE LIMITS OF POST-RACIALISM -- The Post's Karen Tumulty and Perry Bacon Jr. put Fenty's loss in the context of other black mayors, such as Newark's Cory Booker, Philly's Michael Nutter and Detroit's Dave Bing. "To white ears, the word 'post-racial' sounds like progress. But to African-Americans -- particularly those who struggle daily with the lingering effects of generations of discrimination -- it can feel like abandonment. 'I think Fenty's overwhelming initial win blurred the continued racial bifurcation in the city, and fed into the post-racial narrative that many of us wanted to feel, even if we really didn't believe it deep down inside,' said Cornell Belcher, a black pollster who advised President Obama's campaign in 2008. 'Ethnic politics is still very much alive and well in big-city politics,' Belcher added. ... Some of the things that have brought today's technocratic mayors acclaim from outside their communities engendered suspicion within them. ... The jobs they have eliminated -- sanitation workers in Newark, bus drivers in Detroit -- are the path out of poverty for many, particularly African Americans. The teachers fired while Fenty was mayor, many of them middle-aged African Americans, are also symbols of the possibility of taking another step up the economic ladder. ... 'When I look at the things Cory and Adrian have had to deal with, with the budget and labor costs and taxes, a lot of things are the same,' said Elnardo Webster, a longtime political adviser to Booker. 'They came in with ideas and inspiration, but [because of the recession] they had to become managers. And the old guard has utilized that major discontent and said, 'We told you so."' It hasn't helped that, in some instances, these mayors have not been politically attuned to some of the relationships that undergird their communities."

INSIDE THE NUMBERS -- Yours truly spent the last couple of days doing a deep dive on the election numbers. In the not-a-column, I share some of my conclusions: "The story of this election can be found in the city's largest precinct: Precinct 66, voting at Bertie Backus Middle School in Ward 5, next to the Fort Totten Metro station. It's in the heart of middle-class black Washington; according to 2000 Census figures, the precinct is 96 percent black and the homeownership rate is 75 percent, well above the city average. It's also the only precinct in the city that saw more than 2,000 votes, and 79 percent of them went to Gray. Gray emerged from 66 with a 1,287 vote lead - more than one-tenth of his total victory margin. Backus, incidentally, was among the 23 public schools Fenty closed in 2008." More data and analysis to come today, right here on the Big Blog.

THE STATE OF DYRS -- The New Beginnings facility for delinquent youth is chronically overcrowded, and that is "hurting the effectiveness of the highly touted rehabilitation program," interim DYRS Director Robert Hildum told the council yesterday. Henri Cauvin writes: "New Beginnings is well over its 60-bed capacity, and more than a third of the 70 juveniles there are in transit to other placements and don't participate in much of the facility's carefully structured, months-long program. ... Hildum, who was named in July to lead the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, said that correcting the population problem is one of his priorities. Until it's resolved, he said, he won't be able to judge the performance of New Beginnings. ... In his testimony Thursday, Hildum sought to address fears that, as a former prosecutor he was rolling back reforms. 'I think the foundation we have is pretty solid,' he said." The Examiner's Freeman Klopott has more, noting a leap in the number of isolation cases and Hildum's willingness to serve in a Gray administration.

HOUSING THE HOMELESS -- The council hears how human-services officials plan to prepare for this year's hypothermia season, months after the city's emergency family homeless shelter was badly overcrowded. Nathan Rott reports in the Post: "Laura Zeilinger, who oversees homeless programs for the Department of Human Services, said the city will have to continue to rely on the much criticized D.C. General facility to shelter the District's growing number of homeless families. ... In April, Families Forward, the nonprofit group that had a $2.5 million contract to operate the shelter, was fired after allegations that two male employees were having sex with female residents. The District, which has budgeted $2.2 million for the hypothermia season, is still in the process of hiring a new contractor to operate the shelter, which has been run temporarily by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness." A plan to build new housing in Ward 4 has stalled, but the city is expanding transitional housing placements and expanding the D.C. General shelter.

LANIER OUT THE DOOR? -- Will Cathy Lanier leave before Rhee does? That's what Harry Jaffe, writing in Examiner, is betting on: "By many statistical measures, Lanier has done well. Crime is way down. Homicides continue to dip to lows we haven't seen since the 1960s. Closure rates are up. Lanier has forced cops to use high-tech equipment and tried to reduce paperwork. All good. But Lanier lost the hearts and minds of the street cops along the way. ... Lanier is at war with the police union, in particular Fraternal Order of Police boss Kristopher Baumann. ... The union backed Fenty four years ago and supported him in crime legislation before the city council. This time the union supported Gray and helped him write his public safety position papers. Baumann can get Gray on speed dial. And who should turn up on candidate Gray's security team? None other than Brian Jordan, a former assistant chief who Lanier demoted twice. None of this bodes well for the chief." Not mentioned: Lanier's sky-high approval rating among city voters. That don't count for nothin'.

CHAVOUS SPEAKS -- Former Ward 7 council member turned edu-evangelist Kevin Chavous writes on an Examiner blog decrying those whose say a Fenty loss means the end of D.C. school reform: "I love Michelle Rhee and as Adrian Fenty's, boss, I introduced him to the education reform issue. I applaud both for their commitment to changing DC Public Schools. But to suggest that their upcoming departures from their positions is devastating to education reform in the District is not supported by our history. In fact, maybe the changes in DC will provide the impetus we need for something lacking in the education reform movement in America: a true revolution in education" -- a revolution involving charter schools and vouchers, natch.


Traditionally gay precincts went for Fenty -- also: speculation on Gray's GLBT liaison and the future of MPD's GLLU (Blade)

Idle speculation that Rhee would go to Newark (Star-Ledger)

Idle speculation that Rhee would go to MoCo (WTOP)

Why there's been hiccups with special-ed transportation (D.C. Schools Insider)

Deborah Simmons: "D.C. school reform has morphed into a UFO -- an unidentifiable fiscal object" (WaTimes)

Another David Catania appearance on "Real Housewives" (Reliable Source)

Yeah, "someone who could reach across the aisle to work with those who were not traditional allies" does not describe any current mayor of Washington, D.C., that I am familiar with (National Review)

A better take: "[G]reat organizational judgment is ultimately about finding, in general and in specific situations, the right combination of heroic, true-north decision-making and well-informed listening and weighing of counsel. Adrian Fenty's story, at least as the narrative has gelled in the public's mind, teaches us that no one can last long in the political sphere without displaying this kind of 'both/and' flexibility. We want leaders who can not only make good decisions, but also decide how to decide." (Harvard Business Review)

Behind the battle over food trucks -- read it! (City Paper)

Five questions Gray should ask his next schools chancellor (Same Chaltain)

"Like Hugh Scott, the first African American superintendent in D.C., who served in the early 1970s, Rhee will be a footnote in a doctoral dissertation on the D.C. schools a generation from now." (Larry Cuban)

Vince Gray's high school senior pic -- Chemistry Club president! (DCist)

Eleanor Holmes Norton responds to fundraising-call controversy: "[I]f you are a Member of Congress and you are serious about being in the majority, then you meet your obligations and I've met mine fully within the law and within the rules of the House" (WUSA-TV)

As far as the Norton phone call goes, "the idea that some kind of hideous violation has occurred here is a little silly" (Washingtonian)

Feds hand D.C. $2.3 million more for snow costs (WTOP)

DCRA "works at two speeds, slow and not at all. DCRA's minions are not unlike Columbo, the television detective of yesteryear. They always have one last question to pose before they can issue a work permit." (The Black Squirrel)

Metro officials tell Congress the system is safer (Examiner)

Sarah Palin earned write-in votes from D.C. Repubs (Loose Lips)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Enjoy the weekend!

By Mike DeBonis  | September 24, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 23, 2010
Next: How turnout affected the D.C. primary election


Mike, thanks for reading all of that so we don't have to. An angle you might want to look at over the weekend: major urban areas must raise taxes. DC cannot delay any longer dealing with reality. It was encouraging to see DC Council refused to give (or continue) multi-million dollar tax breaks to retailers inside Union Station. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Miami-Dade County is a good example of a city that just raised tax rates:

Miami will raise property taxes fourteen percent (14%). Don't know if they have a separate income tax down there. Their budget is seven times bigger than ours, but they have exactly the same financial pressures we do.

Posted by: Rambler3 | September 24, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Chief Lanier. Let me make sure I understand this, crime has fallen during Lanier's tenure but she may be forced out because "lost the hearts and minds of the street cops along the way." This only makes sense if you believe Gray sold out to the unions to win election.

Posted by: smoke111 | September 24, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

The invasion of the body snatchers is underway. Report to the meeting place to pick up your pea pods.

Posted by: johng1 | September 24, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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