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DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 27, 2010

TODAY IS SEPT. 27, 2010 -- 36 DAYS UNTIL GENERAL ELECTION

Another weekend, another round of Michelle Rhee hand-wringing. This morning, it went all the way to the top, with President Barack Obama responding to a question on the Today Show, about whether his own daughters could get a Sidwell Friends-level education at a D.C. public school. "I'll be blunt with you," he said, "the answer is no right now." He added that city public schools are "struggling," despite a few "terrific individual schools." He mentioned "important steps" toward reform without mentioning Rhee by name. In other news, on Sunday Rhee met the press on "Meet the Press" -- check Bill Turque's rundown of the 25-minute spot. Rhee's headline comment: "Education reform can continue in D.C. whether I'm there or not," she said -- as Bill writes, "she continued to sound less like the leader of the D.C. schools and more like a national standard-bearer for school improvement." DCist's Martin Austermuhle calls her comments "surprisingly diplomatic." Education Secretary Arne Duncan, meanwhile, said that Rhee's outgoing boss, Adrian Fenty, "can walk out with his head held high."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Courtland Milloy on Rhee's failings -- Herb Miller for DMPED? -- D.C. Vote chief calls for Pennsylvania Avenue renaming -- Phil Mendelson: The District electorate's favorite white man

*** MAIN COURSE ***

COURTLAND ON RHEE -- Courtland Milloy reacts to Rhee's latest media blitz. The chancellor, he writes, "readily accepts credit for success while always attributing failure to the shortcomings of others. ... Such distortion is nothing new for Rhee. In fact, lots of young, hard-charging reformers in all fields find it easier to blame their clients rather than take responsibility for failures. ... As D.C. Council chairman, [Vincent Gray] often tried to get Rhee to reflect on how her approach to school reform was being perceived in different parts of the city. Were her policies and strategies being clearly expressed? Was she open to feedback from residents who might have a better idea? Rhee never answered. And as long as Fenty had her back, she reveled in her disrespect for Gray. ... [W]ith Rhee's supporters wanting her to stay, Gray's request can no longer be ignored with impunity: Schools chancellor, critique thy self." Here's one critique: "[Rhee] has gone all out to make residents who live in the wealthier, predominantly white parts of the city feel good. And if their feathers got ruffled and needed smoothing, she went so far as to visit their homes for coffee klatches and pep talks. So what happens when black residents on the other side of town start waving their hands - don't forget about us; we'd like to feel good, too? Rhee holds them up for ridicule. School reform is not 'warm and fuzzy,' she says."

MORE RHEE-HASH -- Jonetta Rose Barras, meanwhile, writes in Examiner that Gray has no intention of keeping Rhee, and last week's meeting "may appear consistent with his much hyped penchant for inclusiveness and thoughtful deliberation -- but it's a stalling tactic. He wants to quiet residents' concerns and give himself time to scout for an interim education leader." Barras goes on to attack Gray's claims of supporting reform: "Sure Gray supported mayoral control of schools; that wasn't a difficult decision. [Fenty] arrived at city hall with an unprecedented win, a powerful signal of the high level of support he and his agenda had among District voters. During the past two years, however, Gray and his legislative posse have appeared to be on a mission to derail and destroy education reform." Also in Examiner: Freeman Klopott notes that uncertainty about Rhee's future "might make it difficult for Gray to assuage the fear of many white, affluent voters that his election means school reform will be dialed back." In other news: Oprah Winfrey suggested on her show Friday that Rhee might be a good fit for the Newark school, newly infused with $100 million of Facebook money.

DMPED HERB? -- Herbert Miller, iconic and combative real-estate developer, has his eye on serving in a Gray administration, Jonathan O'Connell reports in today's Capital Business. Miller, a Tau Epsilon Phi brother of Gray's, reportedly "has informed Gray of his interest in the deputy mayor's job," saying, "[A]t this point, all I have interest in is making our city better. ... I don't want to do any projects in D.C." But those ambitions get a splash of cold water: "A Gray adviser, Mo Elleithee, called Miller a big supporter of the campaign but said that Gray was looking to expand the position beyond real estate development. 'I think in looking at the position of deputy mayor for planning and economic development, he really wants to broaden the role and make it beyond just RFPs and development projects, but make sure that we've got someone in there who also is focused on business development and job creation and helping small businesses,' Elleithee said. ... Political reasons also appear to make Miller's appointment unlikely. Gray repeatedly accused Fenty during the campaign of lavishing contracts on his own fraternity brothers. 'Given the way this campaign played out, I don't seem him appointing a lot of fraternity brothers,' said a source close to the chairman who was not authorized to speak about Gray's thought process."

'D.C. DEMOCRACY DENIED BOULEVARD' -- D.C. Vote's Ilir Zherka writes a Post op-ed pondering ways to get the D.C. House Voting Rights Act through Congress before the anticipated Democratic meltdown. "Although the odds are long that Congress will enact any non-budgetary legislation in the 'lame duck' session after the election, we have to make an effort because the District is likely to face even greater opposition in the next Congress. ... The principal barriers to D.C. democracy remain ignorance nationally and lethargy on the Hill. An initial, dramatic step is needed to quickly bring our issue national attention. One possibility is adding a ceremonial name to Pennsylvania Avenue, such as 'D.C. Democracy Denied Boulevard.' I am sure others have some creative ideas as well. Further, the D.C. government should engage in escalating acts of protest directly related to the federal laws and procedures that infringe on our local democracy, by refusing, for example, to submit local laws for congressional approval. As long as Washingtonians are taxed without representation, our elected officials should refuse to abide by and participate in these laws and procedures. By leading such a campaign, the D.C. Council, the incoming mayor and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton can bring together 'one city,' to use Gray's rallying cry, behind an effort that has wide support and that cannot wait until next year."

IN PRAISE OF MENDO -- Colby King has a vision for racial reconciliation in our city, and its name is Phil Mendelson: "The numbers put to rest any concern about a racist vote. ... [A]mong mayoral and council candidates, the person pulling the most votes citywide was Mendelson, with 71,704. Gray came in second with 66,526. Fenty, with 54,424 votes, registered fourth behind Kwame Brown, who garnered 62,837 in his winning bid for the council chairman slot." As evidence of Mendo's popularity, King submits a scene from the annual "Summertime Tea" for mothers of victims of violent crime: "This year's tea took place on Aug. 29, during the height of our political season. That weekend, candidates were zipping around the city attending block parties, street festivals and neighborhood fundraisers. One, however, did not. He quietly entered the Willard's ballroom with his young daughter in tow, slipping into seats near the back of the room to share tea and conversation with the other guests. Toward the end of the event, he was recognized from the dais. The whispered verdict: He cared enough to come -- and to bring his daughter. The applause for Phil Mendelson ... was thunderous. So there." Not mentioned: Mendelson was running against two other white men, one of whom won nearly 30 percent of the vote mainly by being confused with a black man.

NOW, YOU CAN PASS THE BILL -- The Post's editorial board says now is the time for the D.C. Council to enact legislation prohibiting corrupt election practices. "It was ill-advised of the [council] to try to enact emergency legislation involving election practices just weeks before the city's mayoral primary. The measure got caught up in political rhetoric and couldn't be considered on its merits. But with the Democratic race now decided ... the council is right to revisit the issue. ... Events during the recent primary point up the need for more clarity on what are appropriate encouragements to vote and what are improper inducements. Why, for example, was the Fenty campaign warned away from holding free concerts as a way to encourage voting? It was alleged that some of Mr. Gray's supporters handed out supermarket gift cards to get people to vote; does that constitute a thing of value, or is it in keeping with a tradition of providing food to people headed for the polls? These are the kind of issues that need to be aired as the council considers this bill." Also: "[I]t is important for there to be disposition of the specific allegations of wrongdoing made by Mr. Fenty and Mr. Gray during the recent campaign. ... We hope authorities are able to set the record straight so that suspicions don't linger."

LET'S GET REGIONAL -- Bob McCartney profiles the "2030 Group," the regional planning cohort led by "wealthy, suburban-based developers" who want to "promote debate over whether to build a stronger regionwide governance structure - perhaps one that could find new tax revenue needed for roads, Metro and other purposes." The group's emergence "has stirred some unease among existing institutions seeking to chart the area's future, including the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Coalition for Smarter Growth. ... Some are irked because they worry the group is duplicating work that's already been done and could be a distraction. In addition, COG and the smart growth coalition have criticized the 2030 Group for being overwhelmingly white and male and thus not reflecting the region's diversity. There's also a subtle but unmistakable fault line between the 2030 Group and the region's longtime business and civic organizations over the crucial question of how to invest transportation dollars. ... Boiled down, the difference is over how much to rely on building new roads in the outer suburbs to solve the region's traffic problems. The 2030 Group leans toward more roads."

PICK UP THE PHONE -- Mark Plotkin wants to know where Gray's congratulatory presidential phone call is: "There is plenty to discuss: the District's lack of voting representation in Congress. Budget and legislative autonomy. The selection of local judges. The inability to tax income at its source. The lack of D.C. statues in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. ... Obama goes out of his way to ignore us. By refusing to do the minimum of political courtesies, he insults not only the likely next mayor of Washington but all residents of our nation's capital. ... As for now, it should be noted that Gray has gotten two calls from White House staff. That says it all to D.C. Staff it out. The District deserves more from Barack Obama." A reader points out: Maybe POTUS is just waiting for the general election?


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Updated election results, including provisional and absentee ballots, now available (Board of Elections and Ethics)

Office of Cable Television set to move to BET's Brentwood building (WBJ)

Inside this year's OTR property tax sale (WBJ)

Good news: Bag tax revenue is lower than expected (Examiner)

Reader says Gray should "think about himself as a one-term mayor. He will be, let's face it, 68 years of age when he takes office. From a very personal perspective, I can tell him that at 72, he will have lost a couple of steps, particularly after the four-year whirlwind into which he is about to plunge." (Post letter)

Meet the tour guides challenging the constitutionality of the District's tour-guide-licensing policy (Post)

Also: In defense of the tour-guide rules (All Opinions Are Local)

Nerds talk parking on TV (GGW)

Has the Post unduly focused on racial division in the city elections? (Free for All)

Report: D.C. hospital care worst in the nation (WBJ)

I'm sure this has nothing to do with the convention-center hotel settlement (WBJ)

Speaking of which: Man, that's big hotel (Housing Complex)

DYRS considers GPS-enabled ankle bracelets for young offenders (Examiner)

Landowners are "grappling with the potential costs" of new stormwater retention rules (WBJ)

Atlanta "30-something conservative" to education board: "Go get Michelle Rhee" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Challenge to David Catania's petition tossed by elections board (Richard Urban for DC)

Chuck Thies explains how he got into politics (Examiner)

More on the new Randall School deal (WBJ)

Cathy Lanier's Maryland neighbor dabbles in falconry (Examiner)

19-year-old shot dead in Petworth (Crime Scene)

South Carolina paper uses Post story to slime D.C. cops ( Charleston Post and Courier)

When D.C. Water General Manager George Hawkins is in a quiet mood, he prefers listening to Sade, Steely Dan or Eva Cassidy (DCist


*** ON THE MENU ***

See Great White Hope Phil Mendelson in action at Judiciary Committee hearing on criminal-code revision bill, 10 a.m. in the council chambers -- Gov Ops committee pokes around DDOE home energy audit program, 2:30 p.m. in JAWB 412

By Mike DeBonis  | September 27, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Experts raise warning flags over D.C. Internet voting plan

Comments

Lawdy, Ms. Rhee, wha you goin dooo?

I am truly sick of the Rhee Drama. I am sick of the endless articles pumping Rhee up.

The residents of DC have spoken, enough said.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | September 27, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Amy Carter attended DC public schools. She hates her dad.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 27, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I am interested to know how much coin its going to cost the city for Rhee departure package?

Posted by: agarnett1000 | September 27, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

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