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DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 30, 2010


In this week's City Paper, fabulous former colleague Dave Weigel profiles cot-sleeping, Five Guys-loving, retrocession-favoring Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) -- aka the District of Columbia's overlord in waiting. Chaffetz, Weigel writes, favors "showmanship, affability, and a no-negotiation stance on D.C.'s biggest priorities" and sums up his potential impact thusly: "In just under two years here, Chaffetz has opposed [Eleanor Holmes Norton]'s bill to give D.C. a congressional vote, opposed her bill to give D.C. more autonomy, and filed a bill to force a gay marriage referendum on D.C. And in a Republican House, Chaffetz would have reinforcements, ideological allies who wave the U.S. Constitution like members of the Red Guard used to wave quotations from Chairman Mao. According to Chaffetz, poking around in the District's local affairs and keeping D.C. from getting a meaningful vote in Congress is precisely what he was sent to Washington to do. ... He confirms that he wants to stay on the committee, and lead it, if there's a power shift. 'Absolutely, I want to keep this job,' says Chaffetz. 'It's a great constitutional responsibility. And I love this city. D.C.'s been good to me. The people have been good to me.'" Read it, defenders of District self-determination, and weep.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Newt Gingrich says District should be "showcase" -- DCPS budget shortfall may leave no choice but to lay off teachers -- Gray calls for immediate hiring/promotion freeze -- rumored Gray CoS pick has some baggage -- what if Fenty had run in general?


MORE FROM WEIGEL -- On his personal style: "Chaffetz charms everybody. Norton calls him 'witty,' even as she prays he doesn't get a chance to run his committee. D.C.'s shadow representative, Mike Panetta, rhapsodizes about the attention Chaffetz pays at town-hall meetings -- even as he calls him a 'meddler who does not let local decisions stand.' Former At-Large D.C. Councilmember Carol Schwartz, a fellow Republican, calls him 'very controlling' and worries that he'd 'roll back the very hard-won progress we've made under Home Rule.' But no one has a good read on him. Asked what he likes about D.C., Chaffetz talks about the hybrid bike he takes on long rides, and the restaurants he's a regular at: 'I've been to every Five Guys and Matchbox in the city.' None of that convinces anyone fretting about Republican rule that they can trust him."

-- Newt Gingrich shares his philosophy on District affairs: "Republicans should always start with the idea that this is the national capital, and we want to work in a way that makes it a showcase for the world of what America's all about. Most of the policies we adopted worked -- not just school choice, but gentrification, tax credits for buying houses in the city. If I was asked by the mayor, I'd be very interested in doing an assessment of what we could do to help the city."

-- On the local leadership: "Chaffetz, for his part, isn't joining those who describe D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray's mayoral primary win as a revival of Marion Barry. 'I haven't had any negative interactions with Vince Gray,' he says. 'It's nice to go in with a clean slate, and I'll work together with him. Where we agree, let's get things done. Where we disagree, let's work it out.' At the same time, he's quick to issue a warning shot about education, the issue that dominated national coverage of the local election. 'One of my deep concerns is the education of the city,' he says. 'It's about how to educate kids. It's not about putting as many people on the payroll as possible. ... I know that Gray and the new government will want as much autonomy as possible, but that's not in the Constitution.'"

-- On the merits of retrocession: "Chaffetz says District residents would be happy if their neighborhoods became part of Maryland while the government buildings around the Mall remained a federal zone. 'Not only could they have two senators,' Chaffetz says, 'but they could have a voting member and a state legislature. I think anything short of full representation won't be appealing long term. I'm also a realist. Unless the people of D.C. are supportive of it, unless there's real bipartisan support, it's not going to pass.'"

MORE TEACHER FIRINGS TO COME? -- The D.C. Public Schools budget is facing a $30 million shortfall, thanks to special education overspending. Bill Turque reports today that those facts may force some hard decisions, and that will almost certainly mean layoffs: "Personnel costs are by far the school system's biggest expense. Using the budgeted average of $85,000 in salary and benefits per teacher, closing a $25 million gap would require a reduction of about 300 jobs. ... 'Somebody has got to be at risk,' said council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee. 'One hundred seventy-five million is too much money to cover through gimmicks. Frankly, schools and human services have all the money. If you're not going to cut from there, there's really no other place to go.'" Michelle Rhee calls the CFO's $30 million figure "premature" -- sorry, Noah Wepman's gone now -- but says she is ready "to take any actions necessary to offset any potential pressures to balance the FY '11 budget, as we have in past years."

GRAY'S DAY -- Gray made a pair of public appearances Wednesday, and Tim Craig was there for both. At a business gathering hosted by UDC, Gray had harsh words for the state of the economy: "People have been hesitant to call it a depression, but frankly the qualities and characteristics of it feel like a depression to me." Tim notes that this "may not be the sort of message Democratic leaders are hoping to send in advance of the November midterm elections." Later, at Carol Joynt's Q&A Cafe, Gray called for an immediate hiring and promotion freeze for city workers before cutting a rug with the hostess. "That will help us from the very beginning to try to find the money we want to and as we get into this more, we can remove those freezes," he said, adding: "In these two weeks we have worked very closely together. ... It's been a good spirit, broadly, so I am hoping we can take the same spirit and translate it into this budget challenge." Patch was also there: "Gray called allegations that Barry pulls the strings, 'ridiculous.' Joynt asked about Barry's statement at the primary night victory party, 'we demand more than our fair share because we've been neglected for so long.' ... Gray leveled saying he does not believe resources have been equally distributed, pointing to the 19 percent unemployment rate in Wards 7 and 8. 'To me, distribution has to be consonant with the need that exists.'"

GRILLED REUBEN -- City Paper's Alan Suderman digs into Reuben O. Charles II, the Guyanese-American businessman said to be well inside Gray's inner circle and a possible pick for his mayoral chief of staff. Turns out that he left some baggage in St. Louis: "[I]nterviews with Charles and some of his past associates, along with court records and old news accounts, paint a picture of a driven up-and-comer who has impressed a lot of people with his smarts and people skills -- but who left a paper trail in St. Louis, his former hometown, of unpaid debts and some soured business deals." His Civic Ventures Investment Fund "was created with high hopes of using the good ol' free market economy to help boost minority businesses," but ended up in trouble, squandering millions in federal funds on bad investments. He was alos sued by several other creditors and filed for bankruptcy before withdrawing the petition. The Gray camp shows no qualms about Charles' past. Also: Will the D.C. GOP take a shot at Kwame Brown's soon-to-be-vacant at-large council seat?

COULD FENTY HAVE GONE INDY? -- I explore whether Fenty could have won if he'd run as an independent. Answer: Probably not. "According to the Post's August poll, Fenty's approval ratings don't dramatically improve among non-Democrats. Where 46 percent of registered Dems approved of Fenty versus 47 percent disapproving, the numbers for registered voters of other parties (or no party) break down 47 percent to 42. The poll numbers do indicate that the city's non-Democratic voters are more likely to be white -- 44 percent, versus 33 percent among registered Democrats -- which is meaningful in a race where race was such a powerful predictor. But 46 percent of non-Democrats are black. Bottom line: There's simply no evidence that Fenty would be favored enough among non-Democrats to make a difference."


"Vince" or "Vincent"? (Loose Lips)

Race divide exacerbated by economic divide (Examiner)

Apparently, we've decided: "District Residents Agree, Rhee Needs to Go" (Informer)

What Rhee did right (All Opinions Are Local)

Latest on U Street shooting -- Jamal Coates' death was latest in yearslong crew squabble (Post)

Why you might not believe Jim Graham when he says Adams Morgan doesn't have a gang problem (City Desk)

Read some more about food trucks (Post)

Feds still won't pay stormwater fees (WTOP)

Arne Duncan uses Friendship charter school as PR backdrop for college-access program (WaTimes)

IG catches DHS worker forging letters to get out of work (Loose Lips)

Obama nominates New York lawyer Caitlin Halligan to D.C. appeals bench (Legal Times)

Another business-focused diagnosis of the Fenty/Rhee regime: "Their problem is the same the whole world over and it is at epidemic proportions at many of our institutions. Call it hubris, an extreme haughtiness or arrogance." (Corsum Consulting)

Homeless shelter false start costs city $400K (Housing Complex)

Doug Jemal gets two more years to fix up Uline Arena (DCmud)

Simply awesome photo gallery (Flickr)

*** ON THE MENU ***

D.C. Council explores feasibility of burying power lines, 10:30 a.m. in JAWB 412

By Mike DeBonis  | September 30, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Could Adrian Fenty have won as an independent?
Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Oct. 1, 2010


The residents of DC, if they want a vote, they already have one. They can vote for President, something we changed by changing the constitution - legally. If they want representation in the US reps, they have one, one that can vote in committees. If they want a voting rep in the US house, all they have to do is what a large chuck of DC did in the mid 1800's. I think they should join a state. They should be part of Maryland.

I am glad we have someone like Rep. Jason Chaffetz defending the Constitution.

1. The US Constitution says that Congress is in control of D.C.

2. Rep. Chaffetz is doing his job. He is on the committee, and the “ranking” GOP on it.

3. Are you afraid that D.C. or Congress will overturn the D.C. Council votes? They may or may not, but they should vote.

Posted by: Utah1 | October 2, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

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