DeMorning DeBonis: Oct. 11, 2010
TODAY IS OCT. 11, 2010 -- 22 DAYS UNTIL GENERAL ELECTION
The weekend's most interesting if self-serving piece comes from Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso, who in a parting Post op-ed lays down an ed-reform marker for incoming mayor Vincent Gray. Reinoso details "areas that can serve as a barometer of whether the city remains on track or is slowing down" -- stuff like continued funding of professional development for teachers, continued savings on special education, the end of the federal "high risk" designation and continuing "aggressive school turnarounds." But there are a few more direct challenges to Gray. "We must ensure that every student is ready for college," Reinoso writes. "Increases in career and technical education (21st-century vocational technology) cannot be used as a Trojan horse for lowered expectations" -- career and technical education, of course, being a key plank of the Gray ed platform. Also: "The IMPACT evaluation system must remain a key tool for principals and administrators; while some refinement may be warranted, changes should be minimal." And those who don't measure up need to go. Finally: "Successful reform requires having the stomach to ditch what doesn't work, follow through on what does and try what might, even when such action unsettles stakeholders. [Adrian Fenty] and [Michelle Rhee] took chances on performance pay, Saturday school and a middle school arts magnet. ... If in four years everyone who has been quoted criticizing the Fenty-Rhee team says they are happy, residents will know something isn't right."
AFTER THE JUMP -- Friday council hearing details election problems -- hackers reveal serious security breaches -- Dist legal settlement costs remain sky-high -- Gray says next chancellor "won't be Cliff Janey" -- Gray off to good start in wooing Ward 3'ers -- remember the GOP!
*** MAIN COURSE ***
ELECTION POSTMORTEM -- On Friday, the D.C. Council -- or Ward 3 member Mary Cheh, anyway -- heard testimony about the performance of the Board of Elections and Ethics during the September primary election and on preparations for the general election, only three weeks away. As I wrote Friday: "Residents and elections officials testified ... that inadequate training and harried preparations marred the city's primary elections last month. But those officials and a key legislator expressed confidence that the problems would largely be resolved" for the general. Said Cheh: "We had an election that was, in my eyes, materially flawed. But at the end of the day, when we got the votes ... we had a successful election." Most of the media attention, however, was drawn to the BOEE's "digital vote by mail" pilot, which was easily infiltrated by hackers during a recent open testing period. The hackers were led by University of Michigan professor J. Alex Halderman, who testified Friday and revealed "that his team was able to take control of key routing equipment in the voting system. That gave them access to, among other things, security cameras in a server room at board headquarters. ... Halderman also reported that while he and his students were inside, they detected hackers from China and Iran prodding the system. They chose to modify a firewall and change the password to keep the would-be infiltrators out. Halderman also revealed a more-serious security breach: A document containing names and addresses of the more than 900 voters eligible for the Internet voting trial was left on the test server, he testified, along with crucial ID numbers that would have allowed hackers to request and complete ballots. ... 'This was the biggest shock we've had in a very long time,' Halderman said after testifying. 'It's sort of the crown jewels of the security for the real election.'" The New York Times, Information Week and WTOP also covered the hacking story. Also: Keith Ivey live-tweeted much of the hearing. The Michigan Daily profiles Halderman and his team of grad students and how they did it. The Verified Voting Blog says the vote-hacking incident is a "visceral demonstration of just how serious the threats really are." Some video highlights of Halderman's testimony. Very good coverage also from Brad Friedman's blog.
ANNALS OF LITIGATION -- The District is paying through the nose in legal settlements, colleague Paul Schwartzman reports on A1 of Monday's paper: "From 2007 to 2009, the District paid more than $50 million in legal settlements, according to a database of city records obtained by The Washington Post. In that period, Montgomery County - which has 972,000 residents vs. the District's 599,000 - paid $8.5 million in settlements. But the District functions as a combination of a city and state and serves as the nation's capital, a stage for demonstrations that breed a cottage industry of lawsuits. San Francisco, which is similar in size to the District, awarded nearly $60 million in settlements arising from suits against city agencies during that same period, city officials said. Attorneys for plaintiffs say the District spends more than needed on such settlements because it prolongs lawsuits, tying up government lawyers for months and years when an early settlement can resolve a dispute quickly and less expensively. ... Peter Nickles, the District's attorney general, whose staff negotiates the settlements, said that his guiding principle is to be 'very tough about spending taxpayers' money' but that settlements are unavoidable in a litigious culture. 'There are more lawyers per capita in this city than any other city in the world,' Nickles said. 'And what do lawyers like to do?'"
SORRY, CLIFF -- Gray tells The Post's Valerie Strauss that his schools chancellor "won't be Cliff Janey," Bill Turque relays at D.C. Schools Insider -- which seems to slam the door on a return of Rhee's predecessor, since ousted from the Newark public schools. Also: "Gray, just finishing a visit with The Post editorial board, reiterated that he has not ruled out retaining [Rhee], and that if he concludes she's the best choice, he'll 'swallow it' -- despite her primary season trashing of his leadership style. But he also said that if he did replace her, his preference would be for new blood, not a heavily traveled schools leader who has been around 'for thirty-five years.' ... Gray also revealed that he's an admirer of Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso, who has garnered praise for moving reform forward without the kind of political tumult seen on Rhee's watch. 'I've been watching him,' Gray said, citing a year-old Baltimore Sun editorial comparing and contrasting the style of the two leaders." Also: "Gray expressed bewilderment over [Rhee's] shell-shocked demeanor in front of the cameras after their Sept. 23 meeting. ... 'She didn't want to face the media,' said Gray, who told her that she needed to be there. It was only then, he said, that she 'adopted a sour face.'"
MORE ON THE 'MANIFESTO' -- Also: Valerie takes down the Rhee-approved school reform "manifesto" that ran in Sunday's Outlook section, calling it full of "intellectual dishonesty and scapegoating ... historical myopia ... [and] misinformation." She also details from whence it sprang: "The manifesto was initiated by [New York schools Chancellor Joel Klein] and Rhee, who gave it to Michael Casserly, executive director of the nonprofit Council of the Great City Schools. He then worked to persuade other schools bosses to sign on, according to a knowledgeable source. ... Casserly, who has led the organization since 1992, is well-known in school reform circles, if not to the general public. I asked Casserly why he helped Klein win support for the document, and he responded by e-mail: 'Part of the job.'"
GRAY ON RIGHT TRACK -- Bob McCartney writes in his Sunday column that Gray "appeared to have no trouble winning over an overflow crowd" at the Ward 3 town hall last week. "Gray comfortably fielded questions on topics ranging from schools and the budget to parking meters and bike lanes. His command of the issues even impressed people who'd voted for Mayor Adrian Fenty. His passionate calls for statehood for the District drew a standing ovation. Gray's performance was a positive omen and confirms something that I and others have suspected: Once Fenty's supporters get over their hurt and give more attention to the man who beat them, they won't be so anxious about having come up on the losing side."
TELL US NOW -- Colby King writes in his Saturday column that city policymakers need to tell the voters how they plan to close the looming $175 million budget gap -- before Election Day. "Under the timetable for action to close the budget gap, laid out this week by [Gray], painful decisions won't be made until after the general election ballots have been counted. ... Talk about running out the clock. Voters shouldn't have to wait until after the elections to learn how their leaders will address the $175 million budget deficit, which, Gray says, could grow to as high as $400 million in fiscal 2012. ... How they propose to tackle this tough challenge -- whether through spending cuts, tax increases or both -- should be known before residents cast their ballots. After all, the current deficit, and the projected $400 million gap, result not only from revenue shortfalls because of the economic downturn but also from fiscally imprudent decisions by elected city leaders."
REMEMBER THE GOP -- The Post's editorial board reminds us all that there is indeed a reason we have a general election: "Voters do themselves and the District a disservice by not weighing all the alternatives available to them on Nov. 2. Single-party rule is never healthy, and GOP officials deserve credit for this year's imaginative efforts to build a stronger party. ... They face enormous odds in a place where there are 11 Democrats for every Republican. All are being outspent by the incumbents they face. In contrast to the weeks preceding the primary, when it seemed there was a candidates forum every night, there appears to be little interest among community groups or the media in these contests or the nonpartisan D.C. State Board of Education races also to be decided. This needs to change: There should be more candidates debates. Challenges lie ahead for the District; rather than taking a pass on Nov. 2, voters should take seriously their civic obligation by studying the candidates and choosing wisely."
CATANIA ENDORSEMENT -- The InTowner wants another term for David Catania: "Since he first joined the Council in 1997, as we wrote when we strongly endorsed him as a very effective member in his re-election bid four years ago, we praised him for his 'dogged determination, aggressively looking out for the interests of all citizens, not just those who pay lots of taxes ... but also for the less well-off and often ignored citizens who feel left out and abandoned, especially with regard to what should be basic "safety net" services like health care. For those less fortunate, David Catania has been a champion truly striving to bring about better services where they matter.' We have not changed our views one iota; he has remained true to everything positive we saw in him as far back as when we were the first newspaper to endorse him in that 1997 special election. David Catania has clearly and consistently stayed the course that we so admired back then and we continue to do so today."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Don Peebles eyes New Carrollton Metro site for his next "transformational" venture (Post)
No, the government salary freeze doesn't affect the new teachers contract (D.C. Schools Insider)
Gray campaign moves town halls out of public schools (D.C. Wire)
Does Chicago need Michelle Rhee -- the "most famous urban schools chief in the country"? (Chicago magazine)
Does Hawaii need Michelle Rhee? (Maui News)
Lessons from Fenty's loss for Evansville, Ind. (Courier & Press)
Shocker: Marion Barry's grasp of taxation "only kind of" accurate (TBD)
The real story of Barry's famous "get over it" comment (Loose Lips)
Elusive drug kingpin Corey Moore could be going down in Montgomery County (Post)
Prosecutor on police handling of Chandra Levy case: "It can be proven that there were missteps. ... I can't begin to explain why things were done back in the day." (McClatchy)
Q&A with Chuck Thies (DCist)
A look inside the new Georgetown library (Georgetown Metropolitan)
"The Nine Lives of Marion Barry" available on DVD on Nov. 23 for $24.95 (Amazon)
Warm congrats to WTTG-TV's Roby Chavez, who wed partner Chris Roe in August -- with Gray, Catania and Jim Graham in attendance (Post)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Happy Columbus Day -- no government business
| October 11, 2010; 12:52 PM ET
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