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DeMorning DeBonis: Oct. 25, 2010

TODAY IS OCT. 25, 2010 -- EIGHT DAYS UNTIL GENERAL ELECTION

Good to be back! I return to see that (a) enterprising Georgetown students turned a freshman dorm room (one floor above what had been my own) into a makeshift drug lab and that (b) Peter Nickles, surprise surprise, will not be going gently into the good night. With no more than two months left in his contentious tenure as attorney general, Nickles is putting the screws to Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr., pressing him to account for the receipts and spending of his Team Thomas nonprofit. Tim Craig writes in Saturday's Post that Nickles and his deputy Bennett Rushkoff wrote Thomas last week "requesting that Thomas turn over the names of the organization's executives and accounts as well as information about donors, employees and their salaries, and its beneficiaries." The missive reads that the information is being requested "as to avoid the need for a subpoena." Says Thomas: "It is, and shall remain, my prime objective to be as open and transparent as possible in all my public programs and activities." Now do note that "the prospect of an investigation could affect Thomas's future political plans. Although he is expected to beat (Tim) Day on Nov. 2, Thomas appears to be gearing up for a possible run for citywide office. In recent weeks, he has attended nearly all of Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray's town hall meetings, which has been viewed as a sign that he is considering running" for the at-large seat expected to be vacated with Kwame Brown's ascension to the council chairmanship.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Nickles argues against an elected AG; Lightfoot argues for it -- Tony Williams steps up for Gray -- WTU elections wrap this week -- Rhee takes her show to Tampa -- Dennis Rubin bids adieu -- here come the congressional Republicans

*** MAIN COURSE ***

ELECTED AG: PRO AND CON -- More Nickles: The current AG takes to the Post's "All Opinions are Local" blog to make the case against an elected attorney general. His best point: "An elected attorney general will be a politician -- not the city's top lawyer. Think of Virginia's current Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, New York's former governor Eliot Spitzer and New York gubernatorial front-runner Andrew Cuomo, all of them former attorney generals. ... I am concerned that an elected attorney general would not pursue -- as my office has -- actions related to slumlords, phony used-car dealers, brothel owners, massage parlors, billboards, payday lenders and large corporations such as Bank of America, AT&T, Verizon and others." You know, like Spitzer and Cuomo did. Still less convincing: His argument that electing an AG would require the city to double up its legal staff -- the CFO and the council disagree on that point. Bill Lightfoot, the trial lawyer and former council member, weighs in on the pro side: "D.C. residents deserve a high-quality lawyer who speaks for the public interest. Selecting an attorney general by popular vote will ensure that the person in the job has the freedom and independence to make decisions on the basis of the public good. ... For starters, an elected attorney general would be structurally independent of the mayor and thus generally free of the mayor's political agenda; right now, the attorney general has an obligation to the public, but it is the mayor who makes the pick. Election would remedy this disconnect." Ah, yes, forgot to mention: Mr. Lightfoot is also the former chair of the Adrian Fenty re-election campaign.

TONY FOR VINCE -- Former mayor Anthony Williams officially endorses Vincent Gray at a Saturday fundraiser. The Georgetown Dish was there: "It was the first time that [Williams] publicly showed his support for Gray, bringing along his new granddaughter, Naiya, who is just weeks old. Tony's mother, Virginia E. Hayes Williams, was among the first to encourage Gray last February to run for mayor. 'Mrs. Williams has been reinstated as the First Mother of D.C.,' Gray told the gathering of 100. 'She has adopted me as her newest son.' ... Gray said he is not discounting the never-say-quit 'Write-in Fenty' campaign. With a knowing nod, Williams, who won his reelection race for mayor eight years ago via a write-in vote after problems with his nominating petitions, readily piped up, that yes, all such movements should be taken very seriously." Also in attendance: developer Jim Abdo, who sold Williams his condo. But Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill note that Gray did not publicize this fundraiser or others "because of negative press stories regarding Reuben Charles, the director of operations and principal fundraiser for the Gray campaign, and concerns about his apparent dealmaking at fundraising events."

WTU ELECTIONS -- Bill Turque tees up the Washington Teachers' Union elections, which are finally underway and will wrap up this week: "[T]he survival of [Michelle Rhee]'s agenda - especially for hiring, evaluating and firing teachers -- will also be determined by those at the top of the 4,000-member union, which spent heavily to unseat [Fenty]. George Parker, who signed the game-changing labor contract with Rhee that was approved by members in June, is running for reelection to a three-year term. ... Parker faces challenges from three veteran teachers who say he gave away too much at the bargaining table, weakening job security and other protections. His opponents, Elizabeth Davis, Christopher Bergfalk and the union's general vice president, Nathan Saunders, also favor abolishing or substantially revising Rhee's signature measure, the IMPACT evaluation system, which can trigger dismissals for teachers with low scores. Parker said his opponents don't understand the political and cultural climate that now surrounds public education. Unionized teachers need to get in front of the reform movement and assert some leadership, he said, or risk being steamrolled by it. He calls their candidacies a vestige of 'old-school unionism.'" A result is expected Wednesday.

RHEE ROAD SHOW -- Rhee appears at a Tampa education conference hosted by the Council of the Great City Schools, the St. Petersburg Times reports: "'Be prepared to be Ms. or Mr. Unpopular,' the outgoing chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools told an audience of urban school administrators here Thursday. 'I am really good at this one right now.' ... Panelists from Miami-Dade County, Atlanta, Baltimore and Philadelphia shared tales of standards raised and contracts won, though few talked quite so tough. 'Those are the very same provisions that we negotiated,' said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief academic officer of Detroit public schools [and a former Rhee adviser]. 'But we did it in a collaborative fashion, as opposed to Michelle Rhee's Gestapo style,' added her union president, Keith Johnson."

RUBIN OUT -- This is how Fire Chief Dennis Rubin announces his departure: "Attached is my new contact information. Please start using this information immediately. I will be leaving the District of Columbia Fire Department effective January 2, 2011 as the new Administration takes over. My current plan is to provide consultant services until I find a full time position that is a good fit for me. I wanted everyone to know how to maintain contact with me and thank everyone for their support during the last four years. What a great opportunity that Mayor Fenty has provided and I will leave this great City without regret." Nikita Stewart notes that Rubin, in the e-mail, "attached an electronic business card that listed his job as: 'Instructor.'"

VO = WINNER -- Alan Suderman has a fabulous e-mail penned by former council member Vincent Orange, addressing his doubters after his failed chairman run: "Michael Brown was rejected several times and now he is an outstanding at-large Councilmember. Rushern Baker was rejected several times and now he will be the Prince Georgia's County Executive. Abraham Lincoln was rejected so many times that it was unbelievable that he became President of the United States. Vincent is a winner." So there you have it. Also: "GOD is in charge! And he will deliver Vincent Orange when he is ready. Vincent Orange is a very blessed man and GOD is preparing him to serve mankind very well."

IT'S MEDDLING TIME -- The Nov. 2 elections could be the end of a short-lived golden age for District autonomy, writes Colby King in his Saturday column: "If the polls and pundits are correct, a storm is brewing in America and it's headed this way. And when those hurricane forces hit town, Washington's political landscape will be transformed into a sight unseen since 2006, when Republicans last controlled Congress. ... Expect, for example, a renewed effort to weaken D.C. gun laws and restrict the D.C. Council's regulation of firearms. Gun-rights forces tried to do that this year when they attached pro-gun language that ultimately derailed voting rights legislation. The Nov. 2 elections, if all goes as predicted, will only strengthen their hands. A rightward-leaning Congress might even want to revisit old business such as the riders on appropriation bills prohibiting needle exchange and medical marijuana programs that Democrats wisely eliminated. The city's same-sex-marriage law might not be safe either. For certain, a less D.C.-friendly Congress will meddle in the city's business. Which is why the District's new leaders, if events take a turn for the worse on election night, will have to give serious thought to congressional relations." Colby's advice: The new mayor "will have to heavy up his administration's liaison to Capitol Hill. ... Gray also will need a top-flight Cabinet led by a seasoned city administrator and a highly regarded D.C. attorney general. This is no time for on-the-job training."

SBOE PICKS; PATTERSON TSKS ED BOARD -- The Post editorial board endorses Patrick Mara (Ward 1, with "better insights into today's educational challenges" than incumbent Dotti Love Wade), Laura Slover (Ward 3, "smart and able"), Mark Jones (Ward 5, "a steady and thoughtful presence") and Monica Warren-Jones (Ward 6, with a "realistic sense of the state school board's mission and her advocacy of high standards and best practices") for State Board of Education seats. Meanwhile, former Ward 3 Council member Kathy Patterson writes to take exception to the board's non-endorsement of successor Mary Cheh: "She is smart, committed and clearly an asset to the council and the District. It would be a terrible shame to lose her knowledge of the law, reflected in 25 years of teaching at George Washington University. I haven't agreed with her on everything, but her leadership on environmental issues and her willingness to press for a more transparent government are welcome and valuable. We are heading into a period that requires careful review of spending and more stringent accountability from the council. She is central to both." The Georgetown Dish says the board needs to "get over it" regarding Cheh's backing of Gray.


*** SMALL PLATES ***

The Chandra Levy murder trial begins today (Post)

Kwame Brown is "exerting his own policy vision in the face of a growing council power void" by saying pretty much the exact same thing Vincent Gray is (Examiner)

Citing Cheh's "stunning arrogance" in endorsing Vince Gray, Jonetta Rose Barras writes that Ward 3 voters "are giving moderate Republican Dave Hedgepeth a second look." (Examiner)

Gray finally has his streetcar plan (Post)

Robert Bobb will be leaving Detroit in the spring (Detroit Free Press)

Allegation: As much as $50,000 embezzled from DOES (Post)

Facts about Sandra Queen Noble, minor party candidate for congressional delegate: "Noble, who has run for president five times and three times for mayor of Cincinnati, claims that the government stole her babies in Hollywood, and is currently suing the 'Stolen United States of America,' Kenneth Lewis and the Bank of America, for $994 trillion." (The Hoya)

DPW employee dumped a fellow employee into a trash bin via front-end loader; he was fired and remains fired (WBJ

Gray gives an early reach-out to city ministers (D.C. Wire)

School is, in fact, cheaper than jail: "The District spent an area high of $117 a day for each student and $141 on each inmate." (Examiner)

DCPS pink-slips 24 special education staffers (D.C. Schools Insider)

What Tommy Wells actually wants to do about homeless shelter access (Poverty and Policy)

Peggy Cooper Cafritz sues WASA over house fire (Post)

Pretty good review of "Waiting for Superman" (New Jersey Newsroom)

Gay-marriage-opposing minister reaches out to gay activists to fight bullying (GLAA Forum)

New murals! (Informer)

Eleanor Holmes Norton demands lights in Sherman Circle (Housing Complex)

Write-in-ers can stamp away (D.C. Wire)

Martin Austermuhle went to Gray's Ward 8 town hall so I didn't have to (DCist)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Council transportation committee takes up "Driver's License Amendment Act" and "Access to Selective Service Registration Amendment Act," 2 p.m. in council chambers

By Mike DeBonis  | October 25, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Welcome back!!

Posted by: peterdc | October 25, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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