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DeMorning DeBonis: Oct. 29, 2010


Today is Michelle Rhee's last day as chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools. Bill Turque writes today that she "is exiting the District much as she entered it more than three years ago: outspoken, impatient, apparently indifferent to the kind of tension and pushback that most in her line of work labor to avoid." That's because she told education-school officials attending a College Board event that she'd like to track underperforming teachers and "send them back" to their cruddy alma maters. But here's the big picture: "[H]er signature contribution, many supporters and detractors say, was a change in the conversation. Rhee added a new urgency and righteous anger to the school reform movement, one that she will now take to a national platform. She asked how the District could compile an abysmal academic record and yet rate most of their teachers as meeting or exceeding expectations. She decreed that poverty was no longer a reason for expecting less of a child in Anacostia than one in Tenleytown. ... Although many of her achievements come with asterisks and caveats, by any standard Rhee improved a school system that was among the nation's worst. ... But there is a fragility to the changes Rhee has wrought." Read Bill's piece for a brief trip back through her tumultuous regime. Rhee is now well-ensconced on the national stage, of course; she appeared last night on CNN's "Parker Spitzer," talking up merit pay for teachers.

AFTER THE JUMP -- How Harry Thomas and Marion Barry got the Historical Society of Washington a million dollars (and then some) -- city Republicans take a stand -- how national antiabortion activists are making a splash in the city -- Fenty burrows in to keep city's interest in United Medical Center -- feds want nearly $60M in Medicaid payments back


ANOTHER NON-EARMARK EARMARK -- Nikita Stewart reports in today's Post on the convoluted award of a million-dollar grant to the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. In a time when earmarks were supposedly verboten, Harry Thomas Jr. sent the money from the parks department to the D.C. Public Library and on to the society. And then there's a twist or two: Because the CFO's office was taking too long to cut a check, Marion Barry got on the horn with Natwar Gandhi to get the deal done. Then, due to an administrative error, the CFO's office inadvertently sent the Society an extra $250,000, and Barry has been trying to get Gandhi to forgive the debt. Here's the juice: "Thomas said he and Barry did not speak about the grant, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2009. But several government and historical society sources said [HSW Executive Director Sandy Bellamy] complained to city officials, including Barry, that the D.C. Public Library was slow in making the money available to the society. In an interview, Barry acknowledged he called the chief financial officer's office in June about the final payment. 'I sure did. What's wrong with that?' said Barry. ... However, he would not address allegations by government sources that he and [Bellamy] are romantically involved. He would only say that he and Bellamy, who accompanied him to a gala for the D.C. Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, are friends. Bellamy declined to comment on their relationship." The Fenty administration is suing to get the $250,000 back.

HERE COME THE REPUBLICANS -- Tim Craig profiles the four Republican challenges in ward council races, focusing on Dave Hedgepeth's run again Ward 3 incumbent Mary Cheh. "Hedgepeth has seized on Cheh's endorsement of [Vincent Gray] in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. She has reputation as an effective legislator and for attentive constituent service, but her support for Gray in a ward where eight out of 10 voters supported Fenty has left an opening for Hedgepeth. ... While the national debate is dominated by the tea party and conservatives influence on Republican politics, District party leaders are stressing that the local candidates are different than their national peers. Hedgepeth, [Ward 1's Marc Morgan] and [Ward 5's Timothy Day] are black. Morgan and Day are also gay, and all four say they support the city's new same-sex marriage law. 'They are urban candidates running on an urban Republican platform,' said Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee. 'These are not stereotypical Republicans.'" Meanwhile, the Post editorial board hails the new competition for the long-ruling party: "No good has ever come out of long-term rule by one party, so D.C. residents should welcome the availability of new voices and perspectives. ... The Republicans standing for office are -- contrary to the caricature painted by Democratic activists -- a thoughtful group with conservative views on fiscal issues but progressive stances on social issues. That they are politically disadvantaged in this overwhelming Democratic city makes their decision to run all the more laudable." Also: The Georgetown Dish has a very good rundown of the Wednesday debate between Cheh and Hedgepeth.

THOSE AWFUL ADS -- In the not-a-column today, I look at candidate Missy Reilly Smith and her graphic antiabortion TV ads. Tens of thousands may be marching in the "Rally to Restore Sanity" tomorrow, but Smith will not be one of them. "Even among the insular world of hard-core antiabortion activists, Smith describes herself as a member of a band apart. She is a close ally of Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue and one of the movement's most militant and controversial leaders. It was Terry, Smith said, who knew of a bulletproof provision in federal law: Holders of broadcast licenses are required to air federal candidates' advertisements unedited in whatever time slots they can afford. ... Using e-mail lists compiled by Terry and others, Smith has appealed to like-minded activists across the country. In her appeals, Smith plays up that the ads will run 'in the belly of the beast' -- in the city where Roe v. Wade was decided. ... Her candidacy, she said, has been boosted by more than $50,000 in donations, and she expects as much as $100,000 to come in by Election Day. ... [G]ive Smith and Terry credit for one thing: In an election cycle dominated by economic issues, Smith has found a way to rekindle the most divisive of cultural issues. And, once again, D.C. residents pay an odd price for living in the national capital." Meanwhile, Deborah Simmons lauds Smith in the Washington Times for responding to the city's "urgent need for a moral compass."

NICKLES'S LAST HURRAH -- Harry Jaffe, in his Examiner column, declares the council's parks contracting investigation much ado about nothing -- this by way of applauding Attorney General Peter Nickles for a job well done. Nickles wrote to the council this week, disputing its vote to stop a $550,000 settlement with Banneker Ventures. Jaffe takes the Nickles line: "Sorry -- no corruption here. Shoddy contracting perhaps. Failure to consult the council. But no kickbacks, no bribes, no underhanded deals. Facts are Banneker was never slated to get the entire $82 million. It profited from being a manager, to the tune of a few million, at most. That's called capitalism." And Jaffe shares Nickles's doubts about the council investigation: "Last May the lawmakers got big-time lawyer Robert Trout to dig into the alleged 'corruption' in the Banneker deals. Trout's probe was expected to last two months. 'It is now almost November,' Nickles writes, 'and there is no end in sight.' In fact, Nickles says Trout has botched the investigation." We'll see, won't we?

FENTY DIGS IN AT UMC -- In other Nickles news, the Washington Business Journal's Ben Fischer writes that the AG and his hand-picked members of the United Medical Center board (most of them Fenty administration officials) yesterday "discussed options they might have to prevent presumptive Mayor-elect Vincent Gray's administration from selling the hospital to a private buyer in the future." Nickles said to the board: "I hope after I leave, we do not give this hospital away." Fischer adds: "Saying he wants to protect the hospital from private operators who might not have the District's best wishes at heart, he hasn't taken phone calls from suitors, [Nickles] added: 'With your permission, I'll continue to be absent from the phone.' Nickles said he would likely propose some resolutions before the end of the year for the board to approve, with the goal of strengthening the board's hand to hold onto the facility. He would not elaborate on what these resolutions might say."

FEDS WANT $59M BACK -- In another WBJ must-read, Michael Neibauer reports that the feds have delivered the city a nearly $60 million bill for reimbursement of unsupported Medicaid claims, mostly from CFSA. "It's not supposed to happen this way. The District generally bills Medicaid, not the other way around. But the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in an Oct. 18 letter, called for D.C. to pay back $58.75 million it received from Medicaid in fiscal years 2004 and 2005 -- for charges the city cannot support. The District's Department of Health Care Finance, which oversees Medicaid and Medicare, responded days later that it rejects the bill, disagrees with the charges and plans to appeal." DHCF wants a hearing on the matter, and is hoping for a reduction in the total, "[b]ut there is no denying that the overbilling happened."


Potential Virginia congressman Keith Fimian is a retrocessionist (DCist)

Did FEMS ambulance "hide" from South Capitol Street massacre response? (WTTG-TV)

More on tax-increase push: Tommy Wells says he won't cut human services without accompanying tax hike (D.C. Wire)

Jonetta Rose Barras: Write-in-ers are acting in "noble tradition" (

The case against the "unjustifiable" Wildlife Protection Act (WaTimes)

The case for the DDOT taking over intracity Metrobuses (GGW)

Ron Moten: "Teasing and bullying aren't an issue in our community. Youths killing and maiming other youths is." (WaTimes)

Eleanor's ready to put her warrior helmet back on (TBD NewsTalk)

WMATA survey: Most Metro workers know about safety violations, keep 'em to themselves (Post)

OCTO staffers scared that Gray (or Suzanne Peck?) will kill their "results only work environment" (Center for American Progress)

City authorities perplexed by wooden box cemented onto H Street NE sidewalk (TBD)

Meet your State Board of Education candidates (

Jim Graham, David Catania "poised for victory," dontcha know (Blade)

Chandra Levy murder trial update: Police defend their work (Post)

Metro transit police float random rider searches after terror-plot arrest (WTOP)

It's "one city" time, says Peter Rosenstein -- except for you, Jonetta (Blade)

Tour the new Wilson High (YouTube)

Cops cracking down on public sex at P Street Beach? (Blade)

Jack Evans birthday pics! (G'town Dish)

Former ANC commish convicted of insurance fraud (Insurance and Financial Advisor)

*** ON THE MENU **

At-large council candidates debate on Kojo, noon on WAMU-FM, 88.5 Actually, they debated on Wednesday

By Mike DeBonis  | October 29, 2010; 8:52 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: DeMorning DeBonis: Oct. 28, 2010
Next: Montgomery government campaigns in election, drawing lawsuit


I think Harry needs to call a lawyer--one who is not with mafia ties.
Let me try this with his example.

Suppose I come to Harry's house and stand out front. While there, I hire a plumber, a contractor, a roofer, and a electrician. As they start work on his house--he comes out and start screaming "what are you doing." What the contractor will say we worked for you and now you owe us something.

Extreme case? No

That is exactly what happened here.

There was no authority to grant the contract. District laws are clear on who and what body can grant contracts in DC. This agency had no authority to enjoin the District in this matter. And like those contractor that would have stand outside HJ house they are shorter than a midget on his knees.

Contracting laws at least this one is well known to most business owners who do business in the city.

You cannot make a codify this bad act after the fact.

One defense the Bannekar group could assert is that they were acting in good faith and would not have known the District's rules on contracting. One city body looks just like the next.

But... that would be odd given that their professional service is to manage contract through the system---so they should have known the ins and outs of the District's contracting rules. Anyone who has ever even picked up a P.A.S.S (purchasing and procurement vendor license in DC ) application knows that anything over 1 million goes to the D.C. Council.

If the precedent is allowed to be set that the authority can be granted after the fact or validated after it skirted--you will see a line of people ginning up their lawsuits to be made. Shoot I think I have 20 grand the city may have owed me.

That is not how federal and local contracting processes work.

Posted by: CultureClub | October 29, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Come on now ...

More non-fact-based promotion for Michelle A. Rhee even though she is finally gone? The word's out on Rhee and her masking tape: in Newark, Montgomery County, Atlanta. As welcome as nuclear waste in the community of big time school systems. Give it up.

Continued obsessive and unjustified coverage of Marion Barry and his personal life?

And a link to another Jonetta Rose Barras bitter screed? Readers were really looking forward to that; never can have enough bitterness, we guess.

Step your game up ...and take the pledge --no more bloviating about Rhee and Barry, and no more links/references to Barras bitter pills.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | October 30, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

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