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DeMorning DeBonis: Oct. 6, 2010

TODAY IS OCT. 6, 2010 -- 27 DAYS UNTIL GENERAL ELECTION

PREVIOUSLY -- Consultant's postmortem: Fenty became 'flawed and expendable' -- 'Write Fenty In' campaign launches Web site

At the first of his town hall meetings last night, presumptive mayor-elect Vincent Gray went swiftly about managing expectations: "We're not going to be able to do everything we've done in the past," he told the crowd of hundreds at a Ward 5 charter school. "Everything has been cut in the city and there will be more cuts." He said at another point: "We've got to be able to right-size our government to make sure that we're living within our means. And you know a lot of people are going to shake their heads and say 'I understand.' But I understand also -- that it's fine until it's something important to you that's going to be cut." And how's this for the new, decisive, executive, Fenty-esque Vince Gray: "We're not going to talk for months and months about these decisions. We're gonna talk about it, we're gonna get on with it, we're going to make the tough decisions that have to be made." Nikita Stewart has a full rundown for today's paper; Examiner and WTTG-TV also covered. The doom and gloom talk came amid nearly 90 minutes of Q&A on issues from collecting Doug Jemal's taxes to improving parenting to the best way to educate deaf children. Gray also managed to work in veiled swipes at Jason Chaffetz and Ron Moten. Gray's next stop, on Thursday in Fenty-friendly Ward 3, will be the "biggest test of his tour," Nikita writes.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Tony Williams weighs in on the Fenty years -- Jonetta floats Gist, Bobb and Vallas to follow Rhee -- animal protection bill passes first vote, could hike pest-control costs -- FY12 budget gap could hit $400M

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE FROM NIKITA -- "Gray sounded as much like a candidate as a likely mayor as he fielded questions and comments about everything from educating deaf children in public schools to the homeless to bike lanes and streetcars to taxes. ... Gray also told the audience that he welcomed criticism. 'I invited you to the party. As my parents would say, come on in, the water's fine,' he said. The biggest crowd response of the night came after a 13-year-old Hardy Middle School student lamented the removal of principal Patrick Pope. She rattled off several problems at the school, centered mostly around class scheduling. Although Gray said he did not understand why Pope was removed, he said he would not micromanage the school system. 'I do think people are owed answers on why changes are made,' he said."

TONY ON ADRIAN -- Courtland Milloy gets a debrief on the Fenty regime from former Mayor Anthony Williams: "When I became the CFO, I fired about 400 people. People hated me. And yet I went on to become mayor. Twice. [Michelle Rhee] had a similarly powerful position, fired some people and is now on the verge of being run out of town. So what's the difference? I think it's going out and talking to people about what you're doing and why you're doing it. I went to every neighborhood in the city, back and forth, holding small community meetings. If you take time to explain to people what is going on, even if they disagree with you, they will respect you." Also: "I think The Washington Post's four years of adoration and devotion did Adrian a disservice. You guys beat the [daylights] out of me, and it kept me humble. I don't know if you all were on vacation or what, but if I had done some of the things Adrian did, I would have been run out of town. Adrian never had to explain himself. I found that being called out in the newspaper and screamed at during community meetings is a powerful antidote to arrogance and keeps you on your toes."

RHEE-PLACEMENTS -- In her Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras floats the names of a few chancellor picks -- Deborah Gist, Robert Bobb, Paul Vallas, and Clifford Janey. Former D.C. State Superintendent of Education Gist is now in Rhode Island: "Some in D.C. may consider her a milder version of Rhee. But in Rhode Island, Gist has been called brusque, mission-driven and unwilling to suffer fools. She created a stir earlier this year when she approved dismissal of the entire staff at Central Falls High School, one of the state's lowest-performing institutions." Former D.C. city administrator Bobb, long a favorite of Jonetta's, "arrived in the government when the executive was accused of being aloof and disconnected from -- you guessed it -- the African-American community. Bobb helped quiet those complaints while winning accolades from nonblack residents. ... Since taking the job in March 2009, Bobb has been sued multiple times; closed 59 schools; demanded the restructuring of 17 others; and reduced the personnel rolls by 1,000 positions. But his reforms are beginning to yield marked improvements." Vallas -- who's done stints in Chicago, Philly and New Orleans -- would also do fine. Only Janey, she writes, "would be an indisputable step backward." Notably, Tony Williams gave Bobb the thumbs-up in his interview with Courtland.

ANIMALS PROTECTED -- The headline item from yesterday's D.C. Council meeting was Mary Cheh's "wildlife protection" bill, which would "impose some of the nation's strictest standards for how animal- and pest-control companies can remove raccoons, opossums, foxes, snakes and other nuisance animals from lawns, attics and basements," Tim Craig writes today. The bill, which "prohibits wildlife-control operators from using glue, leg-hold, and 'body-gripping' or 'body-crushing' traps or snares when capturing unwanted animals," passed a first-reading vote unanimously. A lobbyist from the National Pest Management Association calls the bill "the most overreaching proposal that we have seen taken seriously," adding: "Some of these individual tools are banned in some jurisdictions, but nowhere has such a far-reaching ban been implemented." If made law, the bill could seriously escalate pest control costs. But Jim Graham explains: "It's all related to quality of life. ... What you do to the least of these, you do to me." Mice and rats are exempt from the bill.

MORE SCHOOL FOR DCPS KIDS? -- Also in new well-meaning Cheh proposals: Longer school days. A bill she introduced yesterday, Tim writes, "would extend the school day from the current 6.5 hours to at least seven hours. ... Cheh's proposal, which will likely undergo extensive review before the council acts on it, is designed to help the District meet President Obama's call for longer school days to enhance the quality of education. Cheh said the change would also place District public schools in line with the instructional time already offered by some local charter schools. ... Cheh acknowledges that the longer stay day would come at considerable cost to taxpayers. And with the city forecasted to face lean local budgets for the foreseeable future, Cheh said, it could be some time before her legislation is enacted." Cheh appeared on WTTG-TV last night to plug the bill.

FY12 GAP APPROACHES $400M -- A $175 million mid-year gap closing is bad enough, but that also compounds the challenge in the 2012 budget, whose preparation is already underway. Gray yesterday estimated that next year's budget will have to be trimmed by as much as $400 million -- meaning structural cuts are needed sooner rather than later. Tim writes at D.C. Wire: "Gray stressed to his colleagues that difficult choices will have to be made in the coming weeks. The more they cut from the budget this year, Gray said, the less difficulty they face next year when they agree on a fiscal 2012 spending plan. ... Gray is refusing to rule out layoffs or a tax increase. He will become mayor in January if he wins the Nov. 2 general election. In the coming days, he may have to decide whether he prefers to raise taxes or pursue layoffs this year, while he's chairman, or whether he wants to wait until next year as mayor." Examiner

WHAT DCPS ENROLLMENT GAINS MEAN -- Bill Turque explains that the modest rise in DCPS enrollment is "more symbolic than statistically significant" but worthy of praise nonetheless. "Most of the growth is at the preschool and pre-kindergarten levels, where the city has added about 400 seats in the past year. Rhee said the system also retained an increased number of fifth-graders. A school-by-school breakdown of the data was not provided. Rhee said 73 of the system's 123 schools across all eight wards showed enrollment gains. At least a couple of schools at the secondary level grew: Hardy Middle School in Ward 2 and Coolidge High School in Ward 4. ... The factors underlying the increase - which must be verified by state auditors - are not clear. One variable is whether the school system is actually capturing a higher proportion of school-age children, or benefiting from population increases along with the additional space it has created in early childhood programs. ... There also is the question of whether the economic conditions have forced more families into public schools. Rhee said that with so many charter school options in the city, the increase reflects new confidence in D.C. schools."

ANNALS OF FUTILITY -- The "Write Fenty In" campaign continues apace, complete with a new Web site and a PAC. Organizer John Hlinko, a social media organizer, explains his motivations to the Georgetown Dish: "Hlinko is a school-reform Fenty supporter. 'I'd like to send my 4-year-old daughter to public school and I was more and more pleased with what I saw. This is awesome,' Hlinko says of the Fenty/Rhee school reforms. When Fenty lost, he was 'bummed' and decided to get involved. 'It's a long shot. It's in the hands of the D.C. voters --- they can do it, all they have to do is learn how to spell his name and walk to the polls with a pencil, and they can do it.'" He also tells a WUSA-TV blogger, "For me, it's not anti-Gray at all. ... If you're playing in the World Series, and you've got a guy who has three home runs already, why would you pinch-hit for him? Another player might work out well, but why would you go against someone with that track record?" Alan Suderman notes at Loose Lips that Hlinko has "organized 'GuyPartisan Dinners' for die-hard righties and die-hard lefties to eat steak, drink scotch and make fun of each other" and "started a dating website for left-wing political types."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Jo-Ann Armao asks whether Gray and Rhee are "playing chicken" -- "If so, someone needs to blink." (PostPartisan)

Rhee appeared on a panel in Sacramento Tuesday with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Antonio Villaraigosa and KJ (Sacramento Press)

The Fentys appear at kickoff for breast-cancer fundraiser (Oh My Goff)

Police Chief Cathy Lanier has a sweet retirement package; should her fellow brass get the same golden treatment? (City Desk)

Baltimore gets a breakthrough teacher contract with a fraction of the fuss (Post)

DMV-based HIV tests off to a fine start (D.C. Wire, WRC-TV, CNN)

Meet the black, gay Republicans (NBCWashington.com)

"Michael Brown and Jim Graham want to drive the wealthy out of the city" (DC Urban Moms)

Must the D.C. Lottery be accessible to the disabled? (Legal Times)

Why there is violence at funerals: "To a lot of young people, a church is just another building. And a funeral gives them a chance to get back at somebody and catch them off guard," says Ron Moten (Post)

Bryan Weaver shares more about the life of Jamal Coates (NBCWashington.com, GGW)

Odenton, Md., man who has same name as MPD dog-shooter has been subject to Facebook harassment (The Capital)

More on vote-hacking (AP via WaTimes)

How to become a city-licensed food handler (DCist)

More than you need to know about how bike-sharing works (TheCityFix)

Fighting bullying in DCPS (WAMU-FM)

It's official: Mosquito swatted (WTTG-TV)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Marion Barry and Kris Baumann on TBD's NewsTalk, 10 a.m. -- human services committee reviews winter homelessness plan, 1 p.m. in council chambers

By Mike DeBonis  | October 6, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Michigan prof explains how D.C. online voting system was hacked

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