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DeMorning DeBonis: Nov. 10, 2010

By Mike DeBonis


BREAKING -- Attorney General Peter Nickles announced that he's suing the Don Peebles-led partnership that has long rented an Anacostia office building to the city, alleging that the company "improperly included as reimbursable operating expenses numerous items - such as cleaning and trash removal services and excessive management fees - that were not the District's responsibility under the lease." Also alleged to be among those items: "political contributions [to Marion Barry, Michael A. Brown, Jack Evans, et al.] and champagne and valet parking for a Miami fundraiser." More to come.

Harry Thomas Jr. takes aim at the Washington Post editorial board for its Team Thomas editorializing, calling "oddly inappropriate" its "foray into investigative reporting." He does not, however, challenge what that reporting turned up, only what it "insinuated." He writes: "I view the cost of the annual report as a legitimate Team Thomas expenditure. Contributions received and expenses for this purpose will be included as part of the full accounting of Team Thomas. I ask that The Post reciprocate and do the same: Please disclose to readers how a once highly regarded newspaper has deteriorated to the point where its editorial board will repeatedly promote an agenda against someone who did not support the Post-endorsed mayoral candidate." Meanwhile, the information on the group's fundraising and spending that Thomas' lawyer said would be disclosed by the end of last week is still MIA.

AFTER THE JUMP -- council passes wildlife bill, new foreclosure strictures -- the Wilson Building mystery plaque -- Reuben Charles' acting turn -- severance but no bonuses for Fenty appointees -- Michelle Rhee is not the new NYC chancellor


COUNCIL BUSINESS -- Busy enough day on the fifth floor of the John A. Wilson Building yesterday, as the D.C. Council Period 18 winds to a close. Your headline legislation: The Mary Cheh-introduced Wildlife Protection Act passed its final reading, Examiner's Freeman Klopott reports, amid continued protests from pest-control lobby groups. Cheh opted for some visceral imagery in explaining the law's scope to WAMU-FM's Patrick Madden: "The law only applies to the animal wildlife companies -- it doesn't apply to the homeowner. I don't like the image of you wielding a bat and smashing a possum in the head, but this law wouldn't stop that." The law won kudos from the Humane Society of the U.S., which had a major role in shaping the legislation. The other big-attention item is a Muriel Bowser-moved emergency bill requiring 90 days of mediation between a lender and homeowner before a foreclosure. Lydia DePillis writes at Housing Complex that more can be done to keep banks from foreclosing in the first place. Klopott notes that a similar measure in Maryland has been no great shakes. Also WAMU-FM. Also: Vincent Gray introduced a measure honoring fallen MPD officer Paul Dittamo, which Klopott frames thusly: "Sorry I missed your funeral, here's a D.C. Council resolution."

MYSTERY PLAQUE -- A Wilson Building mystery par excellence: What, John Kelly asks in his Post column, was the large commemorative plaque that once hung in a ground-floor corridor before the building's late-'90s renovation? "When I say the plaque was big, I mean huge. Made of several glass panels, it was about five feet wide and four feet tall and covered with names painted in gold. That's about all anybody's sure of. ... A janitor found the pieces last year in a closet across from the council chamber, which is where they were Tuesday morning, leaning against the wall under a couple of dusty ladders. One jagged piece had been removed and propped against a lectern in the council chamber, where Chairman Vincent Gray turned to the public for help in ascertaining the plaque's purpose. For here is the problem: No one knows what the commemorative plaque actually commemorates. Even people who walked past it every day for 30 years are scratching their heads trying to remember." Never fear: The best minds in the city -- starting with WTOP's Mark Segraves, historian Nelson Rimensnyder, Council Secretary Cynthia Brock-Smith, and DDOT man for all occasions Bill Rice -- are on the job. "Whatever the plaque is, on Tuesday, Vince Gray announced what he called the 'Chairman's Challenge.' He asked for help solving the mystery, with the aim of restoring the plaque by Nov. 11, 2011."

THESPIAN! -- The must-watch of the day: Nikita Stewart unearthed a clip from Reuben Charles' 1999 star turn as a drug tycoon in an independent film, 12, filmed in St. Louis. "[Producer Lloyd A. Silverman] was shooting a film in St. Louis, where Charles, a member of an art museum board at the time, was friendly with Silverman and his wife. Charles said he agreed to let Silverman shoot scenes in his office and he soon found himself in the film. Charles said he'd had little acting experience, save for a role playing Paul Robeson when he was attending Barber Scotia College in North Carolina. A Variety review in 2003 called the film 'an artistic exercise' and said Charles's character, Lowell Heschel, had been 'filmed like Lucifer himself.'"

SMOOTH LANDING -- The fabulous Michael Neibauer lurks outside an HR briefing for Fenty political appointees. The WBJ reporter spotted procurement chief David Gragan, CTO Bryan Sivak, DCRA's Linda Argo, planning chief Harriet Tregoning, DOH's Pierre Vigilance, DPW's Bill Howland, taxi czar Leon Swain and DMPED Valerie Santos. The good news: "Executive service, that is, Fenty's cabinet, reap a severance package 'at the discretion of the mayor' in 'accordance your employment agreement.' ... What they will not get is a bonus. Former Mayor Anthony Williams paid out more than $500,000 in bonuses to 28 top aides in the months just before and after he left office -- a decision later panned by the D.C. auditor. A top Fenty aide said the administration is 'very sensitive' about the topic, and it 'won't be like before.' ... Reporters (there was only one) were not allowed in the meeting. 'This is depressing,' one participant said in the hallway."

EYES ON KWAME -- Jonetta Rose Barras says not to expect too much in the way of innovation from the Kwame Brown transition team. "I'm not knocking experience. But far too often the folks with so-called experience have never operated outside the District. They have developed a compendium of "best practices" but know little about implementing them. The challenges facing the District mean elected officials and managers will be forced to cut spending while keeping the city moving forward. Under such circumstances, innovation becomes the prime directive. ... Gregory McCarthy, transition chairman and a vice president for the Washington Nationals, later told me the team's structure departs from previous transitions. There's a committee for nearly every council function -- from organization, to policy initiatives and public engagement. 'We wanted to get into the weeds,' said McCarthy. He noted the public engagement committee won't simply look at the council's Web site and links, 'but the whole world of Twitter, apps and other online stuff. This will be one place -- though not the only -- where innovation comes forward.'"

RHEE STILL JOBLESS -- The national education world was rocked by the surprise resignation of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who left for a top job in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., replaced by magazine executive Cathie Black. For the few moments between when that first piece of news was disclosed and Black's name was announced, there were plenty of mentions of a certain name we all know so well. But Klein protege Michelle Rhee tells the New York Observer that she wasn't in fact offered the job and sent a statement: "Joel Klein's tireless work for New York City's schools and children has profoundly impacted education reform everywhere. He's raised the bar for all of us as we continue our mission to secure an excellent public education for every American child. I wish him the very best in his transition and know that whatever he does he will continue his effort to further the cause of reform. ... I congratulate Cathie Black on taking on this hugely important role. Her experience has no doubt prepared her well for the challenges that lie ahead." While we're talking Rhee, here's another exit interview. And here's a New Jerseyan with doubts about Rhee moving into that state's top education job.

WHY DID LITTLE JOE DIE? -- It hurts to read today's Paul Duggan story on the murder of Joseph Sharps Jr., but you need to read it: "In the parlor of the rowhouse where [Sharps] lived, relatives kept telling his mother, Cynthia Sharps, to hurry up. She had to be going soon. It was a little past 2 p.m. Tuesday, and she was due at the D.C. morgue by 3 to identify her 17-year-old son, killed by gunfire on the street the night before. But Sharps, 51, had a point she wanted to make about the death of Little Joe, as the slain teenager was called. In a city where lethal mayhem among the young is common, sometimes the killers and the killed blend as one in the public's mind - just thugs murdering thugs out there. 'And it's a myth,' she said. 'Because a lot of good kids get killed, too.' Including Little Joe, she said."


Gray and Fenty met to review budget progress; a final proposal is expected next week (Examiner)

City settles foster care abuse case for $10 million (Post)

House Republicans will push to restore voucher program; says Kevin Chavous, "Even Education Secretary Arne Duncan indicated that education would be an area of mutual collaboration with Republicans. I submit that the D.C. [Opportunity Scholarship Program] is the place to start." (WaTimes)

Short-term Fenty employees get since severance package (Loose Lips)

What brought us to today's convention center hotel groundbreaking (DCmud)

"Chances? Fenty breaks ground on Convention Center hotel, leaves office and is elected again in 2014 just in time for ribbon cutting." (@mjneibauer)

The Dutch will tell us what a real bike-friendly city is like (Amsterdamize)

Editorial board slams Metro for "whitewashed" escalator report (Post)

It's not the (escalator) crime, Metro, it's the cover-up (GGW)

Eric Holder shows up for Moultrie jury duty (Christian Science Monitor)

Obama appoints Protective Services Chief Lou Cannon to Federal Salary Council (White House release)

Eleanor Holmes Norton did two shots at the Passenger (Atlantic)

We are indeed very liberal (We Love DC)

Inez Smith Reid steps down from the D.C. Court of Appeals on April 2; applications to replace her are now being accepted (Legal Times)

It's hard to ask homeless people for proof of residence (

Track Circulator data (DDOT via Examiner)

Inside Blue Plains (We Love DC)

Sherman Avenue rebuild starts this week (Housing Complex)

Waldorf woman pleads guilty to stealing $23,000 from charter school (Crime Scene)

Will Gray cave to the cabbies? (

Send in the clowns (DCist)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Fenty & Co. break ground on convention center hotel, 11 a.m. at 9th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW -- council hearing on Title IX compliance, noon in council chamber

By Mike DeBonis  | November 10, 2010; 10:16 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Nickles takes aim at Peebles, alleges $1.25M in overbilling


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Posted by: alvindrew11 | November 11, 2010 5:23 AM | Report abuse

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