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DeMorning DeBonis: Nov. 11, 2010

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS NOV. 11, 2010 -- 52 DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION

PREVIOUSLY -- Nickles takes aim at Peebles, alleges $1.25M in overbilling

City Paper's Alan Suderman gives Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray an early report card in this week's Loose Lips column. Last week was indeed tough, he writes, with the funeral no-show, the Marc Barnes party and another embarrassing Reuben Charles headline. "[T]he common thread was that Gray's staff hadn't done the proper vetting or prep work. That's got to be troubling for Gray; one of the main charges against him in the primary was that he would tolerate mediocrity, or worse, from city employees," Suderman writes. But, he adds, Gray has done much better in completely defusing the education issue: "The whole circus surrounding the future of Michelle Rhee -- and by extension school reform -- that surrounded the primary and the month afterwards now seems like a distant memory, which is testament to how adroitly Gray has handled his biggest political test so far. ... Whether his pick of Rhee's top deputy, Kaya Henderson, turns out to be good for D.C. public school students remains to be seen. But the politics look sharp." Key edu-reform backer Katherine Bradley says: "I think he's been very strong in showing that he's got a real commitment to real reform, and he's made that evident in lots of ways."

NOTA BENE -- Tune into WPFW-FM at 11 a.m. as I join Eugene Dewitt Kinlow and Chuck Thies to talk D.C. politics.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Nickles ditched settlement to sue Peebles -- ground finally broken on convention center hotel -- still unclear if Jason Chaffetz will head District subcommittee -- homicides keep declining

*** MAIN COURSE ***

PEEBLES PAYBACK? -- Yesterday evening, megadeveloper Don Peebles responded to the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Peter Nickles alleging that he had charged expenses including political contributions, business taxes and champagne back to the city under the terms of a lease. "A political vendetta," he called it, denying that he had ever submitted the improper charges for reimbursement. Peebles may have a point; read closely from my piece today: "The lawsuit is rooted in an effort by the city's real estate department in the past year to scrutinize the government's leases of private office space. Since the work began in September 2009, more than 30 leases have been reviewed by the Schonbraun McCann Group, a New York consulting firm. Many showed evidence of improper expenses and were subsequently settled, said Robin-Eve Jasper, head of the department, bringing more than $1 million into the ailing city coffers. Only Peebles's company has been sued. 'This one rose to the top,' Nickles said. Nickles said he rejected the settlement, calling it 'unsatisfactory' and 'not ... in the public interest.' Three lawyers from Nickles's office had participated in the settlement talks, Jasper said.' Freeman Klopott writes in the Examiner that the Peebles saga is just another example of the city not keeping track of its bills. Also Loose Lips.

HOTEL IS UNDERWAY -- Ground finally broke yesterday on the 14-story Marriott Marquis convention center hotel. Derek Kravitz covers for the Post: "D.C. officials began pushing nearly two decades ago for a companion hotel across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which itself was on the drawing board. ... But years of squabbling over who would pay for the public-private partnership and legal disputes over Bethesda-based Marriott International's winning bid to operate the hotel scuttled plans. Meanwhile, hotel bookings in the District fell short of expectations, and the credit crunch froze the financing needed to make the hotel a reality. ... The four-star boutique-style hotel, a mix of glass and steel, is tentatively set to open in spring 2014, officials said. It will have 1,175 rooms, including 46 suites, more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space, a lobby, and five retail outlets and restaurants on the ground floor, at a cost of $520 million. ... D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) jokingly said that the hotel would have been built faster if he and a city colleague had gone to the site every day and 'put down brick by brick by brick.'" The reception offered a nice spread of hors d'oeuvres, Lydia DePillis reports at Housing Complex. Michael Neibauer grabbed some quick video. And Klopott noted that Eleanor Homes Norton took a swipe at National Harbor and that Mayor Adrian Fenty, in a slip, said he "couldn't be happier to turn the government over to" Gray.

WHITHER CHAFFETZ? -- TPMMuckraker's Ryan J. Reilly looks at whether Rep. Jason Chaffetz will indeed be overseeing the House oversight subcommittee on the District. "Chaffetz's probable subcommittee chairmanship has worried many D.C. residents due to his stances on issues like the District's autonomy and gay marriage. But it isn't certain he'll end up chairing the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia Subcommittee. Still, Chaffetz said, he'll have a hand in the those issues even on another subcommittee. 'I don't know, I think they very well may reshuffle the deck. I expect to be heavily involved, but I don't know how we're going to allocate the subcommittees,' Chaffetz said. 'At any level we'll be doing it in the full committee, so whether or not I'm on the subcommittee, we wouldn't know until December.' A spokesman for [Oversight Committee Cahirman-to-Be Rep. Darrell Issa] said the committee was still figuring out which members of Congress would be placed in various positions."

KILLINGS KEEP GOING DOWN -- Tim Craig notes at D.C. Wire that under Fenty's watch, homicides continue to decline: "According to statistics supplied by D.C. police, the District has logged 115 homicides this year. At this point last year, there had been 123 homicides, which helped pave the way for the lowest annual total since 1966. Although the decline is part of a national trend, the drop-off in the District has become symbolic in a city once known as the nation's murder capital. ... With seven weeks remaining until New Years, there's still a chance that this year's total could creep past last year's. But the overall pattern appears set, helping to shape Fenty's legacy. The District's improving homicide tally could also increase pressure on Gray (D) to reappoint Police Chief Cathy Lanier."

BYE, JOEL -- Michelle Rhee comments on her blog on Joel Klein's exit from the New York City schools: "While on the one hand I'm happy for Chancellor Klein and wish him all the luck in his next venture, I am also sad. We need great leaders heading our public school systems. Joel Klein was a rare bird. He approached his work with incredible passion for the children and the highest of expectations for their futures. Having come from the business and legal world, though, he also had a no-nonsense approach that cut through all of the bureaucracy and excuses. NYC thrived under his leadership in a way that many didn't think was possible for the largest system in the country. The progress made by the city's students under Chancellor Klein set the standard for the rest of us. It's disappointing to know that we've lost an incredible leader from the ranks of Superintendents. We're at a critical moment in time in this nation and can't afford to move backward or become timid on school reform. I hope that Joel Klein's work and dedication will inspire the next generation of education leaders..."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Gray campaign manager: "[T]his was one of the least-understood campaigns in recent history. ... It seemed some people felt that Fenty was being a great change agent, and when you make many changes you're likely to get booted. People felt like our campaign was about 'slow down, reform is difficult.' But really, Gray's campaign was a crusade to transform the city." (Washingtonian)

New director of FBI Washington Field Office is counterterrorism expert James W. McJunkin (Post)

How to fix Metro (GGW)

National "achievement gap" even worse than thought -- one city making progress: Baltimore (New York Times)

Eleanor wants South Capitol Street Heliport reopened to commercial traffic (NBCWashington.com, WTTG-TV)

Council hears concerns on Title IX compliance (Post)

Save Our Safety Net opposes homeless residency requirement (City Desk)

City bed bug summit moved to accommodate "overwhelming demand" (AP via Examiner)

Henderson to discuss reopening Van Ness Elementary in Ward 6 (JDLand)

Huntsville, Ala., wants Rhee! (WHNT-TV)

Council passes bill limiting health insurance rate hikes (WBJ)

Zoning Commission to hear testimony Monday on car and bike parking requirements (GGW)

Chandra Levy trial update: Gary Condit's DNA found on Levy's underwear; and THE PROSECUTION RESTS! (Post)

New Giant will anchor H Street NE development (WBJ)

DCPS is behind on posting contracts to its Web site (D.C. Schools Insider)

Gabe Klein has "star power" (Streetsblog)

Burleithers stiff out illegal rental properties (NBCWashington.com)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Happy Veterans Day -- government offices closed

By Mike DeBonis  | November 11, 2010; 10:28 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Nov. 12, 2010

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