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DeMorning DeBonis: Nov. 12, 2010

By Mike DeBonis


Some travel freeze. Today's talker is a WAMU-FM report from Patrick Madden on continued spending by D.C. government agencies on various trips -- even after Mayor Adrian Fenty ordered them to stop as of Oct. 4 to address a growing budget gap. "Last month, the city's Fire and EMS department ran up eight charges at Harrah's Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. But they weren't the only ones in Sin City. Later that week, D.C.'s Department of Transportation spent more than $1,200 at the Mandalay Bay resort. In fact, since [Fenty] issued the travel freeze on October 4th, government credit card receipts show nearly 20 different agencies have hit the road ... costing taxpayers nearly $70,000." Killer detail: "The Department of Homeland Security may stand out for its discriminating tastes. When employees traveled to Boston, a city with more than 200 hotels, they chose the Ritz Carlton. And on a trip to Little Rock, Arkansas they spent a $1,000 at the Peabody Little Rock. The hotel promotes itself as offering 'unsurpassed luxury' and 'well-appointed guest rooms.'"

NOTA BENE -- Tune into WAMU-FM at noon as I join Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood for The Politics Hour -- Jack Evans and Sen. James Rosapepe will be our guests

AFTER THE JUMP -- did the teachers unions knock Fenty off? -- more allegations of paramedic negligence -- DCPS and charter school athletics could combine under Gray -- federal judge expands Pershing Park probe


THE TEACHERS UNIONS DIDN'T KILL FENTY -- In the not-a-column this week: Analyzing the Fenty edu-martyrdom narrative, complete with a look at the "American Federation of Teachers spent a million to beat him" subnarrative. Here's what I got: "The union had a vested interest in seeing Fenty removed from office, and spent a significant amount of money to make that happen. But so did a lot of other groups - the teachers union was only part of a broader labor effort to get Gray (D) elected. Chuck Thies, a consultant who has worked on local campaigns but also has ties to national labor organizations, said he approached a union contact in February, telling the contact that there was opportunity to be had in the District. 'I told them this exact expression: Adrian Fenty is eminently beatable,' said Thies. 'And Vince Gray is the guy to do it.' Two weeks before the election, the union launched radio ads in support of Gray on 10 area stations. The national teachers union also contributed to an independent interunion effort to oust Fenty. But $1 million? Thies said that was the figure sources inside the union shared with him; the union has repeatedly refused to comment on the value of its contributions to the District mayoral race. Meanwhile, insiders from the Fenty and Gray camps have expressed doubts about the million-dollar claim." Bottom line: "If the federation indeed spent $1 million to oust Fenty, what it bought wasn't a new mayor so much as an unflattering story line about buying a new mayor."

MORE LAZY PARAMEDICS? -- More allegations of EMT negligence, and another investigation for FEMS. Jackie Bensen and Tonya LaFleur have the story for WRC-TV: "The D.C. Fire Department is looking into allegations that two firefighters lied about the location of their ambulance -- delaying their response to a call in which a woman died, NBC4 has learned. At about 6 a.m. on September 29, emergency responders from Fire House 11 in Columbia Heights were sent on a medical emergency call just a few blocks away. Christina Chavarria, 72, was bleeding uncontrollably from a shunt in her neck. A fire engine arrived at the Oak Street NW location in just six minutes. Sources told NBC4 the firefighters frantically radioed the dispatch asking, 'Where is the ambulance?' The ambulance arrived 16 minutes after that radio call, according to a timeline obtained by NBC4. Chavarria eventually died from her injuries. ... The EMTs actions are under investigation by D.C. Fire & EMS. Sources told NBC4 that a GPS tracker placed the EMTs' ambulance more than three miles away at a fire station at Fourth and Rhode Island Avenue NE -- where they began and would end their shift. The EMTs were supposed to be at a station that was only seconds away from the woman's location."

HOW THE BAG BILL WAS PASSED -- OnEarth, a publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council, covers how Tommy Wells -- "a six-foot-two-inch former social worker who looks like a fullback and talks like an old Chicago pol" -- got the bag bill passed into law. Lauren Markoe writes: "The city's success has more eco-conscious burgs green with envy. 'How on our increasingly polluted earth did the nation's capital wind up with a bag tax before Portland?' wrote a columnist for Oregon's largest newspaper. It's a lesson in old-fashioned politicking and new-fangled social networking. And it didn't hurt that proponents had a highly visible innocent victim to parade before voters: Washington's 'other river.' At every turn, fee backers invoked the Anacostia, which flows past the city's poorest neighborhoods and was notoriously choked with pollution." A good rundown follows, including Wells' efforts to bring grocery stores, ministers and Marion Barry on board. But Markoe doesn't mention another key fact, perhaps the key fact: In D.C., you ultimately only have to sell eight people -- seven council members plus the mayor -- then hope Congress doesn't get involved. H/ts to DCist and Housing Complex.

A NEW FACE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL ATHLETICS? -- At Wednesday's Title IX hearing, Gray suggested bringing DCPS and charter school athletics under the same umbrella, the Post's Alan Goldenbach reports. "The question for me is, is everyone following the same rules and regulations?" Gray asked. "At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, people are judged by wins and losses and that's why you need a common sanctioning body." Writes Alan: "Gray acknowledged that 'the decision to do something has to come from someone other than the athletic director of D.C. Public Schools [Marcus Ellis],' which indicated that the DCPS, the D.C. Public Charter School Board and perhaps also the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which oversees all public education in the city, may need to work together. Charter schools enroll nearly 40 percent of all District students receiving public education. ... [T]here is no athletic department to oversee sports at all charter schools, which allows each school to develop its athletic program to suit its student body. Some schools offer few to no sports, while others, like Friendship Collegiate and Cesar Chavez, for example, use athletics as a key part of their school identity."

PERSHING PROBE EXPANDS -- The federal court probe into missing evidence in the Pershing Park cases is expanding, Paul Wagner reports at WTTG-TV: "Conflicting statements convinced [Magistrate Judge John Facciola] he needed to look closer into the possibility city attorneys were, in the judge's words, behind the 'Solicitation, preparation, and submission of false testimony/affidavits (as well as) misleading statements by District Counsel.' As a Special Master, the judge asked the Attorney General as well as the attorneys for the plaintiffs what they thought. Attorney General Peter Nickles told the court the new probe would be 'improper.' In a written brief to the court Nickles said, 'It is critical that the Special Master's investigation not be a "hunt" throughout an entire department for potential wrongdoing.' But the attorneys representing some of the people arrested in the park that day told the court, 'It has become increasingly clear that District Counsel's actions, when combined with failed (D.C. Police) leadership on these issues, were the driving forces behind the destruction and spoliation of evidence in this litigation.' On Wednesday, Judge [Emmet Sullivan, who ordered the investigation,] told Judge Facciola he had permission to expand the probe."

HELP FOR EX-OFFENDERS -- The D.C. Council is making another attempt to help ex-offenders get jobs, Freeman Klopott reports in Examiner: "A bill called the 'Returning Citizen Employment Inclusion Act of 2010' would prohibit most District agencies from asking about the criminal records or histories of job applicants until after they've landed an interview. It's sponsored by Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. With six other council members co-sponsoring the bill, including Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, who has criminal convictions on his record, and Council Chairman-elect Kwame Brown, it already has enough support to pass. ... The bill would not apply to city agencies that are legally required to run criminal background checks. The police and corrections departments and most agencies that deal with children, including the school system, could still inquire about criminal records on job applications." Previous attempts to put a blanket ban on asking job applicants about criminal status went nowhere.

GOP RESTORATION, TAKE 2 -- Deborah Simmons of The Washington Times looks at the upcoming special election for an at-large D.C. Council member as an opportunity for the local Republican party to get back into the legislative mix: "[T]he vote will be a free-for-all with no party affiliation listed, giving Washington Republicans a rare shot in this overwhelmingly Democratic city. In the last at-large special election, in December 1997, a Republican [David Catania] squeezed past two Democrats with a voter turnout of only 7.5 percent. ... 'I'm giving running serious thought because a lot of people have expressed interest in me running,' said Dave Hedgepeth, a Republican who endorsed Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and lost his Ward 3 council race against Democratic incumbent Mary M. Cheh, who backed Mr. Gray. 'You have to consider low turnout, and that it's a citywide race, so candidates have to get started as soon as possible.'" No mention of (a) a potential Patrick Mara or Carol Schwartz run or (b) the Statehood Green Party, which actually won thousands more votes than the Republicans did on Nov. 2.

RON MOTEN KNOWS CLASS -- The Afro's Dorothy Rowley looks at what's next for Adrian Fenty, consulting a key supporter who has kept a low profile of late: "While no answers are immediately forthcoming, according to a close supporter, Fenty will continue to do what's in the best interest of the District's children. 'He will keep on accomplishing and will not be a sore loser in making the transition as smooth as possible,' said Peaceaholics founder Ron Moten. 'He's been cooperating with Mr. Gray, even though I still believe it was an ugly and dirty campaign.' Despite widespread criticism over Fenty's brash, non-consensus-building leadership style, Moten maintained the politically astute mayor, who was overwhelmingly elected in 2006 by the city's Black residents, always had their concerns at heart. 'To me, for all that he has done for residents and the way he was demonized during the campaign, he still showed a lot of class,' Moten said of Fenty. He added that while the mayor has received plenty of work offers, he will remain focused on enhancing education reforms established by former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee."


Washington Hospital Center nurses announce they will strike for one day; the city health department is investigating their insufficient-staffing claims (Post)

Anatomy of a community meeting gone bad (Congress Heights on the Rise)

"Precious little evidence" in Chandra trial, says Harry Jaffe (Examiner)

Will Mount Vernon Square become a "circle"? (GGW)

Peter Rosenstein writes Gray's inauguration speech (Blade)

Now Florida wants Rhee (Sunshine State News,

Red-light cameras go online today at Connecticut & Porter NW, 14th & K NW and 3rd and New York Avenue NW (

"Careless mistakes" cost AU student an ANC seat (Georgetown Voice)

Together at Howard town hall: Arne Duncan, John Legend and Kaya Henderson (Talk Radio News)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Jack Evans on The Politics Hour, noon on WAMU-FM, 88.5

By Mike DeBonis  | November 12, 2010; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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I think that we need to stop looking for the person or person's who were responsible for defeating Adrian Fenty.

The prime person who beat Fenty is Fenty. He squandered the good will of the people in an amazingly short time. No one made him do that it was done all on his own. Fenty took advice from no one except maybe Peter Nickles and we know where that got him.

Then when it was clear that Fenty was vulnerable Vince Gray decided to get into the race for Mayor. As has often happened in the past many people underestimated Gray. He is a quiet force and whether people agree with him or not he is likeable. Part of that is because Vince Gray actually likes people and that comes across.

The desire to take credit for his victory is a way to try to say he owes me something by those trying to take credit. Be it unions or other individuals. But the fact is that out of about 33 major group endorsements, from Labor to environmental to interest groups like the Stein Club and the Latino Caucus, Gray got 30 of them. That made it very easy for him to not make promises. These groups were as much about not wanting Fenty as they were about wanting Gray. They came to Gray he didn't have to cut deals with them.

Then all these groups worked hard for his victory but that was as much about them as him. Labor knew that if Fenty were reelected life for them would be intolerable for the next four years and they would be shown up as having as little influence on DC politics as the Washington Post has these days. The same went for all the other groups that endorsed Gray. They knew that Fenty and Nickles are vindictive so they couldn't afford to lose.

As everyone knows I endorsed Gray as well. I think he will make a great Mayor. I think every group that endorsed him will get mad at him over the next two years and if they don't he most likely isn't doing his job very well. But if he makes the budget cuts, right sizes the government, makes it totally transparent, after the tough times we will face in the next two years people will look at Vince Gray and say WOW, he actually made a difference and we can rebuild this City now with a solid foundation for the future.

It will be an interesting time to watch DC politics.

Posted by: peterdc | November 15, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

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