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DeMorning DeBonis: Nov. 15, 2010

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS NOV. 15, 2010 -- 48 DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION

A happy Monday morning to the District of Columbia, whose chief executive has not been caught on a federal wiretap telling his spouse to destroy evidence and smuggle cash past agents in her knickers. The weekend's news was comparatively staid in the city, though D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) got the unwelcome honor of being featured in a New York Times editorial on Saturday. Unwelcome because the Gray Lady deemed his attempts to place residency requirements on the homeless seeking shelter from the city to be "very bad public policy" and called Wells himself "inhumane." Rather, the editorial writers suggest that he "should instead be looking for any help he can find to expand the shelter system -- dunning Congress, charitable foundations, local philanthropists. Waiting until someone freezes to death will be too late." Wells came out firing on Twitter over the weekend: "NY Times recommends DC expand shelter capacity if needed and dun Congress for the cost. Good luck with that." Jason Cherkis delighted in relaying the Times' slam, lauding its "supreme takedown" of an "incredibly lazy proposal." Kathryn Baer has a thoughtful piece at Poverty & Policy explaining why the residency proposal isn't workable. To add insult to insult, the editorial board of the Daily Targus Daily Targum -- the student newspaper of Rutgers University -- basically rewrote the Times editorial the next day.

AFTER THE JUMP -- "Highly effective" teachers could be distributed more effectively -- more on travel spending -- O'Connell airs some DMPED possibilities -- Gray floats a parking tax hike -- ABC Board won't have to oversee marijuana

*** MAIN COURSE ***

WHERE THE GOOD TEACHERS ARE -- Terrific Sunday piece from Bill Turque, who maps where all of the teachers rated "highly effective" under IMPACT are located and finds out that there are the fewest where they are needed the most: "Just 5 percent of the 636 top performers work in Southeast Washington's Ward 8, home to many of the city's lowest-achieving schools and its highest concentration of children living in poverty. In contrast, 22 percent of the top-performing teachers are in affluent Ward 3 in Northwest Washington, home to some of the most successful and sought-after public schools. The area has eight fewer schools than Ward 8 and about 60 percent of Ward 8's enrollment. The imbalance represents a significant challenge for Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) and interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. ... The imbalance is the result of longtime personnel practices in the District and other big public school systems, where traditional lock-step salary schedules provide no financial incentive for teachers to accept jobs in low-performing schools. Seniority rules often allow seasoned educators to transfer to less-challenging posts, leaving behind a higher proportion of younger, greener instructors. ... Veteran teachers say spots at schools with high rates of poverty and discipline issues have sometimes been used as punishment, while assignment to a more successful school might be doled out as a reward. Elizabeth Davis, who has spent most of her 35-year career in Ward 7 and 8 schools, recalled the offer she received from an administrator after winning a teaching award from the MetLife Foundation in May 2007. 'He said, "Because you're a good teacher, you should be in a better school,"' Davis said."

TRIPPED UP -- Tim Craig and I followed up on Patrick Madden's scoop last week with a Saturday story on the tens of thousands of dollars in city travel done after Mayor Adrian Fenty placed a freeze on such spending. "[I]n the three weeks after Fenty's order, city agencies continued to charge air and rail fares, hotel rooms and other travel-related expenses to city credit cards. Records reviewed by The Washington Post indicate at least $60,000 in such charges since Fenty's order was issued. ... Travel expenses in the same span in 2009 totaled about $200,000. ... Spokesmen for several agencies contacted Friday said travel charged to their accounts either was essential or occurred at little cost to District taxpayers. Robin Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, confirmed that Director Millicent W. West stayed at a lavish Ritz Carlton in Boston on the night of Oct. 4, costing taxpayers $547. But Johnson said the hotel was hosting the Big City Emergency Managers Meeting, an annual gathering where the leaders of 'high-targeted cities' gather to share information about possible natural and man-made threats. ... 'The information that is gathered, this agency relies heavily upon ... and it's an organization that is tied into what we do every day,' said Johnston."

DMPED POSSIBILITIES -- In today's Capital Business, Jonathan O'Connell runs some names of potential deputy mayors for economic development, aka Vincent Gray's top business official. They include convention center chief Greg O'Dell ("known as a hard-working, nonpolitical professional who gets along well with others"); former DHCD director Milton Bailey; former DCHA head Michael P. Kelly; current planning director Harriet Tregoning ("known as being creative, deeply committed to smart growth and public transit and, like O'Dell, not very political"); former planning director Ellen McCarthy; former Hotel Association president Emily Durso; developer Jeff Miller; United Way head Bill Hanbury; or a "private sector star" -- "Herbert S. Miller volunteered to do the job for $1 per year, but his fraternity connections could work against him. Scoring a name such as [Jim Abdo] or Jair Lynch would get attention. So too would Steven Goldin, who made the jump from the private sector to become head of real estate for the Metro a little more than a year ago."

PARKING TAX HIKE? -- Alan Suderman attended a living-room chat Gray had with some Capitol Hill fuddy-duddies and wrote it up on the Loose Lips blog. Suderman highlights that Gray thinks the city has "low self-esteem" and that he's been in communication with "looloos," but he also alights upon a couple of more substantive and controversial comments from the mayor-elect: "In response to a question about people choosing to live off welfare instead of working, Gray says D.C.'s been pretty 'liberal' in its distribution of the public dole and needs to take a 'hard' look at how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families money is distributed. 'I'm not sure that we haven't become enablers,' Gray said. But, he added, when there's kids involved, that's when things get tricky." Ever sexier: "A possible move to help bridge the city's $175 million budget gap could be increasing the taxes on parking garages, which Gray said haven't been raised since the '70s." Meanwhile, Bud Doggett spins in his grave.

HOW TO FILL A COUNCIL SEAT -- The Post editorial board and Greater Greater Washington both take shots at the Home Rule Charter-designated process for filling an at-large D.C. Council vacancy -- that is, that the D.C. Democratic State Committee gets a role. The Post writes: "One has to wonder about the need for an interim appointment, particularly if the special election were to occur in March. Is it really fair to give one person a leg up going into the special election? Does the process reward those with the best connections as opposed to those with the best qualifications or the best ideas?" GGW beseeches the DCDSC to "select someone who doesn't plan to run permanently" in addition to changing the charter. "An appointment to an elected office immediately endows the appointee with unearned incumbent status, giving that person an unfair advantage in the subsequent election. The appointee will have several months to cast votes on important issues, including the budget, give out favors and accumulate loyalties. A party committee should not have the power to grant the advantage of incumbency. Only the voters should do that."

BOOZE BOARD OUT OF WEED BIZ -- Under new rules published Friday, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will no longer be in charge of administering the city's medical marijuana program come January. Rather, Chris Shott reports at City Desk, a new four-member oversight body will be created -- after all, "what's the point of passing new laws if you can't build a whole new bureaucracy to go along with them?" Freeman Klopott has more at the Examiner today: "The new regulations, however, do not increase the number of ailments for which doctors can prescribe marijuana in the District. Only patients suffering from HIV, AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis can get a prescription." Also, a grading system has been established to judge applicants for grower and dispensary licenses.

MORE DCPS BUDGET SHANANIGANS? -- In her Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras calls shenanigans on the handling of the DCPS budget, singling out agency CFO George Dines for opprobrium. "According to knowledgeable city hall sources, on Sept. 29 Dines sent a note to then-Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announcing a $4 million surplus for fiscal 2010, which was ending Sept. 30. A few weeks later, he told now interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson there was, in fact, an $11.5 million deficit because of overspending. Further, he indicated DCPS may have to return an additional $12 million or more in grant money to the feds because spending was not correctly charged to the grant account. Dines allegedly also advised DCPS officials they could borrow against the 2011 budget to address $11.5 million deficit from 2010. In other words, the man who's supposed to keep DCPS on the fiscal straight and narrow appears to have caused the school system to violate the federal Anti-Deficiency Act." Her solution: "The entire DCPS financial team, which actually works for Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, should be fired. Dines should be the first out the door."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

City homeless policy needs to be about more than buses, Colby King writes (Post)

Parents can't see their kids' juvenile justice records, court rules (Examiner, D.C. Court of Appeals opinion)

Did Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) lose his re-election bid because of his D.C. meddling? No, but Eleanor Holmes Norton will say he did anyway. (TBD)

The case against a deputy mayor for education (GGW)

Mail ballots go out today in WTU election; challenger Nathan Saunders calls incumbent George Parker's outreach to TFAers a "cheap political trick" (D.C. Schools Insider)

Former DYRS chief Marc Schindler joins Venture Philanthropy Partners (press release)

Post editorial: "There's already been far too much confusion undermining public confidence" in the investigation into Ali Ahmed Mohammed's death (Post)

If someone tires to sell you a Westinghouse Modular 100 escalator, slowly walk away (Post)

Mayors be warned: Don't mess with the West End/Foggy Bottom ANC (WBJ)

Amazing story of a young gay teen who was thrown out of his home and put himself through Ballou High School while squatting in Congress Heights (Blade)

More ink spilled on the unlikely possibility that Rhee becomes Florida's education commissioner (Examiner, Answer Sheet)

Marion Barry not happy that city is trying to do something about blighted MLK Avenue properties (Housing Complex)

Big Bear Cafe gets its bloody liquor license already (Housing Complex)

Learning how to open a charter school (Post)

Three members of Todd Place Crew are first to be found guilty under new anti-gang law; U.S. Attorney Ron Machen "praised the D.C. Council for passing the gang statute in 2006 and giving prosecutors a 'powerful new tool' in dismantling neighborhood gangs." (Post)

Jamal Wilson, 19, shot dead early Sunday on 100 block of Q Street NW, in Bloomingdale (Post)


*** ON THE MENU ***

D.C. Council looks at new TANF limits, forensic lab progress -- Washington Teachers' Union ballots mailed today -- Hoyas home opener, 7 p.m. at Verizon Center

By Mike DeBonis  | November 15, 2010; 10:13 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Can the D.C. special election be done on the cheap?

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