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DeMorning DeBonis: Nov. 18, 2010

By Mike DeBonis


PREVIOUSLY -- Marion Barry begins stint as 'national advocate' for welfare reform on Fox Business -- Wal-Mart lays political groundwork for D.C. stores

It's now official: Wal-Mart is coming to town, and the bottom line is this: 1,200 new jobs. Jonathan O'Connell and I have more in today's paper on the move, which turned out to be much farther along than anyone knew, outside of Wal-Mart and the developers it's working with. Four stores are set to open within two years, and while the announcement "is already drawing the ire of labor leaders who complain that the company pays substandard wages and provides inadequate benefits," it appears that the company has neutralized key political foes with promises of not only low, low prices and the 1,200 retail jobs, but also 400 construction jobs, $10 million a year in tax revenue and new charitable giving. Said Mayor-elect Vincent Gray last night: "There have historically been concerns about [Wal-Mart's] labor practices. ... I want to make sure workers are treated fairly and earn fair wages." In an interview yesterday evening, union leader Thomas McNutt said he would be pursuing legislation to guarantee that Wal-Mart workers get wage and benefit packages comparable to those in union shops. But union ally Harry Thomas looks as though he will not be standing in the company's way. And unions have work to do convincing residents that Wal-Mart would be a bad idea: A survey conducted for the company by local pollster Ron Lester (who also did Gray's polling) found that 73 percent support the company citywide, with the rate extending over 90 percent east of the river.

AFTER THE JUMP -- What does Vince Gray owe organized labor? -- Is the DCDSC appointment process a farce? -- What Marion Barry gets right about welfare reform -- Gabe Klein, pro and con


MORE WAL-MART -- The company has launched a Web site detailing its push into D.C. At DCist, Aaron Morrissey looks at how much the new stores might help the city's "food desert" problem. City Paper's Alan Suderman notes that longtime Wal-Mart lobbyist David Wilmot has not been a stranger to labor strife of late. More coverage from the Examiner, Bloomberg and WTOP.

VINCE AND THE UNIONS -- On today's Metro front, I look at how Gray's mayoral victory, completed with the assistance of union volunteers, has reinvigorated organized labor's political clout after four years at the margins under Adrian Fenty. And now Gray has to figure out how to deal with labor's expectations in a time of tight budgets, in ways large and small: "Unions delivered a barrage of phone calls, direct mail and door-to-door canvassers to help [Gray] complete a stunning upset of Mayor [Fenty] in this year's city elections. But even that wasn't quite enough to earn labor a top role in Gray's transition. A day after Gray introduced his 16-member transition team -- which included a former mayor, a nationally recognized budget expert, a philanthropist and a former university president -- Joslyn N. Williams, president of Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, said he was "concerned" that no labor leaders were among the senior members of Gray's transition team. Now, Gray has quietly added Williams to co-chair the economic development team. ... The appointment reflects the balance Gray has tried to strike between acknowledging the contributions of unions to his election and facing up to the governing decisions that await him in the months ahead. On one hand, unions gave his campaign a volunteer base that helped offset Fenty's fundraising advantage. On the other, as mayor, he must tackle a budget deficit that could balloon to $500 million before his four-year term is up."

A TIME FOR HACKS -- The high-profile role of the D.C. Democratic State Committee in appointing a new at-large council member is the subject of Suderman's Loose Lips column this week: "[T]he process so far seems somewhat less than Athenian. [Vincent Orange], for instance, appears to be the official frontrunner. Why? As far as LL can tell, it's because Orange has been busily telling people he's the frontrunner. Last month, the Post reported that Orange had informed party leaders that he'd already locked up 40 votes, practically assuring his victory. If so, that might prove the critics' point that the state committee is all about rewarding the politically connected. ... Orange has been a long-time, loyal party member -- qualities that may matter most in winning the committee's pick. 'There a lot of people on the state committee who see it as: you have to pay your dues,' says one committee member, who asked not to be identified by name. 'It's very much a closed, inside network.' ... For his part, [challenger Jacque Patterson] says Orange has no more than 30 votes and the race is far from over. 'I will gladly admit that I'm behind him, but he knows he doesn't have 40 votes,' Patterson says. 'The only person who believes he has those 40 votes is himself when it's all said and done, 'cause they're not there.' " Patterson, incidentally, responded to The Post's editorial contention that the DCDSC should butt out of the selection process. Also: Convention Center chief Greg O'Dell got a nice raise.

WHAT BARRY GETS RIGHT -- The Post's editorial board sees something worthwhile in Marion Barry's "welfare reform" campaign: "Perhaps the most striking evidence of the failings of the District's welfare system is that no less an advocate for generous social benefits than [Barry] sees the need for stringent new controls. ... The plan has so roiled the council that it is uncertain that it will even be brought up for a vote, but the issues that Mr. Barry raises should not be dismissed. ... It's significant that the bill -- which came under widespread criticism at a public hearing Monday -- is being promoted by representatives from the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River most affected by TANF. Mr. Barry, in particular, has long presented himself as a voice for the city's neediest, and so it's telling to hear him talk about the failings of a system that keeps people trapped in joblessness and poverty and dependent on government. ... Mr. Barry and [Yvette Alexander] are right to ask when government help becomes a hindrance -- and that's a conversation worth continuing."

YAY FOR GABE -- DDOT Director Gabe Klein is profiled in City Paper by Lydia DePillis: "Even in the confined political environment of Washington -- where many streetscape changes have to be vetted by multiple levels of city and federal government -- Klein has hurled himself into elevating pedestrians and bikes over cars, with the idea of increasing both access and safety (a tricky thing, since more people on foot and two wheels means more targets for vehicles to hit). Aside from a few high-profile reversals -- like the wide Pennsylvania Avenue NW bike lanes that later had to be slimmed down -- he's mostly gotten his way. ... What's stopping the DDOT director now? It's true that Klein could be replaced in a Vince Gray administration, though his position is considered to be safer than those of some other cabinet members. Assuming he stays on, the biggest obstacle to the development of a walkable, bikeable city is, in many parts of the city, a dearth of places to walk and bike to. There's not much point in putting down a bike lane that runs for miles before getting to a grocery store, after all, or putting in stoplights when there aren't enough pedestrians to use them. ... [I]n the suburban expanses of Wards 4, 5, 7, and 8, where parking is plentiful and amenities scarce, Klein's DDOT could find itself waiting for development to catch up."

NAY FOR GABE (AND HARRIET) -- Incidentally, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City sent out a news release early this morning calling on Gray to sack Klein and planning chief Harriet Tregoning. DePillis has it on her blog: "There may be some residents who applaud the 'I-know-best' approach exemplified by Harriet Tregoning, but we think that her style conveys the message that the public is not welcome to intrude on the advancement of an agenda. ... While Mr. Klein has no shortage of ideas, his implementation of them has been uneven. ... At the same time that Mr. Klein was focused on bikes and streetcars, daily transportation needs went unaddressed. It has been very difficult to persuade DDOT officials to respond to street, sidewalk, or other typical repairs; and it has been nearly impossible to convince DDOT to cooperate in advance on projected road work. ... Ms. Tregoning and Mr. Klein are associated with a style and an agenda that doesn't reflect what District residents want. It is difficult to conclude that they are the right people to focus on the parts of the city that rightly feel ignored or that they are capable of adapting their agenda to reflect a wider base of opinion and a profound interest in retaining our community values." If Greater Greater Washington hasn't imploded in fury by the time you read this, it will be soon.

STREETCAR HEARING -- For more on yesterday's streetcar hearing, check Luke Rosiak's postings on the Dr. Gridlock blog: "The Anacostia streetcar line would help spur development east of the river as well as provide affordable transportation, said Tommy Wells. But Marion Barry urged "caution" in proceeding with the streetcar when money could be better spent addressing immediate concerns, such as poorly paved streets in Wards 7 and 8." This seems to be the breakout anecdote: "Another [public witness] criticized Barry's 'shortsightedness' and 'narrow thinking.' Barry later responded: 'The citizens of ward eight don't like disrespect. ... Don't interrupt me.' 'May I speak?' the man said. 'No, you may not,' he replied. 'I want you to spend two days walking with me in Anacostia so you can feel the pain, feel the hurt.' "


Looking to rally progressives, D.C. Vote's Ilir Zherka asks: "Will Left Sit Out Attacks on DC?" (HuffPo)

A 19-year-old who was murdered over the weekend and his alleged killer were both DYRS wards (WaTimes)

Moten ES teacher badly beaten Monday (Post Now)

Michelle Rhee charms Harvard (Crimson)

No verdict yet in Chandra Levy trial (The Post)

Levy case is evidence for a forensic lab, says Harry Jaffe (the Examiner)

Is Fenty holding budget hostage for political leverage? (the Examiner)

Mary Cheh moves to force cleanup of Anacostia River toxic-waste sites (the Examiner)

DDOE dawdles in distributing appliance rebates (GGW)

DCPS data needs work (D.C. Schools Insider)

Andre Agassi talks schools with Fenty: "It was clear that Agassi was sad that Fenty would no longer be in office, and sadder still about the state of education in the District. 'If I lived in D.C., I'd move out, too!' " (Politico Click)

Arne Duncan is a Robert Bobb fan (Detroit Free Press)

Black unemployment persists (Afro)

Which condom are you? (TBD/Amanda Hess)

You could grow marijuana in this building (DCist)

Rosedale Community Center being held up by "paper alleys" (Rosedale Citizens' Alliance)

DC9 will remain closed (WRC-TV)

Another "Marion Barry loves welfare reform" story (WTTG-TV)

Just read this (City Paper)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Chandra Levy verdict, perhaps?

By Mike DeBonis  | November 18, 2010; 11:31 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Wal-Mart and the District's retail divide

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