DeMorning DeBonis: Nov. 1, 2010
TODAY IS NOV. 1, 2010 -- ONE DAY UNTIL GENERAL ELECTION
In a piece titled simply "The Education Manifesto," Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty (bylined in that order) take to the pages of the weekend Wall Street Journal to lay out "what they learned while pushing to reform D.C.'s failing public schools." Fenty and Rhee explain how mayoral control was the foundation for a series of "politically unpopular choices that had been put off for decades" to overhaul schools that "have been run for the benefit of the adults in the system, not for the benefit of the kids." And the adults they mention most often are teachers unions, which they finally conquered by "striking the sort of grand bargain that could serve as a model for other troubled school districts ... more money and resources, in exchange for more accountability from teachers." Rhee and Fenty describe how they "implored" private foundations to put up money to fund that bargain. They write that reform supporters still outnumber "special interests -- unions, administrators and opportunistic politicians" without saying on which side presumptive new mayor Vincent Gray lies. And they close with lessons for fellow elected officials and school superintendents: "Now is not the time to go soft on tough decisions. Fixing our schools will require courage and persistence, but young lives are at stake. What could be more worth the risks?"
AFTER THE JUMP -- Gray does ad blitz as write-in-ers carry on to the finish -- Jonetta for Catania -- DISB lets CareFirst off the hook, temporarily -- MPD officer killed in single-vehicle crash -- HTJ hires Fred Cooke -- Gray wants BRPAA overhaul
*** MAIN COURSE ***
ABOUT THAT RIF -- From the Manifesto: "In September 2009 ... we faced a significant challenge after a budget cut. To deal with the shortfall, the City Council had recommended that we cancel our summer school program. We knew, however, that getting rid of summer school would mean lower graduation rates and fewer students being on track academically. We looked at the numbers, and the school district was overstaffed for the number of students we served, with a teacher to student ratio of about 16-to-1. It is never easy when people lose their jobs, of course, but for us, the choice was clear: By cutting some staff, we could keep intact a critical program for our students. So we decided to conduct layoffs. ... We pushed for and achieved significant change, but we understand why many in the community felt that we did not communicate with them effectively. We did not explain why we were doing what we were doing well enough. We did not do enough to engage the local leaders and neighborhood activists who needed to be at the forefront of the fight. ... If we are to serve our most disadvantaged students well, politicians need to stand up. On the campaign trail, candidate Barack Obama was booed by teachers unions for supporting merit pay. In office, he has largely stood his ground, offering financial incentives for states to expand charter schools and tie pay to performance. But too often the president has been a lone voice on education issues. Too many politicians remain tied to the past -- and to the money and political muscle of the teachers unions."
MORE SCHOOLS -- Also, on her new blog, Rhee offers a "point of clarification" on her infamous comment that "collaboration and consensus are overrated." She writes: "I said that getting input is important, and has to happen. However, whenever you're trying to enact significant change there will inevitably be some group of people who are going to be unhappy. One of the problems in public education is that collaboration and consensus have become the goal, instead of a means to an end. When we're more concerned about the adults getting along than we are about improving education for children, then we've lost our way and we've got our priorities in the wrong place." DCist's Martin Austermuhle offers some parting thoughts: "Rhee deserves props for making education reform an indispensable issue and being strong-willed enough to the necessary first reforms that many others may have shied away from. Rhee and [Fenty] made education reform a consequential issue for all District residents, bureaucrats and elected officials. Sure, we've long known that the city's public schools sucked, and plenty of other people have come along with lofty ambitions of turning them around. But it was Rhee and Fenty who hammered the point home that reforming the city's schools wasn't just necessary -- it was a vital component of the District's future."
WRITE-IN-ERS CARRY ON -- Fenty may have written that a "new mayor will be elected next week" in the WSJ piece, but that "hasn't discouraged a small group of ... admirers from campaigning to get voters to write his name on their general election ballots on Tuesday, even though they have little chance of stopping [Gray] from being elected mayor." Tim Craig covers the Fenty write-in-ers in a brief story Sunday, noting that "several of his campaign aides have teamed up with [consultant John Hlinko] through literature drops, automated phone calls, and door-to-door canvassing. The volunteers continue to wear the green-and-white primary Fenty hats, at times confusing voters who thought the 'green team' would go into hibernation after the mayor's loss. ... Although they remain confident, some Gray advisers acknowledge that a big no-confidence vote through write-in votes would be unsettling." Tony Bullock, the former Tony Williams aide, says he "would be somewhat astonished if the write-in campaign yields more than 1,000 votes." (I'd take the over.) Meanwhile, Gray launched a last-minute ad barrage Friday: "[R]esidents in certain sections of the city will receive a mail piece from the Gray campaign that features a picture of [Fenty] ... [that] also includes quotes of Fenty praising the chairman. ... The Gray campaign is also launching a new ad on black radio this weekend. The ad reminds African Americans, who overwhelmingly supported Gray in the primary, that they still need to turn out for the general election."
YAY FOR CATANIA -- Jonetta Rose Barras pens a paean to David Catania in her Examiner column: "Catania, an independent, arguably has been one of the city's most thoughtful and productive legislators. What's more, he doesn't mind calling things the way he sees them, even if that means making a few enemies. I haven't always agreed with his positions -- his steadfast refusal to put same-sex marriage to a citizen vote, for example -- but he has been very effective at creating support both within the legislature and in the community for those issues that bear his imprimatur. ... After exploiting racial and class divisions in the District, presumptive Mayor Vincent Gray has talked about creating 'one city.' But, Catania may be the only legislator equally respected across all boundaries. Folks east of the Anacostia River praise him for his consistent attention to issues affecting the poor and working class. Residents in upper Northwest know him as an advocate of effective and cost-efficient government." Catania, she writes, ought to replace Jack Evans as chairman pro tempore.
HOMELESS REDLINING? -- The Post editorial board advises Tommy Wells and his fellow council members to tread carefully on proposals to impose "residency requirements" to gain admittance to city homeless shelters: "The District is right to want to do something about surrounding jurisdictions that take advantage of its safety net by directing their needy residents to cross the border. At the same time, it needs to be careful that new rules don't create insurmountable barriers for those it wants to help. ... More needs to be learned about the scope of this problem. Advocates for the homeless have legitimate concerns about the ability of people, with complex problems and troubled lives, to meet bureaucratic requirements. There are also constitutional concerns that need to be addressed concerning residency and equal treatment. ... Maybe area leaders should get together and talk about how the region can best help vulnerable populations without letting jurisdictional hurdles get in the way."
CAREFIRST OFF THE HOOK FOR NOW -- In a late-Friday news dump, the Department of Insurance Securities and Banking finally releases its long-delayed report on the allegedly excessive reserves held by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. Ben Fischer reports at WBJ that the city's largest health insurer will not have to "deplete its cash reserves through premium rebates until at least mid-2012," according to the decision, which found that the company's 2008-level reserves "fell narrowly within a reasonable limit required to ensure solvency and respond to a major medical crisis." The reserves grew significantly in 2009, but DISB found that an apples-to-apples comparison was not possible, noting the "current regulatory environment and financial obligations" -- in other words, federal health care reform may have changed things. Fischer notes: "However, the nonprofit company is not entirely out of the woods. Purcell said the department will conduct a new review by July 2012, by which time regulators would be able to evaluate the company with a better understanding of how the health care overhaul legislation is playing out."
OFFICER DOWN -- MPD Officer Paul Dittamo, 32, died early Saturday morning after he drove his squad car into a utility pole in downtown Anacostia. From an early Post report: "Dittamo is the first D.C. police officer to die in the line of duty since 2007. Another officer, a passenger in the car, suffered injuries that are not considered life-threatening, authorities said. ... The crash happened in the 2200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE as the officers were traveling to the 1400 block of Morris Road SE. The incident remains under investigation, Crump said. A police source said the officers were on their way to help evaluate somebody thought to be on PCP. Dittamo opened and ran a pizza parlor franchise in Woodbridge before he started training to become a police officer. 'He loved it, which is why this is so terrible,' Christy Bossard, Dittamo's older sister, said of police work. 'He was always looking for, "What job do I want to do?"' But this one, Bossard said, he planned to keep. ... Dittamo joined the D.C. police force in June 2009 and worked in the 7th Police District, in the southernmost part of the city."
WATCH THAT BUDGET -- Colby King turns his column's attention once again to the state of the city budget, writes that Gray is "cruising for a bruising" on fiscal matters and claims that a tax hike is fait accompli. "Here is how it would work: Council members, with the elections safely behind them, produce a deficit-closing term sheet that reads like a doomsday manifesto. ... That is followed by council hearings at which long lines of witnesses representing nonprofit advocacy groups and employee unions produce gripping testimony that predicts untold pain and agony resulting from the projected program and payroll cuts. Following the hearing, which stretches late into the night or the next morning, the lawmakers conclude, reluctantly of course, that there is strong 'public' opposition to cuts in government and that they, as conscientious legislators, have no alternative but to keep the government at its current size and, instead, close the deficit with tax increases on middle- and high-income D.C. wage-earners." Sounds about right to me. But Colby says the kabuki will avoid "tough decisions on layoffs, furloughs and program cuts" -- the budget gap is big enough that it's going to be hard to avoid that stuff.
ANC UPDATE -- East-of-the-river ANC races are heating up, Chris Jenkins reports in Sunday's Post: "Many candidates are younger than 40 and newcomers to politics. They have bought homes and condominiums in neighborhoods east of the river after getting advanced degrees and working in public- and private-sector jobs. Others are government workers and local advocates who want to extend their public service to neighborhood politics. ... But it's not just new residents and homeowners trying to make an impact in these areas. Nearly half of the competitors in Tuesday's elections are natives of neighborhoods where they are running and who expressed frustration with 'the same old crowd' of local leaders who need to be replaced after years in office."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Harry Thomas Jr. ups his litigation firepower, hiring Fred Cooke to fend off Team Thomas inquiries (Loose Lips)
Gray pledges "wholesale restructuring" of BRPAA, which could "drastically curtail property owners' ability to lower their assessments" (WBJ)
WTU's court challenge to 2009 layoff nears end (Post)
DYRS cuts back on medical staff, including plastic surgeon who allegedly made $330K while on administrative leave (Examiner)
Marion Barry blissfully unaware of Charlie Sheen's hotel troubles (TMZ)
Rhee reportedly gets "formal job offer" from N.J. governor (WTXF-TV)
Kwame Brown begins the "delicate process" of determining committee assignments (Examiner)
Behold the League of Women Voters general election voter guide (LWVDC)
Eleanor Holmes Norton squeezes Stewart/Colbert rally for all it's worth (Politico)
The Dish comes out against the elected-attorney general charter amendment (G'town Dish)
More questions about IMPACT (Answer Sheet)
It's official: The Jacque Patterson Exploratory Committee is up and running (Facebook)
Gray/Cheh meet-and-greet in Ward 3 Saturday (Tenleytown Yahoo! group)
Johns Hopkins gets final OK for Sibley takeover (WBJ)
More details on Peter Nickles' new position on foreclosures (Post/Political Economy)
Triple shooting in Brightwood row house leaves three dead (WTTG-TV)
Metro escalator mishap sends rallyers flying (WTOP)
MS-13 not in fact planning murderous Halloween initiation raid on Catholic University (City Desk)
Sweet DDOT video touts streetcar, bike-sharing (GGW)
Man gets 15 years to life for 1990 road-rage killing (Crime Scene)
*** ON THE MENU **
Last day to vote early -- polls are open at One Judiciary Square till 4:45 p.m.
| November 1, 2010; 10:08 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike, The District
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