DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 13, 2010
TODAY IS DEC. 13, 2010 -- 20 DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION
The Post editorial board keeps the heat on D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) had his Team Thomas nonprofit. Today's lead Post editorial reports that Thomas "voted in support of legislation directly benefiting one of the contributors to Team Thomas. His attorney had suggested earlier that such a vote would probably have required disclosure. But it appears there was no disclosure." In short, a developer pursuing a project near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station gave $2,000 to Team Thomas in January 2008. Then, the following December, Thomas "was one of 12 council members who voted ... to authorize a $7.2 million payment in lieu of taxes and a $1 million exemption of sales tax on construction material" benefiting the firm. This year, Thomas introduced legislation "that would make $625,000 available to the firm to fill a gap in its financing." Of further interest: "A registered lobbyist for Rhode Island Avenue Metro LLC is John Ray, of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, who is also working as a lawyer for Mr. Thomas." Thomas's lawyer, Fred Cooke, said that because Thomas "did not personally benefit from contributions to Team Thomas," he did not have to disclose the donations. Needless to say, the ed board ain't buying that line: "[I]t was troubling to hear Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray deride the [Team Thomas probe] Thursday as possibly being politically motivated -- and reassuring to hear from his spokeswoman that he nonetheless will not interfere as the inquiry proceeds."
AFTER THE JUMP -- Kern could be next deputy mayor for education -- Lorraine Green fingered in GOP probe of Amtrak -- Cheh takes aim at Public Service Commission for Pepco failings -- Teachers describe chaos inside Dunbar High School
*** MAIN COURSE ***
KERN TO DEPUTY MAYOR SLOT? -- No Gray Cabinet announcements are yet scheduled for today, but one name is circulating as a likely choice for a top education post, probably deputy mayor: Josh Kern, co-founder and executive director of Thurgood Marshall Academy. Bill Turque reported the rumblings Friday: "Kern has been a go-to figure during the transition, and played a leading role in helping Gray calm private donors who got the jitters when Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee left the picture. ... Asked late Friday afternoon if he expected to continue at Thurgood Marshall, which he opened in 2000 after graduating from Georgetown Law School, Kern said: 'No comment.' Gray speaks highly of Kern every chance he gets. ... Bringing Kern on board would also reinforce his promise to pay more attention to the city's charter sector, which often took a back seat in the Fenty-Rhee era." Deborah Simmons of the Washington Times, in a piece about Gray's charter focus, has a Sunday quote from Kern on his future: "I can't really talk about it. ... I can't really say anything." Incidentally, Gray, speaking at a forum held at Washington National Cathedral, "seemed increasingly frustrated about questions over when he'll name his police and fire chiefs and whether he will keep Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson on permanently," WTTG-TV reports. Said Gray: "We're gonna continue to roll out our team, and we're doing it as systematically and objectively as we can. We're putting people through an extensive vetting process, so we can know as much about the people we're asking to serve as we possibly can."
GREEN OFF TRACK? -- A Washington Times report notes that Lorraine Green, Gray's closest confidante who chaired both his campaign and transition, was implicated earlier this year in a Republican-led congressional investigation of her day job at Amtrak. The questions concern her time as interim inspector general there after a former IG was forced out by the Amtrak board. Jim McElhatton writes: "During her months in the interim job, congressional investigators said Ms. Green delayed the release of a report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that scrutinized the very Human Resources Department she oversaw at Amtrak. In addition, she also impeded a salary increase for one of the OIG employees involved in the human resources report, according to findings released by Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In the report, the lawmakers also concluded that Ms. Green was a poor choice by Amtrak's Board of Directors for the interim inspector general's position. ... 'Her inherent conflicts of interest, lack of independence and lack of IG experience rendered her an inappropriate choice for the position,' the report said. The report portrays Ms. Green as doing Amtrak management's bidding."
SHAPE UP, PSC -- Council member Mary Cheh, in a Post op-ed, deals a scathing review to the Public Service Commission for its kid-gloves handling of Pepco while criticism of the utility's operations has mounted: "Unfortunately for D.C. residents, businesses and visitors, however, the PSC -- the one entity that could force Pepco to improve -- has taken no effective steps in the past three years to enhance the reliability of electric service," she writes. "Quite simply, the PSC has failed D.C. ratepayers. This failure is part of a broader negligence by the agency. The point of the PSC is to ensure that utility companies are not imposing unnecessary costs on ratepayers and that the ratepayers get what they pay for: effective, reliable service. In recent years, the PSC has not required Pepco to be lean and trim. It has not scrubbed Pepco's high management expenses, and it has allowed Pepco to pass on to District customers the costs of a defined-benefit pension plan for Pepco's employees. ... As each outage crisis occurs, we see the same behavior: Pepco says that it will do better and puts forward yet another "new" plan. And the PSC goes along. There is a way out of this cycle of empty promises. The PSC must establish clear and rigorous performance metrics for reliability and enforce them with penalties to be paid from Pepco's profits, not by ratepayers. I have asked that the PSC establish such performance requirements in the past, but it has not, because, I believe, the members of the PSC are too close to Pepco to hold the company properly accountable." Yikes!
YAY FOR LEW, PART II -- Jonetta Rose Barras pens a paean to Allen Lew, giving Gray more of the press he was hoping to get from the pick: "Fans of [Fenty], who worried about the future of the government, can relax a little with Lew in charge of daily operations. ... When elected officials have faced seemingly impossible feats and they often called Lew. He's their miracle man. Gray was smart to tap Lew, persuading him to abandon the trailer from which he's been operating to come inside the John A. Wilson Building. ... With the District facing a looming budget shortfall of more than $400 million in fiscal 2012, the government needs a lead manager who knows how to squeeze efficiencies from lean budgets and government contracts; who is expert at guiding managers to meet expected quantitative and qualitative performance goals; and who won't accept excuses for why a job can't be done. ... No doubt there will be a bump or two as Lew adjusts to a role that will thrust him into the spotlight he has eschewed. There also may be some concerns in selected quarters of the city about his style, which sometimes can be abrupt. But, if Gray provides the necessary support and protection, Lew won't disappoint. He hasn't thus far."
INSIDE DUNBAR -- More from inside Dunbar High School from Bill Turque, who speaks to teachers critical of its private operator's ability to control the school environment. "Geometry teacher Jessica Lilly found the fliers on the walls when she arrived at Dunbar Senior High School early one morning last month. They included a photo of a female student, with her name, phone number and an obscene caption announcing that she was available for oral sex with boys and girls. ... It was a vile piece of bullying. Lilly said that as far she knows, there was no response from Friends of Bedford, the team of private consultants who ran the school until they were removed by interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Wednesday. It was one of numerous incidents of harassment and violence that she said were tolerated or overlooked. ... Her account is one of several that have emerged since Bedford was ousted, less than three years after it was hired by former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to turn around Dunbar." Jay Mathews, who has been a stalwart defender of Friends of Bedford, says good luck to new principal Stephen Jackson, who "may be the person who can finally straighten Dunbar out. But the odds are against him because of the ingrown nature of the school's problems and the dispiriting message Henderson's decision sends to him and any other school leader she assigns to a low-performing school after this. ... If Jackson and Henderson can organize the new security force properly, they might find a way to remove the scourge of D.C. high schools -- a stubborn culture of absenteeism, tardiness and wandering the halls during class."
HECKUVA JOB -- A nugget from my Friday appearance on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, with new Washington Teachers' Union President Nathan Saunders. Me: "You referred to the 4,200 teachers that you represent. You said, they do heck of a job. But what percentage do you think do a heck of a job?" Said Saunders: "I believe about 95-plus percent of our members are excellent teachers." Me: "And that's excellent? That's not just ... satisfactory?" Saunders: "Well, let me say, in my category, I have good and bad in this particular answer. And, listen, this group of teachers are very good. It's equivalent to the same percentage of bad lawyers and bad doctors and bad bankers and bad news reporters."
RHEE COUNTERPOINT -- The Post's Valerie Strauss offers a counterpoint to Michelle Rhee's recent media blitz: "Her admirers seem to gloss over the fact that she had mixed results as chancellor. She started a number of things and then left after a little more than three years, just when the work was getting really hard. And she never developed an obvious grasp of budgeting, raising a question of what she will do with $1 billion. Her agenda is seen by many educators as de-legitimizing the teaching profession; making standardized tests a holy grail of assessing students, teachers and schools; allowing private foundations to set the education agenda; and inviting for-profit companies to come into the public sector with programs that are designed primarily to make money for investors, not help kids. Her program is based on business principles, not proven instruction strategies, not solid research, not what's best for kids. And that makes it very unfortunate that in this celebrity-driven culture, she has become the No. 1 education celeb."
WELCOME TO REALITY -- There may only be one episode of the Marion Barry reality show, but the drama continues. Andre Johnson, who is shown in the show during his time as a communications aide to Barry, went on to work for Yvette Alexander. But no longer: City Paper's Alan Suderman reported Friday that Alexander fired Johnson, handing Suderman some fab quotes in the process: "Alexander says she asked Johnson repeatedly whether he was involved in the show, and he told her no. But, she added, Johnson would repeatedly ask her -- at Barry's request, Johnson claimed -- if she would consent to being filmed for the show, which as of yet hasn't found a network willing to air the series. Alexander says she declined Johnson's request because she wants no part of the show, which she called "cheesy." Well, maybe she'll agree to one small role: 'If he wants me to be part of the show, he can film me firing him,' she says. ... She said when Johnson first approached her asking for a job, he said he was sick of all the 'drama' that came with working for Barry. 'He's surrounded himself with the drama,' she says. 'I guess my office was a little too boring for him.' Alexander also pulled no punches when he came to the appearances made in the show by her council colleagues, including incoming Chairman Kwame Brown, at-large council member Michael A. Brown and Ward 5 council member Harry Thomas Jr. 'I can't believe elected officials ... are involved in this. I am truly shocked,' she says. ... 'And the acting was terrible, if I might add.' " Further coverage of the reality show saga comes from DCist, The Root, Politico Click, NY Daily News.
*** SMALL PLATES ***
This guy really didn't like Gabe Klein (Dr. Gridlock)
Chris Dyer is out as LGBT liaison; Stein Club president Jeff Richardson could be in (Blade)
DYRS chief Robert Hildum finds that locking up juvenile absconders is difficult when you have no place to put them (Loose Lips)
Ted Loza says he wasn't read his rights (Loose Lips)
Meet Eric Sheptock, the "homeless homeless advocate" (The Post)
Remember Michael Williams, the DPR employee who said he was fired for telling Fenty's kids to switch basketball leagues? Part of his lawsuit against the city was tossed by the D.C. Court of Appeals; another part proceeds. (the Examiner)
Massive turnover in store for Metro board (the Examiner)
Why not stagger the days that branch libraries are closed -- instead of having them all close on Sundays? (GGW)
IG annual report includes an anecdote about a car that got eight tickets before anyone noticed it had been reported stolen (the Examiner)
DPW facility will be named for slain worker Larry Hutchins (TBD)
Ben Cardin's made noise about New Beginnings/Oak Hill before (DCist)
GSA no longer wants Walter Reed land (The Post)
D.C. cop gets two weekends in jail for use of excessive force (Crime Scene)
Sixteen-year-old's alleged killer was DYRS ward (WaTimes)
Cops keep eyes on animal-rights activists (City Desk)
Did cop commit "bias-related assault" against transgender woman? (Blade)
Jose G. Portillo, 22, is convicted of the murder of Michael and Ginny Spevak (The Post)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Fenty and Lew unveil plans for Cardozo High School overhaul, 10:45 a.m.
| December 13, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
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