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Posted at 10:54 AM ET, 12/20/2010

DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 20, 2010

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS DEC. 20, 2010 -- 13 DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION

PREVIOUSLY -- How bad school buildings happen -- Happy holidays from D.C. Water

D.C. Council Chairman-elect Kwame Brown announced the first members of his staff Friday evening, not long after the Examiner's Freeman Klopott leaked some early names. Nicole Streeter, a former council staffer now deputy general counsel for DCPS, will be chief of staff; Jennifer Budoff, Brown's economic development committee clerk, will be budget director; and longtime council staffer Nyasha Smith will be council secretary. And Post columnist Bob McCartney has a bead on another big personnel decision Brown will soon be making: who will represent the D.C. Council on the Metro board. Bob's sources says Jim Graham is "virtually certain to be ousted from his seat" and replaced by Tommy Wells. "Graham, who was scheduled to talk to Brown on Monday, said Saturday that he still hoped to remain on the board. But he was philosophical about the prospect of departing after nearly 12 years, saying: 'I think there's an overwhelming desire for change right now on the Metro board. Obviously it's affected [Arlington's Chris Zimmerman], it's affected others.'" Bob has the back story: While Brown served on the COG governance task force, he "sat in on private interviews with current and former Metro officials, including former general managers [who] complained that some individual board members made demands of Metro staff even though the board is supposed to act only as a group. Much of the criticism was directed at Graham." He tells Bob he's no micromanager, and adds that the suburbanites simply don't like him: "I have received virtually no criticism from the people of the District of Columbia, and they're the people who brought me to this dance."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Mary Cheh breaks arm, will miss final legislative meeting - Gray's new agency heads same as old agency heads -- Challenges abound for Gray at DYRS -- Census surveys show new growth widened old divides -- Goodbye Chaffetz, hello Bilbray? -- Fenty is Rhee's Washingtonian of the Year

*** MAIN COURSE ***

BREAKING -- D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), per a statement, "suffered a serious fall while running this weekend and sustained a severe break and dislocation of her arm and wrist. She will undergo a second surgery on Tuesday, December 21, 2010, and will therefore miss tomorrow's additional legislative meeting."

MEET THE NEW BOSSES ... -- Seven more Gray administration appointees were named Friday, and they are by and large a familiar group, I wrote in Saturday's Post: "[F]ive currently hold their cabinet posts, and the two others hold lower-level government jobs. Gray introduced them as 'seasoned public servants well versed in the inner workings' of the government." Harriet Tregoning remains planning director; Lucinda Babers stays at Motor Vehicles; Bill Howland stays at Public Works; Eric Richardson stays at Cable Television; and Julie Koo remains head of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs. Ron Collins will return to the Office of Boards and Commissions, four years after vacating the job. And Nick Majett, a longtime deputy director, will be nominated to replace Linda Argo at DCRA; he gave the most memorably catty quote of the news conference: "Ms. Argo did a good job. I'll do a great job." Gary Imhoff notes in themail, somewhat conspiratorially, that developers love Tregoning. Jonetta Rose Barras writes in her Examiner column that Gray has "followed his predecessor's model, selecting veteran government bureaucrats, and a few political allies." But she also slaps Gray for restoring the deputy mayor for public safety and justice in a time of fiscal crisis. "Its restoration signals that the mayor-elect hasn't focused sufficiently on reorganizing the government to reduce its size and costs. Further, he apparently needs layers of bureaucracy between himself and agency directors. ... Gray's decision to fatten the bureaucracy contradicts his rhetoric warning everyone there are tough budget decisions ahead and sacrifices that must be made." The Exmainer's Freeman Klopott also writes in response to Gray's public safety picks, noting that the police and fire unions are ticked off to no end by their new/old bosses. Also WRC-TV, WBJ, Patch.

CHALLENGES TO COME AT DYRS -- One post that has not been filled yet is the leadership of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. Today, Henri Cauvin looks at the significant challenges that Gray is inheriting: "For nearly a year, he has watched from his seat on the City Council as one crisis after another has buffeted [DYRS]. At least a dozen wards under its care have been charged with murder this year, according to the agency. At least 10 others have been homicide victims. The number of juveniles placed with the department continues to rise. New Beginnings, a facility that opened last year for long-term juvenile detainees, is overcrowded. The department's relations with D.C. Superior Court and its juvenile probation unit are strained. With the resignation last week of yet another interim director, no fewer than four people may, by year's end, have headed the agency since January. ... After the events of the past year, the city is again debating its obligation to help and its inclination to punish." Said Gray, "It's a balance; it's got to be a balance," adding: "As a framework, I want to continue [the rehabilitative approach]. But we've got to look at the public safety issues. I want to see the data, to see those who committed these crimes." See also this Examiner editorial from last week, which says that DYRS "has become a bureaucratic wasteland that undermines the welfare of the 900 troubled juveniles in its care" and that a new chief must be "willing to weed out staff whose past bad judgment has cost city wards their lives and implement a new policy in which the first priority is protecting the public."

NEW DIVIDES -- The New York Times, using newly released Census surveys, takes a sweeping look at the disparities exposed by a decade's worth of economic growth in the District. Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff write: "Washington, long a symbol of the country's urban ills, is now among the national leaders in income growth. It ranks first among states with gains in median household income and third among the country's 100 biggest cities. ... The economic boom did not lift everybody. About a third of the census tracts, areas of between 3,000 and 5,000 residents, registered income declines during the decade, including many that were already poor to begin with. Unemployment for residents with only a high school diploma more than doubled over the decade to 19 percent in 2009, the highest in 30 years, according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, an economic research group. The decade also brought black employment to a grim low: By 2009, only 49 percent of black adults in the city were employed, down from 56 percent in 2000, according to the institute. ... 'It's the classic story of a rising tide that is not lifting all boats,' said Ed Lazere, policy director at the institute. 'There are a lot of residents not able to connect with the city's economic engine. And the city's becoming more expensive around them.' The changes have aggravated the widespread disparities in a city that is both the American seat of power and home to some of its poorest neighborhoods. Among the nation's 100 most populous cities, Washington ranked seventh in income inequality in 2009, according to the Census Bureau."

MEET BRIAN BILBRAY -- It appears that Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) will not, after all, be chairing the House oversight subcommittee watching over the District. Instead, Slate's Dave Weigel reported Friday, he will get the higher-profile job of overseeing the TSA. The District instead is likely to get Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), and Lydia DePillis introduces him at Housing Complex: "Bilbray might have a better understanding of the issues cities face. Bilbray also prides himself on his environmental record, which means he may be supportive of things like efforts to clean up the Anacostia, and perhaps even push the feds to pay their storm water fees. But on issues of District autonomy, the signs are not good. Bilbray voted to ban banning needle exchange and medical marijuana in D.C., and cosponsored legislation that would have repealed a raft of restrictions on gun ownership in D.C., before the Supreme Court did it for him." Furthermore, "he still seems to think of the District as a crime-ridden reservation that still needs Congressional parenting, and was even 'appalled' that District residents would have the gall to oppose freeways being rammed through their neighborhoods."

NO SUNSHINE FOR COUNCIL PANELS -- The open-meetings law that the D.C. Council is set to approve tomorrow still has a big loophole for the D.C. Council, a Post editorial notes -- the council seems intent to exempt committee meetings from sunshine requirements: "By allowing the council to write its own rules, the measure gives the legislature a huge out. Witness last week's debate when only two council members -- Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) -- favored an amendment to include council committees in the bill's requirement. The council's Web site reports that much of the council's work is done in standing and special committees, and even the weak current law requires committees to meet in public when a quorum is present. Nonetheless, council members argued that this would restrict council members in their interactions with each other, a silly notion undermined by the fact that there is an exception in the proposal for chance or social encounters. What emerged as council members agreed with Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) about the need for the council to have a 'freer hand' was their unwillingness to abide by the rules they think others should follow."

MORE ON DUNBAR -- Two more perspectives on the turmoil at Dunbar High School. First, a Post editorial argues that the failure of Friends of Bedford to turn around the school shouldn't be taken as "evidence that these drastic means to improve schools don't work." Instead: "[I]t's hard to transform schools where a culture of poor performance and low expectations has taken root -- and it's critical to keep trying. ... Radical change may be needed, but it is just a first step; it has to be nurtured." And Post columnist Colby King wrote Saturday about how far the school has fallen from its glory days as the top academic high school of black Washington. "The disparaging descriptions of today's Dunbar may be accurate, but they are hard to take," Colby writes, and he says Adrian Fenty's 2007 ouster of DCPS Superintendent Clifford Janey "may have been a key accelerant in Dunbar's burning. The next day, Fenty placed the school system under the leadership of Michelle Rhee. A year later, Rhee got rid of the school's principal, Dr. Harriet Kargbo. Nothing but turmoil has followed."

PERSONS OF THE YEAR -- Rhee contributed to a Post Outlook all-star survey choosing Washington's "person of the year." She picks Adrian Fenty: "Regardless of your politics, this is a man who put everything on the line for kids, and he paid the price politically. When I met him, I assumed that, as a politician, he'd be mostly concerned with maintaining harmony to ensure a long career in office. My assumption was strong enough that I first declined his offer to lead the school system. Fenty proved me wrong. From closing schools to firing underperformers, his popularity was not his concern. Kids were. He was willing to make tough calls that most politicians would never consider." Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, meanwhile, picks Michelle Rhee.


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Read the police report on Marion Barry's stolen car (TBD)

Council is slow-walking a "combined reporting" tax bill that could raise $22 million next fiscal year -- watch the video! (the Examiner, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, YouTube)

Online travel sites fight council's tax push (The Post)

Hispanic street vendors, restaurant owners do battle in Adams Morgan (The Post)

Hine Junior High developers want another year to close deal (WBJ)

What the big shots says about hiring D.C. residents (Capital Business)

Hyde charter set to occupy ex-DCPS property -- more to come in Gray administration? (D.C. Schools Insider)

Some D.C. Lottery agents report problems with new horse-racing game (WaTimes)

Brookland shopkeeper, 46, murdered by thieves in front of wife and son (The Post)

Peter Nickles keeps pressure on David Wilmot, IDI (Loose Lips)

In case you just can't get enough Rhee Q&As (Star-Ledger)

Reconciling the Jack Evans and Tommy Wells budgetary visions (DCist)

So long, SmartBike D.C. (TBD)

Electric-sports-car showroom to open on K Street (Capital Business)

Dr. Gridlock not a fan of Metro bag searches (The Post)


*** ON THE MENU ***

D.C. Council Committee on Housing and Workforce Development issues "Special Report on the State of the District's Workforce Programs," 9:30 a.m. in JAWB 120 -- Yvette Alexander kicks off Health and Fitness Challenge, 3 p.m. at Yes! Organic, 2323 Pennsylvania Ave. SE

By Mike DeBonis  | December 20, 2010; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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