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Posted at 10:11 AM ET, 12/29/2010

DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 29, 2010

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS DEC. 29, 2010 -- FOUR DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION

PREVIOUSLY -- D.C. needs to be ready to fight GOP 'meddling,' Norton says

Jonetta Rose Barras delivers a "salute" to the D.C. Republican Committee in her Examiner column for "advocating for greater citizen involvement and demanding elected officials maintain higher ethical standards." Writes Jonetta: "This past year, the DCRC made its presence felt in public policy debates; instigated investigations of questionable officials; and fielded candidates for the state board of education election and ward-based D.C. Council races. ... While Republicans failed to gain a foothold on the council, they generated interest around the general election -- normally a sleeper. They elevated the conversation in Ward 3 and created heat in Ward 5, putting a spotlight on incumbent Harry Thomas Jr. and his work with a family operated nonprofit organization -- Team Thomas." The party organ's "greatest contribution to the District," however, "was its ceaseless demand for good, transparent government," she writes. And watch out: D.C. GOP Executive Director Paul Craney "described 2010 as a 'building year.' The DCRC is geared up for more intense fighting in 2011 and 2012." It's not too late, Statehood Greens: This could be your year, too!

AFTER THE JUMP -- Palisades resident blames slow Pepco response for house fire -- internal MPD stats show spike in serious sexual assaults -- residents line up for inaugural ball tix -- DCPS reopens Meyer Elementary for displaced Takoma students

*** MAIN COURSE ***

'OUR HOUSE BURNED BECAUSE OF PEPCO' -- A Palisades homeowner is blaming Pepco for a fire that severely damaged his house, Mary Pat Flaherty reports in today's Post. Lou Costantino "heard a crackling noise and saw a puff of smoke just before the lights went out Monday. ... He flipped the switches in the fuse box and called Pepco to report the problem a few minutes before 11 a.m. Monday. A crew would be out in a few hours, Costantino said he was told. But the problem was more than an outage. Before the afternoon ended, Costantino's home would be severely damaged, about 50 firefighters would be at the scene, and his family would be displaced to a hotel. ... 'Our house burned because of Pepco; I don't hesitate saying that,' he said. Pepco said Tuesday that it is investigating what 'is clearly an unfortunate situation.' But pending the review, the company declined to say whether its crew shut off power to the house or when its workers responded."

BUCK UP, REGULATORS -- Meanwhile, a Post editorial calls on "Pepco and the agencies that regulate it ... to better focus their attention" on improving electrical service. "The deteriorating service in recent years reflects poorly not only on Pepco but on the public service commissions that regulate the utility. The District is ahead of Maryland in at least establishing standards for reliability, but more standards need to be toughened. Other states hold utilities accountable for non-performance. If companies don't hit certain standards, there are penalties to shareholders, reduction in rate hikes and even credits to consumers. The concept behind this performance-based ratemaking is simply if you perform, you get the rates. We would urge the public service commissions in the District and Maryland to move to this sensible approach and, if they refuse, for lawmakers to insist that they do."

RAPES ON THE RISE? -- Another story involving a crime-stats dispute: The Examiner's Freeman Klopott has internal MPD figures showing a 46 percent rise in first- and seond-degree sexual assaults from 2009 to 2010. "But the police department's public numbers tell a different story. ... [P]olice spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said the number of adult sexual assaults is up 11 percent citywide from 2009. ... Those numbers, however, include everything from inappropriate touching ?-- a misdemeanor -- to forced sex, she said. ... The D.C. police department's statistics and those from internal documents, as well as those kept by the FBI, have routinely differed. ... Police union chief Kris Baumann said ongoing uncertainty regarding the city's crime statistics is an issue Mayor-elect Vince Gray will have to deal with since he has asked [Chief Cathy Lanier] to stay on. 'This is the type of problem you face when you select a chief of police whose popularity is based on misrepresentations and misconceptions,' Baumann said. 'As mayor, Vince Gray will now have to embrace gimmicks and double-talk on crime in order to maintain her popularity.'" Says Gray: "The chief is committed to transparency and I think she's doing a good job."

GET YOUR INAUGURAL BALL TICKETS -- Some 2,000 residents lined up Tuesday for tickets to Sunday night's inaugural ball, Nikita Stewart reports in the Post. "The inaugural ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will accommodate 10,000 guests. The transition set aside 2,500 tickets for campaign workers and volunteers, advisory neighborhood commissioners and other city officials, [Gray transition chairwoman Lorraine Green] said. That leaves 7,500 tickets. Although the tickets weren't going fast during two days of distribution last week, a floo of residents appeared Tuesday for the continuation of the giveaway at the convention center. Dozens and dozens of residents were in line before 10 a.m. when the distribution began, and the wait lasted a half hour. ... Green said the convention center gave Gray's transition team a book on what went wrong and what went right with Fenty's ball. She said the transition scaled back the event to put in more controls and to keep costs down. Green said she still did not know the final cost of the ball."

WILL HTJ GET SMART ON GROWTH? -- Writing at Greater Greater Washington, Jaime Fearer questions the newly minted economic development chair's commitment to urbanism: "Thomas' development record in Ward 5 is spotty, at best. Suburban-style, big box-anchored retail development is scattered throughout Ward 5, such as Rhode Island Place, Rhode Island Avenue Center, and Hechinger Mall. ... Thomas has proven an ability to work with developers and corporations on large projects. He knows the language of urban design and of Main Street commercial revitalization. Unfortunately, a disconnect appears to exist between Thomas' advocacy for the bigger players and the smaller operators necessary to foster vital, dense cores in our neighborhoods. As he leads the Committee on Economic Development for the next four years, his actions will speak louder than words, particularly as we work our way out of the current recession. Without a balance of both local and national retail outlets, small- and large-scale development, we will continue to see big box nodes favored to the detriment of our underutilized retail corridors, and we simply cannot afford that."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

After fire, Takoma Education Center students will attend a re-opened Meyer Elementary in Columbia Heights (WTOP)

Ginnie Cooper, "a librarian from Minnesota[,] has put herself on the leading edge of D.C.'s famously conservative architecture scene" (Housing Complex)

Peter Nickles criticizes return of deputy mayor of public safety and justice; Gray camp says he doesn't know what he's talking about (TBD)

Census survey indicates strong downtown housing growth ()

$500,000 arbor-themed sculpture to top New York Avenue bridge (Housing Complex)

Police brass to retake test that Assistant Chief Diane Groomes was accused of helping colleagues to cheat on (City Desk)

Expect the Michelle Rhee "legislative agenda" next week (Examiner)

Media Center One is now "Progression Place" (Metrocentric)

Arrests made in pair of 2009 murders (Homicide Watch D.C.)

Behold the Ward 7 Wal-Mart (Life in the Village)

It was a good year for Georgetown (Patch)

Harry Jaffe column on tax breaks "juvenile and unconsidered" (Rebuilding Place)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray talks transition and inauguration on NewsTalk, 10 a.m. on TBD TV -- Military Bowl kicks off at RFK, 2 p.m. -- inaugural ball tickets still available starting at 10 a.m., Walter E. Washington Convention Center Room 145

By Mike DeBonis  | December 29, 2010; 10:11 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 30, 2010

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