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Posted at 7:51 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 6, 2010

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS DEC. 6, 2010 -- 27 DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION

The budget gap-closing gets down to brass tacks today, and all eyes are on Mayor-elect Vincent Gray. After attending Rushern Baker's inauguration as Prince George's County executive in the morning, he returns to the John A. Wilson Building where we will huddle with his colleagues for one last budgetary skull session. What does he have to deal with? For one, he's got the Post editorial board and Jonetta Rose Barras telling him not to hike taxes and hew closely to Mayor Adrian Fenty's spending cuts, lest the control board come knocking again. Then you have advocates like the Earth Day Network's Sean S. Miller, who argues that cutting Healthy Schools funding would be "shortchang[ing] ... our children's future." Even the process is under fire: Today's budget-cutting confab, the third that Gray has convened in the past two years, follows a series of private one-on-one meetings with council members, and the Examiner's Freeman Klopott airs complaints from Fenty campaign adviser Terry Lynch: "It gives the appearance that they're making deals on things that seriously affect the city's residents behind closed doors." So tell us, Vince: Isn't it good to be the king?

AFTER THE JUMP -- tensions between DCPS and Dunbar operator -- studies show that Pepco stinks -- council's open meetings law exempts council from open meetings -- demands for Wal-Mart from one community leader

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE FROM THE POST EDITORIAL -- "Surely ... council members should be able to find comparable savings in a budget of roughly $5.3 billion. Consider that other local jurisdictions facing far more serious budget issues were able to realize savings by streamlining operations, cutting services, curtailing benefits to government workers or imposing furloughs. Those cost-cutting ideas appeared anathema to council members such as Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) who would rather raise taxes than even consider cutting pet programs. Should the city really be starting expensive initiatives in the face of serious budget problems? The recession that has affected city revenue is also hurting D.C. families and businesses. There may have been consensus for tax hikes among the advocates at Tuesday's hearing, but we suspect there's different thinking in the real world outside the council chambers."

DUNBAR DRAMA -- For Sunday's Post, Bill Turque checked in at Dunbar High School -- in the news recently for an alleged sexual assault on school grounds, but also the scene of longstanding discipline problems. Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson has ordered new administrators and more security for the school, run since 2008 by the Friends of Bedford nonprofit. There appear to be serious tensions between DCPS and FoB: "Henderson said that on two recent visits students roamed the halls and many classrooms were in disarray. She also said 'a huge beef' involving neighborhood groups Sursum Corda and Saratoga has spilled into the school. ... 'Things are really difficult at Dunbar this year,' Henderson said. 'The school culture is not conducive to learning.' Friends of Bedford ... said it is a victim of politics and a public relations ploy designed to justify its ouster. Bedford chief executive George Leonard said the intervention Henderson is considering -- including extra security -- is what the firm requested after it took control of the school in the summer of 2009. Then, he said, the school was 'a shambles.' 'She wants to have the partnership phased out,' Leonard said. 'We're not going to be put in the position where she's making us seem like we're ineffective as a company.'" Also: Dunbar alum Gray airs his concerns about the learning environment.

PEPCO IS AS BAD AS YOU THINK -- In a Post analysis of power reliability data, Joe Stephens and Mary Pat Flaherty confirm what you already think: Pepco stinks. "[T]he company ranks near the bottom in keeping the power on and bringing it back once it goes out, an analysis by The Washington Post has found. In fact, the average Pepco customer experienced 70 percent more outages than customers of other big city utilities that took part in one 2009 survey. And the lights stayed out more than twice as long.... Moreover, Pepco has long blamed trees as a primary culprit for the frequency and duration of its outages, implying that the problem is beyond its control. But that explanation does not hold up under scrutiny, The Post analysis found. By far, Pepco equipment failures, not trees, caused the most sustained power interruptions last year. Pepco says it is embarking on a five-year program to improve reliability.... In recent years, Pepco has placed near the bottom for daily reliability in surveys that compared power companies around the country. Pepco tends to have more sustained power interruptions, defined as those lasting longer than five minutes. And when the lights go dark, they tend to stay off longer. In one 2008 survey, Pepco finished last among participating utility companies on two of three reliability measurements, records filed with regulators show. Pepco stopped participating in that annual study after its last-place finish." Wonder how Vincent Orange would have spun this one.

NOT SO OPEN MEETINGS -- The new open meetings law now being pondered by the D.C. Council potentially exempts one key group: The D.C. Council. The Post editorial board is not at all pleased: "The Open Meetings Amendment Act of 2010 (B18-716) ... would outlaw public bodies from meeting behind closed doors under the guise of not taking 'official' action. Also commendable are new requirements for public notice. Those strengths are negated, however, by the perplexing decision to give an out to the council. Instead of having to play by the rules that are being mandated for other public bodies, the council would be able to adopt its own rules. And whereas an independent office would be set up to ensure compliance with the law, the council apparently would be answerable to no one. Other problems with the proposal are that it gives a pass to the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and offers individuals no course of action if they believe the law has been violated.... This council, under the leadership of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, has acted with far more transparency than previous bodies. Once-private breakfast meetings were opened to the media; once-secret budget workshops were televised. There is no guarantee, though, that future councils won't regress." For more analysis, do see the Society of Professional Journalists.

CHEH TARGETS FENTY EMPLOYEES -- Emergency legislation introduced by Mary Cheh would block former Fenty campaign employees, brought onto the city payroll shortly before or after a hiring freeze, from collecting severance. Alan Suderman, who broke the story in the first place, has the scoop at Loose Lips: "Cheh's proposed legislation would limit the political appointees, known as excepted service employees, who can receive separation pay to those who've worked for the city for 180 days or more at the time they leave city employment. That means no $6,000 bonuses for Fenty campaign workers who were only on the job for three months." The legislation mentions Washington City Paper's reporting. Klopott's Examiner story does not mention that.

SKETCHY SPEED CAMERAS -- The Post's Derek Kravitz reports that some lucrative speed cameras remain active on New York Avenue NE after their original purpose -- road construction -- appears to have disappeared: "Nearly 15,000 speeding tickets were generated by cameras in the work zone, near the Maryland border, between mid-August and the end of October, according to D.C. police statistics. The income from those tickets: at least $3.73 million. That assumes the tickers were all for speeding at least 10 mph over the posted limit, a routine threshold for city police departments. D.C. officials confirm that the amount is in the ballpark. But there has not been much construction at the site since mid-October, and drivers who regularly use the highway say now that the workers are largely gone, it's time for the speed cameras to go, too.... Some minor construction work and closures continue at the site, [DDOT's John Lisle] said, so the controversial speed cameras -- the first deployed by the city in a work zone -- have stayed put. Police and city officials say automated enforcement has reduced the number of crashes. 'We're hoping to use these speed cameras more often,' said Assistant Police Chief Patrick Burke, citing accidents such as the June death of a highway worker in a work zone in nearby Anne Arundel County. 'This is to keep people safe.'" Uh-huh.

DEMANDS FOR WAL-MART -- The Rev. Morris Shearin, pastor of Israel Baptist Church in Northeast, outlines what he'd like to see in a "community benefits agreement" with Wal-Mart: "At a minimum, the [agreement] should establish that: Wal-Mart will offer full-time, living-wage jobs with benefits. More than half of all employees (management and non-management) will be hired from within the District. Training programs will be provided to all workers who need them. Ex-offenders seeking jobs will be treated fairly. Women will be given equal employment, pay and promotional opportunities. Stores will observe limited operating hours, to protect the small businesses that will undoubtedly be affected by Wal-Mart's presence. There will be genuine community input into all aspects of planning and design. Traffic, environmental and economic studies will be carried out to alleviate any negative effects on neighborhoods. Wal-Mart will pay all taxes and assessments in full. Bonding will be established to ensure fulfillment of Wal-Mart's obligations to workers and the community under the agreement."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

How do you get the "bad apples" out of the union public employee ranks? (GGW)

Leila Edmonds to leave DHCD (D.C. Wire)

A reporter's tribute to Mary Ann Luby (City Desk)

Did DYRS's placement of Petworth teen lead to his death? (WRC-TV)

Voting rights not dead, swears D.C. Vote (All Opinions Are Local)

Fenty can brag about homicide rate decline -- but so could other mayors (DCist/All Opinions Are Local)

Streetcar funding not guaranteed (GGW)

Peter Nickles won't let liquor board look at police file on DC9 death (City Desk)

Charter schoolkids ponder Marion Barry's "Nine Lives" (D.C. Wire)

Student poetry-slammers get topical (D.C. Schools Insider)

"What is Michelle Rhee up to in Florida?" (Answer Sheet)

Methinks people are making too much out of this Rhee-to-Florida thing (HuffPo)

Graham mediates fight between Adams Morgan restaurants, Pigeon Park vendors (Examiner)

Traffic fatalities continues to drop (DCist)

Fish market planner: "We're trying to create a place that doesn't work" (Examiner)

Skype'd gay wedding gets national attention (CNN)

Diane Groomes' fate to be determined soon (City Desk)

Don't trust the Washingtonian's salary data (Loose Lips)

Fentys spotted at last week's Alvin Ailey dance premiere in NYC (DC Fab)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends Rushern Baker's swearing-in as Prince George's County executive, 10:30 in Upper Marlboro -- D.C. Council finance committee hearing to reconsider Adams Morgan hotel tax break, 2 p.m. in JAWB 120

By Mike DeBonis  | December 6, 2010; 7:51 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Comments

Terry Lynch is great! But somehow I don't remember his complaining about Adrian Fenty making all his decisions behind closed doors.

Posted by: peterdc | December 6, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

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