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Posted at 7:24 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 7, 2010

By Mike DeBonis


Two big stories yesterday: For one, Michelle Rhee figured out what she's going to be doing with her life. But first, more on a story that is more likely to affect your own life: The D.C. Council will make its first vote on the $188 million gap closing today. The outlines of the deal, as reported by the Post's Tim Craig, look like this: D.C. Council Chairman/Mayor-elect Vincent Gray has "decided to keep nearly all of [Not-Yet-Former Mayor Adrian Fenty]'s proposed cuts to human service programs. But Gray wants to add back nearly $6 million for job training programs and restore cuts to energy assistance programs. He also wants to keep funding for a new initiative to pay for healthier school lunches [aka the Healthy Schools Act]." But he doesn't want to do a tax hike -- at least not yet. Gray wants to put a tax hike off to the spring, but some members -- including Tommy Wells, who takes his druthers to Greater Greater Washington, and Marion Barry, who proffers a passel of new taxes -- would prefer to hike now, and will bring proposals to the dais today. At stake: millions slashed from social service programs, $427,000 in cuts to HIV/AIDS services, and all sorts of economic development projects. Oh, and just for fun, some council members might try to go after food trucks, too. Have fun, folks -- I'll be in Richmond all day!

AFTER THE JUMP -- Michelle Rhee to put "Students First" -- DYRS debate continues apace -- Post editorial calls for budget autonomy -- Gray mum on how to handle Leslie Johnson


WELLS MAKES HIS CASE -- "My wife and I have not been asked to pay one more dime to help balance the District's budget -- not now, and not even in the last four years. We enjoy improved city services, safer streets and the renaissance of H Street NE, Barracks Row, the Waterfront and our Ward 6 neighborhood schools. Yet, to meet this challenge, our city's leaders have no plans to raise taxes for people who are most able to support a vibrant community. Instead, they imagine they can balance the budget by asking for sacrifices primarily from those DC citizens who are least able to afford them. I understand that in this economy, budget cuts are unavoidable. But we're all in this crisis together. If we are truly one city, then I believe that every citizen needs to step up."

RHEE'S BIG MOVE -- Michelle Rhee announced yesterday -- via Oprah, Newsweek, and Politico Playbook -- that she will helm a $1 billion anti-teachers union, dubbed "Students First." Nick Anderson and Bill Turque report that the group will be Rhee's "principal vehicle to promote educational change" and will "pressure elected officials and bankroll candidates at all levels of government who support her approach" -- which "includes recruiting high-quality teachers who are held accountable for student growth, swiftly removing those who do not perform, offering merit pay to reward top educators, expanding school choice and fostering parent and family involvement." The group is set up as a 501(c)(4), which means it can support political candidates, and aims to gain one million members because, she writes in Newsweek, "what we need to do is fight." And, yes, this means she might finally now get married. Coverage from the Christian Science Monitor, Sacramento Bee, Fast Company, Salon, Answer Sheet, The New Republic.

FROM NEWSWEEK -- "Students First will work so that great teachers can make a tremendous difference for students of every background.... Though we'll be nonpartisan, we can't pretend that education reform isn't political. So we'll put pressure on elected officials and press for changes in legislation to make things better for kids. And we'll support and endorse school-board candidates and politicians -- in city halls, statehouses, and the U.S. Congress -- who want to enact policies around our legislative agenda. We'll support any candidate who's reform-minded, regardless of political party, so reform won't just be a few courageous politicians experimenting in isolated locations; it'll be a powerful, nationwide movement. Lastly, we can't shy away from conflict. I was at Harvard the other day, and someone asked about a statement that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and others have made that public-school reform is the civil-rights issue of our generation. Well, during the civil-rights movement they didn't work everything out by sitting down collaboratively and compromising. Conflict was necessary in order to move the agenda forward."

HANG ON FOR THE RIDE -- Post editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao shares her thoughts on the PostPartisan blog: "[T]here is a certain irony in Rhee -- whose Achilles' heel in D.C. was said to be her lack of political skills -- wanting to play a political role on the bigger, national stage. I wouldn't underestimate her, though. Just as an 'Inconvenient Truth' nourished a grass roots movement for climate control, so has 'Waiting for Superman' -- of which Rhee is a star -- tapped into the nation's discontent with its schools. No doubt she also will be helped by the new Republicans in Congress and in the nation's state houses, whose members are less likely to kow tow to the interests of organized labor. More to the point: when the then-relatively unknown Rhee was unveiled as Fenty's choice for schools chancellor, most people (and I include myself here) thought him out of his mind. No way could this 30-something who had never been superintendent before ever make a difference."

DYRS DEBATE CONTINUES -- Henri Cauvin, back on the social-services beat after his yeoman's work at the Chandra Levy murder trial, details the overcrowding at the New Beginnings Youth Center: "Built to house up to 60 people, New Beginnings has been holding as many as 80 youths in recent days, taxing resources and patience at the detention center and alarming reform advocates who see the facility's focus on rehabilitation slipping away. With the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services taking a harder line on juveniles who fail to keep in contact with the agency, more youths are ending up at New Beginnings for short stays that critics say are at odds with the mission of the facility. Once there, juveniles have been finding a place that is increasingly volatile, where the well-regarded school is coping with constant student turnover and where, over the summer, there was a surge in the use of isolation as a way to punish misbehavior. ... [Robert Hildum], who was installed at DYRS in an agency shake-up over the summer, said the overcrowding is rooted in a lack of space. ... Others say that Hildum, who was the city's chief juvenile prosecutor before taking over DYRS, has had a hand in creating the problem he is now struggling to manage. Under Hildum, revoking a juvenile's community placement has become a common response to even minor infractions, such as missing an appointment with a case worker, critics of the policy said." The Jerry M. plaintiffs are striking back at Hildum's approach.

BUDGET AUTONOMY, PLEASE -- The Post editorial board has an idea for the lame duck Democratic Congress: Tackle budget autonomy for D.C.! "[T]here should be no reason why Democrats wouldn't take advantage of the final days of their majority to address an issue second in importance only to voting rights for the District: budget autonomy. Yet it remains to be seen whether the District is again to be disappointed by broken promises. As things stand, the District cannot spend even its own money without congressional and presidential approval. This is worse than a humiliation; city programs often get tangled in and delayed by the congressional appropriations process. It's astounding that an institution unable, as was the case this year, to do its own job by passing a national budget would nonetheless refuse to cede control over whether, as an example, local D.C. tax dollars can be spent on needle-exchange programs.... It may be a while before District residents get the representation in Congress that every citizen should have. At the least, they should win the authority to manage their own money and enact their own laws without meddling from above."


Gray offers no advice Prince George's County Council on how to handle their troublesome new member (Post)

Peter Nickles on Team Thomas probe: "It's important that his be completed under my tenure." (Afro)

Adams Morgan hotel tax abatement deal rises from the ashes (WBJ)

Council might vote on homeless residency requirements tomorrow (City Desk)

What does your council member's chief of staff make? (Still more than me.) (Loose Lips)

Brightwooders want input on planned Wal-Mart (Housing Complex)

Cheating on police tests now explicitly against the rules (City Desk)

DCPS unveils school profiles tool for parents (D.C. Schools Insider)

Despite protesters, DPR fells Capitol Hill trees (TBD)

Track Metro trains (DCist)

Nine nominated to Superior Court bench vacancies (Legal Times)

"By any measurement, Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager Robert Bobb gets a failing grade for his effort to rein in the district's finances." (Detroit News)

GWU's neighbors are complaining more (Hatchet)

Awkward picture of Harry Reid with Jacque Patterson and Asher Corson (G'town Dish)

Winners of this year's Brickies: Barbara Ehrlich, Anacostia Community Boathouse Association, Argonaut Tavern, Will Hill (TBD)

How will Center Leg air rights work? (DCmud)

We might be the "District of Columbia v. Heller" but Washington is the "Washington Post" (Very Small Array via DCist)

*** ON THE MENU ***

City budget deliberations start at 10 a.m. in council chambers

By Mike DeBonis  | December 7, 2010; 7:24 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 6, 2010
Next: D.C. furlough plan delays tougher budget decisions


Every day in every way, Jo-Ann Armao demonstrates how out of touch she is.

"Inconvenient Truth" started a grassroots movement for climate control? Please. Al Gore has lost all credibility, cap and trade is less popular than taxes, and skepticism, not belief, in climate change science has been on the rise for the past five years.

As Gore goes, so goes Rhee.

Posted by: Trulee | December 7, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

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