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Posted at 10:04 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

DeMorning DeBonis: Dec. 8, 2010

By Mike DeBonis


Today we learn more about the dimensions of Mayor-elect Vincent Gray's mayoralty, with the Almost-Hizzoner set announce his city administrator and chief of staff this afternoon, along with a number of current agency directors he plans to keep. He will not be keeping transportation chief Gabe Klein, darling of the smart growth set, who is set to announce his departure later this morning, a department official said. All that news stands to tamp down criticism of the D.C. Council's gap-closing yesterday -- which, amid protests, approved large cuts to social-service programs while eschewing tax hikes. For a rundown, start with Tim Craig's Post report, then move on to WAMU-FM, City Paper, Washington Times, WBJ, WRC-TV, and DCist. GGW notes that streetcars stayed safe, but DDOT's flexible "unified fund" did not. TBD does a fab job telling the story with tweets. the Examiner and WaTimes also note that the budget packing includes a lottery expansion expected to raise $13 million over three years. And you might want to check out what the #controlboard is up to.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Gray's fence will go back up -- firefighter suspended two years at full pay -- top cops get workout space


OH, SWEET IRONY -- Vincent Gray's famous fence, ordered dismantled by the current mayoral administration, will almost certainly rise again once he becomes mayor in January, Ann Marimow reports in the Post. "As it stands, the police department has asked [the Public Space Committee] to approve the installation of a security fence and guard booth at Gray's Branch Avenue property, according to city officials. And although the cost of the security measures was not immediately available Tuesday, the expense will be covered by the city, Assistant Chief Alfred Durham said. 'You have to have perimeter security to slow someone from gaining access to his property,' said Durham, who oversees the executive protection unit. ... Gray referred questions about the fence to police, declining to comment on what he has described as a frustrating seven-month saga. 'I really don't want to get into this,' Gray said with a smile, suggesting an appreciation for the irony of the situation. ... The original fence was 5 feet 7 inches tall. The new section of fence would be 5 feet 4 inches. After surveying Gray's property, Durham said police determined that it needed to be completely enclosed by a fence. Durham said the cost would be minimal because the department plans to move the guard booth and equipment from Fenty's Crestwood home to Gray's property."

POLICE GYM -- Some sort of fitness facility -- call it a "gym," a "group fitness activity room" or a "workout space for yoga, step aerobics and other activities" -- is being outfitted on the fifth floor of the Henry J. Daly Building, aka the home of the top Metropolitan Police brass. Freeman Klopott reports in the Examiner that the "renovations are not part of the city's capital budget and are being performed by the police department's maintenance staff" and there is as of yet no cost estimate for the facility that will be apparently accessible only to top police officials. But he notes the work comes amid great budget pressure -- which is, of course, enough to get union chief Kris Baumann to pop a vein: "Given the fact that we just cut over 400 police positions, the fact that the chief of police is building herself a private gym at taxpayer expense is appalling. ... The chief is acting like she's a monarch taking funds from the treasury and destroying part of the castle."

FIREFIGHTER SUSPENDED WITH PAY FOR TWO YEARS -- A city firefighter, suspended in 2008 for a corruption investigation, remains suspended and still receiving her full $72,125 salary two years later, Mark Segraves reports at WTOP. The investigation surrounds allegations that fire fighter Natalie O. Williams solicited payment for a CPR training class directly rather than through the department. "The complaint was received in July 2008. D.C. Fire and EMS officials confirm [Williams] has been a firefighter/EMT since November 1988 and was part of the unit that provided CPR and first aid training to the public. ... Williams was placed on leave in September 2008. Since then, Williams has not been charged and has continued to receive her annual salary of $72,125. As to why the investigation has taken so long, Piringer says once a case has been referred to an outside agency for investigation, it's out of the department's hands. Ray Sneed, President of the Local 36 Firefighter's Union, says Williams has not been brought before a trial board, as is called for in the union contract. ... 'This should have been resolved a long time ago.'" WTTG-TV's Roby Chavez also covers the story.

WHAT ABOUT THE FAMILY? -- The District government, Jonetta Rose Barras writes in the Examiner, "has undermined and systematically eroded the family structure." Her evidence: "Three-year-old children are placed for the entire day in the care of the public schools. If they attend after-school programs, they don't get home until late evening. Many receive all their meals -- breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks -- in some nondescript cafeteria. There are other examples of child snatching by the government." She does not name them, but does quote Tommy Wells saying, "We need to have that discussion, especially for families to understand what we expect from them. ... We expect them to work and we don't expect them to raise their children." But "[w]hy can't they do both?" Jonetta asks. "My mother did. Lots of people I know do. ... Once upon a time, the government respected family. In fact, in this city during the 1990s and through Mayor Anthony A. Williams' first term, there was an emphasis on preserving and strengthening families -- regardless of any parental handicaps. Somewhere along the way that strategy lost currency. The government became surrogate parent."

WAL-MART'S PITCH -- Wal-Mart has started making its pitch to the D.C. neighborhoods where the mega-retailer would like to place four stores by 2012. The Post's Jonathan O'Connell reports on what they're saying: "Wal-Mart officials say D.C. residents want the chain to open stores here. Officials point to a survey the company commissioned in November showing that 73 percent of city residents are 'in favor.' But to bolster support and try to persuade skeptics, the company is emphasizing the fresh food, pharmacies and delicatessens the four proposed stores would bring to the neighborhoods - as well as the jobs. ... James Sydnor, who represents the area around the Georgia Avenue site on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said that residents are worried about traffic, wages, hiring and the effect a Wal-Mart would have on existing small businesses. But he said the retail giant seemed ready to address the issues. 'They want to make sure they have small, reasonable meetings and they are willing to set up as many as possible to reach out to as many people as possible,' Sydnor said. ... When it decided to expand in Chicago, Wal-Mart committed to spending $20 million on local charities ... and it is considering similar investments in the District." Housing Complex has more on last night's community meeting on the New York Avenue NE site.

JOB TRAINING REALITY -- The Post's Theresa Vargas looks at Project Empowerment, "the District's most expensive job-training program, aimed at one of its most desperate populations. The goal: Take participants from the only Washington they've known, where unemployment is chronic, and show them a city they've watched from afar, where women wear practical heels and men match their belts to their wingtips. Of more than 800 participants the program serves each year, nearly all are African American, 80 percent have criminal records and many have never held a full-time job. The $11 million-a-year project, begun in 2001 as a welfare-to-work endeavor, has become so popular on the District's roughest streets that no advertising or recruiting is necessary. About 7,000 names linger on a waiting list. Those who receive the call will earn $6.69 an hour (after taxes) while they attend a three-week class. If they graduate, they will get a six-month subsidized stint at a workplace that has agreed to take a chance on them. And if that goes well, they may finally land a prize that too few people around them have won: steady employment. But first, they must pass a soul-scraping test: a class ... on what it takes to make it in the other Washington." Do note: Gray's gap-closing plan sent half of the TANF cuts to programs like this.

DUNBAR DISPUTE -- Jay Mathews reacts at his Class Struggle blog to Bill Turque's reporting on the troubles at Dunbar High School. He takes a shot at Gray's handling of the situation: "Instead of supporting the talented and proven administrators from New York who had made great strides on that troubled campus, Gray has let disgruntled parents and educators make political points for their side that threaten the academic progress at Dunbar, and has tossed in an unhelpful negative statement of his own." Mathews points out that reading scores are up, and that the administrators, Friends of Bedford, says "there is no data to suggest that the security situation at Dunbar, a problem for several decades, has gotten worse in the last few months." More to the point, the mere existence of high-level criticism hurts: "Henderson's order to send in 'more security and youth engagement resources,' as she puts it, is in one way an answer to their prayers. But it also conveys the message that people who don't [Friends of Bedford] can more easily resist the higher academic standards [it] is trying to instill at the school. .... The future of the Bedford group will be a useful indicator of whether the new mayor and his chancellor can continue to follow their best instincts, or go back to the old ways of running D.C. schools." Turque, meanwhile, asks: "Was Friends of Bedford ready for Dunbar?" And interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson tells him: "Some will say it's Gray. I'm telling you unequivocally that he hasn't told me any direction to go in on this."

RHEE REAX -- Reaction continues to roll in to Michelle Rhee's rollout of her nation edu-reform platform, StudentsFirst. Rhee engaged in a "wide-ranging conversation" with editorial writers at the Sacramento Bee in her possible new hometown. Megaphilanthropist Eli Broad tells the paper he plans to be "supportive financially in a significant way" to Rhee's group. See also stories from the NBC Nightly News, CNN, Politico, Sunshine State News, and the Wall Street Journal. The Post also collects some Twitter response to Rhee.


John Catoe on the search for a Metro GM: "Of the people I know who have some interest, they would rather know, as every prudent person would, who is my boss and what is my title going to be. ... Who would go into a job knowing that would change?" (Post)

Eight will vie for Democratic State Committee council appointment -- and Jacque Patterson is not one of them (Loose Lips)

Report: Stop putting kids in D.C. General shelter (City Desk)

National attention on Capital Bikeshare (CNN)

Those 295 speed cameras are now gone (Dr. Gridlock)

Metro "secret shoppers" cut in gap-closing (TBD)

Council overturns overhead-wire ban, whether they can or nor (WAMU-FM)

"The Nine Lives of Marion Barry" is now out on DVD -- filmmaker Dana Flor talks about convincing Barry to cooperate (TBD)

Fort Lincoln retail development heavy on the surface parking (Housing Complex)

What "livability" means in Ward 7 (GGW)

Robbery suspect freed by GPS records (WUSA-TV)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray makes administration announcements, 1:45 p.m.

By Mike DeBonis  | December 8, 2010; 10:04 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Gabe Klein to leave D.C. transportation post

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