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Posted at 12:44 PM ET, 01/11/2011

DeAfternoon DeBonis: Jan. 11, 2011

By Mike DeBonis


PREVIOUSLY -- D.C. special election isn't going to be cheap

It's not often that a U.S. cabinet secretary weighs in on a mayoral appointment, but in D.C., not all local politics is local. In a sit-down with Post reporters and editors yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave a strong endorsement to Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, calling her the "right leader" for the D.C. Public Schools. He added, Nick Anderson and Bill Turque report, "I hope she sticks with it for the next 10 years." And Duncan said he had a direct role in putting Henderson in her spot: "The day [Michelle Rhee] left, I called [Mayor Vincent Gray] and said, 'Let's put Kaya in there.' And he said, 'I've always had a good relationship with Kaya. We've always worked well together.' " Duncan said "he doesn't 'want to micromanage this thing.' But he noted that the federal government last year awarded D.C. schools $75 million in the Race to the Top school reform contest. 'We're a partner,' he said. 'We're an investor.' " The Post editorial board is happy to have the investor's vote of confidence, calling it "remarkable -- not to mention somewhat refreshing" to have Duncan speak up. "Whether Ms. Henderson becomes the permanent replacement to [Rhee] is a question that only Mr. Gray can answer. Clearly, though, Mr. Duncan cares passionately about the state of the District's school reforms, and his observations are worth noting."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Michelle Rhee's policy agenda says exactly what you'd expect -- Election will bust BOEE budget -- Rather than run, Carol Schwartz will be staying in Palm Beach -- Metro reforms kick off --Inside Gray's lair


THE RHEE AGENDA -- Meanwhile, Rhee is all over the national media, rolling out her school reform policy agenda -- which, surprise, calls for "giving students government-funded vouchers to attend private schools, rating principals based on student achievement and getting rid of teacher tenure," according to a Wall Street Journal report. "The release of the blueprint was the first formal action of Ms. Rhee's new advocacy group, StudentsFirst. ... Ms. Rhee said she was in discussions with the governors of Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada and Indiana to adopt part, if not all, of the agenda. ... In many respects, the plan is modeled after the strategies Ms. Rhee tried to implement in Washington, some of which she wasn't able to push through. 'A lot of the reason I started the group is so we can provide the cover a courageous political leader needs to push this agenda,' she said. 'In these incredibly tough budget times, when school districts will take a big hit, we have an opportunity to rethink public education and put students first.' ... Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, criticized Ms. Rhee's agenda as 'wonderful rhetoric' that presents a 'false choice.' " Rhee herself writes a WSJ op-ed, touting her agenda as a solution for school reformers on tight budgets. See coverage also in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Orlando Sentinel, Examiner and WAMU-FM. Rhee made appearances on Fox News and the "Today Show."

ALSO -- Charter advocate Robert Cane reminds us in an Examiner op-ed that Gray has "enthusiastically championed charter school reform." Cane is looking to Gray to equalize per-student funding, give charters a real shot at surplused city property and more freedom from "unnecessary" OSSE regulations.

BUDGET-BUSTING ELECTION -- Running the April 26 special election is going to bust the Board of Elections and Ethics budget, it turns out. In a report to Mary Cheh delivered Friday, the BOEE reports it can't hold the election for less than $624,000 -- and that's only by eschewing a standard 143-precinct election in favor of opening 16 "vote centers" over three days. The council's only set aside $590,000, and a full-bore election will cost $829,000. More details from yours truly, DCist and the Examiner, which also posts a proposed list of vote centers.

NO CAROL -- Carol Schwartz tells TBD's Bruce DePuyt that, mindless speculation aside, she won't be running for Kwame Brown's at-large seat: "Reached by phone in West Palm Beach, Fla., where she's spending part of the winter, the Republican Schwartz told TBD she will not be a candidate this time. 'I know it's very viable for a possible return,' Schwartz said. 'This would certainly be my opportunity. I have good name recognition. And people tell me, 'We miss you, please run,' et cetera, et cetera.' "

'OPEN' SECRET ELECTION -- More fallout from last week's Democratic State Committee meeting: DCDSC chair Anita Bonds won't tell Tim Craig who she voted for. "Bonds said an 'open ballot' doesn't mean individual committee members should have to go public with their votes. 'An open ballot is where when you get your ballot, and your ballot is recorded ... individual members do not have to tell people,' Bonds said. According to Democratic National Committee bylaws, 'all meetings ... and all other party committees, commissions and bodies shall be open to the public and votes shall not be taken by secret ballot.' But local and national party officials are divided over how that provision should be applied to state-level parties and intraparty elections. A few hours before Thursday's vote, [Sekou Biddle] posted on Twitter that he won Bonds's support. Bonds, however, said Monday she 'wasn't pledged to anyone,' although she declined to state whom she ultimately supported." Also: when Bonds passed the hat Thursday, that is legal as long as no individual donation is greater than $24.99. But the Dems have no way of knowing whether that's the case. DCist's Martin Austermuhle notes that "for a party that has, in the past, had its share of accounting problems, we'd imagine local Democrats would want to be a tad more careful."

METRO REFORMS PROCEED -- The heads of the District, Maryland and Virginia transportation departments announced Monday that they are prepared to move forward on a package of Metro governance reforms -- "outlin[ing] a two-year plan for implementing substantial changes in how Metro is run, including redefining the roles of the general manager and board of directors," Ann Scott Tyson reports in The Post. "[W]hile urging the immediate implementation of the least controversial and simplest reforms, the executives called for further discussion on most of the proposals, stating that a regional consensus and input from the federal government are vital. ... They acknowledged that changing the compact -- which requires passing identical legislation in all three jurisdictions -- will take 'at least two years.' The plan also stopped short of endorsing one of the major recommendations of the task force, calling 'premature' the creation of a seven-member governance commission." Rather, a "working group" will "focus on defining the roles and responsibilities of the Metro board and its chairman" and "streamlining a process for appointing board members, creating staggered terms to prevent a major turnover on the 16-seat board" and also "make a recommendation on whether to limit the jurisdictional veto." Also the Examiner and GGW, which notes that the plan "cuts out Northern Virginia governments in a way that could hurt the region and Metro."

THE LAIR -- Join Post reporter Jura Koncius for a video and photo tour of Mayor Gray's sixth-floor Wilson Building office, as arranged by interior designer Trystin Francis.My favorite: The Planned Parenthood award sitting in front of the pictures of Pope Benedict XVI.

DON'T PANIC -- The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute's Ed Lazere writes that the S&P bond rating report released last week is no reason to panic: "While DC's fund balance has been reduced, from $1.6 billion in 2005 to about $800 million now, this is not a sign that our finances are in chaos or even a sign of poor fiscal management. ... In their recent statements, [CFO Natwar Gandhi] and S&P both basically said that we are at a point now where we cannot continue the recent trend of using reserves to pay some of our bills. But if that stops, DC will keep its A+ rating (unless other problems worsen). ... While Councilmember Jack Evans suggests that raising taxes would be looked upon poorly by the rating agencies, this is not what Standard & Poor's or Dr. Gandhi said. Instead, they both note that our budget for next year should be based on the revenues we will collect next year, so that we won't have to dip into savings. In other words, a tax increase can be part of a fiscal stability plan."

VIGIL ROLL CALL -- From tweetreports: Last night's prayer vigil for ailing State Board of Education member William Lockridge drew Gray, Kwame Brown, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Harry Thomas Jr., Jack Evans, Tommy Wells, Shadow Sen. Michael Brown and others.


Harry Jaffe: Fallout from Giffords shootings could affect D.C. gun laws (the Examiner)

Former Fenty campaigner Josh Lopez is first to turn in special-election signatures (D.C. Wire, Loose Lips)

Target pulls out of Skyland; could Wal-Mart fill the void? (Housing Complex)

Idaho congressman tries to use D.C. violence to make an anti-gun-control point, screws it up (Idaho Statesman)

Gray did not let Freeman Klopott sit in on his cabinet meeting (the Examiner)

Dan Tangherlini explains why streetcars are a good idea (The City Fix)

Surprise: DDOT director hunt geared toward a traditionalist not an entrepreneurialist (GGW)

More reasons why Jo Ann Emerson is a good pick for D.C. budget oversight (DCist)

Bike riders aren't witches. They're you! (GGW)

Kingman and Heritage Islands will reopen within the week (DCmud)

Gray to address Adas Israel on "The Challenge of Poverty to Achieving Educational Excellence" (flier)

CFSA Director Roque Gerald promises "top-to-bottom review" of case featured in residential treatment expose (Loose Lips)

Gray, council members pay respects to Arizona shooting victims; Hizzoner gets political: "There are those who would have us strip away gun control laws in the District of Columbia. ... Here we see the consequences, sadly, of what can happen when people who never should be trusted with a gun have guns in their hands and just wreak havoc on others." (D.C. Wire)

Checking out charters (D.C. Schools Insider)

Kicking off a series on the "[i]ntense, brainy, and extremely tenacious" Mary Cheh (Georgetown Dish)

Britain notices the Metro escalators don't work (Guardian)

5D cops use Maaco as personal parking lot (WUSA-TV)

Cop's collision with Transformer cost $42,000 (TBD)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Cathy Lanier appears on NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt, 10 a.m. on TBD -- Council holds short organizational meeting, 1 p.m.

By Mike DeBonis  | January 11, 2011; 12:44 PM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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