DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 27, 2011
TODAY IS JAN. 27, 2011 -- DAY 26 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
We're now 18 hours after the snow started and in a better position to take stock of last night's performance by governmental officials. Many Tweeters were understandably not happy with Mayor Vince Gray, given the hellish commutes yesterday, but it is clear that the traffic woes were regionwide. This morning, major arteries are cleared of abandoned cars and mostly plowed. The governmental missteps yesterday were not borne of insufficient salting or plowing, but one of planning and execution. Salt was laid down but washed away by early rain. Plows were stuck in rush-hour traffic with everyone else. But why were Gray and other regional leaders not cognizant that a furious snowstorm set to hit right at rush hour might constitute a major problem? Why didn't the local and federal governments give their employees more of a head start going home? Why weren't law enforcement officials in place at key chokepoints that brought traffic to a standstill? Those are the questions to be asked today. Stay with PostLocal for full coverage.
AFTER THE JUMP -- Henderson to appoint new Hardy principal -- Just release the records already, Harry -- Hartsock criticized by IG -- New bill would make voucher system permanent -- Biddle on the issues
*** MAIN COURSE ***
NEW PRINCIPAL FOR HARDY -- In an unsurprising reversal, Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced yesterday that Hardy Middle School would get a new principal. The current principal, Dana Nerenberg, will return to full-time work at Hyde Elementary, but there is absolutely no indication that old principal Patrick Pope, beloved by a vocal cadre of parents, is coming back. In a letter to parents, Henderson "acknowledg[ed] that poor decisions by the District had contributed to more than a year of turmoil at one of the city's few academically successful public middle schools," Bill Turque writes in today's Post. "We share responsibility in making mistakes which have contributed to the challenges that Hardy now faces. We also commit to correcting these mistakes," Henderson wrote. She also makes it clear to Bill that this was her decision, not Gray's. DCPS will soon start soliciting input on a new principal.
'THE OTHER TEAM THOMAS' -- Yet another lesson in how anything less than full disclosure can extend a story from a few days to months or more: Alan Suderman explains in his Loose Lips column this week that Harry Thomas Jr. had not only a nonprofit called Team Thomas, but a business by that name, too -- one that "splits its time between giving free and expensive baseball lessons, supplying the city with baseball equipment, and providing catering, consulting, campaign materials, and computer services to Thomas' political campaigns. And like the non-profit version of Team Thomas, the for-profit entity also raises lots of questions about its conduct." Said business, HLT Team Thomas/SwingAway LLC, appears to have gotten city contracts before it was registered with authorities. Also, it appears to have taken money from a landlord PAC and from Thomas' political campaigns. "LL is no lawyer, but pulling in city contracts before you get a business license, then having that same business pull in money from political campaigns after its license has been revoked, doesn't sound like a good plan. It might just be a case of sloppy paperwork, but coupled with the questions about the non-profit version of Team Thomas, LL would say Thomas has got some (more) explaining to do."
HARTSOCK HAMMERED -- And another hot scoop from Suderman, in which he gets his hands on an inspector general's report that concludes that former interim parks and rec director Ximena Hartsock "lied on her I-9 form about her home address and improperly hired a close friend while 'living rent-free' in the friend's basement." More detail: "Hartsock incorrectly believed that she had to sell her Arlington condo and become a D.C. resident when she was appointed as acting director in April 2009. ... The IG's report says the friend offered to let Hartsock live in her basement and the pair told investigators that they'd signed a lease saying Hartsock would pay $700 or $750 a month. But the IG apparently didn't mess around, and pulled both Hartsock and the friend's bank records, which showed no such monthly payments. Instead, Hartsock gave her friend a check for $4,200 in December." Hartsock is now consulting with Michelle Rhee and New York City Chancellor Cathie Black.
WAITING ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA -- Good story from Freeman Klopott in the Examiner on how the city's medical marijuana program is in limbo, awaiting rules on its operation. A special marijuana board has not been appointed, but the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board could still act to implement the program in the meantime, David Catania claims. But Catania and Phil Mendelson would prefer the authority rest in the health department -- better to convince Congress that this is actually about health. Said Mendo: "Medical marijuana is about use for medical purposes, and the proper jurisdiction may be the health department, and that may help us make our case to Congress."
NEW VOUCHER BILL -- House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Joe Lieberman have introduced their new school voucher bill. Ben Pershing covered the Capitol Hill unveiling at D.C. Wire, calling it "the clearest sign yet that the ground has shifted on Capitol Hill for District issues." Noteworthy: Where the original bill provided for $7,500 year payments, the new bill offers $8,000 to elementary and middle school students and $10,000 to high-schoolers. And where the original bill expired after five years, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act is permanent. The outlook: "The SOAR Act is co-sponsored by Oversight and Government Reform committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose panel has jurisdiction over D.C. issues. His panel is expected to take the bill up soon. ... SOAR is expected to get to the floor quickly in the House, but the outlook in the Senate is less clear. In addition to Lieberman, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) have also signed on."
OPTING IN -- Those pesky option-year contracts that Mayor Adrian Fenty (more specifically, Attorney General Peter Nickles) didn't want to send for council review will be now be sent, Gray announced Tuesday. Klopott passes on the news: "Gray's order requires all contracts of $1 million or more to be sent to the council with or without a change in pricing. 'Mayor Gray is committed to transparency in the District's procurement operations,' a Gray spokeswoman said in a statement. 'This directive adds public oversight to the contracting process and helps ensure that the District's resources are spent in alignment with our priorities.' "
CHAT WITH SEKOU -- Greater Greater Washington hosted a very good live chat with at-large hopeful Sekou Biddle. His views on IMPACT: "I think it is a good start. ... I think that what we need to continue to improve upon is our ability to collect objective, relevant student data." On vouchers: "While I support vouchers for families to have educational opportunities, I am opposed to the Congress imposing their will on the residents of the District of Columbia. ... Vouchers are not a long-term solution to solving the educational inequities in DC." On the budget: "With a $600 million deficit, it's clear that cuts will have to be made. But, it's critical that we put everything on the table and get real public input. ... [W[e have to consider the downward trend in revenues over several years that we need to bring contingencies into the FY2012 budget so that if we find ourselves with decreased revenues then, we've already had the conversation about the kinds of cuts we would make." On streetcars: "Our streetcar system is an important component of a multi-modal transportation infrastructure."
AT-LARGE PUNDITRY -- Examiner blogger John Vaught LeBeaume writes that Vincent Orange could write his political career off for good if he doesn't call it quits: "A flame out on special election day could finally send Orange back to gadfly status for good, and risk his perch in the D.C. Democratic party that he nearly leveraged to gain the appointment." And an observation from Gary Imhoff in themail: "It's an interesting political gamble -- three of the highest-profile candidates for the at-large councilmember seat are all vying for the support of the same small segment of the electorate who voted for Fenty's school plan. And Mayor Vincent Gray is asking his supporters to work for Sekou Biddle, who advocates that same school plan, which Gray's supporters actively opposed in the primary and general elections." Also: Dorothy Brizill interrogates Patrick Mara on why he's running when winning would mean another $250,000 special election.
RHEE-BORN (SORRY) -- Politico's Ben Smith and Byron Tau write about the "political education of Michelle Rhee," starting by making light of her Sept. 14 surprise that Fenty lost his reelection. "[S]ince that defeat, Rhee, 41, has pivoted hard, and emerged, ironically enough, as a national political force to be reckoned with. She's an important voice among centrist Democrats -- led by President Barack Obama -- who are pushing a new agenda of teacher quality and high standards in education. She's an adviser to some of the nation's most ambitious Republican governors, like Florida's Rick Scott, New Jersey's Chris Christie, and Indiana's Mitch Daniels, all of whom envision a more apocalyptic confrontation with teachers' unions. And among Republican candidates for the 2012 presidential nomination, there's something of a Rhee primary underway, as potential candidates regularly drop her name as a path to both policy credibility and Beltway buzz."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Act now, D.C. Council, or you could lose $22 million in tax revenue from "combined reporting" (DCFPI)
Deeper breakdown of DCPS teacher bonus payments (the Examiner)
WTU chief Nathan Saunders reserves the right to pick an IMPACT evaluator (D.C. School Insider)
Rhee goes to Sundance -- sorta (TBD)
Why aren't there more women seeking D.C. Council seat? Hard to say. (DCist)
No mention of voting rights, let alone statehood, in Obama address (Informer)
Obstacle to H Street revival: Property owners who think they're sitting on a gold mine (Housing Complex)
Richard Sarles's appointment as Metro CEO will become official today; "Congratulations, we suppose, are in order." (Post editorial)
"Are DC-area schools winter weather wimps?" (GGW)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray news conference on snow removal