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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 01/31/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 31, 2011

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS JAN. 31, 2011 -- DAY 30 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

The big weekend read: Bill Turque profiles DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson as she moves to escape Michelle Rhee's shadow and make a name for herself -- in ways that might well be lower-profile, like remaking the schools' curriculum: "[A]s she seeks to build on Rhee's accomplishments, Henderson faces challenges as daunting as the ones her predecessor did when she arrived in 2007. Some are as basic as seeing through a controversial new teacher evaluation system, managing severe budgetary pressures and finally developing citywide curriculums for reading, math and other subjects. But more broadly, [Gray] has made clear that he expects Henderson to push ahead with reforming one of the nation's lowest-performing school systems without provoking the furious community backlash that hastened the end of the Rhee era. ... Some skeptics have already suggested that Henderson is simply 'Rhee-light.' But friends say those who who doubt her toughness, or her resolve to preserve Rhee's emphasis on teacher quality and accountability, are underestimating Henderson." But will she stay? "People think that when you are an educator you clearly aspire to a superintendency or to be secretary of education. That's not true for me," Henderson told Bill. See also this great Q&A with the interim chancellor.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Control board lives on, 10 years after exit -- regional officials assess what led to nightmare commute -- Sarles gets started as first Metro CEO -- Post editorial keeps pressure on Thomas -- what are D.C.'s "salmonlike conundrums"?

*** MAIN COURSE ***

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN -- Ten years after the sunset of the financial control board, city leaders are still grappling with its legacy -- quite publicly and explicitly as they move to deal with the most significant fiscal unrest since the control period. Read all about it in my Metro fronter today, which kicks off with Marion Barry saying that the control board that he once assailed as a "rape of democracy" has been in hindsight a good thing for the city. And see some old faces, including Clinton budget director Franklin Raines and former congressmen Jim Walsh and Tom Davis, take credit for the city's past decade of success. Mayor Vincent Gray explains why the control board has had such an ongoing effect on the political psychology of a city less than 40 years into self-government: "For me, who was born and raised here, went to the schools, it really was a moment of hurt. ... It just felt like our reputation had been tarnished in a very significant way. ... It motivates me to never want to have to go through that again." Said Barry: "They did some wonderful reforms, but we don't need a control board again. ... We can count. We can do this."

AFTER THE NIGHTMARE -- After Wednesday's nightmare commute, officials across the region are looking for answers, and poor regional coordination increasingly appears to be a big part of the problem. And Tim Craig writes in today's Post that the storm-related havoc "indicates the region remains woefully unprepared not only for the next storm, but also for any serious event that could require large numbers of residents on the move at the same time." So what is to be done? "Areas that may be targeted for improvement include ongoing coordination through the course of weather or emergency events, the insistence and frequency of communication with the public and how robustly regionwide conditions should be monitored. ... The region's response to Wednesday's storm also is renewing debate about when and how government leaders should instruct residents to shelter in place instead of hitting the roads during extreme weather or emergencies." Regional coordination that takes place prior to a storm generally does not continue as the storm hits, crazy as that may sound.

KEEPING THE PRESSURE ON -- After reports in the Washington Times and Washington City Paper raise still more questions about his outside business and nonprofit interests, the Post editorial board renews calls for Harry Thomas Jr. to spill the beans. "Mr. Thomas promised to disclose who contributed to [Team Thomas] and how the money was spent. That was three months ago, and what has emerged -- sparse details begrudgingly produced under subpoena by Mr. Thomas and revelations from the media - underscore the need of a full accounting of his activities. ... Frederick Cooke Jr., his attorney, said it's not appropriate to answer questions or provide information during an investigation. He was referring to an inquiry by the D.C. attorney general's office. Acting Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan doesn't comment on matters under investigation, but we have been told that an announcement or action will be forthcoming at the probe's conclusion. That's good, but even better would be Mr. Thomas fulfilling his initial promise: Let the sunshine in."

SARLES GOES TO WORK (PERMANENTLY) -- Richard Sarles is now Metro's first CEO, and Post columnist Bob McCartney gives him an early vote of confidence: "[I]t's hard to adjust to the idea of Sarles, 65, as a transformational CEO and general manager. ... Nevertheless, for now I'm willing to give Sarles the benefit of the doubt. I do so partly because in an interview Thursday, he made a persuasive case that he's started to fix what's broken in Metro despite his low profile since arriving. In particular, Sarles has methodically taken steps to start fulfilling what I think is the CEO's most important task: getting the Metro staff to be more consistent and accountable about improving safety and reliability. 'I think I demonstrated just coming in here that I was no caretaker, even on an interim basis,' Sarles said. 'Changing the safety culture here is a transformational event for this place, and we've made a good start on that. Quickening the pace, in terms of restoring this place to a state of good repair, is transformational.'" Influential blogger and Riders Advisory Council co-chair David Alpert has some advice for Sarles, starting with: "Improve customer service." No kidding.

DON'T SLEEP ON THE RSC -- Colby King, in his Saturday Post column, demands more attention be paid to a House Republican proposal to slash federal assistance to the District by some $200 million per year, calling it "one of the most anti-District proposals to surface in Congress in decades." The proposal floated by the Republican Study Committee "runs contrary to the policy of every president and Congress since at least the turn of the 20th century," who "all recognized the truth that the District's unique status as the seat of the national government carries distinct fiscal disadvantages." And, Colby writes, Gray should have told John Boehner last week all about the city's "structural deficit" instead of talking vouchers: "The mayor might have told Boehner - politely, of course - that the GOP study committee's suggestion that the city is receiving unwarranted gifts from Congress is pure hogwash. The city has been receiving partial compensation for being hamstrung by its status as the nation's capital. But by no means has the federal government come close to paying adequate reimbursement for the services it has been provided by the city. Even the roughly $210 million the city does receive comes unpredictably. The GOP study committee proposes to end the suspense by stopping payments altogether. A better way to damage the city may be hard to find."

'SALMONLIKE CONUNDRUMS' -- Keying off President Obama's salmon comedy in the State of the Union address, the Examiner's Jonetta Rose Barras identifies analogs in the District's regulatory regime: "The District has its own salmonlike conundrums. For example, is there really a need for an Office of Risk Management? Can't one agency issue professional licenses, instead of three or more? If officials are serious about spending cuts, they can start by developing and then implementing a plan for a major reorganization of the government. But if it is going to work, they have to approach such reorganization differently than they have previously. ... A reorganization commission would be a good place to start -- but it shouldn't include the usual suspects. The folks on the panel can't be afraid of innovation and market-driven strategies. If put in place soon, such a group could have a plan ready before 2012 budget deliberations are completed this spring. ... The legislature also could save tons of money by instituting a 10 percent rollback of all salaries over $100,000. Then, it may want to cap those reduced compensations for the next five years." And she wants Natwar Gandhi out as CFO.

NEW FORUM DATE -- The at-large candidates forum canceled last week due to the snow storm has been rescheduled for 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th St. NW, 11th floor south.

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Gray's IMPACT comments taken out of context, says forum attendee: "It has barely been run around the block or had its tires kicked. The mostly young cadre of clipboard-carrying evaluators are so far somewhat stiff and constrained in a marching-orders, Cultural Revolution sort of way. And no matter what, IMPACT is still just one tool for a toolbox that needs several." (All Opinions Are Local)

Don't miss: Patrick Mara vs. Dorothy Brizill (DCWatch)

What Gray can do to improve workforce development (Post)

Post ed board on vouchers: Don't hate it because it attacks home rule; don't love it because it's bipartisan -- love it because it's probably good for kids (Post editorial)

Editor begs Gray not to bring back the independent development corporations (WBJ)

Pepco once again, post-storm, the worst performing utility in the region (Post)

More on IG report criticizing Ximena Hartsock (Examiner)

WTU lawyer responds to pro-Rhee op-ed: "Perhaps Ms. Rhee would say that the branding, devaluing and humiliation of 266 human beings was justified by the ends she sought to serve. That is wrong and cannot be justified however noble the ends sought." (Post letter)

Buy a "Waiting for Superman" DVD, help DCPS (Examiner)

D.C. loves charter schools; Montgomery County not so much (Examiner)

Why Oscar didn't smile on "Waiting for Superman" (Reliable Source)

The DCPS out-of-boundary lottery is now open (DCPS)

Martin Austermuhle is apparently serious about summarizing the contents of the D.C. Register each week. Godspeed, Martin. This week's highlight: New audiology regulations! (DCist)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray and AG Irv Nathan unveil new mobile van for Child Support services -- Gray to do walk-through at Bloomingdale murder site
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By Mike DeBonis  | January 31, 2011; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 1, 2011

Comments

Will Mara be at the at-large candidate's debate, or does he have another note from his mommy?

Also, can we bring signs?

Mine will read:

"MARA: the Quarter-Million Dollar Baby."

Posted by: tcs1999 | January 31, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

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