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Posted at 9:41 AM ET, 01/ 6/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 6, 2010

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS JAN. 6, 2010 -- DAY 5 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY -- Robert Bobb ready to get back in the D.C. mix -- Mega Millions sales put $200K in city coffers

Mayor Vincent Gray attended last night's hoops tilt between the George Washington University Colonials and the La Salle Explorers "expecting a brief 'attaboy' from his alma mater," the Post's Steve Hendrix writes today. "But to his surprise, Gray -- GWU Class of '64 -- found himself at the center of an elaborate 'This Is Your Life' reunion staged by the university," at which he was reunited with members of his formidable intramural basketball squad. How good? "There's no question that everybody on our team could have played varsity, but that option was not open to us," Gray said, referring to the segregated athletics of the time. It's a heartwarming read, and GWU even won. But from a political perspective I'd first point out this heretofore unknown anecdote about Gray's Tau Epsilon Phi days: "Gray would go on to be elected for two terms as president of the fraternity, a post in which he faced the challenge of pulling the chapter out of debt. His first attempt, a plea to basketball star and chapter alumnus Red Auerbach for an emergency donation, flopped. But he eventually balanced the books by cutting meal service and raising dues." And this assessment of his hoops skills from a former teammate: "Vince had some moves. He'd kind of fake to the left and go to the right and usually get a layup out of that."

AFTER THE JUMP -- at-large appointment vote tonight -- city sends hundreds of troubled kids to expensive, ineffective private centers -- GOP House yanks delegate's COW vote -- stats show sharp bag-use decline -- could redevelopment authority come back?

*** MAIN COURSE ***

TONIGHT -- The members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee will select an interim at-large Council member starting at 7:30 p.m. Some things to weigh on their minds: GGW's David Alpert endorses Sekou Biddle for the interim appointment, calling him a "very intelligent and thoughtful person with a strong grasp of issues." He also writes: "The DCDSC should demonstrate that they aren't just an elite club of out-of-touch insiders who nominate the person whose 'turn' it is instead of thinking about who's best for DC." The Georgetown Dish also goes for Biddle, noting a "remarkable professional resume and solid record as an elected official." WAMU-FM also previews the proceedings.

'OUTSOURCING TROUBLED YOUTH' -- Do read Jason Cherkis' Washington City Paper cover story about how District agencies, particularly the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and the Child and Family Services Agency, rely heavily on "outsourcing" kids to "residential treatment centers" that are expensive and of questionable efficacy. "Once seen as child welfare's necessary evil -- pretty places to send your delinquents -- [RTCs] are now commonly viewed as statistically dubious money pits. In places as varied as Wisconsin, Tennessee, and New York, they're now disdained as emblems of systemic failure. Instead, authorities are keeping kids close to home -- or even with their families -- while ramping up the sorts of local outreach and counseling that don't prompt teenagers to run away. In the District, though, RTCs remain the bedrock of the system. As of February 2009, according to a city administrator's report, more than 500 D.C. kids were housed in 96 different facilities from Florida to Minnesota to Utah. Another 2009 report, from the nonprofit advocacy group University Legal Services, concluded that the percentage of D.C. students in institutionalized settings is higher than any state but South Dakota. The city administrator noted that the District spends roughly $61 million in federal and local money annually on this outsourcing. What this money buys the District is a system that has racked up scores of complaints, charges of abuse, and the creeping sense among child advocates that kids put in RTCs ... come out worse than when they went in. ... The facilities are tremendous concentrators of pathology and dysfunction. ... Sources, court records, and incident reports obtained by Washington City Paper show several District children attempted suicides, one 16-year-old District ward was raped by an RTC staffer who hadn't had a full background check, and many others suffered abuses including restraint bruises to the face and arms, a staff-inflicted broken arm, staff-resident trysts, and extended isolation over minor infractions like stealing candy from a cafeteria; one resident had been in isolation for five months. And those are just the incidents reported to the city. Too often, violent episodes go unreported."

GOP PULLS NORTON VOTE -- As expected, new rules passed by House Republicans have taken away the Committee of the Whole vote away from Eleanor Holmes Norton (and the body's other non-voting members). Ben Pershing reports at D.C. Wire: "Norton attempted to block that move by offering a motion that would have sent the package to a five-member select committee that would study whether it is constitutional for delegates to have the vote. Republicans have contended that allowing delegates to vote, even in the Committee of the Whole, is unconstitutional, while Norton and other Democrats point out that a federal appeals court has previously ruled that it is constitutional. But Republicans successfully tabled Norton's resolution on a party-line vote, 225-188, with 20 members not present." Also The Hill, which calls the vote a "bad omen for bipartisan cooperation in the 112th Congress."

DOWN WITH BAGS -- The latest numbers on bag tax revenue are in, courtesy of the AP's Jessica Gresko, and city officials are claiming a drastic reduction in disposable bag usage since the tax went into effect a year ago. "City officials estimated that before the fee residents used about 270 million bags a year at grocery and convenience stores. For 2010, residents are on track to use around 55 million bags. Retailers, meanwhile, are telling city officials they are buying half as many bags. Yesim Yilmaz, a city employee who helped estimate the amount of money the city would collect from the new fee, said it was difficult to predict customers' reactions to the charge. ... 'I think we failed to take into consider the emotional reactions,' Yilmaz said. 'There were stories of people balancing 20 things on their hands.'" In terms of dollars, $3.5 million in revenue was expected in 2010, but only about $2 million has been collected through October. This prompts a misleading WaTimes headline ("Nickel bag tax dissuades D.C. shoppers") and gloating from a libertarian blogger, leaving Tommy Wells to point out that the tax is doing what it was supposed to do: reduce disposable bag use. Also DCist and TBD, which speaks to a retail lobbyist who doubts the District's data.

BRING BACK THE NCRC/AWC? -- Interesting thought from Lydia DePillis at Housing Complex: Gray could be pondering a re-establishment of quasi-private redevelopment authority akin to the old National Capital Revitalization Commission and Anacostia Waterfront Corp. Planning director Harriet Tregoning thinks it would be a good idea, anyway. "[Adrian Fenty] got rid of the quasi-public entities out of impatience with their slow progress, and a sense that many development functions could be better handled by the private sector. But lots of cities -- Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Boston, to name a few -- still have such authorities, which are better able to enter into joint ventures than a purely government agency like D.C.'s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. 'Cities that don't have those entities are at a disadvantage,' Tregoning said. In particular, a redevelopment authority might be better suited to handle the five big projects the District has on its plate right now: The McMillan Sand Filtration Site, the Southwest Waterfront, Hill East, Walter Reed, and St. Elizabeths." (Lydia should expect a call soon from Jack Evans pointing out that nixing the NCRC and AWC was his idea, not Fenty's.)

SPECIAL-ED REFORM A WORK IN PROGRESS -- A report from a court-appointed observer of the city's special education system says "lingering core problems" demand continuing court oversight, Bill Turque reports in today's Post -- perhaps foiling the city's best chance to end one of its class-action lawsuits. "The evaluators said in their annual report that the District has 'vastly improved' its ability to track and manage the cases of children found eligible for special education programs by an independent hearing officer or through an agreement between the District and the family. But the report also finds that the District has declared many cases successfully closed without actually delivering promised services to the students. It also says that the city has placed an undue burden on families to implement special education agreements, with tight deadlines for producing documents and rigid regulations governing the District's payment of attorneys representing them. ... The District's deputy chancellor for special education, Richard Nyankori, disagreed with the team's central findings, asserting that it had 'cherrypicked' cases from city files to prove some of its points. 'That's their narrative. I disagree with it,' Nyankori said."

UMC CEO's PARACHUTE -- The United Medical Center board has indeed extended CEO Frank DeLisi's contract, WBJ's Ben Fischer reports, approving an agreement that pays him $400,000 per year and requires a new owner to keep DeLisi "on board for at least two years -- or pay him a year's salary." Last month, I reported that the possible contract and golden parachute could complicate a sale of the hospital. But Fischer reports: "A source close to George Chopivsky, the entrepreneur who wants to buy the hospital from D.C., downplayed the contract's significance to potential buyers, who would be focused on much larger financial questions. However, the source said DeLisi's contract would be factored into a sale price."

COUNCIL RULES NEED WORK -- The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute's Jenny Reed notes some ongoing failings of the D.C. Council rules. For one: "The public is given little to no time to see the final budget voted on by the Council. Current practice is to release the budget documents in the wee hours of the morning, just hours before the one -- and only -- vote on how tax dollars are allocated. It is important for the public to have a chance to see, and weigh in on, changes to how their tax dollars will be spent. (Remember the streetcar fiasco last spring?)" DCFPI suggests a 48-hour review period. Also: "[L]ittle information is given to the public about emergency legislation before a vote is taken. ... According to the rules, emergency legislation must be filed three business days before a legislative session. But that doesn't mean the public gets to see it. The current rules state that the public is only required to get notice of the emergency, but isn't entitled to the full text of the bill the Council will vote upon."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

The year ahead in development (Housing Complex)

While FEMS overtime has spiked, MPD's OT is on the decline (WTTG-TV)

Feds respond to Ted Loza's coercion charges (Loose Lips)

Murder No. 3 of 2010, on the 4200 block of Gault Place NE (WUSA-TV)

Michelle Rhee is one of "11 Education Activists for 2011" (Time)

Rhee parody! (Answer Sheet)

Rhee to remain "informal education adviser" to Florida governor (St. Petersburg Times, AP)

Bike trails proliferate in Ward 8 (GGW)

How should city bicyclists behave? (GGW)

Hey HTJ: What's up with Rhode Island Avenue? (Rhode Island Insider)

Construction workers hurt by falling lumber at Wilson High (TBD)

Charter school expo is Saturday (D.C. Schools Insider)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray appears with Kaya Henderson and Arne Duncan, 10 a.m. at Sousa Middle School -- Tommy Wells and Kris Baumann do TBD NewsTalk, 10 a.m. -- DCDSC at-large appointment vote gets underway, 7:30 p.m. at Democratic National Committee headquarters, 430 South Capitol Street SE

By Mike DeBonis  | January 6, 2011; 9:41 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Sekou Biddle might be aided by 1997 election memories

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