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Posted at 11:18 AM ET, 01/ 7/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 7, 2010

By Mike DeBonis


PREVIOUSLY -- Sekou Biddle might be aided by 1997 election memories

Who's the boss? Kwame Brown's the boss. The new D.C. Council chairman flexed his political muscle last night as the Democratic State Committee gathered to appoint an at-large member to fill Brown's old seat, choosing between former Council member Vincent Orange, State Board of Education member Sekou Biddle, Ward 1 businessman Stanley Mayes and three also-rans. Biddle won a plurality on the first vote, but not enough to win -- leaving Mayes, with eight votes, in a kingmaker position. The second vote was a tie. Then Brown arrived, and the Biddle backer caucused privately with Mayes, who in turn met with his supporters behind the closed doors of a kitchenette in Democratic national headquarters. On the third vote, Biddle pulled it out, 40 to 31. Tim Craig wrote up the proceedings, although it was a gritty, messy, heated, hot, crowded, confused, exhilarating affair best recounted through tweet. Asked what they might have discussed ahead of the final vote, Mayes wouldn't spill: "We keep our business in the family." Brown said they discussed "good old Democratic State Committee politics." Indeed! See also reports from the Examiner, TBD and DCist.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Gray, education team summits with Arne Duncan -- The state of special education in D.C. -- Top Kaine aide to run DHCF -- Wall Street has fiscal concerns with D.C. -- Nickles back to Covington -- Chris Dyer dishes


HUG IT OUT -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined Mayor Vincent Gray and Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson yesterday at Sousa Middle School for what Bill Turque calls "a high-end pep rally, assembled to show that in the post-Michelle Rhee era, the new players in the District's education hierarchy will be working more as a team." Bill sets the scene on his blog: "Everybody said all the right things about the importance of good teachers, engaged parents and safe schools. Duncan, who during the primary campaign described himself as 'a big fan' of Gray's opponent, incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, said he expected the gains under the Fenty-Rhee watch to continue. 'There's no reason why D.C. can't be the best urban school system in the country in four, five, six years,' he said." Also: "Most noteworthy might have been [WTU President Nathan Saunders] ... who now has a seat at the big table with Henderson and Gray. He was very much the labor statesman. ... 'I'm very excited about the chancellor's plan,' said Saunders, perhaps the first time he'd uttered the words 'chancellor' and 'excited' in the same sentence." WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood revists the question of Henderson's future as chancellor: "Gray frequently praises Henderson ... but he insists on a major search before naming a permanent schools chancellor. That could take several weeks. ... School advocates who support Henderson worry that Rhee may recruit her to join StudentsFirst, Rhee's new national education advocacy group."

THE STATE OF SPECIAL ED -- While a court monitor will report to a judge today that "core problems" still exist in the city's special education system, a Post editorial focuses on the progress that's been made -- a "vastly improved level of performance" identified by the monitors. That would be a vote of confidence for current management, the editorial board writes: "The transition to Interim [Henderson] has been seamless, but she remains interim, and uncertainty, if persistent, can be damaging. [Gray], as he ponders his next step, might consider this from the consultants: 'Based on our close work with District staff for the past three years, the Evaluation Team is confident that the District currently has the commitment, capacity and quality central staff required to take this reform effort to the next level of challenge.'" Meanwhile, WaTimes reporter Deborah Simmons sits down with DCPS special-ed chief Richard Nyankori, who politicks a bit, saying "[s]pecial-education families have no better advocate than Mayor Gray," and lays out his cost-cutting plans, which include building five special-ed facilities and possibly debuting a private voucher program for special-needs kids. Those kids, of course, are already being placed in private schools via court orders, and on that note, Bill Turque relays a report that points out that Ward 3 special-education students have the highest rate of private-school placements (40 percent), while Ward 8 has the lowest (22 percent).

GRAY ADMIN MOVES -- Wayne Turnage, a former top aide to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, will lead the city's Department of Health Care Finance. Anita Kumar at The Post's Virginia Politics blog has the scoop on Turnage, who was Kaine's chief of staff and also served as a deputy director in the state Health and Human Services department. And I add some context: "Health Care Finance is a little-known agency but one that is responsible for a massive chunk of the city budget -- more than a half-billion local dollars plus an additional $1.6 billion in federal transfers. ... Turnage replaces Julie Hudman, who announced her departure last month after more than two years as the department's first director. Several of Hudman's senior deputies have also left, leading to wide concerns about the management of the agency in the face of a city budget shortfall." Also expected to be named at 10:30 this morning: Linda Wharton Boyd leaves her post as Michael Brown's chief of staff to become Vincent Gray's communications director.

WALL STREET WARNING -- After a Wall Street bond report raised questions about the state of the city's cash reserves, Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi issued a warning letter to Gray and the council urging them to tread carefully. WBJ's Michael Neibauer was first with the news. The raters stopped short of a downgrade or an official watch, calling D.C.'s financial position "good" but expected to weaken "based on a trend of using reserves to offset revenue shortfalls." From Gandhi's letter: "I am concerned that if the District's [general obligation] bond rating were to be downgraded, the adverse impact to the District's reputation, both on Wall Street and particularly here in the Metro area, would be significant. We are surrounded by triple-A rating states and counties, and a downgrade would cause unwanted negative reaction from the press and, most importantly, from our residents." Get context from Nikita Stewart at D.C. Wire.

NEW GIG FOR NICKLES -- Peter Nickles has found a new job, which is his old job; he's returning to Covington & Burling, where he will chair the venerable firm's new "crisis management practice" which will include former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Nickles tells The Post's Ann Marimow that the gig is a "one-stop shop for clients who need 'one person to lead them through the maze of government, regulatory processes and the court and to provide public relations.' " Covington's news release quotes both Fenty and Rhee. Said Fenty: "Peter was my go-to-guy on crisis issues facing the city. ... I could always rely on his wise counsel and judgment." Legal Times has more on the kind of work Nickles will be doing: "Nickles said the team will be able to advise CEOs on public relations strategies, handling multiple court cases, working with Congress, and other federal investigations. ... As an example, Nickles pointed to the BP oil spill. 'That is a situation where there are a lot of fronts for the company to think about,' Nickles said."

FENTY'S LGBT RELATIONS -- The Blade's Lou Chibbaro Jr. sits down with Fenty gay liaison Christopher Dyer for a lengthy, frank review of the last four years in gay-mayoral relations. It's a good look at the Fenty governing style and worth a full read: "In the three-and-a-half years that he served as director of the city's Office of GLBT Affairs, [Dyer] said he never met with [Fenty] to discuss gay-related issues in a private, face-to-face meeting. Yet Dyer, who left office Dec. 31 in the closing days of the Fenty administration, said he had constant access to Fenty through a mayoral chain of command that allowed him to weigh in on all matters relevant to the LGBT community. ... In the nearly four years that he worked for Fenty, Dyer said there were only two occasions in which he felt he needed to directly communicate with the mayor. 'And I did,' he said. One of the occasions involved the beating death of gay Maryland resident Tony Randolph Hunter. ... Following an outcry by activists that Fenty speak out forcefully on hate crimes and anti-gay violence, Dyer said he urged the mayor to attend a community meeting called by GLOV to discuss the Hunter case. Fenty didn't attend the meeting. ... 'I don't know if him speaking out on hate crimes would have done anything to prevent them,' he said. 'It certainly would have made people feel a whole lot better. But in the end, he didn't. And there was really nothing much I could do about that.' "

FRANKLIN LAWSUIT DISMISSED -- The D.C. Court of Appeals rules that Fenty was well within his rights to close the Franklin Shelter, dismissing an appeal by a group of homeless advocates. Freeman Klopott writes in the Examiner that Fenty is "vindicated" by the decision, but "it was decisions like the closing of the Franklin School Men's Shelter that helped scuttle Fenty's reelection bid." Klopott writes: "The homeless advocates who filed the suit couched their arguments in the Constitution. They defined the shelter as the homeless residents' property, saying District law entitled them to it. The advocates then argued that by shutting the shelter, the Fenty administration was denying the homeless men their constitutional right to due process. The appeals court said that's not so, in its decision announced Thursday. 'A homeless person or client who receives medical or other services in the District from a provider does not have a protected property right or interest in those services grounded either in the Constitution or any District of Columbia statute,' the three-judge panel ruled." Also Housing Complex.

SO FAR, SO GOOD -- "America's Next Great Pundit," aka Conor Williams, gives Gray good marks for his early education moves in a Post op-ed column. "Listening to Gray during his campaign, I wasn't confident that he'd be able to lead - and sustain - the District's progress. So far, though, the sky hasn't fallen on District public schools. And Gray's initial appointments offer reason to be optimistic," Williams writes, praising his backing of Kaya Henderson as interim chancellor and deeming "highly qualified" Gray's deputy mayor and state superintendent picks. "I'm starting to believe that Gray really meant it during his campaign when he stressed that he would continue the best of the Fenty administration's efforts. ... Of course, it's too early to say for sure. ... Is Gray ready to stand up to the teachers union? ... Is Gray prepared to keep a firm hand on the reins of progress if (really, when) budget constraints make education cuts and teacher layoffs necessary? Is he prepared to keep putting students first? If the answer to these questions is 'yes,' then my wife and I will start house hunting."

A CALL FOR 'RESPONSIBILITY' -- "Whatever happened to personal accountability?" Deborah Simmons asks in a WaTimes column. "It doesn't appear to be surfacing in our houses of worship or on the nonprofit front, and when that happens, government steps in to try to fill the void. To that end, Mr. Gray and D.C. Council members are pushing job-training programs -- a throwback to the 1960s and '70s politics that spawned the very problems we have today. ... Well, if initiatives like that work, why such staggering unemployment numbers among black folk two generations later? Poor schooling and poverty-pimping politics -- and the lack of personal responsibility." Also: Simmons says the "multiple chronic health problems, high dropout rates and festering crime rates" east of the river are "the legacy of race-based politics." Simmons calls on Gray and lawmakers to "implement policies that force a man to stiffen his spine. How about a State of the District address that gives more than lip service to a little thing called personal responsibility?"


It's official: Vince Gray's fence is going back up. "I think justice was served," says Hizzoner. (The Post)

D.C. Water to John Boehner: Lay off the bottled water! (DCist)

Former United Medical Center owner says city's on the hook for $10 million judgment (WBJ)

D.C. is becoming "robbery capital," says Harry Jaffe. And Muriel Bowser says her ward is having a "robbery emergency." (the Examiner)

Catania bill would make HIV/AIDS czar into cabinet post (Blade)

Gay activist, Cathy Lanier differ on scope of city's crystal meth problem (Metro Weekly)

Inside DCPS contracting (Guy Brandenburg)

Police union: Tommy Wells, not Lanier, deserves credit for MPD overtime decline (FOP blog)

Ardmore, Pa., loves Vince Gray! (Post letter)

Jack Evans thinks redevelopment authorities are a bad idea (Housig Complex)

"We cyclists represent a significant, activist constituency, so ignore us at your own peril." (All Opinions Are Local)

Army Corps of Engineers preps for Spring Valley munitions blasts (WAMU-FM)

Kids randomly attack Metro rider as bystanders watch, film (TBD, WTTG-TV, Huffington Post)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Biddle and Eleanor Holmes Norton guest on TBD NewsTalk, 10 a.m. -- Gray guests on the Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood, noon on WAMU-FM.

By Mike DeBonis  | January 7, 2011; 11:18 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 10, 2011


All Bill Turque cares about is unions. He worships them like they are his god. It will be very difficult for Bill Turque to understand when his unions are disbanded after union contracts are voided after cities and localities (including D.C.) declare bankrupcty. Its coming, just wait for it.

Posted by: shred11 | January 7, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

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