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Posted at 11:55 AM ET, 02/10/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 10, 2011

By Mike DeBonis


PREVIOUSLY -- Jim Graham scrambles to save his "green team" -- Jim Webb's exit has GOP hopefuls salivating

The Informer's James Wright covers some incipient unhappiness over the geographic distribution of Mayor Vincent Gray's appointees, writing that he "has been criticized quietly by some Washington activists for the shortage of Ward 7 and Ward 8 members in his Cabinet and executive staff. Phil Pannell, a longtime Ward 8 activist ... said that Gray has a perception problem with regards to appointments in the ward. 'There are some Democrats that think he does not want them in his administration despite the fact that he has close friends in the ward,' he said. 'Cabinet positions and executive staff are highly visible positions and some people think that there is the perception that there are no qualified people to serve in the upper echelons of government.' Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Absalom Jordan said that it would seem that Gray has forgotten who put him in office. 'Our votes gave him the election,' Jordan, 69, said. 'It seems like we do not have anybody from Ward 8 at the table. I am angry at this and other people in the ward are angry.'" Rising to Hizzoner's defense is Marion Barry: "It's not where you live, it is what is inside of you. ... Those people who are grumbling did not help Vincent Gray become mayor."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Meet George Chopivsky, wannabe hospital owner -- PreventionWorks shuts down, putting anti-HIV program in peril -- Nathan deputy says some DUI cases will be retried -- Code White! Code White! -- "Baltimore miracle" undebunked?


MEET GEORGE -- In this week's Loose Lips column, Alan Suderman digs into the United Medical Center saga -- in particular, into potential owner George Chopivsky: "I like a challenge," he tells Suderman. "I really do think -- I'm convinced -- that we can turn this thing around." The column notes Chopivsky's political moves, hiring lobbyist David Carman who in turn hired alleged Gray squeeze Linda Mercado Greene. It also notes Chopivsky's checkered history running hospitals: "Take for example, Berks Behavioral Health, a Chopivsky venture in Reading, Pa. In March 2008, the Reading Eagle ran a story about Berks' plan to take over a struggling psychiatric wing of a hospital and expand it to fill a growing need for adolescent psychiatric services. Fast forward to the present -- Berks is in bankruptcy court locked in a nasty legal battle with the hospital about who exactly is to blame for the failed partnership. In one tartly worded filing, the hospital's lawyer says 'it was the lack of attention to the needs of their company and the incompetence of the owners and managers of Berks that are the reasons that Berks is in its current position.'" Add to that issues in Kansas and Ohio, and a tax issue in the District. Chopivsky says "the occasional 'bump or scrape' in a lengthy career isn't out of the ordinary and shouldn't be any concern for the city's decision makers. 'Things like this happen,' he says."

NO MORE NEEDLES -- PreventionWorks, the longest-running and best-known provider of clean needles for drug addicts, is shutting down amid fiscal crisis, Lena Sun reports in the Post, a high-profile blow to city AIDS prevention efforts. "Michael Rhein, president of the board of PreventionWorks, said dwindling private donations, delays in city funds and high turnover of top managers at the nonprofit agency in recent years were among the factors that led to the decision to close Feb. 25. PreventionWorks has been distributing free needles for more than 12 years. It provides about one-third of the free needles in the city, distributing about 100,000 sterile syringes to 2,200 people last year. ... 'They're going to be leaving a big hole in the community,' said Cyndee Clay, executive director of Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), which provides about 50,000 clean needles a year. ... Whatever sterile syringes the group has left Feb. 25 will be given to the others doing needle exchanges, including Family and Medical Counseling Services, the other main provider. .. [T]he city suggested that it might be able to redirect some of the money that had been originally intended for PreventionWorks, Rhein said. He said PreventionWorks plans to work with the other groups to figure out how the coverage gaps will be filled, including additional training."

THE DISTRICT'S DUIs -- A deputy to Attorney General Irvin Nathan is pledging that at least some of the drunk-driving prosecutions dropped due to faulty breath-testing machines will be revisited. "If cases have been dismissed, it is because we have either concluded that they are not worthy of going forward or we are missing evidence and will rebring the case at a later date, which we plan to do in many cases," OAG senior counsel Ariel Waldman tells the Examiner's Freeman Klopott. He writes: "Defense attorneys say, however, Nathan is killing the cases because he doesn't want to turn over details on an internal investigation that could undermine the testimony of two D.C. police officers who are responsible for a third of the city's 1,400 annual drunken-driving arrests. ... Officers Jose Rodriguez and Andrew Zabavsky are under investigation for what Nathan has called in court documents 'failing to properly handle a urine sample.' Either Rodriguez or Zabavsky is the arresting officer in the 25 dropped cases reviewed by The Examiner. ... 'We don't know what happened with the urine sample, but it could undermine [the officers'] credibility,' [lawyer Pamela Satterfield] told The Examiner." WTTG-TV's Paul Wagner is also all over this story.

'CODE WHITE' -- Still more thundersnow postmortems, this time from the Council of Governments' Emergency Preparedness Council. Ashley Halsey reports in the Post: "One suggestion was using the term Code White to get the attention of a public calloused by false alarms and hardened by surviving the 'Snowmageddon' of 2010. Another was that it is far better to err on the side of caution when deciding whether to dismiss people from work and school early. ... The emergency council will send a set of recommendations to its parent body. They are an assessment of the information systems that gather travel information, development of better ways to relay that information to the public, better coordination among government agencies on when to end the workday early, launching a public education campaign to stress personal preparedness and the importance of heeding emergency directives, and a review of the lessons learned from major storms in the 1990s and the three big ones last winter. ... If a perfect storm of arriving weather and evening rush hour should reoccur, however, the question of whether people should go to work in the first place, when they should be sent home, and whether they should be told to stay put until the roads are clear is the central issue, [Phil Mendelson] underscored. 'This discussion has been too complacent and the recommendations are too weak,' he said after about two hours of discussion." WTOP is also on the story.

IN FAVOR OF WAL-MART -- Post columnist Bob McCartney digs into Wal-Mart, finds that "residents worry that the store would suffer severely or even fail because of petty theft." Get this: "Brenda Speaks, a Ward 4 ANC commissioner, actually urged blocking construction of the planned store in her ward at Georgia and Missouri avenues NW partly because of that risk. Addressing a small, anti-Wal-Mart rally at City Hall on Monday, Speaks said young people would get criminal records when they couldn't resist the temptation to steal." Says a Wal-Mart spokesman, "there is no more concern over these District locations than any other store locations." Says Bob: "It's sad that people have such a low opinion of their own community. Happily, with prudent oversight from the city, Wal-Mart's arrival should be a significant step forward for the neighborhood and the District as a whole. ... The city should do what it can to make Wal-Mart live up to its promises. Overall, though, it should welcome the company's willingness to invest in communities that have been crying out for jobs and better shopping for decades." Meanwhile, the Afro covers efforts to get Wal-Mart to sign and live up to a community benefits agreement.

UNDEBUNKED? -- Michelle Rhee says the debunking of the Baltimore miracle, as featured on Jay Mathews' blog this week, is in fact bunk: "This was not a study of Michelle's students. It was a study of the school's entire grade level, which had four teachers. ... There is no way to know if any of Michelle's students were even included in this study. The study included only certain students at the school, and excluded large numbers from their sample. Some have expressed surprise that credible journalists would swallow a blogger's analysis without looking at the facts for themselves. We were quite frankly surprised ourselves. To our members, this episode is further proof of what we're up against and why we need your support to get the message out." (That was written by former Fenty communications chief Mafara Hobson, incidentally.) Also, Jay posted on his blog a response from the former chief accountability officer for the Baltimore Public Schools. The upshot: "The ... data I could produce when asked would neither have confirmed nor contradicted [Rhee's] claim."

BIDDLE WINS ENDORSEMENT -- Sekou Biddle won the endorsement of the progressive D.C. for Democracy group. From a DC4D news release: "In the first round of voting, the results were as follows: Sekou Biddle (Democrat) 48.3%; Bryan Weaver (Democrat) 41.4%; Alan Page (Statehood-Green) 6.9%; Joshua Lopez (Democrat) 3.4%; No Endorsement 0.0%. In the second (runoff) round of voting, the results were as follows: Sekou Biddle (Democrat) 72.4%; No Endorsement 27.6%." So what accounts for the weird numbers? Instant-runoff voting. And for all you folks (looking at you, GGWsters) who insist that IRV is easy to understand and should be used in city elections, check last night's Twitter traffic. Then tell me that IRV is a concept easily grasped by the broader electorate.


Gray's new fence cost $6,500 -- part of $64,500 in security upgrades (WUSA-TV)

Eleanor Holmes Norton "visibly emotional" during floor remarks on abortion bill that would ban local D.C. funding (The Hill)

Robert Hildum remains in the AG's office (Examiner)

DCPS hasn't decided whether it will appeal arbitration ruling; Rhee says they were proper (WTTG-TV, AP)

Anti-union group attacks WTU ruling (Examiner)

A look at the Ward 8 State Board of Education race (Informer)

Jack Evans' line for bond raters: Mind your BCDs (Housing Complex)

Why D.C. gun registration stats are unreliable: "Who's more likely to successfully navigate the required maze -- a lobbyist or bureaucrat who's been taking tests and filling out complex forms for his entire adult life, or a cab driver who barely finished high school and who's intimidated by the 1040EZ?" (National Review)

"Will Republicans be kind to D.C.?" (WJLA-TV)

GW students want say in redistricting (Hatchet)

Charter teacher wins Teacher of the Year honors for third year straight (D.C. Schools Insider)

Metro transit police union sues Metro (Examiner)

Tallahassee dispatches: "Senators Show Up for Michelle Rhee, Leave for Bill" (Sunshine State News, Miami Herald)

Today: Rhee takes Atlanta (Journal-Constitution)

Can Peter Nickles save Covington's bottom line? (Legal Times)

Who preservationists want on the preservation board (Housing Complex)

Don Peebles watched the Super Bowl at the White House (Miami Herald)

Long live TBD (Post)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray, Evans, Kwame Brown, and Nat Gandhi charm Wall Street -- David Catania holds hearing on preventing athletic concussions, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500 -- Biddle chairs first hearing, on school safety and truancy, 11 a.m. in JAWB 123 -- confirmation hearing for health director Mohammed Akhter, 1 p.m. in JWAB 500 -- confirmation hearing for Latino affairs director Roxana Olivas, 2 p.m. in JAWB 120 -- Kojo Nnamdi looks at finding jobs for disadvantaged D.C. residents, 12:25 p.m. on WAMU-FM, 88.5 -- Public Service Commission grills Pepco executives, 10 a.m. at 1333 H St. NW, 7th floor east

By Mike DeBonis  | February 10, 2011; 11:55 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Jim Webb's exit has GOP hopefuls salivating
Next: Don Peebles' award-winning, racially charged anti-Fenty mailer


"Speaks said young people would get criminal records when they couldn't resist the temptation to steal."

Interesting that this story was on the front of the Metro section last night at 1am, and now is delegated in the middle of an inside blog post.

Guess Ms Speaks is a big racist w/ connections to get the story buried.

Posted by: BEEPEE | February 10, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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