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Posted at 9:42 AM ET, 02/11/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 11, 2011

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS FEB. 11, 2011 -- DAY 41 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY -- Don Peebles's award-winning, racially charged anti-Fenty mailer

Someday I will stop filling this roundup with Michelle Rhee news. Today is not that day. The Post's national education reporter, Nick Anderson, writes about the new controversy over Rhee's Baltimore teaching record prompted by Guy Brandenburg's blog analysis of test score reports.

Rhee ... denied fabricating anything about her record and said Brandenburg's conclusion was unfounded. But she acknowledged this week that she could have described her accomplishments differently in 2007, when then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) selected her to be chancellor. At issue is a line in Rhee's résumé from that year that described her record at Harlem Park Elementary School: "Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90 percent of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher." On Wednesday evening, Rhee said she would revise that wording if she could. 'If I were to put my résumé forward again, would I say 'significant' gains?" Rhee said. "Absolutely."

Meanwhile, the edu-pundit stable reacts -- including The Post's Valerie Strauss, who says the "Baltimore miracle" controversy distracts from more important questions about Rhee's record; Rick Hess, who says that Brandenburg and Jay Mathews should be ashamed of themselves; and Alexander Russo, who says that Rhee has a "growing credibility problem" -- and that it's unfair.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Will DCPS appeal teacher reinstatements? -- When will Gray get off his tuchis? -- Metro board gets heated over bag searches, service cuts -- Public Service Commission digs into Pepco -- Gray's big political test

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE RHEE -- Biographer Richard Whitmire has a thoughtful op-ed for AOL on how Rhee can make a difference going forward. TNR's Seyward Darby details a "nagging sense of disappointment" over Rhee's recent wooing of conservatives. See more reaction to Rhee herself from Florida and Georgia, where she has been charming state legislators.

WILL DCPS APPEAL? -- In other D.C. education news, DCPS has yet to decide whether it's going to appeal an arbitrator's decision reinstating 75 fired teachers -- even though Rhee said that they will -- Bill Turque reports at D.C. Schools Insider. It would difficult to win on appeal, and "[i]f DCPS does appeal, it may be because delay is the real strategy." The Post editorial board, meanwhile, urges DCPS to fight, calling the arbitrator's decision "mind-boggling" and identifying the failings of some of the fired teachers -- "the instance of a teacher sending mass e-mails to the entire school staff rebuking her supervisors, the case of a teacher who was rude and aggressive, and so on." The kicker: "Why, we asked Nathan Saunders, newly elected president of the WTU, would anyone go to the mat for teachers who are AWOL from their classes or who are neglectful, even abusive, of students? And who would want their children taught by such teachers? We're still waiting for a good answer." The WTU, incidentally, has been bombarded with calls from fired teachers wondering whether they'd been reinstated, TBD reports.

LET'S GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD -- In the ol' not-a-column, I have a look at Mayor Vincent Gray's plodding start:

[F]or Gray, that well-worn benchmark for energetic executive governance doesn't hold a lot of truck. "Everybody has a 100-day plan," he said at a news conference this week. "Why don't we have a 200-day plan?" The message there in isn't too difficult to parse: Slow and steady wins the race. Or, for the less charitable: Whatever period it used to take to get things done, you can double it. Gray admits the city has big problems: a chronically high unemployment rate, an education system that's still a long way from leaving no child behind and a massive budget deficit. But in the first 40 days of his administration, it's hard to point to what Gray has done to address any of them, aside from acknowledging their existence. ... [T]he most noticeable changes to the administration have been cosmetic. Gray's "one city" logo adorns news releases and lapel pins. The mayoral security detail has returned in a big way. The once-fallow sixth-floor office suite is back in business. News conferences are exquisitely choreographed, with reserved seats and formal introductions. Fenty's "bullpen" has been dismantled to restore private offices for city employees. In appearances, it amounts to a bridge back to the 20th century, as Bill Clinton might say.

METRO MEETING GETS HOT -- Yesterday's WMATA board meeting included debates on two hot-button issues: cuts to late-night transit service and whether the random bag inspection program is a good idea. Ann Scott Tyson reports in The Post that the latter "prompted a fiery debate ... with civil liberties advocates squaring off against those who argued that security concerns are paramount." Put Tommy Wells in the former category, Metro CEO Richard Sarles in the latter. Here's what is probably the most powerful reason the board won't buck, expressed by Mortimer Downey: "I don't want to find myself after an attack ... in front of a congressional committee or a court [answering], 'Why did you not practice what had been suggested?'" TBD's Dave Jamieson highlights the early-closing debate -- Metro says they could use the time to do additional maintenance, but Wells says no way: "We're a world-class city. ... To be a world-class city you have to support nightlife. We don't shut the lights off anymore at 5:30 in Washington. It does not make sense to believe Metro is merely for commuters." Also, yes, escalators are a mess, because, said D.C. member Tom Downs, Metro "bought some junk" way back when. More from Dr. Gridlock, GGW and, again, GGW.

PSC AND PEPCO -- The D.C. Public Service Commission dug into Pepco's post-storm outage performance yesterday. Here's the lede from Mary Pat Flaherty's Post story:

Pepco did not spend all the money it had budgeted for tree trimming in the District over most of the past seven years, according to company data, even as it cited trees as a main cause of outages, particularly during storms. ... Last year, the company picked up the pace of trimming, the records show. But since 2004, Pepco funding for District tree trimming has been "declining or static," as described by Betty Ann Kane, chairwoman of the Public Service Commission. In four years, the company did not spend the budget it had allotted to the task -- at times by several hundred thousand dollars -- records requested by the commission show.

So that's bad. Freeman Klopott's Examiner story leads with this:

Pepco officials are standing by their decision to wait until the morning after a late January storm to seek additional help after already knowing they were short-handed. ... "We wait to see if there's outages before we make a call [for assistance]," Pepco Vice President David Velazquez told the city's public service commission. He added, "No utility would release crews to come to the aid of another until the size and impact of a storm was known." Baltimore Gas & Electric has said it put out calls for assistance before an 8:30 p.m. regional call, when Pepco made its first request for help. BGE had 400 extra workers on hand by 5 p.m. the day of the storm and its customers back online within 48 hours.

Also WAMU-FM.

GRAY'S POLITICAL 'EARLY TEST' -- The at-large council race gets coverage from the Washington Times' Deborah Simmons, who calls it an "early test of [Gray's] political capital ... and members of both parties already say the new mayor is misreading the tea leaves." Simmons dredges up fringe mayoral candidate Leo Alexander (in the third paragraph!) to rail against a "power play by the black political establishment" in supporting Sekou Biddle. She also highlights Patrick Mara and Jacque Patterson. But here's more Leo:

Mr. Alexander, who was preparing to run until he learned that work obligations would put him in East Africa for six months, ... said the problem is racial politics. "I'm not voting for any black political candidate the establishment has endorsed, because their motives are strictly about power, not the people of the District of Columbia and what needs to be done by them and for them," Mr. Alexander said. "This election is all about black politics, not democracy. If it comes down to Jacque and Sekou, I'll vote for Jacque, who's about the people." Mr. Alexander and Mr. Patterson likened the D.C. Democratic establishment to a "black country club."

BAG TAX 'STUDY' -- The Washington Times highlights a study of the D.C. bag tax funded by the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform group. Not surprisingly, given the provenance, it found that the tax's economic costs outweigh the benefits: "The study, conducted by the Beacon Hill Institute at Boston-based Suffolk University, projects that the bag fee will hurt the economy and cost the area more than 100 jobs this year alone. In addition, 'the tax will only generate $2.17 million in revenue this year' -- well below the projected take of $3.1 million, according to the BHI survey." Wells and right-hand man Charles Allen respond that the point of the tax was to reduce bag use, not fill city coffers. As for the job-killing claims: "Not a single business has come forward and said, 'I have to lay off an employee because of this.' None of them are telling us that sales are going down," Allen said.

SAVE UMC -- Harry Jaffe's Examiner column calls on city officials to save United Medical Center without precisely saying how that should happen. "Before they dismiss the hospital -- make fun of its dead elevators, deride its historic low levels of care and daylong waits for emergency room service -- the naysayers should visit UMC. They would see a medical facility that's still staggering in some places, but it's also showing glimmers of becoming a first-rate health care facility for those who need it most. ... Let's agree [David Catania] is a zealot when it comes to UMC. But sometimes it takes someone driven by uncommon devotion and passion to champion an unpopular cause. Catania will bridle at the zealot brand; he says he's on solid medical and fiscal ground to make UMC work without subsidies. He's a zealot, trust me." Also, witness a person referring to Catania as "Dave" -- a first, as far as I know -- and check out Jaffe's Joe Friday prose: "PCP, as in angel dust. As in love boat. As in one of the most destructive drugs on the street, the one that might make a woman throw her baby from a window. ..."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Obituary: Jeff Coudriet (Post)

Ingmar Guandique to be sentenced today (Crime Scene)

AG Irvin Nathan to come under council scrutiny for drunk-driving prosecutions mess (Examiner)

How churches are driving affordable housing production in D.C. (Housing Complex)

UMC bidder says Catania has "one of the greatest brains I've ever encountered" (Loose Lips)

More on the, ahem, hazards of undercover police work in massage parlors (WaTimes)

National Planned Parenthood "sting" alights in D.C. (NBCWashington.com)

Eleanor Holmes Norton introduces elected DA bill (Post Now, Capital Land)

Norton et al. want to know why GSA has been sitting on empty downtown office space (The Note)

Catania, Phil Mendelson honored by gay Catholic organization (Blade)

What Netflix's bandwidth needs and the D.C. regional sewer system have in common (The Hill)

Another call for better urbanism for D.C.'s Wal-Marts (Richard Layman)

DCPS invites us to "share the love" for teachers, students and schools (Capital Land)

Medical marijuana advocates rally at town hall (WTTG-TV)

Reaction to DCPS funding inequities (All Opinions Are Local)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray meets with Greg O'Dell and Kaya Henderson, attends council reception and Pigskin Club dinner -- Yvette Alexander holds hearing on Pepco's "Reliability and Restoration Efforts," 4 p.m. in JAWB 412

By Mike DeBonis  | February 11, 2011; 9:42 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: Congress to question Brown, Gray on voucher program

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