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Posted at 10:54 AM ET, 02/17/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 17, 2011

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS FEB. 17, 2011 -- DAY 47 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

Ballot petitions are in for the April 25 26 at-large council election. Here's who made the cut: Democrats Sekou Biddle, Tom Brown, Dorothy Douglas, Calvin Gurley, Arkan Haile, Josh Lopez, Vincent Orange, Jacque Patterson and Bryan Weaver; Statehood Green Alan Page; and Republican Patrick Mara. Let the challenges begin. Meanwhile, Alan Suderman writes in Loose Lips this week on why there aren't any women running (save Douglas, whom he rightly notes has an "exactly 100 percent chance" of defeat). "[W]hile there's general agreement that it sucks that there are so few female candidates, there's no clear idea as to why women don't run. Maybe, says Ward 4 council member Muriel Bowser, it's because women don't find the rough-and-tumble aspect of District politics appealing. 'Women are turned off by nasty politics. And we've had a good dose of that lately,' says Bowser, who volunteers her time with a group called Running Start, a nonprofit that encourages young women to enter politics." In other at-large news: DCist writes that all the filers "should feel proud that they got this far." And the Georgetown Dish laments Wayne Dickson's failure to file. Tadias, an Ethiopian American magazine, profiles Haile.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Well-known anti-Fenty activist hired by Gray administration -- Senators deliver ultimatum at voucher hearing -- New study says D.C. tax burden is lower than recognized -- DCPS finances to get free scrub

*** MAIN COURSE ***

THE WHIFF OF CRONYISM -- Jeffrey Anderson reports in the Washington Times that omnipresent Ward 4 activist Cherita Whiting has been hired by Mayor Vincent Gray as a top aide in the Department of Parks and Recreation. The hire, Anderson writes, "raises questions about Mr. Gray's stated commitment to stamp out cronyism in city government." The story details a confusing and not particularly material episode where a police complaint filed by Whiting led to an internal affairs probe. The more troubling questions concern whether Whiting properly disclosed a 2001 felony conviction and previous criminal offenses: "Last week, Ms. Whiting told The Times that she had not disclosed her federal prison record, despite a box on the D.C. government employment application that asks about felony convictions in the past 10 years. On Monday, [former employer Phil Mendelson] said Ms. Whiting never disclosed a criminal record to him. ... [I]n response to questions about whether Ms. Whiting checked yes or no on her application where it asked about felonies, Gray spokeswoman Linda Wharton-Boyd said in an e-mail, 'A check by the Department of Human Resources of Ms. Whiting's file indicates that her response to this question was yes.' "

HILL ULTIMATUM -- Gray and Chairman Kwame Brown sat yesterday before Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and shared their divergent views on school vouchers. The senators' message, reports Tim Craig in The Post: "Congress probably will cut funding for city schools if efforts to revive a federal voucher program for students are not successful this year." And they "stressed that they and House Republicans are making the renewal of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program a chief priority. ... 'I think the extra funds that come to D.C. ... will be in serious jeopardy if the opportunity funding is not in this three-part program of public and charter schools,' Lieberman said." Here's a surprise: "After the hearing, Gray said he hadn't known that he and Brown would be offering opposing testimony. Although he appeared rattled by the possible loss of some federal funding, Gray said he is digging in to resist efforts to allow the voucher program to reopen. 'It's a matter of expressing my views,' he said. 'But at the end of the day, we are going to do what's in the best interest of the children.'" DCist's Martin Austermuhle writes that the senators are threatening to "cut off noses to spite their faces" -- which is an imprecise use of that figure of speech, but close enough.

TAX PARITY -- A new D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute reports looks at the relative tax burdens of middle-class families in the Washington area. The District comes out looking pretty good, the wonks write at the District Dime blog: "Over the last decade, DC has quietly become the lowest-tax jurisdiction in the region. Because of tax decreases in the District and increases in surrounding areas, District residents now generally pay taxes that are lower than -- or in some cases the same as -- their neighbors in adjacent counties. ... In 2009, combined income and property taxes on most DC residents earning from $50,000 to $200,000 were lower than in any adjacent jurisdiction. For example, a DC married couple with two children and income of $100,000 paid $5,200 in income and property taxes, compared with $7,200 in Montgomery County, $7,600 in Fairfax County, and $10,000 in Prince George's County." Meanwhile, the debate over raising income taxes to solve the FY12 budget gap continues. Sekou Biddle gives the Examiner and Tim Craig a convoluted position on raising taxes, saying IF there were to be a tax hike, he thinks council members, with their $120,000 salaries, ought to be included.

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WAL -- Latest on Wal-Mart: A Ward 6 community meeting Tuesday drew coverage from TBD and City Paper. TBD's Elahe Izadi notes that Tommy Wells called the proposal there "a model that he wished could be replicated in the other three proposed stores." Said Wells, "If this were an office building of the same size, we wouldn't be here tonight. ... I believe one of the only reasons we're here is because it's a Walmart." Lydia DePillis explains how a community benefits agreement signed 20 years ago by developer the Bennett Group has come to bear on the current mixed-use project. Meanwhile, Richard Layman has kind words for how Muriel Bowser approached the retailer's entry to Ward 4.

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Deloitte to do pro bono scrub of DCPS finances (The Post)

Kaya Henderson's nondenial denial (D.C. Schools Insider, the Examiner)

UDC plans to cut 17 majors (WTTG-TV)

Recounting the checkered history of 225 Virginia Ave., which stands to cost the D.C. government $400 million over 20 years (the Examiner)

Are new sturdier Supercans necessary? (TBD)

Free public broadband is gonna be tough (Housing Complex)

DCPS data systems bad, but improving (D.C. Schools Insider)

New Hardy MS principal introduces himself (Patch)

DMPEWD? (Housing Complex)

Metro mayhem again caught on tape (WTOP)

Rick Hess has no idea what he's talking about (AEI)

More on Catania birth-control proposal (the Examiner, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV)

Gabe Klein calls transition report's claims "absolutely false," adding: "I feel a little bad for Mayor Gray. ... It really reflects poorly on the transition team and, in reality, the administration." Also: Klein blogs on leadership. (the Examiner, GabeKlein.com)

More on breathalyzer controversy (WTTG-TV, WRC-TV)

PreventionWorks closing a "death sentence" for addicts? (WAMU-FM)

Washington Hospital Nurses again vote to strike (WBJ)

More on the demise of funding for college STD testing (Hatchet)

Harry Thomas Jr. bill would allow breweries to serve beer on the premises (Young & Hungry)

Norton again introduces Washington Channel transfer bill (the Examiner)

"The indignities heaped upon the District of Columbia by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are piling up" (Afro)

Eleanor Holmes Norton, profiled for Black History Month (BlackAmericaWeb.com)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray tours OUC/HSEMA, visits H.D. Woodson construction site, honors organizers of Black History Swim Meet, addresses Kalorama Citizens Association and drops by MPD awards ceremony

By Mike DeBonis  | February 17, 2011; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 18, 2011

Comments

Why, exactly, would Vincent Gray turn down free money for a voucher program? Is he really so beholden to the teachers' union that he would prevent underprivileged families the opportunity to choose how and where there children are educated? The voucher program comes at no expense to DCPS - no DCPS funds would be used to pay for it. What is his rationale for such a position?

Posted by: asuka1 | February 18, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

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