DeMorning DeBonis: Feb. 9, 2011
TODAY IS FEB. 9, 2011 -- DAY 39 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION
The read of the morning is Freeman Klopott's Examiner piece on the Metropolitan Police Department's "royal mess" of an alcohol breath-testing program -- which has, to date, led to the dismissal of "dozens" of drunk driving cases. Because the city medical examiner won't certify the breath machines' accuracy, the MPD has been forced to collect urine samples to proceed with DUI prosecutions. The Post's Marty Weil speaks with acting Attorney General Irvin Nathan, who "said the city will not use data from D.C. police breath-testing devices until they are certified." Meanwhile, two cops responsible for a huge portion of city DUI arrests "have had their trial testimony called into question," as they're "subjects of an internal affairs investigation that began after they spoke out about problems with the breath analyzers." A separate investigation is looking at claims that the cops improperly watched a woman give a urine sample. Police union chief Kris Baumann says that the problems have "crippled" cops' ability to prosecute drunk drivers; Nathan says nonsense, that the city "will continue to enforce drunk-driving laws." WTTG-TV's Paul Wagner also covers the story.
AFTER THE JUMP -- Arbitrator says some fired teachers can go back to work -- Gray moves on UMC; alleged girlfriend worked for potential buyer -- at first presser, Gray stands and delivers -- D.C. Vote protests abortion bill -- Whitman-Walker is back in black
*** MAIN COURSE ***
DCPS TEACHERS REINSTATED -- An independent arbitrator has ruled that 75 DCPS teachers were fired improperly by then-chancellor Michelle Rhee and should be reinstated "because they were not told the reasons why" they were fired, Bill Turque reports for the Post. "The ruling, issued Monday by Charles Feigenbaum, was narrowly cast. It said the school system had the right to fire teachers during their two-year probationary period if they had received negative recommendations from school principals. Feigenbaum said the 'glaring and fatal flaw' in Rhee's action was that the teachers were not given reasons for their terminations. ... Feigenbaum ordered the District to make a 60-day good-faith effort to find the fired teachers and offer them reinstatement in an appropriate job. He also ordered that they be made financially whole. Union officials estimate the back-pay award could amount to $7.5 million - a considerable sum for the cash-strapped District." DCPS says it is considering whether to appeal; WTU President Nathan Saunders is claiming vindication. Writes TBD, "[I]s the decision a resounding rebuttal of the policies established under Rhee's reign? Not exactly, though it does leave the school district with some visible bits of egg on its face." Also Examiner, WTTG-TV.
UMC DRAMA -- The United Medical Center issue is a-heatin' up. As reported on this blog yesterday, Mayor Vincent Gray is seeking resignations from UMC board members appointed by Adrian Fenty. Thus far, the members are holding firm, but Gray may seek means of forcing them out. The move is widely viewed as a prelude to Gray seeking a sale of the hospital -- more quickly than David Catania, powerful health committee chair, would like. (WBJ's Ben Fischer adds some further context.) Alan Suderman notes at Loose Lips that rumored Gray squeeze Linda Mercado Greene did $37,500 in lobbying work for businessman George Chopivsky, to this point the only declared potential buyer. "OCF says Greene lobbied Gray, several other councilmembers, and former Attorney General Peter Nickles on Chopivsky's behalf last summer -- presumably before she and the mayor started dating. ... Greene tells LL part of her job was to introduce Chopivsky to important people east of the river, where UMC is the only hospital."
GRAY'S FIRST PRESSER -- Rather than run down the entirety of Gray's first general news conference, this reporter could do no better than point you to Suderman's imagining of the press conference, at the Loose Lips blog: "Gray's news conference started 20 minutes late, as is becoming his custom... Gray reads prepared statement in dull monotone... Jokes are exchanged between Gray and NBC's Tom Sherwood, Sherwood proves funnier than the mayor... WTOP's Mark Plotkin asks why Gray hasn't chained himself to White House gate to protest the fact that presidential limo doesn't have 'Taxation Without Representation' D.C. license plate... Gray sighs..." Close enough for government work, as they say. What Gray actually did do: Announce that he would "move quickly to create a panel" to search for a permanent DCPS chancellor. Describe a scary childhood incident involving his brother and his dad's handgun. And he announced board appointments: Lorraine Green and Allen Lew will sit on the Washington Convention and Sports Authority board; lawyer Warner Session and diplomat Shirley Hall will join the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority panel.
ABORTION PROTEST -- A House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing yesterday on the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which would among many other things bar the District from spending its money to cover abortions for low-income women. That prompted voting-rights activists to stage a silent protest at the hearing, Ben Pershing reports at D.C. Wire: "Led by DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka, close to a dozen activists took seats in the audience of the hearing room. When the session was called to order, they stood up, covered their mouths with red gags and opened their jackets to reveal T-shirts that said 'No Taxation Without Representation.' Subcommittee Chairman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) asked them to sit down and stop disrupting the proceedings, and when they did not, Capitol Police officers entered the room and began escorting the protesters out." None were arrested. See also DCist. In case you're wondering whether the city is actually funding abortions, it is indeed.
DOWN WITH DEPUTIES -- Jonetta Rose Barras' crusade against deputy mayors continues in her Examiner column today. The latest DM, B.B. Otero, is great and all, she writes, but: "Truth be told, the District can't afford Otero. It also can't afford Paul Quander, the deputy mayor for public safety. Those two positions cost taxpayers $370,000 a year -- excluding benefits and bonuses. Add their salaries to the $200,000 chief of staff Gray has hired and we're talking real money. Instead of shelling such funds for administrative personnel, who some have described as glorified coordinators, Gray could use that money to lessen the blow of pending budget cuts to services. The Department of Parks and Recreation currently needs more than 30 frontline workers to staff centers and run programs. Based on their minimum salaries, at least 19 'recreation specialists' could be hired with the money Gray is paying to his deputy mayors and chief of staff. D.C. Public Schools could hire at least 10 teachers. The Child and Family Services could pick up a similar number of entry-level social workers. And the Metropolitan Police Department could bring in 12 new officers."
HOW TO GET D.C. TO WORK -- A Post editorial weighs in on the difficulty of putting District residents to work via legislation -- particularly "First Source" legislation. "It's not likely that tougher requirements or stricter enforcement, now being proposed, will produce any better results when the real issue is the disparity that exists between the demands of the workplace and the skills of the workforce. More than a Band-Aid approach is needed if the city is to have any hope of putting more of its denizens to work." As for Kwame Brown's proposal to toughen First Source requirements, the editorial says nice try, but "[i]f city residents lack life skills, are illiterate or haven't been trained for existing jobs, no amount of new rules or requirements will help them get jobs." District government would be best served by emulating "other cities where healthy private-public partnerships have been formed and where training has been focused on a particular industry or set of skills."
WHITMAN-WALKER IS BACK -- The Post editorial board's Jonathan Capehart shines a light on the Whitman-Walker Clinic's quick rebound after its fiscal crisis three years ago. "Once on financial life support, the revered institution is thriving. The embattled management announced today that, for the first time since 2001, the clinic recorded a surplus last year. In addition, its sources of income are diversified, and it has become a full-service community health center that remains true to its core mission: To provide HIV/AIDS care." The clinic has moved from a HIV/AIDS service provider dependent on grants and fundraising to a "health center" able to bill public and private insurers. He also recalls the politics when that strategic decision was made circa 2008: "Raising hell about it all was the chairman of the District Council's Health Committee, David Catania (I-At Large). He demanded [CEO Don Blanchon]'s resignation. Thankfully, Catania failed in that mission."
THE RHEE MIRACLE -- Post edu-writer Jay Mathews highlights the work of former teacher, now blogger Guy Brandenburg, who unearthed the most famous set of missing test scores in American education: for the third-grade classes at Baltimore's Harlem Park Elementary School, taught by a rookie teacher named Michelle Rhee. "He has proved that Rhee's results weren't nearly as good as she said they were. ... Rhee told me that her information about huge gains in her students' scores came from her principal at the time. She had no data to back it up, but went with the best information she had, her memory, when asked how her students did. Until Brandenburg dug deep, nobody had the real data. ... Now we know how Rhee's kids did. Their scores went up, it appears, but not that much."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
More on the state of St. Elizabeths: Hospital is making progress, DOJ says (Post)
An interview with at-large candidate Josh Lopez: "I just want to be the guy who keeps the government honest and accountable. I think it's dangerous to have a city council that's simply going to rubber stamp everything [Gray] wants to do and not even question it, question what's going on. I think I'd be the perfect guy for that." (DCist)
Aaand ... Lopez blasts Gray in news release (D.C. Wire)
Kwame Brown says he's hired a pro bono financial adviser to help with budget (WaTimes)
Rosedale Rec Center by any other name would cause a community uproar (TBD)
The Beeb covers Wal-Mart's urban push, quotes Catania: "Five or 10 years ago there was such acrimony around Wal-Mart that it would have been very difficult for them to enter the city." (BBC)
"Who is ABRA?" (G'town Dish)
DCFPI on CoStar deal: Toldya so (District's Dime)
Tom Sherwood vexed by response to snow response (NBCWashington.com)
Wilson High, Jefferson Middle School students arrested (DCist)
DCRA will open "Small Business Resource Center" (DCmud)
MPD detective William Witkowski convicted of assault (City Desk)
DDOT's says snow removal is still on budget (TBD)
Why the city should force private landowners to shovel their sidewalks (GGW)
What streetscape overhaul will do to Adams Morgan (TBD)
Will Metro board revisit bag searches? (Daily Caller)
Rhee visits Florida state house (Miami Herald)
Ingmar Guandique will be sentenced Friday (AP via Fox News)
The Solar Decathlon may be headed from the Mall to National Harbor (Housing Complex)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray meets with Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), appropriations subcommittee chair -- Gray, Brown, Jack Evans and Nat Gandhi head up to NYC for bond rater meetings -- hearings on sidewalk shoveling bill, health-care exchanges, and the "Sense of the Council on Calling on Congress to admit the District of Columbia as the 51st State of the Union"
| February 9, 2011; 10:35 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike, The District
Save & Share: Previous: Is the D.C. government funding abortions?
Next: Jim Graham scrambles to save his "green team"
Posted by: asuka1 | February 9, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DCWard5 | February 9, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dellabrent | February 10, 2011 1:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: juliarix | February 10, 2011 3:15 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: juliarix | February 10, 2011 3:16 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jmc39 | February 10, 2011 6:56 AM | Report abuse