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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 03/ 4/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: March 4, 2011

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS MARCH 4, 2011 -- DAY 61 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY -- Did Gray give Baker CapStat's last hurrah?

Questions about Mayor Vincent C. Gray's vetting process continue, a day after he announced that he "is asking city police to again scrutinize senior and mid-level managers he has hired thus far, fearful that the initial vetting process was not thorough enough," as Tim Craig and I report in today's Post. "I wish we had known some of the information that has come out," Gray said Thursday. But Gray should have known plenty about at least one of the controversial hires, Sulaimon Brown. He "had been extensively investigated before he was offered the job, including a police background check," we report. Says a transition source: "Sulaimon Brown was vetted more thoroughly than a lot of people." Meanwhile, Martin Austermuhle asks a hard question at DCist: "[S]hould those questionable histories -- which include a stint in jail, a restraining order for stalking, and a domestic dispute -- play a role in how we judge their qualifications for the positions they hold? ... [S]hould [Cherita Whiting], Brown and [Talib Karim] never be allowed to take a high-level government job because they made mistakes or acted like scumbags? Does the media's digging into their criminal histories -- and Gray's response to it -- ensure that the District's government will end up with better, more qualified employees?" Martin's suggestion: "If Gray wants to seem like he's seriously cracking down on the practice of giving supporters plum appointments ... he should give his senior-most appointees, the ones that get approved by the D.C. Council, absolute latitude in hiring and firing high-level aides."

AFTER THE JUMP -- How Kwame Brown can navigate his next steps -- Wal-Mart lobbying hires have ties to Yvette Alexander -- Post lauds smaller summer jobs program -- Hoskins wants to be the data-driven DMPED -- Suzanne Peck leaves WMATA -- Rhee returns

*** MAIN COURSE ***

WHAT'S NEXT FOR KWAME -- In the not-a-column this week: "Kwame Brown navigates his future." The revelations about his SUVs, I write, have "resonated in part because it confirmed what some have already believed. The rap on Brown is that he's insecure, that being elected three times to citywide office by large margins isn't enough for him to validate the power he's earned and, moreover, that he's sloppy with money. ... If Brown had a reputation for brown-bagging his lunch and driving a decade-old Corolla to work every day, it might be a little easier for the public to swallow his claims that he had merely requested a "black-on-black SUV" and was shocked, shocked to see that it cost nearly $2,000 a month. ... This week, Brown pledged to reporters that he would 'win back the trust' of residents who had voted for him and might still again. He has immediate opportunities to do so. Brown leads a D.C. Council that gets the final say on closing a $322 million budget gap, and he has an opportunity to, as did Gray, navigate his 12 colleagues through the politically bruising process of saying no to myriad interest groups. It will help if he can do it without raising taxes."

WAL-MART'S YVETTE TIES -- Washington Times reporter Jeffrey Anderson follows up on his story yesterday on Yvette Alexander's constituent services fundraising by pointing out that three folks with ties to Alexander are on the payroll for Wal-Mart, which is seeking to locate a store in Ward 7. The trio consists of CSF treasurer Derek Ford, fundraiser Brett Greene and campaign chair Darryl Rose. "In January, Ms. Alexander said she was in favor of Wal-Mart building a store in her ward as a way to stimulate jobs and retail options. But at a recent meeting of community leaders at Kelly Miller Middle School, a community member questioned whether Wal-Mart's relationships with Mr. Ford, Mr. Rose and Mr. Greene were appropriate in light of their ties to Ms. Alexander, according to people who witnessed the exchange. Ms. Alexander did not directly address the question, the people said, but she ought to be prepared to, said Mark Rom, an associate professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. 'If anyone is getting paid by both Wal-Mart and Ms. Alexander, then one of those payments must be terminated,' Mr. Rom said. 'But even if there is no direct conflict of interest, the question is, can she stand in front of her constituents and say these advisers don't influence her decisions?' " Alexander, meanwhile, responded to Anderson's story by releasing a feisty letter [PDF] defending her spending on a ward office and on a series of awards dinners and community breakfasts.

A SMALLER SUMMER JOBS PROGRAM -- The Post editorial board offers kudos to Gray for scaling back this year's summer jobs program, saying he "is to be commended for taking needed -- although perhaps unpopular -- steps to reform a program that, if properly run, can do a lot of good." Gray has capped enrollment at 12,000, implemented a better screening process and improved the quality of the jobs. "What was most troubling about the program in the past was the wrong message sent to young people who were paid for doing nothing or, at best, given make-work assignments. Jobs programs ought to prepare young people for the adult world of work by giving them valuable experience, new skills and an understanding of what is expected in the workplace. Well-run programs are smart investments in the future. Paying children to keep them off the streets or make their parents happy may have been politically popular, but it was a real disservice to the children who were supposed to be helped." Tweets @alansuderman: "Alternate universe? WaPo writes two pro-Gray editorials two days in a row."

DATA-DRIVEN DMPED -- Victor Hoskins, the new deputy mayor for planning and economic development, sits down with Lydia DePillis of City Paper and Michael Neibauer of WBJ. He tells DePillis: "The way that we collect and manage data has been a surprise. I think we're going to improve that markedly. ... We currently don't have an in-house tool for recognizing the economic impact of transactions. We mostly rely on developers for that information, or businesses. So what we're working on is creating one that we can use independently. That whole economic analysis is a foreign concept."And he says Skyland should be moving forward soon: "What we're trying to do know is develop a comprehensive solution that will get it done faster. That should be just about the time the mayor gives his State of the District [on March 28th]. There's a lot of players involved, because the solution's not simple." He tells Neibauer: "I talk to [city leaders] about economic impact analysis and how you use that in your prioritization process to document the public return on investment. So, these are kind of nerdy nuts and bolts things, but they are the things that help you determine, given the political lens, given the financial lens, given the limited resources, how you develop the needs of the community. ... Most jurisdictions will not have that rigorous of an analysis, the analytical tools, the prioritization process. They just don't because it's hard to implement."

THE GREAT HISPANIC HOPE? -- "D.C.'s Hispanic population has a new political voice," Harry Jaffe writes in his Examiner column, and it's D.C. Council candidate Josh Lopez. "In a city that's had a rising Hispanic population for the past decade, Lopez is the first serious Latino candidate for public office. The Census Bureau reports Hispanics make up almost 10 percent of the city's 550,000 residents. That's about 50,000 people who have never had an elected official who was a native speaker of their language, who could understand their predicament, who could advocate for them. ... Lopez bears the jaunty look and fit demeanor of his political mentor, Adrian Fenty. Like Fenty, he's a D.C. native. His mother settled here in 1976. She worked as a housekeeper and sent her son to Janney Elementary, Edmund Burke School and Maya Angelou Public Charter. He graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a history degree. Lopez "bugged Fenty" until he hired him onto his council staff in 2004. He worked on legislation and constituent services. He also won election to an Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Ward 4, so he has both elective and policy experience. 'Naturally,' he says, 'most people who support Fenty support me.' That's a stretch."

SUSSING OUT SESSOMS -- Continuing her investigation of UDC President Allen Sessoms, WTTG-TV's Tisha Thompson digs into his job history: "A member of the Queen's College CUNY Board of Trustees tells FOX 5 Dr. Sessoms had an 'impressive presentation' when he applied for the job. 'He's very bright, very personable' and initially appeared to be 'an attractive individual' for the presidency. But the board member says Dr. Sessoms 'raised false expectations' and 'weaved a web of untruths.' 'We had him leave in as dignified a manner as we could' by allowing Dr. Sessoms 'to get another job.' In 2003, Dr. Sessoms moved onto Delaware State University. 'He's a very charismatic man,' says Professor Steven Newton, DSU's Faculty Union president. 'I think he believes in what he's going to do. But sometimes that's not based on a real good understanding of all the facts.' Prof. Newton says Dr. Sessoms increased enrollment and tripled federal funding to the school. He says our FOX 5 Investigation has gone viral at DSU, flooding the e-mail boxes of professors there because of similarities to what happened at their campus. 'Dr. Sessoms traveled quite a bit,' Prof. Newton says."

RHEE-TURN -- Bill Turque runs down Michelle Rhee's Wednesday night speaking engagement at American University, where she took aim at the continued dysfunction of the DCPS central office -- never mind her three-year campaign to transform it: "Rhee left the impression that the central office remained unresponsive, obstructive and contemptuous of parents, teachers and students. 'You know, I used to walk through the central office all the time and I'd see people who picked up the phone and it was parents who had questions. And they literally looked like they could not be more annoyed to be answering that question,' Rhee told a packed auditorium. ... The comment was part of an extended answer recounting the ills of the DCPS bureaucracy. 'Having run a large public school system, I can tell you that a lot of things the District does make absolutely no sense whatsoever. And so it was an incredibly frustrating environment for a high-performing, motivated principal or teacher to work in, oftentimes. ... What the central office was doing was making their lives harder. I thought the best thing I can do is just get out of their way.' " Also: "Rhee did not address recently renewed scrutiny of the claim on her rsum that after two years, 90 percent of her students scored at the 90th percentile or higher. She said only that her three years at Harlem Park Elementary was the transformative experience of her life, and that her students' academic achievement 'grew significantly.' "

PECK COMING BACK? -- Suzanne Peck -- the former D.C. chief technology officer who was a prime fundraiser for Mayor Vincent C. Gray's election bid -- has "quietly resigned" as Metro's CTO, Jim McElhatton of the Washington Times reports. "The move, effective Feb. 25, was announced in a recent WMATA staff memo obtained by The Washington Times. ... She resigned months after being named 2010 'Government IT Executive of the Year' by the Tech Council of Maryland. She also was the subject of speculation about whether she would land a prominent spot in the Gray administration. ... Ms. Peck's resignation was confirmed by officials Thursday after The Times inquired about two previously undisclosed investigative reports by the WMATA's Office of Inspector General concerning Ms. Peck. The reports, issued in 2007 and 2008, were obtained this week through an open records request made by the newspaper nearly a year ago. They separately raised issues about Ms. Peck's role in awarding technology contract work to a vendor and whether she violated policies by requesting payroll information on an employee who did not report to her at the time. She sharply disputed both reports' findings in formal responses to the inspector general."

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Washington Hospital Center nurses are on strike (Post)

On anniversary of D.C. gay marriage, Gray calls on Maryland legislators to follow: "I think they will feel wonderful about it in the aftermath. I think it is the right thing to do and I think they will be very proud of themselves individually and their legislative body for having done this." (Metro Weekly)

Ex-Ward 1 candidate Jeff Smith slapped with $3,400 fine for late campaign finance filings (Loose Lips)

ACLU sues over Metro bag searches (DCist)

Did Sekou Biddle challenge his own signature? (Examiner, Loose Lips)

David Jannarone has a sweet new job at Hunt Development (news release)

Ed Lazere on new revenue figures: "We may be climbing out of a hole, but the [hole] is deep." (DCFPI)

Cherry blossom time: March 29 to April 3 (Post)

Former UMC owner is in litigation hell (WBJ)

Another argument for opening child welfare hearings (City Desk)

What I said yesterday on Kojo (Kojo Nnamdi Show)

Rhee's ex-husband/America's next great pundit is the next Tennessee education commissioner (TN.gov)

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), a David Catania endorser: "It baffles me that anyone would want to live in Washington, D.C." (Burlington Free Press)

Cops won't search for slain teen (Post)

Doug Jemal vs. holdout (WBJ)

Street-sweeping enforcement won't start till March 21 (DCist)

Council will have to approve $354,000 for Nation's Football Classic (Examiner)

Big labor dinner next week (AFL-CIO)

Takoma Theater is falling down (Housing Complex)

Defining a "mini-scandal" (Post)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends grand reopening of former Boys & Girls Club house as D.C. rec center, meets with Taipei mayor, interviewed on "Sports Talk With Glenn Harris" -- Council oversight hearing on D.C. Public Schools, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500; on Destination DC, Boxing and Wrestling Commission, Office of Motion Picture and Television Development and Commission on the Arts and Humanities, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412

By Mike DeBonis  | March 4, 2011; 11:20 AM ET
 
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Next: Yes, Kwame Brown is really driving a mail truck

Comments

DC's latino community deserves a voice on the council. They are woefully underrepresented politically throughout the community, despite being the third largest minority in the city. Biddle is just as corrupt as his palls Brown and Gray. Lopez is just the man to keep that runaway council in check.

Posted by: asuka1 | March 4, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

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