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Posted at 11:58 AM ET, 04/11/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: April 11, 2011

TODAY IS APRIL 11, 2011 — DAY 96 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — E-mails, testimony reveal details of Sulaimon Brown hireGray calls emergency Cabinet meeting to finalize shutdown plan

Here’s how it went down, according to masterful retelling of federal budget negotiations by The Post’s Paul Kane, Perry Bacon Jr. and David Fahrenthold: “With almost 24 hours to go until the government shut down, [President Barack Obama] gave [Speaker John Boehner] an ultimatum on the speaker’s push to include abortion-related restrictions in the bill. ‘John, I will give you D.C. abortion. I am not happy about it,’ Obama said, according to a Democrat and Republican in the Oval Office. Boehner had been pushing to include both the restriction of government funding on abortions in the District of Columbia and a provision that would have placed limits on funds going to nonprofit groups that provide abortion services nationwide, including Planned Parenthood. With the D.C. provision in hand, Boehner continued to push the president, aides said. ‘Nope, zero,’ Obama told Boehner. ‘Nope, zero. John, this is it.’ ” And like that, the president of the United States decided that the District would no longer be allowed to spend its locally raised tax dollars to cover abortions for low-income women. In addition to the reimposition of the abortion rider, the budget deal includes the reauthorization of the school voucher program and it might still include a needle-exchange ban. Look at the bright side: There are no piles of garbage on city streets, city workers are continuing to get paid and UDC’s finals will go on as planned.

AFTER THE JUMP — Early voting starts today for at-large, SBOE races, with two weeks to election day — What the latest Gray hiring hearing revealed — Post editorials take shots at Vince and Kwame — Diane Ravitch on Michelle Rhee — How Marion Barry would do education reform

*** MAIN COURSE ***

HOW THE DISTRICT GOT THE SHAFT — Reminding us that “Congress is still in charge,” The Post’s Ben Pershing writes: “[T]he whole exercise served as a stark reminder that the District has precious little control over its finances. ... The final agreement could end up cutting from the federal government’s annual payments to the District; the version of the measure that passed the House in February cut about $80 million from D.C. courts, school improvements and other programs. The deal could also include a ban on the District using its own funds for needle-exchange programs. Those details will be negotiated in the coming days by members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees. ... As on all legislative matters, [Eleanor Holmes Norton] was hampered by her lack of a vote on the House floor. And the District was particularly hobbled by its lack of representation in the Senate. Late Friday night, both the House and Senate quickly approved a stopgap measure to keep the government funded for one more week while the final spending deal is being drafted and passed. Although Norton couldn’t have derailed that train in the House, in the other chamber any one of 100 senators could have blocked its immediate consideration by objecting to unanimous consent. If the District had senators, they could have chosen to stall the short-term measure as a protest against the inclusion of unwanted riders in the final deal.”

ELEANOR SPEAKS — To The Post’s Miranda Spivak: “Having given the Republicans more than I am sure any Democrat in the House ever envisioned, it was surely unnecessary to pile on the District of Columbia and give them some frosting on what was already a very big cake. All along they said it is about ‘spending, spending, spending.’ How does the District of Columbia get into that equation?”

PROTEST SET — From a D.C. Vote news release: “Tonight, we are going to fight back. Join Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray, Councilmember Michael Brown, Shadow Representative Mike Panetta, DC Vote, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Kappa Alpha Psi, DC Chapter, Inc., DC for Democracy, DC for Obama, AFCME Local 20, and many others.” 5 p.m. outside the Hart SOB, 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue NE.

BRIGHT IDEA — GGW contributor David C. makes the case for drafting Tony Williams to run for president as a voting-right protest: “I don’t actually want Williams to be the next president. Nor do I want him to seek the nomination of either party or run a national campaign. I want him to run to win the 3 electoral votes for DC, and only those votes — as a protest against, and to draw attention to, the secondary status of DC residents. Framed as such, I think Anthony Williams could win DC handily. DC needs a high-profile protest move. It’s hard to get more high-profile than running for presidential office. Would anyone know who Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich were had they not run unsuccessful campaigns?” For some more righteous outrage, check Rick Rosendall’s late-night jeremiad at GLAA Forum. A @congresshatesdc Twitter account popped up Friday. For an explanation of how exactly the District government pays for abortions, see this February item I penned.

DIGGING IN TO GRAY HIRING — Several weekend followups on Thursday’s hearing on Mayor Vincent Gray’s hiring. For Saturday, I wrote what testimony and new e-mails revealed about Sulaimon Brown’s hiring and firing. Former chief of staff Gerri Mason Hall’s testimony that Lorraine Green told her to speak to Gray about a job for Brown provided a link between Green’s numerous campaign communications with Brown and the hiring process that Hall initiated. “Hall said she didn’t speak to Gray about Brown until after he was hired. She said Green did not mention Brown in the month between the December meeting and when Brown was hired at the Department of Health Care Finance. ... Hall testified that she took it upon herself to interview Brown and place him in a job because Brown had been ‘very aggressive in his pursuit of employment.’ ” Bob McCartney, in his Sunday column, homes in on the key point: “To hear Hall tell it, she hired Brown largely to stop him from pestering Gray at public events. If that’s true, it suggests that an experienced, top-level human-resources professional was motivated to give somebody a $110,000 job because he was a nuisance.” He adds: “After Hall’s painfully cautious account – riddled with ‘I don’t recall’ moments in key places – I don’t see how Gray can ever fully dispel the suspicion that his campaign had some kind of private, untoward understanding with minor mayoral candidate Brown in last year’s race.” Freeman Klopott, writing in the Examiner, focuses on former DOES Director Rochelle Webb and her accusation that she was fired after telling Deputy Mayors Victor Hoskins and Paul Quander that she planned to contradict former HR director Judy Banks in her council testimony. Quander tells Klopott in a statement that Webb’s “recollection of our actions is inaccurate. ... Neither Deputy Mayor Hoskins nor I delivered any threats to Dr. Webb. We also made no attempt to influence her testimony.” Says Mary Cheh: “Of course I’m concerned [by Webb’s accusations]. ... But when you are [appointed] you win by the sword and die by the sword. Even if Webb did nothing wrong, she became a political liability.”

SCATHING EDITORIALS — Two doozys from The Post editorial board this weeked. In the first, the sages of the East Wall take a whack at Gray’s budget proposal for upping local spending by $322 million. “That hike in overall spending undercuts Mr. Gray’s argument for a variety of tax increases. Before asking residents and businesses to shoulder new tax burdens, D.C. Council members should look for ways to keep the budget from growing.” They’re happier about the fact that Gray maintained education funding, didn’t spend reserve money and committed to TANF reform. “[T]he last thing D.C. officials should do is impose policies that make the city even less friendly as a place to do business. If there is an argument to raise taxes, it can be made only after there has been a rigorous scrubbing of all spending.” (And, yes, The Post Co. would be hit by combined reporting, in case you’re wondering.) And today, the knives are out for Kwame Brown after the Office of Campaign Finance audit: “The report shatters whatever credibility Mr. Brown had for the responsible management of money; the many still unanswered questions demand further review of his political finances. ... The issues here involve more than simple bookkeeping lapses. Mr. Brown, the District’s second-highest elected official, has come under scrutiny in the last year for problems with his personal debt and a selfish disregard for taxpayers’ money as shown by his demands for a luxury vehicle. ... The Office of Campaign Finance has set a hearing for April 18, when Mr. Brown’s committee will be asked to show why it should not be fined for violations of its provisions. The office also has the option of referring the matter to the U.S. attorney. That is the logical next step.”

TWO WEEKS TO GO — In today’s Post, Tim Craig does a state-of-play piece on the at-large council race, now 15 days away, noting that candidates “are scrambling to figure out where their most likely supporters live, touching off a political free-for-all with no overwhelming front-runner. .. The contenders viewed as having the best chances for cobbling together enough votes to win — perhaps as few as 10,000 in what is expected to be a low-turnout election — are council member Sekou Biddle and former council member Vincent B. Orange, both Democrats.” Orange “is banking on name recognition to solidify support near his home in Northeast and communities east of the Anacostia River. But Orange, a former Pepco executive, is campaigning hard in Northwest, joining residents near Georgetown and American universities to resist attempts to expand student housing into the neighborhoods.” Biddle “is also aggressively campaigning in majority-white neighborhoods in Northwest ... trying to win over voters who enthusiastically backed former schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. ... But the early support Biddle received from Gray and Brown — now politically injured due to recent controversies — has hamstrung his effort, resulting in a campaign still trying to identify a path to victory. While Biddle concentrates heavily on Northwest, his backers, including Brown’s father, Marshall, are working to line up support in other areas. Biddle’s strategy could leave an opening for Patrick Mara, the race’s lone GOP candidate. Mara is aiming to convince voters that this is a solid opportunity to gain a more moderate voice on a council, which currently has 11 Democrats and two independents. ... But Mara is vying for many of the same voters being wooed by Democrats Bryan Weaver and Joshua Lopez.”

MARSHALL GETS ‘MYOPIC’ — Marc Fisher today ponders the future of D.C. culture in a city that will soon (or is already) no longer be majority-black. The broad strokes: “[I]n politics, business, culture and sports, the public face of Washington is still largely African American, and there’s considerable evidence that it may stay that way for a long time to come.” The details: “Students of urban change argue that a city’s ethnic self-image often survives for generations after the defining group loses its demographic dominance. ‘Cities have a certain background, and that culture permeates, even long after that group is no longer the majority,’ said former D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams. ... ‘The Irish influence in Boston is still very powerful, even though Irish people are no longer the bulk of the population.’ ... Marshall Brown, a longtime D.C. campaign strategist whose son Kwame is the council chairman, worries that the shift in population will result in a racially polarized electorate. ‘The longtime white population, the people who got involved in statehood, civil rights and environmental causes, thought of this as a black city,’ said Brown, who is black. ‘But the new white voters aren’t involved like that. They want doggie parks and bike lanes. The result is a lot of tension. The new people believe more in their dogs than they do in people. They go into their little cafes, go out and throw their snowballs. This is not the District I knew.’ ” Also see Tom Lindenfeld: “We still live in a city where white voters measure everything against Marion Barry. ... If white voters believe they could end up with a mayor who could be anything like Barry, they recoil.”

WHAT’S IN A REBRANDING? — The firestorm over the proposed phasing-out of “DCFD” in favor for “FEMS” is fodder for a Sunday piece from The Post’s Annys Shin that looks at government rebrandings more broadly: “Chief Kenneth Ellerbe wants more consistency and to make ‘EMS’ more prominent. So he’s chosen to follow the example of other District agencies, not to mention Kentucky Fried Chicken, Blackwater Worldwide and other corporations: He’s decided to rebrand. ... Government agencies that deliver basic services have been borrowing private-sector strategies to polish their image for several years. ... The city agency that set the standard for image makeovers was the D.C. Department of Transportation, whose logo, a lowercase ‘d’ followed by a period, is a play off DDOT. ... But the city’s slickest makeover belonged to the water and sewer authority, formerly D.C. WASA, now DC Water. Its slogan is ‘Water is life.’ The rebranding, led by the general manager George Hawkins, was aimed at rehabilitating WASA’s image after a lead scandal and rate increases. Hawkins ... went lowercase and dropped the stuffy seal for a giant water drop. DC Water also ginned up a mascot, Wendy the Water Drop, who has her own YouTube channel.” Dave Statter also follows the controversy on his blog.

‘FAST TRACK TO THE PAST’ — Jonetta Rose Barras’s latest broadside against the Gray administration is particularly withering. She writes in her Examiner column: “Gray and his team have placed the city on a fast track to the past, most notably when Marion Barry was mayor and ‘corruption’ was synonymous with the District government. Mayoral friends enriched their buddies and themselves. Ivanhoe Donaldson was caught embezzling public funds. Others, like Vernon Hawkins, were unqualified for positions they held, prompting court takeovers of multiple agencies. Meanwhile, vulnerable citizens were harmed and taxpayers fled the city in droves. Not unlike Barry, Gray’s response to the recent scandals plaguing his administration has been to either ignore them or suggest their impact has been minimal. ... The damage to the city is palpable. Consider the fact that Congress was unwilling to engage local officials during the recent budget debate. No one listens when a government is viewed as corrupt. That was something else we experienced during Barry’s era.”

RAVITCH ON RHEE — The Post assigned Diane Ravitch — federal Education Department official in the Bush 41 regime, distinguished historian of schooling, and recent critic of teacher-centric reform initiatives — to review Richard Whitmire’s biography of Michelle Rhee. The results are predictable: Ravitch savages Whitmire’s “worshipful” book, throwing water on Rhee’s testing gains and lauded school turnarounds, as well as airing the recent concerns about cheating on standardized tests under her administration and attempting a decimation of her “human capital”-centered philosophy. The Kicker: “Now [Rhee] is advising the nation’s most conservative Republican governors, including Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Scott in Florida, encouraging them to get rid of seniority and tenure. She applauded Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin as he stripped the public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights. She appeared in Indiana with Gov. Mitch Daniels, cheering the enactment of voucher legislation. After reading Whitmire’s book, I am almost sorry that Fenty was not reelected. Rhee should have had more time to demonstrate her ideas before they were foisted on the nation.”

HOW MARION BARRY WOULD FIX THE SCHOOLS — Marion Barry writes in a Post op-ed that school reform has “bypassed” Ward 8 and other poor sections of the city. “We need real educational reform — for everyone,” he writes. Among his proposals: “1. Assign the most experienced and proficient teachers to the lowest-performing schools. 2. Assign highly effective principals to every school, and hold these principals accountable. ... 4. End all out-of-school suspensions, except in extreme cases. Using the KIPP model, we should keep all suspended students in the school and in the classroom. ... 6. ... [J]oin Education Secretary Arne Duncan in advocating the hiring of more African American men as elementary school teachers.” His broad stroke: “Overall, the missing factor has been the vicious cycle of poverty. All over America, educators and researchers have found that the children of low-income families are less likely to come to school ready to learn. Unless we deal with the adverse effects of poverty and generate major support for low-income parents and students, the educational advances we achieve will be minimal.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Mayor Gray’s debut Washington Post live chat (Washington Post Live)

Online poker legislation set to pass congressional review Thursday — will D.C. be first to allow it? (Wall Street Journal)

What really happens when Wal-Mart comes to the inner city? (Capital Business)

WTU offers pay-cuts-for-jobs deal; Gray and Kaya Henderson say no (D.C. Schools Insider)

WTU to protest The Post (the Examiner)

District moves to allow lenders to resume foreclosures after five-month hiatus (WBJ)

“Do We Need A Commission on African American Affairs?” (Housing Complex)

Sekou Biddle’s campaign manager used to work for Kwame Brown (the Examiner)

How Webb got to stay in the W Hotel (Loose Lips)

D.C. Water names something unsavory after Gene Weingarten (The Post Magazine)

Texas Republican inquires about bogus snowball tax (City Desk)

Five firefighters hurt, one critically, in Deanwood blaze (The Post)

LivingSocial deal prompts question: Will Capital Bikeshare have enough capacity for the warm-weather months? (DCist)

Harriet Tregoning’s Kalorama house sells for $1 million (Washingtonian)

DMV denizens think shutdown woulda been all about abortion (Slate)

Police union endorses Mara (Four26)

InTowner endorses Weaver, needless commas and em dashes (Four26)

Hey, Council members: How you gonna pay for those 4,000 cops and that youth mental health system? (Patch)

Deborah Simmons’s questions for Kaya Henderson (WaTimes)

Mara wants funding restored for School Without Walls (the Examiner)

Lou Cannon back in charge at Protective Services (City Paper)

Another WHC nurses strike? (WBJ)

Robert Bobb might stay in Detroit (Detroit Free Press)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Early voting for the April 26 special election begins today, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at DCBOEE, 441 Fourth St. NW, second floor north — Gray to hold budget conference call with “Community Stakeholders,” 2 p.m.; holds Cabinet meeting, 3 p.m. — D.C. Council budget hearings on Office of the Tenant Advocate, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500; D.C. Public Schools, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; District of Columbia Taxicab Commission, 2 p.m. in JAWB 120; Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, 2 p.m. in JAWB 123 — hearing on DPR readiness for summer programs, 11 a.m. in JAWB 123

By  |  11:58 AM ET, 04/11/2011

 
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