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Posted at 10:55 AM ET, 04/21/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: April 21, 2011

TODAY IS APRIL 21, 2011 — DAY 106 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — Marion Barry remembers William Donald Schaefer

Is Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s attitude toward congressional Republicans inching toward outright noncooperation? That is what a letter signed by 94 GOP senators and representatives seems to indicate. The letter, sent Tuesday and posted by the National Review Online, says that “repeated requests for information about public funding for abortion in the District of Columbia (D.C.) have been ignored by the D.C. government including your administration.” The letter notes that the Gray administration has shared information about District-funded abortions with reporters — specifically, me — but the Republicans, having sent multiple fact-finding letters, have found facts harder to come by. The signers — which include Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who supported the District House voting rights measure; Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), chair of the District’s appropriations subcommittee; Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chair of the District’s oversight subcommittee; and Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), leading abortion foe — give Gray until May 6 to provide answers to old questions plus “detailed information outlining what steps you are taking to ensure that no more public funds are used to pay for elective abortion in D.C.” If the Gray administration refuses to cooperate, it could mark the return of a rancorous era of Hill relations not seen since Marion Barry left the mayor’s office.

AFTER THE JUMP — DYRS moves to secure New Beginnings — still waiting for Gray transition/inauguration finance details — City Paper likes Bryan Weaver — less than a year till 2012 city primaries — George Hawkins wants to raise your water bill — Charlie Sheen’s MPD escort

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE DYRS DRAMA — The Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services announced this morning that four District kids escaped from a South Carolina residential treatment center Wednesday. This, of course, comes in the same week as an escape from the city’s supposedly secure New Beginnings facility. More at Post Now: “The youth fled the Palmetto Summerville Behavorial Center in Summerville, S.C. around 6:15 p.m. There were no reports of injuries to staff or residents of the facility. The 60-bed center is an out-of-state placement facility for D.C. Youth Rehabilitation Services. It offers treatment programs for teens with sexually aggressive behavior, substance abuse problems and other behavioral issues.” Meanwhile, DYRS has agreed to increase overnight staffing levels at New Beginnings in the wake of Monday’s escape. That willingness to shake things up has the union representing facility officers softening its tone toward Acting Director Neil Stanley, the Washington Times reports: “Right now our approach is to step back, regroup and see if he can respond to our concerns,” said Tasha Williams, the union’s president. Also WUSA-TV.

WHITHER NEIL STANLEY — From the Times piece: “Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and chairman of the Human Services Committee that has oversight of DYRS, . . .told The Times on Wednesday he has not decided how to proceed with Mr. Stanley’s council confirmation hearing, scheduled for May 5. ‘There are important questions of management and philosophy,’ said Mr. Graham, who questioned whether Mr. Gray had conducted a bona fide national search for a full-time director. ‘Is Mr. Stanley qualified to lead this agency, and is there a proper balance between traditional detention and rehabilitation? I want to know his philosophy. Because if it’s to preserve the current balance then I’m not interested.’”

TRANSITION STONEWALL — Gray came under tough questioning at his weekly news conference on his transition finances from Dorothy Brizill and Tom Sherwood. In today’s edition of themail, Brizill continued her questioning of Gray’s transition, as well as Council Chairman Kwame Brown’s: “Gray and Brown both promised to be open and transparent with regard to their fundraising, and indicated that they would provide full accounting for all funds raised and expended. Now, four months after taking office, and after repeated requests for information, Gray and Brown have cloaked their fundraising in secrecy. Unfortunately, neither the District’s campaign finance or election laws require the reporting or disclosure of nonpublic funds raised or expended for the transition or inauguration of elected officials..” She notes that of three inaugural/transition accounts set up by Brown, two are completely unaccounted for. As for Gray, he is “refusing to release any financial records until an accounting firm chosen by the transition committee (that is, Lorraine Green and Reuben Charles) completes an audit,” which is “likely to take several months.” She also levels this unsettling charge: “Charles’ fundraising included having envelopes picked up from individuals and operations up and down the east coast from New York City to Richmond. Many individuals associated with Gray’s campaign and transition allege that in many instances the envelopes contained cash money.” Sherwood and his editor do a fabulous job capturing Brizill’s Freedom Plaza interrogation, including the puzzled looks of tourists and onlookers.

LIVING AT-LARGE — Washington City Paper endorses Bryan Weaver for the at-large Council seat: “[W]e admit that Weaver isn’t likely to win. He got into the race in response to a social media-driven petition, making him the official candidate of myopic little twits at a moment when, politically, that could doom him east of the Anacostia River. And we see him around the neighborhood during the day a little more often than you might expect for a candidate in an upcoming citywide election. But Weaver would bring a perspective the council seems to be missing now: someone who understands both the flood of young, mostly white, professional types the last census counted, and someone who also thinks about how the fallout from the trends that brought them here can leave longtime residents struggling. That’s the intersection where the District government — and all of us who live here — will find most conflicts come from over the next few years. That’s where the city needs a reasonable voice that can translate one side’s hopes and fears to the other.” Greater Greater Washington tests each candidate’s education policy chops: “Weaver had some of the most specific and realistic ideas for improving education, especially for disadvantaged students and on funding disparities between DCPS schools and charters. Alan Page also impressed, with the best response about teacher evaluations. Vincent Orange demonstrated some chops in responses to several questions. The biggest surprise was that the candidate with the longest resume in the education field—Sekou Biddle—had the least specific responses to our education survey. Maybe he’s been more specific on the campaign trail.” The Afro quotes Orange from last Friday’s protest of the Post: “I believe in collective bargaining and protecting [teachers’] jobs.” Also: The Current paper re-endorses Biddle; Martin Austermuhle and Bruce DePuyt chatted about the race on NewsTalk. And Biddle and Weaver were caught brunching together in Adams Morgan!

THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN — Alan Suderman notes in this week’s Loose Lips column that once next week’s D.C. Council election is over, the winner and five other members will have to start preparing for next year’s primary — which, for the first time, will be held in April instead of September. “[W]hile you, sweet reader, probably haven’t thought much about an election that’s 11 months away, rest assured that plenty of people in and out of the Wilson Building have already used up plenty of brainpower mapping out the road ahead. ‘I’m not waiting around,’ says Ward 2’s longtime council member, Jack Evans. Evans filed re-election paperwork with the Office of Campaign Finance last week, the first candidate to do so. Besides Evans and the at-large winner, Ward 4’s Muriel Bowser, Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander, Ward 8’s Marion Barry, and At-Large Council member Michael Brown will all be up again. And while LL isn’t keen on predicting winners, he’s not shy about predicting which races will be noteworthy and which won’t. In that regard, expect some fireworks in Wards 4 and 7, where there are loud voices of discontent over the current leadership. And expect Evans, Barry, and Brown (who will probably be sprinting to the Board of Elections and Ethics to change his party affiliation back to Democrat should Mara win) to face marginal competition.” In Ward 4, Suderman speaks to Baruti Jahi, who managed 18.8 percent against Bowser in the 2008 primary and says he’s “more than likely” to renew his challenge (and is “writing a novel set in 2018 that centers around District politics”). As for Ward 7, there is plenty of anti-Alexander sentiment (”She looks good, but when she opens her mouth, we almost cringe at what comes out”) but no candidate. Except: “If nobody’s going to run, I’m gonna run,” says Ron Moten.

MEET GEORGE, AND YOUR RISING WATER BILL — On A1 of today’s Post, Annys Shin profiles George Hawkins, the evangelical head of D.C. Water who is trying to fill a tall order: “Hawkins is the endlessly upbeat head of DC Water, the agency that many District residents still associate with leaded tap water, ineffectual fire hydrants and chronic water main breaks. For 18 months, Hawkins, 50, has been trying to persuade the District’s residents to forget all that and get excited about the future. He wants to clean up the Anacostia River and cover the city with ‘green’ roofs. And he wants D.C. residents to pay more to do it. A lot more — without getting angry. ... Outside the District, the former EPA lawyer has a reputation as a kind of Lorax for broken water mains. Inside the District, the charm offensive is not always as effective. At a meeting in Ward 8, the tirades started almost as soon as Hawkins was done talking.” Here’s the water-bill problem by the numbers: “Since 2009, the average monthly bill has gone up 50 percent, to $66. The bulk of that increase comes from a special fee that between 2011 and 2019 is expected to increase from $3.45 to nearly $30. ... The money raised will cover the cost of building a series of massive tunnels that will capture polluted storm-water runoff and keep it from flowing into the Chesapeake watershed. DC Water has little choice in the matter: The federal government has mandated the project. ... Residents are only now starting to feel the pinch, and they’re not happy about it.”

CHARLIE SHEEN AND YOU — America wonders: Why did Charlie Sheen get an MPD escort from the airport to his DAR Constitution Hall appearance on Tuesday night? Paul Duggan explains at The Crime Scene: “The two sport-utility vehicles carrying the late-arriving Sheen and his entourage to the hall, at 1776 D Street NW, were escorted by two marked D.C. police cars with emergency lights flashing and sirens wailing. And a photo posted on the actor’s Twitter account (@charliesheen) shows they were traveling well above the speed limit. ‘[In] car with Police escort in front and rear!’ Sheen said in a tweet with the photo attached. ‘[D]riving like someone’s about to deliver a baby! Cop car lights #Spinning!’” Says police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump: “This entire matter is under investigation.” Crump also told NewsCore that the escort was a “reimbursable detail.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Human-rights advocate Timothy Cooper talks about his new plan to stump for voting rights in the international courts (TBD)

Special election will cost $680,000 (Four26)

D.C.’s LEED stats padded thanks to new rating system (Housing Complex)

How the Gray budget cuts affordable housing (DCFPI)

Capital Bikeshare expands (GGW)

But where’s the helmets? (NBCWashington.com)

Gray on vouchers: “I support all the kids in the program until they finish, but I’m a huge proponent of public education.” (Afro)

Wal-Mart foes are “engaging in extortion,” Deborah Simmons says (WaTimes)

More on pay-by-phone parking meter system (Post)

Grand jury delivers new charges in South Capitol Street shootings (Homicide Watch D.C.)

GGW readers “lean toward minimalism” in redistricting (GGW)

Federal cuts stand to devastate local arts groups (City Paper)

Yes, D.C. still spends a load on special-ed transportation (Housing Complex)

Running down the SBOE endorsements (Informer)

More on the WTU’s “industrial-style labor action” against the Post (Informer)

Firefighters tell of near-deadly Northeast inferno (WTTG-TV)

Think tank notices our lobbyist spending (Cato)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray reads to kids, 10 a.m. at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, 2616 MLK Ave. SE; meets with European Union Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, 2:30 p.m. in JAWB — D.C. Council budget hearings on Department of Employment Services, 9 a.m. in JAWB 120; Department of Disability Services, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; Department of Transportation 10 a.m. in JAWB 123; Department of the Environment, 2:30 p.m. in JAWB 120 — confirmation hearing for Office of Risk Management Director Phillip A. Lattimore III, 2 p.m. in JAWB 120

By  |  10:55 AM ET, 04/21/2011

 
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