DeMorning DeBonis: April 28, 2011

TODAY IS APRIL 28, 2011 — DAY 113 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

So what’s it all mean? Tim Craig and myself write in today’s Post: “Vincent B. Orange’s election Tuesday to an at-large seat on the D.C. Council could lead to a prolonged period of uncertainty among its members, reflecting a broader divide over the direction of the District. ... Without a strong leader and with political sentiment shifting, some observers fear that legislating could be paralyzed by infighting.” Freeman Klopott writes in the Examiner that “voters appear to have sent a message via the ballot box to the mayor and council chairman that they’re not happy with the direction the city’s top elected officials are heading.” Alan Suderman writes in his Loose Lips column: “Orange proved this week that good things can happen to politicians who refuse to go away. Most people probably would have looked for another line of work after pulling in a dismal 2.9 percent of the vote in the 2006 mayoral race. Not Orange. ... ‘I’ve been knocked down, knocked down, got up. Knocked down, got up,’ Orange said at his victory party Tuesday night.” Gary Imhoff writes in themail that Orange’s win “shows that a political platitude is true — that in a special election, in which there is a splintered field and low turnout, the candidate with the best organization and a dedicated core of supporters who will work hard is the candidate who will win. That’s what Vincent Orange had, and it’s no surprise that he won the election.” And Martin Austermuhle shares a host of closing thoughts on his invaluable Four26 site and at DCist — including the contention that Bryan Weaver did not play spoiler for Patrick Mara: “Weaver and Mara may have been popular in the same parts of the city, but they weren’t necessarily popular with the same people.” Rather, Martin says, Mara’s “R” hurt him more.

AFTER THE JUMP — All about V.O. — Charlie Sheen appears for first and only time in Bob McCartney column — OCF launches probe of Yvette Alexander’s constituent service spending — Gray declares war on litter — Leon Swain ousted from Taxi Commission — OSSE looks to shutter special-ed school

*** MAIN COURSE ***

MORE V.O. — Orange tells the Washington Times’ Tom Howell Jr. that “a ‘perfect storm’ of divided support among nine candidates helped him stave off an ambitious Republican and oust the Democratic incumbent. ... ‘The pie got sliced up real nice,’ said Mr. Orange.” Orange moaned to Klopott about the supposedly subpar Wilson Building office he’ll likely be occupying, and to Tim Craig about the fact that, by mid-afternoon, Kwame Brown still hadn’t called to offer his congratulations. David Alpert writes at Greater Greater Washington that Sekou Biddle’s chances would have been better had he forgone the temporary appointment: “In the lead-up to the State Committee vote, a group of people affiliated with progressive organizations in DC had begun mobilizing with the expectation that Orange would get the nod. I was among them. We planned to visibly launch an effort to seek a more progressive alternative to Orange and harness some of the frustration from a very insider process picking a very insider candidate from a decade past who brought nothing but old ideas to the debate. Instead, that distasteful insider process picked Biddle, and Orange got to claim the outsider’s mantle. A lot of the energy dissipated. Then Biddle spent most of the next few months racking up insider endorsements, challenging people’s signatures, and not standing for much of anything. ... I met with Sekou Biddle early on and liked him. I still do. He’d make a good member of the Council, but needs to learn to be a good candidate first.” The Examiner’s Lisa Gartner notes that the Washington Teachers’ Union is taking credit for Orange’s victory (as well as Trayon White’s SBOE win). The Informer covers the race (“had Mara won, the D.C. Council would have quickly morphed into a majority white governing body”). The Georgetown Voice notes that Orange is an outspoken opponent of GU’s propose campus plan. And V.O. also made an appearance on WTTG-TV.

BOB AND CHARLIE — Post columnist Bob McCartney digs into the Charlie Sheen escort affair: “I can’t summon a lot of outrage over the April 19 incident. It shouldn’t have happened, but nobody was hurt. Sheen’s camp wrote the city a $445 check to cover the cost. The high-speed escort might even have served the public interest, given the thousands of fans eagerly awaiting his arrival. If they wish to spend their discretionary income to hear the incoherent, narcissistic ravings of an oversexed, drug-using, fired sitcom actor, hey, this is America. What did distress me, however, was several days of muddle over what exactly was the D.C. police policy on supplying uniformed escorts to private citizens already privileged by prominence and wealth.” Chief Cathy Lanier tells Bob that sports teams “often get escorts for the sake of orderly traffic and crowd control” but that celebrities running late don’t qualify. But police union honcho Kris Baumann says “other celebrities have received escorts similar to Sheen’s, including Patti LaBelle, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Fran Drescher.” Yes, Fran Drescher. Responds Lanier: “I find it shocking that the FOP chairman is now raising to my attention that I need to investigate other union members for violations in the past. ... It’s going to fall squarely on the members that he represents.”

OCF PROBES YVETTE’S SPENDING — The Office of Campaign Finance has opened an investigation into Yvette Alexander’s constituent service fund, Jeffrey Anderson reports in the Washington Times: “Geraldine Washington asked OCF Director Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery on behalf of a group of Ward 7 residents to determine whether Ms. Alexander commingled campaign and constituent-service funds failed to report and exceeded limits on in-kind donations, accepted reduced rents on a private office in exchange for legislation to benefit her landlord, and benefited personally from funds raised to serve the needy. Ms. Washington said Tuesday that she received a letter last week from OCF stating that it was initiating an investigation to ‘determine whether the allegations outlined in my complaint violate any laws and/or regulations under OCF’s jurisdiction.’ ... The OCF opened its investigation just two years after Ms. Alexander sponsored a bill to double the amount that council members are allowed to raise for constituent services. The Times’ review of Ms. Alexander’s quarterly reports filed with OCF showed that she spent the bulk of the money donated by businesses, labor unions, lobbyists and others — more than $69,000 — on catering, consultants, advertising and supplies for community events and fundraisers.”

WAR ON LITTER — Perhaps channeling the late William Donald Schafer as he was laid to rest yesterday, Mayor Vincent Gray announced at his weekly news conference that he is launching a crackdown on litter. From WAMU-FM: “Fines begin at $75. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says offenders could even face arrest if they do not provide an accurate name and address to officers. Lanier says it will start out as a pilot program in the Metropolitan Police Department’s 4th District, which includes most of Ward 4 and parts of Ward 5. ... Police in the Fourth District will begin issuing warnings in May. And starting in June, they will begin writing tickets. The law applies to both motorists and pedestrians. And the definition of ‘litter’ will include cigarette butts.” Also the Examiner.

LEON’S OUT — Leon Swain Jr., chair of the D.C. Taxicab Commission since 2007, was fired Tuesday by Gray. WAMU-FM’s Patrick Madden reports: “Swain’s tenure was marked by a few major developments: One, the switch from a zone system to meters; Swain was also a key player in the taxicab bribery scandal. After someone tried to bribe him, he agreed to wear a wire for the FBI. The investigation eventually led to more than three dozen arrests, including the chief of staff to a D.C. Council member. The Mayor’s Office says Dena Reed, the general counsel at the Taxicab Commission, will take over as interim commissioner.” Also WaTimes, DCist.

OSSE GETS TOUGH — Rock Creek Academy, a school in upper Northwest that serves special needs students at a cost to the city of more than $50,000 per student per year, is in danger of losing its license from District regulators, Bill Turque reports in today’s Post. The school, a State Superintendent of Education report found, “improperly restrain[ed] students for offenses as minor as throwing candy and leaving the cafeteria without permission” and held “students ... face down on their stomachs against the floor, possibly causing facial injuries.” The school also “failed to deliver therapy prescribed for students and has kept inaccurate attendance records that masked high rates of absenteeism.” Assistant Superintendent Tameria Lewis says investigators “found a disturbing level and high volume of noncompliance” during a yearlong probe. “The action against Rock Creek is the product of an effort by the District to stiffen regulatory scrutiny of private special education schools, which treat about 2,800 students at an annual cost to taxpayers of about $280 million.” Bill also points out at his blog that Rock Creek allegedly “played fast and loose” with attendance data — important, because the school gets paid based on attendance.

MORE ERASURE QUESTIONS — Post columnist Jay Mathews has an issue with the The Washington Post Company Educational Foundation’s honoring J.O. Wilson Elementary’s Cheryl Warley as a distinguished principal: “On the face of it, Warley’s record looks exemplary. She became Wilson principal in 2002 and built a student-designed playground, added green space and created a $250,000 state-of-the-art library media center. Since 2006 her school’s percentage of students testing proficient and advanced in math has gone from 29 to 76 percent and in reading from 46 to 67 percent. ... The problem is those test score gains are suspicious. USA Today discovered that 103 public schools in the District, including Wilson, have been flagged by the company that handled the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests for having highly unusual numbers of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets. The USA Today story focused on Noyes Elementary School in Northeast Washington because it was designated a Blue Ribbon school by the U.S. Education Department and twice earned large bonuses for its principal and staff for significant increases in student achievement. Wilson, also in Northeast, had an even higher rate of erasures than Noyes did.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Fourth and final DYRS ward who escaped from S.C. facility is captured (WTOP)

Louisville corrections chief interviewing with Gray for D.C. DOC job (Louisville Courier-Journal)

Kavitha Cardoza checks in on the Healthy Schools program (WAMU-FM)

Process servers can’t find Sulaimon Brown, but reporters sure can (WTTG-TV)

There will be a fourth Gray hiring hearing (the Examiner)

Whitman-Walker Clinic is now “Whitman-Walker Health” (Blade)

UDC has spent $500,000 since 2007 to repair and maintain president’s residence (The Post)

ABC Board’s Charles Brodsky releases OAG ethics memo. Like the birthers, his critics are not satisfied. (G’town Dish)

Neighborhood outrage after police shooting (WUSA-TV)

McKinley Tech investigator: “They were stupid to fire me.” (The Post)

Zoo stabbing means coordination between cops has to improve, Gray says (The Post)

OAG fights sanctions after “contempt of cop” lawsuit (Legal Times)

District does not have pay to dig up landfill to find body, judge finds (WTOP)

D.C.’s own CoStar makes major acquisition (news release)

Congrats to David Williams, our new youth mayor (DCist)

DCPS independent evaluators respond to critique (Answer Sheet)

Scott Bolden is representing Albert Haynesworth (The Post)

Apropos of nothing, here is a picture of Marion Barry wearing a captain’s hat and hugging Jacques Cousteau in 1985 (UPI)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends fair housing symposium, 10 a.m.; visits St. Elizabeths Hospital, 11:30 a.m. 1100 Alabama Ave. SE; attends Southeast Tennis and Learning Center 10th anniversary gala, 6:30 p.m. at 701 Alabama Ave. SE

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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