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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 07/05/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: July 5, 2011

TODAY IS JULY 5, 2011 — DAY 183 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — D.C. Taxicab Commission reform: Some thoughts

A belated happy Fourth of July to DMDB readers — this reporter missed the Palisades Parade for the first time in some years, but other members of the local press corps thankfully picked up the slack. Patrick Madden reports for WAMU-FM: “There was a contingent of D.C. Republicans in the march calling for the resignation of a council member. There was a group of neighbors protesting a local university’s development plan. And later on, another marcher protested the city’s online gambling proposal, followed right behind the Council member who authored the deal.” The aforementioned GOP retinue marched with a sign reading “D.C. Deserves Better Than Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. Resign Today!” Police Chief Cathy Lanier rode in the parade with one of her dogs, and Mayor Vincent Gray used the occasion to call for the city’s independence from federal meddling. He also rode in the parade with the “D.C. 41” arrestees — and without, for the first time in recent memory, the baby-blue Cadillac Eldorado convertible belonging to Howard Brooks, alleged payer of Sulaimon Brown. In other news: The D.C. police seized 2,710 illegal fireworks, worth about $10,000, WUSA-TV reports. That left only, by my amateur reckoning, 437,481 illegal fireworks left on the street. More holiday coverage from WaTimes, WTOP, WJLA-TV and DCist.

AFTER THE JUMP — WTU takes DCPS to court over IMPACT — D.C. “seat-of-the-pants” gambling initiative — summer jobs participants level sex abuse charges — United Medical Center, one year later — alone among GOP field, Huntsman backs D.C. voting rights

*** MAIN COURSE ***

WTU SUES OVER IMPACT — The Washington Teachers’ Union is suing the D.C. Public Schools over the IMPACT teacher evaluation system. Bill Turque tells us what it all means: “The case, pending before D.C. Superior Court Judge Anita M. Josey-Herring, is the first skirmish in what is likely to be a protracted legal war waged by the [WTU] to contest the rigorous evaluation system.” The dispute of the moment surrounds whether IMPACT evaluations are subject to arbitration; the judge says the union can “contest procedural errors in evaluations but not the substance of IMPACT or the ratings instructors receive.” Some context: “Similar legal disputes are unfolding across the country as cities and states attempt to toughen evaluations by holding teachers more accountable for raising student achievement. Last month, the New York state teachers union sued the Board of Regents — the state’s top education policymaking body — charging that it exceeded its authority by allowing school districts to base 40 percent of teacher evaluations on test scores. An attempt by Los Angeles teachers to block a new evaluation plan was recently rejected by California.” WTU President Nathan Saunders says his union “will be exerting constant pressure until we have a fair teacher evaluation system.”

A LOUSY GAMBLE? — In the wake of last week’s hearing, a Post editorial calls for further scrutiny of the city’s online gambling plans: “The seat-of-the-pants planning that surrounds this venture is evident in the failure of officials to realize that some residents might not welcome casino-like neighbors; or that the innocuously named ‘random number generated games’ essentially amount ... to virtual slots — and are an awful lot like the video slots that the city shot down several years ago. There was, as we have noted, no real discussion about the pros and cons of the District legalizing online gaming, thanks to the machinations of council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large), who bypassed normal council review by including the measure in an omnibus budget bill. Mr. Brown continues to claim his actions were motivated by the urgent need to find revenue during the budget crisis, but the record shows that he had been working on the issue behind the scenes for months and that he was specifically advised that it was a bad idea to forgo a public hearing. Mr. Brown is right, though, that other council members — including Finance and Revenue Chairman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) — should have been paying closer attention to the last-minute additions to the supplemental budget.” On Bruce DePuyt’s show Friday, Gray addressed the gambling language. A quick wrap-up from Loose Lips: “Gray, who was in his last days as chairman when the council approved the legislation, told DePuyt that the gambling plan ‘was very much at the forefront’ and received the ‘appropriate’ amount of scrutiny before being passed.” Also: WaTimes follows up on “iGaming,” noting that the stakes are fixed and relatively small. And the AP talks to poker pro Phil Ivey’s lawyer, who says D.C. should “slow down.”

WHERE’S JACK? — On the subject of Evans, Jonetta Rose Barras says in her Examiner column that the council’s longest serving member has been insufficiently zealous in exploring whether Natwar Gandhi’s office failed to properly collect deed taxes for a decade. Evans, she writes, “has been satisfied to take Gandhi’s word, ignoring the CFO’s inherent self-interest in playing down the problem. ... Evans and Gandhi, the two individuals most responsible for the city’s fiscal health, have decided to engage in what is starting to look like an elaborate cover up.”

SYEP SEX ABUSE CHARGES — In news that broke late Friday, city authorities said that a pair of female summer jobs participants reported incidents of sexual abuse while on their jobs. From the Post report: “The Wednesday incident occurred at the employment services department’s headquarters at 4000 Minnesota Ave. NE, officials said. Assistant police chief Peter Newsham said the victim was a 17-year-old. ... Officials said Thomas Nelson, 54, of Northeast Washington, who was employed at the headquarters as a file clerk, was arrested and charged with second-degree touching of a minor by a person in a position of authority. In the Friday incident, a 19-year-old woman alleged that she was touched inappropriately by a construction contractor at Anacostia Senior High School in Southeast Washington, Newsham said. No arrest has been reported in that incident, which authorities said remained under investigation.” In a statement, Gray called the allegations “extremely alarming, disappointing and reprehensible.” Also WUSA-TV, WJLA-TV, DCist, Examiner, AP.

THE STATE OF UMC — Missed this Friday: WBJ’s Ben Fischer looks at the state of United Medical Center a year after the District takeover: “The past year has made apparent some basic takeaways: The safety-net hospital along the southeastern D.C.-Maryland border remains open and has avoided the catastrophic failures many had predicted without District intervention — missing payroll, closing major service lines and defaulting on debts. Also, dire warnings from such officials as [Gandhi] about the perils of public ownership have proved to be overblown: United Medical Center’s impact on the District’s operating budget is negligible. Three months of audited figures, post-takeover, show a positive margin, and unaudited financial statements since then show profits, too. Indeed, in the first three months of District control, the hospital booked $1.4 million in profit on $21.6 million in revenue. And yet, the process of turning a decade of financial ruin into an attractive acquisition target may still be lingering at the halfway point — United Medical Center is stable and minimally profitable, but still far from being in demand.” To secure a sale, the city may have to guarantee public support or spend more money on capital improvements. Also this news: “Gray’s administration is days away from selecting a vendor to conduct a major review of the hospital, seen as the first step toward eventually selling the hospital, perhaps as soon as 2012.”

D.C. AND THE GOP FIELD — The Post’s Ben Pershing surveys the Republican presidential field for their views on District voting rights. Most couldn’t care less about the issue; only former Utah governor Jon Huntsman feels positively: “Unlike many Republicans, Huntsman has a history with the subject. During his tenure as Utah governor from 2005 to 2009, his state teamed up with the District on a compromise proposal that would have granted each a new seat in the House. ... At a 2006 House committee hearing on the legislation, Huntsman testified that it would ‘promote democratic values.’ ‘The people of Utah have expressed outrage over the loss of one congressional seat for the last six years,’ Huntsman said. ‘I share their outrage. I can’t imagine what it must be like for American citizens to have no representation at all for over 200 years.’ And Huntsman still supports the idea today. ... Huntsman may be the only contender in the GOP field who supports District voting rights, though some candidates’ positions can be difficult to glean. ‘That is not an issue that Mitt Romney has addressed or spoken about in the past or in this current campaign,’ said a spokesman for the former Massachusetts governor. A spokeswoman for ex-senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) said he is opposed to granting voting rights to the District. The campaigns of Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and pizza magnate Herman Cain did not respond to requests for comment.”

HOW TO PREVENT TEST CHEATING — Jay Mathews highlights how the Baltimore public school system works to prevent cheating in its classrooms: “Just before the Maryland School Assessment tests were given this year, Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso recorded an unusual eight-minute video with a special message for administrators and teachers. ... ‘If there is anybody who is thinking of any kind of irregularities, I need you to understand that your entire professional livelihood is on the line,’ he said. ‘We are not talking about termination. We are not talking about being transferred. We are talking about losing your professional license.’ Last year Alonso, the chief executive officer of Baltimore schools, had the teaching license of a principal revoked because of erasures at her school. At a June 23 news conference he went even further, announcing that cheating had occurred at two other schools. Next to him was Maryland Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick, who said those involved in tampering could lose their professional licenses. ... D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has not said anything like that.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Yvette Alexander will kick off re-election campaign at Gray’s house (Loose Lips)

Vincent Orange hooks up with Wal-Mart protesters: “There really needs to be a public hearing on this issue. ... We don’t need to just sneak this organization into town.” (WAMU-FM)

Is Harry Thomas “driving the bus” for Wal-Mart? (Housing Complex)

How the Taxicab Commission is “on a warpath against drivers” (Post)

Feds’ battles with pedicabs are wrapped up in Tourmobile contract (Post)

Harry Jaffe reviews D.C. Council members’ summer schedules (Examiner)

Evans is pro cross-downtown cycletracks (WABA)

Thomas still hasn’t addressed student loan issue (AP via WJLA-TV)

Not just firefighters: Breast-feeding cop not granted desk duty speaks out (Examiner)

Michelle Rhee stumps for immigration reform on This Week (ABC News)

George Parker explains why he’s working for Rhee: “If it’s about children, then you work with people on those things that you agree upon for the benefit of children.” (WAMU-FM)

Suburban jurisdictions try to swipe away LivingSocial (Capital Business)

Big shots support Michael Brown’s re-election (Loose Lips)

Are we ready for a summer without Peaceoholics? (Patch)

Council hearing will scrutinize hate crime stats (WAMU-FM)

Not all streetcar construction will be like H Street’s (Post letter)

Council has already moved to regulate tattoo industry (DCist)

A “missed connection” at DCPS (Examiner)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends Washington Kastles opening night match, 6:45 p.m. at 800 Water Street SW — no council business

By  |  12:00 PM ET, 07/05/2011

 
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