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Posted at 11:23 AM ET, 07/08/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: July 8, 2011

TODAY IS JULY 8, 2011 — DAY 186 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — Gray reconsiders Chartered Health Plan settlementDistrict could transfer guns to residents under council billD.C. elections board refers Kwame Brown campaign allegations to federal prosecutors

FLASH — From @wpnick via @bturque: “DCPS 2011: Elem rdg pass rate down 1.1 pct, to 43; math down 0.8 to 42.3; Secondary rdg up 1 pct, 44.2; math up 2.7, to 46.4.” More to come.

With the help of attorney-to-the-pols Fred Cooke, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown pulled off quite the coup yesterday with his request that the Board of Elections and Ethics refer allegations of financial wrongdoing in his 2008 campaign to federal authorities. Sure, it looks bad to have your business under the U.S. attorney’s scrutiny. But look at it this way: The matter, as confirmed yesterday by Ronald C. Machen’s office, is already under federal review. And the board’s decision to give the feds the first crack indefinitely delays a BOEE proceeding that could stand to unearth more uncomfortable details about Brown’s campaign and the likely imposition of big-time fines. With the matter now safely inside the black box of federal law enforcement, Brown can worry about other things. For now, anyway. More from WAMU-FM, the Examiner, WaTimes, Loose Lips, WJLA-TV and WRC-TV, which has comment from Mayor Vincent Gray: “You have to be concerned about these things,” he tells Tom Sherwood. “While we have to pay attention to the issues you mention, we have to pay more attention to making sure this city runs well.”

AFTER THE JUMP — Post editorial: Hurry up, Ron — Should Kwame step aside from his chairman duties? — Feds join test cheating probe — D.C. could help you buy a handgun — Is Gray the Bob Dole of D.C. politics? — City paid for 300 abortions

*** MAIN COURSE ***

STEP ON IT, RON — The Post editorial board calls on Machen to go great guns on his investigating of D.C. politicos: “Lingering allegations about the conduct of the city’s top elected officials — in addition to Mr. Brown, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) are the subjects of federal probes — have created a crisis in governance that should spur the U.S. attorney for the District toward resolution of these unsettling matters. ... [Machen] and his office must undertake a careful and thorough review of all these cases. There are understandable investigative reasons why the office, as a matter of policy, does not comment on ongoing investigations. But we would argue that the District faces an extraordinary situation with an unprecedented number of officials under scrutiny. ... The city needs to know there is an end in sight; it needs answers.”

SAGE ADVICE — From Togo D. West Jr., chairman of the Board of Elections and Ethics: “You want to improve ethics policing in the District of Columbia? Get me some more auditors in the Office of Campaign Finance.”

STEP ASIDE? — Chuck Thies, who has been all up in Brown’s grill on Twitter, writes at the Georgetown Dish: “While we presume innocence, Brown is in a highly influential position. He has taken control of the Committee on Economic Development, he chairs the Committee on Education and holds sway over virtually all legislative matters conducted by the Council. Wielding such power while at the same time under investigation by local and federal authorities is inappropriate. With a simple stroke of the pen Brown can hand over his authority as Chair of the Council to the current president pro tempore, Ward Three Councilmember Mary Cheh. Brown needn’t resign and forgo his vote or his paycheck. However, this powerful action would show that he puts the integrity and of the body ahead of his personal, political stature. If vindicated, the role and responsibilities of Chair will be awaiting his return.”

CHECK IT OUT — Cultural Tourism D.C. asks the chairman for his “insider’s” picks for his favorite places in the city — such as the National Arboretum: “Take in the koi ponds, Bonsai gardens, and trees representing each of the 50 states, or just exhale and observe the amazing natural beauty all around you!”

FEDS LOOK AT TEST CHEATING — The feds have joined the District’s investigation into cheating on standardized tests in D.C. public schools. Bill Turque with the scoop: “Roger Burke, a spokesman for D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, said investigators from the Education Department’s Office of Inspector General have been active in the probe, which was requested in March by Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. Burke said he was not aware of the department’s participation before Thursday and did not know how long it had been playing a role or whether its help had been requested by the District. Beyond that, he refused to elaborate. ‘I’ve gone further than I usually do,’ he said. Catherine Grant, a spokeswoman for Education Department Inspector General Kathleen Tighe, declined to comment. ‘Per our policy, we do not confirm or deny investigative activity,’ she said.” Question is, will D.C. and the feds embark on an Atlanta-style flood-the-zone investigation? Today: 2011 aggregate CAS scores announced!

D.C. COULD HELP YOU BUY A GUN — Right now, District residents can’t bring handguns into their homes. That’s because there’s no in-District gun shops, and the only man licensed to transfer guns in from outside the city lost his lease and can’t find a new location. So Phil Mendelson has a solution: The D.C. government would accept your out-of-state gun transfer as long as there’s no private business to do it. An emergency bill to do so will come before the council Tuesday. The bill comes as accomplished gun litigator Alan Gura has a case in federal court over the de facto handgun ban. Said Mendo: “The opponents of gun regulations are looking for any opportunity to pounce on the District. Right now it’s impossible for an individual to acquire a handgun. ... It’s a situation we need to solve.” Meanwhile, dealer Charles Sykes is having a heck of a time finding a new place to do business, thanks to a city law limiting where he can legally locate. Also on Thursday: Police Chief Cathy Lanier, during her “Ask the Chief” appearance on WTOP, expressed concern about the de facto handgun ban and suggested that Wal-Mart might consider selling guns when it opens stores in the District: “You have Wal-Mart and others that are coming to town and willing to take that on. Are they willing to take that on and become the licensed firearms dealer in the District?” More coverage from the Examiner (with misleading headline), DCist, WUSA-TV (Derek McGinty calls it an “incredible story”; Marion Barry calls it “ridiculousness.”)

‘THE BOB DOLE OF MAYORAL POLITICS’ — Washington Business Journal editor Douglas Fruehling takes a big whack at Vince Gray in this week’s paper, saying that his big economic development speech last week “meandered more than a Virginia Woolf novel” and had “no focus, no message — other than repeated allusion that he won’t pursue the same press-conference-a-week approach as his predecessor.” More: “The energy coming from this administration is about as somber as a wake, which just might be a fitting metaphor. Unless something happens quickly, we’ll all be marking Gray’s political suffocation. This would have been a prime opportunity to impose an economic development agenda, but Gray failed miserably. It’s now six months in, and I can’t tell you what he stands for. ... For the mayor, it’s partly a question of style — Gray is like the Bob Dole of mayoral politics. But without style, you need substance. And, unfortunately, he’s sorely lacking in that department as well.”

300 ABORTIONS — The billings are in: AP’s Jessica Gresko reports that all in all, the city paid for about 300 abortions for low-income women while it was allowed to do so. The procedures cost taxpayers about $185,000. Previously, the Gray administration had told Congress that the city had paid for 118 abortions, but not all the billings had been forwarded to the city from managed-care providers. Gresko writes: “Data from the city’s Department of Health Care Finance shows it took more than a year for the city to begin paying for abortions once Congress lifted its ban in December 2009. The first abortion paid for by the city was provided in August 2010, the last four April 13, 2011, the day before lawmakers voted to reinstate the ban. The majority of the procedures cost about $500 or $700.”

IN OTHER HEALTH-CARE FINANCE NEWS — The city’s proposed $10.2 million settlement with Chartered Health Plan has been iced.

FORECLOSURE BACKFIRE? — A District law meant to protect distressed homeowners had led the city’s two biggest title insurers to stop backing the sale of foreclosed properties. Cezary Podkul reports in The Post: “The District implemented regulations in May requiring lenders to enter into mediation with a homeowner before foreclosing on a home. But now, two large title insurers, which have about 80 percent of the D.C. market share, have stopped insuring the sale of foreclosed properties, saying the law makes it too risky. Without title insurance, obtaining a home loan is extremely difficult. ... The problems could move beyond the foreclosure market to all home sales if lenders decide that any District home that could potentially fall into delinquency would face a similar problem down the road, according to industry officials and local lawyers.” DISB has proposed an amendment, but Muriel Bowser downplays the concerns and says the Council won’t take the matter up until fall: “This is one way that the business tries to get its way — with threats of calamity. This is how the little guy gets [hurt].”

WATCH — Reason.tv has posted its critical look at a proposed medallion system for the city industry. The six-minute video clip is well produced, with extra points for noting that driver organizer Nathan Price hasn’t lived in the city for 15 years. Points deducted for failure to mention that medallion bill is now DOA at the Council, plus gratuitous use of Marion Barry’s crack arrest footage. Aren’t these guys supposed to be libertarians?

MILLION-DOLLAR PARADE — Eleanor Holmes Norton’s request for $1 million for a Spring Valley health study failed on the House floor Thursday, The Post’s Ben Pershing reports. “But Norton’s effort may still bear fruit. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) noted that the defense bill would include more than $200 million to clean up Formerly Used Defense Sites, and some of that cash could go to pay for the Spring Valley study if the Pentagon deemed it appropriate. And Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), the Appropriations Committee’s top Democrat, said he would help Norton in her effort.” Harry Jaffe devotes his Examiner column to the issue, reporting that Norton decided to seek the funding after being approached in the middle of Monday’s Palisades parade. Said Norton, “You get your best ideas from the street.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Gray expresses concern about Alexandria’s riverfront power plant (the Examiner)

Medical marijuana licensing a potential cash cow for city (DCist)

Pepco: The most hated company in America (Business Insider, Housing Complex)

“The District has shuttered a government program that connects small businesses with federal procurement opportunities after the city turned in its application for continued funding three weeks past the deadline.” (WBJ)

City getting sued over rolling papers (WTOP)

Check out what new Metro cars will look like (The Post)

Design changes will lower cost of Dulles Metro line (the Examiner)

Tommy Wells defends underground airport station (WTTG-TV)

Accused serial arsonist may have set fire that injured five firefighters (the Post, STATter911)

Four companies plus “mystery individual” interested in car-sharing contracts (TBD)

David Catania in live stage “Match Game” with gay porn stars, Arch Campbell (Metro Weekly)

Harry Thomas: Not great at managing his bank account balance (Loose Lips, DCist)

Broad Branch Road OK for all users (GGW)

Tom Sherwood loves the H Street Art Walk! (WRC-TV)

We’re not that fat. Not that I’m helping. (WAMU-FM)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray announces test scores, 10 a.m. at Bundy School, 429 O St. NW — Ron Moten guests on The Politics Hour, noon on WAMU-FM

By  |  11:23 AM ET, 07/08/2011

 
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