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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 06/13/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: June 13, 2011

TODAY IS JUNE 13, 2011 — DAY 163 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — Kwame Brown to face campaign finance chargesJesse Jackson weighs in on D.C. Council gasoline bill

After a scandal ridden week — one that started with revelations of Harry Thomas Jr.’s alleged graft and ended with charges against Kwame Brown’s 2008 campaign, with a whole lot of Sulaimania in between — the weekend was time to reflect on what it all means. With my Post colleagues Chris Jenkins and Isaac Arnsdorf, we talked to a variety of Washingtonians and took a stab at answering the question in Sunday’s paper: “Despite an unprecedented spate of scandals that has threatened to undermine the credibility of the D.C. mayor’s office and the D.C. Council, the District government is, by and large, meeting the expectations of its residents, according to interviews across the city. But those residents also agree that they are embarrassed by the behavior of their elected officials and have a nagging fear of going back to the bad old days, when Congress seized control of city agencies after its leaders amassed a $722 million budget deficit and drove its credit rating to junk.” Take it from James Lovely of North Michigan Park: “It doesn’t feel good to see all of this happening. What’s so bad about it is that they are hurting the city, really hurting the city, not just hurting themselves.” Also: WAMU-FM’s Patrick Madden contributed a piece to NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday on the city’s woes — including Sulaimon Brown’s payoff allegations and his “midnight shades that would make a Blues Brother jealous.” The Georgetown Dish, in the course of calling on Mayor Vincent Gray to denounce Thomas, quotes WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood: “This doesn’t have anything to with Marion Barry. It’s a different time of political and moral corruption. ... For people who love the city and care about the city, there is no direction. We are not going forward, not going backward, we’re frozen.”

AFTER THE JUMP — More on what it all means from Colby King, Bob McCartney, Fox News — Kwame Brown 2008 campaign eyed in campaign finance complaint — DCPS politicking is back in a big way; Henderson hearing Thursday — age discrimination in IMPACT? — today: ethics bill hearing

*** MAIN COURSE ***

PRINCE GEORGE’S PERSPECTIVES — In his Post column, Colby King hears “echoes of Jack Johnson” is the litany of scandals battering the District government: “Prince George’s County comes to the District? No? ... Harry Thomas, Kwame Brown and Vincent Gray, I should note, have publicly denied any wrongdoing. But I’m not ready to swear that the District has honest government. Not when the city, until recently, tolerated a system in which the interplay of earmarks and campaign contributions fostered the notion that pay-to-play was the name of the game. ... We may be already in Jack Johnson’s world.” Post columnist Bob McCartney takes a different sort of inspiration from Prince George’s, arguing that the city needs an honest “power broker” like the late Peter O’Malley was to a generation of county politicos. O’Malley, Bob writes, “proved that a tightly run political organization could help keep the sleaze under control. ... [O’Malley] showed that the best kind of boss spreads around enough jobs, campaign cash and favors so supporters needn’t steal. He prized discipline and insisted that his favored candidates follow orders. But he also wouldn’t pick anybody to run who he thought was crooked – partly to ensure that the machine endured. Outsiders resented O’Malley’s influence, and his law firm and clients made loads of money in the process. Critics grumbled about conflicts of interest. Still, people weren’t going to jail.”

OUR MAN IRV — Irvin Nathan, the unassuming attorney general who dropped a bomb on Thomas a week ago today, is the frame for a rundown of the week’s scandals by Tom Howell Jr. of The Washington Times. He notes that the Thomas suit is “the first meaningful sign of the attorney general’s independence and authority. ... Mr. Nathan’s role in investigating Mr. Thomas has been further complicated by the fact that Mr. Gray and Mr. Thomas are considered political allies, and the investigation into Mr. Thomas was initiated by [Peter Nickles] and disparaged by Mr. Thomas and the mayor as politically motivated. But unlike the long-standing relationship between Mr. Nickles and [Adrian Fenty], Mr. Nathan only met Mr. Gray two weeks before he was tapped to be attorney general.” Nathan himself made his maiden appearance on The Politics Hour Friday, where he pulled no punches on Thomas. And if you can’t get enough Irv, D.C. Bar members can listen to him on July 12 talk about the “role of his office in the legal affairs of the city, his vision for the future, and what it’s like being a public interest lawyer.”

NO — Fox News has an online story about how “fears are growing that the nation’s capital has returned to the politically embarrassing Marion Barry era that was marked by the former mayor being sent to prison for six months after getting caught smoking crack in a hotel room.” It also refers to a mayor named “Anthony Brown.” So yeah.

YES — Sulaimon Brown + Corey Hart = PURE GOLD

KWAME’s CAMPAIGN FINANCE WOES — In a short, late Friday release, the Office of Campaign Finance announced that it had filed formal charges against Kwame Brown’s 2008 campaign with the Board of Elections and Ethics. His re-election committee is accused of a “failure to report 210 contributions totaling $102,763.00, failure to report 53 expenditures totaling $169,431.49 ... and failure to substantiate $174,785.57 in expenditures.” The background, from my brief Post story: “The complaint appears to largely support the findings of an audit released in April. The audit suggested that about $240,000 in Brown campaign funds were sent through an intermediary to a company owned by his brother. In an interview after the audit was released, Brown apologized for what he called ‘administrative errors’ but stressed that all funds were accounted for and were spent on campaign-related expenses.” It is as yet unclear when the BOEE will take up the charges. Also WaTimes, DCist, WUSA-TV, Loose Lips, which notes “the timing [of the announcement] is a little suspect.”

SCHOOL BACK ON THE FRONT BURNER — After an extended hiatus, school-system politics is back for real this week, with a Thursday hearing set on Kaya Henderson’s appointment to replace Michelle Rhee as D.C. Public Schools chancellor. Deborah Simmons has a whole load of questions for Henderson, starting with “Is she a political hack, a clone or her own woman?” School spending wonks Mark Simon and Mary Levy write a weekend Post op-ed on the frustratingly opaque DCPS budget. Their findings: “Most schools will see a significant real cut in what they have to spend. The proposed school budget represents a major shift from schools to administration. ... The majority of D.C. schools face staffing cuts. The big question: Why aren’t more parents upset? Our answer: Most parents don’t know what’s in the budget. ... [N]ow we see what total mayoral control and unaccountable chancellorships have brought us.” They say to “think twice” about confirming Henderson. On the same op-ed page, Michael Casserly of the Council of the Great City Schools lauds Henderson, saying that she “has more than demonstrated her mettle over the past six months.” He continues: “Henderson’s skills and experience are perfectly suited for what lies ahead. And her priorities are precisely the right ones if further gains are to be made. ... Make no mistake, Henderson is also tough and reform-minded — as reform-minded as any forward-looking big-city school superintendent anywhere in the nation. But she is also compassionate, collaborative, accessible and community-minded.” (Bill Turque notes a sleeper issue buried in the Casserly piece, noting that D.C. students “score well below what one would expect statistically, compared with other cities with similar poverty, language, race, disability and family characteristics.”)

IMPACT’S AGE DISCRIMINATION — Bill’s bigger story: DCPS has floated the possibility that some teachers rated “minimally effective” for two years straight might not be fired, as the IMPACT evaluation system demands: “Earlier this week, human capital chief and IMPACT architect Jason Kamras told principals that if they had young teachers with promise who were headed for a second poor evaluation, they could apply for exceptions. ‘We recognize that in some cases, a principal might want to retain a second-year teacher who has received minimally effective ratings in each of his or her first two years of teaching but has demonstrated improvement and the potential to become an effective teacher in the following year,’ Kamras said. ... Kamras said in an e-mail Friday that there is ‘a sound, research-based justification’ for exceptions. ‘A wide body of education research indicates that the learning curve for new teachers is quite steep. The policy you cite above is an effort to take this into account. ... Teachers at later points in their careers, however, are expected to be beyond the steep portion of the learning curve.’” Needless to say, the comments over at D.C. Schools Insider have exploded, with IMPACT foes seeing proof that the system is calibrated against veteran teachers.

ETHICS BILL ON A FAST TRACK — At noon today, the D.C. Council will hear testimony on the Comprehensive Ethics Reform Act introduced by Kwame Brown and Mary Cheh. Patrick Madden has more at WAMU-FM: “Today’s first public hearing ... comes on the heels of one of the most scandal-ridden weeks in memory. ... The proposed measure would create an Office of Government Accountability to investigate issues relating to lobbying, conflicts of interest, financial disclosures and other ethical matters. The bill would require ethics training for city employees and tighten lobbying disclosure forms. It would also make city council members report what clients they do business with in their private practices.” The Post editorial board is not a fan of the bill. While Brown and Cheh “deserve credit for taking up the cause of ethics reform,” they write, “the bill is seriously flawed. It not only would fail to bring clarity to the city’s confusing code of conduct but also would create unnecessary bureaucracy. ... Instead of creating dubious layers of government where investigations can go to die, the council should strengthen the agencies — the office of campaign finance, the inspector general and the attorney general’s office — already in place. The office of attorney general, which already has an ethics officer, seems the appropriate place to vest more authority — particularly since it will become an elected office in 2014. ... Council members are right to treat this issue as an urgent matter, but they should not let their concern over the current controversies lead them to enact a bad bill. Better they slow down, diagnose the weaknesses, listen to the experts and come up with legislation that has a chance of working.”

DOWN WITH NAT — Jonetta Rose Barras keeps the heat on Natwar Gandhi in her Examiner column, noting that famed Gandhi foe David Catania is now asking questions about the possible noncollection of millions and millions in deed recordation taxes. From a letter sent by Catania: “The most concerning aspect of this potential negligence is that, if substantiated, it would again raise questions about the thoroughness and competency of the OTR.” To which Jonetta adds: “Truth be told, the CFO’s entire $131 million operation is a mess. ... ‘If we get rid of him, we’ll have problems on Wall Street,’ one elected official recently told me. Gandhi hasn’t tried to alter that perception. In fact, he has used it to hold the city hostage, guaranteeing his employment through multiple missteps and indisputable evidence of incompetence. If elected officials break out in a cold sweat at the thought of being separated from Gandhi, the loss of $100 million should be sufficient antidote. Shouldn’t it?”

McMILLAN’S FUTURE — Missed this Friday story on McMillan redevelopment by WBJ’s Michael Neibauer: “Rather than let a team of developers work their way through the process and, perhaps, fail midway, D.C. now plans to do much of the pre-development work itself. The traditional route for a private project on public land is to surplus and dispose of the entire parcel, but the District intends instead to sell only the pads ready for vertical development. The stronger role in McMillan is a ‘more responsible way of subsidizing the project,’ said Clint Jackson, development manager with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. As the manager of the project pre-construction, the District can define the ‘right balance’ between physical development, historic preservation and parks, Jackson said. D.C. taxpayers will fund the massive on-site infrastructure work, the stabilization of the site and the development of a four- or five-acre park, he said. The District will lead the project through the planned-unit development process, the Historic Preservation Review Board and the design phase.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

The truth about out-of-state bonds (DCFPI)

Office on Aging scrambles to replace food contractor (AP via WUSA-TV)

PERB official says it would be “pretty rare” for it to overturn arbitrator’s decision forcing rehire of 75 fire teachers (Examiner)

Feds to St. E’s contractors: Don’t freak out! Also: DHS workers might get to use the old temporary Eastern Market tent (Capital Business)

SAIL charter school set to close with two weeks remaining in school year (Examiner)

Thomas’s student loan lawsuit, graft allegations juxtaposed (WaTimes)

Did MetroAccess contractor remove seats from vans to skirt federal driving rules? (Examiner)

Johnson MS principal fired over corporal punishment allegation (Post)

Police redistricting begins (DCist)

Is an apartment crash at hand? (Capital Business)

D.C. Chartered Health Care fired former Aetna, CareFirst exec as CEO (WBJ)

D.C. among many, many places not in compliance with federal sex offender registry law (Examiner)

Metro prepares for life after SmarTrip (Examiner)

Two MPD officers struck with pipe by vagrant in Chinatown (Post)

Metro’s future: Less single-tracking; more wholesale station closures (GGW)

More Gabe Klein plaudits (Chicago Tribune)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray appears on WPFW-FM with host Gloria Minott, 9:35 a.m. — D.C. Council hearing on “Comprehensive Ethics Reform Act of 2011” (B19-297), noon in JAWB 500; “Creditor Calling Act of 2011” (B19-230), 1 p.m. in JAWB 412

By  |  11:00 AM ET, 06/13/2011

 
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