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Posted at 09:52 AM ET, 06/20/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: June 20, 2011

TODAY IS JUNE 20, 2011 — DAY 170 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — Smokefree advocates strike out at D.C. Council over budget voteU.S. attorney Machen addresses D.C. probes in radio interview

Most likely, the major finding of a new poll by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation will not strike you as particularly surprising: Mayor Vincent C. Gray is significantly less popular than he was shortly before his primary victory over Adrian M. Fenty. But here’s the more worrisome figure for city politicos: “Since August of last year, there’s been a 10-point drop in optimism about the way things are going in the District,” and “[f]or the first time in Post polls back to 2000, a significant percentage of registered voters say the city government — separate from crime and city services — is the single biggest problem they see as deserving mayoral attention.” Today, in a second round of poll findings, Chris L. Jenkins, Theola Labbe-DeBose and Peyton M. Craighill look at where the city’s divisions fall by race and where they fall by socioeconomic class. In most cases, it’s class that matters most, showing that “the long-told tale of two cities — a Washington divided neatly along racial lines — is far more nuanced than typically described.” Post polling director Jon Cohen and I will join Mark Segraves on NewsChannel 8 at 10 a.m. to discuss the poll findings. Learn more through a pair of graphics or view the raw poll data.

AFTER THE JUMP — More from the Post/Kaiser poll — ANC chair accused of stealing $30K — Colby King on money’s corrosive effect on city government — did Jim Graham give out FBI-funded gift cards? — Joe Mamo says high gas prices aren’t his fault — D.C. makes progress on HIV/AIDS

*** MAIN COURSE ***

COLORED PERCEPTIONS I — From Monday’s story: “[W]hen it comes to their outlook on the city, their own neighborhoods and certain aspects of the economy, higher- income African Americans have more in common with similarly wealthy whites than with lower-income blacks. But in many other important areas, the differences between blacks and whites persist, regardless of income level. Blacks with household incomes of $100,000 or more express significantly more sour views of the District’s economy than do whites with similar incomes. Higher-income African Americans also are less secure than whites about their own financial well-being, more apprehensive about the spreading effects of gentrification and somewhat more critical of the state of race relations in the District. The overall results of the poll show that even as African Americans attain a higher economic status, their perspectives remain shaped by decades of economic difficulty and a sense that many blacks, including some in their own families, are still struggling.”

COLORED PERCEPTIONS II — From Sunday: “The newfound focus on city government is more evident among white residents than among African Americans, but similar numbers of whites and blacks see corruption as a major problem in city government. Gray’s personal ratings continue to be highest among blacks and black registered voters. Some 51 percent of African Americans approve of the way the mayor is handling his job, but that drops to just 27 percent among the city’s white residents. The number of black registered voters who like the mayor is down somewhat, from 68 percent in August to 61 percent in the new poll. Among white voters, negative assessments have more than doubled, with 60 percent now holding unfavorable views. Although whites hold more negative views of Gray, the poll shows that new concerns about the mayor cross geographic boundaries. Negative ratings of Gray have spiked throughout the city.”

KWAME — “Some 36 percent of District residents have unfavorable views of [D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown], who was hit with a formal complaint by the Office of Campaign Finance that his 2008 at-large reelection campaign failed to account for tens of thousands of dollars in donations. Slightly fewer, 30 percent, have positive views, and the rest are uncertain.”

POLL REACTIONS — From WRC-TV, WTOP, WJLA-TV, WTTG-TV, and WAMU-FM.

MORE MISSING MONEY — The latest in Ward 5 government corruption allegations: WUSA-TV reports that ANC 5B Chairman William Shelton stands accused of stealing nearly $30,000 in city funds for kids and the elderly. Delia Goncalves reports: “According to the auditor, an illegally obtained Wachovia Bank ATM card was issued to William Shelton, the chairman of ANC 5B. ... Investigators allege $27,000 in cash was withdrawn from ATM’s over the course of the year. Payments were also made to a dozen vendors including, AT&T, Bloomingdales, Target, and Lexus. A source tells 9NEWS NOW Shelton used a portion of the money to pay the car note on his Lexus. ... Gottlieb Simon, executive director of the office of ANC’s says, ‘This is a very serious situation that we need complete answers to.’ Simon said Shelton was supposed to surrender the ATM card Thursday but never showed up to the auditor’s office.” As for Shelton’s response: “When we stopped by his Montana Avenue apartment Friday to find out about the missing money, he would not talk to us. He later called and said he would have a ‘complete explanation’ on Monday.”

MONEY’S ‘EVIL BREW’ — Colby King draws on his days writing the District’s first campaign finance laws under home rule to offer some perspective on money and corruption: “In retrospect, our efforts were strikingly naive. We thought that placing strict limits on campaign contributions and spending, and imposing tough disclosure rules, would be well received in a city having its first partisan elections in 104 years. How silly of us.” Local politicos upped the contribution limits to their current levels 20 years ago — “despite the fact that in a 1992 referendum, D.C. voters set limits of $100 for individual contributions to candidates for mayor, council chairman and at-large council members, and $50 for ward candidates.” Now cash pours in to politicians via campaigns, constituent service funds and nonprofits, and they can pour it out via earmarks. The upshot: “The money sloshing around in the city these days is as amazing as it is unsettling. Money greases the way to access and influence. Money drowns the citizen’s voice. Money and politics, as one political observer put it, are an evil brew. The pot is stirring in our city.”

GRAY THE ‘NONCOMBATANT’ — A thought from Gary Imhoff in themail: “No politician in town has presented himself or herself as a credible opponent of corruption. No politician has tried. No politician has expressed any outrage about any charge that has been made against any of his or her colleagues. ... Gray hasn’t shown any willingness, much less eagerness, to confront any corruption anywhere, whether in his own campaign, in any of the fiscal manipulations of councilmembers, or even in the Fenty administration that he campaigned against. Gray’s only anger has been directed against reporters who try to give him an opportunity to express anger against corruption and scandals. The message that Gray sends to citizens is that, in the fight against corruption, he is a noncombatant.”

GRAHAM’S GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY — City Paper’s Alan Suderman has more from the Ted Loza tapes, specifically on whether Jim Graham himself benefited from Thanksgiving gift cards allegedly purchased by an undercover FBI agent. “There’s no other mention in the court records of the gift cards; it’s possible they never existed. Maybe none of what Loza is saying is true. ... But if the gift cards did exist, what happened to them? One possible explanation is the FBI’s money went to help feed some of the Graham’s low-income constituents.” Graham did give gift cards shortly thereafter to needy constituents. Question: As an academic matter, is it kosher for a politician to pass out gift cards as though they were coming from the politician himself without reporting them anywhere? Answer: “Office of Campaign Finance spokesman Wesley Williams says that if a corporation or a person wants to give away items like food cards or turkeys directly to constituents, and a politician uses the giveaway as a photo op ... then those donations don’t need to be reported.” Graham’s response to Suderman: “Didn’t you know the 2nd gunman in the grassy knoll was to be entombed in Area 51 but the plane on which he was transported mysteriously disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle?”

DOWN WITH SUZANNE — In her Monday Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras returns to a favorite topic: Suzanne Peck, and how much she doesn’t like her. Inspired by news that Peck will serve as a “pro bono senior adviser” undertaking a “Once City performance review,” Jonetta writes: “It’s all about Peck — not District residents. Even without cash, Peck could cash in. She would have enormous access and influence. And, if past is prologue, she wouldn’t hesitate to leverage that to advantage her friends, helping them secure contracts under the guise they are uniquely qualified. ... Peck has proved to be a high-maintenance spendthrift and a serial violator of personnel and procurement rules and regulations. Tapping her to lead any effort to save money is incongruous.” Cue a rundown of the several IG reports accusing Peck of flouting procurement rules to get things done fast — same thing, incidentally Barras hero Allen Lew is regularly accused of. Still, she writes, “Peck is bad news and unnecessary.”

JOBBER JABBER — On Friday, a D.C. Council committee heard testimony on the latest attempt to prevent “jobbers” — gasoline wholesale middle men — from operating retail stations. There gas mogul Joe Mamo of Capitol Petroleum Group, who would be most affected by the legislation, defended himself against accusations that he’s gouging gas retailers and consumers. Tom Howell Jr. recaps the proceedings for the Washington Times: “Mr. Mamo agreed there are high prices in the District but noted that certain retail dealers are to blame for setting high prices at the pump, and it would be fairer to analyze the situation on a station-to-station basis. ‘You have the wrong person under legislative scrutiny here,’ he told the committee. ‘I struggled, I worked hard and I’m here today ... It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault.’” The AAA testified in favor of the bill, which has strong support from Mary Cheh and Phil Mendelson; Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition has come out against the bill, and Vincent Orange was a leading skeptic at the hearing, noting that “no one has established that Mr. Mamo is the cause of price increases.” Also WJLA-TV.

’REAL PROGRESS’ ON AIDS — David Catania explains in a Post op-ed why the new HIV/AIDS numbers are encouraging, and why the District should get used to having an epidemic level of the disease for some time to come. The new numbers, which show a declining number of new HIV/AIDS cases, show that the city’s “prevention and treatment programs ... are aggressive, innovative and effective. ... While we continue to suffer as a result of earlier inaction, last week’s report shows that we are not doomed to repeat history. In fact, the latest data reveal that we are making significant progress confronting HIV/AIDS.” The sobering news: “Ironically, as we continue to aggressively confront this disease, our overall HIV/AIDS rate will continue to remain high. Expanded testing and enhanced treatment will result in HIV-positive individuals living longer and healthier lives, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, it also means that we will live with epidemic levels of HIV/AIDS for some time to come.” See also the response from Whitman-Walker Health.

FEWER NEW PRINCIPALS — The churn through DCPS principals that started under Michelle Rhee’s tenure as chancellor is now “subsiding somewhat,” Bill Turque reports at D.C. Schools Insider. “Just 19 of 125 school leadership posts will change hands this summer, Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson told the D.C. Council. ... That compares with the 46 new principals [Rhee] put in place for the 2008-09 school year, 24 in 2009-10 and 28 for the academic year ending today. In all, Rhee turned over more than 90 principals’ posts.” That said, Bill adds parenthetically: “I actually count 20, and I hear that the list might get a bit longer.” Also: On Sunday, Bill looked at how DCPS, with the help of the Gates Foundation, is putting cameras in the classroom in order to assist in teacher hiring and “capture the elusive recipe for teaching’s ‘secret sauce’ — the attributes and practices that make educators effective. ... The D.C. Public Schools hiring initiative is unusual because officials are relying on cameras at the front end, using classroom video to help screen job candidates. ‘For many years DCPS was known as “Just show up and you’ll get a job,”’ said Jason Kamras, chief of human capital for the school system. ... ‘We would like to be one of the elite places to teach in America and for people to know that you’ve got to be really good to teach in DCPS,’ Kamras said.”

WHAT ABOUT CHEATING? — Jay Mathews keeps the heat on Henderson and her response to DCPS cheating allegations. At her confirmation hearing last week, he writes, “No one asked her any detailed questions about how she planned to address this embarrassment. The question has been pushed so far into the background that otherwise intelligent commentators have suggested that Henderson’s recent announcement of minor sanctions at three schools for testing irregularities meant the problem was solved, even though her actions had nothing to do with erasure rates. Administrators don’t want the system’s reputation further tarnished. Henderson doesn’t want to hurt teacher morale. But our schools’ successes and failures are going to be judged by those test results. If the scores are the product of cheating and not genuine student achievement, we are lost.”

MIND THE PARKS — “[E]ncroachment on the national parks’ corridors of land and water is an ever-present danger” in the District, Neal Fitzpatrick of the Audobon Society and ANC commissioner Kent Slowinski write in a Post op-ed. That, they say, includes Georgetown University’s plan to run 233 buses a day along the western edge of its campus — thus despoiling Glover-Archbold Park. Other past and present blights: cell phone towers, the DHS expansion on Nebraska Avenue NW, residential fences and walls. “On Monday night, the D.C. zoning commission will hold its final hearing on Georgetown University’s plan. The National Park Service must be more vigilant and work with concerned neighbors and elected officials to defend our national park sanctuaries in the District.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Gray says feds need to help with job training (WTOP)

Rapes went up in 2010 — by 20 percent or by 11 percent? (Examiner)

Finally: PERB nominees! (D.C. Wire)

Woman says police took phone after recording Chinatown beating aftermath — for taping the crime scene or for taping the crime? (WRC-TV)

Mount Pleasant standoff “raises, not for the first time, some questions about whether MPD is properly prepared to deal with the mentally ill when or if they become violent” (City Desk)

Ron Machen: I am serious about public corruption (WTOP, DeBonis)

How the bank accounts of local members of Congress stack up (Post)

Dan Snyder’s City Paper suit will indeed test new anti-SLAPP law (City Desk, Post)

Deborah Simmons: “The chickens have come home to roost, and the poop is all over the John A. Wilson Building.” (WaTimes)

Joint operation jails 88 deadbeat dads (Crime Scene)

Former U.S. attorney’s D.C. stint comes under scrutiny during bench confirmation (Legal Times)

Adrian Fenty still a triathlete (Reliable Source)

Patrick Mara likes Jon Huntsman, who likes D. C. voting rights (Huffington Post)

West End developers looking for “flexibility” on inclusionary zoning (WBJ)

Madame Tussauds sues Doug Jemal (Housing Complex)

Restaurants vs. food trucks: an update (WAMU-FM)

Other ways the city could spend its “magic money” (WaTimes)

John Mica (R-Fla.) explains his crusade to evict the Federal Trade Commission (Post)

Some Columbia Heights residents go ape over 11th Street coffeehouse (Housing Complex)

Parenting in D.C.: a dissenting view (WBJ)

News flash: Cops get called to strip club (WaTimes)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray in Baltimore for U.S. Conference of Mayors meetings — D.C. Council hearing on nominations of Allen Lew and Adam Clampitt to the D.C. Water board, 10 a.m. in JAWB 123; hearing on Real Property Tax Appeals Commission (B19-271), United House of Prayer property tax exemption (B19-295), vault tax (B19-208), “Clean Hands Amendment Act of 2011” (B19-248), 10:15 a.m. in JAWB 120; revenue bond approvals for Association of American Medical Colleges, Capital City Public Charter School, Capitol Hill Day School and MVM Technologies Enterprise Zone, 11 a.m. in JAWB 120; roundtable on home foreclosure prevention programs, 1 p.m. in JAWB 412; hearing on H Street NE, Gales School surplussing resolutions, 2 p.m. in JAWB 500

By  |  09:52 AM ET, 06/20/2011

 
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