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Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 03/24/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: March 24, 2011

TODAY IS MARCH 24, 2011 — DAY 78 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — Irvin Nathan to D.C. Council: I am not Peter NicklesNatwar Gandhi: D.C. agencies overspending by $42 millionMusic video to take aim at Gray’s ‘power’

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) took the unusual step Wednesday of responding to his dismal Clarus Research Group poll numbers with a news release that called the poll “a snapshot in time and ... an indicator of where change is needed.” Said Gray in a statement: “The results present an opportunity for me to identify areas in which to win back the confidence of District of Columbia residents. ... I appreciate those who still stand with me and will continue to work hard to earn the favor of those who may have doubts.” He also told WUSA-TV: “Certainly some of the issues that have arisen in recent weeks, I wish they hadn’t arisen. We’ve taken responsibility for them. We’ve taken steps to correct them.” Examiner’s Freeman Klopott compares Gray’s numbers from a pre-election Clarus poll and concludes that “Gray’s once enthusiastic support from the District’s black voters has seriously eroded.” He goes to Ward 8 activist Phil Pannell for commentary: “People are talking about six-figure salaries for administration officials that are just unimaginable for people in Ward 8.” Says Gray campaign strategist Mo Elleithee, “”There’s still a significant number of people for whom the jury is still out. ... If he continues to recognize problems and takes actions to fix them and does that quickly, then he can turn things around.” DCist puts it this way: “Cheer Up, Vince — At Least Kwame’s More Unpopular.”

NOTA BENE — The U.S. Census Bureau will release detailed data on the District this afternoon. Stay with PostLocal.com for full coverage. DMDB will be taking a long weekend and will return on Tuesday, March 29.

AFTER THE JUMP — McKinley principal sent home pending grade-tampering investigation — meet Irv Nathan — DOES paid about $5,000 for new director’s hotel room — Michael Brown goes on street-naming bender


*** MAIN COURSE ***

McKINLEY PRINCIPAL ON LEAVE — Stuff is getting real at McKinley Tech: In the wake of allegations of grade tampering, Principal David Pinder has been placed on administrative leave as the matter is probed. The Examiner’s Lisa Gartner, who broke the story, writes: “Spokesman Fred Lewis said the decision, ‘which follows a series of investigations, is not a finding of misconduct. ... However, it is a necessary precaution given additional information which we received this week.’ ... Pinder declined to comment on the charges on several occasions. The Washington Examiner e-mailed Pinder following DCPS’ decision Wednesday and received an automated out-of-office reply. Current and former McKinley employees told The Examiner that Pinder instructed data clerks to doctor transcripts for several years at the application-only Northeast magnet school. McKinley’s 2009 graduation rate was 96.5 percent, the second-highest among D.C.’s public high schools.” The Post’s Bill Turque speaks to a former McKinley counselor: “Rhonda Robinson ... said in an interview Wednesday that she told D.C. investigators that in the summer of 2008 Pinder ordered her to register two senior transfer students who needed more classes to graduate on time than their schedules would accommodate. One was a senior who had transferred to McKinley to play basketball, Robinson said. ... She said the two students received credit for a series of classes that they did not take, including ‘Programming for Multi Media’ and an unspecified ‘Senior Project.’”

$182 A NIGHT — Klopott reports the price tag for new DOES chief Rochelle Webb’s stay at the W Hotel: “District taxpayers paid about $5,000 so the city’s new director of employment services could stay at the W Hotel for four weeks. ... Brown’s committee has oversight over the employment services department, which is now headed by Rochelle Webb. [Michael Brown] spokesman David Meadows said Webb spent four weeks at the hotel at a ‘reduced room rate’ of $182 a night. He said it was part of her relocation package.” Unanswered question: City Paper reported she’d stayed there for two month.

MEET IRV — AG-designate Irvin Nathan sat for his confirmation hearing yesterday; here’s my rundown, focusing on Nathan’s efforts to show that he’s no Peter Nickles. Zoe Tillman also reports at Legal Times: “Speaking at length about his experience in public and private practice, Nathan stressed his ability to build consensus, even in highly contentious cases. He spoke about several settlements his office has negotiated since he took office in January, including one announced yesterday between the city and a group of disabled residents suing for access to stores that sell D.C. lottery tickets. Mendelson pressed Nathan to explain how he would deal with suits brought against the city by current city employees with grievances or former employees upset about being fired. Quoting earlier testimony from Kris Baumann, chairman of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police – who accused the attorney general’s office of pursuing unnecessary appeals in the past as a strategy for quashing suits – Mendelson asked Nathan whether he thought the office had a problem with ‘over-litigating.’ Nathan said he is opposed to ‘endless appeals,’ but said that, in some cases, lower-level city agencies that settle disputes are wrong and that appeals in those cases can be appropriate. ‘If there is an employee that doesn’t belong on the payroll, we need to protect the District,’ he said.” WaTimes briefs the hearing.

NAME THOSE STREETS — The results of Michael Brown’s statehood street-renaming survey are in, via AP: “Brown now plans to introduce a bill to ceremonially rename Pennsylvania, Independence and Constitution avenues. ... Brown says the majority of participants favored renaming all three streets. Under one proposal, Pennsylvania Avenue would be dubbed D.C. Statehood Way. Independence Avenue would be Let D.C. Vote Way, and Constitution Avenue would be Free D.C. Avenue. A second proposal would switch the new names for Pennsylvania and Independence avenues.” Says DCist: “Michael A. Brown Is An Unstoppable Street Renaming Machine.”

CHECK IT — City Paper’s Best of D.C. issue is out today. Here’s a few of this reporter’s favorite political picks. Congrats, in particular, to the D.C. Courts’ Leah Gurowitz for repeat honors in “Best Flack”; and DPR’s John Stokes for getting a well-deserved nod for “Best Civil Servant.”


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Shocker: Gray says he isn’t planning to reappoint Chuck Brodsky to the ABC Board (WTOP, Examiner)

Here’s audio of Harry Thomas promising to hand over his nonprofit records (Loose Lips)

Metro tables paratransit contract extension after lobbying report (WAMU-FM)

DYRS sending ever more kids to residential placements (City Paper)

New IMPACT report “draws no strong conclusions about the closely-watched D.C. teacher evaluation system, adopting a cautious ‘promising-start-much-work-to-be-done’ formulation” (D.C. Schools Insider)

Mary Cheh has subpoena authority for hiring probe (WaTimes)

Don Peebles questions another government real-estate deal (Post)

Pretty big deal: Sekou Biddle is named “Reformer of the Month” by high-profile Democrats for Education Reform (Examiner)

Biddle, Bryan Weaver top GLAA ratings (GLAA)

Massive CityCenter project to break ground April 4, says Victor Hoskins; some site prep is already underway (WBJ; DCmud)

Federal judge wants billing info from gun-case law firms (Legal Times)

More from Ward 8 Dems vote: “Biddle shocked some members of the audience when he confirmed that he once said that the best mayor that Washington had ever had was Anthony Williams.” (Informer)

Georgia Avenue Wal-Mart goes in for planning office review (Housing Complex, Examiner)

Attention observant Jews: You will have to vote early or absentee in the special election (Four26DC.com)

If you read only one remembrance of Elizabeth Taylor, make it Adam Bernstein’s Post obit — then read Peter Rosenstein’s (Blade)

Whitman-Walker remembers Liz (DCist)

Father of murdered teen says homicide cops are ‘harassing’ him (WUSA-TV)

Philly has Breathalyzer issues, too — tune ‘em up, Chuck! (Daily News)

No hate crime in 2009 murder (Blade)

Council to take up brewery-tasting bill (DCist)

Eric Gilliland returns to run Capital Bikeshare (WashCycle)

Nine D.C. students get full rides to GWU — including former Youth Mayor and aspiring Adult Mayor Markus Batchelor (WaTimes)

Park Police hassle another food truck (DCist)

So Fenty was apparently in Brazil over the weekend (Yahoo! News)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray pays visits to One Judiciary Square and DHCD headquarters; holds baseball “mini-clinic” with Pedro Martinez (!), 3 p.m. at Banneker Rec Center, 2500 Georgia Ave. NW — D.C. Council confirmation hearing for Acting DCRA Director Nicholas Majett, 2 p.m. in JAWB 120.

By  |  11:14 AM ET, 03/24/2011

 
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