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Posted at 11:22 AM ET, 03/31/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: March 31, 2011

TODAY IS MARCH 31, 2011 — DAY 85 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — Leon Swain, D.C. taxi czar, recalls Reagan shooting

File this one under “infuriating but not surprising,” or more aptly, “infuriating because it’s not surprising.” D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) has been driving an unregistered Jaguar for months, Tim Craig reports in The Post: “The license plate on Barry’s Jaguar has been ‘inactive’ since Sept. 29, about the time he stopped using the black BMW sedan he had been driving. ... According to the DMV, the license plate on the Jaguar belonged to the BMW before the car was sold. ... The plate now appears on the Jaguar, but the vehicle is not registered with the DMV, the records show.” Yes, it is illegal to drive an unregistered vehicle, and, yes, if the vehicle isn’t registered, that means that Barry didn’t pay the city the 10 percent excise tax on its value. And, Tim writes, the circumstances “raise questions about how Barry has continued to use his vehicle without it being scrutinized by police or city parking control officers.” Barry’s car had plenty of interactions with law enforcement. Earlier this month, it was booted by DPW. In December, he reported it stolen. Police, who retrieved the car, knew it was unregistered when they gave it back to him, but “an officer told him the vehicle could not be driven until it was registered.” Barry’s excuse: His dealer lost the title, and as soon as he gets one, he’ll register it. Wonder what the federal agents who monitor his income as part of his ongoing back-tax garnishments think of all this.

AFTER THE JUMP — Barry: Gentrifiers are “displacing” African Americans — Michael Brown tries to fill his father’s shoes, 15 years after sudden death — Michelle Rhee walks back statement before walking it forward — CBE program: root of all scandal? — Voucher bill passes House

*** MAIN COURSE ***

BARRY ON NPR — Barry appeared Wednesday on NPR’s Tell Me More to discuss the new census results and what they say about D.C. Here’s a representative quote from the Mayor for Life: “White people ... are displacing African Americans who are renters and gentrifying the city. And I’m not afraid to speak up to say that that’s something we got to deal with. We got to provide more home ownership for African Americans. With the Hispanic community, grew by nine percent, which we welcome that kind of growth. And — but I wouldn’t want us to lose — that this city and other cities have to deal with the gentrification. And in Washington deal with the fact the federal government have to provide equal opportunity for African Americans.” At that point, former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer, also a guest, jumped in: “Let me just indicate there’s not a problem for us in Detroit. ... We want everybody to come to the city of Detroit.” WAMU-FM’s DCentric has a very nice summation.

RON BROWN’S BIG SHOES — It has been 15 years since pioneering black politico Ron Brown died in a plane crash in Croatia; Post Style writer Lonnae O’Neal Parker looks at his legacy — and his son’s efforts to live up to it. “Since the commerce secretary’s death, Michael Brown has often had to be a vessel for the grief and expectations of others, while finding his own way forward without his father’s guidance. And the journey has, at times, tripped him up. Like a generation of Washington insiders and common folks alike, Brown embraces the larger-than-life legacy of his father. But he has also struggled with its burden. ‘It’s hard when folks say, “Who is the next Ron Brown?”’ he said. ‘Just like it’s hard to say, “Who is the next [Michael] Jordan?”’ ... The councilman, who just became a partner in the Madison Group government relations firm, is separated from his wife, Tamera, sand splits time with the twins, and usually keeps three BlackBerrys spread out in front of him. His days are spent dashing between meetings, public and media appearances, and phone calls, with barely time to scarf down a Filet-O-Fish in his Hummer in between. ... He won’t say directly whether another bid for mayor is in his future, but he notes that people ask him, often in conjunction with memories of his father. ... Critics have said Michael Brown traded on his name to get elected. Some wonder why Ron Brown’s son isn’t a diplomat, chief executive or university president, why he hasn’t had a big national footprint. He’s had some high-profile missteps, including a misdemeanor charge of illegally funneling campaign contributions more than a decade ago, and more recently questions about his payment of D.C. taxes. ‘I’ve made mistakes,’ he said, but that doesn’t mean you stop moving forward or doing what you’re supposed to do. ‘Self-correction is a part of life.’ ” Also: Informer covers the dedication of Ron Brown Way.

GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT — Another day of drama surrounding the DCPS test-cheating concerns raised in Monday’s USA Today. Most of it concerns Michelle Rhee’s response to the whole affair. As you’ll recall, Rhee on Tuesday blamed “the enemies of school reform” for doubting the achievements of disadvantaged kids. On Wednesday, she appeared to walk that comment back, calling up The Post’s Jay Mathews and telling him that the comment was “stupid.” Furthermore: “She said that she thinks cheating might have occurred in the District and that she is glad her successor, Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson, ordered a new investigation. Rhee said she still believes that the vast majority of teachers and administrators would never falsify test results, but that there can be exceptions. She said we should improve test security procedures so such abuses could not recur.” But Rhee apparently then issued the same statement as before to Politico’s Ben Smith, minus the “enemies of school reform line.” When the inconsistency was pointed out, Rhee’s spokeswoman, Mafara Hobson, “clarified” the matter: “In an interview earlier today with The Washington Post, Michelle Rhee said that she could not be absolutely positive that cheating had not occurred simply because she was not and could not have been in every single classroom at the time. The reporter’s paraphrasing of what she said leaves out this important point, and is an inaccurate reading of what she intended to say. Anyone who tries to interpret this as meaning anything else would be wrong.”

MORE — Andrew Rotherham, high-profile education reform advocate, makes some lemonade out of the lemons the USA Today stories have given The Movement. He writes at Time: “Critics of today’s push for greater accountability are quick to argue that cheating is the inevitable byproduct of any high-stakes system. That’s ridiculous. While cheaters are a fact of life there are numerous professions with high-stakes consequences for performance where cheating is not rampant. Besides, that argument insults teachers by implying that they can’t achieve challenging goals without cheating. What various cheating scandals do tell us is that while we have many outstanding teachers and schools delivering powerful instruction, too many cannot.” Mayor Vincent Gray responds to the controversy, telling WUSA-TV: “I have a lot of confidence in the chancellor, of course. And the reports that were done by the security firm.” Also: Do read Lisa Gartner’s Examiner post on the quote controversy: “Since when is USA Today an enemy of school reform?” And Matthew Yglesias has good insight on what the controversy says, and doesn’t say, about the expansion of high-stakes testing.

ROOT OF ALL SCANDAL? — In this week’s Loose Lips column, Alan Suderman looks at the role of the Certified Business Enterprise program — aka CBEs or LSDBEs — in various abuses of taxpayer funds, including the parks contracting mess. “In plain English, the CBE program gives minority-owned small businesses in the District opportunities to get off the ground that they might not find in the private sector. But the local CBE program always seems to be in the news for the wrong reasons. ... Trips to the archives show plenty of problems with bigger, non-minority contractors teaming up with minority contractors to win bids, only to stiff their partners once the contracts are signed. ... The latest example: The D.C. Council’s investigation into whether former Mayor Adrian Fenty steered millions of dollars worth of park construction contracts to his fraternity brothers. The investigation ... found that Fenty, himself, did nothing wrong. But the report was not so kind to Fenty’s fraternity brothers, Omar Karim and Sinclair Skinner. ... [Special Counsel Robert Trout] hasn’t been shy about saying he thinks Skinner, possibly with Karim’s help, ripped off taxpayers for more than $500,000 by adding an unnecessary and expensive layer of management to the contracting process. And how did they get into position to commit said alleged rip-off? The CBE program.” Read it, and then for a little throwback, read a questioning of the CBE program as it pertained to the D.C. Lottery contract award, penned by a certain former LL.

FIRST NAVIGATOR REQUEST: SEPT. 29 — Suderman also helps get to the bottom of an enduring mystery: When, precisely, did Kwame Brown request his famed “fully loaded” Lincoln Navigator? Yes, someone called DPW Director Bill Howland about the car the day after the election, on Nov. 3. But a December e-mail refers to a request made in October. Suderman FOIA’d, and here’s what he got: “On Sept. 28, a program specialist at DPW wrote his boss: ‘[Council staffer Larry Cooper] called me today and put us on point that the new Council Chair (K. Brown) will need a new vehicle of his own. Currently, [Fleet Management Administration] is leasing a Chevy Tahoe for Mr. Gray. Should we consider turning in the Tahoe for a vehicle of Mr. Brown’s choosing or go into another direction?’ The boss took the request to Howland, who responded in a Sept. 29 e-mail: ‘Yes, go ahead and work with CM Brown on what type of vehicle he wants. We need to coordinate the return of Chairman Gray’s vehicle with his new vehicle with MPD as well as vehicle for CM Brown.’ ” So there you have it.

PREVENTING ANOTHER TRAGEDY — David Catania unveiled his legislation intended to memorialize the victims of the South Capitol Street shootings a year ago. The Examiner’s Freeman Klopott calls it an “ambitious, comprehensive bill that’s meant to prevent youth violence by cracking down on truancy and requiring mental health screening for the District’s children starting in preschool. ... Catania said the shooting and the persistence of a mother who lost her child that day inspired him to develop the legislation, which, if passed, will link the city’s patchwork of youth mental health programs and tighten policies on students who skip school.” Also WaTimes and WRC-TV. Catania’s Web site has the bill, an explanation and video from yesterday’s news conference.

HOUSE PASSES VOUCHERS — The House passed a bill Wednesday afternoon that would restore the D.C. school voucher program, 225 to 195, “with all but nine Republicans present voting in favor and all but one Democrat opposed.” Ben Pershing writes in The Post: “House passage Wednesday followed an impassioned floor debate, with each side accusing the other of advancing an ideological agenda at the expense of D.C. students. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a strong opponent of the program, said that Republicans were ‘obsessed with depriving the District of Columbia of its home-rule rights.’ ... But [Speaker John Boehner] (R-Ohio) called the scholarships a method for ‘injecting freedom and competition into a system that’s caught up in the status quo.’ A fervent champion of school choice, Boehner often becomes emotional when discussing the subject, and he repeatedly choked back tears Wednesday.” So what now? “The Obama administration is eager to pass a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education measure, and Boehner reiterated Wednesday that he sees the D.C. program as an important step ‘if we’re serious about bipartisan education reform.’” Compromise, perhaps? Also AP, and courtesy of Politico, what Georgia state Sen. Judson Hill thinks of all this.

’WE DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY HERE’ — A Wilson Building rally called in support of a taxi medallion bill Wednesday was overtaken by scores of cabdrivers who opposed the bill. WTOP’s Mark Segraves was on the scene: “[Barry] addressed the crowd of drivers outside the Wilson Building, who were chanting, ‘Shame on you.’ ... ‘Many of you are not from America,’ Barry said. ‘We do things differently here.’ Barry encouraged the crowd to “disagree without being disagreeable,’ reiterating their complaints of lower pay after D.C. switched from a zone to a metered taxi system. The drivers had assembled in response the Taxicab Drivers/Owners Fleet Owners Coalition, which had organized a press conference outside City Hall. The coalition supports legislation proposed by Barry, and fellow council members Michael Brown, At-Large, and Harry Thomas, Jr., Ward 5, to establish a ‘medallion’ system.” The Washington Times also covers: “Larry Frankel, chairman of the Dominion of Cab Drivers, said the ‘most absurdly written bill’ would realistically cut the number of taxi drivers in half, by offering only 4,000 medallions in classes one through four to about 8,000 taxi drivers. He said similar systems have led to monopolization in other large U.S. cities. ... John Ray, a former D.C. Council member and attorney, took the brunt of criticism from the crowd. Mr. Ray, who said he represents a coalition of D.C. cabdrivers in support of the bill, heard chants of ‘coward’ and ‘liar.’ ... He downplayed concerns that a single company would own all D.C. taxis in the future. But, he said, it would not be surprising to see several companies dominate the market years down the road, simply because companies will make better offers to individual drivers looking to sell their medallion for a profit. ‘Ray Charles can see who they’re going to sell it to,’ he said.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Gray to drop budget plan tomorrow — don’t expect tax hikes (WaTimes)

Major parts of Eric Payne’s lottery contract lawsuit can proceed, federal judge rules (Legal Times)

Hypothermia season ends tonight, meaning homeless families will likely be left on the street (DCFPI)

In wake of McKinley probe, more high schools could be investigated for grade-tampering (Examiner)

Michelle Obama visited Ballou High School Wednesday (WTOP)

Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has banned “DCFD” clothing, added EMS patient bill of rights (Examiner, WAMU-FM)

ABC Board drops voluntary agreements for Mount Pleasant bars, but controversy is not over (Housing Complex)

Kwame to Ward 3’ers: No new taxes! (G’town Dish)

Ignored by riders, man collapses and dies on Smithsonian Metro platform (WUSA-TV)

Fare hike has MetroAccess drivers sometimes paying for their passengers (Examiner)

Jack Evans has a new Web site (JackEvans.org)

Why is the MPD busting people for selling mixtapes? (City Paper)

Unions ticked that they weren’t told that DYRS official was shot in robbery attempt (WaTimes)

“Bar owners worry about Metro late-night service cuts” (GGW)

Gentrification story, ’Zaminer-style (Examiner)

Charter board votes to close Nia Community PCS and Ideal Academy PCS (Examiner)

More on hiring hearing (Informer)

About Cathy Lanier’s e-mails ... (Examiner)

Ben’s Chili Bowl + Wal-Mart “global distribution system” = Harry Thomas’s recipe for job creation (DCist)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends Nats opening day, Shaw skate park ribbon-cutting, and Meridian House diplomatic reception — Kwame Brown hosts update on IMPACT evaluations, 9:30 a.m. in JAWB 500; “community conversation” on Kaya Henderson’s appointment as permanent chancellor, 6 p.m. at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, 2616 Martin Luther King Ave. SE

By  |  11:22 AM ET, 03/31/2011

 
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