DeMorning DeBonis: May 5, 2011

TODAY IS MAY 5, 2011 — DAY 120 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY — Bill Slover asked to resign from DCHA boardMcDonnell, Wolf approach Gray about Dulles Metro station

Add eight more to the “D.C. 41.” Hours after the the House of Representatives passed the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” — which would ban the District from spending local tax dollars on abortions — eight women protesters, including D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), were arrested by Capitol Police for blocking Constitution Avenue NE. Tim Craig reports at D.C. Wire: “After a series of speakers blasted Congress for meddling and undermining Home Rule in the city, After the speeches, she grabbed the microphone and told the crowd ‘it’s time to take it to the streets.’ ...Cheh and about a two dozen others then stepped into Constitution Avenue, blocking frustrated motorists suddenly stuck on the hill leading to the Russell Senate Office Building.” Colleagues Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who were both arrested last month, were also there. Tim notes: “Although she did not get arrested Wednesday night, Alexander called on Gray to ‘shut this city down’ to protest the city’s lack of representation. ‘Let’s block every border,’ Alexander said. ‘The Capitol Police can’t arrest all 600,000 of us.’” They could have arrested nine, though. Check this Twitter revelation, courtesy of WTTG-TV’s Matt Ackland: “[Alexander] just told me she missed being arrested because she had to use the bathroom.” More coverage from WTTG-TV, WAMU-FM, The Hill and WTOP. D.C. Vote has posted YouTube clips with pre-arrest speechifying from Cheh, Alexander and Bowser. And here’s a pic of Cheh emerging from the Capitol Police lockup after posting-and-forfeiting $50 collateral.

AFTER THE JUMP — The Mount Pleasant riots were 20 years ago today — how the D.C. Council and others could improve public input — charter pioneer Baker steps down from PCSB post — Sinclair Skinner gets sue-y — Peaceoholics attacks forthcoming audit — suburbanites love DCPS

*** MAIN COURSE ***

20 YEARS AGO TODAY — Today is the 20th anniversary of the Mount Pleasant riots, when a police stop on the neighborhood’s namesake street led to an officer shooting an Salvadoran man and then two nights of mayhem. At WAMU-FM, Emily Friedman has a very good remembrance of the riots that aired last Friday on Metro Connection.

IMPROVING OUR INPUT — At Greater Greater Washington, David Alpert argues that the District’s public bodies — including but not limited to the D.C. Council — have “flawed” processes because they “are configured to value most highly input from people who show up in person. But this excludes many people with day jobs or family responsibilities. We need to fundamentally reexamine some basic assumptions about public input.” Alpert goes on to cite the recent redistricting debate, where many of those opposed to Marion Barry’s scheme to bring Ward 8 across the Anacostia River were working and could not attend hearings. “Why do we accept our current model of civic engagement as the right one? It gives a much louder voice to people who want to take the time to attend hearings, which are often in the middle of the day. It gives priority to those who can afford to spend 4 hours or more on a single development project, a single bill, or a single zoning change. That favors people who are retired, or people paid to lobby for issues, or people who feel particularly strongly about a single narrow subject. ... There’s little value in giving a voice only to people who can spend 4 hours in the middle of the day waiting to speak for 3 minutes.” Speaking of redistricting and public engagement: JDLand’s Jacqueline Dupree runs down last night’s meeting of Near Southeast residents hoping to mount opposition to Barry’s plan — during which Tommy Wells “emphasized that arguments against a move ... should not center on ‘personalities.’”

JO BAKER STEPS DOWN — Josephine Baker, “godmother” of the District’s charter school movement, is stepping down as executive director of the Public Charter School Board. Bill Turque reports at D.C. Schools Insider: “The former DCPS teacher was elected the first chairman of the D.C. Public Charter School Board by her fellow members after her appointment to the panel by then-mayor Marion Barry in 1996. Six years later, she became executive director, and has overseen growth of the city’s charter sector from 20 schools to 52 schools across 93 campuses. ... She announced today that she will retire at the end of the month. ‘Jo Baker is an icon,’ board chairman Brian W. Jones said in a statement. ‘Her departure will leave both a great void within the PCSB and an unparalleled legacy of service to the children and families of the District.’” Also Examiner, WAMU-FM.

SKINNER SUES — Sinclair Skinner is suing a surveyor hired by his company who was quoted in a Hill Rag article calling Skinner and associates “crooks.” Anthony Currie, the original article said, was hired to site survey at cut rates, then Skinner took his drawings, slapped his Liberty Engineering and Design logo on them, and charged the city huge markups (as noted in the Trout Report). Rend Smith has more on the suit at City Desk; Skinner’s lawyer, Jimmy Bell, tells him: “Everyone who has wronged Mr. Skinner is going to have to be made accountable by a jury of their peers.” As for Currie: “I don’t know what he would be suing me for. I worked with them as a consultant and they literally robbed me,” he said. He adds that he was “the only honest, professional person involved in what they were doing.” A lawyer notes that Skinner will have to prove he was harmed by Currie’s “crook” claim: “Crook, what does that mean? It’s vague.”

PEACEOHOLICS VS. YVETTE — Peaceoholics is accusing Yvette Alexander of meddling in an audit of the group that she ordered, Jeffrey Anderson reports in the Washington Times. “[Executive Director Jauhar Abraham] said that in February an analyst for the D.C. auditor told him the audit was nearly completed, and would be released soon to Peaceoholics so the group could respond to the findings. But on March 7, when he encountered Ms. Alexander at a basketball game, Mr. Abraham said he became concerned about political meddling. ‘She told me she had a draft copy of the audit and was reviewing it,’ Mr. Abraham said. ‘She told me, “I’m after you.”’ ... [D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols] declined to address Mr. Abraham’s claims: ‘My work is being conducted according to our standards and is not influenced by politics,’ she said. Sources familiar with the progress of the audit say there have been unexpected delays and that it has been expanded to include bank records obtained by subpoena. Those sources also say Ms. Alexander and other council members’ staffs have been briefed about the status of the audit, but no concrete information has been shared.”

COMING BACK TO DCPS — Believe it or not: Statistics suggest that more parents are moving their kids out of suburban school systems and into the D.C. Public Schools, Lisa Gartner reports in the Examiner. “More than 300 families relocated from Maryland and Virginia to the District and enrolled their children in D.C. Public Schools for the first time this school year, according to an audit of the school system’s enrollment. The 371 students arrive on the heels of the first enrollment increase in 41 years, a 2 percent bump that acting Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson and Mayor Vincent Gray have attributed to renewed confidence in the chronically underperforming school system as they focus on education reform. That growth is on the upswing, as 111 students moved to the District and enrolled in DCPS in 2009-2010, up from 100 the previous school year. Several parents told The Washington Examiner that DCPS’ programs and student diversity drew them to the District. But now they are wondering if they made the right choice, as top-performing schools are stripped of funding and turnover among school leaders remains high.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Should feds investigate erasure controversy? “At stake for [Michelle Rhee] is her national reputation as an education reformer ...” (USA Today)

Joint D.C.-federal sting nets $1 million of cocaine (Examiner, WaTimes)

Jim Graham tells CFSA to cut “top-heavy” staff (WaTimes)

Henderson promises to give Ward 5 special attention (D.C. Schools Insider)

District bigwigs start raising money for Obama re-elect (Post)

The battle for the Kennedy-Warren is nearing an end (Housing Complex)

Deborah Simmons chestnuts: DYRS policies “mock Lady Justice’s symbols of impartiality, power and the act of balancing law and order”; the D.C. Council is a “merry band of softhearted, progressive lawmakers ”; and the HPV vaccine is “what some people are calling a ‘great big public health experiment.’” (WaTimes)

The guy who robbed Marc Fisher’s house gets sentenced (Crime Scene)

Nearly three years after firing, blind DCPS teacher reinstated in “sad and troubling case” (Examiner, D.C. Schools Insider)

Metro workers with handicap placards hog parking in upper Columbia Heights (WTTG-TV)

Tell DDOT where Bikeshare should go next (Examiner)

How landlords discriminate against voucher holders (Examiner)

Massachusetts Avenue holdout’s building comes down (Mount Vernon Triangle)

Check out George Hawkins’s sweet new Chevy Volt (WRC-TV)

Some lesser known cuts in the Gray budget (DCFPI)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray appears at City Year summit, 9 a.m. at Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, 3800 Reservoir Road NW; visits Ballou High School’s auto shop, 11 a.m.; presents Raheem DeVaughn with a key to the city, 2 p.m. on JAWB steps; kicks off “Passport DC,” 6 p.m. at Blair House; attends Thurgood Marshall Academy gala, 8:15 p.m. at 2427 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE — D.C. Council budget hearings on Department of Health, 9 a.m. in JAWB 500; on Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., 10 a.m. in JAWB 123

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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