'Scare Tactics' From Fenty's Team?

By Yolanda Woodlee and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mayors in the District have never taken criticism particularly well.

Anthony A. Williams (D) used pained body language to signal his displeasure when asked tough questions from reporters or residents. Marion Barry (D) famously charged that a certain unfavorable element had "set me up" after being caught on an undercover camera doing illegal things years ago.

Some think the Fenty administration is taking its umbrage to a new level.

On June 13, uber-activist Dorothy Brizill was handcuffed and led off to jail after engaging in a row with an aide to Victor A. Reinoso, deputy mayor for education, at the John A. Wilson Building. Another community activist alleges that he was similarly targeted by the Fenty team the same day.

Robert Brannum, a substitute teacher who has demonstrated against Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's takeover of public schools, says he thinks the administration was angered by loud comments he had made June 12 at the mayor's news conference to announce the appointment of Michelle A. Rhee as school chancellor. Brannum attended the announcement, on the steps of the Wilson Building, and badgered the mayor and his aides several times.

Brannum said he learned he was under investigation by the public school system for an alleged altercation with Reinoso. He said Reinoso ultimately exonerated him when questioned by school system investigators.

But Brannum said he thinks Fenty (D) was sending a message.

"Maybe it is, 'I've got control. Watch what you're doing,' " Brannum said.

"I'm surprised that it happened," added Brannum, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Education last year. "I don't know who started the rumors and elevated it to the point where there was an official investigation."

Several community activists said the incidents concerning Brizill and Brannum appear to be a form of intimidation. Brizill said she was trying to get a phone number for a panel member when she was accused of assaulting an aide to Reinoso. The aide said Brizill grabbed the lanyard she was wearing around her neck.

"Dorothy Brizill doesn't have to attack anybody with her hands," said Cherita Whiting, a school activist. "She can do a much better job at it with her pen and paper. Taking her out in handcuffs . . . it was unnecessary."

Whiting said it appears the Fenty administration is using "scare tactics."

"Like with Robert Brannum, people are not going to be scared away," Whiting said.

In fact, Brannum said he's not going away. He said he's scheduled to meet with Reinoso and Rhee on Tuesday.

What's in an Age?

We knew that D.C. school chancellor is a tough job, but one week into her appointment Michelle A. Rhee has already aged a year.

Rhee, who was born in December 1969, was cited as being 37 when Fenty announced last week she would be his surprise selection for the top school job.

A reporter for the Korean Times, which was present to chronicle the big day, said the Korean American was 38 in a report the next day.

What gives?

Turns out, Koreans consider newborns a year old, so you are a year older in Korean -- at least on paper.

Perhaps Fenty used that to his advantage, employing it with his youthful staff to counteract the criticism that some of his selections are too inexperienced to run the government.

For the record, the Times also revealed the chancellor's Korean name: Rhee Yang-hee.

Loose Lips Jumps Ship

As the man behind Loose Lips, Washington City Paper's D.C. political column, James Jones is used to reporting on the doings of the city's governing class.

Now he's the news.

Jones, who has penned the column for about two years, is leaving City Paper to become a senior program associate at D.C. Appleseed, a nonprofit public policy organization. He said he will do a little of everything for Appleseed, focusing on a couple of high-profile issues, including HIV and AIDS.

Jones took over Loose Lips duties from City Paper veteran (and current Washington Post reporter) Elissa Silverman and quickly put his stamp on the column, which is a must read for city leaders, employees and gadflies. He was tough on some, regularly lampooning former council member Harold Brazil and angering a pair of current members -- Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) -- with his stinging reports.

Last week, Jones got a scoop about Dorothy Brizill being sued in Guam by slot machine promoters. Brizill helped block a similar effort by the promoters in the District a couple years ago; she allegedly was sued after making remarks about the group on a Guam radio show.

Jones said he has admired Appleseed's work for years and was ready to make the change when the right job opened up. His last column in City Paper runs today, and he'll start at Appleseed on Monday. City Paper Editor Erik Wemple said the column will continue after a short hiatus to find a replacement for Jones.

Gumshoe Reporting

The Notebook has been scooped . . . by a site called DailyCandy.

We wouldn't have known we were scooped were it not for a friend who spends a lot of time shopping online and who forwarded us this item from the DailyCandy Web site, which bills itself as "the ultimate insider's guide to what's hot, new, and undiscovered."

So what's the scoop? DailyCandy has learned that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, known for his long work days and morning runs through Rock Creek Park, does, in fact, slow down every once in a while. According to the Web site, when Fenty is not running through the park, he "likes to take it down a notch with a park ranger-guided horseback tour of the critters and flora that call it home."

Who knew?

DailyCandy also reported on a couple other Fenty favorites: hiking the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum and visiting the recently reopened Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.

With reporting like this, the Notebook is now sweating a new competitor.

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