Will D.C.'s Chavous Effect Hit New York?

CHAVOUS (Juana Arias - Twp)
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By Nikita Stewart and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Call it the Kevin P. Chavous effect. Get close to the former D.C. Council member, shoot to power.

That's what happened for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who started as a clerk in Chavous's council office a decade ago. Now, it's on the verge of happening to New York Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a friend of Chavous's who is poised to take over as governor in the wake of alleged ties between Gov. Elliot Spitzer (D) and a prostitution ring. (As of the Notebook's deadline Tuesday evening, Spitzer was said to be weighing a resignation.)

Chavous said he has known Paterson, who is legally blind and part of a family entrenched in state politics, for about four years. They met through their efforts on behalf of public education.

Chavous's bona fides in education go back to his council days. He was chairman of the education committee before losing his council seat in 2004 to Vincent C. Gray (D), who has since become chairman. Still, Chavous, a lawyer, has parlayed that experience into being something of an education expert.

As chairman of Democrats for Education Reform, Chavous helped organize a fundraiser for Paterson next Thursday in Harlem. Democrats for Education Reform is described on its Web site as "a group of education reformers in New York and Washington."

That event was planned long before Spitzer's troubles became public Monday. But who knows? Paterson, who would become New York's first black governor if Spitzer resigns, might now need money for election to the gubernatorial seat. Paterson would serve out the rest of Spitzer's four-year term.

"I'm not putting the cart before the horse, but I will be in New York next week," Chavous said. "I think he's going to be a good governor. . . . He is very smart, very compassionate. He's a great human being."

The Notebook wonders whom Chavous's golden touch will rub off on next.

Gray, Rhee Agree (Sort of)

Speaking of education, it appears that Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee respects council Chairman Vincent C. Gray's (D) judgment despite tensions over their continued lack of communication. Her office has lured away Nicole L. Streeter, Gray's legislative counsel who recently had a going-away party. Next week, Streeter begins her job as deputy to school system General Counsel James Sandman.

Perhaps alluding to the long-simmering Mayor Adrian M. Fenty-Gray rivalry, one Gray staff member quipped, "She has crossed over to the dark side." That person was kidding. Gray and others wish her well, even though her departure ends a working relationship that began at Covenant House, which Gray operated before becoming a council member. He was executive director and Streeter was director of legal services.

Maybe now it will be easier for Gray to get information from Rhee.

A Clarification

In an item last week about the credentials of two of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's appointed cabinet members, the Notebook stated that former D.C. attorney general Linda Singer, who did not have a D.C. bar license until after her appointment, was "dogged by questions about her competence" before resigning in December.

Several of Singer's allies called to complain that that was an unfair representation, and the Notebook agrees. Although it is fair to note that her initial appointment raised eyebrows, as far as we know, the lingering questions about her ability came exclusively from Peter Nickles.

"The pattern is, when ill-prepared cases come on my desk . . . I say, 'Now, whoa!' " Nickles said in December, shortly after Singer resigned. Nickles said he brought and defended multimillion-dollar cases. "If you haven't done those cases, you have no idea about the legal fees and the costs you can generate and the diversion of management time and resources."

Nickles, Fenty's former general counsel, has since replaced Singer as acting attorney general. Singer cited Nickles's interference as the prime reason for her departure.

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