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Good morning, sweet readers! How ’bout them Cowboys? They had a huge win last night that sets the tone for the rest of the year. LL is an unrepentant Cowboys fan because he is from Texas and his grandfather cheered for them. But what about the rest of you? LL never ceases to be surprised by how many Cowboys fans there are in D.C. What’s the deal? The Redskins aren’t that bad, are they? On with the news.
Orange Post:The Washington Post has endorsed former Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange‘s bid to be the next D.C. Council Chairman (or, as Orange’s signs say, just “Chairman,” like Mao). The Post says it likes Orange’s overcoming-poverty backstory, his determination as a councilmember, and his courage to take unpopular stands. By contrast, the Post questions whether At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown has the necessary maturity to lead, pointing to his $700,000 in personal debt (most of which is tied to his mortgage). So, the question remains, how big of a shot in the arm will the endorsement be for the Orange campaign? The revelations that Brown was a committed overspender on nice cars, boats and motorcycles hasn’t didn’t seem to get any traction in the race. Might Jo-Ann Armao‘s blessing prove different? This endorsement was more of a surprise than the one the Post made in the mayor’s race; there was never any question the paper would back Mayor Adrian Fenty. But the council campaign is also sailing under the radar more than the high-profile top-of-the-ticket clash. Which means it might not take a lot of people toting their Post op/ed pages into the voting booth on Election Day to help them navigate down-ballot contests they’re less familiar with to swing things.
Vince The Plodder:The new local news site TBD is finally up and running. Congratulations, and welcome to the jungle. Sarah Larimer goes long on what goes into Vincent Gray‘s campaign platforms, which can be summed up as follows: Long (probably boring) boring meetings where Gray talks to a bunch of experts and regular people, doesn’t use take calls, doesn’t eat lunch, and is picky about grammar. Sound like a guy so bogged down by process that he doesn’t have the skills to lead? Not so, says Councilmember Phil Mendelson: “’One can over think an issue, one can be paralyzed by there being too many voices and not knowing how to sort through it. I’ve never seen that with Vince,’ Mendelson said. ‘At some point, you understand what the issues are. And you have to make a decision.’”
AFTER THE JUMP: Barry Unvindicated; The 16-year Itch; Don’t Ride Metro…
The 16 Year Itch: The Post‘s Colbert I. King draws a comparison of today’s mayoral race with the racially charged victory of Marion Barry in 1994. Playing the role of Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly is current mayor Fenty: “Fenty’s restructuring of city government—particularly his school system reforms—and his go-it-alone governance style have sparked resentment similar to the reaction to Kelly’s alleged aloofness and her attempts to shrink the workforce. Both were fulfilling campaign promises. Now, as was Kelly, Fenty is estranged from the bureaucracy over which he sits. Many city workers view him as they did Kelly: as a mayor who chooses to fly solo, listening only to himself; as a loner who shut out experienced Washingtonians who could have helped him. And as a result, Fenty—like Kelly—is seeking reelection without the support of those who have traditionally played important roles in the city’s political life: government workers and their unions, families, friends and churches. He’s struggling to regain the support of longtime middle-class and working-class residents who feel they have been relegated to second place by an administration that caters to, and is under the influence of, that old race and class bugaboo: ‘others.'” So if Fenty is Kelly, does that make Gray the 2010 version of Barry? King doesn’t get into that, but LL thinks it will be interesting to see how big a role Gray’s relationship with Barry has in the race.
Marion Barry, Unvindicated: Speaking of the mayor-for-life, the Post broke out its bashing stick over the weekend and let loose on the man. Barry, you’ll recall, recently held a news conference to gloat over the findings of the Office of Campaign Finance, which said he might have broken the city’s personnel manual, but he didn’t break the law. “To hear D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) tell it, he’s been vindicated by the Office of Campaign Finance’s investigation into the actions that resulted in his receiving an unprecedented censure from his colleagues. It seems that Mr. Barry’s reading of the report is as selective as his understanding of what constitutes proper ethical behavior for a public official. Not only did the report concur with the major findings of Special Counsel Robert S. Bennett, but it also delivered a harshly worded admonishment for conduct that ‘adversely affected the confidence of the public in the integrity of the District Government,'” says the Post.
The editorial goes on the say the OCF “appeared to bend over backwards to see things Mr. Barry’s way” and that “we can hope” the feds are investigating Barry. This editorial must fit nicely into Barry’s world view. Barry played the victim at his news conference where he said the big lesson he learned from the whole mess was that his enemies, including those in the media, never sleep.
Yet Another Reason Not To Ride Metro: LL has crafted a system to keep him safe while riding the Metro. Never ride in the front or back cars, and never ride in any of the 1000 series cars that crumple like tin cans in accidents. But LL might need to update his system to avoid 70-person brawls like the one that happened this weekend. “Metro Transit Police were investigating the incident and reviewing videotape of the fracas, which began about 11 p.m. at the Gallery Place Station, Metro officials said. A large group of battling youths boarded Metro cars and continued to fight as they spilled onto the platform for the Green and Yellow lines at L’Enfant Plaza Station, terrifying other riders and causing a stampede. Two 16-year-olds were charged, one with disorderly conduct and the other with simple assault. Angelo Nicholas, 18, of the District was charged with disorderly conduct. Five people hurt in the fight and ensuing crush were taken to hospitals, a Metro spokeswoman said, and an unknown number of others were injured” report the Post‘s Valerie Strauss and Philip Lucas.
The brawl has prompted local political types to try and come up with solutions. Councilmember Tommy Wells wants to make the city’s curfew an hour earlier, an idea the council already rejected earlier this year. Councilmember Phil Mendelson rejects the curfew idea, but wants police to take a more targeted approach to higher risk times and Metro locations.
It’s Hard Out Here For A Fed—Not: Speaking of Metro, are the new peak-of-the peak fares driving you crazy? Well, you probably don’t work for Uncle Sam and get a fat little $230 a month to cover your commute, reports the Post‘s Ann Scott Tyson. “The fare increase is of ‘no concern to me,’ said Wayne Smith of Chevy Chase, who works at the Smithsonian Institution as a project manager. The transit benefit amply covers ‘whatever it takes’ to go to and from his job downtown, Smith said Friday at Friendship Heights Station. … Jim Graham, board member from the District, said it was unique to the nation’s capital that a transit system’s fares would be raised and yet not felt by so many riders. ‘You have during the peak hour a substantial number of people who can pass the fare increase to another place,’ he said. ‘They don’t experience the same increase that other riders do.'”
But oh-uh, there’s trouble on the horizon for those on the guvment dole: the subsidy will be cut in half later this year, unless Congress votes otherwise.
It’s All Your Fault, Vince: The Examiner’s Jonetta Rose Barras goes off on the D.C. Council and Chairman Vincent Gray for what she calls their “unconscionable” behavior in denying extra funding to extend the troubled summer jobs program. “Gray and at-large Councilman Michael Brown deliberately couched the debate over the extension as the mayor taking money from homeless residents to give to youth. But there was $46 million in a special account, some of which will go unspent until 2012. Therefore, there was money for summer jobs without injury to homelessness programs. Legislators’ criticism of Fenty’s overspending was appropriate. Deliberately creating a dichotomy—homeless versus youth—to score political points was unconscionable.”
This screed seems long on anger and short on facts. LL would like a little more detail about the $46 million “special account.” And how did Brown and Gray deliberately set up a false dichotomy, when it was Fenty who used federal funds for needy families to extend the program? Here’s what Freeman Klopott, who writes for the same publication as Barras, wrote about the funding brouhaha: “But this year, when the council-approved cash ran low, the Fenty administration pulled dollars from stimulus funds meant for the District’s homeless.”
And here’s what Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who heads the Committee on Human Services, said of the federal funding Fenty was trying to use to extend the program: “That money was intended for homeless services. That money was budgeted for homeless services.” Are they wrong? If so, prove it.
But Barras doesn’t; instead she goes after Gray for being a political hack. “Gray has lamented incessantly over the divisions in the District. But during his mayoral campaign he has used every opportunity to exacerbate and exploit those fractures. That means he’s probably not the right person to unite the city.”
Bring In The Newbies: The Examiner’s Leah Fabel has an interesting story on school Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s plan to improve the city’s worst-performing schools: clean house. “Exactly how many teachers will lose their jobs will not be finalized until the middle of August. But the lowest-performing schools are almost certain to see the most turnover as principals take advantage of their newfound power to oust low performers. And while staffing instability has drawbacks, it’s better than the alternative, said Cynthia Brown, vice president for education policy at the Center for American Progress. ‘Why is a school that, year after year, has kids performing at low levels better for a community than a school with more talented teachers and leadership?’ she said. ‘The new staff will have to make an effort to engage the community—every good educator has to do that. It’s a change, but it could be a change for the better.'”
Fabel also has a sidebar on the potential doe-eyed idealists that Rhee is hiring to replace fired teachers. “Teresa Danskey, 26, felt a ‘magnetic’ pull to DCPS upon her return from the Peace Corps in South Africa last month. ‘Over the past few years, my passion for teaching in underserved areas has grown,’ she said. Danskey majored in Spanish and secondary education, and taught high school Spanish in Indiana before training teachers in South Africa.” LL was also once a plucky young idealist who joined the Peace Corps and went off to Africa. Now look at him. ¡Teresa! ¿Cómo se dice en español “cautionary tale?”
A.G. Peter Nickles scores legal win over chop shops [Examiner]
Cheh asks Nickles to look into school food contracts [Slowcook]
Average cost of childcare for a year in the District: $11,500, more than twice national average [WAMU] (That gulp you just heard was from LL, whose first child is due in December).
Don’t miss: Ward 8 mayoral forum tonight. St. Elizabeth’s 7:45 p.m.
Correction: due to a default setting in our blogging software, an earlier version of this article referred to Marion Barry as Councilmember for Ward . City Paper regrets the error.