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Good morning, sweet readers! Holy Cow!  Things didn’t start smoothly for LL at the circus that was last night’s Ward 4 mayoral straw poll. When LL arrived, he started filming (with new iPhone, of course) dueling bullhorn-wielding Gray and Fenty supporters. A young Fenty supporter tried to tell LL that filming a political event on a public sidewalk was prohibited. He  then preceded to TRY TO GRAB LL’s NEW IPHONE. LL does not think so, dude. Let’s get to it:

Home Turf Disadvantage: How big is D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray‘s win over Mayor Adrian Fenty on his home turf at last night’s Ward 4 straw poll?  LL will not hyperventilate over a straw poll of a thousand voters, but it does kind of have the feel of George W. Bush losing a popularity contest in Midland.  Certainly the Gray campaign thinks it’s a big deal, or at the very least wants voters to think it’s a big deal.  From their press release: “In a stunning upset, Chairman Vince Gray handily beat Mayor Adrian Fenty Wednesday night at the Ward 4 Democratic Straw Poll.  The Gray victory in the ward formerly represented by Fenty on the Council, further solidifies Gray’s continued momentum in the race for Mayor. Gray won the straw poll by a vote of 581-401, according to an official tally of the results.” The Post‘s Nikita Stewart more or less concurred with the Gray interpretation, calling it an “embarrasing loss” for the Green Team. “Fenty, once beloved by residents in the ward where he was council member for six years, has seen a dramatic turnaround in his popularity. Despite dispatching dozens of workers and volunteers to get out the vote for the poll, Gray breezed by him. Gray supporters were jubilant, hugging after the final count early Thursday. ‘I think the people who know Fenty best have spoken,’ said Adam Rubinson, Gray’s campaign manager.” Stewart, don’t forget, had this must-read about Fenty losing support in Ward 4 a couple weeks ago.

What most interested LL was Fenty’s latest strategy: Right out of the gate he started attacking Gray, mostly about his record of running the Department of Human Services in the 90s and his refusal to say what he’d do with schools Chancelor Michelle Rhee. The attacks aren’t new, but their frequency and intensity sure seem amped up.  At one point Fenty was yelling so intensely at his opponent that Gray made a joke about the mayor not getting too worked up. Is that the faint whiff of the stinky cologne known as desperation LL smells? Or is it a more calculated attempt to get voters to take a more critical look at Gray’s record? Question of the night award goes to WTOP’s Mark Poltkin, who essientially asked Fenty: What happened to you, man? Where is nice Fenty of 2006? Fenty did not provide a very substantive answer, saying he’s still the same guy but with a harder job. Plotkin told LL that he a similarily blunt question lined up for Gray along the lines of, Give a good reason to vote FOR you, that he never got to ask. Too bad. Quote of the night goes to none other than former Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry, who held court after the event with reporters and Ronald Moten. Said Barry: “Even Harry Jaffe would concede that I’m the best political strategist in the country.” As Pink Floyd says, shine on you crazy diamond.

D.C. Watch’s Gary Imhoff got there early and had this description of the event: Fenty’s wife, Michelle, attends; this may be the first public campaign event she has come to, but she leaves at 6:30 p.m., a half hour before the meeting begins. Many administration officials, including cabinet members, are here to support Fenty. Another large and noisy group of Fenty supporters is wearing orange t-shirts. They’re not supporters of City Council Chair candidate Vincent Orange, though; they’re members of LiUNA, Laborers Local 667. They leave early, at 8:00 p.m., because they have to be bussed back to Baltimore. At the start of the forum, the loudest of the shouters is Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who yells “fact” more than twenty times during Fenty’s two-minute introductory statement. When Bowser moves and quiets down, her job as chief cheerleader is passed to Ron Moten, who sits on the floor directly in front of the candidates, throwing gang hand signs at Fenty’s opponents until forum moderator Bruce Johnson asks him to stop.”  LL would like to correct the record.  Moten was not flashing gang signs, he was pretending to be a cheerleader every time Sulaimon Brown spoke.  As LL as noted before, Sulaimon Brown uses much of his speaking time at forums to lobby for a job in a potential Gray administration and probably deserved Moten’s mocking.. Anyway, for more a recap of the more of the circus, see the Georgetown Dish’s roundup, or check out the play by plays offered on Twitter by DCist’s Martin Austermuhle here, The Post’s Michael DeBonis here, and yours truly here.

AFTER THE JUMP: Boring Phil; DCPS Fails Math; Gray Jobs…

Boring Phil: LL’s fourth column appears today in the WCP, and it’s about how boring Councilmember Phil Mendelson is.  Money quote from Mendo’s former chief of staff: “He’ll drive his 1998 Mercury Mystique into the office…he’ll have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch at his desk while he’s on his phone reading a committee report.”  LL also looks at Councilmember Kwame Brown‘s efforts to make this city the more fashionable with the help of an old friend. Want more details? Read it yourself here.

You’re Fired. Or Are You? So, just how many teachers did DCPS can for doing poor performance?  The Post‘s Bill Turque finds out: “D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee garnered big local headlines and national attention July 23 when she announced that she had fired 241 teachers, including 165 who received poor evaluations under a tough new assessment system that for the first time held some educators accountable for student test scores. It turns out that the story is a bit more complicated, and Rhee is facing accusations from the Washington Teachers’ Union that she inflated the figures to burnish her image as a take-no-prisoners schools leader. The number of teachers fired for scores in the ‘ineffective’ range on the IMPACT evaluation system is 76, or fewer than half of the 165 originally cited, according to data presented by the District to the union last week. The rest of the 165, school officials acknowledge, were educators judged ‘minimally effective’ who had lost their positions in the school system because of enrollment declines or program changes at their schools mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Those teachers, subject to a personnel process called ‘excessing,’ are still eligible to work in the school system for at least another year under the terms of the new labor contract, if they can find a principal willing to take them on.”  Rhee defends herself, saying wasn’t trying to boost her national image as a tough reformer by inflating the numbers: “If anything, Rhee added, she was trying to avoid the acrimony generated by last fall’s layoffs of 266 teachers, executed after the school year began. She also said that although ‘some of the nuances’ may have gotten overlooked, she was satisfied that the District was forthcoming in last month’s announcement. Rhee said that although ‘two or three’ of the excessed teachers had been picked up by other schools, there had been “no movement” in the last six weeks to hire the others.” Maybe math isn’t DCPS’s strong suit. LL reported yesterday on a Inspector General’s report that found that DCPC had mistakenly kept some former employees on the payroll. (Though this happened in 2007, right as Rhee was taking over, so let’s not get all worked up).  The Examiner‘s Leah Fabel has a report on a rare victory for WTU President George Parker: The background is too convoluted to keep the attention of even the most devoted student of union bylaws, but suffice it to say that after living through a year of nearly 500 firings and a roller-coaster ride toward a final contract, Parker will indeed be allowed to run again for the office, even though he didn’t file his intent by the April 30 deadline conveniently cited by his opponent (and sworn enemy), Vice President Nathan Saunders.

Gray Jobs:  LL noted that the last two times Gray has unveiled a campaign platform, Fenty has tried to one up him on the same day.  Last month Fenty appreared to win the news cycle game when Gray had unveiled his education plan. Looks like Gray won round two, with the topic being economic development. The Post’s Tim Craig focuses mostly with Gray’s jobs plan, with only a brief mention of Fenty’s counterattack: “Despite new condominium buildings, grocery stores and retail shops sprouting up in neighborhoods across the city since Fenty (D) took office in 2006, Gray says the mayor’s administration has been too slow to address the city’s unemployment rate, at nearly 10 percent. ‘There are too many people in this city wondering where their next paycheck is going to come from,’ said Gray, the D.C. Council chairman. ‘We all have a stake in this. . . . My plan is dynamic and far-reaching.’ Gray, whose plan was drafted after weeks of deliberation among his advisers and dozens of local business and labor officials, vowed to revamp the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, bolster requirements that city contractors hire D.C. residents, and invest more in transportation, the arts and funds used to retain and create small businesses. He said he wants to work more closely with the federal government to develop a new Department of Homeland Security complex on the campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Anacostia to attract industry and small businesses to the area, and he wants to forge closer ties to the hospitality and tourism industries while recruiting more finance-related and green technology firms to the city.’ The Examiner’s Freeman Klopott focuses on what the plan will mean for folks accross the river. DeBonis weighs in as well, saying Gray has opened a “plan gap” between the two candidates: “Put simply, Fenty has not been very good about saying what he would do in a second term aside from ‘more of the same’ —that is essentially what he told the hotel lobby last month: ‘You can expect what you’ve seen over the past four years. … Getting things done.’ Problem for him is, too many people want something more.” City Paper’s Lydia DePillis runs the plan through the old bullshit detector and finds plenty of BS, but some good ideas as well. She also takes him to task for not saying much on transportation.  “In this section, Gray has zero ideas or vision except for assessing needs and tasking DDOT and other agencies with making transportation better for depressed areas and for tourists. He expresses support for “carefully designed, pedestrian-scale streets,” but no thoughts on how they might be advanced. He says he’ll provide incentives for people to buy electric cars, but makes no mention of bicycles. He says he’ll “develop a comprehensive and thoughtful plan for the District’s streetcar network”–as if one didn’t already exist. There’s no argument that things aren’t going well already. If he thinks initiatives like Great Streets are working well and should be supported, he should say that. If not, he should tell us why.” And LL of yesteryear Elissa Silverman reminds that unemployment stats don’t tell the whole picture over at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute: “How we get our neighbors back to work in jobs that pay liveable wages shouldn’t be a one day news story, however. We hope that Chairman Gray and Mayor Fenty, as well as the candidates for Council Chairman, at-large council, and the ward seats, will make this a focal point of debate in these last six weeks before the primary election. Looking at unemployment statistics tells only part of the story. Nearly one in five DC residents live in poverty, and one in three children. One-fifth of all working DC residents earn less than $11 an hour – a wage that is barely enough to lift a family of four above the federal poverty line. Poverty and economic opportunity are linked. That’s why more than 100 local businesses and organizations, as well as 3,000 residents have signed on to the Defeat Poverty DC campaign.”

DePillis also has a great column in today’s paper on the city’s troubled “Home Again” program.  And WCP colleague Rend Smith also has a great read on a good cop gone fired over MPD’s security services for bars and clubs.

DYRS employee with Peaceoholics background gets promoted [Examiner]

Fenty Schedule: Pasta cutting (yes, pasta) at Carmine’s 425 7th Street.