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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—-“Still Livetweeting D.C. Budget Negotiations“; “Dominican Mayor Says $11,000 Paid for Trucks That Never Came

Morning all. The earmarks may be gone: Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, in one fell swoop yesterday, took an ax to the institution that has embarrassed his institution of late, over the pleas of his colleagues. That, of course, also freed up $8 million to close the budget hole. Gray, according to WaPo’s Tim Craig, said: ‘I don’t want to pick and choose because, inevitably, we will be accused of some bias in the process.’ Craig also notes that members are ‘reviewing a menu of 32 possible tax increases’—-check LL’s Twitter feed for a closer look at the ‘menu.’ And Examiner’s Michael Neibauer notes that serious cuts to education and welfare are very much on the table. (As was, briefly yesterday, a hefty police cut.) Unfortunately, LL will not be able to tweet most of today’s budget talks—-he’ll be participating in ‘Sex and the City Paper’ Day today by covering courthouse weddings. Follow along at the Sexist!

AFTER THE JUMP—-Fishy fire truck: the other mayor speaks; DCPS debuts ‘catalyst’ school program; last-ditch drama at Jacks trial; OPM is now DRES; and major announcement coming from NTSB on Metro crash?

MR. CESPEDES GOES TO WASHINGTON—-The mayor of Sosua, Dominican Republic, Vladimir Céspedes, was in D.C. on Monday and Tuesday to meet with fishy fire truck investigators and met with reporters yesterday at a press conference organized by Dorothy Brizill. Scoopster Neibauer focused on the money in Examiner (as did LL), noting that no one knows when Sosua is going to get the $11,000 back it paid to transport the trucks. Also NC8, WTTG-TV and WaPo, which quotes William Walker: ‘We would like to continue the deeds of good work and good faith….But because some people like to play political games and are involved in ego gratification, the whole situation has been blown out of proportion.’

DCPS to create ‘catalyst schools’ program, selecting 13 locations that ‘will launch plans for specialized programs in science and technology, arts and languages’ yet be ‘open to all eligible students without an application or other admissions requirements,’ according to WaPo’s Bill Turque. ‘The catalyst project addresses one of Rhee’s central goals: establishing what she calls a broad “portfolio” of schools with diverse offerings that can more effectively compete with the District’s burgeoning charter schools.’ Also Examiner, WTTG-TV.

THE MONEY—-‘The first three years of the catalyst project will be funded by $6 million in grants from donors that include the Philip L. Graham Fund, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation and the CityBridge Foundation….The project is sponsored by the D.C. Public Education Fund, formed by Fenty to bring private money into the school system. ‘

ALSO NOTED—-‘Rhee told an audience at Georgetown University recently that she is hoping to strike a partnership with the SEED Foundation, a national nonprofit group that runs urban public boarding schools….”We’re a huge fan of SEED,” Rhee said. “We’re hoping to open a partnership school with SEED where they can actually run a DCPS boarding school.”‘

Lawyers may have made their closing arguments, but drama has not ended at the Banita Jacks trial: Her lawyers make a last-ditch appeal in a bench conference with Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg, telling him, according to WaPo‘s Keith Alexander, that their client ‘might not have been competent when she refused to pursue an insanity defense, telling the judge that they had considered mounting such a defense against her wishes.’ What prompted these revelations? A new report, finished last week, from a doctor who examined Jacks. The judge was not happy: He says he will rule first, perhaps today, then will sort it out. ALSO—-WTTG-TV talks to Jacks neighbors.

Harry Jaffe writes in his Examiner column that he’s not so much outraged by Marion Barry‘s contracting and earmarking shenanigans so much as by his rationalizing: ‘[H]ere’s the difference between a contract from Barry and one from [Jack Evans] — or, better yet, Mayor Adrian Fenty. In his 16 years as mayor and another 10 or so on the city council, Marion Barry’s trademark is spending public funds and expecting little in return. He gave billions in contracts to build public housing, which crumbled thanks to shoddy construction. He financed scores of nonprofits to help the unemployed, yet unemployment always rose. He spent millions on summer jobs for kids, who pocketed the cash and did no work. At least Fenty and Evans give public funds to bona fide organizations that will not squander the dough. It’s called accountability, a theory Marion Barry has never, ever grasped.’

Turque also covers Monday’s kickoff of the DCPS independent evaluation. Dozens of wonks gathered to set a course for the study, to be conducted by the National Research Council. ‘Much of the discussion Monday reflected uncertainty over exactly what to evaluate and how. The law isn’t terribly specific. Is it an exercise to help Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee make mid-course corrections? Should it be an accountability document that measures promises made and promises kept? Or should it take the longer view and assess how far the system has come on Rhee’s watch?…Rhee and Gray spent part of their panel going back and forth on the issue of whether there had been sufficient outreach to the public on big policy decisions. Gray said the “the perception” is that there is not. Rhee said there will always be factions of the community that don’t feel they’ve been engaged, but urged researchers to look beyond the usual naysaying voices and “rise above the platitudes the media has created.”‘

ALSO—-Release of school-level test data delayed due to school appeals.

WTOP: ‘Federal investigators are getting ready to make a major announcement about last month’s horrific collision on Metro’s Red Line. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation could be to the point where the root cause of the crash may be pinpointed.’

Also from Adam Tuss: Matthew Matyuf, who heads up the automatic train control system, is back at work after being ‘reassigned to a “special project” just days after the deadly crash on the Red Line on June 22….Sources tell WTOP that investigators did not want him to be so closely involved with the investigation — but the investigation is at such a point, Metro believes it is okay for him to get back to his regular, assigned duties.’

Metro to Red Line riders: Why don’t you take the bus? Reports Kytja Weir in Examiner: ‘The push came Tuesday, more than a month after the crash killed nine and injured more than 70 people. “It’s just a friendly reminder that the bus is still an option,” Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said. But the reminder may signal that delays will continue, even after the National Transportation Safety Board wraps up its investigation.’

DRES FOR SUCCESS—-Per executive order, the Office of Property Management is now the Department of Real Estate Services. In Examiner, Neibauer presents the rationale for the change this way: ‘The term “property management” connotes day-to-day management “such as janitorial services and building repairs,” the city says. It does not reflect the responsibilities of the agency, its employment of 300 staff or its portfolio of $300 million in real estate.’ But Mary Cheh has a good question: ‘My question is why now? How much is it going to cost us to change all the stationary, the business cards? Is that something that had to be done in this time of crisis?’ Also Biz Journal.

DCist’s Sommer Mathis reports that Shiloh Baptist Church has decided to sell two of its vacant 9th Street NW properties in order to fix up all the rest.

WUSA-TV’s Bruce Johnson asks: ‘Will DC Summer Jobs Program End Early?’ LL WILL TELL YOU: Not this year. It’s too late to stop it.

WaPo covers the tossing of pants judge Roy Pearson‘s federal lawsuit.

CIO Magazine explains how D.C.’s sweepercams came about.

Suspected Union Station explosion actually a ‘backfiring generator.’

Last D.C. teen quarantined in China over swine flu fears has been released, NC8 notes. Closer to home, five Hill pages have been quarantined.

MPD gets $12M in stim funds; National Airport gets $7M.

Southeastern University lays off five due to ‘economic reasons.’

Area home prices inch up.

If you have a subscription to SportsBusiness Daily, you can read this story on D.C. United’s stadium negotiations.

In Shaw on ‘How to tell your neighbor they owe taxes’

WaTimes covers the weekend pool party scene at a Southwest hotel.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-No events scheduled.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:15 a.m.: remarks, H.D. Cooke ES ribbon-cutting, 2525 17th St. NW; 4 p.m.: remarks, Emery Field opening, 5801 Georgia Ave. NW.