DCPS Budget Gets Nickled: Loose Lips Daily
Morning all. Yesterday's D.C. Council inquisition on the D.C. Public School layoffs wasn't quite the 18-hour marathon that the last hearing was, but let the liveblogging LL say: eight hours was plenty. By the end of the day, a familiar story had emerged: The D.C. Council wanted things to happen one way (cut money from summer school), and the executive branch did things another way (cut money from local school budgets) with the imprimatur of Attorney General Peter Nickles and without transparency or explanation. Perhaps more shocking is that DCPS CFO Noah Wepman would have allowed a fiscal 2010 budget to be approved with a known deficit of $12 million or more without telling his boss, Natwar Gandhi. And, as Bill Turque notes on WaPo A1, 'even some of Rhee's most steadfast supporters on the council rebuked her for the bitter state of relations between the school system and elected officials.' See also WaTimes, Examiner, WTOP, WAMU-FM, NC8, WRC-TV, WTTG-TV, We Love DC.
NB: Don't expect a repeat of the drama at today's hearing on the parks contracts sent to the D.C. Housing Authority. Neil Albert, LL is told, will not be attending. [UPDATE, 10:30 A.M.: Another council source says Albert has confirmed he will be there.]
AFTER THE JUMP—Machen moves closer to securing federal prosecutor nod; WBJ reports on city procurement problems, rise in contract appeals; city preps for census; suburbanites plunder D.C. for flu vaccine; and did Holder tell Chavous to lay off the prez?
QUOTE OF THE DAY—'Maybe we ought to just disband this council. Why did we spend hours working on a budget...only for you to second-guess us?'
FROM TURQUE—'Rhee also revealed new information about the teachers who were fired and the 934 she hired during the spring and summer. In written testimony delivered Wednesday night, she told Gray that the average age of the District's teachers is 42 and that the average age of those who were laid off is 48. The average age of the 934 new hires is 32.'
WTU STATEMENT—'Anyone attending today's public hearing at the Wilson Building saw a demonstration of the lack of accountability and transparency that has been the hallmark of the [DCPS] under chancellor Michelle Rhee....[T]he testimony made it clear that chancellor Rhee had been presented with several options for closing the budget gap without firing teachers. The questioning revealed that even when presented with alternatives, the chancellor elected to cut teachers and services, and disrupt the lives of D.C.'s students....DCPS has created an atmosphere of mistrust, tension and toxicity that has negatively affected the ability of all stakeholders to collaborate for better schools. If the chancellor truly wants to work in the interest of our children, she should start by being a better example of how to work well with others.'
WRITES Harry Jaffe in Examiner column, titled 'Michelle in the Lion's Den': Rhee 'essentially told the council members that their decision to cut the budget by killing summer school was a lousy idea. Rather than cut summer school, she decided to cut teachers. One could argue that she is right, but that does not make it right for her to move the dough without notifying the council. Many council members were furious, and they were justified. Rhee was mildly apologetic. We have not heard the last of this....In the annals of school reform, this too shall pass. What will not change is the school chancellor. Rhee withstood the nastiness with aplomb and equanimity. She stays.'
WAPO LETTER—'While I hold no particular stance on Ms. Rhee's policies, she achieved her position by getting things done—not by placating everyone. Let her do her job.'
Ron Machen inches closer to nomination as U.S. Attorney, Joe Palazzolo reports at Main Justice. 'Two people familiar the situation tell Main Justice that the former federal prosecutor had his interview at the Justice Department earlier this week. If all went well, he is virtually guaranteed the nomination.'
'Complaints about D.C.'s procurement on the rise,' reads the headline to Melissa Castro's WBJ cover piece, which ledes with the story of Christopher Powell Sr. and Jr. and their Configuration Inc. furniture company, which lost a city contract after being identified as low bidder. They see 'a power grab by Fenty and his newly revamped Office of Contracting and Procurement.' The nut graf: 'Configuration is hardly alone in questioning D.C.'s contracting and procurement process. The number of losing bidders filing complaints nearly doubled in 2009, compared with the previous two years. And, just as D.C. Council members are threatening to block construction contracts that appear to favor Mayor Adrian Fenty's friends and supporters, the same council is entertaining a bill that would hand even more discretion and opacity to contracting officials who control the city's purse strings.'
NOT COLORBLIND—'The sole item that Configuration could not provide was a requirement that some items be in "Tango Red" — a proprietary and brand-name color to which only M.O.I. has access. "How much is Tango Red worth to them? Two million dollars?" asked...Configuration's lawyer.'
Apologies from LL for missing this earlier in the month: Kevin Chavous says that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told him at an event to pull a TV ad criticizing President Obama for failing to support D.C. school vouchers: 'I saw [Holder] at an event...He did ask me in front of others to pull the ad. My response was, "No, and I tell you what, if the President does the right thing, not only will we pull it but we will celebrate him."' Chavous first made the disclosure on WAMU-FM's Politics Hour, now the story is blowing up in the right-wing media.
District officials kick off their 2010 Census efforts, branded 'D.C. Counts.' Carol Morello reports in WaPo that the campaign is 'aimed at improving the city's poor response rate in the Census and securing its claim on billions of federal dollars'—about $3,500 per person, Fenty says. '386 people have been hired to coordinate partnerships with "trusted voices," such as grass-roots organizations, to help promote the census and its importance.' Also, Michael A. Brown has been engaged as council liaison on the issue; he 'blamed the District's low rate partly on "myths" about the consequences of being counted. "Some people think that if they do fill out the form, the government will come after them about parking tickets," Brown said.' Not true!
Examiner's Michael Neibauer looks at interior approps bill now through conference committee, finds 'tens of millions for facilities in the District.' That included $220K for the African-American Civil War Memorial, $49M for Holocaust Museum security, $3.8 for Meridian Hill Park, $500K for KenCen, and millions for Smithsonian projects.
Pro-gay pastors gather to support same-sex marriage bill, Tim Craig reports in WaPo. 'About 200, representing nearly every faith, have formed D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality. On Thursday night, more than 100 of them gathered at Asbury United Methodist Church...."There is this myth out there that you can't be pro-God and pro-gay," said the Rev. Robert M. Hardies, senior minister of All Souls Church, Unitarian, in the Columbia Heights area. "We are doing the best we can to share the message that there is strong support from within D.C.'s religious community for equality."' Also WAMU-FM. Meanwhile, Harry Jackson keeps flapping his jaw at TownHall.com
DCist profiles Phil Mendelson, who 'is now one of the current administration's biggest opponents. It's not a role he sought out, he told DCist when we sat down with him last week. "I'm seen as the Fenty critic," he admitted. "That wasn't my goal in life." And though he claims he's not surprised to see a challenger emerge this early on, he does attribute some of it to his consistent haranguing of Fenty. "You can't be too critical of the chief executive without at some point getting a bulls-eye on your back," he said.'
WaPo's Paul Schwartzman covers the 'Oklahoma dust bowl' that is the playing field at Walter Pierce Community Park in Adams Morgan. Soon after opening, 'Malfunctioning sprinklers saturated the lawn, forcing the city to shut off the water and drying out the grass, which was then torn and ravaged by waves of cleat-wearing ballplayers—all within a few months of the field's opening....A city is defined by the grandeur of its skyline and the vibrancy of its streets, but sometimes it's the small things that speak volumes. The saga of Pierce Park is not just about people hungering for that rarest of urban amenities—open, grassy fields—but also about what even D.C. officials acknowledge is progress stymied by bureaucratic incompetence.' LL's suggestion: Astroturf it! Seriously!
Swine flu ups area's school absence rates. 'School officials say a normal absence rate would range from 3 to 5 percent. At midweek, Fairfax County schools reported an absence rate of 6.5 percent. About 8 percent were out in Montgomery, Arlington and Stafford counties and 9 percent in Prince William and Loudoun counties. D.C. school officials reported an October absence rate of 6 percent.'
ALSO—WTTG-TV reports that Marylanders are flocking to D.C.'s open vaccination clinics. 'D.C., like other health departments, is not checking IDs. FOX 5 found lots of families who live in Maryland in line at D.C. clinic because they say they've had trouble getting the vaccine in their own state. Others went to D.C. because of the vaccine supply. Some previous clinics have only offered the nasal spray vaccine and not the injection.' The 1,000-dose quota ran out for the first time at Wilson SHS yesterday.
Students from Bancroft, Kimball Elementaries harvest the White House vegetable garden, with Michelle Obama overseeing. WaPo's Robin Givhan reports that 'much oohing, giggling, cuteness and shutter-clicking ensued.' Much of the haul, 740 pounds so far, is going to Miriam's Kitchen.
Could ballpark-district office buildings become city-subsidized 'nonprofit village'? WBJ's Jonathan O'Connell says that's the idea.
Man dead in overnight shooting on the 1100 block of 48th Street NE, WUSA-TV reports. Police responding to ShotSpotter alert 'found a man suffering from gun shot wounds in the rear of the residence. He was pronounced dead at the scene.'
Georgetown student claims she was attacked due to her pro-gay T-shirt, NC8 reports. 'Police say she was targeted because of her perceived sexual orientation. Police say it happened Tuesday night near the school's entrance on Canal Road. The female student says two men started insulting her with derogatory comments based on her perceived sexual orientation. Then, officers say, the men took her book bag, pushed her to the ground, and then struck her with the bag.'
'Serious' two-car accident this a.m. at North Capitol Street and Missouri Avenue, includes possible pedestrian victim. Per WTOP: Seven haven been hospitalized; two have life-threatening injuries. Huge traffic tie-ups as well, with closings of North Cap, Missou, and Riggs Road. Also NC8, WTTG-TV has early video.
Mayoral candidate Leo Alexander announces endorsements from cab industry players: Dominion of Cabs, Washingtonian Cab Co., Diamond Cab Co., and the D.C. Professional Taxi Cab Drivers Association.
Eight restaurants shuttered by OTR for sales tax issues.
H Street Connection development nears ANC approval.
D.C., at 36 percent, still second only to New Orleans (57 percent) in charter-school market share.
Famed Terra Cotta Warriors coming to Nat. Geo. Museum.
Learn more about the proposed Carter G. Woodson Park, at 9th and Rhode Island NW.
Pepco earnings down a bit.
It's Halloween tomorrow. Avoid Georgetown. Unless, of course, you like that kind of thing.
D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—11 a.m.: joint public oversight roundtable on 'The Contracting Process Related to Parks and Recreation Projects,' JAWB 500.
ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—9:30 a.m.: remarks, announcement of redevelopment plans for 225 Virginia Avenue, 225 Virginia Ave. SE.