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Snow and Politics: Loose Lips Daily

As much local politics as humanly possible. Send your tips, releases, stories, events, etc. to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. And get LL Daily sent straight to your inbox every morning!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—'Kwame Brown 'Seriously Considering' Fenty Challenge'; 'Harry Thomas Jr. to Enjoy Super Bowl, Not Snow Bowl'; 'Snow Homework: Crowdsource Fenty's Campaign Finance Report!'; and tweets galore!

Greetings D.C.! What you thought was a snowstorm this weekend was in fact a political event, perhaps even a campaign event. The prospect of 20-plus inches of snow lit a spark in Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, offering him the opportunity to show city residents, suburban jurisdictions, and even Barack Obama that D.C., with 750 employees and 270 pieces of equipment working 12-hour shifts, could handle it—that the city would be 'open for business' today regardless of what Mother Nature came up with. But was that wishful thinking given a storm of this magnitude, much more crippling than the 16.4 inches we got December? There was some recognition of that fact in the decision late yesterday evening to close the D.C. Public School, hours after it was announced that they would in fact open. That early decision prompted no shortage of rage on blogs, listservs, article comments, and good old-fashioned phone calls. The reversal came hours later. But no quarter was given to the remainder of the District workforce, which was ordered on the job today (albeit an hour late)—even as neighborhood streets stayed clogged, Metro service lagged, and the federal government kept its doors closed. How's that for flint, Obama?

AFTER THE JUMP—Union takes credit for school closings, Rhee says switch was due to 'new information'; Kwame tweets about 'underdogs' and such; WaPo polling shows strong support for gay marriage, medical marijuana, elected AG; Colby King says racial divisions are deeper than Fenty; affording housing dwindles; CoStar makes its move; Doug Duncan to run Metro?

ABOUT THE SCHOOL CLOSINGS—After the school openings were announced in late afternoon, one teacher posted to a listserv: 'I picture schools throughout the city tomorrow with 5-15% attendance and everybody sitting around doing nothing. Classes will be combined, some desperate subs will be on hand, and the kids who could really use the extra help won't be there. Whatever happens, rest assured it will be a joke. But that [Michelle Rhee], she's tough, ain't she?' Wrote another person: 'The decision to open DC Public schools at all tomorrow – even with a 2-hour delay – shows a callous disregard for the safety and welfare of the students.' Ward 8 activist Sandra Seegars e-mailed: 'How does [Fenty] expect children to go to school tomorrow when the snow is taller than the average 3rd grader. He is doing a terrible job clearing the streets.' Added Ward 7's Life in the Village, 'Everyone else seems to get it, but our Mayor.' And DC Teacher Chic sent Rhee a 'plea to reconsider.' After DCPS indeed reconsidered, WTU President George Parker e-mailed the union membership last night (via DCist), writing, 'Your calls to the office of the Mayor and Chancellor expressing your disagreement and outrage has resulted in success!' Rhee tells LL this morning that teacher outrage had nothing to do with the snow call, that instead the decision evolved as 'new information kept rolling in.' Rhee declined to detail the precise factors that led to the switch. 'I don't want people to get over obsessed about it's this or it's that,' she says.

WHAT FENTY'S BATTLING—From Examiner: '[T]he District seemed to be benefiting from its residents' low expectations. "I don't think they're equipped to handle something like this," Larry Levin said. Passing by, a man who identified himself only as "Ron," said, "It's a very dysfunctional city." [Nicolas Shi] said he was willing to give the city an A for effort. "They're trying their best," he said, shrugging. "I know it's been a hard winter for D.C."'

IT'S KWAME TIME?—On Sunday morning, Kwame Brown suggested to Hizzoner that he close the government today. LL couldn't think of a better way to guarantee that the D.C. gov would stay open. LL did visit Brown at his home yesterday (more on that later today at City Desk), and getting in and out of the Hillcrest gully in which he resides was no small feat. Brown said he spent much of the weekend ferrying seniors and others around the neighborhood to get essential drugs and sundries. Later in the day—after the Super Bowl ended—he did some tweeting: 'Never count the underdog out! The people's choice always win,' he tweeted, later adding, 'Never count the underdog out. People like those that really care!' Unclear whether he was talking about the game, the late school closings, or the mayoral race.

MORE SNOW NEWS—Even Obama called it 'Snowmageddon.' A tree snapped by the weight of the snow destroyed the 102-year-old Joshua's Temple First Born Church on Sheriff Road NE. Still, do NOT try to clear ice off your roof. More than 100 D.C. National Guard members were on duty transporting doctors, nurses, and cops in Hummers—'even transport[ing] Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier to a shooting scene on Stanton Avenue.' An estimated 2,000 showed up for a Dupont Circle snowball fight. Plenty of fans (including LL) made it out for Georgetown basketball and Caps hockey games at Verizon Center. There was cross-country skiing. At least one wedding went through as planned. Airports reopened for limited service today. One Northwest woman walked six miles for a sandwich. A sandwich from Giant. Jim Sebastian, DDOT's bike czar in less snowy times, left a 12-hour overnight shift running plow operations to find his car—wait for it—hopelessly plowed in. Radius Pizza in Mount Pleasant went to great lengths to maintain delivery service on Super Bowl Sunday, WaPo reports.

POWER CHECK—Pepco says 'most District and Prince George's customers would have power back by Monday morning, with the rest back on by Wednesday morning.'

TRASH CHECK—Residential pick-ups will be disrupted through the week (or later, based on tomorrow's storm). The Fort Totten transfer station is closed today, as well.

GET THIS—More snow's coming late Tuesday. 'Although the National Weather Service said the next storm had the "potential for more than five inches," other forecasts indicated that as much as a foot might fall,' WaPo indicates.

***

The District of Columbia: Still liberal, still racially divided. WaPo releases still more results from their recent polling, highlighting such politically sensitive issues as gay marriage, medical marijuana, and the bag tax. In their lede, Tim Craig and Jennifer Agiesta write that residents are 'generally supportive of the progressive, activist social agenda being pursued by the D.C. Council.' On other words, 'majorities favor same-sex marriage, want medical marijuana to be legalized and support the creation of an elected attorney general....confirm[ing] the city's reputation as one of the most left-leaning jurisdictions in the country.' Still: '[O]verall support masks racial divides on many of the new policies approved by the council, underscoring that residents in majority-white areas feel far different about a variety of issues than their counterparts in majority-black neighborhoods.' See full results.

CRUCIAL STAT—'Although most District residents are in sync with the council in support of same-sex marriage, there is widespread public support for putting the question to a city-wide vote. Nearly six in 10 residents say they would prefer to vote on the issue....If it lands on the ballot, however, the District would be well positioned to become the first state-level jurisdiction in the country where voters embraced same-sex marriage, according to the poll. Nearly six in 10 D.C. residents, including 83 percent of whites, favor making it legal for gay couples to marry.' The race divide is confirmed, with only 37 percent of black poll respondents in favor. Bottom line: 'The poll indicates that council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) were representing their constituents' views when they became the only two members to vote against the same-sex marriage bill.' In case you forgot, GLAA Forum reiterates all the arguments against a popular vote. Marriage opponents, meanwhile, used the majority favoring a vote to call for one.

AS FOR THE BAG TAX—'Support for the new tax peaks in mostly white wards 2 and 3, and opposition to the tax is widespread in the heavily black wards. Overall, one in three black residents approved of the new tax.'

AS FOR THE GANJA—'According to the poll, eight in 10 Washingtonians favor allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana, with broad support across demographic and ideological groups. District residents are split on legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, with 46 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed.'

On the topic of our racially divided city expounds Colby King. He starts with a victory lap for noting Fenty's divisive attitude months ago. Then he talks about divisions that go deeper than Hizzoner: '[W]hile the District of Columbia may be desegregated, an integrated, racially unified city, we are not. The poll reveals sharp differences in black and white perceptions not only of Fenty but more significantly of the direction in which the District is headed....Fenty's single-minded focus on the success of his political agenda and his standing with opinionators has caused him to lose touch with many of the people who put him where he is today. But Fenty is not the cause of our racial divide. He may tolerate, exploit or even be blind to it. But he is not the reason African Americans and white residents regard their city so differently....Race, income and economic interests inform D.C. government policy. They determine priorities, decide winners and losers, and chart the city's direction. They are reflected in the work of the mayor and the D.C. Council....It is no mistake that white residents feel better these days.'

WaPo editorial board dubs bag tax a rousing success, calls on Virginia and Maryland to follow the District's example. 'It's useful in viewing this issue to look back a few years to when the District moved to ban smoking in restaurants. There were grim warnings: Diners would flee to the suburbs, businesses would close, workers would lose their jobs. None of those predictions materialized, and it wasn't long before jurisdictions surrounding the District followed its example. The bag tax is another example of the city showing leadership on an important issue. Virginia and Maryland should follow suit.'

SPEAKING OF THE ED BOARD—WaPo ombudsman Andy Alexander tsk-tsks WaPo editors for handling of Bill Turque blog post.

New D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute study says city is approaching an affordable housing crisis. 'Rents have increased more in the District than they have in most major cities, and renters are spending a larger portion of their paychecks to keep a roof over their heads,' WaPo's Ovetta Wiggins writes, covering the report. Says DCFPI honcho Ed Lazere, 'Every D.C. resident can point to numerous neighborhoods that look vastly different than they did 10 years ago, and while those improvements have brought many good things—more retail and better housing stock—it also means that the availability of low-cost housing had to go down.' Key stat: 'There were 23,700 fewer apartments that cost $750 or less a month in 2007 than in 2000, a decrease of more than 33 percent....As a result, two in five households in the District spend more than 30 percent of their income, the federal housing affordability standard, on rent.'

The Jonetta Rose Barras procurement reform column we've all been waiting for! She reviews the Fenty draft legislation, finds much to admire. The council may differ: 'Oddly, Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas called the legislation "redundant." He said it was "premature for the Fenty Administration to introduce a contracting reform bill at this time." What?!...Thomas' gripe is that "no one from the administration talked with him." That's a perfect example of the charge I made recently that some elected officials think it's all about them. The proposal isn't perfect: It includes weak qualifications for the CPO job; doesn't mandate the continuation of the integrity unit launched by Gragan; and leaves too many agencies with independent procurement authority.' OCP chief David Gragan tells Barras there's little daylight between Fenty bill and Mary Cheh alternative.

It's official: CoStar's moving to the District, WBJ reports. But effort to lure the company to an off-the-beaten-path commercial district seem to have failed, with the company putting an offer in on 1331 L St. NW, a property recently vacated by the Mortgage Bankers Association—a group that ran into...mortgage trouble. The move 'complet[es] one of [Fenty]'s first attempts to lure a major company to the city. CoStar is paying $41.25 million for the 168,000-square-foot Class A building, a bargain compared to the $76 million that the mortgage bankers group paid for it less than two years ago, according to the association's tax filings.' Also WaPo, which quotes Ernie Jarvis: 'There was an exodus [of corporations] out of the city 10 years ago....Now companies are rediscovering Washington as a great place to do business.' And this tidbit: CoStar CEO Andy Florance 'recently relocated from suburban Maryland to the District's Cleveland Park neighborhood, buying the home of former Fannie Mae chief executive Daniel H. Mudd at a discount.'

Doug Duncan to run Metro? The former Montgomery County executive has thrown his hat into the ring for the WMATA GM job, AP reports. Two anonymous officials 'monitoring the selection process' say that 'Duncan called them this week to say he is interested in being considered.' FWIW, he has the support of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, with a spokesperson saying that 'Doug Duncan is a respected and talented public administrator and would be a good candidate for the position.' Duncan, since leaving elected office, has worked for the University of Maryland and a private consulting firm, all while mulling runs for governor.

GOP political consultant, Alexandria resident Glen Bolger has some advice for Hizzoner (who he deems 'Mayor Dangerfield'): 'I'm usually not in the habit of offering advice to Democrats....However, given the overwhelmingly Democratic nature of the city, and its importance to the region in which I live, I'll make an exception. First, stop taking mysterious foreign trips and get out and about in the District. Connect with people in their neighborhoods, their churches, their shops. Don't be aloof and arrogant. Listen and be seen listening. Second, call a truce to your childish war on the D.C. Council. The city has enough problems that you don't need to be bickering over baseball tickets, much less policy. Third, pick one area of D.C. government and focus on making it much more responsive to the people. From the poll, it appears voters think the city government is doing pretty well in spite of your leadership. Make a big show of providing some, then humbly take credit for your successes.'

WaPo's Matt Zapotosky covers how a federal pullout has left the future of WAVE—the Washington Area Vehicle Enforcement Team—in serious doubt. 'The U.S. Marshals Service, the only federal member of the regional task force, pulled out in the fall, saying that combating car theft was not one of its core missions....The effect has been crippling, many officials say. Because they are no longer deputized by the Marshals Service, local members of the team can no longer cross borders seamlessly to conduct investigations and make arrests. Effectively, enforcement took a step back to a time when Prince George's averaged an auto theft every half-hour.' MPD has also pulled out, but 'Maryland officers still enjoy informal relationships with their D.C. counterparts that make cross-border investigations possible.' Why did the Marshals call it quits? Looks like jurisdictional turf war with FBI.

Apropos of auto theft: Capitol Hill woman had her Jeep Cherokee stolen four times, and Robert McCartney writes it up in his Sunday WaPo column. The woman, Heather Harrell, 'feels torn between anger at the perpetrators and her instinct to be compassionate. "On one hand, I'm liberal, and the poor guys that this happened to, I hope they learned something when they crashed. But they shouldn't have taken it in the first place," she said. Harrell still wouldn't think of leaving Capitol Hill, where she has lived for 16 years. She treasures the neighborhood feeling and the convenience of having the Potomac Avenue Metro station a block away. Nevertheless, her SUV's ill fate is a reminder of the price of residing downtown. "Capitol Hill is just wonderful," she said, but "there's an urban living part of this—your places being broken into, your things being taken."'

THANKS, BOB—'[I]t's not for me to tell her or anybody else where to live. But I note that there are plenty of places with friendly people and less crime. Montgomery County's population is considerably larger than the District's, but in the past six months, Montgomery had 440 auto thefts, and the District had 2,298.'

WaPo's Mary Pat Flaherty looks at how local emergency responders deal with the severely obese: 'Calls for patients weighing 350 pounds come daily in the District. A patient between 400 pounds and 600 pounds is part of every workweek for many crews throughout the region. Patients topping 600 pounds are transported by emergency teams every few months....Across the Washington region and the country, departments have been adapting steadily to plus-size patients. They have added specialty equipment and training to reduce their back injuries and avoid the spectacle of moving a person on planks, tarps or the floor of an ambulance....Among local departments, District crews have regular access to a winch-and-ramp ambulance under an agreement with Medstar, which runs a big unit out of Washington Hospital Center in Northwest.'

D.C. police wound man critically, after he threatened to kill himself. Reports WaPo: 'Police were sent to an apartment in the 3300 block of 18th Street NE, but received no response to their knocks. Firefighters were asked to force open the door, and after authorities entered, a man with a knife approached firefighters "in a menacing manner," according to Assistant Police Chief Al Durham. Police opened fire, and the man was taken to a hospital.' Cherkis is on it.

Paul Strauss picked a good weekend for his first-ever junket: Harry Jaffe reports that the shadow senator's 'down in Florida at Kennedy Space Center watching Endeavor lift off.' How's did happen? 'Strauss let it be known that he wanted to see a shuttle launch, D.C. residents who work for NASA took note and tried to get him on the schedule, finally a spot came free.' Says Jaffe, 'Strauss deserves better perks, even if he's only a shadow of a real senator.'

Jordan Weissmann of Legal Times covers ongoing problems for Magistrate Judge Janet Albert—even after the conviction of stalker Taylar Nuevelle. 'For Nuevelle, the only uncertainty left is her sentence. The 40-year-old Nuevelle, who already has another felony conviction on her record, faces a maximum of 16 years in prison. For Albert, the remaining question is what happens to the judicial misconduct complaint lodged against her by Nuevelle after their 2008 breakup. Nuevelle's complaint, filed in October 2008, is being investigated by the Superior Court's Committee on the Selection and Tenure of Magistrate Judges, which has not yet held a formal hearing, according to a source with direct knowledge of the process.'

ALSO—Legal Times covers judicial reform package now before council. 'The legislation, introduced Tuesday by Councilmembers Phil Mendelson and Jack Evans, would let the mayor select judges for the D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Court of Appeals with the council's consent....The new bill would bill would leave the [Judicial Nomination Commission] in place, while changing who picks some of its members. Equally important, the legislation would hand the responsibility for funding and administrating the courts back to the District government for the first time since 1997, when the federal government took over the responsibility.'

Diplomatic Security Service strikes Daily Caller staffer as he crosses street; MPD later shows up in his hospital room to give him a jaywalking ticket. Answers are hard to come by.

SPEAKING OF...the Daily Caller, another bag-tax screed.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says D.C.'s minority-party set-asides for at-large council seats could serve as a model for Kazakhstan, DCist notes. Said Issa to Kazakh foreign minister, 'This is a one-party town, even though there are people who are not Democrats. And this town has decided to have representation, at least one member of the council, who is chosen simply to represent minorities.' Now what is it exactly that 'this own has decided'?

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, amid mayoral-control battle in that city, covers D.C. school reform. Some, the paper reports, 'see cause for optimism in the two-and-a-half years since [Fenty] took control of the school district and installed a lightning rod...at the top. Since then, test scores that were already improving have continued the trend and, perhaps most telling, enrollment this school year did not shrink — the first time in recent memory in a district where charter schools have absorbed thousands of students fleeing city schools.'

Georgetown law prof Peter Edelman sticks up for Vinny Schiraldi in WaPo letter, calling Memorial Day escape incident a 'byproduct of constructive opportunities that the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services offers to youths. There is always a tension in a juvenile justice system that tries to engage young people in a rehabilitative process.'

Who judges 'Race to the Top' applications? WaPo takes a look: No names have been released, but the ranks 'include four lawyers, 15 former principals, 15 former district or state superintendents and 30 former K-12 teachers (with some overlap among the categories). Thirty-five reviewers have doctorates. Rankings from the reviewers will be forwarded to Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other senior officials. Duncan is authorized to pick winners out of order.'

Peter Rosenstein makes the case for an elected AG in DC Agenda op-ed. He's concerned about circumstances where the 'mayor's office will be investigating itself. This could lead to whitewashing the issue because there is no way we can be assured that the final report is totally independent and that the result of the AG's investigation won't be slanted in order to make the mayor look good. I am not suggesting that Nickles would do that. But we have no guarantee that some future AG wouldn't.'

David Catania has The Hoya's endorsement. 'If the fact that Catania is a two-time Georgetown graduate doesn't convince you to support him, consider his impressive achievements as a councilmember....'

American School Board Journal blogger express frustration at Rhee poll numbers: 'This is exactly the progress that Washington, D.C., residents have wanted to see for the past 30 years, a period when a revolving door of superintendents and a variety of school governance models ensured that every step toward improvement was disrupted by political infighting and a sharp turn in policy direction.'

TheCityFix looks at challenges for food-truck expansion.

D.C. Public Library techies say that iPad 'will make for an excellent roving reference tool.'

New leadership for GLOV.

Jennifer Budoff moves from CFO's office to head up Kwame Brown's economic development committee.

Big hearing on FY2010 spending set for Feb. 19. And Susie Cambria also notes the mayoral spending order published in Friday's DCR doesn't cover several key agencies, including CFSA, DPR, DYRS, FEMS, and MPD.

Hey, look: Robert Bobb's in trouble over no-bid contracts again!

Caps: So hot right now.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee on Health roundtable on 'United Medical Center,' JAWB 500; 10:30 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on B18-549 ('Community Impact Statement Amendment Act of 2009') and B18-556 ('Liquid PCP Possession Amendment Act of 2009'), JAWB 412; 1 p.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on B18-557 ('Private Fire Hydrant Amendment Act of 2009'), JAWB 412.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—11:15 a.m.: remarks, snow removal update, Barry Farm Recreation Center, 1230 Sumner Road SE; 2 p.m.: remarks, renovation update, Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet St. SW.

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