Loose Lips Daily: Vitamin D Edition
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Good morning sweet readers! Health notice of the day: you are all Vitamin D-deficient, reports the New York Times. LL lived for more than a year in Alaska's sun-less Southeast, and can attest for the vitamin's importance. So unless you're cramming your face with salmon or working outside all day, get some supplements. Public service announcement over; on with the news:
Still Congress' Biatch, But Maybe Less So: Good potential news for self-rule advocates, reports the Post's Tim Craig. "House Democrats are pushing this year to give the District full control over how it budgets and spends city revenue, severely limiting opportunities for Congress to intervene in local decisions such as support for same-sex marriage, needle-exchange programs and medical marijuana. In what would be a significant milestone in the city's quest for greater autonomy, Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) attached language Thursday evening to the city's proposed fiscal 2011 budget that would remove Congress from the process after this year. Congress would have the power to enact laws affecting the District and block legislation approved by the D.C. Council, and it would have oversight of federal money earmarked for the city. But Serrano, a member of the Appropriations Committee and chairman of the subcommittee that handles the District's budget, said the House and Senate would no longer have the power to dictate whether the city can spend local funds on controversial policies. 'We can't run away from the fact that the Constitution speaks of certain federal supervision of D.C., but what has happened over the years is the D.C. budget has been used as a playground for others' social and political beliefs,' Serrano said. 'Everything looks pretty good to allow, going forward, the District of Columbia to handle its own local funds without having to check with Congress.'" The District of course, has reason not to trust Congress after the whole, "We'll give you voting rights in exchange for dismantling your gun laws" debacle. But still, how big a deal would Serrano's proposal be? Take it away, Councilman David Catania: "'It's home rule 2.0,' Catania said. 'It would be an incredible step forward for our local government.' Catania went on to say the city ought to build a statue in Serrano's honor if he gets his proposal through." But uh-oh, there are dark clouds on the horizon, and the clock is ticking. Both Serrano and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton tell Craig they don't have high hopes for this year's mid-year election and they need to act now while Dems have the power. Norton is on Kojo Nnamdi at noon.
AFTER THE JUMP: Vince and Michelle; another DYRS story by Freeman; DMV?...
Still Processing: The Post's Mike DeBonis looks at how Vincent Gray has handled school Chancellor Michelle Rhee's decision to fire 165 poor performing teachers. The answer: the Graybot is still computing. "So far, Gray has punted. Nearly a week after the firings, Gray said little more than he wanted to 'look further at the basis for the dismissals.' Gray has navigated his Good Ship Consensus through similar narrows. Last fall's reduction-in-force involved teacher performance, but it was triggered by a budget shortfall, and Gray seized on the questionable basis for that shortfall to challenge the layoffs. Now he must address the difficult question of rooting out underperforming teachers head on. The usual pro-worker pieties expressed by Democratic politicians don't hold so well when it comes to teachers. Even the most true-blue parents tend to want assurances that their kids won't be taught by incompetents. Rhee, who has made improving teacher quality the sine qua non of her reform effort, has moved quickly to guarantee that. The IMPACT evaluation system developed by her administration takes into account observations from fellow educators inside and outside a teacher's school, in addition to growth in student test scores. If he wants to duck the difficult question, Gray's education plan offers several hints on how he'll do it. He wants to hold 'teachers accountable, while giving them the resources and respect they deserve'—so he might argue that teachers haven't been given the requisite support. And the plan promises to 'swiftly . . . implement the independent evaluation of the current IMPACT evaluation system as required in the new teachers' contract'—meaning Gray could say the firings should be held up pending that evaluation. Either way, if Gray questions the firings, he will be directly defending teachers found to be ineffective. ... Gray campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes expanded slightly on the candidate's no-comment on Thursday, raising questions about whether IMPACT uses 'objective evaluators.' She added that Gray has 'requested more information' from DCPS. But Rhee hasn't exactly been hiding under a rock: In addition to more than 150 sessions with teachers, DCPS held a public town-hall meeting on IMPACT in February, plus a special briefing for D.C. council members and staff. Gray's need for information may have more to do with his need not to alienate interest groups." In case you missed it yesterday, LL reblogged an interesting swipe at the way DCPS measures test scores by a prof at Columbia University. "Did DCPS completely botch the calculation of value-added scores for teachers, and then use these erroneous scores to justify firing 26 teachers and lay the groundwork for firing hundreds more next year? According to the only published account of how these scores were calculated, the answer, shockingly, is yes." LL is still waiting to see if that assessment gets any traction. The Examiner's Leah Fabel cleared up some confusion about the number of teachers being fired, with a post that had this funny description of the reaction last week to Rhee's firings: "Reporters lunged for their keyboards, Teach for America alums high-fived across the nation, and union faithful issued a long, collective groan." Rhee, BTW, has been making the rounds on the cable TV circuit. Is it time for Arne Duncan to start watching his back?
Twofer: Two of the area's most hated organizations, Metro and Pepco, teamed up last night to make life miserable for commuters. LL jests, but the truth isn't too far off, as the Post's Stephanie Lee, Luke Rosiak and Rick Rojas report: "A live power line fell on Metro tracks on the Red Line on Thursday, confining passengers inside a train in Silver Spring and causing delays during the evening rush as the week's second thunderstorm drenched the Washington region. For more than 2 1/2 hours, 41 riders were stuck in the train with a live electrical wire underneath it after a falling tree toppled power lines onto Red Line and train tracks north of the Silver Spring Station, causing a flash of fire and an audible explosion. The incident, which began just before 3:50 p.m., cut off Red Line service at Silver Spring and halted MARC and Amtrak service. About 6:15 p.m., a 'rescue train' pulled up in front of the stranded train, and passengers stepped directly from their wire-tangled train onto the other train. The riders then returned to the Forest Glen Station one stop north. Service was restored by about 8 p.m., after Pepco deactivated the live wire and began making repairs. Aside from the downed wires that slowed the commute home for many, damage from the storm appeared to be minimal. No injuries were immediately reported, said Andre Francis, a Pepco spokesman. 'Nobody has been injured, and we like it that way,' he said. The delays caused by the storm, which packed gusts of up to 60 mph, dealt yet another blow to exasperated commuters across the region. Near the Silver Spring Station, highway traffic was clogged and traffic lights were out. Mayor Adrian Fenty said he was frustrated with Pepco earlier this week after Sunday's storm caused some mayor power outages." LL bets the people stuck on the train for 2.5 hours are more frustrated. (Which actually could, in the end, become Fenty's problem; one national Democratic operative who lives in the District declared, mostly seriously, to LL's editor a couple of weeks ago that he was voting for Gray because of Metro—even though Metro isn't Fenty's responsibility.)
For You to Review: The Examiner's Freeman Klopott reports that new DYRS head Robert Hildum is reviewing "all 900 juvenile criminal cases that fall under the agency's jurisdiction. ... The result could be to place more young criminals in secure facilities that are already overcrowded, the sources said." The review comes after the so-called "Nickles report" on DYRS's problems that led to Hildum's installation as head of the agency. "The report's No. 1 recommendation for the agency is that arrest information—even when there isn't a conviction—be included in determining a juvenile's rehabilitation path. Sources said Hildum's review is closely following that recommendation. DYRS spokesman Reggie Sanders declined to comment. By adding more criminal information to a juvenile's files, it is likely that many youths will be pulled from community housing and placed in secure facilities such as the newly built $46 million New Beginnings detention center in Laurel, the sources and youth advocates said. "[Attorney General Peter] Nickles wants more youths in the secure facilities so he can get support for more of those facilities to be built," said Daniel Okonkwo,executive director of D.C. Lawyers for Youth. "More secure facilities will support his 'punishment first' model." Nickles' report on DYRS recommended two new secure facilities that would add between 35 and 50 beds for offenders.
Mo' Money, Mo' Problems: In more DeBonis news, the intrepid old LL has the scoop that Fenty campaign manager Bill Lightfoot has complained to the city's elections board that an independent fundraising committee may be running afoul of city law. The committee, called "Friends of Vince Gray" was founded by Clinton LeSueur. "In an eight-page complaint (pdf), Lightfoot cites a litany of potential and apparent missteps—starting with LeSueuer's well-established connections to the actual Gray for Mayor campaign. The complaint lists a number of Facebook postings in which LeSueur describes his volunteer door-knocking for the Gray campaign, plus his attendance at Gray's April 21 kick-off fundraiser. According to city law, independent fundraising is independent only if it is done 'without cooperation or consultation' with any candidate or his official committee. City regulations also state that truly independent groups cannot spend '[b]ased on information about the candidate's plans, projects, or needs provided to the expending person by the candidate.' ... Furthermore, Lightfoot appears to have the 'Friends' committee dead to rights on the illegality of its name. The name of an independent committee, according to city regs, may 'not include the name of any candidate for elective office in the District of Columbia.' And Lightfoot notes apparent violations of several other fundraising laws. He notes that two weeks after it first sent a fundraising letter, 'Friends' hadn't registered as a campaign committee — even though city law says committees are required to register within 10 days of organization. ... LeSueur says he's been in 'constant communication' with campaign finance officials to make sure he's in compliance. 'We want to be sure that we're in full compliance with the rule of law,' he says. 'We don't take this matter lightly. We take it very seriously, in fact.'" Seriously people, how hard is it to follow campaign finance rules? This isn't, as Don Cherry used to say, "rocket surgery."
Meet Me at The DMV, No The Other DMV: LL is skeptical of the Post's Paul Farhi's claim that "DMV" is picking up speed as a nickname for the Washington Area. But LL is old and unhip. "Sleek, succinct and inclusive, the name has been in common use for several years among the area's—ahem, the DMV's—hip-hop and go-go music crowd. It's familiar to listeners of black-oriented radio stations such as WKYS-FM and WPGC-FM, whose DJs decorate their patter with mentions of it. It also pops up as geographical shorthand ('DMV man seeks woman') on Craigslist, the classified-ad Web site. It's safe to say, however, that most of the rest of the DMV's populace is unaware that the DMV refers to anything other than a certain sluggish city bureaucracy. Although the phrase has appeared irregularly in The Washington Post, most mainstream news sources haven't picked up on it. At least not yet. As place names go, 'the DMV' has much to recommend it, especially compared with the other ways this odd sandwich of two states and a midsize municipality have been commonly referred to. 'The Delmarva' might describe a peninsula incorporating three states, but it overlooks the populous center of the area. 'The National Capital Region' seems stiff and bureaucratic. 'I prefer 'the Washington Metropolitan Area,' but I realize that doesn't quite ring well as a lyric, e-mail or text message,' says Sandy Bellamy, executive director of the Historical Society of Washington. 'So, I guess my geographic situation calls for a situationist response. I live 'in the DMV' according to young, local digital colloquialism, [and] in the 'Washington Metropolitan Area' to the rest of the world, and in 'D.C.' to my peers.'"
GOP protests council "ducking" [DCist]
Cabbies upset at Fenty [Examiner]
Put a bus garage at Walter Reed [GGW]
Food desert—you mean dessert? [Newschannel 8]
Legal Newsline is a little late to the Gray wants Nickles out party
Fenty Schedule: 1 p.m. Remarks at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center 16th and Kennedy Streets, NW; 5:30 p.m., 2010 Street Soccer USA Cup, Washington Kastles Stadium 11 and H Streets NW