Loose Lips

Loose Lips Daily: Backfire Edition

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Good afternoon, sweet readers! LL apologies for the delay for this LL Daily—he got caught up watching Let's Talk Live! Never again. News time:

Tit for Tit: The D.C. Council's investigation into those shady park and rec contracts went another few rounds yesterday, as LL reports. LL won't rewrite the whole blog post here, but here's the short version: Council goes after Mayor Adrian Fenty pal Omar Karim to make him be more forthcoming with special investigator; Karim responds with lawsuit; Council pissed at Attorney General Peter Nickles and Fenty for vetoing their resolution saying settlement with Karim shouldn't be paid; Nickles says council doesn't know what it's talking about and is playing politics. BTW, no mention of any of this in the paper of record. Weird.

AFTER THE JUMP: Fenty Backfire; Unsustainable Fund Spending; Looking At Lottery Contracts...

Back to the Future: The Post's Mike DeBonis has a nice analysis of Team Fenty's strategy behind the latest round of negative TV ads that tie Vincent Gray to 1990s-era failed-state D.C.:

"A Fenty campaign spokesman said Wednesday that the ads are 'trying to highlight the contrast between the two candidates.' But what Fenty partisans are attempting to foment isn't a matchup between an affable-but-plodding chairman and an arrogant-but-hard-charging mayor so much as a battle for the future of the city, a choice between becoming a 'world-class' city or going back to those 'bad old days.'

At last week's Ward 4 straw poll, Fenty campaign aides sought to take the focus off their candidate's poor showing by focusing on who showed up: The old-timers—folks like Rock Newman, the onetime boxing promoter and Marion Barry confidant; Cora Masters Barry, his estranged wife and architect of Barry's 1994 comeback; and, of course, Barry himself, who ambled outside the straw poll with a Gray sticker on his jacket."

But uh-oh, might said strategy backfire? DeBonis notes that former Mayor Anthony Williams handled the old guard with care, while Fenty is filled with loathing for their "empty speeches, the fake smiles, the hollow promises. ... But by attacking Gray's public service—and by, in essence, lumping him in with Barry's personal and governmental excesses—Fenty further alienates the civic-minded, mostly black middle-class Washingtonians who have long formed the city's political foundation.

'It's insulting, because there were too many people who worked their level best to do the right things," says a former Barry official who still interacts with the District government and wished to remain anonymous. 'That's not to say the government was perfect by any stretch; clearly, huge mistakes were made. . . . But it is insulting to people of that age group that Vince and I happen to fall into.'

"Gray, make no mistake, is trying to take advantage of the flip side of Fenty's feint in his own delicate way. A radio ad he released to respond to Fenty's spots ran on traditionally black stations and claimed that 'Fenty doesn't have a plan to help the rest of us.'" Yeah... LL doesn't think that ad was very "delicate". It's pretty clear who "the rest of us" are.

Volunteer Army vs. The Draft: DCist's Martin Austermuhle looks at where Fenty is spending his money, and notes how Fenty has paid a bunch of money to 183 canvassers. "'The Fenty operation is payroll-driven, not a volunteer-fueled campaign,' said Chuck Thies, who has run a number of political campaigns in the District and currently supports Gray. 'It's not quite buying reelection, but it's close. When you see the Green Machine doing a visibility event at a Metro or canvassing a neighborhood, you're looking at numerous paid employees and maybe one or two volunteers. I've witnessed the operation on several occasions— most recently at Cleveland Park—and spoken with some of the crew. None were from the neighborhood and none would reveal their status as volunteer or paid staff. That in itself answers the question.' Fenty's August 2006 campaign finance report had virtually no similar payments for canvassers. We reached out to the Fenty campaign for comment, but have yet to hear back."

Worth a Continuous Stare: The Post's editorial page has this editorial about the need for the city's inspector general to look into the council's awarding of the city's lottery contract. The timing is a little strange; the Fenty administration asked the IG to look into the contracts more than three weeks ago. And Gray says he, too, wants the IG to investigate. But timing aside, the Post makes good points that there are plenty of unanswered questions—including how a company that the Washington Times has recently reported "boasted on its corporate website of general contracting experience from federal jobs it did not perform for government clients who had never heard of it" wound up as a partner on the lottery contract—that need a closer look. LL wonders if the Fenty-friendly Post editorial board will write something with the words "Sinclair Skinner" in it before the election.

If You Can't Do the Time, At Least Vote: The Times's Deborah Simmons covered the voter registration drive aimed at  ex-cons Thursday:  'Their get-out-the-vote effort drew D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, a Democrat who is trying to hold onto his seat, sports newsman Glenn Harris and boxing impresario Rock Newman, whose white Rolls Royce drew in the curious and supporters alike. 'We want to stop the dependency,' said WPFW producer and host Rhozier 'Roach' Brown, one of the organizers of the campaign. A primary goal is to 'Ban the Box'—eliminate the box on housing, employment and social service forms that asks whether the applicant has a criminal conviction or criminal record." LL wonders if Graham, he of beige VW bug fame,  felt upstaged by Newman's Rolls.

Can You Say Unsustainable?: The Post's Nikita Stewart looks at the city's withering fund balance, which was at $1.5 billion in 2007. "Since 2008, the mayor has withdrawn nearly $840 million to subsidize general government operating expenses, causing the fund balance to drop to a projected $654 million in fiscal 2011, according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer." The Fenty administration says it's doing the responsible thing by using the fund to help ease the city past the recession without cutting services or raising taxes, but former city administrator Robert Bobb warns of possible troubles ahead. "It becomes very easy to not make difficult decisions... They want to buy a new pair of shoes. You don't have the money. You go to your savings until there's none there... That's what gets cities in trouble."  The shrinking fund balance occasionally pops up on the campaign trail, where Gray accuses the mayor of overspending. Fenty has a pretty easy retort: you've always approved my budgets, dude.

Talk More About Rape: The Examiner's Harry Jaffe wants Fenty and Gray to speak up on what their plans are for making the city safer. Sure, homicides are down, and that's a good thing, Jaffe says, but what about the other crimes that aren't decreasing? Neither of the pols has a real plan, Jaffe complains. "Nothing from Gray—or Fenty—on the alarming rise in sexual assaults. According to the police department's own statistics, sexual assaults are up by nearly 50 percent across town; in some parts of the District they are up 325 percent," Jaffe says.

Free Sandbags, Wait, Hold On: The Examiner's Markham Heid spends some shoe leather hanging out with the half-dozen people who took up the Department of Public Works' offer to give away free sandbags. There was only one problem: DPW couldn't find the sandbags at first. "After a 15-minute search, workers found the misplaced bags buried beneath a pile of garbage in a warehouse trash bin. It took another 15 minutes for them to clear away the trash. 'Unbelievable,' Corey Sanders said.

Something To Do: The Examiner's Freeman Klopott covered a mayoral forum between Fenty and Gray yesterday morning at the Washington Hilton (which somehow didn't get rained out or smoked out by the nearby underground transformer fire). One questioner, Jay Vilar, asked both how they would make the summer jobs program more about doing a good job and getting results, rather than just showing and getting paid. "Gray answered first, saying the kids in the program had to learn three things: Come to work, come on time and get along. The chairman said he'd include a life skills program. He noted, 'but by the time kids get out to the Summer Youth Employment Program, it's too late.' He said training needs start as early as pre-school. Gray included proposed changes to the program in his jobs and economic development plan released last week. As mayor, he would require youth to apply for jobs—they wouldn't automatically get a job. Fenty, who hasn't released a plan, seems more satisfied with the status quo. 'Government will never solve all our problems,' Fenty said. 'For these youth, there's no alternative. At best they'd watch TV all day. ... The program is intended to give them something to do.'"

Ron Moten is the unsung hero of Fenty campaign. [TBD]

Talk about a story falling into your lap. The Post's Bill Turque gets a (pretty asinine) request from a federal attorney to hand over any audio recordings he has of an interview with Rhee, turns it into a story about the feds are following up on a complaint that schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee violated the Hatch Act. [Post]

Fenty and Gray on leadership [WTOP]

Two more DYRS wards killed [Examiner] (Who is going to write these stories when you're gone, Myers?)

Mary Cheh's YouTube video for Kwame Brown

Fenty schedule: 4 p.m. All hands on deck.

  • Mr. Bigglesworth

    If not for Mike De, I would no longer read WaPo at all (fingers crossed that change comes from the inside). The bias is alarming, especially locally. Real shame. A few years back I had come to view it as the country's best daily. Thank goodness for WCP, Dcist.com and others for picking up the slack.

    Shame on Gray Campaign for more pandering to those responsible for the bureaucratic nightmare of our fair city. We elected Fenty because we needed a shakeup; he just turned out to be motivated by all the wrong reasons (just learned he cheated his way through Mackin ... interesting).

    Shame on Fenty Campaign for REPLACING signs removed by homeowners that they jammed into yards along my street. Does the Green Team really need to inspire any more animosity than Hizzoner already has?

    DYRS news is chilling. Life East of the River is becoming far too reminiscent of its 1980s travails.

  • LOL

    "no mention of any of this in the paper of record. Weird."

    I think it was deliberate. Well it is kind of clear that you don't read the post when you want local news. Maybe they should stop pretending and do what the Washington Times did.