Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 3/17/10

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    NEWSLETTERS

    DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty at Cardozo H.S.

    Well, actually we think we have a few teachable moments this week.

    The first comes from Monday’s daylong D.C. Council hearing on school reform.

    It was pretty much a replay of previous hearings, a long line of nearly 100 witnesses mostly grousing or worse about Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

    Rhee sat for more than an hour Monday listening to the testimony (and working her BlackBerry), but she won’t testify until next week.

    A few of the witnesses actually praised Rhee’s reforms, saying she has taken on a difficult job and made remarkable progress in a few years, even if she has made a few mistakes.

    That sentiment likely will be tested in the 2010 race for mayor.

    There’s widespread expectation -- at least among critics of Mayor Adrian Fenty -- that D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray will, after all, announce in a matter of weeks that he’s running for mayor.

    Although some equally close to Gray say he may forgo the race to build on his work as council chairman, it’s clear he has decided that school reform is unpopular enough with enough District voters to make it an issue.

    On Monday, Gray said he’s seen no evidence for why Rhee fired more than 250 teachers and other school employees last October.

    “I don’t think anybody’s demonstrated that the people who got RIF'd were responsible for not properly educating our children,” he said at one point.

    Last fall, Gray was one of the few council members to speak at the teachers union rally on Freedom Plaza. He suggested then that the teachers ought to be rehired.

    Gray said Monday that he’s in favor of school reform, but it should be done with more order and with more respect for those losing their jobs.

    Fenty has fiercely supported his chancellor, saying she’s doing a “fantastic job.” And the billion-dollar effort to repair every city school will also have resonance with voters, the Fenty camp says.

    Let the voters decide.

    Teachable #2.

    First lady Michelle Obama is set to be the commencement speaker for the Anacostia High School graduation June 11.

    Some activists say that’s plenty of time for someone to make sure Anacostia’s ceremony includes a word or two about the second-class status of District citizens when it comes to voting rights in Congress.

    Maybe the first lady herself could tell the graduates that they can be anything they want to be, except voting citizens of America.

    There’s no need to be rude to the first lady, but there’s no need to be silent either, some activists say.

    Teachable #3.

    The District government is giving away $150,000 to support advocacy on the voting rights issue.

    It recently awarded the money to DC Vote, the best-publicized voting rights effort in the city. But the D.C. Office of the Secretary had to take the award back when it found out some other aspiring groups were left off the list of applicants.

    The deadline to apply for the award was extended until the close of business today (March 17).

    We’ll let you know where the grant money goes.

    Anybody want to guess?

    Teachable #4.

    We’ll admit to having obtained a special “Emergency, No Parking” placard from the Metropolitan Police Department. We can’t remember why we wanted it at our old house on Emery Place in Northwest. But we got it and it worked. Parking spaces were saved.

    Well, be warned that the old placards have bit the dust.

    The D.C. Department of Transportation says the old form was too easily dispensed and too easily copied. The city has stopped giving out the placards at police stations temporarily while a new placard is printed.

    "We realize this is an inconvenience,” transportation agency director Gabe Klein said in a press release, “but it is a very short suspension."

    Spokesperson Karyn LeBlanc said the department wants to keep better control of the placards.

    Teachable #5.

    The Rev. Anthony Motley has been planning a race for an at-large council seat.

    Motley is a close associate of Marion Barry’s and, it turns out, has been lending Barry use of his older-model Mercedes. The Washington City Paper's Loose Lips first reported this nugget, which the columnist found mentioned in the special investigation report on Barry’s contracting practices.

    Motley has also acknowledged receiving and shifting around thousands of dollars in government funds.

    Motley was president of a group called the JOBS Coalition, from which he resigned after disclosures about the slushy money. These types of things are not the foundation for a good run for council -- or anything else.

    “We accept Rev. Motley’s decision to step down at this time,” said John McMahon, chairman of Miller & Long Co. Inc. and a leader of the JOBS Coalition. “This action and his cooperation with our internal review demonstrate his commitment to the Coalition’s ongoing work.”

    That’s a nice way to put it.