DMV Daily: The Gray-Rhee Summit

Fate of D.C. schools chief on the line

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com
    A laid off D.C. Public Schools employee attends a rally protesting the layoffs.

    Vincent Gray and Michelle Rhee will meet at high noon today.

    The entering mayor and (probably) exiting schools chief have blocked out most of the afternoon to discuss the future -- and Gray is facing some high-level pressure. Newsweek reports U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan “is actively reaching out” to Gray to keep Rhee in her job. Duncan said District schools “were known for a long time as a national disgrace” and that Gray “knows what’s at stake” and “wants D.C. schools to continue to make progress.” Duncan has been playing phone tag with Gray, but said, “We will talk.”

    (UPDATE: Attorney General Eric Holder was also set to make a "courtesy call" with Gray before his noon meeting with Rhee.  He was seen walking into the Wilson Building at about 11 a.m.)

    According to the Washington Post, the Gray campaign says Gray “was not pleased with Rhee’s post-election analysis” -- she called Adrian Fenty’s loss “devastating” for D.C. students before halfheartedly walking back her remarks -- but that Gray “remains steadfast in wanting to confer with her before making a decision about whether to look for a new chancellor.”

    We probably won’t hear anything definitive today, but Gray is certainly signaling that Rhee’s future lies elsewhere. WTOP’s Mark Segraves reports Gray “says he’s open to re-hiring some of the teachers Rhee has fired.” In an interview to air on DC 50 on Friday, Gray said, “I’m open to them being able to be considered for a job. I don’t know why anybody would say they shouldn’t be considered when in fact they were let go supposedly for budgetary reasons.”

    Rhee doesn’t seem to have any illusions about her future in D.C., either. She sat down with Education Week for what reads like an exit interview. “What a lot of people were thinking was it was too much, or too fast,” she said. “But I think we can rest soundly at night knowing that we really believed that that sense of urgency was necessary. We didn’t want to wait another day knowing that another D.C. child was not getting the education they deserve.”

    (Also in Education Week, education policy analyst Diane Ravitch reflects on “Why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty Lost.” And Robert McCartney writes in the Post: “If you’re a mayor or schools superintendent who decides to fire teachers in large numbers, you’d better be able to justify to the public exactly why it was necessary. Otherwise, you risk losing your job -- even when your constituents think the schools are improving overall.”)

    Whatever happens between Rhee and Gray, the city’s schools could be a “contention point” between the new mayor and his probable successor as D.C. Council chair, Kwame Brown. Freeman Klopott writes in the Washington Examiner that while the two have a good relationship and similar agenda, Gray “received the endorsement of the Washington Teachers’ Union while Brown was disinterested in receiving that support.” Brown told the Examiner, “Will we agree all of the time? No. We don’t expect that, but we will work together to produce results. That’s what residents want.”

    Elsewhere in the DMV:

    * I want my two dollars! Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who chairs the finance and revenue committee, wants to restore “sanity” to parking meter rates. It’s not quite the stuff of a Jon Stewart rally, but Gray has also taken issue with higher rates and after-hours time restrictions. TBD collected some Twitter reaction, and the parking peasants with pitchforks rallied to Evans’s cause. Anything involving higher fees for day-to-day necessities is bound to do so.

    But it’s hard to seriously argue that $2 for an hour of parking in a major city is a rip-off. The real nuisance is the need for loose change. DCentric’s Anna John says “it is onerous to procure and carry several rolls of coins. … I go out of my way to grab rolls from the bank…and other would-be parkers go out of their way to approach me, as I dutifully peel back paper and feed coins. ‘Sweet! You’ve got quarters. I’ll give you cash for them.’” We Love D.C.’s Tom Bridge says rolling back fees in the face of a $100 million deficit is crazy, and says it’s the payment system, not the price, that’s the problem. Greater Greater Washington’s David Alpert agrees, saying, “That’s why DDOT, thankfully, is trying a bunch of parking technologies.”

    * I want my patronage! Marion Barry tells Washington City Paper, “To the victor go the spoils. We demand more than our fair share because we’ve been neglected for so long, it’s as simple as that.” Gray got 82 percent of the vote in Barry’s Ward 8, Brown got 67 percent, and Barry wants his. Brown “has promised Barry a committee to chair,” City Paper reports, “and thus more of a position of power on the council.”

    * Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is taking aim at the Purple Line. The Washington Examiner reports Franchot said, “It just strikes me that an eight-year, $160 million commitment is an awful lot of money for an awful long time for, frankly, projects that are still -- speculative is probably too harsh a word, but the question of whether they are going to get funded is still up in the air.” The Post says Franchot’s stance aligns Democrat Franchot with Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Ehrlich “against Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s billion-dollar pet transportation project.” (Too bad it’s not in Virginia: The Washington Post reports Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration has discovered half a billion dollars in unspent transportation funds after an exhaustive audit.)

    * O’Malley has launched the first Washington-area ad of his re-election campaign. The spot points out that the ex-Baltimore mayor grew up in Rockville, and highlights his education record. Ehrlich was in Frederick yesterday, the Frederick News-Post reports, talking about economic policy.

    * The News-Post also reports that two Frederick County GOP delegate primaries came down to single digits last week. Scott Rolle won the District 3A nomination by nine votes, while Kelly Schulz upset incumbent District 4A Delegate Paul Stull by just seven votes.

    * The Falls Church News-Press reports freshman Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, facing Tea Party-backed Republican Keith Fimian in the wealthy 11th District, says he supports a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts to all Americans, including those making over $250,000 a year. This puts Connolly at odds with his party’s leadership.

    * The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said his decision on a 2013 gubernatorial run will not depend on what Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is gearing up for a GOP bid, does. Addressing the Greater Richmond Chamber, Cuccinelli said, “I’m not of the notion of standing aside.”

    * DCist uncovered the awesome George Washington University Class of 1964 portrait of Vincent Gray. Even then, he sported a thin mustache.

    * Good Hope Anacostia blogger Alex Baca calls Courtland Milloy’s Tuesday Washington Post column “ridiculous” and “hypocritical,” noting that last week, Milloy called “people who use the Internet to voice their opinions ‘myopic little twits,’” but now makes “sweeping generalizations based on a few comments on the Washington Post’s website.” As City Paper’s Lydia DePillis said on Twitter, “Um, Courtland, it's probably not Fenty or Rhee bringing out racist comments. It's just the Internet.”

    * Several vans used by the D.C. Central Kitchen were vandalized Tuesday night, and it “doesn’t appear, at least initially, to have been random,” DCist reports. Those who want to help the job training and meal distribution group fix the damage can contribute here

    Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC