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March 20, 2011

Short Memories

Dear Memorialists:

Does anyone share my sense that the Washington Post has gone a step too far in its anti-Gray campaign by printing Sinclair Skinner’s op-ed column today calling for Mayor Gray to resign in its Outlook section ( Or is anyone convinced by Skinner’s argument — that is, anyone aside from all the Skinner sock-puppets in the comments thread to that column?

Does anyone who compares Gray unfavorably to Mayor Williams, and who praises Williams for running such a clean administration, remember that Williams fired his first Chief of Staff (Reba Pittman Evans, now Reba Pittman Walker) within the first few months of his administration in the aftermath of the “niggardly” controversy because she recommended that he fire David Howard for using the word, leading to Williams’ becoming a national joke? Remember that he lost his second Chief of Staff (Abdusalam Omar) because an Inspector General’s investigation revealed that he illegally raised $1.5 million, supposedly for a sham nonprofit entity to help at-risk children, that was diverted to the use of the mayor’s office? Remember that he lost his third Chief of Staff (Kelvin Robinson) because an Office of the Special Counsel investigation revealed that he violated the Hatch Act forcing government employees under his control to work in Williams’ campaign and to give money to Williams’ campaign? Does anyone praising Fenty’s honesty and competence remember all his bad appointments of his unqualified buddies, cronies, and sports teammates to his administration and to Boards and Commissions, or remember his reckless overspending of the budget on construction projects?

Is there any explanation for the outsized reaction to Gray’s early missteps other than the bitter and unrelenting opposition of Fenty’s supporters in the press and public?

Gary Imhoff


Chief of Staff, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill,

In the last issue of themail, I wrote about the connection between the business community and the sudden departure of Gerri Mason Hall as the mayor’s Chief of Staff. As I wrote, Gray abruptly ended his morning press conference at the Wilson Building last Wednesday to meet with business leaders representing the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Federal City Council, and the DC Chamber of Commerce at the downtown offices of the DC Chamber. After the group meeting, Barbara Lang, President of the Chamber, had a private meeting with Gray to deliver an urgent message from the business community regarding their deep concerns about the snafus and scandals plaguing the Gray administration. Gray left the Chamber and returned to the Wilson Building at about 2:00 p.m. By 3:00 p.m., rumors floated through the Wilson Building that Hall’s resignation was eminent, and by 5:00 p.m. Gray returned to the press room at the Wilson Building to announce that he had asked for Hall’s resignation.

For a week before that meeting, the business community had been discussing how to press Gray on the need to replace his senior staff in the Executive Office of the Mayor. Indeed, in addition to targeting particular individuals the business leaders wanted dismissed, they also hatched a plan to recruit their replacements. Many business leaders, especially Lang at the Chamber and Terence Golden at the Federal City Council, felt free to proceed because of the role the business community had already played in recruiting senior appointees for the new Gray administration. For example, during Gray’s transition, the Federal City Council had engaged an executive search firm to identify individuals to assume senior positions in the Gray administration and had paid a private detective agency, Capital Inquiry, to do a background check on senior appointees. Now, in addition to being eager to recruit a new chief of staff to replace Gerri Hall, the business community also indicated a willingness to raise funds in order to supplement an individual’s salary to fill that world. For example, Robert Bobb, Mayor Williams’ former City Administrator, is Barbara Lang’s candidate to be Gray’s chief of staff. However, Bobb’s current salary in Detroit is $425,000, and the salary cap for the chief of staff position is $179,000. The Federal City Council has discussed plans to fund the $246,000 difference in annual salary if Bobb were appointed, despite the serious legal and ethical issues that would arise if it did.


DCPS Featured in the Upcoming Survivor TV Series
Nathan A. Saunders,

Have you heard about the next planned Survivor show? Three businessmen and three businesswomen will be dropped in elementary school classrooms for one school year. Each business person will be provided with a copy of the DCPS school district’s curriculum, school improvement plan, and a class of 25-29 students. Each class will have a minimum of six learning-disabled children, three with ADHD, one gifted child, and two who speak limited English. Three students will be labeled with severe behavior problems. Three will be absent on any given day.

Each business person must complete lesson plans at least three days in advance, with annotations for curriculum objectives, and modify, organize, or create their materials accordingly. They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards, document benchmarks, communicate with parents, supervise playgrounds, lunchrooms, bus arrivals and departures, and arrange parent conferences. They must also stand in their doorway between class changes to monitor the hallways. In addition, they will complete fire drills, tornado drills, and [Code Red] drills for shooting attacks each month.

They must attend workshops, faculty meetings, and curriculum development meetings — after a day’s teaching or during their lunch times, of course. They must also tutor students who are behind and strive to get their two non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the language proficiency tests. If they are sick or having a bad day they must not let it show. Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into the program. They must maintain discipline and provide an educationally stimulating environment to motivate students at all times. If all students do not wish to cooperate, work, or learn, the teacher will be held responsible.

The business people will only have access to the public golf course on the weekends, but with their new salaries, they will not be able to afford it. There will be no access to vendors who want to take them out to lunch, and lunch will be limited to thirty minutes or less, which is not counted as part of their work day. A business person teacher will be permitted to use a student restroom, as long as another survival candidate can supervise his or her class.

If the copier is operable, they may make copies of necessary materials before or after school. However, they cannot surpass their monthly limit of copies. The business people must continually advance their education and training at their expense, and on their own time. The winner of this Season of Survivor will be allowed to return to his or her job.

Pass this to your friends who think teaching is easy, and to the ones that know it is hard.


Mayor’s Chief of Staff’s Salary
Robert Marshall,

My question is, “Why is the salary of the Chief of Staff for the mayor of DC higher than that of the Chief of Staff for the president of the United States ($200,000 versus $172,000)?”


Switcheroo in themail
Phil Lepanto,

When I first started reading the letter [introduction to themail, March 16] in which you hang the failures of the Gilded Age upon U.S. Grant, explaining that personal loyalty and friendship stayed his hand in taking decisive action against corruption, I thought you were going to be making an indictment of the Gray Administration. After all, the corruption within the Grant Administration of 1869-1877 had its foundation in the Spoils system. Gray has been slow to respond to questions and concerns about how he has filled his political appointments, more often taking a line of defense rather than moving swiftly to resolve them.

Week after week, we have seen headlines in our papers about how the Gray administration has been handing out jobs to relatives and political hacks. It seems rather tortured that you would pin this analogy on Mayor Fenty when you have a much more glaring and direct analogy to the mayor who is in office today. After all, we’re not talking about contracts that went to a few cronies, we’re talking about jobs and favors designed to reward those who helped him get into office and to cement his grip on the Wilson Building.

The politics in our city can’t seem to escape the paradigm of the Spoils System. Attempts to reform and clean house are met with resistance from the entrenched powers that be. If we ever want that to end, we need to elect politicians who stand on principle rather than politicians who get elected because they shake every hand or are methodical in “building consensus.”


Good Leader
Leonard May,

DC lost a good leader yesterday. [Gerri Hall, Wednesday]



Poetry Out Loud, March 21
Ebony Blanks,

Come to the Studio Theater to cheer on DC students as they compete in the Poetry Out Loud national recitation contest finals, presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. One student will be chosen to represent DC on the national stage. Hosted by Black Cobain. Monday, March 21, 6:00 p.m., at The Studio Theater, 1501 14th Street, NW. For more information, contact Ebony Blanks, or 724-5613.


National Building Museum Events, March 26
Stacy Adamson,

March 26, 10:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day. Free drop-in program for all ages. Celebrate the opening of Washington’s cherry blossom season with a family festival that explores Japanese arts and design, Washington, DC, in the spring, and the official opening ceremony of the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival.

March 26, 4:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m., National Cherry Blossom Opening Ceremony. Free drop-in program for all ages. Celebrate the opening of Washington’s cherry blossom season with a family festival that explores Japanese arts and design, Washington, DC, in the spring, and the official opening ceremony of the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station.


Big Cherry Block Party, April 2
Kelly Aziz,

The second annual Big Cherry Block Party will take place at Downtown Silver Spring in Silver Spring, MD, on the scenic shopper promenade, Ellsworth Drive, on Saturday, April 2, from 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. The event is a part of a centuries-old tradition that brings the best in Japanese art, dance, fashion, flowers, music, and entertainment to the community. Last year’s event was attended by more than nine thousand visitors, with more attendees expected this year. The Big Cherry Block Party will open up unique shopping finds from various vendors at 10:00 a.m., and entertainment will begin at noon. It offers a day full of free interactive activities and cultural displays including cultural performances, karaoke, entertainment, martial arts and more.

The 2011 Big Cherry Block Party joins the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebration continuing with a series of calendar of events and activities all day. Japan’s Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki will be introduced by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. Other National Cherry Blossom dignitaries such as Executive Director Diana Mayhew will be present. Renowned Japanese movie producer and choreographer Shizumi Manale and the Shizumi Manale Kodomo Dance Troupe will open the event with a traditional Japanese dance and taiko drumming.

Downtown Silver Spring is located across Georgia Avenue from Discovery Communications’ headquarters and just two blocks from the red line Silver Spring Metro/MARC station. Silver Spring is only ten minutes away from downtown Washington, DC. For more information about Capitol Marketplace Events, please visit For more information about festivals, concerts and family events at Downtown Silver Spring, please visit or friend ‘Downtown Silver Spring’ on Facebook for updates.


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