Truth-tellers, liars and equivocators

Archive for August 2010

Fenty has built 11,000 affordable housing units

August 31, 2010 - 04:15 PM
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UPDATE 4:00 p.m.: It took some number crunching, but the data Madigan sent us — all of which originated with District's Department of Housing and Community Development — shows 11,000 completed or preserved affordable housing units. (A unit is preserved when the District government purchases it or otherwise intervenes to prevent it from shifting to market-rate housing.)

The spreadsheet shows 6,535 affordable housing units for fiscal years 2007 to 2010. The PDF shows completed affordable housing units since fiscal year 2006, as well as projections for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

If we add up the spreadsheet total and the PDF total from Fenty's term, we get 12,598 units. We're trying to get more context for this information — particularly on the spreadsheet numbers — but we're awarding the Fenty campaign a tentative Honest Abe.

Honest Abe

 

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Ehrlich didn't raise taxes, except when he voted to raise taxes

August 30, 2010 - 05:00 AM
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Is it a tax or a fee? This is the favorite rhetorical game of most politicians, and Republican former Gov. Bob Ehrlich tries to use it in the above clip. Trying to separate his and incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley's records on spending and the budget, Ehrlich boldly tells CNBC host John Harwood that "We didn't raise taxes."

A clearly well-prepared Harwood retorts: "Flush tax?" Ehrlich explains that the flush tax was a user fee, not a tax, and that since it went to a dedicated fund for the Chesapeake Bay, it doesn't count as a tax.

Harwood then asks about a tax on health plans. Ehrlich says the plan passed over his veto.

"Taxes are a major issue in this campaign," Ehrlich says. "And the records of the two governors are not comparable."

The interview covers two of the three areas where Ehrlich supposedly raised taxes as governor. The third — property taxes — went unmentioned.

 

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Tea Party Truth: Fact checking the Glenn Beck Rally

August 28, 2010 - 12:32 PM
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Glenn Beck says his rally won't be political. We somehow doubt that. So we're going to be fact checking the statements of Beck, former Alaska Gov. and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the other speakers at the "Restoring Honor" Rally today on the National Mall.

And don't worry, conservatives, we'll also be looking at the statements of the Rev. Al Sharpton and the other speakers at counter-rallies and marches.

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DCision 2010 Edumacation Extravaganza: Gray's right on a stubborn achievement gap

August 26, 2010 - 11:52 AM
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Have these two managed to close the achievement gap? Vince Gray doesn't think so. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

Friday, Aug. 27, 12:11 p.m. — This post has been updated.

It's the DCision 2010 version of Groundhog Day. Incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty (or a media member) demands a yes-or-no answer from Vince Gray on keeping schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Gray dodges, and then throws Fenty's words about former police chief Charles Ramsey back at him.

Gray has good reason to waffle on Rhee. If the council chairman hopes to win the mayoralty, he's going to need to rely on black votes. Despite overseeing overall test score gains and the revitalization of school facilities, Rhee is deeply unpopular among blacks. (A recent Clarus poll showed her with 79 percent approval among white voters, and only 28 percent approval among black voters.)

Gray rarely gets explicit in trying to work the white/black divide on Rhee (and Fenty). One of the few times has came in one of a series of YouTube videos responding to voter questions. "The achievement gap ... really has not been reduced over the past three years regardless of test scores," Gray said.

And so for the final installment of the DCision 2010 Edumacation Kids Are Political Pawns Series of Special Fact Checks, we decided to check that statement. There's no question schools east of the river need more work than schools in upper Northwest, but has the achievement gap in the District really  stagnanted?

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DCision 2010 Edumacation Extravaganza: Test scores are up, but Fenty's claim is convoluted

August 25, 2010 - 01:09 PM
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If Adrian Fenty wants his race against Vince Gray to be about one thing, it's education. If he wants it to be about two things, it's education and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. And if he could choose three, they would be education, schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and the schools in general.

So on Day 2 of The Facts Machine's DCision 2010 Edumacation Kids Are Political Pawns Series of Special Fact Checks, we decided to take a look at Fenty's record on the education. Specifically, the claim he touted on the top of his website: "Increased student test scores by as much as 11 percent, the largest gain in the nation."

A few notes before we get started. There's no question test scores have risen under Fenty. And Fenty had that claim on his website for a long time, well before the most recent test scores — which showed a slight decline since last year in some categories — were released.

The Fenty camp, after being asked to provide backing for their claim, pointed us to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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DCision 2010 Edumacation Extravaganza: Ray attacks Mendelson over mayoral control

August 24, 2010 - 11:52 AM
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We're starting the DCision 2010 Edumacation Kids Are Political Pawns Series of Special Fact Checks down-ticket, with the at-large D.C. Council race. There, challenger Clark Ray is running a pretty spirited campaign against incumbent Phil Mendelson. People seem to like Ray quite a bit. Unfortunately for him, they seem to like Mendelson more.

(And unfortunately for both of them, they could lose to Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown, who is not current D.C. at-large Councilmember Michael A. Brown, but may be getting votes at straw polls because he voters think he is Michael A. Brown.)

Yesterday, Ray released this ad, complete with screaming children. (Note to Ray: People like children. Except when they scream.) The ad seeks to portray Mendelson as an opponent of education reform.

"Phil Mendelson voted AGAINST the big education reform bill of 2007," the ad reads. "In fact, Mendelson was only one of two council votes against school reform."

First of all, education reform or school reform mean many different things to many different people. Michelle Rhee's version of school reform has proven somewhat divisive, for instance. (For his part, Ray says in the ad he supports "improved school reform" that is more transparent and allows for increased parental involvement.)

Delving into whether voting against mayoral control permanently disqualifies someone as a supporter of "education reform" — whatever "education reform" actually means — is beyond the capacity of The Facts Machine. But we'll lay out Ray and Mendelson's arguments about it before we wrap things up.

First, the big question is: Did Mendelson oppose the 2007 school reform bill?

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TBD's DCision 2010 Edumacation Kids Are Political Pawns Series of Special Fact Checks

August 23, 2010 - 11:47 AM
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Today kicks off The Facts Machine's DCision 2010 Edumacation Kids Are Political Pawns Series of Special Fact Checks! Our boss thinks education-themed things are usually boring, so we hope the fancy title will spice things up.

Yesterday was the first day of school in the District, and politicians took the opportunity to talk either about how incredibly fantastic everything D.C. public schools has done since 2007 is OR about how D.C. public schools have completely fallen apart since 2007. Our job is to give these claims either a true or false. We have 50 percent chance of getting it right! Multiple choice is awesome!

So we're going to use the rest of the week to evaluate claims D.C. politicians are making about education in the District leading up to the Democratic primary Sept. 14. Tomorrow, we'll look at Adrian Fenty's claim that he "increased student test scores by as much as 11 percent, the largest gain in the nation." On Thursday, Vince Gray's claim that the achievement gap hasn't been closed will go under the microscope.

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Bob McDonnell, David Englin and the mystery of the sudden surplus

August 23, 2010 - 11:45 AM
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Bob McDonnell
Chill out, everybody. Bob McDonnell is on top of this surplus thing. (Photo: Associated Press)

It was a Virginia Miracle! Suddenly the Commonwealth was flush with cash. State employees got a bonus. Schools got extra money. And the governor made a speech and was all bipartisan and everyone was happy. The end.

But not quite. State Del. David Englin, a Democrat who represents Alexandria, took issue with the celebratory mood in Richmond last week, and Thursday afternoon, he issued this statement (emphasis ours):

Governor [Bob] McDonnell today repeated the claim that Virginia suddenly has a surplus, but that is simply false. Webster’s defines “surplus” as “the amount that remains when use or need is satisfied.” Given that the General Assembly just cut an additional $4 billion in state services, one could hardly call this year’s $404 million account balance “the amount that remains when use or need is satisfied.” If anything, it is an “unappropriated balance” waiting to satisfy unmet needs. The fact that Governor McDonnell (correctly, in my view) intends to spend this money on dire unmet budget needs is proof enough of that point.

Beyond that, it’s important to note that this unappropriated balance is largely the result [of] irresponsible choices and budget gimmickry
.

It's that last bit that intrigued us. Is this surplus "real?" Or is it due to the type of accounting magic governors nationwide have mastered during the recession?

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Does Puerto Rico outspend D.C. on statehood?

August 20, 2010 - 11:14 AM
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For incumbent Phil Mendelson and challenger Clark Ray, the D.C. Council at-large race is about many things: streetcars, public safety, education. For Shadow Sen. (or, if he insists, U.S. Sen.) Michael D. Brown, it's about one thing: statehood.

(Well, it's also about the fact that he is MOST DEFINITELY NOT incumbent At-Large Councilmember Michael A. Brown, who isn't on the ballot this year.)

As a way to hammer at Mendelson and the rest of the council for what he sees as their insufficient support for statehood, Brown said the following during this morning's debate on TBD NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt: "We spent $100,000 on statehood last year. The Puerto Ricans spent $20 million."

That’s quite the gap, and it piqued our interest. Do Puerto Ricans (a significant portion of whom don’t actually support statehood) spend that much more in their quest for statehood than comparatively united Washingtonians?

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Do cops or criminals have the numbers edge in Montgomery?

August 19, 2010 - 01:16 PM
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Montgomery County is usually described as "bucolic," "upper-class," and "ritzy."

An adjective you hear less often is "gang-riddled."

During an appearance Wednesday on The Morning News Express with Bob Miller on WFMD in Frederick, Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy — who lives in Chevy Chase — said: "We've got more gang members in Montgomery County than police officers. And that terrifies me." Murphy, who stresses fiscal conservatism, said he wanted to make sure public safety wasn't harmed by budget cuts.

Promises to get tough on crime aren't a surprise coming from Murphy, who is running to the right of Bob Ehrlich in the race for the Republican nomination, and have helped him earn him an endorsement from Chuck Jenkins, the popular sheriff of Frederick County. (Murphy has also found a fan in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.)

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Fenty says Gray failed to hire HIV/AIDS director for two years

August 18, 2010 - 02:56 PM
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During today's candidate "forum" — we never have debates anymore — featuring incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray on WAMU's The Kojo Nnamdi Show, Fenty brought up one of his favorite topics: the 1990s and how completely terrible they were for the District. A few of his assertions seemed worth checking, so we went off to do some furious LexisNexis searching.

In one statement, Fenty noted that the job leading what was then the District's Office of AIDS Activities was left unfilled for two years while Gray led the District's Department of Human Services under then-Mayor Sharon Pratt. He cited this fact as an example of poor leadership and executive decision-making on Gray's part.

Standard disclaimer when talking about the early 1990s: Everything in District government was screwed up, so it may be unclear to what extent Gray was responsible for the position remaining vacant for so long.

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The Facts Machine on TBD TV: Vince Gray and DCPS college graduates

August 18, 2010 - 11:14 AM
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From yesterday's TBD Trends.

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Sun Tzu, Robert E. Lee, Karl Rove ... and Ron Moten?

August 18, 2010 - 08:46 AM
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This is one of our favorite pictures of Ron Moten. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

Ron Moten is many things. The founder of Peaceoholics. An inspiring redemption story. A go-go fan. A strong supporter of incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty. A crony, according to Vince Gray. And a biblical scholar of sorts

But is he a Fenty campaign strategist and decider of election law?

In recent articles, The Washington Post has elevated Moten, who isn't on the campaign payroll, to a position in which he's apparently David Axelrod to Fenty's Barack Obama. (Fenty opponent Vince Gray's campaign has said similar things, referring to Moten as "a top Fenty adviser" in a press release.)

From an Aug. 11 blog post:

Fenty also appears to be giving Peaceoholics co-founder Ronald Moten free rein to act as a surrogate and strategist.

Then this comes from a Post story yesterday:

At the urging of Ronald Moten, a longtime friend of Fenty's who has become a chief strategist of his campaign and is leading the go-go promotions, the mayor recently blocked a bill that would have made it a crime to pay people to vote.

Finally, in a blog post yesterday:

Ronald Moten, a strategist for Fenty's reelection campaign, is a co-founder of Peaceoholics. Since Fenty took office in 2007, Peaceoholics has received more than $10 million in city contracts, including several million dollars from DYRS.

It's unusual for a chief strategists to go unpaid, and even more unusual for campaigns to pick reformed felons to play that role. And was Moten really behind the Fenty veto of the vote-buying bill? We thought both these things were worth a look.

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Vince Gray gets mixed up on DCPS graduates and college

August 17, 2010 - 12:39 AM
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In Vince Gray's new negative Web ad attacking Adrian Fenty for running negative ads (the hypocrisy of which earned a gentle scolding from The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis), the D.C. Council chair attacks the incumbent on what is supposed to be Fenty's strong suit: education.

As the ad's narrator declares that Fenty's negative ads "won't help one District kid go to college," the following appears on the screen: "Only 1 in 10 District high school graduates complete college."

The District's schools have a poor reputation, but a number that low would be shocking.

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O'Malley's statement about Ehrlich and the Purple Line is out of line

August 16, 2010 - 02:00 PM
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Last August, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced that the Maryland Transit Administration's Purple Line project would use light rail and laid out a (mostly) finalized route for the mass transit link between Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

People in Maryland's Washington suburbs have largely accepted the details of the project as a done deal, and preliminary engineering on the line was expected to begin this summer. The announcement was supposed to end the years-long debate over the proposed transit route from New Carrollton to Bethesda, which can take on a nearly religious tenor at times.

There's one remaining wild card, however. Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who is now challenging O'Malley, was lukewarm in his support for the Purple Line when he was governor, at one point delaying the project. His position on the line should be a major issue in Montgomery County, which is expected to be a battleground jurisdiction.

But what is Ehrlich's position? O'Malley thinks he knows. This is how the governor responded to a question Friday from Kojo Nnamdi, the host of WAMU's The Politics Hour:

“To clarify, I believe my predecessor’s position is that he’s not in favor of the Purple Line at all. ... Initially, I think he was tap-dancing around and saying something about the buses and then when he looked at the long-term costs and the operating costs, I think he came off that and is just flat-out opposed the Purple Line.”

If Ehrlich had switched positions on such a contentious issue, it should have earned screaming headlines. And such a hard stance would have angered traditionally Republican-friendly business groups who support the line. Does the former governor, as his opponent says, outright oppose the Purple Line?

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Congressional support for vouchers in D.C. leans right, but it's there

August 16, 2010 - 10:45 AM
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Eleanor Holmes Norton made a questionable claim about the chances for D.C. school vouchers. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

She’s the District’s most popular politician, but a safe position didn’t prevent Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton from debating her challenger in the Democratic primary, ANC 4B commissioner Doug Sloan, on WTOP’s The Politics Program with Mark Plotkin on Friday. (TBD airs taped versions of the show each Sunday at midnight and at 9 a.m..)

As you will see when we get the video up here sometime today, things between Sloan and Norton got surprisingly feisty. One of the sharper lines Sloan was able to draw between the two was on support for federally funded private school vouchers in the District. Congressional Democrats allowed a five-year pilot program to end in 2009, and Norton thinks the voucher funding should be shifted to charter schools in the District. Sloan supports reinstating the voucher program. Norton argued that was unrealistic because “that program has no support on either side of the aisle ... and it's been overwhelmingly defeated in the Senate...” (Thanks to The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis for originally pointing this out.)

Are D.C. school vouchers dead on arrival in Congress, as Norton says?

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Ambiguity is Fenty's friend in first negative TV ad of campaign

August 13, 2010 - 11:23 AM
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UPDATE: We fixed the video below. Something had been wrong with the sound.

Mayor Adrian Fenty didn’t veer too far from the attack ad routine with the first negative TV hit of his career. (Opponent Vince Gray went negative with an earlier Web ad that was taken down after complaints from WRC-TV.) (UPDATE: He also responded to this ad with a negative Web ad.)

The ad comes in two versions, each with slightly different attacks on Gray and acclamations of Fenty. For now, we’re looking at the ad that focuses on the human cost of Gray's tenure as head of the Department of Human Services during Sharon Pratt Kelly's dysfunctional early 1990s administration:

“With a record number of D.C. children sleeping on the streets, you turned down millions in federal funds to give them shelter. People in the know called your actions inhumane.”

Was Gray really so cruel as to deny funding to poor, homeless children, as the ad insinuates?

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Barry's blurry memories of the D.C. summer jobs program

August 13, 2010 - 11:00 AM
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It only makes sense for Marion Barry to be nostalgic. While still beloved by his constituents in Ward 8, his current position on the D.C. Council can’t be as glamorous as his three mayoral terms, and he’s best known as a a punch line outside of the region. Even the recent past was a little bit better for Barry — only a few months ago he was still a committee chair, and hadn’t been censured by his fellow council members.

A rose-colored view of the past may have led Barry to whitewash the truth. At an oversight hearing about Adrian Fenty's administration’s handling of the Summer Youth Employment Program earlier this month, Barry said the program’s problems began when Fenty took control of the mayor’s office.

After discussing how he started the program in 1979 and quickly got tens of thousands of young adults summer positions with local businesses and the D.C. government, Barry said: “Lo and behold, when Mayor Fenty came in, things got messed up.”

Considering how famously dysfunctional District government was throughout the 1980s and 1990s, we found it hard to believe that the jobs program’s difficulties only began when Fenty took office in 2007.

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The bright side of Fenty's negative attack on Vince Gray

August 12, 2010 - 03:12 PM
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Most of the attention on the two ads Adrian Fenty released yesterday has focused on his attacks on Vince Gray — the first negative advertising of the mayor’s political career. What hasn’t received as many column inches is the bragging Fenty does about his own record. So let’s step into the light and see if Adrian Fenty is as great as the ads' omnipresent narrator thinks he is.

We’ve checked some of these claims before. They are spread over two similar but distinct ads, and we’ll consider them one at a time.

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Gray's claims about Fenty's crime record missed the mark

August 12, 2010 - 11:10 AM
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Gray pointing wrong stats at Fenty
This is Gray pointing the wrong statistics at Fenty. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

We’ve already evaluated Adrian Fenty’s record on combating crime during his mayoral tenure, and found that although crime was down, the District did not outpace the nation in crime fighting.

In his first attack ad of the campaign, D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray made a more specific claim.

After selectively editing a Tom Sherwood WRC-TV piece that showed Fenty admitting to an angry mother that “He didn’t do the job he was supposed to,” the ad displays text outlining specific failures of the Fenty administration.

The first claimed failure we’re fact checking is that “Burglary, auto thefts, and sexual assaults [were] all up over the last three years.” (The ad was taken down at the request of WRC a day after the Gray campaign released it.)

Then, the next day at the Ward 4 Democrats’ mayoral straw poll, Gray sang a slightly different tune, saying that burglaries, robberies and assaults are all up in the city.

Are they? Find out after the jump.

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