Park Quid Pro Quo
Back in March, LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale residents mobilized to prevent Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5) from blocking the transfer of funding to the park project here in LeDroit Park. Our hard work paid off: Mr. Thomas reversed his resolution in the face of an avalanche of angry calls and emails, a good number coming from his constituents in Bloomingdale.
Now Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) has inexplicably placed a hold on the new park contract, possibly delaying construction by at least 45 days. When reached by the City Paper, Mr. Barry responded,
The Gage-Eckington contract was one of those not authorized by the council, not voted on. The mayor in his shenanigans sent it over the council, and I have the responsibility to protect the taxpayers’ money…There’s no money available, and there’s no authority to do this.
Mr. Barry’s statement contains a half-true and a lie. This current contract is being submitted to the Council for passive approval, which is required of city contracts over $1 million. If the Council does not act on it within a certain period of time, the contract is approved. This is common method of review since the Council does not have the time to vote explicitly on every city contract. So, yes, this contract with Keystone Plus Construction Corporation has not been voted on, but few contracts of this size are.
More distressing is that Mr. Barry is absolutely wrong to state that the money isn’t available and that the mayor doesn’t have the authority to build this park. On March 2, Mr. Barry and the rest of the Council voted unanimously to approve the mayor’s request to re-appropriate $1.5 million for this park:
Sec. 2. (a) Pursuant to section 47-363 of the District of Columbia Official Code, the Mayor transmitted to the Council on February 19, 2010, a reprogramming request of $1.5 million from the capital budget authority and allotment from the Department of Parks and Recreation and the District Department of Transportation to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
(b) The Council approves the $1.5 million reprogramming request.
Sec. 3. The Secretary to the Council shall transmit a copy of this resolution, upon its adoption, to the Office of the Mayor.
Sec. 4. This resolution shall take effect immediately. (our emphasis)
Facts are stubborn things, Mr. Barry.
Mr. Barry’s new-found scrutiny (obstruction, really) of city projects is especially ironic considering he doled out d0-nothing city contracts to his girlfriend and when questioned on the conflict of interest, responded to the Post,
“You all think it is inappropriate to hire a girlfriend. I don’t think it is. In fact, there is no law against it.” When asked whether he would hire another woman he becomes romantically involved with, Barry said, “Unless the law changes, why not?”
The Council’s fair-weather watchdog is likely angling for a quid pro quo from the rest of the Council before he withdraws his resolution. Perhaps he’s holding out for the Council to cut him a deal he can’t get by any other means than logrolling.
Or he may simply want attention, since his unanimous Council censure and ejection from committee positions has spared the city from much of his legislative influence.
But even if Mr. Barry’s stubbornly refuses to withdraw his disapproval, his huffing and puffing will be for naught since he likely doesn’t have the votes to defeat the contract.
Several civic groups in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale are turning up the pressure on Mr. Barry and the Council. He may not have realized what he has provoked.