December 17, 2009 - 5:23 pm

Rebidding the Park

Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) informed his constituents via email this afternoon that the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development will rebid the construction contract for the park project in LeDroit Park.

The project is back on track, but the rebidding process will necessitate a delay of several months.

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December 17, 2009 - 12:23 am

Park Contract Shuffle

Gage-Eckington Demolition

The D.C. Council voted unanimously to reorganize the controversial park construction contracts.  Ten of the contracts will be managed by the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, which mainly handles school reconstruction.  The office is highly regarded as efficient and reliable.

Three of the contracts, including the one for the park in LeDroit Park, will be handled by the Department of Parks and Recreation and not the Housing Authority as originally planned.

Banneker Ventures, which had received all of the original contracts, is threatening to sue the city for a breach of contract.  D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles believes Banneker has strong legal footings upon which to build a case; the Council is not so sure (or doesn’t care).

Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) believes the three contracts directed to the Dept. of Parks and Recreation may be able to go forward as originally planned because of the more open nature of their original approval.

Perhaps our local mud pit will open next year as verdant as planned after all.

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December 15, 2009 - 7:42 pm

The Streetcars Have Landed

We wrote earlier about the rebirth of DC’s streetcar system and even suggested our own alignment for a full-length Rhode Island Avenue line.

As we reported, the city’s three streetcars were collecting dust in the city of Plzeň in the Czech Republic, where they were manufactured.  Today they completed their transatlantic voyage and landed at the Port of Balitmore. DDOT recorded the event:

The streetcars will be transported to the Greenbelt Metro railyard, where WMATA staff will maintain them until the tracks are ready.

Speaking of tracks, DDOT has finished laying down the streetcar tracks along Benning Road in Northeast.

Benning Road

DDOT took this photo on Benning Road NE at 17th Street NE, just two blocks outside the L’Enfant Plan, where overhead catenery wires are prohibited by law— another issue DDOT will have to resolve.

DDOT is ambitiously moving ahead with the streetcar plan, but Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) told us that though he may not see the streetcars in his lifetime, I’d see them in mine (you’re writer is 25).  Not fully reassuring, but better than nothing.

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November 30, 2009 - 5:52 pm

Crime Prevention Meeting

The Metropolitan Police Department, Councilmembers Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) and Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5), and the local ANC commissioners are hosting a public safety meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7 pm at the Mt. Pleasant Church at Second Street and Rhode Island Avenue.

The meeting will address some of the recent violence in the two neighborhoods.

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November 06, 2009 - 10:15 am

More on the Parks Contract

Yesterday’s Council hearing, one in a series on the parks debacle, revealed an expedited (but opaque) process for awarding park renovation contracts.  The Housing Authority issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), which simply determines which companies have the ability and experience to bid on the final contract.  An RFQ saves time by eliminating groups who do not have the ability to follow through on a project.

The second step is supposed to be a Request for Proposals (RFP), in which the qualified bidders submit cost estimates and designs.  The submitted proposals are what the city government and public review and debate until a final selection is made.

In response to the RFQ, a five-member panel composed of officials from the Housing Authority and mayor’s office selected Banneker Ventures, a firm owned by a close friend of the mayor, from among 13 applicants.  Recall that this step is merely supposed to determine who is qualified to proceed to the next step to bid on a contract.

Well, the administration decided it should end there and, after selecting Banneker as qualified, did not issue an RFP and just handed the $82 million in renovation work to Banneker to manage.  Banneker was awarded $4.2 million to manage the work to be performed largely by other firms.

None of this was done with Council approval, as required by law, and on Tuesday the Council voted on emergency legislation to restrict funneling of park money through the Housing Authority and to require the Housing Authority to notify the Council of all contracts above $75,000.

Voting Yes:

  • Yvette Alexander
  • Marion Barry
  • Kwame Brown
  • David Catania
  • Mary Cheh
  • Vincent Gray
  • Michael Brown
  • Phil Mendelson
  • Harry Thomas
  • Tommy Wells

Voting No:

  • Muriel Bowser
  • Jack Evans
  • Jim Graham (who represents LeDroit Park)
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November 01, 2009 - 7:08 pm

Our Park in Limbo

On Friday the City Council held a joint hearing on the contracting dispute that has now ensnared the forthcoming park in LeDroit Park. The Post reported that Councilmember David Catania (I – at large) insisted the contracts are illegal, but Attorney General Peter Nickles (a Fenty appointee, we should note) insisted the contrary.

Our own ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01) submitted testimony on behalf of the neighborhood and the LeDroit Park Civic Association imploring the Council not to delay park construction. She noted in her testimony that the park design was the product of a transparent and exhaustive community process that developed a plan that is both affordable and popular in the neighborhood.  She further noted that the park plan had been discussed with several members of the mayor’s cabinet and with Councilmembers Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) and Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5); the park plan was no surprise.

At the previous LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting, Mr. Graham noted that the Council had specifically set aside money for the project.

There’s still no word on what will happen next, but we certainly hope that certain members of the Council do not take the matter to court; litigation could delay the project for at least a year, if not several. Rebidding the contracts, we have heard, could delay construction by several months.

Alternatively, the Council could simply review the contracts as the law demands and approve the current plan (at least for our park and for other parks that have significant popular backing). We see this as unlikely since this would require the mayor to admit that his administration broke the law and it would require Mr. Nickles to backtrack on his current position that the contracts are legal.

It is also possible that the mayor and Council could come to some sort of lawful agreement to let work continue without delay. We hope the last option prevails and we suspect certain member of the Council are working to that solution; Mr. Graham is well aware of his constituents’ justified impatience.

One last thing: we thank Ms. Moss and the Civic Association leaders for their testimony.  This sort of advocacy requires a significant personal commitment of time and energy.

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