We’re back from our half-month vacation and LeDroit Park and Shaw are about to see some construction action starting today.
Wednesday, September 1 – 10:30 am
Just when we thought construction on the park on the site of the old Gage-Eckington School would begin, along came the parks scandal last October. Then in March, Harry Thomas Jr. (D – Ward 5) tried to prevent the mayor from appropriating money to the park project; he then reversed himself after an avalanche of constituent criticism. The new contract was ready to go until Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) put a hold on the contract in late July. Mr. Barry’s delay procedure just expired and the mayor’s office will host a groundbreaking ceremony today at 10:30 am at Third and Elm Streets.
Over in Shaw, the two block site currently occupied by Giant and a crumbling old market façade is about to start its journey to become a vibrant mixed-use development. Join the Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Mayor Adrian Fenty (D), Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D), Councilmember Jack Evans (D – Ward 2) and Councilmember Kwame Brown (D – at large) for the groundbreaking.
Thursday, September 2 – 10:45 am
After years of planning and promises, construction on the Howard Theatre begins in earnest. Join the developer, ANC Commissioner Myla Moss, and other notables for the official groundbreaking.
We’re relieved to see these long-promised projects finally moving forward to construction.
Thanks to a wave of citizen pressure on the council, LeDroit Park narrowly avoided yet another delay in park construction.
Last night we learned that Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5), would offer a bill this morning to prevent the mayor’s office from re-appropriating $1.5 million to the park project here in LeDroit Park. His stated reason for throwing a wrench in the process was that his bill was simply a “procedural matter to ensure that the funding source is constant with the Deputy Mayor['s] testimony that the funds will not be taken from other projects and that the funds are properly identified.”
As though a phone call within the Wilson Building wouldn’t have answered that question. Threatening to further delay a much-needed construction project that the council and mayor had already promised may not be the most prudent way to stick it to the mayor’s office; Mr. Thomas woke the sleeping dragon.
Deluged with emails between residents, civic association leaders, Jim Graham (D – Ward 1), Kwame Brown (D – at large), and Mr. Thomas, himself, the council passed a revised version of Mr. Thomas’s bill, this time explicitly approving the re-appropriation. Now there’s a u-turn!
Our thanks to all the residents who contacted the council to voice their disapproval. Mr. Thomas admitted receiving an avalanche of 230 emails this morning on the matter.
And who said citizen democracy doesn’t work?
We wrote yesterday about Attorney General Peter Nickles’s determination that park construction contracts, including the contract for the new park in LeDroit Park, should have received approval from the City Council. Well, somebody in the mayor’s office must have paid Mr. Nickles a stern phone call; the Post reports that he is now recanting his previous statement.
Mr. Nickles now insists that Council review should be reinstated henceforth, but not retroactively for current construction contracts.
The Council, however, is not too pleased.
Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D) is annoyed and told the Post,
For the attorney general to give a carte blanche green light to these questionable contracts, even before council hearings or any legislative action, is inappropriate and not in compliance with my reading of the law. If they are required to be submitted, we make no distinction between the past and the future. We expect to receive these contracts.
Councilmembers Kwame R. Brown (D – at large) and Harry Thomas Jr. (D – Ward 5) will hold a hearing on the matter on Friday and are threatening to sue to halt the contracts.
However, ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01 – LeDroit Park), in an email to Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1), wrote that the park project in LeDroit Park
was reviewed and discussed before the Council during the last round of appropriations negotiations at which time the Council voted to allocate funds for the project.
While a bidding process was absent this project was not only transparent, it also involved inter-agency and inter-governmental collaborations.
When we spotted Councilmember Graham at last night’s streetcar open house we didn’t realize the urgency of this issue or we would have strongly expressed our opposition to further delays (while of course chastising the mayor for his illegal maneuverings).
The Council and the mayor’s office are at odds; let’s hope that LeDroit Park doesn’t fall victim to this clash of titans. In fact there’s something better than hope: you can email Mr. Graham your opinion.
Also, you can attend the LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting tonight; Mr. Graham and Ms. Moss will discuss the issue. It’s at 7:00 pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (623 Florida Avenue).