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.
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.
Yesterday Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) issued a disapproval motion to block the contract for the new park here in LeDroit Park. Mr. Barry couldn’t even bother to issue an explanation for meddling in a Ward One park and Councilmember Jim Graham is duly upset. Contracts over $1 million must be submitted to the Council and such contracts are approved if the Council takes no action within a certain number of days. Mr. Barry’s procedural move will delay the project by at least 45 days until the Council reconvenes in September and can vote on the motion.
Mr. Barry also issued another mysterious disapproval resolution yesterday to block DDOT’s consolidation of its offices into one building near Nats Stadium. Mr. Barry was stripped of his chairmanship in March after it was revealed last July that he was issuing do-nothing city contracts to his girlfriend. Our sources tell us that since then he has taken to generously sprinkling disapproval measures for projects throughout the District in a desperate move to show that he still matters.
The park can still move forward without the extra delay if Mr. Barry is convinced— likely with an old-school lobbying effort— to withdraw his motion. It’s a pity, though, that important government projects are subject to the whims of childish councilmembers. It should not take yet another lobbying effort to get this park built.
In a city that decries Congressional meddling in local affairs, it’s truly ironic that a desperately need Ward One project is put on hold by a councilmember we didn’t even elect.