Monday, November 3

TENLEY-FRIENDSHIP: A TEST FOR THE COUNCIL

Sue Hemberger, DC Watch - In Thursday’s Examiner, Ward 3 Councilmember Cheh claims “It’s finished.” But in Friday’s Washington Business Journal, Deputy Mayor Neil Albert and LCOR both say the project is “moving forward.” Loose Lips declares that it’s now “officially a pissing match.” For those who haven’t been following the story, Mayor Fenty pulled the plug on DCPL’s long-delayed reconstruction of the Tenley-Friendship branch library last July. At that point, DCPL had already spent a year (and about $1 million dollars) for demolition, design, and approvals and was on track (and within budget) to break ground in three months and reopen the library by early 2010.

So why did Fenty essentially yank the shovel out of Ginnie Cooper’s hands as she was finally ready to rebuild our library? The rationale for this project was that it would speed Janney’s modernization. It was always clear that there was nothing in the deal for the library, whose airy design will be riddled with columns to support the apartments above and whose reopening will most likely be delayed until 2013 (it was closed in 2004). Janney was supposed to get new and better facilities sooner, yet none of the proposals that emerged from the competitive bidding process were able to effect that outcome. At this point, it looks as if all that the LCOR proposal will do for Janney is take away some of its campus and delay its modernization. . .

If the rest of the council fails to back up Cheh and Brown in this fight, all of the councilmembers are likely to see their power reduced to that of glorified ANC commissioners (albeit with six-figure salaries!). Already the pattern is establishing itself. Fenty listens to the council when its members tell him what he wants to hear. So Cheh and Brown’s first letter on this project, which endorsed putting this piece of public land on the auction block, was embraced. Their second letter, pointing out that none of the submissions received in response to the RFP was acceptable, was ignored. Fenty chose one of those proposals anyway. When they reiterated that LCOR’s proposal was unacceptable, Albert ignored them once again. And when they asked the mayor to pull the plug on the deal, Albert went to the media to trumpet his refusal. Long story short, unless there’s a real backlash from the council, the council can and will be ignored with impunity. Thus far, the only prerogative I’ve seen this council stand up for is their baseball tickets. It’s time - way past time - for councilmember to reclaim their role as stewards of public land.

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