City Desk

Deputy Mayor Not Happy With Council Budget Moves

Neil O. Albert, outgoing deputy mayor for planning and economic development, is not happy with some of the D.C. Council's budget proposals. He dispatched a letter [PDF] today to councilmembers taking issue with several proposals contained in budget legislation scheduled for a second and final vote on Tuesday.

Two of the issues involve the fates of onetime public schools. For one thing, the council is proposing that the Grimke School, across Vermont Avenue NW from the east entrance of the U Street Metro stop and current home of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services department headquarters, to be reserved for the African-American Civil War Museum. That's a project headed and championed by former Ward 1 Councilmember Frank Smith. The problem, Albert writes, is that several developers have entered into a bidding process on the property, incurring "significant expense" to do so. He asks that the council allow the bidding process to continue.

Another point of contention regards the recently closed Bertie Backus Middle School, on South Dakota Avenue NE close to the Fort Totten Metro station.

Like with Grimke, the deputy mayor's office has started to entertain bids on the property, and, like Grime, the council has its own plans. In a plan championed by Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., the council proposes handing the school directly to the University of the District of Columbia in order to house its new community college.

However, Albert points out, "since UDC has no approved community college plan, and no resources with which to carry out such a plan, the Backus School Provision effectively requires that the school remain vacant for many
years. Because of this, the school will be a blight on the community and is likely to attract illegal and undesired activity."

"Furthermore," he writes, "the designation of the Backus School as the site for a community college occurred without an opportunity to consider the potential significant, positive impacts that could result from locating the community college in another area of the city, such as a location east of the Anacostia River."

Albert suggests taking the Backus handover out of the budget bill and working out a mutually agreeable plan.

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  • Brandon

    No chance of the council and mayor's office coordinating earlier in the process?

  • sick of the mayor

    Duh???????? Has anyone in the mayors office ever thought to coordinate anything in the two years they have been there? NO. Not only no, they have deliberately NOT told anyone of their plans prior to the implementation so as not to have anyone elses imput.

    See where it get's you F TROOP?

  • Downtown Rez

    These schools have been out for bid for months. And they were announced as being put to bid months before that.
    Actually, the entire awake and alive population of DC (including alive and awake council and staff) knew exactly what DMPED was proposing to do with these buildings well over a year ago.
    Like much else in the budget, this current political disagreement is all about posturing. Another, more accurate, way to look at this is that the council wants to EARMARK the properties to favored clients/constituents, rather than benefit DC's coffers through an arms-length open bid process.

  • Q

    I almost agree with Downtown Rez on this. The GOAL was to sell these properties. The conspiracy was made real when the school consolodation plan occured. I'm not nostalgic, but turning them into McCondos and other mixed use property doesn't really serve the city constituents. Grimke is especially in a McCondo development area. Backus could be better served as either a replacement for the Lamond-Riggs Library, or some other Civic Minded property. How about moving those deplorable DMV facilties from Brentwood Road and actually having a TRUE drivers test location.

    I'm sorry Mr. Albert but if I was a Councilman I would not be sympathetic to "several developers [have] entered into a bidding process on the property, incurring “significant expense” to do so." That's all part of business. Just because you spent monies BIDDING on a project/contract doesn't give you rights or favorable treatment.

  • Downtown rez

    Q: It is about favorable treatment, but in precisely the opposite way you write.
    Here's the chain of events:
    DMPED issued a public RFP, then the competing responding parties each spent resources to put together their best offers, then the council arrogated itself new powers, took the properties off the table, and showed "favorable treatment" by earmarking them to pet groups/causes.
    It had been an open-bid process (within legal restrictions) until the council decided to earmark them.

  • Q

    "Arrogated *NEW* powers", for these particular bids or for property bids in general? I agree that on its face it doesn't seem fair, but are you telling me that the Council was sleep at the wheel when DMPED issued the RFP?

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Q? In the lack-of-independent-oversight world of DC gov't, the council just waits until somebody pulls the right string, & then they pass whatever law that somebody wants.

  • Downtown Rez

    The RFPs went out to the general public months ago, and the intent to put them out to public bid was telegraphed to council and local citizen groups and ANCs over a year ago.
    It would be presumptuous for me to say what "the council" did or didn't think during that time.

  • candycane1

    Sick of the mayor, Thank you for using my term of "F-Troop" I was so hoping that it would catch on! I'm serious Thanks!!!! It is indeed appropriate.

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