City Desk

D.C. Council Treats DDOT Confirmation Hearing Like ANC Meeting

The confirmation hearing for Terry Bellamy's appointment to permanent director of the District Department of Transportation was less an examination of his skills, abilities, and progress than an airing of parochial grievances by members of the D.C. Council.

Today's four-hour hearing on Bellamy, currently DDOT's interim director, saw valuable input from testimonials by D.C. residents. But questioning by the present councilmembers was only occasionally what you'd expect to be asked of the guy who will soon head up an agency of nearly 900 employees responsible for the functionality of the city's streets. Councilmembers Muriel Bowser, Phil Mendelson, Marion Barry, Jim Graham, and Tommy Wells too often brought up points that would have been better suited for small-scale community meetings at either the ward or Advisory Neighborhood Commission level.

Bowser, for example, was emphatic that Montgomery County be made to comply with the District's institution of signal prioritization around 16th Street NW. Mendelson doggedly pressed on when parking meter signage, which is presently rather hard to understand, would be replaced with notices that clearly state when meters are and aren't monitored. Graham declared that there was absolutely no problem with Metro station names that are more like mouthfuls, and suggested Bellamy would have quite the fight ahead should he attempt to shorten "U Street-African American Civil War Memorial-Cardozo" to the much more reasonable "U Street." Barry rambled at length about the quality of bus stops along Mellon Street SE, and demanded that Bellamy inform him how much money would be spent on bus stops in Ward 8. And though Wells, who oversees the council's Committee on Public Works and Transportation, largely stuck to broader questions, the hearing's last hour was essentially a Q&A based on topics brought up by his Twitter followers.

While all of these concerns are certainly valid and fall under DDOT's purview—and some interesting tidbits, such as the fact that Bellamy rides Metrorail more than buses, and walks to work, emerged—Bellamy's character and qualifications as an administrator didn't receive the same treatment. Wells rightfully grilled him on what he thought about green alleys, Complete Streets initiatives, and the timeline for streetcars on H Street NE; Bowser asked what Bellamy believed to be his greatest accomplishment (answer: technology around parking, workforce training that has resulted in D.C. residents making up 97% of crossing guards, and the ever-vague "community outreach").

Still, councilmembers used the hearing primarily to gauge whether their pet projects would be acknowledged during Bellamy's time at DDOT, rather than exact Bellamy's expectations and goals for the agency. Then again, Bellamy isn't nearly as vivacious as his predecessor, Gabe Klein, and didn't assert any particular visions for DDOT's work.

Bellamy, formerly the deputy director of operations at DDOT under Klein, was named interim director in January and is set to be confirmed as permanent director on July 12. Unless someone finds a parochial problem with him, that is.

Photo by Flickr User DDOTDC, Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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  • http://Washingtoncitypaper Hager

    What is he goinig to do about dc taxi? I hope he a good job

  • http://Washingtoncitypaper Hager

    What is he goinig to do about dc taxi? I hope he do a good job

  • stinkinthinkin

    Pray for the Gray Administration to right the ship.

  • Southeast Ken

    Rolling eyes.

  • Drez

    DDOT has very little to do with regulating taxis.

  • Sally

    The small minds on the Council are always entertaining.

  • David Holmes

    This seems to be the most effective way to get DDoT's attention.

    It's no wonder that Councilmembers join ANC Commissioners in pointing out irritating and dangerous problems directly at a time when the full attention of the nominee is most engaged.

    DDoT has no systematic surveys of sidewalk conditions, whether trees block traffic signs, whether there are appropriately placed one-way signs, or hether bus stops are muddy or their windscreens broken. DDoT is far behind in correcting parking signs, replacing faded traffic control signs, maintaining school speed signs.

    These are the kind of issues that ANC Commissioners try to fix. It's not surprising that Councilmembers seize the opportunity to fix problems that DDoT has not noticed or ignored. Congratulations to Barry, Bowser, and Mendelson for looking out for their constituents when the prospective Director is most attentive.

  • Anothernative

    @DH, you're absolutely on point.

  • Skipper

    Yes, by all means - take the opportnity at an agency director's confirmation hearing to complain about the sidewalks in front of your house having cracks and pass up the opportunity to ask him about the vastly bigger picture of an agency with a massive budget, huge impact on people's lives and safety, and major initiatives underway.

    ANC Commissioners are supposed to be small-minded nit-pickers, complaining about their hyperlocal concerns. Councilmembers are supposed to focus on the much bigger picture. The reason there's so much waste and inefficiency in this gov't is b/c so many Councilmembers maintain the mentality of an ANC commissioner and can't see the forest from the leaves.

  • drez

    @ DH and Anothernative:
    You are wrong. DDOT isn't funded nearly enough to repair all the little items that citizens and ANC's write in on. Walk a block on any street- I bet you could count 5 defects.
    There is as much a structural funding deficit in DDOT as there is in DC Water.
    The only result of ANC's and Council members pushing thier pet interests is that what lists ddot does have are consistently preempted by political pressure.

  • Concernedaboutdc

    The District has massive critical infrastructure to maintain and repair. I am going to presume that there is a sizable allocation of federal transit dollars to DDOT to get this done. At least it should considering Maryland and Virginia Federal workers do a lion's share of wear and tear on these avenues of transporation within the District.

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