Barry on Gage-Eckington Park: “I Have the Responsibility to Protect the Taxpayers’ Money”
LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale erupted in indignation this afternoon over the news that Councilmember Marion Barry had introduced a disapproval resolution for the planned Gage-Eckington Park at the site of a former school on V Street. Typically, these contracts are submitted to the council for approval, but don't have to be actively voted upon–they'll automatically pass through unless a Councilmember objects within a specific time frame. Barry filed his resolution on Wednesday, the last day he could (along with a protest of DDOT's planned move to 55 M Street SE). Now, both of them could be delayed until the Council resumes its session in September.
Local leaders suspect that Barry might be trying to use the park as leverage for his priorities with other councilmembers. But on a phone call with Housing Complex this evening, Barry claimed it was all about standing on principle, and had no plans to withdraw the resolution.
"The Gage-Eckington contract was one of those not authorized by the council, not voted on," he said. "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."
Not sure if Barry was around back in March when the Council explicitly approved the Mayor's reprogramming of funding for the park, which Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas had momentarily held up on procedural grounds. It's been a long road for this particular park–which also fell victim last year to the reorganization of contracts improperly awarded to Banneker Ventures–and the scheduled completion date has already been pushed back to November.
I asked Barry what he would say to the many people who had fought for years to make the park a reality.
"They should be angry at Mayor Fenty and Jim Graham for this delusional thing they're doing," he answered, adding that the mayor should have put the item in his 2011 budget. "If they're angry, be angry at mayor Adrian Fenty, and all his corrupt practices."
Councilmember Jim Graham, for his part, is ticked off too. "I am really upset with him, and I am doing all I can," Graham wrote in an e-mail to Housing Complex this evening. "His recent pattern is to make a fuss then back off. I hope that happens here."
Most recently, Barry did this alongside Councilmember Yvette Alexander in holding up the massive transfer of Hill East to District control, which would have been accomplished in part by temporarily shifting funds away from improvements to Kenilworth Park in Ward 7. The pair lifted their holds at the June 29th legislative meeting, but not before a good long time decrying the mayor's arrogance and corruption.