Housing Complex

Gray Transition Committee Slams DDOT For Mismanagement

Oops? (Lydia DePillis)

The mayor's transition team has come out with its suite of reports on what to do with the government, and in those that fall within Housing Complex's world, the Transportation and Infrastructure document is more interesting than most: While giving good marks to agencies like the Department of Public Works, it excoriates Gabe Klein's Department of Transportation for being careless with city funds. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, headed by Fort Lincoln developer Cellerino Bernardino and former City Administrator Thomas Downs, is the same body that booted Klein from his post, and their report almost reads like someone had a grudge against him from the get-go. The agency, it says, "skirted accountability and mismanaged the transportation program," saddling Vince Gray's administration with a bunch of half-finished and now underfunded projects.

Among the allegations:

  • Silly streetcars: Tracks were laid on H Street NE without providing for a power source, a storage shed, or a place to turn around. DDOT failed to do the environmental studies that would have made the project eligible for federal funding. And the three streetcars that have been purchased–at a cost of $10 million–cannot be used, since they're not in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. (A DDOT spokesperson says this isn't true; I'll update when he gets an official response. [UPDATE, 10:18 p.m. - DDOT confirms: "The existing streetcars owned by the District have level boarding and are ADA compliant."]).
  • Number fudging: DDOT has been using its WMATA subsidy to fund project and operating costs as reumbursable projects without Council or Congressional approval, which is a violation of the Home Rule Act. The report also says that DDOT's long-term financial plan is based on "deliberately overstated" federal earmarks.
  • Lavish spending: DDOT's personnel expenses increased 47 percent between 2005 and 2010, and 25 percent of active projects have negative fund balances. "There has been no recognition of funding constraints," the report reads. "Large projects have been undertaken without credible funding sources."
  • Parking larks: DDOT has undertaken the development of an in-house parking ticket processing system and parking management software, which the committee says are "ill-advised" and should be abandoned. "Such attempts have proven to be fruitless and wasteful in every jurisdiction where they've been attempted," it reads.

Most of these charges, which vindicate the Committee of 100's take on things, would probably fit under Klein's definition of running an entrepreneurial, flexible department with wide latitude to deploy DDOT's various revenue streams as needed. When he announced his departure, he knew that continuing to work for Gray would curtail that style. Reading the committee's recommended remedies–adherence to procedure, better financial planning, and enforcement of relevant laws–it appears that Klein was probably right.

  • LOL

    wow. if these were true, I would have to say it is better the Klein left.

  • Ward 7

    Parking larks: DDOT has undertaken the development of an in-house parking ticket processing system and parking management software, which the committee says are "ill-advised" and should be abandoned. "Such attempts have proven to be fruitless and wasteful in every jurisdiction where they've been attempted," it reads.


    That part I'll agree with. Why did he not build on DPW system? There are some aggressive b@st@ards working in ticketing for DDOT tho, especially in front of predominately white churches on Sunday!

  • Rick Mangus


  • http://greatergreaterwashington.org/mcjohnson/ Matt Johnson

    Seattle and Portland use the same model of streetcar that DC owns 3 of. They were manufactured in the same factory, as it so happens. And they meet ADA requirements.

    So I can't imagine how DC's streetcars wouldn't.

  • Contrarian

    Entrepreneurial and flexible doesn't not mean running a company at a double digit deficit without adequate financial controls and potential illegal acts. Companies like that don't last long in the marketplace...so the reporter saying it is OK for a city agency seems odd.

  • Buzz a

    Wasn't this written by Sarah Campbell and two guys that failed at running DDOT? I think they hD some obvious motivation. And, I think DDOT balanced its budget. Sounds like classic jealousy to me.

  • Graylover

    "Parking larks: DDOT has undertaken the development of an in-house parking ticket processing system and parking management software, which the committee says are "ill-advised" and should be abandoned. "Such attempts have proven to be fruitless and wasteful in every jurisdiction where they've been attempted,"

    huh? I work at DDOT in the operations group and all tickets get screwed up by the DPW and then managed by that damn fool company ACS over at DMV.

    I think if you people dig, you will see that DDOT did want to dump the corrupt ACS, but no one has plans to do nothing in house. DMV was going to continue to process.

    Who writes this stupid shit?

  • Peter Smith

    So, these reports make deliberately false statements, throw around innuendo, and vacuous and subjective complaints based on nothing more than political disagreements about how the department should have been run, levy unfounded charges, _and_ the report was written by folks (including a developer??) with a vested interest in making the outgoing administration look bad.

    yes, we should take these 'reports' very seriously indeed.

  • LOL

    While I dont have enough information to comment on the other stuff DDOT did have to come back to the city council for more money during the fiscal year for things that were not really out of the ordinary.

    But there has been a debate about powering and turning the street cars around. So I am not sure if the sole motivation was jealously. Even if it was, it seems that DDOT gave the enviers a lot of information about some of the poorer planned projects to fire back at the director.

  • T

    What a ridiculous report... a bunch of baseless assertions written by, as others have said, people with an "axe to grind." While some of these items may or may not be true, the fact that some of the items are absolutely, positively 100% false puts into question the validity of the whole document.

    The streetcar analysis in particular is laughable... they definitely meet ADA (the raised curb platforms combined with the low floor means that a wheelchair can roll right on without a ramp or a lift) and the tracks on H were laid before the full analysis was complete on the turnaround, power stations, etc. because the street was already being torn up for the streetscape improvements. If they had waited to lay tracks until the road and sidewalks were complete, the report would have been even more critical because it would have cost more time and money.

  • RGFleet

    Entrepreneurial and flexible? No, simply inexperienced and underqualified. If Klein's "spend first, plan and worry about the money" later mentality constitutes entrepreneurial, its no wonder the for-profit zipcar which he ran locally is in its 10th year of operation without yet having posted one dollar of profit.

    The man had no idea what he was doing. It is simple as that.

  • DCDem

    Told you so. Even with the writers obvious, though reckless, apologetic prose in defense of Klein, the fact is he ran the Department of Transportation as if it's budget was his own piggy bank fund to spend as he wished.

    I've have never heard a successful entrepreneur use "wide latitude to deploy various revenue streams" as justification for deficit spending during a recession. This is worse for a public official because it removes transparency and accountability and lends itself to theft, waste, fraud and/or abuse of public dollars.

    Whether or not the streetcars are ADA compliant is not the point. This is a project that the Department could not sustain during such harsh economic times. The fact that they rushed through the planning, that cost the Department 25 million dollars in federal matching funds, suggests to me that the rush was an attempt to move the project forward to the point of no return. Holding the city hostage to it.

    Klein is gone, however, the fuzzy numbers budget director Leah Treat and Street Car Czar Scott Kubly are still there. Klein did not build this fiscal nightmare alone, there is plenty of accountability to spread among the overpaid appointees he hired to overlook his folly. Their liberal play with public funds continues, to this day.

  • T


    You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, or like this report you know better and you're just lying to try to prove a point.

    The point in the report about ADA compliance is 100% wrong, and the other assertions have no data or evidence to back them up. You are also ignoring the fact that (1) deficit spending for infrastructure is definitely important for the government to undertake; (2) this is not deficit spending anyways!; (3) the streetcar project started well before Klein was at DDOT, including the H Street portion.

  • DDOT Insider

    It's easy to just blame Klein but this is clearly political. Again. Stop attacking Fenty & his allies, didn't you win the election? Why so bitter? The Blame Game ends at the ballot box. We need solutions not finger pointing at someone that doesn't work there anymore.

    The biggest problem with DDOT is with the Contractors. Phrase of the day: "Change order." Fix that and you save the city millions. But DDOT has been run poorly for decades and no one will take on that challenge. If the transition committee feels this report is true, then keeping Terry Bellamy(even though he's a nice guy) at the helm is a HUGE CONTRADICTION.

  • mike

    Point of order. The first street cars were ordered before Fenty was Mayor. They were mothballed for most of his administration(excluding photo ops). DDOT was trying to build track ASAP so people could use the cars.

  • Joe

    This report can be summed up pretty easily.


  • Jean

    ADA compliance is very important to many people and communities who depend on public transportation and public officials to get it right. Unfortunately, DDOT Streetcars are only partially compliant with ADA regulations, and the people who are in charge of this program are well aware of the shortfalls in the current designs. Individuals' lives are at stake, and this fact should not be used as a pro or con issue for City Paper, Klein supporters, detractors or any else.

  • Bill

    The report also ignores the fact that ANC6A lobbied hard to have the streetcar tracks installed as part of the reconstruction of H Street. The original plans did not include the tracks even though H Street was identified in the long range transportation plan for having streetcar.

    Installing the tracks as part of the streetscape actually was incredibly smart to save money and expense and ensure H Street would get the tracks. The streetscape was in the works for a long time as part of the Main Street program to support the revitalization of the corridor (which is happening).

    Had the tracks not been installed these jokers would have been complaining about the waste of the street being torn up to install tracks at a some future date or complaining about the delay for the streetscape - a no win situation.

    It is also important to remember the real boondoggle which was triggered back by Director Tangerlini - to install a "demonstration" line in Anacostia which the community didn't want. That project sits half completed with no promise of completion anytime soon.

    This is really a joke of a report that is overtly political to trash Klein.

  • DCDem

    @T: Obviously, YOU are the one that doesn't know what you are talking about. The ADA assertion was spot on. The DDOT spokesperson spoke of a single aspect of ADA requirements to prove a pseudo point, that being "they have level boarding". That may be so, but ADA goes far above and beyond the leveling issue. If you require more information on WHY the trains are not ADA compliant, how about asking the ADA coordinator for the District Department of Transportation. A coordinator that wasn't consulted during the acquisition process, nor at any point during this streetcar project, to date.

    Your other points are equally off the mark:

    (1) deficit spending for infrastructure is definitely important for the government to undertake

    Deficit spending is never a good thing. I am not sure what business or public model you are looking at but it is certainly not a success model. You speak of streetcars as if it were a bridge, street or avenue that is critical to our infrastructure. It is not. It is a luxury alternative mode of transporation more suitable for environments when a municipality is not in a desperate economic environment. This project was, and is, poorly planned. Our lack of federal funding underscores this fact.

    "(2) this is not deficit spending anyways!; (3) the streetcar project started well before Klein was at DDOT, including the H Street portion"

    When you have projects such as these that are being funded at the same time the agency is reporting a multi-million dollar deficit, as it has each year since 2006, those projects are being funded with deficit spending. It is that simple. DDOT's own records showed that 25% of ACTIVE projects have negative fund balances. The District Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits this type of activity. These laws have been violated by the Klein administration. Moving public funds from one source to another without the requisite financial checks and balances (reprogramming), mixing federal and local funds will definately come back to bite the city, particularly with a frugal GOP House majority. Don't be surprised when the Fed IG is asked to probe this spending.

    Beyond this, all we heard from the Fenty Administration was that the city needed to make tough decisions requiring termination of thousands of city employees because of budget pressures. He enacted a hiring and salary freeze, yet, Gabe Klein managed to increase his payroll by 47%. During a recession. That is a fact. And I can assure you it was not with manual labor who actually DO the work. Streetcars, alone, has no less than 3 deputy directors. A project? 3 deputy directors? Really?

    Don't get me started on the deliberately overstated federal earmarks. $1 billion when recent history dictates more around the level of $150 million. "deliberate overstatement" is code word for LIE.

    And to think that Klein wanted to keep his job. We should hope his financial director will take a hint and hit the bricks as well unless she wishes to wait and have terminated on her employment record.

    You can hate the facts all you like, but at the end of the day, the facts will stand. With our without you.

  • Graylover

    Payroll moved from operations to capital, not increased. It actually decreased because it was charged to the federal aid program for federal aid projects, reducing the burden to dc taxpayers. I you want the facts.

  • DDOT Insider

    @DCDem, You either know nothing about the inside of DDOT or are ignoring facts. Spending on infrastructure is a requirement of modern civilization. Streetcars may be seen as a luxury however paving streets, paving sidewalks, stoplights, streetlighting, and bridges are non-negotiable. The problem is that nothing is done in-house so we save money. But the employees are not holding contractors accountable & doing poor due diligence (Most are employees that Fenty, Klein, or even Bellamy couldn’t fire if they wanted). The amount of money we save by not having full-time staff, we lose in change orders.

    In case you don’t know what it means:
    Change order - work that is added to or deleted from the original scope of work of a contract, which alters the original contract amount or completion date. A change order may fork a new project to handle significant changes to the current project.

    Also, it doesn’t count as deficit spending when we are doing it with federal funding solely designated for that project. DC is forking over money but of project exceeding the original budget because of…wait for it…CHANGE ORDERS!

  • DDOT Insider

    *Correction* forking over money on projects

  • realist

    @DDOT Insider,

    So let me get this straight. You are defending DDOT by saying the actual DDOT employees are too inept to oversee the contracts they issue and consultants/contractors they hire?

    Comedy of errors...

  • DCDem

    @DDOT Insider: You made my point, streetcars are NOT a critical infrastructure, as is a street, avenue, bridge, signal light etc. It is a luxury alternative mode of transportation. As such, during a recession with a city reeling in red ink, if it couldn't be fully funded mostly by federal dollars, which it isn't, it should have been tabled. It was/is being developed in the red, with no plan on how much it is going to cost and who is going to pay for it. This project was/is poorly planned beginning when Dan Tangherlini was the Director of DDOT continuing through Gabe Klein. This poor planning culminated with the Feds denying DDOT's bid for matching funds to develop the project while granting funding to other municipalities across the nation.

    It is silly to suggest that Directors cannot fire incompetent employees. This District now, and always has had a system in place by which to dismiss poor performers. You just have to have managers smart enough to document the incompetence in accordance to HR regulations and then get rid of them. That is a management competency problem.

    I know what a change order is, and, as noted above, if the employees are allowed to mismanage contracts, with no consequences, that, again, is a management issue. What I do know is this. The CA is not new to contracting and contract work. That dog will not hunt under Lew. I assure you, he will find a way to get rid of them.

    It is deficit spending when the project is not fully funded by the feds. Streetcars being one such project. In fact, one of the largest projects in the history of the Department.

    I suggest you read the report again, though stinging, it is based in facts and was written by professionals with a keen knowledge and expertise in transportation. DDOT has engaged in questionable accounting for years. Moving funds from one allocated source to another, without reprogramming or authorization, in violation of the law.

    Klein, and his budget directors use of the WMATA subsidy to fund projects and operating costs as reimbursable projects (e.g., trolleys, the Circulator), without Council and congressional approval was pure arrogant incompetence and a blatant disregard to the law (District of Columbia Home Rule Act). That is a sleeping lion that has just been awoken. They will have the metro board, both governors of MD and VA, as well as, a GOP majority in Congress seeking answers.

    Kleins defenders suggest you cannot progress within the parameters of the law. This is the worst type of citizen. This is how corruption is birthed and is fed.

  • oboe

    You made my point, streetcars are NOT a critical infrastructure, as is a street, avenue, bridge, signal light etc. It is a luxury alternative mode of transportation.

    I'm curious: are buses critical or a luxury? What about Metro rail? Seriously interested.

    In any case, I think we can give this transition report just as much credibility as we can give the authors of the report--two crooked Barry-era incompetents who drove DPW and DDOT into the ground during the darkest years of our city's history. (i.e. zero credibility).

    Examiner has a balance story here:


    Now, perhaps we can get a critical analysis of the Obama Administration's handling of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan from Don Rumsfeld.

  • Contrarian

    On credibility... The first time streetcars were put into the city's 2020 Transportation Vision Plan in 1997 was by...Cel Bernadino...

    Tom Downs... was executive director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Eduation. He was Executive Director of UMTA (transit before transit was cool)

    So there is a little more credibility than "@oboe" indicates...these two are not lightweight and do "get it" and sadly all you urbanist folks' "guy" didn't "get it" and that is why it is so uncomfortable for you.

  • DCDem

    @oboe: Critical infrastructure relates to existing systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the city or region that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on their security, economic wellbeing, public health or safety, or any combination of those matters. So, yes, systems that move millions of people a day would be considered critical infrastructure. A non-existent street care with limited capacity to move massess of people is convenient though not critical.

    Your simplistic assault on the chairmen of the committee in an attempt to invalidate the report without concern for the methodology by which the report was developed is quite telling. Further, your suggesting that the Examiner as being 'balanced' is tantamount to saying Rush Limbaugh is 'balanced'.

    In developing the report committee co-chairs, subcommittee leaders, and members interviewed agency directors and
    key management and technical staff and met with Council members and staff, officials of federal
    agencies providing FUNDING and OVERSIGHT, and representatives of advocacy, industry, and
    community organizations. They examined reports, budgets, plans, and audits; consulted national
    experts and officials in other jurisdictions; and reviewed public input garnered via town-hall
    meetings and e-mail exchanges.

    Moreover, the Director of DOT during the William's administration was ALSO a part of this transition team. In short, there was just no way for Klein or his Adminstration to BS their way through this transition process.

    @Contrarian: It is a waste of good space to reason with the slaves of Fenty/Klein. They are not interested in facts so long as they don't align with their agenda. When faced with an uncomfortable reality, they rant and rave.

  • Contrarian

    @DCDem, thanks... not reasoning with them... just wanted to make some points to those not "enslaved" to Fenty/Klein mantra...so they don't fall through the looking glass.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    I just don't see how functional a streetcar system will be relative to the investment required. If you're going to spent so much capital on building an infrastructure solely for the benefit of a single purpose, it should be on a scale that would enable maximum impact (metro rail for example). But investing heavily on one side of the City in order for people to utilize something more as a novelty than a practical means of transportation, is simply baffling to me. NE DC isn't going to magically transform into San Francisco because of this. Just very short-sighted planning from my perspective.

  • Eric

    Being experimental will always inherently lead to SOME losses of money in the short term, with long term gains in efficiency and property taxes. How can you not see that, people?!!

    THIS is how Klein ran DDOT--as a company hellbent on finding the BEST way of doing things with an entire culture founded on how the city would benefit in the long term. That meant doing the things they could while not twiddling their thumbs doing nothing waiting for some necessary things to work their way through the bureaucracy. The Gray report purposefully paints the picture not in terms of progressiveness, but in terms of "waste", which is subjective on every front. Personnel expenses could be anything from a few new employees to traveling to other cities to see what works best there. This is ridiculous.

  • DCDem

    @eric, I know, ignore the facts because they don't support the "progressive" agenda. Ignore the 600 million dollar deficit the city is facing in 2012 because that is a trivial "money" issue better served for the "waste" crowd. Ignore the Anti-deficiency Act and Home Rule Act because laws are designed for everyone else but the "progressives". What is ridiculous are citizens who ignore the financial crisis the city is in.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Eric- being experimental with taxpayers money has a long track record of being a disaster. Klein should have continued trying being experimental with Zipcars and maybe one day might get it to turn a profit. But not on my dime please. Private enterprise is one thing, fiscal responsibility is another.