Loose Lips

City Law: Don’t Buy or Lease SUVs

District law specifically prohibits the city from buying or leasing sport utility vehicles—except for security or public safety reasons—raising more questions (if that's possible) about the pricey Lincoln Navigators the city leased for Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown.

The council passed the "Government Sport Utility Vehicle Purchasing Amendment Act of 2002" in, well, 2002. It became law on March 25, 2003. It's now D.C. Code 50-203, in case you were wondering.

As you can see from the text, it's pretty clear legislation: "Except for security, emergency, rescue or armored vehicles, all passenger automobiles ... purchased or leased by the District government shall have an Environmental Protection Agency estimated miles per gallon average of not less than 22 miles per gallon, and shall not be a sports utility vehicle." (Lincoln, by the way, says on its website that Navigators get 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.)

Former at-large Councilmember Carol Schwartz sponsored the legislation, reportedly because she was concerned about the growing numbers of gas-guzzling SUVs the city was purchasing. (Schwartz was also behind raising taxes and fees on privately owned luxury SUVs in 2004, citing their outsized contributions to air pollution and street damage.)

But it looks as if this law has been ignored for a long time—long before Brown got his Navigators. LL's only been on the scene a short time, and doesn't know much about the rides of D.C. government big wigs going back the last decade. But LL does know that former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee had a chauffeured SUV (and presumes interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson has the same) and is pretty sure City Administrator Allen Lew has access to an SUV. Also, Mayor Vince Gray, when he was chairman, drove a city-owned Chevy Tahoe SUV on occasion. And former Mayor Adrian Fenty had both a city-funded Navigator and a more efficiency-friendly SmartCar (which the D.C. government still owns, and it sits forlornly on the side of the Wilson Building).

So it looks like the Department of Public Works, which is responsible for the city's fleet, has been ignoring District law for a while. LL has reached out to DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant and will update as needed. If it is indeed true that the DPW hasn't been following the law, it'll be more unwelcome news for longtime DPW Director William Howland. Howland had a direct hand in acquiring the luxury rides for Brown.

The mayor, you're no doubt aware by now, is currently chauffeured in a pricey Navigator. That contract goes through the police department, so LL supposes that there's a case to be made that it's a permissible lease because of security reasons. (Though, when LL first started reporting in 2006 and was chasing Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley around the windy city, Daley was chauffeured in a town car. Just sayin'. No word on what new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will drive; probably something with lots of weapons on the roof.)

But for Brown, the security excuse won't fly, because the SUV was clearly optional. Back when LL first broke the news of the price of the Navigators' leases, Brown's office said he was given a choice between a town car or an SUV. Brown said he wanted an SUV. And the rest, as they say, is history.

  • Anothernative

    Typical diversionary BS, start the story with KB so that you can lump VG in it. This sh*t would be halarious if it wasn't so pitiful, if you're going after KB for his indiscretion's do that, but please stop acting like disgruntled bi*ches on get back time because your boy lost, raise up off of the Mayor and let him govern. The man has been in office but for a short time, why not let him get his bearings in stead of trying to circumvent every decision he makes. The point I'm making is, people that are unbias see right through your lame attemps to discredit the guy because you all want so badly for him to fail reguardless of what happens to the city, I call that treachery.

  • DaddyGraceFishSandwich@yahoo.com

    This week has been a circus at the Wilson Building staring Kwame Brown as the lead actor. Kwame showed his immaturity, ignorance, and his being a materialistic human being.

    Kwame Brown shouldn't have been voted in as the DC Council Chair, but disgusted DC voters like myself didn't have a great selection to choose from. It was between the idiot Kwame and the other pimp, former Ward 5 DC Councilmember Vincent Orange.

    I am sick of all of these idiots sitting inside the Wilson Building. Mayor Vincent Gray is a big disappointment in my and other DC voters eyes, but we were glad to get rid of the former dictator Adrian Malik Fenty. Now we are stuck with another politician not caring about his constituents. It's all about me, me, me, with most politicians.

    DC voters should take to the streets like the people in Egypt and over throw the Wilson Building and run Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown, Jim Graham, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Muriel Bowser, Harry Thomas Jr., Tommy Wells, Yvette Alexander, Marion Barry, Phil Mendelson, David Catania, Michael Brown, and Sekou Biddle out of the Wilson Building.

    Disgusted DC Voter

  • Mike Madden

    Anothernative --

    What are you talking about? The story says Gray's car is allowed due to the security exemption. And it points out that several Fenty appointees, and Fenty, had SUVs, and that Fenty also had another car that the city is still stuck with.

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  • DCDem

    @Mike Madden: That is correct. Fenty's SUV was used primarily by MPD to escort Michelle Fenty and family to and fro while the Mayor used the city owned Smart Car.

  • Mike Madden

    And also, occasionally, the mayor crashed the SUV into other D.C. citizens' cars.

  • Anothernative

    @MM, If you've read the previous blogs you would know what I'm talking about, do your homework before you jump out there dude. I'm speaking to all of the maligning spin doctor's that are writing in this piece dude, since you need interpretation.

  • Mike Madden

    Anothernative --

    I thought you were talking about Suderman, not the people commenting.

    But I've read the previous blogs. I edit most of them. So don't worry, I've done my homework.

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