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It’s hard to argue that the Lockheed Martin Corp. deserves fatter contracts from the District government. After all, the aerospace conglomerate’s Information Management Systems (IMS) subsidiary pulls in at least $60 million from performance-based contracts for parking and traffic enforcement, welfare-to-work assistance, and automated city food-stamp services.
But the administration of Mayor Anthony A. Williams apparently thinks that isn’t enough for the $26 billion defense titan. For five years, Lockheed Martin pulled in about $35 million to process and collect D.C. parking tickets. When that contract expired in May, the administration approved a temporary extension that would shove more tax dollars to Lockheed Martin IMS. And the administration inked the pay raise—which comes in exchange for certain program enhancements—without notifying the D.C. Council.
According to hearing testimony by Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) procurement official Kevin Green, then-Interim Director Henry Lightfoot approved the contract extension to shrink the city’s backlog of unpaid tickets.
One pesky little problem: Five months later, the company has yet to institute any of the enhancements—which include an automated system to allow callers to determine the status of tickets, a credit card payment option, technology upgrades for the booting crews, and the inevitable online reporting function—but has continued receiving extra money. Administration officials have not yet determined how much extra revenue Lockheed Martin IMS has received, but they are scheduled to release that information this week.
“What is especially unsettling to me is the fact that we spend our taxpayers’ hard-earned money needlessly,” wrote At-Large D.C. Councilmember Carol Schwartz in an Oct. 29 letter to Williams. “Why we would give this company more money without the additional services is beyond me.”
Schwartz and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham have spent the last week dropping bombs on Williams over the unapproved raise. Green and Acting DMV Director Sherryl Hobbs Newman insist that amendments to contract extensions—that is, payment hikes that never get voted on by the council—are legal and even routine.
The councilmembers say they’re also at a loss to explain DMV’s handling of the contract. The revelation that Lockheed Martin IMS had gotten a raise came out of an Oct. 28 hearing of Schwartz’s Public Works Committee. In that session, Graham questioned Green about current payment levels for the company. When Green reported that the temporary contract approved in May had boosted the contractor’s compensation, DMV officials “looked every bit as surprised as we were,” says Graham.
Newman confirmed Graham’s suspicions in a chat with LL. “I was not aware of the exact payment amount,” said Newman. “I was unaware that that was part of the [extension].”
“This is unbelievable,” says Graham. “It’s a stunning development.”
A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin IMS declined to address what he termed an internal government matter. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be commenting on it,” says Terry Lynam, Lockheed Martin IMS’s director of communications. “You’re asking why the government went ahead and approved this.” Lynam also declined to specify how much progress the company had made on the enhancements.
But if Lynam’s tight-lipped, there are plenty of apologists in D.C.’s bureaucracy who’ll cover for the private contractor. When asked why the District would pay for work not completed, Newman said that the enhancements require a large investment that the company will not make until it has a permanent contract in hand. “To buy all the hardware and software—to do all of that—and not know and for sure that they’re going to get a contract doesn’t make business sense,” she says.
Fine—but why not wait for the permanent contract before instituting the pay hike? “Lockheed Martin has already begun the process of talking with us [about the enhancements],” says Newman, “in anticipation of the contract being approved and going forward.”
LL is requesting a meeting with Lockheed Martin IMS officials on how to snag one of those “anticipation” contracts for himself.
To round out her defense, Newman points out that the changes in the temporary contract allow Lockheed Martin IMS a greater cut for ticket processing but a reduced portion from delinquent accounts managed by the company—yielding the possibility of only a puny bump in overall compensation to the contractor. Schwartz scoffs at that logic, noting that the company has been much more diligent in collecting on current tickets than on delinquent ones, anyway. “In the area that they’re doing well, they’re getting more,” says the councilmember.
Schwartz vows to end the bureaucratic mechanism that has given Lockheed Martin IMS a new deal—namely, the upgrading of temporary contract extensions, which she views as a circumvention of the council’s legal authority over contracts. When pitted against multi-billion-dollar multinationals like Lockheed Martin, says Schwartz, the city will keep hemorrhaging green.
“I kind of wish we had their lawyers,” says Schwartz, “because it certainly appears that their lawyers are taking better care of them than the mayor’s lawyers are taking care of us.”
ILL WILL HUNTING
Prevailing wisdom holds that Mayor Williams entered office last January carrying a trove of affection from Capitol Hill. The former CFO, after all, had nursed the city back to financial health and even consorted with Republican members of Congress to short-circuit the city’s home rule prerogatives. If that sort of politicking didn’t curry favor with the congressional majority, then certainly the mere act of replacing longtime Capitol Hill bogeyman Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. should have.
Ten months and one aborted budget cycle later, Williams’ constituents are wondering whatever happened to the warmth and fuzziness. “Tony Williams was supposed to be the new kid on the block who would maintain good relations with Capitol Hill,” said Columbia Heights activist Dorothy Brizill in the Oct. 31 airing of D.C. Weekly on DC101. “Well, we get to Oct. 1, and guess what? We don’t have a budget.”
Tired of the speculation about whether Capitol Hill bears good will toward the District, LL resolved to investigate the matter himself. Using professional polling norms, LL last Thursday surveyed 15 random Hillites in the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria, posing to them one of the following scientifically phrased questions: “Are you rooting for the District?”; “Do you harbor good will toward the District?”; and “Do you have a feel-good feeling about the District?”
Respondents answered LL’s queries with resounding affirmation: “Yeah,” said one man. “Oh yeah!” said another. “Yeah, of course.” “Of course.” “Sure.” “Yes.” “I’m rooting for whatever’s best for the District.” With those poll results, Williams can now rest assured that he hasn’t lost his magic in the federal halls of power.
The only departure from the goodwill chorus came from a respondent who barked at LL: “That’s a stupid question,” said the man, who requested anonymity. LL’s polling advisers counseled him to interpret the remark as a statistical anomaly, an isolated pocket of ill will toward the District.
* Last June, Rodney Streeter quit his volunteer work on the mayoral campaign of Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous after he was arrested for smuggling nine packets of heroin into the Lorton Correctional Complex. Streeter later pleaded guilty to the offense in federal court and served a term of supervised release. Now he has returned to the job he quit in March 1998, working for Chavous part-time on constituent service matters. “He and I have not sat down and talked about it,” says Chavous. “I have hired persons who have had criminal records before….Whatever problems they’ve had, it comes down to whether they’ve been rehabilitated.”
* The long-promised new era of amicable council-mayoral cooperation took on a furtive flavor this past week, as Chavous introduced legislation to restructure the ailing elected school board. Those wondering why Chavous wasn’t flanked by the mayor—or at least armed with a supportive declaration from the 11th floor of One Judiciary Square—should know what mayoral staffers discovered Monday morning: Chavous’ people had slid his legislation under the mayor’s door over the weekend. “We will be undertaking a thoughtful review,” said the mayor Monday night. “We just received the legislation today.”
* Government officials customarily celebrate their last day on the job by graciously accepting hugs, cakes, and other assorted mementos from their colleagues. On the other hand, former Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Doug Patton has only a mangled cell phone to show for his last day with the Williams administration. According to mayoral spokesperson Peggy Armstrong, Patton sat down Oct. 22 for an exit interview with Chief of Staff Abdusalam Omer, who reportedly asked Patton to get a move on so former labor official Eric Price could slide into his seat. “Then Doug got a little cranky somewhere along the line,” says Armstrong.
Credit Armstrong with a flack’s flair for understatement. According to two administration sources, Patton hurled his cell phone at the wall of his office following his discussion with Omer. “It broke, for sure,” says an administration source.
Omer notes that Patton at the time was no longer on the payroll but was sticking around to make sure his initiatives were getting the attention they deserved. “It was time for us to move on and put some points on the board,” says Omer, parroting one of his boss’s favorite refrains.
* By now, the whole city knows the gory details of the Oct. 6 hearing on disabled access at D.C. public schools. After hearing heartbreaking testimony about how narrow doorways at River Terrace Elementary School forced wheelchair-bound 9-year-old Freddy Ramirez to crawl on the floor to a toilet, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan ordered officials to fix access problems. Schools higher-ups, however, protested that they only heard about the hearing the same way everyone else did—after the fact, in the newspaper. A schools official testified before the D.C. Council later in the month that the school system was never apprised of the Oct. 6 hearing.
Busted: One day after the hearing, Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson wrote a note to Ackerman pointing out that Donovan Anderson, a school system attorney, was present in court when Hogan scheduled the Oct. 6 hearing. Patterson directed Ackerman to amend the council record by retracting the erroneous assertion. A few days later, Anderson resigned.
* D.C.ers this autumn are having a hard time forgetting that the feds dominate their city. In colonialist fashion, Republican Rep. Ernest Istook, chair of the House D.C. appropriations subcommittee, has taken to scolding residents for approving a medical-marijuana initiative. And his GOP caucus superiors are working to have the District’s 2000 budget meet its second presidential veto.
Another reminder comes from a less forgivable source: Mayor Williams. The logo for the mayor’s latest-greatest initiative, a citywide get-together dubbed “Neighborhood Action,” depicts a row of varied residential architecture from the city’s early days. And just so no one forgets who calls the shots around here, an incongruous Washington Monument lords over the entire setting as if its base sat amidst a strip of D.C. row houses.
Artist Greg Johannesen, who drew the illustration, said that the scene is a composite of buildings from Adams Morgan’s main commercial strip, 18th Street, and adjoining residential ways. The inclusion of the gargantuan federal presence came at the insistence of the mayor’s people, says Johannesen, who adds, “You can see the Washington Monument way off in the distance.”
In fairness to Williams, finding recognizable iconography to represent municipal D.C. is a conundrum that will celebrate its bicentennial next year. A good home-ruler wouldn’t want to use some federal symbol to represent the District. At a candidates forum last June, Williams cited the Wilson Building and the Anacostia River as apt municipal symbols—but neither made it as far as Neighborhood Action. Perhaps rivers and beaux-arts buildings don’t do much to distinguish the District from Pittsburgh or even Fredericksburg.
However, the alternative—a phallic oddity physically embodying the federal footprint on D.C.—is hardly a satisfactory compromise. “It defies reality, which is that Washington is a separate entity from the federal enclave,” says statehood activist Tim Cooper. CP
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