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Lobbyist Fred Cooke refused to return LL’s phone calls prior to last week’s column regarding plans by his client, developer T. Conrad Monts, to renovate the John A. Wilson/District Building. But the ink on that edition of Washington City Paper had barely dried before Cooke was on the phone, complaining.

“I didn’t call you before because I knew you wouldn’t get it right,” he barked into the receiver.

Now there’s a unique excuse for not returning phone calls.

So why are you calling now?

“You wrote that this could cost city taxpayers plenty. That’s wrong,” Cooke insisted. “You seem to think that these are revenues that somehow the District is entitled to. It is not. The building doesn’t generate any revenue now, so how can the District be losing money?”

Cooke’s gripe concerns the $65-100 million Monts has agreed to pay the city in return for getting control of the District Building for the next 20 years. The grand plan is to renovate the crumbling structure with private money, lease most of it to the federal government, and collect the rent from tenants, including the D.C. Council. But Monts’ deal with the council allows him to defer his payments to the city until the 20-year agreement ends.

And if he walks away from the deal without making the deferred payment, well, according to Cooke, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The city will still end up with a renovated and well-maintained city hall “at no cost,” he said.

Apprehensions about the Monts deal are “philosophical,” not financial, Cooke continued. “People just don’t want to let the federal government into the District Building. And I can respect that,” he said. “But the District can’t borrow $50 million to renovate its own town hall. That’s why Mr. Monts is there…”

At-Large school board candidate Sunday Abraham has stood out at forums because of the little red cardboard schoolhouse she has worn on her head to attract attention. “I’ve got a $250 campaign budget, and this makes people notice me, so then they’ll listen to what I say,” Abraham explained.

LL noticed her. But we can’t remember a thing she said…

Wild-eyed independent at-large council candidate Don Folden finally crossed the line of decency at a Monday-night forum in Southwest. Folden, who has been trying to pick fights with front-runners Brazil and Schwartz at these forums, cited the 1988 suicide of Schwartz’s husband as a reason she should not return to the council.

Folden was immediately booed and jeered off the dais by the crowd gathered at St. Matthews Lutheran Church to hear the candidates. When he exited the church, he was not allowed back in for the remainder of the forum.

“I’m a big girl. I’ve lived through worse, including what he so callously brought up,” the diplomatic Schwartz said afterwards.

People who don’t think Schwartz is a shoo-in might be interested to know that at a fund-raising roast of Ward 8 hyperactivist Phil Pannell last Friday night at the Day’s Inn on New York Avenue, Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. went to some lengths to make nice with her.

“[Schwartz] and I have been sitting over there,” he said, pointing toward Schwartz from the dais. “Just sort of hugging and a kissing and making up…getting ready for ’98. You can’t have my job, though,” Barry said to Schwartz. “I ain’t giving it up.”

Barry went on to roast Pannell’s ability to “get on your last nerve,” a comment that drew many nods of recognition. In general, though, the event was a lovefest for Pannell, tireless champion of Ward 8. And yes, the mayor did actually plant a smacker on Schwartz’s cheek when he left for the evening.CP

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