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Washingtonian gossip Chuck Conconi owes Jack Kent Cooke an apology. In September, he told TV and radio reporters that the no-longer-a-billionaire owner of the Redskins was the “most hated man in Washington.” Cooke retaliated by dispatching legal hammerhead Plato Cacheris, who tried to cow an apology out of Conconi: The overpaid-and-underworked gossip stood his ground.
To test Conconi’s assessment, Washington City Paper put the proposition to a vote, polling its readers for the definitive answer to the question of who deserves to be called the most hated man in Washington. Cooke took a quick lead in the contest, but faster than you can say “Election Day in Chicago,” a battalion of ballot stuffers filled our mailbox with over a dozen votes naming developer Oliver T. Carr as Washington’s most hated man.
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Although Washington City Paper‘s Board of Elections determined that the anti-Carr forces had stuffed the ballot, it also determined that the fraud was fair: Most of the anti-Carr ballots were signed, although the one carrying the signature of White House architect James Hoban (born 1758) will be subjected to forensic tests before it is declared valid.
Carr’s definitive crime against Washington has been amply documented: In 1984, he and the Equitable Life Assurance Society demolished historic Rhodes Tavern at the corner of 15th and F Streets NW to make way for his Metropolitan Square office building, this despite the pleas of preservationists who considered the building D.C.’s first town hall.
Carr also ignored a non-binding referendum of D.C. voters who opposed the razing of the tavern, and muscled through the D.C. Council a bill that exempted the building from the District’s Height Act. So intense was the mid-’80s feud between Carr and the Rhodes Tavernites that when D.C. schoolchildren took up a collection for a plaque commemorating Rhodes Tavern that they wanted to adorn Metropolitan Square, Carr ignored them.
Along with casting his ballot for Carr, former historian of the House District Committee Nelson Rumensnyder wrote:
“Oliver T. Carr Jr., born, educated, and fortune made in the District of Columbia, shows no respect for D.C. public school children who collected pennies for [a] Rhodes Tavern historic marker. This man is a PR disaster. Jack Cooke has a heart, though a small one. Carr has no heart.”