Nothing gets between friends like hundreds of millions of dollars. As lame duck Vince Gray faces a D.C. Council budget vote today, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander—-the mayor’s Council successor in his own ward and once his most reliable ally—-has become a surprising foe.
Two weeks ago, Alexander’s health committee moved $22 million out of $23.5 million that Gray had dedicated to replacing United Medical Center, the aging east-of-the-river hospital that serves wards 7 and 8. Under Gray’s plan, the money would have of gone toward developing a new hospital to lure a private hospital operator into taking over the new UMC. Instead, Alexander dedicated the funds to Ward 7 amenities like renovated pools, tennis courts, and the Nannie Helen Burroughs housing development.
In a letter Tuesday to the Council, Gray accused Alexander and other councilmembers of bringing back earmarks, a practice the body ditched after Ward 8’s Marion Barry proved how easily they could be manipulated. Alexander’s funding shifts lead Gray’s letter, with him writing that her uses for the money either don’t make sense or amount to pay-to-play payoffs for developers.
Alexander followed up with her own letter today, writing that the funds’ recipients “deserve better than the characterizations that your letter displayed.” Alexander also asked for more studies about the replacement hospital before returning the money.
“You could do a thousand studies and it wouldn’t matter, because that’s not what the Council’s after,” Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro tells LL. “They’re after funding their own pet projects.”
But Alexander reserves some harsh personal words for her one-time ally. After recounting their history together, Alexander brings up the obvious: Gray lost the mayoral primary.
“Many of your supporters believe that the April 1 loss has taken a toll on you,” Alexander writes. “To this day, I tell people that Mayor Gray will carry out his term with a level of integrity and respect that we can all be proud of. I urge you to make that statement true.”
Ribeiro says he doesn’t know what Alexander’s talking about.
“I haven’t seen any toll on the mayor,” Ribeiro says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery