Oh, the irony.
On the same morning that Greater Greater Washington broke the news that Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown would strip Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells of his position as chair of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Wells—with nary a hint of disappointment—gave a presentation to his colleagues on… Metro and transportation.
During this morning’s council breakfast meeting, Wells provided answers to an exhaustive list of 47 questions about Metro’s state of operations, cobbled together by Brown’s staff. The rest of the council was distracted during the presentation, since everyone in the room was looking to Brown for an answer to the question that was really on their minds:
Why did Brown replace Wells with Ward 3’s Mary Cheh?
Brown told reporters he reshuffled the committee decks to align the environment section of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment with Public Works and Transportation. He called Wells’ work on transportation “phenomenal,” and insisted that he did not strip Wells of his chairmanship as punishment for a pushing an investigation of a certain SUV scandal.
“No, there was no political payback,” said Brown. “None. Zero. Zilch.”
Taking Brown at his word, it’s unclear exactly what problem is solved by replacing Wells with Cheh. When pressed on what he’s trying to accomplish with the switcheroo, Brown said Wells hadn’t done anything to deserve a reassignment.
For his part, Wells said he was “baffled” when he heard about Brown’s power play last night. He refused to speculate on Brown’s motives, but called the shuffle a “waste of resources.” Last night’s exchange between the two apparently ended quickly.
“I said, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ He said, ‘no,’ so I said ‘thank you’ and left,” said Wells. (Cheh didn’t have much to say at all this morning, but LL is trying to track her down.)
Wells won’t be letting the change bother him. After the breakfast meeting, he told reporters he can create a “livable, walkable” city from any committee—even if that committee is the Committee on Libraries, Parks, and Recreation.
Brown’s move may also give Wells another opportunity to distinguish himself from his scandal-plagued colleagues. Wells stood tall when fielding questions and said he doesn’t bend on good government or ethics—a position that’s made him a lonely man on the council these days.
“I think that may make some of my colleagues very uncomfortable, but I don’t compromise on that,” said Wells.
Photo by Sasha Issenberg