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So there’s an election on, obviously, and councilmembers are in high gear campaigning to keep their jobs. There’s a tricky balance to strike, though, between stocking a war chest while avoiding the perception of influence—especially when it comes to awarding construction contracts. Mayor Adrian Fenty has built up a reputation for being too cozy with developers, in part because of the large amounts of money they seem eager to send his way. Lately, council chair candidate Kwame Brown has been raking in construction industry cash himself. But even rank-and-file councilmembers have to do the dance (as my colleague Rend Smith ably documented).
Yesterday, several district properties came before the economic development committee for surplusing and disposition: The council needs to decide that the city has no public use for them any more, and then weigh in on who should be allowed to redevelop them. During the hearing, citizens lined up to both support and oppose current development plans for the Hine Junior High School on Capitol Hill, the Hurt Home in Georgetown, M.M. Washington Career High School, 4800 Nannie Helen Burroughs SE, and the West End Library and firehouse.
Right up front, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh—in line with her open government talk—laid out the donations she’d received from the developers working on projects before the committee. Tommy Wells, accused of taking donations from the developers of the Hine School, protested that he accepts no donations from developers while their requests for proposals were under consideration.
“During an RFP proess, I do not meet with developers,” he said. “When an RFP goes out, they are to stay away from my office.
I do not accept campaign contributions until the selection has been made.”
After that, though, it’s different. Stanton Development and EastBanc were chosen to develop the property back in September. In late February, Stanton’s Kitty Kaupp hosted a fundraiser for Wells, for which she was reimbursed $908. On February 22, EastBanc’s Anthony Lanier cut Wells a $500 check, as did Dantes Partners, another member of the project team.
Nothing wrong with saying thank you.