City Paper is not for tourists
The confirmation hearing for Terry Bellamy‘s appointment to permanent director of the District Department of Transportation was less an examination of his skills, abilities, and progress than an airing of parochial grievances by members of the D.C. Council.
Today’s four-hour hearing on Bellamy, currently DDOT’s interim director, saw valuable input from testimonials by D.C. residents. But questioning by the present councilmembers was only occasionally what you’d expect to be asked of the guy who will soon head up an agency of nearly 900 employees responsible for the functionality of the city’s streets. Councilmembers Muriel Bowser, Phil Mendelson, Marion Barry, Jim Graham, and Tommy Wells too often brought up points that would have been better suited for small-scale community meetings at either the ward or Advisory Neighborhood Commission level.
Bowser, for example, was emphatic that Montgomery County be made to comply with the District’s institution of signal prioritization around 16th Street NW. Mendelson doggedly pressed on when parking meter signage, which is presently rather hard to understand, would be replaced with notices that clearly state when meters are and aren’t monitored. Graham declared that there was absolutely no problem with Metro station names that are more like mouthfuls, and suggested Bellamy would have quite the fight ahead should he attempt to shorten “U Street-African American Civil War Memorial-Cardozo” to the much more reasonable “U Street.” Barry rambled at length about the quality of bus stops along Mellon Street SE, and demanded that Bellamy inform him how much money would be spent on bus stops in Ward 8. And though Wells, who oversees the council’s Committee on Public Works and Transportation, largely stuck to broader questions, the hearing’s last hour was essentially a Q&A based on topics brought up by his Twitter followers.
While all of these concerns are certainly valid and fall under DDOT’s purview—and some interesting tidbits, such as the fact that Bellamy rides Metrorail more than buses, and walks to work, emerged—Bellamy’s character and qualifications as an administrator didn’t receive the same treatment. Wells rightfully grilled him on what he thought about green alleys, Complete Streets initiatives, and the timeline for streetcars on H Street NE; Bowser asked what Bellamy believed to be his greatest accomplishment (answer: technology around parking, workforce training that has resulted in D.C. residents making up 97% of crossing guards, and the ever-vague “community outreach”).
Still, councilmembers used the hearing primarily to gauge whether their pet projects would be acknowledged during Bellamy’s time at DDOT, rather than exact Bellamy’s expectations and goals for the agency. Then again, Bellamy isn’t nearly as vivacious as his predecessor, Gabe Klein, and didn’t assert any particular visions for DDOT’s work.
Bellamy, formerly the deputy director of operations at DDOT under Klein, was named interim director in January and is set to be confirmed as permanent director on July 12. Unless someone finds a parochial problem with him, that is.
Photo by Flickr User DDOTDC, Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)