In the next five years, the District is slated to spend $1.5 billion to reconstruct and renovate the city's schools. Many of the construction companies and contractors that will be tasked with overhauling those buildings were in the room Tuesday night for a fundraiser to toast - and write checks for - council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), who hopes to be the council's next chairman.
Overlooking the Verizon Center from the offices of Venable law firm were heavyweights like Clark Construction, and small businesses that lay tile flooring and run electricity. And there was the school construction czar himself - Allen Lew. Even though Brown and Lew's boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), have a prickly relationship, Lew often depends on the council, which controls the purse strings.
"I give everyone money," Lew said, as guests sipped wine and snacked on chicken satay. "I probably have the bst relationship with both the mayor and the council."
Lew, who was chief executive of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, was appointed by Fenty to take control of the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, which is separate from the office of the Schools Chancellor.
Brown, who chairs the council's Committee on Economic Development, faces a Democratic primary challenge from former two-term council member Vincent Orange. In thanking the crowd Tuesday, Brown highlighted his effort to hold the city accountable for how it spends its money on development projects.