Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) praised D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) at a public event in Columbia Heights this morning, even as Graham continues to be battered with questions over last week's arrest of his chief of staff.
Fenty and Graham both attended the grand opening of the new fountain and plaza in the heart of the redeveloped Columbia Heights business and entertainment district on 14th Street. During his remarks, Fenty said Graham deserves credit for helping to turn the once-stagnant corridor into one of the city's most bustling retail and residential communities.
"This area, when Jim Graham took over, the entire area couldn't have looked any more different," said Fenty, referring to Graham's election in 1998. "Columbia Heights has come a long, long way in the 10 or 11 years he has been in office."
Graham did not address the charges against his chief of staff, Ted G. Loza, who is accused of accepting a $1,500 bribe. But Graham, who has been an integral part of most redevelopment projects in the area, said the transformation of Columbia Heights ranks among his top achievements.
"It's been absolutely phenomenal what happened here, and its all for the good," Graham said. "It's all for the public interest."
Both Graham and Fenty have developed reputations for never shying away from a well-publicized groundbreaking or ribbon cutting. But there was a minor hiccup at today's opening.
The new fountain, which is powered by solar panels concealed in towering metal structures that look like flowers, had to be turned on remotely. Apparently, someone turned the water on before Fenty and Graham were ready for the photo-op.
"Who has the switch to turn it on?" Fenty asked, off microphone, after the water began flowing. "Where is the switch to turn it on?"
"It's back there," a staffer responded.
"That's what Graham and I wanted to do," Fenty quipped.