Three Eliminated In Fight for Poplar Point Bid

By Nikita Stewart and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 22, 2007

Well, that was fast.

Two weeks after receiving seven bids from companies hoping to develop Poplar Point, a swath of more than 110 acres of parkland along the Anacostia River, D.C. planners have narrowed the field to four.

Last week Neil O. Albert, the deputy mayor for economic development, announced the shortlist: a joint venture from Archstone-Smith and Madison Marquette; Clark Realty Capital; Forest City Enterprises; and a joint venture of General Growth Properties, Mid-City Urban and Doracon.

D.C. United has proposed building a soccer stadium, along with mixed-use development, at Poplar Point, but Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) broke off negotiations with the team in the summer. United officials have threatened to relocate to the suburbs if they are unable to get a new stadium in the city.

D.C. officials have said a stadium is still possible, along with housing, offices, shops and park space. The companies will be asked to present their proposals to the public next week, officials said.

The three companies that have been eliminated from the competition are City Interests, Urban City Ventures and Capital Area Regional Center Job Fund.

Pushing for a Minimum Wage

Kwame R. Brown, don't quit your day job.

On Monday, the D.C. Council member donned gray slacks, a blue shirt and a navy blazer and walked in the shoes of a security guard -- "black with rubber soles," Brown noted -- to bring attention to the low wages received by the workers.

The council is considering a bill that would set a minimum salary for security officers employed at private commercial office buildings at $11.51 an hour, plus $3.16 for benefits. There is no set standard, and the wages vary.

Brown (D-At Large) worked alongside Denise Butler, a 38-year-old single mother of three from Anacostia, who earns $10 an hour as a guard at Lafayette Center on 21st Street NW.

The publicity stunt was staged by the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, which is hoping to promote Brown, who is running for council reelection next year, as a man of the people. Brown worked for an hour.

Butler, who has been a security guard for five years, said Brown learned a thing or two.

"I was walking him around and showing him what I do. He wiped down the counter, and he took the trash out," she said. "He wants to come back . . . when it's the busiest."

Butler said she needs the wage increase and benefits to support her family, including a daughter who is an 11th-grader at McKinley Technology High School. "This year it's a little more demanding -- the $25 application fees [for college]. I don't want to have to keep borrowing money from people. Then I have to pay them back as soon as I get my check."

Did Brown fit in during his hour as a security officer?

Passersby "knew that he had to be somebody because there were cameras," Butler said.

And his outfit wasn't quite right.

"I wear black pants, a white shirt and black boots," she said.

With rubber soles. He got that right.

City Council's Light Moment

Laurel and Hardy. Abbott and Costello. George and Gracie. Cheh and Graham?

Okay, so the two D.C. Council members may not exactly carry on the legacy of legendary comedic duos. But Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) had a ba-dum-bum moment during a tense eight-hour council oversight hearing of Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi's office last week in the wake of the tax scandal.

The most lighthearted moment came as Graham grilled former tax office director Sherryl Hobbs Newman, who was asked to resign in the wake of the scandal. Graham wanted to know if Harriette Walters, the manager accused of being the mastermind behind the $20 million-plus theft, and her co-workers had displayed some obvious bling-bling in their wardrobe and accessories.

"I don't know if everyone . . . was dripping with diamonds and furs and driving convertible Mercedes," Graham said during questioning.

At one point, he asked if Walters, who is in jail, was in the chambers, noting that he wouldn't recognize her if she was. That's when Cheh cut in with a quip that was inaudible in the chambers but drew chuckles from her colleagues on the dais. Fortunately, Graham helped with a quick public announcement.

"Council member Cheh is reminding me that if she was here, she would be in an orange jumpsuit, thus making her recognizable," Graham said, drawing laughter from the gallery.

New General Counsel for Schools

James J. Sandman, a former D.C. Bar Association president, has been named general counsel for the D.C. public schools, according to D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer.

Sandman is a senior partner at Arnold & Porter. In an interview, Sandman said he met Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in the fall at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. There, Rhee mentioned she was looking for a general counsel.

Sandman said he followed up with the chancellor. "This is an opportunity to be part of the most important thing going on in the District," he said.

Sandman starts on the job, which pays $155,000, plus a $15,000 signing bonus, on Dec. 10. He replaces George Valentine, a deputy attorney general for civil litigation, who has been serving in the position on an interim basis.

Staff writer Theola Labb¿ contributed to this report.

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