D.C. Council stewing over Verizon Center tickets

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

With Adrian M. Fenty no longer mayor, D.C. residents might have thought that council members' annual squabbling over tickets for the Verizon Center and Nationals Park would come to an end.

Think again.

Concerned that D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) was not fairly distributing the tickets the council receives for the Verizon Center, several council members brought up the subject at a council retreat last week.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), for example, said that he needed tickets for Thursday's Lady Gaga concert.

Since Brown became chairman, Graham and other members have said they have not been getting their share of free tickets to one of the two city boxes at the Verizon Center.

The D.C. mayor and council have access to about 36 tickets in two boxes supplied to the city compliments of the late Wizards owner's family, which until last year owned a majority stake in the Verizon Center.

Two years ago, after Fenty (D) and Vincent C. Gray (D), then council chairman and now mayor, got into a nasty feud over tickets in a luxury box for elected D.C. officials at Nationals Park, Brown proposed auctioning off the tickets to help the city close a budget shortfall.

But that proposal died in committee without debate. And after being elected chairman last year, Brown's now in control of handing out tickets to other members. That's proving to be a tricky responsibility.

"There was a concern about what the process was under the new chairman," Graham said. "It would be so much more uniform and fair on its face if you said, 'Every council member had two tickets for every event.' "

In 2007, Wizards owner Abe Pollin gave the city government access to one box as a goodwill gesture after the council approved $50 million to renovate the Verizon Center. But then Fenty and the council got into a tiff over who could use the suite.

To end the feud, the Pollin family agreed to give the council members access to another luxury suite, with the council chairman in charge of access.

The arrangement appeared to work for the remainder of Fenty's term.


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