Oliver T. Carr Jr., Washington's largest developer and a principal spokesman for the business community, called on Mayor Marion Barry yesterday to clarify his remarks on the standards under which blacks should share in the ownership of major downtown development projects.
In a short statement, Carr, who is president of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, stepped up the public debate on what has been one of the major issues in Washington's business community for months:
How should public agencies like the District's Redevelopment Land Agency and the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. require and regulate participation by minorities in partnership agreements with the mostly white major developers who win contracts to build from those agencies.
Barry said Wednesday in an informal meeting with reporters that blacks should share in ownership of major RLA and PADC projects even if they don't put any money into the partnerships.
Barry's comments followed a Washington Post story that reported that some developers think they are under pressure to give away multimillion-dollar ownership shares to politically connected blacks in order to win development awards from the RLA and PADC.
In response to the mayor's remarks, Carr said, "My understanding is that [minority participation] means jobs, contracts for goods and services and equity in exchange for investment, but I don't think it means parties being in a position to extort equity interests due to political pressure."
Carr added, "I think the business community would like to have an understanding of what minority participation means in view of the mayor's remarks."
Implicit in Carr's statement was the fear in the development community that Barry is taking a position that developers should give up ownership interests to minority partners even if those partners are unwilling to contribute anything more than their minority status to the partnership.
During his meeting with reporters Wednesday, Barry said, "What people may be reacting to is that black people are now playing the same game that other people have been playing for the past 100 years."
Carr, in his statement, said he was "surprised by the temper of the mayor's statement," and added, "In order for the business community to operate rationally, we have to understand the rules of the game and we now have a misunderstanding that we need to clarify."
A spokesman for Barry said he would not comment on Carr's statement. "I'm sure Mayor Barry and Mr. Carr will see each other soon and most likely have a discussion in which the mayor will make certain Mr. Carr understands his views."