In the midst of a raging council debate over whether to slash millions of dollars from Mayor Anthony A. Williams's budget requests, the mayor suddenly materialized outside the council chamber. Soon, council member Harold Brazil (D-At Large) burst out of the chamber, and Williams hustled him down the hall and into his offices.
Williams (D) had a simple message, Brazil said: "Vote for my budget." But the last-minute lobbying effort failed.
Minutes later, Brazil -- one of the mayor's most reliable allies on the 13-member council -- cast the deciding vote to slice nearly $60 million from proposed increases for Williams's initiatives.
Brazil's May 11 vote marked the second time in less than a month that the council veteran has broken with the mayor. On April 20, Brazil voted with eight other council members to reject Williams's plan to take over the D.C. public school system. This week, Brazil repeated that performance, joining a majority of council members in voting for a schools plan at odds with the mayor's desires.
In an interview, Brazil, who faces reelection this year, said D.C. political observers shouldn't read too much into his recent voting patterns. The notion that he consistently votes with the mayor has always been "a little overdone," he said, adding that others are just as accommodating of the chief executive.
More to the point, Brazil said, his votes demonstrate an independent streak born of "leadership and experience."
"In many ways, the mayor has got it right, and when he does, I'm going to be right there to support him. But when he's not, I'm going to take a different direction," he said.
Brazil conceded that the mayor "was not all that pleased" with his budget vote. But he tempered it by moving to halt debate on May 11, giving the bitterly divided council time to work out a compromise.
On May 14, the council voted unanimously to slice just $14 million from Williams's budget requests and to place about $40 million in a special reserve pot that can be spent only with the council's consent.
Williams wasn't much pleased with that vote, either. Asked about Brazil, Williams's chief of staff, Kelvin J. Robinson, smiled and said, "We're talking to him."
Squeezed by the Market
City Administrator Robert C. Bobb has not shied away from tackling tough issues in his seven-month tenure. But one challenge is proving hard to crack: the city's white-hot real estate market.
"It's rough out there," said Bobb, who juggled questions from a reporter last week while touring the city with his real estate agent.
Bobb has been looking for a place for his wife, Joyce, and their 17-year-old son, who are still living in Oakland, Calif. The couple also has two grown children. In the meantime, the city administrator is living in a rented apartment downtown.
Bobb said he wants to buy a place east of the Anacostia River. "I just like the feel," he said. "Plus, I'm just looking for value, like everyone else."
So far, he said, a couple of houses have won his interest. But he hesitated, and lost.
"They put a house on the market one day, and it's gone the next day, even before you can coordinate with your family," he complained.
Bobb said he blames his new boss, Mayor Williams, for his housing travails.
"The mayor has done a terrific job with economic development, so it's a tough housing market," Bobb said.
Candidates Lining Up
The political season is heating up, and candidates for the District's Sept. 14 primaries are multiplying like cicadas on a sunny sidewalk.
On Tuesday, Arturo Griffiths announced plans to seek the D.C. Statehood Green Party nomination for an at-large council seat. Two at-large incumbents -- Brazil and Carol Schwartz (R) -- are up for reelection.
Griffiths, a longtime advocate for Hispanic communities in Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, is making his second run for a council seat. The Panamanian native, who immigrated in 1964, came in a distant third to Schwartz and Brazil four years ago.
In a news release, Griffiths said his campaign theme will be "D.C. for Everyone!" He supports same-sex marriage, a new "full-service" public hospital and "public projects that benefit the entire community, not private perks for wealthy and powerful business lobbies."
On Monday, Democrat Sandra Seegars, a member of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, announced that she will challenge council incumbent Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8). Seegars, a longtime activist who has served two years as an Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairman, said she will run on a platform to increase safety, improve city service delivery and create new jobs in Ward 8.
Seegars, too, ran an unsuccessful race for a council seat four years ago.
Over the weekend, Vincent C. Gray kicked off what is expected to be the most hotly contested campaign of the election season: his bid to nab the Democratic nomination for the Ward 7 seat from incumbent Kevin P. Chavous.
Gray is executive director of Covenant House Washington and a former director of the District's Department of Human Services. In March 2003, he waged a vigorous campaign for chairman of the Ward 7 Democrats and won.
Chavous said Gray's entry into the race is "expected and welcomed. I look forward to the campaign."
The deadline for filing nominating petitions is July 7.
Staff writer David Nakamura contributed to this report.