If the shifting pronouncements of D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) didn't generate enough political intrigue last week, there's the complicated case of Kerry S. Pearson, a well-connected lobbyist who may or may not have tried to turn the chaos over baseball to his advantage.
The Pearson subplot developed early last week when aides to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) told reporters that Pearson had called Williams's chief of staff Alfreda Davis on Nov. 6, the day after Cropp dropped her bombshell about blocking the mayor's stadium financing package.
According to two administration sources, Pearson told Davis that Cropp might let the bill move forward if the mayor would agree to drop his plans for the city's old convention center site. Cropp has been at odds with the mayor for months over use of the site. Cropp wants to build a massive hotel on it, while the mayor wants to build a mixed-use development with retail and a state-of-the-art central library. The administration sources said they assumed Pearson was acting as Cropp's emissary when he called.
That raised all sorts of questions: What did the old convention center have to do with the baseball stadium? Why was it so important to Cropp? And what was Pearson's role?
The possibilities were tantalizing. In addition to having close ties to Cropp and other council members, Pearson had been part of a development team that competed unsuccessfully for the rights to redevelop the old convention center site, a project that could be worth as much as $800 million. The team leader, Related Cos., sued the city, which agreed last year to pay $5 million as part of a settlement.
Upon further investigation, however, the plot failed to thicken.
For one thing, neither Williams nor Cropp was interested in doing the deal. For another, Pearson was not representing Cropp.
In an interview, Pearson said he called Davis only after a friend, baseball booster Nigel Gragg, asked him to talk to Steve Green, the mayor's point man on baseball. Pearson said Green asked him to help "keep the lines of communication open" to Cropp in the run-up to a scheduled Nov. 9 vote on the baseball bill.
Pearson said he was happy to be of service and "brainstormed" with a number of administration officials, including Davis and Sports and Entertainment Commission Chairman Mark Tuohey.
"I was not trying to insert myself here," Pearson said. "They called me and asked me to help."
Gragg confirmed Pearson's account. Davis confirmed that she received a call from Pearson, but declined to say what they discussed.
Meanwhile, Pearson says he no longer has a dog in the old convention center fight. He proposed it as a compromise, he said, because "it's the next major development crisis that we're facing."
"I was trying to come up with ideas," Pearson said. "If it was not for them calling me and asking me to help, I wouldn't have done a thing."
Norton Seeks a Vote
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) refreshed her biennial drive to restore the District's limited vote on the House floor this week, 10 years after Republicans rose to power and rolled back the capital's provisional voting representation in Congress.
In a letter dated Friday and addressed to Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, Norton asked GOP House leaders to reinstate a practice adopted in 1993 and 1994, by a then-Democratic House, in which delegates from the District and four U.S. territories could vote on the House floor when the body met as a "committee of the whole," as it does when it considers most legislation.
Republican leaders ended the vote when they took control in 1995, considering it a partisan practice because the District and territory delegates were Democrats. Because the Constitution limits full representation in Congress to the states, the House also ruled then that if votes by delegates provided the margin of victory on any issue, the House could require a second, binding vote excluding their votes.
Norton wrote Dreier that even a symbolic or conditional vote granted by the House "would constitute a modicum of generosity to citizens who outrank all but two states in federal income taxes paid to support our government. . . . The House loses nothing by returning a single vote to one member . . . under a rule that requires that her vote cannot make the crucial difference."
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and former Maryland representative Constance A. Morella, a Republican who is past chairman of the panel's former District subcommittee, supported the provisional vote in the past.
District residents paid nearly $3 billion in federal taxes, a higher amount per capita than all but two states, Norton said, citing Internal Revenue Service statistics. And D.C. residents participated in Operation Desert Storm in the first Persian Gulf war at a greater rate than all but three states.
The District is "the only tax-paying jurisdiction in the United States without congressional voting rights despite meeting all of the obligations of American citizenship," Norton said in the letter, which her office released Tuesday. The limited vote would "bring respect and recognition of their citizenship that District residents have long sought."
The House Rules Committee will set rules for the new Congress before it convenes in January.
Staff writer Debbi Wilgoren contributed to this report.