Election-year politicking appears to be holding up one of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s signature initiatives: A billion-dollar plan to bury many of the city’s power lines to avoid widespread weather-related blackouts.
Two senior Gray administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, said Tuesday they believe that D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) has failed to move forward with legislation because Gray has refused to reappoint a close ally of Evans to the Events D.C. board.
William N. Hall, a partner at the Venable law firm and longtime friend of Evans, has served on boards overseeing sporting matters in the city since 1995, when the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission was created. (The commission was rolled into the convention center authority, creating the body now know as Events D.C. in 2009.) Hall took a leading role in luring major-league baseball back to Washington, and more recently led negotiations with the D.C. United soccer franchise on a renewed lease at city-owned RFK Stadium.
Evans, who is running for mayor, acknowledged Tuesday having asked Gray to reappoint Hall for a sixth time. But he laughed when asked if his handling of the power-line bill was related. “I’m analyzing the legislation carefully,” he said. “We want to move it as quickly as possible.”
But a month after a council hearing on the bill, Evans’s Finance and Revenue Committee has yet to schedule a vote on it. Nor has he held a hearing or set a vote on Gray’s Sept. 30 nomination of parking executive Cherie Doggett to replace Hall on the Events D.C. board.
The Hall nomination, the mayoral officials and others familiar with the matter say, has been a matter of concern to Evans for several months. In September, Gray offered to renominate Hall if Evans agreed not to override his veto of the highly controversial Large Retailer Accountability Act. Evans maintained his position in support of the bill, and one of the Gray administration officials said the mayor is not inclined to renegotiate the matter.
“It’s not his appointment to make,” one official said of Evans. “If he runs and gets elected mayor, he can make appointments to Events D.C.”
Hall, who has continued to serve on the board since his term expired at the end of 2011, said Tuesday he’s hoping to stay above the fray: “Regardless of politics, I remain ready to serve my city as I have for the past 18 years to build a new soccer stadium, bring back the Redskins and make Washington the sports capital of the country.”