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DC Mayor Slams Predecessor On Transportation, Could Politics Be Involved?

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 01:11 PM

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) A scathing report has just been released by the transition team of incoming D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. The report is something of an indictment against the city's Department of Transportation, as led by Gray's mayoral predecessor, Adrian Fenty, and his young, charismatic transportation director, Gabe Klein.

Among its grievances:

  • Klein used funds that were supposed to go to D.C.'s Metro system to instead fund an urban streetcar system and a local bus rapid transit program. This was in violation of the city's charter.
  • Klein allowed significant increases in his department's capital budget while other departments were cutting back. He also overstated the amount of federal money D.C. would be receiving over the long term.
  • Under Klein, the city's parking management apparatus was inefficiently spread out over many different departments, creating unnecessary redundancies.
  • Klein's department didn't manage its snow removal responsibilities properly.

All in all, not a very rosy picture of Klein's tenure as the head of D.C.'s Department of Transportation, or DDOT. Klein says the report is "absolutely false," was written by people who ran DDOT during its troubled Marion Barry years, and that it was politically motivated.

"I feel a little bad for Mayor Gray," Klein said. "It really reflects poorly on the transition team and, in reality, the administration."

So is that why the Gray administration is picking this fight with its predecessor, after he already triumphed at the ballot box? Here's a theory:

During his tenure at DDOT, Klein pushed an aggressive agenda that emphasized transit and walkability. He made some enemies, but he also won many more followers, especially among the young, tech-oriented professional set - the same people who, by and large, voted against Gray. Earlier this year, after Klein stepped down from DDOT, his name was even floated as a possible candidate to run for an open City Council seat. (He ultimately declined.)

So, in other words, Klein is a potential political enemy for Gray. If he moves into an elected office and harnesses the many disaffected Fenty voters in the city, he could make life very difficult for Gray.

Which is all to say this: as the never ending political game here in D.C. continues, expect to see Klein's legacy at DDOT litigated and re-litigated again and again in the court of public opinion.

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