Wal-Mart, Safeway showdown in D.C. leaves Gray in a tight spot

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Recently Mr. Gray left no doubt that landing Wal-Mart as the anchor tenant at Skyland is a top priority.

On Tuesday, Elaine Mittleman, a Virginia attorney who since 2004 has represented businesses and residents displaced by the eminent domain at Skyland, said, “It’s all about the wheeler-dealers now, politics as usual, instead of people in the community who were supposed to benefit from HUD funding. They’ve become invisible.”

After a report surfaced Tuesday in The Washington Post about Safeway as an obstacle to Wal-Mart at Skyland, Mr. Hoskins’ office declined to discuss the role of lobbyists, but said it was working with Safeway and keeping the community apprised of the project’s progress, with a goal of providing “quality retail, dining and residential options” for Ward 7 residents.

Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle declined to say how his company intends to resolve its concerns about the covenant.

With regards to lobbyists for Safeway and Wal-Mart co-hosting a fundraiser for a councilman charged with oversight of HUD grants to the District, Mr. Muckle said he was unsure if Safeway restricts its representatives on political fundraising.

He added that usually Mr. Bereano “doesn’t raise money for candidates without our knowledge, to ensure it’s someone we support.”

However, when asked if Mr. Bereano disclosed fundraising on behalf of Mr. Brown, Mr. Muckle said, “That’s news to me.”

Mr. Brown said on Tuesday he has no special relationship with either Safeway or Wal-Mart, and he has not spoken with Mr. Bereano or Mr. Wilmot about Skyland.

He declined to mention Tuesday’s fundraiser.

Said Ms. Mittleman, “It’s all about who goes to whose fundraiser. Corporations should be able to manage real estate deals without help from the District.”

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