SIMMONS: Lame duck D.C. mayor quacks up

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Microsoft? Not yet.

Citelum, a France-based lighting firm? Not yet.

SmartBIM, an architectural modeling company out of Atlanta? Not yet.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security? Maybe never.

Rebranding St. Elizabeths Hospital campus, home to wannabe presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr.? Not quite.

A spanking new public hospital? Hold that proposal.

The “new” Congress Heights? It’s on hold, too.

That is a partial tally of what’s happening in the poorest of the District’s eight political wards, where jobs, financial insecurity and poor-quality schools are the norm.

The Microsoft et al venture was supposed to change that, with not only jobs, but workforce training and small-business incubator-like programs of innovation.

The very potential “demonstrates that St. Elizabeths is going to be a different kind of project. We’re going to have some leading-edge technology — national and international,” D.C. Council member Marion Barry, who represents the area, said in October 2012.

But that was before — long before — the sheen of Mayor Vincent C. Gray wore off, long before Congress began reining in the Homeland Security build and long before the mayor had to pull the plug himself.

A lame duck, the mayor saw his No. 1 planning and economic development chief, Victor Hoskins, jump the D.C.-Maryland border to work in Prince George’s County. He now is the District’s chief economic development competitor.

Several other Gray Cabinet members have also split since he lost the Democratic primary, including Terry Bellamy of transportation, Nicholas Majett of consumer and regulatory affairs and Harriet Tregoning of planning.

In the eastern reaches of the District, political clout rests in the hands of veteran movers and shakers, but mostly the development problems still rests in the hands of the people appointed by the mayor, who was shunted by Democratic voters.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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