- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A top appointee in former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s administration has been named to oversee efforts to hire local contractors for the construction of a new ballpark in Southeast.

The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission said yesterday that Courtland V. Cox, 64, will begin working next week as director of local, small and disadvantaged business enterprise development, a newly created position. Mr. Cox recently headed the U.S. Commerce Department’s minority business development program.

The move comes at a time when the commission is under scrutiny for its failing record under the D.C. government’s Local, Small and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (LSDBE) program.

The LSDBE program calls for city agencies to spend half of their expendable budgets on contracts for small, local and disadvantaged businesses. Last year, the sports commission spent 11 percent of its expendable budget on such businesses, according to city records.

Tony Robinson, a spokesman for the sports commission, said Mr. Cox’s hiring aims to improve the commission’s performance on LSDBE contracts.

“He obviously has a wealth of experience that we think will be helpful to ensure we meet our LSDBE contracting goals,” he said.

Mr. Robinson said contracting issues in connection with the stadium project will be “a primary function” of Mr. Cox’s job. The starting salary for Mr. Cox was not immediately available, Mr. Robinson said.

Mr. Cox could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat on the D.C. Council, said yesterday he wasn’t aware of the new position for his longtime aide, who left Mr. Barry’s administration after two terms for a job in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“I don’t know anything about it; I guess they’re eyeing him to make sure the minority contracting is in place,” Mr. Barry said. “He was an excellent employee of mine.”

The District is building a baseball stadium along the Anacostia River to house the Washington Nationals in a project overseen by the sports commission. The target completion date is March 2008. D.C. Council members met privately yesterday to discuss private financing proposals for the stadium.

However, the sports commission’s record of hiring local businesses last year troubles the Capitol Area Minority Contractors and Business Association.

“I’m extremely concerned,” said Robert Green III, the group’s president. “At the end of the day, they have a very poor record. It’s insulting.”

Mr. Green said he wasn’t familiar with the hiring of Mr. Cox yesterday, but said that move alone won’t ensure local businesses share in the contracts for the new stadium.

“The council members need to keep a close eye on this and make sure this gets straight,” he said.

Mr. Cox is a longtime figure in the D.C. political landscape. He served as director of the District’s Minority Business Opportunity Commission in the 1980s under Mr. Barry, who is now a chief critic of the city’s baseball stadium deal.

Mr. Barry and Mr. Cox met as civil rights activists in the 1960s for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

After running the District’s minority business program, Mr. Cox left for a job with the Commerce Department under President Clinton, where he was director of the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency and director of the Office of Civil Rights.

D.C. Council member Kwame R. Brown, at-large Democrat, whom Mr. Cox supported in last year’s election, said yesterday he became familiar with the sports commission’s plan to hire Mr. Cox after meeting with commission officials to discuss the LSDBE hiring issues.

“I was disappointed in their numbers,” Mr. Brown said, referring to the commission’s failure to meet its LSDBE contracting goals.

But Mr. Brown called the hiring of Mr. Cox a “very significant” step toward improving the commission’s hiring of local contractors.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barry is playing an increasingly active role with the Nationals.

Mr. Barry on Monday met with John McHale Jr., Major League Baseball executive vice president of administration, in part to discuss Mr. Barry’s recent letter excoriating baseball for negotiating a financial compensation deal with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

In his letter last week to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, Mr. Barry said potentially linking part of the Nationals’ local TV rights with the Orioles showed a “patronizing attitude toward our community,” and put the Nationals’ competitive future at significant risk.

Mr. McHale, in town to help prepare for baseball’s high-profile congressional hearing on steroids tomorrow, met with Mr. Barry on “a broad agenda,” but laid out MLB’s case on the Orioles dispute.

As the current owners of the Nationals, MLB is seeking to avoid a legal showdown with Mr. Angelos and establish a peaceful and profitable coexistence of both teams’ TV distribution.

Mr. Angelos, however, thinks he singularly controls a broad TV territory extending from central Pennsylvania to North Carolina, and wants the Nationals to appear on the Orioles Television Network, a regional sports TV property that has been developing for four years.

“What I told [Mr. Barry] is that our view of the situation is that Nationals would end up with market-based TV rights and would control the disposition of those rights,” Mr. McHale said. “They will have a normalized TV structure.”

Mr. McHale could not specify when that situation would occur. The Nationals’ future on local TV remains unsettled due to the incomplete negotiations between MLB and Mr. Angelos.

• Eric Fisher contributed to this report.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide