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Graham Tackles Washington Post Editorial

The following "Letter to the Editor" was fact-checked by the Washington Post. Editors required verification
of key points.

For example, the Donatelli quote was confirmed with Mr. Donatelli himself. Documentation for
the Metropolis information was available.

If only the Post editorial writers, who previously wrote about this topic, were subject to such
fact checking…

See below, and -- The problem with Banneker was Banneker

Councilmember Jim Graham

Letter to the Editor

The problem with Banneker was Banneker

Published: August 8

In the July 30 editorial “Backstage contracting in D.C.,” based on innuendo
rather than fact, The Post suggested that, in 2007, I interfered with an
application for a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority development
project. At that time, I was a member of the WMATA board.

No facts were presented to indicate that I had taken any such actions.
Further, no crime or unlawful financial interest was suggested. This is what
happened:

There were general and continuing questions about whether the applicant —
Banneker Ventures — had the experience to head such a large project without
the active participation of a qualified development firm.

To fill that void, Banneker first included Donatelli and Klein, a company
that had successfully built the Metro/Ellington project just a few blocks
away at 13th and U streets NW.

The Post suggested without proof that I discouraged the participation of
Donatelli, and on that basis the firm had abruptly withdrawn in late 2007.

That is not true.

Donatelli President Chris Donatelli has provided this statement for the
record: “I withdrew from the project in December 2007 because of concerns
about Banneker’s commitment to the project and their ability to perform as
team leader due to their inexperience with such projects.”

That same concern was expressed by the next developer that tried to fill
this void, Metropolis, which was added to the project in early 2008.
(Metropolis successfully constructed the Metro/Langston Lofts project at
14th and V streets NW in 2006.)

In June 2008, Metro’s board considered whether to condition the Banneker
approval in part on the basis that Metropolis would make decisions on
construction issues independent of Banneker. When that was not approved,
Metropolis also soon withdrew. At about the same time, one of the original
partners, District Development Group, also withdrew.

The concerns, including mine, proved to be accurate: Two years of
development progress was lost because of Banneker’s inability to assemble a
project based on its original proposal. A unanimous Metro board finally
declined to approve a third extension for Banneker in April 2010.

Despite what The Post would like readers to believe, the problem with
Banneker was not Jim Graham. The problem with Banneker was Banneker.

Jim Graham, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, represents Ward 1 on the D.C. Council.

Follow @JimGrahamWard1