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Posted at 1:07 PM ET, 02/22/2011

D.C. politicos react to Kwame Brown's SUV issues

By Mike DeBonis

Kwame Brown Lincoln Navigator

The world now knows that city officials ordered D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown not one, but two "fully loaded" Lincoln Navigator SUVs, each costing the city upward of $2,000 a month. Since The Washington Post published the story of Brown's SUVs on Sunday, the autos have been the talk of city's political class -- especially the handful of candidates now running for the at-large council seat Brown vacated to assume the chairmanship.

Vincent Orange, who ran against Brown in the Democratic primary for the chairman's seat and is seeking the at-large seat, went on WTTG-TV on Monday to decry the purchase, telling reporter Karen Gray Houston that it was an "exercise of poor judgment." Democrat Bryan Weaver tweeted a link to the story, adding: "During a time of economic turmoil and $600 million shortfall, symbols matter. Republican Patrick Mara also tweeted today, calling on Brown to apologize and end the SUV leases.He added: "No one in DC gov't should be driving a luxury vehicle at taxpayers' expense. Gov't vehicles are for transportation, not showboating." Joshua Lopez, a Democrat, issued a new release today slamming Brown: "I wish Kwame Brown would spend more time making sure the city's budget is in the black, and not the interior of his Lincoln Navigator," he said in the release.

Democrat Sekou Biddle, who is running with Brown's endorsement, also spoke out, albeit in a more subdued manner, in an interview Tuesday. Biddle said he had spoken to Brown, who had said that he's "committed to getting the vehicles returned."

"What this whole story tells us is we have to do some looking and digging on how we spend money in the government," Biddle said. "We're going to be asking a lot of people to make sacrifices. ... We are going to need to make cuts ourselves."

Biddle acknowledged a personal lapse on Brown's part: "There's an error in judgment there. There's an error in setting clear expectations in managing our resources," he said. "From my conversations with the chairman, I know this type of thing will not happen again. That is the most important thing."

Brown's council colleagues have been still more subdued.

None of the council members who tweet regularly (including Brown) have addressed the situation online. In interviews today, two members declined to aggressively criticize Brown.

Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who said she heard from several constituents about the leases, called the SUV revelations "very distressing" and said she spoke to Brown on Tuesday morning about the situation.

Cheh, who supported Brown's candidacy and serves as his hand-picked chairman pro tempore, declined to discuss their conversation. "I want him to be able to deal with the situation," she said. "It's gotta come from him."

But Cheh, like Biddle, said the episode highlights a need to examine city auto leasing costs. "I think we need to get out of these contracts, and I think it will make us look at what arrangements we have for cars generally," she said, adding that "there might be a silver living in all this" in prompting to council to "look at the whole process by which cars are secured."

Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), a neighbor and political supporter of Brown's, seconded the need to review leasing rates but would not directly criticize Brown. "I would be more discriminating in checking the best price," she said, adding that Brown is entitled to a city vehicle, as his predecessors have been.

She declined to critique Brown for the fully loaded nature of his autos. "If the cost is within reason, I don't see anything wrong with it," she said. Asked about a staffer's request for options including a moon roof and an entertainment system, she demurred: "I better leave that one alone. ... Once I check some lease rates with some dealerships, I'll get back to you."

Brown's spokeswoman, Traci Hughes, said that Brown is in the process of reviewing the Navigator leases to see how feasible it might be to return the vehicles. (Brown has been aware of the high cost of one Navigator since January, when Washington City Paper reported on it.) Brown, she said, will make a statement after the review is complete.

Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post

By Mike DeBonis  | February 22, 2011; 1:07 PM ET
Categories:  Kwame Brown, The District  
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"What this whole story tells us is we have to do some looking and digging on how we spend money in the government." --Sekou Biddle


Aww come on DC! This is the same garbage that allows a clerk in the DC tax office to pilfer 50 million! And it just goes on and on, round and round.

WHEN are you going to get your financial house in order? We - and I mean WE, because I happen to like DC and I am committed to making it a better place - all look like fools when garbage like Brown's SUV fleet hits the news.

Posted by: ennepe68 | February 22, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"I wish Kwame Brown would spend more time making sure the city's budget is in the black, and not the interior of his Lincoln Navigator," Lopez said in the release.

Hilarity! If he doesn't win city council he will have a career doing stand-up!

Posted by: zsg2010 | February 22, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

How about we take whatever it costs to cancel the leases out of the $190,000 per year salary we pay him?

Posted by: mrdolan | February 22, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Josh Lopez needs to go somewhere and sit down.

He and Fenty are like Pete and Repeat sitting in a boat.

Repeat, Lopez, was agressive in defending Fenty and his crony contracting of upwards of 80 million tax dollars to unqualified friends and fraternity brothers (of which he is one).

This unstable character definately doesn't deserve public trust.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | February 22, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like corrupt scumbags defending eachother.

Its obvious DC is incapable of governing itself.

Posted by: kenk33 | February 22, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"there might be a silver living in all this" in prompting to council to "look at the whole process by which cars are secured."

Isn't this why there is a director of public works?

From everything I have read, no one worried about, let alone questioned, the cost.

So we either have a bunch of yes people who are more interested in kissing the bosses rear than doing their jobs, or a bunch of people who are afraid to question things for fear of retribution. Both stink.

Posted by: BEEPEE | February 22, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

This shows the kind of respect these politicians have for the citizens of the city. Why should we even pay to rent a vehicle for the city council chair. He gets paid over $150,000. Can't he afford to buy or rent his own? It's not his fault. We were made aware of how irresponsible he is when he had to be sued by credit card companies to collect over $50,000 in credit card bills yet we voted overwhelmingly to erect him. Now how smart are we? It is not only Kwame Brown who thinks the citizens are ignorant or naive. Mr. Marion Barry has been doing it and getting away with it. He refuses to pay his taxes yet he does not hesitate to draw his salary when it's due from the very government he refuses to pay his taxes to and furthermore award fictitiuos contracts to his friends. This is a shame citizens of the District of Columbia

Posted by: knyark1 | February 22, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

There is NOTHING wrong with this! If Mr. Brown feels the need to get overpaid and drive around in a blinged out ghetto ride, that's fine. He needs to represent those folks in Ward 7 too, you know.

Move on folks, move on.

Posted by: password1111 | February 22, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

How presumptious of Brown to think that he just comes in and orders up a luxury car. He's clearly clueless and has no business being elected to this position. He needs to go away.

As for his apologists on the Council, Biddle was probably okay on the school board, but it's clear that he's allowed Brown and Gray to take his soul in exchange for the Council seat. Hopefully he will only have that seat for a few more weeks and we'll break the "club".

Posted by: blankspace | February 22, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I can't say that I was surprised to read the article in Sunday's Post about
Mr. Brown. After learning of his personal financial difficulties, he didn't get my vote, but my fellow D.C. voters tend to forgive folks for almost anything.
Mr. Brown seemed to be in quite a hurry to take care of his business BEFORE the inauguration, e.g., getting himself a top of the line "ride", as opposed to preparing himself to take care of the the "people's business." We keep hearing that our city is facing a financial crisis...taxes may be raised. The Mayor and City Council should practice what they will soon be preaching...we have to make do with less. Mr. Brown's $190,000/year salary (shocking) should enable him to take care of his own transportation. It doesn't cut it to talk about what was done in the past, given the city's finances. SHAME!

Posted by: Lizzie4 | February 23, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Why is anyone surprised? DC is run by crooks who only serve their own self interest without thought for others. From Barry on down DC has proved that in order to make it into DC politics you have to exhibit certain qualities. You need to be a crook, a liar, and a cheat.

DC you if you really want statehood, starting acting like an adult and not a spoiled rotten child.

You want to see a good example of how bad things are, just try to get anything done through DCRA.

This is a disgrace, but nothing new or unexpected.

Posted by: Luwarn2 | February 24, 2011 8:58 AM | Report abuse

What did people think would happen when they knowingly elected a guy who has defaulted on 50K worth of credit card debt and is being sued by two banks? Did they actually think this person had the judgement to be the Council Chairman? DC voters knew of Mr Brown's dismal credit history, and they elected him anyway. No surprise here!

Posted by: dcpsychic | February 28, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

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