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Council considers largest bond issue ever in surprise convention center hearing
Citizens say $650 million is down payment on billion-dollar boondoggle
July 6, 1998

With less than 24-hours notice, the D.C. Council announced it would hold a hearing on the largest bond issue ever considered in the District of Columbia for the proposed convention center at Mt.Vernon Square.

The hearing was announced on Thursday, July 3, and is taking place now before the D.C. Council Committee on Economic Development, chaired by Councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis. Her office closed the witness list at 5 p.m. the day the hearing was announced, eliminating the possibility for citizens who found out about the hearing over the weekend to sign up.

Meanwhile, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City planned to testify that the true cost of the proposed convention center is currently approximately $850 million dollars, not the $685 million stated by the project's backers. An independent construction cost consulting firm retained by the Committee says the so-called "Guaranteed Maximum Price" contract actually names no maximum price — that it is really a “cost-plus-fixed-fee” contract which allows for the possibility of significant cost escalation.

For example, the contract states that the $650 million cap would not apply in the case of  “unforseen site conditions” at Mt. Vernon Square, which would be the largest excavation project ever undertaken in Washington. “Unforseen site conditions,” experts say, are a given.

“This is no way to conduct the public’s business, and certainly no way to conduct the expenditure of hundreds and hundreds of millions of our tax dollars,” said Phil Blair of the D.C. Statehood Party. “What kind of project has to be forwarded by this kind of dark-of-the-night tactics?”

The Control Board is currently considering the construction contract. Several major approvals are needed if the Mt. Vernon proposal is to go forward, including two approvals by the Control Board, Congress, final approval by the National Capital Planning Commission, and the bond market.

For more information, contact the Shaw Coalition at (202) 789-7864.

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