REIMBURSEMENT URGED FOR CLOSING AVENUE AT HEARING ON HILL
LAWMAKERS SUGGEST WHITE HOUSE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR LOSSES IN
Washington Post, June 8, 1996
By Stephen C. FehrWashington Post Staff Writer
Democratic and Republican lawmakers criticized the Clinton
administration yesterday for failing to reimburse the District
for the costs of dosing Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White
A year after President Clinton ordered a two-block section of
the street shut down for security reasons the federal government
has not determined how much the changes in traffic patterns have
cost D.C. businesses and government or offered to pay for them.
There have been some reimbursements for police assistance and
traffic management but not for other effects such as lost
parking-meter revenue and torn-up streets
At a House subcommittee hearing yesterday,three local House
members and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry said the closing was a purely
federal action that required a reimbursement to the city in
addition to its annual federal payment: There seems to be no
coherent policy established by this administration on this
question." said Rep. Thomas Mr. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of
the House Government Oversight D.C.;subcommittee. "Congress can
hardly be expected to work alone to help 'the District as we,
have so far been left to do. ... If the administration Feels so
strongly about this, let them pay for it."
Asked if the street closing could become a political issue for
Clinton, Davis said: 'If this isn't nipped in the bud, the
president may find himself on the short end of a very lopsided
issue. Outside of the District, this is a symbolic issue
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.; said she told Clinton at a
meeting of congressional Democrats on Thursday night that the
closing issue "is heating up badly, and he needs to get a hold of
it." She said the president was "most alert" and understood the
Two develapnents in the last week have escalated the
Pennsylvania Avenue debate. First, the National Park Service
recommended a $40 million plan to turn the closed stretch into a
pedestrian park, infuriating local lawmakers who want to see the
street re opened to vehicles eventually. Davis Pulled the plug on
the Park Service plan by amending an appropriations bill to deny
any money for it.
In addition, a federal study was released showing that some
streets near the White House now carry 30 percent to 50 percent
more cars, creating much more congestion and delaying automobile
commuters, bus riders and taxi passengers. Real estate developer
Christopher Reutershan told the sub-committee yesterday that the
closing has created "a Berlin Wall--an impassable wall, which has
divided our city's central business district into two separate
The president of Riggs National Bank, Timothy C. Coughlin, told
lawmakers that the institution's main office at 1503 Pennsylvania
Ave. still has parking in front but has lost millions of dollars
in customer accounts because "people ale not willing to cross a
police line to do their banking business."
The agency that controls the federal purse, the Office, of
Management and Budget, declined Davis's request to testify,
leaving officials from four other federal agencies to defend the
president's decision.But those officials could not make a
commitment on the administration's behalf to reimburse the city.
"There has to bean administration official to take over this
process," Norton said. "The concern is that this entire matter is
being driven exclusively by the Secret Service. There is on one
who sits in ...to weigh the security threats against the other
costs to society.
Budget director Alice M. Rivlin, who also heads a task force of
government officials established by Clinton to help the city, is
the person with the most influence over reimbursement. Her
spokesman, Lawrence Haas, said there was no attempt to duck the
Question by not showing up yesterday.
"Our understanding of the hearing was that it was going to be
about security and the implications for the District in
transportation and traffic patterns. On those issues, OMB doesn't
have a role," he said.
Davis said that a key purpose of the hearing was to get a
commitment from the administration, through Rivlin, that federal
money would be coming. Haas said budget would look closely at
whether reimbursements are justified.
Another administration official, who asked not to be named, said
Rivlin did not attend because the money to help the city has not
been identified in the federal budget. High-level talks are
underway to find it, the official said.
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