No Jumbo Slices for This Clown

By: Harry Jaffe

It’s been a tough year for lots of people, but few have had as many lows as DC Council member Jim Graham.

The lowest low probably came when he drove up Columbia Road in Adams Morgan on October 1 and saw his picture on kiosks in the heart of his ward. GRAHAM IS A CLOWN read the words over his smiling face.

How could a year that had started off so swell have come to this? Hints: Metro, gunfire, big-slice pizza, and the FBI.

In January, Metro’s board elected Graham to a one-year term as chairman, a high-profile job for a DC politician. Then Metro suffered the deadliest accident in its history when two trains crashed near Fort Totten. Nine people died. Graham was left to testify before Congress about efforts to fix the system. “It’s a mystery as to what’s going on here,” he said. The aging system could have used his full-time attention, yet Graham kept getting pulled in other directions.

On June 18, Devyn Black, an intern in Graham’s office, allegedly got into a shootout in front of the Columbia Heights Metro station. After querying him, Graham said, “I didn’t know whether to believe him or not.” He drove Black to the police station, and prosecutors later charged the intern with assault.

Graham considers himself a reformer, and he applied his efforts to the city’s taxicabs. He was in the midst of hearings to establish a New York City–like medallion system when FBI agents raided his office, carted away documents, and indicted chief of staff Ted Loza for allegedly taking bribes from taxi companies. Graham called off the hearings and killed his legislation.

Then he picked a fight with the big-slice pizza vendors in Adams Morgan. Graham held them up as one of the main causes of unruly behavior in the bar-heavy area: It was the fault of the pizza sellers, not the bars.

It was likely this move that provoked the clown posters. Maybe his intentions were good, but some people thought he looked the fool.

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