The DC Council will hold the first of many public hearings today on the proposed new home for DC United, to be built on Buzzard’s Point along the Anacostia River. The stadium would require a complicated set of land swaps and $150 million in public funds, and would mean trading the city’s Reeves Government Center for property at the proposed stadium site—a heavy lift for a mayor at the height of his powers.
But with just months left in his term, Mayor Vince Gray, who wants the soccer stadium as part of his legacy, has exhausted his influence—and his lobbying, according to council members and staff, has often turned into tirades.
“Because of the way he’s acting, he’s completely irrelevant,” one council staffer involved in the stadium deal says. “He’s the least graceful loser I’ve seen in my life.”
“He’s angry and feels disrespected,” another staffer said.
Gray lost the Democratic primary to Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser on April 1. That leaves him nine months in office to run the government and try to get the soccer stadium deal approved.
“Every week that goes by, his influence wanes,” a longtime council lobbyist says.
Meanwhile, agency heads are leaving the Gray administration. At this point the mayor has lost three cabinet heads and one deputy mayor, which will make it more difficult to run the government.
Pedro Ribeiro, the mayor’s spokesman, disputes the idea that Gray’s ability to secure the stadium is waning. “If he’s so powerless, why not say so on the record? That’s a clear indication he’s not as lame a duck as they would have you believe.”
Today’s council hearing will be the first of many on the proposed stadium for DC United, the District’s pro soccer team. Many aspects of the deal have not been nailed down. The council has dedicated $200,000 for a study of the deal.
Neither Bowser nor at-large council member David Catania, who’s challenging her in the November general election, have said they will support the proposed stadium.