Closed DC Rec Centers Causing Heartburn

Council questions milliions spent by Mayor Fenty

Take a trip to the Rosedale Recreation Center in northeast Washington at 17th and Gales streets and you'll see what everyone is complaining about when it comes to recreation funding in the city.

Rosedale -- the pool, the recreation center and most of the ball field -- is fenced off with a high chain link fence. It's been that way since late summer and it's not clear when a multi-million rennovation will begin. Neighbors are furious and concerned.

"It's heartless," said community acitivist Nikki Bowens, head of the Rosedale Citizens Alliance.

Another long-time resident of the neighborhood stopped her car to complain when she saw News4 at the center Wednesday. She said young people in the neighborhood have nowhere to go for recreation.

"They break into the fence so they can play basketball, and it's an eyesore now that they've closed it," she said.

The D.C. Council is holding several hearings on the mayor's funding scheme -- transfering money to an independent housing agency to bid out recreation projects without council oversight. About $89 million has been spent so far. Contracts for all 12 recreation projects went to a close associate of the mayor's.

Council Chairman Vincent Gray is pressing new legislation that would require the mayor's office to submit for council review any contract worth $500,000 or more. The current threshold is $1 million.

In addition, the council may require the Chief Financial Officer to report any expenditure of $50,000 or more that is spent differently than what the budget allows (that's called a reprogramming).

Whatever the mayor's explanations -- he says his relations with the council are fine -- this latest flap over spending is making it even harder for the mayor to get support from any of the 13 council members.  That could spell trouble for him when he tries to tool up his reelection campaign early next year.

Incidentally, the mayor appointed Jesus Aguirre as interim director of recreation today. He can hold that post for six months without council review.

Aguirre comes over from a management spot under Schools Chancellor Michele Rhee, the same place former director Xmina Hartsock had worked.

Fenty has now had three recreation directors in three years. His first director, Clark Ray, was fired last spring. He's now running for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council.

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