Photo by WABA on Flickr.
This article was posted as an April Fool’s joke.
The ongoing scandal over inappropriate government SUVs has widened with a stunning revelation that DC Councilmember Tommy Wells also has a “fully-loaded” government vehicle of his own.
Council Chairman Kwame Brown has come under fire for leasing two black Lincoln Navigators at a cost of nearly $2,000 per month to taxpayers.
Now, through a Freedom of Information Act request, GGW has obtained new emails showing that just after Wells assumed chairmanship of the Transportation Committee, committee staff director Jonathon Kass exchanged a series of emails with DPW Director Bill Howland.
In the emails, Wells requested a bicycle lease including luxurious features such as high-intensity LED front and rear lighting, a “cushy seat with those springy things,” and handlebar streamers. It was very important to Wells for the vehicle to use a black-on-black color scheme.
"The chairman requires a fully-loaded bike,” Kass wrote to Howland. When DPW staff was not able to locate a bicycle meeting the Council member’s exact specifications, Kass replied via email to Howland. “No streamers?” he asked.
Soon after, a prospective supplier came forward with a chrome-on-black rather than black-on-black bicycle. After some back-and-forth, the bicycle was deemed adequate for the committee chairman’s needs.
The lease ended up costing the District $190 per month. DCist compared this cost to more necessary expenses, noting that this exceeds the cost many DC residents spend on their iPhone voice and data plans each month.
Howland defended the purchase, saying that the bicycle could be necessary for the committee chairman to reach the scene of an emergency. In a crisis, he noted, the roads could be gridlocked, and the bicycle would be the only way for Wells to reach the affected area quickly. ““In my judgment, I used it as an emergency vehicle,” Howland said.
Councilmember Wells has vowed to return the bicycle, and to move past this shiny distraction.
Update: A sympathetic source inside Wells’ office has provided us with this photograph of the committee chairman and his chief of staff trying out additional bicycles: