<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Sat, 18 Apr 2015 16:55:15 -0400 Sat, 18 Apr 2015 16:55:15 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Former D.C. Councilman Goes to Work at Strip Club]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 09:56:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Jim+Graham+041615.jpg

Former D.C. Council member Jim Graham appears to have found his new career path by joining the adult entertainment industy at a Washington nightclub.

Graham was hired as a special events director for a northwest D.C. nightclub, The House. Club owner Darrell Allen said Graham will be in charge of two nights for the club, Sunday nights for nude male dancing for gay men and Thursday nights for nude male dancing for women.

Graham said they are exploring nude female dancing for women.

“I cast about for various things, and I’ve decided to go into the adult entertainment industry,” he said.

“Jim worked super hard for 16 years in government for the people,” friend and political consultant Chuck Thies said. “I think it’s high time that he had some fun.”

Graham, who has been out of office since January after losing the Democratic primary to Brianne Nadeau a year ago, already volunteers for drug abuse and homeless issues.

“I wanted something that was fun, and quite honestly, I want to make a buck or two,” Graham said.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: And They’re Off…!]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 06:31:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336772.jpg

Just how big is the District of Columbia budget for 2016?


Or you can simply write it as $12.9 billion.

Over the next six weeks or so, you’re going to hear a lot about how Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council members are sparring over streetcars, school construction, sales taxes, parking garage taxes, reserve funds and any number of other fiscal issues.

But remember this: Despite the huge budget of nearly $13 billion, the council and mayor likely will fight over only a few hundred million here or there, if that.

The fact is, final city and state budgets most often reflect what is originally proposed. Legislative members try to shoehorn pet projects or correct egregious spending. But it’s pretty much the mayor’s or governor’s budget.

Here in the District, about 35 percent of the entire budget goes for human services, the largest segment of city spending. The next highest is education, at 17 percent, followed by public safety at 10 percent, public works at 6 percent and economic development at 4 percent. The remainder goes to government overhead and other miscellaneous spending.

The city’s many commercial parking garages often have been a target for extra money. For a long time the tax was 12 percent of the parking fee. Mayor Vincent Gray raised it to 18 percent three years ago. Now, Bowser is suggesting 22 percent to raise an additional $10 million to put toward Metro funding.

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans has more commercial parking garages in his downtown-to-Georgetown ward than any other council member. At the first council hearing on the overall budget Monday, Evans spoke out against this tax.

“Twenty-two percent is a very high tax,” he said. “Maryland and Virginia do not have a parking tax. They’re at zero.” Evans went on to note that about one-third of garage parkers are District residents, so it’s a tax on them as well as suburban commuters. “And frankly [it’s something] I don’t think we need to do,” Evans said.

Chairman Phil Mendelson appeared almost furious at the Bowser proposals to raise the sales tax from 5.75 percent to 6 percent, the same as that of Maryland and Virginia. And he objected to Bowser’s plan to dip into some reserve funds to help close a $193 million projected deficit. The chairman said raising taxes was not the message Bowser took to Wall Street recently to discuss bond ratings on city debt.

“When we met with Wall Street last month, we emphasized that we did not need to dip into reserve funds or raise taxes,” Mendelson said. “And yet the budget before us does not [follow] this. It does dip into the fund balance. It does raise taxes.”

Mendelson complained that Bowser calls her budget “balanced,” but he said, “Next year we will be spending faster than the money is coming in.”

Every mayor has had to sit through these council budget hearings. Every council member praises the mayor for appearing and then launches into what isn’t in the budget that the member wants. Bowser throughout was gracious and polite even when the criticism seemed endless.

It was a surprise to see Bowser’s elderly parents come into the council chamber. If they were there to soften Bowser’s performance, or restrain council comments, it didn’t work.

Late in the day Monday, the budget hearing shifted to Bowser’s surprise move to take control of a half-dozen city jobs that now have set terms, like the medical examiner and chief contracting officer. Instead of filling the positions for specific, independent terms, those appointees would serve at the will of the mayor, making them more politically sensitive. Council member Cheh pretty much called it a power grab buried in the budget.

And council members are expressing concern that Bowser is attempting to dilute the power of elected Attorney General Karl Racine by essentially gutting his ability to rule on the legal sufficiency of her contacts. The mayor instead would shift that power to her own legal counsel. On Friday, Racine said on WAMU’s Politics Hour that he would not have run for the office under the terms Bowser is trying to set.

The mayor’s office says all of this is overblown. But these issues and the budget disputes may also highlight another element that could hamper Bowser. Like her mentor, former Mayor Adrian Fenty, Bowser built few personal relationships with the council members she served alongside.

The mayor doesn’t have to like the council members, or kowtow to them. But their lingering perceptions of her as someone who just wants to get her way could spell trouble.

Still, expect the mayor to prevail on all but a handful of issues in this $12.9 billion budget. That’s the way the system works.

■ Notebook note. We’re off to see Cuba on a fact-finding mission. (What’s the best rum on the island, among other things?) We hope to be back in this space May 6.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

<![CDATA[New Tax Proposed on E-Cigs in Montgomery Co.]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 18:38:17 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/454246108.jpg

People using e-cigarettes in Montgomery County may soon be forced to pay a little more.

The county council introduced a bill Tuesday that calls for a tax on e-cigarettes, vaporizers and related paraphernalia that would match the current tax on tobacco.

E-cigarettes and vaporizers are two versions of the same thing: They heat a flavored liquid electronically, creating a cloud of vapor that looks like smoke. It hasn't replaced tobacco, but it's growing in popularity.

"Cigarettes are taxed at $2 per pack. Smokeless and other tobacco products are taxed at 30 percent as an excise tax. So we picked the same level for e-cigarettes," said council member Tom Hucker, who sponsored the bill. All other council members co-sponsored it, with one exception.

If the tax passes — and it's believed that it will be — the bill will go into effect July 1.

Daryl Mauhay, who uses a vaporizer, said he wouldn't vape less frequently if a higher tax were enacted.

"No," he said. "Because I love vaping and stuff; that's why."

Others say they may purchase the product and paraphernalia outside of Montgomery County.

One other regulation will launch June 1, when Montgomery County makes it illegal to use e-cigarettes or vape in public places where smoking tobacco is prohibited.

That law bans e-cigars, e-hookahs, e-pipes and vape pens from anywhere where smoking traditional cigarettes is banned. It also bans retail outlets from selling certain liquid nicotine or liquid nicotine containers unless they're in packaging that makes it difficult for children to get into.

Only a few states have extended their tobacco laws to cover e-cigarettes. New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah have specifically prohibited the use of e-cigarettes in public places and work places, the council said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Early Voting Begins for D.C. Council Special Election]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 06:16:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/voting-dfw-generic-01.jpg

Early voting is underway to fill two seats on D.C. Council.

There is a crowded field to fill Muriel Bowser's Ward 4 seat and the late Marion Barry's Ward 8 seat.

Early voting for the 2015 special election began Monday at One Judiciary Square. The building will be closed Thursday for Emancipation Day. On Saturday, three additional early voting locations will open.

Early voting will close April 25, just days before the April 28 special election.

Click here to find an early voting location near you.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DC Streetcar Funding Questioned During Mayor's Council Hearing]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:09:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010119742_1200x675_427435075662.jpg D.C. council members say Mayor Muriel Bowser's new budget slashes funding for the city's new streetcar system even more. News4's Tom Sherwood reports.]]> <![CDATA[Baker Endorses Rep. Chris Van Hollen]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 12:54:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2015-04-08_1327.jpg Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker has endorsed U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen in his run for U.S. Senate.]]> <![CDATA[Baker Endorses Rep. Chris Van Hollen]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:40:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/6451107_W6PVANCEDNCRUSHERNBAKERPKG_722x406_37580813.jpg

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker has endorsed U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen in his run for U.S. Senate.

Baker announced his endorsement Wednesday at a news conference at the Colmar Manor Community Center in Prince George’s County.

Baker's choice is a little controversial as his own constituent, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, is also running for Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski's soon-to-be open seat.

Van Hollen and Baker served in the Maryland House of Delegates at the same time in the 1990s, and Baker says that time together weighed heavily in his decision.

Van Hollen currently represents Maryland's 8th District, which includes portions of Montgomery County and stretches north to portions of Frederick and Carroll counties. Edwards currently represents Maryland's 4th District, which covers parts of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

Both Van Hollen and Edwards announced their plans to run days after Mikulski said she would retire.

If Edwards won the Senate seat, she would become the first black senator from Maryland in U.S. history. But Baker said race didn't play a role in his decision, adding that his decision was rooted in the candidate that could provide leadership and get things done for county residents.

<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Guns, Azaleas and Nats]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 06:05:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/85862027.jpg

It’s spring and all kinds of things are blooming.

Last week we wrote in jest about giving in to the gun guys and opening a gun shop on Capitol Hill. That was in response to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposal to scrap city gun laws in favor of more lenient federal rules.

Well, we don’t think the city will get around to opening a gun shop in defiance of Congress, but a retail gun store in the nation’s capital is not entirely out of the question.

Last Friday on the WAMU “Politics Hour,” Police Chief Cathy Lanier noted that the sky has not fallen since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 threw out the city’s ban on handguns and a federal court last year said the District could regulate but not ban concealed-carry weapons.

“Everybody fears the sky is falling” with some gun legalization, Lanier said, “but the numbers are not that high.”

She said about 4,000 people have opted for a license to have a handgun in the home. She said only about 25 people have obtained concealed carry permits while she has denied another 25.

“It’s not this surge of people coming in, that we’re going to see like thousands of concealed carry permits. It’s just not happening,” Lanier said.

In the past, the chief has stood with other city officials and mayors when they have opposed relaxed handgun laws in the District. She’s had to manage the change.

But could the city one day have a retail gun shop like we proposed? “Would it be OK with you if the city were to open a retail gun store?” we asked.

“Well,” Lanier began, “if we have concealed carry regulations — and I am very comfortable with concealed carry permits that I have issued, very comfortable — if there was a regulated way for people to purchase them in the District, you know, I don’t have any issue with that.”

NBC4 reported the chief’s remarks, but her breakthrough comment that a retail gun store could open here got surprisingly little media reaction.

■ Visit the Arboretum! We’re all excited again this season for the cherry blossom trees that just now are breaking out in blooms. But a short distance from the Tidal Basin sits the underused, underappreciated and underfunded United States National Arboretum.

Some of the best good news this year came this past week. The Arboretum, which had been open only four days a week, will again be open seven days a week beginning this Friday. (Sequestration cuts had severely limited funds for the full-time operation.)

“I’m thrilled that it’s happening in time for spring,” said consultant and fan Janice Kaplan. “Not only because the azaleas are a springtime event, but this year we also have the eagles [nesting]. It’s an added reason. It’s a good development for the residents of Washington and people who visit our nation’s capital from all over the world.”

If you haven’t been to the Arboretum, you should go. You can even buy surplus Kanuma bonsai soil that’s only available this Saturday (no credit cards!). But the real reason to go is that the Arboretum off New York Avenue NE is 446 acres of sprawling woodlands and fields with nearly 10 miles of winding roadways.

Kaplan noted that the Friends of the National Arboretum group has been working hard to get the facility reopened seven days a week. “Funding has come through now,” she told the Notebook, “but residents need to realize that it will take both public and private funds to support the Arboretum in the future.”

The future is now. Go see it. And we haven’t even mentioned the historic U.S. Capitol columns that stand majestically in one of the open fields. And if you’re interested in volunteering or otherwise helping, email usna.volunteers@ars.usda.gov. The Friends group’s website is fona.org.

■ Go Nats and neighborhood. It was a difficult TV task on Monday, spending the day outside Nationals Park and talking to fans headed into opening day against the New York Mets. Difficult, but we managed to get through the long hours of pleasant, cool, sunshine-filled weather to report for NBC4. Don’t pity us too much.

The Nats kind of threw away the game, with three unearned runs for the Mets. But as we labored outside the center field gate, we noted that while the team has its ups and downs, land area around the ballpark is doing nothing but going up and up and up.

Just since the end of last season, a 50,000-square-foot Harris Teeter has opened (your Notebook shops there), as has a 28,000-square-foot Vida health club, along with another 219 units of new housing around the Yards Park area.

Those stats come from Michael Stevens, who heads the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District. He’s got more.

“More important for the fans, we’ve seen nine new restaurants open,” Stevens said. “What [the fans] are going to see are a lot of cranes as well. We currently have nine residential projects under construction. That total is 1,850 residential units under construction.”

Stevens has lived through the seemingly lean years that struck with the recession, just about the time Nationals Park opened. But the progress has been slow and steady and is about to bloom even more.

“This is our second wave of massive development,” he said. And with all that’s underway now, Stevens says there is enough planned development to last another 15 years.

And you can watch a lot of today’s projects rush to be ready in 2018 when Nats Park hosts its first All-Star Game. That game was announced on Monday, too. The only bad thing that happened this past Monday was the Nats lost. But the city isn’t losing.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rand Paul: Officially in the Race for 2016]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 13:00:14 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010048707_1200x675_424219203746.jpg NBC Political Editor Mark Murray analyzes Rand Paul's potential benefits and challenges as he runs as a Libertarian for 2016.]]> <![CDATA[Budget Targets Md., Va. Residents Who Shop, Park in D.C.]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 22:38:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/0116-bowser.jpg

Tax increases and cuts to higher education are part of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's $12.9 billion budget proposal, which includes more money for homeless services, school modernization and the streetcar program.

Bowser’s first budget proposal would raise the sales tax from 5.75 percent to 6 percent, equal to the sales tax in Maryland and Virginia, and raise the tax on parking lots and garages by 4 percent. Bowser said she wants to raise those taxes rather than income taxes, which would only affect D.C. residents.

“It’s one of those taxes that allows us to spread the base of the tax to many more people,” she said.

Bowser’s budget includes cuts to the University of the District of Columbia and Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals.

“We have to dedicate $100 million every year to affordable housing and we have to close D.C. General and we have to end homelessness,” she said. “And the additional revenue will allow us to do that.”

Bowser included $1.3 billion for modernization of eight public schools

The budget provides more money to put more police on the street as well as more fire trucks and ambulances. There is $5 million to equip police officers with body cameras.

Bowser’s budget also provides funding for Metro as well as $335 million for the streetcar system.

The budget must be approved by the D.C. Council before any taxes go up or programs are cut, and that could prove to be a challenge for the new mayor.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to be raising taxes when the economy is good,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said.

“I’m always averse to raising taxes,” Council member Jack Evans said.

Bowser said she has to raise taxes to give residents what they want.

“While I wish we didn’t have to do it, it allows us to do the new things that residents say to me, ‘Fix the homeless problem,’” Bowser said.

Fiscal watchdogs who advocate for more funding for social programs are optimistic

“The good news is the mayor took a difficult situation and came out with a budget that invests more in education and a lot more in affordable housing and starting to address our serious homeless crisis,” said Ed Lazer of D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

Bowser did not rule out the possibility that budget cuts could mean layoffs and said layoffs at public school headquarters are likely.

“We don’t know if any current workers will be affected, but we announced some weeks ago the chancellor is moving to reduce the number of employees in the central office,” she said.

<![CDATA[D.C. Economy Booming 20 Years After Control Board]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:20:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009975541_1200x675_420929603515.jpg The booming economy in the district today is a far cry from the city's near bankruptcy 20 years ago, when Congress created a controverisal control board that took over city finances. News4's Tom Sherwood takes a new look at that troubled era with former Mayor Tony Williams.]]> <![CDATA[The Week Ahead: Ted Cruz in Control?]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 17:09:59 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

First candidate Ted Cruz hits the trail in Iowa, Kennedy Institute is dedicated in Boston, a summit on Cuba, it's April Fool’s Day and the lowdown on who is next to enter the Presidential fray.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Meet the Press Preview: Conflict in Yemen, Iran Nuclear Talks]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:24:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009939604_1200x675_419415619736.jpg Chuck Todd and guests will discuss rebel advances in Yemen, talks about Iran's nuclear capability and more on Meet the Press this Sunday.]]> <![CDATA[D.C. Group to Hold Marijuana Seed-Sharing Events]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:16:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Marijuana+Seed+Share+Line.jpg

Marijuana has been legal in D.C. for about a month now, but there's one question that may leave those who want to indulge perplexed: How do you get it?

According to the law, selling marijuana or exchanging it for goods or services remains illegal. To help those who may not know someone who can give them marijuana seeds, the D.C. Cannabis Campaign organized two seed-sharing events.

The line stretched two blocks for the first seed share, held Thursday evening at Libertine in Adams Morgan.

The second seed share is scheduled for Saturday at the D.C. Cannabis Campaign headquarters, northwest of Dupont Circle.

Adam Eidinger, the chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, says the events are a chance for people to give away seeds to people who need them. 

"[W]e have a new right now, and that right is to grow at home," Eidinger said. "[T]hat’s one way to obtain marijuana."

Attendees can also give up to an ounce of marijuana to someone else, as long as both parties are 21 or older. While the D.C. Cannabis Campaign says they will accept out-of-state IDs, the events are for D.C. residents.

"We’ll be checking to make sure you’re 21 and older; we don’t care where you live," Eidinger said. "But if you tell us you’re taking the seeds outside of D.C., we just won't let you come in because that's not legal." 

Guests can only give away an ounce of seeds to any one person, and by law, you can only possess up to two ounces outside your home.

Once you get the seeds home, you can only grow up to six plants for personal use; only three plants can be mature at a time. In households with multiple adults, that number can increase to six mature plants.

City voters approved an initiative legalizing pot last year. Last month, Mayor Muriel Bowser allowed it to take effect despite an attempt by Congress to block it.

To RSVP and read the rules of the seed share, click here.

Photo Credit: Mark Segraves]]>
<![CDATA[Concern Grows Over Whereabouts of Former D.C. Del.]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 20:16:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Walter-Fauntroy.jpg

Concern is growing for the well-being of 82-year-old Walter Fauntroy -- a former D.C. congressman and longtime civil rights activist -- who has been traveling for an extended period of time, but has been unclear in explaining where he is or what he's doing.

A group of people worried about Fauntroy spoke at a meeting Wednesday, where they also announced the creation of the Walter E. Fauntroy Family Fund to raise money to help Fauntroy's family with money problems.

Fauntroy has been traveling extensively in Africa and Dubai for years, with little contact with friends and family, according to bankruptcy documents filed earlier this month by his lawyer, Johnny Barnes.

At Wednesday's meeting, Barnes said he believes his client is currently in Dubai. He said he'd last spoken with Fauntroy three day ago.

Arrington Dixon, a community leader in Ward 8, stressed the desire to get to the bottom of what's going on and to help his family.

"It's funny because Walter always had a plan," Dixon said. "I mean, he was always called the man with a plan. He'd have his notebook.... Walter was about a plan. So we have to have a plan to take care of his folks here, his family, but we've got to have a plan and some questions have got to be answered.... We've got to have a plan to find out how to get Walter back home and in our community...."

Fauntroy, a former right hand of Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, founded the Free South Africa movement, and served 20 years as the District's first delegate to Congress. He was pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church for 50 years before retiring in 2009.

"[...I]f we talk about civil rights, we can say that he was one of the leaders and the voice of the Civil Rights Movement," said Denise Rolark-Barnes, editor and Publisher of the Washington Informer, earlier this month.

Rolark-Barnes is among a group of associates hoping that Fauntroy is found safe.

"There is a concern," she said. "There's a concern about his physical well-being, and there's a concern about his mental well-being."

Earlier this month, Fauntroy's attorney filed bankruptcy papers for Fauntroy and his wife, Dorothy, to stave off foreclosure of their home in Northwest D.C.'s Crestwood neighborhood.

"So many of... the folks who have given their lives for the movement... some end up being destitute, their families are not taken care of, and we just wanted to make sure that didn't happen," said Rolark-Barnes.

<![CDATA[13 Ward 8 Candidates to Meet at Debate]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:00:12 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009909096_1200x675_418057795671.jpg It's a crowded field in the April 28 special election for Marion Barry's Ward 8 Council seat. Barry died late last year. Wednesday night, 13 candidates will meet for a debate. News4's Tom Sherwood offers insight on what to expect.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Walt Whitman’s Washington…]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 07:09:28 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/whitman_full.png

The Notebook shook ourselves from the couch on Sunday and traveled over the 14th Street Bridge, down the George Washington Parkway to the Athenaeum in Alexandria.

Writer and friend Garrett Peck was regaling an overflow audience on the 10 years that poet Walt Whitman lived in Washington, D.C., around the time of the Civil War.

On this, the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Peck noted that Whitman wrote four poems about Lincoln after his death, including the mournful “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

If you haven’t read it, Peck suggested, “Get a box of Kleenex; it’s devastating.” And Peck added, “It’s a remarkable poem and he wrote it in Washington, D.C.”

Peck’s new book — just out Monday and his sixth on various local subjects of interests — tells of Whitman in Washington after first coming here to find his brother George, who had been wounded in the battle of Fredericksburg. In the book, “Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C.: The Civil War and America’s Great Poet” (Arcadia Publishing and The History Press), Peck tells of the horrific suffering Whitman witnessed as he visited tens of thousands of wounded soldiers in nearly a dozen hospitals set up in the District, including Armory Square Hospital on what is now part of the National Mall.

Whitman was not, as popularly believed, a nurse. Instead the gentle poet sought to offer a bit of human kindness to the soldiers, many of them only teenagers severely wounded and away from home and the support of family.

Whitman lived at six different addresses while here. None of the original buildings remain.

But Peck’s book reminds us that Whitman is all around us.

Martin G. Murray, founder of the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman, formed in 1985, writes the introduction to the book. “Peck’s emphasis on the city’s importance to the poet follows Whitman’s lead and is a welcome addition to efforts made by other scholars and enthusiasts.”

The Dupont Circle Metro station on the north side has a Whitman quote from his poem “The Wound Dresser,” reading in part, “Some suffer so much...”

It was added in 2006, when Dupont Circle was still the gay epicenter of the city.

Then-D.C. Council member Jim Graham and others wanted to acknowledge the HIV/AIDS suffering in the city and those who ministered to them. “That poem was inspired by [Whitman’s] ministrations to the sick and the dying, and so that, of course, has a fitting connection to the early years of the AIDS epidemic,” Graham told The Washington Post’s Answer Man column.

Chapter 7 of Peck’s book explores the well-established record that Whitman was gay, the 27-year relationship Whitman had with Peter Doyle, and Whitman’s homosexuality as a precursor to more modern gay rights movements. Peck notes that Whitman is a namesake of the current day Whitman-Walker Health, a community organization that expanded its programs in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the early 1980s.

Outside the Old Patent Office Building on F Street downtown, which had served as a hospital, the section of roadway ceremonially was renamed “Walt Whitman Way” in 2005.

“It would be difficult for me to imagine a bill that engages my enthusiasm on as many different fronts as this one does,” testified Craig Howell at the D.C. Council public hearing on the renaming. Howell was testifying for the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance before then-Council Chairman Linda Cropp. “Besides having been a gay activist for more than 30 years, I have been a Civil War buff since childhood,” he said.

Peck’s book tells of Whitman’s strong support of the Union cause — “Beat! Beat! Drums!” was one of his poems — but also his despair at the horror of war. And Peck addresses the racism of the era, a racism that remains in the headlines of today.

Whitman’s Washington years overall provide an engaging read that reminds us that in this area, we are uniquely surrounded and suffused with the history of our nation. It’s even worth a trip to Alexandria.

■ Learning more? Peck will be discussing his new book at various venues around the region over the next few weeks (schedule at garrettpeck.com), but you can catch him in Dupont Circle at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe on March 30 at 6:30 p.m. and in Upper Northwest at Politics and Prose on April 19 at 5 p.m.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: Private Collection ]]>
<![CDATA[No Run-of-the-Mill House Budget Vote]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 15:30:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2015-03-25_1503.jpg Members of the House are slated to vote on a budget Wednesday -- but this is no run-of-the-mill vote. We're are about to see some very tricky legislative moves. NBC News political writer Carrie Dann walks us through what the House leadership is attempting do.]]> <![CDATA[The Week Ahead: A Nuclear Deal with Iran?]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 19:31:41 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

Nuclear talks with Iran continue, Chuck Todd talks to California Governor Jerry Brown on Meet the Press, Afghan President Ghani meets with Obama and it’s 70 years since Iwo Jima.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Ted Cruz Enters the 2016 Presidential Race]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:37:00 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Cruz-Rand-Paul-Shirts-03231.jpg Texas Sen. Ted Cruz enters the 2016 presidential race. Senior Political Editor Mark Murray discusses his current position.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[How Likely is Mandatory Voting in the U.S.?]]> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 15:03:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009857602_1200x675_415895107981.jpg NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray analyzes the possibility of mandatory voting in the U.S. after President Obama commented on the idea.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: What's in a Name...]]> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 10:41:38 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/national+mall+aerial+generic.jpg

Maybe we should rename the Washington Monument. After all, the father of our country was a brutal slave owner.

Even the official Mount Vernon site notes that despite disputes about how he really felt about slavery, “What is clear is that Washington frequently utilized harsh punishment against the enslaved population, including whippings and the threat of particularly taxing work assignments.”

He also banished slaves to the West Indies, ripping apart families, as was then common.

This came to mind this past weekend. An op-ed in The Washington Post urged the U.S. Senate to strip the name of Richard B. Russell from the oldest Senate office building on Capitol Hill and rename it for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

“So we believe,” they authors wrote, “Congress has a choice for the big beauty at the corner of Constitution and Delaware: Keep the name of an avowed segregationist who stood in the way of racial progress? Or rename it for a consummate senator — a liberal lion, civil rights champion and bipartisan deal-maker. The choice is clear: It’s time to christen the Edward Moore Kennedy Senate Office Building.”

The writers are David Bennett of Syracuse University and his son Matt, a co-founder of the D.C. think tank Third Way.

Your Notebook won’t argue a single word in defense of Russell’s appalling anti-civil rights record. Nor will we roll out 50 years of good stuff — supporting President Franklin Roosevelt, literacy, highways, agriculture and water conservation, military readiness and the 1946 National School Lunch Program — to defend him.

What the Notebook wants to defend is recognizing history. Let’s learn from the past, not eradicate it. Find something worthy and different for Sen. Kennedy. And make sure the whole history is told.

The Russell Building was so named after Russell’s death in the early 1970s. Whether it was a good idea or a bad idea, it simply was done. And anyone reading an ounce of Russell’s history — including Congress’ official version — can’t miss the ugly civil rights history.

The same is true locally and around the nation.

The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., for example, is named for a man who was a Confederate general, U.S. senator and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. The nation just observed the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” on that bridge, where armed riot police viciously beat peaceful civil rights marchers.

Some want to change the name. But many others more wisely want it to stand as a testament to a better America that began there, including the push for the 1965 Voting Rights Act that became more powerful than billy clubs. Both sides of the bridge should have markers explaining the site, but the bridge — named a national landmark in 2013 — should remain in all its infamy.

Also recently, the Chevy Chase advisory neighborhood commission discussed whether to recommend changing the name of the fountain within Chevy Chase Circle. It’s named for developer Francis Griffith Newlands, who strongly desired that the area “be forever racially segregated.” Maybe to his dismay, it wasn’t. But people should remember the development of this beautiful area as well as the ugly thinking behind it.

The same is true of “Appomattox,” the controversial Confederate statue that sits in Alexandria traffic, first erected in 1889. In 1988, when the statue was damaged by a vehicle, then-Mayor James P. Moran suggested it be removed. It wasn’t. And it provides a history lesson each time someone new passes by and says, “Who’s that?”

Back in the District, the statue of Albert Pike stands adjacent to police headquarters at 3rd and D streets NW. On the National Register of Historic Places since 1978, it’s the only Civil War statuary in the District commemorating a Confederate, although it was erected by Scottish Rite Masons to mark his 32 years of leadership of its southern jurisdiction. There was a brief D.C. Council effort in 1993 to have it removed. It’s still there.

Also in the city, when then-Mayor Sharon Pratt took office in 1991, she had Marion Barry’s name removed from the Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW even though the building’s construction during Barry’s mayoral tenure had been crucial to the rebirth of the area. Again mayor in 1995, Barry put his name back and it remains.

Especially in the Washington region, our history is all around us. Let’s not make it a sanitized Disneyland, but learn from all of it, the good and bad.

■ But what of football names? Before anyone writes a letter or misunderstands, this column does not address the controversy over the name of the NFL team that plays in suburban Maryland. That’s a business, not a monument — no matter how much some cheer for it.

■ A final word. We end the column back at the Washington Monument and the death this past week of influential architect and designer Michael Graves.

It was he who draped the monument in dramatic sheathing and lighting in 1998 and inspired the more recent renovation wrapping. There are so many positive things to say about him and the brilliant St. Coletta’s school he designed on Capitol Hill. The Notebook will be mentally dimming the monument lights for Graves the next time we ride by. Thank you.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Budget Approval Process Still Controversial]]> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 09:50:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/461046870.jpg

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says she is going forward with a controversial way of getting Congress to approve the city’s 2016 budget.

She also wants a lawsuit over the issue thrown out.

Bowser and the D.C. Council think the District has the authority to spend its own money after voters passed a budget autonomy referendum in 2013. Unlike past years, they contend the city budget now automatically goes into effect -- unless Congress specifically votes to stop it or amend it.

But the city's chief financial officer disagrees, saying he can't write any checks without formal congressional approval.

In a court filing, Bowser said she intends to move forward unless a court orders her not to do so.

House Republicans leaders say congress could force the city to submit its budget for approval as required since home rule began in 1973.

"The District of Columbia will continue to send its budget to Congress," Michael Czin, a communications director for Bowser, said Wednesday. "On Monday, the Mayor joined the Council in a lawsuit in support of Budget Autonomy. If we win the case, the budget will be sent to Congress just like all other District legislation, but it will be decoupled from the larger federal budget process."


This story has been corrected from a previous version.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Influence of the "Invisible Primary"]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 14:36:23 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009814747_1200x675_414328899944.jpg Mark Murray, political editor for NBC News, discusses potential 2016 candidates and the influence of the "invisible primary."]]>