<![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 Thu, 02 Jul 2015 01:23:21 -0400 Thu, 02 Jul 2015 01:23:21 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Static Over Our Housing Boom…]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 05:48:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/223*120/realestate1112.jpg

The District of Columbia is changing — as the cliche goes — right before our eyes.

Look in most any direction to see massive redevelopment.

Look and listen a little closer.

Among the clanging cacophony you’ll also hear the cries of the poor and lower middle class. They are losing their homes and the hopes of ever finding other ones in the nation’s capital.

“Weekly we lose some,” at-large D.C. Council member Anita Bonds told us over the weekend. “We have about 40 [subsidized] properties that are losing their affordability” around the city, she said, amounting to a housing crisis struggling to be heard. “If we are serious about housing affordability, and we should be, then some our resources must go toward saving these units,” she said.

Last week, dozens of low-income tenants gathered near the convention center at 401 K St., a sprawling relic of about 300 subsidized apartments. Chinese immigrants make up about 60 percent of the renters, according to Washington Post reporter Perry Stein. They are trying to save their apartment homes in the fast-changing neighborhood.

The property has been the focus of tenant and landlord legal battles since 2014 when Bush Cos. announced plans to end federal subsidies and redevelop the property into luxury rentals and condos at profitable market rates.

Under the District’s landlord-tenant laws, the tenants have what’s called the first right of refusal to band together and buy the property. But Bush set the asking price at $250 million. A court ruled that too high, but the matter remains in litigation and the tenants’ future in doubt even if the price is lowered.

Council member Bonds, who has focused on low-income housing, said the remaining tenants still will get individual rent subsidies if they’re forced to move, but finding suitable housing will be tough.

The federal subsidy runs out at Museum Square in October as the owners move to exit the federal housing Section 8 program and tear down the structure.

“We have nowhere to go,” said Vera Watson, who has lived in the building for 33 years. She told The Post, “Even if we get a voucher to move somewhere else, the voucher will not help us in D.C.”

Another activist tenant, Jenny Tang, told The Post, “I want my children to be part of this community.”

Tang, 44, is a native of China. She has lived at Museum Square for five years with her two daughters.

Sam Jewler, a community organizer with Jews United for Justice, told us, “Development doesn’t have to mean displacement.”

He said the developer is determined “to push the long-term community out and bring higher-paying residents into Museum Square. We need our elected officials to show some real leadership and find a solution that maintains this vital part of the cultural and social fabric of D.C.”

Jewler said the city “has the resources and power to do it.”

Bonds told us the city since 2008 has had a law on the books that would allow the government itself to step in and buy this type of housing to preserve its affordability. But seven years after the law was passed, she said, the rules and regulations required to implement the law have never been written.

■ Not so fast. There were many cheers — and even jeers — over the U.S. Supreme Court ruling approving same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. There has been a common thread among much of the reaction: The ruling came amazingly fast. The end game did come quickly as many courts over the past few years threw out bans on same-sex marriage.

But if you ask any gay person, gay activist or any person of goodwill, the fight was not fast.
Here in the District, the city was the sixth jurisdiction in the nation to legalize marriage equality. It passed the D.C. Council 11-2 and became legal in March 2010 after the required congressional review period ended.

The law in 2009 was proposed by then-at-large Council member David Catania, the first openly gay member of the council.

But kind of lost in the celebration was that marriage equality in the District was first proposed back in 1975 — nearly 35 years earlier. Arrington Dixon, still active in city issues today, was a member of the earliest elected D.C. Council. In proposing reforms and no-fault divorces, Dixon had included a provision to allow same-sex marriages.

As he told the Notebook this week, he was shouted down by city clergy and others. Philip Pannell, then an activist as he is today, testified on behalf of the Dixon law during a 1975 hearing on the bill.

But Dixon’s proposal went nowhere.

“At its heart, a city is its people,” Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance leader Rick Rosendall said in 2010 when marriage quality finally had passed in the District. The alliance was honoring activists for its 39th anniversary. “The people of Washington, by consistently electing a strongly pro-gay legislature, have given our nation its first majority-black jurisdiction to enact civil marriage equality,” he said then.

■ A final word. There was sad news of the death this week of Ron Linton. He was the feisty chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission from 2011 until this past January. Appointed by Mayor Vincent Gray, he helped lead (drag?) the taxi industry into the 21st century with credit card machines and a uniform color scheme that now lets local and out-of-town visitors all know what a cab looks like here.

Ron Linton was a good man with a hearty laugh and a big love for our city.

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

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor Bowser Kicks Off Summer Jobs Program]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 20:56:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20150629+Jobs.jpg

More than 15,000 young people started their first summer jobs in D.C. Monday as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s first summer jobs program.

The program is named after late Mayor Marion Barry, who started the summer jobs program in 1979.

Bowser offered advice to the young professionals at Enlightened, Inc., a consulting and IT company in D.C. She recounted her first job and explained the importance of the program in preparing the city’s youth for entry level jobs.

Summer jobs teach “how to get up on time, how to show up at work, how to dress appropriately. How to, you know, finish a task,” Bowser said.

Enlightened, Inc. CEO Antwayne Ford was a summer jobs student in 1980.

“I'm glad to see kids that are here because once we open the door, these kids are great. They just need opportunity,” Ford said.

Participants in the summer jobs program range in age from 14 to 24. They will be paid $5 to $9 per hour in the six-week program.

Participant Jacobi Glover is headed to Morehouse College in the fall. But he didn’t want to sit around all summer waiting for classes to start.

“That won’t prepare me for my future because I don't plan to hang out with my life. I plan to do meaningful stuff,” Glover said.

<![CDATA[Hogan Undergoes First Round of Chemotherapy]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 09:48:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2015-06-25_1710.jpg

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan underwent his first round of chemotherapy in the treatment of B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

On his Facebook page, Hogan said he was feeling healthy and strong after his first 24 hours of chemo. He praised his medical team and thanked them for “taking great care of me.”


I'm happy to report that things could not be going any better. I just made it through the first 24 hours of chemo. I am...

Posted by Larry Hogan on Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hogan announced his illness at a press conference on June 22. At the time, he said tumors had spread through his abdomen and were pressing against his spinal column.

Hogan said he was diagnosed after finding a lump under his chin while shaving.

"They found 12 more of these things in my neck," he said.

He said he had "20 or 30" more tumors in his core and groin area, adding he has been having many tests and procedures and that his team of doctors is treating his case aggressively. The governor said his doctors have told him he has a good chance of beating the disease.

Hogan said he was “humbled, heartened and uplifted by the outpouring of the tens of thousands of prayers and well wishes from around the state” after the announcement of his diagnosis.

He said he plans to work as much as he is able, describing himself as a workaholic. He said Lieutenant Gov. Boyd Rutherford will step up "even more," as will his cabinet.

<![CDATA[Understanding the Supreme Court's ACA Ruling]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 18:52:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010955250_1200x675_471241283668.jpg NBC News Political Editor Carrie Dann speaks with Eun Yang about the importance of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act for the second time.]]> <![CDATA[Va. Leaders React to Same-Sex Marriage Ruling]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 19:19:48 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010974865_1200x675_472096323881.jpg Virginia lawmakers had mixed reactions to Friday's Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, explaining what it means for residents of the Commonwealth.]]> <![CDATA[Big-Name Governors May Face Difficulties in GOP Race]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:35:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010939497_1200x675_470591555670.jpg NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray says Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may have trouble finding their footing in the race for the GOP nomination.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: 'Oh, Say Can You See…’]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 05:55:19 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/South-Carolina-Confederate-Battle-Flag-23-June-2015.jpg

What do you see when you see the Confederate battle flag?

The lines pretty clearly are drawn between hate and heroism.

Hate has been winning.

That flag has been waved by white racists for decades in defiance of federal power and in the name of “states’ rights.” It’s been used to assail black and white civil rights proponents with fear, and it festoons far more vehicles than just a few pickup trucks here and there.

Against this high tide of intolerance, there are those who hold a more benign view of the flag, arguing that it has been co-opted, stolen or disfigured from its true meaning.

“There is no flag for the million Confederate soldiers other than this battle flag,” said Joe Whitney, an earnest and 30-year student of all that is the U.S. Civil War.

On Monday, we stood in Fairfax County on the sliver of land that commemorates the Battle of Ox Hill, a battle that followed Manassas and played a role in the Confederates giving up a plan to attack the U.S. Capitol.

The Union troops “put up a fight here and it dissuaded Robert E. Lee from trying to take D.C.,” Whitney said. When he sees the Confederate battle flag, he sees a flag that honors American soldiers even though they were on the losing side.

Those soldiers, some in their early teens, “fought bravely, left their homes and families to go and fight and die for what they believed in,” he said. And that is how Whitney and thousands of others see the Confederate battle flag: “To us, it’s not about a cause; it’s about honoring American soldiers.”

Whitney has spent more than 30 years re-enacting Civil War battles. He plays in Civil War-era bands. He’s been a technical adviser to films like “Glory,” “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals.”

He’s made battle flags and he’s slept next to campfires more times than he can probably remember.

As we walked on hallowed ground where maybe the bones of soldiers from both sides lay buried, we asked if it bothered him that white supremacists have corrupted the flag he cherishes.

“Well, yeah, anybody can take any symbol,” said Whitney. “A symbol is a tool and a tool can be used for good or bad. They’re trying to make it something bad.”

Before Republican leaders of South Carolina announced that they now thought the Confederate flag should no longer fly at the state capitol, Whitney said it should have been lowered like the U.S. flag to honor the slain victims at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

The undercurrents and hate that prompted those horrific shootings obviously are more than the persistence of one flag. Maybe the place for that flag is a museum, not flying in disgrace or disputed honor. It’s part of American history. Let’s learn from that history.

■ Confederate symbols in our area. NBC4 pointed out this week that the Mississippi state flag is among those flying in Columbus Circle at Union Station. It uses the Confederate design. The Arkansas flag and other banners incorporate parts of the Confederate flag.

But the biggest Confederate flag can be seen along I-95 in Stafford County, Va.

The flag, measuring 30 feet by 20 feet, flies from a flagpole 90 feet tall. It’s on private property but is seen clearly from the interstate. Its supporters, a small group call Virginia Flaggers, told The Washington Post that the flag is not racist but honors Confederate soldiers.

■ “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The History Channel has posted some little-known history of the national anthem. During the Civil War, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was an anthem for Union troops. It was not until 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order designating it as the official anthem for military ceremonies.

And it was not until 1931 that Congress passed a law officially designating it as the national anthem of the country.

■ The Frederick Douglass Bible. The Bible owned by Frederick Douglass is on display at the National Historic Site in Anacostia. It’ll be there until July 5. The Bible recently was used for the swearing in of Loretta Lynch as the nation’s first African-American female attorney general.

Washington’s own historic church, the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, gave Douglass the Bible in 1889. It’s an Oxford University Press edition that has both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

According to the National Park Service which maintains the Douglass home called Cedar Hill, Douglass’ life has been “the source of inspiration and hope for millions.”

The address is 1411 W St. SE.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[9 Things to Know About Md. Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford]]> Tue, 23 Jun 2015 12:21:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Boyd+Rutherford.jpg

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that he has been diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes, calling it "very advanced and very aggressive."

Hogan vowed to continue to work, but he also said Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will take on a greater work load.

"He's going to fill in more at the Board of Public Works," Hogan said. "He's going to have to fill in for me on some other meetings, as will our entire Cabinet. They're going to step up and do more things and fill in when I can't be there."

Hogan said Rutherford already has taken on a big role as lieutenant governor.

"Boyd has my back," Hogan said Monday. "There's no question about that."

Here are nine things you need to know about Lt. Gov. Rutherford:

  1. Rutherford and Governor Larry Hogan were friends before teaming up in Maryland. They both previously served as cabinet members under the Robert Ehrlich administration, according to Rutherford's website.
  2. The D.C. native graduated from Howard University with a degree in economics and political science.
  3. Rutherford also obtained a law degree and a master's degree in communications management from the University of Southern California. He practiced law as an attorney at Benton Potter and Murdock before getting involved with politics. 
  4. This is Rutherford's first time serving as an elected official. He was appointed to federal office twice by George W. Bush -- once as associate administrator for the U.S. General Services and again as assistant secretary for administration at the USDA, according to his website.
  5. If Gov. Hogan is unable to complete his term, Rutherford would take over under in accordance with the state's constitution, the Washington Post reports. Rutherford would become the first-ever black governor in Maryland and the fifth black governor in U.S. history, according to Reuters.
  6. Rutherford is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and the Howard County chapter of the NAACP, according to the Maryland state archives.
  7. Rutherford has led the effort to combat Maryland's growing heroin problem by assisting Gov. Hogan in creating a task force and orchestrating regional summits throughout the state.
  8. He also actively participated in the planting of a community garden in West Baltimore, one of the new renovations at the BIGGYS Community Center.
  9. Rutherford lives in Columbia, Maryland, with his wife, Monica, and their three children.

<![CDATA["Shocking News to Me": Gov. Hogan Has Cancer]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 23:51:17 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP365239982635_MdGov.jpg

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has been diagnosed with an advanced, aggressive form of cancer, he announced Monday.

Hogan, 59, revealed during a press conference Monday he has B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, describing the diagnosis as "shocking news to me" but appearing determined to fight his illness. He was diagnosed just days ago, he said. 

"I won't just beat this disease, I will fight it and beat it and be a stronger governor when we get to the other side," he said.

Hogan's revelation came five months to the day after he was inaugurated as governor. He said he told his family the tough news on Father's Day, and was surrounded by them in Annapolis when he made his public announcement shortly after 4 p.m. Monday.

He said he has tumors that have spread through his abdomen and are pressing up against his spinal column.

"On a stage [of cancer], we're not quite sure yet," he said. "It's at least very advanced stage III, if not stage IV."

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, the body's disease-fighting network, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Hogan said he was diagnosed after finding a lump under his chin while shaving. "They found 12 more of these things in my neck," he said.

He said he had "20 or 30" more tumors in his core and groin area, adding he has been having many tests and procedures and that his team of doctors are treating his case aggressively.

The governor says his doctors have told him he has a good chance of beating the disease and he will soon be taking time off to undergo aggressive chemotherapy due to the fast-growing nature of his cancer. 

"As far as the treatment, they want to be as aggressive as possible...." he said. "They’re going to put me in the hospital for four days and shoot me with intense chemotherapy in intensive care."

He also said he expects to lose his hair as a result.

"Most likely I'm going to lose my hair -- I won't have these beautiful gray locks," he said. "I may trim down a bit."

He said he didn't know how it started or how long he has had the illness.

"It just hit me in a very short period of time," he said.

Most treatments for non-Hodgkins lymphoma are done without long-term hospitalization, Dr. Catherine Broome of Medstar Georgetown University Hospital said.

"Aggressive lymphomas often respond very well and very quickly to the therapies that we prescribe," she said, describing drugs given intravenously once every three weeks on an outpatient basis.

The governor appeared nervous at the start of his his press conference, but seemed to become more upbeat and confident as he went on. He cracked jokes but said, "It's a tough time to go through."

Hogan said he plans to work as much as he is able, describing himself as a workaholic. He was greeted with laughter when he said that if he halved his work hours, he would still be working more than any other governor.

"I’m going to miss a few meetings but I’ll have every capacity to make decisions," Hogan said. He said Lieutenant Gov. Boyd Rutherford will step up "even more," as will his cabinet.

"The fact is, I'm just like the more than 70,000 people diagnosed with lymphoma every year who fight it, beat it and continue to do their jobs at the same time," Hogan said.

Hogan said he has energy and not much pain, but not much of an appetite, either.

"I've been feeling fine," he said.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Those Lingering Gray Shadows]]> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 08:36:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/vincentgrayclose1.jpg

Former Mayor Vincent Gray was walking on K Street in downtown Washington on Monday. Beside him, a friend and former campaign manager Chuck Thies.

A few people stopped to say hi to the mayor, a few others called out to him. One passerby purposely shook his hand as a measure of support.

Let’s be blunt about it.

A lot of people think Gray lost his 2014 reelection bid and has gotten a bum deal on that 2010 shadow campaign investigation that has passed the five-year mark.

And there appears to be no end in sight.

Gray was a guest Monday on WPFW 89.3 FM radio. Thies was the guest host and promptly disclosed his association with Gray. The two men discussed all sorts of issues and then Thies asked if there were anything new in the federal probe.

“Nothing,” Gray said tersely.

You can’t blame Gray for being tired of the subject.

Five years is a long time to be under investigation by anyone.

Leaving the studio Monday, we pressed Gray for a little more reaction. The Notebook has heard that the probe has made some organizations gun-shy in hiring Gray. Who would want to do that if the probe suddenly erupted into embarrassing criminal charges?

Gray said he is getting on with his life, doing some remodeling on his home, teaching a course at Catholic University and playing amateur baseball once a week. “I’m doing the things I want to do at this stage,” he told us.

But what about that probe?

“Obviously, I wish that [investigation] were over with,” Gray somberly replied. “I think it should be over with, and I hope it is soon.”

Gray’s public remarks prompted another call to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Spokesperson William Miller was characteristically brief and to the point.

“The investigation involving the 2010 mayor’s election is active and ongoing,” he said. That’s a bit stronger than earlier remarks that “the investigation is continuing.”

Some Gray supporters have suggested the probe has come up empty and that prosecutors are just too embarrassed to say. They note that U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen stepped down April 1 without bringing charges against Gray.

“The investigation [itself] is the scandal,” Thies told NBC4. Noting the five-year timeline, Thies said, “It’s clear that Mayor Gray did nothing wrong. He has been saying that for five years. And this thing is just petering out.”

Machen’s deputy Vincent Cohen Jr. is now serving as acting U.S. attorney.
So District citizens are about where they have been the last couple of years. The probe is continuing. Six people have pleaded guilty to various crimes in the case and all await sentencing after cooperating with authorities. But no conclusion yet when it comes to Vincent C. Gray.

■ A new Gray campaign? On the radio show, Thies asked if Gray might consider reviving his political career, maybe running for the council at-large next year or for his home Ward 7? Gray said he hadn’t really thought about it: “I rule nothing out, nothing in.”
And then Gray smiled and briefly chuckled, maybe thinking that’s something he ought to think about.

■ Lesson learned. Lots of D.C. taxpayers and school parents are praising a move by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. He’s suing two D.C. police officers who allegedly defrauded the District out of $224,000 by living in the suburbs but sending their children to D.C. public schools without paying out-of-city tuition.

“You shouldn’t take advantage of the taxpayers of the District of Columbia and expect to get away with it, and suits like these are one of the tools we use to safeguard public integrity,” Racine said in announcing the court case.

The two police officers — one a lieutenant, another a sergeant — are alleged to have violated the D.C. False Claims Act over a 10-year period while they lived in Maryland and Virginia.
The attorney general’s office noted that city lawyers since 2012 have been more aggressively going after parents suspected of school fraud. It said the city has won 13 monetary judgments and reached five out-of-court settlements totaling $773,000.

That’s a good math lesson for any parent out there.

■ Praising UDC’s top lawyer. Dean Shelley Broderick since 1999 has led the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law, helping the school grow into a respected center of learning that focuses on practical, clinical learning and service, with strong accreditation from the American Bar Association.

Later this month, another award is coming her way. The D.C. Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild will cite her “leadership and contributions to the DC legal community.”

If she gets many more awards — there have been too many to name here — she’ll have to take over some of that space in the university’s new student center building (still under construction) to store them.

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

Photo Credit: File Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Former D.C. Government Official Sentenced for Fraud]]> Tue, 16 Jun 2015 19:55:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/generic-gavel.jpg

An aide to former D.C. Council member Harry L. Thomas Jr. was sentenced for fraud Tuesday after helping channel a $110,000 youth and drug prevention grant to fund a 2009 inaugural ball, the D.C. U.S. attorney's office said.

A jury found 62-year-old Neil S. Rodgers guilty of first-degree fraud in March 2015. He was sentenced to 36 days of incarceration and was ordered to pay the $110,000 in restitution by Honorable Senior Judge John D. Bates, a release from the U.S. attorney's office said. He will serve the time over 12 weekends.

Rodgers served as the committee director of the D.C. Council’s Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation and Planning and worked for many years with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.

Thomas, other council members and a local chapter of a political organization run by Thomas’s staffer sponsored the 51st State Inaugural Ball at the Wilson Building in January 2009 in honor of President Barack Obama, acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr. said.

Ticket sales and other contributions did not cover the cost of the ball, resulting in a debt of $100,000.

Thomas enlisted Rodgers help and they contacted the president of a public-private partnership organization that provided grants for youth, the release said. Rodgers submitted false paperwork stating the ball was a youth event, misleading the public-private partnership organization the release said. He also provided multiple copies of budgets and supporting narratives, the release said.

The funds, made from years of D.C. taxpayers donations, originally were kept at the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. The D.C. Council passed legislation which then transferred the funds to the public-private partnership organization. Before the money officially transferred, Rodgers “used his influence” to finalize the transfer of the money and use the funds to pay for the ball, the release said. 

“Rodgers refused to acknowledge that there was anything wrong in the cavalier way that he and Harry Thomas stole from a program for children,” Cohen said.

Thomas pleaded guilty in January 2012 after using more than $350,000 of taxpayer money meant for arts, youth recreation, and summer programs for his own personal benefit, including paying for vehicles, clothing, and trips. He resigned in January 2012 and later began serving his 38-month prison sentence.

Six others have also pleaded guilty to such charges.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Baker Promises to Veto Revised Budget]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 20:56:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/6451107_W6PVANCEDNCRUSHERNBAKERPKG_722x406_37580813.jpg

As Prince George's County residents brace for a property tax hike, there's word the increase could be bigger than expected.

County Executive Rushern Baker claims when the County Council made drastic changes to his proposed 2016 budget, it broke the law.

“I have no other choice but to veto the budget,” he said.

Baker introduced a budget calling for a 15.6 percent property tax increase with the additional revenue earmarked for education. The council revised the number down to 4 percent with no new money going to schools. Now the county executive is requesting an 11.45 percent property tax increase, saying anything less is a violation of the county’s charter.

Andree Green, the attorney for the entire county, stood with Baker Monday, saying the council is in violation and must increase property taxes to avoid a legal battle or the council will not be in compliance with the charter and will be an invalid budget.

In the balance are voters who are waiting to hear just how much higher their property taxes are going to go. They already have some of the highest in the region.

<![CDATA[Former D.C. Mayor Gray Wants End to Federal Probe]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 20:23:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/vincentgrayclose1.jpg

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has been out of office five months, but he has been under federal investigation five years – with no end in sight.

Gray has mostly kept a low profile since turning the city reigns over to Mayor Muriel Bowser Jan. 2, but the investigation was back in the news.

The former mayor sat down at WPFW 89.3 FM radio for a one-hour interview with guest host Chuck Thies. You might remember Thies managed Gray’s 2014 bid for reelection. The two men had a friendly conversation and Thies right off the top acknowledged his association with Gray.

But Thies also asked how the mayor was feeling about the long-running probe into the $600,000 shadow campaign that helped elect Gray in 2010. Gray, in a few terse words, said there was “nothing” new.

After the radio show, Gray spoke a bit more about the probe with News4.

Is it wrapping up? “I have no idea, Tom,” the mayor replied. “That’s something they’ll have to decide.”

Asked if it was interfering with his ability to get on with his life, Gray said, “I’m doing the things that I want to do at this stage.” Gray has worked on remodeling his house, taught a class at Catholic University and worked with a writer on public policy and gentrification, but nothing full time.

“Obviously, I wish that [investigation] were over with. I think it should be over with and I hope it is soon,” Gray said.

Thies spoke up for Gray, a native Washingtonian with a long history of public service.

“The investigation [itself] is the scandal,” Thies said. Noting the five-year investigation, Thies said, “It’s clear that Mayor Gray did nothing wrong. He has been saying that for five years. And this thing is just petering out.”

Longtime U.S. Attorney Ron Machen, who began the probe in the spring of 2011, stepped down April 1st. His long-time deputy Vincent Cohen Jr. is the acting U.S. Attorney.

A spokesman for the office issued a brief statement in response to Gray.

"The investigation involving the 2010 mayor's election is active and on-going,” said William Miller.

Also during the radio program, Thies asked Gray if he’d consider running for any of the council seats open next year. Gray, a former Ward 7 Council member and former Council Chairman, smiled and said, “I rule nothing out, nothing in.” Gray said he hadn’t thought about reviving his political career. But his smile suggested he enjoyed thinking about it today. But political observers say Gray’s future is still contingent on what the U.S. attorney does or doesn’t do.

Photo Credit: File Photo]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. to Target Drug Suppliers, Synthetic Drugs]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 22:05:31 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/061015_bowser.jpg

The Metropolitan Police Department will crack down on the sale of synthetic drugs and focus on the prosecution of suppliers, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced Monday.

"The city is going to target the suppliers who feed dangerous narcotics into our communities and shift away from outdated tactics focused on low-level users," Bowser said at a news conference Monday.

The MPD will increasingly focus on the distribution and sale of synthetic drugs, like MDMA, molly, bizarro, K2 and train wreck.

"The top three drugs – PCP, synthetic drugs, MDMA and other synthetics – are being networked in nightlife areas. And we’re going to go after those aggressively," Lanier said.

The overhaul in the city's drug enforcement policies follows the death on Thursday of a 19-year-old woman believed to have taken the drug molly at a music venue in D.C. The previous week, at least 11 people overdosed on bizarro in downtown D.C.

"When synthetic marijuana hit the market, it made you euphoric. Now it's making you more likely to be psychotic," Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health, said Monday.

The highly addictive drugs can cause psychotic episodes, aggressive behavior and seizures, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Molly, ecstasy and MDMA can cause an excessively high body temperature that can damage the heart, liver and kidneys, Nesbitt previously told News4.

The District is seeing a jump in overdoses from synthetic drugs, D.C. Fire and EMS Acting Chief Gregory Dean said.

"Since April, we’ve seen a spike," he said. "I think we saw like 97 in April, 204 patients in June, and through June 12 we've seen over 140."

MPD will transform seven separate vice units into a citywide drug unit under the Narcotics and Special Investigations division, using "cutting-edge technology." Another group called the Criminal Interdiction Unit will be formed and will focus on how suppliers pursue customers for synthetic drugs.

If Bowser gets Council approval, businesses caught selling synthetic drugs could be fined $10,000 and immediately shut down by Lanier during a 96-hour investigation period. Any business caught selling the potentially deadly drugs could be fined $20,000, shut down for 30 days and potentially lose their business license.

As police work to control the sale and distribution of synthetic drugs, the Department of Health would monitor the health impacts. Under Bowser's plan, hospitals would be required to report when patients turn up in emergency rooms with symptoms they have overdosed on the drugs. These patients would not be prosecuted and information about their drug use would not be shared with city service agencies, Nesbitt said.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander said Monday that she went into a shop in downtown D.C., near the John A. Wilson Building, and easily found synthetic drugs.

"I asked the gentleman if he had any Scooby Snax. He said no initially, and after I encouraged him a bit ... he went under the counter and presented me with a bag with Scooby-Doo on it that was synthetic marijuana," she said.

Acting as an undercover buyer, Alexander said she would have bought the large bag for $40, but when she presented a credit card she was told only cash was accepted.

"It shows me anyone can purchase it and they will sell to anyone," she said.

<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: "Do You Live IN the City?"]]> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 06:09:30 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/181*120/450703440.jpg

When traveling, as the Notebook has been doing recently, the question comes easily as soon as you say you’re from Washington, D.C.

“In the city?” The inquisitor’s eyebrows pop up. The eyes widen just a bit as the information is processed. “In the city?”

It’s a remnant of the District’s waning but ever-present reputation as a drug-, crime- and murder-infested place. Who would live there, people indirectly ask. And when you casually say the city has gained 100,000 new citizens in the past dozen years, the questioner can be incredulous.

We are a long way from the halting turnaround that began with the federal control board and Mayor Anthony Williams, continuing with every mayor since. But the widespread misunderstanding of the nation’s capital remains.

It’s no help that the country as a whole holds the federal government here in low regard. In total, it amounts to a high bar for those who seek congressional voting rights or the elusive statehood.

■ Stealing the good image. We probably have enough government agencies, but maybe we need one more. It would go after any person or group that appropriates our city for its own purposes, commercial or otherwise. We’re looking at you, National Harbor, and you, Washington Redskins, and all you suburban residents who claim you’re from D.C. when you really live on 10,000 Endless Boulevard somewhere in Virginia or Maryland.

When we challenge those suburban residents, many often say, “Well, I used to live in Washington,” or worse, “I’m a native Washingtonian” as if that granted some sort of dispensation. Yes, you may be a native, but your address has a suburban ZIP code and your taxes collect in Annapolis or Richmond.

■ Speaking of ZIP codes. The U.S. Postal Service used to have ZIP codes in D.C. that bled over into suburban Maryland addresses. More than a few businesses in Bethesda or Takoma Park had official Washington, D.C., addresses. Under pressure from then-Mayor Marion Barry in the 1980s, the U.S. Postal Service realigned the boundaries. It may seem like a small matter, but our own pride of place is a prerequisite for the rest of the nation caring about us.

■ Howland hauls it in. The director of the D.C. Department of Public Works this past week announced he’s calling it quits after 11 years on the front lines of leading the agency. He began with Mayor Williams and stayed around for Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray. Both he and Mayor Muriel Bowser say it was Howland’s decision to call it quits, even though he has no other job lined up. Still, it’s believable because Bowser hasn’t been shy about assembling her own team, and Howland set his own departure date for later this month.

The Washington Post quoted Bowser praising Howland on Saturday at a public works event: “Bill has served with excellence for four mayors of the District of Columbia. We are very grateful … .” Despite all of the troubles the city has had with snow removal and trash collections, Howland has made the department run far better. Best wishes to him.

■ Waving the flag. Each year, about 100,000 American flags are hoisted above and hauled down from the U.S. Capitol, according to the architect of the Capitol. The ceremonial flags are given away as souvenirs by members of the House and Senate.

Now, the practice could be coming to the District as well, thanks to new Ward 6 D.C. Council member Charles Allen. "After constituents asked me how to get a DC flag flown over the Wilson Building, I discovered we don’t have this program in the District," he said in announcing his bill to create the practice. He noted that many states also have similar programs. But there’s a difference for D.C.

"The flag’s iconic design — three red stars over two red bars on a white field — was rated as America’s best flag by the North American Vexillological Association," Allen said. "While an impressive honor, it is also an ironic one, as the best flag in the nation belongs to a jurisdiction that is still denied voting representation in Congress."

■ A final word. When Jim Vance, Doreen Gentzler or any other front-line anchors have spoken on the NBC4 studio set, their words easily could have come from Angela Oakley, a clear-headed journalist and warmhearted human working in our newsroom.

The newsroom was devastated this past week when Angela died after a long battle with cancer. If it were possible, she probably could have put her skills to work making this final word better said. But she's not here anymore. And we're all very sad about that.

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

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Residents Question Legality of Prince George's Property Tax Hike]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 22:04:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010667624_1200x675_454237251635.jpg It was an attempt to raise money for Prince George's County Public Schools, but a property tax hike isn't big enough to cover anything more than state mandated pensions. Now some residents are questioning the legality of the hike. County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins has the impact of the hike.]]> <![CDATA[Council Votes to Extend Parking Meter Hours]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 17:36:19 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_90399031.jpg

The D.C. Council voted Wednesday to extend the hours that parking meters are in effect in some of the city's busiest areas, and to increase the amount of parking fines issued in D.C. by $5.

The vote averted Mayor Muriel Bowser's proposal to raise some taxes. Bowser had proposed increasing  the sales tax to six percent, as it is in Maryland and Northern Virginia. She had also suggested raising the tax on parking lots and garages.

But several members of the D.C. Council opposed raising taxes. Chairman Phil Mendelson proposed extending the hours for parking meters in areas such as Adams Morgan, Georgetown and the downtown business district.

"Our revenues are growing by hundreds of millions of dollars a year; we don't need to be raising taxes and in fact the recommendation that the council's considering doesn't require us to raise taxes," Mendelson said Tuesday.

The Council approved the suggestion Wednesday, but fiscal watchdogs said Tuesday either choice would have been good news for D.C.'s less fortunate.

The budget provides millions of dollars for affordable housing and services for the homeless.

"More money for things that are important to D.C. residents, like affordable housing, homeless services and assistance to crime victims, that's all great news," said Ed Lazeer of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute on Tuesday.

The change to parking meters will go into effect in October in the following neighborhoods:

  • Adams Morgan
  • Georgetown Historic District
  • Penn Quarter/Chinatown
  • U Street NW Corridor
  • Downtown Central Business District
  • Maine Avenue and Water Street SW
  • The National Mall
  • Wisconsin Avenue NW (from Van Ness Street to Western Avenue)

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Parking Changes Could Come to Several D.C. Neighborhoods]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 06:15:00 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_180586001.jpg

Parking is about to get more expensive in the district — but it remains to be seen whether it's the cost of on-street parking or private lots that will go up.

The D.C. Council will decide Wednesday between Mayor Muriel Bowser's proposal to raise some taxes or the council chairman's plan to extend hours for parking meters. Either option will make it more expensive to park in the district.

Bowser wants to raise the sales tax to six percent just like it is in Maryland and Northern Virginia. She also wants to raise the tax on parking lots and garages.

"We believe that we have put together a fair and balanced budget that addresses the priorities of the residents of the District of Columbia," Bowser said.

Several members of the D.C. Council are against raising taxes. Instead of raising sales and parking taxes, on Tuesday, Chairman Phil Mendelson proposed extending the hours parking meters are in effect in areas like Adams Morgan, Georgetown and the downtown business district.

Mendelson also wants to increase the cost of all parking tickets issued in D.C. by $5.

"Our revenues are growing by hundreds of millions of dollars a year; we don't need to be raising taxes and in fact the recommendation that the council's considering doesn't require us to raise taxes," Mendelson said.

The council will vote Wednesday on which proposal becomes law. Fiscal watchdogs say either choice is good news for the district's less fortunate.

"More money for things that are important to D.C. residents, like affordable housing, homeless services and assistance to crime victims, that's all great news," said Ed Lazeer of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

Parking changes are coming to the following neighborhoods:

  • Adams Morgan
  • Georgetown Historic District
  • Penn Quarter/Chinatown
  • U Street NW Corridor
  • Downtown Central Business District
  • Maine Avenue and Water Street SW
  • The National Mall
  • Wisconsin Avenue NW (from Van Ness Street to Western Avenue)

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[The Week Ahead: Perry’s Big Week in Iowa]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 09:12:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

GOP candidate Rick Perry campaigns across Iowa, Kerry heads to China and South Korea amidst rising regional tensions and a 2016 presidential race update.

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<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Militarized Policing Takes a Hit]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 05:38:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/topNews-obama-militarization-police.jpg

Is it an Army Ranger maneuvering down the street, or your neighborhood police officer?

Is it a Marine assault task force, or the county sheriff’s office?

Since the late 1990s, it’s been difficult to tell the difference between America’s armed forces and what are supposed to be local police departments.

But that’s changing.

President Barack Obama announced on Monday that the Department of Defense would scale back its freewheeling program of selling billions of dollars of surplus military assault weapons for pennies on the dollar to local law enforcement officers.

The list of newly banned sales includes “tanks and other tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition measuring .50-caliber and larger, grenade launchers and bayonets,” according to NBC News.

Local law enforcement groups that participate in the remaining program must also adopt community policing programs that require regular interaction between officers and the public. The New York Times reported that $160 million in federal funds will help local police adopt those community-friendly policies.

The decision to scale back the police militarization came from the president’s task force on police and community relations. That task force was headed by Philadelphia Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who formerly led D.C. police.

The report in part says, “The substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement.”

The Department of Defense program (DOD 1033) began operating in 1997 after it was created with the National Defense Authorization of 1990. In part, it was to wean the overstuffed military equipment stockpiles and to give more firepower to local police fighting the War on Drugs. As Newsweek magazine said at the time, if police were going to be fighting a war, then the police needed to be armed for it.

A report said that as of 2014 there were 8,000 law enforcement agencies signed up to buy equipment and that nearly $6 billion in off-price sales had been recorded.

The militarization of police, some feel, began to fall out of favor with the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo. Whatever the tipping point, police officers face real problems in combating crime, potential terrorism or domestic violence like the biker shootout in Waco, Texas.

But day to day, they also are members of our communities. They are sworn to uphold the law, not to occupy the streets. Community policing needs to mean something, even in — or most especially in — “bad neighborhoods.”

The police and all citizens should welcome a more realistic look at how we arm our police officer neighbors.

■ Initial praise. In suburban Maryland, the president’s decision to curb police militarization won immediate praise from Montgomery County Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

With the Baltimore riot fresh in everyone’s mind, Van Hollen released a statement on Monday.
“President Obama’s decision to limit military-style equipment for local police forces is a productive step toward community oriented policing,” Van Hollen said. “We must address the fear and distrust of law enforcement that exists in too many of our communities.”

Van Hollen is a co-sponsor of a bill in Congress (the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act) that goes even further.

The American Civil Liberties Union also issued its support. Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel in the ACLU’s Washington office, said the president’s move is “a critical step towards rebuilding trust between police and the people they are pledged to serve.”

The ACLU released a recent report “War Comes Home” detailing the military sales.

■ Bad call. The Notebook last week wrote pretty glowingly of the city’s sports teams, only to see the Wizards and Caps flame out of playoff berths. Maryland State Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County took a moment on the WAMU “Politics Hour” last Friday to blame us for the collapse.

Fortunately the Nationals didn’t disappoint, compiling a 5-2 record during their recent West Coast road trip. And Monday, right fielder Bryce Harper was named the National League Player of the Week for the second week in a row. That’s a back-to-back feat achieved by only 10 players since the weekly award began in 1974.

Just for the record, Harper went 12 for 23 in the week to have an out-of-sight batting average of .522. He accounted for three home runs, one triple, two doubles, nine walks, two stolen bases and 10 runs.

So, we weren’t a jinx to everyone.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Considers New Definition of "Assaulting a Police Officer"]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 23:32:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010544641_1200x675_447852099874.jpg

In the district, what it means to assault a police officer may soon change.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced that she agrees the broadly written law should be changed to reflect real, physical assaults. According to a new report by WAMU’s Patrick Madden, infractions as minor as wiggling while handcuffed or yelling at an officer can constitute an assault charge.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh will propose a bill to precisely define what assaulting an officer means. It’s a welcome move to fellow politicians and even members of the police union who say the current law is hard on them as well.

“For example, in Maryland, I could charge you with resisting arrest,” said D.C. Police Union member Delroy Burton. “In D.C., I have to charge you with assaulting a police officer.”

Madden’s report details the arrests for “assault on a police officer” from 2012-2014. The report finds that the charge was used as much for crowd control as it was for actual crimes. According to Madden’s report, many “assault” cases involved minimal physical contact and were never prosecuted.

Council hearings on changing the law could be held soon.

<![CDATA[The Week Ahead: Santorum Makes it Official]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:44:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

GOP candidates Rick Santorum and George Pataki join the presidential fray, Rand Paul attacks “liberal failures” -- and a quick update on the total number of candidates. 

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<![CDATA[The Week Ahead: Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro to Meet?]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 09:17:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

Cuba gets first invite in 50 years to Summit of the Americas, Rand Paul enters the presidential fray, NRA convention in Nashville, and check out our Week Ahead Manor garden!

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<![CDATA[The Week Ahead: Hillary Enters the Fray]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:45:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

Hillary Clinton makes it official, Marco Rubio does too, President Obama meets with the Iraqi Prime Minister, GOP contenders gather in New Hampshire and I get my donuts!

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<![CDATA[The Week Ahead: Gay Marriage Debate At Supreme Court]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 09:02:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

Justices hear arguments on gay marriage, Japanese Prime Minister Abe meets with President Obama, the House takes up the gyrocopter incident and candidates hit the money trail.

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<![CDATA[The Week Ahead: VE Day Airshow Over D.C.]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:42:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

World War II Warbirds commemorate victory in Europe; Fiorina, Carson and Huckabee may enter the 2016 fray. A new NBC/WSJ poll and the Week Ahead look at where the candidates stand.

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<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: D.C. Sports and That 'Skins Name]]> Thu, 14 May 2015 09:51:38 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_231981787.jpg

There have been explosive cheers in town recently for the Washington Wizards, the Capitals, D.C. United and the Nationals. In one Nats game last week, Bryce Harper hit three home runs; maybe it's a taste of what's to come from his career.

Unfortunately, the Capitals lost Game 7 in overtime to the Rangers on Wednesday night. And John Wall's wrist injury is complicating the Wizards' route to the Eastern Conference finals. But overall, it's good news for D.C. sports.

"Our hockey team, our basketball team, our soccer team, our baseball team -- all located in the city -- are all doing great," says Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who commented before the Caps' collapse on Sunday.

The only real sour spot? The Washington Redskins play in the suburbs.

Ever since Mayor Tony Williams took office in 1999, Evans and other city leaders have been trying to get the football team to return to the District, ideally with a domed stadium located on the site of the old RFK -- and paid for by the team, not taxpayers. Williams talked strategy about bringing in the team throughout his tenure, as did Adrian Fenty.

Then-Mayor Vincent Gray also backed bringing the 'Skins to the city, but he aggressively joined the campaign to force the team to change its name. Gray got to the point where he would not even say "Redskins."

Mayor Muriel Bowser is aware of the name controversy, but she also sees a billion-dollar business that belongs in the city. She made a strategic decision to send a message to the team by sparingly using the "Redskins" name in her quotes.

"We know that the perfect location for the Redskins is where they played for decades very successfully," she told NBC4 last week. "We have the infrastructure sitting on top of a Metro station" at the RFK site. She also made similar comments to WMAL radio last week and again on Monday to NBC4's Mark Segraves.

Both Bowser and Evans say any new stadium would coexist with lots of land turned over to local development for long-sought retail, grocery stores, playgrounds and open space for residents who live near RFK.

"We have the ability to make it more than a sports stadium," Bowser told us. "The surrounding neighborhoods want more play spaces, more active areas for children and families."

Many of those residents are skeptical they can benefit from the team's arrival. Ward 6 D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who represents the area, flatly told NBC4, "I do not support the team coming back to RFK." Allen suggested he might support the team at a different location "with the right plan."

But at a minimum, D.C. leaders feel they're back in the game. Team sources have indicated that Prince George's County may have trouble keeping the team with the FedEx Field lease expiring in a few years. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has bragged that the team would be relocating to Loudoun County.

Evans scoffs at the transportation problems in Prince George's that would be replicated in Loudoun. "There's no better site than RFK in the metropolitan region," Evans said. "And everybody knows it."

■ MLB "security" barriers. Major League Baseball should leave the playing of games on the field.

At Nats Park and elsewhere, MLB is requiring the use of metal detectors. That's even though there is no credible -- or even sorta credible -- evidence that ballparks are any more a terrorist target than are any other site of mass gathering. We were outside the center field gate on Opening Day. The Nats get a pat on the back (not a "pat down") for having tried to usher fans quickly through the new metal detectors. Still, a crowd of several hundred, maybe more than a thousand, fans were queued up just outside the gates. Well, we thought ominously, what a perfect place for a terrorist to set off a bomb.

That kind of horrible incident would have impact whether it was inside or outside the gate. So what good are the metal detectors here?

The same is true, as we've written, about the thousands of families that line up at Orlando's airport security stations. The crowds are brimming with parents, children and stuffed Mickeys and Minnies. There's no security for this captive crowd, where anyone intending harm can just walk up.

These scenes of potential destruction and horror and death are replicated all over our free country. And that's the point. Security bureaucrats are spending trillions of dollars on buzzers and barriers and bomb-sniffing equipment in a Sisyphean frenzy to make Americans "feel" safe. But no matter how many security barriers they roll uphill, it never will be enough.

Washington Post writer Alexandra Petri recently derided the MLB initiative, noting that it was also possible "that someone could fire a blow dart at me RIGHT NOW and I should stop typing to duck under the desk."

More seriously, she quoted "security theater" critic Bruce Schneier on the ballpark idea.

"As a security measure, the new devices are laughable," Schneier writes. "The ballpark metal detectors are much more lax than the ones at an airport checkpoint. They aren't very sensitive -- people with phones and keys in their pockets are sailing through -- and there are no X-ray machines."

There are too many places in America where crowds gather in significant numbers: subway stations, shopping malls, theaters, museums, houses of worship, schools and colleges, train track crossings, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Security bureaucracy, security theater, security scare tactics -- whatever you call it, it's not the way to live lives in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

■ The real fear. We always feel the need to point out the real fear of all these security folks, no matter where they are. That fear is that something terrible will happen and some member of Congress or some department head will ask the most dreaded of questions: "Why didn't you...?" Whatever the incident, there's always something that could have been done or shouldn't have been done.

There is no foolproof defense against any of that second-guessing. None.

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

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[The Week Ahead: Hillary’s Email Troubles]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:53:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141205+The+Week+Ahead.jpg

Chuck Todd examines Hillary’s email issues on Meet the Press, a Clinton Foundation report on Women, Rick Perry hits New Hampshire and Jill Biden hits SXSW.

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