<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.comen-usWed, 29 Mar 2017 07:28:25 -0400Wed, 29 Mar 2017 07:28:25 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Play Ball…Y’all ]]> Wed, 29 Mar 2017 06:30:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/nats-park.jpg

A lot is going on.

First, the fun stuff.

Opening day for the Nationals is Monday against the Miami Marlins.

Your Notebook took in a Nats spring training game last week in West Palm Beach, checking in with local fans at the team’s new Florida ballpark.

“This is very nice,” said retired federal worker Roy Redmond, a Virginia resident, looking around the 6,500-seat stadium that is shared with the Houston Astros. Workers rushed to get it completed in less than 18 months, laying out a first-class locker room for players and party decks, private suites and grassy picnic areas for fans. There’s a 360-degree view of the field from the main concourse, just like at Nats ballpark here.

It’s a major change from the previous, small-town facility in Viera, Fla. But big and new and shiny do come at a cost.

Redmond, the fan from Nokesville in suburban Virginia’s Prince William County, was a regular at Viera, too. The new place “is not as folksy or homey,” he told us. “But we’ll keep coming.”

Redmond and his wife Trish were in seats behind home plate as the Nats were preparing for a game against the New York Yankees. The ballpark was filling up. Baseball was in the air.

Silver Spring resident Ann Henson also was in the seats. A resident of Leisure World, she had driven down with two close friends. She and her husband, Larry, had been fans of the Nats since their arrival a decade ago. But this trip was the first without her husband, who died in January.

“This is part of my grief therapy,” she said, looking around the ballpark. “This is a beautiful space.” With the season set to open, Henson said she expects the Nats to make the playoffs again, but worries they don’t yet have a closer able to carry the team. And she and many others who follow the team from Florida to the home field in Washington will be watching every pitch Monday.

■ Play ball policing. It’s a truism that public safety is a cornerstone of local politics everywhere.

The D.C. Council just wrapped up its third and final hearing on whether to confirm interim Police Chief Peter Newsham as Mayor Muriel Bowser’s next chief. The final hearing by Judiciary and Public Safety Committee chair Charles Allen, the Ward 6 member, on Friday lasted 11 hours. More than 80 witnesses signed up. The previous two hearings were held in the community, but this was the chance to hear from Newsham himself.

Some council members attended all or part of the hearings, and several council members left and returned to ask specific questions of Newsham.

He got some aggressive questions from Allen, as well as at-large Council member David Grosso. Newsham is expected to be confirmed easily when the council votes within the next few weeks, but we’re hearing it won’t be unanimous.

■ Election Day daze. In recent years, the D.C. Council primary elections have been held in April, June and September. It’s been a mash-up of dates to comply with federal rules that final ballots must be mailed overseas to military and government personnel within a time frame to be counted with all the other ballots.

Right now, the 2018 primary for mayor and council seats is set for Sept. 4. But candidates planning to run in that primary had better pay attention to the D.C. Council, as the date could change again.

Council member Allen’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee oversees the Board of Elections, and he has introduced a bill to permanently move the city primaries to the month of June, beginning with next year’s elections. The new date would be June 19. If it passes, that means mayoral candidates like Mayor Bowser may have to announce sooner than they had planned.

“As the chair of the committee with oversight, I take the risk of violating federal election law very seriously,” Allen said when introducing his legislation. “Moving the primary date to June gives the Board of Elections the time it needs.”

Allen noted that the June 19 date would be just after the school year ends, avoiding conflicts with closing ceremonies and other activities. It also doesn’t impinge on Memorial Day or Labor Day.

The current council members and Bowser won the last primary held on April 1, 2014. (We’ve heard all the April Fool jokes, thank you.) In addition to being a joke date, it meant that then-incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, defeated by Bowser, remained in office until Jan. 2, 2015. Whatever date the city chooses, and whoever is elected, we hope there’s not a lead time like that ever again.

■ Get on the bus, Gus. Our neighbors in Montgomery County are getting a new rapid bus transit system. The county held an online contest to see what its name would be.

The winning name was “Flash.” It got 463 votes against “Rapid” (370) and “Swift” (382).

But we were intrigued with the 300-plus other write-in names for the bus system. There were the predictable grumpy ones like “Waste of Money” and “Doomed to Fail.” There were some that were fun to say: “MoCoGo” and “HoCoMoCo GoGo.”

But we liked these also-ran ideas: “Bussey McBusface.” “Quicky & Hustle.” “Bust-a-Move.”

And finally, my winner, “The Full Monty.”

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DC to Expand Police Cadet Training Program]]> Wed, 29 Mar 2017 06:13:56 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/218*120/2017-03-29_0612.png

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser says the city will invest $1.6 million in the expansion of the city's police cadet training program. 

Bowser's office said in a statement Tuesday that the investment will allow the police department to double the number of police cadets from 35 to 70. 

The police cadet training program allows high school graduates in the District of Columbia to attend the University of the District of Columbia on a full tuition scholarship while also working for the police department. Once a cadet earns 60 credit hours they're eligible to become police recruits and complete their Police Academy training. 

The city's police chief, Peter Newsham, said in Tuesday's statement that the program is a "tremendous asset'' to the department.

<![CDATA[New Programs to Engage Girls in DC Schools]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 19:08:44 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170327+Bowser.jpg

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new, million-dollar program to engage young women in middle and high school with after-school and other enrichment programs. This follows the creation of an all-male middle and high school to focus on teen boys last year. The girls' programs will be spread among schools citywide. News4's Tom Sherwood reports.

<![CDATA[Maryland Democrats Oppose Trump's Budget]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 12:57:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000018230560_1200x675_907388483890.jpg

President Donald Trump's budget proposal is getting some strong reaction here in the D.C. area. 
Democrats in Montgomery County came out to oppose it Monday. They say these are critical times for the state of Maryland, citing cuts in programs protecting the Chesapeake Bay.

<![CDATA[Local Lawmakers' Phones Ring Off the Hook With Calls About Health Care]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 20:33:14 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/imageedit_2_4578398019.jpg

Local lawmakers said they were inundated with calls from people weighing in on the Republicans' health care bill. Scott MacFarlane reports from Capitol Hill.

Photo Credit: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe Report: DC Gun Laws Must Be Stiffer]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 19:55:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_16340258437479-Comet-Ping-Pong-Gunman.jpg

Latest: Welch pleaded guilty to a federal charge of transporting a firearm and a D.C. charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. Because he pleaded guilty to a felony, he loses his right to possess a firearm in the United States. See full coverage here.

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

Let’s be generous with Edgar Maddison Welch, the misguided Pizzagate shooter, and try to see him through his parents’ eyes.

“I want people to know he’s not the monster he’s portrayed to be,” his mother Terri told the Washington Post last December, a few weeks after her son shot up Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in northwest D.C.

Welch is scheduled to appear in federal court Friday to finalize a plea deal.

To his family, the 28-year-old is a loving, responsible father to his two young girls. He’s the uncle who’d go surfing, fishing and crabbing with the kids. He’d volunteered with his church to build houses in Haiti after an earthquake.

But to the folks who showed up for a pizza pie at Comet Ping Pong the first Sunday last December, he’s the guy who stalked in with an assault rifle, pointed it at a server and fired some rounds in the floor.

His parents live down a long driveway from Welch in the North Carolina town of Salisbury. They had no clue their boy had been seduced by raging lunatics on social media who had concocted a conspiracy that had Hillary Clinton running a sex trafficking ring from the basement of Comet Ping Pong. They were surprised to learn their kid had armed himself and driven north with the intention of shooting his way into Comet and liberating the children.

Giving Welch every benefit, I come away with one essential conclusion: This adoring dad and playful uncle must never, ever be permitted to possess a firearm again – ever.

Welch faces up to 35 years for various firearm offenses, including assault with a dangerous weapon. If Welch pleads guilty to a felony, by federal law he will lose his right to possess a firearm, nationwide, as it should be.

But if prosecutors allow him to bargain down to a misdemeanor, he could serve time and pay a fine, yet still maintain the right to bear arms.

That’s not likely, but it’s possible. That possibility should be taken off the books.

Here’s where lawmakers can draw a line and reduce gun violence: anyone who uses a firearm in a crime of violence or carries a gun without a license loses the right to bear arms, period, whether it results in a felony or misdemeanor.

Brandish a gun in a crime of violence? Lose the right to bear arms.

Show up at a former lover’s place with a gun in your hand? Forget packing heat, ever again.

Carry a pistol without a license? Yes, lose the right to possess a gun forever.

“If someone wants to get a gun illegally, we can’t stop that,” says retired D.C. police lieutenant Lowell Duckett, “but if they get caught using that gun in a crime – we can step in and say: never again.”

The District has strong laws prohibiting criminals from gun possession. Under D.C. Code 22-4503, any person convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a year or more cannot possess a firearm. Same for a fugitive, anyone addicted to controlled substances, subject to various court orders, or convicted of an intra-family offense in the last five years.

Even those laws could be stiffened, especially for juveniles. For example, anyone convicted of CPWL -- carrying a pistol without a license -- should lose the right to possess a gun, regardless of age. A second CPWL should result in a felony and jail time.

What law, you might ask, actually stops someone from carrying around a gun illegally, without a permit? None of the above. But if that a felon or a misdemeanor offender is caught with a weapon, they face significant jail terms.

The message that carrying around guns will put you in jail for hard time must permeate the community.

Back to Edgar Welch. If he leaves court Friday with a misdemeanor rather than a felony, he could cross the Potomac, buy a gun in Virginia and return to Comet to “self-investigate” the sex ring. The Old Dominion does not prohibit those convicted of misdemeanor gun offenses from owning a firearm.

Whether one state honors another state’s gun laws is complicated, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

North Carolina has stiffer laws. A “misdemeanor assault by pointing a gun, as defined by state law” is enough to lose your right to bear arms in that state, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Let’s hope Welch never touches a firearm again. That would square with one of the NRA’s favorite maxims: It’s the person, not the gun. As a person, Welch has disqualified himself.

We are awash in guns here in the nation’s capital. Illegal weapons flow in from all corners, especially Virginia. Thieves have hit four gun shops in the region in the past month and stolen weaponry from three. No doubt some will wind up on our streets.

There’s no stopping the endless supply of pistols and assault rifles. DC police recovered 79 illegal weapons over the last three weeks, D.C. police report, adding up to a typical take of 25 guns every week. 

There’s no stopping misguided congressmen and senators from trying to neuter the District’s ability to regulate guns.

But we can strengthen our laws to make sure anyone carrying or using a gun for criminal activities loses the right to bear arms.

That certainly applies to Edgar Maddox Welch. Whether he’s a monster or not, he should never be able to possess a gun again.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Montgomery County Rejects Trump's 'Devastating' Budget Plan]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 18:35:44 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/032117+montgomery+county+council.jpg

The government of Montgomery County, Maryland, is rejecting President Donald Trump's proposed budget, which would have a major impact on the county's many federal workers.

All nine members of the Montgomery County Council, who all are Democrats, voted Tuesday to pass a resolution "to condemn President Trump's federal budget proposal and to urge the United States Congress to reject it on behalf of Montgomery County residents."

Councilmembers say they are fighting to save jobs. The federal government employs 48,000 county residents.

Trump's budget blueprint, released Thursday, would cut funding to many domestic programs and boost the Pentagon's budget. Located in the county, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) alone faces a 20 percent budget cut.

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen said she was baffled by Trump's priorities.

"It is so off the wall. It is so devastating to everything that we stand for as a nation," she said.

Council President Roger Berliner called on Maryland's Republican governor, Larry Hogan, to stand up to the proposed cuts to the NIH budget, like the Republican governor of Massachusetts did.

"Montgomery County is the economic engine of the State of Maryland, so our Maryland governor has a direct stake in the outcome of this debate, and he's been silent," Berliner said.

Councilman Craig Rice said he opposed Trump's proposal to eliminate federal funds for Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.

"We're seeing the crab population and the oyster population come back. We're seeing the healthiness of the bay, and that ends up being an effort that's bipartisan. To jeopardize that with decreased funding is a huge mistake," he said. 

Members of the Council said they were not aware of any other local governments that had formally opposed a president's budget proposal. They said they hope local governments across the country follow their lead.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Cat in the Hat, Pro-PBS Families Deliver Petitions on Hill]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:31:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/032117+pbs+cat+in+the+hat.jpg

Children, parents and the Cat in the Hat headed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to support public television.

Advocates for PBS Kids say they gathered more than 660,000 signatures on petitions urging lawmakers to reject President Donald Trump's proposal to eliminate funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which partially funds the TV station.

The Washington director of MoveOn.org, Ben Wikler, said he wanted his 2-year-old and 5-year-old children to be able to watch PBS.

"We want to save PBS Kids so our kids can see the same great, kid-friendly programming that we enjoyed for kids," he said. "This is the kind of stuff you want your kids to grow up with. It's positive, it's educational, it's fun, and it helps make us better citizens."

Trump's budget blueprint, released Thursday, would cut funding to CPB and many domestic programs in favor of financing a significant increase in the military.

PBS president Paula Kerger issued a statement describing support for PBS from voters of all stripes.

"PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country," she said in a statement.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[DC Searching for Missing People Using Social Media]]> Thu, 16 Mar 2017 14:00:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000018116897_1200x675_899601987975.jpg

D.C. police are using social media to help find missing persons, including children. Acting Police Chief Peter Newsham said the year-over-year number of missing persons, including juveniles, has held steady, and that there is no known link in D.C. now between missing people and human trafficking. News4's Kristin Wright reports.

<![CDATA[DC Mayor Proposing Green Bank to Fund Clean Energy Projects]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 20:22:18 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/solar7.jpg

Washington, D.C., could become the first city in the country to establish a green bank, a tool used to help invest public funds in clean energy projects.

Mayor Muriel Bowser will introduce legislation to create a green bank in the next few weeks, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

Green banks offer traditional banking services like loans, leases and credit enhancements intended to improve funding for clean energy projects, the statement said. Unlike traditional banks, their financial capital comes from public funds.

D.C.’s green bank would be intended to help fund projects like Nixon Peabody’s community solar project, a collection of solar panels on three commercial rooftops in downtown D.C. that provides energy to low-income residents in Southeast and Southwest.

“[A green bank] should help tremendously,” said Jeff Lesk, managing partner of Nixon Peabody’s D.C. office. “Because the debt that we got was from a great, mission-oriented lender, but they can only have so much capacity. They can only make so many loans for this type of project.”

The funding provided by green banks isn’t intended to fully fund projects, but to encourage private funding by reducing risk and providing a secure government partnership, the statement said.

“The D.C. green bank will pair private capital with public investment to more efficiently achieve our ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Department of Energy and Environment Director Tommy Wells in the statement.

Herb Stevens, chief innovation officer at Nixon Peabody, said he sees companies are willing to get involved in environmental projects when governments provide financial help through a green bank.

“The whole idea of the green bank is to attract new private capital that wouldn’t have come in if the district hadn’t led the way,” Stevens said.

A green bank would create jobs and be a step toward reaching sustainability goals set in Climate Ready D.C., the city’s climate change readiness plan, the mayor said in the statement.

Although D.C. would be the first city with a green bank, it wouldn’t be able to boast the first green bank in the region overall. Montgomery County Council voted to establish a county green bank in June 2015, which is scheduled to be funded this month.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. AG Proposes Legislation to Better Protect Scam Victims]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 19:53:53 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Attorney+General+Karl+Racine.jpg

D.C.’s attorney general submitted legislation Wednesday to better protect consumers from fraud and other abuses.

The District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act has helped hundreds of residents, but Attorney General Karl Racine wants it to do more. He’s trying to bring the law in line with other states’ best practices.

Currently, D.C. law does not provide the attorney general's office the authority to go after a business merely because its practices are unfair to consumers. Prohibiting unfair business practices would give them the power to go after deceptive businesses.

Racine also proposed increasing penalties for businesses found in violation of the consumer protection law and making it easier to enforce settlements reached by his office. The attorney general would be able to get injunctions to stop repeat offenders who violate prior settlements with the District.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[Snow Shoveling Laws: When Is Your Deadline?]]> Tue, 14 Mar 2017 17:20:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_243809104.jpg

If you don't clear your sidewalk in D.C. or some other local jurisdictions... it could cost you.

After more than 2 inches of snow fell in D.C., District officials will enforce the law that fines property owners who fail to remove snow and ice, a Department of Public Works spokeswoman said.

"We will be enforcing 24 hours after the end of the storm," Zy Richardson said.

A law signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in June 2015 makes not shoveling at a residential property "within 24 hours after the snow or other precipitation has ceased to fall" punishable with a $25 fine. At a commercial property, the fine is $150.

Property owners can delegate shoveling responsibilities to tenants, but the owners still are on the hook for any tickets. Go here to read the full law.

Anyone unable to clear snow and ice can apply for an exemption from the city. 

The DC Commission on National and Community Service is seeking volunteers who will shovel for their neighbors. Go here to sign up to help.

Read on for the shoveling laws in other areas.


Montgomery County: Residents and businesses must clear sidewalks around their property within 24 hours after a snowstorm ends.

  • Barnesville, Brookville, Chevy Chase Section 5, the village of Chevy Chase and Poolesville follow these rules, as do unincorporated areas such as Silver Spring.

Other city rules are listed below and on the Montgomery County website:

  • Takoma Park: Residents must clear sidewalks before 7 p.m. on the day of snowfall or four daylight hours after nighttime snow (whichever is later).
  • Rockville: Residents and business owners have between 24 and 72 hours to shovel their sidewalks. The more snow on the ground, the longer you'll have to shovel. (For up to 3 inches of snow, you must shovel within 24 hours; from 3 to 9 inches, you have 48 hours; for 10 inches or more, you have 72 hours).
  • Gaithersburg: Residents and business owners have 12 hours to shovel after snow stops falling.

Prince George's County: Residents must have their sidewalks cleared by 48 hours after snowfall. After a warning period, county inspectors can issue a $100 fine for sidewalks that have not been shoveled, according to the county's website.

City of Frederick: The city of Frederick requires residents to shovel their sidewalks 12 hours after the end of snow, according to the city's website.


City of Alexandria: Residents have between 24 and 72 hours to shovel, depending on the storm response level, which you can check online here. At Level 1, you have 24 hours to shovel; at Level 2, you have 48 hours; at Level 3, you have 72 hours.

Arlington County: Shovel within 24 hours of snow accumulation of fewer than six inches. Snowfall of more than six inches must be cleared within 36 hours. The shoveling deadline will be posted on the Arlington website, along with tips for residents who are physically unable to shovel.

Fairfax County and the city of Fairfax: Residents are encouraged but not legally obligated to shovel their sidewalks. See more on the county website here and the city website here.

City of Falls Church: Residents have 12 hours after snow to shovel their sidewalks, or risk a fine. If snow falls overnight, residents have 12 hours after sunrise to remove it.

City of Manassas: Residents have 12 hours after snow to shovel their sidewalks. If snow fell overnight, residents have until 5 p.m. the following day, according to the city's website.

Loudoun County: Generally, property owners in Loudoun County have six hours, or until noon the day after a nighttime snowfall, to clear sidewalks. The exception is on Sundays, when they have until noon Monday.

Prince William County: Residents are encouraged but not legally required to shovel their sidewalks, according to the county's website.

To stay safe while you shovel, scoop small amounts of snow at a time, push snow instead of lifting it and lift with your legs, not your back.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Cows on the National Mall...Stat!]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 04:37:58 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-103215498.jpg

There’s no time to lose.

The fate of the nation’s capital may be at stake.

And maybe throw in a few corn stalks and a hog pen.

The National Mall needs to become a 4-H Club habitat ASAP.

Forget the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair; we need rural America on the Mall now.

Why this alarm?

A member of Congress last week suggested the U.S. Department of Agriculture should be moved to Iowa because he doesn’t see cows or corn in Washington.

“Now I’ve been in Washington, this is my third year, I’ve yet to see a cow, a hog in Washington, D.C., or a corn plant or a soybean plant in Washington, D.C.,” declared Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing last week. “It seems to me the USDA should be located somewhere in the Midwest.”

That was one of the high points or low points of a committee meeting last week. The majority passed a resolution by committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, that says federal agencies looking to relocate should not be restricted to the District or Washington suburbs.

“I’m sorry there are not enough cows to satisfy,” mocked Northern Virginia Rep. Gerald Connolly. “Give me cows!” he shouted. Connolly wasn’t done. He suggested the whole Congress go on the road, appearing in different states for six months each “to be closer to the people.”

“Laughable,” asserted D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the notion to strip the nation’s capital of its reason for being. Norton also noted it was Rep. Blum who saw all the building cranes in Southwest and thought the federal government was overspending. (It’s private development.)

More seriously, it was pointed out the U.S. Constitution mandates a seat of government, and that 85 percent of federal employees already are dispersed around the nation. How practical would it be if major Cabinet members were scattered around the country, inaccessible to Congress, the president and the daily affairs of government?

Connolly said that despite any public contempt of Washington, “this is about sacred ground,” the birth of our nation: “The capital is a beacon around the world.”

It’s also not just a parochial interest in keeping the government here and benefiting from the economic spinoff. Bottom line, the resolution displays a stunning lack of knowledge — or respect for — the very government that members of Congress are supposed to oversee.

A former Environmental Protection Agency official summed up the issue in a letter Sunday to The Washington Post.

“This just demonstrates ignorance of how federal agencies operate,” Phyllis Anderson wrote. “There are regional and local offices for every federal agency. At the EPA, our 10 regional offices are each led by a Senate-confirmed administrator. The bulk of EPA resources go out to the regions and states via grant programs. If members of Congress researched the agencies they oversee, they would see how ludicrous and pandering such a proposal is.”

California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa tried to strike a middle ground. He said he wasn’t “enamored” with the resolution. It’s obvious the federal government is headquartered in the nation’s capital, he said. Any move of people or resources should be carefully considered.

The resolution passed the committee along party lines. Whether it gets any traction on the House floor or in the Senate remains to be seen. Some committee members suggested Chairman Chaffetz ought to be focusing on the “serious” business of the committee he heads.

■ Phone a friend. Chaffetz also was ridiculed in the news last week for another reason. In the debate over replacing Obamacare, Chaffetz was quoted saying people “should invest in their own health care” instead of “getting a new iPhone.” And he reinforced his view in a subsequent interview, saying, “People need to make a conscious choice, and I believe in self-reliance.”

■ Put a Cork in It. There’s lots of discussion about whether President Trump’s businesses are improperly benefiting from his office. Two D.C. restaurateurs are making a federal case of it.

Cork Wine Bar owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts have filed a lawsuit against Trump’s new D.C. hotel. The unfair competition suit contends Trump’s affiliation is driving business to the president’s hotel, business that might go to other venues except for the “pressure” to patronize the president’s businesses.

Trump’s organization called the suit “a wild publicity stunt completely lacking in legal merit.”

■ The Politics Hour. Be sure to tune into the WAMU 88.5 Politics Hour on Friday at noon. Host Kojo Nnamdi and your Notebook will be interviewing Mayor Muriel Bowser. Email questions in advance at kojo@wamu.org or tweet to @kojoshow.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['We Will Not Accept This': DC Hate Crimes Up 62 Percent]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 18:44:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/031017+bowser+hate+crimes+presser.jpg

A dramatically higher number of hate crimes were reported in Washington, D.C. in the past year, officials said at a news conference Friday morning.

In 2015, 66 bias-related crimes were reported. In 2016, 107 were reported, marking a 62 percent increase.

These crimes run contrary to D.C. values, Acting Police Chief Peter Newsham said.

"We will not accept this as the new norm," he said.

Reports of crimes based on bias related to ethnicity/national origin rose most sharply, from 3 incidents in 2015 to 12 incidents in 2016, marking a 300 percent increase. Crimes based on religion had the second-highest increase, with 5 incidents in 2015 and 18 incidents in 2016, the data shows.

Of the religious-bias-related crimes, 12 of the 18 were against the Jewish community, Newsham said.

"I would love to say I'm surprised," said Rabbi Batya Steinlauf. "I'm not surprised. The Jewish community has been well aware of the undercurrents of anti-Semitism."

Newsham attributed the increase to a possible increase in awareness about hate crimes, a rise in reporting and national issues. 

"It could be because people have become more emboldened because of some of the things that we've seen nationally," the police chief said, without getting more specific. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser said officials will continue to work to keep everyone safe.

“My administration will continue fostering a culture that encourages people to come forward when they are the victim of discrimination or a bias-related crime because, in order to properly address these issues, we need everyone to feel safe reporting them," she said in a statement.

Steinlauf said she is encouraged by the mayor's efforts.

"So that we can stand together to make it clear that this is not what our society is about, this is not what District of Columbia is about, this is not what the community is about," Steinlauf said. "We stand together."

Overall crime in D.C. has decreased by 9 percent in the past two years.

North of the city, Montgomery County, Maryland also saw a big increase in hate crimes from 2015 to 2016, with a 42 percent spike.

Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner attributed the spike to President Donald Trump's campaign.

"The spike in hate crimes was a direct correlation to the kind of campaign that was run for the president of the United States. It unleashed an energy that is very destructive," he said last month.

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington
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<![CDATA[Jaffe: Big Video Screens and Even Bigger Money]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 10:18:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/030717+covered+digital+billboards.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

Finally, a scandal-worthy controversy that’s hit a nerve in the District and could help determine who might prevail as the next mayor.

Is it crime, schools, jobs? Nope.

Try video screens streaming ads mounted on buildings throughout downtown.

“I’ve gotten kudos all over the city for coming out against these signs,” says at-large council member Elissa Silverman. “Every ANC has agreed with my position.”

Turns out most Washingtonians prefer downtown buildings that are not festooned with huge TV screens. Who wants to be bombarded by ads as they are strolling to work or driving across town?

Answer: developers and owners of professional sports teams.

Silverman says this seemingly arcane issue of digital video screens has “divided the city between big money interests and regular citizens.”

The political class has taken sides.

Pulling for the regular people – i.e., voters – we have Attorney General Karl Racine, Silverman and Anita Bonds, also an at-large member.

Standing alone on the side of the big bucks we have Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Beyond politics, there’s aesthetics. If developers and arena owners are allowed to stream video ads from their properties, D.C. would join New York’s Times Square and the Las Vegas strip as one of the few cities that permit the practice.

Huge jumbotrons attached to Verizon Center and Gallery Place in Chinatown have been streaming video for years, much to the chagrin of nearby residents and office workers. Monumental Sports and Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis and his lobbyists have fought back all attempts to rein in the videos, which circumvent D.C. regulations thanks to special legislation promoted by Ward 2 council member Jack Evans.

Nationals Park owners asked Council to allow streaming video from the stadium on South Capitol Street, but legislators balked. After a series of public hearings, where neighbors objected to jumbotrons, Council passed a bill prohibiting full motion video except before and after a game.

Meanwhile, Digi Media started erecting multi-media signs in buildings all over downtown. A boutique media company, Digi couldn’t get permits, but it proceeded to install digital signs with the goal of erecting 52 at 20 different locations, according to court documents.

The city ordered Digi to quit putting up electronic signs. Digi ignored the orders.

In rides Attorney General Karl Racine. Astride his white horse, he asks the court last August to force Digi to quit. Superior Court Judge Alfred Irving agreed with Racine and ordered Digi to stop sign construction last November.

“The public, especially downtown residents, want a comprehensive and transparent sign policy,” Racine tells me, “not piecemeal rule making that will benefit a few businesses.”

Robin Diener, president of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, was thrilled by Racine’s victory. “We feel these signs are an incursion on the public space,” she said. “It’s advertising that goes to someone’s bottom line and offers nothing of value to us.”

Responding to those concerns, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced legislation that would expand the Nationals Park ruling citywide. It would prohibit streaming video signs across D.C, except before, during and after sporting events.



Elissa Silverman and Anita Bonds quickly signed on as cosponsors. Chairman Phil Mendelson set a hearing date later this month. This week Cheh suddenly withdrew her bill.

“How come?” I asked Silverman.

“Ask Mary,” she said. “I was surprised. She never informed me.”

Cheh failed to respond to multiple requests for comment.

This all puts Mayor Bowser in a bit of a fix.

Word had it that her top aides were drafting emergency legislation that would undercut Racine’s lawsuit and allow Digi Media to erect its signs in Ward 2, which encompasses Georgetown, Dupont Circle and parts of Shaw, as well as downtown.

When I asked Bowser’s chief of staff John Falcicchio whether her office was working on legislation concerning full motion video, he responded: “No.”

And when my colleague, Mark Segraves, this week asked Bowser whether she was considering changing rules to allow digital signs, she responded: “I don’t know that we are.”

It’s possible an expose by City Paper’s Jeff Anderson put the brakes on the Digi exemption rule. Maybe Bowser has decided not to battle billboard opponents.

But there’s no doubt this made it pretty far along.

Witness a “Notice of Emergency and Proposed Rulemaking” that came into my hands. The rule out of Bowser’s office would revise regulations to specifically permit Digi to install a sign “if it directly faces passengers entering or exiting a Metrorail escalator” or if it was applied for by August 1, 2016.

The rule is an “emergency” because “action is necessary in order to facilitate settlement of ongoing litigation.” In other words, it would negate Racine’s lawsuit.

The rule has yet to make it out of the mayor’s office, but the fact that it was written and ready to submit raises questions about her claim she was unaware of her own proposal.

Karl Racine, the District’s first elected AG, has been cagey about whether he might challenge Bowser next year. My guess is he will not take her on; he’s more likely to run for another term.

But should Racine decide to run for mayor, stopping the big TV screens could prove he’s the people’s champion, standing up for their rights against “the man” -- in this case Mayor Bowser.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Could Federal Agencies Leave DC? Rep. Chafettz Suggests It]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 20:07:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/030817+jason+chaffetz.jpg

Rep. Jason Chafettz of Utah introduced a resolution on Wednesday that would allow federal agencies to move out of Washington. News4's Tom Sherwood discusses what impact that would have on our region and whether it is thought to be feasible.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Female Lawmakers on Women's Issues That Matter Most to Them]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 18:17:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/composite-4-2017-03-08_1709.jpg

On International Women's Day, NBC producer Jenn Vasquez asked female lawmakers which women's rights issues matter most to them. Here's what they told us.

Photo Credit: Jenn Vasquez
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA['Day Without a Woman' Sparks DC Demonstrations]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 17:48:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/183*120/GettyImages-649613968.jpg Here is a look at what "A Day Without A Woman" protests looked like around Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Karl Racine... a Run for Mayor?]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 06:29:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Attorney+General+Karl+Racine.jpg

Is he or isn’t he?

Will he or won’t he?

Should he or ...

Oh, let’s stop. You all get the picture.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine sounds like someone revved up to run for mayor. But will he get in? And, realistically, could he win?

Last Friday on the WAMU Politics Hour, Racine came within a toe of stepping up to the start line for the 2018 race against incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser: “I am having conversations with folks around town to get a sense as to what it would take to run for another position. I’m nowhere near making a decision on that. Period.”

But Racine was fully engaged talking about his public service and any future campaign. “In regards to that decision,” he told your Notebook and WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi, “I sure hope that the callers, the audience out there can hear my passion.”

There’s not “another position” Racine would seek other than mayor. He’s not going to run for the council and certainly not Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s House seat. But the election map and math that he would need to defeat Bowser could be daunting.

Still, on Friday he was much farther down the campaign trail than just last Christmas. Back then he told the Politics Hour he would make a decision this summer whether to run for re-election “or any other office, or simply return to the private sector.”

During last week’s Politics Hour, Racine methodically but aggressively walked through issues such as affordable housing and code enforcement, drug addiction policies, consumer and regulatory affairs and campaign ethics.

“I love being attorney general of the District of Columbia,” Racine said. “We have a tremendously talented team, focused on doing the public interest, using the law to actually uplift the people’s lives, especially our most vulnerable citizens, so that’s where my focus is, Tom.”

Maybe all true, but it was immediately after that sentence that Racine disclosed he is having “conversations with folks around town” on a possible run for that “other” office.

So how realistic is a run? There are lots of speed bumps. “What has the mayor done that you would throw her out of office?” one Bowser insider posed to The Notebook.

The insider checked off a lot of questions and campaign issues: Are enough of the mayor’s 2014 backers so dissatisfied as to walk away? Is there any sign of broad dissatisfaction in a booming city? Crime may be a serious issue in some areas, but overall is it a significant factor? The city has balanced budgets and a growing economy, and schools and services are improving. Why change horses, the adviser asked. Bowser likes the job and can be a fierce campaigner. Could Racine match that?

There are certainly political insiders who oppose Bowser, including those aligned with Vincent Gray, former mayor and current Ward 7 D.C. Council member. But while there are complaints against Bowser, are there the votes to defeat her?

Racine notes that Bowser won in a year where Gray was ahead until The Washington Post strongly backed her and U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen’s scandal case broke a month before the primary. More recently, the Washington Post editorial writers called Bowser “feckless” for her handling of the paid family leave law. Feckless, in case you don’t know, means without character.

Most political observers say the Democratic primary winner has to carry wards 1, 2, 3 and 6. And that doesn’t even count Ward 4, Bowser’s home ward. As the incumbent, Mayor Bowser can wait until later this year to begin her re-election campaign. She already has said she will run.

Meanwhile, Gray, who would like to be mayor again, always waits late to start his campaigns. He can keep his Ward 7 seat while running for mayor. But he faces a major hurdle. Although he was not charged in that 2010 campaign scandal that sunk his re-election chances in 2014, many believe Gray would have a hard time recapturing enough voters (white and black) who turned against him back then. Some of them voted for Bowser even though they thought Gray had been a good mayor overall.

And what of Racine? He’d have to get in sooner rather than later.

He would have to raise money from businesses, lawyers and groups reluctant to oppose a sitting mayor except under severe circumstances. And unlike his race for attorney general, he essentially won’t fund it himself. He’d have to build a campaign organization, get better on the stump than his lawyerly persona allows now, and prepare to go all out seven days a week. Racine has privately said he’s prepared for all that.

“I’d bet that Karl is testing the waters [now] to gauge his chances of running and winning,” the Bowser supporter said.

Racine likes being attorney general — the public policy initiatives, the national recognition on issues like immigration and consumer affairs — but if he runs and loses for mayor, he’d be out of elective politics.

One final calculation: If Racine were to get in, would that encourage or discourage Gray’s entry? Would they split the vote enough to allow Bowser to win? In this scenario, Bowser is the incumbent with the most steady base and ability to build it.

Given all this, Racine has a clear shot if he simply runs for re-election as attorney general. (He was supported in his first race by Bowser herself.)

Let’s go back to that December discussion with Racine on the Politics Hour.

“I’m just two years into this [attorney general] job. I’m not a career politician, so I don’t really think about what’s the next office,” Racine said then. “That’s not my thinking. My thinking is really focused on how to build a strong, independent attorney general office. Nonetheless, you can be assured that I will be making important decisions related to whether to run again in the next six months, and you’ll be the first to know.”

And to that last comment on the radio, you could hear your Notebook mutter, “I doubt it.”

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

Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[Fight Over Future of DC's Federally Funded School Vouchers]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 19:59:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170307+School+Vouchers.jpg

As the debate heats up over school vouchers -- a program favored by the new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos -- a program in Washington, D.C. is suddenly in the spotlight. The Opportunity Scholarship Program is the only federally funded school voucher program in the nation, but a majority of D.C. councilmembers want to end the program. News4's Mark Segraves reports.

<![CDATA[DC's Digital Billboard Battle Turns Political]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 19:36:18 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/030717+covered+digital+billboards.jpg

A court order is keeping some large outdoor video advertising screens from lighting up in the District. But there is now a political fight over the billboards, and Mayor Muriel Bowser is right in the middle of it. News4's Tom Sherwood reports.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Local Reaction to President Trump's New Travel Ban Executive Order]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 22:17:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Trump+travel+ban+new.JPG

President Donald Trump revised his travel ban, but opponents are calling it the "Muslim ban 2.0." News4's Darcy Spencer has the story.

<![CDATA[Alexandria Schools to Close on 'Day Without a Woman']]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 12:53:07 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/632343280-womens-march-signs-washignton-white-house.jpg

Public schools in Alexandria, Virginia, will be closed for students on Wednesday, March 8 because more than 300 staff members requested leave when the "Day Without a Woman" boycott is set to be held.

So many staff members requested the day off that the school district was forced to cancel classes, a letter sent to parents on Monday said.

"The decision is based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms, and the impact of high staff absenteeism on student safety and delivery of instruction," the letter said. "It is not based on a political stance or position."

Wednesday is still a workday for teachers, the district said.

The organizers of the Women's March on Washington are calling for a general strike in which women "take the day off from paid and unpaid labor," the group's website says.

"The goal is to highlight the economic power and significance that women have in the U.S. and global economies, while calling attention to the economic injustices women and gender-nonconforming people continue to face," the website says.

D.C. schools will be open Wednesday, a representative said. 

"While some may plan to attend this week’s walkout on International Women’s Day, all students and staff are expected to be in school throughout the day so that teaching and learning can continue," a statement from the school district said. "We respect the right to self-expression and peaceful protest in support of gender equality. We encourage staff and students to use this as an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women through classroom discussion and activities."

No closure of Fairfax County, Virginia, schools is planned, a district representative said. District officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, are monitoring the situation, a representative said. A representative for Prince George's County, Maryland, schools said there was no information to share.

Alexandria school district officials apologized to families who may now be scrambling for childcare on Wednesday.

"We understand that when schools close there is an impact on families, who may have to find unanticipated childcare. We apologize for this unforeseen burden on parents and thank you for your patience and understanding," the letter said.

Some of the district's early childhood and after-school programs will operate on a normal schedule. See the district's website for more information.

People across the country participated in "A Day Without Immigrants" event Feb. 16 to protest Trump's immigration policies and show the importance of immigrants in our daily lives. Many D.C. restaurants closed for the day.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[White House Resumes Tours, With Presidential Surprise]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 13:14:18 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/Screen+Shot+2017-03-07+at+10.52.20+AM.png

The first tour group to visit the White House since President Donald Trump took office got a big surprise Tuesday -- the president himself said hello.

Trump welcomed a small crowd of visitors in the East Wing, waving from behind a velvet rope as the crowd screamed, cheered and took photos.

The president pulled Jack Cornish, 10, from Birmingham, Alabama, from the crowd and hugged him as visitors and journalists looked on.

The White House, which traditionally halts tours during the transition of administrations, had been closed to tours for six weeks.

"I am excited to reopen the White House to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come each year," first lady Melania Trump said in a statement announcing the resumption of the tours. "The White House is a remarkable and historic site and we are excited to share its beauty and history. I am committed to the restoration and preservation of our nation's most recognizable landmark."

To book free public tours, visitors must make requests through their members of Congress. (You can find your representative here and your senators here.)

The self-guided, free tours are available 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tour hours can be extended when possible, based on the official White House schedule, according to the official website.

Tours may be requested up to three months in advance and must be submitted at least 21 days before your visit. Tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.

<![CDATA[Joe Biden to Receive Bipartisan Leadership Award]]> Wed, 01 Mar 2017 13:40:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WEB+Joe+Biden+flag.jpg

Less than two months after former Vice President Joe Biden received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he will receive an award on Wednesday from a bipartisan think tank.

Biden is set to receive the Bipartisan Policy Center's Congressional Patriot Award.

"The award recognizes leaders who demonstrate political courage and exceptional leadership throughout their careers, even in the most partisan of times," the D.C. organization said in a statement.

Former President Barack Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Jan. 12, praising him as an "extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service." With tears in his eyes, Biden appeared stunned. The White House ceremony had been billed only as a tribute to the outgoing vice president.

Biden is set to receive the Congressional Patriot Award at the Newseum's Knight Conference Center. The event is set to begin at 5:30 p.m., and Biden is expected to speak after 7 p.m.

The Bipartisan Policy Center bills itself the only D.C. think tank that actively promotes bipartisanship.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: ‘Doctoring’ Paid Family Leave ]]> Wed, 01 Mar 2017 08:42:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/122016+dc+council+paid+family+leave.jpg

It was a gut punch. Some dismayed advocates are calling it a sucker punch.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson surprised nearly everyone by reopening debate over how the city will fund its progressive new paid family leave law. After two years of debate and a victory led by Mendelson himself, the chairman said the council now will re-litigate the tax intended to finance it.

So, on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Politics Hour on Friday, we asked a simple question: Why?

Mendelson said the business community was so aggressively opposed to the bill’s financing that he was concerned Mayor Muriel Bowser was “not going to implement the bill with any speed.” He denied that he himself was under political pressure from business interests. He is, however, up for re-election next year, too.

Paid leave supporters were appalled at Mendelson’s maneuver, potentially putting the whole program at risk and possibly reducing benefits. The bill had been passed. Mendelson didn’t have to reopen debate.

After a caller expressed fears for the bill, we asked Mendelson “would you guarantee this caller … that you would not vote to cut the benefits?”

“Yes,” Mendelson responded. He then went further: As chairman he determines when a measure comes up for a council vote. “I can also guarantee that if the benefits are going to change, nothing’s going to move out of the Committee [of the Whole]. I control that,” he told us. “I just don’t think the benefits are at risk here.”

Host Kojo Nnamdi added for effect: “Audio and video recorded.”

Mendelson said he would try to have any financing changes done by summer.

■ The police chief. Mendelson praised Mayor Bowser’s decision to nominate interim Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham as the city’s next chief. (Some media folks refer to it as naming a “permanent” chief. But there is nothing “permanent” about the job.)

Though he has some critics, and has admitted some mistakes, Newsham is well-regarded in communities around the city and by the police force itself — the latter something that could not be said as much about former Chief Cathy Lanier.

As we noted, Mayor Bowser is running for re-election and she didn’t need a new chief learning on the job. Newsham, a veteran officer who joined the department in 1989, served the last 14 years as a key assistant chief. Bowser will depend on him to guide the force and step up recruitment, easing public safety concerns that could blossom into political liabilities if they are not handled well.

■ The worst. The absolute worst. In the media world, we see a lot of press releases, emails and messages pitching this or that.

The Notebook wants to share the opening sentence of a recent release that may rank as the worst of all time in conveying a message:

“WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05), U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) along with U.S. Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), John Delaney (MD-06), Don Beyer (VA-08), Anthony Brown (MD-04), and Jamie Raskin (MD-08) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting a report on the effectiveness of governance and dedicated funding structures of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.”

That’s 93 words or abbreviations.

Now, without looking back, what was the point of the release?

In a world of not 24-hour but 24-second news cycles, clarity and brevity are even more important because of our shortened attention spans. Like them or hate them, President Donald Trump has mastered the world of 140-character tweets.

Any aspiring public relations person or politician — or anyone really — now is forewarned. (That last sentence is 13 words and leaves room to spare in a tweet.)

■ A not-so-final word. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has enjoyed extraordinarily high approval ratings for a Republican in a blue state: more than 70 percent. Yet he faced political — and potential legal — blowback when it was reported he and his aides were blocking comments on his public Facebook page.

“The purpose of social media is to have this exchange of ideas,” Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said in a Washington Post report. “Once that type of a forum is established by the government and the governor, it’s not permissible to say, ‘If you agree with me, you are allowed to post. And if you don’t, there’s no place for you here.’”

The governor’s office says it has restored some of the “offenders.” The Hogan site gets a million views every week, and his aides say they retain the right to block abusers, if not just negative comments.

On WAMU’s Politics Hour last Friday, host Kojo Nnamdi seemed surprised that your Notebook answered “yes” when he asked whether we had ever blocked anyone. It’s more common on Twitter, but excessive vulgarity can bring down the curtain in my social media world. Though we’re far from prudish, excessive vulgarity is just tiresome.

A well-placed expletive can be effective, but *%#*+* don’t overdo it.

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

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe: Another Path to Local Control for D.C.?]]> Tue, 28 Feb 2017 19:56:16 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336773.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

Hurrah for the true believers in D.C. statehood, led by Eleanor Holmes Norton. Our non-voting delegate to Congress is set to introduce on Wednesday her annual bill to create the state of New Columbia.

City leaders are primed to petition Congress.

I'm afraid statehood has as much chance of success as President Trump snaring the Sierra Club lifetime achievement award. 

No doubt the relationship between Congress and the District has become unconstitutional over time. It cries out for reconsideration, but not necessarily by creating the state of New Columbia. The D.C. political doctrine of statehood uber alles is folly. But we do have ways and means to achieve self-government. Bear with me. 

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the rest of the Founding Fathers were a wise, brave, well-intentioned crew. They crafted a document that has stood up well these 240 years, establishing my favorite freedom: freedom of speech. Despite the proclivities of our current president and assorted authoritarian voices, I have faith the Constitution will outlast them all.

The framers did, however, make mistakes. Among their worst blunders was creating the federal enclave of Washington, D.C., and placing it under congressional control.

In 1787, walling off a federal district made sense. Unpaid and irate revolutionary soldiers had chased the Continental Congress from Philadelphia in 1783. The framers were homeless. As part of a political deal in 1790, George Washington placed the capital city up-river from his plantation at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

Jefferson, Madison, Ben Franklin and the rest intended to create a capital city separate and sacrosanct from the states, which were already in conflict over slavery. The cobbled-together capital would house the three branches of government – period.

Right from the start the new Washington District was different from other world capitals, such as Rome, Paris or London. They were historic crossroads by rivers that had gained their stature and populations over centuries. The U.S. capital, plunked on a swamp, had farms north of Florida Avenue, forests around Spring Valley, more deer than people in Rock Creek.

How could Alexander Hamilton and George Washington have known that a thriving urban core would grow around the White House and U.S. Capitol? But here we are, a diverse and growing city of 670,000 people, not all of whom are connected to the federal government.

Congressional control of the District is vestigial. If the Founding Fathers created the District to hold it harmless from transitory political trends, the current system is unconstitutional, pure and simple. It allows all sorts of mischief from small-minded, politically-driven representatives from other states. Their meddling is precisely the kind of political nonsense the Founding Fathers hoped to forestall. At the moment, Utah’s Jason Chaffetz is merely the latest in a line of congressmen sullying the spirit of the Constitution.

The District supports itself with locally raised taxes, sends residents off to war, contributes more to the federal treasury than many states. Yet the Home Rule Act of 1974 grants limited self-government and keeps us under Congress' thumb?

Eleanor Holmes Norton, our steadfast and able delegate to the House, has tried for years to get full voting rights on the House floor. No dice. D.C. residents have voted to control their own budget, without congressional review. Congress has balked. District residents approved a referendum to make D.C. a state. Fat chance.

Now Chaffetz wants to overturn our law allowing physicians to prescribe medical aid in dying. And Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland has it out for D.C.’s marijuana legalization law. And Florida Senator Marco Rubio thinks he has to wipe away D.C.’s ability to regulate gun ownership.

What to do?

Every D.C. politician must subscribe to the myth that the District will become the 51st state with two senators and a congressional representative, all of whom would be Democrats. It would require congressional approval and amending the Constitution. Not gonna happen.

If it didn’t work in 1993, when Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, it’s not likely to get passed when Republicans have a scintilla of power, let alone the trifecta they enjoy now.

There’s a more direct route to freeing D.C. from Congress, without changing the Constitution:


  • Draw a boundary around the current federal enclave -- encompassing the Supreme Court, the Capitol, the National Mall, down Pennsylvania Avenue past the federal agencies down to the White House. Keep that more diminutive and well-defined federal district under congressional control.

  • Call the city around the District New Washington and allow it to tax and spend and govern itself, as an independent entity. It would be a new jurisdiction, neither city nor state. It would function under the federal government but with full local control, including the entire legal system, from prosecution to courts. 

  • Shrink congressional authority to matters of national security, solvency and insurrection.


That would honor the intent of the Founding Fathers, but it would allow the residents of New Washington to control their own destiny.

Why not take the legislative path to create this new city?

“I respectfully reject that premise,” says Bo Shuff, an advocate with DC Vote, which lobbies for statehood. “Saying statehood is not going to happen is the conventional wisdom. It doesn’t make it accurate.”

Shuff compared the statehood campaign to the struggle for gay rights. “It’s a social change issue that has to be worked and continue to be worked.”

Swell, but while it’s being “worked,” congressmen with questionable intent are working over our independence. Eleanor Norton, who’s on the front lines, is less doctrinaire.

“I cannot support this proposal,” she responded by email, “but I won’t criticize it because we need to encourage much more of this type of creative thinking if we are to move the ball forward.”

Says Rep. Jamin Raskin, newly-elected representative from Montgomery County and beyond: “It’s great to advance proposals about the continuing domination of the local population by Congress.”

The Founding Fathers -- who believed in basic justice, democracy and self-government -- would agree: time to be creative, move past statehood and free D.C., by any means necessary.