Sherwood's Notebook: Getting Metro Out of Its Own Way | NBC4 Washington
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Sherwood's Notebook: Getting Metro Out of Its Own Way

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jack Evans has been chairman of Metro only since January.

    But he has had a lot of experience with Metro and the Metro board for more than two decades.

    Evans thinks the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s 16-member board can’t get out of its own way.

    “This board just doesn’t work, and we really need to come up with a different structure,” Evans told NBC4. He basically was repeating comments he first made Monday to The Washington Post’s Robert McCartney.

    Evans explains that there are four members each from the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government, all focused too much on their own jurisdictions and not enough on actually governing in Metro’s overall best interest.

    “You cannot serve two masters,” he said. “There’s no other board in the country structured this way. People tend to their jurisdiction at the expense of Metro.”

    So what’s the solution? He’s not sure. He says he was only joking when he told The Post that the U.S. president should appoint a five-member board, none of whose members live in this area. But he says a system devised in the 1960s needs serious reconsideration.

    “I’m throwing it out there for discussion. Do you want to keep the status quo? Look where that got us. Do you think the governing structure is working? No, it’s not.”

    Evans has stirred up a hornet’s nest over this. Many of your Notebook’s usual sources would not go on the record on it.

    Some local officials did respond.

    Chuck Bean is the executive director of the 22-member Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. He’s been helping the regional governments rework the Metro safety board. Bean told NBC4 it may be good to review Metro’s structure, but that’s not the most important thing.

    “I think [the] board’s main focus ought to be on supporting the general manager, Paul Wiedefeld,” he said. “We’re halfway through SafeTrack and, generally, it’s going well. We’ve gotta get that job done first.” Bean did agree with Evans that parochial interests should be left at the boardroom door when Metro decisions are being made.

    So, given Evans’ frustrations, does he want to be named chairman again next year? Yes, he does, if the board he thinks is too big will have him.

    ■ Eye on crime. It may only be late September of 2016, but Mayor Muriel Bowser is eyeing her 2018 campaign for re-election. And nothing — short of true scandal — is more important than how citizens feel about crime and public safety.

    The mayor was forced to dramatically focus on crime in late summer last year, her first year in office. And crime is forcing a similar focus this fall as Bowser searches for a new chief to replace Cathy Lanier, who stepped down as of Sept. 17.

    The mayor took the opportunity to write a simultaneous letter to citizens acknowledging spikes in crime are causing spikes in anxiety.

    Her first paragraph said it all.

    “As your Mayor, I understand that there is no greater responsibility of government than that of keeping residents and visitors safe. Overall crime is down 5% year-to-date with homicides down 11% and violent crime down 2%, but still there is more we can and must do together for a safer, stronger DC.”

    The mayor and her team know that acknowledging crime worries is not the same as easing them. And they know the re-election campaign won’t wait until 2018. Bowser should be in full campaign mode by late next summer.

    ■ A future merger? While we were on vacation, Mayor Bowser also announced a new collaboration between Howard University Hospital and the still-struggling United Medical Center in far Southeast. Howard will add needed services to the hospital, now a nonprofit run by the District after several private efforts faltered.

    The District has had a longtime goal of building a new hospital in Southeast. This new collaboration could be the first steps toward one unrealized plan: a merger between the two hospitals that ultimately could be privately run, easing the financial strain on Howard but retaining teaching hospital facilities for its medical students.

    If that were to happen, it also would free up a lot of valuable land at the Howard campus.

    ■ A stitch in time. Also while we were away, the popular Dupont Circle Village honored the 100th birthday of Gabriella Zaboli.

    She’s one of 200 members of the neighborhood health/help group.

    For 38 years, Zaboli was a seamstress for the storied Rizik’s on Connecticut Avenue NW downtown. A native of Modena, Italy, she survived Mussolini and Hitler, became a professional ballroom dancer and personally knew the late opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

    A surviving and honored member of a great generation, Zaboli moved recently to a more comfortable apartment in Dupont with help from the village organization. (Our thanks to village member Pender McCarter for alerting us to her inspiring story.)

    ■ Racing toward Halloween. Your Notebook is not a runner, nor maybe even a too-fast walker. But Congressional Cemetery is opening up the Halloween season with its annual 5K Dead Man’s Run through its cemetery grounds on far Capitol Hill.

    The cemetery is worth visiting anytime, but Halloween, you might say, adds a little spirit to the surroundings. There’s also a run for kids. Costumes are encouraged for all races. Prizes will be awarded.

    The race is this Saturday at 5 p.m. To register, visit congressionalcemetery.org.

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