Sherwood's Notebook: No Handcuffs Needed, Thank You! | NBC4 Washington
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Sherwood's Notebook: No Handcuffs Needed, Thank You!

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    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 05: Mayor of the District of Columbia Muriel Bowser (L) speaks as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) (R) looks on during a news conference January 5, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Mayor Bowser joined Del. Norton to call for voting rights in the House of Representatives. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    Remember that time Muriel Bowser was in handcuffs?

    No, it wasn’t a city scandal that has slipped your mind. The Notebook this week revisited the NBC4 tape from four years ago when Bowser was one of six D.C. Council members who got arrested on Capitol Hill along with Mayor Vincent Gray in April 2011.

    The council members and a raucous crowd of several hundred people had temporarily blocked Constitution Avenue to protest the city's lack of Hill voting rights and statehood.

    This past Monday, Bowser was back on Capitol Hill.

    But rather than blocking the street — or wearing handcuffs — the new mayor confidently walked the marble halls of the Cannon House Office Building. She was accompanied by a uniformed U.S. Capitol Police officer who politely directed her, no handcuffs needed.

    Bowser, who has said that being arrested once was enough, was at Cannon for a dignified news conference with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton to talk voting rights, statehood and congressional relations.

    "I want to recommit our efforts in the District for a new pathway toward statehood," Bowser said, with Norton sitting nearby.

    Bowser also revealed she would have aides of her own who will focus on Capitol Hill issues affecting the District, rather than just depending on Norton's good offices. That will work well when the two leaders see eye to eye, but it could create friction if Norton ever determines that Bowser is going around her. Watch that space.

    Bowser pointed out that most big cities and states have Hill lobbyists to watch over and influence the complex world of congressional politics and federal programs. Norton told NBC4 she welcomed a stepped-up effort by Bowser’s staff.

    Also on Monday Bowser still was enjoying the boost she got Sunday from appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press." 

    When host Chuck Todd suggested the old idea that maybe the District could gain voting rights by reuniting with Maryland, Bowser was quick with a response: "We're Washington, D.C., Chuck."

    On Monday, Bowser went further, referencing her talk show appearance: "I was proud to be able to say also that we are not 'West Hyattsville' and we have no intention of going back to the state of Maryland."

    That drew a lot of laughs at the news conference, but Bowser said she meant no disrespect to Hyattsville. Your Notebook had gotten some tweets about that.

    City leaders always groan when the national media or people from other states suggest retrocession to Maryland as a viable idea. Neither D.C. nor Maryland wants to make that deal.

    NBC's Todd also left the impression — again, one that many national journalists share — that the District is a mere ward of the federal government. He asked Bowser if she would ask Congress for more money to close a $200 million budget shortfall. That's a lot of money, but national viewers wouldn’t necessarily know that it's a small part of the city's $11 billion budget.

    "We're actually getting things done for our city just fine governing ourselves," Bowser responded politely, noting the city has balanced its budget for the last 17 years. "And we're going to balance it again."

    ■ A clear-eyed auditor. Woe unto those who think the D.C. Auditor's Office is a minor outpost of government. Former Ward 3 Council member Kathy Patterson has been named to lead the office, and she's not about to be a caretaker. Patterson, who was known for her sharp oversight as a council member and her investigation of police tactics, now has broad powers to look at all aspects of city government. She was nominated by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and approved by the council members, to whom she reports.

    "I think the timing is great," Patterson told the Notebook on New Year's Day. "There's an opportunity to set a new course for council oversight. The auditor can have a really major role in that."

    The auditor is among a handful of individuals and agencies that can undertake investigations on the government itself. Patterson said she sees her role as assisting council members doing oversight through their committees. But she doesn’t have to be asked to review a government practice, she said, noting the office has wide latitude to initiate its own work.

    Ugh, just what the bad guys don’t want to hear.

    ■ A final word. Former Washington Post writer Colman McCarthy this past week noted the death of Edward Guinan, a Catholic priest who spent his life trying to feed the hungry and to provide shelter for those without it.

    Guinan helped found the Creative Community for Non-Violence, which is publicly better identified with the late Mitch Snyder. Guinan also helped establish Zacchaeus Community Kitchen in the early 1970s. McCarthy noted that Guinan expected 20 homeless people, but 100 showed up. At the ladle was Mother Teresa, not yet the Nobel Peace Prize winner she later would become.

    And in 1979, Guinan authored the statehood initiative that was approved by D.C. voters in 1980.
    Guinan died at his Palisades home Dec. 26.

    Read the full Colman McCarthy report on the Post's site here.


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