OK, enough with the “Happy New Year” wishes. It’s nearly a week into 2011 already. Some retail stores already are putting out the Valentine’s Day candy. So keep up, folks. Keep up.
Not so fast.
New Mayor Vincent Gray had his first full work day as mayor on Monday. But he didn’t show up at his fancy new offices until nearly 2 p.m. He wasn’t goofing off. He was working from home.
“You’re not questioning my work ethic, are you?” he asked when the time of day was brought up. We certainly weren’t. We had expected Gray to be in the office by 6 a.m. He routinely works 14 to 16 hours a day.
And on a serious note, he had been dealing with a serious issue. Police Chief Cathy Lanier had briefed him on the six shootings that occurred over the weekend.
“This is obviously not the kind of start to the year that we would like,” Gray told NBC4.
The city had 131 homicides in 2010. That’s a 9 percent drop from 2009. And more importantly, the total was a 46-year low. Now, we know that violent crime is down around the country, but it’s good to see the local numbers down so sharply from the 1980s, when murder numbers were over 400.
Plus, the homicide closure rate in 2010 reached 79 percent, higher than the national average.
A shiny moment.
The shootings marred an otherwise fine weekend of celebration. A large crowd turned out for both the swearing-in ceremony and the gala on Sunday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
The place was welcoming and sparkling. And every time we go there we’re reminded of the bitter fight that took place over whether to build it. Does anyone remember the dinky predecessor down the street?
The new center has hosted conventions large and small, presidential inaugural balls and myriad other events. It would be hard to imagine the city’s economic revival without it.
Move on. Move on.
The inaugural swearing-in ceremony was held in a fine space, but it dragged on and on. Council member speeches were way too long. They all spoke well beyond the allotted three minutes. Bruce Johnson, the Channel 9 reporter serving as master of ceremonies, didn’t try to stop them. The city almost missed the legal deadline to have Gray sworn in at noon. Had the Notebook been the moderator, we would have yanked the microphone after the allotted time. People were literally squirming in their seats.
At-large Council member David Catania kicked things off with a lengthy speech that had people looking at one another.
It didn’t help that the freshly re-elected member showed up unshaven. One amused person in the audience suggested that every man there would have a beard if Catania didn’t stop talking soon.
To his credit, Catania talked seriously about health issues and the work he’s done in that area. But this wasn’t the best venue for the Clintonesque recital.
The new workspace.
Gray invited reporters into his sixth-floor offices Monday for a look-see. It reminded us that in all of Adrian Fenty’s four years as mayor, your Notebook never went to his private offices. But a lot of people in town could say that. We get the feeling that Gray will have an open door. But call ahead first.
Overheard and observed.
We might make this a new feature of the Notebook, noting some odds and ends we hear and see.
Like the man at Clyde’s downtown. He was enjoying the routine (but delicious) winter fare of hot tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. We really wanted to lean over and ask why he delicately was eating the sandwich with a knife and fork. We decided not to bother him.
Walking on a nearby downtown street, we heard this economic observation, one woman to another: "Things are going to get better. But not much better."
And finally, visiting the “Hide/Seek” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, we saw a sign on an exhibit wall that read simply, “Candy Is a Choking Hazard.”
It turns out the sign itself was not artwork. When another patron moved slightly, we saw a mound of hard candy pieces piled up against the wall.
The exhibit invited passersby to take a piece of the candy. The mound of candy, if we remember correctly, represented someone wasting away from HIV/AIDS. We’re still thinking about that unique artwork -- and the choking hazard sign -- but we didn’t take any candy.