Criticism of D.C.’s fight for congressional representation sometimes crosses state lines.
In a weekend editorial, the Philadelphia Inquirer said At-Large D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown “wants to take his city's fight for representation in Congress out on the Keystone State” by renaming Pennsylvania Avenue. The Philly paper says it could start a “slippery slope of renaming streets in the nation's capital to suit the special interests of the day,” and goes on to extol all of Pennsylvania’s virtues in American history: “the home of the Continental Congress,” the “site from which independence was declared,” and the home for the Constitutional Convention.
Yes, and your baseball team always beats ours, too.
A lot of D.C. voting rights advocates also think Brown’s plan is a bit silly -- the latest futile bit of political theater in a campaign that can only be won through constitutional amendment. But in suggesting that D.C. “take that little curved strip of First Street NW in front of the Capitol and lease name changes as various groups come to protest on the National Mall,” the Inquirer is saying that the efforts of 600,000 people to get representation is just another faddish cause.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* The Washington Post reports Ward 3 D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh will investigate the salaries that Mayor Vincent Gray “is paying his top staffers, sending an email to the Department of Human Resources requesting the records of all administration officials being paid more than the allowable range.” This comes after reports that Gray’s top aides are being paid much more than similar workers under Adrian Fenty, and on last week’s Sulaimon Brown episode.
On Friday, D.C. Primary Care Association Executive Director Sharon Baskerville warned the Council that Brown and other recent political appointees to the Department of Health Care Finance are unqualified. Ward 8’s Marion Barry rode to the defense of patronage, saying, “To the victor goes the spoils. Mayor Fenty lost and Mayor Gray won.”
But with that attitude, voters are the losers. What about appointing people who are actually able to do the job?
And Cheh isn’t the only councilmember taking on Gray’s privileges. Ward 2’s Jack Evans told WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Friday that he and interim At-Large Councilmember Sekou Biddle will introduce a bill this week that would require the mayor and Council to sign off on all future government vehicle leases. Commenting on Kwame Brown’s SUV leases and Gray’s hire-and-fire of Brown, Evans said, “This week has been a very, very bad week for the District of Columbia imagewise. In my 20 years on the council, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The Washington Examiner says Gray “gets the prize for driving the most costly vehicle” in the region, “a ‘fully loaded’ Lincoln Navigator, which has a sticker price of at least $10,000 more than both Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Chevrolet Suburban.” And in her Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras says Gray is displaying “questionable financial priorities and faulty management decisions.”
In his must-read weekend column, the Post’s Colbert King asks, “Why aren’t they doing the people’s business instead of tending to their own while on government time and the taxpayer’s dime? Why, indeed, do residents of the District tolerate such nonsense?”
* The Examiner reports Gray’s office “was warned that furloughing 911 emergency call-takers could harm public safety -- weeks before nearly 200 calls went unanswered Feb. 22 because the furlough stripped the call center of employees.”
* “A D.C. resident who wants to share Patrick Mara’s anti-D.C. background” has set up a website pointing out that the At-Large Council candidate is a Republican -- something Mara has never denied, but that he doesn’t go out of his way to highlight. (To be fair, Mara’s many Democratic opponents don’t point out their party affiliation, either -- because everyone just assumes D.C. candidates are Democrats.) The site is anonymously registered.
Mara took to Twitter to respond: “BREAKING NEWS: I am a Republican. Anything else happen in local news this week?”
* The Post’s Mike DeBonis writes that Jerry Schaeffer, the “prominent landowner who could soon host the city’s first Wal-Mart,” is “being targeted by city officials who are accusing his company of allowing an illicit massage parlor to operate in a downtown building it owns.”
* Democratic Virginia state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple announced her decision to retire Friday, and the Arlington Sun-Gazette reports two Arlington County Board members, Barbara Favola and Jay Fisette, are both considering Democratic runs to succeed her. With Sen. Patsy Ticer also retiring, at least two Northern Virginia seats will be up for grabs -- and the conservative blog Common Sense says they will probably stay in Democratic hands.
* The Loudoun Times reports Virginia state Sen. Mark Herring’s bill to ban the synthetic marijuana “spice” unanimously passed the Assembly Saturday -- as the Post reports spice “is widely used at the U.S. Naval Academy” in Annapolis “because it cannot be detected in routine drug tests.”
* The Baltimore Sun reports opponents of same-sex marriage have been “much less visible” than supporters as legislation moved through the Senate, and “though debates are simmering in churches and barbershops around Maryland, those who want to preserve traditional marriage are just beginning to show a coordinated resistance.” They say they were “caught off-guard” by how quickly the bill passed the Senate after never even reaching a vote before.
* Unsuck D.C. Metro says Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 President Jackie Jeter -- who once accused a critic of supporting “slavery” and who said the bus driver who punched an off-duty cop meant it as a joke -- may face a removal vote called by union members.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC