Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 11/09/11

With a do-over, maybe Frank Kameny wouldn't have had to lie about his sexual orientation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Crowds visited Carnegie Library Thursday afternoon to pay their respects to longtime gay rights activist Frank Kameny.

    We retrieved an ink-stained shirt from the cleaners this weekend. It had been sent twice through the system to get the desired results.

    “Do Over,” read the paper tag attached to a buttonhole.

    If only life and its varied events were so easy.

    If there were do-overs, maybe veteran gay-rights activist Frank Kameny wouldn’t have had to lie to serve honorably in the armed forces, or have been fired from the federal government in 1957 -- not because he was doing a bad job, but because of his sexual orientation.

    D.C. Remembers Gay Rights Pioneer Frank Kameny

    [DC] D.C. Remembers Late Gay Rights Pioneer Frank Kameny
    Gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who died Tuesday, made a lasting impact.

    We mention Kameny, who died at 86, because last Thursday hundreds of people trekked through the stately Carnegie Library downtown to pay him respect for a life well lived as an activist for gay and lesbian civil rights.

    Kameny’s remains are in a small urn with his final resting place still to be decided.

    And still to be addressed is the future of Kameny’s modest home at 5020 Cathedral Ave. NW, just off of Arizona Avenue. From the outside, it’s clear the home needs major work.

    The National Park Service announced last week that the home has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    “For years, Dr. Kameny’s residence … served as a meeting place, archives, informal counsel center, headquarters of the Mattachine Society, and a safe haven for visiting gay and lesbian activists,” the Park Service said in its release. “It was here that [he] developed the civil rights strategies and tactics that have come to define the modern gay rights movement.”

    The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board previously had designated the site as a local historic landmark.

    Now what will become of this modest home in an upscale residential neighborhood? It is not on a commercial thoroughfare where it could be used as a gathering place or offices. It’s a home.

    Let’s hope that whoever decides its fate does a do-over that would make Kameny proud.

    • A library do-over?

    One of the great things in Washington lately has been the remodeling of libraries or construction of new ones all over town. It’s a continuing makeover of which the city should be proud.

    But now there are rumblings about what to do with the central Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library downtown. An advisory group will counsel the library board on whether the building interior should remodeled or the property sold outright. About the only thing certain is that it cannot remain in the state it’s in now.

    It’s unquestionable that the building itself is significant. It was designed by famed architect Mies van der Rohe and cost $18 million to build -- a significant sum in 1968, when the project began.

    It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places. But will its distinctive black exterior survive pressures to replace it with commercial development?

    The library board, the Urban Land Institute and the Downtown Business Improvement District are convening a review from Nov. 13 through Nov. 18. The review will include data on demographics and trends as well as comments from commercial, residential and neighborhood groups.

    There have been previous efforts to turn over the building to commercial developers, but community outrage has helped stop that. There have been proposals to redesign the interior of the massive building, but those plans -- despite some inspired ideas -- have never gone anywhere.

    The only thing for certain is that the King library fight will be fierce.

    Chief librarian Ginnie Cooper said no matter what there will be a King library of some sort downtown, but this do-over is worth watching carefully to see what happens.

    The review panel will present its findings Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the library. The event will be open to the public.

    • A ‘Skins do-over?

    We really don’t have anything to say about yet another lousy performance on the field. That’s become as predictable as spam emails. A do-over of the whole season probably wouldn’t make any difference.

    • A secret trip do-over?

    There was a flurry of news last week when it became known that Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council members Jack Evans (Ward 2) and Michael A. Brown (at-large) had flown secretly to Tampa, Fla., to inspect the Buccaneers’ training facilities.

    It turns out there are some ongoing negotiations to lure the Redskins training complex from northern Virginia to the open land around RFK Memorial Stadium. The idea would be to include a hall of fame for Skins memorabilia (nothing current, mind you) and a team hotel. The project, if it gets off the ground, could be a spark for additional commercial development along the Anacostia River and what’s called Reservation 13. And down the road, it could spark the return of the Skins in a new stadium, too.

    The current plan is not a slam dunk, to mix sports metaphors. The mere public disclosure of the talks could scuttle them. And many people fear the Skins project could turn into a baseball-style controversy over the use of city money to do this or that.

    But what really needs a do-over in this news story is the secret trip itself.

    The mayor’s office essentially lied on his public schedule that Friday, saying he had meetings in the John A. Wilson Building. Instead, the mayor and council members were flying to Tampa for a one-day turnaround trip. They paid their own way. But still, reporters were rankled by the scheduling lie.

    WTOP reporter Mark Segraves complained to Christopher Murphy, the mayor’s chief of staff.

    Murphy apologized for the incident. He said the mayor had intended to keep the negotiations private for obvious reasons, but he acknowledged that was no excuse for a flat-out misstatement on the public schedule.

    We’re not sure what the mayor’s office could have said, except “No Public Schedule,” but that would have drawn reporters’ attention, too.

    So there’s no do-over on the schedule, but we’ll be reading it a bit more closely for a while.