Sherwood's Notebook: Too Many Things to Fix! - NBC4 Washington
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Sherwood's Notebook: Too Many Things to Fix!



    Sherwood's Notebook: Too Many Things to Fix!

    Taking a look around the region, an awful lot of stuff needs fixing.

    On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is hosting a news conference to say the area has $58 billion — billion — in unmet infrastructure needs. The Council of State Governments, a national group for state officials, lists "infrastructure neglect" as one of its top issues for 2015. It could have been a top issue for the past 20 years, or it could be one for the next 20.

    D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is the current Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments chairman. He asked the regional body to focus on capital projects as a special project while he is chairman. Mendelson last year slashed about $400 million from the District's planned streetcar system, and there are suggestions that D.C. may follow Arlington's lead and drop the citywide system now planned. New Mayor Muriel Bowser already has signaled that she might prefer less costly rapid bus lanes over streetcars.

    Departing Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority general manager Richard Sarles has warned that buses cost Metro money (maintenance, replacements, personnel) while the rail line makes money for the system if enough people keep riding it. Last week Sarles told the Metro board that "safety is top of mind for all employees throughout the Authority." Monday's tragic smoky incident at L'Enfant Plaza will raise a thousand questions about the status and state of Metro, which insiders say needs far more money than is popularly known.

    On Monday, NBC4 reported that the National Park Service is exploring ways to raise fees and impose some new ones to help maintain the C&O Canal National Historical Park. (See the list of proposed fees and information on public hearings to be held through Feb. 5.)

    ■ Fix Virginia ethics? U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was among those who sent letters to the judge who sentenced former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to two years in prison for his mingling of public duties and private gifts. Kaine said simply that McDonnell in his life had shown examples of mercy and that perhaps the judge could show some to McDonnell.

    But on the WAMU "Politics Hour" last Friday, Kaine was more focused on fixing the ethics gap in Virginia. "It's made worse because the Virginia ethical rules are so lax," Kaine said during the show. The former governor noted that a Newport News delegate also had been sentenced to prison in a separate case.

    "When you have two convictions like this it ought to make the legislature get serious," Kaine said. "I do believe Gov. [Terry] McAuliffe and the General Assembly will fix the glaring weaknesses. A lax ethical culture can contribute to bad behavior." The legislature starts Wednesday.

    ■ Fix Maryland's Democrats? There are still bitter feelings from Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's astounding loss in last year's governor's race. Republican Larry Hogan takes office Jan. 21 after one of the biggest upset wins in the nation.

    Washington Post columnist Robert McCarthy last week interviewed outgoing Gov. Martin O'Malley, who had hoped a win by his lieutenant governor would bolster his own still-fledgling presidential ambitions. As he has been a few times before, O'Malley was critical of the Brown campaign.

    "They made a tactical decision not to defend the [O'Malley] record or talk about it," he told the columnist. "And we saw the results that we saw." Brown has quickly faded from view after his colossal loss. He made a cameo appearance at D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's inauguration Jan. 2 but kept a low profile.

    "You have to offer an affirmative economic message to the voters," O'Malley continued with McCarthy. "If you give voters a choice between a Democrat who promises to do nothing and a Republican who promises to do nothing, they're generally going to side with the Republican, because they’re better at that than we are."

    Maryland Democrats would be smart not to nominate a 2018 candidate who campaigns in a bubble, as many observers say Brown did.

    ■ Fix the schedule gap? The District and its neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia have a lot of issues in common, from our polluted rivers to transportation concerns (and the financial instability of Metro) to economic competition, among others.

    So it was potentially significant when Mayor Bowser and Virginia Gov. McAuliffe held a meeting this past week, a meeting that appeared on neither official's public calendar. Mayor Bowser tweeted out a photo of the two posing in a restaurant, and a bare-bones message: "I just had a great lunch with @TerryMcAuliffe where we discussed ways to grow the region's economy." Bowser's staff said the omission was an unintentional oversight, but it still was odd that both leaders kept the meeting secret.

    ■ Fix the statehood insult? Once again, there is an effort to get President Obama to include a call for D.C. voting rights and/or statehood in his State of the Union address Jan. 20. Someone alert the Notebook if that happens. He’s zero for five so far.

    ■ Fix your decorations. Your holiday decorations were lovely. We're now into the third week of January. Take it all down. The stores already are displaying Valentine's candy. You don't want to be left behind. Do you?

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