Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 12/31/08

Here's to a great 2009

Goodbye. Good riddance.

Everyone, take a deep breath. Surely the new year can’t be any worse when it comes to family finances, jobs and the national and world outlook.

Well, actually, prognostications for 2009 aren’t all that hot.

But it felt good for a moment -- didn’t it? -- to believe that it would.

• Booze it up for Obama?

New Year’s Eve is expected to be a mini-test for D.C. police. From the chief on down, officers are nervously eyeing the expected huge crowds for the Obama inauguration. The 4 a.m. closing time for bars on New Year’s is considered a test run for officers.

The D.C. Council cut back on the wide-open bar scene it had initially approved for the inauguration, but big crowds, late bar hours and Obama euphoria will be a mix like this city has never seen.

It’s likely that the anticipated huge crowds will behave far better than many expect. There will be some who can’t control their behavior or their liquor. But who really wants to spend the inaugural weekend so drunk that they don’t remember it?

As we get nearer to Jan. 20, you can expect local police, the Secret Service and any officer with a badge to be on high alert. Foolishness from drunks will be hardly tolerated.

• The King Library as shelter

Have you been to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library lately?

The main book areas are lit more brightly, they’re cleaner, and a lot of the clutter is gone. The library interior -- although it still needs a lot of work -- is more respectful of its Mies van der Rohe architecture.

The library attracts about 2 million visitors a year and wants more.

But the folks who have been using King as a way station, homeless shelter or hangout are going to have to find somewhere else to go.

The library is proposing new regulations that would allow it to be more aggressive in rooting out non-library behavior like bathing or washing clothes in the restroom sinks, and sleeping for hours somewhere in the stacks. The new regulations likely will go into effect before February after a public comment period.

“The behavior guideline is really part of our total package of improving customer services,” said librarian Pamela Stovall in an interview with NBC4 this week. “These changes are to make this a family-friendly place.”

Library officials say they are not singling out the homeless as unwanted people. The staff helps homeless people do computer searches for jobs and social services. And some homeless people do just come in to get out of the cold for short periods.

But the library wants to be a home to people who are using library services -- from old books to new computers -- rather than a de facto shelter.

Homeless activists are worried the homeless will have one less place to go in the city. But that’s a job for Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration, not the library staff.

• Take that ... and that

The D.C. Council has joined 15 states in passing legislation that prohibits government investment in companies doing business with Iran.

“The political and economic climate in Iran poses too much risk to our public assets,” said at-large Council member David Catania, who introduced the measure. “It will serve us well to remove our pension funds from this environment.”

The bill requires the city’s retirement board to remove any direct investments affected by its provisions. There was no immediate list of what investments are included. City investment managers do not have to take any action if it would undermine their fiduciary duty to protect city assets.

• Real action

Before its holiday recess, the council voted to impose a 12 percent debt limit on city borrowing.

Chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi requested the action to ensure the city keeps its improved bond ratings on Wall Street (assuming there is a Wall Street in 2009).

• Well, this is encouraging

A survey just out while we were heading off on vacation has us a bit worried.

According to HCD Research of Flemington, N.J., ( 62 percent of Americans in a national poll said they would break the law and illegally pay off a state governor in order to get a job that pays $100,000 a year if they were guaranteed not to get caught.

And 58 percent of the 808 Americans surveyed said they would make a payoff -- if it were possible to do so without consequences -- to fix a reckless driving offense, obtain quality medical coverage or receive improper help to save a business.

We’re guessing half of them were in Illinois.

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