Hard to believe, but the District government has run a significant part of the popular Marine Corps Marathon out of town. People should be outraged. This race is a defining event in our nation’s capital.
Oh, the 30,000 or so runners will still race on our grand avenues (closed for the occasion). But next year the headquarters for all those runners to sign up and get their racing numbers, as well as the big running expo held at our convention center, are moving to National Harbor in Prince George’s County.
Events DC, the city agency that runs the convention center, says the popular marathon — which first included D.C. in 1977 during its second year — didn’t draw enough people who stay in city hotel rooms, the key matrix the center uses in booking events. (The same rent-our-rooms-or-else approach may spell doom for the annual Washington Auto Show, some officials fear.)
“If all our decisions are made about money,” one local consultant told us, “we’ll be pushing out our culture. It can’t be all about money.”
The Notebook understands that convention center officials face a double-edged sword. On one hand, people — including D.C. auditor Kathy Patterson, recently — complain when the center doesn’t maximize its facility to fill those hotel rooms and pay its expenses. On the other, some feel-good groups like the marathon bring undeniable good publicity to the city that can’t be measured only in dollars. That’s certainly true in 2016, a presidential election year.
And let’s face it, National Harbor is a wholly made-up, commercialized shopping mall specifically built to compete with the District for meetings and conventions. Its Gaylord Hotel advertises itself as if it were here!
The first sentence of its website reads, “Our spectacular Washington, D.C. resort anchors the 300 acre National Harbor waterfront entertainment district, located 8 miles south of D.C.” And a Google search finds this: “Gaylord National in D.C. - official site.”
First of all, the District ought to make them stop saying they are a D.C. hotel or send them a tax bill for using our name.
And secondly, the city should fight any encroachment from National Harbor. It is only going to get worse when the MGM casino opens late next year.
■ Logistics be damned. All those 30,000 runners and family members and friends won’t like depending on shuttles to get to and from National Harbor. There was a rash of angry responses when the Washington City Paper’s Andrew Giambrone reported the news on Twitter.
“That’s awful, inconvenient, difficult access and ridiculous,” wrote one reader. “Next year we’ll be stuck in shuttles,” moaned another. And another said, “Bad move. No public transportation. No parking. PLEASE rethink this decision.”
Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans called the convention center decision shortsighted. Evans, a runner who has competed in the marathon, told the Notebook it could be too late to reverse the 2016 decision.
“We want the race in the city. It’s our marathon,” he said. “I will work to get them back.”
■ FreshPAC fallout. Political and business folks of all types are continuing to weigh in on this new political action committee, which supposedly operates independently of Mayor Muriel Bowser but is run by you-can’t-get-any-closer associates.
“This is ridiculous,” said one knowledgeable observer of city politics. “This is really, really, really bad politics.” And yes, he said “really” three times.
The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5 FM took up the issue again on Monday, with reporter Patrick Madden fleshing out more from the first story done on the pro-Bowser FreshPAC. Expect more from Madden, who knows how to search and dissect those campaign finance files better than many others.
“Whether it’s legal or not,” said the political observer with knowledge of city campaigns, “is not the issue.” Bowser built her council reputation by tackling tough ethics-issue legislation and then ran for mayor on it. “Now, she’s throwing that reputation away, and for what? She was very proud of that [bill].”
At minimum, that ethics glow is tarnished. Now, whatever FreshPAC does will be on her hands. FreshPAC has the same treasurer and key decision-maker as did her official campaign (Ben Soto). FreshPAC has the same polling firm she had (Garin-Hart-Yang).
■ The Exorcist steps up. The public is invited this Friday at 6 p.m. to the bottom of the Georgetown steps used in the 1973 film “The Exorcist” for a special event commemorating the site with a plaque. Director William Friedkin and author William Peter Blatty are special guests. From 4 to 6 p.m., Friedkin will greet people at the top of the steps.
■ A final word. Ed Walker lived radio for 65 years. This past week, weak and in his hospital bed, Walker recorded the last of his WAMU shows, “The Big Broadcast.” On Sunday night, it aired a final time. Within a couple of hours, Ed Walker died, his family surrounding him.
The Notebook hopes you’ll take a moment to read about Walker. The Notebook was proud to have known him over the years that he had an office in our NBC4 building on Nebraska Avenue NW.
A true giant of radio in such a quiet, self-effacing man.
Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.