Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 03/02/11 - NBC4 Washington

Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 03/02/11



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    As we watched the Oscars Sunday night, we were thinking what awards we’d give city leaders mired in the flap over sports-utility vehicles and high official salaries.

    Of course, our statue wouldn’t be golden Oscars. Ours would be purple Oscar the Grouch figurines. That’s because the “Sesame Street” character is perfect for this almost-juvenile situation.

    An Oscar the Grouch website says the character’s mission is to be as miserable and grouchy as possible, and to pass that feeling on to everyone else.

    Our Oscar goes to Council Chairman Kwame Brown. Last week the SUV controversy exploded all over him. This week, a new report says the city government is rife with apparently illegal SUV leases, as many as 42.

    D.C. SUV Saga Expands

    [DC] D.C. SUV Saga Expands
    D.C. officials may have broken the law by leasing more than 40 SUVs to city employees, including Council Chairman Kwame Brown.
    (Published Monday, Feb. 28, 2011)

    Rather than coming out to talk with the media on Monday about the widespread problem, the chairman issued only a thin statement welcoming the SUV report issued by Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells.

    But sources tell the Notebook that while Brown’s statement was mild-mannered, he reacted angrily -- should we say grouchily? -- when he talked privately with Wells. The chairman, according to sources, objected to the sentence in the Wells report that said, “The chairman of the council inappropriately requested the city provide a Lincoln Navigator SUV… .”

    The report goes on to say that a law passed a few years ago (thank you, former Council member Carol Schwartz) restricts city leases to vehicles that get at least 22 miles per gallon unless they’re used for police and rescue-type functions.

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    We don’t think the chairman’s ride meets that standard.

    Wells is continuing to collect information and will hold a hearing on all this car nonsense on March 17. The big question -- will Wells invite Chairman Brown to testify, or will Brown volunteer to come out of his office to put this issue to rest?

    • More Trouble

    DC Councilman Returns Costly Ride

    [DC] DC Councilman Returns Costly Ride
    DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown returned his nearly $2,000-a-month SUV. But DC taxpayers may still be on the hook.
    (Published Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011)

    Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh is investigating salaries that Mayor Vincent Gray is paying. She’s asked for details on how much, for whom and for how many.

    Gray has said that he’s hiring fewer people but paying them more.

    We’re all anxious to see how the statistics turn out.

    We’ll reserve an Oscar the Grouch on this until we learn more.

    • Metro and Crime

    The Metro system is still getting flack for its willingness to do random, anti-terrorism bag searches while riders are more worried about their day-to-day safety.

    The Washington Post last week ran this quote from a frustrated rider: “Perhaps rather than searching bags in the hope of catching truly stupid terrorists, Metro police could actually patrol the Metro system for thieves."

    Well, there was a real-life incident last Friday night that adds a little more perspective.

    A middle-aged man was waiting at the Green Line Suitland stop when he saw a group of young toughs -- some wearing masks -- beating and kicking another young person.

    According to an exclusive report by NBC Washington’s Pat Collins, when the man saw the beating and attempted to call 911, the group attacked him. He suffered broken teeth and bruises. He was bleeding when help finally arrived.

    This incident occurred at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Best we can tell, there were no terrorists lined up for bag searches and apparently no police in sight at the Suitland station.

    Many riders have raised similar concerns about basic law enforcement on Metro. Terrorists with evil intent can simply turn around before they reach the bag searches. All we’ve heard so far is that such searches keep terrorists guessing where police will show up next.

    The rider who was attacked at Suitland may have been wondering the same thing: Where were the police?

    • Ceremonial Flap

    There was a recent rash of stories about the District’s plans to rename Pennsylvania Avenue with some voting rights moniker.

    At-large Council member Michael Brown has been conducting a poll of what citizens might call the street between the White House and Congress.

    The idea has irritated many who think it would be an outrage for the city to tinker with such a famous place name.

    Well, everyone, relax.

    The city is not -- not -- renaming Pennsylvania Avenue. It is considering adding a ceremonial name to the street posts, just as it has done for Abe Pollin Way (F Street) next to the Verizon Center.

    There won’t be a renaming, and the ceremonial name won’t replace the historic Pennsylvania Avenue designation. But given all of the city government SUVs, maybe the avenue ought to be called “SUV Swamp” (at least the part in front of the John A. Wilson Building).

    Or maybe it could be called “Fully Loaded Avenue” in honor of Chairman Brown’s insistence on his fully equipped Lincoln Navigator.