Sherwood's Notebook: Fussin' and Fightin'!

A group of city leaders joined D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton on Capitol Hill last week.

They were there to denounce Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie for successfully getting the House to pass a bill that effectively would kill the city’s gun control laws.

To everyone’s surprise, as reported by NBC4’s Mark Segraves, Massie showed up at the news conference to listen.

But only one speaker singled him out.

“And seeing the face of Mr. Massie as he participated in this press conference has been quite sickening to me,” said Kimberly Perry, a look of disgust on her face. Perry is executive director of DC Vote, the lobby group seeking voting rights in Congress for the city’s 650,000 residents.

Massie told reporters afterward that violent crime had gone down in the District since six years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city’s absolute ban on private handguns.

Several participants on the Hill, including Massie, said they were confident the Senate would kill the House measure. But Norton wasn’t so sure in this midterm election year. “I’m not confident of anything. I’m not confident that the Senate is going to do the right thing.”

■ You want fries with that? President Obama, who’s best known locally among some for dining in the city’s various restaurants or grabbing a quick lunch at our more popular carryouts, commented on the District’s lack of statehood this week.

“I’m in D.C., so I’m for it,” Obama replied to a question during an event Monday. “I’ve long believed that folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented like everybody else,” The Hill newspaper quoted the president as saying.

Obama noted that national politics makes any real effort for D.C. statehood “difficult.”
Nonetheless, the president’s comments won praise from DC Vote’s Perry, who was much happier to talk about Obama than Massie.

“President Obama’s support ... shows that he understands the injustice we face every day,” she said in a statement. “The President has repeatedly proposed greater autonomy for DC, only to see those proposals die because of partisan squabbling in Congress. We hope the administration will now request that its Senate allies hold a hearing on the DC statehood bill.”

■ More praise? Obama also was praised this week by Norton for signing the executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There is no federal law on this subject.

■ Hobby Lobby high-five? Well, kinda. The owners of Hobby Lobby craft stores won national attention when they won their Supreme Court battle to limit contraception insurance coverage for their employees because of the owners’ religious beliefs.

That recently prompted Wayne Bensen of the advocacy group Truth Wins Out to “strongly urge” District officials to make it as difficult as possible for Hobby Lobby to get all the permits it needs to build a private National Bible Museum in Southwest D.C. (the old site of the Washington Design Center).

Bensen wrote that the project near the National Mall “would make a mockery of surrounding museums, which are based on research, history and scholarship.”

Well, throwing up administrative hurdles didn’t go over so well with local activist Rick Rosendall, who is president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“There is no legitimate basis to block it,” Rosendall wrote this week in the Daily Kos. “GLAA has a long history of defending our opponents’ First Amendment rights. This allows us to hold the moral high ground. … We are much better off in the long run by respecting the rights of all, not just those who agree with us.”

Goodness, we better not let that kind of high-mindedness catch on. Maybe even the warring members of Congress might start working together. And then, what would the mean ol’ media report?

■ Bowser’s rough week. The Washington Post has run a series of stories on what some see as Ward 4 D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser’s tepid — or political — response to physical and financial mismanagement at the 700-tenant Park Southern apartment building in Southeast on Southern Avenue.

The Post stories leave the impression that Bowser, chair of the council’s housing committee and the Democratic mayoral nominee, was more interested in the rights of private managers (her political supporters) who were displaced than those of the low-income or no-income tenants.

Bower disputed the media reports and characterizations. She said she called for an Inspector General investigation once she learned more details. Still, that report likely would come long after the Nov. 4 general election.

Bowser asked to be on the Kojo Nnamdi “Politics Hour” Friday on WAMU 88.5 FM to discuss the incident and her campaign for mayor, but her explanations didn’t seem to dissuade host Nnamdi.

“It seems to me,” Nnamdi said near the end of the interview, “there are 700 people who are living in this property who need help and attention now!”

And Post columnist Colbert I. King also wrote about the controversy on Saturday, noting aggressive criticism of Bowser by rival mayoral candidate David Catania. King’s headline and final sentence on Saturday were stinging.

“Is Muriel Bowser going to bat for the taxpayers or her backers?”

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

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